Monday, May 28, 2012


It should have been a great race for me.  The temps were around 55, nearing 60 at the finish and the humidity seemed manageable.  My husband was willing to slow down and run with me to try to encourage me when I got tired.

But, it just wasn't my day.  I'm not sure if it's the stress of everything that's been going on, the fact that I'm getting older, the allergens in the air or just plain one of those days but I wasn't able to breathe well at the start and my lungs never opened up.  Deep down, I knew going in that I probably wasn't going to break 2 hours in this half.  I just never felt like I was running my tempo runs at a fast enough sustained pace.  That said, I only ended up 1-2 seconds per mile off last year's pace at this race and only about 10 seconds per mile off my PR pace.  This translates to a race in which I came within 2 1/2 minutes of my PR so in the end I was quite pleased.

That doesn't mean that I'm still not hoping to break 2 hours this year.  I have my sights set on Appleton in September, where I came within 24 seconds of my PR last year.  But it also means I have to figure out how to tweak my training a bit and convince my doctors that I don't need any surgeries, biopsies, CT scans or anything else that screws up my training weeks or my mental state.

As all good training programs ending with a successful race should be celebrated, we went out to dinner at The Boathouse, a fabulous restaurant where I had one of the better restaurant meals of my life.  It was a fitting celebration of the race and of our 7th wedding anniversary.  Now that we're home I'm taking a day or two off and then hitting the trails for a few weeks before I start the training program all over again for Marquette and hopefully Appleton 2 weeks later.  Bring on the summer running, I'm ready!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Suckin' it up

For future reference, I hope I don't have to have bone marrow biopsies on a regular basis going forward.  While it was not the most painful thing I have ever had, it ranks up there pretty high.  And 5 days later, I can still feel a "bruise" when I run.  By the way, do you know how they get the needle into the bone to do such a biopsy?  They SCREW it in!  No, bone cannot be numbed and yes you really feel it.

Considering that I had the biopy just over a week before my race, I was determined to get out for a run the next day.  Between the "bruise" feeling every time I took a step and mother nature (it was 85 degrees out) I had to cut my run short for the first time in a very long time.  I didn't regret it one bit, but I was disappointed that I didn't have it in me to "suck it up" and push through.  Two days later I went out for an easy 3 miler, which was almost as miserable.  Of course, by the time I got home from that run it was back into the 80s.

I'm hoping it's the heat and not the soreness, the stress of it all or something else going on.  Somehow it seems so important to me to push through all of this and keep running as if nothing is going on.  Or maybe I'm trying to run from everything that is going on.  Either way, it seems like my life (or at least my sanity) depend on pretending like I'm training for a race like I would any other year.  I'm not sure how this will translate come race day.  But in 5 days I will find out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The "C" word

I guess it's official.  Earlier today I was diagnosed with SLL (Small lymphocytic lymphoma).  This is a form of cancer that presents in the lymph nodes and often presents with CLL (Chronic lymphocytic leukemia) which presents in the blood.  My blood work is normal, however it is rare for someone to have SLL without also having CLL.  According to my doctor, only 5% of SLL/CLL patients only have SLL.  Her best guess is that I have stage II (this is not the same staging as other cancers).  So tomorrow starts yet another round of testing to more accurately determine staging and to determine if there is any bone marrow involvement (bone marrow makes new blood cells so if I have bone marrow involvement I will likely develop CLL at some point in the future).

The first test on the roster is a bone marrow biopsy tomorrow, which the doctor admitted is painful "for a few seconds".  She says I shouldn't run later tomorrow but that I should be fine the next day.

Next week I have to have two CT scans (they can't do both the same day because it is too much contrast dye all at once--why does that scare me just as much?) so they can determine if I have enlarged lymph nodes anywhere else in my body.

Additionally, I have to have a ton of blood work done so they can do DNA testing on my blood to determine if I have an aggressive, fast acting, need treatment right now kind of SLL or if I have the typical slow-developing, may live 8 to 10 to 25 years without needing any treatment kind.  I am so desperately hoping for the typical slow-developing, may never need treatment kind but I'm trying to not get my hopes up.  Even the best possible news at this point still results in me having cancer.  Oh, and did I mention that there is no cure for this cancer?  That's right, no cure.  The absolute best I can hope for is a lifetime of having it but not having to be treated for it.  I know that doesn't sound so bad, compared to the alternative, but that doesn't mean that it is good.

The hardest part right now is trying to figure out what all of this means.  The average age of diagnosis for CLL/SLL is 65.  The average patient is a man.  I am neither of these things.  For more information on SLL see here:
The average life expectancy is 8-10 years, which is good for a 65 year old man, but pretty crappy for a 39 year old woman with 2 kids under the age of 5.  Which leads me to question if that life expectancy doesn't really apply for a 39 year old because I have a significantly longer life expectancy to begin with based on my younger age.  Or does that not matter at all?

All I know for sure is that it took everything I had to not completely lose it in the doctor's office today.  And that the first thing I did when I left, was run.  I ran hard, and fast and to the point of wanting to puke.  When I was done, I no longer had to work to hold back the tears and I felt like somehow I could find a way to deal with all of this.  I'm still freaking out, but at the moment I'm too tired from my run to do anything about it.

