Members of Team SJS just minutes before the start of the 2010 Fox Cities Half Marathon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

California Dreaming!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!!  I know we sure did.  Surrounded by family, amazing food and Packer football!!  A win over the Lions just put the cherry on top of the sundae!  I also got to run a 5 mile Turkey Trot here in my own neighborhood, so it was great!

It has been so long since I have updated my blog!  So many things are happening right now it's crazy!  On top of the list is that I am in the process of training once again!  I am so lucky to have the opportunity to get to run in the Surf City Half Marathon on February 5, 2012 with my husband and also my running coach, Rob!  Surf City is in Huntington Beach, California and runs all along the ocean!  This, my friends, is a Bucket List opportunity and I am working hard to make the absolute best of my training so I can have a positive and amazing experience!

Of course, with the race being in February, that means that I will be training in the snow, ice, sleet, rain and cold of Wisconsin for the next several months.  Learning how to layer and dress appropriately is always a challenge and that has been a big one so far.  I have been lucky that we have only had one snowfall so far and that forced me to hit the treadmill .  I was too afraid of falling, so I have some Yak Tracks on the top of my Christmas list this year.

With all of the stomach issues I have continued to have over the past two years, I have finally started moving in what we hope to be a positive direction.  My coach has helped me with so much and part of that is working with Kim, a sports nutritionist.  She is amazing and has shown me all of the things I have been doing wrong when I thought I was doing everything right!  I never understood exactly how big of a role nutrition plays in something like running because I had never been that kind of a runner!  Never thought I would run 5 miles let alone run a half marathon or quicken my pace like I have over the past couple of months that Rob has  been training me.   So we are working diligently on trying to get this all figured out so that I can run in California without worrying about getting sick.  I write down everything I eat and categorize it, making sure I am taking in enough calories and enough of the right kind.  To be honest, it can be a royal pain in the ass trying to relearn something you thought you had down pat, like eating.  I mean, who doesn't know how to do that??  Apparently, I don't and so it is baby steps and a bit of a tedious task, but it will be well worth it in the end.

We plan to represent Team SJS in California amongst the thousands of runners on that Super Bowl Sunday.  I will proudly wear my team shirt and run with my family and friends who have supported my every step in my heart and in my mind.  Maybe I'll have the opportunity to educate some people along the way as well.  But for now, I keep plugging along with every workout, speed session, yoga session, meditation and long run to keep building upon what I have regained so far.  I'll try and keep this updated along the way, just in case you might be interested.  Or better yet, inspired, even a little bit, to reach for something you never thought you could touch.  If I can do it, anyone can!

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 Fox Cities Half Marathon Recap!

It's been nearly a month since the Fox Cities Half Marathon and I am just getting a free moment to recap it for you!  So much of it is a whirlwind of events, but I'll try and recapture as much of it as possible.

It all began on Thursday afternoon when Tracy and Jaden flew in from Canada.  I went to the airport and picked them up, took them to lunch, drove them around town a little and then took them to Oshkosh where they would stay with a host family for the weekend.  Paula, a friend of mine from high school, was the first to jump on board to offer up her home for one of the families to stay.  It was amazing to feel the support of my friends and family for what we were doing from the very beginning.

On Friday, I picked up Vicki from the airport all of the way here from South Carolina.  I received text messages all day long as more and more Survivors got to their hotels and planes landed!  It truly was incredible to know that all of these people were coming to the Midwestern town of Appleton, WI just to meet other people that had experienced what they had.  On Friday night, Becki and her family, from Michigan, invited us all to her hotel where the kids played in the pool and the adults met for the very first time.  Overwhelming doesn't begin to describe it!  We sat together and talked about our eyes, about our fingernails
Meeting Lindsay Estacio for the first time!
or lack thereof and "cried" together as it all began to sink in that we were actually all together in the same room.  And it wasn't just the Survivors.  Family members and friends shared in the moments as well, talking about their experiences with SJS and how they too will never be the same.  We all wished for the night to go on forever, but it couldn't and we knew we had a huge weekend ahead of us!  The next day was filled to the brim with more excitement as four more Survivors arrived for the festivities and a party was to begin!  Oh yes, and then we had 13.1 miles to cover the following day.  We were ready for the healing of the weekend to begin!
Vicki Lown, Becki Conway, Tracy hogan, Kendra Schmidt, Lindsay Estacio
On Saturday morning, we rushed to get Tracy's son, Jaden to the start line of the 5k.  This brave young man was walking the 3.1 miles by himself proudly wearing his Team SJS shirt!  As Tracy and I stood at the finish line, watching for any sign of the bright blue shirt, Tracy shared with me how moving the experience of the 5k was.  We were surrounded by runners, walkers, family members and friends of people who had set out to reach their own goals and complete a race that morning no matter what!  I get choked up thinking about it and knowing that Jaden was walking for his very own Hero, his Mom, was something that I will never forget.
Tracy and Jaden before the 5k.
In under an hour, Jaden came through the crowd heading for that finish line!  He had done it!!!  All by himself and Tracy and I couldn't have been more proud.  With a medal around his neck and his Mom on his arm, we headed for the car to head back to the airport.  We had another special package that just might be waiting for us!!

When we got to the airport, we waited only moments for Eva to get off the plane all of the way from San Francisco.  I knew exactly who she was from the pictures I had seen of her.  She was as sweet as she was stunning and we hugged like we had known each other for years!  We loaded up her luggage and got her to her host family's home.  It seemed to be a perfect fit!  My friend, Amy, and her family took splendid care of Eva and shared in the celebration of the weekend as well.  Eva settled in and we would meet up with her later at the pasta dinner.

