Monday, December 23, 2013

Sidelined again and a yearly wrap up

It is a couple days before Christmas, which means, less than a week until the year of the half marathons ends. I set many goals. The first being to run a half marathon last January. From there, I set a goal of running 13 half marathons this year, because how cool would it be to run 13 races of a 13.1 distance in 2013?

And now that the year is up, although I backed out of the last 2 half marathons that I had purchased entry into for December, I can see that this year has been a successful first full year as a runner.

Not only did I meet and surpass my goal of 13 half marathons by completing SIXTEEN of them (in SIX different states, no less), I also was able to complete ONE 10-miler race, SEVEN obstacle course races at various distances, and ONE 5K.

That's HUGE!

But my heart still breaks when I think about having to withdraw from the last two races of this season (the Palm Beaches Half Marathon, and the Live Ultimate South Beach Half Marathon). I feel like a failure for not starting those races because I have always reminded myself during races that dead last place is better than not finishing, which is better than not even starting. In my mind, not even starting is one of the worst things that I could possibly do as a runner. I'm ok with other people not starting races, but for me, that is just unacceptable.

Even though I have good reason, and logically I know it was a wise decision (something I probably should have considered before December), I struggle with feeling like a failure.

Where we left off in this blog, I was talking about the Space Coast half marathon, and the incredible pain I felt in my right foot. Up until that point, I had been seeing an orthopedic specialist to treat my foot and closely following his orders. I wore a boot. I stayed off of it when he told me to. I took my medications religiously. I got back into walking and then running just like he had suggested. And I believed him.

I returned to the doctor multiple times for follow-ups, and to see if I was a candidate for cortisone shots (which he told me wouldn't be useful). And finally, back in early November, I accepted what he said, and became resigned to the fact that he thought that the swelling had gone down and this was as good as it would get and I was just in pain from trying to get back out there and on it again.

But I still noticed things. Like the fact that when I took photos of my feet, I could clearly see that the swelling was not gone. The fact that I couldn't weight-bear for much more than a few minutes without needing to sit. The fact that I hurt WAY more as the day progressed, rather than hurting more in the morning (as is customary with residual plantar fasciitis as he claimed I had). And the fact that at random times I was still getting shooting pains through both my heel and the outside of my ankle.

I wanted SO badly to be fixed, that I believed everything I was told. Even when people near and dear to me pushed me to get a second opinion. Part of that (I am sure) was pure stubbornness... but the larger part of that was that I was trusting my doctor. He, after all, is an expert. He's supposed to know things. We are supposed to trust our doctors.

But after Space Coast, I knew that I needed to do something different. Whereas I had been feeling as if I had been getting better for awhile, the day before the half marathon, I just couldn't deny that I was actually getting worse. I had spent so much time putting on a happy face, trying to be strong (like the beast that I really wanted to be), and hiding what was really going on... and finally it was too much to hide. Husbeast noticed. Two of my dear running friends noticed. And they staged (what I can only describe as) and intervention. It was time for a second opinion. With a doctor that specializes in feet.

I went for the appt, he did xrays and an ultrasound, and he immediately put me in a much larger and much more archaically torturous boot. I was under strict orders to stay off of it until I could get a new MRI.

The MRI and followup were the next week, and because my dad was in town (and had also been pushing for me to get a second opinion), like I was a six year old with a sore throat, he marched me right into the appt, and waited for the verdict (poised to take notes to relay back to Husbeast).

And whereas there had been a laundry list of problems evident on the last MRI, the good news was that the list was shorter... Only TWO main problems.

The sheaths around the fascia on the inside of my heel were still incredibly inflamed, and there is a huge pocket of inflammation in the outside of my ankle between the bones. Two separate, but perhaps related injuries.

The good news is, that with the assistance of the ultrasound machine, he could give me the cortisone injections that I had so desperately wanted months ago. This was absolutely a nightmare, and I am getting flashbacks just thinking of it so I wont go there in this post, but I got the shots.

And then I went right back into the boot. And have been ordered to stay off of it until my followup on December 27th. I asked if he thought I would be able to be out of the boot by the end of the month because I had some training to get in before my first full marathon in January. He smiled sadly at me and said that he can't know until we get there. But he said that while his body language clearly told me no.

So there we have it. Why I have been so sad the past few weeks. Not only have I been struggling with this injury while being confined to the couch or a chair, but I have been fighting my own demons. I had a goal to do this full marathon, and now I can't. Even when I was mediocre about WANTING to do this race, I had a goal, and I don't take that lightly. What's more, I roped a dear friend into doing it with me when she clearly didn't want to do it in the first place. And now I can't. It's not even that I want to do it. But I made a commitment to her. And I don't take commitments lightly.

So there you have it. Me, not just feeling like a failure to myself, but what's worse, feeling like I have let down other people in the process too. I don't share that because I need a pep talk or anything. I don't need people to lift me up and make me feel better. I feel like crap. And I deserve to feel like crap.

The silver lining to it all though, is that if I don't do the marathon, that gives me more time to heal, which will allow me to do the next big thing. Another 5 races in 5 days in 5 states. Don't worry though, I have time to heal, that isn't for months and months yet. And when I'm back in the game, I will be better than ever. I've come so far already in this journey, I can get my head (AND my body) back in the game. Just looking at my wrist tells me so.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Space Coast Half Marathon - December 1, 2013

I  was really excited about the Space Coast Half Marathon. It had been a few weeks since I had been able to share a running trip with my dear friends Brina and Tracy, and it was a great opportunity to see many of my other running friends from afar. On top of that, Space Coast Half marathon has an awesome reputation for a gorgeous course, excellent support, an awesome medal, and of course, the Space Coast theme. Because the race was about 4 hours away from home, we decided to make a mini-vacation of it. Hus-beast and I stayed together at one hotel in Cocoa Beach, while Brina and Tracy shared a room at one of the host hotels.

But being at different hotels didn't really mean all that much, we still spent most of the weekend together enjoying the sights and sharing laughter. After picking up our race packets at Kennedy Space Center, the four of us purchased tickets to the park and wandered around for awhile. I was so excited to be there, but I was in a lot of pain in my right foot.

For months, as I had been battling this chronic injury, I had done really well at masking my pain and not letting anyone know how bad it was. I had become resigned to the fact that the doctor was doing everything he could to help me get better, and that there would just be residual pain leftover. I wore my boot because I knew that I would be spending extra time on my feet (although the doctor told me that I wouldn't need to wear it anymore). I was sore, and hurting, and every step was torturous. So although there we were seeing the most phenomenal exhibit on the space shuttle Atlantis (and actually seeing it up close), my heart wasn't into it, and I really just wanted to go back to the hotel and cry. Eventually, when the 3 of them teamed up on me to tell me for the 6574654563874845347th time that I needed to go to a new doctor for a second opinion, I broke. I couldn't deny it any longer. I knew there was a problem.

The next morning, I was surprised to get out of bed and have the pain be gone. I knew I was taking a chance in running although I was already having some significant foot pain, but I also knew that if necessary, I would hold back a bit and just enjoy the ride. It was cooler than I had hoped it would be, and I knew that this might make for good running conditions. But it was also misty and foggy, leaving a sheen of oil and slipperiness on the pavement which I was concerned about. Yes... I would take it very slow and steady. I asked Brina to run her own race, instead of slowing down to keep me company (I am thinking she met a PR too, but I could be wrong).

