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Friday, November 29, 2013

Team CMT Celebrates Thanksgiving



" Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something."- unknown


Several Team CMT members kicked off their Thanksgiving by raising awareness of CMT by participating in several road races.  They could have been inside in the warm smelling that Turkey cooking, but they chose to brave the cold to represent Team CMT.

The events were largely family affairs and it is really great to see not only our Team CMT athletes out there, but there family members as well.

Team CMT Appleton
We had two Team CMT members represent us in Appleton Wisconsin
Dawn Frizell and Chris Steinke booth rane in the Turkey Trot in Appleton, Wisconsin.


 For Dawn it was a double holiday as she and her family celebrated Hannukkah and Thanksgiving. She says she thinks she needs to run a bit more to run off all the indulgences of the day.

For the Steinke family the Appleton race was a family event. Chris was joined by his family at the Appleton event.


I loved seeing the support Chris got from his family and he looks great in his Team CMT shirt. You all look awesome.  The support of family member's is so important.

Team CMT- Milwaukee
Milwaukee always comes through and Thanksgiving was no different.



Team CMT member Kevin Klein and his son Henry celebrated their Thanksgiving at the Mayor' Turkey Day 0 K in Kenosha Wisconsin. I've done this race in the past and it is a lot of fun.  Thanks guys, you look fast. Henry took 8th in his age group.  Way to go

Team Washington
Last but now least we have the OConnor family.   They ran the Turkey Trot in Longview, Washington. They said it was 3.5 chilly miles.

 Team members Alyson and Brooke were joined by soon to be members Jake and Jim. Alyson are one of two Mother Daughter teams and Brooke is our youngest member. Looking forward to having Jake and Jim on the team.

I am so thankful for all your effort  Thank you to everyone that has put on a Team CMT uniform this year for an event, shared blog posts, raised money for CMT research and recruited members for the team. I am so blessed to have all of you working with me.

At my bike class on Wednesday night the instructor asked all of us to name something were are thankful for. I said I was thankful because I could swim, bike and run. I have so many things to be thankful for.

Here are just a few from my list:
-Hereditary Neuropathy Sponsorship of Team CMT
- The 138 members of Team CMT
- Being able to still be active and participate in runs and triathlons.
-Publication of "Running for My Life" Winning for CMT.
-Spot on the US Team

It has a great year for the team. We have grown and are doing more and more events. Keep racing, posting pictures and telling everyone about it. Raising awareness of CMT is so important as we work to find treatments and a cure.
I want you all to be able to keep racing for many years.

*************************
Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Race Around the World Race Report


Age Group Award International Institute 5K Run Around the World

"Use what you love, to fight what you hate."- Will Harris, Trainer and International Consultant


My new coach Heather Haviland wanted me to run a 5K as a time trial. My race time would be used to design my workouts.

I haven't run a 5 K for two years. The last 10 K I did was just a few weeks before the Boston Marathon last year.   I picked the International Institute for a number of reasons. First I knew it would be a small race and I like small races. The RACC race in Waukesha drew 1300 runners the same day.  This run a few hundred.
Small runs mean easy parking, easy packet pick up and no big crowd at the start.

I could have waited to do a run on Thanksgiving day, but I had very personal reasons for running this race.
The International Institute helps new emigrants get a start in Milwaukee. Their big fundraiser is Folk Fair.  All the area ethnic groups put on an indoor festival of food, exhibits, marketplace and dancing.

I made my first trip to Folk Fair as a young girl with my parents and grandparents. I still have the tiny jewelry box I bought from the Japanese booth.  My mom sister and I went every year on Sunday to Folk Fair right after Church. We would hit the International Cafe with all the food booths, then shop, see the cultural booths and go to the dance shows. I always admired the dancers and wanted to perform with them so badly.

Well one day I got my wish and I first joined the Slovak Tatra dance group then the Czech Slovak group.

