Friday, December 28, 2012

WE DID IT!!! 22 in 2012!


Dear friends,

I know this entry is posted 3 weeks after my last race trip of 2012 but Life suddenly invaded my well-intentioned plans to stay timely. Immediately after the Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Half I traveled to assist with a family emergency. I won't go into the details out of respect for family privacy but I will tell you that everyone is now doing very well considering the seriousness of the issue. And, as with most scary and serious incidents, there was a silver lining in that I got some unexpected, unplanned yet wonderful time with my family just before the holiday madness took complete hold.

Speaking of holiday madness, I hope you have had time to appreciate the beauty and love in your life this season. No matter how, or if, you observe the Big winter-season spiritual dates I hope you can find time to celebrate the blessings of family, friends, health and joy as they appear daily in your world. Without remembering and recognizing those things for which we can be truly grateful, the inevitable difficulties will take a much greater toll on us.

On that note, I am so grateful for each and every one of you in my life. This year has been tremendous for me and I'm still in the midst of processing the emotions as I look back on where I've been this year. There will be an upcoming summary; not of where I've been physically but on the wealth of personal experiences, friendships and knowledge gained from my 2012 journey. In the meantime, thank you for being a part of my life and for giving me so many beautiful reasons to celebrate.

Be well,


And now for the Vegas summary....

Half Marathon Number 22 of 2012: Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas

Friday, November 30th:

Arrived in Vegas and found my Priceline'd-hotel PERFECT!! I needed a place to stay that was walking-distance to all the events of the week but I didn't want to stay amidst the craziness of the Strip. Not only did I get a place just one long block away from where I needed to get to on The Strip, it was an amazing room with full kitchen AND washer/dryer AND balcony AND swimming pool/fitness center... and it was one of the most inexpensive stays of the year. The staff was also wonderful and I can highly recommend this hotel to anyone citing the same criteria for a stay in's the Platinum Hotel on Flamingo, and despite that I get no credits or kickbacks for this plug I'm providing their link because I really appreciated the Platinum that much!!

During my check-in I was asked what brought me to Vegas so I briefly said I was there to run in the Rock N Roll Half on Sunday--no word whatsoever on the GBU campaign or on my footdrop condition. Later in the day this was delivered to my room! Fresh fruit and 2 large bottles of water... what a treat!

This was the card from Alexa who checked me into the room. I soon discovered that the entire staff were just as supportive the entire stay.
After getting settled and working to finish some necessary business via internet (complimentary access at the Platinum, by the way) I headed over to the Expo to get my race check-in complete. One thing I've been considering is switching from the Half distance to the Full Marathon for this last Rock 'n' Roll event of the year. George Melichar (my friend from this year whom you should recognize from past posts) graciously agreed to run by my side until I finish the Full, no matter how long it takes. I haven't trained for the Full but I did one 17-mile run just to see where I was fitness-wise. Although I'd have to take it slow I think I'll be able to do it without endangering myself. With George running with me it would be a great way to celebrate all of those whom I've met this year while at the same time, by running an extra 13.1 miles, refocusing on helping those who are still struggling with mobility issues.

First stop at the Expo was to pick up my packet, then ask the necessary questions about what would be needed to switch from the Half to the Full. When I got my packet I was excited to see this extra race bib stapled to my regular race info:

This signifies the Rock 'n' Roll events we did in 2012... I can't believe we had half-a-dozen additional races and still made it through this year uninjured!
Along with my race packet was a letter saying that my presence was requested on the official stage before the race's start; Competitor Group was planning to honor all the runners who ran 20 or more of their events this cool!

I got the necessary info on how to change events and how much it would cost me, then was told I had until Saturday at 6pm to decide.  I thought I'd check the weather and see how all my publicity events figured into my schedule before officially committing one way or the other. For now it was off to see my friends inside the Expo!
Finally, a real-life Merle sighting!! I haven't seen her in months and I finally get to award her our Get Back Up medal for all the ways she's helped us in our outreach this year. 
Thank you, Merle, for everything you've done for Get Back Up this year but also for becoming such a great friend. You made life on the road feel almost like home and I am so glad we met.

Another great friend of mine and of the Get Back Up campaign. Darren Smith is here to run the last RnR event of the year as part of "Team Allard" and also for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Team Refuel. Darren runs with the aid of Allard's Blue Rocker brace. If you want to follow his journey check out his blog

Next stop, Terryberry/Rock 'n' Roll Jewelry to get my final charm of the year... this is the finished bracelet.

