Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015...A year of sadness and unexpected blessings

2015 will be the year of many things. I knew going into it that it would be the year one of the most important people in my life would be called home. I can't help but sit here and think back to this night a year ago and having to come to terms with that. But I also can't help but sit here and remember all the NYEs before that in happier times with my parents, especially all the ones where they would come over and ring in the new year with me, Paul, and the boys.

Cherished memories.

It's hard to not miss Papa D tonight and I know there are several friends who are thinking about their year and had to say goodbye to someone they loved in 2015, too. My thoughts are with each and every one of you. While 2015 will go down in the books of a year of an ultimate sadness, it will also go down as a year of unexpected happiness because although I knew it would be the year my dad's battle would end, never in a million years would I have ever guessed that it would be the year that God would bless us with another family member, my sweet daughter-in-law. Tears of sadness exchanged with tears of joy.

I am not sure what 2016 will bring and quite frankly, I'm not letting my mind go there. What I am sure of, though, is whatever happens in 2016, there will be an unexpected blessing waiting when I least expect it.

Happy New Year's Eve everyone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Race Report: Run Santa Run 5K 12.13.15

On Sunday, my husband, son, and I ran Lake Health Running Series' Run Santa Run 5K. This was the first time the three of us have done a race together since June so I was excited it was going to be a family affair. Once again, I went into this race with very low expectations on the account I've been sick the last two weeks and once again, I surprised myself and finished my last race for 2015 with a smile on my face. And not because I was still able to keep my husband at bay. LOL In all honesty, I really thought this was going to be the race he finally took the lead but apparently that wasn't meant to be, not this race anyway.
We're famous: paparazzi caught us pre-race
Since I had to forego my goal of running a sub 25:00 5K by the end of the year when I got sick, I decided my three goals for this race would be:

1. To do better than I did at Thanksgiving's Trot to Stop Trafficking 5K. My time for that race was 27:30 but the course had a monster hill at the end (and I don't have much experience when it comes to running hills because my training runs are all relatively flat), it was cold, and it was extremely windy so I'd like to think those factors came into play for my 2nd worse time of the year.

2. To beat my time from last year's Run Santa Run which was 26:34.

3. To finish sub 26:00.

Considering this race had two things going for it; it was flat and the weather was warm, I had a pretty good feeling I'd at least meet goal #1. If I didn't, I was in trouble.

The weather was in the low 60's, so atypical of December in Cleveland, a freak of nature literally! When I heard how warm it was supposed to be on race day, I realized I was going to be waaay too hot in my get up from last year so on Saturday, I hit up the thrift stores, the party stores, any place I could find in a desperate search to find something festive. Not so easy to do when everything in the stores is geared toward freezing temps. Luckily Walmart and Target saved the day and after adding a couple of other items, my race outfit was complete.

The race was crowded with 1,005 in attendance, almost twice as many runners as last year. I'm not sure if it was the warm weather, the race swag (which included a Brooks long-sleeve tech shirt, a pint glass and Christmas Ale, and a Santa hat), the flat course, or a combination that made it so popular this year. Lots of kids from the XC team were there so shortly after we arrived, our son went to find his friends. People were already starting to line up when my husband and I were finished with our warm up so we decided we better find our places. Several yards from the starting line seemed like a good spot. We were packed in like sardines and with the crazy warm weather, it actually felt almost TOO warm but thankfully we were only standing there for about five minutes before the race began.
Our son at the starting line with some of his XC teammates
For the first mile or so, I really thought my husband was going to out run me. I'm not sure at what point I passed him but every time I looked over my shoulder after that and would see a red shirt, I fully expected it to be him. I finally decided if it happened, it happened, I just needed focus on running and keep moving.

This was only my second race using my Garmin watch and I found it to be both a blessing and a curse. Having the ability to set high and low pace alerts is really nice but I was feeling so unmotivated during this race that I was more concerned with where I was mileage-wise and dreading that I had only gone "so far" and still had "so much farther" to go rather than what my pace was. One thing that really helped this race was having my music. I know a lot of people find running with music to be a hindrance but for me, I don't think I would have done as well as I did had it not been for the carefully selected songs on my playlist to keep me motivated.

Around mile 2, I started getting a side stitch. I've never had one racing before so I was a little concerned it would get to the point I would have to stop running but it was also at this time I noticed the official blogger of the Lake Health Running Series, whom I follow but have never personally met, had just passed me. She's not only an experience runner but also a running coach and six years younger than me so I decided I was going to try to keep up with her as best I could. Timing couldn't have been any more perfect because my focus shifted from side stitch to her.

At 2.5 miles, we went around the last turn and it was a straight shot to the finish. By this time, I was exhausted but determined to keep up with my "pacer." It just so happened the strategically placed song "Push It" by Static X came on and that's exactly what I did and was actually was able to get ahead of her. When I saw the clock at 25:45, I pushed myself as hard as I could because I was determined to finish sub 26:00. I crossed just as the clock reached 26:01. Dang it! Feeling defeated, I went to save the race in my watch only to find my time read 25:49. I completely forgot there was a timing mat at the start and we crossed it several seconds after the race began so it was just quite possible that I DID finish sub 26:00! I went over to check the live results and sure enough, 25:49 was my time. Whoohooo! I did it! Goals #1 and #2 were both met. Now it was time to check my time from last year's race. Sure enough, I met that goal, too! I didn't get any AG, as a matter of fact, I was 12 of 85 but I met all three of my goals and that was good enough for me. Negative splits, too! (8:33, 8:27, and 8:24). The icing on the cake was with a time of 25:49, I was only 13 seconds shy of my PR! Happy dance all around!

So thus ends a year with many races, as well as AG awards, under my belt. 2015 was a great year and I can't wait to see what 2016 brings!
A family affair to end a great racing year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A family that gets tattooed together, stays together: honoring Papa D's birthday

After I got my "hope" tattoo on the one month anniversary of my dad's home going, I decided I was going to get another one on the six month anniversary. When the date snuck up on me and I realized I had to forego that idea, I decided I would honor my dad's birthday by getting a tattoo then. Shortly before Thanksgiving, I made my appointment that would honor both of his birthdays by scheduling it for December 8 at 6 pm.

When my middle sister, Janna, found out I had made the appointment, she decided she would go to North Coast Body Mods with me and talk to them about a design. She figured she'd meet with one of the artists and then go back at a later date. My son, Kelly, talked about coming just to give me moral support. Perhaps it was divine intervention or just a strange twist of fate, but by the end of our visit, the three of us would walk out with tattoos.
I'm not sure what possessed Kelly to get one too, perhaps it was the just the day or perhaps it's the way tattoos are addicting, but before I knew it, he was getting something drawn up. His tattoos are the Chinese symbols for "faith" and "eternity." If you've read any of my other blog or Facebook posts, it's pretty obvious why these two words are significant.