Most of the rest of the day was a total blur for me.  I was racing around getting things to where they needed to be along with the help of my mom, my dear friend Stacy and my husband, Mike.  The banquet hall had a table to make signs and posters as well as a table of games and activities for the kids that were all donated from Fox Communities Credit Union where Stacy works.  Food was catered in and we filled the room with friends, family, love and support that was intoxicating the moment you set foot in the door.  Everyone talked and shared stories and learned everything they could about each other and the similarities in all they had gone through.  The sound I remember the most was laughter!  How could something as terrible as SJS bring about something as amazing as that?  But it did, and we clung to it knowing that this was something so special that there are simply no words to describe it!
Survivors in attendance from left to right include Catherine Walchle, Lori Lewis (Lindsay's mother), Lindsay Estacio, Eva Uhlin, Kendra Schmidt, Becki Conway, Jacob Berdyck, Vicki Lown and Tracy Hogan.
Later in the evening, I was pleasantly surprised as a young man walked up to me.  Someone I had never seen before, but for some reason he looked familiar to me.  The story goes like this.  Months back, I had received a friend request on FaceBook by a man who lived in Waukesha, a city near Milwaukee that I had attended college in.  We didn't have any friends in common, but I friended him anyway thinking that we must have someone in common.  He ordered several Team SJS shirts, and I was amazed at how supportive he was.  I thought it was great!  Well, come to find out, the man that had walked into the room along with his friend, was Dustyn Rynders and he shared with me that he too was an SJS Survivor!  He had been sick when he was only 2 years old and I was blown away!!  Not only that, but embarrassed as hell that I had never made the connection!  So, instead of having 8 Survivors there that weekend, we had 9!!!  Dustyn and his friend were running the half marathon on Sunday.

That night, Eva, Vicki and Tracy came to our house and we got all of our things together for the race.  I finally had a chance to sit and talk to them about their experiences and I was so glad to have the opportunity to do so.  I learned so much about each of them and knew that I was not alone in my own daily struggles with SJS.  The healing continued.

At 4:30 Sunday morning, I awoke to a horrible cramp in my left calf and I knew then that through all of the wonderful moments of the weekend, I was in serious trouble before the half marathon had even started.  With the business of the past few days, I had failed to take care of myself enough to be ready to run 13.1 miles without the affects of my SJS stealing the best part of my race.  I said nothing to anyone but my husband, who had been the one to help get rid of the cramp and went about my morning dropping off a car at the finish line, rounding up all of the people meeting at our house and heading for the start line.  We took pre race photos and the excitement filled us all as we readied ourselves for a huge challenge.  Some of us had never run or walked that distance before and we were giddy with excitement.
Cover 2 CoverGirls Book Club.  Ready to leave it all out on the course!

The gun went off and we were on our way.  I was lucky enough to run with Kevin Carr, Jacob Berdyck and Rob Zachman while Mike ran ahead to give this half his undivided attention.  This was Jacob's first half and I teased him for weeks about his training schedule.  The most he had ever run at one time was 5 miles!  He was sure he would beat me and I joked with him telling him that he might, but that I would be seeing him in the medical tent at the end of the race!  We all laughed a lot and ran together, ticking the miles off one by one.  Kevin even had my favorite songs on his ipod to keep me going if I should need it.  I belted out Miley Cyrus' The Climb just for affect!!
Kevin Carr, Kendra Schmidt and Jacob Berdyck just before mile 12.
I remember not feeling well at about mile 4.  My stomach had already started cramping and I felt myself start to question my ability to make it through to the end.  But then I saw the most wonderful thing I could have seen.  Waiting for us around the bend were several Survivors with the signs they had made screaming at the top of their lungs!!  They were proud of us, but honestly, I was more proud of them!  They had traveled from all over the US to be here to help spread awareness and to support us through this thing!  They were all the inspiration I needed to keep going.

The best cheering section we could ask for!!!
We pushed on and saw my family at mile 7.  They cheered and urged us to keep going.  At about mile 9, I thought for sure I was done.  I slowed down to walk for a moment and felt a shooting pain work it's way through my knee.  It was excruciating and I remember Rob asking if I was ok.  The color had drained from my face as I worried about those next 4 miles.  Did I have it in me?  Did I just ask myself that question?

I started running again, although I knew my pace was way off and the thought of beating last year's time slipped away from me.  I had thought that I was strong enough to beat last year, that I had worked harder and it was in my grasp, but it wouldn't be true for me on this day.  We crossed the bridge in front of Theda Clarke Hospital where I had spent my first days in the hospital.  I was so far from that day, but being there in that moment took me right back to that hell.  With the help of Jacob and Kevin and those who were now ahead of me and those yet behind me, I put that damn foot in front of the other and just kept on.  By the final mile, I knew I couldn't run anymore.  My stomach was churning and my left hip and calf were screaming.  I knew I had to make it around the park, past the lighthouse and then I was in the clear.  Only 1 mile left!

I walked most of that last mile and I struggled to hide my disappointment.  Kevin knew.  We had talked about it weeks before the race and we talked about the only thing being important today was finishing.  It wasn't about beating a time on this day, it was simply crossing that finish line.  With the finish line in sight, Kevin urged me to run it in.  My husband was there and asked how I was doing.  I told him I wasn't doing well, but I plastered a smile on my face as I looked in the stands to see another group of Team SJS supporters.  They were cheering and screaming, that I knew.  I looked at the clock and knew that it had beaten me this time, but next year would be different.  I crossed that finish line with Jacob on my left, one step ahead of me.  He did it!!  He finished 13.1 miles and he beat me too!  He had earned that!!

As I looked ahead and saw Kevin with his dang camera in his face, I felt the strength go out of my legs.  They were no longer under me and I no longer had the strength to keep them there.  Red shirts surrounded me and I felt the sting of disappointment.  I had trained so hard yet failed myself those last few days because I didn't do what I knew I had to do.  Note to self!  Next year would be much different!
Although I was the one in the med tent and not Jacob, I was glad!!!  I wouldn't want anyone else in there!  Not the happiest of all places to be.  But I learned a very powerful lesson that day.  Not only about running, but about life in general.  We all need to take care of ourselves first and foremost before we can take care of anyone else.  It really is the best thing we can do for those we love.  And so I will keep running because I love it and because it is mine and mine alone.  Sure I may share the sport with millions of people, but those minutes, miles and hours out on the road are all mine.  No one trains for me, no one pounds the pavement for me.  I have to do it myself and I honestly love every painful minute of it.

