Next Project…Hysterectomy recovery from a marathoner & triathlete perspective.

I haven’t talked about this before on here, but my next project is not about running…well, I will totally make it about running LOL but that’s not really what it is.

In late 2020 I had an abnormal Pap test, which is very common and half the people I know have had one of these. The following colposcopy showed the extreme end of pre-cancerous tissue. After removal of that tissue via LEEP (laser electrosurgical excision procedure) in early 2021, tissue examination lead to a diagnosis of stage I carcinoma of the cervix! What a phone call to receive while on the treadmill. Following lots of conversations at home, as well as with my original and current OBGYN and surgeon, I am scheduled for a total laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy next month. Wow.

This will be my first major forced rest period, and I am actually looking forward to the down time in a way. But, on the other hand, I am both nervous, curious and scared – about my mental health, loss of endurance and speed, scar tissue, how long it will actually take to recover and not knowing when I will be able to run, swim and bike again?.. all of that. Thankfully, I have a few IG runner friends who have had the same operation and I have seen them come back strong!

Why am I writing about this on the internet? A few reasons. Primarily, I want everyone with a female reproductive system to GET YOUR PAP SMEARS REGULARLY. I had a delayed exam due to the freaking pandemic. Now I’m preparing for a hysterectomy…

Secondly, I know I am not the first endurance athlete who has gone through this and I will not be the last – someone may find it a helpful resource to follow the detailed recovery timeline. Personally, I have found a little bit of helpful info, but nothing overly specific! So I’m going to carefully document the process, which will give me something to do and will also, hopefully, help out others in the future!

I am feeling really thankful. Things could be so much worse. I do not have any cancer right now (as far as we know), I don’t want children so I’m not dealing with most of the emotions that many experience regarding hysterectomy, and I am so, so lucky to be fit going into this and have the best husband ever who will be with me each step of the way. I also get to keep my ovaries, thank god!

Stay tuned for LAVH Recovery as a Marathoner. Surgical screening tomorrow, surgery date in a month. Kelowna Midsummer 8k two days before surgery, woo!

Jamie

Eugene Marathon & my first Boston qualifying time!

Wow. The Eugene Marathon 2022 was such an incredible event to take part in! Even though I had a great day and most people LOVE an event where they PR, this event kicked so much ass regardless of my personal result, truly.

We drove to into Eugene on Friday after road tripping down from YVR in a rental car through Washington and then along the Oregon coast to Florence. Such a beautiful drive and a good distraction for me during race week! We hit the expo straight away, then our AirBnB, and later on, dinner was at the highly anticipated Track Town Pizza and it was soooo good!

The expo location was easy to find, it was at a Hotel called Graduate Eugene, and there was underground parking which was free. It was busy but not crazy. The expo itself was pretty small, but had good swag for purchase, some good vendors and overall it was really organized. In and out in 5 minutes. My husband and I each got a free sample can of Athletic Brewing IPA and hazy IPA, both which we hadn’t tried yet. So good. Hands down my favourite non-alcoholic beer company! The race shirt fits great, and I bought the “beanie” as the Americans call it, which you can see later in a post-race pic.

Enjoying my Upside Dawn Golden earlier in the week at Beverly Beach State Park!

After a great sleep in a very comfy bed, we met my BRFs for a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning, stopped in at the Run Hub to get myself a Prefontaine t-shirt (when in Track Town…) and then retreated back to the AirBnb to go horizontal, eat snacks and watch four movies! Yes, one of them was Brittany Runs a Marathon.

I got organized for the next morning at some point, and then started reading through my running confidence journal!

There are 2 more Maurtens in the SpiBelt! And I didn’t run in socks, I wore my Saucony Endorphin Pros!

I slept decent for a race-eve and got up, had my green tea, banana, water, apple cinnamon cheerios and Maurten drink mix (not all together, LOL). My husband dropped me off at 6:15am with no issues about a block from Hayward Field (start and finish). It was a very exciting morning, the stadium is amazing, there were TONS of porto potties, places to warm up, even under cover if needed, and many non-porto bathrooms up in the stadium. The weather was pretty chilly, no wind, overcast, perfect!

I warmed up a bit on the street and it wasn’t too crowded, nor were the corrals. I had a zip hoodie, long sleeve shirt and gloves on, all for tossing when I was ready and I planned to carry my handheld water bottle for the first 10k to avoid any aid-station congestion.

