Monday, February 28, 2011

On the Road to LA....Team LIVESTRONG Training for the LA Marathon

It has definitely been a bit warmer these days....although anything above single digits and minus zero wind chills will feel warmer.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the spring-like weather I encountered while completing a long run in Chicago.....with 20 inches of snow from the blizzard a week earlier piled up everywhere....and slowly melting causing major puddles, slush and mud patches.

Regardless, training for a marathon in Central Illinois in the winter is tough.  Mother Nature apparently does not care that I am training to run in a Team LIVESTRONG event....raising over $3,000 to date.  Or maybe she does care....and wants me to toughen up....and be more aware that the difficulties I am facing while running are nothing in comparison to those fighting cancer.

Since that unseasonable warm day a few weeks ago, I have since completed 2 additional long runs in my training for the Honda LA Marathon.  

The first - an 18 miler in some much cooler weather (30's but with lots of wind) was broken into two separate legs.  A rather fast 10 miler (well it felt fast considering I had an additional 8 miles to go after wards) with two of my running crew.  We were in a pretty open area and it was difficult to escape the famous Midwest wind.  My hip flexers were feeling it in the last 3 miles as we ran directly into the wind.

I moved locations for the remaining 8 - jumped into my car for a quick jaunt to our local running trail that runs between a wooded area so I was afforded a little protection from the wind.....along with bathroom and water accessibility at our Amtrak station.  Another major drawback to marathon length long runs in the winter - all the porta potties are removed from the trail and the water fountains turned off.  I definitely have to "plan" quite a bit more on these runs than I ever need to in the spring, summer and fall.

That last 8 miles went considerably well and I felt great all along the way.  So good that I was on the treadmill the next day for an "easy" 3 miler that turned into speedwork.....and actually made it to a CrossFit class on Monday.   Take that 18 miler!

This past weekend a 20 miler was on the schedule.  I was feeling rather tired on Saturday morning and had absolutely no motivation.  "So, I run on Sunday morning instead," I thought as I poured another cup of coffee and curled up under a blanket to watch the past weeks DVR selections.  This was the first Saturday in months that there was no basketball game, practice, play, rehearsals, set-design, speech tournaments, etc, etc, etc.  This is a rare occurrence and I was set on relaxing.

I woke up Sunday morning after having a full 12 hours of sleep (what????) and still feeling rather sluggish.  A few in my running  group were going out at noon so I thought I would join them....and enjoy another lazy morning (this could become addicting).  A plan to meet others was perfect motivation because it was a rather dreary day....certainly a great one to again escape under a blanket with a book, movie or puzzle.

Soon it was noon.  Off we went.  It was overcast and chilly, but not too bad overall.  After stopping in at the train station 4 miles in to our run, we were greeted with a torrential downpour.  Certainly this would have been a welcome surprise it it was July but not today.  30 degrees is perfect for running.....but not when it is raining.  One of the LIVESTRONG Chics was with me (the Swimmer Chic)....she and the other Chic are joining me for the Honda LA Marathon.  Swimmer Chic had a 16 mile run to complete so, again, off we went.  The others were doing a short 10 miles and turned back soon after the rain began. 

This was not the same experience I had in Chicago or the week before (see A Much Needed Break from Winter....Has Spring Sprung?).  I had only one gel with me and had forgotten to grab a water pretty much hydrated the two of us along the way.  (A mistake I will NEVER make again!).  Oh, and lets not forget the driving rain and wind along with the chills we were both feeling as a result of that weather.  Our muscles were just plain tight....there was no changing that....our clothes were soaked through and through.  But onward we went.....pushed by each other and the goal of getting to LA.

Once I got to the 16 mile mark with Swimmer Chic, I could have easily stopped (my car was just a few steps away).  But the thought of getting just 4 miles away from completing a 20 miler....and having to think about doing it next weekend instead....propelled me forward.  I won't kid you, those last 4 miles were not fun.  I strategically ran an out and back route with a bit of a hill on it so I could take advantage of the downhill and wind to my back on the return.  1.25 miles remaining.

