Sunday, April 29, 2012

Country Music Half Marathon

My first time to run the country music half marathon was in 2010.  It was my second half marathon ever.  It was hot and hilly and poured rain just as I was finishing.  I finished in 2:44:53 that day.  I promptly swore off ever running country music again.  I love the Rock n Roll race series.  I think their races are so well planned and runner friendly.  However, the course in Nashville is hard.

After Mark's surgery last month, I missed a race and was looking for a way to make it up.  I started thinking about running country music this year.  I kept hearing so many people talk about running it that it made me want to run it too.  And I wanted to see if it was as hard as I remembered.  Personally, I think races in the city you live in are harder because you know the course so well.  There is plenty of time to dread the next hill or think about how far away the finish is.

The race yesterday was hilly, hot and hard.  However, it was also beautiful, fun and inspiring.  I've done lots of half marathons and, by far, country music has the best crowd support of any race I've done.  I love hearing the people cheer, reading signs and high fiving kids along the course.  Nashville looks it's best when you are running it with nearly 40,000 friends. 

I know lots of people who completed their first half marathon yesterday.  I find myself getting just as excited for them as I do for myself.  I'm so proud of their race, but I'm even prouder of the hard work and determination they put in to train for their first race.  I've often read and heard people say the race is the reward for all the training.  It's so true.  If this was your first race, I suggest choosing another race in this fall of this year to sign up for.  After all you don't want to start over.  And being signed up for another race is great motivation to keep going.

My goal for the race yesterday was just to enjoy it.  I also wanted to finish faster than I did 2 years ago, which I knew wouldn't be terribly hard.  I didn't wear my watch, and I purposely ignored the giant timers (of course when you start in corral 20 the time is off anyway).  I focused on running the mile I was in and enjoying it.  When I found myself complaining or hurting, I refocused.  It was a great run.  And I finished in 2:34:43.

I really enjoyed seeing so many friends and celebrating their accomplishments.  It's been so fun to hear how everyone did either in person or on Facebook.  My favorite part of the race was seeing my family on the course.  Mark and the boys were near miles 5 and 9.  They were easy to spot because Mark was waving one crutch in the air.  I know it was physically hard for Mark to be there, and I'm so appreciative.  I'm also thankful for my friend Jeanie (and daughter Meg) who picked them up and wheeled Mark around all day.  It was great to see them cheering me on too!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Unexpected

Our trip to Dallas started out normal and uneventful.  We were so excited to see our friends Erin and Chrystyna who used to run with us before they moved to West Virginia and Texas, respectively.  We’d been planning to run the Rock n Roll Dallas half marathon for months.  We got there on Saturday just in time to attend the expo before it closed and go to dinner.  Sunday was a great day for a half with the exception of being a little too warm.  I’ll post another blog about the actual race, but everything that happened during my race pales in comparison to Mark’s race and what happened after. 

For about a week before the race, Mark had been having trouble with his leg.  He felt like he couldn’t get it stretched out or warmed up well.  He foam rolled, stretched and used the stick every day the week before the race.  But even with all that his leg was still bothering him.  After a couple miles, he decided to walk the rest of the way and was determined to finish.  He’s gone over and over his decision to keep going and wonders if he should have stopped.  But as I’ve told him, any runner, myself included, would have kept going too.  It’s ingrained in us.  We push ourselves and push through pain and discomfort. 

Around mile 11, Mark fell.  After talking to the doctors, we’ve determined his leg gave out and that’s what caused the fall.  He couldn’t get up on his own.  He was put in an ambulance where he convinced the paramedics to take him to the medical tent instead of the emergency room.  I tried to meet him in the tent, but was promptly escorted out until they could evaluate him.  Of course, being kicked out didn’t exactly make me happy.  When they let me in, they told me they thought it was a muscular problem.  After lots of massaging from a physical therapist and 8 cups of salted Gatorade they let Mark leave.  They told us it should get better, but if it gets worse go to the ER and if it’s not better by the morning to come to their sports medicine clinic. And they gave us a flyer with that information.

We took a taxi back to our hotel.  That morning we’d taken the train to the race, so everyone else took the train back.  When we got back to our hotel, Mark still couldn’t stand on his leg.  The taxi driver helped me get Mark out of the van and onto a bench.  Mark suggested we use the luggage cart to get him to the room (yes, this should have been a red flag).  He was never able to get up on his own.  We took several trips to the bathroom in the desk chair (darn that Gatorade).  Finally, Gail had the brilliant idea of asking the hotel for a wheelchair.

The next morning we went to the clinic listed on the flyer we were given in the medical tent.  It took a lot for us to find the clinic and get Mark inside.  Once inside, the receptionist informed me they couldn’t see him because he didn’t have an appointment.  I couldn’t get her to understand we hadn’t had a chance to make an appointment, and she knew nothing about the race sending people there.  Yes, I was in tears at this point.  It was so hard to watch Mark in pain and coupled with the lack of sleep from the night before it was too much for me. I was able to look up the doctors from the medical tent on my Ipad and finally, got her to listen to me when I showed him the doctor’s picture we’d talked to.

