The bib I should have been wearing
As you already know, I was registered for, and trained for, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota this past weekend. And as you also know, I DNSed this race. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you might also be aware of the fact that I still went to Duluth anyway to cheer and did not handle it in any way at all like an adult.
Even though I wasn’t running, I still wanted to head out and support my fellow runners. Good crowd support is a hugely important part of running a marathon so I felt like I should give back a little. Plus, a non-refundable flight (the most expensive part of the trip) and a chance to see a place I’ve never seen before didn’t hurt either!
Earlier last week, my work had a 24 hour hackathon where we get to hack away on any project we want to work on. We get to build some really cool stuff and it’s always a great time, but it’s intensely tiring. There is a lot of drinking and not a lot of sleep. I was hacking away on my project until 3:30am before calling it a night and crashing on a couch in a conference room. After just two and a half hours of sleep, I was awake and hating pretty much everything, but I still had a lot of work to do on my project so I wanted to get right back to it. I knew it wasn’t going to be super functional yet and it was going to be ugly and crashy, but I really wanted to have a proof of concept to present to everyone at the end. I plugged away at full steam until the very end of the 24 hours and was pretty proud of what I had created.
Anyway, what’s this have to do with my racecation? Well, shortly after giving my presentation, I had to hightail it out of work to catch my flight. People were still presenting (some super cool stuff, too!) when I left, but there was no time to stay. I hopped on a train to Newark Airport and jumped on my flight to Minneapolis.
Remember, I’d only slept two and a half hours and had woken up at 6am the day before.
I touched down in Minneapolis just after 8pm and hustled my way over to pick up my rental car. I had a two hour drive to Superior, WI ahead of me still. Luckily, the drive was incredibly uneventful and I was able to make great time.
Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?
You may have picked up on the fact that I drove to Superior, WI and not Duluth MN. That’s because Superior is right next to Duluth and by the time I went to book a hotel they were all full. So I ended up staying in a dorm at the University of Wisconsin-Superior which was just a ten minute drive to/from the Grandma’s Marathon finish line. Yes, you read that right, a dorm. Apparently, this is a thing and a few of the area colleges rent their dorms out for race weekend. I had actually heard some positive things about it so I figured I’d give it a shot.
When I rolled up to UWS, I found myself plopped down in a room that looked exactly like the dorm I lived in at Rutgers many (many) years ago. It was a little weird, but also kind of cool. You don’t get much in the way of amenities, a towel, a pillow, bedding, a bar of soap, and…a Hershey’s kiss. The bathrooms are dorm bathrooms and don’t come with hairdryers or anything like that–I was smart enough to think about this and bring a travel dryer with me.
Once I was all checked in and dropped my stuff off, I asked about places to eat nearby that would still be open. It was 11pm and I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours. It didn’t seem like I had a ton of good options, but the two guys working the check-in suggested a local bar with a really great burger. The burger turned out to be decent and the bar was pretty dive-y, but I was totally okay with that. The bartender carded me…which was the first of many times I was carded when buying alcohol on the trip.
I got to bed around 12:30 or so and woke up early so I could run out to Target real quick to buy a pair of cheap flip flops to wear in the shower since I hadn’t remembered to bring any with me. After a quick shower, I headed into Duluth to get coffee at Duluth Coffee Company where I planned to plop down and work for the day–I didn’t want to use a vacation day so I had told my manager I’d be working remotely. When I walked into the coffee shop, they were blasting Jawbreaker and continued playing awesome music for the four hours I was there. It was pretty damn great.
Once I was done with work for the day, I figured I should head on over to the race expo and at least pick up my packet. I had been seeing tons of runners out doing their pre-marathon shakeout runs and coming in and out of the coffee place; it was really starting to hit me hard that I wasn’t running anymore. So, in what was probably a mistake, I walked on over to the expo. On my way over, I started to think, “fuck it, I want to run…I can’t not run.” I was definitely not in any state to be running a marathon; huge lack of sleep, horrible diet, dehydrated, etc, but I was really getting close to making that decision. I started going down a mental checklist of things I would need to buy at the expo and what I’d need to do to prepare for a race I wasn’t prepared for. However, by the time I actually got to the expo, my knee was bothering me just enough to knock a little sense into me.
