Taper Tantrum

It would be misleading to say I’m having a tantrum about this last week of tapering leading into my Ultra Run. After so many months of mileage buildup, culminating in a 100 mile and 95 mile week, I’m ready to let my body rest and heal before starting down the state of Indiana. I’ll need every bit of reserved strength I can manage. So, during this last week of tapering, I’m solidifying all the final logistics for the Because We Can run, like turn by turn directions, hotel accommodations, fueling needs, and securing the various supplies I’ll packing into my stroller and pushing for 350 miles. With that said…I could not have pulled this off without some help regarding the bigger logistics and I want to give recognition to those that assisted me.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Some people have asked if I’m pulling over on the side of the road and setting up camp…and no…definitely not. I’ll be stopping in cities at the end of each day to shower, relax, refuel and get ready for the next day. I was fortunate to have rooms donated or discounted to me in a few of the cities and they deserve recognition.

In Rensselaer, Indiana, the Holiday Inn Express donated a room to the fundraiser.
In Lafayette, Indiana, the Towneplace Suites offered me a severely discounted room to recharge.
In Bloomington, Indiana, my friends and sponsors, UGO Bars, are putting me up for the night.
In Kokomo, Indiana, the Holiday Inn Express, again, donated a room to the fundraiser run.

I didn’t find such support and generosity in every city and every location I asked, so I’m incredibly grateful for these hotels and friends for setting me up for the night. The time I’ll be taking at each stop to get ready for the next day will be just as important as the time I spend running on the road. Please consider supporting them in return should you need their services in the future.

FUEL

One of my main concerns for completing this run successfully will be fueling properly with the expected heat and humidity that defines the state of Indiana in August. I’ve been fortunate to become connected to GU Energy Labs who have helped fuel me with energy gels and electrolyte drink mixes during my training and into my actual ultra run. I’ve used their products for years and feel confident I’ll be able to fend off dehydration and nutrient depletion during the more difficult days under the sun.

I’ve also had great friends at the ever expanding energy bar company, UGO Bars, and they’ve been great supporters of me and my run. I’ll be staying with them in Bloomington and probably stuffing my face with some ANutters while I crash on their couch (Hope you don’t mind Tracy and Rebecca!).

SUPPLIES

I was really concerned about having some sort of stroller or trailer to use while running down the state when I first started organizing this run, and when a potential new product out West couldn’t come through, I started asking local shops about discount potentials. Going beyond my expectations, The Bike Line in Broad Ripple not only offered me a trailer, they purchased it for me outright. To have the trailer was not only a concern off my shoulders, but it also allowed me to start training and getting used to it immediately. I’m so grateful to have a high-quality Burley trailer to push down the sometimes not so smooth shoulders of the Indiana roads. I have no doubt this is going to get me to Louisville without problem and I’m so appreciative that The Bike Line stepped up to help out.

And, of course, one can’t really put in hundreds and hundreds of miles of training and ultra running without something sufficient on their feet. The local rep with Saucony Shoes came forward to help me have the right shoes (and shorts) to train in for the preceding months and a couple pairs to use on the run itself. I’ve been super happy with my Triumphs and look forward to wearing them out over the coming 350 miles!

This isn’t to diminish the assistance and support I’ve received from everyone else as well…as every supportive word and encouragement has helped me psychologically prepare for both the excitement and potential difficulty that is to come. I’m privileged to know everyone I’ve come to connect with over the past year.

Thanks for everything friends…it’s almost time to put all this support, physical and emotional, to the test!

BWC Update – Close Calls and Long Hauls

I’m officially two weeks out from beginning this Trans-Indiana run with the intent of raising as much money as possible for Family Reach. The logistics are all but hammered out, the media response is building, and I’m in the final efforts of preparing my body for this effort, which admittedly, I’m as prepared as I possibly can be.