The clinic supervisor came out and talked to us and spoke with the doctor from the race (who conveniently wasn’t working), and he talked to the doctor working.  They decided to see Mark and sent him for X-Rays right away.  Mark tried to get the tech to tell him what was wrong.  All he got was that the tech was surprised Mark didn’t go to the ER the night before.  At this point, I gave up any hope I had that it was something minor.  While waiting for the doctor, the supervisor came back in and whispered his hip was broken.  A few minutes later the doctor came in and confirmed it.  The actual diagnosis was a femoral neck fracture.   Most likely, Mark had a stress fracture he didn’t know about.  During the race it broke, which caused his fall. It required immediate (our definitions of immediate are very different) surgery.  They also told us they couldn’t perform the surgery there, and they would transport him to a level one trauma hospital (nope, that doesn’t sound scary at all).
At this point, I lost it.  I was completely overwhelmed.  I kept thinking logistics.  We were in another state.  What about our boys?  How were we going to get home?  When were we going to get home? How can we afford this?  What about work?  Mine and Mark’s.   Poor Mark, he couldn’t think past the pain and getting it fixed.  After about 5 minutes, I was able to regain composure and tell Gail what was going on.  In addition to Gail, Chrystyna and Erin, our friends Jeanie, Nicole, Dee Dee, and Delaina were all on the trip with us.  Gail did a great job of communicating with everyone else.  Just as a quick side note, Gail was a lifesaver.  She cancelled her flight when we did to stay with us.  She thought of questions I should be asking and asked them for me.  She bugged the hospital personnel more than I did.  Mark needed me and I needed Gail.  I’m so thankful for her and her friendship. 

We were taken by non-emergency ambulance to Parkland Hospital ER.  The doctor at the first clinic assured us this was the best place in Dallas for him to have the surgery.  And it was a really good thing they’d told us to go there and highly recommended the surgeons there.  The ER was enough to make us want to run (well push Mark) in the other direction.  Before he could be admitted to the hospital we had to go through the ER.  The first thing our nurse said to us was that she’d have chosen to go to Baylor not Parkland.  I seriously thought (only briefly) about punching her.   Clearly, she had no idea what we went through to get there.  She told us many times that we were at the county hospital, a fact that was repeated to us many times over the next several days. After a few hours in the ER, Mark finally got admitted to the hospital.  At this point, we got to leave the ER and begin the waiting game. 
I have an uncle and aunt who live in Dallas.  They were awesome enough to visit and bring snacks.  Jeanie, Gail and Chrystyna all hung out with us too.  It was around 2 pm when he was admitted and the time of surgery kept changing.  Finally, around 10:30 pm they came and got Mark for surgery.  I’d been ok most of the day, but started to freak out a little internally.  Thankfully, Gail, Jeanie and Chrystyna stayed with me.  We chatted, played games on our phones, watched tv and waited.  I’m so thankful for these girls and their friendship.  I needed them there.  I never asked them to stay.  I didn’t have to.  They knew I needed them.

A couple hours later, the surgeon came out to tell me everything went fine.  I told the girls they could leave.  I went back to Mark’s room to wait for him to return.  They inserted four pins/screws into Mark’s leg/hip and expect him to recover fully.  He can return to running after he’s healed in 10 – 12 weeks.  We talked to the surgeon again Wednesday who referred us to a surgeon at Vanderbilt for follow up.  Mark also had to pass some physical and occupational therapy in order to get discharged. 
We finally got cleared to leave late Wednesday afternoon.  We had moved our return flight to Friday morning.  Chrystyna was wonderful enough to let us stay with her until then.  Thursday was a very lazy, relaxing day at Chrystyna’s.  Mark even felt well enough that he made us take him out to dinner.  Now it’s time for a quick side note about Chrystyna.  I couldn’t have made it through without her.  She rearranged her schedule to spend lots of time at the hospital with us.  She brought us food every day (actually, multiple times a day).   And she gave us a place to stay.  She, like Gail, calmed me just by being there.  Even though we were glad to come home on Friday, it was so hard to leave Chrystyna. 

The trip home was pretty easy.  Mark made it really well.  I’m glad we’d waited the extra day.  I think it gave Mark some time to get stronger and made flight easier for him.  When we arrived back in Nashville, Mark was surprised to see several of our friends at the airport to greet him.   Thank you so much to everyone who came and to Nicole for planning it all.  It meant so much to him.  And to me.
Mark has a follow up visit on April 13.  Until then he has to rest and do some physical therapy exercises.   He’s on crutches and can get around pretty well.  He can stand flat footed, but without putting weight on his right leg.  The doctor said the first two weeks it’s really important to rest a lot.  After that, he can get out a little more.  It’ll likely be at least 8 weeks before he can drive.  We are so appreciative to everyone who has reached out to us.  We have had calls, texts, prayers, emails, dinners, dinners planned, flowers, visits, help moving stuff, cards and so much more.  We feel extremely blessed to have so many amazing friends and family members.  We feel very loved and supported.