Don't blink. Just run.

Where training meets fandom. And everything in between.

I’m Still Here

Contrary to popular belief, I have not been abducted by aliens. What I have been dealing with is a lot less fun. You see, I’ve talked about my anxiety before, but not much about my depression. I feel like, who wants to read that stuff. I figure people just want to hear about the fun races and events I’ve done, how training is going for any given thing or about one of the many fandoms I love. Then I think to myself, this is my blog. I can write what I want and if people want to read it, they will. If they don’t, well, at least it’s been purged from my brain.

So what’s been going on with me? Well, I’m trying to focus on feeling better. I’d be lost without Tara and “the girls”. They are my support system x 1000%. They get me out of the house, out of my head, distract me and whatever they can do to help me. I’ve had a few events lately, which I’ll throw some pictures of below, but haven’t felt much like being around the blogging world right now. I’ve started seeing a new therapist and once I start feeling a bit better, maybe I’ll be back much more often. For now, I might try to just aim for my Friday posts (which I haven’t even done). Baby steps.

Before I share some of my events, I wanted to share two videos. The first, I heard about through a running blogger I follow. It’s worth the 8 minutes to watch because he describes what I’m feeling almost perfectly. The second video is a song I recently heard shuffling through Spotify and it has almost perfect lyrics for me right now.

 

 

 

The last post I did was about my event on 11/8, which was Carry The Fallen. That is still such an amazing thing to me and I can’t wait to do the next one in March. A few days later, the girls and I got together for a Paint Night. For $35, we got to do a painting of Starry Night – my all time favorite. It included all the supplies we needed, plus two drinks.

 

 

A few days later was an event I had waited all year for – the Spartan Stadium Sprint in Fenway Park! I didn’t get to run with my girls, but I had a great team of Battle Buddies to run with from the Spahtens team. We got to run on the Green Monster, though the visitors clubhouse and dugout and around the warning track in the outfield. It was an amazing experience but pretty nerve wracking because of how many people were jammed into the park throughout the day. Did I mention it was flippin’ freezing that day??

 

No biggie – just the top of the Green Monster!

 

This past weekend, Tara and I and a couple of friends signed up to volunteer at Operation Holiday Cheer. It’s run by the Lt. Governor in RI and is a two day event taking in donations to send to RI troops overseas and then packaging and shipping them the following day. We signed up to take in the donations on Saturday, which would have been from 9-1, but we ended up leaving around 12:15-12:30. The donations were slow this year, sadly. Tara and I have done this before and the last time we did the bins were overflowing with donations. While there were plenty of people that volunteered to help, there just wasn’t enough coming in for everyone to stay, which is why a lot of people left early.

 

 

And finally, I have some new ink I wanted to share. I had pinned this quote on Pinterest months and months ago because I really liked it. I feel like it suits me between what it means and my love of the ocean. I felt like now was just the right time to get it done so I finally pulled the trigger. It’s my Christmas present from Tara.

 

 

I hope everyone is doing well. Stay tuned – same bat-time, same bat-channel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Carry The Fallen

Saturday’s Carry The Fallen event was an incredibly moving, emotional day that will be difficult to put into words, but I will try my best. Readers of this blog know I also tend to forget a lot of details, but I’m going to do my best. Special credit for photos and videos go to: Gene Kim, Wendy McNaughton, Amy Parulis, David Kamm, Mary Khoury-Whitelaw, Stephanie Santucci and Christine Dion. Very few of them are mine or Tara’s photos. Thank you for allowing me to share your powerful images.

 

 

I tried to get to bed by 8pm Friday night, but that just wasn’t in the cards. A few of us met up for dinner to carb load and we ended up getting home around 7:30. That’s not bad, but I still had to drop something off at a friend’s house and then get my ruck situated so I wouldn’t be stressing in the morning. I think I ended up in bed around 9ish, got up at 1am to chug some water and slept until 2 am when my alarm went off.

