The Open: I can only go up from here

Yesterday, I completed my last CrossFit Open workout.  My asthmatic nemesis was back; burpees.  I knew before I even started this workout that it was going to be brutal.  Stories of how it slayed people the last time The Open did this particular workout in 2014 immediately started to circulate.  Knowing that I already have a hard enough time with thrusters (due to a muscle weakness, which is why I’m doing CF in the first place) and then add on the burpee factor I knew this one was going to be rough.

CrossFit Runner was out in Nevada doing military duty so I was thrilled when ShooterGirl offered to  come early to be my judge and cheerleader.  The Red Shirt (head coach) on Friday happened to be one of my favorites.  She took one look at me, pointed at the WOD board and said, um, why are you here?  She didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, she just knew that burpees triggered my asthma and was surprised that I would willingly subject myself through that.  I looked at her and said, “I haven’t missed an Open workout yet, and I have ShooterGirl to keep and eye on me.”  She smiled and laughed.  I think at that moment she realized just how stubborn and determined I am.

After a quick warm up ShooterGirl walked me through the game plan; pace yourself.  I laughed.  That’s the only way I do anything involving long duration physical activity,  but with burpees in particular I have to pace myself.  You know, because breathing and staying alive is rather required.  She reminded me that I am not required to hop back or hop forward in and out of my burpee stance; thereby making it a bit less explosive (and thereby saving my lungs.)

IMG_8664As the clock started and I began the scaled version with 21  45 lb thrusters.  ShooterGirl kept me focused and helped me break them up.  “KNEES OUT” she kept saying/cajoling/reminding/yelling at me.  This was followed by 21 burpees.  Next round.

As we went down the line; 21, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3, ShooterGirl kept counting and kept me focused. At one point I heard her say, “You are a burpee machine.”  Hey, I may not like them, they not like me, but when you tell me I have to do 84 &%%*$ burpees I am going to churn them out.  Slow, yes, but they will all get done.

When I hit the round of 6 she looked me square in the face and said in a very calm authoritative voice, “No stopping until the end.”  I dropped a very large F bomb in my head.  It may have been out loud.  At that point in time, I have no idea.  I picked up the barbell and dug deep.  See, the thing with trust is that you are absolutely positive that that person will never ever do anything that will put you in danger.  Having known ShooterGirl over over a decade I trust her with my life (and my lungs apparently).  I completed my last burpee in 24:16.  Holy burnt biscuits and gravy that SUCKED.
As I lay there panting in a pool of my own IMG_8682sweat there were two thoughts that went through my mind  The first thought was, “Wow that sucked well the only way you are going to get better is by doing it again.”  My second thought was, “Yay I didn’t die.”  See, that’s the thing when you live with asthma death is not a joke.  It really can (and does) happen to people.  True, I tend to red line my lungs a bit more than I should, but at the end of the day I surround myself with people who I trust with my life and that means more than anything else.

IMG_8684Next up was ShooterGirl and her Rabbit.  There is a girl at the gym who ShooterGirl has been chasing.  While I like to be chased, she likes to do the chasing.  She has done this particular work out several times at full RX before and she is Wonder Woman so I had zero doubt that she was going to rock it.  Then the most awful thing happened; her hip flexors seized up which rocketed muscle tension up her back.  I watched it happen.  I saw the pain cross her face.  Rut-row Raggy.

IMG_8689Now, the thing I know about ShooterGirl is that her stubborn streak is just as wide as mine.  Must be that German in both of us.  She kept pushing.  The pain was becoming almost unbearable for her.  She went from doing 21 65 lb thrusters completely unbroken (meaning she didn’t put the barbell down) in 52 seconds to absolutely needing to stop every couple just to keep moving.  I felt horrible for her.  I also felt relieved that I went first because if I had witnessed this before I did mine it would have scared the bejesus out of me and I might not have done it.  (Pretty sure my relief makes me a horrible person…)

She completed her last burpee in 18 minutes.  The she collapsed on the floor in pain.  I’m also fairly confident she was in internal pain too.  She did not do nearly as well as she had in the past or that she wanted to do.  I felt horrible for her.  All I could do was offer to help stretch her out and massage the spot on her back.

