Sydney Marathon 9.17.17

I shied away from blogging and posting while in Sydney, Australia for my 7th marathon on the 7th continent (technically 8th marathon, which I explain below). I wanted to be totally aware of my surroundings and try to live every moment freely, rather than constantly looking ahead and thinking of something semi-clever to post. I even took photos of things that reminded me of friends back home, fully intending to iMessage, but I always made the excuse there was a 17 hour time difference and I did not want to accidentally wake someone up. Although, I guess you would not know I was laying low because I did share a bunch of Facebook posts from Hanger Clinic about my Australian journey. They are a company who takes pride in their mantra, “Empowering Human Potential.” The words are true to their core. I know. I was there. I lived it for 8 nights in Sydney.

It all started in March 2017 when Shonn Goodwin, Director of Marketing Communications, and Krisita Burket, Director of Public Relations and Communications, from Hanger Clinic visited San Diego to attend a conference and to do a Facebook Live interview with me. We were at a brewery celebrating the accomplishment of our first Facebook Live production when Brian started talking about the news of Zealandia being the 8th continent in the world.

Christchurch, New Zealand was already on the docket for Australasia, but with news of Zealandia being a new continent, we began talking about an 8th marathon in Australia. With my body already being exhausted from running 5 marathons, I half-heartedly said Sydney Marathon is in September. Kristia got on her iPhone right away and looked up the exact date. She said, “Sydney Marathon is on September 17, 2017. When did you start?” Brian said the first marathon was in Cape Town on September 18, 2016. My goal was to run all the continents in one year and we had to do some quick analysis. Australia is on the other side of the date line, which would not made a differece. So, I would be able to run 8 marathons on 8 “continents” in 365 days!

There was so much excitement around the table that Kristia suddenly said she would run Sydney with me if I did it! I suddenly had a rush of adrenaline and gave a resounding “yes!” Shonn was also caught up in the moment and declared he last ran in since high school, but vowed he would do it, too! We all raised our pints and made a commitment, but I did not really know if it would actually happen. I’ve made plans before with other friends to run races together, but it does not always come true. It was not until April when Kristia hired a running coach and Shonn started texting screen shots of his Garmin Forerunner that I knew Team Hanger for  Sydney Marathon was for real.  

We started our own coast-to-coast support group, with Krisita in Florida, Shonn in Oklahoma, and Brian and me in California. We would iMessage pictures every weekend of our Garmins, heart rate charts, and energy food. We rooted each other on and I would often think of Shonn and Krisita during those hard training runs. They gave me the motivation to move even when my legs were weary, tired and injured from the other marathons.

By the time we all met in Sydney, we were like family, along with Krisita’s husband, Brian (that was not confusing!). Maybe it was actually better than family. We shared an apartment for 8 nights and there were no complaints! Everything from sharing the one shampoo bottle provided by our Airbnb host, pushing each other to get past jetlag, and collaborating on videos was genuinely fun and effortless. 

Brian and I did some sightseeing on our own because Shonn and Krisita still had to work. We hiked around the Blue Mountains, toured the Sydney Opera House, visited the Tauronga Zoo and Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, went to a few small museums, and strolled the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens and Manley Beach.  We saw things from Picasso to a platypus, a captive dugong to wild lorikeets to the elusive lyrebird, and wallabies to the Three Sisters Peaks. Evenings were fun with happy hours, light shows, and relaxing… actually, relaxing in the sense of trying to keep ourselves awake until 8:00PM. Jetlag was hard on all of us!

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Part of Shonn and Krisitas’ work efforts included a Facebook Live interview. It may seem like an easy task to do, but these two are professionals. We scouted out locations and tested equipment the day before, and Shonn even hired a local film crew, Salty Dingo. Krista and Shonns’ PR and Marketing teams back home (Meghan Williams, Beth Shaver and Diana Stevens) were also part of the whole production. Meghan, Beth and Diana worked late into the evening, accommodating the Sydney time zone, helping with logistics and ensuring connectivity across the Pacific Ocean was smooth. This 30 minute Facebook Live video, as well as the social media posts during the marathon, is the product of hundreds of hours among 5 very dedicated and hardworking people. Shonn also interviewed me separately for a potential future video. I am so grateful to Hanger Clinic, and I was lucky to have Shonn and Krisita in Sydney and to continue having them as friends.

Marathon morning was filled with nerves. That’s nothing new. But the difference was that this was the last marathon of the adventure. Even if National Geographic named Greenland as a 9th continent, Sydney Marathon was the last. I was already at the 365th day of my goal and I had to finish this marathon in Australia no matter what. No pressure!

We did another Facebook Live before the race start; it was very quick. Krisita and I were too nervous and I had to go back to the port-a-loo line.

The Salty Dingo crew were also at the marathon. They captured videos and took pictures during the entire marathon. They coordinated with the Hanger Clinic team back in the USA to post our progress on Facebook. Shonn also kept in contact with Hanger during the run, and as a result, ended up logging 28 miles because of the extra running he did to take pictures! Brad Hunter, one of the founders/owners of Salty Dingo, actually ran with us for several miles during some spots along the marathon course. I have to say this man is seriously skilled to run with a huge backpack filled with camera/video equipment and a laptop, and run backwards and sideways to take footage. Brad was also quick to create and post this wonderful video the very next day.

