Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Killing Ink Cartridges and Trees

I did something crazy the other night. I stood next to my desk and fed innumerable sheets of paper into my printer. I put in a chunk about half an inch thick, the maximum amount my printer can handle. Then I did it again. And again. And again. Finally it stopped. When I flipped over the mass of pages the words that stared back at me were these: NO WORDS

Way back in May (I had to check to find that out- I could have sworn it was June or July) I wrote a post titled Write it Out. That post was a promise to myself to go back into the stories I'd written in the years before and finish my cancer memoir. Despite a busy summer full of tutoring and trips, I did find some time to revisit all those word documents. I picked up where I left off and I tried my best to fill the gap between the end of treatment and when I finally felt whole again. I thought about it a lot and I decided that point was when I stopped keeping my cancer a secret, which happened when I won the Lilly Oncology on Canvas competition a year ago.

I'm still ambivalent about what I want to do with this hundred-plus page document, but a request was made for a copy to read, so I printed it. I intended to pack it up in a big envelope and mail it away, but it's been sitting on my desk for almost a week and I kind of want to read it myself.

After I finally do read it, I'll address it to someone who met me in the middle of treatment. I say I am sending it to her because she asked, but I don't think I'd let just anyone read it. She is the fourth grade teacher I was randomly assigned to work with during my last semester of college. She was my student-teaching mentor and I can only imagine what she thought when I told her the first time I met her that I not only had cancer but was planning on student teaching while doing chemo. But she welcomed me into her classroom, taught me a lot, and along the way we forged a relationship that went beyond professional duty and have met for three hour catch-up lunches each summer since we worked together.

So when she asked to read it at our most recent lunch, I knew I had to print it out. Eventually I'll send it to her, and I hope she approves.

Hope, Love, Run,
-Marathon girl

Monday, September 12, 2011

Du-ing the Tri

The triathlon was yesterday, and I'm happy to report that I have fully recovered...Just to prove it, I ran six miles this afternoon. Triathlon weekend officially began the end of last week, with a trip to The Sneaker Factory. I rented a wetsuit from them since the water temperatures for Sunday were predicted to be cold. It's been raining for the last two weeks- my town flooded; The Raritan River spread into parking lots, streets, yards, and homes, and after receding, the river angrily rose again a week later.

I'd never swam in a wetsuit, so my first stop after picking it up was my parents' house. They have a large pond in the backyard, so with the reservoirs closed for the season, I figured it was the only place I could get a feel for swimming in cold, open water in a wetsuit. I am SO glad I did it. Wearing a wetsuit alleviated any concerns I had about drowning. The suit made me so buoyant there was no way I could drown; I could barely keep my head underwater. However, I also felt like I couldn't breathe in the suit. After swimming a few laps, I found myself gasping and rolling onto my back. Freaking. Out. Once I calmed myself down, I was able to swim in the murky water for twenty minutes without stopping, the amount of time it would take me to complete the half-mile swim. Mission accomplished.

Friday and Saturday were rest days, which was difficult, since I hadn't taken two consecutive days off in about two months-I was restless. I repeatedly checked the weather and it looked like I might actually get a day without rain. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the email came. The race officials determined that the water in the reservoir was unsafe for swimming. Apparently the relentless rains caused nasty runoff to enter the reservoir and the bacteria levels were dangerously high. So just like that, my triathlon became a duathlon. The race would now be a 1.5 K run, 14 mile bike, and 5K run. I had mixed feelings about this; relief, but also disappointment. I trained so hard. I wanted to prove I could do the swim.

Nonetheless, I nervously packed my bag on Saturday night, checking it, then checking it again to be sure I had everything, sans swimming gear. I mentally ran the race; the short run, transitioning to my bike gear, riding over Jugtown Mountain, correct passing form, transitioning again, and running with the lead feet that come from riding fourteen miles over a legit mountain. And finally, crossing the finish line. The best part.

I slept in short stints, I would wake from riding, running, swimming, and check the clock to see if it was six o'clock yet. When I woke at 5:55, I got up.

An hour later, I was closing the trunk of my car, my bike laid out inside, the backseat down. The race location was just a few minutes from my house, so I got there with plenty of time to get my numbers, set up my transition area, had my body marked, and meet up with my 'support team'

I usually travel light to races- generally it's just me and one other person. No one is ever cheering for me on the course, and I'm okay with that. I imagine my name is on every poster. I read 'You can do it, Jessica!' as 'You can do it, Juli!' It's not quite the same, but I have a good imagination. But I didn't have to pretend this time. I had a cheering section of half a dozen, posters and all. Not to mention that they followed me from finish lines to transition areas, and back again. All the while waving those posters. With MY name on them. I loved it!

The runs were pretty easy. and the biking was also smooth. I was glad I rode the course a few weeks ago and knew what to expect. The mountain is a beast, but I didn't get off my bike, and even passed a few riders on the steepest section. When I returned to the transition area after biking, I was tired, but I prepared for this. My legs were not nearly as heavy as they'd been on previous runs that followed biking. Again, I passed people.

When I finally crossed the finish line, my cheering section yelling my name and waving their posters, I felt that familiar rush of accomplishing something. Another milestone. While it wasn't a true triathlon, I had never participated in a bike race before, and I have a feeling this was not my last. Obviously I need to train for another triathlon, too, since I haven't had a competitive swimming experience yet. There is so much more I need to do.

When I tell people I do these things- run long distances, train for months, they often ask why. But I think the real question is why not? The last few weeks of training, I had a phrase stuck in my head, as I've written happens to me sometimes. This time it was "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." As I raced yesterday, I thought about this again- for an hour and forty-one minutes (and eight tenths of a second). What I concluded is that this statement isn't true. What doesn't kill you, well, doesn't kill you. That's it. I am not stronger because I had cancer. I cannot do the things I do because I survived. I made a choice, a promise to myself. I choose every day to push my limits and see what I can do; longer, harder, faster...Stronger.
I think it's time to stop asking yourself why. The real question is, why not?

Hope, Love, Run,
Marathon Girl