Determination and Gratitude

2016, to say the least, was a year filled with medical drama for me. I underwent major surgery in February and was looking forward to recovery so that I could stay on track with my goal to participate in the Spartan Hawaii Trifecta in August. Six months later I was nearing recovery and got into a bicycle accident. I broke my wrist, along with major road rash and bruises. My years of training for and participating in the Spartan Hawaii Trifecta in August were officially dashed.

Through my bicycle accident, I was connected with Dr. Laino, an accomplished hand surgeon at OrthoVirginia. He implanted a permanent titanium plate and five screws in my wrist. Then, like the passing of an Olympic baton, Karen Popovich, an amazing physical therapist, took over my care in thrice-weekly PT sessions. She provided me with consistent mental and physical support that resulted in me thriving at a positive rate.

Recovering from two significant surgeries within months of each other can take an emotional toll on a person. I went through a brief period of self-pity until my friend Jenny gave me some tough love reminding me that my situation wasn’t permanent, and for that reason, I should feel lucky. I quickly adjusted my defeatism mentality and set new goals for 2017. I became fueled with a desire to reasonably beat the recovery periods for the surgeries and come out on the other end equally strong, if not, stronger. I read an email that Spartan was holding a once-in-a-lifetime race event in Cuba on March 18, 2017, open to only 1,000 participants. The opportunity intrigued me for many reasons. The March date seemed like a reasonable amount of time for me to prepare and aim to get back in challenge race mode. I submitted my application for the sprint and I am happy to share that I made the cut as one of the 1,000 racers! I shared my good news with Dr. Laino and Karen and asked for their medical approval, which they provided.

Next, I have to secure benefactors to cover the more than $3,500 in race expenses (race registration, airfare, hotel, etc.). I started a GoFundMe account and my friends have been very supportive (special shout-outs to Rita, Jenny and Alicia). I also need the help of business-level sponsors. I thought about how OrthoVirginia had a key role in building me back up after my accident and what a great sponsor they would make, so I reached out to them for support. Their director of marketing just notified me that they will be making a contribution! I am very grateful to OrthoVirginia and I look forward to them being part of my race experience in Cuba.

I have reached about $1,000 of my fundraising goal so far. If you or a business you know of are willing to join OrthoVirginia in sponsoring me, please contact me at galOTgo or you can make a direct donation through my GoFundMe account https://www.gofundme.com/galotgo.

I hope to make my friends and sponsors proud in March. More importantly, I am determined to show that when life presents you with challenge after challenge, you may need to keep readjusting your goals, BUT never give up on them!

SPONSORS: Contact me to have your company’s name and logo added!

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Right to Vote From an Alternate Perspective

electionofficertraining

Given the circus that has been this year’s election process, I thought it would be interesting to learn the flip side of the voting process, so I signed up for Election Officer training. Note, I am not typically into politics and this post is not about the candidates.

I initially signed up to be an Election Officer for two reasons – curiosity, and because the payment fee will help cover my Personal Property Tax, which is $$$ in Fairfax County. The training lasted three hours and included one 10-minute break. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first; I assumed it was going to be tedious. Much to my surprise, it was a very interesting experience!

Highlights of what I learned during my training:

  • Upon arriving for work on Election Day (SUPER EARLY before the polls officially open), I must take an election oath.
  • Election Officer shifts are approximately 16 hours. (One of the trainers told us to think of it as “a one-day camping trip with no amenities.” Once we enter the voting precinct and take the oath, we cannot leave until our shift is over. He strongly suggested that we bring enough food and drink with us to last.)
  • Election Officers will not necessarily have time to vote on Election Day; they recommended that we exercise our voting right in advance via absentee ballot.
  • Election Officers have important roles as the “face of the election; the first ones voters see when they enter the precinct.”
  • The County expects large voter turnouts in Fairfax; 85% at each precinct.
  • There were 714,113 registered voters in Fairfax County as of the day of my Election Officer training, and there are 1,313 polling locations in Fairfax County to serve the voters.
  • Poll Pads aka iPads (see pic) are being used for the first time to check in voters. They sync within 30 feet of each other throughout the day. (The modernization of incorporating technology in the process excites me.)
  • A typical ballot box used for voting is the DS200. No equipment ever gets plugged directly into a wall; everything must be plugged into a power strip. There are also voting machines available for people with accessibility needs. (We learned the ins and outs of how all the ballot machines work and dealing with various ballot submission scenarios, like someone marking more than one candidate in a category on their ballot and the machine rejecting it.)
  • Election Officers cannot look at voter’s ballots or provide advice (please be mindful and keep your ballot choices to yourself). If someone shows us their ballot, we must offer to be their Assistant and if they say yes, we must sign an Assistance Form.
  • Voters can submit blank ballots; this is usually NOT done by mistake, but rather purposely as a form of silent protest.
  • Every single discarded item is accounted for; we are not allowed to throw anything in the garbage, from a voided or spoiled ballot to a used zip tie.

