« January 2012 | Main | March 2012 »

February 2012 Archives

February 1, 2012

I Stopped Saying "I Can't"

by Amy Frank

Doctors have told me since the 80s that I can’t run because of a motor neuron dysfunction and I believed them. And I never challenged them. Then one fateful day, I read an AllEars newsletter by Michelle Scribner-MacLean detailing her first race at WDW, and I was so inspired that I decided to work around my disability and run the marathon at WDW.

I read books and blogs, signed up for my first 5K (2009 Expedition Everest Challenge!), and put on my sneakers to see how far I could go. I got a half block from my house and thought I would die. That was ok! I had 6 months to work up to those 3.1 miles and had my husband’s support and company, since I talked him into going on this journey with me. But in those 6 months, I grew very discouraged because I learned just how much my disability affected me. I ended up angrily walking much of the 5K but maintained my determination and registered for WDW’s 2011 Half-Marathon.

Image%202.jpg


Somewhere along the way, I accepted the fact my body won’t allow me to run like the wind and I adjusted my expectations to do this my way. Not only did I complete the half-marathon, I had so much fun that I decided I would complete the 2012 Full Marathon!

Realizing I would need a lot more motivation & support, I joined Team AllEars.
I definitely found the motivation I needed with this team! Every time I wanted to give up, I reminded myself that my fatigue, aches, and pains are nothing compared to fighting cancer. Adding the names of team members’ family and friends to my own list of survivors and fighters gave me specific reasons to keep going which, for me, was so much more effective & meaningful than just a general “for breast cancer” declaration. This was for John. For Rhonda. For Beth …

And it worked. I wasn’t the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, but I completed a marathon. As the finish line grew closer, I kept welling up. I attributed the raw emotions to the exhaustion I was experiencing. Not only was our awesome Team AllCheers along the sidelines, ringing those cowbells and hoopin’ and hollerin’, guests at the parks, who paid to ride Tower of Terror that day, stood along the Streets of America, clapping and cheering for us. Tears come even as I think about it now.

Crossing the finish line, I hugged the absolute stranger who was giving me my medal – not a nice little pat; a full-blown embrace with tears, and she just hugged me back. Gotta love those Disney volunteers!

Image%203.jpg


I set out on this journey to prove something to myself, but I ended up with so much more (and I’m not just talking about the great Mickey medal hanging on my wall). I knew I’d help this team raise money for Deb’s Avon Walk ($67,050! Woot!), and I knew this team would provide me with an incredible support system, but I had no idea the inspiration I would provide to others.

Image%201.jpg

My cousin emailed, asking advice on how to start running. My mom has committed to walking the Princess Marathon with me next year (her first at 60 years young!). I convinced a cast member to run the Princess this year and another to start walking around his apartment complex and consider his first 5K. Every time someone said “I could never do that,” I told them my story and hoped they at least stop telling themselves, “I can’t.” It’s certainly not a phrase I use any more.

Image.jpg

February 5, 2012

My first Half Marathon at Walt Disney World

By Casey Dylan

Back-story

Last fall, in what can best be described as a moment of mid-life crisis, I decided to put down the beer, turn off the TV, get off the couch, go outside and…(wait for it)…run a marathon. Due to my rotund shape, and generally lazy disposition, this was a statement far fetched enough to make those around me smirk openly.

About a month into training, I found myself in the back of an ambulance being rushed to the cardiac lab at one of the major hospitals in Boston. When the doctor leaned over to me and said “In a few minutes we might have to crack you open, is there a loved one you want to speak with?” I was blindsided by the possibility that I wouldn’t see my wife and two little boys again. It’s funny the things that race through your mind in moments like that, and one specific thought kept repeating: “I can’t be sick, In a few days I’m supposed to take my little boys to Walt Disney World for the first time.”

It turns out that I wasn’t in quite the dire straights they feared, and after several days in the cardiac ward, recovering from a case of strep-related pericarditis, I convinced the doctor to release me in time for our family vacation. Getting to see my boys discover the enchantment of Disney for the first time was magical to be sure, but I was unable to hold them, ride the attractions with them, or swim with them in the pool…in short, it was not the experience I had envisioned. While thankful to have been able to go, I came home with some degree of disappointment. Shortly after my return, the cardiologist placed me on a 3-month hold to any strenuous activity…my nascent commitment to running was put on the back burner.