Then 7am arrived and it was time to start!!! I didn’t feel amazing the first few kms but I did my best to stay relax and remembered my coach telling me that he never feels good at the beginning of the marathon. I got on my mantra early – “Stay here.” and tried to keep a speed limit. Right away, some young guys sitting on the roof of a house in the first mile were yelling at people “you’re almost there” ahahahah it was so funny. I think it helped everyone loosen up!

My fuelling plan was to take a Maurten gel every 3 miles, which would be about every 24 minutes and change, as I wanted to stay steady around 8:01 or 8:02/mile. I know I’m Canadian and metric, but I really enjoy changing my watch to miles when I run in the states – I feel detached from the pace because those numbers mean less to me, plus 26 is a more digestible number than 42, IMO.

Lap pace was a few seconds too fast, but with the turns my first 3-mile manual-lap was slightly over 24 minutes anyway, and that didn’t encourage me to slow down. This may have been a bad choice but that’s what I did. I stayed relaxed and controlled.

The first hill (of two) is in mile 4, and no joke, I realized I had run it after it was over. That was it? I thought I was running up some sort of pre-hill. Then I was running downhill and recognized it from the YouTube course preview of the first half of the race. Okay!

Shortly after that, I saw my friend Jess Parker cheering! What the hell? I love Instagram! Soon I passed the mile 6 marker and decided I was done with my handheld (it was empty anyway since I spilled half of it on myself in the corral…) so I tossed it and it did feel nice to have my right hand free. Second gel was down the gullet and first quarter of the race already done. “Stay here.”

Then I got to see my amazing husband! Second time in thirteen marathons that we have travelled together and I felt so lucky to say hi to him on my left and throw out an I love you.

In mile 9 comes the second hill, which according to the elevation profile and other peoples’ race reports that I’ve read, is more significant than the first. But it was still nothing! I run a lot of hills around here and that was no big deal! I did however relax and ease up, asking myself the usual rhetorical question “do you want to feel like shit at the top of this hill?

I felt challenged during the couple miles leading up to the half-way point but not sure if it was just psychological or not. I always find the half is hard for me because it feels like I’ve come so far, yet there is still soooo much more to go. “Stay here.” At this point I was running with my friend Shane and we exchanged a few words and then just stayed side by side for a couple miles, after which I let him press on but kept him in view for quite a while longer. I reminded myself that there was a lot of race left and to stay steady.

Then…I had a few hints of a bathroom urge, but assured myself that it was just a shart and that it would go away. LOL. Deny, deny, deny.

By now I’d begun walking a few paces through the (plentiful) aid stations to get more water down, and because I was starting to feel it. All the volunteers were absolutely amazing, so encouraging, so organized. I also noticed that I saw many of the spectators multiple times! These people were on top of it! One guy had a sign that said “Go Random Stranger!” and I swear I saw him five times!?

Unfortunately I knew a bathroom emergency was now inevitable around 18 miles – I tried to wait for a porto but I didn’t get to one in time. NO, I did not have an accident HAHAHA thankfully, there was very long grass on the left side of the course that banked down to the river and I veered off and was as efficient and stealth as possible. After that, I did NOT allow myself to give in because of this setback. I forced myself to re-discover some momentum, took my next gel and got on with it. The pace was slipping and at this point I knew a negative split was not happening, but I refused to obsess about it and focused instead on latching on to people or passing people. Everyone around me was slowing down, too. I was not alone. We were all starting to hurt.

Around mile 20 it was time for the treat – throwing the music on! I re-dialed my focus and pressed on, feeling pretty good, still running a tad slower than I would like but my attitude stayed super positive! I am proud of this! Thanks for the help, Bieber!

Once I reached mile 24, it was time to start hunting people. It was funny because right at this time, a spectator pointed at me and looked me in the eyes and said with a sly smile, “You want to pick people off! You are hunting!” and that felt great! I saw a woman just ahead that I recognized from the first 10k of the race but I’d lost contact with her by half way. Vowed to pass her. Passed her. Then I saw the big hair of a guy who’s B.O. I got blasted with in the first mile – I hadn’t forgotten the back of his head LOL. Passed B.O. guy. Passed purple hair lady. Passed red-shirt Dad who passed me during the bathroom stop. The song from my visualization that I did almost every single day of April came on. I really was ready for this to be over and I found a second wind of great momentum. Kept passing people. Passed twin outfit chick and told her to come with me but she didn’t. Passed blonde braid. Passed man in same coloured shirt as me. Passed bright red tank top chick. Fuck yeah.