It wasn't horribly long and I was back on my feet and with the rest of the Team.  I actually even got to see the relay team cross the finish line.  It was so exciting!!!  They had all done amazingly well!  My book club walked the entire half, some ran a few miles while others walked it together.  The most important thing was that everyone who had started it had finished it!!!  We did it!!  Every one of us!!  And we were greeted by our cheering sections and supporters at the finish.

This is most of the members of the 2011 Team SJS.  Unfortunately we weren't able to get everyone in the picture!  I think we achieved what we had set out to do that day.  We raised awareness and started the healing process for some of us who have been struggling with that part of the journey.  And to me, that's the biggest part.

On Monday morning, we made our way to the Queen Bee for our traditional greasy spoon breakfast.  We had earned every one of those calories!!!  It was amazing for me to see the friendships that had been made with not only Survivors, but my friends and family as well.  We even had a member of the team go out that day and get a tattoo on her foot to commemorate that day, her first half marathon!!  We all eventually had to say good bye and one by one everyone left for home.  I remember feeling the let down in the quiet of my house, but I wasn't afraid like I had been the year before.  I knew that this was going to happen again in 2012 and again in 2013 and so on.  We may not all be here again together.  There may be others here, there may be more or there may be less.  But the healing that took place on that special weekend and the friendships that were made will last a lifetime.  No one that shared in that day will ever forget.

As for me, I am training again!  Back to running and the simplicity of it.  Just running the miles.  This time, I'm training for the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, California that is taking place on February 5, 2012.  I'll be running this one with my husband and my coach, Rob Hill.  Someone who has helped me through more than he will ever really know!  Not only my physical healing, but emotional healing as well.  We'll be representing Team SJS all of the way in California and I can't wait to share it with you!

And to my fellow Survivors who were here that weekend in body and those that were here in Spirit, thank you!  You save my life each and every day!  Keep moving people, keep moving!!  And we'll see you all again next year!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Breath of fresh air!

Well, if you've been following along through this entire process, you will know that I have struggled off and on and especially over these past couple of weeks.  It seems that my recent posts are filled with doubt.  It's been a true test of my mental strength and I can honestly tell you that today felt like a break through in that area!

A few of my close friends have been telling me to simplify!  Back off of the pressure and stress on myself.  So this morning, without even planning a route really or eating my tedious pre-longrun dinner, I laced up the shoes and turned up the tunes!!  The weather was PERFECT!  Cloudy and cooler, it just felt great!  I grabbed some nutrition this time that my friend, Kevin, gave to me and insisted I try.  I was able to take it about an hour in and I will say that I felt stronger than I have in months!!!  Probably since the Bellin!!  It was amazing to me!!  No stomach cramps, no pain, no tightness in my chest and my legs felt like they could go forever!

I ended up doing more than 10 miles, but I know I could have gone another 4 or 5!  I felt that good!!!  It was the confidence boost I needed to know that in three weeks, I am going to pull this off.  And I'm going to enjoy it!  Every moment of the entire weekend!

Can't wait to share this year's race with you!  I want to thank all of my friends and family for the love and support over these past months of training!  Can't wait to celebrate when it's all done and over with!!  It's getting close now and the excitement is building!!!  Woo hoo!  Let's go!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's only Fair.

I shared with my dear friend, Renee, this weekend while we were camping that I have lost my way over the past few weeks.  My training has slowed to almost nothing as everything has begun to pile up on top of me.  I have a tendency to allow things to get to a point that I can no longer carry them and so I set them down.  And sometimes picking them back up is nearly impossible.

So I told her that I have been trying to figure out if writing this here in my blog would be good or detrimental.  If it would help me or help others who may happen to read it.  As I was talking to Renee, her supportive head nods, looks of understanding and mm hmms, I realized that by not sharing what I was struggling with I was robbing myself and others dealing with healing, in whatever fashion that may be, of knowing that ups and downs are there for each and every one of us.  That it really wouldn't be fair to not share it.  And so, here I am.  Spilling it all out on the page, trying to refocus, learn something, get it all out there and maybe, just maybe give someone else a moment of relief from the fears and anxieties that they too may have.  I wrote earlier that my goal for this year was to find a balance between running and organizing the SJS events surrounding the half marathon.  It seems to me that I have lost that balance. 

On our last night of camping, my husband and I sat around the fire well after the boys had gone to bed.  You know how the colors and the heat from the fire can be so mesmerizing?  I finally began to think about what it is that I am actually trying to accomplish.  If you don't stop and think about it and simplify it all, it will begin to consume you and that is what has begun to happen.  Plans for the pasta dinner, getting people housing if they need it, asking for donations, ordering team shirts, getting registrations turned in for people, raising awareness, answering questions, interviews, speeches, and so on.  It's a big job!  And then the training comes in.  Making sure you have the right shoes, eating the right things to prevent further issues, hydrating, following the schedule, putting the shoes on, mapping the routes, keeping track of the miles, actually running them.  Fighting the voice inside your head telling you to run faster, slow down, run farther, that short runs are as important as long runs, don't forget to run hills, do this, do that, don't do that!!  It never stops.

I shared all of this with Mike, afraid for some reason that he would brush it off.  Tell me I'm overreacting or something similar.  But I was so relieved when he didn't.  Instead, he told me to tell him what he can do to help.  Relief began to wrap itself around my shoulders and it shoved the weight right off and onto the ground.  He told me to remember that the most important part of Team SJS is the healing it provides to those who have suffered and that includes the ones that love them.  Raising money and awareness are necessary parts, but that isn't what my original goal was.  And he was right!!  I had forgotten what it was I was doing! 

