I Will Tri

This morning marked the end of a journey.  It was my last Saturday morning run with Team in Training.  I remember nearly 2 years ago when I sat in the information meeting just 6 weeks after giving birth to my third child.  I was determined to run a marathon and I knew that Team in Training would help me accomplish my goal.  I was no newbie to TNT.  I had already completed a Grand Canyon hike with the Team in San Francisco and I was well-informed on how the money raised was used for cancer research and to support cancer patients and their families.   Not only did I want to run a marathon, but I knew that joining the Team would be a great way to form valuable friendships.

I was easily suckered in at that first meeting.  The next thing I know I was at the first training wondering if I would be able to keep up with the fastest runners.  I saw a woman there who looked to be about my age.  I remember that she kind of looked a bit tough and she had all of her running gear.  I assumed that she had been running for a while and I must admit that I was a bit intimidated by her.  At the trainings that followed, that running chick always seemed to go above and beyond.  She would run extra miles and turn around to go back up over the bridges.  One day I decided to stick with her and see what would happen.  Wouldn’t you know it, we became each other’s best motivator.  We became good friends…. life-long running buddies.  Even though we are now separated by thousands of miles, I say “life-long running buddies” because we already have future plans to meet up for races around the country.  Even though I don’t see my running buddy, she is still motivating me to do my best and to never give up.  I can’t thank her enough for that.

So we ran the Walt Disney World marathon.  Oh wait, let me back up for a minute.  Let’s not forget the Jacksonville Bank Marathon just 3 weeks before that.  Four of us crazy teammates decided to do our long training run (20 miles) during the Bank Marathon.  We figured that we would run the first 20 (you know, to train) and then just walk the rest (you know, to recover).  Well, that really sucked.  We don’t recommend doing that.  The Walt Disney World marathon was a much better experience even though I still thought I was going to die at mile 22.  But what do you expect during your first “real” marathon?  Pain… lots of pain.  Out of the 4, I came in last… not my best moment, but I finished!

Of course we couldn’t stop there.  My buddy calls me not too long afterwards to ask if I would be willing to coach the Fall Team with her.  Sure, why not?  Oh, but please note that when we say “Fall Team” we mean that the participants train during the summer so they can run a marathon in the Fall.  I hope you realize that I live in Florida.  I soon found out that training during the summer really SUCKS.  In order to beat the heat (whatever that means because the heat doesn’t care what time of day it is) we had to wake up at 4:00 am in order to start our runs at 5:00 am.  Not that I was a Friday night party animal, but waking up at 4:00 am on a Saturday morning really SUCKS!  But you know what?  It was worth watching those participants finish their first half-marathon.  What a rewarding experience that was!

Then what? Oh, of course I couldn’t stop there.  I just had to run another marathon with the Team, but first I had to do my own thing and finish that Goofy Challenge.  Then I was able to meet up with the Team and give it my full attention again.  But let’s go ahead and mention that I couldn’t have done the Goofy without another running buddy who I was fortunate enough to meet through TNT.  Okay,  by now you should realize that it is so much easier to finish a race when you have a MOTIVATOR!  Now THAT was FUN!  Seriously, I was ready for it and didn’t feel like I would die.  It appears that marathons seem to get easier as you run more of them.

Done with Goofy and then back to TNT to finish training for the next marathon.  I had to go back and forth between which marathon to do, but I finally decided on the Country Music Marathon in Nashville.  So, I was chugging away at my training and having fun meeting more amazing people when… WHAM!  Yep, I was hit with THE INJURY.  Whatever, you blasted injury!  It really pissed me off and I had to take a running leave of absence.  But, needless to say, I was determined to at least finish the half-marathon.  And I did.  Somehow.  Still not sure how I ran nearly the whole thing, but I did.  It SUCKED, but I pushed through.  Maybe that is why I won the TNT award for “Most Determined.”