That was it.  That was the last moments of my Open; watching one of my best friends writhe in pain on the floor.  All I could do was be grateful and thankful that I have awesome friends who have supported me.  I was exceptionally thankful I only had 1 full blown asthma attack in the process (and my first in a very long time).  Most importantly though, I realized that when you are on the very bottom the only place you can go is up.  Up is  good.

Until next year, Open, until next year.

Grand National People Chase

A couple of weeks ago Special Snowflake’s Mom sent me a text that said, “Wanna  do the Grand National People Chase?”  Me being the apparently “yes slut” I have become said, of course! Now, wait, what’s the Grand National People Chase?  Oh! It’s a 5k at a horse venue over the cross country jumps! Wahoo! IMG_8621

 

This particular event was going to be extra special because Patient 0 was going to be there!
We never got a chance to celebrate post half marathon due to the Ebola-Monkey-SARS-pox that fell over every one so this was going to be a good opportunity to break out the champagne (after we ran of course).

Earlier in the week the weather guesser had said that it was to be sunny and 60.  Um, yeah, about that.  By the time we got up this morning they were calling for a high of 40 and rain. Oh boy.  That was going to make this SUPER fun.

IMG_8617We went and picked up our pinny; which, are also used when the riders go cross country and our chip.  I was actually quite surprised (in a good way) that we were being chip timed! As we toed the line the shenanigans started.  We were out for a good time, not running for time.   The lead ATV took off and we scampered down the course.

Now, this course is not your traditional obstacle course race.  Nor it is a typical trail race.  When you are running on horse grounds you are running on grass.  You are also going to jump things that 1700+ pound animals jump.   This means not necessarily high (although there were quite a few of those) but definitely wide.  I could list out all of the names of the jumps we “jumped” but honestly it probably wouldn’t make sense to most of you. This course was actually quite fantastic with the number of hills that were in it.  We went up and down several and it was really great.

Perry and I trolled along quite nicely.  Most of the jumps he could get over just fine, then there were a couple that I had to use the handle on his harness to help him up and over.  Then there were a few he went over just fine but then had to wait for me to get over.  Hey buddy, I’m not nearly as nimble as you are. Not to mention my center of gravity is much higher than yours.

There were a couple of water obstacles we were “supposed” to do, but I skirted around. IMG_8625.JPGWhen we got to the second one Perry was not having any of the whole skirting thing.  I let him off leash so that he could prance his way through the water.  I think he forgot it was March because he pranced in and them promptly got the “Holy shit this is cold” face.  Duh.

I leashed him back up and away we went.  We wound up crossing the line in 37 minutes and change.  Not our fastest 5k time, but we definitely got what we came for, which was a good time.

IMG_8630After everyone crossed the line and we got our awesome medals we broke out the celebratory champagne.  We even poured a glass for our missing Disney comrade who had to work today.  Once the champagne was gone we broke into a bottle of 14 Hands (only appropriate when you are at a horse farm). All in told, this was a fantastic race that I can wait to do again!

 

Asheville Half Marathon

The Asheville Half Marathon is run entirely on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate; which, if you have never been to the Biltmore needs to translate to hills and lots of them.   What this also means is that you’d better start working your glutes for the first 6 miles are nothing but up, up, up.

I went into this race with the attitude of “I just want to survive.” After Disney I had a case of monkey-ebola-SARS-pox (aka: bronchitis) that put me on my rear for almost two weeks.  I was even still coughing up “hair balls”.  There is also the added bonus that Asheville sits at an elevation of 2000+ feet.  For a “flat lander” like myself that’s high.  Survival was my only goal.

