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

Tennis players aren't the only athletes that want to look cute!

Last spring I was strolling through my neighborhood Target, when I saw a super cute running SKIRT with a matching tank on the end of an aisle. I have always run in Under Armour pants (even in the ridiculous Atlanta heat), mainly because I hate having to constantly pull my shorts down as I run (and they slowly creep up) or chaff my legs. I tried some one, and was very surprised to see they were not only cute, but they were comfortable, too! I bought one outfit that I figured I could walk my dog in, but I still wasn't sold on the idea of "running" in them. It was a short skirt, with spandexy shorts underneath. It was NOT a skort...from the back it still looked like a skirt (to any guys that may be reading, which is doubtful on this topic...a "skort" looks like a skirt from the front, and shorts from the back. This looked like a skirt from all angles.
I also tend to only wear a sports bra or a small tank top when I run, because I chaff very badly under my arms in a shirt. One thing I loved about these skirts was the fact that each one had a matching tank top that was adorable. After wearing the outfit several times to walk the dog and run errands, I decided to test it out for a run. I LOVED it! The skirt stayed exactly where it was supposed to, the tank top didn't chaff my skin at all, and I got several  compliments on my run about my "very cute outfit". Every time I went GirlGetStrong 001back to Target, they had a new  color and a new design, and I loved them so much I usually ended up buying a new outfit each time.
I was running quite a bit this summer, but if I wasn't in "work" clothes, I was almost always in one of my  "running skirt" outfits. I ran errands in them, went shopping and to school in them, and of course, I  worked out in them.  It was a cute work out outfit that beat the Atlanta heat, still looked "girly" and best  of all, was comfortable.
GirlGetStrong 003I had gotten so used to running in them that I decided to run the Chicago Half Marathon in it, along  with my favorite running sports bra/tank from Gracies Gear ( I got  a ton of compliments on it as we lined up for the race, and really liked the pictures that came out  afterwards. There are several brands of "running skirts" out there, and most of them are fairly  expensive. All of mine have been washed several dozen times, and still look AND FIT like they did the  first day I got them-and at the Target price, they were definitely affordable! Each skirt was less than  $20 at full price, and if I happened to come in the store when they were changing out colors (which  was just about weekly), they were marked down to $14.99.
GirlGetStrong 004GirlGetStrong 009Once I knew I liked them, they were comfortable,  and they would hold up for a long  run, I just made  sure they were the Champion brand that Target sells, and they had  a cute matching tank top.  Now  that the weather is turning colder, it's back to my  Under Armour pants-but I look forward to the  Spring when I'll be able to get out  my cute running outfits again! Tennis players aren't the only female  athletes  allowed to wear cute clothes!
GirlGetStrong 005GirlGetStrong 006

Friday, November 20, 2009




Sunday, October 4, 2009

Who inspires you?

