Recalculating

Anyone remember me mentioning a Colorado vacation in early September and then never seeing a follow up to that? Well that’s because it didn’t happen. The day before our trip, one of our dogs who’s had on and off stomach issues had the dial turned up to 11 (seriously, throwing up water) and we had to cancel to address his medical needs.

It kind of sucked but such is life and as it seems to do much of the time, it worked out for the better as the weekend we were supposed to go was rainy and cold.

This past weekend, Boulder was anything but that.

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I did’t know how much I needed it until we arrived in Boulder but this trip was an opportunity to get away from the routine, from trails I’ve practically worn grooves in, and the change of scenery was a huge catalyst in changing my perspective.

I had built up this race in my head as the be all end all of the world. Trekking around the hills in Boulder reminded me that this one race is not most important thing in my life. It is very important, but if I am not able to complete the race, there will be another one. And the miles I’ve run will not have been for nothing, they will have helped me get up to the next level and better prepare for whatever race is next.

This is what’s important:

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Not that we did much running. For one, I wanted to give my knee ample rest and two, the fact that every time we exerted ourselves, we found ourselves bent over and gasping from the 5000 extra feet above sea level that we were now in.

'The secret life of Walter Mitty'-great movie

‘The secret life of Walter Mitty’-great movie

But getting out into nature and wheezing hiking our way up a mountain trail had me grinning for most of the trip. I reset and recalibrated, got back to center.

Then I tried a very short (2 mile) run on sunday when we got back to Dallas and while the knee is feeling a lot better, it’s still very twing-y and I can’t see it holding up to 31.5 miles in it’s current condition. Fortunately, I’ve got an appointment with a chiropractor tomorrow and I remain hopeful that he can help me heal and strengthen enough to make it to the finish line.

If not, well, maybe I’ll just find a mountain to run away to.

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While we were there, Jason and I were able to get started on a project that we’ve been tossing around for awhile and have started to put into action. I’m still in the midst of getting settled at work but I hope to post more on that later this week. I’m pretty excited about it!

Hope ya’ll had a great weekend!

And then it got darker

It occurred to me when I started crying because walking the dogs felt so. freaking. overwhelming that maybe something more than a little training fatigue was going on. That was Saturday before last (the 11th). I had been feeling drained the entire week prior but thought maybe it was just a result of being in my peak weeks of training. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to realize that this didn’t feel like normal exercise tiredness. This felt like that time in college that I was diagnosed with an iron deficiency.

I had taken the day off of training, partially due to how drained I felt and partially due to attending a friend’s wedding, so on the way back from the wedding, I picked up some iron pills with the hope that maybe it would help. And it did, a little bit. Enough that I was able to get in a decent long run the next day-not quite as long as I would have liked but certainly much longer (18 miles) than I would have been able to do even a day before.

So I had my iron pills and was feeling less depleted. I’d been able to get in a good quality long run, even if it wasn’t quite the mileage I wanted. And then I had one week and one more weekend of long runs and then that was it. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Ultramarathon training over and nothing left to do but compensate for the taper crazies by eating ice cream until start time on November 8th.

ice cream

 

Well.

That last weekend of long runs was this most recent weekend. And a few miles from the finish of my 20 miler, the outside of knee started really hurting. Not an aching pain that said maybe I was just fatigued and sore. Sharp, shooting pain. A pain that seemed connected to the outside of my hip. I couldn’t bend my knee. Not good.

I was obviously concerned but the pain stopped once I stopped running and as the day wore on and I didn’t feel discomfort, I felt like maybe it was just a bad run and I’d be okay with a good night’s sleep.

The next day I got up with the idea of getting in a few more miles to round out the weekend. Approximately 2 seconds into that attempt, I knew something was wrong. Really wrong. Each step felt worse, the pain in my knee was stabbing. I didn’t make it a half mile before I had to turn around and limp back to my house.

well this sucks

I am writing this with some humor now but the truth is, I got back to my house and collapsed on my kitchen floor in tears and stayed there for a long time. Hard, ugly, choking tears. An injury on the last day of training…I couldn’t. I can’t.

One thing that running long distances has made apparent to me is what a huge well of self doubt I have within me. I’ve done a lot of work on that particular aspect of myself over the years but it’s there, this huge well of negativity, just below the surface. These last couple of weeks when I was feeling depleted and drained and then injured have shoved that doubt to the surface. What a loser I am. I’ll never complete anything I start. The universe doesn’t want me to accomplish anything. I can’t do anything right. I shouldn’t even try.

