My Hippie Life

March 30th, 2017 marks the day I officially became a hippie. On that day, somewhere shortly after noon, I had hip surgery at the Vail Valley Surgery Center with Dr. Marc Philippon.

Hip History

My hip gave me some trouble several years ago. In 2009, I turned 40 and my ass fell off. Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but, I trained really hard and ran a couple of good (for me) races, culminating with an 8th place finish at the American Discovery Trail Marathon. I won a little cash and enjoyed the race tremendously.

Tonia ADTM awards

I went home, very sore and spent the rest of the day reclining on the couch. The next day, I could not stand up straight. I was bent over like a 132-year-old person. Imagine my surprise when I saw my picture gracing the front of our local newspaper’s sport section (photo courtesy of the Gazette).

Tonia ADTM Gazette

How on earth did I go from feeling good and running well to being 132 years old?

An Eternity in the Pool

After ADTM, I spent months seeking a firm diagnosis on what was wrong, but doctors could not seem to agree.  ‘Maybe’ it was a labrum tear. I definitely had a stress reaction or hairline fracture to the pelvis. Some soft tissue damage. The possibility of labrum surgery was introduced at that point in time, but after doing a lot of research on the procedure, I decided I really needed to spend a long time trying to recover and rehab. I could not put my body through a procedure with an extremely long recovery without knowing for sure if the labrum was torn.

No Love at First Sight

I spent the next 9 months not running a step. I decided I would swim for recovery. I am not a swimmer. Sure, I can keep myself afloat long enough that I will not drown, but I have no technical swimming ability under my belt.

I hated every minute of swimming. The pool was cold and I was miserable every single time I got in the water. As much as I hated it. I never gave up. Over the course of 9 months, I swam nearly every day. Sticking with it paid off in spades when I got back into running. Becoming a terrible but committed swimmer kept me in great shape. When I started running again, I was grateful I had spent all of those months in the pool.

Eventually I got back into running, then racing and ultrarunning.  I never went back to the pool. I never thought I would need to.

Groin Pain or Hip Pain?

While the outside of my hip did not bother me, I occasionally developed what I thought was ‘groin pain’. As it turns out, ‘groin pain’ can actually be hip pain. For months following Run Rabbit Run, I did all I could to get better, but the pain never went away. Sometimes it was more or less intense than others, but it was always there.

Hip Surgery

After consulting with several medical professionals, I decided it was ‘now or never’ time. The labrum was now definitely torn and I needed to get it fixed soon or it might never happen. Results for this surgery seem to depend upon multiple factors, including the surgeon, the rehab work after surgery and the joint itself. If there is too much arthritis, the outcome of a labrum repair will not be good.

Fortunately for me, Dr. Philippon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail was willing to take me as a patient. (Read about the Steadman Clinic HERE) When his clinic contacted me and said he was willing to take me as a patient, I was thrilled. He is a pioneer in hip arthroscopic surgeries and has worked on many professional and elite amateur athletes. (Read more about Dr. Philippon HERE) Though he has strict criteria/requirements for his surgical patients and their recoveries (patients must stay in Vail for Physical Therapy for 4-5 days minimum post-op), I felt that going to Vail would give me the best shot for coming back to running.

I received excellent care in Vail and cannot say enough good things about the Steadman Clinic and Howard Head Sports Medicine. Within hours of my surgery, a physical therapist visited me in the hospital and got me on an exercise bike. (Visit Howard Head HERE)

Vail hospital Bike

I went to physical therapy twice per day for four days after surgery. On the fifth day, I went to morning PT and then all the hip patients went to the Avon Rec Center for a session in the pool.

hip class

How Did I End Up Here?

My labrum tore due to Femoroacetabular Impingement, a condition where excess bone on the hip socket (pincer type) and/or femoral head (cam type) causes damage to the labrum and cartilage. I had both types of impingement, so I ended up having the femoral head reshaped and excess bone cut off the socket. In addition, Dr. Philippon repaired the labrum and fixed several other problematic areas.

