Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Adventures in Hospital Land

In my last post two weeks ago, I wrote that I'd been sick but that I was recovering and feeling optimistic. Last week I didn't write a post because I was in the hospital. Guess I jumped the gun. But once again I'm recovering and feeling optimistic. I hope I don't jinx myself again!

Last year I had an issue that hampered my training. I went to the doctor then, and that helped, but it lingered all the way past the Ironman. I think there's a good chance that it had a larger effect on my training and racing than I thought. Certainly I've whined more than once about how everyone else seems to be able to do so much more than me.

After my last post, it came roaring back like an angry shark. A good friend said it's not normal that it keeps recurring and that I should go to the doctor. I'm not a fan of doctors, but I've already lost a month of training and it didn't seem like it would go away on its own. So I went.

I went to my primary care physician. Well, first I drove around the business park and entered half the buildings until I found the right one. This is especially sad because I've been there before and the exact same thing happened last time I went. I swear they switch buildings every time.

I did the patient thing, which involves a lot of waiting but not as much as I expected (all the real waiting would come later). They asked me questions about all my filthy habits. They took some blood. They poked me and asked if things hurt. Finally my doctor decided that whatever I had was not great, and that I needed an immediate CT scan.

A CT scan! I was excited. I'd never had a CT! I had to go to the next building over. I had to wait more. Then I had to drink a bunch of sh*tty orange juice. And wait more. With a needle in my arm. Which I took a picture of. The whole time I heard the recorded voice from the CT room saying, "breath in. Hold your breath. Breath normally."

Totally took a pic

Finally it was my turn! I felt like I was in an episode of Star Trek. Maybe I'm just easily amused. I lay down on the table. They connected a tube to the needle in my arm. They told me I'd feel a cool rush as the contrast fluid went in. I looked at the container the tube was attached to. There was like a bathtub worth of contrast fluid! I was like, no way they're putting that all in my body. I'll explode!

They totally did.

I don't know where it all went. I was expecting myself to inflate like a balloon. And it felt super weird. You know, in a fun way. The table moved back and forth. The voice said, "breath in." I breathed in. It said, "hold your breath." I held my breath, the whole time worrying that I was f*cking it up somehow. Then it said, "breath normally." I panted like a dog on a hot sunny day, panicking that I wouldn't get enough air. That's a thing that regular swimming does to you. The CT made epic sounds, like it was activating its warp drive.

Then it was done. I almost asked, "can I go again?!" Like it was a carnival ride. I had to wait some more while my doctor magically got a copy of the results via some technological wizardry (probably email, but maybe via mechanical messenger boar?). Finally the doctor called and the lady who attended me (I'm sure she has a title and I'm being super rude by not knowing it) answered and handed me the phone.

The doctor told me to go to the hospital for more tests. She told me I'd be there for a night or two. A night or two! I'm like, am I dying?! She told me I could drive myself, that I didn't need to ride in an ambulance. Wow! Thanks doc!

I went out in my car and sent some TXTs and messages. I had earlier posted a silly thing to "My Story" (which is a thing on Facebook I've never used before) so some folks were already blowing up my phone. I was kind of surprised. Which made some people mad, like, why are you surprised that people care?!

My brother wasn't the least bit
offended that I may be dying!

I drove to the hospital. Then I sat in the parking lot and answered more messages. Folks were concerned about me being alone. I was like, this is an exciting adventure! I didn't think I could say that; I was expected to take it seriously. I could be dying! So I tried to treat it with some gravitas, because I didn't want to make my friends more angry with my lack of terror. You could argue that I was in shock or didn't know how to react. It's a week later now though, and it doesn't feel like it was an out of body experience or anything. But then, I know from previous experience that I treat stressful situations with calm. Like when my rental car got totaled (did I ever tell that story?).

Someone did come to see me in the hospital, and truth be told, I was super glad for that. Before they came though, I had to wait in the waiting room for a long time. Before that though, I went into the wrong door and confused all the nurses. While I was waiting, I did some work on my laptop, even though my boss told me not to. I ended up doing more work while waiting in the ER too (spoiler alert!).

Finally I got into the ER. They didn't have any rooms available, so I hung out on a gurney in the main room. I had no clue I'd be in that exact spot for the next 5 or 6 hours. Occasionally they'd position curtains around me if I had to, I don't know, pull my pants down or whatever. They took a ton of blood. I was complimented on the color of my blood (it's super dark and rich with robustness!). I peed in a cup, which sat next to me, full of pee, for the duration of my stay, balanced precariously on the bed rail. Is that a run-on sentence? I don't know!

I was engaged though. There was lots of activity. I chatted with the nurses and volunteers. They were nice. I made them laugh. I had to wait a lot. I did some work on my laptop. I screwed around on my phone. My friend came and that was awesome. I wasn't allowed to eat or drinking anything; I hadn't eaten at all that day.

I ate like a pig as soon as I could...

