Posts Tagged With: Portland Marathon

Pilates & Running Go Together Like PB & J

A few months ago, my sister innocently posted a link on my Facebook page that talked about sustainable living and an eco-village in Costa Rica where the kind folks live in tree houses.  With one click to that page, my sister had created a monster.  Mike has been talking about moving to Costa Rica ever since I met him, so one mention of this place, and he was in the other room packing.  Here is a link to the photo gallery of the original village we liked, called Finca Bella Vista.  How can you resist?  A sustainable eco-village where we can raise our kids off the land and have fresh fruits and vegetables year round?  A simpler, more fulfilling existence where we can tread lightly on the earth and possibly play with monkeys?  Yes please! 

Then, we found another village that seemed to be a bit closer to the ocean, which is necessary for Mike to be able to surf. This village was called Osa Mountain Village, and the entire property is a giant, living, growing salad.  Want a mango?  Walk out your door and eat it.   Just one problem:  After researching for a few weeks, I discovered that it would take up to four years to obtain a physical therapy license in Costa Rica, and maybe longer to obtain citizenship to work there.  Crap.  Then, I had another glimmer of hope when I saw that you can start a business at Osa Mountain Village, and they needed a Pilates studio.  Great! I’ve taken a handful of classes at my gym, I like Pilates!  I could just own a Pilates studio.  Again, unfortunately, Costa Rican law makes it nearly impossible to work as a foreigner in their country, so we reluctantly gave up our Costa Rican dream.

This ridiculous story does have a point.  As crazy as it sounds, this was the beginning of my journey to Pilates.  The Costa Rican dream made me realize that while I probably can’t and shouldn’t move to Costa Rica, perhaps I should do something for myself here in the ol’ US of A to enrich my life.  I began researching Pilates, and I found the STOTT method of  Pilates, which happens to have a rehab certification for physical therapists.  Of course, I live in Portland, which happens to be the home of Pacific NW Pilates, the Harvard of STOTT Pilates training.  I decided that before I embark upon the journey to rehab certification, I should probably start actually practicing Pilates.  I remembered driving by Poise Studio in Beaverton and began checking out the website.  Poise is a boutique studio located in a funky, old house in Beaverton where they have Pilates, yoga, belly dancing, and other special series.  I discovered they actually practiced the STOTT method there, and so I quickly signed up for my first “Intro” class the following week.

My “Intro” class was enlightening.  Jacki was my instructor, and I was actually the only person taking the class that day, which was to be followed by the regular evening Mat Pilates class.  What I immediately noticed was how small the classrooms are, creating an intimate and focused atmosphere.  Jacki and I got to talking and I found out that she is actually a physical therapy student at Pacific University, what are the chances?  I was excited to find out this information, because I realized that this person has a strong background in anatomy and the way the body moves.  The evening class followed with about 4 other people that night, and Jacki made sure that I was comfortable and she provided necessary tactile cues when I flopped awkwardly into different positions.  Jacki is a wonderful instructor, evidenced by the group of folks that show up to her evening classes religiously.  She is soft spoken, has a familiar order to her classes that make them seem homey, and yet she still manages to teach me something new each class I take with her.

And then, I met Alli Breen.  Alli can only be described as the most passionate and meticulous Pilates and fitness instructor I’ve ever come across.  In addition to teaching Pilates, she is also a Pilates Fusion instructor and wellness expert.  Her journey to health is an inspiring one, which can be seen on her new website, Today Is Your Tomorrow.  She also has a podcast which is super fun to listen to!   While I don’t know all the details, I know that she is a vegan and she has lost quite a bit of weight over the past couple of years.  Here is a picture I found on her website that gives one an idea of just how far she’s come. 

One of her star students, Jillian, said the other day during our advanced mat pilates course, “When people tell me Pilates is easy, I tell them they’re not doing it right and they’d better train with Alli.”  This is true, you will never have an “easy” class if Alli’s teaching it.  There are many a time when I have found myself zoning out and thinking about something else, only to be quickly snapped out of it by Alli’s wrath.

