I just awoke from a nap, clutching my stomach and tears rolling down my face.
The dream did not make much sense until the very end. I was searching, working with photos and texts. One person behind me, a man, challenged me saying I wasn’t working. I replied that it was personal. He says, ‘but it is only pictures’. I say, ‘Fine do you want to see it then?’. I turned to give him what I had been working on, but couldn’t find it. It wasn’t until my friend asks, ‘What are these little dots?’, that I understood. I said in a panic, ‘Where is it?! Where do you see it?’ While still in my dream, the realization suddenly hit me what I was dreaming about. I rested my forehead on the desk clutching my now flattened stomach that seemed to turn in on itself it was so empty and began to cry.
This is what running does for you. It rips you open to the very center of your being and sharpens, brings to focus, the things you believed you had dealt with or even just things that will never be forgotten. You know it will do this and you still go out the door. You embrace the quiet of the predawn, because despite the pain and discomfort of running, every time you run you are choosing to live, completely and fully. Maybe it is because the anniversary of their coming into being is only weeks away. It has been almost 3 years since their conception and then loss. Or maybe, it is that several people have brought up the fact that despite my upcoming birthday, maybe it is not too late.
Or maybe it is because this time my running is different. In the past, running has always been a coping mechanism, a way to relieve pain and stress. After the miscarriage, the miles were almost to punish my body for failing my babies and me. Now, post surgery, I run and build miles because of a love for my body and the strength it has shown me through running. Now, I run and build miles because of the strength my heart and mind have shown me through running. We have gone full circle, my body, heart and mind and have united.
Dr. George Sheehan wrote: “When I run, I am the hunter and the prey is my self, my own truth.” and that is why I run. Well, one of the reasons…
It is Christmas Day and I get this message on instagram “How long have you had OP for? I’m nearly 2 years… Merry Christmas and wishing you an injury free 2017!” Several emotions race through my head: A friend in my suffering that gets it! Along with: dear G-d, two years?!? That will never be me, she needs to go away…
Osteitis pubis, the doctor wrote it down for me so I could look it up until my hearts content. What kind of cool doctor does this, encourages you to google? One that used to run in college and understands a runners mentality. I went back to my office armed with this piece of paper with its mysterious diagnosis and a script for a NSAID. I was cleared to run once my foot healed, that’s another story, and to tolerance. Pain tolerance that is. He said it would probably never go away and would likely be a nuisance- my word not his. He did give me brief shot of optimism by agreeing that once this particular episode was under control it might never be an issue or maybe just the occasional flair up. Having dealt with loose joints and the resulting arthritis most of my life, I could handle this, no problem! Then I googled. Average recovery time was 7-9 months. I stopped googling. That is like, almost a year!
As I said my foot was injured as well. Short story: pain in 5th metatarsal area, possible fracture and tendinitis. After 5 weeks in a boot, multiple X-rays and finally an MRI later, it is now an entrapped nerve that after a series of injections, should fully recover. I was in disbelief: no tears, cracks or breaks?? Doc informed me the MRI report actually said “unremarkable”. I informed him I am anything but “unremarkable”. He laughed and also cleared me to run, to tolerance.
It is interesting this “to tolerance”. Runners have an almost super human response to pain. Ask a normal person what it feels like to be on your feet for 15+ hours, not just standing, but moving forward at a good clip and you will most likely be met with a blank stare or maybe they’ve been in the military so they actually know. Waitresses and medical people might also have an idea, minus the “moving forward at a good clip” part. Ask an endurance athlete however, they will most likely tell you it was the best day ever. Ask them with wide eyes “Didn’t it hurt?” and you will see them struggle to remember. Sure we usually walk funny after, but every body does, that’s part of it. We were back running a few days later, because we all know the best way to get all of that waste product out is with an easy recovery run or swim. We do not understand “to tolerance”. We only understand: ‘we can run’ or ‘we cannot run’.
