EIght years ago (I believe) I decided to do the Tour of Anchorage and I got really excited about it. The year before I had not really trained at all and I had just shown up and did pretty well, like top 20 in the 50 K. I was surprised give the fact I hadn’t really skied much during the last couple years of medical school. Guys I had raced in college were winning the race and to be reasonably close to them made me feel slightly overconfident when the next year rolled around.
I was still in residency and didn’t have a lot of time to train but I got out pretty frequently. I felt decent and thought maybe I could actually put together a good race. I signed up and got myself in the first wave. I spent a whole afternoon getting my skis ready. I thought I hydrated well (maybe to well). Put I really psyched myself up for the race. Come race day I can’t explain what happened but it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t get out of my own way. The Spencer loop which is a rough large uphill loop at the start of the race has been where in the past I was really strong. That day I couldn’t even hang with guys which on a normal day I would be skiing circles around.
About halfway through the climb I decided that there was no way I could keep up what I was doing and I just dropped the plow. I dragged myself around the first 10 k with the plan of hopping a ride back home with the Maury’s who had come out to watch. Unfortunately, I was so slow Toni thought she just missed me and headed further on into town with the car. With no way to get back to the finish or home across town I was forced to just struggle on. I eventually got home, about 15 k from the actual finish, and had to drop out. This was one of only a small handful of races I ever dropped out of. That feeling was not fun or comfortable. The year after I was able to rally and from the second wave, completely alone finished in the top 20 again.
I haven’t had a chance to do the race much since those two years. So this year given all that has happened I was pretty excited to just get the chance. I knew there was no way I would or probably ever will be where I used to be but just being at the start was a dream I had been working for all year. Needless to say I think I sort of over psyched myself. I didn’t sleep well last night. I don’t think puking two days ago helped, a hemaglobin of 9 surely isn’t good for endurance events, and I have no idea how Jim skis all the time in jeans or Carharts (I won’t do that again). As I mentioned the race was shortened which I am quite thankful for. Although I feel like I cheated a little I think the extra length would have been troublesome for me.
The morning was a bit hectic as I forgot my drinks, we barely made it to the start on time, then the starters weren’t going to let me start with Brooke because I had been given the wrong number to be in her wave. Eventually, as they said go, they let me go through with her. I felt good for about 2 minutes then that same feeling of dragging a rock like eight years ago hit me. I really had to struggle to get through the Spencer loop. I think I was passed by most of the next two waves. I took my time though, the goal today was clearly different.
Although I didn’t feel very strong, I had a great escort and I eventually made it around the Spencer and through the long stretch to APU and the finish line. The shortened distance was much appreciated by me today. I only one time felt a bit of anger that I have lost so much. Mostly I was just happy and excited I had the opportunity to take part today. I cried at the finish line as I hugged Brooke. Jim and Gayle had brought the boys. Everyone got a tight hug. Who could have ever asked for such an amazing support crew.
Jim and Gayle were emotional. One of them said to me “Of all the races we have ever watched you finish this one seems to be the most special. Even though you will have more this is a moment we will remember.” I can’t imagine what it must be like for everyone who watched me struggle this year. I know this isn’t the end of my fight but I know it isn’t the beginning anymore. I feel like I am entering another phase of this project. I hope it entails many more races. Races where Brooke doesn’t have to wait for me, races where the boys do have to wait for me, races where everyone isn’t worried about me keeling over, races where my disease takes a back seat. The truth is though that any race where I feel this alive even if it hurts will be appreciated.
Thank you all for helping me through the race I have faced this year. The fact that I even made it here today is because of all the positive thoughts.