08/25/11

Tears Falling Down Like Raindrops

depression

I’m really struggling today.  I know other injured athletes can relate. You’re competitive, focused, you get a real high from working out, staying on your plan, patting yourself on the back each time you mark off yet another challenging workout on your way to a big race goal, enjoying the camaraderie of your like-minded friends – and then suddenly — injury throws you to the sidelines.  You’re out of the game. Watching everyone else continue on down the path to greatness.  It messes with your self-esteem, your self of “who” you are since you identify so much with your sport.  If no longer running – am I still a runner?!!! Am I one of them?  The chitchat of upcoming races and scheduled runs makes your heart ache with longing to join in the fun, the challenge.  But, you can’t.  You’re just a spectator now.

You watch the calender. Day after day goes by without a single workout written on it. You don’t feel like “you” anymore.  Who are you?! You know the answer is supposed to be, “Well, that’s fine because I’m also a Wife and Mother and great friend, a writer, a neighbor.. blah blah blah.”  You know that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to say.  You’re supposed to be fulfilled in other ways. Supposed to say, “Well, look at that! Finally some time to get to writing that great novel I’ve always meant to find the time for” or “Fantastic! I’ve been wanting to spend more time with the kids, baking cookies and making Kodak moments!”  But, you know yourself too well.  You’re an addict. An exercise junkie! You process your emotions as you ride, run and do your core work and yoga. You’re not like the others – the non-exercisers.  You’re different. Something in your DNA makes it impossible to just go back to “how it was” before you had your first taste of endorphins. You can’t do it. Impossible. Your best memories, your favorite facebook photos all involve you and your sport and your pals who do it with you.  They get it. They’re like you. Part of your tribe. Your people.  You miss them terribly. You yearn for the joking, the kidding around, the gossip on the trails, the funny pictures you always take of each other.

I’m drowning in a sea of tears today.  Can’t seem to stop the avalanche of emotional baggage I’ve stacked up since I last ran.  It’s crushing me. I can’t breathe. I feel so alone. Other problems in my life – things that I should be able to overcome and handle – loom larger than life all of a sudden. I can’t cope with the usual stresses and problems the way I normally do — through pushing myself hard and sweating it out.  My brain is working overtime – thoughts spinning wildly out of control.  Friends, family members might find my reactions to simple things irrational and overblown.  I can’t seem to help it, though. It’s how I am.  It’s who I am. I’m a runner and I’m not running right now.

It’s been only 10 days since my accident.  The pain in my back is still bad enough I’m taking a few doses of ibuprofin a day and finding myself waking in pain in the mornings. I feel like my identity has been switched and I’m really NOT liking the change.

My eyes are puffy, my shoulders slumped, my self-esteem in the toilet. Why do I need the constant pay-off that a good workout gives me? Why do I need to be surrounded by a zillion, fun-loving, athletic friends to feel good about myself? I don’t know, but it’s how it is. I’m at peace, I’m whole, I’m happy and balanced when I’m doing what I love with the people I’ve come to adore as part of my extended family.

And, I do have a great family – don’t get me wrong.  It’s because they love me and support me that I’ve been able to achieve what I have in my running career and personal life. I know I’m being melodramatic. I know I’m being ridiculous and silly and emotional. It really would crush me more if something happened to any of those who I love or if my husband were to lose his job and our ability to support our family or if I found out I was facing a life-threatening illness, like my courageous, strong and beautiful friend Tami.  Those are real problems and much worse than what I’m dealing with and I know that and I don’t mean to overshadow real heartache with my own selfish pity party.

I just had to express it. Get it out. In some way, shape or form purge the ugliness and YUCK from my tumultuous heart, while I sit idly by, waiting.. always waiting…. to be healed and back on the trails and roads again, alongside those who understand and will welcome me with open arms and a challenge to “push outside of my comfort level” again.  I just miss it.  🙁

06/22/11

Shaking Out the Cobwebs

This was my first run since Big Horn on Saturday. I felt a little sore afterwards, but not too bad. It was another testament to the fact that the rest of the race was still waiting in my body and hadn’t been spent yet. Kind of frustrating, honestly.

Since I got home late Sunday night, it’s been pretty busy with my two sons in baseball and getting unpacked and caught up with friends and family (and most importantly my husband and kids!) It felt good to get out and run today finally.

It’s hot and sunny – 80 degrees with a 10 mph wind. I felt really strong from the first step. No soreness, no blisters, nothing to show I ran 32 miles in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming on Saturday for over 10 hours.  I’ve been reshashing the race over and over in my mind, dissecting it and analyzing it.  I did so many things right going in. I was well trained, I tapered, ate well, didn’t stress and thought I would do well.  When the race started and the first couple of miles were downhill, I went for it – playing to my strength of downhill running. I tried to plow right through the mud and water crossings. I ran strong and yet kept the pace a bit conservatively knowing I had a long day ahead of me and not wanting to burn out.  I took my S caps every hour, drank water frequently and kept my posture good.  My mind was in a good place for many hours.