The final irony of this mysterious injury I have, oh and it is not a common injury, unless you’re a footballer in Europe. As a matter of fact, it is so uncommon that when I started crocheting to combat my restlessness, a lady in my group, who is a medical coder, commented she had that diagnosis come across her desk. She remembered, because she doesn’t see it often. Upon asking my name and what doctor, yep it was me. Which brings me to my final beef with all of this: it is a pelvic injury. Due to recent political events in our country, I have been more forth coming in the sexual violences I have survived. I think it is vital that women talk about these things openly and not hide them. I was ashamed to speak of it for so long, yet I realized it only hurt me worse to stay silent. It needs to be said often and out loud that these things happen, even though it makes everyone uncomfortable. It is a horrible subject, but pretending it doesn’t happen does not make it go away. Most importantly, we do not apologize for speaking of it or it’s effects AT ALL. As hard as it is to say, “I was date raped in college the first time I went. That’s why I am now 42 and just now hopefully, getting my bachelors. Oh and I was also a survivor of childhood incest and several abusive relationships as a result of… Not to mention the resulting ptsd and anxiety” it has to be said. You never know who else is suffering and needs to know: “You are not alone!” Having said this, that does not mean I enjoy discussing my pelvis, yet it is now a hot topic of conversation. “How is your foot?” “Better thank you! So nice to have that boot off!! 4-7 alcohol injections and it should completely resolve. I still can’t really run though because of the osteitis pubis… ” Blank stare. “Yeah, so it’s sort of like arthritis of your pubic bone… A groin injury… It aches all the time… it takes forever to heal…” It is awkward for everyone. Unless they are close friends, I usually spare them the sexual difficulties this injury has. I am making peace with it though. I answered the nice lady on instagram, because I really am thankful she understands my pelvic pain and frustrations. I have been strengthening my core and hips hoping to come back strong and avoid re injury in the future. I also ran 4 laps yesterday on the indoor track at my gym. That equals .4 miles, not much when you consider I covered 50 miles at my ultra in September, but I tell you those were the sweetest, most glorious .4 miles ever. Do not take your body for granted, every moment is a gift.
I’ve written before how many reasons there are to run and especially run 50 miles. I have joked that it will be a spiritual experience, yet that is exactly what it is becoming. The layers of emotions that are being peeled off with week after week of training is startling. Each completed workout is a triumph by itself and sometimes leaves me empty. I have struggled with depression before and this last month has been a tough one. Things at home are challenging. Working two jobs has been exhausting. I lost my 3rd pet in 16 months unexpectedly in June due to Feline Leukemia. Unbeknownst to me and despite being tested at the shelter where she was adopted from, my sweet Zelda left me far too soon and a huge hole in my heart. Cosmo and Maggie passed due to old age and their loss was hard also as I have loved them since they were puppies. Zelda was a shock though. When you pour yourself into what and who you love there are times when you become thin and vulnerable.
I lay awake at night and wonder how am I going to do it?
Classes start next Monday and while I love the learning, I am not looking forward to the extra workload. I debated taking the semester off due to financial issues regarding tuition, plus again, life is just hectic. After looking into it though, I discovered it will be easier to just soldier on.
I lay awake at night and wonder how am I going to get it all done?
My brother called a few weeks ago, Margaret is having her reconstructive surgery right after the race, can I come help with the girls? Without question I will be there and happy to do so. I asked off both jobs and emailed professors. Again wondering, how am I going to get it all done? Manage my office work, school work, all the way from Texas while caring for 3 scared little girls and a more scared little brother?
The layers of emotion, the thinness of me, flayed and open…
Before I had my faith that carried me, but after my miscarriage years ago that started to fall away. No one prays harder than a mother for her baby, yet they are gone. Even after that I held on. I still prayed. I surrendered control to You. Yet I still lost and continue to lose those I love.
The hours spent on the road and in the woods are the times I feel most alive. It is lonely though too sometimes. My running partners have different goals and not everyone has the time or desire to spend 5+ hours in the woods, so often I run alone and I am fine with that. It is a journey I embrace. I finished my first 50k in 105 heat index and I had the best time! I have met amazing people, made new friends and saw spectacular beauty. And the layers keep peeling. I have so much gratitude for all of this! I am thankful for every run, that I am able to move my body and do what I love. I am thankful for the food I eat and the roof over my head. I am very thankful to have a second job that helps me to continue my education and learn new exciting things. I am blessed and tired.
