The Gift of Gastroparesis

Starting at the beginning (ish). After finishing my 2nd marathon and completing 25 miles of a 50K the week before, I took a little time off from running. Then in January 2015 I began gaining weight at an alarming rate. Part of me knew it was diet related, but I also considered it was stress related and possibly medication related. Even after leaving my previous job and starting a WONDERFUL new position, changing my eating habits and coming off the meds, I continued to gain weight. Putting it into perspective I was around 150 pounds (and FIT) winter 2014, by summer 2015 I was around 200 pounds which crept to 220 by winter 2015. Then summer 2016 I was finally down 20 pounds thanks to running and Nutrisystem, but always in great pain, which I assumed was weight related. While training for my next 50K I found any time I bent over I would throw up and eventually developed an unrelated case of plantar fasciitis, which is JUST NOW starting to properly heal.

Taking a step back again I gained some of the weight back and stopped about all exercise and continued to feel sick and throw up. My doctor increased my acid reflux medication, but this didn’t help. Last month I was sent to Gastroenterology and was set up with a gastric emptying study which I am SO THANKFUL insurance approved otherwise I still wouldn’t have answers. I arrived early in the morning and was feed an egg sandwich with radioactive materials. Fun, right?

Each hour they took x-rays of my stomach and I watched the silver mass on the screen make its way through my body. Nothing looked weird to me (ya know with my medical degree over here) and I went about my daily/weekly business, which included the Twilight Triathlon that weekend where I felt nauseous and threw up at the end. About a week after my study I received a voicemail, my study revealed I have gastroparesis, also known as slow to empty stomach.

What does this mean?

Essentially it means food sits in my stomach much longer than it should and this is why I throw up. It means my stomach doesn’t break food down as fast and as completely as it should so it is recommended I eat liquid and soft foods and no more than 1 to 1.5 cups of food at a time. It means I’m not supposed to have red meat, whole wheat, high fiber, high fat or high iron. It means I’ve “easily” lost 10 pounds in the last month, (currently 195) because some days I just don’t feel well enough to eat and if I do eat I get sick. Hopefully I never get to the point of having surgery (some people require gastric bypass if their stomach stops working all together) and I’ve declined taking medication for the time being.

How did this happen?

Honestly, I don’t know. A lot of cases for this diagnosis are connected to diabetes, luckily I don’t have that, but I do have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome which I’ve been told is like diabetes, however I’ve never had an insulin problem. Many other cases just don’t have an explanation, which seems to be my case. Somewhere along the way my vagus nerve was damaged or something and now my system works differently. In the end it really doesn’t matter HOW it happened, because it’s something I have and I can’t make it go away. I will have this forever and the best I can do is eat properly to not make it worse or make myself sick.

 

There you have it, I finally have answers and feel comforted I can move forward. This blog will probably focus a lot on the interaction of this diagnosis and my training/performance moving forward. Some of you may like it, others may not mind it and some may hate it. It’s my life though and now that I have an answer to why I’m different, maybe I won’t feel as ashamed or embarrassed about things, maybe someone out there will look to me and say “It’s about an active lifestyle, not an elite performance” because after all, we all have our explanations, but wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t feel like we needed them and could just go out, enjoy life and be ourselves?

Race Report : Cleveland Browns 5K

Happy Fall everyone! Is it cold enough for those of you in Ohio with me? Too cold for me, but what can I really do about it, right?

Two weeks back I had one of many very hectic weekends for the month. On Friday night Dave and I took my Mom out for her birthday. We drove up to Cleveland to see Fun Home because I received some GREAT discounts on the tickets. The play wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t exactly a feel good type of play either. I can’t honestly say I’d recommend it, but I don’t regret going if that makes any sense. After we went over to Hofbrauhaus and introduced Mom to loud music, dancing on tables and Yeager. She had a blast.

14753654_702110544060_4917881792773992237_o

Of course the Indians were playing and I was totally oblivious the whole time because I hate baseball. Yes I’m a terrible person I know.

Saturday we got up early and drove back up to Cleveland for the Browns 5K. A group of us signed up together a while back and were team “The Underdawgs” haha. Cute, right? Dave and I were TIIIIIIIRED so we crept up there with just enough time to line up and run meaning we didn’t get in a lot of the group photos, but I don’t always love being in them anyway so that was more of a win than anything else. Here is the team before we arrived.

14725457_1325847917426384_8127855536995578924_n race_3216_photo_47717851

The only part about getting there later that sucked is not getting one of the free “buffs” they were passing out. 1) I like those things and want one. 2) Football is one of the few sports I actually like!

Our race started easy enough near the stadium and took us around the streets of downtown Cleveland for 3.1 miles. I decided to see what I could do as far as “running” and only walked for about 30 second two or three times. Once on a hill early on where I needed to take off my hoodie. Once right after a water stop, and another time when I had such a bad side stitch I was coughing and bent over in pain. It went away quickly and I returned to trotting. Dave would walk and fall behind then hustle to catch up. Part of me hated he was basically walking to keep up with my running, but I also know he’s quite a bit taller than me so my little legs need to work harder.