What did I do wrong or could have done better? The aid stations ran out of salted potatoes and soda and I didn’t have a back up plan for that.  When I hit Foot Bridge at 16.1 miles I did get a few sips of soda, but they were out of salted potatoes (the only “real” food I trained with.) I took some grapes but avoided the sandwiches they offered me since they had flies sitting on them.  Honestly.. I should have just gotten over that and taken one. It probably cost me my race, since the steepest climb in the entire race happens right out of that aid station and goes on for several miles. It’s just rugged, slippery, rocky up, up, up. The sun was out. It was hot and all I could think about was Coke and salted potatoes.  I had gels, but they were making me nauseous by that point, something that hadnt’ happened in training – though again, in training, I had potatoes to even things out in my stomach.

I should have used my arms more to move me up the mountain. I did have a vision of my friend, Jenny, barking at me, “You’ve got arms! Use em!!” in her cute little Louisiana accent, but I didn’t keep that up. I’m a horrible uphill climber. One of the slowest of my friends. I usually make it up on the downhills and flats, but in this race, more of that was waiting after that cut off than before, so I was unable to make it back up (which I honestly REALLY think I could have if I’d been allowed to go past the aid station.)  Once I got some food in me at mile 26 (Raman noodles, a few bites of PB and J and some soda) I was ready to rock and roll!!! I flew out of that aid station on a mission! I was ALIVE again! I ran as hard as I could for four miles (which included plenty of mud, a couple water crossings and some uphill), but once I got to the point I could actually SEE the aid station I was heading towards wayyyyy up the hill – about 741 feet of climb in a mile – and had just 6 minutes to make the cut off I knew it was over.   That was tough and still haunts me.  I felt fine. My stride was strong, I was perky again and just know I’d have been able to make up the time in the last 18 miles if given the chance. DARN IT!!!!

Other lessons: Don’t jump up and down and cheer for the 100 or so runners who pass you coming the other way on the trail and DON’T come to a standstill when this happens. Keep moving forward, Conserve Energy (except of course when you see your friends who deserve every bit of energy and jumping and hugging and woo-hooing you can give them!) 🙂   Don’t waste time in aid stations.  I went through 5 aid stations (Cow Camp at 5.5, Horse Camp? at 12.1 or so, and Foot Bridge at 16.1, then back through them all again on the way back: Horse Camp at 20ish, Cow Camp at 26 and then hit Dry Fork (the place our race started and the place mine ended since the cut off was 4 pm.)  It’s hard to train for all the distractions and stopping required. I zipped right through Cow Camp and Horse Camp on the way down, flashing my number, and getting out fast.  I first stopped at Foot Bridge because I was burning up and needed to get my pants off that were covering my shorts. Problem was I could not get them off without taking my shoes off. They were thickly caked in mud, so I just yanked them off, then the socks since they were so gross and changed shoes and socks there from my drop bag.  I thought it was ok, though I hadn’t planned on doing it and didn’t need it (feet were fine even though muddy and wet.)  I was watching the other runners and trying to copy what they did since I’m still so new to ultra racing.  There was a whole row of chairs there and many runners sitting in them with their shoes off soaking feet in water tubs, or changing shoes or eating.  They all looked so relaxed, I think I took a cue from them and tried to relax, too. MISTAKE! I grabbed some food and then headed out, only realizing right when the aid station captain yelled, “10 minutes to cut off” that’ I’d been there 10 minutes!! YIKES!  It can add up fast! I took maybe 2 minutes at the next aid station grabbing salted peanuts and three mini candy bars (yuck!) But, it was all they had.  My pace slowed considerably after that. I was alone and had been for some time. Not another runner in front or behind. Just me. It was hot. Very hot. Salt was caking my face. My Garmin was reminding me how bad I was at uphill climbing and I started to wonder if I had a hope in the world of making the cut offs.  It was a low point and I hiked/walked a lot.

I shouldn’t have stopped for the thirsty dog. At least not so long. The runner said the dog needed water and she didn’t have any. I had plenty, so I took drinks and spit them out like a fountain and the big dog just lapped it up. She was so thirsty, it broke my heart, so I did that maybe for 5-7 minutes until she seemed to have her fill. But….. that 5-7 minutes again could have made all the difference in the world at the Dry Fork aid station – the difference between being allowed to pass Go and Collect $200 dollars or being sent to Jail indefinitely and DNFing. DANG IT!  Live and learn. 🙂

Anyways… the run today went well. 5.41 miles. 9:42 pace under the hot sun. 165 ave heart rate.  Last .41 of a mile 8:28 pace (I always tend to speed up the longer I run – usually, which would have also been a bonus if I’d been allowed to continue on.)  Best pace today: 6:55. Felt: Strong, eager to race soon.

