Archive for half marathon

The Journey to Healing

Posted in cancer, training for my first half ironman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2019 by runmyssierun

IMG_3603Eight years ago yesterday, I began my journey healing from the after effects of cancer by running and strengthening my relationship with God. Many have followed my candid documentary of it through my blog (www.runmyssierun.com), social media posts and/or joined me on the jogging trail or in the church at mass, Catholic Daughters, or ACTs. I remember someone telling me when Donny died that time heals. They said it again six months later when Sissy died. And again six months after that when Momma died. Although I understand, appreciate and am grateful for them trying to console me but I’m still not sure it’s TIME that has helped heal me. What I do know is that what helped ME was a phenomenal group of genuine, loving people who care surrounded me and encouraged me to find healthy outlets for my emotions. I took up running to heal my body (not to become a professional athlete – I have to make that clear for a certain group of people who follow). I felt it was better to take out my anger on the pavement than on the loved ones closest to me. I sought out the light of God in all that I did and if I did not see Him there, I dropped it from my life. By doing both, my eyes and heart were exposed to things I had not seen before: how cancer affects so many of us, too many of us, how God is there always and too many times it’s us that are not, and when you go through things that you don’t understand and are truly horrific, its because He is having you connect the dots, become stronger and wiser so that when they ARE connected, you KNOW and BLAM! – it hits you and it all makes sense. Eight years of this and the dots are finally connecting for me. I’ve met so many wonderful people, learned so much about cancer, how far science and medicine has come, how many gaps are still left to bridge and how possible we can make the impossible happen if we all work together for a greater cause. Thank you Lord for the hardships that you carried me through, thank you Momma for the prayers you devoted to me, thank you Sissy for saving my life with your last wish, thank you to my running coaches, mentors, teams, sponsors and fellow runners who encouraged me to not quit and push harder, thank you to my family, my sons and my husband for supporting me through those heart shattering moments that lasted years and in some ways still continue, thank you to my sisters in Christ who continuously pray for me and everyone who has been and will be touched by cancer, thank you to my fellow Realtors® who have now stepped up and in to this next phase of mine, just as my Momma did – still not ready to fill her shoes but certainly am ready to follow the footsteps she proudly trekked.

So with that, a few weeks ago, a fellow Realtor and cycling amigo rounded up a few of us who run and ride and a challenge was set forth: we were all to run 1000 mile (collectively) during the month of October and some of the businesses that we work with in the industry would match $1 per mile that we run and donate the money to the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer & Hematology Clinic. We created a facebook group and a Strava group to encourage/motivate each other and log our miles together. As of today, 4 days into October, we already have approximately 350 miles in to our goal! As Realtors®, we stereo typically lead very unhealthy, high stress lives. Most of us spend too much time in our cars driving rather than walking, running or cycling. We eat whatever is convenient and cheap so highly processed, high calorie fast food is the norm or skipping meals and binge eating/drinking late in the day is common. It didn’t take long for our little group to explode and offer hope and encouragement to our other members. We have 5ks on our calendar every weekend in October. Tomorrow’s Chacha Run in Edinburg will be our first.

But I had a dilemma. All these years, I was known for running in ORANGE because it was my Momma’s favorite color. The Chacha run and most October Breast Cancer awareness runs use the color PINK to signify and bring awareness to the issue. Long story short – I have nothing in pink to run in and wear tomorrow.

TODAY one of my best friends surprised me with THIS and all I could give her back were a flood of happy tears and big bear hugs. She took the time, effort and creativity to design and create this and have it made custom for me in time for this race tomorrow. ISN’T SHE AWESOME!?!?!? I know I am blessed not because I’m feeling all high and mighty but just the opposite – I’m humbled and unworthy of all the greatness bestowed upon me. I am blessed because through all of this loss, hardship, heartbreak, family destruction and cracks in the foundation of what I thought was me was God’s light shining through and connecting these dots, these moments, experiences and strangers who quickly became solid life long best friends is the healing. Thank you Irene Becerra Thompson and every one at Pescador Fishing Apparel! Y’all caught me by surprise today and love you all so much for it! I will proudly wear pink tomorrow for #mimismiles and to those who run beside me, I hope you feel the breeze from the wings of the angels around me. I hope that in the steps we all take tomorrow, today, this month, we are able to make a difference in the lives of the children fighting cancer in our community. My heart is smiling today!!!

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Tell me again why you can’t do it?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2015 by runmyssierun
This is the image that pops into my mind every time someone tells me they have bad knees and can't run.

This is the image that pops into my mind every time someone tells me they have bad knees and can’t run.

“You should come run with me,” I say.

“I wish I could but…(insert your excuse here)”

Finally, my December 26.2 done!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by runmyssierun

December 2011 I completed my first 5k

December 2012 I completed my second 26.2

December 2013 I wanted to continue to do 26.2s but could only finish a 13.1.

Because I’ve always said to never ever give up to so many people, I didn’t want to be that person who doesn’t practice what I preach.  I came back to this December with the intention of finishing what I said I was going to do last year but knowing what I wanted to continue to do, I announced after completing this full marathon that it would be my last.

