Tag Archives: support

Smiles for Miles: The Time I Ran a Marathon

Approximately 18 weeks and 500 or so miles ago, I lost my shit.

Lost it.

I was at an all time low. Drowning in grief and self-pity, slipping further and further away from my family, my friends, my self and into a deep dark place that I didn’t honestly want to leave. Not really. It was easier to cry myself to sleep and keep my eyes closed. To sleepwalk when I had to and disengage at every possible opportunity.

It’s better to lose your shit, though. Better than depression. Because losing it means action… and even crazy action is better than complete apathy.

The crazy thing I did? I signed up for a marathon. Not a half-marathon. The whole shebang — 26.2 miles. In Washington, DC. On March 12th. I didn’t even pay the couple extra bucks to make it refundable. I was all in.

I ran 5 times a week for 18 weeks. Mostly outside. Mostly in Wisconsin. Almost entirely in the winter. There were some amazing days and some awful days. Some big blisters and some seriously raw patches of skin. I listened to many books on tape and consumed an inordinate number of Gu gels. I cried, I felt my lips turn blue and then watched them become pink again, I learned that cotton can be both lovely and the fabric of Satan.

Training montage. (Not picture: blisters, chafing.)
Training montage. (Not picture: blisters, chafing.)

Running became my sole focus. The marathon was what I lived for. And in doing so, I looked forward. I moved forward, physically. And because of that, I couldn’t stay stuck in that hole, in that dark place. It became impossible.


I don’t even know where to begin talking about the actual marathon. I had five and a half hours to think real hard about it and I’m pretty sure that during that time I had about five and a half million blog-worthy thoughts… but they must have been expelled with all the vomiting or something (it was intense) and now I’m left with all the feelings and none of the words.

The running was of course a huge and important part of it — I trained for the marathon and I finished it — but it was, for me, about a lot more than just the miles and the motion. My heart was in that race and along the course. My heart was almost literally on my sleeve, perhaps rather on my arm. And it was my heart that got me through it. It was what happened to my heart that made it all worth it.

My arm, my dedications by mile, the morning of.
The people I ran with, mile by mile.

I wrote the names of friends and family, people who inspire me and fill my heart to bursting with love, all down my arm. A dedication for every mile. But not really a dedication, exactly. I didn’t run for those people… rather, I ran with those people. For a mile at a time, my thoughts were completely focused. Completely positive.

And then, over and over and over again, I’d see a bright blue shirt, a blonde buzz cut, and I’d suddenly know it was my husband on the course. And my dear friend Jess. And I couldn’t help but beam.

Mile 14

Then a blur of green on two wheels, a crazy beard, and my friend Rob was there on his bike — sherpa-ing, willing me on, mile after mile. (And oh my goodness, he saved me in those last 5 or so miles.)

Mile 25

And then at the end. I’m starting to cry now even thinking about it. I heard my name, I saw the smiles, the cheers. My friends, my beautiful, beautiful friends were there waiting for me, five and a half hours after the start — Seth and Jess and Ellen and Rob and Erika and Stephen. Bright pink shirts that screamed that I rock… And I smiled and smiled and smiled. Have I ever in my life felt that loved? That supported? I’m honestly not sure that I have.

Marathon Photo

Not because I haven’t been that loved and supported in my life. I know that I have. I come from loving stock, there’s no denying that. But I think maybe it took a marathon to really believe it. To believe that I could be worth it, to recognize that all those names scrawled down my arm (and so many others) had always been there for me in exactly this way, on other courses, at other times, through other struggles and to celebrate different victories.


Why did it take a marathon? Why wasn’t the miscarriage enough? Grad school? Depression? Anything else? I’ve been supported in a way that no one could possibly deserve through all of that. So why not that?

I don’t know. But it was the marathon that did it.


Conveniently, I had a therapy appointment the Thursday after I returned from DC. In the hall, before we even got to his office, Dr. C’s first question was: soooo… how was the marathon?

I sat down and told him that it was the most amazing experience. That I’d never in my life felt so loved and supported.

He told me that was a totally weird answer and asked about my legs.


I guess it never really was about my legs.

It was definitely physical in that it was about proving to myself that with respect to my body, despite infertility and miscarriage and faulty brain chemistry, I can still be in control. But more than that… It was about finding my lost shit. About letting my heart feel something really effing amazing. For that, I get a medal.


