An unexpected weekend

For those that follow along with me on social media, this will be a re-hashing, but I wanted to put everything out there in one spot for my own memories. Normally, I don’t share a lot of personal info about myself and my health. I’ve talked about my anxiety in the past, and some of my orthopedic stuff, but in general I don’t go into a lot of medical stuff. However, I decided to make a break with that this time, because of how much this entire event impacted my life, plus I think there’s a couple of interesting nuggets in here about how doctors work with each other.

In my last post I detailed about my unexpected adventure getting home from Nevada. Due to my ear issue, I decided not to fly back, and instead took a multi-day train/bus/shuttle/car journey. When I got back I tried to get back to things as normal, however, my ear still wasn’t back to normal. My plan though was to head up to Arrowhead on Sunday and keep on going as planned.

On Saturday we ran an errand to drop off some things, and on our way back I decided that I needed to call the CareLine because of how my ear didn’t seem to get any better, and it was actually causing me some numbness on my face. Well, as soon as I said numbness on one side of my face, the CareLine nurse insisted I go to an ER. We headed to the hospital near home and they decided to do an MRI to check things out. I ended up being in the MRI tube for about and hour, which killed my back. Those are not comfortable tables to lay on.

The results of the MRI came back and the doctor said that it appeared that I had Mastoidites. Meaning that the ear infection was also in the bones behind my ear. He consulted with an ENT doctor and they sent me to a different hospital to get on some IV antibiotics instead of the oral ones I was taking. Thus began the very first time in my life that I’ve had to sleep in a hospital as the patient.

We got me settled on Saturday night, and waited around for more doctors to visit. Eventually the ENT doc came by and took a look. He felt that it wasn’t too bad, but that I should continue on the antibiotics for another day and that if things weren’t improving they could drain the ear of fluid to help move things along. The next day came and went and went, and it wasn’t until afternoon that we decided that I would be discharged on Monday to head to the ENT clinic to get my ear drained. The infectious disease doc also wanted a culture of the fluid to see what type of infection it was and better target antibiotics if I needed it.

Monday morning we head to the ENT clinic and the doctor there says that my ear actually isn’t that bad and that he doesn’t think there’s any more infection, just a bunch of fluid. He said that medical docs tend to overreact when they see inflamed mastoids and that from the ENT perspective, this is all normal and will heal in time. He did offer to drain the ear though if I wanted, to try and get some relief. I opt’d to try that and the entire procedure took no more than 5 minutes. It probably wouldn’t have even taken that long, but he had a medical student with him and he was showing her everything he was doing.

They suctioned out all the fluid, and we opt’d to just let it heal instead of a tube. I left the clinic, and I could tell right away that the drainage helped a ton, even though my hearing wasn’t quite back to normal. Now, a day later, it’s back to having some fluid built up again, but it’s not quite the same level of pressure. According to the ENT doc it’s going to take weeks to resolve, but since I don’t have a fever or anything like that, I should be fine.

The interesting thing for me was how the different docs viewed this situation. The ER doc went into immediate action mode, wanting to fix the problem. The infectious disease doc was focused on the root cause and identifying the specific infection that started all of this. The ENT’s were the least concerned and felt that no one knew as much about ears as them, and so everyone should just relax and not worry about it. The entire dynamic between the different disciplines was fascinating, and shows that medicine is not a single monolith.

So now, I’m back at home, and going to try to just keep doing life as normal. I’ll have a follow up with the ENT in a few weeks, and hopefully by then everything will have resolved and I’ll be back to 100% normal. I’m ready for normal.

An unexpected adventure

This past week didn’t turn out quite the way that I had planned. After we got done with our race, I got sick. We were supposed to fly out to Vegas on Friday for my wife’s birthday, but I wasn’t sure I’d be up for the trip. Plus, a large snowstorm was moving in, and was threatening to cancel or delay flights.

Friday came and I was on the fence about going, however at the last minute I decided that I wanted to be with my wife on her birthday so I would go. That’s when all the trouble began. Because I had been ‘stuffed up’ I had issues with my left ear upon landing. When we got on the ground it wouldn’t pop, and within a couple of hours it was in excruciating pain. We went to an Emergency Room and they confirmed that I burst blood vessels along my ear drum, but that I didn’t rupture it. It would be sore and damaged for a while.

img_0666At this point I knew that flying back home would be a bad idea because it would put me at high risk of rupture of my eardrum. Thus began the planning for how I would get home without an airplane. At first I thought about just renting a car and driving the whole way in about 3 days. I would want to take the southern route through Albuquerque and Kansas City, since driving through the Colorado Rockies in January didn’t sound like a great idea. It would also mean I’d need to leave pretty early on Sunday morning.

