Search This Blog

Friday, February 7, 2014

How Being an RN Correlates to Running an Ultra (Making Lemonade)

Yesterday I completed my first week at a new place of employment.  Since the move from Portland to Orange County several months ago, I have enjoyed being sans job and home with my kids, driving them to preschool, exploring our new territory, pushing them in the double stroller on long runs to the playground every day, and literally soaking up this new concept of sun (new to us native Pacific Northwesterners).  It took far longer to obtain my California RN license than I estimated, and thus this Monday was my first day as a nurse at the Children's Hospital here.

Being a Pediatric RN has fun perks!

The truth is, it has been a rough and emotional week for me.

I loved my days home with my children.  Loved.  The stress of changing our routine, bringing an unknown person to the house to care for the children while I was away, the commute, the long hours spent with sick patients, the confusion of learning a new way to do a job you've been confident with for years, and the scared sensation of entering a tightknit group of RNs as the "new person" has truly caused anxiety and tears this week.  I know I will persevere, as I always do, but I must be honest and admit that it has not been easy. 

And therefore, I have been thinking a lot lately about how working as an RN at a busy Children's Hospital is quite beneficial to running an ultramarathon.  So here are my thoughts.

1. Thirteen plus hours on my feet spent scurrying around like a maniac to obtain supplies, physicians, medications and provisions for my patients and their families on a "rest day" is the best kind of active recovery.  Surely it is better than sitting on the couch right?

2. Lengthy 13 hour shifts also double as mental training for when I am in that lull of a race, bored to tears and ready to be done.  Hour 11 of a long shift is the similar sensation, complete with frequent time checks.

3. Working the night shift is perfect training for those sullen hours of a 100 mile race; these night shifts will whip my circadian rhythm into shape and instill a sense of normalcy in going 24 hours without sleep.  Furthermore, I have a few training runs planned for directly after I clock out just so I can train while physically exhausted AND sleep deprived.  Much easier to actually do this kind of training when I'm already sleep deprived from my job than if I simply tried to stay up all night in my own home.

4. Every single second of every single day at my job I am reminded of those enduring far more suffering than I have ever known.  The strain I experience at mile 88 of a 100 mile race is not comparable to the burden a child sustains on his 8th dose of anti-nausea medication to minimize his post-chemo symptoms; the empty feeling I cope with at 4 A.M. while running a 100 mile race is nowhere near the sadness that a four-year-old may be feeling while she is left alone at the hospital to recover from her brain tumor surgery because her mother has no choice but to stay at home to care for her siblings; unlike the paraplegic 13-year-old with Spina Bifida, I am not confined to a wheelchair, unable to experience the thrill of the final quarter-mile kick.

I vow to remind myself of this when I am in the darkest hours of my races, when every step is excruciating and my mind insists that I quit.  I cannot quit, because in the end, my pain and suffering is nothing.  It is a choice.

Running is such a privilege, and though I may complain a bit about returning to work, I am thankful for the daily reminder that I am so lucky just to be alive.  I will continue to live limitlessly.


  1. I went from working crazy hours to becoming a stay at home. My running schedule got so turned upside down last year because I was sooo used to go go go and then all of a sudden to just being. I finally got my rhythm down as this month is my one year anniversary to becoming a stay at home mommy.

  2. Ah good reflection. Hope it's getting easier, but totally get it.