Friday, November 18, 2016

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How one little [big] thing can change your world-view. [Weltanschauung]

Some of you may have noticed that I'm not on Facebook anymore.  After the presidential election last Tuesday, about 10 days ago, I flirted with the idea of deactivating my account, and did so for about 48 hours.  Old habits die hard, and after those couple of days, I was back on although only for a few minutes here and there.

Then just a couple of days ago I was surfing through my Facebook contacts, and I came across one friend whom I was no longer "friends" with.  I was devastated.  I couldn't believe it.  I had just talked to her a couple of days before that, and we had poured our hearts out to each other about the election results (I'm an HRC fan and she's a Bernie fan).  What was happening?  What was the world coming to when you say one little thing and someone un-friends you?  I texted her.  No response.  I texted her again.  Again, no response.

I decided to go about my day, although now in quite a funk.  I busied myself with chores around the house, and decided I'd better go down in the basement and scoop the kitty litter boxes (the cats have been fighting, but that's a story for another day... they seem to be getting along better because of some changes I've made in their environment, one of the changes being cleaning the litter boxes more frequently).

I came back up to the kitchen and checked my phone.  Two missed calls!  (Both from my friend).  I immediately called her back.

Me:  "Hi.  How are you?"

Friend:  "I'm fine!  I'm in [another town] working here to help them get settled because they are short-staffed."

Me:  "Oh, ok.  That's good."

Friend:  "I wanted to call you back instead of texting you, because I could tell you were upset.  Oh, honey, we've never been friends on Facebook.  I tried to friend [another person from work] and she denied my request twice, so I decided not to try and friend certain people.  I hope you understand!"

Me (now feeling like a complete imbecile):  "Oh, my gosh!  You don't know how much better that makes me feel!  I wasn't sure if I said something that upset you, because we all [at work] were having such an awful week, and I know I was in a bad mood, and I know that I can be a little difficult, and it's your birthday coming up, and I wasn't sure what to do... Oh, thank you so much for calling me back!"

And, you get the idea... Love you long time and all that [shit] was said. XOXO.

And all this got me thinking.

If I can get this upset about one friend "un-friending" me on Facebook (but not really, because we are still friends, but we were never "friends") then maybe Facebook is just too much?  Maybe I'm depending on it way too much and being too emotional about it?  Yes, I could just spend less time on it, but when that little icon is on your phone, it's just too tempting...  and when the page is open on your computer and you're trying to do other stuff and the little red icon lights up that someone has commented or "liked" something that you said and you get a little flutter in your heart and your tummy that someone is thinking about you.  It all just means SO MUCH.

But does it?  Does it mean so much?  Does it really even matter?

I've discussed some of this with a couple of close friends and one of them sent me this article to read:  Rigged.

(Ugh, and the irony here, is that I had to log back on to Facebook just to find the link to the article!) Anyway, the article talks about how, by having so many contacts on Facebook who have a similar world-view to my own, how it's changed my perception of things around me (perhaps that everyone agrees with me, and that Clinton will win the election, which she obviously did not) to a point where things are not realistic.

I'm a pragmatist.  I'm a realist.  I tell it like it is, call 'em like I see 'em and am thrilled when other people around me do the same.  That's why it bothers me so much that there can be a whole different world out there (like nearly 1/2 of the country voting for a total bigot, misogynist, racist a-hole) while 99% of my contacts of Facebook (indeed, the world in my little bubble) hate the guy and would never vote for him.

So yeah, I though long and hard about being on Facebook and having my world-view skewed so much that I thought that 99% of everyone in my world, my bubble agreeing with me.  Of course, hindsight is 20-20 and this view, I realize now, is totally ridiculous.  There's no way that 99% of the people around me agree with my world-view.  I realize that now.  And that's the reason why I've decided to take a break.

If you still want to be in touch with me, I'd love to text with you, or talk on the phone with you, or meet up for coffee with you.  I'm still on FB Messenger so you can contact me there, and you can also follow me on Instagram @soligrrl and @franklinartemis.  Granted, the Instagram accounts are mostly pictures of my cats, my dogs, and coffee, but these are the things that are most important to me in my world (along with running...  which is also a topic for another day).  I'd love to keep in touch with you.  Just not on Facebook.  XOXO.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

El Vaquero Loco 50k ~ still the best race ever

It's been a tough summer of transition for me.  I went from working 18 hours per week last year and being bored out of my mind (with work) but spending tons of time in the mountains, getting strong to working about 40 hours per week (since January), a 40 minute commute each way, and taking 2 graduate classes, spending way NOT enough time in the mountains.  I've been dealing with a pretty significant back injury over the last month or so:  I thought I could do the same events on less training and have ended up side-lined.  I haven't even been able to talk about my DNF at Bighorn, where I injured my back in the first place.  I've been too broken-hearted.  I've just started feeling better in the last couple of weeks, but definitely haven't been able to train the way I wanted to the last several weeks.

I spent the past weekend in Afton, Wyoming at one of my favorite events, with some great friends and acquaintances from Jackson, Wyoming; again camping in the rain but this time wondering why everyone was running away from me and I was left struggling to breathe and move my legs...

