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Geez La-wheeze

So, the asthma is under control and hey, I know what lungs feel like when able to take a deep breath without first yawning. Yay! This is also how I know when I’m having a hard time breathing, like when the dew point is the same as the air temperature. We’re rapidly approaching summer, when the air is veritable soup.

Thank goodness summers in eastern Virginia don’t last long and aren’t too extreme.

Lately I’ve been keeping my mileage small until I got the pchevy and kimush from my body it was time to move up. A few weeks ago, I finished a 6-mile run with friends and realized at the end I didn’t believe we had run a full 6 miles so I asked Friend K, who had a watch, to confirm the distance. Yep, we had run 6.3 miles that evening. (Chevy was with me, too, and he enjoyed the change of scenery as much as I did I think.)

That was the early part of May, a full five months after my 3rd attempt at a 50-miler and a full three months after having started treatment for the inflamed lungs.

I signed myself up for the local Grand Prix competition with the Richmond Road Runners Club, of which I’m also on the board. These races, though small in distance, have kept me motivated to continue running and getting outside with Chevy the Adventure Dog to get some miles under our feet.

Three weekends ago I completed the Grayson Highlands “Half” Marathon and I highly recommend to everyone that you at least visit. Gorgeous views, the ponies are everywhere and the weather is unpredictable. Throughout the course there was evidence of the snow from the day before.

In the race, runners gain 1,000 ft of elevation in one mile at the 9-mile mark. We walked up for so long with two ladies making a lot of noise behind us which was excellent motivation to push harder so that I could get away from them. The weekend before I sprained my ankle at the Ragnar Pocahontas Trail Relay. It wasn’t bruised, but it was swollen. A week of rest did it some good and I managed to stay upright throughout the very technical single track.

What I also learned from that race is how unconditioned I am for elevation.

Having just gotten to the point last July where I could run uphill for a whole mile, I remember feeling a bit bummed that I will need to work hard again to get back there.

Where once I was somewhere in between the front and middle of the pack, I am finding myself somewhere near the middle of the pack and sometimes even the end of that middle. The speed I had, or better, the stamina I had for that speed, is gone. While I do have my lungs back to normal again, I will be meeting with a doctor to check on my vitamin D, iron and potassium levels, all of which help us tremendously in our quest of the run.

For now, I run on the slower side to focus more on the breathing, only running as fast as wheezing allows. Now that I know the whistling sound at the end of my breath is a wheeze, I focus harder on breathing in through my nose and out of my mouth. I figure eventually the speed thing will come again as it has many times. I try not to worry about it too much and stopped running with a watch because comparison is the thief of joy and all that.

Grace.

I’ve been practicing a lot of it these past handful of months.

I go to the gym four, sometimes five days a week and lift heavy things for an hour. I’ve been consistently eating lots of great food. I’ve gained weight most of which is muscle (I guess that’s what happens when you gym without all the running). Currently I am attempting to make my T-Rex arms a little less so. I practice yoga two or three times a week. We camp/hike/run in the mountains at least once a month. And I rarely run over 11 miles these days and I’m totally okay with that.

Having gotten more active within the running community, the enjoyment I get from helping and encouraging others to participate in their firsts is the best kind of run love I could ask for. It makes up for the lack of running in my own life when I get to help so many others do it instead.

This Friday we kick off the Global Running Day week with a celebration in Forest Hill Park; Saturday morning the Marathon Training Team starts again and it is also National Trail Day; Sunday, The Dude and I will run our anniversary 25k; and then who knows what will happen.

And that’s kinda how I like it.

wheeze on fellow runners.

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Posted by on May 30, 2017 in challenges, wanderlust

 

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Oxygenation of Enegry

(First, I apologize for taking so long to write. I have become the editor of the fancy newsletter for our local running club and it takes up a lot of my wont to write.)

I have asthma.

asthma-2

Officially diagnosed I was about 13-14 years old, I had been an avid softball player yet after every game I was hacking up my lungs and finally my mom took me to the doctor. It took about six months to make the diagnosis, many a cough suppressant and antibiotic were prescribed in the meantime to rule out other issues, and finally, the pediatrician looked at me and said, “Asthma.”

