The girls had their last week of summer vacation this week. Since we had just returned from our trip 10 days before school started, the last week of summer was filled with appointments, check-ins at school and picking up last minute items in order to be prepared for the first day. Fortunately, the week was not all drudgery.
I had visits with friends both Tuesday and Friday. On Tuesday, my friend Bill and his girlfriend Saraleigh came to Colorado Springs. They were vacationing in the mountains from Iowa and I was so thrilled that they were willing to make the day trip to see me. We went to the Garden of the Gods.
My friend Mark came to town on Friday for his annual date with Pikes Peak. My husband, Peyton, Mark and I went to the race expo and then to Helen Hunt falls in Cheyenne canon.
Sometimes people I haven’t seen in a long time cry when they first see me. This has happened several times over the last few months. I used to feel very awkward about it. One of my friends this weekend said, “I thought I would never see you again.” That is when the lightbulb went off for me, and I learned to just accept the love with grace and humility. How fortunate I feel that there are people who care so much. I guess I have taken it for granted that people knew I would ultimately be ok. Or I assumed that my fears were mine alone. As the fog lifts, I am able to that my friends have helped me carry my burdens all along.
Months ago, my husband said he was not going to race this year. He said this year was about getting me healthy again. I really wanted him to have a race. I wanted him to have something to focus on for himself. So, I signed him up for Pikes Peak Ascent. Steve has wanted to do the double the year he turns fifty in two years, so he needs to keep his qualifier active. I figured by doing the ascent rather than the marathon, he could get away with minimal training and still get his wave 1 qualifier. My husband chose to do no training on the mountain at all and instead spent his time running with me. I was certainly not up for the elevation gain of the Peak this year, so we ran, jogged and walked mostly flat stuff. By the time race day rolled around, Steve’s last trip to Pikes Peak had been on ascent day in 2013.
Steve wore the Team Tonia pancreatic awareness shirt that Tim Barry designed. This was the first time either of us had seen it before in person. What an touching experience it was to read the various signatures from friends and strangers from around the country.
So, with no real altitude or hill training to speak of, my husband went out and broke his goal of under four hours with a 3:52. He amazes me. His selflessness over the last few months is what really astounds me, though. Steve could have gone out to run on his own whenever he wanted to, but he chose to stick with me instead. My husband is not one to lavish me with flowers or jewelry, but then again I am not one who needs or even wants those things. I know how much I must mean to him by the amount of time he has chosen to spend with me. Steve never missed a chemo appointment, and he sacrificed his own training to slog along with me at my pace. So while that 3:52 may not impress some fast people, it really impresses me for everything it signifies. It signifies his own selfless sacrifices over the last few months, because he is capable of running faster. It also demonstrates his strength and resolve to still get his wave one qualifier, even though he was suffering from lack of altitude training.
On Sunday, my friend JoAnne had asked to wear the shirt. Here she is at the start.
I remember when JoAnne did the ascent, she said it was the hardest race she had ever done. I am so proud of my friend for bettering her ascent time by almost 45 minutes and finishing in just under 8 hours! I know how hard it is to get to train on the mountain when you have young kids at home, but she made it happen and finished so strong! I am very proud of JoAnne.
I want to extend a big congratulations to all of my friends who took on Pikes Peak and Leadville this weekend. I followed people’s progress online for the better part of two days. Whether you hit your goals or not, I was inspired by each and every one of you who chose to toe the line.
As for my own running, I have been eyeing a race for months now. I wanted to make it my official comeback race, but I was undecided about distance. Should I run the 50k, which is a much more realistic distance to train for given the time I have, or should I run the 50 mile, which is what my heart wanted to do? The Bear Chase is a race I have run twice. I was third woman in the 50 mile two years ago and won the 100k last year. The 100k was my final race before my surgery, so this race holds an emotional significance for me. As I have begun to feel better, I have decided it was time to get off the fence and make a decision and a commitment to a distance. The last couple of weeks, I have gotten in a couple of 18-22 mile runs. On Thursday, I made it official and signed up for the 50 miler.
This was the finish line photo with my family last year. I love this picture, because we were so blissfully happy and unaware of what was about to happen to our family over the next few months.
I know I will suffer during the race this year, and I am sure I will not be a podium contender, but I am just happy to be able to return and make an attempt at the 50 mile distance. Going into surgery last year, I was so afraid that I would never run ultra distances again. I am under trained and underprepared right now, but I feel like this is my way of making a bold statement that I will always live my life on my own terms and not be afraid to take chances.
This coming week is a big one. Monday, August 18 marks 9 months from my surgery. I have my first post treatment testing this week, with CT scans one day and blood tests another. August 22nd will make 9 months from the time I first heard the words pancreatic adenocarcinoma. I anticipate a mixture of emotions cropping up, even though I am not particularly worried about cancer showing up on my tests. This week sounds like the perfect week to start concentrating on 50 mile training.