Half Marathon #12 Training

In eight days I will be running my 12th half marathon. The Indy 500 Mini Marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years, but it usually falls the same weekend we take our eighth graders to Washington, DC. This year our trip is the week after the mini, so my daughter Bethany and I signed up. We actually signed up when we were at the expo for the Monumental Half Marathon in November. Bethany was a little freaked out that she signed up for her second half marathon before she’d run her first. But hey, we got $5 off and a free tech shirt, so how could we go wrong?

Bethany and I have been training for a couple months. Now that I am 50, I’ve found my long runs just keep getting slower. However, last weekend we ran our longest run of 11 miles, and our pace was a respectable 10:35 (respectable for me, but maybe not for Bethany). Sunday I ran five miles with my fast friends. They make running look so effortless while I am about 15 feet behind struggling to breathe. They were chatting away, and would occasionally ask me a question, but I had no idea what they were even talking about. So why do I run with them? Because I love them, and because it pushes me. Sometimes I get comfortable just getting my miles in, but I don’t really push myself out of that comfort zone. If I want to run well, I have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We ran those five miles at a 9:45 pace, which at this point is super fast for me. Jennifer had already run five miles, and then added another 3.1 after our five…at an 8:15 pace. Geez.

Fast. Something I’ve never been, nor will I ever be. When I talk to my eighth graders about my running, they don’t get that concept. When I told them I was running the Indy Mini, some asked if I thought I would win. Sure, Kids. I’m confident that out of the 30-35,000 runners, I will win. I told them that really isn’t the goal of most runners. But it’s a race. Why would you enter a race if you don’t think you can win, Mrs. Stath? I tried to explain the age groups, and how my goal is usually to place in the top 20% of my age group. But why would you run over 13 miles for that? Ummm…because we get really cool medals and a shirt. I guess from a 13 year old’s perspective, the fact that a 50 year old teacher would run 13.1 miles to get a medal doesn’t make much sense. It made me ask myself why I really do it.

There are so many reasons to run a half marathon. First, there is no other feeling like crossing that finish line, knowing I did something that not many people do. I have done the work – and it is work – and accomplished my goal. Running it with my daughter? That is a pleasure that not many moms get to experience. Running this distance has been life-changing for me. I didn’t begin running until I was 42, and I ran my first half almost seven years ago at 43. I never dreamed I could run 13 miles; I thought it was silly to even want to run for over two hours. But I did it. It taught me that even as a middle-aged mom and grandmother, I could still meet new challenges. It gave me confidence to take risks. I love the camaraderie of the running community. When we go to Indianapolis next weekend, I will enjoy being surrounded by other runners at the hotel, expo, and restaurants. There’s just a different type of energy in the air.

Running long distance doesn’t come without sacrifice and sometimes discomfort. My hip began hurting a couple weeks ago. It was fine when I ran, but hurt after. It is better after a couple trips to the chiropractor, and I have three more appointments scheduled for next week, including one right before we leave for Indy. Runners also sacrifice time. Long runs take time away from family, not only during the run itself, but when I am crashed on the couch afterward. Thankfully my husband is supportive since he was also a runner. Knowing he will be there when I finish makes me look forward to the finish line even more.

Bethany, thank you for taking time to train with me and to commit to this race. There really is something special about pounding the pavement with you. I am so incredibly proud of you. Let’s rock this race! Do you think we can win?

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Half Marathon #10

On November 5 I will run my tenth half marathon, the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It’s been two years since I ran an entire 13.1 miles; the last three I worked some walking in for various reasons. I need to know I can still run the whole route – that my knee can endure 13.1 miles of pounding.

However, accomplishing that goal is not the most important aspect of the race. This race is special because I will be running it with my daughter Bethany. She began running in January of this year, and has since run a couple 5Ks and a 5-miler. She decided this summer that she was ready to take on the challenge of running her first half marathon, and I agreed to train and run with her. When Gary and I began running almost eight years ago, our hope was that we would be a positive example for our kids and grandkids. We wanted to show them that it is never too late to live a healthier lifestyle; it is never too late to set and achieve goals. Since that time, all of the girls have worked fitness into their lives. Gary’s daughter Tamara and her girls have participated in Girls on the Run; Morgan has run a few races and was recently certified to teach yoga; and the youngest, Addie, has now begun running and hopes to work up to a half marathon. Gary’s son Bryce has always been active. He and his wife run, ski, and climb. I don’t know how much we have influenced our children’s choices, but I hope we’ve had at least a little impact.