Coughing used to happen fast and furious. I remember many a winter  spent recovering from bronchitis. A handful of years ago I had pleurisy. The pneumonia shot is highly recommended for people with respiratory illnesses and diseases. Having not taken this whole asthma thing seriously, I’m paying for it today.

The thing is, you get used to not being able to breathe so you don’t realize it’s getting worse.

And then you get to the point where wheezing happens from the moment you wake up till you go to sleep each night.

Thinking back, I’m pretty sure the flare up began sometime in July but I kept attributing it to the heat. It was a super hot summer and the dew point was consistently in the high 60s to mid-70s. When the air is saturated, I can’t breathe anyway, so I didn’t think much about it.

On Christmas Day my sister’s across the street neighbor gifted me with a nebulizer and a whole bunch of albuterol sulfate to go with it. I did my first treatment shortly after she left and immediately felt relief. For the next month I treated myself twice a day while taking four puffs from the inhaler midday (it’s hard to do the nebulizer at work, it’s loud). Somewhere in the middle of that I started using the steroid inhaler again to help reduce the inflammation.

asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease of the bronchial tubes in the lungs. The bronchial area stays inflamed and over-produces mucus which in turns reduces the amount of air flow through the lungs. Due to the reduction in air flow, if feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, and breathing becomes labored and often wheezing happens. An asthma attack occurs when the lungs get inflamed causing the use of a rescue inhaler to be necessary. A flare up is a prolonged asthma attack, usually triggered by something like allergies, roach poop, mold, food, etc.

Yet I digress.

It took about a month, but I finally began to feel lasting relief. There were some panicky moments where I thought I was going to need to visit the ED. Focusing on meditation, yoga and taking my mind off the state of our union became a priority. Knitting is quite relaxing so I did that more. I went back to making sure I read a real book before sleep. I downloaded an application on my phone that filters blue light.

Reducing my stress and anxiety was an absolute must.

About three weeks into treatment I noticed the mysterious exhaustion was disappearing. Then I had a light bulb moment. I told The Dude my thought: “Hey! Since I’ve been breathing better, I noticed my energy has been returning. That mysterious exhaustion is starting to go away.” His response: “So basically you’ve been operating at altitude these past several months. Now that your O2 levels are normalizing again, your VO2 isn’t stressed meaning you have more energy again.”

Yep. That’s an accurate analogy.

Now, almost 2 months after beginning the treatment, I am breathing better than I have in quite possibly years, maybe even a decade or two. I now only do a nebulizer treatment before bed and take two puffs from both inhalers in the morning. Last week I was able to stop the midday treatments. The goal is to not need any of the treatments at any point in the day and allow the rescue inhaler to be just that, my rescue.

I say all this as a means to introduce the impact this has had on my ability to run. Though I still went to the gym 3-5 days a week, running happened once maybe twice a week if I was lucky.

My running base has been shot to hell so I’ve had to start over again almost completely. I started off the New Year with a 5k and have been trying to run steady ever since. I ran 20-25 miles a week in January. Throughout February I have been attempting to run 30 miles a week. Not being able to breathe for so long severely impacted my endurance levels. Some days running is very hard simply because of the breathing; there is a lot more walking then I’d like. I had gotten to the point where I could run a uphill for a while mile and now that’s gone.

It’s nearing the end of February and I’m just now feeling comfortable with running 10 miles. This is a tough hit on my ultrarunning ego.

Everyday I’m learning to let go of what I was once capable of and learning about what I can do now. There are days this is very hard especially since I’ve gained about 15lbs.

I’ve switched my schedule so I am at the gym most weekday mornings. I have gone back to running four days a week versus five. Monday is a total rest day, Tuesday and Friday are active rest days. I have started facing the truth that I will be unable to safely complete a 50 mile trail race by September. But 30 miles is not off the table so I’m going to do a 50k instead. My focus right now is to get in marathon shape for Conquer the Cove in June.

My main focus is on my breath. The gym time is secondary. The running is tertiary, for now.

I’m going to start focusing more on heart rate because when my heart rate gets too high, I cannot breathe as well. So it’s kind of a no brainer for me. And I really need to get my Vitamin D levels tested, among others.

