YOU ARE AN ATHLETE! YOU CAN DO IT! Words like these have the power to remove roadblocks and literally transform lives. As you progress through your triathlon training, take time to be inspired by fellow other WIN for KC Women's Triathlon participants.
April 10, 2014
I have always considered myself an athlete. I was a good runner in middle school and high school. I grew up on a lake, so I love the water. I was always bigger than most girls -- athletic, not petite. I have "muscled" my way through things; however, all of this athletic muscling did not prepare me for this one life-changing, scary event.
I had been going to the gym with my husband four days a week for almost a year. I was lifting weights and slowly building up to running--two minutes and then walking, four minutes and then walking, etc. I was up to about 12 minutes of running and I did yoga with girlfriends on the opposite days.
I had had a busy, stressful year. I had been working two jobs--one as an occupational therapist with First Steps of MO and the other in an urban core school as the special education director. I was also on my fourth and final year of my doctorate at KUMC. So even though I was working out, I wasn't taking great care of myself with sleep, eating, stress and body mechanics.
I still really don't know what happened: was it the back bend in yoga, the increase in running, the stress of work, or my final doctorate defense? Whatever it was, I woke up on Saturday, July 13, 2013 with twinges of pain in my back. It increased during the day to where I was in tears, could hardly walk, and had to call my doctor. She told me most back pain resolved in six weeks and prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers. I went to bed that night and woke up to excruciating pain and muscle spasms. I could barely roll out of bed--it took me an hour. I couldn't even get myself to the toilet.
My husband took me to the ER and the medical staff drugged me up-- I could hardly form coherent words. The next three weeks were the most painful and scary days I have ever experienced.
My knees developed blisters, and started bleeding from crawling on the floor. I went from physical therapy, to acupuncture, to chiropractors and even "pain doctors" that gave me up to eight epidurals in to my lower back...all looking for relief.
I used a walker, had various back braces, electrical nerve stimulation, muscle relaxers, pain pills...and still no relief. I felt like an injured-caged animal--in a constant state of fight or flight. My friend took me back to my doctor. I couldn't drive and I was still using a walker. I begged my doctor for an MRI. This had been going on for two weeks and I couldn't live like this any longer. She relented and scheduled me for an MRI in a week.
I will never forget August 2. My daughter too me for the MRI. Afterwards I went home to lay on the floor and rest. The phone started ringing around 5 p.m. it kept ringing and ringing and I realized someone was trying to get a hold of me. I crawled over and it was the doctor on call. He had thought he spotted an infection in my spinal column and he said I was either going to die or be paralyzed if I didn't get to the ER room ASAP.
I told him, "You're scaring me." He said, "I'm trying to; you need to get to the hospital now." My husband came home and quickly drove me to KUMC. The doctor had called the ER and the doctors and nurses were waiting for me. They took vials and vials of blood, performed another MRI, did multiple tests for my muscle strength, etc...I was petrified. Would I walk again? Would I live? As a therapist, I believe in therapy, not surgery. These were the thoughts I had as I was being wheeled off to surgery.
I woke up and rehab began. The surgeon didn't find any traces of infection, only splattered and ruptured disc material. I have a 10 inch scar where rods were put in and my back is fused in two different areas. I was on nine different kinds of medication just to be on the safe side and clear up any chance of infection. The medications were like chemo therapy drugs and made me very sick but I started getting up and trying to walk by day two. I was in the hospital a week and walked around the hall with a walker.
When I arrived home I started walking to the end of my driveway and back the first couple weeks. I progressed to my neighbor's house week three and four. I still couldn't bend over and pick things up off the ground---my fusion needed to heal. At three weeks, my friend took me to Macy's to find some easier clothes to wear. She had to help me pull up my own pants and help me with my shirt. Neighbors and friends brought meals; which was so helpful, because I really couldn't navigate my way around the kitchen. I was still on multiple meds and they caused me to be sleepy, to be sick to my stomach, to have headaches, to experience dizziness and to have no appetite.
At six weeks, I started to exercise. I went to the pool and swam 10 laps. I had pain and discomfort but being in the water felt great. I felt somewhat normal in the water. Slowly, slowly I started swimming more.
At eight weeks, I started physical therapy and going to the gym to do my exercises. I have slowly increased my exercises; really emphasizing my core. I swim three days a week with girlfriends and lift weights and calisthenics three days a week with my husband. I have started the stationary bike.
At this point, I walk, not run. I don't know if I will be able to run in the tri...but my friends convinced me it really doesn't matter...other people walk too. What's important is getting out and trying. Knowing that a year ago I was crawling on the floor and now I have crawled my way back from a very scary, life-changing event.
I am still reminded every day that my back is still healing...in movements that cause twinges of pain, life-changing body mechanics that I have forever changed, and the scar that stretches the length of my back. But I will be out there for the WIN tri...with friends who have supported me, family who cared for me, and myself...a changed person, but a grateful one.
April 1, 2014
I am an athlete! That statement brings an immediate lump to my throat every single time. I was never an athlete growing up, and not interested in sweating in any way. I struggles with my weight, joining Weight Watchers every January, losing 20ish pounds, then putting 30 back on. Year after year, it piled up, taking a toll both physically and mentally. In 2008, with the support of my husband, I lost 40 pounds and got a new lease on life. The weight stayed off this time and I was able to quit my "day job" selling donuts to pursue a career as a fitness professional. My life has been forever changed.
In November of 2012, I made a Big Hairy Audacious Goal: I signed up for the Kansas Half Ironman. I did not know the first thing about swimming - I couldn't make it 25 meters without a complete panic attack. I didn't own a bike. But I could run. So I just had to make it that far, right? Right ...
I was lucky enough to have a friend lend me her Trek road bike so I could train, and become a strong rider. Swimming, however, was a different story. Three days a week, I would pull into the pool parking lot and argue with myself to get out of the car. I would eventually get in the water. Each week it got easier, but it was a constant struggle. I have amazing people in my life that took me to the lake, kayaked next to me while I melted down and wouldn't let me quit. I had everything I needed and was the most fit I have ever been in my entire life.
I was so physically prepared by the time race day came, but I walked into the water and went completely rigid with fear. I began swimming, but I couldn't bring myself to put my face into the water. I cried, I yelled, I held onto boats. At one point I tried to remove my wet suit because it felt like it was choking me. But I wouldn't quit. 50 meters in, I made a deal with myself that I would stay in the water until someone physically pulled me out. Sadly, that happened about 200 meters from the finish line.
Devastated would be an understatement for how I felt. It was a blow that I didn't know how to handle. I had failed. But the support of my running group and fitness community was overwhelming, and they encouraged me to try again. Soon, I was signed up for the Missouri State Games Triathlon for my comeback. Half mile swim didn't sound so bad, right? I did finish it, but not without a total meltdown within 25 meters of the start and my friend treading water next to me, not letting me quit.
I finished - but I'm not done. I want to finish without fear, with confidence and strength.
So I am all signed up for the WIN for KC Triathlon. I've been swimming and I am more comfortable in the water than ever before. Everyone says WIN for KC is the most nurturing and motivating environment, so I'm going to draw on the positive energy of the amazing female athletes out there. I will finish that swim, jump on my bike, stride across the finish and be a success story!
March 18, 2014
I am participating in the 2014 WIN for KC Triathlon to honor my sister, Donnis Turner, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my ovarian cancer surgery.
Last year my nieces asked Donnis and me to train and participate in the tri with them. After 10 seconds of though, I responded with a resounding, "No!" Donnis responded with a determined, "Yes!"
My sister trained for last year's tri by swimming lap after lap at the Liberty YMCA, biking mile after mile across Smithville Dam, and walking numerous miles with her friend, Jean. Last July when Donnis crossed the finish line, she absolutely beamed - her smile could have lit the entire sky if the sun had not been shining!
As I watched Donnis cross the finish line hugging her daughters and granddaughters who has also participated, I wept tears of great joy and pride for the sister who is my guardian angel on Earth. I would not have wanted to miss that moment with Donnis for anything in the world! She continues to inspire me to be a better person and to set higher goals for myself.
Donnis and Gayle participated in the "Whisper Walk" for ovarian cancer at Zona Rosa in September 2013.
20 years ago after nearly nine months of misdiagnosis, I underwent surgery on a tumor that had grown to the size of a small soccer ball. It started in September 1993 when I was first misdiagnosed with an ulcer. This dignosis resulted in an ultrasound that revealed a tumor the size of an orange in January of 1994. However, the ultrasound report was filed without the doctor or radiologist notifying me of the results.
It wasn't until my students repeatedly asked if I was pregnant in May 1994 that I contacted the doctor yet again and obtained the results from the ultrasound in January.
When I went into surgery that June, my sister was able to come into the operating room with me. I believe my sister literally held my life in her hands and helped save me. After that, Donnis or her daughter Stacey remained with me almost constantly during my hospital stay and then even after I went home my three children often stayed with Donnis when I was unable to care for them.
