Another half marathon

On Saturday I ran in another half marathon. We don’t have Equinox gyms down in Montgomery so I used the Montgomery Marathon as my tool to raise money for Cycle for Survival. Obviously I wasn’t cycling, but I feel strongly about raising money for rare cancer research. And I love cycle for survival and how they use the money raised. Running 13 miles is not an easy task and whenever I’m running I think about all the people who no longer can run or be active because of cancer. And being active and controlling the effort level of what you put in while you still can is really a gift. So I do these races and when my legs are cramping and my sides are hurting and my mind wants me to stop, I keep pushing because I know if George was still alive he would keep fighting. And when he was alive he kept pushing and believing in everything his doctors were doing for him. So I do too. I want to push myself to the breaking point because he did.

People lose their limbs or ability to walk because of cancer. Or they’re hooked up to a drip for days and fighting for their lives. For that moment to go outside and live life the way they dreamed. So I run for those people. I run, cycle and raise money yearly because I believe the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering are the front line of battle to cure rare cancers. If I can help just one family, it’s worth it.

Ive been dating Mike now for 7 months and this was my second half marathon while we’ve been together. He’s very supportive of my excessive cardio habits, and reminds me he will never do a race with me and though I wish one day maybe, he makes me feel special about it. I do think being in the south, the focus on physical fitness isn’t like what it is in NYC, but he’s very complimentary of when I do distances over 5 miles. He’s also very athletic and I do like being with someone who takes care of themselves physically. I never realized how important that aspect is in my happiness in a relationship. But having it there I don’t want to be without it.

My legs are very sore today but for all it’s worth, the only thing I would change is I should’ve trained a bit better, but I’m proud I completed another half.

image

Shadows chasing shadows

I can feel my grief in my muscles. The aches and tightness in my legs are constant reminders of the sadness that creeps into some of my days. I still find my release in fitness, and I grieve more some days, and on those days my body takes the punishment when my mind wants to run away. I’m feeling anxious tonight. This weekend is the first weekend of many recruiting trips. Recruiting plays a huge role in the success of my job, but I haven’t forgiven myself for spending so many weekends on the road when I should’ve been with George during his final weeks. When I got the phone call that he must go into hospice care, I was at a recruiting tournament in New Jersey. It was a Saturday at 9a and I remember getting to Memorial Sloan Kettering to speak with the social worker about hospice by 11:30a.

I hold on to so much regret.

Tonight I felt the uneasiness of grief creeping in so I laced up my sneakers and went for a night run. I am getting more comfortable about Montgomery and my neighborhood so the night run felt good. My sore muscles started to loosen up as I found my stride, and the grit of the pavement under my feet was a sweet reminder of how good it feels to hurl my body throughout the streets until my mind disappeared. At one point, the street lights shined down perfectly and I was chasing my shadow. The dark carbon copy stretched out in front of me, and I would chase her down until she lengthened and fell behind. And then at the next streetlight, she would creep into the lead and I would chase her again. There’s always going to be shadows from my last life hanging around, and I’ve been good about running away, but if I’m going to move past the shadows, do I have to face it head on?

image

Transformation of the Year

Warning: The hubris is real in this post. There is no competition, no election, no votes, because without rival I have won the Transformation of the Year Award. Challenge me for it, I dare you. I destroyed 2014.

Facebook had the audacity to try and compute the “best moments” of my 2014 year, but from where I began January 1 to now cannot be collected in a montage of pictures and post that received the most “likes.” WordPress tried to sway me by showing me my “Year end review” as today’s post, but I wanted to take control of deciding the highlights of this year rather than social media telling me what’s up.

This was my first full year without George. The thought of it on December 31, 2013 shook me so deep that I felt it in my bone marrow. And I’ll be completely honest, with 2015 just 26 hours away, heading into another full year without him sucks too. But this suckage is going to continue for a lifetime. And that’s just the way it goes. Life without George sucks, but I’m making the most of it.

Get ready for a plethora of pictures, because as I said, the hubris is real.

IMG_1447

I’m not sure where to really even begin. I honestly gave up on life November 25th, 2013. I thought with George gone, I would certainly wither away into oblivion. It was wishful thinking to vanish in those early weeks and months. I returned to work just a week after he died, but when winter break hit, I went back home to grieve with my family around. When it was time to return from winter break back to the office, I was only wearing George’s sweaters. It was the way I wanted to deal with the loss of my husband, and it also was a way for me to be hidden. Tucked away within oversized sweatshirts.

IMG_9078God I hated myself at that time. When looking for pictures for this post, I honestly have very few from November-February. I just veered away from cameras. Once Drew was back in session and lacrosse season commenced my life had purpose again. In a Jay-Z kind of way, every single day I had 99 excuses why I never wanted to leave my apartment, but there was 1 reason why I did: Drew women’s lacrosse team.

