Thursday, March 18, 2010

Call of Nature Wreaks Havoc on Boston Plans

Today, I'm going to tell you the story of what I've been doing on my unplanned running hiatus and what that's going to mean to me for Boston. May I suggest this entry is not for the feint of heart. If you are disturbed by bodily fluids or the description of them, you might want to go check out someone else's cool running blog, like my two new favorites runwestchester or Law of Inertia where your time will be better spent. Tune in next week when I plan to begin my crawl back to running.

Saturday, 7 AM, I noted some abdominal pain before my run. But, I didn't worry about it too much, and I cranked out my 14 mile workout anyway. I suffered through more pain than I'd like to admit for the last two miles, but it was tolerable in a way that I wasn't going to quit. When I finished I got caught in the cold rain (38F) and wind, became unusually chilled and started shivering. I had to rush my son to the dentist, so didn't get a chance to do anything other than throw on dry clothes for a couple of hours.

When I got home and showered, I began to feel achy; my skin hurt to touch, and my temperature rang in at 102F. I spent the next 30 hours shivering, practicing 10m sprints to the bathroom to sit or kneel, depending on the prioritized urgency, and back down to the floor by the fire (the bed was at a dizzying height). My abdomen wrung itself painfully, and I decided an alien had somehow burrowed inside. I considered naming it. I did not sleep.

By Sunday evening, I was unceremoniously expelled from the house and driven to the ER. Within five minutes, I was a great patient, having puked, given an impromptu stool sample, checked in with a 102 fever and already given up more traditional urine and blood samples. Before too long, they gave me something in the i.v. to sedate the alien living within me, and as if hit with a tranquilizer dart--he stopped writhing before the injection was even finished. He slept for the next eight hours. Eventually, I was told I had the stomach virus that was going around, go home, drink fluids, sign here____, here____ and here____; there's the door.

I didn't sleep much, and within a couple of hours Mr. Alien woke up. As did the fever and all of the other fun involuntary expulsions of fluid. All night long. It was just a virus. I would eventually stop this and get better. But the pain increased its tremor. At last, I did what any strong willed runner and Jack Bauer fan would do. I curled up into a fetal position and screamed in agony. For five hours. My kids came up and shut my door.

Five hours came and went; I ran to the bathroom no less than thirty times. So much for "you'll feel better soon." And then things were about to change dramatically. This time, I went, and eased myself up after emptying my bowels yet AGAIN, and the bowl was filled with blood. Finally! A symptom commensurate with my pain! Unfamiliar with such a shocking symptom (it definitely wasn't on the "get better soon" list), I thought I'm probably going to die.

I tried to call my doctor, but it was 11:45 AM. They were out to lunch and wouldn't return until 1 PM. I laid down and cried. Summoned by the alien daemon in my bowels, I got up again. And more blood. Finally got through to the doctor on call who suggested I either come in "maybe it's hemorrhoids from all that activity down there," or go to the ER again. I'm like, seriously!? Maybe he wasn't listening. This was nothing BUT blood. And a lot of it. I went to the ER.

Most of what happened next I really don't remember, but the next memory I do have is a 4th year medical student (whom I'd met), a doctor (whom I had not met), and two nurses came in. They all looked at me, "Well, the good news is, your results are in from the samples we took last night. You have campylobacter, and it's turned to dysentery." And then the ER doc listens carefully to my gut, chuckles and exclaims, "Wow, listen to those guys banging around in there." So, it wasn't an alien. It was alienS.

More IV drugs, some good ones this time.. and I faded in and out. Everyone left me alone with the lights out. Somehow they knew I wouldn't be needing company. My aliens were quieted. Angels fluttered, harps strummed. I was pain free for hours. Then, it was time to go home.

The good news was, I really wasn't in pain anymore (this was controlled by antispasmodic drugs). The bad news was, I was losing a lot of blood. I actually fell asleep for the longest period in this ordeal, about three hours, and woke up with the distinct sensation of feeling wet. I looked down. Oh, yeah, you betcha. I was soaked in blood. I had fallen asleep on my back, and it just dripped out for three hours. Nothing like a little internal bleeding to keep things interesting.

At that point, having already passed blood well over a dozen times (and who knows how many millions of aliens) in the previous six hours, I thought dying was a real possibility. I got up, put my sheets in the washer and began to tidy the bedroom. If i was going to die, my bedroom would not be embarrassingly messy. When you call 9-1-1 around here, the entire local city government comes by land and by boat and they all cram into your bedroom, no matter how tiny (yes, i know this from personal experience, though not for myself, fortunately).

I continued to "pass blood," which was my new pseudo medical term that had replaced "bowel movement" and "diarrhea." Nothing solid had made it past my stomach in four days. I was actually giving up hope. I didn't want to go back to the ER, I wanted to talk about blood and aliens in my belly and nothing else. I wanted someone tell me this was going to end. At 4 AM I talk to the Dr, and I am to get an early morning appointment (really? have you tried calling to get an appointment at 9 AM when the phones open?).

My doctor listens to the whole story. And proceeds to say, "Well, after some more blood work, we're going to give you a rectal to see if there's any blood in there." Ummmm WTH?! Are you KIDDING me? Did you just listen to ANYTHING I said? He got a fax of all my records from the hospital and proceeded to tell me everything I already knew and told him. Oh brother. Apparently you only needed to read and not listen to graduate from medical school where he went.

