Friday, May 11, 2012

7 down and 15 to go!!

My math is not wrong... we just added 2 non-Rock 'n Roll Half Marathons

That's right, because '20 in 2012' was just not enough running for me we added 2 more to the schedule! 

I am still hoping to get 20 of the Rock 'n Roll Half's completed but these 2 are back-to back Michigan runs that became important to me for special reasons.  I decided to add the 2 extra events because of 2 very special people who connected with me online after hearing my story... Shannon Poortenga and Heather Turkopp.

Thursday, May 3rd:

A 3:30a.m. wakeup call to make sure I'm ready for the taxi to the airport this morning. While I'm waiting I take a few extra minutes to water my hanging-plants on the porch and then I open some mail I forgot about. In one of the envelopes are more of the "bonus medals" that the Rock 'n Roll series awards when you run multiple events in the same calendar year. So other than the 6 R 'n R medals I've earned thus far, I've also received these extras: Rock Encore (for running 2), Triple Crown (for 3), Grand Slam (for 4), Rock Star (for 5) and Superhero (for 6). That makes 11 medals in 4 months, not a bad haul!!

When I get back home I'll try to get a better photo of these medals, what can I say?! This was taken before 4am!

I love to "FlyPTI" whenever I can, that stands for "Piedmont Triad International" airport here in Greensboro. The only problem with PTI (airport code GSO for those who want to fly in/out of here) is that you usually can't get anything to eat, drink or read if you fly before 6am or after 6pm. In this case, my flight was leaving at 5:20a.m. and although they instruct you to arrive an hour or more before your flight, even security isn't open if you follow these rules. 

A common view for me this year: A view of what the airline officials call "weather in our area" which I've come to find out really means "you'll be sitting here enjoying this same view for an indefinite amount of time". 
Woo-hoo! Made it to Michigan finally and rented my car for the 10 days I'll be in the state. I've got lots of miles to drive (and to run, for that matter!) but at least I won't be at the mercy of the airlines.

Friday, May 4th:

Strong thunderstorms last night kept me awake for hours, but I must say the view from my hotel room of the lightning was pretty cool. Since I didn't sleep as well as I had hoped, I treated myself to a late wake up call and relaxed in the room for most of the morning. I eventually ventured out for coffee at a cool place called Water Street Coffee Joint, this was walking distance from the Radisson in the downtown area. I worked on my computer for a few hours here then walked back to the hotel to meet Jim, his flights were delayed due to the thunderstorms so he was a day later arriving in K'zoo. 

Water Street Coffee Joint in Downtown Kalamazoo
Once Jim got settled in the hotel, we headed out to explore a bit more of the downtown area... but first we needed food! From the coffee shop earlier I spotted a local brewery that just happened to make one of my favorite beers, Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. I forgot that it was brewed here in Kalamazoo and since Jim collects pint glasses from microbrew pubs I thought this would be a perfect spot for lunch.
The day's beer selections on the chalk board behind the bar.

The pub had a fun, eclectic decor and every server sported a variety of tattoos!
After our late lunch we walked around the shops downtown. The town was  pretty and although the sky was dreary, we made it through our afternoon there without a drop of rain.

More views of downtown. It may look as though no one was out and about, it was actually a very busy area.
A monument in the foreground, in the background you can see the Radisson  hotel, the host hotel for the Kalamazoo Marathon and Borgess Half Marathon

After scoping out the city we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. I was so excited about this evening because I was finally going to get to meet Shannon Poortenga, the reason I was running in Kalamazoo this weekend. Shannon has foot drop, too, and had spent many months in depression before a clerk in a shoe store here in Michigan told her something that changed her life. She was shopping with her mom for a shoe that would fit her white, plastic, bulky AFO (similar to the one I wore...and hated... before finding the ToeOFF) and he told her that they made better braces. He didn't remember Allard's name but he had seen the ToeOFF at a course he had taken in the area and heard that someone was running marathons with it. Shannon went home and searched the internet where she found my story and, as she later told me, she found hope. Although she wanted to reach out to me, my contact information was not listed online at the time and so she didn't go any further. Her mom, however, wasn't going to let things drop so easily... she played detective and found my home phone number and promptly gave me a call! 

I still remember the evening that I spoke with Janet, she was so desperate to find anything to help her daughter "get back up". We talked for a long time, she reminded me of my own mom in her concern and in fact, Shannon's story sounded so similar to mine that I felt an immediate connection to them both. Janet explained that Shannon was hesitant to reach out to me and so I promised I would call her myself. 

