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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon 10k and Hurricane Sandy w/ Push America

Where do I even begin? AMAZING! I never quite know what to expect from these events. I participate in them for so many reasons, and even though this event is so short, I thought it could be a really great way to finish my running season! Here's to getting my run on in Washington DC. And so the story goes...

I was fortunate enough to have my roommate Sarah help me get to the airport, and deal with security. It was shockingly simple getting through. I don't think I've ever gotten through so quickly, and easily. It also helped that there were only about 4 other people in line. Burlington is the perfect size airport. Only one terminal, and limited gates. I'm a fan, as its more of an approachable situation for me. I flew US Airways, as they were the cheapest ticket, I could find, and also since I'd had a good experience with them previously. I can't tell you how happy I was to fly with them. I'm sure this was a once in a lifetime situation, but the attendants seated me in first class. I've never had the opportunity to sit in the front of the plane before, nor could I understand why anyone would pay so much more for a slightly larger seat, and hot coffee, or mixed drinks. I was slightly caught off guard, being offered a Bloody Mary at 6 am. To each their own I suppose, To each their own, but coffee suited my tastes, at that hour. Call me weird, but vodka before breakfast isn't a manageable task for my stomach. Plus, I was already appreciative enough to have a nice, comfortable seat.
Back in the day, I would've been psyched to have had the opportunity to be off the plane ASAP. However, I am so slow now, I can't, in good conscious, deplane before others, for fear of getting trampled. I waited, and got off last, where a staff person was kind enough to walk me towards the exit. I was so happy to not be forced into a wheel chair. Plus, it's a great way to meet people. It's funny to hear local stories, as you arrive in a new destination. As we walked, I heard my name, and started looking everywhere. The man who had my arm, asked me if I knew the guy waving his arms, over there. Over there is the least helpful direction, anyone can give me, since I don't know where to look. It only takes a few seconds to figure out where to look, though it always feels like minutes. I realize these are small amounts of time, but for the number of thoughts I have in a confusing situation, I perceive it differently. It's a very different reality for me now, as its always changing, and I so often need to rely on help from others. It is always a huge relief for me now, when I see someone I actually know. The US Airways staff person handed my bag to Kyle, the program director for Push America, and we made our way out of the airport. Challenge 1, complete!

I didn't get much done Saturday. Other members of the Push America team trickled in, as the day passed. I napped, watched tv, and assured my family I'd survived the flight. That afternoon I got up, and tried to find the others. Alas, no one was around, so, I sat down in the hotel restaurant, and ate a burger. Just sayin' there are far better burgers to be had, than those at a Holiday Inn. Some kind of unidentifiable meat product in a patty. I've lived in Vermont so long, I've become more of a localvore. More, just food conscious. Though, yikes I've never had a burger from a non fast food joint I wouldn't finish. Thankfully, dinner was in the near future. I tried to help get ready for the dinner, by arranging shirts, and various items bearing 'Push America' on them, on a table. I doubt I was actually as helpful, as they made me feel I was. I was just happy to have something to do. Then, I went back upstairs to my room to get something, and fell asleep(again). I missed half of dinner, which I wasn't happy about, but, at least I didn't miss the promotional video, that had some scenes from our summer trip. After, Lonnie, one of the blind fellows from the kayak trip, last July, stood up to tell his story, and speak about some of the amazing work that Push does.

One of my favorite things about participating in these events, or trips, is learning how others deal with, and overcome barriers, life puts forth for them. I definitely geared up, listening to Lonnie's story, about his 5 year old daughter, encouraging him to get back into his life on his farm, and being his vision, while he mowed the fields. It was really is amazing what people can accomplish,, when they work together.

After dinner, I retired, again, to be up at 430,again. We all met in the lobby, the next morning, to get transportation to the start points. The 10k began outside the Pentagon. It was a definite experience, seeing daybreak over the Pentagon, a pretty unique start to my day. I ran with 2 of the guys I'd met over the summer on the kayaking trip. Jake and Eli. They were fantastic running companions! Very high spirits the entire 6.2 miles. We were very fortunate to not run into any problems during our 6 mile jog. Eli helped keep me in the know, by answering my idiotic questions about words I don't know from today's pop culture. Also had some pretty entertaining stories to boot.. Jake has a thick English accent, which I loved listening to. Always reminds me of the good, old days! It's so wonderful for me, participating in these events, because I forget to feel like a weirdo, pushing an empty baby jogger, for, seemingly no reason. I'm not usually self conscious about my differing abilities in races, it's the training that gets me. That's when I seem to have the more perplexing experiences. Eli, Jake, and I trundled along in high spirits, occasionally playing tag with Lonnie, and his guide. Each time we neared him, he'd shout about how gorgeous I looked. The man definitely knows how to make a gal feel good. I admit, I laugh, each time he praises my looks. To me, anyways, running has never been an interetest of mine because I look good doing it. I am a ridiculous runner. In high school, I'd be ducking Into the woods, to puke, and then get back on track. That was a fun reputation to have. Everyone wants to cheer for the girl who puked all over herself. Alas, times have changed, and I've had to adapt myself to my ever changing difficulties, but as I've grown, and so have others. So here I am today, running in my biggest race to date, with 2 amazing fellows by my side!