Another option presented itself when I looked at Amtrak. They had a shuttle service that would bring me to Kingman, AZ where I would catch the Southwest Chief to Kansas City. There I would then rent a car and drive the final 6.5 hours home. Because it would involve two overnights, I opted for the more expensive sleeper car. This seemed like the best option as well, because it meant I could stick around until Sunday night before heading out.

img_0675As it turns out, sticking around on Sunday was a good idea. I started feeling a bit worse on Sunday, and when I happened to check my throat it was blazing red and covered in white spots. We headed over to an urgent care, where the nurse practitioner first looked in my damaged ear. She informed me that my ear was infected, and when she looked at my throat she didn’t even bother to take a swab. Since she was giving me an antibiotic for my ear, it would take care of both.

On Sunday night I boarded the van, which took me to the train. The train arrived and I immediately went to bed. I got some fitful sleep, but boarding a train at 2am is never a recipe for a restful night. The next day was spent relaxing and taking it easy. I did some work on a future race idea, and cleaned up some stuff from SC40. I managed a little bit better sleep on the second night, but because the train was heading east I was losing hours to the timezone changes as we went.

img_0691At 6:30am on Tuesday we arrived at Kansas City. I then boarded a bus to take me to the car rental place for the drive home. Thankfully, the drive home from KC is incredibly simple. Within a mile of the car rental agency I was on Interstate 35 heading north. That’s about it. Just keep heading up 35. I listened to a bunch of podcasts, and tried to not eat too much gas station junk food. I arrived at the airport within ten minutes of my wife landing so that we could hop in our own car and finally get home.

The one upside is that I’ve also gotten to see a ton of amazing landscape, from tall mountains to wide open plains. Some areas have snow, while others are bone dry and yellow. This has been a nice perk of traveling this way, as I can simply absorb the landscape. If this had been the plan for how we were going to travel it probably would have been more enjoyable, but I tried to make the best of it all.

Now for some time in my own bed.

Starting the year off… busy

2020 is here, and with it comes winter ultramarathon season, as well as our typical Vegas trip. Plus, with the holidays behind us, work has gotten busier and busier. We just held our second annual St Croix 40 Winter Ultra last weekend, and managed to get unpacked relatively quickly from it.

However, all of this stuff going on means that my body decided it was done. I’ve been sick for the past 24 hours with general blah and on and off fevers. I’m not that surprised, when we push ourselves, eventually the body says it’s time for a break. So, I’ve spent the majority of tonight catching up on the Netflix series The Dragon Prince (not a bad little show honestly).

Right now I’m just hoping to be feeling better by Friday because we have our trip to Vegas for the weekend for my wife’s birthday. A little bit of desert air and relaxation should do the body good. We just have to get out of town before the snowstorm gets too bad.

I’ll be ready for some nice routine come February. Some weekends at home, and getting back to regular running and biking. For now though, it’s about recovery, and getting through the end of the month.

A decade of running

January of 2010 was the start. It’s hard to believe that it was so long ago, but the end of 2019 also marks the end of my first 10 years of running. I could never have imagined when I started this journey how consuming it would become, and how much of my identity would be shaped by it.

When I first started running it was mostly to get in shape and lose some weight. In 2010 I was really struggling with my health and well being. All my friends saw it, and when my friend Michael finally pushed me over the edge to do something about it I wasn’t sure if I could actually stick to it. I picked up the Couch-2-5K program and hit the treadmill for my very first workout. It’s a simple alternating run/walk system that slowly, over weeks, built up running stamina until you could run 3 miles straight.

I’m not going to lie. That first week was brutal. So much so that I repeated week 1 a second time before moving on. It didn’t help that I still had a lot of weight to lose, as carrying around more than you need is never a good idea. I believe it was somewhere in week 6 or 7 when everything changed.

