Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Second Annual - Auntie Sarah's Incredible Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k

The Runners
For a second year in a row, my friends and family toed the line of our own personal turkey trot. The reason I started this 5k, one year ago, was to give everyone the ability to go to the same spot and get their exercise on Thanksgiving morning. It used to be that many of us participated in various 5ks around the Chicago area, but in large masses of people we didn't know, and were lucky if we actually ran into people we knew at the end. It also used to be that we all paid approximately fifty bucks a piece to participate in said races. I finally said NO MORE! Let's do something fun that wouldn't require huge entry fees, and would be all inclusive.

Last year there were approximately 15 of us who came out to walk, run or spectate. I thought that was hugely successful. What happened this year? We doubled in size and 34 of my family and friends came out to have fun on Thanksgiving morning.

Also, new this year, we had a food drive. It just so happens that all of us participating in our friend and family 5k are very fortunate. None of us need for anything, and so I asked folks to donate food, if they were willing. I collected a small lot of food, and have delivered it to a food pantry for distribution. Albeit a small donation, it was a much appreciated donation.

So, what did this race net participants? Hugs galore, friendly faces, donuts, muffins, coffee, water (on course), and the best homemade 'medals' a person could ask for (I'm biased, I made them all).

So, if you find yourself in the Chicago land area in 2017, please consider the third annual Aunti Sarah's Incredible Gobble Gobble Home Grown 5k.

Here are some pictures from the hugely successful day!
The Medals

Some Little People Finishing

Finish Line


Some Family!!!
The Turkey
The other Turkey

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What is Resilience?

This, my friends, is resilience...
I've lost my blogging way the past month, actually the past year. The events that have taken place since I've last blogged have been somewhat surprising. Most notably, unless your head is in the sand, you have heard, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and I registered for my second marathon. And you know what? The world is still revolving.

Am I happy about all of the most current events? Nope, but this is what I posted to my parents:
To mom and dad: Thank you for raising me to be a thoughtful, kind hearted, loving person. The past 24 hours have knocked the wind out of my sails, more so than being diagnosed with ms. Because of you, I will practice resilience. Just pray that the affordable Care act is not fully obliterated. But that too will work itself out... To the best parents who have always given me the best, taught me the best, modeled the best, I love you and am thankful for the moral compass you instilled in me...
I want to sit with the most important word in that post to my parents: RESILIENCE!!! One of the things us athletes know is that set backs are part of the environment. The set backs are not what define us, but rather the response to the set backs. I was having a conversation with a friend in recent days about how I can get stuck from time to time, even run away, and that is not what I want to be known for. Go back and look at my post about the hard thing rule... Running away is not allowed. 

So how does our good friend google define resilience? The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 

There are some things in life that shave away at the lining of our toughness, but that doesn't mean we should hold back. I have encountered a number of things that have thinned my toughness skin, but I refuse to give up, as I'd rather be a bit weak and ask for help, than so callused that I don't try anything new. 

With that being said, I'm freaked out by this marathon I signed up for, and I am guessing that I am going to hit speed bumps through the year of training, but what I do know is that every speed bump will color my journey, and resilience will be one of my hard thing rules...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Avoid the Crisis

I have yet to master the art form of asking for help. Instead it goes something like this...

I'm working on something and it gets hard, so I set it down. I realize I need to keep working on it and so I go and look at it for a little bit, decide I'll get a small chunk done but the attempt at the small chunk falls flat, so I walk away again, maybe even after setting my tools down harshly. I try to forget about it for awhile and lose some sleep but can't figure out why (or should I say, won't face why). The project continues to sit and all the tools and resources needed to get the job done slowly get put away, or more accurately lost. I eventually just forget that it was even something I was working on, until out of nowhere it is right in front of my face again, no warning and instead of being just something I was working on, it is now a crisis.

If only I had asked for help in the beginning, when it first presented itself as hard, right?

Thinking back on my early days of athleticism, I remember when I would 'train' for a sprint triathlon and would find myself 12 weeks out from the race. What would I do in those circumstances? I would dive into training that first week and go for one run, and a swim; forget the bike because it was too cold! And it was always hard, so I would sit back down on the couch and remind myself that I still had 11 weeks and I would be fine and say to myself, "I'll get started with the training next week". Next week would come and I would have the same conversation with myself recognizing I had 10 weeks, and so on and so forth. And then two weeks before the race, crisis mode would set in and I would 'cram' for the event.

While this training strategy works for some, it certainly doesn't work for me. If only I asked for help in the beginning, like a training buddy? Those days would have been so much easier. Now I have some solid training buddies so it makes things a lot easier...

But let's take a step back and look at why one might not ask for help. Is it because they tried, but didn't get it? Is it because they are scared of being found incompetent? Is it because they don't want the world to know they aren't strong?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know they are questions to be explored because until I figure out the best way to ask, I will continue to create awkward personal crisis that could have been averted by just saying, hey I need some help!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I'm Coming for You!!!

Am I really an exercise bully? I don't think so. I just invite people to join me on various athletic adventures and then use some of the following expressions to be convincing: come on, you know you want to, if I can do it you can too, it's only 150 miles, it will be tons of fun, you must not like me, and if all else fails I cry!

At least that is how it has been explained to me a couple of times. I don't believe it!!!

So, this past week, as I was coming down from my amazing adventure with my sisters and my awesome friend, I found myself lazing on the couch, well actually the hotel room bed, and then the couch. ALL WEEK!!! And you know what? It was kind of nice, especially this weekend. I was able to wake up in the morning and do whatever I felt like doing without regard to a training schedule. It was freeing!!! Until it wasn't...

