Monday, November 28, 2011

NCR Trail Marathon

My inspiration to register for the NCR was Karen.  She wanted to run fast and she wanted my help with a plan to do it.  I was so honored to be asked to help her.  She is a dedicated runner, an amazing person, and good friend.

She too has a busy life, busier and more hectic than what most people experience because of some significant events.  With an unpredictable schedule and less time to commit to training plans, I devised something I thought could help her run fast, while also not take over her life.

I took my inspiration from a plan that emphasized cumulative fatigue and medium length runs along with weekly interval work that was pretty challenging.  This plan conspicuously lacked the "dreaded"  Long Runs that take up half the day.  What can a runner do on back-to-back medium runs at a moderate pace, in place of the usual long slow distance book-ended by rest days?  Is a PR possible?  How big?

Karen ran almost every planned workout at the prescribed paces for 18 weeks.  I can't say enough how much this fact demonstrates how dedicated and motivated Karen is.  The paces were selected in order to get her in somewhere between 3:30-3:40. The speed work was really tough.  As the weeks flew by and she was fighting to hit every pace as planned, I was more than impressed.  I really truly wanted her to see that 3:3x on the clock and I wanted to be a witness to her greatness, even though I knew I would not be running as fast at this race myself.  With her PR off a much higher mileage plan, a few years ago, and a 3:50 being her new BQ time goal, anything under 3:50 would be a success on this plan.  But anything within the 3:3x window would be super sweet.  She deserves super-sweet.

I wanted to help her in any way I could.  My plan was to pace Karen out to the 13.5 mile turn around at a pace that would set her up for a 3:3x.  I then planned to drop my pace down to a comfortable 10 min pace (hoping to cut down my own recovery and stay peppy for my 24 hour run this weekend).  

It was such a pleasure to run a race that had nothing to do with my performance.  I felt sorry that I was not able to suck it up and hang at her pace this whole race with her and see her finish.  As I enjoyed my comfortable jaunt through the woods for the second half of the race, I was dying to know how she was doing and whether this shockingly light plan could get her a good time.

I completed my own "workout" as scheduled and crossed the finish at 3:55.  A sub-4 hour marathon as training is really quite nice and I think I will be doing more of this in the future (if not too pricy).  Running a marathon with no pressure for time but for the benefits of a long run was just what I needed.   I don't recommend  trying to race a marathon, all out, at PR pace, if the training leading up to the race does not support such an intense effort.  In this age of runners having cardiac issues en-route, I felt I was being very safe and comfortable running 1:45 first half and then cruising in for a 2:10 second half since I have done little work to prepare for an effort much better than that. 

I dont want to give away Karen's story completely, but I can say that the lower mileage but more intense training plan I personalized to her lifestyle, schedule, and personal goals earned good marks.  She crushed her BQ time while setting a significant PR, although her "A goal" was not attained. 

I learned a lot from Karen as my guinea pig in this experiment.  In hindsight we both agree that even though the plan was set up for a 3:30-3:35 run, with the lower weekly mileage and the lower LR miles, it would be wise to train with those pace, but plan for a 3:35-3:39 with race day pacing and strategy set up accordingly.   Going out on 3:30 pace felt great but caught up to her too much in the later miles. This could also have been due to the warmer temps, the need for more fluids than available, or any other issue.  However, I feel that good solid training can help reduce the impact of other issues.  If I could pace her all over again, I would consider about 10 seconds slower per mile for the first half.

Now I need another guinea pig to test my theories.  Who wants to be my next experiment. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gratitude Therapy : )

So tomorrow I have to co-lead a support group at the Cancer Center. The Topic is the Healthy Harvest, where... "Registered Dietician (Cheryl W.) and Art Therapist (me) will facilitate this demonstration on how to make pumpkin smoothies, and discuss how to make use of other fruits and vegetable from autumn's cornucopia."  

Ok. This has to beg the question: "What does an art therapist have to do with pumpkin smoothies?"  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I cant resist a good pumpkin anything.  In addition, I often just say Yes to things before I fully know what is going on.

For my part, I was planning to ask "the group" to make some Thanksgiving-related project while Cheryl whipped up the smoothies.  I found a simple pumpkin centerpiece that could be made by anyone with any ability.   However, this concept tends to move away from my style of practicing Art Therapy.

