Monday, December 30, 2013

Goodbye, 2013

You know how people can recall any year when referring to a certain situation?
Like, remember when Lucy broke her arm? It was 1974, and I got my first car....
Or, It was 1967 and we took our first vacation to the Grand Canyon.


Not me. It's impressive that I remember the year of my birth. 
I think that it's because my mind doesn't see things in black and white. 
More like colors and shapes. 

All of that changed in 2013. 
What I experienced with my brother's passing was very black and white. 
The phone call. 
The conversation with my dad. 
The flight home. 
The wake. 
The funeral. 
It plays through my mind like a broken record, which surprisingly hasn't stopped playing. 

Dont' get my wrong. There were incredible moments in 2013, too. 
I was awarded Top 40 Under 40 in Memphis. 
I ran like a champ 7 months into my pregnancy. 
I birthed a baby the exact way that I wanted to. 
I watched my toddler bloom into an incredibly imaginative boy.

All of these are noteworthy, 
but chances are I won't remember that they happened in 2013. 
(And don't think that my child's birth counts - I mix up Gray's birth year AND day all the time. Not kidding.)

My personality is fueled with optimism, and I know it will get it back. 

2014 is going to be my year. 
A year dedicated to the betterment of the lives around me, which will in turn better my own. 

2014 will be a year of dedication. 
I'm not sure how or why I haven't been able to fundraise quite like I did two years ago, but I will dedicate myself to finding the remedy. Disability awareness is so important to me, and I'll see to it that people become aware and join me.

2014 will be a year of motivation. 
I can't think of any more motivating event than that of training for a marathon. The amount of people who have called my running an inspiration to begin themselves is overwhelming. 
I love it and hope I can reach more people.

2014 will be a year of loving. 
Is there anything more contagious?

2014 will be a year of celebrating my brother's life, and not mourning it. 
Each mile I run will absolutely involve thinking about him and the life he lived. But from now on, the focus will be how I can take the lessons I learned from him on strength and persistence and pass them onto others. 

Yes, 2014 will be a good year. 

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(I promise it will make you feel like a million bucks.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Training With A Newborn

Training with a newborn has been... um... challenging.

Just like doing anything with an infant, there are times where I feel like a super woman.

Like when my child is super awesome during an adult event and everyone is all "Wow, you have such a good baby!" and I'm like, "Yeah, it's because I totally know what I'm doing and could write a book."

And then there's moments where I feel like a totally incompetent loser of a mom.

Like when we're leaving said adult event and my infant is screaming unconsolably while we have to walk by what seems like thousands of people to get to the car. And meanwhile your other kid wets his pants and you need to find a bathroom without him seeing that Santa is seriously right. next. to. the. bathroom. And then you realize that your infant has lost her socks, and it's 30 degrees, and the blanket you had to bring because it's the cutest just doesn't cover as much as it should.

Those moments I'm like, "Yeah, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing."

(pop.... that was me opening a bottle of wine.)

My training has been similar to this.

There have been ups, like when I was only 5-weeks postpartum and did 5 miles at a 13-minute pace in "feels like" 8 degree icy weather. I felt like a champion.

Then there are moments when you're supposed to be speed walking 3 miles and this happens:

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And then you find yourself pulling over and nervously nursing your baby in front of a total strangers house on their sidewalk. And your Run Keeper is still talking you, "Average Pace: 15 minutes...." "Average Pace: 18 minutes..." "Average Pace: 20 minutes."

And while I really want to scream at my phone and the talking exercise app and kick said neighbors garbage can, I knew that wouldn't do any good.

Because just like parenting, sometimes you just need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate. So, we made lemonade out of lemons:

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Cuteness alert:

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And our next training walks were a success:

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My Run Keeper now congratulates me on my daily PRs.

So, yes, just as everyone and their mother warned me about when I said I was going to train for a marathon just weeks after having a baby, training with a newborn is challenging. It's hard. But as my husband reminds me frequently, I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

And really, I don't do anything that is convenient or easy, which is why I found myself at that adult party half naked nursing my child on a balcony because I had to wear a tight dress that zipped up the back. It was far cuter than the dresses that buttoned down the front.

But it's all good, because how else would I learn new things?

The next challenge on the list: speeding up and teaching my body to totally run again. I only have four months to figure it out... oh yeah, and raise $4,025. I can handle the milage, but your donation would be incredibly appreciated! Click HERE to donate to my crowdrise page!

Boston Marathon Countdown: 127 days. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Go Time

The fundraising page is up,
the training plans have been drafted,
the baby has been birthed...
and now it's time to get serious.