Before I would quietly know, all will be okay. Before I lost my faith. Now the silence is deafening. I still know I will accomplish what I will, but I have realized in the last few months, somewhere over the years I have lost my G-d. Last night with tears running down my face, I realized I was embarrassed to admit that. I am embarrassed to admit I am scared to pray because I don’t think I am heard. Most of all is the pain of lost faith, of feeling alone. That is the hardest to process. My faith has always been strong, my love for Him seen in all people, creatures and the beauty around me. People who really know me, know I am a positive, lover of life and even receive great joy from the ridiculously mundane, such as the noise hamsters make chewing on carrots. What’s not to love about that?
I am searching for You- are you there? Do you hear me?
After writing this, maybe my faith isn’t completely lost, just in a struggle. I will continue to put one foot in front of the other. I will continue to live, learn and love generously. I am squeezing the most I can out of this life graciously given me even though at times it overwhelms me. I have joked more than once that 50 miles will be a spiritual awakening. Now I believe deep down inside when I signed up for this race there was a piece of my heart still praying, praying that it will be.
Working everyday has been an adjustment and that adjustment is still ongoing. After the first week I suffered a strained sartorius due to the repetitive nature of Job 2. It threw off a week of training, which I admit was discouraging. On the first day of spring, March 20, I tested the muscle with an easy long run and it seemed solidly on the mend. The first day of spring I was blessed with one more play date with snow. The weather has been over the top lately with 70 one day and then 40 the next. It snowed hard at the beginning of my long run and by the time I was done it was completely gone. Just like it had never happened! In fact those who slept in that Sunday would have been hard pressed to believe it had snowed.
Last week I was very nervous. I had 20 miles scheduled Saturday followed by 8 hours of standing at Job 2. I had no idea how that would play out. I skipped my normal Thursday cross training of Taekwondo and went to bed early. Friday I went to bed even earlier. Saturday I had to be to work at 9AM, so my alarm sounded at 3 and I was out the door running by 3:50. My two run partners Mk and K who are also running the marathon in April, our girls weekend, had agreed to meet me at 5 for 14 miles so I only had to get 6 in on my own. I have the best run partners!
It ended up being a beautiful morning! Perfect mid 40’s weather for a long run. As you can see, I actually ended up with 21 miles instead of 20. The route mapped by MK was a little longer than 14 miles. 21 miles is even after I cut the route short because I was running out of time. While I didn’t exactly race home, I did do some strides at the end, which surprisingly felt great. I stuffed my face, showered, threw on my compression socks and Birkenstocks was out the door and to work right on time. I also filled my water bottle with Tailwind. I’ve been trying this product out and figured the calories would be a good thing until I was able to take my lunch break. Side note: If you haven’t tried Tailwind, I highly recommend it.
I am happy to report it wasn’t a bad day at all! I was a little stiff, yes and hungry of course, but all in all it worked out. At the end of the day I was bushed! I made it home and we walked Miss Ella. I ate dinner, had my post 21 mile treat and headed to bed.
Because I am also training for an ultra in the fall, I have embraced the run/walk method. K is the one who first introduced me to it several years ago as I was coming back from surgery and she from having a baby. I will admit though I was not a big believer. That is until I woke up Sunday morning a little stiff, but virtually pain free. Unheard after a 21 mile long run!! I even went for a quick easy 5.7 mile run before work. It is hard to believe a 30-60 second walk every mile could make such a difference, but it does.
It is spring break for me this week. All I have to do is be a regular person that goes to work and comes home. It is very nice. I am especially enjoying not having as much school work in the evening and thus heading to bed earlier. A 7:30-8 pm bedtime of a not so regular person, but a distance runner in training. This beautiful morning consisted of some steady miles in the middle and it was good. While my adjustment to my new schedule is still going, it seems to be headed in the right direction.
It has been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to sit down and write. Several reasons for this, the biggest one being word press no longer works on my home computer and well, I do not like typing on my phone. So that limits me to publishing from my work computer or a university one however, my favorite time and place to write is at home, over the weekend when it is quiet. I have a game plan for that now though, so hopefully I will soon be back on track.
