Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Surf City Weekend Recap and Race Report

Surf City Half Marathon Race Weekend Report

Preface: Before I get started on my weekend/race recap, I had the pleasure of meeting someone in person that is one of the most encouraging, and inspiring people I have ever met. We had been twitter “friends” for quite some time, but finally we had the chance to meet in person on Saturday evening at the Operation Jack dinner. He writes the MOST hilarious race recaps, and after reading the first paragraph from his Surf City recap, I decided I was going to need to include it in mine-there is no way I could capture exactly what he said so simply and eloquently in my own words. Straight off of Ron’s blog….
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“Before we get to what may, or may not be, the funny part of this post, I want to say that although running a marathon is a solo effort, these events have become more than just the run itself. I am extremely fortunate to have so many runners let me into their lives and to see them at these events just reaffirms my joy of running and my commitment to the sport (that’s me with some awesome runners above). I challenge anyone to find a more positive group of people on the planet. Actually if you do find a more positive group of people, let me know because I will drop this running crap in a heartbeat (sorry, that’s my legs talking).”
Well said Ron, well said. I could not agree more. I love to do half races for the challenge, the atmosphere and the amazing people you meet. I could run 13 miles at home on any given day…but the entire environment around a race is what I love, and why I do it.
Weekend report:
I should have known from the start things were not going my way for the weekend before I ever left Atlanta. I arrived at the airport well over an hour ahead of my flight time, with only a carry on. Considering the Superbowl was this weekend, I am still baffled that out of 20 lines at Security, only 2 were open-both being the “special assistance lines”. So every stroller, wheelchair, or person needing help of any kind was ahead of us…and for some reason, they kept letting people cut to the front. After A FULL hour of waiting in line at the conveyor belt, I told the TSA person I went from having an hour and 15 minutes to less than 20 to get to my gate. I took it from the blank stare I got in reply that they weren’t going to do anything about it. So, finally its my turn to unload on the belt, get through security, and get dressed again on the other side. I know have 10 minutes to get to terminal B, which is 2 train stops away….I knew my chances were slim to none this was going to happen. I ran to my gate, only to see the boarding door shut. There were about 8-10 other people at the desk, telling the gate agent that we were all held up in the security line, so she directed us to where we had to go to get scheduled on another flight. The agent working the rescheduling spent a good 30 minutes flirting with the guy in front of me...we are talking straight up off a reality show. The two were asking for each others’ phone number, complimenting each others’ hair style, etc.  It was so bad, and I was so mad at missing my flight that it was almost perfectly comical for the moment. The line of people all were getting restless, as we couldn’t help but think we were missing a different flight while we watched our own version of The Bachelor unfold in front of us. When I finally got to the front, she said they usually charge $50 for missed flights, but security did call and say there were extremely long lines and all fees needed be waived. She seemed confused when I only offered a curt “thanks”, as if she expected I buy her dinner (or have the guy in front of me that she was hitting on buy it) as a token of my appreciation. Um, I would have been appreciative if they had seen the ridiculous line at security, opened another line, and I made my flight. Yes, I was happy I didn’t have to pay another $50, but I would have rather not have had to wait another 2 and a half hours for the next flight to LAX. I knew there was no race day packet pick up, so I went into panic mode about how I was going to get my race bib and packet. The race expo closed at 5, and I didn’t arrive until 4, with an hour shuttle ride out to Huntington Beach. The race website said you needed picture ID and a handwritten note in order to have someone pick up your packet. So, I used my blackberry to take a picture of my ID, attached to an email stating what had happened, and sent it out to my two friends that were there, along with a bunch of people I knew were running the race. I figured someone would see it in time, and if they explained the situation at the pick up, the race directors would be willing to give them my packed. Penny (southbaygirl) was so sweet to offer to get it for me, but luckily Christine, a.k.a CB, (solorunner) was able to get it. Thank god for technology! Moving on…
The flight out was uneventful, as I worked on my laptop the entire time. I did have my usual arm rest stealer next to me, and he not only hogged the entire thing, but he was halfway in my lap. Eww.
I arrived at LAX and got in the super shuttle to head to my friend CB’s hotel.  Jennifer (JT) and I were staying down in Santa Ana, and CB’s hotel was literally at the starting line, directly across from the expo. By the time I got to the hotel, the expo was closed. I know many people *hate* expo’s, but I happen to love them. So there we have disappointment #2 - no Surf City expo for me.  We had already committed to go to our friend Sam’s fundraising dinner (operationjack) for his foundation, Operation Jack, which started at 5, which we were clearly going to be arriving 'fashionably late' for. I arrived at the hotel at 5:15, and used CB’s room to leave my stuff, change, and freshen up a bit.  Sam is running 60 marathons in 2010 (and had already finished one that day, and would be doing another one the next day at Surf City) to raise awareness for Autism in honor of his son. He was hosting a pasta dinner Saturday night for people to come out and meet each other, gain new insight on his foundation, etc. We walked in about an hour late, but immediately found JT (who was meeting us there), and Ron (punkrockrunner). Me, Christine (CB), and her friend Erin (swimbiketrivegn) stood in the back until Sam and his wife were done speaking, and then went around and introduced ourselves to everyone. I was so happy to finally meet Ron and Glenn (gwjones00). Its so strange to develop friendships with other runners on twitter, to the point you know just about every detail of their daily ups and downs, yet you’ve never met them in person. SO finally, it was so nice to put a face with a (twitter) name for all these people!
After the dinner, JT took me back to get my stuff from the hotel and we left Christine and Erin to go find our Doubletree, which was an “official” race hotel. I am not sure where they read the rules on what makes a race hotel an “official” race hotel, but usually its because its close to the start or finish. This hotel was a SOLID 20 minute drive from the race start. We got there, and there was not a parking spot to be had. I called the hotel from the car to ask where we were supposed to park….only to find out it was about 4 blocks away. I found this very odd, so just to clarify, I asked, “So we park down the street and carry our luggage to your hotel?”  His reply, (as if that’s standard) “yup”. Um, ok.
As soon as I made the reservations back in November, a lady from the hotel called and asked if we wanted to reserve the free shuttle to the race. I signed us up for 2 spots, but there were no times offered. She only asked if we were running the half or the full race, and I told her the half. When we checked in, the guy said "here are your two vouchers for a free breakfast, its strictly continental until 5:30, at which time we will then begin our hot breakfast. Oh, and you two are in luck-we have had 2 cancellations, so you are on the 5:30 shuttle.”  JT and I looked at each other and said “why are we are on the 5:30 shuttle for a 8am race? And why are you giving us free vouchers for breakfast if we are supposed to be leaving on a shuttle at the same time?” The guy had no clue, and when it was clear that trying to use logic with him was getting us no where,  we just took our key and got on the elevator. After realizing our room was on the main floor, and no elevator needed-by the way, nice for you to let us know where our room was, front desk guy…instead of watching us get on the elevator with everyone else, and then looking like total idiots when the others on the elevator ask what floor and then we finally figured out we were already on the floor we needed, so we turned around and sheepishly got off, you COULD have mentioned where our room was...just a thought.  We got to our room and opened the window to the parking lot.  We weren’t there for the “view”, but this hotel just kept getting better. It’s about 11pm now and JT and I are both realizing how unprepared we are.  My Garmin isn’t set up, we haven’t really decided what either of us are wearing, and things are a bit up in the air.  We were cracking each other up at the ridiculousness of it all, and having our own fun making fun of each other over twitter, when we were two feet from each other. Perhaps one of my favorite (among many) quotes of the night was when I see a full bottle of Wrinkle releaser and somehow it also ended up in a tweet…and our friend John (hellasound) replies “Um, is it really necessary to have wrinkle releaser for a race outfit?” To which JT replies, “Race outfits deserve to be wrinkle free, too!” Perhaps we were punchy at that point and everything was funny, but I think we laughed for a solid two hours before finally going to bed around midnight.
Race Day
Our 4 am wakeup call came VERY early (even with the time change), and we got dressed and headed down to the continental breakfast. We both grabbed our food and were the last two on the shuttle bus. It worked out well because the shuttle dropped us off at CB’s hotel, so we were there by 6, and headed up to her room. We saw the sun come up over the ocean/race course, and just took pictures while CB and her roommates got ready.
We saw all the marathoners take off, and then decided to head down around 7:45. We met up with Brad (neuman) in the lobby, and then all headed out. Oh my…there were more people than I ever imagine (and what’s scary is the marathoners had already started).
