“Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Let Go Of The Rope.”

4 06 2011

Ok – so I know this is a Christian Rock song, and my spiritual beliefs are my own, but I really liked the words, so be it!

I finally completed a full semester in my new major of Human Performance Sport – Adult Fitness & Exercise Science at Metropolitan State College of Denver. My first full semester was marred by my dealing with a lot of medical issues many of which were exacerbated by stress, my being stuck in a holding pattern, lifelong stress, unresolved crapola, and, did I mention, lifelong unresolved stress?

When I was looking at my required courses, I noticed that I had the opportunity to take a stress management class. Since I had already decided that a lot of my issues were made worse by my not being able to handle my life, I signed up for an on-line version of the stress management course for Summer 2010.  I was already taking an introduction to nutrition class on-line and thought it would be a great way to whack out two classes while trying to sort out the mounting health issues.

Before the semester began, I got a gut feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to handle more than one on-line class because I was spending more and more time finding the various Kaiser Medical Offices around Denver and surrounding counties. I dropped it, but I still had the documentation. It was kind of light and I wondered how much help it would be.

The Fall Semester was, shall we way, a bit of a cluster! It was more than a disaster in a lot of ways, so when I started my Spring Semester, I knew I was behind the proverbial 8-Ball.  Taking a Stress Management course, by many, is considered a massively soft option. I wasn’t sure, but I had a full load. Soft option or not, I could only hope that it wouldn’t stress me out more because I was dealing with the after effects of the previous months. The very least I could hope for was that it wasn’t going to be some irritating, sit in a semi-circle and bitch and moan about our lives sort of class taught by some mamby-pamby whiny person who had no sense of humor. In other words, be a complete waste of time and tuition.

I had to rush from one side of the campus to the campus to the other to make a class that I wasn’t sure about.  At least I would get a little sprint in twice a week.  I noticed there were several folks who were in my other classes and we were in a regular classroom. I had looked at the textbook while I was stuck in the airport coming back from South Carolina.  It was interesting, but whatever. A class like this depends on the professor and class.  Who is this “Tetro?” No clue. I’m new to the program.

Focus hasn’t always been a strong suit for me, unless I am truly engaged, but some professors have gotten me to really use my brain cells. In my first Communications Studies course at Santa Rosa Junior College, my professor stated that you got out of the class what you put in to it.  My first mentor there, Mr. Ed LaFrance, continued the theme. Economics professor Mr. Ron Schulke really got me to enjoy economics to the point where I was initially an Econ major! Sadly, after I left SRJC, I got distracted. I wondered if “Tetro” was going to bring me back, or that this course was going to be a waste of my time.

As we were talking with one another, in walked, as it is put in my favorite book The Phantom Tollbooth “the Tallest Short Man In The World” clad in Adidas. I could tell he took a lot of students by surprise.  After the first 20 minutes, I couldn’t put my finger on this quick talking guy who was easy to smile and had a quick “East Coast” (read: Smart) sense of humor.  He had the same vibe as professors I had in the past who have influenced me.  I also know, with a Mom who is 5’7″ who refers to herself as “Tiny But Mighty,” never judge anything by size and build – even with a professor who looks like he could be blown over by a Colorado wind! Just – don’t – go – there! 

Who is Coach Chris Tetro? Does it matter? He wants to be referred to as Coach. Ok – to me, that term is earned. Sorry. Just how I am. The word connotes actually giving a crap about the people they’re working with, not seeing them as a paycheck. I can go on and on about this, but maybe for another blog entry.

Now, before you get the impression that Coach Tetro was some doughy Italian guy who is well past his prime and still thinks he knows everything or is someone who believes he has  all the answers and teaching a “soft option” course is beneath him. You’d definitely have the wrong guy. He is the owner of Tetro Performance (www.tetroperformance.com) where the tag line is: Be Defined By Your Effort. What kind of effort am I going to be able to put in to what is supposed to be my frill class? I don’t know, but I do know that my life literally depends on it — or at least the quality of my life does.

Right off the bat, Coach Tetro said that this was an academic class and that he would be exposing us many different tools, but not everything would work for everyone equally. He also didn’t want to stress us out with boatloads of homework. As he said this, I took a gander around the class. Kids were looking at one another thinking this class was going to be a fluffy cake-walk. Um – I don’t think so. What was implied was that the work was going to be done internally and although tests are important, application was moreso. Most of the room wasn’t going to take advantage of the opportunity to explore themselves in a really safe environment. Well, their loss! They can do whatever bare minimum and get whatever grade.  I have dealt with many of the effects of stress and I was going to sap this man of every ounce of knowledge.