It took me a second to get things together for several reasons:

I was exhausted after the Running4Ryan 5k, and not from walking 3.1 miles. After Ryan passed and it was discussed that the race would be just months after, I thought it would be a great way to process everything. It certainly made for positive thinking; however, once the event was over, it became even more of a reality that my brother and friend was gone.

I'm still trying to figure out what happened, why it happened, and how on earth one goes on making peace with a situation like this. I thank everyone for your participation in the event, and please excuse my absence in showing my thankfulness. All the Shucks truly appreciate it.

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I was pregnant. Maybe it was working 50+ hours a week, or maybe it was truly pregnancy brain, but the last few months of my pregnancy were like I was living on another planet. I couldn't remember anything. I could hardly keep up with meals for my family, let alone setting up a fundraising page and actively trying to raise dollars and spread awareness.

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I was birthing a baby. Nellie Ruth knew that I would likely need those extra three weeks of training, and surprised us on November 4th. She was quick and relativiely painless, and I thank her for being ahead of schedule. (She gets that from me.) I also promised myself that I would dedicate a few weeks after her arrival to only her and no Team Hoyt or Running for Ryan. We have had a lovely few weeks of snuggles and obsessing.

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But now I'm back and ready to blow my teammates out of the water in the fundraising department. I got second place last time and was honored. But let's be honest, who wants second when there's first?

This year is going to be different for several reasons:

I am not training quite as long, and apparently running after birth is like completely starting over again. I have started training, in that I am officially removing myself from the couch for an hour a day and walking. I am not in the business of injuring myself, so baby steps will be taken, and taken seriously. I will start running again when I feel that I can. If this means I walk from the 26.2 from Hopkington to Bolyston, so be it.

I will not be making aprons for personal fundraising. I have no clue where the energy came from to make and send 175 aprons two years ago while training, fundraising and working 40 hour weeks. Luckily for The Gowens, we are now both employed and can afford the trip this year. However, I may be making a few things to sell for the foundation. Stay tuned...

This year will be incredibly emotional for me. Not that it wasn't before - if you remember, quite a few of my runs involved me practicing breathing through sobs. Running is powerful, and running for an inspirational team is extra powerful, but running for an inspirational team with a deceased brother on my mind is bound to stir up some serious emotions. Not to mention that I'll likely be sleep deprived.

Here's what's not going to change:

I am going to fundraise like crazy for something that I absolutely believe in.

So many of you have already helped so much by either making a donation to Shriners in lieu of flowers for Ryan's funeral, making the trip to support our family, participating in some capacity for the Running for Ryan 5k, or simply sending thoughts and prayers.

Trust me when I say that I am so appreciative.

If you wish to extend your charity, click this link. 
All of these funds will go to the Hoyt Foundation and will additionally put me in the running for first place trophy...
both of which are awesome.

Let's do it for Ryan.
Let's do it for the Hoyts.
Together we can truly make a difference. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

6 Months To Go... And Still Pregnant.

The 118th Boston Marathon is in exactly 6 months. 
That's 181 days. 

My current training plan includes the following:
Leg Lifts - I occasionally lift my legs from the floor onto a pillow onto my coffee table.
Scissor Kicks - I must perform said move to get out of bed, off the couch, out of a chair, etc.
Sprints - Every 45 minutes I move very quickly to the ladies room.
Runs at Midnight - or rather, midnight runs to my pantry for mini powdered donuts.
Squats - Any sitting requires a low seat with knees facing outward. 

It's a tough workout, and it involves a lot of grunting.
I'm a relatively small person carrying around a 30-pound melon.
Not that I'm some sort of special case, 
but this is a lot of harder than it looks:

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So my training is not exactly Hal Higdon approved, but I'm 9 months pregnant. 
I had a dream of running up until the day I delivered, but that ship has sailed. 
And I felt bad about it for about 2 seconds. 

Which brings me to a few frequently asked questions:

Q: Are you seriously running the Boston Marathon this year?
A: Yes.

Q: (more like statement): But, you're pregnant.
A: Interesting fact; pregnancy is not a permanent condition. 

Q: Won't you have a newborn baby?
A: Yes. I'll likely strap said child to my back during training runs.
Just kidding - I have a jogging stroller with awesome new fabric and a weather cover. 

Q: Are you going to have enough time to train?
A: Um, I have no idea. I hope so. 

Q: But aren't you worried about your uterus exploding?
A: Not really. I feel I have a strong uterus. 

Q: Don't newborn babies take up a lot of time?
A: Yes. So do husbands, four-year-olds, jobs... We'll be busy. Are you not busy?

I hope this clears up a lot of confusion. 
Bottom line: I have no idea how this will turn out. 

My goals include:
Birth baby
Begin walking soon after birthing baby
Eventually begin jogging
At some point begin running
Feel comfortable enough to start training
Run Boston Marathon. 

