The one that isn’t funny – Flying Pig Marathon Weekend, Part 2

As soon as I woke up on race morning, I knew I was in trouble.

My right leg was pretty much completely numb, with the exception of a few pins and needles. Wtf.  Helloooooo, back? I have a marathon to run. Stop ruining my life! Perhaps first some background. I went and got an updated MRI and met with a spine specialist last week. I have had back problems for 10 years, but the last time I went to see a specialist was 7 years ago, when they told me “the only thing left to do is surgery, and there’s a 50% chance it will make it better and 50% chance it will make it worse.” Since I was 19, that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. I had hoped that in 7 years, perhaps some advances had been made.

So my doctor gave me the news, some of which I already knew. I have two herniated discs – the very last two at the bottom of my spine. My discs are cutting off the ability of my nerves to communicate with each other, which is why I constantly have a pins and needles feeling in both my legs and why they sometimes go numb. There’s one procedure they might be able to try that could fix the pain, but my spine might not have the right “type” of signal loss for it to be effective. If that doesn’t work, the option is to fuse my vertebrae together with the bones of dead people. Seriously.

It’s pretty much what happens when you step on a hose with the water running.

I weighed my options in the morning and figured I had a 1.5 mile walk from our hotel to the starting line. Surely my back would loosen up by then and my leg would regain feeling, right? Right. So I kissed the sleeping beauty goodbye and headed out for a nice walk at 5:30 am over to the start line. The hotel had been nice enough to put out a great breakfast area for runners, which was key since I completely forgot that I needed to bring breakfast since normally my Pea handles that sort of thing. Kristen, you were missed!

This would never have happened in Ohio.

The walk over to the starting line was only 1.5 miles, but it honestly felt like it took forever. My leg felt weird and I was worried about how hot it was supposed to be. The best part was there were already spectators out, at 5:40 am, sitting in chairs with mimosas and breakfast food waiting for the race to start at 6:30. That is INTENSE. Funnily enough, I would have made the Maniacs picture if I had known where it was. Imagine me getting to a picture on time. Ha!

Masses of people everywhere. I had no idea where to go. Yes, I know there is a giant sign with directions in the picture.

Between the projected heat (a high of 86) and the fact that I couldn’t really feel my leg, I figured I would just play it safe and start with the 5 hour pace group since it clearly wasn’t going to be a PR kind of day. I met “Pacer Nicole” and “Streaker Jim,” the awesome 5 hour pacers, and figured it would be a good time. For the record, “Streaker Jim” is called such because he has run all 14 Flying Pig Marathons, not because he runs naked. Just so we’re clear.

All fearless leaders carry pink balloons

The race started and we were off. I can’t say I was running comfortably, because that would be a lie. I was sure I would loosen up in a few miles. I kept thinking “this was a realllllllllyyyyyyyyyyy bad idea.” We crossed the river into Kentucky, where I knew AJ would be waiting. Nicole and I chatted about different races I had coming up, and she will be in Missoula too, which was cool. It turns out her husband had the same type of issue as me, so she told me about the procedure he got, which was of course never mentioned to me by my doctor – nice.  Around mile 3, we saw AJ. It helps that he’s a giant, because I could see him long before he saw me. I tried to yell to him but apparently he didn’t hear me. Too bad since it was important information.

Me: “It’s going ok! Except I can’t feel my right leg! I might do the half!”

AJ: “What?”

And with that we were gone.

This is the happiest picture you’ll see.

The crowds along the course were awesome, especially downtown. It is amazing how many people woke up ridiculously early to come support the race, since it started at 6:30. The spectators had tons of signs, were giving out high fives, and cheering like crazy! It was definitely a great boost.

Sorry for the aggressive sun glare. There are spectators lining the streets.

There was a long climb from miles 6 – 8 or so, but I didn’t struggle anymore than normal. We were running at a pace that was comfortable for my heart, so I was fine, minus the whole numb leg thing. The whole time, I kept thinking that running was a horrible idea. Nonetheless, I was enjoying my run with the pace group and the weather wasn’t even too bad yet. We saw a singing Elvis, a guy dressed like toothpaste carrying a giant toothbrush, and the world’s most adorable choir of old men.

I bet toothbrush guy regretted that decision later in the day!
Can I tell you a secret? I want to keep one.

The half marathoners were set to split at mile 8.5, so it was decision time. Do I keep running and do the full, or do I split and do the half for my first ever marathon DNF? I was in so much pain. I was doing the math in my head and realized I had almost 18 more miles to go. But I COULDN’T come all the way to Ohio and DNF a marathon that I’ve been wanting to do forever, right? So I split with the full marathoners and kept going.

