Monday, April 30, 2012

A note from Cara's Mom, Heather

After 16 weeks of training and fundraising and hundreds of miles logged on the road, Team Cara ran in the St. Jude Country Music Marathon Saturday. The marathon was an unforgettable experience in many ways for all of us, but the coolest part was knowing we were running for Cara. It was an emotional and wonderful day. I'm still getting my thoughts together about completing my first marathon, but in the meantime
here's a note from Cara's mom, Heather, that she wanted me to share with you.

Hello to all who have been following this "Run for Cara" journey. 

I write following the weekend that we spent in Nashville running to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  It was a very emotional weekend for me since my sweet daughter, Cara, is currently being treated at this amazing facility.  Until Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) hit this special girl in my life, I had no idea how amazing of a facility this is.  St. Jude not only is researching to make my daughter cancer free, but all the other children who follow her in treatment.  They do this at no cost to the patient.  In other words, momma’s insurance pays what they deem reasonable, and St. Jude never asks for any additional money from momma and daddy.  Personally, I didn’t know such a place existed until Oct. 3, 2011.  So any chance I get, I tell anyone who will listen about the amazing place where my daughter is being treated.

In addition to writing how St. Jude has personally touched my life, I'm also writing to tell how each person who wore the “I Refuse To Give In” shirt touched my life.  I had the opportunity to watch many of the people on “Team Cara” cross the finish line of one of the most grueling (but fun) experiences of their life.  And all of them were doing it in honor of my daughter.  I cannot put into words how awesome it was to watch that experience.  I hope that I get the opportunity to see these individuals pick up their running shoes and join me in a race in the near future.  I feel really blessed to have so many people supporting my family through this journey of getting Cara cancer free.

I want to thank Jenny for creating our shirts and spreading the word about this journey.  I could not believe how many people showed up in their cool, pink shirts and ran for such a great cause this weekend. 

Thank you again for continuing to keep our family in your thoughts and prayers.  We are currently in week 16 of 120 weeks of treatment.  Cara continues to get a chemo pill every night as well as getting chemo administered via her port every week.  We continue to travel to Memphis about once a month so that she can get a spinal tap of chemo.  She continues to keep fighting the fight.   Some days she, as well as the rest of the family, do better at keeping up the spirits and not letting cancer keep us down.  Cara recently suckered mommy and daddy into getting her a new dog, a Yorkshire Terrier, and that has seemed to brighten the mood of our little girl.  Please let us know if you are in the area and if Cara’s counts are up, we would love to have you stop by for a visit. 

Cara, Garrett, Wendell, and Heather

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shirts Are In!

Wahoooo! We are in taper week. This weekend we got to test out our Running For Cara shirts for the first time on a 12-miler. Boy, did we ever put them though a test! It had to have been at least 90 percent humidity when we woke for our run Saturday morning, but the shirts felt great! They are super cool, thin and breathable. Thanks to everyone who ordered them! I can't express how awesome it feels knowing so many people will be sporting these shirts with my sweet, brave cousin Cara's photo on the back. Here is a picture of how they turned out. I will have them at the Ozark County Times so those of you who ordered them can pick them up anytime. They are $17. 

This is not the best picture, but it was very early in the morning, and we were honestly not pumped about having our picture taken. We wanted to get our 12 miles knocked out.
All three of us – mom, dad, and I – had a rough time on this 12-mile run. I don't know if it was the humidity, if we were still worn out from our 20-miler last week, or what the deal was. You know it's a rough run though when you say "Let's just try to keep it under a 14-minute-mile pace." Yikes. Haha. Around mile four, we spotted this guy in the road though, which sure gave us a little pep in our step.

On closer examination, we found him belly up and dead. Dad flipped him over so I could get a better picture of him. One mile later we came up on this little copperhead all coiled up and very much alive. Ahhh.
Dad kept chunking rocks at it, just ticking the thing off. Finally, I asked Dad exactly what he was trying to do and he said he was trying to kill it. I told him that there was no way he was going to kill it by throwing rocks at it. So he found the longest stick he could and flung it out in the woods. My husband Zack told me we should have stomped on it, but I thought it looked too thick be very easy to kill that way. Needless to say we kept our eyes peeled the rest of our run. By the time we were done, it looked like we had jumped in the lake in our clothes we sweat so much. I hope it isn't humid like this the day of the marathon, but even if it is, we will kill it! I am so excited. I can't believe this Saturday we have the Relay for Life 5K, and then the next weekend is the marathon! Anyone who wants information about the 5K just ask. You can sign up the day of the race which is on the square in Gainesville Missouri. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

20 miles! What?