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Training for this race has been interesting. I haven’t worked as hard as I should. It stayed hot so long that my runs suffered. Our long runs have been slower than I would like, but we’ve kept running. This past Saturday we ran 11 miles, our longest training run. It went better than our previous long runs, and I feel that Bethany is ready for this race and will run well. I feel that I had better quit eating junk for the next two weeks and increase my water intake or I’m going to struggle. No matter what, I wouldn’t trade these past weeks of sharing this experience with my daughter. I cannot wait for her to experience crossing that finish line because I know it can be life-changing. I know she will gain a confidence she’s never experienced. I know she will feel a sense of pride that is unlike any other. I know she’ll want to sign up for another!

I have had the unique pleasure of running two of my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and felt so blessed that they wanted to share that time with me. After running a couple 5Ks and a 10K together, Erin and I ran the Monumental two years ago – it was 15 degrees that day. Emily and I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington. Despite being held April 9, it was 20 degrees at the start, and it did not warm up (I won’t even get into the hills). Now I have the honor of running 13.1 with Bethany, which I hope will take place on a perfect 55 degree day. There is something special about running a longer race with someone. If you run, you know that some of the best, most honest conversations take place when we are drenched in sweat, our muscles are aching, and yet we carry on…together.

I’ve written before that sometimes a race is about so much more than a PR or personal goals. My best runs have been when I’ve run for a greater cause, whether it was to help someone complete her first half, or to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. The medals earned represent time spent training and sharing in a common goal. The medals represent not giving up, even when it hurts. They represent achieving something that a few years ago seemed impossible.

Bethany, I am so proud of you! You’ve accomplished so much this year, and it is truly my honor to run with you. I pray for clear skies, perfect temps, strong legs, and settled bellies. Heck, maybe someday you, Morgan, Addie, and I can run one together. That would really be a miracle! Let’s eat healthy foods the next two weeks, okay? Good Luck, Bethany! Thank you for allowing me to be your running partner. Thank you for loving yourself enough to take on such a monumental challenge. Now go #BeMonumental!

Running for St. Jude

We’ve all heard about St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, but have you really taken the time to learn about their mission and about all of the great things they do? If I didn’t have a personal connection, I can’t say that I would have taken the time to learn. Oh, I’d have been brought to tears by their commercials, and donated a dollar here and there when I was shopping, but if it weren’t for my great friend, Katie Weyer, I would not have had the opportunity to really know St. Jude, and to meet not only families impacted by the hospital, but also incredible doctors, nurses, and other staff whose mission is to save kids.

The following is Katie’s story, the reason we run for St. Jude.

The doctors and nurses at Jude – Simply amazing people. I text/call/email them constantly and they still put up with me. They are the reason I am here today, and I can’t even put into words how important they are to me. Even through non-cancer issues, they are my people. I am fairly certain that not many people get wedding gifts from their oncologists, or messages from their radiation oncologists on their birthdays, or countless texts and phone calls from their nurse practitioners.

Let’s start at the beginning of my journey…

I first knew something was wrong my senior year at Belmont University where I was a cross country runner. I went from being able to run 13-14 miles without a problem to not being able to run five minutes without feeling as though I was suffocating. I had two knee surgeries that year, so I don’t think the problem presented itself as obvious at the time. Looking back on it, it was my chest, not my knees, that kept me from running. I was going to the doctor at Vanderbilt at least once, if not twice, a week; and I was seeing the Vandy doc in the training room ever single time he was there. He even uttered the words to me, “it is nothing serious – not like lymphoma or leukemia or anything.” Needless to say, that doctor from Vanderbilt called me after my diagnosis to apologize and tell me he totally misinterpreted my symptoms.

I had my second knee surgery in May of 2005 at Vanderbilt, but they never did a chest x-ray as a pre-op test because I was a healthy college athlete. Looking back, my heart rate was about 140 on the morning of my surgery; they told me it was just nerves. I know now it was a cancer symptom. St. Jude said I was lucky I came out of regular anesthesia, and honestly I remember sleeping for three days straight after the knee surgery – another sign from my body.