I am, unfortunately, of that age.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in challenges, disability

 

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Do you ever hate running?

Warning: this is a long one full of thoughts on my latest attempt at a 50 miler and getting my 3rd DNF.

Somewhere back in July after running one of the Cul-de-Sac 5ks, as a friend and I stood at the finish line cheering on the rest of the runners, said friend asked, “Do you ever hate running?”

My initial response was, “Fuck yes.”

It’s true. There are times, usually when I’m in the midst of training for whatever race, that I hate running and don’t want to do it ever again. I begin with this sentiment as a segue to my review of the Mountain Masochist 50 mile race I attempted last Saturday on 5 November.

My 4th attempt at completing a 50 miler and my 3rd DNF. I was very disappointed in this drop and mostly I blame the mindset I had coming into this race. It created the perfect storm for a complete meltdown of body and mind.

I know I can run 50 miles at one time because I’ve done it once before. Maybe we can so easily complete the first distance race because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing so don’t know things can be any different. Maybe.

A month before the race I found out my unemployment monies had run out at the end of August. Here it was the end of September and the rent for October was due and I didn’t have it nor any way to get my hands on $1k that fast. I have already borrowed way too much money from people, robbing Peter to pay Paul as they say. Totally overwhelmed, I shut down and turned off. It affected my eating, my desire to get outside and run. I rested and then I only somewhat scrambled together a plan. It’s hard to keep fighting when you’re exhausted from circling the drain for four long years. So I finally relinquished control; I gave in to the pull and let myself be taken underwater.

selfie-5nov

The Dude lives in a house on the West End much like the one The Kid and I lived in with the addition of access to the attic. He invited me, the kid and our 3 dogs to move in with him. I thought about it for a few days. Nothing was nagging at me or causing me to run away screaming and we were unofficially living together anyway, so I said yes. I talked to the kid about it and he agreed as long as he could stay in the same school.

Two weeks before the race I started the moving in process, one week before the race I officially moved in.

Somewhere over those weeks I picked up a cold that was vying for space in both my head and my chest.

And there is some nagging tiredness that I cannot pinpoint nor explain. I’m sure a blood test would help me figure it out, but I am uninsured and without funds for a doctor so it remains a mystery.

Every bit of this stress weighed on me before the race began. I hadn’t concentrated on this race, it was just something I was going to be doing that weekend. That does not bode well for completing an ultra with a distance of 50 miles.

The race itself was fantastic. If you’re going to pick a 50 miler as your first, I highly recommend this one. The race director is awesome, Horton is happy to visit with you; both hang out at the finish line. The route was full of stunning views of Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge.

We got to see the sun rise over the mountains. I almost stopped to take it all in. Almost. A picture would not do justice to the view of stunning oranges and yellows.

When the sun came up I saw that my hands were not functioning out of sync due to the cold as I had originally thought. You know the feeling, cold on the outside, warm on the inside, therefore they are hard to get moving. Instead they were swollen to almost 4 times their usual size. (I have tiny hands/fingers.) This was barely 10 miles into the race and I said FUCK out loud. I immediately knew I needed to switch tactics so at the next aide station I switched from plain water to Gu and started sucking that down like I was about to die. I ate salt at a few aide stations; not much since lack of salt wasn’t the issue. I remembered to eat my pack of almond butter before the halfway point which is an accomplishment for me.

Because of the underlying fatigue, I lost time on the uphills. I just didn’t have it in me to be a total badass and run/walk up those damn hills. Gravity and trusting my feet would find their way helped me a lot on the downhill.

Ralph and I leap-frogged one another a lot. That was pretty awesome. I told him it was nice being in a race with a lot of people I know. It is also very different to run a 50 miler with 300 other ultrarunners instead of just the usual 50-60. Before I was even halfway I had already decided I would do MMTR again and had a much better understanding of why there are those who have completed it 12, 20 and 25 times consecutively.

Anyway, you know something is wrong when somewhere around mile 12 you see a bunch of tents and wonder if they’d let you crawl in to take a nap in one of their sleeping bags.

At mile 15ish, as we were dashing off, the volunteer yelled behind us that it was all downhill to the next one. About 1 mile later we were climbing up again. Ralph caught up and I asked him where the downhill went. We both laughed.

