Friday, May 24, 2013

Losing My Will To Run

"Brandon, I'm just going to come out and say it. I have lung cancer", and like that my world stopped. This is not the type of thing you can be prepared for, a parent telling you they are going to die. We all know it is going to happen, yet most of us sit back in our pretty little worlds believing we have all the time in the world. Stage 4 lung cancer spread to the lymph nodes, not good. My mom had been a 2 pack a day smoker for 50 years. This was not a surprise, but at the same time it was a complete shock. I'm really not sure how that works. My journey to Western States ended the day I started the race in 2012, my mom quit smoking then as well. She'd not smoked since, up until she got the news that is.

Zeke, Mom and Sasha celebrating their birthdays together!

I'd prepared myself back in my late 20's that my mom would pass earlier than I wanted. She had been in and out of the hospital seemingly yearly with some major issue or another, almost all of them smoking related. It was clear to me that the end was near back then. I made my peace with her smoking, it was her life and it made her happy. The consequence of making that peace, I pulled away from her emotionally. I just could not deal with the constant barrage of sicknesses that in my mind were completely avoidable.

Once she quit, I could see the life come back to her. She got healthy (we thought) and I started to knock down those barriers again. I figured if she was taking an active part in becoming healthy to live, I needed to do the same with our relationship.

The last year I have enjoyed some of my most fond memories of my mom. However, as it usually does, life sorta pulled an about face on us. Her life will never be the same and I've now opened myself up to all the heartache I tried to shield myself from. I'm getting married in October and my only hope is that I can dance with my mom on that day. Every single day this month, I have spent countless hours hoping and planning a way to make that happen. My unfortunate reality is, I can do nothing. I can not work harder, be smarter, or buy a fix to this situation. I simply must sit back and let it happen. Anyone who knows me well, understands sitting back and waiting is about the hardest thing in the world for me to do.

I had the Silver State 50 mile race scheduled 3 weeks after we found out about the cancer. I'd tried to run "long" the two weekends previous to the race and both attempts failed miserably. I thought running would provide me a safe haven to escape life like it normally does. I can run for hours and just be lost and happy in the playground that is my mind. Within a few miles on both attempts I was a wreck, to the point I just had to call the runs and go home. The second one in particular was a group run from the River Bend aid station, we ended up with probably 40 people and I was so embarrassed about my mental state. We had so many people on the run and I was having such a hard time keeping it together. I got to the top of Sandy hill and completely lost it. My legs buckled, I fell to the ground weeping. I was 3 miles into a 25 mile run and I was done. My want to run was gone. I ran to the 50/50 split directed everyone the correct way and then left. It took me two hours to get back to the car. I might have been 5 miles away at that point. I would get so emotional I could not even see the trail ahead of me.

I've joked to friends I've never met a mental state that I could not force myself to run in......while that may be true, apparently a broken heart will derail me quite easily. I really was not sure if I was going to actually start the race up to the day before. In fact, running and even the thought of it, these last couple weeks seems so trivial and selfish that it has simply been unappealing. I spend so much time running, for what? Why? I once thought I had those answers, now I'm not sure I even want to run anymore. It seems pointless.

I had volunteered to work the registration and bib pickup of the race on Friday before at Eclipse Pizza. Once the registration and race meeting were over I sought a little council. I talked to two of my trusted running friends Gator Boy and the Prez. I asked if there were any tricks to coping while running and they could provide none. However, they assured me I was strong and capable. To take it slow and easy and of course since it was a run in my backyard there would be many friends to lean on along the way. Only, I'm not so good at leaning on people. In these situations I pull way back into hobbit mode. I disappear deep into my head and I do not come out till I've figured it all out. 50 miles seemed so far. I did not look forward to it, and 12 hours before the race I was still in "who knows" mode about starting.

Once I got home I got a good dose of perspective from my beloved better half. She's been amazing through all of this. I am truly blessed to have her in my life. So with about 6 hours to go, at midnight, I made the decision to go ahead. Ultimately it is what my mom would want, and maybe just maybe 50 miles of alone time would bring with it answers or at least a little bit of clarity. Surely after a couple hours the emotions would leave me and I'd be able run free and fast. Yes, that's it! Just make it through those first tough miles and all will fall into place, I kept telling myself as I went tried to sleep. I awoke at 4am dead set on running my plan.

The plan being run the race at 100 mile pace, concentrate on fuel and hydration and use the last 11 downhill miles to pick up the pace and finish strong.  I wanted sub 12 hours at an easy relaxed pace. I'd made sure to go into the race very tired to mimic as much as I could the "second 50" of TRT. I had two quality runs, one a 5k paced tempo run and a very hilly run.  On top of that I helped mark about 8 miles of the course on Thursday, two days prior to the race. With 28 miles on my legs this week, I was sure to be tired from the start. Plus, if all went well I'd have my biggest week of miles yet this year.

I left the house around 5:15. I had no nerves for the first time in a race. I surmised the lack of nerves was because I simply did not care about the race. I was determined to finish, but I had no idea what kind of day it was going to be. Would I be able to compartmentalize my pain from my grief and run well? Would this be a mirror image of the last two times I tried to go for a long run? I tried to prepare myself for what I would go through, but as I found out 12 hours and 10 minutes later, I had no flipping clue what I was about to go through.