Here I am in one of the costumes I used to perform. It is my personal costume and was restored by my dance director Sonka Tostrud. It is from the same region as my great grandparents.  I was so proud to represent my heritage every year. I would often think of the sacrifices they made to come to this country to make a better life for their family. They left behind all their family and friends. I am so proud of them and of being part Slovak!

Folk Fair was at one time a really big event. As many as 8000 people could be in attendance when we danced our main show in the arena.  People would come in by the bus load from all over the Midwest.There was also a huge beer garden which held several thousand.  It was so much fun. I danced for over 10 years. Even though it was some times stressful I loved it.

The venue ended up being moved to its present local a few years ago due to cost. The event has gotten smaller and smaller. I got busy with graduate school and other things so I have not danced in a number of years. I don't think I could fit it into my schedule now anyways.

Still the race was a chance for me to be part of the event again. Race entry included admission to Folk Fair. The race was also one of a number of races around the world run at 9 am on Sunday. Venues included Finland, South Africa and Cyprus.

It was 10F at the start and if I had not promised my coach a race time I probably would have stayed home. It was also windy. The kind of wind that cuts right through you.

I did my warm up  and was ready when the gun went off. The gun shot was done by two Folk Fair performers in Colonial army uniforms.  The course was flat but the pavement was not in the best shape and really uneven. Not good for me since my ankles turn easily on uneven surfaces.

One of the fun things about the race was it was run on the race track of the Milwaukee mile.  It was over quickly and I had a time of 31:04. Much slower than I would like. Every race is just a reminder of how slow I am getting the the toll the CMT is taking. Still I know I am lucky to be running at all.  I have realized you don't have to be good at something to really love it. I am using running and triathlon to fight the thing I hate;CMT.

The scoring was super fast. Two screens were set up for race results. I typed in my bib number and found out I was 2nd in my age group. I thought they were only giving awards for the top runner so I did not plan to stay for the awards.  While they were figuring out awards I took a trip through the international cafe. I had a wonderful piece of apple strudel and some Serbian bread. I strolled around and looked at all the bakery. I went through the cultural exhibits. Such good memories. I wandered back to the coffee house were the awards were to be held. I thought I would hang out and watch since I was not ready for the cold walk back to my car. To my surprise they were making awards to the top three places. The towel in the picture was my 2nd place age group award. I think I was supposed to get a coffee mug. I am OK with the towel since I can use it in Computrainer class.
Well I did my time trial and I survived the almost single digit temperatures. All in all a good day.

**********************


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Good Food, Good Memories


Zucchini Bread for Thanksgiving

" Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all food; good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts."- James Beard

Because I am an athlete I often get asked about what I eat. I try to eat a reasonably healthy diet, but nothing too strict. I make most of what I eat and avoid processed foods for the most part.  One of things I really love is fresh bread right out of the oven.  I have never been convinced bread is evil, and think you can eat most anything in moderation.

It was a really busy weekend, on Saturday I had a swim clinic and on Sunday a 5K race.  So I did not think I was going to have much time to cook or bake.

But I promised to make the bread for Thanksgiving and it is tough to do it after work.  When I got up to go to my race on Sunday it was 10 degrees. When I got home the house was at 60 F because the furnace had stopped working.

The furnace guy is up north deer hunting and because he has not yet bagged his buck he could not come today and the friend he recruited to come fix the furnace could not come until Monday.  Because my house is brick and I have radiator heat the house stays pretty warm and I have a portable electric heater. So doing some baking would help to keep the house warm. It was a little chilly since the temperature had dropped inside the house to 60 F.  So some bread baking would be just the think to kick up the temperature.

My mom and I would always do the baking and cooking for Thanksgiving and it always included bread just like this.  For her food was love and her way of showing her family how much she cared about them. I have lots of good memories of the time we spent together in the kitchen. She usually did not use a recipe and I didn't today either for the first recipe.

