Wednesday, April 24, 2013

6th event of the year: BB&T GATE CITY HALF MARATHON

RACE NUMBER 6: BB&T Half Marathon (and 8K) in Greensboro, NC

Saturday, April 6th: RACE DAY!

There are hardly words to describe how incredible I felt yesterday after spending time with each of our TeamUP ambassadors. If you don't know what I'm referring to please check out the previous blogpost for the story. Today I am even more excited as 8 people with foot drop, all wearing Allard braces, will be competing in the same event for the first time ever. One more person, Rod Fulmer, will be cheering from the sidelines in his braces, but not because he cannot walk in this event but because he's saving his strength as he trains for his upcoming hike up Stone Mountain in Georgia! 

Along with the 7 "official" ambassadors for TeamUP we were joined by Greensboro native and recent ToeOFF wearer Steve Lindsay Loflin who came downtown to run with us in the Half Marathon. Allard's Southeast District Manager, Buzz Hanie, made the trip up from Georgia to run the 8K--his second event of the year. Allard's former Southeast District Manager, Susan Fortener, also made the trip from Atlanta to run the Half today. My husband is also joining me in running the Half while Barbie Barnett, Virginia Mamone, Craig Vogtsberger, Jill Walsh, Darren Smith and Shannon Poortenga are all entered in the 8K.

I also have a slew of close friends who are running today: Joy Savage and Amy Ketterman in the Half, Carolyn Williams, Cindy and Heath McCall, Rick Buckner in the 8K. Mark and Michelle Sanford will be race officials on the course today, Cindy and Don Adams, Julia Nile, Orthotist Michael Bissell, Ed & Melissa Wolverton....and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few others...have all pledged their support on the sidelines today. 

The weather has turned out to be perfect for the runners although a bit on the chilly side for the spectators. Skies are crystal-clear blue and the wind is very light; a recipe for a great run. The Half Marathon starts at 8:00am with the 8K getting underway about 20 minutes later. All of us will be led out of the gate by the motivational thunder of the A&T Drum Line, what an inspiring treat!

Below you'll find an assortment of photos from the morning. My apologies that there is no real order to these pictures, I added them from different sources and am too lazy to realign them.
A beautiful, crisp morning in downtown Greensboro.

Center City condos watching over us as the morning begins.

I find Dr. Fields before the start of the race, he's the director of the medical team for today's events and took a moment to humor me with a photo op. 

My view at the start of the Half Marathon.

Jess DaPolito, from Bouvier-Kelly, is hard at work as photographer for the day.

My friend, Mark "Tex" Sanford volunteering as a race official while Jim tries to back out of the run today at mile 2.

It's so great to see friends of mine as race officials! Tex was a bit bummed they didn't give him a gun to use for enforcement. (Kidding, of course)

Tex's wife, Michelle "Cecil" Sanford, right, helping Officer Wallace with the traffic at mile 7.

Michelle played "Grommet" to the officer's "Wallace" in her groovy Get Back UP button. Michelle was a runner-favorite with her funny, motivational shout-outs at the halfway point in the race.

Two of the best cheerleaders on the course. They stood at the crest of a long hill, cheering as loudly as possible to help those of us at the bottom make the climb. You ladies ROCK!

Jim jogs up Country Club road, wishing he were on the golf course this morning rather than running beside it. Oh well, honey, there's always tomorrow!

Virginia gets interviewed by News 14 after a great run in the 8K.

Barbie Barnett tells her story after finishing strong in the 8K.

Dr. Fields making sure the entire field stays healthy today.
Barbie, Craig and Darren joke at the start of the 8K while Jill (pink hat) gets her game face on.
What a team!!!

Jill makes her way up the last hill along Elm Street on her way to Second Place in her age go, girl!!

Craig cruises in as the first TeamUP runner across the finish line today; he placed 5th in his age group...great run, Craig!

Rod Fulmer, along with his wife, daughter and daughter's friend, were our best fans of the day. Thanks to the Fulmer Crew for all the cheering and encouragement--YOU ROCK!

Jill, Craig, Barbie, Shannon, Virginia, Dr. Fields and Darren before the 8K start. What a good-looking crew.

The Triumvirate:  Barbie, Virginia and Shannon strut their stuff  through 5 miles of hills.