In October 2013, Donnis and several friends were recognized at the "Pink-Out Volleyball Game" at Lee's Summit West vs. Lee's Summit North.
Over the past 20 years, Donnis has been like a second mother to my children and a second grandmother to my own granddaughter! Donnis has been my "guardian angel on Earth" in more ways and at more times than I could begin to count!
So this year when my nieces and sister asked me to join them, I registered. I have never been an athlete or even a jogger; however Donnis' success has motivated and inspired me to be more than a bystander this year!
With the memory of Donnis' smile from last year to inspire and motivate me, I know that I may be the last to finish; but I also know that my sister and her family will be there waiting to cheer me on!
March 5, 2014
June 11, 2013
June 4, 2013
May 21, 2013
My name is Jennifer Shoemaker and I am 51 years old. In 2011 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and tenderness in localized areas. For me that means feeling achy all over my body and that achiness makes me feel heavy as if I’m dragging 100 pounds behind me. Some mornings it can take almost an hour for me to loosen up.
Until fall of 2010, I was an active woman who did strength training, ran and biked and a friend of mine challenged me to do the Win for KC Triathlon as a means of motivation for both of us.
Initially, I thought I can't do that and why would I want to?
But this was before my diagnosis and there was something about this event that kept nagging at me so I signed up. My goal was to train for the event and to finish. I accomplished this goal despite a few obstacles including graduating my youngest child from high school, buying and selling a house and then packing and moving, going through menopause, caring for my husband who has a chronic illness (this is not an obstacle but a labor of love) and working full time. I finished the Tri with a time of 1:25:46 not bad for pushing 50!
What happened next threw me for a loop.
In the fall of 2010, I started waking up in pain throughout my entire body, I ached everywhere. My sleeping which had become poor with the menopause had not improved and included night sweats and restless leg syndrome. My poor husband said many nights I ran many races. I went to see my Primary Care Physician and explained what was going on. He put me on high dose anti-inflammatory meds and arranged for me to see a rheumatologist.
I checked back in with him in two weeks with stomach pain and now had a duodenal ulcer. My appointment in January 2011 confirmed the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and I was put on a prescription medication that was supposed to help with the widespread aches and pain.
I had been on a trial dose of this medication and now the dose was pushed up to the recommended dosing. As you can imagine, getting a diagnosis of chronic pain doesn't exactly make you jump and shout for joy. Late in the spring of 2011, the prescription medication was making me crazy and I decided to go off of them. I wanted a more holistic approach to managing everything.
In the summer of 2011 I went to an outpatient clinic for behavioral pain management. Through this clinic, I learned more about my illness, depression and how to go about life. As a result of taking time out of my life to take care of me, I did not do the Win for KC tri in 2011. I just didn't have the physical or mental ability. By the end of the summer I was out doing light running and finally got out on the water for some skiing.
With the help of my holistic health counselor, I have tried to change my lifestyle and slow thing down a bit. The psychologist at the behavioral pain center taught about the cycle of stress and pain and had the mantra "Pace and Space". I start off slow and stop myself before I get overly tired and fatigued. From the beginning I had decided that this diagnosis wasn’t going to ruin my life and I refuse to let it.
My exercise was good last summer, 2012, and I completed the Win for KC tri and improved my time! So along comes February 2013. My same friend that got me to do the first Tri asked me, "Are you doing the Tri this summer?" and I said YES!
Doing the tri again this year was another personal way to keep myself motivated. Something about setting a goal and yes paying the money gives me the extra nudge I need to do what is right for me. And so the training begins.........
May 9, 2013
I am an athlete.
However, as of about ten years ago, athlete is one of the least likely words you would have used to describe me. I was obese and on my way to morbid obesity. My life including health seemed to be an entity that controlled me. I was at the mercy of a sedentary life style and comfort food.
I wasn’t always this way. I had been an active child that spent many days accumulating scars and fond memories racing my Dad on my bike. I had been a Girl Scout that enjoyed camping and hiking. I played softball and while no home runs or breath taking double plays were credited me, my end of year award was for Most Improved Player. Through junior high and high school I was a volleyball player, at 5 foot 2 I was not a star volleyball player but earned recognition for tenacity.
The days of youth sports eventually gave way to working one, two, three or more part time jobs to pay my way through college. I hit my thirties with few thoughts or recollections of hiking, camping, swimming, softball, volleyball or any other physical activity. Days turned into weeks and years of life spent in a cubicle.
During the same decade following college, I met and married the love of my life, Bret. His prior decade too had been heavily influenced by convenience and comfort food fit for a bachelor. In our wedding pictures we are a very happy albeit plump pair.
Then, it happened. Bret seemed to suddenly change his mind. He announced he wanted to lose weight and chose the South Beach Diet as his plan to achieve his goal. I committed to supporting his plan by experimenting with ways to cook the South Beach Diet way and cater to his tastes. His enthusiasm to change did not immediately inspire change in me. My thinking was still trapped in the lie that I was destined to be fat and unhealthy.
I remember my first 5k charity walk. I was the very last one on the course being slowly stalked by a grumpy looking Sheriff in a car holding back traffic.
Bret’s transformation was inspirational in time. In 2006, I decided to try Weight Watchers again. Bret committed to supporting me and rose early in the morning to chop fresh vegetables to ensure that I had plenty of good food before I left for my long commute and work day. Every weigh-in with loss we celebrated. We learned to celebrate victories and holidays without food as the main event. We also learned to not drown sadness and disappointments with food or eat from boredom or stress.
Like a snowball turning into an avalanche little achievements started adding up to big change. With every success, the idea that I’m captive to a life of obesity diminished. In my own time, I too lost 50 or so pounds and learned many good life lessons in the process.
• Change is possible.
• Perseverance and consistency are keys to success.
• Progress takes work.
• The results are worth the effort.
After losing weight that I never thought possible, I questioned what else seemed difficult or open to change. I started walking and using an elliptical trainer. Once those became easier, I sought new activities to try just because I either had never tried or had not tried in years.
A little over 5 years ago, I remembered that 5k walk that was so difficult and decided I would run a 5k. My goal for the day was to hang tough and run the entire 3.1 miles. As my cheer squad ushered me over the finish line tears of happiness and exhaustion escaped down my cheek. The moment of realization that impossible is negotiable was powerful.
Now that 3.1 miles was complete, “what else?” I asked myself. Next came a 10k and a half marathon. I found a place willing to teach adults to swim and began to conquer my fear of the water. Bret and I now enjoy date nights in spin class and group rides in the KC area through the spring, summer and fall.
What endeavor do I have my sights set on now?
I have entered the WIN for KC Women’s triathlon to challenge my abilities and assumptions. I have focus and desire to meet this challenge. I have the support of friends, family and trainers. My face may still not make the cover of Runner’s World. My first sprint triathlon will not be featured on Sports Center. However, regardless of the media coverage I am an athlete and soon I will be a triathlete.
April 25, 2013
On July 18, 2011, my life went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a matter of a few hours. That morning, my middle daughter, Leah, had given birth to a precious baby girl. Lucy was my third granddaughter and I was one very proud Mimmee! I called my parents that evening to share the exciting news, however, that joy was short-lived.
My mom was in her second battle with inflammatory breast cancer. She had been undergoing chemo treatments for almost 13 months, but on the day Lucy was born, she was told she was too weak to undergo any more treatments and was told she had two to six months. My life was instantly turned upside down.
My parents live in Helena, Montana, and I am in Smithville, Missouri. This was difficult because I wanted to spend as much time with my mom as possible, but my family and job were almost 1500 miles away. I spent the next nine months driving back and forth with my brother at least every other month.
Catherine and her mom.
Despite the difficulties of the situation, I can honestly say this was one of the best times of my life with my mom. Spending those last days with her, I learned so much about who she really was. In turn, I discovered some things about myself. We spent a lot of time talking and it was hard to hear of her regrets; but in listening to those regrets, I learned some valuable lessons.
My mom did not take care of herself and struggled with her weight most of her life. She always put others first and herself last. This is something I have also done.
She always played it safe and very rarely took risks. She grew up this way and raised me that way. She seldom set high goals for herself and let fear keep her from doing things she had wanted to do. I followed the same path.
For most of her life, my mom let others define who she was. She gave the negative voice that echoed in her head too much power. I too have let others do this to me.
However, my mom was a fighter; she had more strength and determination than anyone I have ever known. I never saw it until she was fighting for her life. She lost that fight on May 15, 2012.
I am doing this triathlon in honor of her. It is something that I have always wanted to do, but have never pursued. I’m tired of waiting until I lose weight to pursue my dreams. I don’t want to listen to that negative voice that constantly says “you can’t because you are fat.” I also don’t want to let other people define me anymore. I want to do this for both of us!
