Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Transformation Tuesday - Spectacle Island and Me

No man or woman is an island but my story of transformation certainly resembles that of an island's story of transformation.

Spectacle Island's original form was two mounds connected by a sandbar thus its shape resembled a pair of spectacles. I thought Spectacle Island was named for the spectacular view of Boston and Boston Harbor that you see when you go there.

{Source for quotes taken from: New York Times Archive
Spectacle Island Journal; Stinking Heap in Boston Harbor Is Well on Its Way to Revival
Published: June 27, 1999}

An island just cannot get any more down and out than Spectacle Island did.

Think of the exact opposite of St. Tropez, or the anti-St. Lucia. Imagine a hideous, stinking, toxin-leaking dump right in the middle of Boston Harbor, which itself used to be compared to a toilet, what with sewage and all. A 100-acre hellhole just three miles out from Boston that no one was allowed to land on, and who in the world would want to, anyway?

For some in this sorry life, though, there is redemption. For people, for islands, even for whole harbors, given a great deal of work and the right historical juncture.

Eight years ago, I could not have been more down and out experiencing a crisis of mind, body and Spirit.

''There used to be 200 years of trash piled here,'' said Sheila Lynch, chairwoman of the Spectacle Island Park Advisory Committee and director of the consortium overseeing the zero-emission grant, as she trod a new road past saplings and rose bushes. ''To see it, in 12 years, go from a very bad landfill to a zero-emission park is like seeing a phoenix rising from the ashes.''

I was buried under years of the emotional toxic waste of generations of my family rife with drug and alcohol abuse and violence. I didn't know what was happening to me at the time but I knew that I had to find a healing path. I was blessed to find Spaulding Rehab's International Rehab Center for Polio. They surveyed my landscape and helped me to begin my healing journey.

Now, here is the serendipitous twist that turned Spectacle Island's tale from woe to winning: none of this could have happened without the $12 billion highway project known hereabouts as The Big Dig.

That big digging involves sinking the city's Central Artery underground, along with adding a third tunnel to Logan Airport. All that tunneling produced a lot of dirt, much of it contaminated. Without a place to put all that dirty dirt, the project could not have gone forward. Meanwhile, the dumps on Spectacle Island needed to be capped so they would stop leaking into the harbor.

To make a long story short -- a story of more than a decade of legal battles, politics, permitting, public pressure and assorted city-state-Federal struggles -- Spectacle Island ended up getting about a third of the Big Dig dirt, more than 3 million cubic yards of it. In return, the Big Dig builders were obligated to provide ''mitigation'' services, from containing the old waste to building a visitors' center, trails, beach and mussel habitat area.

All that piled and compacted dirt made the island grow about 60 feet upward to become the tallest point in the harbor.

Serendipity has greeted me at every turn of my journey of transformation from a frightened woman who did not know how to fully inhabit her body to the woman I am today. There were battles along the way as I fell into less than ideal circumstances to support me on my healing journey. Once I left that path behind me, incredible people came into my life who believe in me. Most recently, it was Alain Ferry who had a vision for me to race Spectacle Island last Sunday.

When a gaggle of officials and advocates boated over to check on Spectacle Island's progress today -- and invited the first reporter to land there since the island's transformation, they said -- they surveyed a newly terraformed world still in the making, but already easy to imagine as a park inviting enough to attract tourists as planned, in 2002.

I used visualization through writing poetry beginning in February of 2007. I imagined myself as healthy, as whole, no longer needing a leg brace and also in my mind's eye, winning a 10K race as I wrote in, 'Running the Race," the first poem I penned during that cold, dark and rather bleak winter of 2007.

Here are "our" before photos:

The fate of Spectacle Island, said Brian MacDonald of the New England Aquarium, ''is like the greatest story you can tell about recovery.''

From my memoir, "Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
The buzzing hum from the fluorescent lights echoed the buzzing in my nervous system. I sat waiting for my first appointment at the post polio clinic at the IRCP. My complexion was as white as the paper that covered the exam table. I felt as fragile and vulnerable as that piece of paper that gets ripped off and tossed away after the exam. Every inch of my body hurt. I was exhausted. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I hadn’t really cared whether or not I woke up in the morning but I had a husband and twins that needed me. Ironically enough I was at the peak of my career as a VA social worker. I couldn’t sleep. I felt depressed. My award-winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs no longer fueled my soul. Somewhere deep inside of me there was a feeling that there had to be a way out of the hell I was living in.