Starting up that first climb of El Vaquero Loco 50k, which I had done 3 times before, I couldn't keep up.  I found myself in third from last place.  A climb that I usually loved to pound out, I found myself stopping to catch my breath.  I had to stop several times, try not to cry, and try not to pass out.  My heart rate was higher than I wanted it to be, and I was really uncomfortable.  I told myself not to freak out:  I would get warmed up after the first climb and be ok...

I got to the top and started to cruise down the hill on the other side, taking in the scenery and stopping to take several pictures.  I got to the first aid station and didn't stop (it was only 4 miles into the race) and said hello to the volunteers.  Then I started uphill again, after passing a couple of ladies in their mid-50s, I found myself again very winded and dizzy.  I had to let them pass again.  They asked me if I was ok, and I assured them that I was.  I continued on, but walked quite a bit.  Walked sections of the trail that I had never walked before.

I had told myself before starting the race that I might finish it in 10 hours this year.  (Previous finishes were anywhere from 7h 47m to 8h 30m.)  I was ok with 10 hours.  But as I approached Corral Creek Lakes, I felt quite ill and dizzy.  My heart rate was very high, and it didn't seem to be going down as I transitioned from climbing uphill to easier terrain on the flats and downhills.  It didn't really come down as I slowed to a walk either.  I made a decision:  to turn around.  I was almost 7 miles into the race, and I thought to myself, "I could keep going, down to Swift Creek and catch a ride back to my car.  It's 8 miles to Swift Creek.  Or, I could turn around now, go 7 miles back to my car and be done with this."

Moments after I turned around, I ran into a friend who had been behind me.  He said, "Walk with me a bit."  And I did, although a bit reluctantly.  I had already made up my mind to quit, but maybe walking with a friend would help me out.  So we walked, and got up to Corral Creek Lakes.

The wind was howling and the rain was freezing.  I was cold.  I didn't feel well.  I sat by the fire at the aid station for a few minutes. My friend decided to go on.  And I told him, with tears in my eyes although he may not have noticed, that I was going to turn back.  He was disappointed, I could tell.  I was disappointed more than he would know.

On the way back down, I felt pretty good.  I could hold a steady pace at 11 min-miles downhill, and wondered if I had made the right decision.  I ran into two more friends who were behind me, and they both gave me condolences and hugs.  It was a comfort to see them.  I ran into the sweeper (who makes sure all runners are through safely) and assured him that I would be ok, but that I knew I needed to head back to my car at the start.

As I climbed up the hill to make the final descent to the start line, a line that I had toed just 4 hours ago, I had to stop several times to catch my breath.  I sat on a log and looked at the scenery.  I felt my heart beat in my ears and my eyeballs and my fingertips and wondered what the heck was going on.  I've done this race 3 times before.  I love this race.  I wanted to do it again, but today I just couldn't.  I am still so frustrated and disappointed that my race turned out the way it did.

I made it to the top of the hill, and jogged, walked, and hiked the 3 1/2 miles back to the start line (which is also the finish line of this out-and-back course).  Ty and Luke were there, and Luke looked at me and said, "Pulled the plug?  Just not your day, huh?"  And it was true.  I'm glad they understood.  I felt like I was letting them or someone down, but I knew that in all reality, it just was what it was.  It wasn't my day.  Luke took my pulse and talked to me a bit, he affirmed that my heart rate was high, despite only having just jogged through the campground.  He told me I had made the right decision, and I thanked him.

I stuck around for a bit and watched some of the first finishers, ate a cheeseburger, and broke down my camp from the night before.  I gave Ty and Luke hugs and thanks and I'll be back next year.  I saw a couple of friends finish strong in the top ten of the field and congratulated them.  Then I got in my car to drive home.

It hailed on my way home, just an hour outside of Afton.  I'm sure I would have been up on that highest ridge during that hail storm.  I was glad I wasn't there, but also thought of my friends who were up there and who were a lot stronger on this day than I was.

I'm still frustrated and upset now that I am home, but I've started to realize a few things.

  • Something has to change as far as my work.  I can't expect myself to work 40 hours and train half-assed with injuries and run as well as I have in the past.  Either I need to adjust my work schedule so that I have some rest before an event, or I need to not sign up for the event.  
  • Despite needing to train and log miles for events, I need to figure out how I can also get enough rest.
  • I need to see the strength in myself and not focus on the weakness.  Look at all the great miles I've logged before having one sub-par day.  Look at the miles I've logged despite having an injury the last month and how I've been able to get myself healthy again.
  • I need to have fun.  Running is fun, and if running in races and events make it not fun, then I need to change my focus away from events and just focus on the running.
  • We succeed for a reason, but we fail for many more, important reasons (I'm still trying to come to terms with this one).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Zion 100k Race Report

Two weeks after traveling to Portland, Oregon to take part in the Gorge Waterfalls 100k (which turned out to be a 50k, because of missing the 50k cut-off time by 4 minutes), I found myself traveling south to Virgin, Utah, just west of Zion National Park.