The expo was pretty crowded, as these things tend to be, and it was a little confusing over by the packet pickup area, but I squeezed my way through. I can’t say I was in a super good mood being at an expo for a race I had registered for, worked REALLY hard for, and wasn’t running, but I was reasonably okay.
Then it happened.
The moment I had my race packet and bib in my hand, I started to fall apart. Bad.
I couldn’t get out of that expo fast enough. I felt a huge lump in my throat and it took all my strength to hold back the waterworks. You may not know this about me, but I don’t actually cry very often. It’s actually pretty rare. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cried in the last five years and when you factor in that the last three years have been the most intense and emotional time of my life, it might actually turn out that I’m dead inside. I mean, it’s not that I don’t feel sad (I sort of do all the time), it’s just that I never quite can cry even when I start to feel like I’m getting close to.
Anyway, I got out of the expo as quickly as I could. I was probably even pretty rude to people as I tried to squeeze through the crowds to the exit. I didn’t need a whole mess of random strangers seeing me have an emotional breakdown. Tears were coming out, but I knew I needed to stop holding back. I needed to feel this and finally cry it out and process it all. I needed that, but I also needed to at least get back to the car first and not breakdown in front of people.
When I got to the car, I let it out. I cried. I hated everything. I really just wanted to go drown myself in Lake Superior. I was not okay. And I felt dumb. Really, really dumb. It’s a marathon. It’s not the end of the world. It wasn’t even my first DNS and I’m sure it won’t be my last.
The thing is, though, running is really important to me. In fact, it’s the most important thing to me. I literally credit running with saving my life. It’s so important that it’s the only real reason I have stopping me from getting gender confirming surgery (you know, the one that turns my downstairs from an outtie to an innie). I don’t want to lose three to four months of running while I recover. And the most fucked up part about this is I’m fairly certain this would actually help solve the problems I’m having which are keeping me from running right now and kept me from running Grandma’s, but more on that in a bit.
So there I was, crying my eyes out and being miserable in the car. I was really struggling to handle the fact that I put in the work for this race, more work than I’ve put in for any previous race. I was super emotionally invested in this race. It was really not pretty, but eventually, I pulled it together and decided to get dinner since I literally hadn’t all day. Dinner was nice and I chatted with the waitress for a few minutes about what the cool bars are in town.
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my night. I didn’t fly out to Minnesota to hang out in a cinderblock-walled dorm room. After a FaceTime with my wife where I wallowed and felt sorry for myself followed by a reprise with a close friend, I decided I should go out and do something. I went to a bar recommended by the waitress…which, going to a bar alone is sort of a big deal for me. I have no problem doing some things alone, but going to bars has never been on that list and this was the second night in a row alone in a bar in a state I’d never been before. Groundbreaking…or something?
Drowning my sorrows
The bar, the Red Herring Lounge, turned out to be pretty rad. I had a couple good beers and chatted it up for a bit with the bartender who was super nice. She suggested I head on down to where the finish area for the race was to check out some local bands that were playing in a tent next to the one where the official Grandma’s Marathon party was happening. Eventually, I made my way down there and watched a couple bands with another beer in my hand. But, I was feeling pretty miserable so I called it a night before the show was over.
Yup, savory donut.
On race morning, I was woken up at 5am by runners heading out for the half marathon. Less than five hours of sleep, of course. I took my time getting ready and really tried to hold myself together as best I could, but I knew it was going to be emotionally trying to be out there cheering. On my way over to my cheering spot, I stopped at a place called Big Apple Bagels and was reminded of my policy that if it’s not from the greater NYC area, it’s not a bagel, it’s just a roll…or a savory donut.
I had made plans with Twitter friend Teal to meet up and cheer with her. She was in a very similar situation as me, she had trained for the race and gotten injured two weeks before race day. We chatted about how much it sucked, but we did a pretty good job of keeping it from turning into a pity party.
