Sunday, October 31, 2010

There's only one first one. Part Two

If reading from here first...scroll down and read the bottom (Part One) first.


As Forest Gump said "I just kept runnnnnningggg..."

Over parts of the way I had spotted this tiny little girl running in a witch costume.  Even early on I had seen her (when I felt good) and said “Isn’t this fun?” and she enthusiastically squealed YEAHHH! 

By mile #2, at the top of the reservoir, I was left running in a pack that stayed steady including the cute little witch, a 52 year old grandmother, a jailbird in black and white pinstripes and a fairy. 

The little half pint was running all by herself, no parent beside her.
It was probably a miraculous distraction because I began to worry about her, sidetracking me from my own perilous fears about my spiking heart-rate.

We asked the cute little witch if this was her first 5k.
 “OH NO” she said proudly, “I’m seven and I started my racing when I was 6.”
.My sister grabbed this shot later on on her run.
I just cut up.  We were all laughing as I took my glimpse at the beautiful autumn Rochester city skyline from the high vantage point.   

Suddenly a masked Spiderman came running up from the opposite direction up the hill toward us and outstretched his arms.

“Daddy” squealed the little witch.
Having, taken her under our wing, we (the jailbird, fairy and I) made sure the masked man indeed was her daddy. I thought he would scoop her up because her little legs looked as tired as mine but he grabbed her hand. The father told us he had just taken a top runner prize, but had come back to run along side his very confident yet weary little racer.

As father and daughter loped nearby I began to feel the wind come up.
“USE YOUR DOWNHILL” a volunteer called out. I was not far now. I really was going to do this. The hardest part was over.

When I rounded the last turn, I heard the music and cheering before I saw the 3 Mile sign. My face was chapped and wet with tears. I thought of Chad and Amber who I had lost this week…and I thought of the guy whose racing dreams I carried inside my sneakers and whose name was on my shirt. I began to run faster---knowing I wanted to finish strong. I passed a couple people as my speed picked up. I didn’t even know I had it left in me.
I heard an announcer call out 38 minutes and something, something. I began to smile through the waterworks. Knowing my limitations, I had set my goal at finishing under 40 minutes and despite all my slowdowns along the way I was going to meet it.  

This was not going to be the time a hotshot would be proud of, but for me, with a pretty battlescarred lung and lots of hardwiring complications, it was something I could live with.

I hopped up from the road to the soft grass and caught sight of the big blue inflatable finish line and the familiar voices of my loved ones filled my ears. I ran through the finish with absolute joy.

After being assured that my tears were not from being hurt or in danger…hugs came from everywhere. I did it. Is this what it feels like? Is this why you keep at this whole running thing?

Then Zach’s parents hugged me. I can’t imagine their mixed emotions. They’d been there at the finish line for so many races. It's been almost two years since their iron-willed racer left us. If my chest felt full at that moment, it was surely not exertion, it was remembrance as I watched them. Zach's dad rolled the video camera and his mom snapped pictures..making sure to get a good shot of their son's name on my t-shirt.

My cheering section. Yes, Peter they got me my chocolate cake!

We all went out to breakfast afterward at Jines, ten of us in all.  After our table was a smattering of empty plates Zach’s dad handed over a box to me. Inside were some of Zach’s things. “We’ve been meaning to give these to you,” Zach’s mom said. I saw the Captain Caveman action figure I’d given him for Christmas,  a pile of photocopied articles about his racing, and inside meticulously kept and still in its box was his very high end triathlon level heart rate monitor. I didn’t want to cry again after all this, but I just had to hug them. 
“He would be so proud of you,” Zach’s mom said.

As I prepare with a very heavy heart to say goodbye to Amber today at her funeral with all of our TLC crew…I am reminded that no one really leaves this earth without a trace.  Love and remembrance are our way to hold on to the ones we love. As much as we miss them…we hold on tight to that which is ours to keep….forever.

There's only one FIRST one. Part One

Yesterday was probably a day of more mixed emotions than I have ever known.
The weather, although slightly windy, couldn’t have been more perfect for a run in the park. 
My first 5K: Pumpkins in the Park.
The starting line. I'm in there somewhere.
Picture from Fleet Feet Sports website

A couple friends were originally supposed to run with me, and at the last minute I found out I indeed would be running this solo (albeit with 466 other strangers). 