I was doing my first round of student teaching that semester, and I had a fever over 100 degrees every single day. Every. Single. Day. I was in bed for two weeks over Easter. Every day that I went to student teaching was a day I lied to my professors about what my fever really was.

Looking back, my body gave me so many signs: I lost 25 pounds; my hair was falling out; and I really looked like death.

Hodgkin’s Stage IIB

Diagnosed Date 6/22/2005

Relapse Date 9/2006

I went on vacation to Fort Walton with Brian and Mary Jane Beckort early that June. I remember feeling so terrible during that week, and all I wanted to do was sleep. We got home the weekend of the Glen Ress Golf Tournament, and I woke up that Saturday with a HUGE lump in my neck. HUGE. My mom was out of town at a wedding in Indianapolis, so I showed it to Dr. Ress in passing at the golf tournament. He told me then to come in Monday. The rest is history.

Dr. Ress figured out just by looking at me and talking to me that I had cancer. He said it was either lymphoma or leukemia. We followed up with some doctors here at Perry County Memorial Hospital, and then at St. Mary’s in Evansville. When I told my friend Kristin about the diagnosis, her dad – a doctor at St. Jude – called my dad and said get to St. Jude in Memphis. He said he had a friend, Melissa, who could save my life. This was on a Friday I believe. We loaded up (Mom, Dad, and me) in my Aunt Julie’s van and went to Memphis. We arrived at St. Jude on a Sunday afternoon. My college teammates and great friends Kristin and Lindsay (both from Memphis) met us at the hospital. Did I mention a person has to be 21 or younger to be admitted to St. Jude? I was turning 22 that coming Thursday. Monday, June 20, I began a gamut of tests at St. Jude, which ultimately gave me a diagnosis of Stage IIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

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I remember this day well. Our family was on vacation and on the beach at Virginia Beach when Katie’s dad called my husband and gave him the news. You know how you can remember where you were when you received some type of life-changing news? This was one of those days. ~ Joyce

I signed all of the consent papers on Wednesday, June 22, the night before my 22nd birthday. I can remember sitting in the consult room and they read all kinds of things to me. After the first two sentences, I didn’t hear anything else. “You’re daughter, Katie, has Stage IIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Left untreated, this is fatal.” It didn’t matter to me, or my mom and dad what they said after that because we were doing whatever it took to beat this cancer. My doctor, Melissa Hudson, lined out everything. I had 12 weeks of chemo (that I could do in Evansville with the help of Dr. Tony Stephens), and then 3.5 weeks of radiation that had to be done in Memphis.

They let me have the day off of my birthday, so I started chemo on my first full day of being 22, June 24. Thinking back on it, so many fun things come to mind to do on your first day of being 22, and chemo is definitely not one that comes to mind.

That Friday night we went to dinner with Kristin and her parents, and another doctor from St. Jude. I really didn’t feel any different. The next day, Kristin’s dad took my dad golfing and I seriously hibernated for the next 72 hours. My mom said it was like I was a baby again, just sleeping all day, waking to go to the bathroom and that was it.

On top of all of this, my twin sister Kelly was getting married on July 2 and St. Jude couldn’t promise I would be able to be there. Can you imagine missing your sister’s wedding? I was able to go to the wedding and all went well. My 12 weeks of chemo and 3.5 weeks of radiation went as well as can be expected. I student taught with Mary Jane on the days I wasn’t getting chemo, and then moved to Memphis for radiation. I finished treatment up in late October 2005.

Fast forward to September 2006. I had just been hired for my first teaching job at Tell City Junior High School, was helping with cross country, and just bought my first car. I went to the North Harrison cross country race on a Thursday night and left from there to head to Memphis. We arrived in Memphis at 1am, and had a PET scan the next morning. It was then we received the news that something had popped up. We came home for Labor Day Weekend, and went back to Jude on Tuesday to confirm relapse.

I honestly don’t remember a lot of this because I was numb and furious. Two weeks into school year and wham-o – I’m back in the cancer world. The good news was they had been following up with me every 3 months, so it hadn’t had that long to grow. However, they had suspected something in July, but couldn’t get it to come positive on a needle biopsy that summer. I should’ve known it was going to come back, but it really just shocked me.

