Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Suicide Rate Among Vets Rising

Veterans appear to be at higher risk of suicide leading the military to seek help from NIMH to research the problem. The article states the Army cannot pinpoint the cause or reason for many of its soldiers suicides. Those of us with underlying mental illness know too well there doesn't have to be a reason.

My first suicide attempt was planned for a time when my life would appear great, no trauma or stress immediately preceded it. In fact, the people around me probably thought I was feeling better. I was. I was relieved it would be over soon.

I imagine having depression or bipolar disorder in the military would be extremely difficult. I imagine many struggling soldiers keep their thoughts and feelings secret, and therefore don't receive proper treatment. I'm glad the Army has stepped forward to initiate such an important study, but I also hope they institute stigma-busting education so their soldiers will feel free to seek necessary treatment. Remember, the number one cause of suicide is untreated depression!

The following article appeared in the NY Times:

Army and Agency Will Study Rising Suicide Rate Among Soldiers

Published: October 29, 2008

Conceding it needed outside help in figuring out why the suicide rate among service members was rising, the Army announced plans on Wednesday to collaborate with the National Institute of Mental Health in an ambitious five-year project to identify the causes and risk factors of suicide.
The Army will make thousands of soldiers available to researchers for interviews and will provide access to its many databases, including those with medical, personnel, criminal and deployment histories. Researchers will draw from a cross section of the Army and will include soldiers who have just joined the service or are training for war and those who have returned from war.
Rather than wait until the study is completed, the National Institute of Mental Health will provide the Army with new information as researchers find it in the hopes of preventing soldier suicides.
Peter Geren, the secretary of the Army, described the five-year, $50 million study as a “landmark undertaking” modeled after the Framingham Heart Study. That influential study looked at heart health over a long period of time among a large group of participants who had not yet developed symptoms or suffered a heart attack.
“The goal is to build resiliency and to prevent suicide,” said Mr. Geren, who approached the National Institute of Mental Health with the idea to partner on the project.
Suicides in the Army have been climbing since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2007, 115 soldiers killed themselves, a rate of 18.1 per 100,000 people, or 1 percent lower than the civilian rate.
Of the 115, 36 soldiers killed themselves while deployed overseas, 50 had deployed at some point before the act and returned, and 29 had never deployed. Only a fraction had a prior diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The pace of suicides by soldiers in 2008 could eclipse last year’s. As of August, the number stood at 62 confirmed cases in the Army. An additional 31 deaths appear to be suicides and are under investigation.
Dr. S. Ward Cassells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the Army was familiar with the most common triggers: marital or relationship problems, poor job performance, feelings of failure on the battlefield and alcohol or drug abuse. Yet, in half the cases, Dr. Cassells said, the Army cannot figure out why the suicide occurred.
“We’ve reached a point where we do need some outside help,” Dr. Cassells said. “We’ve learned a lot. We’ve also learned we don’t understand it all.”
Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said researchers would study, among other things, the role that combat and multiple deployments play in suicide. They will conduct follow-up surveys of soldiers to show how risk factors evolve over time and shift their focus, as they see fit, depending on what they find. The study also will look at existing treatments and gauge their effectiveness.
The findings could be far-reaching not just for the Army but for civilians, as well, Dr. Insel said.
“The Army really is a microcosm of the nation,” he said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Living life on life's terms

It's not meant to be. Not right now, anyway... Picking up the pace to beat the "Don't Walk" sign yesterday just about made me scream. My right leg needs time to heal, I guess, so no marathon for me. No running at all, I think. I have a doctor's appointment next week to check this out, but ultimately, I think I just need to rest.

I love rest, but I hate forced rest! I also hate the fact that I was in great shape to run a good marathon only to be thwarted by the weather! And now, injury blocks my path, but what can I do? I could be an idiot and attempt to ignore my screaming leg, but that would be, well, idiotic! I think I've pushed it as far as I can. Living life on life's terms is the best option I have left.

It's funny. Before I entered recovery, living life on life's terms was never a valid option. It may have been an option for you, but it was never a valid option for me. As a person and as a runner, I always wanted to be in control. Donning my Freudian glasses, I might surmise that growing up with abuse, where personal power or control are nonexistent, my former need for control makes perfect sense. But I've never been a big fan of Freud, though I always envied my brothers' ability to pee standing up! Freud's unique perspective notwithstanding, I now realize that many of us battle with living life on life's terms, regardless of our upbringings.

