Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mistakes May Have Been Made.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?
See, here's the problem with setting a hard core mileage goal & then having your run foiled twice in two days. It makes you reckless. You get all GOD-DAMN-IT-I-am-getting-a-GOD-DAMN-RUN-IN-if-I-have-to-FREAKING-MURDER-SOMEBODY. You make poor decisions and justify them at the time by telling yourself that you are being hard core and boss-like.

After having feet too achey to run on Sunday & then not having a spare second on Monday except to pee, I spent Tuesday morning looking down the barrel of my week and feeling a little disheartened by how hard I was going to have to work to fit my runs in. So when I got home that evening, I immediately threw on running clothes. I wanted to run 10 miles, totally felt like running 10 miles, & was fully prepared to just get it done & make a big fat deposit into the First National Bank of Mileage.

In retrospect, I blame the Garmin. That bitch looked for satellites for nigh on fifteen minutes. I restarted it four times, and every time, the little bar rapidly filled to 99.9% & froze. At the height of my frustration, just as I was about to say screw it & go without, it *finally* locked in & I headed off. Only a few seconds later, I realized I'd forgotten to take my inhaler before I left. Ordinarily I would have gone back, but I was too irritated, and hell if I was going to wait for the damn watch to pick up satellites again.

Less than half a mile later, I knew I'd made a mistake. In retrospect, the most logical course of action would have been to jog back, take my inhaler, then do a 4.5 out-and-back. But noooOOOOOooo. I was all, "I'm hard core. I don't let dumb little things like oxygen deprivation get in my way. I've lost track of the number of runs I've finished with asthma. I ran a freaking MARATHON with an asthma attack. Going back for asthma medicine is for pussies."

But it kept getting worse.

Mile 1: "You know, there's really nothing wrong with 8 miles. 8 miles is still good."

Mile 1.5: "Or 7. 7 is completely respectable."

Mile 1.75: "Okay, this is actually kind of bad...Maybe we should just turn around at 2? That would be the smart thing to do."

Mile 2: "Ehh, what's one more mile? Then we'll turn around. We can make it through 6; NBD."

Now, here is the thing about running a lot, and pushing your body really hard, and getting mentally good at ignoring physical suffering. That is all fine and good when it's just your body being like "Ughhhhh, this is HAAAAARD...." But it turns out that this is a double-edged sword that actually works on serious physiological problems that you should probably be paying attention to. Not being able to breathe, for example. I just kept running & being all, "Hey, no big deal. We've done this before. Just slow down a little. It'll be over before you know it."

During that third mile, I repeatedly found myself thinking things like, "WOW, this is hard. Ugh. This feels TERRIBLE," and "I would really, really, REALLY like to stop running now." The problem is that I've had those thoughts so, so, *SO* uncountably many times while running that they don't really mean anything anymore. When normal people have thoughts like these, they stop what they're doing. Athletes used to enduring reasonably significant suffering on a regular basis, not so much.

It was as I approached the turnaround at the end of the Panhandle that it started to get really bad. I found myself feeling lightheaded, which has never happened before when running with asthma. I started having waves of nausea and feeling like I was about to throw up. I'd be like, "Okay, when you get to that stop light, you can walk." But then the light would turn red, and I would get a few seconds to rest, & then I'd be like, "Nevermind, I'm all good now." Even though at that point I was very, very far from good. The lightheadedness got worse. The nausea got worse. My legs felt wobbly & I couldn't control my foot strikes, so that the impact of every elephantine step made everything that much worse.

Not long after that, I finally reached the point where the magnitude of my suffering outweighed my mental ability to lie to myself about it. That was the point where

  • If I'd been on a treadmill, I would have stopped.
  • If I'd been less than a mile from home, I would have walked the rest of the way.
  • If I'd had my phone, I would have called Don to come get me.

But I wasn't, and I didn't, and frankly being without my inhaler for the amount of time it would take me to walk 2.5 miles home seemed scarier than trying to keep running. So the rest of the trip home became a delicate balancing act wherein I would walk a couple of minutes until I felt like I wasn't about to die, jog until I was legitimately afraid I might pass out and/or puke, wash/rinse/repeat. This was also when I first noticed that I was having trouble swallowing.

By the time I was a mile from home, I was truly worried about not making it & started considering going into a cafe or coffee shop & asking to borrow their phone. Ultimately I pressed on & finished with 5.7 miles of actual running. Which, for what is definitely in the running for the honor of Worst Run Ever-Ever-Ever in 20 years of running, is not too shabby. I stumbled inside, fumbled with my inhaler, satisfied myself that I could in fact move air in & out of my lungs again, & grabbed my shower towel. My hands were shaking, my stomach was cramping up, and I was still having trouble swallowing. This concerned me a bit, being not typically symptoms of asthma.

After I turned on the water, I noticed that my bottom lip felt kind of swollen, like I'd bitten it really hard. Once in the shower, my thought processes went more or less like this:

"Wow, my legs are really itchy. And my shoulders too."

