Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend---5 days of NO WORK!

I am grateful to have job in these tough times, however, I am equally, if not more grateful to have time off.  I had a whole 5 days off with a race in the middle.  My niece is a freshman at Western Washington University and she came down on Wednesday to spend the weekend.  We spent the first 24 hours eating and watching movies.  Totally relaxing!
Thursday-I made an nontraditional T-day dinner.  I didn't know I would be "hosting" T day dinner until Tuesday evening.  And when I say "hosting" I use it quite loosely.  Basically, I made dinner for my niece, Owen and I and gave the dogs lots of snacks along the way.  I made sesame crusted salmon with orange miso sauce, scalloped sweet potatoes, asparagus and we had the yummy-not an ounce of nutrition-white rolls with it all.  We all overate of course and then had pumpkin pie and ice cream.  I was not prepared to make a turkey so that is what I came up was tasty enough and we were full and the dogs were excited for nibbles.
Friday-more relaxing

Saturday- the Ghost 50k. Scott Krell does a great job of putting on this event.  There are options for a half marathon, full marathon or 50k.  Last year I had done the 50k and this year I thought I'd sign up for it again.  The course is actually the old Seattle Marathon course and take you out and back a few times along Lake Washington.  The "Official" Seattle Marathon is the following day, Sunday.  I am considering this MY official Seattle 50k because I prefer it to the actual marathon, it's fun, low key and it's 5 miles longer.  Plus, I know everyone at the aid stations so it's a social event as well.  I haven't done a race since Big Horn 100 in June and have taken some time off mentally from running and physically, sort of, as well.  I stopped putting in my regular mileage for a few months and then recently started back up again.  I of course supplemented the time I would have spent running doing other physical things so  I didn't go crazy.  I looked up my time from last year thinking I would compare it to this year and see if that time off was helpful.  Last year at the 50k I went a 4:49 so I was hoping to break 4:40.  I was using my friend's Garmin 305 so I could keep track of pace and the eventual demise.  I actually ate something a few hours before the race to get some calories.  The weather was perfect for running, maybe not for volunteering, but running wise, I couldn't have asked for anything better and that is saying something for the latter part of November in the PNW!  The run started and we were all mixed together, half marathoners, marathoners and 50k-ers.  Plus there was an early start so it was unusual not to see fellow runners along most of the way.  And since we were running on multi-use sidewalks, there were lots of other people and dogs.  The nice thing about seeing the other runners so much is that it's nice to say hello and a "nice job' here or a 'looking good' there to take my mind off the fatigue that eventually came.  But oddly, I felt great almost the whole way. I was into my music, I was excited to get back on the horse and do a race again and I just felt happy.  I got tight a few times in the middle, hip flexor, groin, etc, but then it went away or I got used to it.  The last few miles felt long to me, I was getting pretty tired and I am certainly not used to running on the road that far.  But all in all, it was a great experience to get out and get involved again in doing a race, AND feeling healthy.  As I always do over the course of a run, I calculate how many miles I have left and then go through the possibilities of what time I can go.  As I was passing the start/finish for the last loop around Seward Park, I was at about 3:50 or so and I, maybe I can break 4:20.... I kept looking at the Garmin and trying to go faster, but my legs were moving as fast as they could.  I was swinging my arms like crazy, trying not to lean over, etc.  I was coming down to the last few yards as best as I could...but alas, I came in right at 4:20!  So I didn't break 4:20, but I certainly surpassed my expectations.  It has been a long time since I felt healthy during a race and really THAT is what I am most thankful for.  I have been waiting to get back on the horse for a while now.  Maybe it's a short lived wellness, but in any case, it felt great to run healthy again.
Owen running smooth and happy!
photo by Lind Say
Healthy and Happy
photo by Lind Say

Another cool thing about this race is the finishers award.  How about this bottle opener?  It's actually a useful household item.  Very good idea Scott!

After the run, Owen, my niece and I went out for pizza and cookies, of course.  Owen went home to sleep and get ready to run the Seattle marathon the next day b/c that's just how crazy he is.  I took my niece to the movies and got all crampy in the seats.  The movie, the Descendants, was awesome.  My legs were achy through the whole movie, but I was highly entertained none the less.
Sunday- More relaxing, marathon cheering in the wind and rain, eating and a big drive up to Bellingham and back in the apocalyptic rain.
A great 5 day weekend it was and now it's back to reality.....HARSH!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time, where does it go?

It seems like just yesterday it was the Pacific Northwest's version of summer.  I went for a run after work last night in the dark, wet, cold.  As I was getting pummeled by wind and rain I thought, 'wow, it's November!' And you know what that means.....HOLIDAY PARTIES and HOLIDAY TREATS and a giant tendency for me to feel better about being lazy, every one is doing it!

Me, in a dog body
Me, in a dog body, showing no willpower
It's rough adjusting to the weather change and darkness.  However, if I keep in mind that I never feel worse after a run , I am confident that will keep me motivated.  My motivation has not waned for the 5 AM class. In fact, it has only grown.  It certainly is not easy getting up that early and working out pretty hard then going to work.  It's not so hard to go to work after as it is to be a bit sleepy and then shock my body by jacking up my heart rate at 5AM.  But it's been good for me as it is so different from what I am used to.  As the old expression goes, train your weaknesses.  I am not sure how jumping out of bed and soon after, without coffee, jacking my heart rate up is going to help me, but the actual workouts will, whatever time they take place.  I have never done a strength training program before and now that I am almost done with the first 3 weeks, I am really seeing improvements.  I have forgotten how motivating it is to see improvements, I don't see that in my running.  I am quite sure that is why I continue to get up before the birds to do it. 