The base of the bread is zucchini milk. Just ground up zucchini. I got the zucchini from a garden at work right outside of the training center. It is a great way to sneak some vegatables into my diet because I don't really love green vegatables.  This bread is really moist. I add some wheat flour to make it a little healthier.

To make it I put the zuchinni milk in a pan with butter and warm it up. Then add it to a bowl that has yeast, sugar a little water and flour.  Then go in the eggs and flour to make the dough. I let it rise to doubled, shape into the rolls, then rise again and bake.

While the dough was rising I made some oven baked chicken and mixed up a batch of lemon bread.
Lemon Bread


I got this recipe from my friend Cindy. She was the one that I visited when I did the Duathlon National Championship a few weeks ago. She gave me this recipe the first time I visited her in Arizona.  On both visits she gave me lemons off her tree. I love this recipe because it is easy and quick to make and tastes like pound cake.

1/2 cup butter softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
Grated peel from one lemon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup milk

Beat butter and add sugar. Continue beating until fluffy.  Add eggs and lemon peel. Alternate adding the flour and milk. Mix in the pecans. Pour batter into a buttered loaf pan. Just butter the bottom.  Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool ten minutes.  Squeeze the lemon juice from the lemon over the top of the warm bread.  Let cool another 20 minutes and remove from the pan to cool. This bread freezes well.

I love both these recipes. There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread. I love it warm with butter. The house was up to 73 F by the time I was done.  Making this bread today brought back good memories of cooking and baking with my mom and my friend Cindy.  

A busy but good weekend that ended with some good comfort food.

*********


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Team CMT News



" Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking."- William B. Sprague


It has been awhile since I posted an update on the team. We now have 138 members in 31 states. I don't mean to leave anyone out in this update, I am just going to hit a few high points from the last few months.

Team CMT-Missouri

First up is CJ Charbonneau.  CJ not only ran a Boston qualifying marathon time. She was accepted for the 2014 race. The race was expanded this year to 30,000 runners because of the high interest in the race. Even with the increased field size, a Boston race number was tough to get.  Team CMT will have a number of members in the race including Chris Wodke and guide Cheryl Monnat. CJ is also going to use the Boston event to raise money for the HNF for CMT research.  She is going to do all this training while also working on a graduate degree.  Proud of you CJ, I cannot wait to meet you this April in Boston.

Team CMT-Arkansas

Erin Truitt is the sister of long time Team CMT member Megan Seebeck.  It seems like just about every week Erin is representing Team CMT in a race. She and sister Megan did a half marathon in Chicago earlier this year. Just a few weeks ago Erin raced for Team CMT at the River Valley Half Marathon. You can see in the photo that Erin is wearing not only her finisher medal, but a 1st place in her age group. She told me she is getting faster in every race and if I remember right she was under 2 hours for this race.

Team CMT-Florida

In October Joy Von Werder competed as a para triathlete at the Great Floridian. This was a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike. I do not know how Joy is able to bike so far. I find it amazing.  Any USAT certified race must now offer a para category if asked. As athletes with CMT we are eligible for this option, no classification is needed.  Like Joy you can request to be scored separately and ask for any accommodations you need like an in water start. I am very proud of Joy.  Joy has recently returned to school for a physical therapy assistant degree. Joy was my coach for the last 18 months and has taken me from tri newbie to seasoned veteran. Because of her new commitments I have changed coaches to someone local. I want to thank Joy for her wisdom and friendship.


Team CMT Wisconsin

Well every update seems to contain news about our Wisconsin team because most of our members are from Wisconsin.  Big news is Team CMT member Robert Kearney completed the Ironman Arizonia course last weekend.  This event is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. It is a long day for any athlete. From watching Robert's bike splints it looks like it was a windy day in Tempe. It is so awesome to see a Team CMT member doing such a high profile event. A great day for the team!  Congratulations Robert!



