Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It Worked for Me....or so I think....

Something has happened that most people who know me didn't think could happen.

I've been humbled.

(Yes, sing along with me....Oh, Lord it's hard to be humble....when you're perfect in ev...er...y way.")

But, the torn fascia I suffered during the running of the 2014 Boston Marathon has brought me to my knees. Literally. 

But, once again, I will not allow myself to be easily defeated.  

For, you see, I worked so hard at training for the marathon that I'm petrified of losing my gains.  I do not want to start out at Square 1 again, so I've opted to throw myself into a new training regimen of whatever I can do while (mostly) maintaining non-weight bearing status. 

And, believe it or not, I'm excited about the challenge.  My goals after the marathon were to reduce my running for a short time and focus more on building core strength.  So, thanks to the injury, I have had to do just that. 

That means I have had to be flexible and seek out alternative ways of working out.  And, I'm finding some things that I love. Therefore, I thought I'd share with anyone who might be in (or one day find themselves in) this same boat. 

First up is aqua jogging.  Luckily, I have access to a deep pool and I already owned a water belt so this one was kind of easy.   Competitor.com offers a great article on the finer points of aqua jogging  and some sample workouts.   I haven't tried all of the workouts, but I have done the interval one and am happy to report I was able to get my heart rate way up there--enough to make me a cardio happy girl.

I also love, love, love yoga.  Even when I was running my 50-60 mile weeks, I tried to incorporate regular yoga.  So, now I am focused on daily yoga sessions, including a very gentle warm up by HalfMoon Yoga Project.   I often did this 45 minute hip opener from Do Yoga With Me and was happy to find that I could still do this one in its entirety.  This one--also from Do Yoga With Me needed a few modifications, but generally worked well.

And, this workout for seniors really helped get to most of those stiff or achy areas from everyday stuff. 

I wanted to do more pilates as well and have tried to incorporate this daily stomach series pilates moves  from Alisa Wyatt.  I also could do most of this pilates butt workout from eFit30. 

On the days I couldn't get to the pool for cardio, I've found that I CAN get my heart rate up by staying seated.  This upper body cardio workout by Happysexyhealthy is a great place to start. 

Once I got  comfortable with this format, I borrowed some of the moves (and created some of my own) to use with these high intensity interval training workouts by Fitness Blender, including:  Upper Body Strength and Cardio Training Workout,   and Cardio Kickboxing Workout

And, finally, I've gone to exercise class with my trainer Elizabeth, who excels at modifying workouts for injured runners.  You can find out more about her at Facebook.com/personaldesignfitness

At this point, I am still in a boot and on crutches, so I have tried (as faithfully as I can) to do these exercises without putting any weight on my foot.  Often, I wear the boot as I exercise (for protection and a reminder!) but there have been times when I have taken it off.  I've thought about wearing 1 pound ankle weights (modified from wrist weights) on my good leg, but haven't done that yet. 

Please remember:  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV so I can't tell you whether or not any of these exercises will help or harm you in your recovery.  But, it was a bit of a challenge to find good videos for the periodically incapacitated runner and I offer these to any of my compatriots as a starting point to find your own recovery mojo. 

Good luck as you work to maintain your own fitness level.

Catch you later at the back of the pack...hobbling, hopping or limping...but hopefully, not for long!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

fiftysomething....yes, Mom, you were right.

Who remembers the show thirtysomething?  If you were born in the 1980's, you will have to Google it, but those of you closer to my age will know what I'm talking about.

It was a show about various 30-something year olds "living in Philadelphia and dealing with everyday adult angst" (according to imdb.com.)  I loved watching the show because it showed me what I had to look forward to. And, I could feel a bit superior since I was only a twentysomething and living large as a college graduate working in a field with an expense account!  (Go me!)

At the time, I'm not sure I thought life could get better.  Although, I do remember the age of 27 creeping up on me; it was the start of my age-related anxieties because I clearly remember being a teenager and thinking that 27 year olds were ancient. (Yeah...I know....if only....)