The course was straightforward and lived up to all expectations. The race started in the Village of Cocoa Beach, and headed south through an absolutely gorgeous residential area, flanked on the easy by the intercoastal waterway, and on the west by what I can only imagine was multi-million dollar beach mansions... but not the kind of multi-million dollar mansions we see in South Florida, more of what I would think of when I consider other parts of the east coast... more rustic in a way. If that even makes sense.

There were a lot of people. With a race of over 3k half marathoners, an equal number of full marathoners, and various speeds, there were always people to pace with and chat with. Although the ground was slick, I was making good time. After the pain from the day before, I had trouble putting my heart into this race and really wanting to be there in the moment, but by mile 3 I got there. Using the skills that I had developed the past few months with quickening my steps but shortening my stride, I seemed to be doing fairly well pace wise. But because this was a shared course between the full and half, and because the half was actually the second portion of the full, the course was open to participants for a full 8 hours, I had no real need to push for a good time.

And that was good, because by the time I hit mile 9, the pain was coming on in fits and starts. Only now, I was having difficulty with my lower back. and somewhere around mile 10 I realized that I was having trouble holding my head up. I slowed to a walk, and if you looked at me, you could probably tell something was wrong. While I was moving in a full upright position, I couldn't keep my head from rolling back. I spend the next 4 miles (literally) looking down my nose at the course.

Whereas I had spend the first 9 miles at a pace that would have ushered me into a personal best by at least 10 minutes, the last 4 miles had me struggling to even force one foot in front of the other. I was so out of it and so exhausted, unlike in other races from this year where I can remember every moment of coming into the chute and crossing the finishline, I have absolutely no memories of this.

I distinctly remember crouching down to let a little girl put my medal around my neck, standing up and then having the medical team pulling me out of a box of towels at the finish line. Apparently after all that movement, I must have crouched and stood too quickly and I keeled right into a box of finisher's towels! At least it was a soft place to land, right?

Not a PR, but not far off my PR, so I call it a successful race.

I met up with the rest of the group somewhere in the post race area, had a beer, had some pancakes and we headed back to our hotels to clean up. I felt good. But would I be ready to do it all again the following weekend at the Palm Beaches Half Marathon?

Gun: 3:20:30
Pace: 15:19/mile
Female 30-34: 215/258
Gender: 1634-2045
OA: 2457

That afternoon, I finally lost my first toenail (which had given me trouble in Sept but never fell off). I think I can officially call myself a runner now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

30 Days of Thankful

This month on various social media, we have seen people count the month off with 30 things they are thankful for. It is the month of thanksgiving, afterall... the month that really kicks off the holiday season (though I DID see holiday decorations up in a local town before Halloween, and some stores had their Christmas displays out since Mid-September, which I abhor, by the way).

But for me, I chose to do the 30 days of thankful posts to kickstart my positive attitude. Throughout my life I have heard people say that I am a negative nelly... and while I am not sure that is entirely true, I do recognize that I tend to be a half-full kind of glass person, a worry wart, and very rarely optimistic when it comes to my own situations. With others and helping them through tough times, I tend to be really optimistic, but for myself I rarely offer myself that courtesy.

So for me, this month has been about looking around and recognizing the small things that I really can be thankful. And in thinking of all those smaller things... the things I often take for granted... I was able to see just how amazing my life really is, and see just how great I have it. 

Though not running related (and this blog is supposed to only be about my running experiences and less of a personal journal), I chose to share them here, to keep them all compiled in one place to remind myself of this experience.
  • Day 1: I am thankful for my amazing husband and the roof he has put over our head and the food he puts on the table.
  • Day 2: and I am thankful for my awesome family who supported us through a difficult day today. tomorrow will be better.
  • Day 3: I am thankful for the ability to run out at the beach and enjoy another sunrise. Though still much more overweight than I would like to be, I am thankful for being healthier than I ever have before.
  • Day 4: Today I am thankful for the little joys of life... pumpkin spice creamer, bright sunshine, and two awesome (not-so-puppy) puppies who are always wanting to shadow me.
  • Day 5: Today I am incredibly thankful for every one of life's experiences (good AND bad) which have been woven together to make me the person that I am today. It hasn't always been easy, but I am aware that I might not be as compassionate, as loving, as committed, or as understanding without all of the hard times. It takes a horrible storm to truly appreciate the sun.
  • Day 6: Today, I am thankful for quiet nights at home with the husband sharing a bottle of wine. Who says you have to always be out on the town partying until 3am to have a good time? sometimes watching TV and going to bed by 10 is where its at. 
  • Day 7: I am thankful for the FUTURE. we can't do anything about the past, but we can live for the future... I am thankful for the opportunity to make my future the priority. This isn't about anyone else, this is about me and aiming to be the best person that I can possibly be.
  • Day 8: Thankful for deadlines and how having them can motivate my to complete tasks.
  • Day 9: I am thankful for my awesome part time gig at the stadium, even if it means eating a cheese quesadilla (redundant much) from Taco Bell on the way home and knowing i now have only 4 hours to sleep before tomorrow's half marathon.
  • Day 10: I am thankful for the number 16 (because seriously? did I really do 16 miles today???), tylenol and painkillers (because seriously? I really did 16 miles today), and aloe vera gel (because that 16 miles was in some serious sun and my skin got fried), and for celebratory margaritas with my dear friend Seth (because 16 miles!).
  • Day 11: I am thankful for deluxe pedicures, complete with cooling gel, hot towels and paraffin wax. 'nuff said.
  • Day 12: I am thankful today for amazing friends (you know who you are), and motivating me to become the best i can possibly be. thank you. and I love you all.
  • Day 13: I am thankful for my grandmother and for birthdays... and for being able to celebrate my grandmother's 87th birthday with her tonight. To one more awesome year... 
  • Day 14: I am thankful for the ability to pursue my advanced education and to contribute to the forward thought with innovative research plans. 
  • Day 15: I am thankful for having the opportunity for girls night in with the lovely Caitlin and sweet Vikki. Thanks for the great conversation and the dinner. you are the best! ....
  • I am also thankful for the people that can make this happen:
  •  Day 16: I am thankful to have the opportunity to be so thankful and to still be able to see the good in the world though I am constantly bombarded by intolerance and hatred in my professional life.
  •  Day 17: I am incredibly thankful that 1 year ago today, I met one of the most beautiful, compassionate, inspirational, and socially conscientious women that I know. She didn't much register as a potential friend the day I met her, but Brina, one year later and you are one of my best friends in the world and I am forever thankful for everything you have contributed toward making me a better person.
  • Day 18: I am thankful for sweet puppies, even jenny... and even when she is sick and turns her nose up at anything having to do with me.
  • Day 19: after all of the medical issues that came up this year, I am SO thankful for my husband's ability to provide me with the "privilege" of medical insurance. Tomorrow is a return to the cardiologist for my almost 6 month followup... and I am thankful we have gotten my heart rate and BP issues under control.
  • Day 20: Today I am thankful for finally making progress again and not being so lost and off the beaten path in dissertation land. I am also hopeful that my cohorts in the candidate stage who may be feeling lost find their path soon.
  • Day 21: I am thankful for the sound of the rain on the tin porch roof. Not only is the sound soothing but it is a reminder of all the hard work that Scrubby puts in so that we can have this roof over our head while I pursue my edumacation.
  • Day 22: Although I am thankful to have the freedoms that living in this country affords me, today I remain mindful that there is not true equality in this country and that we must continue to fight this injustice.
  • Day 23: thankful for opportunities and options. Sometimes we think that we are without them, but we ALWAYS have options. Life is full of decisions to be made and options to be chosen.
  • Day 24: Today I am thankful for lazy days spent fulfilling no commitments and owing nothing except to myself and my husband. Today I am thankful for the chance to recharge my batteries to approach the new week head on!
  • Day 25: I am thankful for knowing that the next steps of my dissertation are underway and this makes me feel like I am reignited again.
  • Day 26: Day 26: I am thankful for nice long pedicures and the foot massage that accompanies them. what a great way to relieve stress!
  • Day 27: Tonight I am incredibly thankful for being provided written feedback on my proposal from one of my committee members. This way, she is allowing me adequate time to prepare for the questions that she will want to be addressing during my proposal defense NEXT FRIDAY. now... because I've never been in this situation before... does this mean I am to modify my proposal to also address the issues that she brought to light?
  • Day 28: I am thankful for the abundance of food on the table and not going to bed hungry. I am also thankful for having the opportunity to serve others so that they do not go to bed hungry tonight either.
  • Day 29: I am thankful for the little things like a quiet house first thing in the morning, and a warm cup of coffee.
  • Day 30: I am thankful for the amazing month of November and all the awesome things I was reminded that I am so fortunate to have. Who knows? Why limit my thankfulness and recognition of the little things just to the month of November. It certainly helps keep the messiness of life in perspective and allows me to see light where otherwise I may have only focused on the darkness.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Foot Update, and a Secret About Pennies