This is my instructor!
I think the overall strength I am gaining is helping me in everything I do.  I just feel an overall sense of balance and strength that I haven't felt before.  Even though I have been doing these classes since mid-July, I think it has been recent that I really feel the changes and am able to apply them to functional movement.  Keeping that in mind, I bet it will help with the running....In fact, just the other day I was running and I was thinking, what muscle is that I am feeling?  That feels foreign. Turns out, I DO have a hamstring, in fact, I have 2.  Then the other day I woke up and I though, um, what muscle is that that feels kinda sore?  Turns out, I WAS using my glutes.  These are muscles that I think I have neglected for so long and they went away.  Wouldn't you, if someone ignored you for centuries?  Well, I have convinced the hamstrings and the glutes to come out of hiding and come get reunited with their former mates.  The quads were very happy to see them again.  Now the quads have decided to go on a 3 day weekend and leave the housework to the the hamstrings and glutes.  Soon they will all be reunited, working together and we'll have a party. 

Also in the class, from the instructor you see just above, I have learned several expressions.  He oftern shouts, "HEY, NO CADILLACIN!"  I didn't know what this meant at first.  Now I know it means stop being a slow poke, move your butt.  Then I learned what it meant to "get yoked." I have no intentions of "getting yoked", but I do like saying it.  I have learned how to do a "clean" and "jerk".  I can understand why they call it a "clean", but why a "jerk?"  I'll have to google that at some point. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Relapse Prevention and the Gambler

Cascade Crest 100 is approaching, it is this weekend.  And although I **know** I am doing the right thing by sitting this one out, it's becoming increasingly difficult to see myself on the sidelines.  I so much want to be out there running.  I keep telling myself what a good thing that is, that my desire and my passion for running is as alive as ever and the fact that I am chomping at the bit to race is a good sign.  I had been feeling so burnt out but kept pushing myself harder and harder to get the results I was looking for and things were falling apart.  This scenario brought great angst, confusion, frustration and wonderment in terms of why I was doing what I was doing and why I felt so compelled and driven to keep banging my head on the wall over and over again only to wind up with the same headache.  Finally I took the necessary step and changed my approach completely.  The change has been significant.  I am feeling healthier and healthier and stronger and stronger.  I am keeping fit and running just enough to keep some muscle memory there.  Last week I think I ran 17 or 18 miles total, and not all at once.  I had very minimal leg pain.  I decided to test things out further by riding my bike to the best yoga class ever; Jasyoga with Erin, on Sunday.  I have not been able to ride my bike without pain for well over a year now.  I hopped on my bike and rode gently to Fremont with no pain!  On the way there, I was feeling more optimistic than I have felt this whole 18 months and turned to Owen and said, 'um, maybe I could do Cascade Crest!'  It was a fleeting moment of excitement!  Then I thought, really....really....!?  I must prevent this relapse! I know I am passionate about running, and some say I have an addiction to running.  But I think that now that I have changed my approach to running and have taken a step back to heal and gain strength and confidence in what my body can do, I realise that it is my approach that is addictive and probably insane.  I had written a while back that I thought I might be insane for continuing to run with pain despite trying everything I could think of besides stepping back to rest the injury.  I would set out for a run and think, now this time, it will be different because this time I went to physical therapy, or this time I did ART, or insert action here.  Even after I wrote that post back in April, I continued to run and train in the exact same way.  I guess I am slow to make change.  However, now that I have made some changes and I see the progress, I still have to be conscious and refrain from my previous mentality.....keep on this path because it is much healthier for me and much more wise and I am happier knowing that this is the right thing to do.  So when I think about wanting to run Cascade Crest this year, in 5 days, I must remember to prevent this relapse in mental thought.  I thought to myself this morning as I was walking to work....what can be my motto right now to keep me true to myself....and I thought of the Kenny Rogers' song, The Gambler
Kenny say's:
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,

Know when to walk away and know when to run.

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.

There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done
(keep it real says Kenny)
Basically, I need patience and smarts.  I gotta keep my fingers crossed! 
This weekend I did something pretty fun and quite different though.  I did the Great Urban Race here in Seattle with some fellow runners.  It was a blast running from clue to clue in pursuit of mummies at Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe, cupcakes, ballet steps and more.  I was once again anxious to do the event because I thought, oh damn, I'll probably slow everyone down because I will have to stop and walk.  But that did not happen, I ran the whole way with no pain. 
It was a fun day, with beer!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Things I have in common with my dog Struth

People always say that dogs and their "people" look alike.  I'd say that is true for Struth and me, even if he is a boy.  We also have a lot in common.  Here they are:
  •     Struth and I wear the same colors!  We love black, grey, white either separately or all combos of these colors!
  •    Struth and I both have small feet for our size.  He looks like a burly dude, but he has dainty little feet.  I have the same size feet as my mother who is 5 inches shorter than me!
  •    Struth and I both get very excited for cookies.  Our favorite is Peanut Butter. 
  •    Struth and I both learned to swim at an early age and still LOVE to swim.
  •    We both like to get up and eat, we burn calories sleeping.
  •    We LOVE taking naps on the back porch in the sun. 
  •    Often, we think we have more energy than we actually do.....we do too much in one day
  •    We both make noises in our sleep.  Last night Struth was chasing squirrels in his sleep for like 20 minutes, no wonder he woke up hungry.
  •    Struth and I will both be marking the course at CCC100.  Because he does not have opposable thumbs, I will tie the markers to the trees.  We both will eat treats along the way.
  •   Struth and I are both quite fond of Ella and Owen, (Owen not pictured)


  •   Struth and I both LOVE running, especially on the trails.

