Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fleece scarves, Drippy sleeves, and the Inability to be in two places at once

As I said back in October when I came out of my Pill-Bug mode the first time, I’ve never really had any big desire to run 13.1… or even walk it.  But considering I managed the Breast Cancer 3 day 10 years ago, I wanted to do something similarly significant for colon cancer, for Tricia and my mom.  So I put together a training plan, started to recruit a team, and got on with it. Or at least that was the plan.

My training started out alright, but as always seems to happen life gets in the way. Homework for the little man, holidays, work, weather… life.  But I was still at least staying somewhat active until the first week of Jan. I had a sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen, which at first I did my best to ignore. But after 2 days where I couldn’t sit up straight without meds, I went to see my doc. Instead I got a PA who decided that since I was “Fat, Female and Forty” it was gall stones, and I quote, “Not urgent,” and I was to get an ultrasound, but it wasn’t a hurry. It’s silly, but I was most offended by being called “forty-ish.” For the love of God, my birthday is in December, I’d only turned 37 two weeks before.

Anyhow to make a long story short, when I got an ultrasound a week after the pain started, they said, “No Gallstones, you should get your appendix checked.” By now, I was still in a fair amount of pain, but was walking around, so did a couple more tests, and after the CT Scan the next day they told me not to leave the radiologists office.  Next conversation was with someone from my Dr’s office asking if I needed an ambulance, since I had a ruptured Appendix, and needed to go directly to the ER. Do not wait for my husband to drive me, go now. Which seemed dumb, since I’d now been in pain for 8 days.  Went to ER, got appendix out, and had to spend a fair amount of time on REALLY STRONG antibiotics since from what they could tell, I’d been walking around with a ruptured appendix for 6 days. My mom & husband, etc. kept telling me, “You could have died!” I scoffed at this until at my follow up appointment I mentioned to the surgeon who said, “yes, definitely you could have died.”  We agreed to keep that from my mom… so I guess I hope she skips reading this post. I hate “I told you so;” unless I’m the one saying it.

So two long paragraphs to get to an actual legitimate reason that I hadn’t spent much time training.

By the week before the event, I was getting to the gym and spending 90 min at a time on the elliptical, but that’s nowhere near enough time to prepare for the Mercer Island Half, which I planned to walk on March 20. Beyond having issues training, I was having problems with the website for the team I set up as well. So even the day before the event, I didn’t know who was on team TJ Booty (short for “Tricia, Judy, and their fabulous Bootys”) So with no way to organize the team, I decided to make fleece scarves. Not only are they one size fits all (and fairly inexpensive for me to make since with no contact info, it’s not like I could ask people for money) but sensitivity to cold is a common side effect to colon cancer chemo, so if no one else liked them, I was pretty sure that my mom and Tricia would still appreciate it, which is all that really matters to me.

The morning of the walk dawned and I tried to put aside the concerns that had been plaguing me all week. Could I really do this? Would I rather do the 5k with my mom? Had I really gone too far this time?  By the time I picked up my friend Suzanne to carpool to the event, I was ready to go. Still a little scared, but not enough to consider giving up.  We got to the park, found my friend Judy (not my MOM Judy, who is a colon cancer survivor) who wanted to run it, but decided to walk with us, and waited for the 4th of our group. We’d agreed to meet at 7:30a, which was the walker start time, but other than Elise, we were all a little early.  By 7:45p we were getting a little anxious, so Suzanne sent Judy and I ahead and said she and Elise would catch up.

Despite being the first day of Spring in the Pacific Northwest, we could not have asked for better weather. The morning was chilly, but when you’re walking your ass off, that’s not a bad thing, and dang it, I made scarves! Despite the chill, it was clear and dry. If you’ve never just taken a walk on tree lined streets in the Seattle area, you’re missing out.  Judy and I were walking away and chatting as we walked briskly, I’d guess a 17-18 min pace. It was kind of fun to hit the water stops, we got a lot of personal attention, since the initial wave of walkers had long since passed by.

After a couple of miles, my bad ankle (the one I broke a few years ago) started to ache a little. Not enough to stop, or even really limp, just to remind me that it was there.  We kept going. A guy out walking his dog took our picture with the sign for mile 5. Still feeling pretty good.  I remembered that I’d put my workout play list on my husband’s iPod touch so I could play it out loud and fired up some tunes.

We were into mile 6 when we heard the police escort. The first runners were coming. Judy & I cheered them on…  the first several were SO serious. Didn’t even crack a smile when we were cheering them on. Skinny little dude after skinny little dude, too intent on finishing their 13.1 to acknowledge our cheers. But when the first female runner came by us, she heard us cheer and gave us a little thumbs up. 

Silly, but it really meant a lot.

Around mile 7, my feet were numb. My hands were all sausage-y, and I was thinking, this is how my mom still feels every day. Her feet are still numb from the IV chemo she stopped in November. Her hands are still numb, even though her last day of oral chemo was Jan 31. She’s afraid to drive to my house (around 100 miles) because she can’t always feel the pedals in the car. She’s had to tell her co-workers more than she wanted to tell them, because she’s afraid that people will think she’s drunk, since the neuropathy means she can’t always balance, or write clearly. She has had to ask strangers to open her gas cap for her so that she can fill her tank. Right now, her hands don’t have the strength.

