Friday, June 28, 2013

Running for Chiari: When Every Minute Counts

I have a 15K race coming up in about 15 days.  So I've decided to put it and my two good legs to work and help my sister get that surgery she needs.  

It should take me about 1 hour and 25 minutes to finish.  My goal is to raise at least $10 for every minute I'll be running.  That's 85 minutes, at $10 a minute.  $850.  

$850 in 15 days.  

It's a race people and the gun just went off.  Help get us to the finish?

Before Chiari

After Chiari

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Chiari.... when Brain Surgery sounds like a GOOD idea!"

My family has a pretty colorful medical history.  If there is a unique or rare condition, I'm pretty sure someone on some branch of my family tree has had it.  And it seems that my generation is carrying on this family tradition.

You see, back in March, I got the news that my sister had been diagnosed with Chiari Malformation.  I could try to go into all the medical speak and pretend that I know what I'm talking about...but I won't.  I will tell you what I gather is the gist of it.  My sister's brain is too big for her skull and it's pushing into her brain stem, disrupting the flow of cerebral spinal fluid; which is also wreaking all kinds of havoc on vision, balance, hearing etc....I mean it's pretty serious stuff.

Thankfully there are a handful of neuro-guys that specialize in this kind of thing, and even better, one very special specialist (a Navy guy which makes him the awesomest) that is just down the road (um....a few states downs the road) from her.  She had her first appointment with him last week.  He confirmed the Chiari diagnosis and added a few more of his own.  Turns out the Chiari is a symptom of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, that has also caused a "cervical cranial instability."  Yea.  It's official.  Big Sister does in fact have a few screws loose. ( left yourself wide open for that one...couldn't help myself :) )

So, what's next?  Well, she needs surgery.  On her brain.  My sister needs brain surgery.  WTF.
They will need to do a decompression surgery to take care of the Chiari and they also need to fuse the C1-C2 vertebrae to combat the instability.

Good news?  This Navy dude is good.  Really good.  Bad get what you pay for.

Now, we are not the type of family to ask for help.  But people, these are extreme circumstances.  This Navy dude is not in their insurance network and we need to get a hold of $10K for a deposit before they can do the surgery.  And I'm positive that this very special specialist Navy neuro-dude is the one that needs to do the surgery.  Too many signs and serendipitous events have led her to him.

So please, I hope you might consider helping either by sharing or forwarding this link, by sending good thoughts, keeping her in your prayers...and if willing, maybe even contributing some spare change.  Not only is she Super Mom, but she is also Super Sister and Super Friend.  And we all need her to get her head on straight  :)

For updates and the like, you can find her here on blogspot at  And if you are so inclined, you can give a penny or two at her fundraising page:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Time, Patience and Persistence

Warning.  The following contains lots of talk about pacing, training and putting things in perspective.

Training has switched gears with the Boilermaker around the corner.  The amount of cross training hasn't really changed since I have one more triathlon to go this year, but my mileage and intensity have increased.  Today was a tough run.  Today's run made me remember, or maybe it's more that I longed for, the level I was at last year.  You know, when my unofficial Half Marathon pace was an 8:20.

What happens to be my around my goal pace for the Boilermaker this year.

With injury and time off, I thought a good goal would be to come in at 1:20:00, which would be around a 9 minute PR.  Now?  Now I'm not so sure.  Today's 6 at a 9:03 average pace just about did me in.  Definitely way off the mark.  Definitely not where I was last year.

Oh, wait.  Last year wasn't September (Run for Green Half) and it wasn't October (Marine Corps Marathon) of 2012, and definitely not February 2013 (Myrtle Beach Half).

Last year was 365 days ago.
Last year, on June 23, 2012, I did a 7.5 mile run at an average pace of 9:23.
Last year, on July 8, 2012, I ran the Boilermaker 15K in 01:29:45, an average pace of 9:39.
Today I ran 6 miles at 9:03.

Am I in my peak racing shape?  HA!  Definitely not.  And it's fool of me to think that I could be this soon after dancing with injuries and taking some time off.  BUT.  I am still running much better than I was 365 days ago.  This is what I need to remember.  I'm further along than where I was last year.
I'm still getting better.  It's just taking me a little longer this round which is making it a wee bit harder to see the progress.  But with time, patience and persistence, I'll find my way back.

Will I make 1:20:00?  Not probable, but also not impossible.

Anything can happen on race day.

I just need to stay in the moment and do what Jyl says....
Just keep going.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tri Latta 2013

Okay folks.  I did it.  Sprint numero dos in the books!

I decided to go into Tri Latta with the same approach and race strategy I had for Jetton last month.
To survive!
I'm happy to report that all those goals were met once again, if not surpassed in some areas.

This event starts un-naturally early.  The gate closed at 6:00 a.m. and all athletes were encouraged to be there by 5:30 a.m. So, even thought the 1st swim wave started at 6:30 a.m. and my wave didn't start until almost 7:00, I still had to be in the park before 5:30.  Which means I had to be up early early to get ready and out the door by 5:00.  Not really the day to oversleep, right?  It was a whirlwind trying to get ready, the car loaded.  With my English muffin shoved in my mouth, I left the driveway at around 5:10.  Just ducky.

