We love getting Fan Mail! Robin kindly allowed us to share her inspiring story and feedback with our readers:
I’ve been wearing InknBurn for oh, a year and a half now and I have an ever growing collection. I love your unique designs and quality construction. A friend who lives in California introduced me to your clothing. I thought “hey, that would look great in race photos and make it easy to pick me out of a crowd when my family is trying to spot me from the sidelines”.
I feel like I run my best when I look my best. Last year, I ran Destination Races’ Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon wearing your singlet and skirt. I just got an email encouraging me to sign up for next year before the prices increase. (The race paid the photographers so they own all the images.) I was pretty surprised to see myself in the email image! I am pretty sure it wasn’t just my big smile that made the marketing department choose this photo — look how great your zen skirt and singlet look against the rolling hills of Oregon’s Wine Country! It was a really hot day and I was dumping water over my head at every water stop but I look as fresh as I did at the starting line thanks to the performance fabric.
As someone who had asthma from infancy, was morbidly obese for 15 years, and has suffered from chronic daily migraine for the past 7 years, I never dreamed I would be used to “sell” race registrations. I probably should also have mentioned that a big part of my story is that I lost over 90 pounds and have kept it off for 3 years and 4 months to date. I have only been running for about 3.5 years! I did I did it with counting calories, first walking then running, and kettlebell training. I have fibromyalgia and chronic daily migraines but a daily dose of endorphins keeps me smiling.
We often hear about amazing friendships that have been sparked through a mutual love of INKnBURN! So, we recently asked our Ambassadors to share their own stories about how INKnBURN has brought them closer to someone. Michele Williamson wrote back with the story of two amazing friendships born from a passion for INKnBURN:
It all began when I admired someone’s race gear. I found out it was INKnBURN and joined the For the Love of INKnBURN Facebook Fan Page. I learned about the stunning apparel and was proud to discover that is is all Made in America!
At my next race, I yelled “Way to go, INKnBURN!” at a girl running by. We found each other through the Facebook Fan Page the next day. Her name was Hannah.
Since then, we’ve trained together and raced together. I’m now an honorary aunt to her newborn daughter, Mia… and blessed to call her my friend.
I also became friends with Melinda, who we affectionately call Ginger. She was stationed overseas for a while and fan page members had fun sending her cards and care-packages. Her brother David (pictured above with Hannah and I) hosted us last fall and I raced my first marathon.
Recently, I had the honor of flying to San Antonio with my husband to witness Ginger’s retirement from the military after over 20 years.
This is the only time I have ever seen Ginger and her husband, Robert, not wearing INKnBURN:
When people asked how we became friends, we say “INKnBURN” first… then we smile and say but we are really now family by choice.
What do Dean Karnazes, Mike Wardian, Scott Jurek and Jeremy Sanders have in common? They are all runners, but more importantly, they are all fathers first. Jeremy Sanders is also a proud INKnBURN Ambassador and author behind the popular blog, “Running Dad.” In October 2012, two years after Jeremy started running, he stumbled across the domain www.RunningDad.com for sale and something clicked: what if he started a blog documenting his running journey? It would be a site where fathers could find running tips and connect with other dads who ran. He started working on a logo; shortly after, he created his first blog post.
Sanders’ first few blog posts detailed the races he ran. He then went on to review shoes, at which point his blog started attracting visits. His most popular blog post to date is an informative post on the treadmill set-up he designed, complete with TV and wireless audio set-up.
Since 2012, Jeremy Sanders has amassed a following of runners, both male and female, looking to balance work, family and running. RunningDad.com uses fonts reminiscent of superhero strips, complete with comic hero-esque detailing. In many ways, RunningDad promotes the idea of a superhero’s lifestyle–saving the day while still leading a normal life; in layman’s terms, balancing work with family life, and balancing family life with running.
