Thursday, August 02, 2012

For a Special Lady

In memory of Wilhelmina Barron (with 3 of her now 4 grandkids) Two weeks following the marathon last October we did a tower race for the American Lung Association in honor of my beautiful aunt Willie. In mid-September she was diagnosed with lung cancer and given just a few short weeks to live unexpectedly. But with God's blessing she was able to defy the doctor's prediction and enjoyed just over 3 final glorious months of quality time with her family. This precious photo is one of the last taken of her with all her grandchildren which she carefully planned out to make into Christmas cards for family and friends. I get really emotional thinking of her love behind it as she passed away due to a brain hemorrhage on Christmas Eve. The chemo had failed so they were giving radiation a final attempt to beat the cancer which spread to her brain. Although hard on the family, this was the golden homecoming she had been waiting for over the last 20 years. In January 1991 (less than 2 years before my cancer diagnosis), her daughter (my 10 year old cousin) was overtaken by a very rare form of childhood cancer. I don't have kids (the human kind ;-)) but from what I have been told, it is the worst emotional pain to endure. How fitting to be reunited with her daughter and meet Jesus on such a significant day? Amazingly she had it all planned out. On Christmas day we received packages she had sent with meaningful and special gifts picked out for each of us. It was like she was right there standing next to us. At the moment of celebrating her the sun's ray shined through the house onto the centerpiece of white lilies decorating the dining room table. She was there comforting us and telling us things would be ok. I believe she was sending a message to let us know she was happy and was home finally. So how does this even relate to right now? Well in the midst of our training for Rainier, it is time once again to shift our training to include preparation for the next tower race which is in less than 3 months!! We will again be doing the Climb for Clean Air and dedicating the Gold's Gym team in memory of my lovely Aunt Willie who is now looking over the dogs and I when I am hiking and running. She was so proud of my marathon accomplishment and I know an important motivator for me to get through training despite leg pain from my last brain surgery and to finish the race! Thank you Aunt Willie! You will always be very loved!
View from the top of the 51 floor tower in Seattle, WA

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I'm back better than ever!

Well hello! I may have been absent for awhile but that doesn't mean things have been going poorly. Just the opposite. I am stronger than ever. The photo above is from my 2011 hike finale with Merrie and Pedro one week after I completed the marathon. It was my biggest hike of the year with almost 3800 feet of elevation gain. That is a little prelude to what I have been doing, where I've been, and where I am going. Although mid-October was the close of hike season, in NO WAY did climbing stop. As a chapter closed, a new chapter re-opened. Can that happen? Well anyway, last fall near the end of October and early December, I picked up 2 more tower climbing events bringing my tower climb events up to 3 from once yearly. So when the marathon training came to an end, I got right back to training but of a different nature - focusing on speed for fast ascents of 50+ floors in under12 or 12 minutes. Then, there was a brief pause for the holidays and snowshoe season in the mountains started in the new year. Very happily I got in 10 snowshoe outings this year! Before that came to a close, it was time to start (or shall I say continue to maintain) my training for tower racing as our Grand Daddy climb of 69 floors was in March. No sooner did I wrap up the climb, it was almost time for hiking season to start! In reality I could have started anytime in the cooler wet weather on closer and smaller mountains. But I really wanted to get the most out of the snowshoeing season which was what I was doing the last few weekends of March. The first week of April we kicked off the start of hiking season with my group of cancer survivor friends. Since, I have been a hiking FIEND! Pretty much I have averaged almost 3 hikes a week consistently. I am unsure really what the exact number of hikes I have done over the last 3 months. I kind of cooled it this week by not hiking on Sunday and instead opting to dive for crab. So amazingly I am stronger than ever! Of course I still have imbalance but my strength is better than it has ever been. If I did not have to contend as balance and vision challenged, I would be climbing mountains for sure!!!! Yet, with my obstacles to overcome, I have been making monumental strides! I am up to doing training hikes carrying a stunning 33 lb pack! I cannot fit anything else into it and need to upgrade to a bigger size! What a sweet miracle! I am so overwhelmed with gratitude every time I am in the woods. I am now doing many hikes on my own and taking the dogs out on several adventures they have not been on before or that we missed out on for several years. It is joyous indeed. Although I do still run short distances 1-3 times a week for maintenance, I opted not to run any marathons this year as it was too taxing to keep up with hiking which is what I really love. With my strength the absolute best it has been in 8 years, I wanted to put my full focus into my hiking potential. As such, I have decided to finally go for camp Muir on Rainier which has been been my desire for YEARS. Yet before the NF2 tumor growth melt down in 2004, I never took the chance to seriously go for it. Now that I finally have the opportunity to give it a real shot, I am not going to let it pass me by! So in August, Harley and I are planning for a push to the 10,080 foot climber's camp on Rainier! Of course I am not going to climb without a cause! This will be my "Hiking to Muir to bring cheer" event of our foundation's "Never Give Up!" campaign. I will elaborate with the next couple days. So I am back! And I plan to document my training for the biggest hike of my life! Although I went to Kilimanjaro, our daily hikes were of a lesser elevation gain than we will be pushing for in one day to reach the camp. Keep checking in! :) Have a happy 4th and stay safe! :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