By this point I had moved to doing my runs mostly outdoors, with more spring like temperatures. I headed out on a run which was supposed to include my longest segments of uninterrupted running I had done yet. I did the warm up intervals and then looked at my watch before starting the continuous running segment. At the time I was still using headphones when I ran and there was music going on in the background. I remember zoning out while listening to a couple songs and before I realized it I had gone way beyond what I was targeting. I got done with the whole workout and was in shock. I had just run longer than I ever had before. That was the moment that sealed the deal. I was a runner. I could do this.

29048_427624055361_4550976_n.jpgAfter that point, working up to a 5K distance wasn’t hard. I did my first 5K in May of 2010, and my first half marathon that fall. Running simply became a part of my life. Throughout those early years I did a lot of races in the half marathon range, and attempted one full marathon (that I hated). I got into a groove of doing a few repeat races each year, and was building up my collection of race medals and t-shirts. But running did more for me than just stuff my closets, it also gave me a connection to others via which my life was forever changed.

In 2012 I was still playing the online dating game, and when my (future) wife Lisa and I connected, one of the key things we bonded over was running. We had both come to running later in life and had transformed our lives in a positive way through running, weight loss, and fitness. Even though we ran different paces, we still enjoyed sharing our love of being runners and supporting each other.

A couple of years later we were both still running on roads, but we had started to become aware of trail running. My friend John had started dipping his toes into the trail and ultra world, and Lisa had been following the sport for a while. In the end of 2014 she encouraged me to join her for a small trail run at a farm an hour away. Trail running has an ethos of beer and beards, and so I immediately fit right in.

IMG_3157.JPGOnce I had completed that race I joined up with a local trail running group at Elm Creek, and January 31st, 2015 started the next big change in my running life. I immediately fell into the sport and signed up for trail races beginning in April. However, I was also learning the ethos of the sport, and how you give back to the community, not just take. My first Zumbro experience involved volunteering the first day at the aid station in the woods before running the 17 mile the next day.

31880916_1004097819714989_4681658212569579520_n.jpgFrom there, things just progressed bigger and bigger. Since then I’ve run a multiple 50K’s, a 50 miler, a 100K, and a 100 mile trail race. It took me 5 years to work up to 100 miles on trails, but because of that it went amazingly. I’ve also become a part of the community, joining the board of directors for the Upper Midwest Trail Runners association, for which I’m just starting my final 3 year term of service.

My wife and I have also started a small company to put on events, and in a week we’ll have hosted our second edition of the St Croix 40 Winter Ultra. We’re also excited about putting on even more events in the coming years, and spend a lot of time thinking and planning about what we could do next.

IMG_3228.jpgApart from events our running has also given us an opportunity to explore places all over the country. Every time we vacation, running is a part of it. I’ve run along the ocean in Seattle, through the desert in Vegas, and countless trails throughout the Midwest. I’ve had some incredible experiences getting lost in the middle of nowhere.

As I look forward to the next decade of running, I’m asking myself what’s next? I’ve picked up biking as a complementary sport, and I’m finding that trail running has been a great gateway to creating adventures outside. I’m not planning on giving up running, but I think I’ll be seeking a bit more balance in my fitness. I’m also considering adding in some run-commuting, as I’m keenly interested using many different modes to reduce my carbon footprint.

I’ll be starting out my first year of my new decade of running with a bit lighter race schedule. I’m signed up for a lottery for a short 12.5K race (because I want to see the area), and will also be doing a trail marathon, along with my traditional Surf the Murph loop. I’ll plan one other big race for the year, but then try and focus on expanding my versatility. I’ve decided that I don’t want to give up on sled pulling in winter ultras quite yet.

IMG_0495.JPGAs I look back, it’s crazy to think that it’s only been 10 years since I started this because it feels like this has been my life since I can remember. I’m hugely grateful to the folks who gave me encouragement when I first started out, and along the journey. Never doubt the power of influence, but more importantly, never doubt yourself and your capabilities. I was the poster child for “someone who doesn’t run”. Yet here I am.

Here’s a snapshot of the last 10 years:

Recorded activity count: 1,571
Total dist: 8,903 mi
Total elev: 317,396 ft
Total time: 1812:27:06
Total calories burned: 1,297,274

I couldn’t be more happy with where I’ve been, where I’m at, or where I’m going.

It’s just one foot in front of the other.