“LEIGH! FIX YOUR SHOULDERS!  What are you doing with your ribs?  Your knees!  YOU KNOW BETTER!”  Oops!  Haha, I just laugh and fix my form.  Afterall, I want to have near perfect form, if a long term goal of mine is to teach Pilates to my patients.  I’ve learned that form, awareness, activation of core musculature, and breathing is key to one’s success in Pilates.  Since balance is also a key concept in Pilates, it’s likely that you’ll fall on your face eventually if you make a habit of snoozing in class.  Because we don’t typically use weights in Pilates, it is important that movements are purposeful to effectively use your own body weight to develop strength and grace during transitions.   

In the 3 months that I’ve been taking Pilates at Poise, Alli and Jacki have really helped me with these concepts not only in class, but in life in general.  Thanks to the mental focus and increased core strength, I’ve been able to carry my new body awareness over to running.  One of my favorite things to do is take the 9:00 AM Pilates class with Alli and follow that with a long training run on a Saturday.  I have had some of my best runs after this, because my core muscles and lateral hips are already activated, providing the perfect foundation for my running posture.

A common misconception about running is that movement is only occurring in the sagittal plane or forward and backward, but mostly forward of course :).  However, running is truly a multidirectional movement, as the trunk must rotate as we jump from one leg to the other, and the pelvis needs to be stabilized to avoid too much rotation and lateral tilt.  For these reasons, it is vitally important that runners have a strengthening program that focuses on core strength to include the lateral muscles of the hips.

I have known this for most of my life thanks to my marathon mama, so I have been regularly going to a gym ever since the dreaded gray sweatpants day.  My gym routine has evolved greatly over the years however, going from using mostly machines, to free weights to mostly my own body weight.  I used the Bosu, the stability ball, a decline ab bench, maybe one set of dumbbells, and an exercise mat at the gym and had a fantastic routine if I may say so myself.  I was going to Bally’s in Beaverton, which had a giant core workout area, and I regularly had it to myself or shared it with the trainers.  It was HUGE!  Then, tragically, Bally’s was taken over by LA Fitness and they quickly closed our gym.  We were shuffled over to a pre-existing LA Fitness in Beaverton, which became overcrowded with both the original LA Fitness members plus the Bally’s folks.  The worst part about this new meat market, er, gym, aside from the excessive grunting, and talk of biceps and protein shakes was the “core” area.  The “core” area was a narrow corridor with way too much equipment that might make you claustrophobic with a meer glance.  As I walked up to the front desk on my first day there, I tried to ignore the stares and grunts from the meat gallery.  What is it about certain gyms??  They all have a different vibe.  Anyway, once at the front desk, I asked, “Is this your only area for core/body weight workouts?”

“What do you mean?  We have a great core area with stability balls, mats and mirrors!  And did you see all of our machines?  I can give you a tutorial if you’d like!”  While this guy was obviously enthusiastic about his job, he didn’t really get it.  The trainers on the other hand, shared my exasperation with the limited amount of space to do body weight exercises.  I heard them complain continuously about the space issue, which got worse as they put old equipment in the corridor, crowding it further.  Needless to say, after I began Pilates, I quit going to the gym.  I quit because I obviously was unhappy with the gym, but I wanted to do an experiment.  Could Pilates be enough?  Could I continue to run injury free with just Pilates?

The answer surprises me.  Not only am I continuing to run injury free, I’d venture to say that I’m running stronger than ever.  I’m practicing Pilates 2-3 times per week in addition to running and eating well, and my core and hips feel and look healthier than ever.  Another bonus was that I lost the pesky 3-4 pounds that I couldn’t seem to shed, no matter how I altered my gym routine.  I’m noticing the biggest difference in the way my legs look and feel.  They’re much lighter as I’m running, and I’m starting to appreciate the way they look!  I suppose we all have our trouble spots that we have a hard time accepting, but with Pilates and a new appreciation for the way my body moves, I have more confidence than I’ve ever had.  A positive body image is so important for overall health and wellbeing, and I believe I have achieved that after searching since my awkward teen years.  The body change is evident to me in the following photos.  The first image is from Eugene Marathon in April 2012, when I was at least 4 pounds heavier.  The second image is from Portland Marathon in October 2012, after I’d been practicing Pilates for a couple of months:

At least I was smiling!!