Before I knew it, I was throwing myself a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate my inner child when I turned 30.  Why?  I found myself slightly depressed at that age because I hadn't accomplished all that I thought I was.  Yeah, back in the twentysomething days, I thought I was going to take over the world and be the quintessential definition of success by the time I turned 30.  (Yes, I thought I'd be bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan...more humor you young uns will have to look up.)

That didn't happen.

And, my 30's brought some tumultuous, crazy years.  Within the span of three years, I divorced, remarried and became a stay at home mom.

Before I knew it, I was turning 40.  And, what a strange age that was.  Yes, I had a four-year old, but when we went to my husband's class reunion, we found out that one of his classmates was a grandparent while another was expecting her first child.

But, the hour, the minute, the nanosecond I turned 40, I started to dread turning 50.  Didn't want to think about it.  Didn't want to talk about it.  Didn't want to acknowledge it.  Just....didn't.

As I got closer, I knew I needed to do something to make that day less about the weeping and gnashing of teeth and more of a celebration of me!  So, I decided to do what anyone would do.  Run the Boston Marathon as a charity runner.  What better way to celebrate my mental and physical toughness?  (Yep, still trying to prove something to someone  myself....)  And, as a friend commented on one of my Facebook posts describing this process, "Go Big or Go Home!"

So, just a little more than two weeks ago 32,455 of my new, closest running friends and a million of their friends, family, significant others and other various hangers-on joined me and my family/friends at the Boston Marathon.  And, what a party it was!

You probably know I got injured at Mile 8 and still finished the race with a huge smile (at least once I crossed the finish line.)  I didn't really think about not finishing, but I have to say I have gotten a little tired of dealing with crutches and a boot. I'm so thankful for the aforementioned husband and son who reminded me that it was all worth it.  "Yeah, mom," the son said. "Would you rather have had to spend a few weeks on crutches or go the rest of your life being disappointed that you didn't finish?"  (They are brilliant.)

I keep saying that the good Lord knew what he was doing when I got injured because it's been quite a distraction from turning the big 5-0.  In fact, the birth day itself was pretty much a non-event.  But, given the downtime, I've had the chance to reflect on the last 50 and want to jot down a few reminders my mother has shared with me. (Momma is always right...even when she's wrong.)  For fun, I threw in some other things I learned as well.

For years, my mother has wisely shared with me her philosophies on aging.

First, it's only a number.   And, really, I tend to forget that number. Kind of like when I was at a doctor's visit with my son and the doctor asked how old I was (taking a history on my son, not a freakish inquiry.)  I stared at him.  Blankly.  I couldn't remember how old I was.  (I'm sure the doctor was thinking....no wonder this kid has problems....)  It took me a while and I finally came up with the number. Phew!  And, really, it didn't matter.

 IT's better than the alternative.   She has also shared stories of her peers who--over time---grew older
than their calendar age.  I've always appreciated my mother's so-lopsided-it-makes-sense look at life and now see how her sense of humor has allowed her to be approaching 80 almost effortlessly.  Deep down, even though I've struggled with my own aging process, I know I've been fortunate enough to have gotten her youthful looks (for years she got carded when she wanted to use her senior citizen discount) and slightly warped sense of humor.  My mother and I will never be confused for being older than our actual ages...and that's a good thing.  (Unless we have to argue too much for that discount.)

Friends make it all better.  Today, I have friends of all ages although I will admit to calculating how old they were when I would have been a senior in high school.  Often, I find myself surprised to learn that someone I consider a peer today would have been in first grade when I was in my senior year. (We are not going to talk about the ones who weren't even born yet.  Oy vey!)   Isn't it a wonderful thing that time changes us so our circle of peers can include such a wide range of ages?  I wouldn't know what to do without my friends of different ages.

Family is there for you in the clutch--especially if you're old.   I once joked with some students that I got into my 40's before I realized how dysfunctional my family really was.  One of them replied, "Then, it's not really dysfunctional."  Okay, point taken.  But, like any family of origin (like that smart psychology phrase?), we have our issues.  But, as I've aged, I've come to appreciate my family more and more. We are all very different. We are all in our own worlds. But, we are family.  (Cue the Pointer Sisters!)  And we will always be there for each other.

