Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ultra- defying limitations

A memorable finish 

 I’m officially an Ultra Marathoner! My first 50 mile race was a success!It was truly the experience of a lifetime for me, and I am so glad I took upon the challenge.

ul·tra [uhl-truh]
going beyond what is usual or ordinary; excessive; extreme.

Run-de-Vous was incredible. The race director, Rajeev, has such a kind and giving heart. His passion and love for running has motivated and inspired me. He believed in me and gave me this wonderful opportunity to run for my favorite charity, Operation smile. Coach Rajeev gave me a warm welcome to the Ultramarathon family.

 The runners I met at the race were ultra in all positive aspects. They were ultra kind, ultra helpful, and ultra funny. It was surprising to meet so many people with such big hearts. It was amazing to see people of all walks of life come together under one passion, and one love- running.  I am still in awe of their selflessness. Seeing people succeed, then wanting others to succeed with the same enthusiasm is rare. Fellow runners went out of their way just to make me comfortable. They easily shared their tips and tricks, learned with years of experience. 

The excitement! 
The race began at 6:00 AM. Every participant had immediate assistance, and the Aid Station was really a heavenly sight after every 2 mile loop in the scorching Gilroy heat. Not once did I feel alone on the course. Three cheers to the volunteers!

Everything was great until mile 40- I hit the wall, and all I wanted to do was to quit. I was tired of my music, and I had named every cow on the ranch. I was running through the sweltering heat in direct sun. My knees were giving in, and I had lead legs. I’m so blessed that Sofie was on my side when I was at my low. Her genuine laugh, and endless stories were instant pick-me-ups. I’m so glad to have crossed paths with her along my journey to becoming an ultramarathoner. One runner even offered me her ice scarf during the hottest hours of the day. When I was struggling to put moleskin on, Alan (the Run-de-Amore Race director) helped me out. He proved that just a smile and a few words of encouragement can do wonders. After the race he wished, “I hope the pain of those blisters fade fast…but not the blisters themselves. They are badges of honor and you earned them!”. To be honest, I would not have completed the race if it weren't for people like them.

Laps with Sofie
Alan Geraldi, the Run-de-Amore race director

 As I was turning the corner to commence my last 5 laps, I saw my nephew running towards me. Seeing my family there to support me was more than enough to energize me and pull me through the last 10 miles of the race.
The surge of energy I got when I saw my nephew

I would not have been able to accomplish any of this if it weren’t for my mom’s love, support, and guidance! She woke up along with me to train, passed me food during my runs, and bathed me in sunscreen. She is an ULTRA mom. My brother was my main crew. He was there with my every step of the way. It brought a smile to my face every time I saw him running to a portable toilet with toilet paper refills. He volunteered, passed runners energy drinks, ice water, salt tablets, and food for over 9 hours. He has such a big heart. Despite my dad's busy work schedule, and late office hours, he still found time to load the van, and send me off at 3 AM, running on scant sleep. He also came to surprise me at the race.I am so thankful to have a family that unconditionally loves me and cares for me. 
It really does take a village to raise an Ultramarathoner.  

My shoulder to lean on

Ultra Marathons are intimidating! Seeing my family there to support me was more than enough to energize me and pull me through the last 10 miles of the race. I was elated at the sight of my family cheering me on at the finish line.  I could see the pride in their eyes upon the completion of my first Ultra Marathon.

This definitely was an ULTRA run for me. I went way beyond my comfort zone. I had to rise above my prior believed limitations to push on to new heights. Along my journey, I came across intermittent urges to quit, but every time I did, I thought about the children I was running the race for. I raised enough money to provide not 12, but 15 underprivileged children with life changing surgeries. My pain for a couple of hours is nothing when compared to what those children face on a daily basis. I cannot even fathom what they go through.

The fundraising was also an ultra experience. To be flooded with generosity by friends, family and complete strangers is something I’ll never forget. You all have donated out of the goodness of your hearts. To each one of you – I am truly moved by your magnanimity, and it has had a huge impact on me. Thank you! Your actions have inspired me.
The joy a simple 45 minute surgery can bring 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thank You

I'm overwhelmed by the generosity and support that I have received! Together, we have raised enough money to provide 12 special children with life changing surgeries! I'm looking forward to Run-De-Vous tomorrow, and virtual hugs to all of you! Your support has ignited the fire within me, and will fuel me throughout my run.
"A smile is the most precious gift you can give to a child" -Shanthi Satish

Monday, August 12, 2013

T Minus 5!