The Aftermath

The post-operative pain has been surprisingly manageable. I will be on crutches for approximately six weeks. I must use a ‘Continuous Passive Motion’ machine for 6-8 hours per day. The recommendation is to use it while you sleep, but that just doesn’t seem to work well for me. I do what I can and then make up the rest of the time during the day.

CPM

I am back visiting Kevin at Synergy Manual Physical Therapy in Colorado Springs. (Visit Synergy HERE). I ride a stationary bike and do my PT exercises twice per day, three or four days per week. On the other days, I am swimming/deep water running in addition to doing the PT exercises. So far, recovery feels like I am doing two-a-day training sessions for an ultra. In a way, I am.

incisions

It is amazing to me what surgeons can do arthroscopically these days. All I have are three small scars and a big bruise (not shown).

Lessons Learned…Looking Ahead

The good news is surgery went well. Dr. Philippon and the PTs at Howard Head believe I will be able to do whatever I want to do in time. The recovery from labrum surgery can be long and at 48-years-old my body does not bounce back from trauma the way it used to. I am trying to keep things in perspective and rely on my ultra marathon mentality to get me through the long road ahead.

I have already learned a few things in the last week-and-a-half:

  1. I hate being dependent upon other people. I knew this, but it has become even more apparent this past week-and-a-half. Since I am on crutches, I feel essentially helpless. I can’t carry anything. I can’t do laundry. I can’t fix dinner. I can’t carry a cup of coffee across the house. I need to ask for help with pretty much everything and it really bothers me. Why hasn’t anyone created crutches with robot hands? I would definitely buy them.
  2. Sometimes when you try something the second time around (or even third), you find you like it better…or at least you don’t hate it anymore. It was like that with running for me. I didn’t fall in love with running until the third time I tried to make it a habit. This is the second time around with the pool for me and I actually have been really grateful to have it as an outlet. I am thrilled to get real exercise and get my  heart rate up. I come home thinking, “I am tired and calm and that actually didn’t suck.”
  3. The pool feels warmer when you aren’t as skinny as you used to be. Also, swimming is hard work. Neither of these are bad things.
  4. Using crutches and wearing a brace makes everything take way longer than you think it will.
  5. As much as I hate it, sometimes I really have to rely on others for help. My mom, my husband, other school and volleyball parents have been life savers. I am grateful for their help.
  6. As much as I love running, I won’t die if I have to take some time off. I learned this already, but I am relearning it. Life will go on. I miss seeing my running friends. I will miss certain events this year. But, I will get back to it.
  7. It is good to have goals during recovery. Dr. Philippon and the PTs have all talked to me about my goals and I already have some in mind.
  8. I want to run again. I thought I would be doing Run Rabbit Run 100 again this year. Clearly I won’t be. But I believe I will run again.
  9. I also want to do some other things. Maybe I will take swim lessons. Maybe I will learn to rock climb when my hip is better. Maybe I will hike the Colorado Trail. I want to run but I hope to also discover joy in some new activities.
  10. I sometimes believe the universe is giving me signs. The gentleman who had hip surgery immediately following mine and who I spent lots of time chatting with at PT lives in Steamboat Springs and can see the Run Rabbit Run course from his house.
  11. I could live in a one room cabin with my husband and be happy.

For now, I am focused on getting through these next 4-6 weeks of crutches and equipment. While I know some days will be difficult, I am pretty at peace with the process for the moment. I don’t have a choice, so I may as well make the best of it. The mountains are still calling and I will be there…in time.

Seven Bridges selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if this is ‘The End’?

When I ran Run Rabbit Run 100 in September, 2016, I had no idea that it would likely be my last 100 mile race. I was blissfully unaware that my little 100+ mile jaunt through the mountains in and around Steamboat Springs might be my final ultra or possibly even the conclusion of my running ‘career’.