My fears came hard and strong…what if my lungs start giving out? 
Or my heartrate gets too high and I fall?  No one will know me or my situation.
No one knows me in this crowd. I'm just an anonymous runner.

I had to quickly squelch the fear. I stretched my legs and readied for  the start. I had prepared, I was ready and I was doing this for (and with) Zach. some ways it was prophetic, that I run this matter my disappointment.

By the time the start sounded adrenaline was pumping through me...and I just ran with the colorful crowd. Leave it to me to get lost in a crowd of butterflywings, colored wigs and zombies on my first race. Yet the beginning felt good. I felt the energy of everyone around me and kept a solid stride. By the time we rounded onto Cobbs Hill Drive I was still confident.
I am somewhere in this pack.
Picture from Fleet Feet Sports website
I'd run this little uphill neighborhood trail several times over the last two months since I'd found the course map online. The first mile was great, but as often happens (even in my workouts) I felt the rolling and winded breath fill my chest soon after the mile mark.  

I had stayed with the racing crowd but at over a mile I began to gradually lose those familiar costumed characters dotted around me. An umpalumpa, a princess, a wizard, and a runaway bride passed as I began to feel the heaviness in my chest thunder in.

My heart-rate was 187. I slowed to a fast walk.
This is nuts, I thought. What am I doing, trying this while still recovering from an upper respiratory infection and after having such a difficult week?

I kept checking back at my monitor---waiting for my heart to go down 30 before I attempted to run again. It was then that I was approaching the hardest part of the run, the reservoir—all uphill. I honestly don’t have any memory of getting up that hill….something took over. The next thing I remember was that I was cresting the top and some volunteer had seen my shirt saying Zach’s name and shouted something encouraging…and then his name.  I heard it and the tears came…I wasn’t going to stop because this is what I came here for.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Running with a broken heart

I've been staring down October 30th on the calendar for quite a few weeks (and months). 
I've been worried about a lot of things for this 5K, but it turns out they were all of no weight in the grand scheme of life. That's right. Life. Those worries are of little significance to what's on my heart right now. 

Chad was always in with the ladies!
I never knew that this week, the one leading up to my big race, would be one fraught with total heartache.

Two friends died this week...first, I learned of Chad, 32, a friend who passed away on the other side of the country. And just yesterday afternoon, it was Amber, a beautiful 18 year old young woman in our TLC program. 

Both of them were beautiful souls...with sparkle, vitality, energy, talent and loving hearts...and both were lost to cancer. 

One heartbreak is enough to sink a spirit, but two in a row have left me feeling incredibly hollow this week.

And in the midst of all this--- I'm planning on running a race? 

Amber and I just two weeks ago
Doubts abounded. Yet, maybe- just maybe this is the right time to run. My athlete friend and energetic cheerleader, Mary Eggers  posted on my facebook spurring me on. Even in this dark time, especially in this dark time---there is motivation.
She's so right.

As I take my mark among 500 other runners I will feel a lot of emotion. I'm still not aiming to make an impressive time because that would just be entirely unrealistic. I run with a purpose. 

I carry with me Zach and so many others whose lives have been interrupted, forever changed--- or ended by cancer.

I can't fight cancer. I can't cure cancer. 
All the marketing buzz words waving on banners can't annihilate this disease. Knowing that almost seems the definition of 'powerless'.

However, for whatever it's worth, I still feel there can be a vibration from the difference that one can make by doing somethingIt can't bring my friends back. Yet, in times of grief and tragedy we need a way out of powerlessness. I need to feel that even more now.

In some small way...I will carry the stories of my lost friends with me on my run. 

Having raised over $1,700 for young adults across the country who still struggle with their disease and seek the financial help of the SamFund...I know I did something. 

Thank you to all of you who have stood behind me and allowed me, not only to not give up but to push forward. There is no way I could have do this without you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In case you wanted to help me out...

As you know this 5K is also a fundraiser for the SamFund.
On October 30th I'm going to have a small cheering squad...but you can also cheer me on by donating....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Serenity Now

Another full day.  
Up at 5:30...out of first job by 3:30---> Home for a brief  few minutes-->   Head out to job #2--- 
At the center by 5:30pm..and at last back home by 9:30 PM.  
And then I do it again the next day.
I have not had a lot of time to think lately, or rest, or get myself together. I'm starting to feel like I'm watching the days blur by. They swirl together in a topsy turvy blender...and when I look back, I don't remember anything I've done distinctly.
This is the point where George Costanza would scream "SERENITY NOW."
Tonight serenity was mocha ice cream with chocolate cookie chunks (eaten from bed).

