Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dig Deep

In my last post, I wrote about the amazing experience that was going to South Carolina's Superhero Scramble with The Hero Within-Superman Walks Project to help a little boy fulfill his dream of participating in an obstacle course race. At the end of the post, I intimated that I had one more photo to share, but that I needed to save it for the proverbial rainy day when I might need a little extra inspiration.

Well, it isn't actually raining (yet!), but now is the time when I need the inspiration.

One of the final obstacles at the Superhero Scramble is a huge vertical wall that you have rope-climb to the top. I have really crappy upper-body strength and when we got to this obstacle, my bloodsugar was really low and I felt weaker than normal. I stood at the base watching the rest of the group scramble to the top. I helped others get situated so they could overcome this obstacle... but I was actually gearing up to skip this climb myself.

But then this guy Tim, he pointed to me from the top and said "Amy... you're next." He held my eye contact and saw the fear in my face. I meekly shook my head no, and he told me that it was my turn, and reminded me that we don't leave anyone behind and we all finish together. I was terrified, and I just knew that my feet would slip and I would go plummeting the 14' to 16' to my inevitable death.

Ok, that was a little melodramatic, and even I recognize that now, but a fall could do significant damage. And considering that I broke my wrist falling off of a 10 gallon bucket when I was 16, I had legitimate fears.

But I trusted in Tim (and the other people waiting for me at the top --- sorry I am not remembering names or faces because I was so freaked out), and I approached the obstacle. I wrapped the rope around my legs and sat back. And they pulled me to the top. I used my feet to walk up the side and keep me steady, but they did all of the work. And I was terrified that I was going to fall.

And this picture was taken right about the point where folks were reaching out to have me grab their hands. I was frozen in time. Unable to will my hands away from the rope and into the safety of friends.

What this picture doesn't tell you is that just as it was taken, my feet slipped out from underneath me and I held on for dear life as I slammed into the wall. I knew I was losing my grip, And because the rope was now at a bad angle, the guys at the top couldn't hoist me any further. I had two choices... fall and break my neck, or let go of the rope and reach for the outstretched hands.

Nowhere to go but up. I dug deep. Deeper than I have ever dug before. And I reached. And before I knew it, I had a half dozen hands on my upper arms pulling me up to safety.

I knew I would need this photo to serve as a reminder to myself about not being afraid to trust myself or others, about digging deep, about doing my best, and about reaching out for help and accepting help from others.

And today, this is the kind of reminder that I need.

Earlier this month, I mentioned being really sick and in the hospital. Though my heart wasnt ultimately what brought me in to the Dr. in the first place, the reason I was held so long was because the heart monitors picked up some funny rhythms. At the time, they did a whole bunch of testing, and ultimately sent me on my merry way, with instructions to have a followup with a cardiologist.

That followup was yesterday. Since I've been home, I've had some interesting symptoms relating to my heart, and all of this combined with the rhythms that the monitors were picking up at the hospital, the cardiologist wants to do some more tests. OF COURSE he does!

So next week, I wear a holter monitor for a little while. and I do a cardiac stress test at the hospital. I'm sure it will all be ok, but we want to make sure that I am healthy and wont die while on my 6 in 6 excursion in September.

And, I'm not a big fan of dying.

So I guess the tests are a good thing. but in the meantime I've been told to take it easy and not push myself too much with my training... which is easy for someone without ridiculous goals to suggest... but not so easy in reality. The happy medium seems to be to continue my crazy mileage but slow my pace to a walk as needed. It seems to work, but its taking a hard toll on my brain.

Please keep me in your thoughts as I use the rest of the week to dig deep.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Superhero Scramble- June 29, 2013

One month later, and I am still struggling to figure out how I can explain what happened that weekend at South Carolina's Superhero Scramble when we went with little Tommy Mills and his family as he fulfilled a lifelong dream of participating in an obstacle race.

