Thursday, September 30, 2010

keep on truckin' to inspiration station and beyond...

me, Davy Crockett (l) and Karl Meltzer (r) near Saratoga Springs, UT
i'm still trying to wrap my head around what my friend Karl is doing.  he is an incredible ultra-runner and is sponsored by Red Bull (among other sponsors) and is running from Sacramento, CA to St Joseph, Missouri on the Pony Express route to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express.  he is also my friend.

following one of the crew RVs out of Fairfield, UT
another friend and endurance athlete, Matt Hart, is part of the crew on this adventure.  they have a couple of RVs and follow Karl from point to point, and aid him along the way.  Matt has been tweeting from the field and keeping us all updated on Karl's condition and progress.  there is also a physiologist named Lelsi who takes Karl's blood samples every morning and monitors his health, and a film crew who is documenting the whole ordeal.

Karl, near Eagle Mountain, UT
it's a pretty incredible undertaking, but i can tell you that from being Karl's friend for about 12 years, it doesn't surprise me.  his ability to take on what looks like the most daunting of tasks with such a humble demeanor:  well, that's just the way he is.  Karl is the one who first got me interested in ultra-running.  yesterday, as Karl approached Salt Lake City, i made a point to meet up with him and the crew in Utah's West Desert.

i got to Lehi easily enough in I-15, and then proceeded West through suburbia.  i got turned around a couple of times, because i was trying to find the actual Pony Express route, and it gets a little obscured amidst several thousand cookie-cutter houses.  i finally turned on Google maps from my iPhone, texted Matt Hart (whom i now will refer to as "Captain Hart"... ) and met up with everyone near Fairfield, UT.

after crewing Karl near Fairfield, i was definitely inspired.  as of yesterday, Karl had been running an average of 52 miles per day for the past 14 days.  i followed the crew along the route and we saw another runner who turned out to be Davy Crockett, a local ultra-runner and race director for the Pony Express 100, who wanted to get in a morning jog with Karl.  i helped Davy shuttle his car, and then actually got a few miles in with the two of them as well.  Davy left us at mid-day to get to work, but i kept running with Karl.  i wasn't sure how long i would last because i have still been having some lingering issues after my injury at Wasatch, but i just told him and the crew i would play it by ear.  i dropped my car west of Lehi, grabbed my pack, and settled into the comfortable 12 minute-mile pace.

Karl, on the Draper bike path, running towards home
i have to tell you, it's been a while since i have really run a long distance with Karl.  he has just gotten so damn strong and fast over the years that i lost my job as his pacer several years ago.  but yesterday, motoring along at 6 or 7 miles per hour, it was like old times.  we chatted along the route and made jokes.  i got interviewed by the film crew and there were local news stations filming us as we made our way through Draper.  i felt a little silly because this is Karl's accomplishment, not mine, but he said he wanted me in the shots with him.  it was really an awesome day for a run with my friend Karl.

i'm still wrapping my head around the distance that was covered.  i ran with Karl from Lehi to Draper, about 20 miles.  by the time we got to Draper, Matt Hart stuck his head out of the RV and asked how i was doing, and i said, "i think i'm done."  my hip was starting to lock up again, and i didn't want to strain anything too badly.  so i hopped into the RV and listened to some Mos Def with Matt.  i tried to steal his bottle of nuun on ice, but being ever the savvy Captain, he would have none of that.

i had planned on running about 10 or 12 miles with Karl yesterday, but the inspiration of the day just caught me up and i didn't want to quit.  i looked at the distance that we had come across the Salt Lake Valley and was pretty much in awe.  Karl has each day been running over twice as far as i had run yesterday, and has been doing it for two weeks.  and he still looks fresh.

Karl, at his home in Sandy after our run
Karl made it home to his house in Sandy yesterday evening, where he will take a well-deserved rest day and can sleep in his own bed.  he and the crew will be back on track Friday morning.  he still has about 5 weeks to go according to his crew.  i know i'll be following his progress online daily and i'll be with him in spirit all the way.  what an inspiration.  keep on truckin', Karl.

to follow Karl's progress, go to the RedBullUSA website:  click here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

never quit

this past Spring i quit my job.  looking back on it, i hated it.  i was miserable and frustrated and knew that i had more in me than that job would ever let me do.  it was holding me down.  so i quit.

then i kind-of freaked out just a little bit.  just a mini-Missy-freak-out (as opposed to the major-Missy-freak-out, which a few of my friends have be not so fortunate to witness). what was i going to do the whole summer without a job?

well, i had signed up for the Wasatch 100, so i started running.  a lot.  i've always been somewhat of a runner.  in high school on the soccer and tennis teams, we used to have to go out and do a 4 mile run around the county block.  the other girls hated it.  i reveled in those runs. 

