My Chicago Marathon 2021

In 2008, I was 27 years old and a newlywed, when I ran my first full marathon. Then I ran 9 halves, had 4 kids, and decided I wanted to do the impossible: run another full marathon, post-kids at age 40. I know, I'm a little bit crazy, as most runners are:) I trained with my friend Katie the summer of 2020 until I injured my calf and then the marathon was cancelled anyway that year due to Covid. On the scheduled race day of October 11, 2020, I was actually in bed with Covid. Sick, exhausted, and finishing rehab on my calf. It was not a fun time. 

Enter summer of 2021, when the Chicago Marathon was set to be ON, even though Covid is still not off. It would be the first time in 2 years that road races (not the virtual kind!) would happen. Chicago is a 'major', it boasts 35,000 runners and an incredible spectator turn out of at least 1 million people. So we trained beginning in June, through a hot/humid summer, in the dark, waking at 4:30am and running long runs at 6:00am on weekends. We'd run another 2-3 times during the week and I'd strength train 2 days per week, plus another day or two of cross training (Peloton!). There were Covid scares and quarantines, Nate had knee surgery the week before my race, I had started a small business, and so many other life distractions during those months of training. 

The time commitment to running a full marathon is what gave me pause, waiting 13 years in between my last. But Nate and I agreed to make this a priority in our family for this summer, knowing he'd have to pick up the slack in parenting most weekend mornings while I was out running for 3+ hours. I'd miss soccer games and social events. But team work makes the dream work, right? 

I had one really big goal for these 18 weeks of training: avoid injury. At 40 years old I know I cannot run 70 miles per week, nor do I want to. I'm proud to say I achieved this goal during our training cycle, which was no small feat in itself!

I had four goals for the race itself, in order of importance: have fun, finish, beat my previous time of 4:19 (or even Nate's previous time of 4:15), and don't poop myself. I totally smashed 3 out of 4 of those goals as you'll read soon. 

So how about I recap the marathon itself now, as it's taken a full day for me to compose my thoughts? 

Katie and I met at the starting line at 6:30, but our wave wasn't set to take off until an ungodly late 8:00 am. We were nervous as we kissed our husbands goodbye, but so READY to get the show on the road finally. We hit the porta potties, sat on the concrete and chatted, and then Katie waited for one more porta line before our corrals closed at 7:45. I was in awe watching all of the thousands and thousands of runners fill in the gaps in our corral. These are my people, a diverse crowd of runners with a common thread of focused determination to run 26.2. Old and young, big and small, but everyone tied together by grit and maybe a touch of stubbornness. The energy was pure electricity that morning, and we chatted with a few runners around us to get pumped up. Notable was the couple behind us, who had been friends since high school. It was her 9th marathon and his 3rd, and they were so positive and upbeat about the race ahead. 



When our wave FINALLY started to move, I knew it was game time and snapped a picture of the start line. No more anticipation, it was actually happening! 


I was prepared to go super slow in the beginning, because of the crowds of runners and because a classic rookie move is going out way too fast in the start. We did manages to stay under a 10 min/mile pace, for the first five miles which was perfect.  In those first four miles, I saw two sets of our friends from back home on the sidelines, each and every time we saw familiar faces it felt like a biggest surge of energy. We first found our husbands and Katie's kids and parents at mile 4 and I felt SO stinking excited to see our crew! 

Another remarkable memory is when we ran past an older couple, with signs on their backs that read 'this is my 100th marathon' (!!!!). I yelled over to them that they were incredible. I asked where their first marathon was, and they said 'Chicago!'. They said it was in 1980 or 1981, and I told them this was Katie's first marathon:) They were adorable and pumped us up, saying we needed to enjoy this race because it's just the best. I asked if this was the hottest marathon they've done and they said, 'Well we are from Arizona, so no.' They said the coldest was in Fargo, we thanked them for being amazing, and we were off. One hundred marathons, you guys. 

I took 1/2 of a gel at 5.5 miles, and then by mile 8.5 Katie waved me on while she made a bathroom break. I had hoped to run the first 10 with her, but I also had high hopes of my time goal and for her first marathon, she just wanted to finish (spoiler alert, she totally did it!). So I gave her a quick hug and a pep talk and went ahead. I wanted to push faster but still felt like maybe I should keep my speed in check until the first half was completed, not wanting to tank later.

At mile 11 I took a full gel, and realized my stomach was feeling mighty fine! I saw more friends on the sideline somewhere around here and got another surge of energy, right before rounding the corner near 13 and seeing a man down. 

He was on the left side of the road, someone was lifting his legs overhead (to get the blood back to his head, I guess) and another person was rubbing his chest because he wasn't responding. Immediately I started to spiral mentally. I saw an RN and then an MD with an AED walking towards the scene, and another runner said 'You need to get back there fast!' It really shook me up more than it should have, but I just kept wondering what the hell we were doing out there. That was someone's husband and I felt teary just thinking about him when I heard sirens starting from afar. I still have no idea what happened to him but I'm hopeful he was 'just' passed out from exhaustion and dehydration. 

