Don’t Call It a Comeback. No, Really.

I just googled ‘World’s Shortest Running Comeback’ and I cannot believe that does not appear to be something runners keep track of somewhere. Runners keep track of all kinds of ridiculous things, so why not comeback miles? Or miles between initial and next injury? Besides, it has been so long since I earned my last participation medal at a marathon or buckle at an ultra that I am starting to experience low self-esteem. You can tell because it’s been a minute since I posted a selfie with an inspirational quote.


Insert quote intended to inspire which actually makes people feel worse about themselves.

In all seriousness, after my microdiscectomy, I was a very good patient and followed my recovery protocol strictly. I am no longer young and silly (when I was 30 I had knee surgery and tried to run two days later). When the doctor released to me to begin running again, I was very smart and restrained in my progression back to running. I went to a small, flat, gravel ‘trail’ near my house and ran for one to two minutes and walked for two to four minutes.  I was ecstatic to get to do these little bits of jogging. I could not have been happier. I was telling everyone the recovery from my back surgery was a piece of cake compared to the recovery from my hip surgery (although my hip is doing awesome; the recovery just takes patience).

But the jogging period was incredibly short-lived. I think I got to experience this level of nirvana about three times, because somewhere in there we had a freak short blizzard while I was out walking. The sidewalks turned to black ice. Even though I had the presence of mind to move to the grass, I stepped once on the sidewalk. My feet flew up in the air like a cartoon character and I came down hard on the surgical side of my body. Picturing in my head what I looked like was hilarious. But the reality of the impact, not so much.

Within a few nights, I was waking up in agony, crying and unable to roll over. I made an appointment with my PT and now I am back to starting all over again.

Me to PT: What can I do?

PT: As long as there is no pain you can run.

Me (totally misunderstanding English): Wait….So you’re saying I can RUN?

PT (laughing at me): No. When there is no pain. You’re in pain.

Runners will try to find any and all loopholes so we can run. I cannot believe we are not all attorneys.

I left the appointment so distraught and angry at myself. The surgeon had told both my husband me that I could run after six weeks. I was just starting to run and I fell and jacked myself up. How could I do this to myself? I had not been able to run in so long and I was supposed to be able to run now.

I had been so depressed. I needed running. Running could lift me out of the darkest days. That was my hope and I was back to waiting.

My husband called me that afternoon shortly after my appointment to find out what the verdict was and I could not even talk about it yet. I had no idea what to say or if I could even say anything at all.

After another 90 minutes, I called my friend Tracey who has gone through a very long recovery period from her own injury and surgery and I told her the news. Though she is running incredibly well right now, she understood how heartbreaking the last 2.5 years have been. Every time I started running, something happened and I had to stop. The last time I trained and raced anything was Run Rabbit Run in 2016. She knew I didn’t even care about racing. I just wanted to run to be on a trail in the mountains. It was about my need for quiet time in the wilderness. It was about my own mental and physical health.

For more than two years, I kept up the mentality that ‘I am still a runner’ even though I am not able to run right now. I know a lot of runners who get injured, immediately get depressed and have to avoid all things running. I fully admit I was that person when I was younger. I gained patience as I got older and realized how ridiculous I sounded when I whined about having to take a day or a week off from running.


Hell, I didn’t even hate snow. Running in snow is FUN! Walking, not so much.

Then I had a couple of strong and healthy years of running. I felt great. I felt tough and invincible and it was wonderful. Not even cancer was going to take me out of running!

But then ‘other things’ came along and those things DID take me out of running. Now I have been out for so long I vacillate between thinking I am a non-running runner and trying to make peace with maybe not really being a runner anymore,  because at some point ‘positive thinking’ becomes ‘delusional thinking’. I am still trying to figure out if I am in the ‘positive zone’ or the ‘delusional zone’, because I think there is a really fine line between the two zones. I guess once I stop crying in pain at night, I can try jogging again and see how that goes. For right now I am trying very hard to be a walker with hopes of being a hiker with hopes of being a runner some day.

I continue to ask myself that age-old question, am I or am I not, a flying, talking donkey?


