Thursday, August 16, 2012

Another Dream...and a Nightmare

My friend and neighbor, Amy, came to me one day (OK, we were probably sitting in the driveway, watching the kids play, drinking wine already...but I digress...) and shared with me a dream of hers:  She was starting a new race (hopefully a Nationwide Series!) and wanted me in on it.  The concept was brilliant:  Your Cause, Our Event... runners could choose a charity of their choice to run for when they registered, and proceeds from the race would be given to multiple charities!  I was already a few months into helping plan the Ladybug Run (which will be one of the featured charities!) with my friend, Liz, so I said, "Sure!"  Amy already had experience in this whole "creating a race" department, as she created the Sandpoint Half Marathon while working for the Chamber of Commerce.   Cause and Event Portland was  born...

I need to back up a bit, because although this post is absolutely meant to bring light to Cause and Event, it's more about the amazing chick driving that boat.

Amy and her awesome family have lived on my street for three years now.  She used to live WAAAAY down on the other corner (a whole 5 houses away), but last summer they moved across the street from me!  We were thrilled, as this would make sitting in the driveway, watching the children play, and drinking wine SOOOO much easier!  Her kids are awesome, and mine love playing with them.  Win Win!

Awesome neighbors
I've been running for a while, trying to get a little faster, and working with my friend Jessica on losing some weight.  Amy started running and shedding pounds last December, 2011.  It was clear that she was a runner, and a natural athlete.  I started meeting her in the driveway to run the neighborhood loops.  For a while, I would run a few miles with Amy and then head out for more.  That didn't last long.  Amy started tacking on the miles, and soon we were enjoying weekday early-morning mid-mile runs, and weekend long runs together.  Her first race was Shamrock 8K, and I could tell she was HOOKED.  (Yesss!)  More than hooked, Amy had a new goal:  to run one race a month for the rest of the year.  So I talked her into signing up for the Girlfriend's Half.  Of course.  (insert evil laugh here.)  Honestly, it didn't take much convincing.

Mother's Day 2012,  Run Like A Mother 5K

There are a lot of qualities I love about Amy, but one way were are very much alike is that we're both up for pretty much anything, and can be easily talked into doing something.   VERY easily. 

 Case in point:

Me:  Hey Amy, wanna be on my EPIC Relay team in June?  12 Girlfriends, 2 days, lots of miles...
Amy: Sure!  Here's my check.  Maybe I should start running more than 5 miles, damn Arthritic Toe!  And Bursitis!

Amy, bringin' it home to the finish of the EPIC Relay!

Amy, leading the Fueled By Fine Wine team across the finish!

Post-EPIC Relay,  and for "Snort Coffee out your Nose Funny"... read her recap on her blog.  It's in three parts.  And each one is better than the last.  Just like the relay. ;-)

Me:  Hey Amy, wanna do a Triathlon with me in July?
Amy:  Sure!  (clickity click)  I just signed up!  Maybe I should start swimming and riding my bike again... Does spin class count?  Can Chris get my bike working enough to do the race?

Blue Lake Triathlon, 2012.  Don't let the lack of a race bib fool you... Amy earned that medal.

Me:  You've got plenty of miles on your legs, sign up for the Girlfriend's Half!  It's not till October. 
Amy:   Firemen, necklaces, and chocolate at the end?  Oh yesser!  I'm in!

Ahhhh... A girl after my own heart.

One of the other great things about Amy is her willingness to help a friend out.  Me, in this case.  I had been struggling with getting my training runs in since the kids have been home from school (I know, I know... my working mother runner friends everywhere are rolling their eyes at me and saying "suck it up and get up early!").  Amy would offer to watch the kids play outside while I took off and got in 5-6 miles around the neighborhood.  I will never ever forget one of those times.

