Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What it's like being a dyslexia mom

Everyday, you send your child into harm and trauma.

You send him to people who are violating the federal laws set up to protect him.

No one believes you.

Your friends and family look at you blankly and assure you that the people harming him are HEROES. You are just being Melissa, overreacting like you always do. You are unreasonable, unfair, crazy.

You don't sleep at night because you are so fucking terrified about what will happen to him after you die.

You are all alone, screaming into the void.

You can't do it anymore, but the cost of your failure is his life.

Days since last panic attack: 0.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Eres una madre muy valiente

Leda is one of the smartest people I know.

She went to a one-room school in rural Nicaragua. About the time she would have she graduated from high school, she had her only child--a son. She was a cleaning lady at the field station where Rob and I lived for a year when I was doing my dissertation research. Leda washed sheets and scrubbed toilets. Her life couldn't have been easy.

Leda didn't speak any English, but we never had trouble communicating. She was perceptive and could read my body language, and somehow she always knew what I meant even if I didn't use the right Spanish word. She was distant kin to Simeon, the volcano guide who sometimes helped me in the forest.

She never asked me for anything, except some batteries for her flashlight so that she could safely walk home from work one evening. It starts getting dark in Nicaragua by about 6pm, year round. And it is not like there are street lights, or streets. The "road" through the village is more rugged than some of the trails I run here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. You'd want a working flashlight if you were walking on them past dark. In sandals.

Years later she asked me for 20 dollars when I saw her in Managua and she needed the money to buy life-saving medication. She was very ill. Rob and I bought her dinner that night too, but she didn't feel much like eating.  She understood me better than I understood her-- I'm still not quite sure what was wrong, and I didn't pry.

She recovered. The last time I saw her, she was healthy and well.

Leda is one of the reasons why my life was never the same after Nicaragua. I remember coming "home" to a strange world of cars and grocery stores and microwaves. I remember watching the laundry spin round and round in the washing machine at our house in Urbana, while tears streamed down my face. What would Leda think of this? She washed bedsheets by hand, on a washboard, in a sink made of concrete.

Leda figured out how to use a computer and type. She figured out how to get a Gmail address and a Facebook account. She figured out how to use Google Hangouts and Facebook messenger. We have kept in contact for more than 10 years.

Shortly after the election this past year, she texted me, asking in Spanish if my family and I were safe. I replied that we were. Leda and I had never talked about politics or religion before. I could tell she wasn't sure where my beliefs fell on the political spectrum, and I also couldn't tell hers. So I asked her what people were saying in Nicaragua about the results of the election. Her reply was something like, we are afraid many will suffer. I said, it is the same here. Then, because I was pretty sure we were on the same page, I told her, "I voted for Hillary." She replied with a thumbs up and smiley face emoji. I wondered if both of us had just been placed on watch lists. I figured it was worth it. She continued, saying that she did not have much, but if my family was ever in need, she would share with us all that she had.

I guess she never forgot that 20 dollars I gave her for medicine.

Leda also read my Facebook posts that described William's struggles with dyslexia. She looked up "dyslexia" (dislexia in Spanish) and learned about what it was. This is more than any of Will's teachers at school have done. She wrote to me and said she was so sorry for our difficulties and that she wished only the best for Rob and me and Will. I told her thank you. She wrote, "Eres una madre muy valiente."

I sat there with the phone in my hand, reading over her words again and again to make sure I understood what they meant. I was ugly-crying before I even knew it.

William had just gotten home from school and was playing with some cars next to me. "Mommy, what's the matter?" he asked. I tried to explain that Leda had written something very kind to me and it had made me cry.

"What did she say?" he asked. I showed him the phone, and I read the words in Spanish. "What does that mean?"

I told him, and then he smiled the sweetest little smile and crawled into my lap. He pressed his face against my face and whispered so that I could feel his warm breath in my ear. "She's right," he said.

*****

A lot of people have called me a lot of things since this whole dyslexia fight began. It hasn't always been kind. Those who are supportive tend to say things like Leda-- they tell me that I'm brave or strong for choosing to fight. I appreciate this, I really do, but I don't feel that it's true. 

I am the least brave or strong person I know. And I did not choose this fight. I am backed into a corner and my child's life is on the other side. I will eviscerate anyone who stands in my way, even if it kills me.  And it will kill me. This isn't what I want. This isn't what I spent my whole life working for.  But I have no other choice. 

