Sunday, July 23, 2006

Relay, part one: The Crash

This was a weekend to remember. The weather prediction was for the high 90s. The race director emailed the captains on Thursday to let us know that all rules regarding each runner finishing their leg and only running their legs were off. He said the goal was to get the team from point A to point B safely and we were to watch our runners closely and sub as needed.

We rented two twelve passenger vans for the trip - Patch met us at the rental place to pickup Van 2, we drove home with Van 1. Eric pulled out the rear seat first thing so we'd have plenty of cargo space. We had a huge water cooler that we filled with three bags of ice and three gallons of water, plus our cooler full of ice and food. The rest of the Van 1 racers began arriving and we started loading up - more food into the cooler, and of course, tons of gear in the back. The Van 1 racers were Eric, Steve, Margaret, Sonya and I - Rob joined us a little later. We thought it was pretty warm when we left home - about 85 degrees. It took us about an hour to drive up to the start point in Ashford, at the base of Mt. Rainier. We were shocked when we stepped out of the van - a wall of heat and humidity blasted us. Eric and Steve found a shady spot for us to hang out while the rest of us checked in. We had about a half hour before the 2:00 wave went out, then our wave at 2:30. I started to worry a bit about the heat because my heart was already skipping beats. I kept pouring in the fluids to stay hydrated. Sonya and I made an unprecedented decision at this point - we were peeling the shirts and running in shorts and jog bras.
Finally, it was time to go. Steve let us know that he doesn't do well in heat, so we decided to leap frog him about every mile. We'd wait for him with ice and cold water, let him douse himself and rub ice all over, then move ahead to repeat. At one point as we were driving by we slowed to ask how he was doing and got a mumbled reply - but he motioned us forward. We decided we'd better get a hand signal in place so we could judge what was happening - thumbs up for okay, thumbs down for help. Steve finished his leg and Eric took off. It was killer hot and there wasn't much shade - we continued the leapfrogging. Eric was followed by Margaret who got a nice shady stretch. She handed off to me just as we entered Eatonville.Rob was with us at this point and had asked if he could run all Sonya's and my legs with us so he could get his miles in for his training plan. He and I took off at a fairly normal pace for me. As we ran through town it felt like a heat waves were pulsing around us. My heart rate monitor started beeping almost right away - indicating that I was over 160. Rob asked about it and I said we weren't going to fuss about it, that I was okay. We ran the first nine minute segment, walked a minute and kept going. I was feeling a little woozy by this point - too hot, rubbery legs, nauseated. We started running again, and this time I asked to walk 30 seconds before my beeper went off. Rob kept asking me how I was doing, and I admit, I wasn't giving him straight answers. I told him I was too hot, but didn't tell him anything else about how I felt. We started running again and the road changed to fresh new asphalt. The heat was frying my legs - just radiating up from the road. I mentioned it to Rob and he told me to think cool thoughts, like about ice cream and stuff.
By this point I was having trouble breathing and worst of all, all of my heart symptoms were back. Everything that I used to experience regularly before surgery. Pain in the back, pressure in the chest, unable to get a breath. Add in tingling fingers, rubbery legs and nauseousness. Plus I swear I wasn't sweating. We were walking steadily at this point - there was no way I could run - and we were on the mile long uphill stretch. I could see the van ahead and I told Rob that I could finish it if I walked. He was looking at me funny and told me that he would finish the leg if I wanted him to. I felt like I was going to cry - and I could see Eric waiting for me just ahead. I handed my number to Rob and told him to go. I guess everyone could tell I was in trouble and had already decided they were pulling me off the course. Margaret met me at the side of road with a baggie of ice and a wet towel. Turns out we were about 3/4 mile from the exchange, so it didn't take us long to meet up with Rob. I was extremely disappointed, but I also knew that I was done.

