Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Race Report - Army Ten Miler !!!

Executive Summary:

Army 10 Miler - October 2, 2005
Actual Mileage - 11.4 miles (rerouted for Security Reasons)
Time: 2:23 (2/1 Run/Walk Intervals)
Estimated Average Pace: 12:54

The rest of the story:

F*#K Cancer! Hooah!

Sorry to start with such an offensive phrase but that was the underlying vibe of the Army Ten Miler for me this year. In February of this year I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. This diagnosis was followed up with 2 surgeries, a month of daily high dose Interferon Chemotherapy that took me out of work for 6 weeks and out of the triathlon season and into 48 weeks of low dose Interferon Chemotherapy with shots 3x a week. Only 34 weeks left!

All through the early phases of my treatment, I decided that Melanoma would only take so much away from me. I would hold onto whatever I could during treatment to prove to myself that I could "live STRONG" and maintain some level of fitness. If so many other people could do it, so could I. I got my Oncologist approval to train. (It helps if your Dr. is a runner too!)

My younger sister Heather came into town to run the race with me and was my official pacer. The plan was:

2.) Run/Walk 2/1 intervals for an average pace of 13:00 minute miles
3.) GU every 40 minutes and get water and Gatorade from the course stops

Heather and I showed up at the Pentagon with about an hour to the race start. We walked about 1/2 mile to the "purple balloons" that signified the back of the pack. Before long the canon's roared and we were off!

As we passed over the start line 10 minutes later (18,000 people ahead of us), We were treated to cannon fire right in our ears! We must have both performed instant high jumps! YEOW!

The first miles were fast! Heather kept the overall pace up and I was the "interval queen"; my watch beeping for walk breaks every 2 minutes.

I was thrilled and astonished when Heather told me that miles 1 through 5 were dead on for 11:00 minute miles! Heather was amazing at keeping the conversation going, keeping me focused on how great we were doing and sharing the race with me. We cheered people on when they passed us with names on the back of their shirts. I scream "Hooah" (an Army term) at least 4 or 5 times as Army personnel cheered us on and Heather and I talked about her newly found "Marathon distance" running goals. We even sang "Happy Birthday to a runner who's shirt said "Today is my 61st Birthday"!

Just short of mile 7, Heather and I passed our boyfriends Jim and Rich. They gave us cheers and took a picture and said "See you at the finish!" Then we pass the SAG busses, which were still on the other side of the street! Goal 1 accomplished .. I wasn't being swept off this race course today!

My overall finish goal had been a 2:30 finish and we were on pace for at least a sub 2:15!!

As we approached mile 8, I started telling Heather how important the final 2 miles were for me. They crossed over the 14th Street Bridge which was the "Make or Break" point of the Marine Corps Marathon in 4 weeks. If I could keep the pace we had today on race day, I knew for sure that I could attempt the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th.

Then we hit mile 8 or so and found they were cleaning up, the water stop had been removed from the course already!! 500 feet later they were taking down a mile marker sign. Somebody along the race course in the general vicinity said "Hey, we are still racing here!" There were choruses of "Yeah" and "What mile marker is that?" Dissention was mounting among the troops and I was lost in a bit of a fog of confusion.

"Why are we heading back to the Memorial Bridge .. I thought we crossed the 14th Street Bridge..."

Heather picked up on things quickly and even though she didn't know the course, she encouraged me to "look behind us Sister ... There are thousands of people back there ... We are going to finish strong".

She was right, a peak back revealed just as many people behind me as there seamed to be ahead of me. I was solidly in the middle of the Back of the Pack and destined to finish.

The last miles were quite a challenge. Looking at her watch, Heather knew something was up with the mileage but she didn't let either of us focus on that. She just kept me moving forward. Giving me focus points that helped get me through the intervals.

"Focus on the Eagles at the end of the bridge Sister ... We will run to there and it will be time to walk for a minute." That comment caused me to sing "Bird, Bird, Bird... Bird is the Word" as I shuffled down the bridge!

When we were in the middle of the Memorial Bridge, there was a female Army Medic standing on the Bridge yelling "You did it! Nice job runners! You made it... Only a mile to go!" At the time I didn't realize it but she was telling us that we had just completed mile 10!

Mile 11.4 - which most of us thought was mile 10 - was a struggle for me. The pace had caught up to me and so had the lack of water since Mile 7. I was struggling and Heather carried me emotionally as much as she could.

She talked to me the entire way.. Non-stop encouragement and the occasional gentle hand on my back. With the finish line in site in the distance, I told Heather, I want to run the rest of the way - no matter how slowly we go. "F*#K Cancer."

My sister Heather responded with an echo of "F*#K Cancer" and we ran the last .4 miles. As we passed a gentleman with an American Flag he said "Congratulations! This 11.4 miles was presented to you from the US Army"


We crossed the finish line, a confusing concept for my tired brain. I kept looking for a finishing mat that wasn't there. Apparently due to suspicious package found under the 14th Street Bridge, the race was rerouted so the only finishing time would be the one on my sister's watch.

2:23:00 for 11.4 miles!

We headed over to the finish zone, got our finishing Coins, got an official picture taken and met Jim and Rich for big hugs and kisses and a metro ride home.

I am happy to say that I am ready to start the day on October 30th for the Marine Corps Marathon. I fully accept that I may not finish the day at the finish line because I might not beat the 14th Street Bridge but I will have a fun time trying! Cancer Smancer.

Post Script - I want to send out of big THANKS to fellow RAT - Kevin Hnery - although he wasn't able to race the ATM this year, his generosity and kindness helped my sister race this year through a Bib Transfer. This race would have been so much harder without her and it is his kindness that got her to the start line! Thank you Kevin!

In other news, my sister Heather is now 90% sure she is going to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon in Feb 2006!! Another Endurance Junky has had been born!



Mica said...

Woohoo!! Congratulations, Holly. Awesome race, awesome report.

Flatman said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome...you and Heather rock!

I agree with you...F%$K cancer!

Oldman said...

Great job, cancer smancer, you are a winner!

Keryn said...

You are amazing! And your sister is such a sweetheart! Cancer or not, you just did something most Americans couldn't even contemplate. YOU ROCK, Holly!

Cliff said...

Good job...cancer must be beaten to submission..

tarheeltri said...

Cancer or no cancer... great job! Not a bad pace for a 2/1 run/walk either!