As hard as Run Rabbit Run was for me, I had an amazing time. (You can read more about my race experience HERE) Even though there were moments in time where I was really ready to be done, I knew without question I wanted to run another 100. In the immediate aftermath of my previous 100’s, I told myself I was finished with the distance. Only days, weeks or months later did I start entertaining the idea of running another one. At Run Rabbit Run, however, I knew before I even crossed the finish line that I would sign up for another one. Except now I think my days of toeing the line at ultras is over.

finish-rrr

Injury

It turns out the self-diagnosed ‘groin strain’ was something entirely different. I have a tear in the labrum of my right hip that is causing pain and making running difficult. While physical therapy can sometimes improve the symptoms of a labrum tear, the labrum will not actually heal on its own.

Complicating things a bit is my age. As we get older, we typically have signs of osteoarthritis in our joints. If there is too much arthritis in the hip joint, the surgery will not be successful.

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Soaking in the scenery (Photo courtesy of Tim Englund)

Debating Surgery

I have debated with myself whether to have surgery or not many times over since I first learned the nature of my injury.The recovery from hip labrum surgery is known to be very long and challenging.  If I don’t get the surgery, I might be able to keep running, with pain, for a while. Running in the hills puts extra strain on the injury, so that would be out. I could run short distances on flat trails to try to minimize the damage, but for how long? And would I be happy with that?

On the other hand, if the surgery is not successful, I may not be able to run again at all. What is the right thing to do? Take a chance on the surgery so that maybe, just maybe, I could get back to doing what I love? Or should I try to settle with what I consider to be a poor substitute for an unknown amount of time?  Do I take a chance on my passion and risk giving up running entirely? Or do I play it safe and hope to just be able to get in a couple of miles each day around the neighborhood?

Vermont 100

What would I have done if I knew it was the last time?

When I found out that I might not be racing or even running in the future, I was devastated. I thought about Run Rabbit Run and how I had absolutely no idea it was likely my final 100, my swan song. If I had known, I wondered, what would I have done differently? It was a race, after all, so maybe I would have tried harder, despite being injured, to turn in a faster finish time. Maybe.

I love competition and I get fired up by seeing how well I can do under any given set of circumstances. However, in this instance, I think I would have tried harder to soak up every second of the experience. I have wonderful and very fond memories of this experience, but I wish I could hold on to every second in my mind: the beautiful scenery, hugging my daughter at the Aid Stations, Larry’s amazing stories, the spectacular full moon that Laura made me take in, the sunrise with my husband and even those final hot and painful miles downhill to the finish line.

rrr-foliage

As we go through life and become acutely aware of how quickly time passes, we all seem to want the same thing- the ability to slow down time so we can savor the experiences. I have no regrets at this point about my running experiences. I have run many, many roads marathons, trail marathons and ultra marathons. I am three for three on 100 mile finishes.

Memories and Miles

Each race is special snapshot of a particular moment in the times of my life. I remember something from each experience which carries meaning for me. Sometimes those memories relate to where I was at a particular point in my life. Sometimes it is something as simple as the crowds at Boston or the scenery in the mountains. Either way, the memories the races evoke are incredibly special. I wouldn’t want to change the races where I ran as hard as I could. Still, all I can think when I recall Run Rabbit Run is how I wish I could replay the whole experience. I want to slow it down in the same way parents want to slow down time as their children grow.

More importantly, I carry running memories with me that have nothing to do with racing. I think back to how I started running with my dogs when I lived on the Gulf Coast. I remember the people I have run with over the years. I envision the beautiful trails I have spent so much time on since I have moved to Colorado. I have pushed my children in baby joggers and I have developed deep friendships on the roads and trails. My relationship with my husband has become richer and more rewarding as it has evolved over the years of running together. This is what makes running meaningful for me. It isn’t the races or the medals or the t-shirts. It is the all about the moments, the experiences, the time spent alone and the time engaged with others.

elk

I recently purged a bunch of my old race t-shirts. I even tossed an old Boston Marathon jacket I had. My husband was incredulous. He knew that jacket had once meant a great deal to me. At some point I realized, however, that it wasn’t the jacket that was important to me. The memories of the experience are what matter.

Who Am I if I am not a Runner?

