Oregon Coast 50K – The race that wasn’t (for me)

Michelle and I keep going back and forth on what we envision for the blog. We have received a lot of positive feedback, but I think it’s mainly because people like seeing pictures of the babies. Which is totally fine. But I also wanted to have a venue to document my running journey and other parts of our life. I have already written briefly about my failed attempt at the Sao Paulo City Marathon and this 50K race was a victim of the same set of unfortunate circumstances.

To recap: in mid February of 2017, I started getting more serious about running. More serious than I ever had been, even during my pretty mediocre marathon attempt in 2015.  Even better, I actually started to enjoy running. I was doing a ton of time on the treadmill because of the rainy days in Seattle, but even still, I was loving it. I ran a half marathon and set a PR by over 10 minutes. I ran a 5K and broke 20 min for the first time. I decided I was training hard enough to start thinking about a second marathon – a marathon attempt I would be proud of.

Simultaneously I have a very good friend (Walter) here in Seattle who is into trail ultramarathons. I am not sure he has ever done a road race, instead focusing on trail races. These trail races had been increasingly interesting to me. I crewed (having clean socks, food, water etc) for Walter in his first 100K race at the Gorge Waterfalls 100K last spring. After that experience, seeing the amazing community and the awesome emotional victories people experienced during the 100K, I knew I wanted to do an ultra and see if I had what it took to finish at least a 50K.  I registered for the October 2017 Oregon Coast 50K with Walter. The race is put on by the same wonderful Rainshadow organization that put on the Gorge Waterfalls.

Per my earlier post, I ended up injuring my hamstring during the summer of 2017. Despite pulling out of the Sao Paulo marathon, I still had hope for the Oregon Coast 50K. Despite a slow but steady return to running, it became clear there just wasn’t enough time to get back up to the serious mileage necessary to be successful in an ultra. In early September I pulled the plug and sold my registration. (Basically every Rainshadow race sells out, and I am thankful they have implemented the ability to transfer registration and recoup your entry cost!).

I was super bummed to be missing out on running, but since Walter was still going and we already had a hotel reserved, I decided to try to volunteer. As I mentioned earlier, the camaraderie and vibe of the people sold me on trying my first ultra, and that continued to be true even as a volunteer.

I volunteered for two shifts: parking and course marshal.  Parking was surprisingly intense. We started in the dark and its amazing how poorly people drive! Despite Hi-Vis gear people still nearly hit me repeatedly. Nonetheless, it was awesome to be the first race ambassador that most people saw that morning. Most people were extremely friendly and also a bit nervous. After seeing everyone off to the start line, I took a quick nap before assuming course marshal duties.

 

As the course makes use of Siuslaw National Forest trails, Rainshadow has to abide by their rules. The one major rule the park has laid out is no running in front of the Visitor Center. So my job, for 6 hours on a glorious Saturday, was to tell a bunch of people out for a 50K race to walk.  The course actually loops in front of the Center. On the first pass, the course is headed up hill and most runners were more than happy to walk. On the way back it is a pretty stead downhill and most runners were slightly less enthusiastic about stopping. Regardless it was great to see everyone pass twice. There were some people out there struggling but overall runners were consistently upbeat, smiling, and thanking me for volunteering. I was bummed to not be out there running, but happy to help provide that experience for everyone else!

 

After the race, volunteers got free food from the kick ass after party. Including stone fired pizza. Other perks included reduced entry for another Rainshadow race and a guaranteed spot in next years Oregon Coast race. Despite the set back I am still set on running at least one ultra, and am registered for February’s Orcas Island 50K.

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Navigating The Brazilian Medical System

As some of you may know, I have started getting serious about running again. After a really poor marathon in 2015, I decided it was time to get back out there and have a good marathon experience.  I have been training hard through the first half of 2017 and had some good success in shorter races at the beginning of the year.