The treatment plan this time was “salvage therapy” and “off protocol” meaning that they weren’t interested in putting me on a clinical trial, but rather just saving my life. Three intensive inpatient treatments (hadn’t ever been inpatient up until now) consisting of four to five days of being in a hospital bed because the chemo was so harsh. Three weeks in between, and then autologous (from my own cells, because they were cancer free) stem cell transplant. This stretch of the fall was terrible. I got so sick from the chemo. The thing that pulled me through it was cross country and getting to come home for some of the meets. Getting to make an impact with the girls gave me a purpose.

Worst day of this treatment cycle: The week of cross country semi-state, my mom and I were making plans to come home so I could go to Semi-state in Bloomington with the team. We had a very good chance to win the whole thing, which is a huge accomplishment for an unclassed sport in Indiana. There were only 4 semi-states in the whole state; I had to be there. We called my doc (Hudson) on her cell and she said to swing by clinic, get my labs drawn just for safe measure, and then hit the road. We packed, went to clinic for the draw and waited. When they called me back to A clinic, I was ecstatic to be leaving. My happiness didn’t last long. They told me that I had a platelet count of zero and that traveling was out of the question. I broke down right there in clinic. I was simply devastated.

After that I remember talking to Coach Beckort on the phone and just being devastated about not being able to come. He said “you’ll be here” and I told him he was nuts. Long story short, Claire Tuggle’s dad, Bob Tuggle had Zac Hartz make a life-size cut-out of me so that I could, in fact, be there for semi-state. The girls carried that cut out around at the meet, and that meet was one for the history books. I did get to go to the state meet, and how fun that was.

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After the three hellacious chemo rounds inpatient, it was time to begin preparing for the transplant. I was lucky because I could get my own cells, but also that I had an identical twin sister, Kelly, who could also give me cells. They took my stem cells out between my 2nd and 3rd chemo rounds and froze them. I had to sit still in a chair for nearly six hours hooked up through my central line and an IV to syphon out all the cells. They then seriously tested EVERY SINGLE thing in my body to get baselines for transplant. We went home for Thanksgiving, and then Jeanie DeSpain drove us down to Memphis the Sunday after Thanksgiving so I could go to inpatient on the fourth floor, the bone marrow transplant floor. I wouldn’t leave that room for over three weeks.

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I got some very toxic chemo for transplant. The goal was to wipe my blood of all blood cells – red cells, white cells, platelets, neutrophils, etc. When they would run my labs, they would read 0’s across the board. They count everything in transplant around your actual transplant day. For me, this day was December 4, 2006. So the days leading up were known as Day -3 , -2, -1, etc. with December 4 being Day Zero. Then day +1, +2, etc. I don’t remember much of this time, as I spent most time sleeping or puking. The goal every day was just to take a bath and change pajamas. it is really hard to describe it really. My mom and I were together in a very small space for almost four weeks. Physical Therapy would come and beg me to just stand up. I – a collegiate athlete – then considered the simple act of standing hard work.

Kelly, her husband Chris and and his parents Tony and Rhonda came down the weekend of the St. Jude Marathon. Kelly ran the 5k, Chris the half, and Tony the full. I could watch the race out my transplant window. Mom went down for the races to watch; it gave her a nice break from dealing with me🙂

I got out of the transplant unit about a week before Christmas, but we had to stay very close to the hospital. We had to come to the hospital every day for blood counts and other various tests. We didn’t know if we would be home for Christmas or not. We got home December 23 about 8 pm. I had to be back at Jude just a few days after Christmas to start radiation.

I finally finished radiation in late January 2007 and have been cancer free ever since!

Throughout this whole experience, there were also many positives, such as the friends I met. The world of cancer is one that I don’t wish on anyone, but unfortunately everyone is confronted with it at some point. The world of pediatric cancer is something even more indescribable. I was lucky enough to make friends with several other patients and their families. I met a girl, a lot like me my very first week at St. Jude – Kristen Whitlow. She is six years younger than I, but we were diagnosed with the exact same thing and went through treatment together. She relapsed three months before I did, meaning that we can still compare battle scars to this day. She is the one person in the world that understands my cancer experience at the very core. She lived it too – and still lives with it just like I do. If I am having a problem or worried, she is my first contact.