Kathy Stultz continues to be an active member of our team. She has announced she will be running the Green Bay Marathon this spring. Kathy and her son Lincoln shown here race to raise awareness for family member Regan.  Thank you guys for being so active.

I know just about every weekend we have Team CMT members racing, riding, swimming or cycling to raise awareness for CMT and funds for CMT research. I am so proud of all of you. I expect it will be a busy Thanksgiving weekend for Team CMT.  Keep up the good work and keep those pictures and race stories coming you are making a difference. You inspire those affected by CMT! I know you inspire me!!!


*******************

Oro Valley AZ at Duathlon National Championship 2013

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.


Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stew Sunday



"Unless you stole it, eating any food should feel guilt free." Unknown

Guilt Free Chicken Stew
  Some weekends I don't cook much.  This weekend I was working on the second round of book edits. I've also started making jewelry for holiday gifts and to sell.

So this stew was the perfect recipe. I just put it in the stockpot while I was busy doing other things.  This is just more comfort food for this time of year. It was cold and rainy all weekend here in Milwaukee. This is just the perfect food to warm you up on the inside when it is nasty outside.

Guilt Free Chicken Stew
2 ½ to 3 lb frying chicken whole or cup up
3 cups water
4 chicken flavor bouillon cubs
2 stalks of celery cut into small pieces
½ large yellow onions chopped.
1/3 cup corn starch
½ cup water
1 ½ cup frozen mixed vegetables

Put chicken in stock pot with water, celery, onion and bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from stockpot. Refrigerate stock and chicken overnight.  Skim fat off of top of stock. Remove skin and meat from chicken. Discard skin and return chicken to skimmed stock. Bring chicken stock mixture to a low simmer.   Add vegetables. Mix corn starch and water. Add a bit at a time until mixture reaches desired thickness.

Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes

I used yellow potatoes and mashed them with a bit of sour cream and milk.


Serves 6

******************************
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.



Saturday, November 16, 2013

USAT 2013 National Duathlon Sprint Championship- Race Report


Chris Wodke at USAT 2013 National Duathlon Sprint Championship

" What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
Robert Schueller American Pastor and Inspirational Speaker

The race was a last minute addition to my race schedule. It was really just an excuse to visit a college friend. I was way over due for a visit to my friend Cindy who lives in Phoenix.

The race was scheduled for Oro Valley near Tucson so it was a good excuse for a girls weekend. It is just a couple hour drive from Phoenix. It was nice to have a spectator, most of my races this season I went to alone. So it was nice to have someone taking pictures and cheering.

This would be my third National Championship of the season:

  • National Paratriathlon Sprint Championship
  • Age Group National Sprint Triathlon Championship
  • Duathlon National Sprint Championship


The race was located at Ventura Medical Systems just 1 1/2 miles from my hotel. The resort headquarters was also just a couple of miles away.

Everything about this race was easy and convenient for me as a athlete.

Expo
The expo was a really low key affair. The volunteers were wearing the same orange volunteer tee shirts we wore as volunteers here in Milwaukee. The whole expo fit into one small room. It was really just two vendors.  I got my packet, bought a souvenir pint glass and we were on our way.

Recreation
A friend of mine has a house in Oro Valley, less than five miles from the race site. His house is right next to state land. He said there was a dry wash leading to the area. We went to check it out. I guess I assumed there would be a hiking trail.  There was none, but we hiked around. The bad part was I was in socks and sandals and these things called jumping choyas kept getting on my socks. They look like a round ball covered in spines. I was so afraid I would get spines in my feet and have to race with spines embedded in my feet.  Getting back to his house was not easy, We thought we found a path but it was all brush. A nice senior citizen let us climb down into his back yard.

