Trying to stabilize my asthma

A couple of weeks ago I had a regular appointment with my asthma doc.  You know the one that yells at me regularly when I do stupid shit.  It is in her job description (at least I think so.)  Anyway, we started having a discussion about my asthma, grad school, and how all of my papers have something to do on the impacts to respiratory issues.  That’s when she brought up the idea of immunotherapy (aka: allergy shots).

“There are no upper or lower limits to the effectiveness to shots, you know?”

I told her that I hadn’t considered it because her predecessor had said in adults they were only 25% effective.  She quickly dismissed this, told me to look at some of the studies, and then said that if I was interested we’d have to do a new round of allergy testing as my last test was 10 years old.

“Honestly, at your age your asthma should be stable.  It’s not.”

We covered the protocol required for me to have the allergy testing done and scheduled it for the following week.

If you’ve never had allergy testing done before, it starts with numbering of your back followed by a series of “scratches” done on your back with various items that folks are notoriously allergic to (cats, dogs, various trees, dust, etc). Then anything that shows some signs of reaction, but not enough to make a definitive call , they then stick more serum under your skin to see how it reacts.

I shared these pictures with a friend of mine.

“Ok, so what are you allergic to?” they inquired.  I rattled off all of the things.  They were appalled.  “Wait, aren’t you a trail runner?”

“Yep.”

“Don’t you do Spartan Races and CrossFit?!”

“Yep.”

“What???”

Pretty sure that is my asthma docs feelings on the whole thing too.  Now we wait for my serum to be developed. Hopefully, this will help because I am not about to give up any fun outside.

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DC Spartan Sprint: Well that wasn’t fun

Almost a year to the day I did my first Spartan race with Shadow.  Before WHAM! there had been a discussion about which races we were going to do together in 2016 to get our trifecta.  I had already registered for them (to save some money) so I (wo)manned up and did them anyway.  Whether it be to spite him or in spite of him.  The DC Spartan Sprint was to be my last race to get my trifecta.  I had already done the Super in Texas (and subsequently made myself SUPER sick) and the Beast in Ohio.

Whomever in Spartan Corp who decided that doing a Sprint in southern Maryland in the end of August was a good idea needs to be f-ing fired.  At 90+ degrees with 90+% humidity it isn’t a sufferfest it is downright dangerous.  I was incredibly lucky that I managed to get an 830 start time because I registered so early.  If I hadn’t, I definitely wouldn’t have run it especially after what happened in Austin and with #ESCUT coming up so quickly.  I knew I was going to have a hard time breathing to start with just because the air quality was shit.  I was NOT about to get sick right before the 50K.

I was supposed to be running with a couple of friends, but due to life circumstances I wound up running it alone (again).  I wasn’t thrilled with my situation, but it is what it is.  I lined up at 830 and off we went.  The minute we stepped foot into the woods I knew that this was going to be a miserable slog.  Humid does not even begin to touch how damp and awful it was in the woods.

The only good thing I can say about the course is that 85% of it is set into the woods meaning one thing; shade.  The downside is that because we were in the woods and they were cutting their own trails there were lots of 3″ landmines everywhere.  These are the little saplings or other weeds that they cut to “make” the trail but they didn’t cut all the way to the ground.  This meant for some really tricky going.

What was really interesting about this course was the warning signs that were everywhere saying that if you didn’t have the strength to do the obstacle or don’t feel comfortable don’t do it.  I’m fairly confident that it had something to do with the woman who sued after being paralyzed.  Anyway…..

As I was picking my way through the course I started to feel worse and worse.  Like I want to throw up and was super dizzy kind of worse.  I was wearing my hydration pack with 57c26ac9a0898a921101a971-oTailwind in it with 70oz of water and I was STILL feeling like crap.  You can even see it in the pictures.  As MSB put it, “You’ve got crazy eyes.”  I’ve seen that look before; the “lights are on but no one is home” at my first half marathon.

After I finished because there was 0 food for me to eat (because everything had gluten in it) I wound up getting this Italian ice type thing.  It’s not my normal food, but I needed to get something in me.  I was hot and running on fumes.  As I later told Sainted Mary I have never EVER felt that bad after a race, well, EVER.  As I sat in the car the air conditioner on high waiting for the sugar to hit my brain it finally hit me; I finished.

For the next few days I increased my asthma meds trying to get my lungs to heal and be happy again.  Thank God I didn’t stick my face in the grass or push myself too hard pace wise.

Honestly,  I can say I have no plans to do another OCR again.  If I’m going to suffer in the woods I want it to be running in the mountains not carrying a bucket of rocks in the middle of Ohio (or Maryland, or Texas, you get my point).  Spartans don’t give me that same feeling the way that running does.  Maybe it’s the fact that I did all of my suffering as a child stacking wood and other manual labor.  Who knows.  All I know is that I finished.  I have my trifecta.  All of my medals then promptly got boxed up and send to the kids that I run for. They can have them and play with them.  I’m ready to move onto my next challenge and next chapter.  Bring on #ECSUT!