14753724_10104762374220914_6029942921119875740_o 14700788_10104762374490374_8020805370817791342_o 14715039_10104762374225904_7510042312685643274_o

Pushing it into the finish chute and onto the felt amazing. I crossed the finish in 46 minutes (43 with adjusted start time). A 43 minute 5K is SIX MINUTES FASTER than my last road race back in August. I know some of that was because of the heat in Aug, but mostly it’s due to continued working out and dieting…even though I’ve only lost maybe 5 more pounds which is a totally different struggle. The field had a platform of sorts we all ran on to keep us off the grass which makes sense even if it was a little bit of a bummer. They broadcast-ed the finish line up on the jumbo-tron which was very cool to watch and made me wish I had my camera out.

14712640_10104762374650054_6817152444012730861_o

One of the photographers was even nice enough to take a group shot which is gorgeous and he took one with his camera but I didn’t see it in the final cut.

14650479_10153784469086640_5790728562739726366_n

The rest of the day I was in terrible pain due to my PF and wish my foot would just fall off or something that couldn’t possibly hurt more than what I feel right now. Becky and I went back to Cleveland a few hours later (seriously I should have gotten an apartment for the weekend or something) and enjoyed our annual tradition of the 12 Hours of Terror.

14714798_10104744237981084_9146222542374050878_o

Her boyfriend totally saved the day by offering to drive us there and pick us up the next morning. GREAT selection of movies this year.

Race Report : Tough Mudder Half Pittsburgh

I supposed since it’s clearly important and meaningful enough to be my header image on my Facebook fanpage I should complete my report regarding the Tough Mudder Half I finished on September 10th.

14333036_10153702424306640_2451616326492995140_n

Originally I have zero intention of doing this event. Not because I didn’t think I COULD, but because I knew I didn’t feel like doing the full and my friends (Liz, Aaron, Becky & Jill) were all doing the full this time around. Staring at my discount codes from volunteering last year (thank goodness I took a picture because those paper slips are lonnnnng gone) I contemplated for what felt like forever if I should sign up.

After my great experience with The Burner though and a few more weeks of training under my belt I realized there wasn’t any reason I SHOULDN’T do the event. Sure it’s a team oriented day, but don’t I always make friends at events? Besides when was the last time I was able to stick with my team anyway? The decision was made and I was signed up for my 2nd TM and hopefully I wouldn’t pout and skip this one like last summer.

Race morning arrived and I drove out to PA by myself. Don’t take that to mean more than it does, I LOVE driving by myself in the mornings. Working at 10 am has spoiled me and getting up early was always a struggle. I find myself driving the 90 minutes in silence and partial darkness and it’s wonderful while I slowly creep to life.

To my complete shock and amusement I made it to the site before Beck, Liz and Aaron, if only by a few minutes.

20160910_075815 20160910_075701 20160910_075656

Putting the final touches on and in my pack and changing into my trail shoes I hustle to catch up to them at the entrance. Always nervous about the start the three of them rush around to get in line. Becky and I drop bags off at the gear check and it is then one of the volunteers breaks terrible news to me…I can’t start with my “Team”. Despite being different distances we assumed (incorrectly so there ya go with assuming) I could start with them and meet them along the course. The three of them are in the first or second wave after the elite wave though, and the half participants aren’t allowed on the course for another hour.

Everything in me wishes they will agree to wait and start with me, but they don’t and I have to respect that choice. Besides we would have been together a whole half mile anyway if I’m being honest. Reluctantly I wander around the festival area. After volunteering three times last year I am probably the most comfortable of any event in the festival area for a TM. I find myself at the Merrell tent talking OCR shoes and looking at their “testing site”.

20160910_125049

Having more than enough time to kill I agree to try the shoes. In a fun twist, you don’t just wear the shoes, you’re also strapped to a bag on your back with 40 pounds of items inside. Once arranged I am lead over to 4 “hills” representing different terrains found on a mud run course. Giant rocks to gravel to slick man made walls. Starting at the bottom I use a rope to climb about 10-15 feet up and ring a bell. It amazes me I can haul this pack, but then realized before losing weight I was carrying HALF this load daily. When I finish and take the pack off I’m even more resolved to keep losing weight as I can physically feel the relief all over.

20160910_125105 20160910_125202

The shoes are AWESOME as Merrell shoes always seem to be for me, and I enter for a chance to win a pair by pulling out two balls from a bag. I don’t win. I put my own gear back on and eye the crowd for other teal “half” bibs and wait to start.

