Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mad At The World

Sometimes being an oncology nurse sucks -- a lot!

When I first started on my floor a few moths ago, one of my first patients was a young man (a baby in my eyes, significantly younger than me who was definitely in my opinion, just starting out in life) who had a wife and a 17 month old baby.  I had had patients near my age before, but never this young.  As the weeks went by I got to know him, his wife, his parents, his in-laws and his siblings.  They became part of our unit almost.  They slept on floors, cots, chairs, anything they could find to just get a few more moments with him.  He had beaten cancer once at 19, but it had come back and it was moving faster than I had ever seen cancer move before.  He spent a month with us, before I discharged him the week before Easter and told him "I hoped I'd never see him again." 

He came back in less than a week to my dismay and he was worse than ever.  The doctors told him it looked bad and they didn't think he could handle another round of chemo, unless things changed.  I watched him fade away before my eyes, until God finally took him earlier this week.  It was a blessing.  He had held on for so long, fighting for his family and for the long life he should have had, but he couldn't do it any longer and with just a few gasps for air he passed and was gone

I had a wave of nausea pass over me and I almost broke down in the medication room, but I managed to close my eyes and take a few deep breathes.  I reminded myself "I had to keep going."  I had patients to take care of.  I was calm on the outside but a turmoil of emotions on the inside as I tended to my patients and helped the family through the aftermath, as best I could. 

The night took forever and when daylight crept through the hospital windows signaling my shift was nearly over, I felt so relieved.  I had to get the hell out of there.  I stopped at the store at 8:30-9:00am and bought a six-pack of beer, under the circumstances beer for breakfast seemed the way to go.  I made it through one before I fell asleep exhausted. 

I woke up angry that a child so young had to grow up without knowing what an amazing father he had, a man who apologized to his mother about a week before he passed saying "I'm sorry, I didn't do more mom." 

I couldn't email anybody or call them that day.  I hid from the world.  I wasn't up for talking or sharing.  I never am when things like this happen.  My anger was of course, full throttle, not that he died when he did, but that it had to happen to him at all.  I spent most of my time wondering what the hell God was thinking and what more I could have done to help him. 

I finally, dragged myself out of my hole on Tuesday to go to the track, not to do the workout, but to go back and face the world.  Seeing my friends was really nice, a few knew something was wrong almost right away and when I told them they hugged me and told me they were sorry.  It was a short conversation, without a lot of dwelling or details.  I couldn't deal with a heart to heart, but just the short talk took a load off.  I ran absolutely terrible.  I was too hot, I couldn't breathe, I felt sluggish and completely blew the workout.  All those awful feelings though meant I was still alive.

Even in the moments of road rage, the crappy track workouts, the pain in my feet, the cotton mouth, the tears and the unimaginable sorrow that accompanies loss I'm not dead and I still have a lot to do with my life yet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011

I put the year in the title because I do plan on going back again and crushing the course next time.  As for this Boston, I did indeed toe the line and finish it

My roomies convinced me to at least get out of bed and go to the starting line and see how I felt.  We said good-bye to e-speed and wished her luck as we headed for the buses (she got the elite treatment -- we were just average citizens).  The walk to the bus was maybe a mile and all windy as hell!  JP and I did everything we could to keep JU and BB in sight as we had no idea where we were going.  We got there just in time as the lines went from manageable to HUGE in less than 5 minutes. 

The bus ride seemed to take forever and JU and BB were kind enough to ask me "Can you believe how long this is and we have to run all the way back?"  That comment didn't do much to make me feel better, but everybody else got a good laugh out of teasing me.  I texted e-speed one last time to wish her luck and go after her OTQ (I think I wanted this almost as bad as she did -- haha).  JP had hydrated like she was some kind of camel and threatened to pee on me the whole ride as her bladder just would not cooperate (thankfully, I did not get peed on and she made it to a porta-john.

We were able to hang out at the church for a few hours and stay warm and avoid the wind.  I was not happy.  I barely spoke to my mom when she called to wish me luck.  I felt like crap and had let myself slide into a funk.  Not wanting to spread my joy, I mean lackthereof I laid down on the floor of the church, turned on my IPOD and slept.  I was just tired and not psyched at all for this.  I got in a   about a 15-20 minute nap, before we returned to the buses to drop our bags and get ready for THE BOSTON MARATHON!