Over the past month, my life has been pretty bumpy. There's all the stuff you guys already read about--senseless death, anniversary of senseless death, running highs, running woes, fatigue, injury, and Puck's penchant for rupturing major knee ligaments--as well as some garbage I have yet to reveal. Like I said, pretty bumpy. Previously, any one of these life events could have triggered a depression dive or drinking excuse. As of today, neither of those things have happened.

Instead of sliding into the abyss of darkness or drink, I've coped. Sure, it hasn't all been perfect. I've slept a little more, run a little less, probably eaten more chocolate than usual, ignored cleaning my house, and watched more TV. At the same time, I've met my commitments, made it to the gym, and attended more AA meetings. To survive this month relatively unscathed is a miracle. I'll take a wider ass and a messy house over depression and drunk despair any day!

A couple days ago my therapist noted, "You seem to be taking this all in stride." I remarked, "Yes, what else can I do? I can't change it, so it doesn't do any good to worry about it." At which point she said, "Right! But that hasn't always been the case." Oh. I get it. Living life on life's terms. Cool. Take that, Sigmund!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A painful run

Decided to try running today. It's been 8 days since the last time out. With the marathon coming up on Sunday, I need to make a decision about running it. I tentatively set tomorrow as decision day. If tonight was any indication, the decision likely has been made. While I had a bit less pain than last week, I still had pain with every single step of my 4.5 mile run. It was impossible to get comfortable. It was impossible not to focus on it. In a marathon, pain is not something I can afford to focus on from the first step, especially since my ultimate goal is to qualify for Boston.

I hate the thought of having done all of this training for nothing. I hate the thought of having to maintain my current level of fitness, somehow, if I choose to wait for a December race date. But, if tomorrow doesn't feel any better, I think the decision has been made, and it will be back to the pool for me.

What a bummer...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An update on the dog and the runner

Since a few of you have asked...

Puck is doing very well. As I said earlier, his pain seems better controlled this time around. He is able to put weight on his operated leg already. He's figured out how to lie down and get back up without hurting himself, crying, or making his mom cringe! Last night, he even picked up his "hotdog" (a stuffed hot dog given to him after his first surgery) and wanted to play.

Believe it or not, there are actually two silver linings here. First, Puck hadn't yet fully recovered his range of motion or strength in his previously operated knee. He still favored that leg, although I think this was more out of habit than true weakness, and he did not have full knee flexion which altered his gait. As a result of this surgery, he is being forced to use that leg and knee, which should break his habitual movement patterns and improve his strength.

Ironically, the other silver lining is due to those habitual movement patterns and poor strength. Because he had not fully regained stability, strength and range of motion in his previously operated leg, he is also being forced to use his current "bad" leg more! Thus, he's already weight bearing on it, and he's already bending and straightening it more than he ever did with the first one. As a result, I think he will maintain more strength and motion in this leg. Both of his hind legs may be improved by the time he heals from this surgery! Two silver linings to an otherwise horrible situation. Imagine that!

As for the runner, 'er, me, things are a bit more gray. I made a choice not to run at all this week. The combination of fatigue and right shin pain were inhibiting my motivation. Primarily, I was hoping some time off the road would improve my leg I can't hope to finish a marathon if I have pain with every step. So, I hit the pool and the bike. The good news is the pool was kind. I hadn't forgotten how to swim laps, although I'm sure I don't have the prettiest stroke in the pool! I bullied out one mile two or three times, and then last night did my "long run" in the water.

After a long, sleepy day, I entered the pool without a plan. As I hopped into the water I decided to swim a ladder--200, 400, 600, 800, 600, 400, 200 yards with 20 breaths in between each swim. Don't ask me why I decided to do that. It sounded like a challenging workout that would take awhile!

It did take awhile, but by the end of the first 600 I was thinking, "You idiot!" Nevertheless, I persevered through all the negative mind games, and I did it! In fact, I must have been brain dead after the second 400 because I swam a final 300 rather than the 200 I had planned! Needless to say, I was pretty happy with myself! Later, I figured it out. I swam 1.9 miles in approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. I believe 45 minutes and just over 1 mile were previously my longest swims! Hmmm...I wonder why my shoulder is sore today??

So where does all of this leave me? Oh, I don't know!! The marathon is next Sunday. Lots of locals are running it, so I would like to give it a shot. However, I don't want to do more damage than good to my leg or my psyche. I'm worried about Puck--he needs almost constant attention these first couple weeks. I'm concerned about the weather. It's getting cold here! And finally, I'm afraid of not qualifying, which is the all-time poorest excuse not to run. In fact, if that were my only excuse, I would definitely have to push through it! Bottom line, I need to make a decision! I just need to make a decision. As usual, I'll let you know...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Puck's home--again.

