Code Steeple: why I’m taking a nursing hiatus

I have recently decided to put nursing on the back burner so I could 100% focus on running.  It was a really hard decision.  My nursing team is a second family.  When you are sweating out every pore with three other coworkers giving every ounce of strength and energy into saving a human life that is actively bleeding out in front of you, it creates a bond unlike any other.   Not only that, I love emergency nursing.  The adrenaline you get when a radio call comes in stating a code 3 (bad) is incomparable.  You are mixed with intense fear, butterflies and excitement and immediately get into your zone where ER nurses are at their best.  The days where the 20 year old comes in after a motorcycle accident and you spend hours giving it your absolute best but in the end stand over a lifeless body with blood covering you and tears streaming down your face while his mom and little brother are crying hysterically are the hard days.  The days you wonder why in the hell did I ever choose this career?  You hug your coworkers you call your family and tell them how much you love them.  You drink a glass of wine and in my case, you go for a run.  The feeling that courses through you when you hug a mom with her two young daughters saying her husband with the heart attack is going to be okay keeps you coming back every day.

Waiting for the helicopter to signal the okay to come get the patient.
Waiting for the helicopter to signal the okay to come get the patient.
You can only enjoy the view for a few seconds before you take cover to shield from the debris.
You can only enjoy the view for a few seconds before you take cover to shield from the debris.

I have been a nurse in a hospital for three years.  I started out my career on a progressive care floor which is essentially an Intensive Care step down unit and then transitioned to the emergency room which is where I really found my passion.  A usual work week includes three twelve hour shifts with always the opportunity to pick up extra throughout the week.  The hospital I work in is relatively small but is the main access hospital within 250 miles in our area so we have a high volume of patients we see daily.  I start my morning with the alarm going off at 4:40am so I am able to make the 30 minute commute and get to work on time at 6:00am.  We are assigned “zones” with nicknames such as front and back trauma zones, a side zone aka the “bat shit crazy” (this is where all the psych or altered patients get placed) zone, the back 40 zone, triage nurse or “the hole” and a fast track nurse aka the urgent care nurse.  When asked which zone everyone wants in the morning you NEVER have a preference because whichever zone you pick will be full of crazies and bizarreness.  You always avoid eye contact and intently study a hangnail until the charge nurse picks for you.  Once you are assigned you go find the night shift nurse to see what sort of day it is going to turn out to be.  If it is a full moon beware, there will be a couple of people in restraints because believe it people, the moon does weird shit to people’s psyches.

You get a nap in when you can :)
You get a nap in when you can :)
This guy loves nurses!!
This guy loves nurses!!

A typical day starts out fairly mild with the intensity increasing as the day progresses.  You go check on your heart failure patient, the skin infection, the cute little old lady (LOL) from the nursing home with a urinary tract infection.  You find out that your chest pain guy actually has dissecting aortic aneurysm (bad) and rush in there to place another IV and start drips to lower his blood pressure.  He is basically a ticking time bomb so you sprinkle some good ju ju over his bed and hope the transfer team gets there quick.  The registration clerk calls and states a pediatric burn patient just checked in.  My heart clenches, No one likes taking care of really sick little kids/babies.  They are resilient little buggers but they also break your heart.  I rush the 10 month old back and focus on tasks at hand.  She is screaming, good, crying is a good thing.  Airway open, IV established, fluids infusing, pain meds given, baby stabilized, on to the next patient.   Your day progresses into a series of quick assessments, tasks and reassessments.  Your next patient has a heart rate of 200, place an IV, give medications, heart rate back down to normal.  You meet so many people and hear so many stories every day.  If I see a patient in the store afterward chances are I will not remember them when they come up to me and start talking.  The hospital and especially emergency rooms are a memorable experience for people.  After all it is their emergency.  As a nurse you have to remember that and even if your patient next door is much sicker or they are annoying the hell out of you, this is their emergency.  Nurses laugh a lot.  We laugh at inappropriate moments and make jokes when situations seem impossible or get hard.  We are human after all and the only other alternative is to cry your eyes out and who would be able to survive that?

