Georgia may not remain in the forefront of my mind, but that doesn’t mean I will soon forget it. The 11th Marathon for 50 States for Sole was quite a memorable one for many reasons. On a blustery and frigid end of February morning I picked Tattoo Liz up at her apartment and we headed South –to Brecksville, Ohio – to pick up our pal Joe Jurczyk for the Albany, Georgia Marathon.
We drove all the way there in one long stint, arriving at the Merry Acres Inn at 2:30 AM in Joe’s Honda Pilot. The pool was open and looked inviting. Since it was a balmy 37 degrees upon our arrival, we refrained from taking a dip. A quick 4 hours of sleep, and Tattoo was up and at ‘em to get a workout in. She left the room and quickly returned to let us know that the Pilot had a flat tire. Sleep is apparently so over-rated anyway. I got up and got on the horn with AAA. Once the tow truck arrived, Joe took a ride with the driver, Tattoo Liz was working out, and I set out on a quest to find a diner for some coffee and food.
The area we were staying in didn’t lend itself easily to finding a place to sit down and eat within walking distance. Our hotel was located on a long expanse of commercial properties with some man-maid lakes and residential homes mixed in. I had the whole day ahead with nothing to do but pick up my race packet at the Expo – so I got to walking. The lack of sidewalks in Albany was a little disconcerting at first, but I was told by a local that walking on the side of the road in the grass is what they do in the South. Hey- when in Rome…or Albany, I guess.
I walked a mile and a half down the right side of the road, shuffling along, noticing the brisk air but quickly reprimanding myself for doing so, since it was only 1 degree back home in Cleveland at the time. If I wasn’t on a mission to run a marathon in all 50 States for Girls With Sole, and if the tire on the Pilot hadn’t flatted out, I wouldn’t have been trekking along Dawson Road in Albany, Georgia looking for coffee – and therefore wouldn’t have noticed a very quaint little house turned bakery. In the window a red neon light blinked “open.” A wooden sign hung on the small patch of grass in front of the house that read “Goodness Gracious – The Bread House & Granary.”
I looked at the blinking sign and studied the wooden one from across the street, questioning my desire to cross the two lane road and go inside to check it out. For a split second I considered continuing on my way, but I was drawn to see what was inside. I figured if they had coffee and bread – and maybe some butter and jam with a place to sit- it would be perfect. If not – I would politely exit and be on my way. If I hadn’t made the decision to step into the tiny shop, I wouldn’t have met Brittany McCumber – a beautiful, kind, fit and athletic looking woman with a warm smile, who appeared to be in her early 30’s. She was dressed in workout attire and said she had just stopped in on her day off from the shop after her CrossFit workout. She said she was moving that day and she was really excited about it.
When I first walked into the bakery, Brittany wasn’t there yet, so I spoke with a really nice lady in a dancing bears tie dye t-shirt that also sported the name of the bakery just above the bears’ heads. I told the woman that I was in town for the marathon and that I was going to get some bread for race day morning. This one, simple sentence ignited a conversation about a woman who worked there who was also REALLY into fitness. She said that exercise and running was what this woman was all about. She was referring to Brittany – and although it was Brittany’s day off- she appeared just then, almost on cue while the woman was telling me about her.
We started chatting and she instantly lit up when I told her I was running in the local marathon. She told me that she runs and does Triathlon as well, but keeps the distances shorter than marathon distance to fend off injury. She stressed the importance of exercise in her life, and how she needed to be sure she could always do it. I told her I could relate to that – one hundred percent! She was so excited to hear that I was running the marathon- and even more so when I told her about 50 States for Sole. I told her all about Girls With Sole and why I was running a marathon for the organization in all fifty states. She made me a wheat grass shot – and one for herself – excitedly telling me about the fact that she was going to be moving to an apartment that day.
Ironically enough, on the drive down to Georgia, my friend Joe and I were chatting and he mentioned that he likes a lot of what Tony Robbins has to say, especially when he points out that you never know what a person’s situation is. Tony Robbins reminds us that in our dealings with other people, especially when they do something we don’t like, we need to keep in mind that they may have come to us from a place we couldn’t have imagined.
In talking to Brittany I found out why she was moving that day – and why we were destined to meet.
She worked at the bakery through a program at Grace Way – a recovery residence for women to help them achieve sobriety and then transitional housing as they pursue higher education and long-term recovery. I told her about the mission of Girls With Sole, the types of programming we do, and a little about my personal background with foster care and abuse. She told me about her abusive past and as a result of that – her eating disorders, cutting, alcoholism, and drug addiction. She said she has three daughters – the oldest one is 17 years old and is currently in rehab for eating disorders as well. She told me how running and exercise along with Grace Way saved her life. She described to me how she can work out when she feels anxious or out of control and it works, and how the other women at Grace Way thought she was a little weird for working out to feel better, because they had never done it before. She said it began to catch on at the house.