I picked up Puck this morning around 10:00AM. Just like last time, when I entered the clinic I heard only his persistent bark from the back room. He cannot tolerate being in a cage. Fortunately, he seems to have less pain this time around. He's already putting some weight on the leg, whereas last time it took him several days to just touch his foot to the floor. The difference must be the fact that there was no meniscus damage in this knee. Puck seems comfortable, and he's been very quiet and sleeping most of the day. I'm so relieved. Last time he was in so much pain. I didn't want him to go through that again. Hopefully, things will continue progressing well. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I don't know if I can do this again.

I don't know if I can do this again, but of course I will. It's 6:45AM. In 15 minutes I have to load up Puck and leave for the vet clinic. It may seem like no big deal, especially if you are not a pet owner, but Puck is my child-equivalent. It is a big, big deal. My heart has already sunk, too heavy to remain suspended in its usual locale. I feel so guilty for throwing that damn ball. I feel so sorry for the pain he is in and the severe pain he is about to endure. I can't explain to him what's going on.

I can't tell Puck what to expect. I can't remind him he's been through this before and assure him everything will be okay. He didn't understand why I wouldn't feed him this morning. He stood at his dish, on his three good legs, staring up expectantly with his innocent brown eyes. He's not going to understand when I leave him at the vet clinic with tears in my eyes. It's frustrating, and I'm already stressed.

I woke up several times during the night just to listen. Was he asleep? Was he comfortable? Did he need help repositioning? The rapid fire click, click, click of his toenails against the hardwood assured me he was at least chasing pesky squirrels in his dreams.

I wrote the above before leaving this morning. It's evening now, and Puck made it through surgery. I didn't watch the procedure this time. The vet reported his knee looked perfect except for the totally ruptured ACL. That's better than his other knee where we found a torn lateral meniscus, too. Hopefully, this means quicker and more complete healing of this one. He still lacks some flexion on the other side, likely as a result of the torn meniscus.

I miss my boy right now. My house is so quiet without him here. He'll stay overnight at the clinic. I can't wait to pick him up tomorrow, and yet, unlike Puck, I know the stress that's ahead. I think I'm going to be doing a lot of praying over the next few weeks. In fact, I'm on my way to an AA meeting right now. Think good thoughts for me and my boy, please!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

another ACL bites the dust...

Reality TV couldn't have hoped for more irony than this...

On the way back from the vet, moments after he and I discussed allowing Puck to play ball again despite my wariness (terror, actually), I stopped at a park to give him a few tosses. On the first gentle, short toss my beautiful, happy, energetic dog, Puck, ruptured his other anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

His second ACL surgery in the last 4.5 months is scheduled for tomorrow.

My sponsor says God wouldn't give me more than I can handle. C'mon, God, isn't this piling-it-on a bit?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My friend Kathy

An unwelcome anniversary is approaching. In a few days, it will be two years since my 46-year-old friend, Kathy, tragically died after falling down her basement stairs.

Kathy was an RN at Generose, 2 East, Mayo Clinic's adult psychiatric inpatient unit. That's where we met. She was my primary nurse during my first admission to her unit. As my primary nurse, she spent a lot of time with me, and we quickly developed a bond. Through multiple admissions over 5-6 years, Kathy and I continued to cross paths. We developed a special bond. Nothing inappropriate, all professional boundaries were maintained, but she became a friend, a confidant, a mentor...a mother figure. I trusted, respected and admired her. She was a hell of a nurse, and I'm sure she was a a very special wife, daughter, sister and friend.

Kathy was not supposed to die. She was supposed to be around to see me get well. She would be elated with my sobriety. She would be proud of the person I've become. I never envisioned a future without Kathy in it. When she died, we hadn't spoken for several months, but that made her no less a part of my life. I knew she was there. I knew she would celebrate with me in victory and always support me in defeat. I just had to pick up the phone. She was there, and then she was gone. Senseless, tragic, shocking--gone. Why God? Why?