Six Months Post Op Goal: Rosa & Ohio Mike

Six months ago, I had surgery to repair a rather large tear my right labrum caused by cam and pincer impingement. I am not going to recount all of the details of the past six months because you can scroll through previous entries of my blog for that information.  Suffice it to say it has been a long recovery requiring a great deal of humor, patience, humor, help, humor, cake, love and more humor. In addition, I spent a lot of time swimming (hated it and hurt my shoulder), walking, hiking, riding my bike in front of documentaries on Netflix, doing my PT exercises, stairmilling, ellipticating and eventually working my way back to running.

Being a goal-oriented person, I soon needed to set a personal goal, a milestone I could attempt to achieve following my surgery. I did not want to sign up for a race because I knew I was not physically or mentally ready. I thought about it a few times, but I knew it was just a bad idea. After hip surgery is not the time to get caught up in race fever or any short-term goals. I needed to think of something challenging but attainable. Something that would not hurt my long-term success or health.

The Goal: Mount Rosa

I looked up at the mountains on our Colorado Front Range and decided I wanted to hike Mt. Rosa by my six-month surgical anniversary. Rosa is a peak that stands 11,500 feet tall and is the third tallest peak in our area. It is much less well-known than our local 14,115 foot Pikes Peak, but I kind of like it that way. I have hiked and run the trails up and down Rosa a few times before, and I always think it is beautiful. Some of the trails are pretty darned steep, making for a reasonable challenge. The loop would be about 15-16 miles, I estimated, so that was a decent amount of mileage.

Mount Rosa

Steve on top of Mount Rosa in 2016. We were last there in 2016 while I was training for Run Rabbit Run 100.

Climbing Rosa was not a ‘stretch’ of a goal. Or at least, it shouldn’t have been as long as I was careful and respectful of my body while I recovered. Too much running or high intensity work could set me back, but if I stayed on track, it was certainly within reach.

All summer and into early fall, I concentrated on two things: keeping up a good rehab protocol and exploring the trails. I promised myself that since I wasn’t training for any particular race, I would take more time hiking in new areas. I did some trails which were new to me and really enjoyed it.

Tonia and Willy

With my faithful companion, Willy

It’s Been a Long Six Months

For the most part, I was good about mentally focusing on the immediate issue at hand, which was simply to do the best job of rehabbing my injury as possible. When I started having some new medical issues, I really missed being able to relieve my stress through 20 mile runs in the mountains. That was hard. Long runs have been my coping mechanism for years and I have struggled with some depression in the last couple of months.

Fall in Colorado

My favorite time of year in Colorado!

Would You like Another Crap Sandwich?

How do you cope when you life hands you a crap sandwich while you are already sitting on top of a pile of crap? Runners cope by running. Distance runners cope by running stupid distances. But, I couldn’t run ridiculous distances. I was tired, my body was beat up and I had other symptoms and things to be concerned about. I had to just sit on top of the pile of crap that was already there, while holding my crap sandwich, hoping dessert would maybe turn out to be more appealing. (I have to say that I am using crap metaphorically here. There is no actual crap involved in my current situation, and that’s about all I want to say about it for now).

While I always thought Rosa was possible, I had about a month of physical issues which really made me doubt it was ever going to be within the realm of possibilities. There was one day we started going up a trail where I thought I was going to have to go back down and have Steve take me to the hospital. Another day we went up to 11,000 feet and the altitude kicked my butt. Moving slowly, sweating profusely and breathing hard, I doubted I could make it up the additional 500 foot climb to the top. As we descended the trail, I fell on my face, hard.  Steve was horrified, but I was just happy my hip seemed to be OK.

Still, I persevered. We chose a date where Steve and I could summit and where the weather looked like it would cooperate. It was going to be special! It was going to be a date! Just the two of us achieving my goal together.

Enter Ohio Mike.

We saw Mike getting dropped off in the parking lot as we set out on our path to Rosa. His mom and brother were in the car. Mike was already started off down Gold Camp Road as we gathered our stuff and headed out behind him. Mom rolled down the window and asked if her son would be safe out there alone. They were here from Ohio. Mike wanted to go on these unfamiliar trails and Mom was worried. I reassured her the trails were safe, but being a mom myself, I understood her worry. I told her we would probably see him on the trails and we would look out for him.

