Well a lot has happened since the last update (sorry but sometimes life gets in the way). Annalyn is in her Junior year at Victor J. Andrew High School. Her Freshman and Sophomore years were outstanding. She finished her first 2 years with a cumulative GPA of 4.129 out of 4, with a majority of her classes being Advanced Placement or Honors courses. She also ran Cross-Country and Track, helped out with Student Council, was in Diversity Club, Film Society and so far has done 55 hours of Community Service. We are so proud of her.

 

More big stuff coming up with Annalyn this year. The college search process is in it's early stages but she already has some ideas of where she'd like to go. She'll be taking the ACT test twice in 11 days in April. Then on 4/21, she gets her driver's permit. Oh boy. She's already starting to get tips on how to drive Jamie's stick shift Saturn but can only pull it out of the garage onto the driveway until she gets her permit. She'll be taking Driver's ED at her high school this summer.

 

We are currently in search of a new church home. Eagle Rock Community Church, where we served since 1995, has ceased to be.

 

Lynn and Jamie will hit some major running milestones this year. 7/11 will be 25 years since our first ever run together using a wheelchair and 7/21 will be 25 years since we first raced together that way. We will also be completing our first lap around the earth when we reach 25,000 miles together running with the chair. We are going to try to work it out to where we hit the 25K mile mark ON 7/11. Stay tuned for some press coverage of the event. Jamie will also cross the 40,000 mile mark during his consecutive days running streak.

 

We also have a big road trip planned for the last half of July and are really looking forward to that. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Pacific Coast Highway, LA, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Garden of the Gods and a stop in Denver to check out a prospective college that Annalyn is interested in.

 

Annalyn was inducted into the National Honor Society on 11/16. To qualify, you have to maintain at 3.8 or above GPA, have a minimum of 2 extracurricular activities and do 20 hours of community service each year.

 

The 2015 racing season has ended for the 3 of us and it was a good one as far as results. Lynn and I did 8 races this year, a 10K, an 8K and 6 5Ks. Of those 8 races, we finished first in our age group 7 times and second the other time. Annalyn ran track in the spring and then we let her have this year off from cross-country to concentrate of her studies and the upcoming PSAT and ACT tests. She ran 3 races this year and took 2nd in her age group in 2 of those.

 

We lost a dear friend to some tragic circumstances on November 15th, 2013. Our neighbor and fellow runner Mark Reilly was killed that day. He was only 36 and left behind a loving wife, 3 beautiful kids, Ella, Ben and Spencer and many close relatives and friends. He was one of the nicest people I've ever known. He once came up to say that Lynn and I had inspired him to get serious about his running. He then proceeded to kick my butt at every race but one. I beat him once at the Stars & Stripes 5K in Tinley. He was a wonderful father, husband, brother, son, neighbor, teacher (he taught 5th Grade at a local school) friend and fellow runner. He will be missed.

 