After the requisite waiting period, and upon receiving the “all clear” status to resume training, I started looking for a big hairy audacious goal to set for myself. I learned about the Walt Disney World Half Marathon from a friend who had run it previously, and was planning on doing so again with her running group, Team All Ears (a group of runners dedicated to raising funds to fight breast cancer). The opportunity to set a daunting challenge for myself, while leveraging the support of a team and doing something good for others, was exactly what I was looking for.

Training

I began training with the “Couch Potato to 5K” plan. The C25K program seems simplistic at first glance, but really works well for fat, lazy, out-of-shape guys like myself, and in no time I was huffing and puffing my way through 3 to 4mile runs.

Unfortunately running around with a bunch of extra pounds takes its toll on a body, and it really wreaked havoc with my knees. My wife suggested I look into Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk training, and I tried a 3/2 split on my next five-miler. It was the easiest five miles I'd done, with the average minutes per mile about the same as when I shuffled along. Furthermore, I felt great during and after the run. I was a convert! I shifted to the Galloway half marathon training regime. As the mileage grew with each successive “long run”, the daunting nature of what once seemed impossible became less so, and the day I ran/walk for 10 miles I knew I could do it.

The Race

When the alarm went off at 3 am on race day, I was already awake and anxious to get going. I arrived at the race sight at 3:45 am shivering both from the cold and from nervous excitement…getting to this day had been a long journey. Walking to the corral took longer than I anticipated, but it kept me warm and gave me something active to do. I was gratified to have my wife (who had trained with me, but due to a knee injury couldn’t run) and a group from Team All Ears to chat with on both the walk to, and in, the corral.

The race began and I was pounding the pavement so quickly that I hadn’t even gotten my iPod plugged-in and fired-up (rookie move). It was hard not to let adrenaline get the best of me, and at Mile 1 I entertained thoughts of running hard to Mile 2, but I was committed to running the race I had trained for, so I reigned it in and forced myself to walk. Things were going well until around Mile 5, when I really started feeling sluggish. I got to Main Street USA and decided to take it easy, enjoy the spectacle, and fuel up on GU Chomps and PowerAde. I was already feeling better by the time I left the Magic Kingdom. The next few miles flew by quickly.

Miles 11 through 13 are a bit of a blur, as tunnel vision started set in and I focused on driving to the finish. I remember looking at my watch and thinking “It would be great to do this in under 3 hours!”, but I didn’t really have enough energy in the tank at that point to speed up, in fact my run/walk splits were inverted from 3/2 to 2/3 and I was slowing down. I was able to pick up the pace thanks to the energy of the crowd at Epcot, and when I rounded the corner to the grandstand and I saw my wife and boys I felt wings on my feet carry me across the finish line.


Casey_finishing1.jpg

Final Thoughts

The next day, as I alternated carrying my boys on my shoulders on our way to riding just about every ride at the Magic Kingdom, it occurred to me that it had only been a year since I had to scooter around and watch my kids riding those same rides from afar. I was moved to tears as I realized that in that year I had demonstrated to my boys how to get up off the mat when you get knocked down; achieved a key milestone along the road to realizing the ultimate goal of running a marathon; added years to my life; and raised money to try and help add years to the lives of others.


C_medal1.jpg

It was a fantastic experience, and I look forward to doing it again (this time with my wife) next year!

Casey_Family1.jpg

February 9, 2012

From Zumba to a Disney Half Marathon

By Erinn Casazza

Have you met Jamison Reynolds? If you have, you know that Jamison Reynolds has been blamed for many things. Here is something else he can add to his list: I blame Jamison Reynolds for how utterly happy I am right now! Weird, right?

Here’s how it happened:

In the fall of 2010, through the wonders of Facebook, Jamison discovered that I am a Zumba instructor and he asked me to help him fundraise for a running team he had joined. Jamison is on a running team? Huh? We had not kept in touch much since college, but I did not remember him being a runner. He may have run to Sheetz for more beer, but running on a team? Really?

He sent me a link to a video of a wonderful lady named Deb Wills with information about what she does in the fight against breast cancer. Not that Jamison had to twist my arm to do him a favor, but hearing Deb’s story and seeing all the change she has inspired helped me say “yes” more quickly.

After raising $250 at the Zumba event, I decided it was silly to give that money to Jamison when I could raise money, run and go to Walt Disney World myself, so I signed up for Team AllEars 2012!
Clearly, it was all Jamison’s fault.

I am not a runner, but what better excuse to become one? Sure I would be helping others by raising money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, but I would get to go to Walt Disney World too! As a former cast member who has been itching to get back to Orlando, that reward motivated my untrained feet and calves.