I kept pushing myself....reminding myself that the last 6 miles of the marathon wouldn't be any easier (although I am hoping that it may be a bit warmer in LA??) and once again, the thoughts of the pain those I love endured in their battles against cancer reminded me that this feeling for the last 1.25 miles was just an inconvenience to wasn't life or death.  So get your butt moving Barb!

Just another reminder of why I am running this race....thanks Mother Nature!

And thanks to all my supporters.....we have hit the $3,000 mark.....can we get to $4,000 before the race?  Please use the link below if you would like to make an on-line donation.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is it Time to Find a New Normal?

"Thank goodness life is back to normal now."

This is a quote I heard several times in various forms over the past few evenings from other parents.  Our junior high school production of Willie Wonka concluded the previous weekend.  This is no little school play.  The kids and teachers start rehearsing before Christmas break and is a fully staffed student production.  Some of the students act, others are backstage handling props, others responsible for the sound and lighting, and still others in charge of make-up and costumes. 

The last few weeks have involved late rehearsals ending at 6:30 pm and weekends creating the sets.  Factor in homework, additional obligations and suddenly not only are the kids schedules crazy, but so are the parents.

So, the comments about life being back to normal really meant a life back without the play.

Is it bad that this statement upsets me?  I feel guilty that I get upset whenever someone makes a similar statement - especially since all of our lives are busy.  But for me, I cannot imagine life EVER being normal again.

Cancer has taken normal away from me....and for that I am extremely angry and has been a rotten day - for a variety of reasons - but for some reason, I can't seem to shake that "life is back to normal" comment.  I know my friends don't mean anything by it other than we can go back to a regular routine (as crazy as those are) but it just always reminds me that my life is anything but normal.

Having a spouse pass away is difficult.  It brings along extreme loneliness that only other widows/widowers can really understand.  We are single against our will.....we are single after being in a successful loving relationship.  We are parents 365 days of the year - and feel VERY guilty whenever we take any time for ourselves....although that time is important and necessary.
I love my kids but there is no normalcy to not having any adult conversation....once the kids go to bed, it gets very silent in the house (not as often now that two of my children are now teenagers).....there are some weekends in which I have absolutely no contact with anyone under the age of 15.

We all have stressful days - whether it be an issue at work, traffic, car trouble, finances, etc.  The difference with me is that I don't have a spouse at home to help alleviate the added stress of picking up three kids, getting them fed, making sure homework is completed, and the biggest stresser of all - keeping their schedules straight and figuring out how to be in three places at one time.  There is no one there to give me a hug, tell me everything will be alright, pour me a glass of wine, offer to monitor baths, homework or just take the kids out for a little piece and quiet.  My children have seen emotions that children should not have to see from a parent.  Parents are supposed to be strong but I can't tell you the number of times I have fallen apart and my kids have had to be the strong ones.   (I would be remiss if I didn't give a boat load of THANKS to my friends that help me each and every day whenever I ask for questions asked and no request to large.)

All because of cancer.  There is no rhyme or reason....and I certainly wouldn't want another family to be impacted so ours could be spared.  I just wanted cancer to go away!  Leave all of us alone.  Shoo cancer shoo....

Nope, life is not back to normal.  Guess I just need to find a new normal.

Please consider supporting my efforts in kicking cancers ass so others can continue with their normal. 
In less than 30 days I will be running 26.2 miles through the streets of Los Angeles for those that cannot run because cancer stole their lives from us or are waging a battle against cancer.  If you are interested in sending a message to cancer, please make a donation using the link below to access my on-line fundraising page:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Much Needed Break from Winter...Has Spring Sprung??

Today I ran outside.

No ovals, circles, ipods, television screens, moving belts, motors, mind games, etc.

I actually ran outside.

....and the sun was shining.

Sure, I had to jump over a few spots of ice and snow......and run through a mud pit (nope, this wasn't a Muddy Buddy race).

Amazingly less than 2 weeks after a major blizzard dumped 20 inches of snow on Chicago and pretty much shut the city down, I was running along the Chicago lakefront path with my two fellow LIVESTRONG Chics.

