Breathe In, Breathe Out

A Walk To Remember July 1, 2013

I was quite content spending this weekend relaxing, and enjoying some quality time with Eamonn. I was happy to not wake up at 2:30am on Saturday morning, to get ready for what I only assumed would be the most physically challenging day of my life, thus far. I was happy to not be on my feet for 14 hours straight.

3:30am, and ready to go!

3:30am, and ready to go!

The Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Hike 2013 was a 27.5-mile hike through parts of the Taconic Crest Trail, touching 3 states: Vermont (very briefly), Massachusetts, and New York. During the months of training leading up to June 22nd, we learned about the trail and some of its obstacles, but it’s only when you see it face-to-face that you actually begin to understand its fierceness. To give you an idea—the first two miles, beginning at 4am, in the dark, we ascended about 2000 ft. in elevation. Over the course of the 27.5 miles, we continued to ascend a total of over 8500 feet.  It might not sound intimidating but imagine looking ahead, to realize it appears to be straight up, already having hiked 16 miles. It wasn’t easy—but it was all kinds of awesome!

Last year, the first time it was brought to New England, I couldn’t do the hike. Honestly, I was quite relieved, because my dad had mentioned it to me and having a wedding that day was an easy out! This year, I didn’t have any excuses, and neither did my dad—though I think he conveniently forgot that he had contemplated doing it the year prior. So with some thought and consideration for the time we’d be devoting to training and fundraising, we decided to go for it. Our first training hike with other Xtreme hikers was in March, which kicked off 3 months of getting physically and mentally prepared—and we learned quickly that hiking was not the same as walking up Whisper Drive, or running down Beacon Street for a few miles. That initial hike kicked our butts, only to make us more determined.

The many training hikes I went on with my dad and fellow hikers, made the overall experience that much more worth it. Originally I signed-up for the hike to raise money for CF, but what I didn’t realize is how special doing

Mile 13?

Mile 13?

it with my dad would be. First of all, I want to thank him for being easily persuaded. But mostly I want to tell everyone how incredible he is—how many almost 65-year-olds can say that they just hiked 26 miles in one day? But it’s not just that—it’s that he trained so hard, he fundraised like he asked people for money for a living, all while loving every minute. And I got to be a part of it all. Dad, I couldn’t be a prouder daughter. You amaze me.

I also want to thank my mom and Eamonn. On so many Saturdays, you both rearranged your plans to accommodate our training schedule. When we didn’t know how long an 8-mile hike would take us, and we guessed at about 3 hours, and then took an actual 4.5 hours, you both just continued to support us and hope we got home safely. Thank you for your patience through all of it, and most of all thank you for being there on June 22nd. I wish I could explain how your presence, along with Abby’s and Ethan’s, kept me moving onward. Your motivation and positive spirits allowed me to believe in myself over the course of those 14 hours on the trail.

And now to all of you — thank you, thank you, thank you. My dad and I may have put our bodies through significant pain and stress, but it was your donations and generosity that will make the real difference in so many lives. My dad and I had a fundraising goal of $5,000 and thanks to all of you we raised approximately $7,000 to date. Including the money raised for the Great Strides walk, we have raised over $12,000 for continued CF research. CF is on the verge of finding a cure, and because of you I have absolute confidence that we will get there soon. I also want you all to know that during the hike, my dad and I each carried with us a print-out of all of the messages people wrote to us if they donated online. To know we had so many loved ones behind us every step of the way was, and always is, overwhelmingly invaluable.

Eamonn and Kate –I love you both (obviously in different ways!).  When all is said and done, I hiked for the two of you. It’s hard to not sound cliché or like a broken record, but you both inspire me in so many ways. The night before the hike someone reminded us that our experience was about “suffering”, and challenging ourselves in a way that we had never done. It was a reminder to not take our health and lives for granted. A reminder that we were hiking 27.5 miles for those that couldn’t. As we were getting ready to load the vans in the morning someone else saw my look of concern and doubt for what was to come, and asked me whom I was hiking for. I said “My husband and sister-in-law,” and all she said was “and that’s enough to get you through.” I didn’t believe her at the time, but during the 14-hours I found myself thinking of both of you (not creepily), and even a couple of times saying Eamonn’s name out loud. It really did get me through. You are both reminders of hope and positivity each and every day.

