Friday, March 8, 2013

Feelings

I've been staring at this blank page since I raced my way to a Boston Qualifying time. It's not that I was unsure what to say, there's just too much I want to share. (and probably very little that any of you will actually care to read). I've realized I'm going to have to split it into 3 parts.
 
First: I'm going to have to get some feelings out of the way. They were/are integral and important.
 
Second: The Figures and facts. (mile splits, fueling, etc) It's not interesting to everyone, but I love to have it to look back on. Also, I've made poor Mike wait long enough.
 
Third: The actual race specifics. It's an awesome and fairly unique event. It deserves it's own story. This will likely not happen for a few months, though. I think, once Summer descends and my racing season ends for a while, I'll take that time to go back and share some recaps (expos, crowd support, after parties...that sort of thing)
 
See why this has taken so long? That took up a ton of space and it was only a boring intro!
 
note to moms: step out from behind the camera sometimes. Your children get frustrated when these are the only types of photos they can find with you in them
 
In 2004, my dearest friend (who was also nice enough to have birthed me) found a lump in her breast. She's a semi-professional worrier, so I definitely took it seriously, but didn't panic. She was active, ate healthy, had recently lost a bunch of weight and our family doesn't have a history of breast cancer.
 
I, heavily pregnant, joined her and my dad to hear the results of the biopsy. After what seemed like an eternity, they emerged from the office in tears. They were emotional wrecks (naturally) and started spilling out the bad news. 
 
For some mysterious reason, my every emotion, (even the pregnancy/hormonal ones!) were pushed aside and I just started getting down to business. I'm sure they didn't fully appreciate my immediate barrage of questions and detailed plans of attack, but it sure helped me deal. It was in that moment that I realized my role. I needed to be a source of strength. No, crying and showing raw emotions are not forms of weakness. For me, though, I couldn't break down in tears with them AND sort through how we were going to deal with Breast Cancer. I needed to be tear-free and business-like.
 
Weeks later, my mom and I attended a seminar at the local hospital. The volunteers were explaining various options for headgear during chemotherapy (wigs, scarves, hats) and ways to apply makeup when you've lost all of your eyelashes. They showed a video of heartbreakingly beautiful women, like my mom, who had suffered so much and were dedicated to helping others try to keep their spirits up. It was totally random, but I felt the tears coming. I waddled (still pregnant) to the bathroom and sobbed 'til I puked. My mom never saw, though she may have suspected. We finished off the class, laughed and played with the makeup samples and wigs and left feeling simultaneously devasted and hopeful.
 
 She's not called Grandma, she's "Buddy". Oh, and she loves babies.
 
In January 2005, I delivered a beautiful baby boy and my mom started down a long, hideously awful road of chemo and radiation treatments. We threw her a Hat Party, brought her popsicles when it was all she could stomach, scoured the surrounding cities for some sort of air freshener that was "Nothing" scented. (she became hyper-aware of smells and it further nauseated her) She was so physically weak and battered, but still so very "mom". Everything about her personality remained. I will never forget that. Wouldn't it have been so much easier for her to have just broken down and turned into a whiny jerk?!

"silly, Buddy, it's okay!" "I'm bald, too!"

During one of her follow-up Oncology appointments, the doctor (a runner) stressed to my mom the importance of physical fitness for recovery. At that time, my mom was in no shape to even walk for any length of time, but it turned on a switch in my brain.

Soon after, I started turning my (kinda) daily walks into attempts to run. I knew nothing other than the fact that I could move my feet faster than I previously had, without dying. Also, I loved it.  I kept the new hobby mostly between The Husband and myself, though. (my sissy recently mentioned this in one of her brilliant posts. Yes, my mom's illness and recovery had awakened a desperate need for me to keep my body moving. No, I didn't feel it appropriate to be all "Listen, mom, I know you can't even roll over without pain, but I found out I love to run!" Not good timing.

More babies...more life stuff...lots of time off running, but I re-discovered a passion for it a couple of years later. Short story long : My mom is cancer-free and I've proudly called myself A Runner for about four years. Seemingly unrelated until you toss in the Marathon I just ran.

If you haven't yet clicked on the link, it's a race to "Finish Breast Cancer". 100% of the profits go back into local breast cancer research and support. When picking my races for this year, it was hard to argue with the merits of that one. Since it'd be my third one in five months, though, I expected to just run it "for the cause". Once I fell soooo short of my lofty goals at this disaster of a marathon, though, I was dead-set on running these 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours and 40 minutes.

his Game Face is so much cuter than mine
 
I took the no-brainer route and decided to run this race For My Mom. Only, I didn't actually tell her I'd be doing that. To set a nearly 20 minute PR goal, tell her about it and then tell her how I failed would've been disappointing (for me), to say the least.
 
As I mentioned, all the numbers and race details will be included in the next post. Here's a sneak peek, though : For the majority of the race, I was ahead of the 3:35 pace group. When they passed me, and the miles started getting oh-so-dark, I started down the cowardly route.
 
I told myself it was okay to not Qualify For Boston, as I'd still have my fastest marathon finishing time, ever! That thought was thoroughly destroyed when I remembered My Reason, My Why, My Motivation for this race. Those frightening, surgery and misery-filled days flashed before me.
 
My mother had gracefully survived a Life-Threatening Disease and I was whining about keeping up my pace for 30-40 more stinking minutes?!
 
So I pushed on, without crying. All that strength that magically came to me when my mom was fighting this disease, returned.

I thought of Elaine, another very dear-to-me woman who fought (and fought. and fought) and did not, in the end, survive Breast Cancer. I started to choke up and instead smiled when I realized that, if she were alive, she'd be running this race with me. That type of crazy would be right up her alley.

At mile 24, I thought of Sandy. She, too, was taken by this disease. Instead of running, though, she'd very likely be praying for my soul, assuming I'd lost my mind by paying to run 26.2 miles. That, too, chased away tears and brought a necessary calm.

At mile 25, I was basically a robot. No emotion, no thought other than "You have NOT come this far to FAIL!" Then I saw The Dreaded Bridge and nearly lost it. I was desperately conjuring up images of my mom, my family, the tearful, joyous finish line I'd been imagining all year. That Bridge? It was winning.

Then I saw her. The lady on the left side holding a black poster with white lettering. She wasn't jumping up and down or shaking maracas, like the other spectators. She was simply looking right at me and smiling.

As I begged and pleaded for my shaking legs to make that final ascent, her poster lit those things on fire.

"I'm a Breast Cancer Survivor. Thank You For Running For Me"

We both had sunglasses on, but I like to think we made eye contact. I wish I could've thanked HER. I flew down that bridge and crossed that line while the clock still read 3:39xx. But the tears didn't come. The strength and basic lack of emotion stayed with me. Mostly I was in disbelief. It wasn't until several days later, much like the random sobfest with my mom, that it happened.

I was looking at my race photos and pulled up the Finisher's Certificate. For some reason, when I saw my name, followed by those final numbers, I just sat there and cried. (and cried. and cried) I finally realized that I set out to run a Boston Qualifying Marathon, for my beautiful and amazing mother, and had actually done it. It hadn't just "happened". I FREAKING DID THAT!

I'll never know why my mom was spared when others weren't. All I know is that I'm beyond grateful for every single day I have with her and I'll never be able to thank her enough for inspiring me to conquer seemingly impossible challenges.