And this is Emily of Terryberry. Thank you, Emily, for becoming such a wonderful friend of mine and of our Get Back Up mission. As with Merle, this year would not have been so remarkable without you and I thank you for joining me on some fun adventures while on the road. Still not sure what 2013 has in store for all of us but I know I'll be seeing you again, my friend!! 
After the rounds at the Expo I went back to the hotel and then out along the Strip to find a drugstore where I could get foam-core board for my Get Back Up sign. I walked over 3 miles only to learn that the stores on the Strip don't carry foam-core. Ugh. Back to the hotel to meet Jim who was arriving this evening from Phoenix.

When Jim got there I went to the hotel lobby to meet up with Jeff Smith, the District Manager from Allard in charge of the Nevada territory. Jeff has been planning some meetings with the local CMTA chapter and tonight we are to have dinner with several people from this group.

For those of you who aren't knowledgeable about CMT, or Charcot-Marie-Tooth, it is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy and is found worldwide among all races and ethnic groups. Discovered in 1886 by three physicians, Jean-Martin Charcot, Pierre Marie, and Howard Henry Tooth, CMT affects an estimated 2.6 million people. Many people with CMT need bracing like the kind Allard manufactures and I am hoping to lend my voice to their cause. While I do not have CMT I do have footdrop and I believe the more we can join forces across many varied causes the better armed we will all be to fight our respective challenges.

Jeff and I had a brief chat then met with Jim before our walk to the restaurant at the Paris hotel about a half mile away. As part of Team Allard running this weekend, Darren Smith also joined us to share his own experiences with the group.

Jeff is in the middle with Jeana and Virginia, flanked on one side by 3 members of the local chapter of the CMTA (I neglected to ask permission to use their names!) and on the other side by myself, Jim and Darren. Don't we all clean up well?!!
Our dinner was held at Mon Ami Gabi, a fabulous restaurant inside the hotel Paris on the Strip. We spent so much time talking, sharing and getting to know each other that I neglected to get a photo of the menu, or any other dinner pictures besides my own entree...sorry!

Wood grilled salmon with spinach on a bed of toasted quinoa...mmmmmmmm.
I want to share with you now that I frequently feel very anxious meeting with support groups of conditions/diseases that I do not have. I do have foot drop in common with so many people and yet my physical challenges right now are pretty much limited to that. For so many other people, whether it's CMT, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Stroke, Cerebral Palsy or other common cause of foot drop, they face so many more issues besides footdrop. I sometimes feel that I won't have much to offer, that I "have it easy" so-to-speak, and I am humbled by invitations to meet or to share my own story. What I learn each time is that pain is pain, challenges are challenges, and hope is hope: we are all well-qualified to share how we deal with these in our lives no matter how we got there. Tonight's conversation was no exception and I will cherish my new friendships with all the people I met here. I felt truly honored, on behalf of Allard and the Get Back Up team, to award each dinner guest with the Get Back Up medal. This is a small token of appreciation for what they are doing to encourage and help so many others but also to recognize them for the inspiration they provide by facing their own challenges with such grace and strength and humor.

Meeting people like the ones I've met from CMTA here in Vegas is what keeps me inspired each week.  To all of my new friends: you are the reason I took this job and you are the reward. Thank you for inspiring me and for reminding me how important it is to be a part of the solution.

Saturday, December 1st:

This morning we're off to help another support group in their efforts to give back to their community... but this one is an easy assignment for me and I hope a lot of fun also. We're heading south of the Strip for the 8th annual Great Santa Run! Organizers hope to set a Guinness World Record for most number of Santas running a 5K...with all proceeds going to a very worthy cause, Opportunity Village of Las Vegas. This organization helps individuals with mental disabilities/challenges live a better life, check out their website to learn how you can help:

We had a great time and I have never seen so much red in one place in all my life! I don't know if the record was set or not but I'd have a hard time believing that another race could have had even more...

With each race entry fee you receive your bib, some other goodies and your very own Santa suit! If you're going to run this event next year I highly encourage you to register early so your suit will fit properly. Here is Jim in his Santa high-waters. "
Jim, me and David DeNeire who made it just in the Nick of time...ha! (pun intended)

Santa's headed to the start line.

More Santa's behind us.

I'm cinched down and ready to roll!! 

Santas as far as the eye could see.

I think it would be tough to find Waldo in this crowd.
Immediately after the Santa Run we had to rush off to meet up with the CMTA support group meeting at a church about 6 miles away. I wore my regular running clothes under my Santa suit so I was ready to go see my friends.

Please check out the official CMTA website for more information on chapters and events...and also for ways in which you may help them become part of the solution:

Right before my camera battery died I snapped this shot of Jeff explaining the many ways Allard's bracing can help people live a better life. While it looks as though the room is empty it really wasn't... many folks are off to the side and down the halls trying on the braces for themselves.