You know, I have to say that the course that changed my life, attitude, and gave me the opening to walk away from things I can’t change. The book was OK, but Coach created a thing called The Chair of Truth where he and a handful of us opened up sharing stressful recent situations and how we handled them. It wasn’t some God-Awful touchy-feely-sit-in-a-circle-and-create-a-pity-pot situation.  I think his head would explode if that was what he was supposed to teach. Not his style. He is a work-in-progress. He is discovering about himself, learning from mistakes, and, most importantly, talking-his-talk and walking-his-walk in the real world not in some esoteric way. His enthusiasm was infectious to those of us who actually mined the class for everything we could get.

People are catalysts for what we need to learn. I have a belief that when interacting with each other, people who are truly on a growth path don’t try to control one another by blindly following the advice of others so when it doesn’t operate perfectly, they have someone else to blame. I believe that people share tools with one another and it is up to the person trying out the tool to take responsibility for the good and the bad.

I learned from my classmates. I learned from my instructor. Most of all, I learned from myself. The textbook had self-evaluative quizzes at the end of every chapter. Like any course, you get out of it what you put in to it, so I made it a point to use the exercises for what they are intended: Self-Awareness and Growth.

This stress management class opened the eyes of a handful of us. I think how it happened was more the professor over the material. Sure, he was using a textbook as a guide, but he took what could be dry concepts that younger people didn’t truly have the life experience to grasp and brought them to life. I had my beliefs supported and, more importantly, felt the fog lift in so many areas of my life.  I found myself a little jealous of the kids in the class who were getting at least parts of “it” because they would be armed better at a younger age.

Color me shocked that Stress Management became my favorite class. My brain operated in five different directions every time I was in there. One day, I realized that I was comfortable to actually create a t-shirt for the Abused Woman’s Awareness Month – the Clothesline Project. The first person I told was Coach Tetro, who noticed I was really focused on something I was drawing. What was even sweeter, was when they put the shirts up in the Tivoli Student Union, my classmate Ashley went searching for my shirt – I had it sent to California to be put up there. Next year, I’ll have make one for here and Ash and crew will be right there with me.

One of the concepts that started to turn me around was when Coach said “sometimes you’ve got to just let go of the rope.” I’d handled some sticky problems to this point, but I can spot a fellow fighter when I see one. Coach is a fighter, but his point is well taken. Sometimes you’ve just got to stop pulling/fighting and just walk away. It’s not worth the stress and you can’t change anyone’s mind but your own.

When I had a relapse of illness, I was upset that I was missing classes. I was afraid it was going to turn into a repeat of Fall. Coach has his rules about missed classes, but he knows I’m participating when I’m there. What shocked me was when Miguel, Ash, and others saw me on campus and said “Lizzy – Are you ok?” and meant it! I was hoping I wasn’t an irritant in the class because I realized that half the time I tried to say anything my brain was at least a paragraph ahead of my mouth because so many things were clearing up. My eyes were being pealed open and I was able to dump piles of mis-matched pieces of emotional luggage. “Nah – your stories get us to think because you’re older than us, but have the same thing going on.”

The final project for Stress Management really kicked my head open. The pages were on Death and things. What 10 things would I will to people? Could I give them these things before I die so they can enjoy them? I was finishing up all my other projects and this stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked around at the piles in the house, and I knew the minute I got back from California (where I would be practising other stress management techniques), I would probably clean. What I didn’t realize was that the techniques learned, and space given by this class allowed me to forgive so many things within myself.  When I got back, I was confused and all it took was another catalyst to take me to task to get the ball rolling.

I’ve always had it within me to do everything I need to. I just had to focus. Sometimes it takes people you can trust to help focus you, but you have to be the one to actually do the hard work, because, honestly, they have their own focusing to do. 

For as long as I can, I will take activity courses from Coach Tetro. I know this man incorporates everything that I have respect for and I hope he will be willing to mentor me as I embark on my personal training career.

So, I know I speak for a lot of us when I say Thanks Coach Tetro.

Raaacccceeeeeee Daaaaaayyyyyy!!!!! Boston Merrython 2010

21 06 2010

(Journal 10 … yes 10 … 9 was lunch with my cousin Robin, but she didn’t forward along the photos, so I’m skipping.  I have a lot of catching up to do on this blog, so I’ll try to do a photo album later)

I know I promised I would type in directly what is in these journals, but I’m freaking tired and my brain is pretty fuzzy. It was a LONG day!  Never know what is going to happen, hu?

Race Day is always early.  You get up. Body Glide all over. Have breakfast. Get dressed, and then get to the start line.  We had a little extra complication – Mike’s huge air cart that had to get down the stairs with associated air tanks, refiller thingie, and in the van.  When Mike is out the door, he’s out the door.  I may seem laid back, but I’m a bit more uptight until I get to the staging area.  I have nearly missed a couple of races because of rides, and I just don’t need the stress. In this case, we were the first lot picked up, then we grabbed more of the team, and then we had to drive WAY out of town for the start.  I really had no clue where we were going or how it worked.  The “control freak” in me just rolled with it. 