December 2014 I completed my third and last 26.2

Immediately after posting on social media that it was my last, I was bombarded with questions and disbelief.

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You can see my response. I chose to do extreme events to prove a point, to raise eye brows and make people aware of the reason I was doing them… cancer. In the last three years, training and preparing for these events have thrown me into the world of health and fitness… a world that I was never really a part of. It is fascinating!!!!

The struggles within that world are perpetual and ever changing with a flare of darwinism.

The struggle to overcome your own self-doubt.

The struggle to bypass the nay-sayers.

The struggle to abide by the rules of nutrition, physical exertion, rest and keeping it all consistent.

The struggle to keep your competitive nature in balance to where it pushes you but doesn’t make you go to extremes.

The struggle to understand that even when everyone around you are popping pills, drinking chemicals, Pre-workout in the a.m. and Ambien in the p.m., injecting shots to be thinner, faster, stronger… it clicks… is that really healthy? Is that really fitness? or is that because they’re comparing themselves to someone else? My struggle to make my life healthier and become more fit also comes with a lot of education, the release of comparison and judgement of others and the inclusion of not just a healthier body but a healthy mind and spirit. My struggle is to remain natural and chemical free even if my times don’t change or get worse and my weight increases as I get older. My vision of healthy and fit doesn’t match the vision of many others. I don’t judge or look down on anyone who does the above. I simply stay quiet and gracefully decline when they insist I take this pill or drink this pre-workout. The perception of healthy and fit is as tricky to define as beauty.

The struggle can sometimes be overwhelming. And at Mile 22, it seems like an inevitable plunge into the abyss of bleh.

Running a marathon forces you to have some pretty deep discussions with yourself for a few hours.  And while admittedly, some of MY discussions are a bit delusional, there are points of clarity that can be reached in this process that can never be touched on in any other situation. I’ve made some monumental decisions, plans and goals while running marathons and training runs. This marathon, the McAllen Marathon, had great discussion, debate and decisions made… up until mile 22. It went all crazy after that.

Let’s begin with my training for this event… it was odd and lonely without my Team in Training teammates running by my side this season. I wanted to spend these last few months with my eldest son before he left to the Military on the first of December so I backed out of TNT this season and trained on my own “when life allowed me to”. Life isn’t very consistent with me. But one thing holds true about life with me… when I PLAN things out (like a workout calendar).. they’re sure to never happen as planned. Many times, my long runs on weekends had to be skipped because hubby wanted to go hunting at the ranch or was called in to work or one reason or another.

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But even though I wasn’t part of this season’s TEAM, I was still asked to help encourage so I’d go write inspirational cheers with chalk on the side walks of the trail. Twice it rained and washed away my pretty graffiti. But word got around quickly and I began to hear chatter about how others can cheer and encourage runners. And I’m really really glad that happened!!!

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Team let me wear my purple jersey and meet up with them on race morning to do my traditional “selfie” but didn’t get to see Jeanice for my traditional prayer.

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Remembering how well that super spray made my legs feel at my last “redemption” triathlon, I sprayed the beegeezus outta that can onto my legs. I’m sure I reeked of menthol downwind for three miles. I stretched and jumped and stretched and jumped. I found my playlist, planted my earbuds, took more “selfies” in the crowd, programmed Nike Run and my Garmin and Kapow! We’re off!!!

I started off slow and easy. It was a nice comfortable pace that allowed me to quickly find my rhythm for endurance. So long as I kept this pace – which matched the beat of my music on the playlist, of course – I knew I’d be fine. The course was the same that I remembered from last year. I was feeling good. Deep down, I wanted to go faster but knew the consequences if I did. I felt only a slight discomfort in my shoes. They felt heavy today, like if I was scurrying in bricks. My kick was low and my stride was short. I remembered Coach Jose saying short strides were good for marathons because it reduced the occurrence of injury.  Eh, so I didn’t think anything of it.

As I trotted up 29th Street close to the neighborhood I used to live in, I saw the sun peek out above the tree line on the East horizon. And there he was… a man in full gear, gas mask, boots, heavy uniform, carrying the United States Flag.

“Michael!!! Michael has to run like that!!!” I screamed to myself. The first round of tears shot out remembering my baby boy was far away from me at boot camp doing just this! Just like I saw in my first marathon in San Diego… but this guy was clearly already hurting… and it was just the first couple of miles in.

Oh good Lord, please, have mercy on him! I hope he’s not doing the full marathon this way!

The cheerleaders up and down 29th street were amazing! People were out on lawn chairs, Cyndi, Tony & Miriam, Miss Connie – Michael’s piano teacher and her little girl and neighbors, Drew, Kat & Anita, and countless others all with posters and yelling at the top of their lungs!!!

THIS

WAS

AWESOME!