Race Day
One of the things I love about this race was my wave did not start until 12:00. Now that is civilized. Not 3 am wake up call, no setting up transition in the dark. The Standard distance races were first. We had nothing else to do so we came and watched.  My friend sat in the shade and worked on a baby afghan she is making for a gift. I hung out and tried to relax. I knew with only 13 women in my age group, if I finished I would gain a spot on Team USA and be eligible to compete at the Duathlon World Championship in Spain.
Transition opened up an hour before my race and I was ready to get started.

Race
My distance was really easy. A 2.5 K run, 20 K bike, and all ending with a 2.5 K run.  The USAT says in their Triathlon Training book that Duathlon is considered more grueling than triathlon because of the second run. I can say I did not miss the swim and it was nice not to be wet through the whole race.

Run -1
The course was absolutely flat. I was tired at the start and I felt my blood sugar dropping. It does not happen often, but when it does it is never good. I get shaky and weak. I was lucky that the first aid station at 1 mile was stocked with GU. One packet and I was good to go, with no problems the rest of the race.

Bike
When I looked at the race course video on line, the course looked flat.  The video was deceiving. It was lots of really long gradually hills. Not much flat. It was hot and windy. Guessing about 20 mph.  It gets windy in the afternoon in Arizona and our race must have just hit that time. I knew I was on the U.S. team if  I finished, but as an athlete I wanted to do my best to really earn my spot.  Even though I was on a rented bike with no computer, I put everything thing I had into both the bike and run portions.  It was a short course and even with the wind was one of the easier bike legs of my season. I passed lots of other athletes.  I traded places several time with one woman and finally put her away in the last couple of miles.

Run-2
I always like finishing with a run. I started my competitive life as a runner.  I have lots of miles on my legs, I know when I get to the last leg, it is all over but the celebration.  The swim and bike always seem like they are risky. In the swim I fight fear and jockey for position with other swimmers. The swim is so technique dependent and I feel it is a weak area for me. No swim in this race. On the bike I am always so worried about a flat ending my race. Well when I get to the run, I just have to put one foot in front of the other and before I know it I am crossing the finish line.

One of the things I like about these races is every athlete has their age written on the back of their calf.  I passed lots of 20 and thirty somethings in the second run leg.   Thirty yards before the finish I spotted a women in my age group and burned past her. Silly I know, but I thought what if she is in third place and I did not pass her. This is where being a runner pays off. Most of the athletes are dragging through the 2nd run leg and I was able to finish strong.

Well I ended up 8th out of 13 with a time of 1 hr 14 minutes. Not bad for only my second duathlon. I will do much better on my own bike and if I don' t run past my bike in transition.

I got my finisher medal which looks exactly like the medal I got for Age Group Nationals here in Milwaukee. It was a good experience.

When I signed up I had no idea I would be earning a spot on Team USA.  I am so excited to be going to the World Championship in Spain in May.  It is all the sweeter because it was all such a surprise. After working so hard for two years to make the US team as a para triathlete, I literally walk into a spot as an age group athlete.  So for the accomplishment it was one of the most stress free races I have ever done. That feels nice for a change. No pressure and a great result.

I won't win anything in Spain, but it is going to be the experience of a lifetime.

*********
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Valley Places


My Aunt Toni

One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peaks.”- G.K. Chesterton, English Essayist, Novelist, and Poet

On Monday I took a day of vacation. I didn’t go shopping, see a movie or do anything fun. I attended my Aunt Toni’s funeral.  She was only 72 and I expected her to live many years.  My mom passed away at age 79 after a lifetime of smoking. So I thought Aunt Toni who had lived an active and healthy life would be around for many years. She got a really aggressive form an cancer and was gone in what seemed like an instant.  I didn’t want to say good bye. 

She had been an important part of my life growing up and later as an adult when I went through a tough time.

I grew up in a family of seven kids.  Money was always tight. We never went hungry, but like a lot of kids from big families we wore hand me down clothes and there was not much money for treats.