It turns out that the bakery provides “Nutrition With a Mission.” The women of Grace Way are able to work there to help them learn new skills and to help them pay back any financial debt or obligations they may have. The for-profit bakery donates a portion of their net proceeds back to Grace Way to support their programs. Upon hearing about Girls With Sole she was on board and wanted to help do everything in her power to help us become a national organization. She wanted to see it in Georgia and would love to run a chapter so she could help bring our programs to all the girls who so desperately need it.
It was her day off and she was moving from her transitional housing into her very own apartment. She wasn’t even supposed to be at the bakery – but stopped in to help make some protein bars.
I wouldn’t have walked into the bakery if it weren’t for 50 States for Sole – or that flat tire on the Pilot that morning.
Being open and present allows me to follow my own lead and to be exactly where I need to be.
I’m on the path I’m meant to be on and confident that our programs will reach all who need them if I keep moving forward one mile, one marathon, and one state at a time.
Race day morning came a-calling early with a 7:00 AM start time. It was about 48 degrees when we got up but warmed up to around 68 degrees during the race. There were 1700 runners with about half of them doing the Full Marathon with me, Tattoo and Joe.
The first part of the course was in downtown Albany, which isn’t all that pretty, but as we went on we ran into some enjoyable scenery and really pretty neighborhoods. This race had one of the most unique water stops I have ever seen at a race as well! It was a Western theme, complete with live horses and cowboys decked out from head to toe! They made the whole water stop look like a little old-time western town. It was amazing and made me smile from ear to ear! However, the smile that I usually sport for the entire race started to get harder and harder to manage. At around mile 18-19 I started to feel really bad – and not the normal “hitting the wall during a marathon” kind of bad. This was a feeling that I had never experienced, especially during a race, and it was excruciating.
I have felt really bad during Ironmans and Marathons, but this was a whole new brand of it for me. I kept stopping to walk and began an internal battle with myself to soldier forward while constantly assessing how my body felt. I was doing all I could to keep from crying. I knew if I let it go, I might not be able to reel it back in. When I hit mile 25 I knew I was almost home and kept reminding myself that I have felt worse than this in my life. I could make it one more mile and 385 yards. I crossed the finish line in about 4:21 and happily received my medal, silver foil blanket and bottle of water with a weak smile – but still a smile.
Joe and Tattoo were already there waiting for me, and asked me how I was when I reached them. I’m usually fine, and don’t like to complain, but this was such an unusual and horrible pain. I even had a little shelf-like ridge that swelled up on my left side that if I didn’t know any better, I would have happily believed I had sprouted an amazing six-pack during the race. I told them I wasn’t feeling great and that I thought something might be wrong with me.
We went back to the hotel to shower and hit the road for our 15 hour drive home – hoping to get in as many miles as we could that Saturday. We weren’t on the road for forty-five minutes and I had to stop to pee twice. I was in so much pain that I let loose and cried in the rest stop bathroom. The three of us tried our best to diagnose the problem and decided it was probably a nasty urinary tract infection, so we bought some cranberry juice and got back in the car. As I lay down in the back seat, the tears kept flowing. I hate crying in front of other people, and I hated the thought that I was holding everyone up even more – but it was unanimous – and it was decided that I needed to be seen at an Urgent Care or ER – or it was going to be a much longer ride home than it already was.
My pelvis was screaming at me in the back seat while Tattoo and Joe found the nearest health center, and quickly drove me to Southern Regional Hospital – about an hour outside Atlanta in Riverdale, Georgia.
We arrived at 3:45 in the afternoon and didn’t leave the ER until 11:00 PM. The hours between 4:00 and 11:00 were filled with a lot of waiting, peeing in a cup, drawn blood, swabs, ultra sounds, tears and a shot in the ass. And that was just what Tattoo and Joe were doing in the waiting room. (Ha ha ha)
I felt horrible physically – but also so bad inside for Joe and Tattoo! Because of me, they had to wait for six hours in an emergency room filled with screaming kids, guys barfing their brains out, and some possible gangsters whose friend was just shot and killed – all after running 26.2 miles, and we all just wanted to get home!
My husband and kids couldn’t have felt further away as I lay in the cold examine room waiting for various results to come back. I’m the hugest baby in medical situations, and probably one of the worst patients on earth. The final diagnosis finally came back after a few more tears and a desperate yearning to be at home nagged at my heart.
The pain I was experiencing was due to a cyst on my ovary had ruptured during the marathon. I felt some relief after the shot and some medicine, and knowing we could finally go home. As an added bonus they said I was in the beginning stages of stomach flu. Whatever.
On my way out the door one of the nurses said with a smile, “You won’t forget your trip to Georgia!”
She’s right – been there- done that- got the race shirt- and I won’t soon forget it!