Now, if I had just gone back through my own writings and rantings I would have seen it for myself!  I would have seen that I have always found it to be so important for people who have had SJS or TENs to realize that although life is different, it isn't any less great!  That we can do things that amaze ourselves and others and feel good about that! It just might be the reason we are still here!

The next morning, I was feeling a bit less pressure, but being the non-morning person that I am, I was  CRABBY!!!  The answer to that was an easy one.  I changed my clothes and put on my shoes prepared to run 5 miles.  I needed to sweat out the negativity, needed to breath in the clean and the fresh and push myself past a comfortable place and see myself go farther than I believed I could.  To set a goal and nail it, even though it was a distance I had run so many times before.  So I did!  And did it well!

After talking to Jim, my coach, I am back at it and feeling pretty good.  We have just under 6 weeks to go until the big weekend, but I am on this up and down journey for the rest of my life.  I'm facing an 11 mile training run with my fellow running group on Saturday.  Scared yes, but knowing that I am not alone in it.  Just as I have learned through my illness,  I am never really alone.  I have made life long friends and I have an incredible husband who is there through it all.  Two boys that love me, with or without my disabilities.  And numerous family members and friends who know that I am still who I was before June 28, 2008.  I was a spirited fighter then and continue to be now. 

As most of you know, music is a huge part of my life.  It heals, it comforts, it conveys anger as well as love and sometimes it gives you a voice you never knew you had.  There's a song that I sometimes listen to when I feel so lost, so angry, or so alone.  Written by Audra Mae, it goes like this:

Who I Was Born to Be

When I was a child
I could see the wind in the trees
And I heard a song in the breeze
It was there singing out my name.

But I am not a girl
I have known the taste of defeat
And I've finally grown to believe
IIt will all come around again.

And though I may not
know the answers
I can finally say I'm free
And if the questions
lead me here, then
I am who I was born to be.

And so, here I am
open arms and ready to stand
I've got the world in my hands
And it feels like my turn to fly.

And though I may not
know the answers
I can finally say I'm free
And if the questions
lead me here, then
I am who I was born to be.

When I was a child
There were flowers that bloomed in the night
Unafraid to take in the light
Unashamed to have braved the dark

And though I may not
know the answers
I can finally say I'm free
And if the questions
lead me here, then
I am who I was born to be.

Through all of this, the ups and downs, the failures and the triumphs, the pressures and the stresses, this is who I was born to be.  A mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a runner, a support and yes, a Survivor.  Sometimes even a pain in the ass!  God don't make no junk!  Here we go, people!  Le's get this thing done!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!

Last weekend, Mike and I were asked to speak at our local running store, Fleet Feet,  to a group of runners about midpack running as well as my experience with SJS.  Mike was great!  He talked about his own marathon and half marathon experiences, what he has learned over the past ten years that he has been doing it as well as tips for how to dress, not trying GU for the first time during a race, keeping track of miles on your shoes and running your own race.  He made us laugh, made us think and honestly made me proud!  That there was my "coach" telling everyone all of the things he had shared with me, the things that have gotten me to where I am today.

And where am I today, you ask?  Well, I'm sitting on my back deck, watching our son play in the pool, hydrating with my very favorite, Rain Berry Gatorade, freaking the heck out about tomorrow!!!  All because Mike and I are sitting at Fleet Feet last Sunday listening to the owner of the store talk about this half marathon training team that has just started.  There are beginners and intermediate runners in the group and it's led by a coach.  My ears perked up a little, since I have thought time and time again about how nice it would be to just have someone tell me what to run and I would do it!  How it would be great to get to run with other people on those long runs to help keep me motivated. So Leah asks us if there is anyone in the group that would be interested?  Mike gives me a jab in the ribs and mumbles to me to raise my hand.  Ok, so I had thought about how nice it would be to just do the workouts, have someone to run with, blah, blah, blah, but I had gotten myself a really good system down!  I was staying motivated all on my own, although somedays were a little tougher than others, getting my runs in, watching my nutrition and hydration and keeping track of my miles, times and training schedule.  So I really wasn't in need of a new coach, I had me!  Well, that's when I felt my dang hand shoot right up into the air!  What the heck??

Hoping that no one had seen it was useless, Leah had and said as much.  She then announced that she was going to raffle off one free entrance fee for the training program.  Holy cow!!!  For another brief minute, I thought how awesome that would be.  Having a coach, other than your husband who has been running longer than you, is expensive!  Really?  Who gets to do that?  Not this girl!!!  Heck, I cringe every time I get close to 300 miles on my shoes and I have to break down and buy new ones. With the medical bills we see come through our mailbox, luxuries like that just aren't a possibility. 

The group was told to think about it throughout the seminar and she would ask again at the end.  And at the end, Leah, did ask if anyone else was interested.  I scanned the room, noticing that there were quite a few women there and that some of them were already in the program.  They had just done their first long run the morning before.  As I waited for someone, anyone, to raise their hand to get a chance to win this incredible prize, no one did!  What??  Are you people crazy?  This is big time stuff, people!  Someone to help push you when you need it, someone to see your potential when you can't, a person you can ask any running or injury related question to!  What is wrong with you?  Raise your I'm not the only one!  Because then I would have to run whatever he told me to run and that includes some big hill they have named after my Lord and Savior, Jesus!  And honestly, that scares the hell out of me! 

And wouldn't you know  it, I was the lucky winner!!!  Again, I never win anything.  Not even BINGO in French class!  Not once!  But it was my lucky day to get to be able to join a really great group of people in this journey to the finish line.  I really am very excited about it and I have done all of the runs Jim has scheduled for us this week.  Even my very first hill workout.  I had never done hill repeats, and honestly, I now know why!  They are hard work!!!

