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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This is My Life!

So last Saturday was what I consider to be my  last "long" run before the Surf City Half.  I have 10 miles scheduled for this weekend's long run, but that distance no longer seems daunting to me.  I have run 13 miles two weeks in a row.  One week was with my husband and dog with light layers and no snow to be found, the second was a solo run with plenty of snow and ice and included frozen water bottles.  Both times made me feel as though I were more than ready to knock this one out of the park!

Last week, while I was struggling to hurdle snow banks, trying to keep my fingers and face warm, and prayed that my Yak Traks would get me home safely, I tuned into a song that was blaring in my ears through my headphones.  I run to music when I'm alone and so many times I have found inspiration from it.  The lyrics maybe or the beat of the bass drum or the riff of a guitar solo.  Music moves me, plain and simple.  But at this point, 8 miles in on a very cold and probably the toughest training run of my measly career, I heard something a little different.  It wasn't a song about inspiration or motivation.  It wasn't a song with a hip hop beat and fast tempo.  It wasn't even a more recent song, no this one has been around for awhile.

I heard the singer start out saying that "Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead."'  I found myself nodding thinking that I used to have more wrinkles, but those were lost with my illness.  Lucky me! "Yesterday is a promise that you've broken. Don't Close your eyes, don't close your eyes."   "...And today is all you've got now. Yeah, and today is all you'll ever have.  This is  your life, are you who you want to be?"  I felt the cold from the barely 20 degree temperatures reach through my many layers and goose bumps formed on my skin.  I felt a shiver ripple through my body and realized it wasn't the fact that I was wet, cold and in pain that made me shiver.  Instead it was the fact that I was hearing what Switchfoot was trying to convey.  Was I who I wanted to be?

My head began to flip through the scrapbook in my mind.  Flashes of my kids, husband, parents, and my big brother came and went.  Pictures of my book club, my co workers, my SJS and running friends.  Then memories from my first 5k after beating the odds.  My first half marathon and last year's disappointing performance.  An ugly confrontation with another Survivor about Team SJS and his belief that athletic events such as the Fox Cities Half/Full marathon are inappropriate for Stevens Johnson's Survivors.  His belief that I am not doing enough and that my focus should be on "Big Pharma."  It all crossed my mind and then I thought about what I was trying to accomplish on this cold day.

"Yesterday is a kid in the corner.  Yesterday is dead and over.  Don't close your eyes...This is your life, are you who you want to be?"  I felt a smile creep across my face and I heard myself say out loud, "Yeah...I think I am."  Quickly looking up to see who may possibly be around to hear me talking to myself with a stupid smile across my face, I realized I was completely alone.  Which actually made me think about how crazy I might actually be!  There wasn't another runner around as far as I could see!

I thought again about all of the things I have done in my life.  All of the mistakes I have made, and trust me there are some big ones, the trust I have given to people who never deserved it and the pain I felt from their betrayals. My own desperate actions that have affected the ones I love and my process to make those things right again. The choices I have made to overcome my physical and emotional obstacles left behind from the illness that nearly took my life, but I wouldn't let it, and the incredible people I have now chosen to surround myself with that make me a better person just being who they are.   Yes, this is MY life and I'm who I want to be!!  The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, I'll take it all.

So how about it? Are you who you wanna be??

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Does a PR count if you're just training?

Today was absolutely unbelievable!  Hours later, and I am still flying high!  My husband and I started out with our dog, Toby, about 9:00 this morning.  The sun was shining so bright in the sky, the temperature was about 22 degrees and there was very little wind.  We had dressed in multiple layers, strapped our numerous bottles of water and G2 to our belts and shoved our pockets with Hammer Gel and then we were off!

I was armed with my brand new Garmin and watching the miles go up one at a time was an absolute thrill.  We passed the time by talking about our once in a lifetime trip to California in less than a month.  We are getting to stay with my coach and now good friend, Rob, and his beautiful daughter, Megan.  Neither of us have ever been to California, other than a layover at LAX on our way to Hawaii years ago.  Mike said the part he is looking forward to the most is the warm temperatures!  I laughed since we still haven't had more than an inch of snow this winter.  Extremely bizarre weather for Wisconsin in January. 

I thought about what I was looking forward to the most on this trip.  There are so many things to look forward to!  Finally meeting Rob for the first time after two years of working together, getting away from the cold weather for a few days, running along the Pacific Coast Highway looking out at the ocean, spreading awareness of Stevens Johnson Syndrome by representing Team SJS among thousands of runners, or reaching my own personal goal of beating my PR from two years ago at the Fox Cities Half.  I told you, there are just so many!!