Let's back up a bit.  Gorge Waterfalls 100k:  beautiful course, ridiculous cut-offs.  Boasted to be "the hardest 100k", which it really wasn't:   I wouldn't consider 5,000 ft of vertical gain in 31 miles all that hard.  But the 8 hour cutoff time at 50k was set up to be quite elite (most other 100k events have a 50k cutoff time of at least 10 hours), eliminating B-team athletes such as myself.  I could have busted out that last 5 miles before the turn-around and made it, but why?  To face 3 more cutoffs and chase the clock all day?  No thanks.  James Varner does a huge disservice to runners with a strict cutoff such as this.  He probably argues that we could have taken the early start time of 3am to guarantee making it to the turn-around in time.  Which would mean getting up at 1:30 in the morning to make the 3am start.  Again:  no thanks.  Don't get me wrong:  the course was beautiful, the volunteers and aid stations were excellent, and the terrain was enjoyable.  It just would have been more enjoyable if the race director actually cared that people who can (physically) finish his race (if given a bit more time) were given the chance to finish.  I'm not asking to be given a day and a half to finish a race, but running under 20 hours for any 100k is still a respectable finish time, as far as I'm concerned.  But it appeared that he didn't want to stick around for a couple more hours.  His loss (I will never do one of his races again).  #sorrynotsorry

Happy at mile 30 ~
33 miles to go!
As it turned out, running an 8h 4min 50k two weeks before the Zion 100k was perfect training and warm up for the event that I really wanted to go to.  Many HUMRs would be there (Happy Utah Mountain Runners, the running club from Ogden, Utah of which I am a part) and I would see lots of familiar faces from Utah and Colorado and meet some new faces from Canada and Hong Kong (via Ireland).  Matt Gunn is one of the best race directors in the country, as far as I'm concerned and he has a great crew to support him (Turd'l, Cherri, and that course-marking guy, what's his name? along with countless others).  The trails were impecably marked, the aid stations were stocked with good food and happy, helpful volunteers.  The weather?  Southern Utah delight:  75 degrees and sunny.  The venue in the Virgin, Utah city park is casual and fabulous.  Last year I ran the 50k event and had decided to step things up a notch to 100k this year.  It seemed like a good idea when I signed up in October.

Indeed, it was amazing.  My friend Ann got me to the 6am start on Friday.  I was able to wear my puffy coat right up until the start (it was a chilly 45 degrees), and found myself tagging along behind fellow HUMR, Joel Hatch.  I was grateful that he had slowed down a bit to accommodate me (he was running the 100 mile event, and I was running the 100k).  We ran a relaxed pace through the desert leading up to the first climb at the Flying Monkey Mesa, and waited in the conga-line to get up the steep, roped section.  The rope had broken under the weight of so many runners, so we had to scramble around the side.  Another runner behind me was getting a little antsy as things were taking a while and we had to wait our turn.  I assured her that even though the 3-4 minute wait felt like an eternity, it would hardly make any difference in the grand scheme of things.
The morning view from
Flying Monkey Mesa

Flying Monkey Mesa was beautiful, rolling double track dirt.  We did a loop and then descended the technical section back down the way we had come:  the rope was fixed, and I descended with another girl (two of us on the rope) and I think I kind of scared the crap out of her with my confidence.  I passed her and her friend and cruised down the technical rocks with the steep drop-off to the right.  It felt good to run so well on the technical sections of the course.  Many of the people who were not as strong on the technical parts caught up with me on the dirt road sections, but again, I was Ok with it:  it would be a long day (and half of the night) before we would be done.

Hanging in there, on the
road to Guacamole Mesa
I came through Dalton Wash, aid station at mile 15, and joked that my crew was probably asleep at the hotel (which she was) but it was ok:  I would see her when I came through again at mile 30 (she was resting up as she would crew me all day and then race the 50k the next day, with a 6am start time).  I ate and walked up the warm dirt road and found myself typically between groups of runners, enjoying the time alone and listening to music.  I remembered this part from the 50k course the previous year, and enjoyed the steep climbs before topping out on Guacamole Mesa.  Let me tell you:  running on slickrock in the mid-morning heat without a breeze to speak of is a challenging affair.  Thankfully on this part of the course, the lead runners were coming back against us (there is a 2.5 mile out-and-back section with a small lollipop loop at the end) and it was nice to see some friendly faces and give and take some encouragement.  I saw my friend Pete, who appeared to be in about 10th place (one year after ACL surgery).  I was so happy to see he was smiling and doing well.  His optimisim is infectious, and I got a boost from his positive attitude.

