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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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This website, including photos and words, is copyright 1997 - 2011 by Jenny Goellnitz. If you would like information on using materials in this website, please contact me. (I grant permission pretty freely, so please ask and don't just take.)
Monthly Archives: October 2010
My beloved Saturn was totaled. :( I got hit from the back while stopped at red light. I'm ok I think although I got bruised up pretty bad. Not so much for the car whose frame got pushed into the back tire.
I called my little Saturn the Batmobile. She was a very good car - low mileage for a 1996 Saturn SL1. RIP, car.
Here is my Big Sur hill grades if anyone else is running it and wants to see an estimate.
God willing, on May 1, 2011, I will be in California running the Big Sur Marathon.
Not long after I started running distance (back in the late 90s), I read an article about the Big Sur Marathon. There was a photo of the beautiful Bixby Bridge at mile 13 (it looks a little like the stately old Brookpark Road bridge over the Rocky River Valley) with Hurricane Point looming large in the background. For a Midwestern girl who had never been further west than Indiana, it seemed like such an awesome, majestic place. Other worldly, really. I was so taken with the beauty of the photographs and the descriptions of the challenging course that I told myself I will run that race someday.
But you know what they say about “somedays” … they never come. I ran lots of races in college and law school, but never had the financial means to go to California to run Big Sur. After I finished law school, I developed first a cough, then a mass in the left side of my abdomen. The mass in my abdomen was huge -- it stretched from my hip bone to my rib cage and across to my navel. A second CT scan showed I had an even bigger mass in my chest that was causing my superior vena cava to be compressed. After being passed from doctor to doctor, I finally ended up with a surgeon at the Main Campus who said it was likely a rare kind of primary liver tumor and if he was correct in his suspicions, the prognosis was likely a year.
Of course, I felt incredibly sad and regretful about so many things -- places I had never seen, things I had never done. But as a runner, my only major regret was not running that race out at Big Sur.
Well, of course lo and behold, the surgeon was wrong and the biopsy came back as Hodgkin's Disease. But because the masses were so big, I really didn’t believe the chemo could eradicate all of it. When it seemed to do so, I still didn’t really believe it. I was so scared of the possibility that it would come back that I was afraid to commit to anything – let alone running a challenging, very expensive marathon 2500 miles from home. Then it hit me one morning while I was running that I was letting the disease win by allowing the fear of it returning control the decisions I make. Most people don't get a second chance. But, I did. That’s when I decided I need to find a way to run Big Sur.
I still had a problem to overcome -- my chest. Although I ran through all eight cycles of ABVD chemotherapy, the Bleomycin scarred up one lung and I still had these large residual scar tissue masses stuck in my chest. The Bleo damage is manageable with an inhaled steroid as a mild form of exercise induced asthma; the aching from the scar tissue doesn't seem to have any easy solution. Knowing it isn't medically dangerous, I would try to push through it like any other discomfort encountered while running, but that only seemed to make it worse until finally it would hurt so much, I’d have to stop. When I tried the opposite this summer however -- backing off the pace when I felt a twinge -- I found I could keep running (albeit at a slower pace) pretty much for as long as my legs would carry me.
I tested that strategy at the Towpath Half-Marathon and it worked perfectly. I would push the pace -- until I felt a twinge. Then I'd back off until it went away, then I'd push the pace again. I remembered at Towpath how much I loved running long races ... And the good showing there despite the heat convinced me that as long as I run a smart race, I can run Big Sur.
So I took the plunge. And I registered. Hopefully, Providence willing, I’ll be standing there toeing the starting line on the edge of the western world on May 1. I know the course is reputed to be a beast, but even if those big beautiful hills and headwinds chew me up and spit me out, I know I am going to enjoy it because I have waited so long and gone through so much to just get to the point where I can stand there at the starting line.
Anyway, so that's why I want to run Big Sur. I'm hoping we avoid another huge snow-palypse this winter so I can do as much hill running in the Rocky River Reservation as possible.
I decided several weeks ago to run the Towpath half. Since having cancer three years ago, I rarely race. I have a lot of problems with scarring in my chest and lung from the cancer itself and from the chemotherapy. This causes my chest to ache badly and makes training difficult because it is very hard to follow any sort of schedule. This summer, however, I was able to at least get a handle on my breathing issues by going on an inhaled steroid. Anyway, I wanted to run Towpath because I wanted to see if I still enjoyed running longer races and because I am seriously considering taking the leap and running Big Sur in May.
Goal: Don't end up in the medical tent, stay in control, finish happy. Time-wise aiming for 1:45-1:50.
Plan: Take it easy going out. If I feel good, pick it up. If I don't feel good, just finish safely.
I drove down with my good friend Bob, who dropped me off at the half start. Before the race, I ran into Tracie from the Runner's World Forum, who recognized my neon green jacket and graciously let me hang out in her car which was perfectly placed for where we needed to line up. It was probably about 52 at the start. I went with a singlet, arm warmers, and gloves. I knew that was over dressing a little, but what can I say, I don't like being cold. We all definitely could have benefited from cooler weather, but it was particularly hard on the full marathon runners. The last three miles of the half were definitely very warm so I can't imagine what it was like for them.
We got started. Mile one went by in 8:30. Perfect. I picked it up to the pace I held through most of the race ~ 7:55. The first three miles or so were on the roads, then we entered the Towpath. At Boston Store, around mile 3, I saw Eddie holding a sign about manning up and picking a certain body part up. It cracked me up. Then we split off from the 10K runners and entered the Towpath.
OK, so if you were designing a course for Jenny, it would be the Towpath. It's a crushed limestone path through the woods. Autumnal splendor? In abundance. The leaves were decked out in their finest golds and reds. We saw deer, herons, geese, etc. You basically run along the Ohio and Erie canal and the Cuyahoga River. It's a beautiful course and you get to cross a few bridges too.
I walked through two water stations (one at mile 4-ish and then 10-ish). I have never mastered the art of drinking on the run, so for me that's a necessary evil to make sure at least SOME water goes down my throat and not just all over me. The race felt ridiculously easy until about mile 9. Then it started to get hard. Mentally, miles 9 and 10 were very tough. I kept looking for the mile markers. Then things improved again and miles 12 and 13 were my fastest.
I finished strong in 1:43.
Thoughts on the race itself ...
Pluses: Gorgeous course, easy on the legs, very flat (only a few minor ridges/rises), affordable, volunteers were great.
Minuses: Shirt was supposed to be tech but feels like cotton and the color is kind of blah, the last half mile or so was on gravel that was rough to run on, the finish requires a very sharp turn down grass that could be dangerous in wet weather. These are relatively minor problems, though.
All and all, I loved the race, and would definitely come back. Highly recommend it.
Splits according to my Garmin:
4: 8:00 (water stop)
10: 7:53 (water stop)
Official chip time: 1:43:45, 5th in age group of 118. Overall 29th woman. Certainly not bad for a cancer survivor with a couple of lemon sized masses still stuck in her chest. :)
Towpath Pictures (Linked to Flickr.)