Friday, October 3, 2014

13th & 14th Events of 2014: Rock'n'Roll Philadelphia x 2!

Events #13 & #14: Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll 5K & Half Marathon

Wednesday, September 17th:

One-and-a-half days home and I'm back on the road again, this time it's Philadelphia. I will be traveling with the Allard Rep for the Northeast territory, Laurie Lasky, who always manages to keep me busy 24-7... so I'm well-rested and ready to roll.

The only comfort in boarding a plane at 4:30am is knowing that
I'm in good company with all the early-shift airline employees.

I've landed in Charlotte for my connecting flight to
Philadelphia and the sun still hasn't risen!
Finally the sun is rising over Philly on a beautiful day.
The plan upon arrival was for Jim to drop me at the hotel on his way to meet a business associate, then Laurie would meet me there and we'd make our rounds for the day. However, a mix-up on the hotel location (suburb vs. downtown!) made for a confusing morning and a lot of finagling to get Laurie's original booking canceled and rebooked downtown for no additional fees. Thank you, Hilton Garden Inn for working with us on this!

While Laurie was tending to her morning clients
I worked in the lobby of the wrong hotel in the
boonies. A few hours later she came and got me, then
back across the bridge to the right hotel
in downtown Philly.
Sheesh...such drama this morning, it's enough to make a girl hungry. Lucky for me, Laurie hadn't eaten either and we had the famous Reading Market adjacent to our hotel--woo hoo!

I ordered a delicious Salmon Nicoise Salad at
the cash-only Pearl's Oyster Bar counter in
Reading Market. I could live in this Market!

Diner style atmosphere with "diner-chic" cuisine.

Laurie's pointing out some type of chocolate-
frosted-sugar-bomb. I'm so glad we ate at Pearl's
before walking through the temptations of the Market.

Laurie's trying to convince me that Carrot Cake
counts as a vegetable.

Reading Terminal Market.

Jim sighting! He came back after his first appointments
to drop his luggage at our new hotel. Not wanting to
part from Laurie so soon he joined us for a "coffee walk"
through the market before finishing up his work for
the day.
Laurie was able to reschedule a few of our appointments for tomorrow, which worked so much better for everyone as it turned out. She and I picked up some "to go" food from the Market as our dinner then made plans to get a good night's rest and meet early in the morning for a busy day ahead.

Thursday, September 18th:

It's gonna be a fast-paced day--try and keep up!!

6AM: 1-hour pool workout for Beth, 1-hour abs workout for Laurie

7:30AM: Breakfast meeting on the 10th floor

I'm picking up a few items from the cold
buffet while Laurie waits for our poached
eggs at the hot buffet.

Our breakfast view.

Still Life with Coffee and Pear.

My meal: Perfectly-poached egg with grapefruit and
a cup of Greek yogurt.

Laurie should be Googling "How do I unstick my
phone from my hand?" She is never NOT working when
I see her.
Laurie and I laid out our plans for the day, which included meeting up with TeamUP co-captain, Lisa Victorius, later in the day. I can't wait to see her! Before then though we had a few stops at the University of Pennsylvania on the other side of downtown. (GPS said it was less than 5 miles but it took us well over 30 in rush hour traffic).

9:30am: University of Pennsylvania Health System

Dottie is the Clinical Coordinator at the UPenn MS Center.
We're here today to talk more about our TeamUP movement
and brainstorm with Dottie about some future coordinated
efforts. Great to finally meet you, Dottie!
Here's more about this very impressive and dedicated woman:,_RN,_BS,_MSCN

The second meeting was with a few of the social workers
 who work under Dottie at the MS Clinic (I neglected to ask
permission to publish their names while I was with them and
didn't reach them by the time this posted, sorry!)
 We discussed the challenges that come with
a diagnosis like Multiple Sclerosis, and we talked at
length about the commonalities of our roles as "outreach
facilitators", though these guys are the real deal! As
true professionals they play a crucial role in the lives of so
many patients on a daily basis. Thank you for what you
are doing, and also for generously sharing your insights and
inspiration with me--I am looking forward to working with
you in the future!
11:30AM: Magee Rehabilitation and Wellness Center

Lisa was here waiting for us when we arrived, as was the catered lunch that Laurie had arranged for our presentation. I've been so excited about this meeting today, which was set up back in January and was a direct result of Laurie bringing me here last September when I first met Julie Cote and Carol Owens... Julie Cote, P.T., M.P.T., O.C.S., C.O.M.T. (Physical Therapist, Masters Degree in Physical Therapy, Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist) and Carol Owens, PT, GCS (Physical Therapist, Geriatric Clinical Specialist) and also the Therapy Manager at Magee Riverfront Outpatient Therapy and Wellness Center. 