While running these days, I also notice my mental focus is unwavering.  Today, my husband and I decided to go on a 12 mile trail run in Forest Park.  It was a moody, Portland day, but markedly better weather than yesterday when it poured most of the day.  There is a giant, long hill in Forest Park that my homegirl, Christy, and I are not a fan of.  Mike, on the other hand, practically lusts after this hill.  There’s something wrong with him, he really enjoys sprinting up hills.  Ever since he was hit by a car in April, he has had this unbelievable zest for life and is on a quest to be a FAST runner and triathlete.  We are running the Holiday Half Marathon on December 16th, and he has a goal time of 1:30, which I’m pretty sure he will destroy.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.  Anyway, today when running up the dreaded hill, I honestly felt great.  Sometimes, I felt like I could even hear Alli, “Don’t you quit!”  My focus was on point, and my form was precise and purposeful as I took each switchback up the beast.  As I was applauding my mental stamina thanks to Pilates, I was simulataneously questioning my husband’s mental stability.  A few minutes before, at the bottom of the hill, Mike flew past me foaming at the mouth.

“I’LL SEE YOU AT THE TOP!!!” he shrieked with his head thrown back and a wild ass look in his eyes.  He was like a rabid dog being released from its cage, devouring the hill with a satisfaction of which no sane human would be capable.  I got to the top of the first switchback, and he was gone.  Already flying up beyond where I could see.  What the hell?  I got to the top of the hill, which was our designated meeting spot, and all I saw was Mike’s water bottle sitting on the picnic table.  I calmly waited, unsure if Mike was going to pop out of the trees.  Was he puking from sprinting up the hill?  Peeing?  Pooping?  Anything is possible.  Just when I was about to start searching, he tore up the fire lane where I was standing.  Oh.  Since he apparently didn’t get enough hill from tackling the beast, he decided to go run the firelane hill too, just for kicks.  “THAT WAS GREAT!!”  Oh good lord.

I truly do believe that Pilates and running go together like PB&J.  Pilates is the perfect strengthening routine for runners because of the emphasis on mental awareness/focus and activating the core via flexion, extension,lateral, and rotatory movements.  Poise Studio is a wonderful place that seems to embody the Pilates movement and teachings.  The fantastic instructors there really make a difference.  I would encourage others to seek out a Pilates studio with educated instructors who are certified in the STOTT method.  I promise, if you have a great instructor, Pilates definitely could never be easy.  And even if we never make it to Costa Rica, at least I found Pilates!  But I still want to live in a treehouse…

Categories: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The 41st Running of the Boston, no, the Portland Marathon

There’s something you may not know about our great city of Portland, OR.  You see, when it was claimed by the fine folks from the East Coast in 1842, they decided it needed a name in 1845.  One guy was from Portland, Maine and the other was from Boston, Mass.  They each wanted to name it after their hometown, and only a coin toss decided that the city would be called Portland, OR and not Boston, OR.  That’s what wikipedia told me today anyway.  So you can surely understand how I might’ve gotten confused and fancied myself running the Boston Marathon for a while today during the beautiful course in Portland, OR.  As a matter of fact, if I would have kept up my grueling pace that I set for myself the first half of the race, then I surely would have qualified for the Boston Marathon.  But then, “the wheels fell off” at around mile 14 or 15.

The marathon experience always begins with the Expo the day before the race where you can get your race number and lots of necessary loot.  I say “always” as if I’m an old pro at this these days, but this was afterall, only my second marathon!  I found myself wandering downstairs to pick up my number and timing chip.  The timing chip was a “D tag” with a video demo of how to fasten it securely to your laces.  Disaster.  I DON’T HAVE laces.  To the volunteer running the D tag demo: “Excuse me, what if I don’t have laces?”