Jim and I slogging up the last hill.

Darren finishes the last stretch with a great kick!

I love this photo...look at all the ToeOFFs ready to roll!
It may be my lack of technology skills, but with these shots I can't seem to embed a larger version. They will be tough to view at this size but I didn't want to leave them out, my apologies!

A&T Drum Line at the starting line.

Angie, Buzz, Carol and Jayme of AllardUSA enjoying the inaugural TeamUP events.

Denny Kelly, center, shares in the fun with the Fulmers and Craig.

Liz Summers, of BKI, is always on the job.

Ashley Watkins of BKI fights to stay warm as she tends to the PR details.
TeamUP buttons and flowers in our very own VIP tent in Center City Park, downtown Greensboro.

Amazing performances to start the day!

The team bonds before the gun goes off, then it's "Every man for himself!"

And they're off!

Jill wins 2nd Place!

Angie, front, Carol, back right, enjoy the day after many months of helping to make this day possible for us all.

Carol tries her best to get TeamUP to smile for the cameras as Angie looks on and pretends not to be related. :-)
We love you, Carol!!

Craig leading the mid-air race to the finish line.

Enough said.

Team spirit is running high this morning!

Changing minds, changing lives.

Shannon, Virginia and Barbie all finish together after 5 long, hilly miles!

A medal for the Competitors....
...a medal for the true CHAMPIONs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Introducing TeamUP

Thursday, March 28th:

I got home from the Dallas event late Monday night and first thing on Tuesday morning I drove to Morehead Spine in Eden for my evaluation appointment at Dr. Roy's office. All is going great with my spinal fusion, I'm healing well and although I'm still on orders to restrict my activities I've been cleared to add more training to my schedule. I can now run every other day, 20-45 minutes max each time, but this is a grand improvement and I'm SO excited. Still no golf, no overhead lifting and I need to add some strength/flexibility exercises but other than that I feel like I'm racing in the right direction.

With my mood high from Tuesday's appointment I was able to attack my long list of chores with good energy. Washing clothes, finalizing taxes, home-maintenance tasks and office bookkeeping kept me busy straight through to today when my focus now can be directed towards next week's huge event.

For those of you following the GBU blog and/or Facebook you know I've been dropping hints about an important project I've been working on since the first week in January. Well, we're finally able to reveal the news: the creation of the first ever TeamUP!!

The Get Back UP campaign was originally created because we noticed a disconnect in our healthcare system; people with mobility issues are often not getting access to the best technology or information regarding solutions. Rather than simply point out the problems as we see them we wanted to be part of the solution, helping these people return to the quality of life they deserve. We hit the ground running, literally, to start spreading the message that technology is improving rapidly. We discovered along the way the importance of also educating people on ways to navigate the healthcare system to gain easier access to this technology.

We had phenomenal success in 2012 and yet we realized the need is even greater than we guessed. Too many people still don't know about existing technology, too many people believe that a better life isn't possible because they haven't seen evidence in their community. This is not acceptable. After many discussions we asked a simple question: if one person running around the country can reach thousands of people, what can we do with a whole TEAM of people spreading the word? Thus, the concept of TeamUP was born for 2013!

Next came questions: How can we make this happen? Who should be included on the team? How can we reach the masses on limited budgets? How do we introduce the team in a big way? Well, we worked around-the-clock since the first week of January to create TeamUP and we actually pulled it off!

I won't go into the hours and hours of discussions, planning, details, communications and pure sweat&tears that went into this project but suffice it to say that many people worked long hours to bring this dream to reality. The head honchos at AllardUSA and at Bouvier-Kelly, Inc. selected the inaugural teammates from those people we met across the country through the GBU campaign. We noted the importance of having a diverse group of diagnoses of people with foot drop, not just runners or other athletes. Each person, we thought, should also be a positive role model in Getting Back UP and have had some experience in sharing their stories. In addition, we realized the importance of limiting the initial team to a small, select few; this is going to be a trial-and-error process so we needed a manageable group to begin the journey. 