Though Sanders is known as The Running Dad now, he wasn’t always a runner. Long before he started the blog, and before he had his two sons, Cole and Connor, aged 10 and 4, Sanders was a father-to-be, excited to meet his son, Lucas. “We already had everything ready for him,” says Sanders. “His room, outfits, everything.” His wife, Jen, was 31 weeks pregnant when she complained of back pain. A regular baby appointment was set up on for mid-September, but with Jen’s typical work day totaling more than 13 hours, the majority of it on her feet, back pain was, as Sanders puts it, “nothing out of the ordinary.” On September 17, 2002, the day of Jen’s appointment, an ultrasound indicated that something was wrong. Fluid on the baby’s lungs and under the skin sent Sanders and his wife to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Viriginia. “The doctors decided that having Lucas by C-section was his best chance,” says Sanders. The appointment was scheduled for the next day. “We spent the night listening to his heartbeat on the monitor that the doctors had attached to Jen. It was strong,” he says. On September 18th, the C-section was performed and Lucas was born.
Unfortunately, Lucas lived only an hour in the NICU. He was born with Hydrops fetalis–a condition in which an abnormal amount of fluid is built up in two or more body areas. Lucas’ lungs weren’t strong enough to survive the condition, and he passed within the hour.
The entire Sanders family was in shock hearing the news that Lucas didn’t make it. “We all turned our attention to helping Jen recover from surgery,” Sanders says, “but we were all devastated. They brought Lucas to our room so we could spend a little time with him. We cherish that time and wish we could have had more with him.”
The hardest thing Sanders has ever had to is leave the hospital empty handed after he had planned to leave with Lucas. “It brought us closer as a family as we focused on physical and mental healing,” he says, although learning how to manage loss was a different experience entirely.
In the days following, Sanders focused on his wife’s recovery post-surgery. Once they returned home, Sanders turned to drawing, creating an illustration that, he says, captured the emotion of his loss. While art and graphic design were one outlet, another was food, and yet another drink. “I was spiraling into a bad pattern of self-destructive behavior,” he says.
It wasn’t until years later that Sanders decided to change his life–in more ways than he could have imagined. The birth of their son, Connor, in 2006 brought more activity than they had bargained for into their lives. As Connor grew older, his participation in sports increased. One day, while waiting in a gymnasium where Connor was playing basketball, Sanders looked around him. “I was surrounded by out-of-shape dads playing on their cellphones,” he says. “I decided I didn’t want that to be me.”
Sanders decided he wanted to lose weight, and to do so he would start running. After just one run, he was hooked. The weight came off quickly. “I lost 40 pounds over the course of the year,” he says. Sanders began coaching for all of the team sports that Connor played. “I became an involved dad, no longer on the sidelines.” With the addition of Cole, in 2012, Sanders became even more involved with his children’s activities. Additionally, his own running took off: since then, he’s completed 6 marathons (including two Boston Marathons), a 50-miler, and countless 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons. One year ago, Sanders turned 40 and ran sub-3 hour marathon. “I’m not slowing down!” He says. His most recent placement of 24th out of 5,445 runners at the Shamrock Half Marathon (3/18/17) and age group (40-45) win with a 1:21:27 is proof that he has, indeed, sped up!
While Jen is not a runner, as Sanders puts it, she is equally active in obstacle racing and mud runs, in addition to staying fit with group classes. They’re both also active in the fundraiser, The Lucas Fund, that they created shoryl after Lucas passed. “When I started running, I decided that I would donate a dollar for every mile that I run to the Lucas Fund,” he says. The monthly donations have grown to over $200 as Sanders puts in his training mileage; additionally, several fundraisers and challenges on RunningDad.com have helped raise money. To date, the Lucas Fund has raised over $30,000 for babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UVA.
Outside of fundraising, Sanders has also become a coach. “I always have people asking me for advice on running since they had seen my steady improvement in health and running performance,” he says. “I wanted to make sure I was giving good advice.” Sanders completed the Road Runners Club of America’s Coaching Certification course and became a licensed coach. Sanders gives credit to his personal running coach who has helped him realize that everyone can use motivation to both exceed their comfort zone or pull in the reins when needed. “I love to help people reach their goals in a way that they stay injury free and still have time for their families.”