i have never run so many miles in a summer.  i have never had so much joy in running.  i ran with friends and ran with my dogs, and even did a few solo runs.  then the big day came and i ran my race--conservatively, so that i would finish.  but i didn't finish.  i failed.  i felt so frustrated.  i quit because of injury about two-thirds of the way through the race.  just when i was starting to feel lifted up, and so supported by my friends i might add, i failed.  i felt so low.  i felt as though i just wanted to sit on the couch and cry (and i did).  my knee hurt, my hip hurt, my lower back hurt.  and all i wanted to do was run.

so after 12 days of moping around on the couch and doing little 2 mile dog walks, i got out again today.  i got out for 8 miles.  my hip still hurt, my knee was stiff, and i was wearing a brace on my lower back for support.  i mostly hiked, but i got out.  i didn't quit.

when i got home, the phone rang.  it was the hospital in rural Nevada where i applied for a job a couple of weeks ago.  a 13-week contract in the clinic with shifts in the ER as a Nurse Practitioner.  my heart soared.  i have a job!

then i got an email.  from my friend at the Student Health Clinic where i have been picking up shifts as a Nurse Practitioner as needed, when others are on vacation or need the day off.  see, i had picked up a shift on a Friday in October, the same Friday as another 100-mile race, the race that would be my redemption.  she said she figured out a way to give me the day off...  go run, she said.

so i'm working on getting my hip and back and knee figured out.  i have about three and a half weeks to do it.  then, it's Pony Express 100 day. 

never quit.

Upper Millcreek Divine

fluffy feather-tails rippin' happily down the trail
today was my first "real" outing with the dogs since i injured my knee and hip about 12 days ago.  my lower back and hip were still hurting a little bit today, and my knee felt stiff, but i just couldn't resist getting out on this beautiful Fall day to one of my favorite places on Earth with my two best friends.  i'm moving slower than my heart wants to, but i'm really just happy to be out enjoying the beauty of the mountains.  at this point, i feel like there is no more damage that i could do to myself by increasing my activity slowly and conservatively.  typically once i get out on the trail and get the blood flowing, i feel at least a little better than if i had stayed at home.  today was no exception.

beautiful fall colors in the Historic Trail area
we (the dogs and i) took the Historic Millcreek Trail up to the ridgeline between Millcreek and Big Cottonwood Canyons.  instead of turning left (East) once on the ridge and meeting up with the main route (the Crest Trail), we followed a moose track along the ridge to the West.  the views did not disappoint.  we lost the trail after about a mile, and bush-whacked through the brush down to the Little Water Trail so that the dogs could get a drink, and then back to the trailhead.  needless to say, i feel good.  i felt so good, i even wrote a poem as i hiked!
looking West from Little Water Peak to the valley below

Quaking Autumn aspens sound
Like a flowing stream.
Up my spirit soars with them.

Fluffy feather-tailed dogs run
Through open meadows.
Forward my heart runs with them.

Historic trail cuts across
Changing Fall landscapes.
Solo run with dogs divine.

rippled rock on the ridgeline reminds me of tide pools
Looking up the ridge to Little Water Peak
Me and Frank on Little Water Peak
Artie longs for Little Water creek

Saturday, September 18, 2010

decisions, decisions...

drove down to Page, AZ the other day.  found out that 12 hours in the car is not conducive to "staying loose".
well, i'm making a "miraculous" recovery from my IT band syndrome.  it's now about a week after the event and i'm making a lot of progress towards healing.  i must say, it has come with a lot of work and diligence.

#1 i bought a foam roller at the recommendation of several friends, and have been using it several times a day for myofacial release.  some think this device is a torture mechanism, but i am oddly intrigued by the pain that it gives me.  i know that the pain is in the direction of healing.

#2 i hit the ibuprofen pretty hard for about 3 days to decrease inflammation and treat pain (as much as i hate to take medications, but in this case it was clearly indicated).

#3 i iced affected areas several times daily for 20-30 minutes (i think ice actually works better than pain medications).

#4 i bought a TENS unit online and have been using it for pain control (and at a list price of $170, on sale for under $30, who could say no to that?).

#5 i have been taping the affected areas with kinesiotape, and must say that this has been the biggest arrow in my quiver towards healing.  my friend Mark and i call it "voodoo" tape, because upon first glance, you would not expect superficial taping to do a whole lot, when in fact it makes a huge difference to relieve pain, support underlying structures, and promote lymphatic drainage.

#6 i have increased activity slowly, mostly by walking, but also did a 2 1/2 mile trail jog with the dogs yesterday and it was absolute Heaven.  i think trying to "stay loose" is the biggest challenge with this type of injury.  it would be somewhat  tempting to sit on the couch, but in actuality, activity makes me feel a whole lot better. 

things that i need to do to make myself feel even better include:

#1 stretching more:  i'm not a big "stretcher", but i went to my friend Kathleen's gym a few days ago, and she stretched me out and also showed me some things with the foam roller to speed recovery.  these stretches help, and i should do them more.

