Friday, May 24, 2013

First Marathon Recap Ogden

Tell me about your bowel movements.

Sometimes doctors ask that.  It is awkward, but they need to know.
Chefs don't ask this.  Chefs don't ask this in front of the entire restaurant as they are chopping cilantro and yelling across the bar.

One chef did.  He is awesome.

He also asked me about my cycles, my intended finish time (I bold faced lied and told him I was hoping for a 3:45 even though I knew I would be lucky to go under 4 hours).  He listened intently to my answers and then made me the most delicious custom meal I have ever had.  After eating the most delicious salmon and risotto I have ever had I told Chris "I don't even care what happens tomorrow because I just ate the best food of my life." I also don't care that I used 'delicious' about 85 times in the same paragraph.  Because it was.  It was delicious.
Remember how I love food?
Seriously.  This guy is amazing.  You have to go to Thyme and Seasons in Bountiful.  Tell the chef what you want your meal to do for your body (seriously, he asks this) and be prepared to be nourished (and engage in some awkward personal information or offer a stool sample).

Enough about food (there is never enough about food) let's get to the race.

3:15 would have been an early wake-up call but I couldn't sleep so 2:55 seemed just fine.  I got out of bed, got in the shower (I always take a hot shower before a long run, sometimes even a bath, to loosen up the hinges).
Then, I ate half a sweet potato and some smoothie I had made the night before.  I covered my entire body (not the bottom of my feet. . .sense the foreshadowing. . .) with Body Glide and suited up for my race.
Shelly, my amazing friend, running buddy, coach and trainer picked me up at 4 am.  Lily woke up just before that so I got to say goodbye to her.  Silly girl was going to be TIRED (more forshadowing. . .).  We drove up to Ogden, Shelly had to drop $20 in the parking pay thingy because it was the smallest (and only) bill any of us had.  You're welcome, Ogden City!  And we were on a bus, in the dark, in the rain, rolling up the canyon just to run back down it.
It was cold.  It was wet.  I was so glad Shelly told me to bring plastic bags for my shoes and one to wear.  There was a lot of mud and we had to wait for almost 2 hours for the start of the race.  I loved seeing what everyone was eating before the start.  PB&J, sweet potato (hey sister!), coconut water, cliff bars, bananas, weird smoothies that a random guy who became our friend later sarcastically described as 'delightful' (chia seed is a miracle, don't even mock!). . .
Finally it was time to line up.  I ditched the plastic (lots, like most, kept running in plastic. . .that would have been a good idea, but it had stopped raining and didn't start up again until about .0000000034 seconds after my bags hit the trash can, at which point it was a downpour) and donned my make-shift arm-warmers (Lily's soccer socks with finger holes cut in them. . .check back later for a detailed tutorial).
I was so cold.  I was trying not to shiver and waste energy and I totally needed to pee.  I was getting ticked off at all the guys who took 2 steps off the road to pee in the bushes.  I joked about running over to them and dropping my drawers (thus mooning the 8000 marathoners behind me) to pee and prove a point for equality.  Even if I did dare to that (I had, afterall, just detailed my monthly cycle and BM habits to a full restaurant less than 12 hours prior) it would have been impossible.  My hands were frozen and there was no way I could have taken off my hydration belt and my pants AND gotten them back on by myself.

Now to the running!
The first 3 miles were just so cold.  The first 3 miles of every run are hard for me.  It takes me FOREVER to warm up.  I asked Shelly what our pace was.  I thought we were going out too fast.  It was a 9 minute mile.  Ha!  It felt like a 7:30.  Not bad, just a lot of effort.
But then, what?  What does that sign say?  Mile FIVE?  Nice!  I was feeling good.  Wet, but good.  I drank some smoothie from the belt and lost Shelly.  I never did see her again.  I didn't know if she was ahead of me or behind.  It was so hard to see with all the rain, all the plastic, and all the people.
I really had to pee.  I didn't want to stop so I decided to hold it.  It turns out that 'hold it' may be a generous term for what I did for the next 12 miles, but I was soaked so it is hard to say really.  No one can prove anything.