While running is Sanders’ passion, his first love his still his family. What makes Sanders’ family special, however, is that they’ve all embraced running in some form, whether through running, fundraising, or sharing the joy of movement. Connor, especially, has embraced running. “He isn’t hesitant at all to enter races and push himself, but at the same time he doesn’t beat himself up when he does not do as well as he was expecting.”
Most important to Sanders is that his children can see how much work he puts into training and how it pays out in the end by achieving his goals. “I hope they learn that they can set goals and reach them by working hard.” Sanders’ goals for the future include finding interesting destinations races where he ran bring his family, creating a fun trip for everyone. Eventually he hopes to be a full-time coach–“I just need a couple hundred more clients and a generous company to sponsor me!” In the meantime, he has a busy race schedule including the Boston Marathon and the Yeti 100 in September!
Michelle Barton is no stranger to going long distances. As an ultra runner of 14 years, Michelle has grown up on the trails. At the age of 3 years old, her father brought her on overnight trips to Southern California’s San Gorgonio Mountain. At the age of 6, he took her on week long backpacking trips through Yosemite. Says Michelle, “We did a lot of trails together and those are by far my best childhood memories.” It wasn’t until Michelle ran her first 50K, placed second, then went home to hop on her mountain bike and then go for a swim, that she realized ultras were for her. “The camaraderie of ultra runners is amazing. I immediately noticed how friendly and helpful people are, like a second family that willingly suffers together.”
Michelle later introduced her father to running ultras. “My dad got me into running and I, in turn, got him into running ultras.” In 2004, at the age of 65, Michelle’s father ran his first 50K. Now, more than 12 years later, he’ll be running The Shadow of the Giants on June 11, at the age of 77.
If you’ve run or raced in Southern California, you’ve likely seen Michelle–most noted by her long red hair and penance for wearing colorful INKnBURN gear. I had the chance to catch up with her and ask her a few questions about her favorite distance, why she still loves running and how she manages to fit it all in.
Hometown: Laguna Niguel, California
Career: Professional Athlete/ UltraRunner
What’s your favorite distance?
The distance I most enjoy is 100k and shorter. I like 100 milers because they break me into pieces usually after mile 80. I also like stage races like TransRockies. I’ve raced TransRockies eight times and my dad has raced it seven times.
How do you choose which races you wish to run?
I decide on the races I run based on the scenery and how adventurous they will be. I gravitate lately towards new races in new places since I’ve done the SoCal scene for over a decade. I;m now interested in running in new places.
What compels you towards ultras?
I like to do races because I’m drawn to the wilderness, the isolation, the challenge of getting back to primitive living in the moment.
What races are on your 2016 schedule?
In 2016, I am running BlackSpur 100k in Canada and possibly TransRockies in Colorado, and Shadow of the Giants 50k in Yosemite.
Do you have any bucket list races?
My bucket list race would be racing in Europe, Alaska, and running the John Muir Trail.
What’s your favorite pre-race meal?
Starbucks caffè misto & a bite of a protein bar.
What’s your favorite post-race meal?
Watermelon, coffee and Vitargo post.
How has your training changed since you began running 14 years ago?
My training and racing has changed a lot since I began because now I race less. I used to race almost every weekend and ran the So Cal races. My favorite type of training week is run, swim, and mountain bike (Moday to Friday) and run mountains and swim if possible on Saturday and Sunday. I can’t stand taking days off, so I rarely do.
What’s your favorite INKnBURN gear?
All of the nature design! Lust is classic and I won Badwater Salton Sea in Lust. I like the classic ‘Leaf Em in the Dust’– I won Javelina 100k in that outfit. I also like the Gordy shirt, since he has been a great friend to my dad and I for 13 years.
Search Anji on Google, and you’re likely to find her Ultrasignup page. Despite only running ultra marathons for six years, Anji has run several 50Ks, 100Ks and 100-milers. At 36 years old, Anji has shifted towards another pursuit: Crossfit. While she’s still running, Anji now incorporates yoga and Crossfit into her weekly training routine, even participating in several Crossfit competitions. Here’s the scoop on INKnBURN Elite Anji Paumier:
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Career: Construction Project Manager at UCS, Inc
How long have you been running?