“Who doesn’t have laces on their running shoes?”  she asked, honestly confused.

“Well, these are similar to the shoes I run in,” I said, pointing down at my VFF classics that don’t have any kind of a strap.  In my excitement, I couldn’t remember what the straps were like on my See Yas to determine whether or not the D tag would work on them!

“Oh honey, I don’t know, go ask one of the guys in the yellow vests.”

Yellow vest number one looked at me wide eyed, shrugged, and sent me to yellow vest number two.  Yellow vest number two delivered me some matter of fact news:  “You might as well give up now.  If you don’t have laces, you won’t get timed.  Do you really need to get timed?”  What?  Of course I need to get timed!  I’m racing, dude! 

I then found a booth called Register Solutions, which seemed like they should know the answer.  After waiting in line for a while, I got more wide eyed stares and finally pointed to a woman who was the head honcho of registration.  She wasn’t the biggest sweetheart you’ve ever met, but did have some facts for me.  I learned that the D tag had to be kept low around your ankle or laces to be timed accurately, which foiled my plan of just keeping it attached to my race number.  She then asked, “What corral are you in?  I mean, are you planning on getting some really fast time or setting a record so that you absolutely need to be timed?”  I didn’t know what corral I was in, so I held up my race number which determined I was in Corral D because I had put down a finishing time of around 4 hours just so I wouldn’t set the bar too high for myself. “Oh.  So maybe it won’t matter if you’re accurately timed or not.”   Ouch!  Just because I’m not an elite (yet hehe) doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my time!  I’m proud of my fellow D Corralers, we were hype!   

When I got home though, it turned out the D tag went on my shoes without any problem at all.  Check it out!

The morning of the race I woke up at 3:58 AM with a plan to be eating breakfast by 4:00 AM so that I would be mostly digested by the 7:00 AM start.  Breakfast included oatmeal with brown sugar, honey, 1/2 a banana, and 1 tbsp of coconut peanut butter from Earth Balance mixed in, a slice of Ezekiel bread (my hero Scott Jurek’s favorite) with the Earth Balance peanut butter and honey spread on it, a cup of coffee (my staple before races even though I never usually drink it) and 20 oz of Hammer Heed sports drink.  Good lord, I was full. But I knew that was a perfect mix of carbs and protein to get me through the 26.2 miles I was about to devour.  Not to mention the kick in the pants from the caffeine in the coffee.

When Mike and I arrived downtown, we quickly found Corral D and I warmed up for the race by running around a little bit.  I was also trying to (unsuccessfully) shake off the pre-race jitters.  About 30 minutes prior to the race I ate a Clif Shot chocolate flavor gel.  I like the Clif shots because they don’t seem to upset my GI tract and they’re mostly organic; clean eatin baby!  About 20 minutes prior to the race, I decided I had paraded around in my Boston Marathon sweatshirt long enough (a gift from marathon mommy before the Eugene Marathon) and stripped down to my racing gear.  Boy was I neon!!  It was supposed to be 38 degrees at the start, so I decided that my racing tank wasn’t going to be warm enough.  Obviously, I had to buy some matching neon yellow arm warmers at the expo because I NEEDED them for the race.

Can you see me??

I made a few friends in the Corral before the start of the race.  “Are you seriously going to run the whole marathon in those shoes??” asked a sweet group of girls running the half marathon.

“Yes!” I replied.  “If I tried to wear your shoes, I’d make it to mile 5 and have to be carried away by the medical team!”

Energy was high, and so was the moon.  It was really neat to start at dawn, with both the moon’s descent and the sunrise in the opposite corners of the sky.  Corral D got off to a fast start and we paraded our way through the cheering crowd and the otherwise quiet Sunday morning downtown area.  Before I realized it, there I was doing nearly 8 minute miles for a while.  I convinced myself to slow down because that was delusional, but I really wanted to catch the pacer guy doing the 3:55 pace so I sped up again.  I forgot, in all my excitement, that the 3:55 pace group had started in Corral C, so they actually started a couple of minutes before me.  What would’ve been 3:55 for that pace group would’ve been a few minutes faster for me, since I started in Corral D.  But I wanted to pass them anyway, so I gritted my teeth and passed them easily!  This is when I started getting nutty ideas about the Boston Marathon qualifying time which would have been 3:40, which I found out from my ultra running friend, Christy.