Crossing the 13 mile marker, I remember telling myself to pull it together. I think I first popped in one AirPod to listen to music and vowed to myself that I'd listen to my body even MORE than before and I honestly didn't even look at my pace again until mile 20. This is also when it registered that my quads were on FIRE. I knew this was really really early in the run to have burning quads but had to push along. My legs never felt this bad on any of our long runs but I tried not to think too much about it while jamming to my marathon playlist. 

Here is where I should mention the Event Alert Status system for marathons. 


The week before the marathon, we started getting emails about how the event had moved into the Yellow/Moderate zone because of the heat and humidity. Slow down! Hydrate! Find extra water stations/ice bags/wet sponges on the course. They were less than ideal conditions for sure, and although temps in the 70s aren't usually that oppressive in October, they certainly feel horrible when running for multiple hours. Later in the race I noticed that they had moved us into the Red category. This was the forecast from the marathon app, check that humidity. Barf.



Anyway, I saw Nate and Katie's husband at mile 14 and instead of just pumping my fist 'hello', I wanted a hug from Nate. So I ran over and snagged a sweaty hug and told him my quads were on fire, and that I saw a guy down back there. He assured me I was doing great and he'd see me soon, so I was off on my way towards 15. 


Boys town was up next and I yanked out my AirPods to fully experience the joy here. I freaking LOVED this neighborhood with the drag queens dancing up on platforms, along either side of the race. The signs there were hilarious and the happiness was just contagious. 

I was running along side of the 4:20 pacers for awhile there. It got us a lot of cheers 'FOOOOOOUR TWENTY, BABYYYYY!' and I was thinking that I still really wanted to be ahead of this pace group. But my quads were failing me big time at this point and I was nervous they'd lock up all together. I was taking in a ton of water along the way, carrying my own water bottle at first and then I started using the water stops by mile 15. I'd take a small sip and then dump the rest on my head and down my back to cool off. The wet sponges were pretty cool too, and I did grab handfuls of ice to put under my hat and down my sports bra. 

Mile 16 seemed impossibly slow and so far from the finish line. Looking back at my pace, this is when I struggled to stay quicker than an 11 min/mile average.  I kept repeating 'sweet sixteen' in my head and tried listening to music, pulling out my air pods when I'd come across 'real' music in a neighborhood. I wanted to pull energy from the crowd and talk to other runners around me but I also felt so depleted that I just couldn't. I had to go internal for a bit and work things out alone, in my mind. 


At mile 17 I took another 1/2 of a gel and started making myself walk through each water station, just a little longer each time. I also stopped to the side and stretched my quads for the first of about 3 times at this point. It hurt so badly to stretch but I was still scared they'd lock up if I didn't. I saw another person down, stretcher on the way and had to avert my eyes to stay focused. 

Some of the signs along the route were seriously epic. A few of my favorites that stuck with me: "Smile if you peed a little", "Your legs hurt because you're a badass", "Toenails are for losers," "You obviously got Moderna", "Remember that you paid for this", "You're almost done #fakenews" at mile 2. There was a guy dressed up as a vintage coach with a clipboard that made me LOL, actual nuns, a runner dressed as the pope, spectators in blow up panda costumes (that gave me an aggressive high five), and a ton of signs that had the mushroom from Mario Brothers on it that said 'touch for power'. I tried to slap every single one of those along the way! 

I saw Nate on the left side of the race at mile 18, so I hobbled over to him for a quick chat. He said he was going to meet me near the finish line and my heart sank a little because I wanted to see him again before that. It seemed so far away. He asked how I felt and I said 'not great, can we PLEASE get an Uber after this to get back to the hotel?' and he agreed. I kissed him and hobbled off, and he texted me a few minutes later to say 'You are crushing it'. I think he knew I needed more pep talks and it totally worked. I had my phone in my pocket and when I had an AirPod, I could sort of hear when a text came through. I was getting so many texts all morning and couldn't read them all but did glance down a few times. So many of my crew were tracking me on the marathon app and apparently it was working well all morning. Saw Truman say 'Good job mom' once and felt teary. Oh, the emotions at mile 18. 

Every time I stopped for water, it felt harder and harder to get started again. I had to talk to myself and dig deep. And somehow it was mile 19! I took a picture because I remember thinking 'this is the most beautiful site I've seen and I want to remember it.' I also took one at mile 20, plus a selfie, and saw a sign that said '6.2 to go' which got me seriously amped up. We did a 20 mile run for the longest training run, and I told myself this was officially the longest I'd run....in 13 years. :)


At mile 20, I also looked at my watch and saw I'd been running for 3 hours 45 min. My initial goal of beating 4:15 was very obviously out of the window, but I let myself dream of being done in just 30 minutes away. Instead, I thought about finishing in 4:30 which I knew would also mean a big push. I tried to go a little faster here and my legs would.not.do.it. I took my last 1/2 gel at mile 21 and threw the packet away aggressively, the taste in my mouth was so disgusting! I had also been using my own LMNT electrolyte drink in my holsters which really tasted like hell, but I knew I needed electrolytes and didn't want to deal with the Gatorade on the course.

