I Got 99 Problems and the Marathon (Sadly) Ain’t One

On my birthday I ran a half marathon that felt great. Half trail, half road, plenty of hills and humidity, and I still managed to PR. After stretching, rehydrating, and foam rolling a bit, I hopped in the shower and instantly felt myself blacking out. I crouched down on the shower floor, the water rushing over me, trying not to pass out. I was able to climb out and wrap myself in a towel while my husband helped me to the couch. I laid down and chomped a banana, thinking this was a blood sugar kinda thing after such a long run. That’s when my husband told me that my lips had turned blue. They stayed blue for the next three or so hours, even though I felt fine.  Freaky.

Two weeks later, I was out on another long run per my marathon training schedule, a 14-miler, my longest run to date.  It was tough.  Very tough.  My muscles started cramping up around mile 8 and I really struggled to push through those last 6 miles, most of which were uphill to home.  But I was never short of breath or lightheaded or struggling beyond the cramped muscles issue.  So why, oh why, did my lips turn blue AGAIN?  Same story — I finish the run, I stretch and cool down normally, BAM!  My lips are the color of that spoiled child who became a blueberry in Willy Wonka. Naturally, I’m Officially Freaked Out, so a series of visits to various doctors follows.  Nobody has a clue what’s going on, but I’m given the all-clear to keep running as it doesn’t *seem* to be cardiac-related.  

This past weekend I joined a group of local women runners for another 14-miler.  Determined to shake this thing and get over my fear of dying during the marathon, I run the damn 14 miles.  And I ran it well!  No cramping until the 12th mile, which was a big improvement.  And I loved the camaraderie and conversation that came with running in a group.  It really made the miles fly by.  So I get in my car, chug a Vega Recovery Accelerator drink, sit for a bit to make sure nothing funky’s going on, and start to drive away after a few minutes or so.  Not a half-mile down the road and I start to black out behind the wheel.  I immediately pull over into a bank parking lot where some very nice gentlemen called paramedics.  And my lips?  Blue as a Crayola marker (a blue one, obviously).

A very short, expensive ambulance ride to the ER, plus a CT scan and x-ray of my chest got me no answers (but a shit-ton of medical bills.  I’ll be avoiding the mailbox for a while). 

 

Hospital sadface.  You can still see the bluish tinge on my lips here, though it had faded considerably.

Hospital sadface. You can still see the bluish tinge on my lips here, though it had faded considerably.

The one thing I did learn?  I need to stop running long distances.  Ironically/blessedly, my ER doc was a runner and she totally empathized with my plight.  We had a spirited debate over Hokas (which I was wearing under my hospital gown) versus Newtons (her shoe of choice).  But she told me, without a doubt, that I should quit marathon training.  Whether it’s cardiac-related or not, there is an obvious blood oxygen deprivation thing happening when I push myself for too long.  

It wasn't bad enough she had to say it out loud; she put it on paper, too.

It wasn’t bad enough she had to say it out loud; she put it on paper, too.

I sold my bib, the bib I won in a lottery of a gagillion applicants trying to win a spot in one of the country’s greatest marathons.  I sold my dream.  Got rid of it.  I have more tests in the coming weeks (and hopefully answers) to try to diagnose whatever this problem is.  But as frightened as I am that something is wrong with me, and as correct as well-meaning people are who say that my health is more important than a race, I am still devastated and mourning the loss of achieving my goal.

Once again, I’ve set out to do something that my body simply won’t let me do.  It’s pretty damn hard not to be pissed off about that. About two attempted unmedicated births that each ended with all kinds of interventions that I wanted to avoid.  It doesn’t matter WHY I wanted a natural birth or WHY I wanted to run a marathon.  It matters that I tried and ultimately couldn’t do it. 

So I’m sitting with a lot of ugly feelings these days and my anxiety is an eleven on a scale of 1-10.  And the only thing I can think of doing to fix these feelings is a nice, long run.  Oh, right…

Don't they look so sad and lonely?

Don’t they look so sad and lonely?

A Better Day

So I’m a bit better today.  I still haven’t made a decision about the marathon because I want to attempt one more long run this weekend — a 14-miler — and see how it makes me feel.  I also want to speak with my therapist, who I’ve not seen in many months but have made an appointment with next week.  She’s usually pretty good at talking me out of my “I’m gonna die” nonsense.

That’s my tentative plan for now, but here’s a recap of my good day and all the things that boosted my happy factor:

Water!

