What do you do that makes you feel alive?
I thought about that question a lot last week, because about twenty minutes after I sent out my blog email via Mailchimp and posted it to my website last Tuesday, I received the official news that I had been dreading all weekend, one of my athlete’s, a woman who is twenty-seven years old, received the diagnosis that she has breast cancer. Honestly, I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t believe it. Here was this vibrant, smart, funny, awesome person who I had been getting to know for a few months as she was healing from labrum surgery, waiting for the thumbs up from her Doctor to start training, when just over a week into our official journey toward the finish line of the Chicago marathon, she shared the news that her Dr. had raised the red flag during a check-up, requested a biopsy, and just learned that it came back positive for breast cancer.
As her news sunk in, (truly, it still hasn’t), I felt tremendous guilt wash over me. I had just published a blog about a silly pitfall in my life goal, a triathlon being canceled, when at the same time an incredible person, twelve years younger than me, had just received devastating health news.
I have no doubt that Rachel will clobber cancer, but it will be a will fight, an expensive fight, and as a single woman, and business owner, she needs help. Therefore, I encourage all of you all to learn more about Rachel’s story, and find out how you can help her conquer this next big challenge.
On a completely unrelated note, I raced on Sunday at the Seaside Half marathon in Ventura, CA.
It was cold and windy, but sunny and dry, which was a huge relief after the sopping week we had in SoCal. I think it is safe to say that we are no longer in a drought. I had been a battling a cough all week, but was confident by Saturday morning that I was fine to race, but over the first few hundred yards, I knew I wasn’t quite myself.
I started at the front of the crowd, because I knew the course, (I actually ran along most of it while my sister was running the Mountains to Beach marathon in 2017), so I knew that we had a narrow mile or so of bike path before we popped out onto Pacific Coast Highway, (PCH), for the duration of the race.
We ran north on PCH, 6.5 miles and then turned around and ran back. We battled a headwind for the first half of the race which I pushed through it as fast as I could, then flipped on whatever speed I had left to gain time over the back half of the race when the wind was behind us.
That worked. Sort of.
The forecast called for 40-44F temps, so I opted to wear my Team SFQ singlet underneath my favorite top, the one I wore at Boston last year, and numerous incredible runs since, my Smashfest Queen endurance long-sleeve shirt. I thought with my lingering sickness it would not be wise to risk being colder than I had to, and since that shirt is light and comfortable, I figured it would be fine. However, as I made the turn-a-round, with the air finally heating up, I started to feel a little woozy, not energy deficit, I was on top of my fueling, but hot.
I usually peel away top long-sleeved layers during the first mile or so of races wearing old shirts, or cheap new ones that I don’t mind donating to the universe, but this shirt was one of my favorites. Still, I knew what I had to do. At around mile 8.5 I slowed down to unpin my bib, take off my watch, (it was strapped over the shirt sleeve), but too difficult to clasp while running, so I just stuffed it in my shorts pocket, and I re-pinned the bib to my left short leg, picked up my pace, and carried the shirt until I saw a recycling bin, and tossed it. I hope it has a long life filled with more adventures with another runner.
At that point, actually miles before that point, I knew my PR pursuit was long gone, but I still honored the race, and promised to run as fast as I could until the end. Plus, I was in first place.
Or, I thought I was.
That’s right, for the entirety of the race, since the gun went off until an RV cut me off doing a U-Turn on PCH pulling into a campsite, and while I jumped around a volunteer who stepped in front of me while grabbing a small cup of water at an aid station, I thought I was winning.
I was disappointed that I didn’t feel super-fast all morning, I was pushing hard to stay under 7:10min,. pace the first half against the wind, and then gave everything I had dip to back under 7min. pace and at least pull off a negative split, so I figured the win was at least a silver-lining to a lackluster performance.
Also, the feeling of leading a race is awesome.
Over the last couple of miles, I dodged pedestrians along the bike path while careening up and down the mini-hills and around along the last turn toward the finish line, passing Marion with about a half mile to go, certain I had the win locked up.
The finish line was buzzing with runners who had already finished the other events of the day, which included a 5k, a 10K, and a full marathon, in fact my friend and teammate Erika was running the full, a definite highlight of the day was seeing her before and during the race. Next, Marion and I stuck around long enough for him to enjoy a couple of free beers, (he earned them), I gave him my coupon and another runner did, too.
After about thirty minutes, I searched for the official results and saw on the sheet posted that said I was the 5th woman. “Wha?” I was gutted and confused. Where on earth were these women? I am totally fine with taking the loss, but I was honestly perplexed as to where these other runners had come from? It was an out and back course, runners I saw in the opposite direction after the turn-a-round were cheering for me, and I never saw another woman in front of me all morning? “Oh, well.”
I walked back to our table and told Marion we could go; there was no reason to stay for the awards.
On our walk back to our car, I pouted and starting to blow up balloons for my pity party. Not only did I feel like I ran a horrible race, I finished in 1:32:26, four minutes slower than my goal time, and two minutes slower than what I ran at Surf City, but I also felt like a fool because I thought I had won it, and I placed 5th?! That is a gaping difference. I mean I am not great at math, and my eyesight is dwindling, but I should be able to count up to four female bodies in front of me. Luckily, Marion chimed in with all-star pep talk lines, like, “You were really slow when I first met you, look how far you’ve come.” Followed by, “You’re not even a half marathon runner, you’re better at longer races.” And finally, “Just let go of beating your brother.” My brother Peter holds the family half marathon record at 1:28, and yes, I am trying to beat that time.
“Yeah, it’s fine.” I replied.
I checked the results online shortly after we arrived home, and saw my name in second place, which was an improvement, but I still thought something was amiss, how did I miss a woman passing me? Thankfully, my frustration faded away as I started looking over awesome photos Marion captured of the race, and I finally started to gain some clarity.
A.) I had a blast running hard all morning.
B.) I will do everything in my power to get the best out of my performance, even if that means sacrificing my favorite shirt.
C.) Running makes me feel alive.
I made a little video of what Marion captured that you can watch HERE.
As I am writing this, I am still bothered by the confusing results, and am even more bothered that it bothers me. Especially considering that running at all, at any speed, in any environment, at any distance, is my definition of joy. Still, I am human, I have expectations, but I need to let them go and remember that finishing a race in first, second, fifth, or 1,055th is all the same, the real win is being healthy enough to run any day of the week.
This song/video of the week is called, "You're Somebody Else" by Flora Cash. It's beautiful.