We were supposed to go for a run together early that morning,  but Amy texted me the night before saying she had been nursing a fever and was taking some Tylenol and needed the sleep.  She had a Doctor appointment the next day, and I was going to watch her  kids.  We do that a lot, since it's so great that the kids enjoy playing together.  So she watched my kids play when I ran that morning.  I did a quick 5.5 mile run, and when I came back, I noticed that her husband was home.  Amy didn't beat around the bush.  I was still turning off my iPod when she told me that Mark would be going to the Doc with her, and that her appointment might be longer than she originally though because she had BREAST CANCER.   I let that sink in for about a millisecond before I clung to her in a sweaty hug.  She literally found out while I was out running.  She, of course, told me she would be FINE.  Because that's what Amy does.  Throughout her whole sucky ordeal, she was always trying to make others laugh and reassure US that SHE would be OK.   Amy blogs about her life on her incredibly awesome blog, Bliss and Chaos.  She used her talent with words to process through this "bump" in her road breast.

Pre-Surgery PINK Party, Cyndie Amy and Audrey

Less than two weeks after her diagnosis, she underwent surgery and began reconstruction.  She, and everyone who knows Amy, was grateful to have such a positive diagnosis (no need for chemo or radiation!), but she couldn't help being super pissed that her summer plans, vacations and racing, had been foiled.  As you can see from the triathlon picture above, Amy STILL came out to cheer me on, just two weeks after surgery.  She took her training very seriously, and would have kicked my butt from here to next year in this race.  I completed it for her; and when I felt like I was going to drown in the lake, I felt Amy cheering me on, ringing that cowbell (even though it hurt to raise her arms!).

Wednesday, July 11, at 6am, was the last time I ran with my bud.  The day before her surgery we ran the Cause and Event 10K loop.  And yesterday, Wednesday August 15th, we met on the driveway again early in the morning for a run.  Just 5 weeks after kicking cancer's ass, Amy was ready to start running.  I know she was frustrated with only running 3.5 miles.  But that mileage will grow quickly, and she will be stronger for having overcome what she did.

Post-Triathlon, Kicking Cancer's Ass celebration date night (with the hubby's too!) at Andina.

Her next goal:  Sub 2 hour half marathon at The Girlfriend's Half, October 14th.  Fittingly, it's an all-female race that benefits Komen.  And I'm proud to be a part of helping her get there.  And I'm pretty sure there won't be a dry eye in the place when she crosses that finish line. 

Fast-forward back to Cause and Event.  Planning is in full-swing now, and we are more excited than ever to make this race series a reality!  Like any event, there are passionate, dedicated people helping Amy along the way.  We have an amazing group who jumped on board this train, and we are so inspired to be a part of something that can help so many organizations.  If you would like more information about how to get an organization that you work with connected to this race, please see the website for more details.  And if you have any connections to potential sponsors, please contact myself or Amy (use the "contact us" button at the bottom of the page).  Please "Like" the event page on Facebook, so you can receive updates on the race and events surrounding it.  Registration should be open in the next few days...and we will be celebrating at our event planning meeting with Pink Wine!

Cheers to you Amy, my friend, neighbor, and BRF.  So glad to have you back.  xoxo

A handful of the Cause and Event Board Members:  Sandi Colner, Cyndie Pelto, Audrey Schaab, and fearless leader/visionary Amy Little

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 Life and in Racing

As women, we are naturally prone to wanting,  NEEDING, close friendships with other women. 

I love my husband with all my soul.  We have been together for 21 years, since High School, and Chris is my best friend, my soul-mate.  I can tell him anything and I love spending time with him, whenever I can get it.  I even have a "No Friday Night Plans with Friends" policy, because that is our standing "Date Night."  And it's important to me, to us.  He is an amazing husband, father, and friend.  And he understands my need for my Girlfriends, and my time with them.  And I appreciate that more than any words could say. 

Celebrating 13 years of Marriage, and 21 years together. 

