Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wasatch Back Ragnar - Legally Dead 2015

Oh my gosh, where do I start?  How do I find the words?

This is one of my all time favorite races and my 6th year with the Legally Dead team.  It was going to be iffy as to whether or not I could participate this year based on my neck issues and the resulting surgery (another blog post to come on that), but when I realized that I would be about 12 weeks post op, and that I had chosen a leg that could easily be walked quite a bit, then I was all in!

This year, we were able to fill a van with all girls.  All of us, but one, had run together before and knew each other quite well - our new gal Janelle fit right in with our craziness.
l-r Mindy, Janelle, Karalee, me, Mindi and Brenda

our binder with our legs.  Mindi made the joke of "Mitt's binder of women"

Our team and Van 1 had a start time of 4am.  Since we were van 2, we slept in a little bit longer and then just met them at the first exchange.  We did our check in, safety video, got some temporary airbush tattoos, decorated the van, and then I got ready to meet our runner at the exchange since I was runner 7 (the first one from our van).
Mindy had a new boyfriend

As I waited at the exchange, I met up with some friends and one in particular who was the same runner as me.  We made a deal that if he took off before I did, then I had to catch him.  If I left before he did, he had to catch me.  I really didn't have hope that I would catch him.  This was my first race post op, I didn't really have the training in me, and I anticipated some walking.

His runner came in and off he went.  I was still waiting when my other teammates showed up and let me know our runner would be in any minute.  The anticipation was killing me!  I was standing next to the volunteer who was calling team numbers as they came in so we would know, but they never called ours, I just happened to see Duane run in.  I ran over to him, took the slap bracelet and off I went.

I started at what I felt was a fairly slow pace and just settled into what felt comfortable.  At the first mile I looked at my Garmin to see that I had done it an 8:28 pace.  Too fast to start!  Gah!  I tried to make my feet slow down, but in all honesty, I felt so good!  The leg was fairly flat with only a few rises.  I allowed myself a few walking breaks to try and stay conservative.  All the time reminding myself to take it easy.

As I rounded a corner, I saw my buddy up ahead and knew that if I kept a steady pace, there were enough miles left to catch him!  As I passed him, I shouted some encouragement and we talked briefly but I was feeling too good to stop or slow down.  It was hot, about noon but I so happy to be running, I didn't even notice.  I crossed an intersection and started to cross a bridge when I passed a runner off to the side puking.  I slowed and asked him if he was okay.  He shook his head, said no, then said yes.  I figured, the cops at the intersection were about 100 yards away, if he really needed help he could get it.  I kept going.

Once I reached the exchange and passed the slap bracelet off to Brenda, I felt like I was running on air!  Never have I experienced such an endorphin rush (well, since qualifying for Boston and then running Boston).  I was so happy that there is no way I could even begin to describe it.  SO HAPPY!

We had a few minutes before needing to get to the next exchange so I stretched and evaluated how I felt.  No shoulder pain.  No scapula pain.  No neck pain.  Legs felt fine.  I was winded and had to remind myself that I was not only still gaining my cardio back, but also the altitude was higher.  Overall, I felt fantastic!  Leg one down, two more to go!
crap- sideways

After all our girls finished their legs (and finished them amazingly, I might add), we passed off to Van 1 and then drove to a high school for some food and rest.  It's nearly impossible to sleep during these relay's but I think I dozed for about 30 minutes.  Next thing I knew I was getting a text from Lisa that they would be ready to pass off in about 45 minutes.

It was about midnight when I started my next leg.  This was supposed to be the easiest of them all.  And it was delightful.  The temps were perfect, so I was just in shorts and a long sleeve tech tee.  I started out, and then was directed down a dirt hill.  Wha??  I wasn't prepared for trail.  I slid all the way down that hill praying the whole time I wouldn't fall.  I went extremely slow.  After that portion, it flattened out, I was on pavement for a minute and then back on to a flat trail.   Night runs are glorious! I didn't take my ipod, I simply had my garmin, my headlamp, my reflective vest and my own thoughts to keep me company.  The entire 4 miles or so was a complete prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father for allowing me to heal and be able to run.  It was delightful!  Leg two done - one more to go!