Steve and I started running up Gold Camp Road and there was Mike. I stopped and asked where he was headed. He told me Mt. Rosa and I said he we were also doing Rosa. Ohio Mike was going to do an out-and-back, but we told him we were doing it as a loop. I knew this was supposed to be a ‘special date’ with my husband. I knew Steve wanted it to be just us out alone for the day. But…Mike…and Mike’s worried mom. I couldn’t just pass by and leave. We spent the next seven hours showing Ohio Mike the beauty of our local trail and mountains.

Ohio mike scenic spot

The day started off for Steve and me as a way to celebrate the first six months of my physical recovery, but it turned into something else. I love our local trails. It brings me great joy to share Colorado’s beauty with people new to the area or just new to a particular trail. In fact, Steve calls me the Tour Guide. But I have gained so much happiness out on those trails and I want to share it with others.

I told Ohio Mike to text his mom that he was with company when he had a phone signal, because I did not want Mom worrying about him being eaten by bears. Soon I found myself sending Ohio Mike off onto some of my favorite photo spots so I could take his picture. I took pictures as he hit 9,000 for the first time in his life. And 10,000, and 11,000 and, of course, on the summit of Rosa.

Mike summit

And it wasn’t just me playing tour guide. I saw Steve call Ohio Mike over to scenic overlooks to point things out to him. I knew Steve had been looking forward to our time together, but when I saw him standing there pointing stuff out to this stranger we picked up along the trail, my heart got all squishy and I loved my husband even more.

Tonia Mount Rosa

Tonia, Steve & Ohio Mike at 11,000 feet.

Mike was quiet, but he kept up with us admirably well. He never complained. He was all smiles, even when I knew he was feeling the elevation. He was very well-prepared but he was carrying a very large pack with a lot of ‘stuff’, not traveling lightly as we were. He was being smart and cautious and I admire that, but I know it had to make climbing that much more difficult.

We stopped on top of the mountain for some photos and snacks. I told him this was my six month post hip surgery celebration. I gave Steve a hug and a kiss for always being my biggest cheerleader.

We came back down the mountain, enjoying the beautiful fall day and safely returned Ohio Mike to his family. On the way home, I thought, ‘Well, OK, I guess I checked off my goal’. But I didn’t really care. All that mattered was the sense of joy I felt from having shown Ohio Mike some trails and helping him celebrate a new experience. Sharing that happiness was what made the day special.

Mt Rosa

Ohio Mike with his tour guides

Ohio Mike would have made it to the top of the mountain, I am sure. But he wouldn’t have seen the cabin remains we showed him. He wouldn’t have seen the bridges we went over. He would’t have learned the names of some of the other mountains. And I would have missed out on the chance to tell the other hikers we passed about how ‘Mike is from Ohio and he is climbing Rosa!’ And everyone we saw was impressed, because dammit, that IS impressive.

Just thinking about it still makes me happy. Goals are wonderful and it feels good to reach goals, but not this time. Of course, it did not feel BAD to achieve my goal. It just felt irrelevant. I could not have cared less about MY goal, but I did care about Ohio Mike’s goal. All that mattered was sharing the beauty of our mountains with him and celebrating his success. I am thankful our paths crossed and I got be there to see him summit and return safely to his family. Thank you, Ohio Mike, for giving perfect strangers the opportunity to share a day and a goal, to enjoy some conversation, but also some peace and to celebrate the beauty of our world.

Finally, I am so thankful for my husband who knows and understands my heart…And for Willy, who never knows what the hell we will get him into but always goes along happily.

Supermodel Willy

Willy the Supermodel on Mt. Rosa.




The Significance of a Dog

We added a new member to our family this week. Meet Willy, the Australian Shepherd rescue.

At his foster mom's house

At his foster mom’s house

I recently have thought about how I spend a lot of time alone on the trails. I never used to think twice about going out on the trails solo, but as of late, have been hesitant to do it. I wondered why I suddenly got spooked while out alone on the trails. Was I just getting wimpy? What has made the difference? I thought back to when I first started running a lot of the more remote single track trails in our area and realized that I used to run with my big white German Shepherd, Klondike. He was my companion on my solo adventures and I never felt frightened or alone when we were together.



Klondike was my best friend who went everywhere with me. I still miss him, even though he died years ago. While I know I cannot rely on a dog for protection, I just feel safer and more secure with a canine by my side.