Speaking of that...running in general and on the trails....I am totally missing it!  WE are totally missing it.  Yesterday after boxing I decided to test the old leg by running the 4 mile loop.  I was already warmed up from boxing so I thought I'd see how things were going after cutting back severely on miles.  By the 2nd mile, I felt so good that I decided to tack on a mile and do the 5 mile loop.  Usually Struth is dragging a bit here, but he was right up there at my side.  We were both grinning.  We completed the 5 mile loop with only 1 stop to stretch.  That is a good indication that things are progressing!  (albeit slowly)  I was hoping for no stops, but really, I've only been "resting" from running for a few weeks.  I managed to beat my index finger knuckles raw yesterday in boxing....I have had to wrap them up for work.  I have little finger condoms on, which fits right in here where I work at the STD Clinic!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Idle Hands are the Devil's Tool

Training for ultra's keeps someone like me from going crazy.  I cannot sit still and I don't ever realise I am tired until my head hits the pillow.  I always think of things to do when I am relaxing, but in all reality, I find  exercising relaxing.  So I do it a lot.  Of course there are things that I find cathartic, like cleaning, going through drawers and giving stuff away that I don't use, recylcing, etc.  And I do enjoy to sit around to rejuvenate.  However, since I train for ultra's, I am used to a certain lifestyle of exercising a lot and eating a lot.  Now that I am not running Cascade Crest next month, there is no need to do a bunch of running.  In fact, that is exactly what I don't want to do, a bunch of running.  That is what got me out of running currently; running too much.  So what to do. . . . .
Well, that boxing classes keep me busy.  I recently started a 5 AM class.  No, that is NOT a typo, I get up at 4:30 and jog the quarter mile to the class, sweat, get my heart rate completely jacked up, jog home and then get ready for work.  I think even my dog is bewildered by my early rise, but I just love this class and I so I don't mind getting up that early.  Then I am at work early and hence, home earlier than usual.  It's the same schedule, just a few hours earlier.
I thought I might be just totally regretting my decision about CCC100, and at times I do, but in my heart, I know it is the right thing to do.  I figure now is the time to experiment with other activities that I wouldn't ordinarily do just for the experience, as long as it doesn't set the healing process back.  Owen and I were driving out to a BBQ and we a wrong turn.  I was spacing out in the passengers seat and I looked out the window and saw this sign, EMERALD CITY TRAPEZE ARTSUm...what is that?  When we got home from the BBQ, I looked it up.  I discovered that they have beginners classes for aerial. Um, that sounds interesting.  I got to work on Monday and I asked this co-worker of mine, who used to be in the roller derby, if she wanted to join me in a beginners aerial class.  She thought about it and ultimately said YES!  So, last night we went.  It is a 2 hour class and let me tell you, I have some "rope" burn, or "silk fabric" burn.  I am not as sore as I thought I would be, just a bit beat up.  I was nervous at first, just to climb the fabric.  You rub resin on your hand for good grip and then hope not to death claw the fabric and trust your body to hold yourself up.  We started out with regular fabric climbing.  I have never been good at rope climbing.  In fact. in grade school, my gym teacher made me feel so bad for not being able to climb the rope.  I was a bit overweight shall we say in grade school which is hard enough.  Then to add salt to the wound, the gym teacher makes me feel bad for not being able to climb the rope....well, whatever.  So, I climb about half way up and I am out of breath.  We tried that a few times and then did the "kitty in the tree" which requires being upside down and once we "mastered" that, we went to the "hammock".  This is the hammock:
That is NOT, me, I got this image of the Internet, but this is what we did.  And I did not look as graceful.  After that, the instructor asked us to try the fabric climbing one more time as we had spend a bit more time with the fabric and maybe we might feel more comfortable.  So I did.  I got on the fabric and I climbed all the way to the ceiling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I could not believe it!  It was an accomplishment for me.  It is true what people say, it is mostly legs that get you up there.  But before your legs can do the work, your mind has to believe it.  It might sound silly that I am excited about climbing this fabric, but hey, I was a new experience for me and I am not that comfortable with heights.  I am sure I will go back again, I'd like to learn some other moves.  It was such a nice change to the same old thing.  When I get back to training for ultra's again, I will be glad that I tried new things while I had the time. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hitting the Reset Button

I was lucky enough to visit my parents in early July this summer.  I was "surprising" my dad for his 72nd birthday.  I put that in quotes because he knew something was up, that I was coming, but he didn't know when.  Technically I did surprise him when I showed up with balloons, champagne and reading a poem I wrote him in a blond wig.
Being in North Carolina was completely awesome.  After spending the first part of the summer in Seattle with temperatures barely reaching 65* with rain and clouds, I was ready to jump in the heat and get thawed out, dried up and restore some heat in my bones.  That happened rather quickly.  I played tennis with dad in the mid day heat, went running most every day.  However, one of the highlights of the trip was going to the BEACH!
I absolutely love the sand, swimming in ocean and being transported through sight and sound to a different world known to me as THE BEACH.  I grew up swimming in the Atlantic and being there this summer just brought me back to being a kid.  As I floated, body surfed, dove under waves and bobbed around, I could feel the stress I have been feeling just get washed away in the salty waves.  Whenever I would get pummeled by a wave, I would crack up!  There is something about being in the ocean in warm salty water that brings me much serenity.  I could stay in there for hours and never get bored.  It was incredible to see my parents, married for nearly 50 years and having known each other since kindergarten, laughing together in the ocean.  That image is burned in my memory, it is an image of love and commitment, that is for sure.   And of course, what goes perfectly with a day a the beach....?  Well, ice cream or frozen custard of course!

After 2 days and the beach, we left and the next day I flew home.  I was still on vacation for a few more days from work and had planned to run around Mt St Helen's for my birthday.  After talking to the ranger, we decided that route finding in 8 feet of snow did not sound like a relaxing birthday adventure.  We opted to run in the North Cascades, however, it rained a lot of the day and I forgot my rain jacket.  Oh well, you'd think by now I would remember the essentials, but no.....  It was a fun day anyhow.