I love my coworkers, they are a second family.
I love my coworkers, they are a second family.
The sweetest ladies
The sweetest ladies

During a shift you get three fifteen minute breaks and one half hour lunch.  You slurp down as much water as you can, pee the pee you have been holding in the last 4 hours and sit down.  Ahhh the sitting down part feels so good.   In about 2 seconds your break is over and you are back at it.  This continues all day sprinkled in with a few code blues (bad) some you resuscitate and some you don’t, a few angry patients who yell and scream and threaten you,  and the families who are incredibly grateful and give you hugs when they leave.  6:00pm rolls around and you see angels (aka the night shift nurses) walking down the hall to relieve you.  The sky opens and the hallelujah song blares through the loud speakers.  You hand off report and step outside for the first time in 12.5 hours and breathe in the fresh air not mixed in with unwashed bodies or other human excrement.  Feels so good.  Why would anyone want to come back the next day?  Because as a nurse, I love caring for you, I love seeing you get better when I give you medications.  I love educating you on your disease, and I love holding your hand and hugging you through the bad times.  I will laugh with you, I will cry with you, I will probably roll my eyes at your dramatic presentation but I will do everything I can to help make you feel better.

I have received so much support from my coworkers.  Thank you all for all the amazing things you do.
I have received so much support from my coworkers. Thank you all for all the amazing things you do.

Now you get a little sense of what nursing is to me and what a day looks like, I will try and explain why I am placing nursing on the background for the time being to focus on running.  I run for Oiselle’s elite team called Haute Volée.  Oiselle has been such an amazing sponsor.  I first heard about them and joined their team in 2010 and have watched the company grow and meet the women behind the clothes and team.  They have given me an opportunity to continue to compete at a high level which has enabled me to keep bringing down my PRs (personal record times).  Many times throughout the years after tackling a brutal workout after a crazy shift or racing on tired legs after a five day work stretch, I have thought to myself “I wonder what it would be like just to run.”  I never took it farther than that though because for me, the time was not right.  I was not in a place financially or mentally to quit my job and focus on full time running.  This season I had set some lofty goals for myself and as I have continued to slowly tick them off one by one, I have realized if not now than when?  I am taking the jump into the unknown.  It is terrifying.  I have no idea what is coming next and for me and that is very unusual.  I am moving to Idaho to train full time with my coach.  There will be other runners to train with, closer to my family,  the trail system is wicked awesome.  Will I become insanely faster, qualify for the Olympic Trials, make world teams and even the Olympics?  A girl can dream, work hard and see what happens but no matter what the end result, I am doing this for me.  I am taking this chance, packing up my belongings and leaving behind the life I have become very comfortable with over the past several years, so I can try to do what Oiselle does so good: “go fast, take chances”.

Dream big
Dream big

Missoula 1/2 Recap, Relaxing and Running

I had the best of intentions to get this blog written and posted in a timely manner buuuut 2 weeks later and here goes.  I had planned on running this half back in January after I was contacted by the race director.  I had come off a big PR at USA half champs and was eager to run sub 1:15.  I had never been to Missoula, my coach was going to the race and there was a good field of competition.  The day I was leaving, I went for a morning shake out run along a trail by the ocean.  It was a beautiful morning and I was enjoying the misty view and not paying attention and BAM sprawled onto the ground I went.  Immediately my left knee started to swell but I wiped the blood away with some weeds and finished the run.  I was, per usual, running late so I had no time to elevate or ice before jumping into the car and driving 5 hours to San Francisco to catch my 2 hour flight to Montana.  Deplaning in Montana, I could barely walk; my knee was so swollen and painful.

I met up with my coach and came to the conclusion sub 1:15 was not the goal anymore but rather run a smart race and work on finishing the second half stronger than the first which is not my strong suit.

