Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
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!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Looking up

Things are improving around here. I'm physically feeling better. I've still got quite a deep, annoying cough, but overall I'm much better. I got out of the house today and back on to the road. It felt so good to run once again! I covered 6.5 miles, stopping near the end to take in a few minutes of a disc dog competition, before returning home. My pace was good, and my lungs survived. I'm pretty wiped out right now, but it was worth it.

I may run a bit longer tomorrow. My friend, T, offered me a spot next to her on her 13 mile run, and I just may take her up on that. I like running with her. It keeps me a bit more relaxed and out of "training mode" when we share the road. I'm not ready to get back into training mode quite yet. I'd like to take a few more relaxed, fun runs prior to getting back on schedule. The Twin Cities Marathon, in early October, is up next.

I spent a fair amount of today's run re-living my Grandmas Marathon performance. It's funny. Today I felt nothing but joy and satisfaction, and none of last Saturday's strain and discomfort, during my mental re-cap. It's another beauty of marathoning. When I run well, the pain and discomfort quickly fades. I guess it's one of many reasons I keep going back for more.

I'm off to dinner with a friend now. I've been a bit couped up with this virus, so it will be nice to get out and socialize with someone I enjoy. I'm looking forward to next week. I have just 2 days of work before Jet and I will be off to spend 5 days in northern Wisconsin with D at his lake home. D and I haven't seen each other since mid-May, so I'm really happy we'll have this time together. Maybe I'll get back on my training schedule after that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Still ill

I do not have much to report tonight. I am still quite ill. In fact, I may head to the doctor tomorrow if things don't improve. I have worked all week, but it hasn't been fun or easy. I have little to no voice, which is comical when trying to communicate with my elderly patients who generally do not hear well anyway. I'm looking forward to my day off tomorrow. I plan to rest, rest and rest some more.

Other than this viral illness, the rest of my body recovered very well from the marathon. I had little soreness and could have easily resumed running within 1-2 days. I haven't run yet, but it's been due to my chest congestion rather than sore muscles. I'm looking forward to getting back on the road, but I'll hang out until this virus clears first. It's now time for me to head back to bed. Sleep seems to be the best thing I can do right now. Hopefully I'll be feeling better and have a little more to say when we visit again in a few days.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sick? No matter. PR anyway.

After a comment by a friend, a friend who ran a personal best at her last marathon despite being ill, my intent to begin Grandmas Marathon yesterday on personal record pace despite battling a nasty virus was set. So that's what I did. Despite waking up with a sore throat, body aches, and congestion, I began yesterday's race on pace to run a 3:34, or 8 minutes 10 seconds per mile for 26.2 miles.

It was a perfect day to run fast. It was 50 degrees and cloudy with dense fog at the start. The conditions remained the same, with the addition of a cool tailwind, throughout the entire race. I ran as close to my intended pace as I could for as long as I could. That was the plan, and I stuck to it.

Mentally, it was difficult. I kept waiting for the inevitable fatigue. I knew running a PR would be difficult even on a perfect day, and here I was attempting it despite my less-than-perfect physical condition. I didn't know when the proverbial wall would hit, but I expected to smack into it at any time. I ran the best I could in the meantime.

Surprisingly, the halfway mark came and went, and I was still running close to my intended pace. I had lost a few seconds here and there, but for every mile I ran over 8:10 pace, I seemed to run one under pace as well. My elapsed time at 13.1 miles was within 40 seconds of my target time, and I could see the 3:35 pace group running just ahead.

You might think I'd have been overjoyed at that point, but I knew there were still 13.1 miles left to run, and the fatigue had been settling into my legs for several miles already. Nonetheless, I continued as best I could. I glanced at my pace every mile, but it was more-or-less just to note it, rather than to adjust it up or down. One foot in front of the other became my mantra, and clicking off one mile at a time was my focus. I had let go of achieving my goal, but I hadn't let go of finishing as fast as I could.

As I became more fatigued, I focused on my secondary goal of running every step of this race. I've run Grandmas at least 8 times, and I had never before finished it without walking at least part of the course. Unfortunately, my secondary goal fell away, too. I gave in and walked through a water stop at mile 21.8. I slowed in order to completely take in my fluids. That probably cost me 20 seconds, but it allowed me to run, without walking, up the infamous Lemon Drop Hill at mile 22, the steepest hill on the course.

I walked again just before mile 24 in order to consume a couple of strawberries and an orange slice, serious carbs for my seriously depleted body, which likely took another 20-30 seconds from my overall time. But again, I think I needed the boost to keep me moving forward.

