Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mile 22

It occurred to me that I never got around to writing about the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15th.

So much was going on in my life around that time that the marathon (my 12th) was just another thing I had to get done during the weekend.

It was warm at the start line, which was probably the only time I have ever run a marathon and not been freezing while waiting around for the race to begin.  That meant it was going to be brutally hot by the end but I didn't really care.  Heat is fine.  I love the heat.  Bring it.


The start was ridiculously congested, but it didn't seem that bad once I actually made it up to the start line.  I was able to start running and sort of hit my pace without too much jockeying for position and bumping in to people.

It started to feel more crowded to me around mile 2, and I had to weave in and out just to avoid hitting slower runners who had started way too far up.

My pace started dropping off a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  As in, holy shit, what the f*ck is going on, a lot.  I hadn't worn a GPS and thought maybe one of the mile markers was off.  I expected everything to normalize soon, but it didn't, and I started to freak the hell out.  I took off like I was running for my life, just to try to make up for that lost time.

I had begun the race at a nice and easy, nobody's-trying-to-be-a-hero 4 hour pace, but within a couple of miles of frantic running, I had caught up with the 3:45 pace group.  Not where I wanted to be at mile 8 of a marathon.  I was able to run sub-3:45 back in the day (before child), and while I would have loved to run that fast at this marathon, I knew that it was not likely, given that the course was hilly, I had caught Rob's mystery illness, and was likely running with a fever, and I had fallen and twisted my ankle not once but twice in the week leading up to the race.  This did not look good.

About the time that I caught up with the pace group, I heard everybody around me talking (complaining) about how the mile markers were all messed up, and I realized that I should have trusted my body and not the idiot (who hopefully got fired) who had put up mile markers in a seemingly random, haphazard fashion that had no relationship with any actual distance.

I spent several miles mentally composing angry tweets and blog posts, on the subject of the mis-placed mile markers.

It was during this time frame (mile 8-ish) when I finally saw Rob.  He had been standing somewhere along the road during the early miles, but we hadn't seen each other in all the congestion.  This is the first time that's ever happened.  In all the other marathons I've run, we've never missed each other.

Aid station

Instead of saying something sweet or kind to him, I think what I shouted out was "The f*cking mile markers are f*cking messed up."  I was definitely feeling bad by around mile 8, which is not a good sign in a marathon.  I resorted to busting out my Emergency Amy Ray Playlist.

Between mile 10 and 11, we entered Forest Park, where I have run hundreds of miles since moving to St. Louis.  I didn't feel great, but at least my pace had stabilized, and I had Amy Ray.  I knew I could gut it out, I just wasn't sure how long.

I saw Rob a couple of more times in the park, and I am pretty sure I what I said to him (again) was how dissatisfied I was that the mile markers were f*cked up and how much I hoped somebody got fired for that.

Forest Park

Forest Park


Mile 15 took us past Washington University.  I had been kind of dreading running up the long, steady hill during that section of the course, but as I was actually doing it, I realized that I didn't even notice that I was running on a hill.  In fact, I hadn't noticed any hills on the course so far, even though I knew there had been plenty.  I took this as a good sign.  By mile 15 in the last marathon I ran, my legs were completely toast, and I briefly cried in Carondelet Park when I saw a gigantic hill looming over me at mile 17.  This time, even though I felt pretty shitty, at least the hills weren't bothering me, so I thought maybe I was in better shape after all.

Around mile 16, I saw Will.  My parents were staying with us, and they had brought him over there.  He seemed a bit confused about what was going on, but he gave me a high five, and my spirits were totally lifted.  My mom told me afterwards that when I went past, he started crying, I guess because he thought I should stop and go home and play with him.  He didn't understand why I just kept on running.

I popped another S!Cap around this time and felt like a million bucks.  I even turned off my iPod.  I have never, ever experienced a second wind during a marathon.  In my experience, once the badness and craziness sets in, it is a whirlwind cascade to rock bottom.  This time, it seemed like I might have found my way out of that mess.

It occurred to me, however, that I had not taken in any food since before mile 8.  Early on in the race, I felt honest-to-god hungry (also never a good sign during a marathon) and ate 3 Clif Shot Blocks (amounting to about 100 calories).  I was super proud of myself for being able to eat that; generally during a marathon, I cannot eat anything in the early miles and then I pay for it crashing up against the lactate threshold somewhere between mile 18 and 22.

