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If you can fill the unforgiving minute ... with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run ... Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
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Monthly Archives: April 2009
Can I begin by asking what happened to spring? Seventy degrees at seven am is July weather, not April!
I am an infrequent racer because I haven't quite come to terms with chasing the ghost of the runner I once was, before I got cancer, before Bleomycin robbed me of a lot of lung capacity. I ran a few 5Ks last year, finishing off the year with a 22:55. That's my 5K post-cancer PR.
Really had no clue what to expect. I have been training well (despite my arm problem), but have reduced my volume from the past and the only type of speed work I've done is throwing in some hills to my daily runs. I have a tendency to get injured with speed work, which is why I avoid it. That said, I've found to run a 5K well, I really have to do specific work, like working on getting out fast the first mile. Given the lack of any specific work, I was figuring mid-23s finish seemed realistic and doable.
That's until I woke up to 70 degrees with strong winds ... probably 20-30 MPH. Revised my goal to just break 24 minutes.
Lined up a few rows back -- there were about 180 people. The course is essentially flat, with a couple very small rolling hills. Just enough to add some variety. To their credit, even though this is just a community "fun run" the course was properly marked, with people calling time, and it was accurate. I ran the tangents (or tried to) and my Garmin 205 recorded the distance at 3.12 which is about as close as you can get.
Anyway, took off running right into the wind ... And within the first quarter mile was dodging the kids who went out at a sprint and then just died. Wind was so strong it really messed up my breathing, so I spent the first half mile dealing with that.
The breathing thing is my arch nemesis and every race I do, I go through a short period where all I want to do is quit. It's like this is uncomfortable, this isn't fun, I don't want to be doing this, I want to just stop and walk. I don't know if I'm unique that way or what, but I went through the whole "I don't want to be doing this" internal drama at the half mile point. Usually that's a bad sign of things to come, but I have been working on mantras to get through rough periods when my chest hurts on some of my daily runs. ("Relax." "Pick them up, set them down." "Relentless. Forward. Progress." "Run with your heart.") Even so, I had to resort to the usual mind trick that I use when running up the big hills around here -- "listen brain, yes this sucks, but it will be over shortly, and does it suck more than chemo? No. No it doesn't. You're tougher than you think, So shut up and let's keep moving."
I talk to myself a lot when I run.
After that rough period, the rest of the race was uneventful, except for the sun BLASTING us in the face at mile 2 to 3. It was quite hot for early April.
I'm actually very good at pacing and my splits were nice and even: 7:22, 7:25 (man that was one hot mile), 7:17, and 0:47 (6:24/pace), for a finish time of 22:53, which is what I think was my actual official time. So it was a post-cancer PR by 2 seconds. I finished strong and had a little left, but not so much I feel I could have run that much faster. First in the 25-29 age group, 4th woman overall (or so said the guy at the finish line) -- I came in right behind number 3 but couldn't catch her with my sprint.
Overall happy with the race, not sure what I'll be doing after it or what my future 5k goals are. Would like to see if a 22:30 is doable, that may be my next goal.
I was most glad that I felt happy with my raceand didn't feel any of those pangs of regrets about what used to be. I am coming to terms with the whole ghost-runner of my past. That's good. That's a definite big step forward, a definite step in the right direction for me.
I know its cliché, but like a lot of people, I have one of those lists of things I want to do before I die. Some are pretty darn far out of reach for a poor struggling cancer survivor, like a visit to the Galapagos, Alaska, Patagonia, New Zealand. Others may be out of reach because they will take a lifetime to complete (for example writing and researching that extremely esoteric book on A,P, Hill’s Light Division I‘ve been planning since becoming interested in the Civil War in high school) and, well, I’m not sure how long my lifetime is going to be. Like anyone, I could drop dead at any moment, but having had cancer and living with the knowledge that it could come back is a little bit different than that. The odds of the former are relatively small, the odds of the latter probably still approach the 50% mark even 18 months into remission. I really don’t have the fight either physically or in spirit in me to go another round, so if it comes back I really think that will be it.
So I live in the present tense, unable to think much further than a couple months ahead of time, living day to day, with my eyes on October when the odds and statistics show a drastic decrease in the relapse rate for my kind of cancer.
I did not mean to stray into darker thoughts, though. I meant to write a happy post because this weekend I managed to cross an item off my list.
Not all the items on my list are impressive or require a passport (I don‘t even have a passport, by the way). Some are downright mundane and actually many of the running related ones are the most mundane of them all! Anyway, one of the items on my list was to get a DECENT photograph of a pileated woodpecker.
Not sure if you’re familiar with these elusive birds. I first spotted a pileated woodpecker on a run back in the late 1990s. A pileated woodpecker is approximately the size of a crow, with a bright red crest and white accents. It is an impressive bird, but one that tends to be shy and elusive. I know the location of several of these avians in the Cleveland Metroparks and even with all the time I spend there running and out hiking around looking for photograph opportunities, I may see the pileateds once or so every two to three months. Seeing one in an accessible location, with the camera in hand, with the right lens, has proved an impossible combination to hit upon.
Finally, though, on Saturday, hiking through the woods, camera in hand, I spotted one: a large female working feverishly on a tree. Our ancestors probably ran over plains and through forests to bring down dinner, and though I had obviously no interest in doing any harm to the woodpecker, well, there is something cool about stalking an animal through the woods. Let the hunt begin.
Of course, being a trail runner serves me well in trying to get close to a nature subject. The goal is to step lightly, quietly, and to keep ducking behind trees. This is not the time to pound pavement, it’s the time to run light, like over egg shells. I crept up close enough to squeeze off a few shots before she spotted me and moved to another tree.
Again, back to trotting through the underbrush. I followed the bird for close to an hour, covering I’m sure several miles. Finally I caught up to her on an old dead tree and this time, I managed to sneak underneath and get my decent pileated woodpecker shot.
One of my best shots, of course, it is not. But it is a decent shot, which is all I wanted. Next week, I’ll be out again. I have the belted kingfisher on my list as well.