Spectacle Island and I would not be banished to the trash heap. Instead, with the help of wonderful visionaries and people of passion and compassion, we experienced a wonderful journey of transformation.

Today Spectacle Island, just 15 minutes from downtown Boston, is ideal for hiking, swimming, boating, and learning. Stop in at a “green” visitor center with exhibits about the history and evolution of the island. Go swimming on a sandy beach (one of the few on the islands) supervised by trained lifeguards in the summer. Take in panoramic views of the harbor and city from the tallest hill on the Boston Harbor Islands. The marina makes it a popular destination for boaters. Spectacle Island opens upon arrival of the first ferry in May and closes on Columbus Day each year. {Source:Boston Harbor Islands}

Today I am a runner, a blogger, the author of 5 books of inspirational poetry, my memoir and am writing my 2nd book about my journey of transformation, "Journey Well."

No man is an island but Spectacle Island and me share an inspiring story of redemption and transformation!

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Two weeks from today....

Two weeks from today I take my place at the start of the 2014 Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women.

It will be the culmination of my running comeback which began at the #onerun on May 25th of 2013 after leaving running and the running community after my nephew's suicide in March of 2011. It's been quite a year and a half of healing, building strength, confidence, speed and endurance. Yesterday's race on Spectacle Island was the perfect training run for Tufts. As I crossed the starting line, I stepped into a world I never thought I'd be able to enjoy. Trails and hills and pushing my body as fast and as far as I could given the heat and the elevation. My goal for yesterday's race was to conquer the course. Mission accomplished! I enjoyed being in the present moment, challenging myself and seeing spectacular views that I would have missed had I not dug deep to get myself to the starting line (with a lot of help from J. Alain Ferry and my husband).

Yesterday, when I crossed the finish line I realized that I no longer have the image and feeling of that little girl in a full leg brace being left behind. I felt a sense of empowerment and accomplishment taking on a tough course. What a blessing to feel Alain hug me and to hear him say to me, "I'll always have your back at a race" and know he means it!

I do have a PR goal of 1:35:35 for Tufts. My last Tufts in 2010 was 1:36:09. More importantly than my PR is the feeling of being back running a 10K distance again. I know there will be many people who have told me that they will be waiting for me to cross the finish line. At last week's Merrimack Valley Striders meeting, Lyn Licciardiello who has run all 37 Tufts 10K for Women (back in the day when it was the Bonnie Bell 10K) invited me to join her and other Strider women, guys and family at an after party at Border Cafe just north of Boston.

I have this feeling deep in my soul that grows stronger with each challenge I conquer. The polio virus that initially robbed my body of its strength, balance, coordination and confidence, and family members who tried to literally bring me to my knees with violence are no match for my Spirit! I am blessed to now have people in my life who genuinely support me; who put their own egos aside to see me be the best I can possibly be. And thanks to them, I show up with a full heart and fierce determination to be the best that I can be.

Two weeks from today, I look forward to celebrating another milestone in my healing journey with my husband and my running family.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Spectacular Spectacle Island Race

I dedicated my race to the children in Colorado who are dealing with a polio-like virus that is causing muscle weakness and paralysis following a severe respiratory infection. I was stunned when the story popped up in my Facebook news feed. I wanted them to know that even though they, and their parents are facing a terrifying time, that they will heal and recover and some day run a trail race. I carried Phil Lipoff in my heart with me through the trails of Spectacle Island sending him love and healing. He was loving and supportive after I PR'ed the Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer. He faced a life threatening illness and is slowly finding his strength again but it's a long road to recovery for him.

I am so blessed and grateful for J Alain Ferry of RaceMenu. After seeing the course maps with caution zones and cross overs and elevation and unpaved surfaces, I panicked.

He told me I'd be fine and that I would crush the course. I slept well and had a good breakfast. I'd been hydrating yesterday knowing that it was going to be hot out on the course with temperatures predicted in the 80's. I was hoping for a sea breeze being out in the harbor but there were no breezes to be had.

It was a festive atmosphere from the moment we arrived at the dock of the Provincetown II Ferry. Among the 800+ people, I managed to find my Facebook friend, Ilene Fabisch, to meet for the first time in real life. She started running 2 years ago at the age of 54 years old. She has logged over 250 miles in races this year and is a beautiful soul.