I started the Jeff Galloway training program and tried to enjoy it. I cannot lie. It is hard to enjoy running on the hills of Morgantown, WV. But I did feel a sense of accomplishment when friends and family would look at me in amazement when I explained what I was doing and why.

It is hard to explain the emotions and thoughts running through my head while I traveled solo to marathon weekend in Orlando. My husband had been in Miami covering the Orange Bowl and we didn’t get to see each other before I left for Florida. I was without my immediate support team and freaking out a bit over what I had signed on to do. I couldn’t stop chatting with my fellow travelers about running, meeting new friends, raising money, and West Virginia’s 70 point victory at the Orange Bowl!

Luckily, strangers were spared more of my nervous chatter when my friend Kristy picked me up at the airport and we headed to Port Orleans to take in YeeHaw Bob and meet up with Team AllEars. I have to be honest. I felt nauseous. I was nervous, happy, exhausted and excited, all at the same time.

I tackled Jamison upon arrival and received the sweetest hug from Deb. I relaxed. We were seated with two of the hippest chicks in running shoes: Libby Goldberg and Julie Olsen. We quickly got to know each other and then laughed and sang together with good ol’ Bob. I decided that night that I could maybe start to forgive Jamison for what he had gotten me into.

Race day came a little too quickly with a 2:30 am wakeup call after I had fallen asleep at 11 pm. Nerves, people. Nerves.

My one-woman cheering squad, Kristy, drove us to the team meet and I found my corral buddies Libby and Julie. It seemed like we were in Corral F and ready to go within minutes.

Erinn_Libby_CorralF1.jpg

I kept having thoughts of “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” and “I can’t wait to see the Christmas decorations at MK!”
Again, I felt nauseous.

Libby, Julie and I started the race together but we eventually were separated by our running speeds. In the few miles when I was alone with my thoughts I was overwhelmed with how extremely cool this half marathon is, and how lucky I felt to be part of it and a part of Team AllEars. I felt a sense of pride in what I was doing for others and for myself. I felt a sense of excitement because, if for only those 13.1 miles, running was fun. I felt humbled by those running around me with shirts proclaiming “Survivor” or “I run because they can’t” or “I’m 80 and you’re behind me.” I felt warm and fuzzy because I knew I was part of an amazing family that instills the feeling that you can do anything. This is when I forgave Jamison a little bit more.

I caught up with Libby in time for her to see me cry like a baby when we hit Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. This was why I initially signed up to run. This was why I had trained on the hills of Morgantown.

Erinn_Libby_Main_Street1.jpg

This was what made every stair on Law School Hill worth it. I finally got to see Christmas in the Kingdom! Seeing our Team cheering us on at the top of Main Street was much appreciated (Here’s looking at you, Dan “I ran a marathon!” Rajnik).

Erinn_at_castle1.jpg

The remaining miles were a blast, even the slow, boring ones when my feet felt like they might fall off. Libby and I were able to keep each other going and we were encouraged by Team AllCheers and the thing-a-ma-jigs on the sidelines. I laughed at the “hill” at Mile 10 and cried when my right calf got a cramp. Then Julie found us so we could all finish the race together!

One thing I will always remember is the three of us stopping for our photo shoot at Mile 13. Jamison, Dan and others were urging us to finish, but we could not be bothered with that. Kristy had a camera and we were celebrating – leg cramp and all. Why? Because that is what this whole marathon weekend and Team AllEars seems to be about: Celebrating.

Libby_Erinn_at_mile_131.jpg

We celebrate our triumphs. We celebrate people. We celebrate the bonds we have created through helping others and ourselves. We celebrate life. And we keep running – or hobbling – to the next party.

Ok, Jamison. I forgive you.

Erinn would like to take this opportunity to officially claim she is Going Goofy in 2013!! Bring it on you silly dog!

February 16, 2012

I Finally Did It!!! Walt Disney World Half Marathon

By Joan Smith

I finally did it!!!! That’s the feeling that I had when I crossed the finish line at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in early January. That simple sentence doesn’t seem like enough to convey all of the feelings of that day though. There were so many thoughts...where are my friends, my family; thank goodness I didn’t get swept; I am hungry; I want to sit somewhere; let’s go celebrate; I wish my boys were here; what time is it; etc. It’s hard to sort them all out. However, the overwhelming thought was, “I finally did it!!”

It may sound funny to say that I FINALLY did it – but my track record wasn’t so stellar. You see, I was supposed to do this race before. The first time I hadn’t trained and I just stayed in bed. My sisters and my husband and my brother-in-law completed the race that year and I said that I might try it again sometime in the future. At that time, my heart wasn’t in it. My sisters were the runners in the family and my husband had completed many marathons in his life. For me, it was impossible to even think about it. After all, I wasn’t a runner, and never had been.

