2016 Summary of 7 on 7

Hello! I have been planning, fundraising and publicizing for my 7 marathons on 7 continents for a little over a year now. I would like to take the time to summarize 2016 and to thank everyone who has helped and supported me.

For a long time I have wanted to do something big to give back to the MS Society. They were instrumental in educating me about the disease when I was first diagnosed and they encouraged me to keep on moving. Once I came up with the idea for my adventure, I really didn’t know where to begin. I have never planned a trip or any event of this magnitude. I just knew that I needed to raise a lot of money for travel and for the MS Society. I drew up at least 5 different race schemes to fit 7 marathons on 7 continents within a 12 month period. I had a “dream plan” and a couple of contingencies. I created budgets around those plans to include race registration, airfare, 5 nights hotel and ground transportation for two people (having Brian by my side is essential because he has the stamina to drag my carcass across the finish line if needed). The result was a daunting $53K budget.

I had to do a fair amount of research and learning before I started fundraising. I reviewed many crowdfunding providers before opening an account with CrowdRise (they had the best return and a staff that rocks). To promote my adventure, I studied several blog hosts and built my own blog (with the aid of YouTube). I also started profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am admittedly slow to post because I’m pretty inept with social media. My millennial coworker tried to explain hashtags, but it's still nothing more than a “pound sign” to me!

If you don't give back no one will like you - CrowdRise

Once my blog was live, I contacted the race directors on my marathon list. London Marathon was part of the dream plan, but they would not accommodate me. I could try to enter via lottery but the success rate is less than 7%. I could pay a ridiculous amount of money to join a marathon tour group to London. Or I could raise 5,000 pound sterling for a specified charity to guarantee entry. But I am a charity, I thought, and I am already collecting funds for the MS Society! Sadly, I had to remove London Marathon from my race calendar.

The race directors for Cape Town, Honolulu, Vienna and Christchurch Marathons were all very generous and extended complimentary entries to both Brian and me. As expected, the full price for White Continents Marathon in Antarctica would be due. The same for Tokyo Marathon (they flat out stated that no complimentary entries are given to anyone).

I wrote emails and letters to more than 50 companies requesting funding and/or products. I reached out to airlines, hotels, health food industries, running shoe and apparel companies. I also contacted non-sporting companies. I thought I had some cool ideas that could help promote them in an original way. Examples: wind resistant motorcycle apparel for Antarctica from Harley Davidson, gift certificates from Marie Calendars and Papa Johns for a March 14th “Pi Day” fundraiser, and even post-race pain killer (i.e. alcohol) from The Kraken Black-Spiced Rum Company. I’m not a key player on anybody’s scorecard, however, so these efforts were fruitless.

I did have some luck with “cold selling” in person.  I have taken every opportunity to walk up to vendor booths at race expos, travel conventions and even Costco! I had success getting in-kind donations from Perfect Bar, NuttZo, BIC Bands, Running Skirts, Fitletic, AirMed International and XCom Global.   

My Computer Science & Engineering department has been unbelievably supportive. Brian’s Monthly Musings have extolled the virtues of Alex Snoeren (Round-trip First Class airfare to South Africa) and Rajesh Gupta (essentially all expenses for travel to Honolulu). Several other faculty have also made large cash donations. The staff, too, have been awesome with attending my fundraising events and covering my desk while I was out of the office for the Cape Town, Buenos Aires and Honolulu Marathons. I am lucky to work with such great friends!

I particularly would like to give a huge shout out to Mindy Schroeder, Kim Graves, Julie Uhren and David Bareno. They have participated in all three of my fundraisers: Culture Brewing, BIC Bands headband sales and the Hile Mile run.

In regards to these events, the most successful was the sale of BIC Band headbands. Sandy Pearson, owner of BIC bands, allowed me to custom design a headband pattern. She printed it, sewed together the headbands, and graciously donated 40 bands for me to sell. I requested $15 per band, but averaged almost $20 because most friends sweetly donated more.