Yet as all this time passes the day of the race creeps up. I try to find a hole in my weekday schedule to place a run. I squeeze one in here and there...but when plotting it in between the two jobs, there is rarely enough time. Sometimes the run just doesn't happen. Yet, when it does, it feels like I am shedding a heavy skin, sloughing off stress.

Maybe that's my other serenity (besides the ice cream I mean).
If one's haven is technically a place then I've been finding mine in motion.
As hard as it is for me to work into my schedule, running has become my welcome mobile 'haven'.

Maybe it's because it reminds me of freedom.
Perhaps it's because standing still isn't an option.
Maybe it's simply escapist.
Whatever the reason, right now it's working for me.

Preparing for this 5k has forced me to be diligent...or at least work toward diligence.
 I'm still not "good" at running. I may never be "good" at it. I'm just totally in love with the feeling it gives me. As I close in on October 30th I am reminded that as much work as this has been...there was something truly meant to be...that running found me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Popcorn and Hooker Boots

Last night my friend Carrie and I went to the movies. We saw the movie You Again---not an Academy Award winner, but another score for the hot-again octogenarian Betty White. But that wasn't the most interesting part of the evening.

So as we were leaving the theater, walking the opposite direction toward the theater for the late show was--- a rather, ahem, head-turning couple.

Picture a middle aged man, conservatively dressed---- accompanied by a woman with long jet black hair and dressed in a low cut top, thigh high heeled boots and a micro micro mini with slits up the sides---an article that barely could be classified as a skirt let alone be worn in public.

Let's just say the whole ensemble was the kind of outfit not just meant for bold and brazen dressers, but the kind designed to grab attention from city blocks away (if you know what I mean).

I had to check the date on my cell phone--first thinking they had come from a Halloween party. 

Signs are pointing to two things :
A.) This was a woman of the night 
B.) This was a chick with extraordinarily bad judgement in situational dressing.

Or maybe my yoga pants and sweatshirt were a little too demure. Maybe I'm out of touch with fashion. I can just imagine in my closet I have some neon fishnets left over from a college costume party----next time I'll rethink. 

I digress.

Carrie and I probably got whiplash giving them a second look...but we weren't the only ones. People were literally doing the lightning glance of shame. In Henrietta NY---it's kind of an interesting oddity. There aren't a lot of Vivian Ward types roaming around this family friendly suburb. Which leads me to the question---
Do hookers get taken to the movies on their "dates"? 

I'm sure hookers go to the movies...I mean surely we can't assume that this pop culture pastime is lost on them. Now I wish I'd stuck around to see which movie they went to...
The new Wall Street movie...a Disney flick, The Social Network perhaps.
I apologize in advance just in case there are hookers who read my blog. 
Just simple curiosity, that's all. 

Now I want some of you readers to share your stories...
Tell me about your favorite "people watching" double take moment....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Strange how it hits you...

This past Thursday was September 30th. 
That was my C-day. Not D-day, but C-day, and no less significant.

To me that date used to ring in infamy, so to speak--the day that changed everything. Six years ago this week I was diagnosed with cancer (the first time). It was funny how I thought I would always be haunted by that date. 

I got the nicest email from a high school friend saying that she knew this was around the time that things had happened and she was thinking of me. It hit me that I had almost forgotten...again. Life has gotten busy...and a 'cancerversary' almost went unnoticed.  A look back to my previous posts on previous September 30th dates on this blog. It signified a similar trend. 

Perhaps the shadow of that day is softening or the outreach I do has put it into a different context. But in any case it haunts me less and inspires me to DO more. 

But I am well aware of so many of those I have folded into my heart who still can't put their own C-days behind them. I think more about my friends whose cancer battles still go on. I wish with all my heart that their C-days were just a commemoration of a past experience---and not a reality of every day. If I had a wish to grant...this would be it.

This morning I am briefly presenting at a conference of alternative medicine practitioners...and then going to a baby shower. How life has changed.