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The Ava Brown Memorial 5K

Our friend and Teammate, Robby Brown, and his wife, Sarah, are putting on The Ava Brown Memorial 5K here in Jefferson City on April 14th in honor and memory of their daughter, Ava, who was tragically lost to SIDS in 2009 at just 8 weeks old.  Last year for this race, I wrote one of the most difficult blog posts I’ve ever written, and after re-reading it just now, I’m not ashamed to admit that I broke down and shed a few tears all over again.  For the full story of why this race is so important to us, please read why we Ran for a Reason last year.  We were completely humbled and blown away by everyone’s generosity, and we raised over $1,000 last year as a team.

Ava Brown

We would love to see you and your families join us at this year’s race.  There is a 5K Run/Walk, and there’s also Ava’s Amble, a non-competetive, non-timed, fun run for kids.  Proceeds from the event go to First Candle, a wonderful organization dedicated to advancing infant health and survival.

I will be walking at this year’s race since I will be running the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon the next morning.  However, that doesn’t mean that this race means any less to me.  With every step, I’ll be thinking of Ava and my nephew Benji.  I’ll be thinking of Robby and his family, and I’ll be thinking of my brother, Casey, and his family.

If you can’t make it to the race but would still like to donate to such a worthy cause, you can do so right here.  Every little bit helps.  Thanks, and we hope to see you on the 14th!


Sweat, Sunburns, and Suffering – The Ava Brown 5K Race Report

As the heat radiated off the asphalt, the sun mercilessly beat down on my sweaty, already sunburned back.  With roughly two miles left of my 13.1 mile journey, my iPod quit working.  Shortly thereafter my legs followed suit.  They literally just stopped moving.  I had no control over it.  It wasn’t like I just decided to stop running.  I simply had no say in the matter.  My legs had overpowered my mind and my will.  Bent over with my hands on my knees as cars flew by, I was compelled to lie in the shade and fall into a deep, cool slumber.  I had failed, but at that moment, nothing even mattered…

Blistering Sun

Now that you know how the story tragically ends, let’s go back to the beginning.  In case you missed it, Team Virtus decided to Run for a Reason.  And thanks to all of you Virtusites, we had the opportunity to raise a lot of money for First Candle, an organization working to advance infant health and survival.

Our original goal was to raise $100, but we surpassed that goal within the first few hours!  So we raised the bar to $500 (although I was personally hoping for an even grand). Before we even set foot on the race course, we had received pledges totaling $310, and we had a chance to raise a lot more depending on our performance.  For every person that Drew West, Bob Jenkins, and I finished ahead of at the 5K, we would raise more money.

My brother Casey also threw out a challenge for me.  He said he’d donate $2.50 (and his wife’s employer, Johnson & Johnson, would double that – essentially making it $7.50) per extra mile I would run after the 5K up to 10 miles total.  So basically, Casey was forcing me to run a half marathon, because we all know that the Virtus Code prevents me from declining a run-off challenge.

Team Virtus had 6 runners show up: Bob Jenkins, Cara Willoughby (soon to be Cara Willoughby-Jenkins we hope), Drew West, new Team Virtus member Adam Laffoon, my lovely wife Becca, and me.  Between the six of us, four personal records (PR’s) were set!  Bob, Adam, Cara, and Becca all set PR’s, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.  Drew finished within less than 30 seconds of his time last year, and he finished higher overall this year – all without focusing on any speedwork.

Becca finishing the Ava Brown 5K

Becca has walked some 5K's before, but this is the first one she ran. She crushed it!

***NOTE: I apologize to everyone for wearing a stupid, hideous Packers shirt in the above photo, but a bet’s a bet.  Stupid Packers!!!***

I was on pace to set a PR.  My first mile was 7:05, and my second mile was 7:27.  I was shocked!  I knew that the 3rd mile had some brutally hard hills, though, and the temperature had to be in the 70’s.  My third mile was a pathetic 9:47.  Two people passed me on the hills, and it hurt me to know that with each one of them I was losing money for the cause.  I tried to catch back up to them, but I just didn’t have it in me.  I didn’t set a PR, but I beat my time from last year on this course by 31 seconds, and I placed quite a bit higher than last year.  I’ll call that a success.

And now for the results… They can be found right here.  Out of 195 racers, Cara took 93rd, Becca took 71st, Bob took 49th, Adam took 25th, I took 16th, and Drew took 8th place.  The pledges were only taken for Bob, Drew, and myself, though.  Altogether, the three of us beat… Drumroll please…

We beat 512 racers combined!!!!