While I was in North Carolina and really since Big Horn, my leg pain has not subsided.  It seemed to be getting better before Big Horn and I was feeling optimistic.  I ran Big Horn and didn't run for a week and then gradually started running and resuming the boxing classes.  I am back to where I started with the leg issues.  I cannot complete the 4 mile loop near my house without stopping at least twice to walk.  The other day I went to the trails to run and I had to walk about 1/3 of the time on account of my leg.  It was then I decided that I would not participate at Cascade Crest 100 next month.  Sometimes my leg warms up and I have a great run, but lots of times, I just walk and run and "get through" a run.  This has been going on too long, a year and a half now.  I thought I had tried everything but now I am trying something different.  After reflecting on the book/memoir "Touching the Void", I decided to mix it up.  This book is written by Simon Yates.  Simon had a nearly fatal experience attempting to climb Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.  This peak is 20,813 ft in elevation and he and his climbing partner attempted to climb this.  They had some issues going up but the sh&&t really hit the fan on their way down.  Simon was belaying down and was attached to his partner by rope who was anchored on the mountain.  Simon goes down and somehow swings into the mountain, breaks his knee and swings away from the mountain and finds himself suspended in air, hanging from the rope with no way to get contact with the mountain.  He cannot communicate this with his partner either as they are not in ear shot of one another.  His partner is up above him, wondering what is going on.  The continual weight of Simon is wearing on his partner and his partner is having a hard time holding on to the rope and staying anchored into the mountain.  The partner has to make a decision, should he continue to hang on and put himself in danger of falling off the mountain or should hevcut the rope to save himself.  What a decision!  Eventually, he decides to cut the rope!  When he cuts the rope, Simon goes flying down the mountain in mid air and lands in a crevasse.  He is submerged in snow and mountain with a broken knee.  He has no provisions with him either.  For days he tries to crawl out of the crevasse any way he can.  When he fails time and time again, he yells and screams for help, but no one can hear him.  He keeps trying to climb out and he still is in the same position.  After a few days, he realizes that this could be the end.  His will to live is so strong that he decided to do something totally counter intuitive.  What he does is he LET's GO and immediately slides down the crevasse.  He is going deeper and deeper down and the eventually, he shoots out the bottom of the crevasse and is once again out in the air and on snow.  Now he has a chance to survive.  It's truly an amazing story.  I won't tell you the end as it's a really good read, but obviously he wrote this book so that's a pretty big indication that he survives!  Anyway, the take away message for me is that when I have tried everything I can think of, or have the will to try, and it doesn't work, then I must let go, dig deeper and try something new.  I realize that this situation with my leg and running 100 milers does not even make it on the radar screen with what Simon was up against, but the book has always been a reminder to me to always be in motion trying to fix, solve, resolve or overcome what is ailing me.  I have known for quite some time that if I stopped running so much that I would heal quicker, but I did not WANT to do that.  But now is the time.  I WANT to run CCC100, I WANT to run the 4 mile loop without stopping, I WANT to ride my bike without having to get off of it and push it.  But because I can't do the two latters, it leaves the former in question.  So, I am letting go of CCC100 and trying a new approach.  I can still do my beloved boxing classes and go for trail runs here and there.  But now the pressure is off to find a solution before the next race only to find myself back where I started.  I will cheer my friends on at CCC and volunteer, pace Owen for some miles, but other than that, it's time to get on a different path. As Erin says in Jasyoga, I am going to hit the reset button.  Although I am personally disappointed in not running CCC, I know I am doing the right thing.  In the long run, it is the best thing, (no pun intended).  I'll be there cheering friends on and pacing Owen for part of it and hopefully volunteering in other capacities.  And I also decided to join to fellow ultra runners for the Great Urban Race in August.  It's something different, why not?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Daze

It's finally summer here in the PNW!  We have temperatures above 65* finally and sunshine!  I am ready for summer adventures, there are so many things I want to do this summer.  I want to circumnavigate Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainer, just to name a few.  It's just 2 weeks post Big Horn and although I don't feel like "training" I do feel motivated to get out an enjoy what the PNW has to offer.  Summer is just a few month long here and we have gotten off to a slow start and snow levels are still quite low. 
Last weekend a few of us went to Granite Mt.  It's just an 8 mile out round trip "hike" and sounded just up my alley.  I haven't really run much since Big Horn but I have been back to Seattle Boxing Studio and am loving it.  I love these workouts, they are different and fun and I sweat like no one's business.  Sweating like that makes me feel accomplished, like I've done something.  I like to start the day off like that, it keeps the pace up to get stuff done while at work.  Anyway. . . as I laced up my running shoes getting ready for Granite Mt, some dusty dirt flaked off my shoe laces, reminisce of Big Horn.  Even though I spend like 45 minutes cleaning those shoes after BH, it's impossible to get it all really.  The dusty dirt was a gentle reminder to take it easy.  Life can become such a whirlwind sometimes with working, spending time with friends and loved ones, training, resting, reading, chores, etc.  Big Horn was a different kind of "vacation" and it is not time to take the pressure off and enjoy spending the day outside.
Well, what a day it was!  it was sunny and warm.  The dogs had a blast, there was lots of snow at the top for the dogs to roll in and chase snowballs.  We got up to the top, lounged around and then slipped and slided down the snow and once past the snow, Owen and I gently ran down to the car.  It was a perfect day really.  The next adventure is scheduled for next week and that is to circumnavigate Mt. St. Helens!
Yikes!  Lots of snow!
Great View of Rainer!

Self portrait

The dogs give Michelle their undivided attention for COOKIES!

Running downhill on soft snow=one of life's greatest pleasures

Friday, June 24, 2011

Big Horn 100....What an adventure!


Big Horn 100 is a whole other beast!  What an amazing course.  The scenery was gorgeous, the terrain was tough and the organization was top notch.  I was so impressed with how the aid stations were set up on account that there were some spots that were so remote, only cowboy and horse were able to access it.  This year was a snow route and therefore the highest we went was 8000 ft instead of 9000 ft.  I thought that the elevation would effect me but I just wasn't sure how much.  I was quite excited about this 100M because it appeared things were shaping up for me; my leg was healing and I was able to get in some higher intensity workouts in the month of May.  I was hoping to go 27-28 hours.
Originally, Owen, John and I had planned to go together to Big Horn.  That plan was challenged when Owen had to have surgery in late March and John had to have surgery in the beginning of June, rendering him unable to make the trip.  We told John we would take lots of photos, and we did so there are many included in this post

 We arrived in Sheridan on Wednesday afternoon and decided to take a look around the Western town.  It seeded as though the town had commissioned a lot of art to publicly display and later we found out that there are a handful of very wealthy residents who put forth lots of money for art and community activities for children.  Pretty cool!

