Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Runnin' on (Too Much) Empty

So, apparently I have a little problem with running.

First off - I am happy to report that I took six minutes off of my half-marathon time. Somewhere on my #dirtythirtylist that I started (and never finished, because I realized it was rather unrealistic to imagine that I would somehow learn lion taming and Mandarin Chinese between now and May 31) I wrote "run a half marathon in under 2 hours." I can scratch that off the list. I came in at 1:56, which is entirely awesome. Go me.

The problem - I celebrated my victory with another round of public vomiting. Not so awesome.

I know that gastrointestinal problems plague runners. And I keep experimenting with different means of trying to combat the issue. Eat less, eat further in advance, drink more water before and after, drink Gatorade, wait longer after running before eating anything. This time I waited too long and nearly passed out in a Wendy's on New York Avenue in DC.

Which is an interesting story in itself:

We were standing in line at the Wendy's on Saturday afternoon, a good four hours after we'd crossed the finish line. Somehow in that time, I had managed to only eat half a banana and some dried fruit. I just wasn't hungry after the race, and rather than force myself to eat, I chose instead to drink water and Gatorade. Stupid. (I also blame the incredibly packed Metro bringing scads of runners from the Armory back into the city, I blame Switchfoot for playing some awesome cover songs in the beer garden at the post-race celebration, and I blame Catalano for creepily finding me in a crowd of 30,000 and hanging out with us after the race. Side note: at any event of considerable size, Catalano has a very lucky and/or creepy habit of somehow finding me. She says it's due to the height of The Gentleman, because not many in a large crowd are 6'4", and he is usually to be found following me around. But it's downright freaky. I turn around - and THERE SHE IS. It's like she planted a homing device on me at some point. I wouldn't doubt this. I blame Vegas. I digress.)

If you've ever passed out from low blood sugar, you know how it feels: you suddenly get really, really hot. Your legs become rubber. The tunnel vision sets in, and you feel yourself start to sway. Every part of you is covered with a slick of sweat, and then you feel the floor begin to move uncomfortably close to the rest of you. I don't really remember everything that happened except that I ducked out of line at the Wendy's right after I informed The Gentleman I wanted a #1 with cheese and a DIET COKE (for health) and collapsed into a chair with my arms sprawled across a sticky table. And then the uncontrollable heaving began, and the next thing I knew, I was draped over a trash can next to the ketchup station, wretching nothing but Gatorade and banana bits.

You're welcome for that.

The interesting part - no one batted an eye

The Gentleman was desperately trying to get me something to eat and drink (he is not so great with the puking, but he is certainly a man of action when it comes to emergencies - when I got sick in the Middle East he went on a pilgrimage for Pepto on Christmas morning, and when I puked at the Baltimore half marathon he went out to hunt and gather as much Gatorade and water as he could find). I lay there, draped over the can, and dry heaving absolutely nothing. After what seemed like an eternity, an off-duty nurse who was enjoying lunch with her boyfriend came over to me and tore open a salt packet, shook some into my hand and instructed me to put it on my tongue. She gave me a cup of ice water and told me to drink as much as I could. By that time, The Gentleman had our food and a small Frosty for me. 

That Frosty was the best fricking thing I have ever tasted. I was exhausted, still sort of dry heaving, and still on the verge of passing out. The freezing ice creamy deliciousness was impossible to swallow at first, but after a minute or so of sitting there and sipping it, I became absolutely ravenous. I immediately housed a cheeseburger and an order of fries and promptly felt like a million bucks. 

Half an hour later, I was doubled over with cramps and I spent the next three hours in bed wondering if this was what it felt like to die.

Miraculously - by 7pm that night, I was completely healed. I scarfed a plate of nachos, some sweet potato fries, and the better part of a pizza that night. You know, because after months of training and eating right the best way to celebrate an athletic accomplishment is to stuff your face.

And, lest ye judge, I'll just go ahead and tell you that I spent the entire next day on the couch with The Gentleman eating Easter cookies and Pirate's Booty, drinking mimosas, and watching horror movies. It was pretty much the best day ever.

So, I've consulted a nurse/runner friend of mine who sent me some incredibly helpful advice about eating/training. I am going to attempt to either isolate the problem or figure out a way around it, whether that means eliminating foods from my diet pre-race, working out an eating plan ahead of time post-race, or something crazy I haven't even thought of yet.

I think a big problem is the post-race high. The adrenaline rush and the incredible feeling of accomplishment that floods through you when you cross the finish line sort of puts you in a stupor, and you forget about your immediate bodily needs. Blisters might bleed, your knee might be swollen, your head pounding, but you don't feel any of it with that amount of seratonin (or something) coursing through your veins. And, for me, it translates into not feeling hunger or the onset of cramping, and it's not until I am on the verge of passing out that I do something about it, which is too late.

Long story short - I am new to this game. My body is still getting used to the incredible things I am forcing it to do. To put all of this in perspective - two and a half years ago, I had a broken foot. The cast came off, and I probably couldn't have run a mile. And now? I know I can peel another five minutes off of my half-marathon time, and my dream is to do so without puking in a fast food establishment. Or anywhere, really.

But seriously- go me. And go Catalano, and Catalano's husband, and The Gentleman. We all ran hard, worked hard, and played hard afterwards. And some of us (me) puked afterwards. We are awesome.

Maybe next time, no puking. Live the dream!

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