Richmond Marathon Recap

For my latest marathon recap, I thought I about adding some inspirational running quote meme at the beginning, but I couldn’t find one that perfectly summed up how I felt about this race. I am the World’s Okayest Runner, and I would like to explain why I no longer want to run stupid long distances anymore.

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I want to preface this by saying that I worked with a coach for this training cycle, and she was amazing. I would not have even gotten to the start line at the Richmond marathon without her guidance and training plan. I hope my thoughts and feelings about running stupid long distancdes do not cast any negative light on her or her coaching.

I thought I had a more difficult time with my long runs during this training cycle. The heat and humidity never seemed to relent, and I ended most runs feeling like I just went through hell and back. I know a lot of people will say, “Those runs just mean you’ll go so much faster when it gets colder!” However, when each run feels like a battle and you end each one feeling sweatier than you ever thought possible, it can affect someone’s motivation and by someone, I mean, mine. I just felt defeated.

A month and a half before the race, I injured my left shoulder and had to refrain from cross training and strength training. I honestly haven’t the foggiest on what I did to injure my shoulder, which is the same one I hurt a week before the Pittsburgh marathon. Unlike the Pittsburgh marathon, this 2nd go around with the shoulder pain lasted a lot longer and felt way more intense. I could still run and do my training runs since I wasn’t swinging my arms around wildly as I ran.

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The week before Richmond, I was finishing a track workout when my groin muscle felt tight but not pulled or anything. “Weird,” I thought that day but never gave it much thought. I had a pulled groin muscle 10 or so years ago, and this definitely did not give me the same “Oh Crap” feeling.

On Race Day, everything felt as good as it was going be. I did not wake up with any pain in my shoulder or groin. That second part turned out to not be true around mile 6 or 8 when I was making good time. My groin began to ache as I ran, and now and then, I shook my leg and hip out in a futile attempt to loosen something up.

The wind played a big factor in the race for me. While it wasn’t freezing weather or anything, it was chilly and the slightly above normal winds made it pretty darn cold at times. The absolute worst part of the marathon was the bridge, which ended up being the start of the Wall. As the wind whipped my face and made my fingers numb, I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to end the way you had hoped for.” All of us were running against the wind, and I am sure my eyes were not the only ones fighting watery eyes.

After the bridge, the Wall showed up, and from then on, it was a battle and I’m pretty sure I lost. My groin pain got worse, and around mile 21 or 22, the other side of my groin started hurting as well. I wonder if this is the result of the cold not letting up and my body never having gotten comfortable.

The downhill finish at the Richmond Marathon was supposed to be a welcome relief to runners at the end of the race. For me, the downhill finish line made my groin muscle scream, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” A volunteer coach toward the end saw my face and the struggle, and she ran with me for a short bit. I told her that my groin hurt, and she said, “After you finish, keep moving. Don’t stop moving.” The Richmond volunteers were absolute champs and amazing.

When I crossed the finish line, I unleashed what I was holding back for 18 or so miles. I started crying but not because I was overcome with emotion – I was overcome with pain. Some poor girl handed me my finisher medal and said “…. congratulations?” to me, as I took the medal from her.

I can now say I am a four-time marathonner, and that’s how it’s going to be for the time being. For a hot minute, I thought I would train for a 5th marathon in the spring and perhaps do a 50K race in June, and then say See YA to long distances. As soon as I crossed the finish line, my face stained with tears, I knew that Richmond would be my last marathon for the time being. Between the shoulder and groin, I am not convinced that I am built for stupid long distances.

I am burnt out and disheartened. No matter how much effort I put forth and how hard I work for a marathon, I keep getting the same results. I am looking forward to dropping down to half marathons again. Plus, my busy season at work will be kicking into high gear very soon (like, as soon as I get back from Thanksgiving break). I need to take away any voluntary stressors since work is more important than running.

The beauty of all this is I get to figure out what I want to do next, and then work on achieving that goal with a smile on my face and a spring to my step.

I want to end this recap by memorializing some of the cool things I saw during the Richmond marathon race:

  • A man dressed in an inflatable T-rex costume for the full marathon. From what I heard, he finished the whole race in that costume and in an impressive time.
  • An elderly man with a cane was in the middle of the road during mile 20 or 21. He was borderline heckling us. “I thought this was a race, but this might be the end of it because y’all are WALKING.” Haha, dude. Give us a break. This is a lot of miles!
  • This college-aged girl – who had been hanging out on a porch with a couple of dudes and cheering on runners for the race – shouted, “THAT IS THE CUTEST FUCKING DOG I HAVE EVER SEEN” at this middle aged couple just walking a golden retriever. TBH, it was a really cute golden retriever, and I totally get her intense response to the dog.
  • A DJ at one of the music stations was calling out runners individually by their Bib. I had the pleasure of hearing, “Huffman… rules. That’s right you do.” I gave a fist bump, a la John Bender at the end of the Breakfast Club.
  • My friends Abbie and Naomi at the end cheering me when everything hurt and I was questioning all my life’s choices. My friends are pretty damn awesome.