And that is why I am freaking out, sitting here the night before our 6 mile run early tomorrow morning.  Jim's gonna push me.  He's going to make me work harder than I have made myself thus far.  I have challenged myself and asked myself to do things I never thought I would be able to do, but we all get to that place where we think we can't go any farther when in actuality we can.  Whether it be about the simplicity of running or the complexity of every day life, we stop and teeter on that little line we have drawn in the sand for ourselves wanting to step over it, but allowing the fear of the unknown to hold us back. 

This is my chance to get to see what I am really made of.  Yeah, I ran 13.1 miles last year and I am proud of that!  Will always be proud of that accomplishment.  But now, I am ready to go further.  I am ready to be stronger. I am ready to be pushed.  Let's just hope it's not off a cliff!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Is it in you?

Yesterday was the biggest race I have ever been in!  Over 18,000 runners and walkers lined  the streets of Green Bay for the Bellin 10k.  18,701 to be exact!!  My good friend, Renee, had asked if I wanted to do this race and I was honestly taken aback at first.  I asked her if she realized that this race was 6.2 miles long?  You see, Renee started running just last summer for the Fox Cities 5k as a member of Team SJS, and she had told me then that she wasn't sure she could do it!!  She trained diligently and struggled emotionally with the "But if I walk, I'm not really a runner" mind game that we all play with ourselves at one time or another.  Well, she did that 5k and nailed it, just like I knew she would!!!  And then, she ran another 5k this spring in the rain, sleet, cold, thunder and lightning!!  This time, I ran it with her and the fact that she even showed up told me that this woman was serious!!  I have to admit that she did do a little whining along the route about the crappy weather, but hey, who didn't?  Had she not been running it with me, I wouldn't have even thought of doing that run!  It was miserable!! 

So yesterday we rode to Green Bay together, ready to tackle the Bellin.  Renee shared with me her goals for the race.  Her C goal was to do it in 1:20:00 and to run more than she walked.  Her B goal to finish and her A goal to not need medical attention!  I laughed at that one!!  I shared with Renee that my one and only goal for that day was to break my PR of 1:14:58 from last year's Otto Grunski 10k.  It had been my first 10k ever and the day hot and humid!  My stomach was cramping, I was dehydrated and sick and the race was terrible.  I wanted to run this race with strength and speed and to not have to deal with the dreaded stomach issues that had plagued me the entire season last year.  I was nervous, anxious and a little afraid.  Afraid mostly that my body would once again fail me, even though I had worked so hard to get it read for this big day.

We hugged Renee, took pictures and wished her luck before saying goodbye at her corral.  Mike stood next to me on the other side of the fence in Corral 4.  It was a little strange to have him there in street clothes and not running this one with me.  I was on my own to tackle this beast!  There were people as far as I could see, which always makes me think about the possibility of tripping over someone's feet if they cut me off from the left side, my blind side.  I couldn't imagine going down and hitting the pavement with thousands of runners and walkers still behind me.  I knew that it would cause a domino affect and that I wouldn't be the only one kissing the pavement if I wasn't aware of who was around me. And normally, in any given race, the beginning is tight, but then people pretty much spread out over the course.  But not this one, not with 18,000 of us running at the same time, in the same direction.  This one was gonna be tight the whole way through.

After the standard speeches, National Anthem and introductions, the gun apparently went off.  I don't know, I was so far back in the pack I never heard it. The masses began inching forward and closer to the start line.  It took about 10 minutes for us to get there, but eventually we were off!  My headphones singing in my ears, I stepped lightly and held my left arm out away from my body just enough to give myself a cushion from anyone who may bump into me.  I may not be able to see them, but I was damn well gonna know they were there! 

It took awhile to get comfortable with all of the people, my breathing, the constant distractions.  There is something truly amazing about those quiet training runs when you are all alone and able to think of only the things you choose to think about.  This time, I had to fight with the white noise to get into the "zone."  I eventually got into a rhythm and at mile three, I knew I was clipping at a good pace.  I had figured out that I  could definitely do a 1:07 if I stuck to an  11 minute pace.  My watch was showing me 10:22 for the first mile and 10:42 for the second.  I knew that if I just stayed where I was and settled in, I was going to do it.  Mile 3 had a huge downhill and I thought for sure I was going o go head over heels on that one!  But when I checked my watch, it was a 9:54 and I knew that these last three miles were gonna have to be steady. 

By the time I reached mile 5, the burning in my legs began and I could feel myself wanting to slow down.  I was pushing myself to the limits and I had been afraid to do that for a very long time.  I have had this fear of my body failing me ever since the SJS.  Primarily because it has!  My eyes have failed me, my feet have failed me, heck even my fingernails have failed me!  Loss of vision, nerve damage and atrophy, damaged vocal chords, scarred lungs, ugly skin and the loss of finger and toe nails all made me believe that my body was no longer as good as it used to be. That it was damaged and I would never be good at anything again. I had been doubting my own abilities and my own potential to do things I had once been good at as well as things I had never done before.  It was at that time I remembered Emilie's blog about fear.  If you remember, I just met Emilie through her blog this past week.  An SJS Survivor herself, she is competing in an Iron Man on the 26th of this month.  She wrote about digging deep to realize what your true fears were and breaking them down to minute pieces where you can dissect them and overcome that fear one piece at a time.  As I remembered that, I realized that there are so many runners out there with obstacles much bigger than mine that do incredible things.  In fact, Sarah Reinertsen, an above the knee amputee and Iron Man, was running this same race!  She was more than likely already finished!!  I wasn't slowing down now!