The estimate was that there was about 20,000 people there, but I would have guessed many more. There was supposed to be wave starts depending on your time, but the start was one giant cluster. There was no separation between waves, no signage to let us know what wave time was where, it was just a sea of people. As soon as we walked up to the crowd, we ran into Penny (southbaygirl), who was easily recognizable in her blue tutu supporting the Colts. I was especially happy to see her to thank her in her efforts to get my bib for me the day before. Me, JT, CB, Erin, and Brad hopped the fence and just made our way through the crowd, trying to inch our way up to the start.
We had all talked before the race, and no one was going after any sort of PR here, we were all there just to have fun. I went for about a 2 mile “jog” (and I use that term loosely, as I was with my 4 lb dog that doesn’t exactly jog that fast) the Wednesday prior, but other than that had not put on my running shoes since the Chicago half on August 2. I figured I’d just have a good time, walk when I needed to, run when I wanted to, and just enjoy the experience.
The first wave started around 7:45. There was no rhyme or reason to the waves, as they would just blow a horn and about 500 people would go at a time. Then the cattle, I mean runners, would move up, 500 more, and so on. Around 8:10, we were finally at the front. We started off on our run,  and after days of rain, it appeared it was going to be a beautiful day. JT was running a contest for her company who could tweet the best photos from the race. I have never carried my blackberry with me before, but since we were just doing this for fun, I brought it so I could take pictures. It was actually a lot of fun to take pics during the race, reply to facebook posts, etc. I JUST had a conversation with my sister about running with my ipod, and how I HAVE  to run with music, because it allows me to concentrate on something else, and takes my focus off of  being tired, and I don’t have to listen to myself panting when I get out of breath. I turned my ipod on as soon as we crossed the start, and music was only was coming out of one ear bud, and the music that was playing was cutting in an out, at best. It proceeded to get worse, and by the beginning of the second mile, I had to turn it off because it was driving me nuts. Put another point in the “things not going my way” category for the day. What was interesting was I didn’t want the headphones around my neck, so I kept them in my ears-so the people around me obviously thought I was listening to music and couldn’t hear them. Everyone I passed made a comment about my shoes. “Why is that girl running in ballerina slippers?”,one lady asked her friend…imagine her surprise when I turned around and said “they aren’t ballerina slippers, they are barefoot running shoes”.  Then the usual “What does she have on her feet?” and “look at the girls shoes???” pretty much the entire way. Some comments made me laugh (especially thinking to myself,  ‘If they only knew I could hear them’, others just made me roll my eyes…). So I continued on, with no music, which I have never done before and wasn’t too happy about. It ended up being a good thing, because when running in Vibrams, form is critical. Without my music on, I put all my concentration in each step, and focused on each landing and foot strike, to make sure I wasn’t heel striking. It had been so long since I ran in them I was worried I’d get sloppy in my form, but putting all my concentration into my stride helped in so many ways-it gave me something to focus on, and allowed me to make sure I was running in them correctly.
About 2 miles in we saw Lori (LJ3000) who was so sweet to drive down with her 4 year old and hold the signs she had made for all of us. We pulled off the course and talked to her for a bit, and each had our picture taken with her and her signs. That’s where we ran into Candice (cowhateration), who also stopped to say hi to Lisa with us. Shortly after that Glenn (gwjones00)  ran up next to us, which was fun.
Then we started up again, and around mile 4 CB had to stop at the port-o-potty. The lines were super long, so JT and I said we would keep going, but do a slow jog/fast walk so CB could catch back up to us. We were going super slow and JT goes “race photographer, up ahead, on right” so we picked it back up and ran like our lives depended on it (what we wont do for a good race photo, huh?), then we slowed back down so that CB could catch up. She called me when she got through the lines and was back on the course and I told her I would run on the right side of the course, along the white line on the asphalt. In a pink running skirt, and vibram shoes, I thought I’d be easy to spot. Through phone calls and texts, we tried for several miles to link back up but never seemed to find each other again. I was still with JT, and we found Brad for awhile, but eventually lost track of him as well. In most races I have run in the past, the crowd thins out after a couple of miles…not this one. It was thick for the entire race, which made it especially hard to see and find people.
**Interesting note. Since I told CB I would stay on the right side, I only drank water up to this point, because most of the hydration stations had water on the right and Vitalyte on the left-and I didn’t want to go to the left side of the course if CB was trying to look for me. So I drank water each stop, and then kept going. I felt surprisingly good, considering the lack of training, and felt like I was in a really good pace. With the exceptions of stopping to try and find each other, or tweet pictures out, I never felt like I needed to stop and walk, or was out of breath at all. I was just in a consistent pace, and felt like I was going the same speed as every other race, where I have finished just under the 2 hour mark. JT looked like she was feeling great, and I remember saying “JT, this is the pace I run to sub a 2 hour race. You can totally go under 2 hours if you keep this up. Do you think you are going to run out of steam at the end or something?” (I asked because I knew her goal was to run a sub 2 hour half in 2010, and she was doing awesome…so I wasn’t sure how her goal time had been elusive to her up until this point). It was as if something clicked in her after I said that and she knew she could finish under 2 hours, too.  She had a look like she instantly believed in herself and her ability to hit her goal time. From that point in the race on, it was a much different JT I was running with. Unfortunately  though, we were approaching mile 5 and had already stopped and chatted to people, taken pictures, and messed around enough that this race wasn’t going to be the one she did it in-but it was clear to me she could do it.
Around mile 6, we got separated, and I just ran on my own. CB and I had talked on the phone several times and finally we both decided just to give up looking for each other and just see each other at the finish. I had been holding back a bit, hoping we all could catch up to each other again, but after we decided to just meet at the finish I just wanted to get off the right side and out of the crowd. I ducked and weaved through the mass of people, and started to end up more and more on the left side. At the next hydration station I ended up on the side with Vitalyte, the electrolyte drink on the course. I drank 2 cups, and went on my way. This course had the most hydration stations I have ever seen, almost one at every mile. As I ran to avoid the crowd, I almost always ended up on the Vitalyte side from that point on. I was running on my own, but felt great. I knew the first half was a bust time-wise (but the most fun first half of a half marathon EVER!), so I reset my Garmin around mile 7 to see what my back half 10K would be, just out of curiosity. I still felt great, had not had to stop and walk yet, and was just in a groove. Around mile 10, things started to change. My eyes started to water profusely and feel very heavy. I could feel my left eye swelling up to the point the skin felt like it was wrapping around the nose of my sunglasses. Then I looked down and saw my skin swelling up and over my Garmin on my left arm and my Road ID on my right arm. My fingers were so swollen I couldn’t bend them at all, and my throat starting to feel very sore. I have always had bad allergies, so I just figured it was a perfect storm of a salty dinner the night before causing the swelling, my eyes swelling and watering from the California allergies (I had been out to Palm Springs and Napa a couple months ago and on both trips my eyes hurt the entire time), my throat hurting because I had been sick a couple weeks ago and it was coming back due to lack of sleep, I was losing feeling in my hands due to holding my blackberry (not sure the rationale, but it made sense at the time), and in my feet because the roads were wet and I was in Vibrams-so I figured my feet must just have been cold (makes no sense now, but again, did at the time). My throat was rapidly getting worse. Just after mile 11, I knew things were getting bad, fast, when I was starting to not be able to breathe, and I knew it was crucial I needed to finish quickly.  I had not changed my pace at all, so it didn’t make sense to me why my breathing would change so rapidly when I hadn’t changed my speed at all. I stopped for the first time and continued to walk, with my hands over my head-a technique I had learned growing up playing sports in order to get air to your lungs the quickest way possible. It didn’t help at all, and I began to feel like I was hyperventilating. I have NEVER walked at all the last 3 miles of a race, so I started back up and tried to run in. Within minutes, I felt like I wasn’t getting any air at all again, so again, I stopped and put my arms over my head. I kept telling myself I was almost done, and I just needed to get to the finish, so I started running once more. I think in the last 3 miles I stopped at least 10 separate times trying to get some air.  I saw Lori and her daughter up in the distance, and tried to get a cute picture of them both putting their hands out for high fives as I went by, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I felt terrible when I missed Lori’s daughters’ hand, and I could hear her get upset that she didn’t get to give me a high five. I struggled with going back to give her a high five since she was so sweet to come watch for several hours with her mom, but I knew I had to get to the med tent, so I kept going (not cool after all Lori’s effort to be there and cheer us on, I know).