With that said, not everything went as planned, but as I’ve learned with training time and again, that’s standard. It’s rare that all the pieces fall into place, the trajectory of physical progressions rises like a heart rate, and the final run goes off without a hitch. I’m actually EXPECTING some considerable difficulties during the run itself, but as with everything in life, it’s not about avoiding the adversity, but rather how you handle it when it comes.

I had my first and pretty much only considerable moment of training adversity a few weeks ago, when after completing an easy marathon long run, my left lower leg started revolting in the last mile. I completed the run in just a couple minutes past a BQ, and although the effort felt minimal, the stresses accumulating from the run and previous days proved too much in the end. All of a sudden I was “injured”. My shin hurt to the point that I simply couldn’t run on it…or even walk comfortably. And yeah, I started to freak out a little bit.

Surely I didn’t just ruin my ability to run this benefit run a month before the start date. Surely I didn’t just force myself into an entire month off of running when I hadn’t even broke 30 miles yet. Surely I didn’t just waste all the time, all the promises, all the fundraising I had created to this point. That was NOT an option. I took a deep breath, called my sports massage therapist friend, and committed to practicing the appropriate recovery measures I’ve learned over the many years of DOING IT ALL WRONG.

In the past I would have went into COMPLETE freak out mode, calling off any potential goal race plans, sinking deeper into depression each day, and trying to run at every delusional moment of recovery…further putting myself into the hole of injury. This time, I decided to wait it out, get my massage, rest when I knew it was necessary…and then rest some more when I thought I might be ok. Every night I was icing, wearing supportive shoes, sleeping with a compression sleeve, upping my protein intake, and creating new gods and new prayers to make sure all my bases were covered.

Long story short…with some excruciatingly painful, but amazingly effective massage sessions, and all the other activities I mentioned, I woke up the first day of my vacation and went for a pain-free 5 mile run. And just like that, I rested myself out of an injury and quickly got back to training.

I had saved myself from a lot of running difficulty, handwringing, explaining and apologizing to others and so forth. I was ready to run again.

The first week back I put in 50 miles…and continued into this past week, figuring out the best plan to make sure I was ready to cover 50 miles..and again..and again..and again…

I kept my mileage at 10 miles a day as I double checked to make sure my injury wouldn’t flair up again and when it seemed safe, made plans for the weekend long run, which just happened to fall on my birthday. Perfect.

“Run your age” is what I always tell distance runner friends of mine on their birthday…seeing if they’ll actually do it. Some have…most haven’t. I was one in the latter category, but always thought that would be a rad thing to do, and this was the perfect opportunity. So without telling anyone but Laura, I made plans to complete a 39 mile run, primarily by eating a lot the days before, loading up my trailer will all the supplies I’ll be taking on my BWC run and mentally priming myself to run through any potential adversity I might meet along the way.

Waking up at 5am, I readied myself and started running down the street under a dark 6am sky, regretting not putting a blinker on the back of my shorts. I made it to the traffic free rail-trail a few miles later, however, and pointed myself northward for approximately 17 miles. Doing my best to run a very reserved pace while periodically fueling on a part schedule / part intuition plan, I made it to my turn around point feeling good and only with mild tightness in my legs.

I pointed myself South to run out the 17 miles the other way and tried to mimic the first half effort, staying conservative, fueling well, and occupying my mind with positive, encouraging thoughts and stories. It was only when I got to about 5 miles from home did I start to have to push through physical strain, when pace seemed to get slower and slower, and I kept imagining what it would be like to have to run TEN MORE MILES on the first day…and then the next and the next and the next…

But with 4 miles left I was surprised by Laura waiting at a street crossing with a box full of vegan birthday donuts! With the most amazing amount of self-restraint, I let her keep the donuts from me until I got home and focused on completing the run. As I started to finish the last bit of rail-trail the physical difficulties remained, but I was emotionally lifted from seeing Laura, and managed to keep pushing myself (and the trailer…literally) up the 3 miles of incline back to the house.

I made it home, took the obligatory and ridiculous social media photos (donuts included), and quickly got to GETTING THE HELL OFF MY FEET.