Now I was off the riverside path and on the road to Hayward Field. I hit lap at the 25 mile marker so I could motivate myself with the final mile pace. I saw 7:47 or something and held on as best I could! I knew a BQ was happening, it was just a matter of how fast I could get there. A 3:33:xx was still a thing. My left calf was viciously threatening to cramp but I kept flexing my ankle more than usual for my stride and I managed to avoid it, but definitely cried out a few times! I saw Adam cheering and taking pics (he crushed the half in 1:20) and I was literally groaning to him “fuckkkkkk“. I asked myself out loud multiple times “where the fuck is the stadium?” and just focused on later-fun. It’s interesting to me that I was still in a relatively positive headspace. Of course I was suffering and wanting to be done, but I was kind of enjoying it? This is new haha.

As we entered the tunnel thing into the stadium for the half-lap of the track, I literally launched myself up the ramp, passed a few people, and shot into the 1st lane, thinking only about the shortest distance between myself and the finish line. I feel like I slingshotted myself like in long-jump. Then I kind of blacked out until I actually crossed, and I could hear myself groaning like it was someone else.

Cue the convulsing ugly laugh/sobs. Uh-huhhh-huhhhh-huhhhh. Uh-huhhh-huhhh-huhhh. LMFAO. I did it!!!!!!! 03:33:22! I qualified for the Boston freaking Marathon!

Wow, wow, wow! What an incredible place to finish a marathon! A world-famous track with people cheering in the stands and the best volunteers ever!!! I was in a daze! I made my way out of the track and field area with my medal, happy crying, and got a wicked reusable Eugene Marathon water bottle and some chocolate milk. Husband had my bag, so I didn’t deal with the gear-check lineup but it looked under control. I congratulated a few people who I recognized from on course, walked around looking for my friends and husband with a big dumb grin on my face and got a space blanket from a volunteer. I could have stood around forever soaking it in. Finally our group was reunited in the stands. Everyone ran a PR!

I happy cried when I hugged my husband, and immediately put on the Eugene Marathon toque that I visualized myself putting on after BQ’ing on Hayward Field about 30 times in my mind the whole month leading up to the race. Pure happiness!

This event was so fantastic. The course is beautiful, so flat, has about 14 water stations, the best volunteers, wicked swag, and the coolest finish line ever. I think if my BQ isn’t enough to actually get into Boston, I might come back next April and run Eugene again!!

My husband and I got a delicious Thai food-truck lunch, went for a walk with my friends on Pre’s Trail (Karmen smashed her marathon in 3:14!!!) and then we all destroyed mass amounts of food at the Texas Roadhouse BBQ joint for dinner. The next day me and my husband made a bee line north to Cannon Beach and then spent our last two vacation nights at a cute beachfront condo in Seaside. Amazing!!!!!!

Haystack rock ahhhh!!

I’ve been dreaming of a BQ for six years exactly. My progress hasn’t been linear, which it rarely is for most, and I’ve learned so much with lots of ups and downs. Of course I hope more than anything that my 1 minute and 38 second buffer will be enough to get into Boston, but we will just have to see what happens with registration for the 127th Boston Marathon in 2023! Only time will tell. Regardless, I am so happy with this training cycle and marathon, and I look forward to running the distance again in December for my second CIM! Biggest thank you to my coach, Jim Finlayson, who I couldn’t have done this without and who has changed who I am as a runner with all of his guidance.

Felt great adding the Eugene bib and medal to the wall!

Never stop believing!

Jamie

Two Weeks til EUG

I can’t believe my first marathon since October 2019 is only two weeks away. The AirBnBs, yurts and rental car are booked, I’m pretty sure my husband’s new passport is at the courier depot, and we are heading out in just over a week for an Oregon coast/Eugene marathon adventure!!!

After such a solid half in January in Houston, I felt more than ready to jump into this first marathon training cycle with my new coach (well, new as of last spring) and give it my all. As I think I’ve mentioned, I’m not the same runner I was pre-pandemic, or while in full-time school. I’ve heard so many athletes on the podcasts I listen to and on social media talk about how the pandemic ended up being good for them as runners. I feel the same. With close to two years off from any races, plus battling through some mental health lows, a health scare (more another day), changing careers and starting a business, it was a period of time with a lot of growth. I definitely feel more mature as a person and a runner. It feels like the perfect time to run 42.2!!!

Over this marathon cycle I started keeping a “confidence journal” as suggested by Kara Goucher. It’s a little notebook for jotting down a few sentences about what went well in each and every workout, with just enough detail to recall the day and the run when read in the future. Even shitty-feeling days have at least one good thing to pick out, and that’s what the confidence journal is for. I’m looking forward to reviewing it in Eugene the night before the marathon!