And then, around mile 9, I lost control of my right leg. The closest I can come to describing it is to have you watch the video below. About 16 seconds in is pretty much what happened, except I didn’t fall.

The signal loss in my back had become so bad that my nerves couldn’t even tell my right leg to move anymore. I would tell it to run, and it would collapse under me or drag behind me. Run 17 more miles like that? Obviously not. I notified the pace group and limped back to the half marathon split, half a mile away, about five miles from the finish of the half. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t even look at all of the marathoners who were coming towards me.

To be honest, I never thought it would happen to me. I guess that’s naive, stupid, or conceited to think, but I just never thought I would DNF a race. After making it through Bataan and Knoxville, I thought there was no race I couldn’t finish. I learned, though, that there is a difference between feeling bad and not wanting to finish a race and feeling bad and being unable to finish a race. And that is a very humbling feeling.

I had called AJ from a volunteer’s phone to let him know that I was coming back, so I slowly walked, ran, and limped the rest of the way. There were some great spectators along the way – an entire high school football team at mile 10 that gave the most enthusiastic and encouraging high fives, two girls with the best race sign I’ve ever seen, and tons of people outside enjoying the day. But I was not enjoying the day.

Their signs said “The race is over boys…we’re right here! (And single too!)” My favorite ever.

I know this blog is supposed to be funny, but there was nothing funny about this race. I was not only sad, I was terrified. I was mad. I was frustrated. I hated Ohio (babe, I totally get it now). Most of the rest of the half marathon course was downhill, which is great when you want to run fast and the worst thing ever when you have a bad back. On a positive note, I did come across this old church with doors that I totally want to “reclaim.” Or steal. Whichever.

Look at those doors! So many pinterest options, so little time!

So I just kept limping along, mile after mile. Sometimes I would try to run just to get it over with faster. These attempts usually failed.  Looking at my race photos, it is pretty easy to see how much pain I was in. It made me sad to see them.

I look like I’m crying because I am.

The bright spot of this depressing march to the end was this guy in front of me. I couldn’t help but laugh. And then hate myself.

Touche, sir.

About a tenth of a mile from the finish, someone handed me a cup with beer. In a marathon, I would vomit just at the smell of such a thing. But I was already walking, so I figured why not. And it was delicious.

Finally got to taste beer during a race! Great success.

As I inched closer to the finish line, people kept yelling words of encouragement to me because I looked THAT pathetic. I haven’t cried at a finish line since my first marathon. I cried at this one, and it wasn’t the same kind of crying. I have never been that sad. To add insult to injury (literally), they tried to give me a marathon medal because I was wearing the marathon bib. Nope, I’ll just take the half medal, please. By the way, half marathon medals are not nearly as nice as full marathon medals.

I have just given you the gift of the most attractive finisher photo of all time. You are welcome.

I hobbled sllooowwwwllllyyy through the finisher’s chute, desperately looking for AJ. I couldn’t find him anywhere and I was hot, upset, and in a ton of pain. I made three different people give me their phones to call him because someone didn’t answer. I knew he was probably way at the end of the finisher’s area, since the public wasn’t allowed in, but I couldn’t walk that far, so I eventually got him on the phone and made him come to me. There was a security guard attending the fence who sassed me when I asked him to open the fence to let me out. WRONG DAY FOR THAT, SIR.

I finally found AJ and we began the longgg walk to the car. I limped along very, very slowly. The benefit about only doing the half was that we got back to our hotel room really early and left Cincinnati much earlier than expected. I took my Thai muscle relaxers and AJ googled and found an extremely sketchy place for us to eat lunch. Our first clue that it was a less than reputable establishment should have been the 15 cars parked in the parking lot from the night before. The second clue should have been the 15 year old pregnant hostess who greeted us. We ended up making it home around 9 pm, which was nice. Except my back screaming in agony. But the part where we were home was nice.

“Hey everybody, let’s drink til we can’t feel feelings!” We didn’t do that, but it might have helped.

Of course on Monday morning I made an appointment with a new doctor, since the one in Charleston is a) too far away and b) didn’t give me all the information he should have. I contacted the office for a referral. They first me to the wrong type of doctor. Then they referred me to an actual neurosurgeon. Then I googled him and found out he received only 2 of 5 stars in his reviews. Really? Not acceptable. After repeatedly calling a new place and speaking with 8 different people, I finally got an appointment with a doctor that people actually like for this Wednesday. It was then promptly rescheduled to Thursday. Cue sneaky hate spiral.