And with that, I had run the furthest OUTDOORS that I ever have. The previous record was 30 miles (45 on a treadmill). More importantly, I learned A LOT about how to appropriately pace the run, fuel the run, and work my way through various ups and downs while being engaged in a physical effort for so long. I also built a tremendous amount of confidence and encouragement…and excitement…to get into the actual BWC run, knowing I wouldn’t completely fall apart.

My concerns weren’t completely gone, however, as running this distance once is one thing, but being physically able to do it again is something else. I was very curious how my body would recover and if I would be able to run ANY distance the next day. I took all day to reconsume all the calories I burned, stretched my legs, foam rolled, and did all the little things to make sure I would be as recovered as possible.

I woke the next morning, definitely stiff, but without concerning pains and was encouraged to go through my normal 10 mile run. It was a slow run, undoubtedly, and although it was compromised even further by heat and humidity, I was able to run through steadily and recover again. Another encouraging realization leading into the run.

So now…we made it. I’m just hammering out the logistics with media contacts, sending out press releases, trying to secure one more donated/discounted hotel room (help a brother out Seymour, Indiana!), finalizing the nutrition plan…and running out the last days to the 23rd when I drive North, point myself South…and go.

I will also, hopefully, be meeting Dylan, who I highlighted in a previous blog post, this weekend. Dylan and his family were aided by Family Reach while he undergoes treatment. It’s been difficult trying to schedule a time to meet him in person, but I’ll be sure to update the blog when we make it work.

And really, that’s what this is all about to me. The idea of running down the state sounds awesome…I won’t deny that, and there is an obvious personal, selfish motivation to this run…but the most important reason I’m motivated to do this is to bring attention to the work of Family Reach, to put their name out into the world more than they have already done so, and raise as much money as possible to help all those financially struggling in an already stacked, problematic economic structure while pushing through the adversity of cancer treatment.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to this fundraiser. You may never meet the recipients of this financial aid, but you know me…and I can tell you the value of these funds can’t be expressed enough.

Feel free to keep pushing this fundraiser out to your wider community.

Thanks friends, and I’ll be sure to update again before the run starts on the 23rd. Let’s hope for unseasonably cool mornings!

Intimate Understanding

When the idea struck me to conduct this ultra run fundraiser, probably instigated by a considerable dosing of caffeine intake, it was one of those ideas I HAD to do. It was important, it was exciting, it was beyond anything I’ve done with my running to this point, and it was just a touch frightening. It just felt right. And I knew, no matter what unforeseen obstacles might come my way, I would do it. I will do it. I will complete 50 miles each day, for seven days straight, without faltering….I hope.

Admittedly, as I’ve been putting in the work for this run, I’ve encountered the usual training difficulties I’ve faced during competitive marathon training. Weeks of fatigue and slow progression. Periods of decreased emotional motivation. Mild injuries. Weather that simply can’t be overcome. And, of course, there are all the success too. Continued excitement. Mile paces that drop and drop. Mileage totals that climb and climb. And the joy of feeling my body handle incredible amounts of stress and strain from continuous, dedicated training.

I’m completely excited to accomplish this ultra running feat…except…

Except, it’s no longer as romanticized as I initially imagined when I first came up with the idea. To address my greatest concern with completing this run, I’m worried about the weather. I mean, whose idea was it to plan this 50 mile a day attempt during the month of August. AUGUST! Oh right…me. I have my reasons for the week I chose, but while training through the most recent episode of increasingly hot and incredibly humid, I’m wishing I found other reasons to push it into September. Oh well, no turning back now.

But really, of all my concerns I need to manage for this run – nutrition, timing, road hazards, post-run recovery, etc. – it is the weather that is tempering my excitement. Runners intimately understand their bodies through years and years of training. We know what it feels like to be strong and quick, and we know how our legs feel when we’re not yet recovered. We know what we are capable of on race day and we know what a weakened cardio system feels like when things aren’t going our way. We know when we can push and when we need to just hold on. We know our sleep patterns, our injury rates, our fluctuating hunger, our nutrition needs, etc. All this understanding allows us to adjust and compensate to help us run at our best when it counts the most…but some obstacles of understanding simply can not be overcome.

