Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Canyon de Chelly, 2016, race report

(the canyon from above, taken the day prior to the race)

(a heart in the rock)

(dad's wife taking a selfie the day prior to the race)

(a hoodoo at one of the canyon overlooks)

(seriously, don't let your kids/pets wander!)

(spider rock from above)

Really, neither of us felt that we had any business even being at that start line watching the sky change as the sun began its ascent. There we stood, surrounded by elite and experienced ultramarathon trail runners knowing that we didn’t have many long runs, many trail runs, and a few (?) extra pounds on one of us. The traditional Navajo blessing had been given to all of the runners, and we were just waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the sun to peek over the ridge of the mountains on the horizon. No camera filters needed for this morning as the sky was streaked in pink, orange, yellow, and blue.
(photo courtesy of Benedict Dugger)

The sunrise is the birth of a new day and “the most innocent time of day,” (Shaun Martin, race director). It hasn’t been spoiled by doubt, or regret, or unmet expectations, or anger. The to-do list hasn’t yet been reviewed. The stress hasn’t started to build. It is just quiet and beautiful. Anything is possible, right?

Then, the first ray came over the mountaintop, and the mob started running…. through six miles of sand (even though it’s advertised as two). Deep, deep, deep sand. Serious sand. So much sand. And horses. And did I mention some sand? If sand made dust, Rose and I would have been left in it. We quickly fell to the back of the pack – my comfort zone. (Probably not for Rose so much…)
(the white horse behind us - Rose on the left, me on the right)

(horses in the background, and about a million miles of sand)

We were just approaching the second aid station when the winners passed us on their return trip. We knew then that it was going to be a long day, but hell – we always knew it was going to be a long day no matter what. We kept on. And on. And on.

We met James Bisbey from Scottsdale. He gave us some pointers (which I didn’t listen to very well) and snapped loads of photos, and then he was on his way. We would see him again on the climb.
(thanks for the photo, James!)

We were on auto pilot, and we just ran (and walked) for miles. Except when we were snapping pictures of each other. Or stopping dead in our tracks to look straight up a cliff wall. Those cliff walls sure can make you remember how big the world is and how very tiny you are.
(at the White House aid station)

(running through absolute beauty)

(she's always smiling)

(me and Spider Rock)

We were doing great until the climb up Bat Canyon when poor fueling and the change in elevation hit me. I didn’t hit the proverbial wall that I’ve experienced in other races. I hit more of what I suspect Trump wishes he might someday build. This was A FRICKIN’ WALL, man. Walk 100 steps, rest and dry heave for two minutes. Repeat. Rose took my pack and gave me a little Gatorade. Her brother met us halfway and hiked to the top with us. I’ll bet he wished that his sister had chosen someone faster and non-barfy with whom to run. Nope. She chose me.
(trying not to barf)

(brother, Timmy, joins us for the slow hike up)

We met James on our way up and his way down. “I didn’t think you would make it," he said to us - referring to the Bat Canyon cut-off time. Honestly, I felt GREAT until we started the climb. I had even calculated our time and figured we could be done in nine hours! But, by the time we met up with James again, his concern seemed completely reasonable as I could barely get two words out without wanting to hurl. Some Gatorade helped. It took us about an hour to climb the 1.5-ish miles to the top. So much for finishing in nine hours....

The climb was relentless. Not the steepest that I’ve ever done in a race (Sapper Joe, thankyouverymuch), but it was constant and ever changing. There were big rocks, small rocks, hard packed dirt, and sand. There were twists, turns, and scrambling over rock face. During the pre-race briefing the night before, we had been warned not to cross the orange ribbon marking this portion of the trail or we may fall off the side of the mountain. This is the time when we find out if they were exaggerating or not. They were not.

Before we reach the top of Bat Canyon, we are passed by a group of 12-ish year old boys who are conquering this upward climb as if it is a lay-up on the basketball court. Smiling, greeting us, having a great time while tearing up the trail.

Finally, the top of the canyon, and a blessed area to sit, rehydrate, change socks, use the tent toilet, and eat some oranges. There was other stuff, but it was the oranges that brought me back from the brink of misery. We collected our thoughts and started back down to the canyon floor.

She was sitting in the middle of the trail which was packed hard and scattered with rocks. The trail itself had finally evened out enough that I could actually run it, and I was finally upright enough to run again. Luckily for her, I was NOT actually running when I saw her. Otherwise, I may have stepped on her.