And then suddenly, twelve hours later, without warning… the bleeding stopped. I realized I was, in fact, going to live. The aliens had officially lost. And I began to think about what was next. That next is getting ready for Boston. Whatever that meant now.

Originally, I'd hoped that Boston would be a near PR race (after all, I was fitter than I was for Chicago, but of course, the hills make it much tougher). But now with only four weeks to go--and having missed a week already--I know that's no longer on the menu. I will not be capable of any even moderate workouts before the race.

It's one of the more intriguing things about the marathon. To do spectacularly well for yourself, everything must come together. The weather, the course, the travel, your health, your training, your job, your family. And all over time. It is an investment, as this was for me. I'd given up a lot to do my very best in Boston this year. And simply qualifying for Boston was two serious years in the making; more than that of dreaming.

But, while the high ace may have slipped from my hands, I still have other cards I can choose. One of them is to run Boston with significantly curtailed goals. I need to recover and be 100 percent healthy most importantly. But, I can still go out and cruise to a comfy four plus hours.. or whatever I am capable of doing that day. And it's not that I am not taking the marathon seriously. It will be simply the best I can do under the last minute circumstances I am given.

Boston is my celebration race. I will ensure I go and relish the moment for all its worth. I do deserve to be there; I will finish proudly. I qualified handily. I did put in my time for this race. But, as it happens, this year did not come together for me through no fault of my own. Winning does not happen in just one event, but it's in being a winner, and doing what a winner does even when thrown a curve ball. There's always next year, and there's also Chicago in the fall. Boston this year will simply be enjoyed. And I will feel good about it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

20 Miles in The Mud

You have to read yesterday's Buckeyeoutdoors entry entry to fully appreciate what it was like to turn my alarm off at 5:45 AM, roll over to the side of the bed and stand up. I was so out of it, my alarm had actually reached the second stage of urgent beeping. I'd have rolled over and gone back to sleep, but I promised to meet Travis, so somehow, I found the direction of up--which was notably against the pull of gravity and my beckoning pillow.

I stood testily. Everything hurt. Things I didn't even know I'd hurt yesterday complained. I had scratches and deep bruises on my arm I'd never noticed yesterday. My back, neck and shoulders groaned in rhythm. I felt like I'd been in a car wreck. And oh yes, my poor right glute (point of most severe impact) was very, very unhappy. I even had a bruise on my left side. No matter. I would run today. Tempted to take some Ibuprofen or Tylenol to ease my aches, I instead decided it was best to take the run undiluted. Those things could wait.

We planned this in four-mile legs, leaving my car in one spot and driving Travis' car to another location four miles away. He would run four of the segments, finishing at his car, and I would run five. Lucky for me, Travis had a 50K in his legs from six days ago, so that slowed him down.

Temps at the start were 39F, and we took off. The first mile was slow, 9-ish and my glute complained rather loudly. I wondered how I would do nineteen more of these. I did not feel great for the first leg, and was happy to take a Gatorade break and went ahead and took a gel. Sixteen more miles to go. Thank goodness our pace naturally quickened, although not where I wanted it to be. The trail was notably muddy, and was at times difficult to run due to deep bike tire grooves and extremely sloppy segments. (The picture isn't of LBTT, but a reasonable facsimile of the muddiness and the trail.)

The second leg was my best leg, and the only time I can claim that I felt really good on this run. My glute had quieted down a bit; and my other glute was aching a little in harmony... so it was a nice balance. We noticed some wind coming up this way, nothing terrible, but enough to recall a particular run some months back on the same trail when it was very windy. Right before we finished the eighth mile, a man was walking his smallish dog on the trail without a leash, and it ran after me and jumped on me, putting muddy pawprints all the way up to my chest. Glad it wasn't barking or biting, but seriously. Ever heard of a leash?

The third leg was the worst for me. I was in the middle of my run, and knew I still had two more legs to go. Oddly, the wind shifted, and we both noted outloud, "Weren't we running into the wind going the opposite direction last time?"

At last the final leg for Travis, and the penultimate one for me as we turned around. At least the wind stayed shifted, and this was an easier leg. I felt the mileage, knew this wasn't going to be my best 20-miler ever, but still it was going to be solid enough. There were no real issues, and I would finish just fine. Interestingly, the trail seemed to get sloppier and muddier with each pass. Maybe because of the additional melting that was going on, or maybe because of the heavy foot and bike traffic. Travis kicked it in with a 7:20 for the sixteenth mile, and I ran an 8:11. Thanks, Travis--my run sucked less because I had company for most of it.

My final leg, now solo, was about running back into the wind, which seemed to be picking up, slogging through more mud and feeling excessively warm as the sun came out from behind a curtain of clouds for the first time all morning. I imagined myself as a plant initiating photosynthesis, deriving energy from mere sunlight. I plugged in my iPod, and really didn't care about pace, I just wanted to finish. Nothing hurt, but everything hurt in the way only a runner on a long run can understand. I'd planned well, I had no rubs or concerns. My energy wasn't a problem, other than feeling somewhat blah for the whole run--but it was adequate. The effort seemed a bit harder than it should have, and the mud piled up on my shoes and the back of my legs. There were a few people ahead of me from other groups on this last section, and I spent my time in this leg planning to pass each of them and enjoying picking them off one by one. It was the only amusement I had. My legs felt strong. Eventually, it was over. As I got in my car, the temperature read 61 F, which is a very quick warm up for three hours--no wonder I was feeling hot! The best news of all, is Spring is nearly here.