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?


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