Friday, November 20, 2015

There's A New Kid In Town

And a good bit of catching up to do if we want to keep our memories stored here. But for now...
Introducing Cooper Gray born June 30 2015
He has a great birth story which I will share if I ever find the time to come back here and update again. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The American Giving Awards

Well, like so many other people we have had a good deal of sickness in our house the past couple of weeks. Luckily, I'm the only one sick with the newest round (so far. Prayers it will stay that way). But I had to take a minute to share this: The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation has been selected as one of the featured charities for this year's American Giving Awards. This means that they are in the running to win a million bucks. How do they win? Voting. As in YOUR voting. Voting is free and open now. It takes just seconds to vote and you can do it right here. You guys have been so supportive of my journey this year, and the whole point of that journey was to help raise money for GSF so that they can improve the lives of children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. We did an awesome job with our fundraising, but a million dollars can go a LONG way! Please vote! Feel free to leave me a comment to let me know you did. Thanks so much!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Anthem Richmond Marathon

So, since I can barely walk today I may as well get to blogging about this weekend! Aarik took off Friday so that we could leave early in the morning. We got started a little later than planned, but I had decided after the ridiculous week we had that we were going to avoid stress, and any outside responsibilities as much as possible. As worried as I was about the race we just didn't need any negativity or aggravation. The way that Sprint GPS took us was absolutely gorgeous. Mostly back roads & small highways. The first half of the trip we got to see lots of farm land, relax & listen to country music while Parker slept & the rest of us got to chat. Then Parker woke up & screamed the rest of the way, everyone had to go potty every 5 seconds & I got a barrage of poorly timed, non marathon weekend text messages. By the time we got to the expo we were all worn out, over being in the car and a little grumpy. Because of that, we were in and out of the expo very quickly and I never even got to see the medal I was hoping to earn the next day. I did however purchase a 26.2 magnet for the Jeep and said a quick prayer it wasn't a waste of money and we bumped into a new friend made on the Richmond marathon Facebook page who we had lots in common with. The expo was crazy crowded but looked to be very well organized, and had more than enough gear for anyone interested in spending money to help remember the event. There was ample parking outside of the convention center. They had booths specifically to answer questions for out of towners and had plenty of free maps on hand. The Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield booth even gave the kids all free cowbells to ring to help cheer the next day. Other than those things it was your typical race expo.
Our hotel was located in a pretty central spot, but let me say I was not impressed with it at all. The shower looked to have never been cleaned and the front desk girl that was there during check in & check out was one of the most rude people ever. I was thrilled, however, that there was a Denny's in the adjoining parking lot and we were happy to be able to walk over to dinner and be the only people there when we ate at 5:00. The kids, of course, love any excuse to have pancakes for dinner! Jennifer and Ray were kind enough to offer me a ride down the next morning which took a big stress off of Aarik,would let the kids get more sleep in the morning, and allow us to spend time together as a group. So Aarik and I tried to plan his route to get to the finish and signed him up to get live updates while I was running. Navigating Richmond and paying tolls every five minutes was another not so fun thing to plan around. When Aimee and I talked I found out we had broken $4000.00 and doubled out fundraising goal!! Inspiration and motivation!! We got the monkeys ready for bed, I laid out all of my race gear, we prayed & went to bed. The kids all slept great, thankfully, and I woke up every hour thinking I had overslept. At five I got up, ate a small bowl of Captain Crunch, got dressed and went downstairs to meet up with the Riska family. We spent less time than I expected looking for parking (not to say it was easy finding a place, just not as hard as anticipated). We got to watch the start of the half, go for a quick jog, found a nice warm place to go to the bathroom (if I run this race again we will stay at the host hotel. Complete opposite of where we stayed), and made it down just in time to have Ray snap a few pics, give hugs to Josh, Aimee & Callie & get in line for the start.

Jennifer and I started the race together and stayed together almost 16 miles.

I wore my hydration pack because I was concerned with all of the NY marathoners coming in at the last minute the race would run out of water & Powerade, especially if my leg gave me a fit and I was at the very back of the pack. {Sidenote: they never ran out of anything as long as I was on the course.} It was nice to be able to chat with Callie's grandma about running, our training, Callie, the course, books and anything else that came up along the way. As we ran together in our Team GSF jerseys we had lots of people yell out to us "That's right! Never Give Up!!" We were even called "The Never Give Ups" a few times. It was such an awesome reminder to us of why we were there. There was ton of course support, signs everywhere, people out with their kids & dogs. People sitting on their lawns with signs, shop owners doing their own water stops, people giving out Twizzlers, cheering... You name it! It was obvious why they call this "America's Friendliest Marathon". The most beautiful part was when we ran along the James River for a while. It was almost silent other than the sound of the water. After the water stop that we got seperated I decided to listen to music. I was really nervous about the Robert E. Lee bridge because I'd heard terrifying things about it, but it gave me no trouble at all. The wind that people talk about must have taken pity on us that day. It was where I saw people start to drop off though, some walking, hobbling, limping, some sitting down on the side. From then on out the race thinned out a good bit. When I came off the bridge one of the race volunteers said, "You've got this, if you did the bridge your fine, it's the hardest part!" How silly of me to believe her!  Truthfully, I did myself in because when I tried to walk through a water stop at mile 11 I realized if I tried to walk anymore I'd be in big trouble. For some reason at mile 20 I went against my decision from just nine miles before and decided to walk through a water stop so that I could call Aarik and let him know to start heading down to the finish area with the kids. Being the amazing man that he is, he was already in the car with them. But when I started running again it was SO painful that it slowed me down A LOT. I kept thinking about all of the people I love who I wanted to do this for, the support they had given me, and I would tell myself that I WAS going to finish this and it would end faster if I kept running and that in only "X" amount of miles I was going to finally be a marathoner. It worked, I kept running. Not running fast, but running. At mile 24 I picked up my pace again, but couldn't maintain it for the last two miles after going up an unexpected hill. When I got down to mile 26 I was searching for my family- people who knew me and loved me and would be cheering me on.
I was so happy to see Josh, Aimee, Callie and Aimee's two sisters off to the side.
Then I saw Ray, Callie's grandpa who was awesome enough to be cameraman &course support Team Callie for the weekend.