So we never went on family vacations. There was just no money for it and I am sure my dad did not want to be locked into a station wagon with seven kids.  One of the great treats of the summer was a visit to my Aunt Toni and Uncle Dewey’s house. Their kids Cheri, Neil and Coleen were my favorite cousins. I am 10 years older than Coleen and I can remember helping to take care of her  when she was a baby on one of my summer visits.

When I was really young my Aunt and Uncle lived on a farm. What a treat for a city kid to have wide open spaces for running around. We got to jump around in the hay barn and have all kinds of fun.

Later my aunt and uncle bought a bar in Ixonia, Wisconsin that eventually included a bowling alley. We would have the run of the place druing the day while it was closed. My aunt would open up bowling lanes for us and the kids from next store would come over. We also had use of the pool tables, pin ball machines and the juke box. Sometimes for lunch my Aunt would let us order from the bar menu. Pizza burgers and pizza were frequent requests.  When we got tired of that there was a pool and a swing set or we would ride our bikes around town. What a kid paradise. Sometimes there were outing to the Jefferson Country fair or a fishing trip. I had so much fun with my cousin’s I never wanted to go home.

My mom and my Aunt were always very close. So both families got together often for holidays and the usual family events like weddings, graduations and funerals. We always got together twice a year to visit the cemetery and take care of the graves of my grandparents and great grandparents, followed by lunch at a local Chinese restaurant.

 It sounds kind of weird but it was something I looked forward to because I would see my Aunt. We went in May and December. She had a May birthday so I would always bring a present of homemade soap or jewelry and she always had some craft item for me. At Christmas it was always a hand painted ornament. She loved my homemade soap, Such lovely keepsakes that I still cherish.

It was at a family event that my Uncle heard that I was unemployed and offered me part time work in his business. They had sold the bowling alley years before and moved out to a farm where he also ran a small business. He needed someone to help with some computer work for his business. It was easy stuff, sending out bills, marking invoices complete, that sort of thing.
It was only 10 or so hours at a time, but since their house was an hour drive away I would always stay overnight.  My Uncle was easy to work for and I would get out of bed and work all day in my sweats. One of the best jobs I ever had partly because I got to spend time with my Aunt and Uncle.

When my Aunt got home from work she would make dinner. After dinner she and I would do crafts, or watch musicals. If the Packers were playing we would watch that. If I had just gotten back from a trip we would look at my pictures and drink tea. We both like our tea with milk a habit I picked up on a trip to England.

The craft part was really fun. I am a crafter too, but no where near as talented as my Aunt Toni. She was an art major in college. She was a gifted painter and very creative. When I would visit she would show me what she was working on and if I admired it she would offer it to me. I have some really wonderful craft items she made for me.

When I would go back home after a visit my car would be loaded with produce from her garden and often meat from her freezer.

I did not know when I would find a real job. It took me almost 18 months to find a job. She helped turn a valley place into a wonderful time for me.  I still think about how much fun it was to get to know her and enjoy her company.

During that same time I discovered how much I enjoy writing and that I had a talent for it. I worked as a freelance writer developing training materials. I saw an ad and thought I can do that and approached the company.  I created dozens of training programs and really honed my writing skills.

 I used that ability to land my next job. I brought a portfolio of the course I had created. The hiring manager later told me that is what landed me the job. I’ve now spent 15 years with We Energies and writing is still a major part of my job.

I went on to write for two blogs and am about to have a book published. None of which would have happened if I had not discovered my love of writing during that tough time.

Once I got a job I did not see my aunt and uncle so much. We still had our twice a year outing to the cemetery. We exchanged emails. We even made plans to do a soap making lesson, but I cancelled at the last minute because my mom was in the hospital. That turned out to be the day my mom passed away.  

I did not see my Aunt much in the last two years because she started to have her own health problems, she was busy and I had things to do also.  So I’m really glad we had that time together when I worked for them. Being unemployed is not easy, but I have fond memories of that time because of the time I spent with my Aunt Toni.