I was supposed to meet the Pit Crew team at dinner, but I already wrote about what happened.  It was good that I spent time with James and by myself to get my thoughts together. I started to realize the enormity of the thing as I was on the train back “home” because I was in Boston. I was wearing a jacket that Mike had given me and my black Boston cap from Steve.  I was really there and when we got going in the morning, it was happening.  I just knew that Mike was going to need maneuvering room in the morning, so I figured I’d have things where I wanted them to be and kind of operate on auto pilot.  I was wearing the Fast-Twitches that I was considering as training replacements for my race shoes because I can’t afford to rip through Brooks T-6’s through training.  Mike was in his Mizuno Musha 2’s and I picked up a pair at the expo, but unlike the Brooks T-6, I didn’t feel comfortable trying a completely new shoe and manufacturer when I would be out there for over 7 hours.  I did forget to Body Glide the bottom of my feet.

We got picked up and then taken to the start line! Wait! The start line???  Ok – this makes sense now, of course, but I thought we would be someplace close to where my running buddies were going to to be.  Boy was I ever wrong!  We were literally at the start line because we had to be cued up and started so early.  There were folks with booths and balloons.  Port-a-potties were nice and clean. It was peaceful. I was starting to feel like I was ready for a race but it was bloody cold!  I was wearing several layers and concerned that I’d be too warm, but whatever. I could always peel off. Steve was concerned he’d freeze and Mike is usually pretty good temperature wise. Since Steve is a bit smaller than I am, I figured I could toss Steve anything I had if he needed it.

The boys were interviewed by the Boston Globe guy.  Steve has stuff on his website about this.  I know they go back and forth about the public recognition, but I think it is insanely important.  They are two guys with really crappy illnesses, but they are also athletes who are going to keep trying.  If it wasn’t for these two, I  would probably keep ignoring my asthma.  I mentioned it once to Mike and said “Well, I don’t have insurance right now, so I can’t afford inhalers.” I just glared at me and tossed me one of his.  Since that day, he reminds me to not be a dork, but he also knows that it is my decision.

Strangely, I was interviewed also.  I laughed at it because I have so much family living in Boston.  If it was printed it would be one of those things for my “nieces” and “nephews” there.  Mike is right, I talk too fast.  I did, however, explain what racewalking was, and what was so special about my guys.  Never give up … unless it is medically necessary!  Of course, I didn’t mention I’d probably spent too much time in the med tents after the majority of my races over the past year.  This wasn’t my race, the Boston Marathon belongs to my boys!

We toodled into the gym and I met some of the most amazing athletes I’d only heard of through Steve. The gym was our primary staging area.  It was great when there was no-one in there because I could start getting Mike to warm up his legs.  He knows his limitations, but he woke up tighter than usual.  Well, not a whole lot you can do but give it a shot.  Mike is a wonderful guy but extremely driven.  He is not going to quit if he doesn’t have to.  He’s finished races with empty air tanks, on his last legs, and even with his tank disconnected (I was there for that one!).  He doesn’t want to stop, but I could only hope that although he’s driven to finish, he’ll be smart. I can only push so hard.  It has to be his decision.  I know how hard that decision is to make, and I lucked out at Disney to have met Melissa and played through the rest of the race with her.  I was smart enough to get a DNF in Huntington Beach, but it’s played with my head ever since. 

While we were there, we met the folks from Team Hoyt, and  folks who were needing a little time to get staged.  We also were able to get the “back bibs” for all Team Wheezy guides.  I was concerned about being whacked from behind because I’d already decided I was going to camp out behind Mike on the edges of his cart.  Those tires are bike sized and the cart is pretty fragile. 

Kevin is a lot like Steve – you can’t “tell” what is “wrong” with him.  Kelly is my favorite kangaroo and an amazing runner. These guys have huge hearts and nothing is going to get in their way.  The pink tab on their bibs put them into the VIP section, but I didn’t know that until the end.

I got to meet a hand-crank wheelie who was going through her first merrython.  She was a real dear and afraid/excited like everyone on their first.  I sat there and told her that everyone is like that, and if they say they’re not afraid/excited … they’re fibbing!  I found out she finished and dang that made me feel fantastic.

I have always been curious about how wheelchair athletes push the wheels around.  Like everyone, I thought they grabbed the edge rim.  I ended up getting a lesson on how they propel themselves by a gent who came in second to his South African countryman. I will write more about this when I can find pictures of the gloves because it is fascinating.  He let me try on his glove and they “box” around the platter of the rim with a solid hocky puck like thing.  This isn’t making a lick of sense, but I now understand the thud sound I would hear when they went by.

Soon, it was time to go.  We were going to the start line.  It is quite a procedure.  The Guys had chips on but, of course, I didn’t. They all had to walk across the mats to make sure their chips were working. We didn’t get the National Anthem and I had no clue where the “crowd” was.  I just knew that I was standing among some amazing athletes.  I was most fascinated by a gentleman who was racing by propelling himself in his wheelchair backward.  When we finished, we didn’t know if he had finished.  I know I’ll find this guy somehow and I’m thinking I might have some pages just on these amazing athletes.