I kept looking for Aarik & the kids and then I spotted two Never Give Up shirts in the crowd and realized it was Hannah and David. Those shirts on on my two teammates gave me a little more fuel and I finished the race at the bottom of the hill. I stopped my Garmin and looked down to see 26.32 miles in 5:03:08. I'm not going to lie, over 5 hours was hard to swallow. I've always been a middle of the pack runner, but usually toward the front end, not the back end. But I reminded myself of all the trials I had overcome to get to the finish line, and how blessed I am to be able to run at all, and that at mile 21 when my legs felt like someone had set them on fire I had decided this was such an incredibly hard thing to finish this race I would be proud of my time no matter what it was. I also found comfort in the fact that I beat Katie Holmes' marathon time ;). Called Aarik, they had gotten lost and then couldn't find parking, but they were out of the car now and heading to the finish area. They found Josh and Aimee. We could meet there. Another few minutes of walking and I was given my medal. I saw bananas and bagels, but they made me gag even though I was starving. Picked up a piece of pizza and a Powerade nibbled the pizza, but then decided it wasn't a good idea and tossed it, made my way through a ton of people laying on the ground, asked a cop how to get back to the finish line, followed his directions, climbed entirely too many stairs to get to the bridge off of the island, realized the fence in the way would make it impossible for me to get back to where I'd seen everyone before, went up to the next street,walked up another big hill and finally got to see my family! My sweet kiddos started yelling "Go mommy go! Go mommy go!" And I made a controlled collapse to the curb. I found out Jennifer had crossed the finish line shortly after me & was so excited & proud for her. As we sat & waited for her to make the same confusing journey back to the family, Ray offered to take a picture of me with the family. It's my favorite one from the day.

I'm so grateful he was so thoughtful & helped preserve memories from the weekend, otherwise I wouldn't have a single picture. Unfortunately, there were tons of people with dogs around so within just a few minutes Mckenzie was screaming like a lunatic and even knocked Parker down causing him to slam his head on the road. I decided (in my not so coherent mind) that I couldn't handle anymore of the dog induced spasms, and we left. I wish that I'd been thinking more clearly for photo purposes, because I left before we'd gotten a picture of all four of us with our medals. But here are the others with theirs
They all did awesome!

I learned a lot from this race that I'd like to share. It was so much easier and harder then I thought it would be; and I definitely want to talk about the aftermath of it all, but this post is too long already, so... Next time!

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's Here

So I've been trying to figure out what to post for my "last post before the big weekend" post. I had decided not to do one because I'm not thinking clearly and wanted it to be meaningful. Then Aimee said something to me that made me really think and I woke up to an article written by Victoria Strong, and I realized what I would like to write about.
As part of my fundraising I've spent the past several months describing how this disease works. Telling everyone about all of the things these kids can NOT do because of SMA. Truth is that these kids, and their parents, are told every day what they can't, and won't and shouldn't do; then these amazing children, along with their courageous and supportive parents, go out and they DO. Their parents become innovators, inventors, and activists. They make friends with their physical therapist, neurologist & pediatrician and as a team they make things happen.  These kids DO. Some live past 6 months, some go to Kindergarten, or ballet classes, and they run distances that most adults  "can't". They teach. They are inspirations for those of us who say we can't to get up and do. Their bodies fail them daily but they don't write a blog post to complain about it, they find a way to work around it. They don't ask for pity, they ask for support. When they reach the finish line of their life, no matter what the distance they traveled, they have given it their all. They run the perfect race, finishing with nothing left in the tank because they leave it all on the course.  I hope if I happen to meet "the wall" tomorrow (it's more likely than not) that I can remember the lessons I've learned from observing these amazing people this year and push through it, keep running because I'm blessed to have a body that can run.
For tonight, we're in Richmond, exhausted from the crazy trip, pancakes in belly, wrestling a teething 1 year old  & hoping we can figure out a way to get to the start line through all of the closed, most direct roads! Prayers appreciated ;)