I often answer the question,"What is Art Therapy?" by describing a continuum where on one side is "Art-making for Joy" and the other side is "Projective Assessments that Allow Analysis and Insight."  Art-making for joy can be therapeutic, but in my opinion it is most effective at creating first order change (in this case, the change of mood of the person for the moment).   However, in my practice, I attempt to create interventions that at least have a shot at allowing for second order change (the lasting change that comes with the changing of a system). This could result from introspection and increased insight into the self as a result of creating some meaningful art product (even if that product is not very "good" and even if that product was made for fun.)  

What this means for me is that I am now scrambling to create some directive I can give to a group of unfamiliar people that would allow them to experience the joy of art-making, while also giving them the opportunity to change themselves... in one session.   What to do... What to do...

And then the light bulb went off.  I will ask them to create Thank You Cards.  But to who?  Maybe to themselves?  But that just seems so... first order.

I think people are so fast to see the negative, especially on a cancer unit.  Fortunately, John Gottman discovered in his studies about Positive and Negative Sentiment Override (in married couples), that what people focus on in the present has a huge impact on how they recall experiences of the past.  How the past is remembered will greatly impact how people anticipate the future.  If we focus on the positive in the present, we also tend to recall our pasts in the most positive light and therefore expect nothing less of the future.  If we focus on the negative in the present, we are more likely to remember the past in a negative light and expect the future to be just as bad.

As a result, there is some value is spending some time thinking about the people in this world that have positively impacted our lives.  In fact, a little Googling has uncovered that a man named John Kralick has discovered just how powerful thanking others can be.

I find his story fascinating.  In brief, Kralick was a lawyer who had practiced over 30 years in LA and had his own firm.  He found his firm was crumbling and his relationships were failing.  On a hike through the mountains, while on the brink of depression, he found the inspiration to write a Thank You note a day for 365 days.  One year later, he found that his life had completely changed for the better. He has since been appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to be a Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  He has written a book that explains his story. http://www.365thankyounotes.

The part of his website that I find most fascinating is that if you click on About the Author, he has chosen to include two action photos of himself:  (1) one of him racing the Napa Marathon and (2) one of him racing a half marathon with a friend.   Both of these images are noted to be a depiction of some story described in the book.  Hmm, I am beginning to feel compelled to buy a copy :)

Well that is a lovely story, but is it therapeutic or even just wise to ask cancer survivors and patients to make Thank You cards to others during what is likely one of the worst times of their lives?  According to an article by Rita Watson in Psychology Today, published just last week:  "A blessing a day can keep the doctor away."  Watson shares that it is harder to count your blessings in sad times, but it can be life changing to do so.  A four step gratitude plan is shared and stated that it will open the door to more happiness in life.  I am not sure I agree with all steps of the plan, but I find this all quite interesting and simple to do.

The Psychology Today article mentions Kralick and concludes: "It was through thank-you notes that Kralik turned his life around. Kralik said: 'We get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that we lose touch...When someone receives a hand-written note they know it came from a person who evaluated their decision to write. Hand writing for me is greater admissible evidence of concern.'" 

Watson adds,  And it works in love relationships as well: Revitalize Your Love Life with a Three Day Gratitude Plan"

So now Thank You Cards feel so much better to me as a directive.  This interventions leaves me with hope that some people will at least have a shot at second order change if they continue on with this exercise in gratitude outside of the support group.

And now it is my turn and I will start with you.

Thank You so much for reading and following my blog.  It gives this endeavor so much more meaning than it could ever have if my words were never given the chance to reach anyone but me. :)

- Shannon

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Friends2Friends Alexa's Thunder Run, 13.1 miles of trail.

On Sunday, I got to test out my new pair of Brook's PureGrits at the Thunder Run.  Friend2Friends puts on this race to raise money for free mammograms for women in who cant afford one.  As a breast cancer survivor who needed medicaid for treatment, I appreciated that goal of this race.

I was excited to try my new trail shoes, but a little nervous about racing a trail half.  I like to run fast on pavement.  I really like to run in the woods when free to back off the pace in exchange for not eating dirt.  I have knocked parts of my front teeth out 4 times or so in my lifetime. After 3 times, the novelty just wears off.  As a result, I tend to be a clumsy blind slug in the woods so I knew this was not going to be pretty.

