And so a new year begins

January 7, 2013

For the first time in many years I started 2012 without a specific running target in the form of a big race (e.g. a specific marathon). Instead I had set myself two exercise related goals:

  1. To see whether I could get      back to my pre-cancer form in terms of running speed.
  2. To learn to swim crawl.

In terms of running, the result is that while I am still not as fast as I was pre-2010, I am now at peace with that fact that I probably never will run a sub-3:30 marathon and that it is completely OK. I am a lot faster in my running shoes now than I was at the start of 2012 though. However the best thing that has come out of this year is that I have somehow fallen in love with running in a different way. I used to think that I needed a “big goal” for motivation and I have now learned that is in fact not the case and by removing the pressure of a looming marathon I can run just because I love it. A quick review of the facts and figures shows that I definitely haven’t been slacking in 2012! There wasn’t a single week in the year when I didn’t run (despite a fair bit of travelling). The least I ran in a single week was 15 km and the most was 51 km. With a total distance for the year of 1913 km (compared to 1422 in 2011 when I did run a marathon) that averages 37 km per week. That’s not bad!

The last time I wrote about the swimming in April I was still struggling, but I persevered and had a breakthrough towards the end of the summer. Michael Phelps I am not, and never will be, but I am now at the stage where I can swim crawl and enjoy it (can’t believe I wrote that – I honestly never thought I’d see a day where I would enjoy swimming!).  Looking back to how horrendous it was in the start, I find it hard to believe that I made myself go back time after time and kept on persevering for a whole year.  From the beginning of 2012 until it “clicked” for me around the end of August I spent a total of around 40 hours of total hell in the pool! But believe me, the level of satisfaction I have at finally mastering it is completely in proportion to what I had to go through!

The subtext on learning to swim crawl was of course, that if I could do it then I would set myself the goal of doing an ironman distance triathlon in 2013 and I made that decision at the start of October. The first months of ironman training have gone well. In fact I haven’t really noticed a big difference from before. I have been spending an average of around 7 hours a week training which isn’t much more than before. My focus so far has mainly been on swimming and running, but also strength training which I do at home in front of the TV. Cycling has been on a bit of a back burner, but I’m going to start working more on that now, which will of course increase the amount of time I’m spending training. But so far so manageable!

As 2013 starts, I’m feeling excited about the year ahead. There are 222 days until my big day (Challenge Copenhagen) and I’m looking forward to every one of them!

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5 Responses to “And so a new year begins”

  1. Margaret Robinson Says:

    Happy New Year to you and the family. Last year we were both struggling with front crawl and it looks like we have both mastered it. It took me a few months last summer but I am now front crawling a kilometre 3 times a week. I find the first few lengths the hardest but after that I find I could swim all day and surprisingly really enjoy it! Enjoy your ironman training – you really are one crazy girl! I look forward to reading all about the training and preparation.

    • Kirsten Says:

      Happy New Year to you to Margaret! And congratulations on your crawling! Next time I’m over and if you’re around we should make a swim date!

  2. Margaret Robinson Says:

    sounds like a plan Kirsten…will be holding you to it! Take care.

  3. Amanda Hichkad Says:

    Oh Kirsten – the beauty of Google searches!! I am a runner (how I love saying that!) too. I finished my 6th and final infusion of carboplatin and taxotere 8 days ago following a 10 inch exploratory laporotomy in August and 5 stereotactic radiation treatments (not sure if you have CyberKnife in Denmark?) for a recurrence of cervical cancer.

    Like you, I was able to run through chemo as well. I had an infusion every 21 days. I ran on day 2 (day after chemo) each cycle then took off 4-5 days while I was sick. During weeks 2 and 3 I generally ran 3-5 miles at a time 3 or 4 days a week.

    I left a message for the nurse today about speed – the very topic of your post!! I wanted to know if any of the other patients she’s had ran through chemo because certainly none of my other friends have. I wasn’t terribly fast before chemo but could comfortably do 5 miles at about 8 min/mile. I ran 3 half marathons last year and my fastest was 1:54 so an 8:44 min/mile pace.

    I am STRUGGLING to do my 3-5 miles under 11 min/mile. Keep in mind I’m only a week past my last infusion, so of course, my rational mind knows I’m no where near recovered enough to be back to myself. However, I’m wondering at what kind of increases you saw to your speed and how long it took?

    I’m planning to start training next week for my first post chemo half – the IronGirl here in Maryland, US on 4/28. I’m pretty sure I can build my distance up as I have 12 weeks to get from 5 miles to 13. But when can I start to see the minutes drop off my miles??

    Thank you for this post. For running through chemo. For surviving!!

    • Kirsten Says:

      Dear Amanda,
      Congratulations on getting through your treatment and thanks for writing! When I get messages like yours it makes me so happy that I write this blog:-). In retrospect I was very unrealistic about how long it would take to get back to “normal”. I had radiotherapy on my chest area which really affected my lungs and it took about 3 months before the affect of that settled down and during that period running was torture! After that though I started seeing a steady improvement. However when I ran Berlin marathon 9 months after finishing treatment I was almost an hour slower than my previous best time!!! It is now more than 2 years since I finished treatment and I am still slower than I was before though I have seen a steady progress – I can run a 10 km in about 48 mins now, when I just finished treatment it was well over an hour, but my all-time personal best is just over 46 mins – so that gives you an idea. I have now accepted that I will never be as fast as I was before and am OK with that. Of course I have also got older in the meantime! My advice is to try to stop comparing to your pre-treatment times and just celebrate the improvements as they come. Oh, and I also stopped looking at my pace when I was running (because I found it depressing) and started training on Heart Rate instead – just a little tip!
      Hang in there! It WILL get better!
      Hugs, Kirsten

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