I met two boys during transplant: Westin Dietz and Jay Rogers. Westin had neuroblastoma and Jay had Ewing’s Sarcoma. My mom networked with their moms, and Westin’s little sister Emma spent a lot of time in my room. She helped make me smile every single day no matter what. Unfortunately, both of these brave guys aren’t around anymore. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them. It’s hard to wonder why I am here and they aren’t. That’s tough. I got to see Jay not long before he passed when I was in Memphis for a checkup. We were able to snap a picture together before he got called back by imaging for his appointment. Jay was a fifth or sixth grader during transplant. Westin was 22 months old. A baby.

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I have countless other Jude friends. Kevin had AML and was a patient at Tulane in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. He, along with countless others, relocated to St. Jude when their medical records were destroyed by the hurricane. He just celebrated ten years post transplant. His wife, Hannah, is a Hodgkin’s survivor, who was treated at St. Jude. My good pal Tommy was four at diagnosis and had non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. I keep up with him and his family via facebook. My friend, Thad, who was closer to my age at diagnosis, had Hodgkin’s, but luckily he never relapsed. The same is true for Caroline from Louisiana. There are countless others as well. Kelly was down visiting once and Tommy went running to her arms as he thought she was me. That goes to show you that kids don’t see a person by how much hair they have on their head. I was bald as can be, and Kelly had a full head of hair. Not even noticing, he jumped into her arms.

My mom. My mom was there with me through the entire process. She took care of me without complaining on my good days, and more importantly on my bad days. She remembers way more of the story than I do, as I slept through a lot of the terrible times.

My sister Kelly dealt with the brunt of the storm here at home. She answered the question after question from everyone she saw. All the while, one can only imagine the questions and fear that she had as her twin faced this deadly disease.

The Furmans opened their house and hearts to us from the first minute we stepped in Memphis. I called Jane once from being inpatient and told her I needed a pound of shaved ham from the Kroger deli. She delivered about 30 minutes later, and I am fairly certain I ate the entire thing.

All of my extended family and friends went into protective and helpful mode. It was awesome.

I could rattle off 1000 more stories. I’ve compared it to college, with mom as my roommate and a terrible class load. The bottom line is that I wouldn’t change my cancer experience for anything. Yes, it was terrible and horrible at times, but it has shaped me to be who I am today. Do I wish I could run 13.1 miles without walking? Sure. Do I wish I didn’t have to go to the doctor more than my peers? Sure. Do I like myself better after cancer? Absolutely. I have a greater appreciation for what is important and I feel like I have a good sense of how to live life to the fullest.

Fortunately, Katie’s story goes on. She is a seventh grade science teacher, cross country and track coach, wife, and most importantly, the mother of Jack. She was given her life, and she uses that gift to make a difference in students’ lives every single day. Because of St. Jude, she is able to mentor the youth of our community. St. Jude didn’t just make a difference in Katie’s life; it made a difference in the lives of her family, friends, and our students.

My friends and I will be running the St. Jude Half Marathon around the tenth anniversary of transplant – the day I got a second chance at life. What better way to celebrate than spending the weekend at St. Jude with friends, raising money for the families who are still fighting the good fight, and appreciating my health as together we cover 13.1 miles. – Katie Weyer, St. Jude Survivor

There are so many reasons runners sign up for races. We want to see what we can do, improve our times, run with friends, earn a cool medal, and the list goes on. This race is different. As we were running the Memphis streets last year, we commented that there was no way we could not run again this year. Running down those streets hearing kids and parents thank us for raising money that would help in their fight was so humbling. Running through the St. Jude Campus was perhaps the hardest and best part of the run. Young patients who were able to be outside cheered us on as we trotted by; it should have been us cheering them on as they were deep into the hardest fight of all. Over the next three months, our team will be asking – and sometimes begging – for your donations. We have seen first-hand what your money does. We have our friend because people just like you gave. Cancer knows no boundaries, and can strike any of our children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Let’s help St. Jude families so that as they are fighting this disease, they don’t have to worry about their finances.