5/5/13 was the First Midwest Bank Southwest Half Marathon in Palos Heights. It's Annalyn's FIRST Half Marathon. We got to the VIP lot around 6:55 and there were no spots left. Mel always hands out too many passes. I made my own spot at the end of a row and we got out and headed to the start. Our niece Shannon came up and talked to Annalyn. We went to a spot at the end of the barricades, maybe 200 yards from the start line. We wished the girls good luck and waited for the gun. It went off and I taped the girls going by. The girls screamed as they ran by and I told them that we'd catch up. I didn't realize how long it would take. The crowd of runners was so thick that it took us over a mile to catch the girls. Annalyn said they hit Mile 1 in 9:06. Not bad but it was a bit downhill. Just then, a teacher who we helped train for the race, Mrs. Marks, came up to run with us. We all ran together until Mile 3 when Lynn and I sped ahead so I could get some pictures of everyone coming by Mile 4. Shannon had gone ahead a bit and crossed first. I got her picture and then Mrs. Marks was next but Annalyn wasn't with her. 25 seconds later, Annalyn came by and she was struggling. She said that she had a bad side stitch. Not good. I told her to just breathe deeply and slowly to try and get rid of it. Hard to do when you're racing. We stayed with Annalyn past Mile 6 and gave her water and a Gu gel when she needed it. We went on ahead to get pictures of Shannon and Mrs. Marks after the turnaround. Mrs. Marks surprisingly came by first with Shannon maybe a minute behind her. Annalyn yelled as she came by us from the other direction and I told her that Shannon was only maybe 30 seconds ahead. Lynn and I sped up again through the turnaround and eventually caught Annalyn after Mile 7. Within a half mile or so, we could see Shannon ahead. Annalyn caught her just after Mile 8 and just before her 3rd Gu gel. Shannon stayed with us for 1/4 mile or so but then dropped back. By this time, Annalyn had taken off my Boston Marathon finisher shirt (she was wearing it in tribute to the victims from this year's bombings)because the sun was out an making it feel warm. She had to take the bib off and re-pin it on her sports bra while running. Which she did, despite losing one pin. She said that her side stitch had switched sides. I called my Dad from my cell at around 8 1/2 miles to tell him where we were. I caught Annalyn again and kept pacing her. Just as we were crossing La Grange Road on the way back (just after Mile 10),  our friend Tyler Thelen came up and we ran with him and a female friend for a bit before they moved on ahead. We also saw our neighbor Becky Schaafsma, running the race. Annalyn made the mistake of drinking some Powerade too soon after taking her gel and it upset her stomach to the point where she thought she was going to throw up. She didn't and fought through it. I called my Dad again just after we hit Mile 12 and told him we'd be in soon. Then I tried to enjoy the moments as we ran the last mile to the finish with Annalyn. She seemed to get a push from the cheers of the crowd. I taped her coming to the finish for the last 1/2 mile or so. Mel was at Mile 13 and slapped hands with Annalyn. Others told her and us that they'd seen the article about her in the Palos Regional Newspaper and were impressed. Annalyn sped ahead the last 50 yards or so and I just taped her running across the line. Wow! She MADE IT! Her finish time was 2:11:59, a 10:05/mile pace. Not bad for a 13-year-old girl running her first ever half marathon. I stopped just before the line because I didn't want to trip the timing mat since we didn't have a race number. We turned around and went to find my Dad and Jacob. I gave them the camera and told them to try and get a shot of Shannon coming in since we were going to be with Annalyn. We left and found Annalyn walking back towards us in the grass. She had her finishers medal and was wearing it proudly. We all went over to the laptops that were set up to find out how the girls did. Shannon finished in 2:19:15. Jackie Marks finished in 2:07:01. Annalyn was 822 of 1471 Overall and 2nd in 10-14. All right!

 

On June 10th & 11th, 2011, we did the Ragnar Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago Relay Race. 197.3 miles. We had 12 runners on our team (really 13 because Lynn and I counted as one). Annalyn was our leadoff runner and we were Runner #12 so we got to hand off to her on her 2nd and 3rd relays. Each runner had to do 3 legs of the race with most legs between 3 and 8 miles. Our niece, Shannon, and Jamie's sister, Jodi, were also on the team. A family friend, Chrissy Johns ran with us and brought along a friend of hers, Laura Coste. The son of some of our running friends, Tyler Thelen, also joined us as well as some friends from church, Briana Watson, Tommy Merkle and Greg Targosz. Greg drafted two of his co-workers from Molex, Andy Selby and Herman Beck to join us. What follows are the journal entries that I made from those two days.

 

RAGNAR Day!