I've had lots of different kinds of relationships with Girlfriends.  The first one being my younger sister, Robin.   Now, any woman with a sister who tells you they didn't fight like cats when they were younger is LYING.  It's what sisters do.  Sad, but true.  All siblings do (as I am living through right now with my own children), but sister have a special way of doing it.  I prefer not to go into detail about our "special" way of getting under each others skin, and instead will fast forward to now.  I am so proud of Robin!  She is an amazing mother, wife, sister, and daughter.  She is a wonderful example of health and fitness to her own two daughters (and to  me!), and she is close to our Parents and Grandparents and always willing to help them out.  It's hard being the one that moved far away... and it is comforting to me to know that Robin is there, close by.   I took for granted all that time we had together, growing up, as siblings will do.  We never know where life will take us, and in my case it took me to the West Coast.  I don't see my sister nearly enough, and am thankful for technology to make us feel closer in proximity than we are.  We have daughters that are only three months apart in age, but thousands of miles apart.  That is so hard, seeing the cousins grow up so far away from one another.  It's reassuring to me that when we DO see each other, the kids pick up right where they left off.  I've admired my sister for completing the Chicago Marathon, before she had kids, and am really excited to say that she will be joining me for this year's Girlfriend's Half Marathon!  We are running it on our Mom's Birthday, our first race together, and I am excited for her to get that sub-2 hour PR (since I won't be slowing down for her now...)  HA!  Better start training, Robin.  ;-) 

Me and my Sis, Robin
Lauren, and her cousin Grace (photo courtesy of Cheryl M. Photography)

Moving thousands of miles away from your family, with a baby and no job to make connections, can be a daunting task.  I knew that I was going to need a way to make some friends so I didn't go completely off the deep end.  The North Beaverton MOMS Club was my saving grace.  I remember that first meeting so clearly.  I felt Divine Intervention working when I met Cindy and her daughter, Natalie, just 5 days older than my Andrew.  The two Cyndie/Cindy's started a playgroup, and the rest is history.  A wonderful history that includes so many amazing women and their children and husbands.  Our lives have been forever touched by the families we met through the MOMS Club.  As our children have grown, and families have grown, our time together became less and less.  Some friends have moved (still missing you, V), others live just blocks away.  But with our children's schedules so busy and different school schedules, we hardly see each other anymore.  Chance meetings at Girls Night concerts allow us to remember all the fun times we shared together.  Keeping in touch on Facebook (seriously thankful for FB), watching each others children grow and the adventures the families are having together, is bittersweet.  We'd love to be able to stay connected to all the people who have had such a profound influence and impact on our  lives, but the reality is...time gets in the way.  It becomes SO important to carve out those blocks of time to reconnect with those friends from the past, friends that became like family, friends that filled the hole that was empty with family living so far away.  I am grateful for ALL of you amazing women from the MOMS club, my friends that I made when I was just Andrew's mommy, and then all my new friends when I was active in the club with just Lauren.  You each hold a special place in my heart, and I consider you all a part of our Oregon Family. 

Cindy and Cyndie

Andrew and Natalie... hard to believe they met when they were 9 months old!
Memorial Day Weekend Trip with The Robinson's, 2011, photo by Andrew
Annual MOMS Club Easter Egg Hunt! 