The big race is in just 5 days! I don't know whether to be anxious or excited. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and all of my training has lead up to this weekend. It seems so surreal to me. I can't grasp the fact that it has finally arrived. It took the last practice run of 40 miles, and the support of my family, friends, and Coach Rajeev to convince me that this is not some crazy pipe dream!

It's been an amazing journey. I don't think I would have ever dreamed of running 50 miles. This will be a defining moment in my life, so I'm going to have fun and embrace every second of the many hours I will spend on the steamy San Martin course. I'm going to give it my all, and I will finish the race, even if I have to crawl across the finish line. The impelling force behind me will be the children I'm running for. I'm raising money to change 12 special children's lives forever. If not to myself, I owe my best efforts to them.

Operation Smile mobilizes a world of generous hearts to heal children's smiles and transform lives across the globe. I hope you'll help bring hope and new smiles to children suffering from facial deformities. I can only make all 12 surgeries possible with your help, so please donate to the link listed below! Any amount is greatly appreciated!

Together, we can change lives!

"But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep"

-Robert Frost

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

From 13.1 to 40, From $0 to $1930, we're getting close!

 Last Sunday I ran the longest distance I've ever run, 40 miles! I'm now an ‘unofficial’ ultra marathoner! 

I woke up at 4 AM and felt a little nervous for this practice run – I was entering an unfamiliar zone. I wanted to train hard and prepare well for this race. But because of the problem in my feet, my training was really minimal – 7 miles at the most with the exception of one half marathon. I prepared for this run as I would for my regular cross country meets. That’s hardly enough to prepare for my goal of 50 miles. I needed this practice run to assure myself that I can do this!

The morning of, I quickly changed into my running shorts, grabbed 2 pieces of toast slathered in chunky peanut butter, and headed out of the door. My whole family (including my dog) got up at the crazy hour to send my mom and me off with enthusiasm! What I did not know was that I would be meeting some amazing people-strangers- who would believe in, energize, and inspire me on my quest.

When we arrived in San Martin I stretched for 10 minutes for one of the craziest runs in my life- Mistake #1. The course is a 2.01 m loop with a backdrop of golden brown hills. The cows lazily graze and gaze at the runners. I had started my run early in the morning. I had my ipod on and the first 10 miles had gone by in a breeze.  

I met a group of experienced runners who had come there for their practice runs. Some had entered for 100m, some 50m and some 50k. They all looked relaxed and were eagerly looking forward to their runs with their friends. They shared their wisdom, humor, and stories with me – the newbie.
 I had a down on mile 16, my legs were giving in, and my knees were starting to ache. This was when Sofie, an amazing runner and mom, paced with me. Without her guidance I would not have completed the run. She shared her favorite running stories and tricks with me. We even named the cows!  Sofie taught me an energy efficient way to run called chi running, which uses gravity to your benefit. She has completed dozens of half marathons, full marathons, participated in half iron mans and even a couple of ultra marathons. With all of her accomplishments, Sofie told me that she is officially a marathon maniac! I’m so glad I got the chance to meet her. Thank you Sofie Romero <3

At about 24 miles I heard Coach Rajeev’s voice. “Where’s your hat Divya?” -Mistake #2, “You are wearing black?! Change your shirt, Divya!” -Mistake #3, “Did you take salt tablets Divya?” -Mistake #4

Yes that’s Rajeev Patel, The amazing Coach with a BIG heart. He is one of the many wonderful people I was fortunate to meet and connect with along the way. Rajeev Patel coached my mom and many others for the Vibha half marathon. I had never heard about ultra marathons until then. As their coach, Rajeev was always available for the runners. He answered their questions and concerns, and guided them with proper stretches and a healthy diet (especially helpful for vegetarians).  

Before I continued my run, Coach Rajeev forced me to gulp down 3 salt tablets. Let me tell you now that they are three times the size of regular Tylenol capsules, so that in itself was a challenge for me. But it helped!  As I commenced my 3 laps with Rajeev, he explained to me 2 types of runners: time buffs that constantly think about the clock and beating PRs (personal records), and mindful runners- those that embrace the nature around them. Coach Rajeev taught me how to enjoy my surroundings, to forget about the time aspect of running, and the importance of listening to my body.

At the end of the day I had finished 3 half marathons, a marathon, and an ultra marathon! 3 in 1! 