After many hours, the doctor (who had a disappointing handshake) told me that I had a super terrible thing that would change my life forever. He started with, "don't panic, but..." I didn't panic. I just stared at him like my cat stares at an unfamiliar person. I knew there were questions I should ask, but I was like, "ok, thanks." I think this happened while my friend was getting me a sandwich, which I was finally allowed to eat! It was around 4pm. I'd been doctor-ing for about 8 hours by then. Patient-ing?

The doctor told me he was going to consult with another doctor who specialized in my terrible thing. That required me to wait another couple hours. I told friends and family that I had a terrible thing, but that I wasn't dead.... yet? Maybe not the right way to express it. I think I just worried them more. I'm really not good at being a wounded puppy. I was still generally chipper, having a good time, despite the waiting.

Around 6, the other doctor finally came over. He had an Irish name, which I didn't realize until he made a joke about St. Patrick's day having just passed. I'm obtuse. He told me that my terrible thing was presenting really strangely and that he wasn't sure it's what it was. I just said, "oh good." Maybe I just hadn't processed everything yet? I'm sure some people will say I was totally in shock and that him giving me potentially good news cancelled it out before I could feel upset and that I'm just lying to myself.

Who's to say! It's part of the adventure of life.

He said I maybe don't have the thing, and he gave me a prescription for antibiotics. So that's good! That was a week ago, and I'm definitely feeling better. I have a follow up tomorrow so we'll see what's going on.

I finally left the hospital around 7. My friend had left before then. I got home after 8 and did some more work on my laptop. Then I lounged around. I had missed my couch.

I suppose I missed my cat too...

I don't know if that's all normal. The times I generally feel down is when I'm stuck in my own head for too long of a time. When something like this happens, with lots of changes and stresses and new people and environments, I get pretty excited. When I'm out of my head, I'm happy. So despite everything, it felt like an adventure to me.

Maybe it's a defense mechanism? A way to not take things seriously? That's possible. I'm generally not a fan of real life things. Certainly I treat difficult things with humor if I can. When it comes to my friends, I hate to bring them down. I didn't want anyone coming to the hospital because I felt like I'd be putting them out. That's the thing that bothered people. Like I offended them by saying that I didn't need support.

It meant a lot to me, all of the love and outreach I received. I was really blown away by it all. The fact that my friends didn't want me to struggle alone was amazing. They were willing to turn their days upside down for me. I'm really not used to that. I'm willing to sacrifice myself for people I care about, but I don't want them to do the same in return. That's selfish of me.

If you're reading this and you were one of those worried friends, thank you! It meant a huge amount. It really did! I didn't mean to belittle that caring. I was just caught off guard.

I don't know how this will effect my training in the long run, or what the doc will say tomorrow. Oddly, I'm not too worried about it right now. I'll just train as much as my body allows. Perhaps this all gave me perspective on what matters. The people in my life matter, number one. The love they give and the love I return.

If I can't race, I can't race. My identity will change. Who I am outwardly will change. That's happened a lot in my life and it will continue to happen. That's fine too. I've experienced enough guilt to know how useless it is. It's not a certainty just yet though.

I don't plan on giving up just yet.

Have had some great workouts the last couple days!

PS. I know it's a terrible post title. It was fully justified (font-wise) without any extra work. That excites the nerdy part of me. So I didn't change it.

PPS. Seriously though, you people are amazing. Thank you thank you thank you. Maybe the reason it went so well is because of all of you. And by "maybe" I mean "almost certainly". See? I can learn too. Hearts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Perception and Perspective

While I was sick I felt like I had lost all of my fitness and that I would never exercise again. The idea of ever doing another race again seemed daunting. I was already contemplating what to do with my free time now that I would never be able to work out again.

Now that I'm recovering, I'm excited about seeing my endurance climb back up again. I'm once again looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish. I don't intend to do as many races as I have done in the past. That means though that I'll be able to focus my training more on the races that I do have lined up. I'll have more time as well to have adventures of my choosing.

While I was ill, I kept reminding myself that it was temporary and that I would get over it. It's hard to not feel down though. It wasn't as bad as previous years; I'm happy to see I've gotten better at avoiding depression. Nevertheless, it's interesting how a change in perception alters my entire view of the future. It's easy to think that how I feel in a given moment is how I will feel forever.

"You will definitely suck at everything forever."

I see a lot of friends struggle, especially during the winter. That's not a single moment. That's several months of cold and dark and unhappy workouts. It's hard to keep training when you consistently feel tired and unmotivated. When the days lengthen and the temperature rises, it gets easier to get outside for runs. When the temperature further warms up, bike rides go outside too. Then finally swims.

When I signed up for Run for the Red Marathon in 2015, I had hoped I could qualify for Boston. It's true I underestimated the hills in that race. However, I realized too that signing up for a Spring race wasn't the smartest idea, as the bulk of the training would have to happen in the winter. I don't know if it's just me or if it's true of many people, but I simply can't train as fast or as hard in the winter.

A late night of drinking before the
race probably didn't help either...