I’ve learned, over the many years of training, that I run poorly in hot, humid weather. When I ran my 2:25 marathon PR, it was within an air temperature that never rose above 39 degrees. The next year when I tried to run 7 minutes quicker, the air temperature started at 60 and quickly rose to 70. Things did NOT go well the second half of the race. In studying my past racing and training performances, it became very clear that I feel most powerful, most unstoppable when the temperature drops. The lower the better. Scientifically / Biologically speaking, I came to learn about skin surface area and sweat ratios, understanding that taller runners have to work harder to keep their core temperature down in hotter weather due to skin surface area. The body pulls needed oxygen away from legs and lungs to dissipate sweat and cool the body, causing complete shut down if it becomes overworked in the effort.

I can now generally expect a certain degree of discomfort or quickened weakening of my body when running on days that are both hot and humid, compelling me to adjust my pace or change up my workout. Easier said than done. Even when compensating for the weather, things get difficult for me quick, which is why I’m worried about this obstacle and seriously preparing for this ultrarun.

Today I went out for a 15 mile run a little later than usual, ending up running in a blanket of thick, humid air and under a blazing sun beating out mid 70 to 80 degree temperatures. I knew it was going to be a struggle further into the run, but I didn’t expect the struggle to be so great. At about 9 miles in everything started to fall apart, quickly. I started walking periodically, trying to get my heart rate down and strength back into my legs before pushing on. With each successive mile completed, the effort seemed to get worse and worse, with more walk breaks, and lungs that felt like they couldn’t expand at all…maybe even shrinking. At a street crossing I bent over and grabbed my knees, only to rise back up and watch the ground in front of me go out of focus, become swallowed by blind spots, and threaten to meet me head on if I stumbled or fainted. I had to consciously take deep breaths and get the oxygen back to my brain. Pushing on further, the walks became more frequent, the weakness building greater and the whole experience quite unpleasant. I just imagined the trouble I was going to face should this be the weather on my ultra run. I managed to complete the 15 miles and couldn’t shake the 35 more I would have to run in just over a month.

I got to the locker room at the Y and weighed myself to see what sort of damage I had done with all the water loss, the scale reading a new weight low of 136, which was not comforting. Admittedly, I didn’t bring water on the run, or fuel, but still, I’m not sure how much that would have helped.

All is not lost though. The experience taught me just how quickly the more severe weather will affect my running-specific body functions and distinctly drove home how much I’ll need to cut my pace in order to fend off the worst of the weather conditions breakdown. It’s going to be crucial to understand my body as intimately as possible during this run, not only to make it through each day successfully and relatively enjoyably, but to also keep myself from digging too deep a recovery hole. The period of recovery I’ll be managing when the run is over might be as important as the run itself, as I prepare to repeat the same mileage the very next day….again and again. I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to those air conditioned, soft-bedded hotel stays at night (Thanks Holiday Inn’s!).

I can admit the romanticizing of this run is, well, a little less romantic, but I expected that. There is a wide gap between imagining and doing. With proper planning however, for these relatively worst-case scenario conditions, in the end, the experience might even outshine my initial perceptions. Whatever happens, I will have done everything possible to prepare, and the reward of knowing how much the fundraiser is helping the families and patients of Family Reach will be more than worth it.

The Moment

For non-runners, it is forgivable should they look at our training with disdain, judgement and disgust. Their scowling, though sedentary, mimics the expressions on our faces as we push ourselves through varying states of effort and struggle, and so it is understandable when they exclaim just how much they DON’T want to do what we do. It looks like we suffer. It looks like we are unhappy. It looks very UNFUN.

