With Guest Blogger, Traci Deppa
One of the many reasons I write this blog, is to inspire those who read it to be more than themselves. A close friend of mine, who reads my blog religiously, made the decision to start her own journey.
Throughout it all, Traci made sure to keep posted on her progress. It started with 5ks, then 10ks, then she was ready to take on a new challenge. She mentioned that she wanted to tackle a half marathon and that she wanted to do it with Team in Training. I told her that if she signed up, met her fundraising goal, and trained, I would fly yo LA and run with her during her first half.
Traci joined Team in Training after finding out that one of her close friend's mother was battling Leukemia. Traci had always had the physical drive. Now she had the emotional fuel.
The race she chose was the Disneyland Avengers Half Marathon. Very fitting for someone starting her origin story as a Super Hero. I arrived Friday, and ran my 10k Saturday morning as part of the Infinity Gantlet Challenge.
Saturday night was the Team in Training Inspiration dinner. I was honoured to meet Traci's teammates and coaches. When the time came for team members to stand up and tell their story, Traci was too shy. I wanted everyone there to know the strength she has and the work she put in. So I stood up and embarrassed Traci, while simultaneously praising her efforts.
The day of the race had come. I asked Traci to tell us, in her own words, how her race went. This race was extremely tough for her and she was not always in the best mental state. Marathons tend to do that. So from time to time, I may jump into her story and add some key details she may have forgotten. My voice will be italicized so you know when it's me recounting Traci's journey.
I have been running 5 and 10k races for about a year when I decided to run a half marathon!!! I decided to train with Team in Training for the Avengers Half Marathon and raise money for LLS. I ran this for a friend's mother, Linda, who was fighting leukemia. My motivation was to let her know that she had people cheering her on from all over. I could give a hug and say I'm sorry or do something to honor her. This was my way of doing exactly that. I had to finish, she was counting on seeing my finisher photo!!
What better motivation?
Traci informed me the day before the race that Linda had taken a turn for the worse, but was holding on to see Traci's finisher picture. Motivation indeed.
My training started back in June 2015. At that time, even a 5k was very difficult. But I wanted to complete a half. I trained hard every Saturday morning with my amazing team and they got me as ready as they could. I think back to when I started. I was so excited when I ran 7 miles. It was the furthest I had run yet. Then there was 8 and 10 miles down. I was shocked and happy with my accomplishments. My training with TNT took about 5 months.
November 15th 2015 at 3:30am when the alarm went off, I got dressed and headed downstairs to meet my teammates and find the corrals. I met with Joe, who came to Anaheim just to run (or walk) this race with me in support of my efforts (little did I know how important that really was). Then we walked over to Corral E and waited. A few teammates were in the corral with us so we all kept each other pretty pumped up. I was so excited and nervous. I had never been so nervous yet so calm all at once. I was shaking, afraid of not being able to make it, but with Joe reminding me that I can do it, and the reminder of the promise I made to Linda, I kept positive!
They started letting corrals go one by one and the closer it got to us, the more nervous I was getting.
We got to the start line and Joe looked at me and I looked at him and said "Let's do this!" And off we went. I started off strong, I felt good. I felt determined, like nothing was going to stop me, nothing was going to take this away from me. I pushed really hard from the start line. A little too hard.
After the first mile I slowed down but still felt good. We were smiling and chatting, having fun. We reached Black Widow and stood in line for a picture and then headed off again.
Next we came to Thor and of course we had to stop and take a picture. Right after the picture, we overheard them say that the pacer was creeping up on us, I started to panic but Joe had a way of calming me down and we took off again.
There must have been a different cut off procedure for this race. There was no way the sweep pacer would have been that close on any other race.
I was still feeling pretty good. I was still pumped and excited and having fun. After all this was a Disney race. I had to have fun!
Miles 2 through 5 are pretty much a blur, just trying to make time so I didn't get swept. About mile 5 I started to feel a blister forming. My worst nightmare. The one thing I had hopes of not having to battle during this race. I ignored it and kept going.
At mile 2, I suggested that we pick a run:walk interval and try to stick with it for the rest of the race. We decided on a 1:2 interval and did our best to keep it. I wanted her to finish and knew we had to keep moving. As we passed mile 3, we could see where the course looped back at mile 11. I pointed and told Traci, "See that over there? We will be there soon. You'll see!"
Every mile down felt great. I felt accomplished. I was happy with myself for not giving up and actually making it to the start line.
At mile 7, I started to feel defeated, like I was not going to make it. I was tired, sore, and scared of being swept. Running the best I could to stay ahead of those scary balloons.
At mile 7, race officials were telling us how far behind us the sweep pacer was. I could see it was getting to Traci, so I just keep repeating, "We are in front of the balloons. As long as we stay in front of the balloons, we will be fine."
Around mile 8, I saw the cos-players along the river path and I recognize the female Thor, BENNETT!! I was so excited to see her! It helped boost my energy a bit to see a familiar smiling face! I needed that boost!
