Working Wounded Games – North Carolina

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The WWG-NC Athletes & Volunteers ❤

I will remember 03.12.2016 as one of the most physically challenging and mentally draining days in my life to date. I will also remember that day as one of the most inspiring, humbling, and simply amazing days I will ever experience. It was my first time attending and participating in the Working Wounded Games – a Crossfit competition exclusively for Adaptive Athletes.

My journey to the Working Wounded Games in North Carolina (WWG) began the first time I stepped into Edmonds Crossfit in the Spring of 2015. Okay, technically my journey began at birth with a severe clubfoot and then throughout my life as my foot deteriorated up to my 20s when I had debilitating pain until receiving my ExoSym device… but for time sake I’ll start my journey in spring 2015. I was definitely hesitant to start Crossfit. I was worried that I may not be able to safely get through what seemed to be insane and intense workouts (p.s. my instincts were correct: they are insane and intense) with my limited range of motion while wearing the ExoSym and serious lack of balance due to my clubfoot. I found a Groupon for a 6-week class pass and felt comfortable knowing I could try it out for a few weeks and just see how it goes. The gym was two minutes away from my new job, had a class setting that appealed to the social side of me, and before making my purchase I spoke with the owner, Morgan, and felt comfortable that I could go at my own pace and adjust moves as I needed to.

As it turns out my own pace was much worse than I expected at my first workout! I don’t remember what the workout was except that it was three rounds, included a little bit of running, and I barely made it through two before calling it good for the day. It was awful – and I was totally hooked. I spent my first few months lifting very light, working on my range of motion, and honestly just trying to survive the WODs. Once I got comfortable I was able to push myself further, lift a little heavier, and even balance a little longer on my right foot. Somewhere along the way a fellow ExoSym-wearer posted about an event he participated in and won (amazing!) called the “Working Wounded Games”. I was excited about the thought of one day participating, but didn’t know that I’d be ready until a year or so in the future since I was so new to Crossfit.

I continued to make progress at the gym and decided my goal would be to participate in the WWG in November 2016, which I’ll note was 11 months away from the point I made this decision. Then it was announced that there would be a smaller regional WWG in North Carolina in March 2016 and a shift in my timeline happened. I spoke with a friend and another fellow ExoSym-wearer Beth Shaver who told me she was going to go to the WWG in North Carolina and that I should go too! She also told me about Project Athena Foundation, a non-profit she had worked with in the past whose mission is “to encourage women who’ve endured life-altering medical setbacks to unleash the Athlete and Adventurer within and complete the journey of a lifetime”. With an incredibly tight budget due to wedding season including my own wedding, they were my only hope to be able to attend the WWG so I submitted my application for their Athena/Survivor Grant and kept plugging away at the gym while I waited.

Approximately 6 weeks before the WWG I got a call from Louise at Project Athena Foundation (PAF) letting me know I was part of the Project Athena Family and they were going to cover my trip to North Carolina to participate in the Working Wounded Games. I was so grateful and honored to be a part of this incredible group of women who were giving me this opportunity to do something special. I saw this is a chance to spread some awareness for all of the adults living with chronic pain from clubfoot who struggle to be heard, to be taken seriously since it’s often seen as an issue that is “fixed” in early childhood, and for those who struggle to get the medical care they deserve. Many people with clubfoot do grow up to lead pain-free, normal lives but there are thousands that don’t have such a great outcome. I am fortunate to have found the ExoSym through a fantastic doctor and to have been able to fundraise the cost to get mine. I hoped that being a part of the WWG could teach at least one person about clubfoot or help at least one person with clubfoot learn about this device and they too could regain their mobility. While I believe I was able to achieve my objective, what I learned and took away from this event far outweighs it all.

The day consisted of 4 grueling workouts approximately 10-15 minutes each with about an hour rest in between. They were high intensity, high rep, and high weight workouts that would be challenging for any human in any way, shape, or form. Yet here we all were each with a different story, a different condition, from different places around the world with a sense of camaraderie and an incredible energy in the air that is hard to describe. Although I think every one of us at some point leading up to that day had a brief moment of “I don’t know about this…” there is no challenge we cannot face. Every athlete put their heart and soul into each workout, pushed to their limits and beyond, and with every rep left a lasting impression on every single person in that room. As someone who struggles with leg balance I couldn’t help but be completely awestruck as I watched people toss a 100lb plus barbell over their head with ease… with one arm, one leg, or in a chair. Seriously. That happened. Every second of that day was proof that we are truly capable of more than we can ever imagine.