#2  get a deep-tissue massage:  i have one scheduled for Tuesday.

#3 be patient:  i'm feeling so much better, that i am tempted to run the Bear 100 next Saturday.  half of my friends say go for it, and the other half say no way.  it's really hard to know what to do and how my body will respond.  i still have a little bit of patello-femoral pain in the affected side, and some inflammation at my SI joint on that side, but for the most part, the things that bothered me at Wasatch and forced me to drop out have resolved.  it's really 6's at this point.  i could do well and finish at Bear, and i could drop after 30 or 40 miles.  it's hard to tell.

#4 SI belt:  i threw on my SI belt today just for the heck of it, to see if that would help stabilize my hip some, and it did.  so i'm going to continue to wear it for the next few days.

so, that's where i'm sitting... do i do the Bear next week or not?  practicality tells me not to do it, to make sure i'm completely healed so i don't turn an acute problem into a chronic one.  and frankly, i'm not sure that i'm mentally able to psych myself up to attempt another hundred so soon after this past one.  there is another 100 in October, but i'm signed up to work that day, and i'm having trouble covering that shift...  so it looks like i might be out of luck in that department.  my next option would be to try to continue to maintain my base mileage for a few more months and do Rocky Raccoon in February (but i really don't like the belt buckle very much for that race... )

there are also a couple of other longer self-supported solo runs that i've been meaning to do:  like the 20-mile Timpanogos loop and the 30-mile King's Peak-in-a-day.  the days are getting shorter and the temps are getting cooler, so if i want to hit these runs, it might be the perfect time to do them, or i won't be able to hit them until next year.

decisions, decisions...  only time will tell.

Monday, September 13, 2010

in need of healing and redemption

Marty Fritzhand makes his way to Big Mountain

it's hard to walk away from a race when you feel as though you haven't finished it.  this past weekend i attempted the Wasatch 100 for the third time.  and didn't finish.  for the third time.  that's a tough pill to swallow after 4 months of training.

appearances can be deceiving: mile 53 (pacer Kathleen is behind me)
the strange thing is, i didn't dnf because of problems that i have had in the past.  in previous attempts, i have been nauseated, puking, hypothermic, had tired legs, had blistered and sore feet, have been unable to stay awake through the night...  none of that happened this time.  i felt great.  you can see by the photo at mile 53 that i looked and felt perfectly fine to keep going.  except for one thing:  the Wild Card (so named by my friend Luke Nelson).

i felt a little twinge of pain in the side of my left knee at mile 41.  just a little twinge as i was coming down one of the steep downhills.  by mile 42, i couldn't run downhill.  by mile 43 i felt as though i wouldn't be able to walk downhill.  my pacer and coach, Kathleen Leopardi-Anderson made several attempts to massage out my knee and loosen up my hip, as we had both diagnosed the problem as IT band syndrome.  therapies were only a temporary fix, however, and the pain would return after 10-15 minutes.

i took some ibuprofen at the aid station at mile 49, and got some tylenol from another runner at about mile 50.  i put duct tape around the lower part of my knee, attempting to stabilize the ligaments and tendons.  nothing seemed to work.  i was able to still hike strong uphill with minimal pain, and concluded that i would not make a decision about dropping out of the race until i met up with the rest of my crew at mile 53.

at mile 53, Lamb's Canyon, my crew was there to meet me and cheer me on.  i was so disappointed to tell them what had happened between the time that they saw me looking strong at mile 40 and now, injured, at mile 53.  i was in disbelief.  all this training and my race looked like it was over, 47 miles short of the finish.

i still resolved myself not to make an immediate decision on what to do.  i ate bologna sandwiches and drank hot cocoa.  i changed into my warm clothes.  i changed my socks.  Jen Kuhlman, my second pacer, put a new tape job on my knee after i rubbed Tiger Balm into it.  she then got me an ice pack to reduce some of the inflammation.  i drank some green tea (that cures all ills, right?) with a Honey Stinger gel pack put into it.  30 minutes later, i asked Jen if she was ready to go to Big Water--about 10 miles away, and mostly uphill (remember, my knee really only hurt on the downhills).  and she said she would be ready in about 2 minutes.

i think my crew was in disbelief.  they were all smiles as i limped out of Lamb's Canyon aid station, cheering me on and commenting on my tenacity (or stubbornness?).  Jen and i walked at a good clip up the Lamb's Canyon road.  We started up the trail, and i could tell that i was not 100%.  Several people passed us; one of them Cheryl Meltzer and her pacer Roch Horton.  i told them of my knee troubles and Roch told me to try to walk it out.  "Like i've been doing for the last 15 miles?" i replied.  Yeah, like that.

