Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.

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Running On Empty: A Health Story

Ever had a dream where you’re running away from something and your legs, arms and body just won’t move fast enough, as if some tremendous force were pushing you back? That’s how I feel most days when I go for a run. Typically, it doesn’t start out like that, but, after about 17-20 minutes, the heavy feeling starts to spread: to my eyelids, my shoulders, my arms, glutes, legs and feet. My heart, lungs and mind want to move faster, but my body is unwilling.

The doctor called this week, immediately following my ultrasound. She said that my bloodwork showed normal levels of thyroid hormone, but that my B12 levels were really low (hence the low energy). Then, she told me that my ultrasound revealed that my nodule was a complex one, meaning both solid and fluid-filled, and that I would need to schedule a biopsy.

It’s funny, through all of my time fundraising for cancer research, I never thought that I, myself, would come so close to “The Big C”. Reading through statistics, you’ll find that most thyroid nodules are benign, that, even if they do find malignancy, it’s very treatable in most cases. Only about 2% of cases get a bad prognosis, and that’s usually only if they’ve let it go for a while. Still, it does put things in perspective, when you suddenly realize that life isn’t this guaranteed forever thing. What are you running toward? What are you running from? Is it really necessary to run anywhere?

In running toward some things, I know I have sprinted painlessly away from others. I’ve spent so much of my life running away from things that scare me, or, worse, never trying because I was so afraid of the humiliation of failure. Mostly, I’ve run from myself, from the me I would be, if I’d never been afraid. I wonder how my life would have been different if I wasn’t afraid of showing the real me, instead of trying to remake myself all of the time into something better…

And now, because literal running has become so difficult, I have no choice but to find other ways to cope with life’s scary things. All of the alone time, in my own head, in my own world, just me and the pavement, safe, with my two feet drumming my independent rhythms against the road, all of that has been voided of freedom and joy. I now run just so I don’t lose all mojo completely, but it provides little satisfaction at this point, as I often find it difficult to run more than 40 minutes.

I may not believe that things happen for a reason, but I do believe that things can happen that give you reasons to learn, to reflect, and to grow. Maybe, while I’m still finding out what this health stuff means for my body, it’s time to slow down, stop running, and maybe consider taking in the landscape. Maybe we all need that, a pause, to figure out where we are going, and the roads we’ve hoofed to get us here.



When You Stop Bouncing (Back): A Race Recovery Story

One of the most hilariously clever movie lines ever written comes from the original silent movie version of “The Patsy”, where the lead character is so angry with her sister that she exclaims, “I’ll hit her so hard, she’ll starve to death bouncing!” I think it gets funnier the more you think about it.

Okay, so this is not so funny. The last several weeks of Ironman training, culminating in the day-long endeavor that was the Ironman, hit me hard. In the last several weeks of training, all I could think about was how tired I was, how burnt out I felt, and how I couldn’t get enough sleep. My coaches seemed to think that a lot of this was mental, and so I tried to focus on the tasks at hand and struggle through the fatigue. It always seemed to take me a full week to even sort of recover from the colossal weekend of training, And, of course, I was still training during the week.

After Vineman, I gave myself a week to do nothing, then I tried to pick up some light activity. Everything was tough at first. Then, the weeks went on and things didn’t get much easier. I would try to go for long runs and would feel like falling asleep mid-run. Any hard effort would leave me so exhausted on weekends that I would have to take a nap or drink coffee to stay awake afterward.

After about a month or so of this, without much improvement, I spoke to Coach Brad, who will be heading up IronTeam this winter. He mentioned that I might want to see a doctor, because most people bounced back to 100 percent after their Ironman race in a month or less. So, I made an appointment.

My new doc had a great bedside manner, and wanted to know everything about my lifestyle and family history before examining me. When she got around to examining my lymph nodes and throat, she said, “Someone has told you that you have a nodule on your thyroid, right?” Um, noooo…

She pulled out a mirror and showed it to me. A huge lump in my neck, and I hadn’t even known that it was there until I knew what to look for. Ignorance is bliss, I supposed.

She had me schedule an ultrasound and a nurse drew blood. She told me to come back in two weeks and she would have all of the results then, and we could talk about whether I would need treatment or next steps. She said that it is possible that I could have thyroid issues, or the lump could be inactive, in which case we still may have no leads on the whole fatigue thing.

In the meantime, I’ve continued regular person training, and have thrown in some yoga, Pilates, and the occasional hike to keep things interesting. I’m holding back on training for anything specific until I know what’s going on with my health situation. I’ll know more in a week!