Everything gets a little blurry after this, but I ran through Chinatown and didn't even see the big paper dragons---the one thing Nate prepped me to enjoy. I snapped another pic of mile 22 and saw my college friend again with signs just for me. I wanted to take a picture of her and my sign but I just couldn't muster up the energy, but it did give me a little more pep in my step! I refused to quit on myself and my stubborn tendencies were shining at that moment. I remember checking my heart rate, which strangely never really gets above 145 bpm even with super hard workouts. It was right at 146 which reassured me, because it definitely felt a little fluttery/weird for a hot minute.

Mile 23: 'Just 3 more miles. A simple 3 mile loop at home. Just 3 more miles. I can do this'. I must have allowed myself to walk even longer at this mile marker though, based on my slowest pace of the entire race. I saw Katie's sister waiting for her to jump in and run, and I gave her a huge high five. I told myself I would never, ever do another full again. I'll stick to halves, and try to get faster. Or maybe I'll never run again, or just take a month off....I don't know, but I was bargaining with myself that I never have to run again if I don't want to. I repeated 'beast mode' as a mantra along with 'we can do hard things' and anything else that I could pull from the depths of my soul to KEEP GOING. I wanted to walk forever and ever but I also just wanted to be finished as soon as possible.

Mile 24: 'Just two more freaking miles. 20 minutes. I CAN DO THIS!!!!" I remember stopping to stretch, walk for about 20 seconds, and then almost started to cry when I got started again because my quads hurt so badly. They were just wobbly, like they might give out on me but I knew I couldn't let that happen. I tried to tell myself that this was nothing compared to childbirth, especially to Wallace's med-free birth when I was stuck at 7cm for 2 hours. It honestly didn't help my mental state that much to think, 'I didn't die then and I'm not going to die now!' :) I told myself that pain is just temporary and I'm equipped to handle the pain. But I also wondered how long it would take me to recover from this race.  

I hit mile 25 and got a text from Nate saying he was up on my right side. I was very aware of how tired I looked and like my gait was totally sloppy, out of control. I pulled my AirPods out for the final time and tried to just be present. I counted my steps like, '1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3' and just tried to get one foot in front of the other. I saw Nate at 25.5 and tried super hard to muster up a smile for him. Which reminds me: every time I saw a pro photographer I decided to fake it until I made it, with goofy smiles and poses that I hope will translate into pure insanity. 



I looked up and saw the infamous hill around mile 26. I told myself that I could NOT walk it, no matter how slowly I jogged, and I didn't walk. I kept going. Even when I saw a woman sitting down, passing out, and someone was grabbing her by the shoulders. I kept going, wanting to see the finish line so badly.

I turned my head to the left and saw the most glorious site of my entire life (at that moment). The finish line!!! I snapped a blurry pic and went for it, my legs and feet basically numb at this point. I choked back an exhausted tear and remembered to smile for all of the cameras. They were announcing our names as we crossed the finish line, and if they did say mine they totally botched my last name but I didn't even care. I did it. I finished in 4:40 which is not at all what I hoped, but I can promise you in that moment time didn't matter. 

Crossing the finish line after a race that brutal, that humid, that intense was truly magical. Euphoric, even. The relief was immediate and I gladly accepted a water bottle as the herds of champions walked through the gauntlet. I heard the medals clinking and someone handed me mine. It was beautiful. I high fived a dude next to me, and we kept walking down to collect protein shakes and bananas and whatever else we could hold. I got a reflective blanket and a wet towel for my neck and called Nate to see where to meet him. 


Notable: not one time did I have to stop for a porta potty! Yes, I peed my pants but no poop issues, praise be! And if my Strava is accurate, which it doesn't appear to be, I only walked about 4 minutes total for the whole race. Total steps that day: 54,411 and 31.16 miles trekked. DANG.

It was a bit of a bottle neck getting out of the finish line area and I ended up sitting on a curb, removing my socks and shoes, and telling Nate to come and find me on the corner of Jackson and Columbus. I sat starting at my poor blistered feet, sipping a disgusting banana protein shake, and returning a few texts to friends. I felt so much support from my girl gang, my family, my friends, and even YOU, dear internet. So many people were pulling for Katie and I all morning, and we are pretty lucky to have such an awesome support system! Then Nate called to say he couldn't get in to me, and I needed to walk out to Michigan ave. I said I would try but I would be barefoot because NOPE to putting on my shoes again. 

I had a stranger snap a picture of me as I walked past tall buildings (barefoot, ha), and then I found my guy. He gave me my slides and held my stinky shoes and gave me a big hug. I had another stranger snap our picture and then Nate told me he had bad news: no Ubers available for at least 30 minutes, so we had to walk the mile to our hotel. I fought back a tear and just said 'ok but I'm going painfully slow'. 


We made it back, I showered and discovered about 5 places of intense chafing, and collapsed into the bed. I tried to nap a little bit since I had slept awful the night before and had just run for 4.5 hours:) I honestly haven't been sleeping great since the night before the marathon, but I know my body needs the rest. We stayed the night in our hotel Sunday night, and left Monday around 11 to come home.  I missed the kids dearly but also feel some serious post-race blues. I'm exhausted beyond words and so incredibly sore. But I'm happy and proud of myself for not giving up. 

