Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Team Drea Challenge Guest Post #3 - by Cara

Lorton Prison Break 5k

I’ve known Andrea since high school when we spent most of our afternoons and evenings marching around the football field.  She was in the band and I was in Colorguard.  Years later, we crossed paths again when Andrea  and Dave hired me to coordinate their wedding in Durham, NC.  It was such a wonderful experience to be a part of their wedding day because I got to experience what truly wonderful, kind, and fun people they are.  

[Editor's note: Cara did an amazing job on our wedding!  She was so ever-present, she looks like a bridesmaid! And who looks this gorgeous eating pizza?!]

Andrea and I have remained Facebook friends since then and we both actually happened to end up in the DC area.  Once Andrea started her blog, I’ve followed her journey and honestly, I felt like someone punched me in the gut when I read that she had received her ALS diagnosis and I wanted to do anything I could to help.  Seeing her strength in the face of her diagnosis has lit a fire under me, made me realize that I can’t take anything in life for granted and to live each day to the fullest.  So, I decided to run my first 5k!

As far as my running history, I have never liked running, honestly I abhorred it, did everything possible to avoid it.  I grew up dancing and had no problem performing a two hour ballet, but if I had to run a lap around the track, Lord help me!  Even while all my friends were getting into running races, I didn’t have a single urge to try it.  But, the Team Drea Challenge came along and I knew it was my time to try and push myself out of my comfort zone.  I started researching 5k’s in our area and was hoping to find a low key one, that wasn’t too crowded and I found the Lorton Prison Break 5k at the old prison facility in Lorton, VA.  Sounded interesting getting to run through the old prison facility, right? So, I started training with the Couch to 5k app.  I think my first week of training started with intervals of one minute running and 3 minutes walking for 25 minutes. The training was hard, my legs hurt so much and I had a hard time figuring out how to relax my breathing but after 3 months of running every other day, I was finally able to run just over 3 miles.  

The race kind of snuck up on me.  In the beginning, I thought after some training that running 3 miles would have been so simple to me. But it wasn’t, and it was still super hard every time!  I was so nervous on the day of the race, I really didn’t know what to expect. It also didn’t help that we spent the entire day before building my daughter's new playset and I was so incredibly sore!  Not the smartest idea :)  There were about 500 people running the 5k, and I was convinced that I would be the last one to cross the finish line!  

Once the race began, my nerves calmed down a bit thanks to my awesome husband who was giving me pep talks through the whole thing.  The 1st mile was ok, but I started struggling during the second mile, especially once we came upon what they called “Hells Hills”.  They were a series of ridiculously steep hills, one right after another. Halfway through I had to stop and walk, the girl right in front of me actually started throwing up, it wasn’t pretty!  

Once at the top of the hill I started running again and it was really tough. I alternated telling myself in my head, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “This is for Andrea, 179!” I pushed myself and crossed the finish line, with a time of 33:13.  I wasn’t last either, I was number 205 out of 590!  It was hard, my muscles hurt and I was tired but I felt fantastic when it was over!  So fantastic that I gorged on 4 Kudos granola bars :)  The only part that was a disappointment was that I didn’t get a medal, so to remedy my need for some shiny jewelry, we are planning on running the Navy 5 Miler in September.  

Thanks to all of you for being a support system through this and a huge thank you to Andrea!  Thank you for pushing me to be healthier and stronger.  Thank you for giving my husband and I a hobby that we love to do together.  Thank you for allowing me to teach my daughter to value fitness.  Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone. And most of all thank you for inspiring me! 

Money raised:  $610

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Guerilla friendship

I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately.  Frankly, it's kind of hard not to -- it seems like every time I turn around, another friend has popped up with a gift for me.  Not a literal gift necessarily, but a card, an email, a FB post or message, a text, a photo, a phone call, a visit, a trike/run, a coffee date...

+ an Uber gift card!
And quite often, an actual gift.  For example, I found out last week that the entire Team Drea Challenge group has been quietly scheming behind my back to send me weekly care packages!  Here's the first one -------->

It's taken me a little while to process and articulate this level of kindness.  I'm trying to avoid the superlatives I always jump to (amazing! awesome! fantastic! super!) so here's the best way I can describe it: I feel like how I think mothers feel sometimes when looking at their kids -- like my heart is bursting with joy, gratitude, and love.