From the first time I spoke with her I knew that we would be friends. Our lives have so many similarities and I could hear the pain in her voice, the same pain I felt when I thought I'd never be a runner again. I connected her with the wonderful Allard team and she was fit with a ToeOFF very shortly afterwards. For the first time in months and months, Shannon could now imagine a better life. 

We've stayed in touch since then (this past summer) and when she learned about my new venture with Allard she became one of our best online supporters. She noticed that the Rock N Roll race series didn't have a Michigan stop and asked whether I'd consider adding an event to the schedule, she really wanted to be able to support me in person. As luck would have it, I had an opening in the schedule that corresponded with the Kalamazoo Half and so we made our plans: I would run the Half and Shannon would start her training to complete the 5K.

So, here I am this weekend about to meet my new friend. We were to meet at an Italian restaurant called Fricano's just north of the city and I was so excited to get there that we arrived before Shannon and her husband. When I checked in to the hostess stand I was told that Shannon wasn't there but that there were 2 other people who were... Shannon's mom and dad, what a great surprise!!
Jim was savvy enough to capture our first meeting on camera... big hugs between Janet and me!
Shannon's parents and me after all the hugging was over. We were able to catch up on everything before Shannon arrived, it felt as though I had known them forever.

The star arrives!! And then the tears flowed... this was such a happy meeting for both of us.

Saturday, May 5th

After a fabulous evening with Shannon and her family, we finally parted ways and made plans to see each other at the start of the race. As luck would have it, I got to see her once more before then, we ran into her in the parking lot of race check in.

Shannon and I sporting our fabulous Allard bracing outside the race Expo.

The race Expo check in area. Although this wasn't one of the bigger Rock 'n Roll events, they were expecting 3- to 4-thousand runners for the events this weekend.

During the afternoon Saturday we went to meet some other new friends at Gazelle Sports, a running/soccer store downtown with an amazing inventory of running gear. The guys from Gazelle do a fabulous job of encouraging and informing area runners... from the novice to the champion. This is in my top 3 of all-time favorite running stores (along with Team Nashville and of course, my hometown store, Off 'n Running). When you're in Kalamazoo, please check out the store and if you see Rob Lillie (store manager) in there working away, tell him I say "Hi!"
Rob on the run!
Later on Saturday we tried to find a place to eat before retiring to the room to get ready for the race. There were dozens of great restaurants to choose from but we couldn't get in to any of them without reservations! As it turned out, not only were there thousands of folks downtown trying to eat before the event, this was also Prom night for area students and thus every nice restaurant was fully booked. We finally found a little place with room at the bar for us to eat:

Menu from Central City Taphouse... lots of great options!

The beer selection. :-( Sadly, I could only have water tonight but their selection was fabulous.

First course, steamed edamames, with a pinch of salt and drizzled with toasted sesame oil... YUM!

More vegan protein for me... a delicious bowl of thick, spicy lentil soup.

And finally, some fresh veggies to finish my meal: a greek salad with roasted beets, another favorite of mine.

Sunday, May 6th... RACE DAY!!

Today was an early day but not nearly as early as some of my other races this year. It was a 5:30am wake-up then off to the races for me! As usual, we got to the event site early in hopes of landing an interview to help spread our GET BACK UP message. The weather was a bit chilly at the starting area but the day was looking to be perfect for running... high of about 64 degrees and no rain.

Score!!! We had a great interview with WWMT before the start:

Maybe by the end of the year I'll figure out how to talk with my eyes open.

Shannon telling her story, she was such a pro!

But apparently, she can't keep her eyes open either. :-)
I'm not sure how long this link will work, but hopefully you can see the finished piece here:  Thanks to this reporter, Josh Roe, we got the word out and almost immediately after airing we were contacted by a local woman looking to find a better brace... thanks, Josh!!!

We did it!!!
Shannon finished her first 5K in years and I made it through Half Marathon number 7.

Brian, far left, ran the 5K in support of his wife, Shannon. Shannon's mom, Janet, did her first 5K ever in support of her daughter. Jim, far right, said he ran in support of me to make sure I didn't finish last. 

I made the first page of finishers in my age group with a time of 1:56:17

From left to right: Jim then me, with our 7th medals of the year, Brian and Shannon Poortenga and Shannon's mom, Janet Bird. We all finished our events upright!!!

Medal #7 (first non-Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon this year)

1 comment:

  1. Meeting you was like Christmas, Beth!! The anticipation builds up...then it's here...then you have the 'after holiday let down' when you realize it's all come and gone! You shared the story so eloquently - and it truely was a very special moment in my life. I grew up the only girl with two brothers, but I now have gained a sister and very special friend. Thanks for who you are, for what you are doing and for helping to make a difference in the lives of so many of us. Love you girl!!