bowing out of pacing at the Santa Rosa Marathon

I have a very messy post that I’m drafting right now about my postpartum running, now that we’ve rounded the one year mark, but since it’ll take a while for me to better formulate my thoughts on the subject, I thought I’d compose a more succinct post that’d update all my (three) readers, who are surely chomping at the bit, about my running right now and what’s coming up next.

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California says hai (Rancho San Antonio)

Remember how I was supposed to run TSFM a couple weeks ago but decided not to, thanks to a horrendous bout of stomach flu (or something thereabouts) 48 hours pre-race? Yeah. That sucked. As I wrote about in my unnecessarily-elegiac post, I was really looking forward to running SF, knowing that I wouldn’t PR it but could still put in a satisfying race and enjoy a fun weekend, and I was bummed that things worked out the way they did. I knew that trying to run, much less race, so close post-stomach catastrophe would be unwise. I mean, I could, but … why? That’d just be dumb. I’m (usually) not dumb.

I didn’t mention it in my SF post, but while I was bummed about missing SF, I figured that my fitness wasn’t for naught because I’d be returning to pace at the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August – what would have been almost exactly one month post-SF – like I did in 2014. Back then, I co-paced the 3:35 group; this year, I’d be co-pacing the 3:33 group. That’s typically a huge group of runners, since 3:35 is the BQ standard for females 18-34, and I had a really good experience pacing at SRM in ’14 and was looking forward to doing it again this year. I took the days around SF off or really easy, given that whole flu recovery thing, and sure enough, just last week, after running only a handful of days the week prior, the little one got sick with a nasty cold, which meant that I, too, got sick with a nasty cold, and on top of it, my GI system just let me know what was up. With all of this nonsense, my body has continued to wave the white flag, and after a couple weeks post-pre-SF debacle, I’ve had to begrudgingly bow out of another race/pacing experience out of an (over)-abundance of caution.

The good news is that I’m not injured, in the running definition of the word. The as-yet-to-be-understood news, though, is that a nearly 45-minute long doc appointment with a gastrointerologist has me now waiting to get some testing done to figure out WTF is up. The past two weekends, I’ve done a couple long runs for SRM pacing practice (a 3:33 = 8:07, a time that I can typically hit pushing the baby in the stroller), with the first being 10 miles (with nearly all of it at SRM pace) and last weekend 15 with 13 at SRM pace. On paper, both runs were fine — faster than I needed it to be — but in actuality, “flat” or “taxing” or “why does this feel harder than it should” are more accurate descriptors. I was working far harder for that pace than I should have been, and on Sunday’s 15 miler, I had just under two hours to internally debate the merits and demerits of trying to churn out 26 miles at that pace – leading others at that pace, no less – and begrudgingly decided that I wouldn’t be doing myself or my body any favors by staying the course. Yet again, I chose to, or had to, bail. It sucked. I was pissed.

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giving your eyes a break here. same sunrise, different view from Saturday’s run at RSA. (I haven’t been taking many pics on my runs lately). [PC: Nina, I think]
The internet and the ludicrous fitspo porn out there would have you believe that you’re cowardly if you quit – especially if you quit before you begin, whatever that means – and my “fuck that bullshit” reaction to that sentiment seems to be growing exponentially by the day. Don’t get me wrong here. I hate the idea of quitting (even though I know it’s sometimes the smart decision); I hate the idea of letting down my lovely pace group coordinator friend who was counting on me (and another guy) to lead the 3:33 runners; I’m irked I’ll be missing out on another fun weekend of running long (and more importantly, the super-satisfying and fuzzy-feeling, heartwarming opportunity of helping others reach their goals); but I also really, really dislike the idea of me showing up to a race not being able to execute on something I should otherwise be able to do handily because I haven’t been responsible and taken care of it/gotten it figured out. This isn’t so much of a whiny pity-party as it is me acknowledging, albeit begrudgingly, that something is up that is affecting my running (and my day-to-day, ugh), and I’m choosing to right ship sooner rather than later, even though that means missing out on really good stuff in the immediate future. Rationally, I know there will be other races and other opportunities to pace, but it still stings. It’s still disappointing.

I’m hoping that some testing here in the near future will elucidate the ongoing mystery of WTF is up and that I’ll be asymptomatic again soon. My next target marathon is the Two Cities Marathon (not to be confused with Twin Cities), down in the Fresno and Clovis area in early November. We’re about twelve-ish weeks out now, so I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll get some answers, rectify the issue(s), and move on. Like pretty much any marathoner out there, I have romanticized and idealized visions of how I want my autumnal training to look – resulting in a strong race and a pretty PR – but none of that can happen until things are all good in the (body) ‘hood first. It will be. I just have to a) find out what’s going on and b) take care of it. I think (hope) it’ll be that simple.