As fall racing season begins, there is a lot of buzz about getting a "PR" (personal record), local 5 and 10K's around town, and some major marathons coming up across the country. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to go to Collierville to see my nephews compete in a local kids triathlon. Last year my oldest nephew Tommy competed for the first time, and would be racing again this year. His little brother Matthew is an amazing athlete, and was going to compete for the first time this year at 5 years old, even though you were technically supposed to be 7 to be able to race (Matthew could easily pass for a 7 year old, as he was taller than most 8 year old kids). I am very proud of all five of my nephews, and love seeing each one find their own path...but this race in particular struck a chord with me last year. The annual triathlon is held in honor of a swim coach that was also a triathlete and tragically killed when he was hit by a car while he was cycling, and it draws over 200 kids in Collierville as a fundraiser in his memory.It is a very large race, and I have to imagine it can be extremely intimidating to a small child who has never done anything like it before.
Last year, Tommy was 7 and had no formal training in swimming. He had taught himself to swim, and was very good, but he didn't have the technical guidance that a swim coach would have provided. He has always excelled in everything he's done (he finished the entire Harry Potter series by 2nd grade), and he's always been an excellent athlete. On the day of the race, we walked into the natatorium and there were kids everywhere. The pool had 20 lanes, a separate warm up pool and diving pool, bleachers for the audience, and people packed in so tight you could hardly move. Kids had their swim caps and racing bathing suits on, and clearly most of them had experience being on a swim team. The transition area was filled with expensive bikes that would rival an adult race transition area, and Tommy had a typical bike for a 7 year old boy who liked to ride bikes with his friends. Tommy got his ankle chip and number painted on his arm, his transition area set up, and was ready to go, never complaining that the other kids had "racing bikes", or that he was going to swim against kids that were on a swim team when he was taught himself to swim in their backyard pool. My sister and I were even somewhat intimidated by how serious this event was, and a little worried about how Tommy would do. When they finally got to his age group, he filed in line to his lane and was ready to go, just like the rest of the kids. I vividly remember watching him swim and thinking about how he's never done a triathlon before, he's definitely never competed in a swimming, running OR a biking race, and here he is with 200+ other kids, not scared at all. He went on to finish an AMAZING race, and I was so unbelievably proud of him when he came across the finish line. As soon as he finished I gave him a huge hug, told him he did great, and asked him if he had fun...his reply? "Yea Aunt A. I think I won, and I've never even done a triathlon before!" I'm not an outwardly emotional person but I got choked up trying to talk to him because I was so proud of him at that moment I couldn't even find the words to tell him. I had to leave from the race to head back to Atlanta, and I thought about that one sentence he said after he finished for pretty much my entire drive. Then I started thinking... I am 31, and I want to do something I've never done before, something that's a pretty big challenge, and I want to be as proud of myself after completing it as Tommy was after his race. So I signed up for a half marathon two days later with my friend Stephanie. When I crossed the finish line six weeks later, I was in tears because I was so proud of myself for running that race, and so amazed that a 7 year old inspired me to do something I never thought I would do.
If I didn't get injured, I would have gone on to finish 7 half marathons this year. I had to pull out of my last 2, so it looks like I will finish 2009 with 5 medals from an event I would have never even thought about if Tommy hadn't reminded me how great it can feel to do something you've never done before, and challenge yourself to do something outside of your everyday routine.
This year the event was even bigger, with more kids, fancier bikes, and faster racing swim suits. Tommy started swimming competitively this past fall, so we weren't worried about him at all. Matthew is a tall 5 year old, but he's still only we were all a bit concerned that he'd get scared when it came time to race. We set up their transition areas, got their timing chips and numbers on them, and got them all ready to go. Tommy went first, and swam in the same lane he swam in last year. He was AWESOME, and the first one out of the pool. He did great on the bike, and as he came back to transition to run gave his grandpa (my dad) a high five as he ran through the chute. When he crossed the finish line I was again more proud of him than words could even express. I gave him a hug and tried to say "I am so proud of you" and couldn't even get all the words out before I had a huge lump in my throat.
Matthew went after Tommy, and as he was led to his lane he looked like he was walking the plank. The poor guy looked petrified....but he still walked to his lane. He was the tallest kid in his group, but looked SO young in the face. As soon as the official blew the horn, he jumped into the pool-and as all the kids took off swimming, he stayed behind. He started to cry a little, but we were all standing along the lane, and we told him it was okay to get out of the pool and not race this year. He could watch and cheer his fellow racers on. That's exactly what he did, and he was able to be at the finish line when Tommy crossed. Matthew didn't end up competing, but I was equally proud of him. He had his racing swim suit on, his bike ready, and his timing chip on, and we have no doubt he physically could have done the race. He got a little scared in the end, and didn't, but what was most important was that he TRIED. In the end, he was just too young to compete with kids a full two years older than him, but he got dressed that morning, he sat with the other kids waiting for almost two hours, and he did his best. I can imagine that sitting with kids all 7 and older for almost two hours before the race was pretty intimidating for a 5 year old. The most important thing Matthew did that day was try, and I am so proud of him for it. He still has two years before he would be competing with kids his own age, and I have no doubt he will "dominate" (Matthews favorite word) when his time comes to race with his own age group. It reminds me of the quote from John Bigham, "The miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start". Matthew had the courage to start, and I am so proud of him.
I think its interesting that what inspires us to do things sometimes comes from places we never expected. If you asked me before the race last year, I'd say I was inspired by all different things, different people, and different experiences. I wouldn't have guessed my nephew would inspire me to take up a new hobby (I say hobby because I run half marathons for fun), which has allowed me to meet an entire new group of amazing athletes, and rekindle some old friendships through training and racing together. This year Matthew inspired me to try something new, even if I'm not totally sure about it, or may be a little scared by it. If it doesn't work out, that's okay...but at least I know I tried, instead of selling myself short by not even making an attempt. So, I think my next challenge my be a full marathon. I've never been a 'runner', and I love the half marathon distance-but instead of wondering if I could do a full one, I am going to sign up and give it my best shot. I love the quote, "There will be days you don't think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have" and I want to know that I have.
So, what or who inspires you? What has challenged you to do something different in your life? I'd be interested to hear readers' comments on this topic, because I find every answer equally fascinating.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I just finished finals, so a new blog will be up the meantime,

