Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon - 5/9/09

I tried to wait until I felt better to write about Lake Wobegon, but the more I thought about what happened yesterday, the more I wanted to write about my experience. I need to clear my mind, to rid myself of the negative thoughts, and to focus on the positive aspects of my running.

Everything seemed to be going so well. I ran the first half with Frank (MN) and the second half with Hajime (Japan). I also talked briefly with Kendel and Walt (GA) and Charles (CA) at the start. It was cool at the start, and we ran along a flat, point-to-point course on the Lake Wobegon Trail (a paved bike path) from Holdingford, MN to St Joseph, MN. The course was beautiful and peaceful, traversing the country-side. Minnesota has yet to benefit from Spring, as the Southeast has, but there were fresh blooms here and there, and the grasses were starting to turn a luscious green. Hajime and I crossed the finish line in about 6:02, received our finisher's medals and technical, long-sleeved shirts, and then proceeded to the Trail Facility for pizza, homemade cookies, and soda.

This morning I opened an e-mail from the race director with the race results. The last four runners to finish the course were not listed in the race results. Hajime and I were two out of the four. My heart sank. I knew what the problem was, and I also knew that it would not be fixed to my satisfaction. I would just have to live with the way things were.

The race director had a strict 6 hour cut-off. Crossing the finish line two minutes after the 6 hour cut-off disqualified us from the results. I had just posted my second DNF for the year. The tears began to fall before I could stop them, and a wave of nausea began to build in my gut. Why did I keep doing this to myself? I would have traded the medal, shirt, and post-race food for the extra 2 minutes that I left out on the course and an official finish.

I will not rant and rave like I did when I DNF'd RR100 earlier this year, although I'm just as hurt now as I was then. I am just so angry with myself, and as usual, I'm trying to figure out how to make this work. Something that I do for fun has become frustrating. I am officially fed up with fighting cut-offs in races. Now what do I do?

I've thought about taking some time off from racing, even though it would break my heart not to go to my races on the weekends. I do enjoy seeing my running buddies and running in new places. I would then have to figure out what to do with myself on the weekends. I could run by myself in new places, but I run by myself during the week already. The camaraderie from the races is part of the fun. I have also thought about limiting the types of races that I do. Maybe I should just concentrate on timed (12/24-hour) events. I've done several, and the only way to DNF a timed event is to not show up, lol. But being on a relatively short, looped course for hours, weekend in and weekend out, would probably drive me out of my mind, lol. There are some races that don't have cut-offs or offer early starts, but probably not enough of them are occurring every weekend.

Now for my excuses. I've said this before, but I need to lose weight. I was much faster 10 - 20 pounds ago, and I never had to worry about making marathon cut-offs when I was posting less than 5 hour finishes. The ultramarathon cut-offs have always been an issue for me, but lately they have become even more of a problem for me. As much as I hate to diet, it's long overdue. Nothing to it, but to do it, right?

I need to figure out how to fix my anemia. So far, the supplements have not been working, as proven by my monthly visits to my oncologist, who tells me that my red blood cell counts continue to plummet. I have a hard time sustaining a run when I can't breath, so I walk when it gets too difficult. Low red blood cell counts mean oxygen is not sufficiently being distributed throughout the body. It also means that I'm cold and tired all of the time, no matter how much sleep and rest I get. My energy level is just not where it should be.

I also need to manage the pain better in my back and hips. I'm in pain all day long. Some days are worse than others, but make no mistake about it, the pain never leaves completely. It's hard to run when you're in pain. Between the prescription pain killers and Advil, I'm able to at least move, even if I can't move very well or very fast. I've been living with the pain for almost two years now. I have embraced it, accepted it, and if by chance I wake up one day and I'm pain-free, I'm afraid that I'll be dead, lol. Acceptance is one thing, but some times I get tired of dealing with it.