I have been waiting to find a light pair of trail shoes that have some substance to them and the Grits did well.  I didn't have a chance to run any trails in the Grits until race day, but I attempted to "break them in" a bit by wearing them to my mediation class the day before. :)   Sitting at a conference table for 8 hours is like running trails, right? 

What I did learn from my casual wearing is that my orthotics take up so much room that the strap across the top digs into the top of my foot.  This did not feel good and I contemplated cutting the strap off before the race, but I decided to see what happened on race day.  I have also decided I need to lose the orthotics at some point since after about 50 miles of running, they bruise my feet.

This race was so well done that I am going to try to get to the rest of the series.  First, the RD made point to leaf blow the entire 13.1 mile course.  I never heard of  a race doing this, but I can say that the result was that the race was much more runnable than it could have been.  People still fell down all around me, but for some reason I stayed on my feet. I believe it was because of two reasons: my cautious pacing, and the fact that I could actually see roots, rocks and holes that would normally be covered by leaves this time of year.

In addition to blowing a 13.1 mile line into the forest, the race was also marked with arrows and flour and managed to cart out water to 6 points on the course.  They even posted mile markers! Who does this in a trail race?  I have been completely spoiled.  :)

Regardless of the efforts by the RD to make running this race as mindless as possible, my brain still hurt from trying to focus on the ground the whole time.  This is my problem and I am sure many others would have just flew through this course. When running fast in the woods, I lose my ability to find my zone, I pay too much attention to each step and I miss being lost in thought.  The tediousness of each step becomes to apparent and I start to crave mindlessness even more.

I started this run a little aggressively because I noticed the tower on top of the mountain that we would eventually reach in the last 2 miles.   I haven't run enough hills so this was going to kick my butt and it did.  I must admit I spent the first 3 miles miserable, sucking wind as my chest felt completely inadequate in its ability to extract enough oxygen to propel me upwards.  At some points my feet felt odd and I was not sure if I liked the Grits.  After two hills in a row, my chest was so tight a guy hearing me wheeze became concerned.  I decided that if I got to the S/F line at 8.5 and I was not yet having fun, I was going home.

Fortunately by mile 4.5 things felt better, the course had very long runnable stretches where speed I lost on the hills could be made up.  I loved being able to close my eyes and run as hard as I felt I should.  When I hit the single track again, I slowed it down, especially after hearing people hit the dirt both in front of me and behind me.

At the 8.5, I didn't think twice about stopping.  My feet felt great, I was finding my stride, and I could breath.  There was huge out and back stretch on old rail trail that allowed me to make up time I would later loose on the climb up to the tower. I was running with a pack of guys until we hit that rail trail.  I did manage to pass them all and put a great deal of distance on them on the way back, so much that when I looked back I saw no one. When I looked ahead, I saw know one.  At this point panic set in and I thought I possible missed a turn while running inside my head. 

At mile 11, I saw an aid station and then began the climb up the hill. I was happy to be able to catch up and pass two more people. I was actually surprised because I felt just so inadequate on those hills.  One guy flew past me, but no one else caught up. I think knowing that once I got up that hill, I could race down to the finish propelled me forward.

The downhill was so steep that I actually took it cautiously.  A group of guys in hard hats and packs were walking on the trail that I was about to enter.  A course marshal warned them all to move over and they did.  He called out that I had half a mile to go and I got excited!  I picked it up and just as I ran past this crowd of guys, my right calf spasmed like it does when I try to take off one shoe after a long hard race by pushing on the back of it with the other foot. This is the fastest method I have learned to send my calf into contortions that normally drop me to the ground.  This has never happened in a race, but here I was with .5 miles to go and about to buckle in front of a crowd!  I managed to stay on my feet, but I did slow down a bit until I was sure the cramping was over.  Finally, I popped out of the woods and headed towards the finish, where the timer called out each finisher by name. 

Chicken soup and rolls were handed out while the band played. The RD called out raffle ticket numbers and I scanned the posted results.  2:12 for the 13.1 miles.  Although my last half was about a half hour faster, I predicted a 2:15 for my finish time based upon what runners ran last year and their own road times.  I was happy with 2:12.   I was also really happy to see that I was 9th female and 3rd in my AG.

My calves still feel abused but it is the good pain, not the bad pain that comes from leaving early. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Divorce Mediation: "People dont get OVER stuff, we get THROUGH it"

This weekend I began my journey to become a Professional Mediator.  The certification course, in conjunction with my education and experience working as both an attorney and a therapist will allow me to practice as soon as my course is completed in the middle of next month.