I’ve been running since my mom used to send me outside to run around the house 10 times to burn off energy at age five. I started running competitively in middle school but have been in the ultra running community for about six years.
How did you become immersed in the ultra world?
It actually was a challenge from a friend. I had been training with her
for my first half marathon and she thought I might enjoy trying a 50K. It was the most challenging thing I had ever done and I was hooked!
When did you first hear about CrossFit?
I’ve been watching the Crossfit world for a very long time, probably close to 10 years now, and trained in Crossfit gyms several times. When I moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina, a little over a year ago, I joined South Charlotte Crossfit to teach their yoga classes to take a break from running. Then I jumped on board with the training.
Do you find that CrossFit compliments your running?
It definitely does–I find that not only the physical strength helps my running but the mental toughness it requires is very similar to the ultra running world. You are pushing your body and mind beyond its limits in both sports.
What’s your current training schedule like?
I’m running 3 days a week and lifting 5-–I’m doing a lot of two-a-days.
How do you incorporate rest into your program?
I take Sundays off completely other than teaching yoga; I work on flexibility and mobility during my teaching. I’m fine tuning things like my diet and sleep schedule to maximize the recovery and rest.
What’s on your roster for 2016?
I had two Crossfit competitions so far this year so I’m turning my focus back to ultra racing. I’m looking for a good fall or winter race to finish out the year with along with some fun training runs along the way. It may not be a big winning or racing year, but more of a transition year for me
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
I would say graduating from college. Neither my parents or my sister had the opportunity so they were incredibly proud of me.
What’s your favorite pre-race or training meal?
Pizza! Usually a gluten free crust with cheese and pepperoni. Throw in a good craft beer and it’s on!
What’s your favorite post-race or training meal?
I am a huge fan of breakfast, so usually pancakes with bacon.
Does nutrition play a large role in your training and running?
Absolutely! There is a big difference between fueling for Crossfit and fueling for an ultra since the body taps different energy systems for the effort. Being keen on what I need has been a constant learning experience. Right now I’m following a macros style of eating and it seems to be complimenting both training regimes
How did you first hear about INKnBURN?
I remember seeing INKnBURN in an ad in Ultra Running Magazine–their clothes looked so cool and I pined after the denim shorts for months before finally buying them. I liked that the brand was geared towards ultra runners and was made here in the U.S. My early racing gear was pretty unflattering just to avoid chafing issues, so INKnBURN was a breath of fresh air for me. The designs are always beautiful and always drawing attention.
What’s your favorite INKnBURN item?
Hands down it’s my Gordy shirt. He’s the grandfather of trail racing and his story was the first I read about ultra running!
48-year-old Steven Moore has been an INKnBURN Elite Ambassador for 4 years, but his ultra running resume his much older. Steven’s Ultrasignup page details a list of more than 50 events, from popular races like Leona Divide 50 to Rocky Raccoon 100 to lesser known races like Capt’n Karl’s Kanoe 60K. Steven, who works in Facilities and Safety at The University of Texas at Austin, has been running for 40 years and participating in ultras for seven and a half years. I finally had the chance to catch up with him to talk about his future endeavors, how he succeeds in multiple distances and, of course, his favorite INKnBURN gear.
How did you begin your running journey?
I started “jogging” with my dad before I was 10 years old. He suggested it would help my soccer fitness and he was right (just like all dads are always right!). I played lacrosse in college here at University of Texas and fell into Hashing* as a way to stay in shape in the off seasons. That led me to trail running. I ran the Imogene Pass Run in 2001 and 2007 and then dove into the ultra scene deep end pretty quickly.
You’re very successful at a variety of distances–what’s your secret to conquering speedier 50Ks and tougher 100-milers?