I wrote three proposals to nonprofit organizations soliciting grant funding. For 16 years, I have been assisting professors at UCSD to submit proposals but this was the first time I ever sent out requests for myself. One foundation had vague guidelines, but I gave it a try. It was shot down because I do not live in Riverside County (residency requirement was not in the instructions). I have one pending request which will, in all likelihood, be rejected. I had to justify how running marathons will give me a “brighter future” and that is a hard sell. I did score with the third proposal, though! The Challenged Athletes Foundation granted me $750. As such, I am a proud member of the 2016 CAF Team and, fingers crossed, I hope to be renewed for 2017!

Tyler Sharette, Julia Bucciero and Blake Henderson from CrowdRise connected me with interviews for People.com, the Daily Mail and Huffington Post. Plus CrowdRise featured my story on their “Decent Human Being” campaign. Hanger Clinic went even further to promote me: Shonn Goodwin and a four member film crew created a wonderful promo video. Plus, Deanna Fish, Krisita Burket and Meghan Williams sent out press releases which got me an interview with Foxnews.com, and TV appearances on The Doctor’s Show and NHL’s MichaeLA. These articles prompted local San Diego TV stations, FOX5 and CW6, to interview me on their morning shows.

Once my story was shared nationally, I received a small number of donations from the general public. However, it did not snowball as I had hoped it would. Each interview averaged 3-4 donations from very kind strangers. I understand. There are so many worthy causes out there that need donations.

I did receive some fun surprises from various companies, however. Cliff Bar reached out to me and sent a care package of goodies (some of which were yummy “mint chocolate” flavor). Dr. Cool, an athletic apparel company, signed me up as an ambassador and has provided some great running clothes. Wade Bader, founder of Kinetic Research and inventor of the Noodle AFO, donated $1,000. Even Fantasy Island Amusement Park in New Jersey donated $250 after hearing my story! And Hanger Clinic stepped up to the plate again in a huge way. They made two whopping donations totaling $15,000 which paid my Antarctica registration fee ($7,950), my airfare to Antarctica, and much more in one fell swoop! 

 

Stop MS, restore what's been lost, end MS forever

Multiple Sclerosis Societies worldwide have also been a huge help. Sharon Shahnazarian from the Pacific South Coast Chapter has been with me from the start. She has expertly advised me on fundraising, connected me to people in the MS community, invited me to special events where I met more people, and signed me on for a couple of speaking engagements. Non Smitt and Claudia Dieckmann from Multiple Sclerosis South Africa have blogged about me and welcomed me into their Move for MS group. George Nakajima from Japan Multiple Sclerosis Society has been fundraising for me in Tokyo and is arranging two events where I will share my story with MS patients and doctors in Japan. It will be a whole new experience speaking with a translator!

Regarding public speaking…. In addition to the TV interviews, I had a dozen speaking engagements as patient advocate for the drug company that makes my MS medication. Even though my heart races toward 200 bpm before stepping on stage, I am somehow able to find my voice and speak before a crowd. It is interesting how this adventure has forced me to become more outspoken.

One motivational speaker who has really moved me is Wendy Booker. I first heard her in 2010 in Seattle. She regaled her story of being the first person with MS to climb Denali (she has since climbed all 7 of the world’s highest peaks and crossed the North and South Poles). It was a perfect time to hear her talk because I was getting depressed living in Seattle. Her story planted a seed in me to do something big. Even though my 7 on 7 idea came 5 years later, it was something that was always in the back of my mind. I had the lucky opportunity to meet Wendy again in Newport Beach at an MS Society event this past May. I was finally able to thank her face-to-face and we are now formulating ideas for another big project in the future.

Come climb with me - Wendy Booker

Presently, though, I am concentrating on the 4 remaining marathons. Antarctica is next…. I was fortunate to meet another amazing lady last November. Beth Sanden walked up to me after the Silver Strand 5K to ask me about my AFO. She looked familiar to me and after talking, I recognized her as the first Challenged Athlete to do 7 marathons on 7 continents using a hand cycle (she is partially paralyzed). Her next goal is to the North Pole Marathon thereby completing the “Grand Slam.” She has become a personal advisor for the White Continents Marathon, giving me tips on the polar vortex, camping supply needs and penguin poop! There is more to Antarctica than I ever imagined!

