Saturday, October 26, 2013

21st Race of 2013: Rock 'n Roll Denver Half Marathon

Denver, CO: CMT Support & Action plus Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon

Friday, October 18th:

Departed Greensboro sharply at 5:30am en route to Denver. Lucked out two ways this morning: a first class seat thanks to the USAir Upgrade Fairy AND seated beside my former Weaver Center Principal (for my 9th & 10th grade years), Dr. Gerry Austin! Not only was Dr. Austin a principal here in Greensboro but also an ACC Basketball official and later one of the most respected referees in the NFL. Today he's en route to NYC where he will be in the broadcast booth alongside Mike Tirico for the Monday Night Football game between the Giants and the Vikings. Dr. Austin was brought in as an "officiating expert" after the fiasco of the NFL replacement refs 3 years ago. While we did talk sports (especially the controversial "catch" that decided the game between the Packers and the Seahawks in 2012) we mostly talked about the old days at Weaver Center and favorite educators Mr. Jarrett, Ms. Moore, Ms. Angie Austin, Mrs. Viele, Ms. Candace Flynt, Ms. Mollet, Ms. Abondolo, Librarian Lynn Dorn and Vice Principal Mr. Fran Nolan. Great to see you again, Dr. Austin.

(And for Packers fans everywhere..."According to Austin, Packers receiver M.D. Jennings established possession of the ball and should have been awarded interception. The play should not have fallen under the NFL's rules for simultaneous possession, according to Austin. " Even this morning he stuck by his original assessment that Seattle should not have won the game because the Packers should have been awarded the ball.)

What a treat to sit beside someone I've admired for years. For more on Dr. Austin, check out his Wiki page:
 After a change of planes in Charlotte and a smooth 3-hour flight to Denver I was excited to see snow for the first time this season. Although there is only a slight dusting on the ground, this bodes well for race-day temps--finally a cold-weather run to enjoy.

A whisper of snow in Colorado.
 Upon landing we went quickly to the hotel to check in and then went in search of a place nearby to have lunch. After a hopefully-speedy lunch, Jim will be taking the rental car to Greenwood Village, CO to meet with one of his company's reps while I meet the Denver-area CMT Support & Action Group facilitator, Ron Plageman, at the Expo. Near Coors Field we find a great little spot, Falling Rock, a place that takes its food seriously but not itself:

I love the second "side".

Hmmm...choices, choices. Veggie Burger or Heart-Attack-On-A-Plate? Ha! I'm sure regular readers will guess which one this veg-head selected. And, believe it or not, Jim did NOT order the Combo.

A small order of homemade guacamole to stave off the hunger after our 3:30am EDT wake-up call...

...followed by one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. This one ranked in the top 3!

 Jim dropped me at the Expo on his way to Greenwood Village and I took some time to say hello to my friends while waiting for Ron to make it over.

Emily Schulte of Terryberry/Rock 'n Roll Marathon Jewelry. Notice her display case...
AWESOME!!! She's got our medal on display with the rest of the gorgeous bling. Thanks for sharing the Get Back UP message, my friend.

Dorcas White of Women's Running and RnR/Competitor Group... looks like it's only a handful of us Gypsies here this weekend.
When I was making my initial run-through at the Expo I decided I'd better cut it short and go out front to meet Ron, who has graciously invited me to the Denver-area CMT Support & Action Group tomorrow morning. He also invited me to meet him here first,  before tomorrow's meeting, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in person.

By the time I made my way back to the entrance Ron was there. I apologize, but I totally forgot to get photos during our hour together. I was so happy to finally meet him in person and to learn more about him and his CMT team that I didn't remember to document with pictures.

Ron will be competing in the Rock 'n Roll bike race tomorrow--a 22+ mile ride along most of the marathon course--and he will be supporting his friend Jennifer who will be running her very first Half Marathon. Apparently we have different start line locations but all 3 of us should finish in the same place on Sunday.