And this morning was our celebration run.  Now what?  Oh, right.  Of course I have a plan.  Now I will finish my first triathlon.  Let’s shoot for an Olympic on June 23rd.



Running and Compassion

It goes without saying that when I run I typically run for myself.  I am not out there to please my family or my friends.  I am not out there to get people to like me.  I am not out there to make some kind of point.  I am not out there to make others feel bad about themselves.  I could really care less what anyone else thinks.  I run for me.

Yet, there is always something out there bigger than yourself.  It can drive you to achieve the unimaginable.  Most of you know that I have volunteered with Team and Training on and off since 2006.  I am not even sure why signed up in the first place, but I do know why I am still here running with the team.  A lot has happened since 2006.  My dad had cancer, fought off cancer and came out a survivor.  I gave birth to 2 more beautiful children.  I changed jobs, got a Master’s degree and moved all of the way across the country.  I attended a friend’s memorial service and my grandfather’s funeral.  I ran 3 marathons, 7 half marathons and a handful of shorter races.  Now, in 2012, I am pretty much the same person, but I am better able to adapt and endure.

As a military veteran and currently a military spouse, I have met some amazing people.  Strong and determined men and women who make daily sacrifices for the sake of their country.  As a spouse, I can see it more clearly because I know firsthand the sacrifices that the families must make so that their loved ones can keep this country strong.  Yet, when I joined Team and Training, I met a different group of people.  They were different, but the same in some ways… strong and determined and willing to make similar sacrifices.

Just the other day I was talking to one of my other teammates.  She was telling me her story.  When her firstborn was only 9 months old she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor that occurs in 1 in every 100,000 children.  Really, what are the chances?  Everything is okay now, but it was a rough journey for her and her husband.  I CAN NOT even imagine.  Really, I can’t.  All I could say was that she must be one strong woman.  She told me that is what everyone says, but she acted like she didn’t believe it.  There is no doubt in my mind that anyone coming out of that situation will come out of it a much stronger person.  My mother’s death CAN NOT even compare, but I know that I came out a stronger person… maybe a little rough around the edges, but deep down, slightly more compassionate.

I could spend hours writing about all of the amazing people I have met during this journey.  I think they have helped me view the world a little differently.  I will mention Elizabeth.  I don’t know much about Elizabeth yet, but I do know that she is an amazing little girl.  On May 13, 2010 she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  She is currently in the maintenance phase of chemotherapy and has a little less than a year left of treatment.  Her family has stated that they would not have been able to get through this without Elizabeth’s positive determination.  She is just a little girl keeping her family in high spirits!  Her father, mother, brother and sister also posses the strength to move forward.  If you would like to hear more of their story, please check out the family blog:  http://www.princesselizabethann.blogspot.com/

Not only am I so fortunate to meet these amazing people, but I have been blessed with the ability to help them in a small way.  I can run.  Now I know I said that I typically run for myself, but a part of me can’t help but run for others… for those who need me to run for them.  I think it is that little bit of compassion that is inside of me.  As time continues, I hope that more and more of that compassion will pour out.  I hope to set an example to others, especially my own kids.  Yes, I do make mistakes… often, but I hope the old saying really is true: “the older you get, the wiser you get.”

So, tomorrow night, at midnight, we will begin our ultramarathon relay.  I know that Elizabeth will be waiting for us at the end (many many hours later) and that is why I will run.  And there are many other children who need someone to run for them.  So I will keep running… till my legs fall off.

I hope that some of my readers can understand why I run.  I will admit the self-fulfillment, but there is a bigger picture.  It gives more purpose to my running.  It gives more purpose to life.  In doing so, I am opening my own children’s eyes to the world around them.  I can’t go to my grave until I know they have true compassion for others.  I want them to surpass my own ability for compassion.