This has caused me to starting thinking about the important things in life.  What if I find out I only have 5 years to live?  What do I feel I need to do in that time period?  This list will be coming soon and I will probably continue to add to it, even if I'm told I probably have 25 years.  Crap . . . 25 years . . . that barely gets me to retirement.  Fu#@!

I need to get out.  I need to run, hard and long.  This is so not what I intended for this blog . . . so not where I saw things going when I started writing a month ago.  I will continue to run . . . I will survive damn it . . . there is no other alternative.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A bad combination

14.5 mile run . . 80 degrees and sunny . . . May 11 in a climate that rarely hits 80 during high summer months.  This was not a good a good combination for my longest training run for my upcoming race.  I haven't felt this bad on a long run in a long time.  Starting around mile 3 I just wanted to be done.  All I could think about was being done.  Somehow I sucked it up and completed my run, with a decent pace, but too high of a heart rate.  I drank 2 1/2 times as much water as usual and was still dehydrated.  It probably didn't help that I had to cram 45 miles into 6 days because of the timing of my prior long run.  But I was reminded that I can find a way to do it even when miserable, even when I just want to quit.
I'm also reminded how quickly winter becomes spring and how schizophrenic the weather can be around here.  Two years ago this same weekend I ran a 22 miler in snow and sleet with the temperature hovering around 25.  I kept thinking about that Friday and as much as I don't want to see snow in May, I would have preferred it at that point.  That said, I'm now on my final countdown to race day.  My last long run is in the books, I have one hard week left and then a taper week.  Two weeks from today the race will be complete and I'll start training for my next race in September.  It's hard to believe that during the first weekend of summer (Memorial Day) I'll already be counting down until the last weekend of summer (Labor Day).  It's a pretty short period of time up here, but well worth the wait.  Run on friends, it will be winter again before you know it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A sign

Yesterday I decided to try my weekly long run.  I was about 60 hours post-op and while still swollen and sore at the site of the surgery, otherwise felt pretty good.  I ventured out around 5:30 a.m. for my first 14 miler since last fall and was quickly rewarded for my efforts.  Within the first mile I noticed the sun peaking up over Lake Superior with a bright orange glow . . . the beauty of the lights pushing its way through the towers of the ore dock out over the Lake.  The geese were honking and the dandelions that had gone to seed created a white haze just over the grass.  It was a cloudy morning so I was treated to bright orange and pink streaks across the sky and felt somehow that it was a sign.  I wouldn't necessarily call it a religious moment, but somehow I just felt that God was telling me it's going to be okay.  I don't normally get "deep" while running so don't expect this to be the tone of the rest of this blog, but at that moment I felt some peace.

The remainder of the run was pleasant:  comfortable temperatures with  the rain holding off until after I was done, a dozen deer at Presque Isle (a few close enough that I could have reached out and touched), a couple of mallards in a small stream behind the high school, a woodpecker pecking away, little traffic and for the most part the bike path all to myself.  Really, it doesn't get much better than that.

I would say that the sign was accurate in that if nothing else I successfully, comfortably, and at a decent pace even, completed the 14 miles.  Yes, I was sore.  But I did it.  And that made me quite happy.

Friday, May 4, 2012


It would appear that I survived the surgery.  Well, actually that's probably a bit understated since I seem to have come out of it with nothing more than a 1 inch-ish cut, a few stitches and now (being less than 24 hours later) some mild pain and some crazy dizziness.  I attribute the dizziness to the pain medication I took before bed last night (I should have known better than to take two pills as directed), but the upside is that I have not taken any pain medication in 12 hours and am feeling pretty good . . . other than that annoying dizziness thing.  Definitely not up for running my 14 miler today, but I'm hopeful that maybe tomorrow or Sunday I'll be ready.  In reality, if it wasn't for the dizziness I would be at work right now and would be carrying on with life pretty much as usual.  Or at least, as "usual" as I could knowing that I have to wait a number of days before I find out if all of this was was to confirm that I have nothing or that there is a problem after all.

I've been lucky enough since the biopsy to be able to run pain-free and despite the schizophrenic weather we've been having, running has mostly been great.  I've had to carefully plan my runs around this surgery so that I didn't miss much training and was able to work everything in earlier in the week except for my long run.  It's hard to believe that the race is three weeks from tomorrow and that despite everything going on medically I feel like I'm ready.  It's a good reminder of how far I've come in the last ten years and how my personality refuses to allow anything to get in the way of my goals and plans.

That said, I have to face the reality that this is not the race in which I will break 2:00, and likely I won't PR either, but that's okay.  Right now I'm just happy knowing I've been able to persevere through all of this testing and plan my training around it and keep putting one foot in front of the other day after day.  I've also been reminded how lucky I am to live where I do.  There are many reasons, but I don't want to go on and on and on so I'll stick with the one reason why I even mentioned it.  I am so blessed to live in sucha beautiful place!  I was running my favorite trail run earlier this week and stopped in the middle of the trail for a moment and looked up.  This is a bit rare for me as I tend to watch the trail and I'm afraid of heights so I tend to not look around too much on certain parts of the trail.  So I looked up (after I had come to a complete stand-still, by the way) and took in the view and it was amazing.  I had forgotten that when my legs were screaming from all the uphill and downhill action, that meant that the view was of the deep-wooded hills, gorges and river a couple hundred feet below.  It was so peaceful and perfect and I realized that I need to stop more often to enjoy it rather than just pushing through my run.  Maybe next time I'll remember to bring a camera . . .