We got successfully checked in for our respective events then had a good time just getting to know each other a bit more as we strolled through the vendors at the Expo. We made final plans for meeting tomorrow morning and then Ron had an appointment at work he had to get back to. Thanks, Ron, for meeting me today--I'm looking forward to this weekend!

Jim arrived at the Expo just as Ron and I were saying goodbye. I waited while Jim got his race gear and then we immediately went back to the hotel to drop our stuff. We had little time to explore downtown Denver while the sun was still with us.
A stop for postcards to send to the granddaughters yielded this "silly hat" photo op... Jim just loves it when I make him pose for these pictures.

16th Street Mall.

I didn't see this last year but it's a great 'game park' just off of 16th St. mall. We watched a few kids enjoying the free ping pong but due to the snow earlier this morning I think the area was still a bit soggy for the masses.

Another view of the free park.

We popped into Delaney's near Coors Field for a light "ploughman's dinner". Jim took all the pastrami and other cold cuts but we shared the fruit and cheese.
My phone died shortly after our light bite at Delaney's. With the 2 hour time change I guess it makes sense, I've been up and using the phone since 3:30am Eastern time (which was 1:30am Mountain Time) and it's now almost 8pm. I would say you didn't miss too much, except you actually did miss one noteworthy event--the very elusive opportunity to "meet" Emily Schulte's fiance, Kyle. We've known Emily almost 2 years and this will be our very first Kyle-sighting!! We met them at their hotel, The Westin, and enjoyed a few hours with them before the exhaustion of our long day took its toll. Great to visit with you both, and congratulations again on your engagement!

Saturday, October 19th:

I slept so well for a change and awoke around 6:30am to this beautiful sunrise...
Originally the forecast had called for 60-70-degree days both Saturday and Sunday but a front is going to come through and leave us with some cold temps for the race on Sunday. There's a 50% chance of snow on Sunday so I'll enjoy the sunshine in the Mile-High city while I have it.
A busy day is on tap for today. We leave the hotel at 8:30am to make the drive to Lakewood for this morning's CMT meeting (that is, the Denver-area support & action group for those living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder). The meeting is scheduled for 10-11:30am but I want to be there early to visit with Ron and the other facilitator, Dick Kutz, before the rest of the members arrive. From the CMT meeting I need to make the 1-1/2 hour drive to Greeley to meet Kelly Millard at a course she's doing at the Northern Colorado Medical Center. I need to be there by 2pm at the latest and I'm not sure what traffic will be like on a Saturday... and I'd like to be able to grab lunch and run 1 errand in between appointments. We'll see how the day goes.

I got this door tag at the Expo and thought I'd use it while I have the opportunity!

Loading the car: I have my running shoes and ToeOFF brace to show the PTs at the NCMC course this afternoon. I have the sign for the CMTA group--I'm hoping they will allow me to take their  photo with it.

The drive to Lakewood on a beautiful Colorado morning.
We made it to the church in Lakewood a few minutes early and Ron was walking in with his literature as we drove up.

I have to admit, I'm always a bit nervous when I attend a new CMT support group as a "guest speaker." Not only do I not have a formal presentation (and I never know what people are expecting) but I also do not have CMT. I worry that my own story will not resonate well with the members. Usually I am accompanied by an Allard District Manager who shares bracing information and options with the group; this has always been my "go-to" connection since I share foot drop in common with many people who have CMT. Today Kelly couldn't be here since she's conducting her 4-hour course in Greeley and for the first time I walk in with just Jim by my side. One thing I know: together we've formed such beautiful friendships with the people of the CMTA that even if we don't contribute meaningfully to them today, I know this meeting will at least be a gift to us.

As per usual at a CMTA event, my worries are unfounded. The CMT S&A groups are comprised of some of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. We walk in with Ron and are immediately introduced to the co-facilitaor, Dick Kutz, who had previously introduced himself via email with an offer to help me with anything I may need while in Denver. Right away we are excitedly talking and they both put me at ease with their relaxed demeanor and friendly humor. Dick surprises me by recognizing my Get Back UP sign as the one I made for the Tennessee Trot last week. I laughed when he was able to recount several episodes from some of my last races--he's clearly a reader of my blog!