I pushed through the remaining 1.2 miles, realizing that I was going to finish way earlier than 1:06!!  I began to panic a bit wondering if Mike was going to be there.  He wasn't expecting me yet and I wanted him to be there!  I needed him to be there!  I ran passed the band that was playing, heard the cheers from hundreds of people lining the street and made the final zigzag to the straight away for the finish line.  I scanned the crowd for Mike, but didn't see him yet.  The finish was getting close...where was he???  And then, like magic, I heard him yell my name and I looked up to see him holding the camera, waving his hand, and smiling his big smile.  He gave me a thumbs up and I knew he realized I had just smashed that PR!  Killed it, by nearly 11 full minutes!  Officially, I had finished the Bellin 10k in 1:03:52.  I had done it, and surprisingly enough, my "failing" body was still in tact.

We watched Renee as she sprinted across the finish line!  She looked strong and absolutely amazing!  Supporting Team SJS once again, she was wearing her team shirt.  I felt a lump forming in my throat and realized how proud I was of her and her incredible accomplishment and the gratitude that I had for her willingness to put that shirt on and run those miles in the name of friendship.  Yes, she did that race for herself, I know that, but she also did it for me.  I realized what an amazing friendship we have, and I'm holding that close to my heart forever.  So Renee reached her goals as well!  She finished that race in 1:19:19, beating her 1:20 mark.  She ran nearly the entire thing and, best of all, she didn't need ANY medical attention!!

So here's my question to you, the reader.  What is it in your life you really want?  Is there a fear that is holding you back?  If so, what is it?  No really, what is it?  And is that fear worth giving up what it is you are dreaming of?  Is it really?  I didn't think so.  So the next question is, is it in you?  I'll bet it is.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yep, still running!!

An amazing things has happened because of this blog!!  In the past week, I have met 2 other SJS Survivors!!  One, of which, was just recently released from the same Burn Unit I was on in Milwaukee!!  We share the same doctor and favorite nurses!  Some people may say that it is not that amazing, but when it is perceived that you'll never meet another Survivor in your lifetime because it is "so rare" the fact that you live only hours apart makes it a little bit incredible!  He is doing well, by the way, other than the emotional part that goes along  with a trauma such as this.  The fear, the anger and disbelief we have all felt!!  And, rightfully so, if you ask  me! 

And then, to top it off, I did a little searching and found yet another Survivor who has her own blog!  What is truly incredible is that she is doing an Iron Man at the end of this month!  That's right, an Iron Man! 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run!!!  Unbelievable!!!!  Can't wait to actually talk with her and cheer for her all of the way from Wisconsin!  She's a few states away, but I can be  pretty loud!!!

I will let that carry me through Saturday's 10k.  Knowing that there are yet another two people who have fought the same illness and won will be on my mind for those 6.2 miles.  It'll be the longest race I have done since last November, and I hope the weather is as perfect as they say it is going to be.  No rain in the forecast and cooler temperatures than normal.  Yesterday, it was in the 90's and today we have a high of 66 degrees!!  My times have continued to drop and I am so much stronger than last year.  I am eating much differently and seeing some positive results in how I feel after long runs.  I haven't had one day that  has ended with hours on the couch or in the bathroom!  Now, that's a positive!!

I'll let you know how race day went!  And will keep you posted on the rest of training season.  I have taken all of my scheduled triathlons off of the calendar this year.  I am focusing on the run and I think that is a good decision for me at this point in time.  I'm seeing progress, so I'm going to keep working at it.  I am doing the Dirty Girl 5k in August, however!  My only fear is getting over that dang wall!!  I hope my teammates are ready to make a human pyramid so I can reach the top! That may need to happen!!

Happy running everyone!  See you at the finish! 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just Breathe!

I am coming to the realization that this year's half marathon has become way more than running 13.1 miles!  So much has happened over the past few months and it has become a whirlwind of a life I lead!!  We have gone from 4 Survivors and their loyal supporters and fans to 9 Survivors coming from two different countries!!  We're getting corporate sponsors, doing fundraisers, like selling SJS bracelets and Stevie B's pizza buffet cards, I'm doing speeches and planning a pre-race dinner.  It has been amazing thus far!

But I have to say that the simplicity of training for the half last year is something that I continually long for as the weeks get closer to race day.  When I think back to last year, it was all about the excitement of running farther the following week than I did the previous week.  It was about going to a  place I had never gone before and the pride that came with that was staggering!  The only thing I could control was whether or not I put my shoes on and whether or not I pushed through when I felt like quitting.  I used my training runs to clear my mind and enjoy the solace of the moment.  I had a much easier time remembering where I had been a year before and honestly, amazed myself at times.  How far I had truly come!!

As exciting as this big adventure is this year and  how wonderful that we are doing great things in the name of awareness, love and support, I have set a new goal for myself this year.  My goal is to find a balance between last year and the ultimate goal of raising money for the Foundation and raising awareness of SJS.  I don't want to lose myself in the process of all of this.  I need to remember my favorite quote of all time!  "I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung 

So here's to another day of not getting lost, of taking the time for me to get my training in and to clearing my head!!!  Here's to being a vehicle to allow the healing process for Survivors and family members!!  Because ultimately that is the most important part of all of this.  Raising awareness is great and definitely necessary, but moving forward is inevitable and doing it with grace and dignity is the best thing we can do for ourselves.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The point?

I have been sitting here this morning, drinking my coffee, checking emails and Facebook posts, as I like to do every day trying to get the energy up to get on the treadmill and put a few miles in. The gloomy day has me feeling a little bummed out and wanting to sit all day in my bathrobe curled up on the couch, but in a few hours I have to get to the salon for another day.

As I'm reading everyone's Monday morning posts, most sounding a lot like mine: not wanting to get out of bed, not enough coffee in the world to get moving, tired of the crummy weather, and on and on, I come across yet another one of Jean McCawley's (founder of the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation) desperate requests for prayers needed for another case of SJS. It's the third one in two days!! She asked for prayers for Giovanni, a 3 year old from Sacramento, an 18 month old from Boston and this latest, a woman from Tampa who is in critical condition. My mind races back to the snapshots in my head of my own experience, what I can remember anyway. It shakes me from the core and I am immediately filled with fear for those families and patients, knowing that they have no idea what just hit them!