Running down the road again, I was so glad to have Guacamole Mesa behind me.  It was really tough up there, with the heat, the lack of wind, and the undulating terrain.  I also felt that I had crossed a mental hurdle off of my list with getting two of the three mesas finished, and only had one left:  Gooseberry.  I came through Dalton Wash at mile 30 and just over 7 hours and was happy also to see Ann, who helped me with my gear and to get my feet clean and in clean socks.  Felt so good to be in clean socks!  She walked with me for a little bit, and I drank a 5 hour energy and got a little boost.  The next 4 miles leading up to the Goosebump climb (It had to be at least 1,500ft in a mile) I found myself the only runner in the vacinity running 10 min-mile pace along the dirt roads.  I received some encouraging words from runners whom I passed along the way.
Slickrock potholes on
Guacamole Mesa

I got to the Goosebump climb and put my head down and got to work.  I think I passed at least a half-dozen people on that climb, some of them in awe of how I was powering up the hill so well.  I think this is one of my strengths:  steep climbing well into the race.  I told them it helped that I was fom Salt Lake City and lived at elevation, and that they shouldn't get down on themselves about it.  I also had lots of practice on Bacon & Eggs Hill near my house, which I try to hit at least once a week in the springtime.

View from Guacamole Mesa
I got up to Goosebump aid station, mile 35, and expected to see Ann, but she wasn't there.  I got a couple of food items from my drop bag, refilled some fluids in my pack, and got some snacks from the food tent.  As it turned out, Ann got there about 2 minutes after I had left.  It's a long drive around for the crew to get to the aid station, so she had just missed me.  It turned out ok:  I just wanted to get this next section done:  ticking away miles along the North Rim trail on Gooseberry, the weather was getting really kind of hot (it was 2pm).  There were some mountain bikers on the trail who, for the most part looked frustrated yet happy to move aside for several hundred runners.  One fella asked if I was Ok, if I needed anything, any water.  I thought to myself, "I've been out here taking care of myself for nearly 10 hours without you, and as much as I appreciate the sentiment, I really don't want any help from anyone."  Yeah, I was starting to get grumpy.  I made it to the Gooseberry Point aid station and there was a mass of runners there (10-12) and I couldn't tell which way I was supposed to go.  I yelled, "Which way?"  And someone pointed me out to the point.  I then remembered vaguely that we needed to go to the point and punch our number with a hole punch.
Matt Gunn:  race director

I saw Joel again on the trail out to the point, and he told me to watch out for a swarm of bees in a tree by the trail.  As soon as I saw the hole punch, I punched my number and turned around, barely even taking time to look at the view.  I walked past the swarm of bees for the second time, realizing that I hadn't even seen it the first time past, in my haste to get to the hole punch.

I got back to the aid station and took some ice in my pack (oh, it tasted good... ) ate some chips, and got outta there.  I looked up to see Joel again, who was standing at the top of a little hill looking around.  "Did you forget something?"  He was actually looking for the course marker which was placed directly at his feet.  "You're on the right track, " I assured him.  He answered, "I'm getting a little grumpy."  And I responded, "Yeah, me too."  It was 4pm and we had 8 miles left to go to Goosebump aid station, mile 47.5.  We were hot and tired.  I tried to follow Joel for a bit, but he seemed to be fueled by his grumpiness, and I was happy for him that he was able to take off quickly across the slickrock.  I sat down on the South Rim trail and ate a Tylenol and a Zofran and tried to gather some composure.  I was starting to get really tired (I know, right?  40 miles into it, and I was "starting" to get tired).  I looked at the view for a couple of minutes, took a couple of pictures, and drew some energy from my beautiful surroundings.
Gooseberry Point

The next 7.5 miles were kind of a blurr of frustration for me.  I talked myself out of crying several times.  I encouraged people who passed me as I walked the undulating slickrock.  I took respite in the shady sections.  I started to beat myself up a bit, reprimanding myself for not running, and walking too much.  I got mad at my visor on my head and took it off.  I got tired of holding my visor in my hand and put it back on my head.  I got tired of it being too hot on my head and put it back in my hand.  I got frustrated that I didn't have the energy to just take my pack off and put my visor in my pack.  I got mad that my pack was heavy and decided if I drank more water, my pack would be lighter, so I drank.  It was rough, really rough in that section:  mentally and physically.

Blooming Barrel Cacti
I passed the old windmill which I remembered from the last time I was at Gooseberry, probably 8 years ago (when I was injured with an ACL tear, waiting for surgery).  I knew I was getting close to the aid station again.  I heard voices and saw cars.  Thank goodness, I had made it.  I was counting the miles... I would be happy when I had less than 20 to go, and it seemed that time would never come.  Suddenly, here I was, with 15 miles to go, and friends waiting for me in the aid station.  Ann was there with my drop bag and I melted down.  She asked me what I needed and I replied, "I just need a minute."  I went through my bag and sorted through some snacks which I wanted to take with me on the next section.  She got me some snacks from the aid station (oh, salty Ruffles potato chips, you are delightful... ).  I washed my feet and popped a couple of blisters.  I put on fresh socks and laced up my shoes again.  I cried.  My feet hurt.  So. Bad.  Ann asked me what else I needed.  I threw the visor and pushed it away from my.  "I need to not have that damn visor anymore!"  I was ready to go.  I got some hugs from Ann and Ann Watts.  They told me I was awesome, which I wanted to believe but couldn't quite, and started shuffling out of the aid station.

