Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mile 10 of my Cancer Marathon

The last few miles I digressed from my “cancer is a marathon” analogy in my updates (or is it a simile? I’ve gotten those confused since 4th grade) However, in honor of being 1/3 done with my Cancer Marathon I’ll bring it back.

For you eagle eyed readers you probably noticed that I’m on Mile 10 but said I’m only 1/3 done. If a marathon is 26.2 miles shouldn’t I have passed the 1/3 mark around Mile 8.7333?

Well, a marathon is divided into thirds but they aren’t necessarily mathematically accurate.

The first third of the marathon is comprised of everything I’ve already discussed. To recap: Anxiety and anticipation, nerves and nausea. Boring miles of just trying to get one foot in front of another.

I’ll explain the final third (Mile 20 through Mile 26.2) when we get there. For now, let’s talk about the second third.

Miles 10 through 19 are when the real fun starts – it’s time to start racing. The previous boring easy pace will gradually get harder mile by mile. Runners around you will start making moves, either forward or backward. The crowds that lined the course during the early miles have thinned out to a handful of people (and if you are really lucky some random person blasting “Eye of the Tiger” from their car stereo).

This is when the racing part comes in. To the uninitiated “racing” implies all-out sprinting. In a marathon, racing means something totally different. Racing is when you start focusing inward by giving great thought to every decision and engaging in an inner dialogue.

During these miles many race decisions occur such as “Should I attack this hill or back off?”, “Should I take a gel now or wait a mile?”, “Should I stay with the pace group or move ahead?” Every decision has consequences, both good and bad, and the miles are spent pondering the optimal responses to these questions.

Inner dialogue fuels and consumes these miles. The tone of the conversation moves up and down like the frequency of a yo-yo. During the “up” periods, things like “I can do this”, “My legs feel fresh”, “My training has made me strong” increase your leg turnover and reduce the labored breathing.

The “down” periods have the opposite effect by making limbs heavy and oxygen sparse. Negative dialogue (“Another hill?!”, “Everyone is leaving me”, “I still have 10 miles left”) can easily overtake the motivational version in a moments notice.

The key is to recognize the “downs” and proactively replace them with “ups”. Even when every part of your being, both physical and mental, is screaming negativity you must push through the positive energy.

Now that I am finished with my treatments, I feel like my life that was on hold for several months is ready to “race” again. I’m filled with possibilities and spend many an hour trying to decide “what’s next”. I’ve been given my life back and I want to utilize it in the best way possible.

It’s still going to be some time before I can explore big possibilities such as running marathons, doing trail races and tackling triathlons. (More on that later).
For now, I’m focusing on the small decisions that will add up over time to make me stronger, physically and mentally, and ready to cross the Cancer Finish Line in good shape.

These are a few of the small choices I’m trying to make on a daily basis:
More aquajogging and less whining about not being able to do real running
Less whole candy bars and more Whole Foods
Less US Weekly and more Newsweek (Ok, I can’t really go without the latest gossip on those crazy Twilight kids or Jon and Kate, so I’ll just read high brow journalism in addition to celebrity drivel)
Less stressing over getting everything done and more “me” breaks

Not every day am I successful in making all the right choices, but I’m try to make fewer bad ones each day. It’s not always easy to take the right choice, but I know it will pay off in the end.

As part of my “make good choices” phase, I have been stepping up my exercise regime. I was probably at my peak of post-college fitness when I was diagnosed and it was frustrating to see all that hard work erased virtually overnight. However, I’m trying to be vigilant about keeping my workouts and have seen results already.

I’m definitely not in PR marathon form but feel like I am at good place to start building from. I’ve climbed myself out of the ditch chemo and crutches put me in. Now it’s time to start getting in shape.

Disclaimer: I love reading other people’s training blogs. I do know that the vast majority of the population finds them a snooze-fest though. Thus, unless you are really bored (or a fitness nut) I suggest skipping the next few paragraphs.

So, my training looks roughly like this right now:

Monday – Swim workout (30min); Aquajogging – easy tempo (15-20 min)
Tuesday – Cycling (40 min); Upper body lifting (20 min)
Wednesday – Aquajogging workout (30 min); Swimming – easy (15-20 min); Aquajogging – easy tempo (15-20 min)
Thursday – Swim workout (30min); Aquajogging – easy tempo (15-20 min)
Friday– Cycling (40 min); Lower body pilates (20 min)
Saturday – Cycling or hiking (60min)
Sunday – Off

All that works out to 3 swim sessions, 4 aquajogging sessions, 3 cycling sessions, and 2 strength sessions. So at minimum, cancer has finally forced me to embrace the dreaded cross-training!

You will notice that there is no land based running on there. Sadly, the appointment at the orthopedist didn’t go as well as I had hoped. He said that the bone is still very unhealthy and needs more time to remodel. Long term the diagnosis is still good for the bone, it’s just that cancer and radiation took its toll on my femur and now I need to just let Mother Nature do her thing.

I will see the orthopedist again in 6 months and hopefully my puppy dog face and bribery antics will be more successful then.

It was disappointing to not get the green light for running but the thing I was most frustrated by is that this cancer nonsense will continue for at least 6 more months. I feel great and just want to get back to my life – all of it. Unfortunately, while I still have restrictions I will still have cancer looming over me.

In other cancer news, I will be having another PET scan next week. Depending on the results of the exam I’ll find out if I’m considered in “remission” or if I’ll need more treatment. So send “Cancer be gone” vibes to me next Monday around 10:30AM!

I’ll update my Facebook status and post a blog entry once I know the results (a few days later). Mile 11 probably won’t be for a few weeks but will definitely be a must read as it will recap my Cancer Party which resulted in some incriminating behavior by some (actually many) of my friends and neighbors. Who knew Cancer could be so fun?

Until then, I will be working on making good choices and challenge you to do the same!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear about the Cancer Sucks party! SO wish I could have been there!

Also can't wait to see that FB post update on Monday ...