So I began the process of looking for a running companion. The dog would ideally be between 1-2 years of age, and of a breed that is built for the long haul. This brought me to the Western Australian Shepherd rescue organization.

I filled out an application and we were matched with Willy (originally known as Riku, but he did not answer to that name). Willy was a stray that was found wandering the streets of Houston. He was brought north to Denver and lived with a foster family for 2.5 months. They kept getting lots applications for him because he is beautiful, but most of the people who applied had no understanding of the amount of exercise that this type of dog requires on a regular basis. Then we came along. I sent in an application that said I was looking for an intelligent and energetic companion. Soon, a match was made.

Willy & Riley

Willy & Riley

Willy came home with us Sunday afternoon and has settled in well so far.

Willy & Peyton

Willy & Peyton

He and I have developed a running routine already, which thrills me. He loves to run perhaps as much as I do.I  know over time he will become the best running partner.

It occurred to me after we got Willy and brought him home that there is something significant to my adopting a dog at this point in time. It means I am not putting my life on hold to see if I will be well long-term. It means that I am confident about my health and my future. It means that I have let down my guard enough to stop wondering about the “what ifs” everyday. In fact, I now rarely ever think about my cancer coming back. I would not have adopted a dog if I thought I might be too sick to care for it properly. I thought for a brief moment, “What if I have a recurrence?” But, I immediately put that thought out of my mind. It is not going to happen. We will be OK. Adopting Willy means that I just know that I am going to be fine.


My heart feels happy and whole. Welcome home, Willy.

Confessions of Christmas 2014

I have enjoyed Christmas week. I am grateful that I got to celebrate the holiday with my immediate family, though this week has not been without pain. I barely remember anything from Christmas last year. It is amazing how trauma can rob you of your memories. My husband does not remember much from last Christmas, either, and he was not the one who had surgery. That time was a blur for all of us, so celebrating Christmas this year was all the more important to me.


I was married before. While I consider the end of my first marriage to be one of my biggest personal failures, I am glad that Riley’s dad and I continue to have a very amicable relationship. Riley spends every other Christmas with her father, and on the years that she is technically with me, I still encourage her to spend a good chunk of the vacation with her dad. I think dads are hugely underrated in our society. I think their presence and guidance is critical to the emotional growth and development of healthy boys and girls. It is very important that Riley spend time with her father and his family, and I do not ever want to stand in the way of those relationships.

Last year, it just worked out that Riley was with us on Christmas Day. I was thrilled, of course, because I really was unsure as to how many Christmases I might have left. But since I really do not remember much from last Christmas, it was harder to let her go this year. I cried after her dad picked her up. It really is OK. She is having fun and enjoying time with her relatives. I just cannot help look at Riley and wonder how many holidays she will be spending at my home, with our family. She has one-and-a-half years of high school left and then she will be off to college. How long will it be before she forms her own family and then they start their own holiday traditions?

Between my cancer experience and watching my daughter grow so close to adulthood, I want to slow down time to make every experience last longer. It seems that I keep wondering…how much longer? How much longer do I have on the planet? How much longer do my husband and I have together? How much longer will my kids be coming home for the holidays? How much longer will I have Riley around to enjoy our deep and meaningful daily conversations? She has grown into so much more than “just” my daughter. How much longer will Peyton still be my little girl who loves dolls and Lego’s? How much longer will Peyton still want to hold my hand and have me tuck her in at night? I know none of these things are permanent. I have to savor these moments when they occur.

So, we spent the week making memories that I hope can sustain me when the time has passed.

On Sunday I ran 16 miles in Cheyenne Canyon with my husband. This is my favorite place to run in Colorado Springs. The temperature in the city got up to about 50 degrees. It grew colder as we climbed past the 9000′ elevation mark, but was still pleasant. The few inches of snow on the trail made the climbing slow but the run down playful and fun. This is my favorite kind of adventure.






On Monday, I did a six-mile loop with Riley on the Section 16 trail in Colorado Springs. I wanted to do something special with just the two of us. More snow had fallen over night, which made the trail absolutely beautiful. I am so incredibly happy that my 17-year-old daughter really enjoys being out in the woods. To get to share the trails I love with Riley is such an amazing gift. We hiked up the steep side of the trail and then ran down the long downhill, while marveling at the beauty of the fresh snow on the trails and in the trees. This will be one of my favorite memories from our Christmas break.