I know that runners are more than their times. Missing a time goal is really small potatoes in the grand scheme of things and yet, it feels pretty lousy after the fact. I definitely gave it my best that day and for all of my training. But I don't feel like my time accurately reflects my training, my fitness, or my abilities. For reference, my typical half marathon time is 1:52-2:00. I really wanted 4:14 or less on Sunday, and I'm not totally sure what went wrong (besides humid conditions, and crazy-angry quads). While 4:40 isn't 'bad', it's just not even close to what I had hoped to get. Fellow runners will understand this, right?





*If* I do another full marathon again, I'd do just a few things differently: I'd remember to make a sign with my name on my chest, so strangers could cheer for me. I'd line up friends to run with me in segments to keep me going. And I'd really love to see my kids as spectators! Chicago's crowds just did not allow for that this time, and Nate had planned to run with me but then he needed knee surgery so that was out. I'd train about the same, I think----maybe focusing on more speedwork, but I'm also really glad I didn't push so hard that I got injured. 

Before the marathon, when Nate and I were eating a big Italian dinner, he asked me if I was planning to run another marathon after this. I said, 'It depends on how I do tomorrow. If it's a great race and I'm pleased with my time, then I'll be done. If not, I'll probably have to do another'. The night of the marathon, he said, 'Well, so are you going to do another?' I want to say YES. It's just too soon to tell. Once I can walk without a limp I'll let you know. I still feel pretty chewed up and spit out by Chicago, and need to plot my revenge once fully recovered. 

I know that nothing in life is a guarantee and I feel serious gratitude for being able to complete this Chicago Marathon. I did it. What a whirlwind, a magical, horrible, wonderful whirlwind. 


Our COVID Chronicles, part 2

Well, Truman's third test came back positive, so we are sitting at 5 out of 6 COVID cases here. Sigh. Truman is feeling better than he did on the first day of his fever, but still has a headache, is weak, no appetite, and his legs ache. His fever has come down from 102.4 that first day to right around 99 on his fourth day. He also has a new face rash, but the Ped isn't concerned because Truman does get viral rashes. Zyrtec should help the itchiness and we were cleared to use Ibuprofen for the leg aches, too. Sigh, so much sighing around here. Sigh. Sigh. Freaking Sigh. 

Porter is the last man standing, and he's cracked the code for this mess. Yesterday we were talking about all things COVID, and he said to us, 'I'm not going to get it, because I'm being SUPER careful.' We asked him to elaborate and he said, 'Well, I'm not going to lick anyone that has it.' Porter! We also discussed extra hand washing as a truly 'careful' measure. To which he responded that he does wash his hands after using the bathroom, and 'before we eat, whenever you tell me to.' This kid, man.  

(my images are going to be all inspiring quotes by Morgan Harper Nichols on Instagram. She is the most amazing artist and speaks to my soul often!)



Yesterday I spent some of my day answering questions on Instagram, which was mostly enjoyable because it feels nice to share and help others work through their questions. Old habits die hard, I guess. Most people were very supportive. And yet, I can feel the anxiety rolling off many of the comments. I get it! It's incredibly scary, the fear of the unknown can be suffocating. I'm guessing parts of our story will increase the panic (specifically around sending your kids into a school building) and some parts will ease your worries. But I wanted to touch on a few things before I get into my actual post. 

When I mentioned the shame stigma that seems to surround COVID patients, several people said that nobody should feel shame about contracting a virus. And I agree! But now that I'm digging into my feelings a little more on this topic, it's not a true 'shame' that I've felt. I mean, it does feel like we have the plague and people may want to run the other way when they see us. But what I really couldn't put my finger on until I shared our story, is the fear of judgement. It feels like some people will pick apart our story, and look for 'what went wrong', or what we DID wrong. Because obviously, we messed it up somehow, right? And maybe if *you* don't do this pandemic how we've done it, you will be SAFE. How else can I explain it other than saying, we did everything right and we still got it? Yes, the kids wear masks all day in school. Yes, they are socially distanced--there are only 9 kids in Cece's cohort. Yes, we have brand new HEPA filters installed in our school building. I know that is hard to hear but they are facts. I know everyone means well asking questions and I'm ok answering most of them. 





Trust me when I say I completely understand others' anxiety about this, and the need to control and predict what will happen to you. But as long as you are doing your very best, which I believe 99% of people truly are doing, you just have to keep following precautions and continue to take calculated risks you feel most comfortable with for your family. It could still happen to you as nothing is a 100% guarantee at this point, except for literally locking yourself inside your home until the end of time. I would not recommend that choice either and I certainly do not recommend living your life in fear! 

It all really sucks, you guys. All of it. The anticipation of COVID, the actual living through COVID, the unknowns about the future. I know so many people are struggling mentally and emotionally right now, and it's heartbreaking. BUT! There are silver linings and positive things to pull from this, I promise. I'll talk about those in a hot minute. 