Just a quick update one where I am at with my foot... because it seems that everyone keeps asking me what the verdict is. 

I'm still seeing the orthopedic for the ongoing heel pain. I am not wearing my boot anymore because over time it started to bother my knee and my back... but I am still trying to limit my steps. I've been taking it easy since the Ft. Lauderdale 13.1 race... it wasn't hurting so much during the race, but I think that 3 miles back to the car really did a number on me. I was in severe pain by the time Seth and I got to our post race lunch... but the margaritas helped take the edge off.

Anyway, the swelling came back. Thankfully not with a vengeance like putting a marshmallow in a microwave... but still bad enough I couldn't put a shoe on comfortably for a few days... And with swelling and pain, I know that I must take a few extra days of rest. Thankfully, I have a few weeks between races, so I have that luxury.

And in the meantime, it was a good time to see the orthopedic again... specifically to ask about cortisone shots. Which it turns out, he didn't want to do. He said that because the majority of the swelling is from the sheath of a tendon and not the tendon itself, the cortisone would be hit or miss. A best case scenario with the cortisone would be 4 weeks off my feet completely for little result. But the likelihood of that would be slim... and we know I don't take well to forced rest.

The more likely outcome of shots could be disaster. As he explained, literature shows that people who have cortisone for sheath issues in the heel wind up having exacerbated issues long term and it can lead to breakdown in the sheath. 

So what now? The only real prescription is rest. But he knows that wont work for me either... remember that running is my one real way to relax myself these days... and it is better for me to relax my brain than relax my foot in the long term.

He continued with meloxicam daily, he re-prescribed a painkilling and anti-inflammatory cream (I've had it before and I REALLY like the idea of this because it is basically reason for me to get foot massages from Scrubby twice a day), and stressed the need for rest days. Knowing that I have a marathon goal (and another goal which you need to keep reading to find out about), he said do my long training runs during the weekend as scheduled but be very careful about the surfaces I am on... NO SAND and try to avoid anything other than asphalt. Apparently I am on doctors orders to also limit my mileage mid week (but I can bike to keep up my cardio). He also said I should wear my Hoka One One shoes on long runs (excuse to get another pair? I think so). I am not allowed to drive long distances (because the spot you rest your heel is where I have the problems), I may need to continue to wear my boot at the stadium, and I shouldn't go above 20 miles in my marathon training. Essentially the remedy is rest, rest, and more rest.
I'll be bringing the pennies!
And I'm ok with that. What I wasn't ok with was the idea that he had to palpate my whole heel area to find exactly where the problems are. And since doing that, the swelling has gone back up and the pain has increased exponentially.

And with all that being said, and knowing where I am going to be headed now in terms of recovery... I want to announce that I will not be adding any more races to my race schedule for the rest of the season so that I have plenty of time to recover from the races that I already have planned from now until March... I am going to need that time to recover...

Because this morning, I dropped my registration in the mail for the Riverboat Series by Mainly Marathons... In which I will be attempting another 5 half marathons in 5 states in 5 days. And yes, I will be bringing plenty of pennies.

Monday, November 18, 2013

13.1 Ft. Lauderdale - November 10, 2013

One of my side jobs is that I do some promotions work for US Road Sports at local events, and in exchange I get complementary entries to their local events. This year, I wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity and complete all 5 of the races in the Florida Storm Series to obtain their special Category 5 finisher's medal.

The first race of the season for the Storm Series was 13.1 Ft. Lauderdale, and I was stoked. What I love so much about Ft. Lauderdale races is the amount of time that we actually spend running on sea wall and the spectacular views. I joined my dear friend Seth for the race and we sadly were minus our third in the trio as Brina was unable to make it... which I knew might be hard for me as Brina is so good at pacing me and that meant I would be on my own for the duration.

With Seth at the start. Yes it will be a good day.
But sadness over not having my friend there wasn't gonna get me down. I've run half marathons before, I knew that this would just be different. I would use the time to get deep within myself and focus on all of the important things... like why I enjoy the feeling of being at a race. I've been pushing myself for so long to get a PR, that lately I had been feeling like maybe I was losing some of the centering feelings that turned me onto running in the first place. This was a great opportunity to regroup and reevaluate my approach to races.

I arrived in downtown Ft. Lauderdale nice and early and found parking. I got ready in the garage and waited on Seth, then we went to the start line where I had the goal to meet up with a co-worker and friend who was participating in the wheelchair division. After a few obligatory photos (which I wont share because I don't want to share without permission), we headed to the start line. We ran into a few race regulars that I knew and a few old friends, and before we knew it the anthem was finished and the race had started. Seth and I said our goodbyes as we herded through the start corral, and he was off. Me, I surprised myself.

I started really strong. I reminded myself that recently I had learned to take shorter quicker steps to increase my time and reduce my energy output, and felt myself plowing through the first few miles. As I am still a run-walk-runner doing 1min:1min ratios... my overall pace was slower, but I was easily doing 11 minute miles while on my run intervals. I was impressing myself at how strong I felt. And what's more, I had NO FOOT PAIN.

The worst part of the tunnel experience
We ran through the city streets for the first few miles and down through the New River Tunnel, which was very cool. I have always wanted to run a tunnel, but now that I've done it, I don't think I ever want to do it again. The downhill is easy but right before the bottom, the air quality gets bad with poor ventilation and no movement to the air at all. It is hot and humid, and on my exit from the tunnel I felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest. Thankfully it was a short foray into Tunnel-world and we exited back to the streets where there was a nice breeze.

I was pacing with 2 lovely women and we chatted a little. Turns out that one of them knew me from a group that I am an admin for on facebook, and we were able to enjoy our time together (I actually ran into her yesterday at a football game and I think I'd like to continue a run-panionship with her, but I digress).