The other reason I’ve been slacking is I have been crazy busy. Work, school and now I have a second job on the weekends to help pay for school and some home repairs… Oh yeah and training. I am beginning to think I should rename this blog “Student, 2jobs and ultra training… next post September 18th, 50 mile race report. That is, if I survive…” It has been an adjustment and I consider the mental aspect to be great mental training for the ultra. Always look for the positive!
I have had some fun though. March 6th I ran my first trail half marathon and had my ass handed to me. Seriously. Then I dropped it on the trail and it was handed back to me. This happened several times. I have run road marathons that were easier to me than this half was in spots and road halfs much faster. It was truly an eye opening experience. One that screamed:
“YOU HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO!”
I love being outside and in the woods, but I don’t have a lot of trail experience and this is why I entered. The race was fun, in a strange, painful way. The weather was absolutely perfect- sunny mid 40’s at start. The parts where you could open up a little an actually run were lovely. The other parts were equally lovely, yet in a different way, one I am learning about. Flying down the trail, dodging roots and rocks I admit was fun, but also so challenging! I recognized the benefits of the 5 min repeats in my training plan (Thank you Krissy Moehl- Running Your First Ultra!!). Those were a huge mental help to know I wasn’t dying. I made a lot of mistakes during this race and hopefully learned from them. I now know my weak areas, for example hips and ankles, and will begin work there as well. My hips and ankles by the end of the race were DONE. Honestly, I have never wanted something to be over so badly in my life. I questioned my sanity regarding the 50 mile, along with just my general sanity, several times during the race and on the 2 hour ride home. Not my best moment in trail running. No worries though, as I said I made mistakes. The biggest of which was I ran it like a road race (hangs head in shame). I knew before going in it wasn’t, I have read all about how trails are different and what to expect, I have even run shorter trail race distances and sort of knew better. However, something switched in my brain and off I went. Part way through I even asked myself “What are you doing?!? This is a trail not a road race…blah blah blah”. It didn’t seem to matter and the ass handing began. I’ve spent last week and so far this week recovering, running slow easy stuff. Next time I will really know better and run smarter!
All of that being said, I am happy and proud of my effort and results. I ran 2:23:54 which put me 118/355 overall, 25/148 gender, and 5/27 for my age group. A solid trail start with lots of room to grow and improve!
This past Saturday I showed up to meet friends and run long before job 2. My run partner MK is adjusting my SI and asks: “Are your pants on inside out?”. “Dear G-d, is this what I have been reduced to?!?” I say laughing as I look down. Yes, my Nike capris were indeed inside out. In my defense, I had gotten up early and ran some before meeting them so as to get my miles in before I had to work. Also, my capris are solid black so in the early AM it is truly anyone’s guess as to the state of thin black fabric inside or out. The Nike swoosh was backwards, but again, early morning, dark and not awake… Luckily, my shirt covered the tag and key pocket that would give me away to the general public once the sun came out.
So that is what has been going on in my world. It is hectic, but I’m making it and getting my runs done no matter what the state of my mind, schedule or attire.
Now for some photos from the Quivering Quads trail race which is put on by Fleet Feet St. Louis. They did an amazing job!! Be sure to scroll to the last photo. It is the race medal, which is absolutely beautiful.
Another weekend complete filled with outdoor fun and running. Saturday’s morning run was a scheduled easy 5 that somehow turned out to be rough for me and my run partner. We just weren’t feeling it, but we got it done with a bit of walking and a lot of laughing. Saturday afternoon went far better though, with a hike and trail run. I have really enjoyed getting out in the woods especially this day, since my Sweet Babboo came with me. Ella has enjoyed the trail time as well and is turning into quite the trail whippet!
Sunday I was on my own again so I got to sleep in. When I finally rolled out of bed it was snowing! Yesterday it was just me and the geese.
This run went a lot better since I was able to sleep in and get extra rest. Rest and recovery have always been my biggest challenge and this is at the forefront of my mind since classes start again tomorrow. I have really enjoyed my winter break, yet it never seems long enough. Just as I begin to almost feel like a “normal” person, the chaos begins again. It can be difficult to balance working full time, being a university student taking 6-9 hours, plus running, relationships etc…. It is sometimes a challenge to fit it all in a day.