The thought of food, particularly sweet food, like shot blocks or gel packs was repugnant.  Gatorade was repugnant, and I couldn't escape the memory of what it was like to throw up Gatorade all those times during hyperemesis.  Somewhere during these miles, Rob showed up on the side of the road and handed me a bag of Emergency Pretzels, and I sucked the salt off of them.  That helped.  I still felt good.  I thought I could do this-- I would be fine on S!Caps and water for the rest of the way.

At mile 20, I felt like doing cartwheels.  It was amazing.  I have probably never felt that good at mile 20.

At mile 21, everything was still great.  I could tell that I wasn't going to have the fastest time ever, but I would be able to come in well under 4 hours and the most important thing was that I felt totally awesome.

And then there was mile 22.

We entered the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood (which I always pronounce "Skinker-DeBelvedere"), and I immediately saw Rob on one of the side streets.  He darted into the course (it was now quite sparse of marathon runners) to join me.  He was wearing these eye-catching, breezy short shorts of his (red, yellow, orange and green stripes) that he got on a clearance rack at some marathon expo many years ago, no shirt, a white visor, and huraches.  He had the pockets of his "hot pants" filled with everything I could have possibly needed (more pretzels, electrolyte tabs, shot blocks, water, gatorade, etc).

When I first saw him, I thought, "Oh boy! Rob!"  I wanted to tell him that everything was super fantastic, but before I could open my mouth to do so, a wave of awfulness swallowed me whole.  It was like I had been floating on air for the last 6 miles, and then suddenly I'd had my limbs chained to my body, lead weights attached, and was plunged into a raging river.  I felt terrible.

For the first time, I noticed the hills.

I turned back to my Emergency Playlist and listened to "Give it a Go" on repeat for the remainder of the marathon.  I have no what that song is about, but it made me want fight and that is exactly what I did.

During the height of the awfulness, I slowed down enough that even 4 hours now seemed out of reach.  Rob stayed by my side, encouraging me with every step.  I dug down, got angry, and gutted it out to finish in 3:59:24.


I was briefly proud of myself for managing to bring it in in under 4 hours when I had so much trouble taking in food or liquids for the last, oh 18 miles, but then I realized that I was actually 3 to 4 minutes slower this time than the marathon I ran last fall, when I had been a crying, hysterical basket case from mile 9 on.

That got me to feeling pretty shitty about myself.

It didn't help that the post-race nausea set in soon afterwards, and that I had 300,000 projects going on in my life and absolutely no down time whatsoever.

Ironically, my muscles recovered quite well from this marathon (I just was a little bit sore for a couple of days), but I couldn't get rid of the awful, doom and gloom exhaustion that hit me precisely at Mile 22.  I have really never experienced anything like that.  It was like I was hollow inside, and I didn't have the energy to talk or even smile at anybody.  It didn't go away for a long time.  I felt like one of those celebrities you read about, who gets hospitalized for "exhaustion," except that I am not a celebrity and I had to keep going to work and making everybody dinner and doing the laundry.  It's been almost a month and a half, and I am only now beginning to come out of it a little bit and finally leave mile 22 behind.

This was my 12th marathon, and to tell you the truth, I am a little sick of this distance.  I am not done with it completely, I just think that I might not want to run another marathon again in the fall.  This is going to sound crazy, given what I just described above, but I think I want to break into ultra-marathon running (that is, longer than the marathon distance) instead.  Marathons are all the same-- balls to the wall, give it all you've got, hammer out a certain pace per mile and ignore everything around you.  I feel like Ultras are more relaxed, more about the journey than the finish.  And if there's one thing life has taught me thus far--  it's about the journey.

Here are my splits from the marathon, just to illustrate the ridiculousness of the mile markers in the first 7 or so miles:

  • 1-- 9:14
  • 2-- 11:10 (an 11:10 mile made me freak out)
  • 3-- 9:12
  • 4-- 10:17
  • 5-- 5:53
  • 6-- 6:50
  • 7-- 8:48
  • 8-- 8:58
  • 9-- 8:35
  • 10-- 9:21
  • 11-- 8:17
  • 12-- 8:56
  • 13-- 8:34
  • 14-- 9:57
  • 15-- 8:35
  • 16-- 9:14
  • 17-- 9:12
  • 18-- 8:59
  • 19-- 9:27
  • 20-- 9:03
  • 21-- 9:22
  • 22-- 9:12
  • 23-- 10:14
  • 24-- 9:38
  • 25-- 10:10
  • 26-- 9:42
  • 0.2-- 2:20


Thanks for reading (this wasn't supposed to be so long).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In honor of Hyperemesis World Awareness Day

Today is the first annual Hyperemesis World Awareness Day.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought I would repost a blog entry I wrote on March 29th, 2009 when I was 18 weeks pregnant and suffering from HG.