 

My 9 Wishes

A couple of weeks ago, I shared 9 breast cancer-related wishes to mark the 9th year since I was told I had breast cancer. Much to my surprise, my friends asked me to make the status public and complete strangers actually shared it. (Wuuuut). So, to kick off another Breast Cancer Awareness month, aka Pinktober, or Stinkober, I want to share these 9 wishes again. However, this time – I’m expanding on these wishes. Get ready for some links, analysis and probably a lot more curse words.  I am who I am.

I have 9 wishes I want to make to mark the 9th year since I was told I had breast cancer:

1. I wish for nobody to play the stupid FB “awareness” game for breast cancer this year. It’s dumb, and it fills me with rage when I see it. I see red, not going to lie. My disease isn’t a fun cutesy game.

I have written about this before and I know I’m repeating myself. I don’t care. I’m also going to reshare something Lisa Bonchek Adams (who died from metastatic breast cancer) wrote about this in a January 17, 2013 blog post:

Anyone who has breast cancer and uses your FB status update as an indicator of whether you support their cause is not very enlightened. When I rank “how to help those of us with cancer,” sharing one of these paragraphs as a status update is the lowest possible method of showing support. There are endless ways to do that. I think it actually is the opposite; sharing these status updates makes people feel they are doing something real for breast cancer causes when they aren’t.

I’ve also had it with the “I’ll bet most of my friends won’t share this post” attempt to guilt me in to sharing something like “share this if you think domestic abuse is awful.” “Share this if you think autistic kids are special.” Well yes, actually, I believe both of those things. And just because I didn’t share them as my status update doesn’t mean I do NOT agree with the statements.

Just don’t do it, please. I’d rather you do nothing than share that.

2. I wish for everyone to think before you pink this October. Be mindful that the pink items lining the shelves are not doing anything for breast cancer. They are just using my illness to make some sweet sweet dollas.

Here are the questions that Breast Cancer Action wants anyone to think before buying a pink item (see here for the full blog post):

1. Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much?

For example, you’re at the grocery store, and you see a pair of pink ribbon socks by the register and you think, “Aw these are cute.” Pick up that pair of socks and look at the packaging. Does any money of your purchase go to … anything? Is there a mention of a charity, even if it’s one that’s problematic?

If the answer is no and that pink ribbon item is 100 percent purse capitalistic greed, do me a favor – don’t buy it. Too many companies profited on the deaths of so many.

2. What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?

3. Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can you tell?

4. Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

3. I wish for the ability to bitch-slap anyone wearing a “save second base” or “save the tatas” shirt and not be arrested. That’d be awesome. I’m talking a slap like Soap Opera level slap.

I wrote “My Disease Isn’t a Cutesy Slogan” 5 years ago, and my feelings have not changed.

Since I had a double-mastectomy, does that mean I somehow failed since mine weren’t saved? Does that mean I am less of a woman, since I technically don’t have breasts anymore? My body image after my double mastectomy has completely changed, and it hasn’t been for the better. When I see “save the tatas” or “save the boobies,” I am constantly reminded of what exists under my shirt — scars, stretch marks and silicone.

These cutesy or provocative slogans offend me because they reduce women to a single body part — our breasts. The body part that could very well mean our death if the cancer spreads from the breast to other organs (aka stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer). It gives the clear message that the focus should be on saving our ability to be sexually attractive to the opposite sex. Heaven forbid you lose the body part that makes others feel attracted to you, because if you lose your sexuality, you lose your worth.

4. I wish for the media to report on cancer and metastatic cancer ACCURATELY. Nobody dies from breast cancer – they die from metastatic breast cancer (ie when it has spread to other organs). When it’s spread to their brain or lung, it’s still breast cancer.

Nobody ever dies from breast cancer. They die from metastatic breast cancer, which is when it’s spread to a distant organ. It is important to accurately report that someone has died from metastatic breast cancer, so the general public knows there is a difference between breast cancer (contained with the breast) and metastatic breast cancer (spread).

The Guardian reported on Jackie Collins’ death in 2015 but made no mention of the word “metastatic.” The BBC also did not mention the word “metastatic.” Recently, the news reported on the death of news anchor Cokie Roberts, whose family released a statement saying she died “due to complications from breast cancer.” I found little to no mention of metastatic breast cancer or recurrence in the news surrounding her death. She was a veteran news anchor – given her profession, you’d think there would be an accurate reporting on what actually killed her.

There needs to be actual acknowledgement of what kills people when they die from this disease. They do not die from breast cancer, they die from metastatic breast cancer. How can we educate the general public if we don’t even use the proper terminology?

5. I wish that my friends who have stage 4 breast cancer can slap early stagers who call them mean or bitter. I realize two of my wishes are related to slapping people, and I’m okay with it.