Go to
Scroll down almost to the bottom of the home page
You'll see the ballot on the right hand side
Click the bubble that says Bailey
Hit submit!

Thank you!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I have only been to Chicago one time, and it was in January. Needless to say, I froze my buns off. This time it was a little different, but only on Sunday. First off, my flight was delayed leaving Atlanta. I have never been so happy to hear that my flight was delayed, as I would have missed it otherwise. Once I got to Midway, my bags took FOREVER, which put me right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Overhearing someone talk about how long it was going to take to drive into the city, I opted to try and be a "city girl" (or imitate one as best as I could) and take the "L" train. It may be the "T", the "Tube", "Marta", "Metra"..who knows. It was a train, and it went underground, and it was scary. I hate subways and trains, and have learned they are not for me. (I much prefer to travel in style with my parents, ha, ha). I was lugging a 50lb bag that USED to be my favorite bag-large duffel on wheels, with an extra long handle that pulled out from under it that was perfect for my extra long monkey arms. Mistake #1. The lady told me to take the "Orange line" to get to the Fairmont hotel. She failed to mention coming from Midway I needed to get OFF the orange line, get on the brown line (or some other color..I am trying to block out the entire experience of getting to my hotel, so the details have started to fade away), then get BACK on the orange line...or I'd get stuck on the loop...which is exactly what I did. As I am sitting in the seat, looking at the map, I slowly realized I was going to go in a square around downtown..when I would have been THE NEXT STOP if the train didn't turn (hence, the changing of the trains I was supposed to do). So, I take a little extra ride around the city in the nasty train, where I am guarding my purse with both arms, have my sleeves covering my jewelry and am just trying to stare at the ground. I finally get to my stop, and ask the oh so nice man with no teeth working the subway station how to get to the Fairmont. Apparently his Fairmont is different than the one I was staying at, because he told me to go to Lake St., then to Michigan Ave, up 3 blocks...and that's where he lost me. On a different note, I am not sure what people with disabilities do in this city-there are NO elevators. Every train station was nothing but steps. By the end of the weekend I felt like I should file a formal complaint, as I am now a member of the Americans with Disabilities group after hurting my back lugging 50 lb suitcases up and down 3 flights of old, shaky stairs. Back to heading to the hotel. So I head down the steps, with my bag bouncing one step at a time. Then I hear it. The god awful sound of something cracking. Yup, wheel broke, so the entire bottom right corner of my bag is caving in. I started up the block to Lake, literally sliding this bag along the cement...sure it was going to rip open and all of my stuff would be all over the streets of downtown Chicago. Get to Lake St, make the right, go down a block to Michigan..still with the gimp bag behind me in one hand, and my rolling computer bag that was filled to the top in the other. At one point I had to turn around and pull the bags and walk backwards, because it was starting to feel like my shoulder was getting pulled out of the joint. I get to Michigan Ave, and turn left and started heading the three blocks, those not from Chicago may not be aware, but Michigan Ave is like Atlanta's"Peachtree Street"..LA's "Robertson Blvd", NYC's "5th Ave"...its busy, its packed, and there are people everywhere. I am walking BACKWARDS, dragging a huge bag on the ground that is caving in one one side and making a nails on a chalkboard sound, and just trying to find some humor in all the people staring at me. I get up 3 blocks and ask another sketchy looking person where the Fairmont is. No clue. So I call them from my phone, and give the lady the intersection I was at...and of course, I was no where near where I needed to be. I had to back track 3 blocks, then cross the street, go up 3 flights of stairs, go to the next light, make a left, and the hotel should be on the left. Seriously? You've got to be kidding me. I went to Australia alone when I was 23, and I cannot even navigate around a major US city by myself? Ugh.
