Tuesday, August 27, 2013



I never know what to say when its all over...which is a very unusual predicament to find myself in!  The feelings, emotions, words, thoughts are so overwhelming and have been swimming in my head now for two days.  The two words that keep repeating over and over are:  Wow and Thank You.

This year was a really great race.  I was a bit more confident than last year because I knew what to expect. (The first time in a transition area is insane.)  I had also been more active for several more months than last year so I felt in better shape over all.  AND Patrick would be at the finish line this year, which is huge.

My start time in the water was at 7:30am, an hour later than last year, which was nice.  I was still putting my bike into transition at 4:15am, but got to chill for a bit until I had to get into the lake.  The announcers at the swim start Todd Busteed and Michael Williams, gave an amazing tribute to Patrick.  They picked me out of the crowd and talked about how Patrick motivated me to start this journey a year ago and continue it on this year.  My fellow swimmers were terrific and everybody had encouraging words.  Its hard to explain how the energy and kind words from these announcers makes such a difference!  I was nervous, had a million thoughts going through my head, worrying if everyone figured out where to park and where to meet, hoping I wouldn't get run over by an uber swimmer...just totally spinning on stress adrenaline.  Then these guys' voices break through, focus me on Patrick, make me laugh, let me take a minute to remember how special this all is and turn it back into fun.  And I'm not the only one they make that happen for....thousands of athletes are warmed by their words.  I love them!!!

Let me just say, I love the swim.  Now, having said that, you'd think I'd be turboing my way through the water.  No.  Just the opposite.  For those that know me well, I am a water baby.  NOTHING makes me happier than being in/on the water.  I am a human bobber.  I can float vertically in water over my head.  Like I'm standing...only I'm not because I'm 5'2 and the water is way deeper than that.  So, during the swim section I actually have to remind myself there is a competition going on and I have set a personal goal to beat last year's time.  I'm lookin' around, waving at my friends, having a conversation back and forth...just chillin'.  Seriously.  Then it dawns on my that being the human bobber is not getting me to the finish line any faster.  But I did cut off a few minutes from last year's time anyway.

I'm also quite found of the bike.  The city is so beautiful and it wasn't too hot yet at the start of the bike. And the great guys at Glenview Cycle, suggested on Friday, (when i brought my bike in for a tune up...very last minute) that I change to smaller (skinnier) tires.  I was afraid that small tires wouldn't hold me up.  Despite my well developed ego, even I do not want the world seeing me in my tri suit, with every roll and wrinkle showing, sitting atop two flat tires that could not bear my girth.  Even I have my limits.  However, the Glenview boys assured me it has nothing to do with weight and my old tires were providing me with some unnecessary resistance training.  I will do anything to make my ride faster and easier.  The new tires were wonderful!!

The bike starts out on an up hill.  Yes, you heard me...STARTS UP HILL!  I have now heard Todd Busteed say, two years in a row, "set your gears in your bike so you are ready to ride up the hill".  I don't really know what that means.  So, I make my way up VERY slowly, changing gears every two seconds.  But I made it to the top without having to get off and walk!  There is a hill at the end that killed me last year and this year.  Just could not get all the way up without stopping and walking it.  But who cares?  The ride down was fabulous!

I'm just going to say it.  I HATE THE WALK!  I know I should be more of a good sport and not whine, but god I hate walking.  I'm not able to run it so I walk and it feels soooooooo slow.  And it was getting really hot.  My speed was good and much better than last year, but my back was  spasming so I had to keep stopping to stretch it and that pissed me off.  But there were so many great people along the way who remembered me from the swim and called out my name and encouragement and man, that is so energizing.  And the other athletes are incredibly nice!  I was stopping to stretch close to the end and looking pretty raggedy.  I was really hot, very tired and having to stop more frequently.  A very fit, authentically athletic looking guy stopped next to me and said, "you can not  stop.  you must put one foot in front of the other.  I am not going until you go."  Jeez....this guy is a real athlete...I'm sure he really cares about his finish time and he's stopping for me!  Well that got my ass moving. A few feet before the finish, I was starting to feel cold and getting goosebumps.  Not a good sign in 90 degree weather,  There was a young woman watching the race.  I asked her for water.  No idea who she was.  AND SHE GAVE ME HER WATER!!  Chicago rocks.