Up at 3:40. That's right, 3:40. First thing I did was check the radar. Looked REALLY bad. Rain as far as Iowa and north into Wisconsin. We got up and dressed and Jodi and Aaron showed up and helped us get everything in the van. We left and picked up Tyler Thelen. His Mom, Valerie came out and said hi. We left and went to my Mom's. The rest of the team was there. Andy, Chrissy, Laura, Tommy, Briana, Herman and Greg. We said goodbye to my Mom. We all piled into our vans. Greg, Tyler, Herman, Andy, Lynn, Jamie, Jodi and Aaron in Van #2 and Annalyn, Shannon, Briana, Laura, Chrissy, Tommy and Jason in Van #1. We drove up to Madison and hit several pockets of rain on the way up. Greg and Aaron had internet and we checked the radar again. Still looked bad. We got up to Madison by 8:30 and found the start. Most of the other vans in the race were decorated or written on saying various race-related things. Many people were dressed in odd outfits. We checked in our team from Van #1 and they went to a safety meeting. Then they got their numbers and we showed our headlamps and buttlights. We got safety flags to be used when crossing a street. We got the "slap tag" that is to be passed like a baton between runners. We took some pictures and video and Annalyn got ready for the start. The announcer counted it down and she was off at 10:00 with 29 other runners. There were 362 teams in the race starting at various times. The plan was for Jason to drive up ahead of Annalyn and watch to make sure she was OK when she came by. After I taped her going by us, we said goodbye to the rest of our teammates in Van #1. Jason went on ahead of Annalyn and then stopped to watch as she went by. We and our Van #2 teammates drove to the first major exchange which was #6. This was a small town called Lake Mills and the exchange was at the local High School. We parked and checked in our team and got our flags and numbers after we checked in our headlamps and buttlights. We went to our safety meeting. Then we went to find something to eat. We went to a Subway around 11:45 for lunch. The place was pretty empty but within 5 minutes of us walking in, a LOT of runners from other teams walked in. All of a sudden, they were lined up nearly out the door.  We left and went back to the exchange. We had been texting and phoning Jason for updates while we waited for their runners to finish. We heard that Annalyn's first leg was 1/4 mile longer than it was supposed to be due to road construction. She still did it in 41:33. 8:42/mile average. Smokin'! She handed off to Shannon who had a leg of the same distance but took longer than Annalyn so we mocked her for having her cousin make her look bad. From what we heard, Tommy's and Laura's legs went fine but when Chrissy came into the exchange between her and Briana, no one was there waiting for her. Jason said that they actually were there at the exchange but not out of the van yet because Chrissy estimated that she would take longer than she actually ran. She ended up waiting around for 5 minutes or so before Briana got up there. We were trying to rest at the next exchange before Jodi took the bracelet from Briana. Not very easy. One great thing was that somehow it hadn't started raining yet. Greg looked at his radar and predicted 2:00 for the rain to hit. We went out to wait for Briana and she came in a little slower than we had thought but she said she felt fine. She handed off to Jodi and Jodi was off. We left and went to the next exchange where she would hand off to Tyler. Jodi had her cellphone with her and Aaron was able to track her progress via the GPS on his phone. She seemed to be doing fine and came in and handed off to Tyler. We left and passed Tyler on the way to the next exchange at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. We hung out and waited and talked there. Tyler had way underestimated how fast he would run and I totally missed being ready for it when he came in. I had been taping the exchanges but missed this one. Luckily, Herman was ready for him, took the bracelet and took off. We drove to the Herman-Greg exchange point on a bike path in Helenville. Herman also was running really fast but we were ready when he came in. He handed off to Greg and we left for Exchange 10. Greg's leg was completely on a crushed gravel bike path. He was REALLY flying and brought the bracelet to Andy at Cory Park in Dousman. By this time, the guys on our team were counting "kills." "Kills" are when you pass another runner on the course while racing. Our guys were really running hard and getting a lot of kills. So we were running about 1/2 hour ahead of our projected time as of this point. After Andy took off, we went to Wales Community Park in Wales to wait for Andy. His leg was also entirely on the bike path. We saw him coming and got ready for the handoff. He came in and gave us the bracelet and we took off. Our leg was pretty much all on the same path except at the end. It was supposed to be entirely uphill but it turned out that there was just one short, steep hill and that was it. I was thinking we'd come in around 52:00 but we finished that leg in 48:50 and handed off to Annalyn. It was getting closer to sunset so we had to run with reflective vests, headlamps and buttlights from 7:30 PM-6:30 AM. We didn't want Annalyn running these legs alone so we did her 2nd and 3rd legs with her. She took off like there was no tomorrow and it took me a minute or two to catch her. This leg was 4.3 miles for her and she was VERY chatty almost the whole way. She was talking about her first leg and everything that was going on in the other van. It was so awesome to do this leg with our daughter and see her having so much fun doing it. Our van was not allowed to come into the next checkpoint. Annalyn finished this 4.3 mile leg in 34:33. She handed off to Shannon and we ran with Shannon for the first mile of her run until we got to a cross street where the van could pick us up. We said goodbye to Shannon and got in the van. We found out later that Shannon got petrified after she was alone because it was dark by now and she had convinced herself that something bad was going to happen. She even started crying but managed to pull through and finish. We drove ahead to the next major exchange to see where that was. We found it at a high school in Greendale across from a mall. There was a Baker's Square by the mall so we went there to grab a bite to eat. Jodi was already getting tired. We finished eating and went back to the high school This brought us to midnight.

