About Me

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just another 20-something stumbling through life, one mile at a time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

true grit and inspiration

i am a daddy's girl, no doubt. my dad is one of the most amazing people i know, which of course, is something a lot of people say about their fathers. my dad is a lot of things: stubborn, quiet, handy around the house, forgetful, prayerful, strict. one thing everyone can agree on is that my dad is an honorable man. and in our society today, that is a rare quality.

my dad is a proud christian and his strong faith is very important to him. religion played a huge role in my household and i went to catholic school for 13 years. while i'm not a practicing catholic anymore, my parents did instill a sense of faith and spirituality in me that continues on in my adulthood. my parents still attend service every week and Bible study once a week. my dad is involved with two Bible study groups, and has daily devotions. others may not see eye to eye with him on religion, but they do respect him and his dedication.

like his faith, whenever my dad believes in something he wholeheartedly follows his convictions. he switched to a healthier lifestyle when i was young and was the first vegan i have known. we're talking about mid-90s in wilmington, ca. vegetarianism wasn't even that widely known, and there certainly were no options other than salad at restaurants. it wasn't a trend yet (not that my dad would ever follow a trend, let alone know of any current ones) but he wanted to "eat less crapola" and cut out all alcohol. he also started to learn more about eastern medicine, taking vitamins and herbs over prescriptions and OTC drugs. he even took up yoga for a while. basically the point is that he was trying his best to be healthy, mind body and soul. not to say he was the perfect role model, but he was on the higher than average track.

which is why last august was a complete shock to everyone: he was diagnosed with cancer.  it came from no where. one day my mom called to talk, and then mentioned my dad was having a little procedure the next morning but it' no big deal. she made it sound like he was just having a check up sort of thing. so the next day i didn't really think much of it until i got home and my roommate asked if i had talked to my mom yet. this immediately set off alarm bells. turns out she had jenny's email address and contacted her to check and see if i was home alone or not before she called me. instant panic. all of a sudden it clicked- my dad's appointment WAS a big deal and it did not go well. i called my mom to find out what happened, and heard the scariest words of my life, "the tests came back positive for cancer." my dad, my own superhero, was sick. with cancer. that ugly c-word no one wants to hear or talk about. the word we all wish could eliminate forever. i felt blindsided. this couldn't be happening!

it's 11 months later and my family has been very fortunate and blessed that my dad currently doesn't have any known cancer cells. due to the nature of his tumor, he has to undergo treatment for three years. in the beginning it was 6 weeks of weekly in office treatment, 6 weeks off. now it's every three months and of course routine check ups. he's been "cancer free" since december but there was a false alarm in april, so we can't take it for granted that he's cured. it's scary to think that any day it can come back and turn our worlds upside down again. it's a thought that, through rarely happens, does cross my mind and makes me to stop to reevaluate life. am i on the right path? am i making smart decisions? is my dad proud of me?

recently i won a spirit award for team in training. the community captain picks a team member who embodies the spirit of the organization: being part of a team, supporting, enduring, inspiring etc. she picked me because i trained last year and had to drop out of my event last minute, but still went to the race to cheer on my teammates. i was up at 5 am with them before they lined up the starting line, and encouraged them throughout the course (another captain had a car so we drove around sf). i'll admit it was hard not to be jealous of my healthy teammates who were running, but these people  had trained (and suffered!) with me too. i had to be there for them. and then i came back this year, because i need to finish what i started.  i was surprised to get the award (epsom salt and champagne, glass included) and humbled. i first joined TNT for selfish reasons: guaranteed entry to Nike. i gained a fantastic support group and great friends in the process, and now they were rewarding me with even more? gosh!

i told my dad about it as part of my training update. his response (via test) "that's my girl!" and told me i truly have grit and spirit. i jokingly replied that maybe i'm just a certain kind of crazy, and then my dad said "crazy people do the impossible." it was one of the most supportive, highly praising things he has ever said to me.  he said i have grit...the guy who has never once complained about cancer and who continued working as if nothing happened, despite working nights as a crane driver. he doesn't act like a cancer patient and most people don't even realize he's still undergoing treatment. after he sent that text i sat still for a moment thinking about how lucky i am to have my father, and how powerful his words to me were (and still are). crazy people do do the impossible, or what is generally considered impossible. like running a full marathon legally blind. it is a crazy idea, but who said dreams have to be practical?