 Thursday we dealt with the drop bag situation.  It's always hard to foresee what you might need in terms of clothing and food.  Which bag should I put what in.....what will I feel like at that aid station?  It's a crap shoot and I guess you just have to be prepared to be unprepared.  We were told there would be creek crossings, lots of mud and snow.  Some cowboys had heard about the knee deep creek crossings and made a bridge for us out of 2 tree trunks, wow!  The mud was not joke, it was literally shoe sucking.  As for the snow, it was very very minimal, I ran on more snow at Rattlesnake Ridge last month!
Friday rolled around and it was time to run 100 miles.  We saw Team Fleet Feet that morning, everyone was looking excited and ready.

 There were actually a few more green shirts and 2 more Seattle-ites that we knew not pictured here....

 We all walked over to the elk statue for the start and this cowboy picture here belted out the best National Anthem I've ever heard!  After that, we were off!  There were 5 miles of dirt road, slightly downhill.  I was trying not to think of the last 5 miles on that road but was trying to get a mental picture of landmarks for on the way back, what is there when there is only a mile left?  Like I was going to remember....

The first climb through the canyon was BEAUTIFUL!  It was quite steep and it was super windy.  There are no big trees here like in the PNW to protect you from the wind and so my hat blew off several times.

Once you get out of the canyon, there is more climbing up to a ridge that eventually drops down and crosses a creek.
Once we dropped down, Owen and I missed a turn and we wound up on the other side of the creek.  A little back tracking and we were on the trail again!  Whoops.
Eventually, we got to Dry Fork aid station, we would pass through this aid station 4 times.   There was an out and back from here that went up to 8000 ft and then turned around and headed back to Dry Fork. It was here that I felt the elevation for this first time, at least in a less subtle way.  I was still making pretty good time here, I was at about 5-1/2 hours for about 25 miles, most of which was climbing.  I hadn't peed yet and I was somewhat concerned about that.  I tried to, but the trickle that came out was blown directly on my shorts from the wind.  Humility was starting to set in.

From Dry Fork, we headed down for several miles with a few ups until I reached Cow Camp AS.  Owen and I had separated, he was vomiting and told me to go ahead.  I was not feeling great myself, but just kept going.  I thought, oh, I'll feel better, just keep fueling.  It was so beautiful that I just concentrated on the scenery and tried to forget that I was feeling lousy.

As I made my way to Footbridge, mile 41, I still had not peed yet.  I made it here in about 9 hrs and 40 mins.  I was still making ok time I thought but I was really feeling low energy and was concerned that I still had not peed.  I was taking salt, drinking, eating, etc.  Oh well, it'll come, I thought.  We got weighed in here and I thought for sure I would be heavier, but no, I had lost 2 lbs.  It was here that I saw Owen!  he was feeling better and we were psyched to see each other as it would be night soon-ish.
We headed up to Swamp Marsh, 10 miles up and 10 miles down.  At the top was the turn around and I was excited to get the first half done with because I had convinced myself that the second 50 would be better for me.
On the way up, I finally peed!  I was over 10 hours I had gone and I was thinking, yes, now I am getting on track!  Well, I soon deteriorated.   I was nauseous,  low energy but still trying to keep positive.  That 10 miles seemed to last for quite awhile and it was here that I was started to get passed quite regularly.  Once we got to the top, I was a mess.  I was incoherent and shaking.  The AS volunteers told Owen that he had to get me down once I was coherent again and they loaded me up with soup and mountain dew.
I felt absolutely horrible and it was here that mentally I was wrecked.  But, I got up and started to run/walk down.  We hit the Narrows Aid station that was stocked my the cowboys and their horses.  We took a moment to have more soup, I was still wrecked.

And so it goes, another 100 with nausea and hydration issues, it's time to make a change!
Once we got back to Footbridge, we had lost considerable time.  We got weighed here and I had gained 6 lbs.  
Owen and I weren't really able to eat and he could not walk uphill without stopping every 20 yards to put his hands on his knees to catch his breath.  We were determined to finish and at this point just wanted to stay ahead of the cut off times.  It was still dark and we had on all of our clothes as we were moving quite slow.  I puked quite a bit until the sun came up and Owen's distance from walking to resting was getting shorter and shorter.  I was very concerned for him, his breath was so labored and he looked the worst I've ever seen him.  He had some courage to keep going I can tell you that.  He did not complain, just kept moving as best as he could.
As we approached Cow Camp, the AS volunteers had remembered Owen from the first time through.  They asked him if he was feeling any better and he said yes, even though that was not the truth.  It really sunk in to me there that he had been going for so many miles feeling sick and now not being able to breathe.  I was really concerned for him.  I started feeling better and was able to eat some at Cow Camp,  had me some bacon!  It was tasty.  
We still had 6 miles to go and I thought that if I made little goals for Owen that that might be helpful.  I would say, let's make it to that orange marker and then you can rest and catch your breath.  But as time went on, he was unable to walk more that 10 yards, uphill, downhill or on the flats without having to stop to catch his breath.  I had 100 mile head and was trying to figure out ways to help him, but I could not.  We were in such a remote area that we had to make it to Dry Fork and then re-evaluate.  During those 6 miles, we started seeing some 50 milers come through.  They were fresh and fling down the mountain.  All of them said, "great job" or "keep it up!" or "looking strong!".  It was nice to see some other people on the trail.  We had been passed by what seemed like everyone in the 100M.  