The presidential election, scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be the 58th US presidential election. The election will determine the 45th President and 48th Vice President of the United States. I am hopeful that my country will survive whatever the outcome!

Cast of Characters

I was riding along carefree on my bicycle, when suddenly an expansion joint caused by a tree root appeared. Next thing I knew, I was catapulted in the air and came crashing down on gravel. I couldn’t move. Eric and Justin, two college kids who witnessed the incident, came to my rescue. They scooped me up, and put me and my mangled bike into a woman’s van. Gigi, the woman, drove me to an urgent care facility nearby and signed me in. The nurse tended to the bloody road rash that covered the right side of my body from shoulder to knee. She gave me a shot for pain, cleaned me up, put my right arm in a brace, gave me a list of orthopedic doctors to contact, and turned me over to my friend and emergency contact Jenny.

Eric and Justin sent a joint text. “Good luck, Kimberly! Eric and Justin are here for you. We’ll be thinking of you and hope you get well soon!”

Gigi sent a text also. “Stay strong and cycle on (once you can!).” When I told her that I had broken a bone, she said she wasn’t surprised because she saw that my arm was maimed, but she didn’t want to freak me out and tell me since I was in shock at the time.

I was very fortunate to come across amazing strangers with big hearts. I will never forget their acts of kindness. Gigi even texted me the following day and offered to drive me to my doctor appointments. Truly remarkable people!

The next afternoon I went to an orthopedist at Reston Hospital, had X-rays taken and after the July 4 holiday had a CAT scan. All the results conclusively confirmed that I broke off the corner of my right wrist! The nurse wrapped my wrist and lower arm in a waterproof cast (I chose Wonder Woman red of course).

My friend Melissa asked if she could sign my cast in an effort to cheer me up. At that point, the cast graffiti tour began! Members of my community all got in on it — from my friends, to the local Starbucks crew, employees at my favorite bank branch, running group buddies and more.

Here are some of the fun messages that people wrote:

  • Oops. – Melissa (*this one will always be extra special to me because it’s the first signature on my first, and hopefully last, cast)
  • Chewy on the inside. – Brett
  • Love the fashion statement. – Arthur
  • Feel better – Starbucks family (the morning crew at my neighborhood Starbucks)
  • APC (the initials of my 83-years-young Starbucks bud Art)
  • Get better soon! + latte cup drawing – Cheryl
  • Feel better – Mehreen (my fav lead teller at CapitalOne)
  • 💛 – Jhanira (branch manager at my CapitalOne)
  • You’re hard core! – Erika (from my Pacers fun run crew)
  • #foreveryrun (guy from my Pacers fun run crew)
  • Heal fast! – Loretta (from my Pacers fun run crew)
  • Get well Spartan. – KB aka Katrena
  • 🙂 – Marcia
  • Love ya – Jane
  • More burpees – Leia
  • Get well soon! – Michael
  • Love ya – Jenny (one of my BFFs)
  • Stay strong! – Colin (my trainer)

I am having surgery tomorrow to get six screws and a metal plate attached to my right wrist to properly repair it. Whenever I start to feel nervous about the procedure, I look at the messages and drawings on the cast. They bring me comfort that everything is going to be alright.

What’s SUP? (Stand-Up Paddle Boarding)

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Lesson With Surf Reston
Instructor: Steve
Class: 2 hours
Location: Lake Anne, Reston, Va.
http://www.surfreston.com/

My best friend Jenny knows me well; she booked paddle boarding lessons for us for my birthday! We arrived at Lake Anne and met our instructor Steve, a chill and encouraging dude, along with eight other class participants. Steve spent about 15 minutes at the start of the lesson teaching us about our equipment. He explained that we should use the handle (aka soap dish) in the center of our board as a marker on where to stand.

We also learned about the three strokes:

  • Forward Stroke used for moving forward; catch (the water), power (pull the paddle through) and recovery (back to the front and repeat on the other side) (CPR)
  • Stop Stroke used for stopping; also known as the reverse sweep
  • Sweep Stroke used for turning your board around

Fun Facts: SUP is a slang term used by boarders that stands for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding. The end of the paddle is shaped at an angle to mimic a swimmer’s hand and cut through the water!

Ready for our adventure, we launched off the shore of the lake kneeling on our boards with our paddles across the front of us – from that point we were supposed to slowly stand. It was a hot, sunny and VERY windy day. About five minutes into being on the water before standing, I headed right into a massive shrubbery section on the side of the lake. All good, nothing to see people, I shouted! (I was happy that Jenny didn’t have access to a camera. 😀 ) I quickly recovered, stood and paddled away for the remaining hour+. It was more fun than I ever expected and an amazing abs and arms workout. I cannot wait to return and do it again, especially since Surf Reston offers a discount for repeat business and yoga paddle boarding classes. You cannot bring your phone with you while you’re boarding in case you fall in the lake, but Steve took photos for everyone and posted them on Flickr.