A few weeks ago, I contacted a local dyslexia parent support group and told them that I was considering going to speak at a school board meeting about the lack of appropriate intervention in schools and the life-long negative impact this has on dyslexic children. A few other mothers said they would go too. One of the mothers mentioned our intention to the assistant superintendent, and the reaction was very swift. Several school district officials offered to meet with us and discuss our concerns immediately. Better to keep these comments in a private room, I suppose, than in the publicly available minutes of the school board meeting.

We took them up on their offer, knowing we could always approach the board afterwards, particularly if our meeting with them did not go well. Several parents attended. I did not smile at any of school district officials. I couldn't. These are the people who are directly responsible for throwing my son's life away. These are the people who are throwing away the lives of as many as 6,000 children in the school district. Dyslexia is real, and it affects 1 in 5.

The assistant superintendent was at least somewhat receptive, which is a vast improvement compared to anyone else I have dealt with in the district. He seemed motivated by the possibility that our school district could do better than Boulder, which initiated a pilot program offering Barton instruction to 100 dyslexic kids in school. Our district currently does nothing but deny that dyslexia exists. He seemed intrigued that by providing appropriate instruction, we could lower the appallingly high drop out rate and epidemic of adolescent suicides in the district (depression, anxiety, dropping out of school, and suicide are all higher in unremediated dyslexics). He said he would get back to us within ten days. The clock is ticking. The lives of thousands of children hang in the balance.

After the meeting, the other dyslexia parents stood around, rehashing and decompressing, and marveling at how similar all of our horrifying experiences have been. There may be no other human universal. Dyslexia is the great equalizer.

The other parents all had children older than Will, and their concern was mainly about their kids entering middle school in the next year or two. Even though Will is a bit younger, it occurred to me-- none of the changes we proposed would in any way benefit him. We asked for mandatory kindergarten screening and at least one dyslexia specialist in each elementary school. I specifically demanded Orton-Gillingham instruction for every child identified who could benefit from it. 

Even in the extremely unlikely scenario that any of these proposed changes would be put into place during the next school year, Will would be in third grade. And we've already paid thousands of dollars in private dyslexia tutoring to save his life. The effort would be put towards identifying the younger kids and providing them with intervention. Will would be past it. Shit out of luck.

I realized at that moment, I wasn't doing this for him after all. It is too late for him. I'm doing this for the other kids, for the other dyslexia moms, so that they never have to go through what I have. 

It took a minute or two, for all of this to sink in.

There's this ethos among special-needs moms, or maybe all moms, or maybe all women in general, not be be seen as complaining. I've lost friends and made enemies for speaking up about what the schools in our country do to dyslexic kids. Nobody wants to go through this, to be seen as such a negative person. We'd all rather believe that schools are good, and teachers are heroes. It's easier that way. It prompts us to silence, but silence is acceptance, complicity even. And it makes every single dyslexia mom have to reinvent the wheel. We've known for decades what instructional approach dyslexic children require in order to learn, but schools simply refuse to use this. The stories dyslexic people tell about their experiences in the 1950's, 1960's, are no different that what is happening today. We've lost generations of brilliant people who were never taught how to read, and it is time for that to stop.

I'm not strong, I'm not brave, and I absolutely can't do this alone. Who is with me?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dear William (90 months)

Dear William,

On February 12th, you turned 7 and a half years old.

Life keeps getting harder and harder every day. But I will continue to fight for you as long as there is breath left in my body.



You are so much stronger and braver and kinder than I could ever be. I keep reminding myself that, whenever I get scared.


Dyslexia is a gift. Everything is going to be fine.

Love always,
Mama

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dear William (89 months)

Dear William,
Today you are 89 months old.

Ms. Valerie asked you to draw a picture of what dyslexia means to you, and this is what you drew:

"This is my drawing," you said proudly. I've always told you that dyslexia is a gift. I cried. Ms. Valerie hugged me.


Star Wars Rogue One came out in mid-December and we all went to see it. I loved it. You didn't like the ending. You said you liked Episode VII better. There had been a blizzard while we were in the movie theater watching it, and we came out to like a foot of snow. I'm glad your dad was driving on the way home. It was terrifying.

On Christmas Eve, we took AJ to RMNP for some sledding and ski mountaineering. At first it was very cold, but after the sun came out, you practiced on your skis.

AJ is one of your faves. You told him he's a Ravenclaw. But his wife is a Gryffindor.