Spartan Beast Ohio: Thank You

“I just want to sit down and cry.” -Random Spartan Racer Mile 12

My asthma doc on Monday had given me (sort of) clearance to run on Saturday.  Ok, really, she didn’t say no nor did I ask.  She did give me several rules regarding any future races (no burpees, no sticking my face in the grass, no full throttle for at least 2 months, etc).  So, with those rules in mind I headed towards Ohio to run the Spartan Beast.  Hey, she didn’t say NO….

Up to this point the entire weekend was already a shit show.  First, because I got wicked sick after the Austin Super my lungs are not exactly where they need to be (Doc said it would take 3 months for them to return to normal) and then my running partner massively twisted her ankle two days prior.  What that translated to was me doing this race completely on my own.  Mentally, physically and emotionally I was fried before I even toed the line on Saturday morning.  I actually called ShooterGirl crying Friday.  She gave me the following piece of advice, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with a DNF.  You need to go, you need to try, but if you get out there and your lungs give out don’t be stubborn and try to power through, walk off course.” 

Friday I left work early and drove out to Ohio.  As I was checking into the hotel there was someone traveling through who was trying to get a room.  They were told, “Oh sir, there are no hotel rooms for at least the next three exits, Spartan is in town.” I don’t know why but that made me chuckle.

Saturday I got up and was so just not feeling it.  My goal for the race was to just survive.  I barely being held together by duct tape and bailing twine physically. I choked down hardly any breakfast which is a absolutely awful thing when you are headed into any race let alone a 14.5 mile Spartan Race.  I think the only reason why I got anything into me at all was that I was seeing it as fuel and not as food (yes, there is a distinction.) 

I texted Dad and told him I was nervous.  His first response was, “What for?”

“This is an obstacle race, like what I did with Cindy only 14.5 miles.”

“Go with God as your copilot”

There may have been an eyeroll on my part. Ugh, of course he would say that.  

“Wait, I thought Perry was my copilot.” I retorted. 

Pretty sure there was an eyeroll on his part with that snarky response.    

As I drove to the race site I IMG_9125used my new Airial nebulizer.  Hey, I may be an asthmatic, but I’m not a stupid asthmatic.  Probably the only way I wasn’t going to get sick or die on course (a real possibility) was if I actually was a “good girl” and take my extra medicine.  The great thing and horrible thing is that now I have no excuse whatsoever to not take my medicine.  Hm, perhaps I should have rethought my whole “let’s get a neb machine that I can use anywhere” plan.   

IMG_9138Getting my number and getting everything situated was much easier when your car isn’t that far from the festival area.  I had an 0845 start time and as I watched the 0830 wave take off there was a super nice lady who was “pit crew” for her husband.  We started to chat a bit and she offered to take my picture and send it to me.  Considering my phone had been purposely left in the car I said thank you.  So to that random lady, thank you very very much. It’s the only clean picture of me.

I stood in the corral next to a nice 32 year Vietnam Era Marine.  He and I started to chat about the race.  His plan was just to survive too.  I like knowing that I’m not the only one out there whose sole goal is survival not competition.  He looked a bit like Santa.  Hm, wonder if it WAS Santa.   I digress. Like clockwork they released us right at 0845.  

IMG_9132This course was most definitely NOT easy.  As I slowly chipped away at the terrain and the obstacles I kept leap frogging with a very cool group of girls; Finn, Ella, and Lilly.  They were friends  doing it together.  Ella was having some allergy issues (she sounded like she had exercise induced asthma to me).  Those three girls kept me going for more miles than I can count.  Just listening to them banter back and forth, checking on each other, and just being around took my mind off of my own pain.  We traveled together so long that by the time we got to the finish line we had to take a group selfie.  To Finn, Ella, and Lilly wherever you are, you guys rock, thank you. 

The first 7 or so miles of the course was where the largest thwack obstacles were.  After the spear throw (where we could see the finish line) they turned us away from the festival area and into the woods.  Gee, thanks, way to screw with our heads. Oh God, the woods.  Now, you would think with all the trail running I do that I would have loved this part of the course.  Yes, there were parts of it that were amazing.  However, the hills, for the love of God, the hills.  These weren’t just ANY hills.  No, no, these were straight up mud slicks.  No real trail.  Just up and down and up and down.  

Now, I was smart.  I knew that the course was around 14 miles.  When everyone around me was whooping at mile 5 that we were “half way” I knew we weren’t.  Being out in the woods, though, sucked every ounce of mental strength out of me.  There was a small group of us that just kept going up and down together.  “Oh dear, God ANOTHER one.” “Please, no more.”  “I just want to sit down and cry.”  I should probably mention that these are comments made by folks who have run multiple Spartans.  The “this is worse than (fill in other Spartan Beast here)” was probably the most prevalent recurring comment. 