Fast forward a couple of years. Again, I said I would participate in the race. This time, I didn’t have to be embarrassed. I was given a reprieve by my visit to Urgent Care (a short drive from Disney’s Boardwalk) and my strep throat diagnosis. Again, my sisters and husband completed the race. As this year’s opportunity presented itself, I again told my sisters that I was not a runner. However, one of them forwarded me an article, written by a man on Team AllEars, and I was inspired. The author mentioned that he didn’t like a photo of himself and his son that was taken outside of Cinderella’s castle. He mentioned that they were so happy on the trip and that he didn’t want to remember it the way that the photo depicted him. So he started training – and lost weight – and completed the half marathon and doesn’t take pictures like that anymore. As I read his article, it dawned on me that I too had pictures like that and that I too could change them. So I signed up for Team AllEars!

Now there is one thing that you have to consider. My youngest sister is a “Bud” on Team AllEars. She is a great coach and great source of information and my older sister is Perfectly Goofy and has completed 50 marathons in her lifetime. This is inspiring, but as a sibling, it’s also annoying!!! They offer great advice, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears – which is maddening to them – and ultimately to me, too. So, with their encouragement, I started on my path towards walking the half marathon. I agreed to raise the money and see where it took me.
I tried to walk at least five times a week, starting at 30 minutes a day and at an 18 minute mile pace, and sometimes I was successful. I bought a couple of books and initially logged my time/feeling/pace, etc. Eventually, I got a couple of friends to train with and this was the best way to do it (in my opinion). I much preferred training outside to the treadmill and knowing that I had to meet someone made me show up. We were fortunate enough to have the W&OD trail nearby which provides a safe, groomed, marked trail on which to walk/run. As we continued to show up and walk, our pace got quicker and we got up to race pace.

Now you have to understand, I am 51 years old – and starting this training program was a daunting task. I have a full time job, a 15-year-old son who is involved in sports, and still needs to be driven everywhere, a husband that travels, and two dogs…in other words, a full life. Fitting in a training regimen was challenging. Lucky for me, I happen to be a determined person – so once my mind set was right, I found a way.

Fast forward from July to January…the race was here. My training really slipped over the Christmas holidays with lots of fun and food, but although the training slipped, I still felt prepared. My goal was to finish…not to be last, and not to get swept!

I arrived in Orlando with my fundraising goals reached and ready to have some fun with my sisters and girlfriends. We were all participating in different races, the 5K, the half marathon, the full marathon and the relay. There was a lot of nervous energy but with signs of encouragement taped to our hotel room door we went out and competed! The rest, as they say, is in the record books. As the race started, I was in Corral G with my friends – and we started out together, but before mile marker 1 we were all on our own. Again, my goal was to finish, not to finish together! I fell into a groove and just kept moving along. I talked to lots of people along the way, made a couple of bathroom stops, and was grateful to my son for the playlist he made for me. His musical choices carried me along much of the route. When we reached the marker for mile 8 – instead of feeling discouraged – I began to compare the distance to the distances on the trail we trained on at home, so when suddenly we were in Epcot and I heard them say, “1/10th of a mile to go” and I thought, “Wow, that’s the length of my driveway!!” and I actually started running! It was a fantastic feeling to cross the finish line – a personal accomplishment – and a small contribution to Cancer Research.

Joan_13.jpg

What comes next you ask? For me and my friends, we have all committed to coming back next year 20 lbs. lighter and shooting for a sub-3 hour race. With any luck – we’ll make it! For my older sister, she’ll be back to stay Perfectly Goofy (the 8th time) and for my younger sister, she has the 20th anniversary Marathon medal to tempt her! My prediction is that you’ll see all of us again!!

Joan_%26_All1.jpg

February 19, 2012

Moving Out of The Comfort Zone

by Dana Birch

For me, it all started in January 2011. For many years I’ve been checking into AllEars.net for my Walt Disney World fix and information updates. One of my best buds, Sara, had just finally gotten her life back through running and had run in her first half marathon with Team AllEars. As I read her post-run blog, I sat at my computer crying uncontrollably. In the past few years since my wedding to my wonderful husband I hadn’t felt like the woman he had married. Life was comfortable, wonderful actually, but getting too comfortable. I needed a challenge just for me, something to get me out of my comfort zone. I figured with all the training and work that I’d have to undergo I would be forced to push myself in ways I had never done before.