Water!

I drank a LOT.  No, not that kind of drinking.  I hydrated with good old fashioned H2O from sunrise to sunset.  I’m pretty sure I’m not drinking as much water as I should be considering my training load, so I’m aiming to fix that.

I ate whole, fresh, delicious, nutritious foods all day.  Early apples and peaches from the nearby orchard, carrots, banana with nut butter, and this amazing gazpacho that I threw together in the food processor using tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden:

My delicious gazpacho, to which I added a slice of gluten-free bread that I'd toasted and cubed into "croutons."

My delicious gazpacho, to which I added a slice of gluten-free bread that I’d toasted and cubed into “croutons.”

And dinner?  A full plate of pastured pork sausage and eggs, wilted spinach, and a pile of locally-made curry sauerkraut.

This meal was exactly what I needed after a nearly 90-minute brick workout.

This meal was exactly what I needed after a nearly 90-minute brick workout.

I got all of my workouts done from my training calendar — my PiYo DVD and a bike/run brick (a 50-minute bike ride followed immediately by a 30-minute run.  It’s called a “brick” because that’s exactly what your legs feel like when you try to run after cycling.  Oy.).

I am notorious for sucking at yoga, so don't judge me here.  In the middle of a kick-through during PiYo.

I am notorious for sucking at yoga, so don’t judge me here. In the middle of a kick-through during PiYo.

Most importantly, I connected with my children.  We took a trip to the nearby playground and library for some playtime this afternoon.  It’s sometimes easy to forget, when you’re a stay-at-home-parent, that THEY are the most important thing, the thing that demands your immediate attention.  Not the dishes in the sink, or the laundry, or a workout, or even your own emotions and problems.  Them first.  You next.  Keeping my focus on my kids grounds me.  It reminds me why I’m doing all of this in the first place — to model healthy habits, and to keep myself happy and sane.  Because we all know that happy mama = happy family.

These kids can be a ton of fun to hang out with sometimes.  I love them so.

These kids can be a ton of fun to hang out with sometimes. I love them so.

So I’ll keep up this dance that I’m doing with the marathon and with my mental wellness — two steps forward, one step back — a bit longer and see where it leads me.  I’ve no idea what will happen nine weeks from now on race day.  I just know that today was a good one, and that’s all that matters for now.

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Panic Mode

I’m typing this in the dark, on my mobile, sinking into the hangover that has followed yet another panic attack. They’ve been coming often lately. And because I’m on my phone and don’t care to type out a long and rambling entry with just one index finger, I’ll keep this brief.

I don’t think I can do the marathon. And I want to drop out.

My anxiety gets in the way of all sorts of otherwise happy and fun stuff that I want to do. I may have to add the Marine Corps Marathon to that list.

I’ve been having anxiety before my long runs, so much now that I’ve skipped my last two. I no longer love running. It’s a source of stress, not a stress release. That’s a bad thing.

I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to die during the marathon. I’m so, so afraid of that. Skipping my training runs, thinking of quitting the race and letting my body fail me yet again (we’re not gonna get into Birth #1 and Birth #2 here because my index finger is already tired of typing and I swore this’d be short, but trust me, there’s a history there of me hating my body for being incapable of doing stuff that I set out to do), is getting to me. It’s depressing me. I feel like I’ve left that positive, happy bubble that fitness had built for me. That bubble used to protect me from the nightly panic attacks and self-doubt, but I’m not in that space these days. I’m back to stress eating, and even spells of binge eating. I’ve gained five pounds and my GERD and IBS are both back.

I want to do the marathon, I do. But maybe not for the right reasons. I’m so scared of hating myself if I quit, and I’m so scared of continuing down this path of amped-up anxiety that the race is causing me. I honestly don’t know what to do, but I need to decide soon because the deadline to sell and transfer my bib is August 31, just eleven days away. Tick, tock.

“TRI”al and Error

I kind of don’t know where to begin this post. I left off with what was supposed to be the first in a series of three posts related to my weight loss journey, but that was so long ago and motherhood has given me the attention span of a squirr–

Hey! What’s that over there!

Sorry. Got distracted. Anyway. The topic of triathlon is a huge one for me, so this post is going to barely scratch the surface in bringing you up to speed on how I got from there to… wherever it is that I am right now.