Mile 6:
Baby horse running with Mama!  So cute!  They are running with us!  I am feeling good.  Hey, I am almost a quarter of the way done.  My feet are freezing.  I cannot feel them.  Maybe that is good?
Mile 7:
I ate an orang slice as I cruised through the aid station.  Just bite and throw.  I still need to pee.  WHY OH WHY did I not stop?  Stupid pride!
Mile 8:  I started calculating how many miles until I would see my cute husband and my dad and girls who were to be at the half way point.  Then, I started to worry about how I might feel if they ended up not being able to come because of the rain.  I would totally understand, but I would be bummed.  I just hoped it wouldn't totally throw me.
I talked to a few people and then I started to feel a blister forming on the ball of my foot.  Darn rain.  Nothing I could do.  I tried wiggling my toes to shift the weight or something but the damage was done.  I had a blister.  I had a blister at mile 8.  Nothing to be done, I would just have to deal with it and hope that it doesn't break.  I decided that running on the blister would be better than altering my gait and damaging my joints.
Mile 9 I ate some of my pumpkin-seed butter bar (so good!) and it gave me a great push!  By mile 10 I felt great (except I had to pee) and I could feel myself accelerate up a couple of very small hills.  I actually looked ahead and thought "these were not on the map!" but they didn't feel like anything. . .which is probably why.  Then, I did something stupid.  I took off my awesome arm warmers.  They were soaked so I thought they were doing nothing but adding weight.  I regretted it instantly.  They were still keeping me warm.  The rain on my bare arms was freezing.  I did lose about 2 pounds, though, by ditching the soaked arm socks.  Thus begins the frozen forearm section of the race.
Mile 13, I slowed a little through the huge aid station (because everyone was walking and I had to dodge people).  I saw my FAMILY!  I threw my arms up!  I was so happy to see them!!!  Noli cried as I ran past.  I guess that would be pretty confusing.  Hey, let's wait here in the rain and cold for your mother to run right past us.  See ya!
I felt awesome and I knew that the hills were next.  I like hills.  Running uphill is easier on my knees and I ran a lot of uphill during my prep for this race.  I went into this section totally mentally prepared and excited.
The next 2 miles had a series of small hills.  I past people on the hills, which felt great!  I ran with an older guy who I had ran with at mile 5.  He said that he was going to try to keep up with me on the hill.  He didn't.  But he caught me again at mile 17.
I started feeling pretty tired at mile 15 and promised myself I would stop at the aid station at 17 and walk through it, stop to pee, and take some tylenol.  The foot to blister ratio had sadly shifted in favor of the latter at this point.  I was in quite a bit of pain, and was just praying it wouldn't pop before the end of the race.
I jogged up to the Honey Bucket at Mile 17 ready for a quick pee and then back out to it.  What I did not anticipate was the shivering.  The second I stopped running I started shaking so bad I couldn't figure out how to get my belt off, how to stand without hitting the walls, how to do anything.  It took me a full minute to strategize my pee stop.  This next part is a little TMI. . .I really had to pee.  I mean, more than I even thought.  I was amazed at my bladder capacity.  It was unreal.  I felt so so so so so much better, so much lighter, so ready that I was kicking myself for not stopping sooner!  I jumped out, adjusted the fuel belt and pulled out my tylenol.  I had to stop completely to try to open it with my frozen fingers.  The guy from the hill caught up and said something like "keep it strong!" but I knew I was golden now.  I didn't have to pee!!!!
I ran across the dam and heard someone yell "MEG!  YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR!" and looked around wildly to see my friend, Jill, who was screaming her face off.  She was here to watch her sister and we were pacing right by each other.  That call out with my new, empty bladder and the hopes that the fire brewing on the bottom of my feet would be abated a bit by the pill sent a surge through me and I started flying (relative) down the canyon.  I don't run with a watch so I never know what my pace is or my splits but I could tell I was going a lot faster than I had been.  I thought 'I should probably slow down, I don't know if I can keep this up for the next 9 miles' but I didn't.  I also thought 'I should be more careful on these steep downhill sections' so I was.  I slowed when it got steeper.  My knees do not like running downhill.