After Lauren was born, I started feeling a need for something else... I just wasn't sure what it was that I needed.  Then I discovered Stroller Strides, and my life was again changed!  Like all things that have a profound impact on your life, I remember that first class vividly.  My sister was in town with Grace, the girls were just babies (Lauren was almost one), and she said we should see if there was a Stroller Strides class nearby.  Robin had started going to her SS classes in St. Louis when Grace was born.  Sure enough, there was a class that met at Greenway Park, fairly close to my house.  I was hesitant (unlike me for some reason), but when I saw all of these other mommies seeking out exercise and social mommy-time, I. Was. HOOKED.   These women were all seeking out a way to feel better physically (endorphins are powerful, and SS classes are intense!), and looking for other women who felt the same as they did... Tired. ;-)  It's hard to drag yourself and your kids out of the house to go exercise.  The beauty of Stroller Strides was that you CRAVED getting out and going to class because you CRAVED the time with your Girlfriends.  The workout was the icing on the cake.  Over the years, Stroller Strides has evolved within my life.  For a while, Andrew would join Lauren and I, riding his scooter or his bike next to me (and then up with the faster girls).  Rachel was so kind to allow me to bring him, as I don't know what I would have done without my Rachel or Tracy butt-kicking and then social mommy-time after at the park. ;-)   I not only became a better mom during my years in Stroller Strides, I found my inner athlete.  I had surrounded myself with like-minded women, strong, healthy women who enjoyed challenging themselves outside their comfort zone.  I was inspired by those that pushed themselves to race, and I soon began pushing others to do the same.  Although the Stroller Strides chapter in my life has finally come to a close, the connections and friendships I formed with the women have not!  We are just getting started!  I love my early Saturday morning runs with my Girlfriends.  I love that so many of them are willing to be talked into racing with me.  I love cheering on each of them as they push themselves further and faster than they thought they could go. 

My Running Buddy, Marianne, after we finally busted 2 hours at Rock n Roll!

We love to workout, but we love to GO OUT too! :-)  Kerri and Brandi

Fueled By Fine Wine, EPIC Relay team 2012... 12 Girlfriends!

Kristine, one of the strongest Mommies I know.  She can make a double jogger with two boys look like it doesn't weigh anything.

Girlfriends Half Marathon, 2011! 

EPIC Relay, Van 2...pit stop at Rex Hill Winery.  Living up to our team name.

I love you Jen!  Even though you believe your shirt, you still let me talk you into crazy things!

I am excited to see where I go from here... Wherever it is, it's always more fun with your GIRLFRIENDS!

Me and Amy... a little preview of Friday's post

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ladybug Love

In the last three years, I've become a bit of an addict to running races.  I love everything about them.  And it's the actual day of the race that is so addicting.  The early mornings, meeting up with my Girlfriends, the excitement/anxiety, photo-ops, the people watching, the post-race festivities, and recounting the race with the girls.  And somewhere in there, there's running the actual race!  When I first started running, the races were about finishing.  The goal was in completing something that I set my mind to.  Over the last year, my goals have shifted to competing with myself, and pushing myself outside my comfort zone.  PR's (personal records) are something I'm constantly striving for now. 

Although I've participated in many MANY races, I've never volunteered to help at any.  I've always appreciated the volunteers handing out water, organizing packet-pick up, keeping our belongings safe at the bag check, but I've never stepped up to actually BE one.  That was something I wanted to change.  I wanted to give back to the sport that has helped me rediscover myself and has given me a connection to so many amazing women in my life.  I just didn't know when the right time would be.  Part of me was being selfish, because I love the race so much.  I guess I was waiting for some kind of sign...

And then an amazing woman I knew had a baby with a hole in her diaphragm.  I followed Liz's journey on her blog, read how she found her strength in God to get her through this uncertain time, prayed for her and her daughter, and celebrated the milestones her beautiful Finley overcame.  I knew Liz would take what their family had gone through and turn it into something BIG.  So naturally, when she said she was thinking about starting a race to raise money and awareness for CDH, on Finely's 2nd Birthday, I asked "How can I help?"  I believe I had my sign.

It started off with a few brainstorming sessions on the part of the race committee.  Liz was really driving this boat.  She did so much of the preliminary work to set up her foundation, get the permits, secure the location, landed some major sponsors, the website, etc.  Once registration went LIVE, we felt the pressure to start securing donations and more sponsors.  It was really exciting to go to a business and share Finely's story, many were excited to help, even if it was small.  Things really seemed to come together in the last month before the race.  Registrations were coming in, sponsors were sending prizes and donations, and volunteers were asking how they could help.   Facebook was lit up with our friends sharing the registration page, and word was spreading.

The amazing logo, created and donated by my friend Kim DiStefano!

