It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

July 10, 2014

Why Sometimes It's Smarter Not to Race – Stars & Stripes 5K

So this post is a bit delayed, but I still wanted to share this…if nothing else, maybe to help my future self.
I didn't get a single pic...this is Jim starting the race
Jim and I decided to do our 3rd Annual Stars & Stripes 5K last Friday.  It’s in our hometown so it’s super convenient.  It’s also a great little race.  They have medals for everyone, a cool t-shirt, a band at the finish, etc.  Lots of extras you don’t get at most 5Ks.  It’s really great.  We had decided last year we should make it an annual tradition.  Plus this race is currently my 5K PR.

We went to register Thursday night and I was shocked to find the late registration was $40.  I thought that was insane for a 5K!  Totally insane.  I said “I’m not doing it. I refuse to pay that much”.  Jim…was not happy with me and encouraged me to “please sign up – wasn’t it me who said this should be an annual tradition”.  So I signed up, although a bit begrudgingly.
Now, as some of my readers may recall I went through a period of about a year where I suffered from vertigo.  It was first induced by an antibiotic.  I would have episodes that were quite debilitating for days at a time and it would recur at any time over the course of about a year. I went through a myriad of testing to find out that I just seem to have more fluid in my inner ear and with the help of a daily allergy pill and watching my salt intake I had not had an episode for a year and a half.  I pretty much thought it was no longer an issue for me.

Well, on Thursday night I picked up a prescription for an antibiotic for a bladder infection.  I went to bed feeling fine.  Skip to Friday morning.  My alarm goes off I sit up to turn it off and instantly the room starts spinning.  Vertigo attack.  It lasted maybe 4 or 5 seconds, but left me dizzy and disoriented.  I sat in bed for a while but just felt “off”.  The room wasn’t spinning, but I didn’t feel right. I got out of bed anyway and got dressed.  There was still over an hour before the race, so I was hoping by then I would feel ok.  I text my friend Michelle to say hey I’m coming…but I might not run.
I shouldn’t have run.  Before the race I was still feeling a bit off, but better.  I decided I would at least try to run and if I felt bad shortly after the start I’d just go back.  Well the race started and I started running.  I immediately felt bad.  It was like I was running in place with things moving around me.  I was having trouble focusing…but then suddenly, I felt ok.  Within two or three minutes that feeling seemed to disappear and I was running with no issues.  Good, I thought, maybe it was just a short-lived episode.  I was actually running pretty well.  The first mile passed quickly and I was pleasantly surprised to see a 9:50 pace.  My 5K PR is a 9:50 pace…so I started thinking…hey I could possibly have a good race.

At about a mile and a half you have a pretty steep downhill and then then of course, a pretty steep uphill since you do a loop. I knew the rest of the race was going to get tougher, so I thought to myself you really need to push it down this hill.  I picked up the pace and all of a sudden another vertigo attack hit me.  I’ve NEVER had that happen before. I’ve never had one hit me during a workout, it’s usually from sudden head movements.  It was awful.  I stopped dead in my tracks (which is not the best thing to do in the middle of a 5K in a downhill section). I put out my right hand because I knew I was going to fall.  I was staggering to the right trying to get out of the way and get to a curb when I could feel myself falling.  I was so dizzy I just couldn’t stand up.  Suddenly, some random runner grabbed me and kept me from falling and escorted me to the side.  Immediately I was surrounded by 5 or 6 runners all asking if I was ok.  I felt like an idiot.  I kept saying, I’m fine. I’m just dizzy – it’s not medical it’s just some medication I’m on.  I’m sure they thought I just over did it….embarrassing.  I finally talked them in to moving along and I just sat there on the curb trying to make the world stop spinning.  Occasionally people would run by and ask if I was ok.  One girl, trying to be encouraging screamed “you are almost done, it’s ok, get up and run”….I know she was trying to be nice, but frankly I wanted to punch her.  Anyway, I sat there for what seemed like 20 minutes, but apparently was only about 4 or 5.  I thought about asking to get someone to drive me back, but I figured I’d have to wait until after the race and it would take forever so I just decided to try to walk the rest.  I got up and immediately started walking sideways.  Again, people start asking if I was ok.  I found that if I just walked and looked at the ground I was ok. I didn’t feel great, but I could walk.  And so I walked the last 1.5 miles.  It took forever.
I finally crossed the finish line, still feeling dizzy but better. I was feeling ok, until I had to turn in my chip. I tried to raise my foot up to the bucket and almost fell over. That was all it took to start feeling dizzy again.  I found Jim and went to sit down on the curb and pretty much fell into it and a bush.  Yeah, it wasn’t a fun day.  I felt stupid and I felt bad because there was Jim, my friend Michelle, and Jim’s friend Paul…..all just staring at me.  They all had GREAT races and something to celebrate and I was ruining it all.