I feel like I am re-learning the value of friendship.  When I was in preschool, I used to play by myself a lot, which made sense because I was an only child.  Since my parents were older and I didn't have any siblings, they wanted to stress the importance of friendship.  So they changed the question they asked me when they picked me up at the end of the day.  Instead of "what did you learn today?" they asked "who did you play with today?"  Apparently I got the message, considering I still have several good friends from preschool (like Julie!).

But in my late 20s/early 30s, I felt like my friendships were slipping a bit.  It seemed natural -- busy careers, spouses, kids, distance.  I admit I wasn't as good about picking up the phone or scheduling a meetup as I had been when DP and were dating long distance and I had more time.

But when ALS came along, my friends rallied, big time.  I've heard from people I haven't talked to in 15 years.  Reestablished regular phone call regimens.  Had long, thoughtful talks with old friends and grew strong bonds with new ones.

[I will pause here and say that it hasn't been that way for all DP's and my friendships.  A few "close" friends never reached out at all or scarcely acknowledged my diagnosis.  Which stung and still hurts.  Because if you can't show up when you learn that a friend or his chosen life partner is dying, well...  But we're trying to let the overflowing good from everywhere else cauterize those wounds and let go.]

Anyway, back to the amazingness of the Team Drea Challengers...there's also a growing number random gifts team members are giving each other -- showing up to cheer at a race, adding team members' names to their family's signs along the race course, sending little things like cards and temporary tattoos in the mail, donating to one another's pages, giving advice about training issues and encouragement about doubts...

Keep in mind that I know most everyone in the Challenge, but most of them don't know each other.  Ah, the wonders of Facebook :)

I've been trying to think of a term to describe all these random acts of kindness and my mind keeps wandering to the concept of "guerrilla gardening" where people in urban areas plant a bunch of stuff in the middle of the night to fix up a formerly neglected corner or lot.  Just because they care about their community.

So I think I'll call this "guerrilla friendship."  When you reach out to a friend or acquaintance and do something for them just to show you care about them and care about your shared friendship.

Is there some act of guerrilla friendship you can do for someone today?  Maybe someone haven't been in contact with for awhile?  You just never know when it could be too late.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Team Drea Challenge Guest Post #2: by Sandy (aka Andrea's mom)

Mom Musings or All I Know About Running I Learned From Observing Andrea Lytle Peet
   I have always approached any challenge that was important by thinking there must be a way, if not I’ll make one.  I will do whatever it takes.  Not this time though; ALS is the outlier.  No one has overcome it yet.  Incredibly frustrating for a mom!!  There is nothing that I can do as an individual except join with others.  I know that there is hope through supporting those who have the talent and skill to find a cure.

  Joining with the Blazeman Foundation/Team Drea provides a way to honor Jon Blais and my daughter, Andrea Lytle Peet, in the fight against ALS.  Inviting friends and family to donate money through a race gives me an opportunity to contribute by bringing awareness of this devastating disease and the urgency to fund research.

  I don’t have much of a competitive spirit other than competing with myself.  I usually strive toward mastery though.  I first considered a triathlon but reality set in when I recognized that I didn’t even know how to judge the distance of a mile let alone run one.  I am in reasonable condition given that I’m practically 70.  I love working out.  Andrea calls me a “gym rat” which I’m sure she means as a compliment :)


"Start by doing what is necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
-St. Francis of Assisi

     Because I love Harkers Island, NC and our little beach cottage is there,  it was a perfect (and relatively flat) place to do my first race ever.  Coincidentally it was also the first ever Core Sound Run. 
I only had 9 weeks to prepare (not a good idea) and was sick for a week (not a good idea either).  Andy, my husband, was wonderfully supportive.  He helped me check out the course, find the ½ mile, etc.   It reminded me of my son-in-law (aka DP) when Andrea did her Half Ironman in Davidson in September 2013.  Both husbands are very nurturing and willing to do anything to help.

  On race day I woke up at 4:30 am because I was excited.  Two hours before the run I had my usual breakfast: steel cut oatmeal, ½ banana, clementine.

  It was about 45 degrees when we arrived.  I swapped out my shirts several times while noticing how other runners were dressed. I kept it simple:  no iPhone, no sunglasses, no head cover so that I had less to worry about.  I decided that if my upper body was warm then I would be fine.  So I wore long sleeve 179 shirt underneath, a short sleeve Team Drea shirt next and finally a long sleeve pullover to be removed if I got too warm.  I stretched.  I resisted the coffee and cookies that were offered.  Then I stayed inside where I was out of the cold.