I don’t know if I ever explained what a guide does, but here goes:

As a guide, I couldn’t be further than 2 feet from my guys. There’s some latitude for potty breaks or when stuff happens, but it is so that I truly am “guiding” them.  I’m not allowed to lead them or in any way assist them other than letting them know I had a whip in my backpack and I wasn’t afraid of using it! I don’t get a medal. I don’t have a number. The race doesn’t “count officially” toward my race total, but I get to help two amazing buds.  What I did kind of “forget” was that I was going to be out there for 7 freaking hours … maybe not at my regular rate of speed – whatever that is – but on my feet for that whole time.  Also, I would be being me. What that means, being “on duty” worrying about my boys because I know BOTH my guys are stoic first ask questions later.  Try again boys! Bossy Ms. Lizzy is on the course!  On top of this, Steve had asked me to Twitter and Facebook through the race. I could only go for 1/2 the race before my phone died because I didn’t turn off all my pushes.  Oopse.  But I’m getting ahead of myself!

There was magic in the gym then we went outside and freaking froze. After Disney, I knew that I wasn’t going to freeze in a race.  Standing at the start line, I looked around and saw some amazing athletes while fully getting part of what Steve has to deal with when he races: he doesn’t look sick.  A couple of the athletes (I’ll probably end up friends with them by the time I finally type this into the computer … but I promised to type my journal and then go back and deal with pulling this together properly), were like Steve – they weren’t in a wheel chair, severely limping, bouncing like a kangaroo on metal “legs” like Kelly, or toting an air cart attached by a harness like Mike does.  Steve looks perfect! He bops along and looks perfect, unless you have written notes via the Patient System at UCSF hoping to God that he makes it through another visit to “prison”.

I wondered if the “impaired” start was being televised.  I knew that Chris was taking my “nephews” to his Mom’s in Connecticut, and it would be cool if they could see their “Auntie Dizzy” in the big race with her friends.  Ok – they’re my second cousins, but whatever!

When we started, we got hit by a gust of wind.  It’s a downhill to start and that’s always nice to get a head start.  We had two bike guys who were a part of the race and turned out to be grand fun.  Bossy miss me had my boys and I was bound and determined to have them not be stupid, but have a good time.  Steve’s priority was to get some film.  I think he’d already decided this was going to be his last Marathon.  It takes a lot out of him.  26.2 miles is hard on anyone, but when you can probably fit his whole lung capacity in the palm of one – maybe two on a good day – hand, I would love to see him out there in 1/2s … and maybe cheering me on! I can honestly say that I feel blessed having these two very different guys as angels in my world.

Like in a 5k where there is a small group, we spread out on the road.  Mike said he wanted to use the “alone time” on the course to get as much done as fast as possible.  The problem was, Mike wasn’t feeling right.  He knew he hadn’t trained well and he also simply, well, didn’t feel right.  On race day, there are butterflies, but this was something different.  I know Mike pretty well, and I could see it.  I know that I’d not trained well. Ok, get real, at all! I was depending on the fact that I know the distance and I would be walking a great deal slower than usual.  It still is time in sneakers.

I love this photo of Steve just taking off down the road.  Last year, Steve ended up in the hospital at the end of the race.  He said he’d make a decision at mile 21 if he could finish.  Mike knew how important my doing the Boston was, and I think he was pushing to get my ass over the line because he is that kind of a friend.  From my standpoint, 2010 is my year to learn to take care of myself and give back.  Melissa and I had an awesome time at the Disney Marathon because we took the pressure off.  Steve is an amazingly driven competitor and *POUF* off he went down the road!!

Mike and I had a nice start. He was not loosening up and bothered by it.  I was having a little tightness in my chest.  I’d taken the inhaler hit, but I think it was more nerves.  I have always been bothered by not feeling exactly “safe” on a lot of race courses with respect to medical.  When I’m by myself, I am pretty easy to deal with but the boys … We got to know Chris and Steve – our bike guys and settled in for a long walk.  I was pacing us off my Garmin.

We got passed by everyone and it was great to cheer the folks I’d met earlier in the morning on.  There’s a kinship that I just find hard to explain.  I am an “able bodied” person by look, but it has been a very long road back from the car accident.  I wondered if I’d been exposed to folks like this 20 years ago if I’d gone through that long, depressing, self-destructive time.  I don’t know and I won’t go back. Moving to Colorado changed me in a really fantastic way.  I was irritated when I got hit by an elite male who flew around the bike guys and slammed me in the shoulder pushing me into Mike’s hub.  Look a*# – we were over as far as we could go and still be on the road.  I’d never hoped someone had a lousy race, but I knew I was getting a terrific bruise and I hoped race karma would get him.  According to running friends and the news media, he got seriously dropped. PSYCH!