I got to the park around 5:40 and was met with a nice line of traffic. They had not yet shut the gate so I was very thankful for that.  Unfortunately, the athlete parking area was full, so I had to park even further away.  No way I was walking that far.  Thelma's tires were probably low, but I took a risk and rode her in.  I'm glad I did since it gave me a nice little bike warm up since I didn't have time to get in a warm up run once I got in and set up.  I went immediately to the bike tent, had Thelma checked over and tires pumped, set up my transition area, headed over to the Greenapple Sports and Wellness tent (holla!) so Dr. Cooper could tape up my knee.........and then it was go time.  I got down to the lake just in time to see my friend and triathlete extraordinaire, Ashley, set off with the 1st swim wave, and where his wife, fellow triathlete and good friend, Lori, kindly told me I had dried peanut butter on my face.  Nice.

I was very worried about swimming in the lake again after the washing machine I dove into last month.  I wanted to so badly to actually swim this time.  And by golly I did!  I kept calm, relaxed.  I got kicked (once in the head and I kicked some, but I was able to block it out and keep on rhythm. I swam a turtle's pace, but I did it with limited doggie paddle and only veered off course a few times.  I was even able to run up the hill to transition and cut my T1 time nearly in half!  Granted....I had a lot to work with there....

Transition to the bike went fairly well.  I quick dried my face and my feet (yes, for socks.  Scoff if you must, but this girl needs socks...) and slipped on my Pepto Bismol colored Pure Flows.  Then threw on my shades, fogged up my shades, took off my shades, wiped them off, put on shades, fogged up shades, cussed, and fastened my (price tag free) helmet.  I grabbed a couple swigs of NUUN and a handful of sport beans and grabbed Thelma for our biking adventure.

Getting out of transition was a little frustrating.  There was a woman in front of me taking her very sweet time, which would have been okay but the exit was a little narrow and I couldn't get around her.  Then she stopped dead in front of me as soon as she got to the mount line and I almost ran right into her.  After a deep breath and an internal reprimand for being irritated for no real good reason, I calmed down, went around to the side, hopped on and took off.
*helpful hint I've learned and thought I would share with fellow newbies like myself:  Unless you can do these crazy stunt-like mounts, run past the mount line a bit and off to the side.  That way you don't feel rushed while getting on your bike and you're not in anyone else's way.  All things are easier and faster when you stay calm!

I really really liked this bike course.  It had a lot of flat, a lot of rolls, it wasn't horribly easy and it wasn't horribly difficult.  I think it had just enough challenge to it.  I'm pleased with my ride.  I did get passed quite a lot, but Thelma and I did our best to hold our own.  I can honestly say we did the best we could have done and even increased our mph by 1 from last month, and this course was 5 miles longer.

T2 was a little longer from last month, but considering I almost fell off my bike while stopped at the dismount line, I'm okay with that!  Yes folks.  I would like to say it takes a lot of skill to fall while stopped and standing, but it is truly just natural talent.  Don't be jealous.

Oh the run.
Worst run ever.  They described the course as rolling hills on trail with loose gravel.  And it was.  But what
they neglected to say was the gravel was not a fine gravel one would expect to find on a trail, but large gravel like one would find in a my drive way.  Not the easiest terrain, especially for people like me who are having problems with their peroneal muscles winding so tight causing the ligament to snap over the ankle joint.  This stopped me dead in my tracks twice trying to loosen them and get them to release.  A slow 5K to be sure, but I can't complain about the time since I really did have to stop twice.  The muscles never did release, but I figured the only way to get it done was to do it, and I was ready to be done.  So, I put it into third gear and crossed the finish line.

Over all a good day and a good finish for this newbie.  I did have a couple disappointments.  Like, I thought for SURE I had put in a much better time than last time.  I was a little bummed that this swim, that I was so happy and excited about, was only 1:30 faster than the doggie paddle championship of last month.  BUT  I am still happy with how comfortable it felt, and I know that will only get better with time, practice and experience.  And I am disappointed in my run because this is supposed to be the strongest of the three disciplines for me.  BUT  I know I'm firing at only about 85-90% I think, and I'm doing the best I can with how my body feels right now.  And that my friends, is all I can really ask for.

What's next?  We'll finish out the month getting ready for the Boilermaker 15K Road Race in Utica, NY in July.  I ran this for the first time last year with my family and had a blast.  So we're doing it again this year.

Party at Brother's house.  See you there!

Words for Wednesday

Be unrelenting. 
If you don't believe, then who will? 

- Kara Goucher
long distance runner and olympian
as found on

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On Deck: Tri Latta

So, last month we did the Jetton Triathlon where I survived a washing machine.  This weekend we will be trying Tri Latta.  I just read the event details and here are my TOP 10 THOUGHTS, in no particular order, as we gear up for this 750 meter swim 17 mile bike 3.1 mile run.

