Thanksgiving Triathlon

Just last Thanksgiving I tried something new. No, it wasn’t a revamped recipe for pumpkin pie and it certainly wasn’t turducken.  Instead, rather than dedicating the entire day to more typical gastronomical pastimes, I challenged myself to a charity 10K (6.2 mile), enjoying the frosty early morning run with a few friends and a small crowd of perhaps 400 other runners and walkers.  It was an invigorating way to jump start the day and I looked forward to repeating the experience.

As you know, this year has brought a formidable health challenge and as Thanksgiving week approached I postponed my decision.  I held out hope that I might feel well enough to walk (surely not run) a turkey trot, but delayed the commitment, naturally assuming that as I completed more chemo treatments I would feel worse and more fatigued.  How wrong I was! Although the situation can easily change in weeks 5-12 and beyond, as of right now I feel as energetic as ever.  Sure, I can’t run as speedily as a few months ago, but I subjectively attribute that to a lack of specific running training rather than a drop in aerobic capacity.

2011 Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, here I come.

Plus just because I feel so healthy and contrary, how about a little swimming and biking, too?  I should mention that I’m more than just tiny bit impressed and envious of my friends Sachi and Jimmy who are returning from Arizona, where Jimmy competed in Sunday’s Ironman. That day’s efforts included a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 114 mile bike ride, and lastly a full 26.2 mile marathon run.  Any of those legs would have exceeded my current athletic ability, but there’s no reason I can’t carve out my very own pared down Thanksgiving Triathlon.

I plan to start out with a mile mile and a half swim on Wednesday, continue with the 10K Turkey Trot on Thursday, and wrap up with a 40 mile bike ride with Anna over the Santa Cruz mountains out to the ocean on Friday.  Yes, I realize triathlons typically conclude within the same day, but I figure given the circumstances it’s ok to cut myself a little slack.

As paradoxical as this may sound, I’m feeling better now than I did the first week of chemo. The more I exercise, the better my overall condition. And here’s some research that holds credence to that observation.  In particular, the study revealed that “even with mild to moderate anemia, breast cancer patients who take part in regular, low-to-moderate-intensity aerobic exercise are able to maintain their V02peak.”

Other investigators found a similar result while examining breast cancer patients undergoing radiation (though I’m not one of them).

This article sums up the benefits, too, concluding that exercise leads to better general health, less depression, and less pain for breast cancer survivors.

Come to think of it, there’s nothing restricting me to exercise during the one holiday, so I have also just signed up for a marathon or half-marathon right here in Palo Alto in December, exactly one week before Christmas.  I’ll certainly tailor my distance and speed accordingly depending on prevailing health conditions.  For example, right now, I could probably alternate running and walking to complete the entire marathon.  If that seems imprudent next month, I’ll cut down to a half-marathon in some combination of running and walking.  If I’m feeling really crummy, I’ll go out and do just the 5 miler.  As opposed to last year’s mentality, I don’t care if I’m fast or slow, as long as I go!

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