Janna wanted a cross tattoo to signify her faith that incorporated her children's names as well as my parent's initials in a creative way but wasn’t sure how exactly she wanted it to look. The artist came back with a drawing that captured her idea in a way better than I think either she or I imagined so when he said he was available to do it right then and there, she figured why not go for it!

My tattoo signifies many things but I'm sure if you know me, you wouldn't expect anything less. LOL  It as a whole represents the faith my parents instilled in me. A heart with the infinity symbol signifies that love never ends, that this life is not the end, and that one day we will be reunited to live forever together in Glory. Purple is the color of hope and purple fading to black is a reference to one of my brother's favorite Metallica songs (a song my mom says she likes to listen to at "warped speed" now). I guess you can say since we are quickly approaching Rick's 20 year angel anniversary on the 19th of next month and I’m not sure I'll know what I want for my next tattoo by then, this tattoo is in honor/memory of him, too. Lastly, at my dad's celebration of life service, I closed with the line "until we meet again" so I wanted to include those words as well.

So what started out as a somber day ended with unexpected surprises and blessings. Funny how it works out like that sometimes. I kind of like to think we have my dad to thank for that. =)
Post tattoo Jaegermeister shots for Papa D
* * * *
Earlier in the day, I spent several hours with my mom and older sister, Nadine. We went to lunch, signed the paperwork for my dad's headstone, and went to the cemetery. My dad had made a pine cross for Rick's grave years ago and it managed to survive the housefire of 2011. We placed it on my dad's grave. We also took two of the pew bows from Kelly and Jaime's wedding and put them at both his and Rick's grave. The headstone won't be ready until the spring but at least we are able to add our own "markers" until then. Even when we are doing things that are sad, we are still able to laugh and enjoy each other's company. My dad and my brother wouldn't want it any other way.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 2nd of 1sts..December 8, 2015

Happy 1st 2nd birthday to my dad in heaven. Papa D was a faithful servant in many ways but one that was especially close to his heart was being a leader in the AWANA program at our church. The annual Grand Prix at the end of the year was one of his favorite events. He proudly displayed the cars he made long after the races were over and luckily the ones he kept survived the house fire and we still have them today. My dad was a quiet man but he had a great sense of humor, as you can see by this attempt at a "gangsta pose" he made at church during a race in 2004. It is an honor and privilege to have such a wonderful man to call my dad and I'm thankful I will get to see him again one day. Love and miss you, Papa D.

The 1st of 1sts...December 6, 2015

December 8 was always thought to be my dad's birthday. It wasn't until he retired that he learned that his actual birthday was December 6. Today, he would've been 72 years old. On this first of firsts, he is now with our Heavenly Father, my brother, and the love ones who have gone before us. Love and miss you always, Papa D. Until we meet again....
April 2012, the day our childhood home was
leveled after the fire of December 2011

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Just Keep Swimming: Three Years Later

This has been a tough couple of weeks. Between all the firsts without my dad (Thanksgiving, my son's wedding, going on our annual Christmas tree hunt today, and his birthdays which are this Sunday and Tuesday), finding out a dear friend's sister's battle with breast cancer has taken an unexpected turn, the sudden death of someone close to another dear friend, and then being sick on top of it, I am not really "feeling it" today so on this three year anniversary of being cancer free, I thought I would post something I wrote on my Just Keep Swimming Facebook page on this date in 2012.  The words are just as true today as they were the day I wrote them...

There are several dates in my life that I will never forget. December 5, 2012 is one of them. After reading through everything I have posted over the last year, rather than trying to come up with something completely different, I have decided to expand on words already “spoken.”

I'll never forget what it was like a year ago today... driving to the hospital with Paul in the morning, so afraid of the unknown; enduring some pretty painful “pre-tests” without anything to dull the pain; holding hands with my family as Papa D prayed right before they came to take me to surgery; saying “goodbye” to my loved ones as the hospital staff wheeled me down the hallway; joking with the staff in the OR as they got me situated; waking up in the recovery room and the first face I remember seeing was my sister who came to check in on me (having a sister who is a nurse at the hospital has its advantages); and "waking up" again afterward as I was being wheeled into my hospital room and seeing so many of my loved ones there waiting for me. Hard to believe that was a year ago today. I remember that day as though it was yesterday and I still remember the days that followed; those who came to visit and those who expressed their love and support in other ways. I have every card I received, every email, and every message. Over the last year, I have read them several times. They are constant reminders of how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life.

Today I am a survivor but I know my journey will never really be over. I know this disease could rear its ugly head at any moment, in any form, or that God may have another trial for me to face. But rather than dwell on the “what ifs”, I choose to enjoy each day and live each one with no regrets. I thank God for the days He has given me thus far and for the days He will give me tomorrow. I thank Him daily for my husband, my boys, and the strong support system I have in my family and friends. Regardless of what my future holds, I know I will never be alone. I am truly blessed.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Light

"Don't let hope become a memory
When you think all is forsaken 
Listen to me now 
You need never feel broken again 
Sometimes darkness can show you the light"

When I first heard the song "The Light" by Disturbed several weeks ago, it instantly became one of those songs that spoke to me. The song may mean certain things to certain people but for me, it reminds me that through every dark situation when I have felt hopeless and broken in the 45 years I have been on this Earth, from my brother's murder to my father's home going and everything in between, I have been "shown" the "light" in one way or another.

The light has been many things including the realization of just how important the faith and beliefs my parents raised me with have been, especially in times of darkness, and to cling to them no matter what; it has been the greater appreciation for the things that are important in my life and being thankful for them every day; it is a reminder that life is a precious gift and to thank God for each day He gives me; it is learning to look for the blessings in everything and in every situation, even when the blessings aren't so easy to spot; it has been renewed relationships and new friendships I've made because of those times of darkness and being grateful for them and for the friendships that have stood the test of time; it has been a reminder that all hope is not lost and sometimes all you can do is just keep swimming.

