July 17, 2012

Inspired by My Hero - Lauren Fleshman

Guest blog by Kerry Camberg, a Oiselle Ambassador from Tempe, Arizona who is setting her hopes high for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon. Inspired daily by one very special gal, her Olympic Trials hero, Lauren Fleshman

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I first met Lauren Fleshman last November when she came to stay with us during her treatment with Dr. John Ball.  I had reached out to Lauren earlier when I read her blog. She was staying with some friends and sleeping in her van while in town getting treatment last spring.  This did not sit right with me and I shot her an email saying "if you ever need a place to stay let me know, we have 2 kids 2 cats and plenty of room".  Little did I know that a lasting friendship would be formed.

She arrived late one night at our house, just days before my marathon which was my last chance to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.  She was worried she was cramping my style, but I was happy for the distraction after an injury filled training cycle.  She was just coming off her New York City Marathon and felt confident there would be plenty of time to fix her injuries. Lauren and Jaymee, another injured runner visiting from CA, strummed the guitar one night making up a song about my marathon. We were all full of hope that night.  As runners we are always full of be belief burning like a bright light. Lauren was filled with confidence of getting healed in plenty of time to start her Olympic training cycle.  We had a great time getting to know her.  At the end of the week it was sad to see her leave, we had discussions of coming to cheer her on in Eugene at the Trials.

I stayed in contact checking often to see how she was doing.  Cross training was her best friend! Sometimes she would say "I ran 1 minute without pain 5 times" full of hope to recover in time.  Days before Christmas she called to say she was coming back for some more treatments.  No worries still plenty of time to heal and train.  We bonded over Scrabble games while gathered around the fireplace and Christmas tree.  I enjoyed finding out more about her Picky Bars company and t-shirts she designed and sold online.  It was apparent that Lauren lived a full, rich and balanced lifestyle.

Spring arrived and Lauren asked if she could come stay again.  Her plan was to come a week before her team to get some more treatments from Dr. Ball.  The Oregon Track Club (OTC) would be arriving to train in Flagstaff and she had every intention of joining them.  Her friend and training partner Jemma Simpson would soon join our home while she was working through her injury.  We were a happy houseful of injured female runners trying to make a comeback.  My kids and I were always coming up with new ways to keep everyone's spirits up. BBQ's, pool parties, ice cream sundae night and my favorite singing our own rendition of "I Will Survive" telling pain to walk out that door, cause your not welcome here anymore. 

When it was time for the OTC to go to Flagstaff, Lauren stayed behind.  I was thrilled to have her with us, although she showed no signs of sadness I made it my mission to keep her spirits up.  Arizona in the spring with its sunny skies and mid 70 temps is great for cross training.  Our neighborhood has a pool within walking distance and Lauren was there diligently swimming and Elliptigo'ing to stay fit.  She was doing everything she could to show up in Eugene healed and ready to race.  Days turned into weeks, then a month had gone by. We started praying silently for Lauren knowing her window of opportunity was getting smaller every day.

Amazingly, she kept her spirits up taking it one day at a time and focused on what she could do for training.  I bought plane tickets for Eugene and made plans to be there for the 5000 meter final.  I just knew in my heart she would make the final.  The evening of her qualifying event we were glued to the tv praying, cheering and screaming.  Although I had explained to the kids that Lauren is a world class runner I think it finally set in that evening as we watched her race.  The results were posted and Lauren got the 6th spot good enough to earn her a spot in the finals.  I was wondering what that race took out of her given that her run training was minimal.  Instead of focusing on how she felt I fired off a quick text saying "Give luck a chance to happen".

My kids made cards with pictures of a lion and superhero.  Lauren was both courageous and amazing at that race and we were so proud of her!  I packed the cards to take with me to Eugene.  I arrived at Hayward Field like a nervous mother.  I wanted so badly for her dream of making the Olympic team to come true.  I had not asked her how her body felt instead offered words of encouragement and hope.  I can only imagine what was racing through her mind at the start line.  I screamed her name each time she rounded the corner keeping with the pack.  With about 4 laps to go she was fading to the back.  I hoped she would finish despite her Olympic dream slipping away.  During the final lap she was in last with more than 200 meters to go.  A light rain was falling camouflaging my tears for Lauren, I was so proud of her for never giving up and putting herself out there to see what would happen.  Lauren showed determination, guts, courage and pride during this week of the Olympic Trials. She did not achieve her goal of making the Olympic Team but is my hero!

(Meggie Smith, Lauren Fleshman, Kerry Camberg, Susan Empey)

Watching the Trials in person at Hayward Field was an incredible experience.  Spectators were cheering wildly for all events, 22,602 were in attendance.  The emotions were so raw.  Dreams were being fulfilled and lost all in the same moment.  My heart went out to each athlete that just missed the time they needed to earn their spot, somehow I could relate to them better.  The 5000 meter final was an incredible race, the 16 women showed sheer guts and determination.

I was seated near the finish line so watched on the big screen as the women were introduced.  I wondered about each women's journey to this starting line, how many miles, tears, joys, injuries did it take to bring them here today.  In the blink of an eye the starting gun went off. The women were packed together tightly until about the last 4 laps then the race really began.

During the final lap it appeared spot 1 and 2 would be secured by Julie Culley in 15:13 then Molly Huddle 15:14.  The final 3rd spot was a true photo finish between Kim Conley and Julia Lucas.  Conley needed the A standard and she barely got it.  Julia Lucas demonstrated true grit as she pushed her body to the limit missing her spot by .04 second.  An amount of time that does not even seem measureable.  My heart went out to her, my heart swelled with joy for Kim Conley.  I feel blessed to have been there in person to watch, it was an incredible race.