At least I never walked

I figured I should probably give a recap of the Chicago Marathon while it’s still roughly fresh in my memory and before I ran my next one (which will be on Sunday).

I woke up plenty early the morning of the marathon, with enough time for my usual pre-race oatmeal/honey/peanut butter breakfast, and since I was staying at the Hyatt downtown, only had a few blocks to walk to the start in Grant Park.  Worried about arriving too late and encountering endless lines for port-a-potties and congested start corrals, I arrived way too early instead, and found a spot on the street and sat down and waited – at least an hour before the gun went off – as more and more runners started funneling in and building the energy.

I’d been sitting in the corral for so long that by the time the race actually started, I already had to go to the bathroom again, but I didn’t feel like peeing into a Gatorade bottle near a fence like some people, so I started moving with the school of fish that was the race and kept a keen eye out for a port-a-potty.  Problem was, that would be longer than I anticipated.

The first several miles of running were congested, but not in a frustrating way, it was simply an awesome group-thing to be in.  Almost immediately, I was a little worried about the temperature, though.  It was about 70 degrees at the start, and the sun had barely risen.  I’d be fine if it never got any warmer.  After getting warmed up from running, I could tell it was going to be a long and hot day out on the streets.  Less than ideal conditions.

Throughout the entire race, I enjoyed reading the signs spectators had made.  My favorite was “Don’t poop your pants”.  Very important advice.  Probably the second most important goal of the day aside from finishing the marathon.  “Hurry up and finish so we can drink” left me a little confused, because, like, you don’t need to wait for me to finish to start drinking.  Drink away!  A few girls had posters with their phone numbers on them, but there’s no way I could ever remember 10 digits in my late race deliriousness.

The first 5 miles went by without me seeing a single port-a-potty.  Things were getting desperate.  And then we took a turn out of generic city blocks and into Lincoln Park, and I saw a few guys taking a leak next to the first tree they saw.  I bolted across the road and down a small hill and joined them, taking a piss like a racehorse, with my back to the race and a nice view of an empty park stretching out to the lake.  The first port-a-potties on the course were only about a half mile farther down the road, but let’s just say that there were some well watered plants in the park that morning, and I’m glad I didn’t wait.

The rest of the first half of the marathon I did what I could to stay comfortable and enjoy the people lining the streets.  The north loop on the course had people on pretty much every block, which was much more preferable to the later miles that had a few deserted stretches.

quick feet

I reached the halfway point holding a steady pace, but it also meant that I was now in uncharted territory, as my longest run of the year prior to the marathon was all of 13.1 miles at the SavageMan triathlon.  The course gradually got hotter and sunnier and visible signs of pain started to show up an fellow runners’ faces.  I saw one woman vomit around mile 15.  And I slowly started to slip into my pain cave.

I have no recollection of miles 17-20.  Seriously, none.  All I know is that I was hurting.  One gigantic blur.

The last 6 miles were a constant battle to stay hydrated under the fierce sun, and the toughest mental exercise in just keeping forward motion.  Reaching mile 20 and knowing you still have another hour of pain (if you can keep your pace) is disheartening, to say the least.  I spent a lot of time cursing myself for ever being dumb enough to run a marathon, and even more for knowing that I signed up to do it again just 3 short weeks later.  What was I thinking?  Why didn’t anyone stop me?  Every hundred yards my legs told me to rest and just walk for a block or two.  Or just through the aid stations.  But I wouldn’t let my brain listen, and continued to run, jog, shuffle, scoot along while I stared only at the asphalt directly in front of me, blocking everything else out.

The crowds gradually grew towards the end, which provided a tremendous lift, and the block party going on at mile 25 is probably what saved me from wanting to walk for the last time.

I finished with a time on the faster end of what I was guessing I could do, given my (lack of) preparation, and immediately after crossing the line I was already waddling my best towards the beer truck and then the massage tent.  I shuffled back to my hotel room to peel off my less-bloody-than-I-feared socks and shower off the salt all my sweating had left behind.

