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Your Sports Story

What’s your story?

Maybe you came to sport late.

You found it in the gym or the studio.

Maybe you discovered it early, on a court or a course.

Maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s running, maybe it’s dance or yoga or swimming or hiking. Maybe you found your sport when you saw your daughter transformed by that first athletic success and knew that your own transformation was out there waiting for you. Maybe you found it on your way to something else—a kid’s practice, a healthier life, a friend’s race. But no matter where each of our sports stories begins, we all end up at the same place, a place where we are becoming our own best selves.

Tell us your story!

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Founder, Missy Park 

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  1. Liz #

    I have always loved the water. I loved to play in it, swim in it, explore in it. My mom would have to pull me out of the tub, the pool, and the surf when my hands and feet shriveled up like raisins. I loved my bike. What kid does not love their bike? My bike took me places. My bike gave me freedom. My bike made me feel like I was flying through the air. I hated to run. I would have rather had my bikini area waxed than have to go run. If I had to run back out to my car at work to get batteries before I stared a class at the gym, I was very disgruntled.

    And then I saw a flyer for a triathlon at Walt Disney World. Run….Disney….Run….Mickey…. Run….Magic Kingdom….I had to do it. It wasn’t too far of a run. I would suffer through it so I could go to Disney World. Getting back in a pool to swim laps after only playing in a pool with my son for years was eye opening. How did I swim all those laps for swim team? I had been riding my bike regularly so I was set there. One night I ran a video back up to the video store 8 blocks from our house and home. I was crippled for a week. How could I ride my bike for 100 miles, get off, dance and be fine but I was crippled after running only 16 blocks???

    I got down to business and overcame the side stitches, the blisters, the soreness, the chaffing and learned to enjoy the quiet morning runs that I went on. My swimming got better over that summer as well. The family drove through a tropical storm to get to Florida with my bike on top of the car to get to this triathlon. I was nervous. Would I be able to finish this? Would I even like it? Was I ready and had I trained enough?

    On race morning the nerves were terrible but as soon as the gun went off, I went into my own little world. I felt great on the swim. I got out on the bike and felt fast on passing landmarks I had seen the day before quicker than I had thought that I would reach them. The run was hot and the aid stations ran out of water. On the way to the finish line I had to run up a hill and I kept telling myself that I was almost done. Crossing that finish line in two hours and thirty minutes was transformational. I was not the same person who had started that race. I was no longer just a cyclist or just a swimmer. I was a triathlete. I was so happy that I did not even care that the family had missed the entire event and were riding Space Mountain when I got a hold of my phone to find out where they were.

    I have been a triathlete now for the past 9 years. I love my sport so much that I went through the process to become a certified coach and I have been coaching newbie triathletes for the past 7 years. I have pushed myself to swim farther, rider harder, and run faster than I ever would have thought possible. Triathlon has taken me on exciting adventures, introduced me to some of my best friends in the world, and made me “cool” with my son. We get to talk about swim sets, and running routes we were on.

    Right now, my training is in full swing for my third Ironman distance triathlon. I have less than 80 days to go and I am hungry, tired, and excited. I would not trade the hard work for anything because I know what it is going to feel like to cross that finish line. It is going to be better than Christmas, The 4th of July, and my birthday all rolled up together. I can hardly wait!

    See you on the race course!

    Liz

    March 4, 2011
  2. A Paddling Love Story

    Have you ever had someone come into your life and leave you so altered you wanted to write a great novel about it, paddle oceans, perhaps sing a poem from a mountain top, dance on main street, or build a pinwheel garden just to tell the world “hey, because of this person, I am not the same!”?

    Whatever we do in our lives, everyone hopes to leave something behind from their time on earth. One of the most significant things we can leave behind …is our story…or stories. If you were loved and altered by someone’s story, how their lives touched you…it is a story worth telling.

    Cancer sucks! There really isn’t anything else to say about it, but that. I hope you don’t mind my telling this story…it involves magical friendships, courage, victories, loss, wisdom, and lessons learned. It is about celebration of life at its best and most temporary, and of course, paddles, bubbles and pinwheels.

