Running with the Spirit of Shelby by my side

For the first time in almost 2 years, I laced up my running shoes to run an actual race – not just run on my own for fitness and general health. I haven’t felt the desire to train for anything since my last marathon over 2 years ago. They say when tragedy affects your life, your priorities change. Before Shelby got sick, running was a way of life for me; it was my zen, it was fun, I was always motivated to run faster, further, stronger. I dedicated three marathons, trying to break 4 hours and qualify for Boston. I did it in winter of 2011 and ran the Boston Marathon in 2013. Everyone knows what happened at Boston that year and I was determined to re-qualify to get back there and run that race without the same ending.

But in the fall of 2013, Shelby was diagnosed with cancer and all the training I had done for a fall marathon just kind of fell by the wayside. I didn’t care anymore. I ran that marathon in Salt Lake City but my heart wasn’t in it. I only wanted to get home to Shelby. So I didn’t qualify – I don’t even think I broke 4 hours. I simply didn’t care.

For the next 8 months, I ran to stay fit and to compensate for the wine I was drinking to manage the stress and sadness surrounding Shelby’s illness. While I knew we were beating the odds, I knew deep down our time on earth together was limited.

After Shelby passed, it was almost 2 weeks before I went for a run. It was too much time in my head – alone with my thoughts. Shelby passed on the beach by our home and I couldn’t bear to run past that spot which limited places I could run since I’ve always run by the beach. I could barely make it through a short run without massive crocodile tears and feeling like I would pass out from the crying and emotional pain. Eventually, I got through it and I was able to resume my normal running routine – a couple days a week, no more than 5 – 12 miles at a time and for fitness. No need for speed. No desire to train.

I put together training schedules and lost interest in them all. I am by no means out of shape but I am far from my peak levels of fitness. When did a 14 mile run become so hard? When did it become acceptable for me to bargain my way (in my head) out of running the entire distance I planned to run? When did I become lazy?

Yesterday, to support a friend for charity, I laced up my shoes for a 5K. It’s only three miles (well 3.1) and I run 4 – 5 miles before work a couple days a week so hard could that be? It wasn’t the distance or difficulty level – it was the pride thing. I used to be fast. I used to blaze through a 5K in no time. It’s almost not even worth getting sweaty for less than 25 min. So I went all out. I fired up my legs and said no matter what – I was going to run the whole thing and run it fast. I was going to get it done. And I did. And it felt great. To be surrounded by other runners, competing, racing, running … and for the first time in over two years, I pushed myself and I did it.

I completed the 5K in a little over 22 min and placed 2nd in my age division. (it was a small race). And I felt inspired. I felt like this was something I could do again. I could get this part of my life back.

I know I have a long way to go before I can even thinking of running another 3:35 marathon but that I even want to think abut it is a huge plus.

So I thought about little miss Shelby a lot yesterday. I felt her spirit riding alongside me on the run. I felt connected. And then I had an unsettling dream. I dreamt that Shelby was alive and well but not living with me. She was living with a former acquaintance of mine and she was older and doing well, recovered from her broken leg. I asked if she missed me and thought about me and he said she did. But she saw that I had moved on with Jasper.

My heart broke and I woke up sobbing. It doesn’t make sense. The grief shouldn’t be this intense still. Does my desire to run again mean something? Does having Jasper in my life mean that Shelby thinks I’ve moved on? The mind is the most powerful thing and it can work for and against you. I woke up unsettled and 6 hours later, I still feel “off”. I need my spirit girl to know that she is still the love of my life and her strength DOES guide me daily.

The thing about this journey – while we say the pain lessons – the life we are left with is every changing. I am a work in progress for sure … one step forward, two steps back. Inspired. Hopeful. Optimistic. And still grief stricken…

Santa Barbara 2013
Just love!
The Love of My Life

17 Months an angel

Dear Shelby,

It’s been a month since I last updated your blog. I miss you. This time of year will always be a bit rough for me since it was when we got the definitive diagnosis of your hemangiosarcoma cancer. I remember when I couldn’t even pronounce this cancer let alone spell it and sadly, it quickly became part of my normal vernacular.

You have been gone 17 months! It feels like a lifetime since I felt and kissed those little velvet ears. I look at photos of you and just miss that sweet little face SO much! You always “got me”. And as time goes by … I realize even more how much the “alpha” in our relationship you were. Little Jasper Lily definitely knows that I am in charge (yet that doesn’t seem to stop her from making some bad choices but she always feels guilty).

Thank you for placing that shiny penny under the rock this weekend. You knew I would find it and think of you! Always sending me money around your angel-versary.

A lot has happened over the past month; as you know we went on the trip up north to Portland and your favorite place, Cannon Beach. It was a great trip and I hope you enjoyed the ride. We thought about and talked about you – a lot! You would have loved that journey.

I am so thankful you found me a great little traveling companion in Jasper Lily. The world would be perfect with the both of you but it has been so much fun getting to know Jasper and seeing her grow. I know you are helping guide her.

It’s almost football season. We LOVED to watch the Saints together. My little Cajun pooch!

There is just so much I always miss about you and how much more healing I need to do … I don’t know that I will ever completely heal and that is OK. I focused last year on Jasper’s issues and getting her to a good place and now it’s time to work on healing me. I moved your photos to one wall and we call it “Shelby’s Corner”. It warms my heart and soothes my soul to look at your corner while I am sitting on the couch.

I am hoping that since last year, I survived all the “firsts” … this year will be easier … I know what to expect, I know what we went through and as much as I do love little Jasper Lily (and I really do), I will always think of my soul-mate, my heart dog, the love of my life!

Mommy misses you … be good sweet girl and remember, I love you to the moon and back and for all infinity!

“Shelby’s Corner” – her photo montages (complete with her paw print). On top of the bookcase, her ashes, her tiara, and all the cash/trinkets she has sent me.
Future’s so bright! Such a patient dog.
Who Dat??! This princess loved her Saints!
Our last trip to Santa Barbara right after her diagnosis! It was a tough trip on the both of us but we always loved our road trips! Kisses for my one true love.