The girls and I made approximately 10,000 gingerbread cookies on Monday. We celebrated Christmas with Riley on Tuesday. Riley had asked me a while back what I wanted for Christmas and I jokingly said, “A new pancreas.” So, she embroidered one for me. Yes, she is an amazing young woman.

My New Pancreas

My New Pancreas

On Wednesday, after my teary good-bye to Riley, Peyton and I did our last-minute preparations. We played a bunch of board games and then we took Greta to Petco to get her a Christmas present. Greta had a blast and Peyton and I enjoyed seeing her so happy.



On Christmas Day, Stephen, Peyton and I opened up our gifts. We ate our Christmas meal and spent hours playing games together. It was a simple and yet wonderful day.


On Friday, I took Peyton to “City Rock” so she could try out rock climbing. It was right up her alley.

Peyton rock climbing.

Peyton rock climbing.

Yesterday, Steve and I ran 18 miles. It was still cold, but the sun was shining and I felt good until the final mile. Maybe I am making progress!

Smiling because our run is complete!

Smiling because our run is complete!

While I have been a little sad that Riley is not with us this year, I am thankful that we have been able to create some memories with the time that we have had. I have gotten to spend individual time with each member of the family this week. While I had hoped for a little more quantity, I got what I hope is plenty of quality. Last year’s celebration felt hampered by fear and uncertainty. This year feels happier and more promising for all of us. Last year, I wondered if I would be here for this Christmas. Now, I am wondering about what future Christmases will hold for our family. While some things make me a little sad, getting to see my daughters grow up and move forward with their lives is a gift and a blessing. I remember my good fortune every single day.

Running, Hiking & Raising Young People Who Can Think for Themselves

After a few days in Breckenridge last week, it was back to our regular lives in Colorado Springs. The kids have less than one month left of their summer vacation, so we are trying to make the most of our time off.

I don’t know if it was spending a couple of days living and breathing at 10,000 feet or if I am starting to really recover from chemotherapy, but I felt energetic the first few days of the week I started my running week with a 17 mile run on the Santa Fe trail. This is the farthest I have run since before I had surgery in November. It seems like a lot of hardcore trail runners around Colorado Springs like to make fun of the Santa Fe trail. They say it is not a “real trail”. While it most certainly is true that it is more like a dirt road than a trail, the Santa Fe allowed me to continue running through chemotherapy. The soft surface was very forgiving when I developed wide spread pain. Also, my breathing was so labored that If I had tried to run hills through chemo, I would have been reduced to walking a whole lot more. While I love walking and hiking, I did not want to be a walker. I wanted to be a runner. The rail trail allowed me to continue to be a runner through treatment.

So, I set out to run whatever I had time for on Monday, and that ended up being 17 miles. I actually felt good and really ran the entire distance, which pleased me greatly. My legs felt good and I felt like turnover is improving. Getting out for a good steady state longer run just makes me feel good. I love to run long no matter if it is in the hills or a straight out and back. It is the experience of getting out and working hard over that extended period of time that makes me feel alive, strong and healthy.

On Tuesday, I went on a hike with my daughters. We did Section 16. I have run Section 16 more times than I can count, but it was fun to bring my kids out and see the beauty through their eyes. They seem to enjoy hiking and I hope we can enjoy many more ventures in the woods together in years to come.

The blue Colorado sky never gets old!

Tuesday night, Steve and I went down to Jack Quinn’s and ran the 5K together. On Wednesday and Thursday I ran at the Garden of the Gods. I ran an 8 mile loop with Tracey on Wednesday and was still feeling pretty good. There was minimal walking involved and Tracey, who wore her garmin, said we were running faster than we had been previously at the Garden. By Wednesday afternoon, I was starting to feel my energy level dropping off. My run at the Garden with Debby on Thursday was as fun and therapeutic as always, but my legs were feeling like lead and my breathing felt too labored.