To good health and good times – and go team USA! and best of luck to the SRM racers!

the 2016 San Francisco Marathon race report – DNS

I’ve been in the marathon training and racing world since 2007, and during that time, I can count on one hand the number of races I’ve DNSed (did not start). They all had good reasons, and typically, I’ve decided to DNS well in advance of the race.  A list, because lists are fun and make for easy reading on mobile devices:

  • a Bastille Day 5k (or 8k?) in Chicago. reason missed: I wanted to go see Salman Rushdie speak at Harold Washington Library. While I didn’t get to hear Rushdie because I didn’t get there in time, I scored some autographed books instead, so I still consider this a win in my book (slow clap for that horrible pun).
  • the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. reason missed: This was just a few weeks before my first Boston Marathon, and I took myself obnoxiously seriously and wanted to ensure that I was going into Boston as healthy as could be. The SS weather that year was for shit — we’re talking ankle- or calf-deep slushy, thick, nasty nonsense, with sideways snow and the whole shebang — and while I will gladly train in that before I get on a treadmill (true story … it’s not so much a pride thing as it is that I don’t like how treadmills make my body feel), I didn’t want to risk getting sick before my first Holy Grail of marathons.
  • the Lakefront 50/50 (50k option) in ’08. reason missed: overtrained and ITB issues. I’m lucky a few weeks of reduced volume did the trick because I was head-over-heels in overtraining and ITB maladies.
  • an 8k in Rockford, IL, over the summer just recently. reason missed: exhaustion. I lovingly blame my children, travelling, and humidity, that last one to which I have become wildly unaccustomed in the last three years.
  • and finally: the ’16 SF Marathon. reason missed: fucking stomach flu that showed up on Friday morning at 4am, on race eve eve.  boo hiss scorn
a great icon that I posted on my IG with the explanation of "well, not really." next year. next year.
a great icon that I posted on my IG with the explanation of “well, not really.” next year. next year.

 

The girls and I returned to California from our midwest sojourn on Wednesday, and in terms of the cross-country travel, everything went swimmingly. On Thursday, I spent most of the day getting our life back in order by doing the usual mundane things like cleaning, groceries, and laundry, and everything was fine. I opted to take a rest day on Thursday instead of Friday because of how G had slept Wednesday night-Thursday morning, but nothing seemed too out of the ordinary.

our last night in the midwest, hanging at my nephews' football camps. seems like a perfectly good thing to do on a summer night :)
our last night in the midwest, hanging at my nephews’ football camps. seems like a perfectly good thing to do on a summer night 🙂

 

Come Friday morning at 4am though, wow. I’m not one to shy away from TMI details about the gory details of anything, really, but suffice it to say that I had abdominal pain that literally took my breath away, and I spent the entirety of Friday daytime and evening in bed … or in the bathroom. For perspective: I don’t think I’ve ever called C at work and asked him to come home to watch the kids because I’ve felt so bad. It was ugly. I’m not a medical practitioner or a medical student, nor do I know the exact inner-workings of how our GI systems operate, but holy shit (bad pun, sorry, slow clap for that one for sure) I don’t think there was anything — anything — left in my system by Friday night.

In case you’re new to the marathoning scene, fully “emptying” your “system” 48 hours pre-race is basically the antithesis to how things are supposed to happen.

I was deliriously hopeful for things to turn around as quickly as possible because for as much as I love running TSFM — and as far as marathons go, it’s a hard course, and it’s hilly, but it’s beautiful, and SF in the summer is just unbeatable — I love the social stuff surrounding the weekend as well, the opportunities afforded to me by being a race ambassador and the opportunities I get to see SF friends I never get to see (hi, Erin!). Chicago-based friend Erica would be in town to race SF as an anniversary run of her first marathon, Portland-based Austin would also be in town … #yaddayaddayadda … I had a race to run and people to see! I knew in my heart of hearts, though, that even if I woke up on Saturday feeling like a million bucks, totally “free” of the gnarly-ass symptoms I had on Friday, that attempting to run, much less race, 26.2 challenging miles would be unwise. In fact, it would be idiotic. Thus, by 9am, I called it, told the people I needed to tell, and decided to DNS my first marathon, what should have been marathon #28, I think, and my three-peat of TSFM since 2010.