Julie and Carol are phenomenal women doing extraordinary work with their patients and staff here at the Rehab & Wellness Center. They truly understand that "getting back up" is not simply fixing an injury or managing the onset of illness but instead is a way of life. As a result, they saw a need in their community to offer continuing outpatient wellness services in addition to the top-notch physical therapy services they'd been offering for years--and now their dream vision is a reality here at the riverfront facility! It's one thing to suspect a need and to envision a solution but it's an incredible thing to see that their target community responded in droves; their patient numbers are growing monthly as are the myriad of outpatient services they're continuing to add due to popular demand.

During one particular conversation with Julie and Carol we realized that all 3 of us had a similar epiphany: A good relationship between a patient and his/her doctors and therapists is critical to healing but it's the relationships that patients form with others who have gone/are going through similar challenges that can ensure long-term wellness accomplishments. This has been a driving mantra for me in helping to form and evolve TeamUP,  and it's been a true gift to all the patients at Magee who are benefiting from the "social networking" that Carol and Julie have worked so hard to foster, even long after their patients have been released from official therapy.

To read more about Magee and the Riverfront Wellness teams, here are a few links to check out:

Overall info:
Link to Carol's blog:
Link to Julie's blog:

So, back to today's agenda...

Laurie and the Magee team decided that it would be great to offer a "Lunch with TeamUP" forum, open to all the patients (present and former) and staff, which also would include a short tutorial on latest bracing technology presented by local Orthotists. Since Lisa Victorius has recently moved back to Pennsylvania (after graduation from her Physician's Assistant program in Chicago) she's now Philly's local TeamUP captain and thus a perfect speaker for today's luncheon. Not only that, Lisa just found out she got the job as a PA at the UPenn Sports Medicine program...she'll have 4 days in clinic and 1 day in surgery every week, so she will be involved from the beginning stages of patients' paths to Getting Back UP right here in the Philadelphia area.

After briefly telling my story and the subsequent formation of our TeamUP campaign I introduced Lisa who described her own journey of learning to live with foot drop as an elite runner. From there things developed into a nice open-discussion between the rehab patients, the staff, Lisa and myself. As technical questions arose about the braces that Lisa and I wear, Laurie provided an introduction to the Allard products then opened the floor to the orthotists for a short Q&A session about bracing technology in general. This is exactly what I had hoped for when I first received my invitation to meet with the folks here at Magee--a casual but meaningful discussion about the catalysts for healing, about the obstacles in recovery, about the gamut of emotions involved in the journey towards wellness and about the science and technology ready to assist us all. Most important though? To me, the most important takeaway from events like today's is how important it is to shine a spotlight on the community of wellness: we will all heal sooner by lending and receiving the support and inspiration of others. THANK YOU,  Julie, Carol, Laurie and everyone at Magee who made today so special for me!!


Lisa tells her remarkable story.

For more about Lisa's "Get Back UP" story, visit our TeamUP website and click on the TeamUP tab:

Standing room only at today's luncheon.
The open discussion was my favorite part...Lisa makes an
excellent Moderator!

Lisa and I with Jack Lewall, one of the orthotists
who attended today's luncheon.

Lisa and I with the Rock Stars of Magee:
Julie Cotes (left) and Carol Owens (right)
1:30PM: Lunch

Yes, technically we did just finish up our luncheon presentation at Magee but for the 3 of us (Laurie, Lisa, me) it was all "presentation" and no "luncheon". So off we went to one of Laurie's favorite haunts here in Philly, Anastasi Seafood:

Laurie started with a cup of seafood chowder.

Lisa started with a "small" (?!!) side salad.

I started with a tour of the fish market inside the restaurant.

Today's specials...of which none of us partook.

