29 May 2010

I don't need distractions to do what I love

I don't need distractions to do what I love. On my commute, I distract myself from the unpleasant tedium by reading. When I'm washing dishes, I blast KRS-ONE or listen to NPR. When I run, I don't want to distract myself from what I love. Even in 100 mile ultramarathons, I still enjoy being fully aware.

I don't listen to music.

I like to be in the present moment. I loved this perspective from Tony Krupicka,

I’m really comfortable being in my own head space. I don’t know. It’s funny, because I worked as a lifeguard for five years during part of high school and college and it’s the same sort of thing. You are sitting on a chair for literally eight hours at a time, where you get a little five-minute break every now and then. You are just up there with your thoughts. It’s the same thing with running. I think a lot of people have to have music on or watch TV or be on the computer. They have to be stimulated somehow by a screen or audio and it’s really nice. When I’m injured I really miss having that time each day, where I can let everything clear out and be able to think for a while. I’m trying to think about what I was thinking about today. For a lot of the time you are thinking about nothing. You are just cruising down the trail. You are really in the moment. That sounds so Zen and cliché and New Age, but that is kind of the point: it’s a form of meditation. But there are other times that I think about races and how I want the race to go. You know, basic visualization. That happens a lot, actually. But it’s not like something I do consciously. I definitely have those times where I can write a blog post in my head, but be so frustrated when I get home. Things were flowing so well and then you get home and you can’t even remember how you were starting it. But I never get bored—put it that way.

Next Race (a.k.a. because 50 miles isn't enough for me)

Because I think an ultramarathon will make my birthday a blast! (And yes, I'm packing homemade chocolate chip walnut cookies in the drop bags!)

18 May 2010

Leadville 100 Mile Ultramarathon


Just the name itself has the ability to instill fear and admiration in any ultrarunner, and many others as well. I admit I am very frightened of it...but kind of want to do it at the same time. I started going to as Pema Chodron advises on, the places that scare me.

Why is Leadville so scary? The race starts at 9,200 feet, and reaches a high point of 12,600 feet at Hope Pass. (I tell myself I can handle it - I visited V who used to live at 9,000 feet in Nederland and I was okay there. I even went running (getting lost usually in the woods) and didn't have trouble. I lived in Boulder for two years...but the thin air did kick my asthmatic butt from time to time.) It looks so tough..it has an insanely high drop-out rate. 

Iliana planted the seed in my head and keeps nagging me...and I admit I want to run the Leadville 100 Miler, maybe even this year. I don't know if I'm ready, but Iliana sent me a guide on how to run Leadville in less than the cutoff (which is a real killer at just 30 hours). Then there's also the financial implications; supporting my ex last year really drained my bank account, along with ultrarunning (not to mention the fact that I work at a nonprofit). I may need to take on some very unusual methods of raising funds for Leadville.

But I still have the taste in my mouth...I have terrible willpower (which is why I have trouble keeping chocolate in my house for long) and when I want to do something, I usually do it.

I haven't made any decisions yet, but it will be a little logistically confusing. (Burning Man is the following week and I can't afford to be flying back and forth so I might try to stay in CO and go to BM straight from there...). I'm not sure what shape I'll be in (My doctor hasn't even seen me to give me the okay on running yet!), especially with running the Vermont 100 Miler the week before. But the idea keeps circulating...and circulating....

I know I've posted it before, but I'm still dreaming...

16 May 2010

Long Slow Road to Recovery

Right now, I'm trying to make patience my mantra but it's hard. It's hard when all I want to do is run, run, run! I guess this recovery is teaching me patience. I have not run yet, which is a miracle. I'm mostly feeling in no pain, though certain movements do cause pain (and whenever someone (inc. my cat) bumps into my incisions, which seems to happen way too often). The rest of this week I plan on resting, sleeping, and taking walks when I feel up to it. I hope to have a smooth recovery to running.

I've had a pretty crazy year. Thinking back to a year ago, my life was completely different. I went from living with someone who I was going to spend my life with to being completely stepped on by them and being single. I went from feeling healthy to having surgery that reshaped my confidence in my health (and has prevented me from running for at least 2 weeks!). I went from feeling like I understood the world and my future...to not knowing what comes next.

