"The last 4.7 were considered flat and easy- relative to some of the other legs of the route. But after 195 miles of running, nothing seemed particularly flat and easy to me. Where did this zest to keep going come from?
Running has taught me that the pursuit of a passion matters more than the passion itself. Immerse yourself in something deeply and with heartfelt intensity-- continually improve, never give up--this is fulfillment, this is success."
~ Dean Karnazes
Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes is an awesomely inspirational book. For this post, I want to talk about my initial and ongoing inspirations for my own passionate pursuit and in the process, maybe it will spark something a little deeper for you beyond the next PR.
I love and appreciate my life as it is. I was fortunate enough to pursue an education and a career doing something I absolutely love. I am fortunate to work with some truly amazing people and athletes. It's fun and I truly enjoy watching the training process unfold for athletes as all the pieces come together. I have the same enjoyment when the light bulb clicks on for a student and they finally get the difficult concept and confidence that comes with it. At only 36 years of age I have achieved a lifetime goal of a fulfilling career in biology and sports science and if it weren't for my brother Greg, I may not have traveled down this path to begin with.
Gregory is 2 years younger than me and we fought like crazy with each other growing up, until about high school age when we truly became good friends. My brother played soccer from the time he was 4 all through high school and was an excellent starting goalie for Division II Virginia Wesleyan. I was a gymnast from the age of 3 t0 18 and I really got the bug for cardio training during my senior year in high school. I wanted to be in better shape and I remember vividly, sucking wind as my brother half dragged me around the neighborhood for a run. He was fast, the pace was fast, but for some strange reason I loved that lung and leg burning sensation and I went out with him quite a few times, especially on the off days from the high impact aerobic classes I used to ride my bike to. Greg was already into riding at that point, loved road bikes, I had a Motobecane 10 speed but as soon as I got my license the bike was shelved. I was a junior at Ithaca during my brother's freshman year at Virginia. He was loving it there, the school, the soccer and then something weird happened.
During the winter indoor season, he came down from a goal save and something in his knee went. He came home and mom took him for an MRI, they suspected a torn meniscus but what came back was shocking and terrifying, it was a tumor. After the biopsy and the malignant diagnosis, my 18 year old brother was forced to come home from school on a medical leave. The rare tumor known as a Ewing Sarcoma, began in the soft tissue in his knee and was growing into the bone in his tibia. It was scary, very. Emergency surgery followed suit and the tumor was removed. So was three quarters of his calf muscle, most of the tibial bone at the proximal end and the nerves in his leg were scraped. For awhile they weren't sure if he would be able to keep his leg below the knee at all. Chemo was the first option and for a year my brother endured brutal chemotherapy treatments. I was into my senior year at Ithaca and Greg used to drive up with an old boyfriend of mine at the time and hang out for the weekend. We had fun, I think it cheered him up and I really enjoyed having that time with him especially since my parents insisted that schooling go on as planned.
After college I was looking for something to do team-wise. I was always involved in a sport, I rowed crew for Ithaca and wanted to stay in shape. My Uncle Louis, head coach of Syracuse Swimming was involved in triathlon at the time, even competing in the Mighty Hamptons of Old when it was a 10 mile run back then. It sounded good so I asked my brother if I could borrow his Bianchi road bike and he never even flinched. He loved that bike but gave it to me to ride while he was still undergoing treatments. My brother Greg is just about 6 feet tall so the bike must have been at least a 56-58, I am all of 5'7" so I think I jammed the seat down as low as it could go and it was a good thing I was a gymnast because it was a stretch to reach the old school Scott clip on aerobars. I decided to train for the Oyster Bay triathlon with my friend Danielle (see the urbanwellness link on the right). We were both personal training at the time, fresh off of our Exercise Sci degrees from Ithaca and enjoyed getting together for the swims, rides and runs. Silly girls and totally unaware that you actually needed to sign up for a triathlon ahead of time, we were all set to go to Oyster Bay that morning! Denied our entry we did our own version of the race minus the swim and set our sights on the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon. I remember trying to increase the length of my bike rides and 25 miles seemed impossible when even 15 was really tough!!!! Since my mother was with my brother for chemo in NYC, my grandfather drove out to my first race with me. I finished it happily, gathered up my stuff and left. Little did I know that I actually won the 18-24 year old age group until someone I knew from the gym told me I had won an award! I was hooked! If it weren't for my brother and his generosity and encouragement, I don't think I would have been able to do the sport. I rode that steel, too big Bianchi for 3 years before I got the bike pictured on my profile and have met many really great people on this journey and I owe it all to my brother for getting me started.
Greg, you are still an inspiration. A cancer survivor since the early 90's, my brother has endured many operations from the side effects of the initial surgery to reconstruct his leg. As you can imagine, not having the large majority of your lower leg is difficult on his heel as his gait is thrown off and his lower back has suffered for it. Greg also has permanent nerve damage and has tremendous sensitivity even to the touch yet he still pushed on and is an awesome cyclist to this day, training and racing down in Boca Raton. He will be completing the Livestrong Challenge 100 mile Philadelphia ride this year at the end of August and I plan on being there to support him in this next challenge.
My family has been severely impacted by cancer. You know my brothers story now and he is a survivor and a constant inspiration to me when I need a reality check as to what pain actually is. My 44 year old father was taken from my family at the time my brother was battling his cancer by a pulmonary embolism. It is a long story for another post, but when we received the autopsy we found out the my father had malignant colon cancer that had spread to all his organs at the time and we didn't know. My grandmother died when I was 16 after a valiant battle with ovarian cancer. My Aunt and Godmother is currently in a furious battle with multiple myeloma; a cancer of the platelets. For those of you that are Xterra fans, Pro-triathlete Jamie Whitmore was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma just this past year and I feel for her because she reminds me so much of my brother's battle and you can read more of her story here: http://www.jamiewhitmore.com/
For all of these reasons and for the inspiration these special people have given me, I am running the Chicago marathon for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. If you have not been able to donate to this great cause yet, or you forgot (the hamster wheel is always spinning here, so I know how busy you are), please consider clicking the link up top and contributing to my goal of raising $3500 or more to fight this horrific disease. I would appreciate anything that you could give and I thank my good friends that have contributed to this charity for helping me to help others. Also please check out Jamie Whitmore's website and lend your support to a phenomenal triathlete in for the fight against cancer.
I started with an inspirational quote and I will end with one by Joe Louis: "You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough".