It was windy and cold and I had to pee. Lake Washington was beautiful and the choppy waves broke into the retaining wall, spraying me with cold lake water. It wasn't helping my bladder. I was on my first "long run" in a long time; a 6-miler. I didn't feel great but I wanted to be out there anyway. It was better than feeling crappy at home. After all the stress and sickness of the summer and early fall, I was finally settled and ready to get back to running. I was training for a 5k. I felt hopeful.
I rounded the corner and saw the rowing complex, which I hoped would have bathrooms. Seattle has bathrooms everywhere! I had been trying to talk myself out of the urge to pee for a few miles because I'd peed like six times before leaving the house. After running around the buildings a few times, I located the bathroom, stopped my watch, ran in and barely got my pants off in time. And then I looked down at my feet and everything was spinning. Goddamnit.
In 2006 I spent a week at UW Medical Center with dizziness and severe vertigo that required heavy duty meds to keep me from vomiting every 30 seconds. I try not to, but I pretty much live in fear of returning to that state. Even driving by UW fucks me up.
I wiped, stood up, and thought for a second. I could walk home and get into a hot shower, but then I'd probably just be in a hot shower with the dizzies. I could sit down and rest and hope the dizzies went away. Or I could just keep running. I walked outside into the wind and the spitting rain.
The race started in 50 minutes. I was wearing shorts and a tank so I was hanging out in the car to keep warm. I cycled between twitter, instagram, email, and feedly. I had brought a book to read but it was hard to concentrate, and the phone suited my short attention span better. The minutes ticked by slowly. At t minus 44 minutes, I got out and started warming up.
In the car on the way to the race, I'd had a talk with myself. I talk to myself in the car a lot. "What if today was the day you decided not to hold back? If you didn't start slow, building up to a pace that you thought you could hold for three miles, but just went for it from the gun? What if today is the last race you ever get to run? Wouldn't you want to go for it?" I decided that yeah, I did want to go for it.
I did a couple of miles easy and a couple of strides, and got back in the car. It was too early and I didn't want to get cold. Thinking I was really going to go for it was making me nervous. Being in the car was making it worse. I got out and walked toward the start line. The chute was already packed. I did what I always do and lined up honestly, but (I say this all the time) this was the last time I'd ever do that. No one lines up honestly. I stood halfway between the 7:00-8:00 and 8:00-9:00 signs, figuring I'd run about 8:00 or so. My Garmin found a signal and I waited about 10 more minutes, shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of mustachioed ladies. And then we were off.
The first half mile was all dodging and passing and getting stuck behind groups of walkers who lined up in the wrong place. I turned on my iPod and wondered how many days 10,000 hours was. I felt good. The crowd thinned out and pretty soon mile one was done and I was running by the lake again. It wasn't windy.
Mile two felt great. I passed a few guys. I love passing guys! This was getting fun. I didn't have my usual mile two slump, but as soon as we hit mile three, I hit an imperceptible incline and felt myself slow down, just a little bit. A few people passed me. I saw the runners far ahead of me dipping down a hill and out of sight, and it seemed so far away. Stay in it! I ran by a soccer game, some dogs, a playground, a stroller. Breathe. Breathe. It's almost over. I tried to skip a slow song but my hands didn't work right and I just fumbled dumbly at the iPod that was clipped to my shorts. Hopefully no one saw that, I bet it looked weird. The finish line seemed so far away, and then all of a sudden it was so close and I wished I had more time.
After the finish I folded in half and rested my hands on my knees, trying to stay out of the way of the runners coming in. Breathe. I always forget to stop my watch, but when I looked down after a few seconds I saw that I'd run a PR, and finally met my goal of besting my PR from college cross country. Although a flat 5k on the road doesn't compare to the xc courses I ran in 1997, it still felt amazing to beat my 22-year-old self. Shit, I'm 38 with a brain disease and I haven't been running too much. This is pretty good. I bet I can run sub-24. I'm over the moon.
I celebrated with pretzels, red vines, and the wrong end of a banana. I met some more of my teammates, such lovely, amazing women. When I got cold, I walked back to the car and drove home. I drove by Husky stadium and tried not to look across the street at the hospital, at the window I spent a week behind. Back in the safety of South Seattle, I stopped at the bakery and smiled for days at Sean who was working the register. I felt so lucky, so strong, so healthy.
That day I got dizzy in the bathroom, I wanted to crawl into bed. Instead I braced myself against the howling wind, swallowed hard, and awkwardly jogged away from home, towards the I-90 bridge. My eyes bounced around like they aren't supposed to. I took long slow breaths. It was a good choice. It's three weeks later, and I am not dizzy.
Today I ran 10 miles. Around mile 7 I wondered if I could have run faster yesterday. Yeah, maybe a tiny bit, but I am super proud of myself anyway. And 23:xx is so close. I think I am in love with the 5k.