Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Going the Distance: On Determination, Process, Progress and Meeting My Threshold

I have the Bermuda Half Marathon and the Hyannis 10K in the books, running those races despite warnings from the medical community in December 2014 that I should not run again, that I would need a total knee replacement in a few years and maybe if I did run (which they knew I was going to do anyway) I should not do anything more than a 5 mile race.

I found my way to healer, chiropractor Dr. Ryan J. Means who reminded me that I AM the Placebo and turned me onto the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza and teachers from What the bleep do we know...

Last week I worked out on the Arc Trainer for 30 minutes and spent 30 minutes on the bike.

Given my body's response to that workout, I realized that I'd gone over my threshold...but...

This week I decided to do 20 minutes on the Arc Trainer with maintaining higher settings and did about 35 minutes on the bike. I am tracking my settings and being extremely mindful of going right up to my threshold and not going over it. I feel challenged, sore and strong but not over the top uncomfortable after this week's workout. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the pool this week doing two laps each of the four strokes of the distance medley and doing a repeat along with laps with kickboard, noodle, jogging in the pool, side steps, lunges and strength training in the pool. It's incredible to feel the progress in my strength and my endurance finding both ease and joy and the challenge!

I am totally in love with this process of healing now. There is moving forward and progress and sometimes I meet my threshold and then have to back off a little to find the balance between feeling challenged but not risking injury or too much discomfort.

I feel the determination and the fire in my soul to go the distance.

To your health and wellness!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Going the Distance: On Coming Home, Courage, Patience and Persistence

It's that time of year when everyone starts counting down to the Boston Marathon. Less than 40 days to go until April 18th when the Red Sox play ball and thousands and thousands of runners make the journey from Hopkinton to Boston. It happens every year and moves me to reminisce about my journey and my 2009 Boston Marathon run.

By all appearances there is no way I should have been able to run the Boston Marathon. I remember the day I set that goal for myself. From "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing Hope and Possibility:" (available on Amazon)

At my six-month evaluation in February, I had dramatically improved in every area of the assessment. I had come out of my leg brace and I knew that I was on a healing path. Janine asked me what my next health and fitness goals were.
“Well I want to feel free in my body. I want to dance. I want to be able to walk outside and feel unencumbered when I take a walk.”

Janine wrote feverishly and we worked out a plan. She gathered up her belongings and had her hand on the door knob.

“Wait. I have one more goal.”

Janine stopped and turned around.

“I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital. I know they have a Race for Rehab team and I want to do it next year.”

Janine was non-plussed. I don’t know what kept her from turning tail and getting as far away from me as she could. She came back into my house and put down her things. She said that the first thing I would need is a pair of running shoes. She told me that Marathon Sports on Beacon Street would be able to help me. She laid out a cursory training plan and said that we would begin indoors to build up my cardio endurance. As soon as the weather got a little warmer, we’d go outdoors and I would learn how to run.

What had I just done?

After running the marathon I took the winter off from running. I worked with a physical therapist at Newton Wellesley Hospital Spine Center and by June of 2010 I was ready to run again. I had an incredible run until March of 2011 when my nephew's suicide threw me into a tailspin. Old habits reared their head. I stopped running and it wasn't until the One Run in the wake of 4/15/13 that I was able to find my way back to the roads.

I could not get traction with my healing and in December of 2014, a serious knee injury gave me a wonderful wake up call. My fiery Spirit and my courage would not take what the medical community and even my previous massage therapist were telling me. "Take it easy." "Well if you need a total knee you'll just have to learn to accept that." "What do you expect? You're a polio survivor."

Because of the intentions I had set through the power of my pen, my divining rod for healing as I wrote poems about reclaiming my life and running unencumbered (and my breath caught when I realized I set that intention back in February of 2008) and free the Universe led me to my partners for healing to go the distance in my healing journey.

When my left knee and leg barked at me on last Saturday's four miler, unlike the last time I have been able to manage the discomfort with ice, advil and cross training. Unlike the uncertainty I felt after my knee flared in December of 2014 and I agonized about whether or not I would ever return to the roads, I have total confidence in my training plan to heal this beautiful leg of mine that is vulnerable to injury.

I realize that I was conditioned to pain and prone to injury given the circumstances of my childhood. But now I have the tools I need to "recondition my body to a new mind," as Dr. Joe Dispenza describes the process.