The rest of the girls finished their night runs (some of them very tough - but not one of them complained) and then it was time to pass back off to van 1.  Again, we made our way to a high school and for a couple of bucks got a hot breakfast and a cold shower.  I didn't even care that it was cold, I was just glad to wash the stank off - even if the shower heads made the water feel like glass shards.  Good thing it was only a buck :)  I laid down for a little while, and actually slept for about an hour.
such cute girls

 When I got the text that it was time to get ready, I gathered the girls, drank my Ucan, and my Monster and waited at the exchange.  This last leg of mine was going to be brutal.  It was now about 11am.  I loaded my hydration vest with ice and gatorade, applied sunscreen, lip balm, got my ipod, phone and was ready to go.

As Duane came in and passed off the slap bracelet and I started, I really had some mixed feelings.  The competitor in me wanted to push it and perform well, but the rational side of me was warning me to take it easy and not push it.  I started off at a fairly conservative pace until about 1.5 miles.  Then the course hit a trail that was STRAIGHT.UP.HILL.  No lie, it was like a hike.  No running even possible.  I looked at my garmin and saw that I was at a 20 min + pace and thought,  "If the rest of the leg is like this, I'll be here until midnight!"  Luckily, that portion only lasted about a half mile (it felt like 10) and then it was back on the pavement and winding up the mountain.  I saw runners who were actually running it, but for the most part, many of us were walking.  It was just so steep!  I would run when I could, and there were a couple of down hill portions that I opened up and tried to make up some time.  I anticipated taking about 2.5  to 3 hours and I tried really hard not to pay attention to my Garmin and just go by how I felt.  Time wasn't important to me, I wanted to stay healthy.

The hill was relentless and never ended.  No letting up. 10.2 miles (according to the course) and 2800ft elevation gain.  I checked out the beautiful scenery and watched other runners as we either leap frogged, they passed me or I passed them.  As each mile ticked by, I would just tell myself I only had ____ left.  The hardest portion for me was from mile 7.5 to mile 9.  I was so fatigued.  Nothing hurt, just plain tired.  I really had to slow down and just talk myself into keeping moving. Finally I crested the hill, saw the exchange and saw the downhill into the chute.  Elation!  I started to run and cry that I had actually, ACTUALLY done it!!  Again, no words to adequately express how I felt.  Just pure, unadulterated happiness!
Never have I been so happy to get a medal - except maybe Boston...

my garmin didn't quite pick up the entire 10.2 but I was running tangents whenever possible....

Brenda took off and I allowed myself to just soak it in.  The people congratulating me, the hard earned extra medal, the pictures, the cheers of everyone around for every runner that had tackled that hill.......soaked it all in.  I did it. I actually DID it!  12 weeks post op from a fairly substantial surgery, an almost entire year of pain in my neck, scapula and shoulder (torn rotator cuff to be blogged about later) and here I had completed the hardest of all legs in Ragnar!  I think I'm till high on those endorphins.

Each girl in our van took their legs and even though it was the heat of the day, they ran them strong.

Just some random pics:

Mindi and Brenda

Just hanging out between runs
Mindy before her night run
Beautiful scenery
Mindi rockin it
the girls being silly

 Finally Mindy was our last runner in, we met up with Van 1 at the finish and crossed together.  Got our medals, took some pictures and then wandered the expo while attempting to meet up with a photographer.
Van 1 - Wayne, Kris, Lisa, Cade, Pam and Duane down in front - love these guys!!!
All of Legally Dead 2015

A friend of Mindy's wrote a feature piece on her and Luke's quest for adoption and her Cystic Fibrosis so a DesNews photographer came to the finish line and took some pictures.  You can read the article here.     The link to their gofundme account is here.   And below are the pictures he took.  Clearly, he's the professional.I am so incredibly proud of her!

We loaded ourselves back in the van, gassed up, got real food and headed home. What an amazing adventure.  Every single runner in our van performed so well!  Each of us have been dealing with some sort of issue: Mindy and Cystic Fibrosis, Mindi and plantar fascitis, Karalee and the never ending side ache, me and the surgery.  And yet, we all ran our best and not one person had to back out, pass off some miles to someone else or otherwise hold back.  We went at it strong and I couldn't be more proud of my friends and girls!