Money’s tight, so I can’t just sign up for something else like Mt Hood in July. Wish I could. I’ll probably have to wait until August, when my friend, Ben has a super tough 50 miler called Wild Idaho – with an elevation gain of 16,000 feet (yeah, you read that right and I’m scared), but a time limit of 28 hours (yeah, you read that part right too!) Could be my perfect combo – a super long cut off, even though the uphill is going to murder me.  I’m sure I can do that as long as I don’t injure myself.  I love the area his race takes place in. My parents had a place up there in the mountains from the time I was about 10 or so. I learned to drive on a golf cart in those mountains.  I took many long, nature walks as a kid under those piney canopies. It’s a beautiful area and I’m very at home there. I just never ran 50 miles in it before!!!!!  I guess I will soon.

05/15/11

I Went to the Healing Place

There’s a path I visit only a few times a year. It’s about a 10 minute drive from my house in good traffic and it’s only 2 miles in length. I come to this path when I need to renew my strength, refresh my soul and restore my body. I call it my healing place.  It’s a paved walking/running path that meanders along a quiet stream. There are large, arching willow and oak trees, lilac bushes and lots of animals.  I enjoy petting the horses just off the path, seeing the field of sheep, and the cows and squirrels, but most of all, I love the ducks! There are so many along the path, that you can’t help but stumble upon at least 100 of them and their adorable offspring throughout the 2 miles out and back.

Today I visited this path. I brought along my camera and my mp3 player and had one goal in mind: Fill my inner cup with peace and calm and confidence again. I believe I achieved that.

I took 174 pictures out there today as I moseyed along. I took the time to stop and smell the lilacs – they are one of my all-time favorite flowers! I said hello to everyone I passed on the path – many older folks out walking their dogs, mostly. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply of the fresh air and greenery all around me. I quieted my mind and listened to Shania Twain and Pink’s lyrics as they pumped up my inner “Girl Power” and reminded me that I’m strong, I’m capable, I’m fierce and I’m no quitter! I also lulled my worries away by listening to the Beach Boys, The Carpenters and Abba.

I feel better. I can do this! Bring it on, Big Horn!!!! I got this!

Stats: 6.51 miles. Pace: 18:39 (moving pace: 14:49 – stopped to sit on a park bench and eat a banana and stopped at a porta potty and for a zillion pictures.) Total time: 2:01.  Ave heart rate: 106 (recovery easy as it should be – perfect). Max heart rate: 172.  Best pace: 7:59.

I added up my total climb for April and thus far for May.  In April, I climbed a total of  14,936 ft.  So far in May, I’ve climbed 9,769 feet.  Total between those: 24,705.

Weekly miles: Hit 50 today! YES!!!! Exactly where I wanted to be! 🙂

03/31/11

Walking My Anxiety Away

I really am very excited about being a race director. It’s a huge honor and I really think we’ll put on a great event — but.. the details, the many, many details that go into something as big as planning a first time marathon and half marathon can be somewhat overwhelming behind the scenes. So many things are falling into place this week: we’ve purchased our event insurance, are in the process of finishing up the t-shirt design, our first batch of flyers went out it the goody bags of a local half marathon that will happen this weekend, some of the goody bag freebies have started showing up from sponsors and our race participant numbers and our web site daily unique visitors are climbing daily. But, I’m still stressed! There’s still so many things left to do – and as any race director will tell you, many of them have to wait until almost the last minute since you can’t really order medals or shirts or even porta potties until you have a better idea of exactly how many people will be attending your event.

The sun is shining today. It’s beautiful out! After spending most of the day adding our half marathon information to the various race web sites I’d submitted our full marathon info to and talking to a few vendors, I was really needing a break. Since it’s Thursday -a.k.a. “Track Night” I didn’t want to run yet. I’m still slowly building back up the miles since my ankle injury and figure I’m not quite ready for twice a days just yet (hopefully soon, but not yet.) So, I laced up the new Brooks Ghost 3’s and headed out for a walk, instead.

It felt really good to pound along on the sidewalk, soaking in the vitamin D and feeling my breathing coming in a nice, steady rhythm. My busy mind rattled off all my worries and I felt the pace quicken as I thought of the most pressing concerns. The faster I walked, the calmer I felt. As the blocks went by, gradually, I started to feel less worry, less frustration, less anxiety. I felt better.

I got in 3 miles and walked every step. I was pretty pleased to see my average pace was under 16 min/mile. Not bad. My heart rate stayed nice and low too – 119 ave. I’m looking forward to enjoying some time with my children this afternoon and then taking the whole family (if I can convince them all) to come with me to the track tonight for a little more exercise and social time with our pals.