There is a huge void in my life where Kathy once stood. Knowing she was there comforted and supported me. I didn't need to see her or speak to her to know and feel that. Now I wish I had seen and spoken with her more. To say I think of her often doesn't even come close. I still look to her for guidance almost daily. But she's no longer here, and that makes me very, very sad. I never told her how special she was. I took her availability for granted. She wasn't supposed to die. There is a huge void in my life where Kathy once stood. I am grateful to have known her, but I miss her. I miss her so, so much. She wasn't supposed to die.

Monday, October 20, 2008

a very unmerry-go-round

More fatigue today, napping doesn't seem to alleviate it for more than an hour. It's frustrating. Regardless, I was a little more functional today. I swam one mile rather than run one step. The swimming went better than I was expecting, although--surprise!--it did wipe me out for a couple hours.

I met with my therapist this morning. Boy, it's been a long two weeks since I last saw her! There are some pretty big changes afoot in my life, and I'm feeling very overwhelmed. My therapist is especially adept at breaking things down and putting them into perspective. I appreciate that. But despite her best efforts, I'm feeling hypoxic and overwhelmed.

I'm entering into a transitional phase. Change and transitions are hard for normies. I think they are especially difficult for those of us challenged by mental illness. Change is scary, risky, uncertain, and tumultuous. Feeling fatigued and unmotivated doesn't help. The fatigue only increases my stress, as I worry about coaxing enough energy to function effectively during this transition.

As usual during times of stress, I question which came first. Am I fatigued because my depression is rearing it's ugly head, or is the fatigue a result of change and uncertainty? I guess the fatigue is a symptom of my depression regardless of the trigger. Prior to getting sick, fatigue was not my immediate nor normal physical response to stress. In fact, I often functioned better under stress. But since depression became a part of my life, especially over the last 2-3 years, fatigue has been ever present.

Which came first, the stress or the fatigue, may seem like a moot point. However, understanding which came first helps me understand how to deal with it. I'm feeling overwhelmed, restless, irritable, and discontent. If the fatigue is a symptom of the stressful feelings, I'll do better by pushing through it, even attacking it. But if the fatigue came first, as a symptom of depression, attacking it will only aggravate it. Similar energy dips over the last eight years taught me to listen. My body will only allow so much at these times. In the past, when I've ignored its signals and pushed beyond my body's new, lower limits, I've spiraled down into a deep, dark hole. I don't want to do that, so I've been trying to listen, to rest, and to sleep as needed.

Yet I need energy to meet the challenges of this transition! The fatigue, therefore, has become another stressor! Worrying about being too fatigued to handle stress is making me stressed! Questioning if I should be pushing harder or resting more has magnified the restlessness and discontent! I'm overwhelmed worrying about being too tired to handle feeling overwhelmed! How ridiculous is that??

It seems this is a vicious, never-ending cycle of fatigue and stress! How do I stop it? I'm getting dizzy! How do I get off? Stop! Stop! STOP THE MADNESS! I want to get off!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

my day

sleep. sleep. sleep.
sleep. sleep. sleep.
run 10 tough miles (supposed to be 15)
sleep. sleep. sleep...

how's your day been?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

whipped, wiped, dead.

I caught a virus
sore, achy
wiped out.

worked nine hours
brain and bod

I hate this fatigue,
unlike depression
at least today
I know
caused it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fatigue, Pain, Worrying, and Running

I've been having a tough time writing lately. I don't feel I have anything interesting or valuable to say right now. I'm just feeling a bit blah. Training again after my DNF (did not finish) at the Twin Cities Marathon.

I'm tentatively planning to run another marathon November 2nd, but not feeling nearly as confident of meeting my goal, which is qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I did have a good 20-miler on Saturday, but still... I'm hoping I can improve my confidence over the next few weeks, otherwise I am doomed. I think not finishing has effected me more than I thought it was going to. I'm having a DNF hangover.

I wrote the above paragraph a few nights ago, but I never got around to posting it. I guess that fact only reinforces what I wrote. There are some big changes going on in my life right now. Nothing I am prepared to write about yet, but suffice it to say the impending changes are likely draining my energy stores.

I'm also worried about the pain in my right leg. I've got some pretty severe shin splints going on. Trying to decide if I can baby it along, yet maintain enough fitness to run a quality marathon in 3 weeks, or if I should take a break now, let it heal (hopefully), and shoot for a marathon in December.

It's a tough decision. If I stop training, I fear losing the fitness I have built up over the past few months. That's an awful lot of work for nothing! However, continuing to run through the pain has consequences, too. The pain forces me to alter my stride and hinders my running efficiency, which means more energy expenditure and a slower pace. As a result, I may not be able to run a qualifying pace for 26.2 miles. Typical worries of the long distance runner...