It doesn't get any better. It just gets different.  When our son was an infant, he was colicky. For seven long months.  Luckily, the hubster would come home from work and upon seeing me dazed and glazed, would take over the duties.  Eventually, I'd head to bed and if I came down in the morning and there was a whiskey glass on the sink, I knew it had been a rough night.  One of his friends wisely told him, "Everyone will tell you it gets better. And, it doesn't, really. It just gets different."  We have relied on that advice often over the years.  And, as I get older, I realize the same about myself.  It doesn't necessarily get better.  It doesn't necessarily get worse.  It just gets different.

So, here I am at the Big 5-0, raring to go (well, at least once I get out of the boot and off the crutches.) And, on this Mother's Day weekend, I want to say, THANKS MOM...not only for birthing me and putting up with all the drama and angst along the way (and, yeah. there was a lot), but also for reminding me that it's a privilege to grow old. It's all in the way we look at life. And, I hope I'll be raring to go for another 50--or as long as the good Lord will have me gracing the earth with my presence.

Catch you later at the back of the pack....in a new age group!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A View from the Back of the Pack of the Boston Marathon

You knew this blog post was coming, right?  Although I haven't blogged a lot recently, it was hard to be anywhere around me for the last five months without knowing I was running the Boston Marathon for the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism on April 21.

Me picking up my bib number at the expo

The day has come and gone and I am still processing it all, but wanted to share my most immediate thoughts about the experience.

First of all, THANK YOU to those of you who provided support along the way. I'm going to pull the proverbial "I can't name you all because I'm afraid I would forget someone," but you know who you are.  If you donated, if you gave me counsel or services, if you ran with me, if you came to the Boston Strong Event, if you listened to me talk (or whine) incessantly about this, if you patiently read one more Facebook post, if you gave me a speaking opportunity or listened while I spoke,  if you indulged me in any way and most especially, if you were my husband and son who put up with a whole lot---I say THANK YOU!

My first Facebook post after the marathon sums it up and that is "I did what I came to do."  It wasn't easy and it certainly wasn't pretty, but I got 'er done.  Up until the morning of the marathon, I wasn't sure of my game plan.  I knew I had trained well to run a good race, but I also knew I wanted to enjoy it.  And, it really wasn't until I crossed the start line that I decided I was going to try and take in as much as I could while running the best I could.

Fast forward to the end of the story. (Don't worry, fair reader.  I will circle back and provide you with much more detail than you might like.)  I did get injured at around mile 8 and so I ran in a fair amount of pain for most of the race. I am not certain what happened; it felt as if I stepped on a stone but all I know is I felt something and had an immediate searing pain.   That certainly affected my enjoyment and my finishing time, but I know I couldn't have done any better. I still hit a personal best and shaved around 20 minutes off my last marathon finish coming in at 4:42:19.

Still, there is this nagging voice that knows if I hadn't gotten injured, I would have probably doubled the amount of shaved time.  Other than the pain in my left foot (which I'm fairly certain is due to torn fascia), I feel great.  I have no lingering aches or pains anywhere else in my body.  I didn't tank in the last six miles and I ran the best and the smartest I could.  So, I am annoyed at the injury.  And, I'm not looking forward to a boot, crutches and more physical therapy.  But, as I keep saying, it is what it is.  In the end, I am pleased, but not thrilled, with my time.

Why did I run when I knew I was injured?  I had about a 30 second conversation with myself after I was injured.  It went like this (after I stopped screaming in pain and hopping on my good leg.)

Well, what are you going to do?  Stop or run?

Run, of course.

Wait.  You might do permanent damage and never be able to run again.

First, that's unlikely. Second, if I can never run again, there really isn't any better way to go out than running the Boston Marathon, right?

Okay...makes sense....let's go.

And, off I went....with no regrets that I did.

But, to me a marathon is much more than the race itself.  What's really important is the overall experience and the ability to join with thousands of others in a celebration of life.  It might sound corny, but I really do believe in Kathrine Switzer's quote, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."  It is hard to explain to anyone what the experience is like unless you have somehow been a part of it as a runner, volunteer or spectator.