I have run into some opposition on my road to the triathlon. A lot of people, when I tell them I am doing a triathlon look at me and say “You?” or “why are you taking on something so big?” “Why don’t you just do a 5K or something” or the best one yet “well, you may not finish, but at least you tried.” I have even had young men in a car point and laugh at me while I was running. I hate how mean people can be, but I refuse to let those negative voices win this time. I’m tired of listening to “you can’t; you shouldn’t; or that’s too hard.” That has been a prevailing theme in my life for far too long.
Most of all I am doing this for me. I have never set a high, risky goal – at least not for something physical. I need to have the sense of accomplishment in this area. I don’t want to have a life of regrets, because I believed I was too fat or scared to live my life. I also want to overcome my fears – fear of swimming in the lake and fear of failing.
I have an amazing husband, three wonderful children, two stepchildren, two incredible son-in-laws, a beautiful daughter-in-law and seven precious grandbabies. They are everything to me. I want to make them proud. I want them to know that I have heard their pleas to take care of myself and I am striving to do so. I don’t want the same life for my daughters and granddaughters that my mom and I had. I want to break that circle. This triathlon is part of that.
After my mom died, I got a tattoo to memorialize her and take her with me. It is a pink butterfly with the breast cancer ribbon. I look at it often when I am training; and when it seems too hard, it helps me remember her strength and determination and how hard she fought for her life. I want to draw from her fight and determination to accomplish this goal – for her and for me!
April 11, 2013
In 2008, after long rugby and swimming careers I realized I had a problem with my left ankle. A local physician diagnosed me with bone-on-bone arthritis and his advice was to fuse my left ankle. At age 50, I felt I was far too young to fuse any part of my body forever.
Over the next four years, I tried everything from anti-inflammatory medication to a brace to acupuncture, all of which gave me temporary relief from the pain but nothing lasting that would allow me to do the things I wanted to do.
After a while I began to think the doctor was right. I had lost the ability to point my left toe because my left ankle would not move. I walked with a nasty limp that got worse as the years passed and the muscles in my left leg began to atrophy.
I wanted to be active but I was limited by my own body. I was never a stand on the sidelines type, but in recent years just standing up to volunteer at events had become too difficult for me.
In September 2011, I visited my mother and aunt and they could see that I had a significant mobility issue and questioned what my plan was to correct the problem. I explained to them I was trying to avoid fusion of the joint but I didn't have any idea of how or what I could do to fix the problem.
After I returned from New Orleans, my aunt called me to say that the day after our visit she was watching the local news and saw a story about a surgeon whose specialty was ankle replacements.
In May of 2012, I made an appointment with this surgeon. Visiting with him was a life changing experience and greatly encouraged me. He gave me HOPE!!!
I was a good candidate for an ankle replacement. The doctor and I spoke at length about the procedure, what the recovery would entail and what to expect of the ankle post-recovery. The doctor explained to me that the healing could take a year or more because the procedure is very invasive and the surgery breaks the nerve connections in the foot.
Of all the things the doctor said to me, what I heard most was that I would have significantly less pain on the other side of the surgery.
On October 4, 2012 I had my left ankle replaced at Ochsner Hospital in Covington, LA. My new left ankle and foot felt alien to me in the days and weeks post-surgery.
The first photo is of Christine's ankle a month after surgery. The second is from April 2013.
Three weeks post-surgery I went out on my knee scooter to get a little exercise. After only a 1/4 mile, I got really tired. As I rested, I began to wonder if I would ever feel like myself again.
Before 2008, I would have described myself as active, strong and capable, but now I felt weak and unable to do anything. The ankle was no longer painful, but I wondered if I would ever be able to feel like I could claim my new “Frankenfoot” as my own.
Soon, I began to heal and started to do upper body workouts and set small goals for myself, like weight bearing with the aid of my crutches or walking without assistance.
When I began physical therapy I started to see real progress in my capability to walk, which spurred me to imagine my life in terms of goals that seemed more normal to me.
In mid-January, while I was still walking with a cane, I began to toy with the idea of the WIN for KC Triathlon. I thought it would be great incentive to get myself down the road to recovery. I knew that I could handle the swim and I believed that the bike would not be an issue. It’s the run (or the walk for me) that would be a problem.
Can I walk 3.1 miles after biking 10 miles? What will I prove to myself by doing this? Will this make me feel like I’m whole again? Will I be ready?
I was at an International Women’s Rugby event in Houston, TX the morning that registration opened for the WIN for KC Triathlon. Since I've participated in this event before I knew that signing up early was a key to secure my spot in the race. As I lay in bed in the early morning hours icing my “Frankenfoot,” I decided that doing the triathlon was the right thing for me to do to reclaim my life and restore my confidence.
With each passing week the numbness, swelling and range of motion in my left ankle improves. This is not happening in leaps and bounds like I want it to, but slowly and methodically. The muscles that had atrophied in my left leg over the years are waking up and gaining strength and stability. This process is not pain free, but the pain is not debilitating or the same pain I experienced prior to surgery.
When I do different exercises I can feel my new ankle becoming more familiar to my body and in that sense I am claiming my “Frankenfoot.” During my training I often try imagine what it will feel like when I finish the race in July.
On Easter Sunday, I walked over 16,000 steps and had very little discomfort or swelling the next morning. I still have a long way to go and a lot of training to do before the event. However, this is not only the process of training for the WIN for KC Triathlon, it is also the process of me reclaiming and restoring my life.
I am strong, I am coming back, I can and I will persevere, I WILL SUCCEED!
March 29, 2013
At first, I wanted to be a survivor for me and my family. Now, a year out, I know I'm a survivor for much more. My breast cancer will not define me. There has been and will be so many wonderful accomplishments in my life. My journey and recovery will only serve to forward my wish to help others.
I have been a swimmer my entire life and I still swim for exercise. It is a true passion.
Two summers ago I came home from a night swim and found what I thought to be a bug bite on my right breast. I did my self breast exam and the bite felt hard. I watched closely over the next few weeks and in October I discussed it with my doctor at my annual visit. She suggested a more diagnostic mammogram. On Halloween I was told it was probably cancer and two weeks later I received the confirmation call - BREAST CANCER!
I tried to deal with facts, so I hadn't shared my concerns with anyone. I had never been one to burden others. Now, I had to tell my loved ones, my family and my friends that I had cancer. I hate being the object of compassion. I am supposed to be the GIVER, not the receiver.
As expected, my family was incredible. Next to tell, my friends.
I have a special group of gals I work with every morning and we share everything. That Friday, when I announced "I have breast cancer and I'm gonna beat it, it's not gonna get me" there was no exercising.
This is Melissa with her "cheerleaders" at her last radiation treatment
The hugs and support started and the love and encouragement continued for my surgeries, six rounds of chemo and 33 radiation treatments. They came to the hospital. They came to my chemo treatments. They read to me. They made me laugh. They made me realize how important true friends are. Equally important, I came to realize that, as much as I was gaining strength from their support, they were gaining strength from my journey.
I stayed positive. I would work out when I could. My buddies, cheerleaders, BFF's, would call me their "role model", their "inspiration." If I could do the work out, by god they could too. Together we became TEAM MELISSA!
This is Melissa with her "cheerleaders" and the TEAM MELISSA t-shirts they had made!
TEAM MELISSA attended the WIN luncheon this year, there my swimming partner agreed to do the TRI with me.
I am doing it for me.
And I am doing it for my cheerleaders; I never want to let them down. July marks my anniversary of the end of chemo. I am looking forward to what my "new normal" will allow me to complete.
I believe that a big part of my recovery and survival has been exercising, and knowing that i have inspired my friends. I will continue to try to be THAT inspiration to my current friends and all those that may enter my life in the future. I relish being able to talk to breast cancer patients. Maybe, in some small way, I can help them too.
March 14, 2013
On September 5, 1986 at 3:30 p.m. my life was changed forever. I was 8 years-old when I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
Growing up with juvenile diabetes was hard. I didn’t want to be treated differently, so I didn’t act differently. Even after I learned in the mid-90’s that my kidneys were shutting down, I continued to believe I was invincible and nothing would ever happen. I was going to be a poster child for never having any diabetic side effects.
I was wrong. High blood pressure, fluid retention, beginning of diabetic neuropathy and kidney failure started to creep up. In 2010, my world took a big turn for the worst, but the most amazing outcomes.
One morning in February 2011, I woke up and wasn’t able to breathe very well. I wasn’t able to walk very far. It was embarrassing and I was scared.
I called my nephrologist and he asked that I come in right away. The following day I checked in to the hospital and began dialysis. Dialysis was going to do what my kidneys weren’t able to on their own anymore, clean my blood and help me stay alive.
At first it was a port that went into my heart, then days of dialysis as an inpatient. After just a few short days in the hospital I was able to recognize the “new normal” of my life, and was ready to figure out the person I was going to become.