So yeah, another Ragnar in the books.  I'll never forget the look on the face of my surgeon when I told him I was doing it.  I kinda wish I had another post op appointment just so I could tell him how great it was and that due to his expertise, I was back at my passion in record time!

All the girls in my van are really wanting to do Ragnar Vegas.  Since Legally Dead has already done it, I don't think they will want to again, we are going to see if we can put together an entire team of 12 to do that so we can get our Saint's to Sinner's medal.  Until then, I'm back running, cycling on my stationary trainer as cross training, and picking up races here and there until October and St George Marathon.

Huge thank you's to:  Wayne, the founder and captain of Legally Dead, Kris and Lisa Lundell, Duane, Pam and Cade (van 1)  and my girls of Van 2: Mindi, Janelle, Brenda, Karalee, and Mindy. Seriously, one of the best teams we've ever had and I love them so much!
Special thank you to Dr Robert Berry.  More on him in a futue blog post - but without him I wouldn't be running!

Happy running = happy mCat!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What is Brave? What is Courage? What is Heroic? What is happening??

Is it just me or has this been a brutal week on social media?  With the announcement and magazine cover release regarding a former Olympic athlete and a change made with gender it seems it unleashed feelings from every corner of the plate.

I, myself, shared a meme that was fairly viral that used the words brave and courage in it to describe something completely different.  The beautiful irony of it was that the artist who rendered that depiction in the picture was a cross dresser himself.  His story touched me deeply as he was brutally beaten for his self expression.  That's unacceptable at any level for anything or anyone.

The controversy seems to lie in the words brave and courage and even now heroic.  Some haven taken offense at those words being used to describe the former Olympian and his/her life choice.  Others find offense in the expression of being offended (did you follow me there?)

It seem that no matter what you feel or say, there is going to be someone to slam you for it.  And sadly, some of the slams were and are pretty harsh.

So it got me to thinking.  What IS the right answer when it comes to using those adjectives?

I think Splenda Daddy accurately stated it in one our conversations when he said, "Bravery is in the eye of the beholder"

The overwhelming argument I'm seeing on social media is that a military person deserves the honor and distinction of being called brave and courageous, not someone who made a life choice to alter their body to become someone else (regardless if they deep down feel it was the right thing to do)

I am going to go out on a limb here and say - can both be brave in their own way?

Life experiences, people we interact with, our own religious beliefs and morals are the guides that help each individual determine what it brave and courageous to them.  AND perhaps what level of bravery or courage is required.

For example, when my nephew (whom I love very much) got the courage to inform his family that he was gay and was choosing to live that lifestyle and pursue happiness his own way had to be incredibly difficult for him.  The fact that he sat down with each of his aunt's and uncles and had a one on one talk with them and expressed himself had to have been hard.  It took courage for him to do that.  He could have let his parents inform everyone and he could have drifted away and chosen not to face anyone for fear of how people would react. But he didn't.  Instead, he stepped up and without knowing how each of us would react, he shared.  I hope he remembers the love that was expressed to him and is continually sent his way.  He's an important part of our extended family, and while our religious belief's differ, I can look at that time years ago, and say yes, it took courage and bravery to face his family and reveal his identity.

I have a friend who served as a young Marine in the position of a machine gunner.  He served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and lived in perilous times both tours.  He lost brothers to injury or death during the wars and yet he climbed up into his turret every day and manned his position in an effort to provide protection and covering fire.  In my eyes, Clint is extremely brave, courageous and indeed a hero.

Looking at these two differing experiences, people and situations I then go back and rely on my own deeply held moral and religious belief's and life experiences to determine, if asked, which one is more brave and more courageous.  Not that *my* opinion takes away from the actual bravery needed in either of the situations, but as human beings, we are going to make distinctions.  It's our nature, it's the moral compasses that direct us to do so, and for those of us that have deeply held religious belief's, it's just a part of those belief's.

