Friday, March 28, 2014

Galveston Mardi Gras Half Marathon 2014

This was a race I've been wanting to do!  The stars finally aligned and it was going to be a great weekend with Tara, Erin, Jeremiah, Rich and myself all in this race together.  Tara, Erin and myself even coordinated a subtle Mardi Gras theme to our outfits.  One thing you should know about me is that I LOVE a low hassle race.  Some people go for the big expo, lots of people on the road sort of thing but I dig a race that gets me in and out of packet pick up, has easy parking and has just enough people on the course to make it interesting.  This is one of those races.

I was fresh off of my 50, well 34 miler the weekend before but I was really looking forward to this race.  Tara and Erin are two of my absolute favorite people.  We all run together well.  No drama, no complaints if someone is having an off day, no one holding anyone back that is having a on day-we're just friends and it works.

We lined up and took off.  I already had to pee.  How does that happen?  I was determined to ignore it and thoroughly enjoying the candy colored gingerbread houses along the first part of the route.  Galveston is full of interesting architecture and history.

On my legs were the new and looser calf sleeves I bought to try.  HUGE mistake.  For some reason anything on my calves makes the muscles burn.  As we reached the seawall, I jumped onto the sidewalk, laid down on my back and begged Erin and Tara to strip them off of me.  They did.   God bless them.

Soon my calves were feeling better but my need to make wee was not.  Oh I really have to go!  We spotted a public portajohn on the boardwalk and decided I should go for it.  As often happens when you really need to go, it wasn't empty.  Tara and Erin patiently waited with me even though they didn't have to.  Have I mentioned that they are the best people in the world?

Ah!  Much better.  Now I can get on to the business of running before I completely lose the skin on my already blistered and taped toes.  It was just one of those days where we weren't all matching paces.  It happens.  As always no one minded.  I ended up separated from the group trying to get to the finish line before my toes could stop me.   I saw a lot of my friends along the seawall then again when we looped through a newer neighborhood.  My friend Cecilia actually took the picture.  She's a better runner than I am and everything in me wanted to stay right there and enjoy my time with her but I knew anything other than the pace I had going would be a mistake.

The race loops back into more historic homes.  I was passing people with the funny little running form I'd adopted to keep as much pressure as possible off of my toes.  It honestly didn't dawn on me that something was amiss until the fifth or sixth person I passed gave me quite the odd look.  Oh well, to the finish line with me. 

The best part of this race was the camaraderie .  We ate together after the race, talked and told stories.  Richard and I host or volunteer at a lot of our local races so we don't always get to be on the course with our friends.  It was so good.  Good course, good memories, good friends-a true homerun.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rocky Raccoon 34

Rocky Raccoon 50 2013 was hard.  Somehow I forgot that and on a bright, sunny day in June I signed up for RR 2015.  It made perfect sense at the time.  I'm a hypothyroid patient with stage four endometriosis and frequently recurring ovarian cysts, pushing my body through a 50 miler one more time sounded like something I wanted to do.  As silly as that sounds I am actually 100% serious.  You see the thing that ticks me off the most about whatever is wrong with my body, medical science doesn't fully understand so I don't either, is that it comes with limitations.  I'm not willing to accept limitations.  The nursing diagnosis for this is known as Ineffective Denial.  I signed up and decided to take my training much more seriously this year.

Step one was to figure out why I blistered so badly the first year.  The blisters started at mile 16 and had a very negative impact on my run.  They were intense enough that they lifted off the toenails on both of my pinky toes and split the skin down to the meat. This year, I was determined to conquer them.  I bought four different pairs of trail shoes.  Some people say you don't need trail shoes for Rocky.  We went to store after store explaining my issue and no one had an answer.  I changed socks, I tried lubes, I tried powders, I tried antiperspirants, I tried tape-reconfirming my horrible tape allergy, I tried double socks, I even read the book "Fixing Your Feet".  No success.  Nothing I tried got me over 16 miles without blisters, except for my New Balance testers and I had to send those back before the race. Fatal move, as NB generously agreed to let me keep them for the race but I sent them back because of my stubborn feeling trail runs should be done in trail shoes.

Step two was to strengthen my gluteals and ankles as the 17,652,854 roots on the trail are probably the biggest terrain challenge.  No turned ankle was taking me out the race if I could help it!  I went to the gym and did embarrassing, weird movements in order to challenge myself and make useful neuromuscular connections.  Good news, it worked!  Not one sprained ankle.  Everything I semi-tripped over was answered immediately by my body with minimal effort.

Unfortunately the blisters were not good news.  My problem reared it's ugly head again.  I just didn't have the strength to soldier through them this time. My friend Sandy was tearing up the course and looking strong  My good friends John and Willie tried to encourage me but my body was simply too tired to handle the pain.  They both went on to finish their first 50 miler.  I did not.

Somewhere around mile 26 I realized my chances of finishing this race were slim.  Both of my pinky toes felt 5 times bigger than they were.  I was altering my gait to compensate and it was causing all kinds of hip and low back pain. On top of this, the debilitating fatigue I'd developed at the end of January was crushing my will.  I'd never DNF'd a race before.  Could my ego handle it?  If this had happened a few years ago the answer would have been no.  It would have embarrassed me and bitten into my sense of self worth.  But here's the thing about running, it teaches you to fail without failing.  During the long miles of training, the races where I performed well and the ones that I didn't, the shared journey with other runners in the trenches, the deeper understanding of myself that came with every physical challenge, I had begun to change.  I was no longer defined by how far, how fast or the comparison of other runners around me-I was just me, just running because I love it.

I'm not fast.  I'm not impressive. My body is never going to operate normally.  No one is ever going to want to know my training secrets.  Somehow though, all of that was pushed aside and running belonged to me.  I was no longer looking for someone to tell me that.  I was owning it.  It was the most remarkable feeling of freedom and connection.  I was free from letting anyone else ever define my running again.  I had taken on a challenge and passed it.  I didn't feel like less of a runner and something inside of me was excited about sporting a RR 50 shirt with a giant Sharpie DNF on it.  I earned that DNF.  At mile 34 my race was over but my running was not.

 Running has done something else for me too.  I learned that antihistamines disrupt my hormones  causing even greater ovarian cyst/endo issues.  Symptoms have made it pretty obvious that this was the cause of the debilitating fatigue that began in January.  We thought it was allergies and it probably did have an allergy component.  Unfortunately my issues tripled on antihistamines instead of resolving.    Without running I might downshift my life to meet my energy levels. I might have gone through the motions of what needed to be done in a day and then laid on the couch in my downtime.  Not anymore.  Running has given me a great tool to know when something is off.  It still befuddles me but I'm learning.   I'm recognizing patterns and I'm fighting back.  I earned that DNF!