It was three years ago today when I heard the words "you have cancer," words I never in a million years would think I'd ever hear and as I reflect on all that has happened in those three years, through every trial and tribulation I have faced, the darkness has always shown me the light.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Race Report: Make a Difference 5K 10.25.15

For a race that I thought was going to be kind of "meh," the Make A Difference 5K turned out to be much better than I anticipated. It seems to be a common theme with most of my races this year; I go into them thinking I am not going to do all that well for various reasons and then surprise myself but this race was different in the fact I had been sick for the better part of the week and haven't been sleeping all that well. I only had a head cold with no fever and thank goodness, the cough that kept me up for the past several nights was just one of those annoying tickles and not one where I was hacking up a lung but this is the first race this year that I feeling completely run down. Plus, I had taken several days off from running and had spent more time on the elliptical at the gym because earlier in the week, I decided to try a new pair of running shoes and they screwed up my heels/ankles so I thought the break would help things get back normal. Yes, the shoes were returned and so did my pain-free running. So, knowing how I was feeling Sunday morning and that a PR would not be in the cards, I decided if I could finish 26:00, I would be happy. I was also resolve to the fact that this would more than likely be the race my husband finished before me. He has been quickly catching up to me since he started racing with me this summer and at the last race we did a month ago, had it not been for the last ounce of energy I found from somewhere to pass him, he would have won it.

Deciding what to wear for the race was a challenge due to the weather. It was 52 and cloudy which actually makes for nice racing weather but there was a pretty strong wind which made it feel a lot colder. I finally decided on my light Saucony running jacket (and when I say light, it is…my long-sleeve running shirts are thicker...I love it and wish I they still made them), a tank top, and capris. After my husband I did our warm up run, I decided I was going to be too warm for the race so I put the jacket in the Jeep before we headed to the starting line. For probably a good 3/4 of the race, I wished I had the jacket because my arms were cold due to the wind but I told myself it was better to be a little chilled than too hot and it would have really annoying had I needed to run with the jacket tied around my waist.

The race was a gun start and not chipped timed and seeing the amount of walkers as well as younger kids that were participating, I wanted to get as close to the starting line as possible. It served me well as there were only a couple of times I had to maneuver around those who aren't aware of race etiquette. I know that probably makes me sound like a racing snob which I'm not, but if you've ever run a race before, even if you weren't trying to win it, you know what I mean. The race started and ended at the middle school where both my boys went to and the course meandered in and out of the park next to the school and the surrounding neighborhoods so this race was a mix of roads and trails. I was a little worried about running on a trail at first because it was covered in leaves and I didn't know what (holes, tree branches, chestnuts, dead squirrels, etc.) was below the leaves but I have to admit, it didn't take me long to forget about that and quite honestly, I think I'd really like to do more trail running because it was quite lovely.

For a majority of the race, every time I looked over my shoulder when I wanted to move from one side of the street or trail to the other, I could see my husband right behind me and I kept waiting for him to pass but at one point when I looked back, he wasn't there. I found out after the race that his shoe became untied so he had to stop. Now he will say it wouldn't have made a difference but I think he might have finished this race before me had he not stopped to tie it.

Surprisingly, I didn't feel as bad during the race as I thought I was going to. Granted, I felt fatigued and such but not any more really than any other race I've done. I had a tissue on hand just in case a sneezing fit hit but thankfully I ran sneeze-free. I think things would have been a lot different had I been feeling as cruddy as I was on Saturday and/or if I would have had that nasty, hacking cough you usually get with a cold. So while I definitely wasn't 100%, I could have been feeling a lot worse. This worked to my advantage.

My splits were 8:26, 8:31, and 8:29. I have to admit, I still am not good at knowing what pace means what finish time I'll have as I'm running so when I heard Nike+ announce my splits, I thought I'd easily make it under 26:00. No such luck. When I had the finish line in my sights and noticed the clock was already at 26:00, I knew I wasn't going to meet my goal but I sprinted to the finish with everything that I had anyway. Official time 26:07:92. Despite not feeling my best, I still placed 1st of 16 in my AG, 34/158 overall, and even though I didn't finish in the time I was hoping, I DID finish 15 seconds faster than the last 5K race from a little more than a month ago so I think I am finally headed back in the right direction to hopefully reach my goal of a sub 25:00 by the end of the year.

One thing that happened after this race that has never happened before is how weird my vision was after I finished the race. For several minutes after I exited the shoot and walked around the parking lot to cool down, I had a hard time focusing on things. My vision wasn't blurred and I didn't feel dizzy or anything, my eyes just had a hard time focusing. It only last for about 10 minutes or so but it was just really weird. Perhaps it was just from being under the weather and having an elevated heart rate during the sprint towards the finish? I looked back at some of the peak HRs during other races I've done and they are usually in the mid 180s but for this race, my HR spiked to 194 right towards end. I know a lot of things can affect your HR so I’m not concerned or anything, it's just more of an observation.

All in all, I really enjoyed the Make a Difference 5K and it was a nice surprise to do so well when I was fully expecting otherwise. I will definitely do this race again next year.

Oh, and one more thing. I have to mention the post-race snacks. Out of all the races I've done, this race had some of the best post-race goodies ever. It sounds kind of silly to mention and maybe I am becoming a race snob after all but I'm telling you, for a small, community-type event, the amount and variety of snack afterward ranked right up there with some of the larger races I've done, like the Northern Ohio Marathon Relay and Half Marathon, 10 Mile Drop, and the Rock City 5K. In contrast, I ran the Fox 8 Fox Trot 5K in August, an event not only sponsored but advertised by a local TV station and all they had were bananas and warm bottled water (there were other things about the race I wasn't crazy about and sadly, I wasn't the only participant who felt that way and perhaps I'll save that for another time). Not the end of the world but when you look at an event like that and then and event like the one on Sunday, it's just kind of worth mentioning. When I saw the event coordinator, whose son is on the same cross country team as my son, at our school's last meet yesterday, I thanked her for such an awesome event and pointed out how much the post-race goodness was appreciated (also mentioning my experience at the Fox Trot 5K).  She said every single item there was donated and I know all to well from being involved in a non-profit youth organization for the last 10 years how hard it is to not only ask for, but receive donations so I thought it would be nice to let her know we appreciated her efforts (kudos to the local businesses that donated items, too).

Running a race with good friends is always fun.
John (lower right), placed 1st in his AG and his wife, Nicole,
PRd at this race. Paul, despite not having he best race,
definitely kept me on my toes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wish You Were Here...

It’s hard to believe six months ago today, God decided you had fought the good fight long enough and it was time for you to come home. Hard to believe six months ago today was the last time I got to hold your hand, give you a kiss, and tell you how much I loved you one last time. Hard to believe six months ago today, you took your last breath on Earth and because of God's promise, were reunited with those who went before you and you got to give Rick a hug that was 19 years in the making. 

I know you are in a better place, I know you are no longer in pain and no longer suffering, and I know that you are with my dear sweet brother again and I am thankful for that. But so much has happened in the six months you've been gone and the sadness I feel cannot be put into words that you're not with us to be a part of it. I wish you were here. I guess God needed you more than we did, though, and it already feels like an eternity without you, but at least I know one day, in a blink of an eye, we will all be together again and that makes days like this and every day without you a little easier to take. I love you, Papa D.