Rethink Breast Cancer shared the statistic on their Instagram page that 20 to 30 percent of people diagnosed early stage breast cancer will be re-diagnosed with MBC. Y’all, so many early stagers lost their damn minds.

One person commented: “I think you should honour how this post harmfully triggers many of us. I understand you’re trying to educate but I think there’s a better way than this.”

Yeah…. I’m going to let Judit Saunders field this one and it explains why I feel like stage 4 patients should be given a pass to slapping people: 

 SO, let me digest what you just said? Because a FACTUAL STATISTIC that many women face as their REALITY is “triggering” & hard to digest we should silence & simply erase any evidence that it exists??? Let that sink in…What in the actual bloody fuck is happening??!! We have regressed this badly with the division between the ebc and metastatic community?? Now, when I’ve been advocating for this disease since having my own metastatic recurrence I feel as though I am fighting for these ill informed-pull-the-wool-over-my-eyes-i-need-to-be-sheltered-by-reality-or-else-I’m-sad population & they have zero clue how our actions may one day save THEIR lives!

And

Did anyone not think that maybe if this disease wasn’t deadly then all you early stagers over there popping your Ativan due to being “triggered” wouldn’t be fearful anymore because people would no longer die? Just stop and THINK about it. THINK…EMPATHIZE…and then THINK about it some more. I don’t know how to make this more understandable. I don’t know how to make it clearer?! I have plenty of early stage friends who get it and stand united with the MBC community, but then when comments propagate to try to shut the MBC community up…ya, you’ve picked the wrong gal for that because I am done. Respect is earned and it’s a two way street. However, many comments simply want us to stop talking about it. We need to hide under a rock and just die apparently or else we have caused people to feel “triggered.” Hypocrisy at it’s finest… Ignorance at it’s peak… Stupidity in it’s lowest form.

See? Don’t you agree that Judit should be able to slap people? Read more of her righteous rant here.

I get being absolutely scared out of my mind of the idea of a recurrence. I get that. Sometimes that fear has paralyzed me, and it’s probably one of the main reasons I got my tush into counseling. It’s a lot. How-the-freak-ever, I still have a heart and the ability to empathize, and I would NEVER tell anyone with stage 4 to stop speaking their truth because they’re doin’ me a frighten. How inconsiderate do you have to be to think that’d ever be okay?

“Excuse me, ma’am. I know you’re a young mother with three young children, but could you please stop talking about your terminal diagnosis? It’s really bumming me out.”

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Just because you don’t like a statistic or a statistic scares you, doesn’t mean that the statistic goes away if you ignore it. Nope, still there. Deal with your fear, shut up, or at least think about what words will come out of your mouth next. Might I recommend therapy?

6. I wish for more people to know that MAMMOGRAMS DO NOT SAVE LIVES. They detect cancer. That’s it. There is no evidence that mammograms have saved lives.

An August 6, 2005 article in The BMJ reported that a US case control study showed that “Breast cancer screening in “real world” situations is not effective in preventing mortality.” The author of the study found, “We observed no appreciable association between breast cancer mortality and screening history, [regardless of age or risk level].”

Nine years later, a February 12, 2014 Reuters article reported that, “A new study has added to growing evidence that yearly mammogram screenings do not reduce the chance that a woman will die of breast cancer and confirms earlier findings that many abnormalities detected by these X-rays would never have proved fatal, even if untreated.” The study, which studied 89,835 women aged 40 to 59 over a 25-year period and was published in the British Medical Journal, “found no reduction in breast cancer mortality from mammography screening . . .  Neither in women aged 40-49 at study entry nor in women aged 50-59.”

I am not saying that anybody should stop getting mammograms. There’s no really other way to get your screening. What I am saying is that we need to see mammograms detect cancer – that’s it.  Mammograms do not save lives.

7. I wish for everyone to realize that early detection does not always mean you “beat cancer.” There are so many women whose breast cancer was caught early stages who went onto become metastatic. It’s not about when you catch the breast cancer, it’s about the tumor biology.

Catching breast cancer early surely does help, but it is not a guarantee that your cancer will never come back metastatic. I personally know many women whose breast cancer was caught early stage and who later were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Some of those women have since died.

An estimated 20 to 30 percent who were diagnosed early stage will be later diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. However, we don’t know the exact numbers because Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) does not track information pertaining to a metastatic breast cancer recurrence. SEER tracks those who were diagnosed Stage 4 right off the bat (aka de novo). The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network explains it this way:

My friend Shirley was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in 1991. Her cancer came back 12 years later—she has been living with Stage IV breast cancer for the past 13 years. For statistical purposes, Shirley and other patients like her are tallied as successfully treated for early-stage breast cancer. Only upon their deaths will they be counted as metastatic breast cancer patients.