My husband and I set off for Cheyenne Canon early Friday morning. Our goal for the day was to go as far as we could knowing that I had to come home by late morning to take one of the girls to a doctor’s appointment. We parked at Stratton Open Space and then ran up the road to the Columbine Trail. We had done this same run two weeks ago, covering 15 miles. This time around, it was much warmer and I was carrying 100 oz of water. The climbing on the Columbine trail is never easy because I am very slow to warm up, but this week it felt much more difficult than it had two weeks ago. Considering how much I have bumped up the difficulty of my runs over the past couple of weeks, I am not entirely surprised that I was working harder. My ability to climb seemed to improve as the morning went on and we ended up finishing 17 hilly miles. The good news is that the downhill felt much less punishing than it did two weeks ago. That is progress and I will happily accept it.

This was a good week of running. I am happy with the increase in mileage and the fact that I have been able to start adding hills and harder efforts back into the mix. My goal is to continue to push the envelope enough so that my fitness improves but not so much that I get injured. I would be devastated to have run all through chemotherapy and then derail my comeback by doing something idiotic and getting hurt.

In non-running news, my time and conversations with my kids have got me thinking a whole lot about my parenting style. Maybe it is because I had zero experience taking care of younger kids prior to have my own, but I have developed my own somewhat unorthodox parenting style. I believe in talking to kids about everything and repeating those conversations often. I believe in bringing humor to even the worst of circumstances. My kids often comment that they bet none of their friends have the dinner conversations that we have. Even though this may or may not be a compliment, I am proud of the fact that we enjoy some rather “unique” conversations.

I have always thought of my children (and all children) as inherently intelligent beings who need to be guided rather than directed. It always makes me sad when people make comments about teenagers “being stupid”, as if that is the automatic default setting for teenagers. I believe teenagers will do foolish things, of course, because they are biologically wired to take risks and chances as they grow towards independence. This does not mean that they are “stupid”, or that they are incapable of making smart, informed and intelligent decisions. Young people do need guidance, and they need people to encourage them to think about things much greater than themselves, and that their actions have consequences on both themselves and others.

I do not believe that it is possible to control another human being. I am not interested in controlling anyone, including my children. Parents often think they have control over their children, but dealing with a colicky baby or one full on temper tantrum from a three year old should convince us otherwise. We have control over how we respond to their behavior, but we do not have control over their thought processes or over what they ultimately choose to do. I communicate my own expectations to my daughters and try to help them navigate their lives as they grow up. If we set up the expectation that our kids will behave intelligently, then hopefully they will rise to the occasion. This does not mean that they will not make mistakes along the way. Of course, kids need to know what their parents’ expectations are, but I never assume that just because I establish a rule that it will automatically be followed. I remember having a conversation with Riley when she was in 8th grade where I told her that SHE would choose how much freedom she had growing up. If she was making wise choices, there would be few restrictions on what she was allowed to do. If she made poor decisions, then she would spend her adolescence at home reflecting upon her choices. So far I have had to set few limitations upon my 16 year year old because she has set the bar of expectations high for herself.

Maybe I have just been lucky so far. My kids are not grown yet and I know things can change in an instant (plus Peyton is only 11 so she could really give me a run for my money). I would like to think that allowing them to have a voice, to make independent decisions, and to have viewpoints that may differ from my own encourages them to really think about who it is that they want to become and what is truly important to them. I want my kids to develop their own opinions and determine their own value system. I do not want them to become little mirror images of myself. While my daughters definitely know what my beliefs, values and standards are, they also know that I expect them to develop their own as they move from childhood to adulthood. Debate and discussion are a healthy way to encourage and challenge all of us to think more deeply, and I try to encourage respectful critical thinking in our home. I love the young people with whom I share my life and I thoroughly enjoy the times we spend talking and exchanging ideas. Hearing their opinions and seeing them grow up into their own is my favorite part of being a parent.

Obviously, having cancer has brought forth a lot of soul searching and reflecting upon what kind of parent I have been over the years. November 18th changed all of our lives instantly. We will live with a sense of uncertainty about the future for a while. I hope that the knowledge, guidance and lessons I have tried to provide to my children will stay with them no matter what happens in the future. My wish is that they will remember the respect we gave one another, even when we did not agree. I hope that they will always remember how I encouraged them to show respect for themselves and for others. I hope they always remember that I love them for who they are and that their opinions truly mattered to me. I want them to remember that they have to answer to themselves at the end of the day. They will know in their own hearts whether they did the right thing, and that is what matters most. I hope that they remember my telling them to go out in the world and be good human beings. We cannot fix the big problems of the world on our own, but if they each do their small part, the world will be a better place. They are already well on their way towards making that happen.