McAllen Marathon 2014

I was at a solid 11:00 minute per mile pace. I fluctuated only by a few seconds up and down at each mile up to about Mile 12. This pace is nothing phenomenal but to me, finally finding a steady pace without stopping is monumental!!! I hadn’t stopped at all. *This was something that Xavie – hubby – had been harping on me for months about. I had planned to do solid tens but in the last couple of weeks of training, decided to take it down by one minute. BUT MY FEET WERE KILLING ME!!! As the songs on my playlist ended, there were about 3 seconds between songs and I could hear squeaking. My feet were squeaking!!! What in the world???

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LuHuan, a team mate of mine had come in to pace me for a few miles. She complimented me on my steady strong pace and then kept quiet. She had been running with me for a few years now and knew what worked for me… music. So she allowed me to zone out and focus on my breathing and the beat.

After a few more miles, Ronnie joined me for a short while but my pace was way too slow for him. A part of me wanted to speed it up but didn’t. I was afraid of risking the endurance – it suddenly got really humid and didn’t want to chance anything… so Ronnie popped off to pace another.

I was alone after that for the rest of the race. I saw Tanya and the group of girls I had hoped to join up with just ahead and knew there would be no way I could catch up with them at this point unless I really booked it. They looked strong. I waved and nodded as they went opposite me on the overpass. I jumped it up a bit to catch up to them.

However, by the time I made it around to the point where the course turns West, I saw Miguel across the street closing up the full marathon participants. Race crew volunteers were following him in trucks picking up orange pylons off the street as he passed them. I yelled across the street to him and threw him my hand signs. He yelled and threw them back.

My teammates had walked Miguel in to the finish line just one month ago at his FIRST full marathon. This guy is a beast! He went on to do another FULL marathon just one month later... which is why I wanted to be by his side this time. It takes a lot of determination to do something THIS grand!!!

My teammates had walked Miguel in to the finish line just one month ago at his FIRST full marathon. This guy is a beast! He went on to do another FULL marathon just one month later… which is why I wanted to be by his side this time. It takes a lot of determination to do something THIS grand!!!

That’s when my big bright idea came to me. I have no one waiting for me at the finish line. I had already warned my family that I would be very late coming in. I was pretty much free to take as long as I wanted and enjoy the day.  I decided to slow it down again and wait for Miguel so that I could cross the finish line with him.  *Miguel is someone quite phenomenal and someone who inspires me. I’ve done something like this only once before and that was for Lisa Cavazos at the Get Up and Train 1/2 Marathon. She’s someone who inspires me as well but it was why I turned around that made me reminisce about it. She was a little emotional about not having family at the finish line there for her and didn’t want to be alone after such a feat. I didn’t have anyone waiting for me either and I wasn’t looking forward to being alone either. So, why not cross with someone who inspires and not be alone?

Just as I had convinced myself to wait for Miguel, I saw a woman ahead of me turn into the parking lot at Travis Middle School. She slowly sat down and then laid down. I sped up to see if she was ok. She said this was her first full marathon and was cramping up, needed to stretch and that her husband was on his way to pick her up. I asked her if she wanted me to help her stretch. I guess she thought I was a crazy stranger because she kept saying her husband was on his way and declined. I tried to gracefully convince her to stand up and keep moving. I remembered that stopping immediately after running all these miles was very dangerous. You need to slowly cool down for your body to adjust to a normal status.

The volunteers from the water station nearby saw what had happened. Clearly she was in the dreaded “bite me” zone all my teammates had warned me about. She wasn’t listening to me so I let the volunteers go do their thing.

I went on… stuck in my ear plugs and jammed on. It was beginning to get really hot and humid but the breeze was doing it’s part to console me. As I continued North up Bicentennial, I got the good tunes on my playlist. My mood changed and it seemed as if there were water stops every two blocks… I was taking an easy stroll now. MMMMM orange slices, pineapple and water… oh but my feet need to soak in a raspa!!! I don’t know what happens to my mind at about mile 18… my fantasies about raspas become quite… unhealthy.

I’ve made a purposeful effort to never show pain in my face when running these crazy events so when I see a photographer, I force a smile and make sure Momma sees my hand sign telling her that I love her. But this photographer I saw was different… she had two dogs and was prettier than all the others. It was Laura!!! And she was getting after me because she wanted a good shot and I had pineapple in my mouth and was prancing. She yelled at me to run!!!

Ok ok… the things I do for a photo op!!!

I paused for a while and told her I would go up for just a few miles and then wait for Miguel to join up so that we could cross the finish line together. I didn’t know how long she had planned to stay there and didn’t want to force her to stay longer but had hoped that knowing my plan, IF she did stay to see him go by, she’d text me and I’d have a better ETA of him meeting up with me. So far over the last couple of years of friendship, she’s been pretty spot on about reading my brain waves…

Not but a couple of miles after that, I was asked by another streetside cheerleader if I was ok. “Yes, I’m good… just slow is all.” He responded with “Another runner collapsed and didn’t make it. Just making sure you’re ok.”

“Ya, ya. I’m fine.” — I didn’t think anything of it at the time. When he told me, I just thought a runner fell and didn’t cross. Being the clutz that I am, I thought they knew I was clumsy and probably was showing signs of the wobbles.