So anyway, the moral of the story is that it is ok to say no to a race.  I had just spent $40 to do that race and I was going to do it no matter what. It was a dumb decision. I should have sat that one out.  In the end, I didn’t hurt myself or anything, but it was a possibility.  It’s been almost a week and I still am not back to normal.  I haven’t had any more vertigo attacks, but my head hasn’t been clear since.  It’s amazing how long the side effects linger. 
Have you ever been smarter than me and pulled out of a race when you knew you shouldn’t do it?  Or did you do it anyway? What was the outcome?



  1. That sounds just awful. You poor thing. I hope the vertigo has improved now.

  2. UGH!!! I do tend to err on the conservative side w/ running, BUT I can't stand signing up for a race (especially when it feels overpriced) and not running it. Don't beat yourself up. All you can do is learn from it (and get all your cuss words out of your system!!).

    In all seriousness, sorry to hear of the recurrence of the vertigo. Scary to have no control like that. Hang in there!

  3. Yikes. I'm sorry. That sounds quite frightening. I know the financial commitment of signing up for a race can sometimes lead us to do things we shouldn't...and yes I probably would actually have yelled something rude back at that girl too. But my big question is...WHERE was the medical team in this race??? It doesn't sound like you were attended to at all which is downright dangerous.

  4. My wife suffers from vertigo. Its been better lately but she has her "off days" where it basically brings her day(s) to a end. I feel horrible when it happens.

    I'm sorry to hear you had one on race day. But I'm glad you are ok. Probably best to eat the $40 cost next time. Hope you are feeling better.

  5. This sounds awful I felt a little dizzy just reading it. I have had some friends in the last year suffer from vertigo for different reasons and they had such hard times with it. I hope you get over yours soon.

  6. Wow! Really sorry this happened to you. I've been reading your posts and watching your improvements -- in performance and confidence -- and then this comes along. I'm sure (hoping) it's just a temporary thing.

  7. Scary! Nice to have other runners come to your aid. Always makes me feel good to be part of the running community when people have compassion.

  8. I'm sorry this happened to you--I don't know if I would have run if I'd awakened feeling like that (you're tougher than I would be in the first place, vertigo or not--I've skipped races due to UTIs before--so painful!). But the $40 paid....and you trying to make a would have been a tough choice. I hope the vertigo didn't come back after the race and that you're back to feeling 100%.

  9. aww Michael I'm sorry it was bad for you. :( I've skipped races if I woke up with a bad, bad stomach. Just because I knew that it would not be good to run with it.

  10. That sounds scary! Hope it doesn't happen every time you get abx! Hope it was a short lived experience and you are feeling better now :)

  11. Hello, from a fellow KC/Lee's Summit girl! I'm new to this running thing - just started in April, for the most part. I did the Rock the Parkway - but I did the 5k…also did the Stars and Stripes. Vertigo would have been awful - I feel for you! I'm in training now for the KC Marathon - where I'll do my first half…gulp. I'm very slow right now; I average about a 13-minute mile, but hoping to get faster. Maybe we'll meet at an upcoming local race in town! :)

    1. That's great Sherri!! Congrats on joining this crazy running thing :) Good luck with your half marathon training. When I did my first half marathon I did it at like a 13:20 pace and thought I was amazing :) It doesn't matter your pace...just that you are out there. I'm still pretty "slow" by most standards, but my average half marathon time now is around 11:30 a mile so yours times will come down for sure! Good luck with your training and hope to see you at some races!!

  12. Oh gosh! You poor thing! I am happy you are okay after all that :(