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Fellow ExoSym wearer and motivator to compete – Beth Shaver and I 🙂

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of women to compete with in my division either. Seven strong, positive, encouraging, and fun women that I am so thankful to now call friends. With them by my side, the volunteers that seriously took care of all of us, the words of encouragement from everyone at Project Athena Foundation that hit my inbox that day, and the spectators cheering for 8 hours straight I was able to get a split jerk PR, take 1st in one of the events, and 4th overall despite being a bit under the weather. I don’t know how it’s possible to spend just one day with a group of people and feel like they are family, but that’s exactly what happened. I am so proud of every athlete that competed. That was a seriously tough day, but we made it out together and I cannot wait to do it all over again at the WWG in November.

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2arm RX Division girls!

I cannot say thank you enough to everyone at Project Athena Foundation for the opportunity to take on this challenge and have the privilege to represent PAF and the Clubfoot Community. What they also gave me through this experience was an invaluable lesson on humanity, community, love, and strength. We all have our hurdles in this life; some of us are born with them and others face them somewhere along the way, but what we choose to do with them is our sole responsibility. As my mobility deteriorated it was really hard to imagine ever running again let alone being able to participate in an 8-hour Crossfit competition, but I never gave up hope that there would one day be a solution that would bring out the athlete in me again. Ryan and his amazing team at Hanger Clinic were the medical solution, everyone at ECF continues to be my fitness family, Project Athena Foundation has sparked a desire in me to continue to compete and share my story, and my friends and family keep me sane(ish), grounded, and so grateful for everything in my life. Now this Clubfoot Crossfit Bionic Athena is more of an athlete than ever thanks to the hundreds of people that made it all possible.

Here is a link to the event photographer’s album: https://vibrant-photography.smugmug.com/Working-Wounded-Games-2016/WWG-with-Logo/

There will also be a video (I think!) which I will post as soon as it comes around!

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Celebrate Progress – Big and Small

While there are many difficulties that come with clubfoot there is only one shared by almost all of us clubbies: a serious lack of balance. I’ve learned that most of us have different severities, different looking feet, different pain levels, different treatments, different remedies, etc even though we have the same common birth defect. One thing we all share for sure is the innate ability to fall up stairs, trip over nothing, and only be able to count in nanoseconds when balancing on our clubfoot.

Even before I got the incredible IDEO/Exosym I really tried to improve my balance on my right foot, but I just couldn’t seem to make any progress. I needed to tap down my toe, hold onto a wall, or practically fall over whenever I attempted the dreaded balance exercises. When I got my IDEO/Exosym I knew my pain would be eliminated and I would be able to regain strength… but I wasn’t so sure about this whole “balance” thing but continued to practice and increase my nanosecond count bit by bit.

Fast forward a few months and my progress shifted from nanoseconds to seconds with many thanks to the challenges and training at my Crossfit gym. Every time I “graduate” on an exercise I feel inspired to keep going, to push myself a little further and remove the idea from my brain that I cannot do something. I no longer need to use a support/balance stick when doing Bulgarian Split Squats (that took MONTHS to get to that point but it feels amazing!) and will eventually be able to add some weight… it’s all about being patient with my progression. Another move that was incredibly challenging for me was the Snatch. My balance was way too shaky when I first started to (a) add weight and (b) go for a full squat. I’d have flashbacks to gym class when you’re told to stand on one leg, hold your foot, and stretch your quad… cue stumbling, falling over Lisa trying to find something or someONE to hold on to haha. This past week I was able to feel confident and strong enough to add some decent weight to my snatch and go for the full squat. Attempt 1: bailed onto my knee and let out a quiet but heartfelt “ah shit”. Attempt 2: a little wobbly, but no bail out and no weights falling on my head (phew!). A few attempts later and voila! it happened. I’ve still got some work to do but I’m happy to add this move to my repertoire!

So what’s next? A few months ago I heard about an annual event called the “Working Wounded Games” from a fellow IDEO user. It’s a Crossfit-style competition held exclusively for Adaptive Athletes. I watched a short video about the WWG and was so inspired, humbled, and excited to learn more about it. At the time I was relatively new to the Crossfit world and thought maybe I’ll participate next year… or maybe wait until 2017. But now that I’m feeling more confident in my abilities I’ve decided why not!? 100% SIGN ME UP 2016 LET’S DO THIS! 🙂 I can’t imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by the positivity and inspiration that seems to radiate at this event. So that’s the current goal… and in the meantime I’ll continue to focus on my progress: big and small, because all progress is important and all of it deserves to be celebrated.

A little slo-mo snatch action:

Working Wounded Games: a MUST watch:

One Year Anniversary :)

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August 29, 2014

On August 29, 2014 my life took a turn for the “incredible”… this photo was taken in my last moments of dealing with chronic pain and limitations from my birth defect. Within 30 min of this snapshot I was walking, running, and not ashamed to say it: sweating like a hog and every part of body ached except my clubfoot! It. was. awesome. As I look back on the last year I am happy to say that I still feel the same excitement and appreciation of each step I take and still have an unwavering gratitude for everyone that helped make this possible. (seriously emotions other than sarcasm and extreme happiness make me really uncomfortable. I’m that person that waits until i’m alone to cry even if it’s happy tears. So imagine about an hour pause in between that last sentence and this next one… because that’s what I took) There is a piece of everyone that donated support, both financial and emotional, in each adventure I have been on and will continue to go on and I thank every single one of you.