The last 2 to 3 miles were almost entirely mental. I didn't want to give up. I knew I was doing well. I knew I was running a great pace considering the circumstances. I knew I had run faster, longer than I had thought possible just 3 hours before. I kept focusing on running to the next mile marker.

I planned a short walk break at mile 25, an incentive to keep me running. I had long since stopped looking at my watch. Mile 25 approached, and I could see an official race clock beside the course. The official time clicked over to 3:26 as I passed. I realized I had 9+ minutes to complete the last 1.2 miles and still run under 3:35! (It took me at least one minute to cross the starting line, so I knew my net time was even less than 3:26 at that point.) I was shocked, and the planned walk break went right out the window!

That last mile, during which I thought, perhaps out loud, "I'm never going for a marathon PR again," sucked! But I ran it as hard as I could. I'm sure I didn't look pretty. I certainly didn't feel pretty, or efficient, or fast. I came around the final corner, 0.2 miles from the line, and saw the finish line clock clicking toward 3:36. I sprinted. Well, I thought I was sprinting. I gave everything I could. As I stepped across the final timing mat, I stopped my watch. It said 3:35:01. I remember thinking, again perhaps out loud, "Damn!" I so wanted that 3:34.

I had the nerve to be disappointed, just for a minute, at coming so close. I gathered my things, refueled, and made my way to the changing tent. I had just run a PR. I couldn't believe it, yet I was still a little disappointed. I admit it. 

In the changing tent, I dug my cell phone out of my bag and turned it on. It buzzed with several messages, but it was a message from my friend, T., which washed all the disappointment away. She congratulated me on accomplishing my goal. I had gotten my 3:34 after all. My official time, she reported, was 3:34:58. I did it!

I'm proud of myself. And I can't believe it. By mile 16, I had given up the 3:34 goal. Though I knew I was running better than I expected, I thought the building fatigue would soon slow me. I thought maybe I could hold it under 3:40 if I was lucky, and I was okay with that. I ended up recouping more than one minute in those last 2+ miles. I wasn't expecting that. I'm glad I persevered.

It turns out it was a great day to run, despite being sick. I'm grateful to God for my ability and for the opportunity to run as I wish. I'm happy my preparation paid off, and despite swearing off another attempt at a marathon PR, I wonder. What could I have done had I not been sick? I'm still sick, so I guess that's a question for another time. Right now, I'm going to bask in the glow as I head back to bed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Illness Strikes

The beauty, and scourge, of marathoning are the variables beyond our control which may make or break race day. I've been worried about tomorrow's weather for the last couple of days. It's one of those uncontrollable variables we marathoners fret about.

Until last night, the weather was on my mind. I kept checking and re-checking the forecast. People around me were checking and re-checking, too. And then God gave me something new to deal with, a sore throat and body aches. The weather was no longer a very big concern.

On my way to pick up my number from the marathon expo last night, I noticed my throat was getting sore. I hoped it was just a passing, anxiety-produced symptom of nothing. By the time I went to bed a couple hours later, I knew otherwise. I awoke in the middle of the night with a very sore throat and uncomfortably achy joints. My condition has not improved today. I'm a little worried.

I've been resting, taking zinc, drinking juice, eating chicken soup (homemade, thanks to Mom), and drinking water in abundance. So far, there's been no change. I'm ambulatory. I did my typical 2-mile shake out run this morning, showered, and dressed for the day, but I've not done anything else. Napping and nutrition have consumed my day. I'm doing my best to get through this blip as quickly as possible.

I know there's no way I'll miraculously recover enough to be operating at 100 percent tomorrow. I don't know what this means for my race. I'm sure I'll finish what I start, but I'm not feeling quite as optimistic about running fast and accomplishing my goal. I'm not sure I will be able to run fast, or even if I'm able to, I'm not sure I should. I certainly don't want to overdue it to the point where I make things worse post-marathon.

I've got a lot to think about between now and the start of the race tomorrow morning. I'm trying to stay in the now. I'm taking the actions I need to take. I'm trying not to project into the future. I'm trying not to be prematurely disappointed. I'm trying to take things as they come, one moment at a time. All I can do is take the next right action. I'm doing that. The outcome, well that's not up to me. I'm trying to remember that. But I'm human. I'm praying for a miraculous recovery anyway.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Dreaded Taper

I used to really look forward to tapering for my marathons. I think that must have been when I was less experienced. I mean, what's not to love about slowly decreasing my running mileage over a period of three weeks? You'd think I'd feel rested and fresh by week three. Well, this is week three of my taper, and I feel like crud! Fortunately, I've learned from my experience. Crud is normal.

