Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Austin Running Groups Provide

Many of you are already aware that the article in Austin Fit Magazine came out this month. 
It is a pretty good article, despite my personal let down in a couple of areas.  Foremost, being that the hard copy magazine of the article incorrectly named one of my road running coaches as the coach my trail group, and left out the trail running coach, and my trail running friends all together. Sorry guys!  I was dissapointed also, that the girl who interviewed me said that the article that i wrote would actually be in the magazine.  It wasn't, but some quotes were taken from it.  The article was incorrect when it said that i did not miss any Tuesdays in the 24 week period of chemo, except once for the flu.  It is true that I only missed one Tuesday due to the flu during the 12 weeks of Taxol treatment, but I definately missed 1-2 Tuesdays each 3 week period during the 12 weeks of every 3 Week Adriamycin, Cytoxin treatment. Some weeks I could barely walk by the first Tuesday after treatment. I believe I did make it to at least every 3rd Tuesday, though.  Part of my being able to miss the least amount possible was due to how I had arranged my schedule. Due to the fact that me making it to these workouts was a priority, I actually scheduled my chemo on Tuesday mornings.... After my runs. So, Tuesdays would mostly land the furthest point from any treatment.

Here is the article I had written back in January and sent in to Austin Fit Magazine.   I had hoped they would publish this article as a way to thank everyone involved in these awesome running groups, promote these inspirational coaches, and to point out how poeple can gain different inspirations and benefits from different, yet similar situations.  I'll post what i wrote first, then you'll see the link to the Austin Fit Article titled "Inspiration."

Oh yes, the other thing was that when the assistant editor told me that they were going to use my idea for the Inspiration issue, i was very excited because i thought that they were going to use my article, and do a lay out of the three running groups/coaches i mentioned.....which was my idea/point. When they ended up using me as one of the inspirational persons, it was a bit awkward (even though it was pretty fun).  Even at the last minute, at the photo shoot, I was really expecting, Joe Prusaitis (Tejas Trails), Gilbert Tuhabonye (Gilbert's Gazelle's),  and Steve Sisson and John Schrup (Rogue) to be there for a group photo.   That would have been so cool.  Oh well, it exists in my head.


Austin Running Groups Provide 

Now that I have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and am undergoing chemotherapy I've had the chance (time during infusions, blood draws and drug induced bed rest) to reflect on what these three Austin running groups have given me, in the past, and even now, as they continue to provide support above anything expected, and likely beyond what they are aware.  They are each led by local icons, whose personal stories and running resumes have brought this, and I'm sure many other runners, and readers, to tears.  Each group has a strong sense of community and respect for individualism, and each has provided, for many, the motivation and skill required to complete and even excel at difficult tasks including marathons, ultra-marathons and life.

  This is part of my story:                                           
In 2003, my beautiful daughter Adaline was unexpectedly born with severe brain damage leading to a life of cerebral palsy, dependent care, and seizures. Once I surfaced from the depths of 2 years of sadness, I joined the Rogue Moms marathon group for the 2005-2006 Austin Marathon Training season and what would be my first marathon.  This group, led by Steve Sisson (bios: , ,  and more directly coached by Carolyn Mangold taught me that I could live again, be happy, and enjoy friends and personal goals.  It also taught me that i could even thrive utilizing the methodological progression of fitness.

When the Mom's group split up I followed one of my closest new mom friends, Lisa, over to Gilbert's Gazelles, where my goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  (Check out this bio on Wikipedia: ) But, what I learned was the importance of heart, courage, and the safety and momentum of a pack.  Not to mention the benefit of a strong “core”.  This group, led by Gilbert Tuhabonye himself, provided me with the ability to Boston qualify, and more importantly, the courage to attempt to have a second child which my husband and I were able to do, 13 months after my running of "the Boston".  I will always credit this Gazelles group for my ability to conceive "of" my second child.

