I woke up panic-stricken at 2 am Tuesday morning. I had an overwhelming sense of fear. What on earth had I been thinking the day before? I had been toying around with the idea of signing up for another 100 mile race, which would be my first post-Cancer 100. I had gone back and forth in my mind on which race I really wanted to do, or if I even wanted to do one at all. For the last two months, I had been unable to make a decision on the matter. Monday morning, after yet another run/discussion with my supportive and encouraging husband, I went home and registered for the Bryce Canyon 100.
When I talked about the challenge of the race and the beauty of the area, I became very excited about tackling Bryce. It just felt right. So why did I wake up in a panic less than 24 hours after registering? Why did I choose to take this on in the first place? What the hell was I thinking?
I had wanted to run a 100 mile race since I moved to Colorado in 1999. I had heard of the Leadville 100 and I was intrigued. When Steve and I first met, we had set a goal of running that race together some day. When I got pregnant with Peyton, that goal evaporated as day-to-day life and family obligations took over. We continued running and ran shorter races, but Leadville was no longer important to either of us.
In 2009, I ran my second 50k (Greenland trail race), and then ran the American Discovery Trail marathon in Colorado Springs. I had two great races but ended up injured. For the next nine months, I hit the pool nearly every single day while I could not run. I hate swimming, so this was physically and emotionally challenging. Every single day when I went to the pool, I had a pity party. The thought of getting into the cold water made me feel like crying, but I did it anyway. When I finally got back to running, I was afraid to race. I was afraid I would hurt myself again. Steve forced me to sign up for the local XTERRA half marathon at Cheyenne Mountain state park as a “date run”. I balked, but agreed to run it because it was important to my husband. The weather was horrible, with a snow/rain mix pelting us sideways. However, when I got out there, I rediscovered how much I loved being at the races. It was exhilarating, even though we were just running and not “racing”. Shortly afterwards, we signed up for our first 50 mile race. I figured, if not now, then it might never happen.
And so began my real love affair with ultras. I ran a couple of 50s and decided I was going to attempt a 100 mile race. I chose Vermont because it is one of the oldest 100s in the country, and has a reputation for being an extremely well-organized race. Also, Steve and I both have family in the area, so we were able to leave the kids with family and make a vacation out of the experience. I trained very hard for the race, and finished in 22:33, as tenth female. More importantly, I had an amazing experience from start to finish in that race. I smiled and had fun the whole way.
After I got my Cancer diagnosis, I thought, “Thank goodness I did not put off running a 100 mile race any longer, because I don’t know if I will ever get the chance again!” I was so glad I had fulfilled a long-term goal. All of my memories from that day are good ones. It was at that point, the hardest physical endeavor I had endured, but I enjoyed the experience so much. I will always treasure the memories I have from that event.
Now I look at life a lot differently. I had a discussion with a friend recently about running long distances. I used to want to undertake these events because I wanted to push my limits and see what I was made of. This entire last year presented one challenge after another. I know I can get through difficult times. I do not need to create artificial hurdles in my life. Any doubts I may have had about how mentally tough I am have been erased.
So why on earth did I sign up for another 100 mile race? The answer to that question is complex. I do not feel the need to create artificial obstacles and difficulty in my life. However, I am not ready to rest easy in the rocking chair quite yet. I had a goal before cancer to do a western 100. Goals can change and my life will be no less full if I do not attempt this race. However, I have continued to ask myself, “Will you be disappointed if your cancer comes back and you had not attempted it?” I cannot say for certain how I would feel, but I do not want to look back with regret. My goal now is not to go and kick ass, but to enjoy the training, take in the scenery on the race course, and finish with a smile on my face.This time around, I hope to have my kids greet me at the finish line.
I would be remiss if I did not mention one other significant motivating factor. I have said all along that there must be a purpose for my having survived pancreatic cancer when other equally deserving and wonderful human beings have not. This event will serve a purpose. I will be running for the cause of pancreatic cancer. More details on that will be forthcoming in the future. I do not want to do this for just myself. I want to tackle this for everyone who has been touched by this disease.
So on Tuesday, when I woke up in a panic, I did what made sense.. I went for a run with some significant elevation gain. It was the first time in a long time that I have attempted anything that involved a lot of climbing. I have my work cut out for me. It is going to take everything I have to get in shape for this race. However, when I was on the single track trails that I used to train on all of the time, I remembered what I loved being out there: the challenge, the tranquility, the beauty and the peace that it all brings me. I hope the training over these next few months will be as fulfilling and gratifying as it was in 2013. My body is forever changed, but I still find joy and the world around me.