Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bermuda Marathon Weekend - Part IV - Welcome to Paradise

Team McManus decided to take an extra day in Bermuda this year to enjoy and celebrate 10 years of my healing odyssey, Tom's Triangle Half Challenge and my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon. Little did I know how much we are going to need the extra day to recover from what turned out to be a grueling, yet magical and mystical race day for me.

Prior to race day, we stuck with our fueling plan for breakfast of oatmeal, banana, orange juice and toast. Fortunately The Rosedon Hotel's continental breakfast had the hot water, the juice and the bread for toast. We brought in our oatmeal and shopped at a little market to get our bananas. After our triumphant Bermuda Half Marathon run, we ordered the full English breakfast delivered to the porch of our room.

After a rain shower, the sun came out and we took advantage of The Rosedon Hotel's complimentary shuttle to Elbow Beach. When we arrived to get our beach chairs and towels, the woman behind the counter said, "Welcome to Paradise."

I went in the warm waters and allowed the powerful surf to help me recover from my race. Tom and I took a recovery walk on the beach and we sat with our feet up on lounge chairs covered with a luxurious towel reading for a few hours. There was a brief shower but as they say in Bermuda, "Not a problem." We put up our beach umbrella until the sun came out again. At 1pm our courtesy ride back to The Rosedon was right there where we had been dropped off.

When we got back to the hotel we went for a recovery swim in the hotel pool.

We showered and had our last tea time on the porch with friends we made during our stay regaling stories about our races and "what's next" on our running schedule. We took a leisurely walk into town to get gifts for our dear friends who were house and cat sitting for us.

"Can we please go over the route for the finish of the Half Marathon?" I asked Tom. His initial response was a curt no since he was worried about my recovery and going up yet another hill but he quickly recanted and said, "of course." It felt so good to be walking under my own steam noticing how quickly my body recovered from this:

to this:

It's a true testament to how far I've come in these past 10 years since first receiving the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome with warnings that I would be experiencing a progressive neuromuscular disease. It's a testament to my training hard and to reclaiming my life from the effects of paralytic polio and trauma through the power of thought and intention.

Many people asked me how come, now that I feel well enough to travel, I don't just take a regular vacation where eating the English breakfast every day and going to the beach would be how I'd spend my time. The people who ask are not runners!

There's something incredibly wonderful about training for 6 months and exercising discipline, honing mind, body and Spirit to take on 13.1 miles and then thoroughly reaping the rewards for that hard work with great food, savoring the sunset with our view from the Pickled Onion patio and even a glass of wine after lounging on the beach and by the pool. I can't imagine doing it any other way.

Ten years after the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease, and two years after a knee injury that "they said" would end my running career and that I needed a total knee replacement I crossed the finish line of my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon. While my medal will be mailed to me, we came home with t-shirts and most of Tom's bling:

along with new friends and a heart filled with treasured memories.

What's next? You'll have to continue reading my blog to find out!

To your health and wellness,

Friday, January 20, 2017

Going the Distance: Bermuda Marathon Weekend: Part III - A Time to Celebrate!

Team McManus had so much to celebrate once we finally crossed the finish line of the Bermuda Half Marathon on Sunday.

Tom ran a 7:59 mile in the Front Street Mile. It was a joy to be a part of the crowd experiencing the excitement of the kickoff race of the Bermuda Triangle Challenge.

Here's Tom before the race:

With his bling:

The video of him finishing strong:

On Saturday, it was time for Tom to make on the mighty hills of Bermuda. Here's Tom getting himself psyched up to take on the challenge:

This was my view while I waited for our returning runners:

I used to lament the fact that I couldn't keep pace with the pack and have to carefully choose what races I participate in. During one of my meditations in Bermuda I had the epiphany that I was not trailing behind -- I was a trailblazer having the courage to defy what the medical establishment was telling me about Post-Polio Syndrome, "If you use it you will lose it."

Tom's race photo with the eye of the tiger:

I know he takes me out on every run with him!

