Thursday, May 29, 2014


Imagine for a minute that you are a very dedicated recreational runner.  You wake up at Oh-dark thirty to run.  You run in all weather.  When other people bow out because of rain, you put on the running shoes that are dedicated to rainy days.  You fit your running into your schedule, or maybe, you schedule your life around your run.  

Whichever it is, running is something that you use as part as your identity, and, when out at parties or social events, if people ask what you do, you struggle between your occupation and the statement, “I’m a runner”.

That is me. 

I love my run.  I have blogged about it, written about in magazines, studied it in the wealth of information available in Pubmed, and written an 18 page paper about it in my recent endeavor to obtain a Bachelors degree.  I volunteer.  I lead.  I coach.  I sit on the sidelines during injury and recover, and then I build back to my run when I can.

My run is part of my being.  I am because I run.

Last spring my being was struck down with pneumonia and other strange illnesses.  It was an entire year ago.  I did rounds of antibiotics, steroids, ER visits, breathing treatments, and inhalers.  I was assured by my primary care physician that in a few months I would be back to the health of a normal human, and after a few more months I would be back on the run like the “old days”.
A year after I was told that, I was not “back”.

When I run, I do not have enough air to be comfortable.

So, I sat down and talked with a friend who is a medical Doctor, and what she said really startled me.  I had one of those “Oh shit.  Is this really my life?” moments.  All my ideas of how my run and I would continue into our old age were completely false.  My dreams of happily ever after were dashed, and I felt my identity slowly deflating like a leaking balloon.  After our conversation I went to my Doctor for a second opinion.

That was a bit like choosing to pay a $25 co-pay to get kicked in the face on a Tuesday morning.

My physician started out using big medical terms that I was only a little familiar with, like alveoli and atelectasis.  By the end of the conversation we had moved into very familiar words like scar tissue and disappointment.  

I was a little angry. 

That bitch.  How dare she!  Doesn’t she know that I am a runner?

“No one is going to tell me I will never get my full lung function back.  I will prove her wrong.”  So I pushed myself into some speed work and hill training.  I obsessed over the splits in my watch, willing them to get faster each week.  They didn’t.

From there, I moved into denial.  “If I keep training, I can get it back.  If I try a new medication, the inflammation will go away.  If I race a 5K.  If I....” 

So, I kept training, and the people I run with ran with me.  They listened to the sounds of my airway narrowing as we ran.  They heard me struggle.  They looped back to pick me up like the good running partners they are, but they could not help me run faster.  

My lactic threshold is low when I run.  I can't clear the acid from my body via my respiratory system, so I become acidic fast.  I can't get enough oxygen into my cells to fuel them, so I become acidic fast.  

Together this is bad.

The struggling, the heaviness of my breath, the pain in my accessory muscles all remained.  I even gave up foods that cause inflammation, to run faster.  There are those who would call that bargaining.

Currently I’m hovering between acceptance and depression.  My identity as a runner has always been tied to my ability to get better.  I knew that all I had to do was improve by XYZ amount of time over XYZ number of years, and I would be a Boston Qualifier.  I have won a few races, but that wasn’t where the glory is for me.  I wanted to shave about 23 seconds off my 5K, 38 seconds off my 8K, and 65 seconds off my 10K.  I always believed that if I trained well, ate smart, and was focused on realistic goals, I could do it.

Only, I am being told that I need to accept that not only might that never happen, I may never even match those personal bests again.  I have likely peaked.

So why do all this if I can’t ever achieve my goals?

Why get up at four-something in the morning to meet my running group?  Why have three pairs of shoes floating around the house at all times incase of rain or trail running?  What am I ever going to get out of this, if I can’t get faster?

Still, this morning, I got up at four-something.  I fumbled around in the dark for a pair of pink Brooks and a running skirt.  It was so humid that my freakishly amazing t-shirt stuck to my damp skin as soon as I pulled it on.  I left my watch sitting on my dresser.  I don’t need it.  There will be no examining splits or data, because if I’m never going to get faster, I don’t need to worry about that right now.  I need to be present in the body that I have, and be thankful for all it does for me.

So, today could not be about speed.  Todays run was about putting in the miles for my fall marathon.  I don’t know how to train without a “Break 4 hours” goal, but for the moment, I am just going to lay down the miles the best way I can, and savor the run.

And get a third opinion.  Just in case.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

That Time

Remember that time I graduated from Nursing School Today?



Friday, May 16, 2014

Me too!

"Mom, don't forget to sign me up for my first Triathlon."

Huh?  What?

"Yeah.  I want to do it.  You said I could."


And that just happened Tuesday.  So B'nut is racing in her first Triathlon this weekend.  She's nervous.  I'm nervous.  It's a lot of nervousness here.  I'll post a race re-cap after the event tomorrow (Saturday, 5/17).

