Christchurch Marathon 6.4.17

The motivation for me to run seven marathons on seven continents is two-fold. I want the personal satisfaction of achieving something cool that no other person with Multiple Sclerosis has done. But, more importantly, I wish to encourage people with MS to keep moving no matter their level of ability. MS is a disease that impairs your mobility and I believe we have to fight it by doing whatever we can to keep moving. I do not want people to lower their expectations the way my first neurologist told me to do. I hope to inspire people with MS to do what they can and never give up!

Wonderful meeting hosted by Robin Furley and MS-PD

Prior to the Christchurch Marathon, Brian and I met with the Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson’s Society of Canterbury. Robin Furley, Manager of MS-PD, arranged a meeting for Brian and me to present our story before an audience of about 30 people. Our talk was only 12 minutes, but I believe we made a positive impact. Afterwards, we spoke to a few of the attendees and they did say they felt exhilarated to keep on moving or to start a new exercise program.

One remarkable woman we met that evening was Nan Stewardson. She had to give up running due to all the injuries she sustained from tripping and falling while running. However, she did not stop moving. She is a serious cyclist and climbs up mountains that makes grown men cry. I know because I hiked one of her routes and I saw a couple of cyclists struggling. Since that meeting, I have stayed in contact with Nan and introduced her to my amazing orthotist Ara Mirzaian at Hanger Clinic. She hopes to get an Ankle-Foot Orthotic (AFO) from him so she can start running again. I inspired Nan a little and her positive vibe excited me for the marathon.

Bill and Nan gave us a tour of Christchurch's beautiful beaches and mountains!

I had high hopes for the Christchurch Marathon. It was my 43rd marathon with MS and the event was on my 43rd birthday! What better way to celebrate your birthday than running 26.2miles with your hubby!

Marathon Morning - 15 minutes before race start

Christchurch Marathon was one of the most challenging races we have done. It rained the entire time with the exception of the last five minutes. Also, the course was not forgiving for a person who has to wear an AFO. The brace does not lend well for sharp lateral movements and I had a lot of side-to-side running to avoid potholes and rain puddles. Plus, most of the race was in the Red Zone, an area where the ground is liquefaction and badly damaged by the terrible February 2011 earthquake. The street surface was ruddy and despite wearing an AFO, I was worried of tripping and falling.  As a result, I had some bruising on my foot and leg, plus it looks like we added an extra 0.40 miles of running to avoid the obstacles. (First with MS to run an ultra-marathon in the rain in Christchurch?!)

We tried to remain positive by smiling, but it was a difficult day.

The poor volunteer does not look happy, either!

Brian and I agree this marathon was harder than Antarctica. We know we were extremely lucky in Antarctica, which was 30-34 degrees with 15-20 mph winds and no rain. Christchurch was warmer at 38-43 degrees with 15-20 mph winds, but the pouring rain made it depressing.

Mile 14 was almost 15 minutes long. Recall the 20 minute port-a-loo stop we had at the Tokyo City Marathon where we had to wait in a huge line? We had a similar delay in Christchurch. There were no long lines, but when Brian got inside the port-a-loo, he realized his hands were so frozen that he could not pull down his pants to pee! I heard him call out “I can’t do anything in here!”  

Once outside of the loo, I helped Brian rearrange his clothing. We were running with rain ponchos and had to remove some layers of clothing because it was hot under the plastic. Brian’s sweat started to freeze and caused him to strongly shiver. His fingers were also ghostly white. I helped him put back on his top layer, skull cap, running hat and poncho. It was a slow process because the pouring rain made everything sticky.

The marathon route was one big loop and two small loops. Or maybe it was two big loops and one small loop. Whatever it was, we ran the Red Zone over and over. The scenery definitely did not help distract our minds from the rain! We managed the run through small conversation and we did try to be lighthearted at times (see video). But I mainly lived inside my head trying not to think of the misery. I counted my footsteps a lot, which was easy to do since my head was hanging down the whole time. I did have moments of happiness when I thought of our sponsors and friends back home rooting for us, and of our dear friend Kim Graves who was waiting for us at the end.

As we neared the finish line, the kiddie one mile race was taking place. We were passed by a sprightly teenager with blond braids matted down by the rain, but I did not feel dejected. I saw Kim taking video of our finish and I managed a smile when I saw the finish line. However, I was so tired, numb, cold, soaking wet and muddy that I could barely emote. I felt like crying when I hugged Brian and Kim, but I was too exhausted to shed tears. I just wanted to go back to the hotel. There were no ceremonies at the end.

Thank goodness only 50 meters to go!