All hail the conquering hero:

What made the 10K incredibly special was that Tom helped to get our friend Shawn Whalen to the finish line. He is undergoing total knee replacement surgery today. You can see from these photos that he was struggling but there's nothing like the strength of another runner to help get us to the finish line:

As the above quote says, "The celebration of success overshadows the challenges that were encountered along the way!"

One of the staff from The Rosedon Hotel took these photos that underscore the challenge I experienced coming into the final miles along with the beauty and grace of Jamie-Lee Wright, islandgirl and the angel at mile 12. For the full race report, follow this link:

After crossing that finish line and emerging triumphant from the medical tent

it was time to get our party on.

We had brunch at the Pickled Onion where Jamie-Lee and The Weekenders (the Bermudian running club she is a part of) were celebrating. Jamie-Lee posted her celebration drink on Facebook with this celebratory post "3 events, 3 days, 3 PBs and a cheeky drink or 3 post race.... to celebrate the completion of the Bermuda Triangle Challenge (International Race weekend) 🍾
Didn't make 6,6,6 - I made 6,6,10 (referencing how many minutes she PR'ed by) and broke the two hour mark - BOOM!! 🍾
Taking off 17 mins for these 20 miles, not too shabby":

After Tom and I refueled with eggs, toast, sparkling water and OJ, we walked .... slowly ... back to the hotel. We were going to go for a recovery swim but opted for a nap. I took a long hot shower and then I finished with an ice cold flush. We had a hand held shower in our room which made it easy for me to focus on my back and legs.

Time to head over to the Southampton Princess or South P as the locals call it for the post race weekend celebration!

There was music and dancing...

hanging with running legends, Geoff Smith, Bart Yasso, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Steve Jones, bumping into old friends and making new friends, celebrating with a couple we met from Sweden who were staying at The Rosedon and celebrating everyone's successful races:

When we got back to the Hotel, I curled up with a great book, Brotherhood by Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra and had the best sleep.

We had one more day of our Bermuda Marathon Weekend Adventure .... to be continued ...

To your health and wellness!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Going the Distance: Bermuda Half Marathon Race Report: Part II - Running with Heart

I posted a picture on Facebook that I was rereading Jacqueline Hansen's book, "A Long Time Coming," to inspire me for race day. "A perfect way to manage taper time... reading about inspirational pioneers in women's running. Poignant since Joan Benoit Samuelson is running this weekend! It's my second reading and must say it's even more enjoyable the second time around!"

Jacqueline, who has been gracious enough to write the Foreword to my soon to be released book, "Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance," posted, "Thank you Mary! I loved that Joanie wrote my foreward, and now I have written yours.❤ Have a good race, stay the course and, as always, run with heart. Love, JQ"

I replied, "Will do."

Little did I know how much I would have to run with all my heart to get me to the finish line after the "wheels came off the wagon," one of my favorite Aaron Sorkinisms.

Shortly after mile 11, we met a volunteer out on the course. He could see that I was struggling and got right in my face and said with his rich Bermudian accent, "The race is not for those who are swift. The race is for those who can endure. You're the winner. You can do this. Now go finish!" He was preaching and infusing me with strength and positive energy. I reassured him that I was going to finish the race set before me.

Last year they did not have a mile 12 mile marker and it didn't matter because I was sailing through the final miles of the race. We knew we were coming close to the finish. This year I was so grateful to see Mile 12. The question was not would I make it to the finish line but how. I had to accept the fact that for whatever reason I could not straighten up and was leaning to my left side. My left arm was in some kind of spasm. I had lost muscle control over my upper body. We stopped and stretched every which way I could think of to get relief and hydrated.

"Are you okay? Do you need water?" a beautiful runner said with a delightful English accent.

"No we have enough water...I'm stretching trying to work out cramps. Thank you."

As we turned the corner I welcomed the downhill heading into Front Street. One foot in front of the other was all I could think about. At the wall in front of the Rosedon Hotel, a spot where I felt incredible triumph last year, I felt that I was losing control over my body and Tom supported me from collapsing. I dumped water on my head, took a big gulp of water and pulled myself together. I had to block out the trigger that was happening inside of me about the day I collapsed in gym class after contracting paralytic polio at age 5. I brought myself back to the present. Tom had the brilliant idea of having me put my arm around his shoulder and he braced my hip to give me support while I powered on.

