Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cancer. Competetive Edge. Catharsis. Climax. Contentment.

Those of you who've followed this blog with any consistency probably remember me blogging about my first race back into running since before: "you have cancer".  That race was back on December 10th 2011.  At that point I remember feeling the "Greyhound in the Gate" feeling that some runners might feel before a big race. Ready to run, ready to kick ass.  So ready to get back to running, feeling good, and living life. That race was was supposed to be a training run that I was just going out to do to see the land and to run a supported long run.  As you may remember, I ended up mostly racing, and doing pretty well overall. 10th female and 2nd age group which is difficult to do especially for a 25 K which usually brings more runners and faster runners.  Then there was the Bandera 50K. AGAIN, SUPPOSEDLY a training run, which I had not tapered for.  I had run 26 miles the weekend before, and this was NOT my "A" Race. Yet, again, I found myself mostly "racing" the whole thing and doing pretty well overall. I believe 12th female.   Oh, yes, then merely weeks after that, I found myself ACTUALLY attempting to race the 3M half mararathon despite the fact that I had not been training to run fast, or at any type of even tempo.  In my own mind, and likely within the mind of any coach, this erratic racing and training behaviour would not be recommended if one wanted to do well at their "A" Race.  Even my Step Father who has been a marathoner in his past had sent me an email basically trying to remind me to be careful and keep my eye on the prize...the 50 miler....My "A" Race.....this thing I'd been mentally focused on, and blogging about, for oh, maybe about a year....Very good advice, and I agreed, yet continued these silly, out of control, acts.  None of these acts were really like me, or my former self.  It was just that I was somehow compelled to do it all.  Make up for lost time, etcetera.  I can't even say with certainty that I regret any of it.  I've had a great season.  I'm really only re-hashing all of this for a few reasons.  Firstly to bring you up to just before the 50 mile race and secondly to help you, and myself, better understand my mental state before and during the race.
 I mentioned in my past few posts how my left leg was bothering me and I wasn't really running.  I didn't really run much for the better part of the last 3 weeks.  2 short runs and 2 attempts at running that ended in calf spasms and foot pains not to mention feeling of weakness, and burning sensations down the back of my butt and thigh.  I opted for aquajogging which really just felt good.  I saw 2 doctors.  The first doctor thought it might be my iliopsoas muscle squeezing my sciatic nerve. I had a psoas release which did seem to help a bit.  Then my back did start bothering me a bit, so I went and saw another doctor who has more experience with multiple medical situations.  He felt that we should probably rule out something in my spine...including...Cancer.  Oh God.  My mother has back pain and some spinal stenosis, so I was thinking we should rule that out too?  During this time of visiting with doctors and aquajogging I had extra time unplanned/unexpected time to think, and had a few cathartic moments as I mentioned in my last post.  I had not planned on making any decisions regarding my reconstruction surgery until after the 50 miler.  I was planning on having visions regarding what I should do DURING the race.  Again, erratic, unplanned behavior and a resultant Pre-Mature Climax. Several days before the race, I had decided on my reconstruction plans, and had even scheduled the surgery for April 16th.  I decided to save the scheduling of the MRI until after the race.  At some point I had to begin to focus on making sure that I was standing there on the starting line, and that I would be able to complete what it was that I had started out to do.

Problem was....I had already finished.

I found myself standing there on the starting line, having already achieved my primary goals:  Return to life, get healthy, and make some hard decisions.  I still had one more thing to do though, and that was to complete this 50 miler.

 After the first lap of this 3 laps x 16.7 miles race, I realized that I would indeed make it to the finish line.  My leg and primarily my foot were bothering me, but nothing that a few bloody, then stubbed, toenails didn't end up masking.  I stayed with my friend Lisa for about 30 miles.  

 I felt OK.  Not great.  Then the unexpected happened again.  The Competetive Spirit Did NOT arrive this time. Only a feeling of contentment.  (Peppered with severe pain due to repeatedly stubbing my currently bloody, previously Taxol....Toenail).

 I felt happy.  I was alone in the woods on a beautiful day.

I was thinking about my beautiful family and my wonderful life.

 It just didn't seem important to me to kick anyone's ass at that point which is something very different for me, and even a bit "off the shelf", if you will. Like trying on a new pair of shoes. You "might" like it.   Somewhere around mile 38 I remember beginning to think... "This is not really my thing".  "I like Yoga".  I also remember thinking that I should keep running so that I could get back to the finish line sooner rather than later, to see my husband and friends who would be waiting there for me.

Tejas Trails Coach Joe Prusaitis

 Richie told me the day after the race that it was even slightly awkward for him when I crossed the finish line with people standing there cheering for a cancer survivor (me) who had just completed a 50 mile race and I was speaking very loudly..."This is not really my thing!" I just don't have the competetive spirit today!" 

Funny the things one will say after running 50 miles. 

Thank You to everyone who played a part in making this amazing weekend happen for me.  (Jenn).

"One can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegrtion if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways."  --Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril


  1. Emily, I think many ultra trail runners have gone through similar, introspective, why-am-I-out-here moments. I think they are cathartic, I have learned some valuable lessons from mine. You are inspiring (whether you like it or not), enjoy those simple, pleasant, elegant memories, like being out in the woods. I think those out-shine the great-finishes memories in the long run anyways. -David

  2. Hey David! Thanks for your comments. I love getting them.
    And you must know i was thinking of you when i said i was out in the woods! I was happy like David!