If one merely looked at these more strenuous visions – juxtaposed against a training calendar that fills each day with a period of running, linked to a succession of weeks that comprise a month, coupled with even more to create a training block, that overlaps into an obsessiveness that circles a year – the idea of runners as sadists becomes hard to counter. Maybe we aren’t running towards something, but away from something else. Maybe it’s not about the running…but about some internal imbalance.

But we know, there is something else to it. There is an element to our daily physical efforts that betrays the looks on our faces. In truth, we enjoy it. We enjoy the struggle, the adversity, the stress and strain…even if not in the immediate sense, even if not written in the creases of skin funneling sweat between our brows.

Yes, we know it’s more than that. It’s more than a succession of daily physical struggle, a pushing against the perceived weight of blanketing humidity or the stinging pain of sub zero air. It’s more than an unending, seemingly unstoppable, loop around the proverbial track, out of control hamster wheel, glitched out treadmill. It’s more than a calendar filled with 10 mile runs every day every day every day.

It is a moment.

Or moments. We struggle and we strain and we spin the wheel over and over because somewhere in the effort, no matter how much difficulty we suffer through to get to it, we find a moment. We find an experience that is unmatched by any other attempt in our days, and there is only one way to get there. Put one foot in front of the other. Into the heat. Into the humidity. Into the accumulated weakness. Into the freezing cold. Into the struggle against ourselves.

It’s hard to make it sound NOT masochistic.

And yet, all the fighting dissipates when we find that moment, where it lies. Sometimes the moment doesn’t come until the run has completely stopped, the mileage has been logged, and a gentle, drawn out sense of satisfaction weaves in and out of our consciousness for the rest of the day. Sometimes the moment comes before it’s even registered, coming out of a daydream only to realize our body is fluid, the pace is quick, and the effort is easy. Sometimes the moment starts the second we do, filling our bodies with a power and strength that alludes the days, weeks, months of accumulated fatigue we’ve attempted to build into our legs and lungs.

Then there is the definitive, measurable moment of a goal, an aspiration, a quantifiable point from A to B on race day, where we put all the previous exertions, struggles, and strains on the line, the starting line, to create what we hope will be a monumental moment when we leave A behind and reach that definitive B. That moment, oddly enough, can feel awful. It can feel slow, and weak, and impossibly difficult, but the clock doesn’t lie and no matter how terrible the run itself may feel, the sense of accomplishment when one achieves a new PR is a moment that can’t be discredited by all the countless days of work that preceded.

Such a moment is tenuous though. To put all one’s measure of success and worth into a definitive time between A and B is risky. All it takes is an unprimed body, a doubtful mind, or an unavoidable shift in unwelcome weather, and every difficult moment it took to get to the start line becomes an added weight to the hopeful experience.

But we keep at it.

Because the moment is not at the finish line. The moments we seek are in every run we begin. The human animal has been shaped by evolution to endure. We’ve developed the capacity to manage through the most torturous, unimaginable conditions, but not for the sake of enduring alone, but because we find ways to create moments no matter how small, in anticipation of finding bigger ones. So when the non-runners shake their heads in misunderstanding of our motives, it’s because they don’t understand just how valuable the moments are, just how fantastic they feel, just how rewarding they become. They can’t see past the labored breathing, the creased brows, the focused gaze, to the moments we propel ourselves toward, whether that be one mile later, when the run ends, or days thereafter. Hell, they can’t see the moment even when it moves right past them.

Our training calendars look like descriptors of self-flagellation. They look like the scribblings of the deeply troubled, the obsessives, the delusional, but we know within each brutal workout, each mileage total, each long run, each repetitive interval, lies a moment that can’t be put into words, can’t be fully conveyed, and can’t be understood…until it is experienced.

Like it’s as necessary as drinking water, as inherent as breathing, the moment is why we struggle, why we strain, why we suffer…why we run.

Broad Ripple Magazine

http://www.townepost.com/broad-ripple/running-with-scott-spitz/

The link above directs to an article written about my fundraising run in Broad Ripple Magazine. More updates to come soon!