I mentioned my concerns to Dick about speaking to the group when I don't have CMT but he quickly reassured me. What we do have in common, he advised, will hopefully provide a good forum for discussion. Ron and Dick were so gracious to me as hosts! We quickly returned to talking about the GBU blog and Dick seemed most amused by the fact that I post so many food photos; namely, my veggie selections and Jim's monster meat diet. :-) Stay tuned, Dick...I'm sure there will be more Monstrosities to feature! I also learned that Dick is an avid "social media-lite" and is a zealot (in the best way) when it comes to spreading awareness for CMT.

Meet the guys (courtesy of the CMTA website):

Dick KutzDick Kutz, Co-facilitator
Denver Area CMT Support and Action Group
Dick was diagnosed late in life, eight years ago at age 65, with CMT1, but he has had problems with both claw toes and large toe callouses for a long time. Four years were spent in the Air Force as part of a Minuteman missile targeting & alignment team in North Dakota and Wyoming. That led to a career in computer programming including fifteen years at the Coors Brewing Company. Dick enjoys computers and the internet, bicycling, reading and recently became interested in Nordic walking. He is passionate about raising awareness of CMT to the point of it becoming as common an acronym as MS, MD or ALS. Most people are unaware that, worldwide, CMT is as common as MS. Email recipients read his favorite quote at the bottom of each email sent: "Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it."

Ron PlagemanRon Plageman, Facilitator
Denver Area CMT Support and Action Group
Ron has lived in central Denver for more than 20 years, and is proud to share co-facilitating duties in the only CMT SAG in Colorado. After finishing a liberal arts education in the late 1980’s, Ron relocated to New York and found work in the publishing industry, where he continues to this day. Ron was diagnosed with CMT 15 years ago, but has had foot/gait challenges since childhood. Striving for an active lifestyle with a competitive streak, he discovered cycling as a teenager and continues to ride as often as he can throughout the gorgeous mountains and plains of Colorado. Ron credits an active, physically challenging approach to life as a great benefit to his management/treatment of CMT, maintaining that strength, balance and flexibility all have huge benefits to challenges CMT can present. Crucial to that is also his longtime partner Ellen, his family in his birthplace of Florida, and the support of his friends and care “team.”

As members began filing in I took some time to look over all the literature that Ron and Dick brought with them. I see a friendly face in the brochures....

Hi, Peter Allard...Wow, look how much taller I am than're like a Swedish Leprechaun!

How cool! The amazing PR Team at BKI in Greensboro put this together especially for Ron and Dick to use to promote their meeting. (Gulp. I hope I can live up to the expectations of being the featured guest...)

It is clear how passionate Ron and Dick are about supporting the CMT family. So much information--and always new resources--made available for the taking.
What can I say? After exceeding the 1-1/2 hour allotment for the meeting I was still enjoying my discussions with this group. Who knew that in less than 2 hours I would have made 16 great,  new friends?? The beautiful thing about a support group is just that, the support. Through laughter and through tears we were supporting and encouraging each other... and celebrating the meaning we each have found in our lives.

I know I said it to each of you in the meeting, but from the bottom of my heart I thank you for the gift of your company today. I look forward to keeping in touch --you will be in my heart along this journey.

THANK YOU, Denver-area CMT S&A Team!

The daughter of Ron's friend... she doesn't have CMT but she wears an Allard spinal brace for her recent diagnosis of Scoliosis. We discussed the worst thing about wearing a spinal brace (I had mine for 6 months)--not being able to wear cute clothes. Hang in there, sista'--you're an amazing young woman and I was so thrilled to meet you today. Keep up the great success you've had with your rabbits!

I knew I should be departing for Greeley soon to meet Kelly but I had a difficult time tearing myself away from my new "family".