This is something that feels promising to me.  I was the only dually educated therapist/lawyer in the room although the panel of professional mediators was evenly divided between therapists and lawyers.

We focused much of this weekend on the interpersonal skills that therapists seem to have more training in when compared to attorneys.  Nuances of joining, body language, reframing, restating, normalizing, balancing, validating, empathizing, and facilitating the restructuring the family roles seemed paramount in this process this weekend.  Of course next weekend we will get into parenting time, child support, alimony, equitable distribution, and other budgeting issues which I expect the lawyers to excel.

I must admit that I tremendously enjoyed witnessing a room full of people attempt to reconcile the polarized perspectives offered by law compared to therapy and vice versa.  I have struggled with this for a long time.  I was pleased to discover the field of mediation was founded by a lawyer who turned therapist after his messy divorce and decided there must be a better way.  I have renewed hope the reconciliation of the left and right side of my brain is possible :).  

One of the things I heard today that resonated with me and hopefully will become incorporated into my work in all my capacities was a comment that goes something like: "People don't GET OVER stuff.  It is unfair to suggest that someone need to get over something in order to move forward. We don't float OVER problems to land safely on the other side where it cannot bother us any longer. People GET THROUGH  stuff, by fighting through the thick of it and emerging a little beaten down and scratch up on the other side. But the GETTING THROUGH is the hardest part.  Once on the other side, we can then begin to heal, repair, and move on." 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blood Run Half Marathon 10 22 11

After my positive run at the 6 hour race last weekend, I started looking for something to do this weekend. I discovered the Pequannock Blood Run.  A portion of the proceeds of this race was donated to the  Children's Cancer and Blood Foundation.

At 5:45 I had a terrible moment of weakness and decided that it would feel much nicer to stay in bed and then hit the tow path after the sun came up. That lasted about 5 minutes.  Once I began to contemplate the DNS, I sat up, turned on the TV, and was advised by Sid: "If you are going be up, we might as well race it".  Ok.

Once at the race, I quickly filled out our apps, with freezing fingers despite my layers. 43 degrees and damp is not very comfy, unless you asked the guy in the singlet and shorts next to me.  He declared "Oh, I am warm! I am used to this!"  Sid and I got out bib and moved to the chip line.

Despite variation in chip technology, I am still someone who enjoys a good hand-scored race.  I dont mind chips, except when they fail. I am not a huge fan of the ankle strap since I question how they get cleaned.  I dont like the wired bibs that make them stiff and unfoldable.  I remember my XC coach was ahead of his time when he got bar codes on our bibs and a scanner for our finish line.  This was in the 90's and I am not sure anyone else was doing this. 

However, I had to chuckle when I over heard a runner say "Oh Wow! A CHIP LINE! this is so RETRO! when was the last time you saw a CHIP.  I dont even know what to do with that. What does it even look like!"  These happened to be the square chips that we secured to our shoe with twist ties.  I was unaware that chips were now old school? 

Another interesting conversation about racing occurred the night before. Sid and I were in a conversation with a person we just met and Sid mentioned that we needed to head home b/c we are running a half marathon tomorrow.  From that moment on, no matter how many times I inserted the word "half" in front of their questions about our marathon tomorrow, it was ignored.  That's fine. Not everyone is a runner and we have all hear the jokes about "non runners" calling every race a marathon.  That's ok. I am I sure I call things I dont know much about by incorrect names all the time.

However what really interested in was the confusion about why "Why" we were doing our "marathon."  Admittedly I was baffled for a good chunk of the conversation.

Me: "Why? What do you mean, why?"
Her: "What is it for?"    
Me: "Huh, what is what for?"
Her: "The marathon?"
Me:  "Oh the race?  This one is trying to raise money for children's blood cancer," I added thinking that is what she wanted to know.
Her: "So you are racing for that! That's nice!" she concluded out loud.
Me: "Well, we are really racing just because we want to race".
Her: "Huh, you aren't running for something?"

Her friend interjected to clarify.

Friend:  "Her daughter just ran a marathon to raise money for cancer" 
Me: "Oh... I see. That's great! But we are not charity runners in this race, we just want to run it."

Now I get the cockeyed confused look that helped me to understand that some non-runners believe that people are not free to simply enter a "marathon" unless they are planning to raise money for some cause.  It was clearly bizarre to her that Sid and I were getting up early to run for our own fun and enjoyment.