The ferry ride to the Island was spectacular:

There were bathrooms at the Visitor Center on the Island and the lines moved quickly. We saw the 5 milers take off for their race and I could feel my pre race anxiety begin to build. "What if the water stops are gone? What if the volunteers are gone by the time we get there and we get lost?" I could feel the wound of lugging my leg brace after contracting paralytic polio and being left behind alone and hurt fearing that my little body wouldn't be able to make it home by myself. Tom reminded me, "Mary ... this is an Alain Ferry race. You know you have nothing to worry about." I took a few deep breaths and told myself they put 600 flags to mark the course and there's really no way we could get lost on the Island. "Just go out there and do it girl," I told myself.

Alain came riding through on his bicycle after getting the 5 milers off and told us to make way so he could get us started:

The view at the start:

Right before we were about to start, the front of the pack for the 5 mile race were crossing the finish line. Their speed was amazing! We broke out into cheers for them.

There were no pace markers so we started in the middle of the pack. Tom asked me what my race strategy was. I told him I wanted to go out with the pack and then see how I feel. We started out running and I realized that given the heat of the day and the course I would fare better race walking. I was focused and running from the inside out. The volunteers were amazing cheering us on. The day was hot and the course was hilly with elevation going up to 130' at one point. There were very few patches of level ground. Fortunately, for a trail race, there were no obstacles, just different terrain surfaces.

The water stops were wonderful and the volunteers so encouraging. They stayed out on the course until every runner passed through. I dumped water on my head to stay cool. Throughout the course I enjoyed the magnificent vista that was before us:

Alain came riding up on his bike and said, "Oh there you are." He gave me a huge hug and started to take a selfie with us but his walkie talkie went off. He asked me how I was doing and told me that he knew I could do this course. He said we'd take photos later and to go "eat the rest of the course." I was fueled for the rest of the race.

As we were going up the final hill, I could feel that I was feeling a little dizzy and nauseous. I slowed my pace way down and Tom took my hand as we ascended that steep hill. One foot in front of the other. I looked below us and saw other runners coming up the trail. Before we began the race, Tom said to me that he didn't understand why I had the assumption that I was going to finish last. He was right. In fact, I finished 4/5 in my age group 60+ and 317/341 runners. There was no way I was going to PR for a 5K given the course and conditions but in essence I did PR because it was my first trail race. What a relief to have the downhill to the finish line. We sprinted together crossing the finish line with a feeling of triumph!

John Bingham said it best, ""Our running shoes are really erasers. Every step erases some past failure. Every mile brings us closer to a clean slate. Each foot strike rubs away a word, a look, or an event which led us to believe that success was beyond our grasp."

I found Alain on the boat during the apres race partay:

He hugged me so tightly and told me how proud he was of me. He said, "I will always have your back at a race." And with those words, and after conquering my first trail race, that wound that had been open for 55 years was healed. I told him how blessed I am to have him in my life and he told me he too is blessed.

As we rode the ferry back to Boston, I felt accomplished, blessed and grateful to have these wonderful opportunities to feel my strength, my determination and my courage with people who support me as I find higher and higher ground in my healing journey.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Channeling my Inner Wilma Rudolph and Reflections on the Healing Power of Touch

When Wilma Rudolph was four years old, she contracted paralytic polio and went into a leg brace.

Doctors told her mother she'd never walk again. With the fierceness of a mother and family's love, they combined regular physical therapy sessions with leg massage. While massaging her daughter's legs, her mother set the powerful intention that her daughter would come out of the leg brace and walk again. Her 20 brothers and sisters took turns massaging her legs four times a day.

Not only did she come out of the leg brace and walk again but she went on to win 3 Gold Medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics.

Before each treatment with Joseph at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, I set an intention. Last week, knowing that I have the Spectacle Island Run tomorrow and the Tufts 10K coming up in two weeks, I set my intention on running. I told Joseph that I shifted my imagery for healing from electrical wiring to plumbing. Joseph reminded me that just a few weeks ago I mentioned to him that I felt as though he were bleeding a radiator on my right knee allowing the murky water to be released and warmth to flow. We work together to heal the injury from a belt buckle beating that literally brought me to my knees. It's an old injury that is healing and one, that interestingly enough, feels better when I get out for a run. There is also a "clog" in the flow of energy from when I was in a leg to ankle cast for 6 weeks when I was 11 years old.