Yeah it’s been an ugly couple of days with the fear and disappointment of this injury (I think it’s an IT band situation but I have an appointment with my sports doc to find out) and the swamp of that ugliness on top of it. The ultra is in three weeks and I don’t know if I’ll be healed enough, if I’ll be able to maintain well enough during the taper, if I’ll be able to start the race or if I do start, be able to finish it. I’m looking at 3 weeks of uncertainty ahead of me while also looking behind me at hundreds and hundreds of miles of training that may be for nothing.

I’m scared and I’m pissed.

But I’m also hopeful. After a couple of days of diligent icing, foam rolling, resting and stretching, that area is feeling better and with that, my mindset is brighter. I may have a loud voice of self doubt, but there’s another voice there that tells me to keep trying because I love it. To keep figuring things out. To just take it day by day and see how far I can get. That if this race isn’t in the cards, there will be another one.

And then a text from my husband really put things into perspective: “The race is just part of the battle, you’ve been in the fight since you decided to try this in the first place. The race is just the last part, you’ve been ‘running’ it for months. No one can take that away from you. Regardless of the outcome on race day, I am really proud of you for what you’ve done so far and believe whole heartedly that you will finish and this won’t be your last one.” (published with his permission)

I am a lucky girl. And the plan is still to show up on race day. Hopefully, this is a small set back and I’ll be ready to go. But I’ll just take it one step at a time.

It’s getting dark in here….

…despite evidence to the contrary:

oct 16 run

Last weekend was gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The sun shone, the sky was that deep fall blue and the highs were in the 70’s. It was the perfect weekend to get in some long runs.

And they sucked.

It was the voices in my head-they were screaming at me. I’m too slow. I’m not doing enough miles. I wish this were easier. I wish I was better. I should have started training earlier. I should have started doing back to back long runs sooner.

Those thoughts followed me for all 25 of the miles I ran this weekend. And yes, I know I’m doing the best I can and that I’ve come a long way and all the other nice things my friends will tell me. I know it rationally but don’t feel it emotionally, if that makes sense.

I still don’t. Those thoughts are still lingering and I debated on posting about this or not. I don’t want to be a debbie downer. But it’s part of the journey, I suppose, and to be honest, I don’t know when these bastards plan on leaving.

I’ll tell you this though. You know how all the quotes you read on pinterest about leaping and the net will appear and do what you love and follow your passion and blahblah? I absolutely believe those quotes-I could not do this level of training if I did not love trail running. But I realized this weekend how far you can get on fear too.

I took those crappy thoughts with me for every. damn. mile. It’s not nearly as much fun to run carrying fear as it is to carry joy with you but I did it and I think it’s an important lesson. Just because I’m scared I won’t be ready or good enough does not mean I can’t keep going forward.

So that’s what I’ll do.

The highs and the lows

Last saturday I had the best run I’ve ever had in my life. Until I didn’t.

It didn’t start out as anything special. Just another early saturday, another long run to get on the books. I was at my usual haunt-the Northshore Trails on the north side of Grapevine lake (which is also where the ultra will be held so it’s nice to be able to train for a race on the actual course).

high and low

There I was plugging along when I found myself in this deep well of joy right about mile 6 or so. Anyone who reads here regularly knows how much I love being out in my woods. It sounds melodramatic to say but it’s absolutely true-the first time I ran on a trail, my life completely changed. I found home. So yeah, I love my woods.

But I had never experienced anything like this. The deep sense of well being, of joy, of gratitude. I felt light as air. I felt like I was flying. I felt so complete. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, this feeling, and it stayed with me for the majority of the run.

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Until I was maybe 2 or so miles from my stopping point (the run was a 15 miler) when I hit the wall. I didn’t know it was the wall at the time-I’ve never hit the fabled wall that I hear about so often-all I knew is that all of a sudden my body was like

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I felt this overwhelming fatigue, like I wanted to just lay down on the side of the trail and not move for a long time and my legs felt like they completely locked up. Running was pretty much out of the question.

Fortunately I wasn’t far from my car and still had water and one more gel left so I was able to shuffle through the rest of the miles but it was so strange to experience the highest high I’ve had during a run and then get smacked with that so close to the end.

At first, I let it get to me. I completely forgot how wonderful I had felt a few miles earlier and started questioning if I could even make it across the finish line. I was in a funk the rest of the day, scenarios of epic bonks playing over and over in my head.

But after some food and a good night’s sleep, I was out on the trail the next day for the second in my back-to-back long runs and…I was fine. Totally, boringly, fine.

The experience reminded me yet again just how much this running/racing this is mental. How I can’t get too attached to anyone one feeling or experience but instead accept that I’m going to experience any number of things during the race. To not let the negative enter my brain and to be glad that this happened because it’s practice-in dealing with bad situations and getting out of them, in learning what works and what doesn’t.