Who and what are LIVESTRONG Chics you may ask?  Two rather dedicated friends that join me each year to participate in a Triathlon Relay to raise funds for LIVESTRONG.  Dedicated because I refuse to jump in that lake for the swim portion....these two are always willing to don a wetsuit and swim.  I am always more than willing to bike and run, as long as the other two Chics swim....and they do so without any complaints.    
(If you want to support our efforts, please click this link to make a donation to LIVESTRONG

The Chics also are my running partners.  We have run with Elvis in several cities, on the Indianapolis Speedway, Churchill Downs, through the streets of Memphis, and through the neighborhoods of Chicago during my first Chicago Marathon for Team LIVESTRONG.  They will be joining me in LA next month to run the Honda LA Marathon - I was already heading that way to run for Team LIVESTRONG and they signed up to join me.  Great friends and running partners!
Sadly, one of the Chics recently moved to Chicago.  This was a great opportunity for her but we were sad to see her go.  We have done A LOT of our training for all our previous races together....mostly our long runs.   Long runs with friends make them much more enjoyable.

Training for a marathon requires quite a few long runs and running in the winter is difficult.....even before you throw in a blizzard and sub zero temperatures.

The weather forecast for this weekend was a very welcome surprise.  But in my little town, I would more than likely still need to run indoors.....round and round in circles (or ovals)....since the running path here is still covered in snow and ice.  The Swimmer Chic was going to visit the Chicago Chic  for the weekend, so a plan was hatched to meet in Chicago for a long run.  A two hour drive there this two hours driving back.  Worth it to run with the Chics and the opportunity to run outdoors.

Best plan EVER!  It was a gorgeous day.  Perfect temps, the sun was shining, the city looked beautiful (with the exception of the gray patches of snow).  Running along the Chicago lakefront is an experience I highly recommend for all runners....and bikers....and walkers.

Skyscrapers gleaming in the sun, Soldier Field solemnly empty with the end of the Bears season, children joyfully sledding down a slope by the Field Museum, snow/ice sculptures melting along Navy Pier, a hot dog vendor perfectly located for a quick water break.  Families, walkers, runners, bikers were all out enjoying a reprieve from winter.

Along with running on the lakefront path, we also incorporated two trips around Navy Pier - a fun escape even when you are running.  Music blaring, people watching made it worth the cross wind we encountered as we ventured out on the pier sticking out into the frozen Lake Michigan.

It felt great to run outside again!  I'm sure the temps will drop again, the wind chills will be miserable and snow will return,  but today was a VERY WELCOME and NEEDED break from winter.

Come on Spring......spring out already!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I am Speechless

I am speechless......yes, amazing I know.

I cannot believe the generosity I have received this past two weeks:

  • AMAZING OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT....this bit of generosity blows me away the most.....over $2,200 in donations to my LIVESTRONG fundraising.  Over $1,200 in ONE week!  UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!  This is a cause that is VERY near and dear to me....and I am always speechless that others are willing to support me so effortlessly.  THANK YOU!  I am 1/5th of my goal of $10,000....although my stretch goal is $15,000.  Can we raise $3,500 before I head to Los Angeles to run the marathon on March 20th??
  • Outstanding customer service.....It didn't appear as outstanding service when my flight was canceled due to blizzard conditions.  After being dropped numerous times by American Airline employees and voicing frustration on Twitter, an amazing Social Media representative jumped in and took ownership of my issue....which resulted in me getting rebooked on the only flight American was able to get into my little town in the days following the blizzard.
  • LIVESTRONG Assembly....I was eventually able to make it to Austin, TX...better late than never (I love is one of those cities I would pick up my family and drop everything if the opportunity presented questions asked).  I was in Austin to attend the LIVESTRONG Assembly - a gathering of over 700 advocates - mentors, leaders, partners.  I was there as a first year mentor.  The  energy surrounding any LIVESTRONG event is always very rejuvinating....and if you've read my earlier post How LIVESTRONG Saved Me from the Tilt-a-Whirl, you'll understand why I am so grateful for this opportunity.  I continue to meet the most inspiring individuals at these events and am constantly in awe of their accomplishments.  As much as I wish we didn't need to have an event like this, it is such an uplifting experience to be surrounded by others with a common interest....that "get" my situation, and can understand where I am coming from when I talk about my concerns and struggles.
  • And last....but not least....the friends that surround me on a daily basis - physically and virtually - that continue to remind me  I a not alone, I am a strong woman, I am capable.  My favorite quote of the week....Impossible = I'm Possible. 
THANK YOU....I love you and appreciate you all being in my life!