After the meeting I stuck around for a little more face-time with Virginia (right) who first extended the invitation to me, and with Jeana (left) who is a dynamo with the national CMTA organization. I know I will see them again but in such a short time I feel so close to both of these extraordinary women that I am sad to say goodbye for now. Jeff, in the middle of course, will join me tomorrow for the last RnR event of the year so I don't have to say goodbye to him just yet. Thanks so much to all of you for including me in your family!
By the time we left the CMTA group it was mid-afternoon and I still needed to get my sign-making supplies. Luckily there was a craft store close to the church where the meeting was held so I was able to pick up everything I needed. In addition I was able to get some groceries...always a better option for me pre-race than eating out. With the full kitchen in the hotel room this made grocery shopping a no-brainer.

My day ended with an early dinner in-room thanks to the grocery-run, followed by a great night's sleep.

By the way, I did finally make my decision about running the marathon vs. the half marathon... due to the extreme winds forecast for tomorrow I have decided to stick with the Half. The gusts are expected to be over 40mph, winds I've experienced before and will never forget!! Running 2 hours in those conditions will be bad enough so I'm opting out of a 4+hour ordeal. Sorry, George, we'll have to run together in another event someday... but at least now you can run your own pace and be out of the wind much sooner! I do, however, have a fun surprise planned for tomorrow to honor you, my friend,  so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 2nd--RACE DAY!!

It's finally here, the last scheduled Half Marathon of the year...woo hoo!! Actually, although I am quite tired and ready to be home for more than a 2-day stretch I feel bittersweet about this last event. This year has been so challenging in many ways and yet so rewarding in so many unexpected ones. I have met fabulous friends whom I will miss seeing so regularly. 

With that mindset I decided to have as much fun with my RnR friends at this event as possible, after all, I didn't have to worry about heading out right away for the next Half. One of my favorite runner friends from this year, and the one who has inspired me the most, is George "Geo" Melichar from New Orleans. George once weighed over 300 pounds and struggled with health and self-esteem issues all his life until he decided to drastically change how he was living. I won't go into more details, you should get to know him yourself (, ), but Geo and I have had a lot of laughs and he's done so much for the Get Back Up campaign this year. 

So, as an homage to Geo I opted to embrace the old adage "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and I set out to be Geo for a day. First step, hair:

Geo has a fuschia-colored mohawk so I started there. Yes, this is my real hair teased then laquered with a full bottle of hair spray and tinted with theater-grade temporary hair color.
Next step, Outfit:

Geo texted me a week ago with a photo of what he was planning to wear for his final RnR of 2012. He only gave me a sneak peak but I did see the red & white stripes complimented by gold lame' and leopard print. I did my best to incorporate these themes thanks to one of the race-gear vendors at the Expo: red and white striped tiger-print running skorts and leopard print arm warmers. For the gold lame' I settled for a gold glittered Get Back Up sign and added a tribal necklace to go along with Geo's nose piercing. Completing my look was the shirt of Geo himself, given to me at a race several months ago...Geo's graphic portrait is on the front and his race events are listed on the back.

 The finished product:

The 3 Georges! Jim played along in a Vegas-showgirl tiara turned sideways. Geo had a difficult time regaining composure when we first surprised him at the VIP area but after his initial laughing/crying fit he was all smiles.

Merle hams it up at VIP before the race.
We're finally here at the start of the last Half Marathon of our year!

Emily adds her own version of a red mohawk!

Geo and GoGo (as my grand-daughter calls me) hamming it up for more photos. We had so many requests for photos with complete strangers--even teams of elite runners from other countries wanted their picture with us!!

Here Geo is trying to accommodate photo requests but he's running the Full marathon which starts soon so he's getting antsy. (You can see from his jacket that he is also running for Team Refuel, one of the sponsors who's grown to love him as much as I do) My race, the Half, doesn't start for almost 2 more hours.

When George leaves we still have more time in the VIP area to get ready for the Half. A great surprise for me was getting to meet Joe Taracani of The Marathon Show... I've heard about him and listened to his podcasts but never actually met him before now.

I scored an interview with Joe---way cool!! Thanks, Joe, for what you do to inspire runners of all capabilities all over the world. I love hearing your stories and am now so honored to be included in your Vegas show.
Check out Joe's show when you get a chance, he's so much fun to listen to and will inspire you to lace up your shoes no matter if you've ever been a runner or not:

Next surprise (though I learned about it upon arrival in Vegas) was getting honored on-stage with the other 4 runners who've run more than 20 RnR events this year. My hair got way more attention than my brace!
Jim and I were the first called up on stage, and I start to get emotional looking out on the crowd.
David DeNeire, Jeff Calene, Kamika Smith and Kevin Gonzalez were honored as well. They all ran more than 20 RnR's this year...and all of these guys ran more races than Jim and I did. Although I didn't get to spend much time with Jeff this year, David, Kamika and Kevin have become treasured friends and inspirations to Jim and to me. Thanks, guys!
As if the other surprises weren't enough, Emily and Jim presented me with one more shock once we made our way off the stage and back to the VIP tent. The two had worked together over the past months as Jim described to Emily what he wanted to create with the help of her Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Jewelry team. The result... these remarkable rings!!