 

RAGNAR, Day 2.

At midnight, we had just finished eating at a Baker's Square in Greendale and had gone back to the High School to wait to start our next set of legs. This was one of only 2 legs to have indoor showers so I decided to take advantage of it. I got my suitcase and asked a guy where the showers were. He told me where to go. I had to walk through an unlit gym with people sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags all over the place. I got to the showers and realized that I didn't pack any shampoo or soap. So all I could do was rinse off with hot water. I did that and put clean running clothes on. Back to the van and I tried to sleep. Maybe got 15 minutes. Jason and the other van got there after Chrissy handed off to their last runner, Briana. We waited until it was close to when Briana was supposed to come in. The time came and went with no sign of Briana. Then Shannon got a phone call from her saying something about "lost" and "Cop car" before she lost signal. Shannon surmised that Briana was IN a cop car but she had actually tried to get the attention of a local cop by pounding on the windows of his squad car. She thinks he was sleeping. Then, another team saw her and gave her a lift back to where she had gone off course (she misread a directional sign). She came in and handed off to Jodi for her second leg. Once again, Aaron had her tracked via GPS on his cellphone so we knew where she was on the leg. While we waited for Jodi, a reporter named Amy came up to the van to say hi and ask a few questions. She had seen us hand off to Annalyn after our first leg and told the others that she wanted to talk to us later. So we talked with her for a few minutes while waiting for Jodi. Jodi came in and seemed to be OK, maybe a bit tired. She gave it to Tyler who had a very short (2.5 mile) leg. We had to hustle to get to the next exchange before he did. We made it and he handed off to Herman again. We realized by now that our next leg would be in the middle of the night. Earlier, I had thought that we would do Leg 2 around 6 AM or so. That was before I realized just how fast the guys in our van were. They were racking up "Kills" left and right. Tyler and Greg were doing sub-6:00 miles and Andy and Herman were in the 6:30 range with us near 7:00. Since our next run would be probably around 3:40 A.M., I knew that we had to do another leg with Annalyn since it would still be dark. Well, the first run with Annalyn along with the mile with Shannon were slow enough to feel like a cooldown for us so it wasn't bad. We went ahead to the next exchange and hung out waiting for Herman to come in. He did and handed off to Greg. Greg's leg was only 3.6 so we knew he wouldn't take long. Unbelievably, the rain that was predicted and shown on the radar had not hit yet. It had turned foggy and there was mist on the windows. Greg got there quickly and Andy took over. His leg was 4 miles so we had about 26 minutes or so to get to where Lynn and I would start our 2nd leg. We had to park in a gravel lot by a field and walk to the street where the exchange would take place. Andy came in and gave us the slap tag and we took off. This leg started with a few rolling hills but nothing too major. Most of it was on streets with cones on the left side. The race rules said you had to stay to the left of the cones but there was no room for the chair on that side without going off the road. So I just stayed as close to them as I could. I got into a good rhythm and tried to stay there. While we were running, vans from other teams would drive past and honk. Then a van came by and someone called our names. It was Andria Huskinson, the Race Director. She asked how we were doing and we said OK. Annalyn was waiting for us as we came into the next exchange. We gave her the bracelet and started running with her. She was tired but still kept up a great pace. She said that she had been sleeping and they woke her up about 20 minutes before she had to run. We paced her to the next exchange and she handed off to Shannon. So now Annalyn was DONE. She did 4.75 miles in 41:33, 4.3 miles in 34.33 and 3.8 miles in 34:20. A total of 12.85 miles in 1:50:26. That