I did not comprehend the accomplishment until I was showered, warmed up and had a beer in my hand. Brian looked into my eyes and told me how proud he is of me. I am the first person with MS to run 7 marathons on 7 continents and that I made this adventure happen on my own. That’s when the tears started flowing!

I dreamed up the idea of this adventure on July 4, 2015. I reached out to 30+ companies for sponsorships . I applied for four grants. I coordinated three fundraisers. I sent out almost 40 press releases (Note: Hanger Clinic and CrowdRise used their powerful influence to get me some media coverage). I learned to build a blog through YouTube. I planned all of the travel logistics by myself, including air, hotel, ground transportation and marathon schedule (Note: Cape Town flights were graciously donated and planned by Alex Snoeren). I even learned how to suck up stage fright and share my story on TV and at live events. I did a lot of this work on the weekends. MS fatigue is one of my more debilitating symptoms and it is hard to think straight after I come home from work due to the brain fog.

That said, I am very excited to run Sydney Marathon on September 17, 2017 with my Hanger Clinic family. I need redemption and I want to end this adventure on a high note!

Many heartfelt thanks to my friends and sponsors!

I cannot run at all without my Ankle Foot Orthotic. I want to give a huge thank you to Ara Mirzaian at Hanger Clinic and Wade Bader at Kinetic Research for keeping me in the game.

Thank you Coolcore for the great running gear. I actually wore Coolcore throughout the entire trip. Your new summer line travels well and looks great for touring. Pictures in New Zealand blog posts to come.

Thank you Challenged Athletes Foundation for honoring me again this year with a 2017 scholarship.

Thank you XCom Global for the mobile wifi devices. You powered my daily Facebook posts and being connected while on the road was immensely needed for driving directions. Driving on the right side of the road with all the roundabouts in New Zealand was very difficult!

Thank you Perfect Bar for fueling our days. Perfect Bar is our preferred pre-race nutrition. It is clean and does not cause me tummy issues while running! (Sorry if that’s TMI) It is also perfect for our post-race meal because of the extra protein.

My Sponsors Part V: Coolcore

A series of shout outs to my awesome sponsors!

Coolcore invited me again this year as an ambassadorship for 2017! I am so excited because they have revamped their line of running gear and I think the colors and designs are great! They launch their new performance apparel on June 7th, National Running Day. If you shop at http://www.coolcore.comand enter ‘chile’ in the coupon code box, you will receive 15% off your order.

Coolcore creates performance fabrics to aid in thermoregulation. All of their fabrics have patented technologies to promote moisture wickingwithout chemicals. They are the first US company to receive the Innovative Technology award from the Hohenstein Institute in Germany, an international research center that tests and certifies textile products. Coolcore is also the winner of the Best Innovation for Sports and Outdoor Apparel from the ITMA Future Materials Awards.

You know I am a nerd and the Coolcore technology is impressive to me. Here is a neat video explaining how the fibers work to keep you cool.

As a person with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), thermoregulation is important to me because nerves do not conduct well in the heat. As I run and my core temperature rises, the right side of my body goes numb. Sometimes I cannot feel the right side of my face, my hand goes limp and I cannot open a water bottle, or my right leg feels heavy and drags. I have been running with MS for over 10 years, so my body knows what to do, I just cannot sense well where I am in space. If it is a particularly bad day, I also experience electric shocks that run from my upper back, down my right arm and right leg. It can be miserable, so staying as cool as possible is important.

Coolcore sent to me several pieces of clothing from their new line before my trip to New Zealand. I tried them on right away and was really impressed with the nice feel and women’s cut. I was motivated to do speed work the next morning wearing the tank top and headband.

I ran indoors on the treadmill because I wanted to purposely get hot. My experiment was not a rigorous study like at the Hohenstein Institute, but it was good enough for my personal review. I ran hard and got sweaty, but I did not wilt. I took off my sweaty headband and I was happily surprised. The headband was cool to the touch. It was cooler than the air around me, even when I went outside. Same with my tank top. I hope Coolcore comes out with sports bras soon!

I wore my Coolcore running tights and shirt on the 35 hour travel from San Diego to Christchurch (layovers in Los Angeles and Auckland). We all get sweaty when we travel - dragging luggage, rushing through terminals, running to catch the bus, holding in your cookies during air turbulence, etc... Despite all the bustling and a days’ worth of grime on my skin, my clothes felt comfortable. Coolcore will be my preferred travel clothes from now on for long haul flights!

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Europe and Vienna Marathon 4.19.17

Is two weeks of carbo loading with beer and pretzels appropriate for a marathon? It is when you are in Bavaria! Seriously though, we needed a few extra calories because Brian and I were shivering most of the trip.