I was able to catch the wheelchair and the elite women's start since I was way the hell back there.  I even got to see the elite men and some of the SERC peeps go off in wave one before I had to get into my corral for wave two.  I had to walk back over a hill and down a ways to the seventh corral and I hesitated to go near the front because I had been told people have peed in the corrals and I would have lost it if someone had peed on me like I was some kind of tree to a dog!!

There was a lot of hype and everybody, the fans, the runners, the commentators were all jazzed up and you could just tell EVERYBODY was excited.  I saw a friend AC in the corral with me and we walked up the hill to the gate.  I pitched my throw away shirt, but kept my arm warmers on.  We crested the hill and there it was the starting banner, TV cameras, crazy cheering fans and just like that I crossed the starting line.

It was just like my friends had said.  A sea of runners as far as I could see and in that moment I forgot I was sick and just let the weather, the race, the whole day of awesomeness wash over me.  I trotted along just trying to take it in and relax.  My chest was a little tight and I felt like I was being really conservative and still hear 8:30-8:40's for the first 2 miles.  WOW!  This mother of a course really is fast.  I saw the biker bar with tons of bikers screaming and drinking as we ran by ...  I loved it and yelled "THANK YOU!!"  They just screamed back louder.  There were little kids everywhere from the get-go looking for hi-fives and I was running down the left side thinking, if it wasn't my day I was gonna help make it someone else's.  I must have hi-fived 5-15 kids each mile, some were counting "85, 86" as we went by.  It was really cute.  Istripped my arm warmers by mile 2 and realized it was going to be a really hot run for me.  I began hydrating at every aid station, even grabbing an extra cup of water to pour down my arms, to keep them cool.

As we entered Ashland, people were out on the street, set-up like they were watching a parade.  Some people were even on roof tops cheering.  I crossed the first 5k marker and thought "I bet my mom will be so relieved to see my first split that means I am actually running."  I figured she would be sitting at home praying I would start and survive the race.

I worked my way to Framingham and had thoughts of my undergrad days at the University of Akron, when it seemed like every other week we were discussing the Framingham Heart Study in one class or another for exercise physiology.  The course was so fast as I easily continued on my 8:30-8:45 trot.  Lots of people had their names on their clothes and people would scream for them "Go Karen!!" "Go John!!" and then Karen and John would wave a thank you, never knowing the insta-fan.  I talked to a few people along the way "Which marathon was this?  Is this your first time at Boston?  Are you going for a PR?  Good luck!"  was the exchange.  I continued to be enamored by the course and the fans.  My chest still felt a little tight, but no diseaseness or nausea.  My knees and ankles were a little achy, but completely manageable -- SCORE!!

The quietest spot on the course was probably around Lake Cochituate, but the landscape was beautiful and if I was dead, this could be my heaven.  It reminded me of Wisconsin, of my home as a child.  It was around this time that my chest finally let go and I could breathe a little easier. 

I rolled into Natick where the biggest crowds of fans were thus far!  There was an a singing Elvis impersonator on stage singing his heart out as we ran through.  I don't even remember what he was playing, but I do wish I had had my camera to take a pic.  I continued to hydrate and pour water on myself, pretty wet already. 

By this time, I was pretty hot and the aid stations weren't close enough together to keep my arms and back cool.  I was drying and fast.  I could tell I was going to have a nice sunburn too, especially on the right side of my body.

It was shortly after this I started to hear the screams.  They were high-pitched and shrill-like.  I knew what was next, either I was about to meet my first set of Banshees, or Wellsley college was just ahead.  It was paved black-top and it got just a tad hotter as we came upon hundreds, hundreds of crazy screaming girls holding signs that said "KISS ME, I'M _____ "(fill in the blank, from Wisconsin, Irish, don't wear underwear, you name it).  I was still on the left and the girls were all on the right but I definitely saw a lot of men stopping to offer smooches to the girls.