That may or may not happen as planned. 
And I'm totally OK with that. 

A few things to keep in mind:
(I really like lists these days, as I have severe pregnancy brain and it's the only way I communicate)
I am not addicted to running like most runners. 
I have run this race before.

I am running this race for my brother, 
so if I have to walk it and finish well past the time that they actually close down the course, 
I will be completely satisfied with that. 
This is my race, and I'm really excited about it. 
I'm also really excited to have this baby,
and finding a way to balance the two, plus a husband and four-year-old,
well, it's just going to have to be Team Gowen's newest challenge. 
We're tough people.

Thanks again to everyone for their support the past 5 months. 
This is going to be one hell of an emotional roller coaster for me personally,
but per usual, I'm ready to take on what I feel will be another great learning experience. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Running for Ryan 5k

What do you get when you mix together a restaurant manager, bartender, lawyer, web designer, and a dad?
Apparently a whole flipping non-profit organization and a 5k race. 

The Ryan Shuck Foundation and Running 4 Ryan 5k came together nicely,
but it wasn't without total dedication and determination from a great group of people.

I met Eddie Kabbage at the SoHo Tavern on the night of Ryan's wake.
He was working down the street and took time from his break to come over and speak with me. 
It was short. 
It was beyond sweet. 
It ended with me telling my parents that there was to be a 5k in Ryan's name. 

A whole 5k? By September? 
Do these people know what they're getting themselves into?
Are they really serious?
Did you say by September?

These were all questions that were immediately discussed. 
And fortunately for us, they were immediately answered. 
Like, days later.

A big fat, undeniable YES.

Members of Ryan's community.
Friends from the neighborhood.
Bartenders from his favorite watering holes.

We were all on board this crazy train. 
It meant too much to all of us to let a moment like it pass us by. 
We were all hurt by Ryan's loss, 
and it seriously stung to get planning so quickly,
but we knew how turning it into something positive would have longer, more positive effects than grief.

And now it's here. 

Countless hours have been spent fine-tuning what we believe will be a fun, honorable day for Ryan. 

Here are the main points:

If you live here in town, you can register HERE.
Trust me, you do not have to be a runner to participate in a 5k. 
In fact, I will be waddling a butterball of a baby whilst pushing the 45-lb sand bag that is my four-year-old, so you really have no excuse.
It's 3.1 miles. Which is essentially like walking both stories of the International Plaza twice.
(Seriously, I just Googled that.)
Run. Race. Walk. Skip. Shuffle. 
There's bound to be a lot of people willing to make the trot with you.

OK, so you're registered. Now what?
Get a team together. Family. Friends. Co-workers. The guy/gal you needed an excuse to talk to.
What harm can come from literally walking in the park for a good cause? 
Not to mention that there is a free buffet and Coors Light at MacDinton's afterwards.
Teams have no limit to the number of persons, and the goal is to raise as much money as you can.

OK, OK, you live in town, but 5ks aren't your thing.
I respect that. Running, let alone in September, isn't for everyone. 
But we need volunteers
Photographers. Hydration Station. Cheerleaders. Race Goodie Bag Stuffers. 
There is a lot of opportunity to pitch in.
That's how this all came together, after all. Teamwork.

You will not be town, but wish you could be here.
No sweat. Literally.
But, you can totally participate by way of sponsorship or donation.
Sponsorships are pretty pricey, but most definitely have their perks for your business.
Donations are so important, no matter the size. 
When I raised money for the Boston Marathon, I was equally as pumped to see $10 as I was $1,000.
In fundraising, every penny really does count.
Donations can be mailed in to the foundation - click here for that address.

The Dalai Lama says that if you think positively going into something,
that there's no way to finish it without finding some level of satisfaction and success.
And who could argue with this face?

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So think about how you can contribute.

Run. Walk. Stroll.
Skip Starbucks for a few days and throw down a Jackson.
Hand water out to thirsty runners on a hot September day in Florida.
Talk to your boss about sponsorship.
Lead a team that will walk away with a trophy on race day.
Pop out your fold-out chair in Al Lopez Park and cheer on the runners on race day.
Share details on Facebook or whatever media outlet you fancy.
Join us at MacDinton's to toast SoHo's incredibly missed Mayor.

The hardest step is the first, people.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Running for Ryan Returns

I promise this to be the last post that reflects sad emotions; however, some things just have to be said.

Writing this blog post has been a most dreaded, yet highly anticipated task for me. 
The past two months have filled my life with more confusion and feelings unknown, 
that I was actually looking forward to writing them down to help myself understand.