    Outrigger Canoe paddling came into my life five years ago by the arm twisting of a close friend. Since, I can’t swim well and don’t much like the water overall, being on a very narrow tippy boat on the lake (or especially the ocean) is NOT where I prefer to be! It wasn’t right away, but over time the sport of paddling grew on me and I fell in love with the unlikely.

    Soon after came the arrival of four other women who felt the same way (with a lot less arm twisting), all with strong personalities, yet very different, contributing to a team whose whole was more than the sum of it’s parts. One of those women was Jennifer Andrews. The first time we met, I raved about the sport to her. And here was this woman, who told me how much she loved Hawaii, and who loved the water, but I thought she was way too glamorous to ever join us. Jen came out the next day and never left until she couldn’t join us any longer…!

    She became our best friend and confidante, hours on the phone, funny stories over wine, we were never without her support, compassion, and uncensored humor. One year she gave us all an Easter basket (she loved holidays) full of forgotten childhood wonders…a candy necklace (remember those?), pinwheels, and bottles of bubbles! It reminded us to play, enjoy, and believe in the moment!

    The six of us did everything together, growing as friends, each contributed something to the group that made us all better. The friendship was intense, and seemingly exclusive, we couldn’t help it…we were on “borrowed time”. That camaraderie afforded us success in races, success we would have never dreamed possible. A novice team from the desert? Competing on the ocean? All over 45, two of which were grandmothers, winning medals? Nonsense! But we did. In our first race together, the canoe seemed to just glide with the magic of teamwork, and every race after that just got better. We were full of ourselves, reveling in the moments and the love that was “sixasone”. And…we thought we had forever to continue the magic. We had no idea it would end so soon.

    When Jennifer was diagnosed with stage four cancer, a year later, our worlds were rocked to the very core. We found ourselves in a different kind of race and everything changed. It was a long tough fight for her, in which she complained little and still laughed and bossed us around when she came out. Being the sass, sparkle, and spunk to any occasion, she kept us uplifted instead of the other way around. We sought to encourage her with themed gifts which, we left on her doorstep when she returned from her long trips to the hospital. One time it was a super hero stuff, with individual homemade capes, bubbles, another time, a pinwheel garden outside her window. There was even a flat cardboard version of her that went to every race in her absence, lovingly known among all the teams, as Flat Jen!

    In 2008 she asked us to “pinky swear” that when she was done with Chemo, we would all do the Rig Run in Santa Barbara with her. It was the dream of doing that race that got her through two months of radiation treatments in the Chicago winter. That summer, on a perfect May day in Southern California, the six of us paddling together again, all of us believing in miracles, she was the happiest, strongest, ever and paddled 12 miles! We didn’t win a medal but of course no one cared, our prize was so much more.

    As hard as we prayed, paddled, and wished for a miracle for her, we never got one. Last January we met at her house to help her take down her Christmas decorations, all together in one room,” just like old sixasone times”, she said smiling. The laughter was bittersweet, somehow we all knew it was over and it was… we never saw her again.

    Now, I wear her silver paddle around my neck along with the words Kinipela which is Jennifer in Hawaiian…she is never far from me! I miss her more than I can say! There is so much more I would like to tell, so many stories of how she changed us, but that will require pages still to be written. But this is what I want to say most…Jennifer’s death taught me to live…the only thing about cancer that is worthwhile.

    Most of us have been touched by this disease, or know someone who has, and have to find peace with it in our own way. It is a journey for those who live and die with it and those of us who walk beside them. Who teaches who? Who inspires who? Who is the most courageous? We are all courageous who have been touched by cancer, but none more than those who fight it within their bodies every day!

    Thought I would die initially, from the grief, then I decided to live, REALLY LIVE. Jennifer changed me, she made me better. And we were able to give her a gift as well…two years of adventures that felt like a lifetime to all of us. She did things she never dreamed of, and had five best friends to celebrate life with, and that makes us all smile whenever we think of her.

