Resilient moms create endurance athletes.
It's true. Google it.
I have no excuse to quit on anything ever. My genes are good ones. My mom is an endurance machine. She is a medical miracle. Knowing what I am literally made of gives me strength. I need to get back to my sport.
In mid-January, after completing the Key West Half, I started to feel like a racing was possible again. My Haglund's Syndrome, which derailed my running for 2 years, was becoming less of a hindrance.
I have been so very patient. I have been careful. I pivoted. I found other sports that I enjoy. I was ok with not racing again it that is was to be. But my patience is paying off and I am back to running again.
The Key West Half proved that I was able run non-stop for hours and walk the next day. This was a huge win for me.
Then I ran 16M with Dave shortly after that with a sub-8:00 paced fast finish. We felt strong. I was ready to see if I could get through a marathon training cycle. I registered for 2 half marathons to use as marathon training runs (E. Murray Todd Half and Runapalooza Half).
I had an 18M scheduled for 2/18. For me, I don't feel like I am officially training for a marathon until I get through an 18. I was so close to being back in "marathon training".
Then on 2/17, my mom had a perfect storm of medical complications. The ER doctors weren't sure what was happening for at least 12 hours. No one knew how to help her. We watched doctors argue about how to even try to diagnose her. She had no fever which threw everyone off. (PSA: Older adults may not get fevers when suffering infections)
My mom was cognitively gone but responded to touch. I spent a good amount of time helping to restrain my comatose mother as she tried her best to fist fight off anyone that came near her to draw blood. They drew a lot of blood. Then she spiked a very high fever that lasted for days.
She was suffering from a strep infection that turned into bacterial meningitis sent her into a ketoacidosis coma with a side of sepsis. This landed her into the ICU on a ventilator for days. With the help of sedation to keep her under, she rode out several days with a 103 fever under a cooling blanket while having a 24 hour seizure monitor glued to her head.
Once my mother had been diagnosed and transferred, 15 hours later my dad spiked a fever (he had picked up the infection). He returned to the ER and was assigned his own room.
My parents always are together. They can't do anything apart from each other... apparently.
Needless to say... I missed my 18M LR that weekend.
My dad needed a week's admission to get his IV treatment and he was the one doing well.
My brothers and I practically lived at the hospital taking turns sitting with my dad, then with my mom. We kept my dad updated. Not being there with her was hard for him.
The antibiotics were working for them. It was treatable! She would soon come out of the sedation-coma but the doctors warned us that we needed to have realistic expectations. They did not expect her to be the same. We were told to be prepared for cognitive damage and physical limitations.
"She may not be herself... we don't know what to expect at this time" were not comforting words but she wasn't dead and that was good.
I stopped running for the next three weeks while my parents healed.
But I am proud to say that I didn't completely derail. That would help no one. I took each day moment by moment. I know practicing a healthy lifestyle helped me to continue it when everything fell apart. I took care of myself as best I could while making my parents the priority. I rode my spin bike almost daily for 30-40 minutes before visiting hours. I packed 8 hours worth of healthy food. And then I spent days sitting in a room watching monitors as my mother slowly came back to life.
When she was taken off the ventilator she was definitely not OK. at first
She had no short term memory. She could barely speak, but when she did her words were out of order or wrong. I had to decode what she was trying to say. We had the same conversation 10 times in a row. She had no proprioception. She couldn't find her own face. She couldn't feel her feet. She had a blot clot in her left arm that make it swell up 2 x times the size. Her head was covered in hardened glue from the seizure monitor ... and no one tells you regular soap doesn't remove that glue. (Pro Tip: Get a jug of coconut oil which does loosen the glue and plan for a solid 8-10 hours of picking off microscopic pieces until it is all out).
About 2 days from her re-awakening, her short term memory returned. The doctors didn't believe her. They had to ask "She says she remembers me from yesterday... do you think she really does." She did. They were shocked!
Over the next week or so, I got to slowly watch all her systems come back online one at time until my mom was 100% herself. The doctors were in AWE of her recovery. Nurses from the ICU who cared for her during her coma came to see her awake and alert and alive.
She was soon holding her own spoon and finding her mouth with accuracy. She was able to do exercises for her legs while lying in bed.
