Friday, February 15, 2013

Sharpening the Axe

Abraham Lincoln wrote that if he was given 6 hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first 4 hours sharpening the axe. The Austin marathon is less than 48 hours away and I wish I could tell you that the nervousness begins now but it began months ago. I get more nervous about this race than most others. One reason is obvious, I’ve literally been on a tv interview promoting it two years ago talking about how I’d put off brain surgery to do it. Last year I came back and despite it being my second best marathon and me being less than fully happy about it, I was graced to win the cancer survivor’s division. The other races while I’m always trying to do my best have all been out in the middle of nowhere with no landmarks that create distractions, I can literally just put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve sat here and thought about the mistakes I made last year. A gigantic one was making a playlist that made me think of sad thoughts along the course because the person who I’m involved with legal issues was cheering me on and was now not there. It’s impossible to not think about things like this even with a screwed up brain with memory issues so I’ve made some decisions about how to sharpen the ax. I created a playlist that acknowledges some of the issues but it’s always overcoming them or at least keeping going. Carry on will probably still be my favorite song on the playlist… “May the past be the sound of your feet upon the ground… carry on.” And if I start to think negative thoughts I’ll try to focus there as well on the lyrics “I’d like to think I can cheat it all to make up for the times I’ve’ been cheated on. And it’s nice to know when I was left for dead I was found and now I don't roam these streets.” And though tonight I go to a new livestrong thing and am going to be part of a photoshoot tomorrow morning and people think that meeting me will be an honor (I’m just a guy whose very proud to be a great dad and lucky enough to be a fast guy) I’ll think of that lyric from that song as well: We are not shining stars, This I know I never said we are” And even if my head is on fire, my legs are just fine and I’ll carry on.

Within that first mile, I will be passing the court where that divorce happened but rather than think of it as a negative decision, in the end who wants to be with someone who each of you makes mistakes that separate rather than help you endure during rough times? And as I worry about that it may be a place that custody is challenged, I remember that two times we’ve been there and other than every other weekend, my daughter sleeps and wakes up in the house she was born in. So I will pass there grateful for that.

Not too long after that the course, I pass the place I no longer had the memory skills to work in the legal field, as I pass it by, rather than bemoan the job loss, I will pass there grateful that when this all started their insurance didn’t cover Duke the way it would have MD Anderson or other places but it covered some of it. And I still have friends from there which have donated to cancer things, had meals with me in prep for this race and will be cheering. So I will pass there grateful for all of that.

And not too long after that, I will pass the hospital where this all started, the one I snuck out to run 8 miles in what seems forever ago. And people have asked me if I’m not angry about having cancer or afraid of dying. Neither is true but I choose to believe that catching it early and getting sent there with friends and family all around before a biopsy gives me one more thing to be grateful for and that if nothing else, I am still standing.
I’ll eventually pass the Livestrong Mile and team Luke’s which were not even on my radar and now they are part of my rescue team, providing me with hope, motivation and inspiration long before I run by them. And I’ll be grateful for that.

And a few miles after that, I’ll pass the place where I collapsed last March. And while that scares me, I will think of the Avett Brother’s Once and Future Carpenter Song… “If I live the live I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” And rather than stop running after I collapsed well, I got up and got back to running and I’ll be grateful that I still get to run by that spot.

And then when it starts to get hard around the halfway mark and lonely after the half marathons have split up their own path, I’ll pass within sight of the hospital where my daughter was born. This race people think will be easier because I won’t be pushing a stroller. Those people are wrong. Yes it’s heavier but when inspiration is literally in front of you and the world’s best cheerleader is within an arms reach all races are easier. But strollers aren’t allowed on this course so her handprint will literally be on my bib and that lion and lion cub tattoo are on my right arm. And part of a valentine that she made that me cry.  

And yes on the way home, I have to pass by the neuro oncologists office, by the neurologist, by the neuropsychologists, by where I do bloodwork, by the original neurologist and while sitting in medical appointments is no fun, each of these guys gets that I’m sitting here trying to fight to keep running so that this heart keeps beating for the love that lion cub.

I’ve put in the miles. Not all training runs have gone perfect, not all races along the way have gone perfect. The weather is a little warmer than I like… But I’ve put in the training and that’s one way I’ve sharpened the ax. I’ve created a great playlist perhaps my thoughts about the results most encapsulated by another Avett brother’s song, Head Full of Doubt, Road full of promises:
There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream til I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

My screaming is my running and I hope to be screaming down that course with my feet though if things go well or bad the screaming will probably come out my lungs as well.

 The training has put in the physical strategy. The songs I’ve put in the playlist and this blog shows that I’m trying to put in the right mental strategy. It’s been announced to others what I hope and am trying to do which is break 3 hours for the first time, an 8 minute pr. No promises but I’ll tell you this, I will get across that finish line giving it what I had. I’ve spent a lot more than 4 hours sharpening that Axe and I hope I can get it under 3. But even if I don’t, I’m taking that medal home from chopping down this marathon tree and I will still love running and all that keeps me doing it.

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