Well meaning friends (non-runners), have suggested before that maybe I should cut back on my running, that I do too much. I admit that may be. Running however, is actually the glue that holds it together and makes it all possible. It clears my head and brings focus to my day. While I contemplate the semester starting and my long runs getting ever longer, I know this year will be different. I am confident in my training plan. I am using the 50 mile race plan from the book by Krissy Moehl’s book Running Your First Ultra, which I will review as the months go by. I have also grown as a runner. In the past, I have been too rigid in my need to run regardless of what my body might be telling me. Or I am happily agreeing to extra miles with friends. This year I am not only embracing my rest and recovery days, I am fiercely guarding them as I do my running days. I am honoring my body’s need to recover in direct proportion to the gratitude I have for the running and movement it performs. Please, do not take offense to my ‘resting runner face’ if you ask me to run with you on a scheduled rest day. The internal battle you see flicker across my face as I politely decline is all too real! I know you didn’t know it was a rest day and believe me I want to run! It is almost impossible for me to say no to a friendly, easy run. I plan this year however, to train harder and smarter so I can run those friendly, easy runs for many happy years to come.
12/31/15: “Congratulations! You are registered for the Mark Twain 100 – 50 miler. Do you want to share this news on Facebook?” I pause, looking at the big blue button and decide what the hell. The news was then quickly spread on Instagram and Twitter. It was so much easier to to spread the news across social media than it was to click the submit button that charged my card and confirmed my entry into this 50 mile endeavor. Plus, I have sat down several times to write about it and then walked away. Why?
When I texted my run partner the news, I noted that I simultaneously wanted to smile and vomit. That sounds about right for running an ultra from everything I’ve ever read, seen or heard. As the congratulations came across the various media platforms, even though I hadn’t actually run 50 miles yet, surprisingly no one said I was crazy. Instead I had people volunteer for long runs and trails. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the tremendous support I had. Thankfully though, no one asked me why…
I wasn’t worried about other runners asking me so much as the rest of the population. Ask a runner why they run and you will get a blank look and then maybe a canned answer. If you get a canned answer, it is because they have fielded this question before and realized there is no one answer. I love running! That is the simplest answer for me and I think it is the obvious answer that everyone sees. Therefore, no one questioned my desire to run 50 miles- at least they didn’t to my face. The reasons why I love running are so intensely personal and varied, as they are with all runners. I could spend hours explaining why I run, the joy and peace it gives me, but there is no understanding it unless you yourself do it.
my meditation and spiritual time
health: both general and pain management for arthritis
helps with depression and anxiety from past traumas
friendship and community
dealing with everyday stress
discovering myself and becoming the best me possible
This is a short list of reasons in no particular order. These reasons listed today are not necessarily the same reasons as to why I started running to begin with. Even still, my reasons are not the same as yours and that’s okay. They don’t have to be. The emotions and feelings are still shared when the run is done and the finish line crossed. Because as you breathe and struggle next to me on the road or the trail, I share your pain and struggle. I have been where you are and I will gladly come again. We can cheer each other, silently if need be. Even if I don’t look over as I pass you or you pass me, know I have acknowledged you. I have gratitude for you sharing in this with me, this thing I love.
As for why 50 miles? I could describe to you my decision making process that led me to this. In fact, I started a post to do just that.It was well thought out and discussed with my running partner. Or, I could tell you other reasons such as: it has always been something I wanted to do, that I love being outside, I’ve been wanting to start running trails, I want to get a trucker hat, etc. The reality is I do not have a satisfactory answer as to “Why?” Which was why it was so easy to blurt out a quick sound bite across social media, yet so difficult to actually write about. I know the reasons I give today will change and evolve over the next 9 months. This is part of the process of running, the growing that is involved, especially running that far. I am looking forward to this and writing about it. The best, most honest answer I have today is I am curious. I want to dig deep inside of me, pull that out and take a hard look at it. I want to live. This answer I do not think will ever change and so I run.