We experienced uncharacteristically cold weather in Munich and Vienna. All the locals said the weather was weird for late April. It is true that “April showers bring May flowers,” but we had rain, snow, hail and strong wind! The poor spring flowers that were already in bloom were very confused and so were we! Brian and I did run a couple of four milers at the Munich Olympic Park in 35 degree weather with light snow and it was pleasant. The soft layer of snow on the trees and ground was magical for two Californians!

However, the cold weather brought on some MS symptoms, like creepy, icy snakes crawling inside my shoulder and back, and a stiff right leg. We filled the days with a lot of sightseeing to push the pain out of my mind. We visited many museums, castles, cathedrals, breweries and bakeries. We strolled along grand boulevards and also learned about the atrocities of WWII. While it may seem like a downer to visit places like the Nazi Documentation Center, it adds perspective, not just to the vacation but in life. At the Nazi Center, I was a bit grumpy because I was hungry, but after seeing pictures of bone thin bodies heaped in a pile, I realized my problems were minuscule. I have no reason to complain about being hungry or even having snakes in my arm.

Our two friends from Hannover, Chris and Alex Seider, joined us for part of our trip. Chris is an engineer, drummer in a rock band, marathon runner and a homebrewer, among other things. Alex is an author of a fantastical series of novels, a singer/songwriter and painter. They are an über talented couple! Unfortunately, Chris had a terrible health issue the week before the vacation. His doctors advised him to not run the marathon, but he was cleared for travel and fun. It was great Chris and Alex still joined us and they certainly add an extra layer of adventure to our trip.

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Japan Part III: Back to Tokyo 3.4.17-3.7.17

After Osaka, we took the bullet train back to Tokyo for more meetings and speeches. This time we stayed in the Asakusa ward. This was old Tokyo of the 1600-1800’s and very different than modern Shinjuku, but still just as crowded. When we got out of the subway, we were quite stunned with the hordes of people. We had two rolling luggage, two duffle bags and eight pounds of See’s chocolates to give as gifts. We had to maneuver around all these people for a half mile to our hotel. It was one heck of a long, sweaty walk! Later in the evening, Brian and I took a walk when the streets were empty. There was an orange glow from the lamps and it looked like we were walking in a movie set. It was very pretty and so different than earlier.

The 6th Annual Japan MS Symposium was in perfect timing with our trip. This is one of George’s biggest events of the year and he added us to the itinerary. Because George was very busy with setting up the conference, he sent Mr. Takeshi Kono to escort us to the event. George is like our uncle, always worried about our well-being and looking out for us the whole time.

The MS Symposium was attended by neurologists, researchers, the MS Friends Association Tokyo Chapter, and staff from Sanyei Corporation. Also, Mr. Ueon and Mr. Kawanishi from Mitsubishi-Tanabe Pharma in Osaka came to the event.

The key note speaker was Dr. Kondo and even though he spoke Japanese, we could follow along because the slides had familiar pictures and data. Sadly, Brian and I are much attuned to reading Gadolinium enhanced lesions, T2 lesions and black holes on an MRI. We know all about JC titers and the chance for Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy. And we are very familiar about the platform ABC drugs and the other dozen drugs now available to treat MS, plus their side effects.

What was new to us were some of the cutting edge research presented by three recipients of a JMSS Fellowship Award. The researchers talked about biomarkers and a drug discovery that can help with walking. They showed a video of a disabled mouse induced with Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (mouse equivalent of MS) dragging his hind legs. They showed a second video of the same mouse, running around, fully recovered after taking the drug. Fingers and toes crossed this can be translated for humans. Well, maybe just my fingers because I can’t move my toes well anymore.

As each presentation went on, the time allotment for Brian and me got shorter and shorter because the other speeches went a bit too long. We worked with our interpreter, Ms. Kazumi Yoshida, to cut our speeches on the fly. That was perfectly fine with me as it was late in the afternoon and I was getting tired.

Translation for this event was different than Osaka. I had to stick to the script. I read one paragraph at a time and paused for Kazumi to translate. I like to make eye contact as I speak and at times I did not follow word for word, and I apologize to Kazumi for not following the exact words! Nevertheless, I felt pretty good about the speech. It helped that Kazumi enacted the same emotion during her translation just as I expressed.

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Japan Part II: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka 2.27.15-3.3.17

The next day after the marathon we took the 270 km/hr Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. The ride was under 3 hours and ultra smooth.

We rented a nice Airbnb room and the apartment complex had a mini shrine outside the front door. It was prescient of the many, many shrines and temples we would see in Kyoto. We spent about a day and a half of touring Kyoto. We did have temple fatigue, but when you have this once in a lifetime opportunity you have to keep pushing. We enjoyed the peace and tranquility of it all. We could move slowly, think clearly and live in the moment. It was very different from our hectic lives at work.

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