GAH ok that was totally awkward… like ripping off a band aid right? Now for an update on all of my recent adventures!! Since my last 5K post which was FIVE months ago (time flies!)  I have:

  • Hiked a tough 8 mile trail in the Colorado Rockies
  • Won a Softball Tournament!
  • Finally did a Pull-Up… actually TWO Pull-ups!
  • Finally taken control to lead a healthy lifestyle and no longer have migraines because of it!! WOOHOO!
  • Flipped a big @ss tire!
  • Danced, danced, and danced some more.
  • Walked on a beach! (this was seriously a nightmare pre- IDEO/ExoSym)
  • Spent HOURS in the kitchen standing and cooking!
  • Met some incredible men/women on their own journey to get the IDEO/Exosym who continue to inspire me daily!
  • Camped out at a weekend music festival and walked around for HOURS!

My upcoming BIG adventures:

  • September: 5K “Race For A Soldier”. My parents will be in town and walking with my fiance and I for this great cause! Visit http://www.raceforasoldier.org to join us!
  • July 2016: I’m getting married!! You better believe I’ll be rocking my boinic leg and some fancy sneakers so I can dance the night away! I can’t imagine a wedding without it!
  • November 2016: I have a tentative plan to participate in the Working Wounded Games in Virginia. It is a cross-fit style “competition” with a focus on adaptive athletes and I’m excited to be a part of this if not next year then definitely in 2017!

Other adventures / dates TBD:

  • I still haven’t tested out golfing yet! I’d like to sign up for a lesson since I’ve always adjusted my swing to accommodate my foot and might be able to have a NORMAL swing now! I also have never been able to walk 18 holes so I need to make that happen!
  • Spend the day at an amusement park!
  • MORE HIKING!
Adventures take place in the sky as well!

Adventures take place in the sky as well!

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Red Rocks, CO

Hiking in Colorado

Hiking in Colorado

Softball Champions!

Softball Champions!

A few days ago I said that before getting my IDEO/ExoSym I was “a ball of energy trapped inside a body that just couldn’t keep up with it”… now I have to figure out how to keep up with myself 🙂

Until next time! Hopefully I’ll be better about updating this blog in the next year to come!

Cheers!

3.3 Miles… Check!

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Exactly 9 weeks before March 1st I embarked on a challenge I was both excited and nervous about… a 5K. I have NEVER ran that distance before… I’ve gone that far with some walking and of course some discomfort afterwards but I really wanted to get in a full run. For the avid runners imagine taking 3 years off then trying to run a 1/2 marathon… to put it in perspective that’s what 3.3 miles was looking like to me.

I heard about the Couch To 5K program, got a group of people together to stay accountable, and we set out to make it happen!! It was tough but fun… we slowly built up the length of time we were running and then something unexpected happened… spring came in February here. Sounds great for running outside until the allergy-induced asthma kicks in!! As my longer runs became hindered by some really attractive wheezing noises in public and having to stop to get that bi”yawn” breath (some of you know what I’m talking about!) I had to face the reality that maybe I won’t be able to run the whole distance.

I was a bit disappointed and then I realized for the first time my foot had nothing to do with this predicament!!! I unsuccessfuly tried to find the right balance of breathing and medicine in time for the run but here’s how the big day went:

This race was earrrrrlllyyyy in the morning. First leg began at 6:45am and it was a whopping 42degrees. My sister was by my side and some friends in other legs (or doing the 15K being a badass). The first half was downhill… which is great until you realize you have to go back up to loop around haha! I took my time, enjoyed the moment, walked at the speediest pace possible when my lungs got tight and pushed through. I loved every grueling second of it!! Even those damn hills!! All the runners had great energy and the volunteers directing the “herd” (they had cowbells it was awkward… moooo) would encourage you to keep going as you passed by and they rang their cowbells (still weird…).

I finished in 38 minutes and some change… averaging about a 12 minute mile including walking. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!!! When the 5K stopped being about running and just about doing is when it meant more and was something to look forward to. To be able to run at all even if not well is a blessing in itself. I plan to continue running… taking it slow and learning as much as I can on how to control my breathing and train my lungs! Any advice from fellow allergy-ridden outdoorsy types on this topic would be much appreciated!! My sister and I have a crazy idea of doing a 1/2 marathon in the next few years… in Hawaii! Because if you’re going to do something big… go big or go home right??!

Not sure what my next adventure will be… softball season starts tomorrow so that will be good to get back into!! I’m going to tackle some more of my not-quite-a-bucket-list-list items this summer for sure!!!

