Tunnel Vision

When I was little my Dad would tell me to always try my hardest.  If I came home from school with a C, but I stayed after, got help and did everything I could a C was ok because he knew that I tried my hardest.  Now, if I came home with a C and I was not doing all of those things there would be hell and fury to pay in the form of wood stacking.  This “always try your hardest” has stuck with me throughout my life.  However, lately this has begun to backfire on me.  Apparently, there is such a thing as working out too much.

In the course of re-checking my thyroid, to ensure the meds are working, Doc also checked a bunch of other things too.  One of the things he checked was my CK level which showed that things are not all happy happy joy joy on my insides.  We kind of already knew that given my lackluster performances as of late.  There is no reason why my levels should be this high.  I haven’t been doing anything I deem out of the ordinary, or red lining.   As of right now Docs orders are to take it easy for a while.  Dad laughed when I told him those were Docs orders.  You’ve never done anything half-way.

With all of this in mind I scheduled an ‘exercise playdate’ with a friend for an aerial yoga class.  It is low key enough to be on the ‘allowed’ list of activities and neither of us had ever done it before which meant my brain was going to be happy.  Having never done aerial yoga before I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I got was an amazing set of super juicy stretches.  Being super flexible sometimes it’s challenging for me to get into specific muscles. The silks enabled me to get into those really hard to reach areas.  It was totally fun, too.

I’ve been on a journey to find happy in working out again.  Maybe this is the way that the Universe is going to help me along that path.

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Saddle Blazer Half

“I just want to finish happy.” I said to WindChime on our way to the race. See, my last few runs have been CRAPPY. No energy, feel like garbage, fully imploding crappy. So finishing happy was my goal. WindChime and I had flown into Texas to see my brother and run this race together. Originally it was supposed to be part of my Twisted Fork training plan but, well, we won’t talk about that. The new plan was set.

We got to the race venue knowing it was going to rain on and off the entire time. At least it was warm. We had that going for us. Oh and humid. Super. Saddle Blazer is a double loop course. The first is 7 and the second is 6.2. I told the Vulcan and WindChime to run their own races. Partially it’s because they are faster than me and partially it’s because I didn’t want to have them watch me implode. The first loop was super mud. You know the kind. It sticks to the bottoms of your shoes and makes them weigh like 47 pounds. I was chasing my “rabbit” a girl named Bree. The mud was just awful. I smiled and it reminded me of the hike on Kings Peak. Poor WindChime she always gets suckered into my muddy hair brained ideas. We got through the first loop and headed to loop 2.

Loop 2 was so much better. It was way dryer and quite runnable. I was settling in and starting to find my groove. Bree, Lindsay and Lindsay’s friend (didn’t catch her name) were all hanging together and playing leap frog. It was nice. They were pulling me along in spots and I was them. When Bree and I hit the last aid station we were stoked. 2.6 miles to finish. We started really moving along. We came around a corner and there was a huge down followed by a huge up. We knew we had it. As we charged down the hill we blew past a girl who I knew was in trouble. She was not breathing well and was in a lot of pain. I made a split second decision. I ended my race right there and stopped half way up the hill and turned around.

“YOU CAN DO IT!!!” I shouted. “COME ON!!!”

As she got closer to me I saw her shaking. Bad. Oh boy. Yep. My race is done. We need to get her to the finish.

“Have you eaten?” I asked.

She cried and shook her head no.

I had Bree fish into my pack and get out the emergency honey stingers I carry. I opened it and gave it to her. “Eat this,” I told her. She took it and started to suck on the package. “Have you had anything to drink?” She nodded yes. “Of electrolytes?” She shook her head no. I gave her my bite valve. My pack had Tailwind in it.

“Ok, I’m not leaving you. You are going to finish.”

I encouraged her to put one foot in front of the other. We started plodding along. She had stopped crying. “Is this your first trail race?” She smile. “You a road runner?” She nodded.

“I’m normally a 5k road runner. This is my first trail run and my first half marathon.”

“THAT’S AMAZING!”

I quickly snapped a picture of her. “See now photographic evidence that you were out here.”