“Oh lord, am I looking pathetic to people now? Am I showing signs of fatigue? Are people worried if I’m going to make it? Should I throw in the towel? Are people making fun of me? Are they doubting me?” The wicked voice of doubt in my head became louder and louder as each painful step forward was taken.

“Just don’t stop Myssie! Don’t stop and you’ll be fine.” I kept repeating to myself. Hubby had told me a few weeks before that even if my pace decreased, so long as I didn’t stop, I’d be fine. “But I have to wait for Miguel!”

Another cheerleader friend saw me and ran up to me, dousing me with water from head to toe. “Are you ok?” she asked me. “Yes, yes. I just can’t stop!!! I can’t stop!” I must have sounded like a lunatic to her. In hindsight, I probably was!!!

In the last couple of miles, I waited for Miguel. I was walking and positioned my eyes Southward down Bicentennial but still couldn’t see him. I began to worry. A lot!!! “Was he the runner who fell? Why hasn’t Laura called or text me? He should be here by now.” I said to myself. And then another race volunteer drove up in a truck and said “Ma’am, we need you to keep going so we can close up the course. We’re pulling the runners off the course but you’re so close, you need to finish now.”

With no sign of Miguel, I hung my head and went forward… stuck my earbuds into my head again and trotted forward. My phone rang. Seriously??? EVERYONE important to me KNOWS I’m running!!! Who’s calling me???

It was my cousin Charlie. “He must be calling about going to the ranch and forgot I was running today,” I thought. I disconnected. He called again. I disconnected AGAIN. He left a message.

One mile away from the finish line… I listened to the voicemail he left.

That’s when it all started to make sense. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

No. Not Scott. No. No way… Oh God! No. No. I’m at the end of the marathon and my mind plays tricks on me and these are crazy thoughts. They’re just crazy thoughts that I misunderstood.

But the tears kept coming down and I couldn’t catch my breath. My feet were in so much pain. A pain like I’ve never felt before EVER running EVER. and I just could not stop crying.

Rolando jumped out of the stands and saw me struggling. I wasn’t but just a half block away from the finish. He put his arm around me and pushed. “Go!” He yelled.

And in all the events I’ve run, I’ve always smiled at the finish and threw up my hand sign to Momma letting her know I love her… except for this one. The camera caught me struggling, crying at the finish.

No smile. No "I love you" hand sign.  This finish was the most difficult of all events.

No smile. No “I love you” hand sign. This finish was the most difficult of all events.

i wobbled to the car.. by myself.. no finisher picture this time. Called hubby, told him I finished and that I was ok and he immediately said “Call Sasha now. Let her know we’re here for her.” I couldn’t call her. I sent her a text. I remembered all too well how I felt after my brother Donny had passed away. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I knew she couldn’t either.

Twenty six point two miles done. And I just didn’t have the heart to rejoice.

For those of you who are local to the McAllen region and Rio Grande Valley, you know the rest of this story. For those of you in the rest of my blogosphere, Scott was a great City Councilman for the City of McAllen. The McAllen marathon was an event that he helped originate because of his love of running marathons. He was the Scott that was on my cousin Charlie’s voicemail. He had removed himself from the race at about mile 20 and went home with his brother and his sister in law who had also run the race but collapsed shortly after of a massive heart attack.

http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/editorial-a-void-in-mcallen-after-death-of-commissioner-crane/article_1ed508c4-84c0-11e4-86af-2bdd8b9a7ed2.html

Hundreds came to show their respects at the convention center. However, it was the running community that clearly made their marks upon the hearts of all the Valley afterwards what the power and unity and respect amongst runners truly is.

The same night a memorial service was held to celebrate the life of Commissioner Scott C. Crane, hundreds of people showed up to run or walk in his memory at Town Lake Park in McAllen. Here is a touching tribute in honor of the community leader and a look back at the Scott C. Crane Memorial Run.

Run. Run if you can for as long as you can as fast as you can for your own reason. Run or jog or walk or do what ever it is that makes you feel alive. It is a gift, a gift that is not guaranteed will be here tomorrow.

Mimi’s miles to Ironman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2014 by runmyssierun

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September of 2011, Sissy lay in her bed at MD Anderson’s leukemia floor unable to feed herself while my mother was a few floors down having nine tumors removed from her brain via gamma ray surgery. She looked me over and said, “You’re gaining a lot of weight with all this pressure on you taking care of us. Why don’t you take up running?”

“Why couldn’t you have suggested zumba?” I joked back to her.

“I’m serious,” she said. “I want you to run for me.”

My baby brother had died in April, 2011. Sissy died two weeks after the above conversation. Momma died on Easter Sunday April, 2012, exactly one year after my baby brother.