is GREAT! Our van broke a race rule and drove into that exchange to pick us up. The rules stated that only the MAJOR exchanges (6, 12, 18, 24 & 30) along with the start and finish could have BOTH vans there. Since this leg was in the middle of the night they decided to chance it. And no one from the race even noticed. Greg volunteered to run this leg with Shannon after her panic attack on her first leg. Annalyn went with the other van to their next exchange and so did we so we could pick up Greg. We waited in the van for him to come in and it took a while because Shannon had to do 6.3 on this leg. This gave us more time to TRY and sleep. Once again, I got maybe 15 minutes or so. Shannon and Greg finished and Greg rejoined us in our van. We drove on to the next major exchange in Zion at a church. This was the one where our sisters-in-law Lisa and Jen were working as volunteers. Lynn had fallen into a deep sleep on the way there and my left leg was killing me from the Sciatica. I needed to stretch it our but I didn't have enough room where I was sitting. I was in misery until we got to the church and I could get out and stretch it. We saw Lisa and Jen and talked with them. Jason kept us updated with their progress. We hit the port-a-johns, a recurring theme on this race. In fact, at one point, I told Lynn that I had been in more port-a-johns during the last 24 hours than I probably had in the last 24 years. While we were waiting for the runners in the other van to finish, the battery on our van died. We didn't realize how much it would get drained by charging up all of the cellphones, iPods and iPads that we had. Jason had the jumper cables from this van with him because the same thing happened to Mom's van when the two vans were together so they got it jumped and it was OK. So we had to wait for Jason to get there to get this van jumped. They did and we went to the exchange to wait on Briana. She had the honor of being the runner who got to cross the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. We waited what seemed like quite a while for her to come in. Jodi was NOT enjoying herself anymore by this point. The sleep deprivation and lack of her medications had taken their toll and I had volunteered to go with her. She declined because she didn't want to seem like a wuss. Briana ran a slower leg and later told us that her knees were really bugging her. She handed off to Jodi and Van #1 was finished. They were going to head to the finish line and get food along the way. We left and went to the next exchange and followed Jodi's progress on Aaron's cell. She had to stop and walk a time or two on this leg. When Aaron shut the van off in the parking lot, the battery was dead again. There was a car parked next to it with a family in there waiting for someone. I asked the guy if he could give us a jump and he said, "Sure. It's a rental anyway." So he did that and we watched for Jodi. She came in and handed off to Tyler for his last leg. This was the longest of the race, 9.9 miles. We went to the next exchange and just seconds after I told Aaron to NOT turn off the van, he accidentally did. Crap. He got out and asked some guys if they could jump us and they did. We were at Lake Forest High School. This looked like a college campus, it was so huge. Aaron decided that we should replace the battery in the van and started looking for places to go to get it done. I told him that at Pep Boys, he could buy a battery and have them install it there. He found one nearby. Tyler came in a bit slower than normal. He said that he had bathoom issues on this leg and had to stop at a gas station to go. After he handed off to Herman, we left and went to the Pep Boys that was nearby. Aaron and I went in and I explained our situation to the guy at the counter. He said that it would probably be 45 minutes to an hour and we didn't have that much time before Herman would be at the next exchange. So we left. He stopped at a Midas but they couldn't do it that quickly either. So we went on to the next exchange and made sure that he didn't turn off the van. We waited for Herman and saw a female volunteer wearing a Water Buffalo hat directing cars