Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Luck of the Irish

So let's back it up to early February. Sharalyn and I had signed up to run the Napa Valley Marathon together. We were so excited to FINALLY get to run a race together no matter how fast or how slow we were going to go. Our training was not as "strict" as we usually are, but it didn't matter- we were slacking off together which meant we would both be a little slower than normal. Then it happened. Feels like forever ago, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. After doing some major grocery shopping, I had sledged through the rain and up the stairs with Lennix in my arms and out of nowhere slipped on the tile stairs coming into my house. Didn't matter if it were 100 stairs or 10 stairs- it was the way I landed that hurt so bad. I had never felt so much pain in my entire life. I had serious thoughts that I had done some serious damage. I screamed and screamed and screamed for someone to help. Poor Lennix was thrown down and landed on who knows what and was crying too. Jason Wright(who was walking right behind me when all this went down) stood over me and watched me cry and mumble something about me having no back. It was honestly "I have no back Part 2!" Finally made my way onto the couch and made that my permanent home for the next week. The thought of me running the marathon with Sharalyn was a distant hope. But, by the end of the week, I was able to get up and move around with the help of some serious medication from my father in law (Thank you Kent!) and a lot of ice and heat. After the pain was refusing to subside, I went to the doctors only to be told I had fractured my L3 vertebrae on the right side of my spine and there was nothing much they could do for me besides treating the pain. It wasn't going to make things worse by running with a broken back, I just had to learn how to deal with running through the pain without throwing up. Good enough for me. Time to run again- I've got a marathon to train for. (Thank you a million times over to Janelle who ran with me my first run back which was a short 20 miles and had to listen to me complain every couple of feet!)

Then it happened again. Because of the pain in my back, I wasn't able to lift my right leg normally. Which was not really a problem except for when I had to do certain daily activities. Like showering. One day while I was getting out of the shower, I didn't lift my leg high enough and hit my foot on the rim of the sliding glass shower door and broke my second toe on my right foot. So now I've got a broken back AND a broken toe. Nice.

Life was moving along nicely. We got into a routine of things and I would ice when I needed to and heat when I had the time. I was able to walk around without much pain, and continue my training. Napa Valley here we come! One day, I was in Target and found this beautiful wooden box on the clearance aisle. Perfect to hide all of Lennix's toys in. I pick it up to put it in my cart...Man, this thing is heavy! I ask for help to get it in the cart and into my car. After picking Kody up from school, we head home and I go to lift the latch of the back of my car. OUT COMES THE HEAVY WOODEN BOX I had just bought. Nooooooo- I have to save it! But what can I grab it with? Not my arms because that would hurt my back... not my head because... well, that would just be silly. Instead I decide to stop the heavy box from falling with my thigh. I didn't even come close to saving it, but instead had it bounce off my leg so hard I thought I broke my femur. At this point, I am literally falling apart piece by piece.

Even though my whole body was just a bunch of different injuries, and my diet pretty much consisted of eating food just so I could take pain medicine, I was determined to run this marathon with Sharalyn by my side.

So now it's February 24th and I am scheduled to run an easy 6 miles. I made it to mile 4 and then the pain in my right knee started hurting so bad I had to walk. I could not believe this was happening to me with the marathon being only a few days away! I walked home limping and crying, and frustrated beyond belief. How on earth was I going to do this?!? I called Sharalyn and she told me to just rest it. She would be out on Thursday and we will decide what to do when she came.

By Friday, I was feeling ok. Not even close to 100% but more like 47%. This wasn't looking good. The battle of "should we go or shouldn't we" continued on until Friday night at 6:00 pm. Sharalyn had a valid concern with my knee. She didn't want us to drive all the way up there, run 2 miles, and have my knee go out and have to run the whole marathon by herself. I had assured Sharalyn that I could probably put in at least 10 miles, maybe even 15. Anything after that- she was on her own. Good enough for her. Decision was made- we were heading to Napa the following morning.