From February to May 2010, I was in a dialysis clinic for 4 hours a day, 3 days a week. It was not the ideal situation; I worked 2 jobs, wanted to be social with friends and wanted to keep living. So my medical team advised me to try peritoneal dialysis, which I was able to do at home while I slept.
As time passed, we learned that peritoneal dialysis wasn’t working, so the doctors sat down with my family and me to talk about other options -- we were literally planning my funeral.
My treatments went from 8 hours to 12 hours every single day. This meant in order for me to work and keep my health benefits, I was in bed at 8 every evening. Eventually we were looking for a donor kidney to replace my rapidly failing ones.
My siblings weren’t donors and my mom was too old to be an option for me. The doctors explained that there aren’t enough living donors and because the new form of dialysis wasn’t working, I may die. I was living with a time bomb that I wasn’t sure when it was going to explode.
During a random dinner on July 2010 with some family in Omaha’s Old Market district, my life changed. At this point my energy and motivation had been exhausted to the max; I didn’t want to go to dinner, I only wanted to sleep.
At the end of our meal, my cousin Cade handed me a card. I opened the card to see two photos of me with my Uncle Jeff and my Aunt Kim. Then I noticed two matches fall out of the card.
“Matches? What? No one smokes in restaurants,” I said.
Uncle Jeff and Aunt Kim were both kidney matches and wanted to let me know with two matches in my card with two photos of me in their wedding. Tears of joy streamed down my face; I gave them both a big hug, took a deep breath, and said “it’s over!”These are the photos Megan found in her card at dinner with the matches. The top one shows her as a flower girl with her aunt and uncle. The bottom shows her Aunt Kim comforting her after she didn't catch the bouquet.
Less than two months later on October 26, my Aunt Kim donated her left kidney. I now have three in my body, but only one functions.
Due to having juvenile diabetes for over 24 years, my pancreas was causing damage to my new kidney. I went to the hospital three times a week for blood draws, medication adjustments and IV treatments.
At the age of 32 my life was not where I wanted it to be, but it was the new normal. I wasn’t able to work full time with my surgeries. My sister held fundraisers to help with my health coverage expenses and family friends allowed me to move in with them rent free.
In December of 2010 I received a phone call that would again change my life. It was the hospital calling to see if I wanted to accept a pancreas. When someone calls you with an organ, you are provided with minimal information but this was an offer you really shouldn’t turn down. A medical team went to a hospital to look at the pancreas, but ultimately turned it away.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long for another offer. In February 2011, I accepted a pancreas and was issued to wait for further instructions. The following morning, all was finally cleared and I went in to surgery.
On February 16, 2011, my juvenile diabetes was gone after my successful pancreas transplant.
Issues followed, my medication was off, a repeat of hospital stays and wound injuries keep me in a lot longer than my first transplant. But not too many people can say they have had two successful organ transplants within six months of each other.
These surgeries completely changed my life and I am now trying to live my life better and do more for those around me. I don’t know much about my pancreas donor other than he or she was 10 years old. I felt pain for that family and realized I need to better myself and live the life I once thought to be impossible.
In August, I received a phone call about a friend who died overseas. He had been a very big fan of triathlons and used them as a way to see friends, exercise and recover from previous injuries.
After a few conversations, I sat down with family and friends to talk about my second chance at life, living it to remember the young child that died, my Aunt Kim who gave an organ to save my life, and my friend Matt who, so selflessly, died for this country.
After Matt’s passing I was looking through different social media and noticed how many friends joined in triathlon races. I wanted to be part of something challenging and rewarding all at the same time.
My first triathlon was the Matt Mason “Cowboy UP!” Triathlon in August of 2012, a triathlon dedicated to Matt’s memory that donated all of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. A few months later, many people participated in his favorite race, The Nation’s Triathlon in Washington D.C. on September 9, 2012. Although Matt wasn’t able to physically be there in Washington with all of us, I felt like I was accomplishing something that I won’t ever forget. I was doing an Olympic Triathlon in Washington D.C.
As I was swimming, biking, and running, I kept repeating, “Go! Finish! People are cheering for you back home! Do it for Aunt Kim, my Pancreas donor, Matt Mason and all of the other people that have started a race, but never finished.”
I had to remember all the events I lived through and came to the other side so successfully. I was doing this for everyone who suffered from organ transplants, dialysis, diabetes and the loss of a friend. I was doing this for me.
In 2013, I plan on doing four triathlons: the WIN for KC Women’s, Omaha Women’s, Papillion NE Mayoral and the 2nd annual Cowboy UP triathlon.
Lives can change for the better in a few moments, a few seconds, or even a few months. I think taking the time to realize what Megan part one used to be, will makes Megan part two that much sweeter.This is Megan and her kidney-donor and aunt, Kim Mittermeier.
July 9, 2012
I grew up in the northland and graduated from Liberty High school. I am 37 years old. I am married to my college sweetheart (we met at Baker University), and we have three kids — Brady, 9; Allie, 6 and Luke, almost 2.
I did the Tinman Triathlon with my husband in Topeka in 1999. I barely trained. I was one of the first out of the lake and one of the last to come in on the bike. In 2001, 3 weeks after 9/11, we did the Chicago Marathon. Again, I did not train enough, but knew I didn’t want to go up there and just watch my husband, so I decided to do it too. I had plans to do another marathon someday and do it right. Then I started having kids and training time just was not available for a while. I’ve done lots of 5ks over the years, but was starting to think I’d like to do another triathlon and actually train. Then around the time of the 2010 WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon, it seemed like every other person I talked to was doing it, or had done it the year before. I decided I wanted to be a part of it too, so I put the sign-up date on my calendar in 2011 and made sure I got in before it filled up. Still busy with three kids, I finally followed the lead of some dear friends who did the 5:30 a.m. workouts. That was not my thing, but finally I started to do it and it became my thing. I couldn’t sleep past 6 a.m. last summer if I wanted to.
So last year, 2011, was the first year I participated in the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon. I LOVED it. Again, I had the date on my calendar to get signed up this year…Feb 6. I had recruited so many people as well. Then on Jan 16, I had a terrible car accident. Sadly, that sign-up date came and went as reality set in that recovery was going to be a long road. Then two women I know were doing the tri as a relay and needed a replacement swimmer. I jumped at the opportunity. I am not sure they even really asked me…I just told them I was going to do it! Swimming was the one sport the doctor said I could do, and I knew making the commitment to be a part of the tri would force me to start getting in shape.
So a little rundown on my life the past 5 months…I was driving home on I-35 with my 3 kids in the backseat and had to swerve to miss another incident on the road. Our car flipped and I was ejected. My kids, thank the lord, are okay. I did not have my seatbelt on. Just before the wreck, I had to pull over to deal with a car door that was ajar, and I jumped in the car to get back into the traffic and I had not put my seatbelt back on before the accident. It can happen that quickly. In addition to the scrapes and bruising from the pavement, I broke my left hip, pelvis on both sides, shattered my tailbone and dislocated my right ankle to the point of exposing the bone. My ankle was so bad that doctors first thought I would lose my foot. Even with all these injuries, I feel very lucky because an ejection almost always ends in brain injury, paralysis or death. I was in the hospital and in-patient rehab for 15 days and then remained 100% non-weight bearing for eight more weeks after that. I was in a wheelchair and a boot for 10 weeks. I was able to move by only using my arms, and with lots of nerve damage and pain and muscle loss, but I am so grateful our situation was not worse. I am so grateful that all the emergency responders, nurses and doctors were on top of their game. I want to thank my orthopedic surgeon, John Sojka, and KU Med, because I could not have been cared for at a better place.
What empowers me most now is that I am alive. I am anxious to see how much stronger I can get and how quickly I can get there. It absolutely ticks me off that this happened to me and my family, but at the same time it is true that what does not kill you can make you stronger.
I will see you all on July 28th! I had such a great time last year and am so excited to be a part of the event again this year. I am hopeful I can do the entire event solo again in 2013!
June 25, 2012
This year, I will compete the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon as part of a three-generation team, along with my daughter-in-law Leasa and my granddaughter Kaytlynn. I will be 74 in July, and I have loved running since I first started at age 39. I have competed in many 10ks and several half marathons, and I was able to win my age group in some. I only ran one marathon, in St. Louis, and won my age group there as well. Six years ago, I had a complete knee replacement, and just last year had a hip replacement; both were probably due to an accident I suffered on my left leg as a child.
My husband Leighton and I have three children who were active in sports in their high school years, and now their children are all active in competitive sports. Our daughter-in-law, Leasa competed in the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon last year. I was so impressed with her determination to compete and finish something she had never tried before that it made me really want to compete again. Kaytlynn, our granddaughter who is finishing her first year of college, will be the third part of our “three generation" team. She was a swimmer in high school and qualified for state competition three times.
Leighton, has always been my biggest supporter, and we are still actively working together as volunteers doing construction work for Missouri Baptist Builders. We both serve as state coordinators for them and help to get work teams to help build churches across our state. We also help in disaster relief, teaching "mud-out" (cleaning up after floods) and going when called to do mud-out and work on chainsaw crews after a disaster.
