Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Wasn't ALL Bad . . .

I wanted to compile a list of WONDERFUL things that happened in 2016:

  • Lemonade
  • US women Olympians
  • Lion Babe’s new album
  • Solange’s new album
  • Banks’s new album
  • Childish Gambino’s new album
  • SCOTUS struck down Texas’s HB2
  • Wonder Woman trailer
  • WW confirmed queer
  • WW postage
  • “Obama out.”
  • Holtzmann
  • Zootopia
  • #vagendaofmanocide
  • Nasty women
  • Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton
  • SNL's social/political commentary
  • Luke Cage
  • Moana
  • Rogue One
  • Joe Biden memes
On a personal level:
I started volunteering with TEA Fund, Planned Parenthood, and Back on My Feet; started seeing a couple of awesome people who make me happy; and completed my first marathon.

What else would you add that was awesome this year?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marathon Report

 TL;DR: It was awful. I finished.


My First Marathon: Sunday, December 11

(And many sincere thanks to ENELL for giving me this opportunity)

This is a mix of Facebook status updates and stream of conscious writing, because it's my blog, so there.

5:00 AM Wake and grab gear. Discover that new hydration pack bite valve has no valve. Grab pocket knife and make a hole.
6:00 Race out the door and drive to the train station.
6:07 Dart up the stairs to the platform only just in time to catch the train.
6:45 Arrive at event site.

7:05-8:30 Shimmy and shiver violently in the hecking cold.
7:46 I got to pet a doggo named Connie. Let's do this.
8:03 Was beginning to worry because I had no pre-race poo, but then I remembered I didn't eat dinner last night.

8:37 Begin. I decided to walk the first mile since I was freezing and very literally needed to warm up and didn't want to make the mistake of going out too fast. This was a good decision.

10:16 Hokay, that second 5k was uphill, so you may ooh and ahh at my negative split.

10:30 Goddess bless the spectators offering beer! Or, perhaps: Bacchus bless the beer bringers!

I got to run the first 15K with a friend who was running the half marathon. And then the two courses split. Holy crap: the stark visual contrast of separating from the half runners and immediately turning onto a dead empty street on a gray day with no other participants in sight. Demoralizing much?

At that turn, another marathoner on the course asked me where everyone was and ultimately decided to go with the half runners instead.
But within the next mile and for the rest of the race, I slowly caught up to and passed a sparse but steady stream of other participants.

Halfway thoughts:

Who. the. FUCK. designed this bitch-ass hilly course?!
Also, I would really like a moist towel to wipe the salt from my face.
Also, I would really like to take my shirt off because it's getting warm, but my arms will chafe and I cannot handle that for 13 more miles. Maybe I'll take it off later.

I'd had super sexy negative splits on each 5K to that point and completed my first marathon half in 3:04. My best half marathon ever was 3:07. I was tired and decided to walk mile 14 and stop to pee.

I legit think dementors were consulted in designing the back half of the course.

Miles ~15-17: Fierce headwinds off the lake, nearly constantly. I ducked my head to keep from losing my visor and trudged forward. The sun was starting to come out and the air was getting warm (not good).

Miles ~17-20.5: Begin ALL concrete concrete concrete, boring trail with slight incline. The never-ending, never-changing, soul-destroying type of hill. Turn after turn, mile after mile, it just KEPT GOING. Even if you know nothing about running, you can imagine that it isn't SO bad to suck it up and run uphill for a couple minutes. But can you imagine doing it for an hour?

I was MAD AS HELL and let the anger carry me through that stretch, those miles which are often cited by runners as the most mentally challenging part of a marathon course, even without terrain to contend with. I literally stormed up that whole stretch like an angry cartoon with a bone to pick and mean mugging that would put Phelps to shame. Which worked, but I couldn't run any of it.
Activity - Insert animated GIF to HTML
(Above: Me)

I snapped a selfie at the 18-mile mark. 18 was the longest training run I'd managed before the race. My fingers were swelling and beginning to be uncomfortable. I had no idea how much worse they would get.

I let three photographers in a row over the course of many miles catch how I *really* felt and look forward to seeing those photos.

I was SO glad to finally turn back onto the segment of the course that I recognized since it was an overlapping out and back. It felt like the home stretch.

My heart just sank at seeing the 23-mile marker. When would I EVER finish?

