It took a year to come to terms with this reality. I spent a week in the hospital last month because there was something wrong with my heart. In Oct. 2014 I was at work ripping movie tickets when I started sweating, shaking, and, then, blacked out. It wasn't until Fourth of July this summer that the problem persisted. I was set to run both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter road races at Newhall Park. I should have known. I kept repeating to my long-time friend and former teammate, Annie Randall, that "something didn't feel right," but I'm stubborn. I stepped onto the starting line anyways.
After a 16:30 first 5K, everything went from amazing to disastrous in a few minute. I started sweating, slowed tremendously, and couldn't recall the last half. I just remember my anxiety kicking in. I covered the last half in nearly 20 minutes, the slowest I've ever run in my 14-year running career. The blacking out continued twice more, once in the car on the way home from Malibu (thank God my friend was driving) and a second time outside my friend's house, where I hit my head on a brick wall.
At Cedar Sinai Cancer Center we spent days trying to diagnose this problem, something we're still trying to figure out today. It was the scariest few days of my life, more frightening than May 6, 2013, the day I found out about my cancer. We were concerned that my cancer had reached my heart, but luckily, it hasn't. The next worst thing happened though. I've been diagnosed with a second degree heart block, and although we're still trying to pinpoint the exact reason why this is happening, we're pretty sure it's exercise-induced. In other words, the doctor told me I either have to end my competitive running career or get a pacemaker installed.
Over the last few weeks, I've been contemplating these options. I finally realized I don't want a pacemaker because it defeat the purpose of why I run in the first place. I run because you can do it anywhere, at anytime, with any one, and run as fast or slow as you want. It's the only sport without restrictions; the only sport where I can just go out and do what I love -- run.
I guess I'm writing this blog post today to say a couple things to the public. It hurts to give up on the thing I love most, but the truth is, this has been a long time coming. It wasn't until my friend's Mom told me, "you have nothing to prove to anyone anymore" (thanks Mrs. Birmele!), that I realized this was the time to end my competitive running career. There won't be a trip to Boston next April, or a sub-2:30 marathon, or another win in the Santa Clarita Marathon, or a personal best at College of the Canyons cross country course, because this is the end. Of course I'm heartbroken I have to say these words, but I'm also relieved. I never imagined I'd spend the last 14 years running times that rank among the SCV's best, and I'm so thankful for all the people I've met in cross country, track and field, and on the roads. It's been a complete blessing, which brings me to my second announcement: Thank you an infinite times over to everyone who kept pushing me to keep going the last 14 years!
Thank you to my parents and sisters, my Grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins, my coaches, Claudia Ahlman, Rene Paragas, George Serrano, Cal Linam, Christian Standley, Tom Lyons and Pete Cushman, the entire Saugus cross country family (Saugus XC mafia for life!), the SCV community, and everyone in between; and thank you to Sarah Sumpter for being my biggest hero throughout the last three and half years. You lost a five-year battle with brain cancer, but the truth is you didn't lose; you won. You inspired so many with your courageous fight, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.