    On the first anniversary of Jennifer’s passing, we will honor her on the water, wearing a purple shirt (her favorite color)… with a pinwheel on all water craft to honor her or someone else loved and lost… someone whose story altered our life. It will be a celebration of the temporary, celebration of sunshine on the lake, smiling and laughing, we will celebrate life…with paddles in the water and spinning pinwheels in the wind!

    Thanks You for listening! Pam

    February 10, 2010
  3. Freestyle Frisbee is my sport.

    I’ve competed and played for nearly 30 years. I’ve won several world titles. Frisbee has taken me to Japan, Europe and cities all over the United States. Frisbee friends who I met through competing all therse years are still my friends today. I met my husband at a frisbee tournament. We’ve taught hundreds of school kids, entertained thousands and played with some of the most skilled athletes in the world.

    Frisbee is a piece of plastic that spins either clock-wise our counter clock-wise through the air when you throw it. There is something about a flying object cutting throught the air that catches your attention. You can’t not look at it. On the old Whamo packaging it encouraged people to “be creative and invent new games” (something like that).

    For the past 30 years I’ve been inventing moves and creating choereography with this spinning object. There are hundreds of ways to throw and catch a frisbee and inbetween endless number of movements you can use with your body. You can delay the disc on you finger nail, while it spins. You can tap, kick, brush, roll and spin with the disc. Finally you can catch it – infront, behind or away from your body. You can be air born, rolling on the ground or holding a one arm handstand and catching the disc with the other. It is never ending, the number of moves you can create is endless and that is why frisbee is so compelling to me.

    Something so simple as a frisbee has touched my life and has brought so many friends and positive experiences. It has brought me so much joy and happiness, and keeps me youthful. I’m nearly 50, I have 2 kids but I still play and plan to compete at the world championships. Seattle, August 5-6th, 2010.

    freestyledisc.org

    Sincerely,

    Carolyn Yabe Hubbard

    October 25, 2009
  4. Sarah #

    I signed up to do the Army Ten Miler in April 2009 when registration opened. I am not a runner…and have never ran more than a 5K in my life so I’m not sure what possessed me to sign up to run 10 miles in October. Maybe it was turning 40, maybe it was being unemployed..or maybe it was just to prove I could. Anyway…the months passed and I finally started running in June with some friends at the gym. 5 of us meet T/TH mornings to run at 5 AM. It as ugly at first….but gradually we ran farther and finally could do a 5K distance comfortably. I pulled a calf muscle in Aug and spent most of the month recuperating. By September, with the race less than a month away, it was time to up the mileage and we started running 5 miles at least once a week if not twice. Some days I would come home and run a few more miles with my husband after we dropped our daughter off. The most I ever ran was 7 miles. The race was finally here and on Sunday, I ran the entire 10 miles with my husband. I was thrilled..what a sense of accomplishment. So much of running is mental and I was able to get through all of them. I never hit the wall and felt like I could have run farther. Maybe a 1/2 marathon is in my future? Either way, I’ll be back to running on Tuesday!

    October 9, 2009
  5. Janice Gerlisky #

    I came by my “sport” by my cardiologist telling me one day “you are too damn fat, I no longer want to be your doctor. You are going to kill yourself one day.” I went home and cried and cried and cried. How could someone be that mean? He was right, I weighed close to 320 lb. I decided that I would show him so I started walking. I couldn’t even walk a block, I didn’t stop. A year later I was running. I lost 147 lbs. 3 years later I had that heart attack the doctor had warned about. I survived because my heart was so healthy. I’ve run more races than I can count. I LOVE trail running. It’s my goal to do a “fat-ass 50 miler” for my 50th birthday. Because of that doctor I found my life. I also found out I COULD do anything I put my mind to.

    September 22, 2009
  6. Andrea Eisenbeg #

    This is my story of running my first 50 miler ultra. I am a 46 year, single working mom that got into running about 2 1/2 years ago. Never being athletic, this was huge for me (I suppose for anyone), I mean, huge. Hope this is what you are looking for in terms of stories.

    Ready for another running story………well, have a seat, relax, and listen to my journey.

