Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Final Chapter: A New Beginning

After 70 blogs posts and over 5000 site visits, this is the final post I will be making to 113 For Emmah.  It has been an incredibly journey and one that will provide for lasting memories.  I hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences as much I as enjoyed writing about them and participating in the Transrockies Run.

The nearly $6400 raised will certainly go a long way in helping the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation find a cure for this nasty disease, and will certainly go a long way is assisting the Gudeman Family.  On behalf of them, and Lynn, I want to say a huge THANK YOU for your support and encouragement.  I really believe this wouldn't have been possible without all of you.

Many people have asked me "So what's next?" and it is a fair question.  Just doing an event like this showed me that I can do more the just plod along.  The honest answer is "I don't know".  However, I have a few things in mind though.  After I did the Goofy Challenge in 2008 (40 miles over 2 days) to celebrate my turning 40, I jokingly said that the next time you will hear from me for an event and fundraising effort will be for 50 @ 50!   I have to think that is still a good possibility if I can stay in shape and injury free for the next 7+ years, and still have a passion for running.   But I didn't quite take the 10 year break I was thinking about, mainly because I can't sit still for long without seeking a new goal, a new adventure, and new motivation.  So at this point, I do believe there is another run my future - probably the near future.  And I can guarantee you it will be longer than a marathon.  Most likely some true ultra. Either a 50k (31 miles), a 50 miler, or a 100k (62 miles) - all to be done in one continuous stretch over one day.  Now that is a whole new challenge.  For now, I am content for the time at eating badly, watching TV, and reminiscing about what was....not about what will be.  But it won't be long before that itch needs to be scratched.  Right now, I just can't reach it!

I have also been told by some that I need to write about book about my adventure(s), using the blog posts.  No, that takes too much work, and then editors will take it over and it wouldn't be my own content.  I think I can let the blog speak for itself.  However, strange as it may seem, some people actually like what I write about and want more.  Just to know what is rattling around inside my head at any given time, and see if I have any unique spin to put on how I see this world.  So, perhaps I will start my own random blog at some point, but for now I am taking a break from writing as well.  You can see that after the TRR, the frequency of posts has trailed off (again a motivation thing).

This has been a fun, moving, challenging, memorable, incredible, motivating and inspiring journey....thanks for following along.  I hope to hear about some of your adventures too!  Keep in touch! kjban23nc@aol.com.



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coming Full Circle

Yes, it is hard to believe, but the TRR ending exactly 31 days ago.  Since that time, I think I have run approximately 5 - 6 times (including tonite). So I was feeling nostalgic and decided I needed to get on the ball and bring this story to a close, and focus on the next chapter in my life.

Now just in case you are wondering, I do believe that registration for the 2011 GoreTex Transrockies Run opens up on October 1st.  Just 3 more days, and you to can have the experience of a lifetime.  This past week I completed my participant evaluation of the event, and rated it as Exceeding Expectations.  In fact, the TRR just posted on their Facebook site that of the first 77 responses to the survey - it has rated at 6.68 out of 7.00.  Just outstanding!

However, you won't find me signing up for the 2011 race on Friday.  Although I would like to.  But even if I did, I don't think I would have the proper training experience, or motivation to excel.  This year, the TRR was all part of something bigger - a master plan if you will.  While the thoughts of the race circulated since probably early 2009, the whole event came into focus on December 27, 2009 when I saw Emmah for the last time.  It was then that I realized the role I could play in making a difference in the life of a young girl and her family.  It is strange how moments like that happen in life, but when they hit, you know it.  And you know what to do, as if all the pieces to the puzzle were always there in front of you, but you didn't know how they fit together.  On my ride from Illinois to North Carolina those next few days, I thought a lot about what I could and needed to do, and put the wheels in motion to make that happen.  You can go back to my very first blog post from January 17th of this year to learn more and from there the rest is history.

Over the months of training, the desire grew to not just run and complete the 113 miles, but to tell the story of my friends, Jeff and Julie, and Emmah.  And to share the lighter side of training, random observations, and how Lynn and I prepared for Colorado.  And throughout that all, the number of readers of this blog kept growing (as I watched the visit meter), and culminated with the many "good luck" wishes right before we left for Colorado, and the "keep it up" wishes during the race.  And in the end, many people told me how they were inspired by our efforts.  Thank you for reading, for following, and for commenting.