I went WAY beyond my comfort zone during this practice run. This entire experience helped me realize how powerful a strong mindset can be- a fit body can only take you so far.

I’m thankful for all of the support and encouragement that I get from my family, coach Rajeev, Coach John, my Gummitown friends, my Chaiparty aunties, friends who wished me luck and cheered me on, and the amazing group of runners at Run-de-Vous. I’m so grateful for the generous donors who believe in and support my cause! Your encouragement is what drives me to go beyond my comfort zone! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  I still have a long way to go.

I’m running my first Ultramarathon on August 17.  Run de Vous, 'A race with a heart'  encourages participants to celebrate a loved one or run for a cause. I'm running for Operation Smile, for the children. 

 Please Donate! 

 "A smile is a happiness you'll find right under your nose." -Tom Wilson

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Smiles are great investments: the more you collect, the better you feel- Invest in a smile!

Living in America, we are so blessed. Here we all still experience the same diseases that others experience in places all over the world.  In the United States, clefts occur in 1 in 700 births, making it one of the most common major birth defects. However, most clefts are repaired during early childhood in the United States. In other countries, reconstructive surgery can take place later in life due to a variety of reasons including lack of medical care, financial resources, etc. Higher rates of unrepaired clefts in older children may also be attributed to cultural differences. It's such an easy procedure for doctors to perform, but it's sad that many people can't afford it. 

$25 can supply an exam station at screening

$30 can provide special bottles for babies born with clefts 
$50 can provide IV kits during surgery
$60 can provide antibiotics for 20 children

$100 can ship Smile Bags filled with toys, mirror and more 
$240 can provide a life-changing surgery for a child 
Give a little...and change a lot, one smile at a time!

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight"-Phyllis Diller

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sport a Smile

As an athlete, my love and passion for running has grown over the past 3 years. It has been fostered by a multitude of experiences and by the many wonderful people I was fortunate to meet and connect with along the way. 

John Vincenzo Marie Leopold Randazzo, if it wasn't for him, I would not be running. I signed up for cross country the summer before 9th grade, not knowing what I was in for. I went to my first day of practice wearing a pair of worn out basketball shoes. And yes, John made sure we had proper footwear before we ran any distance. 

John has been my high school running coach for the past 3 years. He owns a successful construction company and coaches our cross country/ long distance track team at school. I have never seen him miss a day of practice. His dedication towards coaching athletes irrespective of what level they are at is admirable. 

The words of wisdom that he imparts are filled with insight for both running and life. 

John taught me that things don't just happen overnight. Hard work is the only formula, and there's no cheating when it comes to running. When you run, there's always the option to stop, or turn around early. You must learn to embrace hard and avoid easy. Before we begin our runs, John always lines us up on the starting line and says "Set...Enjoy!". In order to succeed, you need to enjoy what you do. 

Life begins outside your comfort zone.

Thanks to John, I'll be running to help children with the cleft birth defect sport a smile! 

Any donation will be appreciated, please click on the link below:


Sunday, July 14, 2013

One Small Step Closer to a Smile

This morning I ran a half marathon. It was my first time participating in the Sevathon, an event that recognizes, supports, and nurtures a spirit of giving. Today I got a feel of how many people it takes to plan an event of that scale. It was a humbling experience to see so many volunteers helping out of the goodness of their hearts. Some helped runners and some passionately represented their cause by raising awareness. These volunteers have a busy life yet they take the effort to make time for others who are in need. I’m even more inspired to volunteer.

I ran for Maitri, a non-profit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area that primarily helps families suffering with domestic violence, emotional abuse, cultural alienation, human trafficking or family conflict. Approximately 1.5 million women are physically assaulted annually in the United States. Domestic violence has no place in our society!

This run was also to give confidence to my parents, who were worried about the chipped bone in my foot. I ran the Sevathon at a comfortable pace. The weather couldn't have been better, and the scenery was beautiful. We ran alongside the bay, so it was nice to have a surplus of fresh air. It was wonderful to have my brother cheer me on. On my 12th mile (my final mile) I took a wrong turn and ended up running half a mile off the course. I had to remind myself every now and then that I was not here to race.

I successfully completed the half-marathon… plus an additional mile. I can continue my training for the Ultra with a little bit more confidence. This was definitely a small step towards reaching my goal to make a difference in lives of kids with the cleft birth defect