Shortly before the aide station at Long Mountain Wayside we got to the top of a smaller hill and had a flat section that lasted about 2 miles. On the right it opened up to a gorgeous view of the valley and several peaks peppered with the oranges yellows and reds of late autumn leaves. Again I almost stopped to take it all in. Maybe I should have used that opportunity to stretch the ITB in my left leg. It had been getting tighter and tighter since I began the race.

5-nov

Not the exact view from that section, but it gives you an idea

When I started running again, I got about half a mile and felt the ITB in my left knee start seizing. I am very familiar with this feeling so I knew what was happening. I had been feeling both my adductors  and abductors getting tighter as the miles got higher. Not a good sign. I was hoping they would hold out for the duration, yet feeling that spike on the outside of my left knee told me otherwise.

I had been crying off and on throughout the race. I was tired and didn’t want to run anymore. I was mad because I had been looking forward to running all day in the woods and yet here I was and didn’t want to be there anymore. I was so tired. I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. That isn’t a good enough excuse to bail from the race so I pressed on, determined to complete it anyway.

Yoga has taught me when your body fights a particular pose or your mind gets agitated when in a certain pose, then you need to do that pose as often as you can to work through whatever has you stuck there. You need to pay closer attention to what is there. I was telling myself this is hard work because it IS hard work, that I was fighting this long day in the woods meant I needed to get to that finish to be able to work through whatever was causing the agitation.

It felt like all the stress from the year, moreso the past month, was all coming to the surface right there in those mountains at that moment. The song that played on loop through my head was Brave by Sara Bareilles.

It felt like my emotional self was exploding everywhere. And with each mile it was getting worse.

As I approached the halfway mark, I saw Casey and Jason and asked if they were on their way to the next aide station. That’s where The Dude was waiting for me and I really wanted to get to him so I could cry and feel sorry for myself. We briefly discussed details then I left to get my drop bag. Carena and friends were waiting near the trailer at a picnic table; they yelled awesome encouraging things at me and I started bawling.

Ultras bring out the emotion in even the toughest of humans. Run a 50 miler or greater and you will be stripped bare of whatever pretense you had about yourself. The dirt forces you to look deep inside and see what is there to take.

Carena gave me a ride to The Dude since they were going there to cheer on Brian, Hunter, Travis, Ralph and Martha. The Dude greeted me with a sad smile and the best hug I have ever received. I cried a little bit more then realized I was shivering so quickly changed. I showed him my hands and he said, “Holy shit, babe!”

That was mile 31. The race began at a prompt 0630 and I got to The Dude shortly after 1pm. I had not peed since sometime after sunrise which was about 0740. Not good at all when running that distance. I was sitting in the chair for almost an hour waiting for runners when I finally had to pee. I kept drinking and drinking some more. Finally the swelling in my hands started to recede. We tried to take a picture but without scale, they look like my regular hands.

After seeing Ralph, Hunter, Brian, Martha, and Travis off to the loop, The Dude and I left to head to the finish line. We stopped along the way to visit a waterfall, The Dude laughing at my lack of agility because I’m usually part mountain goat. We spent some time there listening to the quiet water flow down, noting the cool grooves and dips that have been etched into the rocks.

waterfall-5nov

We headed toward the finish line after a bit. I admitted out loud that my emotional self really did not want to watch anyone cross that finish line. So we stayed long enough to check out the General Store, eat some broccoli and cheese soup, then head back to Nicole and B’s house.

I left the race behind me. Ate Mexican. Drank a Dos Equis. Later, back at their house, I ate s’mores and drank champagne. And I let the defeat of the day roll off me. Nicole was excellent, she didn’t ask me much about the race though I told her a bit of what happened via text message as we started back her way. It’s been a week and I still don’t want to talk about it. This is a very hard, very personal defeat for me.

So I’m not really enjoying running right now. I don’t hate it, but I am not in love with it either. I’m taking time off. I’m going to do lots of things that aren’t running, like focus on getting to the gym 4 days a week. Hopefully 5 if I can get motivated on a weekend day.