Seeing the sign of the Fairmont is only what I can imagine seeing the gates of Heaven will be like. It was like I had reached the Holy Land. ;-) So, I get to the hotel, meet up with Erin Melick for a drink, and we head out to dinner. After dinner we decided to check out the local "scene" and it was insane. Apparently no one wears jeans in this town. I had on a sundress and an Under Armour (see previous blog for my die hard love for all that is Under Armour) fleece (it was COLD) and flip flops. The bar we were at was packed, and all the girls had micro minidresses on, super high heels, and they were just dressed UP. In the bars in Atlanta, the girls wear expensive jeans, cute tops, and fancy heels. I do not think there was a single pair of jeans on a girl in the entire bar. Erin and I just thought that was weird. I am sure if they didn't even wear jeans, they loved my UA fleece. It is quite chic, in my opinion.
So we left there and started headed back, and Erin and I started talking about how we prefer "dive bars" where you just go in and have a good time, and you don't care what you have on, or if your hair and make up are done. Just as we say that, we pass what is sure to be the worlds best description of a "dive bar"...and as equally disgusting and dirty as the train. The door was a simple door, with a piece of construction paper on it that said "come in", under scaffolding on a super shady corner next towhat appeared to be a very popular 7-11. We looked at each other and decided we had to check it out. They had been open 30 years, and were still "cash only". Erin and I took a seat at the bar, and the older lady bartending was very proud to say she had been bartending there over 20 years. Luck of all luck, we end up next to the 23 year old nephew of the owner...and we know that because he told us no less than 20 times. He must have said "so what are you ladies doing tomorrow night?" 15 times. He invited us to a "hotel party", then, and I quote, "a kegger", and last, but certainly not least, a party he had saved up all summer for, that he was hosting the following night. Funny, becuase he had all these "amazing" options, yet was sitting as this nasty bar, alone. He asked our ages and when we told him he goes "wow. I thought girls your age are usually at Home Depot, bed bath and beyond, or home watching CSI on a Friday night...not out at a bar, having a good time". Nice one, guy. We asked him if he had graduated college yet (he said he "went" to U of I) and he said "No, not yet. I'm kinda doing a victory lap...again" (meaning he was about to start year 6). As Erin is sipping the worlds smallest vodka soda and I am trying to explain to this guy we aren't interested in his "kegger", this little man comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says "I play this song for you". He had very broken English and was probably 5'3...and when I turned around he was sitting on a bar stool right behind us, just staring at us. The song was a Dave Matthews song I had never heard, and as soon as it was over, he left. Weird.
So then two huge men came up and asked if they could take their picture with us. They completely grossed me out and I found one to be actually quite frightening. We gave the bartender my camera and he bent down and put his arm around me and I think I just about jumped out of my skin. As we were leaving they were outside, and he was VERY proud of his convertible Thunderbird, that was "sittin' on 22's" and asked if I would take a picture with his "ride". Erin jumped on this one and grabbed my camera and quickly got on his side, with "yea, Allison, pose next to the car". I tried to get the picture taken from behind the car, but ended up having to stand in front in order for them to let us say goodbye and go home. Just like on the subway, I had my sleeves down to my fingertips, my purse UNDER my UA fleece, and my arms double crossed in front of me to hide any and all things valuable. The walk back to the hotel was long and not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of "safety first".

