Why I don’t mind that “I’m (not) in it” for the 2011 New York City Marathon

I wasn’t sure how today was going to go when I woke up and found out that tonight’s spin class was already full before I got the chance to sign up, but things quickly started looking up when I didn’t have to work and got to go to the beach for the day. I’m not the biggest fan of the beach since it’s not quite the most accessible place in the world, but every now and then with my crutches I don’t mind.

I love the moments when I can just sit and stare out at the water and let the answers to my life’s questions float into me with the tide–and today just that happened.

Ha! Don't you wish CT beaches looked like this?? Photo: Carillon-Beach.com

I’ve obviously been doing a lot of thinking (and writing) about the things that make me happy and the things that I do for me, but I never really shared what led me to question that.  So, here’s a bit of the story…a few months back I became a member of Achilles International a group for people with disabilities who run, bike, do all sorts of sports.  I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but it sounded great. At the start, I got in touch with the head of the CT chapter of Achilles who told me about a handcycle (like a regular bike pretty much, but pedaled with your arms). We also talked about how the New York City Marathon has special spots for handcyclists/Achilles athletes. I was already getting my hopes up!

A few months later, I met Tony, an above knee amputee and all around great guy. He brought one of his handcycles for me to try out and it was pretty awesome. But let me tell you, these things are not for the faint of heart! They take some serious arm power.  I left that day feeling like I had made a pretty cool connection in the adaptive athletics world.

Tony and I right before trying out the handcycle

Fast forward to not getting a lottery pick for the 2011 NYCM and I wasn’t all that upset. Why? By the time I got home from that day, I knew the handcycle was awesome and that I liked it, but I had this tiny voice inside of my head and heart that was telling me it just wasn’t quite right for me. It wasn’t involving my legs enough, challenging them, or allowing me to tap into my true motivations.

In true Molly fashion, I ignored the voice and kept plugging along until I reached a point where that voice got so loud I could barely hear myself think. At that point, I removed myself from the 2 races I was scheduled to do with the handcycle, and went back to the drawing board.

What does all of this have to do with the beach? I’m almost there I promise. About 2 weeks ago, a friend (hey Lor! 🙂 ) approached me about helping to create an adaptive category for a 10k race she helps run in September for the Mari Hall Foundation. I jumped at the opportunity and immediately felt like everything was going to fall back into place.

What I’ve come to realize over the past few weeks is this: I don’t do races to win. I don’t even do them to place. Or for the attention, the one girl in the crowd who is overcoming this challenge known as CP. Because every single one of us has challenges; whether they’re visible or not. I do races because of the challenge; because of the mental and physical push it requires me to commit to as soon as I step on the start line and even before when I’m stretching and spinning and doing whatever else to get ready.

For me, the only way I know to tap into that challenge is on foot because, whether this is fair or not, I equate CP with my legs, not my brain. Actually, that’s not fair at all. Sorry legs, my bad!! And that’s why the handcycle didn’t feel quite right to me.

Okay, okay, back to the beach. Water. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. Many of you might know, how great water therapy is for people with various disabilities. Well in my own head and heart, I’m finally jumping on that bandwagon. (Sidenote: I can’t believe I even just thought, let alone wrote, this sentence given my previous detest/downright refusal to even try this for years!!) As I was watching my 2-year old niece play down by the water today, I swear I heard that same voice that told me the handcycle wasn’t right, tell me water was.

Here’s what I know:

  • I can’t “get out and train” everyday like many other runners/walkers/I don’t even know what category I consider myself do. It’s not ideal right now given that my streets have no sidewalks and tracks are freaking boring.
  • When you’re in the water, you tend to not feel fatigued as quickly, allowing you to possibly get more out of your exercise time.
  • Water holds you up, meaning that I can practice movements without worrying about falling over. Drowning? Eh, a friend once told me I have 4-5 minutes to be rescued if I drown. I’ll risk it.
  • I can walk in water. I mean really walk, without crutches or walker or anything. Do I really need to explain why this is a plus?! Come on! What are 90% of my post about? Okay, you may argue that I can totally do that on land too. I won’t disagree, it’s just way easier in water.