So now I have a call to action for everyone reading this.  If you were inspired, what are you going to do about it?   What is your Transrockies Run?  Who is your Emmah?  What is the story you want others to know about?  And how can you pay it forward, and in turn benefit someone else?  At the intern conference I conduct through my employer, I speak about aspirations/goals, and finding your inspiration, and the ACTING upon it.  I always tell people that if I reach just one person with my story, and inspire them to act, then I feel great at the end of the day.  Because realistically, most people talk about what they want to do, but don't take the action to make it happen.  I am so hopeful, that one person reading this will commit to doing something incredible (and note, incredible doesn't mean big.  Big comes over time).

I also hope that someone reading this will share with me someone they know who needs help.  While I knew Emmah personally, my experience with Team-In-Training taught me that I could help others, even if it didn't know them.  I have more goals ahead of me (stay tuned for my last post), and would like to help others in the process.  Perhaps I can tell their story, make it personal, and bring more motivation to another group of people through the power of word, social networking and relationships and extraordinary effort.

But I would like you to take that journey with me, so I am going to lay this out there.  Is there an event you want to do?  A story you want to tell?  Not sure you could go at it alone?  Want a partner? A coach and motivator?  Then reach out to me and let me know.  We can do it together - whether near or far away - it will create accountability to see something through to completion.  Contact me at kjban23nc@aol.com if you are interested.

I must bring to close this chapter of my 113 For Emmah story.  This may have started out about me 2 years ago, but it turned into a celebration of a young girl's memory - and how she served as a guiding light to this wandering soul for the past 9 months.

For that, I thank you Emmah...you are forever in my heart.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

For most normal people, a vacation is something you do to get away from the hectic pace of your daily routine. This likely means going to the beach, on a cruise, visiting family (is that really vacation???), or visiting some other tourist destination. Chances are good you don’t disconnect from life though (especially work). If that is the case, then you need to do the Ken Bansemer summer vacation!

Before, during, and after the Transrockies Run, I had a lot of time to think. A LOT OF TIME. When you are on the open roads or trails, for many miles and many hours at a time, your mind tends to think about various items (like why Dancing With The Stars hasn't called me yet). So in looking back on what I learned from this experience, I thought I’d share them with you. Maybe there is a nugget in here for you to take away and apply to your own situation.

• What may seem impossible at first, is very possible. Hills, mountains, altitude, distance. All scary…all doable. You never know if you don’t try.  Like the quote goes "what would you do, if you knew that you couldn't fail?"

• The warmest place on a cold morning when in the middle of nowhere is inside a porta-potty. Just saying. There are unspoken trade-offs. (On a side note, I can now hold my breath for over 10 minutes. Just saying.)

• You really can disconnect from work, email and phone calls on vacation. Now it helps when there is no cell or internet connection where you are at. But seriously – leave it at home – or just focus on staying in touch with family. Makes the vacation much more relaxing, and makes for less electronic baggage to carry.

• A tent that is about 4 ½ feet high is not a good changing room. Arms and legs everywhere. And when it is dark out and you are using a flashlight to see while changing, those outside the tent are rolling with laughter.

• When you have a story to tell, and can make it real and personal, others are interested and supportive. Wow! The kindness of those who don’t know me, Lynn, Emmah or the Gudeman’s was amazing. Even in a down economy, people find a way to help.

• Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I knew that. Transrockies runners are bit more fit. I knew that. Transrockies leaders are really good people – down to earth and hang with everyone else for real conversation. They are unlike some of the good road race runners you find at marathons. They don’t travel with a posse.  I don't have a posse.  Therefore, I am not a good road race runner.

• What goes up must come down. Simple. Up – not much fun. Down – lots of fun.  Up-down-up-down-up-down....time for a mixed drink.

• I can go longer and farther than ever imagined. If one day took 6 hours to go 24 miles in the mountains, then on a flat trail…..

• Good friends are hard to come by. When you find them, make sure you keep in touch.  And when you can help them, find a way.

• Good running partners are even harder to come by. When you find one, make sure they like to sleep in cramped tents, and are ok with no mascara.  I left my eyeliner at home.