Until we meet again…

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Race Report: Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person Relay

So what can I say about the Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person relay? It's more like what's NOT to say about it. There is so much to share, from the personal reasons why this race was important to me (which I talk about in my post from Sunday entitled Every Mile a Memory: Northern Ohio Marathon) to the race experience itself, I could write a short novel. I really tried to keep this brief but it was darn near impossible. Believe it or not, there are lots of things I left out so these are only the highlights so please bear with me! LOL

Two things about this event that definitely stand out in my mind. 1) Running a relay is a LOT of fun and I can't wait to do another one and 2) I have absolutely NO desire whatsoever to ever attempt a full marathon. But first, the weather...

Team One Motley Crew (in order of appearance):
The Marine, the Triathlete, the Marathoner,
the Survivor, and the Newbie.
Saturday was downright miserable; cold, windy, and rainy and had the weather been like that on Sunday, we would have been hating life. Luckily by 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, what precipitation was left had stopped and by race time at 7:30, it was a chilly 50 degrees with a real feel of 45 but rain-free. By the time I ran my leg around 10 a.m., the sun had come out and was 58 but it didn't take long into my run that I wish I had worn a tank top rather than a long sleeve running shirt.

Regarding the relay aspect itself, what a blast! From cheering on our first runner at the starting line to running with our last runner towards the finish and everything in between, it was I honestly wish there were more races like this locally because I would do them in heartbeat. It was a little nerve racking at first because the one road we needed to take to get to relay exchange #1 was closed due to the race and wouldn't reopen until the bulk of the runners were past that point. Luckily the event took place where I live and a few of us were familiar with the roads so we were able to find an alternate route and get there well before my husband (runner #1) did. After the first relay exchange, we got the hang of getting from point to point so it went from being a little bit stressful to exciting and oftentimes silly. At the exchanges, it was fun talking with the volunteers, the other teams as they waited for their runners, fun watching for our runner so the next person could get ready to go, and fun being a runner as you accepted the timing device as well as handing it off. Lots of volunteers were positioned along the course directing runners so there was no doubt or confusion where the route went.

Regarding my leg, I was runner #4 and ran from just before the 16 mile marker and ended shortly after the 21st. The leg was supposed to be 6 miles but it actually ended up being 5.87 miles. I went through residential areas within a mile or so radius of my house and there were several residents standing in front of their houses cheering on the runners. I have to admit I felt a little guilty because most people probably didn't know there was even a relay going on so they could have just assumed I was a marathoner as well and not "just" a relay runner. I was sure to acknowledge them in some way by either thanking them or waving anyway. At one house, they were handing out popsicles and there was a little boy holding a sign that said "Touch Here 4 Power" that he had made himself so I made sure I did as I went by. That was cute. Part of the course ran along Lake Erie so I had some beautiful scenery as well.

Going into this race, I figured my pace was going to be somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 based on longer distance races I've done, what my training runs have been like lately, and for the fact none of use weren't expecting that our team would place in one of the top spots, there wasn't a lot of pressure to run top speed. After my first mile when my Nike+ app announced my pace was 8:55, I was shocked and told myself I started out waaaaay too fast and didn't know how I'd be able to make it 6 miles if I didn't slow down. I felt like did scale it back a bit, especially between miles 4 and 5 where there were a couple of rolling hills and by that point I was starting to lose steam. I ran them and was tired but thankfully I knew I didn't have much farther to go. Perhaps it was fate or "divine intervention", but my son, who was volunteering with his XC team, was stationed at mile 21. It was kinda cool to see/hear him cheering me on and it must have been just the extra push I needed because I got a little more spring in my step and when I saw the relay exchange a minute or two after that, the adrenaline kicked in and I sprinted to the finish.

Much to my surprise, when I was done running and checked my time on Nike+, my average pace was 8:58 for the leg. I don't know what the chip-based pace was because for whatever reason, the only relay exchange that didn't have timing equipment was the one between 3 and 4. My brother-in-law, who was runner #3, is pretty fast and I don't recall what his pace was, perhaps in the low to middle 7's for a similar distance? For what it's worth, our combined chip time was an 8:22 pace but it doesn't really matter. I am stoked that I ran as fast as I did for that distance, surprising myself once again.

My brother-in-law wanted to run the last leg so he went off with our last runner and the rest of us headed to the van. That's when I noticed my husband had a coffee in his hand. "Sheetz?! What do you mean you went to Sheetz," I said. Here I was, busting my butt running my leg and they stop to get coffee, I joked?  He said someone needed to make a pit stop and because I was using the RoadID free app, they knew exactly where I was so they had time to stop at Sheetz. All joking aside, the RoadID app came in really handy and I'll suggest anyone on our team who runs with a smart phone to download it next time.

Although we couldn't run across the finish line as a team, we thought it would be fun to run together until we reached the chute so we wait several hundred yards away from the finish until our we saw our last runner and my brother-in-law. Apparently he had encountered a marathoner who was having a hard time of it and was running with him to encourage him and make sure he was ok. Our last runner's husband, who had already run the half marathon (placing 3rd in his age group), gone home, showered, and met up with her somewhere during her leg, was running with her for moral support. She looked like she was having a tough time so we cheered as she approached us and then we all ran together until we had to part ways. After she crossed the finish line, she told us she had a bad case of the side stitches earlier in her run, had to walk some of the leg because of it, and apologized for not being faster. After I looked at the official results (gotta love having them live so you don't have to wait around to find out how you did), I mentioned to her that she ran her 4.35 miles at a 9:12 pace while our 2nd runner, who ran a leg almost the same distance, ran it at a 10:25 pace. Please don't take that as knocking our 2nd runner because that's not my intention. I just know what that self-doubt is like so I wanted to encourage her and let her know how well she really did. Guess she surprised herself, too. 

Official Stats
Our team did much better than any of us expected, especially given the fact none of us had ever done a relay before and because of the wide range of running skills we all brought to the team; a Marine who recently started running again after 16 years, a triathlete who hadn't been able to run much lately, a marathoner, me (you know my story), and a new runner who only had a couple of 5Ks under her belt and had never raced a distance longer than that. We finished the race in 4:00:57 with an average pace of 9:12 and placing 9th of 17 teams. A sweet surprise and even sweeter victory. The top team, which was comprised of members from the running club, finished in 2:42:03! Can you say flying?!