What was kind of cool was seeing the Elite water stops.  I have only seen them on televised coverage.  We went through and it was really cool.  This is a good time to say how amazing the water stops were. After 114 years, you would expect this race to have things right, but they really do! It isn’t lip service.  Sure it’s a running race, but they do have a lot of slow folks.  The towns all come out and cheer folks.  I bopped around and played with the crowd, got hugs, and had snacks.  I’m not kidding: Newman’s O’s, Fig Newmans, Fresh Brownies from “little old ladies”, lemonade, pretzels, red liquorice and then there are the Guys of Boston College … 🙂  Since I wasn’t “racing” hard, I was bound and determined to enjoy myself.  It appears I ended up doing nearly 30 miles going back and forth!

Speaking of my speed demon friends, we got hello’s from members of the Rocky Mountain Road Runners who were in the race.  From what they told me, I was easy to spot as was Mike’s cart. Mike really perked up, especially when The Eagle passed because they knew one another.  Scott K. not only said “HI LIZZY” but turned around and said “Hi Mike! Way to go!!!!” That meant a lot, especially because Scott flew along and ended up qualifying for next years’ Boston!

Back to the race:

Our first Air Stop was at mile 7.5. The power of Cell-Phones had us in contact until mine went dead. Mike had to swap out 2 air tanks. I know a little about his air doing some training with him over time, but I just stayed out of the way.  Steve took a hit off his nebulizer.  I stretched.  What was really  interesting was seeing just what it takes to keep these guys out there. We didn’t get a pit-test for Mike, but they really did well. Wheelman Tom (black shirt) really stepped up.  Brett was awesome also, but Tom knew my coffee addiction and fortunately we like coffee the same way because while he worked on the cart, I babysat his now cold coffee:

Not more than five minutes after we did a “GO TEEEAAAMMM WHEEEZZZYYYYY!!!” Mike was having a real problem.  “Girlfriend – is there something on my cart? It’s pulling.” Not good! Not more than a few miles in, when we were passed by the elite men, I was pushed by one of them into the left wheel hub of the cart.  I’d prefer the guy hit me rather than hit Mike.  It was when I was still trying to pull the guys over to the side listening to the “course martial” who wanted us on the edge of the road as the Hand-Crank Wheelchairs, Elite Wheelchairs, and Ellite “able bodied” runners came through.  The boys got irritated with me as they had paid good money for their entry, but I figured I would give no reason for anyone to complain about my guys.  I could feel the growing bruise on the outside of my right knee from hitting the hub — yes my right knee – the one I’d been spending time in med tents because of! Oh well. BUT Mike wasn’t concerned about that.  His cart was pulling so he pulled over.

Runners everywhere and I noticed that there was what looked like a Power-Gel wrapper attached to the tire.  It would have been fine if it was attached by the gooey race fuel inside, but it was attached by an open safety pin.  Many folks pin their gu’s to their shorts or singlets so they can pull them off easily.  Many don’t think about the pin if it falls off. Mike didn’t think he had to patch the tire and I had the bike guys help me with his tire as it is their neck of the universe. I didn’t like this omen.  Mike wasn’t feeling right and now this.  Steve was pushing to go faster. I really wanted another cup of coffee! As we edged back into traffic, I noticed all the barefoot runners out there and thought about how I’ve dropped gu wrappers and made a mental note to be more careful.

This, however, didn’t bode well. I was watching Mike fade and become frustrated with himself. He would perk up every time someone went by and said “Way to go, Sir!” When we were around mile 10, he said “Girlfriend, I don’t think I can make it.” I know Mike pretty well and it killed him to say this. The problem is once that thought gets in your brain in a race, it is hell to get out.  I’ve done enough races in this state to know that unless you can really pull everything together, you’re not going to get out of that negative headspace easily.  At least when it happens to me, it is because of something that is easily correctable. For Mike, it is a lot more serous as there are many more things to go seriously wrong.  I had it in my head that I wanted to get him to the 14.2 air stop. I wanted him to get at least half way. Nothing I could do would keep him from beating himself up and getting frustrated, but he also knew I would not be happy if he continued and hurt himself. 

I also got the distinct impression he was feeling bad if I didn’t get to finish my “dream” race because both boys couldn’t finish.  Seriously! The only way I could get across the Boston Marathon finish line was with one or both of my boys. If they have to pull out, so do I.

The more I watched Mike, the more concerned I became.  His shoulders were slumping, he was heavy on his feet. I kept just plugging him on a little here and there.  He’s such a good pal.  I didn’t want him to know that I could feel that I’d ripped a blister under my left toe line. Unpleasant, but I’d dealt with worse!