Yep, feeling like crud in the final days before a marathon is fairly normal for me, and I dislike it very much! I feel tired, and heavy, and slow. My legs ache, are as heavy as lead, and I swear I've gained 10 pounds. Despite running less, and as of this week, no longer lifting weights, my body feels fatigued. Even stranger, I tire easily, at work and at home. I just want to take a nap. It's weird, but it's normal.

I've been through this at least 21 times before. Over the last three weeks, I've gone from running over 50 miles a week and aggressively lifting weights to barely running and not lifting weights at all, yet I feel weary and dense. Thankfully, it will all be over soon. In 4 days I'll be on the starting line. I can't wait.

I can't wait to run. It's hard to know if I'm prepared when I feel like this. Certainly I don't feel prepared right now. I need to constantly reassure myself. I know I've done the training. I've run the speed workouts, the long runs, and all the miles in between. I've pressed, swung, and lifted kettlebells to condition my muscles, and I've further strengthened my core with suspension training. I put in the time needed. I can't allow myself to fret about feeling crappy. Soon it will end.

The only thing left to do now is wait. I've packed my bag, although I'm sure I'll check it again. I've lined up the dog-sitter. I've planned my meals, my clothing, and my race nutrition. I'll leave Thursday morning for the 3.5 hour drive north.

I'm going to spend some time with my family before Saturday's race. It's always nice to run Grandmas, as some of my family, including two of my young nephews, are usually able to watch. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate. And I hope my fatigue and heaviness give way to lightness and speed on race day. We shall see.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lazy Blogger

I'm at least a day late in this update. As I stated in my last post, I've been busy living life on life's terms this week. I'm getting a lot of stuff done, but when it came time to sit down and write last evening, I just couldn't do it. I tried to figure out my new smart phone instead. I would have been much more successful if I had stuck to blogging.

I might be the last person on the planet to get a smart phone. It's a Samsung Galaxy, and I found out this morning I neglected to learn how to answer it! My parents, whose call I missed, got a big kick out of that one! They are 66 and 70 years old, and they both have iPhones!

You may think I am wise with technology, after all I am a blogger, but nothing could be further from the truth! I am a complete dope with this new phone, and I really dislike the entire learning process. I have a feeling it's going to take me awhile! I also missed a call from D. Still don't know how to answer the damn thing! No worries, I'm laughing, too.

The other reason I didn't write last night is because I am again feeling bad about having little to say. I think most people expect a bit more than news about how dumb I am with my new smart phone when they come to my blog. I am not so arrogant to think people are interested in the mundane minutia of my life, but mundane minutia is all I've got right now.

Of course, mundane is better than drama. There is no drama. My life is moving along smoothly. I stick to my daily routines. I go to work. I enjoy my running. I take my meds. I see my doctor. I don't drink. I attend meetings. I don't get too high or too low. It may look boring from the outside, but it seems to be working for me. I'm living well with depression. I guess that's something to write about.

Now, back to that damn smart phone!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking a breath

Things have been busy, busy, busy around here. It's beyond 9:30 PM, and this is the first chance I've had to sit and write today. Work has been keeping me very busy. Errands seem to be multiplying. I get one thing accomplished and another pops up. I'm keeping up with my AA meetings, at least two per week. Friends and co-workers have had several recent birthday outings and going away parties, including one tonight. Jet requires several hours of attention per day, and of course, there's running or weight lifting almost daily. But I am not complaining!

I'm not perturbed, even though there was a time when such bustling would have totally overwhelmed me. I'm not overwhelmed today. I do generally prefer a bit more quiet than I've had these last few days, but so far I'm finding the energy, stamina, and attitude to keep going. I'm keeping up, and I'm maintaining my mood while doing it. I'm grateful for that.

Having said that, I'm not long on words tonight. I've still got to make my lunch and find some clothes for work tomorrow. I have to pack my gym gear, as I have kettlebell class right after work. And I need to gather my AA materials, as my sponsor and I are scheduled to meet after kettlebell class. Before saying my prayers and closing my eyes tonight, I also need to give Jet a little time. He was in his kennel for much of the day, although right now he is outside chasing moths around the backyard. He makes me laugh! Lots to do, and grateful for the opportunities it all represents. Goodnight, my friends.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Not so gray

The weather remains cool, gray and wet around here. My mood, however, not so much. The dip I feared never really materialized, and for that I am extremely grateful. I saw my doc on Thursday, and she gave me a nice pep talk. She is so supportive. She reminded me I've worked very hard and devoted myself to maintaining my physical and mental health. She was confident I was having a little lull of which I could pull myself out. Her confidence in me feels good, and her pep talk did help. I left her office feeling emboldened and immediately experienced a lifting of my spirits. She gave me exactly what I needed at that time.