On Christmas morning, you woke up at 5am.

You were very thrilled with all your presents, but especially with your Harry Potter costume (robe, wand, glasses, and Gryffindor necktie).


It snowed some more on Christmas, and you were thrilled.

"I'm going outside now, to run around in the snow with my broomstick."


You also got a chess set and you love playing chess.




We did not go to Across The Years this year because both mommy and daddy were injured. We took a couple of small ski trips instead. You guys skied, I worked on a novel.

Our first trip was to Eldora, on a very cold, blizzardy day.


When you got too cold, you came inside the very crowded ski lodge and played chess with me.



We also went to Winter Park. The weather was much better. I think they call this "bluebird skies," but I don't really understand much about ski lingo.


You and your dad left for an epic ski run about 2 hours before sundown, and it ended up taking you a lot longer than you and daddy thought it would. One of the hills was marked as "easy," but it actually was quite hard and scary. It was getting dark and the lifts had all closed and you guys had not returned. I was so worried. I kept seeing snow mobiles going up the mountain and returning with people who were injured or otherwise couldn't make it down. It was freezing cold and I wandered around, looking for you.

At last, I saw you both. You were okay. You were just scared and moving slowly. You removed your skis and ran down the rest of the way to me. I'm still not really sure what happened during those 2 hours because you wouldn't say anything other than to tell me you were cold and angry.  But the next day you said you wanted to go skiing again.

This was from earlier in the day at Winter Park.

We did eventually return to Eldora, where it was again a blizzard, but you and your dad were brave enough to ski for a while.



It's back to school now, after winter break. I miss you terribly. I don't understand the other parents, who say they are happy to get their kids out of the house send them back to school. My happiest times are when I am with you. You are the bravest, kindest, strongest person I know.

Love always,
Mama

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dear William (88 months)

Dear William,
Today you are 88 months old. I think. I skipped writing the last couple of months.

This is in part because I am busy. But mostly because, I guess, I don't think I have anything wise left to say.

We've continued with the very expensive and time-consuming dyslexia tutoring.

Q and U stick like glue, and other fun things from the Orton-Gillingham method.

I still don't know why, for the love of god, the education system can't just do this with you in school.

You won a "major award" at the November assembly for being "hard working" and "committed to learning," or something vague like that.  All the kids earn an award once per year. These people don't know the half of it, how hard you work and how committed you are to learning. Puh-leeeeeeeze.

#SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA. #SAYDYSLEXIA.  #SAYDYSLEXIA. 

Oh, we had the election since I wrote last, too. When you woke up on November 8th, your face and eyes were bright and shining, and you said, "It's Hillary's big day!"


Hillary lost, all of us lost.

We can stand and fight, for whatever that's worth. Or we can run and hide.

My first instinct, as always, was for campfire.


Eventually we came home, and there was snow.


We had vegan Thanksgiving with friends, then put up a Christmas tree.

On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

To be quite honest, these days, I am surprised that the sun still rises.


William, I will continue to do everything I can for you, no matter what happens next. I am so glad that you are so much braver and stronger and wiser than me.



Love always,
Mama

Monday, November 28, 2016

Our Nausea

After the disaster that was Javelina, I thought I might have to give up running ultras.  It's been more than 4 years of this-- the nausea, the vomiting. It was no longer how I wanted to spend my life.

"We just need to get your stomach figured out," Rob insisted.

I wasn't as optimistic. All the reasonable, rational, realistic things have not worked. I don't know what else to do.  I wear anti-nausea wrist bands and take ginger pills, I've tried every possible electrolyte drink and tablet, I've tried gels and real food and liquid-only and high-fat. I feel completely out of ideas.

But Rob has approached this stomach-sorting thing as a kind of science. We'll continue to try different things until we find something that works.  We're not yet out of options.

On Sunday, I left to go run 20 some miles at Lory State Park, and Rob said I couldn't just do the same-old-same-old (Nuun and peanut butter pretzels, which hadn't worked for me during Javelina)-- I needed to make this run count by trying something different.  He suggested I give Tailwind another shot, because even though I have thrown it up before, in theory it seems to be the exact thing I need (a liquid source of calories and electrolytes). He said we could try diluting it a lot, so maybe the taste wouldn't bother me (yes, I think even the "unflavored" version tastes disgusting).

I grudgingly agreed.