Two weeks after her death, I bought my first pair of running shoes from Valley Running Company. It took a month to build up to running my very first mile… ever… EVER… in my life. One month later, December 2011, I ran my first 5k at the Fiesta Marathon.January 2012, I ran my first 10k over the Causeway at South Padre Island. February 2012, I ran my first half marathon in Austin, the LiveSTRONG Marathon. June 2012, I ran my first full marathon at the Rock N Roll San Diego in California. I went on to run a half marathon every month after that including the San Antonio RnR Marathon and the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco and that December returned to my first race, the Fiesta Marathon and ran the full 26.2 miles as my Team in Training teammates and countless other supporters all ran me in to the finish line even though I injured myself severely during the race. I blogged candidlyabout my entire journey, the good the bad and the ugly on RunMyssieRun.com.

January of 2013, I began a new challenge for Team in Training. I learned how to swim and began riding a bike. I hadn’t done that since I was 12 years old. Ten weeks after I learned to swim, I completed my first triathlon, Stanley’s Triathlon. I then joined the San Antonio TNT Team and completely my first Sprint triathlon for LLS at the Capital of Texas Triathlon in Austin, Texas. Four months after that, I earned the very first Triple Crown for the South Texas Team in Training Team by joining the National Flex TNT Team and completing the 108 mile century ride in the mountains of Nevada at Viva Bike Vegas.

January 2014, I returned to my roots to invigorate energy into the Team by helping launch the first RGV TNT Triathlon Team. I went back to CapTexTri in May of 2014 to push myself up to the Olympic distance… but failed. I was pulled out during the swim and was unable to complete it.  So I found a similar race on the same course and attempted the Olympic Distance Triathlon again knowing that I would not stop until I finished this distance. And I did.

So now what? How do I top that? How do I continue my journey?

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I, the outta shape middle aged princess who had never run a mile before in her life before this, will attept to do her best to complete a Half-Ironman in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, for Sissy, Momma and everyone who questions the possibility of someone who loves her family more than the fear of limitations.

In 2011, I witnessed the pain of multiple human loss.

In 2012, I witnessed the pain of agonizing physical endurance.

In 2013, I witnessed the miracle of healing…multiple times.

In 2014, I witnessed how everything above came together.

In 2015, I hope to witness you experiencing all these miracles with me. I hope to find a cure, eliminate the cause and ensure that those currently “dancing” wth cancer have access to affordable, high quality care.

Now, the above only talks about me and the crazy challenges I’ve done in this short time. What you REALLY need to hear about are the people I’ve met along the way, the victims, the heroes, the parents, the grandparents, the doctors and nurses and pharmacists, the coaches, the teammates, the businesses, the elected leaders, the sponsors, the donors, the people who care just because it’s the right thing to do… this is where the story gets good. And that is my journey… a bunch of good people doing good things all around us in a world filled with chaos, fear and uncertainty. Travel it with me.

It takes more than one person to make up a team and that’s why I’m asking you to donate to my TNT fundraising page for TNT!

By participating as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) TNT, I am raising funds to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immnuotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these.

Patients need these cures and they need your support.

Please make a donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers.

This is THE most amount of money I have ever needed to raise. I pray that although I am no professional athlete, a company will understand the seriousness of my commitment and promise to my mother and offer to sponsor me. I am honored that this journey (aka Mimi’s Miles on Facebook) has become an educational resource for the community of people I live in, a source of healing for me (via runmyssierun.com) and a source of empowerment for those seeking a healthier lifestyle.

Join me and my Team and countless people who have been touched by cancer.

RunMyssieRun.com

With all the love in my heart,

Thank you!

Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

Two Nineteen was my sign

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2014 by runmyssierun

If you follow any of my social media accounts, you can probably agree that one of my most iconic photos was the one of me crying as I crossed the finish line at the LiveSTRONG half marathon (my very first half marathon) on my baby brother’s birthday a few months after his death while listening to his voicemail on my iPhone.

Tears for Donny

That was on February 19th. Donny’s birthday. Two Nineteen.

I have since turned this number into a goal, a race goal. And the thing about me is that once I set my mind to something, I make a plan, practice, practice, practice, and then I go get it.

Oddly enough… when I tried to achieve this goal at the McAllen Half Marathon, I cramped up twice and missed my time. I failed.

I went back to basics. I went to Hector Gandara, my run coach and instructor for Valley Running Company’s Running 101 class, and told him that I wanted to sign back up for his class so that I could go back to LiveSTRONG this year and finish at 2:19 for Donny. He put me on a plan.

However, life happens… and I ended up missing a TON of classes. Doing his workouts on your own is very difficult. You don’t really know if you are doing them correctly, if your form is slouching and what hurts the most… the encouragement from your fellow runners. I felt like a foreign exchange student – part of the class but not really.

On that note, I questioned my ability to have progressed like how I was expected to or felt I should have.

After the Port Isabel Longest Causeway 10k run, I was extremely pleased with my time and knew that Coach Hector’s plan was working!!! But that was almost a month ago already. Had I been able to keep the momentum? Enough to finally reach my goal of 2:19? That was the question lingering in my head these last couple of weeks.

Well, as my life goes, everything I plan for ends up changing. Not having a “normal” 9-5 job with a regular income kinda hurt when it was time to pay property taxes so as I crunched the numbers in the family budget… seems that a weekend in Austin running a race was no longer an option. I should have known, too. The signs were everywhere.

