Sunday – My first event half marathon post treatment and only my second event half marathon. I’d had a difficult nights rest and so awoke feeling more tired. After my usual half marathon breakfast of banana and porridge I got ready and warmed up slowly.
It was slightly cooler outside than I’d expected but I was thankful for it. It felt strange just walking up the road and joining the back of the throng of people, unlike the barriers and security of the Great North Run it felt open and daunting. The public/spectators mixed in with runners until very close to our start, some even staying among the crowd during the warm up…lovely to have a relaxed atmosphere but in the world we live in I have to admit it was un-nerving.
All thoughts to that were gone though as our time came and we all moved forward together towards the start line. I lost sight of my other half and felt immensely sad – I’d wanted him to see me start and had no idea if he’d be able to. The music got louder and we were all suddenly like too tightly coiled springs of enthusiasm wanting to run…the gun signalling the start a welcome noise that courses your body with eager adrenaline.
I aimed on a nice steady pace, talked myself through my footfall and felt comfortable. In hindsight I remember thinking how far it felt I’d already gone and willing along the second switchback into the City where I knew the finish line was. I couldn’t see the details on my watch but had paid attention to it buzzing at each kilometre and the pads laid in the street picking up our timing chips…at each one I made sure to land a foot on it and thought of my Mum who I knew would be furiously following my progress on the Great Run app. Footstep “Mum can you see me I’m here!”
As the second switchback happened I kept an eye on the signs that were up for the 10K race after us. When their signs got to 2K I felt safe and able to speed up more. I was sure I had been running just slightly more than my usual pace and while it felt hard, I figured it was because it was quite warm and I was overheating a little. I told myself that I must be have been around the 7.30kmph throughout, so maybe 7kmph from the 2K point…reasoning that it wasn’t too long to hold that effort and I hadn’t come that far to be a flake…so I pushed harder. They were playing Son Of A Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield, one of my Dads favourite singers and the song I love the most by her, I felt myself get emotional and knew that if I couldn’t hold this pace for me I had to hold it for him instead.
Coming up the straighter piece of road just before the finish line my body was starting to hate me…some have commented how strong I look in the photos taken at that time…that wasn’t how I felt, pure determination had taken over.
Then I saw the time and I nearly stopped in the middle of the road! I distinctly remember it said 2.18 and I was overwhelmed by the fact I was going to finish only a minute or two over my Great North Run time, it felt extraordinary. Crossing the line was a relief but as I stopped and moved to the side to switch off all my tech my legs started to seize. I was still moving as they handed me my bag and I finally took in what I’d done…I’d run the first 20K at my old half marathon running pace of around 6.40kmph, then somehow maintained my old 10K pace of 5.45kmph in the last few kilometres…no wonder it felt hard!
I’d set my watch and phone tracker off before we ever got going as I didn’t want to fluff doing it at the start line, so knew I was waiting on the Great Run App for what had really happened. I was putting my medal on when my notification went off. I did the Great North Run in 2:19:03 and so I read through the details twice AND refreshed the app when it said 2:17:14….needless to say I stood and cried. At my first event half I was four weeks post lumpectomy, still sore and it was the first time I’d run in one sports bra after surgery. I’d been happy with how I’d done but my brain was completely elsewhere as my team had started to mention chemotherapy. I remember sitting on the bus back to the hotel thinking…”well that’s it, I soon may not be able to run at all” and how sad I felt clutching my medal. The weeping wreck on the street in Manchester wished she could go back in time and say to that older me…”It’s going to be okay! You’re going to have to have chemo and radiotherapy and the first is going to make you feel the sickest you’ve ever felt and drained beyond belief, the second will drain you further and make you so sore it’s unbearable…but you’re still going to run through both because you’re an idiot and won’t listen to anyone who says no. BUT because of that you’re going to achieve something incredible and run the next half marathon two minutes faster…so keep believing in you!”