• I love trail running….and will look to find ways to continue doing that. If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot. May not do a road marathon again, unless I am looking for a long training run. :)

• When warming up in the porta-potty, I found that there are different types of construction methods used. Over 1000 rivets, composite plastics, some have mirrors, some don’t. Hand sanitizer stations are all the rage, and single ply is the most common form of sandpaper used to…..uh, too much sharing?

• Goals are what drive the commitment, or maybe the commitment is what drives the goals. Either way, without the goal and the commitment, something big will never happen. Too easy to procrastinate and say “I can do this later”. Later may never come.  I don't want to be late to the party.

• Emmah is more than just the daughter of a family friend. She became my guide and confidant. She picked me up when I was down, and kept me focused when I was wavering. Who is your Emmah?

• My summer vacation in the Rockies wasn’t the same without family there. Let’s just say it was different – all in a good way. And I’d do it again, next year and each year, if it weren’t for that aspect. And I never do the same race twice.  It was that good.

I could share many more thoughts on my summer vacation, but I doubt you want to know about my 2 a.m. treks to the porta-potty, in the cold, because I was over-hydrated. Or how changing clothes in a sleeping bag is not as easy as it might seem. Or how we had only one rule in the tent…and it was around farting. I think that would be too much learning for one summer…..

PS - only two more posts to go....are you still there?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Inspiring One Person At A Time

You never know who you might connect with when you try to do something to help others.  In this case, I happened to make a connection with my 11 year old daughter, Erika.  This week, she had a class project to write a one pager on what she dreams for.  Here is her paper:

I have a dream to create a cure for cancer because after this February, one of our close family friends, Emmah Gudeman, died of Neuroblastoma cancer.  My dad ran one hundred thirteen miles for her and has made a gainful profit for the Gudeman's and for the research of cancer.

It has inspired me to believe when you fight for someone or something, it can make a difference.  People who have cancer I want to help because you have to fight a long, hard battle that no one knows the answer to.  If you realize how many people have cancer, a cure will solve many problems everywhere. 

That is why I, Erika, want to help find a cure for cancer.

Not to shabby. Hopefully we are instilling the right values in our kids on the importance of helping others. In this case, do as I say and as I do. 

By the way, we didn't profit from this.  Oh, and it was 118 miles when it was all added up.  But who's counting?


Friday, September 10, 2010

Beauty In Everything

Lynn's final thoughts about the Transrockies/113 For Emmah experience:

I promised myself upon our return from ‘conquering’ the Rockies; I would let my body recover at least until my birthday (mid-September). The only problem, I felt great. After six days of the most intense physical activity of my life, I wanted more!

As luck would have it, I was immersed immediately back into the real world with a business trip to New York. The camping, camaraderie, 5 minute showers, running/ hiking while eating Clif bars and gels seemed as if only a dream (and sometimes nightmare – if you are familiar with my ‘battle scars’ from day 1).

By the fifth day after my return, I took a yoga class (that isn’t really exercise…is it?) and by the seventh day, I couldn’t wait any longer. I put on my ‘traditional’ running clothes with my regular old running shoes, got in my car like I normally do and drove to a usual running route along a very flat and unexciting greenway. I stretched as usual, saw the average Charlotteans preparing for their Saturday morning jog and quickly realized…I wasn’t going to be running in the Rockies!

I heaved a great sigh for the loss of everything I wasn’t going to experience in my run. I told myself to take it slow with thoughts of a grocery list, laundry and chores swirling in my head. But then it happened! I started to run. The air was crisp, my legs felt strong, I passed folks with a happy ‘good morning’ and for the first time in a very long time, I actually looked around the greenway as I ran. The sun glinted through the trees, a light breeze caressed my face and rustled the leaves, the birds were chirping and all was right with the world. I literally bounced for 12 miles.

If I know the definition of epiphany, I truly believe I had one. I realized the beauty of the Rockies, the experiences I enjoyed and the challenges I had faced were now part of my fabric. I did not lose anything but have merely locked those memories in a very special place that will serve to strength and guide me through glorious and difficult times in the future. It is my hope and belief this is a similar effect Emmah had on so many lives.