Knee day I fell
Knee day I fell
Knee day of race
Knee day of race

Because of my knee and hardly being able to bear weight on it the days leading up to the race, I felt very relaxed.  The worst part about racing is the days leading up to it.  It took the anxiety out of racing for a time.  I stress about what to eat/do/sleep, every little detail.  I get so relieved when the race actually gets here because I can finally relax and just run.  This race was completely different.  I traveled to Montana with my partner, her mom and two other friends.

“run like there’s a tiger on your tail”

I hobbled around the town enjoying touristy shops, ate great food, and elevated my knee every time I sat down.  The day before the race, we rented a stand up paddleboard and went exploring a pond in a national park.  It was the most relaxed I have ever been, enjoying the experience and grateful to be able to travel to these beautiful places to do what I love.

Paddle boarding

First time busting out the Rizzo
First time busting out the Rizzo

Pre race relaxin

Pre race relaxin

Race day arrived and I woke up feeling great.  I slept like a rock the night before, which almost never happens.  I met Heather, a Oiselle teammate, in the lobby of our hotel race day morning and we headed over to the starting line.  The actual start was a little confusing.  The announcer comes over the speaker and says “30 seconds until the start” immediately followed by a loud BOOM!  Some people took off, others looked around confused.  Another BOOM went off and for a moment I thought they were recalling the start.  Eventually I figured it out and took off.  My main goal the first 4 miles was to stay relaxed and not go out too fast.  The course started on a beautiful rural road with the sun rising through the trees, perfect temperature outside.  I enjoyed the views, read the funny signs along the course and even was able to appreciate the man dressed in a tux and top hat playing classical music on his grand piano in his front yard.  Normally, I would blast on by these things, completely in my zone, unaware of the “scenery” surroundings.  I felt great and picked it up after the first 4 miles as planned and was able to finish strong.  I came in second in a time of 1:17:27.  My knee was sore but I had a great time and was happy with the result.  Steph also ran her first ½ marathon and did great!  She is already talking about her next one.  I think she might be hooked!

These two are both hooked on the half!
These two are both hooked on the half!

 

Oiselle representing
Post race picture with Oiselle fastie Heather
Post race picture with Oiselle fastie Heather

I am now finishing up my two weeks of rest and am eager to get back out there and tackle more goals, keep enjoying the experience and see what this next year of racing has in store for me.

USA Half Marathon

The racing high from USA Half Marathon Championships is starting to recede and now is a good time to reflect on my race. Flash back to the end of fall when I realized the half marathon was in January this year and I knew I wanted to race it. I missed the deadline to sign up for last year’s half by one day! (rookie mistake) Flash forward to a week before the race and I knew I was ready to roll. I was rolling through workouts, nailing the times and felt confident. The best I have felt probably ever. I had one set back during the last workout I had scheduled. It was supposed to be 3×300 with a 3k in the middle followed by 3×300. I have just worked four 12 hour nursing shifts in a row and was feeling it. I felt heavy, tired and blah and was way off pace time. It was only 4 days until race day and I was nervous. I put the bad workout behind me, thought about all the good ones and hopped on the plane to sunny Houston,Texas. Yee Haw!

Official creds
Official creds

This was my first elite championship race and I was in awe of how organized and smooth it all ran. Stephanie came along as my support crew and they picked us up at the airport and shuttled us to the elite hotel. I tried to play it cool and not stare too hard when I realized Ryan and Sara Hall were in my shuttle group. We got an itinerary for the weekend which included free breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks anytime you want them. A bussed tour of the course on Saturday and a technical meeting to go over all the rules and pick up bib numbers. We were made to feel very welcome and it was great meeting new runners at the events. Saturday night the dinner opened at 6:30 which a huge line of runners getting in the last big meal before an early bed time. You could feel the nervous energy throughout and as usual, when a big gathering of runners occur, talks of splits, pacing, and fluid intake was a part of the never ending chatter. Afterward it was back to hotel room, ice bath, and a quick pep talk with my coach to make sure I knew the plan. Don’t go out too aggressive, drink fluids at 5, 10 and 15k, and race the second half. Bed time consisted of a lot of tossing and turning and little sleeping. Soon my 3:15am alarm was going off and I jumped out of bed already giddy with excitement for the day.