No one likes going through those tough times, me least of all.  I know that no matter how tough it is, God will be right beside me helping me through those tough times. He will provide people like my Aunt and Uncle. He will give me the wisdom to recognize the opportunities only available in those valley places. Sometimes you don’t know the value of the experience or what you learned until years later.

I learned from my Aunt that sometimes the simplest gestures like her generous, caring and creative spirit can have profound effects on someone else’s life. Just the simple act of taking care of them and spending time with them can mean more than you will even know. Creating something beautiful like the ornaments she painted create lasting memories of love and good times spent together.

Being diagnosed with CMT could have been a valley place.  Having CMT, even a mild case like mine can be life altering.  But with the CMT has come opportunities to use my writing and athletic talent.  I never would have written a book or done races all over the country. Soon I will represent the USA at the World Duathlon Champsionships in Spain. I never would have done any of it without the desire I had to raise awareness about CMT.  So out of another valley place, amazing things have happened.

If I wave a magic wand and make my CMT go away I would. But until there a cure I will continue my work to raise awareness and money for research. I know being in those valley places is not easy, especially when there seems to be no end. I just know that in those places God is working and amazing things can happen.  

So thank you Aunt Toni, I loved you and I will miss you.

*********

 Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Comfort Food


"Food is a lot of people's therapy - when we say comfort food, we really mean that. It's releasing dopamine and serotonin in your brain that makes you feel good."


I am starting to gear up to train for my third Boston Marathon. That means preparing my body for the training load by starting to ramp up my mileage and by making sure I am eating healthy food. It is getting cold here in Milwaukee which makes me think of comfort food.

In fall comfort food usually means something with pumpkin and I have two recipes.  First a soup. I love this soup because it tastes good and is healthy. After this season I decided I needed to eat a bit healthier. So this a soup like this is a good choice because it is low fat and helps me get more vegetables.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

½ fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 can ( 15 ounce) pumpkin
1 can ( 12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Thai red curry
½ teaspoon salt


In a soup pot saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter until they soften. Add the flour.  Add broth, pumpkin, milk, honey and spices.  Add salt to taste.  Heat through. Makes 7 servings.

While I was on this comfort food kick I decided to make some desert. I have a sweet tooth.  I am trying to make some deserts that are at least a little on the healthy side.  I had some left over bread so I thought a bread pudding sounded good.  It is an excuse to turn on the oven. I love it when the house gets all warm with the great smell of bread or a yummy desert in the oven.  I didn't have any raisins so I decided to make this recipe.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding.


6 large eggs
1 can pumpkin ( 16 ounces)
3 cups Fat Free half and half
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup Brandy (optional)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
8 cups bread cut into ½ inch pieces

Combine the eggs, pumpkin, half & half, sugar, spices and brandy in a bowl.  Mix well and add the bread.  Pour into a buttered  9” x 13” pan. Let the mixture rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.   Pre-heat oven to 350F and bake the pudding for 40 to 50 minutes until the custard is set and the top is just starting to brown.

Great served warm with whipped cream.

Makes about 18 small servings.

To make it special I put it in a desert glass and topped with a little cool whip.

Enjoy!

*****************
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

National Duathlon Championship Race Goodies- 2013

Finisher Medal 2013 USAT National Duathon Championship

" Success isn't about how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where your started."- Steve Prefontaine.

I traveled a long way just to get to the starting line of the race in Oro Valley, Arizona. First a flight to Phoenix from Milwaukee, then a 2 hours drive with college friend Cindy Stefanovic.  We had a nice chance to visit and catch up.  It was really nice to have her along because I ususally do not have a cheering section at my races, expecially away races.

I'm not fast so I know I won't be earning one of the awards given to the top three finishers in each age group. Every finisher gets a medal for completing the course and every participant gets a bag of goodies as part of their participant packet.

