Team WWP 3rd at Grand Island Trail Marathon

TEAM WWP PLACES 3RD AT THE GRAND ISLAND TRAIL MARATHON!!
5 August 2010, Falls Church, VA ~
Rachel and I are sitting in the living room of a good friend’s house (thanks Ty, Jenny & Kade!) with all our most important belongings packed and ready to drive west for the TransRockies Run. We’ve had quite an adventure for the past couple of weeks getting to this point, the highlight of which was last weekend’s 3rd place finish at the Grand Island Trail Marathon in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. It was, quite simply, the best natural marathon course I’ve ever seen. Breathtaking views of Lake Superior…and great people that were inspired to see the WWP logo.

For me, personally, it was a great day. I’ve been struggling with this knee injury for over 3 months now, and although it’s still not 100%, it’s nearly there. I still have some pain and things I can’t do…but I’m working past them. I guess that’s…well, when you’ve been volunteering for the WWP as long as I have…could it have been any other way? I knew this wasn’t going to be easy…
All that said, I’m rushing to get out the door, so I have to be brief and to the point. I was to partner with Erin Delude for the TransRockies, an accomplished trail gal from Washington State and Idaho. Unfortunately, she’s been hit with some family challenges ~ both her (shoulder) and her 5 year old son (throat) need surgery the week prior to the race. She won’t be able to run…but, of course, she’ll be in our prayers and I’m certain that all will turn out for the best. They mostly do when you’re a great person like Erin is.
Erin helped me find a perfect replacement ~ Paul Terranova ~ I met him and his wife Meredith (successful ultrarunner that just knocked down the Western States 100) at last year’s TRR and they’ve been supporting Team WWP ever since. He’s an ex-Army Ranger that’s spent more than a few days and nights in the field, and a very accomplished triathlete. We’re going in to this one committed to finishing these long miles proudly to honor those wounded warriors that are facing similar physical challenges daily…
I’ll be writing more soon, from the road…
Again, All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
 

**Some pictures of Matt running at the Saint Paul Saints 4 July Game…yeah, I know they’re kind of small…click on the image to bring it up in size. The one to the right is of Tom, Rachel and I on the field prior to speaking to the spectators…


23 July 2010 ~

I’ve got a bit of a belated report from our 4 July weekend effort. I was hoping to announce a total, officially, via the blog, but I’m afraid we’re a little behind. When all is said and done, and all the money is accounted for, the Saint Paul Saints and Afton Trail Race brought us to the $89,000 mark!! In 18 months, Team WWP has raised nearly $100,000…we’re so thankful to the Saints for having us at the game. And, of course, Tom and I couldn’t do this without the Saint Paul Vulcans. Amazing people and so generous with their time. It was a great opportunity to speak to the 9,000 fans (with a large contingent of military veterans) about severely wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And I’m coming to the realization that I’m nearing the end of the line for this effort. I’ve definitely had an amazing time doing this…but New Zealand is just too far away to continue. We’ve talked with the Vulcans, and they’re looking at continuing on with the spring event…so it’s good to know that this effort will live on past my days beating up my feet to bring interest to the WWP.

Grand Island Trail Marathon in a week, TransRockies Run, 113 miles in 6 days, in a month. My left knee is coming along, not 100%, but close. After that, a long plane ride across the Pacific…

Thank you so much for being involved enough to read about our severely wounded warriors…I was just up at Walter Reed the other day. It reminded me to focus, to keep at it.
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
30 June 2010 ~
All,It’s been awhile since I’ve last written ~ things have been busy as Rachel and I prepare for our next assignment in New Zealand. You’d be amazed at how many hurdles one has to hop over to make it overseas in in the US Army. Well, on second thought, you probably wouldn’t.
Big weekend ahead. My knee is at the 85% recovered mark, meaning that I can run but not really race the way I want. That said, I’ll still be participating in the Afton Trail Run (in Afton State Park) on Saturday, 3 July, in the 25k distance. I finished second there last year, but am just looking to remain healthy through this one. It’s an amazing event and I think the world of their Race Director, John Storkamp.

Then, on the 4th of July, Team WWP will be at the Saint Paul Saints game in a big way. There’s going to be a pregame ceremony with a ceremonial flyover, some wounded veterans and combat veterans in attendance, the Saints will wear special jerseys for auction…and I’ll be running during the game to earn donations…yep, you heard that right, I’ll be running from the first pitch to the last out (really hoping there aren’t extra innings!). Each inning, the announcer will let the crowd know how far I’ve gone and how much money we’ve raised…and, between some innings I’ll even do a lap of the field. I hope we can bring in some good donations that night ~ we’re so close to that $100,000 mark!

