Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Sickness and Health

Prior to this weekend, the last time I was honest to God, thought I was dying, please make the world stop sick was my junior year of college. I got so sick I couldn't even leave my bed when my fever broke. I sweat so much that I soaked my mattress and I lay there for another 3 hours, unable to move.

This weekend was only slightly better. On Sunday, things started out nicely enough. I had a fabulous brunch at Masa 14 with Chadd and his mom who has been in town for a little bit (side note: I had no idea how much more glad I'd be to have her in town in less than 4 hours...). We came home, passed out from an epic food coma, then woke up around 5 to go to a Super Bowl party at Chadd's coworker's house.

This is when things started to get weird. We stopped at the grocery to pick up the obligatory 6-pack and a diet coke for me since I don't drink on nights before I train. I picked up a pack of gum last minute because I was starting to feel a little nauseous.

I'll spare y'all the details, but I only made it through the first half of the super bowl before I threw up in this poor kid's kitchen sink (mortified) then again in the bathroom....and again in a garage parking lot trashcan when I left under some stupid guise that Chadd's mom had locked herself out. I couldn't drive. I couldn't move from the back seat. I know we're all saying I should have made Chadd take me home, but the reality was that I was so confused and sick that I truly thought I just needed to lay down.

Oh so wrong. There was barfing on the way home, barfing when I got home, barfing all night and then a billion degree fever (102, but who's counting). I actually remember about 10 minutes of Monday and those 10 minutes that I do remember went something like this: hot, cold, hot, hot with chills, cold with sweats, searing burning in my joints, hot, cold, bizarre dreams. It was awesome, let me tell you.

Tuesday I actually managed to eat half of a piece of bread and half a potato (again, major props to Chadd's mom who not only fed me, but cleaned the house and went to the grocery before she left).

That disgusting story aside, it gave me a lot of clarity (between spikes in fever, so how clear, I'm unsure) of what it means to me to be training for an IM70.3.

Laying in my bathroom, I felt so far away from who I had been on Saturday - the runner who went through 12 miles of mist, drizzle, rain, then snow and sleet to stay on my training schedule. I kept trying to picture myself, happy, healthy, running. All I could picture were the intricacies of my toilet.

When I have a bad day, I usually find myself in my mental trophy room (admit it, you have one, too). I look at every race bib, pick up every medal, look at every PR time. I imagine myself in those last miles of every race that is painful, that makes me want to stop, and every time I kept running anyway. In those moments, I am the person I want to be, that I am in my best moments. I am strong, I am tireless, I am determined.

The most incredible part of my journey as a marathoner (can I call myself that if I've only done two?), is that I feel that I've accomplished and become familiar with a major milestone. Training for a marathon isn't Chadd was showing me a blood blister he had on his fingers from training for Nina Warrior (you can see him training on his blog here, Chadd the Ninja) and I responded with "yeah, I've had blisters that have at LEAST a tablespoon of fluid in them! Then I lose my toenails. I know the feeling." He turned kinda green. But marathon training gives you an amazing gift: the ability to do a marathon, cross that finish line and feel like you are someone different and special and accomplished. You're not just another person. You are a marathoner.

Now, training for my third marathon, it's beginning to feel a bit like a half. In no way is it as easy as a half...but it's a known quantity. I was explaining to my mom this weekend why I signed up for the IM70.3 and why I want to do it. I want to face the unknown, the un-done, the impossible and see if I can do it.

If I can't, then, I can't. But if I can...then I'm halfway there to being an Ironman. And that is worth the pain.


  1. Your blister/toenail comment brings up a question that comes to my mind whenever I meet a marathoner - does forcing your body to undergo such abuse as you find in training for and running a marathon increase your tolerance for discomfort and pain?

    If you'd been this sick back before you'd ever run a marathon, would it have felt worse? Or did the knowledge and memory of taking what a marathon can throw at you leave you better able to make it through this sickness?

    I realize I'm comparing 27miles of apples to several days of barfing oranges, but that's why I ask. Does the one help you get through the other?

    1. REALLY interesting question, actually, and it made me pause. I think the answer is yes.

      It's all exercises in mental tolerance. I knew while I was becoming intimate with indoor plumbing that this too would pass. When you are running and it seems it will never end and your legs hurt and lungs burn and you can feel your toenails, you focus on the accomplishment at the end of the run.

      I don't know that the actual experience of the physical pain helps...because like you said running apples and barfing oranges (what a mental image). But then again, people say that pain is mental?

      Bottom line - marathoning toughens the mind :)