The 20 to 30 percent statistic could be higher or lower, I can’t say for certain. If I had to guess, I would say the stat is probably much higher. I do know that until we know all the data, how could we ever say for certainty that early detection saves lives when we don’t know what happens to the woman 7 or 15 years later?

See here for more information.

8. I wish for everyone I know to understand why I don’t call myself a survivor or say I beat this, especially now that I know I have a genetic mutation. I’m NED (no evidence of disease) but my body works against me. I don’t see this as a battle or a fight. This is my body, and this is what it does.

I recently wrote about my mutant diagnosis here.

I want to say fuck you to anyone who wants me to see the positive in what’s a very much negative situation. There’s no putting lipstick on this pig. Let me say this very clearly – I’m allowed to feel angry and sad. If my anger and dark mood makes you feel uncomfortable and icky on the inside, those are your feelings to manage. Not mine. I don’t have to put a fake smile on my face to make anyone feel comfortable.

I looked into a crystal ball, y’all, and all I saw were a never-ending parade of doctors visits, MRIs, surgeries, and whatever medical procedure is necessary to keep me upright. Why can’t we let sucky things just suck? It’s okay. I’d be a robot if I could be given this diagnosis, put a smile on my face, and go, “It’s okay, but things happen for a reason?”

I have no desire to be anyone’s inspiration porn, and my anger isn’t an invitation for any pity, as well. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I am acknowledging my feelings, and right now, those feeling are pretty much anger and despair.

9. Finally, and this is a special wish because I used to believe I’d be gone by the time I was 40 like my mother – I wish for continued good health for as many years as I can and to never ever take it for granted while I have it.

 

Sports Star

I am currently training for my fourth marathon. Once again, I will be attempting to run the Richmond Marathon in November. Last year, I attempted to run this marathon but after my [redacted] diagnosis, that ended up not happening. My head was definitely not in the headspace that it needs to be in order to finish a marathon.

Something definitely feels different this time around, and I know exactly why – my weekly appointments with a personal trainer. On Monday, the trainer took me to the downstairs gym with “the big boys” and had me back-squat 85 lbs and leg press 115 (or around there).  I actually have some upper body strength, and my legs (especially my quads) are looking massive!  Remember when obtaining a thigh gap was all the rage? I’m doing the opposite right now – closing up that gap.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it definitely paints a picture in the changes I am currently seeing. I can bench press around 40 lbs, and given that I could barely do 5 lb weights over a year ago, that is big for me.

I stayed away from strength training, especially the upper body, because I could never really adjust to my chest post-mastectomy. I’d feel the tiniest bit of pulling and go “NOPE, not doing it.” Since I have been working with a trainer, I have gotten over that fear and have been pushing through it.

I joked to my trainer that I should be an Instagram Un-influencer. Instead of being a perfectly sculpted gym goddess wearing expertly coordinated Lulelemon, I’m an oddly shaped, middle aged women who wears mis-matched clothes to the gym or looks like a soccer mom dropping her kiddos off at the game while I am running.  (“Holy Quads batman, this unassuming, bespectacled lady is back-squatting like she knows what she is doing!”)

Ever since my surgery in 2017, I haven’t really made serious progress as a runner. I’ve just kind of plateaued. Granted, I did track sporadically and I certainly never did any toolbox runs on a consistent basis. When I ran the Pittsburgh marathon, I just ran 4 days a week and did the personal training. Other than that, I didn’t mix anything up or incorporate any speed work. Surprisingly, I ran Pittsburgh in 5:28, and I was injured when I ran that. Not bad.

My goal for my fourth marathon is to get back as close as I can to the 5 hour mark. I doubt that I will hit sub-5 since that’d involve shaving 29 minutes in 6 months. A lot of stars would have to align for me to get there. I’ll try, obviously, but I am not going to kill myself to reach it. I’ve been working with a friend who is a Certified Running Coach, and I am trusting her and the plan.

She gives me certain pace goals to try and hit. So far, I haven’t quite hit, well, any of them. I’m going to keep trying and that’s going to be approach for this marathon: just try and do my best.

Whenever the trainer Anthony has me try something new or a lot more difficult than I am accustomed to, I tell him, “I don’t know if I can, but I will try.” There have been times where I tried and absolutely could not do it (i.e., pushups). I tried, though. That’s how I am going to approach all the runs Sara has planned for me.

If I fail, I fail. At least I will have always given it a shot. To me, it’s great to have goals because it gives you something to work toward, but if I don’t reach my goal but I did my best, I will be okay. The fun is in trying and getting to run with my friends.  Maybe by the time the marathon rolls around, all the strength training and speed work will create a mean, lean, glasses-wearing running machine.

That’s right. I’m a damn sports star.

The In Between

After I was done with active treatment, I never really felt comfortable with the label “survivor,” and bristled whenever someone called me that. As the daughter of a woman who died of metastatic breast cancer, I never liked the word “survivor” because I’ve always known my cancer could come back.