On Saturday I woke up and finished making some soup and stew, made some deliveries and then went and bought a big kid bed for my guest bedroom. And then today, I spent my time with two of my friends, first at a barn sale with one friend, and then at an ice cream parlor and on the couch with the other. It was so nice to have that time with no agenda, and I want to make sure I'm better at making one of my weekend days exercise free, notice I did not say agenda free!

Now with all that being said, I also found myself planning out my 2018 exercise plan. A few weeks ago I announced that I will do another half ironman, and then I officially invited people to participate in a 2018 Rock & Roll MS ride in Memphis. Let's just say that although I spent my week in a lazy state, my mind was still exercising its' right to plan!

Don't be surprised if you are the recipient of my convincing ways in the near future...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bavarian Breakaway - A Weekend of Fun!

I'm gonna win!!!

All of these are random hashtags that can be seen on my, and my teammates, social media accounts
My team!!! Rockin their tie-dye
from this weekend. Why you may ask? Well most of my readers know why... My small but mighty team of 4 rode a collective total of 600 miles on our bicycles this weekend, to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.

Not only did the four of us ride, we also had a small but mighty team of supporters who came along to be there to provide support, hugs, diet coke, laughs, stories, sweaters, more laughs and love along the way. Our cheering section showed up with their tie-dyed shirts and waved the figurative flag for team Ridin' for Myelin! It was fantastic to see the smiling faces as we approached rest stops at the top of hills, when our bikes were broken, or when we just needed a high five or a hug!

To add to all of that awesomeness, because of all of YOU supporters, to date, we have raised $6,510 to fund Multiple Sclerosis research!!! How cool is that?

Hay Bail Art
And then there were all of the new friends that we made along the way. The Bavarian Breakaway was hands down the friendliest of events I have ever participated in. The staff, volunteers and other riders were amazing, so much so, one volunteer loaned me his bike seat for the day when mine suddenly cracked. Our cheerleaders made friends with the volunteers, my team made friends with other riders, and people remembered us along the course. It might be that our team was comprised of the most hilarious and appealing members, or it could have been our antics along the way (almost causing collisions so that we could take photos of wild turkeys, stopping on the road to examine roadkill, taking aspirin breaks, or taking the alternate route that may have added additional miles to the ride)... Regardless, I will always remember the couple we spent a lot of time with at rest stops, and that solo dude who was riding what appeared to be a mountain bike on a sometimes demanding hilly course (to us flatlanders) who we were happy to have join us for dinner to celebrate the ride!

With all of that said, I think the one thing that made this weekend epic was that I got to spend it with many of the leading ladies in my life!

"I was driving down the road one day...
Someone hit a possum - BAM
The road was his end...
His end was the road...
So they say!!!"
There are so many stories to tell ranging in topic from the expletive forest, the hammock saddle, roadkill art, shortcut girl, beef jerky, pasta pizza, razor misuse, snoring, mohawks, heat activated beads, broken hotel doors, Christmas stores, and on...

But my most important takeaways from this weekend include: Comma splices still don't make sense, my sisters are both fiercely protective, my best buddy can endure tremendous pain, I will still need to rewrite paragraphs to avoid using the words affect and effect, hay bales are for a lot more than king of the farm games, roadkill can look artful, and I have the best supporters around.

The Finish Line!
And here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure... Enjoy!!!

Toasting with hohos...

Town sign.

Accidental selfie. 

A big ole thank you to my donors!

Another town selfie. 

Believe it... All for Janell and Sue's pleasure...

Only missing two in this photo. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

the "Hard Thing Rule"

I found myself at my typical first stop of almost every road trip, on Friday. I was standing at the audio book rack at Cracker Barrel, trying to decide if I wanted a murder mystery, a comedy, or a self help book. Let me set this up for you though, I picked out three books to start, and the three genres all have some sort of  meaning for me:

1) Murder Mystery: As of late, I have found myself overly entertained by television and fictional stories. Watching TV is typically my escape, and because I find myself watching so much TV lately, I can only assume that I have been living in a bit of an escape. It used to be that I would take baths to escape, but since those are off limits these days, I've defaulted to television. Quite honestly, I wasn't really in the mood for an escape.

2) Comedy: See murder mystery explanation and then add to it that I don't like comedy. In fact, I often tell my friends that I guess I don't like to laugh (tongue in cheek). But in all seriousness, unless it is over the top satire or Dumb and Dumber (no joke, ask my friend... I made her sit through Dumb and Dumberer for my birthday IN THE THEATER!!!) I am just not entertained by comedy I think it is because I grew up on bad dad jokes or something. Anyway, I again wasn't in the mood for escape, or a laugh (or lack there of).

3) Self Help: I always like to self help myself. In fact I'm always looking for ways to be better, but see point one... I have been somewhat addicted to escape and so I was leading towards my default, even though I really wasn't in the mood for my default.

Anyway, I walked around Cracker Barrel with all three books in my hand while looking at the random items for purchase, and then realized I was broke and needed to go with the cheapest book. I was happy with this decision until I looked at the prices and realized self help was the cheapest. I mean seriously, why was that? Psychology appointments cost like five hundred dollars an hour, the book was 9 hours long, you would think it would have been upwards of four thousand dollars? Alas, I purchased the book. Need I mention that if you return the book to Cracker Barrel within a week you get a refund minus three dollars for the book? So, cost shouldn't have been a factor, but self awareness set in, and I remembered that nine times out of ten I forget to return the book and I spend a bagillion dollars on a book that only mildly entertained me.