Here’s the link to my fundraising page. After you make your donation, please consider sharing this link with your friends!

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=2902756&fr_id=59186&pg=personal

 

 

Running Life

Once again, time has gotten away from me, and I haven’t written for entirely too long. This week is spring break, and while my friends are in Florida on the beach or at Disney, or in Georgia enjoying the warmer temps, I’ve been home. Honestly, I don’t mind. I’ve redone our living room while scoring some deals online shopping (Wayfair? Wow…a new favorite! My husband is not so happy I’ve discovered this plethora of everything for the home!). I’ve also cleaned my frig, which is in my top five of most detested household jobs. Seriously, there was more moldy food than edible. Since my mother is coming for Easter, I figured I’d better not risk her disappointment in finding I’m not the clean freak she is. The woman still scares me.

Today I shampooed our family room carpet, which I do on a pretty regular basis. This also makes the top five just because I am so disgusted when I empty the water and see how filthy our carpet was. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I didn’t clean it so often. We don’t even have small children or large dogs. Just big kids and a little wiener. .

So, about running. After seven years, I still haven’t quit, which completely amazes me. There have been times when I wasn’t running as often as I should, and times I felt invincible. I am currently training for the Hoosier Half Marathon, which is April 9; it will be my ninth half marathon. My niece Emily, who is a student at Indiana University, hasn’t run a half and asked me to run it with her. How could I say no? I had the honor of running my niece Erin’s first half with her, and am excited to share this experience with Emily.

I am not very excited about the hills. The website describes rolling hills, and Bloomington is quite hilly. I’ve worked pretty hard the past couple of months to prepare. I’ve incorporated challenging, make-me-swear hills into every long run, and have been going to my husband’s Spinning classes in addition to teaching Tabata classes. Gary has taught Spinning for a couple of years, but it was never a class I enjoyed. I thought the hill work my improve my running, so I sucked it up and went (and I dragged my daughter with me). It was tough. If you’re a girl and you’ve never taken Spinning, you should know that your girls parts (undercarriage) will hurt. I mean really hurt. But after a couple classes, it doesn’t really hurt anymore. Thank God. I’ve come to enjoy the class. Gary plays great music, which can seriously make the class. There’s typically at least one or two points during class that I don’t like my husband. When he instructs us to turn up the tension more when I can hardly turn the pedals with my already-burning legs, I want to yell at him to shut the hell up. But then when the class comes to an end, I feel pretty amazing. And I love him again.

My running has gone well. I’ve run more miles on my long runs than usual. My last three long runs have all been 10 miles, and I’ll run 11 or 12 this weekend. My knee has done pretty well, but I take Aleve and some homeopathic joint meds before heading out. I’ve been very lucky to have some friends run with me. When I do a long run alone, I listen to podcasts; they seem to keep my mind occupied and the time goes quicker. I really don’t know what to expect come race day. Considering Emily’s literally a foot taller than I, I just hope to be able to keep up with her long, young legs. I also hope I don’t die on a hill because that’d probably ruin Emily’s first half marathon.

In May Gary and I are registered for a 10-mile race that goes across a bridge over the Ohio River. We’ve always talked about running this race, but usually had kid activities that day. Now that the girls are grown, we don’t have to plan our weekends around their activities, which is reason #101 why I don’t have empty nest syndrome. Don’t judge. I became a mom at 21, and I did my time and enjoyed it. It’s time for Momma now.

One of our goals when we began this whole fitness thing was to get our kids and grandkids interested in exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. We have had some success. As I said, the upcoming race will be with my niece, and I’ve run several races with Erin. I’ve run a 5k with my oldest daughter, and Gary has run one with his granddaughter, Molly. Two weeks ago I ran a 5k with my middle daughter Bethany. She is 23 and teaches 5th grade. This school year she has begun to make time for exercise and has started running. She is learning that it isn’t easy, and that it takes dedication. She is now seeing the results, not only on the scale, but in her attitude. Running and many other types of exercise cause one’s endorphins to just create a happier disposition. I’ve always said that running is as good for me mentally as it is physically. Bethany has committed to running the Schweizer Fest 6 mile race and a half marathon this fall. Of course, that means I’m running both with her, which will be pretty amazing. I’m thrilled to see her so excited about her running, and to see the confidence she’s gaining. Since we are all on break this week, Bethany and I made Addie go to Spinning last night. Addie said she couldn’t wait to tell her friends that the one thing we did as a family on spring break was a Spinning class. We know how to have fun!