Breckenridge Getaway

rarely ever say the words, “I deserve”. I do not think the world owes me a good time or a reward. However, I have felt that after enduring more than nine months of the world revolving around my surgery and chemotherapy, my family does “deserve” some time to relax and have fun together. We have earned the right to set aside regular everyday lives and worries and to escape together to rediscover the simple joys in life, and to set aside the day to day stress and fear. This past week, we escaped to Breckenridge for a couple of days. A good friend who knows everything that has transpired over the last few months graciously offered us her space in the mountains for a few days, and we gratefully accepted it.

We loaded everyone in the van and drove up late in the week.

Just seeing how excited my kids were made me so completely happy.

Even our dog was beside herself with excitement!

Our first day in Breckenridge, we spent time walking around the shops and down by the riverwalk.

Having limited internet connection was actually pretty awesome. We played board games in the evenings and just relaxed, read and talked.

Our second day there, we went for a hike. We decided to hike a 6.8 ish mile hike that goes by old mining cabins, waterfalls and two mountain lakes. The hike has approximately 1900 feet of elevation gain. It starts at 10,400 ish feet and goes up over 12,300 feet. I picked this hike because it sounded like it would be a workout for everyone, but more importantly because it sounded beautiful. One thing I have learned about hiking with kids is if you can motivate them by having specific landmarks as goals, it is a lot more fun and manageable. Just as distance runners learn to do, kids break things down into smaller attainable goals (1/2 mile further to the first cabin! One half mile to the waterfalls!) Also, when the young hiker starts to grow weary, bribing with chocolate works miracles.

We were on the trail before 8 am to try to beat any potential afternoon storms. It was a chilly 40 degrees when I first got up, but had warmed to 45 at the start of our hike. The first two mile segment of this hike is a gradual uphill. It’s a good thing, too, because it has been a year since I have been at elevation. Just sitting around in Breckenridge, I could feel my body working harder due to lower availability of oxygen.

During the first two mile stretch, you can see and hear cathedral falls in the distance. Our hike would eventually take us to and then above the falls. Here is a close up of the falls. The picture below shows how far we actually were from it at this point.

A close up.

After two miles, we crossed a jeep road and then continued up the trail. This is where the trail gets steeper. There was only about 1.5 miles left to go, but most of the climbing is in this segment. Fortunately, there were lots of cool sights. This is the first old mining cabin that we encountered.


Another mining cabin.

Mining car pulley system.

Finally, we reached lower Mohawk lake.

We ventured up the last bit of trail to upper Mohawk lake.

A marmot came by to say hello.

An old mining car.

It was very windy and cold at the upper lake, so we hiked down to the lower lake to eat lunch. We then ventured back down the trail and into town, tired and happy and in search of chocolate.

Our last day in Breck, my husband and I went for a short run in the morning. We ended up at this lake.

After our run, we took the girls to the Breck adventure park. We rode up on the gondola and tried out a few of the attractions. Aside from the rides, I think the most enjoyment came from the ability to play on a big pile of snow in July. No one loves snow more than Peyton and Steve.  They both had to take turns sliding down the hill before getting into a snowball fight.

After lunch we had to pack up and come home. I loved being away for even a short period of time without the intrusions of every day life. It was a quick trip but it was a reminder, as Riley said, of how fun it is to just hang out with our family. There has been a lot of fear and sadness in our house. Taking even a short period of time away without distractions can at least temporarily help us leave all of that behind.

Now it is back to reality. My husband had to work on Sunday. I did a training run with Vanessa, then went grocery shopping and took the kids to do some school supply shopping. Today I have to return to the cancer center for the first time since my last day of chemo to have my port flushed. I am glad I have some good memories to hold in my heart.


Treatment #13 knocked me down, but people pulled me back up.