On one side of the ring band it reads "21 in 2012" symbolizing the RnR events we ran this year. On the other side of the band it says "Get Back UP'". The top shows the RnR guitar logo inlaid in garnet with the Rock'nRoll Marathon logo surrounding it. What a special treasure, what a wonderful surprise. This gift, along with a sentimental card from Emily, finally pushed me over the edge and the tears started flowing. Who would've ever known that out of the despair I felt after my spinal injury and learning I had permanent foot drop so much joy would come.

Whew. After regaining my composure I realized I still had a race to run. The winds were picking up with incredible force and I had a wind-sail atop my head in the form of a foot-high mohawk! Yikes, what was I thinking?! Too late to do anything now, so I did my final race preparations and dropped my stuff at gear-check then wished everyone well in their run. 
Jeff was a trooper making his way through the wind with our GBU sign. Thanks for everything, Jeff, your support this entire weekend has been a gift! See you at the final Finish of 2012!

When Jim and I left the VIP area for the start line it was our first moment alone together after all the pre-race excitement. We've made this walk more than 20 times this year: together to the starting area then separately as we each run our own pace when the gun goes off. This time I asked Jim if we could do it differently, if we could run this last race together the whole way. Jim doesn't like to run with anyone during these events so I was shocked when he said "Yes", although he said I'd have to run his pace so he wouldn't feel like he was being pushed***. Yayyyyyyyy! I was so excited to be able to share this race with my husband, the perfect way to celebrate the enormous efforts of this year together.

***While Jim was in no way pushed by me to run faster than he felt comfortable, we both were pushed the entire 2 hours by the 25mph sustained winds with actual gusts up to 46 mph! Here's part of an article that ran in the paper the next day:

"As runners made the turn south for the trek all the way back to the finish line at The Mirage, they were greeted by headwinds of 25 mph and gusts over 40mph. 'It was very windy today, and the last 10K it was nothing but straight wind,' marathon winner Ndambuki said. 'Running in Las Vegas, down the strip, there were beautiful sights, but it was a brutal, hard wind.' "

Despite the winds knocking us around and beating us up the entire way, we had a blast running together. We stopped at our leisure for potty breaks and for sight-seeing and were greeted the entire way with shouts of "Nice Hair!" Jim still swears they were talking about his hair. :-) A little over 2 hours after we started we crossed the finish line then immediately made our way out of the wind to Serendipity 3 for the post-race festivities.

Runners finishing amid the neon lights of Vegas.

Ahhhh....finally a break from the weather!

The wind-blown look, literally. I actually can't believe my mohawk survived as well as it did.

The food at the post-race VIP was fabulous!

So much to choose from....

A veggie-lover's paradise!

Something for everyone....

It just gets better...

and better!!!

David finished the Full Marathon and feels the effects of the brutal weather. With this race completed he officially ran every single one of the RnR events worldwide this year. He's a beast.

Emily and Dan congratulate David on his 2012 accomplishments. Dan flew in today just to support Dave.

Tim Fennell achieved his 2012 goals (see Pasadena post,  where I first met him). I am so proud of your 12 in 2012, Tim! And congratulations on losing almost 130 pounds and becoming a role model for so many... you are a hero.

We did it!!! I must find out what Geo uses in his hair, I can't believe it's held up so well in the winds tonight. I have so much to learn.
George does his impression of me, ha!!! (I can totally see myself in that Team Refuel jacket, if anyone from the Chocolate Milk team is reading...)
So there it is, the last event of 2012. Too much to reflect on here but I will eventually collect my thoughts and post my summary of this incredible year. For now, the final result of my run with Jim:

Official time for our run together: 2:09:51

With our running goals accomplished there was only one thing left to do: celebrate in real-people clothes with my friends, the "Rock 'n' Roll gypsies" of 2012!

Merle enjoys a laugh after her last event of the year is over. Congrats on a great run, Merle!
Emily doing her 70's impression...although she wasn't even born then!!  Thank you again, Miss Emily, for your friendship and support this year.

Goodbye for now and I will write again when I've had time to regroup. For now, please know how much your support has meant to me this year.