and runners. And two guys who painted their mustaches orange. Herman came in and handed off to Greg. This was only a 4.3 mile leg so we didn't have enough time to look for a place to get the battery replaced. We figured we'd wait until Andy's last leg which was 8.2 miles. Some bad signage near the exchange caused Aaron to make a wrong turn and have to loop around to find the parking area. As we pulled up, we heard, "195. Anyone here from Team 195?" That was our team number. Greg had gotten there just before we did. Andy jumped out quickly and got the slap tag from Greg. Aaron had found a nearby Pep Boys on his iPhone and we went there to see if they could get the battery put in quickly enough for us to get to the last exchange on time. When the mechanic came out and opened the hood, we knew they were going to fix it. We all had to get out of the van. They had to inspect the van to make sure that there wasn't anything else draining the battery before they replaced it. That took a while and by this time, we knew that Andy would hit the last exchange before we could get there. I texted him with the news but his cell was in his stuff in the van. Aaron drove as fast as he could to the last exchange and I got as ready as I could before we got out. This last exchange was at Northwestern University in Evanston. Andy had waited around 15-20 minutes for us. We got out and Lynn got in the chair right away. Andy slapped the tag on her this time and we took off. I was really sore and my left foot was hurting but it was the last leg of the race so there was no way that would stop me. The biggest problem with this leg was that as huge portion of the 8 miles was along Sheridan Road. This meant that we had to run on the sidewalks for nearly all of it. That sucked because there were shoppers walking down the sidewalks, stoplights to deal with, cars pulling up too far to lights and blocking the crosswalks and even a car coming out of a parking garage and blocking the sidewalk as he waited to go into the street. There were countless times that we yelled, "Coming up behind you" or "On your left." People didn't pay attention a lot and this made for a few close calls for us. It was very hard to keep up any kind of speed either. Going into our last leg, the runners in our van had accumulated 197 "kills" during the race. So we need to get 3 to make 200. By the 3rd mile or so, we hit this mark and passed it. It was hard to tell sometimes if someone we passed was in the race because many people were running and not in the race. Especially on the parts that were on the lakefront paths. I was counting down the blocks to the finish by looking at the street signs as we passed them and knowing how many more to Montrose Avenue. The finish was at Montrose Beach. We finally turned off of Sheridan and onto the final section of lakefront path but it was all crushed gravel and I was afraid that we'd get a flat. There was one point on Sheridan where we hit a bump so hard that I heard a crack and thought that the chair had broken. Thank God it didn't. Speaking of thanking God, it NEVER rained for the entire race even though it was predicted for BOTH days and the radar showed bad storms in the area just before the start. As we neared the finish and I could see it off in the distance, we actually went off course once due to bad signage. A sign pointed left to a path but it was BETWEEN two paths and I had to choose which one. Chose the wrong one and it took us to the beach. Only cost us about 30 seconds before I realized my mistake and got back on course. We saw the crowds getting thicker as we got closer to the finish. We passed our 10th and last "kill" for that stage (and 207th for our van) with about 250 yards to go. Our team was waiting just past that and I slowed down so we could all cross the line together. One last obstacle was 10 feet from the finish line when the pavement ended and we had to go across sand to the line. The chair doesn't work on sand but I had enough momentum to get across and WE FINISHED!!!!! 197 miles in 28:55:02. We finished in 74th Place of the 167 teams in the Mixed Open Division. It never rained and we all came in relatively healthy.