My body is exhausted and needs a break. I will know when it’s time to start running again and until then, I plan to enjoy all this extra time I have to do other things like knitting, maybe even getting more involved in our ever growing running community. And the ongoing process of melding two very singular households into one.

In the meantime, anyone need anything? We probably have it sitting on our front porch waiting for you.

smile

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2016 in 50 miles

 

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Warning

A little more than a year ago I wrote of my experience with a maybe creeper dude who followed me until I literally outran him. It’s been quiet since then, no more overt creeper alerts bordering on  stalker.

I was then and am now ever vigilant. Chevy and I don’t miss much when we’re out on the dirt. We make a pretty good team; his pointer skills are pretty damn good at this point in our partnership. He’s even alerted me to massive black tractor tires, a definite first for his canine sensibilities. Once he even made sure I was careful to approach an inflatable sled someone left on the section behind Maymont.

running-stats

And then last month Chevy and I were out for a run to the Poop Loop from the parking lot at Tredeger, a route we’ve done many many times. We arrived at Ancarrow’s Landing at the same time as a big CSX truck, the kind that can do a lot of heavy lifting.

The driver of the truck navigated the sort of roundabout; we met at the boat ramp where I noticed there were 6 men inside. No big deal, a track lays close to both the Slave Trail and the bypass. Some of the men including the driver waved, I responded in kind. But as is the case for a single woman and her dog, I was on alert due specifically because there were six of them and one of me.

Chevy and I visited the porta potty and, upon exiting, noticed the truck now faced east and was parked close to the boat ramp. Some of the men were no longer in the truck so I looked around, needing to locate them. They were at the very end of the ramp looking out over the river. Again no big deal, they’re doing their thing and we’re doing ours. Except I still felt on high alert and it was unsettling.

They came up as Chevy got in the water. I kept my distance whereas Chevy visited them one by one. I am not sure if he really liked the 3rd guy or if that guy was the last one in line so Chevy settled in for some attention. We stayed back a bit as the men continued walking up. They had spread out at this point and it started making me even more uncomfortable. There was a man on more sides of me than should be allowed. Men, teach this to one another okay? So I got Chevy’s attention and off we went.

running-stats-3I did not say goodbye, have a nice day, good luck, nothing. I felt I needed to get out of there so I did. If I hurt their feelings or most likely man pride, tough shit.

We continued on to the Poop Loop. I stopped about 200 meters in, looked at Chevy and said out loud, “Shit, going this way probably isn’t the best idea if they’re going to follow me, huh?” He stared at me, awaiting my decision.

I chose to keep going though I wondered the whole time if they would be waiting for me when I got back. Or maybe they’d be hiding in the brush somewhere. All kinds of scenarios were playing tag in my head as I ran. Every single one of them had me fighting for my life and hoping to put a dent in theirs.

Yes, they were in CSX company attire. Yes, they were on the clock. But we ladies know that doesn’t mean shit when a guy or group of guys decides to do whatever it is they want to do.

The good thing is they weren’t there when we got back to the parking lot. Everyone in Richmond must have heard my sigh of relief when I noticed the lack of a big white truck.

People love to tell me to be careful. To be vigilant. To run with a buddy. To do this. To do that. running-stats-2

Except it’s not me or any other woman doing this to ourselves. We don’t wake up each morning saying out loud to ourselves, “I think I’ll get mugged today!” or, “Let’s go see if those guys wanna rape me!”

Seriously, think about our backward logic for a minute. And then go teach your sons/boyfriends/husbands/teachers/ friends/everyone with a penis to be aware of their privilege and stop expecting us – women – to be so accommodating.

I am not doing it anymore. I shouldn’t have to fear for my life just because a truck full of grown men show up at the same time I did. That is not how anyone should have to experience life.

So I’m not. You have been warned.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in 50 miles, truth

 

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Iron Mountain 50m: take 2

Friday two friends and I, along with The Dude, arrived in Damascus so we could run the Iron Mountain Trail Run; their first 50 miler and my 3rd attempt. We ate a light dinner of roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower, fish and salad. While sitting around the table eating, D let us know Sunday’s breakfast would be the exact opposite of that dinner. We all agreed that it better be.