Here’s the team’s press release for the event ~
Please consider coming out to the game if you can make it, or, if you can’t, make a donation on our Independence Day. Every bit, even what some consider a small amount, will help us to our goal! This is one of those holidays that…well, it really reminds me what some of these special men and women give for us to have the freedom to live in such an amazing country.
Oh, and say a little prayer for my left knee. I know I am.
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
5 June 2010 ~
No Comrades Marathon start, or finish for Matt this year – my left knee wasn’t strong enough.
I’m sitting in my living room, next to my dog Mickey, very early in the morning. It’s not 5am yet, on a Saturday, my body’s clock isn’t quite right. I’ve just finished reading over what I wrote before Comrades (below), and I can’t really shake the feeling of disappointment. As I want to keep my mass emailings down, I’m just going to write about it, briefly, here.
The bottom line is that I gave the knee ample time to heal. I took 5 full days of rest (no exercise) after 10 days of light work. That’s about the max amount of time you can back away from running without getting too rusty. I wanted to make the call at the last possible second, as close to the competition as a I could, in order to give myself a shot. Anyhow, I knew it would be pretty dicey, as just spending more than an hour on it was stiffening it up & getting it sore. The day before, I pulled the plug. I likely couldn’t have finished. What would’ve been worse is that finish or not, I would’ve been down for a long, long time after this race. And I just don’t have that kind of time to sit out these events ~ I’ve made commitments to our wounded veterans and you to fill out these miles.
I wish I could report otherwise ~ but I’ll be back as soon as possible. I’ve been working hard (3.5 hours yesterday) to get this leg back in proper function for the summer’s events.
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
24 May 2010 ~
“The government gave me the means to survive; the Wounded Warrior Project gives me the means to live.”
I was able to be in attendance at the WWP’s Annual Courage Awards and Gala in New York last week – and heard those words spoken by an Iraq war veteran and double amputee, who now serves as the organization’s Director of Alumni Outreach. It was simply the most accurate and powerful description of what the WWP does.
Now, on to our update ~
It’s hard to put into words what the Comrades Marathon means to me. For starters, it was one of my sources of inspiration for Team Wounded Warrior Project. In fact, if you read back to some of my first blog postings, they include the Comrades in multiple instances. For some of you that are new to Team WWP, let me briefly bring you up to speed on this amazing event. After World War I, a South African Veteran named Vic Clapham came home a different person having endured a 2,700 forced march across German East Africa as a prisoner of war. He wanted to honor his friends and “comrades” that had been killed and wounded in The Great War. So he founded a race, the first of it’s kind as it became the world’ first ultramarathon distance event. The race constitution states that the race is “to celebrate mankind’s spirit over adversity.”
You can read more on the race via the wikipedia link below, as well as on the race site run by the event’s Australian Ambassador (Mr. Bruce “Digger” Hargreaves) – you’ll find some amazing video footage there:
I’ve wanted to do this race starting the second I read about it. And now, for Team WWP, I have the opportunity to do it. I know this is not my cup of tea, that this is not the endurance event that I’m particularly suited to excel at. I had a goal in mind (Silver Medal, under 7 hours, 30 minutes – 56 miles at an 8 minute pace) – however, I’ve never done anything quite like this and don’t know how my body will respond to the 40th mile, the 50th mile, and the 56th mile. To compound things, I’ve had a lot of inflammation in my left knee recently, to the point that I’ve had to take the last week off. In light of that…I’m likely to slide to 8 or 9 hours (Bill Rowan Medal). We’ll see. I’m hoping for the best, planning for the worst…I just really want to get across the finish line with a (mostly) healthy body. I’m really going beyond myself in this one. I’m a little nervous, more so than most races. It’s going to be punishing just to finish and come out of it healthy on the other side of the finish line.
But I know what and who I’m running for. America’s severely wounded warriors similarly face this feeling (of the unknown) – every single day. And I’m just trying to honor their sacrifice, one tough day at a time, for 300 miles. Not a day goes by that I don’t read a story about the ugly statistics in our armed forces. Years and years of combat on a force that continually gets cycled back into the fight…wounds…physical and psychological…are piling up. Our military’s suicide rate is through the roof, as well as those recorded by the Veteran’s Administration.
The least I can do, and I mean, absolutely the least I can do is use the small bit of talent God and my parents gave me, for something good – to channel it’s benefits to those that have greater need. If I can do that, then this challenge that I’ve wanted to take on for so long – will have been a success.
Check out how I’m doing at http://www.comrades.com/ – my race number is 49348.
30 May 2010 – it’s going to be an amazing one!
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
Arlington, VA, 29 April 2010

Sometimes, it takes an event to get past a mental hurdle. In my case, it took three, random, sequential events. When I write, I’m trying to convey to you a sense of the “why” and the “how” I’m progressing through this 300 miles in 2010. You’ve probably noticed that my last few postings haven’t been sunshines and rainbows. There are two components to what I’ve beend doing: the fundraising and my performance. My expectations for myself have largely been disappointing over the past month.