Christy and Brian are my new, cherished friends who also happen to be some of the biggest badasses I know.  They are both physical therapists, smart, soft spoken and some of the sweetest Tennesseans I’ve met.  They are for sure a power couple, who in their quiet demeanor will casually tell you that they run ultra marathons back to back for fun in some of the toughest terrain in the country.  Just two short weeks ago, Brian ran the Flagline 50K in Bend, OR and then turned around and ran the Portland Marathon today, destroying his goal time of under 4 hours.  He came in at 3:50:52 and looked like he’d just been for a walk in the park.  He was certainly a stark contrast to the corpse that I was, splayed out at the finish line with my legs straight up in the air!  Christy is also an incredible runner, but she pulled a stunt walking down a boat ramp a few weeks ago resulting in a broken foot and a temporary halt in her racing schedule.  I should note that despite the broken foot, she’s been aqua jogging for hours on end and still plans to run the exclusive Northface Challenge 50 Miler in December.  Geez, and Mike and I thought we were active people!  Much more to come about how these two inspire me to be a better, stronger runner.

At some point, I’m not sure of the mileage, I caught up to Brian who was running a smart race.  I, on the other hand, was not.  But I was having a blast!  There were pirates on the course for heaven’s sake, and those “Arrrgh!!!”  and “Aye matey!!!” shrieks were giving me more energy than I’ve ever felt in my life!    Brian and I ran together for some time and then I powered ahead, keeping up my ambitious pace.  It was probably around this time when I heard more and more people talking about the St. John’s Bridge.  This is known to be the pace killer and the solid wall that stands between a racer and the finish line due to the hill going up to the bridge.  It hits at about mile 16-17 when racers are weak and susceptible to the demons that whisper “You’re not going to make it up this hill, muahahaha…”

A particularly loud guy who was obviously a Portland Marathon Expert and pacing an elderly gentleman was telling anyone who would listen that the bridge was going to be your demise.  “Oh just wait, this part is flat as a pancake, but that bridge is going to kill you!  It’s straight up!  Get ready!” he was saying, while doing spin moves and random Air Jordan dunks at mile 14.  This must have been to show everyone just how fresh he felt and this was the easiest thing he’d done since putting on his Nike’s this morning.  The poor man next to him seemed to be annoyed as he shuffled along, trying to dig deep.  I’m willing to bet he was questioning his decision to have Mr. Air Jordan pace him.

I don’t know if it was the Air Jordan guy or my stupidity (likely the latter) that was the beginning of the end, but that “flat as a pancake road” leading up to the bridge was most certainly my demise.  We were in an industrial area with very little cheering and one abandoned set of speakers blaring something that sounded like it could’ve been music.  I felt myself slowing down, so I ate my Clif Gel earlier than I planned at around mile 15.  I planned to eat a gel at mile 8, 16, and 22 to properly fuel myself to the finish.  As far as I know, they only had Gummy Bears and pretzels on the course, which were far from appetizing.  The gel gave me a kick for a few minutes, but soon I found myself shuffling along, unsure if my legs were still moving or not. 

Finally, the hill going up to the bridge appeared.  Contrary to Mr. Air Jordan’s hypothesis, that bridge saved my life today.  I don’t know if it was a break in the monotony of the pancake road or the views that I knew were waiting for me, but I felt like a new person when I got to the top of the bridge.  I might’ve even been able to do a spin move; Mr. Air Jordan would’ve been impressed.  The views were breathtaking, and I think I got a little emotional looking at the surrounding mountains and the river flowing beneath us.  As good as I was feeling though, I looked down at my watch and realized I was still going slow and I was rendered incapable of moving my legs any faster.  I tried to make peace with this, and kept in mind that even if I did 10 minute miles at this point in the race, I could still easily make my goal time of 3:55.