It was extremely difficult to narrow the invitations to such a small group--we met so many amazing people across the country last year--and yet it had to be done. We invited 8 people to volunteer for this team, hoping that half of them would say "yes". All 8 of them did!! One invitee, Mike Hanvey of NJ, was not able to make this particular trip and so he will be included in the next event but all 7 others elected to join us in Greensboro next week. (NOTE: we WILL be adding to the team once we see how this endeavor if you are interested in becoming a part of the team please let us know.)

More about the teammates later, but for now I'm completely focused on next week's inaugural TeamUP events: The BB&T Gate City Half Marathon and 8K. Not only are we partnering with race organizers to launch TeamUP at their inaugural event, we are also partnering with a local physician and O&P facility to bring their expertise to TeamUP members. Basically 2 full days of non-stop activity is planned for next Friday & Saturday... with the team's arrival Thursday evening and departure on Sunday when everything winds down.

After working this morning via phone conferencing and on my computer, I am now off to a press conference for the race...finally this is all gonna happen! 

I meet Liz and Denny from Bouvier-Kelly, INC. downtown at the Greenhill Center. Mayor Perkins welcomed the press and revealed his excitement about what this race will do for Greensboro. The 8K portion of the race will be a sanctioned USTrack&Field event, drawing elite runners to the starting line, a nice coup for this event and for Greensboro. The Half Marathon will be a beautiful and hilly course through several neighborhoods surrounding our downtown.

Mayor Perkins addresses the press.

Eddie Wooten (red sweater), sports writer for Greensboro's News & Record, takes notes as Melissa Fourrier takes the podium.

Melissa, race director and head of Foster Friends (charity recipient of race proceeds) shares her excitement about the event. Melissa introduced TeamUP's participation in the race this year...thank you for the added exposure! When speaking with her after the conference I realized that Melissa is as frantic as I am about all the last minute details. Hang in there, girlfriend!

Press releases, medal design, event details and Foster Friends brochures are all ready for public consumption.
After the press conference it was back to Bouvier-Kelly, INC.'s office for more planning. Not one of us is an official "event coordinator" and yet we're all wearing that hat for another week. Last-minute details still to be hammered out include: transportation coordination for all weekend events, head counts for all meals, menu decisions finalized, goodie bags assembled and delivered, handbooks finalized and printed, supply runs for each of the day's activities, schedules and agendas finalized, video and photography coordination... and I'm sure I've left off at least 7 other important tasks. My head hurts just thinking about it all!

Friday, March 29th-Sunday, March 31st:

Today is Good Friday so the BKI and Allard teams are on holiday for the weekend which frees me up from calls, emails and meetings to get my other work done. Thankfully my husband is off of work today and has promised me his services for getting our home ready for the folks coming into town. We will be hosting the Allard team for a few meetings at the house early week, hosting a former Allard employee and friend who will stay with us for the race next weekend AND hosting an Open House event next Saturday evening for everyone after the race. Currently our house and yard are in "disaster state" and so we spend the entire Easter weekend cleaning up.

By Sunday evening the house had been scoured top-to-bottom, we had a truckload of topsoil brought in for the front garden beds, we planted 16 hanging baskets for the back deck and planted trees and shrubs in the front beds and we completed all the last-minute shopping for the Open House. Whew! As exhausting as it was, I must admit it was nice to do "manual labor" for a change where with each task crossed off the list there was a sense of immediate gratification. It was nice to have a deadline for our spring cleaning, too, and by Sunday night we were able to sit on the porch with our neighbors admiring our hard work.

Monday, April 1st:

Denny met me at my house just after 7am to accompany me to the first media gig of the week: an appearance on the Good Morning Show at WFMY-TV2. Upon arrival at the station I got to meet one of Bouvier-Kelly's newest hires, Ashley Watkins, who will be helping with the GBU and TeamUP campaigns. The photos below come courtesy of Ashley:

Behind the scenes at WFMY.

Thank you, Tracey McCain, for helping us spread the message here at home!

And....we're LIVE!

Ashley got a great shot of the commercial break action.

Back on to wrap things up...and then I'm off to the accountant's office for a tax meeting.
I'm not sure how long this link will stay active but here's the story as it aired this morning:

After a meeting at my accountant's office I'm back home and working all day in preparation for the week of activities. Jim and I have a nice, quiet dinner at home... the last opportunity we'll have until this time next week.