My meal: Panko-seared Tuna Salad

Lisa's meal: Crab Cake Sandwich with Fixin's

Laurie's meal: Clams Linguine

After a great lunch we went for a short walk through the Italian Market before getting back to work for the day...
Fresh produce can be found along the sidewalk
stands every day.

The Italian Market is famous for it's selection of
gourmet specialty stores featuring select cheeses,
cured foods, meats and fish.

Ladies and Knives...oh my!
We said goodbye to Lisa here and Laurie and I got back to work...we had a few calls to make but no formal presentations this afternoon:

3:00PM: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

This is a massive facility about 20 minutes outside of downtown Philly.

4:00PM: Pro Fit Prosthetic and Orthotic Laboratory,  West Berlin, NJ

Left PA for a quick trip over the water to New Jersey.

I loved this birdhouse replica of the Pro Fit facility.

5:30PM: Office work via computer at hotel

Traffic was terrible trying to come back from NJ into the heart of downtown during 5 O'clock rush hour. We finally made it and were both happy to drop the car for the night and get some follow-up work done on our computers before finally calling it a day.

6:30PM: Dinner

Neither Laurie nor I was terribly hungry but we did want to go out for a walk to pick up something to eat before turning in for the night. We discovered that Reading Market was just closing--bummer--so we scoped out the other options in the vicinity nearest our hotel. As it turned out we came upon a Starbucks and both had sudden cravings for hot tea and Chai. While getting our evening fix we saw the "food to go" offerings at the counter and purchased our dinner for tonight--a glamorous meal of the Starbucks' Protein Box!

It ain't pretty but it's exactly the light bite we were seeking.

When we returned to the hotel we met up with Jim, who had not yet eaten and was somewhat disappointed that Laurie didn't have a perfect restaurant selected for us. (Actually, she did but I persuaded her to give in to our fatigue and get to bed early instead--sorry, Jim!!) He opted for a sandwich from the hotel's restaurant on the 10th floor.

Is this a sandwich or a Rorschach test?
(This IS a Rorschach ink blot test)
Friday, September 19th:

Friday was one of those days where I had a lot to do, interrupted by the all-day/on-call media status and a busy weekend of races looming ahead. Laurie and I began the day by heading down to the market to pick up breakfast items and coffee then returned to our rooms to get some work done. I was answering voicemails and emails much of the morning then walked downtown to meet Lisa at the Expo as soon as it opened. I neglected to get photos from the Expo because I was planning to return for a potential media opportunity later in the day and/or tomorrow...but as it happened I never made it back.

After packet pickup I returned to the hotel, got a quick workout in at the fitness center then showered and dressed for potential media interviews...which never materialized. Instead I used my sudden "free time" to get all my gear ready for the next 2 days of races before Laurie and I met to plan our strategy for tomorrow's 5K event.

Sorry, no photos from Friday...but I'll make it up to you tomorrow and Sunday!

Saturday, September 20th: RACE DAY #1!!!!

September is National CMT Awareness Month, and as such we are running today's 5K in support of our friends and family at the CMTA:

Laurie and Jim both made our 5:20am departure deadline. Laurie needed a bit
of encouragement from Starbucks.

Sights along our 1.5-mile walk to the start line area. The sun should be up in about a half-hour, for now
the skies are looking so beautiful.

Great morning for a walk...and then a 5K run...and then another walk back.

I stop to chat with some old friends.

Rodin's "The Thinker" is cheering us on today.

(You know me, I couldn't resist. And thanks to Jim's height he was able to reach high enough to place the sign.)

What's a stop in Philly without a tribute to Rocky Balboa?

The sun also rises...

Laurie hard at work as photo-journalist and Sherpa for today's event.

Me, documenting Laurie documenting TeamCMTA.

Wearing our CMTA gear with pride!!!

Let's not forget TeamUP colors--we're representin' in Philly!

Jim shows off his support accessory line...

Gypsy sightings!! From left: Sherry, David, Andrew, Jim, Beth, Ted, Michelle and Susan.

A selfie with Laurie, Jim and Andrew before we head to the starting corrals.

A selfie at the start line with gypsies Susan, Andrew, David, Jim, Ron and me.

Great crowd today for the Inaugural RnR Philly 5K.

