Sunday, June 24, 2012

A tale of two runs

Today I ran 6.3 miles at about an 8:30 pace and was quite pleased with my workout.

Last Monday I ran 12.1 miles, including tempo runs of 3, 2.5, and 1.5 miles at sub-7:00 pace and was disappointed.

The difference of of course, lies in what happened in the intervening 5 days.

Monday, I knew, would be my last run for probably a week or two. It might also be my last hard run, ever, so I wanted to make it count. I ended up running with Kelly Fillnow, who is a professional triathlete and sub-3-hour marathoner. Needless to say, just keeping up with her would be a challenge.

Today was my first run back after the surgery. The scar on my arm was just beginning to heal, but the doctor had said that I could start running again as soon as the drain was removed from the wound. The scar spans eight inches of my left tricep, but if you stretched it out into a straight line, it might be twice that long. It's a sort of spiral shape. I've been telling people it looks kind of like a galaxy that has just been attacked by the Death Star. Assuming that it is even possible for the Death Star to attack an entire galaxy.

The plan on Monday was to run 4 X 3 miles at an "easy" tempo pace. Easy for Kelly, but tough for me. I hadn't had a very good spring to begin with, and my body was feeling battered even if I wasn't facing a potentially life-changing surgery the following day. I was nursing several injuries: IT band, sore abdomen, nagging hamstring. But if this was going to be my last hard run for a while, I wanted to make it count.

My wound had been wrapped in 12 feet of gauze, which wouldn't do at all if I was going to be running in the heat. I decided I could just use two gauze pads, lightly taped to my arm, and a compression shirt to hold it all in place. Unfortunately the rubberized tape designed to stick to itself decided that it also wanted to stick to my compression shirt, so just getting the shirt on proved to be a challenge. Somehow I got everything on and kept the wound covered up. I headed outside and took off at a very moderate pace. At first the arm felt awkward, but after a half mile or so I got into a rhythm, and everything felt fine. In 15 minutes I reached Summit Coffee. Hopefully I'd be there in time to meet up with some fellow runners from the group who would just be finishing their long Sunday runs.

After a 30-minute warm-up where Kelly and I got to know each other (we'd never run together before but were Facebook friends), we took off for the first tempo run. A 7:00 pace should be doable for me -- after all, I've done it for an entire half-marathon before. But Monday was a warm day, and I don't do well in the heat. I held up okay for the first set. We'd have 90 seconds to recover, and then we'd be off again. Mercifully, Kelly gave us an extra minute or two before we started round two. After an okay first mile, I really started to flag. Mile two ended on a flat, but Mile three would be nearly all uphill. I told Kelly to run ahead and I limped up the hill at just an 8:00 pace. For the third interval, I only made it 1.5 miles on the track while Kelly dashed off the entire 3 miles, then headed out to the roads run a fourth interval.

After a great cup of coffee with Hope, Jyl, Sam, and Todd, I didn't feel tired at all, and my arm felt great. I decided to head home the long way, completing the full 6-mile DART loop. I felt a few twinges of pain along the way, but nothing major. I kept about an 8:20 pace for the rest of the run.

The surgery involved both a regular surgeon and a plastic surgeon, who would try to restore my arm after a disc of skin 2.5 inches in diameter was removed from it. That's why the scar is a spiral. The surgeon had had to cut flaps in my arm adjoining the surgery site, then rearrange them like a three-dimensional puzzle. The galaxy shape turned out to be the best way to fill the giant hole in my arm. It's battered and bruised, but eventually it will look fairly normal, and anyways, it is mostly covered up even by a short-sleeved shirt.

I had gotten a call from the other surgeon on Friday night telling me that there was no cancer in my lymph nodes; there was no need for further treatment. And now, I'm back running again. I won't need chemotherapy. I won't need additional surgery.

I smiled to myself as I finished the run. It was a nice easy pace, but I had worked up a major sweat on the steamy June morning. It's just great to be out there, to run, to enjoy life. To know I'll be able to do this for many years to come.

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