The anger builds in my chest and the frustration grabs me by my soul! Angry that it is most likely these people were not warned of the possibility of SJS/TENs, that our government does not have a mandate that physicians report cases of SJS so that we have accurate numbers of people affected by it. Frustrated that I know there is a need so huge to get more information out there about this illness, that just because you survive the acute phase doesn't mean that you will not suffer in one way or another for the rest of your life, that I can't do more. At least, not right now.

I have found that I have a strong need and a desire to do something to help, but I don't know what and I don't have the resources to just start Foundation or Non-profit organization. And even if I did, what the hell would I focus on?? There's just so much to battle that it is all incredibly daunting.

So I sit and wonder, what is it that God spared me for? What is it that You want me to accomplish in this life? Did you keep me here for my husband and kids, as my husband truly believes, or is it for them and also for my fellow Survivors? Is it to get the word out about SJS? Is it to urge our government to make some changes? Am I supposed to aid in research by raising money? Or is it to help heal those who have suffered through my words, love and support? I don't know!! I can't hear what You are telling me and I am wasting time! Three more of Your children are suffering today. Dear God, why can't anyone hear those of us screaming from the rooftops?

Will I ever know what it is I am here for? Will anyone ever truly hear me? Dear God, I hope so.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Starting Over Again!

It's been a long time since I dared show my face on here!  First things first, I had to make a big decision regarding the half iron man!  And that decision was that I am not yet ready for a task as big as that one!!!  I hate to admit that, but it's true.  My body, mental status and life are not at a place that I can commit to something as intense as that!  Don't get me wrong, I loved training for it!  I enjoyed the first three weeks until the chlorine in the pool started wreaking havoc on my skin, and that was just the first sign that I am not ready.  I give so much more credit to those who are able to tackle such a feat!  I had no idea what really, truly went in to training for that, but I understand now and am all the more amazed!  So, I will be putting that off for a year or two.  When I'm ready, I'll know and enjoy it all that much more!!

So now, I am refocusing my energies on getting physically ready for the summer running season.  This winter was tough, and apparently the winter is not yet over!  The first 5k race of my season was this morning and we battled rain, sleet, snow, puddles the size of lakes, wind, thunder and lightning!  Yup, thunder and lightning!  Temperatures were near 38 degrees, but by the time we were done, I was sure my toes were rolling around on the inside of my water logged shoes!!  I can honestly say, it wasn't pretty!!!

So now, it's time again to pull back and just put in the miles.  Yesterday, I ran 3 miles and realized how much work I yet have to do before September.  It was a great run and I really enjoyed the process.  Controlling my breathing, paying attention to my form (which is all wrong, but at least I'm upright), and the enjoyment of knowing I only had to be responsible for myself for that 3 miles.  No kids, spouse, dog, dishes, laundry, cooking.  And that is what I enjoy the most about running anyway!  It's quiet!!

So here's to another fantastic season of outdoor running!!  Am just so hopeful that spring gets here soon!!  Happy running everyone!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

There is nothing to fear, but fear itself...and your first half iron man!

So I saw that my friend did her first day of half iron man training today.  She had shared with me the 20 week training program that she and her friends had used in the past and I thought it was a little more detailed than the one I had.  So over the past couple of weeks, I had been thinking about it and counting the weeks until that training schedule would finally start.  Well, HERE IT IS!!  This is the week!  And I have to be honest with myself, I am SCARED AS HELL!!!  What the hell have I gotten myself into and why in the world would I ever think that I could do this?

I printed off the 20 page schedule and am now sitting here staring at it!  Like it's going to jump off the desk and smack me in the head or start yelling at me telling me I am an idiot for thinking I could ever complete the details on each page.  It's daunting to think about the next 4+ months of biking, running and swimming 5-6 times a week.  There are even days where there are more than just 1 workout scheduled!  How am I going to fit this in with everything else in my life?  Ok, so my life isn't all that incredibly exciting or busy, but I am a working mom!!  That and I like to sleep!  There's just no getting around the fact that I hate mornings and getting out of bed plain ol' sucks!

Ok, so the first day (tomorrow) is a 40 minute easy paced run.  That's cool!!  For me, that's about a 3.5 to 4 mile run.  Great!  I can do that!  Then, it's also a swim day!  Warm up with a 200 yard swim (8 lengths of the pool), 200 yard kick, 200 yard pull (not even sure what the heck that is), and a 200 yard swim.  Continue with a 1 x 1500 swim (60 lengths of the pool).  And of course, cool down with 4 x 50's, each slower than the last.  GREAT!!!  Not a problem!  I can do that!  WHAT????  Are you kidding me??  That is a total of 2500 yards!  On the FIRST day!!  That's more than 2 miles in the pool!

I can already hear Mike, "I love you, but you are crazy!  You can't possibly do all of this training program!  It's not possible.  OK, it's not impossible, but it is inhumane!  You're gonna die!"  All out of pure love, of course.  And he would be right!  I am crazy, it is inhumane and I am gonna die!  Yep, that's all there is to it, I am going to die!!

Alright, what is day 2 you ask?  Oh, here's an easy one!! Run for 30 minutes and then bike for 60!  Hey, that I might be able to do.  But, since I can't get outside and I don't have a trainer, I'll have to get on a bike at the gym.  Not quite the same as the real deal, but ok I'll just have to deal with that.  Wednesday we're swimming again, but this is apparently a short day.  Only 1,650 yards today!  Thursday is an easy 60 minute run.  Friday we're back in the pool and on the bike and Saturday is an OFF day!!!  Well, thank God for that!  And on Sunday, it's a 90 minute ride!