Time to pay it forward for all the generosity sent my way....I will match ALL donations made over the next 48 hours.....from 11:30 pm Thursday, February 10h through 11:30 pm, Saturday, February 12th.  Please use the link below to make a donation on-lineDONATE TO BARBARA'S LIVESTRONG FUNDRAISING ACCOUNT....AND DOUBLE YOUR DONATION WITH BARBARA'S MATCHING

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sledge Hammers, Shoveling, Dreadmills, Tracks & Tire Flipping....January 2011

Hard to believe 2011 is 1/12th over.  Seems as though the older I get, the faster time goes by.  Makes me wonder if I am really taking advantage of every moment.

I had lots of time to reflect on the first 31 days of 2011as I spent th e day shoveling piles of snow while being snowbound in my house with three kids on day two of "Snowmageddon 2011."  After shoveling for an hour here and an hour there; throwing countless loads of winter wear in the dryer only to load it all on again to shovel some more;  fighting with the garage door that apparently is also a culprit of the blizzard - frozen and refusing to budge; and lastly, fighting with the masses to get through to American Airlines to rebook a flight for a long awaited trip to Austin, TX to meet up with the rest of the LIVESTRONG Mentors (an exciting turn of events this year....I was asked to be a LIVESTRONG Mentor for the Chicago Marathon!).

Finally shoveled out - thanks to two strapping teenage boys and one very pink 7-year old, as well as meeting a new neighbor a few doors down traveling with a snow blower (THANK YOU!!).  As I finally got around to changing the calendar on the kitchen wall, it hit me....January is over.  Did I accomplish anything?

  • I ran 94 miles.....all indoors on the dreadmill or track.  I probably could have run more but this is a lot considering I have had a nagging reoccurring injury the past two years....and could barely walk the weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon.
  • Watched a lot of junior high basketball.
  • Completed my first indoor half marathon as my first 2011 event for RunningSTRONG for Hope (read about it here)
  • Signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May as a member of Team LiveSTRONG
  • Committed again for the Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge as a member of Friends Fighting Cancer (FFC) with the plan to ride a very hilly 45 miles.
  • Made updates to my blog (I consider this blog a technical developmental opportunity)
  • Completed several long runs in preparation for the Honda LA Marathon in March on Team LIVESTRONG.  OK, not such a big deal BUT these were a test of my mental toughness as the winter weather has not cooperated with long 12, 14 & 16 milers were all completed on an indoor track (9 laps - 1 mile).  I overcame monotony and did these runs alone.  To be honest with you, these runs were some I've been proudest of when all said and done.
  • Shoveled A LOT of snow.
That's me swinging a hammer on the left....a GREAT stress reliever
  • Tried out a new strength program (much needed) at CrossFit Bloomington-Normal....and was somehow given the green light to move on from the newbies class.  (I hate, hate, hate strength training because I'm pretty weak but this program is a blast....they don't let me swing a sledge hammer and flip a tractor tire at the local gym down the street). 

  • Raised $1,500 towards my $15,000 goal for LIVESTRONG.  Not bad for one month.
  • Started sending letters to potential RunningSTRONG for Hope sponsors.  This is something I've never done before so it was with a bit of anxiousness that I sent a few requests out....and got my first RunningSTRONG for Hope sponsor!  Monster Pawn - thank you Kathy & Ed!
Wow....a lot in 31 days (along with a lot of laundry, dishes, car pooling, homework, grocery shopping, refereeing 3 kids, etc). 

Now the get even more accomplished in February.....28 days.....a piece of cake!

Please consider helping continue to meet my fundraising goals for LIVESTRONG by clicking the link below:
Barb's LIVESTRONG Online Fundraising Page