Day 16, Sunday, October 4th
Rest Day in Carbondale
Chris Butler and Jen Tilley
Mike and Natasha Conklin
Lari Good and Mark Fischer
*all owners of Sopris CrossFit
Today’s blog is a combination of an evening and the following morning to make for one of the most impactful portions of our journey so far.
Saturday Night: Oct 3rd
After showering and getting myself together, we all headed to Sopris CrossFit. We started the evening with a workout led by Michelle Kinney, Kevin Ogar and myself, programmed by the Sopris CrossFit staff and performed by the Sopris CrossFit community and Move Mountains supporters. The workout was Run 800m then 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 Kettle Bell Swing + Box Jumps then Run 800m again. People pushed hard through a grueling workout in the name of epilepsy…it was amazing to witness! As people worked hard to earn the dinner on the way, Becky Conzelman (3 times Games athlete) and good friend showed up. Like Kevin and Michelle, Becky volunteered her time to come be a part of something near and dear to my heart. She also brought her incredibly mature 7-year old son, Tyler.
After the workout, people hung around for a few more hours to partake in a fun event put on by Sopris CrossFit. A delicious BBQ dinner was catered by Slow Groovin’ BBQ and drinks served by Marble Distillery. I had the opportunity to speak about why I was doing what I was doing, how it came to be and how it was going thus far. I got to introduce everyone and explain how each one has been an integral part in the success of Move Mountains. Kevin spoke after I did and explained how he’s overcome a huge obstacle in his life. Just last year, Kevin was injured lifting weights, a barbell came down on his back and severed his spine. He was left paralyzed from the waist down and doctors say he will not walk again… his response “We’ll see about that”. He’s already proved them wrong in so many other ways and I’m rooting for him 100% that he will defy their judgment on this one as well.
After Kevin awed us with his story and his strength, people mingled and began to bid a bit more seriously on the silent auction. There were so many items generously donated that it left me in tears (as most things do right now). We had signed CrossFit games gear from several athletes and friends of mine (Becka Voigt, Katie Hogan, Annie Thorisdotter, Aja Barto, Julie Foucher, Annie Sakamoto, Brooke Ence). Local businesses donated massages, home organizing, helicopter rides, restaurant gift certificates and more. Businesses in the CrossFit world donated their products (Marc Pro, Cross Over Symmetry, Caffeine and Kilos, Paleo Treats, and more). I am so thankful to each and every person/business that believed in Move Mountains enough to donate their time, energy and products to the cause.
And last, but certainly not least, the BIGGEST thanks to the Sopris CrossFit crew that opened up their doors to help me Move Mountains. The following individuals put in so much time and effort to host a successful event and there is no way I will ever be able to thank you enough. Tash Conklin, Mike Conklin, Chris Butler, Jen Tilley, Mark Fischer, Lari Goode and Ray Cooney… you truly are amazing people, running one of the best CF gyms around. I’m so thankful to be a part of your community each and every time I come home.
The evening lasted longer than I had expected. I got to reunite with old friends and meet new. I got to share my story and hear theirs. Once again, Move Mountains’ main goal is to spread the knowledge about epilepsy but the deeper meaning shines through every time I speak to individuals about it. Every one of us have times of struggle, obstacles that want to knock us down… but the way the human spirit perseveres in these times in what makes us stronger.
After several hugs and tears and laughs… it was time to call it a night and get some shuteye. But not before counting up the total money raised for Move Mountains. That night, with the silent auction, dinner and donations we raised $7,000!!! Thank you Sopris CrossFit community and beyond for your incredible generosity!
Sunday Morning- Oct 4th
We started the morning at Carbondale’s favorite breakfast joint, The Village Smithy. My friends from Chico, my family, the Move Mountains crew, and the guest coaches/athletes all joined for some scrumptious vittles. It was the first morning I’ve had a real breakfast because I wasn’t running…it was an off day! I had a huge omelet with hash browns and an order of blueberry cornmeal pancakes to split with Marcus. Weighing myself for the first time last night since I started the run, I was down 11 pounds. So my mission now is to eat as much as I can. I drowned my pancakes in maple syrup… SOOOOOO good!