She was a beautiful gray/green color – unlike any tarantula I had ever seen before. (This isn’t saying much since I’ve only seen them at the zoo, the pet store, movies, and a scraggly looking one crawling around at Vernon Reservoir.) She was different enough to catch my eye, and I stopped, bending at the hips and knees – more at the hips and less at the knees because after 18 grueling miles, I actually wanted to get up again. After all, 16 more to go….

I shouted my discovery to Rose who was about 200 feet ahead of me. “Cool,” she shouted back. I think she found it not quite as cool as I did. She did grow up in the desert surrounding Lake Powell and has probably seen her fair share of tarantulas. I shouted behind me to Whiskey Stout (Imagine! She goes by the name of Whiskey Stout!) to let her know not to step on this beautiful creature as she made her way down the trail.

I didn’t have a lot of time because I needed to catch Rose, so I took another look at her and thanked her for showing herself, for appearing to me once she knew that I wasn’t going to quit this race, for giving me hope from her perch above the tower that is her home. She provided a magic cord to a Dine' man once so that he might climb to the top of Spider Rock and be safe from the treachery and danger on the canyon floor. I felt like she was doing the same for me today.

My thanks given, I stood began to run again always trying to catch up with Rose. I had forgotten to fish my phone out of my pack and take a picture of her, but I think that’s OK. I think that she will be in my mind for as many years as I can even remember this race, this experience, this feeling of determination, my newfound knowledge of myself.

As I ran (shuffled) into mile 19, I finally found my voice.

I had been searching for my voice all along. I had watched the video of Shaun yelling with the sunrise. I had listened with longing at the pre-race meeting as Shaun encouraged us to yell and sing and greet the morning, but all along I knew that it just wasn’t me. I yell, but usually just in anger. I haven’t yelled with positive energy or to release stress for – hell, I don’t know how long – and I’ve never shouted out to the dawn regardless of whether or not it is the Navajo thing to do.

Listening to the whoops and hollers across the canyon all day, I was jealous. I just wanted so badly to be that person who knew herself, who believed that anything was possible, who couldn’t be stopped. I just wanted to be moved so profoundly by anything in my life that it would cause me to yell at the top of my lungs because there has been very little (any?) of that in the past few years. I just wanted to know that I was enough.

Enough for my job. Enough for my family. Enough for myself. Just enough.
Not too broke, too tired, too grumpy, too stressed, too dull, too uncool, too awkward, too sad, too mad.
Just enough. I just wanted to be enough.
(smiling in front of Spider Rock)

So, after the spider on the trail, I ran forward with my eyes on the pinnacle of Spider Rock imagining the flattened top, white from the sun-bleached bones of the children that the Spider Woman had lured there and consumed along with the sun-bleached bones of my fears and doubts. I now looked down at the trail very infrequently because I had suddenly become sure footed. I finally ran with the confidence that I could finish the last 15-ish miles in my 700+ mile road shoes full of sand. (Note to self: next time, trail shoes and gaiters, for sure! Or running sandals….)

I began to talk to Spider Woman. I asked her questions about myself in hopes that she would answer. I talked to myself about myself because the answers felt as if they were right there waiting for me. As I talked, the lump in my throat grew, and tears came to my eyes. “I am enough. I am enough. I am enough,” I repeated over and over, and finally I yelled.

Unlike the higher-pitched, celebratory whoops that echoed from canyon wall to canyon wall throughout the day, my yell was guttural – less ‘woo-hoo’ and more of an ‘aaaaarrrrruuuuggghhhhh’ from deep inside – less happy runner and more anxiety-filled, middle-aged, overweight lesbian, mother of two with an inferiority complex and a debt-to-income ratio that needs some work.

And, it felt good. Really good.
So, I did it again. And again.

More than the past 19 miles got me here. The arguments about whether or not we could afford the trip. The conversation filled drive with dad’s wife. The beautiful preview of the canyon from the lookout points at the top. The tearful news of Grandma Nora’s fall. The nerves at the start line. The six miles (regardless of what the race director said) of sand at the start line. The wild horses, the perfect weather, the shade from the cottonwood trees, the other runners.

All of this was brought together in my mind and heart at that moment. The previous 19 miles, the (not enough) training miles over eight months. The same 10 pounds lost and gained and lost and gained. The 4am workouts.

It all came together as ‘AAAARRRRRUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!’ Along with it came the realization that for once – for now, for this moment and this race – I was enough.
(ruins at White House aid station)

(enjoying some fuel at the "arch" aid station)

(slithered away just as Rose almost planted a running shoe on it!)