Selfie with Susan.
The reason there were no selfies with Lisa before the start of the race is that she was up front with the elite runners ready to test herself today. She signed up at the last minute, originally only planning to run the Half, but she made the best of it today with a 7th place finish--you go, girl!!!
Lisa's article in the Philadelphia Inquirer came out this morning--what a great omen!
Lisa went on to finish 7th overall among women runners today--WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!
Read Lisa's story here:

Congratulations, Lisa, on your 7th place overall finish--you really belong among the elite!
I am so proud of you and honored to be one of your TeamUP co-captains. Now let's get
ready for more of the same tomorrow.
After the race both Lisa and I were eager to meet some of runnings biggest 'rock stars'. We headed over to the VIP tent and were treated to some great encounters. This is one thing I love the most about the sport of running; you and the elite runners share the same course, in the same conditions, on the same day which is something you can't do in any other sport.
Bernard Lagat signs my bib from today's race.
This is a must-read account of today's exciting race:

Lisa and I meet two of the elite runners who raced today,
Lawi Lalang, winner of today's 5K at 13:30 (left) and running legend
39-yr-old Bernard Lagat, 2nd place at 13:31 (right). Not pictured
is 3rd place finisher, Leonard Korrir (14:03) who is busy talking
to one of his fans nearby. 
Me with 3 of my running heroes: Deena Kastor, Lisa Victorius and Kara Goucher.
What a great day!!!!
Here's another must-read, the details of Kastor's record-breaking run here in Philly (which wasn't today's 5K...but actually Sunday's Half Marathon instead). Congratulations, Deena!!

Lisa and I talk about Getting Back UP with Kara Goucher after our 5K run today. Tomorrow all 3 of us will be
on the same course running the Half Marathon.
Kara wrote "Believe"--love it!--while Lagat, Korrir and Deena endorsed my bib with
their autographs. Thank you all for your continued inspiration!

After the race we walked the mile-and-a-half back to the hotel, got cleaned up and went for a mid-afternoon lunch at Reading Terminal Market. After that it was back to our rooms to rest and to prepare to do this all over again in the morning!
Cecil, this is for you!!! A turtle sighting on the walk back to the hotel.

Jim and David DeNeire both ordered Molly Malloy's signature dish:
Angry Ralph's Lobster Mac and Cheese...
...not exactly the lightest dish on the menu!

I ordered the Golden Beets, Chickpea and Quinoa Salad....
...which quite possibly IS the lightest dish on the menu.

Laurie has plans later this afternoon so she just ordered a fruit bowl for now. Thank you,
Laurie, for all the great support and photos this morning!!

Sunday, September 21st--RACE DAY #2!!!:

We continued our awareness campaign not only for TeamUP but for the CMTA cause as well. We miss Jen Coppola who ran with us in support last year, but we picked up Lisa to complete our 2nd Annual Run-For-CMTA foursome:

The four of us met at the start line area by 6am-sharp. Thanks, Laurie (behind the camera)
for making the long, dark walk here for the second day in a row!
The women of today's TeamUP crew: Virginia, Chrissy, myself, Lisa and Angelina.

Pre-race group shot: Virginia, Chrissy, Joe Harris, me, Jim, Sandy, Lisa, Andrew and Abby.

While fellow gypsy runner, Andrew P., is here with us today, I am showing
my support for another Andrew who is home in Maryland--my little buddy who
has Juvenile Arthritis. Andrew, tell your mom and your brother "Hello"
from me and know that I am thinking of all of you while I'm
here in Philadelphia. I wish you could be running with me!

Nothing makes a race more fun than temporary tattoos!
Lisa, Angelina, Sandy and I all got the "Okay Let's Do This" tattoos...

....while Chrissy Thomas chose to be AWESOME instead.
Chrissy is the Education & ToeOFF Product Team Manager at Allard USA.

Andrew chose to BELIEVE. Great to see you and celebrate another starting line with you, A.P.!!

The one complaint I would have about the entire RnR Philly
Racefest is the ridiculous lines for the porta-potties. Sandy waited more
than 30 minutes and made it just in time for the starting gun. There were
literally thousands of runners who were late across the starting line
because they were still in long bathroom lines when we left.