With each treatment, I feel wounds healing and energy flowing. My Spirit becomes stronger no longer cowering in fear from violence and death threats. Joseph empties himself to allow the power of unconditional love to flow through him and to allow Spirit to guide the work. I know how blessed I am to have found my way to Joseph and Sollievo; I know that it was my intention and fierce determination to heal no matter what that led me to him. It was an after thought for my running friend Gail Martin who is also a licensed massage therapist to refer me to Joseph. We know that she "got out of the way" so that Spirit could work through her.

As I take my place tomorrow at the start of the Spectacle Island Run, I am going to channel my inner Wilma Rudolph. I will carry the love, the care and compassion of my physiatrist, Dr. Moskowitz and Miss Holly, my physical therapist, who worked with me for 8 years to help me come out of my leg brace and walk again, and Joseph with me. I will be running on trails on an unfamiliar course but knowing I have the incredible support of the race director and will be running with Tom by my side, I know that I am going to have a great race. I'm not concerned at all about the distance, just the terrain and being unfamiliar with the course. I've trained up to 7 miles and two weeks ago ran a 5 mile race with a stiff headwind on Ogunquit Beach. The race director Alain told me that he can't wait to see me rock Spectacle Island and that I am going to crush it. I've been meditating on ease, lightness, Truth and freedom releasing the shackles from the past.

Every race presents its own challenge and triumph for me. Every starting line is an opportunity for me to begin again to rise to meet the challenge. With each challenge met, I feel more confidence, and more strength to meet the next challenge surrounded by so much love and support and healed through the power of touch.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Life is either a daring adventure...

Last night J. Alain Ferry, race director for Sunday's Spectacle Island Run posted the course map.

Um why are there caution zones I asked.

Sharp turns, 2-way sections and runners from both races getting to a split Alain replied.

Okay - thank you. Is there elevation? Regardless I'm planning to bring my A game and rock the race!

Yes, Mary - there's significant elevation which you're going to flatten like a pancake. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it, right?

That's right Alain and I eat hills for breakfast only since it's an 11:27 start time, I will eat the hills for brunch. I'm going in with 3 days rest and really really glad I'd been doing hills in my training runs. It's going to be yet another grand adventure in my life. Thank you for all of your encouragement and support Alain. You are a race director extraordinaire. This will be a great warm up for my Tufts 10K. I'm psyched!

And I had to ask one more question --
The trails are paved correct? I seem to remember reading that somewhere. #preracejitters

Nope. Hard packed dirt and grass.

And with that I went into full on panic mode. I emailed Alain asking him if maybe I need an early start or should start with the 5 milers. I hadn't trained on trails but I did run the Ogunquit Beach Lobster Dash. I call him a race director extraordinaire for a reason. He messaged me right back and said, "You'll be fine. Easier than sand. You'll crush it!"

And in reality, hard packed dirt and grass are actually easier on the body than pavement.

My sigh of relief lasted for about a minute and my nay sayers kicked into high gear. What if I get injured? Tufts is only two weeks away. Maybe I should just do a training run out on the course for Tufts ... play it safe ...

And the words of Eleanor Roosevelt echoed in my ears:

I reflected and remembered how I've felt these past few months during races and training runs and in my Adaptive Sports sessions with AccesSportAmerica taking on new challenges and pushing myself to go outside of my comfort zone.

Last night as I was wrestling with Sunday's race, I felt the presence of my physiatrist, Dr. Eugene Moskowitz. He was considered a rehabilitation expert in treating polio during the epidemics in the 50's and 60's. He also did not believe in the diagnosis of post polio syndrome as it was being framed by the medical community and wrote an editorial for the New York Times in March of 1985:

Caution and Hope On Polio 'Signs'
Published: March 3, 1985

I read with interest the article entitled ''A Group for Polio Survivors Who Have New Symptoms'' (Feb. 10).

Having supervised the rehabilitation of poliomyelitis patients at Grasslands Hospital during the epidemics of the 50's and 60's, probably including the ''then'' infants mentioned in the article, I would like to add a word of caution and even hope as an afterthought.

Firstly, there is no reason to suspect deterioration in the nerve cells in the spinal cord. After 30 years, one must accept some loss of endurance, increased fatigue and even some discomfort induced by other unrelated medical problems. This is true in the athlete with repeated injuries, in the obese person with back problems and even in the jogger with foot ailments.