Anyway, after making this purchase, while scratching my way to the car (did I mention I have poison ivy on my entire body?) I convinced myself that I was going to put the first disk in and if I didn't like it I would stop at the next Cracker Barrel and return the darn thing and pick up a country music CD (my least favorite type of music) and turn it on repeat for six hours over the course of the weekend, as a means of causing noise for myself.

What happened though, was a bit of a miracle... The author was the narrator and she captured me at the prologue... Talking about her dad, and geniuses, and the fact that she isn't one, and so on and so forth. I found myself laughing right out of the gate. Quite honestly, that was probably the only time I laughed while listening to the book, but instead found myself diving deep into the world of self help that I think will help me in every facet of my life.

Forget that this is the blog of a determined athlete for the next sentence... This book that I picked up Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance happened to be of discussion at work recently, and I found myself drawn to the one excerpt I read, but because life happens and it was a tough week both professionally and personally I quickly forgot about my interest... But what I learned is that what I exhibited that exact week, when I was introduced to the book, was the exact opposite of grit. And so my desire to reflect on that and 'work' on that at work was the first big dip into self reflection I made.

I'm not going to focus on that work stuff here though... That is for me to explore with the help of my tremendous support system called my colleagues and boss... Instead I will focus on what this means for me athletically.

Aside from the book talking through the psychology of grit, grit scales, charts, research, research, research, all which mean nothing to me because I am a believer in experience, both yours and mine, I found myself engrossed in the stories of athletes, military personnel, KIPPsters and Teach for America participants. As I listened to how we as humans can learn grit from the 'outside in' and how our experiences in life teach us how to, or how not to, persevere, I found myself realizing that although I want to have exponential grit, I sometimes rest on my laurels and simply say "I can't". In fact, I have found myself saying I can't a lot lately... I can't run in the heat, I can't have my air conditioner above 68 degrees, I can't sit outside in the heat, I can't stop scratching this stupid poison ivy, I can't, I can't, I can't...

What if my parents always let me default to I can't? Well, if they did, I would probably still be scared of airplanes, I probably would never have been on an awesome softball team with a bunch of girls I didn't know... Fast forward to adulthood. If I lived in a world of I can't, I would never have been a person to cross the starting line, or the finish line of any race. Add MS to the equation and I would never have participated in my second half ironman this summer. And so with that, I will say that I am lucky to have been nurtured by my parents, first and foremost, in exploring the I CAN in life.

In the final part of the book, the author starting talking about raising kids, and although I don't have kids, I just spent the weekend with three of my seven nephews and nieces (yeah, another one is on the way!!!) and this portion of the book was of particular interest especially because I got to watch my nephew at his first track meet, and my other nephew study for the SATs and talk to my niece about her extreme interest in cooking. One of the ideas the author spoke about is the Hard Thing Rule, that she employs in her house. There are three rules, and I don't necessarily remember what they are verbatim but they basically were: 1) do something hard; 2) finish that hard thing; 3) no one else can choose your hard thing. She also went on to say that once her kids hit high school there was a fourth rule, the fourth rule is that you have to stick with that hard thing for two full years.

I heard this and instantly had my AHA! moment...

One of the things I know about myself is that I persevere when I like something, when it gets hard depending on what it is I stick my head in the sand or I charge on... Then add some external forces and if I find that it is so hard and I'm scared, it is immediately followed up with I can't. This was both an invigorating discovery, as well as a sobering discovery... Did this mean that I lack grit? Or does this mean that I have been out of practice and I need to reemploy some of that grit? I'm going to go with the latter, because it makes me feel better, and because I know there is something I can do about it.

So, yes I have been doing triathlons for years... yes I have been enjoying the experience... yes, I believe training, starting and finishing are all accomplishments... BUT, what if I said I wanted to improve next time around? What does improving mean? How does one measure that improvement? What external forces have to be explored to determine that improvement? These are all questions for exploration, but what I do know is that I can improve, and I'm going to spend two years doing just that. In 2018, I am going to do my third (maybe fourth, if I get antsy next year) half iron distance triathlon, and I'm going to do better...

The one thing the book didn't explore was the idea that 'I can't' can sometimes be real, and then what? I would love to sit down and talk with this psychologist, especially because she captured my attention once again when she talked about how our neurological receptors, or something like that, can always be enhanced, especially considering our bodies, even in adulthood, have the ability to continue to develop a myelin sheath... Um... I'm guessing MS has not been a factor in her research? It would be of interest to me to talk through how demyelination might impact her grit scale, but does it really matter? Perhaps it does.

Anyway, I walk away from this book with the desire, the desire to improve. And so I adopt the "Hard Thing Rule."

I plan to dedicate one post a month to where I am with my experience employing the hard thing rule... I hope you will enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ridin for Myelin!!!

In 27 days, we ride again!