When I get the full range of heart symptoms, I can't get a full breath. There is pain between my shoulder blades and the only way I can release it is to lay flat on my back for a while. Consequently, I missed the exchange between Rob and Sonya and most of the time at the major transition point with Van 2. I know that most of you are thinking that I should have rushed to the hospital or been trucked off in an ambulance, but I've experienced all of this many times, and I've had multiple heart and pulmonary tests. It is not a heart attack, and if handled the right way, will pass. If things hadn't improved, or had gotten worse, we'd go. My symptoms are triggered by heat, dehydration and stress. I didn't feel any stress that day, but heat and dehydration were certainly an issue. I did recover, and felt okay with in an hour or two, and really okay by the time my next leg came up. Eric (and everyone else) made me promise to quit if I felt even the tiniest hint of it starting back up. Eric was pretty stern as he laid out the rules for me to continue.I was crushed. I was disappointed that I couldn't finish my leg, but even more, I was beyond disappointed to find out that I still have a problem. I know, I know. It's been tucked away in the back of my mind - I mean, after all, how could gall bladder surgery fix a heart problem? I mean, really. I've been in Pollyanna mode again. So I felt like a double failure - a weenie who bonked at less than 5k, and the return of the heart problems. I will admit that it took me till today to get over feeling like a wimp. (Rob, I told you I'd be honest!)

Leg 1 summary: about 2.75 miles, 32:19, average hr 161; peak hr: 178

Not too good for a girl who's not supposed to go over a 160 hr. We were guessing the temp was about 95, but I heard another van mention that their car thermometer had pegged it at 102 when I was running.

Stay tuned for part two: redemption.

15 comments:

robtherunner said...

It was bound to happen at some point and I am glad we were all there rather than you being stuck three miles away from home. None of us think any less of you. There is a time to push through pain and misery and there is a time not too. When it is a mental battle you fight through. When it is a medical concern in 100 degree heat you stop and live to fight another day.

Anne said...

Yikes. Sounds like quite a harrowing ordeal. I thought of you guys often this weekend because of the extreme heat nationwide, even down here. Sounds from the title of part two, things turn around for you. Can't wait to find out how.

susie said...

Michelle, I know how much you were looking forward to this so I imagine this first leg was disappointing. But you can't be too hard on yourself. The heat, I'm sure, was horrendous. I am so affected my deydration and humidity...maybe some of us are more than others? Awaiting part II...

Dori said...

I'm sorry for your disappointment. Of course you want your heart problems behind you. But what is really great is how much your fellow runners care about you. A person who is loved is not a failure.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

that must have been frustrating and disappointing. I'm glad you were with people, so you could take care of yourself. I'm sure the heat was a *major* contributor!

Anxiously awaiting part two...

olga said...

Ouch, that must have hurt, physically and emotionally. Sorry, but I know you're strong and got out of it.

matt said...

this was a brutal day to be out there and you had the right crew of people around you. i trust you know your body better than anyone else and know to be smart. it is good to have a stern Eric around to lay out the rules, too. i am looking forward to part 2.

Ironayla said...

I am sorry to hear that your symptoms returned with the heat. I am glad to hear that it happened when you had such a great support crew!

I look forward to reading about your redemption :)

TryAthlete said...

I'm sorry leg 1 wasn't how you envisioned it.

Thomas said...

Eek, now that sounds scary. I had chest pains during a run about three weeks ago, but I knew straight away that it wasn't heart-related. Your experience was much more serious - I don't think I would have continued had I been in your place.

I'm just glad to gather that you'r ok abd that the second part went a lot better.

Jack said...

The heat can really mess up a race fast, better that it happened when you had people around to support you.

E-Speed said...

Hope you are feeling better. Sometimes things are just out of our control. I am proud of you for stopping because it was in your best interest. We want to hear many more of your running tales!

Sarah Elaine said...

First of all, you are NOT a weenie! (Perish the thought, strong woman!!)

Second of all, it's funny how two accounts of the same race can be so different. (I don't recall Rob writing about you being a weenie... challenged in traffic, perhaps, but a weenie, no.)

You have come a looooonnnnggg way this year. Remember when we were both nursing injuries and bodies that didn't cooperate? Hell, woman at least got back on your feet and gave it a go.

I am looking forward to Part Two. In the meantime, chin up. We still think you rock! (Always have.)

Lana said...

Oh wow - that's scary. You are in no way a weenie...you are incredibly brave and strong. Hope you are feeling better!

Running by.... said...

Wow..that is tough. The heat will do it everytime.