Any individual with paralytic disability in an extremity will experience the normal process of ''wear and tear'' except that it may be more difficult to adjust to it. Just as one learned to compensate for the initial impairment so must one adjust to the later, more subtle changes rather than develop an emotional hangup of being a ''polio victim.''


I realized that, while on the one hand I was being practical checking in with Alain as the race director about my concerns, I was allowing fear to take hold. It wasn't just the polio that got me when I was 5; it was carrying the burden of the secret of incest beginning at age 8 followed by 9 years of violence, that had weighed me down and prevented me from making a full recovery from polio. I became hard wired for fear; I was at odds with my body and experiencing my own power. But now I move beyond all of that thanks to so many amazing people in my life who remind me that I can transform can'ts into cans.

I slept well and this morning, my Facebook feed was filled with inspiration and timely quotes.

I remembered this recent post from Reno Stirrat:

Perhaps the most compelling sign was on my friend Kathleen's page. She is running her first half marathon this weekend. Kathleen took photos of Tom and me out on the course and crossing the finish line when I PR'ed the Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer.

And then I saw Alain's photo that he posted late last night of the view from Spectacle Island:

Every time I challenge myself, I leave my past experiences and beliefs in the dust to live a full, vibrant life in the present. I transform fear into excitement of new adventures. Because as Helen Keller so poignantly said, "Life is either a daring adventure...or nothing at all."

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Building Permit - Update on This Old House

During this morning's meditation, the image of a Building Permit came to mind. I thought about the guided imagery I'd been using for the past 7+ years of rewiring my system and enlisting the help of God as my master electrician on my healing journey. I used this imagery as recently as last week. During my weekly massage treatment at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, I experienced a carefully placed touch as being a circuit breaker for fear and a conduit to help energy flow as I shared in my post, This Old House.

I realized that using the metaphor of electricity for energy flowing through me carried images of electric shock, short circuits and needing to break through walls in order to get at the wiring. It was not a very loving, kind, gentle and compassionate metaphor and one that unknowingly reinforced the images of violence. Yet it was one that served me well and was work that needed to happen to help me arrive here now.

Fortunately, our hot water heater broke and then we had no heat and one of our toilets kept flushing which provided me with new imagery for healing. We are so fortunate to have found Boston Standard Plumbing. They have been our plumbers of choice for over a year now. They work quickly and easily, diagnosing the problem and finding the least invasive most economical solution to ensure that we have heat and hot water flowing and that the toilet doesn't keep running. (As an aside, we wrote reviews on Yelp and Google+ if you'd like to check them out).

My life force; the energy flowing through me is the river of life. It's water. In fact, our bodies are composed of what 90% water?

Rather than needing to repair faulty wiring, I need to explore where there are clogs in my plumbing. There are clogs from scar tissue, from violence, from surgeries and paralytic polio. With the late effects of paralytic polio, I can have difficulty maintaining homeostasis with my body temperature. The change in seasons challenge my thermostat. Tomorrow, our old house will be getting a new thermostat. This will help to provide me with more imagery to use to promote homeostasis in my body. When our toilet kept running, our plumber, Mike, showed me the warped part of the toilet that was causing the problem. It didn't allow the flush cycle to successfully complete itself. When my system gets into a state of overdrive, manifesting in tremors, I can trust that the cycle will complete itself and I will return to a state of tranquility and peace. It's often times a result of my system needing to flush out toxins or can be related to a clog in the system where the water is unable to flow smoothly.

And now back to the Building Permit. I need to give myself permission to heal. This means overriding the powerful messages I received trying to convince me that I deserved what was being done to me. Fortunately, I am aware of the Truth, and have a wonderful team of "contractors" to work with me to help me heal. I need to allow myself the time, compassion and patience to heal while also remembering how blessed I am to have so much in good working order.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Race Preview: Blue Cross Blue Shield Island Run

I have another race coming up on Sunday with my dear friend and race director J. Alain Ferry of RaceMenu. I don't feel quite the same fire in my belly to PR this race as I did with the Bill Rodgers 5K Race/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer. There were many factors that fueled that fire which you can read about in "It's More Than a Race..." However, I do have a time in my mind's eye, 46:50 which would be 3 seconds off of my PR at the Bill Rodgers 5K.