When I started looking at marathons, I thought it might be fun to do one while we were in Sao Paulo. After much struggling with the requirements for foreigners I registered for the Sao Paulo City Marathon on July 30 (the weekend after my work assignment in Brazil ends).  I was doing a great job of training while in Brazil, relying on a combination of our hotel’s gym and the wonderful park a mile from our place.  I was able to go on some really nice runs in Rio de Janeiro as well.

Copa
Run along Copacabana and Ipanema

Unfortunately, while running two weeks ago I experienced some very bad pain in my hamstring. Bad enough I had to bail on my run and couldn’t get back to it for several days.  After giving the hamstring a break with no improvement, I decided it was time to explore the Brazilian medical system. Fortunately, EY provided international insurance (ISOS) for the duration of the trip. ISOS has a team of specialists on-call 24/7 with a range of language specialists to help book appointments and navigate local health care issues.  While the team at ISOS has been great, it is challenging at times to get a hold of them, as it can only be through calls to U.S. numbers (extremely difficult in Brazil) or email (slow response time when I am standing at a hospital trying to make a future appointment).

So I called ISOS to book an appointment. Despite assuring the team at ISOS that I needed an orthopedist, I was told that I had to go to a generalist first. I was impressed they were able to set up an appointment the same day. I headed to meet my new doctor at the lovely Centro Medico Sergipe building. Centro

There are very few people in Brazil that speak English, even in comparison to places I would not expect large English speaking populations like Peru, Vietnam, or Cambodia. I try to speak Portuguese with everyone I meet, but sometimes that proves to be a losing proposition as well. I have found that if I admit I don’t speak great Portuguese early in a conversation, most people won’t even try to understand what I am saying. However, if I never admit that I don’t speak Portuguese, people will generally work harder to understand me.  It’s weird. Regardless, through my broken Portuguese I was able to get in to see the doctor.

The one criteria ISOS used in booking my appointment seemed to be finding an English speaking doctor – so once I got into his office things went pretty well. But, for medical purposes the doctor’s English as a second language combined with my bad Portuguese still left something to be desired.  After an hour of conversation and mild poking and prodding, it was decided that I did have a hamstring injury (who would have thought). This meant a further referral to the orthopedic specialist as I requested in the first place. To add to the fun, my insurance would not cover the orthopedic specialist the general practitioner (chosen by my insurance) referred me to.

Which is how I found myself at Albert Einstein Hospital on a Monday night.

floricultura-cemiterio-velorio-hospital-albert-einstein-morumbi-sao-paulo

One thing about Brazil: everything requires an extra degree of security. Whether that be to get off on a specific floor in your hotel, to visit the ID processing building, or in this case to visit the hospital. I had to have a photo taken, share my Brazilian and U.S. documentation, and have a finger print taken just to get in the door. I find this level of security adds a sense of stress and…heaviness to every day activities. Sort of highlights that you’re not in the U.S. anymore and things are maybe not quite as safe as you’re used to.

The nice things about Albert Einstein Hospital: it’s a gorgeous new facility and they maintain English speaking hospitality staff to escort dumb Americans.  So I was given a personal interpreter for much of the evening.

Eventually I was able to see the orthopedic specialist (after my helpful English speaking guide ditched me). The doctor spoke some English, but things were a little muddy in our communication. The ultimate result of our conversation was a “prescription” for an ultrasound and 10 physical therapy sessions.  I thought it was odd to get assigned physical therapy before seeing the results of the ultrasound, but I guess I am not the doctor here. The ISOS folks don’t have a local number to call, so I could not immediately schedule the ultrasound (I wasn’t going to pay BRL$700 on the hope I could get reimbursed). However, ISOS took care of it quickly the next morning when I was able to call and scheduled my follow up doctors appointment and physical therapy too!

So now I am now at my third Brazilian medical facility awaiting my ultrasound. I am honestly quite impressed with how fast and helpful the ISOS team has been (minus not having local numbers to call). The other remarkable thing is that I have not had to wait for medical personnel to see me. Appointments have started on time, every time.  Which is a nice change of pace!

Hopefully, the ultrasound shows no major issues and I am able to get back to running soon!