IMG_8043When I was splintered and cracking this team helped me stay together so I wouldn’t shatter. No matter how badly I wanted to just say to hell with all of this and just not show up, I would mosey into the field house at 6am with tear streaked cheeks from sobbing and massive bags under my eyes from lack of sleep, and these girls would be ready to go. Most the time. They would buy me a coffee in the morning, and my assistant would tell me something completely out there from what happened to her the night before. It was the best life support I could have asked for. Throughout the season we had amazing experiences which will forever warm my heart.

Like going to the Super Bowl Halftime show at the Meadowlands!1660297_10100343770538369_746299047_nIMG_5690

We participated in Cycle for Survival, where all the money raised goes directly to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to help perpetuate cancer research and treatments. As a team we raised over $11,000 for rare cancer research, something that meant the WORLD to me because George believed so much in everything they were doing for him at MSKCC, and I wanted to continue his fight against cancer even though he was no longer with us.

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 11.12.03 PM

February 8, 2014 changed my life completely. Having the team surround me and support me on this cause, and seeing how much they believed in it, it set in motion my gradual physical transformation. I felt so damn good sitting on that bike and riding for George. I felt him in all my muscle fibers just telling me to be a little stronger and fight a little harder. If you wanna to learn more or donate to our team at http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/TeamKraynak

IMG_8522Right before our first game on February 27th, I made the move from the apartment George and I shared to where I am now. The stress of losing George and then moving was far from easy. It was a fast reality that life unfortunately goes on, and I needed to start figuring out how to live by myself. Cooking for 1 was something that took some getting used to, but finding ways to occupy my time and mind became a necessity for survival. And that’s where SoulCycle came in.

IMG_6120The energy, community, friendships and strength I gained during the classes at SoulCycle changed my personal outlook. During the time from when I found out George was dying to February 8th, I stopped caring for myself. I had put on a tremendous amount of weight because I just was so depressed, and so empty inside. The moment I sat in on my first SoulCycle class I knew it was going to impact my year. I loved the sensation of my legs screaming at me as I tried to keep pace with the instructor. Dropping my elbows on the downbeat of the music, and closing my eyes just so I could feel the love swell inside me. I hung on to those feelings from the classes for days. I returned weekly to SoulCycle until I was making daily visits and sometimes twice a day visits. I felt safe within the community, and they encouraged me to better myself. They wanted me to be the best person I could be that day. And even when there were days when all I wanted to do is curl up into a ball and cry my eyes out, I would throw on the yoga pants and a t-shirt and head to Short Hill to ride.

IMG_7139Eventually, there started to be some noticeable changes. I was happier and had more energy. The tireless nights and the tears started to subside, and my life was starting to come together a little bit. But unfortunately I still was very unstable. But through the instability, I made sure to keep my off days consistent, and I made sure to go to Coney Island to go swimming with the Polar Bear Club. Again, many of George’s friends do polar bear swims and it was another way for me to feel him. But running into ice cold water was another way for me to control my grief. I wanted to feel the discomfort of the water, and I also loved the support the community offered me. Encouraging me to go a little deeper, stay in a second longer, to embrace the excitement of rushing down the gritty beach, and kicking the sand up as you step into the lapping ocean water. The shock of the water awakens every neuron and cell in your body.

1498782_10152560235034377_1267205832_oOnce the lacrosse season ended, my daily routines were shook up and I ran off to Europe. Throughout the first 6 months of 2014, I felt a lot of my time was spent to holding it together and to working, and I needed to take the time for myself to fall apart. So I packed my bags, and headed to Germany and Switzerland, where I got to visit the Alps and touch the sky and see the beauty of everything that surrounds us. And once again, as I looked out at the snow caps, and the green plains below I realized that this life is so massive, that these moments we have together are suspended in time. Just dangling there like a puppet in our memories, just waiting to be revisited and played with. Regardless of how painful. Our time together is unique to only us and we define them any which way we want. And as much as I would get angry that George was gone, I wouldn’t trade our moments and memories at all. So much so, that if I had to go back in time and do it all over again, I would because it led me to him.

imageUpon returning from Europe, I returned to NJ and made a vow to take care of myself over the summer. It was time for me to figure out how to maneuver through this journey and life. The weapon I chose was exercise. I became spin certified. I started lifting with my good friend and neighbor, who also work at Drew. Finally a work colleague/friend asked if I wanted to do a triathlon and that’s when my brain lit up like a halogen lamp. I loved biking, I had been doing SoulCycle and had just been hired at a gym to teach spin. I had started running again a bit more in late June, so it made sense to incorporate swimming into the regiment. Training for the triathlon gave me direction and purpose which I had been lacking since lacrosse season ended. Plus it forced me to be more militant and disciplined with my exercising. My body transformed quickly and as my body was transforming my mood and grief became more manageable.IMG_7170IMG_6463IMG_6956In the middle of my workouts I traveled back to Connecticut where I became an aunt and met my niece for the first time. During this time in my home state turned out I had mono… Anyway, when I saw her beautiful face and the cutest smile, she melted my heart. I felt that unconditional love again, and I started to feel alive as I was heading into August. I cannot even describe to you how callous I was prior to meeting her. It was instantaneous, I saw her face and my heart just filled up. She’s my best little buddy.