As soon as I crossed the finish line I started chugging water. When I finished one bottle, I heard a girl say to me, “you are only allowed one bottle of water”. I gave her a look that I was going to drink a second bottle, and I’d like to see her try and stop me…and she just walked away, quietly. Shortly after I found JT, we found Glenn (who PR’d-WAY TO GO GLENN!), and we chatted for a minute, while recapping the race.
I wasn’t participating much in the conversation, as I found myself looking at all the welts that covered my body, and trying to keep the horrible itching under control. I texted CB and told her to meet us at the beer tent, and that I was having an allergic reaction, but we'd be there soon. I told JT that I needed to go to the medical tent and get some benedryl, but I’d meet her back at the beer garden after I was done. Almost instantly (about 5-10 minutes have now passed since the finish) I couldn’t swallow.
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I told JT I had to go NOW, and at the exact same time,  I lost my vision. I could make out the outline of people, but no details in their face, or clothes, etc. JT grabbed my hand and we ran to the med tent, and I remember walking into the tent and hearing someone yell “respiratory”. I remember getting led to a chair to sit in, and being surrounded by doctors, nurses, and staff. The Dr ripped open an epi pen and jabbed it OVER HANDED into my hip…I screamed and in a not-so-friendly tone said, “did you HAVE to do it that way? That just hurt worse than anything!” His reply, “we need to get this medicine in you as soon as possible, as your air way is closing fast, and this is life threatening.” At that point I know I didn’t say much for the rest of the time I was in there. I couldn’t say much even if I wanted to, because my throat had closed up to the point that it was painful to try and talk. I just kept thinking “how did this happen?” and “Am I about to die?” The nurse forced 3 Benedryl pills down my throat, and then they started IV’s, and they put on an oxygen mask. My oxygen was very low, as was my blood pressure and heart beat. The doctor kept listening to my lungs and telling me to take a deep breath, which I thought I was doing. After several tries, he finally said “she isn’t getting any air into her lungs. Call 911.”  **** As an aside, I am sure most of us have gotten the email about including a contact in your phone under the “ICE” name (In Case of Emergency). When I got the email, I put an ICE contact into my phone, with my mom and dads phone numbers in it. I never thought I’d need it, but figured it wouldn’t do any harm to add them. When I was still in the med tent, one nurse said to the other nurse “we need her parents phone numbers-someone needs to call her mom and dad”. I couldn’t speak at all, and couldn’t see to point at my Road ID, so she second nurse replied “look in her phone and see if she has an ICE contact and write those numbers down.” I am still surprised I added that to my phone, as I usually delete most forwards, but for whatever reason, I read it, and added the numbers to my blackberry-and on Sunday, I needed them.
I am not sure how much time had passed, but when the EMT’s arrive with the stretcher for the ambulance, I got loaded up and headed out of the medical tent. I heard the announcer say over the loud speaker “We have a racer that needs to get to the hospital ASAP. Please make room for the paramedics to get to the ambulance.”  The way the layout was set up, the medical tent was about 15 to 25 yards past the finish line on the right side of the gates. The ambulance had pulled up on the left side of the gates, closest to the street. So, I had to go across the sea of people finishing, cheering, and all the spectators, with a very swollen face and an oxygen mask. I remember so many people staring at me and being so embarrassed about the announcement over the PA, that I put my sunglasses on OVER the oxygen mask, as if that was going to make me invisible. So ridiculous.
A few of the nurses from the medical tent came with me in the ambulance, and the EMT’s were super nice. One guy was on the phone with the ER doctor at hospital and he kept reading off my vital signs and what IV’s he had started, and the Dr kept replying “double it. Her vitals are too low.” I think it was that point when I really began to wonder how all this could happen. It was all so surreal, and confusing to me. I was fine not too long ago, and now I am in the back of an ambulance, with the sirens on, IV"s in my arm, not knowing if I am going to be another statistic about "a perfectly healthy runner who died at a race." that we have all seen at one time or another. I left my phone back at the medical tent, so I had no way of contacting anyone. I wish I had taken a picture (or had someone take a picture) of what I looked like in the med tent or the ambulance, because CB and Erin said they walked in, looked around and walked out, thinking I wasn’t in there. In fact, I was in there, but my face had swollen up so much they didn’t recognize me.  When I got to the ER, the medical assistant wanted to cut off my clothes. I was confused and out of it, but not so much so I said “absolutely not. These running clothes aren’t cheap!” The nurse told him they could get to where they needed to get to with my tank top on, so they allowed me to not have to change into a gown. The Dr started more IV’s and gave me a warm blanket because I was shivering, and then they just left me alone. I always have had a weak stomach and about 10 minutes after the IV’s I knew I was going to be sick. I couldn’t yell to get anyones attention, so I hit the metal on my bed a couple times, and after no response I had no choice but to fold the blanket they gave me into a make-shift bowl, and get sick into it. When the nurse came back (about a half hour later) she gave me a look like “What the?” and I gave her a look back like “I tried to let you know, but…sorry”. The girl behind the curtain next to me was also running the race, and had collapsed at mile 12. She didn’t remember anything, and was freaking out because she thought she had died and being at the hospital was a dream. I had to listen to her call her parents and her husband, which was really tough because she was crying so hard and felt so bad for putting them through such a terrible scare. Several of her friends arrived and I heard her tell them she obviously didn’t finish the race and doesn’t remember anything past running and seeing mile marker 11. She didn't know how she got to the medical tent, in the ambulance, or anything. She just woke up in the ER.
I have no idea how much time passed, but all of a sudden I saw JT and CB standing at the foot of my bed. They had met a nice runner and asked if he could drop them off at the hospital on his way home. As we were sitting there talking (and the girl is still behind the curtain next to me), I told them about how embarrassing it was to go across the sea of people with an oxygen mask on a stretcher, with everyone staring at me. JT says “Dude, its not like you didn’t finish the race! Now THAT would have been embarrassing.”  I motioned for her to be quiet and then told her the story of the girl next to me (that easily could hear us) who DNF’d (Did not finish) because she collapsed on mile 11. Ha, at least there was a little humor involved..
The Dr allowed me to be discharged after I had completely regained my vision, could breathe on my own, and according to him, “my face had gone back down to normal”. I had JT and CB take a picture so that I could send it to my parents, assuming that I looked “normal” again. I don’t think I really looked at the picture, and it was hard to see the details on my tiny blackberry screen. But once I got it up on a computer, the image was ANYTHING but “normal”. If that’s what they thought I looked like all the time…not good. JT and Christine called a cab from the hospital, and when it got there I still hadn’t received my discharge papers. So she cabbed it back to our high class hotel, packed up all our things (I had stuff everywhere, and the girl got every last bit of it), and came back to the hospital to get me and Christine. She dropped us off at Christines hotel, and where we hung out for most of the rest of the day and just rested. We ended up going out to eat that night at our hotel, and then I got in the shuttle to head to LAX. Random aside…just to add to the complete randomness of the weekend, we met about 5-6 gentleman at the hotel restaurant. When we got up to leave, one of the men walked to the elevator with us, and asked us all (me, CB, and Erin) for our numbers or email "for future races". I think it was Christine that suggested he give us his instead, and he did, and she politely wrote it down. He asked all of our names one more time, and we all shook hands and said goodbye. I did not give him my phone number or my email address, or even spell my last name for him…and today I got an email from him, telling me about his new job, his trip home, and asking who I knew in Des Moines, (where he was from), when I had already told him their names that night. Bizarre.
Around midnight, I got on the red eye, and finally headed home. I was gone less than 48 hours, and it was easily one of the longest weekends of my life. Yet, with the huge exception of the missed flight, missed expo, and the anaphylaxic shock, it was also one of the most fun race weekends ever. It just goes to show, the people you surround yourself with can make all the difference in the world.
A few lessons learned this weekend:
  • Always have an ICE contact in your phone
  • A race is the last place I thought I would need my ROAD ID. It came in handy more than once.
  • It’s amazing how close you can be to people you’ve never met in person before (even when you text or chat almost every day). I could never thank Christine or Jennifer enough for everything they did for me this weekend.
  • The running community is unlike any other – the support and concern I got after word got out on twitter what had happened was overwhelming…all from people that only know me as “burbsonthego”, and never met me in person. To them, and everyone else I had the pleasure of meeting this weekend, I cannot thank you enough!
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