So basically, I have no idea what the outcome will be. I am going to discuss all the different treatment options with my doctor. I have had this problem for many years, and conservative treatments have not worked. That said, I would like to keep dead people’s bones out of my spine if at all possible. The reality is that some days my back feels ok and I run with an amount of pain that is not unmanageable. And apparently, some days I lose control of my leg. For the time being, I am going to do the races that I can. I am going to see what my new cool doctor says.

Doesn’t he look cool? He totally does.

But T-Rex Runner will press on. AJ and I are still going to Delaware this weekend. Whether I run or not depends on how I feel when I wake up on Sunday. We’ll just see what happens, but I’m going to think positively. And Fawn, please contact Thailand because I’m almost out of medicine for when I feel suffer.

So, have you ever DNFed a race before? Leave me a comment and help stop my hate/depression spiral.

42 thoughts on “The one that isn’t funny – Flying Pig Marathon Weekend, Part 2

  1. Been there 🙁 I started writing this epic story of my DNF, so if we meet up in DE, I can repeat it…

    Basically, 2 months before Chicago in 2010, I had a bike accident. A really dumb accident—no helmet. I had a fractured skull, bleeding and swelling in the brain. I am lucky to be alive. I was in the hospital for a week, pretty much bed ridden for a few weeks after. I insisted on going to Chicago and trying to walk the marathon. I mean, come on, it was going to be my 10th marathon on 10-10-10! Around mile 6, I started getting blisters…by mile 11, I was sitting on the side of the road, crying with two feet that were bleeding and looked like ground beef. The entire ball of my foot (both feet) was a huge blister,. I know, that doesn’t compare to getting through a half with a numb leg, and blisters heal up. But, I know how that DNF felt. I continued to recover from the head injury and in March 2011, ran the Rome marathon. I ended up doing 5 marathons plus a 50 miler in 2011 and so far, I have finished 4 marathons. Here’s hoping you have some good news from this new doctor and will be running pain free soon.

    1. Holy cow, I’m so glad you are ok! Blisters are the WORST so I do not blame you at all for the DNF. Looking forward to drinking some beers with you in Delaware this weekend!

  2. On a positive note, you look like a forefoot striker/hobbler in the finish line photo. Way to use your head and only do the half. I can imagine that was really tough.

  3. Something is going on this weekend that humbled me. It was my first DNF. I have a few races and years of racing. Ironman Louisville and Panama City. 4 ultras, 40+ marathons (1 was Battan w 35lbs) Mountain Madness was just a 70.3 half Ironman so I training and knew what to expect. My lower back muscle gave me problems between mile 40-45. The pain was too intense I had to throw in the towel. I just smiled in pain, disappointment, and joy. It was a spiritual connection. Be joyful always. There will be more races. It’s time to slow down, rest, heal, meditate and come back stronger.

  4. Remember , it’s called a laminectomy (may not be spelled like that, but I’m okay at spelling, so maybe it is). Also, as an official pacer for The Pig, I’m supposed to say nice things, but every time (four trips) I leave hating that godawful race and vowing never to come back, and you know what, somehow (three times) I’ve been persuaded back to it. Maybe there really is something wrong with Ohio, like they have some sort of miind-control thing going on?

    1. Yup, I already looked it up! I have lots of questions for the doctor and I am SO glad you told me about that option. Did you hate the Pig after this trip? I really am so bummed I couldn’t finish. If you pace again next year, perhaps I will make my triumphant return. Stupid Ohio, I am already thinking about going back! Ugh. See you in July!

  5. First of all. Get better. You can get a second opinion here if you want and insurance allows. I know way lots about back surgery. Sadly. Remember that the main goal is to continue to walk . Sounds obvious. Spent a few days learning that lesson. Lost function on left l leg. Not funny. Those nerves control other lets say “functions” .
    Second of all. You better come . I went all Martha S today and got the Christmas tree out of the family room….what, it’s only May. Early May I might add. Put up new hall lights ( ok paid someone huge amounts of money to do something so simple ) and and and well other stuff. Like got new towels. Cleaned bathroom. Just saying. You co
    uld just come for Bratfest and beer.
    Sorry. Really though,Back issues suck. I know. Just don’t do anything crazy.hope you get better. I do really know a good guy here though. M

    1. Oh trust me, we will be there! I already told my mom that we will be in Madison one way or the other! And now that I know you cleaned the bathroom for me, this I have to see. Be prepared to spend lots of the weekend going around to different breweries and watching me eat horrifying amounts of cheese. Can’t wait to see you guys!

  6. You know I don’t run, and I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’m proud of you. I have a lot of medical issues and it is a very thin line between determination and hardheadedness. It takes a lot to walk away from a goal you set for yourself. Proud of you for recognizing that moment, and not being too proud to say enough is enough.