Let’s not forget the 2man 5k Beer Relay distance! No secret to reveal–it’s all relative, right? I really enjoy running fast and do my share of speed work as well as pacer duties for road races around Austin. There are plenty of speedier folks out there, especially now! I love the intensity of speed but also suffer well for the longer races that bring out a different type of fatigue. I’m pretty sure my strengths now lie in the longer stuff.
How do you plan your year to accommodate the variety races you run?
I love to race. I pick (or lotteries pick for me) which races fit with the
family calendar and my white board wish list and then base my training around those races. Sometimes that means I have to lay off training if they start to stack up too close. You will never find me over training. I’m not saying it’s the best way, just the way I choose and what fits with my life schedule. I ride my bike to work, get in some noon workouts, run hard and long on weekends and sit in the hot tub on Monday. Pretty much the same routine for the last 5-6 years. I had a down year in 2015 with some plantar fasciitis and ankle issues and I really missed it. I’m glad to be back in action again.
What’s been your most successful race to date?
A good friend once cautioned me with using a results based success metric. I try to keep that in mind but I do like to compete. I have had a few really magic 100 mile races, although they don’t always feel like it during the race, so it’s hard to single out any one. Looking back on my start, Zane Grey 50 in 2010 was my first ultra out of state and I really had to dig deep to find an exit or at least end to the pain cave of the second half of that race. Considering I was a relative newbie, I’d say that was a successful job of getting the finish and toughing it out.
What do you feel has been your least successful?
Rocky Raccoon 100 in 2014. Nobody wants to hear a runner complain about a sub-17 hour 100 but I really wanted to do better in that race and blew it with a mental error involving nutrition and hydration. I am still disappointed because I knew better at the time. That type of mistake really bothers me because I take pride in preparation and race management and just spaced out on it that day. Maybe I’ll get revenge someday soon.
How are you currently preparing for your next race, The Canyons Endurance Run 100K?
Same prep as always–ramp up the mile totals and then taper down. I did add a few stairmill workouts but it is so boring in the gym and spring in Austin is the time to be out running! Looks like it’s possible the weather won’t be as hot as last year but then again, it might rain. Either way, I’m headed out there with my buddy Jeff and we are going to have a blast running some trails.
You have a host of ultra marathons to your name, from 50Ks to 50-milers to 100-milers; I’m most curious about all of the 60K distances that you’ve run. Why does the 60K distance attract you?
The 60k races are awesome training during the peak of the hot Texas summers. They are part of the Capt’n Karl’s night series. The late start forces you to practice night running but you never escape the heat! I have used those summer sufferfests to my advantage multiple times for early fall races in cooler climates–As Nietzsche says, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger…”
How did you hear about INKnBURN?
I found INKnBURN at TRE, a conference and trade show here in Austin. The bold designs and vivid colors caught my eye immediately. One of the woman, Keira Henninger (now Haynes), running the booth was coming back to Austin to run Bandera, so we started chatting. Just holding the product I could tell it was quality and the people at the company I engaged with just solidified that we were all on the same page, or at least reading the same book!
What’s your current favorite piece of INKnBURN gear?
Hardest question for last, eh? I got plenty of mileage out of the Holiday Sweater Long Sleeve Tech this year and any of the Run or Die pieces are always favorites. I’d say the new Men’s Tank Tank singlet is my go-to piece lately.
INKnBURN Ambassador Laura Buitron has been traveling for a while now, taking a sabbatical year from her job as a yacht captain to travel from Aspen, Colorado to her father’s hometown in Brazil. But, she’s not taking plane, train or automobile to get there. Instead, she’s riding her “bike”, a BMW F800GS Adventure motorcycle that she has named Plus Ultra. When Laura’s not biking (which means moving a 900-pound motorcycle, including herself and her gear) for 8 hours each day, she’s trail running. And, of course, she can switch seamlessly from activity to activity thanks to INKnBURN clothing!
This past week, I had the chance to interview Laura. Despite traveling through Columbia and having to email me back at 3 a.m., Laura was gracious enough to agree!
Who is Laura Buitron?