Saturday morning we woke up at varying times – H first, The Dude second, D third and me last. We packed our drop bags, filled our packs, the boys donned jackets as it was a chilly morning, The Dude found his cap with ear flaps and off we went to the start line.

My plan this time, which I had tested at Conquer the Cove, was to keep my bladder filled with only 1L of water, to drink Gatorade at the aide stations and to swallow a salt pill at every other aide station. (It worked beautifully.)

We were greeted at the table where we were to pick up our chip timers by a guy using ‘yuns’ instead of ‘y’all’. We giggled.

I put duct tape on the inside of my left shoe in hopes of staving off a blowout. (Come on Altra, fix this problem already!) The boys stood around jittering with nerves. The Dude took a few pictures, kissed me goodbye and said he’d see us again soon at miles 5, 22 and 32.

At exactly 0700 the race began.

We ran on the Creeper Trail for the first 5 miles then took a sharp left turn, ran across a road, then began the run/walk up Iron Mountain where we ran the ridge line. It was here, before the aide station at mile 10, that a tendon on the inside of my right knee began talking to me. Not whispering; it was the beginning of a long and extensive conversation. The boys caught up to me here, on a climb. I eventually passed on a downhill, letting them know about my knee as I egged them on.

My knee decided for me that climbing would have to be slow and steady, no pushing. This cost me time, yet I knew pushing would be detrimental to my ability to finish healthy.

For almost the entire five miles between checkpoints I followed a young lady who had run IMTR twice before and had met her husband on an Iron Mountain training run. Her husband had run some of the course the day before. She was going a bit slower than was comfortable for my body yet at the same time I was trying to protect my knee. I did eventually pass her only to have her pass me again later when I had to stop for a potty break.

At the aide station at mile 15, the boys caught up to me again. As they left, D said I’d catch them on the downhill anyway. I am pretty damn good at getting downhill fast, the strength training I do 4-5 days a week has had a tremendous impact on my ability to climb and descend with ease.

Leaving that aide station, I began the two mile walk up with a cup of Gatorade in one hand and a cluster of watermelon cubes in the other. A fellow runner picked up a cup that had been discarded on the side of the road then placed both on the hood of the car nearby. I chose to carry mine.

We were on our way to the next checkpoint at mile 22, where I knew The Dude would be waiting for us. I ran over and around those two mountains with similar names, the only one I can remember is Double Top. I had difficulty breathing here and recall having the same issue last year. I’m not sure why, the elevation isn’t any more significant than Iron Mountain or other summits I’ve experienced. When I started to descend, the breathing got better so off I went, catching up to those who had passed me earlier. One guy said it looked like I had fresh legs, I laughed.

Reaching mile 22, The Dude said I had just missed the boys and I told him I was going to need to drop when I got back. Runners got to visit this aide station twice, before and after a 10 mile loop that took us around Mount Rogers complete with a three mile climb from mile 29 to 32.

Mount Rogers is the highest point in Virginia and is not a bald summit, in case anyone is curious.

I caught up to the boys as we made the trip down to the checkpoint at mile 29. I said, “hahaha,” as I passed H, who was peeing off to the side. I walked with H for a bit, he was feeling pretty good. I told him about my knee, how I was going to ask The Dude to talk me out of continuing and that every time I started running, the first mile or two were painful and causing me to limp. But by the fourth the pain is down to at least a 2! We both agreed that was not good and I do have Masochist as my Plan B. Or maybe it’s C.

As we reached mile 29, we were greeted by a friendly border collie and people wearing some sort of costume. The boys snarfed on pizza and I ate more watermelon, stashed grapes in my front pocket and grabbed a banana. I was ready to get moving and they were still eating. D and I set off for the long climb up, his spider legs carrying him faster than my short injured ones.

I caught sight of D again as I turned to head almost straight up the mountain, making friends with two ladies who had caught up to me. D said she was so loud she must have been talking to the whole forest.

I got back to The Dude and sat down in one of the chairs he had set up. D was already there changing his socks. When H got there soon after, we convinced him to do the same thing. As I sat, my knee throbbed and my left foot screamed. Yep, stopping was definitely the right decision. Another 18 miles with still more climbing and rocky descents could mean permanent damage. The risk was far too great; I love running way too much to take myself out of it long term or forever.