Janell, Christina, Sue and I will be riding through Michigan in an effort to support Multiple Sclerosis research. Why do we ride? Here are some of the reasons I ride...
  • I ride because... I can! Having multiple sclerosis is a journey that requires continuous adjustments. I acknowledge that every person, regardless of whether they have a chronic disease or not, has to make continuous adjustments in life, and those adjustments are hard. I can truly empathize with every person because my adjustments are often bring with them more laughter, more tears, more medicine, some depression, and even some regression. But like any steps backwards, there are more steps forward you can take...
  • I ride because... I know a lot of people with MS. Cousins, a neighbor, a friend from years ago, new friends, family friends, my siblings' friends. All of these people have struggles, but they also have amazing lives and a quality of life they wish to withhold long term. If I can raise money for research, for this purpose, I'm in!
  • I ride because... It gives me joy, most of the time. You may hear me say something different in the middle of a very long ride, but I can promise you the experiences and memories I create every time I just on my bike are ones that will be carried through my entire life.
  • I ride because... It keeps me healthy and mobile. As Newton's Law of Motion states, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. So, when you watch me stretch myself thin for the sake of exercise, it is with the intentions of keeping me in motion long term.
That is a very short list of why I ride. I have been reading my sister's posts about why they ride, and here are some of their words:
  •  I'm riding with a team in September to raise awareness and money for MS research. But you may not know that Multiple Sclerosis is the most common neurological disease in young adults, and afflicts more than 350,000 people in the US - including close members of my family. 
  • Curious about all the cycling posts? The mile markers, bike pics, random trail check-ins? It's all part of our family cause - MS (Multiple Sclerosis) research - and the long bike ride I'll be doing with my siblings and our team 'Ridin' for Myelin', in September.
  • I have a sibling, friends, and relatives who live with MS and would like to do my part to fund research for a cure.
I'm very lucky to have family and friends that will not only come out and spend a weekend with me, riding bikes through Michigan, but also willing to devote so much time to the training and energy it takes to prepare for such a ride. This weekend I saw that our team has logged over 300 miles in preparation for this ride... 

As I have in the past, I want to pay tribute to my riding buddies. They include:

Janell: My big sister... She has been looking out for me fiercely since I was little... Always the life of the party, always willing to help. Consider donating to my big protector: click here. 

Christina: My big sister... She has always wanted me to be healthy and is always throwing her words of wisdom my way. A big sister that has braided my hair, made me go for bike rides, and has always watched out for my (and everyone's) health. I wouldn't be riding if it wasn't for her. Consider donating to my exercise jump starter: click here. 

Sue: Well, this is the one who puts up with my antics, wakes up early on weekends to go for bike rides, and deals with my incessant need to talk. Always by my side, always willing to listen to my brain doctor for what he REALLY says, rather than what I like to hear. A true, best friend. Consider donating to my best pal: click here. 

And Me... Always being a little too goofy, making my friends exercise, and laughing at the jokes a bit too late. Consider donating: click here. 

There you have it folks, our small but mighty team... As we go out 'Ridin for Myelin'... Learn more about our supporters in a future post!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Everyone Has A Story

I spent a couple of hours watching the Ironman 70.3 Ohio this afternoon and I found myself reflecting. So after a few months break from blogging I decided it was time to reflect through some writing...

I spectated near the run out (where the triathletes transition from cycling to running) for about a half an hour, and cheered on the runners as they embarked on their half marathon journey. I then went and sat in the stadium at Ohio Wesleyan University watching people cross the finish line of their 70.3 mile journey and suddenly noticed my face was wet. Why the wet cheeks? Well, of course because I was crying. I was crying because I understood the satisfaction, the pain, the elation of those people who were crossing the finish line of their race. I also found myself tearful because I knew every person who crossed that finish line had a story, a story worth telling, a story worth hearing...

While thinking about people's stories, it made me think about my story, and how there are so many things that make me who I am, and define my quality of life... And it is frightening when some, or all of those things are off balance. Why was I thinking about the lack of balance? Well because I finished a half ironman about 2 1/2 months ago, and just one week ago I decided it would be in my best interest to change my Olympic distance triathlon coming up in September, to an aquabike because I have accepted that running this summer was tainted by the extreme heat and humidity. To me, that is lack of balance. I think it is fair to say that my athleticism/health are a big part of my life story, at this juncture.

The other things that help me feel settled in life include the job I love, comfort at home, and my family/friends. If one or all of those things are off balance, the ideal situation would be that the other things come in and compensates. Perhaps you recall blog posts where I talk about each party in a relationship is only responsible for 100% of their 50%, but those percentages may need to fluctuate from time to time? Similarly, I feel that the four most important things that make me, me, are like quadrants that all need to be in balance. And that is a big part of my story because there are always external forces that can come in and upset the balance, for instance, the heat... makes running sometimes prohibitive. Other things that upsets the balance? A lot of travel, family emergencies, head aches, lack of energy, storms, money (or lack there of), drop foot, disagreements, inability to focus, etc.

Everyone in this life has points in time where everything feels off balance, and that is when this good ole extrovert thrives on sharing. Sharing the stories, the frustration, the pain, the experiences... The sharing is not to diminish anyone else's STORY, but hopefully a reminder that an ear is there if every you want to share your story. It also isn't meant to diminish anyone else's EXPERIENCE, or make it seem as though your own personal story is more important, but rather to learn about how other people have coped with their struggles.

With that being said, take a moment, listen to someone else's story, or share your own... After all, everyone has a story...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Half Ironman Take 2

The finish line, with my stalkers (you can see my finish line chair to the back right)
As I crossed the finish line of my SECOND Half Ironman, I had no idea how to feel. It wasn't until the following day that I recognized my true feelings.

But let's rewind several months. About 9 months ago I was contacted and asked if I would be interested in doing another half ironman to celebrate a 40th birthday. I am rarely one to turn down a request for challenging my endurance and so I jumped on the opportunity. I registered impulsively and then felt like I was punched in the gut. How the heck was I going to prepare for such a significant race, especially considering I was going to be travelling for several weeks in the beginning of the year. I then reviewed the training schedule and learned that all was good in the world because the training wouldn't officially start until after my trip.