I was trying to let gravity pull me down the hill when all of the sudden, Brian flew by me looking “fresh as a daisy!”  The lady from the Eugene Marathon flashed through my mind with her peppy sign that said, “Smile, you’re fresh as a daisy!”  That was the second time I got emotional today, because I knew that Brian was going to smash his goal time.  He was probably what pushed me to get through the rest of the race, because he was inspiring me to dig deep and get the thing done.  Afterall, he’d just hurled himself up and down mountains at the Flagline 50K two weeks prior, and he was looking like a beast.  Fitting, since the name he picked for his race bib was “MONSTER.”  Brian “Monster” May, it would appear I have a lot to learn from you sir, well done!

The last miles ticked by slowly and I tried to convince myself that I would finish the race.  Mile 25 was the toughest as before, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.  Then I saw Mike!  Mike was the person who got me to the finish, because I saw him about two blocks to go. I again gritted my teeth and my feet appeared to be moving.  I ended up finishing in 3:50:57, a chip time of 5 seconds slower than Brian.  What are the chances?!  When I crossed the finish, I must’ve looked pretty wrecked because a medical tent lady asked me if I needed assistance.  I looked at her, and I honestly wasn’t sure.  I needed something, but I wasn’t sure how they were going to make me feel any more alive.  I think I mumbled something like, “No, I’m fresh as a daisy,” and kept stumbling along.  I grabbed an electrolyte cup and a water, a couple oranges and a banana, but didn’t feel like eating.  I wandered around for a while and then decided (out of sheer necessity) to lie down in the middle of the street on my space blanket.  I guess others liked that idea because I was soon surrounded by a small group of similar looking corpses lying on our space blankets, feet straight up in the air like dead bugs.  We were a funny bunch though, and easily talked among ourselves sharing stories about our journey.

Finally, I slogged down to the reunion area and easily found Mike as well as Christy, Brian, and Brian’s sweet mother, who came all the way from Tennessee to watch him race.  I resumed my dead bug position for a while and was able to get up long enough to get some great post race pictures with our new friends.

Modified dead bug pose

  When I got home I dead bugged it for a while longer and then ate a delicious post-race meal.  I decided to go for a couple of Hammer Electrolyte tablets, more Hammer Heed drink, a banana, a black bean/mushroom/lentil/corn burger made by my wonderful husband on Ezekiel bread with vegannaise, roasted red pepper hummus, spinach and a generous heap of avocado.  Heaven!  For dessert, the vegan anniversary cake I got Mike and I for our one year tomorrow.

So would I do it again?   If you asked me around mile 14, I’d have had some choice words for you.  But now that the race has come and gone, I would absolutely do it again. Running brings people together doing something so human, so basic, and so raw that we not only race together, but we journey together.  Running a long race parallels our lives like nothing else I’ve found.  There’s hills, annoyances, and pain, but there’s also the sublime relationship you have with yourself and with others who are fighting the same fight.  For these few hours together, we are all connected on that race course and to the people cheering us on.  So when it comes down to it, the yellow vests were probably right.  The time itself doesn’t really matter, and whether you’re running the Boston Marathon or the Portland Marathon, you still get to take a 26.2 mile trip with some crazy good folks.

Categories: Racing, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How to Survive Your Husband Being Hit By a Car Without Soiling Your Running Skirt and the Eugene Marathon

This whole week leading up to the Portland Marathon has been bittersweet.  I have been so pumped up and excited that I’m ready to run the thing fast enough that I pick up a sponsor like Lululemon.  Or Athleta.  Or any sportswear company for that matter.  In fact, I’m going to deck myself out like a sucker in a neon Lululemon racing tank and cow spotted Lululemon shorts just in case they notice and decide that I’m the perfect specimen to parade around in all their clothes.  Ha!  I don’t think they regularly sponsor midpackers but we’re allowed to dream,right? I’m thinking I’m going to sport this outfit but maybe with the neon yellow shirt this time.  This is from the Wildwood Trail Half Marathon back in July:

