Saturday, June 4, 2011

San Francisco to Sin City Challenge

Hey guys!  Just at two weeks past Jemez Mountain Trail Race and I don't feel like I've been able to stop and relax since getting home.  If it's not running one of the kids to the dentist or to practice, it's spending the weekend away from the rest of the family for a baseball tournament.  Work, training, a wife with her own career, teenage boys, a six year-old girl that thinks she's a teenager and just life in general.  How do I fit it in each day?  Does it ever slow down? Will I ever catch up with what I need to get done?  Do you feel ever feel that way yourself?  Sure the pieces are different, but it life seems to be like a big puzzle and sometimes the pieces don't fit exactly so you deal with it. You roll with the punches, some harder than others. 

Then, you see the lives others and wonder if the maybe you're not even rolling with "the punches". Maybe they're just some jabs, maybe not even that.  The things that you think are such a hassle in your life seem to be mere road bumps compared to the punches other people face in their daily lives.  One such life is that of a friend of mine from high school.  Through the powers of Facebook I was reconnected with Beth.  About Twenty-five years since I had last seen her, but still the same beautiful smile I remembered from my high school days.  Still the fun and energetic Beth.  While we didn't communicate directly or message, there were random posts that maybe we "liked" or commented on, but never getting into anything personal.  However, I seemed to notice that Beth's post were always positive, in support of something, a bit of an activist it seemed and not afraid to support a cause.  I found that a nice change from the negative or derogatory comments that could be made through social media, unfortunately even from me at times.  Never from Beth.

In the meantime, I had decided 2011 would bring another charitable challenge for me to follow up on 2010's Boston 2 Big Sur challenge. What would it be, I had no idea.  Who would be the beneficiary, no idea, but most likely a local children's organization again.  Then May rolled around and Beth changed her profile picture on Facebook to a Lupus Awareness logo.  What, Lupus?  Does she have Lupus and I have so selfishly never realized this fact? How did I miss this?  What kind of friend am I that I didn't even realize her situation? A short FB message to her, which I was totally stressed about sending, answered my questions, and with more detail than I expected, but exactly what I wanted to know.  I had asked if there was anyway that I could help and suggested my running and something similar to what I had done last year.

Beth's response was again completely positive and described some of her daily life with Lupus, what she has been through, what life was like before Lupus, her treatments, medication, it was all so incredible to me because through it all, she was still Beth.  Still the fun girl I remembered, yet a woman now with a husband and children and now she was rolling with the punches.  To think of what she had been through, what she deals with and the road she has ahead of her is amazing to me.  From Beth's response that she has graciously allowed me to share:

I was diagnosed with Lupus six years ago, but I have experienced symptoms since the pregnancy of our second daughter in 2001. It has meant radical changes in my lifestyle, mostly because I am incredibly photosensitive. UV exposure triggers the Lupus, and I have to completely cover up when outdoors and wear 50+ sunscreen. Before Lupus, I mountain biked and ran daily. New Mexico has some of the highest UV exposure in the country, so Albuquerque is about the worst place I could live. It has meant changes for my family too. It was difficult explaining to the kids why I couldn't play outdoors. When I throw caution to the wind, which is easy on a beautiful spring day like today, I risk being in bed for a few days with painful joints, fever and unbelievable fatigue. People with Lupus have a 40-50 fold risk of arteriosclerosis than the average population. That terrifies me. So, I exercise indoors now. I'm at the gym daily, taking spin class or doing the elliptical. I miss running but biking is much easier on the joints.

Early onset, lupus created small lesions in my brain and spinal cord, damaged my peripheral nerves and vascular system and has affected my lungs. I took oral chemotherapy for 3 years, which put me into remission. I voluntarily stopped the chemo last year, worried about the long term effects (cancer and liver damage) of staying on the drug. The downside is my photosensitivity and fatigue creep up on me. I came out of remission last fall and had to take high doses of prednisone. I gained 25 lbs, from the prednisone. I've learned to recognize my limits and listen to my body. When I am tired, I rest. I've learned to be less of a perfectionist and planner, I live more spontaneously. I lost a lot of friends early on, who did not understand my sudden need to cancel plans, my need to rest during the day. "I wish I had the luxury to nap during the day." But the friends that have stuck by me are fantastic. And, of course, my family has been amazing support.