I go to the gym as often as I can for strength training and walk five (fast) miles almost every day. The lady that I walk with, Patty, has been my exercise friend for more than 30 years and has been so great to go at my pace after my surgeries and any injuries that I have experienced over the years.
I am really looking forward to doing the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon with my family. We don't expect to win, just to have fun and finish! I feel like a winner already just to be able to participate again!
June 4, 2012
My name is Kati Purmort. I am married to my college sweetheart, Mike, and we have two fantastic kids — a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. I grew up in a very athletic household in Colorado Springs, CO. My father was a PE teacher and coached everything he could. My mother, an elementary school teacher, taught any grades from K-5, but loved kindergarten the most. I have an older sister who is only two years older, so she was my first competition. Even though it was never stated, everything was a competition.
I was a middle school and high school physical education teacher and coach for nine years until my son was born and I decided to stay home with my two kids. I remain very competitive, playing indoor soccer once a week, and I work out at the gym whenever I can, participating in power classes, Pilates or even boxing. Last year, I decided to train for a half marathon. During my training, I completed many 5k and 10k races, and even a 15k race to prepare for the Kansas City half marathon in October. Once the new year rolled around, I knew I wanted to keep running, but I decided I needed to run for something bigger than myself. I wanted a cause that was local and something I knew a bit about. That is when I found SoleMates for Girls on the Run.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit after-school program for girls in third through eighth grades. The program focuses on the young girls’ physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Through activities like running, playing games and discussions, the girls learn to celebrate being girls. This program is a fantastic fit for me because it’s everything I would want to teach girls if I was still teaching and coaching in the schools. Each girl in the program pays a registration fee to be involved in the program, and of course not everyone is able to afford this type of programming. As a SoleMates fundraiser representing Girls on the Run, I have committed to raising money to pay for at least a few girls to be in the program. This program is taking place all over the United States. You can find more information about the program here in Kansas City at http://www.girlsontherunkc.org/.So far this year, I have raised money for Girls on the Run by participating in the Rock the Parkway half marathon and the Trolley Run. I will be completing additional races including the Mighty Melody Marathon and the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon. This will be my first triathlon, so I am pretty nervous, but if I stick to my training plan, I hope to have fun and enjoy it! Plus I will be contributing to a great organization at the same time.
Click here if you wish to donate to my efforts! The young girls in Kansas City and I appreciate it!
May 21, 2012
I am an athlete!! I am 40 years old, have been married for 12 years, and have 2 absolutely awesome kids. We have a 9-year-old son and a 5 1/2-year-old daughter along with an 11-year-old lab border collie mix and 2 cats.
I was an active kid during summer vacations. I was always roller skating and swimming. During high school and college, I participated in organized basketball, volleyball, softball and bowling from time to time. I even did a stint as a wrestling cheerleader! However, I was never great at any of these activities. I was also lucky enough to work for a company that participated in the Kansas City Corporate Challenge until 2006 so I always had the ability to participate when I could.
Even with all of these physical activities, I was a smoker and not working out religiously. The end result: I gained a lot of weight. In 2008, I hit 200 lbs. That experience was a real eye-opener, especially because I am barely 5ft 5 inches tall.
So, in the spring of 2008, I began walking and watching my diet. Next thing I knew I was 30 lbs lighter and starting to run. In the spring of 2009 (1 year later), my husband and I decided to quit smoking. We also decided to start riding bikes. We both decided we wanted to do a triathlon. My first triathlon was the Olathe Medical Women’s Triathlon and it was so rewarding. It was a great way to do my first race with other first-timers and other women.
In 2010, I decided to do more events! I did a duathlon, and also did the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon for the first time, and the OMC Women’s Triathlon for the second time. Both triathlons are incredible! Through these experiences, I have met so many wonderful women who have become my great friends.
My next goal was a half marathon. I decided to do the Gobbler’s Grind.
With all of my fitness goals, 2011 proved to be a busy year! I again participated in the WIN for KC and the OMC Women’s Triathlons. I had a personal record at the WIN for KC event and I finished third in the Athena category at the OMC event. To top it all, I completed the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon and the North Face Endurance 10k.
In order to accomplish all this, work full-time and take care of my family, I wake up at 4:45AM Monday thru Friday. People ask me all the time HOW and WHY I do this. It is simple…BECAUSE I LOVE THE FEELING! I am a much better person now not only physically, but mentally too. My training time is my time. It is the ONLY TIME OF THE DAY that I get to focus on ME. And we all need that time.
I recently read a quote from the WIN for KC Facebook page that I just love.
"I may not have a runner’s body, but I have a runner’s heart and that is all that matters….” Army Sergeant Jennifer Morris, Runner’s World Challenger, currently deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan.
This quote embodies everything about me! I still don’t have a perfect body and I am still overweight. Most of that I accept now is genetics. Regardless of genetics, I keep moving, and that is what makes me who I am.
I love participating in the all-women’s triathlons. I don’t have to worry about being self-conscious around men and everyone is always so supportive. When you tell someone it is your first triathlon, their support and motivation before and during the race cannot be paralleled. I have been that first-time competitor and I am now the person that will cheer enthusiastically when I find out it is someone’s first race.
It doesn’t matter if you win, it doesn’t matter if you are the fastest. The only person you are trying to beat is yourself and if it takes you 3 hours, so what? All that matters is that you tried and you did it.
Another quote I recently saw was, “The difference between a Tri and Triumph is just a little umph.” It is a great little thing bit to remember. Just give that little extra effort and you will do it. When you are done, you can say you are a TRIATHLETE.
My next goal is to complete an Olympic distance triathlon this summer. Doing the local women’s triathlons have given me the strength and the courage to move on and try something new. But I know that I can do it.
I am an athlete!! I am 40 years old, have been married for 12 years, and have 2 absolutely awesome kids. We have a 9-year-old son and a 5 ½-year-old daughter, along with an 11-year-old lab border collie mix and 2 cats.
I was an active kid when during summer vacations. I was always roller skating and swimming.
May 8, 2012
It started at a family reunion.
I will turn 60 this year, which hardly seems possible! To commemorate the occasion, I wanted to do something that was really out there! Something different from anything I have ever done before and something that would give me a great sense of accomplishment.
So last year at our family reunion, my sister, Sue, suggested I train for the 2012 WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon with her. After discussing this with my daughters, we decided to make it a family affair and enlist as much support as possible. My two daughters, Evie Unrein and Amy Branson, and my sister and I agreed there was no time like the present! The four of us began our training right then and there. We walked (and ran) in the mornings and in the evenings that entire weekend. It was a great time for all of us to catch up on the things going on in each of our lives, and we talked about how this training would help all of us lose weight and get in shape. We even spent some time in the hotel pool that weekend.
After the reunion, I immediately joined the YMCA to work on my swimming. I made it a priority to swim three times a week. My husband and I are missionaries and we live in the Ozarks in Missouri. The terrain where we live is quite hilly for the novice walker or runner, so we would allow time to walk before church services or walk at the mall when out running errands.
Although Evie, Amy, Sue and I all live in different cities, we email or text each other to stay motivated. My youngest daughter Amy, who lives in Halstead, Kansas, rides bikes with her two daughters, Sarah and Emily. She is currently training for her first 5k, which she will run with her girls. On occasion, she can get her 7-year-old son, Jared, to do some Turbo Jam with her. They also have an exchange student from Mexico living with them who has run triathlons at home. He has been able to give her advice about training for several of the events.
My oldest daughter, Evie, lives in Wichita, Kansas, and she trains regularly with her sister-in-law. When the weather is bad, the two of them find ways to keep moving! She sent us all a photo of her first four-mile run event several months ago, and it really motivated all of us to kick our training up a notch.
My sister Sue first learned about the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon through her work at Creative Marketing. Most of the women in her office attend the WIN for KC Women’s Sports Awards Celebration each year. As a result, she has participated in the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon in years past. She and her husband Larry run/walk and bike together. When the public pool opens in May, she plans to use the lap lanes to train a little for the swim portion of the event. Her husband, Larry, will be responsible for bringing the family and friends cheering squad to the Women’s Triathlon in July. A few of them will also be volunteering at the event.
None of us have been particularly athletic through the years. But we love the slogan, "I Play. I Win!” which promotes participation and being active!
Recently all our families were together for Easter, and the Easter bunny treated all of us to a pair of Speedo swim goggles and matching "I Play. I WIN." t-shirts!
