Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Victories come in Unexpected Packages; CCC 2012

Cascade Crest 100 is done, completed.  I went into the run with loose expectations.  My training has been inconsistent but still focused.  Once I received the diagnosis, (see previous post) on my leg and learned that I am not doing any further damage to it by running....I decided I'd give CCC a go this year.  I have a bit of a battle going with CCC and so I didn't want another year to go by without facing the challenge of tackling CCC.  CCC 2009 was my first 100 and it was successful for me.  In 2010, I dropped and have always regretted it.  In 2011, I did not start b/c of the leg problems.  And this year I was lucky enough to get in and felt focused and motivated.  However, with inconsistent training and planning a WEDDING, I was feeling as though I need not put any pressure on myself and just run my best to my current abilities.  Who knows, I thought, I could surprise myself!  I was VERY lucky to have a pacer and crew this year as well.  And not just any pacer and crew, but the best ever I could ask for; Eric and Michelle Barnes and Steve Stoyles.

Owen was running his 5th consecutive CCC and was on track to get the silver belt buckle.  Also, he was running this one in memory of his dad who passed away 4/29/2012.  Owen's dad had been at every other CCC and so he dedicated this one to him.  He wore his dad's pin on his hat for the entire 100 miles!

Owen just before the start
And then we were off!  The Canadian and American anthems had been played and all the good lucks, hellos, and nice to see ya agains had been exchanged.  It truly is so good to see so many friends at the start of such a special event.
photo by Yitka Winn
We're off!
I started out slow as usual but by the time I got to the climb up Goat Peak, I was feeling warmed up and in a good space for the climb.  There is a lot of climbing in the first 20 miles that can be deceiving.  We all know the second half is difficult with the cardiac needles and Thorp Mt. but the first 20 miles have quite a bit of ascent as well.  I was feeling great.  Not pushing it too hard, just enjoying myself and talking to people, drinking a lot of water, eating at the aid stations and eating a gel every 30 mins just as I did at Umstead.  When I reached Tacoma Pass, mile 23, I saw Eric and crew.  They told me I was in 4th place.  I was surprised.  I looked at my watch and I had made fairly good time, about on pace as 2009.  I left that aid station and quickly came up to the 3rd place woman.  We exchanged hellos and I moved past her.  With a about 4 miles to go until the next big aid station, I caught up to the 2nd place woman, Missy.  We chatted and headed into Stampede Pass aid station (mile 33)  together.  At the point, Shawna Thompkins, last years winner and amazingly fast runner who would have won CCC came up to me and told me that she had dropped and that I had a chance to win, but to just run my own race and it'll all come together.  WOW, I was surprised and excited.  It was only mile 33, but I was feeling so good and as if I was reserving good energy for the second half and especially the last 20 miles.  So off I went with the support of Eric and the crew so happy to be running and feeling so good. I ran into Hyak, mile 53, with Missy and Chad from Vancouver, BC.  It was great running with them.  We had a good pace going but I was still feeling good.  We got to Ollalie Meadows, mile 47, and it was still light out.  I knew I was ahead of my 2009 times and was excited.  This year we had the rope section and the run through the tunnel.  That was pretty fun.