I felt terrible from the get-go on that run (after many days of not sleeping or eating properly), and Tailwind did not make me feel any better.  It was all I could do to swallow that wretched stuff instead of gag it up or spit it out.  I don't understand why people like Tailwind.  It tastes exactly like the suero a pregnant Chilean girl gave me after I'd been throwing up for 2 weeks with The Vortex in Nicaragua.

I also took Endurolyte tabs during the run. For the past several years, I haven't taken any salt tabs at all, and Rob thought that this might be part of my problem. At Javelina, I took S!Caps, which are super concentrated, and maybe made the electrolyte imbalance worse. Endurolytes seemed like they would be a nice middle ground.

In addition to about 100 calories of Tailwind, I force fed myself ~500 calories of Wild Friends nut butter and peanut butter pretzels as I ran.  This is the most I've ever consumed during a slightly over 4 hour run, but still lower than the 200-250 calorie/hour recommendation that many ultra runners ascribe to. I've long since maintained that I can get by on 100 calories per hour (or less even). Rob doesn't believe this is true.

My legs held up fine during the run, but my stomach felt awful and my mind followed in a downward spiral. I swear that the Tailwind and Endurolytes induced nausea, because I wouldn't normally have been sick during a 20 mile run in cold weather.

I took a ginger pill after I got home just to survive, but the nausea returned later in the evening when Rob got the great idea to watch the "new" Jason Bourne movie that neither of us had seen yet. By just a couple of minutes into the movie, I was reaching for an emesis basin and wanting to gauge my eyes out I was so nauseous. It was like the time, more than 15 years ago, when my friend Jarrod had to carry me out of the theater during the Blair Witch Project because the shaky camera made me so sick.

I laid face-down on the couch and covered my head with a pillow, and Rob described the movie to me. "Now Jason Bourne has jumped into a car and is driving away," he said.

"What kind of a car, like a sedan?" I asked.

"Yes, a sedan. The bad guy has stolen a swat car and is chasing him."

"You mean the guy who was trying to kill him earlier?"

"Yes, that guy," Rob said.  "Now Jason has jumped the median and is driving the wrong way on a very busy street. The bad guy just plowed into 20 parked cars."

I felt like I was dying of nausea, but I laughed. This might be the only way I can watch movies, especially ones that involve a lot of shaky camera action. Movies make me sick all the time. From now on, I will just close my eyes and have Rob narrate.


via GIPHY

When the movie ended and I managed to drag myself up to bed, I was still musing about this nausea. Rob asked me if the way I felt when watching the Jason Bourne movie was the same way I felt when I get car sick. I said yes.  He asked if it was the same way I felt when I get sick while running a race.  I said yes, now suddenly connecting the dots in my head.

All of a sudden I realized-- what if it wasn't about getting behind on eating and drinking during a race and then messing up my electrolyte balance or running out of fuel? I had always assumed that I slacked off on nutrition and hydration first, and the nausea followed after.  But what if the nausea was what started it all off? What if I get motion sick just from running, and then my queasy stomach won't let me eat or drink anymore?

It started to make a whole lot of sense. I've suffered from severe motion sickness my entire life-- in boats, planes, trains, buses, and cars, even while riding a bike. It seems reasonable that whatever causes my motion sickness would be in play while I'm running as well-- especially on trails where I'm constantly watching the terrain undulate and the rocks and roots rise and fall beneath my eyes.  It makes sense that I felt even worse after dark at Javelina.  The heat was less of a factor, but the bobbing headlamp against the darkness of night kept me throwing up. Maybe it even makes sense that in almost every ultra I've ever done, the nausea hits me around the same time-- 7 to 8 hours into the race, or somewhere between mile 35 to 38.  Maybe my inner ear has the power to fight off the sensory onslaught of jagged terrain for that many hours, and then it just snaps.  At least, that is how it seemed to happen at Javelina. Everything was fine until all of a sudden *bam* the nausea slammed me without any warning, even though I thought I had been doing a relatively good job of eating and drinking. It was after the nausea hit me that I shut down on my nutrition and hydration.

So there it is, I think I've figured it out.  It's not about calories or electrolytes. It's just my motion sickness, for which there is no cure.

I'm trying not to feel abysmal about this, but I kind of do.