The final question was as follows:

Her: "So how long is your marathon tomorrow?"
Me:  (simply hoping to ease all our pain)  "Our marathon is only about 13 miles long."

From there we moved on to another less convoluted topic.

So back to the race.  It was bigger than I expected and I saw Elaine from last week and Zsuszanna C. who I haven't run into in a long time.  That was a nice surprise.  I started towards the front, too fast as usual.  I settling back after the first mile and stayed within seconds as I covered mile to mile.

I was under the impression that since costumes were encouraged and this was called the Blood Run I was going to be trying to outrun gory zombies or pale-faced sharp-toothed vampires.  There were very few in costume, but I did find that I was in hot pursuit of two frosty mugs of beer for much of the event.

The double loop with two turn arounds allowed me to spot Sid several times.  It also allowed me to count females.  I was comfortably and securely in 13th place by the end of loop 1 and this didn't change. I didn't look at my splits, until the end, so I was just trying to run comfortable.  I was surprised that my numbers were so close.

I ran a 1:43:35 and hoped to be a little faster.  I didn't really work too hard for it, so I know I have more to give.  I was 3rd in my AG so I was happy about that.  Now I am offer searching for another half where I can chip away a little bit more from my pace.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

6 Hour 60th Birthday Run, Long Island, NY (with a Shout Out to Team FIGHT)

Today I ran the 6 hour 60th birthday run in Sunken Meadow State Park in Long Island.  This event took place on a 2.1 mile dirt trail loop which contained some hills just over half way that kicked my butt worse each time.  I wasn't sure what I could do and part of me felt that maybe I shouldn't really be heading out there at all.  However, it has been hard to set aside time for a decent long run lately that I figured that I could jog through about 20 miles I would get more mileage than if I stayed home.

I woke up late, scrambled around the house for gear. I grabbed my Team Fight running shirt out of the dryer along with some other gear, stuffed some juice in a cooler along with a bottle of Endurolytes, advil, and my inhaler.  I grabbed my Brooks Ghosts, put on my Launches and headed out the run.

GUN GOES OFF: I happily run behind Ray for a few minutes before I fade back.  I run the first loop to get a feel for the course and I already know I am in trouble.  I am working way too hard for an 18 -19 minute lap, I am not a fan of the sandy parts (which turned out to be just fine).  I can feel my heart pounding in my chest whenever the course elevation is even imperceptible uphill.  The visible hills became my walk breaks. By lap 2, I wonder how long I would be in this before I hit the wall hard.

By lap 3, I found my rhythm, knew the course was "comfortable" for the first 8 minutes, "uncomfortable" for the next 8 minutes and then "comfortable" again for the last 4 minutes for per loop.  I tried to hold that pattern and managed a 20-21 minute per lap average. I was moving well for about 3 hours until I started to falter and get negative.

I had started out in my Brooks Launches which are the most comfortable long run shoes I own.  I love my Ghost for training, but they are too heavy for me when I race. I knew if I switched to the Ghosts now, I might as well just stop.  I only brought them as a last resort and I was not ready to swap.

At about 3:30 into the run, I took a short break to think about what I wanted to do.  I took some Endurolytes, should have taken Advil for my achy feet, gave Arpan (a really nice man who remembered me from the 6-day and who ran much of this event with me) some juice to try, and took a minute to myself.   At that point, I began debating trying to cover 50k and calling it a day or stopping sooner to save my feet the pain. 

While running alone, I passed two runners who said "Hey there are some fast twitch muscles coming by, she is one of the leaders!" I thanked them for their vote of confidence, but assured them that I was not leading.  However, since I wore my Team Fight shirt which says "Wanna Fight" on the back, I heard the guy say "Wanna Fight.... That is Kenyan for ...." (I wish I heard the end but I missed it).  This really made me smile because I am not anywhere near my peak shape but it felt great to hear others comment that I looked good (when I felt so bad!)

I continued trying to get out of my funk. Later I rounded a corner to see two young guys flying towards me. One called out "TEAM FIGHT!!!  Go Team Fight! I am from Columbia!!".  Again this made me feel so great to hear this kind of support and fed me with some reason to fight the pain.  At the end of the lap I remembered the Advil. 