A few other hot topic questions from Insta revolved around my in-laws and how they are doing. They are doing great, Praise Be! Lois tested negative twice, and we didn't actually see Tony the weekend that Cece would have been contagious. Ultimately Nate's parents have been our top priority during this entire pandemic. Back in March, we completely stopped seeing them to protect them from COVID. And then, once we realized there is not an end in sight to this pandemic, we started taking calculated risks to see them as they are an invaluable part of our lives. It would be my ultimate nightmare to give COVID to my in-laws and I'm beyond relieved that has not been a part of our story right now. We miss them so much but we have a ways to go before everyone is out of quarantine. It will make it even sweeter when we can reunite. 


The other common thread in most of the questions had to do with the school district policy on quarantining after a positive case. I was disappointed in how the district handled Cecelia's case, and I have been in communication with them about my disappointment. I'm not going to elaborate any further or throw anyone under the bus. I know people want to blame SOMEONE here but it's honestly not worth the effort to point fingers. 

Also, yes we will be sending our kids back to hybrid (assuming it stays hybrid and doesn't switch to full virtual soon with our metrics changing by the day). Cece is already back, in fact. No, I do not regret sending my kids into the building. Full virtual learning for our family is extremely difficult and I do not think my children learn best in this home environment. Obviously, I wish Cece didn't get COVID but I still prefer in-person learning to at-home learning. 

And yes, I still believe in mask wearing. Cloth masks are not N95 masks, they are not perfect, and nobody should promise you that you'll be safe if you just wear a mask. But I do think masks reduce the viral load you're being exposed to and I think they are worth it.

Yes, of course I am worried about long term effects for the kids and for Nate/myself. But I cannot create mental space for those worries right now. One day at a time is all I can manage. 

Oh, and blood types! I realized why I don't know my kids' blood types. I asked my Ped about this today and she said the hospitals only test babies' blood types if the mother is Rh -. I am for sure not negative and believe I'm AB+, so there's no way any of our kids have 0 blood. Also my Ped said that in children, luckily their symptoms tend to be less severe overall than adults---so the blood type and symptom relationship isn't proven for kids. 

Onward!

My Covid Silver Linings:

-Nate's clinic can still function without him present. He can't work from home, and it's not the usual income without him there but absolutely better than nothing. 

-I am not working outside of the home anymore. Seriously, would have been impossible with both of us in healthcare and without any help from grandparents/daycare during quarantine.
 
-Nobody has endured severe symptoms, hallelujah. In fact, MOST COVID cases include mild symptoms. There will always be outliers to this statement but chances are high that you'll be okay if you do contract it.

-Cece and I could quarantine together. It was a strange but sweet time. 

-Nate and Wallace could quarantine together (with Cece and me) after my quarantine was finished.

-Cece did not spread it to her classmates.

-Antibodies! For at least 3 months we can feel less fearful of this virus. It is not a guarantee of course, there's just so much we don't know about this virus. But I plan to breathe a little easier and let go of some anxiety I've had prior to this.

-Family time and help from Nate in online learning! Under different circumstances this would have been heavenly, like a true vacation. Of course it has been anything BUT peaceful, and we have all been pretty sick. I have still been able to notice and appreciate the time with Nate here and I'm sad that period is ending, but he needs to get back to work!

-Hugging my family after isolation was an absolute HIGHLIGHT. It's like I don't ever want to take for granted all of the beauty in the ordinary days again. My first Wallace-hug made me cry, his little body wrapped around mine <3


Things I've learned from our personal case study:

-Being inside a school building with masks, HEPA filter, and social distancing does not mean you are safe from exposure. Even if you are staying 6 feet away, and have not been in contact with an exposure for more than 15 minutes cumulative, you could still contract the virus. This is a huge pill to swallow and I'm guessing Cece's case is rare but it still happened. 

-This virus is unpredictable: some people will get it after very low risk exposure, and some won't get it even with significant exposure. MADDENING.

-Even with symptoms, you might be negative (Truman). Well, at least for two tests, and then he finally got a positive test on the third try with a new fever. 

-Without symptoms, you might test positive (Me and Wallace--but we did get symptoms after our tests, so we would be considered pre-symptomatic).

-Our symptoms are not the same as everyone else's symptoms with COVID.

-Transparency and communication is KEY when it comes to possible exposure. Err on the side of caution and give potential 'close contacts' the information they need to make decisions for their family. 

-The only way to handle COVID is to go through it, you cannot completely avoid it forever or be fearful of it. Respect the virus, it is a very real thing. Take all of the precautions. But once it hits your family in some capacity, focus on the silver linings to avoid total overwhelm. Listen to your doctor. It's okay to be scared, angry, and sad. But at some point you'll need to process those emotions and move on. You cannot control everything that is happening to you. You can only control how you respond to this very crappy situation. I'm still working on this one on the regular.

-The first few days after Cecelia's positive test were the most stressful, overwhelming, scary days full of constant information. Many bits of information will conflict with each other when it comes from different sources (doctor versus health department versus school district). Grab hold of any information that makes logical sense and try to let go of the rest. And get ready for a crash after the adrenaline wears off. For me, my head was spinning for a solid two days before I crashed hard, and then I got sick after that. Stress does real things to your immune system and cortisol sucks. I'm not blaming my stress for contracting COVID but I'm certain it didn't help.