June 13, 2011
I was the only girl in a family of 5 children so I was a bit of a tom boy growing up. I preferred hiking and camping to those foreign girlie things that my friends were doing. I never could understand the appeal of screaming at the sight of bugs or snakes. I realize now as an adult that my mom was not a typical housewife either. She was happier on biking treks or teaching every kid in the county how to swim than she was in the kitchen... although she was an incredible cook too. She was an amazing woman
I’m now grown up, married with a wonderful supporting husband and two intelligent sons. My hubby, bless his heart, is not so much into physical fitness these days, although he was a jogger and tennis player when we met. So the boys and I spend many summers on bike hikes, swimming, and camping. I can’t quite convince my husband to join us, but I haven't totally given up!
My boys are grown (well, one is still in high school, so he's almost grown) and here I am in training for my first triathlon at age 53. So why am I doing this and why now?
About a year ago I donated a kidney to the cousin of a friend of mine. I didn't know her well, but I knew her story and since I was very healthy, and the same blood type, was able to help her to live a normal life. We all have 2 kidneys (well, most of us anyway) and we really only need one, so, I shared. That was something else my mom taught me as I was growing up, if you are able to help someone then you should. I was able, so I did.
I am worried that July will be here before I'm ready! But I will be there!I won't be coming in first, not by a long shot, but I am going to finish.
May 16, 2011
Growing up on a farm, I spent a lot of time with my older brother, doing all the normal activities an adventurous youngster would enjoy. We climbed trees, held race competitions, played ball, and caught frogs; I guess you could say I was a bit of a Tomboy. That was just a typical day growing up as an adolescent living in the mid-west of the United States. Now seventy, I look back at those days on the farm and see how fortunate I am to have that experience pave my way to becoming such an active individual.Since my high school did not offer a sports program for women, it was not until college that the opportunity to play organized sports was given to me; I joined intramural basketball and volleyball leagues, and had to teach myself how to play as I went along. My active lifestyle did not stop there; over the next thirty years, I learned how to ski, started to play tennis, and began to lift weights. I still play in a tennis league to this day.
It wasn’t until my thirties, that I began to run long distance. About a decade after I started running, I was competing in my first marathon. I had not properly trained for the marathon, but thought I would try it anyway. I ran the first ten miles at a nice and easy pace, and felt so good that I picked up the pace. At mile fifteen, I was confident that I could run twenty miles, but was unsure if I could do anymore than that. When I finally, had reached the twenty mile mark, I knew I could finish; and unbelievably the last six miles went by the fastest and felt the easiest.
For my 70th birthday, I decided to celebrate by registering for the WIN for KC Triathlon. I didn’t agree to participate without some strong convincing with my daughter-in-law, Kathy. I tried to use every excuse I could think of to get out of doing it, but the more she put the idea in my head, the more I started to come around on the idea. After much convincing we are both registered and are now training for the event. Part of the training involves riding a bike and swimming; I hadn’t ridden a bike in decades, and have never swam for any long distances. It was a tough getting started, and I fell once, but I am now able to bike 11 miles on hilly trails. Kathy and I, also, just finished a swim class which has given me confidence that by July 30, I will have the endurance to swim 500 meters in Smithville Lake.
My plan is to follow the same strategy that I used in the marathon: begin with an easy pace, set intermediate goals, and choose how to finish. This strategy has served me well through many of the challenges I have encountered. Applying this strategy to my training and the July 30 triathlon in Smithville, will undoubtedly give me the confidence and mind set to complete the goal. If I need any additional help, there will be plenty of encouragement from my children and grandchildren, who will be there showing their support and cheering for me when I cross the finish line.
From her daughter-in-law Kathy:
I’d like to tell you a few things about my mother-in-law Judy Swofford. She is not only my mother in law and wonderful grandmother to my children, but she is also one of my best friends. When I first met her, she was already an avid runner (she completed the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in 1984) and lifelong tennis player (she still plays in a league today). Judy introduced both of my boys to tennis with lessons during the summers and they both went on to play tennis in high school. Even now, when they come home from college, they take time to play tennis with Boom (that’s what all the grandkids call her). She has always been active and fit. After I did my first triathlon last year, I began encouraging Judy to consider doing it with me. At first she dismissed the idea, saying she hadn’t ridden a bike in decades and had never swam any distances. Since I knew she had a background in endurance running, I thought she could manage it if she trained. After she turned 70 in November, she agreed to give it a try to celebrate her 70th decade. When her daughter, Heidi, agreed to do it as well, that sealed the deal!
I took her out on the bike for the first time last month. We spent about 45 minutes just circling the parking lot to get her comfortable on the bike…it was almost like teaching someone to ride a bike for the first time. Now, just 4 rides later, she finished 11 miles on hilly trails out in Shawnee. I can’t wait to see how far she progresses by July! We also just finished a swim class at the local community center and she has gained confidence that she can complete the 500 meters.I admire Judy for registering for the triathlon…it takes courage to challenge yourself. She is an inspiration to her family! We all can’t wait to be there to cheer her on as she crosses the finish line!
April 18, 2011
This triathlon season, I have something to prove to myself. I have undergone two hip surgeries in the past three years. Crossing the finish line this coming July will mean more to me than any of my previous athletic accomplishments.
If anyone is athletic and loves the thrill of the starting line as much as I do, it is my dad. It was him who motivated me to begin powerlifting: bench press, squat, and deadlift. Competing was fun, but exhausting, and some of my best memories are dreaming about the pizza we were going to order after we weighed in for the meets. I thought we should also start endurance running to enter into the Waddell and Reed Kansas City Half Marathon.
A month before the powerlifting championships, I completed a squat with about 200 pounds on my back, and when I came up I felt a pop in my left hip. I shrugged it off and stubbornly went to the powerlifting meet and set the state record at that time in the dead lift, which was 203 pounds. I was ecstatic, which made it easier to ignore the pain that didn’t feel much like muscle aches anymore. A month later, Dad and I finished the Waddell and Reed Kansas City Marathon, and even though it took us longer than we thought to cross the finish line, we were winners in our eyes and wore those ‘finishers’ shirts like medals of honor. My mom was there to support us, as was a new member of my life, my husband-to-be, Kevin.
I was told later that the labrum in my hip had been torn since that workout. I will never forget June 21, 2007. I went through my first hip surgery. My doctor told me any aspirations I had of ever powerlifting again were over. I thought I would be more devastated, but I still felt so motivated to get back to being active.
Several half marathons later and my motivation continues. At every race, Kevin was there as my number one fan. We got married in December of 2008, and although he did not share my love of crossing under the balloon arch of a finish line, he understood how important this lifestyle was to me. It wasn’t too long until I persuaded Dad that we needed to get involved in triathlons and duathlons. In the winter of 2009, Kevin taught me how to swim, and while he swam lap after lap, I would have to stop after one and hyperventilate. My proudest moment of my triathlon in the summer of 2009 was coming out of the water and knowing that several months prior I could not even swim one lap in the pool. Kevin was so proud of me!
I underwent my second hip surgery January 28, 2010, I had torn the labrum of my left hip again. I was told that running any distance longer than a 5K was probably ill-advisable. I felt pretty low at that point.
I made up my mind that I could still be active in the parameters of my rehabilitation program, but I had to be smart, careful and gradual in every event. Swimming and biking were easier to transition back to, as they are non-impact events. With the help of a supportive husband, who thinks running is the least enjoyable exercise, he slowly helped me transition from a walk to a run program. Whereas I used to run five days a week, anything less than four miles wasn’t worth lacing up my shoes, I can now appreciate the three mile run I am able to do once a week.
The WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon this year is not just another race to me. All the hours beginning in the pool, then trying to get on my bike again, then transitioning to that first run, have built a dedicated competitor with a strong fire burning to get to that finish line. It’s a race for my mom, who took care of me after my surgeries with her warm nurse’s heart. It’s for my lifelong training partner, my dad, and it’s for my husband, who deals with me when I have a crappy training session that day, and still loves that being a triathlete is part of being me. But most importantly, it’s for me. I am ready to prove to myself that in the face of obstacles and setbacks, I am a strong woman, and by simply crossing that finish line, I will win.
July 22, 2010
Well, I'll start from the beginning: I have not always been an athlete. Far from it really! Then, back in August of 2002, I was diagnosed with a large brainstem cyst. It was benign and was removed with no problem; however, it made me realize that even young people (I was 21 at the time) are not invincible. I am one of those people that checks nearly every box in the family medical histroy section when filling out paperwork at the doctor's office. Heart disease? Check. High blood pressure? Check. I thought, heck, I am getting hit with the weird medical problems, so I should probably do everything I can to try to prevent the ones I already KNOW I am at risk of getting. So, I started going to the gym. Eventually I got bored with the gym, and long story short, a friend of mine talked me into doing a triathlon.
I've signed up for the WIN for KC Women's Triathlon this year, but this won't be my first tri. I've actually done the women's triathlon twice before (along with a few others), but this year will be special.