I felt good during the first part of the marathon. It was so special to run with Shonn and Krisita. They made the time pass quickly. This was our first time running a marathon (ever) with other people! The Salty Dingo crew also made it feel like we had our own personal cheering squad!

I did start to hurt halfway through the run. I was fighting a hamstring injury and had to change my gait, which made my hips hurt. I also have Morton’s Neuroma which feels like a hard rock on the ball of my foot. My entire right leg and foot was in pain, but also numb at the same time. Stupid Multiple Sclerosis! Still, I tried to think of positive thoughts (my biggest lesson from Buenos Aires Marathon last October).

To keep my mind occupied from the pain, I thought of the inspirational people in my life. I always dedicate my 13th mile to Nancy Jenkins, who lives with a rare disorder called Stiff Persons Syndrome. She was a half marathon runner and now I think of her during mile 13 of any run. I thought of my friends Carlyn Shaw, Tricia Stirling and Karen Ireland to get me through those dark miles. I also focused a lot on matching my stride with Brian’s soft flowing footsteps. He is always next to me, helping me push forward.

Brian and I fully intended to run the entire marathon side-by-side with Shonn and Krisita, but with about 5 miles to go, we sped ahead.  The last miles were along Sydney Harbor and the scenery was gorgeous, but I was tired and wanted it to end. By then my hammie and foot were in so much pain and the running path was very unforgiving. We ran on wooden boardwalks with protruding nails, rock hard concrete, and slippery tiles. We even had to be cautious of old light rail tracks embedded in the cement. I had to look down at the ground the whole time.

Brad ran the last mile with us. He had a video camera on me the whole time and I wondered if the microphone could hear me gasping for air. It’s a bit difficult to look happy when you are about to puke your guts out! This was the first time I have sped up at the end of a marathon. It was not for the camera, but because Brian was updating me that we had a chance to finish under five hours. But we would have to hurry it up a little! And we did it with 63 seconds to spare!

The finish was incredibly emotional for me. I was elated, stunned we finished, and incredibly grateful for the support. I am actually proud of myself. I have low self-esteem. I blame myself for everything, but I actually felt pride for myself. That is a weird feeling, but nice to experience it!

I was also proud of Shonn and Krisitas’ first marathon. They made a commitment, trained hard, pushed through those very difficult last miles of the race, and crossed the finish line with arms in the air. I hope this is just the beginning of a long running career for them.

I’m melancholy the 7 on 7 is done. I’m beyond thrilled to have accomplished my goal and I’m happy my legs can now rest. Yet, I’m sad. This has been a huge part of my life for two years - one year of fundraising and planning, and another year of training and running. It has been an amazing ride and now I feel a bit lost. What should the next adventure be?

Special Thank You

Hanger Clinic – mere words cannot express my gratitude for your support. You have empowered me and I believe I have potential to do more. I hope to give back and help others the way you have encouraged me.

Salty Dingo - for imprinting this journey in pictures, video and memory. You will always be part of this adventure and that is awesome!

Photo credits for all the running pictures go to Shonn Goodwin and Salty Dingo.

My Sponsors: Perfect Bar

A series of shout outs to my awesome sponsors!

My pre-run meal for long training, as well as my post-race nutrition for marathons, is simply perfect. Coffee and Perfect Bar. The goodness of hot coffee and a nutty bar is motivation enough for me to hop out of bed at an insanely early hour, sometimes as early as 4:30AM, to go on long run. I admit I suffer from bouts of insomnia due to MS and getting out of bed at 4:30AM is not too far of a stretch.

 

I first heard of Perfect Bar in 2008 at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA. They were giving out samples of their delicious bars, but it was not until 2012 when I became a fan. I had always stuck with the commercial energy bars because I assumed they were the proper ratio of macronutrients to run well, but I would get stomach cramps in the middle of my runs. I decided to try Perfect Bar as my pre-run meal and it gave me enough energy for 10 miles, plus it did not hurt my belly. I repeated the experiment over several weeks and my stomach was happy. I was sold!

In February 2016, Perfect Bar was a visiting vendor at my local Costco. I had been pitching my story to vendors at races and also at a recent travel show trying to get sponsorships. My success rate at that time was near 0%. So, I approached the Perfect Bar booth with trepidation and spoke with two very enthusiastic product reps, Kurrent and Jonathan. I told them about my 7 marathons on 7 continents and joked Perfect Bar would be awesome in freezing-cold Antarctica. Perfect Bar does not add chemical preservatives to make it shelf-stable, so refrigeration is needed to preserve freshness. Perfect Bar would keep perfectly well in the chilly Antarctic air. They laughed and Kurrent encouraged me to reach out to the Perfect Bar marketing team.

I emailed Perfect Bar and the very next day Jessica, the Marketing Manager, offered product sponsorship to fuel my training and all the races. I was thrilled and so honored by their generosity.

Perfect Bar has supplied hundreds of bars throughout my adventure and also provided raffle prizes for my fundraisers. I love Perfect Bar for so many reasons: it’s a whole food grounded to perfection; I can pronounce all the ingredients on the label; it settles well in my stomach; and it tastes so yummy! Furthermore, not only does Perfect Bar sponsor local races around San Diego, they are now partnering with Bike MS Bay to Bay 2017. This is possibly the motivation I need to register for the bike ride!

Thank you Perfect Bar for all that you do for the running community and MS community, and for making a bar perfect for everyday health!

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: 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 Coolcore and 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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