October 3, 2014
This blog entry was written by Natalie Kronick in her blog entitled “Try 2 Serve.” Natalie is an Achilles Guide and accomplished triathlete!
Labor-day weekend I had the amazing honor to guide my first athlete through her longest
run of the season at the New Haven Road Race 20k (More like a ½ Marathon Run). This fabulous lady has had a seriously long battle dealing with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and has undergone 58 (yes, 5-8) major surgeries over the last 20 years to get to where she is today. She was completely paralyzed from the head to toe on her right side and had to re-learn how to walk, talk, her coordination and how to write. She is every bit of an all-encompassing warrior-ess who not only is lucky to be alive today, but is out to show the world that if you keep trying and keep training, you can overcome the worst!
Monday morning was by far, the most humid / hot day of my running career. By 7 am, it was already 72 degrees (F) and humidity was around 90%. Now, I know, all of you folks who live in the South are probably laughing at me. But seriously, September in Connecticut is so bizarre. I mean, we have our share of hot and humid over July and August, but this is getting ridiculous. Anyways, pressing onwards. I got my Achilles ‘Guide’ shirt out and was so excited to wear it! It only got used once on a training run a couple of months prior. Got my racing glasses and my cap (didn’t want the sun in my face all day) and a THROW AWAY WATER BOTTLE. (Yes, I’m still venting about my water belt… haha!)
Jen (my awesome athlete) was ready to go at 7am and we were off. Got into New Haven around 8am to get sufficient parking and to take our time getting around, bathroom breaks (there would be a few) and do a little dynamic stretching. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I literally had to pee like 3 times before this run. I wasn’t even RACING! My bladder just knows when there is a race going on or something. Probably the fact that the heat was up to almost 80 deg by race start and I kept drinking water. Oh well. Jen would laugh because I wasn’t alone in this situation. 😉
Now, Jen had run the Hartford Half Marathon in 2013, so I had every confidence in her this fine morning that she was going to do great. She would tell you otherwise, and I had to lull her back into the startup field (J/K) but we had a good plan to start out REALLY EASY and build up. Of course, you get going and you realize, “wait, I have to slow down. Not gonna maintain this pace!”. She went right into an 11-min pace (after telling me she was a 13-min) Way to fake me out, Jen! 😉 You know you’re faster…. I think she was trying to get rid of me from the beginning. (We had a lot of running jokes to dull out the pain on this course. It was SO HOT!!!)
Well, as it was, we eventually settled nicely into her long-distance pace and she was a hustler. Really kept it going. We hit a few hills in the first 3 miles and she just pushed through. For someone who tells me her coordination is not so great, she ran in miraculous straight lines. Not ONCE did she have to lean on me! That’s a praise-report right there.
Flashback to April when I started training with her at our Wed Night group: she had a hard time running without holding onto shoulders for a bit and could barely stand on 1 leg for balance for more than 3 sec. This is just epic progress!!
Now, regardless of going fast or slow on any long run, 12 miles is still 12 miles. It hurts
around mile 9.5 and those last 3-ish miles are always a big mental barrier. It’s not far, but your brain wants to shut down and make you stop. You have to use your body brain to tell your mental brain to just shut up and go! The body is VERY capable of taking on a lot of pain, but it’s not comfortable. So, naturally you want to stop! Thus, I had to pull out all stops to keep Jen in the ‘comfort’ zone (as if ‘comfortable’ was even an appropriate word at this point). We agreed on a plan of run / walk for 1 min on, 1 min off until the end. The last bit of course was primarily flat, so we just kept pushing on. Later, she would tell me that I actually helped her get out of her head and focus on the time. We dreamt of frosty cold beverages and ice baths. We briefly spoke of the fact that we were kicking butt before most people were getting out of bed for the day. And then, the last 1/2 mile came upon on and the finish line was there and we hustled! Then, just like that, we were DONE!
If there is one thing I learned on this endeavor, it’s that Jen is no longer a ‘survivor’; she is a ‘living warrior’! She is taking on the task of running the Hartford Half this October and I have every hope in the world that she will continue to amaze and inspire!
No matter where you are in life, you can reach your goals if you set your heart and mind in the right place. It takes time, but eventually, you get there. Slow and steady, folks…. slow and steady.