  1. Never again will I register for a race where I have to be in a park no later than 5:30 am and my swim wave doesn't start until FREAKING 7:00. okay. 6:58. same difference. 
  2. Thelma and I will be safe on the bike course.  All the slow people are told to stay to the right.  The way I figure it, everyone will be passing me on the left where traffic is while my arse will be stuck to the right. :)
  3. There should be a water noodle division.
  4. Why would they assign me a black cap.  Who the hell is going to see me drowning if I'm in a freaking black swim cap????
  5. I know we're athletes and all....but why can't parking be closer?  I really don't want to walk that far.
  6. I should be allowed to swim with my swim buoy.
  7. Can we come up with a different phrase for "body marking"?  It sounds so....permanent.  
  8. One perk of finishing after all your friends is that they will all be ready to administer CPR when you cross the finish line.
  9. If there are no radio-type devices allowed on the road courses, how can Siri yell at me when I get lost?
  10. I'm never doing this again!

Party on, Garth.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Team Crazy Beast Escapes from Alcatraz

May 18, 2013.  The day my friends jumped off a boat into the San Francisco Bay.  Why you ask?  Because they are the two most important parts of Team Crazy Beast!  Jyl has been wanting to do this swim as long as I've known her.  And Graham?  He may have only wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to push at least one of us off a boat ;)  

Graham has already written and posted his recap on his blog.  Go visit!  Graham always has something crazy goin' on! 

Jyl has been awesome enough to write a recap for seriouslyhope.  Take it away, Jyl!

I decided about 2 years ago that I wanted to do the Escape from Alcatraz Swim. I was riding the ferry boat over to the famous prison when the guide mentioned the opportunity "normal" people have to attempt the swim that is infamous and done by two prisoners who were never found... did they make it??
I should say that San Fran is my favorite city, besides Boston, in the world. I love visiting there, and Alcatraz is always somewhere I visit. I love the history and it has beautiful views!

Sure...they're smiling now...
Whenever the seed was planted in my head, I began to research the swim. Frankly I was petrified. Cold Cold water (50's), strong ocean current, jumping off a ferry boat, about 1000 other swimmers, and oh Yeah, Sharks!

The only reason to do this was a bucket list item. I would do it once and get a vacation out of it!
I began my quest to conquer my open, dark water fear the year prior,-actually the day after my birthday, May 19. I jumped in Lake Norman and did my first lake swim.
Exactly a year later I was escaping from Alcatraz.
In-between there was the Boston Harbor race I did as a preview. (The same Sports Group organized the Boston swim and Alcatraz)
So when 2013's date was posted, I realized I had to do it. It was May 19. It was my birthday weekend... Wetsuit bought, race registered and then the fear set in!

Somehow in the midst of all the anxiety of the last year, I convinced training buddy Graham, to join in this adventure... I mean he's training for an IRONMAN, and he looked at this as a training swim, and mainly a reason to shove me off a ferry boat! (Which in the end, he didn't have to do! I jumped on my own free will)

"But Graham, what if they run out of the watermelon
beer before I make it out of the Bay?"
Everyone would has talked to me in the last 6 months knows how scared and nervous I was for this swim. I couldn't find a single positive thing to say about it... (Secretly, there was a little "I’m tough, big guys won't do this... Professional Athletes won’t do this in my brain, but not much!)

After spending 3 days in California with me pre race- my mom had heard enough about my fear of floating to Oakland, or getting swallowed by a sea lion...

"I won't let the sea lions eat you..."
I could go on about the morning of the race, the prep, the boat ride, the swim itself, but mainly let me tell you, if you think you want to do this, you can. (Seriously the morning went by very quickly! So did the swim!)

Swimming has always been my strong suit, I’m not Ryan Lochte, but I can swim. I knew I could do the distance. I wasn't afraid of the sharks... I was afraid of all the things you can't train for... waves, current, cold water.

We encountered all that. But with the awesome help of the TON of volunteers in kayaks, boats, etc, they got Team Crazy Beast to the finish. Having someone to make sure I didn't drift away in that current was much needed. (Thanks Graham! A good friend and a future Ironman!)
Also, my parents would were the awesome support crew! (Dad then treated us to the best brunch ever at the Mark Hopkins hotel!)

I know when I researched this race; I read EVERY blog someone wrote. Everyone finished the race. I finished! You can!
90% of the struggle to get to the finish line was mental 10% was the current in the bay... Seriously, practice sighting... Wear a full sleeve wetsuit, and enjoy the view. It's amazing. I look at all the pictures of Alcatraz and San Fran now, and think man I was in that water... How many people can say they did that???

And Myth busted! Those two prisoners never made it to the shore... If they did, man they deserve Freedom! It was the hardest thing I ever did... Tougher then Tough mudder, a marathon, climbing 51 floor of the Duke Tower...
So bucket list item checked.. Later that week I did jump back in Lake Norman for a nice 1 mile swim in 70 degree water..,. Man that felt amazing! So I didn’t quit swimming, which I thought I might do!

On to the next thing... I don't have the next thing in my brain, but I'm sure it will come soon!

Cheers to you, my friends!
Cheers to YOU!