Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Technology Tuesday

Touring Imagine!’s SmartHome yesterday: new Imagine! Foundation Board member Meg McCellan and her husband Jim Barlow.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Out & About and Dayspring departments will be receiving a donation of ten Strider Bikes at the Strider World Cup Championship on July 20 at 6 PM, Central Park/Boulder Civic Area. The bikes are excellent for helping to teach some of the young children we serve to learn to ride and experience the joy and freedom that come with it, and we are most appreciative to Strider for their continued generous support of Imagine! and our programs.

You are invited to join us for an evening of fun. More details below.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Good News Friday!

I recently shared my experience of running my very first triathlon. I'm not the only Imagine! employee triathlete, however. Below is a story originally posted on our Imagine! Voices blog about the woman who first planted the seed in my mind, making me consider taking on this significant challenge. I love the story and it deserves to be shared. Heather is an inspiration. Please enjoy.

The IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. “No way” is a common response when talking about this race. Or, “why?” Why put your body through that for 15 straight hours, let alone all the training leading up to it? These are valid questions given the toll it takes on the body. Heather Forsyth, an Imagine! employee in our Early Intervention department, has a valid answer.

“When I turned 40, I was not in good health. I was not eating well and exhausted all the time,” said Heather. “I thought about my daughter, who has a developmental disability and was in high school at the time, and realized I needed to take better care of myself so I can be around to take care of her.” Heather started going to the gym and joined local exercise groups. She raced her first triathlon (sprint) in 2010. “It rekindled my love for running and being outside.” She kept it going and joined another fitness group in Boulder, whose members participated in longer races, and found herself doing the same: half marathons, marathons, and then the half Ironman.

“Then I said to myself, ‘you know what?’ Yeah, I want to do an Ironman.’”

She completed her first Ironman in summer of 2015. “It was my dream race and everything went as planned. I finished and was smiling ear to ear the entire time.”

Heather’s next two Ironmans did not have the same fairytale storyline. In 2016, she was injured during the swim, accidentally kicked by another swimmer, which made for a painful race. “I barely finished.”

In 2018, training season became tough as Heather’s life turned upside down. Her mother was back and forth in the hospital over the course of a year, and sadly passed away last November. To start the New Year, her daughter Meredith experienced a group of seizures in late January. And to top things off, in April, the main sewer line backed up into their condo and flooded the unit, completely damaging the tile, carpet, and bathroom fixtures.

“I thought about dropping out of the race.”

Heather approached her coaches, unsure of the race, and had a serious look on her face. One of her coaches suggested that it could still be done if she just tries to have fun. “You’re doing this for fun, right?” her coach asked.

“That’s when I realized I was letting everything in my life make the race NOT fun, but I do these races to help my life.” In refocusing her attitude, Heather began having fun again and committed to the June 10 race.

Race day arrived. The swim was peaceful and beautiful. She enjoyed the calm water and cool temperatures to start the day. On the bike, conditions were not so favorable. The temperature reached a high of 101 degrees and there was an 18% dropout rate for bikers being defeated by the dry climate.

“It was total carnage, people on the side of the road, barfing, being picked up by medics. You had to play it safe and ride at a slower pace.” Heather drank over 300 ounces of fluids on the bike thanks to her Camelback and the water stations. She also dumped a bottle of water over her head at every station. “It was that hot.” Along with the heat, Heather blistered her hand trying to stay upright in the wind, which also slowed her down.

Having entered the run later than she hoped, it became a race against the cutoff time. Because she had to ramp up her training in the last two months, her knee and ankle were sore and her pace per mile dragged.

“Packing in all that training took a toll on my cranky ankle,” she laughs. More than halfway into the run, Heather arrived at a checkpoint past the cutoff time.

With the option to sign a waiver and keep going, she recalled something her mother had once said, “Always remember, I know you love doing this, but make sure you can always do it another day.” With both her knee and ankle in pain, she decided to call it quits at mile 15.5 and said to herself, “I’ll be back.”

“I’m never going to be fast enough to be on a podium. I’m competing against myself and trying to better myself. It’s not always about time.”

With another Ironman in the books, Heather answers the inevitable question, “why?”

“It gives me time to think through things and work out the rest of my life.” Heather lets out a laugh, “When I have a race on calendar, our family’s life is so much more organized. No race, not so organized. Training brings me a sense of peace and calm that I can’t get anywhere else. It makes me a better person, a better mom, better wife, better worker.”

Heather admits that prior to joining fitness and exercise groups back in 2010, she and her husband isolated themselves socially and did not have many friends. “I met this whole group of people through training that created a social outlet that I haven’t had for about 15 years.”  Outside of training, their families get together for camping trips and other gatherings. Heather’s friends now go out of their way to hang out with Meredith so that Heather can get a training or race in. “It’s been a wonderful thing.”

Why do something so challenging and time consuming? Heather asked herself the same question several years ago and in turn, found her sweet spot. “I’m in phenomenal shape, I feel better, I have more energy. There are so many pluses.” Not to mention lifelong friends and the infinite supply of life lessons. In a way, the Ironman race ended up being the answer to all that she hoped for.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Lessons Learned From An Ironman – Part II

I have already shared one of my key takeaways from my IRONMAN 140.6 Boulder experience that I believe can be applied to our work at Imagine!. Today I’d to share another takeaway, and I’ll start with the video that got me started in the first place:
 

The video was sent to me in January, right after I committed to a coach and formal training, to get me inspired and moving down the correct path. It worked. The video made it clear that accomplishing something as difficult and challenging as an Ironman started with establishing the idea that the difficult thing could in fact be accomplished. Even if my goal of completing the race seemed extraordinary, I believed it could be done, made it public that I planned to do it, and set out on a course to make it happen.

I think we need to take more of that approach when considering how we create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). It is far too easy to assume that some of the individuals we serve can’t do ordinary things, let alone extraordinary things, and far too often we design our services with expectations that are way too low.

I think we need to be bolder when we’re considering what people with I/DD can accomplish, and raise our own expectations. I am proud of my Ironman experience, but to be clear, it wasn’t an impossible task. It was difficult, and it took planning and training and discipline and hard work, but it wasn’t out of reach for me and my fellow racers.

Why can’t we look at services the same way? Start out by establishing that we want the people we serve to do the extraordinary, and put it out there that they in fact can, and will, do the extraordinary with the right supports. Then, working together with the individual and his or her support team, do the planning, training, sacrificing, and hard work to make the extraordinary a reality.

I understand that this approach isn’t easy, but lyrics from the song featured in the video above (and again in the video below) really hit home for me: “You can run the mile/You can walk straight through hell with a smile.
 

I ran much of my race with a smile, even though it was difficult and occasionally painful, because I knew that the end result would be so meaningful. There’s no reason we can’t do the same when we are working to create a world of opportunities for abilities, and opening doors to self-reliance and true community participation. Even if it is difficult and intermittently painful, we can do it with a smile because we know if we succeed we will be accomplishing something extraordinary. We’re selling ourselves and our communities short if we don’t do everything we can to reach for the amazing and unexpected possibilities that exist for people with I/DD.

Then again, what do I know?