You could help create a world without cancer!

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

Your mom. Your dad. Your sister, brother, or your CHILD. ANYONE can be touched by various forms of blood cancer, and in your lifetime the chances are high that you will know someone that is. Almost 1 MILLION people are currently living with, or are in remission from, Leukemia, Hodgkin Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma or Myeloma. Every FOUR minutes, someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies.

Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children under the age of 20. Lymphomas are the most common blood cancers and incidence increases with age. The survival rate for myeloma is only 37.1 percent.

Want to help, but not sure how?? There is something that YOU can do! Donate!! The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has raised more than $680 million in research and $69 million in 2009 alone. Research funded by LLS has led or contributed to advances such as chemotherapy, bone marrow and stem cell transplantation and new, targeted oral therapies such as Gleevec.

I am raising funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) as a participant in their Team In Training program. I have committed to raise at least $3,000, as well as run the San Diego Marathon, and I'm asking you to help by making a donation to my fundraising campaign.

TRAIN. ENDURE. ACHIEVE. MATTER. Those are the words that motivate the Team in Training athletes to get out and train for an endurance event, as well as raise money that will save lives. Team in Training was founded in 1988, and with over 380,000 participants, has raised over $950 million dollars to support blood cancer research and offer support services for their patients.

Please use the link in this email to donate online quickly and securely plus learn more about my progress.  You will receive a confirmation of your donation by email and I will be notified as soon as you make your donation.

Each donation helps accelerate finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. More than 823,000 Americans are battling these blood cancers.   I am hoping that my participation in Team in Training will help bring them hope and support.
On behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the other members of Team in Training, thank you very much for your support.  You CAN save a life.  I greatly appreciate your generosity.


Allison Burbage

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” Christopher Reeve

P.S. I would appreciate it if you would forward this link to as many people as you can to encourage them to donate as well. Thanks again.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