But something’s changed. I feel better. More hopeful. Realizing more that two sub-par races are not the end of the world. And, getting back to my point, three things brought my gaze back to a motivated.

1. I saw the most amazing challenged athlete at the Boston Marathon. He was a young guy, maybe mid-20s, with some sort of birth defect in both legs that forced him to use a stablizing walker. That’s not the amazing part – his legs were malformed such that he had to do the race in a sort of backwards/side shuffle. I passed him going up a hill at about mile 8 (or so), and thought to myself “this is why you’re here – quit worrying about yourself!” All in one instance, I was energized to push forward. I know he wasn’t one of those that will benefit from the WWP, but he’s someone that is representative of the people that we’re trying to help. He was amazing and proved to me that the human spirit really can do anything if given a chance. I always fall back on one of my favorite quotations from the Count of Monte Cristo, “Don’t you know that anything is for sale to the man that is willing to pay the price?”

2. The second is not very happy, I’m afraid to report. The Veteran’s Administration recently reported an estimated 950 veterans receiving care attempt suicide each month, and that 18 veterans (including those beyond their care) commit suicide each month. When you couple that with the suicide epidemic in the Army (our numbers have grown signifcantly, each year, for 6 years) – it terrifies me. I don’t know what to say about this one. I mean, I have a lot to say, not much of it would help the problem. But it truly scares me. Primarily because I know how dark you can feel after a combat deployment. It’s not every truly happy…there’s feelings of regret, remorse, sadness, survivor’s guilt…a sense that nothing you’ll ever do will matter as much to the world as your role while deployed. They weigh heavily on the soul. I can say that, although I never really contemplated ending my life – I can see how other soldiers would in moments of irrational weakness. Anyhow, there isn’t much of a point here other than to say the report shocked my system and was another reminder that we’ve got a long way to go as we help our wounded veterans.

3. The last is a race I did for the Army this Wednesday – the ACLI Capital Challenge. It’s a charity event, for which all the proceeds go to the DC Special Olympics, a 3 mile run near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, Judicial Branch, and the media all put together teams of 5 – for example, I ran for Team Army Strong (our team captain was Major General McConville – the Army Chief of Legislative Liason). There were about 15 Senators there, 40 some Members of Congress…Senator John Thune just edged out Senator Scott Brown, for example. I finished 6th overall, about 16 minutes, and our team finished 2nd overall (just behind the FBI’s team, very close). While there, I got to meet Meb Keflezighi – the American Silver medalist in the marathon in 2004, he won the NYC Marathon last year (first American since 1982) – it was a huge honor. We talked briefly about his recovery from Boston (he finished 4th) and he profusely thanked our Army team for our service to the nation. What a great guy…of course, we thanked him in return for bringing honors to our country for his athletic achievements.

These three things…(good things come in threes, right?) brought my mind back to the positive end of the scale. Which, frankly, is something I’ll need going towards the Comrades Marathon. I’ve started preparation in earnest for Comrades, and I fully believe that I’ll be ready to go come May 30th. I’ve never done something like this (56 miles, in heat, on pavement, in South Africa), but, as far as physical preparation goes, I’ll be as ready as I can be. I’ve got some long miles ahead (90-100+ per week) that I think will pay fitness dividends next month. My original goal of a silver medal there (under 7 hours, 30 minutes, an 8 minute per mile pace) will be refined through training these next three weeks. I’ll start my rest period around 16 May – and ease up as I get closer to race day.
My greatest hope is that this hard work and effort will inspire you to support America’s severely wounded heroes. I promise the effort will be there, if nothing else. Please consider a donation and talk to others about doing the same!