I couldn’t be more proud of Mike when he passed over the timing pads. Ker-thud. Ker-thud. A half marathon is a huge thing when you are having problems. Mike’s done fulls and he’d done the full Boston in 2009. I just wanted him to be able to race another day.  The mantra for the day was NO MED TENTS for the THREE of us!! No dying either – had to add that since they both are “chronically ill.”

Around the corner and to the library and there was Tall Pete! Wheee!! Our pit crew!  Mike was checking his tires. Steve was being the caterpillar blowing nebulizer smoke.  Tom was out of coffee.  I was really concerned.  I didn’t think Mike had much more in him. It’s not worth it to keep going when you’re going to not be able to get on the plane and go home.  Mike had perked up, but he was still not right.  It is up to him to keep going or not. It is a decision we all have to make for ourselves, but if he started slowing down too much, I know his frustration was going to take over.  And that would be ugly.

The next hill was right past our pit-crew site, and Mike pulled over saying “I’m done, Girlfriend.” I know how hard it was for him to say this and I couldn’t be more proud! Steve and biker Chris were sent ahead and I stayed with Mike to make sure he was ok. I sent John to fly on his bike backward to the team so that the wouldn’t take off without Mike. It was good timing because they could take his cart et al. It was then that I realized my phone was dead.

I RAN – yes RAN – to catch up with Chris and Steve. They literally flew down the downhill! I nearly gave myself an asthma attack.  I laughed that I could truly check this off my “bucket list” because I did always want to run in the Boston Marathon, and I just did!  I thought it would be rather ironic if I had an asthma attack carrying stuff for and being the guide of the first two severely lung challenged to ever complete the Boston Marathon! 

Steve started telling me about how magical the last mile was. “Lizzy, there is nothing like that last bit. The crowd, you’re there, the finish line …” then, in the next breath, he would say “Now, I’m going to make a decision if I’m going to complete when we get to the mile 21 pit-stop.” TRY AGAIN GAUDET!!!!  I really did say that! I teased him that after all his filling my head with all the images of finishing, he was going to finish! Of course, he knew I would stop if he said “Lizzy – that’s it. I’m done.”

There are a lot of things that one has to take into consideration when your friends have conditions they don’t want to talk about.  As one who hides tons of stuff, I can appreciate this.  Steve doesn’t want to be treated differently, but he is also an activist.  He’s had his nasty brittle asthma since, I think, day one. He’s had to deal with this his whole life.  The funny thing is we’re both “retired” audio engineers.  Some of my favorite albums have his signature on them. He is still a licensed respiratory therapist. Ironic, hu? Not really. I think he understands better. He’s the only person I know understands when I said I was having chest pains and difficulty breathing due to a tightening that felt like I was being sat on by an elephant while being laced into a corset which would have been too small for Scarlett O’Hara!

My biggest concern was keeping him hydrated. He’d told me before that he can’t eat or drink a great deal because of pressure on what is left of his lungs. When Twin was getting “Gatorade cocktails” for me when I wasn’t doing well, it was great because I could take what I wanted and just keep moving.  I did the same thing for Steve. I guided him behind the folks who were at the water tables which gave me a little room to be able to make a cocktail for him and keep him safe. Yeah, he’s probably going to kill me for that, but it was really fun to play Mama Hen to him because he’s such a great competitor. Like Mike, I know they don’t need coddling but a friend they can truly trust.

For someone who has limited access to air, Steve is chatty. It’s a VERY good thing because he’s hilarious and interesting. He kept me going. I think we kept each other going by people watching, checking in on each others’ condition, and having fun. I remember when we got to some hills, Steve said “Ok, Lizzie, I can’t talk anymore. You can talk to me, but I can’t talk until we’re through this.” “No stress, Steve.” I had no clue where we were, but didn’t take any offence. I was looking around and then heard something. Chatty Gaudet was talking with John! “STEVE do I have to tape your mouth shut??!” We laughed. 

We kept motoring on and he said “One more.” Ok. He knows the route. We did the one and I said “Hey Steve – when is the famous Heartbreak Hill?” Um … we had just finished it.   OH! Oopse!  Missed it! 

We kept on motoring and I could see Steve starting to flag. I was concerned, but I knew Steve would let me know what was going on with him. John had ridden ahead for Newman’s Own Pretzel Chunks I had in my gig bag at stop 21 and we’d gotten other things that I’d forgotten to get along the way. Ok – I didnt’ have a coffee while racing, but I did get really yummy brownies from an adorable little old lady! Steve kept telling me about the end of the race and had stopped saying he was stopping at mile 21.

The photo of us with Chris on my left I remember the conversation. Remember that Steve has this nasty lung condition. I never did find out exactly what I should do if he starts having an attack. I have read his blog and he’s told me things about how he has to be revived, but I know Steve downplays a lot of things. The conversation went something like this:

Lizzy: “So, Steve, I forgot to ask. Um if you start having an attack, what am I supposed to do?”
Steve: “Get me to a hospital.”
Lizzy: “Um can I revive you?”
Steve: “Nope.”
Lizzy: “Okey. You know what then?”
Steve: “No what.”
Lizzy: “Keep breathing!”