Anyway, my point is, this week is remniscent of my first marathon back in April 2012  because I wish my husband Mike was going to be running it with me.  When I say with me, I really mean about an hour ahead of me, but you catch my drift.  On April 22, 2012, exactly a week before the Eugene Marathon, Mike decided he was going to go for an “easy” bike ride to “spin his legs.”  About 15 minutes later, I got the call that no one wants to receive:  My husband had been hit by a car.  Luckily, he was smart enough to call me and tell me so that I wouldn’t panic.  So, I did what any wife would do.  I got off the phone, and had a full blown PANIC ATTACK! 

After I gathered myself enough to operate a vehicle, I drove to the scene of the accident where I saw a tiny boy (the driver was 16 years old) who looked like he might also be having a panic attack.  I was so angry with him at that moment that I had tears streaming down my cheeks and I got out of the car and stared him down.  This, by the way, did no one any good at all.   In fact, he’s probably still having nightmares about the Devil Lady with Horns who tried to curse him that day.  After that brief, joyous moment, I ran over to Mike and found him with a worthless ice pack on his knee that was already lukewarm.  But he was ALIVE!  I was a little worried though, because he wasn’t making any sense at all.  His first words were, “Well, this may slow me down a little bit at the marathon next weekend.”  What??  He couldn’t bear weight on his left leg, it was growing in size by the second, and he couldn’t even bend it to get in the car to go to the ER.  I didn’t want to ruin his day any more, so I quietly agreed with him.  Secretly, I was reminding myself to have them check his head in the ER.

After 6 hours in the ER, Mike had an Xray, a couple of pain pills, some killer road rash, and a giant knee immobilizer for his giant knee.  I should note that no one checked his head or checked for internal injuries.  We got him home around 10:30 or so, and he decided that he was going to take an ice bath to try to get the swelling down.  About 10 minutes later, I was helping him out of the tub because he couldn’t bear weight on the leg and things started going downhill.

 First, Mike wants me to be sure to include the fact that I was checking out his bod, so I didn’t notice right away how his face was quickly losing color.  We sat him down on the toilet lid to get dried off, when all of the sudden, Mike was gone.  Lifeless, like a rag doll.  And then there were the convulsions and twitches that you never want to see happening to a loved one.  PANIC ATTACK!!  Thoughts of internal injuries, head injuries, and other terrible thoughts were flooding my mind.  I quickly drug him down onto the floor and put his feet up on the toilet seat.  Apparently, adrenaline can make you pretty strong…  I ran out of the room in search for my phone, called 911 and told them my dilemma.  By the time I got back into the bathroom, he was awake!  So much so, that he’d actually gotten himself back into sitting on the toilet.  Apparently, when I ran to get my phone, he woke up, realized he was on the floor, and climbed back onto the seat so that I wouldn’t worry.  He was trying to tell me he was fine, but he was slurring his words and still looked like a ghost, so I told the ambulance to come take him away. 

The ambulance crew arrived and I already had him back down on the floor in the living room compulsively taking his blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen sats.  I saw the look when they walked in, you know, the subtle exchange between medical personnel that says, “This lady is batshit crazy.”  They slapped an EKG on him and were whispering to each other about ST segment elevation, etc etc. 

“WHAT?!”  Oops, I let batshit crazy lady come out.  ST segment elevation can be a sign of a number of medical issues, but the one that was sticking out in my mind was MI, also known as a heart attack.  Based on their leads, the ambulance drivers were suggesting acute pericarditis, also known as swelling in the sac surrounding the heart.  They swept him off, back to the ER.  I had a moment in the house to gather myself and some warmer clothes for Mike, considering he’d just come out of the ice bath.

When I arrived at the ER again, I found Mike hooked up to yet another EKG.  This one was not showing ST segment elevation or any other abnormalities except for Mike’s usual bradycardia also known as “slow ass heart rate.”  Mike has a resting heart rate that averages around 40 bpm,which qualifies him as superhuman.  After another 4-5 hours, Mike was diagnosed as having a fainting spell and sent home again.  Thanks to pain pills and exhaustion, Mike slept fairly well that night.  Unfortunately, his batshit crazy wife stayed up half the night checking to be sure he was still breathing.