Down, down, down the steep Goosebump trail.  It seemed impossible.  "It's only a mile," I told myself.  And about halfway down, I saw another woman, really struggling.  She was side-stepping down the trail because it hurt so bad.  I slipped a couple of times and think I must have scared her that I would run into her.  I thought to myself, "That poor girl.  At least I don't feel as bad as she does."

Zion Desert Sunset
Over the next 15 miles, that girl, Angela, who is originally from Ireland and lives in Hong Kong, and I became lifelong friends.  It's like someone was looking out for us and decided that we needed to finish this race together.  We walked along at 3 1/2 mile per hour pace, deciding to take care of each other.  We did that through telling stories, complaining about the uphills (which probably weren't even that bad in all reality), commenting on how much we hurt,  and how long it was taking to do 7.5 miles to the next aid station.  It seemed it would never come.  Finally, some lights in the distance, pointed out by another runner, signaled that we were getting close.  Angela wanted to quit:  she had been battling a stomach virus all day.  I told her she would not quit.  We would finish together.  We were mighty.  She used the facilities at the aid station and I thought she would take a long time.  I got some food and sat down for a minute or two, and we found ourselves leaving the aid station together again, combining the strength of our headlamp beams and our wills and we got through the next 5 miles until we reached the highway.
Ann finishing the 50k

Angela's friend Becky came along in a car and asked if Angela was Ok.  I spoke for us both:  "We are fine."  And I meant it.  We would finish this race, despite being behind our projected and wished-for times.  We would finish and we would do it strong.

We counted the blocks to the turn off to the town park in Virgin.  It was only a quarter mile more.  I couldn't believe it.  Only a quarter mile!  She said, "Go," and I picked up my pace to a shuffle-jog.  I saw Ann, waiting for me near the finish.  I crossed the line and turned around to find Angela, 30 seconds behind me.  We hugged and congratulated each other.  We had done it.

Our finish time was 17 hours and 34 minutes, finishing at 11:30pm at night.  Ann and I got back to the hotel, and I showered, Ann went to bed, and we got a bit of rest.  I woke up starving hungry at 3:30 in the morning.  Ann got up at 4:30 to get ready for her race.  I drove her to the start, saw her off and wished her well, then drove to the first turn off to wish all of the runners a good day on the trails.  I went back to the hotel and slept for 2 1/2 more hours, then packed up the car.

Joel finishing the 100 mile
I hung out in the park with HUMRs and watched my friends finish.  I ate good food, drank a beer, and shared stories with strangers who are now my friends.  I watched Ann come into the finish with a smile on her face after having a spectacular day.  I watched my friend Becca come across the line for her second 100-mile finish and watched her husband hug and kiss her, in awe of his amazing wife.  I was in awe of the love that they were able to share in that moment.  I watched Joel shuffle across that line with one of the gutsiest ultra-performances I will probably ever witness.  Lindsay came across 5 seconds later and the HUMRs erupted in jubilant glee.

It's hard not to get sentimental about such things.  All these people coming together to help each other through adversity.  All these people who really "get it", whatever "it" may be.  All these people who can put aside pain and grief and come together to reach a common goal, facing their demons and putting those demons to death.  The good wolf versus the bad wolf and the good wolf survives.

It was a great weekend, and one that helps to resore my faith in humanity and realize the resilience of the human race.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lenten Treats ~ almond date cookies (sugar and gluten free)

Each Lenten season (from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, 40 days) I give up sweets and I end up craving some sort of little treat, mostly in the afternoons when I am sipping my coffee.  I think this has to do with my German roots, as most people who live in or visit Germany know that 3:30 marks "Kaffee und Kuchen" time, where many people take a little pause in their afternoon to enjoy a cup of coffee and a little treat (usually a slice of cake).

Today, I came up with a little something that is also gluten free (if you use gluten free oats).  You could make it a little sweeter by adding 1/2 cup each of brown and white sugar, but really I think these healthy little tender morsels are fine without the sugar and I can stick to my plan of giving up sweets until Easter.

You will need:

2 TBSP butter, melted (substitute margarine to make it vegan)
1 over-ripe banana, mashed
1 cup almond butter
1 egg (you could substitute ground flax seed if you want to make this vegan)
1 cup Mejoul whole dates
3 TBSP honey
1 cup almond flour
1 cup quick oats (or whatever you have)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Oven Temp:  350 degrees

Soak the dates in a cup of hot water for about 30 minutes.  Drain the water off, remove the pits.  Process the dates with the over-ripe banana in a food processor until you get a paste.  In a mixing bowl:  melt the butter.  Combine date-banana paste with butter.  Beat in one egg.  Add honey.  Mix in the almond butter.  Add the vanilla.

Combine the salt and baking soda with the almond flour.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients (above).  Add in the oats.