(Disclaimer: These aren’t facts. I’m just a 20 something blogger on a mission to make a change.)

So it looks like water will be another added method of training and therapy this summer. Thanks for sticking by me, and see you all out on the road.
Oh, and for those of you who are really good at reading between the lines: YES I’m doing a 10k in September; YES on foot; YES I already got the okay; and YES I know at least 3 people reading will try to convince me not to! Did I mention I’m really stubborn? 😉

Racing Ramblings…

There’s “Music Monday”, there’s “Make a Difference Monday”…all of these usually lead to some pretty great posts with new songs and new causes, but today all I have is a Monday post. It’s been a while–my apologies! School took over for the month, and I can’t say I’ve had anything life altering to post for you all. Which, I suppose, could be a good thing.

I’m really excited for the upcoming months. March boasts my 5th Elton John concert with my dad, Spring Break (not going anywhere, but can’t wait for the mental vacation) and of course the 4th Annual Pedal for a Purpose!

Add in there that I might be participating in my first race of the season on the 19th, and I’m one happy girl. I stress the might because it all depends on weather/road conditions/my body. Either way though, it’s coming! I sat down on Saturday and picked out a race a month (tentatively) from March-October. Right now, everything is local with the exception of the LIVESTRONG Challenge Philly in August. This race has been on my radar since 2008, and I think this might be the year. I’m not sure that a race a month will physically and logistically work out, but I’m going to try my hardest.

I miss everything about having a solid workout regimen since moving back home after college, and having the races in the back of my mind will hopefully give me some added motivation.  Speaking of motivation, it was lacking for about a week, but it’s back again. I think I had been going so strong since right before Christmas with the working out and everything that I just needed a break before I hit serious burn out.

Having taken a week off or so has left me with a question…and I thought I’d pose it to all of my readers, not just those with special needs or parents, but anyone. After taking about 6 days off from stretching an hour a day, I am extremely tight (particularly hamstrings) and kind of feel like I am starting back at the beginning. I know that I will get everythiing back now that I’ve started again, but it just seemed fast.

So I guess my question is: is that normal, when you take a week off, to feel like you’ve lost ground that quickly? Do any of my reader’s know if CP makes the tightness happen quicker(or something)? Or is this something that everyone who works out, stretches, etc. goes through and I just don’t know because I’ve spent most of my life NOT doing those things? 🙂

Thanks for checking in, Happy Monday!

10 for 2010, 11 for 2011

I’m currently sitting on my bedroom floor marveling at the amount of wonderful things (read: things I don’t need and clothes that don’t fit) that are packed up to go to Goodwill, along with a huge garbage bag full of garbage.

I, quite randomly, chose yesterday and today to clean out my room, and I mean my ENTIRE room; 2 dressers, closet, desk, junk drawer, and window cabinet. It’s taken me all day yesterday and today, it’s done!

This cleaning rampage came on the heels of last night spin class. It was a “best of 2010” theme with some of the top hits from this year, and 2010 inspired drills. The last drill of the class was 20 20-second sprints with 10 second breaks in between. 10 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot of break time and, let me tell you, it’s even quicker when you’re on the bike. The goal of these sprints was to start with everything from 2010 on sprint #1 and, by the time we got to sprint #20, to leave all the negative baggage and have a mindset to carry with us into 2011. It definitely was worth all the pain! I tired to pick one specific “thing” from 2010 to shred for each 20 seconds and honestly felt lighter by the time we hit 20.  I got inspired to make my room and all my belongings a little lighter, too.

There will be no resolutions for me this year. I’m usually the girl who makes a lengthy list and ends up beating herself up far too much for not accomplishing or “getting around to them”. Well, except blogging!! That was one of mine last year, and I’ve stuick to it! And thanks for sticking with me!

This year, it’s living, loving, and believing every dream and every goal.

So, as I close out 2010 with a bit more cleaning and celebrations with my family, here’s 10 things I did in 2010 and 11 I hope to do in 2011.