Mile 21 came and went. Mike was there, scowling, upset with himself, crabby, but there and that meant the world to me. Steve was tired, but wanted to keep going. He took a nebulizer hit, we did a hand punch “GO TEAM WHEEZY” and we were off. Steve, John (bike), Chris (bike), and I had a great time really.  We were a little pack teasing one another and getting to know each other.  We cheered on the people around us and had a great time. I was tired. My foot hurt like nuts.  I think it was around mile 21 that I decided that the Fast-Twitches would ONLY be used in a situation where I needed a shoe with a tread. I wondered if my foot would ever be the same. I was tired and my legs heavy, but Steve kept me going. When we noticed Steve flagging and a nice size crowd, John would shout “HERE COMES STEVE! STEVE! STEVE! STEVE!!” We would start chanting, Steve would pick up the pace and I’d have to keep up! It was the shot in the arm that Mike would get from folks cheering him on.

The thing about Steve is that he doesn’t want fuss.  Mike is the same way. I love my guys because they have their own personalities and so much respect and appreciation for each other. For some silly reason, they let me play in their sandbox.

Next thing I knew, we were really motoring in that least 5k. Steve finally pulled his headphones out of his shirt.  I don’t think he ever put on his tunes. I’m glad he never asked me to sing, or he would have ended up in a hospital with bleeding ears! I was so proud of the fact that he was keeping me in his loop, we were finishing, and having fun.

Then there was a moment for Lizzy.  I am a Native San Franciscan. I love the S.F. Giants because that was my team. My New Hampshire based Grandfather told me his baseball team was the Boston Red Stockings. I loved my grandfather, so when he asked me to be a be a Red Stockings fan, what the heck. I made a side comment where I thought it would be cool if we could take a severe right hand turn and go to Fenway. All the boys said “Lizzy – Look over there …” and there it was! Fenway! Wow! Whoo Hoo!!!

Back to business. I’m ready to get Steve across the line and sit down! My foot was sticky. I knew there was going to be a mess. I was having an amazing time, but I was still on duty.  I was constantly thinking about Mike and hoping he wasn’t beating himself up too bad and I was really wanting a sandwich and maybe an entire carton of alfalfa sprouts.  I knew where the Elephant and Castle was, and fish and chips sounded pretty yum. I was done with Gatorade and Shock Blocks. My skirt kept slipping down the skinnies I had on. I usually wear a race belt and I was wearing a backpack.  On a positive note, the Nathan water backpack was perfect.

What had happened in 2009 was that Steve did finish, but was in a great deal of distress. He crossed the finish line, was picked up by the medical team and transported directly to the hospital (Prison) where he was “incarcerated” doing his level best not to end up pushing daisies. The things we do for medals! Speaking of that, Steve had to push to get his very hard earned medal. Since we’d passed mile 21, there was no stopping Team Wheezy! I looked at Steve and said “Steve, promise me something.” He was a little hoarse, which is a scary sign to me, and said “What?” “Um … don’t die. Ok?” Big, bright, trademark Gaudet smile “Sure, Lizzy!” and a little cough.  We had to finish and we had to finish … NOW!

There was a group of folks walking 6 abreast.  It was irritating because they were dressed in bright red and we were coming in to the home stretch.  All Steve wanted was video of the ending and I’d shot video with his camera, of course sideways because I’ve gotten so used to being able to just flip things around. Oopse! Steve really didn’t want his video being the backsides of this group, so I said “Hey – can you follow?” He nodded and we blew them away!

When you’re coming in to the end, the Guides are able to go across the line with their “charges,” but  our Bike Spotters – Chris and John would leave us there. I tossed John, or was it Chris, my bottle and we were almost done. Steve was not only going to finish, but finish bypassing the medical tent … I think. He’d better! I’d kill him! Hahahaahaa!!!

Steve has the video on his www.breathinstephen.com site and I blew out his microphone, but whatever! He told me I could put the video lower, but I thought it would be fun to have it roughly Steve’s height.  We saw a guy that we’d seen before. It was like finishing around friends. We did finish. Seven hours and change. Faster than Steve did last year. Healthier than Steve did last year. Even better was right after we crossed the line we weren’t greeted by the Medical Staff, but by Big Tall Pete and a healthy Mike McB with Steve’s Nebulizer! Yeah! Makes it all worthwhile. That and coming in before the line of red shorts!