Drop by tablespoon-full onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Wet your fingers a bit and press down the dough of each cookie.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen 3 inch cookies.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I do believe I'm burnt (out) ~

After the St George Marathon (which was the first weekend in October), I lost a lot of motivation to run.  I'd had a long summer of running, starting back in April at the Zion 50k.  I did a lot of events this season, more than I typically race in a year:  Zion 50k, Yellowstone 1/2 marathon, Bighorn 100mile, El Vaquero 50k, Wasatch 100 (dnf), and St George.  I also volunteered, swept, or paced at Pocatello/Scout Mountain 100k, Speedboat 50k, and the Bear 100.  I get tired just thinking about all those weekends that I spent traveling and running.  Poor dogs were in the kennel a lot of weekends this year.  But I had so much fun at all of those events, and I felt good for a long time.

After 6 months of training, racing, and traveling, I became really worn out.  Mentally and physically, I was tired and my body needed a break.  But when you are tired and worn out, sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you are just that, so I went for a 20 mile birthday run in the mountains near Pocatello for my birthday, the weekend after St George Marathon.  It hurt ~ a lot.  My legs were not fully recovered from my first road marathon and my head was not completely into running, so I hiked a lot of it.  It was cold and snowy, but beautiful.  And I'm glad I did it.  I also went to New York City and the Adirondack Mountains for the first time to try and reset:  I've decided that to keep a positive outlook on life, I probably need to do some sort of travel or adventure every 3 months, or my attitude really suffers.  Of course I did not rest in New York:  I either hiked with my friends in the mountains or walked around Manhattan everyday for 4 days.

When I got back to work after the New York trip, I didn't want to be there.  I think I finally realized that my current job was leading nowhere:  still no benefits after 4 1/2 years; promises of more hours and a possible staff position that never materialized.  Always being introduced as "but she's only part-time" which I feel has always minimized my roll and my abilities.  My mind and body were tired from racing for 6 months and I didn't have the energy anymore to deal with the constant feeling that I was worth more at my job, but was not being recognized for my abilities.  I decided to take some time off from running and look for another job (unfortunately, I still had to go to work, but my hours had been cut from 25 to 16 per week, so I decided I could deal with it for the time being).

I found a great job close to home (5 minute drive, or easy walking or Trax train commute) and interviewed for it.  I told my boss that I'd interviewed, and he might be contacted as a reference.  He said, "Ok" and seemed unaffected.  No words of praise or luck, which further deadened my feeling of commitment towards him and reassured me that I was doing the right thing looking for another employer.  He made no effort in the following weeks to offer more hours or promise to look into benefits.  In fact, he seemed to grow more distant.

I didn't get the job and stewed about it for several weeks.  Thankfully, I was going to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with the cousins and knew that being around family would boost my mood.  I had a line on another job and set up an interview for when I returned from Colorado.  I stayed pessimistically hopeful (I am a pessimist, after all).

To add to the mix of emotions, in the days before Thanksgiving, I got a phone call from my doctor's office that my mammogram was abnormal and I needed to go in for follow up testing.  My mood suffered even more, but I tried to remain hopeful, remembering that many mammos are abnormal, only to have follow up testing that is benign.

I went to Colorado and talked about work as little as possible, but did talk a little about it and my current search for a new job, and found my family to be just as super-positive and supportive as I needed them to be.  I started feeling better around them, and even went out for a couple of trail runs in the trails around my cousin's house in Erie, CO.  It was great to be out in the sunshine, looking at the beautiful Front Range, and feeling better about myself.  Sometimes I have to remind myself, "I am a good person.  Good things will happen to me.  I need to keep my chin up through the rough spots and look at all the beauty and good people around me."

I got back from Colorado and received an email that the job (the second one) that I had applied to had found someone to fill the position and my interview for the following Friday was therefore canceled.  Great.  Strike two.  But on the upside, my repeat mammogram testing was benign.

My knee was a little cranky after running more miles in those two days than I had run in the past two weeks.  But when I got home, I got on the foam roller and worked out the kinks; walked the dogs diligently every day, and kept up with the running.  I logged my first 30-mile week since the marathon in October and went to work on Monday feeling better than I had in weeks.  On one of those afternoons, I was running laps in the Park, thinking of how good life can be if you let it.  I had an inclination that I needed to answer my phone, but had left it in the car (I drove the car to the Park and had the dogs with me, but didn't want them to run the full 8 miles on the pavement, so I did alternating laps with and without them, leaving them to chill out in the car while I was on my solo laps).

When I got back to the car after my run, I had a voice message.  It was from the clinic manager at a clinic I had filled in for when one of the providers was ill in February of this year. He asked me if I would be available to help out, because one of the NPs was leaving the practice.  I called him back immediately and got his voice mail.  I left a message.  I also emailed him.  This was surely a sign.  A good sign that I had an opportunity move on.

It was Monday afternoon and I hadn't heard back from him.  It got to be Tuesday afternoon, and I called him and left a message (again).  He called me back as I was leaving work.  Would I be available to come in for an informal interview?  Talk with the current NP (who was staying) and the medical director?  Certainly.  I went in later that week, and talked with them (nervously) and they all seemed receptive.  I got out to my car after the interview and looked in the mirror.  I had a coffee-dot on my nose.  I went through that dang interview with coffee on my nose and no one said anything!  I felt like an idiot.  They probably thought I was an idiot and they were going to change their minds about hiring me.  I would have to stay at my current job and resign myself to being miserable.