I felt amazing all the way down the canyon.  It warmed up a little at this point and that helped a lot.  I looked up and was caught off guard by the huge waterfall at the mouth of the canyon.  We jumped onto the parkway trail and I started passing people.  People who had gone out too fast were slowing down but still felt great.
At the end of mile 23 I started feeling a little tired.  Then, I looked ahead and hello!!!  Family!!  Noli, Lily, Chris and Dad were waving and cheering like wet little puppies.  Noli then cried, again and tried to reach out to me as I jogged past (really starting to feel it!)  It was great to see them!  The gal running beside me at this time (she had my same shoes on, and she gave me a flat tire at mile .009) said "that is enough to make me cry" as if the last 24 miles in a freezing downpour weren't enough to bring tears.
The next two miles were. . .tough.   As.  Nails.  Seriously.  I have never hit 'the wall' until then.  I was hurting.  Everywhere.  I was cold.  My legs felt like they had weights and my quads were starting to speak to me in colorful tones.  My feet hurt, my legs hurt, my arms hurt (??) my head hurt, my hair hurt.  two miles seemed like an impossible feat.  I tried to talk myself down by saying that two miles is shorter than i ever run at a time.  You can slow down a little bit, just keep moving.  I knew enough to know that walking would be a horrible, horrible decision at this point.  I would start shaking again like at Mile 17 and I would probably just fall down.  Plus, it would take longer.  I kept thinking about how wonderful it was to feel pain for a reason.  To feel pain that meant something, that would go away.  I thought of all the people that had helped me get to this point and tried dedicating small efforts to them.  My parents, Dr. Vonk, Shelly, Chris, my kids, my friends, etc.  I thought about Ali (, a girl I have never met but have formed a (perhaps unhealthy?) connection with through her blog about running and Crohn's disease.  She has been very sick for a couple of months and I thought about how she would give anything to have a (now clearly popped) blister, sore quads and to be hobbling through the last 1.2 miles of a marathon.  Those thoughts did help.  It still was an indescribable mental battle, but they did help.   I still had a lot of dark thoughts like "this is stupid.  we are all stupid.  This is the stupidest, most selfish, childish activity I have done in a long time.  I am never, ever doing this again.  Who does this???"
As the runners turn onto Grant Street we could see the finish line, which is kind of rude, because it looked so so so far away.  I tried looking down and just "running" and then looking up after a while.  It did not appear any closer.  I played that game for about 3 hours.
Finally, I got close enough to see the clock:  4 hours 15 minutes.  Not my sub-4 but who cares?  It was so cold and so wet!  Not bad, I thought, not bad!  I was satisfied with my time and ready to find my family and move on.
As I stepped across the finish line I looked over to my right and saw another clock.  This one said 3:46. What is that?  I wondered.  Hmmm. . .that is weird.  A volunteer rushed up to me and grabbed me around the shoulders.  She walked with/carried/kept me upright as we past through the finish to get my medal, some chocolate milk, etc.  I was sort of delirious.  I didn't know what to do or where to go.  I wanted to be warm.  I was shaking uncontrollably.  I was so cold.  I heard Chris call out from behind the fence and while I knew how to get to him, I wandered around a bit longer trying to find a foil blanket and also because I was a little out of it.  He called out to me again a few minutes later and I walked around and out to him.  He took off his sweater and gave it to me and made me stand under a canopy.  My dad had gone to get the van.  The girls were crying.  It was pretty miserable.  It was not a happy, music-filled, let's-go-eat-free-stuff reunion.  It was survival.  I clearly was going into a hypothermic state, the girls were wet and cold, it was bad.
Then, I heard the announcer say "we have 3 more minutes for these runners to get their sub-4! Let's give it a big cheer for 3 more minutes!!"  Wait. . .what?  Sub-4?  I had come in at 4:16, right?  Then I realized I had looked at the half-marathon timer.  The half-marathon started 30 minutes before the full.  My time was actually more like 3:45 (chip time)!  What?????
I learned a lot from this race.  Not the least of which was if a chef gets personal and creates a meal for you under the assumption you are planning on a 3:45, you will run a 3:45 and it will be because of that magical, amazing salmon.  Rain or no rain.  Assuming your bowel habits are normal.  Thanks, Chef Hai.

