“Nobody knows how the story ends
Live the day, doing what you can
This is only where it begins
Nobody knows how the story ends
Nobody knows how the story ends.” – Nobody Knows, Lumineers from Pete’s Dragon Soundtrack – STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN TO THIS SONG!!!
Nobody knows how a marathon will go until you are running it. Kiawah went about how I expected up until mile 17 and then things started to quit on me. Nothing too bad, nothing I couldn’t deal with but issues all the same. I finished. I didn’t end up getting IV fluids in the medical tent and there was no puking so we’ll consider it a success. I’m not thrilled about my time and continue to feel like I’m not a real runner because I can’t run a decent time (I make rules for myself that come from some weird place of inadequacy within myself but are not based in logic. I use logic all day at work but rarely in my own brain when it applies to myself, so go figure). I was thrilled with the company – there couldn’t be better training partners than Jessica and Melody. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Sadly, neither of them is ever planning on running a marathon, again, so I am on my own for anything over 13 miles from here on out!
Kiawah would be a terrible marathon for a first time marathoner who didn’t have company. The course is sparsely populated, there is nothing but a lot of marsh grass to look at and the only thing you can speculate about is the cost of the houses on the island and what people must do for a living in order to afford $8 million beach houses that aren’t even on the beach. Melody and I talked and talked and talked some more – we’re really good at talking and never run out of things to say. I won’t do this marathon, again, but then, I don’t plan on repeating any of the marathons I’ve run because, if I’m going to run 26.2 miles, I want it to be somewhere new. I’m considering running the half at Kiawah this year because Melody already signed up and I will follow Melody wherever she goes because I love her to the moon and back and because we think we can hit the magic half time we’ve told each other we want to beat (we’re too scared to say it out loud right now)!
As most everyone knows, I got into the Chicago Marathon via the lottery for October 2, 2017. I’m excited but I wonder why I keep doing this. I’m 99% sure my body isn’t cut out for marathons so what do I do with that information other than continue to ignore it? As many of you don’t know, I was diagnosed with an unspecified autoimmune disorder about 3 years ago. Basically, it meant that I had some sort of autoimmune disease but it wasn’t severe enough yet to tell us which one. All the women on my mom’s side have some sort of autoimmune disease so I wasn’t surprised. Well, in 2016, my body decided to tell us which one – I have Sjorgren’s Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritis with Raynaud’s Syndrome as a symptom of the first two. The Sjorgren’s caused me to lose almost all the hearing in my right ear because my antibodies attacked the nerves in my ear when I had a bad cold. I also got a salivary stone in my salivary gland which is a key symptom of Sjogren’s. It was fun, just like a kidney stone. The Raynaud’s makes me completely unable to tolerate severe cold and my fingers and toes turn completely white and lose all feeling. It is one of the freakiest things you will see – Carly says I have “cadaver hands” when it happens. The RA is causing joint pain and stiffness. The stiffness is so severe that it takes a solid hour hobbling around in the morning before I can walk normally and the knuckle on my left hand is constantly stiff. I take a very mild medication that only sort of helps. The next level up medication has a lot of side effects I don’t want to deal with. As long as the pain is manageable with what I currently take, I’m not bumping up to that next level shit. We won’t even talk about the chronic anemia associated with autoimmune disease and the fact that my primary care doctor told me to eat liver with a straight face.
My Rheumatologist is an Ironman. I picked him for this reason. I figured (correctly) that he wouldn’t tell me to stop running because he would fundamentally understand why extreme sports make smart people do stupid things. He laughed when I told him I assumed that the stiffness was just related to running. He told me I had been running marathons for years now and, unless I was trying to run like a Kenyan (I’m not), this level of stiffness was far from normal. At my last visit, faced with a flare up two weeks before Kiawah, he looked at me and said “You can keep running marathons if you want but understand that there will come a point when you will no longer be able to do it. When will that be? When you decide the pain outweighs whatever benefit you get out of doing this. Until then, just keep running. You’re the only patient I have with RA who runs full marathons.”
Armed with that knowledge, I promptly entered the lottery for Chicago and the odds were ever in my favor. I’m just going to keep doing this until I can’t do it anymore. I made some mistakes in training this past season-I lost some weight which I needed to do but not this way (because I wasn’t eating for several months – see, prior post about eating disorders), I bailed on my strength training routine, I suffered from really severe insomnia with about 3-4 hours of sleep per night for months on end, I quit committing to speed work. Lucky for me, I had built up enough of a foundation of excess fat, muscle and residual speed to get me and my usually unhappy hip/SI joint through Kiawah. I still question my commitment to my sport. Then, I look at my life – a full time attorney with two special needs kids who handles 95% of childcare and household issues and whose life is about to get a whole lot more real (not being intentionally vague – just not ready to go into detail) dealing with RA and an unhealthy body image and I think that maybe my marathon time is as good as it gets. I still finished, right? Everyone who knows me knows I’m not going to settle for that. These are not excuses. They are shit to be dealt with, managed or handled. They are hurdles to jump on my road to finally getting this right. What does “right” mean to me? I don’t know but I’ll tell you when I figure it out. An under 5:30 marathon? A sub-9 minute mile? A new half marathon PR? Nobody knows. Least of all, me.
So, armed with a new color coded, tabbed, sticker adorned training journal, a new Fleet Feet training season, a packed race calendar for the entire year, the Chicago Marathon training plan already penciled in on all the days from June until October 2 and a renewed commitment to strength training so the muscles on this old tired body can take the pressure off these aching joints and a hearing aid in my right ear, I am ready for this crazy trip, again.