IMG_7317IMG_7194IMG_8343

Then in August I got the most amazing opportunity. To ride in the Cycle for Survival Times Square Takeover and tell my story on why Cycle for Survival is so important to me. Never in this lifetime did I think I would speak in the middle of Time Square! And as Fall approached, many of the first anniversaries were going to hit hard. But with the Time Square Takeover, I got to spend my wedding anniversary on a bike while raising funds and awareness for rare cancer research. The one thing that first gave my life purpose back in February. It was the most poetic way I could imagine spending George and my wedding anniversary.

10690080_685294978228734_1519184977747720339_nIMG_7729IMG_7751A week later I competed in my first triathlon with my good friend and work colleague. I finished second in my age group. But most importantly, I set a goal to finish under 3 hours, and I did. As I crossed the finish line, never did I think I would do a triathlon in less than a year after George passed, and I most certainly never thought I would actually enjoy every second of it!

IMG_7906

After the completion of the triathlon, my buddy and I decided to start training for a half marathon. I talked about wanting to do a half marathon when George was alive but never had the discipline or drive to train for one. But during the triathlon training, I realized the long runs, the biking helped me sort through my woes, grief, and strengthened me more than physically. I was becoming an entirely different person. Something I hoped for during my darkest days. I remember thinking I would love to be someone other than me in those first few weeks of widowhood. But now I had become someone that wasn’t me. I was a better version of myself. I was a person I know George would be so proud of, and when he catches glimpses of my accomplishments he knows that I’m a survivor. That I am strong and that I will flourish and thrive.

I did my first half marathon 2 days before George’s death anniversary, and then I did my second half marathon the day before George’s funeral anniversary. I’m still in disbelief that all this has been accomplished in just a year!

I talked about running a half marathon when he was alive, but never did. So doing the Philly Half Marathon was one of the most satisfying and euphoric days.

IMG_8723

IMG_8547

You want to know what the greatest transformation is out of all of this? Yes, the physical transformation is apparent, but the emotional and mental one is what I reflect on the most. I remember so vividly how miserable I was a year ago at this time. I remember the hurt and the unforgiving jaws of grief. And today, I look back and holy shit, I cannot believe how far I’ve come. I have changed my ENTIRE life in a year. I did not allow his death to define who I am, instead I allowed his death to reshape me and push me forward to be better. To be the best person I can be. And I wish he was here to see this, but I’m also aware that if he were here, these changes would not exist. 2014, you started off as the most miserable year of my life, but ended as one of the most fulfilling. I’m going to obliterate 2015.

IMG_3278

Thanksgiving 2012

December 2013

December 2013

December 2014

December 2014

Cycle for Survival

Image

Today, preparing for Cycle for Survival was very emotionally taxing. I kept thinking this is my time to finally honor George, but I couldn’t help but think this is my final goodbye to him. I’ve been pushing Cycle for Survival since a week after he died, and with the event finally here, what am I going to do? What else am I going to look forward to? It made me crazy this morning. I couldn’t stop crying because I didn’t want it to end, but I had been looking forward to it for so long. Luckily 2 of my close friends from home came out to breakfast with me and my worries floated away.

ImageWhen I got my bike assignment at the Equinox gym, I didn’t really think that much about it until I started really looking at the number. The picture I decided to put up on the dedication board was from one of our first dates and at the time I was 23 years old. The bike I was assigned was #23. Weird right? I loved every minute of today. From when I first arrived at Equinox to when it was time to leave. Being surrounded by those who are affected by cancer and understand the hardships that come with either battling it, conquering it, or losing someone to it, was possibly the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. I met a woman who lost her daughter to cancer and when she asked what I was riding for, I told her. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “it’s so unfair.” And you know what? It IS unfair! She then continued to tell me that I remind her of her son-in-law because he became a widower at such a young age too. But because I was there honoring George, it gives George the “ability to keep fighting even though he’s not around.” And when she told me that, it was a perspective I’ve never heard before. But that’s what Cycle for Survival is all about. Getting different results by doing unorthodox approaches. I hope the money raised goes to further treatments on liver cancers.Image

I rode along side with my team, and they once again left me in awe. I had 2 pictures I wanted to post on the dedication board, but they came out with dozens! I was so happy I grabbed a pair of sunglasses because when I finally had time to start reading what they wrote, I did start crying. It was so moving and lovely. I feel so unlucky lots of times, but when I’m with my team I cannot help but think luck was on my side when these 21 girls came into my life. I love their support and enthusiasm and I couldn’t imagine where I would be without it. I love my lacrosse team and all the strength they provide me with.

Image