Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Part 3: Apparently I am Kinda Stubborn

On Saturday I woke up to the most beautiful view of the valley below Gauyabo Lodge, at small bed and breakfast high up on the side of the volcano (around 5,000ft elevation). Early morning light was just starting to pierce the darkness in my room. And the clouds helping soften the light gave the sky a celestial glow. When I opened the doors to the small patio connected to my room I could hear goats and sheep welcoming the new day somewhere beyond the verdant wall of flowers and shrubs that blocked everything but the view. It was unreal to be in such a beautiful place so shortly after the trauma of the day before. For a moment I wondered if it was all real, the hospital, the Rhabdo, the race itself.

Breakfast views :) I wasn't allowed to drink much coffee :( haha
Intense pain in my legs as I hobbled back to bed was a pretty good reminder that the Rhabdo and hospital portions of the journey were not figments of my imagination. Eventually I managed to inch my way up to the breakfast room, starving from not having eaten anything the day before, and afraid if I slept in too long I would miss breakfast.

I spent the day with my rad cousin Casey and her boyfriend, who took multiple busses to get to Gauyabo to see me. We took a cab ride down the crazy dirt road that led back to town, made a quick pit stop at a coffee plantation to check it out, and then a bus to San Jose where the race organization had a hotel for all the racers who were flying home on Sunday morning.
Aquaires Plantation
All this time I tried to continue to drink as much water as possible, but I still didn’t really understand the severity of my condition, or the fact that I should be in the ER, not moving around. My limbs were all in tact, my body still sort of functioning, and being a bike racer, so used to soreness, pain, pushing through, I thought it was just the leftover feeling from the ordeal, just an uncomfortable reality I had to cope with for a day or two. I resorted to the mentality that I needed to suck it up and not be a wimp. This is probably the mentality that got me in this mess, the fact that I am so stubborn and capable of tolerating so much pain, that I’ve trained my mind to compartmentalize it and ignore it rather than actually listening to my body. That I’m afraid of looking weak, or asking for help, so I just keep going, certain that I can handle it. It’s a great skillset to have if you want to race 100 mile mountain bike races. A terrible mindset when things go wrong. To be honest I’m surprised now that I haven’t gotten Rhabdo before, when I look back on past bike riding endeavors where I stubbornly committed to more than I could handle. My ego tells me I have to go big, to persevere. I don’t listen to the real, physical signs that I need to stop.

Eating a fun foreign to me fruit on the plane. 
The flight home was another exercise in sheer will power. I refused to let Brendan fly down and help me (for all the reasons listed above), which, looking back was ridiculous. I collected my bike bag and luggage alone at LAX, pushed it all through Immigration and Customs, made my way slowly to the curb to get picked up.

And on Monday morning, because I am an idiot, I went to school and taught a full day of classes before heading to urgent care to get more blood work and talk to a doctor. I got a call from the doctor at 6pm to inform me that my CK was 9,000 and AST/ALT still alarmingly high. Unfortunately she gave me the ‘option’ of continuing to drown myself with water, although she recommended I go to the ER, so you know I choose the ‘suck it up’ option of drinking at home and going to school the next day. A combination of not wanting to inconvenience Brendan, not wanting to spend the money or waste the time going to the ER and REALLY not wanting to miss more school, all resulted in the decision to stay home and drink water to ‘cure’ myself. A week later, after reading case studies about Rhabdo and talking to a lot of people about it, I understand that the levels of protein in my liver were insanely high, that I absolutely should have been in the ER the second I got home, and that I am very very lucky to have recovered despite my stubbornness and aversion to medical care. It validated that Monday was infact unbearably painful (so much so that I basically sat on the edge of my desk for the last two periods of the day because standing and walking, oye vey. This isn’t the first time I have been stubborn and convinced myself to tolerate unreasonable amounts of pain to learn in retrospect that It was in fact un-necessary (I could have taken short term disability, or just a regular sick day…), and it most likely wont be the last. But this leads to the worst part of this ordeal, the thoughts in my mind resulting from this catastrophe, which I will save for yet ONE MORE post about La Ruta and Rhabdo.     
Flowers from my sweet co-worker Alexis.
The best part of all of this drama was reading all the kind comments on social media following the whole ordeal, so many people shared kind thoughts and words of encouragement, making it so much easier to cope with the pain of the initial recovery, and frustration of being off my bike for so long.
And of course I am acutely aware every day of how fortunate I am in the grand scheme of things. With the fires raging in Northern California, and with so many people finding themselves without a home this Thanksgiving, I am grateful every day for my health, and home, and the wonderful people who make my life so beautiful and fun. Thanks everyone for the support and love. I hope through this I can learn to be a better person through all of you.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Larissa,
    I was also at La Ruta this year and suffered horribly on the first day. I was able to finish that first day, but stopped for huge lengths of time on the course to allow me to finish and feel reasonably good the next day. Somewhat ironically, I am a Professor at the University of Oregon and also an expert on the physiology of heat stress and heat acclimation. I have worked with a large number of elite athletes to help them prepare for competing in extreme environments. I was actually at the race to experience the conditions and to make recommendations to future riders of La Ruta to help them prepare for the conditions. I was an invited participant of Roman's. I would really like to speak with you in more detail about your experiences, including how you are planning to move forward with your training. I'm not sure how to contact you directly, but as I was searching around the internet to find out what happened to you I came across your blog. If you are interested in talking on the phone/Skype, please get ahold of me. To provide evidence I'm not a weird stalker, look me up at the University of Oregon's website, under the Department of Human Physiology, Faculty. You will see a link to my lab and research and my contact info. I hope you reach out, it would be interesting to chat. Really glad to know you are on the trail to recovery! Chris Minson