Horrible photo of me with my new Run-panion, Kim
I think the tunnel and my pet chest-sitting-elephant caught up to me somewhere around mile 5... I saw these women pulling away from me a bit as we hit the beach, but I wasn't running for time (remember, this was a regroup race), so I was OK with that. I felt myself slowing down a bit, but with each moment of slowing down, I felt my joy for running and my positive thinking increasing. How different it was to run for me and not for the clock.

4 miles north on the beach, then 4 miles south to the finish-line, and the finishline was in sight. Seth ran over to me about 50 feet from the finishline and told me that he was going to bring me in (I LOVE when he does this), but he had to stay out of the chute, and I pushed full steam ahead. I was exhausted, but it was over. And I felt great.

I never steal photos, but with a pic like this...
That is... until I crossed over the mat and I revisited the huckleberry hammer gel that I had around mile 11 and I couldnt clear my airway. Before making it to get my medal, I doubled over choking on this viscous huckleberry flavored nastiness. I couldn't catch my breath and we called for medical who forced 4 bottles of water into me in rapid succession to induce vomiting. The medics stood over me while the color returned to my face and my lips went un-blue. And Seth stood nearby watching, shaking his head and laughing at the fact that I can't seem to push it like that without needing medical.

No PR for me that day... depending on who you ask. Officially, no PR... but my garmin measured the course at 13.38 miles with a pace per mile of 14:56... which would be a 1 minute 5 second PR. I'll take that. Amazing what a no-stress race will do for a person's time.

is this thing real?

Net- 3:18:43
Pace- 15:10
OA- 2002/2088
Female- 1079/1151
Age- 33.11%

AND I had enough energy left over that Seth and I skipped the shuttle back to our cars and instead chose to walk an additional 5K... guess that is a good 16 mile training session for my upcoming full marathon in January.

P.S. The foot pain returned on the walk back to the car... guess we have learned an important lesson about my feet and concrete. Time to look into cortisone shots.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Halloween Half Miami Beach - October 26, 2013

My first half marathon back after my 6 in 6 adventure.... and I had a goal for myself. Shave that extra 1 minute and 46 seconds off my half time so that I could get a better corral placement at my first full marathon. Yikes. How impressive would that have been to get a new PR, take 1:46 off my time between Billings Montana and now, and also take 21 minutes and 36 seconds off of my half time in 1 year? That would have been seriously sweet.

Unfortunately that isn't even close to what happened, but it was nice to go into this event having a goal.

It shouldn't be a surprise to know that the week leading up to this race, my foot wasnt doing well again. I was in and out of the boot. I was minimizing my training runs. I was babying myself by laying on the couch with my foot elevated... I was sore, but I was feeling fairly confident. And then I got an email telling me that the course had changed. The course was bring rerouted to include 1/2 mile on the "hardpacked sand" around mile 4, then another 1/2 mile on the same sand around mile 10 at the return to the finishline.

If there is one thing that I already knew beyond a reasonable doubt would wreak havoc on my bad foot, it was sand, whether "hardpacked" or not.

But as much as I worried that this sand would do a number on my foot, I had already paid the entry, I had a goal to meet in terms of time, I still wanted to go out there and run. Plus it was a Halloween themed race and Brina and I made really cute Dr. Who costumes...

So we get there bright and early... and for the first time since my first half marathon back in January, Ray was joining up at the 13.1 distance. He hadn't done any training for this race, so he felt kind of under prepared but he really wanted the Halloween Half medal... anyway... I am clearly digressing.

So we (me, Seth, Brina and Ray) arrive at the parking garage and wait for our fellow Half Fanatic Juanita to arrive, then off to the starting corral.

Before we knew it, it was time to go. The first mile or so of the course was awful. The race started at Jungle Island in Miami, then we had to wind around the access road, underneath the bridge then onto the causeway toward Miami Beach. At that time of the morning, the road was really poorly lit, I felt exhausted, and bored. Here we go again. Just go through the motions, right?

To help myself along, I find my person who would be my goal to finish in front of. Normally I don't pick my person that early in a race, but I needed some kind of extra incentive to push it. She was a larger woman in purple, and we passed her before we even hit mile marker 1... never to see her again until mile 10 where we suddenly saw her in front of us, realized she had cut the course and was cheating, then shamelessly passed her again)... so clearly she wasn't a good choice in a person. But even though we passed my person so early, I was feeling good. The first 4 miles or so, I was making really good time... and Brina was really supporting me and pushing me on.

I really can't say enough how much I love this girl.

But then after mile 4, things started to deteriorate... and fast. The course veered off to a concrete (then brick, then sand, then brick path) and the constant pounding was like being hit repeatedly with a machete in my lower back. I have always had back problems, but never felt this kind of pain while running. I wanted to push through it, but I was in so much pain I was almost in tears. Then on the sand portion we chose to walk it to not risk further damage on my foot, and that slowed me down even more.

It was clear that Brina was getting impatient with me (which in retrospect I don't blame her for), and her impatience was discouraging me. I wanted to be better. I wanted wanted to get that PR. I wanted my training partner to be proud of me. Instead as the time went on and she kept trying to motivate me and push me to be the best I could, I got stuck in my brain. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was not only letting myself down... but I was letting one of my best friends down as well. I was hurting. I was angry.

I said some things that I NEVER should have said to the girl who has never wanted anything but success for me (things that I am incredibly remorseful for when I look back at the situation). I lashed out and pushed her away because I didn't want to hold her back. I didn't want her to see me fail. I kept chugging along, but my brain hurt more than my body did... and my body was in very rough shape.

I struggled to keep up with her, but eventually I felt that distance between us growing larger and larger until I couldn't see her through the field anymore. I was about half a mile from the finishline, and I was on my own.

I finished, and I felt awful. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let down everyone around me. I had one job to do (bring my time down), and I couldn't even do that. I could barely even hold my own brain together. I needed to go home and cry. And not the good kind of cry either. I needed to wallow in my self pity.

But we went to breakfast instead. And it was good.

The Halloween Half was over, and tomorrow would be a new day.

Gun - 3:26:00
Chip - 3:23:29
Pace - 15:32/ Mile

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Zombie Rush - October 19, 2013

So I don't know really where to begin this post. I feel as if (to a certain extent) I have peaked in my writing... having completed such a huge goal as 6 half marathons in 6 days, that talking about anything else just pales in comparison. So I drag my feet on writing, because nothing could be quite as epic a tale to tell.

I spent the adequate time off my feet like the doctor suggested and the week of October 13th, I wanted to try getting back out there and logging some extra mileage. I started small. On Oct 14, I went to the beach and walked 4 miles with my dear friend Tracey. 2 days later, I went back to the beach and logged another 5 miles.

And that was a mistake. In retrospect, while justified in getting back out there because the Dr. said to give it a try and ease back into it... I think my definition of easing back into things may be a little different than the his definition. After walking 4 miles and another 5 miles, my heel was screaming for respite once again. Back into the boot I went... for another few days of TLC.

Flash forward to the following Saturday and I was scheduled to run The Zombie Run 5K. Husband Ray and I had both gotten Groupons for this event, and we figured that even if we walked it together it would be a good day. And it was.

This race was a first time event for the promoter, and while I thought some of the logistics needed some work, it wasn't a complete disaster like I have seen other OCRs to be. I felt that some of the obstacles also needed to have been checked for exposed nails or other metal objects which might pose an impalement risk... because you know... who wants to survive the zombie apocalypse only to die of Tetanus a week later?) But for the most part I felt that the obstacles were OK (albeit they weren't over the top difficult and some of them needed to have been wider to accommodate more runners). The terrain was OK too... although we had previously participated at events at Amelia park so we weren't all that challenged in the bike trails or the dirt roads/water crossings. In terms of venue location, I am not so sure that I would pay full price for an event at this park again because it just seems like you've done one race there and nothing else will stimulate you...

But that being said, we had a good time out there with some of our friends at Karma Athletes, they helped me over a tough obstacle (a big drainage tube that was up to my neck in height), which was an accomplishment. I had to skip one obstacle because it was really high and didn't have that great of handholds for me at the top and I didn't want to hurt my foot more should I fall... and somehow we managed to finish as survivors (still having at least one flag each). This event was untimed, so I can't gauge how well I did in the time department, but that's ok, I wasn't running it for time. I was walking it for experience.... and yes, with an injury, there is a difference.

I got home that night and questioned the decisions I had made. Ultimately, it was a lot of fun, but the return of foot pain and another few days in my boot might not have been worth it. With less than a week to recover for my next half marathon (The Miami Beach Halloween Half), I didn't know if I would have enough time to recover.

Grudgingly, back into the boot I went.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Charming Life...

When I first began my running adventure, I could only imaging what it would be like to actually complete a half marathon. At the time, my goal was to participate in ONE... because how absolutely awesome would it be to complete a half marathon?

This week last year, (when I was preparing for my first half marathon) while visiting my family in New Hampshire, I bought a sterling silver charm bracelet with a 13.1 charm on it. At the time, I wanted it because I never wanted to forget that feeling of determination and having a lofty goal. I loved my bracelet and as time went on, people would ask about it... always wondering if I had plans to add additional charms as time went on.

And the answer was no. I didn't want to add additional charms. I just wanted to commemorate the training and preparation for my first half marathon. I loved this bracelet as is, and nothing was going to change that.

But then, while on my wild 6 half marathons in 6 days adventure, I met many people who were members of a member of a club called the 50 States Half Marathon Club, having the ridiculously lofty goal of completing a half marathon in each state.* One woman had a beautiful Pandora Charm Bracelet which was basically one charm bead after another commemorating the states that she had run half marathons in... and I really liked the concept.

So when I got home, and the post-race depression let up, I found myself trolling various websites looking for charms. and I decided that now was the time to add charms to my 13.1 bracelet.

Now the reality is that people who see it will probably think that I am a travel enthusiast and I like to get charms when I visit various places. And that's ok.

Because this bracelet isn't for them. It is for me.

And every time I look down at my wrist I will be reminded that anything is possible with a little hard work and determination.

* right now I am contemplating getting a membership with the 50 state half marathon club, but that may be something for down the line a bit.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 6: Center of the Nation Series: Chadron, NE- September 20, 2013

This is the final installment (day 6) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries chronicling my big birthday trip in which I participated in 6 half marathons in 6 consecutive days in 5 different states with 2 of my good friends. I have really dragged my feet on writing these blog posts, and this one is particularly difficult for me to write because not only was the final half marathon an incredible day for me, but because writing the blog post symbolically means that this is a part of my life that is officially over. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to close off that chapter of my life, but I think I am finally ready to write. But first:

When I left off, I had just completed my 5th half marathon in 5 days in frigid temperatures and high winds. Because the winds were so high, and it was such a difficult course, I must have overexerted myself unlike I ever have before. I'd still been babying my bad foot... following doctors orders to wear my aircast for every waking moment when not actually on the race course. I had been icing and elevating. I had been eating my anti-inflammatories and my pain-killers religiously. I did everything I was supposed to be doing. But after 65.5 miles in the first 5 days, and after that unbelievably difficult course and conditions in Albion Montana... I was spent.

When I got out of bed after our pre-dawn wake-up call, I could barely put any pressure on my right foot. It wasn't swollen as badly as it had been in the height of my injury but I knew that didn't mean much. I was determined to get out there to Chadron State Park for the final race in the series, and if that meant that I would be hopping the 13.1 miles, I was pretty much prepared to do just that.

I've not always been the smartest when it comes to making decisions and listening to my body. The doctor had cleared me to run the series (warning that it might be excruciatingly painful and it may set me back in terms of my overall healing process, but he had cleared me none-the less). The one caveat, of course, was that I was on doctors orders to listen to my foot and do constant checks-ins with myself about the pain I was feeling. And I did just that. I got dressed, we drove to the park. We parked what seemed like a mile away from the start line, and I hobbled along behind my friends.

I was down on myself from the moment we got to the park. I had come all this way, and here I was thinking I may not even be able to start the final race in the series. I didn't want my friends to know just how bad it was, so I put on a happy face. And when the race started... I put one foot in front of the other. Afterall, a did not finish trumps a did not start any day.

The course was gorgeous and the weather was amazing. A woman named Pamela slowed down to my pace and kept me company. Listening to her stories and talking about the amazing experiences during the earlier part of the week kept my mind off of the fact that with each excruciating step I was getting shooting pains up my heel, into my calf and up through my knee and hip. I knew it was going to be a long morning out there. And strangely, it NEVER ONCE crossed my mind to sit down and give up.

By the time we were done with our first lap, I knew I had to make some changes, but my attitude had changed. I told myself I only had 9 miles left to reach my goal, and I would get there come Hell or high water. While Pamela went to the restroom, I sat down on a bench and replaced my right running shoe with my aircast... and I was ready to go.

The cast slowed me down even more, but at least now I could avoid the shooting pains up through my leg. And putting pressure on my foot was far easier. And that was how I finished the last 9 miles. Nothing was going to stop me. It was slow, but my goal had nothing to do with time. The goal was to finish, and not let my experience be defined by what I couldn't do (as had been the recurring theme before I began running in 1012).

Instead, I took the opportunity to define myself by what I could do in the face of adversity.

And I really like this definition of myself.

My ridiculously slow finish time of 5 hours and 8 minutes for the half marathon earned me the daily caboose award for being the last to finish, but I will cherish that award for as long as I am alive.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 5: Center of the Nation Series: Albion, MT- September 19, 2013

There are just no words for Montana. Apparently, Montana and I have a love hate relationship.

Montana Race #1 was awesome and left me with a PR. Montana Race #2 was le suck. And as awful as the race itself was, the experience was amazing. I'll get there.

But first, If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 6 (day 5) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.
The final installment will be coming soon, so stay tuned...

Day 5 of this badass trip brought us back to Montana, and a little ghost-town called Albion. Technically the registry of Montana ghost towns lists Albion as a ghost town, but in fact it is not entirely abandoned. It is still technically a town of residual population (similar to Colony WY, I guess). The only thing that indicates that this area of Montana had once been a town is the abandoned schoolhouse that was found right near the start line for the race. 

Once again, the course was fairly straightforward with a 2.3 something-ish mile out and back where you collect 5 rubber bands and perform a victory lap. Unfortunately, the first thing that was going against us was the unbelievably cold and windy temperature.

When those with smart-phones could get service, the temperatures were reading at 37F with a wind chill of 29F. I knew that I was going to be cold in my running tights, skirt, and multiple layers of shirts, but cold is a word with little meaning compared to what we were experiencing.

Imagine this... go into your kitchen and take a bag of frozen peas and drop it down the back of your panties. then put a frozen steak over each nipple, put a bag of frozen broccoli under each armpit and between your legs. now stand there in your kitchen in front of your open freezer for 3 hours. That still doesnt seem cold enough to me... maybe turn a fan on high and aim it right at you and eat some icecream while you are at it. Then you might know a fraction of the type of cold we were experiencing. 

The first trip out on the course was decent enough... albeit frigidly cold, but it was the return trip that was brutal. The return trips had us running into 30+ MPH SUSTAINED winds, that chilled you so badly you felt like all of your joints were going to explode and your tears were going to freeze to your face. I was putting in twice the effort to run my intervals, yet I was going so incredibly slow. It was absotively exhausting...

Now, some people may think that I am exaggerating here, but I kid you not, this was the most brutal experience I have ever been through. My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad race at Singer Island on April 27th had nothing on the brutality that was Albion Montana. One would never understand how horrible the wind was or how bad the cold was from the spectacular photos, but you are going to have to trust me here...

What made it worse was that there was an extreme pitch to the gravel roadway, leaving my feet screaming in pain with each excruciating step as the tendons and muscles tried to keep my feet underneath me. My my legs felt as if they were going to shatter off with every step and my muscles never wanted to warm up. 

At one point, after nearly being blown off the road (and I am not making that up either), I was in such mental and physical anguish that I  turned to one of my fellow runners (Jim) and told him that I had to listen to my body and I would be giving up. I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it back to the vehicles I was in so much pain. I was cold. I was crying. I felt like a complete and utter failure. Had I done a video of myself I would have looked like that poor snotty nosed girl from The Blair Witch Project... But I didn't, because my fingers and hands wouldn't even work well enough to unzip my camera from the case. 

And when Jim saw me struggling, he stood in front of me to block the wind, and said we would walk together. He crammed athletic socks on over my mittens. His friend crammed a winter ski hat down over my head when we passed the turnaround point again, and we carried on. I wanted to give up with every fiber of my being. But I had come this far already... as much as I wanted to give up, and seriously thought that the next step would be my very last... I kept going. One excruciating footstep after another.

Once again, Seth and I brought pennies hoping that Brina would find them and have the luck she needed... but it was really me that needed all the luck I could get.

And finally, after 4 hours and 23 minutes, I was hobbling across the finish line and to the car where Brina was waiting for me with heat and a shot of Fireball.

It was the worst race I have ever participated in, but one of the best experiences of my life. I could never fully explain what happened out there next to the abandoned schoolhouse at Albion Montana, so I am not even going to try.

Just know that I have forever been changed because of that day. And believe it or not, to learn the lessons that I learned about myself during that race, I would gladly do it all again in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 4: Center of the Nation Series: Colony, WY- September 18, 2013

Almost 2 weeks have passed since September 18, 2013, the 4th day of my 6 day/6 half marathon adventure. I am still struggling with how to fully write this and do these stories the justice that they deserve. I think in the end though, though I rarely allow myself to "just settle," I feel I have no choice in this matter. No matter what I say or do, nobody will ever understand what we went through during this adventure than the amazing men and women who joined me to log this kind of intense mileage. All I can do is try to tell this story to the best of my ability, and hope that I do this story justice...

So, If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 5 (day 4) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.

The next installments are coming, so stay tuned...

I woke up early on the  morning of Day 4 with some tummy troubles but that wasn't going to stop me. This, afterall was not only the 3rd day of the Center of the Nation series and miles 39.3-52.4 of my 6 day running adventure, but it was also Boston Day. One of the fellow runners in the series had run The Boston Marathon and was active in fundraising for the Boston One Fund. This generous man asked that everyone wear Boston related gear to the WY race, and in exchange, he would donate $5 for each to the One Fund. So of course I was looking forward to Boston Day, and of course Brina and I wore our Boston Strong Shirts. It was too cold for just our tanks so early in the morning, but we quickly shed our jackets. And it was worth every moment of being chilly to join together to remember the tragedy at Boston.

Day 4 brought us to Colony Wyoming, AKA "The Bentonite Capital of the World." Colony is so small that county officials and the US Census Bureau don't even bother to keep track of the town's population. From what I understand the only thing that really exists in Colony Wyoming is Bentonite, the factory, spectacular sunrises and views, and wonderful people like Janet and Thorval Jansen who graciously opened their land up for us to run (and play) on.

Just me!
My game plan for the day was to once again take it easier. I knew what my body and mind needed were a nice relaxing day enjoying the sunrise and the beautiful scenery. I needed to recoup, regroup and prepare myself for the last 2 races of the series. My stomach was bothering me (perhaps just from normal travel issues like not eating the right things at the right times, or perhaps related to runners issues), and this made me realize that slower was better. I had long since resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be impressing myself with good finish times, and had already moved to the point that my goal was to just finish the series.

I don't want anyone to think that I had given up, because that most certainly was not the case, but I know my body. I know what I am capable of. And you know, if there is one thing that I have realized is that the fast times aren't what make you an impressive athlete. Yes, having an amazing half marathon time of 1 hour and 45 minutes makes you an impressive endurance runner. But meeting all of these people out there caused a shift in my thinking.

Without her permission, I didn't want to post her photo.
Because people like me are impressive too. We go out there and put one foot in front of the other for consecutive hours. It is a different type of endurance. And it doesn't make sense to compare the 2 types of people out there. So I know that I am way off topic now, but I have to say that there were some impressive runners out there who ran 3.5 hour marathons each day, but there was one woman who blew me away. I think each day she finished her full marathons in 7-8 hours. I could NEVER be a strong and dedicated as this woman and my hat goes off to her. She was the type of inspiration that I needed on Day 4 (and 5.... and 6).

Because despite the gorgeous course, the spectacular sunrise, the perfect running surface of shale, the amazing people I was enjoying my time with... my body was failing me. My stomach issues quickly spiraled out of control and I spent enough time in a port-o-potty to last me a lifetime. Then my heel was bothering me and I felt myself altering my gait a bit, which quickly had some blisters re-emerging. Between the bathroom breaks and the emergency blister surgery, I was a hot mess and wound up sitting out for a combined total of 40 minutes of the race.

By the end of the race, it was mind over matter. One foot in front of the other. And eventually I would get there. It took me 4 hours and 16 minutes, and was my longest half marathon time to date, but I finished.

And I didn't beat myself up over the time. Because I had spent the morning realizing that the term "endurance athlete" doesn't always have to do with a fast time. Sometimes it is about time in general.

And what a time it was!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 3: Center of the Nation Series: Belle Fourche, SD- September 17, 2013

I am sitting at my desk staring at a ball of rubber bands. Having completed 6 half marathons in 6 consecutive days (5 of which were the Center of the Nation Series by Mainly Marathons), I have come to have a deep and meaningful relationship with rubber bands. You see, because each of the 5 races in the CONS were 2-3 mile out-and-backs or loops, you marked your progress by collecting a rubber band each time you returned to the start line. Rubber bands signify progress. They signify sweat and tears. They signify perseverance. And smiles. And good friends. And as I sit here preparing myself to write about my race in Belle Fourche, SD, It only seems fitting that I spend a brief minute contemplating what rubber bands REALLY mean to me.