And to everybody else, my eternal gratitude, appreciation, love, respect, and adoration. I hope you get a chance to feel what I felt, smile like I smiled — marathon or otherwise. Let me know how I can help!

Thanks be to the benevolent witness.

I’m currently listening to The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s so excellent. A million and one times better than stupid The Girl on the Train, which was in no way redeemed even after ignoring the whole “pathetic, fat Rachel” (in a British accent, even! Ray-chul…) thing that set me off initially (I finished it this morning). I knew Sue Monk Kidd wouldn’t let me down though. Not after the beautiful Bees and Mermaids. In fact, early on, I fell completely in love with this line:

“There’s no pain on earth that doesn’t crave a benevolent witness.”

And it’s so appropriate right now that I can barely find the words.

Except words are my thing, so I’ll manage something…


Infertility is a super painful and super personal thing. There’s not a lot I can do about it and certainly nothing that you can do for me. So why talk about it? Why share my story? Why have the conversation at all?

Lots of people have said that it’s because I’m brave and strong (which makes me feel embarrassed and super impostery). That they’re thinking of me and praying for me, sending me positive brain waves and maybe even some pixie dust or something (which makes me feel so unworthy). So many really, really nice things. Really genuine, kind, heart-felt, loving things.

It was all so nice that for a second I let it get dark… because sometimes nice makes me go there. And nice laced with hormones? Yeah…

I’m not brave or strong. I’m just honest. And wordy. And maybe people think I’m only saying it so that they’ll think I am, in fact, brave or strong. But that’s not true. I’m really, really not.

And maybe I’m soaking up too much nice, too much love, too many prayers and positive thoughts, getting high on all the pixie dust. All those things that could be better spent on someone else who really is suffering.

Maybe no one really wants to hear any of it at all and the comments and likes and texts and emails and phone calls and little IG hearts are all just gratuitous — a way of saying FINE. Talk about it enough and we’ll acknowledge you, but only because we feel like we have to. I imagine myself up on my tippy toes, fists balled up at my chest, eyes squeezed shut, screaming “acknowledge meeeeeeeeeee!”

Maybe my mom and dad resent the time, the plane tickets, the boring week of nothing but travel to and from the top of the middle to the bottom of the middle of Wisconsin, over and over again. Nothing but work and tv and movies and whining and injections in between. All without any guarantee of actual, living, breathing, human grandchildren in the end. And they’ve got some of those already. Really cute ones… wouldn’t their time be better spent with them???

God, I’m so annoying. So self-indulgent. Self-pitying. Self, self, self-ish.


But then Sue Monk Kidd said it — said what it really was. Infertility is painful. So painful. Emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically. And when I talked about it, out loud (on the internet), I was really asking for a benevolent witness.

And I got one. I got ten. And so many more. I got so very many benevolent witnesses. I got you. My goodness, I got so lucky.


It’s really hard not to be super emotional right now. Every word, every comment, every like, every text, email, phone call, whatever, has been unreal. So appreciated. All I wanted was a benevolent witness and I got so much more. Benevolence in the extreme. So when my friend Erika offered to wear ugly shoes if only it would help me to be a mom… and my grandma told me that it’s at times like these that she still misses her mom and was so glad my mom was here with me… and my cousin Beth(y) offered up her house for overnight stays in Madison along with best wishes and other nice words… and my in-laws made a special trip to and from Marshfield just to shuttle my mom back to the airport… and so many other big and little things (that all feel like big things to me) in the past couple of weeks… oh the tears. So many tears. Big fat tears of thankfulness and gratitude and what-on-earth-did-I-do-to-deserve-to-be-surrounded-by-so-much-kindness-ness.

I really wish I had brought my mascara with me this morning… could definitely have used a touch up before heading straight into the office.


So, by way of a long and emotional outpouring of gratitude for the insanely generous support you’ve given me, seriously, even just by reading… another quick update.

Today’s appointment at Generations confirmed that my eggy little ovaries are ready for the trigger shot. Seth’s currently setting up a Dexter-style kill room (11% off at Menard’s, perfect time to stock up on plastic sheeting) and at precisely 8:30 pm, we’ll do a big injection of HCG, which will set us up for egg retrieval exactly 36 hours later on Wednesday morning. The best part of it being trigger day: one more injection tonight (as opposed to three) and a completely injection-free day tomorrow. My super sore abdomen is already trembling with relief. (Actually, that’s probably just more fluid on it’s way… but we’ll call it relief for the moment.)