 The truly funny thing was Steve asking “so where do we go from here?” I laughed. Of course he didn’t know because last year he’d turned left and was taken out horizontal. We were on our way to get Steve’s medal and a mylar blanket when we got told we were to turn right. Hu? I wasn’t paying close attention. My mind was starting to wander.  I was finally “off duty” and I realized I was done. PFEW! I noticed that we weren’t the last two across the line even though we started an hour earlier and there was an awful lot of “stuff” for the folks who were still out on the course. Steve and I wondered what had happened to some of the folks we’d started with. Fortunately for me, Mike and Pete kept an eye on me because I was a little lost.  We were off to the VIP tent.  Okey dokey!

Not all that and a bag of chips, but we did run in to Kevin and his crew.

I was beat. A friend of mine laughed that this was a lot of work for no medal.  But I got a medal … that isn’t medal.  My Guide bib means more to me than anything.  I called Mom who wanted to make sure everyone was safe and we got one last photo of Team Wheezy Competitors. 

Just as I was saying goodbye to our bikers, Pete said “Hey Dizzy Lizzy…” I wasn’t altogether there and he said “Lizzy you did it!” “I wha??” “You did it! You completed the Boston Marathon!!!” I looked at Chris who I was just about to give a hug to and said “Oh my gosh! Did I?” He just laughed and I cried on his shoulder! 

Wow – I did it too! Between Mike and Steve, I did something I wanted to do since I was 13 years old. I was told girls like me didn’t do the Boston Marathon. Well, I’m here to say that girls like me do  do the Boston Marathon and I did it My Way!

Cleaning out and getting going ….

5 01 2010

Ok … so this is a little fuzzy …. but that’s the way things are at the beginning of the year.  My buddy Jon came out from Sonoma County for a weekend visit.  Kind of a trip actually.  He was my first SysAdmin when I was playing in the land of UNICOM …. when c1-shep became unicom!giggles.  I’d not seen Jon for nearly 25 years.  A real trip to go from thinking your friend was scary intelligent … to realizing that I’m just as intelligent as my friends … just in my own way.

This photo was shot where I was standing on the stage at Red Rocks … kind of a cool thing actually.  Looking around at the blank space with next to nothing on the stage … but ice … Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d been more of a ball buster and pushed my way though audio … then I realize that I didn’t enjoy it truly enough.  I’ve got great ears and the rest, but everything happens for a reason.

I was talking with a new bud of mine today.  The topic of drek and messes from the past came up.  We all have them and I’m sure that there are a couple of readers who will attempt to take me apart by my talking somewhat openly.  Today was a bit rough and I would have far preferred to have gone to the gym for a couple of hours.  It was more important for me to hold my own at work and academically.  The nonsense really didn’t bother me much except I just see through things … and I’m just setting good boundaries.

So – what am I skirting in this public forum?  Because I’m careful.  It’s how I am.  

2009 was a true shake out year.  I had to come to grips with a lot of things that are not exactly pleasant, but that’s fine.  I was betrayed by people I thought I could trust.  I cemented some of my new friendships, fortified some old ones, and opened up some places for new people to float on in.  I came very close to completely leaving racewalking because of this injured leg, but if it wasn’t for these various injuries, I probably wouldn’t have found some of my closest friends.  They are the ones who know how hard it has been for me to write many of the things that have appeared in this blog and how hard it has been for me to state a lot of things.

One of the hardest things from last year was not my being attacked, kicking back, and finding myself in court for protecting myself because I cracked a couple of the gang-banger’s ribs.  It was the still unsolved murder of my mother’s best friend, her “everyday” friend, of 43 years or so.  Mom having to identify the body.  Her friend being murdered in the protection of her gated courtyard; shot through the head.  When you don’t live near your folks … and you know you really don’t have any way of doing anything … really makes one feel useless.  My friends with cancer this year said the best gift I can give is to just be me.  I guess I don’t understand, but maybe I’m not supposed to.  After depressing race after depressing race, and then being able to read between the lines with Mom … because we’re a lot alike.  Hurt more than the embarrassment of being carried across the line in Virginia Beach … but that very act of being carried across by one of my best buddies and a racewalking buddy of hers taught me a whole hell of a lot.  I wouldn’t have met her if I’d not taken the risk on myself with racewalking. 

But that’s what life is about.

Life’s about the little things in between.  It’s about how we interweave with others and learn to trust and care.  Acceptance and moving forward … Things we used to depend on maybe aren’t as stable anymore … or maybe we’ve just grown out of them.  It’s not fair to damn using the past as the battering ram.

I’ve got a lot of messes that just are going to take time to clean up, but I’ve got some amazing folks who are moving forward … and we’re having fun.  This year, I know where I’ve been … so I’m surrounding myself with some amazing characters …. I’m not perfect, but neither are they.

A commitment to my exercise is a commitment to myself.  I can honestly say I’m staring at Disney with a completely different outlook.  I have a lot to learn but I’m surrounding myself with some of the most amazing … and quirky … people.  

Take the time … smell the roses … look at the leaves … marvel at the trees … and laugh with friends …

Changes are a foot …  Let’s get moving!