Free Mount Desert Island Marathon Race Entries

For close to five years now, I’ve been doing everything I can through my Operation Jack Autism Foundation to try to raise money for autism-related charities, one dollar at a time. It’s always one idea at a time, and the latest thing I’m going with is building a team at the Mount Desert Island Marathon in October. It’s a great race and all the money raised will be split between two autism-related charities in Maine: Springy Pond Farm and the Autism Society of Maine.

I’m offering what I think is about the best package for the lowest threshold out there: With just a $100 fundraising commitment, Operation Jack will provide you with a free entry into the race, an Operation Jack tech shirt and a custom hand-created canvas painting with an MDI Marathon theme created by members of L’Arche Mobile, an organization in Alabama that provides a group-living situation for mentally disabled adults. More on that in just a minute.

Springy Pond Farm’s mission is to provide therapy that is fun, meaningful, motivating and rewarding by engaging with animals, nature and purposeful activities. They support the mission of every learner with an individualized, holistic and measurable approach.

The Autism Society of Maine’s mission is to provide education and resources to support the valued lives of of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

I’m looking to build a team of 10 runners, who can participate in the half marathon, full marathon or marathon relay. My basic principal is that for something like this, the money I spend on race entries will turn into donations that are at least equal to the expense of those entries. The money going to Springy Pond and ASM will be at least equal to the money leaving Operation Jack.

But what’s always the case is that people aim for $100 and it’s so easy, they hit $200 without even trying. Or $300. I love turning money I’ve raised into even more money for autism charities that can use the resources. And on top of that, people who join the team get to run the race for free!

I haven’t run this race before, but I’m looking forward to it. Two of my friends and longtime Operation Jack supporters, Sarah Emerson and Danielle Sterling, rave about the scenery. They also warn of the hills but that’s OK. I’m also excited to be able to have Operation Jack participate with MDI because the race director, Gary Allen, is a charity-minded class act (and a great runner). Can’t argue about associating with people like him!

Here’s some shots of the course:

I've run through scenic spots that were much less scenic than this.
I’ve run through scenic spots that were much less scenic than this.
Views like this will make the drive from Philly worth it.
Pretty sure this is a photo. But it could be a painting.
Views like this will make the drive from Philly worth it.
Views like this will make the drive from Philly worth it.

I can handle 26.2 of that, that’s for sure.

Also, as I mentioned, I like to give out a few goodies. As I mentioned, there’s the tech shirt.

Short sleeve or sleeveless tank, take your pick. Or both. You want 'em, I'll send 'em to you.
Short sleeve or sleeveless tank, take your pick. Or both. You want ’em, I’ll send ’em to you.


And there’s also those canvas paintings I mentioned. I love them — I got one as an age-group award at a race in Alabama in 2010 that was put on as a fundraiser for L’Arche Mobile, which is part of an international federation of communities in which people with intellectual disabilities, can live, work and share their lives together. I order them every year as age-group awards for the Operation Jack Marathon and everybody loves them. It works as a fundraiser for L’Arche and the residents enjoy creating them.

Here’s a couple of pictures:

Front of the award, hand-made by a resident of L'Arche Mobile.
Front of the canvas, hand-made by a resident of L’Arche Mobile. This has a California theme. The ones for MDI will have a Maine theme — ocean and trees.
Bio of the artist on the back.
Bio of the artist on the back.

Join the team!


To join the team, it’s simple: Go to the Operation Jack MDI team fundraising page and create a page with a minimum goal of $100. It’s about a two-minute process. I’ll contact you shortly thereafter and get your information and get you registered in the race. I’ll also send you out a tech shirt. It’s going to be an on-your-honor thing to reach your goal. You don’t have to put a credit card in and nobody is going to charge you if you don’t hit it. I trust that you’ll get there.

If you have any questions, shoot me an email at I’ve got 10 spots — hope to see you out there![subscribe2]

I Think I'm Losing It

Four or five years ago, my dad told me that my grandpa had the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. So the next time I saw my grandpa, I was having a nice time visiting and he told me …

Sam, I need to tell you, it’s ok, it’s not as bad as it sounds, but I have … uh … it’s … I have … oh I don’t remember. Ask your dad, he’ll tell you what I have.