The Circle Of Cancer

Chelsea

Like it’s circular, cellular shape, Cancer surrounds your life once you’ve been diagnosed. Radiating inward, oddly enough, the circle envelops, contains you, putting boundaries on your timeline of existence, but it also creates other circles outside of your own, through the people who will share your experience. The goal, for all of us, is to keep those circles close, but not too close. For some, they accept as many radiating circles as they can into their lives, the clarity, definitions and emotional depth of each weakening as it fades into the distance.

I’ve always made an attempt to limit my circles. I don’t want that much confinement, that weighted emotional potential in my life. I have my own circle I can’t avoid and want to keep as distant and blurred as possible, and then also the circles of my friends whose struggles I will also take as my own. I’m tentative to step within anymore, because I know how quickly they close in on us.

I’ve inadvertently found myself confined by the circles of support groups, absorbing stories of death and depression without end, but just as quickly stepped out. With cancer, I know the circles I’ve created will, at some point, close in on me and I don’t want to surround myself with that emotional confinement anymore than I must.

For some time, the circles have been so far away. My own, fortunately, resides far off in the distance. It will come into focus a bit more when I undergo my next surgery in October, but even then, it’s boundaries are blurred and weak. Where it once rung my throat and threatened to choke the life from me, it’s now as familiar as a coastal border, somewhere far off in the distance.

But the few other circles are not so far away, and one I hoped would disappear completely came back, quickly, forcefully, and now my friend is going to die.

I met Chelsea when we both found ourselves working at a local vegan cafe, built from the neglected shambles of the last cafe, by just a handful of us given the opportunity to try it out. She was a student dietician, dating a fellow vegan, straight edge, distance running friend of mine and we all got along from the get go. Admittedly, it’s pretty much impossible to not be friends with Chelsea. She’s all huge smiles, loud laughs, and an overflowing energy that becomes instantly infectious. Our friendship grew from the cafe, around veganism, and then through our discussions about running nutrition and the obsessive personalities that both I and her boyfriend, Alan, harbor.

What I didn’t find out until later, is that Chelsea had lived through cancer just a couple years before we met. It’s not something you go throwing around in conversation all the time, but it became one more connection between us after my own diagnosis. Chelsea and Alan have both been there for me through my benefits, surgeries, and recovery, but it was out of genuine friendship, not pity. They stepped into my circle willingly, but I don’t think any of us imagined her own circle coming back to overlap mine.

Until it did.

Anyone will tell you, when cancer comes back, it’s infinitely more frightening than the first time. The stories and statistics all line up, often with tragic endings. Chelsea’s cancer did come back, sort of. Her cancer didn’t grow back…a new one formed, get this, as a reaction to the treatment to eradicate her first. It’s an all too common biological response to cancer treatment. Kill one and facilitate another. That’s what happened to Chelsea.

It started with a pain in her shoulder, that turned into all sorts of tests, into an official diagnosis, troubled by careful treatments that couldn’t be too aggressive as she suffered heart damage from the treatments for her first. She went through various drugs, signed up for clinical trials, and then the symptoms got worse. The scans were not encouraging. And before we could even consider another option, cancer spiraled out of control, taking over her body. One week I was talking to Alan about the next treatment option and days later he was texting me to say she was now entering hospice care. Just like that. The circle had begun choking.

I went for a run in the hot, humid air this morning. A 12 miler with 5 miles getting progressively faster, but my legs felt as weighted by the emotions dragging down my psyche. I pushed through two miles before everything gave up. And yet, I couldn’t stop running. I passed the 5 mile mark, then my turn around at 6, and kept running. I’m not sure why I kept going. Part of me thinks I wanted to run the sadness of my dying friend out of my head. Part of me felt obligated to suffer, in my own way, just a little bit, along side her. Another part needed to keep going…because I can…because she can’t. It was something of a celebration, living a little bit more for her.

