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

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!!

1 comment:

  1. So so so proud of you! loved reading this! Hugs, An