Tuesday, April 2nd:

Back and forth with Bouvier-Kelly all morning, we have a few more things to take care of before the Allard team arrives tomorrow. Then I'm off to Raleigh, one-and-a-half hour's drive from home, to meet Allard rep Jayme Brendle for a 4-hour gait course. I will be making an appearance in front of the PTs and O&Ps as a "patient model" but I also plan to share with them the exciting news about TeamUP and our big event this weekend.

I apologize now for not getting photos from the Gait Course; I forgot my car charger so by the time I arrived in Raleigh at 4:30 my phone was dead from a long day already. The course went well and we got some great feedback and more GBU fans on Facebook thanks to the Level 4 folks and some other attendees. Another blog shout-out now to sincerely thank all the dedicated professionals in this industry for helping people get back up every day... this wouldn't be possible without you!

Wednesday and Thursday:

Carol and Angie arrived from Allard and we had much to discuss amongst ourselves and then to plan with the BKI team before the official arrival of the TeamUP members. We were so busy, thus no photos and no exciting experiences, just planning, eating and sleeping! By Thursday evening all of the TeamUP folks were to arrive, thankfully we had transportation arranged for them to shuttle them from the airport to hotel upon each arrival. With 7 of them coming from all 4 corners of the US we'll be amazed if everyone arrives on time without incident...I am so looking forward to meeting them!

Friday, April 5th:

I had planned to be onboard the shuttle van to greet everyone at the hotel first thing this morning. However we received an invitation to go live on another local station, WGHP-TV8, and so I had to drive to High Point for a pre-dawn interview instead. I was so conflicted over this... I am thrilled any time we get an opportunity to share our GBU message and yet I really wanted to meet everyone and introduce them to each other. Oh well, I guess I can't have everything the way I want it.

I get to the station about 30 minutes early and am surprised to be greeted by a friend from high school whom I haven't seen in at least 25 years. This is him, John Zales, the news director at WGHP hard at work!

This is the makeup room attached to the "green room" for guests of the station. I'm assuming the other anchors use this room as well; there are no other guests currently here and none of those items belong to me.

Shannon Smith, standing a clear foot taller than me and even more so in heels, informs me we are doing a side-by-side standing interview. I hope she can see me way down here...they will need a wide angled lens to get both of us in the same shot!

Hopefully this link will stay active for awhile too, but for each interview we do we try to get actual files and post to the Allard website. For access to TV and Print media for the GBU campaign go to  and follow the tabs to the section you're looking for.

Thank you to everyone at WGHP-TV8 for the fantastic coverage.

Next stop, Advanced P&O to meet the team...finally!!!!

One of the reasons I wanted to bring TeamUP to Greensboro was to provide them access to the team of professionals responsible for getting me back into running--and keeping me there without injury.

You've already met some of the players in past blogposts but today you can see them in action on their own turf. Advanced P&O is home to my orthotist, Michael Bissell. He and his business parter, Jeff Smith, graciously allowed us exclusive use of their Greensboro facility and their expertise all day on Friday. In addition, they are allowing one of my 2 favorite physicians to be here, Dr. Karl "Bert" Fields, to assess each patient and to consult with Advanced on the best way to achieve optimal performance while dealing with foot drop.

If you are in need of Prosthetic or Orthotic technology, please do not hesitate to contact the Advanced team...they are incredible and have great experience with Allard's wide assortment of products:

Should you need more physician-related care regarding your mobility issues and heath condition causing these issues, please connect with Dr. Fields at the Moses Cone Hospital facility. Here's a link to his program and credentials, you can click on the "contact" tab to schedule an appointment as a patient:

I walked in to see everyone getting acquainted in the waiting room. From left to right: Virginia Mamone of Nevada, Barbie Barnett of Illinois, Jill Walsh of NY, Shannon Poortenga of Michigan, Carol Paez of Allard USA in New Jersey, Darren Smith of Oregon, Rod Fulmer of Georgia. Not pictured, Craig Vogtsberger of Colorado.
Finally I get to say hello to everyone. I met Virginia at the CMT support group she facilitates in Las Vegas and I haven't seen her since December. In the background is Jill Walsh whom I've spoken with at length several times but never met in person. She contacted me to get help with her brace, worried that without better fitting she wouldn't be able to compete in her next event, which was the Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon. With the help of Allard and a few tips on what helped me with my own brace, Jill was able to show off her serious strength and fitness: she clocked a fantastic time in completing the Ironman...despite having foot drop and Multiple Sclerosis!