Let me back this up a bit. I have NEVER been an athlete. In high school I was an athletic trainer, I taped ankles, and found ways to get out of running the presidential mile in gym class. In the years right before my husband and I got engaged, and married, I had lost a lot of weight and had been in the best shape of my life, to date, but running was still a nightmare for me. The thought of running a half marathon, or even a 5K was a joke. So here I was, almost four years into my marriage and completely out of shape, fat and happy. Yeah, that was me.

So I talked to Sara and my husband and they both encouraged me to go for it. In the process I not only made the decision to run a half marathon, but also to join up with Team AllEars. Both seemed so daunting. The half marathon seemed like an insane thing for me to do, especially given my history with running, but I figured if I was going to try this anywhere, Walt Disney World was the place to make this dream a reality. I secretly hoped that maybe a bit of pixie dust would rub off onto me and I’d somehow survive it. The other thing that seemed like a challenge was joining Team AllEars. I had never raised money for anything like this before. I mean, I had sold Girl Scout cookies, and worked retail before, but that was all together different. Up to this point, my family had been fortunate to not be touched by cancer. However, I had lost friends to different cancers and a couple of my co-workers had had either close family members have to fight cancer or have had to fight it themselves. It is not a nice disease, it doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t care who it hurts. But raising $500 in this economy seemed both possible, and yet impossible. Sara and I had teamed up to raise $1000 together as team Monorail Mavens. That seemed even more difficult, but in reality it was easy. A garage sale here, a cookie sale there, and some very gracious donors, it took the whole year, but by Christmas we were at the $1000 mark. Now all I had to do was run.

It was more than the fundraising though. Team AllEars was a family, a welcoming family, full of knowledge about running, the race I was going to run, and support. I had chosen a few 5Ks, and a 15K as milestones in my training. The 15K in November was really the turning point for me. Up to this point I had only been in talks with the other members over Facebook and e-mail. This was the first time I was going to be running as a team with Team AllEars members. I had never run that far, and knew I was going to be one of the last to come in. I finished the race, and Sara was there to cheer me on. We met up with the rest of the team members for lunch, and quickly strangers became friends. As I hobbled into the restaurant that day I got cheers and a round of applause, it was the best feeling in the world. I felt like I belonged, and when the topic of conversation at the table was both running and Disney related I knew I had found a group I definitely fit in with.

To be honest, throughout the year my main focus was on my training, I wanted to finish the race, that was the big goal, wasn’t it? Then summer came. My uncle got sick….cancer, kidney to be exact, and to this day he is still fighting it. My focus changed. Not only did I want to finish this race, I had to, for him and for others like him. I had to run because they can’t, and I had to raise the money to fight cancer, to fight this horrible disease, to do my small part. It was no longer just about me, and my health, it was about the health of those around me and those I will never meet. So the training continued.

Injuries abound, leg, back, etc., but it was all a small price to pay. Then Christmas came, New Years and my 32nd birthday, and then we were on the plane to Orlando. I tried not to be nervous, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to finish, I had to finish, and failure was not an option. So 3am on the morning of the race I was on a mostly empty monorail to EPCOT with my husband. We then met up with the Team for our picture and everyone was great, welcoming, and it was nice to finally meet people I had been in contact with for so long. The time had come, I kissed my hubby, and I stuck with some of the girls as we filed like cattle to the starting corrals. They had all done this before and it was nice to have someone show me the ropes even if we weren’t in the same start corral.

For a long time I stood there in the start corral alone in the crowd and then out of the blue some other first time Team AllEars ladies walked by and I joined them for the start of the race. We all had the jitters and then it was our turn. It was all so exciting and all so dark in those early morning hours, but my adrenaline was pumping, and I was feeling good. I knew the route well, having spent so many years traveling the road between EPCOT and Magic Kingdom, and the hotels that surround the Seven Seas Lagoon. I knew how far it was, and I had to keep pushing it out of my mind for the first few miles. With my iPod pumping the new mix I had just created especially for this race with a few Disney tunes sprinkled in, I headed for the Magic Kingdom. As I passed the first monorail beam on my route, Monorail Red traveled overhead.

Monorail.jpg


Now I have to explain here that for some reason I have an obsession/connection with this monorail train and hadn’t seen it on any of the lines until just that moment, mind you we had been there two whole days by then. We had a family friend who was a fellow Disney fanatic and teacher pass away a few years ago, and when I saw that train as I passed under it I felt like it was his way of cheering me on. We ran past familiar landmarks, the main gate, the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) where, again, Monorail Red was there to greet me, past the Contemporary, and then into the Magic Kingdom.

