Thursday I had my final (sorta) follow-up appointment at Stanford. It was the shortest appointment ever. My doctor basically said, “Well, if you haven’t had any more heart episodes since early December, then I guess it’s back to normal. We still don’t know exactly why it came on so intensely, but fingers crossed it stays away and I don’t see you again for many years.”
Fingers crossed is always the official medical diagnosis you want to hear.
Honestly — don’t stress, Grandma — it’s a little more complicated than that (but not much), and we *do know* it’s not a dangerous condition, just problematic when it’s happening so frequently, and now it’s simply a matter of figuring out what triggers the episodes.
So. Are you back to full training? the doctor asked. Are you racing yet? Mostly, I told him, as of the start of the month I’ve been training again. And I’m racing this weekend, I told him, so we’ll see if anything goes wrong. Fingers crossed, he said.
And just like that, it’s as if we’re totally back to normal. As if I didn’t spend the good part of a month thinking I wasn’t going to race again this year at all, maybe ever. Maybe, at best, I’d get back to being a casual active person in life, but that’d be it. If that happened, I’d decided I was going to move, reinvent my life, get a job at a publishing house and pour myself into whatever it is career-focused people pour themselves into. And now that’s passed.
It may not come as a shock that I was a little stressed, then, evidently, about the half-marathon I signed up for this weekend. I didn’t feel stressed, but I was having trouble keeping food down all week, so. If I was going to venture a guess, I’d imagine not knowing what’ll happen is generally considered a stressor. Even if no heart episodes happened, I’ve been training again for all of (as Sara said when we were recording the podcast the other day) “like three seconds.” I know I’m not really in shape. I know I needed to do something to jumpstart myself, but I was worried I’d quit or make excuses or fall apart.
I didn’t so much, but I also kind of did. It was what it was.
True story: Around mile 7 a bird shit on me, and that wasn't even the low point of the race. . . . Sometimes you run a race to see where you're at, and you find out the answer and then you still have to make it five more miles. When @tsugould took this picture, I was trying to talk my jello legs into wobbling me across the finish line. And eventually they did in what ended up being the slowest half-marathon I've run in awhile. But it was also the first race I've run since things went sideways back in November and I didn't know if I'd race at all this year. So we'll call it race #1, and maybe in #2 I won't get shit on and my legs will stick around for a few more miles. . . . Oh, and the people voted for the black shorts and the @smashfestqueen Dig Me bra. #kaiserhalfmarathon #winterracing #ouch
I was determined to try to run the PR pace I thought I was capable of, even if I ended up not being in PR shape. At least I’d know. And it felt OK; I powered through the low point around four miles, kept it together. Honestly, I thought I was good to go through about eight miles, and then fairly abruptly the legs came off. It was ugly. As I was grunting and struggling and trying to just make it to the next light and then deciding the next light was too far, I could barely make it to the next spectator, I thought about how we say, “It was ugly,” as if that’s just so simple an explanation. But that doesn’t really capture what it’s really like, every single second, when you’re trying to hold on and not quit, every single step.
The one thing I had promised myself even if it got nasty and I didn’t have the fitness and it blew up was that I couldn’t quit. And I mean quit, not DNF. My one goal was that I couldn’t stop pushing it as hard as whatever I had. (That’s a lie. My secret second goal was that totally thought I might be able to PR, but figured the odds were like 50-50 on either that or a meltdown.) I don’t really know if I kept at my one main goal though. It was so hard, so so hard, not to quit from mile eight to 11. Then, after mile 11, it wasn’t so much a matter of quitting as a matter of my legs not giving out. They were wobbling and buckling. I went from 6:30s to 6:50s (more or less) around the mile eight point, and then the last two miles I went to 7:15 and 7:30 and, god, who even knows how long that last little portion of a mile took me, I think it was 7:56 pace technically. That was the only section I really truly stopped caring about who passed me, how long it took, how fast I was going. I just wanted to be done.
So, yeah, I hemorrhaged time near the end, and it ended up being significantly slower than I expected even in the middle of it (1:28:48). But it’s done. Now I just need to get my legs back up to normal too.
You can read all my weekly recaps of being a pro. I’m on year two, but just barely, clearly.