The petroglyphs at White House aid station, the camaraderie of the other runners, our new friend James, the arches in the red rocks, the towering cliffs – it was all part of the run – all part of the experience. I felt connected to the race since the morning of Feburary 1 when I actually got in against all odds. I knew that this was a race that I was destined to complete. There was never a time – not even during the barfy climb – when I felt that I wouldn’t finish. There were times that I worried that I wouldn’t finish in time, but I always knew that I could do it if given the majority of the day.

We proceeded to run/shuffle/run/walk in to the finish line (but not before we had to run through that six goddamn miles of sand, again).
(another photo from James)

Rose and I finished 128 and 129 out of 130. Our finish time was 11:08:45. There was no shame in this for me. I’m as proud of this finish as I am of my first marathon finish 14 years ago. (How is it that I’m still the same weight?) I received my finisher’s medal – guaranteed by Shaun to have been hand beaded by Grandma Nora Yazee (and yes, I cried). I tried some stew and fry bread, but I couldn’t finish much as my stomach was still feeling sketchy.
(crossing the finish line, hand-in-hand)

(we finished!!!)

(such a nice guy!)

After a couple of crackers back at the hotel, I whined and belly-ached about taking a cold bath. I just couldn’t do it. So, I started to pour a hot bath. Then, I looked at my legs and realized that I would be wasting a good soak, so I turned off the water after a very short while. Two inches worth of muddy, coffee colored water later, and the initial filth was rinsed away – but not my feelings of accomplishment. Finally, I drew a piping hot bath and laid there for about 30 minutes, occasionally dreading the stiffness of the next day (which, by the way, never came. That ice bath nonsense is, in fact, nonsense!).

I wish I could say that I dreamed of that tarantula during the night, but I rarely remember my dreams. This night was no different. After a long and deep sleep, I awoke the next morning at dawn. I went outside and looked around for the spider, but she wasn’t there. That’s OK, though. I didn’t need her anymore. I was enough.

Briefly and satisfyingly, I was enough.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Salt Lake Marathon, 2016

I decided to run the Salt Lake Marathon on April 16 as a fundraiser for Huntsman Cancer Institute. This was the fourth time I've raised money for Huntsman, and it's always something that I'm proud to do. Of course, I run in memory of my mom. I have also had the pleasure of knowing my coworker and friend, Heidi, who has been fighting colon cancer for 18 months. She's amazing.

However, about a month before the marathon, I learned of the passing of another friend of mine, Sue Daylor of our Boston sales office. I worked with Sue for a couple of years back in 1998 and 1999, and we've stayed in touch since then. I didn't talk to her as often as I should have - something that everyone realizes only when it is too late. I didn't even know that she was sick; she never mentioned it which isn't a surprise... She was so funny, and so much fun, and she talked SO FAST! A single mom, she raised a beautiful daughter named Danielle, and she was loved by everyone. I promised a few people that I would dedicate certain miles to Sue on their behalf.

My training leading up to the marathon was good. I totally should have lost more weight, but since the first of the year (in 3.5 months) I ran 10.4, 12.3, 10.3, 13, 17.5, 10, 18, 13, 19.5, and 20.5 mile long runs, so I know that my mileage was there. I had the distance. Not the speed, but - well - I never have the speed.

I was hoping to PR, but I realized that my fastest time was at 10-12 pounds less weight. But, that's OK - I was fine with finishing around 10 minutes slower than my PR (knowing that a PR would have been the best...). Hey - I've done this before. This isn't my first 'thon. I know what to expect. I know that it's going to be a suck-fest at some point. I know that I'm going to struggle. I know that I'm going to finish. I know that I can do this.

Woke up at 4am to get moving and get my tummy moving - you know what I mean...
I did the dishes from the night before. I pottied. I got dressed. I pottied again. I hopped into the car and drove away. (Bub and the boys were staying home because nobody was feeling all that great.)
Uneventful drive into SLC. Found a parking space 1 block from the finish line (score!).
Hopped on the train and rode to the start line.
Met the Huntsman team for a picture, and then hit the line for the porta-potties.
Dropped my sweatshirt and pants at the gear check.
Got in line with "my people" (the slow, shuffling, 5+ hour runners).
Boom - race starts. It's all going according to schedule/plan.

I started my watch, crossed the start line a second later, and then high-5'd Mayor Biskupski!
The race started north into Federal Heights. All of the hills would be taken care of in the first half of the race, so what's not to love?
It was COLD, but I knew that I would warm up.
I was running at my pace (slow), and moving right along.... for an entire half of a mile.
I'm not even joking.

