Wednesday, June 06, 2018

National Running Day

Today is National Running Day. Yes, those of us whom run know that there is such a thing. Last year I tried to ignore posts on FB as friends and pages I like showed how much they loved to run. It was painful to feel pained while seeing them. I felt filled with envy, with hurt, with depression and anxiety. I felt a whole lot of things that I didn’t want to feel. I was kind of embarrassed of myself that I felt so low regarding not actively running.  I learned that I was more than a runner. I didn't realize how much I was wrapped up in the way I identified myself as a runner.  I let the feelings come, I cried, I went for an easy walk. I remember the day clearly. It was rough. Kind of like National Dog Day when I no longer have a Topaz.

I had a rough year. I had to learn to be ok with not running. I learned to be ok with not being a runner, with not identifying myself as a runner. I had been a runner for many years and not being a runner hurt me deeply. I truly felt that I wouldn’t run again. I had to be ok with it. I had to move on. I did. I learned that  I could. I learned that I could be sober and not be a runner. I never thought about drinking during this time period. 

I moved on, I learned to embrace not running. I learned to no longer pine away for it. To no longer force it.  I tried other activities. Hot yoga. Painting. Hiking. Knitting. All to fill the time, the void, I had in my life due to not running. It was hard but I had to move on. I had to cry, feel the feels, let them go and move on.

I ran a total of 7 miles last year. Every day I tried to run. Every day I wasn’t able to run. My feet hurt or my knees hurt or my hips hurt or my back hurt. Every damn thing hurt. It was crazy. I cried as I would stop after running a few steps .. and walk. At least I could walk.

I tried CrossFIt again and hurt my damn knee during a 15 minute box jump workout. Oh jeeze. I couldn’t believe it. Now I couldn’t walk or hike either. Unreal.

Hot yoga helped. I could stretch and sweat. I jumped into 5 classes a week. At least it was something. I changed my outlook. I no longer cringed when I saw others running along the road. I was no longer envious.  I was able to be happy for them. I remembered the happiness I used to feel while running. It was good. I was glad I had been able to feel that joy from running.

When others would ask about running I would say I was cutting back, when in fact I wasn’t running at all..but I didn’t know how to say that. I thought it would make them uncomfortable and they would ask more questions I didn’t want to answer. After 6 months I simply said ‘I’m no longer running’. Ugh. Not easy. 

Over the winter I tried a few knitting classes. I learned, I knitted, I spent hours in the chair, knitting.

Finally snow came…for some reason I decided to get on my snowshoes and hike. I wanted fresh air. I was tired of knitting.  My body didn’t hike. It ran. I was running on snowshoes for over 5 minutes. I was puzzled. How did I just run??

I was overjoyed but scared to be joyful over the 5 minutes I had just run on snowshoes.   The next day I tried a few more minutes running in the snow. Nothing hurt. A few days later I tried it again. Wow, 8 minutes total running out of 45 minutes walking. SCORE!

The ice storms hit and the trails became treacherous. I looked at my trusty treadmill. It has thousands of miles on it. It had been waiting for me for over a year. I started it and walked 8 minutes, then ran 2 minutes. Nothing hurt. I did it again. And again. Nothing hurt. Wow. I was overjoyed but scared. The pain could still come.

Fast forward 6 months. I  am a runner. Tears fall from my cheeks as I type out those words. I didn’t think  I would ever use them to describe myself again. I am a runner. I love running. I LOVE RUNNING. How can I love an act? How can I feel so deeply about the act of running?  I don’t know…but I LOVE running. It encompasses me like a friendly warm blanket. Unless it is a hot humid summer, then it is a fresh cool breeze. Yup, running is all that is good.  It is kind of absurd, unless you are a runner..then you know. 

Vacations are planned around races, camping around runs, I use vacation time to get in a long run some mornings…oh how I love it. I know that we wouldn’t have visited the places we have if I hadn’t been a runner. I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I have had if I wasn’t a runner. I wouldn’t have the friends I have had  if I hadn’t been a runner.

My knees aren’t swollen, my inflammation is low, I’m eating an anti inflammatory diet, I am taking cold baths, I am hydrating fully but  not too much, I am fueling my body…so that I can run and not become injured. That is my goal.

I am not in competition with anyone, not even myself, not looking for race goals or time goals or any of that.  I’ve been there and done that and loved it. It made me who I now am.  I am  just being myself, enjoying myself, enjoying running, while I run. I do strive to find the line between enough and too much, that is what I am on the look out for. I don’t want to snuggle up too closely to that line and I certainly don’t want to cross it. I am no longer afraid of it though. I need to learn to manage myself so that I am fully aware of the line. Sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I become too fixated on a goal and I cross it. I would rather not do that again.

