I spent most of the morning … okay, who am I kidding? I spent the entire morning in bed watching Once Upon A Time in Hollywood with my husband. And then we watched a bunch of random YouTube videos. The kids were happily in the basement eating Eggos and watching a Marvel movie.
You see I usually work Saturdays at my other job. But I had the day off today. And boy did I need it. I haven’t really had a vacation since, well, March. We did go to a cottage in July but I was still checking labs and having to be in touch with the office. None of my colleagues wanted to cover for me and frankly, I didn’t want to cover for them. We are all exhausted.
Burnt out in fact.
I don’t feel like I have much more to give anyone right now. My patients take up so much of my daily energy that I don’t feel like I have a lot left for anyone else. Not myself. Not my kids nor my husband. I know this feeling well. It sneaks up on me every 3-4 months in a good year but during a pandemic?
Everyone I talk to, and I mean everyone is feeling pandemic fatigue. Either they are working from home with their kids in online school; or they are caring for elderly parents while working from home; or they are laid off and trying to find money for their medications; or they are lonely and their depression is worsening.
So this morning I didn’t talk to anyone. I lay in bed and watched a movie while sipping coffee.
I started running back in 2012. It was really out of necessity. I was two kids in and could not run after them at the park when they took off on me. It was pathetic. It was also the cheapest thing I could do to get in shape and didn’t take a lot of time out of my already busy day.
Fast forward 8 years. I’ve run three half marathons, a handful of 10ks and many 5ks. And then the pandemic hit and I stopped running. (Okay, so I shouldn’t really blame the pandemic – several other things happened like a major depressive episode, my dad moving into a retirement home and a busy life with three kids). But suffice it to say, I got lazy. And soft.
One afternoon while sitting on my front lawn with my neighbors for a “physically distanced drink” my girlfriend texted me about having to walk her London marathon virtually and asked me to join her for a portion of it. I was a glass or three in when I wrote “I’ll do it all with you!”
So I started going for more walks to train. I started walking 10 km once a week to work and it felt good. About once a week I force myself out for a run, which is really mostly walking with some running. Every October where I live there is a big race and this year it went virtual, of course. The race organizers offered a deal where you can sign up for all four distances (5 km, 10 km, 21.1 km and 42.2 km) with the stipulation that you have to complete them during the month of October. Participants can run or walk the distances.
So, I signed up for all four races. I mean, it’s just walking, right? Can’t be that hard, and I figured I would run a little too. It was the motivation I needed to get my ass off the couch and exercise
The 5 km and 10 km races were easy. Not my best times to be sure, but that was to be expected given how lazy I’ve been all year.
I set out for the half marathon two weekends ago. By 12 km I started flirting with the idea of just doing the marathon. It had been weighing on my mind a lot. I was rightly scared of the distance and as I imagined finishing the half marathon I realized that I might not want to start over again another day to do the full. So after some back and forth texting with my husband who was at home with our 3 kids, I decided to seriously consider doing the marathon.
And I did!!!
The second half was grueling. My brother and his wife met me around 30 km and walked 4 km with me. The distraction was exactly what I needed because by then my hips started to hurt, the blisters on my heels were burning and I was feeling defeated. At 40 km I started texting my husband to meet me. I tried running a little because that didn’t hurt nearly as much as walking did.
And then I looked at my watch and saw it.
I became a marathoner.
And I’m pretty sure I will do it again. But maybe in a year.
Pandemic fatigue has set in as I’m sure it has for all of my medical colleagues. Telephone medicine is getting harder. Patients are worried, fed up and demanding more and more with every phone call. Everyone is stressed out and there seems to be no end in sight.
We are well into the second wave now where I live. Only this time is seems very different. Back in March the government declared a state of emergency, everything shut down to “flatten the curve” yet many of our elderly in long term care died, some in horrible conditions. The kids were pulled out of school so they didn’t get sick and spread it to their parents and we all hunkered down and tried to adapt.
There were conflicting messages about wearing masks. Don’t wear a mask it won’t protect you. Oh no, actually yes, wear a mask. Keep a physical distance of 6 feet if you can’t wear a mask. Don’t have people in your home who aren’t in your bubble. Now it’s okay to increase your bubble. Now it’s not.
It’s no wonder people are confused and tired of this. Did the initial lockdown actually prevent widespread death and illness or did it just delay it? Should we just go about our business as usual and see how it plays out? I wish I knew.
My province has now shut down all indoor dining and gyms for 28 days. To what end I wonder? What happens when they open again? This virus is not going to disappear. It won’t burn out. It will lie in wait to spread again when restrictions ease.
Our kids need to stay in school. People need to work. Hospitals need to keep operating rooms open. The backlog of elective surgeries from the initial lockdown is rumored to take years to get through. We can’t afford another large scale lockdown.
On the other hand, if we do nothing to curb the spread and our hospital ERs start overflowing with sick patients and ICU beds aren’t available – what then? Who decides who lives and who dies?
