It’s Almost Go Time

To the average person and even to some runners, Saturday’s weather forecast for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon looks miserable.

For Ryan – it looks fantastic.

For the first time he’ll get to run a race in his favorite weather condition of rain. He probably will be the only one who will have a smile on his face of every race picture that gets posted from MarathonFoto.

Unlike my first half marathon when the conditions were similar to what they will be Saturday, I’m mentally prepared this time for the weather. I only wished it would be a little warmer than expected.

I am excited about Saturday’s race for a number reasons. We get to meet other runners from the Coach Jenny Group. We are running a half injury free (unlike the Mill Race Half Marathon last September). We get to see how much the orthotics have improved Ryan’s running these last two weeks.

Although, I do believe it’s a combination of both the orthotics and beginning the IronStrength workout videos from Runner’s World and Dr. Jordan Metzl. When I look through the training log leading up to Saturday’s race you can see a difference in Ryan’s times not only when he began running with the orthotics, but the workouts as well. Overall, it’s about a 30-second difference in his easy runs. Easy meaning as we run I ask him if he feels comfortable and if he could still push it for the last half mile at the end.

 

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Wrapping up one of our final runs before this Saturday’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

 

Speaking of times.

The last week several people have asked me the time goal I have for Saturday’s race. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have one. That since Ryan’s return my only goal would be for us to get to the starting line injury free and finish the Mini strong.

As always, I have two numbers. I might even have three numbers. The two set in stone are what I realistically think we can do and if everything goes perfect. Even with the pending weather conditions, the latter remains in tact.

You’ll have to read my post on Sunday to find out what the numbers were I had for us.

Saturday completes Ryan’s comeback from his surgery. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when he returned in February. I am thankful for the running community especially Coach Ben, Coach Tad, Coach Jenny, Coach Ron, and Coach Howard for guiding me on how to slowly bring Ryan back. Without their insight I would have had no idea how to properly train Ryan for Saturday.

I’m also excited because the day before the race we don’t have 20 zillion things to do. Wendy canceled Ryan’s speech therapy session. She can take Andrew and Luke to meet their TrailLife Group to go to Red River Gorge for their camping trip. This means all Ryan and I have to do Friday is get up and run a casual three miles in the morning. We can relax until it’s time to go downtown to the expo. We’ll meet our friends and take in all the ambiance at the convention center before heading home for dinner and watching McFarland, USA before heading to bed.

Regardless if we hit either one of the times I have, this weekend is mainly about one thing – fun.

IMPORTANT READ!

Late last week Runner’s World published an article by Alison Wade about people with autism and the effects running has had. Here’s the link to the report – http://www.runnersworld.com/general-interest/for-many-with-autism-running-is-a-sport-that-fits

By far, it is the best article I have ever read about autism and running. We have experienced everything with Ryan most of the runners profiled in the article have dealt with in the report.

Since Ryan began running with me in March of 2015, he has improved in school. Speaking of combinations. It’s not only the running but during his 18 months at Brain Balance where we have seen the change.

Before running and Brain Balance, Ryan was at the mental function of a 3-year old when it came to his school work. Now, he’s almost at the sixth-grade level. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.

It’s like Edie Brannigan says about her son, Mikey, when he began running and the change for the positive it made in his school work.

“I watched it happen,” Edie Brannigan said. “During those two years, something shifted, something opened up, and his thinking became useful in the way of academics.”

 

mikey

Mikey Brannigan

 

Two weeks ago was Ryan’s final exam in math. We hadn’t run or woke up to do IronStrength the day of the test (should have planned better with Wendy and did some form of exercise). I was in my office and heard Ryan yell out of frustration. I quickly went into our school room and asked what was wrong.

“He’s having trouble focusing,” Wendy said.

Instantly, I got Ryan out of his chair. We did some jumping jacks and squats. After he caught his breath and sat back done, he went right to work on the test. He scored 100 percent.

Sometimes Ryan reminds me of Harold Sylvester’s character, D.C., in the 1979 movie “FastBreak.” Sylvester’s character needs to pass his English exam to stay eligible for the basketball team to play in the final game of the season. Gabe Kaplan, who played coach David Greene, and the rest of the team try to help D.C. cram for the exam. Unfortunately, in the classroom setting D.C. doesn’t pass the exam.

Kaplan then has an idea of having the professor ask the questions while D.C. shoots baskets in the gym. They go to the gym and the professor asks questions from the test. After each shot, D.C. answers the questions as the professor records it on a tape recorder.

In the end, D.C. passes and can play in the big game.

 

fastbreak

Harold Sylvester as D.C. and Gabe Kaplan as Coach David Greene in the 1979 film “FastBreak.”

 

Ryan’s the same way sometimes. When he runs and I ask him questions about school, especially math, the answers roll right off his tongue without any hesitation. Now if we could find a way for him to write complete sentences when he runs Ryan would be an academic machine.

Ryan’s also a lot like Alex Schneider, the non-verbal-autistic man who runs marathons, when it comes to not feeling pain. If it hadn’t been for Coach Ben noticing the hitch in Ryan’s stride or him asking how much farther we had left on a run back in the fall, we would have not known the extent of his injury with the subungual osteochondroma.

Just like Ryan, Schneider doesn’t communicate he’s in pain.

“[Alex] almost seems impervious to pain,” McDermott said. “He almost has this muted sense of pain where unless you see the blood, you don’t realize he’s hurt. So we try to exercise caution [in his training].”

 

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Twin autistic brothers Alex and Jamie Schneider.

 

Even after the surgery, Ryan didn’t take a single dose of pain medication to relieve any pain. When he returned I asked every quarter mile. Now I ask about every mile. I am waiting for the run when he looks at me and says, “Stop asking! I’ll tell you when I am in pain. Until I do, just run!”

Ryan also doesn’t have the tantrums like he used to before Brain Balance and running. He is definitely more confident in himself and his abilities. Since that morning when Wendy and I both ran into the living room, he has stopped spinning completely. To replace the spinning to an extent, Ryan waddles like a penguin and shakes his head, but he doesn’t even do that as much as he did spinning. Matter of fact, since the weather turned warmer back in March, Ryan hasn’t even been swinging. Not once!

Like all the others runners profiled in the article by Wade, Ryan has found acceptance through the running community. It has also led to him being more outgoing in other social areas especially his youth group activities on the weekends.

“When he comes here, he’s like one of the guys,” his Thursday night Bible study leader, who also is a runner, said recently. “He answers the questions when it’s his turn and has great interaction. Some times he gets off point, but that’s OK. He’s talking and understands the lessons.”

All of it showing we both have come along way since that Sunday morning in the pick-up line for Ryan’s Sunday school class at Mount Pleasant Church when he had a melt down and the gentleman behind me asked, “why can’t you control your son?”

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4 thoughts on “It’s Almost Go Time

  1. I among many others will be thinking of you during and after the race. God Speed.

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  2. This is all so uplifting to read. Prior to that article and knowing you, I had no idea that running could have such a positive impact on people with Autism. It’s really wonderful to see all the progress Ryan is making, and the joy he gets from the sport. The fact that you share it with him must be an incredible bond.

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    • It has been a great experience, Elizabeth! Thank you for being a huge supporter! He has come so far. I totally love seeing him smiling ear-to-ear even during double-digit-mile runs when a person would rather it be over. It is definitely a special bond that we will share forever.

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