I cannot fail to mention that the Hoosier Half is also my friend, fellow English teacher, and fellow cheer coach, Amanda’s first half marathon. She has been working hard and also going to Spinning. I am so excited to see her cross that finish line! I know the pride and satisfaction she’ll feel, and hope she is hooked.

If you actually read all of this, thank you. I tend to go on and on about nothing. I need to take time to write more often so my posts won’t be novel-length. Spring is here – set some goals and make every day count! Love completely, keep criticism to yourself, and build others up. The world doesn’t need any more negativity. As I tell my students, don’t be a jerk. That covers it all.

St. Jude Half Marathon

This blog is so long overdue, but with December came holiday preparations, and then came company. It’s a little difficult to write with a two year old and four year old running around. And so, it’s January and I’m writing what should have been written in early December.

On December 4, my friends Katie, Kelly, Jennifer, Mary Jane, and I traveled to Memphis for the St. Jude Half Marathon. We had been planning for months, and were anxious to begin what would be a pretty incredible experience. Our weekend began with a tour of St. Jude. We have all seen the children of St. Jude in the heart-wrenching commercials, but to see these kids and their families in person is indescribable. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, and is still a patient for follow-up tests. Seeing where she has spent so many hours – certainly the worst hours of her life – was both moving and inspiring. Witnessing her return to the place that has come to mean so very much to her was a privilege.

Touring St. Jude Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

Touring St. Jude
Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

The hospital itself was an amazing place. They have thought of everything to make the children as comfortable as possible. Their artwork lines the hallways; the reception desks are at a child’s level; the colors and murals are bright and cheerful. The doctors, nurses, and all staff members are truly heroes. To go to work each day knowing that their patients are young and cancer-stricken must be so trying. To spend their days comforting families must be exhausting. They build true, loving relationships with the kids, which was evident by the joy in their faces as they saw Katie walk in. It was like a member of their family had come home, and truly she had. No wonder she loves that place.

Long before race day, we five had decided that we were sticking together no matter what. Katie cannot run far distances because of the damage done to her lungs, so we had planned to walk all hills and to stop often for photos. I have to say, this race was the best race I have ever run. We had fun the whole way, even when moments of tears crept in, and the weather was perfect. There were spectators along the whole course, and many were parents of St. Jude kids. Because those of us who raised money for St. Jude wore special shirts, and the spectators were aware of that, many people thanked us as we ran by. That was so humbling.

At one point in the race, the course winds through the St. Jude Campus. I knew this would be difficult and emotional, and it was. Just nine years before, Katie had an autologous stem cell transplant and had watched the race from her hospital window. Now, she was running the race. She had fought back and won! How could we not shed a few tears at that moment? How could she not? Determined to have fun and not get caught up in emotions, we regrouped once we passed through. And then…and then…at mile six they had doughnuts! I wasn’t interested (I would have vomited), but the others had just said they were hungry, so they were thrilled.

At each mile marker, we stopped and had someone take a picture of us. They turned out great and are a wonderful reminder that we completed that journey together, one mile at a time.

mile12

While each race I’ve run has been special for one reason or another, I can’t imagine anything topping our St. Jude experience. It was fun while being solemn at times; it was rewarding; it was humbling. Running it and spending the weekend with my four friends could not have gone better. We ate, we talked, Kelly and Katie rapped (seriously), we shopped, and we worked as a team for a greater cause.

At the finish

At the finish

The St. Jude race was my eighth half marathon, but more importantly, is was my best half marathon. No, I didn’t run fast. I didn’t place in the top 20%, but I finished with my friends and gained so much more than a PR. It was an experience I will never forget.

Again, thanks to all who donated to our team! Start saving your pennies as we will be collecting donations again this year!

The Race Report

Before the Race

Before the Race – Look how happy we are!