So, onto Saturday. Erin Straight got there bright and early, and we had a great day at Wriggleyville, eating at Gino's authentic Chicago pizza (which was bizarre looking and not at all what I expected), the race expo, an architectural boat tour, and then we walked the miracle mile. It was FREEZING cold, so we had to run into a souvenir shop before the boat tour and we all got the ugliest Chicago sweatshirts...not on purpose-everything in the store was god awful ugly. If there was a cute option, we would have gone with it, but they were all pretty heinous. But, they kept us warm, or at least warmer than we were before we had them, so mission accomplished. Erin got her daughter a princess dress and I ran into Macy's to get a replacement bag for the trip home...I was not going to lug my broken luggage all the way back. We found a very cool 80's restaurant/bar to have dinner at, and they played all 80's big hair band music, and all the decorations were pictures from tv shows/movies from the 80s. The food was great, but we were beyond exhausted, our backs hurt and our feet were tired and sore from walking literally all day long. WE finally got back to the hotel at 10:30, and got to bed sometime around midnight, only to take up around 4:30.

Race day was beautiful and much warmer than the day before. The course was GORGEOUS, and ran all along the lake and had beautiful views of the Chicago skyline the entire second half. The first half was all through downtown, which was also very cool. This was the first race I ran in my vibrams, which was awesome, except for the drawbridges (which there were a ton of)...the 10 feet where the bridge comes together was spiked and killed my feet. Luckily I am a quick learner, and after the second one when I saw one coming up I jumped up on the sidewalk for the 10 feet, and then back into the street after we passed over it. Erin M was a "roadie" (volunteer) and Erin S was a track star. It was her first half, and she absolutely rocked it. The course ended up being 13.64 miles long, and for that distance I got a 2:01:22 and she got a 1:55:12, but I set my Garmin to tell me the time at 13.1 and I was a 1:56:28 and she was a 1:50. That girl is a natural athlete, and was on a mission to break 2 hours, which she did easily.

We had a great time at the post race expo, and met some really nice people (see blog about "why I run", as this was a perfect example). I exchanged some emails today with a very nice girl we met afterwards, and we met a guy who offered to take our picture, and then ended up insisting on taking about 20 to capture all the different views. Grant Park and Millennium Park were BEAUTIFUL and it was amazing to see parks like that the downtown of a city. They had a tent for kids to come make arts and crafts, bike rentals, everything. It really did live up to everything people had said about was an amazing place in the summertime.

We headed back to the hotel, showered, changed, and then started back towards the arch nemisis of the weekend. Once again we had to carry our bags up three flights of steps, fight the turnstile to get me AND my bag through on one "pass", and wrestle our way back to the airport. It was a quick goodbye for everyone, as all of our flights were boarding by the time we made it through the airport. My flight ended up delayed, and then Delta decided to board in "free service" mode, which I had never heard of before. Basically, it was every man for him or herself, with no seat assignments. As luck would have it, I was next to the worlds most annoying mom and her two year old. She spoke so loud people 10 rows up were turning and looking at her, and everything was in the 3rd person. "Does Eliza want some juice?" "Does Eliza want some play dough?" Now "Eliza" was not a baby...she was probably a little over 2, which I found odd that the mom spoke to her that way. We finally boarded, pushed back and OF COURSE, the captain came on and said we were delayed an hour. Then after an hour, another hour. What was supposed to get me home by 4:30 ended up getting me home around 9 pm sunday night, with a final to study for for Monday.

Even with the subway/train ride, the sketchy people at the bar, and the hellacious flight home, it was a great weekend in Chi-town. The Burbage/Straight duo rides again!