I ran the most solid run I have ever run at that distance!  My fears and anxieties of feeling sick on this run never crossed my mind.  I just went out and ran!  Mike and I talked and laughed and I enjoyed every minute we had together.  He even paid me the biggest compliment he ever could have.  We talked about my dream to run a full marathon this year and the questions I had about whether or not I could do it.  He never paused when he said that he knew I could do it and that I had more determination than he ever did when he trained for the three that he completed.  I will never forget that moment and will always be grateful that he believes in me the way that he does!  Everyone needs someone that believes in them more than they do themselves, but not everyone is that blessed.

When we reached mile 11, I started to really feel it in my legs and my hips.  My joints began to feel as though they were on fire.  We both got a little more quiet and I concentrated hard on the task at hand.  Just 2 miles to go.  2 more miles and we would be home.  One foot and  then the other, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, concentrating on my posture, not letting the fatigue take over.  I thought about the other two times I had run this distance and how terrible I felt then and how good I felt now.  Sure I was uncomfortable, but I was running, no walking and my stomach was not giving me any problems!  

As we rounded the final corner, I looked down at my Garmin, looked up and then looked at it again!  Are you kidding me??  Really??  I was killing my PR!  Not by seconds, not by a few minutes.  I hit 13.1 miles and realized I had done it 15 minutes faster than my PR!  15 minutes!!!  I wasn't doubled over in pain and I wasn't sprinting for a bathroom either. I felt great and I felt proud!  I worked hard for that moment, even though it was a training run and the only other person to share it with me was Mike.  But honestly, I couldn't think of another person that would have been more proud than him!

So next week, we get to do it all again!!  Another 13 mile training run on the schedule!  I'm pretty sure Rob is trying to kill me, but I'll do it again.  And then in 4 weeks, I'll do it again!  Here we come California!  Here we come!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - The Greatest Year Yet?

Over the past few weeks, I have thought, off and on, about all of the amazing things in my life.  I think we all do something like that around this time of year.  There is a list a mile long including family, friends, my job and now that my health issues have (knock on wood) settled down a bit, it is time to be thankful that I have that again.  For the past three years, surgeries, specialists, medicated eye drops, long drives and doctor's office waiting rooms have been a constant.  Something that I had just figured would be a way of life for me for the rest of my years here on this planet.  Luckily, I have had several months of stability.  Nothing has gotten better, but nothing has worsened either.  I am still able to live a fairly normal life, albeit with major changes in the way I do things, but nothing is going to stop me from doing the things I love!

So it is with that in mind that I start thinking about what my goals for 2012 will be.  I'm not a big resolution maker, since those seem to fall by the wayside within a few short weeks or months.  Instead, I think of all of the things I would like to accomplish in the year.  For me, if it is more of a task list, I seem to be more successful at it than if it is a list of things I'd like to change.  A technicality maybe, but it seems to work a bit better for me.

Of course, there are several areas in my life that I would like to make task lists for, but today, I am working on my running goals for the year.  The biggest goal and the one that sticks out in my mind the most is the completion of my first full marathon!  Deb, a dear friend of mine, and I have decided that this is the year for us to tackle those 26.2!  I have to get that sticker for my car window, that's all there is to it!!

The Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee is on October 7th this year.  It's the race that we both decided on and for me, there could not be a better choice!  As I was looking at the route to decide if this was one I would like to spend 5 or more hours on, I could see that St. Mary's Hospital is located between miles 7 and 8.  The place where I spent 3 months fighting for my life and the place where I lost so much muscle and weight that I left the hospital with a wheelchair and a walker to help me in my process of relearning how to walk and keep my balance.  It's hard to believe that I was ever that sick and that I have come so far since then.  Thinking back, I remember when I first started running again, that first mile on the treadmill where I felt as though I had a cinder blocks on my feet and one misstep would land me in a heap on the floor.  I was so proud of the moment that I had worked up to running outside.  I felt like a true runner again!  I ran 2 miles in 26:46, a 13:23 pace.  I felt like I was flying!  Since then, I have run those 3.1 miles at a 9:56 pace.  Just getting stronger!

Running the Lakefront Marathon, no matter the time, will be a sense of completion for me.  I was sick, I survived, I healed, and now I'm better than I was before I ever heard of Stevens Johnson Syndrome.  It will be an emotional journey, but one well worth the ride!

I'm also planning to tackle 2 more half marathons, a 55 mile relay, and the Fox Cities relay for Team SJS.  I know there are more that I want to do, but those are the ones I have put on my list so far.  My other goal for the year is to see if I can reach 1,000 miles running.  This year was a little over 600, so we'll see how close I get.  

So here is to yet another year of living life to it's fullest, conquering those fears that still linger and that self-doubt that rears it's ugly head from time to time.  Here's to helping other SJS Survivors to realize their own potential and the possibility of achieving their own  goals.  Here's to one foot in front of the other... one day at a time!