  7. I’m so sorry! I hope your new doc can help, and I hope you give Ohio another chance. I’m from Ohio, and I can tell you it ain’t all that bad (even if I did leave). I’m nervous about Delaware too. I think I re-stress-fractured my leg on Sunday at the Colorado Marathon. Common sense tells me I should skip Delaware, but I know myself, and I’ll probably run anyway!

    1. Oh no!! I had a stress fracture in my hip a couple years ago and it was the worst! We Maniacs aren’t too good at common sense though, are we? 🙂 See you Saturday!

  8. That sucks so bad. Just looking at your pictures I can tell that something is wrong with your leg. I’m impressed that you just kept going and finished the half! I hope you get good news at your doctor’s appointment.

    1. I know, those are the worst race pictures ever! I didn’t even want to look at them because I knew it was going to be bad. Normally I make a big deal out of posing for the camera but this time I tried unsuccessfully to avoid them.

  9. I have a buddy ( who has three herniated discs. He’s had more than one unfortunate run-in with awful spinal pain and can commiserate with you for sure. He too is a pretty prolific runner and manages to get through races without much back pain (though there are certainly exceptions).

    Sucks that you had to forgo the full marathon. And technically you didn’t DNF because you did cross the finish line of an officially sanctioned race. I know, that’s probably not much consolation, but hey, you got through a half marathon with intense back pain. Other people might have hopped into a medical van and called it a day. For someone as diehard as you, that might not mean much. But it’s something!

    Good luck recovering.

    1. The esteemed heterosexual running mate has back problems? That makes me feel better, actually. Normally my back is just kind of achy during races but this time was different. I guess you’re right, I technically didn’t DNF, but I did DNF the marathon, which for me is what counts. If I had gotten into the medical van, there would have been no medal, which is a thought I simply cannot bear. Diehard – yes. Stupid – also yes.

  10. So sorry to hear about your back. Hope the doctors can get you back on track again.

    I had a DNF in Helsinki 3 years ago. My luggage didn’t arrive (with my running shoes) so I had to borrow shoes from a friend. I ran the half distance and then took the bus back to hotel. Baaaad blisters…

    See you in Delaware!

    1. Ouch, I think blisters rival a non-functioning leg in terms of pain. Those are the WORST! I would rather have pretty much any other ailment than blisters. See you soon!

  11. Sometimes things just don’t line up and you have to make the best of it. Congrats for running the half; that’s a lot more than many people would do!

    I came *this* close to cutting out at the half due to a naughty, evil IT band. Lucky for me, I figured out that if I swung my leg out (like it was a wooden leg) and didn’t bend it, I could at least still cover the distance (slowly). Seven hours and two minutes is a long time to be gimpin’ on the course… which is how long it took me. Ha!

    1. Wow, that is amazing! I have had IT band issues in the past and they are no fun. Seven hours is a long time to be out there – you must have been exhausted! Sometimes I feel like the races that wear me out the most are the ones that I run the slowest. Congrats on finishing your race, IT band and all!

  12. I would be upset about the Ohio hate except that a) I lived in Cincinnati for two years and couldn’t understand how a town with so much potential was laden with so many dumbasses; b) as a northeastern Ohio native, I laughed at the amazing inferiority complex Cincinnatians have about their city; c) if it weren’t for the river, they’d actually be Kentuckians; d) if it weren’t for the location of the generously spacious western border of the state, Cincinnatians would be Hoosiers (snicker).

    Don’t hate Ohio – hate on southwestern Ohio. They are like a boil on the ass of the Buckeye State.

      1. Cincinnati is just weird. Take their chili: they serve it on spaghetti, put cinnamon in it, and frown upon the use of hot sauce. WTF?!!!!

  13. No hate for Columbus, OH, please! I’m a Buckeye through and through. And the Columbus Marathon is my PR!

  14. It’s been several months now. I assume you’ve gotten over your hatred of Ohio? 🙂

    I DNF’d that very same Pig. If I’d been smart, I would have split off at the half. I have a titanium shoulder that had been giving me fits for a while, and had become increasingly sore the week before the Pig. By mile 6 it was really painful, at mile 9 I had tears. In mile 13 I was walking back to the closest aid station. They took me back to the main medical tent. To make matters worse, I had to exit through the finish area, where everyone had medals. All I had was a big sling and a bag of ice. I thought for sure my prosthesis had come unseated. It turned out to be a torn muscle from a canoe trip. I cried over pain, I cried with frustration, and I swore I’d never do it again. But I’m registered for the Pig for this coming year. DNFs suck. Totally.

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