I was fine until I heard a cheering cast member call out to me and others, “Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!” I lost it, tears streaming down my face and smiling ear to ear as I ran up Main Street. I was able to wipe them away as I rounded the bridge to Tomorrowland where my husband had joined the Team AllCheers group to cheer all of the runners on. Running through the park was so emotional and fun,and by this point, mile 6, I was feeling great.

MainStreetDana.jpg

Then we headed out past the hotels and back towards EPCOT. By this point I wasn’t worried about my time and I had taken some pictures with some characters, and was really enjoying the entire experience, until mile 10.

DanaandMary.jpg

This was the furthest I had gone until now, and I still had roughly a 5K to go. It was then that it became a mental game. Monorail Red passed me again and that gave me a boost. I rounded the overpass to EPCOT, looked down World Drive and saw the dreaded sweeper busses about a mile or so back. I looked ahead and saw EPCOT’s entrance, I couldn’t come this close and not finish. I pushed, through the pain in my hip and feet and found the strength to get to mile 12, with more Team AllCheers people among others cheering us all on. I knew I was home free. I shed a few more tears as I headed into EPCOT, saw Monorail Red pass over me one more time, heard the choir sing, and saw my husband as I headed into the last .1 miles of the race. He was standing there taking pictures with the group of Team AllCheers folks that were standing near the finish area, he snapped the picture and I ran up and kissed him and then headed in for the finish. I had done it! I grabbed my medal and again began to cry, I had succeeded. My husband met me and he helped me hobble back to the monorail station to head back to our hotel. I was in such pain that the monorail operator at the TTC even felt compelled to put the handicap ramp down for me to get into the resort monorail. Yes, that was a bit embarrassing but I didn’t care I had a medal around my neck and no one could take that accomplishment away from me.

DanaBirch.jpg

A bit of a rest and then it was off to the official Team AllEars meet-up and hugs all around. Sara was so proud that I finished and it was so great to get to meet everyone again. There were a few speeches, but two things really stuck out during this meet-up, first it was the $67,000+ that we had raised as a group, and more importantly it was the personal stories that a few brave souls shared about why they “Run with Purpose” for Team AllEars. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and, while I couldn’t bring myself to share, I connected with everyone in that room. We were all there to run for those who couldn’t and to run for those we knew, and those we would never meet. It was a great end to a great year with Team AllEars. It was also the beginning of my year of no excuses. I may not have lost all the weight I had planned to loose, but I was able to do something I had never done before, and that has been enough to spur me on further this year. I have an 8K, two to three 5Ks, a 10K, and another half marathon in Disneyland to earn my Coast to Coast medal all lined up for this year. This experience has been nothing but wonderful. It is a wonderful cause, a spectacular group of people, and definitely a magical milestone for me. I look forward to supporting Team AllEars for years to come.

February 29, 2012

If You Can Dream It, Then You Can Do It!

By Heather Przystas

So it seems the second week of January for me is 'pain week'. Last year, I found myself curled up on my bed, feeling sorry for myself. I'd been swept off the course of the Walt Disney World half marathon, skipped the Team All Ears meets completely, fought with my traveling companion and spent the last 24 hours of my Disney trip locked in my room at the Wilderness Lodge.

This year, I found myself curled up on my bed, howling as my best friend peeled my shoe from my swollen foot, staring in horror at the black and blue of a blood blister that took over my little toe.

Luckily, they were two completely different worlds of pain.

After last year's pity party, I was done with running. The image of the race officials stepping in front of me and taking me off the course was burned into my eyelids. What made me think I could do something like a half marathon?

Then one day a box arrived. It wasn't huge, it wasn't fancy. But inside, I found all kinds of goodies: a Team AllEars magnet, postcards from Deb Wills, and most importantly, a Team AllEars medal that the team insisted I had earned. I hung it up next to the Donald medal I felt I HADN'T earned. For days, I stole constant glances at the two medals, hanging side by side. Eventually, a friend invited me as her guest to her gym. I agreed to go, intending to swim when I got there, but the pool was being used by a class.

I made excuses for not running. She wouldn't take them. I refused to run, thinking back to how much I was crying on the sweep bus but she refused to let me sulk. Reluctantly, I agreed to walk. The images in my mind began to change. I saw the look on Deb's face when she saw me at mile one of the half marathon. I saw the Team AllEars medal. I saw the total amount of money raised by the Team. I started to trot. My friend saw me. "See, you're still a runner."

I guess I am.

When asked if I’d like to return to Team All Ears I said yes. I needed to. When registration for marathon weekend opened, I signed up for the 5K. My mouse hesitated over the half marathon registration button. I looked at the Donald medal. I looked at my Team medal. I registered.