Rob asked if it would be possible to take motion sickness medication during ultras, like Dramamine, but this would not be a solution. To say that Dramamine makes me "drowsy" is a vast understatement. It makes me catatonic for days on end if I merely lick a tablet.  All of the various motion sickness products have the same side effect.  They do make a "non-drowsy" version of Dramamine, but it is just a ginger pill (less concentrated than the ginger pills I already take) with a gelatin coating. That wouldn't be an improvement, even if I was willing to consume gelatin (I'm not). I did think that my vegan ginger pills offered me some relief during Javelina, it was just that I stopped being able to take them because the capsule is so big and I would gag on it when I tried to swallow.  I've looked around to see if I can find any ginger supplement that concentrated (I'm talking 1,000mg of ginger here) in an easier to swallow version. I haven't been successful yet.  But what I did try today was actually opening up a capsule and dumping the powdered ginger into a glass of water. It didn't taste completely terrible. Granted, I wasn't currently nauseous, but I had no problem drinking it like that. The thing I am actively clinging to at the moment is that maybe I could empty a ginger capsule into my water bottle during an ultra, and possibly survive to the end without nausea. Or maybe there is something else out there for motion sickness that doesn't cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, etc, as a side effect. I guess I'll keep looking, or else, limit myself to races I can finish in 8 hours if I want to do it without getting sick.


via GIPHY

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Part 2: How I got off the boat at Javelina 100

Continued from Part 1: Selling my soul to get to Javelina.

I didn't come to Javelina 100 from a place of great strength. There were the preceding months of injury, and then, the wearing down of my soul as I fought to make this world (or at least the education system) a habitable place for my differently-abled child.

Of course, we all reach the start line having overcome obstacles. I don't think that mine were any more insurmountable than those that others faced. But I knew going into this that I had not handled it well. I was angry. I felt like I needed to own that emotion, that maybe it was a stage I needed to go through.  I hoped that my anger would be an asset in this race, that I could use it as a powerful fuel, and that I could just keep holding on to that razor thin edge instead of snapping and losing it entirely.

My knee hurt as we pulled into Phoenix, and my ankle hurt too.  But we found Christina in the parking lot of packet pick up, and at that moment, I knew everything would be okay, no matter what the outcome. She was the reason I was here, she was why I had gotten this far.

Thank you, Christina and Angela.

After a sleepless night, I was lucky to find Christina again at the start line in the dark of the pre-dawn morning, with about 600 of our closest friends.

Angela, you are with us too.

Christina, I meant to tell you something before the race and completely forgot: "This is your day."
I didn't even know when the race started.  I just noticed that all of a sudden Christina and I were moving and there was already at least a minute on the clock by the time we got there. I started my watch and ran about 10 steps.  Then we came to a complete stop. There were a lot of people ahead of us.


That moment at the start line when anything is possible.

The race started on a narrow trail, and because it was so crowded, the going was slow. The first mile took me over 18 minutes, which was about the same time when it got light enough to turn off my headlamp.


Christina and I stayed together in the congestion for a couple of miles. Then a woman passed me, flitting effortlessly up the trail. I decided I'd had enough of walking in the conga line. I went with her.

As I talked with my new friend, I relaxed a little. One thing I noticed (but cannot explain) was that all of a sudden, my knee didn't hurt anymore.  This was an asset.  I also noticed that once we got to the "technical" section, I actually didn't think it was so bad. Maybe living in the Rocky Mountains had done me some good after all. Asset.

But what I did notice was that my ankles hurt, both of them. The one that had been injured and the "good" one as well. I didn't know what to make of this, especially so early in the race.  I would have to find a way to make it manageable.

Around 10 miles in, we reached the halfway point of the loop and the aid station at Jackass Junction.  It was so crowded. I lost a lot of time standing in actual lines just to get a turn to refill my water, use the porta potty, find my drop bag, and get ice for the tube sock I was wearing around my neck as a cooling device. I took a salt pill and hoped the runners would start to spread out soon.

It was mostly downhill back to headquarters, and before I knew it, I had completed the first loop.

Drop bags at headquarters. 

Headquarters was crowded as well, but there was more space than at Jackass, plus I had Rob to help me navigate and get my things for me. He filled my pack and tube sock with ice, while I fumbled around my drop bag for ibuprofen. The pain in my left ankle was getting bad. I mean, it wasn't as bad as when the injury had first occurred a couple of weeks ago-- that had felt like an alien was trapped in my lower leg and trying to burn its way out with a red hot poker.  This wasn't to that point yet.  I stretched and rotated the ankle as I downed an ibuprofen.  I took another salt pill. I noticed again how terrifyingly hot it was becoming, so I took a ginger pill for good measure-- anything to keep the nausea at bay.  I guzzled 2 dixie cups of ginger ale, then loaded up on Fritos, salted potatoes, and more peanut butter pretzels.  It was time to go out for Loop 2.