Originally, Ray and I weren't sure that I would be able to go. Although we helped with the fundraisers and the events leading up to the actual race, a trip like this can pose a significant financial burden on the people attending, and we just weren't sure how to make it work. In the end though, with the help of some amazing men and women whom I met through the preparations for this trip, we were able to make it all work out.

Travel to SC was via a 16 passenger van, accommodations were a shared small cabin at the campground. It was really late by the time we got to SC, and we had to be up really early the next morning for our Hero Within-Superman Walks Project team meeting. Here we finally met the infamous Zackary Paben (AKA Nubs) from More Hearts Than Scars, and learned about all of the equipment that we would be using to help make Tommy's dream a reality.

And so... now, I sit here in the comfort of my own home, not really knowing what to say or how to say it. This was an amazing, perspective altering experience with amazing new friends whom I am certain will remain friends for a lifetime. And once again, this event wasn't just about one person providing me with inspiration to keep moving and live my life to the fullest, this was about me inspiring MYSELF to keep going, keep pushing, and keep challenging myself.

Because this is probably one of those situations that you really have to be there to fully appreciate, I think the only way to really share what this experience was about, is through sharing this video and some photos below.

This is a photo of me with George, Thomas, Laura and Tristan Mills at the start line before the race. This is an amazing family, and really, Laura was the number one reason that I wanted to be at this event. As Thomas's mother and primary caregiver, and as an incredibly strong woman who rarely asks for help, she really had not had much opportunity to give the reigns to other people. There were a few times on the course where I knew she was having some difficulty and needed a little extra support and somehow I always managed to catch her eye to help reassure her. This woman is amazing, and her husband is pretty awesome too. As a side note, Tristan had broken his foot on vacation in early June, and was in a walking boot but still managed to walk with the group. He was such a trooper.

At one point, we had to climb over a cargo net to the top of what would be 2 stacked shipping containers. from there, we had to go across the net to another set of stacked shipping containers, and down the other side. I wanted to try my hand at balancing, and went across the center beam instead of crawling over the net... and although terrified, I was able to make it. I don't tend to have a fear of heights, but something about this obstacle really did it to me. My heart was beating out of my chest, and my breathing quickened to the point of needing my inhaler. It was truly terrifying. But not so terrifying that I couldn't stop for a photo of me being Mrs. SassyPants. See? Its exactly like that scene in Dirty Dancing, but totally different.

Once down on the ground again, the team prepared to bring little Tommy up and over the obstacle. In previous OCRs it was discovered that pulling on the bottom of the cargo netting would take out the slack on the nets making it easier for people to come down the obstacle. While part of the team was at the top of the obstacle getting Tommy up to the top and strapping him into the sled that he would use to traverse the netting, the rest of the team sat on the ground and dug in, working together as a team to pull the nets tight.


And once the nets were tight and Tommy was strapped into the sled, he was lowered down the side of the obstacle. I can't even explain the emotions that were just pouring out of me at that point. To see the smile on this little boy's face and know that this smile meant that he was not allowing his disability to limit him was SO inspirational.

There were other obstacles and other terrain, and about a million stories to share... and I could share them (when I fully get my head wrapped around them myself), but I don't think I want to. I (along with dozens of other people who I am sure will now be lifetime friends), were able to experience something amazing with this little boy, and I don't want to cheapen it in any way, shape, or form.

I go back through this post, and realize that my words don't do this experience justice. This experience brought new perspective on living life to the fullest, not accepting limitations, challenging expectations, and about trust and love:

I have one more photo to share down the line, but I have to save that for future day when we could all use a little extra inspiration.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bridge Repeats

Last night I went to a group run hosted by Runners Depot, a local running store in Ft. Lauderdale with my running friend, Tracy.

First thing, you should probably know is that I have to laugh as I call her "my running friend, Tracy." See, being new to this running group and not knowing anyone else, Tracy quickly filled in as a hostess for me and introduced me to the other members of the group. And as she introduced me, she always said "and this is my running friend, Amy."