In three weeks, if all goes well, I will have hip surgery. I hope to come back to running in time, but at this point I have no idea what the future holds. As with any major life change, it is frightening to have to give up something that has long been a big source of my own identity. I have now been ‘a runner’ for 20 years. Will I cease to exist as I once was? How will I see myself? How will others see me? Will I survive the long recovery period with my sanity intact? Will something else take the place running once filled in my life?

tonia run

Maybe I will come back to running, or maybe this will be the beginning of something new and undiscovered in my life. Either way, I cherish the memories I have built over these past 20 years. Push yourself. Run Hard. Run Fast. Run Long. But every once in a while, take the time to slow down and revel in the moment because you never know if it will be your last.

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Rescue Run Race Report

Happy New Year 2016! Here is a brief report on this morning’s 10k Rescue Run. I have run this race for a few years now. A couple of times I jogged the 5k with Peyton. Last year, I came back after an injury and placed second in my age group (you can read last year’s Race report here: https://mypancreasranaway.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/rescue-run-10k-race-report/ ). Coming back from an injury seems to be a theme for me at this race. Following a whole lot of racing in 2015, I ended up experiencing some heel pain. I have been running over the past couple of months, but have done no speed workouts, no hill workouts and no long runs. Up until a couple of days before the race, I was not even sure if I would be able to run or not. The Rescue Run is only 6.2 miles long, but it is a very hilly course and the first and final miles are on pavement. Every time I run on pavement my heel pain flares up, so I am trying to avoid it as much as possible.

Nevertheless, I enjoy starting off the New Year with this race. It feels like the best way to start a brand new year and the Rescue Run is a special event because so many local runners come out to do it. It also benefits El Paso County Search & Rescue, and they do a lot of great work rescuing people who get in way over their heads on the trails in the Pikes Peak Region. So many familiar faces come to the race that it feels like a New Year’s party without any alcohol. Adding to the appeal this year is the Inaugural Brewer’s Cup. The brain child of Vanessa Shawver, the Brewer’s Cup features teams that are running for local brew pubs. We have nearly 20 teams of 15 runners each competing in a variety of local races. The Rescue Run was first on the list for 2016.

Steve and I volunteered to work packet pick-up prior to the race. As we drove over, the thermometer showed us this:

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It was very cold, but at least it wasn’t snowing sideways like it had been in 2015.  We handed out race bibs and numbers for an hour-and-a-half and then got ready to go.

As much as I wanted to run the race, I had been dealing with a sore throat for two days that seemed to be sapping my energy and enthusiasm. But, I signed up and said I would work, so I figured I might as well go ahead and run. At 10 a.m. sharp, we were off. The first mile is a long, winding uphill. Even when I am in shape to run hills, this hill hurts. Conditions on the roads and trails were marginally better than last year. I seem to remember more snow and ice in 2015. Despite the frigid cold we have been having, the road was fairly clear and there were only spots of ice on the trails.

Since I was not feeling well, have had no real training and I have gained weight, I had no goals for this race other than “I hope I don’t embarrass myself too badly.” I felt pretty good going up the first long hill. At the top of the hill, we wound around some ups and downs over a combination of roads and trails. At mile 3, the foot warmers in my shoes felt like they were burning my feet. This is a case of ‘don’t try something in a race that you haven’t tried in training.’ I had to go with a new brand of foot warmers and they had me feeling like I was on fire. At least I wouldn’t get frostbite.

I enjoyed seeing lots of familiar faces along the course. I also liked seeing all of the various brew team shirts out there. It was fun seeing who was on what team. It also took my mind off of my side cramp and my hot feet. The last mile is a screaming downhill. I hammered as fast as I could without falling on my face. I had no idea what I ran in 2015, so I wasn’t sure if I would PR or not. I crossed the finish line in 50:51, which was good for first in the 45-49  female age group. I crossed the finish line, threw myself down on the ground and yanked off my shoes so I could get my foot warmers off. When they chill set in post-race, I shoved them down my shirt to keep my core warm.

AG Rescue Run

It was a pleasant surprise to win and AG award, but I felt badly because my husband ran faster than me but did not win anything. This is one of those rare times that it sucks to be a guy.

