Mile 20

When we were getting ready to leave Boston Children’s hospital on Thursday evening, one of the nurses who has come to know Soren well took me aside and asked if we would like a celebration for Soren completing his scheduled chemotherapy. I said, “thank you very much, but no.” From my expression and tone, she understood why, and politely and efficiently helped us on our way.

The 20-mile marker of the marathon is well known by runners to be a daunting threshold: many say the race begins at this point. Energy levels fade, gaits change to compensate for the fatigue. Great races erode for many at this point, but a rare few rise to the occasion and finish strongly. Add a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike as prelude to that marathon, and the mile 20 marker blurs amidst a haze of accumulated weariness, but remains momentous.

We feel like we’re at this very marker, like here, on the Queen K highway returning to Kailua-Kona.

It’s a long and mostly barren 10K home from here

Each time I’ve been there, I’ve noted the 20 mile marker, thought “only 10k to go,” looked at my watch and thought than any of countless 10k’s in training would get me home respectably. It always takes longer and much more out of me from this point on: you have to really want it and dig deep to hold it together. The fact that Ironman is a family investment makes this challenge both bearable and incredibly meaningful.

For Erika, the closest analogy might be overtime in a championship water polo match (something that we recall vividly 10 years ago this month). You get 5 minutes to regroup, and then you and your teammates go out to resume two more 3-minute periods to decide the fate of your season. Again, a complete team effort required, nothing less.

In our figurative 10k or overtime ahead, we have the immediate post-treatment nausea, low blood counts, and assorted symptoms to handle. For Soren, this has been fairly trivial. Below is how he spent his morning before a bad headache sent him home a bit early for a nap and more medicine:

Much more daunting is his next scan this coming Thursday, where we now recognize that we will almost certainly be dealing with shades of grey (literally for the images), several days of consideration and consultation by the teams at Dana-Farber, and a delayed decision that could span a range of outcomes. We could be done (!), declared in remission and assigned to regular monitoring. This is the fleet-footed route to the finish line. Or, Soren could face a biopsy when his counts rebound, followed by a subsequent week or more of uncertainty. This is the workmanlike, more painful approach. Or we could face a much, much longer road of more chemotherapy. I’m not sure what the analogy is, but I think I’ve seen what it looks like, both in races and on the pediatric oncology floor.

Mile 20 is both grounds for immense hope (so close!) and heavy foreboding (so far!). Thanks to all of you who are part of our team.

Mile 20

5 thoughts on “Mile 20

  1. Mary Smith says:

    Don’t worry the last 10K is doable. Remember the crowds that lifted your spirits and the momentum of Ali’i drive. You will be there and we will all be in the crowds to cheer you home. Stay strong.


  2. Jen Miklavcic says:

    I read this and thought of the 100 mile bike ride much like mile marker 20 on the run, mile marker 80 is tough. SO tough, that you think I may not finish or I may walk or if I see another hill I may throw my bike in the woods. There is a piece that wants to throw away everything you have worked for and then you realize…I’ve got this…I can do this…I have the strength both physically and more importantly mentally to keep going. I know this next stop whatever it may be will not be easy but I know Vaughn, Erika and Soren you have got this! You have in you the endurance it takes to keep you going. So fuel up, rest up as best you can and know that so many people are sending you warriors to help Soren fight this battle.


  3. Loren says:

    Have you ever watched the Marine Corps Marathon in DC? The last mile is uphill. But the crowds on the sides of the road cheer louder and louder. Even the weariest runners smile and get a new burst of energy. We, the non-runners, are here cheering all of you on.


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