10 for 2010:

(in no particular order)

  1. Graduated from college
  2. Wrote a 65 page thesis
  3. Competed in 3 5Ks
  4. Took a vacation to Disney
  5. Grew deeper in my Faith
  6. Got a job
  7. Had some amazing times with amazing college friends
  8. Started this blog! (and really took pride in it!)
  9. Gave up my walker!! (mostly)
  10. Started truly believing in everything I’m setting out to accomplish

11 for 2011:

(again, no order)

  1. Travel, either alone or with a friend
  2. Compete in at least 2 more 5Ks than those already on my schedule
  3. Get my license
  4. Meet Prince Charming…a girl can dream can’t she?!
  5. Ride a bike, a real one, not a spin bike!
  6. Become even more passionate about my blog
  7. Read some good books
  8. See a professional bike race (see #1)
  9. Grow deeper in my Faith
  10. KEEP truly believing in everything I’m setting out to accomplish
  11. The big W. (see #10 and almost every other blog post I’ve written)

What are some of the things you’re hoping to do in 2011?

Happy New Year Everyone! Be safe and enjoy!

Learning to walk shoes

Sometimes I seriously think coming up with a title for a blog post is the hardest part. Anyone else with me on this? I can’t think of anything right now, so I’ll just write and see where I end up!

Things have been c-r-a-z-y around here, hence my lack of adequate blogging. Last week of classes is this week, so I’ll definitely be more consistent over the next month. I can’t promise to be more interesting though, sorry! 😛

I know that last “real” post I wrote I said I was going to be doing the Mitten Run 5k. That didn’t happen, but for some good reasons. First off, I went spinning on Tuesday of last week and nearly had a heart attack from being so out of shape. Okay, I’m not that out of shape, but it definitely felt like it! That was my first indication that, without having trained, and especially in the cold weather, sneaking in one more race just wasn’t all that worth it.

The more I started thinking about it, it just didn’t seem to be a good fit. I couldn’t help but feel like the “right” reason just wasn’t there. I’ve been thinking about walking a lot more lately and I really miss putting all my time, energy, and thought into it as a dream and a goal. I sat down one day last week determined to figure out why I was so quick to pick up races to sort of replace walking. It didn’t take me all that long to figure out it’s all about the feeling.

Walking for me has always been a chase. And if it wasn’t a chase, I’d get just close enough to actually achieving the goal, then I’d run away–for so many reasons I can’t even get into. Even though it was amazing, and hard work, and the best feeling ever when I did take one step, or two, or…a lot, it always was such a long and unpredictable road when it did happen, that I’d often throw it to the back-burner and play the “I don’t care” card when really it was killing me inside because I felt like I was extinguishing my own fire just as it was reaching its brightest moments.

Then running started. As painful and unfamiliar as it was to me at first, it produced close to that same feeling that walking did for me. Note: almost, not quite. But it was the chase, seeing it right there in front of me, and the sense of accomplishment.  There was one difference though, time.

Even though 5ks have taken me on average 2 hours, that’s still a hell of a lot shorter than the (okay, if we’re going to be honest and say that actual amount of time I’ve really worked hard) ehhh 1.5 years I’ve actually been trying to accomplish walking. Running races was the high for me because it was a stronger sense of “instant” gratification than I was getting from walking at the time.

All of that started to change Friday when I was at Crossroads working on balance and standing and, somehow the Big Man said, “What the heck, let me remind Molly just how much more gratifying walking by herself is than running, and that’s what it’s worth the wait.”

Needless to say, that 40 minutes of work on Friday did remind me. Unexpectedly (to me anyway), we took that last 10 minutes or so to work on walking in the most serious sense, for the first time in a while. Nothing around me to hold onto in case of a moment of panic, just Dan there to catch me if I looked like I was going down. It was and is the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced and can’t accurately explain. So, for now, it’s time to hang up the running shoes and lace up the learning to walk shoes! Okay, so they’re the same shoes, but who wouldn’t want to wear Nike Frees all the time?? I’m back on the path that makes me the happiest, and we’ll see where it leads.