We exchanged names (hers was Dusty) and pleasantries. I told her about my first half and all the mistakes I made. (Rule #1 eat if you can but you must drink.) I told her about how amazing the trail running community is. I was telling her anything to keep her moving. Then Matt caught up to us. He saw she was in trouble and he stayed to help keep her moving, too. We both kept offering her Tailwind and encouraging her along. I took her hand on the uphills and pulled her along to help her reduce her pain.

Then, there it was, the finish. Her kids were there shouting for her. They were so proud. Luckily, Bree had run ahead and had already alerted the medical crew. They were waiting for her. I turned her over to them.

I finished. I finished happy. It wasn’t the race I had hoped to have. Or the race that it was supposed to be, but I finished happy.

WindChime and the Vulcan had finished long before me. While yes, I am slow and yes I’m disappointed I didn’t keep up with them at the end of the day Dusty finished her race. I finished happy. That was the point all along.

The good news is that while I may not be able to be a true ultra girl I know I can make one hell of a pacer. Maybe that’s what the universe is trying to tell me.

Science!

This past summer I experienced my first Dexa Scan. It was a really good way for me to wrap my brain around my body composition. I decided it was time to have another one done as it’s been 7 months , a 50k, and several injuries since my last scan. As my CrossFit gym has an InBody we thought we’d take the opportunity to do an apples to apples comparison (same day, nearly same time, same clothes, etc) just to see the differences. The overall results are rather fascinating.

**Disclaimer: As this was not the same Dexa that did my 2017 scan therefore there is a possible margin of error . When I get my next Dexa scan with the same machine as this most recently one we will fix the possible margin of error.**

Let’s start with the good news:

  • My android/gynoid ratio dropped from 0.99 to 0.98. This is important as the higher your ratio is the more risk you have of cardiovascular disease.   There have been several nutritional studies in both children and adults on the impact of a high A/G ratio. Granted this seems like a small drop, but every little bit has a major impact.
    • The trunk region is from your shoulder to mid thigh
    • The android region is the rectangle section, basically your stomach region
    • The gynoid region is the triangle section, runs from your top of your pelvis to mid-thigh.
  • My lean tissue has increased in both my arms (0.4lbs) and my trunk (0.5lbs).
  • My body balance is way better.  As you can see from the chart below my ratios across the board are more in balance.  You can even see in the pictures above how my regions are much more in balance.  For any athlete balance is absolutely critical.  For me, it was this imbalance which was leading to major functional issues.  I’ve really been working hard since August to fix the issues that need to be fixed so that I can start to perform at 100%. This is proof that the work that I am putting in is paying off.  While I am a long way from being where I want to be this is a huge step in the right direction.
Right Arm Left Arm Arms Total Right Leg Left Leg Legs Total
Dexa (6/2017)
Fat Mass (lbs) 3.1 2.7 5.9 9.3 9 18.3
Lean Mass (lbs) 4.7 3.8 8.5 16.4 16.5 32.9
Dexa (2/2018)
Fat Mass (lbs) 2.9 3.2 6.1 9.9 10.2 20.1
Lean Mass (lbs) 4.7 4.2 8.9 16.4 16.1 32.5
  • My bone density numbers are off the charts.  I am 3.3 standard deviations HIGHER than most women my age for bone density.  Wahoo!

Now let’s talk about the bad news:

All of those imbalance injuries which caused me to have so many injuries did cause me to increase my overall body fat percentage. (33.9% to 34.4%).  However, as I say that I know that I was 10 weeks out due to injury then another 9 weeks out due to thyroid.  The fact that I “only” went up .5% body fat while being out or partially out for several months is a testament to my fitness foundation as well as the work that I put in even though I was only semi-functioning.

Rather than focus on all of the bad news and how all of my numbers did not go in the direction that I wanted them to I’ve decided to focus on the positive.  It wasn’t a step forward, but rather a course correction.  Now that I am better in balance my goal for the next scan (in ~3 months) is to have the numbers turning around to where I want them to be.  Forward.