-Stick to Tylenol instead of Ibuprofen, even though it sucks in comparison for relief of fever (for adults at least, my Ped did say Ibuprofen is okay for Truman). Ask your doctor to be sure.

-Comparative suffering is not worth the effort. Everyone will move through this experience differently, at a different pace, and with a unique story to tell. Don't play the game of 'we had it worse than you because....'. There is value in re-prioritizing what is deemed 'essential' in your life, and having a kick-ass support system will help immensely. But ultimately, you will need to process this on your own, with your family, isolated. Nobody else can do that for you.



The end for now. 

Our COVID Chronicles, part 1

I'm emerging from an experience worth reflecting about, and I find myself craving the blogging process for this one. I want to compartmentalize my thoughts, I want to brain-dump all of the knowledge I've gained throughout this. Partially for me, but I also think others may want to read about our COVID story because we are learning new bits of information every day about this virus. And I understand what its like to obsess about different scenarios and worry about the 'what if's, and to crave real-life stories and facts. I also think it's helpful to hear positive outcomes about COVID instead of constantly being bombarded by the intense fear and worst-case scenarios. And finally, I'm sharing this because I don't want to buy into the shame stigma of COVID. It's happening everywhere and I truly believe everyone will be directly touched by it soon. Your story will look different than mine. So here we go. 

Our family has COVID. Cecelia, myself, Nate, and Wallace have all tested positive. Truman and Porter have somehow tested negative, twice. It's been a hot mess around here but we are all going to be okay. Priorities have shifted and our support system has been incredible. 



General timeline:

On October 1 and 2, Cecelia attended school in the building as a part of our hybrid set-up. On the night of October 2, someone in her classroom spiked a fever. We obviously found out about this much later and I'm not going to give details about someone else's story, because it's not mine to tell. But yes, we do feel confident that Cecelia was exposed at school on October 1 and 2. 

And in that same vein, I will talk about my entire family in this post, but I'm going to focus mostly on my own story and symptoms---not because I'm self-centered but because I feel most comfortable sharing my thoughts and less comfortable speaking for my family. I'm a little rusty on the old blog here, some feelings of fragility are surfacing now that I'm about to publish this, so please be gentle with me. 

So. That person with a fever tested positive for COVID on October 3. We got a vague email from the school on October 4 but no details about a positive test or confirmed exposure. We didn't do anything out of the ordinary that weekend, but we did have Lois over for Sunday dinner (10/4) and Cece played soccer that same day, too. 

On Monday October 5th, right before bedtime, Cecelia complained of a sore throat. My ears shot up but she didn't feel warm and I just chalked it up to her being tired after a long day. October 5th is now considered Day 0 for Cecelia. 

On Tuesday, October 6th Cecelia came downstairs for breakfast and laid her head down on the kitchen island. She said she felt 'okay' but her eyes looked glassy to me. We took her temp with our forehead scanner and it read 103. My head started spinning right then, and I called our Pediatrician as soon as they opened at 8:30 and then started jumping through the hoops to get Cece tested through our larger hospital system. I took her for a drive-through test at 2 in the afternoon, after calling Nate home to stay with the boys. It was unpleasant for sister, to say the least--we had all gotten tested at a free site in July before my parents came to visit us, but this was a lot more intense because Cece had symptoms. One thing I learned is that they order a 'deeper' test if symptomatic, and they swabbed her nostril along with her throat this time.

At 5 am on October 7th, Nate woke me up holding my phone after reading the MyChart results: Cecelia tested positive for COVID. I think my first word was an X-rated one, and then began the chain reaction of cancelling all.the.things. Nate spent most of the morning on the phone cancelling patients and updating everyone at the clinic. I began making numerous lists of questions and people to contact, and I sent emails and texts with a spinning head that felt totally overwhelmed. I talked to the Pediatrician's office, the hospital system that gave her the test, the school principal, the district nurse, but no health department called me that day. All of the information coming out of these various institutions was so confusing and conflicting. It was a lot. Cece was feeling pretty good this day, but definitely not herself---her fever was down to 100 degrees and she said her throat still hurt, and she had a headache for her day 1 of COVID. 


On Cece's day 2, October 8th, Nate and I decided to get tested for COVID, and this turned out to be my Day 0. We both felt fine and Cece was 97% better (self-reported), with a fever of 99 degrees now. We were attempting to isolate Cece from the rest of the family, as instructed by the health department who finally called me this day. But at the same time, isolating a sick 8 year old from the rest of the family unit felt impossible to me and I was worried about Cece's mental health at this point, too. My emotions were all over the board. I still felt like my head was spinning out of control and I cried a lot, which is not like me but it needed to happen. I was scared for Cece, worried about the rest of us, sad that we had to cancel so many fun events on our calendar for the next two weeks, and not excited about extra online learning for the kids during their quarantine. ALSO, there was a large amount of stress happening because our suburb was bracing for social injustice protests, and school switched to all-virtual to keep kids safe in case of riots. 

On October 9th, I slept awful. I woke up at 4 am and was super uncomfortable and had a raging headache like nothing I've experienced before. I sort of thought I was having a mental breakdown, and tried to nap that morning. Nate banished me to my bedroom to rest and sometime after lunch, I spiked a fever of 100.4. I knew my COVID test results wouldn't be in for several more days but I started to accept that I likely had it once my fever appeared. This was my Day 1 because my test came before my symptoms. 