So why would I never run a marathon? The feat (no pun intended) really doesn't appeal to me. Sure, it was fun driving the marathon distance and going from relay point to relay point but having to run that distance? And running for 4+ hours? I love to run and I love to race but doing it for 26.2 miles isn't something that really interests me. I do admire those that have the ambition and drive to accomplish it and give them a lot of credit, though. As I mentioned, I started my leg around mile 16. As I was running, I was thinking about all those people who had already been running and how they must have been feeling at that point. I was tired and I had just started! About halfway through my leg, I came up behind a marathoner whose support team was driving next to him for a minute or two before driving up on head out of our sight. Knowing I would end up running next to him for a bit, I took out an earbud just in case he started to talk to me. He did so we chatted for a bit and exchanged stories. He said he drove over an hour from home to do this race and I joked that my house was literally less than a half a mile from where were running and that we could stop there for coffee and snacks. Although he is an avid runner, this was his first marathon and he was telling me some of the struggles he was encountering but that he'd finish, even if it meant crawling across the finish line. After a couple of minutes, I needed to pick up the pace so I wished him well and ran on ahead. I thought to myself, I only had a handful of miles left to go and I was feeling kind of blah, I can't imagine what it must have been like for him or any of the other marathoners at that point. Crossing the finish line would surely be a rush. I can attest to that because I had a similar feeling when I finished my half marathon. It was indescribable. But I can honestly say the rush of finishing a marathon is something I'm ok with not ever experiencing. On a side note, after the race and shortly before we left to go home, I saw my running "buddy" so I walked over to chat. I high fived him, said congrats, and asked how he did. He told me soon after we parted, he finally had to stop and take a break, lying down in someone's front yard. His support team, who had driven ahead of us and must have stopped to cheer him farther up the road, said they almost had to call the ambulance but after a three-minute or so break, he was better and back on the road. Maybe he wasn't properly trained, maybe he was just exhausted, who knows. Yeah, I don't have any desire to run a marathon. =)

So that's my race report for the Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person Relay. It was a great event. Very well organized, very well staffed, cool shirts and finishers medals, excellent route (loved the start and finish being at Headlands Beach State Park, one of my favorite places), great after race vibe and of course, great post-race snacks. While the marathon will never be in my sights, the 5-person relay will definitely be. I can't wait until next year!

P.S. It was completely unplanned that we three girls were all wearing pink and black. I wore it on purpose as I mentioned in my post from Sunday but the other two just happened to pick that color. Thought that was kind of neat since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. ;-)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Every Mile a Memory: Northern Ohio Marathon

A year ago, I ran my first half marathon, the Northern Ohio Marathon/Half Marathon, in honor of my dad, Richard Whitcomb AKA Papa D. I had only started running in March of that year and it was after my first 5k in June that I fell in love with running. A lot has happened over this past year and as you know, my dad is now in heaven. This morning, I ran the marathon as part of a 5-person relay team we named One Motley Crew. It's hard not to think about what I was doing a year ago, why I was running the race, or remembering how excited I was when I called my dad and told him I had finished the race and later showed him my medal without feeling sad and missing my dad something fierce. I decided that while it's ok to think of my dad and it's ok to miss him, today is a different race with new memories made with my husband, Paul, brother-in-law, Eric, two good friends, Tammy and Nicole, and my big sis, Nadine (who was our designated driver). Since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wore pink in honor of all my sisters in pink: the warriors, the survivors, and the taken, with thoughts and memories of two very special sisters, Kris Stefanac and Julie Nelson Duellman.

Congrats to team our team for placing 9th out of 17 teams with a time of 4:00:57. I somehow managed to run my 5.87 mile leg at a pace of 8:58...a completely unexpected surprise.

Today was a day I will never forget. Great times with family and great friends. Just keep swimming....and running.

One Motley Crew

Monday, June 8, 2015

Race for the Place 5K in honor of National Cancer Survivor's Day 6.7.15

If there was ever a race that I will hold near and dear to my heart for as long as I am able to run, the Race for the Place 5K benefiting The Gathering Place is the one. It is held every year on National Cancer Survivors Day which is the first Sunday in June. The Gathering Place is a local organization that offers free programs and services to cancer patients and their families as they navigate their cancer journeys. All the money raised for this race goes to support their mission and it's probably one of the only cancer organizations I will support. Last year's race was my first 5k ever, after only taking up running a few months prior, and is where I found my love for running. I know in the past, I've talked about some of the other reasons this race means so much to me so I won't go into those reasons again. This road report is long enough as it is. =) And, as you know, this year I ran in memory of my father, affectionately also known as Papa D.

One thing that I love about this race is it has become a family affair. We first learned about The Gathering Place when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 because my husband's boss is on the board of directors. His company decided to form a team and we joined in and over the last 3 years, our team has grown, so much that next year I am going to form my own team. =) Besides my husband's co-workers, our team consists of me and my husband, our sons, both my sisters, my oldest brother-in-law, my one nephew and his girlfriend, and another nephew and his family. This year, a friend of mine, several people from my work and some of their family members, as well as a couple of my sister's co-workers joined our team. The icing on the cake was my mom joined us for the first time this year and did the 1 mile walk. A special race indeed.

I went into this race and my only goal was to beat my time from last year which was 28:00.6. I really wanted to beat my PR but with all the setbacks I kept having, realistically I didn't see it happening. Rather than beat myself up about it, I decided that the race was about running because of the day… I was not only running as a cancer survivor but I was running this year's race in memory of my dad. So I went into it with no real expectations and just being happy I was able to participate.

I woke up at 6 am for some reason even though we didn't have to leave until 7:30. I don't know why I was so nervous but I was. I had everything set out before I went to bed Saturday so I was glad I didn't have to rush around looking for anything last minute. I don’t like to eat a lot before a race so I had a cup of coffee and a banana and had plenty of time before the race in case something didn't agree with me. It was the perfect temperature at my house and sunshine and blue skies were going to make for a perfect race. Papa D was definitely shining down on me. When we got to the event location however (the staging area is at a local mall's parking lot about 30 minutes from my house), it was definitely much warmer. Since we live so close to the lake, it's usually cooler at our house. I wish we could have taken that cooler weather with us. By the time the race started shortly after 9 am, it was definitely a lot warmer than it was when we first arrived.

The one thing they don't do at this race which would be nice taking into account how big the event is is having a delayed start for those walking the 5K nor do they ask the walkers during the opening ceremonies and those people with dogs and strollers to line up towards the back after the runners. There were over 4,000 people in attendance between the 5K and 1 Mile walk and the majority of people participating the 5K usually walk it. Knowing this, I wanted to get as close to the start as I could. I still need to learn proper placement (how close to get to the front of the line, do you stand on the outside or in the middle, etc.) but I picked a spot on the right towards the outside around what looked the perfect spot if there even is one. The downfall with being so close to the start, as you know, is starting the race too fast and expelling the energy you need for the race. Even though I selected my playlist carefully and specifically chose a slower song to start out with, I still started off faster than I should have. At about a half mile into it, I was seriously wondering how I would finish the race.