It was shortly after this that I crossed the half point and ran under a big banner with a photographer on top and figured, I might as well try and make the most of my photo ops.  Here is my half photo (You can see the big bruise on my right thigh still from my crash -- unfortunately).  
It was probably at this point where I slowed the most in this race.  I just kinda got lulled by the magic that is Boston and I started to see people cramping and hurting -- already!  I knew the hills started at 16 and even sick I refused to let those things slowed me down, even further.  I kept telling myself "easy to the hills, easy." 

Then the most awesome part of my race happened (and I almost missed it).  I was running along on sensory overload and then I saw it to the right of me!!  I had missed them at the expo and been kicking myself figuratively for it when there they were.  It was TEAM HOYT!!!
I immediately cut across the road and ran right up to Rick and Dick Hoyt and as I was crying started cheering for them and said "You guys are freakin' amazing!!"  Dick was walking this year, not sure if it was because he was feeling ill or because he is freakin' 70!!  I continued on blubbering and crying for a bit completely inspired and in awe of what I had just witnessed.  Thank God, I had my sunglasses on to hide my teary eyes.

The hills started shortly after this and I was ready.  I took a gel and was slowly getting my game face on, better late than never.  I took the hills through 18 at an easy effort.  There was one that was fairly steep that made me wonder, "what the heck was heartbreak like? This one was pretty good!" 

Around 18, I heard some silly "Let's get it" or "Let's Go" song and thought, "even if I blow up  now it's only 8 miles to the finish." 

It was on!!!

I watched people walking and stopping all around me.  It was carnage.  I could tell I was moving faster than most around me because I could see a few others zig-zagging through like myself and I earned my nickname for the race at that time.  People started screaming "Go green socks!!!!"  as I pushed forward.  I loved the hills.  My quads were a little tired, but never had my legs felt this great after 18, even in a training run. 

Near mile 20, I passed an unsolicited beer station and the fans were cheering and trying to get runners to chug a beer.  I ran by smiling thinking about how I had wanted to do that in Philly and then it hit me.  I wasn't running for time.  I had nothing to lose.  I turned around and ran back down the incline/hill and said...

"All right, what the hell, give me the beer.  I will do it!!
You would think I scored a touchdown.  They errupted in cheers, screaming "Whooo Hooo!!" and "Hell YEAH!!" 
Somebody gave me a dixie cup of beer and I downed it.  It was amazing!  Usually, my stomach goes south by this time in a race, but man that beer was good!!  I hollered "Thank you!!" and was on my way. 

I started up a long incline and before I knew it was nearly at the top, when I saw all these signs that said "Kill This Hill" and "Don't let Heartbreak, Break You!!" 

WHAT!!?!?!?  That was Heartbreak -- it wasn't a hill it was an incline!!  I whomped on it like a champ.  I crested my last Boston marathon hill and headed for home, the finish.  I was pumped.  I had survived the course and run the hills well.  I was home free. 

Around 22 my quads started to feel a twinge of pain and weariness.  I was still moving better than most, but a quad seizing cramp was not how I planned to end my race.  Instead of opening it full throttle to make up time.  I played it cautious and maintained my effort, trying to keep my feet low to the ground on the downhills. 

The crowds were insane at this point and the Boston College boys were partying like rockstars.  I even saw one fall over the railing onto the street.  I heard the police constantly yelling "Get Back!! Get Back!!"  trying to keep the street clear for runners.  Someone from the crowd even grabbed my left arm and almost whipped me back on my ass as I ran by.  I moved toward the middle of the street after that. 

The crowds wasn't even screaming at this point.  It was a constant roar.  I ran down Beacon Street, my feet starting to burn, but my excitement building as I knew I was so close, so close to finishing my first Boston!!  We had run the last mile or two the day before and I knew it was a long straight-a-way, then a right and a final left would take me to the big blue banner. 

I hit the Citgo sign and knew it was just a mile now.  I started opening up my stride, not caring what happened.  I knew the course couldn't stop me at this point.  This marathon was less than 9:00 minutes from done. 

The course turned onto Hereford and pushed, made my last left and there it was!!  I ran hard for the line, but for the first time ever in a marathon, I looked around at the finish.  I waved.  I took it all in!!  I threw up my fist and played to the crowd -- they cheered right back.   I passed a young male limping to the finish with his 2 buddies running by his side in flip-flops.  I ran by and yelled "Keep going!!  Bring him home guys!!" 