My symptom checklist:

-Fever up to 101 (my baseline is 97.5) on day 1 and 2
-Unbelievable headache on day 1
-Body aches-could actually feel my hips and knees and back throbbing on day 1-4
-Diarrhea--explosive and surprising--on day 2 and 3
-Sore throat starting on day 1
-Congestion starting on day 3
-Extreme fatigue/weakness starting on day 1 and most noticeable until day 7 when I began forcing myself to eat protein
-No appetite on day 1-7
-Loss of smell and taste--which is seriously depressing. Never realized how much tasting food is a quality of life issue. This began on day 4 and I'm told it could last for 6 weeks.
-Notable: I never had a cough and never had any trouble breathing/shortness of breath

At that point, Nate took over caring for the boys and Cece started isolating with me in my bed. She was feeling a ton better by this time, and she'd go downstairs with a mask on to fetch me water or whatever I needed---my sweetest little caregiver. What did quarantine look like for us ladies? Well, we watched a ton of shows and movies (Princess Bride, Return to Oz, all 10 episodes of Babysitters Club, Hamilton, Never-ending Story, Hocus Pocus, and all episodes of season 2 Making It---we loved them all!). I also watched plenty of shows and movies once Cece was sleeping in her own bed but I mostly had to rest my eyes and listen because my eyes hurt so badly in the beginning. I could only stomach popsicles and some soup, we were taking lots of Vitamin C, had Biocidin spray from the holistic doctor that gave Nate and I our tests, and I took my temperature incessantly. I felt so weak I didn't even want to get up to go to the bathroom and had to lay down immediately after standing up. 

Nate sent me pics of the boys 'scaring' people outside of our house, made me smile:

So many supplements, so little time. I figure they can't hurt. 

Saturday, October 10 is a total blur but I know I started taking Tylenol for my fever that day. Then on Sunday, October 11th I noticed I couldn't smell anything (not even my favorite candle or coffee) and my back was KILLING me from laying down so much. Cece started Face-timing with my mom and her friends from school to pass the time. We would also Face-time with the boys but it made Porter and Truman super sad to see me but not be able to come in and give me a hug. We all took turns crying. I think those two days were my lowest point mentally and I had several dark moments when I just couldn't stop crying. I felt rotten and was in disbelief this virus was actually hitting our family, and felt so worthless from my bed---not able to help with the kids. It was pretty rough there for a bit, you could say.

How the boys said 'goodnight' to us. (tear).

Porter drew me about a million pictures (mostly of gravestones and spiderwebs):


My entire collection from one day!

 
Cece helped him rig up a system to give me those Porter treats: she tied a piece of yard around a basket, and put a bell out in the hallway next to the basket. When Porter would add a new picture for me, he'd ring the bell and Cece would pull the basket into my room, returning it to the hallway once we grabbed the paper. It was really so cute but also crazy hard to be apart from the guys. Anyway, Cece was on her day 6 and I was on my day 3 and I have no idea what the boys were doing downstairs, and didn't even care at that point. I do know a lot of our friends dropped off an impressive amount of goodies: chicken pot pies, soup, tacos, pizza, chocolates, home-spa kits, baked goods....it was pretty incredible to feel the love from our people. 


Sweetest donuts I couldn't taste but everyone else could so it's a win.

Rules of Quarantine length:

Now seems like a good time to mention this very confusing part of quarantine. If you test positive for COVID, your first day of symptoms OR your test date will be your day 0---you'll use the date that comes first. Then you have 10 days of quarantine, so on your day 11 you can re-enter the world at large. If you are in close contact with someone who tests positive, you will need to quarantine 14 days from LAST exposure to that person. This gets extremely sloppy within a large household, when some are testing positive and some negative. With each positive test, quarantine dates get moved around for everyone else in the house who is negative. With Cece's positive test, the rest of us went into quarantine from the world (and she went into 'isolation' from us) for 14 days, using the date of last exposure to Cece as our marker. As soon as I tested positive, all of the boys' quarantine date got pushed back even more, using their date of last exposure to ME as a marker now. Eventually we found ourselves wishing for a positive test for every person, because everyone had been exposed in our house like crazy and quarantine for those negatives became ridiculously pushed back. More on that in a bit. 

Back to the timeline! On Monday, October 12th, I noted that I was feeling about 40% of my normal self and did sleep pretty good at night for once. I was on day 4 and Cece day 7, and my test results finally came in: I was (obviously) positive and Nate was negative. He did get a pretty bad headache this day but I figured it was from all of the stress of being Mr. Mom:) I helped Cece with online learning while we both laid in my bed, and we watched lots of TV once she finished. I weighed myself and had lost 5 pounds, which sort of freaked me out, and I vowed to force more food down into my body so I didn't just wither away. 

Online learning from isolation: 


And online learning from quarantine downstairs. 