I’m Spanish (passport, family origin and where I lived for 11 years), Argentinian (where I was born), and Brazilian (where I lived for 17 years).
At the age of 7, while living still in Brazil, my father bought me a beach scooter, which I used to get all over the dunes on my way to buy groceries for my mom. Then, at the age of 10, we moved to Spain where we had a dairy farm. To reach the mountain fields to check on our cows, my father bought me a little 50cc dirt bike. And after that came an old 500 cc motorbike that he got as exchange for the rent of a pasture field.
I have a Biology degree with a Master in Marine Ecology from USP in Brazi. But the love for the ocean and sailing made me change careers and become a yacht captain. I obtained my 200 Tons Captain license & 3000 Tons Officer of the Watch in the UK and worked my way up to Yacht Captain over 13 years.
Why are you riding to Brazil?
I’m on a solo riding trip, from USA to Brazil. This journey is called “Ashes to Freedom” and is dedicated to my dad. In Brazil I will be collecting my dad’s ashes to scatter them throughout this favorite places in South America and give him back his freedom. It’s the same freedom he gave to me at 7 years old when he bought me my first motorcycle.
How long have you been running?
Almost 4 years. I started at the age of 40.
Why do you enjoy running?
I’m very much an introvert. I’m not shy, but I get a little overwhelmed by crowds. Running has helped me in this as it gets me out of my cocoon. The running community has something special–they’re welcoming and caring, but don’t suffocate me! I find many like-minded people.
How did your ultra running journey begin?
We live in a very limited space working on yachts. We move pretty much constantly and we have a very hectic schedule. I was a workaholic and started to feel burned out; I needed something of my own, something that could take me away–running was the perfect fit. On the boat we’re not really able to carry many personal things and a pair of running shoes is something everyone has on board. Running became a therapy and a reason to get out off the boat. Plus, I had the chance to run through all the beautiful places we stopped at, like Spain, France, Italy, Greece, USA, Bahamas and Australia. A Captain friend of mine, INKnBURN Elite Grant Maughan, was already running, so I went to him and asked him, “Teach me how to
run long distance!”
What races do you run?
I pretty much only race on trail, though I train on a lot of tarmac. But it’s trail running and being in nature that makes me feel alive. I’ve run a few half marathons, but mostly trail marathons and 50Ks, my favorite distance. I also ran Boston and qualified pretty well in my age group. I’m proud of my Pikes Peak Marathon race where I was the 4th Master, then in the Sky Running Series I was 1st Master in Crystal Mountain (and it was monetary prize!) Each race has its particularities and I run for the beauty of the courses.
Have you always been active?
Since the age of 12 years old, I needed to work on my dad’s farm so there wasn’t too much time to play around. It was school and work. When we lived on the dairy farm in Spain, we worked hard as we needed to collect the grass to feed the cows, but also store some for winter. We would go cut the grass, rake it, pack it and then take it to the farm–all by hand. We used to collect up to 10,000 bails of hay each summer, and each bail would weight 18 lbs. We’d carry and drag on in each hand to make the process go faster.
How did you first hear about INKnBURN?
I saw some runners wearing INKnBURN at one of the first races I ran and went over to talk to them. They introduced me to the company and when I learned that INKnBURN is a small, made-in-USA company that produces outstanding designs that will turn heads, well, my heart was taken! Plus, most athletic gear is boring…same colors, same patterns. INKnBURN is unique. Everybody looks good in it; it’s absolutely gorgeous, fun and sexy!
What’s your favorite INKnBURN item?
I like the jean leggings and many of the t-shirts because I can use them for any occasion; I use them for work, to go out, to train, to race and to travel. INKnBURN is multifunctional clothing. My soul identifies with INKnBURN designs so I’m very fortunate to be able to wear it! It’s a way to express myself: fun, happy, colorful, challenging and daring.
To follow along on Laura’s “Ashes to Freedom” journey, check out her Instagram (@chickamotorunner) or Facebook Page (Chicka Motorunner).
Special thanks to Photographer Adam Stephens of BlackSwanMoto.com for our cover photo.