About 7.5 miles in, after we’d been passed by a significant amount of the running pack, I finally convinced Judy that it was OK for her to run.  We’d been stalling a little bit, hoping for Suzanne and Elise to catch up from their 20+ min lag behind us, but I could tell, she really wanted to go.  Since of the four of us I’m 99% sure she’d done BY FAR the most training, I wanted her to feel free to run.

The next three miles were the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time.  I looked at my watch, and realized that my mom was well into her 5k. More than anything, I wished that I was with her. She was afraid to do the 5k with just my 7 year old son holding her hand, afraid that she’d trip and take him down.  I called my husband, who was running the 5k, to check on their progress, and he told me mom was almost done, and she didn’t lean on anyone, just held her grandson’s little hand. The day before she finished oral chemo was her 60th birthday, and on the first day of spring, she did her very first 5k, despite the chill in the air, and the numbness in her hands and feet.  At the end of the walk, my son told her, “You inspire me, Grandma.” I was so proud of them both I could burst, but I ached to be with them, not across the island on a solitary journey.

Shortly after that, I noticed the sleeves of my jacket were dripping wet. Like I’d washed my hands and gotten water all over the cuffs. I puzzled over that for a while before I realized it was my own sweat running down my sleeves. I’d taken off one jacket layer, now I was feeling a little clammy and cold, but took of my scarf & tied it to my backpack that I brought with water and snacks, so I had a lovely blue fleece tail.

I slowed even more to try to “wait” for the rest of my team, but was afraid if I stopped, I’d never get going again.  I tried to keep my heart rate around 70%, and tried not to turn and look for them too often.  Just before Mile 8 was a Cliff Shot station.  I took the “gel” which I use regularly when I tri- but for some reason, it upset my stomach.  I of course realized this about ¼ mile after I passed the port-a-pottys. 

The next couple of miles were spent scanning the horizon ahead for the next darn potty spot while I scanned the horizon behind me for Suzanne and Elise. I was feeling alone, and starting to feel a little sorry for myself in my aloneness. What was I thinking that I could so this?  Look at all of these skinny people jogging by me with their friends!  Why didn’t I just do the 5k with my mom?  Would someone come get me if I decided I just couldn’t make it anymore?  Tunes kept me moving, but why the heck didn’t I bring headphones so I didn’t have to feel like the weird fat chick with music AND a blue fleece tail? 

Finally, I saw the stupid port-a-potty. Things were looking up.  I made the quick pit stop and when I came out, up the hill came Suzanne and Elise. Even better!  We only had a couple of miles left, and I was no longer alone with my thoughts.  I pointed out my drippyness to Suzanne, who pointed out if I had on the wicking layer instead of my warmer jacket, it would help me stay warm without holding the clammy sweat against me. So I tied my drippy sleeves around my waist (the good part about having long arms is that I have longer sleeves to fit around me ;) and we were off. I felt bad for wanting to get back to a somewhat normal pace, since they’d been playing catch up for the whole journey, and Elise was moving in a cute little trot/jog that made me feel bad for having legs that are something like 4-6 inches longer than hers and strolling along.

The rest of the walk itself was fairly uneventful.  We told folks at the water stations as we passed that there were at least two people behind us.  The very last one apparently had run out of water, because what they gave us tasted like it came out of a garden hose. With about ½ mile left, we started to see some people walking the other direction. Most of them were likely headed to their cars, but at least one was awfully familiar, my husband was walking the course to finish with me.

At this point, I’m pretty sure my blood sugar was low.  Hit the last hill, and my son came running down to hug me. Me: “Hi buddy, Mommy can’t walk you hang on to me.” Boy: “You’re doing great, Mom!” Me: “Thanks baby, don’t hold my hand, Mommy really just needs to finish this now.”
And so, in an awkward moment where I felt like I was pushing friends and family away, I did.  13.1 miles, in just over 4:35.  Awesome time? Uh, no.  But as my lovely new headband from One More Mile says: You don’t have to go fast, You just have to GO!

Mom, Me, Hubby and our little man at the finish line.
Things I learned from 13.1:
·         I can do it
·         Layers are good, both to take off and to put back on if needed
·         Pay attention to nutrition. Even if you’re eating stuff you’ve had before, if it’s been a long time, your system may rebel
·         Aleve is my friend. For several days after, and all day of the event
·         Training is a good idea, I need to do more of that
·         OMG- I can do it
·         But more than figuring out if I can, I need to weigh the opportunity cost- SHOULD I do it, or should I be there to hold my mother’s hand?
·         13.1 miles = 4:35 = 3716 calories
·         OMG, HOLY COW… I CAN DO IT!

Other updates in the last couple of months: Mom’s post chemo PET scan came back cancer free. Not totally out of the woods, but a good sign.  I promptly chopped off 6 inches of the hair I’d been growing out.  Tricia has not been as lucky, but she’s still fighting and has a broad group of friends who would take the tumor down for her if we could.   I’ve turned 37, and my race age is now 38. With a late Dec birthday, this still pisses me off.

Next update: this year’s event (I REFUSE to call them races) calendar, and an exciting shirt development. Stay tuned!

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