All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
22 April, 2010, Arlington, VA – early morning before run and work…
Good morning Team WWP, I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you since before the Boston Marathon this past Monday. Making these trips happen on top of work can put you behind on certain things, and this is one of them. So here’s the race breakdown: the event was amazing and a good experience, but I didn’t perform the way I’d hoped. I progressively slowed down throughout the 26 miles…an occurrence that marathoners try to avoid at all costs. I know that part of it was a byproduct of racing a month ago, and that you’re supposed to slow down post event, but it’s still disheartening. I feel a lot like I did after Stage 1 of the TransRockies Run last year, when I essentially lost all the salt in my body and had to walk the last three miles of the stage. It’s a huge lesson in humility, and a reminder that your body has limits, and only with hard training can you extend those limits. There are no shortcuts. A quotation I used last month in a speech in Minnesota: “Growth is slow and uncertain. It requires faith.”
I still have faith that I can rebound for a good effort at Comrades next month. Quickly, I’ll tell you why ~ at mile 6 or so on Monday, I saw an amazing disabled athlete. His legs had been malformed in such a way that he had to shuffle with the use of a modified cart. He was moving so slow…I just thought to myself, “if he can do what he’s set out to do, then I know I can…and I’d better get going!” Our severely wounded American veterans deserve similar considerations as they move on with their lives.
Comrades is next. 56 miles to the South African coastal city – Durban. This is the 85th running of a race that was originally dedicated to veterans of “The Great War” (World War I). This will really be a challenge that I know I’m ready for, because I still have faith that with hard work, Team WWP will finish this one well!
Don’t you know that anything is for sale to the man that is willing to pay the price? (Count of Monte Cristo).
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
**The picture below is from the NBC Washington interview I did last month…

4 April 2010, Arlington, VA ~ Easter Sunday
$81,300 raised for the Wounded Warrior Project as of today. I honestly never thought we’d go this far, have such high expectations. Sincerely. I originally thought we might eclipse $25,000. So this journey has been one where we’ve changed the bar for success quite a bit.
So I’m running in the Boston Marathon in two weeks. Yep, I’ll be competing in Boston’s 114th running, the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world. This is exciting for me because it enables me to take a shot at a personal record…a shot at redeeming myself after National Marathon. Now, one month post race, and in a marathon that starts at 10am ~ those are not optimal conditions for success. But I’ve got to try. And, although I think very, very highly of the Charlottesville Marathon, and would love to compete there someday, Boston is calling for me.
How could I say no? The world’s greatest marathon in April, followed by the world’s oldest and well known ultramarathon (56 miles) in May at Comrades in South Africa. Those will truly be two efforts that I won’t forget for quite some time. Frankly, if you have an extra wish or prayer, I hope you use it to bring me good health through these next few months…I’ll need it. This is heavy mileage at some big competitions, in fact, the biggest.
My strategy for this one? Well, I had a tough time with the heat at National, so I’m going to have to be careful at Boston (late start might bring some high heat). Also, it’s a deep downhill for the first 5km and I’ve got to keep it in control going out. I’d like to, ideally, get to the half in 1:17 or so ~ same gameplan as National ~ and do a better job of hanging on for the back half. Miles 17-21 are hilly (in Newton, MA), so I’ll lose a minute or two there. Not worried about that…I’ll try my best to preserve my energy in this stretch, for the last 5 miles.
Which, as always, is where the competition begins. It’s always the last 5 miles. I like to think that has a logical connection to America’s wounded heroes. My coach, George Buckheit from the Capital Area Runners, always wants me to start slow and finish fast, because it’s at the end of the race that you make the gains, where you really win. Our wounded heroes start a bit slow…but we’re helping them to finish fast…
April 19th, Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, the 114th Boston Marathon, I’ll be there!
All my best and Keep moving forward, Matt
***I have to mention this ~ I’ve come across a great t-shirt company, Muze ~ you’ve got to check them out. All inspired by great lines in books, film, etc. They have awesome stuff, but most noteworthy ~ they have a line of shirts that they’ve developed directly with charitable organizations, to include the WWP. Literally, every dollar above cost to produce the shirt goes directly to the WWP (backed up by an amazingly transparent financial structure). Their featured celebrity for the WWP is Jeremy Roenick…anyhow, you’ve got to see this stuff:

