Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Swim through Los Angeles.....The Honda LA Marathon

26.2 miles in sunny California....a trip to Los Angeles.....sightseeing while running.....all for Team LIVESTRONGSign me up! 

Those were the thoughts that went through my head back in November when I was planning my RunningStrong for Hope race schedule.    Flash forward 5 months....and a major reality check.....monsoon-like rain and wind, chilled to the bone, and an extra 10 pounds in my suitcase when I returned home from the water soaked race clothes and shoes I wore during the race.

After months of training and raising over $4,000 for LIVESTRONG, I headed off to Los Angeles.  I was joined by the LIVESTRONG Chics - my two dear friends that take turns doing the swim portion of a local triathlon relay we compete in to raise funds for LIVESTRONG.

The weather forecast was none to pleasant.....50's and rain predicted all weekend.   Hmmm....not the vision I had in my mind back in November. (check out the videos at the end of my post to see what the weather was really like)

Sunday morning started off with a very early wake-up call....3:45 order to catch a shuttle to Dodger Stadium from Santa Monica, a very short 26 miles away (it seems quite a bit shorter driving the distance).  A very seamless transition which is often a stressful start to marathon morning.
The LIVESTRONG Chics at Dodger Stadium before the start

Once at Dodger Stadium, it was off to find the Team LIVESTRONG Suite - a very cool perk the marathon provided for charities.  Instead of sitting in the hallways or stands of the stadium as rain came down intermittently, I was in a nice warm suite with the company of some truly amazing people.

This was by far the highlight of my marathon experience.....meeting the other members of Team LIVESTRONG.  We had never met one another prior to this morning; all had different journeys that brought us to that suite at Dodger Stadium but we were all there for a common cause - to show cancer who was boss.

Some of us were cancer survivors, some caregivers, others had loved ones stolen by cancer.....cancer had impacted each and every one of us....and we were inspired by one another.   Each had our own personal reasons for taking on 26.2 miles but cancer was the villain in each story. 

Friendships were formed in that suite during the early morning hours of March 20th.....more LIVESTRONG friendships - always a favorite outcome to every LIVESTRONG event I have attended.

Eventually it was time to say good-bye to all my fellow cancer fighters and head down to the starting corrals.  A group of us headed to the start together and three of us actually ran together for sometime.  The goal was obviously to get to mile 26.2 however my short-term goal was set on mile 17 where the LIVESTRONG crew was waiting for us to pass by.
Nice, dry and still smiling at the start
The rain started almost simultaneous with the start of the race.  It was on and off for the first 10 miles - at times drizzling and other times a down and out downpour.  But, at least I wasn't hot!  My main concern after training in the Illinois winters was how I would run in the heat and blazing California sun.  This obviously wasn't a concern.....and actually I had run my 20 mile training run in very similar conditions...thanks Mother Nature! (see On the Road to LA...Team LIVESTRONG Training for the LA Marathon)

I knew there would be a few hills.....but I certainly wasn't prepared for the number of hills I encountered in LA.  In hindsight, I should have pulled back a little in the first half to save my legs for the second half (which wasn't nearly as hilly) but I charged up those hills.....and unfortunately my quads were feeling those hills in the last 8 miles.  Note to self - when training on a treadmill, occasionally hit the incline button.

One very cool memory of this race was all the people standing out in the pouring down rain volunteering at water stops and others lining the course cheering.  As I was running along through Beverly Hills - drinking in the sights - I happened to notice someone wearing a Ride for the Roses jacket.  Wait a second.....I know someone from RFTR that lives in the area.  So I turned and shouted his name.....and amazingly enough it was him!  How bizarre!  A great surprise and an opportunity to catch up for a few moments as my Movember friend ran alongside me for a few moments.  At mile 22, I heard my name and turned to see a friend I have known since I was in grade school  She stood out in the pouring rain waiting for me to pass by......and then stayed out there to wait for the other LIVESTRONG Chics to pass by as well.  Her mother was one of the individuals I was honoring on my back during this little "jog."

