Recovering from walking the walk

I was reminded this weekend that I had yet to post about what it was like after the walk. That was actually a tough thing all in itself, in a way that I totally hadn’t expected. As I mentioned on my last post on this subject, when we finished the marathon, we were both fairly lame – hobbling (or at least moving very slowly) back up the street to get to our car. Since my left leg was the one that was pretty tweaked, I was able to drive home. I even had the energy to do the 35 minute drive (yet another thing I hadn’t really thought about beforehand). The first problem occurred when we got home.

That day, the weather was really just perfect. It started out in the mid-to-upper 40’s (F) when we got walking, and it was in the upper 60’s by the time we finished. Since it had been fairly warm for weeks, we hadn’t bothered to turn on the heat. Why would we? Well, when you get home from a marathon, and your house has been sitting unheated, in a state of relative coolth, that can pose a problem. We walked in the house and we were both freezing cold. We turned on the heat and immediately put on an extra layer each, walking around the house in an attempt to warm up.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and just decided to take a shower. DH had done some flipping around on-line when we got home and learned a few key things. First off, apparently you should have someone who DIDN’T do the marathon around you for at least the first 12 hours following a marathon, to observe and assist, and to make sure that you don’t do anything stupid. It seems that marathons mess with your systems enough that you may have reduced capacity to make good decisions. Oh goody.

Second, you should only take a lukewarm shower afterward, because a hot shower can trigger more lactic acid production and cause even more problems for you. This really didn’t make me happy, because the only shower that I like is the shower that you consider a few degrees below scalding. I just can’t take cold or lukewarm showers.

So, I went into our room and started to undress to get ready for the shower. This is where things went awry. All of a sudden, I realized JUST HOW cold I was. (Hint: really f***ing cold.) I took the lukewarm shower, as instructed, my teeth chattering like one of those cheesy little toys the entire time. I was miserable, and I hadn’t felt this awful about a shower since the time I took a cold shower when dd was a baby and our (now prior) water heater was incapable of supplying any more hot water that morning. I got out of the shower, dripping wet and completely incapable of doing much about it – I was so cold I was shaking, and I could tell that my blood sugar was dropping like a stone.

Now’s as good a time as any to mention that I’m mildly hypoglycemic. I learned this when I was in college and I discovered the down side of not eating breakfast before getting up early to work the breakfast shift at the campus student union. (Nurse at Student Health Center: “Please drink some OJ.” Me: “No, thanks.” Nurse: “Your blood sugar is 40. Please drink some OJ.” Me: “What does that mean?” Nurse: “You should be unconscious right about now.” Me: “Oh. Sure, can I please have some OJ?”)

I realized my blood sugar was dropping badly and that my ability to communicate that was lowering almost as rapidly. I got dressed in a couple of layers, including fleece pajamas. DH came in to check on me and I kept telling him how cold I was. He thought I felt warm to him, so he went looking for a thermometer. The practically new-in-packaging thermometer registered something in the 104.8F range (wholly unbelievable). He was pretty sure he was low, so he took his own temperature, and he registered something like 102.8F. In both cases, we thought the numbers quite unlikely (I’ve had fevers up to 105.6F, so I know what they feel like, and this WAS NOT it), so we decided to ignore the thermometer and just get something to eat.

I limped my way out to our den. DH had offered to make me a snack, so I asked for a pizza (we always have small Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine ones lying around); it’s one of the foods that routinely stabilizes my blood sugar. Trouble was, there wasn’t enough time to wait for the pizza. So, I had DH bring me some apple juice to kickstart my blood sugar, and then I had a couple of small pieces of the pizza. A little more juice and some Smartfood popcorn, and I was feeling more human. That’s all good, considering DH isn’t used to seeing my blood sugar dip too much, and he was ready to call for the ambulance. In truth, he could have called the ambulance, and all they would’ve done was push sugar; there wasn’t anything else to do. Drinking the apple juice was the best way to handle that in a DIY fashion, and I really didn’t want to have to go to the ER. Of course, you could chalk that up to “reduced capacity due to marathon”, but hypoglycemics and diabetics who are used to keeping on an even keel learn how to manage their body and listen to it when it tells you something. If I thought that the hospital was required, even in that level of haze I would’ve said so. Had I been unable to speak, it would’ve been a moot point.

DH recovered more easily than I did, mostly by virtue of his having been a runner for so long and being in better physical shape. Still, we were both achy and twingy for a few days. His aches were gone sooner; by about 4 days post-marathon, I was back to normal. Much of the recovery process involved trying to rehydrate and keep ibuprofen in my system nearly continuously. Once DH did the lookup on his food-tracker app, we realized that we probably burned something like 1200-1300 calories walking the marathon – which explains why my blood sugar went haywire after I’d eaten something like 2 peanut butter sandwiches, 2 pieces of larabar, some peanut butter crackers, a granola bar, and two bananas (plus some Gatorade and water). That’s really not a lot, when you think about it.

All in all, I think it was a decent enough recovery, but parts of it were concerning. Obviously, we didn’t think through the after-period nearly as well as we should have – but we managed to muddle through it. Next time, I’d do more to stabilize my sugars post-race (although I’d still avoid the clam chowder that someone rather insanely thought would be fun to give away at the finish line…ugh). I think the big lesson learned here is that you can’t plan enough for something like this. You can get yourself psyched up, geared up, and trained for a marathon. You can even walk a marathon. But, once you’ve done all of that, your body needs to recover, and the recovery is something you can’t really skimp on except at your own peril. Lesson learned. Next time, we’ll be better prepared.

For, you see, even as I thought about it days afterwards, I’m starting to solidify in my mind that the odds are there will be a next time. Perhaps even next year. It may be brave and crazy, but next time, it’ll also be better planned.

2 thoughts on “Recovering from walking the walk

  1. Reading this brought me back to recovering from my own 26.2. My brother had finished his run a good hour before me and he was waiting for me at the finish line. He handed me food, brought the car around and took control so that I didn’t have to think (since as you mentioned, processing thoughts is hard!). I’m hypoglycemic as well, so after a quick shower, the whole family went straight to eat a huge lunch. And then – get this – we had to drive back to Tallahassee that afternoon (a 4 hour drive) and then I had to teach a class at 8am the next morning! I didn’t think that through very well, did I?

  2. Pingback: Trying to do two marathons at once « CrunchyMetroMom

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