I guess the proof was in the way he told me. Now, as I’m just over six months away from turning 40 (that’s when I’m officially old, right?), I don’t have Alzheimer’s, but I think I’m definitely losing it, too. I’m just going to use Facebook to prove my case. These are all within the past 10 days.

Eight days is better than 10, I guess.
Six days is better than 10, I guess.
I was tired. Old people take naps mid-day (mid-sentence?), right?
I was tired. Old people take naps mid-day (mid-sentence?), right?
A shampooer could probably vacuum too, right?
A shampooer could probably vacuum too, right?
At least I found it eventually. OK, so I found it after I texted Tiff and she told me where it was.
At least I found it eventually. OK, so I found it after I texted Tiff and she told me where it was.
Well, I know I'd notice if she cut her hair.
Well, I know I’d notice if she cut her hair.

Reminds me of when we were living in Colorado a couple of years ago and I went out of town for a few days. I got back and she let eight days go by and finally she told me that she painted a wall in the living room when I was gone. She wanted to see how long it would take me to notice.

I guess she gave up after eight days. But she wanted me to at least go take look and tell her what I thought. So, I went in, took a look, then went back to the kitchen. And I said, “What wall did you paint?

I’m losing it. I’ve been losing it. But at least … at least … oh, I don’t remember what I was going to say. I don’t care. I’m almost old.

If you’re losing it, at least that means you had it, right?[subscribe2]

Helping Others In A Different Way

On New Year’s Eve, I got a call from one of my favorite autism charities, Talk About Curing Autism, asking me if I could help out with developing a program to help people train for races as charity runners. I was flattered and honored. I mean, I’m just a guy doing my thing, trying to figure out a way one day at a time to use my hobby (running) to make some good in the world.

For them to ask me that was the coolest thing ever. First, it gives me another way to help, which I’m excited about. I can only do so much on my own, but to able to do my thing while an organization I really stand behind that has a really good reach makes the most of my ability to combine running with fighting autism? WIN! And from a selfish standpoint, it was a really awesome pat-on-the-back that they thought enough of what I’ve done with Operation Jack to ask me to help.

Just realized, in case you’re wondering, this is a volunteer role for me. I’ve never been in a paid charity role and I don’t ever want to be in a paid charity role — fighting autism through running is my hobby, and I want to keep it that way.

Anyways, I have a fair amount of running experience, and I started a Train 4 Autism running group in Orange County, Calif. that’s going really strong now, so I feel pretty comfortable with my ability to get charity running groups going. But being in more of an official role for good-sized organization like this, I didn’t feel like I was necessarily good enough to do this. When I’m doing my own thing, training myself, running my own race, the only person impacted by me is me.

However, if I’m going to coach people through an event, and they have expectations of having fun through the training process and getting to the start line and finish line healthy, that’s much more important that when I’m working towards a good race. I take that seriously, because it’s a responsibility towards another person. As much confidence as I have in my knowledge and experience, to me that just wasn’t enough. Most people would probably tell me that I’m being ridiculous thinking I’m not able to coach people through their first half-marathon or marathon, but like I said, I take my responsibility towards other people seriously.

So, I went to Chicago last month for a two-day course to get my coaching certification through the Road Runners Club of America. It was actually a pretty interesting course. I already knew a lot of the things they taught, but I learned a lot of new things, too. A lot of the course pieced together a lot of things I’ve picked up over the years through experience. I’ve mindlessly adapted to doing things certain ways and now I figured out why I do what I do. I picked up some knowledge that will eliminate some of the guesswork and “just because” stuff and in general, I feel like I understand a lot more about running and training than I used to.

I passed the exam and my coaching certification will become official once I get my first aid certification. That will be soon, probably within the next week. I’ve worked with friends in the past, but it’s always been just a matter of using my knowledge gained from experience and reading. Now, I really feel like I have a good grip on how to coach a runner through a training cycle and I’m excited to be able to help people. I’ve been working with somebody this spring and it’s been a ton of fun to watch her progress.