My biggest excuse is that I have metastasized breast cancer to the bones. Specifically, I have a tumor at L5 in my spine (thus the back pain) and I have several tumors throughout my pelvic bone (thus the hip pain). I've been having treatment every month for the past year and a half. I get a 30-minute Zometa treatment intravenously through a port that has been surgically inserted into the upper right portion of my chest. The Zometa is helping my body to replace bone tissue that the cancer is destroying. I was on Tamoxifen, up until last month when my most recent scans showed that the bone cancer was steadily spreading. I now take Femara instead of Tamoxifen. These pills should suppress the body's production of estrogen and keep the cancerous tumors from feeding off the available estrogen. I also have a monthly booster injection of Lupron to suppress the ovarian production of estrogen. Side effects that I've experienced from the Tamoxifen and Femara include: hot flashes every 30 minutes to an hour, all day and all night; mood swings from deliriously happy to downright depressed to uncontrollable anger; and hair thinning. I want to blame the steady weight gain on the pills also, but I'm sure that has more to do with not running as fast or as much as I'm accustomed to.

All of this is driving me crazy, especially during a run! One minute I'm freezing to the point of shivering and the next minute I'm having a hot flash and sweating like a pig. My body feels like it's on fire, that I'll spontaneously combust at any minute. I've gotten so hot sometimes that I've become dizzy and nauseous. If I'm not having a hot flash, then I'm running, and all of a sudden I can't breathe. I then have to stop and walk until I'm breathing normally. And the routine repeats itself for the remainder of the run. Unless I'm in an ultramarathon, I normally can take enough pain relievers before the run to keep the back and hip pain at bay until I finish, but if it wears off (usually between 6-8 hours), I'm popping pills during a run. And I've learned over the past two years that there's a balancing act with the pain relievers. I have to take the pills before the inflammation becomes debilitating. The pain relievers take about 30 minutes to work before I can move relatively efficiently again, if I take them at the onset of pain. Let's not talk about how long it takes to calm the nerves to a dull roar if I prolong taking the pain relievers. Modern medicine!

But what's really mind-boggling to me is that I keep trying. I can't figure out how to quit because I know that my situation could be much worse. I keep telling myself that I really don't have a reason to complain, that there's really nothing wrong me. Having cancer for a second time in my life and blaming my poor performance on the cancer and the drugs is a cop out. I have a lot of excuses to quit, but I have no good reason to give up. I can still move, darn it! What if I give up and my body forgets how to move? As long as I'm above ground and alive, there's really no reason to quit. I'll have plenty of time to lay around and do nothing when I'm dead. So, what in the world is wrong with me? Why do I even contemplate not running? Why is this so confusing?

Because I can't run the way that I dream about running. I get so sad seeing the pack run away from me at races, and I feel even worse when I look behind me and see the sag wagon or the trail sweep on my a$$. That's when I feel the pressure of not finishing within the cut-offs. I've lost my connection to running, how good I felt while running. I'm allowing extenuating circumstances to take away that good feeling, and I'm angry about that. It's not just about being faster. It's about self-worth. It's about defining who I am. I don't know who I am any more. I thought I was strong and stubborn, but I've become such a wimp, and I hate it. My body's failing me, and my mind refuses to tell it to "man up", because it's failing me as well. I've got to find the motivation to fix what's wrong physically, mentally, and emotionally.

If I take time off, I'm afraid that I won't come back. If I keep going, I'm afraid that I'll always be disappointed at the end of a race. I am grateful for what I can do, but I want so much more. I'm just greedy!

I said I wouldn't rant and rave, but I've done just that. Now that the secret is out in the open, it's time to make a change. I haven't devised a plan yet, but I'm working on it. I'm not saying that I won't DNF any more races, but if I do, I'm going to DNF with some darn dignity, lol. I'm going to be strong again. I beat breast cancer in 2003, and I'll beat bone cancer in the near future. I'm going to release the real Tiger that my daddy saw in me when I was a little girl. I won't allow my body to quit. I won't allow my mind to give up. I'll continue to fight the negative vibes so that I can reap the rewards of the good life that my higher power has given me. Run, Tiger, run!

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