So we raised another $587.00!!!  Add that to the $310.00 already pledged, and you get a total of $897.00 which completely smashed our goal of 500 bucks.

It was great to see some of our Team Red Wheel friends, Stoney, The Mitch, Corey, Noelle, Jessica, Chadwick, and Nikki at the 5K as well.  We all chatted after the race as we scarfed down some ice-cold water, bananas, and some delicious Panera Bread Bagels.

Finish of the Ava Brown 5K

L to R: Stoney, Cara, Robby, The Mitch, Corey, Noelle, Adam, Becca, Bob, Me (Drew was gone)

After the awards and many good laughs with good friends, it was time to head out on my 10 mile run.  Drew was going to go with me, but he had some family stuff come up and had to leave.  So I was completely on my own… C’mon, you didn’t think my team would leave me hangin’, did you?  Adam and Bob gamely joined me, and I can’t thank them enough.  And Adam was kind enough to let me change out of that stupid Packers shirt.

By the time the three of us headed out, it was ridiculously hot.  I’m talkin’ 85-90 degrees or so.  About 3 miles in, my nipples were getting pretty raw (probably an allergic reaction to the stupid Packers shirt I had previously worn).  I could either suffer bloody nipples or terrify any onlookers with my pale, flabby belly.  I decided to take my shirt off.  I tried to carry it for awhile, but it was becoming a nuisance.  So I threw it into the brush along the side of the road.  This, it would turn out, was a stupid idea.

By mile 4 or 5, Bob’s heel was destroyed, and the sun had become a relentless beast.  Adam and I ran ahead to a gas station about a mile ahead where we each downed a bottle of much-needed Gatorade (I feel sorry for the clerk who had to accept a 20 dollar bill saturated with my sweat).  As we were finishing the best drink I’ve ever had in my life, Bob caught up to us.  He was still in a lot of pain, and he needed to get home in time to go to a family wedding.


Gatorade Shower

I would have gladly punched Bob in the face for this to happen to me.

It became evident that Bob wasn’t going to make it home in time if he continued the run.  About a mile up the road, we knew Adam’s girlfriend was working at a BBQ fundraiser in the parking lot of Hyvee.  The new plan was for Adam and I to run there while Bob walked.  Adam would then get his girlfriend’s car and pick Bob up, and I would finish the 10 miles.

The Gatorade must have replenished me, because I felt unstoppable on the way to the BBQ.  I was running at a 9 minute/mile pace or so which is pretty darn good for me after running a hard 5K and 5 or 6 more miles on top of that.  Then I realized that I would see a lot of Becca’s co-workers at the BBQ, and I was a sweaty, shirtless mess.  For any of you ladies and gentlemen that laid eyes on me, I apologize.  I hope that you can someday erase that image from your memory.

Adam left in the car to pick Bob up, and I had a little over 3 miles left.  As I left the parking lot, I realized that I had absolutely NO sunblock on.  My shoulders and back were starting to feel the sting of the sun already.  Aside from that, though, I was feeling surprisingly good, so the last three miles were going to be no problem.  Right?  Well, you already know how this story ends, don’t you?  Uh… Not exactly.  I sort of took some poetic license with the intro to this blog post.  You know, for dramatic effect and all that.

It’s true that my legs quit on me, though – several times throughout the last two miles in fact.  And I truly had no control over it.  Whenever it happened, I really wanted to lay down and quit, but I would just wait 30 seconds and then continue running… and running… and running.  I somehow managed to run at 11.5 – 12 min/mile pace, but it felt like it was taking me FOREVER.  I eventually made it back to Memorial Park, and I made a couple of small laps around the pavilion until I hit 10 miles even. And then it was finally over.  No large crowds.  No cameras.  No medals.  But it was one of my proudest moments.

I got a drink and waited for my ride.  When I made it back home, Becca was sweet enough to run out and grab me two bags of ice and a rib dinner from the BBQ fundraiser.  I hopped in an ice-bath to sooth my aching knees and feet and to reduce the next day’s soreness that was sure to come.

