Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The significance of my 28th....

So haven't blogged in a while. About a month I think. And well, today's topic isn't the most uplifting, but it's real. It's something I don't think I've ever shared with anyone and I'm not really sure why I'm sitting here typing and now sharing this with whoever reads my blog. This is something one would probably share with a therapist or loved one first, but I guess writing is my form of therapy. And I guess I'm getting more comfortable with sharing as I get older. I don't know. I wish I did. Either way, here goes nothing...

For most I would imagine that 28 isn't the most celebrated birthday. You've officially entered your "late 20's," your 10-year high school reunion is right around the corner, and are that much closer to the 30. For me, the number 28 is a bit different. 28 was the number that was associated with death when it first became a reality. I was 10 or so when I read that the median life expectancy for someone with CF was 28. I was 10 years old and scared and petrified that my life was almost half over. How could I die so soon? I hadn't even had a chance to live yet. My parents and doctors tried to explain to me that median is an average, but I was 10. I heard "death" and I heard "28" and I thought I was going to die in 18 years. Then one of my childhood friend's brother who also had CF passed away. He was 17, maybe 18 years old. That's when it hit. Death was real. I had a serious lung disease and I too might die young. Very frightening thought for a 10-year old to try to cope with, but that was reality. Learning life's tough lessons at a young age became the norm.

Most people say thanks once-a-year around Thanksgiving. Not the case for me. I'm thankful for every day. For all the things in my life, big and small. I'm thankful that I can wake up and smile and take a deep breath. Thankful that I can go to work (most days). Thankful that I can spend time with my mom, dad and brother and all the other amazing people in my life. Thankful that I get to celebrate marathons, birthdays and everything else with such a good group of human beings. Thankful that I can live. Thankful that I've had the opportunity to accomplish many great and cool things in my first 28 years of life. To be quite honest, I think I've experienced and learned more in 28 years than most learn in a lifetime. The older I get the more fortunate I feel I am and the more I appreciate everything and everyone in my life. But most of all I appreciate time. It's the most precious thing we have in this world. Don't waste any of it. Here's to another 28 great years!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

7 days without running makes one weak....

Haha...see what I did there? Pretty funny. Thanks. Anyways, I have decided to keep blogging even though the marathon is over. I really do enjoy writing so I've decided to keep going.

The first week after the marathon is very weird. You spend so much time and dedicate so much energy to train for 4-5 months and then all of a sudden it's over. You cross the finish line with such an emotional high, an incredible sense of self-accomplishment like you just conquered the world and then all of a sudden there's nothing but time. The time you would have spent in the morning or evening training is now empty. Yes, I was looking forward to relaxing for a week and getting my legs back, but I kind of felt lost. Like a part of me was missing. What was I going to fill my time after work and on the weekends? How was I going to relieve stress? Where was I going to go to get away from the world? Running is my escape and without it I don't really know what to do. Well, I still don't and I don't know if anything will ever replace it. However, I did find things to do to fill the time. I read two books, caught up on all the TV shows I'd missed and spent an inordinate amount of time on the couch. And yes, it felt good and was something I was looking forward to for a couple weeks.

And now I look back at the journey. At the time I spent training, the times I spent at home on a Friday night, the mornings when I wanted to smack the alarm clock when I go back to sleep, the runs I did when I was hacking up mucus every 2 minutes, the runs where I felt free in every essence of the word.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend back in October. We'd just finished our 20-miler training run, the longest in the training plan, and were sitting down to our post-run feast. We talked about how we couldn't wait until the marathon was over and we'd have some normalcy back in our lives. How we wouldn't have to wake up at 6 in the morning to get in a 6-mile run before work, how we could go out on a Friday night and have a couple drinks without thinking about a long run on a Saturday morning, and how we could just go out and run and not think about training. And you know what? It was all worth it. Every single mile of training, every Friday night spent at home and every time I trained and pushed it even though I didn't want to. It was all worth it.

Yes, I'm looking forward to some down time to relax and spend with my family and friends over the next couple months. And yes, I'm really looking forward to getting back out there and running and competing. And yes, I'm already planning for the next marathon because for me, training and running marathons is something I enjoy. It's something I consider normal.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The aftermath of the marathon....and why i'm luckier than you

Normally the day after the marathon I write about how lucky and fortunate I am. Yes, I still plan on doing that, but before I get there I learned a very important lesson yesterday that I want to share. I finished the marathon in 3 hours and 52 minutes, a new personal best for NYC. Was I satisfied? No. I'm a competitive, driven and stubborn person who had a goal in mind and didn't reach it. At this point, I was ready to lock myself in a room and sulk and be pissed off for a week. Think about how the first twenty miles were the best I've ever run and then all of a sudden I hit the wall and the cramps came and my legs just locked up. Analyze my nutrition plan. Think about how I needed to take in more electrolytes and carbs earlier in the race. Think about why the same plan that had worked in the past had let me down today.