I didn't invent the tube sock of ice around the neck, but I sure appreciate whoever suggested it. That was brilliant.  Also, apparently, I brushed shoulders with Rob Krar as I was exiting headquarters, but I didn't even know it. He wasn't running, he was there as either spectator or crew.

I noticed that on Loop 2, everyone was walking. It was hot, yes, probably nearing 100 degrees, and we were only about a quarter of the way into a hundred mile race, and we were going uphill.  But walking, really? Was it necessary? As the ibuprofen kicked in, I felt great. The salt and ginger were keeping my stomach at bay.  The caffeinated Nuun had given me wings.  I didn't want to walk.  That would make it take longer between aid stations, and refills of ice and ginger ale. It seemed better to just keep going.

I tried to do the best I could on hydration and nutrition.  The tube sock of ice was a life saver for keeping me cool, until two of the aid stations (each of them about 6-6.7 miles apart) were both out of ice. I felt bad for the volunteers, who looked at us apologetically, but seriously, I don't know how they managed to have any ice on this course throughout the day. It was so hot. We'd been lucky to have ice at all.  

I didn't notice that the heat was getting to me until I gagged on salt pill at Jackass around mile 32. I tried three times to get one down and never could. I eventually gave up and just kept moving.

By mile 37, I was nauseous.  The most important thing, I thought, was to get it under control and not panic.  But this was hard to do because my ankle hurt so bad. Negativity spiraled me downward.  I told myself to just hang on 5 more miles. Rob would be there at headquarters, and he would take care of me, and everything would be okay.

At headquarters, I gagged on two more salt pills. "Just put some water in your mouth and do this as fast as possible," Rob said. I managed it on my third try, but it felt like death and I started to cry.  I needed to eat but I couldn't eat. The best I could do was ginger ale.  I had covered just over 40 miles. How on earth was I going to go another 60?

Rob handed me my recharged headlamp, and I put it in my pack. The sun would set in 2, maybe 3 hours.  Then it would be cool, and the nausea would go away, and I would be able to make up for these lost calories.  All I had to do was finish Loop 3, and then Rob could pace me the last 40 miles.

I got some vegetable broth at the first aid station out. I knew it didn't have much in the way of calories, but at least I could keep it in, and maybe it would restore my electolytes enough so that I could eventually eat and drink again.

I ran with Carrie for a while, and Zach G. I felt better talking to them. I still hadn't eaten, but happy tears formed in the corners of my eyes. I had ridden the wave. I was going to make it.

I saw Christina and stopped to hug her. I was so proud of us for doing this, I was so happy.  Zach Bitter flew past us at that moment, on his way to winning the race and setting a new course record. He had smiled and told me "good job" each time he'd met me on the loops. He'd done that for every single participant out there, still managing to run around an 8 minute pace for a hundred miles.

Shortly after mile 50, it was dark enough that I turned on my headlamp. This is what I had been waiting for all day. It would be cool again, and I would be able to eat.

I walked into Jackass Junction, around mile 52, in the dark.  It was the "party" aid station. Volunteers wore costumes, there was music and lights.  A volunteer asked me what I wanted, and all of sudden, without warning, I burst into tears.  I can't eat, I told him. I haven't been able to eat since sometime before mile 37.  Liquid. Liquid calories, not sweet.

They handed me broth.  I sobbed and sobbed. A lady led me to a white tent, where I sat down on a chair and continued to sob.  Then I started to shake. The lady brought me some oranges and told me that had helped other people who had been nauseous and sitting in that chair.  I tried the oranges but they tasted so bitter to my nauseated tongue.  I stood up, I wobbled.  The lady told me she didn't mean to sound nagging, but she didn't think I should go back out on the trail.  I said I was fine, but I was sobbing. She got me a baggie for the oranges, and I left, clutching them and the dixie cup of broth.  I couldn't stop crying, but I headed back out onto the trail.

At mile 55, I puked for the first time.  It was dark, and I apologized to the people around me because even at this stage in the race, the trail was still crowded.  The nausea lifted for a few moments, and I knew I would have a little window of time to get some calories and electrolytes in me, hopefully turn this around. But what? Nothing I had with me sounded appealing.  I did the best I could.  A mile or two later, I puked again.