My personal opinion is that Spartan doesn’t do anyone any favors by saying it’s 11+ miles.  People aren’t properly planning for fuel.  Granted, they have a couple of aid stations out on course, but in this nearly 5+ mile slog through the woods there wasn’t any aid stations.  I wound up giving out my back up fuel to a couple of guys who were bonking on course.  Out on course I managed to consume; 1 Tailwind (in my water), 2 Picky Bars, Mama Chia, Justin’s Maple PB, Justin’s Hazelnut Butter, and a Honey Stinger.  All of that fuel just to keep me from bonking.  

Just about the point, in this back woods portion of the course,  as I was ready to sit down and give up/loose my mind I met April.  Nothing bonds two middle aged women more closely than hills peppered with slogging up, over, and through mud.  We dreamt of wine, naps, and baths.  She told me how this was her 17th Spartan and how running a marathon was easier.  We mentally propped each other up along the way pulling and pushing each other.  That crazy woman was not only doing the Beast, but the Hurricane Heat and I think the Sprint on Sunday.  Secretly she told me that she was hoping and praying for lightening so they would cancel it because it was her teenage son that wanted to do the Hurricane Heat not her.  April, you rock.  Thank you for being there when I needed you the most. 

Somewhere the back woods we all became demoralized.  Running got harder.  One guy said it best, “I’m just trying to keep moving because if I sit down I’m done.”  Yeah, I’m with you man.  My legs would go forward and back, but every log I stepped over was a searing sensation of absolute pain.  April and I kept trying to “run”, ok it wasn’t a run as it was more of a fast shuffle.  

As we approached the slip wall there were Finn, Lilly, and Ella. I was excited to see them.  IMG_9134Finn scamped up the slip wall first.  After sliding down the wall a couple of times Ella just said, “screw it I’ll take the burpees.”  Finn offered to split them with her.  Lilly, God bless Lilly, she kept trying and trying and finally got over it.  I started up the slip wall and got within 3 inches of the top and was struggling to sling my leg over.  This really nice guy next to me grabbed my leg and slung it over for me.  To that random guy, thank you.  

Four more obstacles and April and I continued to stick together all the way through the fire jump.  I know that if it wasn’t for her I mentally would have lost my shit somewhere out there.  It wasn’t the running, it was the sheer demoralization.   We crossed the fire jump together.  I finished.  I finished in one piece.  I was sore.  I was beat up, but I finished.  The little asthmatic that could. 

As I got in the car (post incredibly cold rinse off) I fired up the nebulizer machine.  I always know when I really needed the neb treatment when I start to get the tingling sensation in my fingers and face, and boy did I get that in spades as I drove down the road.  Guess me being a smart asthmatic isn’t such a bad thing.  

Total Tally: 

13.4 miles

1876 feet in elevation gain

Average HR: 140

Highest HR: 173

Calories burned: 2721

What were you thinking???

What exactly were you thinking??? –My asthma doc

And just like that I am toss squarely on my ass.  Ah, yes, life as an asthmatic.  Last week (prior to the Spartan Super) I started experiencing some burning in my lungs. No big deal, I thought, I’ll just take my sick protocol.  All asthmatics have one.  I started taking my Dulera twice per day.  I went about my business on Thursday. By Thursday night I was really wheezy.  No big deal, I thought, there is a huge fire in Shenandoah and the smoke is drifting this way.  By Friday morning, I was coughing up what I affectionally call ‘lung biscuits’.  Again, no big deal, I thought.  I’m going to Texas I’ll get away from the smoke and the yuck and all will be good in the land.

First flaw in my logic, I had to fly to get there.  Flying is notoriously awful for people let alone people (cough) like myself who have compromised immune systems.  Then, I get to Texas and my brother dropped the little bomb that he would like for us to mow the lawn “if we could, please.” Of course I’m going to do what my baby brother wants when he is in Korea.  Myself and Cindy (the SIL) took care of the grass.  Yeah, probably not a good idea on my part.  We’ll call that flaw two and three and most likely four. I’m really really allergic to grass and weeds.  Then, I didn’t bring my allergy pillow cover with me (I almost always travel with it).  Friday and Saturday nights were hard sleeping for me as one of my MAJOR allergies is dust mites.  Flaw five(ish).

Saturday rolls around and I’m still coughing up lung biscuits, but now I’m face first in grass (doing all the burpees) and surrounded by trees that were spewing pollen.  Did I mention the running?  Or the inhaling of all the air? Or the fact that I managed to give myself HIVES, yes, HIVES last year from doing a race and inhaling too much pollen.   Post race sitting in the car I start coughing up bright technicolored lung biscuits. Oops. Flaw six, ok, seven and eight.

