Aloha Series (50th state)

Date: January 19, 2017

Location: Kapa’a, Hawaii (Kaua’i) (Aloha Series)

Time: 3:31:05

Distance: 13.1

We did it. Our bucket list goal of completing a half marathon in all fifty states has been accomplished.

both

Celebrating the completion of  a half marathon in all 50 states the year we both turn 50!

I should be happy, but in all honesty, my feeling of accomplishment is tinged with some sadness–kind of like a kid the day after Christmas when they’ve opened all of their presents after weeks of anticipation.

I’ve put off writing this post because I don’t really know where to begin. Do I start with the story about how ten years ago, my best friend from college suggested we run a half marathon in every state? Do I describe our wonderful, week-long Hawaiian vacation? Or, perhaps I start with the story about how I was in the emergency room at the hospital only three weeks before the race?

I’ll start with the emergency room story.

Early in December, I suddenly noticed a sharp pain in my ribs along the lower, right side towards my back. I was sure it was a pulled muscle and didn’t pay too much attention to it. After about three or four days of aggravating pain, I got a massage. The pain went away–further confirming my initial thought that I had pulled a muscle.

For the next two or three weeks, I went about my daily routine–still running, going to yoga, and looking forward to visiting my parents in Arizona during Christmas.

While in Arizona, the pain returned–coincidentally, the next day after a rousing game of Pickle Ball. “There’s that muscle strain again,” I thought. “I really should have taken it easy yesterday.” I was sure that a few days of rest would make it go away again.

I enjoyed the time in Arizona with my family, continued running every other day, and noticed that the pain only hurt when I lay on my back or took a deep breath. At that point, I started considering other possible ailments. Pinched nerve? Kidney infection? Gall bladder attack? While I was up during the day and moving around, though, the pain really wasn’t all that apparent, so I certainly wasn’t worried that it was anything serious.

On December 30th, I drove the eleven hours home without any pain. I was just looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep in my own bed after being gone for a week. A good night’s sleep, though, would elude me. That evening, as I tossed and turned, trying to find a position that didn’t hurt, I finally realized that I probably should go to the hospital.

After getting to the emergency room at about 1:30 am, I learned that the symptom of “sharp, stabbing pain,” and saying, “it hurts to take a deep breath” gets immediate attention.

The hospital staff was great. In the midst of my fear and agony, they tried to keep the mood lighthearted and reassuring. I also appreciated how they explained everything they were doing and why. Those first couple of hours included an IV, blood tests, giving me Morphine, and following the other normal intake procedures. The blood test prompted a CT scan, which confirmed that I had a pulmonary embolism. A giant blood clot that, I found out later, was taking up a third of my right lung.The size of it also prompted the doctors to order an ultrasound of my heart to find out if my heart had been damaged as a result. Luckily, it wasn’t.

I was immediately admitted to the hospital in the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve, and enjoyed the holiday weekend pumped full of anti-coagulants and pain medication.

The three days I spent in the hospital flew by as I mostly slept, and I looked forward to going home–not really letting the gravity of what had happened sink in. In fact, during the first conversation I had with the doctor, I asked if I could still go to Hawaii and run the half marathon I had been planning for so long. He kind of chuckled, then realized I was serious. After some thought, he said it would probably be okay. There would be no restriction on airplane travel, because I was now on anti-coagulants, and he said as long as I had been training (I had), I could do the race as long as I didn’t over exert myself. He said a slow jog or walking would be most appropriate.

So there you have it. I was still able to go. And, I was still not really comprehending what had just happened to me.

My finish time was the slowest I’ve ever had, but I didn’t care one bit. After everything I had gone through, I finished it, dammit. And that’s really all I cared about.

Other things I cared about? Going to Hawaii with my husband, kids, and parents, and celebrating my friend Denise’s 50th birthday while we were there. That whole week was great.

Finishing the 50 half marathons in 50 states goal the year my very dear friend and I both turned 50 is certainly an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Again, I’m somewhat sad it’s over. It’s been an emotional journey as much as a physical journey, and it’s hard to let it go.

People have been asking me, “What now?” a lot. No, I don’t have the desire to now run a full marathon in all fifty states, do a race in all seven continents, start running ultra marathons, or start doing triathlons. Frequent walks with my dogs, a few running miles, yoga classes twice a week, and an occasional race sounds perfect.

What I most look forward to now is the ability to sign up for races purely based on whether or not they sound fun, and which friends and family they bring me together with. Races for me have always provided the motivation I need to exercise regularly, and now I don’t have to plan my races a year or two out and decide where to send my registration fees based solely on whether or not “I need the state.”

The 50 states are DONE. Now I can choose races based on so many other reasons.

group-shot

Our entire entourage celebrating with us at the finish. What great support!!

________________________________________________________________

Post scripts.

The race put on my Mainly Marathons was incredible. An entire blog post devoted just to the race would be needed to fully explain how beautiful the course was and how great the organizers are. Click here for a great article about the race from The Garden Island newspaper.

My parents. I am so grateful that my parents cheered us on and have provided unwavering support all of these years. The week vacationing with them in Hawaii was a blast.

My kids. One of my kids stayed home to house sit and take care of our pets because it couldn’t get the week off from work. (Thank you, Evan–we missed you). The other two, Kaitlin and Keil, completed the race as well. The two of them made the experience all that more special.

My husband. I also am incredibly grateful that Orlando was able to spend the week with us. His job as an airline pilot often prevents him from getting to every family function. Not only did he get to spend the whole vacation with us, but he walked with me for almost two miles of the race and also got some great film footage. He has been my biggest supporter over this past decade and never once questioned why I wanted to do this or suggest I should be spending my money on better things. Thank you, Orlando, from the bottom of my heart. You are an amazing, supportive husband and I love you.

Denise. We’ve been through three decades of experiences together and I thank you. Thank you for coming up with this crazy idea, for helping me stay young, and for keeping it real. I’ve learned so much by being your friend. (Hug).

My health. I expect to be on an anti-coagulant for at least a year and I’ll have doctor’s visits to make sure I’m on the right path towards healing. I still feel like the news is still too new for it to completely sink in. Also, despite the occasional soreness or run-down feeling, I generally feel really good and pretty energetic so it’s hard for me to remember to take it easy. I often need to remind myself that what happened to me was very serious and could have taken my life. I continue to read as much as I can about pulmonary embolisms and will forever be grateful that I was prompted to go to the hospital when I did. Sometimes pain is a blessing.

Future races. I’m already registered for three upcoming races and want to do more. In time, I will learn more about whether or not it’s possible for me to regain my full lung capacity and how much I’ll be able to exert myself–if at all. Only time will tell.

My yoga practice. I can’t close this post without giving a shout-out to Bikram Yoga. I am 100% convinced that yoga was a huge contributor to the positive outcome I had health-wise. I didn’t need supplemental oxygen while I was in the hospital and my heart and lungs remained strong through all of this. I attribute that, in part, to my running. I also think Bikram Yoga had an even bigger influence on how well my body coped through what essentially was a life threatening condition. Namaste.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Heather Bienvenue on January 29, 2017 at 10:23 am

    So proud of you Gail! What a great journey! Looking forward to more races with you or with you waiting at the finish line for me! 🙏🏻

    Reply

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