So I watched D and H leave, heading to the next aide station, five miles away. It was a steady climb, an easy run/walk combination would get them through it fast. I changed into dry clothes. I sat and watched as other runners came in, one guy getting there at the cutoff with another three runners not so lucky. The lady took off with the sweeper to meet up with her crew; the older gentleman was thankful to be pulled because he was done running for the day; the younger guy was disappointed yet totally cool with being pulled because, as he said, “Hey, I’m still in ultra territory!”

And then it was time to pack up and head back to the start. The Dude and I were joined by the older gentleman who I discovered had run Masochist last year. We bade the guy well upon our return, The Dude and I got something to eat (the finish line food here is always on point), then relaxed as we awaited the boys’ finish.

He convinced me to take a dip in the river, nature’s ice bath. A crayfish kept me company.

When the clock showed 11:15, we began watching for D and H. At 11:38, D crossed. At 11:45, H crossed. The very different reactions upon their finish was entertaining. We immediately launched into action, helping them take off their packs, getting their dry clothes, sending them to the river, getting them something to eat and making sure they didn’t fall over.

And then we went back to the house, met up with my sista from another mista N, showered, and ate a lot of pizza stuffs.

—————————

I am only mildly disappointed about a second DNF. I was very confident in my ability to complete this race. I remained positive the entire time.

I loved being in the woods by myself taking in the sights around me, something I didn’t do much of last year.

I decided early on to enjoy the beautiful day outside in the woods and get to mile 32 because it may not be official, but it’s still an ultra! As many said, we couldn’t have asked for better weather, it was absolutely perfect.

I really enjoyed being at the finish line for the boys to welcome them back. Having friends ready to help you celebrate your big accomplishment is what runner love is all about in my opinion.

I remember feeling surrounded by love, acceptance, peace and so much support. Shit happens, this new booboo was out of my control, there was nothing I could do about it but accept the inevitability of the outcome.

I did declare that, for dinner, I was still eating a lot of pizza and drinking a beer. Maybe two.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in 50 miles

 

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Hmm…

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to run the same race twice. Not because the races have been horrible; there are so many others why contain myself to the same destinations multiple times? Why not instead go see what the rest of the world has to offer, expand my horizons and all those other clichés. 

So about six months ago I decided to run the Iron Mountain Trail Run again. It’s the Saturday in Labor Day weekend, also my birthday weekend, in a cute town of Damascus that just happens to also be the headquarters for the entire Appalachian Trail while also being base camp for Mount Rogers and a thoroughfare for the Creeper Trail. 

Y’all, there is not a shortage of outdoor life in Damascus.

In May I began training for this adventure. I’ve worked in a lot more core exercises, fast twitching, climbing of mountains while discovering new places such as Crozet and new people like the Charlottesville Area Trailrunners. Glorious outings in my happiest places and the weather always seemed to cooperate.

But I sometimes hate running, too. And this time around I’ve had two setbacks. 

Once I stopped running for 10 days when the lower hamstring pull in my right leg went from a whisper to a constant pulling. I stopped running on the trails for a bit to let it calm down but ended up needing to stop all exercise for an entire 10 days. That was tough and I may have gone a little bit nuts.

Another was a perfect storm of booboos in my left leg that finally pushed me into taking another 10 days off. 

If you’ve ever fallen while trying to do box jumps then you understand the ways you can fuck up your shins. It’s been a month and I can now finally feel my shin again. 

Then I fell slightly while hiking up North Mountain and stretched the outside tendons on the left ankle a little too much. 

And then I discovered the hard way what happens when you do a lot of mountain climbing yet forget to roll or stretch your calves – ever. A beautiful bruise formed on the inside of my left foot, also on the day I climbed North Mountain. This bruise was the result of tight calves pulling one way and a tight arch pulling the other way and the muscles in between caught in a game of tug o’war.

Yet despite all this, including the oppressive heat wave that descended this summer complete with cicadas getting their chirp on before the sun rose each day, I am feeling much more confident and capable than I did at this same time last year. Or even before Bel Monte. My head is in a great place. I know how strong my body is right now. I know I have been training specifically for this goal. I have switched my eating habits to feed the performance I seek. 