Laura and I visited her in the hospital later in the day, and I wish I could say we laughed hard, but she’s having trouble doing anything right now. She’s out of her head on pain meds and surely doesn’t remember we even visited. It’s hard seeing your friend, barely recognizable from the swelling of steroids, in and out of consciousness. It was like seeing my sister again in her last days. They look a great deal alike actually. I can say, however, we did make her laugh, as much as it pained her. I bought her two pairs of socks to replace the hospital socks they give their patients. One pair said, “Fuck this shit.” The other said, “I don’t care. I’m high.” I knew she would like them. They would be the socks I would want if I was in her position. I only wish she was capable of laughing with all the energy she used to give.

I don’t regret surrounding myself within her circle. Even if I had the choice to step out of it, I wouldn’t. She and Alan stepped into mine after all. I only wish we could have pushed it off into the distance again, both of ours, if only for a little bit longer.

With tears falling down her face she told us she was terminal, that she’s so sad because there was so much more she wanted to do. We tried to remind her how much great stuff she has already done, that she did more in her time than most even attempt in their lives. But really, there is never the right thing to say in these situations, no matter how true the sentiment.

I assured her, however, that I ran my miles for her today and that I would continue to run more. As a matter of fact, my benefit run this summer is wholly because of her, and now I owe her every single mile.

I wish Chelsea didn’t have a circle of cancer ringing her life, but I’m glad I was there to step within it and share that space with her. We’re going to miss you Chelsea.

chelsea2

———

When I heard Chelsea was diagnosed again, I needed to help her. She and Alan have been there for me, and as a friend, I wanted to do anything I could to help her manage treatment. While planning the ultra run fundraiser on her behalf, I also linked up with Family Reach in order to spread the benefit into other circles. Without any prompting of my own, Family Reach contacted Chelsea and her social worker to facilitate a grant that helped pay for months of rent and medication that would have been financially crippling otherwise. I am forever indebted to Family Reach for helping alleviate this portion of Chelsea’s burden and I know her family is too. It is with great sadness that Chelsea won’t be here to see me finish this run organized on her behalf, but I’m proud to say the money raised will go to help so many others who find themselves in a situation similar to hers, giving both financial and emotional relief.

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. I am deeply grateful.

www.stayclassy.org/becausewecanrun

Hawthorn Half Day Relay

This past Saturday I ran the Hawthorn Half Day Relay. It’s a little unique as far as relay races go, wherein teams are camped out in one location and everyone runs the same 5k loop over and over again, trying to tally the most miles in the 12 hour window. It gets real interesting, and exciting, at the end when the last 30 minutes is transitioned into an 800 meter loop, so all the teams gather and cheer on athletes knocking out 800 after 800 on incredibly compromised legs and lungs. Somehow, even after all the intense, consecutive trail 5ks, runners find a deeper reserve of energy and strength to lay down really fast 800s. It’s definitely a unique, “I can’t believe I’m doing this” kind of experience.

I’ve never been much of a relay runner, preferring intense, measurable, solo efforts to the party atmosphere of relay racing, but, well, cancer has thrown a significant hurdle into my running path and I’m more apt to take on anything I can get these days. I’ve come to really enjoy these efforts, and just appreciate the experience more than trying to gauge fitness or walk away feeling supremely accomplished. With that said, the appreciation I had to be running this specific race was greater than most of my past races as I had a connection to this race through my Personal Best Training teammates.

The summer following my diagnosis, my teammate Jesse Davis entered into the Ultra run category of the race, in part, as a fundraiser for my needs post-surgery. Never having run more than 26.2 miles, he managed to break the course record and complete 77 miles, raising a significant amount of money for me in the process. The same summer, a team formed to support me in spirit, calling themselves The FC (fuck cancer) Crew, winning the event by completing 118 miles in 12 hours.