I have been revisiting the idea of being a “survivor,” ever since learning I have [redacted]. I’ve had cancer twice, but I haven’t survived anything. Can you be a survivor if you’re 99 percent sure it’s just going to come back in some way, shape or form?

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So what am I then? I have come to the conclusion that I am 100% not a cancer survivor – there’s no after for me. This is always going to be my present. I’m just not a cancer survivor, and I will shake that label off me for the rest of my life, swatting it away like a fly.  The label that finally describes me and the label that fits is Mutant.

I. Am. A. Mutant.

To me, a mutant lives in the in between, existing in between two worlds. I live between the “healthy” world and the “sick” world. I am training for my fourth marathon, and I consider myself pretty strong right now. I run four days a week and strength train two days a week, but I am not part of the “Healthy” world.

I have a team of doctors dedicated to various different, um, ailments. I have regularly scheduled scans, although some I have postponed for way too long. I am not currently sick or in treatment right now, so I’m not really part of the “Sick” world. I haven’t had a surgery in 2.5 years, which is a good stretch for me. When I can go a couple of years without a surgery, I feel like a success.

I am going to be seen for my mutant life and my mutant problems for the rest of my life. There are going to be stretches where I’m sure I’ll have setbacks and find myself in the “sick” world (aka active treatment).

Survivor implies that I have put cancer behind me, and taken up a bright-colored boa and survivor sash. When you have to continually to see doctors for the rest of your life to ensure that your one cancer hasn’t come back and you haven’t developed any new ones, this isn’t in the rear view mirror. Hell, it’s in the passenger seat riding along with me.

There’s a beauty of existing in the in between. I have answers and no longer deal in uncertainty, and there’s a peace that comes along with that. I cannot change my DNA or its mutations, but I can find peace in acceptance. I can and I will.

Let it Go

When I was younger, I used to hold onto friendships for longer than I should have. (This also applies to romantic relationships but that’s a whole other blog post.) In my 20s, I felt like I should be grateful to even have people wanting to be my friend due to some serious self esteem issues.

I held onto a few relationships even when some of these friends turned into acquaintances and then ultimately into drags where I felt like I was being anchored down. I felt some weird sense of loyalty even though I felt like their therapist or mother figure, not their friend. What happened was I grew to resent them, but I didn’t have the emotional capacity to talk to them, plus an overwhelming fear of confrontation. I just stopped talking to them.

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There are several people in my life who I am no longer friends with, and it has made my life absolute better and I do not regret it whatsoever. What I regret is hanging around for as long as I did when I realized that the person made me feel like I’m suffocating. I felt guilty at first. “Oh, so and so is going through a hard time. Be there for them.” But when something serious comes up for me, that person is trying to one-up my hardship or illness, like it’s some sick contest.

Nope – I’m out. Never ever will I be friends with anyone who wants to “compete” with me for who has it worse health wise. How sick and self centered do you have to be to hear someone’s cancer diagnosis, who you supposedly call your friend, and then try to turn the conversation around about your possible illness? Believe me, I don’t want to be someone who gets sick a lot and has lost count how many surgeries I have had. I’d love to not have [redacted] and not have to worry about a lifetime of illness and surgeries.

Friendships should be about quality, not quantity.

Hell, I have been on the other side of this and I know this. There are people who I was friends with who have suddenly or slowly stopped being part of my life. You know what I don’t do? I certainly don’t keep calling or texting people who have shown little to no interest in my life, and why should I? The people who I want to be in my life and who are in my life are fantastic.

The sudden friend breakup I had with my Twin (from another mother and father) broke my heart and still hurts to this day. What I won’t do is follow his or his wife’s blog or social media accounts and keep getting reminded of a friendship I no longer have. Friend breakups hurt but you have to move on, and accept it.

If I am not in your life, please know that it is deliberate. Please leave me alone and let it go. If I haven’t talked to you in years, there is a reason – I don’t want you in my life. I don’t owe anyone my friendship.

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Yes, exactly this.

Glacier Ridge Trail Ultra 30K

The Pittsburgh Marathon took place on a Sunday. The following Saturday, I drove up to Moraine State Park and completed the Glacier Ridge Trail Ultra 30K. I know what you might be thinking – “Lara, you ran a marathon on a Sunday and then did a trail run on Saturday! Are you crazy?”

Yes, yes I am.

Was it a good idea?

Nope, no it was not.

Back in 2015, I did this race and the last couple of miles were pure hell. I ran out of water, the temperature got ridiculously hot, and I had side cramps that made even walking forward difficult. I should also clarify that I ran out of water because my dumb ass passed up a water stop. If my memory serves me, I didn’t come in before the cutoff, but they gave me a medal anyway.

When I crossed the finish line, my friends Kelly and Emily were waiting for me. Once they saw how overheated I was and how much my fingers looked like sausages, they went into overdrive to make sure I cooled down. Water may or may not have been poured over my head.  Honest to dog, I honestly thought I might need medical attention for the last mile.