2016 has been a great year with lots of travel, fun and surprises, but also stress and struggles. Even though I smile a lot and appear to be healthy, I do have a lot of continuing neuropathic pain from MS. I want to thank Karin Ireland for magically knowing when to send positive vibes. Lastly, but certainly not least, I am extremely lucky to have an amazing husband who knows when to nudge me forward to get past the pressure or to hold me close when I’m in distress. He is the reason why I can do all of this.

Hopefully, 2017 will be an amazing year for you. I hope my mission encourages you to create goals to move, whether it means walking 7 miles a week or using your cane to walk 7 meters from your front door to your mailbox. Remember my motto to "do what you can and never give up!" You are a champ as long as you try!

2016 By the Numbers

3 out of 7 marathons completed:
Cape Town Marathon 4:51
Buenos Aires Marathon 5:05
Honolulu Marathon 5:41
I ran 78.60 miles at an average of 5 miles per hour
Usain Bolt clocks at 28 miles per hour for the 100 meter dash, yet he has never run a mile!

To date, I have raised $43,890:
51% from friends, mom, brother and aunt
46% from companies
3% from strangers

Pre-, Mid- and Post Marathon Consumption to date:
6 Perfect Bars
3 Bagels
18 Gu packets
6 anti-diarrhea pills

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Day 4 12.11.16 – Honolulu Marathon

I woke up this morning filled with excitement and nerves… and grogginess since we got up at 2:00AM! Honolulu Marathon was my 52nd marathon, but the idea of running 26.2 miles still astonishes me. You never know if it is going to be an amazing run or something that crushes your spirits. Fortunately in the case of the Honolulu Marathon we were on the happy side of life for most of the run!

We started our morning ritual with a bagel and NuttZo, coffee and Imodium AD, while putting on our running clothes and gear (KT Tape on feet, bandages on nipples, and Vaseline under the pits). We took our time and were out the door by 3:40. However, we didn’t actually exit the hotel property until 3:50. The elevators were out of commission and we had to descend 16 floors down the fire escape. Walking down stairs wearing an AFO is difficult. That used up half the energy from my bagel! Luckily we still had our Perfect Bars to eat at the starting line.

We joined hundreds of runners on Ala Moana Boulevard on the 1.5 mile trek to the start. It was pitch black, but the skies were clear and we could see the moon. We had been on Oahu for three days and it was rainy and cloudy the whole time. We never saw the moon nor the sun until today. We wished the marathon was the day before!

Scroll over each image for the caption. I still don’t know how to publish the caption when using gallery!

We were packed like sardines in the start corrals, but no one was sweaty or stinky yet! There wasn’t that much yammering either. Over half of the field was from Japan, so it was a calm and polite crowd. It was rather nice and helped my nerves… until the fireworks started shooting off and everyone began whooping and hollering, including me! Perhaps if I was more aware of my own being I would have noticed my iPhone slipping out of my pocket!

Yes, again. I lost an important piece of technology on this trip. In Cape Town I lost my XCom Global wifi device inside an Uber car and this time I lost my iPhone a minute after starting the marathon. I was trying to take pictures of the fireworks with my GoPro while running. I reached for my iPhone to shoot back up pictures and it was gone. I yelled, “Oh nooooo!!! I lost my iPhone!” Brian said, “What? We have to turn back!” I paused in the middle of the road and saw thousands of runners coming towards me. There was no way I could go back. We had to move forward. I did not stress about my iPhone during the run. I was able to let it go. Letting go of stress was a valuable lesson I learned while running the Buenos Aires Marathon.

It was 72 degrees at the start and humid. I was sweaty by the first mile. We ran in the dark for about two hours, sunrise was at 7:00. The first 16 mile markers when by quickly. We were not running very fast, but we were enjoying the run and that made time pass. The Christmas lights in downtown led the way for about 4 miles and the glow of storefront windows along famous Kalakaoua Avenue led the way for another 3 miles. Then the streets were really dark while running along the side of Diamond Head. Although we could not see much, we could definitely feel the 760 foot climb. The course was out and back and most of it was along Kalanianaole Highway and posh neighborhoods. Having Koko Head, Diamond Head and palm trees as a backdrop was beautiful, but to be honest, I was thinking we would see lots of  ocean views and this course had very little.

