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!

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