21 March 2010, Arlington, VA, 10:42am EST
I’d like to be excited to announce this, so I’ll do my best: TEAM WWP FINISHES 9TH PLACE AT NATIONAL MARATHON!!
There was my best effort at putting lipstick on a pig. I promised myself I’d move on after one day of disappointment. That makes this note, this writing, officially, my line in the sand. So here goes, I’ll describe yesterday for you…
I felt good. I felt really loose going into yesterday, and was seriously expecting 2:35 or 2:36ish. A two or three minute personal record. I went out nicely, held back to what I felt would give me the strength in the second half to get there. I went through the half at 1:17:40 or so, meaning I’d just have to stay on that pace to do what I wanted to do, pace wise.
Anyhow, I fell apart in the last 10k. Those last 6 miles were slow and what dropped me to a 2:40 finish. I didn’t completely seize up, but my right leg at the top of the hamstring hurt pretty bad and the inside of the knee, where the tendon meets the knee (well, it’s probably not tendon, there’s just a lot of stuff in there) started to cramp up…I got really hot in the sun. When Rachel and I got in the car postrace, the temperature gauge said 67 degrees ~ and the sun was really strong. I think I just overheated and it slowed me down. I can’t really use that as an excuse, because everyone else on the course had to deal with the same conditions.
I’m sincerely disappointed in myself. I feel like I let a lot of people down. My Coach, George Buckheit, who’s put a lot of effort into getting me ready for this race; the people in MN that gave so much to the WWP last weekend; my friend Ty Heaton, who tried to pace me in those last few miles when my legs weren’t turning over fast enough…basically, everyone has been very supportive over the past year while doing this. And especially Rachel. I felt like I should have done better.
Lastly, mostly, I’m disappointed in myself. I know that I’m not always going to succeed. And I know that sometimes, losing and failing is good for me. It forces improvement in ways that success sometimes can’t. But this one hurts. It feels like a lot of effort that wasn’t worthwhile.
That said, I know it was worth it. I’ll do better next time. In one month, I’ll be racing in Charlottesville. I have a long week of recovery ahead, a week of jogging and getting my feet back under me, and then two weeks to train. I believe, if I’m healthy and the weather is good, I can do what I intended for yesterday, at Charlottesville. It’s a tougher, hillier course. It’s only a month away. I know these things. But I can do it. And I’ll put the effort in to make it happen.
Wish me health (Luck doesn’t really matter at this point).
3 weeks, 6 days to Charlottesville.
All my best & Keep moving forward, Matt
Interesting article in the Washington Post about amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan…
 
18 March 2010, Arlington, VA, 6:18am EST
 
We did it!! We pushed past our $75,000 goal this past weekend in Minnesota to just shy of $78,000 ~ and as a result we’ve developed a new goal: $100,000!
 
That said, everyone that contributed to this weekend needs a long breather. The entire Cocchiarella family, the St. Paul Vulcans, the SSP VFW, the Winter Carnival Court & Klondike Kates, John Hines from WCCO, the local Army Recruiters that did the Color Guard for us…not to mention all the donors for the silent auction. The Scottish Rite Masons in Minneapolis gave a lot, and so did Woodbury Lutheran Church’s congregants. The evening was a huge success and contributed greatly to a long week in which Tom and I collected a very generous (approximate) $29,000.
 
I mentioned taking a break, but I don’t really have one coming. I’ve got my first big race of the season, the National Marathon, in 2 days. In fact, I’m typing this before work on Thursday AM to get it done so I can just focus on race day. It’s one thing for us to have a successful fundraising weekend, but, at the same time, I want to have success on the roads because that brings a different & important kind of recognition to Team WWP.
 
What do I think about the race? Well, I feel good. The bad weather really hurt some prep, but, on the other hand, maybe it kept me from overtraining. I was really concerned about pacing, going out at the right speed ~ but my Coach, George Buckheit from the Capital Area Runners, talked me down from that. He said to leave it alone and just run…that his best races happened when he wasn’t too concerned about his time. And, I think I need that sort of advice, because otherwise I’d be looking at my watch all the time, and if I missed a mile split, I’d be thinking about all the people I’d failed, that support me through this long haul.
 
I will say this, I’m going to go out in 6 minute miles for about the first 7 miles of the race. After that, I’m not sure. My overall goal is to improve on my 2:38 personal record ~ a 2:35 seems doable, maybe even better. I’ll keep you posted when I’m lying on the couch postrace and typing hurts!
 
Thanks for keeping tabs on Team WWP ~ we appreciate the support through the long year ~ it sustains us as we try to balance this with our work and families…
 
All my best & Keep moving forward,
Matt
 
 
 

Author: ML Cavanaugh

Unequal parts strategist, assistant professor, wordsmith, runner, wine-o, reader, philosopher of firepower, and hopeless lover of three ladies named Rachel, Grace, and Georgie.

14 thoughts on “Team WWP 3rd at Grand Island Trail Marathon”

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