Monday – Before I even opened my eyes I could hear my heartbeat in my head. As I opened them the room span with a mix of intense headache and nausea. I put my feet to the foot and both quads screamed at me. It felt like a hangover and being hit by a brick wall…the after effects of dehydration and pushing hard. There was no getting away from the fact my recovery run was needed. Warming up was torture – we live in an upstairs flat so those that are runners and have raced hard the day before will see the words…then I had to walk downstairs…and know how hard I had to grit my teeth in order to do so. I did contemplate sitting down and scooching each step on my bottom, but I was aware it hurt too! Worse was to come as I tried to get going and my stomach lurched! All thankfully was okay otherwise and I had a steady 6.5K recovery run…it felt slower than what it was, and I maintained zone 3 heart rate throughout!
My stomach was really off all day and I felt like I was drinking but not really achieving anything. Post race once my other half had found me and I’d finished blubbing all over him about how well I’d done, I sensibly made up my recovery shake and had it all. Then got changed in a port-a-loo…not classy but better than the street, and we hit the event village for food freebies before having lunch in M&S. I remembered by shake was really food due to the nutritional value and concentrated well on eating enough good things at lunch…but with a treat as there always should be, washed down with a large Americano. Then a bit of strolling and an hour waiting for the train, on which I realised I felt a bit dry. Given we had to walk home from the station my other half talked me into having my free juice drink that was in my merchandise bag. Once home I’d had half a glass of water between unpacking and cooking dinner…but that was it! I was so adamant that I needed to eat enough that I forgot about fluids and those THREE drinks probably barely equalled a litre. So it was no wonder I felt so shocking!
I saw my GP in the morning who signed me off work until the end of June (not I shall hasten to add due to how I felt that day, but due to how I’ve been and over the last few weeks and how unwell I currently am!) It felt like a sad decision BUT the right decision for her to take. We also discussed my bone density results, the positive news was that no osteoporosis or bone degeneration has been found, just a general weakness in my overall bone structure…still a shock given the level I run! My bloods were done ready to be used as a measure for the future and for the next six months I shall take a high dose of calcium and vitamin D daily, plus a tablet of Alendronic Acid once a week. Hopefully improving my bone density enough that when they re-test my blood in six months I won’t need either.
Getting home I felt wiped out and so sat and worked on my art piece before my mid-afternoon sports massage. The lady I saw was brilliant and massaged my legs to improve blood flow and stretch the muscle fibres out. I walked out feeling like a human being again and went for drinks with friends feeling comfortable.
Tuesday – Thankfully the headache that plagued me the day before had gone overnight but my quads still ached. I knew I needed to be gentle with myself and was looking at a week of recovery…not what I’d intended ahead of Sundays run at all, but training should always be flexible and better for it to need to be gentle to help with soreness than an injury!
I did half an hours leg strength and conditioning training with Pop Sugar and then half an hour of Hips & Hammies on Yoga with Adrienne.
Feeling nicely calmed I worked on my art piece and finally got paint onto the canvas, I had a happy accident with a block of colour and covering it up proved hard, hopefully once the rest is finished it won’t be as noticeable…heck there may be more happy accidents before its complete.
I rounded off the morning with the biggest reward…I went into work and came home with the plan for my first week back starting 1st July. It was so good to see everyone and such a relief to be able to know I shall soon be well enough to start going back…I pulled up in Tideswell and sat and cried with relief. I’m lucky that they have been so caring and so supportive while I’ve been poorly, I’ve heard horror stories from other cancer patients. For me this feels like such a positive step, giving me another focus for the coming weeks and ultimately something to look forward to.
I finished the day with spin class…which was great but my achy quads spoke to me often and made me take it easy.
Wednesday – I’d had grand plans for my morning run…then got up and while my legs didn’t ache as bad the ache was still there plus I was beginning to feel more discomfort in my left breast. I remembered what I’d told myself the day before…it was easy run week and I needed to take care of all of me – sensibly placing my water bottle in the right hand side of my vest as I left! I had a strong 12.5K run with a very slow start, slightly faster middle and slower ending…almost a tempo run but nowhere near as intense.
I spent the morning sat preparing details for my appointments on Thursday, mainly to see my solicitors. Lunch with a friend in Castleton was a lovely relief and, thanks to parking issues, I had a great walk in the sunshine from Hope to Castleton.