I finished.  More importantly I finished the way I wanted to.  I didn't want to suffer through half the race but I also didn't want to leave anything in the tank.  I wanted it all out on the course.  I wanted to give it everything I had and stumble across the line.  That is what I did and even when I thought my time was 31 minutes slower than it actually was, I was totally happy with it because I knew I could not have run even 1 second faster.  There is not one part of the race I could have pushed harder.

I do have one regret and that is the finish party.  Everyone always told me the best part of a race (vs. just going by yourself to run a ridiculously and stupidly long way) is the after events.  Talking with the other racers, getting a massage, feeling like a rockstar. . .etc.  There was none of that.  People were cold and grouchy and went straight home.  I feel like missed out on the 'race' part.

Ali says on her blog that she hates recaps that don't have splits and don't talk about the numbers.  Sorry!  I don't run with a watch but here are my chip timed splits for anyone who cares (which is no one, Ali doesn't read my blog).

To 7 miles  1:01:05   Pace 8:43
To Half      1:53:47   Pace  8:37
To 18 mile 2:37:23   Pace  8:54
To 23.1     3:18:09   Pace   7:59
To finish   3:45:45    Pace  8:50

Would I do this again?


What would I do next time?

 I would carry less food.  I waaaaay overpacked!  Carrying extra weight for nothing?  Not a good racing strategy.  I just didn't want to rely on nasty Gu or Powerade.    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day six The Hardest Thing

My days are longer than most.  That is okay.  I am okay with that.

What is the hardest thing I have ever done?

Come to terms with the fact that I may never enjoy a pain-free day, a short jog, surf, hike or bike again.

And I did.  I came to terms with it.  I accepted it.

It may seem to you reading this now, knowing that I was able to come through and enjoy most of those things (pain-free day aside) that it wasn't that bad.  It was.  It might appear that because the 'worst of the worst' only lasted 18 months and then the second 'worst of the worst' only another 18 months after that it wasn't really that bad.  Let me assure you that it was that bad.

I put everything on the floor of my pergo-covered home.  Diapers, clothes, wipes, snacks, etc.  I would scoot around with Lily on my stomach.  During her naps I would lay down flat.  ALWAYS.  I would never clean or craft or anything else.  Often I would play with her while I lay on the couch.
Lily slept in our bed. . .until she was 3.  I couldn't get up to nurse her,  and by the time she was weaned she was so used to it and I was so so so so so tired all the time, it wasn't worth the effort to retrain her.

When Lily was 18 months old I was watching a friends kid.  I was (of course) sitting on the floor with the kids as they played.  The other child stepped across my outstretched legs and little baby Lily cried out in alarm:  "DON'T TOUCH MAMA KNEE!"

Sheets touching my knee would send me through the roof.

I couldn't drive for several weeks.  I could not move my foot from the gas to the brake.  Even after I could drive it was excruciating.

I took a stroller everywhere.  I had someone in Paia once tell me off for putting my kid in a stroller while I shopped.  I was a bad mom apparently.  My mothering guilt was already so sky-high, I never took Lily out in the stroller again.  I trained her to sit on my shoulder bag and cling to me like a baby koala.  The pain was out of this world.  Lucky she was light.

I had 2 different doctors on 2 different islands tell me I was a 'medical mystery'.  One gave me a Rx for extra-strength vicodin (I didn't know it came in extra strength either!) the other game me Rx for gabapentin.

I did craniosacral, acupuncture, rolfing, dieting, creams, vitamins, stretches, praying, MRI's, X-rays, and lots and lots of research.

I lived in Hawaii but I couldn't do anything.  Even when I made myself, I could barely enjoy it.
I was depressed.  I wish I would have taken something for that.  I think even the docs on Maui could have given me something to help with the depression.

I went through all the classic stages of grief, some took a long time, some not as long and I finally accepted the pain as part of my life.  I knew I would never run, climb, surf, play like I used to but it was okay.  I learned to sew and do a few other little crafts and I tried to find some other talents or interests to pursue.