Like everything else since I started Operation Jack nearly five years ago, I’m going to take this new role one day at a time and see what happens. I have no clue how it will go, but things have worked themselves out and everything has been OK. Fingers crossed that trend continues, since I’m going to be responsible for coaching autism parents from the couch to their first race. It’s going to be a great opportunity to help them find a positive outlet, plus it will also help TACA. After going through that training and filling in some gaps in my knowledge, I really feel like I’m equipped to lead the way now.

That’s all I have for today. Who’s in Philly? Come out at start with us on May 4![subscribe2]


Operation Jack Marathon Registration Now Open!

I opened up registration for the Operation Jack Marathon today (who’s gonna be first?) and there are a few changes this year, all for the better in my opinion.

First, in case you’ve never been here, the Operation Jack Marathon isn’t just another marathon. It’s a race that’s put on solely as a fundraiser for the Operation Jack Autism Foundation, which is run completely on a volunteer basis and exists to raise money for autism-related charities and encourage autism parents to find a positive outlet and turn lemons into lemonade. 1 in 68 kids have autism nowadays, and my Jack is 1 of those 68, and my positive outlet is to help others find their positive outlet. And of course to raise money for charities! $250,000+ brought in through Operation Jack and the Operation Jack Marathon since 2010! (Check out an awesome difference Operation Jack made in Uganda — we just found this out last week!)

Start of the 2013 race.
Start of the 2013 race.

Anyways, registration is open for this year. A few things for you to know if you’re an OJM veteran:

– Registration will start at just $45/half, $55/full (original 2010 prices!), but starting in June, fees will increase $5/month. So register early! I’m always most interested in participation, and if you’re a past participant and want to return, I want you to come back at a good price!

– We’ll be donating $25 for each volunteer shift worked to the charity of the volunteer’s choice. OJ exists to raise money to give it away, so I want to spread it around to those who want to help. If you’re part of a group or an organization, this could be an easy fundraiser for you.

– Race 4 Free will have a $100 threshold, down from $150, hopefully making participation easier and more affordable. Also, anybody who hits that goal will receive a free Operation Jack tech shirt. Just ask Danielle Sterling — aiming for $100 is easy, and there’s a chance you might even go a little bit beyond that. Hit $100 though, and your entry into the race is free. No risk to try, no obligation and we’re not going to charge your credit card.

– Age group awards will go three-deep this year. Lots of you saw those custom paintings we’ve had the past two years and liked them. I love those paintings and I know you all do, too, and they work great as a fundraiser for L’Arche Mobile, so I’m calling it a win-win and awarding 72 of them total between the half and the full, plus another 12 for top-3 overall! I’m also going to get some for the top fundraisers.

Front of the award, hand-made by a resident of L'Arche Mobile.
Front of the award, hand-made by a resident of L’Arche Mobile.


Bio of the artist on the back.
Bio of the artist on the back.

– The satellite run price is dropping from $35 to $20. Call me the worst fundraiser ever, but I don’t want the satellite runs to be about money — I want them to be about participation and awareness. I do have costs to cover, though, so I have to charge something. I’m expecting to have registration for that open in the next day or so.

I think that’s it for today? Get on the train and register while costs are cheap, register at! Hope to see you out there, let me know if you have any questions![subscribe2]

Race Recap: All Day Run For Autism

I figure when you run 50 miles in a race and raise more than $1,000 to fight autism, you have to write a race report about it. I don’t really know where to start, though.

On Saturday, in Enid, Oklahoma, I ran the All Day Run For Autism. The race was put on by Glenn McDaniel, who I’d met online through Operation Jack and talked to quite a bit over the years. The race was put on primarily as a benefit for a local organization out there called 4RKids that helps promote awareness and provide opportunities for special needs children and adults in the area. I think it was also a benefit for the Operation Jack Autism Foundation. The concept was interesting — there was a six-mile loop and you had 90 minutes to get around. It started at 7:30 a.m. and regardless of what time you finished those six miles, you couldn’t start the next loop until 9 a.m. The next loop started at 10:30, and so on. The race was scheduled to last 30 hours or until there were no competitors left. If you made it in 90 minutes, you could run the next loop. Otherwise, you were out.

tl;dr ... my Facebook status saves you the hassle of reading this way-too-long race report!
tl;dr … my Facebook status saves you the hassle of reading this way-too-long race report!