AddictionAddict is such a strong word. No one wants to be labeled an "addict", as it has connotations that you are no longer in control of a certain aspect of your life. Even things that may not appear harmful can become an addiction-running, shopping, eating...yet in all of those situations, something that is either healthy or 'everyday' becomes something that is out of your control. People become "shopping addicts" and spend all of their money, and get into credit card debt. People can become "exercise addicts' to the point of injury. People that are addicted to eating are often people we see morbidly obese, and end up suffering from Diabetes and high blood pressure. Just like a drug and alcohol addition, no matter what the subject, an addiction takes over a persons life to the point they are no longer in control, and if they don't get their "fix" of whatever it is they are addicted to, it can send them into a frenzy.
If  you happened to read my previous post, it is no surprise that I attended and participated in my first (and hopefully last) intervention today. I have thought about nothing else all week, and woke up with hives this morning in nervous anticipation of what was going to happen. I had no idea how I was going to react, other than I knew I was so nervous and pretty "checked out" of every other aspect of my life for the last week. All I could think about was how fast this person spiraled out of control, and became an 'addict'  that was absolutely going to kill himself. It wasn't a matter of  'if'; it was a matter of when.
When I got the the "pre" intervention meeting, I felt a strange calmness, and some comfort that so many people that I KNEW he cared so much about were all together, asking him to get help. I felt like with this united front, there was no way he'd continue down his path of destruction. I was happy to see his best friends weren't going to make excuses for him, but confront him so that he had no one to turn to, no direction to go in-except to get help.
Two of his friends went to get him and bring him back to the one of the guys' house "to hang out". We got a call about 45 minutes after they left that he wasn't coming, and he told them he just wanted to stay at his own house all day and 'take it easy'. So, the 9 of us got in the car and headed to his house. I felt sick to my stomach not knowing what I was going to walk into, and even worse when I started to think about the fact there was a loaded gun in the house.
As expected, he was surprised, confused, angry, and hostile when we all filed in. His sister did an amazing job at talking out to the living room, because as soon as he figured out there were quite a few people there, he retreated back to his room. She began her letter to him, and we all went in the order that was rehearsed. Everyone had a tough time getting through their letter, as every single person was in tears as they read to him what his addiction has done to them, and how its destroyed relationships.
The rest of the details of the intervention don't need to be rehashed, other than to say he refused to go. Oddly enough, he emailed me at 8:30 that night and just said "thank you for being there today. I really appreciate it", which completely caught me off guard. I thought he was upset and angry I was there. I replied to his email, and then he replied back. I have never been in this situation before, so I didn't know what to do-but I felt like keeping the lines of communication open was a step in the right direction. We talked about how he felt when he saw us, and how he's never felt so alone in his entire life as after all 9 of us left his house. We talked until 6:30 in the morning, and there were so many times throughout the night I thought I had him just about to agree to go...then he'd dash my hopes with a reply that he needed more time. Starting about 2 hours after we hung up, at 8:30, his sister, his parents, the interventionalist and I were all in constant (and I mean CONSTANT) contact to put a plan together to get him into treatment. Luckily, around noon I got a call from him, and as soon as I said "hello?" he just replied "I need help."
I called the detox and got the packing list of what he could and could not bring, and we made plans that I would pick him up the next morning at 11, help him pack his bag, and take him to the crisis stabilization unit. I did arrived at his house and went straight back to his room where he was already laying clothes out.  I just kept looking around his gorgeous house thinking how he had so much-the nice house, the fancy car, a great family...and a SUBSTANCE was going to take it all away from him. I have a hard time understanding how addicts get to that point, because I don't think I've ever been addicted to anything. When I walked around to the far side of his bed, I saw all our picture frames still out, but on the floor. We haven't spoken in two years, or seen each other in the same amount of time. I said "oh...our pictures? I know you've dated girls since we split up..didn't they mind?" and he goes, "look at this" as he opened the top drawer of his nightstand, I could see everything I had ever given him. Every card, every note I had left for him, the photo album I made for him for Valentines day over 2 years ago...all right next to his bed. I felt so sorry for him, because that was clearly a sign that he doesn't cope with things in his life that he doesn't like, or can't get past. It was a small symbol of a much bigger problem, but it was impactful just the same. As I packed his bag, the tears were streaming down his face and he just kept repeating "I can't believe my life has come to this."  Honestly, I couldn't either.
As we drove to the hospital, I kept looking over at him and just saw tears streaming down his face. Every now and then he'd crack a joke, which would make us both laugh. At one point he said "So, does it make me any less of a man that I love Taylor Swift and my favorite song is 'Fifteen'?...(ironically, it is a favorite of mine as well)...or does the fact I am a prescription drug addict and alcoholic, on my way to detox kinda take that title?"  Comments here and there like that, there were small signs of the person I knew so long ago, and they made this entire experience even harder, because I knew that person was still there, buried under all the pills and booze. Unfortunately, years of heaving drinking and pills have taken over much of that funny, sweet, always smiling, "do anything for anyone" guy, and he was now outwardly a slurring, stumbling, mess to most people. His legs have already started to atrophy from the extremely high doses of drugs he was taking, so he couldn't walk. He held onto my shoulder as we walked from the parking lot into the waiting room. The tears had stopped, but as soon as I said "I am here with (insert name), and we are here to check him in. You guys are expecting him"  I looked over and the tears just started flowing again. I could tell it was becoming more and more real, and all starting to sink in.  After the paperwork, we were sent to an "assessment room" where the check in counselor immediately brought in a nurse. She said he was in danger of seizing, as he was already in withdraw, since he hadn't taken anything since the intervention two days earlier. When they took him back, it was one of the hardest goodbyes I've ever had to do. I went to give him a hug goodbye, and he had a death grip around my neck-and I practically had to peel him off in order to go with the nurse. He could barely walk on his own, so I knew he couldnt walk and carry his bag, so I went to hand it to the nurse and she said "he must carry his own stuff". He reached for it, and took two steps, when it was crystal clear he couldnt go any further trying to walk AND carry the bag. She finally gave in and took it from him, and watching him walk away, towards the big sign that read "Crisis Stabilization Unit" was absolutely gut wrenching.