Training swiftly began in January, a couple of days after I returned from India and I dove in as best I could. The training was challenging in the middle of winter, but I stuck to it until one day I fell in the middle of a business meeting. What was simply a trip, fall and sore knee at first, was really a strained knee that couldn't be run on for three weeks. Set back number one recorded.

I continued swimming and cycling on a stationary bike at the gym, but could not squeak a run out of these legs for the life of me.

After three weeks of struggling with training, I was finally able to run again, but had to start from scratch. This stressed me out to the core because I just lost several weeks of running. Regardless, I brushed myself off and marched on.

My training was going fairly well when I suddenly became sick. I had a sinus infection that I insisted needed antibiotics, but the doctor insisted I needed rest. and so I rested, for a week and never got better. I followed up at the end of the week and was finally given antibiotics, and began to feel better. Another week of training lost... Set back number two recorded.

I once again brushed myself off and picked up where I left off, which equated to four weeks behind in running, a couple weeks behind in swimming, and about three weeks behind in cycling. I simply was not going to give up!!!

In the midst of all of these random setbacks, I also had some weird symptoms that could only be explained by the dreaded words Multiple Sclerosis, by my doctor. What could I do for these symptoms? Well, you guessed it NOTHING. But I chose to trudge onward, and opt for some physical therapy that I though might help with my walking struggles, and amazingly it did! While all of this was going on, I was training in silence, because I could not figure out if this race was going to be attainable. In fact, I was so silent in my training, several people expressed their concern for my readiness, at which point I assured them I was training. This is when I started talking about my training as to squelch people's concerns and then something happened, training started to feel easy, so easy that as my running miles built up, I finished each run with confidence, I was killing my swims and even started to ride outside, which was a blessing as 45 miles on a stationary bike was a different kind of misery that no individual should ever have to experience. My champions were likely still skeptical, but they chose to show support rather than cynicism because they were hearing of my successes!

All of a sudden the race was two weeks away and I couldn't have felt better about the race. Everything was looking up and I knew I was going to smash my goals. My last weekend of big training I went out for my long run, smashed the 11 mile run and was literally on cloud 9. The next day, I was so excited for my success that I hit the bike trail with an exuberance that was mirrored in effort. I was clipping along and about 10 miles into my 55 mile bike ride, when I took note of my speed 19 mph. Clipping at 19 miles an hour was likely not going to be sustained but something to strive for for at least the first 25 miles or so...

And then it happened, my back wheel slipped on a wood bridge and I found myself sprawled across the trail, wind knocked out of me, water bottles rolling in different directions, my bike 10 feet from me and a runner standing over me asking if I was alright. I thought I was, once I caught my breath. I put myself back together, cried for a few minutes, sent a couple of texts and decided that I would just slow down for the remaining 45 miles. I officially only made it three more miles after the fall, and found myself sitting on a car stop in a park parking lot, crying, while waiting for my friend to pick me up. I was sore, but certainly didn't think I had a concussion or anything else seriously wrong with me. I simply thought I had a bruised ego and I could put myself together to try again the next day...

Well, I was wrong, the next day I could barely roll myself out of bed and was at the doctors office learning of concussion signs and being probed and prodded to ensure none of my ribs were not broken. Because of the symptoms I was told to refrain from exercise until my concussion signs were gone for 24 hours, and until I could breath normally while exerting myself. Here I was two weeks before the race, and once again sidelined. Setback number three.

At this point I had a lot of concerned champions questioning my motivation, and for good reason. Why the heck would anyone want to keep pushing their body to the limit? Well, I really didn't believe I was, and I still stand by that. I felt that it had nothing to do with pushing my body to the limit, but instead me giving my body the opportunity to perform, and that it did.

After a few days of laying around, I found myself out running again, and it was a bit of  a struggle. My chest was sore but I could breath. I then went for a bike ride and splashed around in the pool, but my nerves were off the hook. One more week until the race, and half of my taper time included significant couch riding.

So, fast forward a week and I found myself toeing the line of what was to be my second half ironman. I was freaked out to say the least, but found peace in a calm lake. It wasn't my fastest swim ever, and I'm certain I could have outperformed this swim if only I had taken more responsibility for my swim training and exposed myself to open water swimming this season, but I didn't. Regardless, I was proud of my swim, and was even more excited when my friend Sue emerged from the sidelines to support me as I tripped my way into transition.

Typically, I am a good 'transitioner' however, I really took my time and dilly dallied so as to feel stable when going out for my bike ride. After what was a lifetime, I hopped on my bike and began going up a never ending hill that I literally didn't find relief from for 56 miles. Obviously, any rational individual will tell you that you can't go up hill for 56 miles, but this was one heck of a bike course that was relentless. The hills kept pounding me one after the other, after the other.

The Sun Greeting me. 
Because the bike course was a loop, I was blessed to see two of my closest friends along the way. Sue and Chris managed to find their way to the end of the loop, and as I approached the top of one of the longest hills, they were standing there shining the 'sun' down on me and showering me with love and cheers. Something that would keep me going as I took on the loops.

After my final loop, I found myself climbing another impossible hill that would take me to the final downhill of the bike course. As I rode up this hill, the realization hit me that I was also going to have to run this hill not once but TWICE!!! I would have felt deflated if it wasn't for the runners cheering me on to get to the top of the hill!