We trundled in, 5 minutes faster than I did the Beach to Beacon 10k last year. That felt awesome, to realize I am improving, even though I don't realize it. I am so thankful to have had Eli and Jake by my side. Running isn't easy for anyone, but their high spirits, and laughable demeanors , made the race a lot of fun. The crowds towards the finish line were enormous. Much like at the Maine Marathon, but we were still straggling in from the 10k, and the crowds were already thick! I thought I heard my name being yelled, as went by, but I couldn't imagine anyone I knew was there. I just found out today, a friend from my UVM rugby days , and outing club events every now and then, was there with the Walter Reid hospital crew supporting their team, and saw me. How awesome is that? I wish we'd gotten a chance to talk, but it was still an amazing moment, as we all finished! Eli completed his first ever running event , which was awesome! I never learned if Jakevran or not, but they were great to run with! I was psyched to not have taken a spill, nor get run-over by a herd of runners, at any point, always a plus! A huge thank you to everyone who helped make this race possible! I could go on, and on about what an amazing event this is!

After receiving our medals, we trudged back and forth, in search our tent. Finding anything amongst massive numbers of people milling about, is impossible. After almost an hour, we eventually found the Push tent. It was relatively empty, but the pizza was already there, so we all helped ourselves. It's funny, last spring, when I ran as a bandit in Vermont City Marathon, the idea of eating pizza, after running, was almost an undoable concept for me. After the Maine half, I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a pizza in my life. Same here. Having something warm and greasy to eat is the most satisfying thing ever! As it cools off, having warm food available after a run is beyond rewarding. A couple of hours passed, and one of the hand cyclists, Sherri, finished, though there was no sign of others. A couple of the able bodied runners trickled in as well, but, we all were concerned , as more than half the team was still out there, including one of the hand cyclists, Kristen. I was freezing, after multiple hour sitting in my sweaty running clothes, and it was clear I wasn't alone. Around 3, a group of us decided to make our way back to the hotel. It was more like another 10k. My plan was to just follow the group, to the buses. We never found the buses. Once it became clear no one knew where to go, a cab was called. Pretty ridiculous, I fit right in. On the ride back we got updates on the rest of the team. One of the hand cyclists, Kristin, my roommate at the hotel, had been involved in a nasty spill , due to an inattentive runner. Her hand cycle had been damaged, which posed a problem for her finishing. If I recall correctly, she rode to mile 23 or 24 before her bike made it unable for her to continue. She did make to the finish though, despite all the trouble! Way to persevere!
I returned, and immediately took a hot shower to warm up. When I left
the room again, I tracked down a couple other folks to find out the plan. Kristen had returned by then, so I got all the details of her race experience. What happened to her was outrageous, as it seemed a runner had been warned she was passing, and had crossed into her path anyways. They'd both gone down, but he got up , and carried on apparently. I apologize if I'm missing details, or have incorrect information, this what I heard. The worst of it, in my opinion, was that she'd broken her helmet, from landing on her head. That's what helmets are designed to do, but it means you took a high impact fall. Because, I now live in the brain injury world, and am constantly exposed to hyper activity, about bumping your head , I was a little keyed up, until I'd talked to her, and it was pretty clear she'd be okay. I hate it when people get hyper about falls I take, so, I didn't want up act the same way, but, in that moment, I realized how hard it can be to tone yourself down. She was fine, just a little banged up. As the night pressed on, Hurricane Sandy became the next issue of concern, as we began to receive notice of cancelled flights. I was among the last to receive notice, receiving an email after dinner. Knowing this meant I'd either get a couple more days in DC, or to return to Charlotte, NC with Kyle, and the other Push staff, I wasn't bothered in the slightest.

I ended up going down to Charlotte, with Kyle and Dave. Throwing random people in vehicle can be a great way to get to know new people. most of the drive, we played an intriguing road trip card game, "Would you rather?' It's a set of cards, each with a question that gives you 2 choices. It's a great way to learn about people you don't know all that well, because you all end up defending your answers, if they differ. The hours passed so quickly, and as we pulled in to get dinner, my phone rang. I tried to convince them not to wait for me to catch up with my friend, but nope, they patently sat, and waited for me. I felt badly, as we were all hungry, but that's where it stood. They were either profoundly patient, or, as it occurred to me later, because I'm a liability, as a participant. Excellent.

