Friday, April 25, 2014

Streak of luck


 Sunset over Santa Cruz on our week of vacation!
I have been incredibly lucky this past year. Since Memorial Day 2013, Nathan and I have built a thriving business, pushed ourselves to our limits and created something awesome. During that time, I was able to squeeze in a few races and even get to the point of training seriously again after Portland Marathon. Its been an unbelievable ride and I cannot complain.

Ironically, it has also been one of the worst stretches of running I've had in my short career. When I switched off the baking shift shortly after Portland Marathon in October and was able to run in the morning again, it made an immediate world of difference. I felt lighter and springier than I did after a 12 hour baking shift and I felt focused on my running. I entered the Boston Marathon and felt inspired to go after a PR. That feeling last about 3 weeks. Then I started moving backwards, I felt like I was getting slower, even easy pace felt hard. I had two below average half marathons and then capped off the year with a painful DNF at California International Marathon due to, what I thought at the time, was incredibly calf cramps brought on by the extremely low temperatures. I not only didn't accomplish my goal of making the Olympic Trials qualifier, I didn't even finish the race.

I felt like crap no matter what I did, rest, run, change my diet, adjust my medicine (including iron) sleep more, etc. I figured it was just working long hours at the bakery on top of training hard. I was ready to really focus on Boston. I wanted redemption for my CIM DNF and knew that I had it in my to really a great showing at Boston. I wanted a PR.

Happy to be at the top of the highest peak around Big Sur!

After our lovely "stay-cation" to Santa Cruz and Big Sur, I lined up for the KP Half Marathon in Golden Gate park. In my head, I wanted to see if I could pull off a half PR even though I was feeling bone tired. I figured, I had been doing the work to get faster, putting in the miles, that I should be able to challenge my pretty soft 1:18 pr.

It was an ugly, cold, pouring down rain day. I was not feeling confident as I jogged to the start. I lined up, the gun went off and within a mile I knew something was wrong with me. I shouldn't be struggling that much. I shouldn't feel like I am sprinting when I am not even running my goal marathon pace. I backed off, backed off again and practically jogged in the most miserable half of my life. It was demoralizing after a disappointing end to 2013 to be feeling worse than ever.

Thankfully, I had gone to the doctor to discuss how I was feeling a few days before the race and the day after the race I received my bloodwork back. I was severely anemic! That explained why I felt like, after the half, I was about to drop dead. That explained why I struggled all fall and had such a hard time with the cold at CIM. I actually considered going to the hospital a few days after the race I felt so bad. I was truly anemic and my ferritin was 7 (the lowest its ever been before was 13). I immediately started getting iron injections and went through a battery of tests to figure out why my anemia was so bad. I am a red meat eater and take iron so it was a mystery how I could become so anemic.

The road to recovery began. With each iron shot, I started feeling light years better. I went from feeling dead and miserable on every run to starting to see all that training I had been doing shine through. I started recovering faster, being able to hit my splits in workouts and load more mileage into my weeks. And that is just by bumping my iron up to 13!

I started to feel like I was on track to make the Olympic Trials qualifier at Boston. I was feeling so good some days that I even considered that if I had a good day I could PR. I was getting excited. But most of all, I was excited because running felt good again. I was just happy.
 Happy face. Best workout ever!

Boston was soon upon me. It was a fantastic trip that even got to include Nathan, my sister, my in-laws and all my nieces and nephews! It was special to me that the whole family got to come together and see each other since it has been incredibly difficult (read impossible) for us to visit in the last year.

The day after I arrived in Boston (Saturday), I noticed that I was not feeling good. I felt like I was coming down with a cold or worse, a flu. Just the edge but enough to scramble for Emergen-C and every vitamin I could find. I said positive mantras for health and wished it away. But by the time Monday morning rolled around, I knew I was in the grips of it. I had hoped that I would be able to race faster than it could take me down. I figured I would get hit hard after but hoped that adrenaline and sheer will would be enough.

Needlesstosay, I was wrong. I was flying for 8 miles, clicking off sub-6 pace and feeling pretty comfortable doing it. But I could feel the energy draining out of me rapidly, my mouth was dry even though I was drinking at each aid station, my stomach was in knots, and my lungs were rapidly congesting. I backed off the pace and hope that slowing down to my original goal pace would help save my race. I pulled back and downed a gel at mile 10 only to nearly gag and practically throw it up. My body was having none of it. The end came quickly after that. My body couldn't handle the illness, I was done. I pulled out at mile 16 and sadly took a seat in a med tent. Everything I had worked for since Portland, everything I had endured and I was still without my redemption.

It was bad luck. Getting on sick right before a race is every runner's nightmare but it happens and there is only so much you can do to protect yourself. In the end, I cannot be distraught over what happened. I can't lose confidence or start thinking that I'm a bad runner or my time to race well is over. That would be unfounded nonsense. Instead, I look at the last few months and think how lucky I am. I am lucky I've got to do some seriously fun training with some great friends. I am lucky that I found what its like to feel good on a run again. I am lucky that I have a supportive husband who will do everything in his power to help me reach my goals. I am lucky to be remind of the lessons of patience and perseverance in the pursuit of my goals. As I move past the hurdles of the past few months, I know, soon, my luck will change. I will just continue to get ready and perhaps my chance will come.

1 comment:

  1. Devon, you will bounce back stronger than ever and achieve those goals! Your running journey has been so tremendously inspiring for me. It's almost scary how similar my path is shaping up to be - from a VT 100 win, to Olympic Trials aspirations. Best of luck with your recovery. Keep on being awesome... :)

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