Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back UP and running...sort of...

Race Number Two of 2013: Rock 'n' Roll St. Pete

Thursday, January 31st:

Dozens of people have asked me what if felt like to run 22 Half Marathons last year (okay, for you sticklers out there, there was one that was cancelled after a 2-hour delay due to weather but I still made it to the starting line ready to run so I count it). My answer is: It felt AWESOME. I can't believe it went by so fast and with such great results for reaching thousands of people with our Get Back Up message.

My one big concern from the first race of 2012 all the way to the last event in December was getting injured. What would I do if an ankle sprain, shin splits, muscle pull, plantar fasciitis or other common running injury sidelined me and derailed the Get Back UP train?! It's hard enough to train for one Marathon completely unscathed much less traverse the USA in order to run 22 Half's in less than 12 months.

Amazingly I got through the entire year of 30 total race events without a scratch so I had no real concerns when asked to continue the GBU campaign in 2013. Well, WOW, was I ever hit with a doozy of an injury! (If you're reading this blog for the first time, the previous 3 entries detail the "doozy".)

Suddenly I had no idea what to think about the schedule we had committed to, whether or not I'd be able to run again at all much less the events starting up again in 2 weeks. I assumed I'd be sidelined from travel for over a month and expected I'd be done running for a minimum of 6-8 weeks. We got busy trying to rethink our plan in order to accommodate my recovery and yet still honor the commitments we made.

Well, yesterday my physician said that if I keep improving as I have the past 6 days I will be allowed to travel to St. Pete and possibly be allowed to complete the 3-mile mini marathon. What?! Oh my gosh, I had to ask him twice about this. I felt like I just hit the jackpot!

Mind you, Dr. Roy did say that I wouldn't be allowed to run a regular pace and should walk the majority of the event, jogging only intermittently. As I heard him talking to me I got so excited to be allowed to travel and, even if I didn't actively compete at all, to cheer for Jim and Buzz and the Kramers who had all planned to be there with me. So now I will be on my best behavior this week in hopes that I have no setbacks... St. Pete or BUST!

Friday, February 8th:

I'm cleared to travel and heading to St. Petersburg, FL for RnR event #2 of 2013! I have my restrictions, no heavy lifting or exertion, but other than that I'm feeling great. 

Perfect weather upon landing in Florida! Big change from last year when the temps were freezing with high winds.

Saturday, February 9th:

Happy Birthday, MOM!!! I love you and I promise I will be careful while I'm healing! 

Yesterday I followed doctor's orders: arrived in Tampa and made the drive over to the hotel where I quietly worked on the computer all afternoon. I do feel fatigued quite easily so it was an early curfew for me last night.

Today, first on the list is to head to the Expo to check into the race. I am hoping that there will be no issue with switching from the Half to the Mini Marathon... I still can't believe I will be "running" again only 2 weeks from my spinal fusion surgery.

The Expo is at Tropicana Field behind Jim. We got lucky with a daring U-Turn and got the only spot left where the parking is free. 

Less than half a block from my spot, this is what they are charging for the Expo parking... we are much happier with "Free".

What better way to celebrate my current state of health?

A beautiful day here in sunny Florida.

Jim is checking in for the Half while I go to the "Solutions" booth to switch to the Mini Marathon, a 3-mile option they added to this event.

We met "The General", a VIP of Geico insurance, who gave us free shirts and a few other goodies for sharing our story on the Geico "Why do you run" wall.

The Expo!
A sight for sore eyes! Merle is finally working a Sweaty Bands booth in the same town that we are running... this hasn't happened since the first week of December 2012.

We've missed you, Merle!

On our way out we ran into Kevin Gonzalez, one of our RnR Gypsy friends. Today is also Kevin's birthday.

Happy Birthday, Kevin! Great to see you!

Next on the agenda, heading to the Lucky Dill Deli to say hi to Jim Campbell (another  gypsy friend) and finally to meet his wife after one full year of hearing about her. Sorry, the photos got deleted by accident but it was great to meet you, Deb, and I look forward to your next RnR trip!

Off to lunch at The Garden in downtown St. Pete. I was concentrating too hard on eating, still have a hard time with solid foods, so I forgot to take photos of our meal. It was great though so I heartily recommend eating here next time you're in downtown St. Pete.

The view down the street from outside our restaurant.
After our late lunch we drove the 30 minutes back to our hotel to rest up for tomorrow's events. I thought I would have a difficult time taking it easy (per doctor's orders) but I have discovered that I get tired so quickly still, hopefully just a lingering side effect of my surgery. I fell asleep so early that I neglected to make my Get Back UP sign!

Sunday, February 10th: RACE DAY!!

4:30 a.m. wake-up call then dressed and on the road by 5:15. We have a 20-30 minute drive to start line area where I need to finish making my sign. I still can't drive due to my surgery so while Jim got us to our parking area I was assembling the sign.

As soon as we arrived at Tropicana Field I got a call from our PR company that I needed to meet a reporter at the Start Line. Woo hoo! It's always great when an interview comes through--it's the only reason we're doing these races.