INKnBURN Ambassador Rebecca Wells bravely shares her reflections on a shocking diagnosis at a young age and how running has impacted her healing and growth:
Last June found me at the Rock-n-Roll Seattle Half Marathon with two of my closest girlfriends. It was my last hurrah at running before two upcoming surgeries. The first surgery was to put something in my body: a titanium rod in my lower left leg to allow my left tibia to heal the three really bad stress fractures (Google “dreaded black line fracture” to get an idea of what my stress fractures were like) I had incurred from training for a marathon, triathlons, and playing weekly co-ed soccer. The second surgery was to take something out of my body: a cancerous tumor from my rectum to be exact. In March of 2014, I was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer. I had gone into the doctor’s office thinking I would get a hemorrhoid diagnosis, and a colonoscopy later, was shocked to learn I had cancer. I ate healthy, I lived a healthy lifestyle, and had no family history of colorectal cancer. BIG SHOCK.
In between March and June, I did 28 rounds of radiation and oral chemotherapy. Despite the stress fractures and the fatigue from radiation, I still managed to crank out a PR for a 10K race (sub one-hour was my goal, and I got it!) and run a couple of 5K races. But, by the end of May, my body was seriously spent from the radiation, and training was out of the question. I thought about deferring the half marathon in Seattle, but the plane ticket was purchased and the hotel room was booked, and my friends would be there. I decided to go ahead and do the race the best I was able, and to make the most of the adventure to a new city with my gal pals.
At the Rock-n-Roll Seattle expo, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a funky shirt that said “Run or Die” on it. With all that I had endured and was going to go through with surgeries and chemotherapy infusions, that motto resonated with me. I had never heard of the INKnBURN brand before, but the sales girls were super helpful and patient as I thumbed through all of the designs they had on hand and made my final selections. I walked away with the denim capris, the Run or Die tank, and another tank, which I wore for the race the next day. Even though that was my slowest half marathon (at that time…I have since done two much, much slower—one less than two weeks after chemo infusions ended and another just recently where I was undertrained and overexcited!), I was so happy to be running and outside and doing what I loved.
After that race, my whole life changed. The two surgeries occurred within two weeks of one another, and shortly after my tumor removal, my chemo infusions started. I was hooked up to chemo for three days and to hydration and anti-nausea meds for another day, repeating this about every other week for a total of nine rounds over five-and-a-half months. The treatments took a huge toll on my weakened body, and I resigned from my full time job as the dean of instruction at an inner-city high school. On January 7, 2015, I rang the bell signifying the end of my chemo treatments, wearing none other than my denim InkNBurn capris. They are my go-to clothing item. I’ve worn them with running shoes and high heels, and I have not worn them without compliments and strangers wanting to touch my legs (that sounds creepier than it actually is!).
On Sunday, November 8 2015, almost exactly 10 months after ringing that bell, I proudly participated in the Get Your Rear in Gear Run-Houston as a Stage III colorectal cancer survivor. While it wasn’t my first post-treatment race, this one is exciting for me as I was not only on the event committee, but I was also a featured survivor for the Houston edition of the race series wearing—you guessed it—my denim INKnBURN capris.
Most recently, in March of this year, I reclaimed my title as Overall Survivor Female at the SCOPE 5K Run for colorectal cancer awareness. I am slowly but surely getting stronger in my runs…and in life. Upcoming races include the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas followed by a half marathon in Belize at the end of the year.
Because of residual side effects from treatment, working full time outside of the home is not an option for me at this point. So, I work part time from home, and I am now a certified running coach, which allows me to wear whatever I want. So, I have definitely added to my INKnBURN collection in the last year. For example, the robot capris are a nod to my titanium tibia. The clothes travel well, and are perfect for my once-again active lifestyle. And, the Run or Die series still echoes my mantra. I choose to RUN!