The first year I did the triathlon, I remember seeing various sayings in sidewalk chalk on the running trail as I was pushing myself to finish. "Swim, bike, run" and "Keep going" were pushing me along the way. There was also a saying, "We are proud of you Mom!" I remember thinking, wow, I hope when I am a mom, I am still doing triathlons. Fast forward a few years, and here I am, the mom of 10-month-old twin boys! When I was pregnant, a few people warned me, "Oh you will NOT have time for any of that triathlon stuff once you have babies!" And I remembered those signs during that first triathlon, and I hoped to prove them wrong.
Now that the babies are here though, training has certainly become more of a challenge, to say the least! I literally had to lay out my "strategy," and I call it that because it took a lot of thought for me to figure out how I was going to find time for this. Even though it has been complicated and hard to fit training into my schedule, it's something I feel very strongly about, both for myself and my boys. I want to be a good example through my actions. Most of all, I want to stay healthy and be around for all the big moments of their lives. So, making time has been a priority for me, and for my kids. It HAS been challenging though, and here are some of the lessons I have learned to pass on to any moms out there who are having a hard time fitting in the workouts:
- Set realistic goals! I knew I couldn’t do all of the races I had been doing before. So, I made a list of just a few events that were my favorites, and chose to train for those events. My list has only 3 events on it for the summer. Though I may add more if I have time, I knew I could realistically train and do my three events with the free time I have.
- Invest in yourself! I put off buying a treadmill for the longest time thinking it was a waste of money; why buy a treadmill when I could just run outside? Well, I finally caved and bought one last winter a few months after the boys were born, and I have definitely been getting my money’s worth! I often wait until the boys go to bed, so I can still spend time with them, and get in a good training run. This has worked out GREAT for me as a mom! It’s convenient, and I now have NO excuse for not running. I also have a bike trainer, so I have even been able to do some indoor “brick” workouts. Another great investment: jogging stroller!
- Find a Support System! This is a big one for me now that I am a mom. My support system has 3 parts: my husband, my friends, and my employer. First, I could not do this without my husband, who often takes on baby duty so I can go swim, bike, or run. Second, I have several friends who do this crazy hobby with me, and we support each other by planning times to get together to bike, run, and swim. Third, my employer is very supportive of athletic endeavors. They sponsor employees in various races in the KC metro area, and I originally got into running (and then triathlons) through running a few company-sponsored 5k’s for fun.
I definitely don't have it all figured out yet, but these are the things that are helping me along the way. Living a healthy lifestyle is important for my family, and I'll do everything I can to live that and be a good example for my kiddos.
June 24, 2010
I am a 35 year-old mother of two young children; Addison, 4 and Gavin, 2, and an amazing and supportive husband of 11 years, Scott. Oh, and I happen to have MS. Growing up on the beach in California, I was a swimmer from age 4 and played soccer from age 5 through high school. I moved to Missouri at age 20 and met my future husband shortly after. Then, life got in the way.
Over the next 10 years I married my husband, buried my mom and one of my brothers 5 days apart, and graduated college. I threw myself into work and school and totally forgot about taking care of myself. Then, I had Addison and although I managed to swim throughout my entire pregnancy, the demand of a newborn took a toll on my body and was compounded by my MS.
Rest was imperative for my body and impossible with an infant. Returning to work full-time after six weeks, clearly exercise of any kind was no longer an option.
Fast forward two and a half years and Gavin was born. I managed to squeeze in some swimming during my second pregnancy but not as much as I should have. It was a constant struggle to balance work and family, guilt always weighed heavily on me.
So when my girlfriends asked my to do the swim leg of the WIN for KC Women's Triathlon in 2009, I thought there was NO WAY! When I told my husband about the triathlon that night he said I absolutely HAD TO DO IT and we would do whatever it required to make time for me to train.
I do have a few obstacles due to my MS. The first is the heat...it is a killer for me to be in the heat for long periods of time (which is why I choose swimming as my preferred exercise). The second is numbness in my legs. During my pregnancy with Gavin, I started experiencing numbness in my legs, making my legs useless. It happens randomly and lasts for about 30 seconds before my legs have feeling again. Beyond that, my MS is present but does not define me!
I didn't have time to train as much as I should have but I managed to get in a couple of open water swims. As I hit the water to start my swim leg of the race, my legs gave out (a symptom of my MS) but fortunately I kept my arms moving and within seconds the adrenaline kicked in. The second I handed off my timing chip at transition 1, I knew I wanted to complete the full triathlon by myself in 2010.
The only obstacle I could see other than the numbness in my legs was the fact that I couldn't even run one mile. So, when the weather cooled down in September I decided I was going to run a 5k before the end of the year. It took me about six weeks to be able to run 1.6 miles without stopping, but by the end of the year I had completed THREE 5k's! My small accomplishments empowered me to push my limits, both physically and mentally. As the weather turned cold my body responded TREMENDOUSLY due to my MS and I completed my first half marathon in March at Rock the Parkway. Trust me...if I can accomplish this, ANYONE can! I am not a runner, not an extensive exercise fanatic and don't eat a regular balanced diet, BUT I have chosen to be a survivor and have chosen to become an ATHLETE.
My mantra is, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." And stronger I have become.
So now I am training for my first solo triathlon and struggling to get all of my traning time in. I take it one day at a time and try to have fun with it. After all, my training time is my only "me time" and I don't want to waste it. I struggle with the heat so most of my training is indoors right now but at least I am still doing it. The days I have two disciplines I get up early in the morning for my run and do my swim after I put my little one to sleep leaving Addison's bed time up to my husband. With my kids' gymnastics schedule, my husband's golf leaue and my work schedule, some of my workouts take place over my lunch hour. Admittedly this schedule is not ideal. However, because of my MS, there may come a day where I can no longer walk, let alone swim, bike and run, so I guess you can say I am simply seizing the day.
My kids are really my driving force. If i do lose my mobility someday, I want my kids to remember me being active and I want my daughter to know she CAN have it all. There are no excuses, only opportunities.
I don't think my MS makes me unique or that I should receive special acknowledgment or additional accolades. In fact, I hesitate sharing the fact that I have MS. There are thousands of people with circumstances much worse than mine. So I guess in a way, I am doing this for them as well. I have been blessed with my amazing family, amazing friends and this amazing opportunity to compete alongside hundreds of other women who know THEY CAN DO IT TOO!
See you there!
May 27, 2010
I never remember being interested in any type of physical activity growing up except swimming. We moved around a lot when I was a child and no matter where we landed, my parents were able to allow me to participate on the local swim team. In my teenage years, I honestly just was not interested in any type of athletics or doing much of anything that involved breaking a sweat. I also spent most of my adult life smoking which certainly does not lead to any type of healthy lifestyle.
Growing up I did not have anyone in my life I was close to that exercised on a regular basis, so it just was not something I thought about. As I approached 40, so many things happened that influenced me to take the fist steps towards being active, then setting goals and making it truly a part of my life. I was an emotional wreck eating my way through everything in sight trying to compensate for the pain I was feeling after my husband left me. My weight was at an all-time high and I was miserable!
A year earlier, a friend had told me about a program called Couch Potato to 5k which I had "attempted" a few times but had always given up. Two years ago, something in me just clicked and I decided that I wanted to do something for me. I asked my friend Ashley if she wanted to join me in running a 5k and told her about the Couch Potato to 5k program. We entered the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day that year and it was my first time ever participating in something organized and social. I still remember thinking how great it was that all those families had come out together to start the holiday season embracing fitness.
Seeing a crowd start a race gives me goose bumps and still does every time. We finished the Turkey Trot and it was SO hard. Looking back, we both laugh because we jogged that 5k as fast as we walk now. When we crossed that finish line, it was the first time since losing my husband that I felt hope. I felt like I really might be okay and I was stronger than I thought I was. I was really proud that I had done it at 39 years old. I had started exercising, proving to myself that you are never too old, too fat, too chesty, or too slow to start.
Around the same time, my brother was getting serious about competing and ended up doing the Ironman Kansas in Lawrence. My brother had a serious injury when he was young and I don't think they expected him to even walk at this age but here he was training to complete an Ironman! It inspired me to make my own goals.
Last year, my friend and I had tossed around the idea of doing a triathlon. We attended the WIN for KC Fitness Fair sponsored by Centerpoint. We talked to a lady I have seen in many pictures off the WIN for KC website.
We were scared but wanted to do it. We thought we didn't have the right bikes but more importantly, in our minds, people that did triathlons had 6% body fat and were perfect people. I was scared all over again. I feared everyone would look and point, "Hey check out that girl! What does she think she is doing?"
The lady at the Fitness Fair was great! She made us believe anyone could do a triathlon and should give it a try. She said even if we had a basket, a flag and streamers on our bikes, it did not matter. At the time, Ashley did not have a bike so we decided that the following year we would do it. I must admit, deep down inside I was petrified and secretly doubted we would.