Unfortunately by 4:20 hours in, my plantar fascias felt terribly inflamed and the nodules felt like needles were being jabbed into them.  My gait was getting painful and I just started walking, sending Arpan, whom I had caught up to again off without me.

Elaine showed up and she took some time to walk and talk with me about my favorite subject (Enzo) as I hobbled along.  I decided I was ready to quit when Ray and Cherie came flying down the downhill. Ray advised..."Don't walk the down".  I assured him I am lucky to be walking at all.  He could see my limp as the pains shot through my foot and told me do what I need. I am sure he has used up all his go to motivational tid-bits on me in the last year or more.

But, Ray has a way of knowing exactly what to say and do to get me moving.  As he took off down the hill, he said "Remember, Sometimes Things Hurt."  As I watched him, Elaine, and Cherie move away into the distance, I walked alone, feeling left behind and sorry for myself, I wondered when exactly did I forgot how to Fight?  When did I lose my ability to tolerate Hurt?  Which is worse, the pain of failure or the pain in my feet stopping any chance of success?  I have always been good at ignoring pain.  When I was 5 years old I broke my arm and still went to gymnastics class for a week because I LOVED gymnastics.  I would tell my mom my arm felt sore, but I really wanted to go tumbling.  After a week, I got an x-ray and I had a fracture but I never let that stop me from doing what I loved.  Why am I letting some pain stop me now?  When will this become who I am?  How am I letting this happen to me?

I looked down at my shirt.  "TEAM FIGHT!" boldly covered the front.  This shirt was given to me at the Half Full Tri fundraiser to raise money to help young adults fight their cancer.  I realized that I did more hard work during chemo and immediately after than I have been willing to endure lately.  What is going on? How can I accept this? How can I wear this shirt if I am just going to quit.  I can't quit. 

As I approached the end of that loop, I convinced myself the Advil is working, that running hurts less than walking and I did my best to get moving.  It helped tremendously to overhear one of the volunteers say my number and add "She's has been moving strong all day." (Obviously he missed that hour long period of lolli-gagging while on the verge of defeat).  I needed to hear those words.

My laps dropped to 21-22 minutes per lap again.  I lost track of what I was doing and just tried to stick with the girl ahead of me.  I thought I had timed it so I could start short loops with 30 minutes until the horn.  I looked forward to the course change.  Ironically because my last two laps were faster than 30 minutes, I was sent out on the big loop again with the advice "27 minutes left!"  Oh man! I had already said good-bye to all the hills and now I had to see them again.  There were mixed reviews about which was faster the long loop or the short with the hill there, but it did not matter now.

With about 4 minutes left, I finished my loop and was sent onto the short loop.  The last few minutes is by far the best minutes in duration races.  The second wind runners get when the announcer counts down the minutes is just awesome. The energy level is intense and I was so grateful to be a part of it.  The runners cheering for each other, because we were the once who endured! I get to be one of them today.

And when the horn sound, then comes the Collective Sigh of Relief, followed by the Collective Moans and Groans as people hunch over glad to be allowed to stop moving.  There is nothing like this in a marathon, where individuals express their relief one at a time.  Here the race survivors are together, all in one small loop, hugging, sighing, groaning and hobbling off in a pack of pride and understanding.  It is the most beautiful part of racing that I have ever experienced.

So was it worth the pain?  Pain, what pain?  I have no recollection of any foot pain at the moment because all of those memories have been replaced with the pride I feel from FIGHTING and learning my efforts earned me a 4th place female finish on a course that kicked my butt!  I ran just over 34 miles in 6 hours which is a good effort for me today.  I have run 31 in 4:15 this past March, but much was different then.  Today I was about 19th OA in a field of 160 because I did not quit and this brings me the same amount of pleasure.  

When I think about how I almost walked away at 25 miles all I can say now is "Sometimes things hurt."  Sometimes they hurt for a long time, like regret and the endless hurt you feel when you give up on yourself.   Sometimes they hurt for the moment and maybe that moment lasts like 3 hours, but it ends.  This time I am not hurting from the regret of quitting. I am tired of that type of hurt. In fact right now, there is no pain, no hurt, just the beauty of knowing I am still a Fighter.  I can endure 6 hours.  Now I need to work on 12 and 24. Thank you, Ray, once again for knowing me so well and giving me this gift of a job well done. :)  It is no surprise to me that all my best races have one thing in common, your presence :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Half Full Triathlon Relay.