News! Heard here first!

What happens when you’ve just gotten everything off your chest to your blog world and you’re wide awake at 2am?! You sign up for another 5k! Yep, you heard it here first, another race.

I’m not officially signed up yet. This is all pending checking with my PT on Tuesday. The cold weather can do strange things to your body and I want to make sure I’m not making a stupid or detrimental decision. But if I get the okay, and am feeling up to it, I have every intention to run in the Blue Back Square 5k Mitten Run on December 5th. For officially my last outdoor race of the year. My nice links won’t work tonight for some reason, but here’s the website: http://www.hartfordmarathon.com/foundationnew/hmfevents/bluebacksquholidayrun.htm#Registration3

More information to follow! Goodnight everyone.

Posted in 5k

I’m baaack

It’s been too long since a “real” post on this lovely blog. We can all thank Pneumonia for that. It’s been reallly fun. Note the sarcasm there I hope.

What’s going on lately? School. Times one hundred. I have so many papers and projects due in the next few weeks, I’m thinking my head might explode. I’m trying to check them off of my to do list one at a time though. Then one semester of grad school will be over and I’ll be a happy camper. I’m still waiting to hear back about the grant at school, but the interview went REALLY well and I’ll probably hear by Monday. Fingers crossed, blog people!

This whole being sick and then finding out it was Pneumonia thing has really put a huge damper on my fitness situation. I’m just now starting to be functional (read not wanting to sleep 24/7) and need to get back at it. I’ve definitely kept up my stretching committments, just not much more than that. I guess that’s at least something though. I realized that, because I’ve been sick, I probably won’t be doing anymore 5ks this season, 😦 cue the violins. The last one I wanted to do is on November 20th and I just don’t think I’ll be ready for that. There is one more on December 5th, so maybe I can sqeak one last on in depending on weather and what my PT thinks. I hate asking opinions, but in this case I probably should.

If those don’t work out, I have something really exciting coming up anyway! My cousin Claudia and I will be competing in an indoor triathlon on January 15th. The way they’re run is pretty interesting. Whoever can rack up the most mileage within a 10 minute lap swim, 20 minute run, and 30 minute (spin) bike; then that mileage is converted to points. We’re splitting up the legs so, Claudia is doing the run, I’m doing the bike, and we still need someone to do the swim. Any takers?!?! Bonus, it’s for an awesome cause! The Stroup Kids for Kids Epilepsy Foundation.

I need to get my butt back on the bike though! It’s been so long since a spin class. 😦 I’m thinking of bringing my spin bike in from the garage for the winter (yeah, I’m sure my parents will LOVE that one!) because I never go out and ride it and the class times just aren’t working for me this semester. I also have no idea what mileage I can pull in 30 minutes, so I should probably start testing that out with two months to go. Maybe 6 or 7? My goal would be 9 or so.

Alright, that was a completely pointless post. I should probably go be functional now. Or maybe go back to bed. Be back soon with something more fun to write about!

P.S. I’ve completely lost count of this days thing. Better luck next time?!

Blast from the past…kindof

Heart racing, breaths deepening, everything surrounding you gets fuzzy.

I can’t quite explain what it feels like. The room around you fades to grey and all you know is yourself.

Nothing else matters, nothing else is present. Just you and your work.

Sometimes it’s the ones most hard on you that know just when you need that extra push. Or yell. That reminder to keep moving. The clock is against you. They will not hesitate to tell you that.

Faster, harder, stronger. It’s the only way. Or someone else is going to beat you to your glory.

You’ve worked too hard for that to happen. Show it off.

So things have been rough. Everyone screws up. The only important part is that moment you reach the end.

That moment when you look into someone’s eyes and you connect. Realizing that for the first time,

YOU see what everyone has seen in you for so long now.

One set of words echoes in my head. “Did we learn something tonight? That you really can do this?”

It’s really simple. Almost too much so. But those 2 sentences mean the world to you when you are on the receiving end.

And for the first time in your life, you are ready to thank yourself. Not just them.

Because you did it.