"Um. My lip is really swollen. Also my top lip feels kind of funny."

"Whoah, there, heart rate! Take it down a notch."

"My face feels like a balloon."

"I can't feel my tongue."

So you can imagine what all this did for the feeling of relief I'd gotten once I could breathe again. Once out of the shower, I confirmed that, yes, my face was definitely swollen. I still couldn't swallow well, my heart was still racing, and I was having trouble catching my breath (which is not the same thing as asthma). Also, this is about when every square inch of skin on my body started to feel as if I'd fallen into a bed of stinging nettle. (I know how this feels because I actually did it once.)

At this point I was having trouble staying vertical. Don got home from work right about the time I got out of the shower; our conversation basically went like this.

Don: "Hello!"

Me, kind of frantic & basically in tears: "Something is really wrong with me."

Don: "Um, yes, but which thing were you thinking of?"

Me: "No, really. Something is really, really wrong. My face is all swollen and everything itches and my heart is going really fast and I can't swallow--"

Don: "Um--"


Don: "Um. Why don't you put real clothes on."

So I did. In the process I discovered that most of my body was covered in tiny red whelps.

This did not improve my affect. If you are familiar with my general terror of all things health problem related, you can probably understand why.

For a while I sat curled up on the couch, had a massive little freak out, tried not to scratch my skin off, and frantically debated the pros and cons of possibly doing something medically responsible like going to the emergency room or at least calling my doctor.

Me, utterly terrified: "Am I going to die?"

Don: "Pretty sure no, but all the same, maybe you just stay there on the couch."

Me, weeping softly about the possibility of my life being epically, tragically cut short: "Okay..."

Poor Don, I thought. You can't bring yourself to accept the fact that your girlfriend is about to epically, tragically die. Now you'll be all alone in the world.

In the words of Miss Ally Brosh:

Long story short, we reasoned that I was clearly having some kind of allergic reaction. To what was kind of a mystery. I have no known allergies, I hadn't eaten anything weird, been bitten or stung by anything, or really been in any kind of contact with anything even remotely unusual. Being the more sane and rational one at that particular moment, Don fed me Benedryl, decided I did not in fact seem as if my life were in danger, went to work in the garden, and instructed me to come get him if things got any worse (ie, it seemed like I might really, actually die).

And you know what you do when you have a health issue and are left alone on the couch in arm's reach of the internet.

I learned that I was either dying of cancer, about to go into anaphylactic shock, or suffering from MSG poisoning.

Or, I was having this:

Pretty freaky, no?

As expected, all the symptoms went away within a couple of hours and I've since felt normal. I am 99% sure that I don't have one of the chronic cases they're talking about, as this is the first time I've ever happened to me. Yes, I've run through pain and suffering and even asthma, but this was really the worst I can ever remember it being. This was the first time that I pushed it that far, that I really got to a place during the run where I was actually concerned about my health. I'm guessing that the physical stress combined with the additional stress of worrying about it was enough to set off the weird parasympathetic histamine reaction, and then taking a hot shower made it worse.

Still. I'm just warning you that if I turn out to be one of those chronic people, I am going to be all kinds of royally pissed off as I *really* don't need another obstacle to make running difficult for me.

I mean, can you imagine? Being allergic to running?

I gotta tell ya; if it comes to that, I may just throw in the towel. That is a Sign from the Gods if ever I heard of one.


  1. I got hives once after eating crabs. I was devastated because I really, really love crabs (I grew up in Maryland). Turns out it was a one-time thing and never happened again. So I hope yours was also a one-time thing -- perhaps provoked by a combination of unusually high levels of physical, mental, and emotional stress. A really harrowing story though -- glad you're OK!

    1. Here's hoping! We'll know after tomorrow, I guess. & yes, I'm totally fine now. :)

  2. Oh my gosh!!! I am so glad that you are okay- that whole ordeal sounded pretty scary. I am sure you aren't allergic to running, but I am really curios to what could have caused this. Very strange! I hope you don't ever experience it again.

    1. It was really not very fun at all. Do not recommend. The weird parasympathetic histamine reaction was the only thing that sounded even remotely plausible, but that's based only on 5 minutes of googling, not any qualified person's actual medical opinion, so who knows.

  3. That does sound awful - I wonder what caused it. Maybe it was your body's reaction to the stress of running so hard with no oxygen?

    I do think it's funny that you ran without an inhaler the week you told me off (guilty) of running without sunscreen! I'll take freckles over near death any time ;)

    1. Heh....yes, fair enough. It's admittedly weird, health-wise, the things you freak out about & the things you get really complacent about. I have to remind myself every now & then to keep a healthy respect for the asthma, rather than pretending it doesn't exist, which is what I do a lot of the time (too often).

  4. Whoa. That sounds so scary. I am so glad it wasn't some sort of anaphylactic reaction and you are (presumably) okay. Whew!

    1. Yep, totally okay. Just hoping it was a one time thing!