Finally, we arrived at Dry Fork.  Mile 75!  I got weighed in there and had gained another 6 lbs.  I was worried they would say I had gained too much weight, but the woman who weighed me said she would let me continue.  I talked with Owen for about 15 minutes here.  I knew it was in his best interest to stop here but I did not want to be the one to talk him into anything.  I was not thinking so clearly myself.  I knew that if he were to continue that I would have to stay with him.  The next section was a climb to 8000 ft and seeing as though Owen could not walk long on the flat, I was hoping he would say, ok, next year, next year I will come back to finish.  He did.  Phew.  I was so concerned for his health but I knew he had to come to that decision himself or have an AS person/medical person tell him that.  So I said goodbye to him and kept going.
I had 25 more miles to go and enough time to do it in.  So from this point on, it was one step in front of the other.  I didn't even listen to music, the birds, wind and sound of my feet beneath was a comfort to me.  Since there were 3 other races going on, 50M, 50K and 30K, I did see some other runners.  Once they would see I was running the 100M, they were very encouraging and that was helpful.  
creek crossing before a big climb back to the ridge before the descent into the canyon

heading up to the canyon
The descent into the canyon was brutal.  It was steep and technical.  It was also quite hot.  But I just concentrated on the beauty and knew that eventually, I'd make it.  I let go of any time goal I had had a long time ago.  Next thing I know, I have hit the Tongue River and the road to the park in Dayton, The Finish Line!  The next 5 miles was the best I felt the entire 100M.  I ran most of it.  I talked to a few people along the way but all I wanted was to get to that finish line.  About 2-1/2 miles into it, a bunch of people were handing our Popsicles, what a great idea!  That Popsicle was so refreshing.  Next thing I know, I hit pavement and the entrance to the park, it had been over 32 hours and I was exhausted.
So, that's the story of the Big Horn adventure.  
When I finished, I learned that Owen had sat at the Dry Fork to see if things got better for him.  They did not.  The medical crew took him to lower elevation and to the med tent where they hooked him up to some tubes to breath in I'm not sure what.  He was diagnosed with Pulmonary Edema.  Thank Goodness he did not go on, what a trooper to make it as far as he did.  
I really need to figure out this nutrition thing, anyone have any ideas?  This 100 took a lot out of me and I am not sure I am up for doing Cascade Crest 100 in August seeing as though this nausea thing and hydration issue really makes things tougher.  I always expect to have many ups and downs in a 100, or any ultra for that matter, but it seems like if I can dial in the nutrition better, I'd have to battle less obstacles.  The last 3 100's I've done I have puked a lot.  Maybe that is just normal and I am a wimp! That's what I will research in the coming weeks and then make a decision about CCC100.  
In any event. Big Horn is an amazing course and I plan to go back next year to do it again.  The AD volunteers, RD and all the events that make up Big Horn were spectacular!  The BBQ after the race and the pancake breakfast on Sunday was awesome.  Adam and Gwen did awesome, as well as Dan Baeir Eric P and John.  It was great to see so many PNW runners there, to see friends and make new ones.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another freezing May-vember Run...with better gear!

I am lucky, so very lucky, to have a job where I can pretty much make a lot of my own schedule.  I am a researcher who sees patients but I also do a hell of a lot of's research after all and I have to document EVERYTHING.  That being said, if I am not seeing patients, then I am at my desk, on the computer, typing away----entering information---making phone calls---- you know, the fun stuff.  However, because of this type of work, I have been able to get to work early and then leave early and hit the trails mid-week!  2 weeks ago, Owen and I went to Tiger for a 2-1/2 hour trail run with the dogs.  We figured, well-it is raining but it's spring time, how cold can it get?  We had on arms warmers, shirts, hat and gloves, that should be enough for mid May.....NOT!  We were FREEZING.  When I say FREEZING, I mean we were not even talking, we had our heads down making it down the trail as fast as we could to get to the car.  There was no sense in talking about how we had no dexterity in our hands because they were numb.  Or to talk about how cold and wet our feet were, the fact that we were no even TRYING to dodge the puddles and instead running right through them was a testament that we could no longer feel our feet.  I was a prune when we finally got back to the car.  The dogs even looked a little out of sorts, especially the brown dog.  The brown dog, Ella, is short haired.  I call her a muscle with some fur.  She is a lean mean sprinter who gets cold easily.  She looked miserable.  The black dog, Struth, can pretty much handle anything.  He does not seem to be effected by it being too hot or too cold, he just likes to be outside.  But even he was looking at my with dismay.  Usually I have to make big efforts to round them up and get them in the car but this day, they were waiting for me to open the back so they could get in a curl up in a wet ball and stink the car up.  It took Owen and I about twice the time to get changed because we had no dexterity to unclasp backpacks, untie shoes or make the quick change.  it was almost humorous at the time. 
The next week, we went back and what a different story, a beautiful day.  The dogs were hardly muddy and neither were our shoes. 
Yesterday was a different story.  However, we had different gear.  I did a little research for Big Horn.  After Pine to Palm 100, I learnt my lesson.  Waterproofing is important.  Owen and I bought the Northface Leonidas jacket. It's breathable, lightweight AND waterproof.  It has a hood with some elastic in it to make it stay in place and the sleeves are long enough and they too have elastic to keep them from letting water seep in.  This jacket gets the thumbs up.  It was hailing, raining, windy, muddy and generally...just rather unpleasant and uncalled for in the month of May.  I had to thank my lucky stars that my house or the house of a friend or family member had not been taken out due to flooding or a tornado in order to not feel like I had done something terrible in order to deserve this constant cold rainy sunless weather we've been having.  I also thanked my lucky stars that I was better prepared for the weather this time with the Leonidas.  We were so happy to have the jackets and they worked wonders.  I was not wet at all under the jacket.  I wished Struth had one, he was so stinky, muddy and wet.  I was still brushing dirt clots out of him this morning. 
Now....I just need to find some pants that I can run in at night time at Big's gonna be cold, wet, snowy and muddy.  GEAR GEAR GEAR!

Monday, May 16, 2011

If you fly a kite, you'll always look up

Things are looking and shaping up these days.  Owen is back on the trails 6 weeks post surgery!  We ran a few hours each weekend day last weekend and then hit Tiger Mt for some 12 summits this past Saturday. 