F*(k: Science doesn’t lie

 Run Happy -Amelia Boone

Run happy AND healthy – Me

Exercise causes inflammation.  I’ve discussed this before.  The science doesn’t lie.   As a stubborn independent female who was raised to put on her big girl pants I never like to acquiesce.  Ever.  We constantly hear that “pain is weakness leaving the body.” What happens when there is no pain?  What happens when it’s not pain, but its inflammation?  You can’t take an x-ray of it.  You can’t MRI it.  It’s there slowly and silently destroying everything in its wake.

I’ve been working with my doctor, PT and nutritionist to try to keep the inflammation to a manageable level in my body.  I’ve change my training plan. I’ve been incorporating foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties.  I’ve been doing everything I can do to keep the inflammation down as my training has ramped up.

Unfortunately, the science doesn’t lie.  The science shows me what’s going on.  My brain just kept saying, “Stop being a whiner.  Put your big girl pants on.” Yet in the back of my brain was the tiny little voice that said, “Listen to the science. Don’t be a dumbass.”

I’m surrounded by people who throw down 50ks as training runs.  Or who are doing three 200s this summer.  Or four 50 milers in a month.  These are the people that I look up to.  These are the “big kids” in my life.  When I mentioned this to my pulmonary doctor she was floored.  She then looked at me with the stink eye.  I knew what that stink eye meant.  It meant I shouldn’t even THINK about it.   When I mentioned this behavior to my PT who treats nothing but athletes she said, “Every operating system is different.”

I finally grew up the courage to have a frank discussion.  “Am I just scared or is this truly what I’m seeing.”  I could have sworn I thought my pulmonary doc send out a “Thank you JEBUS!” Yet still, I wasn’t quite ready to accept it.  Yet the thought lingered.  She has treated me long enough to know to give me enough leash to hang myself because she always gets to say, “I told you so.”

For every situation there comes a point where you just have to face the truth.  For me it was after the run last weekend. It was “only” 9 miles and yet the swelling that I had after 9 miles was horrendous.  I finally had to face the truth: a 60k is out of my future.  At my PT appointment I sheepishly brought the subject up.  I told her my thoughts about the science, about reality about the thoughts in my brain.  She didn’t tell me what to do, but she asked me a couple of questions which helped me accept:

“How long did you have the inflammation for after the 50k?” she asked.

“6 weeks.”

“Just know that for most athletes it’s two weeks.” She stated.

“How many times have you been sick since then?”

I hung my head.  I knew that if I started to count that it would be way more than I’d like to admit.

I’m not giving up running.  I’m not giving up swimming or CrossFit or anything.  I’m just having to give up the idea that I am going to be like “the big kids”.  I’m going to experiment with 25ks and maybe a 30k.  See how it goes.  I’m sad.  I’m disappointed. I’m a little broken hearted.  Running happy, as Amelia Boone says, is truly important.  However, not to correct Ms. Bonne, I’d like to ammend her sentiment.  Run happy AND run healthy.

 

 

Inclusiveness and the Group Run

  “Oh yeah, I won’t run with X group because I know they will leave me.” -Anonymous

I’ve been running now for a couple of years.  I had never actually done a “group run” until I was out in Park City.  Sure, I had done runs where I met a couple of friends, races, or fat asses.  Group runs intimidate me.  Everyone is always super fast and then there’s me, #teamcaboose.  Even now as I have logged many many miles on trails, some of which were in some extremely remote parts of this country, I am always reluctant to run with a group because I am slow.

I know that there are certain groups that I just can’t run with. Why? We all show up and then the rabbits take off down the trail leaving everyone else behind.  No one waits at intersections.  You are on your own. Sure, I bring maps, but most of the time we are linking trails together and it’s incredibly easy to miss turns.  I also know I’m not alone in my fears.  I’ve spoken to multiple people across several different groups who have said, “Oh I won’t run with (X) group because I know they will leave me.” As I have mentioned before that is not a way to be inclusive.

Today I wanted to try running some place new and I saw that a local group was doing exactly the number of miles that I needed to do.  The good news is that if I got left in the dust (and got lost) there was always uber to get me back to my car.  As I pulled up my stomach was full of knots.  The anxiety of new trails, new people, and my slowness was not a great way to start a run. I recognized one of the girls faces from her social media posts and introduced myself.  I apologized before we even started running and said I was slow but that I would try to keep up as best as I could.  They all said, “This is a no drop run you will be fine.”