Now that I've written down all of those worry-thoughts, I guess it's no surprise that I've been really wiped out for the past couple days. After working just four hours today, I collapsed in bed for two hours. I had a ten miler on my running schedule yesterday, but I was unable to do it secondary to fatigue and leg pain. So I rested yesterday and moved the ten miler to today. I wasn't hopeful about accomplishing the distance today either.

After collecting myself from bed this afternoon, I set out. During mile one, I stopped 2 or 3 times to readjust my shin wrap and contemplated quitting. In the second mile, I was certain I would turn around any minute. With the leg pain and fatigue, my body felt totally discombobulated! I wasn't sure what was going on down there! Whose legs were those flailing about? At mile 2.5, I was able to let Puck off leash. I always enjoy watching him romp around. He's so damn happy!

Before I knew it, I had settled into a comfortable pace, and it was fast! Even though I was still having some pain with each step, my body at least felt like my own. I was able to maintain my pace for the rest of the run. By the time I got home, I felt great.

I chuckled as I entered my house. This sport is a constant surprise. In the span of 9.5 miles, I went from lethargy, pain, and frustration to energy, less pain, and freedom. Getting those miles done makes me feel a lot better about hitting the pool, rather than the road, tomorrow. appears I've made a decision, for today anyway, to continue training.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Special Victims Unit portrays bipolar disorder admirably!

Wow! If you didn't see Law and Order Special Victims Unit tonight, you missed what was the most accurate portrayal of mental illness I have ever witnessed on prime time television.

Detective Stabler's daughter is diagnosed with bipolar disorder after "self-medicating" herself into an overdose. The doctor's quick and precise diagnosis of her underlying bipolar disorder was unfortunately not the most accurate part of the show. Nevertheless, Kathleen, Stabler's daughter, is arrested for stealing, which leads to the introduction of Stabler's estranged, untreated, bipolar mother played expertly by Ellyn Burstyn. Burstyn plays the part so convincingly, one has to wonder if she has personal experience with bipolar. Her actions and dialogue freakishly duplicated the actions and words of someone I know with untreated bipolar disorder. It was unbelievable!

With lines like, "...but when I took the meds, I felt like a I was missing a part of me..." (I'm summarizing. I can't remember the exact words), Burstyn speaks a truth many of us with mental illness recognize. Her eccentric actions and grandiose thoughts were right on the money. Better still, the program realistically highlighted a family's stigma-based secrets and shame surrounding one member's mental illness.

Bravo to NBC and Law and Order for SWING, tonight's outstanding episode. If you didn't see it, look for it. I promise it will be worth your time.

Life without therapy

Okay, that title is a bit misleading. I'm still in therapy, but I've cut back to every other week rather than every week. No big deal, right? I mean, that's the point of working with a therapist, to get better. And that's what's happened. I've improved enough to cut back on therapy. So why do I feel so lost?

My sense of loss seems over-blown. If I had cancer, I'd be thrilled NOT to see my doc every week. It would mean my illness had improved. I guess this is just another difference between mental illness and most other illnesses. If any of my other docs were treating me for a chronic condition, I'd be ecstatic if they told me I didn't need to follow-up as often!

While I like all of the healthcare providers I see, the difference between my therapist and the rest of them is the relationship. I have relationships with my therapist and my psychiatrist that far exceed the intimacy of the relationships I have with my orthopedic surgeon or allergist, for example. My depression has improved primarily because of my relationship with my therapist.

That's the irony of getting better, I guess. In order to improve, I need a close, trusting, stable relationship; but once I do improve, that valued, reliable relationship changes. Continue to get better, and I lose the relationship all together. Like I said, cruel irony.

I've been seeing my therapist at least weekly for 3 or 4 years. She's been a stable, supportive presence in my life. Every week, rain or shine, I knew I had that hour to figure things out, let off steam, or get the encouragement I needed. My relationships with my psychiatrist and psychologist are a couple of the very few I have where the boundaries and roles are crystal clear. I will miss that clean, clear hour every other week. Seems so small, but that hour of simple, uncomplicated communication holds me all week. I'm not sure if it can hold me for two.

I realize, intellectually, that the decreased need for therapy signals a momentous leap forward in my odyssey with depression. I realize that, but it still feels like a loss. I also realize going from every week to every other week is hardly something to freak out about, and I'm not freaking out. But I feel a loss--an ironic, confounding loss.