"Come on. Put your arm around me. I'm going to help you."

It was the angel from mile 12.

She could tell I was stunned. "They did it for me when I cramped up in Chicago and Phila actually. It's okay. Let me know if you want me to go lower or higher."

I powered up Bermudiana Road and then down Bermudiana Road...the final hill!

I just kept saying thank you amidst the conversation we were having to keep me distracted from what was happening in my body and to keep me focused on my single minded goal to cross that finish line.

"I'm going to step aside right before the finisher's chute so I'm not in your finish photo," this angel said to me.

I was never so happy to see a finish chute in my life! As we had planned and visualized so many times, Tom and I held hands high with a huge smile on our faces to celebrate that I ran my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon. It wasn't pretty but I got it done and only took about 20 minutes more time than my time last year.

As soon as we crossed, I was greeted by medical tent volunteers. "Come in here and let us check you out," they said. Tom insisted! "Wait where are our medals?" Tom said he'd go see about them and came back to tell me that they ran out! My first thought from days gone by was I was too slow and missed out but we found out that a shipment of medals had disappeared and never arrived in Bermuda. I think they must have gotten lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

Tom had forgotten his wallet to pay for brunch back at the hotel so while I was being attended to, he ran back to the Rosedon to get the wallet. He bumped into our friends Diane and John from our running Club and asked where I was. When they heard I was in the medical tent, they asked if they should come see me. Tom said they didn't have to but true to runner's code and running family they came to see me. As soon as I sat down on the cot, I felt everything release. I was amazed at how I was not frightened about what happened and had total confidence in my body's ability to make a rapid and complete recovery.

Vitals were fine including blood sugar and one of the EMT's told me that I had fueled and hydrated well based on how well I was recovering given how I looked coming into the finish.

Diane and John were incredibly supportive and I asked if we could take a finisher's photo and borrow their medals. Without hesitation they said of course!

One of the Bermudians, Natalie, with whom I became good friends on Facebook saw me after I left the medical tent and asked me how I was. Word travels fast on that little island of Bermuda.

Our after the medical tent celebration photos with Natalie and Tim, Team McManus with Team Jannetti, and Team McManus (taken by Diane Jannetti) :

My angel, Jamie-Lee Wright, came back to see us and check in with me. She had a stellar running comeback at the Triangle Half Challenge after 6 months of not running due to an injury and training for 6 weeks prior to race weekend. After she PR'ed her half she went back to her house which is along the race course to cheer on a friend running the full marathon. He was struggling and she ran him to the finish. It was after she helped him to cross the finish line that she came to find us to help me finish!

I can look upon my race experience as something that can happen to all runners; hitting the wall, cramping up and the body just shuts down.

The Bermuda Half Marathon happening as it had became a profound mystical experience for me.

The fear that I could collapse again and have no control over my body happened, and, instead of the experience crushing me, I was able to dig deep and move beyond it as a 63 year old woman. The deep wounds of having been bullied and teased and left behind while I was left to try to catch up with my peers lugging a hip to ankle heavy metal brace was Divinely transformed as Jamie-Lee came to find me, support me, reassure me and care for me as one's dearest loved one would do. I went from being an outcast in gym class known as "Easy out Alper" (my maiden name) to a woman celebrated and honored for being a source of inspiration for so many.

After the race, it was time to celebrate!

To be continued....

To your health and wellness,

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Going the Distance: Bermuda Half Marathon Race Report: Part I

It was a gorgeous morning in Bermuda. I am still wrapping my heart and head around the fact that I ran my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon given my state of affairs 10 years ago with the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome and two years ago with an MRI that indicated I should stop running or at the very least limit my running and to look forward to a total knee replacement in the not too distant future.