Speaking of those I honored, check out the RunningStrong for Hope tribute wall to see the names of those that journeyed through the rain along with me in spirit.

Eventually I finished.....I really wasn't in any hurry.  Between the weather and the hills, I really adjusted any expectations I had to get a great I took extra time to enjoy the sights, chat with others along the course, stop to visit with the LIVESTRONG crew and my friends cheering.

As I crossed the finish line, I began to choke up a bit as I remembered why I was tackling this race to begin with.  I whispered to myself as tears began to form ....."This is for you Brian."  

I may have been a bit soggy and sore, but in the long run, the steps I took through the rain, puddles and wind were nothing compared to the challenges Brian, Mom, Dad and my sister Janet - along with the 28 million worldwide living with cancer - endured as they fought a great battle against cancer.  This was a small sacrifice I made on one rainy day to honor the lives of those stolen from my life.

I am forever grateful to all the support my friends have provided me with not only your monetary donations to LIVESTRONG but the emotional support during my preparation for this race, during the race.....and most importantly over the past 7 years.

Another 26.2 miles down.....147.6 miles to go.

Next up.....the Illinois Half Marathon in Champaign, IL on April 30th.  I hope to raise another $1,000 for this race.
Click here to donate to support Barb's RunningStrong for Hope benefiting LIVESTRONG

LIVESTRONG everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

NEVER Underestimate the Underdog

The past few days were spent in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament with my 16 and13 year old sons.   It was a pretty exciting experience.....I've been to plenty of Big East and Big Ten games over the years - but there is something so very different about tournament time.  It isn't called March Madness because it is boring!

Every game kept us on the edge of our seats....and many teams that were expected to waltz right through to the final game (aka THE Ohio the way...what is with the there another Ohio State I am not aware of?) struggled to hold on for a win or were upset.   Ohio State entered the tournament seeded not only number one in the Big Ten but in the nation.  We expected this game to be just a warm-up for the Illinois/Michigan match-up we were most interested in.  But this actually turned out to be just as an exciting game.....could Northwestern really take down THE Ohio State?  Wow!!!

All in all, Ohio State did win the tournament - but not without a few scares, and how many out there would have expected Penn State to beat Wisconsin and Michigan State on their way to the final against Ohio State?

Just a great reminder that we should never underestimate an underdog.

I had several hours of windshield time as we returned from Indianapolis and I kept thinking about that statement......never underestimate an underdog....and came to the realization that this applies not only to sports but also to life.

I know several underdogs that our nemesis Cancer fortunately underestimated.  Lance Armstrong being the most famous of those....and one that made others stand up and take notice.....that made others realize that they have hope....and brought attention to the fact that underdogs can AND should NEVER give up.

Unfortunately for my family, cancer has won the battle all too often.  We have lost my mother, father, sister, aunt and my husband/father of my three children all to cancer.  However, cancer hasn't won the battle with those that are still here......each and everyday my children and I wake up with a mission to live life to its fullest.  This is our own way of winning as an underdog.

I am here to tell you that being a widowed single parent and raising children alone because of cancer isn't easy (not that I assumed you thought it was).  The financial consequences are huge (that itself is a separate blog....I'll get on that soapbox another time) but the emotional consequences are even more difficult and far-reaching.   Not only does the attitude I chose each morning impact impacts the three children I am responsible for "molding" into members of our society.  I have to find a way to be positive each and every moment of each and everyday.....even though there are plenty of days I would love to pull those covers over my head and hide from the "crap" life throws at me.

But, I realize if I am unable to muster up a positive outlook, than cancer has impacted us yet again.  I am constantly reminded of those whose lives were lost to cancer and what a shame it would be to lose the lives of those left behind by not living each day fully.  I know Brian would be disappointed if we allowed cancer to win again....just as he would have been disappointed if Michigan State had rolled over to Purdue (he despised Purdue....being a die-hard Indiana fan).