I needed to write about this, because I wonder if others have also felt this loss? I wonder if, like me, others have felt silly and shameful about feeling loss over such a small, and ultimately positive change? If so, you're not alone. I feel it, too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Les Misbarack

Sometimes you just gotta have some fun!
I received this today. If you liked Les Miserables, you'll probably enjoy this little ditty. Have a great day!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I did it!

I was so anxious about my 20-miler today, I woke up at 3:30 AM! I relaxed and went back to sleep, but I was out on the road by six 0'clock. The morning could not have been more beautiful. I started in the dark and quiet of a city still asleep. The first 4 miles were a little tough. I couldn't catch my breath and was winded despite a slow, relaxed pace. I took a break and downed an energy gel at 4.5 miles. It was like a new day after that. I guess I needed that energy.

The rest of the way went by without much difficulty. A little lag here and there, and of course the last two miles are always long, but after 3.5 hours (3:05 of actual running), I was done. Even my sore right leg fared well today. I purchased a compression sleeve for it yesterday, but I was quite surprised it felt as good as it did. Once done, I got into my ice bath, watched some football, and here I am. I'm feeling good.

Running always surprises me. Days I think are going to be terrific sometimes aren't. Days I expect to be brutal are often a breeze. It is such a strange sport that way. Or perhaps it's just me. I've had a tendency to do well when the odds have been stacked against me and to fall flat when the odds were in my favor.

Hmmm...that's an interesting revelation. Is that a corollary of my life--with vs. without depression? Damn, I'm going to have to do some deep thinking about that one. Maybe on my next run...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Post DNF let-down...

I'm having a hard time resuming my training since the Twin Cities Marathon debacle last Sunday. I'm tired...sleepy tired and just-want-to-sit-on-my-butt-and-do-nothing tired. My right shin is really, really sore. I had it x-rayed today to make sure I don't have a stress fracture, but I don't know when I'll learn the results.

If I had finished the marathon last Sunday, one of the biggest benefits would have been the rest following the race. Marathon training tears at my mind and body. I'm used to racing with some sort of ache or pain, but I wasn't planning on continuing hard training after race day. The race was supposed to be the crescendo after the long build-up. I was looking forward to the rest and the healing.

Instead, I need to get right back into more 40+ mile weeks and run an 18-20 miler tomorrow if I want to run another marathon in 4 weeks. So, that's what I'm planning to do. What happens tomorrow may determine if I can attempt another race in November, or if I'd be more sane to wait until December. I don't know if my mind or right leg will allow the required training or long runs.

I do know this. I'm not looking forward to running 18-20 miles tomorrow. It's hard enough to run 20-mile training runs when I'm excited! Running one when I'm filled with dread sounds really tough. Wish me luck. I'll let you know what happens.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Life on life's terms...

Whew…it’s been a mixed up, emotionally charged, hectic couple of weeks in this little life of mine. Here’s the summary.

**Ten days ago I ran the “comeback” race I’ve been waiting for, finishing 3rd out of 492 runners in a women's 5K. Elation. Relief. Excitement. Confidence.

**Ten days ago, a couple hours later, I learned my friend Jeannie had fallen into a coma and was expected to die within the day–weeks, even months before anyone expected. Sadness. Grief. Regret. Anger.

**Eight days ago my friend Jeannie died. I never did see her in the last month prior to her death, but I am grateful that I phoned her just a few days before she lapsed into a coma. Sadness. Grief. Remorse. Anger.

**Six days ago I attended Jeannie’s wake and then tried to refocus on preparation for my upcoming marathon. Sadness. Grief. Anger. Worry. Concern.

**Five days ago I drove 90 miles to The Twin Cities Sports Medicine Conference, left after two hours to drive the 90 miles back to Jeannie’s funeral, and two hours after that drove back to the conference. Anxiety. Grief. Sadness.

**Four days ago the conference ended, and I began the countdown to the marathon start. Anxiety.

**Four days ago, a few hours later, I attended the overcrowded marathon expo to pick up my race number and packet of instructions. Anxiety. Overwhelmed. Anticipation.

**Three days ago I stood at the start of the marathon, ready to go but a little anxious about the weather forecast, the emotional toll of the previous week, and whether or not I would meet my goal of qualifying for Boston. Anxiety. Impatience. Gratitude. Relief.