During the more than four hours I was out there cheering at mile 24.5 I coined the term “running dysphoria.” It’s kind of like gender dysphoria, a thing I know more about than I’d like, but related to running instead of gender. This is what I have right now.
Once I was finally out of strength to keep it together, I knew it was time to call it a day and start my two hour drive back to Minneapolis. I wasn’t crying, but I wasn’t okay on my walk back to the car either.
This drive wasn’t quite as uneventful as the first. I was on a race against the fuel gauge in the car. I needed to return the car with a full tank, but I didn’t want to have to stop twice for gas. I was constantly checking the car’s estimated range against Google Maps’ distance and knew I was going to be cutting it close. The car was giving me 20 extra miles past what I needed…until it stopped showing me distance and just said “low fuel.” That’s when I started to freak out a bit. Since it wasn’t a car I knew, I didn’t know what that really meant in terms of remaining fuel. Then I got stuck in some traffic and made a wrong turn while trying to find a gas station. My anxiety level went through the roof, but I made it to a gas station in time! I probably didn’t need any more anxiety in my life after the couple of days I had just had.
After dropping off the car, I started to fall apart again. I saw runners in the airport and the runner dysphoria kicked back into gear hard. After getting through security, I started to break down again. The tears came back out. The lump in my throat reappeared. I was, again, not okay. And I, again, felt really stupid and pathetic. I went into a sit-down restaurant since I had a ton of time before my flight and tried to hide how much I was crying as best I could. I texted with a few people and tried to make myself feel better, but nothing really worked. The only thing that was enough to at least break the tears was getting rickrolled by the music in the restaurant while burying my misery at the bottom of a surprisingly decent burrito.
Then, to add insult to injury, my flight was delayed for over an hour because of rerouting issues and then us not having enough fuel on the plane (!!!). It was delayed to the point where I no longer had a ride home from the airport. Ugh.
So, yeah, that was my racecation. No race and not much of a “cation” either.
In the end, as miserable as I am/was, I think it’s good I went. Even though I couldn’t run, I got to support my (other) community and I got to see a pretty cool new place I’ve never been to before. Duluth is definitely a rad little city (more like a big town), but it sort of feels like it should another town in Nightmare Before Christmas to go along with Halloween Town and Christmas Town. Marathon Town. It feels like this whole city prepares all year for this race and it’s all that matters there. Definitely feels like the biggest thing going on in Duluth. But whatever, that’s kind of cool. Also, I was a little unnerved by “Minnesota Nice.” I don’t know how to handle everyone being so incredibly nice. Being a Northeast gal, it’s super weird to me.
tl;dr: I went to Duluth for a marathon I didn’t actually run and was intensely emotional about it.
Lake Superior and the Ariel Lift Bridge from down near the finish line (click to expand!).
Lastly, since I mentioned it up above, my current state of running… Yeah, it’s really not any better, in fact, it’s worse. Thanks to a few helpful internet friends, I do have a theory that, at the least, makes a ton of sense. My testosterone blocker, Spironolactone, doesn’t just stop testosterone, it’s also a potassium-sparing diuretic. Bummer. I mean, I knew that and I knew it before I ever started taking it. I just figured it’d all even out since I run so much. I guess maybe it doesn’t. Anyway, it might actually be that I have too much potassium in my body, the opposite problem most runners have. This would cover my symptoms of sore and fatigued muscles with a little dose of arrhythmia. And it would make sense that I run fine when it’s cold out, but two years in a row (100% of the time since I started hormones), I started to have these same problems when the weather started getting warmer. Increased sweating means increased electrolyte loss which means increased chemical imbalance in my muscles. I can’t prove it and I’m not sure how exactly to test if this is it, but it all adds up. Plus, my last set of labs, which were just two months ago, showed my potassium level at the absolute upper limit of acceptable. It’s totally possible that I just got pushed over the edge. I’m not sure what to do about this other than increasing my salt intake and decreasing how much kale and avocado and other potassium-rich foods are in my diet. I mean, really, if you eat anything close to healthy, you’re going to have a ton of potassium. Ugh.
Or…I could just cut the problem off at the source (pun intended) so I don’t need spiro anymore.