Sunday. I get up at 0300 to get to the airport and my face feels like it’s going to explode.  My lungs ache.  I now have a cough that racks through my entire body.  Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have  gotten on an airplane.  I had to get home, though.  Flaw nine.

By the time I got home on Sunday I wanted to die.  I couldn’t breathe.  My lips and fingers were numb.  I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  Now, I’ve done enough races to know the difference between the dump truck of love that visits post workout and the dump truck of awful that comes when you can’t getting enough oxygen.  I knew which one this was.  I crawled into bed and proceeded to sleep for the next 12 hours.

When I woke up this morning my wheezing was so bad I couldn’t even get my Dulera in.  Crap.  That isn’t good.  I knew I was going to need to get an appointment with my asthma doc.  After nearly falling over from coughing during my spirometry test I got put back into the exam room.  Now, I’ve been seeing the same asthma doc for over a decade.  She’s been very tolerant/encouraging (within limits) of my escapades.  However, today as she walked in the door and she was pissed.  The very first words out of her mouth here, “What were you thinking??!”  Second words out of her mouth, “You’ve become one of those people.”

“But I had a plane ticket,” I sputtered back.

“I write notes all the time.” She retorted

“But I thought Texas would be better.”

As the words were leaving my mouth I knew that there was nothing I could say that was going to justify all of the stupid choices that I made.  As she peered into my ears with the mom I told you so tone in her voice, “Yep, blood on your ear drums/canal you did some damage flying yesterday.  See, I TOLD you.”

Sigh.

IMG_9059You know you’re not doing well when they break out the nebulizer machine in the office.   You really REALLY know you aren’t doing good when they drop not one but two meds into the machine.  I sat there breathing in the medicine. A couple of minutes into my treatment my face started to tingle and my fingers started to tingle. Yay! Oxygen returning to my extremities.  By the time I was done with my treatment I felt oh so much better.  She came back into the room looked me square in the face and with a no nonsense tone in her voice, “Are you running today?”

“No ma’am.” I replied meekly.

“Are you SURE?”

“Yes ma’am. I’m sure.”

Satisfied that I wasn’t going to go running today she set about figuring out what cocktail of IMG_9060meds to put me on.  We settled on a new nebulizer medicine (the same one I just took) and an antibiotic.

“I don’t think you need steroids.”

PHEW! At least I have that going for me.  Steroids make me want to pull a chair up to the fridge with a fork in my hand and devour the contents.

“Look, you need rest.  Your body needs rest.  You are not normal. Taking your albuterol during the day other than for exercise is NOT ok. If you do, you aren’t well enough to race. Period end of discussion.  You need to remember, that despite your high functioning you are still an asthmatic.”

Now, trust me when I say, I know I’m an asthmatic.  That being said, I can be an asthmatic who sits on my ass and feels like crap OR  I can go out and live my life and feel like crap.  At least with the latter I have some awesome memories.

I’m going to be the good asthmatic.  I’m going to take my medicine.  I’m going to take it easy, but I will say this I’m not about to let any of this stop me from achieving anything I set my mind to.  I will just have to remember that my lungs, much like a Latin American dictator are propped up by drugs, and need to be given a little extra love.

 

I must really love my brother

Approximately 8 months ago when my brother got moved out of Alaska and got orders to Texas I declared that the only way I’d come back is for him. I hate Texas. I love my brother. I’m currently sitting in Texas. That must mean I REALLY love my brother. 

Why exactly did I come to Texas? To run a Spartan Super on my baby brothers birthday of course. Duh. 

When I decided I was going to get my trifecta this year I started looking at options. When I saw the Austin race which happened to be by his new house AND it was going to be on his birthday it became a must do. I called him up; 

“Let’s do the Austin Spartan together.” 

“You and Cindy can. I’ll be in Korea.” 

Fuck…..

I asked Cindy, his amazing and beautiful wife, if she was game. 

“Yes. Wait. What’s a Spartan?”

Snicker. 

  
Oh the poor girl has no idea the suck fest that was in front of her. 

We drove the hour from their house to the race site. The closer to the race venue we got the more wild flowers we saw. Dammit Texas it’s hard to hate you when you look like this. 

  
 After we parked, I slathered myself with sunscreen before we got our crap together and headed towards the shuttle buses. If I didn’t apply early and often I was going to fry like an egg. The heat was already starting to ratchet up. Cindy now understood why I said, register for the earliest wave possible. 

By the time we got our packets (hey we both have 23 as our last 2 numbers) and checked our bag there was only ~20 minutes until our wave left. Perfect timing. Can’t get too keyed up that way. We looked at the map one more time and it was like suddenly it hit her. 

“Wait?! There are how many obstacles?!”

I told her. 

“That’s like an obstacle almost every quarter mile?!”

“Yes. Yes it is. Did you not read or watch anything I’ve sent you? WOMAN!” 