Tuesday, October 13th: I was more vertical this day! I needed to rest immediately after being up but I was proud of being out of bed for 30 minute stretches. Nate took the boys on a drive and when they got back, I snuck a peek at Nate and he just looked BAD to me. Sure enough, he spiked a 100 degree fever and that's not all! So did Truman, at the same time. Awesome sauce. They both felt achey and had headaches, and I wanted to burst into tears while punching a wall. I broke quarantine to be with them that night, I got online and requested all four boys get tested the next day, and then I rage-cleaned the kitchen while Nate napped on the couch after the kids' bedtime. I did not feel well enough to be 'on' for parenting yet but I knew Nate couldn't do it alone, and if his test turned up positive we couldn't even quarantine the rest of the boys away from two positive parents anyway. Hot mess express. Nate had been sleeping in the basement on a blow up mattress since Friday, but that night I told him to just come back to our bed to get decent sleep. 

Family Vitamin C time, so ridiculous:

Wednesday, October 14th: Nate took all 3 boys to get tested and Porter smacked the tech's hand away during the test, it went *that* well. Truman didn't have a fever anymore but said he didn't sleep much because he was super hot. Nate was up and down but obviously sick, although he wasn't flattened horizontal like I had been the week before. I was still feeling super weak, Cece was pretty much 100% better, and we all plowed through online learning somehow. It was a strange limbo day, feeling stuck between wanting to abide by quarantine rules but also just *knowing* Nate and Truman would be positive and everything would have to begin again for quarantine. On Thursday early morning, I checked my phone for test results at 5:30 am. Nate was positive, Wallace was positive (!! what??), but Truman and Porter tested negative. I had to make a color coded calendar to keep this all straight because nothing was making sense anymore. The kids all did Zoom calls with their classes, since this was the first actual school day they missed. I still felt weak and exhausted but we did things like set up a big puzzle in the basement and watch some family movies together. We couldn't be separated anymore with four positive cases in the house, since Truman and Porter couldn't take care of themselves just yet. So we decided to make the most of family time while we could. Nate still wasn't feeling great and then Wallace spiked a fever after dinner that night, 100.2. Poor baby boy was such a trooper but I felt super anxious about how he'd handle this virus. It was a challenge to avoid 'worst case scenario' thoughts when Wallace went down but he was so resilient and mostly happy, kids are amazing.

Jarring to read the word 'survivor' but I'm glad there is mental health support!

Friday, October 16 was the day Cece was released from quarantine so she could return to school. Such a strange thing to have our initial COVID princess return to the world WAY before the rest of us! She did well at school as we tackled more school zoom calls for the boys. I was on day 8, Nate on day 4 (using his headache on Monday as first symptom and day 0), Wallace day 2 (using his test date as day 0). Wallace seemed pretty much fine but his fever perked back up too 99 for a bit, even while he was running around the house like a hooligan. 

So many puzzles. 

So many movies in the basement

So much cross stitching for me

The weekend was pretty unremarkable. I did get Porter and Truman re-tested on Saturday, October 17 because my BFF at the health department urged me to try again. Considering Truman's fever earlier in the week and the amount of exposure those boys had undergone, it just didn't make sense for them to remain negative. And yet, their new tests came back negative AGAIN on Sunday. Sigh. Also, Nate lost his sense of smell and taste on his day 5 of this mess. If nothing else changed, the negative boys couldn't even start their 14 day quarantine until Monday, October 19th---the first day I was released from my own quarantine. So Truman will miss the rest of his soccer season, Porter will miss his favorite holiday (Halloween), and neither can return to school until 11/2. I hate you, COVID. Seriously. 

Have been trying to get outside, with masks, and not around anyone else obviously. A little Vitamin D and fresh (36 degree) air is good for the soul.

Everyone is feeling pretty good today as I write this, on October 19th. Cece is on day 18, I'm on day 11, Nate day 7, and Wallace day 5. So now that I'm not in quarantine and not contagious, I can care for Truman and Porter, Cece can be with anyone she wants, but Nate and Wallace need to stay away from T and P. It's a different kind of quarantine because Cece and I can bounce around to any of the guys. Although, one stressful thing that happened tonight is that Truman spiked another fever of 100.4 and says his legs hurt and he's cold. He does NOT want to get tested again so I guess we will just treat his symptoms and hope it moves quickly for him. 

Seriously.

Update: his fever persisted overnight, he's achey, headache, feels freezing cold, and weak. I called our Pediatrician office and got him in to be seen, and they tested him for COVID for a THIRD freaking time. Poor boy. I hate this for him so much, just want him to feel better. I don't even care if it's a positive test anymore, but I am glad I took him in and the doctor didn't ask me to make the decision to re-test at all. So  if it's negative, this could be influenza (although he hasn't been exposed to anyone outside of our family for over two weeks now) or some other virus. What are the chances??



We did get Caution tape for our house, and nothing makes Porter happier than Halloween decorations---this tape felt creepy a few weeks ago but I agreed to it now, because everyone really should stay away from our contaminated house!

And if we can't trick-or-treat this year, we will just have to pump up the decorations because Porter won't be satisfied until our entire lawn is covered with spooky decor. 

I'm running out of head space for this blog post, but I have more to say about silver linings and things that we've learned on this wild COVID-coaster ride. So stay tuned for a second post sometime soon-ish. 

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