I had the time of my life and would have wished nothing more for my own celebration to turn 50 years old in just six days after the marathon.  Running the marathon was almost secondary to the train ride there, the expo, getting my scarf, being joined by my family and friends, making new friends, being a part of (what may arguably have been) the most important marathon ever, the Charity Teams party, the Sunday morning Easter church service, the opportunity to meander around the finish line, exploring my new favorite city and many more things.

So, here are my observations from this whole event.

The Expo.  Wow. 

All running things all the time.  If you were a runner and went to the expo and couldn't find something that intrigued or interested you, there may be a problem.  If nothing else, the 26.2 special Samuel Adams brew should have been enough to show that this was no ordinary expo. Yes, I sampled it.  Yes, I chose one of the restaurants we ate at simply because they had it on tap.  And, yes, I brought home the souvenir glass. 

The Scarves.  How cool.  

At Old South Church with banners damaged in 2013. 
The "Church of the Finish Line" (also known as Old South Church) headed a project to provide a blessing to runners by wrapping them in a handmade scarf.  Although we planned on going to the church service, I was concerned that I might not able to get one (since there were 36,000 runners and only 6,500 scarves) so we headed to the church on Friday.  Instantly, they were the hot commodity.  Everyone kept asking where they could get their scarf.  And, amazingly--it was 50 degrees out, but everyone who got a scarf wore it proudly the whole weekend.  I didn't want to take mine off and talked with other runners who felt the same way. 

The Church Service.  Incredible. 
Inside church service

We headed back to Old South on Sunday for Easter services and rearranged our schedule to go to the 9:00 service since we heard the 11:00 service would get more crowded.  Although we arrived at the church around 8 am, there was already a line since they didn't open the doors until 8:30.  Imagine being a regular churchgoer who couldn't get in because of all these runners...but everyone was so gracious. (The pastor announced they had broken a 300 year old attendance record.)   And, what a church service it was. 

The Message. Inspiring.  

During the church service, I had an "aha" moment.  As the senior pastor spoke about Jesus and the resurrection, I realized it was no accident that Marathon Weekend fell on Easter.  While most people had been complaining about that, it suddenly made sense to me that this year was also the resurrection of the marathon.  The Lord certainly knows what He's doing. 

The Bagpipes.  Spine-chilling.  

As part of the service, a bagpiper led a processional to honor and bless the athletes.  I don't think I've ever been part of a church service with a bagpiper, but I'd happily participate in another one. 

The Second Scarf.  Feeling conflicted. 

I wore my scarf to the service and never expected to get a second one.  Thankfully, the church had reserved scarves for those who attended Easter morning services as most of the runners there didn't have one. As I stood for the blessing, a gentleman handing out the scarves passed one to me.  I was thrilled to see it had a "secret message" for the recipient but then felt very guilty about having a second scarf.  After some discussion, I decided to bless another runner with it.

The Blessing.  Awesome moment.  
Me and scarf at expo

So, the plan was to go back to the expo and wait for someone to approach me and ask about the scarf.  We spent a good 45 minutes or more walking around with me quietly saying, "Ask me about my scarf.  Ask me about my scarf."  But no one did.  As we were on the verge of leaving and I was on the phone, a woman stopped to ask.  I motioned for her to wait and then told her the story of my two scarves followed by letting her know the plan to bless another runner with one of them.  She teared up as I wrapped my first scarf around her and we had a joyous hug together.  

The Finish Line.  Powerful. 

 During the day or so leading up to the marathon, it was possible to walk up to the finish line area.  Although I didn't tempt fate by having my photo taken by it (assuming it was bad luck to do so before actually finishing), I was thrilled to be there with family and friends.  Of course, it was also very sobering to see the tribute to the victims of last year's bombing and pass by the site where the first bomb went off.  (This race was really about them and I was thrilled to see that Meb, the eventual winner of the race, had the victims' names in each corner of his bib.)

The People.  Nicest. City. Ever.  