To connect with Rebecca and learn more about her journey and efforts to spread awareness about Colorectal Cancer, please visit her page: https://www.facebook.com/fightlikeaboss
I grew up loathing running. I think I always associated it with the awkwardness of middle school, when I had body image issues of being too tall, too thin, too flat – and too slow. I knew nothing about pace back then, and gym class always went the same way: when we had to run laps, I would gamely take off from the starting line, but would go out too fast and stagger to a breathless walk halfway around the track. Gym teachers’ harangues ringing in my ears, I grew up convinced I was slow, couldn’t run, hated exercise. I would watch neighborhood joggers and community 5K runners enviously: why couldn’t my body do what seemed so normal to everyone else? I embraced photography, horseback riding, gardening, and books, dismissing aerobic sports as unordained for me.
6” changed everything. Last May, I missed a step, crashing onto one kneecap. My daily commute became a dreaded, tearful experience. Stairs were petrifying. Riding or kneeling to garden were out of the question.
Though other activities remained challenging, after months of physical therapy I could walk normally, and colleagues talked me into a 5K run/walk during our school’s homecoming festivities. In the spirit of office camaraderie, I agreed to walk, but when I got there, the idyllic course on a glorious October day made a little jogging irresistible. I anticipated soon quitting in pain, but to everyone’s surprise – most of all mine! – my knee didn’t hurt. Cautiously I continued, hypervigilant for the slightest twinge, discovering with surprise that slowing down allowed me to run farther than I expected. I jogged 2/3 of that race, floating the remainder on a euphoric cloud.
My physical therapist was supportive and said if I wanted to run, he would help me do it safely. He introduced a treadmill program, encouraging perseverance when newfound enthusiasm produced impatience with walking intervals – I wanted to run! The program taught me pace and built endurance, making running more enjoyable. Most importantly, it showed me I can run: not for teacher approval or stopwatch, but simply for joy.
However, I was still extremely self-conscious about the clothing that seemed to go with the sport. The adolescent body image issues had never completely dissipated; a sedentary lifestyle had eventually led to weight gain and different variety of dislike for the mirror. Though I lost a lot of that weight when I started running, a lifetime of self-criticism still made it nearly impossible to see anything in my reflection but heavy thighs and a lack of curves. Running clothing all seemed to draw attention to a physique I didn’t want anyone focusing on. Through the winter it was less of an issue, as months of freezing weather allowed me to cover everything with multiple layers of sweatshirts, jackets, and pants. But warming spring temperatures necessitated less gear, and then one day PT forced the issue. “We need to start working on that IT band, and I can’t work on it through capris. Please wear shorts next time.”
Uh oh. I hadn’t willingly worn gym shorts in public since I finished the last required day of high school phys. ed. When I dug through my dresser drawer, I found that the elastic on my only pair had dry rotted. Thus began my search for running clothes I could feel confident about.
At the same time, I had joined a running club, and one day someone commented that when you run your first half marathon, you’ll feel like you killed a dragon. For some reason, that image stuck with me, and when I stumbled upon INKnBURN’s Ryu line midway through training for my first half, I knew immediately that this had to be my race shirt! I was terrified when the day arrived, and I can’t begin to describe how much extra grit and determination it gave me to put on that beautiful blue tech shirt. I was going to slay this dragon!
It was an amazing race. I ran it exactly the way I trained it and finished almost a minute under my goal time. I was so happy the whole way that I think I’m smiling in every single photo. At the end, though, I was surprisingly unelated – and confused about why. This should have felt like the accomplishment of a lifetime! A year ago I couldn’t even run a mile, and I had just finished 13.1. Why wasn’t I ecstatic? I realized it was because I was stronger than I ever realized, and all the training I had done had prepared me so well for the distance that it didn’t seem like a big deal. It didn’t feel like killing a dragon because distance running just wasn’t that big and scary any more!
The InknBurn dragon has become a symbol to me, not just of mountains to be conquered, but of strength I never knew I had. He comes out on days when I’m discouraged and need to be reminded of what I can do, and on days when I am thrilled just to be able to run for the joy of it. He also reminds me that this strength is far more important than anyone else’s perception of what I look like, and in that regard my dragon is slaying demons that have haunted me most of my life.