kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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This is not a fitness blog: Guest post by Patricia Crebase

Everybody fights their own battle in the gym. We're right next to one another, but we're all alone and we're all doing our own thing; working toward our own goals and our own victories and our own results.

You know this isn't a fitness blog, but I asked my friend & fellow Philadelphian Patricia Crebase if she'd write a guest blog post about her decision to do the Philly Half Marathon on November 16, 2013 and how she's training for it. It's 13 miles, which is a long freaking distance. She's @PCrebase on Twitter if you want to follow her adventures. And if you come to the Philly Half, stick around and party with us afterward. We'll be the people wearing medals.
--- Kyle

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Kyle asked me, “What drives you? What’s your eye of the tiger?”

My immediate response was “It’s the thrill of the fight.” And while I will spout ‘80s pop lyrics at any opportunity, that isn’t what he meant.

I started going to the gym because of shame. A co-worker (who I admire tremendously) and I were talking. We both said that we had been thinking of joining the gym but there were so many reasons why we didn’t. “We don’t have the time.” “I don’t like group classes.” (The ones I didn’t say out loud were: What if my wheelchair gets in the way? What if I fall? What if I fail?) J and I talked each other into taking the tour, joining and then, because we sat near each other, actually going. If either was thinking of bailing out any day, the other shamed them into going.

Torquemada could never invest this…

J got me through the door, but I had no idea what I could or couldn’t do. Multiple Sclerosis had taken away a lot of things from me over the years but I’d been stable for quite a long time. There are reasons that people become personal trainers. It’s not only that they like to torture people into doing hard core workouts that make Vin Diesel cry like a baby. They honestly want to help people become better. I had a great trainer who understood and supported me. She knew that some days, just getting through the door was an achievement. She knew that making me laugh could keep me going. I still have my workout journal with its first entry. It says that on March 13, 2007 I did 3 minutes each direction on the Upper Body Ergometer. (I won’t tell you what resistance I used.) I can remember my arms shaking and being completely spent.

Then a funny thing happened. It got easier! Over time, that first day workout became just my warm up as I started lifting, too. My stamina increased. Wheeling a manual wheelchair can be exhausting. Do you know that sidewalks aren’t level? They’re crowned so that the rain drains off them, but it also means that one arm is always wheeling up hill. Now I could wheel myself outside or across carpets! I didn’t need to rely on somebody else.

With some browbeating *ahem* encouragement from my trainer, I started practicing with a walker. I can’t walk without holding on to something and when I run out of juice, I need to sit down NOW. The trainer would walk beside me with a chair. With that safety net there, I was willing to push my boundaries. I started keeping track of how far I could go by counting square of carpet. Two became four became eight and became laps. I know I cried the first time I did a lap without resting. But they were tears of victory! Look how far I went!

J was with me cheering me on! The trainers cheered me on! Strangers that I knew only as faces in the gym everyday gave me The Nod! Every time I reached a new milestone, I gained confidence. Every time I gained confidence I dared more. I got braver in the world because I felt that I could handle things that came at me. I was stronger. I was practically a superhero! (Please note: a superhero in relation to my starting point.)

[begin romantic interlude[ This may be a bit off topic, but my view of myself changed. I’d been very shut down for a long time. Part of it was that I needed to deal with all the emotional baggage of accepting a disease that changed my life. Part of it was re-learning how I could love/be loved when I was such a different person. When I started working out, I took something back. I took control of something when so much had been taken out of my control. When I became involved with my Sweetheart, I was strong enough physically to dare getting on a plane to fly to Florida by myself. I could wheel through the airport. I could walk down the aisle of the plane to my seat. I could carry my baggage and meet someone at passenger pick up. What I didn’t realize until later was that working out had made me emotionally stronger, too. [end romantic interlude]

Keeping my workout journal was key. On good days I could say look! Look what I did today! On bad days I could remind myself of where I started and how far I had come. Everything eventually becomes routine. In all honesty, I need something to keep me motivated. There have been times when knowing that Mr. Handsome would be at the gym got me there (never underestimate this one). There have been times when we’ve had what amounted to a book club because I ogled what someone else was reading. I’ve had little competitions with people: who got to the gym more often? who did more cardio? etc.

In 2011, I watched the Broad Street Run. I saw the wheelchair racers go by before the runners. Racing wheelchairs look like regular wheelchairs, but lightweight with a little wheel. That little wheel is for extra steering and so they don’t wheel so hard they flip out of the chair! Those people are hard core! I watched from the 5 mile mark (the half way point). I got caught up in the excitement as people ran by: the ones who were doing great and the one who were struggling. The group effervescence totally got to me and I decided that I wanted to be part of something…

Like I said, racing wheelchairs are for the hard core and while I talk a good game, I don’t aspire to that sort of level. I decided that I would try a hand cycle. These are a three wheeled bicycle that you pedal with your arms rather than legs. Getting started wasn’t easy. When I called a bike shop they had no idea what I was talking about. I tried medical supply companies who sent me back to the bike shops. I didn’t know if I would like it so didn’t want to invest in a brand new one (they can run $3k+). Finally, I found one on Craig’s List for a decent price. I convinced a friend to go with me to pick it up. I was so excited I was giddy. On May 15th, I took my first ride under the watchful eyes of a mural. It was exhilarating although very short.

It was a little bit like starting over. The first ride was twice around the parking lot. I started going up Broad Street (because go uphill on the way out, downhill on the way home). Each time I rode I went a little farther but it was pretty scary. The first day I rode for more time than it took me to get out on the road was a huge accomplishment. Victory was mine! I would bring my cell phone with me, but if I broke down I couldn’t walk to the bus stop. I didn’t dare push things too far without a buddy.

Then, through a friend at that gym I discovered Philly Achilles ( They are a running club that focuses on removing the obstacles for people with disabilities. Every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. (which I consider disgracefully early), the group meets in the lobby of Cigna at 50 S. 16th St in Philadelphia. There are people who guide blind runners and they run with me, too. They get interval training when they run with me. Fast on the down hills. Slow on the up hills. I’ve gone farther and faster and to places that I would never have done on my own. From the day I showed up, I’ve been welcomed and included. I’ve watched other people show up: a person recovering from a stroke with a goal of walking around the block; a person trying couch to 5k; a person who is planning on running a 100 mile race. Everyone is welcomed. We’re a rather boisterous bunch. People seem to get that showing up is an achievement, too.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I’ve learned that Real Athletes acknowledge and respect anyone who is putting in the effort. Real Athletes don’t mock someone because they haven’t been running for the past five years. They respect someone who chooses to run today. I may not be an elite athlete, but I am a Real Athlete and if you show up and do your work, I will consider you a Real Athlete, too. Any goal is a good goal.

My next goal is November 17th. I’m doing the Philly Half Marathon. I’m so excited and nervous when I think about it that I might throw up. I’m going to be out on that course with 28,999 other people that will be running hell bent for leather. I leave the starting line at the completely uncivilized time of 6:57 a.m. I plan on staying toward the right hand side of the road the whole way, but I have no idea if that is even possible. If you see me in my mohawk bike helmet, give me a shout: “Hey, Patricia!!” “Woohoo!” Make some noise! Let me know that you know that coasting the down hills and fighting on the up hills is worth it. I have no idea what a decent time would be, but I am doing it. I am going to cross that finish line and it is going to feel sooooo good!

It feels like winning. It’s adrenaline. It’s pride.

So Survivor was right after all. It is “the thrill of the fight.”


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