As I came around the corner Patrick was waiting for me.  The officials allowed him to cross the finish line with me (picture above).  Michael and Doug were announcing and again made us feel like a million bucks!  The crowd was cheering and I could not believe we were crossing the finish line together.  Couldn't believe it was over!  Patrick was all smiles and a little bit disappointed he did not need to call 911 for me.  I accidentally walked into the medical tent which was very fortuitous because I was so hot and tired I could not stand.  I plopped into a chair, but the medics thought Patrick was the problem and covered him from head to toe with ice cold towels.  HELLO...I JUST RAN THE RACE!  Patrick started blinking and said, "get these towels off of me".  I took them.

The first word was Wow.  The second word was Thank You.  Thank you to every person who donated this year to support Patrick (I will shamelessly point out you can still donate by clicking on the donate button at the top of the blog).  Every dollar goes to Patrick.  There is no overhead.  Thank you to my wonderful brother, Tom Harte, who donated this year's T Shirts.  Thank you to Colette O'Reilly who made the shirts at less than cost.  Thank you to Mary Nimrod, trainer extraordinaire, who trained me at the beginning of the season at no cost as a contribution to Patrick.  Thank you to Ed Reardon who provided me with some great nutrition tips and a really great supplemental drink called Vitargo.  Again, all at no cost.  Thank you to my terrific sister Eileen Harte who promotes me endlessly through Facebook and email and drives her coworkers crazy.  Thank you to Grandpa's and Mike Maginot who provided the after party food at a discount and wrote a very generous check.

Thank you to my beautiful friend Sue, who has more than enough on her plate with her own health issues, but remembers to send me texts and emails of love and encouragement AND beautiful flowers!  Thank you to my ballroom dancing girls who have shared many laughs and anxiety driven shots of tequila with me!  Thank you to all my wonderful friends who take the time to listen to me whine and still remain incredibly encouraging and loving...Maria, Joe, Val, Jeff, Gordon, Sue, Sue....and all the Facebook encouragers!!!

I have to give a special shout out to the crazy ass Russian dance teacher.  I can say, without a doubt, though it pains me to admit it, there is no way this year's race would have gone so well without him.  My body has changed in so many ways and each way made working out and competing easier and better.  In particular my core.  There are whole exercise classes and DVDs devoted to strengthening your core.  Nothing works better than to have an annoying Russian hit you in the stomach every time you start to relax.  Believe me.  And I have tried to work around it.  Every time he yells "make your belly button stick to your back! suck it in! " I yell back, "it is in you asshole! you just can't tell because I'm fat!"  But its not and he knows it and I have to suck it in.  I remembered to suck it in during the swim, on the bike and when I was walking.  I'm always complaining that its hard to hold in my abs and I have more fat to hold in so its harder for me than anyone else in the world (oh yes, I do actually say that).  He points out...every fucking time...that once I learn to hold in my core and stop bitching about it, everything else will become easier.  He's right.  I HATE THAT!!  But Vlad, my sweet, you have endured my yelling, my frustration, my tears and more yelling.  And I am so grateful and love you for it!

Finally, my wife Renee.  She lives with me and still loves me and still lives with me.  Enough said.

I beat my time last year by 40 minutes!  When I got on my bike I looked at my watch and thought, I want to finish by 11am.  I think I crossed the finish line either at 11 or 11:02.  I'll take it.  I'll take all of it.  Every single second.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

17hrs 56 min 26seconds until Race Day!!!!! BRING IT ON BABY!!

I logged on to the Chicago Triathlon website this morning and this is what I saw.  Awesome! And scary!

Having fun.  That's really what its all about.  Its a bit freeing not to have any expectations about a competitive finish.  Though, maybe that will change some day.  But for now its about Patrick.  Its about me.  And its about having fun!