Jared's dad had let us borrow his new BMW Z4 for our "girls weekend" so we picked that up and started throwing our junk into the trunk. *Side note to anyone interested in purchasing a Z4 in the near future- Not a lot of room in the trunk. Or the front for that matter.* We are taped up from head to toe, filled with every anti-inflammatory you can name and we're ready to hit the road with the top down! We get on the 118 headed east and made it to Yosemite before we realized how much this drive was going to suck with the top down. I could not stop laughing every time I looked at Sharalyn and saw this:

We quickly turned our "girls weekend enjoying a convertible" into "girls weekend smashed in a convertible." Fun times. We made it onto the 5 Northbound and were greeted with this:

They were beautiful the first couple miles. Stunning actually. We commented several times about the colors, the breath taking views, etc...but even an almond tree can get boring after a while. For the next 5 hours all we saw were rows and rows of almond trees. Miles and miles and miles were lined with another long stretch of almond trees. We turned on the radio only to hear about the "Almond Festival" that was going on in a nearby town. shocker. We were literally being suffocated by almond trees!

We stopped at a Subway somewhere outside of Sacramento and met the lovely Indian family who owned the place. We asked how far Napa was from there to which the nice Indian woman answers "too far." That's a nice answer Indian woman. Thanks for the encouraging words. After Sharalyn and I looked at her with blank expressions, she yelled to the back of the store and called for the human Mapquest, and he gave us "better way to go. I know I am truck driver." Thank you Indian woman and Indian truck driver.

After following directions from ITD, we finally see a sign that says Napa Valley this way and literally jump for joy. Well, jump as high as we could in a tiny little box car. We get onto the 12 Freeway which takes you into Napa through the back roads. I'm not exaggerating when I say these were some of the most beautiful back roads I have ever seen. At one point, the road narrows and you are down to one lane with construction barriers on either side of you. There's nothing like feeling like you are in a bobsled in the luge for over an hour going 100 mph. Sharalyn and I were both leaning into the curves like pros and I think could have taken the gold medal in the Olympics. Then the construction stopped, the fields opened up and we saw this:

It was like we were driving through the Irish hillsides. There were sheep playing in the fields, vineyards as far as we could see, and tiny little leprechauns collecting four leaf clovers. Well, maybe not. But it was a fun excuse to use our Irish accents to get into the spirit of things right?

So we head to our hotel where we are going to meet some friends of friends so we can all go together to pick up our bibs and stuff. Quick stop in a parking lot 500 feet away from the hotel, we put the top down, apply lip gloss, and pretend like this is how the whole trip has been. Saw our friends, said our hellos, got back in the car, drove 500 feet and then decided to put the top back up. Who's stupid convertible idea was this?!?

After packet pick up we decided to show our new friends a place close to our hearts. The local IHOP. We'll take the short stack light butter, sugar free syrup, egg whites cooked in pam not butter, water with lemon please. Make that 2. We ate until we were full but it still hadn't hit us yet. We were running a marathon tomorrow. YIKES!

That night was a serious blur. You know those nights that you HAVE to go to sleep but your heart is pounding away from the adrenaline running through your veins? Yep, it was one of those. Sharalyn and I had to...I mean got to share a twin bed. Lucky us. Despite the sleeping pills we both took, I dont think either of us got more than 3 hours sleep. At one point in the night, Sharalyn was tossing and turning and I mentioned that she couldn't be serious. Who flips that violently?!? A quick "Shut up or get on the floor" was uttered and I didn't say another word.

At 4:30 the next morning Sharalyn hits the lights and it's game time. We get dressed as fast as we can with our eyes focused on the pool as we watch the rain drops start to hit the water. Better add an extra layer. We get on a bus full of runners and head to the start line. It's a small race, but when we got there we finally realized how small. The bus dropped us off at some random street that had port-o-pottys lined up and there was a small start line off in the distance. We waited in line to do what runners do before a race, and we hear them begin the count down. 5...4...3...2....1...START. We are still in line waiting to use the rest room. Lovely. When we were both done, we casually walked over to the start line and looked at each other. Ready? Lets do this.