Stephanie decorated my water bottles to make sure I wouldn't miss them.  A good trauma always gets the adrenaline going for an ER nurse.
Stephanie decorated my water bottles to make sure I wouldn’t miss them. A good trauma always gets the adrenaline going for an ER nurse.

Pretty soon I was sitting on the bus ready to be taken to the start line. The weather was perfect. A little chilly with a slight breeze and the sun wasn’t set to come up until half way through the race. The warmup area consisted of 3 blocks to loop around in with enough porta cans for me to visit multiple times and not be stressed out about making it back in time. Our race was set to go off at 6:55, 5 minutes before the marathoners and rest of the halfers. I placed myself in the back of the crowd so I wouldn’t go out blazing and we were off! The front ladies separated themselves pretty quickly from the rest and I settled into a nice rhythm and found a group to run with. I am usually the one to get stuck in no man’s land so I was proud of the fact I had bodies around me. We were cruising along at a good pace, a little faster than I had discussed with my coach, but I felt strong and smooth so I stuck with it. The elite men marathoners passed us around mile 6 so smooth and effortless. They were a stinky group of men (phew!) but still inspiring all the same. We were going great until about mile 9 and then it started feeling really easy. The next mile proved why coming in around 5:50 pace which was 10 seconds slower then what we had been doing. The next group was way ahead and I knew would be difficult to catch on my own. I stayed with the group I was in, hoping we could rally and pick it up. Every mile got about 1 second slower and although I tried to push the pace a few times I kept settling back into the group. The last 2 miles were the roughest and even though the pace had dropped I knew I was still on PR pace. I crossed the finish, saw my time and was stoked! It was a 1:30 PR of 1:15:37 placing 26th overall and I felt great! I saw Caitlin Comfort, another Haute Volee runner, after the race and congratulated her studly performance. 3rd place with a blazing fast time! We went for a cool down together, although it was more of a shuffle because running had become rather painful.

Post race tired eyes.
Post race tired eyes.

I would definitely run this course again. It was fast, flat and spectator friendly with great temperatures. 20 women ran under the Olympic trial 2016 qualifying time for the marathon. Up next on the schedule is an indoor 5k at the University of Washington on February 14th. My goal is to finally break the cursed 17:00 minute barrier that has eluded me since my freshman year in college! Let’s start a trend #meganunder1700
Until next time!

Munich, Germany

Our vacation adventures have started with our first stop in Munich, Germany. When Steph and I initially planned our trip we didn’t even think about being in Munich at the heart of Oktoberfest but so glad we didn’t miss it! There were Lederhosen wearing happy drunk people by the thousands. It was a sight to see not to mention the good beer and German music.

So many people!
So many people!
The beer came in Liters!
The beer came in Liters!
popular German game where people pile up onto a spinning disc, the last one to stay on wins, very entertaining
popular German game where people pile up onto a spinning disc, the last one to stay on wins, very entertaining

There were so many great places to run. Munich was full huge parks, trails and active people everywhere!

long run along the Isar river
long run along the Isar river
There were no shortages of the Toi Tois
There were no shortages of the Toi Tois
beautiful parks to do all my runs through
beautiful parks to do all my runs through

The architecture was beautiful. So many cool buildings.

Marienplatz, beautiful buildings
Marienplatz, beautiful buildings

So much to do in Munich and so little time. I feel we are barely scratching the surface and can definitely see myself coming back here at a future time. Today on the agenda is The Nyphenburg castle and Olympic park. The place where Munich hosted the 1972 Olympics. More to come!!