Because I’m getting across that finish line.

 

Race recap: Rough Creek Half Marathon 2014

This photo perfectly encapsulates my experience at the Rough Creek half marathon last Saturday.

photo credit: Movin' Pictures

photo credit: Movin’ Pictures

Slogging up a hill with a stupid grin on my face. If I’m being honest, initially I wasn’t looking forward to this race. In fact, I hadn’t planned on signing up for it again but Endurance Buzz Adventures is putting on a ‘high 5 challenge’-finish all 5 of the races they put on in the year, win a nice shiny engraved cowbell. And while I enjoyed my experience at the race last year (it was my first half marathon), it was tough enough that I didn’t relish a repeat experience. Alas, I was lured by the prospect of actually getting something shiny at a finish line.

So I signed up and figured that it would be a wonderful opportunity to practice running on tired legs. Approximately 4-5 miles of the course is through something called the ‘rusty crown’-a series of steep ascents and declines, all while sliding on loose gravel. Last year the experience left my legs so thrashed that I didn’t run for a week afterwards-I would have plenty of tired leg practice. On top of that, unlike last year, I couldn’t take a break after this race. I am in the middle of my peak weeks leading up to the Ultra in November-this had to be just another training run.

Yep-I'm trotting out the elevation profile AGAIN. LOOK AT IT!

Yep-I’m trotting out the elevation profile AGAIN. LOOK AT IT!

Needless to say, I faced this race with a little trepidation. However, Jason and I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for our 7:30 send off.

rough creek 2014

We’ve decided our motto is ‘We do stupid shit together!’

The day was overcast and seemed cooler than my first bought on this course last year but soon proved to be much muggier. We started at the same time (Jason was doing the 10K and I was doing the half marathon) but Jason soon pulled ahead and I settled into a steady rhythm as it seemed like every runner in the free world passed me.

Now, I may not be very fast, but I’ve got as much competitive instinct in me as the next person. Just like in every race, I had to keep myself from speeding up and trying to pull ahead of some of the people in front of me. First, that never gets me anywhere. Second, I knew that my strength lay in the hills we would encounter in a few miles and that I would catch up to people then. Third, this wasn’t a goal race which means I needed to keep myself steady and take it as easy as I could.

I was reminding myself of all of this when I stepped on some loose gravel and my ankle folded, bringing me down hard on the gravel road on one knee. A quarter mile into the race. On the flat road. With like 50 runners around me.

WINNER!

Like a BOSS.

With some embarrassment I picked myself up and kept going and soon we were at the first aid station situated at the bottom of the crown. After grabbing a pickle I headed upwards with everyone else. Leading up to this race, I wondered how I would handle it-if a year of running and longer miles and more hills would make the crown any easier and I was pleased to see that it had.

I picked my way through the first round of the rusty crown at a steady rate, already pulling ahead of some of the people that had passed me earlier. After being spit out of the crown and into the bowl, I settled back into my steady groove and enjoyed the scenery. It really is such a beautiful area. Some of the race was spent alone and listening to music, some of it was spent running and chatting with a couple of other runners. A quick pit stop at the half way point aid station and then a couple of more miles had me back at the crown for round two.

And once again I found myself moving quickly past runners that were ahead of me or had passed me earlier. I may not be very fast, I may have no talent and very little experience but I have a masters degree in stubborn. Those hills, as much as they kick my ass, are also my jam.

By the time I slid down the last hill and met up with the first aid station again (which is also the last aid station), I was feeling surprisingly good. And feeling good about feeling good. Then I looked down at my watch and my mood sunk a little bit. At the half way point, I was on pace to take a few minutes off last years time but realized that wasn’t going to happen.

I admit I was a little bummed. Yes, this wasn’t a goal race. But I had run the race with much more ease than I had the last time I’d experienced it and had hoped that would show up in my times. For a split second I debated burning what was left in the tank and trying to shave off a few minutes but that passed quickly.

As I ran towards the finish, I realized the PR was in the fact that I was running, and fairly comfortably, not shuffling forward like I had last year. The PR was that this year, I got to be the person encouraging someone who was struggling on the hills. The PR was that I was running smarter and feeling better. The PR was that my foot wasn’t bothering me.

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The PR was that as I came into the finish shoot, I was still running and still smiling and genuinely happy to be there -even though I came in 3 minutes slower than last year- because I knew I’d run a smart race.

And the REAL PR is that I got up the next day and ran 5 miles. They were the most pathetic 5 miles in existence but I did it and I’m only whimpering a little bit today.