Cancer - please take note.  The underdogs are NOT to be underestimated.  We will NOT let you take our lives without a fight, we will NOT allow you to bring negativity into our lives, we WILL live our lives each and everyday full of life....we WILL WIN this battle!

I am running 26.2 miles on March 20th as one more attempt to put cancer on notice as a member of Team LIVESTRONG.  I would be absolutely thrilled if you would consider supporting my efforts as an underdog!  Donations to my fundrasing efforts can be made on-line using the link below:

One last item of note....I need to make a plug for a gentleman that everyone would have thought was an underdog, but took it upon himself to show cancer he wasn't going to allow the after effects of cancer impact his family.  Please consider viewing My Run - a documentary about Terry Hitchcock - another widowed single parent raising his children - as he decided to run 75 marathons on 75 consecutive days to bring awareness to the number of single parents and the children being raised by those single parents.  Please take a moment to watch the trailer below and consider purchasing tickets for the March 31st viewing across the country.  A portion of the proceeds from this movie benefits LIVESTRONG.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

33 Things About Me

First off, let me admit that I am stealing this idea from another blog I've been following (Tall Mom on the Run) but it really got me thinking.

Today is 3/ hence goes...

1) I wish I was still 33.  Not because I enjoyed my 30's or I am vain about my age (I am proudly 44 going on 45...woo whoot....I age up this year!).  No, I wish I was 33 because that means I'd have 5 years back with the love of my life....and potentially more because so many advances have been made in cancer treatment since he passed away.

2) While in college, my friends voted me the last to get married and the one not to have children.  Turns out I was the first to get married, the first to have kids, and have three total - ages 16, 13 & 7....a bit spread out.

3)  I once fell off a bridge.....actually, I walked right off it on a dare to cross the bridge with a towel over my head.  Stupid but I was 11 years old at the time.

4) I played field hockey in high school and briefly in college.  Yep, I wore a kilt and swung a stick.  Yet I have never had an interest in running in a skirt....go figure.

5)  I absolutely love the hustle & bustle of a big city.  I lived in downtown Philly after college and miss the pace and ease of city life.

6)  I love the quiet of a snow storm.

7)  And to go along with number 6, I actually like to shovel snow, especially in the middle of a storm.  I enjoy the peacefulness of the snow, being out there at night with just the street lights, no cars rushing by, no sounds of snow blowers.

8)  I love, love, love peanut butter.....and have a child with a peanut no peanut butter in my home.  But, if I'm anywhere near a peanut butter cup and he isn't with me, watch out!

9)  Nothing beats the smell of coffee brewing when I wake up....assuming I remembered to set the timer.

10)  Friendships are very important to me.  I will stand by my friends through thick and thin.....and in return, I have some very awesome friends that do the same for me.

11)  I like to the privacy of my own home.  I am not a comfortable dancing in public person.  Not sure why, but just never have been.  Sometimes I do dance in my car....especially if my teenagers are being teenagers. 

12)  Baseball is my favorite sitting out at the ball field....whether it be watching my own kids play or at a major league stadium.  Oh, and most of you know this but the Phillies are my favorite team and Cal Ripken is my all time favorite player.

13)  Starting to get stumped so I requested some assistance from my 7 year old.
"What is something special about mom?"..."Well, you are MY mom.", number 13.....I am the mother of Rachel, a red-headed spitfire bundle of joy.

14)  Rachel adds "and you run."  Yes, I do run.  Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes far and sometimes just to the end of the driveway.  I run for a variety of reasons....the social aspect, to be healthy, to not worry about what I eat, to set goals for myself, to fit into my clothes due to wanting to eat whatever I want, stress reliever, and most importantly - the endorphins.

15)  My favorite bike ride ever was the 20 miles I rode at the Philly LIVESTRONG Challenge last August with my younger son on the anniversary of his father's death.  Don't get me wrong - I've loved the longer rides in Austin, but being with Nolan made that shorter ride VERY special.