I had no idea it would effect me the way it did, since I haven't seen him or talked to him in so long. Walking out of the hospital towards my car, I felt like it was up there with one of the worst days of my life-with the exception of the day my mom was in the ICU and I thought she wasn't going to make it. It was absolutely comparable to the day I had to bury my two best friends, and in some ways it was worse. Their funerals were awful. AWFUL. But there was some finality to it, and there was a definite ending. Its been a long and slow process to deal with their death, and I am not sure I'll ever be in a place where it doesn't effect certain aspects of my life. But with this situation, I left that hospital and had no idea if I would ever see him again. He has to stay in detox for a week, but then what? No one can force him into rehab, and if he goes, no one can make him stay there. It wasn't discussed, but I think he thinks he has to go to detox for a week, and then he'll return home to his beautiful house, his fancy car, and he will have beaten this awful disease. He has no idea that the "plan" for him is to go to a residential treatment facility for up to a year. Again, no one can make him go, but many professionals that have seen him think that is his only shot at living a sober life. He can't do it without going to a live in treatment facility where he learns the coping skills and life skills he needs to deal with emotions he has numbed with drugs and alcohol his entire life. I think when he gets out, and realizes he needs to go into a residential facility, he's going to resist it all over again. When he realizes he is most likely going to lose his house, his car, and most of his material possessions, it will send him into a downward spiral. Walking out of the hospital that night, almost 6 hours after we walked in, I was so sad for him, and it was so devastating in so many different ways. This was someone at some point not too long ago that I looked at and thought had a very serious relationship with. Now I didn't know if he is going to live or die, ever be able to walk again, or if the damage he has done to his body was permanent. I called up to the hospital that night I checked him in to make sure he was okay and he got on the phone and sounded like such a scared little boy. He kept saying "Ali, they are treating me like I am insane. I feel like I am in jail. Everyone keeps telling me about this condition where you stop taking Xanex at the level I was taking it, and you just die in your sleep-you never wake up. I don't want to die. Please don't let that happen to me." I have absolutely never felt so helpless in my entire life. I couldn't tell him it wasn't going to happen. I couldn't really say anything except, "You are in a hospital, and they are going to take good care of you."
From the time I took the phone call asking if I would attend the intervention up until that point I did think he wanted to die. I thought he was trying to kill himself with drugs and alcohol on purpose. I realized during that phone call he had the "invincible syndrome" most of us had when we were in high school or college. He didn't want to die. He wanted to numb his emotional pain, but he never thought it would kill him in the process. He also told me that he wanted to go to treatment from the intervention, but "something" wouldn't allow him to, and "he couldn't tell me what it was."  He finally told me while we were packing his bag. He had done cocaine for the first time in many years the night before the intervention, and was afraid for it to show up on the tox screen when he checked into detox. I replied "you have X, Y, and Z (all prescription drugs) in your system already. They aren't going to care if cocaine shows up too. They just need to know what you are on so they know how to detox your body."  He replied, "but I don't want them to treat me like I am a drug addict." I was completely confused and I looked at him puzzled and said "but you ARE a drug addict-with prescription meds"...and he replied "Right. Cocaine is for street thugs, or the people you look at and know are drug addicts.  Its a low class drug. I haven't done it since a couple times in college.  I don't want them to look at me like I am one of those people that do cocaine". I said "So whats the difference between cocaine showing up on your tox screen and the insanely high doses of what you are on?" and he replied, and I will NEVER forget exactly what he said "A doctor can prescribe what I take, so its not nearly as bad."
I haven't stopped thinking about that sentence in two days. In reality, cocaine alone cannot kill you. Heavy doses of prescription sedatives and pain killers can. This whole time he didn't think what he was doing was that wrong, or harmful, because he originally got all the medicines from a Doctor.
What pisses me off the most is a General Practice physician wrote those meds for him, many years ago. Not a psychiatrist. Any physician besides a psychiatrist does NOT get extensive education in CNS conditions or medicines. No GP should have written that for him to begin with, let along with the plethora of other meds he was prescribed. That is not to say if it wasn't these drugs it wouldn't have eventually been something else. I am sure it would have.  But I bet there are a LOT of prescription drug abusers out there that don't realize the harm they are doing to themselves, or justify it, because "its legal", or it started off as a prescription from a medical doctor.
Now he is fighting for his life, and in the process going to lose everything he's worked for for the last nine years. His dad is going to lose a lot of his retirement trying to pay for his detox, and then he has to figure out how they are going to fund his rehab (if he goes). At the same time, we can all want him so deparately to get better, but if he isn't ready or willing himself, all this money, time, and energy is its only a matter of time before a relapse if he hasnt hit his own rock bottom and realizes he needs to turn his life around, and he can't do it alone.
I went straight from the hospital Tuesday to school, and was an hour late getting there. I sat in my seat in a class of about 120 students and just sobbed. I hadn't shed a tear up to that point, but it hit me all at once, several hours after I left him. I tried my best to hold it together until class was over, but when I got home i couldn't stop crying. I was upset for HOURS, and I felt like I was going through the exact same grieving process I had gone through with my friends that had died. At that particular moment I was angry. So angry I couldn't stop crying. I was angry at the Doctor that wrote him that medicine.  I was angry at him for not realizing a drug addict is a drug addict-it didn't matter if he was on crack, or a prescription. If he was abusing it, he was an addict. I was angry it got to this point before he was getting help. I was angry he couldn't even walk anymore, and still was in denial it was due to his drug use. I was mad that after two years it still absolutely killed me to give him a hug when they came to take him away, and he had such a tight grip around my neck and wouldn't let go; which killed me inside, but I wouldn't let him see it. I am mad that he asked me to "not let him die", because to everyone up to this point, it looked like that is what he was trying to do to himself, and there was no way I could stop it if his body couldn't take it anymore. I am mad that the guy I knew in college, that would do anything for anyone, had the cutest smile, and most infectious laugh is now a committed patient at a hospital I call on for work. I am mad he had the world at his fingertips, with a great job, great family, great girlfriend (if I do say so myself), and he threw it all away, because he couldn't deal with his own reality and never learned coping skills to deal with life.
He has now been in treatment for 2 days. He has 5 days left, before he is released. I have no idea what is going to happen to him or where he is going to go at that point. I hope beyond hope that he is committed to getting sober, but unfortunately I am not sure he is in detox for himself. I know from my own extended family members that have been through similar situations that he can go to detox to get us all "off his back", but if he isn't ready to get sober himself, this is all for naught.
Two weeks ago he honestly never crossed my mind, and rarely has for the last two years. Now I think about him constantly, and wonder how this could happen. How does it happen to anyone.  How can you get to the point where a substance, or a drink, literally can ruin your life. I simply don't understand it, and I'm not sure I ever will.
Before I got the call asking if would attend his intervention, I already felt like my plate was full. I have my own medical issues going on, my dad has medical issues that I am worried about, work had been crazy with launching a new drug this quarter, and with an extra load in school, finals, and end of semester projects and papers coming up in the next two weeks everyday my "to do" list was overwhelming. I feel like I dropped everything Sunday, and just started picking it back up today...and its incredibly overwhelming to think of what I have to get done in the next two weeks. But it pales in comparison to what he has to tackle in the next two weeks, and the long road he is facing to what we all hope is a recovery.
Everyone is talking about their Thanksgiving and Holiday plans and it makes me so incredibly sad to think that in the BEST case scenario for him, he will be spending the holidays in a rehab center with a bunch of people he doesn't know.  I hate drugs and alcohol for what its done to him, his family, his friends, and so many others just like him. I only hope its not too late for him to turn it around.
To top off this week, tomorrow is my best friend's brithday, that passed away on November 2, 1997. Tomorrow he would have been 33.  I have dreaded Novembers (his died November 2nd,  then his birthday is November 21st) for the last 12 years. Now there is so much more to put on my petition on skipping November, and going straight from October to December.


