Unicorns and 50 Milers

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt”- William Shakespeare

Our doubts are traitors. Traitors. Our self doubt sabotages our ability to take chances in life. We all have self doubt. We all have moments of wondering if we are up for a task. Can I pass that class? Can I succeed in that job? Can I climb that mountain? Can I finish that race? More often than not, the answer is yes. I truly believe that we are often our own worst enemies. We allow our doubts about ourselves and what is possible to fill our heads so that we do not even attempt things that we want to try. Soon, we find there is no time left and we wonder why we had not attempted those things we wanted to do. It sounds cliche but failure really is not the worst thing. Not trying is so much worse than never attempting something in the first place. We end up with a life of unfulfilled goals mainly because we merely doubted ourselves so much we were too afraid to even try.

Anyone who runs long distances knows the phrases “taper nutty” or “taper psychosis”. I began tapering last weekend and started loosing my mind just a little bit. As I cut back on running, my idle mind has too much energy and it goes to unhelpful places. Running is absolutely essential to my mental and physical well being. It keeps me feeling calm and healthy and well. I know tapering is a key component to a good race, but that cut back in mileage leaves me feeling antsy and amped up. That is actually part of the point. On race day, you want to be antsy, amped up and ready to go so you run faster. However, knowing I am not particularly well trained, and knowing I am not fit, and knowing I have an injured hamstring is not helping my frame of mind. I was lying awake in the middle of the night two nights ago, my muscle literally waking me up with its throbbing, thinking, “Maybe I should be a DNS (did not start)?”

The race is in six days. A theme over and over in my pre race build up has been my own mind doubting my ability to do this, or my own wondering why I have signed up to do this at all. Privately I have told my friends that I do not know if I will run any more ultramarathons after this 50 mile race. I know it is common to have those thoughts while at the peak of training. But I really have never pondered quitting ultramarathons before. I have said, “maybe not another 100, but I love 50 milers!” I truly do love the fifty mile distance! But I am so tired now that 50 seems really daunting. My enthusiasm has waned. Whereas I used to love nothing more than spending all day out on the trails with people I love, now long runs leave me completely drained rather than energized.

This week, I was finally fully able to fully recognize why it had been so important to me to sign up for this race. It all boils down to wanting running an ultra to be a choice. wanted to choose running ultras, versus my CANCER making that choice for me. am the decision maker, not my illness.

I remember how truly scared I was going into surgery that I would never be able to run long again. Going into chemotherapy, I did not know what the long term effects would be on my body. I realize that it was important for me to run an ultra NOW as opposed to waiting until next year because no matter how ugly it is, I had to get that first post cancer ultra under my belt. I will not put stuff off that I want to do because I do not know what the future holds. If I never run another ultra again, I am hopeful that it will be because I made the decision that I no longer wanted to run ultras and not because CANCER made that decision for me. In six days, I will be running 50 miles because I still have that choice.

I am one of the lucky ones because not everyone in my position has a choice. I do. So I choose to run 50 miles for now simply because I can. With a disease that often offers grim statistics, I want to be the person that gives someone a reason to be hopeful. I am such a very rare patient. My doctor said he would likely never see another patient like me. I jokingly call myself a unicorn because I am almost a mythical creature in terms of PC. Because I am lucky enough to be a unicorn, and I have a good shot at survival, I feel that I have an obligation to continue to get the word out about pancreatic cancer. I will continue for as long as I am healthy, well and able to do what I can to bring hope for others who have been given this diagnosis, and to raise awareness for this very deadly form of cancer. I have been given a mission and a purpose.

Photos from my week. Running with fellow Cancer warrior Tori!

Running with one of my favorite people on the planet, Tracey. My poor long suffering husband was there, too. He took the picture.

Running with Peyton, who runs sixth grade cross country.

And a photo from her meet. I am such a proud mom because she raised the bar for herself, worked her butt off, reached her goal, and got positive feedback from her coach. Hard work always pays off.

Six more days until my race. Now I have to banish my doubts because they are indeed traitors. I will be the less than graceful unicorn running on behalf of every other person with pancreatic cancer. I am betting on not only finishing but also on winning the “half a pancreas, spleenless, running with a chemo port” division. I am pretty sure that’s a thing! I am working on my list of cancer patients/survivors that I will bring with me to the race for inspiration. If there is someone you would like me to include, please contact me!

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