Monday morning, my husband and I did what has become our standard pre chemo ten mile run. It was warm and sunny and beautiful. After facing months of treatments, chemo Mondays now seem to cause stress for both my husband and me. Since each week brings something different, the whole experience keeps me slightly off balance. I know Steve now worries going into Monday about how I will feel for the rest of the week. At the start of our run, I had butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to go home and crawl back into bed and hide out under the covers. By the end of our run, my stomach had settled down and I had regained that calm that I get from running.

Treatment went fine but nausea hit me shortly afterwards. Monday night I missed yet another landsharks meet. Tuesday brought some of the most intense nausea I have felt thus far. I felt like I was going to throw up all Tuesday afternoon and evening, and in fact, did get sick a few times that afternoon. I do not know if it is the fact that I am recovering from last weekends race at the Greenland 25k or if it is just the cumulative effects of chemo over months or both, but I felt so very tired all week.

This week has been marked by probably as much hiking and walking as running. I enjoy hiking, but I see myself as a runner not a hiker. Feeling like I am not capable of running on certain days makes me frustrated and honestly even sad. But I physically just had to slow down this week. Slowing down a bit gave me the gift of spending time with both a long time friend and with a new friend who I enjoyed getting to know better. Slowing down allowed me to visit new trails I have never been to and truly appreciate the scenery. I also got to enjoy the beauty of one of my favorite trails more fully because I was not staring at the ground the whole time the way I typically do when I am running something technical.

I had two days this week where I felt like I was actually able to run my planned mileage. One of those runs I had arranged to meet a friend. For another, I had planned to run alone and happened to meet up with one of my regular running partners in the trailhead parking lot. Right now I am really enjoying company on my runs. Somehow through this whole process, I have continued to meet and make new friends and deepen existing relationships through time spent out on the trails together.  It is remarkable to me. Some people get overwhelmed and frightened by an illness and yet there are so many people in the running community who have embraced me during this really difficult period in my life.

As a runner, I know I have been told after a race in which I ran well, “You are amazing!” While I appreciate the compliment, of course, I never quite understand the wording. More accurately, maybe running a specific time or distance is what we find “amazing”. No one is “amazing” just because they run fast or far. That being said, I think that there are a whole lot of “amazing” people who also happen to run. Theses people are amazing not because of their running, but because of their kind, caring, compassionate nature. There is a big collective heart among many of the runners I have had the pleasure of meeting. That I continue to derive my emotional support from other runners, even on days when I can no longer run, is what I find amazing.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I am not one for pomp and circumstance, but right now every day has taken on a new significance. Illness brings an intensity to every day circumstances. Every moment becomes important because you no longer have the luxury of believing you have an unlimited number of those moments left. I still do not want a fuss made over me. I often tell my family that I do not want presents. I do not want flowers or jewelry. I have always been a person who treasures simplicity and the gift of time. Yesterday I went for a run with my husband in the snowstorm. I told him that there weren’t too many men who would have been willing to run and walk when I needed to walk these days, especially in driving wind and snow. Despite my circumstances, I know how “lucky” I am. Our family spent the rest of the day snuggled inside of our house. My teenage daughter baked. My husband grilled salmon in the snow because that is what I had requested. We watched a movie together and then had cake.

Riley gave me this present.

It was a jar with phrases she had taken from things I have written. On some of the slips of paper she had written snippets of my own writing and in some she added her own thoughts. As parents we try to give our kids the wisdom that comes with age and life experience. We do not always know if our kids are listening or absorbing what we say. Knowing my daughter has been reading, listening and hopefully tailoring my advice to her own life circumstances means more than anything to me. We want to know we are making an impact on our kids, even if it appears that they are not listening to us. I appreciate my daughter being willing to listen and hear me, as I hope she feels that I have listened and really heard her over the years.

On a run this week, I asked a friend how he and his wife had gotten through a particularly difficult chapter of their lives. He said, “It is really simple. We just loved each other so much”. This simple but powerful thought has stuck with me all week. That is exactly how my family will get through our current obstacle: by just continuing to love each other so much. Tough circumstances can either tear families apart or bring them together. I know that in our home, and in our lives, there is more than enough love to carry us through this time. I want my daughters to always remember how much I have loved them and to lean on that knowledge to get through whatever life throws their way. No matter what happens in the future, no matter where life takes us, my love will always be with them.