Then in the following days, I talked with the clinic manager again a couple of times via email and phone.  What was my schedule like?  How does this schedule look?  Can you work with this?  I thought to myself, "Seriously?  I have this?  I am so lucky.  I am so fortunate.  I am so grateful."

I began running more.  I've logged 30 mile weeks the past two weeks and am well on my way to logging 30 miles this week.  I feel better, and I think 30 miles might be the minimum I need to run to feel healthy both mentally and physically.  Of course, not worrying about the job situation and looking forward to a new job with more hours, better pay, and paid benefits helps me to feel better, too.  I have been sleeping a lot better the past couple of weeks probably because of both of these factors.  I also feel better about the work that I'm doing:  more invested, and like I'm really helping people.

I'm so grateful to be feeling better, both mentally and physically.  I have five races planned for 2015 that I'm looking forward to.  I have a new job that will start in a couple of weeks.  I'm happy that I kept my chin up through all of this,and that I have supportive family and friends around me.  It's important to believe in yourself, but it does help to know that others believe in you as well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A New Found Respect ~ St George Marathon Report

I run long distances ~ 50k, 50 mile, 100 mile events.  So when I got talked into doing signed up for the St George Marathon last winter, it seemed like a good idea.  Not a long race, I could run it and enjoy myself and the scenery and the companionship of 7,000 other runners.

The weeks leading up to the race were those directly after the Wasatch 100, where I ran 67 miles and had to quit because of stomach problems.  My legs felt good after Wasatch:  hardly even an ache. I was tired from being up for 30 hours and on the trail, but other than that my legs were in really good shape.  I didn't do any specific training for St George.

I should have prepared myself better for the crowds.  I'm used to running events with 200-300 people maximum.  Wow, going to the expo (which was difficult to find information for on the mobile website) was initially hard to find, and then overwhelming with the amount of [slow-moving] people. I just wanted to get in and out and it seemed that there were several hundred people preventing me from accomplishing that goal.  After what seemed like an eternity (10 minutes) I got my race packet and got out of the expo, after saying a quick hello to Golden Harper at the Altra booth.

I was nearly to my car when I looked in my race packet and realized there was no shirt in it.  Great.  I had to go back because the woman who checked me in hadn't told me to go to the end of the check-in area and pick up a shirt.  Talk about a madhouse, and I had to go in again.  I was nearly in tears, my anxiety of crowds rising.  My chest was tight and I tried as best as I could to talk myself out of having a panic attack.

I got my shirt, went out a side door, and walked across the parking lot to my car.  I tried calling my friend Ann, who was on her way down but got delayed by having to take her daughter to the Moran Eye Center for possible detached retina after an incident with a soccer ball (talk about stress!) and her phone went to voice mail.  I really needed to "phone a friend" to get myself settled down.  I called Andrea.  Five minutes on the phone with Andrea (she was in St George for the marathon as well) and she got me settled down.  Whew.  I went back to the hotel to have some snacks and rest.

Ann made it to St George late, and she, Jamie (Ann's husband) and I hatched a plan to meet up in the morning to get to the start line.  We met a little before 5am at my hotel and drove to the buses.  Ann got checked in (she missed the expo the night before) in the rec center where there was no line (note to self for next year... skip the expo and check in at the rec center on race day to avoid panic attacks).

After a long wait in a line to board the buses, we rode for about a half hour north of town.  I sat next to a really nice woman from California who had run several marathons (a dozen or so) and we laughed about how far we were driving, just to run back into town.

Ann, Jamie, and I had our warm clothing on, and we stood next to the bon-fires at the start to keep warm.  I really wasn't nervous at all, now that race day was here.  My stomach felt fine, I felt well-rested, and I was just a little apprehensive about where we would line up amongst all the people in that crowd.  I really wanted to run 3:45 (for a Boston Qualifier or BQ) but realized that without any speed work in the last month, that probably wouldn't be likely.  4 hours would be great.  Any thing under 4:30 would definitely be acceptable for my first road marathon.

It was pretty funny in the minutes leading up to the start:  Ann and I found several of our ultra-running friends.  Somehow like manages to find like, even in the midst of 7,000 people:  Celeste, Brian & Kari, Ken (a Wasatch 100 finisher).  We knew Turd'l was there somewhere too.  And Andrea.  We sung the national anthem and then we were off!

The first 3 or 4 miles was steep downhill.  I felt really great.  I looked at my watch and saw 7:45 pace, 8:25 pace... I was doing great.  Man, if the whole thing had been like that, I definitely would have gotten my BQ.  At about mile 5, my feet started to hurt a bit, and I wiggled my toes several times to relieve the pressure from the road.  This surface was going to beat my feet up, I was certain about that.  I stopped at most of the aid stations (about every 2 miles) to walk and get a drink for about 50 yards, but other than that I ran the whole thing.  It was intense.  Running under 10 minute miles, consistently for several hours was not something my body was used to doing.  I was used to running, hiking, fast walking... lots of different paces when you are out on the trail.  I did try to remember to look up and around at the scenery every once in a while and what I did see was beautiful.