I can’t underestimate what these two gestures meant to me. It may seem like a bit of lip service, just naming their team after my struggle, but I can assure you the encouraging words and recognition helped push me through darker times of treatment and recovery. On those days where I could have just stayed in bed, opting not to make it to the gym and run, I would be compelled by the many gestures of support by friends and strangers alike, who were putting in efforts of their own for me. The sense of obligation and reciprocation I felt got me out of bed, out of the house and compelled me to push myself to a new state of strength and recovery. Those gestures kept me pushing ahead, finding new levels of fitness, and had me back running and closer to the life I wanted to lead sooner than ever. Sometimes, just a few supportive words are gestures can have a positive effect you never imagined. Who knows, if it wasn’t for the accumulated support over the past two years, I may not have found myself running this race last Saturday. So to actually be out there, running myself, was more important than most probably realized.

Then there was the financial support from Jesse, who received donations and pledges-per-mile (I wonder how many people regretted doing that!) on my behalf, and even offered incentives for breaking the course record, which he did. On a personal level, I wish I could have been there to watch, but I was deep into recovery and treatment and was not able to make it to the race. Being out there this year, however, suffering a bit myself, and then watching the ultra runners keep going and going and going really brought home the degree of sacrifice and suffering he endured to reach his own personal achievement, but to also aid me in the process. I am wordlessly grateful for his literal endurance.

The benefit of the finances he raised through this effort were immeasurably important to me all the same. In concert with all the other fundraising and financial support offered to me during this time, I was able to maintain the stability of my life as it was prior to diagnosis. I could pay my rent, keep the utilities on, buy good food, and parent my son when he was with me. I was also able to concentrate on getting stronger and recovering well while I was unable to work. The emotional comfort of knowing that your only responsibility is to keep living and living well, while all the potentially disastrous economic obligations have been taken care of, can’t be understated.

I don’t want this to sound like I was taking an extended vacation. Believe me, no matter how good things may be, chemo is no beach resort. I actually did try to get back to working while going through treatment, but the ravages of surgery on my body were just too much. I accepted a couple jobs, only to back out at the last second when my body let me know it was too early. I truly couldn’t work. As someone who takes their self-reliance seriously, being helpless to provide for myself in some way did not feel good at all. Fortunately, the financial donations from Jesse’s ultra run and all the other benefits allowed me to continue waiting out my recovery and building my strength to a point that I could get back to work without issue…mostly.

But…here I am. I’m working (self-employed as a graphic designer and distance running coach…which is perfect for future surgery and treatment)….and running. I don’t have the speed that I did prior to diagnosis (still searching!), but I officially have the endurance. I’m knocking out 90 mile weeks and hitting 20+ mile long runs…and running consecutive 5k loops during relay races. And I dare say I might not be at this point if it wasn’t for the gestures of teammates in both word and financial action.

The same as those 5k loops during the Half Day Relay, things have come full circle, as I’m now able to use my strength and abilities for the benefit of others during my Because We Can ultra run down the state of Indiana. I feel a great responsibility to use every able moment I have for the benefit of others and this run is, personally, a gesture of reciprocation for all those that helped me in the past. During my training runs lately, especially as the heat and humidity has risen, I’ve drawn from the inspiration of those who will benefit from the money raised in the coming months, but also from the recognition of what others have gone through on my behalf. I know what it is to suffer and endure, so for others to do that for my sake is forever humbling, and it would only feels right to use my current strength for the same selfless purposes. Right now, all this drives me towards August 23rd when I’ll begin my run down the state for Family Reach and the patients and families they serve. Even if part of this run is, admittedly, for myself, the greatest impetus has been by those that have helped me in the past and for those who it will help in the future.

I ran the Hawthorn Half Day Relay this past weekend because it sounded like an exciting (and absurd) running experience…just how I like it. And although every run is a victory now, and I never forget the importance and appreciation I have for each effort, I was caught off guard by how much the experience would resonate with me due to the efforts of my teammates in previous years. I only hope I can reciprocate the appreciation for others all the same.

Thanks for everything friends.