Every step, every word, every heartbeat, every drip of sweat. It was all you. There was no more fear, no more hesitation. You went for it and you took it.

As you start to come into focus again and your surroundings reappear, it is in the moment when your eyes connect with someone else’s in the room that you see how truly awesome what you’ve just done is.

This is something I wrote a while ago (maybe almost 2-3 years), yet when I was reading it I was amazed at how true it rings for my life right now and for the 5ks. Sorry, I know, shut up about this topic already!! But I can’t. 🙂 This seems to kindof capture the feeling I have when I’m out there on the course, why I do it, and what it feels like at the end. You see, as I’m heading off to Boston, I’ll leave you with a little problem to ponder that I’m facing. It’s not really a problem, but still.

I don’t just want to walk or run 5ks. I want to be good at them. Really good. Finishing with the pack kind of good. Something definitely changed inside of me this last race!!

but Freedom can never be found behind those walls

…so just let ’em fall, just let ’em fall.

Well, here we are! The official “Camp Care 5k Recap”. As I’m sitting in bed, still trying to stretch parts of my body I didn’t even know existed before yesterday, I’m still in a state of shock and awe over how amazing yesterday was. I’m going to try and walk (no pun intended) you through as much as I can, but I’ll just say upfront that there is not much I remember after seeing the mile 3 sign, except praying my body would keep moving until I saw the timing truck and the finish line!

We arrived at the race about an hour early; plenty of time to get checked in, stretch, and let the nerves really start to build up! My sister had decided to come run the race with us (with jogging stroller and 14 month old in tow!) and my mom, aunt, and uncle came to see us off at the start. I met up with Dan and a few other friends that were running the race and it was nice to stand around laughing for a little bit before we had to part ways until the finish line. We were all standing around and out comes the video camera and Dan asks me what my goal time was. Something I had picked out in my head, but wasn’t planning on sharing at all!  I looked away for the camera for a minute, then thought of that saying “if you don’t declare your goals, they’re nothing but thoughts.  Armed with fear and anxiety, I declared 1 hour and 45 minutes as my goal.  I completed this race in 2:11:33 last year, so this seemed good to me. Plus, that meant an average of about 32 minute mile, so I figured I could try for it.  On this course, there is a .3 mile walk to the official start, so about 10 minutes before start time, I decided I’d had enough standing around worrying and stressing–it was time to go!

Heading down to the start line I had all sorts of thoughts circling around my head. What if things go wrong? Should I really be doing this? Again? Why, exactly, am I here? Why is it SO cold? Wow. That old guy’s shorts are REALLY short! But most importantly, the last thought I really remember thinking was I belong here. I belong on this start line, with these people. I sent up a quick prayer to the Loving Father to watch over me and all of my friends running the race, that we’d be safe and injury free, and that He’d show me my way if I started to lose my thoughts or feel like I was losing Him, over the next few hours. My aunt came through the crowd of runners to give me one more good luck hug before we started and my sister and I waved good luck to each other from afar. I decided to move up a little closer to the start line so I would waste too much unnecessary energy, and saw Dan one more time. We exchanged a “have a good race boss” and that was that.

I went into the day telling myself I was going to take things slow, save up my energy, and just focus on finishing, but as soon as that gun went off pure adrenaline was coursing through my body.  I don’t know if it was that I was in the middle of a pack of actual runners, or that I was just so nervous I had to go, but I took off running. Literally. I really wanted to stay with people as long as I could, and that’s what I was going to try to do. I kept up a running pace for maybe a half mile, then decide it was time to back off a bit and just focus again on the end goal.  I also was going to try to only stop every mile if possible. So far everything was working out. We got to the mile 1 time check at 28:21; 4 minutes faster than my target time and 5 minutes faster that the previous year! I was ecstatic! 🙂