my trainer Merrie and I after I finished the Portland marathon for the NF Endurance team flexing our "Gold's Gym strength" in front of the Children's Tumor banner
Well yesterday marked 1 month since my full marathon success! Yes! I really did run a full marathon less than 5 months after a 5 hour brain surgery and completed the event in just under 5 hours!!!! I did it!!

And as a reward.....the purple calloused skin and blackened nail of my second big toe fell off while I was in the pool for aerobics! haha (little inside joke - a fellow athlete friend commented once "toenails are for sissies!") LOL We aren't kidding!
my red finisher shirt given after completeing the marathon and my blue participant event shirt given at the expo
my celebratory event roses tucked within a fall bouquet of my mom's - Portland is know as the "City of Roses"

I proved I hope what to be a very valid point.....You work hard, put your heart into something, exercise dedication and determination, and hold strong in your faith, MIRACLES CAN AND DO HAPPEN! If you tell yourself that you CAN'T do something you know what? You are right! Because you do not BELIEVE.

I could not have imagined running a marathon when I was well, before I lost my balance function and had perfect vision. I did not think it was possible and DEFINITELY would not have believed back then that someone could accomplish such a feat so soon after a brain surgery, having never ran a marathon before! YOU ARE STONGER THAN YOU THINK! Generally it does not come out until you are really put to the test.

How did it feel and how did it go for me?

Hmmn.....well actually now it is kind of a blur. Contribute that feeling to coming back and getting into constant things already which have included a giant grand finale hike, another charity endeavor, holiday fun, yet another charity event I am planning for, and coordinating a team. I am constant activity! But from what I can remember, it was my pretty ideal running climate allowing me to wear nothing but a pair of running capris and stripping down to the running singlet you see me wearing in the photo above.
my friend Jean from Portland who has organized the NF Endurance team for years - She collected my extra clothing layers on the course for me

First time running a full marathon in the fall I was unsure of my clothing layers. So I started with 2 long sleeve shirts and a thin pair of gloves that I ended up discarding within the first 2 miles to team support on the sidelines.

It is a GREAT feeling to start out an event with a team and additionally have someone with you to begin the race. Lucky for me I was able to begin the marathon with our wonderful team captain Janet who was running this event for the I think the 3rd year shooting for her best time. We stayed with each other at least for the first mile until I of course had to make my traditional port-o-potty stop. After the first few miles (you are kind of excited running in the pack), I aim to get in "the zone" and try to remember my pacing.

It was a real THRILL to spot volunteers with the Children's Tumor Foundation wearing neon yellow shirts and cheering me on from the sidelines. What a motivating boost! My family and husband were included in that group and also offered special energy nourishment I could not carry. I saw my sister ALL over the course which was pretty exciting too! I cannot even recall how many times I saw her.

Unlike running around a track which quickly grows dull, when you run in a marathon you get to sight see lots of the city and area in a way you could not by taking a car or bus and covering ground too far for walking. That definitely makes it quite interesting and gives one of feeling of exclusitivity.

When it starts to get tiring, it is a good incentive to keep pushing. Our big hill was such an example. Hills are not my forte so it is a great deal of mind over matter. While I was running and focusing on just making it to the stoplight in the distance which appeared to be the top, I saw a sign about needing an event number to cross the bridge. "BRIDGE?", I wondered with curiosity. Then a few moments later one of the most beautiful older bridges I have admired on every visit to Oregon came into view. My heart thumped with anticipation when I realized I would have the special opportunity to run across it admiring the intricate detail of it minty green medal and the expansive scenery of the Willamette River. As my eagerness built, my footsteps quickened driving me up the hill.
my asics running shoes with the orange tag which is the timing chip and activates when crossing the start and stops the time when crossing the finish

The weather was in the high 50s and started out as overcast (actually better for my vision) then began to drizzle sometime between mile 8 and 9. By then the light rain is pretty refreshing but would not be too cool if it was at the start.

I think the most difficult were miles 20 or 21 to the end. I had planned according to the event maps to have energy gels provided for us on the course. So I only brought myself 2 gels to carry in my hip belt and expected to grab 2 or 3 more at designated mileage posts as I needed. (Groan) There was an interpretation error. Whatever happened, the gel stations were not there! The only food energy were gummy bears and pretzels which I am unable to swallow while running. I tried the gummy bears at mile 7 because I could not see what the guy was handing me. I thought it was an energy gel as it was the same area it was SUPPOSED to be provided according to the map. Geez! I nearly choked on them and never did manage to swallow any. It was getting so exhausting to breathe while trying to chew them that I had to reach my finger into my mouth to pull out the ones stuck to my teeth. Blah! That was not a good experience and kind of strange. So going by the guidelines that you should have energy replacement every hour, I was definitely coming up short by the time I reached mile 20. I tried to extend my gas tank as long as possible by pouring sport drink down my throat at several of the stations and downing a can of FRS drink my husband brought me at mile 11. That way I could eat the second gel at mile 18 hopefully.

By 20 my mind was toying with me. Somewhere between 11 and 12 when I saw my husband, I told him I was going to need the extra gel I had in my backpack. Unfortunately because I was over optimistic in the course provisions, I forgot I left the extra gel at home!!!! I did not realize this until after the marathon. So while I was running, I had banked on my husband bringing an extra gel for me later in the course (certain stretches were closed to spectators).

When I reached 20, he and my mom weren't there! So the exhaustion and my mind were really playing me at that point. It had been a long time of just running alone without seeing someone I knew. Then I fretted that I would not see them and get the energy needed to make it to the end. When I finally saw them after mile 22, I was ready to suck down that gel BADLY! I almost cried and started screaming when he told me he could not find it. FORRUNATELY I was able to improvise just as I had in DC when I had to make do with whatever was available. I had bought one of those "stay awake" type of energy shots to have before the race which came in a 2 pack so I had one left over in my bag. Desperately I slammed it down and prayed I would not have a dang heart attack on my way to the finish. I only ever drank one once before on a long run and was not certain how safe it would be to my body to drink a 2nd.

When I did approach the finish I was pretty exhausted and must have looked like it too as 2 medic volunteers immediately grabbed me and supported me by the shoulders from each side. I was sort of dizzy so they had me drink 2 boxes of orange juice and stayed with me until they were finished and I assured them that I would be ok.
my loot after I had eaten a banana, cheese, and pizza
my celabratory seedling trees in the lower right corner of the photo

Wow! Were my legs stiff and sore!!!! I think after I drank some water I had to sit down CAREFULLY and stretch for at least a good 15 minutes. Maybe it was longer before I could finally stand up to walk around. In addition to the gold medal draped around my neck after crossing the finish line, the minature congratulatory roses, and my commenmorative seedling trees, there was LOTS of food booty to snatch up in the recovery area. So I brought myself to my feet and scoped out a spare box thrownout to carry all my loot.
Merrie, Pedro, and Harley

After emerging finally from collecting a good stash of food, I met my family, Merrie and Pedro, and friend Jean to snap some photos in front of the team banner. When ready to hobble to the car, Merrie and Pedro joined us back at my parents in Scappoose for a 40th congratulatory celebration when they also played the ingenious picture game and we finally enjoyed that ice cream cake I made my dad wait for! :)
Ok, So I am not looking so great. Give me a break I just finished running a marathon!
Congrats presents from Merrie & Pedro and sporting my finisher shirt and bling