  
I had to laugh. This was going to be even more fun than I thought. 

As we stared at the wall before we jumped into our start corral she looked at me and said, 

“Why am I suddenly so nervous.” 

Snicker. 

We stood listening to Dustin be his amazing self (as always) until he said, “…and there are rattlesnakes out there…” Cindy turned wide eyed at me. I shrugged. It’s Texas. He released us out into the wilds and we started down the trail. She started off at a break neck pace. I had to remind her to pace herself. Spartans are long slow grinds not sprints. (This lesson will be important later.) Plus the goal is to finish in one piece. (This will also become important later.) 

The first hill and obstacle came up fairly quickly. I helped hoist Cindy over the wall and then I asked for a boost. Hey I’m only 5’2″ and even jumping I couldn’t manage.  This is the thing I love about Spartan; everyone is out to help everyone. 

“Low bridge” (Watch your head) 

“Feet!” (Root, rock, etc) 

My personal favorite yesterday; “CACTUS!!”

Somewhere during one of the first obstacles as I was helping Cindy over I tweaked my knee. Crap. Onward I pressed.  Every single hill I felt and could hear the grinding. Oh this isn’t good. Nothing I could do about it. 

When we hit the 7′ wall I warned Cindy;  DO NOT drop hang as long as you can to decrease the drop. Yeah…..about that. She cleared the top of the wall and dropped. And pomptly landed on the side of her foot, straining her ankle, and landing on her ass. If I broke her my brother is going to have my ass, I thought.  She got up and managed to limp along. 

We continued to push through the course succeeding on some obstacles and failing on others. Some I may always fail (like the monkey bars) just because my wing span is not wide enough to swing bar to bar. I helped folks I could help and requested a boost when I needed it.  Every time I broke out the sunscreen I offered it to others. I had lots of takers. 

Passing mile 6 we were still running along. Granted not a fast run but a run/fast shuffle nonetheless. Those folks that had gone streaking past us earlier? Yeah they were walking. See, pace yourself kids it’s a long slog. 

We crossed the finish line in 3 hours 14 minutes and some change. Along the way we did an ass ton of burpees. All that said, we finished.  For that I couldn’t be prouder. The best part? I didn’t get sun burnt! That in and of itself is a major win! 

  

Flying Pirate: Double Dare Challenge

This past weekend was the Flying Pirate Half Marathon. Of course, me being me, I signed up to do the Double Dare Challenge which is comprised of the Flight Flight 5k on Saturday followed up the half marathon on Sunday.  I mean, if you are  going to travel over 5 hours to go to an event you might as well participate in the whole event.

Wednesday, prior to the race, I was speaking with Bourbon’s Mom.  I was musing how it was going to be nice to get some sun and beach time.  She looked at me and said wryly; “Have you looked at the weather today?”  Um, no.  She pulled it up on her computer screen.  What was sunny and 80 on Monday was now 50 and 40mph winds.  Are you fu*%& KIDDING me?  I’m sure the look that crossed my face was priceless.  Sigh, oh well.  Fiduciary incentivized exercise.  I paid for it, therefore I shall run it.  I guess I’ll just pack a few extra clothes.

IMG_8878Bourbon’s Mom and I drove down to Richmond where we picked up Luddite Runner.  Then we all proceeded to the Outer Banks.  When we finally arrived on Friday the weather guessers had gotten it right; it was WINDY.  Not just any wind, but take your breath away kind of wind.  The ocean was very angry.  The waves were pounding something fierce.  So much for a nice sunny, relaxing, beach weekend.  It could have been worse, there was a poor couple who had their wedding scheduled….outdoors…..

Saturday was the First Flight 5k.  There is a very good reason why those Wright boys picked that particular spot.  It’s windy as all get out.  We got to the start line and were freezing out behinds off.  I was acting like a complete fool just to get my muscles warm.  Hey, everyone is someone else’s weirdo.

We were all were doing the challenge, so the plan was to go out slow and just cruise around IMG_8920the 5k course.  That was the plan anyway.  We had elected Bourbon’s Mom to set the pace,  we were just following her.  Perhaps that was a bad idea.  Her competitive streak came out.  Luddite Runner and I knew the “easy peasy” day went right out the window.  We cruised across the finish in under 35 minutes.  Oops.

We spent the rest of the day playing mini golf, seeing the sights, and trying (as best we could) to minimize the amount of extra time we spent in the wind. It was gorgeous, right up until you got out of the nice sunny (protected) car and had to be out in it.  We still managed to have a great time, even if it wasn’t sticking our toes in the sand and enjoying some sun.  Again, at least we weren’t the poor couple who had planned a wedding.

