A Life Off Balance

by Beth on June 26, 2014

This is a post that I’ve really struggled with writing. For whatever reason, blogging has become less a part of my life over the past year. But I still appreciate my blog, and everything I have gain through blogging, and hopefully, in a way, this post will be therapeutic for me.

Four weeks ago Saturday, I went to my normal Saturday spin class. I hadn’t been to spin in about a month between a trip to Germany and Delaware and I had maybe a little bit too much wine on Friday night, so I was expecting the class to be a little rough. But I also thought it would be a good “wake up” to help me get back into exercise after all of that travel, and before Dopey training started in earnest. But very soon after the class started, it was clear something was very wrong. I couldn’t breathe. I wished I had my rescue inhaler–I’m asthmatic–something I haven’t used while exercising since I started running seriously in 2011. I probably should have stopped the class, but I stuck it out. For the rest of the weekend I felt bad. So Monday morning I called my doctor, left work early, went and got the standard “Oh, you have whatever bug is going around, here’s an antibiotic, and take your secondary inhaler (I always do this when sick, to give my crappy lungs a boost)”. They also give me a nebulizer (a way to get inhaler medication if you are in a flare). Okay.

I don’t go to work on Tuesday because I’m feeling crappy. Go in on Wednesday, and have one of the scariest experiences of my life–a full asthma attack in my office. My rescue inhaler doesn’t work. I cannot breathe. I leave work and head straight to the doctor. There they put me on steroids, and tell me if I get worse, I should go immediately to the ER. SCARY! Hospitals pretty much terrify me, so I definitely wanted to avoid that. So I went home. The steroids seem to work. Great, no ER!

We went to the beach that weekend, and I now know I did way too much and was totally in denial about my condition. I walked around town, went for a walk with my sister, and had worsening symptoms. Tightness and burning in my lungs. All the time. I can’t be awake for more than a few hours at a time. And I’m just exhausted. On Monday I call my doctor back, they can’t fit me in until Thursday. UGH. So I go. And she tells Noel and I that there is nothing she can do. That we should go to the ER. So we go. In 10 hours, I have every test they can think of, before determining that I have nothing “emergency” so I’m discharged and referred to a pulmonary specialist.

So I see the pulmonary specialist–she’s great, and takes this very, very seriously. She understands that my life has really been effected. I’m not able to physically go into the office (although my workplace has been fantastic with letting me telework, so I haven’t missed 2+ weeks of work). Her theory is something–a virus, or most likely, the terrible allergy season we have had here on the east coast this year–has thrown my body into full asthma flare. I’m now super sensitive to everything, and my baseline has been lowered–so things I can normally tolerate are making me very very sick. She explains that asthma is an autoimmune disease so when you are in flare, your body attacks everything.

And then the blow–she is going to order a lot of testing, and refer me to an allergist. But until the testing is done, and this is all figured out, I need to stay inside, sedentary, to try to let my lungs heal. We should have our house cleaned and rehome our cats. This is sort of a shock, but I understand–I need to get better, and my life is already disrupted.

So 10 days later–I’m still here. I’ve had my allergy testing done–and I’m literally allergic to everything. Our kitties are gone and it breaks my heart. I’m still only working half days, because I feel like I only have about 6 hours of awake time in me at a time. Waiting for answers, hoping that there will be some.

Through all of this, I’ve had a lot of time to think. And watch the World Cup–if there is any silver lining to any of this, I’ve never had the opportunity (and time) to so thoroughly enjoy the tournament before–and thank goodness for it, it has been a wonderful distraction. I feel like many of the things that define me–work, my running, my fitness, have been taken away from me. So who am I without these things? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question. Am I still me without the things that give me energy? I do know that I had taken my health for granted. That the maintenance medication I’ve been on most of my adult life would magically control my asthma, a serious medical condition, forever. Before this most people never even knew I had asthma. I think I would forget–I certainly know I had gotten sloppy about carrying my rescue inhaler!

I also know that I haven’t always been a picnic to be around through all of this. The steroids make me crazy and jittery, and give me terrible insomnia. And being cooped up in the house is hard. I’m not used to not doing things for myself. I have a go-go-go life that has been put on home. And I know I’m lashing out in not nice ways. Fortunately I have some wonderful people in my life and they have been incredibly supportive.

The uncertainty of the whole situation scares me. Will I ever be better again? Is this my new normal? Of course there are no clear but answers to any of these things. Only time will tell. I have tried to stay positive and tell myself that of course I will be better. Of course I will run again. But it is hard to turn off that little voice in my head that says that this has lasted so long, and it is my new normal.