It was fun running with the Pikes Peak Brewery team.

pikespeakbrewer

And it was fun volunteering with my husband and seeing him briefly out on the course.

rescue run 2016I

As it turns out, I beat my time from last year by nearly two minutes. Conditions were better for running this year, but, still, two minutes in a 10k is a lot of time. So, I am happy with how the race went. I am feeling somewhat cautiously optimistic about the upcoming year of racing.

A couple of notes about the end of 2015.

I had the pleasure of working with some amazing people on the 2015 Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series.

A very special Thank You to Larry Miller, who served as Race Director for 26 years. Also, a huge thanks to Micky Simpson, who runs the accompanying kids’ series. Thank you to Bethany Garner, who was the club president, and my friend, for the last two years. Also, thank you to Thom Santa Maria, who does so much behind the scenes for the club that it is impossible to sum it all up in one sentence. Thank you to my husband, Stephen, and to my friends Tracey Anderson, Matt Hopper, Dennis Collard, Rick Hessek, Kees Guijt, and everyone who came out to help make the Fall Series 2015 a success. This is a great group of people who puts in an unbelievable number of hours behind the scenes to make these races successful. Essentially, for 9 weekends in the fall, these folks give up their time to bring a great event to area runners. It has been an honor to work as a team with them for the past couple of years and though the composition will be changing a bit for 2016, I look forward to working with them all again going forward.

Also, in November, my daughter, Riley, turned 18.

Riley's birthday

Stephen turned 50 and I surprised him with a birthday party.

Steve's surprise party

Finally, we celebrated Christmas.

steve and tonia Christmas

Xmas 2015

That pretty much wraps up 2015. It was an amazing year for many reasons. I had some incredible racing experiences. I remained cancer-free. I spent a lot of quality time with my family and my friends. I really cannot ask for anything more in life. Now, on to 2016!

Update on Willy the Rescue Dog

Just over two months ago, we adopted Willy the Australian Shepherd. I first wrote about how happy I was to have him as a new member of our family. Then all hell broke loose and he decided that he wanted to chase everything under the sun, including runners, cyclists, trains, loud trucks, and so on. My knee started to hurt from him jerking me as he took off after things. In the house, he was the dream pet, but outside, he became my little nightmare.

I admit that I had moments where I thought we had made a mistake by bringing Willy into our home. As my knee and back throbbed in pain from getting literally yanked around by my dog, I said the words aloud to my husband that I never would dare utter to anyone else, “I just don’t know if I can do it.” I hate thinking of myself as a quitter, and I did not want to give up on Willy. I looked at him with such love and wondered about his life prior to us. He was a stray when he was found. How long had he been on the streets? I knew he had lived with a foster home for about 10 weeks. How many other homes had he lived in? Had others given up on him? How many others?

I looked at Willy as I had these doubts creeping into my head and felt truly guilty. I did not want to be one in a string of new homes he got shuffled back and forth, in and out of. But, he was hurting me and, after breaking leashes twice so he could run after trains, I felt he was putting his and my life in danger. He loved to run and I so desperately wanted him to be my running partner. I had seen glimpses of real potential that first week, but now wondered if we would ever really be able to enjoy running as a team.

As we approached our two month anniversary together, I wondered if my husband resented having Willy in the house. An extra dog was creating more work and more expense. I had wanted the dog, after all, not him. I felt guilty every time I asked Steve to do something with or for Willy. I was the one who wanted the dog. I should be dealing with him. Then, one day, Steve sat on the love seat, scratching Willy’s ears and he said, “I really love this guy!” At that moment, my heart just melted. I knew I was carrying the burden of most of Willy’s ill behavior. But I knew that Willy was now really, truly, officially part of our family. I could not give up on him.