    So it all started this spring, when I paced Rick in his first 100 miler and unexpectedly did 40 miles of it. I felt great and was so proud that Rick completed in 23:17, reaching his goal of under 24 hours. Then next thing I know, he says “you know, you should do your OWN ultra now – you just did 40, you can do 50.” Mind you, I had told Rick many times, I would NEVER do an ultra event. For those of you who are not in the running world, anything longer than a marathon (26.2 miles) is considered an ultra event. Typical distances for an ultra is 50K, 50 miles, 100K, 100miles. And most ultras are small events, 250 runners or less, and are usually on trails in beautiful locations – it is you and nature at its best. Since ultra events are so long, one key thing about them is that you need to keep well fueled, both in fluids and calories (yes, you need to “eat and run”). So in a 50 mile run, you are burning about 6000 calories. On to my story…….

    A month after Rick’s 100 miler, I ran the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati. And after that, my race schedule was empty……..that is until Rick put an application on my windshield for North Country 50 miler. He also had one for Bill, our “master.” And off we went. I looked at various training schedules, but I really only have room to run 4 days a week, so I made up my own with the goal of peeking with 55 mile/ weeks and some 4 – 5 hour training runs. I invested in a Nathan High Intensity Hydration Vest (most people know the name Camelbak, but it is essentially a backpack that can carry 70 oz. of fluid with a hose that comes up front to drink from) and got running. Fortunately, for me, the summer was a fairly cool one which was great for training. My main running companion for my loooong runs on Sat. was Bill where we would do 24 miles at Kensington, starting at 5:45am – for those that know Bill, yes, I had to endure his chatter for 4 hours every Sat.:). I don’t know anybody that can make the time go as fast as him. And then, on Thurs I would do trail running at Maybury with Rick and Francesca and whoever else showed up.

    Somehow, my race schedule began to fill up too. The Crim (10 mile race in Flint) on Aug. 22nd, then a week off, then Milford 30K on Sept 5th, Dances With Dirt relay Sept 12th, North Country 50 miler Sept. 19th, another week off, Brooksie, a half marathon on Oct. 4th, another week off, Detroit Marathon Oct. 18th. Ahhhhhhh…… well, at least I get to eat a lot of ice cream:).

    Sept 18th, head up to Manistee for North Country with Rick. About an hour into the drive we realize Bill and his wife are behind us. That night after we get our packets, we met some other runners at Big Al’s for pizza, and I gave Bill and Rick shirts that said “Coach 1″ and “Coach 2″ on the front and “you can do more than you think you can, you are more than you think you are” on the back.

    Sat, Sept. 19th, up at 4:45am, ate breakfast, off to the trailhead. There were about 200 runners altogether, probably 2/3 doing the marathon “fun run” and the rest of us doing the 50 (2 25 mile loops). I was feeling good, relaxed, ready to go. The trail was mostly single track, with a big hill at 1 mile, another at 10 mile, rolling hills in between, then very hilly the last 10 miles (it was a mountain biking trail, rated “most difficult”). There were aid stations every 3 to 4 miles, each had its theme (like Margaritaville) and each had Gatorade, water, PB & J sandwiches, chips, M & Ms, cookies, bananas, grapes. Since there were more on the first loop (marathoners and 50 milers), we would sometimes have trains of 20 people with us, generally Bill was in the lead ’cause he knew I would go out too fast. The last 10 miles of that first loop were tough and I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again. When our first 25 miles was complete, we were back at the start finish. I changed my shirt, refilled my Nathan, had a cup of tea (oh sure, why not after 25 miles, even sat down to drink it thanks to Bill’s suggestion). And the toll for the first half was 1 fall with a bloody knee, 1 cliff bar, 4 GUs (100 calorie electrolyte gels), 8 S-caps (sodium) and 50 oz of Gatorade/water mix. I came in feeling like “how am I going to do another 25 miles?” and left with ‘I can do this’ – good break for me mentally.

