Sunday, May 25, 2014

Remembering the Bolder Boulder

On Memorial Day each year there is a 10k race in Boulder, Colorado called the Bolder Boulder.  Once I started really running in high school, I started doing the Bolder Boulder.  It's a huge race that winds through the streets of Boulder and ends in the football stadium. 

I love the Bolder Boulder.  Runners and walkers are everywhere the morning of the race.  Once in the neighborhood streets of Boulder the atmosphere is fun and relaxed.  People sit outside their houses, put out lawn chairs, hook up hoses to spray runners who want to be sprayed, and so on.   At other places along the course, there are various groups who perform, including belly dancers.  It brings a calm to the race, something a bit uncommon for road races.

The first time I ran the Bolder Boulder was after my sophomore year of high school, and most of what I remember is being dropped off at the starting line and then meeting my parents in the stands of the football stadium where the race ends.  After my junior year, I was placed in the top women's heat and ran well.  My senior year was the best ever.  The race also comes right after track season, so high school runners are still in shape.  With all the stresses of my senior year done, I flew through the course, got a really high overall placement, and my best time (which I don't remember).

Time changes things and by the time I was ready to do the Bolder Boulder again, I had been diagnosed with MS (there was once I did it after high school and before I was diagnosed with MS, but I don't want to remember that).  The goal then was to finish.  I remember one year doing the Bolder Boulder with my mom and brother, running various parts.

I will never forget my last Bolder Boulder.  I had my walking stick (a hiking stick) for when I would get tired, and I had my mom and my brother there with me.  We started the race early despite being told to go back, but I knew we needed the extra time.  By mile 5.5 or so of 6.2 miles, I knew I had very little left to give.  Where is the stadium?  How much further?  My mom would go ahead, look, and come back to tell me.  You see, I knew this was my last Bolder Boulder.  I had said I wanted to do it just one more time, and I knew it carried a risk of falling, of not finishing - many risks. I made it to the final hill up before entering the stadium and I knew I had it.

As I entered the stadium, I was overwhelmed by the number of people and a few tears of joy marvel and joy surfaced. Years previously, almost no one would be in the stadium when I finished because I was one of the first to finish.  This last year there was no sprint to the finish.  I made my way gradually around the semi-track in the stadium, to the finish, where I finished.  I made it - I finished my final Bolder Boulder.  I didn't fall.  No one can take all my Bolder Boulder memories from me - each one being important in its own way.

I think taking risks is important. The times I ran the Bolder Boulder in high school were so easy and are different types of memories, of times when I always ran faster outside the big track races.  I always ran faster when all the pressure was removed.  And during those times, I was really fast.  There was little risk.

The times of risk involved doing the race with MS, when there were obstacles and uncertainty.  And there are many obstacles and uncertainty in everything when MS is in the mix.  Recently I've been doing physical therapy to help me stand straighter and to help me walk better and faster (see "The Bubble Machine" entry earlier).  On the treadmill that I use in physical therapy, I have to decide whether to risk things like increasing speed, and the unknown associated with it.  Will I fail?  This past week I learned that rather than fail, I needed a higher speed.  Walking faster was a bit easier and I was less tired at the end.  There can be so many rewards to taking risks, and we don't know how far we can go until we try.  Another risk in increasing the speed was there was a part of my Bioness needing a new battery.  I determined when to take a step by watching a camera that is on my feet, so when I saw my left foot reach a certain spot, I knew to take a step.  This added to the risk of increasing the speed on the treadmill.

This year for the MS Walk I also took a risk.  I was asked if I would be willing to be interviewed as part of a television story.  This was a risk because I am not comfortable with others seeing me walk.  Me walking, on the news, was an emotional risk I didn't know if I wanted to take.  I certainly didn't go waving my hand and asking to be interviewed and to be filmed walking.  I did it - I'm glad they showcased me and that I took the risk, mainly so others may see the Bioness and consider trying it.  The camera footage was excellent.  The story was great; Bioness got its coverage.  Here is the link:

... Each Memorial Day I remember the Bolder Boulder.  After the race is done, there is an honor to the military.  And this is another great part of the race.

Thanks be to God for granting me the courage to take risks, to sometimes find failure, but most often to experience unexpected success.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's a bit, ridiculous

I've been going through a new round of physical therapy (PT).  Each round of PT is different and helps me with something to do with standing or walking.  Each physical therapist has their own ideas, and they are all innovative and creative.  Generally, they find ways for me to work on standing and walking better.

The sermon at church last week (yup, I do listen to them) was, in part, about our pastor and his job as a teenager which involved mowing huge fields.  The field would be beautiful and the thought of mowing it seemed like it would make the field less beautiful.  But when it was done, the field was beautiful, just in a different way.  And then there were other steps where the field was beautiful, but at the end of each step, the field was still beautiful, but in a different way.

I later was thinking about how I am learning to walk again.  One of the hardest parts is when people who don't know me, or who knew me long ago before MS, see me.  My walk, I told my physical therapist, isn't a real walk.  It's improved so much from 4 years ago, but it still is a bit, well, ridiculous to some people who see me.

This Saturday, at the MS Walk, I might be interviewed and might be on TV... related to the Bioness bionic devices on my legs.  Again, I told my physical therapist, I think people think that people strap on the Bioness... and boom!  They walk just like everyone else.  So, I said, my walk looks ridiculous...  not impressive.

I've been thinking about how the field got mowed and became more beautiful.  In a strange way, learning to walk gets more "beautiful."  I started mostly in my wheelchair, and I mostly leave it behind now to walk.  To me and some others who know me, that itself is beautiful, even though it was replaced by an ugly walk.  Each round of physical therapy seems like taking a bit of a risk to see what can happen.  So far, each step has resulted in a less-ridiculous looking walk, or, alternatively, a more beautiful walk depending on perspective.  There's a choice to leave the old behind and try something new.  And it makes me think a bit about the field being mowed.  How far will I go?  I don't know.  I actually think God doesn't know, but God takes me through the different "steps."

Back to the interview...  it's to me, a risk.  I told my physical therapist that it's not like I will just stand up and poof!  Walk!!  She nodded.  There is so much to walking.  My legs are now much better.  The ridiculous part of me walking is me being bent.  After that, it's an enormous sway going back and forth.  It's ridiculous.  And ridiciculous can be televised!

My physical therapist had a different perspective after I informed her 2 teammates had invisible MS.  She remembered 2 people from when she was in college, people with MS, who couldn't walk at all.  One was in her forties and the other in her fifties.  And maybe my ridiculous walking is meant to reach a different group of people - maybe some people will see ridiculous.  But, she said, maybe lots of people will see possibility, going from 10 steps to something more.  And to that group, maybe the ridiculous walk will actually be beautiful. Maybe it will give them hope.

As a sidenote, you jst never know whar people are thinking about a sermon in church!