The race starts and ends in the mall parking lot and the course runs through some very nice neighborhoods. You have to cross over one main road at the beginning and at the end and they close that section as well as the side streets along the course so you don't have to worry about cars, just the people running the race with no racing "etiquette" as I call it. You know those people, the ones who just dead stop in front of you or cut you off for no apparent reason. I feel like such a "race snob" when I say that and maybe it's just the way it goes or perhaps the types of races that I run but I just don't understand how rude some people can be. I guess I always try to be a very conscientious runner and look around me before I move and but it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't do that. There was one lady running near me for a while who would speed up past me and then move over right in front of me, like too close in front of me. One time I muttered a bad word under my breath as she did it. I was finally able to lose her after awhile.

The course was more "hilly" than I am used to running. I don't know if you would actually consider it "hilly" but considering the usual routes I run are flat and the fact it was hot, there wasn't a lot of shade, and I didn't have a lot of energy in me, those "hills" seemed like mountains. LOL Doesn't help either that I was at not one but two graduation parties on Saturday so that, along all these factors was making for a tough race. My running program announces every half mile and I swear it seemed like an eternity between each one. Going back to my music selection, I chose very specific, faster paced songs for the rest of the race thinking that would help my game. It didn't help as much as I thought I would and there was a couple of times I almost thought of walking and taking a break. Then I thought about all the reasons I was running this race and I decided to keep going. There was only one water stop and I don't usually get water during a 5K but this was my warmest 5K to date so I couldn't WAIT for the water stop. It was tough trying to navigate all the people, mainly kids, who stood in front of the table rather than getting their drinks and moving out of the way. I almost didn’t get a water because it was such a cluster but luckily there were a couple more tables just past where the cluster was taking place so I grabbed a quick sip and kept moving. I was worried if I walked too much enjoying the refreshment, I wouldn’t start running again so I wet my whistle, tossed my cup into the garbage can, and picked up the pace again. Lots of people were sitting in their yards cheers the runners on so that was neat and provided some motivation. There was also a little girl that had a free lemonade stand for the runners and I had to chuckle because a dad and son stopped, got a drink, and the son poured the lemonade over his head to cool off. I am not sure they realized it was lemonade or just another water stop. I hope bees didn't follow that boy the rest of the race.

Probably around mile 2, I really starting to feel overwhelmed and debated whether I should start walking. It was hot, I was tired, and the shady spots were few and far between. Seemingly out of nowhere, a woman wearing butterfly wings ran past me. The butterfly is the "mascot" of the The Gathering Place and I started to think about what the butterfly represents and what this race meant to me and for the rest of the race, I focused on the butterfly wing-wearing runner rather than how I was feeling. It was just the boost I needed. Before knew it, it was mile 3 and I could see all the people standing cheering on the runners. I was tired and hot but kicked it into high gear….and passed the butterfly lady in the process.

At the last two races I've run in memory/honor of someone who meant something special to me, I've crossed the finish line and have immediately broken into tears as my emotions get the best of me. This year, I didn't have time for that. I was too worried about how I was going to navigate crossing the timing mat. Rather than running through the finish line and moving out of the way, people were stopping so I ran as fast as I could and luckily found a hole to run through the mayhem. I didn’t see the exact time on the clock but it was 26 something so I knew I beat least year's time. I was happy. My brother-in-law finished before me and was waiting with a bottle of water several yards after the finish line and I was having a hard time breathing from running so fast so he walked with me and once my breathing was back to normal, I headed up to final stretch so I could see my family members and cheer them on.

We all met up after the race and waited to hear the race results. This is the only race I've done that doesn't have your stats posted immediately so it was several hours before I knew what my official numbers. I knew I wouldn't place but they announce the overall winners and the top 3 in each AG and my brother-in-law, who is an avid runner and has run several races, including the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon a couple of times, wanted to see if he placed (he got 4th in his AG). We left the race and decided to go get a bite to eat.

According to Runkeeper, I finished in 26:42.That was a good time, I beat last year's race time, but I didn't PR and I was ok with that because I at least met my goal. Since I was toward the front of the pack at the starting line, I figured it was pretty close to being accurate. On the way home from having our post-race lunch with the family and visiting the cemetery to say "hi" to my dad and brother, I noticed on Twitter that the results were posted. Holy moly, had I not been in a moving vehicle, I would have been doing a happy dance. Not only did I beat last year's time, I beat my PR by 5 seconds and placed it the top 10 out of 146 in my AG, neither of which did I think would happen, especially because of how was feeling during the race. Official time for this year's race is 26:29.4. Overall I was 293 (of close to if not more than 1,800 runners/walkers in the 5K). Yep, I cried….tears of not only sadness, but of joy. I guess I can say I had a butterfly or perhaps an angel or two helping me along the way.

On a side note, I designed custom race shirts and my friend and everyone in my family chose to wear them at the race. When were standing around waiting for them to announce the winners, one of the corporate sponsors, Elk and Elk, saw us standing together and took a picture of us and put it on their Twitter feed. I thought that was kinda cool.

So that is my RR. It was an amazing day and one I will never forget. Thank you for taking the time to read this if you were able to make it all the way through without falling asleep. LOL. The race was a pretty big deal to me and it's hard to sum the experience up in just a few sentences. I can't wait for next year's race and can't wait to see what a difference a year might make. I just hope and pray we are done adding angels to heaven for while.

The Gathering Place is still accepting donations through June 30. I am only $297 away from reaching my fundraising goal and I'd love if you'd help me reach it. Visit my personal race page Just Keep Swimming...and Running for more information.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Honoring the survivors, remembering the taken

How cool is this?!

Tonight they are lighting up the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland in purple and blue in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day and the Race for the Place 5K, both of which are tomorrow. As a cancer survivor, this gives me chills. It also brings tears to my eyes as I remember those who fought this horrible disease and left this earth way too soon; especially my dear friends, Kris Stefanac, Julie Nelson Duellman, and my one-of-a-kind father, Papa D Richard Whitcomb, all of whom I miss more than words can say.

You can still join my team by registering tomorrow morning in person at the race. I am only $347 from reaching my goal of $1,230 and there is still time to help me reach it by making a tax-deductible donation online. To do so, visit my personal race page at

And as always, thank you for your support of The Gathering Place, A Caring Community for Those Touched By Cancer.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Race day is almost here. Only a few hundred more dollars to go....

My wearable tribute to those
who help me "just keep swimming."

Yesterday I received the vest I earned for raising $500 for this weekend’s Race for the Place, the annual 5K Run/1 Mile walk benefiting The Gathering Place, A Caring Community for Those Touched By Cancer. Thank you to everyone who has supported me thus far by either joining my team or making a donation. I love it and I will proudly wear it and remember all of you who continue to help me “just keep swimming.”

I am only $372 from reaching my final goal of $1,230. As you know, I picked that number in honor of Papa D’s home going at 1:23 pm. I’m running the race in memory of my dad so reaching my goal would make this race all the more special. If I raise an additional $145, I will be in the top 10 individual fundraisers. 

There’s still time to either join my team or to make a tax-deductible donation. Visit my personal race page for more information at Just Keep Swimming..and Running

And thank you again for your support.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What's the story with Dory?

My Dory
Many people wonder why I am so "Dory" crazy and why "Just keep swimming" has become "my" saying. At my dad's celebration of life service, I was going explain why but my speech was already long enough as it was so I decided not to. Looking back, I wish I would have so I decided to post it here. I will try to give you the Reader's Digest version:
Let's see, my first marriage was both mentally and physically abusive. I honestly believe if I would have remained in that relationship, I would not alive today. It was that bad and it still shudder when I think about some of the things that happened. But, if there is one good thing I can say about those years (and trust me, there's not a whole lot of good to be said), it's that I was blessed with a wonderful little boy during that time. He was my sunshine on the cloudiest of days and gave me a reason to keep living on the days I didn't think I could take one more day. It wasn't until shortly after my brother, Rick, was murdered by his abusive ex-girlfriend in 1996 that I had the strength and courage to leave. Unlike Rick, I was able to get out before it was too late. Luckily, I met a wonderful man several months later and we've been married since 1999. He raised my son as his own and we had one more child together. Fast forward December 2011. On a cold December night, just after midnight, my parents' house (my childhood home) was destroyed by a fire and by the grace of God, they escaped in literally the clothes on their backs. 2012 seemed to be better and later that year, my parents moved into their dream home, a beautiful house built on the same property as their old one. Life was good! Sadly, though, not for long. A couple weeks later, someone very close to me attempted to end their life. Not too long after that, a second attempt was almost made. Once that situation calmed down and the person got the help needed, I thought we were done with the drama. Oh boy, was I wrong. In November, I was diagnosed with cancer. That was the final blow. I started to feel myself going into a downward spiral and I was honestly very afraid of where I was headed. And then something happened…I don't remember where I was or what I was doing at the time but for whatever reason, the movie Finding Nemo came into my head. The scene where Marlin decides all hope is lost and he'll never find Nemo and Dory says "When life gets you down, do you wanna know what you've gotta do? Just keep swimming. " played in my head. It was in that moment that I decided I had a choice to make, do I throw my hands up and say "enough, I give up" and sink or accept the path God had chose for me and swim. I chose to swim and "just keep swimming" has been my mantra ever since. I honestly think God put that movie scene in my head that day for a reason. 
After my surgery was scheduled for December, I purchased a stuffed Dory and decided she was going to go to the hospital with me that day. She's been to every surgery since. The doctors even let her go into the OR with me. 
2011 was a crappy year, 2012 was a crappier year, 2013 HAD to be better, right? Nope, wrong again! In January, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and unlike my cancer, it was caught too late and his battle would eventually end 27 months later. During his treatments and procedures, Dory went with him. She became more than just a silly blue fish to all of us. I purchased a Dory key chain for myself and also one for my dad, although he wouldn't get his until a year or so later....when he went home to be with the Lord, I put his keychain on his hand at the funeral home and she was buried with him.
So that's the story about Dory. Wasn't quite the Reader's Digest version I promised but it's hard to sum up why a silly blue fish has become such an important part of my life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Less than $500 to my goal!!!

Running in memory of my dad, Papa D

When you make a donation to The Gathering Place, below is just a small list of what your money helps provide:

$25 covers the cost of art therapy supplies for one adult or child
$50 covers the cost of one new wig for a woman with cancer
$100 covers the cost of one session of nutrition counseling
$250 covers the cost of one group exercise class
$500 covers the cost of a four week support group
$1,000 covers the cost of 3 months' supplies for our children's program

Unlike some other organizations that require you to raise a certain amount of money to participate in their event, The Gathering Place does not. The goal I have set is strictly a goal I would personally like to reach and The Gathering Place is grateful for any amount it receives. And unlike a certain breast cancer organization "giant" that has forgotten what charity is all about by using the money YOU donate to it by sicking its team of lawyers on any charity event/organization that chooses to use "For a/the Cure" in it's name, the money you donate to The Gathering Place goes directly to help support individuals and their family as they navigate their cancer journey.

Thank you to everyone who had helped my fundraising efforts so far for this years Race for the Place 5K. I would also like to thank whomever the anonymous donor with your generous donation as well. Because of your support, I am now less than $500 from reaching my goal of $1,230, a number I chose to honor the home going of Papa D at 1:23 pm.

The race is Sunday but there is still time to join my team or make a donation. Visit my personal race page for more information: Just Keep Swimming...and Running

Thursday, May 28, 2015

$10K Thursday!

The Race for the Place is only 10 days away and today is $10k Thursday. As you can see, if there are $10k made in donations today, an anonymous donor will match it with another $10k.

I have met $583 of my $1,230 of my goal. Not only would I love to meet my own goal, but I would love to help The Gathering Place, A Caring Community for Those Touched By Cancer meet theirs. Please consider making a small, tax-detectible donation to this very worthy cause I hold near and dear to my heart.

Visit my personal fundraising page at Just Keep Swimming..and Running for more information or to make a donation.

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Washed by blood

On the one month anniversary of Papa D’s home going, I was going to share a couple more thoughts about my tattoo, my dad, etc. but after reading what my son wrote on his Facebook page about what his tattoo means to him and why he chose what he did, with his permission, I have decided to share what he wrote instead. But before I do that (of course, because I can't post anything without adding my .02 cents LOL)…..

There are times when you are in the tumultuous "teenage years" with your kids when you wonder if, as a parent, you have failed because of some things that happen or you wonder how you went from being their "mommy and daddy" whom they adore to the "enemy" (ok, enemy is a harsh term but for anyone who has raised teenagers, sometimes that's what it feels like). Back then, I never thought in a million years that when people would tell me “don’t worry, they eventually become human/normal/come back around again” that it really would happen. Fortunately, over the last couple of years, I have been pleasantly surprised that there has been truth to that. While there still have been some bumps along the way, the bumps have gotten fewer and farther between. In the final days of my dad's life and especially in the days immediately following, I have seen a change like no other in my oldest and as a mom, I couldn't be any more proud. And I know Papa D is smiling down and proud, too. I can honestly say, "hey Paul, we done good, honey."