I am deeply grateful that I had such incredible races in Bermuda and Hyannis and so grateful for all the healing I have experienced right now in this moment. This is another opportunity for me to gain strength and confidence in my body's resilience and my remarkable ability to heal. However just like the professional athletes do, I am using this time to build up core strength and cross train and strength train with renewed vigor and commitment.

I need to be kind and compassionate with myself on this journey experiencing deep appreciation for what my physical body has been through. But all the darkness, the evil, the pain and suffering is no match for the light and power of Divine Love.

So thank you to Petey Silveira and New Pathway For Healing's Facebook post to remind me:
Be easy
take your time
you are coming home
to yourself.

To your health and wellness!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Going the Distance: It all started with a poem!

I hadn't given much thought to my poetry book, "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life" (available on Amazon) since I published it last July and did some promo for it over the summer.

When I found out I had a table at the 2016 Hyannis Marathon Weekend Expo, I scooped up my two copies along with my bling and 2009 Boston Marathon memorabilia:

As I shared my journey with one woman from Kripalu, she said that she would love to have my book sold in the Kripalu Bookstore.

Shortly after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome which traditional medicine says is a progressive neuromuscular disease, I got still. I asked for Divine Guidance and the answer came through my laptop in the form of a poem; in the cadence of Dr. Seuss that Miss Holly my physical therapist read to me before every painful physical therapy session and then had me recite back to her in a call and response kind of way to distract me from the excruciating pain of rehabbing after contracting paralytic polio. The poem? "Running the Race".

Running the Race

Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
everyone around me filled with nervous fear.
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
the polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.

Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.

Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
but with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
it tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.

I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
with no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn’t pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.

Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp, everything else and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.

Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
suffered in silence, alone and afraid tried to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.

Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
for the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.

Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do
resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body-creaks, groans and need for a brace
while in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.

I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
so much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.

A portal of healing opened up inside of me and despite all appearances to the contrary I started writing poems about healing, wholeness, dancing in the rain and...running. That first poem foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon run.

I kept on writing poetry all throughout my healing journey until I met Dr. Ryan J. Means, a healer chiropractor and now dear friend. In my poems I was imagining a wonderful healer that I could partner with to go the distance and heal the effects from paralytic polio and violence. All the while I was working with different body workers but I was not getting traction on my healing journey. In fact, they were compounding he trauma. Each person I worked with led me right to Dr. Ryan. My poetry prayers were answered and my heart and soul did not need to cry out the Universe through poetry any longer.

Foot Strike

Each strike struck a chord of fear
How would I ever reclaim my life?
Holding onto hope
waiting for the day
when memories would no longer weigh heavy
free to run my own race.
Stomping in anger
striking back
shadow boxing with the thief
who stole away childhood innocence
a no win.
Each foot strike ignites my soul
fired up to run my best race
taking the lead
breaking finisher’s tape

today I won my race.

The Dancer

Crumpled cringing alone in darkness portrait of paralyzed child
heap of limbs loss of control panic fear run rampant and wild.
Enter stage right he gathers her gentle tears honor old embrace new
beautiful ballerina transformed music swells the pas de deux.
Dancing with Spirit she celebrates lost in moment of time and space
winged feet now poetry in motion joyful light ease and grace.

Daring she enters spotlight center stage a vision to behold
vulnerable yet confident - courageous strikingly bold.
On point to an audience she no longer plays,
soul’s rhythm tempo she keeps
magic memories made in each moment
delighting grateful heart leaps.
Her life she now knows has no bounds
choreography her dancing decree
revelations unveiled with each movement
unencumbered expansive now free.

Sweet Victory

On the battlefield of life
when we fight the good fight
with compassion
a heart for a heart
to the victor goes the spoils.

A treasure trove of Truth
scars merely badges of honor
wounds healed
secret weapon of loving kindness
vapors of fear
tears spilled
water bathing the garden of my soul
yielding to joy
as treaty signed with forgiveness
sweet reward of peace.

Lush landscape
fragrant green grass
a winding road leading to everywhere
I run

strapping and healthy
free to be me
my victory lap.