Then as the day ended, I had a conversation with one of my dear friends. She could tell that I was disappointed and asked me why I'm so hard on myself. To be quite honest, I have no idea. I always expect greatness. That's just how I am. Then she looked at me and said, "Steve, you always talk about how you run cause you can and because you enjoy it. You did something great today and don't let anything take away from the experience." She then told me that everyone is in awe and inspired by what I do and the person I am regardless of my marathon time. And that's about the time when I lost it and the emotions of the day took over. Because I realized how lucky I am to have so many great people in my life who truly care about me and not where I finish in the marathon.

So that nicely leads into my message for the day....Why I'm luckier than you. We can argue if you want, but after yesterday I doubt you'd win.

I consider myself lucky pretty much everyday. I’m lucky I can wake up in the morning and take a deep breath. I’m lucky I can go to work, run, play soccer and pretty much anything else I want to do. I’m lucky CF hasn’t taken it’s toll on me. I’m lucky because I’ve always had great doctors who’ve treated me as an individual and not just another person with CF. They’ve always put me first and not let their medical judgment interfere with my goals and dreams and what I want to accomplish in life.

However, I’m MOST lucky because of everyone that’s part of my life – my amazing support system. My family, friends, and colleagues are always nothing but supportive, compassionate, loving and caring. I’ve accomplished many things in my life. Yesterday, for the third straight year, was one of them. What makes it even better was seeing my friends and family along the course and knowing everyone else had me in their thoughts. I’ve had my ups and downs, my spells of sickness, my IVs and hospitalizations and throughout it all there have always been people by my side. It’s truly, truly amazing to know that I always have people they’re for me. I wish I could verbalize how I feel, but there are simply no words. For now, I’m just going to say thank you. Thank you for letting me part of your life. Thank you for inspiring for me. Thank you for giving me a kick in the ass when I need it. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for being caring and loving and supportive. Thank you for standing by my side through everything. Without you, these accomplishments would mean nothing. Most importantly, thank you for being you.

And on a final note, congratulations to my mother, my friends and everyone else on Team Boomer for a successful marathon Sunday!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

26.2 in the AM

Well, it's finally here. The culmination of 4 months of training. All the early morning, late evening, and long weekend runs will finally pay off. In about 12 hours I'll be arriving on Staten Island for what will seem like the longest 3 hours of my life. The time where you sit around and just wait to start running. I'll be anxious, I'll be nervous, and I'll be really excited. I'll be surrounded by 40,000 people, but completely off in my own world. I'll be focused, concentrating and picturing the race. I'll be running the greatest race in the world - the NYC marathon.

On a side note, we also had a nice dinner with some of the members of Team Boomer this evening. It's really amazing to see so many people come together from different walks of life for one reason. Everyone in the room had their own connection to CF. Whether they have it, one of their children, nieces, or nephews have it or just someone they care about has it I'm truly grateful for everything these folks have done and will continue to do. They've sacrificed and dedicated their time and efforts to train and raise money and wear the Team Boomer t-shirts. Words do not even do justice to how I feel.

With that said, I hope all my friends running have a good race and those drinking think of me when they crack that first beer. See ya at the bar afterwards!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The inner workings of Stevie B...

So I’ve run 408 miles in the past 16 weeks. Let’s say I run between an 8 and 8.5-minute mile. That means I’ve spent about 55 hours in the past 4 months running. A good majority of it solo. The good news for me is that I actually enjoy spending time by myself. I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. In fact, I quite enjoy the hour or two or three I get to be alone and run. It gives me an opportunity to escape and think and daydream and reflect. A lot has gone through my mind in the past 4 months. So to build on Monday’s note, this is what goes through my mind.

Sometimes I think of very serious things. I think of how lucky I am to be healthy and have strong, functioning lungs. I think of others who have CF and hope that the ones who are sick and need new lungs get them. I think of my friends who have gotten a second chance at life and how happy I am for them. I think of how important it is to live in the moment and take advantage of your opportunities and to take chances.

Sometimes I try to figure out how I’m going to balance a full-time job, two chronic illnesses, an active social life (I’m pretty popular) and training for a marathon. I think of my family and friends and colleagues and how great they are. How they are always by my side whenever I need them. Whether it’s to just talk, or bring me a meal when I’m sick, go to a movie on Friday night instead of the bar, take time out there day to call and see how the doctor’s appointment, or to run a marathon with me when I ask they’re always there.