We had a wonderful time and massive cake! A huge help to an afternoon of more paperwork…this time more exciting – prepping my plan for my recovery post Ultra and my training between it and the Loch Ness Marathon.
Thursday – My first full trail run in weeks and so refreshing. The weather was good, the grass damp under my feet and the breeze still. There was no tightened in my left leg and I paced well, even through the longer grass.
My heart rate was stable throughout and I came home feeling really good. The biggest noticeable difference was how much less my quads ached afterwards, as if I’d finally loosened them up.
I had an appointment in the City to see my solicitor to start preparing my will…something I’d never even considered before I was diagnosed but now realise the absolute importance of. It felt odd, sad, scary and yet satisfying to start the process and talk things through. However by the time I got home I felt really drained both emotionally and physically, so slept an hour…no alarm just going with what my body needed. My left hand side still felt very uncomfortable and I had to get changed after waking.
I’ve started a new book…no self help, no chic flick, no normal thing I would pick up and read…The Hunt For Zerzura has been recommended to me by my fiancé – mainly because we laugh over my appalling geography knowledge, but also because it’s a good read and a different voyage of discover to explore.
Friday – I grabbed my mat and did both my usual upper body strength training session and then 40minutes of mixed yoga videos back to back. I was in a total state of calm, albeit with tired shaky arms, afterwards.
It felt odd not to be going into the City and seeing everyone for Moving Forward, I missed their company and wondered how they all were. They were right when the week before they’d discussed with us the impact of losing that new normal. It meant it was my first day appointment free and nothing in my diary since finishing chemo…yep that’s right two months of appointments, meetings and yes the odd lunch date thrown into the mix but suddenly nothing but me…it felt odd and I felt like I should be doing something. It was hard to remember that I actually need to rest instead, doing nothing is a necessity for my recovery and to get stronger. I did still go for a walk but only to the post box, did still clean but only one room. I enjoyed a good hours painting and a potter around the garden before picking up my book again.
Saturday – A 5am start, bleary eyed and yawning my way through making porridge, tutting at my slightly under-ripe banana and feeling a tad nauseous over coffee at that time of day…a necessary evil with a few hours of running ahead and a body used to caffeine!
My last 16mile run was done in road shoes, along pavements, in discomfort thanks to my sore adductor. I’d covered the distance in 3hrs 19minutes and was pleased to get home. This was different…last weeks half marathon result still buzzing in my head but the effect still slightly in my body I made sure I paced myself, didn’t push too hard and kept checking in with myself. My aim was eight kilometres per hour…and I did it. I was only just inside 2hrs at 16K but was happy with that given the terrain. Around 20K, after descending down through Hathersage back to the riverside path, something changed. I felt hot, uncomfortable and tired. I really should have focused on my breathing but wasn’t paying attention to it. I just wanted to stop and the devil on my shoulder screamed at me too…but my body kept going! I got back to the main road at 24K and again things changed gear, I could see home and I felt like I was flying…infact I had to consciously tell myself to slow down. All I could think was…I could keep going, I need food, but I could keep going, wow! The same person only 20minutes early would have looked on in disbelief. As I made my last road crossing I felt a twinge in the inside of my knee…my adductor telling me it had nearly had enough.
Once home and ice bathed I felt bright, awake and amazing. I’d covered the same distance but with both ascents and descents, plus mixed terrain, in 3hrs 15minutes. Making me feel strong and confident for my Ultra…now only seven weeks away.
Resting felt good but I wanted distant company so went to Colemans Deli, ate cake, wrote and listened to everyones chatter.
As someone who didn’t used to be able to function after a long run while training for a half marathon, the fact I can get myself out in the car and do things while training for a 30mile run, goes to show…inspite of all treatment has and is doing, just how much better I’m both training and recovering. Small conscious decisions are having massive pay offs and, while the cancer fatigue feels like I’m walking in the dark…someone has passed me a torch!
Sunday – My rest day and there’s a tightness in my inner left leg again and my lower back is tender, yesterdays run proving capability is there but so too still is weakness, I’m stronger but my strength needs improving on.
On particularly rough days, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through BAD DAYS so far is 100%, and that’s pretty good. Anon