16)  I ran a half marathon in an hurricane.  The Chicago Half Marathon during Hurricane poured the entire time, I got what was then a PR, and realized that running around the puddles was useless if you are already soaking wet.

17)  My favorite race....hands down....was the Muddy Buddy with my dear friend Kristin.  We had a blast.  There was no pressure for time.....just FUN!  And a mud bath at the end.  Who needs a spa?

18)  I am intimidated by bikers.....yes, I own a road bike.....I ride it on occasion....but the whole process of biking scares me.

19)  Major confession......drum roll please....

I wasn't a Lance Armstrong fan....until I met a good friend of mine that was a fundraiser for LIVESTRONG.  I decided to learn more about Lance so I read "It's Not About the Bike".....WOW!  I instantly became a major fan......of Lance and his foundation....and am a passionate fundraiser for LIVESTRONG myself as well as the 2011 Chicago Marathon LIVESTRONG Mentor.  This book opened so many opportunities for me and introduced me to so many amazing people that will be lifelong friends and support.

20)  My favorite books are "The Color of Water" by James McBride and "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson.  The first I read over 15 years ago....I remember not being able to put it down and sitting on our deck in New Jersey.  The second I read about the same time I read "It's Not About the Bike" and had a major impact on my desire to get involved in philanthropic activities.

21)  I have always been terrified of being a parent.  All that responsibility of molding a future generation.  What if I messed up my kids, gave bad advice, was a bad example, couldn't protect them, couldn't provide for them?  Thank goodness my husband reassured me that everyone feels the same way....right???

22)  I miss PMPs with Pep from Johnnies Hot Truck....and fish bowls. 

23)  Crossword puzzles are my guilty "geeky" pleasure.

24)  The 33rd song on my Ipod when shuffled was Amos Lee, Clear Blue Eyes from his new album Mission Bell (STRONGLY recommend this album....and artist).  Never would have found Amos if it weren't for a LIVESTRONG connection.

25)  One of my favorite movies is "Out of Africa" with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

26)  I won tickets to see The WHO when I was in high school and when I called to claim them, the radio station shared that I had already claimed them (thanks to my quick thinking sister who heard my name called on the radio and pulled off the highway to call the radio station on a pay phone).  Amazing part of this story is my dear friend Heather won 2 more tickets a few days later.  Oh, and yes, I am that old that a pay phone was the most convenient way to make a phone call while driving.

27)  I once graced the cover of a calendar....yes, I am a calendar girl.  OK, it was the local newspapers free calendar and I was celebrating a goal with a teammate, but, still, it was a calendar.

28)  I am fascinated with World War II history....not just necessarily the war but also life during that period of time.  If you have a similar interest, check out these books...Bob Greene's "Duty: A Father, His So, and the Man Who Won the War" and "Once Upon a Town", "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand, and "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw.

29) My favorite Christmas is defined not by the gifts received but a snowstorm that arrived the night before and resulted in an afternoon playing in the snow with our entire was a blast.

30)  I have bungee jumped twice - each time with one of my boys, both whom are scared of heights but have a sense of adventure.  The first in TN with my 14 years old and the second in OR with my 12 year old.  Oh, and I made them both go first (nice mom, huh?)

31)  One of my most embarrassing moments involved a toga that wasn't quite draped properly.  Enough said.

32)  I wish I could juggle....not sure why but I've always wanted to know how to juggle.  Funny that all three of my kids can thanks to a circus program at our school.

33)  I am allergic to perch, soft shell crabs (found that one out the hard way and a trip to a remote hospital), caraway seeds - so no rye bread for me (also found out the hard way and required an ambulance ride to the hospital), raw celery, and MSG.

Hmmm......this little project makes me realize I am not that interesting.  It was difficult to come up with this list.  But, it has opened my eyes and created a challenge for me to keep my eyes open as I live the next 365 so I have some really interesting things to share about myself on March 3, 2012.

What about you?  What is an interesting fact about you that I don't already know?  Go ahead....leave me a comment!