Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tall Towers, MS and Lessons

One week ago I finally did something I have wanted to do for several years now.
I did something good for me, good for others and I WILL DO IT AGAIN!

I climbed this!

Central Park Tower, located in the heart of Perth's CBD.  53 Storeys, 1103 stairs to the top.

I didn't do it alone!  Around 1000 people did the same clime.  Amazing but true! Three women, of those 1000+ individuals mattered most to me on the way up, up, up!  Those 3 were my team, 4MS4MS
(aka 4 Mad Shielas 4 MS)  Their names, Trish, Carolyne and Amanda!

L - R  Trish, Amanda, Carolyne, me and Jodie
If it were not for these wonderful women who were mad enough to join in on my vision to do this, I might not have ever done it, or made it to the top!  It was an incredible experience to be part of this team!  And I will be forever grateful to the lessons I learned last week!

It was around the 10th storey I began mentally chastising myself for not training harder, preparing better.  With every ache in my thighs and huffy-puff of air I took into my lungs, I wished I'd warmed up better, done more climbs of Jacob's Ladder at group training sessions, exercised more in any way shape or form before this day!  I acknowledge that I am by no means fit, healthy or athletic, or ever have been.  I also acknowledge that our sporadic group training efforts and my attendance at yoga class in the weeks prior helped immensely!  But I wasn't ready for the climb on the day.

But even though my legs hurt and my lungs protested, I knew I would get to the top no matter what.  I didn't care how long it took me, or how many breaks I might need along the way.  I knew I would get there eventually.  Of that I was certain...

What I didn't anticipate was the support of my team!  Carolyne and Amanda, despite my repeated insistence to go on and climb and let me do it in my own time, stuck with me and encouraged me to keep on going up! They both could have done it so much faster! But if it were not for them, I would never have made it in the time that I did.  I would have got up to the top, no doubt, but at a much slower pace!  They cheered me on, told me what to do, lead the way and pushed from behind!  In my low oxygenated haze I remember one of the girls saying, "We started as a team, we finish as one!"  How amazing and wonderful is that?  Thank you girls for that lesson!

Unfortunately Trish started a few minutes behind Carolyne, Amanda and I, but she made incredible time and caught up to us!  I'm so proud of her efforts, considering she battled injury in the months prior to the big day!  As we reached the top storey, she caught up with us (I was having a break and "letting her catch up" (That's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;-) and we all crossed the line together!  It was incredible! Even if I did feel like hurling amid my happiness to be at the top!

At the top, we were rewarded with a medal!  I have never in my whole life received a medal for anything! Particularly anything involving physical exertion!  We were also rewarded with a fabulous, albeit cloudy, view of the city!

L - R Carolyne, me, Amanda, Trish.
Another incredible thing I noticed in the journey upward... When people are challenged, when they are striving for a common goal, they band together to support one another, whether they know one another or not.  It was awe inspiring to witness and contribute to the camaraderie of the other climbers!  Strangers cheer one another on, share jokes, words of encouragement, pats on the back...  When on a regular day, going about your everyday business, you might pass these same people in the street and never make eye contact let alone communicate!

I also had the pleasure of witnessing dreams unexpectedly coming true!  My 6 year old son celebrated his birthday just 2 days prior to the climb with a Batman themed party!  He received Batman lego as a gift also...  And who should climb the tower with us?  None other than Batman himself!  He was gracious enough to offer my baby a photo opportunity where Ashton could punch him in the stomach, to which my star-struck baby refused with an off the charts grin!

Batman making Ashton's 6th birthday incredibly memorable!
But why did we do this?  Why would so many people come together to climb one or Perth's tallest buildings?

To raise funds and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis.  The event is aptly known as "Step Up For MS" and is an annual undertaking for the MS Socity of WA.  This year they aimed to raise $200,000 and were no doubt thrilled to have achieved $239,075!  That money will make such a difference to so many people who battle MS daily.

Why did I do this?

Someone incredibly wonderful, dear and precious to me has MS.  His name is Chris and for 9 years now he has headed up a team, VICTORY in the Minnesota Chapter of the MS Society's, Walk MS!  His team has raised $100,000 over the years. He has worked tirelessly to educate, fundraise, create community and make a difference.  And although he despises the word in relation to himself,  his efforts, what he does for the cause, is inspirational... The camaraderie and difference that is made by the collective is inspiring!