Jewel and I were incredibly lucky that we snagged one of the last rooms on the Estate IMG_8533itself.  This was probably the best decision that we made regarding this trip.  Being able to roll out of bed and be at the start line made a HUGE difference.  We got to get up at 6, have coffee, relax, eat breakfast and still have plenty of time to get to the start.  We didn’t have to fight with a shuttle bus or deal with the 3 mile drive onto the grounds.   It meant that our mood was relaxed and playful at the start vice stressed out.  Ok, MY mood was playful, Jewel was still focused on the 3:30 sweeper.   On the flip side it also meant that we could take our time at the finish line celebration tents (see: I could get a massage) without having to worry about missing the last shuttle bus back off the grounds.

It’s an intimate race with a little over 1900 runners.  This meant that the start line nor the course were crammed full of people.  It was bigger than a trail race, but much smaller than most road races.  I actually liked the size.  There were only two spots were you got any kind of log jams and they were at both U turn sections of the course.

I started the race with the 2:30 pacer.  I figured after Disney I wanted to at least try to keep that overall time goal.  However, between with monkey-ebola-SARS-pox and the elevation I figured I was being exceptionally ambitious.  Slowly, though, I wound up pulling away from them.  I realized that most likely they would catch up to me, but I wanted to go at my pace up the hills (aka; mountain pony) and not theirs.

As I said earlier the first 6 miles are nothing but up.  It was the kind of up that every time you came around the corner you were really really hoping that you were finally at the top.  We just kept climbing and climbing.  Some of the volunteers started teasing us saying that
we were almost there (we weren’t).  Two things went in my favor regarding hills; 1. I have mountain pony gear and 2. We’ve been doing LOTS of squats lately at CrossFit.   Do you know what waits for you at the top of 6 miles of pain?  This.

IMG_8544At the house you run the U shaped drive way and I saw the the 2:30 pacer was right behind me.  Let me tell you, this little asthmatic runner found gears she didn’t know she had on the downhills.  Can’t.  Let.  Her.  Catch.  Me.

What goes up must come down, which was wonderful.  Once you got through the first half of the course the rest of the course was flat.  I actually liked the gravel and dirt running we did on parts of the course.  It gave my knees and legs a break. Especially after all of the up followed by all of the down. Lots of road runners who spend no time on trails were NOT happy campers.  I just chugged along happy as an overheating clam.   Yeah, it got HOT.  Really hot.  I was taking water from the aid stations just to throw on my face. (Note to self: DO NOT think about how hot it will be at the Outer Banks race in a couple of weeks.)

First the up hills. Then the down hills.  Then the heat.  If that weren’t enough the course designers then threw something awful at us.  At mile 10 they threw us down a 2 mile double back after we saw and ran past the finish line.  All of us were falling apart mentally.  There were several folks who wanted to short the course and we warned them there was a timing mat at the 15k mark.  Again, I really wish they would just lollipop us over on the western side of the estate.

I glanced down at Coconut on the way back up the double back.  Not only was I still in front of the 2:30 pacer, but holy crap on a cracker I might actually break 2:30.  While it wasn’t enough to put me back together after my mental collapse it was enough to light a small fire under my ass for the last quarter mile up hill section towards the finish line.

I flew across the finish at 2:28.  Um.  Um.  What the what???  I was shocked. I still AM shocked.  Some how, some way, I managed to cut 4 minutes off of my Disney time.  How in the WORLD is that possible???

I stood at the finish line waiting for Jewel to cross.  I almost walked away thinking that he was going to be coming across at 3:00 or so.  I looked up at the 2:40(ish) mark and I saw his hat.  I did a double take.  WHA???  I started shouting for him to trot the downhill.  Nope, not Jewel.  He started waving like the Queen Mother as he was crossing the finish line and saying thank you to the spectators.  BWAHAHAHA.  Jewel definitely knows how to cross a finish line in style; I’ll give him that much.  He cut nearly 20 minutes off of his Smokey time.  I’m so unbelievably proud of him.

IMG_8555As I stood, ok ok lay in a heap, in line for the PT to work on my knees (they were on fire) Jewel went back to the room (again the benefits of staying on the grounds) to shower and have his reward chocolate milk.  Having the PT and the massage folks there was AWESOME.  They were able to work the pain out of my knees (from tight muscles) and I was able to walk nearly pain free back to the room!

