Sunday, September 23, 2012

From PR to the ER

So, a few of you have already heard this story.  Or at least parts of it.  And if you were at the Denver Rock 'n' Roll Marathon yesterday, you may have heard my blood curdling screams coming from the medical tent at the finish line.  If so, sorry about that.

The good news is I ran a PR (personal record) at the marathon, qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon with more than seven minutes to spare.  So if I decide to run Boston again in 2014 I'll be able to register early, which pretty much assures registration.  It feels good to have a BQ in the bag already.  (I'm awaiting official notification of my entry into the 2013 Boston Marathon, but am fairly confident I made the cut.  Yesterday was the first day of the qualifying period for the 2014 race.)

And it was beyond fantastic to see Eli, Brad and Brad's parents cheering for me on the course at Miles 18 and 23.

At Mile 18 in Washington Park
Just before Mile 23, in front of Wash Perk.

The bad news is I collapsed and face planted at the finish line.  And then my feet and legs went into complete spasm.

Not fun.  Seriously, I don't think I've ever been in so much pain before in my entire life.  And the spasms just wouldn't stop.

I am so grateful for all the people who helped me yesterday, particularly a woman named Beth who was not affiliated with the race in any way, but who stepped forward to hold my hand while I screamed and screamed from the pain; who tried to get a hold of Brad (thankfully Brad and Eli were NOT at the finish line); and who basically was my angel.

Bless you, Beth.

Meanwhile, the medical staff from the race were able to do very little to help me.  As I writhed in pain, they just kept asking me the same questions over and over.  Maybe they were trying to determine if I was, and was remaining, coherent.  But in the moment, it was just making me angry.  Because instead of helping me, they just kept asking me my name.  My date of birth.  If I have any allergies.  Basically all the information on my Road ID, which I always wear when I run and which they never looked at.  Even after I told them, and kept telling them, I was wearing a Road ID, they just ignored it.  (I will still always wear my Road ID.  And you should, too.)  At some point someone thought to give me some Gatorade, with extra salt poured into it.

Then one of the medical staff from the race said that maybe this pain was God telling me not to run marathons.  Well, friends, that sent me right over the edge.  I'm not really proud of how my behavior turned at that point from aggravated to super angry.

But, I mean, are you kidding me?

This was my twelfth marathon.  I know the deal.  I know what my body is capable of, and what are my limits.  Sure, I like to push my limits, but you know what I think the real problem was today?

Chintzy Competitor Group only provided electrolyte drink at every other aid station at this race.  The rest only had water.  Every other marathon I've run, big and small, provides an electrolyte drink at least every two miles.  This race provides half that.

I've run more than 60 races of various distances since I started running in 2006, including (now) 12 marathons and 17 half marathons.  The only other time I've had issues with cramping was at this very same race last year.  I'd only run the half marathon, but after I finished and was on my way to retrieve my bag from gear check, I fell to the ground with leg spasms.  They weren't as bad following the half marathon last year, and I was able to land more gracefully instead of doing a face plant like I did today, but it was a good twenty minutes before I could walk again.

So I should've known better, you may be thinking.

Well, maybe you're right.  But I did try to plan ahead to compensate for the lack of electrolyte drink on the course.  I ate a Honey Stinger gel at every aid station that only offered water (eight total on the course), and when I started to cramp at about Mile 17 I looked for salt.  I passed a medical tent on my way out of Washington Park and grabbed a salt packet from a volunteer, only to discover when I opened it at the next water station that it was empty.

I saw my Runners Edge of the Rockies friends and teammates at the aid station they were manning at Mile 24, and was buoyed by their enthusiasm and encouragement.  My friend Julie hopped onto the course and ran with me for a bit, asking how I was doing.  I told her I was having a really rough day and she gave me a pep talk that helped me through those final miles. Big hugs to you, Julie.

So, I told Mr. Super Not Helpful Medical Dude that what my leg spasms and pain should be telling him is that his race needs to do what every other race I've ever run does, and offer an electrolyte drink at all aid stations.  And I told him that after I had this issue last year I told the race about my problem, and of course it made no difference whatsoever.

Way to save a buck, Competitor Group.

After asking my name and date of birth again for the millionth time, with my legs and feet still in full spasm, someone finally made the decision to call an ambulance and I was transported to Denver Health, a nationally ranked Level One trauma center that just happens to be located within a half mile of where the race finished.  Not that I needed Level One trauma care, but I can say with confidence that if I ever do, that's where I want to be.  Those doctors and nurses know what they're doing, and they had me put back together in no time.  And they were just generally awesome people while doing it.

While we were in the ER, Brad kept checking on his phone for the online results because I'd not stopped my Garmin when I hit the ground at the finish line.  I was having a lot of trouble in that final stretch and remembered thinking "I'm going to get a PR if I can make it across that finish line!" but I needed to see the results to know if I'd actually done it.

That's a PR right there, baby.  Oh, yeah.

After we got home, Brad pointed out that the awesome people in the ER even wrote me a nice note on my discharge papers.

Yeah, I may have mentioned my PR a few times in the ER.  I'd try and say it was the Valium talking, but many of you know me well enough to call BS on that.

"Don't sell yourself short" was the last thing my coach Maureen Roben said to me in our pre-race phone call earlier this week.  She knew I'd had a great training season for this race, and based on my course PR at the Park to Park 10 Miler I was primed to run a great marathon.

Maureen, I didn't sell myself short.  And I have a black eye two black eyes to prove it.  (Just looked in the mirror, and the second shiner is well on it's way.)

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