Once done with the bike ride, Chris and Sue did NOT miss a beat and were there for me. They were shoving subway sandwiches into their mouths and drinking coke, and I chastised them for eating in front of me, but then I spotted a cookie, and I made them relinquish their cookie to this struggling athlete... All the while, Sue stabilized me as I headed into transition and Chris asked me what she could do for me. Careful what you ask for, right? Without missing a beat I said, you have your running shoes, right? She did... I said, put them on and run the first loop with me. Without putting much thought in it, and after my trip to the bathroom, Chris was by my side, while Sue was screaming my name as I headed out for my half marathon.

The run was equally relentless as the bike. There was not just one hard hill, but around every corner was a hill, that I knew I could conquer with my walking capabilities, afterall this run mirrored more of a WALK run than a run... But so I went with Chris by my side telling me stories of her kiddos and continued support. After one loop, screams from Sue, my other friend Chris joined me for the second loop. She supported me, walked with me, jogged with me (when I could muster a jog), and we talked about life and love, my random crushed and friendship. Reflecting back on that I would say that the friendship she offered, along with Chris E. and Sue was friendship that many people yearn for but never realize in a lifetime, and here I had three of them there for the ride!!!

At the top of some hill 5 miles into the run. 

Anyway, after a few tears, a stop at an outhouse, the sweep vehicle stalking me (by the way, they were the best, most desired stalkers one could dream up), and one more GD uphill, I was finally close to the finish line, and across I went. I had the best cheering section of the race director, some EMTs, my stalkers, and other staff cheering for me... And then I collapsed into a chair!!!!!!!!

The welcome to the finish line

And that is it folks, another half ironman under my belt. But the story doesn't end there. The finish was climactic, and I'm thankful for every moment I was able to keep my body moving, but it wasn't until the next day that I realized what this race really meant to me...

The day after the race, as I was trying to shovel in four huge blueberry pancakes with strawberries and whip cream on top, Sue asked me a question, and I have no idea what that question was, but this was my response:

This race was different than the first half ironman. I remember when I did the first half ironman, I had just learned (three days before) that I had MS. I recall turning the corner to the final downhill of that race and I burst into tears. When I reflect back on those tears I remember that they weren't because I was about to cross the finish line of the biggest achievement of my life, but rather tears because I was about to cross the finish line of what was likely going to be the FINAL big physical achievement of my life. I remember thinking that this was going to be the last time I would be able to do a race like that because certainly my body was certainly going to give way to broken down myelin sheaths, and damaged nerves.

I continued by saying something along the lines of the following:

But this race was important, special and necessary because it was proof that I was wrong, and that I could still do anything I put my mind to. 

I don't recall if I said this while trying to eat copious amounts of pancakes, but I know that I stand by this today, even though this half ironman took me 15 minutes longer, it was certainly a much bigger, more satisfying accomplishment because I got to prove myself wrong... AND had three very special people there choosing to take the ride with me.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Story

I have been very sporadic about posting this year. I'm trying to get back to my normal weekly posts, so I'll shoot for every other week for awhile, working my way back up to weekly.

What drew me to the blog tonight? Well, a story of course.

Let me start by sharing a story about my sister-in-law. Two years ago, a huge crowd of 'my people' came to Ohio to do an MS ride. One of the cool things about this ride is that they give all of the people who have MS a free bike jersey. Because of the expense of bike jerseys, I jump on the FREE in this instance. So, there were a lot of people riding with their I Ride with MS jersey during this ride, including myself. Quite honestly, I love the jersey not only because it is free, but also because of what it stands for. During the ride, it reminds riders why they are riding. It reminds riders that people who have MS want to continue to have the ability to ride long into the future. It also makes me proud to be able to say that I can still keep up with everyone else!!!

My Jersey
The thing I dislike about the jersey is the special treatment people get just because they are wearing the jersey. I'm not talking about the 'employee of the month' type special treatment, but instead the 'oh that is sad, he/she has MS' treatment. Sure, I will always take my VIP parking spot, but typically my VIP parking spot is necessity, and I'm guessing most people with MS would agree that when they finish exercising they are done for awhile and the long walk across the parking lot is daunting. I also appreciate the thumbs up, and the nice comments from people about why they ride, that is cool!!! But just because I wear the jersey doesn't give me permission to not be kind to people, or to have people hold back when I do something wrong.

So back to the ride a couple of years ago, my sister-in-law was riding up a challenging hill for Ohio standards (did I mention she is a Mountain rider, so this is baby stuff to her?), and her chain fell off her bike while shifting gears. This was nothing she had control over, at all. It could happen to anyone, however someone shouted at her to tell her she should not be riding on the left if she was slower than other folks. I am guessing my sister-in-law could have blown this person out of the water, riding up that hill, but instead she was stopped by a mechanical problem. This person was quite rude to my sister-in-law, so much so she wanted to tell the girl to chill out, BUT, when my sister-in-law looked over her shoulder, the girl was riding with an 'I Ride with MS' jersey and decided not to say anything as a result.

When she told me and my sister this story, we both agreed that she should have said something. Just because she was wearing the jersey didn't grant her permission to be rude.

I thought of this story today because while I was riding on the local trail today, I was stopped at a road crossing, and a guy came up behind me on his bicycle. This light is notoriously long so we settled in, got ourselves a drink and started chatting (yes, I will talk to random people while I'm in public). During this conversation this guy gave me a kudos for riding even though I have MS, at which point I realized I was wearing my jersey. I told him that I would likely never stop riding. When the light changed, we said a quick goodbye, and clicked in. He 'took off' while I tried straightening my foot to get it into the clip, all the while knowing for certain that I would catch up with him, and probably blow by him. My tried and true riding buddy is often baffled by my need to showboat in these circumstances, but because she wasn't there to restrain me today, I capitalized on the opportunity.