Beth and me in Santa Fe
 The decision for me was a no brainer. Beth and the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc. would be the beneficiary of my next challenge, something that coincidentally that had already been brewing due to some crazy running friends. I wasn't totally sold on the idea of doing it, but Beth's response made it a done deal.   Over a period of a couple of years, a number of guys and girls that run marathons had become friends through a Runners World forum thread, "3:20" as we refer to it, meeting in small groups occasionally at various races throughout the country, but most notably to us at the 2010 Boston Marathon where 14 of us met up to hang out and race over the weekend. That culminated with the Boston 2 Big Sur challenge in which 4 of us flew from the east coast after just having run Boston on Monday to run the Big Sur Marathon on Sunday on the west coast. Now this year, a challenge that seemed to start as joke was now gaining momentum.  A handful of the guys were toying with the idea of running the California International Marathon (CIM) on the morning of December 4th in Sacramento, CA and then immediately boarding a plane and flying to Las Vegas to run the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon that afternoon.  I immediately said I was out knowing that I was going to run  The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50 mile race on December 3rd. Of course that thought lasted less than a day before I made it known that I was in, but instead of CIM, I would still run the 50 mile race on Saturday and then fly to Las Vegas the next morning to join several members of the 3:20 crew running all or some part of the original challenge.  In a nutshell, I'll be running the 50 mile trail race on Saturday in whcih I hope to break the 9 hour barrier and then running the full marathon on The Strip the next day in which my goal is to avoid the sweep, the 4.5 hour cutt-off.

After reading Beth's response I was just overwhelmed. Not really sure how to describe it, but inspired was probably the best description.  A real person dealing with the punches that life throws at her and it put mine into respective. They're nothing.  Beth was now my "go to" person for inspiration.  Someone that continues to live life to the fullest no matter what, someone to remind me to do the same. Don't make excuses, just do it.

As luck has it, I just happened to be heading to the Albuquerque area for the Jemez Mountains race and had asked Beth and friends from the high school area if they would like to meet up for lunch. As it turned out, Beth was the only one able to make it and join me and some other runners the day before Jemez in Santa Fe.  We didn't really discuss the fundraising, but instead just tried to catch up on what was now 26 yrs since we had last seen each other.  Beth graciously served a our tour guide on a drive around downtown Santa Fe and offered up some great suggestions for dining for our day after the race. In addition, Beth totally surprised me by making it know that after more than ten years since running her last 1/2 marathon she would be training to run The World's Largest Nighttime Running Event , the R'n'R 1/2 marathon.  Woo hoo, go Beth!  Incredible, nothing less than what I would expect from her, but still unexpected if that makes any sense?  She said that spending the day with ultra runners was inspiring to her which was great to hear because the feeling was mutual.

So here it is, our next six months.  Join Beth and I as we will be training for our races and campaigning through this blog to bring awareness of Lupus and the work of the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc.  We hope to provide you with an insight of our training including trials and tribulations along the way, the "punches" we each face in our daily lives and hopefully we can inspire you in some small way.  You get the easy part, provide your support to us in any way possible, even if just your encouragement as it will mean a lot to us.  Or, if you would like, there's still time to register and join us in Las Vegas for the party that we are sure to have after crossing the finishline the night of December 4th.  And remember, what happens in Vegas.......we'll remember forever!  Thanks and take care!


Girl In Motion said...

Wow, what a story! So moving and unexpected. Crazy how the world of social networking lets you reconnect and even change your life. I can't wait to meet Beth in December and of course, to give you, Sweet Guy, a giant hug. Woohoo, party!! :)

Steve Berrones said...

Thanks GIM! You're pretty sweet yourself and I'm going to hold you to that giant hug in December! Can't wait!