A Boy & his Dog

A Boy & his Dog

We have made so much progress in such a short period of time. He now rarely lunges at a runner or cyclist. He still gets excited for trains, but not in the same frenzy he once had. He is actually fun to run with now. There is no better feeling that coming home to his unbridled enthusiasm and excitement. No one has ever been so genuinely happy to see me every single time I walk in the door as Willy has been. The lady from the dog rescue had talked about different phases that you go through with a rescue dog, and the trainer talked about “3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months.” The first three days are the adjustment to a new home. The next three weeks are the honeymoon period and the three month mark is when you really see what your dog is like. I felt like we had skipped right over the “honeymoon period”. However, as we are working towards the three-month mark, we are seeing what a truly awesome dog Willy is and we are so glad we have him in our home and in our family.

Willy smiling on Section 16

Willy smiling on Section 16

Willy has acquired several nicknames along the way. There is Boxcar Willy (because he chased trains), Shotgun Willy (Because he always wants to ride shotgun in the car), his mobster name Tiny Ears Willy (because Peyton thinks he has tiny ears), and when his hair gets crazy, I call him Willy Idol (you have to be a child of the 80s to understand that one). We suspect he lived in a McDonald’s dumpster previously because he refuses fruits and veggies but loves to eat ice cream and french fries. He has a sense of humor and likes to steal gloves and socks. He loves to be chased.

Willy is, without a doubt, a full-fledged member of our family. I am so glad I did not give up in those really difficult weeks. Any adopted animal is going to have some issues. Our commitment to training and loving him seems to be really doing the trick. Willy is in his forever home, where he will be loved now and always.

Greta & Willy playing

Greta & Willy playing

Road Blocks

I have been uncharacteristically quiet on my blog for the past couple of weeks. As soon as I made my big announcement that I was running three races for charity this year, I hit several road blocks. I keep trying to remind myself that nothing is worth working for comes easily, and that hitting road blocks and dealing with them is just part of the process.  But, I admit that I have had some difficulty keeping my spirits up over the past couple of weeks.

We recently got a new dog. We have now had Willy for just over a month. The first few days he lived with us, he was a dream dog. In many ways, he still is. He is sweet, smart and loving while simultaneously being low maintenance in the house. Unfortunately, my new running companion has an off-the-charts prey drive. He wants to chase everything. By everything, I mean rabbits, squirrels, birds, other runners, cyclist, cars, trucks and trains. Our runs have been frustrating for both of us. They are frustrating for me because I spend much of my time trying to gain his attention and redirect him. They are frustrating for Willy, because, as a stray, he probably spent a lot of time chasing things and now, suddenly, he cannot do that. He thrashes, bites the leash, barks, lunges and does pretty much anything he can so that he can attempt to pursue whatever it is that has his attention. We are working with a trainer, but I am a bit disheartened by the fact that we seem to be making zero progress so far.

Willy loves to run and I had visions of him being my inseparable running companion. That does not seem to be happening. The worst part of this is that his pulling and lunging has actually hurt me. I have long scoffed whenever someone asked me if running hurt my knees. “My knees are great! They never hurt!” Now suddenly, after having been yanked around so much, my left knee has been hurting on every run. I went to the physical therapist and we have been trying some different techniques, including dry needling and taping, to see if we can ease the pain. Unfortunately, I only have about eight weeks left until my first marathon of the year, and 13 weeks until the Bryce 100. I should be heavily into training right now, and instead my training is being hampered by this frustrating pain. I have not told very many people that I have been experiencing knee pain for the past couple of weeks. It is almost magical thinking that if I do not speak the words out loud, the pain is not real. However, my amazing PT, Kevin at Synergy (http://www.synergympt.com/ ) has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. He had me taped up into a magnificent configuration and my first day of running with it seemed to go pretty well.

The weather has also not been facilitating the training process. Like much of the rest of the country, Colorado has been experiencing a great deal of snowfall and the temperatures have been frigid. While I never let the weather deter me from training, day after day of snow and cold makes training less fun. Furthermore, the slipping and sliding on the snow and ice is probably not helping my knee to improve.

In any event, I am continuing to do what I can. I am trying to get some elevation and climbing into my training program. This past weekend, Riley and I went part way up Barr Trail on Pikes Peak. There was a lot of snow but it was spectacularly beautiful, so I enjoyed every minute of being out on the mountain.