Soon, the news broke about the new Chip and Dale relay marathon. Seemed like a cool idea and I asked my friend, who had now become my coach, if she wanted to relay with me but she already had plans. The idea stuck. I watched other teams form and thought about how much I wanted that new medal that no one else had. I finally found a relay partner in Jan Lurey Pepe. I became a Pirate. One with Purpose. We were registered!

I started training using the Jeff Galloway run/walk method. I like this guy! He doesn't think I need to RUN a whole race to finish. I stuck to the training. My health interfered. I tried to slow down but couldn’t. Eventually, my body said I had to. It felt strange when I wasn’t running, like I was missing something. I got the all-clear to run again but it was harder now. Maybe this isn't a great idea after all. Maybe I should just give up.

But then who would run with Jan? Lace ‘em up, you big baby! Get Going!

It got a little easier. I bought a treadmill. Distances got longer, times got shorter, and that 15 minute mile was attainable. Melanie Camphouse, my mentor, was right behind me the whole time, asking questions, giving encouragement. I had to do this for her, for Jan, for my daughter, for ME.


Mel%26HEATHER1.jpg

Marathon weekend had finally arrived! I was traveling with my best friend. We hung out with my All Ears teammates. What incredible people! I probably stayed later at the YeeHaw Bob meet than I should have, but the 5K isn't THAT early, right? I walked the 5K with my best friend and Tammi Trout from the team. We had a BLAST! I'm so proud of the two of them for finishing! A short day in the parks, and then we were back at the resort to rest up for the half marathon. I laid everything out and tried to calm my stomach. I couldn't sleep. At 3AM, Stitch called to wake me up. I was scared.

During the pre-race festivities the Team was so supportive. They were sure I was going to beat this thing, finish the race, and earn the duck. Deb gave us a pep talk. Sometimes I think that's the biggest reason I do this. They sent off the corrals, one after another. I heard Team AllEars announced over the loudspeaker so many times! I was proud to holler every time.

When it was my turn, I took one last deep breath and tried to center myself. The fireworks went off, and I began running. My iPod was playing but didn't put my ear buds in because I wanted to hear AllCheers at mile one! I felt good, and the amount of 'beep beep's around me told me that I wasn’t the only the only interval runner. We reached mile one, and I heard the cowbells! I remember this moment from last year, and smile. I wave, and tell them I'll see them in a couple of hours at mile 11.5.

I never put my ear buds in because there is too much to hear and see. I wave at the monorail going by, and suddenly there's the Magic Kingdom arch! I take a picture, same as last year. It's getting close now... around this corner... this is where they swept me. My stomach lurches and I start to panic. And then, it's gone. There are no flags, no bikes, no one screaming for me to go faster... just the bridge, with the banner... "You can go the distance!"

I can see the Contemporary. Now we're turning onto Main Street USA! I want to cry but I'm smiling too much. More cowbells! There they are! They're yelling - they're calling MY name! I’m running through Cinderella’s castle! This is so much fun!

We’ve left the Magic Kingdom and now I’m starting to get tired. We’re at mile 10!? Just a 5K left? I've done lots of 5Ks! I make it to 11.5, and I hear the magic cowbells again! I’m so happy to see everyone. I didn't get this chance last year! My best friend walks a bit on the grass next to me, and I cry a little. "It hurts..." I whine. He knows. He can see the hill I'm facing, and he gives me a hug, tells me he'll see me at the finish.

Up the hill... that awful hill! One more mile… Half a mile… I start offering deals to the people on the sides of the course: $50 for that medal around your neck , $25 if you push me in that stroller to the finish line! They cheer back. I'm almost there, the duck is almost mine! And then he is. He's mine, and I did it! A little slower than I'd hoped, but I did it! I see Mel, and my best friend and they hug and congratulate me. I break down. After almost a year of agonizing over whether I can do this or if I'm a fool, I‘ve done it!

Later that day, I get to sit next to Jan at the Team meet. I'm trying not to look terrified. Today was so hard, and tomorrow it isn't just me, it's her race too. I can’t let myself worry anymore; it’s time to have fun.

At Downtown Disney, with my medals clanging together, people congratulate me, wish me well. I didn't get to do this last year. Deja Vu at the resort: I'm putting my race stuff back together, pinning on my third number and hoping my stomach can survive one more day of this.