We look like chipmunks

We are really happy for A view
12 summits is a hard run, and it's not that exciting either.  It's all about the company.  It was a great company day- Owen, Sara Malcolm and Steve Stoyles.  (photo courtesy of the latter 2 mentioned)  I slept terribly the night before and was wondering how this 12 summits would go compared to the one I did 4 weeks ago....I was really hoping it was not going to be a suffer-fest.  As it turned out, it went really well.  Owen ran great, my leg was significantly less of a factor, the company was awesome and to add icing to the cake, the sun came out and it did not rain once while we were on the trails. 
We hardly got that muddy and for being on Tiger...that is saying something.  We were like an hour faster than last time, but in all fairness, we weren't running through any snow like last time.  Once we got to East Summit, summit #4, we saw Justine Angle.  He ran with us for a bit until he took a different trail than us.  He is so fast but he still hung out and ran and chatted with us.  We would be running side by side and then a hill would come and I would just hope he was doing the talking otherwise I would be so winded.  But when the hills got to be time for me to walk, he stopped and walked too.  What it would be like to be an elite athlete that runs up the hills!?

Sara's husband Luke met us at the turn around with salty snacks and AB&J's.  There were plenty of water and coke to go around as well.  He ran and out an back so was able to joing us for a few hours which was nice.  Once we finished, we had my special almond butter brownies to celebrate Steve's birthday.

I'm really happy for Owen that he is able run and gain confidence on the trails as we head into Big Horn 100 next month.  I am feeling more optimistic as well.  I've been going to acupuncure for 6 weeks and I started a yoga class last week that complimented the acupuncure, I believe. Last Saturday I ran 3-1/2 hours with leg pain about 80% of the time, range 3-8 on the scale.  I went to this yoga class on Sunday specifically for runners and recovery and then hit the trails for another 3-1/2 hours and I had leg pain only 20% of time time.  Wow!  What a difference it makes mentally to not be in pain a lot of the time, it was actually WAY MORE FUN!  12 summits was much better as well.  I am keeping up with the stretches on a daily basis and continuing acupunture.  Who knew..?  It seems like I tried everything without too much long standing success.  I don't think I'm totally in the clear, but I might be on to something.  It really is amazing how my outlook is more optimistic about Big Horn and running in general now that I am finding a groove again with running without continual pain.  I hope it lasts....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Give it to me straight doc, plus Capital Peak 50 Miler

Well, whoever said that a doctor has to have good bedside manners? 

I'd like to preference this post by saying, I do not have a life or death situation here and I am aware enough to have such perspective, but I thought the conversation I had with this doctor had to be posted here.
When I went to see the Naturopathic Dr to receive my MRI results, she told me that the results were inconclusive.  Inconclusive?  Hum, well at least I do not have a bulging disc that is pinching a nerve, arthritis, tendinitis, something that makes me never able to be active again, etc.  Yes, it's good nothing bad was found.  As a catch 22, I was hoping to get some answers that were more suggestive as to how to treat these symptoms of mine.  The ND was stumped as well and suggested I see an orthopedic sports medicine dr.  The doctor she wanted me to see was on vacation but in the office of this doctor on vacation was another doctor that had an appointment that same week.  I thought ok, well maybe a sports medical doctor might have a different perspective on how to interpret the MRI. Well, he did have a different perspective.  The conversation went like this;
Him; 'I don't know what's going on with your leg, I don't really see anything.  Maybe you have a bruised muscle or maybe you have a hemangioma.  I don't think it is a bruised or strained muscle because the area that seems unusual in the MRI is in the middle of your muscle and we generally see bruises and strains on either end of the muscle. If it is a hemangioma, then there is nothing you can do about it.  You just have to decided to run in pain or not to run.'
Me; 'So, you are saying that if it is a hemangioma, there is nothing I can do.  Why is that, what is a hemangioma?'
Him; 'A hemangioma is a benign tumor.  It's a birth mark.  Most people have them on their skin, few have them in their muscle.  If it is in your muscle, there is nothing that can be done.  You have had this since birth.'
Me; 'Well, if I've had this since birth, why did I just start feeling it last year?  I've been active my whole life and I never had this problem before.'
Him; 'I don't know.  I don't know why you are so upset, it is not like I'm telling you that you have cancer.'
Me; blank stare
Him; 'Have you ever considered that fact that you might be just too old to run?  I see a lot of people out running and it's rare I see someone as old as you."
Me; blank stare
Him; 'Listen, you have 4 muscles in your quad and 4 in your abductor region.  Only one of those muscles is effected, can't you find a way to run without using that muscle?
Me; blank stare
Him; 'Good luck with that' and off he went out the door. 
For the record, I did respond a few times, but I was taken back by his....his....insensitivity.  For crying out loud, this guys is a sports medicine doctor, of all people I would think that he values one's desire for pain free activity.  Anyway, I left there feeling lousy. 

I hymned and hawed for 2 days wondering if I should run Capital Peak 50 Miler on Saturday, let alone Big Horn 100 in June.  Ultimately, John and I decided to go.  He had rolled his ankle and had not been running much.  We decided that we can always opt for the 55k if we were really in bad shape. Owen drove us and was going to volunteer.  When I was getting my number, I saw some friends and a few of them said, man, I can't believe we're about to run a 50 miler, that's a far way.  It dawned on me I hadn't even thought about the logistics of the race at all.  I had been so consumed with whether or not I would run but hadn't thought about the distance.  That sometimes works in a persons favor though....

We started and immediately I was walking.  I saw everyone and their brother pass me by.  Literally, I believe I was the last person.  I walked and walked and tried to keep a good mental attitude.  After about 10 minutes, I was able to start to run.  I started off slowly and tried not to be discouraged.  I thought, no way am I going to be able to run 50 miles let alone 100.  Why did I start?  Then I reeled it in...I thought to myself, you don't know this course so just enjoy the new scenery and if it takes you 12 or 13 hours to finish, well, then that's that.  Mindset adjustment....complete. 