 I am still not where I was before I had Lily.  I don't expect I ever will be.  I still have pain as a constant companion but he usually remembers to use his inside voice these days.  I have learned how to keep him quieter and I have learned to live my life with him as a cameo rather than a director.  I don't think that because I am running a marathon in 3 days it makes my past experience any less real.  I honestly believed, no I KNEW, I would never feel this good, and coming to that acceptance is the hardest thing I ever did.

A little note on running. . .even though no one cares. . .

I have been reading some running blogs lately and they often refer to runs as 'good' or 'bad' depending on a lot of factors like time, how they felt in general, speed, etc.  Sometimes I want to laugh, sometimes I want to roll my eyes and sometimes I want to shake them depending on a lot of factors on my part.  Mostly, though, I just count myself lucky because while I have had blood blisters, joint pain, sore muscles, seriously slow times and even thrown up along the way, I don't think I have ever had a bad run.

***Please note that I use the word 'run' is a very generous adjective for what I do when I lace up my Saucony's.  

I should also note that it is only because of the sincere caring and brilliant mind of Dr. Vonk coupled with fairly strong weekly injection (yeah for me!) and a daily pill along with a strict gluten-free diet (and a string of other small habits, I will list if anyone cares) that I am able to perform my life at the level that I do now.  My disease never went away, and it never will and because of that I am grateful that I had to accept it at it's worst.  I know it could go there again.  In fact, I am told it is likely that it will at some point.  But that is okay.  I have already accepted that full bore pain.  I have already accepted not doing all the physical things I love.  Any day that I CAN do those things is just a bonus.  I have a strange feeling this super good attitude might go out the window and I will have to repeat the whole 'acceptance' process again if things ever get really bad again.  I guess we will have to see.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Five Things

Day Five is "list five things that make you happiest right now".

1.  Good Food.  I love food.  Good food.  If I had more money I would classify myself as a 'foodie'.  I think about food all of the time.  During breakfast I think about what I am going to eat for lunch.  I love different food, new food, fine food, food in a box and with a fox and all of that.  My friend's birthday was yesterday.  We met at the park for lunch.  She bought lunch for everyone.  So did I.  We easily had $60-$70 worth of food at the park for 3 adult women (we brought snacks for the kids but the taragon shrimp, sweet potato and grapefruit salad was all ours! )  and we ate it all.  Seriously.  It started raining and gusty gales blew through freezing us and threatening our styrofoam encased treasures, but we stayed.  We stayed until the food was gone.  It wasn't even a question.

It was my favorite birthday of all time.  And it wasn't even mine.

2.  Kids.  My typical day consists of waking up early, being tired, not wanting to clean up for preschool, battling through, then during preschool finding this surge of energy and elation and calm all at the same time.  Those kids save me.  Yes, I spend a lot of nights watching reruns of Scrubs while cutting cardboard in my bed.  Yes, I always have paint under my fingernails.  Yes, the ratio of carpet to glitter has shifted to the latter.  But, I love it.  I love those kids.  I love babies.  I love my kids.  My babies.  They make me laugh everyday and cry a lot of them too.  Now that the weather is warm I love that the neighborhood kids congregate in my front yard while the mom's chat.  I love that they all call me Miss Meg.  I love that people call me to watch their kids.  I am grateful that they trust me.  Kids make me happy.
There is a little kindergarten boy with bright red hair who is not even in Lily's class who says 'hi' to me every morning "Hi Lily's mom!" he shouts.  If I don't answer right away he says "It's me, PRESTON!"  I have no idea who this kid is or how he knows me or my daughter but I love seeing him every morning.