Thank you to everyone who supported Ken and me through this crazy adventure. I do not plan on ‘enjoying’ this particular experience again but will continue to seek beauty in all forms to add to my treasure chest. Now that I have the bug, what will be next; hiking rim-to-rim at the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, the Alps! Or, maybe just running outside my own back door…



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adrenaline Withdrawal

Now I don't really know if this "adrenaline withdrawal" is a real term or not, as I haven't googled it yet. But I think it adequately represents how I've been feeling the past ten days or so.  Brenda coined this term after I told her that I am already feeling bummed about not being in the rockies and putting in another 20 mile day.  The motivation to go out for a run hasn't quite been there.  I've been out twice, and to be honest, both times my hip was really sore afterwards.  I think it is my IT Band causing problems - the same problems that occurred prior to the TRR.

So I don't know if you believe in fate, or a higher being -  your call.  But isn't it strange how I had issues prior to the run, and after....but not during.  As if someone was looking out for me to make sure I was ok.  Call it divine guidance from a 13 year old.  And now the guidance is gone and has been replaced with a "dude - you are getting old....just slow it down a bit and take time to enjoy life".  Hogwash.   Adrenaline withdrawal.  I need another goal to set my sights on to have the proper motivation.  I may never be as motivated as I was for this run, but the goal presents consequences of not achieving it. It creates accountability.

Anyhooo - the adrenaline withdrawal might explain why I haven't posted all the pictures from the run yet.  Sure, I now everyone is dying to see photos of "how I spend my summer vacation" - we all love to look at photos of other peoples cool trips.  But, I must say I have had numerous requests for said photos.  By numerous, I mean more than one and less than five.  NUMEROUS.

With the best intentions, I have created a Shutterfly sharing site where the pictures reside, and where you can view our expierience at the TRR in all its glory.  In fair warning, I will let you know that there are 267 pictures.  Yes, 267.  No, I am not going to pare them down.  I started to put captions on each photo so the NUMEROUS visitors would know where we were, and what we were doing, but stopped after about 50 - 60 photos.  Adrenaline withdrawal.  Too time consuming, and I figured you just don't care - you just want to see where Lynn fell, where we came into Red Cliff and were greeted by the 100s of fans, or where we crossed the finish line and saw Jeff & Julie.  Hint: if you want the latter - you need to go towards the end of the 267 photos.  http://www.113foremmah.shutterfly.com/

Of course, I have included photos of my meals during the week as well.  Lots of good food with a "cookie chaser" to top them off.  Lots of cookies!

And, you get to see what "puffy eyed Ken" looked like a few mornings after waking up freezing.  A poor man's Rocky....

So peruse as you please.  Leave comments if you wish.  Please sign in as you visit in the Guest Book so we know you were there.  Maybe, just maybe, these photos will give you that much needed shot of adrenaline to attempt something out of the ordinary!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Do You Want Wine with Your Dinner? Seriously???!!

After more than a week of hydrating on a daily basis for the upcoming runs, Friday night after the 6th stage of the TRR brought a sense of relief and accomplishment.  We found ourselves with about 5 hours to "kill" before the celebration dinner, and we finally had access to some of our clean clothes that had been taken from us at the start of the race.  "Memphis Joe" was the support member responsible for making sure our gear always arrived safely at our next camping site, but he was also responsible for our real luggage.  So naturally, we took a picture with him for posterity purposes.

Our accommodations on Friday night were at the posh Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort, which was also going to be the site of the celebration dinner.  Jeff and Julie were kind enough to help us schlep our bags about 2 blocks to the hotel - where we look dumbfounded at the toilet and shower!  Hey - after a week of a mobile shower, and looking at the 4 walls of a porta-potty many times a day - this was really like coming back civilization!  While Lynn preferred to rest until dinner, I cleaned up quickly and spent a few hours catching up with J & J - telling them stories about our week on the trail, some of the wild experiences we had, and how a killer snake almost bit me less than a mile from the finish line on Day 6.  YES!!!  A KILLER SNAKE!!!  I was skipping and jumping along the single track trail looking down on Beaver Creek, when I suddenly look down and see the HUGE snake slither almost between my feet.  Man, did I jump high, and I do believe a let out a quite audible "WHOA"!!!!  After 117 miles, you might not think that I had the Texas Two Step still in my bag of tricks, but quite seriously, I looked liked Deion Sanders taking the ball into the endzone for a touchdown - nice big high steps!!