Sure enough, I was quickly riding past him, shouting 'on your left', when he said, 'Oh, it's you again.' Then he sped up to keep up for a few minutes, he told me he was impressed with my speed especially because I have MS. At this point I had a choice to either be a jerk, or respond with grace. I chose grace... I just said, thank you, explained that I've been riding awhile, and plan to do a two day 200 mile ride in September.

I tell you this story because it is important to understand that two letters do not tell a person's entire story, do not define a person. That girl should not have been nasty to my sister-in-law regardless of what jersey she was wearing, and they guy on the trail should not have made assumptions about my riding ability simply because I was wearing my MS jersey. I myself make immediate judgement based on what I see, I am human after all, but these two experiences are reminders that I need all of the information before I react.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Invite

Having a relationship with exercise is like having a relationship with an introvert; you should never expect them to invite you to the party...

I liken this statement to something a wise woman told me recently; we teach people how to treat us.

You know what sucks? When you really just want to be invited every once in awhile... I guess I haven't taught exercise how to treat/invite me?

Anyway, I am a true extrovert, and so I'm going to always invite people to the party. The thing is, I don't want to over-invite, which is probably why I am selective about who I invite. I also don't want to have to beg people, or hear no all of the time.

My family, one of my sister's in particular, has a reputation of being successful recruiters for athletic pursuits. There is a reason I like to exercise these days, and I can tell you it didn't begin by sheer personal will... but rather by being dragged kicking and screaming! Boy am I glad I crossed that first starting line, because it led me to my first finish line! And here I am today, a recruiter.

You are cordially invited to join the 'Ridin for Myelin' team... Consider this your invite! I will not ask again, because I know if you want to join in the fun you will! I can guarantee a few things if you RSVP yes:

1) Dinner reservations the night before;
2) Fun on the course with all the people riding for MS;
3) Lunch reservations after the ride.

My sister and I are registered, and hope you do too...

Ridin for Myelin

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Great India Adventure: The Rubber Tree

A Rubber Tree Forest 
I can't tell you how many people have said to me, since I've been back from India, you mean rubber comes from a tree? Um, yeah...

And then I get follow up questions:

What do you mean rubber comes from trees? I mean, a rubber band is made from... uh, rubber?

How do you get rubber out of a tree?

I thought rubber was made from plastic, but you are telling me it is a plant?

So, one of the many ways farmers make a living in India is by farming rubber. We were lucky enough to see the rubber making process from start to finish. I have posted pictures and the steps (that I remember) below!

Step 1: Tap the tree. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of our host's family tapping the trees. I think I was too busy trying not to fall over from the heat. Basically, in this step, they carve out a spiral wedge in the tree and place a metal slide from the cut tree, which pours the sap into a metal bowl, that resembles cast iron.
Picture of a tapped tree. 

Step 2: After letting the tree bleed for several hours, one of the farmers walks from tree to tree collecting the sap from the bowls. Once they have all the sap collected, they place the sap in a pan. The pan looks very similar to a paint pan. In the pan, the farmer mixes the sap with an agent that solidifies the sap.

Rubber Sap mixed with some solution to solidify the sap.
Step 3: At this point, the solidified rubber is taken to a contraption that looks like a super sized pasta machine, and is rolled through the machine to expand the rubber before they begin drying the rubber.

Step 4: Once the rubber is rolled out, it is hung on lines that look like laundry, to dry.

Picture of the patting out the rubber before the rolling process begins.

Step 5: Once the rubber is done drying, it looks like this. It is then sold to the rubber factory to make our everyday luxuries such as rubber bands, and such. 

Step 6: The trees are then covered with plastic band aids to try and heal the tree for the next tapping. You can get about 25 years production out of a rubber tree.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Great India Adventure: planes, TRAINS and automobiles

Our Bed for the Night
Our trip in India included several flights around the country, countless hours in our vans, and an overnight train to a wedding. Since I have been back, people have asked me what my favorite moment was in India, probably expecting me to say seeing the Taj Mahal. While the Taj Mahal was spectacular, and certainly a highlight of the trip, the real response to the big question is that my favorite memory is of the 'train ride'.

OK, so, let me be fully transparent here. I can't say that the sleeper car was my favorite experience, but I can say the experience will always be etched in my brain, and will be remembered as a great international adventure.

So, while I was preparing for this trip, I paid close attention to our modes of transportation, and was knowledgeable about the weather. These two things are very important for a person who is traveling with special medication that needs to be refrigerated (but I'll leave that for another post). So when I realized we were going to be traveling by overnight train, in very hot weather, I instantly started planning for wicked temperatures. I borrowed a lunch cooler, bought ice packs for the cooler, and hoped for the best.

Well, the best came in the form of air conditioned sleeper cars! When father told us we would be on air conditioned cars, I literally leaped for joy inside... This was, in fact, the best news, because by the time we were going to be traveling by train, I had already learned that there was no such thing as a freezer for my ice packs at any of our hotels, and I was still trying to preserve the integrity of $6,000 worth of medicine...

How naive of me to be so singularly focused... What I mean is, I celebrated too soon...