Boston is my new favorite city.  I enjoyed it when I visited on my last two training runs there, but it just keeps impressing me over and over.  Everyone was so positive and so excited about the race.  From the hotel staff to the taxi drivers to the "T" attendant who opened up a special access area for us once he saw I had run the marathon--the area's vibe was incredible. The only person who had anything negative to say was the taxi dispatcher who said, "I hate Marathon Monday" as we were trying to figure out where and how the taxi could pick up my crew to get them from Point A to Point B on race day.  And, I don't think she meant it maliciously, 'cause...really, getting around was a pain in the patootie. 

The Crowds.  Even the crowds were crowded. 

It took a special set of patience to get around the city this weekend.  But, by and large, everyone took it in stride.  My family and friends tell some great stories of what it was like to get on the T to head from Natick (around mile 9) to the Finish line area during the race.  (Think heads in other people's armpits, luggage being held overhead and coats getting stuck in doors.)  Then, it was a matter of "you can't get there from here" once they got off the T and tried to get to the finish area. 

The Finish Line Passes.  VIP's, baby.  

As a top team fundraiser, I was fortunate enough to get two finish line passes and two awesome teammates gave me theirs.  While at first I didn't understand, I get it now. Not many locals want to get into that downtown fray.  Luckily, the organizer gave me an extra one as well so all seven of my peeps could gain access.  It took them so much time to get from their first viewing spot to the finish line area, that--had I not gotten injured and been able to keep my pace--they would not have seen me finish.  So, there is a blessing in that!  

Security.  A Necessary Evil.  

Part of the delay in getting to the finish line area was having to go through security screening. But, runners were also subject to very tight security.  To get to Athlete's Village, we had to go through two wand checks and screening of anything we carried.  I also had to give up a balloon I was carrying that I had hoped would ensure I could meet up with a friend who planned to run with me.  Luckily, I didn't need the balloon and he was able to find me in a sea of Flutie shirts!

Even More Security.  Visible Presence.  

Pretty much everywhere you went there were groups of soldiers or police.  Helicopters flew overhead, and they weren't just news cameras following the race.  At one point, a souped up Gator with an armed officer in a flak jacket drove through the runners.  Not sure what that was about, but that was kind of a surreal moment. Although I didn't obsess about it, there were a few times on the run that I imagined what it must have been like to have a bomb go off or to have the entire race just stop.  

Athlete's Village. Like being an Olympian.  

We had to walk 7/10 of a mile to get from the buses to Athlete's Village and had just enough time to stand in the porta john line and take a couple of group photos before it was time to head to our corral--yep, those 7/10 of a mile back.  The path was lined with security and volunteers--everyone in a good mood and thanking everyone else for being there.  (Note...as I walked to the start I saw Jeff Galloway, king of the run/walk method, and was excited to say hello to him.)

Doug Flutie.  What a guy.  

As a runner on the Flutie team, I had the good fortune to spend some time with Mr. Flutie over the weekend and I am quite impressed.  He's a really sincere and gracious man (who also does a mean air guitar and quotes movie lines with the best of them!) It became even more of an honor to have represented the foundation he and his wife founded on behalf of their son, Doug, Jr.   Note that he began to train for the marathon but had some difficulty due to his knees from all those years of playing football.  After coming into the city for the Charity Teams party on Friday, he decided to take back his bib so he could actually run in the marathon.  With no marathon training, he got shoes and running gear on Saturday only to show up at the start on Monday and pull a 5:23 while taking photos with fans, signing autographs and throwing footballs along the way.  (That beat my very first marathon time with six months of training! Yes, I know I could never be confused with pro athlete, but still...)
At the Friday night Charity Teams party
Holding the ribbons representing all my $100+ donors
Charity runners. Totally rock.  

What an honor to have been a charity runner this year. There are some who disdain the charity runners (since most don't run a qualifying time and "earn" their bibs through fundraising), but let me tell you.  Sincere charity runners do at least twice the work to get there.  Not only do they have to train, they also have to raise as much money as they can for their organization.  I am SO PROUD to be part of the Charity Teams organization (one that manages about 30 of the smaller teams) and to have helped to raise more than $3.1 million dollars for those charities. And, there are just some incredible people on the charity teams with different stories and different motivations. Even though I didn't live close enough to participate as much as I would have liked, I am proud to be associated with these awesome people and thankful for the friendships I made. 