The problem lies in allowing others the religious and moral freedom to express their feelings.  While I don't agree with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and have fundamental core belief's that don't align with his/her actions or his/her choice of lifestyle.  If I want to express that and point to some other thing or person that I think exhibits more courage, and bravery,  then those that support the former Olympian should also allow me the same freedom to express my feelings.  If they so vehemently disagree with me, then perhaps, our friendship/relationship isn't as authentic as it should be.  For true friends can disagree on things and yet still find common ground, love one another, respect one another and, in the words of Ellen De Generes  "be kind to one another".

As I would never ask my friends of another faith to disregard the things they belief in an effort as to not offend me, I should be afforded the same in return.  However, I'm feeling that if one voices an opinion that much of the world finds fault with or disagrees with, there are labels then attached to that person such as bigot, homophobic, and intolerant.  I would never assume to ask Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to not do what he/she feels is right for himself/herself because I don't agree with it, but lately, at least on social media, it seems that acceptance and embracement is demanded of everyone for everything, regardless of moral or religious belief's.

That's just plain whack.  Every person should be entitled to voice their opinions, share their thoughts, proclaim their belief's without vitriol from opposing parties.

Why have things changed?  Is it the world in general?  Is it the overwhelming presence of social media?  Is it a combination?

Let's get real here.  A LOT of things could be described as brave and courageous:

A Muslim proclaiming their faith in our country.
A Christian proclaiming their faith in the middle east.
Joining the military during a time of war knowing that you will likely be deployed
Facing a disease that will over time, take your life.
Speaking out against mainstream pop culture if it is in conflict with your morals.
Sharing your testimony of a religious belief knowing that it might create a storm of hate mail/comments.

I could go on and on.  There are a lot of things that I believe can be described using the words brave and courageous.  And the beauty is?  Describing one thing with those adjectives doesn't take away from the the bravery and courage displayed in a different situation!  Imagine that!  ALL of those things could use the adjectives to different people, in differing life situations and firmly rooted belief's.  I'll bet, everyone could use brave and courageous at some time in their life to describe themselves.  It doesn't have to be an either/or - but it IS individual.  What I deem brave and courageous will not be the same for everyone.  And other's view of what is brave and courageous, I will not always agree with.

But what we must do is extend love, kindness and respect.  For ALL things and people. For example, just because I don't support gay marriage doesn't mean I'm homophobic and intolerant.  And my gay friends and family who don't support my religion - I can't label them heterophbic and intolerant.  They have the right to stand up for the things they believe in as much as I have the same right.  Lately I'm feeling that the rest of the world would like me to disregard my religious belief's in the name of tolerance for things that I don't morally agree with.

Here's the fact:  I'm not going to.  Believe it or not, I am perfectly capable of loving my fellowman and not agreeing with or supporting ideas or actions that are in direct conflict with my moral and religious belief's.  I really can.  And I really do.  And I will continue to.  At the same time, I won't ever disregard my own morals and deeply rooted religious belief's to appease someones feelings. There are going to be times that I will not be in agreement with many of my friends.  I'm okay with that.  I hope they can do the same.  We don't need to focus on those differences, but rather celebrate our commonalities.

That's what I'd like to do anyway.


PS - you my have noticed I used him/her; Bruce/Caitlyn; when describing the former Olympian whose recent surgery has screamed the headlines.  I respect Caitlyn's desire to live her life now as a woman, however, the indisputable fact is she/he is a human being that has two chromosomes.  X and Y.  XY is at determined at the very moment of conception and then as the zygote and then fetus begins to develop it creates all the hormones and other distinct traits that the Y chromosome brings.  So really, no matter what surgery a person wants to have, they cannot remove that Y chromosome. So in all actuality, the human being is indeed still male.  The only way to truly become a female would be to remove that Y chromosome and replace it with another X.  I don't think science has brought us that far yet.  Do I think she is brave for her magazine cover?  A little bit.  Of course there was going to be backlash, and I think anyone is brave to do something knowing they are going to have that, however, Ms. Jenner is a Hollywood star who is paid millions of dollars for her reality TV show that is set to premiere later this season.  It's hard to see past the money to a pure motivation but that is not up to me to decide.  If a completely obscure person were to do the same without the fame and fortune, I would deem that person much more brave in my opinion.