I definitely have a fire in my belly to PR the Tufts 10K on October 13th visualizing a time of 1:35:35. Sunday's race is a wonderful prep race for Tufts.

I trained hard last Saturday really pushing myself to the edge and came within a minute or so of my PR during that run in which I incorporated hills. I don't know what the course will be like and the weather prediction is for temps in the 80's with sun. We will be in the Harbor so there might be a sea breeze. We will have to evaluate conditions on race day to see how far I want to push given that Tufts is two weeks after the Island Run.

I do notice that I am seeing glimmers of my 2010 running self when I was at the top of my running game. Back in 2010, I ran at least 5 races in 5 months and crushed PR after PR culminating with the Somerville Jingle Bell Run 5K in December. I am 4 years older so my times will be slower. I also had a strong base from training for and running the 2009 Boston Marathon. It's been a long, at times arduous road back after leaving running and the running community in September of 2011. In June, I ran the Corrib Pub 5K and the following week ran the Father Bullock Charity Road Race taking 2nd in my Age Group. Okay there were only two people in my age group but that doesn't matter. In August I ran the Inaugural Bill Rodgers 5K to Benefit Prostate Cancer and nailed a PR. On 9/13, I ran the Ogunquit Lobster Dash 5 Miler and this Sunday the Spectacle Island Run 5K. Two weeks later it's game on for Tufts. After Tufts, we begin training for the Feaster Five 5K. That will be a total of 7 races in 6 months.

It's an exciting time for me in my return to running. I know that when I go out there and race, I want to give it my all and leave nothing on the roads. Each race is an adventure. Ogunguit Beach Lobster Dash had strong headwinds, the sound of the surf, and huge puddles and rivets of rippled sand to run over. I know that Spectacle Island will hold its own sense of wonder and adventure. How awesome to take a ferry to the starting line.

Since Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding was cancelled for today, I went on a 5K walk to stay loose for Sunday's race. I'm going to have my weekly massage treatment tomorrow at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork and then rest up for Sunday's race.

I'm feeling really good about Sunday's race and I am going to take the advice of my friend and a wonderful coach, Reno Stirrat:

Alain commented on my Nike+ post from last Saturday's training run, "I can't wait to see you rock Spectacle Island." Me too!

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How do you know you've found your strength?

Spaulding Rehab's motto is "Find your strength."

Building strength as a 60 year old survivor of paralytic polio who was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease is no small feat. As a matter of fact, I'd say it's a miracle.

And sometimes we wonder how do we measure that strength?

A few months ago, I tried to do the bicycle using a noddle (think riding a horse) in Aquatics Therapy class at Spaulding Rehab with five pound ankle weights on. It was a flat out no go. There is no way this is happening.

Today, as the therapist had us get on our noodles to ride into the deep end of the pool "as though you're on a bicycle", I hesitated for a moment.

Should I take off my ankle weights given how last time it was an impossible task.

No came back the answer. Let's see what happens.

I amazed myself to feel the difference between then and today. As I bicycled with weights I had to put forth effort but it was not an intensely challenging experience. I felt thrilled and delighted. My therapist celebrated in my accomplishment.

Often times we intuitively know we are getting stronger, climbing to higher and higher ground in our rehab journeys. With the support of everyone at Spaulding, the joy is in the journey.

On a day like today, however, when there is tangible evidence in being able to do something I couldn't do several months ago, I know that I've found my strength.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Monday, September 22, 2014

"I am so totally gonna make you walk that plank again..." Finding My Strength - Feeling Courage

The team at AccesSportAmerica have a gift for helping me and all those whom they serve the opportunity to discover just what we are capable of doing. They find a way to help us discover our strength and build upon success, overcome our fears and climb to higher and higher ground in our rehabilitation journey.

As I turned the corner on my recumbent bike and stopped, losing momentum to navigate an uphill, Zoe gave me cues and waited to see if I had the strength to navigate the uphill on my own. I had to dig deep into my core and harness the power of my quad muscles. Tom waited and watched and said, "She's gonna need a push." I love how protective he is of me but as he said after yesterday's Set Sail event, "I'm not qualified to know when you need help and when I should stand back and let you try on your own." Zoe knew and she gave me the space to have the opportunity to succeed. When it was time to stand up from the low seat of the recumbent bike, Zoe and my instructor Mike, offered their hands so that I could harness my core and quad strength to stand while not worrying about losing my balance.