We got to the top of Lamb's Canyon, at Bare A** Pass, and i laid down on my back.  i turned off my headlamp and looked at the stars.  No, this would not be the race that i had envisioned.  but who could deny the peace and beauty that was all around me?

Jen and i started down off the pass--about a 2 mile, 2000 ft descent, and five steps into it my knee seized up.  it was so painful i couldn't even put my weight on it for a few steps.  but i kept going.  i figured out that if i walked sideways, i could make it down off the pass (yes, i walked sideways down off the mountain for 2 miles).  we then made it up the road about three miles to the next aid station, Big Water, at mile 63.  i was wide awake.  my stomach felt good, and i was eating turkey/avocado wraps.  my legs were not tired.  but my knee had other designs on the night.  i walked into the communications trailer to sign out of the race.  i had walked over 20 miles on an injured knee, and just couldn't do it anymore.  i would have to drop at mile 63...  37 miles short of my goal.

it's pretty disappointing to drop out of a race when you know you could have made it, outside of the "Wild Card" being dealt to you.  it was the one thing that i could not overcome.  i talked with several of my ultra-running friends the next day, and they all said that they had been in similar situations.  my friend Luke walked backwards down the last two descents of the race.  my friend Karl had a similar knee issue several years ago during the race at mile 80 but was able to hobble in to the finish.  there were many other stories, but the fact of the matter was:  things happen that are beyond our control and we have to look at the bigger picture of the event, re-frame it, and see what positive things were gained from the experience.

i made some amazing contacts out there on the trail.  my pacers commented on the fact that all the other racers knew my name.  we recounted stories to each other as we ran.  the camaraderie was palpable.  and my awesome crew:  i don't think they could be matched or rivaled by any other crew out there.  so supportive and non-judgmental.  always at the aid station before me, with my gear organized and thinking ahead to what i might want or need.  their smiles and laughter were infectious.  even with the nauseating pain that my knee was generating, i kept smiling and laughing through the entire experience.

and now, i cry.  i shed tears of defeat and frustration.  i don't feel like i let myself or anyone else down, but i am so incredibly disappointed.  that this had to happen and there is no rhyme or reason to why it did.  i am a person who seeks answers to everything that is around me.  the fact that there is no logical explanation as to why this happened is the most frustrating thing to me.

so, for now i will concentrate on the positive things that i have gained from this event, and all of the wonderful training miles over the summer that i have run with my dogs and with my friends.  i wouldn't trade those months of miles for anything in the world.  i will remember the words of my friend Brian Harward, that it is about the relationships, not the belt buckle.  and i will look to the future.  the future is bright.
sunrise over South Ogden
Rick Gates and I find snow on the way to Chinscraper

hole in the sky above Morgan, Utah

silliness--how can you see the Francis Pk turn-off in the pea soup fog?

awesome crew!  Ashley Lawrence and Sherpa Steve Luker

my awesome crew!  Ashley Lawrence (L) and Jen Kuhlman (R)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


timer-camera shot on Baldy
timer-camera shot in Mill A
my friend Brian emailed me the other day that his palpitations have begun.  despite having finished several 100-mile trail races, he still gets nervous.  i'm starting to get concerned too, but am mostly focusing on how much better prepared i am this time in so many ways.  i'm not getting palpitations so much as i am getting electrical charges through my chest and down my legs.  nerves.

although i'm nervous, i haven't been nauseated as in years past.  i didn't puke once at my last race a few weeks ago in Afton, Wyoming.  i did a 15-mile training run (the last of my big runs) yesterday with a couple of girlfriends, one of whom will be my pacer on event day, and i was chowing down the food.  partway through the run i stopped and told my pacer, "You know, if it's this warm on race day, a Jamba Juice sure would taste good out here."  she replied by asking me if i wanted protein powder in it or not.  a true friend.

my girlfriends asked me on the training run why it was that i do such things as running crazy-long distances in the mountains.  i tried to put it into words.  there is an almost indescribable sense of accomplishment by training for and taking part in ultra-distance events.  i told them, i am a healthy, able-bodied individual and i love spending time in the mountains with my friends and my dogs.  why not ultra-run?  "Seriously," i said, "i enjoy sitting on the couch drinking beer, eating ice cream, and watching sports.  but i don't get much of a sense of accomplishment out of that."  and they laughed.  and i laughed, too.

so it's nine days and counting, and i'm actually feeling pretty good, despite the nerves.  need to just keep myself reigned in and do a few very short runs (<4 miles) over the next few days to keep the legs loose.  the dogs will appreciate that.  it's going to be a day and a half of fun times in the mountains with my friends.