I can't for the life of me, recall, the name of the fast food Mexican inspired place we ate. Reminded me of Moe's, minus the whole 'WELCOME TO MOE'S part.

We got back around 10, it was a much longer drive than I'd realized. A a bit surreal driving through Virginia, and seeing all of the snow. It wasn't a light dusting either. And, back to rain, the further south we got.
Looking back, I feel ridiculous writing that I fled from the storm, by going further south. Not everything I do makes sense, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and worked out well! I've never spent a profound amount of time in NC, so I looked at it as an unplanned adventure.

I didn't really have much, in terms of pressing obligations this week, I cancelled the appointments in my calendar before Thursday. This was difficult, as originally, as I had no idea when I'd get home. My return flight, was booked for Wednesday afternoon, so I thought I'd be okay with canceling everything through Wednesday. Apparently, I failed to get ahold of my voice coach know. I called on Monday, but received a call on my trip home, from them, wondering where I was.

Tuesday morning, I awoke ridiculously early, alarmed at my surroundings. It was around 4 am, and I didn't know where I was. That was terrifying for a few seconds, until my mind kicked in, and I realized I was in North Carolina, staying with the program leader. Chivalry is something I always saw in movies, and, ever so rarely encountered first-hand. Giving your guest your room, and sleeping on the couch, was a concept I couldn't wrap my head around. Maybe that's just me, but I didn't go down there to feel like an inconvenience for them. That was really hard for me to accept. don't know that I've ever woken up, and not known where I was. It was also confusing, because I woke up in a guys room. This is the weirder part of my brain injury for me , my ability to recognize my surroundings doesn't come automatically like it used to. I sat straight up, and my first thoughts were, 'Oh my god, where am I, and what did I do? Wait that's not right, but I still don't know where I am. Where the hell am am I right now?' As soon as I chilled out, I realized where I was, and that I was fine, although, profoundly ridiculous, and went back to sleep. Chivalry is a COMPLETELY foreign concept to me, as its nor all that prevalent in the northeast, nor in my present economic tier. It's an adjustment, either way. Yikes, i scare myself sometimes. got up a couple hours later to swap smoothie making tricks. It seems pretty straight forward, but I think we each learned something new, and that was cool. Then he left for work, and I hung out with the wall size tv, on overload of storm coverage, and political dramatization. I don't have cable in my apartment anymore, which I actually appreciate. Now. It was an adjustment at first, but now it's an adjustment, whenever I'm around it. At first, I'm glued to it, wide eyed, and then an hour passes, and I remember why I don't want it. The drama. I can't realistically imagine what a better country we'd live in, if people weren't exposed to all of that hype everyday. But, that's just my opinion. Obviously, it's a fun, normal thing to have in your life, I just felt shell-shocked, as I'm not used to it anymore. Im actually psyched right now, that I don't have it, because I find the political villainy so disturbing. Seeing some of the ads, and the shameless backstabbing makes me ashamed to identify as an
American. When I was little, I thought I lived in the greatest country in the world. Now, seeing how we treat each-other, and the image pop culture creates, I'm not so proud. Yes, that's why I don't have cable, so I don't blog about my distaste for how my country is portrayed. When did I become such a stick in the mud?

Anyways, I was rescued from my tv treachery around noon, when Kyle, and Sam (if my memory serves me) showed up. We all went to lunch, at a place that is known for grilled cheese sandwiches. Naturally, I didn't realize there were also cold sandwiches on the menu, so mine wasn't what I'd imagined, but still good. I'm not a huge fan of eating out with people I'm not super close with, because I eat so slowly,and because I inevitably find myself wearing part of my meal later in the day. It's just weird to always be explaining to people that I'm a slob, and I eat very slowly. Oh well, a lot of me knows that these are my perceptions at this point, but I'm still finding myself conscious of it now. I don't even know where it comes from, as no ones ever said anything specifically.
After lunch, I got to check out the Charlotte YMCA, which was awesome. Always need to be moving, so, I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to get to the gym. I kept myself busy for a couple of hours, before Kyle appeared again. He had talked the day before about showing me National white water rapid training center. That's the gist of the name, but I didn't have a clue, that a place like this existed. Sadly, the water wasn't running, but the park, and all it's toys was a lot of fun to learn about. Without water, it appears as cement canals , with ledges, and boulders. Still, I was sure its pretty epic, when the water is running. A group came in to use the zip line, which was a bit distracting, seeing people fly by above my head. I forgot that I have a hard time maintaining my balance when I look straight up, and found myself in a heap on the ground. So smooth.
It was great to just have a chance to spend a little time outside, in the adventure park, and in good company. As much asI wished the water was running, it was phenomenal to check out the park, and learn about a new area.
From there, it was time for taco Tuesday. I found myself at this awesome little Mexican cantina, where each taco was a dollar. My kind of place! Also, an interesting slice of life, as I was the only gal, at a table with 4 dudes, which has always suited me. I seemed to develop an affinity for the sports and activities, that had a lot more guys. In the healthcare world, it's just the opposite. It's not like there are no men, but women are much more prevalent. That was something I never actually realized about myself. I was, and still am into outdoor recreation, but I never realized how much less pressure I feel, to adhere to social norms around dudes. Yep, I'm nuts , chock full. Its because I have a brain injury...Funny how how getting out of my usual surroundings always teaches me so much about myself, that I wouldn't otherwise realize. And now, y'all get to read my realizations, obvious, or not so.
There was so much packed into Tuesday, I was exhausted. Wednesday, I had a flight home in the afternoon, with a layover in DC. I asked Kyle to help me get through security . It's really time consuming, and confusing for me to deal with where to go, and keep track of all of the small items, I so easily misplace. I felt so fortunate to have the help, in that situation, which was funny to me, as I so often resent it. I definitely, would have more trouble than I would ever be willing to anticipate. Leaving, I was sad, my short, unplanned vacation from my Vermont life was over, or so I thought. I thanked Kyle for 543rd time, and left the friendly, and ever-so-chivalrous south. Such a different world!