I was in the shower this morning thinking about this blog and feeling so overwhelmed with emotion.  The last several weeks have been crazy.  Life with Patrick has been a blast...a great Tribune article, a documentary being made about him and just some great time between the two of us.  Laughing, smiling, talking.

Work (I'm a hospice nurse on an inpatient hospice unit) has been intense.  Its a job that most of the time I love and some of the time, like most of us, I don't.  Recently we have had several very young patients  That is always difficult and forces reflection.  Then out of no where something happens that makes me love my job again.  I was taking care of a 51 yr old woman who was dying of colon cancer.  This was not a patient who's heart warming story graces the pages of Chicken Soup for the Hospice Soul.  She was not going down easy or happy.  She was a strong Eastern European woman who was losing control and did not know how to cope.  She wasn't warm and fuzzy.  Very few things we offered her were agreeable to her or helped.  A couple nights ago after an exhausting amount of time placing things just exactly right on her bedside table (two of them), repositioning her, listening to her explanation of why she thought she had pain, which including every possibility in the world other than the large tumor pressing on her spine, and praying my last nerve would not fray, I asked her if there was anything else I could do for her.  She looked directly at me and said, "Yes. Can you sit with me for awhile?  It helps."  And I did.  I pulled up a chair, held her hand and talked about sustainable farming, gluten free diets, her two sons, growing up in Poland, unhappy marriages, falling in love again.  And then she fell asleep.  And I thanked God, nor for the first time, that I had a job that allowed me the time to do exactly what i was doing.

Friends, cancer and the universe.  One of the other joys and gifts that has come to me through Patrick is reuniting with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  We went to grade school, high school and college together.  We were roommates in college.  We drifted apart after college, mostly because I was not the friend I wish I had been.  We connected on Facebook and she reached out to me after reading about Patrick.  The day we met again after 30+ years was like time had stood still.  4 hrs later we left Panera and I felt like not a day had gone by without us talking and seeing each other.  6 months after than she told me she had been diagnosed with advance ovarian cancer.  fuck.

Her path to treatment has been a holistic one and has included treatment plans that are new to me.  Sometimes I want to scream, "PLEASE DO IT MY WAY!"  Do what I am familiar with.  Let me do what I know so I can help.  But its not my path, its hers.  But I am on the journey with her and am so grateful and joyful that she is in my life again.  And right now she is doing well.

THEN, as if all these cancer stories were not enough....another friend just sent out an email that she remains cancer free 18 months after being diagnosed with one of the most aggressive types of cancer we know.  And it was advanced.  And today she has clear CT scans, walks 10,000 steps a day and is taking off on a road trip with her best friend!

The moral of the story being you just never know.  None of these stories ended the way I would have predicted.  So look at the people you love.  Kiss them.  Tell them you love them.  Because you just never know.

I know this an odd pre-race reflection.  But its where my weird little head goes.  My friend Sue, (the old grade school, high school, college friend) looked at me the other day and said, "You know, Patrick and I have something in common.  We can't run.  But Mary Jo can run for us."

Yes I can and I will.

I love you all more than you can ever know.


Details about the race:
Sunday, 8/25
I am Bib# 2651, Heat 18
Into the water at 7:30am
If you download the app Lifetime Tri Chicago and enter my name, you can follow me on your phone
After party at Grandpa's at 2pm
In Glenview, on Prairie, across from the Glenview trainstation
I am expecting people to shower me with shots of tequila

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


A talented young film maker from New York, Colleen Shaw, is currently filming a documentary on Patrick.  This is going to be an amazing and profound movie.  It will show all aspects of Patrick's life; his spirit, his humor, his frustrations and a very realistic picture of his every day life- which is not always easy to watch.  To see a trailer of the movie check out  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2122445118/crush-it-the-steins-story.

 This movie is an opportunity for people to understand the life of an individual with Locked In Syndrome.  It is a rare opportunity to have an inside view into a rare and potentially devastating  condition.  Its also an opportunity to see how one young man does not let the illness or the devastation define him.  

##CRUSH IT (ok, I have no idea how to use the #)