***WARNING: Below is a nearly naked photo of me.  Prepare yourself!  You’ve been warned.***


Luke in Ice Bath with Ribs

Trying to not look cold

I later found out that Casey generously upped his pledge to $5.00 per extra mile I ran and Johnson & Johnson would again double that pledge for a total of $15 per mile!  That is incredible!  So, with the help of Bob and Adam, we raised another $150 for First Candle, and that brings our grand total up to:




That is simply amazing and very humbling.  Your generosity and support are unbelievable.  You all have hearts of gold.  You can submit your pledge online by going right here, or you can send a check to me if you’d prefer to do it that way.  Just send me an email, and I’ll give you my address.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of everyone from Team Virtus, thank you to all that raced, volunteered, donated, and kept Ava and Benji in your thoughts.  You all truly made this a very special event for us.  I can only hope that Ava and Benji were together up there smiling down on us as we were running for a reason.

Running for a Reason

Hello once again to all of you Virtusites, both new and old. This blog post will not be the typical Team Virtus post full of really bad jokes and silly photos of husky, hairy men. I’m writing this today for a reason… A very important reason. You see, we need your help.

My friend and teammate, Robby Brown, and his wife, Sarah suffered a terrible tragedy back in 2009. They lost their beautiful 8 week-old daughter, Ava, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Ava Brown Memorial

Ava Brown

At the time, I barely knew Robby, but I remember seeing him in the bike shop shortly after the tragedy.  I remember seeing the pain and sadness in Robby’s eyes, and that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I didn’t know what to say or do.  I felt helpless.  I wanted to give him a hug, but we were not as close then as we are now.  I’m sure it was a dark, sad time for Robby and his family.

Last year, to remember and honor Ava, Robby and Sarah put on a 5K race.  It was a wonderful event, and it was a smashing success.  On April 9th, the second annual Ava Brown Memorial 5K Run/Walk will be held here in Jefferson City, MO.  If you can make it, we’d love to see you there.  You can even bring the kids for “Ava’s Amble,” an untimed and unmeasured fun-run/walk through the park.  Proceeds will benefit First Candle, a nonprofit organization doing great work to advance infant health and survival.

First Candle

For those of you that can’t make it, we’d still like you to help.  Drew West, Bob Jenkins and I are looking for pledges to help raise more money for this great cause. Here’s the deal… We’d like you to pledge a certain amount of money for every person that we finish ahead of at the race.  You can pledge a penny, three cents, a nickel, a dime or whatever for every person we beat.

For example, if there are 200 racers and I finish in 100th place, Drew finishes in 75th place, and Bob finishes in 25th place, then we beat a combined 300 racers (100 that I beat + 125 that Drew beat + 175 that Bob beat = 400).  If you pledged a penny per racer, then you’d owe Four Dollars.  If you pledged three cents, then you’d owe Twelve Bucks.  Got it?  It will motivate us to know that the harder we run and the more people we beat, the more money we raise.

You can post your pledge in a comment on this blog post, on facebook or twitter, or you can use the contact link to email us your pledge.  And if that’s not your cup of tea, then you can also make donations simply by going here .

Our goal is to raise at least $100 (We already smashed this goal thanks to everyone’s amazing generosity) $500 as a team .  We know money is tight.  Every little bit adds up, though.  If everyone reading this would just pledge a penny per person we beat, then we can easily reach that goal.  And if you can’t make a monetary donation, then please help us spread the word.  Share this on facebook and twitter .  Tell your friends, family members, and co-workers.  Please help us out.

I hope and pray that none of you reading this have to experience this kind of loss.  Losing an infant is heartbreaking, but unfortunately, a tragedy like Robby’s happens more frequently than you might think.  It can happen to anyone.

Back in 2005, my brother, Casey, and his wife, Lauren, lost their son, Benjamin Casey Lamb, to a staph infection.  Born 3 months early, he lived for just fifteen days.  Benjamin’s death profoundly affected our entire family.  It was incredibly hard for me to deal with losing my nephew… My nephew that I never even had the chance to meet.  I can’t even imagine how devastating it must have been for Casey and Lauren.

Benjamin Casey Lamb

Benjamin Lamb

I’ll never get to wrestle with Benji (that’s my nickname for him).  I’ll never get to give him too much candy like a good uncle is supposed to do.  I’ll never get to hug him and kiss him.  I’ll never get to hold him.  I won’t get to see him grow up.  It hurts me deeply to know that such a precious life, Benji’s life, was cut so tragically short.  Although I never knew Benji, I will always love him, and I will never forget him.

So on April 9th, I’ll be running for First Candle.  I’ll be running for Robby and his family.  I’ll be running for Ava.  I’ll be running for my family.  I’ll be running for Benji.  I’ll be running for a reason.

Will you help us?

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