As we headed down the trail I was turning my legs over as fast as I could to keep them in sight.  When I got to the first intersection I saw that they had slowed down enough for me to keep them in sight and see which way to go.  This continued for the entire run.  Someone would either be waiting for me at an intersection or would slow down enough for me to see them.  THIS is how you run a group run.  This is how you make people feel included.  Every time I caught up with them I apologized for being slow.  “Don’t worry about it.”  I still felt bad and felt the need to apologize, but I’m incredibly grateful for their generosity.

img_5805My favorite part of the run was around mile 7 or so as I was climbing a hill there was an older gentlemen walking up the hill.  As I started power hiking he said in a thick accent, “You and do it!” At that moment I needed to hear that.   Thank you Universe for putting him there.

We got to the final intersection and one of the girls wanted to tack on some extra miles.  She said, “Just go straight there and you’ll pop out where we started maybe half a mile up up the trail.” Got it! They then took off down a different trail.  I got to the car and stopped my watch.  It synched with my phone and I looked at the per mile times.  HOLY F*%K no wonder why my lungs wanted to explode.  A 12:05 average per mile pace.  That is a 2 minute improvement (or more) over my normal long run pace.

It took a couple of hours for my lungs to recover and the list of body parts that don’t hurt is probably shorter than the ones that do hurt.  All the said, though, these guys were amazing to run with. They were kind, generous, but most importantly they were inclusive.  I truly wish that more people would be like this.  So thanks guys you were great. I promise I will try to do better next time.

 

 

Inflammation: long term vs. short term

When you are an runner with an inflammatory disease (asthma, RA, Crohn’s, etc) you (eventually) accept your limitations or accept the consequences of going into the hospital (or death).  In my case, I am incredibly lucky that I have a supportive pulmonary doc that enables my running rather than put me in a bubble.  While she will draw the line occasionally (see: Spartan Races) overall she supports me.

What does this have to do with running? When you do any kind of workout you create micro tears in your muscles which then get inflamed in order to heal them.  (See video here) The problem is when your body is already inflamed working out has a tendency to make your disease worse.  It’s a vicious circle.  The trick is finding the balance between working out to improve and your disease.

This week I had a very frank discussion with the Wonder Woman of PT.  We’ve been working on fixing some underlying chronic physical issues which. We’ve made so much progress, but I have been noticing as I’ve been ramping up my training for Twisted Fork that I’m already having some pretty massive swelling going on.  I’m not even to the hard weeks yet.  She’s not your typical PT.  She understands the impact of my asthma (inflammation) and allergy shots (more inflammation) combined with the increased impact from training (even more inflammation).  Notice a trend here?

I made her promise me that as we go along that if I start breaking down (beyond the normal level) that could potentially impact my long term running that she would tell me.  The last thing that I want is to sacrifice my long term running for the short term goal of the race.  She wholeheartedly agreed.  We then made some changes to my training plan enabling me to swap out one day a week of running for either swimming (resistance/cardio) and spin (speed work).  The hope is that if we swap one day of running that we might be able to continue to push training  without actually increasing the inflammation in my body.

While I will always envy those people who can throw down massive miles week after week and never experience any issues I know how incredibly lucky I am.  I hold every single mile close.  I am an asthmatic trail runner.   That I will be forever proud of.

2018: The Year of the Elephant

There is this very old joke/parable; how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!  2018 is going to be my year of the elephant.  He even has a name: Twisted Fork 64k. Hmm, maybe I’d better give him a nickname.

Last fall when I was out in Park City to running the 50k I got asked nicely/suckered into signing up for this race.  The good news is that it is at the end June which means no snow (hopefully).  The other good news is that I have multiple friends who are also doing it.  Granted they will be WAY far out in front of me, but knowing that they will be there when I’m done will be a comfort.

As I started putting in my training calendar as designed by the uber awesome Kayla I started to hyperventilate.  Holy crap this is a lot. What if I break.  What if my lungs don’t cooperate.  What if I have another major physical blowout?  What if, what if, what if.   I know I need to get out of my head, but when you are staring at the entire elephant to eat it becomes overwhelming.  I decided that I am only putting 30 days worth of training in at a time into the calendar.  That way I can’t get completely overwhelmed.