The three-week taper officially started after last weekend’s run. I was so looking forward to nailing that 35k long run workout and it DUMPED snow! I managed almost 15k easy outside before calling my husband to come get me and then I had to bang out the rest on the treadmill. At first I was worried about how the flow and heart rate were disrupted, but my crew set me straight and I know it doesn’t matter. Also, it gives me great confidence knowing that over the course of this training block I’ve put in six long runs that were 28k or longer, and three were over 32km.

Goals have been on my mind a ton, obviously. For Houston, I kept my more specific pace-related goals to myself and it seemed to work well for me. I felt no pressure to live up to anything and ran freely and stayed very present – something I plan to do in Eugene as well. I realize no one gives a shit about how we perform except ourselves, but it doesn’t always feel like that. In Houston I negative split the race, and that’s a goal of mine for the marathon that I’ll put out here. Pretty sure I’ve only negative split one marathon out of twelve hahaha. Ok, and my very first was was perfectly even split.

Speaking of staying present, I saw a mantra suggestion on Instagram the other day that I tried out this morning and I loved it! “Stay here.” I found the post on the explore feed on @laurenfloris77 page, which I now follow. The post says “Stay Here” : when to use it: when you start ‘futurecasting,’ either negatively or positively. I repeated it multiple times today during 45 minutes of pace work and it worked for me the way a good mantra should, i.e. it felt powerful and evoked a strong mental state. Staying present is my goal and this is gonna help me in the race!

So yeah! Next Monday it’s runcation time!! This week has the last real workout before the marathon and a few pace intervals on Sunday. The hay is basically in the barn. Time to trust the training and get lots of good rest. So many people are running a marathon on May 1st!!! Gonna be a big day! Eugene, BMO Vancouver, Goodlife Toronto, Mississauga… GOOD LUCK!

5 Weeks til Eugene. That was a big one.

Getting so close to the Oregon trip and marathon weekend! We’re leaving in four weeks from tomorrow (well..as long as my husband’s effing passport is here in time…if not then only I will be leaving..) and taking five days to drive from Vancouver to the Oregon coast down to Florence and then inland to Eugene! Woooohooo!! Track Town, USA! I think the relaxed road trip with no super long stretches of driving will be a good way to distract myself during race week.

Four of my most favourite run friends from Victoria and Van are also running and we are all meeting there on Friday before the Sunday race. Everyone is having a great training cycle and our group chat is getting more stoked and more funny by the day.

Today was the biggest workout I have ever run, ever! My Garmin decided yesterday that my training status was “overreaching” and it psyched me out a tiny bit, which I know is so dumb. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning either and in the first few kilometres of the warm-up I briefly wondered if it was going to be an off day…but by now I’ve learned not to listen to those kinda thoughts.

I threw on some tunes sooner than planned – usually I wait until the workout actually starts, but I needed to distract my monkey brain and get some rhythm, and it worked.

12km warm-up, 5x3km at goal marathon pace with 1km floats in between (not a usual recovery pace but more medium) and then 4km warm-down for 35km total! Frig!

Gel and water every 30 minutes, great weather, Saucony Endorphin Pros and one of my besties meeting up for ten of my kilometres = success. All five of the 3k intervals were at or even a teeny bit faster than A-Goal pace. I finished strong and feel so extremely proud of that effort. When I started running in 2013, I NEVER would I have thought I could run 35km at that pace!

Although I do of course have a range of time goals, my main goal in Eugene is to run a strong, smart race with bang-on fuelling and a mature and positive attitude, and to avoid any major sag in pace in the last 10k. It really is going to be a celebration to run the distance after more than two and a half years.

Marathon number 13, I am coming for you. Two weeks til the taper begins!

8 weeks til Eugene. I’m hungry.

It’s been a while since I trained for 42.2 and I sort of forgot about a couple things…like how freaking hungry I am ALL the time, even waking up in the night and needing a snack. I also forgot about the extra-gross feet, as well as how quickly my energy gels disappear!

Speaking of the gels, I’m practicing fuelling pretty specifically at this point and I’m happy to say that on yesterday’s 2.5 hours steady, the every-30 minute calories+water went down great and no poomergencies were had. I’ve been sticking with Maurten gels since I tried the brand last fall, and yesterday I had a caffeinated one at the 2 hour mark for the first time. So far so good! These things are expensive though, so the first of 4 calorie intakes was actually a trusty Go-Go Squeeze apple-peach baby snack thing. Yum. Only 45 calories…but something’s gotta give or I’ll be broke from buying so much Maurten!