The sun came out full force around mile 19 and temperatures rose to 86 degrees. My right leg got very heavy and my knee was also becoming excruciatingly sore. The strong camber of the roads pulled on my knee and made it ache so badly for the last miles of the race. We took long walk breaks. I could not put much force on my knee. But I didn’t worry too badly about being slow. I still tried to have fun. A lot of people were dejected and walking up Diamond Head (second 760 foot climb) with their heads hanging down, but I kept my form and Brian reminded me to pump my arms forward.

At one point Brian and I were so tired and delirious, we joked about putting in a bid on a house in Kahala. Click here for the video. You’ll notice in the video Brian carrying sponges. The volunteers handed out ice cold sponges at several spots. It was a welcomed relief to wipe the salt from our faces and cool off our bodies.

Tip for ladies: I wore the Keep It Chill tank top by Running Skirts. The inside is lined with xylitol and when wet, it keeps you cool. I used the wet sponge to activate the xylitol. The tank is really nice.

There were a few bands along the course, but they were always on break whenever we passed, so we made our own entertainment. I have video of us singing “96 Degrees in the Shade,” but that will never be shared! We butchered the song badly! I had a fun time and I owe it to Brian.

There were some interesting costumes along the way: Santas, wedding clothes, and loin cloths. Some people ran in bare feet, some wore sandals and one guy was on stilts. The best person we sighted on the course was our friend Stephanie Connolly. She arranged her whole work schedule to coordinate with our race so she could be there to support us. She was at mile 6 and at the end.

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We crossed the finish line with an official time of 5:41. It was slow, but we were still in the top 1/3. Plus we FINISHED! Over 29,000 runners started the race, but only 20,235 crossed the finish line. Honolulu Marathon does not have a time limit, so those 9,000 people were true DNFs. I’m lucky to have completed this run.

I am also luck because a kind sole found my iPhone and carried it 26 miles to the finish line. I was reunited with my iPhone! During the race I kind of had a feeling that someone would turn it in. Runners are an honest and tightknit community. I had hope. A heartfelt thank you to the kind stranger who took care of my iPhone!

Honolulu treated us well. This was a world class event with exceptional organization, energetic volunteers, an international vibe and filled with aloha spirit. Mahalo nui loa.

 

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Day 1 12.8.16 – Honolulu, Hawaii

Although we had to wake up at 3:31 AM for our flight to Honolulu, I knew it would be an awesome day. We drove into the airport parking lot and the first spot we found was number 326. This is our 3rd marathon (26.2 miles) of the adventure. I love numbers!

Spot 326

After checking into the hotel we walked to the Honolulu Marathon Expo. We met Chris Lotsbom, a member of the Honolulu media team. He interviewed me a few days ago on the phone and his photographer took some pictures of me for the story (check back later for link).

Honolulu Media Team

The expo was great. It was like a mini preview of the Tokyo Marathon next February. The Japanese love the Honolulu Marathon and they have a huge presence at this race. All of the signs were in English and Japanese. And some booths were all in Japanese!

We also enjoyed some music and hula dancing. We marveled at the dancers’ graceful moves.

Up next was a 1.5 mile walk to the Beer Labs Brewery. It was raining and I had a bit of a hard time with my flip flops. My sandals were getting really wet and my weaker foot kept sliding. A better name would be “flick flop” because with each step, I flicked dirty water onto the back of my leg. Ew! Anyway, the brewery was cool and the porter was tasty. It was worth the walk.

Beer Labs

It’s Been a long 20 hour day. As you can see, my heart rate is down to 55bpm. I’m winding down for bed. Good night!

55bpm

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Day 5 – 10.9.16 Buenos Aires Marathon

MS: My Struggles, My Strengths

Still Smiling at the Start
Happy Selfie at the Starting Line

I struggled a lot for this race. The troubles started in the morning when our taxi ride to the marathon was a no-show. A friend ordered a cab for us the night before, but I had an inkling there would be trouble. Our friend stressed twice on the phone that the taxi was for 6:00 in the morning. Perhaps it was odd to call a taxi for such an early time on a Sunday morning?