I have an evolving bucket list, which is how my Gal on the Go blog originated. I say evolving because there are some items on the list that I knew about when I created it, and some activities that I was unaware of and added along the way … like when I was “co-pilot” of a plane in Vermont and paddle boarding in my area. The paddle boarding lesson was a day I will never forget; a shared life experience with a friend is priceless and what Gal on the Go is all about!

Power of Positivity

My boyfriend who was mean and dismissive is now out of my life, as Bono eloquently put it, “What you don’t have you don’t need it now.” I joined a fitness Meetup group to keep busy, which has resulted in friendships with amazing people who have all added joy to my life. We gather every Saturday morning at the Reston Town Center. Our fearless leader Irina always brings enthusiasm and provides us with a kick butt workout. One Saturday, she had us run the stairs of the five garages, and when we reached the top of each garage we paused to appreciate the beautiful views of Reston and take silly pictures. Another Saturday, she had us alternate single and double steps up seven flights of stairs in variation for 40 minutes with a loop run every time we reached the rooftop. There is genuine camaraderie among the group, which consists of individuals at all fitness levels. Members look out for each other during the workouts and yell “you go girl” or “you can do it.” We share photos of our time together at the end of each Meetup and Irina adds inspirational fitness quotes to them. A fun way to spend mornings!

It’s All About Respect

Art, my 83-years-young adopted grandpa from Starbucks, knows my love for ‎photography‬ and brought in the photo of all the parachutes to show me. During the war, Art used to jump out of planes and he was the photographer for his unit. He said the photo was of the whole division doing a jump to impress a visiting foreign dignitary. He went on to tell me that they were T-10 parachutes and “the men were at the mercy of the wind back then.” A cool pic; I asked Art if I could borrow it to scan and share with my friends on Facebook. He granted my request. I showed him everyone’s reactions/comments and he beamed! The next time I saw Art, he handed me two additional parachute jump photos to scan and post. I put the scans of the photos on a flash drive for him to pass along to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved it!

christy_grandma_wedding_pic

Inspired by Art’s initial photo, my friend Christy shared this picture of her grandparents from the same era and the cool story behind it … My granddad was a paratrooper in WWII. My grandmom was a nurse and sewed her wedding dress out of one of his reserve parachutes. They got married in North Africa.

Sequel to the Hike … Floaties Optional

 

NOTE: The photos that look like streams were all sections of the trail we walked through and across that are normally dry soil!

Shenandoah Hiking Series: Overall Run / Overall Run Falls
Instructors: Beth and Raquel
Classmates: Charlotte, Dan, George, Fazon, Paul (a grad student from France), Jessica and Brain (a cool couple), and Jennifer and Lisa (a mother+daughter duo)
Start Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 9:30 a.m.
End Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 4 p.m.
Total Miles Covered: 10 (it was supposed to be 5.5)
Weather: Overcast the first half of the hike and sunny the second half

I had so much fun on my previous REI hike, that I registered for another one. Again, Mother Nature unleashed buckets of rain the days leading up to the hike, class proceeded and we met outside my local REI store at 7:30 a.m. to board “Teddy”. (See my previous hiking blog post for explanations about “Teddy”and some other details.)

It was a lively group! During the van ride Brain goofed with Paul about the U.S. slang term “splunking” and the sexual meaning. Beth, an avid caver, warned them to be careful where they use the term because to outdoor enthusiasts, “spelunking” refers to a cave rescue due to careless people. Very different meanings! At the start of our hike, Beth and Raquel taught us about the proper use and benefits of trekking poles, botanical life we may see like the wineberry (a favorite of all the instructors, a relative of the raspberry, nonnative to Virginia and safe to forge), and animals to beware of like Copperhead snakes (We came across a Copperhead at one point and I yelled, “Keep it moving people!”). Our fearless leaders were unsure of the condition of the trail given the heavy rainfall days prior. We soon discovered that it was miles and miles of mud ditches! Our major trail connections were washed out with mini rapids. I asked if anyone had swim floaties in their backpack? Raquel just finished telling us a story about the last time she led a hike at Overall Run and how they had to walk crouching down for more than a mile as a survival method amid a thunderstorm. During our hike she said she never saw such “epic streams!” Due to those two incidents Raquel jokingly declared, “this trail is cursed!” Safety was a serious issue given the slippery rocks and rushing waters, so I didn’t take many photos. Teamwork and using the trekking poles were crucial. Never underestimate the power of 1-2 feet deep rapid moving water. When we finally reached our destination Overall Run Falls, know as one of Virginia’s tallest waterfalls, it was a beautiful sight. The cascading falls were to our left and the majestic Massanutten Mountain was to our right. Toward the end of our hike I slipped on rocks, fell on my side and was covered in mud. It looked like half of my body got a fancy spa treatment. Our hike was supposed to be about 5.5 miles, but it ended up being 10 miles due to the rerouting. I was exhausted when I got home from my adventurous day!

To search for REI classes/events in your area go to: https://www.rei.com/learn.html
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