Moments later, my right femur head shouted in sudden pain: "Hey, bitch! ... Wanna do the pimp-walk limp for the next mile?—Cuz you're gonna." (Yes, my joints have conversations with me. Usually it's my saying, "STFU, knee! I don't need you!")
The final two-ish miles just went through a really ugly industrial part of town. Like, come on.

A too-peppy runner told me when I was at the last quarter mile and pointed out the photographer to encourage me to run. I think I ran. My brain sent signals to that effect. The pictures make it look like I sort of tried, anyway.

Finish line (or what was left of it)

When they say there's a 6.5-hour course limit, what they mean is that the elite runners in the first wave—who can finish in 3 or less—get a 6.5-hour time limit.

So when the slower runners, who are made to start 35 minutes LATER, run about (or less than) 6.5, the whole event is packed up and gone when they reach the finish line but for the photographers and a few saintly volunteers with medals and gear check.

Whereas many other marathoners talk about being overcome with emotion and crying when they crossed the finish line, I wandered around the area sobbing because THERE WAS NO GODDAMN WATER ANYWHERE AT THE EVENT SITE FOR FUCKING MARATHON FINISHERS!

Aside from being anti-climatic, that's really fucking fucked up.

No food or medics either.

The course was fucking awful and I would never recommend this event to anyone.

I got my things, cried more, changed clothes, and dragged myself back to the train station for the 35-minute ride back to my car. I decided when I got in my car to stop at the pho place on the way home to order takeout for my lonely post-race meal.

The end.

... sort of.

I really thought I would need to stop running altogether for a good long while after this race, but I have some 10K Pokémon eggs to hatch and am likely to try on Saturday before Sunday's freeze. #gottahatchemall

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Day Before My First Marathon

Saturday, December 10: The Day Before My Marathon
I took myself to a local diner for a brunch of eggs over medium, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, toast, and apple juice before boarding the DART train to the expo downtown. I stood in line behind ONE person for packet pickup at the race expo and breezed through the whole thing, including stopping to buy GU and to sign the runners’ wall, in fifteen minutes or less.
I had a pretty bad headache by the time I got home, and it was a raging migraine by evening. Having a migraine is a pretty fucking horrific and often traumatic experience even in the best of circumstances. The thing(s) about having a migraine the night before your first fucking marathon, however, means:
  • Not laying out your race gear in advance
  • Not prepping your hydration pack
  • Not packing your race bag
  • Not eating a single bite of dinner, which is a pretty fucking important pre-race meal
  • Probably not keeping down any of the liquids you had instead of dinner
  • Urinating extra lots, further fucking up that hydration issue (common migraine symptom)
  • Not taking the hot bath you'd planned on
  • Not stretching that day
  • Not massaging or rolling out any sore muscles
  • Kind of just barely figuring out the math on when to set your alarm, leave the house, and catch the right train and not feeling at all confident in those calculations
  • Going to bed early (great!) but probably only getting 4 good hours of sleep
  • Knowing you're going to wake up feeling shaky and emotionally hungover (and, of course, physically tired) for an event that requires literally every drop of mental fortitude that you have available on a *good* day, an event that you haven't even wanted to do *at all* for some weeks now
  • Just being *extra* grouchy, hurty, and whiney when you've been pretty damn grouchy, hurty, sleepy, and whiney for several months already
  • And no crying, because convulsions will make your upset stomach worse, and the facial tension will worsen the migraine pain as well
That said, thank you so much, dear friends, for all your support, excitement, and confidence, especially since I'm pretty much all out my own. I don't know how to convey how much it means to me.
At this point, I just want to be DONE with the GD race; and never wanting to do this again could be the only thought that gets me to the finish line.
I'm not looking forward to it AT ALL. I just want to be done running, done hurting, done training, done being tired all the time, done being grouchy, and done talking about my fucking marathon.

Simultaneous conversations with my self:
Is this you or your depression talking?
This really feels like me, tbh.

*Remember being grouchy like this 6 years ago in Korea and only much later recognizing that as pretty severe undiagnosed depression.*

So is this you or your depression talking?
Would I know the difference?
IS there a difference?

My depression IS me.