Morton's neuroma in my left foot will need to be surgically removed as done in my right. It hasn't changed at all without running. It is still there, letting me know of its presence. I am wearing the toe separator and wide Altra shoes which really help. 

I am so black and white. So all or none. I have to wonder if my mind wasn’t able to allow any running for some time. If it had to be none. I don’t know. I don’t know.

National Running Day. I am a Runner. I am happy to be a Runner. I am grateful to be a Runner and to now know that I am so much more than just that!

Monday, June 04, 2018

Chester Woods 50K

On Friday Steve and I drove down to Eyota MN to camp and run the Chester Woods 50K. I've never run Chester Woods. I was always a FANS 24 Hour Run girl. Rain was forecast the whole weekend so I was kind of dreading the wet soggy tent!  Fortunately the forecasters were incorrect and the weekend was dry!  We had a fabulous time.

We arrived to Eyota, just out of Rochester before dark so were able to set up camp in the daylight. The campground was very nice, very modern. Usually we camp in more rustic environments, this was a treat. Clean showers and restrooms, electricity, firewood for sale..all the modern conveniences!

I woke at 4AM on Saturday and couldn't believe that it wasn't raining. After grinding my beans and creating my morning french press (yay for electricity) I walked to the start area to get my bib, tank and to visit. The website was kind of difficult to read..I wasn't sure of aid stations, entrants or course information. I didn't know if I'd know anyone at the race. I bumped into Greg, Rick, John, Kevin, Travis and Stephanie at the start. Yay for friends at the race!  

After learning that the course was a loop and that aid stations were plentiful, I walked back to camp and exchanged my pack for a single bottle. I wouldn't need more than a bottle and a few gels. I didn't carry any music or extras.

We started on pavement for half a mile or so before we turned onto grass trail. Most of the race was nice soft surface-grass, wood chips, soft was really great. Mostly woods, some open prairie, real cool bridges over water filled with people kayaking and fishing. 

As I ran back into the lot after the first 12.5 miles I caught a glimpse of Steve wandering through. What great timing!  He was looking for a place to fish from. I filled up my bottle with water from Greg's aid station at his car and ran on to loop 2. Greg and I ran 90% of the race together and picked up Travis for the third loop. We had  a blast. It was so great to run with them, laugh, catch up on what's going on the last year that in which I only ran 7 miles. It felt really great to be better conditioned and stronger than during Chippewa 50 only 6 weeks ago. I am certainly feeling more like myself. 

Travis, Greg and I ran into the finish at 640 or so...I nabbed a 2nd place in my age group. We were given cute mason jars, a jar/ornament ? for the age group placing. I drank a COKE, had a banana, passed on the hotdogs, chips and cheese and walked back to camp.  My body held together-no aches or pains. It was a fun day!

After showering in the hot clean modern shower, Steve and I hiked some trails out of the campground and then sat down to a nice fire with potatoes, carrots and onions on the grill. Yum!

I'm thinking of Black Hills 50K next. I'm liking the 50K distance-it doesn't grind me down. I am thinking about Voyageur 50 M but not certain...that's probably reason enough to let it pass me by this year. I did enter Afton 50K, looking forward to it!

Chippewa 50K was an 809, Chester Woods a 640. I'm getting more fit. Different courses but not all that different in topography.

Man it feels good to feel good!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Chippewa 50 K or 0-50K in 8 weeks

I should title this post ‘from 0 to 50K in 8 weeks’ instead of Chippewa 50K!  That is exactly how this one went down.

As I posted earlier I hadn’t run in a very long time – 7 miles in the previous 12 months and each of  those miles hurt and again confirmed to me that I needed more time off, perhaps a lifetime of no running. I made peace with that outcome. I could no longer fight it. 

After a beautiful snowstorm on February 21 I decided to pull on my snowshoes and head out to the woods. It  was an amazing morning and before I realized what I was doing my body was running.  I realized that  I have never hiked in snowshoes before  but I have always run in them.  Without thinking about it, that is exactly what my body wanted to do. After a while I realized I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t out of breath…I dared believe this snowshoe running thing might be ok. I went again the next day, and the next. I felt great.

I decided to try out my treadmill.  A few minutes of walking, a few minutes of running, more walking, a bit of running, repeat. Over the course of the next month I built up to a 10 mile run on my treadmill. I decided I’d run the Chippewa 10K. I had run the 50K a few times, I’ve  volunteered at the race a few times and knew I was good for the 10K. It’s a beautiful course with many lakes, bridges,  hills, a blue heron rookery, all sorts of good stuff. I  missed being at a race, out in the woods with others, I missed my friends.

Of course the treadmill is not a trail. The trails were still a mess-ice, snow, mud, dangerous. I hiked  a few miles each day  with screw shoes and more running on the treadmill. I wanted to see if I could run 4 hours on the treadmill. I did, I didn’t hurt. I was tired, but I didn’t ache.  I had blisters as usual but that was it. I was beginning to have a sliver of hope that I might be able to run again.

I began to put recovery first. Ice baths, rest, anti inflammatory foods,  yoga, etc. Recovery was foremost in my training plan.

Once I ran the 4 hours on the treadmill I decided I’d go for it and see I could try 50K. I contacted Jeff, the RD, to see if I could move up from 10K to 50K  and of course he said I could.  I was afraid and anxious and excited and so relieved.  I promised myself I wouldn’t continue if I hurt myself.  Promise.

With one week left for a long run out doors I decided to try Lake Maria with a 5 hour goal.  I was only able to get 16 miles in the 5 hours. The trails were a blend of ice, snow, mud, water…they were a disaster;  but my body, my body was not broken!  My body was strong and felt good. I had hope and fear. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it 16 miles in the 4  hours allowed before the turn around at the race. I had 4 hours on the out and 5 hours on the back. I’d give it my best, yet safe, shot.

I didn’t post my entry to facebook, didn’t tell any of my running friends that I’d be at Chippewa. Perhaps I wasn’t so sure. Jeff (RD) and a few people from work were all that knew my plan.

By Friday I was having second thoughts. I had so much anxiety.  Did I always have this much anxiety? I looked at the roster of runners ..was I was concerned that they would judge my capability. Would they see me as unfit? As slow? As a has been? It was really strange. Would I think these things of others? No. Never. I was anxious about waking at 330, driving to the race, feeling the anxiety.  Maybe I’d just sleep in. Maybe I’d already moved out of this ultra running world and I should just let it be. Maybe I didn’t want back in. Why did I want back in? Why did I want to run 50K again?

I wanted to run 50K again because I wanted to spend a day in the woods, working toward a goal. I wanted to run longer than the 10K that I had entered previously before I thought I could do 50K. 50K wasn’t even a thought a few weeks ago. I wanted to reconnect with friends of mine that I  only see at races . I wanted to see if I could. I wanted to see if I could stop if the pain of injury came, could I stay on this side of the line? I was willing to bet that I could.  I wasn’t going to let anxiety win.  I’d be sitting at home wishing I had decided to go to the race instead. Ugh.

I went home Friday after work and decided I wouldn’t set my alarm. If I were to awake at 330 (right) I’d go. If I didn’t I’d let sleeping dogs lie. What an avoidance technique!  Sheesh. I decided to put together my pack, look at the map, aid stations and just do this. Oh the anxiety. It was overwhelming.

I wonder if I’ve always been so riddled with anxiety and depression. I believe so. I countered it with drugs and alcohol. I suppressed it for many years. Running takes the edge off.

Morning came and some of the anxiety had somewhat diminished. I went through the motions, packed my stuff and the headed for New Auburn WI.  I picked up my  bib and shirt, said hello to many of  my friends and  headed back to my car to get ready.  I felt like I was going to be able to do this, I felt that it was going to be a beautiful day on the trail.

Deep breathing, calming breathes. The anxiety left the party.

Well, the story here is more of the leading up to the race than the race itself.

I lined up near the back of the pack, listened to Jeff give a description of the course and before I knew it we were running.

I was testing out a few things. I have a Garmin XT from 2008 that I was still wearing  as well as an Apple 3 watch I purchased this winter. I wasn’t sure how long the battery on the Apple would last. I’d find out. I put my phone into airplane mode and stopped all notifications to the watch. I never listened to any music. Happily I still had 40% battery life when I was finished. The splits were identical to the Garmin and the Apple is SO much smaller and lighter, it will be good for up to 50K.

(Greg Leciejewski took this photo at the start)

The course was beautiful. It smelled like spring. It was 33F when we started and 53F when I finished. The lakes were mostly frozen, there was some ice and snow on the trail, some mud, mostly beautiful grass and dirt. It really was great. I wore my Nathan Firefly pack, which I’ve only worn for 100 mile races. I normally only carry water bottles. I was concerned with the time it would take me between aid stations, I may need more water than usual. I filled up my pack on the way out at 10 miles, the way back 20 miles. That was plenty. I didn’t eat anything off of the aid station tables. I  had gels, honey stinger waffles and picky bars with me. I had plenty of energy.