The packet at the Age Group Triathlon Nationals had lots of cool stuff. So I was excited to get back to the hotel and dump out my goodie bag.  First was a cool USAT cap.

 The only time I have gotten a cap was here in Milwaukee at age group nationals.  Here is the rest of my loot.

Socks:  a nice pari of USAT Triathlon socks, this is a heavy cotton pair. Not good for running, but nice for computrainer class or just walking around. I will wear them to work with my sandals so everyone can see my USAT Duathlon socks. Maybe I will even wear them on the plane on the way to Spain for the World Championships.  I love getting socks as part of the package. Any athlete goes through lots and lots of socks and they are a nice reminder of the race.

Number:  The set of numbers is important. Runners have one they pin to the front of their shirt. Triathletes and Duathletes have multiple numbers. In this case there were numbers for our helmet, bike, gear bag and for the run.

Race Tats:  These are right in the midddle. They are the temporry race number tatoos that identify you on race day. You see all the pros wearing them in big races. I feel big time when I wear them.  They go on the upper part of each arm and on the side of your calves. They must be clearly visible to race officials.  I know when I worked as a volunteer timer here in Milwaukee I would look for these numbers.  The only problem with these cool tatoos is they are hard to get off. I had to turn to the Tri Wisconsin Facebook group after the National Championshsip in Austin to find out how to get them off. The trick is baby oil and lots and lots of elbow grease. A soak in a hot tub also helps a bit. Some athletes leave them on for days to show off. Me I like them off right away.

Bike Levers:  Up at the top those red things you see are bike levers. They are used for changing flat bike tires. Now if I just knew how to use them. I live in fear of getting a flat when racing or on a long ride.

Misc: there was also a pack of chops which I love, some gripper tape which I have yet to try and a clothfor wiping off glasses.

Pretty much the same set of goodies I got when I raced at Age Group Nationals here in Milwaukee.  I didn't mind, but little did I know how similar the experience would be to the Milwaukee race. I would experience that the next day.

*****************

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Soup Saturday

Basil Tomato Soup with Orzo


1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup butter, cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 can ( 28 ounces) whole tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup cooked orzo pasta
1 cup fat free half and half
¾ cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Saute onion in butter for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onion I tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, basil and sugar.  Bring to boil, reduce heat;cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, cook orzo according to package directions, drain.
Add orzo and half and half to soup.  Heat but do not boil.

Sprinkle each serving with cheese when serving

Serves 8
The weekends are when I do all my cooking for the week. I think this soup is going to be my lunch this week. I love a hot bowl of soup like this in the fall when it is cold and rainy.  The smell of this soup filled the whole house.
This soup takes only about 30 minutes to put together. It has almost no fat so it is really healthy. You could add some shrimp or crab or even chicken breast if you want to add some additional protein. I had my bowl today with a grilled swiss cheese sandwich on whole wheat.  Tomorrow I think I am going to make some homemade oatmeal bread to go with it. I'll add a nice salad and have a hearty meal!

***************

Friday, November 1, 2013

Team USA



I got this email when I got home from work this afternoon.


Congratulations! You are being contacted because you have earned a spot on Team USA for the 2014 ITU Sprint Duathlon World Championships. The 2014 World Championships are set to take place May 31-June 1, 2014 in Pontevedra, Spain. ITU has not released event details. I will create the Team USA Spain webpage in coming weeks. As ITU releases details I will post the information there, www.teamusatriathlon.org.
 Of Course I already paid.  This race is the same week as the Paratriathlon National Championship in Austin. Not sure how I will do both.  I have to be in Austin because the new para classification system is being rolled out.
Part of the registration included signing up for tee shirt, polo shirt and team jacket. The rest of the uniform I will have to buy. That's ok, I have spent a fortune the last two years buying jackets in Boston. This will be no different.
USAT is putting together a travel package so that may might be nice to have someone else do that planning. Team CMT member Cheryl Monnat is going to come to cheer me on!