Once she was able to stand up and take some steps with a walker. she was transferred to a nursing home and continued to recover... fast. They told her to order a cane for her discharge. By the time she got home she didn't need it. She had PT come to the house but I don't know why. She was moving around on her own by then just fine.
I know I train up fast. Clearly I get it from my mom.
It is outrageously awesome how strong my mother is at 74 years old. She is an endurance machine. She is the definition of resilience.
I know what I am made of and it is a gift I can't squander.
E. Murray Todd Half Marathon, Lincroft, NJ, 3/12/23
I almost didn't go. Once my mom was home, I was able to get out for just 2 short runs before the E. Murray Todd Half.
During my last run before this race, Amazon Music randomly selected songs for me. And Birdy - Keeping Your Head Up comes on. I ran my heart out holding back all the tears I clearly had stuffed down into my soul for weeks while taking each terrifying day one second at a time.
The lyrics felt literal to me. I was back in the hospital in my mind while I ran down the street as fast I could handle. .
Hold tight; you're slowly coming back to life
I'll be keeping your head up
I'll be keeping your head up, darling
Let go of all your haunted dreams tonight
I'll be keeping your head up
I'll be keeping your head up, darling....
I wont let you down....
And since that moment this song has creating the momentum I needed to get back to my training.
On the way to the half, I played this song at least 5 times in a row. I programmed it into my mind. I wanted to tap into it when things felt hard. I wanted to remember what I am made of.
That last run was 6 miles at 8:21 pace. I plan to run 8:30-8:40 pace from the start. Once I hit 10M, I would see what I got left.
Lincroft has rolling hills. It can be challenging but this is my home turf. Kim and I trained on these roads for years. These roads are my roads. I am happy to be be back home.
The weather is perfect. I go out a little fast, but I get my act together quickly. I feel remarkably good early on.
By mile 4 the music in my head starts and its my mom's song that I planted there (sometimes the wrong song shows up, but not this time). I feel amazing. I can't wait for the 10M mile so that I can really see where I stand.
Despite not being able to train for 3 weeks, I am incredibly pleased with this outcome.
Time: 1:45: 46
OA Place: 14
AG Place 2.
Getting back on track:
After having such a great positive experience in Lincroft, I text Dave and tell him that I need to get back on track for marathon training. I had run 15M total and so did he that weekend.
We agree to meet for an 18M the next weekend and make marathon training official And that is exactly what we did!
The following weekend, Dave and I meet halfway between his girlfriend's house and my house to try a new trail for a 20M run. We need something between us if we are really doing this. Wow, the trail is beautiful. It was everything we hoped for.
My Haglund's syndrome speaks to me on occasion, but isn't stopping me from getting the miles. It is starting to feel like the universe wants me to run a marathon again! And I believe a it is possible!
Runapalooza Half Marathon, Asbury Park, NJ, 4/1/23
The next weekend could have been a drop back week, but I felt like I needed to keep going. I felt great. Nothing hurts,
I am catching a wave.
I want to ride this out.
I was signed up for Runapalooza. A runner, Kelly, I coach was also going to be there with a plan to use the race as part of her 20M long run.
I message her and ask if she wants company. We chat about the weather. She is on the fence about a 20M run in 20+ mph winds with rain. But when I leave it up to her, she rises to the challenge and agrees to met me early for a 7 mile warm up.
I only ran a 1M warm up before the E. Todd Murray Half. I had bonked pretty hard on the 20M with Dave. I wasn't sure how this 20M would play out.
If I could beat my 8:05 pace that would make me happy, BUT the conditions were much more challenging. I decided to just let the race unfold and plan to finish strong.
The weather was good at times, but rain came fast and strong non-stop winds were in our face for 6 miles straight as we headed south to the final turn around at 11M. It was exhausting!
I am pleased that I was able to hold on and still have something left for the last 2M.
Since April 1, I have met Dave for 2 more long runs. We are doing it! Marathon training is really happening!!!
Last weekend we ran 22M and today we ran a 24. Each long run pace has gotten faster. We are getting fitter. It feels awesome to be able to do this again!
I consider marathon training done when I hit 24. We got through the first round of marathon training! This was just a base building cycle. We only wanted to get the mileage under us. And we did it!
I think we are ready for our "check In" race.
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Shannon McGinn, JD, MS, MA, EDS, NBC-HWC, ATR-BC, LPAT.