Once we start I immediately am frustrated because we enter by jumping over a wall. I HATE when races so this because I RFUSE to do walls, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do like 90% of everything else and I it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed. The edges are so closely roped off I almost can’t get onto the field. We run for about a mile before the first real challenge Kiss of Mud 2.0. Sliding down on my belly I shimmy over rocks bumps and mud and under barbed wire. I’m a mess and I’m all smiles.

14379674_10104644992744334_2600173493341654216_o 14379839_10104644992749324_4534246273442632912_o

According to the map TM Half includes 5.9 miles of fun and 13 different obstacles. Along the way I encounter the following and much more:

Mud Mile 2.0 – This was tiring and fun. I let go of my self-doubt and allowed others to help. Men and women, but mostly men helped lift me from chest high mud and water onto rocky hills and back down into the same for about 5 or 6 repeats. At one point one of the guys was so strong he tossed me and I flew up and over the rocky hill and onto my back and butt on the other side. I couldn’t stop laughing. Of course this is also the obstacle where I shredded my watch band. Photo credit TM website.

mudd_3

Berlin Walls – I have no idea how tall these suckers were, but I skipped it.

Devil’s Beard. Crawling on the ground, uphill, under a net. I made it about ¾ of the way before the tiny gravel rocks and sticks were hurting my knees. After I stood at the top and lifted the end of the net as help to the others since I didn’t have a team to keep up with and many others did.

Hero Carry – another I skipped even if I didn’t want to skip it. Taking turns with a partner you do a piggyback ride or Fireman carry and make it across a field. One of the volunteers offered to let me carry him, but I didn’t want to be carried and told I was too heavy to lift. It would have devastated me.  Shortly after this one and another “can only be done with two or more people” obstacle I started to feel sorry for myself because with the way the course broke away from the full TM I wasn’t just without my own friends, I was truly by myself for large stretches of time. I realized though pouting didn’t help and kept on walking.

King of the Mountain – THIS was a ton of fun and scary! At first I tried to walk away after being unable to get myself on the chest high hay stack. A group of guys and girls where behind me though and refused to let me walk away. Looking at the image and remembering the day I’d say the bales were 15-20 feet high and when I got to the top I wanted to puke from fear of heights. Slowly though I wiggled my way back to the bottom and thanked everyone who helped. Along the way I begged “Please no one laugh at me”. In true disbelief another girl asked why anyone would do such a thing. We’re all here to have fun and help each other. No one is supposed to judge. It made me feel really good.

Ladder to Hell – another really high thing I skipped but I mention it because the guys who walked up to it with me made me laugh. As we approached the one looked at his friend and asked “If it’s the ladder to hell shouldn’t we be going down not up?” Oh, moments like this make the day grand.

The Block Ness Monster – Easily my favorite of the day. There were two long “blocks” I think they were actually three sided, in a giant pit of water. The water was about chest to throat high for me at 5’1” and not easy to tread when wearing trail shoes. The “blocks” could rotate and essentially a group of people would attempt to climb on and then spin the block forward to move into the next section. The groups with taller men and women would send those over first and they would pull from one side while others pushed and kicked their way from the start. Turn to the next and repeat. I LOVED it. Photo credit TM website

the-block-ness-monster-03

Skidmarked – You will never believe it, but I did a wall! I stood there forever, well like 10 minutes which should be forever and stared at the inverted wall with tires on the other side. Wave after wave of people attempted and accomplished it, but when I saw a girl roughly my size totally fail I tucked my tail in and started to shuffle away. As I left I noticed what I thought was an official race photographer. Thinking “This would make a great pic!” I went back around the corner. Before I knew what was happening the volunteer called for a group of guys to help me. Up onto two of their thighs and being hoisted into the air by two more standing on the tires I was lifted up onto the end of the wall. I panicked and wanted to go back down, but before that was even an option I was pulling myself up and over. I actually “did it”. Go me. Also, there was no photographer or their pics didn’t make it to the TM people because NO ONE from that obstacle was on the photo site.

When I finished I was very tired and very worn out, but felt like I could have kept going if needed.

14305310_10104632333753054_4803461385752596746_o 14212750_10153969122889227_5696695902485409686_n

More than likely because I didn’t fuel while out there (I suck at this lately) I started to feel sick within the next hour. I made it to the showers and mostly rinsed off and changed. I also caught my three buddies as they were leaving. We exchanged hugs and well wishes and I headed back home where I promptly took up the couch with my existence and slept.

Will I do back to TM again? Honestly I don’t know. I had fun, but at the same time I was “forced” to miss several things I wanted to try because I didn’t have a team. If I went back I would either be in condition to do the full AND have a team OR I’d do the half later in the day so more people are on the course to “make friends”. I will say I would totally recommend this event to ANYONE interested in trying it and who has a group to go with because it’s probably one of the most fun and positive attitude races I have ever attended. At the start they straight up tell you it’s about teamwork not about a finish time, for a girl who’s blog subtitle has always been “It’s about an active lifestyle, not an elite performance” could there be a better match?