And at first, that kind of made me cringe. I mean, c'mon... we talk almost every day either through facebook or text. We've gone to dinner together (albeit only once after meeting Jeff Galloway), and our interactions are not strictly limited to the running community. I felt like I was being relegated to a lower class of relationship than "friend" and it made me sad.

But then, I realized that I call my friends Brina and Seth "my running friends" although our relationships are (I hope) far deeper than just people that I get together once in awhile to run with. And with that I realized that I shouldn't be offended at being called a "running friend," I should be honored. And I am.

So anyway, last night I finally attended the Runner's Depot running group that Tracy had been inviting me to for months. I had been resisting because somewhere in the back of my mind I worried that I would never be able to keep up, or I would just look and feel dumb when out there with people who were so much more experienced than I am.

Logically speaking, I know that is just my self doubt talking and if being sick a couple weeks ago taught me anything it is that I need to believe in myself, and my own abilities. If I only have one life to live, It is time that I stop wasting my time on negative self-talk. But I digress...

We met up at just after 6pm and had a short stretch session so that we could be ready to head out for 6:30. we headed east on the 17th street causeway, then up and over the drawbridge. Yuck. The weather was atrocious... it was 94 degrees out with 61% humidity and sunny as you would expect it to be in the Sunshine State. I chose to not take any chances and get my mileage in at a brisk walk.

I was drenched in minutes, and my body was absolutely screaming. Once up and over the bridge the first time there were multiple options for the the group (head out to the beach, turn around and do the bridge again, loop underneath the bridge on the road and go back across on the other side, etc). I chose to just do straight back and forths.

I managed to get 2 round trips across the bridge before the group headed back to the store... I probably could have banged out another trip to add an extra mile (the bridge is 1/2 mile from one side to the other), but it was just too hot.

Thus far, my entire running career has been on flat ground (with an occasional bridge during a race)... and though I originally hail from a mountainous region... I feel safe in calling myself a flat-lander. And if there is one thing that flat-landers hate, it is non-flat terrain.

I absolutely hated, loathes, and abhored the bridge repeats.

Yet on the drive home, I found myself happily looking forward to doing it all over again next week.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Its been awhile...

It has been about 3 weeks since I last posted, and I am feeling a little out of sorts trying to get back into it. Since I last wrote, I went to Superhero Scramble in South Carolina with the Superman Walks Project to help little Tommy fulfill his life dream (which I plan to write a separate blog post about), I have spent some time with some amazing new friends, but I've also been very ill.

As in, in-the-hospital-for-9-days ill.

Thankfully, I am a million times better now than I was when I was admitted to the hospital. According to the doctors, I'm OK to be running again... and that's just what I'm doing.

There are about a hundred things that I have on my to-do list because they didn't get done while I was gone. But running takes precedence this week. And I am OK with that.

And you know who else is OK with that? Donnie, that's who.

Who wouldn't fall in love with this smile?
Before I went to the hospital, I found a really interesting website that partners runners with people with special needs who are physically unable to run for themselves. I was intrigued by the idea that I could be matched with a child with a disability, and that through this special relationship, I could help them feel even more cared-for and loved than before, and in exchange I could have that little extra push of motivation to get out the door. I knew this partnership could help give my running a little more purpose.

Well, it took a little while, but I was partnered early last week with a little boy named Donnie. Donnie and his twin sister (Emma) were born 2 month premature. Donnie was 3lbs 7oz, while his sister was 4lbs even. Both children were born with Down Syndrome and very mild heart defects. When he was 3 years old, Donnie was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia and began chemotherapy. Around the same time he was also diagnosed with asthma, sleep apnea (mile to moderate), and liquid aspiration. This past May, he finished his chemo and his mediport was removed as he is now in remission. Now 7 years old, although Donnie is still symptomatic with the other diagnoses, he is constantly on the move, and he give's his mother Paula a run for her money.

I am very excited to have a new running buddy in Donnie, and will do my best to not let him down! I think my husband might get jealous though... I am in love with another guy's smile.

