Wow, I really don’t know where to begin with this report. There’s not going to be a short version, y’all are just going to have to read.
This past Tuesday, April 20, was the first anniversary of my diagnosis.Seems like a strange day to celebrate to me. Regardless, it’s been a year. A year full of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, scary drugs, fatigue…and stubbornness.I ran through the first 4 rounds of chemo and biked through 6 of the 8. The joint pain from Taxol was too much to keep running and then my hemoglobin and hematocrit tanked so that I couldn’t even bike the two miles to school. That was a sad, sad day. But stubborn as I am, I gave my body two weeks after the last chemo to work out that joint pain, and started running again on Nov 1.
For the past year, I’ve been looking ahead to this race and wanting to make a statement. A lot of that time I didn’t know if they statement would just be finishing at all, or if it would be finishing strong. I hoped for a PR and I hoped to win the survivor division. Anyone who knows anything about setting good goals would tell you that my goal of winning the division was a terrible one, and it was basically entirely out of my hands.
In January, I joined a running group organized by the local running store with the intention of slowly training for a July half marathon. It went much better than expected, and in a moment of weakness after a perfect 10 mile run, L talked me into signing up for the Riverbank Run 25k on 5/8. With that in mind, my long run mileage increased more quickly than I had planned. Talk about competing goals. In February, I ran a snowy, slippery, hilly 5k in 25:59, so I thought maybe I could beat my PR of 24:25, if I got some speed work in and everything went perfectly on race day. I did speed work exactly twice leading up to this race. With every single one of those 400s, I caught myself thinking “Seriously, I’m supposed to keep this up for 3 miles???” Negative self-talk is probably my biggest weakness, and this time around was no different. As a result, I really didn’t know what to expect today.
So, going into the race, my goals were:
A)7:30s, which would get me a very nice PR
B)7:45s, which would still get me a (smaller) PR
C)8:00s, which I decided was respectable and doable
And then of course there was the poor, totally-out-of-my-hands goal of winning the division.
Race day: The race was at 2 PM, a genuinely strange time for a race. I got up a bit before 9 this morning with the intention of working on this paper I’m supposed to be writing. Yeah, right. I practically bounced off the walls all morning. Ate some breakfast, drank some coffee, played some solitaire, and bounced bounced bounced. Finally, we left the house a bit after noon. I wanted to spend some time at the Survivor’s Tent and see if I could find the ladies from my exercise class, and also stop by the cancer center’s tent to see my nurses.
It. Was. Cold. Temps in the low 50s, wind, and threatening to rain the whole time. It was a lot of time to be standing around before the race, but that’s ok, I got to see some of the people I wanted to see. My friend M arrived around 1, and I lined up for the survivor stroll at 1:15. That was rough. Why must they play tear-jerker music for these things? I walked to the Capitol steps with the other 1-year survivors and then stood there at the top of the steps watching so many women in pink shirts walking towards me. There was one 40-year survivor. Freaking incredible. Somehow I didn’t cry, and when it was over I made my way down the steps, checked my bag, and found Doug and M. After a little trip to the porta-potties, M and I headed off for a warm-up, and then the three of us lined up way too far back in the mass of people.
Ok I know, I know. Wrap it up.
The race finally started and we were off. M said she’d follow me, so we started off weaving through an unbelievable number of people. I knew this wasn’t good, but seriously, it’s a great psychological boost to pass people like that when you’re as nervous as I was. The first mile was basically all passing people. I couldn’t focus on anything except not tripping over the curb or running smack into people. Occasionally I saw a pink survivor shirt it front of me and tried to focus on picking those off one by one. I almost ran right over the first mile marker that was right in the middle of the road.
Mile 1: 7:49. PERFECT.
In the second mile we didn’t do as much passing as in the first, and my head started to play mean games with me. M was my personal sports psychologist here – reminding me to relax, breaking the run up into segments, helping me pick people to catch. She was awesome, but I was genuinely hurting.
Mile 2: 7:55. Ugh.
The third mile sucked, that’s really all I can say. This course plays tricks on you because it sends you right behind the Capitol and then you have to turn away from it again. You can see people coming around the block and headed to the finish and you know it’s right on the other side of the building, but you can’t get there. The line of people behind us was insane, too. Just pink and white everywhere. I tried to distract myself here and M kept reminding me of all those things, but it wasn’t working out so well. Oh, if only I were better about speed work.
Mile 3.1: 9:25 (8:34 pace). Yeah….that was painful
At the finish I was sure I was going to throw up. I think that’s the first thing I said when we crossed the line, right before I picked out the spot where I was going to have my heart attack. But I neither threw up nor had a heart attack, and M and I headed off for water and the bag check. Got my bag and my camera, and headed back to cheer Doug in. He came in 2 minutes ahead of his goal and more than 4 minutes faster than last year!
M had to head home and get back to work shortly after the race, but I wanted to stay for the awards, or at least until results were posted. I had caught and passed all the pink survivor shirts I saw ahead of me. While it was possible that there were women out there without pink shirts on, or far enough ahead that I didn’t see them, I figured I had a shot. That was a cold 45 min or so standing out there, but it was worth it. Once they announced that the results were up, Doug and I walked over to check them out. I was hoping for third, knowing that my time was not so fast and would have been good for third last year. Well apparently last year’s fast women didn’t come out today, because I won!!! Take THAT, cancer.
Of course at that point we had to hang around for the awards. They did all of the fundraising awards first, and then the awards for the survivor division. The third place winner turned out to be a woman I had chatted with some before the race – she just got back from a bike tour in WV where she did over 26,000 feet of climbing – she had been hoping to make it in under 30 minutes and instead ran 26 and change for third place! It was so cool to hear them call my name and go up there and get my trophy. About 1,000 flash bulbs went off and I have no idea what the dude said to me. We also had a picture of the top 3 survivors taken.
A friend of mine took first woman overall, so we stayed for that and the two of us had our picture taken together. Then it was straight home for a hot shower and warm clothes!
Thanks for reading!!