A CHaD HERO from the Start

Joanna Miller before, during, and after the 2006 CHaD Outrun the Sun Half Marathon. CHaD Outrun the Sun eventually expanded and became the CHaD HERO.

When I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school I was struck with a rare neurological condition that made me incredibly weak. I ended up at CHaD after my parents came home from work one evening to find me sitting on the front steps as I had been unable to turn the key in the lock to get in the front door after school. I was a strong, healthy, three-sport athlete who suddenly could barely climb a set of stairs, who couldn’t pull a brush through my hair, and who couldn’t lift a glass of water with one hand. I was profoundly weakened, with no reflexes anywhere in my body. This was incredibly scary for me (and now that I am a parent myself I can only imagine how scary it was for my mom and dad as well), but the doctors, nurses, residents, and phlebotomists immediately set to work trying to figure out what was going on. I was an inpatient at CHaD for five days, during which time I received infusions of human immunoglobulin, which for me felt like a miracle. By the time I was released from the hospital I was 85% back to normal and within a few weeks I was back to regular strength. That fall we found out that my condition was chronic, and thus I became an ongoing patient.

Joanna and Dr. Richard Nordgren at the 2007 CHaD Outrun the Sun Half Marathon

I stayed with my pediatric neurologist, Dr. Richard Nordgren, until there was no way I could still be classified as “pediatric.” With his care I was able to resume a normal life, though I had to have infusions every 5 to 8 weeks for the next 22 years. This past December I was declared in remission, and as of this writing, in three days it will have been a year since my last infusion.

Joanna receiving her fundraising award in 2006.

When I found out about the first CHaD Half, it was less than two months prior to the race and I had never run more than a 10K race in my life. None-the-less, I was eager to give back for all that CHaD had given me, so I signed up and started running! That year I was the second highest fundraiser, and I knew I wanted to keep working to give back to CHaD.

Since 2006, I have participated in every single CHaD HERO event. I haven’t run the half marathon since 2010 (my daughter was born in 2011 and I pushed her in the stroller at 5 weeks old with the threat of Hurricane Irene bearing down on us), but this year for the 15th CHaD HERO, I’m once again buckling down to train for 13.1 miles. It will be hard to get through all those miles leading up to the race, and I will miss the atmosphere on the Green on race day as we’ll all be doing our own virtual races. But, I hope this year that I’ll be able to break $50,000 total dollars raised over the past 15 years for CHaD!

— Joanna Miller, former CHaD patient & soon to be 15-time CHaD HERO participant

Joanna at the 2019 CHaD HERO

Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

Brittany, CHaD HERO HQ teammate, hiking with her dog, Ulysses

Remember to bring your dog’s leash and lots of water

I recently went on a hike and my friend brought along his dog Lacy.  It was such a positive experience, both for the dog and for us, that I thought I would share some great tips for you to consider as you train and participate in this year’s virtual CHaD HERO!

The hike was long and vertical; one of the Adirondack peaks at almost 14 miles round trip with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet.  Not for the faint of heart, man or beast!  My new dog friend, Lacy, is a yellow lab and despite being 10 years old, she is fortunately in incredible shape. 

View of lake with mountains in background

View prior to the start of the elevation gain

While leashes weren’t required, Lacy’s owner had one just in case there were any close encounters that necessitated the need.  It’s important to be respectful of the trail system’s leash requirements wherever you choose to hike.

Another pro tip: bring doggie bags to clean up as you go!

Lacy and us humans quickly got into a groove as we began our ascent. When we stopped and rested, Lacy stopped and rested.  When we were thirsty and drank water, Lacy’s owner provided a pop-up water dish and made sure she was hydrated as well.  When we broke for lunch, Lacy ate her lunch; healthy protein snacks just like us.  We even found a spot on top with shade, so she could duck in out of the heat.

Lacy, the dog, in a shady spot with her collapsible water dish

Lacy in a shady spot beside her collapsible water dish

Two things to consider if you do bring your dog: the terrain and the capability of your animal.  This mountain has a long rock face towards the top, which became treacherous at times.  Lacy and her owner trusted each other implicitly and she allowed herself to be lifted up and over some of the tough cliffs.  She even had to be lifted down off a few as well.  No small feat with a full-size Lab; I even needed some lifting up and over rocks as well!

Rocky outcropping at the top

You might also want to think about the personality of your dog.  Whenever we did encounter another group of hikers with or without dogs, Lacy didn’t bark, didn’t chase, and wasn’t threatening.  She was calm, cool, and collected, which I greatly appreciated.  No need to turn the day into a damper with a dog fight in the middle of the woods.

View from the top of the Adirondacks

A view of the Adirondacks from the top

We united again as one when we passed a gorgeous pond on the way down, with 1 mile still to go.  We all immediately jumped in, with Lacy gently swimming around to each of us as if to check and make sure we were okay.  And how could we not be.  A gorgeous day… a huge hike… great friends… a great dog… and the cool waters of the Adirondacks to help us for the final push home. 

Lake with mountains in background

A view of the lake and the Adirondacks

One thing Lacy’s owner forgot?  A towel to lay across the back seat in case of muddy paws. After that swim, Lacy had a ball rolling around and making muddy paw prints all over the inside of the car.

Remember to abide by all Local and State guidelines in terms of pets and the use of leashes. Hiking in the heat can be dangerous for your dog so be sure to check out this article as you prepare for any hot weather hiking.

Register for this year’s CHaD HERO event, grab a trail map, plot your day, and get out and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us all.  And bring your dog too!

— Kat McQuade, CHaD HERO Hike Committee Chair and outdoor adventuring enthusiast