  While lining up for the run I made a new friend, Betsy Briscoe, 82 years old.  She said that she only runs a 5K now.  I shared that I was running for Team Blazeman/Team Drea because of ALS.  She expressed true concern.  I also met another women in her 30s who started running because family members were regularly competing.  She said that she got tired of being a bystander. 
 My strategy was to walk for the first half mile and then do some sprints when I could.   Starting out I listened to my body – what’s tight, what’s sore; gave myself time to loosen up; how was I processing oxygen? 
Thoughts along the way:
  • Andrea Lytle Peet – In My Heart and On My Mind; second consciousness always.
  • I wonder what “real runners” think about when they are racing? [Editor's note: Anyone who runs is a real runner!] 
  • I wonder what Andrea thinks about when she’s racing?
  • I think I will take some steps for Steve Gay. I know Andrea won’t mind.  Steve is my friend who is a retired Army Ranger no longer able to run.  I have great respect and admiration for him, his service to our country and his new career as a physician’s assistant.
  • Sure glad I ran the course before the race and drove it by car a couple of times beforehand.
  • Love the Down East street names:  Island Road, Davis, Bayview, Lewis, Diamond City, Yeomans, Shackelford.
  • Race officials made it possible to identify key points along the route by mail box numbers.  No doubt local runners know most of the family who live there.  I chuckled to myself thinking that only people in a close community could do this.
  • Of course I noticed the homes with For Sale signs (I’m a realtor).  That one is over-priced; good luck selling this one!
  • I wonder if I will be able to deal with anything unexpected?  Sure enough,  I had puzzled over it earlier, the original course length was more like 3.5 miles instead of 3.1.  A volunteer directed me to skip the Shackleford loop and just turn onto Yeomans Street.  “Wow!  How many times does this happen?  This is a GIFT!!”
  • I thought that I should look for someone to pass when I spotted a woman speed walking about 200 yards ahead.  I couldn’t catch her.  I would sprint awhile; make some headway.  Walk awhile, then sprint again.  Never did catch up nor figure out her secret.
  • I checked periodically for Ms. Betsy.  I needed to know that she was OK.
  • Glad the wind is only a couple of knots.  The day of my practice run the wind was brutal coming off West Mouth Bay and very cold.  Now it has risen to about 50 degrees with a Carolina blue sky.  I relished the fine mix of salt with clean country air!
  • No dogs barking or chasing me.  Yay!!  This is a training hazard in my neighborhood.  I had two dogs jump on me as I ran…no fun.
  • Watched other runners for ways to improve my style: ones who seemed to be efficient placing their feet and controlling their breathing.
  • Some folks came out into their yards to wave a friendly hello or just watch.  They all seemed a bit puzzled.  Was this yet another invasion of “off islanders” (aka dit dots)?  I didn’t worry because people in the community have warm hearts.
  • Passed James Allen Rose’s home.  “J.A.”, a 2000 NC Folk Heritage Award Recipient, was special to our family.  His model boats are known the world over.  When Andrea was little, he built her a “boat bed" and said he'd never make another :)
  • As I approached the “End of the Road” (literally) at Shell Point I remembered the day that the wind and current were just right for our sail boat.  Andrea (about age 10) bailed out onto her boogie board secured by a line to the stern to have a crazy fast ride.  She was ecstatic!  No wonder this area is famous for sail boarders.
   No adrenaline  rush for me at the last quarter mile though I did sprint to the end as soon as I saw Cape Lookout Lighthouse. The music reminded me of Ramblin’ Rose last October when Andrea and Julie completed their incredible race.   Amazing how motivating that was!  Very sweet knowing that I would cross the finish line (Goal 1) and remembered (Goal 2) to SMILE.  Then I noticed that there were rugs on the finish line so I made a quick decision to honor Jon Blais and Team Drea by doing a Blazeman  Roll.  I think I surprised everyone!  So far no photos have surfaced but Karen Amspacher, the Director of the Core Sound Waterfowl and Heritage Museum, vouched for me.

   After I crossed the finish line, I felt never-before tight muscles in my upper thighs so I paced until that went away and  stretched afterwards.  Then I had a great reward!  It was a gorgeous, juicy orange.
  I was pleased to learn that Betsy Briscoe not only finished but placed first in her age group.

  I’m still wondering what real runners think about when they run.  I only know that I had a good time recalling all the sights, smells, sounds and special times on the island.  Andrea Lytle Peet  is always in my heart, always on my mind!

Total funds raised: $1,262