(Greg Leciejewski took this photo at 2 mile mark)

I made it into the turnaround under 4 hours. I knew it wouldn’t take me 5 hours to get back. I was being conservative  on pace to err on the side of caution.  So far so good.

My knees were becoming  a bit sore on the downhill. As long as I was on the flat or going uphill I could move well. I had mincy short steps on the downs, trying to sink into my quads, giving my knees a rest. I fell twice. Keep trudging.

The last 3 miles were very muddy. The trail had warmed up, it was soft wet mud. It was slow picking. My blisters were starting to scream at me so I just trudged on. I knew I was almost at the finish. It finally hit me that I was actually going to finish, that I was again a 50K finisher!  I climbed up the final hill and into the finish chute. What an amazing day. I am quite amazed that the endurance came back in 8 short weeks. I have much work do to on the speed but that is a challenge I am excited to embark upon. I am just so darn grateful to have been able to complete a 50K race, without injury or pain.

I visited with friends, hung out for a while, changed clothes and drove home, with a smile on my face the whole way.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Wax Eloquent

I don't know what it is about running that makes me wax eloquent, makes me feel vibrant and alive, creates great joy inside of me.  I truly don't know that I can pinpoint exactly what it is. It is so many things.

For years I thought those feelings were simply felt because running was something that was SO far off of my radar, that the act of becoming a runner, the act of becoming something that I wasn't, created those feelings. Instead of being hung over, feeling sick, smoking cigarettes.. I was running. I had changed the script. I was able to rise above that shame that I felt.  I thought that the deep change in me created those feelings that running brought to the surface. I no longer believe it is that simple.

After not running for months-which is  longest time for me to abstain from running since I began in 1997-I  believed that I probably wasn't going to be able to run again, I sought other ways to feel joy. I did feel joy through these other situations .. but not THAT joy.   Not that unabashed, all encompassing joy. Deep rooted joy-down into the bone joy.  Other runners know exactly what it is that I'm talking about. While not running I mourned the act, I mourned the feeling that I was no longer a runner but I was able to to put that away and be OK. Just OK. I was able to go on and no longer force recovery, pine away and sulk. I had made peace with no longer running. I had to.  I couldn't be gloom and doom all day.

In February while snowshoe running I stopped and realized what I was doing. I was snow shoe running! Running! I began to bawl. Whole heartedly whole bodily bawl. I fell to my knees and all of this emotion came to the surface. It is what I would envision would happen to me if I saw Topaz running down the trail to me. That. Exactly. I hadn't gone out to snowshoe run. I had gone out to hike upon snowshoes but the body knew what it was doing before the mind. I realized how much I missed running. How much I can one love an act, a movement, a thing such as running? The act of it, the feel of it, the blood pumping through my body, the heat, the sweat, the smiling, the focus, the not focusing on anything. Just being. Just being ME. After getting home that day I wondered if I dared try it again. Nothing hurt. My neuroma wasn't any worse that it had been. Not better but not worse. My knees didn't hurt. My hips felt fine.  I felt great. I stretched out, practiced yoga, ate many non inflammatory foods and slept well. I was going to make my recovery count. The next day I didn't hurt. I wanted to try it again. I tried it again, snowshoe running increased to an  hour. Nothing but joy.

Over the past few weeks and months  I've moved from snowshoes to treadmill, from treadmill to trail and increased my time and miles running. I'm not in pain. I feel like me. This past weekend I ran a twenty mile long run and it was superb. Everything has changed again. Those months of darkness have led to light. It feels good to dig out my GUs, my hydration pack, to think about daily running routes. Yeah, I've missed it. SO much. I'm letting myself feel it.  I am diligent in my recovery. I am keeping inflammation at bay with a diet rich in inflammatory foods and spices, icing my shins and knees just in case, practicing yoga to keep my tendons, ligaments and facia loose. I am placing recovery in the forefront of my training. Training. Yup, this girlz gotz goalz.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Morton's Neuroma Relief?

Could it be?

Last month I began to run a bit. I was outside on snowshoes and before I knew it I was running. I was apprehensive, nervous and giddy with excitement all at the same time once I realized I had been running, not walking!  Wow!

I was still noticing neuroma pain-it just hasn’t gone away or lessened at all while taking time off. I didn’t feel any other pain.  I’ve been feeling great, have been running on my treadmill each day, completing an hour of 5 minutes walk at 4 mph @ 3 % incline x 5 minutes run at 5 mph @ 3 % incline. My body has been feeling  great my mind jubilant.  The neuroma zingers are as usual and it feels as though I have a giant walnut under my foot. I have been going to book surgery again with my prior neuroma surgeon but I’ve also been  looking  online for various ways of relief other than cortisone shots and the surgery route which I went through with my other foot and neuroma.