At 5am, after about an hour of hiking, watching the sunrise, I thought to myself, “This is awesome.” At about 2pm, after hiking already for about 10 hours, with what would be 4 hours to go, I thought to myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” But I always knew why I was doing it, and it was unbelievably awesome (aside from the 6 painful blisters I acquired, and not being able to walk properly the next day!). I was told many times by veteran hikers that the experience would get under my skin and I’d be back next year, and I’d shrug and think, “I highly doubt that.” Now that I’m walking, not limping, and able to wear closed-toe shoes, I have to admit that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m back on the trail next year! Thank you to all my fellow hikers who made the past few months so fun and unforgettable. All of us hiked for different reasons, we got to know one another by sharing our stories, and bonding over a disease that has affected all of us in some way or another, but enough to make us crazy enough to hike 27 miles together. I hope we can all continue to kick CF in the butt.


Mid-Winter Musings February 10, 2013

Filed under: My posts — elanaalfred @ 10:42 pm
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I think it is safe to say that many of us have been doing the same things this weekend—cuddling up with our softest blankets, watching marathons of our favorite TV shows and those rom-coms we never got to see, reading while drinking lots of tea or wine, and simply relaxing because that’s all we can do when Nemo is in town. Prior to yesterday I was somewhat disappointed by this winter. I expected a lot of snow, and we were not getting any. Instead we were getting cold, cold temperatures that really test our love for New England. During winter months in cold areas it is very common to hear people saying, “Next year I’m moving to Florida” or “Why don’t we live in Florida?” I’m sorry if you’re one of those people, but I just don’t get it. One of the best things about growing up and living in New England are the different seasons.  And we do each of them rather well.



Nemo 2013!

Nemo 2013!

My love for changing seasons does come with some difficulties, and ones that, before I met Eamonn, I often overlooked. Winter is especially challenging for him, particularly as a teacher for young children. We all know about this year’s flu epidemic, and I certainly hope that you all got a flu shot. As it is, staying healthy during the winter is hard—a common cold is inevitable. The flu is always a threat, but this year it became more of one, and as Eamonn is with children everyday, all day he is on alert constantly. I, too, am on high alert because having to take the train to work everyday with people wiping their noses and then holding on to the bar is a great way to spread germs.



Before I met Eamonn, I never thought too much about getting sick, and lucky for me, I have a strong immune system. But I remember quite well the first time I got sick while dating Eamonn—we were living in Chicago and our apartments were about 5 miles from one another. I had a slight fever and he would not come over to comfort me because he knew he couldn’t risk getting sick. I, however, thought he was being an asshole. Eventually, with enough persistence and begging, he came over with hot soup (he really is the best). I’ll never forget it because he ended up staying over to make sure I was ok, and we fell asleep holding hands, on my L-shaped couches.



I learned quickly that, though none of us want to get sick, if Eamonn gets sick it usually becomes more severe, and he can end up in the hospital, so he takes many precautions. For me, one of the hardest parts about getting sick is how careful I need to be around him. Earlier this winter I got the inevitable common cold, which lasted for a couple of weeks. During that time Eamonn and I couldn’t kiss each other goodnight or good morning or at all, we had to be extra careful about making sure we didn’t share drinking glasses or utensils, and I tried not to get too close to him as we slept in bed. It sounds small, but not kissing your husband for two weeks (especially when it’s my husband!) is a challenge, but giving him my sickness would be a lot tougher.



The winter is also challenging because with it comes more physical needs that most of us do not think about. As I

Eamonn "shoveling"

Eamonn “shoveling”

write this, I am listening to the bulldozer on our street making a first attempt to clear away the snow. Even that machine is struggling to do so. I cannot help but to think about, and dread, what all of this snow means if we want to eventually go somewhere—a lot of shoveling out our two cars on the street. For the average human being, shoveling can be quite strenuous, especially in two feet of snow. As a strong, muscular woman, I have no problem taking the burden of this work from Eamonn, but I know he wants to help and not assume I will do it on my own.



Another physical challenge that snow brings to Eamonn is simply walking. I know it sounds silly, but it really does become more of a hassle for him to walk in the winter. Not only is it cold (though he insists colder makes it easier for him to breathe) but with a lot of snow to walk through it becomes more strenuous. Usually we do not have two feet of snow, but when we do Eamonn dreads it even more than most of us.  But because he’s such a trooper, he just increases his oxygen flow and gets going!



Call me crazy, but I really don’t mind the winter in New England. Well, I could do without the freezing temperatures! I just cannot imagine a year without all four seasons, but most of all I think it makes us all appreciate the summer that much more. But as much as I don’t mind the winter, I do exercise much caution to make sure it does not get the best of Eamonn. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to control Eamonn getting sick, and he has enough hand sanitizer for a small village, but the things I can do to make it easier for him I do without hesitation. And if you don’t believe me, come take a look at whose car has already been shoveled out: Eamonn’s!