This week looks like this:

WEEK Date MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
1 1/1/18 CF 5 m run (2 mi of speed) 3 m run CF Rest 8 = 16 total for the week Yoga 1/7

I keep telling myself I will take it one week at a time and one day at a time if need be.

Data can be a good thing

Last weekend I went out to do 9 miles.  9 miles should be easy.  Instead, at mile 5 I was ready to lay down and cry I was so exhausted.  “This is why I run loops,” I thought to myself.  See, with loops you have to finish you have no choice.

Something wasn’t right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something definitely wasn’t right and I’ve been here before.  See, last year after my hypothermia episode the wheels came off the bus in an epic fashion.  I thought, maybe just maybe it was all in my head.  Maybe I was just having a bad day.  However, the scientist in me knew there was only one way to find out; data.  The good news is that I had lots of it between my Garmin, Strava and Beyond the White Board.  However, the bad news is that data doesn’t lie. Sound the alarm, GENERAL QUARTERS GENERAL QUARTERS!!

The sailor in me let out a blue streak a mile long.  Not this again.

I sat down with Sainted Mary and we had a frank conversation.  She was wondering if it was a diet deficiency.  OK, a dietary deficiency I could work with that.  She recommended that I have some specific blood panels done to see if that is, indeed, what we were working with.  I made an appointment with Dr. Roy for the follow day.

Dr. Roy and I spoke about what has been going on.  The bone crushing exhaustion.  My stubbornness (and love of food) which has kept me working out despite the fact that  I have absolutely no gas in the tank and all I want to do is sleep.  I showed him all the data I had and we spoke about last year.  He drew the blood for the labs that Sainted Mary wanted in addition to a few of his own.

Two days later we got the lab work back.  It wasn’t a dietary issue.  (Crap) Nope.  Apparently my pituitary gland was having to work WAY harder than it should.  What does the pituitary do?  I’m glad you asked.

My TSH levels were out of whack.  Huh, this explains a ton of other things that have been going on.  Of 14 classic symptoms, I was exhibiting (and quite frankly, dismissing) 9 of them.  It’s funny how it wasn’t until I wasn’t able to run like I wanted to that I suddenly said, ok there’s an issue.  (face palm)  Man I never learn.

It will take some time for the medicine he prescribed to take effect.  There are multiple pieces of good news.  First, soon I am not going to be bone crushingly exhausted any more.  Second, my desire to run and workout will come back instead of it being a tug of war and a lecture of my inner voice ordering me around.  Third, if we get my dosage right perhaps I won’t be walking around in a hat, jacket, and gloves at 50 degrees.  Snicker.  Hey a girl can dream.

Trail Running: Inclusion

This past weekend I finally got some “mountain” time. I use the quotes because let’s face it 3300′ is not a mountain, but work with me here.  Yes, I fully admit I’ve become a mountain snob, but I digress.  I considered myself lucky as one of the ‘big kids’ from VHRTC wanted to log some slow miles and that’s my speciality.

I pulled into the parking lot and realized that I had two left shoes.  Not only did I have two left shoes I had two different models of left shoes. F*$K.  Lucky for me I had another pair of shoes in the trunk of the car.  Granted they weren’t trail shoes, but they would work, but I wouldn’t be nearly as fast as I could be.  I profusely apologized.  They were nonplussed.  Now, they could have said, “You’re a moron.  I’m going by myself.” Instead they were welcoming and warm because “we’ve all done it one time or another.”

As we were trucking along we got to chatting about why I love it out west so much.  I told them about the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers and the Sunday runs with Park City Running Company.  I told them about how every single run the fast kids take turns waiting at intersections to ensure that the new and/or slow never get lost.  I told them about my first Wednesday Wrangler trail run in Park City and how wonderful a specific Wrangler was to me saying in their thick southern accent, “I was a flatlander once too, don’t worry it will come.”  I told them about how I don’t feel welcomed at the group runs or events here because I am slow.  I told them how the group runs I actually come over prepared with maps (print and digital) because I know that I am going to be left to “fend for myself” and that I always wear my SPOT for that exact reason.  I think they were stunned hearing my perspective.