Sunday morning; half marathon day.  The three of us have done events together before.  The plan was the same as it always was.  Bourbon’s Mom and Luddite Runner would stay together running intervals.  I was going to run on my own.  The morning was practically a walking disaster.  First, we got on the shuttle bus and Bourbon’s Mom sat on her hydration pack hose soaking her rear. When she jumped out of her seat and into Luddite Runner’s seat she smacked the cup of coffee thereby soaking Luddite Runner’s thighs.  If that weren’t enough, we got all the way to the start line and I realized that I left my lucky tutu in the car.  Crap….

IMG_8954.JPGWe stood shivering together at the start line huddling between a truck and the tree line. It was in the low 40s and the wind was whipping already.  A local had told us on Saturday that we would be shielded from the wind most of the course.  We were all praying that was going to be the case.

We loaded into our corrals and I saw the 2:30 pacer.  Mentally all I wanted to do was finish. I wasn’t expecting much with the wicked winds (and the cold).  I had finished my last half in 2:28 so as long as I kept slightly ahead of the 2:30 pacer I would be ok.  As our wave was released I was having some issues getting Coconut to get a signal.  Apparently she didn’t like being that cold either. I wound up having to play catch up with the 2:30 pacer after convincing Coconut to get a GPS signal.  At least it helped warm me up a bit.  Now, I’m normally a warm runner.  Even in the dead of winter I will wind up taking my gloves off because my hands get super hot.  I didn’t actually warm up enough to take off my long sleeve shirt until after mile four.

I settled into a nice pace.  Running with my Spirit Human has done wonders for me.  She is so metronomic in her running.  My goal was to try to stay on that cadence as long as I could.  That being said, every runner has to have their own way of keeping pace.  Mine just happened to be this very cute pack of boys running with 30 pound weight vests about a quarter of a mile in front of me.  For six miles I kept up with them.  Then starting at mile 7 I began to reel them in.  As we rounded the corner for the Wright Memorial I passed them. I teased them a bit when I was running with them that they needed to run faster because I was using them as my carrot.  They laughed.  They were good humored about it.

IMG_8957The last few miles of the half are on dirt road and trail. Oh happy day!  This is where I picked up a runner named Jenny. She had been shadowing me.  As I stopped on one of the hills to mentally pull myself together she came up beside me and said, “Look you can’t quit I’m using you to pull me along.”  I laughed only because hmmm, I wonder where I heard that before.  For the next three miles Jenny and I stayed together(ish), pushing and pulling each other along.  Don’t know where she came from, but man she was exactly what I needed.

As I rolled down the hill towards the finish line I was stunned at the clock.  Wait, wha? I was so stunned that I didn’t even sprint through the finish after gaining the momentum from rolling down that hill.  2:21??? Seriously??? That’s nearly 7 minutes better than my LAST half.  How is that even possible?  I guess running with Spirit Animal and working my ass off at the gym (quite literally with all the glute and hip exercises I’ve been doing) really are doing me some good.

I gathered my medals and my hat I walked around to the finish to wait for my two amigas to come rolling through.  I huddled together with a couple of other runners waiting for their respective friends.  We were sharing mylar blanks in an attempt to stay warm.  April in the Outer Banks and we were freezing, who would have thought.

FinIMG_8961ally, the ladies came over the hill.  I started shouting.  I doubt they heard me but I was whooping and hollering and encouraging.  I saw the clock.  They shaved nearly 15 MINUTES off of their time from Disney.   I was SO damn proud of them.

The post race party was right next door to the finish.  They managed to grab some food (yet another race with no food options for me), and we all managed to snag a cider (yay! something I could consume).

We stood there shivering talking about the course (the IMG_8966supportive locals, the mimosas at mile 5.5, the cute pack of boys, etc) when out of the corner of my eye there they were.  The cute pack of boys. I sheepishly asked them if I could get my picture with them.  Hey, incentive is incentive.   We stood there for a moment talking about Spartan races, which courses we liked which ones to avoid.  It’s always nice to find common ground with strangers.

 

Overall, I’m exceptionally pleased with my results.  I learned some valuable lessons between my last half and this one.  I put Tailwind into my hydration pack (made a HUGE difference.)  I packed a Picky Bar; you know, because otherwise I would miss second breakfast.  I also learned some valuable lessons on course this time, but the most valuable lesson of all was just how much I really truly do love dirt.  This is my second to last road race I am registered for.  I don’t think I will be registering for any more.  I run happiest both mentally and physically on dirt.

I am exceptionally pleased with my time.  I’m exceptionally please with my pacing. I’m still slow, but I’m making progress every race.

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Today I Spartan-ed Up!

I did it!!! -Me

I’ve made it no secret why I started doing CrossFit.  I wanted to get stronger to improve my running and for running Spartan Races.  I mean, if you are going to do something that scares the living crap out of you (CrossFit) you have to have a reason to get you to show up for the workouts. Although, to be honest, knowing that ShooterGirl and CrossFit Runner are going to be there gives me extra oomph some days to get there.