The Chrysalis

Trembling with excitement
shaking it off
allow yourself to be with a capital B

Being who you were always meant to be

yet time well spent
on tiny legs
grounded to earth’s energy
garnering wisdom along the way

gathering together

a time of uncertainty
this is the path
abide in darkness
lose grip on grasping
turning inward
discovering beauty
free now

Born to Run

Born free
born to run
run free
untethered unshackled
pouring energy into my running form
liquid gold once fired in the crucible
now my treasure born of my Spirit molded with alchemy
my precious treasure once buried
the map safely tucked away
X marks the spot
a new starting line.

Poised and ready
to go the distance
all out without hesitation
all is healed at last
my pace swift
Mercury and Hermes pace me on winged feet
born to run
running free
joyfully crossing the finish line with ease.

Yes indeed - my prayers were answered!

It's quite remarkable what happens when we allow our subconscious mind to express our deepest heart's desires to see what manifests in our lives. I combined the power of the word with my powerful intention and feelings to heal and conjured up finding my way to Dr. Ryan. It's wonderful to re-read my poems and watch the manifestation of my healing.

It's an absolute miracle that after 9 years on this healing odyssey I am on my way to going the distance. And to think it all started with a poem!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Camp Hyannis Weekend 2016 - Post Race Celebration

It's been three days since I crossed the finish line of the Hyannis 10K and I'm still feeling the after glow of a magical and wonderful race and race weekend. Treadmill training helped me with my pace as well as a pre-event ShakeOut massage, garnering the running advice from all the greats...Jack Fultz, Geoff Smith, Bill Rodgers and Jacqueline Hansen plus getting that out on the course hug from Jacqueline Hansen really gave me a boost! My hope was for a sub 1:40 10K because I'd been running over 1:40 and about a 16:33 pace on any distance over a 5K.

After we crossed the finish line, we hydrated and enjoyed the glorious Cape Cod day celebrating what we just accomplished. Five years in the making - an event I never thought I would experience again. So many times on the sidelines and spectating now wearing bling! The woman who I helped pace at the back of the pack, Mary Kate came up to us after she crossed the finish line and I even received a thank you email from her for inspiring her and helping her to cross the finish line in a time much better than she expected and would have had if she were on her own.

I was feeling both hungry and nauseous from pushing my pace. We entered the ballroom and my breath caught. I remembered the day in 2009 after finishing my first half marathon. There was Frank Shorter to greet my shivering self and tell me that he knew I was going to finish Boston because of my grit and determination.

The 99 Restaurant was serving post race refreshments as they had in 2009 and once again I had their vegetable soup. Tom and I sat down and took our post race runfie:

Refueled and refreshed we went by the door to welcome back our L Street Family. What a thrill to be standing there having run our own race and welcome back the conquering heroes of L Street. We hugged and congratulated each other. They went off to get their food and Tom and I were planning to head back to the room to shower but I got a wicked case of the hungries. I could tell that I needed something more substantial than soup, oyster crackers, a banana and an orange. On our way out we stopped to see our results:

I was able to get a congratulatory hug from Dawn Feest of Wag Your Tail. We said how I wagged my tail all the way to the finish line!

We decided to go to Bogey's in the lobby of the Resort and Convention Center. I love walking into a restaurant after running a race wearing my bling and knowing that I am a runner and I belong among runners. The hotel was transformed from a quiet place in the early morning hours to pre race excitement to the joy and satisfaction of having another race and another medal in the books. Bottles of beer, food and loud voices regaling the day filled the room.

I received a message on Facebook from Christine who was Tom's teammate when he ran on the Boston Marathon Miles for Miracles Team in 2011. The last time we saw her was when we did the One Run in 2013. How much healing has taken place in these past 3 years! She ran the marathon relay and was waiting for her teammates to come in.

Another text - "Hey where are you guys? We want to get a group photo?"

The restaurant was filled and Caitlin came in to get us so that we did not overwhelm the restaurant with our L Street presence:

It was time for hugs and goodbyes and to wrap up the post race celebration! PR's and goals exceeded led to hugs and high fives.

I still have the Cool Running results page open on my laptop:

388 18/18 M6069 1:43:31 1:39:33 16:02 Tom McManus 63 M 4405
389 15/15 F6069 1:43:31 1:39:34 16:02 Mary McManus 62 F 4404

Only 4 minutes over my Tufts 10K PR in 2014...after being told in January of 2015 that I wouldn't run again and that if I did it should not be more than a 5K or 5 miles at ran 6.2 miles and I'm just getting this party started again.

