Sunday, June 29, 2014

Autism Awareness 5k for ADMI & Inaugural Chief Wetonah Challenge

I'm behind on my race recaps again, so I'm combining the oldest two!
First, from April 12th the Autism Awareness 5k for ADMI!  A little back-story first for anyone who may be new here.  My son is autistic.  Right before his fourth birthday he received this diagnosis from a really terrific doctor at Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI.)  And since then has continued to get first-rate care from these folks.  I've done my best to help them continue to help others by fundraising for them.  Back-story over.  I believe this was the second year for this event.  Its my understanding that in its inaugural year the race was run on the roads around ADMI, which are heavily traveled due to local area businesses.  So in its second year they moved it onto the Bucknell University campus.  The entire course was on grass with a little bit of gravel, which was a first for me.  I've done lots of trail races, but those aren't mostly on grass.  It was a point of interest for me.  It was nice to see the good Dr. Challman there as well as Megan Epler, ADMI's community liaison.  I also had the pleasure of meeting a few folks tied to autism and ADMI from the Bucknell side.  Running with me also was autism momma Kristen, whom I had the pleasure of first meeting at CJ's Resolution Challenge.

So at the beginning of the race they were explaining the course and I remember thinking, "I'm already lost.  I'll just follow the folks in front of me."  Long story short, the leader took a wrong turn and our 5k (3.1 mile) race turned into a 2.48 mile race!!!  I ran hard and ended up being the third overall female, and Kristen was the first overall female!  My official time was 16:48, which works out to an average pace of 6:46!!!!  That's booking it!  I think I was just trying to catch Kristen, hahaha!  So it is a shame that this wasn't a full 5k, because I could have smashed my previous 5k PR.  I'll just have to ask Kristen to "pace" me at some future race.

Autism Mommas- Kristen & Janell
The race did provide an excellent breakfast post-run with a promise to better mark/man the course next year.  It was really no big deal to me, I was there to support ADMI for all they do for us.  I plan to run again next year!

Second recap, the Inaugural Chief Wetonah Challenge.  I was super excited when I heard about this race because of who the race director was, John Johnson.  If you do any trail races in Central or Northern PA you probably have seen him.  His name is always at the top of results.  But he is the most humble, encouraging guy, and his wife Amey is just the same.  You couldn't meet a nicer couple!  They came out to support my race in January, and when walk-up registrations became overwhelming Amey just jumped right in and saved the day!  Naturally, I wanted to support their race as well.  

The Johnsons/ Runners Start/ Banner

Chief Wetonah Challenge is a seven mile trail race at Mt. Pisgah State Park in Troy, PA held on May 18th.  Proceeds benefited the (very nice) park.  This race was so well organized.  There was some great communication before the event, no confusion at registration or at the start, the course was well marked, the RD could be spotted running along the course checking out his racers, they had a photo booth at the finish, and post-race food and prizes were awesome!  Plus, I've been running enough trail races that these people are becoming more and more familiar to me.  Folks from the Mid Penn Trailblazers and the Valley Running Club (check both out on facebook!) have welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like a part of the family.  I love running and racing, and I love it even more when I get to do it with these folks.  

Anyway, back to the race.  I got to run this race with my hubs, Aaron, as well as my sister-in-law, Alania.  Aaron has been a runner and is finding his way back.  Alania has been athletic her whole life and used to swear off running, but something has switched because I'm pretty sure she likes it now.

Me and The Hubs (sorry no pics of Alania!)
For some reason, I'm always faster than Aaron on trail races.  Well, I shouldn't say always, just in the last two years.  I like to believe its because I'm tougher than him (tee hee!)  The course was really beautiful at points.  Thank God for that, because there was a lot of MUD with which to contend!  Now, I don't have anything against mud, but man there was a lot of it on this course!  I ended up placing 49th of 137 runners, 4 out of 23 in my age group (F 30-39) in a time of 1:10:22.  So if you go off of seven miles even that gives you a 10:03/pace.  But Alania's app said it was 7.25 miles, which would give me a 9:42/pace.  Either way, pretty good.  And I even got a prize!  They said I was third in my AG, but I guess that was just because the first woman in my age group was one of the top women overall, and they weren't double-prizing.  So I was actually fourth in my AG but got a prize anyway, which were delicious chocolate chip cookies!!!  

One of my New Favorite Races!!!
 Next year they will be offering a longer course in addition to the seven mile race.  I can't wait to see what they come up with, but I did hear that there will be some serious climbs.  It will surely be on my list!  I hope it makes it on to your list as well!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Our YMCA was offering an eight week gymnastics program for little kiddos so my husband and I started to think it over.  Running around, jumping, and tumbling would all be things CJ would totally dig.  I started talking to the staff there about it.  How many instructors would there be?  What are their qualifications?  Are they patient?  How many students would there be?  Would there be any other special needs kiddos in the class?  After a lot of reassuring from the Y staff, we decided to give it a go.  After all, he needs to be exposed to new challenges to grow, just like the rest of us.
Here We Go
So on March 8th I took him to his first class.  There were seven or eight students total and CJ was the only child with autism.  At the start we had to take off shoes and socks.  CJ didn't want to = Fight #1.  Then they were required to each stand in their own black box in a line.  CJ didn't want to = Fight #2.  Then they were supposed to take some laps around the gym, CJ didn't want to at first, but as the kids got away from him, he decided that it looked like fun and he chased after them = yay!  After the warm up laps it was back to the start, stand in a line and listen to instructions = hard for CJ.  The instructor was describing the circuit and what the kids were supposed to do.  CJ did stand in line and wait for his turn, but they did the same circuit three times, and he quickly decided which were his favorite parts and which were not.  During his non-preferred parts he delighted in running away from the instructor who (probably shouldn't have) gave chase.  I asked the head instructor how involved she wanted me to be, and she replied, "Not.  The less, the better."  I had no idea if she knew what was going on, if she had any heads-up about CJ's diagnosis, or any experience with kiddos like CJ.  But I slinked back to my seat, and felt all eyes on me as CJ took off grinning, yet again, while the instructor gave chase.  And I started to cry.  Are situations like this always going to highlight the differences between my son and "typical" kids?  I didn't like feeling that way, and I was embarrassed for tearing up like I did.  I decided to shake it off, hold up my head, and focus on my son, who was bravely crossing the balance beam.

Brave Boy
My son has autism.  It may be that social situations will always remind me of that because he is not wired to think like you or I.  When in a room with typical children, his behavior makes him stand out, his differences are highlighted.  But who says differences have to be a negative thing?  I think differences can be quite beautiful.  If CJ ever lets you get close to him, you'll notice a lot of other things that deserve to be highlighted.  He loves to sing.  Letters, numbers, colors, and shapes are cool to him.  He memorizes book and movie lines, and was able to speak those before he had any meaningful speech.  He is very upset if his little sister is sad.  And he is incredibly sweet and affectionate.  Its these kind of wonderful things about him that I should allow to get the highlights.

Steady now!
So I will chose to highlight those differences.  Whenever, wherever I can, I'm going to help him show the world what makes him so beautiful and special.  Different is almost always beautiful, if you know where to apply the highlights.