Sunday, May 4, 2014

Week off chemo and the Greenland Trail 25k

I have been extremely tired and breathless during my runs lately. In fact, over last weekend, I had been in such sorry condition that I said to my husband, "I wonder if I will EVER feel like I used to feel. What if this is all I've got going forward?" My friends are all getting in better shape as they train for upcoming race, and right now I am always the slowest one in the group. While I understand what is going on with my body, I would be lying if I said it never bothered or concerned me. 

I was off from chemotherapy this week. On Monday, I met a girlfriend of mine for some "trail therapy". We ran ten miles together. We have a very therapeutic talk along the way and I felt the best I had on a run in at least a few weeks. When I got home, I was feeling practically giddy about how I did not feel completely miserable on my run. I thought, "Wow, that run did not completely suck for me! Maybe I will sign up for the Greenland 25k this weekend!"

I ran the Greenland 50k one time several years ago. I finished as fourth female overall that year in 4:50 and change. I normally prefer to go with the longest distance available at any given race. Since I have not run anything longer than 16 miles since prior to my surgery in November. I knew the 50k would be out of the question. But I thought, "I can finish the 25k." I signed my husband and myself up for the 25k. I had trouble falling asleep that night because I was so excited about the prospect of getting out to run a race.

Tuesday morning, I got up and went out for a 6-7 mile run. I was tired. I was back to feeling breathless. The wind was sucking the enthusiasm out of me. I probably ran around half of what I set out to do that day and walked the rest. Doubts started to creep in. What the hell was I thinking signing up for a race? Suddenly 25k seemed like a very long way to go. I had no idea what would happen on Saturday. I assumed I would walk some of the one longest uphill on the course when I signed up just because of my breathlessness. I did not want to end up walking the entire course, though. There is nothing wrong with walking, of course, but I just do not have the patience to walk 15.5 miles. 

On Wednesday, I ran with two of my friends. We set out for an "easy" run and yet I found myself behind and working much too hard. When I got home, I started looking up times from last year's 25k to see what the slowest finish times were so I could plan race day accordingly. I was really honestly wondering if I was going to be walking most or all of the race. 

On Thursday, I met up with a friend who was tapering for a marathon in California. We had planned a short run and I still felt tired and slow but otherwise alright. On Friday I squeezed in a short run around my neighborhood prior to my oncology appointment. My mind was on overdrive due to having one kid out of school, one kid with an injury and a sick dog. I thought, "WHY did I sign up for a race? Why did I add additional stress and pressure to my life right now?" 

All week long I had been telling Steve that he did not have to run with me. He could go out hard and see what he was capable of and I would not be upset. Steve said he wanted to run with me. While I love running with my husband, I was worried about holding him back too much or about pushing myself too hard to keep up with him.

I had no idea what would happen during the race. Would I run the whole thing? Would I walk every uphill? Would I really suffer and end up walking most of it? What ended up happening was that I ran the entire first loop and then walked for maybe a minute total on the second loop. I actually felt dizzy at times on the course. I was out of breath on the uphills. I was not able to recover from the uphills like I normally would. But, in part because of the extra days off from chemo, and in part because I love competition, I found a way to start pushing myself. I have been running but not "training" during my treatment. I have done no speed workouts. I have done no hill repeats. My running now had lots of walking mixed in. And yet, during the race. I kept looking forward thinking, "I know it hurts but run to that tree and then if you need to walk, you can". I found that I could keep running beyond each spot I had selected, and then onto the next one, and then the next.

 As we went out on the second loop, I started to focus on my competition, "If I keep going, I can pass that person in front of me."  The race was first with just myself, and then finally it became with the other runners. I knew I was not going to be one of the very top females, but I knew I was going to end up in a much better place than I thought I would initially. According to the unofficial race results, my husband and I finished in 2:28:56. I was 8th out of 55 in my age group in 42 out of 183 female runners. While this was a slower pace than I had run in the 50k, I am thrilled with my finish time and my place. I worked my butt off on Saturday. I pushed myself very hard, and ran as hard as I could have on that day. Running well when I have trained hard is very gratifying. Running as hard as I did four months into chemotherapy and less than six months after having internal organs cut out, makes me happy and proud of myself. I did not win. I did not place in my age group, but a I absolutely worked as hard as I could out on the course. While someone who does not know may look at my placing and time on Saturday and think nothing of it, I take pride in how I did because I know the circumstances leading up to the race.

Here is a post race photo of my husband and me. He said he would start and finish with me, and that is what he did. 

This week, I want my daughters to remember that in life it is always important to give your best, no matter what that might mean on any given day. What that best effort translates into is going to vary depending on your life circumstances. Sometimes your best will be "the best" and other people will congratulate you and acknowledge your achievements. Other times, your best efforts may not seem that impressive to other people. But, if you have given 100% of yourself, and you know you have worked as hard as you possibly could, you should never be disappointed in yourself. Not disappointing yourself is far more important than any accolades you may receive from other people. 


  1. Well done, Tonia! I am sure running the 25k made you feel ALIVE! I echo your first paragraph sentiments - been there and am still there. We just have to keep pushing, keep reaching, and keep believing we will "come back" and yet, still, be content with where we are presently.

    We are thinking of "resurrecting" our blog - MAYBE. Would you mind if I reference you? Have a fantastic week!

    1. Yes, of course you may reference me! I enjoyed getting out this weekend. It felt good to work hard and I was lucky I felt up to it. Today I am feeling pretty under the weather. The nausea has been problematic all day. Trying to remember that it will pass...