Saturday, March 1, 2014

Coming back

It has been eight months almost to the day since my last surgery and finally things are getting back to normal. Well almost normal or what I would call "the new normal". Having lost 63 lymph nodes to cancer my lymphatic fluid from pelvic area and legs does not flow as before so I have to wear compression pants while running, recovering, working and anything in between. It's just the new way of life.
After ten months of treatments (four of those in chemotherapy) and two surgeries (a major one in June 2013) I have managed to get from putting one foot in front of the other to running almost as fast and as strong as before it all started. It has not been easy and it has been in very small gains week after week, month after month.
One of my surgeons said that I should not run anymore but instead swim or bike. For those of you that are runners you know that running is most rewarding! My last surgeon said "run as much as you want, but wear compressions" that was all I needed to hear!

On August 5th 2013 I was cleared to start running again.
I researched running compressions and tried different ones coming to the conclusion that the Zoot Ultra 2.0 worked the best for me. They have the highest compression (30mmHg) in the running apparel  market.
I own medical compressions too, I just don't like to run in them as they feel too stiff and are not made for running.
With my new running compressions tights and my Merrell Bare-access shoes on I started my new training regiment.

It all starts with a good base

Slowly started building the miles week after week for twelve weeks until I reached 45 miles per week. The pace was not the best but that did not matter at this phase. I wanted to build a good solid base with plenty of slow miles with a Tempo run sprinkled in once every couple of weeks.

Coming Back 

By November I was fit enough to run the Rock and Roll Half in Savannah. I crossed the finish line with my slowest time ever (Finish time 2:15:18) but It felt so amazing for two reasons. First, I was back, running and racing is what I love and neither cancer nor lymphedema had taken that from me and second I ran the entire 13.1 miles without any walking reassuring that my endurance was coming back.
After this race I decided to build a little more on my base while I added more Tempos and speed intervals.

All Clear

On December 30th I had my first PET scan as part of my six month follow up, post surgery, to see if any of the cancer cells had survived and spread. I felt so good physically and mentally and I knew there was no more cancer in my body but I had to prepare myself for the worst. I did not want to sign up for any more races because I wasn't sure where I will be in the near future.
My Oncologist called within three hours from the test (a truly Great guy) and said "Great news....All Clear".
A Happy New Year started a couple of days sooner for me!

A Great New Year

With the goods news I received and my training in full swing I signed up for the "Adidas Lucky 13 series" which is a series of 13 races from 5K to Half Marathon in the span of the year 2014.

First race was on January 4th, a trail 5K. This race was not for me. A fast race on a trail, I had built a good base but not speed and had spent no time at the trails so I decided to start in the back and maintain a fast comfortable pace. Finish time 26:32.

Next race was January 11th. (not part of the 13 series) another trail race but this time a 25K, definitely ready for the distance but, again, not the trail! Finish time 2:46:26

Feb 1st was the second race of the series, a Half Marathon on flat pavement on Tybee Island, Georgia.
Going into this race I had no great expectations but to beat the November Rock and Rock Half (2:15:18).
It all started great, after a couple of hundred yards as the crowd thinned out I sped up to 8:40 pace and maintained it till mile 9 when I started feeling the fatigue taking over my legs core and slowly creeping up to the rest of my body. By mile 11 I had settled for 9:30-10:00 min pace. Finish time 2:04:40, almost a minute faster per mile since November. This race made me realize that my endurance limit was between 8 - 10 miles so there was still work to be done!

First road 5K of the 13 series, Feb 22nd. This was going to be more of a reality test than the last races since it was on paved road out and back. Still not ready for racing I started in the middle making my goal to run as fast as I can without pushing too hard. After clearing the crowd for about 100-150 yards my splits were
8:20, 8:07, 7:57, 6:42. Finish time 25:01 It could have very easily be sub 25 if I had started closer to the front of the Start line, but who cares!
Lisa tells me, after every race "you should start closer to the Start, you're better than you think" my reply to her is always the same "I will when I actually race".
I use these races to measure my fitness and performance and adjust my training so I can reach my goal.
I really don't see myself racing before Summer or Fall.

Race #4 of the series also a road 5K. This race was 300+ runners last year but this year almost 600 runners showed up. All packed like sardines I knew it will be a very slow start. My mind was made up before the race, the same as before, this is a "tune up race" no need to rev up no need to push too hard just  run as fast as I can at the threshold of comfortable and hard and see what happens. The horn goes off and 600 runners flood the road ahead. The course is flat with only a few turns. 24:30 minutes later I crossed the Finish (Official Finish 24:32 Gun time). Split times 7:53, 7:51, 7:46, 7:30.
Times are getting better, I'm regaining most of my strength and is clearly evident I'm building up the endurance .
I'm staying with my current training schedule it seems like is working for now.
There's no swelling from running, compressions help to keep it at minimum. No major issues from lymphedema so far. I always wear recovery compressions post hard workouts and races.

Next race Friday March 7th at 6pm. Not really looking forward to that one since morning is my favorite time to run and since fluids tend to accumulate after a day at work by late afternoon and evening. Depending how I feel at that time this may be an easy run far from racing or any type of speedwork.

--Happy Running

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