 

 

My plan was to leave around 3:15 to start picking people up, but I ended up running about 10 minutes behind. I had a stop to pick up Stephanie first and then Amy and Corrine after that and all drive to Hopkinton, to the start, together. We stayed mostly on schedule and still made it to the start just after 5am.

 

 

Once everyone started showing up at that time, we lined up to check in. We had to sign in, write down an emergency contact and were assigned numbered index cards with another emergency contact # on the back of it. This took some time with so many people there, so we got a little behind schedule. I think we had somewhere around 65 people total. While we were signing in, I was talking to some friends and all of a sudden, Tara appeared as if from nowhere! She decided to surprise me and come cheer us on. She saw us off at the start and then told me she would be at set mile markers along the route to help us out. She packed her hatchback full of bananas, water, Gatorade, chips, homemade cookies, etc that the team happily devoured. It was a HUGE morale boost each time we saw her.

 

 

 

After everybody checked in, we had a small opening ceremony. One of our leaders, Justin Fitch, gave us a rundown of what to expect and the rules of the road. We then listened to the National Anthem, sung by a very talented woman who had an absolutely beautiful voice. Then I basically had to hold back the tears as Justin took a knee, saying he was the “first veteran to kill themselves today”. This was followed by 21 more people taking a knee and proclaiming the numbered veteran they were to take their life that day. It was incredibly profound and sad.

 

 

Shortly after, we were lined up and checked to make sure we had something to keep us reflective, dry, warm, fed and plenty of water. Everybody was good to go, so we started somewhere around 6:30am. This is where details will be slightly hazy as we walked the 26.2 miles to the finish line.

 

 

We were initially lined up in two lines and told to stick together in pairs side by side as we walked. This mostly worked, but dissolved here and there. The fun part was that you always ended up around people you didn’t know. It was nice getting to know some of our fellow ruckers as we walked. One guy, Chris, actually brought a Bluetooth speaker and played Pandora on his phone. We had a ball singing to 80s hair bands as we walked. He was one, of many, fantastic motivators.

 

 

I think we made a few more stops than were planned. We stopped at a Honey Dew to let people use the restroom, as well as a Dunkin Donuts. I have to say it was an awesome Dunkin. While everyone was lined up waiting to use the restrooms, the manager brought out little baggies with a couple of munchkins in them to pass out to everyone in line. It was a nice gesture and a great little pick-me-up.

 

 

Mile 10 was our long break at the Natick VFW. We took some time to take care of our feet. Tara met us there as one of her many stops and brought my foam rollers, tennis balls, stretch out strap, etc so we could all take care of knots. As if people weren’t already in love with her for the food! At this point I changed my socks and put on some more trail toes, but had already started feeling my blisters around mile 8 so I might have been a little late to the game. I rolled out, stretched, had some food and then shortly after there was a ceremony in front of the memorial.

 

 

This was an incredibly poignant ceremony and many tears were shed. After a moment of silence, we heard from Justin, who is battling stage 4 cancer but spends all his time working to help other Vets. We heard from Earl, a Vet who was the sole survivor of an IED explosion. He lost his leg and later, his twin brother due to PTSD. He now carries a cinderblock affectionately named Cindy at his events. We heard from Beverly, a mother who lost her son to PTSD and works tirelessly to try to stop it from happening to others. We heard from Jay, another Vet who rucks these events in his wheelchair the entire way after a parachute training failure cost him the use of his legs and a TBI that altered his sight to a mere 6 ft wide and 100 ft long. We heard from Steven, who read a touching letter from a family member of Anthony Lembo, a former Navy SEAL. We also heard from Heather, who runs and rucks her events for the fallen all over New England. She works tirelessly to make sure these men and women are not forgotten.

 

 

 

Once we had all dried our tears, it was time to ruck up again. I packed up my stuff, said my goodbyes to Tara and we all lined up to head out again. I feel as though the group was a lot quieter when we left the VFW, many lost in thought. We eventually got a second wind and everybody perked up again. It also helps to have Justin riding alongside in the support RV playing the poem Boots over the megaphone. A little Bon Jovi never hurts either! Justin was such an inspiring leader, always making sure we were smiling and had no “poopy faces” and even handing out lollipops as we walked.