I was terrified to walk the plank to get to my seat in the canoe at yesterday's Set Sail event. With an outstretched hand and a hand lightly placed on my shoulder, I walked across the water on the plank to the other side of the canoe. When I got there I paused. How was I going to step down? I could feel how my neuromuscular system was trying to organize to find a way for me to safely step down. Matthew, the instructor could see my hesitation. Not only was there no judgment that I was just standing there but a joint effort in figuring out how I could safely step down into the canoe. As Matthew reviewed different options, he gave me his shoulder and said, "Here - lean on me and take a big step."

After Ross told me that he was so totally gonna make me walk that plank again as we pulled into the dock, I smiled inside at the challenge. Ross gave me his shoulder and a hand and gave me the opportunity to see what I could do at that moment. I took a big step and could feel my strength and my energy surge through me as I took a huge step onto the plank. I walked across letting go of his hand, taking Tom's hand and then triumphantly stepping onto the dock.

As I relived the moments from yesterday's Set Sail in my evening meditation, I felt a new feeling deep in my soul. Each step I took, each challenge I met, was a step away from the fear of paralytic polio and violence wondering can I trust my body? Can I figure out a way to do this? I was able to simultaneously accept my limits but not be limited by those limits. The boundaries keep expanding as I learn to trust in myself and the strength I have available to me. The years of fear, humiliation, shame and doubt melt away with a shoulder to lean on, a hand for support and an encouraging word all that help me to find my strength and feel the courage within.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

It feels great to be back!

I remember posting on Facebook as I began training for the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women, "I think I can do this." My friends were wonderful cheering me on in cyberspace letting me know I could do this. I was hesitant. I was tentative. Could I come back to a 10K distance? Would I be able to be a part of races on a regular basis? The Universe nudged me along and swept me up to be exactly where I am meant to be. I couldn't very well say no to J Alain Ferry who I met while volunteering at the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Festival. After all, he put on the #onerun which helped me to realize that one way or another I had to get back to running and the running community. Alain was the Race Director for the Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk for Prostate Cancer. When I crossed that finish line with a PR, it was a new starting line in my running come back. He is the race director for next Sunday's 5K race.

This week has been a wonderful training week for me. Last Saturday I ran the Ogunquit Beach Lobster Dash. On Wednesday I incorporated hills into my 10K training run for Tufts and today I did speed work on hills. I did a 5K at a 15:30 minute/mile pace with negative splits all the way.

I pushed myself - hard. I allowed myself to experience moments when I went to my absolute edge. As I write this, I'm a little wheezy as I continue to build strength in my cardiovascular system. I am keenly aware of how paralytic polio affected me mind and body. Through running, I am able to heal.

I remember how I felt from June 2010 until March 2011. I was racing and crushing PR after PR. I was part of the running community that embraced me and loved cheering me on even though or maybe because I was a back of the pack runner giving it my all out there. It's amazing to have those feelings of confidence in my body and my Being, being cheered on and cheering on my amazing and often times crazy friends in the running community. They do everything from Spartan races to ultras and everything in between. I'm blessed to know older women who began their running careers later in life as I did and love cheering on their firsts. We run for physical and mental health. We run to be the best we can be. We run to see just what we can do on any given day. I run to challenge myself and to nourish my neuromuscular system that was affected by polio and violence.

It was a cool taste of fall kind of morning here in New England but the sun quickly warmed the air. The sun glistened on the Cleveland Circle Reservoir and the sky was a clear blue. As I ran up the hill in the back of Boston College, fans were arriving for the BC football game. There were many runners out. I felt vibrant and a part of the vibrant community that celebrates football and fall in New England.

I was training hard getting ready for next Sunday's Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Island Run. I'm not going for another PR since I'll be lacing up for Tufts two weeks after Sunday's race but we'll see what the day brings. I will use it for speed and getting ready to give my personal best performance at Tufts. I've got my eye on the 1:36 net time which will be a PR from my 2010 Tufts time.

After Tufts, Tom and I train for the Feaster Five with our friends from the Merrimack Valley Striders Club. We'll be heading up to Andover on Sunday mornings to train on the course. That will be my last race until Spring. Tom told me that we need to line up some really good Spring and Summer races that have bling to add to my collection.

For now, though, I feel good in my body and relishing that it feels great to be back!

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year: