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Saturday, July 2, 2011

There are no words...

It has taken me a while to log on and create this post. Every time I think about the weekend I start to get teary eyed. Seriously! There are no words to describe the weekend in Hawaii, but I will do my best to recap it for you anyway. So, here it goes.

I arrive in Hawaii and I am supposed to take a shuttle with the team from Oklahoma to the resort. I'm also supposed to be with Sarah, whom I've never met but we have spoken on the phone and via email and facebook. Sarah's schedule changed so she won't be arriving until Saturday. I'm looking for a shuttle and 4 people that I don't know. I find the shuttle driver talking to the guy that was sitting across the aisle from me on the plane. I walk over and confirm that this is my shuttle also and introduce myself to the guy from the plane. He's part of Team OK! What?! You were sitting right across the aisle from me. So I meet all four members of Team OK: Clayton, Chris, Diane, and Amanda. This is AWESOME! Clayton and I chat all the way to the resort. Check into our rooms and head to the meet and greet in the team manager's room. It's pretty late at this point so the "party" is wrapping up. But I get to meet all of these people that we have been phone conferencing with over the past 16 weeks. Besides, we have an early morning work-out with everyone. There will be time to visit then. 

I find out at the morning work-out that the course is not as flat as I had been lead to believe. I can understand if you live in the mountains how the "rolling hills" on the coast of Kona might be considered flat. Honey, I live in West Texas. You don't know FLAT until you've lived here. SO it was at that point I decided to walk the half. I wanted to be able to finish and I had not trained to go that far on rolling terrain. Honestly the farthest I had gone during training was 6.5 miles. So I was pushing it thinking I could finish 13.1 in the first place. Those of you who know me well know that I can be stubborn and I have more determination than brains sometimes - so not finishing the 13.1 miles was really not an option anyway.

After the morning work-out and the "all participant" photo op it was time for a little breakfast provided by the resort. I sat with Jodie, who's story you can find here, and Krystal, who's story you can find here. We were also joined by Team Oklahoma. We all discussed our plans for the day - Jodie and her children were touring a coffee farm, they invited Krystal to join them. I was planning to get on the resort trolley and take a loop to all of the trolley stops and then decide where I wanted to get off. My plans were pretty similar to the OK team's plan so we decided to go it together. What an awesome day!!!! Team OK adopted me that day as an honorary member!  We just hit it off. We went to farmer's markets and retails shops, had lunch and then this crazy good ice cream/coffee blended drink. They volunteered to take some photos for me (so I would have proof that I was actually in Hawaii) and I took photos for them. They laughed and caught me when I tried to grab a real estate magazine and put it in my bag with out anyone noticing. It was just a fun care-free day.

At 4pm we had a team meeting to discuss last minute race details and also recognize team members who have participated in multiple Team Challenge events. Then it was time for me to get some quiet time. I went to my room and uploaded photos to fb so all of my friends could see what I've been up to. I called Matt and took a walk around the resort. I also booked a massage for after the race. Later that evening was the Inspirational Pasta Party for carb loading. The funny part about that is for those of us with Crohn's or colitis, we can't really "carb load", but it's the thought that counts right? There was Hawaiian music playing in the background and we were entertained by hula dancers. The M. C. recognized the top 10 fundraisers - people that raised over $7500. Then the coaches gave tips and a little pep talk. Next, Mr. Sosnik from the Long Island chapter gave our first inspirational speech. Wow! What this man has gone through. Everyone was a little teary-eyed by the end of his speech. Then Frank Shorter (Olympic Gold Medalist) gave an inspirational speech about running in general and tips about finishing the course (he has run Kona almost every year since it's inception). The evening was beautiful. I sat with the peeps from OK and also Krystal, Sarah (my mentor), and April, who's story you can find here, and April's husband.I headed to bed after the party. The shuttle to the race start would be there bright and early to pick us all up and I wanted to get all of my race gear together before heading to bed.