About 2 weeks ago, I drove to Maryland for the Ulman Cancer Fund's Half Full Triathlon. I was planning on heading down solo and leaving Enzo at my parents but on a whim I asked my mom if she wanted to take the trip with me. My parents are like conjoined twins. The last time my mom slept somewhere my dad did not was when she had to spend a few night in the hospital.  I actually thought they were joking when they told me my mom was going to come with me while my dad puppy sat.

After about 3.5 hours of conversation, we were soon pulling into Union Jacks for the Team Fight Luncheon.  Last year, I was selected to make a presentation at the lunch and participate on a relay team. I was invited back this year by Brian Satola the RD to race on a Team Fight  Relay Team along with Steve Johnson (who would be swimming and riding.)  Thank you Steve, for without you I would not have been able to return.  I am a runner, not a triathlete (yet... *wink, wink*). 

Fast forwarding to the drive home, I was high on endorphins and talking about how much I love this race.  My mom, who rarely accompanies to runs, but knows I race often genuinely asked "Why?  What makes this race so special?" I thought for a moment and first thing I said was "Everything is just so nice!  The people, the event, the RD's, the Ulman Fund team, the Team Fight people, the course, the shirts, just everything."

To start, there was the moving speech by Aaron about his experience at the Team Fight lunch.  This really emphasized why all these people were here, not just to compete but to do something for young adults effected by cancer. The lunch concluded with the Half Full Triathlon YouTube Video  which is worth a look if you have a moment.  Besides the Team Fight people being amazing, the Half Full RD's do such a great job making sure everything is done well.

At 5 am my alarm when off and I was so scared to go outside.  I haven't been out in 45 degrees since maybe March, so this was going to be a shock to my system.  It was only on that Saturday that the universe decided it would be Fall in the North East.  It was 70's all week and then 50's on Saturday.  On Sunday it was cold and raining when we left for the event. 

I met Steve at the transition and felt so bad that he was going to have jump into the water for .9 miles soon.  He was ok with that part but more concerned with having to bike 56 miles while cold and wet.  I let him prep and planned to cheer him on at the start and at the transition.

There are some interesting things about being part of the relay.  First I got to hang out at the exciting event all day and this was a lot of fun.  But not knowing exactly when I would be starting was unusual.  Any other race, I have my routine down.  It is not very complicated.  Drink, pee, change shoes and head to start.  But in this case, I was not sure when Steve would be in.  There is always a lot of standing around, getting cold, warming up, then getting cold and finally Steve was in!

I grabbed the chip, gave Steve a high 5 and then headed off to the run.  This course is tough.  Two loops of rolling short and steep or long hills.  It is not easy. This is always two weeks after North Coast 24 hours, where I ran about 87 miles and my body is always feeling beat up.  I am never fast and with the hills to contend with, I just hope to be somewhere in the 1:40-1:50 range.  Someday I would like to run a 1:30 half and my PR is 1:34, so shooting to run under 1:50 should be easy, but I always feel worried, but I am always happy with my time when done.   I just cant imagine who tough this run must feel after swimming and biking, but I feel compelled to find out.

I just joined a LiveStrong program at my local YMCA, which provides personal training for cancer survivors.  The group is special since it is all survivors trying to get fit.  I hope to work with my trainer to build up my upper body strength for a few weeks and then determine whether swimming will be something I can do.  I had my latissum dorsi muscles "transplanted" to my chest after my double mastectomy and this is what allows me to look normal, but I don't function the same and never recovered my upper body strength.  These muscles are engaged with any pulling down motion.  Closing the trunk when from impossible to possible but harder than it ever was before.  I am concerned that swimming may be too tough.

My plan now is to train for greater strength, the get in the pool and learn some technique.  Once I have figured out if I can do the swim, then I will invest in a bike.  I have year to train and if I can piece it all together, I hope to be a part of that Survivor's Wave of athletes that get sent out first in the yellow caps.

I feel more survivors are represented in sports that better. As a 29 year old cancer patient I fear my live was over and I was going to be sick and weak after treatment.  I had no real life role models.  Everyone knows about Lance Armstrong, but it is sometimes hard to relate to a man who has the genetic code and financial resources to be strong and fit again.  To see regular men and women who have beat cancer and returned to sports is inspiring beyond belief and I aspire to be apart of that wave of racers someday!