Admittedly, deciding to bag it was a tough decision.  Aside from all the stuff I just elaborated on above, in the running world, it seems like social media has aggravated this bullshit notion of “no pain, no gain” or “doing it for the insta” (gag me) or whatever. I very much wanted to cover SF by foot, and I knew that I’d probably physically be able to, but for what? What do I have to prove — or to whom do I have to prove it — by running a marathon two days out from a nasty stomach bug that left me in bed and basically fasting all day long? A marathon is just that — a marathon — a distance you just can’t “gut out,” especially when said guts have been seemingly “gutted out” (I’ll be here all night) in the preceding days by a (probable) virus. This is all to say that I very well could have just sucked it up and slogged through the race, posted a pic on IG about how I had stomach flu 48 hours before the race and look at me! I have a marathon finisher’s medal around my neck! I am so badass and tough that I can go run a marathon feeling sub-par just for the hell of it! People do this shit every weekend on social media, and every weekend, other people applaud these people’s efforts and commend them for how much “stronger” they must be than they actually realize.

To this — to this seemingly unending cycle of “being badass” or “tough” or “having guts” and racing when you’re not well — when you’re physically unwell (having a virus or some other sickness) or FOR FUCK’S SAKE WHEN YOU’RE INJURED (“I’m pretty sure I have the beginnings of a stress fx. Doc, do you think I’m okay to race a marathon next weekend?”the answer is unequivocally nooooooooo) — to all of this nonsense that no doubt feeds into the apparent reality that all runners get injured and that if you run, you will surely suffer from a running-related injury (or three) during your lifetime — I call bullshit. Please. Make it stop. Stop perpetuating this crap.

I’m probably being a bit crass about it, but I tend to think that runners self-divide into two camps — those who tend to think of their running in the long-term and those who tend to think of their running in the immediate — and more often than not, I feel like we in the running community are doing ourselves an enormous disservice by running (or by continuing to run) when we’re sub-par because for whatever reason, the immediate present matters more than the long-term. This isn’t to say that I think I’m higher and mightier for choosing to sit-out SF this year — see the paragraph above when I mention that it was a tough call for me; instead, I feel like if I want to continue to run at the volume I do (or higher), for as long as possible, it’s nothing short of imperative to think long-term. If we live and run solely in the here and now, we’re not being smart, gang, especially if you want to be doing this stuff for a long time. For me anyway, immediate gains absolutely pale in comparison to the long-term benefits I get from running and the goals that I have yet to realize. Perhaps you can relate.

giving your eyes a break here. (from a run in Akron in July). all the pretty mosquito-infested woods!
giving your eyes a break here. (from a run in Akron in July). all the pretty mosquito-infested woods!

 

Basically, if you take nothing else from this diatribe, take this. If you’re about to toe the line at a major running event, particularly those that are of the extremely strenuous and endurance variety (halfs, marathons, ultras), and you’re toeing the line not feeling 100%, ask yourself why you’re still there.

To whom are you proving?

Further, what are you proving, exactly?

If your BRF told you that she/he was suffering from the same thing that you are carrying at the starting line, would you advise him/her to still do the race?

And finally, how much are you willing to give up by completing this race?

If you’re running while injured or sick, how willing are you to take some possibly-significant steps backwards in training — due to further injury and/or compounded sickness — so you can complete (semantics here — complete, surely not compete in) this race?

Again, I wanted to share my experience here because I’m a normal gal who likes to run and race with the rest of us, and seeing my friends’ pics and hearing how fun race weekend was left me feeling a little deflated and gutted …

… until I realized that there’s always next year at SF and that there will surely be other marathons to run (I live in freaking CA, FFS. It’s like a veritable landmine for marathoning year-round). I totally get the sting that can come with money lost on race registrations, travel, and the like, but surely your long-term health, not to mention your ability to do this type of stuff in the first place, also matters. Like I admitted earlier, it can be a tough call.

Hopefully, you won’t get injured in advance of your race or contract a nasty bug that leaves you belly-up in the hours preceding your race, but if you do, please, for the love, have a chat with yourself (not weird, promise) about the race. I’m not a coach or a medical professional, but I will wager that chances are high that if you’re about to step into an endurance event feeling less-than, you will give yourself a hearty dose of humble pie during the race, if not also a hefty serving of totally-preventable-setbacks afterward. Maybe none of your friends want you to consider this reality, so let me. It’s probably not worth it. It wasn’t for me, anyway.

marathoning bay area wife and mom ruminating on her love of the run