Ain't nobody got time for this.
Go the fuck to sleep.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sometimes running rocks

After crashing and burning for the last long run, my coach gave me a 7-mile-long “Tempo Mile Repeats” workout, commenting “This workout is designed to be HARD. I’m not gonna sugar coat this shit for you. It’s not pleasant.” (“Tempo” means faster than comfortable. “Mile repeats” is exactly what it sounds like.)

So I got up about 5 a.m., braced myself for the weather, and went to work out. After my warmup, I had five one-mile repeats with a short rest between each. My assigned goal was 11:30-11:45 for each.

I started the first still feeling sluggish and sleepy. I checked my timer after the first and second laps on the quarter-mile track and was certain I couldn't possibly make the time. But I finished the first mile in 11:22. And that was my slowest one of the day.

As it turns out, I may not be very good at pacing, but I really benefitted from the 38-40°F weather that morning. My second and third repeats were each faster than the previous, the fourth the same as the third, and I finished the fifth in 10:33! I wasn’t exactly killing myself to do it, either, but going by similar perceived effort each time (except for the final 200 m), and the pacing just fell out like that.

Physically, I felt pretty good when I finished and throughout the day. Mentally, seeing those numbers was a HUGE boost for me after the previous workouts’ emotional toll. I definitely needed that.

I had a shorter run later that week and then a 7-mile “long” run over the weekend, which felt like a breeze.

I’m still freaking out about the impending marathon, but having some good workouts in the meantime at least helps my mood.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Sometimes things REALLY suck

[CN: depression]

I had thought my 18-mile run would be the last long one before my marathon since it was three weeks out, but my coach gave me a 20-miler for two weeks out.

I was not thrilled about this because I was on vacation in California, but I spent a lot of time in advance on Google maps trying to plot my route through the city. When I arrived, however, I learned that California is freaking mountainous. Who knew?

So I threw out my map and planned to run six dull laps around the lake.

I went to bed at a reasonable hour and woke up the next day . . . with a terrible stomachache and still felt dreadfully sleepy. So I dozed another hour, felt a little better, and got dressed to go despite a deep feeling of dread and "I-don't-wannas"  . . .

And then I found tears streaming down my face for no reason at all for like ten minutes straight before I even left. Wtf? It was a beautiful day; I couldn't have asked for better running weather.

I dragged my butt out the door, spent another five minutes just trying to set up my freaking interval timer and GPS tracker, and set off downhill a half mile to the lake. The "I-don't-wannas" persisted, and though I can usually shake it off and push through, I really struggled to make myself run during the designated intervals and even stopped to sit several times (which I never do) to try and get it together.

After an unbelievable mental struggle through the first lap, I cried through the entirety of the second, stopped many more times and longer, and was too far gone to reliably assess whether the pain in my hip and butt was serious enough to stop. I tried to start a third lap but knew there was no way I'd finish it without walking the entire thing, so I turned around to walk back to the apartment. Still crying for no fucking reason at all PLUS feeling like a complete failure PLUS looking forward to telling my coach I'm a complete failure PLUS suppressing all sorts of terrified "how am I ever gonna finish my race—what if I DON'T finish my race?!" thoughts.

I'd managed only a piddly 8.33 miles out of TWENTY in two and a half hours, whereas those 8 should have taken less than two hours.

Crying for no GD reason.
Can't run another step, and I know it's not physical.
Is my depression doing this?

In recent weeks, I've had a few bouts of the uncontrollable urge to cry for no reason. Last year it was constant for weeks and meant I needed to up my dose of bupropion. Running has usually balanced my emotions and I have never before had to face this while running.

I felt a little better after showering and dressing, mostly because I wasn't running anymore. But this was a seriously important training session, and there was no way to try to redo it in time for the race.

The next day I ran a similarly slow 4 miles instead of my scheduled 2, and I still felt crummy and weepy, though less so than the previous day.

As miserable and difficult as the summer slog had been, at least my fucking brain wasn't malfunctioning. Even though I'd had some crummy runs, they were just that and nothing more: no additional weight or emotions attached to or triggered by them.

There's not a happy or conclusive ending to this post except that my hosts totally understood and offered me hugs, didn't mind when I said "not right now," and didn't push me to talk more about it when I withdrew.

My coach was very understanding, which I pretty much expected, but depression brain doesn't understand anything more nuanced than "OMG, I have to tell her I'M A FAILURE."*

However, the week improved markedly, and I'll write more about that next time.

*Aside: wicked déjà vu just now