After the cos-players, the course took us up onto an overpass. I could see on the course behind where the balloons where. They were close. I never told Traci how close they were. She did not need that added pressure. I instead just encouraged her to stick to the 1:2 run:walk interval we had set.
Mile 8 we started heading through the stadium parking lot. They had so many amazing spectators cheering us on, yelling my name, telling me how great I was doing, big band music playing, and I couldn't help add a little pep and start dancing along the route to the tunes.
Next thing I knew we are in the stadium. I looked to Joe in amazement and with so many emotions, excitement, accomplishment, and pain I realized I had made it that far already, into the stadium which I honestly wasn't sure I would make it to that point.
We ran as far through the stadium as I could handle as the spectators cheered us on. Every step helped more than I ever realized it would. Joe encouraging me, making me smile, and keeping me laughing when I was about to give up helped too.
Exiting the stadium I started feeling extremely tired. The blisters had popped open somewhere around mile 8 and they hurt. I could feel them bleeding. I was trying to ignore them, but it was getting the best of me. Joe along with my TNT coaches, Bruce and Matt, were all trying to keep my spirits up and keep me going. They would not let me give up, even when I begged Joe to go on and leave me to be swept He would not give up on me. A good friend cheers you on, a best friend runs the race with you!!
Just outside the stadium was mile 9. The longest Traci had ever ran. As we passed the mile 9 marker. I looked at Traci and said "Every step you take you take from here is a new personal best. You've made it though 10, what is 3 more?"
Every mile marker at this point was such a huge victory for me. Tears falling at every mile marker, I was surprised that I was still going, still standing, and still running. Somewhere around mile 10 I was ready to give up, but Joe held my hand and kept pulling me along. His friendly hand was encouragement, support, and the reminder that I had a good friend there to hold me up when I felt like falling.
Mile 11 was here. I am almost there, the balloon lady basically holding my hand at this point, encouraging me to keep going, and not fall behind her.
The sweep pacer was a very nice girl who encouraged those in front of her. At this point, both TNT coaches, Matt and Bruce, were with us. Matt asked me how Traci was. My answer was simple and the truth. "She's not well, but she will finish." Another one of Traci's teammates, Samantha, was with us, along with one of the TNT staff members, Meghan. At this point it was Traci with me on one arm and Bruce on the other, and Samantha with Matt on one arm and Meghan on the other. Traci, Samantha, Bruce, Matt, Meghan, and I continued the encourage until the end.
When Traci needed a boost, I reminded her of 4 things. 1: Linda was counting on her. 2: How far she had come that year, not only in running, but she had made some big life choices to better the life of her and her son, Dom. 3: How proud Dom would be of her for doing this and what kind of example she was setting for her son. And 4: To prove every single person who told her "You can't" so very very wrong.
Coach Bruce was right there with us, encouraging Traci like only a Team in Training Coach could.
Mile 12. We were on Disney property again. I could stop worrying about being swept and focus on not dying. I was tired but Linda was waiting to see my medal. I could not let her down.
From mile 12-13, Traci kept asking me, "Where is Samantha!?" Even in her current state, Traci embodied the spirit of Team in Training. When I told Traci that Samantha was right behind us and that Matt and Meghan were taking care of her, Traci would yell to Samantha, "You got this!!"
There it was Mile marker 13. I was mentally and physically done, but I was almost there. Through all the pain and tears, there was the moment I NEVER thought I would actually see.
The finish line.
I grabbed Joe's hand a little harder and told him I had to run it in. I would NOT walk across that finish line.
And I didn't.
I ran with all my heart, the heart of those there with me helping me, and those I was running for. With every painful step I was closer to finishing my first half marathon.
At the finish line I cried tears of joy and pain. I can't describe the feeling I had when I finished. I turned to Joe with tears in my eyes and hugged him, thanking him for being such a great friend, source of support, and for helping get me to that amazing moment!
3:58:25. Longer than I hoped for but, I finished that was what mattered!
I am so very proud of Traci. She took on something that scared her, owned it, and come out the other side much more than when she started. The whole time she was training, I kept telling her that the feeling she would get when she crossed the finish line was something I could not explain, but something she would understand. She crossed. She understood. She conquered.
Although Traci told me that she would not run another half marathon anytime soon, she did say she was going to stick with 10ks. And that one day, when her 10Ks become too easy, she would tackle another half.... And own it.
A few days later, Linda lost he battle to Leukemia, but not before seeing Traci's finish photo.
Thank you for taking the time to read Traci's story. I encourage each and every one of you reading this to do something bigger than yourself. It does not have to be a marathon or triathlon, it can be something as simple as being there for someone. Then we can all, in some small way, be Super Heroes.
Be on the lookout for my next entry, Rock & Roll New Orleans Half Marathon, which I am also doing with Team in Training.
To donate, please visit tinyurl.com/Run-N-awlins