Friday, July 13, 2012

friday the 13th

why did friday the 13th get such a bad rap? yeah, i know the whole jason horror movie thing. but really, why does 13 have to be so bad and friday the 13th cursed? i'm not superstitious at all and i believe any day can be awful or amazing. case in point: february 24th 2003 changed my life forever. it was the day i first ever heard about retinitis pigmentosa and learned i was going blind. it was a monday and probably one of the worst days of my life. january 13th 2012 is another life changing day; i ran into some friends at a bar and met my boyfriend on, wait for it, FRIDAY THE 13th! he's been one of the best things to happen to me (i know, mush alert) and has been a really wonderful source of support. and now today i got some really fantastic news: TNT has found a pacer/guide for me! i already woke up pretty happy to have made it six month in a great relationship, but now i can stop worrying about how i'll manage the chicago marathon. 

as i mentioned in my previous post, i was having some major anxiety over the marathon. not the miles or course itself, but the race was completely daunting. but because TNT cares about all its participants and their needs (seriously, they really do care) i now have a TNT coach based in chicago who will run the WHOLE marathon with me. i will have someone to follow through the crowds (the coaches always wear really bright shirts for races, so very easy to spot) and to alert me about any bumps, trash, missing shoes etc on the road, as well as make sure i see upcoming aid stations to stay hydrated and fueled.

i've had a pretty good week of training, logged in almost 20 miles so far and feeling strong. i also feel much closer to achieving my goal of completing a marathon, which is a reat feeling. not stressing about how to deal with other runners is a huge relief and a total game changer.

so screw horseshoes and rabbit's foot keychains and shamrocks. i feel like the luckiest girl in the world right now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

officially registered. officially panicked.

last week i submitted my race registration forms for the Chicago Marathon.  woohoo! totally exciting right? heck yeah! it will be my first race ever (unless you count high school cross country and track, which i do not). it's my second time training, since i wanted to run the Nike Women's Marathon last year. trained for four months and five days before the race my doctor said "no way you're running the race, or for the next couple months." yeah, it was awful finding out i had a stress fracture and tendinitis.  but that's a whole 'nother post.

so here i am, marathon attempt #2. i ended up taking FIVE months off from running (yeah, it was brutal not running!) to get healed and healthy. getting back i the groove has been slow, for a number of reasons. 1) i got used to be lazy. like realllly used to it. and sleeping in. 2) i switched to minimal running shoes and had to retrain myself how to run. more about that later. 3) life happens and gets in the way sometimes. darn being an adult and having responsibilities! also, i'm trying to be extra careful this time around. my injury prone body hasn't caught up tot he fact that yes, i WILL be completing a marathon this year. so i'm tricking it by pumping up knee strengthening exercises, cross training more, and loading up on healthy vitamins and recovery nutrition. 

i am having delayed onset panic.NWM had over 22,000 participants last year. even though i had to drop out, i still went to the race to cheer on friends. and to get a glimpse of what to expect next time. holy crap! 22,000+ people in union square, sf is A LOT of people. plus lining up for the corrals starts before dawn. before dawn. before dawn is a time i am well acquainted with (thanks to morning boot camps and training runs) but it is a time when i am never fully awake and i don't see very well. part of my condition is that i have very poor night vision. it's difficult to see in dimly lit places (ie movie theaters, "romantically lit" restaurants, etc). another part of my condition is that i don't have a lot of peripheral vision. so to sum up: darkness+crowds+early morning= scary environment for a blind non-morning person runner. i had forgotten about those things when i decided to do Chicago. then came paperwork time and a box for visually impaired/blind participants. hm, should i check it? i mean, it's not like i need to tether to someone to run, or have a service dog, or walk with a cane. i don't look like a blind/vi person. which is probably the biggest battle of having RP. appearances are deceiving. i bump into someone and apologize, but still get an angry "watch where you're going!" um, i was watching...as much as i can see to watch! so then i reminded myself that it can't hurt to check it, that i probably need a special bib to put on my back that says "hey watch out, blind person running so stay out of my way!" or whatever. 