I can’t believe I just ran 20 miles! I honestly thought I would have to walk A LOT  when I saw first saw the marathon training plan called for running 20 miles. I couldn't begin to imagine running that distance.  
Dad and I had a goal to not kill any time on this run so we could get a good estimate about how we might possibly do on our April 28th marathon. When thinking back on our previous long runs I recall wasting some time here and there – stopping to eat Honey Stingers, standing around at the turn-around points or switching out water, taking pictures etc.  Dad and I both agreed we were going to try to always be moving forward. We did have to stop to go to the bathroom, of course, but this time we didn’t wait around on each other. The person who took the longest just had to catch up to the other person. (I believe this is  David Murphy, Jon Wilson and Charley Hogue's definition of a tempo run). We also hurried when changing out water. We walked and even kept up a jog while eating our Honey Stingers and taking drinks this time.
We both decided to run our toughest training course in Protem – Eagle Ridge Road. It is a dirt road that goes all the way to the lake. Within the first couple miles there is a huge, long, grueling hill that Dad calls Mount Everest. After that it stays pretty flat with some smaller hills here and there. It is a really beautiful run and we rarely ever meet a car. On the way back the hill (mountain) is really steep and very hard to get up. We are hoping that training on this tough course will give us an extra edge at the marathon.  Here is the elevation chart for the marathon course which has been said to be very hilly. Whoever has said this must not be from the Ozarks. Of course, I may change my tune after I actually run it.

Here is the elevation chart from my run today. 

You can see where we had to conquer our massive hill several times today. I can honestly say I felt great the whole run. The only thing that really bothered me much at all was the top of my left ankle/shin. I would have to stop and stretch it and it would get better. It mainly bothers me when I lengthen my stride while going faster. It barely hurts enough to even mention, but that was really the only thing that bothered me much at all, which I think is a huge blessing.  
Dad and I kept talking about how amazing it is to see what our bodies can do. If you would have asked either of us even a couple weeks ago if we would be running at the end of a 20-mile run, we would have laughed and said we will probably be walking or crawling by that point. Here we were running, talking, and feeling pretty great toward the end of 20 miles! Today I was just amazed at little improvements. For instance, I would make myself run up a hill and my legs would feel super wiped out and dead, but it would only take a few steps of walking, taking a drink of water and they were ready to go again. It is just so amazing how quickly the body can recover.
I hope I don’t jinx myself with this blog, but I really am in shock that I am able to do this! My mom is training for the half marathon and she was only maybe a quarter mile behind us when she finished her 10 miles. When she first started exercising she would walk this road and had to stop three times while just walking up Mount Everest. You should have seen her today. She is a great example that hard work pays off.  I am just so proud of everyone and how far they have come. I am excited to not only see me and my family finish this marathon but also all of my friends who have been going through this training with me. They have worked so hard to get where we are now. Dad and I finished this 20 miles in 3 hours and 59 minutes which is an average 11:56 pace. Our previous average pace on our last two long runs were 13:25 then 12:46. Both were 18-mile runs, so we were beyond thrilled.
After our run we all showered up and went to the Dinner Bell, a small little diner here in Protem, and had the lunch special, which was a one-pound beef enchilada, rice, and beans. Oh my gosh, so delicious. After that, I took an amazing hour-long nap, then sat in the hot tub and had some of my mom’s famous peanut butter cookies. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. It was so fun to think at the end of the night.. Holy smokes, I ran 20 miles this morning!
The Running for Cara shirts I ordered will be in Tuesday. I can’t wait to pick them up and get them handed out to all those who ordered them. I'll post a picture here on my blog as soon as I get them. Thank you so much everyone for your thoughts, prayers and donations along this journey. There is still plenty of time to donate just click the top right donate button to help Cara’s family with traveling expenses for Cara’s treatments.