**Three days ago, 10 minutes later, the rain began to pour. Dread. Concern. Anxiety. Frustration.

**Three days ago, one hour and 28 minutes later, the rain continued to pour, the temperature continued to fall, and the wind picked up. I was on pace but soaked and freezing. I walked off the marathon course at mile 11.5 and dropped out of the race. Disappointment. Confusion. Humility. Grief. Frustration.

**Two days ago I returned to life without a Boston qualifying time, without a finisher’s medal or t-shirt, and with unanswerable questions about the decision I made. Disappointment. Confusion. Regret. Humility. Grief.

**One day ago I got back on the road. Tentatively planning to try again at another marathon in 4 weeks, Puck and I went for a 6-mile run. Ironically, we ran in a cold, steady rain. Resolve. Perseverance. Humility. Gratitude. Relief.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

excuses, excuses...lessons, lessons

Note: this post will make more sense if you read the preceding post first.

Okay, I'm not one to make excuses...usually, but now that I'm home, I've had a few moments to reflect on my race, 'er lack of race, today. One of the factors I was taking into account when I decided to drop out was how hard I seemed to be working for the pace I thought (key word) I was running. I just figured out I ran the first 6 miles way too fast! In fact, 9 of my 11 miles today were significantly under pace!

Here's how that happened:
In my younger, faster, superstar (joking!!) days of running, I qualified for Boston by running with a "pace group." So, I figured I'd use the same strategy this time around. The pacers are sponsored by Clif Bar, a sports nutrition company. They assure you of running the pace you want to run without having to think and worry so much! They carry balloons throughout the race so we runners can keep our pacer in sight. There are pace runners for a wide variety of paces, starting at perhaps 2:30, 2:35, 2:40...all the way up to over 5 hours in five minute increments. There were probably over 100 of us following Rachel, the 3:50 pacer.

To run a 3:50, we needed to average 8:47 per mile for the entire 26.2 miles. When I ran with a pace group previously, I remember feeling like we were running too fast in the early miles, so I didn't panic when I felt that way again today. I am a slow-to-warm-up runner, and I always feel better later in races than I do at the beginning. Nevertheless, I was struggling to keep up. I tried to check my watch a couple times, but the rain made it impossible to read. I figured the cold and rain were making everything feel more difficult, and they likely were, but...

I just reviewed my miles on my GPS running watch. Rather than around 8:47 per mile, we ran 8:20, 8:27, 8:25, 8:26, 8:24, 8:29, 8:39, 8:52 (no wonder I caught up to her during mile 8!), 8:43, 8:35, and 8:37, at which point I was too frozen, soaked, and tired to continue. We ran way too fast! And running too fast early in a marathon has probably dashed more marathoner's hopes than all the other excuses combined! UGH!

I don't begrudge Rachel at all. I don't blame her at all. She, like the rest of us, was miserable! I did not envy her chore. I hope she got as many of our group to the finish as possible. There were many, many women attempting to qualify in the group.

I do wish I had trusted my own instincts more and worked harder to view my own damn watch. In the long list of lessons today, this was another lesson learned. In my next race, I will run my pace, pay attention to the messages my body is screaming at me, and use the pace group, if at all, as a guide, not God. Lesson number 3,867,211...or there about...I've lost track.


Three letters never before associated with my name--D.N.F.

I walked off the course today at mile 11.5. I was on pace to qualify, but my body was expending so much energy attempting to stay warm, I knew I was not going to be on my feet much longer if I continued.

The weather forecast called for "showers" that were supposed to start later in the morning or early afternoon. Unfortunately, the rain and wind began within 10 minutes of the start. The temperature dropped, and then it began to POUR! A steady downpour continued from approximately 4-11 miles.

Around mile 10.75, we turned a corner and things went from barely tolerable to worse. A stiff, cold wind whipped us from the left. By the time I walked off the course 3/4 of a mile later, the temp was only in the mid 40's, which meant the windchill factor must have been around freezing! I decided to live for another day rather than risk my health, my body and my mind by struggling through another 15 miles.

I have never NOT finished a race before. I'm going to take a few days off, and then look for another marathon to enter within the next two months. It was brutal being bussed to the finish line, at which I arrived just as I would have been finishing. Watching hundreds of runners finishing under four hours, I thought, "Why them and not me?" But I think I made a good decision, even though it isn't sitting very well right now. Tough day.

P.S. Insult to injury--as I sit here typing this, one hour after I should have finished, the sun just came out and the temperature is on the rise. Gotta love the marathon!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Anxious to get running

Well, it's all over but the running. I'm sitting here bored in my hotel room. My class ended at noon today. I then braved the masses at the marathon expo in order to pick up my number. As I expected, there were thousands of people milling about.