About a month ago we saw a good friend and his son for a socially distanced meet-up at the local park. Our friend brought some tennis rackets and we hit the ball against a handball wall.
I loved it.
Hubby has always liked playing tennis. I liked watching it. Never thought much about actually playing it. But after this one particular morning, I found it exhilarating. I insisted we go out to get some rackets. (Really any excuse not to run in this heat.)
Now, trying to find free courts to play on in the city is a little tough. Mind you, we were pretty lazy about making any effort to actually find one, that is, until my child’s camp counselor noticed our rackets and gave us an amazing tip.
The local high school has tennis courts. Open courts. Free courts. No one uses them kind of courts.
We adopted kittens on the weekend. They are sisters, 3 months old and completely adorable. George Carlin said that when you walk out of pet store with a dog or a cat that you are purchasing a small tragedy. Having gone through the deaths of 3 cats in my lifetime, I know he’s right.
Yet here we are again.
These little creatures have brought a joy to my life that I didn’t know was missing.
This weekend I ran my 3rd half marathon race. Grossly undertrained, I might add. My longest run had been 17k a few weeks prior and I would be lucky if I got one training run in during the week. I considered switching my bib to the 10k but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Finished another half just sounds better, right?!
I had no time goal other than to finish but if I’m honest with myself I knew I wanted to finish under 3 hours and certainly under 2:50. By some miracle or more likely sheer force of stubborn will, I crossed the finish line in 2:46:58. A minute slower than my previous effort last October and almost 10 minutes slower than my debut race in 2015.
About 10km into the race the outer aspect of my left knee started talking to me.
ITB. I haven’t experience ITB pain in several years. Uh oh. Not a good sign. A sign of undertraining in my opinion and poor post run stretch and foam roller etiquette.
But really, should I have expected anything different?
Oh and I probably needed new running shoes 6 months ago.
Now, on a training run I would pause my Garmin and stretch out my hip flexors but there was no way I was stopping on course. I knew that if I stopped moving to stretch I may not get started again. So, I just took extra walk breaks after 15 km or so. Before that I was sticking pretty well to my 1 km run and 100 meter walk intervals. After 15 km it was more like run 400 m, walk 200 m and repeat.
Looking around me, though, I saw other runners struggling too. I asked if they were okay. One runner had his hamstring seize up. For another it was her ankle. Others were just walking. Eventually I found the power walker I had been chasing unconsciously for most of the race and passed her. Yes! Not gonna lie. That was pretty awesome. All told when I crossed the finish line and before they gave me my medal, I burst into emotional, cathartic tears.
Recently I’ve had several new followers and I feel compelled to start writing again to earn that follow-ship. Yes, I clearly just made up that word.
I have no excuse for not writing other than the fact that I work two jobs, have 3 kids and elderly parents and am currently having the life sucked out of me by all of that. But really, I shouldn’t complain. My immediate circle – my kids and my husband – are healthy and generally pretty happy, I like to think. My daughter is thrilled to be making slime to share and trade with her friends. My almost-7 year old has learned how to ride his bike with no training wheels and has started swimming lessons. And the 4.5 year old is just … well, he’s happy tumbling around and being himself.
I, however, am overwhelmed. 950 patients in my family practice, a second job at a private health care clinic which is more demanding that I thought it would be, and an elderly declining father who has be move into a retirement facility because he is “too healthy” for a government long-term-care facility but not safe enough to continue to stay at home. The decision to move him comes right before his 83rd birthday and 50th (FIFTY YEARS!) wedding anniversary. It is not how I thought we’d be celebrating.
And to top it all off, I feel like I am not present for my kids enough and when I am I am often tired, frustrated and giving them shit for being kids.
It’s that time of year for resolutions, those things you decide you want to change or improve about yourself over the coming year.
1. Run more and farther.
I ran a good amount in 2017, about 750 km (give or take) over the year. I had a few minor over-use injuries which isn’t new to me. I ran a half marathon and had a 10km PB (personal best) race. I joined a running team (more about that in a future post) and met a lot of extraordinary people, many of whom are survivors in one way or another and who run to stay mentally strong. They are an incredibly inclusive group of people from all walks of life who all love to run. I feel lucky to have found them.
2. Yell less at my kids.
Being a parent is hard. Being a parent who doesn’t raise her voice is exhausting. I found myself in a cycle of yelling and saw its impact on my kids, my eldest in particular. Over the past 6 weeks both my husband and I have made a huge effort to lower our voices and I know with myself in particular, not yelling is hard to do. After asking my child to do something 3 times and not having it done, the only recourse I had, it seemed, was to raise my voice. It got their attention, but in a negative way. When I started hearing how they related to each other I realized they were emulating my behavior. We sat down with all the kids one day and acknowledged the tension in the house and told them that their mommy and daddy were going to do better. We asked them for help and it seems to be working. Oh, I still find myself yelling – I’m not a saint – but it is less than it was before. I’m a work in progress.