It would be so nice to be an elite and have bottles available every 5k with the Maurten drink mix, but this is amateur life, so gels and annoying hydro-pack for the long runs is how I roll. It looks like there are 14 water/Nuun stations along the full marathon course on race day which is fantastic.

As I tend to do, I’ve been looking at the Eugene course and elevation plot on the regular, trying to become as absolutely familiar as possible before May. The course is mainly flat with a couple hills that look pretty minor. The entire elevation gain is 123m, and I ran more than double that gain yesterday in just 28k, so that’s a nice confidence booster!

The hills around here are unavoidable but they do make us stronger, that’s for sure. I’ve become a better runner since accepting the local terrain and just getting after it with a more effort-based approach vs. obsessing about pace.

Last week was an 85km week and I’m tired but great. Eight weeks to go and I see some hard workouts later this week! Time to run easy and EAT until Thursday! LOL

10 weeks til Eugene.

In 2019 I made a vow not to run a full marathon in 2020. It was time for a break. I ran a final pair of marathons on back-to-back weekends in October 2019 (Victoria, Kelowna, went better than would be expected) and figured that would do me for a while and let me focus on other things like finishing school, starting a business and making money again. I also wanted to focus on other distances like the 10k and half marathon for a while – more manageable with respect to both time and energy.

A few months later, in March 2020, I was sitting at home in Prince Rupert, unplanned, in the depths of pandemic shock and depression. Like many others, I was shitting my pants about the unknown. Aside from obvious pandemic concerns like potential illness or death of loved ones and all of society, I worried myself sick about everything. Would I be able to finish school? We were so close! Should I drive 32 hours round-trip to get all my stuff that I didn’t bring home for the one-week-turned-four-month-long reading break? I was broke and stressed and the thought of going back to my former career made me actually sob. LOL. My husband continued to work, his situation more or less unchanged, and I was at home feeling like a useless turd, getting more depressed by the day. I really needed something to look forward to and work at, so I signed up for CIM 2020 in December. I honestly believed the pandemic will be over and done with by then, of course! LOL. I was willing to break the no-marathon in 2020 vow. It got me focused and following a plan closely until about September, and helped immensely with my mental health, but alas, CIM 2020 was of course cancelled and the pandemic was far from over.

*side note, CIM offered such a great worry-free registration due to what was going on in the world. We were allowed to defer to 2021, 2022 or 2023!

Nobody could have predicted the shit storm that this coronavirus would cause in both very serious and not so serious ways, but regardless, I definitely didn’t expect it to be late 2021 to early 2022 until things would start feeling sort of normal again! It seems we’re more or less out of it, and I’m so extra thankful for many, many things at this interesting point in time. My health and the health of my friends and family, my new career and business, that I didn’t drive my husband away (LOL), a lot of lessons learned over the last two years, and that my favourite thing is back! Running events, both near and far!!!

In January I took my chances travelling to the US for a race (and then Mexico, hehe) and it all worked out great. I had no problems and my race went fantastic. It feels so good to be back at it! I did run a half marathon in Victoria this past October and it was fun, but it mostly felt like a pandemic rust-buster. Between that race and Houston in January, I worked my ass off in the darkness, our monsoon season (okay it never really ends HAHAHA), snow, ice and also in my pain cave downstairs on the Devil’s Conveyor Belt. Under the guidance of my coach who I’ve been working with since last May, I set myself up to run the best race of my life, and it was the perfect transition point into the first real marathon training cycle since 2019!!!

On May first I’m heading to Oregon to run the Eugene marathon and I have never been this pumped for the 42.2 experience. I ran twelve marathons from May 2016 to October 2019 (wouldn’t really recommend) so it feels like it’s been forever! As people, I do believe we are always evolving, but I personally feel like I’ve evolved a LOT in the last couple of years especially. As a person who runs (I’m working on calling myself that instead of a runner), my running & training has evolved as well. The time off and the challenge of discovering different ways to stay motivated did me good, and I’ve heard that from other people who run as well.

Marathon training picked up after a week off following Houston, and then one more week of only easy running. Some of the workouts have already been killer and it’s feeling REALLY good to keep working hard but targeting 42.2 this time around. It’s been a while since I used this platform to write about shit. I forgot how much more efficient typing is vs. writing with a pen.

Time to put in the work and head to the finish line at Hayward Field for marathon #13. I’d like to try blog a bit as a training journal on this one because it feels so special and my confidence is in a really good place.

Do you have any big goals for 2022, running or non-running?

JK

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