But first, a few observations:

Although William is now nearly 3 years old, HG is long from gone or forgotten.  Sometimes I wonder if I have PTSD, and I didn't even have HG that bad (compared to some of the women you read about on the Help HER website).  I still have ridiculously powerful aversions to many types of foods that made me sick while I was pregnant.  But beyond the foods that I avoided while pregnant, I now have aversions to foods that I was actually able to eat during that timeframe. Because food didn't taste right and made me feel awful in a kind of desperate way.  Sometimes it feels like my diet is more limited now even than when I was sick.

Also, I think HG made me kind of a racist.  The mere idea of Chinese food still makes me wither and die.  Three years after HG.  I have to avoid all things that would even conjure an image of Chinese food in my mind.  Some of my co-workers do research in China, and there have been times when I've been listening to their talks and I've actually started to feel sick.  What the hell.

One more thing: smells still bother me a lot.  If you wear perfume, I want to cut you.

I live in absolute terror of ever becoming pregnant again.  This is compounded by the fact that merely licking a birth control pill is enough to reduce me to a pile of vomit on the bathroom floor for 2 solid days.  I don't know if other HG survivors have similarly severe reactions to hormonal contraceptives; I haven't bothered to take the time to Google it.  I wasn't quite as morose about all of this back in 2009, but now I am absolutely adamant that I will never, ever, ever, ever go through it again.  I look at William and think, I've literally got all my eggs in one basket.


And now, for a trip down HG memory lane:


29 March 2009

(Sensitive information about vomit and then a bit of a rant follows. Read at your own risk)


My whole life, I’ve had severe motion sickness. When I was little, I couldn’t get into a car without a “choke bowl” (usually an empty Cool-Whip container). I have distinct memories of the journey across town to my aunt’s house—I can still see the roadside littered with the puke dumped out of my Cool-Whip bowl and the kleenexes used to wipe off my face. Over the years, I somehow learned to suppress the vomit reflex but was always left with the nausea. It was a useful skill to have. There are many times when it is inopportune to puke, such as a taxi-cab in Paris, a bus in Ireland (Amy, you will remember this), or your in-laws’ mini-van. I’m not quite sure how I do it… maybe it’s part self-hypnosis, part meditation, part mystery. But what has resulted is that over the years I’ve become so good at suppressing the urge to vomit, that it is very, very difficult for me to throw up.


Since becoming pregnant with Fig, I’ve thrown up 81 times. All but about 3 of these times were between week 5 and 11-ish, at which point I went on Zofran. The most I ever threw up in one day was 9 times, which really isn’t that much compared to a lot of women who’ve had all-out hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). During a typical day, I would only throw up 4 or 5 times (some women with HG throw up 20 times or more). The problem was, of course, the nausea. To get me to throw up even once—much less 4, 5, or even 9 times—required no small feat. Generally, I would wake up in the morning… feeling sick. Sometimes I would puke once or more. I might eat, or might not eat; either way, the nausea would rise to a deafening crescendo that would leave me motionless in bed for several hours, until finally around 1pm I would throw up. There might be a few more hours of lying in bed before I threw up again. Usually it would get worse around 5 or 6pm, and I’d throw up several times in the evenings. On more than one occasion, I’d be puking when Rob came in the door after work/swimming/biking/running or whatever it was he had going on.


Most of the time when I threw up, my stomach was empty to begin with, so I didn’t have to contend with chunks of food. And I preferred it this way. Stomach acid is not pleasant, but I got used to throwing it up.  There were times, however, when I would become ridiculously, freakishly, out-of-control, crazy-hungry. Desperate enough to have eaten roast beef it had been placed in front of me (thank god it wasn’t). I ate some very strange things during this time, and unfortunately I learned what it was like to throw each of them up. Below is a list—a guide, if you will—from the terrible to the downright pleasant.


Things that were terrible

  • Rice
  • Nectarines
  • Blackberries
  • Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable Soup (who would have thought it would be so bad?)
  • Healthy Choice Vegetarian Vegetable Soup (again, who would have thought?)