My sponsor and I got together Friday night, which always feels good. I love working my program of recovery, and my sponsor is a great role model. After attending an inspiring meeting this morning, two women celebrated over 25 years of sobriety, I got some more recovery time in while running 12 miles with my friend, T. I usually do all of my training alone, so it's always nice when T and I get together to cover some miles. I enjoyed our run and chat.

The rest of my weekend will be restful. I don't have to work. I'm tapering for Grandmas Marathon, so I don't have to run much. In a couple hours my house will be clean and my laundry done. There are a few social things going on, but I haven't yet decided if I will attend or not. I may just stay in and enjoy the peace.

If it doesn't rain, I may spend tomorrow in the woods with Jet. We haven't been hiking together yet. It was one of my favorite things to do with Puck, so I'm anxious to introduce Jet to my favorite state park and trails. I think he'll love it, and I know I will love watching him experience it for the first time.

Until we meet again, carry on with health and happiness, my friends.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


The last few days have been tough. I think I'm experiencing a little dip in my mood. I don't think our cold, gray, wet weather has helped one bit. I think we've seen the sun once in the past 7-10 days. It's been 60 degrees, gray and wet for at least 3 consecutive days with no end in sight! I've never experienced such a wet, gray Spring, and I hope I never have to again. Even my 90 year old patients are amazed. They've never seen anything like this! And that's saying something!

The cold, wet and gray have finally worn me down, I think. Staying upbeat and positive when surrounded by gray has gotten more difficult. My mood is beginning to match the weather. Over the past several days I've been more tired and had less energy. I've struggled with irritability, something I usually don't struggle with at all, especially at work. I've found less joy in simple things and fretted more about things of which I have no control. I've sought out friends less and spent more time alone. These are all signs that something is amiss.

Of course, like many of you, after 3-4 days of this, I worry about the heavy black fog slowly engulfing me once again. And yet, I feel more confident I can handle it even if that is what this is. That's a little different. While I'm worried about the darkness descending, I also have a sense I'll get through it. It may not be easy or comfortable, and I definitely won't like it, but I know it will pass. I'll just have to walk through it one step and one day at a time, and I know I can do that. I've done it many times before.

I've walked through a lot of darkness and pain over these past 12 years, and yet here I am. History is on my side. But let's hope all this anticipation is for naught. Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps the sun will shine. Perhaps my mood will brighten. Perhaps 3 or 4 days is the entirety of this episode. That's the hopefulness I will hang onto when I say my prayers and close my eyes tonight. Stay well, my friends.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Annual Review

Within the past couple weeks, I've had annual employment reviews with my supervisors at each of my two regular jobs. I don't know anyone who quivers with excitement at annual review time, and I am no different. But I do like one thing which both current employers do as part of the review process. They both require feedback from coworkers. The yearly feedback from my colleagues then becomes a permanent part of my employee file. I like that.

There was a time I wouldn't have liked that piece of the process. I wasn't a very good coworker then, and I really didn't care what my colleagues thought. I cared only about me. That was before I got sober.

Things have changed in the last 8 years. While it is still a bit daunting to find out what others are thinking, I now appreciate the feedback. I want to know if I'm living up to the expectations of those around me. If I'm not, I want to know what I can do better. It's as simple as that.

Here's the amazing part. As I've become more open and responsive to feedback, my coworkers'  feedback has been nothing but complimentary, generous and kind. In my most recent review, just a couple days ago, words such as cheerful, smiling, willing, team, and pleasure were used. That is a miracle of sobriety.

There was a time when I never would have been described as "always cheerful" or "always smiling." Life was too serious for that. Besides, work was a necessary evil, not something to be enjoyed. Being described as "a pleasure to work with" made me smile with gratitude. What a nice thing to say. But perhaps the words of which I was most satisfied were willing and team, as in, "etta is a team player who is always willing to take on extra assignments, go wherever we need her, or help coworkers so we all get out of work together and on time." That, my friends, is a miraculous statement.

Eight years ago I was not a team player, nor was I willing to do more than required, unless of course, doing so directly and positively affected me. I am not that person anymore. I know that. Yet I am still surprised (and satisfied) to see those miraculous statements. I can't tell you how different those reviews would have been prior to my sobriety. Really, I can't say it loud enough or with enough impact to help you understand. I am a different human being today.

I am a different human being today, and I owe it all to living life on life's terms, doing the next right thing, trusting in a power greater than myself, and working the program of recovery in my everyday life. What a gift! I am grateful to be sober today, but more than that, I am grateful sobriety gave me the tools to live a life worth living, and also that I've been willing to use those tools to become a worthwhile, productive human being. Yes, I am proud of that. It is a magnificent gift.