Spartan racing is something new to my wheelhouse.  I did my first Sprint (a short 3(ish) miler) in September with He Who Shall Not be Named.  That was his thing, but I wanted to experience the thing that he loved.  As Fall went on, he did a Super (a mid length) and a Beast (a long length); I was there to drive him, fuel him, and encourage/support him. All the while though I was watching.  I was watching the experience.  I was watching the people.  I was watching the obstacles.  I knew, at that time, I just didn’t have what it was going to take to be able to go out and do one of the longer races. Especially with many of the obstacles requiring upper body strength.  Run 13 miles, great! Carry heavy objects, sure, I’ve got that down.  I’ve moved literally tons of horse manure via wheelbarrow.  Climb a rope? No way, no how.  What does every single Spartan race have?  You guessed it rope climbs.

About a month after I started CrossFit there was a WOD that required rope climbs.  I knew that this wasn’t in my wheelhouse.  However, after the workout Chriss was nice enough to let me give it a whirl on the rope with knots.  I got about 25% of the way up the rope, I looked down, my legs started shaking and I knew it wasn’t going to end well.  I knew at that point going to the climbing gym and spending some time up on the wall to get accustomed to heights again was going to be in order. This was all in addition to needing more strength to get it done.

Months have gone by and I’ve slowly been working on my strength.  Adding 1/2 pound here and there.  Tonights WOD had rope climbs in it and I was actually excited about it.  I wanted to see what, if any, kind of improvement I had made.  In the 2+ months since I did it last.

With CrossFit Runner and one of the coaches guidance/assistance I did it!! I made it to the top.  Granted, it is a rope with knots, but you’ve got to start somewhere.  One more tool for me to use.  One more demonstration of the growth I’ve had over the last 14 months.  Today I Spartan-ed Up and I’m very proud.

Everyone has a story: Don’t be an asshat

Something has been stuck in my craw and I need to get it out. Last week, I had the distinctive displeasure of hearing someone say that they dated someone who ran eight half marathons (said with disgust) and how they could have saved themselves a great deal of time and money had they known that because why run eight half marathons when you can run a marathon.   This is someone, hereby known as Negative Norton, that I had respected right up until that point. What kind of asshat cuts down someone like that?  Eight half marathons is a huge amount of effort, training, and dedication.  Hell, ONE is a huge amount of effort, training and dedication.

Negative Norton then went onto say how people who walk marathons get the same medal as the person who ran the marathon; so, don’t be a walker.  While I can comprehend the point they were trying to make (albeit badly) about effort; maybe the person who walked the marathon couldn’t walk a year ago.  Oh, and by the way, Negative Norton, shows what you know, winners get fancy plaques and sometimes checks not just a finishers medal.

Then this week NavyMom posted; “Okay finished my long run…yes roll your eyes you 10 milers my long run is only 5 miles …”  Immediately, a large group of us jumped in to cheer on her effort.  This is someone who until recently has struggled to get one block due to her near crippling nerve pain and she just went 5 miles!   This is an effort that should be celebrated not cut down.

When did it become ok to cut others efforts down? When did it become ok to cut our own efforts down? That person who “just” ran a 5k might have “just” finished chemo.  That person who “just” ran a 10k may have mere months ago “just” weighed 100 pounds more.  You never know what obstacles that person had to overcome in order to conquer that distance.   There are visible challenges, but more often than not they are invisible ones; PTSD, diabetes, anxiety, asthma, etc.

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Still damn proud of it & no one can take that away from me.

While yes, there can be only one prize winner; every single person who crosses that finish line has overcome some challenge at work, at home, and/or within themselves.  That is something that no one can ever take away from you unless you let them.  Don’t be an asshat to anyone else either. Cheer on their efforts because you never know when it will be you struggling to crawl across the finish line.

Climbing: Back to the beginning

“You told me to go back to the beginning, so I have.  This is where I am this is where I will stay.  I will no be moved.” -Innigo Montoya, Princess Bride

 

As you move through the timeline of your life I like to say that there are rocks that serve as markers that you put down in specific places.  It can be a song, a smell, or an activity that reminds you of a specific moment in time.  There are good rocks and there are bad rocks, but it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do when that specific rock gets picked up you are instantly transported back to that moment in time.

Recently, I stumbled upon one of those rocks. It was a rock that I didn’t even realize was there.  Many moons ago, I was married to a man named Paul.  We didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and after our divorce he passed away. History aside, before we got married we climbed together.  Almost every weekend we would drive up to Columbia (to the only climbing gym in the area at the time), climb for a couple of hours, go grab lunch at the only decent Mexican restaurant in the area (this was almost 2 decades ago), and then head back to the gym to climb some more.  Some where along the way we stopped climbing.