I collected pledges raising money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and each mile I ran was worth $20.50. Going into the race, I had never run farther than 54 miles, and I had only run 20 miles once in the previous six months, but with money for autism on the line, I was determined to give it my all. I knew I wasn’t in shape and I’d fatigue, but I was optimistic that I could gut out 15-minute miles for a while after I slowed down. Objectively, I expected to run 36 to 42 miles. I had dreams of a new distance PR (more than 54 miles), somewhere in the 70s, and even that bucket-list 100-miler. I didn’t have any reason to legitimately think I could accomplish any of those, and going in I figured I’d be disappointed with anything less than 54, but there was really no basis to think I could do that. No sense not trying, though?

The weather in Enid was great on Friday and Sunday, calm skies, mid-50s. On Saturday, it was a different story. When the race started, it was probably somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees and I heard somebody say the winds were 38 mph. It. Was. Not. Warm. I didn’t realize how bad it was the first lap and was physically in pain because I didn’t have the right layers on. I got through the lap and had about 35 minutes to wait. I warmed up insde in the tent that was there with some incredible heaters and dressed the way I dress when it’s zero degrees back home.

They did a great job with the aid station inside the tent. Plenty of all the typical ultra food you would expect and I made sure to start early with the nutrition. I’m not too experienced with ultras — maybe a half-dozen or so under my belt, but I wanted to be sure I took care of myself before it was too late.

It was a little weird starting up after a 35-minute break, and it was such a bummer to go from that warm tent back to outside! Once we got going, the cold didn’t seem as bad as it did on the first lap. Yay, layers. I was getting a headache on the right side of my head when we were running west, because the wind was coming pretty hard from the north. I started to sense that it would be one of those days that might not be all that fun throughout the day, but it would be fun to write about and reminisce about. War stories are fun to have, but not to create!

During the second half of that second loop, it start sleeting pretty good and with the wind slinging it, it stung when it was hitting me in the face. I got through the loop without any significant trouble. I discovered something that made it tough after that second break — when you go from really cold to really warm, it makes you really, really want to take a nap. All I could think of was sleep and I was only 12 miles into this!

During the third lap, it started snowing. The flakes were pretty good size, but it was better than the sleet. It was getting a little tougher at the beginning of each lap to get going after the break. One good thing about the break, though, was that I was mentally viewing each loop as a six-mile run. I wasn’t think so much about the actually total of the run. When I got around to the end of that third loop, it didn’t seem like I was 18 miles in. It just seemed like six miles. Again.

I continued to get sleepy during the break and as appealing as it would have been to take a nap, I knew that wasn’t an option. By the start of the fourth loop, though, the stiffness started to kick in. My legs felt like they do when I run the day after going all-out in a marathon. I wasn’t alone — we were all struggling to get going, shuffling for about a half-mile before our legs would kick in. It was still snowing on the fourth loop but I think it started to ease up. The wind wasn’t as bad as it had been, although it picked up at times.

By the time I was finished with the loop, I didn’t feel as exhausted as I normally do after 24 miles. I think that’s mostly because of the mently aspect, because I really wasn’t thinking about anything beyond six miles. It didn’t mentally seem like 24. I went in again and it was the same routine — text, tweet, Facebook, warm, warm, food, warm, sleepy, “one minute and we start again!” … those are the worst words ever!

The fifth lap got us past the marathon distance of 26.2 miles, so that officially made it an ultramarathon. If memory serves correct, it was still a little windy, but the snow had stopped. When we got back to the start/finish, Glenn was there and slapped me a high-five and said, “Congratulations! You went ultra for autism!” I spent most of my time running alone and had plenty of time to think about what I was doing and why. I knew I wouldn’t have been out there if not for Jack and the long, long journey we’ve been on with him and Operation Jack. It just felt different and special to hear him say that. It was about 2:30 p.m. at that point and even though I was 30 miles in, I knew I still had a long ways to go. I went through the same in-between-laps routine and got back out there.