I started a new business venture and am super stoked about it. *I’ll talk about it later I’m sure. But the work and the weather conspired against me and cut my workouts to a bare minimum making me really question whether I was able to reach 2:19 at the next available race, the “Get Up And Train” half marathon in Pharr, Tx. This race is now abbreviated to #GUAT.

Race packet pick up for GUAT was yesterday from 9a.m. – 6p.m. I drove up at about 5:30p.m. to late register. I must have sat in the parking lot for another ten minutes thinking to myself “How can I just show up like this so late?” I know most of the race event producers and they’ve become good friends of mine. I can just imagine the headaches I’ll cause being so late. After all they have done for me, this is how I treat them???? Good Lord Myssie!!! Just pass on the race. Suck it up and wait for another one to do when you get your act together.

*sigh*

I walked in trying desperately not be to noticed but the gymnasium was already clearing out and, honestly, I stood out like a sore thumb. I walked up to the registration table and asked to sign up expecting to be immediately turned down because it was too late or too full or too… something. But there she was… beautiful Amanda and her big smile multitasking while turning out some fires that always happen at registration events. With a nod of her head, her eyes pointing in the direction of a registration form… my registration was handled seamlessly.

I returned home to do everything you should NOT do the night before a marathon. I didn’t eat dinner. I stayed up way too late. I didn’t even shower much less shave. TMI? sorry… at least you weren’t running next to me today eh?

Before the race even started, I had already tied my orange jacket around my waist because I was already stoked and warmed up. I wrote “Donny” on my hand so that when I looked down at my Garmin, I would be reminded to go for my goal… Donny’s birthday. 

The first mile was difficult. It always is but I found my rhythm by mile 2 and kept with it. There were actually times where I was going too fast and had to slow down a bit.  How about them apples? Again, the high fives and hugs and cheers were awesome! Overwhelming at some times, too! But very welcomed 🙂

Once I got to Nolana, I closed my eyes and welcomed the mist as it cooled my face. I remembered the moment I reached the top of the Causeway and felt the same feeling… a euphoric dreamlike state of ecstasy. The playlist helped a bit with that, too.

Surprisingly, the entire run went really smoothly. Just like at the McAllen Marathon, my legs cramped up. I felt the ball of my foot and my toes go numb. While I was running, the thought came through my head… “When was the last time I cut my toe nails? Ouch! I think that’s what I feel. Well, there’s nothing I can do about it now. It’ll probably cause a blister or cut into my skin and bleed. I don’t have my trusty fuel belt with my little band-aid kit so… oh well… run through the pain. Deal with it.” I was pretty strong today. I had to do it. Foo Fighters were screaming in my ear. I had to do it for Donny. I’m not gonna fail again. No sirree!!!

Alright!!! My time is good! My time is really good! Not like Gandara or Kenyan good… but good for being me!!! Just before I hit mile 12, I sneak a peek at my Garmin. I’m way ahead of schedule. I’m going to finish before 2:19.

sooooooo guess what begins playing in my ears?

That’s right… it’s a sign.

2:19 was not a goal. My goal has and always will be to help those who have cancer and find a cure for cancer. THAT’s a goal. 2:19 was a sign.

Yep, a SIGN.

Just knowing I COULD finish in that time was good enough for me. Simple as that.

sooooooooo what do I do?

I took my phone out of it’s case. Went onto Facebook and sent Javi a message. I asked him what Lisa, his wife, was wearing. He responded two minutes later: “pink, long sleeve” The time was exactly 9:23 a.m.

HINDSIGHT: That is not a time. That is a sign. Sissy passed away on September 23, 2011. Nine Twentythree.

I went BACK.

See, I’m a woman of my word. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to do all I can to make sure I fulfill that promise.

Someone I run with in my all women’s run club (Run Walk or Crawl) had posted a while back about being upset that she may have to cross the finish line by herself and without her family. I could tell it was tearing her apart. There were countless posts that followed hers that stated so much support and understanding from our other sister runners. It was really heartwarming how this group uplifts and encourages each other. My response was something like “I’ll be there with you” or something of the sort. All I remember was that it was the shortest response of the entire string.

So I went back for her so that she wouldn’t have to deal with these last few miles by herself and cross alone. If you’re a runner, a beginner runner especially, it really does help when you have someone by you to push and encourage and drown out that doubter voice in your head. I know.. my inner voice is very loud… and rude.

I began to run the opposite way. I have to admit.. the faces of the runners that saw what I was doing were priceless. “Hey, you’re running the wrong way!” was said over and over and over again. But I kept running – at a good pace, too! – until I saw the familiar face in her long sleeved pink running sweater.

It was exactly 2:19 into my run according to my Garmin.

Lisa looked physically exhausted but still super cute. You know those running shoe advertisements you see in magazines with the sweat beads perfectly placed on their noses??? Ya, she had that.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Good!” she responded cheerfully.

“You’re a really good liar. These last few miles are the toughest of this race. I told you I would be there for you when you crossed. I’m here,” and onward we went!