Hell, yesterday I signed up for my third 50m, another short run two months after this one. Mountain Masochist.

It’s kinda funny that some friends are running this race, too. I haven’t offered to keep them company throughout because I know when I’m in go mode, I’m an asshole. Like with Conquer the Cove, I know what I’m capable of so I plan to go get that end for myself. 

(This year The Dude will be with me and he’s excited about making an entrance into the ultra life via aide station volunteer and supportive boyfriend. He’s also a trail runner so we laugh at how often we say aide station instead of SAG or water stop when chatting with our road friends. On Saturday he hopes to see me three different times including the halfway point which is kinda nice so I can get my change of shoes, socks and maybe shirt before the drop at mile 37.)

As I lay here in bed on the Thursday night before we leave to drive the 5 hours to the best mountain town in Virginia, I feel…Content. Happiness. Love. Support. Confidence. Strength. Badass. 

I was made for the ultra life, I love it here.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Life by the feels

I have read a whole lot on running how you feel, about ditching the heart rate monitors* and watches and relying instead on the stories our body has to tell. I have become a proponent of getting rid of the watch for the same reasons we should never own a scale. What we see on that watch face does not tell us how our body felt while completing the workout. And in many ways it holds us back. How many times do you check your watch while on a training run? How about when running a race?

My first marathon was on the Creeper Trail in Abingdon. It was a rails to trails and yet I remember studying my watch for the first 13 or so miles, finally giving in to the pace my body wanted to go and turning my watch upside down around mile 15. I was getting on my own nerves. Nevermind I hadn’t trained for any particular finish time, focusing only on getting in the miles so I could finish strong. That day taught me so much about trail running before I knew of such a thing, my friend K teaching me as I lamented my splits on Facebook that the trail controls us, we do not control the trail. In other words, shut up and listen with inside eyes. I like to think of it as Mother Nature giving me an attitude awakening.

The further I delve into training by feel, a larger question looms: How come we don’t do more life things that make us feel good, happy even? How come we are often the cause of our own unhappiness? How come we don’t make life choices based on how we feel?

Sure there are work obligations and the times we support the hobbies of our significant others and attending parent teacher conferences, the stuff we have to do because we’re adults, etc.

But I’m talking about those moments when we say ‘yes’ when everything inside of us is screaming ‘no’. If that sandwich makes us feel disgusting after we eat it, why eat it again and again? If someone is causing us more hurt than happiness, why are they still close enough to continue that practice? How come we often utter the words ‘some day…’ instead of making plans to live out our dreams? How come we do not trust ourselves to know what it is we know to be right and true?

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When running, we check-in with our bodies at regular intervals, kind of like a mental body scan. This tells us far more than any gadget we attach to our wrists or strap onto our chests. We don’t need a heart rate monitor to tell us the thumping in our ears means we need to slow down a little just as we don’t need anyone else to tell us those gut feelings we ignore are trying to lead us to our proper path. We complete tempos, fartleks, steady state runs to push us beyond our comfort zone, to help us get stronger and faster. Those feelings in our gut is our intuition trying to get us to move in the direction of our true desires, to help us make our mind stronger. They are guiding us to the realization that to trust ourselves is never a mistake. We are capable of knowing our Selves and making the best decision at any given moment.

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Trust yourself.

It’s not all that different than the phrases we runners tell one another before each race: ‘Trust your training!’, ‘Believe in the process!’, ‘Your body knows what it needs to do!’,

Sometimes we have to do hard things. Running fast will hurt. Running long will hurt. And yet each time you push against your own boundary just a little bit more, growth happens. It only hurts the first time. Your body gets stronger and faster and bolder and best of all, that confidence transcends to mindfulness. Allow the beast in your body to also live inside your head. Fire the Negative Committee who is trying to take up residence there.

So yeah, you already know what to do my lovelies. Have the courage to break your own heart.

Then watch yourself soar.

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*Full disclosure: I’ve never worn a heart rate monitor nor had any desire. I also don’t know how to work the fancy functions on my watch, which is currently only being worn on B2B long run days. That too is about to stop.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2016 in meditation, thinking

 

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