So, If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 4 (day 3) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.

The next installments are coming, so stay tuned...

I have to start by saying that the race course at Belle Fourche, South Dakota was probably my favorite course out of the 5 races put on by Mainly Marathons. It wasn't really that pretty, and we ran on concrete pathways for most of the course, but it was fairly flat, and there was a lot of shade to be had. The course started next to the Belle Fourche chamber of commerce, ran down a path lined with flags from each state ("avenue of flags?"), and past the Center of the Nation monument. From there, we turned down a path along the river and the rest of the race continued either on this path or up a short street nearby. It was a 2+ mile out and back where half marathoners were expected to pick up 5 rubber bands and then do a victory lap.

What was different about this run than the day before was that runners all recognized on another and the comeraderie had grown exponentially. Runners high fived one another non stop, encouraged one another, smiled, cheered one another along, and really got into the running community spirit.

Fellow runner Sam stopping for a photo with me
I started the race a little sore, but I soon felt myself wondering if (as strange as it sounds), 3 half marathons in 3 days is EASIER than doing 2 in 2 days. I ran my 1/1 intervals. I felt slower than my pace at home, but I wasn't slogging through it either. I didn't have much heel pain, but my right foot was already double the size that it normally is, so I didn't want to take much risk. I kept remembering that slow and steady does it.

Up until this race I had always been acutely aware of just how long a half marathon was. I had always rolled my eyes thinking that there was still XXX miles left, and I still had so much more to do. This was the first race I have ever run where I suddenly looked down at my garmin and said "seriously? how did I already get to 7 miles?" and "wow, eleven miles, already????" It was like some kind of switch had been flipped, and suddenly a half marathon didn't seem so long. and an hour and a half of running would fly by like nothing. It was unreal.

I think passing the time was also made easier by pennies.

Brina, Oblivious to the fact I just dropped 3 pennies at her feet
Brina and I had decided to run the races separately during the Center of the Nation Series, although we have been running races together since March. One of the little quirks that I love about Brina is that she gets easily distracted by shiny things. She is always pushing me to do my best and be my best, but if there is something shiny, she always has to stop and check it out. She is also in love with collecting pennies on her runs. That's not my story to share about why, but she feels that she is getting a little extra oomph of good luck when she finds pennies while running. I have always lovingly teased her about how easily she distracts when she sees pennies on the ground, but I actually find it really sweet.

After finishing the Bowman race the day before, Brina had confided that she had a tough run and that she felt like she was struggling. She said she was looking for pennies on the run but hadn't found any and that maybe that might have made her feel more confident or stronger.
Me with only 0.1 miles to go

So Seth and I had gotten some pennies and each took about half a roll with us to the race at Belle Fourche and tossed them on the ground every few yards for her to hopefully find a little inspiration along the way. It made us feel good, and it helped pass the time... but we later learned that she hadn't found any pennies at all. Yikes. Where did they all go?

Anyway... It was a good run. I felt relaxed and in touch with my own body mechanics. I felt encouraged and strong. I loved the weather (especially after it went from jacket/gloves weather to tanktop weather), and I felt good. I don't really have much more to say about the actual race though. 

At Mt. Rushmore
My garmin said my finish time was 3:40:41 with a pace of 16.36 per mile. not bad for taking it easy. I don't feel badly about that pace because it paid off. I made it through day 3 without any pain. I was certainly swollen, but no pain.

And still enough energy leftover to visit Mt. Rushmore!

39.3 miles down, 39.3 miles to go. be continued...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Trip Day 2: Center of the Nation Series: Bowman, ND- September 16, 2013

Once again I am staring at a blank screen not knowing what to write. If you know anything about me, and my writing habits, you know that this NEVER happens. If we are being honest (which I am a big advocate for), as readers, you must know that part of my struggle in what to write and how to write it has been fueled by a nasty depression. For me, when I plan and plan and plan for an event and spend months anticipating it... whether the outcome is what I had planned or not, I wind up feeling horribly sad. All this build up and excitement suddenly ends, and I am left feeling kind of empty. This is EXACTLY what happened after this amazing trip. And as I sit preparing to write, I realize that it is taking so long because I don't actually want to end that chapter of my life yet. If I don't finish posting about this event, I wont ultimately close out that period of my life, and I can continue to pretend that it never ended. Hows that for some early morning introspection?

So, If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 3 (day 2) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.

The next installments are coming, but it might take some time...

Day 2 brought us to a campground that sat along the Bowman Haley Dam in Bowman, North Dakota. Our home base for the early part of the week was in Spearfish South Dakota, So that meant a 2 hour drive to get to the Bowman race. Thankfully, we were never really came off of Eastern Time and we had a 2 hour time difference that worked in our favor during the entire trip. We woke up at 3am in South Dakota and our bodies felt it was 5am. our races all started at 6:30am and we felt like it was 8:30 am. We went to bed religiously at 8 or 9 pm and it felt like 10 or 11pm. We hadn't thought of this all while planning the trip, but it worked in our favor. As a related side note, I should think that moving backwards in timezones is easier for folks attempting a streak, rather than moving forward in timezones. I really felt sorry for the few folks we met from Hawaii who were constantly exhausted from the time shifts. Well, I felt sorry for them until I remembered that they LIVE IN HAWAII, but I digress.

The course at Bowman, ND was fairly straight forward as a just over 2 mile out and back course which half marathoners would repeat 6 times. To count each lap, runners had to collect a rubber band at the end of the lap (which was right after the MOST amazing support station that I have ever seen at a race), gather 5 rubber bands and then finish strong with a "victory lap." The full marathon ran concurrently and marathoners had to collect a total of 11 bands then have their "victory lap."

What made this course tricky was that the finish point for each lap was at the top of a little hill and runners had to run into a strong headwind that many have said could have easily been 30 MPH gusts.

I was so exhausted from running Billings MT the day before, that somehow I didn't really notice the wind gusts OR the hill. I just knew that I was drained of energy and was getting scared because it was only day 2 and I still had to save energy for 4 more days of this.

Brina and I had previously discussed whether we would do our races together this week or not, and came to the decision that she would run her own pace for the duration of the week, letting me plug away doing what I needed to do. I was ok with this in theory, but in reality, when this happened at Bowman , I felt incredibly alone. and bored. and sad.

I was running my intervals, doing what I had to do to get it done, but my body was filling me with self doubt.  If 2 in 2 was going to be this hard, how on earth was I going to finish what I started?

When we got to the start line that morning, I couldn't walk more than a couple of steps without someone I knew from facebook introducing themselves to me and being excited to finally meet me. I was excited to finally meet them too. But out there on that course, as we were all just working to put one foot in front of the other, I was concerned that I wasn't seeing or hearing as many "attaboys" as I normally hear other runners exchange during races. It would get a million times better as the series continued, but that first day, runners seemed quite quiet. I worried that this would be an ongoing theme throughout the trip.

But then again, I worried about EVERYTHING at Bowman, ND. It wasn't that I wanted to give up, because seriously that thought never crossed my mind. But I did worry. About absolutely everything.

I worried that I was going too fast and would burn out and hurt my foot even more. I worried that I was going too slow and was going to embarrass myself. I worried that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I worried that people weren't going to be accepting of me as a real athlete. I even worried that I was worrying too much.