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Things We Do

Without going into too much detail, The Good Dr had a Bad Cycling Weekend two weekends ago.  It just wasn't his day.  We all know what that's about.  Anyone who's ever participated in an athletic event knows that there are those days that just aren't your day.  It doesn't mean you are less than amazing, it just means you may have had a less than amazing day.

So when The Good Dr was beat up by his bike, I suggested that he do something completely crazy like go for a bike ride to shake it off.

True story.

Not only that, I suggested he go for a nice reasonable distance like 100 miles.  "No problem, you've got this".  Ride from Richmond to Williamsburg and back.


Now, the ironic thing about this is that I convinced him that this was a good idea because I said I would go with him all the way.  For the whole 100 miles.

Never mind that I had only ridden a season long ride of 57 miles, and that I was possibly not trained enough to ride 100 miles.
about 1/2 way and we were still having FUN with "Fran",
"Whit", "Bueller? Bueller?" and "Birch".

Thus became the day that I decided to answer the question of "How much training does a person need to ride a Century?" and also, "Where does 'mental toughness vs the wall' reach the point of futility?"

It was a stellar day on Saturday.  Beautiful weather - overcast and warm, but not blistering hot.

We connected with some folks and knocked out a seriously fun 56 or so miles complete with laughs, rest stops, donuts and blue sports drink.

Around 57ish or so, a piece of lawn debris flew off a mower and got in my eye, so I was riding with one eye ball squeezed shut.

My (cough) *valentine* hurt. My eye hurt.  My leg was cramping.  My stomach was rolling.  I had chills and goosebumps.

It was as though the WHEELS FELL OFF THE WAGON.

I realized that I was DOWN on liquid.

Physically my body was trying to SHUT DOWN, and my mind was TOTALLY ON BOARD with that idea, it was the best idea I had EVER HAD, and if I kept riding, my brain kept insisting that BAD THINGS WOULD HAPPEN.

I had to stop and pour water in my eye at the next rest stop until the piece of debris was out (it was a piece of a leaf - OUCH).  When that was resolved, I sat down and sipped on some blue liquid and took inventory.

It's 106 miles to Chicago.... We've got a full a tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we are wearing sunglasses". 

My options...

I could lay down in the dirt and take a nap.

I could ride about 12mph for about 9 miles to the next rest stop and see if I sipped liquid the whole way if that would return me to homeostasis.

Or I could sit on my a** and rest for about 15-20 minutes and see if sipping on blue liquid would return me to homeostasis.

Hit it.

I said to Scott, "I have this friend who did a tri a few years ago, and even when she was falling apart, she just kept going.  I'm going to need to Dash from here to the next water stop.  If I'm still completely in bad shape, I will consider getting a ride back on the SAG wagon."

I hopped on my bike (read: awkwardly crawled onto the bike while praying that no one was looking)
Took yet another salt tablet.
Ate a GU even thought I didn't want to.
And pedaled.

I knew in order to finish this event in time, I was going to need to PULL THIS TOGETHER.  And, there were forecast thunderstorms coming.  We were going to need to race the weather.  Only I couldn't make my legs move.
The storms over Rocketts Landing


So, I Dash'd to the next stop.  And it wasn't speedy, but it was functional.  We rolled about 14mph.

It was a long 9 miles.  But I sipped the entire way.  In all, about 40 oz of salted sugar water (honest to god, that's what the blue stuff started tasting like) in those short miles.

At the next stop, I really did suddenly feel better.  "OK, I'm ready".

We Finished!
We hopped out on the road.  It wasn't blistering.  The Good Dr was patient and pulled me or let me pull as needed.

A pace line came up beside us, and as the last cyclist was parallel to me, I geared up and stepped on the pace.  A few minutes later, we were cruising around 18mph with a group.

I just thought, "I need to borrow some of their energy for a few minutes".  And that's what we did.

At the next stop we refilled our bottles quickly, and jumped on a line with a few more strangers.  And cruised back to our car, riding the last few alone.

It was nice, honestly, to ride those last few miles with The Good Dr.

He was strong, and I knew he didn't regret riding 100 miles.  I could tell.

The Celebratory Dinner
After we finished and snacked, a HUGE thunderstorm was eminent on the horizon, so we went home, showered, and went to a "Nursing School is Finally Finished and I rode 100 miles today on my Bike" Celebratory Dinner.

I'd do Cap to Cap next year.  The course was 100 times more wonderful than the Tour De Richmond course, and all in all, it was a great time... except for the part where I wanted to take a dirt nap, but those are the details we tend to forget as soon as the event is over.

~savor the ride, respect the distance~