After I took a quick shower we decided we were going to do Mount Mitchell again.  Except this time we were driving almost all the way to the summit.  Reward for a job well done!

I would totally do this race again.  We are talking about it for next year.  If I had to give them any feedback it would be to give us a lollipop on the west side of the grounds vice doing the double backs.  Have I mentioned they were awful?  He he.

Mount Mitchell: I am my fathers daughter

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my Dad and I in the Adirondacks.  Sledding, hiking (aka ‘Death Marching’), and a myriad of other things were common place.  That’s because his happy place is outdoors and in the mountains. 

 
Many moons ago I signed up for the Asheville half marathon. In my research I discovered that the highest point in North Carolina was only a mere 50 miles from the hotel. Being my father’s daughter I said, HELL YEAH!!

I decided I was going to do the summit on my way down to Asheville for a couple of reasons. First, after 7 hours of driving I was going to need to clear my head. Second, there are thunderstorms predicted for Sunday and the last thing I want is to be caught on a mountain peak during lightening.  

The “Old Mt. Mitchell Trail” while not a full base to top hike (which was 11 miles round trip) did offer a nice 4 mile option. The trail itself is exceptionally technical given the roots and rocks, but also had the added bonus of having some remaining snow which has converted to ice. I like to think of that as “extra bonus points”. 

 However, even more challenge was breathing. You know what happens at 5,000+ feet? I’ll tell you; this sea level dwelling asthmatic starts sucking for air. Ironically, though, this is one of the reasons why I wanted to do this hike. Utah isn’t going to be a cake walk, and I need to spend as much time as I can pushing myself at what altitude we have. 

As I neared the summit (which by the way you can totally drive to nearly the summit if you want to) there was a group of teenagers who had just done the same 2 miles up I did. It was amusing for me to listen to them bitch. I’m fairly certain that’s why my Dad used his poke-a-hiney stick to keep us moving. Less kvetching that way. Suddenly my childhood makes sense! 

 
When I saw the summit sign I was elated. Not because I was at the top. No. I’m kind of geography nerd. Ok, ok, I’ll own it; I’m a huge geography nerd; specifically unique spots on the planet. What I didn’t realize when I started my hike is that Mt. Mitchell is also the highest point east of the Mississippi! Hot diggity a twofer!!!  

 It was getting late and I didn’t want to do that hike back in the dark so I did what any runner would do. I ran down the mountain. Ok, truth, I ran down the parts of the trail that weren’t too technical or covered in ice. Truth be told, I did land on my ass once, but hey only once is amazing for this klutz.  By the time I reached the car I was muddy, but very very happy. Mission accomplished! 

I’m normal!!

I’m normal!!!  Now before you start laughing, I don’t mean in general because Lord knows anyone who signs up for a 50k a couple of days before their 40th birthday isn’t NORMAL.  No, I mean on the BMI chart.  I’M NORMAL!!!!  When I saw Sainted Mary today and we did my calculations I’m at 24.9%.  That squeaks me in the normal range!!!!!!

Ok, ok, granted the BMI chart is not the be all and end all.  Heck, most Registered Dietitians and Doctors will tell you that the BMI chart is bogus as it doesn’t take into account muscle or body composition.  However, that being said, it is (for now) what most doctors use as THE indicator of whether you are below normal, normal, overweight or obese.  This is a HUGE deal in my world.

Ever since I started working with Sainted Mary I have been laser focused on normal.  Maybe it’s because I’m not normal in any other aspect of my life (thank heavens).  Maybe it’s because I had naysayers in my life who never thought I could do it.  For whatever reason it has been my sole focus.  The last couple of visits I have had with Sainted Mary I’ve been ever so close, which as my father says only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Today, when she ran the numbers her mouth dropped open.  Then she ran the numbers again just to make sure before showing them to me.   Even in my death warmed over state of being sick I managed to eek out a, “wahoo!”  Although, I’m fairly certain had I been at 100% there would have been dancing involved.  I guess I’ll save that for the next visit.