At mile 0.5, my heart started POUNDING. Not beating heavily. Not elevated. FREAKING POUNDING.
So, I stopped and walked in order to get it in line with my body and the actual effort. It didn't work. (Plus, I was mortified to be walking in the first mile.)
Fine, I think, I'll just keep running. It will come around.
I stopped, walked, crouched on my haunches, folded forward - you name it... But, nothing seemed to help. Not in Federal Heights, not in City Creek Canyon, not headed down State Street. It just kept pounding and pounding. I thought I could run through it. That's what runners do, right. We run through a twinge in the knee. We run through a side stitch. We keep going because everything works itself out, right?

At mile 5 - after running for 4 miles with my hand on my chest to feel the pounding (pace and strength) - I decided that I would walk until it stopped. I was was done trying to run through it. I was starting to get scared, and I was breathing like an asthmatic.
So, I walked.
I didn't power walk. I strolled.
There were times when I tried to run again, but I never made it more than a block or two.
My heart still never slowed down or softened in it's intensity.
My left arm was cold and tired.
Each passing mile, I got more and more frightened. This had never happened to me before.

So, at the split point (mile 9) where the full 'thon went left and the half 'thon went right, I chose to turn right because my friend/running partner/nurse was volunteering at an aid station. I figured that if I was dying, she would at least know what to do. I had walked for 4 miles.
Now, I've had many moments (every marathon) where I've said "Oh, I'm going to quit. I can't do this. I hate running," but I've always also had in the back of my mind that voice that says "No, you won't quit. You'll finish; you know that you will." However, on this day, I knew that if Tracy said to stop, I would stop. No questions asked.

So, as I approached the aid station, I could see the surprised look on her face. We had joked because she volunteered so that she could cheer me on/up at one of the hard miles, but then she was assigned to a water stop on the half-marathon course. As soon as I made eye contact with her, I started crying. I waved her towards me, and I'm sure that I looked awful. She ran towards me and asked what was wrong, but I could barely tell her because I literally could not breathe.
Tracy hugged me and tried to help my breathing calm down as I gasped "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!"
I explained - as well as I could - what was happening to me.
We sat down on the curb, and she tried to take my pulse, but it was so cold, and she couldn't get her hands to warm up enough. But, that's OK because I could feel it POUNDING in my chest.

I sat there for 10 minutes, possibly more.
I felt comfort and care from Tracy's presence. My heart eventually started to slow down.
Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped. All at once, I was just fine. It was SO weird.
I asked Tracy what she thought I should do. She suggested that I just walk in the remainder of the half. I rolled my eyes and said that if I was going to do that, I could just as well walk the full....
(I know. Logic goes out the window during a race. Runners aren't very bright. What was I thinking? Say what you want....)
I promised Tracy that I would turn around and come back if my heart started up again. Honestly, I was certain that it would start pounding again in just a couple of blocks, but I had to give it a try.

So, I made my way back to the course, and started moving again. After about a half mile, I found myself running at 10:20, 9:58, 10:40, 10:10, 11:00, 9:50, etc. I ran like that (with a few walk breaks) until about mile 17 or 18!
Then, the Gu and banana bites that I had eaten were right at the threshold of coming back up, so I slowed down.

My friend, Polo, was waiting for me at mile 19.
I knew that I just needed to get to that point. After that point, and running with Polo, I knew that if I had a heart attack then Polo would be able to do CPR for me.
So, I walked (WALKED!) up to my friends - Polo, Carlene, Mindy, Rose, and Mariah - and he was ready to go. Unfortunately, I made him walk for about a mile and a half while I tried not to barf. I was successful, but everyone knows what happens when you walk too long in a marathon: you never want to start walking again...
Finally, Polo talked me into running, and we ran, walked, ran, walked, ran, walked.
I walked longer than I wanted, and probably took up WAY too much of Polo's time, but he never let on.
He just kept saying "I think you can pass that guy in the green/orange/blue shirt/shorts/hat."
He talked about movies, his son's trip to Thailand, relays that he wants us all to run - whatever. He talked; I growled. He pushed; I grumbled. He waved and thanked volunteers; I glared. He laughed; I laughed - you gotta' laugh when you're around Polo...
So, he helped me slog out the final 7 miles, and I love him for that!