I’m definitely at a peak level of insanity — a state of nervous excitement under hormonal extremes that is entirely novel. (FYI: normal pre-menopausal estradiol levels range from 30 – 400 pg/ml… mine are currently upwards of 2000 pg/ml and on the exponentially upward part of the drug-induced curve, so…) I feel so excited by the possibility, by the fact that my response so far has been “textbook” (oh how I Hermione-ly loved hearing those words come out of Dr. Stanic’s mouth this morning), and that we really are just about to be with our maybe baby. I also feel terrified that it’s only maybe and that I have to have surgery on Wednesday and that there’s nothing I can do to make anything better, but then again, also relieved that there’s nothing I can do to make it worse.


I keep saying “we’re almost there,” but honestly, every step of the way has been a choice. A conscious decision to do this thing, despite all the different varieties of tough, because it’s something that we think will be worth it in the end. That our end is as a family of more than two humans, one puppy girl, and several semi-sentient plants that hate me just a little bit for not being watered quite as often as they ought to be. As such, we’re never really “almost there”… we’re just there. In the thick of it. Choice or not, though, it has been painful.

For this pain, my soul has craved a benevolent witness. I so appreciated those words, that sentiment, and that I have absolutely not been disappointed. Thanks. Seriously. Thank you.

Fat Girl Walking

Walking is super great exercise. I know that, I’d tell you that, and I’d be the first in line to give kudos to anyone who walks regularly. It’s great!

But I’m not a walker. I’m a runner. Granted, I’m a big girl, a clydesdale, Athena, whatever the term du jour, so I’m not a particularly amazing runner. I’m never going to win a race. I’m just happy to finish. But I always take pride in the fact that no matter how slow I go, I can run and run and run forever. (Not actually forever, but for a long time. Slowly.)

True, once upon a time, I used running as a means to punish myself — I binged and then purged via exercise. I ran to be thin. And then, once I was thin, I ran to be thinner. But that’s not why I run now. Now, I run because I like the way it makes me feel. I like to pound the pavement, to hoof it up big hills and fly down the other side, to feel the sun on my face or the wind at my back, to get the miles under my feet. Yes, I’m fat and I’m slow, but I run. I think that’s kind of awesome and it makes me proud.

Turns out, however, that when you’re in the midst of hormone-induced insanity a la IVF, you cannot run. It can cause ovarian torsion, which in addition to sounding horrifying, actually is an emergent medical situation and basically the last thing you want when you’re trying to get your ovaries to cooperate lots-of-eggs-style.

Yoga can do the same thing. And kick boxing. And basically any other rapid movement type exercise. Or heavy lifting, bending, twisting, etc.

So walking is pretty much it. Which is great, like I said, except… I’m having a hard time with that. Being a fat girl walking.

It was tempting for me to keep run run running (slowly) and then to make the change only when I had to, but recognizing that throwing additional changes on top of the uncertainty of a new (and intense) hormonal milieu was probably a bad idea, I decided to get on top of it… to start walking. To be a walker.

On May 30th, I participated in the 14th Annual Marshfield Dairyfest Cheese Chase. I completed my 5 miles, totally rocked the dang thing (in my slow, but steady way) and called it good. Good until all the IVF mumbo jumbo is over and we either have a baby or we don’t.

cheese chase

And now is the time — baby or not time. As I mentioned. Still scary. Still sad. Waaaay harder than I thought it would be. But also easier.

Sort of like running. A lot like walking.

Either way, you put one foot in front of the other. Either way, you’re moving forward. It’s hard to run, physically, but it feels so good emotionally. It’s hard to walk, emotionally, but it’s pretty dang easy, physically.

IVF is hard both emotionally and physically.

I keep crying.

My face is breaking out. Like crazy, pizza face breaking out.

My tummy is so crazy tender.

File that under things you can't un-see. Sorry. I'm a pin cushion.
File that under things you can’t un-see. Sorry. I’m a pin cushion.

I’m bloated to the nth degree.

And it’s all only supposed to get worse. For a while.


Amongst it all, I’m a fat girl walking.