This past Sunday, Gary and I ran the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana. We had chosen this particular race because we wanted to run something other than the Derby Mini, which we had run the past four years. The Biggest Loser Half was in the Region, and since I’m from that area, we thought it would make a nice weekend getaway before all of the end-of-school-year-my-baby-is-graduating festivities. We left for Indy Friday after work, checked into our hotel, and had a healthy meal of roasted chicken, veggies, and potatoes. While this might seem inconsequential to most, in our world it was a rather big deal. We are more of a burger and fries couple.

On Saturday, we checked out the house I lived in in Hobart, went to the cemetery (What’s more romantic than that?), shopped (we bought 13 pounds of candy at a candy factory), and went to the expo to get our race gear. The expo was somewhat disappointing, but it wasn’t a large race, so we shouldn’t have expected much. Dinner that evening was at Teibel’s, which is somewhat of an iconic Northwest Indiana restaurant.

Sunday morning arrived; the sun shone brightly into our room. I had very low expectations for the race. My plan was to run the first four miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. My IT bands begin to tighten up after four or five miles. I wanted to complete the race, and knew that a fast time just wasn’t possible. This was my seventh half marathon, and my third since having knee surgery in 2013. I hadn’t trained too hard for this race, but felt that I was ready. I was not. Not even close. Living in Southern Indiana, I am used to hills. I have plenty of hills to train on, but had avoided them because Northwest Indiana is flat. Why would I train on hills to run a flat race? I have never been more wrong in my life.

The first several miles of the race, I listened to the soundtrack of the stage version of Mary Poppins. I’m pretty cool like that. Actually, my family will be involved in the production this summer, so I thought I’d begin to learn the music. People don’t really expect to hear Step in Time in the middle of a race. I tried to not sing out loud, but sometimes it just sneaks out. There were several small, manageable hills in the first few miles, and I kept thinking that surely it would flatten out. Where did those hills even come from? This was the north.

And then it got worse. Miles eight through thirteen were just brutal. I don’t typically cuss (okay, I do), but the expletives were flying. I even texted my running friends on one of my walk breaks just so I could complain to someone. Here is a good picture of how I was feeling in the second half of the race:

joycehillcrown

Not quite as happy as the prerace photo. My plan had been tossed aside. I walked whenever my legs began to scream, which was at the beginning of many hills. I certainly wasn’t alone as many chose to walk up the hills. I was getting passed by lots of runners, but I really didn’t care. At one point a guy in a Spiderman shirt passed me, and I thought It’s okay – It’s Spiderman! I can’t expect to be as fast as Spiderman! 

At several points during the race, I asked myself why I thought running half marathons was fun. I was miserable. My legs were absolutely killing me; my calves were tied in knots. I just wanted this hell to be over. It was also pretty hot out compared to what we had been running in. I got water at almost every stop, but still felt so dry. And then I’d spot yet another freakin’ hill. Are you kidding me?? Can I just crawl now? And did I mention that hills really put a strain on IT bands? Mile 11: Someone was stabbing a knife into the side of my knee. And twisting it. Damn, it hurt. I stopped and rubbed that area hoping for enough relief to keep going. I walked most of that mile. I then alternated walking and running until I finally reached the finish. I don’t think my legs have ever hurt so much at the finish of a race. I would never run a hilly half again.

I actually lived!

I actually lived!

Gary and I then had a five-hour drive home. As we discussed our ‘adventure’, he also complained about the hills. After cooling off and getting our heart rates back to within a reasonable range, we were actually pretty proud of ourselves. That was undoubtedly the hardest half we have ever done, and although our times were not impressive (2:23 for me), we didn’t stop, nor did I puke. The next morning I had to teach a 5:15 Tabata class, and hadn’t planned to participate. When we started, I went ahead and worked out with the class, figuring I could stop at any point. I ended up completing the class and…running! I actually went out and ran about a mile and a half just to see if I could.

Do you know what else I did the day after the race from hell? I registered for the St. Jude Half Marathon! More info on that will follow in the coming months (because our team is fundraising and I’m sure you’ll want to donate). I would compare running a half marathon (or a marathon for some) to childbirth. It is so very painful as we are going through it. Breathing is labored, body parts we weren’t even aware of suddenly scream with pain, and we cuss like we’ve never cussed before. And then when it’s over, we realize how badass we are, and begin to forget the hell we endured. It wasn’t that bad. When can we do it again?