When we arrived at the train station, I was overwhelmed with the volume of people lingering, loitering, sleeping, passing, pushing and staring. For some reason, the day leading up to the overnight train was particularly hard for me, and I can only guess that it was due to the tremendous heat that we encountered throughout the day. I was fairly grumpy, but trying to hide it, and the influx of people everywhere threw me into a bit of a tailspin. I literally just wanted to board the train and sleep it out.

And then I saw the state of the trains on which were were going to be traveling. The realization hit me that first class, air conditioned sleeper cars in India, barely hold up to a regular commuter train in America. This was one of many moments in which I recognized the huge difference in my standard of living in the United States, and the standard of living in India. Neither standard is right or wrong, but it certainly made me reflect on how much I appreciate the standards I have become accustomed to, living in the United States.

Anyway, I took a look around at the characters I was traveling with, and it appeared to me, as we sat there waiting for our train, that everyone in our group seemed a tad bit deflated. Could they all be having the same feelings as me? I wondered... That is when I started pacing, and then dragged my mom and Mrs. H. to take a walk. We tried to find a bathroom, nothing suitable was available... We talked about the fact that we didn't feel safe in that moment... We took note of the people sleeping everywhere... We paid attention to the hundreds of people traveling in the night, just to get to their next destination... Here we were, three Americans walking around a train station in India, without knowing what we should say next.

After a little time, we made our way back to the group. I put on my 'fake it til you make it' smile and offered to buy everyone potato chips and pop. For me, the little bag of chips and orange pop I was drinking was just enough taste of 'home' for me to go on with the train ride with a a bit of a smile on my face.

And then the train arrived...

We all approached the train hesitantly, but were being pushed forward by a crowd behind us. Was our hesitation due to not understanding where we should head when we got on the train? Or a result of our apparent deflated state? Or maybe a combination of both? I don't think I will ever know the answer to that question, but onward we went!

When we boarded the train, we moved into our car, and it was evident we had no clue where we needed to go, but Father came to the rescue. He directed four people into one cubbie, and shuffled the remainder of us forward. He then started looking for our seats by opening up the curtains that were hanging throughout the cabin. There were already people loaded on the train, and he was obviously disrupting the sleep of many passengers, as we heard at least one person chastise him by saying loudly, WE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP. At this point Father discovered the seat assignments were clearly marked overhead, and there was no need to disrupt others to find our way.

We continued pushing down the isle and were all being directed into various locations. Mrs. H. found her bed for the night, and then I was directed to a single seat on one side of the train while Selfie and her Hubby (their names for the rest of these posts) were pointed into a 'stall' directly across from me. I sat down in a seat feeling as though I had been deceived. Where was I to sleep? There were two singular seats facing each other, and a big burly man came and sad directly in front of me, and our knees were jammed together due to the proximity of the seats. I was watching longingly as Selfie and Hubby stared at their sleeping arrangements (top bunk) and so obviously tried to stay positive while they shoved their belongings into their 'beds'.

As I sat there, about to fall apart in tears, Father came to my rescue AGAIN. He spoke with the guy who was basically sitting in my lap, and then told me that I got to sleep in the compartment above the seat. I was both thankful, terrified, and worried. You see, the seat I was sitting on, barely fit my body, and the width of the compartment above, was comparable... Oh, and did I mention I am claustrophobic? I made my 'bed', threw my backpack to one end, and then climbed aboard. When I jammed myself into my sleeping space, I literally thanked my lucky stars that I have spent a lot of time in MRI machines over the last couple of years, because they prepared me for what was to be my home for the next eight hours.
My Sleeping Quarters

My sleeping quarters
Once I was settled into my bunk, I looked across the isle and saw Selfie and Hubby trying to arrange themselves in their beds (please note, their beds were about twice the width of mine, so in this moment I did not feel bad for them). I watched as they climbed in, and I tried to made a few jokes to lighten the mood. I think my jokes fell on deaf ears.

Hubby and Selfie trying to get situated.
Soon after settling in, I closed my curtain, prayed that the train would make it safely to our destination, and fell asleep for several hours. I was awoken by Father telling me to get up because we were almost to our stop. He was clearly using 'Father Time' when telling us we were almost to our stop, because our stop did not appear for another hour. (For your reference: Father Time is the amount of time Father would tell us we had to get to our destination. We always knew to multiply his estimate by at least three. A two hour drive? More like six... Twenty minutes until our stop? One hour in real time) During this hour we all found the humor in the overnight train. Pictures were taken, loud talking ensued, and Selfie told the story of her rude cubbie mates, and I honestly thought I was going to have to save Selfie from a scary looking woman who kept Selfie and Hubby up all night with her talking and texting on her cell phone.

And we arrived!
A view from the isle. 

 When we arrived at our destination, at 5:00 in the morning, we were again faced with an overly crowded train station, people sleeping in rows on the ground, people pushing, and major confusion on our faces... Yet we all survived...
People sleeping in the Train Station

So ask me again, what was my favorite part of my trip to India? I'll still say it was the sleeping car!!!

Side Note:

If you ever travel to India, let me first provide you with a few tips:

1) If you are flying while in India, be sure to bring a paper copy of your e-ticket to the airport, otherwise you will NOT be allowed to enter the building. My mom and I both learned this valuable lesson on our final day in India.

2) When traveling by train, be sure to reserve the first class sleeper car WITH air conditioning, and note that it might not feel that cold.

3) If you have the luxury of having a small van, with a driver on your trip, make friends with your drivers... I happened to love our drivers, and learned more about Indian culture from them.