See, when you’re a fast kid you don’t think about these things.  When you were fast enough to keep up with the super experienced guys you just learned by osmosis.  When you are a slow kid you either stop trail running all together or you learn by making mistakes.  Sometimes those mistakes are extremely costly.

Then last night on one of the FB boards someone said some things that they shouldn’t have in a public forum about a local race.  Instead of not commenting at all, deleting it all together, or offering potential words of advice on how to improve the next time the group turned nasty.   I read all 187 comments this morning.  Every.  Single.  One.  What I saw were comments like “go back to road running.”  These are people I know who individually are wonderful, nice, caring people.  However, for some reason the mob mentality took over and it became a free for all.  Granted the original poster said some unkind things and should not have said anything in a public forum as trail runners we are supposed to be a supportive and inclusive family.  When we are out in the middle of nowhere we depend on each other to ensure that if something happens we aren’t abandoned and left to fend for ourselves.

I recently saw a thread on Twitter from the TAUR board that also said “go back to road running.”  They immediately deleted the comment.  Trail running is suppose to be inclusive.  It’s suppose to be welcoming. For many it is an escape from everything else going on.  I think we as a community need to take a step back and do an evaluation.  Welcome the new, the slow, the curious.  If we want to continue to have space, trails and a future we need new people.

14 days is a life time ago

14 days ago I was super excited because Lily was here. She was here to run the Marine Corps Marathon.  I was also going to get to see my friend Becks and her husband.  We ran at National Harbor, went to the expo, had lunch, and then I hooked Lily up with Em and they were going to run MCM together.  Sunday came and it was gorgeous, albeit hot, day for a race.  It was an amazing weekend.  Little did I know what was happening in another part of my life.

See, at the same time Lily and I were fast asleep dreaming of her MCM glory a friend of mine who is like my big brother was shot three times.  He survived multiple tours in other third world shit holes to be gunned down in his own home.  While I was blissfully taking over the InknBurn IG account and cheering on all of my friends he was fighting for his life.  I didn’t find out until Monday what happened.

This man is family to me.  When I was in the darkest place of my life after Shadow he opened up to me about his darkest place and we helped each other.  When either one of us was struggling with big decisions we would talk our way through them going meticulously through all the pros and cons to help make a decision.  He was on my ass about finishing my program.

The last 14 days have been completely surreal.  I’ve been helping his family with logistics.  I’ve been making phone calls to find out what VA benefits he qualifies for.  I’ve been keeping my shit together in front of his family only to come home and fall apart.  Every day was attempting to answer the question; will he live or will he die.

At day +5 I attempted a run.  I needed to get my own head space.  All I could see was what happened to him.  Every time my foot struck the ground a wave of emotion washed over me in a way that hasn’t happened since Shadow.  I ground out 3 miles and I was miserable the entire time.  Sadness, guilt, fear, anger all washed over me.  It was extremely counterproductive.

I reached out to Em and told her what happened.  As I told her what happened to him I couldn’t help but allow the emotion to leak out of the seemingly water tight box I had shoved it in.  She said that Sunday she would run with me, talk to me, just keep my legs turning over.   I warned her that I was a wreck and may not be in the best place and she said, “no problem.”  See that’s what good humans do.   When you are in need they say, “what can i do for you” not disappear, or worse, tell you that this isn’t worth throwing your career away over (true story).

This week has been another struggle.  I managed to keep my crap together long enough to defend my capstone project (because he was on my ass about “are you done yet?”), passed, and yet I don’t feel excited.  How can I be?  I’ve been balancing needs of work with a need to be at the hospital.  Granted, there is absolutely nothing I can do for him right now that’s in the hands of the trauma docs, but I can be there for his family.  I’m worried about them.

The last 14 days have been surreal and I’m still trying to process what happened.  It’s going to be a while before I’m able to run alone in the woods again.  Not because I’m afraid of the woods, but because I’m just not ready for the silence.  It will come, in time, but for right now I need the company.