Some of the teammates I got to know best. 

The Jacket. Wearing it proudly. 

The day after the race with my team adopter!
 Some of you may know I agonized over getting a jacket because it represents a marathon finisher and the assumption is that person was a "qualified" not charity runner.  I planned on getting the jacket but wanted to have my name and "Dougie's Team" embroidered on it to make it clear I hadn't qualified. Now that the marathon is over, I have and love my jacket. Yes, I still plan to get the embroidery, but it will be out of a sense of pride, not as an apology. And, don't worry, you won't be able to miss seeing me in the day glo orange!

The Race.  Almost secondary.  

The race itself was incredible and the miles just flew by.  I play a little mental game in each of my longer races by telling myself I just have to get to the next mile.  At Boston, they have water stops every mile after the first two miles.  So, I'd get to the mile sign, go about 1/10 of a mile to the water stop...walk the water stop...start running again and by the time I looked at my watch, I'd already be halfway to the next mile!  It was great!  

The Spectators. Too many to count. 

I guesstimate that 80% of the race course had spectators at least two deep. Sure, there were spots that had only a few people, but they didn't last for long.  And, what  a crowd they were!  Those who have run Boston before said there were noticeably more people and more support than other years.  For the first time ever, I put my name on my singlet (peer pressure at its finest) and I think I heard my name more times than I did when I got in trouble as a kid!  It was highly motivating and I will do that from now on (although I might be disappointed when there aren't as many spectators!)

Taking the Finish Line Back.  Best Spectator Prize. 

Somewhere in the middle of the race, I saw and heard a man yelling, "You take that finish line back!  You take that finish line back!"  Although I didn't yell back at him (and I'm sorry I didn't), I decided to take the finish line back just for him.  As I struggled a bit due to the pain, I kept thinking of that man because I was determined to make it to the finish line for him. It became really personal and I only wish I could find him and tell him how he inspired me. 


The signs. Fun to look at. 

Most of the signs were ones I had seen before, but one that made me laugh was one that said, "You worked harder than this giving birth to me!"  There were also a lot of  "Press here for power" buttons that I mentally activated!  

More celebrity sightings.  No autographs please!  

I got really excited at seeing Team Hoyt on Heartbreak Hill.  Another regret is that I didn't say anything to them, but I was so surprised to pass them, I wasn't prepared with anything!  Also, in that area I saw the man who spearheaded the One Run for Boston that I had participated in (although had to bail after five miles due to sickness.)  We saw other people with One Run shirts on and would yell out the number of the leg we ran as another show of solidarity.  

Final thoughts. You know I have them. 

So, the question I'm being asked most now (other than about my foot) is....will you go back?  And, the answer is YES!  I can't wait to go back.  But, the plan is to go back as a volunteer or spectator.  There is so much energy and so much to love about the race that it's a worthy place to be in any capacity.  (We already have a place scoped out in Natick that was having quite the par-tee!)  

And, believe it or not, getting in as a volunteer also takes some maneuvering.  In previous years, they've turned away more than 2,000 interested volunteers.  This year, it was 5,000.  (Get the feeling you will be reading a blog about that in your future?)

When I started running, I started a charm bracelet to remember all my races.  Typically, I buy the charm ahead of time and have my husband put it on, then bring it to the finish line so I can wear it right away.  This year, I decided not to get the charm ahead of time because I thought I might want to get it engraved with my time (depending on how well I did.)   And, I thought about that, but I knew looking at my finish time would always bring a "what if" with it.  

In the end, I decided to engrave it with the words that totally sum up this experience. 

                                             I AM BOSTON STRONG.

Seeing my family and friends at the finish. 

The guy who inspires me to run for autism.

Me with my mom, dad and brother. 

Catch you later at the back of the pack.....especially since I'll be in a boot and on crutches!