RockNRoll philly 1/2 marathon recap

Ok world, I have decided to start blogging about my races, travel ect. My first attempt at this will be a recap of the Philadelphia rocknroll half marathon.

I work full time as an emergency room nurse in Eureka, California and was frantically trying to wrap up a busy day to catch my flight that was supposed to leave in a few hours. Eureka’s airport is tiny. The same people that check you in also land and board the plane so flights are limited and notoriously famous for being delayed because of the redwood curtain of permanent fog. I arrived at the airport right on time to find out my flight was delayed and I would miss my connecting flight. Oh joy. I spent half the night on the SFO seats trying not to think about all the previous people and their germs they left behind. I was set to leave the next morning at 8:00 am but alas, more delays! The united staff were not even sure if I would make to Philadelphia that day so I opted for a flight to Newark airport instead and then rented a car and drove to Philadelphia. I finally ended up in the great ol city of Philadelphia where I promptly fell asleep too exhausted to do anything else.

Airport sleeping, you work with what ya got.

Trying out different sleep positions
Trying out different sleep positions

The next day I went to the expo where I met some awesome oiselle members and picked up my swag. I was still exhausted from the previous two days and was asleep by 8:30 that night ready for a 4:00am wakeup. My stomach is very sensitive and I get especially paranoid about bathroom mishaps on race days so I make sure to eat four hours before go time. I read the phrase PGP (pregame poop) on a tweet by Kristen Metcalf, oiselle’s awesome team manager, and will use the brilliant phrase here. It was almost go time and I had not taken care of the PGP! My body was not cooperating and I have had to run into bushes during races plenty enough to be paranoid about this detail. More on this later.

Time to finally head out to starting line which no one would ever have trouble finding. Just follow the MASS of people resembling runners all walking in the same direction. I showed up at the elite tent and was immediately denied entrance. I spent 10 minutes trying to convince them to let me in but I apparently didn’t have this magic red bracelet that granted entry. No one mentioned a red bracelet the day before! Finally an official looking guy came over and granted me entry. I dropped off my bag and went for a warm up run with Ashley, another Oiselle teammate. Into the elite tent again to drop off warm ups where again they wouldn’t let me in. This was starting to get old. Finally they remember me and it’s off to the start.

Warming up with Ashley, so awesome to have a warm up buddy!
Warming up with Ashley, so awesome to have a warm up buddy!

I was under coaching instructions to relax the first five miles, don’t blaze forth like I usually do. There were some fasties in this race and it was hard in the beginning to relax and let people pass me as I settled into pace. Around mile 4 I found myself running next to two big guys and overheard them say they were pacing themselves out to run in the 1:16ish range. This would be a big PR for me but I felt great so I tucked in behind them and ended up running the rest of the race like this. I love finding pacers especially during long races like this. The entire race went smooth. I kept waiting for the inevitable stomach cramp I am so used to during races reminding me, you didn’t do your PGP but it never came! The last 3 miles were tough as usual in half and I slowed to 6:00 minute pace the last 2 miles which took me out of the 1:16 range but I still ran a 1:00 PR and was happy with the performance. The one thing I need to work on in future halfs in refueling. I was supposed to try and drink the Gatorade offered at the aid stations around mile 5 and 10 but at each station I accidentally grabbed the water cup instead and got about 0.5% in my mouth with the rest all over me or up my nose.

My splits for the half:
5:52
5:52
5:59
6:06
5:40
5:53
5:48
5:53
5:59
5:49
5:45
5:59
5:58
37s

After the race, the two guarders of the elite entrance gate would of course would not let me in to pick up my clothes for the third time! Other than that mishap I loved racing here. The course was flat, fast and beautiful. I was happy with the day and ready to enjoy being a tourist.

Next up vacationing for a month in Europe and running with some awesome ultra runners in Spain. Blogs to follow!