then all of a sudden memories of NWM came back to me. throngs of people everywhere. cones and roadblocks (which are realllly easy to walk into/trip over. benches, low garden fences, curbs, potted plants...all foes of someone with limited vision). ok yeah, maybe i should ask if i can have a pacer to navigate the early miles crowd.  now i need to back track for a sec: i'm running chicago through Team In Training. it's an awesome group that i'll write more about some other time. TNT handles the race entry, hotel, transportation, etc and training schedule while i fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. hence my TNT badge to the right of my page. ok, so i'm emailing bonni from TNT about chicago last minute because i just switched events. i originally signed up for the kauau half, but the lure of a chicago, a full marathon, was too hard to resist. i had two days before the absolute deadline. one of those days was fourth of july, when everyone is out of the office and closed. so thursday, july 5th, is a mad scramble to get everything printed and faxed to bonni. oh and to casually mention i'm visually impaired, so how scary is the beginning of the race? naive and new marathoner that i am, a little googling revealed there are 45,000+ participants. say what? and bonni tells me that there isn't much dispersing of runners as the course goes on. cue onset of panic. visions of tripping over runners or road blocks or water stations and then getting trampled by an endless crowd flashed through my head. when you have very limited vision, being in crowds can make you feel claustrophobic. i imagine that feeling magnifies hundred-fold with a running crowd. ok, yes, definitely need someone to run with me, to help navigate runners, alert me of upcoming aid stations, and generally make sure i don't trip to my trampling death.

bonni, who was so nice and understanding, said that a coach can run with me for the first couple miles and she would try to find a volunteer. she also offered to pay for a second entry so that i could bring someone with me. which would have been awesome if i had any marathon friends who could agree last minute to fly out to chicago with me. i tried desperately asking around but it was a big commitment for any one person on such short notice. so, as of now, i'm still waiting to hear if some poor soul at the chicago TNT group will run/guide me through my first marathon. as if training and running a marathon wasn't hard enough! in the meantime i am trying to let that fear go and just hope and pray it'll work out in the end. because that's really all i can do for now, right? that and run my ass off.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

taking the first step

i'm a runner. it's really the one sport i was ever really good at, and i was lucky enough to stumble upon it when i was 12. despite the long list of injuries i've accumulated over the years, i'm still running. sometimes there's an ongoing disagreement between my head and my body; i'm determined to keep running and my body is determined to make it known it doesn't always appreciate 1) waking up before dawn for runs and 2) running miles and miles at a time 3) eating gels.

my body feels like it's being punished since i've started training for a marathon. "what do you mean i have to get up (and moving) at 4:30?" "this GU isn't real peanut butter! Muscle Milk isn't real milk!" "this foam roller feels HARD and uncomfortable!" are a few top complaints.and yes, when you stop to think about it, running a marathon is a certain kind of crazy. subjecting yourself to 26.2 miles for no real reason other than some deluded sense of accomplishment isn't exactly rational. it's part impressive, part insane. 

but here's the thing, throughout the pain and fatigue and sacrificing nights out with friends and eating/drinking whatever the hell i want, running is what keeps me sane. when non runners ask me why or how i do it, there's no good explanation for them. "it makes me feel alive, complete, happy" doesn't translate well to someone who hates running just one mile. 

there are a million blogs out there about running by runners, newbies straight off the couch to seasoned vets. at first glance i'm just another 20-something girl running around the bay area, which is teeming with runners to begin with. but here's what makes me interesting (hopefully): i'm legally blind. this blog is about my journey of training and completing my first marathon, and the obstacles i face as i struggle with slowly losing my vision. i have a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa (RP) that is destroying my retinas. i've been legally blind since high school, which is when i was diagnosed with RP. yeah, as if running a marathon wasn't hard enough, i'm going to do it with very limited vision. i'm incredibly excited, terrified, and determined. 

ever since i was diagnosed in 2003 i kept my condition mostly to myself. i told people on a need to know basis, refusing to let it be a defining part of my identity. i don't know if it's maturity, acceptance, or something else, but i am becoming more open about it (dur, i'm posting about it on the internet!). having RP doesn't have to define me, but i can't deny that it shapes me.