But for now I am going to enjoy the post race celebration knowing I can go the distance!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Camp Hyannis 2016 - Race Day - Redemption Weekend

I set my alarm for 7:00am but pre race jitters woke me up at 6:00am. I meditated as Tom slept soundly. I focused on creating a wonderful race day for Team McManus. Paul Collyer, Event Director called this weekend Redemption Weekend after needing to cancel the race last year due to over 100" of snow and a major storm right before the weekend. I let the words redemption weekend sink into my soul. I reminded myself that everything I needed would be provided for me and told myself to trust that the course will be well marked. I dismissed an image of Tom and me being at the back of the pack with everyone taking off and leaving us alone to find our way. I wanted to drive the course on Saturday and we ended up driving only half of it because we had trouble reading the map and following the roads in the car. Tom reassured me that he would bring the map with him and we would take a left instead of a right and complete the entire course!

The day began in quiet and then I heard footsteps in the hall and on the floor above us. It was like a beautiful symphony and the crescendo was building throughout the Resort and Conference Center until it was time to run!

I opened up the curtains and saw this beautiful scene:

Tom and I did our plank, crunches and clams and meditated.

I channeled my nervous energy into getting everything ready for race day - a day I waited for for the last 5 years and one I didn't know would ever happen again.

We went to the lobby and there was no line at the coffee shop in the lobby. We ate slowly and I learned my lesson from Bermuda that I needed to relax and take my time with breakfast allowing plenty of time for digestion before gun time. I was excited to meet up with one of my dear friends, Jane Lewis Brown who is training for her first full marathon in Sugarloaf. She inspires me with her faith, grit and determination. She asked me to get a Hyannis coffee cup souvenir for her at the Expo on Saturday. Bea D'Angelo and Caitlin Doherty, two of our dear L Street Running Club friends asked if we would register them for the half marathon on Saturday and we would meet up Sunday before the race. They arrived with two more members of our running club. We went to our room and everyone used the bathroom (a very short wait compared to the portapotties or the restrooms in the lobby).

As we were getting ready to head downstairs I took a moment to thank Bea, Caitlin, Carla and Kathleen and of course Tom, my partner on and off the roads for all of their love and support. I got emotional as I shared with them how incredible I felt to be running Hyannis again surrounded by my running family. Carla was so loving and tender as she made sure I had everything I needed for race day, hugged me and said God bless you. A little over a year ago at this time I was told that I would not and should not run over 5 miles and that I was looking at a total knee replacement in a couple of years. The physiatrist at Spaulding Rehab wanted me to go through the post polio clinic again to see where I might need additional support and services. But instead I had run the 2016 Bermuda Half Marathon and was now poised to toe the starting line of the 2016 Hyannis 10K.

They went off to drop things off in their car and we said we'd meet up at the start. We found out via Facebook that there was more of an L Street contingency at the Expo.

We took a selfie with our L Streeters:

One of my dear friends, Jennifer Falcone Kelly found me and we took this selfie:

While we were hanging out with the L Streeters, Tom yells out, "Hey Bermuda," and we saw one of the women who we met in Bermuda. We met her first at the Bermuda Race Expo and then again at the Bermuda Airport. She told us at the airport that she had seen us cross the finish line at the Bermuda Half Marathon hands held high and how inspired she was by our run. We are now friends on Facebook.

Team McManus also received a wonderful loving hug and send off by Dawn of Wag Your Tail where all the magic began for the 2016 Hyannis Weekend.

It was time to warm up at the start where Bill Rodgers was also warming up.

I asked him if I could get a picture with him at the start. He has this amazing way of speaking softly with such love and care about the sport of running and being supportive of me as a runner. While Tom was taking the picture he said, "Stay steady. And stay steady with those treatments of yours. They're working."

"Well I'm going to continue to move because it's cold out here."

Tom and I took our traditional Team McManus selfie at the start:

Caitlin and crew found us at the 12:00 minute/mile mark where Tom and I decided we would start our race. Caitlin snapped this starting line runfie:

How could you not take a moment to chat with these three about their bGood costumes:

They shared with us that they are running for the bGood Family Foundation.

