Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lance-ing it up

As a follow-up to my last post, I've decided I like this whole triathlon idea. I'm going above the training schedule at this point, because I think I need less than the scheduled three months of training the Women's Health plan suggests, so I'm skipping ahead to month two of the plan, and incorporating some extra cross-training because I actually have time for such things- oh the beauty of summer! I feel like such a tough girls saying a training program is too easy for me, but I think my half marathon training has prepared me well for this new challenge.

However, the one aspect of triathlon training I was not prepared for was cycling. Yes, I can ride a bike sans training wheels, but in order to do this, one must have said bicycle. I have been taking spin classes for the last few weeks, and they're fun, challenging, and a change of pace from running, but I was still longing to ride on the open road, the pavement beneath me, a helmet on my head.

I began to research bikes, and what I found seems to be the most critical part of purchasing a bicycle is, well, having the money for one. Road bikes cost thousands of dollars! Also, it is critical that the bike be the correct size for the cyclist, otherwise injury is likely. To learn more, I stopped in a local shop, and got the run-down from a knowledgeable employee, who told me that while they sell an affordable bike for $680 (ha ha, seriously?), he would recommend I spend a 'few hundred' more dollars for a better bike. When I asked why, he told me the 'cheap' bike wouldn't work in a year or two. I left empty handed and disheartened, but determined, nonetheless.
I'm a pretty thrifty girl, and I would even call myself frugal, at times, so I certainly don't spend that kind of money without researching my options. So I began scouring the internet to determine my best options. Turns out, there are used bikes available through a variety of sources, but finding the right bike, one with the proper fit, made me nervous.

...Until I found the site of The Boys and Girls Club Bike Exchange. This awesome organization has a shop, located in Mercer County, just outside the city of Trenton. I took a drive there and found that they have a TON of used bikes that are refurbished by a team of dedicated volunteers. They're cyclists themselves, so they're knowledgeable in all things bicycle.

On my arrival, I was greeted by a friendly woman who helped me find the perfect bike for me, one that fit my body and my budget. My shiny 'new' Schwinn Traveler is red, and I learned after a little serial number research that it was manufactured in 1982...Three years before I was born!

I've had the bike out three times now, and may I say, it is AWESOME. Proof being that I keep going out despite the aches and pains that come with biking a lot after not biking for a long time.

I think that the moral of this post is that while I love running for a multitude of reasons, among them the fact that it's a great start-up activity because it's really cheap to get a pair of sneakers, I wish I'd broken my loyalty sooner and gotten road a bicycle and a helmet before now. I just didn't remember how much fun riding a bike is. If you haven't ridden in a while, give it a shot. You'll find that it comes back easily, because it's, well, like riding a bicycle.

Hope, Love, Run (Bike)
Marathon (Triathlon) Girl

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tri-ing it out

So it's been a little over two weeks since the Cancerversary Half-Marathon, and about a week after, I ran a 5K, almost breaking my PR, despite the humid, 90+ degree temps. I was within seconds of equaling a time I earned last summer in the Sprintin' Clinton 5K, and although I didn't break the record, I was happy with myself.

Since then, I've been itching for a new goal, and I think I want to branch out a little bit. I decided I needed to step up my game with this new challenge. I contemplated a full marathon, but then I got my first issue of Women's Health Magazine. My best friend got me a subscription for my birthday- probably because when I visited her last summer, I left with a backpack full of past issues she had in her apartment. In the May issue, there's an article titled, 'Yes, You can be a Triathlete'

I read every word, probably about three times, now. And I remembered back to last summer when I was working on the farm. I had many shifts pulling weeds with a young woman who worked in the cycling industry and was avidly active. She said on more than one occasion, "You do a half-marathon, the next thing you're going to want to do is a tri."

At the time, I nodded, smiled, and kept pulling weeds. I didn't have any real interest in biking and swimming. I loved running.

But here I am a year later...A week into the Women's Health Triathlon training program. So far, the training has seemed light, and I am thinking about skipping ahead because it seems the program's starting point isn't accounting for the fact that I just trained for and ran a half-marathon, so perhaps I'll be tri-ready in less than the recommended three months.

At any rate, I am excited to commit to a new challenge and take on swimming and cycling!

I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Hope, Love, Run,
Marathon Girl (Triathlon Girl?)

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Here's the big update: The run is DONE! Today is my official 5-year cancerversary, but I ran my commemorative half marathon last weekend, and I consider it a success. I arrived in Boston after a traffic-less four hour drive. As I drove, I considered what the weekend meant, what it represented for me. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became.

Just like a song gets stuck in your head when you hear it too much, there are phrases that get stuck in mine when the sentiment resonates strongly with what I'm feeling. When I was first diagnosed, the phrase that kept replaying in my mind was "I feel robbed of my invincibility." Meaning that I felt a sense of great loss for the endless sea of possibilities that previously stretched before me. I feared a loss of the following when I found out I had cancer: my big plans for getting married in a few years, having a family some day, graduating from college and beginning a career- even the possibility of retiring and growing old- all were reduced to the hope of living to see my college graduation in eleven months. I contemplated whether I would stay in school if I learned I might not live far beyond that day. I wondered what the lives of those around me would look like if I were gone. Robbed of my invincibility. Those words echoed in my head for days.

As I drove North toward Boston, that familiar phrase I couldn't get out of my head began to morph into something else, and by the time we drove past Fenway, a new concept was resonating inside me: taking back my invincibility.

It seems so clear that this is what I have been working toward for the last five years. I lost so much when I got cancer; I gave up a year of my life to a questionable treatment in the hope that the torture I endured would somehow serve as penance and earn me more years to live. I spent several years after I completed treatment trying to figure out why I didn't feel well, despite being told I should be fine. I worked to get my body healthy and my heart healed from the loss of relationships I valued. I was determined not to let my past mar my future. Running 13.1 miles through the streets of Boston seemed to cement in my mind that I have completed the transformation.

Because what I realized last weekend was that I have done all of these things, and more. It seems I have earned my invincibility back. It seems that way. But in reality, I don't believe I could possibly earn back my invincibility.

The truth is, I lost a lot when I got cancer, but my invincibility wasn't one of those things. I was never invincible before I got cancer; I didn't become invincible until I fought cancer. When I decided I was going to fight, that's when I started to become invincible.

When I had three surgeries less than a month apart from one another, I became invincible.
When I went to the hospital alone five days a week for chemo, I became invincible.
When I learned how to inject the chemo at home, and did it three times a week for the next eleven months, I became invincible.
When I flew across the country to Montana in the dead of winter to meet other cancer patients my age, I became invincible.
When I decided I needed to write about my experience, I became invincible.
When I decided I needed to run, I became invincible.

Logically, I understand that no one is invincible. But to me, feeling invincible means I know, with certainty, that I can do absolutely anything. If I commit to something, anything- Running a race, earning a masters degree, writing a memoir- I can, and will do it. It's the best feeling in the world.

Cancer helped me to find my invincibility, and it is with sincerity that I hope you find yours. Take on a challenge, make a commitment, take a stand. Believe. You are invincible too, you just don't know it yet.

Hope, Love, Run!
Marathon Girl