Now in retrospect, maybe the snake wasn't THAT BIG, but it was close to 8 - 10 inches and 1 inch in diameter.  Pretty large for this snake-fearing runner.  Couldn't reach for my machete quick enough.

Anyhooo - dinner than night was very nice, and to celebrate, Lynn and I had a bottle of wine -  the real drink we were craving all week, rather than water and drinks with electrolytes!  It is also pretty cool to see your fellow runners clean.  "Stinky bad" may have been a good phrase for the week!  Our time together with this group was running out, so we used the moment to take additonal photos with friends.

During the week, I spend a lot of time running with Jen and Marie. Jen works for Gore-Tex in Flagstaff, AZ and Marie is a retinal surgeon in Dayton, OH.  They were quite evenly matched to our pace, and were great to talk with, so we caught up with them often during dinners and on runs.

We also got to listen to the final awarding of winners for the overall race.  Each night when they did the ceremonies, they would play a song called "Stand Up (For The Champions)" - a nice moving song, with some pretty good lyrics, that got the crowd in the mood. This night was no different, and we found ourselves clapping along for the strongest runners in the field.  Later, I googled this song and found out it is by Right Said Fred (that's right, the group that did "I'm Too Sexy"!).  If you want to hear the song and see a simple video, click here.

Alas, though we tried, Lynn and I fell just a weeeee-bit short of making it to the podium.  About 9 hours and some change short.  But it was a valient effort!  More importantly though, the crew did a closing slide show from the week, along with a wrap up video, both of which were quite moving, and both of which featured Emmah.  In the slide show, there was a photo of me holding the Emmah banner made for the last stage.  A photographer happened to be hanging around the tent village on the last day, and I asked him to take the photo - which he obliged.  Cool to see that in the show.

Then in the closing video, where they showed the final stage and people coming to the finish line, the videographer first focused on the sign Jeff & Julie made for us and had displayed about 20 years from the finish, then the next scene showed Lynn and I running towards the finish line with our Emmah banner between us.  Wish you could have been there - I may have been hearing things, but I do think that got the loudest round of applause for the whole video!  Felt so good!

After dinner, Lynn and I went to the "Dusty Boot", a local bar in Beaver Creek with a number of the other runners, where we had one last chance to reflect upon the week, what lies ahead....and watch some of the top runners compete in drinking games!!! That's right....team drinking!  Run hard, play hard.....

Saturday morning came around all too quick (since we didn't go to bed til after midnight), but it provided another chance to spend time with J & J.  First, an all-american breakfast at the local Denny's!  So satisfying....then a 2 hour drive back to the Denver airport for the trip back to Charlotte.  In the car, they had brought along the video tribute that was played at one of Emmah's memorials/fundraisers earlier in the year.  One of their friends did an outstanding job of putting Emmah's pictures to music.  It was very quiet in the car for that 10 - 15 minutes, and probably not a dry eye amongst us.  Brought right to the forefront the driving purpose for the run....remember the girl who left this world all too soon.

On our flight back to Charlotte, we found a had the 2nd place female open winners on the same plane, as they were headed back to Montrael.  A dynamic French duo, who may be thin in stature, but must have incredible leg drive and set of lungs, as they were awesome.   Getting on the plane, they were ahead of us in line, carrying these huge backpacks, so I suggested they try running the race with those on next time as a handicap!  Ha - funny Ken.   Then after we got off the plane in Charlotte, they tried to pass us walking through the concourse, in order to catch their next flight.  At this point, I was.....well....I said "hey, can't we have just one moment of glory without you kicking our butts"!!!   Ah, they smiled and laughed and went on their way.  They better watch out next year, I'm gunning for them....or at least I'm going to tie their shoelaces together when they aren't looking.....

I finally made it home around 10:15 pm Saturday night to find the kids and Brenda waiting in the driveway.  My support crew was there to provide the best hugs and kisses of the week, and to welcome me home in a big way!

Sure, it was time to go to sleep, but I couldn't.  I still had Stand Up For The Champions ringing in my ears!


Still to come - more pictures from the run, final thoughts from Lynn and I, and a wish for all of you!