My alarm went off at 4:00am. I got up, got dressed and headed down for some coffee and a banana. I knew I had to eat something but I didn't want to make myself sick. Everyone got together for a Team Challenge photo op and we headed to the race start. I had Jodie write on my arms "In memory of" and "In honor of" to recognize and honor requests from several people that made donations. Jodie liked the idea so much she had me write her brother's name on one arm and her son's name on the other. Jodie was planning to run the marathon but she injured her back a week before coming to Hawaii and her doctor told her NO RUNNING! Especially a marathon! So I asked Jodie if I could walk with her. She said sure but she planned to walk at a pretty fast pace. I said if I can't keep up just go ahead - that's fine. Another Team Challenger heard us and said she planned to walk too. We could walk together - she planned to walk a 13 minute mile pace. That sounded good to me! I didn't know if I could keep that pace for the entire race but I really wanted to try.  So we all started out together. Jodie, myself and our new found friend Barbara from Seattle. We talked, we laughed, we cheered on every single person that passed by or that we passed. We cheered for the marathoners, the other half marathoners and especially for the 87 other Team Challengers that were out there participating. I felt good! I mean really good! I got to the half way point and I still felt good. Mile eight - still good! But by mile 10 I was losing a little steam. These ladies kept me going and they didn't just take off - but they also didn't slow down to accommodate me. They gave me a kick in the can! At first it was, "how are you doing?" Then it was, "You better get up here, we are finishing this race together!"  It was perfect for my first half marathon! I was given exactly what I needed to be able to finish the race. Being able to walk with these ladies was a blessing. We held hands and crossed the finish line together. Unforgettable!

I picked up my finisher's shirt, finisher's metal, grabbed some water and a snack and then sat down to stretch a little. I was so glad I had decided to schedule a massage after the race. I know, I know! You are not supposed to get a massage after a race. I realized that if I hadn't scheduled the massage, I probably wouldn't be able to walk to the After party that evening. LOL! My hips were on FIRE!!! And not like Shakira's are on fire! I also decided to book a helicopter tour of the island for the next morning. So I had a pretty relaxing afternoon. I sat at the resort bar for lunch and met Page and Dana from Philly. What a riot those two are! Page and I were discussing getting tattoos before leaving the island. I ran out of time, but I am still considering the idea. That evening was the after party. They fed us again and there was a DJ and dancing. I was moving pretty slowly but I still managed to get out on the dance floor (More determination than brains!). I met Brian from Long Island who also brings groups of volunteers to my home (Louisiana) to help rebuild after the hurricanes 6 years ago. I had to give him a hug and sincerely thank him for his efforts. I mean people from LA weren't even helping to rebuild!!!

Several Team Challengers were planning to extend the evening by heading out for a night on the town. I was planning to head to my room to go to sleep. I had an early morning tour booked so there's no need to party it up, right? WRONG! Team Oklahoma had a different plan for my evening. Diane was heading to the room, she was beat. So Amanda said I just had to go with them , I was an honorary member of Team Oklahoma. So of course I went. Didn't take much to get me to say yes! At the bar we met up with other Team Challengers. I met Sally and Jen from San Diego (awesome ladies!) I also met Chris from Seattle (Barbara's team mate). We drank and had fun and finally went back to the resort giving me about 3-4 hours sleep before my helicopter tour.

I'm just going to say it: I got air sick! DANG! I should have gone to bed earlier, I should have had some breakfast and coffee, I should have taken some Dramamine! I don't know what exactly it was, all I know is that the combination of all of those things plus the helicopter pilot doing a maneuver to turn the copter around so we all could see a rainbow in a complete circle did me in! He said that was natural, many people get sick because of moves like that one. Thanks! And I have it all, on DVD! WooHoo! It's a good thing I'm not easily embarrassed!

I went back to the room asked for a late check-out so I could get some sleep and try to relive my queasiness. I got my stuff together, checked out, left my bags with the bellman and went shopping! My last afternoon in Hawaii I spent alone. It was awesome! I bought gifts for everyone and walked around and hopped on the trolley. I  called my parents and Matt. I ate some pizza (I needed something familiar to ease my tummy) and just soaked in everything! I sat on the lanai for dinner before catching my shuttle back to the airport. It started to rain - it was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

I know I haven't done a good job here conveying the emotional impact this weekend has had on me. I've given the details without the feelings produced by the events.  I can only say that I am forever changed by this experience. FOREVER! It was - i don't know- to be around so many people that are going through and have been through exactly what I've been through. To not have to explain what colitis is or how it changes lives. The race in Hawaii was the perfect beginning for my journey with Team Challenge and the CCFA. Team Oklahoma was my perfect introduction to the experiences I would share over the weekend. Barbara and Jodie were the perfect race mates. There are no words...

THANK YOU TEAM CHALLENGE! I'll be seeing you in Vegas in December!

So anyone that wanted to make a donation for Kona but didn't, you will have a chance to donate for Vegas! Lucky you!

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