3.  Running.
I realize that living in Utah it is a little cliche to love running.  Everyone is doing it.  Ragnar blah blah and all that.  But for me, it is a miracle.  I remember only 5 years ago not being able to walk down to my mailbox.  I remember laying around all day in intense pain.  I remember taking a stroller into church to use like a walker.  I laid in bed writing in pain, freezing because even the pressure of a sheet on my skin sent me through the roof.  I know I am not the only one with chronic pain.  I know that there are many, many people with far worse situations than mine.  But I also know that fact doesn't lessen my own experience.  To have come from cortisone and knee draining and vicodin to two weeks away from completing a marathon?  That is huge for me.  It is a miracle.  I owe my current life and well-being to many but mostly to Dr. Vonk.  He didn't think I was crazy, he didn't write me off with a scrip for narcotics.  He took the time (hours on the phone and in the office) and he figured it out.  I know I am not healed.  I still have pain.  I may have a flare again that is just as bad as before.  I know this.  But the question was 'what makes you happy right now' and the answer to that is 'I can run'.  I am not fast or pretty but I can do it and it feels good and that makes me so so happy (even at 4 am, which is often the only time I can go!)

I tried not to make my marathon too big of a deal.  I haven't even told too many people 'in my real life' that i am doing it.  But if I was to be honest.  It is a big deal.  Not in the grand scheme.  Tons of people have run marathons and longer distances and have done it much better than I ever could.  But to  me, in my life,  it is huge.  I had written off exercise completely.  Now I will run a freaking marathon and I am not ashamed to say I will be an emotional wreck at the end.  Probably because I had peed on myself and thrown up and my thighs had ignited a small fire between them, but also because of what the whole thing means.

4.  TV time.  I realize this makes me sound like a slob.  I am just being honest.  I look forward everyday to that time when I climb into bed to cuddle, cut construction paper houses, or even close my eyes and put on one of my favorite TV shows.  I live a full life.  I am busy.  I wake up at 4 am more often than not and go steady all day long.  At the end of the day (which is earlier for me than most.  I am NOT a night owl) I don't feel guilty about vegging a little to the sounds of a funny or interesting show.

5.  I know I already mentioned food but I really love it so much that I am using number five as a subcategory.
What makes me happy right now?  New cafes opening in my town.  We have had several open up in the past few months with the refab of main street.  None have been ones I would frequent (gluten heavy) but it still makes me happy to have food available to the masses.  Seriously, I am obsessed.  But then, last week, I noticed a little cafe tucked between a quilting shop and a gift shop.  I crept in with Noli to do a recon.  Gluten-free tamales?  check.  Flourless chocolate cake?  Yes.  Live music venue for local musicians?  WHAT!  FINALLY!  Ever since moving here Chris and I have lamented that there is no live music/cafe in town.  I gushed and gushed at the owner (young peruvian guy who probably thought I was hitting on him) and then yesterday (birthday picnic) I called and ordered almost everything off of the menu.  When I went to pick it up the owner says "Oh!  I remember you!" but he was smiling and I had a huge order so I think it was in a good way.

Adding a sixth. . .

Noli getting herself dressed right now.  She just came out of her room (I should write these at night) wearing (i am not exaggerating):  shorts with jammy pants ON TOP, two t-shirts topped with a sundress on backwards.  Nice.  That makes me happy.

This is a picture of me training for my marathon (in my mind's eye. . .with long hair. . .when I am black).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 4 So appropriate for my mood, today.

It turns out Day Four is

List Five Things You Would Tell Your 16 Year Old Self

Ha ha. . .since i am feeling about 14 today. . .this is perfect.

1.  It is okay to like your own thing.  This goes for music, art, books, boys, friends and movies.  I was a follower, which is not bad, but it didn't really let me be me.  It took me several years into college before I really started forming original opinions about things.

2.  Take every opportunity to try something new.

3.  Keep trying even if it is hard.  I tend to not keep working at something if I don't see at least a glimmer of beginner's luck.  Even now.

4.  Be more involved with your siblings.  You will regret not being a better sister.

5.  Help your mom more.  Be nice to her.  You are not smarter than she is.  Seriously.

Going off-script

It was a tough day at the races.

You need thick skin to work with teens.

Erin, and any other high school teacher who may stumble upon this, my hat goes off to you (again, and for so many reasons).

How is it that someone so young can fill me with self-doubt even though I know I am giving all I can and putting forth all I have?

Yeeesh, I feel like I am back in seventh grade.  It is just as bad this time around.