I could feel her pace dropping and she was getting frustrated. I didn’t want her to stop and I could tell she wanted to quit and walk the rest. “We’ll keep running until the sign and then we’ll speed walk. You see the sign? Can you make it to the sign?”

“Yes, ok.” She replied with heavy breath. “Wait.. the first sign or the second one?”

“The second one,” I giggled. She knew now I was there to push her. I wasn’t going to let her give up on herself.

This pattern continued until we turned the corner and saw the finish line. Have you ever heard a smile? I have! And it came from her.

“Look Myssie! There’s the finish line!” she eagerly proclaimed.

“Smile real big now for the cameras. Make it look like this was easy. Papitas!” I told her. And then I cramped. Not just any cramp… it felt like a bolt of electricity was stuck on my calves. “Ayyyyyyy!” I screamed out (while smiling of course). “I’m cramping!”

“Don’t give up Myssie! You can do it. The finish is right there!!!” and the student becomes the teacher.

“Why does it seem like the finish line is moving further away???” she said. We laughed and we crossed and we hugged and we cried and we hugged again.

And here’s her side of the story:

13.1 miles. The Get Up and Train Half Marathon this morning… I started out with the best intentions, vowing to train and PR right around the time that Javi was rounding mile 18 at the McAllen Marathon a few months ago. I was doing pretty well; the most consistent I had been in a while, then the bipolar weather go the best of my training schedule — I showed up this morning having run only once in the last two weeks with a hand full of bike rides sprinkled in there. I was nervous, a little scared… but determined. I knew I would finish… it wasn’t the first one I’d done, but for whatever reason it felt different… probably because I was running this one solo… Javi taking the sideline for me this time. The first 8 miles felt like 3… and I was on track for a 2:30 finish… right around mile 10, my ankle started to ache… and right before 11, I had made the decision to just walk the rest of it…. I had seen Javi a couple of times by now… with water, peanut butter (my drug of choice), and all the encouragement a girl could ask for… but I was feeling pretty defeated… oh well… walk, walk, walk… then, I see this crazy woman running the wrong way… she got closer, and closer, and finally stopped… it was Myssie Cardenas-Barajas… it took me till the end of the race to realize what happened… she had said she would run it in with me… the story behind how this all unfolded is one that only she can tell… but she did… and together, we finished the last couple of miles — approaching to the finish line, the first face I saw was my mom’s… then dad… then Javi… then the babies… then my little brothers… they were all smiling and cheering… something that I had never had at a finish line…that meant the world to me… when Myssie and I crossed the finish line… I hadn’t hit 2:30; but I had PRd… and all I could do was hug her and cry…. I realized she had not only kept her word to me… but, she was kept me going… even reminding me to smile like nothing hurt for the cameras  This life is full of obstacles… trials….accomplishments… running is a metaphor for all of it… life is also full of blessings… angels…. and wonderful signs… and today, I experienced all of those…. thank you Myssie… I don’t know how I will be able to repay you for the kindness you’ve shown me. I love you, friend… to my family… it meant everything to me to have you there for me! and for Javi… ay mi amor… there are no words for you

And today in pictures…

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A Super-sized McMarathon

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2013 by runmyssierun

I ran my first street block in October of 2011 in the quiet darkness of the Bicentennial trail.  I was 41 years old with no history of athletic skills whatsoever. (However I did do videos of Gilad and Jane Fonda aerobics in the 80’s)

Bicentennial trail at night

I ran my first mile in November of 2011.

I ran my first 5k in December of 2011. It was the Fiesta Marathon’s 5k. I finished in just under 45 minutes. I ran like Phoebe in the TV sitcom Friends.

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I ran my first 10k one month later, January 2012 at the Port Isabel Longest Causeway race.

My first 10k - The Longest Causeway run

I ran my first Half marathon the next month, February 2012 on the Birthday of my baby brother, Donny, who had just passed away less than a year before that.

Tears for Donny

We lost my mother to cancer shortly after in April of 2012. I took all the sadness, anger and every pent up emotion that I had stuffed inside of me and used it to run my first full marathon seven weeks after her death.

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I recuperated for a couple of months after that but realized quickly how healing Team in Training was for me.

I went on to do several more half marathons with TNT: one each month until December of 2012 when I decided to revisit my first race… the Fiesta Marathon. But instead of doing the 5k, I challenged myself to do the full 26.2 miles.

It was too much too soon for me. After the 172 Campaign for Vannie Cook Children’s Cancer Center half (September 2012), the Nike Women’s half in San Francisco (October 2012) and the San Antonio Rock & Roll half (November 2012), I ended up injuring myself seriously in the first 6 miles of the Fiesta Marathon (December 2012).

Not wanting to admit to myself that I was seriously hurt, I went on to do the Herothon half in San Antonio in January 2013.  It was clear to me that something needed to change.

Running with Team in Training allowed me to take my feelings out on the pavement. It gave me permission to vent. It gave me pleasure to know that I was helping someone else who had gone through what I went through. It gave me hope to know that I was running alongside survivors. I DIDN’T WANT TO STOP. If I stopped…. I was scared that my sadness and anger would end up exploding and hurting those I loved.