Ryan passed away unexpectedly on May 12th. Mother's Day.
What's strange is that the day itself seems so distant, so fuzzy, 
except the moment that evening I found out the news.
That's all extremely clear, and it's painful. 

Maybe it's due to movies and television, 
or perhaps because I am one to love drama,
but I've actually pictured how I would react to the news of a death.
And it was nothing like I'd pictured. 
It's actually not at all how I imagined.

In fact, I remember telling my husband that night how badly I wanted it all to be over. 
As if after the funeral it would all just disappear and I could carry on.

But that was not the case at all. 

Instead, I think about it every day. It's even inescapable in dreams. 
And if there is a moment in which I find myself carrying on, 
I find myself in a pool of guilt. 
(Which I realize is just as acceptable a feeling as it is ridiculous.)

There was one moment when I was driving home from a particularly hard day at work. 
Windows were down. Music was up. I was breathing sighs of relief.
And that alone had me questioning how I could possibly enjoy a moment like that.

Or the moment I was on a boat on Lake Michigan watching fireworks,
and couldn't help but feel completely saddened that I got to see something so spectacular.

I'm sure these feelings will come and go for months. Years. 
I'm sure every scooter that passes me on the street will make me stop and look again.
I'm sure I'll still get upset when someone complains about turning another year older 
when they should really be grateful. 
I'm sure every time my son asks when Uncle Ryan is coming back down from the clouds
it will completely break my heart. 

I'm absolutely sure that I will never forget who my brother was and what he meant to me.

I'm not positive what I believe as far as where Ryan is now. 
But I do believe that in some way or another, 
we are still connected. 
Whether he is perched on a cloud and looking down on us,
or reincarnated into some other body,
or perhaps some energy in the atmosphere,
I feel certain that he approves of me taking his passing as a lesson in my life.
A gift that teaches me and those around me to appreciate what we have here on earth.

To not complain. 
To take care of our bodies and minds.
To be kind and help others.
To take advantage of every single breath we are given.
See the world. Feel loved. Experience life fully. 

To not "live every day like it's your last,"
but rather, just live every day.

Ryan's passing will always be painful and confusing to me. 
Really, I was always confused as to why he had to struggle. 
I remember telling my grandma when I was young that I wanted to switch lives with Ryan. 
And her reply didn't come back to me until the day of Ryan's funeral.

She said,
"Kellyn, that is a nice thought, but you don't want that. 
You were meant to be you. And Ryan was meant to be Ryan. 
You both are special in your own ways."

She was right. 
We both were meant to impact the world differently.
Ryan was Ryan. And he's absolutely irreplaceable.
And in light of the song playing,
perhaps he was a King, and I'm a Lionheart. 
He left behind a strong message, 
and I'll see to it that that message is heard.

Luckily, I'm not alone. 
Ryan's friends and half of SoHo approached my family right after Ryan's passing. 
Together we formed The Ryan Shuck Foundation.
A foundation in which we will actively honor and pay respect to Ryan's life,
and in doing that, help those who share similar struggles.

You see, I think Ryan left this life and went onto the next because he was ready. 
He had experienced what takes most people nearly a century to do.
He understood his struggles. He understood himself. 
He also understood that you live this life only once, and he lived it well. 

His favorite song in high school was Bon Jovi's "It's My Life."
He would pull into the garage, park for (I'm not kidding) an hour,
and listen to it on repeat. Seriously, over and over.
It drove me and Nikki crazy. 
In fact, it was the first laugh we shared when I got to Tampa for Ryan's funeral.
Anyway, the lyrics read:

I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud.
It's my life. 
It's now or never. 
I ain't gonna live forever.
I just want live while I'm alive.
It's my life.

Maybe Ryan knew that he wasn't going to live to be 85.
Regardless, he understood and embraced the life he had been given.

The Ryan Shuck Foundation will be for those who aren't as fortunate as Ryan.
For people with physical disabilities who need help finding the spirit that Ryan possessed.
To embrace life and live it fully.
To feel confident in thriving in the world.

Running for Ryan is still very much alive,
and I cannot express how proud that makes me.
Ryan had quite an impact while on earth, 
but to know he will continue to shake the planet makes me speechless.
(well, clearly not all that speechless.)

September 8th will be the first annual 
Running for Ryan 5k in Tampa, FL.

This year's proceeds will go to the Hoyt Foundation, of which Ryan and I felt very connected to. 

The 5k website will be up this week to register, but here's the jist of it:
1) Register to run 
2) Gather other registrants and create a team
3) Find sponsors and gather donations
4) Run race
5) Get a super prize for fundraising the most cheddar
6) Drinks buckets of Coors Light at MacDinton's afterwards

And we thought that we wouldn't see Ryan again... 

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