This race haunted me.

Gearing up for 2019, I vowed to not make the same mistake I made in 2015. I wore a hydration vest and carried an extra bottle of water in the backpack. I did trail runs on a semi frequent basis prior to the race. I thought all my marathon training, weight training and other cross training meant that I was going to kill this race.

Before the race, I found out the cutoff time for the race was 7 hours. I thought, “Oh, so that must have meant I ran it past 7 hours back in 2015. I got this!” Plus, the temperature was absolutely perfect the day of the race. However, the day before the race, it had rained a bit, so the trail was pretty muddy. I’m talking the kind of mud where your shoe stays in it but your foot leaves (that is, if you don’t tie your shoes secure enough).

During the race, I felt good, all things considering. I kept reminding myself that I had ran a marathon (injured, nonetheless) not even a full week ago. I stayed properly hydrated and didn’t feel like I was all alone for most of the race, unlike last time. For a long stretch, there was a woman I kept figuratively and literally chasing. I know she was using me as inspiration to keep going faster. We leap-frogged a couple of times and when she was ahead of me, I noted her looking back at me a couple of times and then increasing her speed.

(Spoiler alert: I caught up to her for the last mile and a half. I beat her! Mwahaha.)

Someone actually captured a photo of me during the last portion of the race. I’m smiling and more importantly, I’m actually running. If someone had photographed me in 2015, they would have caught me in the midst of heat exhaustion, wanting to cry.

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I wanted to come in under six hours, but that didn’t happen. I walked more than I wanted to, but I listened to my body. I came in at 6:09, but I wasn’t in the midst of heat exhaustion or potential heat stroke. I was happy that I came in with time to spare! I didn’t get swept!

I was convinced that I destroyed my 2015 time because didn’t I not make the cut off time that year? I looked at my time from 2015 when I got home from GRT and saw that I was 11 minutes SLOWER this year.

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No, it’s fine. It’s fine. It took me a day to accept that I was actually slower this year. I was definitely a lot faster at 35 compared to 39, plus I may have gained a little bit of weight.

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Whatever, I still did it and I came in feeling strong. This race isn’t going to haunt me anymore.

 

World’s Okayest Runner

I’m so behind on my race recaps, but then again, I don’t think I have that many captivated readers who have been waiting with baited breath for my marathon recap. (If you do read these exercises in word vomit of mine, leave a comment! Until then, I’m going to believe I’m typing into the void.)

I celebrated my birthday one week before the Pittsburgh marathon. Dave took me to breakfast and then we saw Avengers: Endgame. It was exactly what I wanted to do for my birthday. Afterwards, we parted ways and I went grocery shopping to complete my weekly meal prep. I placed one grocery bag in my trunk, and then a second. I leaned forward to push the second bag back a bit when I felt a muscle pull in my left shoulder.

That’s right. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder on my 39th birthday putting groceries away in my car. It hurt so bad that I yelped loudly. Really? I injure myself putting groceries away? Come on.

For the week leading up to the marathon, I refrained from running or anything physical really. I iced my shoulder and rested. I also worried like a crazy person, filled with anxiety, like, “Am I even going to be able to run the marathon?” I could barely rotate my left arm without pain radiating throughout my shoulder, and I’m going to run 26.2 miles? I kept thinking, “I may be cursed to never run this fucking race. Unreal.”

The night before the race, I still didn’t feel remotely good but I decided to go for it anyway. I figured that I would try and if it got to be too much, I’d stop and do a Do Not Finish. I wanted to try because this is The Race I have been wanting to conquer since 2015, 2016.

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I may be smiling but I was thinking, “If anyone bumps into my shoulder, I will probably cry.”

I did make a crucial error the morning of the race. It was raining, and I did not lube up my feet. I had vaseline with me, but Race Day excitement means I’m more forgetful than my normal. You’d think I haven’t been running since 2013, but sigh… welcome to my brain.

During the first 16 miles of the race, my friend Emily stayed with me. She and I trained together a good portion leading up to the marathon. Throughout the race, I had a couple of close calls where I came close to someone colliding with my shoulder. As a result, Emily stayed on my left to prevent anyone from getting near my left side. I am so grateful to her.

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She was ahead of me on the hill but I wasn’t that far behind!

Mother Nature was not kind to us runners that day. It rained a bit during the race, and so I formed a gnarly blister on my right foot. I was feeling it bad. I also kept having to stop and clear my glasses off so I could, you know, see. When we were approaching 16 miles together, I could tell the wheels were starting to fall off for me, and my friend was holding back for me.

My shoulder hurt, and because my shoulder hurt, I wasn’t rotating the way I normally do when I run. On top of that, the blister on my foot was killing me and for the first time in years, I felt IT band. Before I pulled the muscle in my shoulder, my training was pretty solid and consistent. My 20 mile runs were each around 4 hours. I thought I could get 5:15 or thereabouts.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen for me, and I will be damned if I hold anyone back.