We all started together at the 12:00 minute/mile pace - my dream pace. Everyone was cheering us as the music blared and one face stood out in the crowd. Jacqueline Hansen jumped up and down and screamed, "Go Mary and Tom!" The energy of Bill Rodgers and Jacqueline Hansen, Boston Marathon champions was with me.

The first mile marker came up really fast and I said to Tom, "Wow this feels really easy." He reminded me about what Boston Marathon Champion Jack Fultz said that you divide your race and the first third of the race, whatever the distance should always feel slow and easy. "If you feel as though you are going too slowly, you are running at the correct pace." I usually struggle at the beginning of a race but not this one!

I told Tom that I was not going to look back because I am not running that way. Instead I looked in front of me and there was a woman race walking. We caught up to her and started a conversation. I shared my journey with her and she told us about her health and fitness journey. We stayed together for the first two miles or so. No worries about their not being course monitors and signs pointing us along the course...or the water stop not being there. Everything was in place to support us on our way.

We were out on a beautiful stretch of the course and I could feel my pace picking up. Tom had his TomTom on and told me I was doing about a 15:30 pace. I was ecstatic and felt so good in my body. At one point, as had happened in Bermuda, my right knee tweaked and I wondered if I had to dial back my pace but I harnessed the power of my mind and the energy cleared. We were following Geoffrey Smith's advice of running from the inside out. It was rather daring of me to run as my body wanted to run rather than from some external dictates about our racing plan. Actually my racing plan was to take Geoffrey Smith's advice and have fun out there and take Bill Rodgers advice and celebrate.

And in the distance Jacqueline Hansen comes along the course. The expanse of ocean was to our left and this beautiful woman comes up on our right. She stopped me to give me a hug. She whispered in my ear," Run with all your heart."

I felt she was my fairy godmother and I was Cinderella being told, "You will go to the ball."

You see growing up as a survivor of paralytic polio I was always the outcast. When it came to gym I was "easy out Alper" (my maiden name). I was bullied and teased and even struggled with my identity as a runner when I first started running....

After Jacqueline's hug I felt something ignite within me. My pace picked up and a woman behind us said, "Excuse this the right course for the 10K." We told her it was and laughed and shared with her my fear about losing our way on the course. She asked if she could run with us. She was supposed to run the half but had an injury and was running the 10K course but wouldn't cross the finish line. I had the opportunity to share my journey with her and she asked me when the book was coming out. Coincidentally she had run Bermuda several years earlier. We took in the beautiful views of the course and shared our memories of running Bermuda.

Suddenly mile 5 was upon us. I had not stopped for 5 miles. I slowed down to take water and have a half of a Luna bar at mile 2 (when our bodies told us we needed to refuel) but I was running non stop for 5 miles! I knew that I needed to take a brief pause remembering that our bodies can reset in as little as 30 seconds. I hydrated and knew I wanted to run the last 1.2 miles strong.

I had in my head that I wanted to break 1:40 for my 10K. Since my return to the roads I was running about a 16:33 pace on anything above a 5K. When we joined the marathoners and half marathoners on the course, something broke free within me. I was running with the pack! I had a lot left in the tank and I was leaving nothing out on the roads. Usually at this point in a race I can push hard but it's a struggle to push hard. I remembered how I felt going for a PR at the 2014 Tufts 10K. There was nothing in the tank and it was sheer will power to push for that PR. On Sunday there was pure joy in my running. I felt so different in my body. It was more than just finishing a race; I was racing this race competing against myself seeing just what I could do.

I cried as we came toward the finish and there was this huge crowd with cowbells -- oh I need to add here that the course monitors were amazing with cowbell and high fives to cheer us on - cheering everyone into the finish. Paul was there calling out my name saying just say to the left. He was there when I finished my first half marathon in 2009 in Hyannis and for my running comeback at the Charles River Run in June of 2010 and when I PR'ed his Jingle Bell Run in December of 2010. He has always been a cheerleader and champion of my journey.

Tom and I held hands high as we crossed the finish line. I knew it had taken us a good 4 minutes or so to cross the starting line and the finisher's clock said 1:43 but whatever our time would be the 2016 Hyannis 10K was my redemption race and it without a doubt my best time ever!

To be continued....
To your health and wellness,