So now I'm doing some deep breathing trying to stare down the 20 page packet from hell!  Telling myself that if I really want to quit, I can!  I can quit before I even start.  No one's going to judge me for changing my mind and no one is going to think I'm a wimp for backing out gracefully.  Well, no one but myself, that is!  I can't quit now!!!  Jeez!  It's a guideline, an intimidating guideline, but a guideline.  I'm not going to do every workout.  I'm not going to succeed at every swim, bike and run.  But quitting now means that I have failed all of them and that's just not ok with me.  So, here's to Week 1!  And guess what, if I break it down, day by day and workout by workout, all I really have to do is put one foot in front of the other!  Hmmm...have I been here before?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inspiration for the Long Haul!

I have been listening to this song since the album came out this past fall.  Mike put the album, Incredible Machine, on my ipod and I played it over and over on those long runs.  It made me think so many times and wonder who it is that Jennifer and Kristian were trying to communicate this message to.  After awhile, it no longer mattered, because they had spoken directly to me!

I have been a HUGE Sugarland fan since the first time I heard Jennifer's pipes belt across the radio waves.  Her quirky accent intrigued me and the messages they brought through their music always made me stop and think.  I was able to experience them at Country USA the weekend I got sick with SJS.  Kind of hard to think about now, but only days later I would be fighting for my life instead of jamming at a concert!  They played on that opening night and I was sure life couldn't get much better!  I think I sang so much and so loud that I was hoarse the next day, but I didn't care.

Mike told me that my friend, Carrie, who was with us that weekend bought their latest cd and gave it to Mike for me.  During the months that I was unconscious, Mike played that cd over and over again for me.  And when I finally was out of the fog of the medications and  awake again, I asked the nurses to play it for me to help calm my intense anxiety attacks.  It may sound weird, but Sugarland has done more for me than just make great music.

And now, they have done it again.  They're asking me to stand up for what I am passionate about.  To use my voice to educate others on what I already know so that maybe we can prevent this from happening to someone else.  To all of my Survivor friends, this is our anthem!  We don't always have great days and nearly all of us have limitations from this illness, but you and I know we can still Stand Up!  We can all use our voices!  Maybe, just maybe that is why God spared us.  Maybe that is why we endure what we do every day, because that is what we are supposed to do!

Won't you stand with me?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ok, so what's on the schedule?!

I decided today to take a look at my race calendar for the year.  There are so many awesome events and I keep hearing about more and more of them, getting me excited to sign up for as many as I can.  However, I am not one of the elite runners who can make a living at this, so I have to limit myself so I don't go broke!  With the way the cost of these races have continued to increase over the years, it would be easy to do. 

So as of right now, here is my schedule of events!
May 7, 2011 Sole Burner 5k - Appleton, WI
June 4, 2011 Dam to Dam 20k - Des Moines, IA
June 18, 2011 High Cliff Half Iron Man - Sherwood, WI
August 6, 2011 Otto Grunski 10k - Menasha, WI
August 7, 2011 Oshkosh Triathlon - Winneconne, WI
September 18, 2011 Fox Cities Half Marathon - Menasha, WI

Like I said, that's my list as of today!  I'm sure it'll change as the year goes along.  I'm just hoping to train safely and go another year uninjured!!  So far, training is moving along.  I'm rebuilding, and so my "long runs" have been at 4 miles.  This week, I am supposed to put in 5 miles as my long run.  It has been difficult to get all of my training days in between work and the weather, but I'm hanging in there.

I have had a few exciting things happen over the past few weeks.  Several high school friends have shared with me that they are getting into running and exercise!  I am so happy for them and some of us are planning to do the Sole Burner together.  I've also had some other friends share with me their weight loss goals and the progress they have been making.  It is so wonderful to see the people I care about put themselves back on their own list of important people!  It's exciting to watch and to be able to be a support to them if ever they need it.  And today, I sent out the official invitation to all of my friends for the Fox Cities Team SJS!  Can't believe it's that time again!

So that's all for now.  Focusing on another year of events and raising awareness with every step!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolution and a new year of goals!

So this is the week that triathlon training begins for me.  I have my professional plan all mapped out for the next 12 weeks and then another plan for the last 12! If perfectly executed, it will take me right up to race day on June 18th.  My training journal is all put together and I'm set with new running shoes, insoles, swimming suit and goggles!  It will be months before I can take my training outside, but for now I'll do the work I need to do in the gym.

It's amazing to me how anxious I'm feeling already!  It isn't like this is the only triathlon I've ever trained for or done!  Of course, it's the longest and definitely will be the hardest, but hell I've got nearly 6 months to get ready for this day!  Maybe it's just the loneliest event I will ever have trained for.  It's not easy doing something like this when people think you're crazy and have very  little understanding of why it is I would choose to do something of this caliber.  My mom even made comment tonight that she "doesn't want to see me start this again."  Kind of made me chuckle when she said that!  She knows it means the world to me, but watching someone  you love work so hard and push themselves to the brink can get a little tiring after awhile.  I get it, Mom!  Sorry!!  But I hope you'll be there that day!

I've got some other events on the calendar this year other than the triathlon.  I plan to nail that half marathon once again along with the rest of Team SJS.  We're trying to get as many Survivors as possible here for that weekend so we can all meet in person and share in the healing of each other.  My big brother, my husband and I are thinking of running the Dam to Dam 20k in Des Moines, IA in May and of course, I have my standard 5 and 10k's.  I run the American Cancer Society Soleburner 5k in memory of my best friend, Heather, as often as I can.  This year, my 10 year old is running it with me!  What an amazing day that will be!

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year and that you choose to set goals for yourself in whatever area of your life you find the most important.  Surround yourself with positive people and truly know that you are worth it, no matter what "it" is!  Let's dream big this year and do things we never believed we could!  I just bet that if we hang in there, get serious about it, put one foot in front of the other with a little focus and determination, we just might blow our own minds!