Donation link.  Yep, there's still time!  :)  http://2014dougiesteam.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1088920&lis=1&kntae1088920=730D63498C404D0499A736F301CE3D29&supId=395141415

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Runner Girl

"As I was running this morning, I was reflecting on why was I running for this women Eileen. I went to her Facebook page and read all her posts. Now I am able to put this all together and see what this group is all about. I can see the admiration in the way you speak her name . It is humbling. Thanks River Runners, I get it."

That's a post I read as I got back from the 2nd annual Superbowl "No Damn 5K" Run for Eileen, who lost her battle with cancer a year ago.   The first one was designed to do something to show our running group's support for Eileen so 42 people dressed in pink and made signs on a very cold and blustery February day.  Her husband, Joe, said that telling her about the run was the last earthly thing she acknowledged.

So, this story is about Eileen, but it's also about the brotherhood and solidarity of running.  Never before have I been part of a group that has a connection limited to pretty much one thing, but has this incredible sense of community.

It was Eileen who introduced me to that community.  As she did with many others, she took me under her wing when I first started running.  I asked her lots of advice and she gave me so much more.  We ended up going to races together and spending a lot of time talking about running. 

Eileen and I both share a bit of an independent spirit, so we were totally fine doing our own things at the races we attended together.  But, we'd share rides and critique races, noting what we might be able to do to continue to better ourselves.   And, that's how I started referring to her as "Coach."

The only time she got really angry with me was one time where I was comparing myself to other runners. Another friend joined in the lament and she said, "Ladies, I don't have time for this crap."  (She may or may not have even used another word instead of "crap.")   I still think of that and smile when tempted to go down the comparison slope.

It's been a year now since she passed away.  And, like many others who knew her, I miss her a lot.  I think she would have been surprised at how much of a hole she left in this world.  And, that hole is evidenced by people who had the great blessing of knowing Eileen as well as those who came out for a run on a cold day just to be in solidarity with other runners in her honor. 

I had the privilege of talking about Eileen at her memorial service (click here for the text of the memorial) and sharing some of the many memories we all had about her.  As I was re-reading it last night, I grew teary eyed and I could hear her telling me, "Suck it up, buttercup" while shaking her head at me.  

Coach--I thank you for the short time we had together and I hope you're running today wherever you are...as long as it's not a "damn 5K."   There were too many of them and too little of you. 

Catch you later at the back of the pack!



Friday, January 31, 2014

Running For or From Autism?

As I have delved full force into raising funds for Dougie's Team, I have once again been plagued by questions about what to share and how much to share about our family's journey with autism.

When my son was younger, we kept very busy going to various therapies.  I often quipped that I hadn't met a therapy we didn't like. Our days were filled with speech, occupational, and music therapies not to mention play groups, Gymboree and more. 

Because all the literature and practitioners told us that the more therapies we got in and the earlier we got it, the better off my son would be. 

So, we went all in and lived a life devoted to the autism spectrum disorder. But, as time went on, we grew a bit weary of it all--the therapies, the diagnosis, the challenges.  And, after all, Alex was in typical classrooms doing typical things.  Maybe no one noticed more than a little quirkiness. Maybe we could all just ignore it and it would go away.

In the meantime, the world of social media exploded and suddenly, there it was--for all the world to see.  A person could post and brag and showcase his or her child's accomplishments in real time.  Not that I haven't done that, but I was always very careful about what to post lest anyone who wasn't around us a lot figure out that we wore the Scarlet A in our family.

That changed when I made the decision to run the 2014 Boston Marathon for Dougie's Team, part of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism.  For to be honest about it, I had to acknowledge why Dougie's Team was my first choice and my personal connection to autism.

But, there was also a new wrinkle.  Now, my Aspie was a teenager and had very definite ideas about what I could and couldn't say about him. Plus, he deals with his own questions of how much he wants to disclose to others.  Luckily, he embraced my little project and even gave me permission to talk about him and his Asperger's when I did presentations for autism awareness.  (I gave my first one this week and, as I was going out the door he reminded me to first tell them how charming and intelligent he is!  And, a local TV station will be doing a feature story on my run so they want to interview the family--he is pumped about that!) 