I told Emily to go chase her PR and I would be fine running by myself. Besides, if something bad happened to me, I was never truly alone. I’d be fine. I appreciate that she wanted to make sure I’d be okay before she went chasing her PR (spoiler: she got it!).

During the last 10 miles, once I accepted that I wasn’t going to hit my time goal, I just focused on enjoying the beauty of the marathon. I looked to see if I recognized anyone, and I thanked the volunteers who braved standing in the cold, rainy weather to help crazy people like me. When I hit mile 18 (aka the greyhound mile), the rain was coming down pretty hard, so the greyhounds who normally like to run with the runners, were all taking refuge under a bridge. I didn’t blame them!

The last couple of miles were a real struggle. My shoulder hurt, the blister was taunting me at that point, and I was overcompensating all over the place. I later saw a video of me close to mile 26, and I was run/limping, hop a long Huffman.

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Yeah, take a closer look. I’m in a lot of pain here. My foot is really not supposed to be turned in that direction.

For no reason other than pride, I was hustling as much as I could the last couple of miles because I wanted to come in before the 5:30 pacer. My first marathon in Columbus, I was at 5:00:58. For my second marathon in Indy, I was 5:28. I wanted to beat 5:30, so I can still stay this is my range.

I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT 5:28:58. That’s right! Pittsburgh is much harder than Columbus or Indianapolis, and I ran that sucker all banged up and still managed the same time I did for Indy. (Granted, I didn’t cross train at all before Indy, and that murdered me.)  That still shows how much I really worked hard for this race.

Now, if my health does a nose dive into the crapper again, I’m not going to be haunted by the race I never got to do. I did it, y’all. [Redacted] can never take that from me. If I find myself in the chemo chair again, and given [redacted], it could very well happen, I’ll tell everyone who’ll listen to me about that one time I ran a marathon a week after I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Stayed tune for the next post, where I provide my Glacier Ridge Trail recap. Why yes, I ran a 30K trail race 6 days after running a marathon.

So, I did a thing

Last year, when I signed up for the Hyner 25K Trail Race, I said to myself that I would  train for this race. Yes, ma’am, I would be a good little runner and be prepared for once. Before I signed up, I knew very well that Hyner was a beast. I mean, look at this elevation profile.

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A year went by, and I trained… but for the Pittsburgh marathon. I did some trail runs here and there, but absolutely nothing to really train for Hyner. I have been running four days a week and cross-training at least once a week, mostly two days a week. I’m in fairly decent shape and I thought maybe there’s a shot I can survive Hyner.

Barely survive, that’s what happened for me at Hyner.  Here are pictures from the time at Hyner 25K taken by friends of mine. I didn’t take any pictures along the way because I was too focused on not falling or hurting myself. Since it had rained pretty hard the day before the race, the conditions were less than ideal. The ground was ridiculously muddy, and the stream crossings were a little… intense.

I ended up spending the entire 16 mile trek with a new running friend. I honestly do not know if I would have finished without her. I could have mentally DNF’d at some of the aid stations, but I know she never would let me. If I hurt myself and had to drop out, that would have been one thing. Quitting – nope.  Amy would have pep-talked at me until I got back on the trail and gave it a shot.

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See the top there? I made it up there.

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My right calf seized up on me, and my right foot went numb around this time.

Hyner 25K caps at 1,000 registrants, and it has a 9 hour cut off. Out of the 1,000 registrants, there were 798 finishers, and I was motherfucking number 788. That’s right – I FINISHED.

This trail race was the most physically and mentally demanding feat I have ever voluntarily done. (Since I have gone through cancer treatment, that’s going to always take number one spot.)  Afterwards, I thought no way in hell do I want to do this again. A couple of days removed from the race, I’ve been thinking, maybe one more time.

My recent life motto has been this: “I don’t know if I can, but I will try.” I say it to the trainer I work with once a week whenever he has me try something new. Here, I looked up at Humble Hill and had no idea if I could do this. I tried, and look what happened. I finished.

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Pittsburgh is my White Whale

On May 5, 2019, I am finally going to catch my White Whale. I’m going to give it everything I have physically and mentally, and I am going to attempt to run the Pittsburgh Full marathon. This will be my third marathon, but it will be my first time attempting the entire full marathon course in Pittsburgh.

I have wanted to give this race a shot several times but life got in the way.  I have signed up for the full once before–forget which year–but dropped down to the half when I realized I couldn’t do the full marathon. One year, I decided to put the Pittsburgh full off until next year when I started a new job as a consultant. The following year, I ended up doing the Columbus full as my first marathon.

The following year, I put the Pittsburgh full off until new year when I had surgery on my abdomen. That surgery reset me to zero but I still tried to do a marathon that year. I ran the Indianapolis full in 2017 and added a half hour to my previous marathon time.