Finally, we saw the finish line, and there was one more person that I wanted to pass, so we pushed and finally passed her right before the chute.
I finished in 6:10:14. Son of a bitch! An hour and 10 minutes longer than what I wanted. Not 10 minutes, but an HOUR and 10 minutes.

I made my way to the Huntsman tent where they were tearing everything down. They thought that they had just missed me and that I had finished long before. Sadly, no.
I relayed my story to Coach Elfi, and we commiserated. She can't figure out what the problem might have been.
I said "I'm so pissed! Now, I just need to run a redemption marathon!"
Jen - the event coordinator for Huntsman athletes piped up and said "I can get you into Ogden if you just raise $400 more!"
I'll be honest - I'm 99% there....

I don't know what my mile splits were because I erased my watch in my anger. I do know that they were all over the damn place. 11:20, 16:50, 13:30, 9:58, 10:45 - nothing consistent.
I cried when I got home before I got into the tub.
I drank three beers that night and ate cheetos.
I walked 3 miles the next day.
I did DDPY and ran 3 miles on Monday.
I ran 5.5 miles on Tuesday.
In other words, my body was fine - well, unless you count my heart and lungs....

I'm running 10-ish miles tomorrow with friends. I hope Meg is there as she is a doctor. I would love to tell her my story and see what she says.
Right now, I haven't made an appointment to see the doc. If she says to go, I probably will.

Some (Kelley, Elfi, Carolyn) think that it was an anxiety attack. But, really - what did I have to be anxious about?
It wasn't my first 'thon.
I knew what to expect.
I knew that I wasn't going to win.
It was just another long run.
Yes - I was a bit nervous because I hadn't run a 'thon for 5 years, but I wasn't scared...
What the hell?
Others (Nate, Heidi, Charlie) think that it's just a fluke.
One (Linda) thinks that I might even be related to peri-menopause.

What could/should have gone differently:
weight loss
better mileage throughout the week
speed training
better hill training

Will I run Ogden or Utah Valley? We shall see....

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

RUN for the bus - literally

357 TRC run - but at 457 - whatever...
We ran through and around and zigzagged Stansbury Park. I couldn't do it again if I tried.
Charlie and I chatted the entire way. It was great. He's such a funny guy, and I really enjoy his stories and advice.
Then, I made a pit stop before going to the park & ride. I figured I had 20 minutes left and plenty of time for another 1.5 miles. However, it was more like 2 miles, and I ended up hauling ass but missed the bus anyway - as in I was getting stuff out of my truck when he pulled away. So, I had to chase him from the grist mill to Lakepoint. Even then, I almost missed him! Good grief! (I was running an 8:30mpm pace at the end, though...)
Stats: 6.25 miles in 1:11:57 for an 11:31mpm pace

Monday, March 14, 2016

dizzy DDPY

When will I learn???
Although my vertigo hasn't kicked in completely, I am a bit wobbly and off-center.
I was in no shape to be going up and down and here and there, so I chose DDPY - SU as my lunchtime workout. There are some forward folds, but most of it is done where I can keep my head in a neutral position.
Triangle and Twisting Triangle about knocked me on my ass, and there were a couple of Diamond Cutters where I thought I was going to tip over at the "hulk it up" portion.
Although they were really yummy chips, and the Shocktop was excellent, salt and beer are not on my menu for quite some time.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

post beer...

UG. I had 6 beers over the course of the day yesterday, and today's run was bleck!
We went to Sanpete to celebrate Billy's 16th birthday, and decided to sleep over at Jake's house, so I ran up to and past the Fairview cemetery and back. I only did 3.5 miles because blah....
Stats: 3.5 miles in 39:00 for an 11:09mpm pace

Saturday, March 12, 2016

conquering the BEAST

Woot Woot!
We started at the Grist Mill church, ran through SP, and then up the BEAST. I was running with Meg, so I was trying to be sure to stay with her. I just knew that she was going to pull away from me on the uphill because she always does. However, I kept up with her until the very end of the BEAST. (There's a chance that she slowed down to run with me, but whatever.) I ran to the top without any walk breaks for the first time! Yay!
Meg and I had a great conversation, and then Sandra and I talked all the way back. Tracy and Charlie were also running with us. They have a big race next weekend on Antelope Island.
Stats: 8.21 miles in 1:30:41 for an 11:03mpm pace

Friday, March 11, 2016

slow and easy run

Since I have a long run next week, I ran the USU loop slow and easy. It was windy which I don't like, but it was very do-able.
Stats: 4.62 miles in 53:51 for an 11:39mpm pace