So many things went through my head in the last 1/2 mile.  This was it!!  This was what you had promised you would do in 2007.  This is what you had worked and fought so hard for at Cleveland in "08 and Philly in '08, then getting hurt and having to re-qualify and finally being sick.  This was my Boston.

I had done it!!  I crossed the finish in 3:51:40.
Not my fastest marathon, but definitely the funnest.  I missed negative splitting the damn thing by 0:36 seconds.  My mom thinks, going back for the beer cost me...

It was worth it!  I can't wait to do it again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Graveyard Shift and Sleeping Spells

My orientation for work was over about a week or two ago as my re-assessment went into the green --- duh!!  I know how to memorize answers and type it on a computer screen, if given the chance to study.  Believe me if you come in with fevers after chemotherapy, you can bet your a$$, I am gonna poke you with a needle (even you e-speed, not a big one though), draw some blood cultures, give you an IV and anticipate the doctor wants you on vancomycin and zosyn for the infection and tylenol for the fever, and then if you start pooping all over on me I'm gonna grab a poop sample too -- So look out and don't get sick or I'll be coming for you :)

Anyway, my orientation was thankfully extended another few weeks, because I somehow managed to avoid the graveyard shift and floating over to bone marrow transplant and leukemia to work.  BMT scares the crap out of me because those people have absolutely no white blood cells to fight infection and even family members can't kiss or hug them when they are in!!  Just sneezing on them could kill them.  I went up there for a few hours this past weekend and then they stuck me on nights all week this week and next week. 

Nights shift is 7p-7:30a.  It has it's benefits.  There a less orders going in and the patients usually go to sleep, so you just have to assess them and pass meds until about 10:00p then you can chart and read up on the notes to better understand each case.  There are a few that wake up in pain and need meds or have round the clock antibiotics, but it is definitely more my speed and I make more money working night shift, simply because it's night shift.  The only down side is I can't sleep!  I tried to stay up late on Sunday, but was out like a light before midnight.  I woke up at 8:00am on Monday and had some breakfast and then went back to bed until a little before noon.  The first night was fine for me.  I got home around 10:00a on Tuesday and was only able to sleep from 11am-2p.  I ate something and read a book until 4p and was able to sleep for another hour.  I had to shower at 5p and head to work and knew it was going to be ugly by 7:30a the next morning.  The shift went fairly smooth.  I picked up two patients at 11:30p, which I hate because they are already alseep and I have to wake them up to assess them unfortunatley or wait until early morning when lab comes around and cluster the care.  It can put me behind on my charting then and if something goes wrong I haven't assessed them and pin-pointing the problem becomes more difficult, so waking them up it is. 

I left around 8:15am, report took forever and before I was even half way home I could feel myself dozing off.  I called my dad and tried to call to him, but my hand was shaking as I held the phone.  Finally, I pulled into the JCC on S. Woodland.  I was about half way home and I knew it was too risky.  I pulled into a spot in the back, grabbed my Indians blanket and slept in my truck for an hour and a half, before some landscaper's mower hit my truck with some rocks and woke me up.  I drove home and went straight to bed around 11am and didn't wake up until 7:30pm.  I managed to eat something and stay awake until 9:30pm before going back to bed and not moving until 10:00am this morning.

I have to do it all over again this Saturday and Sunday, so I really have to get a game plan together.  I can't be driving home in rush hour traffic dead to the world, only to sleep for an entire day after!  I'm thinking until I figure this sleeping in the day time thing out (from 9am-5pm) I am going to have to take some sleeping pills to help me.  I can't afford to be unsafe at work or in my car.  Maybe I will be crashing at the A-train hotel more often than even he knows (also, feel free to leave a comment for him that he owes a post regarding his race at Taylorsville, if you have time!!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cleveland 10k

The last time I ran a 10k was 2008 when I had done the Jim Klett run, my PR was on that course of 49:21.  It was a very soft PR, because I had run faster than that in half marathons and 10 milers in the 3 years between now and then.   I wasn't sure if I would be able to get off work and with everything else at Cleveland sold-out I decided a nice hard 10k would be just the thing. 