My legs really felt stiff when we got going for the sixth lap and as I was telling people I was communicating with, I knew that this was the point where the breakdown and fatigure would probably start to happen. Even if you’re in shape, you’re going to start feeling things after 30 miles. And the starting and stopping made it difficult and the weather wasn’t great. The wind had died down to less than 10 mph at this point and it was warming up a touch, maybe high 30s or even 40, and I actually was doing better than I thought I would be. I got through the lap fine and was pretty optimistic that I’d be able to get past 54.

After another break and more nutrition and hydration, I dragged myself out for a seventh lap. It was starting to get a little tougher just because that tent was so warm and I kept getting sleepy! I was moving around and felt like I was slowing down, but felt like I still had a lot in me. I was having no troubles all day staying below 10 minutes a mile, so I knew that I could go for a while and stay below the 15-minute pace I needed to beat. But about two miles into that loop, I could feel some problems in the IT band in my right knee. I was 38 miles into my day, and I knew I was untrained, and what was happening was, unfortunately, not a surpise.

The issues with my knee were coming and going, but I was moving OK and I knew I’d get in with plenty of time to spare. I wasn’t confident that I had more than another lap in me after that, but I knew I’d go out for at least one more loop. The loops were actually 6.1 or so miles, so I got in and was was 42.85 miles into my day. I’d earned $861 so far. One more loop would get me a bonus mile because of the extra .1 and change and put me at $1,004.50 from my pledges. I was kind of thinking that this was the way it was going to end up, 49 miles, about $1,000, done for the day. That was what I was telling myself just being realistic, although I was also hoping that maybe I could find a way to get to 55 and get a new distance best.

When that eighth lap started, I was stiff, like I had been for the start of the previous four or five laps. But while I eased into a 9:30 pace within a half-mile or so of the start of each of those laps, the second mile of that eighth loop took me about 13 minutes. I knew I was done, that I would just enjoy that lap, because it was going to be my last. My knee was getting progressively worse, and while not tremendously bad, I didn’t think there was a whole lot left in it before injury. The snow melted and the course was getting pretty squishy.

About two miles into that eighth lap, I was running north and got an incredible sense of peace. The course was along dirt roads surrounding farms and when you were alone (which was pretty frequent over the final three or for loops for me), all you heard were cows and your own footsteps. The sun was setting off to my left and it was a nice, bright orange/red. I knew I was done and just started talking out loud to myself. I told myself that I tried hard and while it wasn’t necessarily the best I’m capable of, it was the best I was capable of that day. I would have loved to have quit after 30 miles, but I pushed on because I was raising money. I felt like I pushed myself and didn’t feel any shame for what I did that day.

I think the Dailymile graphic looks kind of funny with the miles all over the place along the loop.
I think the Dailymile graphic looks kind of funny with the miles all over the place along the loop.

I was also extremely grateful for being able to be in the position to be out there. If not for the work for Operation Jack I’ve put in over the years, using running to fight autism, there’s no way I would have been able to experience that serene sunset in Enid, listing to the cows and being able to enjoy the peace that comes when you’re completely alone on a run. There were times when there wasn’t a person within a half mile of me and I really enjoyed the calm. I had a very long week as a parent and it was nice to get some perspective time.

I got in to the finish, a football field shy of 49 miles, and went back out just a little bit to hit 50. It’s not very often I get a chance to run 50 miles (this was only my fourth time ever), and I knew I would have kicked myself for a long time if I called it quits at 49!

So, in all, 50 miles, $1,025 miles raised for autism. I would have loved to have done more, but I was grateful just for the opportunity to be out there and participate. It was a great event, very well done, especially for an inaugural event. I’d love to get back out there next year and run it again. Individually, I just feel so blessed that I’m able to get out there and run and make something happen, not matter how big or small.

That’s all, I guess. Thank you for reading, and if you were one of my donors, thank you for your support![subscribe2]