In saying this, I cannot, at the moment, think there could be a more fitting tribute to Papa D's one month home going to the kind of person my dad was and the profound effect his life, as well as his death, has had on some.

So without further adieu, here's Kel's post (love you, Home Slice):

New tattoo, really happy with the way it turned out!

Ok, so now the reason behind it. The words "Washed by Blood" are actually lyrics from a song by Brian Welch, the guitarist from Korn who came to know the Lord. The song talks about how once you make that decision to follow Christ, your sins are forgiven and you get a second chance at life. You don't have to be a slave to all the crap you struggled with before. What most people don't know, because I hid it so well was that I was living a life that was eventually going to kill me or put me in prison.

Despite all the "fun" I was having, I got to a point where I had never felt more empty inside and nothing ever made it better. Then, on April 14th, the day that Papa D went home to heaven, something changed. Papa D was a devout Christian, and even when life threw bad things his way his faith never faltered and for the first time that really spoke to me. I saw the kind of life he had lived and the family he had helped create with my grandma, and the one thing that really stuck out to me was their faith. Knowing that I wasn't going to be able to handle the loss of him on my own, I finally knew what had been missing this whole time.

The day Papa D died is the day I gave my life to Christ, and it has been the best decision I have ever made. So when my mom came to me and said we should go get tattoos on the 1 month of Papa D's passing, this is why I wanted this. Had it not been for him and his wonderful example he lived, I wouldn't have made that decision.

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Memorial tattoos for Papa D...a mother and son affair

Papa D at my wedding reception
"For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

This has always been a favorite verse of mine and the word hope, which has meant many things over the years has become more meaningful in recent ones
(see "More than a Piece of Jewelry). Today, the day before the one month anniversary of Papa D's home going, my oldest son and I went to North Coast Body Mod and got memorial tattoos for him. The pink may be for breast cancer and the white for lung cancer, but no matter what trials or tribulations come our way, it's a reminder to never lose hope. Without it, we have nothing and it's something we should never give up on.

Mom and son tattoo mission complete and I cannot think of a better reason than to do it in memory of Papa D and his home going a month ago tomorrow; a man who meant something more to the both of us than we could ever put into words... A living tribute of sorts. 

Love you, Papa D.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Commence happy dance!!!

A very, VERY big thank you to everyone who has supported me so far by making donations to The Gathering Place's Race for the Place. Because of your generosity, I have met my first goal with $508 in donations and have earned the vest that will be my wearable tribute to this race, what it means to me, and to people who help me "just keep swimming."

The race is just about a month away and there is still plenty of time to join my team and/or help me reach my second goal of $1,230. Visit my personal race page for more information.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

$92 and counting

Woohooo! I'm only $92 away from my first goal of $500 for this years Race for the Place 5K benefiting The Gathering Place, A Caring Community for Those Touched By Cancer. A special thank you to those who have helped me get so close in such a short amount of time.

There are very few "cancer related" organizations that I will support but The Gathering Place is one I support with my whole heart and support in good conscious. Unlike some other organizations that require you to raise a certain amount of money to participate in their event, The Gathering Place does not. The goals I have set are strictly a goals I would personally like to reach and The Gathering Place is grateful for any amount it receives. And unlike a certain breast cancer organization "giant" that has forgotten what charity is all about by using the money YOU donate to it by sicking its team of lawyers on any charity event/organization that chooses to use "For a/the Cure" in it's name, the money you donate to The Gathering Place goes directly to help support individuals and their family as they navigate their cancer journey.

Please join my team or consider making a small, tax-deductible donation to an organization that truly remembers that helping others in time of need is what charity is all about.

Visit my personal page Just Keep Swimming...and Running for more information.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Keeping my eye on the prize...or at least one of them

A wearable tribute to this race,
what it means to me, and
to the people who help me
"just keep swimming"
As you know, I recently signed up for The Gathering Place, A Caring Community for Those Touched By Cancer's annual Race for the Place 5K which takes place June 7, National Cancer Survivors Day, and am running the 5K in memory of my dad, Papa D. For this year's race, I set my fundraising goal for $1,230 in honor of his home going (which was at 1:23 pm). How awesome would it be to meet that goal! My first goal, however, is to raise $500. Any participant who raises $500 will win the vest pictured here. I am a little over halfway to this first goal and I'd love if you could help me earn this wearable tribute to a race and cause that's near and dear to my heart for so many reasons.

Click on the link below to access my personal page to join my team and/or make a donation. Thanks in advance for your support.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Just keeping swimming...and running

I'm everything I am because you loved me, Papa D
Although it's purely coincidental, it's kind of fitting that today, two weeks after Papa D's home going, our team has been officially set up for The Gathering Place's Race for the Place 5K/1 Mile Fun Walk.

In 2013, I participated in the 1 mile walk. In 2014, I decided to run the 5K, my first ever, after my dear friend and sister in pink, Kris Stefanac, went home to be with the Lord after a hard-fought battle with triple negative breast cancer in January of that year and vowed to run the 5K in her memory (and also remembering my friend, Julie Nelson Duellman, whose battle ended a week before the race). It was after last year's race that I fell in love with running and have been participating in various races ever since.

This year's race has taken on an even more important meaning. My dear, sweet father, Dick Whitcomb, affectionately known as "Papa D," went home to be with the Lord on April 14 after a 27 month battle with lung cancer, a battle he fought fiercely until the moment he took his last breath. I am dedicating this year's race to him. I am also running for the long list of family and friends who have been afflicted with the disease and are survivors and those who are no longer with us and remain in our hearts.

On a side note, I also donated the $73 in commissions I received over the last year from the sales at my Just Keep Swimming custom design t-shirt store front at Customized Girl. Thank you to everyone who purchased an item. I plan on doing the same thing next year.

Visit my personal fundraising page for Race for the Place to either join my team or make a donation.

Thank you for your support.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A spirit renewed

An award that might
be consider "heaven sent" =)
So much for thinking I would never be able to run again.  Two weeks ago, I was so excited I did so well running the 10 Mile Drop, only to be saddened later that day seeing Papa D's journey quickly coming to an end. I haven't been able to run since.

I signed up for the Run for Riley 5K event held in Mentor today at the last minute and my heart really wasn't in it. But life does have to go on and I'm glad I did it. Not only was I just shy of my PR by a mere 4 seconds, I was completely blown away when they announced the 3rd place winner in my age group and it was me  (especially since the results said I was 4th, which in itself was a surprise). What a coincidence, my prize is a gift card to not only one of my favorite restaurants, Harry Buffalo, but also the place we went to eat after learning there was nothing else that could be done for my dad and the doctor suggested hospice care.

My spirit has been renewed and I think I have a very special angel to thank for that. My heart is smiling. Thank you, Papa D. I love you! ❤️