I accepted that I had Breast Cancer quite quickly. You have to because treatment is a priority and before you know it in most cases you are scheduled for surgery literally within days of diagnosis. Accepting I had Breast Cancer was the easy part, accepting that after 2 surgeries and 6 weeks of radiation treatment that my running performance would be affected was harder.
I trained through the whole process as best as I could. It was a learning experience for my coach as well. There are no ultra runners competing at my level dealing with this scenario. I was determined not to let it affect my life too much but there really was no information around to gauge my recovery as an athlete. For most Breast Cancer survivors increasing exercise and adopting a healthy diet is recommended. If anything I needed to reduce my training load to allow for recovery and a dietitian confirmed that my diet is really good. I was always open with my Cancer Care team about my desire to run, train and even compete. There was no clinical reason why I should not continue to run so I did listening to my body and resting when I needed to.
I feel really fortunate that as a result of my exceptional result at the last 24 hour World Championships in Turin where I finished 6th with 230.244km my selection for the next was guaranteed. I still needed to prove fitness, that I could at least put in a solid performance. My performance at the Asian Championships did not reflect this but it was a good indicator of what I had to do to get back to peak form by July 2017. My mental game was off. I realise now that my expectations were too high for what I had been through. I needed to adjust my mindset and work within my capabilities. That is really hard to do when you have achieved some pretty significant performances.
So I started 2017 with a schedule of events on which I would build. It started with a trail marathon. An event where I held the course record and was the title holder an event I had run just days after my Breast Cancer diagnosis one year earlier. I ran that event content to finish it but managed to grab a place on the podium, happily giving up my title and course record. I enjoyed the night out running and mixing it with other like minded people.
The next event was a 6 hour at Caboolture. It was at this venue that I achieved a qualifier for my first Australian team and broke an Australian Record but again I would have to adjust my expectations and was happy to run almost 60km in extremely hot and humid conditions, finishing 2nd and not quite catching up to my husband Tim who had decided he would give this form of ultra running a go. He concludes that it’s not for him. Just as well as I know I am going to need a reliable crew over the years to come.
Most recently the next step was a 12 hour event on an athletics track in Canberra. Again I had expectations of what I should be able to achieve at this event and again I fell a little short but I am happy that I could pull off a respectable performance and if anything be consistent in my build up and it’s always great to claim a place on the podium. One step at a time. I thoroughly enjoyed my short trip to Canberra. It really lifted my mood, the ultra running community is amazing. So many people from such different backgrounds all with the insane desire to run a bloody long way. It was also great to have almost all the Australian 24 hour team in attendance especially the women. We all look forward to teaming up in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This year has been frustrating to say the least. I know what I am capable of and the speed that I used to to achieve in my training sessions but the speed and pace are just not there. As a consequence I have suffered some depression and have been diagnosed by my GP as having and adjustment disorder which entitles me to a Mental Health Care Plan. Some days the intensity of my training leaves me extremely fatigued and I find it hard to function or get on with everyday life. Before my diagnosis I would be tired on the days I did long hard sessions but I could get through a full day of work or activity. These days I am pretty much a zombie on the couch. But I am determined to do the best I can and I have time to continue to build towards that. Ultra running has always required patience and my patience has really been tested. I have sort professional help and have a entire team of health professionals behind me. I am extremely grateful to Paul, Angela and the team at Body Leadership Physiotherapy who have continued to treat me and ensure that I make the start line in the best possible shape.