 With that, though, comes the question of how others view Alex and our family.  I often wonder if others reading my Facebook or blog posts pity us or--even worse--smugly congratulate themselves because they don't have a child on the spectrum.  No matter what, we are incredibly blessed.  Alex has his challenges, but then again--so does every other child on the planet.  We don't know what the future holds for him, but no other parent knows that about any of their children.  All we can do is enjoy the gift we have been given of our son and work with him to help him grow into a mature and responsible adult.  (And, I have no doubt that is a challenge for parents of any teenager.)

This attention to autism has made us all "come out" again.  And, I'm realizing that's not a bad thing.  In fact, I'm enjoying reconnecting with people and organizations I haven't had contact with in a while.

And, that took me back to an article I wrote in 2006 that was published in Autism Spectrum Quarterly magazine.  I share it here to show that--this whole "in or out" question has plagued me for a while.  (But, as you read this, guess what I have on my wrist?)

"My Bracelet’s Gems of Wisdom"
Linda Brain Beck, M.Ed

I looked down at my bracelet today and was taken by the sparkle in the small, colored beads. For just a moment, I held up my hand and turned it ever so slowly to enjoy what looked like tiny decorated lights dancing across my wrist.

I thought about how far I’d come in the last few years, for you see, my bracelet is an autism awareness bracelet. And, I have alternately hated and marveled at it—just as I have at the disorder it represents. I didn’t plan to buy the bracelet. And, of course, even though I feared it during my pregnancy, I didn’t plan on having a son with autism either. But since my defense mechanism is to research, research, research, I had to learn as much as I could about autism spectrum disorders through any and all available resources.

So, I ended up at a national autism conference. And, while there, I decided to listen to the inner tapping—a definite light tapping, not an insistent knock—that was telling me I needed something to identify myself—to mark me in solidarity with all those other moms whose fears had come true; with the moms who know what it’s like to turn down a birthday party invitation because they just don’t have the energy to deal with the unexpected issues that will inevitably arise from their child’s behavior; with the moms who want so much to choose between soccer and Little League for their kids, but instead spend their time driving between this therapy appointment and that one because something has to make a difference; and even with the other moms who didn’t want to buy any kind of darned autism awareness bracelet either!
So, I did it! I bought it, but only after getting the seller to create a regular wrist bracelet out of an ankle bracelet. 

After all, the one she had designed for the wrist had larger stones. If I wore that one, wouldn’t it draw too much attention to the bracelet? I wanted to be in solidarity with the moms who knew, but I didn’t really want anyone on the “outside” to ask me any questions about it. Maybe if I got the small bracelet, no one would notice.
As if I could keep my membership in the parental “A-Club” a secret. No, my son always outs me—whether I want to be outed or not. And it started early—like when as a two-year-old he would run up to the salespeople in Costco and read their name tags. Or, when he was three, and thought he was doing the right thing by opening each conversation with “What kind of operating system do you have?” It’s in the toe walking and the special diet. It’s in the aide he has to guide him when other children are simply playing with each other. It’s even in the minutia of a voice that’s just a little too loud, and in a gesture that’s just a little too awkward.

So, I don’t always wear the bracelet. It doesn’t always match my outfit. It doesn’t always seem like a piece of jewelry that’s “me.” And, some days I just want to ignore the fact that it’s in my jewelry chest—just like I want to ignore the autism itself.
But, then, there are those other days-those days when I think my bracelet is the most beautiful piece of jewelry I own. Those are the days I’m reminded that my son is the most beautiful and precious gift I could ever have been given. And, those are the days, I find myself being caught up in the joy of a child—my child—the one who will never be perfect; but the one who is perfectly mine.
So, I’m thankful I purchased that little piece of wire with the tiny multi-colored beads, because it reminds me to look at life with a different perspective—and to enjoy the view—even if I didn’t ask to see things so differently. After all, we all need to be reminded to appreciate the people in our lives who are as different as the stones on my bracelet.
So, who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll open my jewelry box and in it will be a bracelet with BIG stones that I will proudly wear for all the world—and me—to see.

Catch you later at the back of the pack!