    Now I was doing the pacing, Bill just left me to do whatever felt right. One thing about running for me is that I think it brings out my strengths and weaknesses all at once. So at about mile 31, I stopped, I just felt like crying. And Bill had already told me I could only cry after I finished the race. “Bill, I know you told me I couldn’t cry, but I have to cry.” Bill told me to go ahead and cry. And then the heaviness in my chest was gone, I felt great. I got in my zone and for the next 11 miles, I cruised, running hills I probably shouldn’t have, but it felt so good. Stopping at aid stations actually was hard for me, I wanted to keep moving. So I would stop to get water and go, Rick and Bill would then catch up to me. But I also was concerned that I wasn’t eating, everything just looked unappetizing. I tried chips once and grapes once, but couln’t do it. And at mile 42, it got the best of me. I was incredibly nauseous and told the guys, I was done. I hit a wall and it was brick. I told them I would just lie down on the side of the trail and someone would eventually find me. I told them I was NEVER running again. There were a few other things I said that will stay on the trail:). They somehow got me moving, the nausea passed, and we walked. Mile 47, I’m seeing spots, things are moving around me, and I’m thinking I’m going down and wondered if they had IVs at the end. I was at the top of a hill and Rick was already down. He looked back and said “I have to come up to get you” (you are missing the intonation here). He took my hand and never let go til we crossed the finish line. Bill was at my heels, in fact so close, he kept kicking me. Ok, now before we cross the finish line, the toll on the second loop, 2 more falls (the wound on my knee just kept getting bigger), NO FOOD, 4 GUs, 8 S-caps, 70 oz of Gatorade/water. Essentially, I had consumed about 1200 cal, burned 6000, and as Rick put it “bonked” at mile 42 and 47 from a huge calorie deficit.

    FINISH LINE!! They told me I HAD to run across it and holding my hands (hey, guys, I don’t have my arms to swing……..so what, just run), we did it. 12:18 was my time and 12:30 was the time limit. Both Bill and Rick knew they had to keep me moving to get there before the time limit no matter how bad I looked or sounded. No tears at the finish, just a huge smile and big hugs to my coaches. I really don’t know how I could have done it without them, so big kudos to Rick and Bill. I know I wasn’t the only first-time 50 miler out there, but I was the best supported.

    What’s next………I told you, I am NEVER running again :). Well, at least this week I won’t.

    Thanks for listening (if you made it this far) and all the support you have given me to make this happen. I wish for everyone to have an experience like this – not that you have to run 50 miles necesarily, but try for something that seems beyond your reach and go for it with the support I had.

    September 22, 2009
  7. Amity #

    I was one of those crazy, competitive girls who trained for the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in elementary school! My fifth grade teacher chastised me for arm wrestling (and beating) the boys, telling me it wasn’t “lady-like.” In high school I played varsity field hockey (goalie), volleyball, and softball (3rd base). I could have played intercollegiate field hockey, but self-destructive behaviors (eating disorders and addiction) got the best of me. For several years, I turned away from sports.

    Once I resumed regular physical activity, I steered clear of all competitive contexts. I was terrified I would either become obsessed or hate myself for not being good enough. It was not until my mid-30s that I became willing to challenge the demons of perfectionism. For two summers I participated in 4-5 local sprint triathlons each summer. In my late 30s, I began volunteering as a referee for AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization). My 40th birthday present to myself was training for and completing the Portland Marathon. At 41, I took up playing soccer. I worked as a high school soccer referee for two seasons. I’m now 45, play on 3 indoor soccer teams and, because I am a grad student, I take soccer classes at the local university. I still love to hike, run, bike, swim, and workout at the gym.

    Okay, so maybe I do still tend toward the obsessive end of the continuum. The good news, however, is that I have been content to train as much as I reasonably can within the context of my adult life and responsibilities, and to be average at the activities in which I participate. For me enjoying sports without feeling the need to excel on a grand scale is the best reward of all!

    August 31, 2009
  8. Rachel #

    When I grew up, short, big-busted girls weren’t supposed to be interested in sports. But I did like walking and camping, which led to a career in forestry with some firefighting, I bought sports bras (thanks for having my size) and somewhere along the way, I realized I could outwalk most folks. At that point, I was diagnosed with severe arthritis. I learned to pack burros when I could no longer carry a pack, I keep my weight down and my nutrition up, and I keep moving. It’s not sports, it’s living.

    August 28, 2009

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