A few times I had people stay at my pace and talk to me, which was nice. But I was well aware of the fact that (for the second day in a row), my foot was also causing me to unravel. by the 4th lap, I had a distinct limp and my back was beginning to bother me. By the 5th lap, the limp was more pronounced and every time my foot landed, I felt fire radiate up through my heel and ankle. And by the 6th lap, I was spent. I was barely able to put one foot in front of the other. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew I had to cross the finish line on the way to the car and I had to get to the car to get to  my painkillers and my ice buckets.

As I approached the finishline, Seth ran out to meet me with a bottle of ice cold water in one hand and my aircast in the other. I finished. It may not have been pretty. It may had been slower than I wanted to. But I finished.

Gun time: 3:55:00
Pace: 17:56 per mile

Not a great time, but my goal was not about time. My goal was just to finish.

26.2 miles down, only  52.4 miles left! To be continued...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trip Day 1: Montana Half Marathon- September 15, 2013

I am struggling with how to write the posts about my 6 in 6 challenge. At first I thought this was going to be just about running, but it became so much more than that. Other than running (which was a big part of the trip), this was about pushing myself to my limits, about physical and mental perseverance, about strengthening old friendships and about kindling new ones. It was about blood, sweat, tears, and blisters. It was about having a life-changing, perspective altering experience. It was about overcoming adversity, and remaining strong even while feeling incredibly weak.  If I had only one minute to say what this trip was about, this would be it, and I could end the blog post right there. And that would be OK.

But there are so many things I want to remember. And an occasional few things that I would really rather forget (see bedbugs in previous post). But in the end, it was all of these things that made my trip so amazing. And how do I write about it and ensure that I do it justice?

If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 2 (day 1) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.
The next installments are coming, but it might take some time... Afterall... I've got a lot to say. When do I not?


Sunday September 15, 2013, Seth, Brina and I woke up before dawn in our warm little hotel room in Billings MT, ready to start the experience of a lifetime with the Billings MT Half Marathon.

The course was fairly straightforward. It was a Point A to Point B course with the Finish line at the local high school in downtown Billings. All runners for the full marathon were brought via bus to the start line 26.2 miles away, and half marathoners were brought to the midway point for our start about an hour later.

When we boarded the bus to the half marathon start line, we immediately realized how chilly it was going to be. We all knew that Montana would be cold, but as honorary South Floridians, we really weren't quite prepared for this type of cold. My heel was bothering me, but I knew that this was the only race that my time really mattered to me on. I was determined to set a PR and bring my half time down by 2.5 minutes so that I could get a better corral for my first full marathon (upcoming in January). The drive to the start was spectacular with the Rim to the north, and the mountains to the south. I had never quite seen such beauty (this would be an ongoing theme throughout the trip, you'll see).

Our claimed sagebrush
While waiting for the start, Brina and I both had to use the restroom, but the lines for the port o potties were too long. We debated waiting, but ultimately figured that if peeing in the fields was good enough for the local cow population, it would be good enough for us. Brina scouted out a lovely sagebrush to provide coverage for us to squat behind, and we each took a turn.

I am only bring this up because it was probably the most heavenly moment I have EVER had while relieving myself. I squatted behind this beautiful little bush to pee, and my face went right into the sage brush and I inhaled deeply. The smell was soothing and refreshing and really settled my nerves. It was pure bliss for me, though for Brina, it was entirely different. Turns out she must be allergic to sagebrush... and she spent the next 2 days with itchy watery eyes and sneezing. Poor girl.

So anyway, what was really cool about this course was that the majority of it was downhill, and that it basically followed the same route that the bus took to bring us out to the start. The field of runners was small and with this being the first time that I ran on my bad heel, I knew that the field was going to thin out fairly quickly and leave me behind.

But Brina knew that I had a goal. I needed to get a good proof of time to be able to move up a corral during my first full marathon. I hate to remind people (lest they he shocked that this is a run pace, or try to call me "lesser than"), but I do run, walk, run intervals of 1min/1min. My times have increasingly lowered and lowered as I have become more accustomed to running, but I still seem to average approx 15:15 minutes per mile with a PR of 15:04 per mile. The goal was to bring my pace down to approximately 14:45 per mile.

And this is why I love Brina. She sees my goal, she tells me to cover up my garmin and not look at it. then she coaches me through the entire event so that my goals become my reality. She's tough, and sometimes on the course, she can irritate me, but I am CERTAIN that goes both ways and I drive her batty as well. During previous races we have done together, she has NEVER left me behind. Even during that terrible horrible no good very bad race that made me so incredibly sick for days afterward. She repeatedly forgos reaching for a personal best to instead stay with me, socialize with me, and try to usher ME into a new best.

When this injury had cropped up this summer, we had a long discussion about how I didn't want to hold her back during this trip, and how if my heel was acting up and I had to take it easy, I wanted her to make the best of the moment and do something great for herself, and she was hesitant on giving me an answer. I isn't that I didn't want her company (because we all know that I love her dearly) but I didn't want to be the thorn in her side holding her back from awesomeness.

So there we are slogging our way through the miles in what I thought was the most gorgeous course I had ever seen, and Brina was pushing hard. She started bumping my running intervals out to 1:15 and walking intervals to 0:45 and kept encouraging me to move forward. She stopped to pick up pennies, she relished in looking at the wild turkeys and the horses (even screaming at them like a giddy 4 year old, which I LOVED), but my heel pain kept building.

And I thought to myself, "Oh shit. If I have 5 more of these things to run, I should probably back off just a little." But I didn't, and the pain kept building. And by mile 8, I was at my breaking point. Brina was no longer pacing me from beside me, she was about 10 feet ahead of me. And I couldn't keep up. I was limping (although not really that badly), and I was near tears. When the timer went off to tell me that it was time for another run interval... I just couldn't do it.

Brina looked at me irritated at first. And tried to encourage me to move forward. I begged her to leave. I told her that I was at my breaking point, and she saw this as reality, wished me luck and left. I'm sure she was irritated with me, because *I* was most certainly irritated with me.

I walked for a few intervals to allow myself a nice cry and a good pity party, and when I was done with the tears, I looked at my garmin.

My average pace for the first 8 miles was 13:58.

How the heck did that happen???

I picked up my pace again and finished the race out strong completing almost all of the run intervals as planned at 1/1 ratio. My heel pain was so excruciating at that point though, I was well aware of the fact that I was running SLOWER than I was walking.

That last couple of miles felt like they took forever (and they most certainly did), and I watched the time on my garmin slowly creep higher and higher. As I rounded the park near the finish line, I knew that making my time for Disney was out of reach, but I still wanted a nice strong finish.

And I did. Because entering the chute at the finishline, I saw Brina leaning over the railing taking a picture of me with my nice strong finish. I flew through the chute at a sprint, fueled by the fact that one of my closest friends was there cheering me on.

As I crossed the finish line they announced my early birthday, gave me my medal and water, and congratulated me. I looked down at my garmin, and realized that I may not have gotten my time for Disney, but I still managed to get a PR!

At our post race celebratory lunch.
Time: 3:16.36
Pace: 15:00/mile
OA: 360/370
AG: 57/57
Gen: 328/278

Incidentally, It wasn't Brina at the finish line but a look-alike instead. Brina and Seth were at the car, thinking I wouldn't be finishing for another 15 minutes or so. Guess I proved them wrong. ;)

So we did it. 13.1 miles down, only 65.5 more to go.

To be continued...