Thanks to my friend, Laurie, who commented: "You know, when squirrels chase you I'm pretty sure it's
because they think you're a nut."

Start line selfie with Jim, Andrew and Sandy. (Merle, did
you notice how well Sandy rocks her Sweaty Bands?!)

HUGE crowds for this warm and humid RnR Philly Half.

We did it!!! Despite having a terrible cold, Sandy finished her second consecutive Philly
Half Marathon and crushed last year's time. The best part of this year? Her entire family
is here in support: The Wacker Clan from left to right, my cousin Abby, my Uncle Dan, (me and Jim), my
Aunt Yon and my cousin Sandy. So great to get to see all of you!! If only the other
Wacker cousins, aunts and uncles could be here...

The Trotting Trio: Cousin Sandy, Jim and I run the Philly Half together for the
second year in a row. I am so proud of Sandy, who less than 18 months ago
doubted whether she could ever run a 5K, much less 4 half marathons in 18 months!
Congratulations, Sandy!!!

The Support Team Trio: Thank you Yon, Dan and Abby for cheering us on today!

The Dynamic Duo: Mom-and-daughter, Carol and Angelina Paez. Carol is my boss...and
so is Angie on some days. :-) These 2 are an Allard and TeamUP power-duo, thanks for
making all of this possible!!

Kids of all ages are inspired by the bling!

I find Lisa waiting for me--for a half hour!--at the finish line.

Lisa ran an astounding 1:36:44 despite having foot drop which was a PR (Personal Record)
 for her! She was 42nd out of 1,895 in her division (top 2%), 705th of ALL runners
(male and female) out of 15,608 (top 5% overall) and 155 out of all 9423 female
finishers, which is top 1%!!!
Okay, this is almost an obscene amount of bling for a weekend. See the end of the blogpost
for the details and close-ups...

The bling I received today weighs more than Carol! Thank you, Carol and Allard USA
for making sure that so many of us are crossing our own personal Finish Lines.

Yay!! Angie completes here 2nd-ever Half Marathon...2 weeks after running her first!

Ladies Love Hardware.
(This was my Rated G version of Angie's "B@#%*es Love Bling" comment)

Chrissy and Virginia complete their first-ever Half Marathon--Congrats, ladies!!

Once everyone crossed the finish line safely we made the trek back to the hotel. From there it was a mad-dash to get everyone showered, dressed, packed-up and checked-out of the hotel. Laurie, Jim and I had just enough time for one last meal at the Reading Market before heading to the airport...what a whirlwind of a weekend!

Laurie ordered the Seared Scallops from Pearl's Oyster Bar as her post-race treat...

...I ordered the vegetarian Eggs Benedict (SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD!)

...Jim ordered the Crab Cake Sandwich.


For those who aren't familiar with the Rock 'n' Roll race series, they give finishers' medals for every event (5K's, 10K's, Relays, Half Marathons and Marathons) and in addition they award bonus Heavy Medals for those who complete various multiple races over the year. This weekend marked a PR for me...that is, a Personal Record where "bling" is concerned... where I received 5 separate medals! Here's the rundown:

5K finisher's medal...

Half Marathon finisher's medal...

Side 1 of the "Remix Medal" (for running both the 5K & Half here in Philly on the same weekend)...

Spinning my Remix medal to reveal...

...side 2 of the Remix medal...

Bonus "Beach to Bell" Heavy Medal for running Virginia Beach Half Marathon
2 weeks ago AND Philly Half Marathon this week...

...and finally, the bonus "Rock Legend" Heavy Medal for completing 7 North American
Rock'n'Roll Half Marathons this year (8, if you count Dublin!).

In closing I would like to post something that I posted on Facebook immediately following the Philly racefest, just a reminder about the real reason I'm running all of these races:

I would like to take this moment to remind everyone that "getting back UP" is not about running--or any other type of athletic endeavor. We stood in unison at Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon primarily as a forum to remind everyone that we CAN push beyond our limitations. For a few of us this means a Finish Line but for the majority it simply means regaining our quality of life. What does Getting Back UP mean to you? Whatever your answer, don't give in or give up--we all deserve success and together we can find a way to achieve it!

Thank you to everyone who made this weekend possible for me!! Next stop, Rock 'n' Roll San Jose!!

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