CMTA Superstars sporting their Get Back UP medals.
Before I forget, please take a minute to visit the CMTA site. Log in and join the fight. Here's the link provided by Dick Kutz:


I'm actually glad to have a long drive over to Greeley for the next meeting, it will give me a bit of time to decompress emotionally and to savor the experiences of the morning. I already miss my new friends...but at least I will get to see Ron and Jennifer at the race tomorrow.

One stop I wanted to make (because it was so convenient to our meeting site in Lakewood) was to the local Goodwill store. The forecast for tomorrow looks increasingly colder and I want to have some inexpensive clothes to wear while waiting at the race start tomorrow. I will discard them (with 10,000 other runners doing the same thing) as the race begins--the race organizers will then collect all clothing to donate to area charities. Both Jim and I were able to make quick selections and we were quickly on our way to Greeley.

Originally Kelly had allowed me enough time between meetings to have lunch somewhere along the way. Since I stayed so long with my new friends in Lakewood there was little time to spare. We made our way to Greeley and stopped 1 mile from the NCMC for a 7-Eleven.

Surprisingly, this Tuna Sandwich was fabulous. (Dick, you may have noticed from previous posts that although I call myself a vegetarian I do occasionally eat fish) :-)

After wolfing down my sandwich and water we roll into the parking lot at Banner Health, right on time!

Kelly's course today was in the Rehab Center with the NCMC PT team.

Kelly Millard, District Manager Extraordinaire. She has a loathing for the Paparazzi.

Yay! I didn't know David Ruthsatz was going to be the consultant for this course. I met David during one of my very first "appearances" for Allard USA and we've been friends ever since. David is an Orthotist with a very energetic and progressive approach to solving problems for people with mobility issues. Not only that, he was an accomplished marathoner in his day. Due to knee issues he's a cyclist now but "once a runner, always a runner", right Dave?

Telling my story to the PTs here today was so different than my experience this morning. Here, the questions are so technical about the details of my experience with the brace itself.  Nonetheless, the questions were important and having David's expertise to provide answers that were beyond my experience proved extremely valuable.

In case any of the PTs from NCMC find your way to this blog, I have the answer to one of your questions. Incredibly, with all the Q&A that has occurred along my GBU journey (and among all the patients, physicians, PTs and Orthotists included along the way) I still get questions that are totally new to me. Today, one of the PTs asked whether the Allard braces would work for fly-fishing. Apparently she has several patients with foot drop who said they had to give up river fly-fishing because of this condition. My answer at the time was that I would think you COULD fish with an Allard brace, provided you were able to fit it into a wading boot. I checked since then with Carl (the Allard DM in Oregon who has foot drop, wears the Blue Rocker, and is a fisherman) and he agreed with me. FYI: he said he gets his brace wet all the time and this has no ill-effects, but the ideal in this case would be to wear wader boots and thigh waders to keep from getting wet.

The fit in the wading boot would be critical, but most likely doable according to Carl. I found this link for a wading boot with a full-zip (allowing the brace to be inserted into the boot) but a custom insole may be necessary to achieve optimal performance...I think boot like this would work:

Ultimately your patients would need to work together with the orthotist but I would really love to see them getting back out on the water!

Leaving NCMC and finding ourselves smack dab in the middle of UNC. No, not the University of Chapel Hill (Go, Tarheels, Go!)...

...but at the University of Northern Colorado.

Then it's back on the road to Denver, through the farmlands with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Once back in town we make a quick stop at a grocery store for pre-race supplies--yogurt, bananas, water--then drop off the car and our groceries at the hotel. It's been a long day so far and tomorrow will be another early start so we want to grab a quick dinner then get to sleep. We remembered a favorite spot from last year within walking distance from our hotel so we make our way there.

We really love Leela's. It's close to all the major hotels and convention center downtown without the "major" prices. You can tell this is a local favorite as well and no matter what time of day we show up, it always seems to be busy.

Jim opted for his usual meat sandwich (the #6, T-Rex) while I tried the # 8...