My last few days of work going into the race had been exhausting with a particular patient breaking our hearts and fighting for his life.  I needed a break and some stress relief.

The temp was perfect for me, but the air was a little humid at the start and I never run well with heat.  I chatted with some friends at the CTC tent, opting not to run a warm-up or really do much of anything before the race.  I wasn't too into the race itself, but I wanted to see my friends and Cleveland is kind of a tradition.  The new start was extremely crowded and when the gun went off I was still standing in the grass chatting with MD and LM.  When LM and I finally stepped off the curb to stat I asked her what she was going to run and maybe run with her, but she was estimating 9:30's and I knew I wanted to put out faster splits.  I wished her luck and took off. 

The first mile was uphill and extremely crowded.  I should not have waited so long to get strarted, but the old me always started way in the back and I still fail to seed myself appropriately at times these days.  I ran around a lot of people.  Mile 1 was 7:50.

My goal was 7:30-7:40 pace.  I just have not been where I was last winter-spring with my running and it has bummed me out, a little.  I feel older and slower.  The weight is harder to manage and the hours on my feet at work, have been knocking the wind out of my training sails by the time the weekends come around. 

Mile 2 was flat as a pancake and I started thinking about my patient at work and wondering if he would ever feel the wind on his face as we headed east.  It was a mild headwind and I just kept running and thinking about him.  I continued to pass a lot of people and it was much easier as the street opened up.  I was only a little uncomfortable and mile 2 ticked by in 7:23. 

Mile 3 continued on the long straightaway.  Hell, I am almost at work.  I could just go up there and see what needs to be done for the day.  Mile 3 7:41. 

I had my mom's garmin on (I don't have one). I planned to run a few extra miles and help a friend out in the half and wanted to track my total mileage for the day, so it was beeping about a tenth before each mile marker, which was fine.  I probably ran wide somewhere or the weaving between people caused it.

We turned left shortly after mile 3 and ran down a short side street and made another left back toward the finish.  The wind was now at our backs and it was warmer than I liked coming back into the heart of Cleveland.  I skipped the 2 water stops on the course as it was only 6.2 miles and I was on the left side of the road as per my usual race tactics.  I only run in the middle if there is a strong headwind, otherwise I like my space.  Mile 4 came and went in 7:43. 

I was having a hard time keeping up the intensity of the run.  I am not used to running uncomfortable for 6 miles.  I am trying to increase my speed with track workouts and tempos these days, but it still hasn't taken hold.  I was still able to pass a significant amount of people and that helped bolster my confidence.  I counted three traffic lights ahead and tried to stay focused.  Mile 5 also 7:43. 

I wasn't looking at my watch, but I could tell I was starting to slouch and my arms were getting tighter, my feet were not coming off the ground as high and I was going into "hang on" mode.  My body was getting tired and since my mind was already half out of it from the start I was starting to struggle.  As we ran for the 6th mile marker one guy suggested we try and close this thing out with a 7 minute mile.  It sounded like a great, but unrealistic plan.  He pulled ahead and while 7:00 minutes seemed impossible, going a little faster didn't.  I pushed a little harder trying to get to the next stop light and then the next.  We made a right turn onto E. 9th where we would finally get some downhill payback for the uphill in the beginning. I didn't feel like I was runing it too well though.  The only indiator I had was again that I was passsing people on it.  Mile 6 7:35.

We made the final left turn to head Marginal (or whatever the hell the name of the road is in this section) and I picked it up, trying to pretend like I was running a 200 on the track in Solon.  I could feel people coming up on me as we came off one final last soft right curve at which point I could finally see the clock and I gunned it.  The least I could do was keep myself from getting run down at the line!

I closed at 48:10 with 6.34 miles on my garmin with a 7:36 pace, but at 6.2 miles it is 7:46 pace.  Now here is the silly part of it all that kind of frustrates me.  This was a PR for me and I know it is still soft, but a PR none-the-less however, Cleveland somehow messed up my time and gave me 49:49 which is 8:02 pace yesterday and then as of today I ran a 1:13:09 and was 2nd overall in the women's half.  I wasn't going to even bother emailing them yesterday about the wrong 10k time, but after seeing the mess up in the half today I did send them an email regarding correction of my time.  Who knows if they will get it right? 