 

 

As we inched closer, step by step, we made another pit stop at a Whole Foods. They were kind enough to donate some bananas and bottles of water for us and let us use their facilities. We even had some nice chairs and tables to use outside on their patio. I took advantage of this long-ish break to put more trail toes on, but at this point it may have been in vain. My hips were starting to tighten as well as the back of my knees, but there was no way I was taking a break or not finishing – it was never going to be an option.

 

 

It was just starting to get dusky out when we hit the Newton fire station, so we all put on our head lamps and reflective gear to make sure we’d be seen. Much of the remainder of the route we were given police escorts as well, so that made us feel safe. We probably had escorts help us out on 75% of the route from town to town which was comforting. We did get quite a few “stank faces”, as Corrine called them, from the drivers having to wait for us to cross intersections. Oh well!

 

 

 

Once darkness hit, I struggled a bit more personally. It felt like the last miles were hell. When we were at the fire station, they had a sign that said they were at mile 17.3 of the marathon – this meant we still had a ways to go to hit 26.2, including the famous Heartbreak Hill. My blisters felt as if each step I took was on razor blades. My hips had long since given up on me and I had a constant forward tilt and couldn’t walk without limping, no matter how hard I tried, even though I knew it was going to mess me up.

When I packed my ruck, I asked Tara to give me something of her brother’s to wear or carry with me. She gave me his boot camp picture, with a pin attached to it. She told me the pin was the one she wore every day after he was deployed and then after he was shot in Iraq, she put it on his picture and it hasn’t moved since. I pinned it to the arm of my ruck so when I was having a tough time, I’d reach up and give him a tap and remind myself of his and other Veterans struggles and that I needed to suck it up and keep going for them.

 

 

In the last miles, it felt like we just walked and walked and walked. Once we started getting into the city, the RV kept pretty close to us. They played more music over the megaphone and we all sang along to Proud To Be An American and Sweet Caroline as we walked. More Dum Dums were passed out. It was a big boost when people would ask us what we were walking for and we enjoyed telling them about it and handing out brochures. I’ve heard from someone else that even a few people joined in walking with us.

The single most amazing moment for me was at the end, as we turned onto Boylston St. We had been joined by a couple of motorcycle police escorts a little while before and they went ahead of us as we turned onto the street to clear it out for us to get to the finish line. It was incredible watching the cars part for us to walk through, all 4 lanes of traffic packed, the streets lined with people. Eventually, I noticed that it was just our road. No more cars. No more traffic. Just our group, walking proudly, chanting “One Team! One Fight! We Carry The Fallen!”.

 

 

When we finally crossed that finish line, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I immediately jumped in an open spot to get my chance to kiss the finish line.

 

 

Afterwards, we gathered on the sidewalk and were handed our patches and some cake. It was Justin and Jay’s last CTF with Team Minuteman as they are both moving away so it was very emotional for a lot of people. I’m lucky that I was able to do one with these amazing men before they left. It was truly a privilege.

 

 

The whole experience was amazing and, as much pain as I’m still in days later, it’s all worth it to walk for those that can’t. I think I will probably be doing this again in the near future and highly recommend people join us. Even if you can’t walk or donate, check in on your Vets, even if it means asking “Hey dumbass, you feeling sad?”, as it was so eloquently put by Earl. Speak their language. Just talk to them.

Here are a couple of videos – one from the perspective of a rucker, one from a photographer. It captures the most intense part of our journey perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Face The Music Friday #58

I have nothing noteworthy to speak of in terms of workouts this week. Between appointments, plans and having a stupid cold, I’m lucky I even got my butt out of bed.

Tara and I did have a lot of fun Tuesday night with some friends though. We went out to eat with them at a wing place down the street from our neighborhood because one of them was craving wings and had never been there! What we didn’t realize was that it was trivia night, so I finally got to do my first pub quiz type thing! I was very excited and it was a lot of fun. It was 4 rounds – round 1 was general trivia, round 2 was songs, round 3 was pictures of stoner movies we had to name and round 4 was RI history. We did horrible in round 1 and 4 but we almost aced both rounds 2 and 3! I’d love to do it again, but being on a Tuesday night sucks.

Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow, we will meet at 5am and soon after begin our ruck march of the Boston Marathon route – 26.2 miles over the course of 12 hours. To say I’m excited is an understatement, but I’m super nervous as well. It feels like before a big race is coming up, even though this is a totally different animal.

Thank you to my readers, friends and family who have donated. If you haven’t already, maybe you’ll consider a small donation. The fight will never stop to get 22 Veteran suicides a day to zero. Here is my fundraising link:  http://fundraise.activeheroes.org/courtneycrooks

In honor of this event, and of Veterans Day, I’ve chosen this powerful song/video. I dare you not to have all the feels as you watch it. I cry almost every time.

Five Finger Death Punch – Wrong Side of Heaven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rhode Island Comic Con

This weekend, Tara, Dan, Julie and I all attended our first Comic Con together. The main draws for me personally were the Supernatural and Walking Dead panels. There was also a former Doctor (Colin Baker) but I never watched the old Who, so his Q&A wasn’t a “must see”.

 

 

To summarize, the people who organized and ran this event created a giant clusterf*ck. Just search the internet for news articles about Saturday. They way oversold and people were turned away at the door by the fire marshals because of capacity issues. Did we have fun? Yes. Was it entirely too overwhelming for those of us with social anxiety? Hell yes.

The tickets we purchased were through an Amazon local deal that basically equated to buying the Bronze VIP package. Amazon Local is sort of like a Groupon-type service if you weren’t aware. The package we bought got us a weekend pass, early bird access for the weekend, a VIP pass, some print and comic books and access to a “VIP lounge”.

We got there early for our access at 9:00. There was already a line around the building going down both sides. Luckily, we heard one volunteer say that one side was general admission and the other was early bird. That was all we were told. After we waited in that line for quite a while and finally got inside the building, we were told that because we had vouchers, not tickets from Ticketmaster, that we had to enter through the Dunkin Donuts center – a completely different place than the RI Convention Center where it was being held! We left and headed over there, along with a few other annoyed people in line near us.

After walking in the DD Center, we were greeted with one long snaking line and 3 or 4 shorter ones that all led up to tables that said they were for vouchers. This is where things started getting really dicey. We were told 3-4 different things by just as many volunteers – not a single one of them told us the same story! We picked a line and waited in it, only to be told like 15 min later it was the wrong one. Not only that, but because Julie and Dan didn’t print theirs out, they had to go to the Box Office – which also turned out to be wrong because they were told there that they couldn’t do anything for them.

Eventually, we were told the right information by asking fellow convention goers and picked up our stuff. We received two prints, two comic books, arm bands (two, one for gen, one for early bird VIP) and our VIP badge. We didn’t receive lanyards because they were ALREADY GONE. Oh well. And this VIP lounge we spoke about? Well…it was basically a room at the back of the convention center with tables and chairs in it. There was nothing remarkable about it at all. Not only that, but they had no one checking any badges, so basically anyone that wanted to go in, sit down, charge their phone or whatever, could do so.

 

 

After we finally made it through the fiasco, we started perusing the floor. It wasn’t bad at first, but as the day went on and more and more people entered, it was very constricting and hard to move around. After a little looking around the main floor, we stopped to check out the celebrities.

 

 

I talked to Katrina Law from Arrow and Alaina Huffman from Supernatural – both VERY nice chicks and very down to earth. I don’t watch Arrow, but Julie is obsessed with it because of Stephen Amell so we had to go talk to her. We saw the Doctor, but didn’t speak to him because he had a long line. Several others were missing due to photo ops going on throughout the day.