A phone call from Stitch wakes me up again. I find the Team and Jan at the pre-race meet and everyone looks ready. We chat for a while with the team until it’s time for the Leg 1 runners to head to the corrals. I head over to the Polynesian resort with the other Leg 2 runners to rest before our part of the relay begins. I get the best hour of sleep I’ve had since before the 5k, and then I wake up to the text that not only is Jan doing well, she's BLAZING through the course. I have to hustle over to the transition area to meet her. There's my girl!!!! I hop out, give her a big hug, and point her to where she can go get her chipmunk bling. I head out, over the mat, and mix in with the big kids: marathoners, Goofy Challengers... these are the REAL runners! What am I doing here!?

I hear the beeps again from the interval runners. This is just like yesterday. I survived then, I can survive now. Chug along. Take pictures of all the mile markers, in case each one is the last one I see that day. Mile 14, 15, 16. As I hit Disney's Animal Kingdom, I hear another runner from my over my shoulder. "Third park, we got this."

By the time we hit the out and back, near Wide World of Sports I'm tired. I text my friend, "I'm out of gas." It must be obvious how tired I am, because racers around me are encouraging me, patting me on the back as they go by.

I make it into Hollywood Studios. I look around but I don't see much. I hurt. I'm so tired. There's Mike and Sully, and a mile marker. I take another picture, but it's blurry because I can't hold the phone still. I keep telling myself that seeing the sweepers would be a blessing at this point. I can't go anymore but my feet keep moving. I'm too tired. Why won't my feet stop? I’m waiting for the sweepers but I'm still moving forward.

I see the Sorcerer’s Hat. I should stop. I’m so tired.


HEATHERDHS1.jpg

Then I see them... the officials on the side of the course, with a big thick rope. Sweepers, closing the course! Oh, thank goodness! Hold on, a minute, why am I suddenly running? Before I know what's going on, I'm dashing up Hollywood Boulevard. I'm RUNNING from the sweepers.

My body and my brain start to have a conversation about who wants what, because there's a bus RIGHT THERE with Caribbean Beach on it... I could be back in my room in less than an hour. Forget this running stuff! But my body is in charge now, and I’m heading to the Boardwalk instead of my resort. I hear cowbells. They can't still be out here, can they?

I hear my name. Deb's yelling through her megaphone. I think I smile. I try to, anyway. That little boost of energy gets me into Epcot. I remember this part from last year, only back then I was on the other side of the cones, watching and moping. But here I am, still moving. People are cheering and clapping as they spend their day in the World Showcase. Encouraging words are coming from everywhere. American Experience, into Italy, past my favorite stand in China. As I approach the Christmas tree I hear the sweepers on bikes approaching. At this point, I don't want to see them anymore, what are they doing here? One of them asks me if I'm okay. I tell him "Unless you're here to take me off the course, I'm fine." He promises me, the only way off the course at this point is across the finish line.

I keep moving toward Spaceship Earth, and I hear another cow bell. I look over, and there's my best friend . I want to hug him, but I tell him "I think if I stop now, they'll take me off the course!" and I keep going.

The sweepers are an honor guard now, cheering me on. A couple of TNT coaches come to see if I need anything and they tell me they're proud of me. Backstage, there's a choir singing. I joke to one of the sweepers, "Am I dead??? Is this heaven???" She responds, "I bet you didn't know you'd be going to church today!" and I tell her I've certainly been praying! Cast members are still clapping for me. How do they stand out there all this time?

A few people are still along the sidelines clapping and screaming. The sweepers peel off, letting me do the last stretch by myself. They call off the TNT coaches, saying I've been here before, I know where I'm going. I see the finish line and start to cry and smile at the same time. I hear Rudy Novotny announcing my name, where I'm from, and that I'm part of Team AllEars. Mickey and Minnie are waiting for me. Minnie kisses me on the cheek and I get a high-four from the big cheese himself. I cross the finish line and a young lady finds me and puts my medal around my neck. I can't believe the weight of it.

It took five hours to finish, most of those spent convincing myself that it was okay to get swept this time, but I still kept going. I will be forever in debt to Jan for running an incredible first leg to give me the time I needed to finish. And there she is! She's waiting for me, with my best friend. It's so good to see them. The TNT coaches find me again, tell me they're proud of me. They point toward the Goofy tent and tell me to remember where it was, so I'd know next year. I laugh.


Jan%26Heather1.jpg

The second week of January may hold pain for me, but it also means I get to see my teammates, run in the most magical place on earth, and accomplish things even my own mind and body don't think I can do.

So, is it January yet?

Return to Blog Central

About February 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Team AllEars® Running Blog in February 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2012 is the previous archive.

March 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.