interventionI warned people that some posts would be serious, and this is one of them. If you aren't in the mood for serious, I would encourage you to stop reading now. Consider yourself warned...
So, tonight I've been sitting here trying to write a letter for an intervention for someone that I knew several years ago. I feel a tremendous amount of guilt having posted in a laughing manner about how drunk he got the last couple times I hung out with him, knowing now he stands in a position where his life is literally in danger. He has suffered from several gran mal seizures lately, he has been charged with  a DUI where he registered a .37 (and could have killed himself and/or a family), and he has cut all ties with everyone important to him. He was closer to his dad and step mom than anyone I've ever met before...and he  hasn't seen them in a year. His friends called me and asked me to attend his intervention, that would also include his parents, friends that he has cut out of his life, a professional interventionalist, and the police. I am having a very hard time understanding how he could get to this point so quickly. He has gone from someone I definitely thought drank too much, to someone who could easily lose their life to the disease of drugs and alcohol. I am having a hard time understanding how at one point not too many years ago, we were on the same page...and now he has a choice of either rehab or jail, and I am hoping to go to Harvard in a year (by no means am I saying I am better than he is, I just can't seem to understand  when I started setting my goals higher, and his goal at this point at this point may simply  to live another day) Or, maybe his goal is not to live another day. At this point it seems like he is trying to kill himself, and no one seems to be able to stop him. That is what I am so scared of. When did this downward spiral change from someone who "partied too much" to someone on the brink of death. DYING. I have lost more people in my life thus far than most people lose in a lifetime. I cannot stand the thought of losing another one.  His parents, friends, and the interventionalist asked me to be there sunday at noon, and to write him a letter to read during the meeting. Even though I haven't seen him in over two years, for some reason they think I may be able to get through to him more than they can. I hope they are right, but what they don't know is I've had my own "interventions" with him, and none of them have worked. Maybe it will be success in numbers. I hope it will be. I hope when he sees his family, his friends, and myself there telling him he needs help, and he'll take it. For some reason, I just don't think he is going to.
I LOVE to write. I would write for a living if it could pay my bills. I have never had trouble putting "the pen to paper" (figuratively, now that we use computers). But with this "letter",  I have started, erased, started, erased, and started again on my letter to read at the intervention. I love the show "Intervention" on A& E, and I know how critical it is to word things in a way that aren't threatening, accusatory, or place blame on the individual. This is the first time in a long time I am at a loss for words. What we say to him on Sunday can literally be the difference between him living and dying. If he doesn't go to rehab, he will die. Its that simple.  I just wish I had the magic words that would make him realize he needs help, and  seek the treatment that is being offered.
Unfortunately right now, I don't. Now back to staring at the blank screen that I hope will materialize into my letter that convinces him he needs help...

The Triumph of the Human Spirit


The Campers
The Campers
Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to venture down to Warm Springs, Georgia, to assist the President/Founder of Getting 2 Tri, Mike Lenhart, with a clinic on balance and mobility for new amputees. In the broadest sense, Getting 2 Tri is an organization that coaches and teaches physically challenged Paratriathletes how to compete in sports, specifically triathlons. Less than a month ago, two of the "Team G2T" athletes were competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. These are serious athletes, and extremely impressive.
The Shepherd Center was putting on a camp for people that were mostly wheelchair bound, with a few that had limited mobility with the help of a prosthetic. The campers were put up for 3 days, and were able to attend seminars and "workshops' specific to their interests'- from scuba diving and wheelchair basketball, to track running and swimming, among many others.