I started feeling better and was able to run some more.  I started catching some people, seeing some friends, Owen was at the first real aid station so I was happy to check in wit him.  I kept going and when the time came to go on for the 50M or drop down to the 55K, I decided to keep going. I was having fun just sort of being out there and enjoying the trails, my music, etc.  I got to the next aid station and Owen was there again, that was nice to see him there.  The next section was an out and back and I got to see lots of people.  It is always inspiring to see the lead peeps running.  I saw Sara Malcom and Eric Barnes out there and they were looking good. I saw Candice and Linda and Matt.  I saw John and was glad to see that he had decided to continue on the 50M.  Every one seemed to be in good spirits, it is so fun to see everyone on those parts.  I did notice that the boxing has been helping as there were parts that I probably would have been more inclined to walk but ran those parts, at the ultra-shuffle pace, but ran them none-the-less.  I saw Owen one last time and took off for the last 14-15 miles.  When I got to mile ~46, I looked at my watch, 9:19.  I thought, hum,,,maybe I could break 10 I just continued on with an ok pace and squeaked in at 9:55.  Pain level throughout the race was between a 3 and an 8.  But there were times when I was running without much discomfort and that was a sign that maybe this "thing" will go away with the right treatment and I can get back to the regular scheduled program. 

I won a pair of shoes for being 1st Womens Master and also won a pair of shoes in the raffle.  It was my lucky day.  John and I were ultimately glad that we had decided to go and run and finish the 50.  It was a very well organised event.  John Pearch is one of the nicest guys and Heidi Perry is so supportive.  The course was well marked and very beautiful in many sections.  The aid stations and volunteers were great and the sponsers were very generous with theirs donations.  The Balanced Athlete for one....There was more single track than I expected which I was grateful for.  I had fun seeing my friends and catching up with people I haven't seen in a while.
The best quote of the day came from Steve Stoyles and really sums up WHY I run.  I asked him what he was training for with all the running and racing he's been doing and his reply was, "LIFE".  I love it!

Monday, April 18, 2011

True Confession!

Well, here it is.  I watch The Biggest Loser.  I've never watched a whole season and I don't plan my day around watching the show, but I do enjoy watching it when I am home and feel like putting my feet up.  My first reaction to The Biggest Loser was...what? what will they think of next!? But then I watched an episode or two and found it to be actually pretty good.  The thing with this reality series is that the contestants on the show don't appear to be back stabbing conniving greedy people.  The contestants are supportive of their fellow competitors and seem to be genuinely happy to see them succeed.  This is something you don't find on many other reality shows.  The concept of The Biggest Loser is universal.  The show promotes The Biggest Loser Lifestyle, not a diet or a fad, but a lifestyle.  When these contestants convert to the BL lifestyle, they find themselves succeeding in areas, (weigh loss, nutrition, exercise) that they never thought they would ever succeed before.  It is really interesting to see the changes in people and I find it kind of inspiring.  Obviously we don't see what goes in behind the scenes, but what the producers choose to show the audience is good stuff to me.   This can be translated to areas of my life that need improvement.  I won't go into all of that, but let's just say that the concept of making a lifestyle change is often daunting and it takes real courage and strength to do it.  I also get some tips from the show. . . .
So that is my confession, I watch The Biggest Loser. 

What else is in the news...well, after over a year of battling with this leg issue that had now turned into it's own entity in my life, I've tried yet something else.  Let me review this history of this nagging pain.
Early January 2010- Ran Bandera 100k, no leg issues, didn't know one was coming
Later in January 2010-What the hell is that painful sensation in my right thigh when I try to run, its like I can't lift my leg
Rest of January-March 2010-Ignore the problem, it will go away.  This did NOT work, but I still managed to run some races with increasing amounts of pain. Managed 104 miles at PacRim with much discomfort.  Although, I think I would have felt discomfort REGARDLESS at PacRim, even if I were healthy....running in a 1 mile loop on a gravel path for about 22 hours....
March 2010-went to see a sports med Dr.  Got an x-ray, no diagnosis, just wonderment as to where this pain originates from, but got a referral for Physical Therapy and Active Release Therapy.
March-June 2010- No success with PT, some success with ART, but still running with the weird unknown pain, (why didn't I stop?  Because I'm silly) Still ran some races, withdrew from others, trained the best I could but felt compromised
June -August 2010-Continued with ART, started Heller Work, my training was still really sporadic and limited. Heller Work did NOT work, didn't really make a difference in the long run that I noticed
August -September 2010-Got through some races, some I finished, one I didn't, disappointed and frustrated
September -October 2010-REST. Very minimal running and activity in general.  I did things that didn't cause the usual pain.  Took a yoga class for 6 weeks, had some awesome massage from Leah Kangas.
October 2010-Present- Started back slow to building up miles.  No relief.  Still have this leg pain.  Started pilates with the amazing Echo Norris.  Some relief from this.
Wednesday April 13-Went to get acupuncture, why not?  I've tried pretty much everything.  The ND sees me and she orders me up and MRI right away. She said I'll run to produce the symptoms and then they will put my in claustrophobia land.
Saturday April 16th-Ran 12 summits and I sucked!  But besides that, the company of Sara and Eric and Struth was great!  Photo courtesy -Sara Malcolm

Last Summit of the day....phew

I had anxiety dreams before 12 summits and wondered if it was just plain stupid to run.  It's kind of remote once you get past the hikers hut on Tiger 1.  If I had to turn around, then that would have been along solo trip back to the car. Once we hit snow on the 4th summit I though, oh, maybe they will want to turn around and call it a day.  But no, I was running with tough peeps so that option was not even mentioned....  I was having a hard time keeping up all day.   The whole 12 summits my pain level was between a 3 and an 8.  So I am just being plain dumb for continuing to put myself in the position?  If not dumb, than at the very least, insane.  What is the definition of insane?
insane (ɪnˈseɪn)
— adj

1. a. mentally deranged; crazy; of unsound mind

b. ( as collective noun; preceded by the ): the insane

2. characteristic of a person of unsound mind: an insane stare

3. irresponsible; very foolish; stupid

This might apply to me.  I think it does. 
 I know every runner goes through this...they want to run, wonder if by running the damage will be worse.  Can I run through this?  What if I miss a long run, how does that set my back?  It's stressful and time consuming.  So I've decided that when I get the results of this MRI back, I will make a decision about whether or not I will finish out this season with the races I have signed up for or if I will take the rest of the season off.  We'll see. . . . either way I will be out their supporting my friends. 
Until the MRI results come back, I'll continue the insanity!