Barr Trail

Barr Trail

Colorado has the bluest of skies!

Colorado has the bluest of skies!

Riley on Barr Trail

Riley on Barr Trail

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The next day, Stephen and I ran 25 fairly flat miles. My knee did remarkably well on Barr Trail. I was very worried that the downhill would be excruciatingly painful. Maybe because we were running down on snow, it was quite manageable.The flat 25 proved to be a bit more problematic. My legs were tired from Barr already and I think the pavement exacerbated the pain. But, we got it done.

Smiling because we finished 25 miles!

Smiling because we finished 25 miles!

On Tuesday, Riley had a late start for school, so she and I went to the hills and got some additional climbing in. This time, my knee hurt a bit more on the downhill, but it was still manageable.

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Riley running down High Drive with Willy in hot pursuit.

Riley running down High Drive with Willy in hot pursuit.

There are few things I enjoy more in life than being out on the trails. I am so incredibly lucky that my lovely teenage daughter enjoys going with me.

Barr Trail Selfie

Barr Trail Selfie

Finally, something that has been a matter of concern for me is that I have been experiencing some issues with my blood sugar recently. My body does not respond to food and fuel the way it used to. Several times while out on the trail, I have felt shaky and weak. I only have half a pancreas, so it makes perfect sense that my body processes fuel differently. I am trying to figure out how to handle this and unfortunately, my doctors do not seem to know what to do with me. I have been told several times that they never see patients like me and that they will probably never have another patient like me in their careers. While I could function just fine for shorter distance races, I am likely looking at around a 30 hour finish for the Bryce 100. If I do not get this figured out quickly, this could present some real problems for me while out on the trail. I was extremely frustrated this week when I was told once again that no one knows how to help me. I had run 15 miles with a friend prior to my appointment. When I left, I was so frustrated that I went out and ran ten more. I am normally a happy runner, but in this instance I am allowing my anger and frustration to fuel and drive me. I will figure this out on my own. I am more committed than ever to reaching my goals. I will not allow this road block to stop me. 

So, these past two weeks have been stressful, painful and a bit disheartening. Road blocks are a part of life. I will figure out a way around, over or through them. These are all minor things. I made it through pancreatic cancer, and I keep reminding myself of that fact. I will find a way to work with my new body and do everything I can to succeed and reach my goals.

Super Half-Marathon Race Report

In December, I ran the Rock Canyon Half-Marathon in Pueblo, CO and suffered in pain the entire way. Since then, I started seeing a Physical Therapist for my back pain related to a disc problem. Right away, I felt some improvement. On New Year’s Day, I ran the Rescue Run 10K and felt much better. Today, I returned to the Super Half-Marathon in Colorado Springs.

Last year I ran this race with a friend after completing my first cycle of chemotherapy. This year I was hoping to push the pace and see what my legs had in them.Since my long-term goal is an ultra, I just trained as normal this week, although I ran slower since I was getting used to running with our new dog, Willy.

This morning, I knew Willy wanted to run. I took him out for about 2.5 miles prior to heading down to the race start. I had wanted to get a long run in today, so I figured I would add a few more miles on with the dog after the race. I got down to the race venue just ten minutes before the race was to start.I found bathroom so I could pee right before the start, lined up with a couple of friends and then we were off.

I have run very few half-marathons, and of course, I am still in cancer comeback mode.I honestly had no idea what pace I should run. So, I figured I would shoot to keep the pace comfortable on the way out and then either just hang on or push it on the way back, depending on how I was feeling. It was cold at the start, with temperatures only in the mid 20s and with a bit of a wind, but the good news is that there was very little snow on the course. I ran, monitoring my garmin more out of curiosity than anything.I seemed to be running in the 8:15-8:20 range on the way out.

As we hit the turn around point, the course begins a gentle downhill to the finish. My splits were a little more scattered, but generally were in the 7:50ish range. I found myself running with a couple of guys for the last couple of miles and we pushed each other,so that was nice. I ended up finishing in chip time of 1:45:54, which put me 3rd in my age group and 29th out of 265 women.