Sometimes I think of not so serious things. I wonder why the grown men in the park are playing with swords. However, they probably wonder why I’m running multiple 6-mile laps. I envy the little kids playing soccer. How carefree and uncomplicated their lives are. Sometimes I stare at the skyline of Manhattan and how pretty the lights are or about laying on the beach in the Caribbean. I think of the bad jokes I told earlier in the day and laugh to myself or the pizza and milk shake or root beer float that I’m going to eat once I’m done running.

Sometimes I don’t think at all. Sometimes I start running and completely forget I’m running and two hours later I’m done. Sometimes I just sing along to the music for two hours. Sometimes I just think about nothing and run.

As you can see, a lot goes through my mind. Some serious, some not so serious. Either way, each run is unique. Each run is special. Each run means something different to me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My mom's running a marathon...

Back in February of this year, the Bells were having a nice family dinner and the topic of the NYC marathon came up. I was telling my parents and brother how much I loved it and what a great experience it was. I then looked at my mom and told her that she should run it. She glared back at me with the "Stephen, are you serious look?" and said she'd think about it. I said, "Why not?" Two minutes later, she caved and said if I wanted to her run that she'd run. I told her of course I want her to run, but I want her to want to run. She nodded in agreement. So here we are, 8 months later, 2 days away from the NYC marathon and half of the Bell family will be lacing up their running shoes come Sunday morning. That's what makes this year even more special. In addition to my many friends who have decided to join me on this 26.2 mile stroll through this great city, my mother, Mrs. Sally Bell will see first-hand what it's like to run a marathon.

For as long as I can remember my mom (and my dad and brother too, but this about mom) has been my number #1 fan, advocate, and supporter. My mom has been there with me through everything. She's someone I can count on, talk to and lean on (except the one time she told me to take the bus home after 7 days in the hospital...she eventually picked me up). She means the world to me and I am forever grateful for everything she has done and continues to do for me.

It's been a very fun and exciting 8 months watching her train and get ready for Sunday. She ran her first race in nearly 15 years, a 10K, over the summer and followed it up with a half-marathon in September. I could not be more proud and can't to see her cross the finish line.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My journey to the starting line...

They often say that getting to the starting line of the marathon is more difficult than the marathon itself. Training is intense and there's always a chance something can go wrong or you can get hurt and miss out on the big day. Each person has his or her journey to get to the starting line. This is mine.

Training started out pretty normally. July and August went by as planned and I was pretty happy with how I was progressing. September came around and things continued according to plan. I had signed up for two half-marathons in order to get myself in the race environment and to gauge how my training was going. I ran the first half-marathon on September 17th and finished with a new personal best, 1 hour and 36 minutes. A week later, I ran the second half-marathon and things didn't go as I'd hoped. I couldn't run more than a quarter mile without coughing. I was bringing up more mucus than I had in the recent past. I couldn't take a deep breath or catch my breath. In the span of a week I'd gone from running my fastest half-marathon to picking up a pretty nasty lung infection and not being able to breath and run and function the way I wanted.

After talking with my doctor we decided to go straight to IVs to just take care of what was going on in my lungs. And yes, some of you may be thinking why don't I just skip this marathon and take care of myself. Well, quite honestly that wasn’t an option and didn’t even come up in conversation. My doctor, nurses, family and friends all know how important running is to me and that it would take a small army to keep me off Staten Island the first Sunday in November.

I spent the first three weeks of October with a PICC line in my arm with the objective of getting healthy so I could go back to living the life I’m used to living. I took a week off work and 10 days or so off from training, did the IVs, slept, increased my treatments and got the rest I needed physically and mentally in order to get myself back to where I need to be.

As for now, my lungs are working, I can breathe easily and I'm healthy. I am four days away from running my 5th full-marathon. I feel lucky and fortunate that I get to experience all the it has to offer. The energy, the crowd, and the emotions you feel the days leading up to the race, the race itself and the jubilation of crossing the finish line. Each marathon is truly an amazing experience in it's own and I can't wait to see what Sunday has to bring.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I made a blog! Here goes nothing....

So my first post.  Here goes nothing....

With the NYC marathon right around the corner (6 days away!!), it's once again time for me to share.  With the persistence of some very good friends I decided to start a blog to share some of my thoughts and what goes on in my life.  What goes through my mind while I'm running and what I learn, experience and think about.

When I tell people that I've run just over 400 miles over the past 4 months to prepare for the marathon, they often wonder if I get bored.  How do you run for so long?  What do I think about?  Well, in a nut shell, here's what goes through my head.  Sometimes I think about life and very serious things.  Sometimes I don't think at all.  Sometimes I stay very focused and concentrate on my breathing.  Sometimes I get completely lost in my surroundings.  Sometimes I sing along to the music.  Sometimes I listen to what's going on around me and hear nothing.  Each run is a unique and different experience.  That's what makes it so special to me.

Beginning on Wednesday I'm going to post a different note each evening.  A little bit of a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of Stephen Bell when he's running.