I got into Hyak and it was about 9:30PM, 11:30 hours of running so far and just 47 more miles to go, and with Eric pacing me and Michelle and Steve crewing, I knew I was in good hands.  Eric and I left Hyak at the same time Missy and her husband left.  So I was still in the running for a good place.  My stomach was a but wonky, but I figured that is usual.  I was drinking a ton of water and eating gels every 30 mins with extra food at the aid stations.  About 3 miles later I looked at my watch, it was time for another gel.  I opened up the package and tried to suck it down but my stomach wanted nothing to do with that.  I ate about half of it and turned to Eric and said, I don't think I can eat this, I feel sick.  So,  I just drank so water and continued to walk uphill.  I started feeling worse and worse and I could feel my pace slowing.  But every time I tried to exert myself, I thought I would throw up.  And soon I did.  I threw up a few times and figured that was it and I was good, I got it out.  Then a few miles later, I threw up a few more times.  When I got to the aid station at mile 63, I was still close to Missy and the 3rd place woman was just ahead of us.  So I was still in the mix and knew I would feel better but just told myself to be patient.  As we headed on the downhill to Lake Kachess, mile 68, I was feeling more and more sick.  I really could not eat anything.  I tried, but I couldn't get anything down. At the aid station, I tried to eat.  Michelle and Steve were there and were giving me good advise on what to try to eat and to take it easy to recover and try to get in some calories.  So I ate some animal crackers, soup, potato, etc.  Eric and I left there and within 200 yards, I was throwing all of that up.  Now I was getting a bit worried.  Without calories, how could I do this?  Eric reassured me that I just needed to recover and eat for the 5 miles of Trail from Hell.  Ok,,,,I'll try that.  Well, I must have pulled over 4,5 or 6 times to puke puke puke and puke again.  I was having a hard time getting up the climbs due to lack of energy/calories.  All that became important to me at the point was feeling better.  I knew my shot at a PR or top 3 was gone.  However, at this point, I felt so sick that all that mattered was getting through it and feeling better.  Eric was so kind.  He just sat with me as I puked with patience and kindness.  he kept reassuring me that I would feel better.  Whenever my breathing got out of control, he would stop and tell me to catch my breath.  I was moving so slow, a snails pace.  People we passing me left and right.  I was so out of it and then Eric suggested I lay down on the side on the trail in a space blanket to rest for 10-20 minutes.  At first I thought, no, let's keep going, but the more I got sick, the more I thought it was a good idea.  So I layed down in the dirt and feel asleep immediately.  Eric woke me up and said...let's try to make it to Mineral Creek aid station, mile 73.  He wold me we were about 2 miles away.  UGH, 2 miles!  I thought I could not do it, it was too far.  I stood up and within 1 minute was puking again.  I sat there and said to Eric, "Am I going to have to DNF here?"  He said, "That is your choice, but let's just try to make it to Mineral Creek".  Ok...I am going to try.  I knew I DID NOT WANT A DNF.  But seriously, running 2 miles felt like an eternity.  I sat there and had some words with Eric, he was just so supportive.  At this point Owen and his pacer passed us.  Poor Owen!  He was having respiratory problems and was suffering big time himself.  But I know him, he would continue as far as he could until and if he was pulled from the race.  They left.  Then some time later, Eric and I stood up and we moved forward.  And you know what, we made it.  Eric got me there with encouragement, patience and kindness.  We got there and Michelle and Steve were there.  I cannot express how lucky I was to have them there.  They nursed me back to life.  I had coke and broth and fell asleep again, for about 15 more minutes.  By now the sun was up.  So I said, ok, let's head out.  I was scared because I didn't think I would be able to exert myself and I would just continue to get sick.  But I had to see if I could do it.
We said goodbye to Michelle and Steve and headed up the hill.  I drank Dr. Pepper and tried to nibble on this or that and the next thing I know, we are at mile 80, No Name Ridge.  I was feeling optimistic that I was going to finish now.  We hit the cardiac needles and it was a **struggle** to say the least,  I had very little calories in me and exertion up the hills was tough.  We came up to Owen and his pacer. Owen had his hands on his knees and was catching his breath.  I knew he was going to have a tough 20 miles.  I rubbed his back and he told me to move on so we did.
Eric and I made it to through the needles and Thorp Mt.  It was so freaking hard.  I counted down the big climbs one at a time.  5-4-3-2-1.

Getting the yellow ticket at the top of Thorp Mt.

From this point on, it was just one step in front of the other and we moved onto French Cabin aid station, mile 88.  Only 12 more miles....only 12 more miles....  We headed down and then up and then ran some rolling hills, and walked, and caught breath....Poor Eric had hurt his leg somehow and was in some pain as well.  What a pair we were!
We made it to the last aid station, mile 96.  NO WAY!  I could not believe it.  Michelle and Steve were there.  They handed me a bottle, took my pack and said get going!  I looked at my watch and it said 28 hours and 4 minutes.  I turned to Eric and said,,,,let's try to get in under 29 hours.  So we ran, shuffled, walked, repeat until we hit the railroad tracks.  I cannot express the relief I felt that I had made it there.  It was by far the hardest thing I have done physically, mentally and emotionally, or at least that I can remember in a very long time.  I could not believe that #1) I was going to do it and #2) that it was almost over.  
Eric, always smiling and always positive, I couldn't ask for anyone better.

Just a few more steps and I am DONE
And what do you know, we crossed the finish line in 28 hours and 50 minutes.  All that suffering was over and all I could do was smile and be so tremendously grateful for Eric, Michelle and Steve, and all the other support I had along the way.
Could not be more thrilled

OMG! Relief!

Poor Eric, sore feet and a sore leg.
Owen finished in just under 31 hours and received the silver belt buckle.  He also had to pleasure and satisfaction of dedicating his race to his dad.