Fat Girl Walking
Fat Girl Walking


Hard as it all is (see above), there’s some things that make it ok too. Mostly it’s YOU guys. You’re freaking amazing. The support, the love, the encouragement and best wishes. Dang.


My mom’s coming tomorrow to hang with me as I drive to and from Madison over and over again until surgery.


Seth is sending me lots and lots of pics of my baby girl:

baby girl


And the Lemas got me everything I needed for a relaxing daily massage in the comfort of my own living room!


Daily, in theory, except I worked up a little bruise on my right shoulder trying to get a knot out. He he. This thing is soooo nice.


But even better, was the note that came with it:

fat girl getting a massage

Fat Girl Walking.


With this much support… I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

I get by with a little help from my friends.

What would you do if I sang out of tune?  Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Lend me your ear and I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key.

Good song, better message:

I get by with a little help from my friends.

(Are you thinking of The Wonder Years right now?)

Because don’t we all get by with a little help from our friends?  That support system?  I posit that the answer is yes.

I tend to think of my life in terms of distinct phases, defined primarily by where I was in school… because until recently, I was always enrolled in one kind of school or another.  So the way I think of my life is a lot like the way we (you know, we, like me and all the real paleontologists) classify dinosaurs based on when they existed.

Everything through the end of high school was essentially precambrian… early, unformed, and frizzy.  I wasn’t really sure how to have curly hair yet and many pictures exist to remind me of that.  (Many… frizzy… photos…  Want to see one?  Too bad!  It’s far too awful and I’m not that secure.)

College was my jurassic period, and I think that’s fitting considering that hearing the word jurassic tends to conjure dinosaurs.  I learned a lot, but when I think back on it, I feel like a lot of the time I was more or less stomping through the jungle trying to learn how to open door handles.  (And if anyone points out that velociraptors actually lived during the cretaceous period, not the jurassic period, I’m going to tell you to get over it– it’s my metaphor and the visual of a stegosaurus trying to use a door knob is just absurd.)

Grad school was the start of my cretaceous period, mammals were just starting to evolve, but they were angry and confused… certainly not human yet.

Fast forward just a couple years to life as I know it now and it’s amazing how quickly this person has evolved.  Fully Homo sapiens at this point.  Good deal.

In each of those time periods, there was one constant– amazing friends.  Friends that were there for me in the toughest of times (remember, what feels like a tough time is relative to the toughness of the times you have experienced to date, so no judgement for what someone else considers “tough”).  Now that I’m living what I finally consider real life, I can truly appreciate how important the support of those friends was then and is now.

When I skipped a grade and life was kind of hard (because things feel tough when you’re 8!), Emily was such a constant.

Emily, the precambrian princess…

When I was dumped and heartbroken my freshman year of college, Aimee lived next door and held me up through all of that (and 17– that’s another time in your life when things feel really big).

Aimee, the jurassic giant…

When slogging through grad school took it’s ugly toll, Jess ran mile after mile after mile with me (and she didn’t even like running then! ha! now she’s about to run a marathon! hard core!) and talked me through the tough stuff.

Jess, the triassic talent…

In my current job, my co-workers are like that– more than just people I work with, but friends who offer support and encouragement on a daily basis.  (Also gems like this video of poo pourri… too awesome).

My coworkers, queens of the quaternary…

Now, every single time I need to get away, Melissa is waiting for me in a safe, supportive, and happy place (seriously, I can’t even tell you how many different cities we’ve had pedicures in).

Melissa, the angel of all ages…

And finally, the friends that I thought may be friends of the past, but have surfaced since I began this blog to add so much more to my life than I could ever have hoped.

Dawn, Lara, Nicole, Laura, and on and on, to you, dear reader, the not-as-extinct-as-I-thought coelacanths

For a long time, I’ve been ok with being an introvert, a person who needs some alone-time, some quiet-time, and who has trouble with new social situations.  But when I really think back on my life– starting with that precambrian period– I can see how insanely important a social network and meaningful friendships have been.  With few exceptions (the exceptions being those impressive homesteaders living “off the grid” that you see on tv… dang, good for them, but I’d be pretty darn lonely with nothing but trees for friends), none of us can go it alone.

And someone out there can’t do it without you or me.  Kind of a neat thought.  And I hope I can be… that I am… the friend for someone else that so many people have been to me.


(How’s that for dinosaur references?  Not all Jurassic Park this time– had to consult Wiki for this one!)