3rd in 45-49 AG

3rd in 45-49 AG

I am happy with my results. The biggest bonus for me is that I felt good. After being in pain for a while, it felt awesome to be able to test myself out. Pain was not my limiting factor, my fitness level was and that is something that I can work to improve. I ran 9 minutes faster than I did in Pueblo, at an elevation of about 1000 feet higher. Hopefully this means that things are starting to turn around for my running.

I spent a little time at the award ceremony at Jack Quinn’s after the race. It was great seeing so many of my friends out on the course, running, volunteering and celebrating afterwards. When I got home,Willy was waiting by the door. He ran another 5 with me, and I got my 20 miles in for the day.Life is good.

Rescue Run 10k Race Report

The big New Year’s Day running event in Colorado Springs is the Rescue Run 5k/10k. Stephen has run the 10k several times. Last year, we volunteered at packet pick-up and then ran the 5k with Peyton. This year, the weather forecast was so bitter cold that we decided it was too cold for Peyton to come and stand around at packet pick-up for two hours. So, Stephen and I both registered for the 10k and ran it solo.

I had very poor sleep the night before because our neighbors decided to shoot off fireworks throughout the night. When we got up, it was freezing cold and I felt hung over despite not having had anything to drink the night before. I believe I said, “This is stupid. I don’t want to go to the race.” Or it was something along those lines with some more colorful language involved. Nevertheless, we loaded up in the car and off we went.

At packet pick-up, my feet became so cold within minutes that they burned. I was afraid that if I stood outside for two hours, I would end up with frostbite. I had to sit in my car for a few minutes with the heat on full blast until I could feel my feet again. Remember, if you are running a race on a cold day, there are lots of volunteers who are even more cold and miserable than you are. I was thankful at that point that I was actually running and not working the whole race. Thank you to the many wonderful volunteers who stood out there for four or more hours so the rest of us could enjoy the race.

As Clark Kent transformed into Superman in a telephone booth, Stephen and I transform into runners in our minivan. We shed our many layers of clothing, put on race numbers and made last-minute decisions about whether to wear traction for the race or not. We opted to go with no traction.

Getting ready for the race in the van.

Getting ready for the race in the van.

Five minutes before the race start, Stephen and I jogged to the start line. There we saw tons of people we knew. What I love most about this race is seeing so many familiar and friendly faces on the first day of the year. New Year’s Day always feels so full of promise and joy. New Year’s brings the anticipation of new beginnings and fresh starts. Everyone seems to be happy on January 1. I love coming to the Rescue Run, even when it is freezing outside.

The gun went off and I ran most of the first uphill mile with my friend Meghan. We chatted and caught up until she took off ahead of me. It was good to take the first uphill mile fairly easy because if I run that hill too hard, my whole race could be shot. The race itself is run half on roads and half of trails, though the trails are not technical. That said, there was enough snow on the trails to make conditions feel slow. My goal for this race was to run as fast as I could without doing damage to my recovering body. I ran comfortably hard for the conditions.

What is most important to me about this race is that I did not feel horrible. The pain that had me limping and hobbling at the Rock Canyon Half-marathon just one month ago was so much better. I guess the PT and dry needling is already helping me. I am nowhere near 100% but this felt like an improvement to me. I haven’t cared about how relatively fast or slow I am. What I care about is feeling good at whatever pace I am running. Hopefully I can keep on this trajectory and continue to improve.

In any event, I ended up finishing in 52:36, which earned me second in my age group. As we finished the race, it really started to snow. It was very cold, and I was sweaty, so I got chilled very quickly. I had to drag out my big ugly coat that I have had for probably 22 years or so. I don’t care if it is ugly. It is warm!

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The highlight of the race for me truly was getting to see all of my running buddies at the finish line. I love the running community. I really do. It makes me happy to be out with friends at a race. There is nothing I would rather do on the first day of a new year than be out with the other crazy runners. They make me happy and I just love them!

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