Andrew was super excited to run the 5K with me (he had a chip/bib number, I did not), and he even wanted to get up before dawn with me on race day to help set up!  We saw an amazing sunrise on our way to the park, and even watched 5 hot air balloons floating over the landscape.  Once we arrived, it was so cool to see the race "scene" unfold before my eyes.  All those races I had shown up to as a participant, I took so much for granted.  So much hard work from so many people goes into giving a race that "feel" on race day.  At 6:45am, all the way out at Champoeg State Park, there were so many people helping unload supplies, setting up food, registration tables, organizing shirts/packets, getting the timing equipment set up... it was a flurry of activity that is now a blur in my mind. 

At 8am, participants started arriving, mingling and enjoying the Dutch Brothers coffee (we put a lot of importance on our pre-race beverage, so it needed to be GOOD coffee!), and bagels.  Kids were running in the field, and many people had Ladybug themed clothes, embracing the race's theme and guest of honor/birthday girl.  Andrew and I were tasked with the important job of marking the kids fun run 1K course (as I happened to be wearing my Garmin).   As we made our way to the start line, we ran into so many old Stroller Strides friends and their families who came out to support Liz's dream.  I loved that so much!  We gathered to hear some heartfelt words from Liz, prayed and thanked God for so many people who made the day possible, and for all of the racers, then released live Ladybugs in honor and memory of the babies who did not make it this last year.  It was hard to hold back the tears.

Ladybug Release
Andrew and I took off at a good pace, and we just had a fun time running together.  We made it a mile before he wanted to take a break, but it was just a short one and he was off running again.  At the halfway point, we stopped to get some Shaklee Sports drink from Beth and her kids, who were running the Aid Station.  Then we headed back and finished strong!  Andrew ran a 9:20 pace for the 5K, finishing 3rd in his age-group, and I enjoyed taking pictures while running! LOL!   Lauren was at the finish line with some of the other kiddos handing out water bottles to the runners.  She was looking forward to running the Kid's Race soon! 

On the Run!
Andrew pushing through to the finish!

Loving Running with my Boy!

Beth Kershner and her kids at the Aid Station...This was a Family Affair!   

Lauren ready with the Water at the FINISH!
After most of the 10K runners had finished, we let the 2 and under crowd have their turn.  How cute is a crowd of toddlers attempting to run 50 feet towards a finish line?  Turns out it's pretty darn ADORABLE!  Then the 3-9 year olds raced the 1K course, with the parents either cheering them on or running alongside them.  Lauren was very proud of herself after completing her first race, all by herself!  She's ready to hit the track at On The Move, now that she'll be starting Kindergarten at Oak Hills!

After everyone had finished, and the kids had snuck about 10 Otter Pops each (along with several Ladybug Cookies), Chris was gracious enough to take them home so I could hang out and enjoy one (or maybe two) delicious Ninkasi IPA's, thanks to our beer sponsor. ;-)  Yeah, we didn't fool around when it came to the food and drink.  This was a PARTY after all.  It was really great to get a chance to hang out with Amanda (from Runninghood) and her awesome husband and adorable kiddos, and catch up with some very dear friends that I don't see nearly enough any more. 

Hangin' in the beer garden with Amanda (from Runninghood and Overall Female 5K winner!) and Liz Dooley, Race Director/Visionary/Friend
My closing thoughts...

I will never EVER take the races I run for granted anymore.   The volunteers are truly a gift and we could not have all the fun if it weren't for them.

It was an honor to be a part of the 1st Annual Ladybug Run.  I  hope we raised awareness of this birth defect and brought some peace to the families who were there running in memory of babies lost, but never forgotten.

I want to thank Liz for including me on the race committee.  We didn't know each other more than just  acquaintances from Stroller Strides, then started running together, then had an EPIC time together in a van for 33 hours... I am honored to call you my friend, and I am so proud of you and everything you've done.  You are an inspiration to so many!  I look forward to helping plan the 2nd Annual Ladybug Run...

Liz, her Ladybug Finley, and husband Jon