 

 

Once we were all set on the floor it was time to start thinking about panels. Julie, Tara and I were going to the Supernatural panel that was from 2-3 and Dan told us we should consider going up there even before 1:00 to get in line. When we found the room it was in, we asked the volunteer if this was the right place to line up and she said to just go in and pick some seats because they weren’t going to empty the room between, they wanted to keep people moving. Since we wanted to sit anyway, we figured it was a good idea and went inside. We caught the last two questions of the Eliza Dushku Q&A, then watched the Raiders of the Lost Ark panel with Karen Allen and John Rhys Davies. During Raiders, Tara couldn’t handle it anymore so she left the room, only to not be able to get back in later for Supernatural.

 

 

We had really good seats for Supernatural, maybe 10-12 rows back, almost center. It was a REALLY fun panel and the highlight of my entire weekend because it was a large panel and they all got along really well and made it a good time. We saw the actors that play Abbadon, Rufus, Bobby and the Alpha Vampire. Crowley was supposed to be there too, but ended up coming in like ½ hour late. I thought he wasn’t coming at all and was really disappointed because he’s one of my favorites from the show! When he did come in, though, he went to the mic where they were asking audience questions and held the mic for them as they asked them. The people were so nervous, it was so cute. I wished I had gone up there but the line stretched from the front to the back and I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway.

 

 

After that panel, we found Tara and Dan and went to get a snack and some water, but decided we really didn’t care to stay for the cosplay contest and left around 4ish. This is when we found out the fire marshal was shutting people out because as we walked out the line went from the main hall entrance, through the Omni Hotel (which is connected), down to the sky bridge that connect the hotel with the Providence Place Mall. It was so long and so many disappointed people!

 

 

Sunday we hoped for better. We already had our wrist bands, which we had been told to leave on the day before. We arrived even earlier than we had the day before, which meant waiting in the cold rain outside the building again. We asked the people in line (NOT volunteers this time) where was the line for early bird VIP. We were told by the gen admission people that it was right at the door, so we started asking people in line at the door to figure out where the end of that line was – and it sort of merged with general admission! Talk about more confusion! Eventually we were able to go in and it was much more seamless than the day before. We showed our wrist bands to two different people on the way in, had our bags checked (which we hadn’t the day before) and were in on the floor within 5 minutes of getting in the building.

We didn’t have anything huge going on other than The Walking Dead panel from 1:30-2:30. Dan had wanted to see some comic artists speak, but he didn’t end up going to any of them so all four of us were going to see TWD.

Based on how Saturday went, we planned on getting up there well over an hour before it started. We walked the floor at bit and when it started getting congested again and we had seen everything at this point, we bought the things we wanted and walked upstairs to Hall A. We got in line to go in for George Takei which was right before TWD panel and decided we would do what we had done the day before and just stay in our seats from one panel to the next. The volunteers had different ideas this time because they made a pre-show announcement that said they would require EVERYONE to leave the room and come back in for TWD. We decided we weren’t super excited about George, so we left the room to go get in line for TWD instead. We ended up being second in line at the first door closest to the front of the room so we were in good shape. We then waited like 90 minutes for our show.

 

 

About 15 minutes before the panel, they started letting people in. We were able to sit in row 7 in the center so we had really good seats. I was a little disappointed that Michael Rooker (Merle) had cancelled for the weekend, so it meant that only Hershel and Father Gabriel would make up the panel. I thought I would still enjoy it because who doesn’t like Hershel?!? Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Scott Wilson ended up leaving halfway through, during the audience Q&A so the last ½ of the panel was just the other dude. He was easy to listen to, but still – a very less than exciting panel with only two, then one person.

 

 

There was nothing more we wanted to see after that, so we left for the day. D&J went home from there and we headed home as well. Dan made out like a bandit and started his Pop collection with about a dozen figures, plus he got some comic cover prints and a statue of Batgirl I think? I can’t remember the statue. All will go towards making his ultimate Dan Cave. We also gave him all our free comics and prints because, frankly, we would just throw them away or something. We don’t know what to do with that stuff!

All in all, I’d rate it a B- or C+ even. There were just too, too many people for it to be super enjoyable and the panels could have been better. That’s without even taking into account the ridiculous disorganization. I’m not sure I’d ever visit one again – there would have to be someone I REALLY love there to consider it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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