Until next time!

1/2 way in the Couch To 5K!

It’s been a BUSY past few months and sadly I have neglected my blog… but I’M BACK and a lot has changed in my life! I got engaged in November (aka great motivation to stay on track in my fitness journey), started my Couch to 5K 9-week running program, and survived the Holiday Season without any drama 😉

I’ve also met some wonderful people through the IDEO and also the Couch to 5K program. I have been trying to spread the word particularly to the adults/teens with clubfoot community that this is a viable option for us to really change our lives. Watching other people go through this journey from pain and limitations to all of a sudden walking, running, and living with this brace has been so inspiring! We’ve got a great support system full of advice and encouragement.

I’ll be honest…. my decision to do a 5K had a lot to do with the fact that there was chocolate at the end of the run haha! But as I slowly make a transition from being a sprinter/agility runner to getting a little more into “long” distance running (yes 3.3 miles is a looooong way to go for me and I’m not ashamed of that!) I’m starting to remember what it’s like to be an athlete again. I’m brought back to the days when a 1 mile run was a warmup… except now at the end of a workout I have to give special attention to my non-clubfoot leg and make sure I stretch and foam roll a little extra and I’m not covered in ice packs on my right foot!

This 5K has become more than me wanting to run the full distance without walking. I’m ok with the reality that I may need to walk a little bit (but I’m still working to avoid that!). It has become about the wonderful group of people that have been doing this program by my side. We all started with the same attitude: if you ask us to run far we make a stink face and let out a collective groan. Now that we’re at the 1/2 way point to the actual race I can see a shift in attitude happening. We’re realizing we CAN do this and maybe we’ll actually be able to define part of our identity as “runners” after the next 4.5 weeks are up!

Until next time!

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The Next Adventure….

945921_528915307164958_1872109772_nOn March 1, 2015 I will be running my first 5K since 2005… a DECADE ago!! Back then my foot held me back a bit and I had to walk a good portion of the race. I’ve had my IDEO for just over 2 months now and am getting stronger and stronger. The past few weeks I’ve really focused on sprint and agility drills working on my running form and leg strength. Running a 5K was one of the biggest items on my to-do list when I found out about the IDEO. I still have work to do on my running form and training, so picking a race in the springtime seemed like the best option for me. And not much will motivate me more than a bucket of hot chocolate at the finish! haha Starting in January I’ll be using the “Couch to 5K” program to ease into running the full distance. I’m excited, nervous, and READY! I will have friends and family by my side and most likely tears on my face at the finish line; even though it’s not as epic as a marathon it’s a huge deal for me to be able to do this again. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and training… and who knows… Maybe 2016 will bring me to a 10K!

Celebrating 4 Years In Seattle With Poo Poo!

Ok not THAT kind of poo poo… but really you can’t help your mind from going there whenever someone says “Poo Poo Point” (and that’s okay!). I’ve been hearing about the hike up to Poo Poo Point in Issaquah, WA since moving to Seattle 4 years ago but the thought of walking 3.8 miles up to 2,021ft. on uneven grounds with a clubfoot just didn’t sound appealing. Not to mention you have to make it back DOWN the mountain. I was able to do very small hikes when I first moved here, but never could have handled this one.

Well, I woke up this morning and decided I’m going to listen to some good tunes and climb a damn mountain! It was foggy on my drive in around 8am but by the time I got 1/3 of the way into the hike the sun broke through the clouds. This was a TOUGH one for sure, especially for a non-hiker like myself. As the climb got more difficult I noticed something crazy… I was actually leading and stronger with my IDEO leg than my non-IDEO leg. And by the end… my non-IDEO leg was burning but I felt like I could go forever with the IDEO!! Talk about a complete 180 than I’ve experienced in the past. I was so impressed with how the IDEO performed today… and also impressed with myself! Just when I thought I couldn’t go any further I was only 1/2 mile from the point and the trail flattened out. I made it! There were a few people when I got to Poo Poo Point (still laughing about the name are we?) but I figured I’d stick around and eat a snack, enjoy the view, and wait for the redness in my face to go down haha.

As I was hanging out looking down on the world below (per usual… just kidding), three guys approached the area with HUGe backpacks and starting laying out parachutes. They were going to paraglide! I read about this online, but wasn’t expecting to witness it. It was incredible… and hilarious because one of the small dogs hanging out up there was not a fan of the chutes and would chase the paraglider off the edge of the mountain!

9 hours later I’m super sore, but not so much on my IDEO leg. I can’t wait to go on more hikes as long as the weather holds up! I’m 100% addicted to this activity which is crazy considering I’m not really the outdoorsy type! Enjoy my photos from today and let me know your suggestions for Pacific NW hikes to try! Keep rocking on!!

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