But for me, half a world away in Perth, only able to offer moral support, year in and year out... Well, that's been hard.  VERY HARD!  I have wanted so much to be a part of it all.  I've longed to not just be moral support.  I've longed to be cheerleader, to fundraise, to participate, to encourage, to pitch in and do the dirty work that needs to be done to bring a team together and to raise as much money as VICTORY has been able to!  I've wanted to share that team spirit, to experience it.  I have wanted so much to cross that finish line with Chris.

Oceans apart...  :-(

Then a few years ago I spotted the Step Up challenge on the late night news.  Instantly I was drawn in, and just as quickly I was wondering why the hell they didn't just have a walk here too!  Climbing stairs?  Seriously?  Is this what I have to do to be involved?

You're damned right!

Although I'm not the fittest, I dislike physical exertion, sweating and puffing, I was committed to taking part in this challenge.  I was committed to doing what I can to help.  I might not be able to be a part of VICTORY this year (Maybe next!?!)... But I'm part of the fight to make this disease history.  And the discomfort I went through to do the climb is but a drop in the bucket for someone who battles MS every moment of their lives.

When I began, I set myself a lofty goal of raising $500!  I never imagined I would raise that much but I put it out there on my participant page because I needed something to work toward.  In my journal I set my goal to $250, thinking that was far more realistic!

Well boy, was I wrong!!!  Both my private goal and my public goal were blown to shreds!  As soon as I began asking people to consider donating to my efforts, people started responding!  My $500 goal was reached weeks before the climb so I edited it to an even more unimaginable $1103, in an atttempt to make every step I climbed worth $1 for MS!  That too was blown out of the water!  On the day of the climb my personal fundraising total was $1133 and 4MS4MS had reached $1288!  All I had done was ask for people's support!  As they gave, I shed tears of gratitude for their generosity...  Every single donation, big or small, had me teared up!  It was without doubt an amazing feeling to be able to do something like that....   It is heartwarming to know that so many people are good, kind, generous, supportive and helpful.  It is an overwhelming sensation to see that total go up!

I was also overwhelmed by the generosity of my friend Coralie of Rainbow Farm Photography who committed to donating 10% of this month's sales to my fundraising efforts!  What a beautiful thing to do!  So please, check out her page, like it, make a purchase!  April is still not over and Mother's Day is fast approaching!

To every single person who donated, supplied moral support and encouragement, THANK YOU!  To you girls who joined me on this climb, THANK YOU!  You were not just helping me with a personal goal of climbing a tower, or to raise funds for a good cause.  You were helping me be a part of something much much much bigger.  You were helping me be a part of VICTORY and supporting Chris, without actually being a part of that team.  I am very grateful.

I am also now very excited to do it all again NEXT YEAR!!!  Within 2 days of the climb I had set my goals.  I will complete the climb in under 20 minutes (at least 10 minutes faster than this year!) and I aim to raise $3000!

Anyone care to join me?  I am sure Trish, Amanda and Carolyne will be very tempted to do it all again!  But a second team would be amazing!  If I can do it, you can!  Next year I will be Stepping it up for Step Up!  LOOK OUT!  I can do more and I will do it better!

My participant page is still available and ready for donations should you be called to do so.  Otherwise I would be so honoured if you would donate to Chris on his Walk MS participant page.  Team VICTORY will walk on May 5th!  I shall be walking with them in spirit as I do every year.

My lessons in a nutshell...
"Train harder and more consistently"
"Team mates are important!"
"Other's can drive you to do better than you thought you ever could"
"Persistence pays off"
"Community makes things happen"
"Common goals and challenges bring community together"
"Expect miracles"
"Dreams do come true"
"There is so much good in the world"
"Fundraising is a very humbling experience"
"Asking for support isn't always easy, but its important"
"I can make a difference"
"I climbed that bastard!"
"Goal setting is key"
"Learning from experience can only make things better"
"Being a part of something is an incredible feeling"
"Its lovely to have people proud of my efforts, particularly my loved ones.  Thank you!"
"Doing this climb was like giving birth.  Exciting, painful and as soon as you're done you begin contemplating the next one!"

1 comment:

  1. I am proud to be a part of your journey Penny and so amazed at your dedication and it just shows that if you put it out there it will come back to you ten fold can't wait for next year.