On the flip side a lot of my girlfriends competed yesterday and while some had rough races they still came off with PR's and outstanding performances.  Salty got a PR!  TriSaraTops struggled and fought her way through a full marathon, never giving up and hamming it up for all to see.  CV for nearly besting her marathon PR with stomach issues, KZ finished her first marathon....EVER, GP did a half without training and E-speed was all over the course as a spectator and racer that day making sure we never gave up and did our best.

But without a doubt the greatest performance yesterday had to be my meatball NC, not only winning the marathon for the 2nd year in a row, but qualifying for the olympic trials in a phenomenal time of 2:43: 47!!

While, I am sitting here playing the last few days in my head, I realize it has been a teeter-totter of emotions.  NC and all my friends reminded me that for all the heartbreak we go through with loss and failures, there are always moments of greatness out there, and even a few miracles sprinkled in along the way.

Just checked the results and the Cleveland marathon fixed them, so I got my 48:10 and a PR to boot!  It's not significantly faster, but I will take it!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011: Pre-Race

Perhaps a little overdue, but here it is nevertheless.  Working and driving to and from work along with sleeping has pretty much become my life as of late.  I am befuddled as to how to get on a consistent training plan with continuous curve balls at work that delay my 12 hour shifts to 14's and my 8's to 10's. 

Anyway, I worked my 45 hours the week before Boston and definitely felt run down by the end of the week with a little bit of a sore throat.  I thought maybe I was a little dehydrated, but by Friday morning I was achy and my throat was worse.  My sinuses felt a little clogged and I was exhausted.  I talked to e-speed about even getting on the plane (didn't want to spend 4 days away from home with full blown flu and take the chance of making my roomies sick too!), but she easily persuaded me to at least come out and see how I would feel. 

Each day after, I felt about the same crappy, crappy and crappy.  I was torn between exploring the expo and all the awesome places Boston had to offer or just crawling into bed and trying to save all my strength for Monday.  I convinced myself this was such a great opportunity and I made it out for some wonderful Boston moments.

I haven't been on a plane for probably five or six years and there is a reason...I hate flying.  I hate heights and I always think the plane is going down!  I had 2 super cool guys from Canton on my flight who had run Boston before and were telling me their stories.  I was the first girl to arrive from our group and when I got to baggage claim, this was my first sign it was really going to happen -- I was going to get my shot at the Boston Marathon!!

The first night we hit up the hotel restaurant Connexions and I got to try a lobster roll and an Oatmeal Stout beer

The next morning we had our traditional SERC photo:

The Expo (where the famous BB found the last freakin' Boston 2011 jacket for me)

We had an awesome brunch in Cambridge where we met another future Boston marathoner, also a nurse (YAY!!)

The night before the race we had a killer dinner at Pappa Razzi's and on the way home we walked backwards through the finish.  I was able to get one last look at that big blue banner
and the finish line I so desperately hoped I could get to tomorrow morning. 

Lots of nice people in Boston offered to take pics of all the crazy runners and their friends, such as myself who wanted a kodak moment of their trip (this one was the night before the race)

We stopped off at the local supermarket near our hotel and I got more airborne (I had been drinking all of e-speed's), vitamin C pills and zinc in hopes by some miracle I would feel better by 10:30am tomorrow.  I laid down dead tired and passed out within 5 minutes, hoping 5:15 am would not come for another 3 days, but by 4:30 am the anticipation of race morning had crept into our room and some of us just couldn't sleep, so we all got up.  I felt about the same, crappy, my throat was still sore, my joints were achy, my sinuses felt a little clogged and I was still having chills on and off.  I laid in bed watching everybody bustle about the room debating if I should even get out of bed, trying to find the right answer in my heart to run or not to run.  I didn't want to bring anybody down or make them worry, but when your sick you don't do a marathon, you don't do a 26.2 mile training run, you just don't get out of bed, unless you absolutely have to!!