First mile- easy.

Second mile- uh oh.

Third mile- this isn't good.

Fourth mile- we have to come up with a new plan. I signal for Sharalyn to run to the side and I tell her about the pain in my knee. It's not good. I had been feeling the sharp pain since mile 2. There was no way I was going to be able to keep this up for another 22 miles. I start to cry, tell her how sorry I am, and she decides she's gonna run the rest of the way by herself. I take her jacket, (she thought the rain was going to stop...silly her) give her my iPod, and she's off running again. I get to walk to mile 10 where the ambulance will be waiting to take all the losers back to the finish line. I call my mom and Jared and begin to bawl. I am so mad. Mad at the stupid race that is on slanty streets. Mad at my knee for giving out. Mad at Napa for it being so rainy. Just mad. I tell them I'll call them as soon as I get back to the finish line. I can see the 5 mile marker in the distance and reason starts to set in. It's 40 degrees, raining, and I have another 5 miles to walk. This is going to take FOREVER! I decide the only way to get there faster, is to try and run. I didn't say it was going to be pretty or even fast, but I did it. I found a way to run without much pain and was able to get to mile 10. If I stopped, I knew I was done for. Now it's just a game between me and the course. How far could I go like this? I didn't know but I wanted to find out. I know in the back of my mind, the next aid station is somewhere between mile 18 and 20. I make that my goal and decide i'm gonna go for it. I keep running until I get to mile 18 and I stop at the aid station and they ask if I want a ride back. Did I want it? yes. Was I going to take it? No. Finally at mile 20, my legs were tired. My body was aching, my calves were as hard as rocks, I didn't think I could do this any more. I call Jared and my mom and give them the update. Both gave some much needed encouraging words and I was ready to do the last 6 miles. I walked to the edge of the aid station and take one last breath, look up and see Sharalyn running right past me! I scream her name, she runs up to me, and we just hug for a long time. It was like something out of a movie. Hugging, crying, laughing, crying, stretching...We were not going to have to do this alone.

Mile 20 to 22 were absolute hell. No joke. There was a hill that I still have nightmares about that would not let up. The rain was pouring, we were tired, and our bodies were shot. For the sake of this being a journal, I will not go into detail as to what was said during those miles. Let's just say, it wasn't pretty. By mile 22, I looked at Sharalyn and told her we needed to pull it together. It wasn't a matter of "if" anymore. We were going to do this no matter what. Shar thought it was best if she galloped like a horse. I looked more like a duck. We held hands and waddled/galloped the rest of the way. We looked like some sort of lesbian couple. Me and my blind, down syndrome girlfriend. At mile 23, there was this little girl sent from heaven handing out sorbet. Long story short- she got the idea that I would really really like some.

Mile 24, there was this lady in front of us. Probably late 60's, obviously over weight, wearing a Breast cancer survivor shirt. Good for her. Shar decides that's our goal. We HAVE to beat her. By mile 25, we decided she had survived cancer and we should let her go ahead. As she passed us, she smiled and said "Finish strong girls..." Thank you lady. You win. We lose.

Mile 26 we can hear the cheering. We are broken big time and I honestly didnt think we could do this for another minute. But we had to. We pass the 26 mile marker and I ask a lady standing on the street how much further. I'm thinking she's going to say something like "around the corner" or "just another minute." Nope. She says "a half mile." You did not seriously just say that! I saw the marker lady. I know a marathon is only 26.2 miles. Don't ever say that again.

We cross the finish line and get our medals. Two little asian boys come to help us and Shar just stands face to face with her asian helper and cries. My asian helper holds me (I collapsed in his scrawy little arms) and he lays me on the curb and then stands over me. Talk about awkward. We make our way through the high school gymnasium where they are serving soup. Wow- just what I want after a marathon. Yummy. yeah right.