Also, Jason-who never trains and just randomly shows up to races with me-placed 2nd in his age group and 6th overall. I’d be irritated if I weren’t so proud of him. :)

Ultramarathon training update

My weeks are solidly in the 30mile/week range. Lately this means two runs (or one run, one hike) during the week and back to back long runs on the weekend. I try to get the bulk of my mileage on those back to backs to get my legs used to running when tired.

Well, my legs always seem tired these days. ;)

In addition to the running/hiking, I still do one strength training session per week and yoga for about 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times per week.

Fortunately, other than a couple of weeks where I had to lower the mileage (19 miles and 17 miles respectively) due to some worrisome twinges, I haven’t had any plantar fasciitis issues. My training plan is actually fairly conservative compared to others I’ve seen online to hopefully keep it that way.

But it’s finally at the point where it’s beginning to feel like a lot and I’m constantly trying to ride that razor’s edge between training enough to be prepared while not overtraining and trying to minimize the risk of injury as much as I can.

I spend a lot of my day thinking about the race, trying not to go into the territory of ‘what ifs’ and visualizing a good finish. I saw a video about Darcy Africa’s Hardrock 100 2013 win where she said her goal was to finish smiling and I figure that’s about a good a goal as any to have. Which means that if I need to stop 10 times during a run to stretch out my foot or walk more than maybe I’d like, I figure it’s more important to get across the line healthy than to push to hard and not get across it at all.

We are currently 7 weeks and 3 days away from the race (not that I’m counting or anything) and I have to say that I could not do this without the support of my husband. The truth is, he doesn’t have much of a wife these days. My weekends are spent running or napping or eating, I’m usually in bed by 9pm on weeknights. My world is very small right now and it’s about to get smaller as I get closer and closer to the peak weeks of training.

I’m alternatively excited and terrified by this race, sure I’ll do it and scared I’ll fail. Yet with all the worry and fatigue, I know I’ll miss this when the race is over. Not immediately of course, I’m not that nuts. But there is definitely something about being in a training cycle when you are so focused on your goal that makes life more full. More meaningful.

And I can’t wait to see what life looks like once I cross that start line.

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A couple of scenes from a run I did recently when I visited my parents in SE Oklahoma. Yes, those are bullet holes in the stop sign.

A couple of scenes from a run I did recently when I visited my parents in SE Oklahoma. Yes, those are bullet holes in the stop sign.

And the usual haunt.

And the usual haunt.

The path

dirt path

I think most of us at some point in our life have wanted to achieve something and wanted it right now-the weight gone, the degree earned, the job promotion. The journey to make the healthy changes or to take years of classes or to put in the extra hours at your desk can seem like such a long drawn out super not fun pain in the ass (I mean, just my opinion). Just let me have what I want right now and things will be good then.

But you know what has occurred to me recently? The good things, the worthwhile things, almost never happen in a instant. You know what does? Tragedies. Think of every bad thing that has ever happened to you in life-it probably took a split second to turn your world upside down. I remember the call my husband (who was then my boyfriend) got that his dad had died of a heart attack. Just like that he was gone and Jason didn’t get to say goodbye and his world suddenly became darker and harder and full of grief and pain. I remember getting a positive pregnancy test and a few days later looking down into the bowl and the life that had just started to grow in me was no more and I didn’t even have words for the grief I felt for a life that hadn’t even happened yet.*

It seems to me that when life gets hard, it’s an immediate hit, one that leaves you reeling and stumbling to pick up the pieces.

But the good things, they take time. And I guess what’s becoming more and more clear as my mileage continues to increase is that I want the experience of traversing whatever it is that I need to get the good thing. Because the path becomes the good thing. I think it’s because when we are working towards the goal, whatever it is, we are totally in the flow of life. My goal may be to cross the finish line of an ultra marathon (that’s less than 2 months away!) but I know that the line is not actually the reward.

happiness is the path

The reward is all the steps on the trail to get to it because that’s where I get to meet my best self. And you know what? I think she’s pretty amazing most of the time.

But I don’t think it’s just about my path or about getting on a literal path. It’s not about trail running, it’s about life. Whatever it is that you desire, whatever your goal is, I know there can be times when the steps to reach it don’t seem worth the effort. And what I would say is that the steps to reach those goals will be the best part of it, so don’t be so quick to hope for immediate gratification. You will find so much more in the twists and turns it takes to get there.

 *I realize I haven’t said anything about either incident on this blog. Jason’s dad passed away 10 years ago before I was even blogging and the loss of an early term pregnancy was also a couple of years ago. I don’t necessarily share every little detail of my/our life here but mentioning these things seemed pertinent to what I was trying to express. This is all to say both of these events happened long enough ago that I feel comfortable mentioning them and we are fine.