Once again we were treated to see the beautiful sunrise over Hamilton Harbor:

I experienced the thrill of supporting Tom in his Bermuda Triangle Half Challenge (more on that in another blog) and now Team McManus was ready to take on my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon. I was stronger and trained harder. I remembered to be mindful as I ate my breakfast and we had our breakfast earlier than last year to give me time to digest it before the start. We left for the start later than we had last year. Unlike last year, I felt pure joy before gun time. I was blessed to meet Natalie Dyrli in person. We became Facebook friends. She is a social media maven sharing the joys of running with Bermuda's running group, "The Weekenders."

Thomas Glave decided to take on the Bermuda Triangle Half Challenge this year after running the Half last year. He was also a guest at The Rosedon. His eyes filled with tears as he told me how much I inspire him. "If I hit a rough patch during the race, I am going to use the mantra, "Remember Mary Remember Mary and all she's been through.

"Hi Mary. It's Glenda from last year. You were kind enough to send me the photos from the start last year. I looked you up and was so inspired by you that I'm taking on the Half Challenge this year," she said as she proudly showed me her bib.

We found fellow Merrimack Valley Striders, Diane and John Jannetti and captured this fun moment at the start:

A few more photos from the start:

A moment of silence, the proclamation from the Town Crier and we were off on our 13.1 mile journey. Thomas asked if he could join us for the first few miles to warm up. Tom was concerned that I went out too fast (and in retrospect I had) but I felt so amazing in my body and did not feel that I was pushing my pace in any way. I'm usually struggling a little at the beginning of the race but not on Sunday. We paused at mile 1 to take a sip of water and then took the first hill. We were chatting and sailing through the first 6 miles taking in the uniquely Bermudian landscapes and after mile 5 the magnificent seascape. The conversation and the run were delightful except when cars went whizzing by us.

I had no pain anywhere in my body. The water stops seemed fewer and farther between than last year. We made sure to stop at the water stops.

"Hi Mary. I told you I'd be here," said a Bermudian woman who I met while cheering on Tom at the Front Street Mile. She used to be a runner despite having a foot that turned inward but she was injured and unable to run. We had a lovely chat at the Front Street Mile. That's how Bermuda is ... strangers quickly become friends. She embraced me knowing my story and told me to take plenty of water and have an orange slice. "Hello Mary's husband," she said to Tom.

We saw some spectators who lined the route last year and they remembered us. The reggae music was the accompaniment to the magnificent views of the Island and it was a dance party along parts of the route.

I was anticipating a smooth and easy run but as any endurance runner can tell you, things can often go south when you least expect them to. I had trained well on hills and asphalt this year. I incorporated more cardio into my training using the Arc Trainer and Bike and worked hard in my strength training on land.

Unlike last year and my hunch is because the America's Cup is coming to Bermuda in June, there was a lot of traffic on the roads. On the narrow streets of Bermuda, we had to hug into the left side of the road where the road had uneven pavement. I could feel that my gait and pace were off. Team McManus stuck to our hydration and fueling plan and fortunately, in addition to our two water running water bottles, we had brought along a bottle of Fuji water. Thomas said goodbye to us at some point along the way saying he was ready to run his own race and he would see us later. Tom and I shrugged off the fact that there seemed to be more traffic this year and focused on enjoying the race despite the extra challenges.

"Are you favoring your left side?" Tom asked me with some concern when we got to mile 9. "It's from the road angle," I said. "I'm doing fine. I'm not in any pain." The long hill between mile 9 and 10 with the sun getting hot was challenging for me and the right side of my back went into spasm. I massaged the spasm and reminded myself how confident and comfortable in my body embracing what was happening in my body. By mile 10, I felt a release and said a prayer of gratitude that the tightness was gone.

Between mile 10 and mile 11, I could feel the toll that the heat, the hills and having to negotiate traffic was beginning to take on my body. I harnessed the power of my mind to think, in the words of Dr. Joe Dispenza, greater than my circumstances and observed my body rather than embody what was happening which could have certainly sent off a sense of panic within me.

We stopped and stretched and made sure we had plenty of hydration. While I would experience moments of relief, I could sense that something untoward was happening in my body and so I harnessed the power of the mantra that I have used before in my runs if a part of my body was experiencing pain or swelling, "I created this so I can uncreate it."

To be continued....

To your health and wellness,