Eventually, I came to Coyote, the last aid station before headquarters.  I was sobbing again. I asked them, was there anything they could give me that would take away this nausea. I was losing my mind.  It had been more than 20 miles of this.  I had been subsisting on sips of broth and water that whole time.  I had 40 miles left to go.  I couldn't stop crying.  One of the volunteers asked if I wanted her to walk with me back to headquarters, some 3 or 4 miles away.  I shook my head. I said I could make it and went on.

People cheered for me as I came in, and I wanted to scream at them to shut up. I was dying, I didn't want to be cheered. Rob found me and got me a chair by my drop bag.  I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

"I don't want to have to quit," I told him.

Rob had on his headlamp to pace me, and we left from the aid station as I tried to take a couple of sips of ginger ale. I didn't know why we were doing this. There was no way I could make it to the end. I was angry that people kept telling me I had so much time left on the clock. 14 more hours to go 40 miles, they said.  It didn't matter. I couldn't see straight. I was so nauseated I thought I would die.

I don't know how long it took for us to get back up to the aid station at mile 66, but I knew that was the end for me. I didn't know how I would drop from there. I was terrified that I would end up just having to walk back to headquarters the way we'd come. 

I couldn't tell what Rob was thinking. Was he mad at me, was he annoyed? Did he think I was being a wimp and just needed to get my shit together? Was he disappointed that he had sacrificed so much for me to do this, and now I had completely fallen apart?  He kept telling me that I had plenty of time left. He had me lay down on a cot, and I think he thought I just needed to rest a while so I could feel better.  But I was way far past the gone. Lying there, not eating or drinking, wasn't going to bring me back.  I couldn't even walk another step.  My mind had snapped, and I knew I'd fallen off of that razor thin edge I'd been clinging to when I started this race.  All I wanted, in the whole world, was to get rid of this nausea.

I'm not sure how long we were at that aid station--an hour, maybe two? I started to get cold and shake again. One of the volunteers told me he felt so bad to see me suffering like this that he would just take me back to headquarters himself. I nodded and kept telling him I was so, so sorry. He got his truck and I climbed in. Another volunteer asked for my bib number, and I said "432." She radioed my number back to headquarters, and I guess that's how you drop a race.


I had plenty of time to think, as I talked to Christina the next morning, and then during the long drive home. I was messed up, for sure, but I have been messed up much worse in other ultras and still managed to finish. Maybe it was because I still had so much distance left to cover when the nausea hit.  If you get messed up at mile 37 of a 50 miler, you can gut it out to the end. Maybe you can't if the distance is 100 miles. At least, I couldn't.

When all was done, I'd gone about 8 hours on only a few dozen calories.  My body was shutting down.  If somehow, I'd managed get some fuel in me, I think I would have recovered instantly.  I just couldn't do it-- my mind was gone, my gut was gone, and I couldn't come up with the strength to power through any more.

If you've known me for longer than 5 minutes, chances are you've heard me talk about how I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum while I was pregnant with Will. This is not morning sickness.  This is puke until you almost die sickness.  I lost at least 10% of my body weight and couldn't work I was so sick. Once I realized that it wasn't going away the whole time I was pregnant, I didn't know how I was going to live through it.  I didn't know how I'd survive one more minute of it, much less 9 whole months. At 12 weeks, I was prescribed anti-emetic pills to stop the vomiting, which mostly worked, but they didn't do anything for the nausea.  It was terrifying.  I thought I would lose my mind, and there was no way out.  Not one for minute did that nausea ever leave me. 

It felt like all those times, when I lived on Ometepe Island and got seasick on the boat back to the mainland. I would white knuckle it through those boat rides, clutching the railing until my skin was thin and pale, and I would vomit into a trash can as Lake Nicaragua swirled violently around me.  I would hold on, just hold on, for an hour and a half, or maybe two, until the boat ride was over.

Hyperemesis was that same feeling, except the boat ride was much longer, and no matter how much I wanted off that boat, I was trapped.  There was nothing anybody could do.  

I thought of all this, as we drove home through Utah.



I thought, maybe I've never really gotten over that. Maybe I never will.  I don't know. During hyperemesis, I had no choice, I had no options. But during Javelina, I did.  I could take something I had worked so hard to get to, made so many sacrifices for, and I could throw it all away.  But in doing so, I could get off the boat.  And maybe that's what I needed to do.

Thanks for reading.