It was bittersweet leaving, as I'd just gotten there, and met so many amazing people. It was great learning about a new area, and going on new adventures. i so easily forget theres a whole world, waiting to be explored! i said thank you for the 473rd time, and headed off to the plane. A fellow passenger helped me find my way to next gate. so Kind. figuring out shuttle buse scedules and maps is somewhat beyond me, so that was wicked helpful. Iwent to board my Burlington flight, and it gets to boarding time, and they delay it. When it came time to board again, they announce it's cancellation. At first it's like, freak out, what are we supposed to do? But, I didn't really want to put all that energy into it, so I got out of the endless line I was in, and got involved in a texting frenzy. What I don't remember about group messaging, is that everyone receives every message sent, which in my opinion is unforgivably annoying, because you find 15 messages that don't pertain to you. I was extremely happy when I got a message that my aunt had rebooked me, for the next morning. Now I had to set about finding a place to stay. I reached out to a couple of friends from UVM, that I knew lived in the area. This would never have worked out, if we'd planned it, but luckily my friend Tim was available to come pick me up, after work. We were in many of the same sciences courses, back in the day. He however, prevailed in that course of study, whereas I abandoned it, halfway through, in favor of writing, and communications... And horses. I don't really realize how much time has passed until I have the opportunity to catch up with old college friends. Tim moved to DC to complete his medical residency. That means he's completed med school, in the time I've relearned to live an adult life. Maybe? I'm so happy for him, and his accomplishments, but I can't say it's not sobering for me to realize this. I'm genuinely thrilled we had the opportunity to catch up, as every experience I have with friends from my old life, also helps me realize more about who I am, and that I do actually have something to offer the world. What a concept! I so easily to forget that, when my TBI program consistently focuses on my weaknesses, and failures. I've been fortunate to work with some positively minded souls, over the years, but, it's the set up of the program itself, more so, than the individuals running the programs. I'm a number, out an output. This world is black or white, pass or fail, there is no room for grey area. I imagine that is why it seems so callous. Needless to say, its not the greatest design, but the more people become aware of the burdens, and hardships caused, the more likely they are to change!
I'm still in shock over how desensitized I've become, in my own little world. I felt like I must've said 'thank you' every other sentence, to everyone. I love going new places, where its not super awkward trying to start a conversation with people I'm less, or unfamiliar with.. Flying back to VT seemed surreal, since The time flew by. My TBI program is always telling me to let go of what I used to be. At this stage in my little world of redevelopment, I couldn't be happier, I've been able to hold onto my values, and beliefs, because they, along with a ridiculously amazing friends, family, and acquaintances have led me to the progress I've made since incurring this injury! These trips take me out of my little box, and are slowly helping me piece my world back together. For that, I'm so thankful, good thing it's November!

I hope you all learned som things from this post, I know I did!



Anonymous said...

What an amazing and infectious spirit you possess! You are an inspiration! The photo of you by the sign captures your positive spirit and determination! I look forward to meeting you Thanksgiving!
Hugs, Lisa

Jessica Goodine said...

You, Courtney, should never be forced to focus on your weaknesses. Your strengths define you, and your strengths are abundant. I was so grateful that I could be there to cheer you in to the finish at the MCM 10K. Your smile as you passed me absolutely made my day AND race. I, too, wish he had at least a minute to catch up, but for some reason I feel like our paths may cross again soon! Keep it up girl!

With Much Respect (and UVM love),

Val said...

ahahahaa love that photo at the end, love YOU! XOXO