We made last year's goal to do the Kansas City Half Marathon and it was going to be my 40th birthday present to myself. By this time, I was battling feet issues and we were going to walk it. We were nervous wondering if there would be other walkers. Would we be the only ones? Would we look different from everyone else? One thing is for sure though having a partner to do these things with gives you accountability, motivation and the united front of self-confidence. We both, in different ways, have battled body image issues, weight gain and loss, but we both in the end wanted the same thing. We wanted to know we could do it!
And we did it! If I thought I was proud at my first 5k, when I crossed the finish line at the Half Marathon, I had tears in my eyes.
Never in my life did I dream I, of all people, would not only attempt, but finish, a Half Marathon. I did not run it. That's not what it was about for me. I just wanted to say I did it, and wow is Kansas City hilly!
With that item crossed off the bucket list, it was now time to attack the Triathlon.
We knew we wanted to do the WIN for KC Women's Triathlon. I looked at each and every picture from the race last year and convinced myself that all types of women participated in it. Old, young, fluffy, tiny, tall, and short, and I wanted to be one of these women. In my mind if I could complete this and say I did it, then I could do anything.
I am nervous because I've hurt my foot. I know running the last leg will not be an option and I will be walking it. I am mostly scared about what the heck I am going to wear in the swim? Will people laugh at me? I am extremely top heavy and it is a huge concern.
I have read lots of articles, but the suggestions just make me giggle. I found a book called The Slow Fat Triathlete and it made me believe I can do it. Then as I was searching the internet for something to wear I found lots of message boards with women just like me. They may not look like gazelles as they plod along, but they did it!
I know I will certainly not be the tiniest girl out there. I know I bounce and jiggle when I run, I know I struggle daily, like all women do, with my self-confidence. Most of all I wonder if I had thought it was possible would I have started exercising earlier? I wish I would have known that truly anyone and everyone can do it, one step at a time. I have realized it is not how fast you go or if you won, it's simply that you did it. I have realized that the only person I need to compare myself with is me.
THE GUPTA WOMEN
May 6, 2010
Meet the women of the Gupta family, Pratishtha (Mum) and her twin daughters, Anita & Sunita, who will be participating as a team in the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon…
Pratishtha is the proud mother of three beautiful children, including her twin daughters, Sunita and Anita. The mother-daughter trio will be doing the 2010 WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon to celebrate Mum’s 62nd birthday on Saturday, July 31. Sunita and Anita didn’t participate in organized sports growing up, but used to exercise with their dad. “Our dad was a very active and health conscious man. He would wake up early and exercise 3 hours every day before going to work at 8:00 a.m. He got our whole family involved in being active. Although he has passed away, being active is part of the legacy that he’s passed down,” says Anita.
Sunita got her mom and sister into races and triathlons a few years ago.
“About four years ago, when I was interning at Garmin, I saw an ad in Garmin’s newsletter for the WIN for KC Triathlon (called the Rose Brooks Triathlon at the time). I thought it would be awesome to participate in a triathlon,” says Sunita. “Anita and I had volunteered at other triathlons several times, but I never thought I could do one. I really liked that the WIN for KC Triathlon was women only—it seemed like it would be a friendly race. I didn’t think I could train for the entire thing over one summer, so in 2007 I put a team together for the race. I spent the whole summer preparing for the 5k portion. My mom, sister and I would go to a school playground and walk/run the track. The following year I decided to do the full triathlon and I really wanted my mom and sister to participate because it had been so much fun, so they formed a team.”
And now they are all hooked…
“This year, we wanted to do something together as a family and the race falls on Mum’s birthday, so we wanted to share the victory (of completing the race) with each other,” shares Anita. “Doing a triathlon on Mum’s birthday is a way to celebrate her life, and keep her healthy and youthful for future birthdays. I’ve always admired and respected Mum. Although I followed her career path, what I have most been in awe of is her humble demeanor. It has shone through when we were children and instead of pointing us in a direction, she would help us reason out the right direction for ourselves. I think it helped us grow to better understand decision-making and personal responsibility.”
“Being active and healthy is very important to all of us,” states Sunita. “What better way to celebrate Mom’s birthday than being together and doing something that is good for us? She was a caretaker for our father for a year and a half, and then we had a lot of changes happening. Since this last year, she’s really getting back into shape mentally and physically. All the training is paying off—we can see it and we’re so proud of her! Mom has always made a point to be there for us. She’s supported us from going to our 4th grade strings’ concerts to coming to my races today. She’s sacrificed a lot for us and I want to do what I can to keep her healthy and active.”
“We’re so proud of you, Mom, we love you! And…don’t run too fast at the finish line—we don’t want you to be a blur in the picture!”
Whether you go a foot or a mile,
It makes us smile
To see you in a race,
Running at your best pace.
2010 is the 2500th anniversary of the marathon so the Gupta women will travel to Athens, Greece together to run the original full marathon course (Sunita) and 10k (Anita & Pratishtha) on October 31, 2010.
Pratishtha, originally from a small town in northwest India, currently works as a Cardiac Sonographer. Anita will be graduating from medical school in May before she starts her ophthalmology residency training at KU Medical Center and Sunita is currently employed at Garmin as a Design Certification Engineer for Avionics (electronics for airplanes). All of the Gupta women reside in Olathe.
April 22, 2010
Suzanne shared a couple of training websites with me. I put together a spreadsheet marking the days up to the race and set out what exercise I would do each day – including rest days – to prepare. My only goal was to complete the race. I just wanted to finish. According to my current times, I expected to finish the race in two hours. Even with LONG transitions, I finished in 1:59.
Right after I finished the race last year, I said I would never do it again. But after I ate and rested, I felt differently. It was such an exciting sense of accomplishment. I have pictures of myself at each portion of the race, along with my finisher’s medal, hanging on my bedroom wall. Suzanne was right: I did do it!
What surprised me most about the race was how supported I felt by all the women out there and how moving it was for me to wear the white rubber band bracelet that said “I AM AN ATHLETE!” I still have it on… I’ve never taken it off. The words are gone, but that’s okay… I know what it means!
In 2010, I want to run at least part of the final portion of the race. Last year I just focused on finishing, so I walked – one foot in front of the other. This year, I know I can swim and bike just fine, but I want to run a portion, if not all, of the last segment, so I’m focused on increasing my endurance and stamina through longer walks and more running in my training.
To think that I can do a triathlon means I can do anything! I’m getting older and I don’t want to suffer from lifestyle diseases. Obesity runs in my family, and I’m fighting to not give into that. Since completing the triathlon, I’ve applied for grad school. I really can have everything in life that I want. I still have a goal of one day being a runner.
To all of the first-time triathletes out there: YOU CAN DO THIS. Think about what you need to be able to do on race day, and figure out everything you need to do up until that point. The mental planning is just as important as the physical preparation. Make your own goals. It’s a race against you. And don’t let the word “triathlon” freak you out. It’s basically a 1-2 hour workout, with a lot of variety!
Janelle Brazington, from Topeka, is an operations manager for a nonprofit organization. She and her partner, Matt, have two grown stepchildren and a 9-year-old daughter. When she’s not triathlon training, she enjoys reading, spending time at the lake, gardening, cooking, doing community service and going to the community theater.
The surgery itself was fairly easy, the recovery was quick, but it took a few months to get my energy levels back to where they were. It takes time for the one remaining kidney to ramp up production and start doing the work of two. By the fall, I was feeling pretty good, but I thought maybe I could feel even better. I work for the Park Hill School District and one of the great things about the district is that they really emphasize employee fitness, and they have a fitness center for employee use at an extremely reasonable price. So, I joined the fitness center and treated my daily morning workouts as a part of my job. Kristina Brand, the fitness center manager, set up a workout plan and made the confusing weight training equipment not so puzzling. I started out slowly, following Kristina's advice, and found that my body responded quickly to the new regime. I toned up pretty quick and started putting on muscle. To my surprise it was fun! I had more energy! I have degenerative disk disease, which I inherited from my father, and some days before my exercise regime I would be in pain constantly. Thanks to my new plan, my back pain is virtually nonexistent!
So, why the triathlon? Well, I have 2 friends that have their birthdays in the same week as mine in December. We get together for lunch to celebrate our half-horse birthdays (Sagittarius) and catch up on our busy lives. My friend Kari talked about the WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon she did last summer. Kari was a competitive swimmer in college so I wasn't surprised she completed a triathlon. Then Kari suggested I do it with her this year. I laughed at first, but she kept on talking about what a positive experience it was for her and so I thought I would give it a go. Last summer, I was recuperating from surgery and had no energy, so this summer I'm making up for last summer's time off from my normal fairly active life by becoming a triathlete... a wrinkly, white haired, one kidney triathlete.
Kari and I plan are training together. I've always been a fairly strong swimmer, but never made it past JV on the swim team when I was a kid. I'm hoping Kari can help me improve my stroke. I'm not worried about biking. I am concerned about the running! I'm not a runner but once again, Kristina has come through and is advising me on slowly building up my stamina. I am determined to run the whole course, but, I may walk some of it... I am 53 after all.