For more info on Who I Run For: Please visit their website, or link up with them at the I run 4 michael Facebook page.

To be matched as a runner or the match your child with a runner, please participate in the WhoIRun4 online matching process.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The life of a running shoe

As I mentioned last month, I recently became a vegetarian. This transition has not been entirely smooth, but it has ultimately been worth it. Now that I am looking back on my decisions to make this lifestyle change, I think part of the decision also came from the way that many of the new friends I have made through running are more socially and environmentally conscious. I am not going to suggest that all these people who I have met running have been "tree huggers" but when you spend a lot of time out there hitting the trails or the pavement... you seem to develop a stronger bond with the environment you are running in.

One of the common concerns that people have is the amount of trash that running seems to produce. Most of the time that concern arises for me during a race and seeing cups or packets of energy gels all over the ground... I hate the thought of litter.

But a few weeks ago, I started to think about other ways that running has impacted the environment around me, and how I can reduce my carbon footprint.... I think what actually was the catalyst for thinking about the reduction of carbon footprint was the evening I brought home pair 2 and 3 of running shoes to use for rotation while training this summer. 

I still had my old pink nikes and my blue brooks ghosts... I saved them for obstacle racing and kicking around. But although the treads are already worn through to the point of being virtually non-existant, I didn't want to throw them away because I feared that they would sit in a landfill.

According to a new online shoe store called Kindrunner, this is not an unusual fear. Most runners will retire their shoes after 300-500 miles, and they then use these running shoes around the house until the soles are stripped. Once stripped, runners will then toss them in the trash where they will be carted off to the local landill and sit, without breaking down for 50+ years.

50 years from now, I will be almost 83. And hopefully a grandmother.

If it takes 90-100 years for shoes to fully biodegrade (as Kindrunner has referenced), and if I continue to throw away shoes as I burn through the treads, how many pairs of my shoes will be sitting in a landfill when my grandchildren are 40-50 years old.

One solution is the appropriation of old recycled rubber from shoes into things like flooring, track surfaces or synthetic turf, but the potential for this is limited.

Just thinking about the damage to the environment makes my heart hurt.

But Kindrunner has developed a solution. One that not only addresses the environmental impacts, but also the social implications of poverty in developing countries. This is particularly important to me when we consider that many of the running shoes sold in this country are produced at low cost in these same poverty stricken areas, many under less-than-ethical conditions. They offer an incentive program to those who want to donate their old shoes...

What is cool about Kindrunner is that you get all of the things that you would at your local specialty running store. You get in-depth gait analysis, and you get the experience of passionate runners who have been in the running industry for a number of years.

Unlike your local stores, you get expert advice and fit... and you don't have to put on clothes and leave your house to go shopping or talk to someone. And unlike the other online stores, you get "expert product review videos" for all of their products, so you can learn about what you are buying before you actually buy it. They suggest alternatives too.

MOST IMPORTANT, they also have a purchase incentive program (called Kindness Cash Rewards). Using their FREE 3 WAY SHIPPING, you buy your shoes from them and have them shipping to you for free. Free return shipping if you want to return something for any reason. Next, you take the mailing labels that came with your purchased product and mail in your worn out running shoes (at THEIR expense). They then give you credits to use toward future purchases, and they donate the shoes to the needy via partnership with organizations like Soles for Souls.

Run. Repurpose. Repeat.

Its that easy for everyone to win here.

  • You win because you get good product at good prices.
  • Your wallet wins because it gets to keep some of your hard earned money through fair prices and incentives.
  • The environment wins because of less waste filling our landfills and lower carbon footprint.
  • Needy people win because they get shoes that they can still put to good use.

It really is a scenario full of win. And I can't wait to see where this company goes!

For more information, please visit my friends over at and like them on facebook.

***P.S. I need to share the excitement that yours truly has been chosen to be an ambassador for How exciting! But not quite as exciting as being socially and environmentally responsible.