Craig is seated while Dr. Fields looks at his insole. Michael Bissell, far background, observes along with 2 of Dr. Fields' residents.

Dr. Fields is amazed by Craig's story and by his resilience. Craig was crushed between 2 Humvees and wasn't expected to survive. He is now winning races cycling, biking and swimming despite very serious injuries and lingering deficits. 

I will provide more background about all the team members in a later post, you will be inspired by each of them. For now I'm just going to give basics or I'll never get this blog post completed.

A break in the action for lunch, which is really just an opportunity to present our concept of TeamUP to everyone.

Jenn Lassiter of BKI gives a social media tutorial. Jenn ROCKS!

Carol Paez formally welcomes TeamUP into the Allard family.
Immediately following our lunch meeting we went back to Advanced for the afternoon. Still to do were the videotaping sessions and all of the team's personal assessments and fittings.
Virginia is practically walking on air when she gets to try the Ypsilon version of the ToeOFF. She couldn't believe how much better she could walk in these than in the more rigid braces she had. Virginia recently completed her first 5K ever, inspired by her CMTA family and (at least in small part) the Get Back UP campaign. Way to go, Virginia!
One thing that amazed me the most upon seeing the group together for the first time this morning was how quickly everyone bonded. By the time I got to Advanced it appeared that these folks had known each other forever when, in fact, almost everyone was meeting the others for the first time.

I can't remember if it was Barbie or Jill who told me this, but one of them said she knew this would be a good trip when she was in the hotel fitness facility this morning before everyone was to meet at 8:00am: There were 4 people working out and 3 of them were wearing ToeOFF braces! For once, a person without foot drop was the minority--I love it!

Craig and Darren are working on Get Back UP signs AND on their comedy routines. These 2 are the only ones who really knew each other beforehand. They both compete in many of the same events and Craig was the one to introduce Darren to the Blue Rocker brace he now wears. These 2 are incredible athletes, and if you have the chance to keep up with them they will have you laughing in no time.

As mentioned above, those who weren't being assessed or photographed were helping with our race signs for tomorrow. Shannon Poortenga is hard at work here...what an artist! Shannon has become like a sister to me over the past few years and was the first person I met while working to spread this message on behalf of AllardUSA. Her mother actually hunted down my home phone number (they live in Kalamazoo, MI) and gave me a call to seek encouragement for Shannon. From the very first time we spoke, Shannon and I realized we had a special bond and I was SO happy to hear she wanted to be a part of TeamUP. I love you, Sista'... and just look at how many more of us there are out there now!

Jill Walsh celebrates and freely shares her story and her joy with the team. Dr. Fields and Michael Bissell work with her while Phillip works with the videographer behind the scenes.

I can hardly restrain my own joy at being "just one of the team" among these amazing athletes and inspirations. Each of us at some point along this journey believed we were the "only ones" in our particular situation. Today we know otherwise; we have a growing network of support and as Virginia stated, "We have a whole new family".

Barbie, left center, shares a laugh with the rest of us. You may recall her story from last summer's blog or from the Chicago Tribune article that featured her own Get Back UP moment. Be sure to go back and check it out, or check in here at a later date for full info on every TeamUP ambassador.

So many tears have fallen from these faces due to individual struggles. I hope this photo reflects our future as well as it does our present. I also hope images like this will encourage and inspire others to keep getting back up to brighter days.  8 people, 10 Allard braces, infinite possibilities. 

Rod and Virginia are incredible souls and perfect ambassadors for TeamUP. Nice jackets!

You are now looking at Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy, Stroke-induced Hemiparesis, Spinal Cord injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Severe Neuropathy, Foot Drop and serious complications from surgery. Who knew these ailments could be so beautiful? 
TeamUP... I love you all and am so proud to be your teammate. Now, Divide and Conquer: let's make sure we share the love and spread the message!

"Falling down is a part of life. Getting back up is living."

(Check back for the RACE DAY UPDATE, to be posted soon in a separate blog entry!)