I wanted to do the Pittsburgh full marathon in 2018, but at the end of 2017, I tripped and face planted, breaking my nose and pride. By the time I recovered from that, bronchitis came roaring into my lungs and hung out there for a solid month.  Last year, I put the Pittsburgh full off until this year.

This is my mother-fracking year. I am going to do this. I had a couple of challenges, namely bronchitis yet again.  My umpteenth bout with bronchitis and my one billionth sinus infection during this recent training cycle actually led me to installing an internal french drain in my basement. I am tired of getting sick, damnit.

 For the first time ever, I am actually consistently cross-training during a training cycle. I have been seeing a trainer once a week, and I’ve been working on weights and core. Friends, I actually have a bicep muscle. Squee! The other day, the trainer referred to me as Quadzilla. Other people can actually see the progress I’ve made since I decided to accomplish this goal of mine and get this White Whale. I am giving it everything that I can.

Pittsburgh, in all its hills and pot holes, is my White Whale. Just even thinking about running the  Pittsburgh fullmade me think I could be more than a sickie, that I could be a runner. That I could actually be an athlete. Growing up, I was the weirdo kid who you did not want on your team during gym class, so for me to even be considered athletic is mind boggling.

Pittsburgh is my white whale because if I end up not being able to do any marathons after this, I will be okay because I did the race I have always wanted to do.

I’m fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis foundation, which does amazing work for those living with Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My cousin Kathryn’s children, Andrew and Cece, have Cystic Fibrosis. I want these little ones to grow up as strong and healthy as they can be, and the CFF is the foundation making that happen. Whatever you can donate, I appreciate it, and if you can’t donate,  please share!

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/runtocurecf2019/lkhuffman

 

I am not a good sick person

Almost a month ago, I woke up with a fever and head congestion. I didn’t take any time off from work, nor did I go to the doctor for any medication. I worked from home that week, and I thought that was sufficient. I took a week off from running and honestly thought, “I’m okay.”

Soon after, evidence of my 1093908 sinus infection came around, and I continued to ignore it. Each morning, I enjoyed my hot steamy shower as it allowed me to clear my sinuses. Despite evidence to the contrary, I kept telling myself, “I’m okay.”

I continued to run 4 days a week and cross training 2 days a week. Last weekend, I did a 15 mile race and felt so terrible afterwards. Granted, it was cold and North Park isn’t the most forgiving. Still, I felt like I had been hit by a truck and had zero energy for the post-race festivities. I still thought, “I’m okay.”

For almost two weeks, I had obvious signs of a sinus infection, and I knew it was a sinus infection. I would hack up a lung every time I stopped running, plus I was fatigued. I knew I was sick, but I still thought, “I’m okay…. this will pass.”

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During work on Thursday, I started to feel an ache in my chest and began wheezing, and finally the rational part of my brain screamed, “Go see a frickin doctor, you dumb ass!” I still fought the urge, texting Best Boyfriend Ever that I was considering going to Urgent Care after work.

I was still ON THE FENCE because I didn’t want someone to tell me what I already knew: I had to stop running and rest. The Pittsburgh Marathon is my goal race, and The Race that I want to accomplish as my big fuck you to [Redacted]. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone but myself, and I am trying to prove that I am more than my faulty genes.

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Best Boyfriend Ever responded, “Go to Urgent Care.”

At Urgent Care, the PA listened to me breathing and took a look at my nostrils, saying immediately, “Whoa there, you have quite the sinus infection.” (Sigh.)  She then told me that based on the wheezing she heard, I definitely had bronchitis, likely from the sinus infection traveling downward.

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When I went back to work yesterday, I saw my discharge paper from Urgent Care. I noticed that I came in with a slight fever: 99.7. I got so used to feeling under the weather for the past month that I didn’t even realize I was running a mild fever.

I’m not a good sick person. I can deal with a chronic condition like [redacted] like a champ, with slight hiccups along the way. But, apparently, faced with a temporary illness, the personality traits I don’t necessarily care about myself come to the front: stubbornness.

My anxiety also manifests itself as not liking to rest. I constantly feel like I have to be doing something or training. It’s why I love running so much – it quiets my anxiety.  My anxiety is telling me that if I rest too long, I’ll screw up my training for the Pittsburgh marathon, and maybe I’m not really an athlete. I’m just a sickie sick person who does nothing but get sick.

I know it’s not rational, but [redacted] has instilled a sense of panic in me. How much time do I have until [redacted] comes roaring back? I feel like I’m on borrowed good health time, and I want to enjoy it and take advantage of it while I can. This is what goes in the mind of someone who’s already had cancer twice, a [redacted] diagnosis, and generalized anxiety disorder.

It’s why I’m not a good sick person. I have so much I want to get done. Good health is a gift, and I don’t want to waste a second.