We walk to our car, unlock the doors, get undressed inside, throw on some sweats, and decide to just head home. No shower. No celebratory dinner. Nothing. We didn't have it in us anymore. We didn't have anything in us anymore. It was just back in the bobsled headed towards those damn almond trees.
So there you have it. That's our story. Probably doesn't mean anything close to what it means to me. Even as I sit here and relive this story, I get choked up. Someone asked if I was glad we went. 150% glad. It is those kind of experiences that shape us into the people we are. It was because of this race, that I know we are not quitters. Our mom raised us better than that. When faced with a challenge, we take it head on with laughter and determination that cannot be matched. And we do it together, hand in hand, gallop to waddle.

To Sharalyn, without question there is no way I could have done this without you. As with most things in life, they are always done better with you by my side. I remember mom saying that after this race, we were bonded for life. Well, you are my sister which makes us bonded for life regardless, but our friendship is what is bonded now. I admire your willingness to let your little sister take over sometimes and lead us to the finish line even though you are always the older and wiser one. I mean it when I say I would do anything for you. You are my best friend and make this world a much brighter one. You have a strength beyond measure and should be proud of the woman you are. You can turn any situation into a laugh till I cry, sides hurting, cannot breathe moment. You are someone I admire for too many reasons to list. Your beauty is stunning and shines like a star. Yes, the finish line was a great memory. Yes, I loved every long minute of that 5 hour battle. But you want to know what was my favorite part of all this? It was when you and I were sitting buck naked in the car changing clothes, and you said "This was an I love you moment Shannon." I would run 100 more marathons to have those moments with you Shar. I love you too RNR CHK!!


edmundsfam said...

I can almost see it
That dream I'm dreaming but
There's a voice inside my head sayin,
You'll never reach it,
Every step I'm taking,
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Got to keep trying
Got to keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna want to make it move
Always going to be an up-hill battle,
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose,
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing,
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes they knock me down but
No I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm going to remember most yeah
Just got to keep going
And I,
I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on,

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna want to make it move
Always going to be an up-hill battle,
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose,
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I'm going to have to lose,
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

Keep on moving
Keep climbing
Keep the faith baby
It's all about
It's all about
The climb
Keep the faith
Keep your faith

It's like Myley Cyrus was at the Napa Marathon! Truly the HARDEST thing I have ever had to do. I have never felt that broken mentally and physically. And yet I would absolutely do it again. Thanks for being there at mile 20. And thanks for letting me lean on you (literally) for 6 miles. And thanks for sticking up for your down syndrome girlfriend when the guy at mile 23 obviously didn't think we would make it. And thanks for not looking at me as I sat naked in the bobsled until I could muster up enough energy to get some pants on. Thanks for being the BEST little sister. I love you!

redstarmama said...

Laughed and cried and stood in awe of you two gnarly women. Excellent post, Shan!

Lauren said...

1st part-back home...SHANNON! you need to chill! Stop busting your parts! Your babies need you...
2nd part-the run...You girls are CRAZY! I wish I could have seen you two at the finish line! Just Classic!

4kids2luv said...

Shannon..i cried reading this. The bond your sister and you have is wonderful!! You are a strong woman and your mom did a good job!

Mrs. Richardson said...

you two are amazing!!! Such a shinning example of a strong sisterhood! Congrats on making it you two... I am in Awe once again!

Jeff and Amy Barlow said...

Congrats! I am sooo proud of both of you, although I wasn't surprised to read that you both finished the race...as I know you guys have it in you to finish ANY race you start. That's just the way the Hambly sisters are.

I'm just two days past having Lola, but the funny thing is, all I can think about is being able to start training so I can fulfill one of my life-long goals...run a marathon. Maybe one of these days I'll cross a finish line with you both. I'm not a Hambly, but with our pasts so intertwined...I might as well should be! :)

Love you guys! Congrats again!

Beardall Family said...

Dying over the pic of Shar in the car! Had no idea almonds grew on trees! And what would life be like without sisters?! I wouldn't be alive and you two wouldn't have all these great memories and stories for the rest of us to laugh at and be entertained by. Lenex needs a sister ;)