I set four fitness goals for myself at the beginning of 2014: 1) Do a pull-up; 2) Run a 25:00 5K (I actually ran it in 24 minutes and change! Boo yah!); 3) Run a marathon; and 4) Do a triathlon. What I should have done was set a fifth goal to include planting and harvesting a money tree in order to purchase all goods and materials required to complete a triathlon. That would have made more sense.

1/4 goals done.  Not bad.

1/4 goals done. Not bad.

In truth, I’ve been kicking around the idea of triathlon for about a year now. While training for my half marathon last year, I got bit by the endurance junkie bug and started to wonder just how far I’d be able to push myself. At the time, a marathon seemed out of the question (hell, I’m training for one right now and it still seems out of the question). Triathlon, the idea of competing in three disciplines in one race, was intriguing. I figured once I got through the Half I’d get myself a $200-or-so bike and start tri-ing it out [Seriously. The “Tri” puns are abundant (see blog post title)].

I got laughed at when I asked people to recommend a $200 road bike. So I upped it to $500… and then I upped it some more… and then, I saved a crap ton of money and begged for my husband’s blessing since we’re a paycheck-to-paycheck kinda family; and while I was saving and begging, I was also researching. Tirelessly. Hours and hours of teaching myself about bikes and derailleurs and cassette sizes and clipless pedal systems. I eventually decided on a Terry Tailwind. It had some pretty great mid-level features for an entry-level price, and I was especially drawn to the fact that Terry was the first bicycle company for women, by women. In fact, I even exchanged emails with Georgena Terry herself during the process. Unfortunately, the current Terry models will be the last ones sold as Georgena is exclusively designing and selling a higher end line of custom bikes now under her Georgena Terry label, so my Tailwind is among the last of its kind. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Anyway, the buying process was somewhat painful. I originally bought the wrong size, had to wait several weeks for a new size to be ordered, and then had to wait a few more weeks for the right clipless pedals to get delivered (because, in spite of my research, I’d definitely chosen the wrong type for the shoes I had. Oops.)

This is Grizelda, whose name means "woman warrior" according to some translations; as well as "patient woman" to others.  Training is as much about patience as it is about being a warrior, so the name fit perfectly.  Nickname: "The Griz."

This is Grizelda, whose name means “woman warrior” according to some translations; as well as “patient woman” according to others. Training is as much about patience as it is about being a warrior, so the name fit perfectly. Nickname: “The Griz.”

Finally – finally! – I got her out on the road. Er, the parking lot at the elementary school. I practiced clipping in and out of the pedals over and over and over. I fell. More than once. I got banged up and bruised pretty good. And I didn’t quit, even though I really freaking wanted to.

I did a few rides in that parking lot, up and down the hills, circling around the building. Soon, I did a few rides in the neighborhoods around the park near my parents’ house while they watched the kiddos. And this past weekend I did my first ever “real” road ride, with cars whizzing by me and everything. It was exhilarating and terrifying and fantastic. I’m totally hooked.

Woohoo!  I look legit, yes?

Woohoo! I look legit, yes?

As for the other two sports – the swim and the run – I’m working on those, too. I’ve been getting my swims in at the nearby lake, though it’s hard to tell how well I’m actually doing since I have no idea what my distance is beyond estimating. My runs are as frequent as ever, and my legs are getting a bit tender these days as I ramp up my mileage in my marathon training.

My tri kit.  This is the outfit I'll compete in during the Sprint Tri in September.  Finding a non-hideous tri kit was not easy.

My tri kit. This is the outfit I’ll compete in during the Sprint Tri in September. Finding a non-hideous tri kit was not easy.

On that note, I’d like to publicly state that I’ll never, ever train for both a marathon AND a triathlon ever again. Never ever ever. And most likely no more marathons either. This is a bucket list item only. I’m eager to get back to enjoying my runs instead of feeling like they’re a chore.

On a trail in the Catoctin mountains running a virtual Half on my birthday.

On a trail in the Catoctin mountains running a virtual Half on my birthday.

But what’s done is done. I’m registered for the Marine Corps Marathon in October, and the YMCA Frederick Women’s Sprint Triathlon in September. No turning back now, especially since I’ve sunk a crap ton of money into these endeavors.

So that’s the update. I eat, sleep, and breathe the swim, bike, run. Oh, and PiYo! I’ll write about that one later. That program snuck up on me as I didn’t expect to like it much. Anyway, I will be doing my very best to keep up with the blog from here on out. Writing holds me accountable for these crazy goals of mine and gives me a creative outlet to vent about the process.

Be well, friends.