Things that ought to be outlawed by the Geneva Convention

  • Dairy. ( Oh. My. God. Dairy. ) The single worst experience of my life may have been throwing up cheese tortellini. Tied with the time I threw up tapioca pudding. Let us not speak of this again.


Things that weren’t so bad

  • Water
  • Gatorade
  • Herbal tea
  • Ginger-Ale (burny and zingy on the way back up, but I could handle it).
  • Pretzels
  • Baked potato (at the time I recall being surprised that this wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. But remembering it now makes my heart stop a little. I haven’t eaten potato since this incident).
  • Grapefruit (people told me that puking citrus was abominable; I actually didn’t think it was that bad).


Things that were surprisingly pleasant

  • Strawberry jello (leaves a nice aftertaste)
  • Honeycomb cereal, dry. (Seriously. It was not only not bad, I would go as far to say it was actually enjoyable. It digests remarkably quickly [like 15 minutes], and on the way up, it tastes good).


It isn’t always food that makes me nauseated. At my worst, taking a shower almost always made me throw up, but then again, going too long without taking a shower made me sick as well. I couldn’t stand the scent of unscented soap. I couldn’t wash my hair, wash dishes, scrub floors, vacuum, clean anything, fold laundry, turn on the stove, be in close proximity to people, ride in a car, ride my bike, or sometimes even walk.


It’s been tough, but what got me through worst of this was the thought that one day it would become something to laugh about—just a passing memory. Unfortunately, I have not quite made it to that point. At this precise moment when I’m writing, I feel okay. But I’m coming off 2 days when I felt like hell and had to lie in bed trying to breathe my way through the nausea. I found out the hard way that even though I am nearly halfway through this pregnancy, if I try to go off Zofran, I end up puking like it’s week 9 all over again.


When this whole pregnancy-induced-nausea began, I was actually pretty calm about it. I know from all the marathons I’ve run that the worst thing you can do is let negative thoughts creep into your brain, because once you do, all hell breaks loose. So I refused to let myself be anything other than calm. I didn’t even take it one day at a time—I just got through one minute and then would move onto the next. And I constantly reassured myself that this too would pass. It would all be over soon, and the only way out was through.


It’s gotten harder as the weeks continue to go on and I’ve passed several points of no return (I’ll feel better by Valentines’ Day… by week 16… by week 18…). The other night, when I was in the depths of a nauseated despair (all sense of calm having flown out the window), I started to get angry too. Over the years, a lot of people have said some incredibly rude and inappropriate things to me regarding my lack of procreation. I thought of these people and the things they had said to me, and all I wanted to do was smash my fist into a wall and scream something to the effect of ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??!! ARE YOU !@#$%^* HAPPY?? But I didn’t do that, and eventually I fell asleep and felt better in the morning.


I wrote all this down because as difficult as it has been at times, I want to remember it. People tell me that I’ll forget about this part eventually, and that I’ll want to have another kid—a sibling for Fig. I don’t know what the future holds. I said I would never, ever, have a baby, but now here I am, doing this. What I do know is that if somebody makes a remark about future progeny and I am in the wrong frame of mind, my likely response will be to strangle them.


Hoping for minimal nausea in week 19. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dear William (33 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 33 months old!

What a fun month you have had.

You dressed up in silly hats:

IMG 3473



You had a picnic with your dad:

IMG 3540

You stole mommy's trekking poles during a hike:

We went to a fun playground and you said, "OH THANK YOU, MOMMY. THIS IS AWESOME!"

IMG 3570

Afterwards we went out to lunch together as a family, for the first time ever. You had a kids' meal, and you actually ate most of it (rice and beans at Chipotle).

IMG 0710

You read Hop on Pop (this is long, but cute…)

Your cousin Logan sent you his old tricycle

You got your very own sleeping bag, and we went on a little camping trip to a friend's farm in rural Missouri:

IMG 3577

We had a rainstorm and you got to carry your very own umbrella:

IMG 3610

You planted a garden at daycare, but mainly you just banged your trowel against a watering can:

IMG 0716

You had a special night out with Mommy. Just the two of us had dinner at a restaurant together! You ate rice and beans like a pro at Chipotle (again)!

IMG 0721

You danced up a storm at the MoPro bike race series:

We had such a great time together this month, William! I can't wait for all the fun things in store for us!


Your mom