After my first Spartan race I realized that I needed to get tied in again.  First and foremost, for grip strength to help me with all of the pulling obstacles.  Second, to get accustomed to heights again to help me with the rope climb and several of the other obstacles that require me to be off the ground.  The last time I went up the rope at CrossFit my whole body started shaking from being up that high.   That’s not cool.  I’d rather conquer my fear than do burpees.

One weekend a couple of months ago I went digging in my shed for my climbing harness and shoes.  I don’t know why I had held onto them, but I did.  I pulled down the plastic crate which had been moved from coast to coast twice.  Peaking out from under 15 years worth of dust and grime was a piece of yellow tape wrapped around one of the loops of the harness.  Since Paul and I had had identical harnesses the tape was used to distinguish mine from his.  I brought the harness and the shoes in the house, washed them both down, and tossed them in the closet.  Winter cross training, I thought.

After months of procrastination I signed up for the basic skills class; after all it had been nearly 15 years.  I walked into the gym and instantly I was transported back to 1999 with the flood of memories that came back to me.  It was the first time in years that I had tapped into those particular memories.  I slipped into my harness snugged it up as tight as I could and realized that it was still too big.  I smiled.

The instructor started going through basics and everything came back to me. How to tie the knots.  How to belay.  Everything.  I guess going back to the beginning was a good thing. After class we were allowed to use the wall. As I tied in and put IMG_7810my hands on the the first two holds there was this wave of thoughts that came over me.  Thoughts of climbing with Paul, climbing with my Dad and brothers, but more importantly how I felt when I conquered one particular route that had kicked my ass for months.  The further up the wall I went the more my soul smiled.  I remember this feeling.  The feeling of stretching, moving, bending, pulling, pushing, but most importantly conquering.  It’s like vertical chess and I love it.

When I went into work on Monday and was talking about how much fun I had a couple of the girls immediately said, “I want to go!” We set up a date IMG_7824for that Friday night.  Since neither of them had their belay card yet we went bouldering instead of climbing.  Now, bouldering is completely different.  It requires way more arms than legs and, well, you aren’t roped in.  We plotted, we climbed, we fell, we swore, but most importantly, we conquered.

I’m glad that I made the decision to start climbing again.  It is good to go back to the beginning.  To start over this time with a fresh perspective, a new body, and memories of all of the lessons I have learned along the way.  That being said, as I left the gym on both occasions to head to my car I had a sudden craving for a steak quesadilla.  Apparently memories have cravings.

 

2015: The Year of the Sine Wave

“If you have a body and move it regularly for physical health and mental sanity, suck it up you’re an athlete.” Sally Bergesen.

If I had to describe 2015, I would describe it as a high frequency, high amplitude sine wave.  There were a significant number of ups and downs but a constant movement forward.  The ups and downs were hard to take, but forward is always a must; and my forward led me to the point where I had a couple of epiphanies.

img_7726My first came out on the trails earlier this year and that is; I am a runner.  All of my life running is something that I had a love/hate relationship with. Even when I was a child and my cousins would do races on my grandparents farm; I always came in dead last.  This year, though, I had a moment where I realized just how much I loved it.  Granted, I will never be Sally Bergesen or Anna Frost, but I love to run.  It’s the absolute best part of my day getting out on the trails and clearing my head.  One of the biggest lessons I learned this year was that when I cut the cord and stopped running with music out on the trail I actually started to run better.  My running became more present and more focused.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still slow, but I’m happier.  On most days, anyway.

I realized I am not EVER going to be a fast runner.  What I do have, though, is endurance.  There was a quote by  Gunhild Swanson, the oldest finisher of the Western States 100 that encapsulates my running style perfectly; “I can’t out-sprint them, but I can certainly outlast them.” The hike up Hurricane Hill with my brothers where they dubbed me ‘Mountain Pony’ made this crystal clear to me.  I may not get there very fast, but I can go all day long.  I think this is why I’m actually excited about the Utah 50k with my brother.  He’s the fast one in the family and likes to rib me constantly. Perhaps this is where the tables are turned and Big Sister gets to have the last word.

Second, is a more recent realization and one that I am not 100% comfortable wearing just yet, but that is;  I am an athlete. I remember the first time that word was used referring to me.  I was attempting to do kettlebell swings at CrossFit and one of the coaches said to me after I made a minor correction they wanted in my swing form; “Excellent correction, I see you are an athlete.” No, no.  Really, I’m not.  When I hear the word athlete, I think of my idols; Amelia Boone, Sally Bergesen, Anna Frost, Rose Wetzel.  In my mind those are athletes.  They are powerful, graceful, strong, and fast.  Definitely not words I would describe myself, especially in the graceful category.  Yet, somewhere along the line it had snuck up on me and bit me in the ass.

Huh.  Maybe nearing 40 I’ve finally figured out how to operate the controls of this body of mine.  I say this and then I look down at the scar on my left knee  acquired from landing Superman style not once, but twice, during a trail race.  Then again, maybe not.