We normally walk to a marathon start but our flat was 7.2km away. Or we would take a bus, but the BA Transit website made it seem like buses don’t start until 8:00 a.m. on Sundays. My Spanish is obviously “no bueno” because we saw buses everywhere that morning. None would take us directly to the marathon. We knew that. We just didn’t know which one would be best to take us close to the marathon start.

We started walking toward the marathon and Brian tried to flag down a bus. Understandably, no one stopped. We went out to a main road and saw a bunch of taxis flying by, but they were already full of passengers and would not stop either. We did ask some groups of runners if we could catch a ride with them, but there was no room. Their taxis were already going to be full.

I was in panic mode and about to cry. We saw a cop, who might have noticed my distress, and she kindly flagged down a taxi for us. Interestingly, the driver didn’t seem to want to take us. Luckily, another desperate runner, who spoke fluent Spanish, came from behind and negotiated for us. We all hopped into that car and made it to the marathon with no more than 10 minutes to spare!

I had a cold with a hacking cough for more than a week and having that kind of very stressful morning didn’t make me happy. Coupled with sunny 70 degree weather at the start, my skin started to hurt. Unless you have MS, it’s hard to understand. The rubbing of clothing material on my skin felt like sandpaper and, further, it made me very itchy. I was also getting electric shocks in my arm and back. My bra, shirt, shorts and running belt hurt my skin. At one point I wished I was in San Francisco so I could run naked.

I fully expected to run Buenos Aires faster than Cape Town. Most marathon training plans schedule the longest run three weeks prior to the event. Some schedules call for a 16-18 mile run and some go as high as 30 miles. BA and CT were three weeks apart and, therefore, perfectly timed. However the terrible cough, the stress of the no-show taxi, and the extra walking we had just endured made me tired before the race even started!

Brian said my breathing was labored for more than seven miles. I was struggling just to keep a 10:30 pace. I had several bouts of coughing fits that made me want to puke my Gu race gel.

My shin started bruising from the AFO around mile six. Fortunately I carry Vaseline when I run. I applied that liberally and my skin never tore off, but I had to endure a sore bruise for 20 miles. At least purple is one of my favorite colors.

Even thoughts of work crept into my mind and that brought on more dread.

Never in my mind did I think I could not finish, but I knew I had to change my outlook. I didn’t want to run this race in misery. One of my strengths is convincing myself to be happy.

I turned my thoughts to Brian. The poor guy running next to his hacking wife! I can’t believe he agreed to renew our wedding vows last year. I started singing our wedding song, but got too choked up! So I focused on four other strong women who have impacted my life in the utmost positive ways: Karin Ireland, Tricia Stirling, Non Smit and Carlyn Shaw. Thinking of these women put an instant smile on my face!

I dedicated mile 13 to Nancy Jenkins. She is a kind stranger who donated to my CrowdRise.  She has a rare neurological disease called Stiff Persons Syndrome and she used to be a half marathoner.

Finally I thought of all my sponsors and donors. I am so grateful for their support and for believing in me. That touches my heart and pushed me to the finish line.

Once my mood lifted, my breathing eased up, my skin stopped hurting and my running pace became steady. I still could not run fast, but I felt strong all the way to 26.46 miles (the course was long).

I ran most of the second half happy and I could enjoy the beautiful sites of Buenos Aires. I laughed at Brian’s lame jokes; I smiled at the spectators; and thanked all the volunteers.

When I crossed the finish line, I was so overcome by emotion. I could not stop crying. I had tears of joy, but it was sweeter because I endured the struggles.

A very special thank you to XCom Global for powering all of my blog posts while traveling in Buenos Aires!

 

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Day 4 – 10.8.16 Bunos Aires

Today was an easy day of touring. We didn’t want to tax our legs too much the day before the marathon.

Most things open late in the morning here in Buenos Aires. One of the few establishments that does open early is Starbucks. That’s not an excuse to go to Starbucks, but even the little cafe next to our flat was still closed at 9:00AM!

Starbucks in Recoleta

The Feria de Recoleta is a pretty cool artist fair. We enjoyed perusing the booths and admiring the local crafts.

Feria de Recoleta

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