Thursday, June 3, 2010

Making Progress, Setting Goals

It's hard to believe it's June already. Time truly is elastic. Pretty soon, I'll be celebrating six months since surgery. That time flew by in a blink; on the other hand, the six months prior to surgery were a slow slog through hell.

Despite the length of time that's passed, I'm still healing. Or, perhaps I should say, I'm still making progress. And most of that has to do with learning to trust my body again and being astonished by what it's capable of. For months after surgery, I felt infirmed. I was limited physically. Although I was healthy (and indeed had chosen to have preventative surgery to remain that way), I was -- temporarily -- weakened and compromised by the assault on my body. But as time passed, I slowly began to reclaim my corporal capacities. It started when I got back on the treadmill at the gym. Then, I tried rowing. And gradually, I realized that I was healing and that I was capable of a great deal more than I thought.

But I still was aware for a long time I wasn't yet 100%. Even as recently as six weeks ago, I was more aware of my (supposed) limitations than my (untapped) abilities. When I boarded that plane to Aruba in April, I panicked when it came time to lift my bag into the overhead bin. It was heavy (who knew how much sundresses and sandals could weigh?) and I didn't think I'd have the upper body strength to do it. Luckily, a kind gentleman jumped out of his seat and helped me with my bag (and even retrieved it when we landed) without me having to ask. But last week, on a flight to DC (It was my fourth pre-7 a.m. flight in less than a month. Note to self: stop torturing yourself. You aren't a morning person. And watching the sunrise at O'Hare is no fun.) I didn't even think twice when I went to stow my baggage. I hefted the suitcase up and into the overhead and didn't even think about it until I sat down in my seat (and mercifully had the ENTIRE row to myself) and realized what I had just done. I was back.

I've been feeling pretty powerful lately. A lot of it has to do with the strength I've discovered rowing. Let me tell you: it might look easy, but it ain't. Rowing on the ergometers is challenging in a number of ways: there's the technique, the posture, the monotony. But because we work out as a team, it's impossible to stop while your teammates continue to row; even when you're dog tired and can't imagine another jump, you look to your right and left and see women who've beaten cancer and you know you have to push ahead. If they can do it, so can I. And I have.

I've also been running a lot lately. In fact, I'm probably more dedicated to it than I've ever been before. I've always been athletic, but despite the fact I'm super tall with legs that go on forever, I've never quite figured out how to use them to my best advantage. I was exceedingly mediocre at just about every sport I've ever played, but what I lacked in talent I made up for in sheer will and dedication. I graduated with seven varsity letters and even made the all-state basketball team my senior year (that state being the state of Delaware, so don't get too impressed). But as an adult, I've struggled to reconcile my lack of natural athleticism with my desire to be active, healthy, and fit. I dabble in yoga, love pilates (and if I were a real housewife of New Jersey or wherever, I'd pay big money to have a studio installed in my mansion of conspicuous consumption and hire a live-in trainer), enjoy a bike ride along the lakefront, but I've become, despite my lack of natural grace, a runner (or a person who runs) first and foremost. When I get pedicures, the women always say, "You are a runner." (It's not my lean calves that give me away; it's my gnarled feet.)

And yet, I'm an extremely moody runner (I've written before about my love/hate relationship with the sport here). I abandon the pursuit for weeks -- months -- at a time, go soft, and then start all over again. But not so much recently. There's something I'm getting from running right now that I never have before: a sense of power, accomplishment, potential. Which leads me to my big announcement (well, the big news is that I'm making public a personal challenge, so I have that much more reason to complete: accountability to you all). I've decided to set an ambitious goal for June: I want to run (or walk briskly -- we can't all be superwomen everyday) 100 miles this month. Typing that number makes it seem absurdly small, and I realize dedicated athletes can pound that out in a week. But to me, it's a challenge. That means I've got to run about 25 miles a week, or 5 miles a day (with two days off). But I know I can do it. And I know I'm capable of it.

When I learned I carried the BRCA mutation last year, I felt betrayed by my body. But now that I've taken control of my health, I feel more powerful than ever. See you at the gym!


  1. Good luck with your goal! 100 miles is huge and whether you accomplish it or not, setting the goal puts you that much closer to doing it.

  2. Good for you for feeling so powerful! I'm still impressed that you started rowing, and not long after your PBM. Even if I didn't have pain issues I doubt I'd ever feel that empowered!
    Keep on keeping on. :)

  3. Since my pbm, I've also found myself rededicated to running - I've been running longer and faster distances - it's like I'm trying to outrun this whole raw deal. Anyhow, since my revision surgery almost two weeks ago, I've been lying around and it's been extremely frustrating when I just want to get going! Good luck with the 100 - that's a terrific goal! If I can get some consistent training going, I'm thinking of trying for a marathon.