Mobility Drills
Mobility Drills
There was a schedule each day of what time each clinic would start, and the campers got to pick and choose which ones they wanted to attend.  I was there with the head of the Atlanta Chapter of Getting 2 Tri, Albie Whitaker, to help Mike run his clinic. The people attending this camp were not "paratriathletes" getting ready to compete in the mecca of Ironman triathlon competitions (i.e. Kona); most were new amputees, just trying to get used to balancing with their new prosthetic or even stand for a short period of time.  One lady we worked with had just had her amputation 6 weeks prior to attending the camp. She was a lower leg amputee, due to Diabetes. Other amputees were due to motorcycle accidents, a severe seizure, as well as car accidents. One 16 year old female camper was paralyzed from the waist down from diving head first into a shallow pool when she was 9. Although they were not ideal for his organization, Mike is passionate about helping people understand that their life is not over once they have limited mobility or are unfortunately confined to a wheelchair, and was happy to help out at the clinic.

Running up and down the track
Running up and down the track
We braved the unseasonably cold weather, (read: froze our tails off) for the first clinic out on the track for an hour and a half with a woman that was a single lower leg amputee. She did all the drills, and by the end of the hour, was running right next to Mike up and down the track.
While watching Mike work with her, I met the sweetest 18 year old boy who was paralyzed from the waist down due being shot by a stray bullet in his neighborhood. He told me that he was just playing in the front yard with his sisters, when he got shot in the chest. His family had to move to a new home, one without stairs, and in a split second his entire future changed. Before the shooting, he was the star football and baseball player at his high school, and was hoping to go to college on a sports scholarship.
CIMG2556-1My heart literally broke as he was telling me his story, but his spirit was unaltered. He was as happy as he could be, and emphatic that nothing was going to slow him down...certainly not a wheelchair. He said he obviously wasn't going to play "normal" football or baseball, but he was going to go to college, get his degree, was already playing on a wheelchair basketball team, and was looking to get involved in more wheelchair sports. He was happy, and talking about being paralyzed the same way I would talk about having a stubbed toe-it was clear that nothing was going to hold this kid back in his life. He believed it, and in just a short time, I believed in him. It was freezing cold out, and as I had 5 layers on and was still shivering, he had shorts on and a long sleeve T-shirt. When we finished talking, I said "you are going to get sick! Your legs must be freezing in those shorts!" and he very politely, but with a slight grin, replied "Ma'am, I can't feel my legs." Talk about feeling like you just put your foot in your mouth.

The cutest little boy at the Scuba clinic
The cutest little boy at the Scuba clinic
After that session, we went inside to warm up. I had the opportunity to watch the scuba session, which was simply amazing. We continued on with our afternoon session, which we held indoors due to the cold weather. The first lady to come up to the track was not to sure about the clinic, as she was a new amputee, and didn't want to get out of her wheelchair. The other 3 participants were used to their prosthetics, and much more comfortable doing the drills. Everyone did a great job throughout the 90 minutes, and we wanted to finish up with each person running down and back on the indoor track. The first three people went, and then much to our surprise, the lady who was so hesitant at the beginning agreed to go. She went with Mike, and she did awesome-laughing and smiling the entire time. It was like you could see her realizing that her life wasn't over as she got up out of her wheelchair and started taking her steps down the track. When she turned to come back, she had a huge smile on her face, and she was so proud of herself-just as everyone there was proud of her.

Mike helping her out of her wheelchair
Mike helping her out of her wheelchair
CIMG2559-1When Mike got up to take the last person down and back, a young boy wheeled onto the track behind me. I had my back to him, and didn't turn around when I heard him talking. I wanted to watch the tremendous progress everyone made in just an hour, going up and down the track. As I was standing there watching the last guy going, I vividly remember thinking to myself "thank god I have all my limbs, and I can walk and run without any assistance, and I don't constantly have to worry about falling down". As if he heard my thoughts, the young boy behind me was talking to another camper, and said "Man, what I wouldn't do to be able to put on a pair or prosthetic legs and walk again. I'd give anything for that." I sat there for quite awhile, completely consumed by what he had just said. As I was looking at these people, NOT feeling sorry for them, but just so thankful I was not in their shoes, he would give anything to be able to have the limited mobility that they had. I didn't want to be in their position, and this kid would give anything to be in it.  He was paralyzed from the chest down, and had no movement at all in his lower limbs. He was 17 years old, and had been paralyzed in a car accident. Just as he said that, I looked across the gym and saw a banner that read "The Triumph of the Human Spirit", and I had what Oprah likes to call an "Ah-Ha" moment. I realize everyone takes things for granted at some point in their lives. But this was different. This was realizing that the same position that I felt so incredibly thankful not to be in  was the same position that was unattainable and nothing more than a dream for someone else. I have had my fair share of medical issues, but they all pale in comparison to what these people face every day.
CIMG2557We were teaching a woman how to simply get up and stand from her wheelchair. Sounds so easy, and yet, that  is all this boy dreamed of being able to do,. Unfortunately, unless science has a tremendous breakthrough, he probably will never be able to do the tasks that the campers in our clinic  were able to do.  Then I thought of the 18 year old boy out on the track, with the gregarious personality, bursting with determination and pride. I have no doubt that nothing was going to slow that boy down. I thought about the woman who didn't even want to join our clinic, but by the end was going up and down the track, with confidence. It's such a short, simple sentence, but has so much meaning..."The Triumph of the Human Spirit".  The triumph of the human spirit picks people up when the world has knocked them down. It tells you to get up and try again, when you think you can't. It pushes you to achieve the goal that everyone told you was impossible, or just a dream.  Its what gives you determination and drive, and forces you to be the absolute best that you can possibly be.  The triumph of the human spirit is what tells you not to take no for an answer, to keep pushing for something better, and not to let anything, or anyone stop you from achieving everything you want in your life, no matter what your circumstances.
The "Triumph of the Human Spirit" reminds me of some quotes that I love:
"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will." — Chuck Palahniuk
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."-- Maya Angelou
"Have the courage to be the person you know you are.” ~ Jeffrey Benjamin
"Once you choose hope, anything’s possible." Christopher Reeve
“Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” – Dean Karnazes