Reporter/Photojournalist Mike Dixon is behind the camera. His questions were fantastic and he really understood the need to help people Get Back UP. Thank you, Mike!!

All the sane people haven't quite arrived yet, as you can tell by the completely-empty starting corrals!

(NOTE: Mike has given us permission to post his interview piece on the Get Back UP Today YouTube channel so when we get it I'll add the link)

Trying to find light to make my sign!

I'm making this one smaller so I can carry it on my walk-run through the Mini Marathon today.

Almost done! My race starts a half-hour before the Half Marathon so I have to finish this quickly. Mike Dixon wants to get shots of me with the sign before and during the start of the race.

As the sun comes up the RnR regulars start making their way to the VIP tent. David DeNeire plans to rock out in his tutu it!

Jim finds John Kramer before the start. Jim is already sweating before the sun is up while John and Mary are bundled up in sweats. is 65 degrees!

I can't believe how nervous I am to start my 3-miler! I rarely get nervous before a Half Marathon and yet the butterflies are dancing away in my belly. The sun is rising, it's a gorgeous morning and I am so thankful to be here today. I take a silent moment of gratitude and send a telepathic promise to my parents that I will be safe today.
Feeling like a million bucks!

As we start the Mini Marathon I step aside to take photos of my fellow walk-runners.

We head east toward the waterfront then head north towards the finish area. Yes, it's still somewhat dark but the sun will be in full force soon.

As promised, I take frequent breaks from my walk-run intervals and take time to capture the scenery.

It feels so good to be out here. I've met so many people who are doing their first-ever race, their stories are all so inspiring!

A look back at the gorgeous sunrise.

Just passed the 2.5 mile mark and I am feeling great and taking my time!
I did it!! I actually got teary-eyed as I crossed the finish line... 2 weeks ago I never dreamed I'd be here!! Thankyouthankyouthankyou, Dr. Roy and all of you at Morehead Hospital for getting me back up so beautifully!!

There's no one else at VIP yet, the Half Marathoner's have only just started.  The food looks so wonderful...but it's safe from me since solid foods are still not cooperating with my trachea.

The set-up here is phenomenal. Yes, the food looks delectable but the floral displays are also fabulous. The florist "melted" LPs for the vases and used 45's for accents...genious!

For any young whippersnappers out there, you may have to look up the definition of an LP and a 45.

One of the caterers took a "finish photo" for me. I went the whole way with my sign and met so many great people along the course.

Soooooo tempting.

Check out her hat... I LOVE IT! She's waiting for her daughter to finish, apparently her daughter is one of the elite athletes, very impressive!

John Kramer enjoys the shade after his Half Marathon finish. Congrats on another one, John!
Mary Kramer breezes through another Half! Darn her, she always makes it look so easy!

Next across the finish line: Jim and David! What a team! (I guess it's obvious who wears the pants in this relationship. :-)

Buzz Hanie completes his FIRST EVER Half Marathon! You may have remembered seeing Buzz' photos from last year's Savannah and Miami Beach events. He's one of the hard-working Allard reps and when he came to his first RnR event last November he got inspired to start running. Way to go, Buzz! It was so fun to watch YOU cross the finish line for a change... I get to pay you back for supporting me last year. I'm so proud of you!

Buzz is all smiles after a quick change and the prospects of food...

Well-earned frozen strawberries on his plate... he's been talking about these since Savannah!

Buzz joins in as a new Rock n' Roll gypsy... he's earned it since this is his 3rd appearance in less than 4 months. This time he gets the medal for his efforts! Also in the photo: Kevin Gonzales with a Personal Best today, Susan and Ron Carino both finish strong with big smiles.

John and Mary Kramer are RnR gypsies, too... we forget that sometimes since they are friends from home. Congrats, Kramers, it is always more fun to have our NC peeps in the house!

Mary enjoys the moment...

Technically, I beat Mary by almost an hour and a half (if you count finish time only and not distance-run!) so she gets to "talk to the hand".  Mary "borrowed" the first-place finisher's trophies for the photo... she says she deserved it more. I fake my own trophy with the beautiful floral arrangement.

On the shuttle back to Tropicana Field I meet a fellow Tarheel... the day just gets better and better! (I was outnumbered by NC State fans with Jim, John and Mary all against me)

John and Kevin enjoying the easy shuttle ride.

Apparently Mary really is a VIP... she sweetly convinced the shuttle driver to take her directly to her hotel--What moxie! The rest of us remained aboard until we got to the parking lots at Tropicana. 

I had an amazing weekend here in St. Pete and I appreciated Rock 'n' Roll racing and all of my friends so much more than I realized. I truly never expected to feel this good so shortly after a major spinal surgery. While I am not fully recovered, I went to bed feeling like I was on Cloud 9.

I know I only ran the 3-mile Mini but inside I felt like I accomplished a full marathon. Official time: 32:31.

Next Up: Rock N Roll New Orleans! Not sure if I'll be able to run the Half there but maybe the Half Relay. We'll keep a good thought!