When I say that victories come in unexpected packages, I mean to say that I gained a great deal from participating and completing in CCC.  The first part of the race I was focused on a PR and a place in the top women.  But when that fell through the cracks, my race became about something else and I wanted to finish it.  Without the kindness and support of Eric, Michelle and Steve, I would have never been able to complete it.  I deepened friendships, deepened my sense of self and learned a new level of what it means to really dig deep.  I didn't know I had that in me and I am so grateful that I know now.  I hope some day I can reciprocate to Eric, Michelle and Steve.  

There were also a number of incredibly helpful and supportive people on the course.  Popping blisters, staying up all night, taking trash from runners, etc.  It's amazing that so many people come together to help others in accomplishing a goal.  Thank You Thank You Thank You....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meralgia Paresthetica- You are a BEAST!

For anyone that knows me in the running community, you've no doubt heard me complain about my dumb leg.  I've been complaining about this leg thing for over 2 years now, about 2-1/2 to be more precise.  I've been to see some Dr's, tried many many things to help my leg heal but to no avail.  I was never quite sure how to help myself as I was never able to receive any sort of diagnosis.  With CCC100 approaching quickly and realizing I am simply surviving 4 mile runs with lots of walking, I figured it was about time to try to beat this thing again.  I was seriously debating dropping CCC like I did last year, but without a plan of action, it felt whimsical.  I was out on a training run with some friends and someone suggested going to see a certain PT.  I had heard of this guy before so I thought, we'll what the hell, I've tried everything else thus far, maybe thing guy can shed some different light on this.  I made an appointment with a different sports medical Dr. thinking I would get a referral for PT and perhaps maybe she had a fresh vision of a possible diagnosis.  I spend about 30 minutes with her and she told me I have meralgia paresthetica.  What is that????  I had never heard of it.  She explained it to me and this is what it is:

Meralgia paresthetic is a disorder characterized by tinging, numbness and burning pain in the outer side of the thigh.  The disorder is caused by compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve.  It can lead to significant disability when the diagnosis and treatment is delayed or missed.  This condition is relatively common but it frequently mistaken for other disorders.  

She said she wanted to do one diagnostic test to make sure she was right. She saw the MRI I had done last year and saw that the hemangioma I had was the culprit of compression.  When I returned for my next visit, I had an ultra sound done.  She found the nerve, traced it up to the hemangioma and then pressed on the area.  I could feel the area where I generally have pain and the idea was that she would inject me with litacain which would release the nerve and then I would go out and run and see if I could reproduce the symptoms.  If I can't reproduce the symptoms then that is all the diagnostic testing she needs.  She could not shoot me up right near the hemangioma because most likely the hemangioma would be punctured and make me bleed in there so she opted to inject the litacain as close as she was able.  She thought that I might still feel some pain but mostly likely no in that area, but someplace else on my leg as the nerve was not being released right in the same spot it is compressed.  I had a 2 hour window period before the litacain injection wore off to get out and run, do burpees, stairs, hills, etc, anything that would generally bring me pain.  As I walked home to get my shorts and running shoes on, I was a bit nervous.  What if this is not it and I still don't know what is going on and have no solution?  I told myself to not get my hopes up.  I went out for a run and I did feel pain in other parts of my leg but not where I usually do.  I immediately felt more power in my leg and as though I had more range of motion, more strength.  It was amazing.  I did a bunch of burpees and jumps and still, no regular pain and much more power.  WOW...I felt optimistic again.  I report back to her this coming Monday and we go from there.  She thinks I will likely have to have surgery to remove the hemangioma.  It isn't an invasive surgery and the recovery time is just a few weeks.  I asked her the question that I was fearful of asking and to get an answer for....: am I doing more damage to myself by running with this?  She's not an impact injury, it a nerve disorder.  Phew.  I had really been battling myself with that concept.

So the question is, do I run CCC this year, less than 1 month away?  I feel so under trained, I don't have many miles on my legs.  I have been cross training, but I'm limited in the things I can do with that.  I told Owen this morning that I felt so out of shape and under trained and he told me something interesting.  He said, "You are as fit as you can be for an injured person."  I thought that was wise.  It's true.  I'm doing all I can to stay fit IN CASE I run CCC.  A good friend and someone who said he would pace me at CCC said, "let's do it! let's have fun!  My new motto is 'do cray shit because we can!'"  So, I think it's a go.  If I finish in 31 hours and 59 minutes, I'll consider that a success.  And who knows, I might feel good for some of the way.

After CCC is the wedding and honeymoon in Kauai.  I can hardly wait for both of those things!  They are rapidly approaching and it has been a packed summer wedding planning and such.  When I get back from the honeymoon, then I will have surgery and recovery while my new husband takes care of me post-op.  Thanks husband to be....