The bread is freshly made and makes for a wonderful sandwich--I loved my meal, especially the layers of avocado!

Jim was happy with his selection as well...Tiered Meat.
And speaking of meat...

On our walk to Leela's we were delighted to discover that Denver's largest Zombie Crawl is happening tonight--I've never seen so many zombies! Here are just a few of the undead:

I wish we could've stayed out to enjoy all the zombie festivities tonight but we have a race to run bright and early tomorrow. By the time we left Leela's for the mile walk back to the hotel the temperature had dropped considerably. Tomorrow's gonna be a chilly one.

 Sunday, October 20th--RACE DAY!!

4:45am: We awake to a dark and cold morning but we're ready to Rock 'n Roll!

Jim shows off his CMTA jersey along with his Goodwill find: Pillsbury Dough Boy Pajama Pants.

This is how Jim rocks and 'rolls'!

With our extra layers, thanks to the Lakewood Goodwill store, we're nice and toasty on our walk through town to the starting line area.

This was my find. Thick fleece robe--full zip for easy removal-- was my best shopping purchase in months.

16th Street Mall from the early morning perspective.

Runners at the start line village keep moving to keep warm.

Another great find of the weekend--free, blazing-hot coffee and hot chocolate from Coda. Both Jim and I opted for the hot chocolate. Thank you, Coda!

We found Dorcas bundled up in the Heavy Medals booth.

Just as the sun comes up the wheelchair races are lined up and ready to go.

A rare Jim Campbell sighting. We've missed you this year, JC!

I'm celebrating my fleece, especially now that I've heard the race start will be delayed for 20 minutes. Other runners are shivering and I'm snug as a bug in a rug.

Apparently the race officials are having difficulty securing the course. They are waiting to start the run until they can get the traffic cleared from our routes.

...still waiting.

And finally, we're off!
It took about a mile for my hands to warm up but otherwise I felt good running in shorts and a light long-sleeved shirt. Here are some sights from our Denver Half Marathon today:

This is Elitch Gardens amusement park: "On May 27, 1995, Elitch's opened at its new downtown location with fifteen of its twenty major rides from the old location.[3] The new location sits adjacent to Interstate 25 between Sports Authority Field at Mile High and the Pepsi Center. It is currently one of the few downtown amusement parks in the United States."

Rainbow runners supporting Colorado Equality.

An early water stop Downtown. The runners are enjoying the cold temps but the volunteers wouldn't mind a little more sunshine this morning.

Through the city streets on a quiet Sunday morning.

Coors Field ballpark enjoys a spot of sun on her face.

No, this isn't me and Jim. :-)
This little lady was running the Half with her dad. You go, girl!

Here's Waldo!

Mary Kramer, this one's for you!!!

We make our way toward the park where we'll have about 5 miles to complete before making our way back into downtown for the final 2 miles.

The park was so pretty this morning.

Another Dorcas sighting. What a great way to end a great race. Thank you for medalling me, Dorcas!

No, Jim, you can't have 10 medals today.

Once both Ron and I had finished our respective races (and had time to put warm layers on!) we found each other in front of the stage. This was Ron's first bike race since a serious injury almost a year ago so he proved today that he has truly gotten back UP! Congrats on a great 22+mile ride today, I was so happy you were able to participate.

Jennifer Gregg and Ron Plageman meet up as Jennifer crosses the finish line of her first Half Marathon. Way to go, Jennifer! It was so wonderful to meet you and your daughter yesterday and I look forward to keeping in touch. And thanks for making sure Ron didn't back out of the race today! :-)

I had 2 people ask me today whether CMTA was for Charcot-Marie-Tooth; I'm always shocked when someone outside of the general circles knows what CMT is! Hopefully this bodes well for the success of the CMTA and it's mission of support, awareness, action and a CURE.

Post race veggie pizza--delish! I'm not going to disclose how many slices I ate...
Thank you, Denver, for an amazing weekend. Now I'm off to St. Louis for race number 48 in 22 months--we're two months ahead of schedule.