I have tried cortisone, foot pads, orthotics, wide shoes, tape,  ice and a zillion other things. As I was searching online I found a Visco-Gel Top Spacer with Stay Put Loop which looked interesting and promising. As I was reading about it I read a comment online from my friend, Sheila, multiple IronMan finisher. She has been using them for years and they have been working for her so I ordered a package and have been using  them every day  since. I am wearing them in  my work shoes, my running shoes, my slippers, everything. I place it between my third and fourth toe, separating those metatarsals. Guess what? I don’t feel   my neuroma! I DON’T FEEL MY NEUROMA!  I can’t even believe it. It’s almost too good to be true.  But I believe.  I am getting a second chance.

If you are suffering be sure to try one of these little guys. It just might work for you, too! I am really excited!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My Heart

I still don't have a dog!  I can't really believe that I've gone almost THREE years without one. Topaz passed three years ago, in May. I certainly thought I'd have found a little fur ball to love by now. Toffee, our 19 year old cat, passed away one year ago next week. Steve is allergic to cats,  I won't have another. Well, he is allergic to dogs, too. We have been without an animal for the first time in our 34 year marriage. Crazy.

I almost picked up a pup in December. A beautiful little blue border collie. I just couldn't pull the trigger. I am not sure why. I know that I have room in my heart to love another dog. I know that the pain and loss I am going through in losing Topaz is well worth the love I gave and received. Obviously, I knew he wasn't going to live forever. I knew I would lose him eventually.

Perhaps I am afraid of loving that hard again? Perhaps I am protecting my heart? Perhaps I am not sure if I want to be chained down to a dog well into my 60s? I can't even think that far into the future, yet, it is only 7 years. Wow. WOW.

Maybe it is due to new flooring and furniture in my home. Nah,  I don't think so.

I don't think my heart can stand another break, I don't think my heart can love that hard again.

Time will tell.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Let It Snow!


This past weekend we were blessed with the first real snowfall of the season.  It seems that the past few snowstorms have just missed Big Lake, leaving me with a longing for snowshoe running. This weekend the snow arrived.   It was beautiful, wet and heavy.

Saturday I had errands to run in Maple Grove so I swung by Elm Creek Singletrack  afterward. It was just as beautiful as I had hoped. The snow was deep and powdery. It shimmered like diamonds under the robin egg blue sky. The pine trees were heavy with piles of white snow, resembling heaps of icing.   It was magnificent.

Tears began to stream down my cheeks.  What is it about running that makes me feel…feel everything so deeply. Feel what? Feel gratitude for my surroundings, for the peace and quiet, for time by myself, for movement, for fresh air. I’m not sure.   I don’t feel the same as I begin a hike. I strapped on my 17 year old snow shoes-how can they really be that old, I remember buying them shortly after I purchased Topaz. Crazy! I began to travel down the trail, scaring the squirrel and rabbits into the underbrush. I made the first tracks.  It was  magnificent.  I trudged along, sinking into soft snow, loving the moment where I was. My feet felt good, my knees were fine, I began to run. I smiled, I laughed and cried. I spilled over with joy, it was tangible.

I hadn't run for almost a year; inconceivable,  I would have thought, yet I took the time off. I thought perhaps my second neuroma would heal, the ligaments in my knees would feel  strong again,  my ankles would not be so sore. I began to practice hot yoga, deep fascia tissue release, active release therapy,  walking instead of running,  prayer and release of control It all  helped. 

My neuroma didn’t go away,  it’s there, talking to me. I’ll have to have it surgically removed as I did in my other foot. It’s been bothering me more and more as time goes on. Not running didn’t relieve the pain. The rest of my body feels good, healed.  Strong. I need to respect it and treat it well, while running.  I can do this. I should be able to do both. Health and running. They can coexist. My running doesn’t have to look like my alcoholism, does it?  Time will tell.

Time off from running taught me a few things. I had allowed running to define me.  It defined who I was, it defined my relationships,  everything about me. It no longer does. I am so much more than a runner. I get that now. I can exist without running.  I can stay sober without running. I wasn’t always so sure. Running can be a part of my life; it doesn't have to be my life.

I began a few new hobbies. I am painting, knitting,  practicing yoga, lifting. I am enjoying all of it.

I didn’t miss the anxiety of  packing drop bags, of packet pickup,  all of the people, of group training runs, of others asking if they could stick by me during a race, all of those made larger  in my mind anxieties.

I’m just taking one step at a time and smiling all the way.