All I really wanted was the time check at mile 1. I was feeling good and didn’t think that stopping for a real break was necessary yet. Half a mile later, we were reaching the main road of Rt. 66 with traffic speeding by us (luckily there was a wide shoulder) and the hellish 1.5ish mile hill up ahead. It was a good place to stop, take in some water, and mentally prepare myself for what was to come. This hill and I have a history, a very long, angry history. It’s slow, but painful. Yet I’ve now learned it looks much worse than it actually is. Last year on this hill, I cried. A lot! I was mentally and emotionally defeated before I was even halfway to the top. I stopped at least 10 times. This year, I took off head down, and was determined to push through. About a quarter mile up the hill, I saw my sister running toward me, having finished the race and come back to make sure I was okay. I have never been more excited to see a member of my own flesh and blood. Just having her there gave me a little more energy to keep going. Fast forward to about half mile left, and I see a white hat coming over the top of the hill, running toward us. I had to wait until I saw something more than just a hat, but I knew it was Dan. In that moment, I’m pretty sure I started crying. Only for a second though, because my energy needed to be on the pavement beneath me. I was not expecting this at all. I knew he was going to finish with an amazing time, and expected him to be waiting at the finish with everyone else if anything. I was doing fine, it wasn’t that I needed rescuing, but we have a unique friendship in that we know what makes each other tick, what buttons to push, and just what to say to motivate each other in a time of need, whether it’s through pissing one another off or lending a heartfelt comment (in my case, it’s usually the first that works best!); something that’s innate within the both of us, and makes us both thank God we were luck to find each other as friends, and I knew I’d need that in this last leg of the race. And I was right. I did need it.

FINALLY, we saw the stoplight indicating we were on the downhill and almost ready to turn onto the little over half mile finishing straight (which was straight, but definitely not quite flat). My sister turned to me and said “Okay, Molly when you get here you can’t stop, you just have to finish” and I was going to try my hardest. My steps were getting slower at that point, looking back now, I think it was definitely a bit more mental, knowing I was at the end and wanting so badly to be done, but more on that later. Really the only thing I remember from that point on was all my friends and family around me telling me I could do it, to keep going, Dan telling me to keep turning over each step, and the State Trooper in the car behind us blasting Hey, Soul Sister. Yeah Train! When I saw the timing truck and the owner of Crossroads/director of Camp Care at the finish line, adrenaline kicked in again. I managed to squeak out one little run/sprint to the end and crossed the line with the biggest smile and sigh of relief known to man.

I heard the timing company report my time of 1:54:16 and, while I couldn’t be happier I beat last year’s time by 17 minutes! I couldn’t help but think I was only 8 minutes off of my goal time and thought of spots where I could have pushed myself harder. Part of this comes down to my training, or lack thereof, and how that would most definitely help my times and endurance. I tend not to train as formally as I should or could, solely because I don’t take the time to modify training plans to my needs or don’t think that it matters since I’m not an elite runner.  The thing is though, it does matter, because I do go out to these races looking for my own PB times. Personal Bests. The other half of this is the mental component. As I blogged about prior to the race, I tend to shut things off mentally before I even give myself a chance physically because I believe I know how it is going to go. I was much better about not doing that as much this race, but old habits die hard and it definitely hindered me a bit!

One more piece of this 5k puzzle. The title of this post and opening line come from another track off of Matthew West’s new album The Story of Your Life entitled “The Healing Has Begun”. It’s all about carrying the weight of the world and your struggles on your shoulders and finally realizing that you don’t have to do that. That there is someone else who holds the key to your freedom from those weights and those struggles, and sometimes you just have to let your walls fall down to find Him. It really hit me during and after the race yesterday, that I am starting to embrace that Freedom. In ways both large and small, the walls are slowly coming down, and I’m committing myself to believing, working, and fighting until my battle is won; whichever way I find most important and for however long it takes. Maybe I’m not running full 5ks right now, but I’m going to start training as soon as I can feel my legs again. It may take a year, it may take more, for me to reach my goals…but yesterday I was led to a key that unlocked a door to one more way to Freedom in my life.

Thank you all for supporting me through this race. On Twitter, on the blog, phone calls, e-mails, and prayers. I felt every bit of it! I’ll try to post some pictures and videos soon! They’re being temperamental right now. Happy running, walking, or whatever it is gives you your Freedom!