At about mile 8, my left hip started to tighten up.  My hip flexors were not happy with the fast pace.  I saw my pace slipping... 8:45, 9:15, 9:25... but I was ok with it.  The Veyo hill, which is about 3 miles long (uphill) loomed in front of me.  Oh, yeah, that was going to hurt.  People were walking up it.  Spectators from the small town were lined up cheering for us on the side of the road.  I was determined to run the whole thing, and despite my slow uphill pace of 10-11 min-mi, I did run that whole damn hill.  I got to the top, hoping for a nice downhill for a rest, but realized that the course really just kind of "drifted" downhill, without much noticeable reprieve from the effort I had just put in.

My hip was really starting to bug me.  I realized at the aid stations, they not only had drinks, fruit, and gels, but they also had people with rubber gloves on willing to lube runners up with vaseline and Ben Gay.  Seriously?  Every two miles?  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I went up to one guy and asked for some muscle rub (in my hand) to rub on my hip flexors.  And guess what?  It helped!  Hey, these marathoners might know something!

That was at about mile 13, and I looked at my watch at the split and I was at 2 hours.  I could do this. Halfway there, and right on pace for 4 hours.  I realized my BQ was probably gone, but stayed hopeful.  I stayed mentally strong and told myself I would not walk.  I pressed on, averaging about a 9:35 min-mile pace each time I looked down at my watch.

At about mile 17 I heard clomping feet behind me.  A group of runners that sounded like a herd of buffalo.  Then I saw it:  the 4 hour pace balloons.  And there it went... swiftly past me... and was gone.  I would not finish under 4 hours.  Just around that time, Jim McGregor (another ultra-runner) passed me and said I was doing great.  All I thought was, he's a good 25 or so years older than me and passed me like I was standing still!  He's the one doing great! (He ended up beating me by 7 seconds!)

A little while later, a smaller group, with a perky 50-something woman holding another bunch of balloons.  4:15.  And there she went.  But I kept her in my sights for several more miles.

We crested another hill and with a sweeping right-hand turn, I knew we were on our way to the home-stretch and the finish line in town.  The red-rock canyon was beautiful.  It was starting to get warm, but not too warm as to diminish my pace.  At the stop-light at the north end of town I heard a voice and saw a friendly face:  my friend Carrie said, "Hey Missy!!!  Do you need ice?"  But I was 3 miles from the finish.  "No, I'm fine.  Almost done!  Thanks, though."  I know I did not look happy.  I wasn't really happy... my feet were hurting, my hip was hurting, and my legs wanted to stop.  But I pushed on.

Another woman said, "Misters are just around the corner!"  Huh?  Misters?  What was she talking about? AAaahhh... cool water misters, set up on the side of the road spraying cold water on us as we passed.  Soooo good and refreshing.  Two and a half miles to go... two miles... I started saying it out loud.  We were snaking our way through town and the streets were lined with cheering spectators.  What a sight.  I almost cried!  A girl yelled out my name (our names were printed on our race numbers we wore), "Yeah, Missy!  You've got this!"

And a couple:  a really tall guy and a woman about my age, I kept passing them as they walked and then they would pass me again.  Less than a mile to go.  I would not let them beat me!  I don't know why I chose them, but they helped to get me to that finish.  Fast!  A quarter mile to go... the crowds were getting thick now, and cheering.  I saw the finish arch down the street.  I was almost there!  I kicked it in:  7:25 min-mile pace.  My hip wanted to lock up.  My feet were killing me.  My leg almost collapsed under me.  4:19!  I did it, I did it!  I beat Oprah!

Haha, I walked through another set of water misters.  Someone put a medal around my neck.  I didn't stop for the finish line close-up photo.  I was done.  I wanted to lie down in the cool grass.  I wanted... I don't know what I wanted.  I wanted to take it all in.  I had done my first road marathon, after thousands of miles in the mountains and hundreds of miles of trail ultra events, and this was one of the proudest moments I had ever experienced while running.

I found a patch of grass and someone handed me an ice cream cone to nosh on.  It was heaven.

After getting my drop bag and not finding Jamie and Ann, I decided to head back to where we had parked the car.  They were not there, but just as I was laying down in the grass to wait for them, they came along.   I had just taken my shoes off to look at the damage.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Huge blood blisters on the balls of both of my feet.

We got back to the hotel, and I took a shower and rested on the bed.  I ate snacks and watched TV and waited for dinner.  Dinner at the Cracker Barrel with Ann's family (her dad and brother had run the marathon as well) was so fun.  What a lucky girl I am to get invited to this event with such a sweet family.

I drove back to SLC the next morning and picked up the dogs from the kennel in Bountiful.  My legs were indescribably sore the next two days at work.  Probably more sore than after a 50k or 50 mile, and maybe even just as sore as after 100 miles.  It was actually kind of funny, and I laughed about it.  I'm not sure if and when my next road marathon will be.  I guess there is nothing like your first.  I'm going to savor this finish for a very long time.