I tried to get back to the finish line/charity village as fast as I could to see my sister and cousins, but my legs could only propel me forward at one speed by that point, so I didn’t see any of them actually finish, but none of them were cursing at me for giving them the idea to run the marathon in the first place, so all was good.  I think I’ve had just enough time to recover to do it all again.  DC, here I come.

It’s been an anxious month.  I finished chemo 5 weeks ago, and in the meantime, I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to start radiation therapy.  The initial plan of getting treated here in Holland was scrapped nearly 4 weeks ago already, and I’ve spent the rest of the time waiting to get an appointment at the proton center,  meeting my doctor at the proton center, waiting for approval to go ahead with the treatments from health insurance, health insurance declining to cover the treatments, appealing that decision, waiting to hear back on the appeal, researching alternative courses of action to take and a way to pay for it if I was going to get denied again, realizing the premise for Breaking Bad is a lot more plausible than I first thought, turning down a job offer I really wanted because I won’t be available to start working in west Michigan for a couple months, and, finally today getting financial clearance and scheduling my CT scan at the proton center for Thursday.

After that scan and the molds that will be made to hold my body in the same position, I’ll finally start proton radiation therapy in another 1.5-2 weeks.  Finally.

Let’s just get this over with already.


Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

I’ve had the idea for this post bouncing around in my head for a couple months now, and was waiting until I got a new job to type it out.  Which I mean to say that I’m in the running for a new job that I really hope I get, because I realized that even having cancer and being super dependent on having health insurance at the moment is no reason to stay in a holding pattern until things “get better” or “back to normal”.  If anything, it’s a call to quit wasting time and do something enjoyable.  The clock of life has been ticking very loudly these past 7 months.

And the swift kick in the butt that finally booted me out of my desk chair was watching this:

The next day I changed my desktop wallpaper to this so it would stare me in the face every day: 

Everyone bitches about their job to cope, and for the longest time, venting was enough of an outlet for me, but it doesn’t change the fact that now I look myself in the mirror in the morning and I ask myself “Is this really what I want to do today?”, and the answer comes back “No” too many times.

And then I went back and read an article that my Dad forwarded me over a year ago: How Will You Measure Your Life?  Last year, I printed it out and read it three times through.  I tried very hard to understand it.  Not that it’s overly complex, but, what am I supposed to do with this information now?  Upon rereading it this year, I find it pretty obvious.

And so I guess if I was qualified to give any career advice at all, I’d say stop worrying about finding your “perfect job” or “true calling” and just get out there and do something that’s interesting at the moment.

So Steve Jobs, thanks for helping me get my ass back in gear, among a thousand other things.  Rest in peace.

The other sort of related bit of news I should probably get around to sharing is related to staying hungry, and definitely being foolish.  Foolish like running a marathon without doing a training run of more than 13.1 miles, like I did two years ago.  Only this year I’ll be running 2 marathons with minimal training.  Or three, if you count going through cancer treatment as a marathon, which I think is a valid point.

Most of you know I’m planning on running the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington DC at the end of the month.  And most of you also know that my sister and three of my cousins are running the Chicago Marathon this weekend and have already raised a lot of money for Team in Training.  But what I’m pretty sure only Ian knows (and maybe Jeremy), is that I’m also planning on running the Chicago Marathon as well.  Surprise!

And yes, I know registration sold out in February, and charity slots sold out at the end of June.  That’s why I signed up 2 hours after registration opened back on February 1st.  Seriously.  I bet none of you bothered to find registrants by last name before.

I’d already decided back in January that doing a Half Ironman and running a marathon in the span of two months wasn’t hard enough, so I thought I’d throw another marathon in there for funsies.  And getting diagnosed with cancer certainly put all my athletic and life plans on hold for a not insignificant amount of time, but I rocked the SavageMan, and I’m not slowing down.

So kindly remember to redefine what you thought was impossible and stay hungry, stay foolish.