I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking, and I have an Alex and Ani bracelet that I bought last fall in New Haven that has almost become my personal mantra–It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. This is my current marathon. For a while after I got sick, I didn’t wear any of my positive mantras, but now they are back on. I have to believe in myself, in the miraculous ability of the human body to heal. Keeping myself in the mental game is important. It’s not easy, and yes, I have meltdowns. But I have to believe.


Nike Women’s DC 2014

by Beth on May 6, 2014

It’s been more than a week, but I still think I’m up in the running clouds thanks to the wonderful event that was Nike Women’s DC 2014!

This race had been my focus since I started recovering from the Marine Corps Marathon. All spring, I trained for one thing. As the race got closer, I had a tiny setback–a back strain from a nasty case of bronchitis I caught right around Sole of the City. But I played it safe, gave my back time to recover, visited my trusty PT, and went into race weekend feeling strong. I had roped my friend Elizabeth (oh she of the one and done race claim ;-)) into entering the lottery for the race with me, figuring that it would be a lot more fun to have a weekend in DC with a friend. When we headed to DC on April 26th I felt ready and confident. I had a really good cycle, and I was ready to PR in DC. The course was perfect, the weather was ideal, and I seem to finally have figured out some of the fueling and pacing issues that used to plague me.

But first, the Expotique! I had heard a lot about the Nike race from a coworker who ran last year, but I still didn’t know exactly what to expect. And I have to say, of all the race expos I’ve attended, this one was certainly the most unique. It was like being in some kind of Nike ad for women–but not in a bad way. The space itself was small, and lacked many of the normal expo booths, but really focused on women and women’s products–from shoes to Nuun.

But the highlight (and total fluke!!) of the experience was being there just in time to see Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson speak! I totally went all fangirl and stood right against the stage and took a ton of pictures. I wish I had taken video! They were both so influential–talking about how they still get race jitters. Shalane had just run the fastest Boston time ever by an American woman 5 days before, and after watching her lead 19 miles of that race, it was especially exciting to see her!

After the expo, we headed to Niketown Georgetown where I bought too much race gear. Yeah, I got the shoes. After telling myself not to!!

Guess the commercial worked on me? After that, it was back to the hotel for and relaxed dinner and an early night. As I always, I had my glass of wine and passed right out. Before I knew it, we were getting up and heading to the start!

All morning, I was really calm. I think the fact that I had a really specific race plan from my coach Gia really helped, because I wasn’t doing any last minute mental calculation. I had a plan, I was sticking with my plan. Elizabeth and I were in different corrals, so after we split up I chatted with a couple of nice women I ran into in the corral. Including one who loved that Huff N Puff shirt! Before I knew it, we were off!

My race plan was to run the first 5 miles at a relatively easy 9 minute mile pace, then drop the pace down for the next 5, then give it everything I had for that last 5k. It was REALLY hard to stay that slow to start, but I did a pretty good job of staying right at or under 9mm pace. Yes, I felt super slow as everyone flew around me, but I reminded myself that it would feel REALLY nice to pass people at the end of the race. So I settled in and focused on staying lose. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t see most of the beautiful scenery in those first few miles of the race. I was focused on keeping my pace, not wasting energy, and enjoy the energy of the race. It wasn’t until we reached the Memorial Bridge and I was almost at the mile 5 maker and I could “loosen” up on my pace a little that I started to notice what was around me, and how much of this course I had conquered during Marine Corps. That, and the fact that I was feeling so good, really gave me a lot of confidence.

I continued to feel good as we approached Hains Point at mile 8. I’ve run enough races through this part of DC to know that the Point is always challenging, especially at the end of a race. I had saved my music for this part of the race, expecting to need a boost, and I used it, and a second gel, to give me a boost around mile 8-8.5. My pace had been steadily dropping since I “let it go” on the bridge, and I continued to pick up steam on the Point, despite the fact that we had some headwind on our way back towards the Mall. I kept telling myself 2 miles after the end of the Point, and amazingly, unlike so many halfs before, I never felt my energy drop off or lost the mental focus to keep pushing. If anything, I felt stronger after mile 11 (my splits show this too). By the time we made it back into the tunnel and were in the last KM of the race, I felt like I was flying. I felt so strong. I knew a PR was mine, and I was gunning it for that finish line.

When that line came into view I was ecstatic. When I could read the clock, I was even happier–it said 1.54 and change, and I knew I had started about 45 seconds after the clock, meaning I should come in under 1.55, a secret personal goal of mine. I kicked even harder.


As I finished, I was elated. I did it–a perfect race, in execution, time, everything. As I lined up to get my little blue box, I was just about the happiest girl in DC! A nearly 3 minute PR! That happiest grew once I saw my splits, and I’m still riding it over a week later!

Before I knew it, Elizabeth was there too! She also ran a huge PR, and broke 2 hours! Happy Day indeed!

What an all around wonderful experience. Nike, I’ll be back–maybe in San Fran??

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