After filling our bellies we headed to Sopris CrossFit again where Michelle and I lead the 9am class. Becky did the workout with Tyler and Kevin with Chris. The workout was a 15min partner AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of “Fran” (21-15-9 Thrusters/Pull-ups) + “Grace” (30 Clean and Jerks) + “Diane” (21-15-9 Handstand Pushups/Deadlift). Let me just say that it was so inspiring once again to see people throw down. Tyler was busting out handstand pushups like it was his job and Kevin was doing things most able-bodied people aren’t able to. I took a moment and just watched. There were 25+ people in a gym in Carbondale, CO working out on a Sunday morning in the name of epilepsy. My heart was singing with joy!
As the workout was winding up, people whom I had been waiting weeks to meet started to trickle in the doorway. Marcee Peterson from the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado, Dr. Jeff Seigel from Valley View Hospital, Megan Noonan and her son Sam (who were there last night and I had met in Aspen a couple days prior), Tom and John Olson from Denver area…. These were all people that were somehow or someway involved with the epilepsy community and had agreed to volunteer part of the precious Sunday to speak on behalf of Move Mountains.
First, Dr. Seigel spoke. He quickly corrected me and said “Please, call me Jeff” after I introduced him. Jeff is a neurologist at Valley View Hospital. He had just moved to the valley from North Carolina five months prior and he and his wife were excited to be in Colorado to adopt a healthier lifestyle. He spoke about what epilepsy is, how it affects people differently, that there is no cure but that there are ways to help control seizures with anti-seizure meds. He answered questions about diet and exercises pertaining to epilepsy and did a great job explaining what myself and so many others live with on daily basis in laymans terms.
Next up was Marcee. Marcee got a job working for The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado because as a child her best friend was diagnosed with epilepsy. Due to lack of understanding of what epilepsy was, they grew apart and she lost that friendship. Working for the Epilepsy Foundation provides Marcee a way to give back and educate in hopes that this doesn’t happen to any other people. She had a different approach to educate the audience. She gave stats. 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some time in their life. Epilepsy is more common than Multiple Sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, yet only receives $2 per person in national funding. That’s compared to $1000 per person for muscular dystrophy and $120 per person for MS. Part of the reason is that people are afraid to talk about it and stand up. Hopefully Move Mountains will change that.
John Olson was the next to take the microphone. Before he started talking he handed me a personal card he had made. It had a photograph of a mountain that he had climbed and note that had me instantly in tears. About 1 minute into his speech, he had everyone in tears. John has had a hard fight with epilepsy his whole life but he hasn’t let it win. I was put in touch with John from the Epilepsy Foundation and when I asked if he and his dad, Tom, would make the trip over, the didn’t hesitate. John has been an advocate for epilepsy awareness for years. He does so by climbing 14ers. He’s climbed 12 to date and has more in his future this next summer (which I plan to join him for). John has what’s called a VNS (vegas nerve stimulator) device. It’s a small device just above his pec on his left side that sends a shock to his vegal nerve for 30 seconds every 5 minutes all day, everyday. That shock helps to control his seizures. He also has a magnet that when he feels seizure activity coming on, he can put that on the device for just a second and it will stimulate the shock. John says the worst thing about it is that it makes his mouth and throat dry.
Last, but certainly not least was Megan Noonan, Sam’s mom. As Megan was talking, her husband, Chad, was sitting proudly in the audience. Sam and his little brother, Charlie, were being boys… jumping on the plyo boxes, playing with balls, running all over the place. Sam is a normal little boy who just happens to have epilepsy. He has been fighting trying to find a medication to control his seizures, but hasn’t found one yet. He is on the last medication the doctors think will work and if it doesn’t, he will have brain surgery. Megan explained Sam’s seizures, from a mom’s perspective. She is so strong and so brave and made me tear up with how awesome my mom and dad were when I was just about Sam’s age. They were scared out of their minds, but I never knew it. They always led me to believe that I could do anything I wanted, even if maybe they didn’t 100% believe it themselves. Megan and Chad are in the same place. But I tell you little Sam… you’re going to be fine, you’re going to be great and you’re going to be able to do anything you put your mind to buddy. It’s not going to be easy and sometimes it’s not going to be fun… but you’re so strong and so brave. Just like John and Kevin and so many others out there. You’re going to Move Mountains!
Lesson Learned: “People come in and out of your life. Only the real ones stay.” Thank you Chris, Jen, Mikey, Tash, Lari and Mark for being some of those people in my life.