For those of you who don't know, marathons are preceded by 1-2 day large expos where vendors from clothing manufacturers, to mattress dealers, to chiropractors hawk their wares. There are deals to be had, drawings to enter, and tons of energy foods and drinks to sample. I love them, but I usually try to go at off-peak times. Noon the day before the race is NOT an off-peak time. I could barely squeeze my way through the isles of the convention center today. Perhaps that's why I got out of there having only spent ten dollars! I usually over-spend my wallet!

So there's nothing else to do now but wait. Since I had some GI distress on my long runs, I am a bit anxious about that component. I've been extremely careful with my eating and drinking the past 5-7 days. Hopefully I've protected myself. If I'm going to qualify for Boston, I can't spend precious time in the port-a-potties!

As far as qualifying goes, I realized a short time ago that I really have NO IDEA what to expect tomorrow. It's been a long time since I've trained this diligently and intently for a marathon, and yet I only trained 11, rather than my usual 16, weeks. Will that come back to haunt me?

Another thing--It appears it's going to rain tomorrow. Not ideal conditions, and I'm not sure if my planned attire will keep me both warm enough and cool enough. I don't mind running in the rain, but it's another unknown wrinkle.And then there's my fragile hip. It's been fine, but again... Oh damn! I think I've spent too much time alone in this hotel room!!

Gotta love the marathon! This is part of the mystique of running 26.2 never know what to expect, and over the course of 4 hours a lot can happen...and change! I'm as ready as I can be.

In honor of Jeannie, I'm running with my AA white chip (the day one, surrender chip) and my 2 year medallion. I typically carry them with me everyday, though not usually on runs. I guess I think they'll offer me some extra security tomorrow. Jeannie will be with me. I will think of her every time I hear them jangle in my pocket. Jeannie will be smiling whether I qualify or barely make it to the finish line! In the grand scheme of things, this will be but one moment in my life. I'm going to enjoy it, regardless of the outcome. Jeannie taught me that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Funeral

I went to the funeral. Thank you to those who offered advice. You were right. After the wake last night, I wasn't sure I needed to attend today. I dressed appropriately, just in case, and drove to my class early this morning. From the moment I entered the class, I knew I would be leaving in two hours to drive back to Jeannie's funeral. It was crystal clear. A class meant nothing in comparison to saying goodbye to my close friend. So, I said goodbye with a few hundred others, balled my eyes out, gave and received a lot of hugs, laughed through tears, ate ham and scalloped potatoes, and then drove the 1.5 hours back to my class. I am so glad I went.

The service was beautiful. The priest captured Jeannie perfectly, exhorting us all to follow her example and give, give, give. In doing so, we allow Jeannie to continue living through each of us. He captured her wit, magnetism, self-sacrifice, and generosity. I am so grateful to have known her.

One last tidbit: I've told you how amazing this woman was. Here's an example. When her doctor told her she had inoperable, terminal cancer just two months ago, Jeannie got up, said, "I love you," and then gave her doctor a hug. She was a role model of recovery, acceptance, and living well. I can't even imagine that response!

Jeannie, I will miss you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thank you and tough decisions

I've received some really thoughtful, positive, and kind comments from you, the readers of this blog, recently. Thank you all so much. I am humbled by your interest in my writing and the generosity of your words. Thank you.

Jeannie's visitation is today--this evening. I am attempting to accomplish all my duties today prior to 4:00 PM so that I may be fully present at her visitation. That makes for one busy day. You see, even though the marathon is Sunday, I am leaving for the Twin Cities (1.5 hour drive) early, early tomorrow morning. I will be attending to my P.T. licensure requirements by participating in Twin Cities Sports Medicine Conference, which is run yearly in conjunction with the marathon. The conference will run all day tomorrow and half of Saturday at a hotel within a short distance of the starting line. In order to maintain my license, a certain number of continuing education credits are required per year. So far, I have zero. What can I say? Sometimes I procrastinate.

Unfortunately, Jeannie's funeral is tomorrow, mid-morning. To attend, I'd have to drive to my class, spend two hours there, drive back for the funeral, spend 1-3 hours there, and then drive back to my class. Not sure if I'd get credit for the class if I miss several hours of it, but I'm not sure I want to miss Jeannie's funeral, either. I'll have to make a tough choice, I guess. If any of you have any thoughts, I'm wide open...