Last year's Ironman Mont Tremblant was in August. That gave me the Spring and a good chunk of the summer in which to train. This year's Ironman Lake Placid will be in July, which gives me one less warm month in which to train. That's part of the reason why getting sick frustrated me. I don't have much time to get back on track.

I'd like to do better at IMLP than I did at IMMT. I think there's still a chance for that. My swimming has gotten better. My biking will be better, assuming I don't get injured again this summer. And the running can't be any worse than it was last year. As long as I'm careful and I train my endurance back up, I should do better, even if I don't do the crazy strength workouts that Geoffrey and Meghan do. Plus I'm aware of the mistakes I made last year and will hopefully do better with nutrition during the race.
I suspect this will be my outfit
in Lake Placid as well

So while my perception may cause me to panic a little, my perspective tells me not to. I've struggled in the past. I've gone through this in the past. The only races I wasn't able to finish (or start) were winter races. I've always completed races in the summer, even if they were very challenging. I still have time. My training won't be as good as I had hoped, but that's pretty much always the case. I don't think anyone's training ever goes exactly how they planned.

There's an ancient Chinese proverb for that, I'm sure.

In any case, I'm optimistic. The days are getting longer. Daylight savings time sucks. I'm going to be sleepy this week. Soon though, it'll be sunny and warmer, and I'll feel more energetic. I will feel stronger. My workouts will benefit.

I'm looking forward to that.

Super looking forward to that

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mostly Dead is Still Slightly Alive

I haven't written anything in about 3 weeks. Nobody said anything, which makes me wonder how many people read my things. That's just me being extra sad for no reason though. I had a super terrible stomach flu for two weeks. I couldn't exercise, and I couldn't do much of anything else other than lie on the floor.

I'm finally slowly getting back into it. My workouts still feel weak, but it's such a relief to be able to exercise again. Most folks enjoy sitting around and relaxing. I usually do too. But being forced to, sucks. It seemed like everyone else was doing massive super strong work outs every single day, and I was lounging around in pain. I was convinced I'd lost 100% of my fitness.

"Fitness is for jerks."

Now I'm thinking maybe I've only lost like 80% of my fitness. Still enough that I think I'm going to die at Ironman Lake Placid after about 15 minutes. I've already had to skip all the races I signed up for in 2018 thus far. So it feels ridiculous for me to think that I'll be able to do a 140.6. Supposedly I did one last year, but I'm pretty sure it's a twin that I never knew about.

Or maybe an actor. An athletic actor playing me. That must be it.

This is how much being sick screws with my head. I know I'm just being stupid. I saw a doctor... I don't know when. At some point. She told me to drink lots of water. On the inside I was thinking, "I'm simultaneously sweating and freezing right now. My stomach feels like it's full of angry raccoons. I'm literally dying." On the outside I just said, "oh, water? Wow. Huh. Ok."

I've been sick before. I've been injured. I've seen many friends get sick or injured as well. There's all of the usual feel-good statements. Your body needs to heal. You'll come back stronger than ever. But when you sit there hour after hour, feeling your strength bleed away, it's hard to feel upbeat. I already feel like I don't train enough. So when I can't train at all, it's a special sort of torture.

Get rid of those tears!

There was a time, years ago, when I would often go two weeks without exercising. At that time it didn't seem like a big deal. There would be a nice day and I'd finally go for a run. Or I'd get tired of walking past my bench press every day as it silently judged me. Before my first marathon, I ran about once a week. It's strange to think how much I've changed since then.

It's also reassuring though. As much as I liked hanging out on the couch, I was itching to get moving again. It's a part of me now. It's something I need to do. If I don't run, or bike, or swim, or lift, I feel off. I don't feel right again until I've worked out. As much as I whine about not being an athlete, I want to move my body every single day. Even if I sometimes miss a race, or don't perform as well as I'd like to, I still have a dedication to keep training and to make sure that as long as I'm able to start, I'll be able to finish.

Last winter was terrible for me too. I have to remind myself of that. Even though I feel behind on my training now, I felt the same way last year. It helped put it in perspective for me. I was pretty miserable the past couple weeks, but I wasn't depressed. I just resigned myself to it and took it in stride. That's a pretty big deal for me. I may be unhappy when I'm sick, but I don't allow myself to get stuck in downward spirals anymore.

"Upward spirals are way better!"

There are people out there who have it much worse than I do. I'm quite blessed that I have the time and strength to pursue my goals and train. It's challenging, but it's a challenge that I have the opportunity to take on. A lot of folks have challenges that they have no choice over. I can only imagine how frustrating that is. For their sake, I can't squander what I have.

Yesterday I swam at lunch and I ran after work. They were both very short workouts, but I still experienced a feeling of freedom as I glided through the water and felt the cool air on my skin. I had forgotten that feeling. When I train every day I take it for granted. When I haven't been able to do it for a while, it feels exhilarating.

It's exhilarating to not be dead!

Maybe it was a blessing, a reminder to me of why I do what I do.

And come Lake Placid, if I don't feel quite prepared for it, I'll just hire that actor again.

PS. I hope everyone knows what the quote in the title is from.