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pre-event Fire Up

October 8th, 2011 - Merrie and I at the Portland marathon expo displaying the participant tech shirt which I wore to the pasta dinner later on
October 8th, 2011 sis, me, and mom with my 40ths cake (40th birthday and 40th anniversary of the Portland marathon)
mom's "partyware" ensemble she made for me

When we arrived my parents home in Oregon after stopping to get my race packet at the Portland expo, I lucked out and had another 40th birthday celebration. I think I have been plenty spoiled with nearly a month of several continuous celebrations (first in MN with Cheryl my mother-in-law and Harley's grandma in September; then champagne toast with 2 other birthday friends; from my hike group down by Mt. Rainer; then with Harley at Mt. Rainier Paradise Lodge again ON my birthday; at my trainer's the same week; at my sister's the following week; and the culmination of the celebrations the weekend of the marathon in early October. Wow!
October 5, 2011 at Chef Michelle's
Menu - Coconut Pumpkin Curry Soup, Green Beans, and Thai Chicken Curry with Squash

Spud and Jazz there to celebrate with me!
Got so excited about Key Lime pie that forgot to put the candles on before cutting into it!

September 24th, 2011 at the Vieco household - my trainer Merrie, her husband Pedro, our gym mate and another September birthday buddy Randy Thompson, and Harley & I
Randy's birthday was on the 25th and mine on the 22nd of September. So we celebrated it together at Merrie's who is our trainer. Randy left shortly after to work for 6 months at McMurdo research base in Antarctica.
September 21, 2011 birthday TSNW hiking pals left to right: Denise who just summitted Kilimanjaro, me, and Kristina who summitted Mt. Adams and has trekked in the Himalayas
Kristina photographing a marmot on the rock in the distance as Bob comes up the trail
My beautiful Mt. Rainier

My favorite purple Lupine wildflower
alpine pond at the top of Spray Park
lush pink mountain Heather
September 22, 2011 - Paradise on Mt. Rainier Read the quote on the steps.
Paradise is LUXURIANT
overlooking Reflection Lakes
alpine pond surrounded by huckleberries
Harley reflecting over an alpine meadow
Reflection Lake
Paradise Inn Lodge
Mountain sunset

Harley relaxing after an afternoon hike
nice place for peace and contemplation in the upstairs deck of the lodge

Time to fly away! Beautiful hand painted lanterns hanging from the lodge ceilings

September 11, 2011 Apple Valley, MN - Cheryl, Harley, and Grandma

gift from grandma - my 40th socks :)

Haha! When we came home from the pasta dinner my dad was just DYING to dive into the ice cream cake we did not have time to eat beforehand.

When we got home after the dinner I had to get to bed quick as it was almost 9 pm and I had to get up at 4 am! So I told dad that we could not eat the cake until after I finished the marathon on Sunday. It gave me an extra incentive to keep running as I wanted some cake too! :)

Note: Why on earth would I have to wake so early? Argh! That is not at all normal for me and I am NOT a morning person like my dad. However, all marathon start times are really early for 2 purposes: firstly that is tradition as many events are in hotter climates and they want to start it during the cooler hours of the day.
Secondly, it takes much longer for walkers to complete a full marathon. So they start early so the course can be shut down in a reasonable amount of time and before evening approaches.
When you are on a team, the team generally meets 1 hour before the start time which is at 6 am. You meet for a photo and make sure everybody is there and knows where to go for their starting corales (runners or walkers start in different gates based on their estimated finish time and pace; the fastest runners get to cross the startline first).
Often, people from out of town stay at the hotel hosting the expo where you pick up your race packet with your timing chip and number. My parents live about a half hour outside of Portland. Thus I just stay there but that means I will have to leave about 45 minutes beforehand to ensure I get to the team meeting spot.

I was so groggy in the morning that I wore my underwear inside out and had no idea until I took my ice bath hours after the race!!!! LOL I was also very tired after the race and ran around with my finisher shirt on backwards! Dear Lord what a confused case I was!