The next week was hard.  One of the hardest weeks of my life.  I was still scared something else was going to happen to him, I was scared I wasn’t doing a good job caring for him, and I was terrified of what was to come with his knee and other orthopedic injuries.  Mike is an incredible athlete, so I thought he might never get back out there.  However, please remember that my sport is running, and when runners get hurt we think that we will never run again.  Oh the drama!

My parents came in town the next weekend for the marathon.  My marathon mommy was planning to run the second half of it with me.  Such a badass!  It was nice to have family around for the marathon weekend, what an experience that was!  Mom always said she would come and run it with me if I ever actually succeeded, hell I’d only been trying to run one for 6 years.  Thanks to minimalist running, I ran a half marathon within 5 months of wearing those cray cray toe shoes.  I hadn’t run over 10 miles since the My Hip is Going to Fall Off Disease incident, which was 5 years prior to beginning to wear Vibram Five Fingers.  More about VFF’s and how to begin running in them in future posts.

The marathon was amazing.  Well, mostly.  I had to pee just about every porta-potty stop, and waited at least 3 minutes for one.  I guess I was excited about the race and my body’s response was PEE EVERY 5 MINUTES!  I also got choked up around mile 22 thinking about how Mike would probably be finishing the race if he was running.  My mom saw it happening (as mommys usually do) and redirected me so that I wouldn’t totally lose it and go into PANIC ATTACK mode again.  I don’t think I hit the infamous “wall” except for maybe at mile 25.  I literally wasn’t sure if I was going to finish the race.  One mile seemed like a holy eternity away, but luckily the last half mile was inundated with good natured folks cheering us on.  Then there was that lady again, who somehow was in three separate spots on the course, holding up a sign that said “Smile, you’re fresh as a daisy!”  Not only was she holding up the sign, but she was saying it over and over again with a huge smile on her face.  How do you not love that lady?  I wanted to tell her she saved my life!

Crossing the finish line was very surreal.  My mom was there and it was one of the most memorable moments of my life.  Not to mention, the Eugene Marathon finish is on the famous Hayward Field, the ol’ stomping ground for Steve Prefontaine.  Show love.  I finished under 4 hours, which was my secret goal.  My public goal was to drag myself willing or unwilling across the finish, dead or alive.  My time was 3 hours, 58 minutes something or other.  I’m convinced if I didn’t have to pee so many times, I would’ve come in a few minutes prior.  For the upcoming Portland Marathon, maybe I’ll take my co-worker Becky’s joking advice from this morning and just pee myself.  Just kidding! Maybe. 

Despite Mike’s leg continuously swelling during the long hours that I was out running, he cheered me on to the very finish.  Thanks to crutches from a local Portland company, Keen, and our wonderful co-worker Farah, Mike was looking pretty fly with his black cadillac crutches and knee brace.  Here are some pictures of us at the marathon:

So what’s the most important thing we learned from this experience?  We are incredibly lucky.  Let me count the ways, for real. 

1. Mike is alive and well and is training again.  He just destroyed the Portland Triathlon.  And he just went surfing last weekend. 

2. Mike got hit by that car, but the sweet, sweet mother and her 3 babies crossing the road were spared.  She was our guardian angel who was there right when the accident happened to console him and prevent him from trying to get up when he was disoriented.

3. We understand that there is a bigger reason this happened.  Because of this, we could not be more in love.  We also appreciate every day just how fragile our bodies are and have learned what we can do to speed the healing process.  We truly believe that the things Mike ate and how he took care of himself after the accident are directly related to his superhuman healing capabilities.  More about healing foods in posts to come.

4.  We have a new appreciation for our patients and the caregivers who care for them.  Those relationships are so precious and so incredibly difficult at the same time.

This has certainly been a rockin’ year for us, but we have big plans for 2013.  Mike is making a comeback!  Now if I can only catch up…

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