So I found an alternative. TRIATHLON!!!

I gave my achilles the chance to heal for a few months while I learned to swim and ride a bike. 10 weeks after I learned to swim, I completed my first triathlon.

Stanley's Triathlon

And a couple of months after that… I completed the Capital of Texas Triathlon.

captex finish1

And then became the first in our region to win the LLS Triple Crown by completing a 100-mile century ride in the mountains of Nevada at Viva Bike Vegas.

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Scattered in between all these events are several other QUALITY local races, duathlons and triathlons that I used for experience and training… but when it came down to the marathon in December… my blood boiled.

I wanted so badly to avenge myself for the mistakes I made last year. I wanted so badly to do well.

Sadly, for as much as I wanted it and planned for it and prepared for it… I think God had other plans. The reasons that I wanted to do well in it didn’t match the reasons that I joined Team in Training in the first place. The reasons I wanted to do well were ego based. I’m glad now that I recognized it and chose to do the half instead for all the right reasons.

The Fiesta Marathon of prior years was moved to Edinburg and upped in date. It was replaced by the Inaugural McAllen Marathon on the same weekend in December. It was bitter cold and on a route that I had never run before but I was surrounded by my TNT team mates, Maniacs, RWC girls and Cyclepaths all along the course.

I started out the race with a dear friend that I missed so very much. She lost her mother as well. Stephanie and I have lived mirrored lives for so long. Running in the city of my home alongside an old friend felt unusually natural. Unlike other races where nerves kick in… this one had no nervousness. Just pure excitement. I ran alongside the women who took me under their wings while training for my triathlons. Three fierce women who had just completed a half ironman a short while earlier and they weren’t even breaking a sweat. Karen Watt jokingly blurted out “It can’t be good when you get passed by a Christmas tree!” A runner dressed up as a Christmas tree had just run past us.

As I got warmed up, I began to peel off layers of clothing and wrapped the sleeves of my jacket around my waist. My pace slowed down while I did this when a man running behind me a few paces sped up to tell me that I was his inspiration. Caught by surprise and still a bit uneasy with compliments, I think I blushed and admitted that I didn’t think I’d be anyone’s inspiration that day. I was going to take it easy and enjoy the run. He ended up sticking along with me throughout the entire race. Gotta admit, his unexpected compliment made me feel really good.

I could not believe how many friends were there cheering!!! Sooooooo many Team in Training team mates, soooo many RWC and VRC fellow runners and their families all yelling their lungs out with cowbells and posters and hugs and hand signs!!! Seeing their faces light up when they saw me… it was like the sparkle in my Momma’s eyes through theirs. It invigorated me.

I chose 2:19 as my finish goal. This is the birthday of my baby brother, Donny. I figured that if I run the first three miles at a 9-and-something-minute mile pace, I can easily finish the rest of the race at a comfortable 11-and-something-minute mile pace and enjoy my hometown marathon event. All went well as planned until towards the middle of mile ten, I had just passed my run gurus high five cheer (German Medrazo) at the Valley Running Cheer stop when BOTH my legs cramped up with charlie horses. I was at a complete stop. I seriously could not move any further.

I got so scared that I took a look back to make sure that no one was about to run into me. I was about a half a block away from German and thought maybe I should shout out to him… but then what??? I simply stretched and stretched and stretched my calves out. I can’t honestly say that I stretched them out to the point where I was pain free but that stubborn ego inside of me knew the finish line was just a 5k away and I had already wasted my perfectly paced time on this stretching. I impatiently got up from the curb and hobbled on. I dropped down to a 12-minute pace. I knew at that time I lost my goal but kept on. What else was I gonna do? My car was over there. I couldn’t go home by snapping my fingers.

I hobbled on and hobbled on until a big black truck drove close by me with a Kenyan chasing it. THAT’S THE FIRST MARATHON FINISHER!! How cool is that to cross the finish line WITH A KENYAN!!!

I am stoked! I am beyond stoked! Can you imagine the stories I tell my friends about this???

“Ya… here’s my finisher photo with my crazy fast Kenyan run buddy… We finished at the same time. Well, he finished just a few seconds before me so technically he won the race and got the check.” — Oh man!!! I could milk this like the biggest fish story ever!!!

Nope!

Cramps again. There goes that awesome story. I stop for a while and stretch again because I simply cannot move my right leg at all.

“SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP! The freakin finish line is two itty bitty blocks away!” – my inner voice yells at me… AGAIN.

So, I hobble on. I finished with a smile on my face in the most amazing sunshine ever.

Best of all… I finished for ME. I didn’t half-ass it. I did the absolute best that I could. It might not be as good as YOU are but guess what…. I’m not you. And I am soooooo very happy for that because I don’t think you’ll ever see or feel what I did that day.

What makes my dream any less than your dream? We are all different. We all want different things in life. And I can change MY dreams any time I want and I can even get new dreams. How ’bout them apples?

Health and Happiness… my dream has never changed. The path to it, however, sure has.

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