I know that not all of you run, but you can still help children like Elizabeth.  Elizabeth’s family has stated how much the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has helped them through this challenge.  Please donate a few dollars to this cause.  I guarantee that it will be greatly appreciated.  http://pages.teamintraining.org/ncfl/madrid12/haponte

10 miles or more…

The team was out running their 7-mile or 10-mile course this morning (distance depends on whether or not they are training for a half marathon or a full marathon), when one participant and myself were passed by three ladies out on their morning run.  They asked us how far we were going and we said “10 miles.”  Then, they asked us if we were training for a full marathon or a half marathon.  I stated that my running partner was preparing to run a half, but training for a full.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?  It just goes to show how remarkably motivated this team is.  They are presented with two training plans and they choose to follow the plan with the most distance involved.  I have no worries about whether or not they will be well prepared for the half marathon that they are planning to run in October.

Sure, today’s run may have actually been even longer than 10 miles, but that doesn’t stop them.  They may complain once in a while that a muscle aches or that the sun is beaming down it’s death rays, but they continue forward anyway.  They know that their pain is only temporary and that is only makes them stronger in the end.  It is unlike the permanent pain that cancer patients and their families endure.  I think they know this and that is why they push themselves.  It is very rewarding to see this type of determination and spirit.  These participants are not only running for themselves, but they are also running for a cause.

I am thankful to be a part of such a remarkable group of people.  I enjoy their silly jokes, playful banter, serious discussions and even their quiet solitude (well, we do spend a lot of time together when we run these long miles).  The experience is not complete without coffee & bagels (okay, sometimes we succumb to the evil donut).

Training Day #1

What an exciting new adventure that awaits us!  I am working with an awesome team of walkers and runners… some of whom have never completed a half or full marathon!  I sure know what that journey is like and now I am excited to help others accomplish this amazing feat!

Last night our team walked or ran 1.5 miles.  It was the furthest distance for a few (but that will very soon change).  I have to admit that I was a little nervous about running the show (no pun intended).  I had my little route mapped out and it should have been simple enough… given that it was an easy loop.  In making myself feel better, I had hoped to drive the route prior to arriving at our meeting location, but that didn’t happen because a last-minute trip to the store was necessary.  If you know me, then you know I get a little freaked out when I am late for something (I think I get that from my dad who is never late for anything and who would ground me if I was ever even a second late for a curfew… seriously).  Nothing ever seems to go smoothly when you arrive late (especially when it is your duty to get things going).   When I was teaching, I would always arrive at least an hour before the students arrived.  I just can’t stand the feeling of being unprepared and unorganized.

So the next thing I knew I was there, in front of the group telling them that it was an easy loop and that I hoped no one would get lost.  If that happened, then the coaches would know who to look out for on the longer and more complicated routes.   It was then time to head out and I took the lead with the group of faster runners.

Yeah, I was originally concerned about the participants getting lost.  Needless to say, I was the one who ended up making two wrong turns.  Sure, it didn’t hurt for the faster, more experienced runners to get some extra mileage, but it didn’t really make me look good.  I said I was great at navigating, but obviously I didn’t prove to be all that great… and it was just an easy loop!  I knew I was a perfectionist for a reason, so missing that vital step of checking out the route really threw me for a loop (once again, no pun intended).  So, all I can do now is to try my best not to let it happen again.  Otherwise, it makes for a fabulous story.  At least I can be humble and say that nobody is perfect… not even the coach.  And we all did make it back (some of us just put in a little extra work).

And you know what was even more humorous about the whole situation?  I was concerned about the other participants taking the wrong turn as well, so I went back to check on them and found out that one of the runners behind us actually made it back before us (yes, he knew where he was going).  No one else seemed to have any doubt about which way to go.

Regardless, I know I am going to enjoy this coaching experience.  I get to meet amazing people who are dedicating themselves to pursue a fitness goal while helping to raise money for cancer research.  I know how much the experience changed my own life and made me a healthier, happier person.  I want to help others succeed in making a difference not just in the lives of others, but in their own life.