Four months after my healthy sweet baby boy Ace Henry “Selby” Howell was born, I returned to a Rogue Austin marathon group beginning in September 2007, which met only 2 times per week versus the 3 times per week of The Gazelles. I felt this would better fit into my schedule with a nursing newborn, a 3 year old in a wheelchair, and a full time job as a Physical Therapist (I know, ironic).  I joined this group with no real goals other than to get back to running with no intention of making any more friends.  I had already made many very close friends from the Rogue Moms and then The Gazelles.  But what do you know, but people in this group made their way into my life and onto my list of friends (before Facebook), even best of friends.  This group did indeed get me back to running and was the springboard for more to come.  My injury that season due to my overzealous attempt to return to "fast" pace running, which I blame on my speedy weight loss with the combination of nursing and distance running, lead me to seek out a way to continue running, and recover from injury, simultaneously. My first thought was…. How about shorter distances?  But, I quickly realized that shorter distances would just make me want to run faster.  What I felt I needed now was slower running... How about trail running?  I had heard it was difficult to run a fast pace on a trail.  I was a bit afraid of what would happen with my weak ankles, but later learned that this variety in surfaces was just what I needed, and that I was even good at it.   

This quest for running with a decreased focus on pace, and increased focus on less injury led me to my entrance into the unknown world of trail running, and my joining of Tejas Trails.  This group being led by Joe Prusaitis, one of Austin’s most seasoned trail, and ultra-runners (Please refer to his impressive ultra bio ) and assisted by Robert Heynen.  When I joined this group and this new world I had no idea what I was doing.  I was actually even confused most of the time, but found myself feeling very excited by the environment and the new challenges.  Ironically, and to my very pleasant surprise I found out that my good friend Lisa, whom I had followed from the Mom’s to The Gazelles, and with whom I had not run in 2 years, due to life circumstances, was also joining the Tejas Trails in order to train for the Bandera 50K!
This group, Tejas Trails, whose race plans may as easily be based on effort levels and scientific nutrition facts, as they could be based on the random gathering success of a "blind squirrel" (inside joke), gave me the ability to truly open my eyes during a run, and enjoy the thrill of taking it all in, even while at times running completely out of control.
I found my golden nut during my glorious 10 months of trail running just prior to my diagnosis of breast cancer.  During this time I completed my first “ultra”-marathon, achieved 4 top ten female finishes, and even one first place female (top 4 overall). What a thrill for me, coming off of road running where, for me, the only “competition” was against my own self, or the clock.  

As I trained for specific trail races with Tejas Trails, I had also simultaneously stayed on with my road running and by certain chance found myself training with the Team Rogue group coached directly by Steve Sisson.  For some reason, to my benefit, TR allowed me to attend 1x per week out of their scheduled 3x per week.  This was the perfect complement to my schedule, and I got to continue to hang out and run with good friends and motivated people.  I also got to continue to benefit from coaching ideas and motivational words by Steve, even though primarily from the sidelines. "Relentless Forward Progress". Words once used by Steve to describe what should be part of one’s race plan when running a 100 mile trail race.  I love those words, and have taken them on as my personal motto.  I hope also to have the chance again one day to perseverate on these words during another Ultra Run of my own.

What's sort of funny now, is that, other than living and enjoying life, simply continuing to show up for my Tuesday morning group run is one of the goals I have.  What's more interesting is that, while I am (I believe) the only person in the group currently going through chemotherapy, and not even training for a race, the new and current Team Rogue coach, John Schrup, (who met me only months prior to my diagnosis) treats me with interest equaled to that of the fastest runner, or those with the most potential.  I believe that he understands me, and what I need to continue my push toward relentless forward progress.

Emily Selby Howell 1.24.11

Here's the link to the Austin Fit Article online:

One additional interesting note is that after the interview, i found out that Relentless Forward Progress is actually already a book written as a guide to ultrarunning.  I've purchased it and i'm about half way through.

Here's a review of the book:

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