I don't know where I'm going. Maybe I'll be single my whole life, just running lots, working, traveling. Maybe I'll fall in love with someone I meet buying milk tomorrow. Maybe I'll quit my job and become a dancer on a cruise ship. Maybe none of these things will happen, and maybe all of them will. I don't know. I just know I have to not plan so much and be ready to welcome anything that comes my way with open arms.

Still, I can plan and dream. Right now, I'm planning on upping my training once my doctor approves. I hope to start training twice a day, doing a lot of commuting on my feet. I hope to go sub-24 at Vermont. I want to do Leadville 100 Miler. I want to do the Sri Chinmony 6 day race in Flushing. I want to get my book published. I want to see my grandfather live to his 91st birthday. I want to help my sister run her first marathon. I want to travel around Central America. I want to dye my hair pink, again. I want to get another piercing in my ear. I want to surf better.

And I don't want to just want - I want to do these things. And I will.

09 May 2010

Do You Know Where Your Limits Are?

Right now, I'm taking things very easy, recovering from surgery. I'm out of work another two weeks, and I don't think I'll be running too soon. I went for a walk today, which was successful in that I didn't pass out, but I am pretty tired from that. I'll be heading to bed pretty soon (around 8:30pm). Getting back to normal is going to be a slow process and I'm trying to be smart. My doctor's appointment is next week and I hope the 24th to be the magical date upon all is normal.

My mother got very upset with me before. "You don't know when to stop. You worry me..." My painful performance at Miwok 100k worried the hell out of her. To recap, my shins hurt, my feet were swollen with blisters, my asthma was bothering me, and I was terribly dehydrated. I was crying much of the last 12.5 miles. I was so proud of myself that I didn't quit.

"I want you to promise me that you know when to quit." I knew none of those things were causing permanent damage, just temporary misery. The misery wasn't so overwhelming, and I knew once I stopped I would feel relief...but how amazing it felt to finish when I was so weak and I had struggled so hard.

Was it smart that I pushed? Do I not know when to stop? How can I stop when I'm constantly pushing? My mother asked me these questions  and I didn't know how to answer. I know how to be strong; how to push; how to keep going and dig deep; how to grin and bear it. Sometimes, digging deep is harder than other times. Miwok was mentally a challenge because of the pain and dehydration...but when should I stop? How do I figure that out?

07 May 2010


I am recovering right now from surgery. This means no work (yay), no running (boo!), lots of pain (boo!) and lots of painkillers (ugh). I've been napping, forcing myself to eat so I can take more painkillers, drinking lots of tea, and watching movies w/ my dad.

For years, I've had painful periods, heavy & extremely long periods. Starting since I was just 13, I've seen many doctors who never could figure out what was going on; I've had MRIs, ultrasounds, sonograms, blood tests, bed rest, various pills, medicines...no one can figure out what the deal is. After the latest bout of bedrest last November after a bad period, my doctor and I had a really long talk. She consulted an expert doctor, Farr Nezhat, and recommended I see him.

I was really impressed with the thoroughness and knowledge of the doctors at my first appointment. We decided that the way to (hopefully) solve & determine my problems would be to investigate. My doctor for years had been wanting to do a D&C, so that would be part of it. They also would be reconstructing my uterus as I had a septum (which is abnormal), and doing a hysteroscopy and laparoscopy.

So I prepped by getting my full of running - Umstead, followed 3 weeks later by Boston, a week and a half later with Miwok 100k. The surgery means no running until I'm recovered.

I got surgery and everything went remarkably well. I've had some pain and the painkillers have really helped. I was a complete wreck after the surgery, but am able to mostly walk around by myself. I haven't taken any walks yet anywhere far, and am planning on taking things very easy the next few weeks. I can't go back to week for another 2 weeks, so I'm taking it easy, letting myself recover. I'm hoping I can start running then and getting back to normal. Until then, I'm sitting on my parents' couch, watching Mamma Mia and reading books.

03 May 2010

Miwok 100k Videos!

I've never taken videos during a race before, but these two videos should give you a good idea of how I act during a 100k race...

Mile 46 or so...
Mile 57 or so....

The Miwok 100k

I was really excited to run the Miwok 100k – it was on some of the same trails as the North Face Challenge – San Francisco 50 Miler, trails that are so gorgeous you will (if you are me), shout to the nearest runner, “Oh my god! Isn’t that gorgeous?” It is that amazingly beautiful. It makes me want to pack up my cute little apartment and head to the left coast for a lifetime of amazing trail running.

The race started at 5.40a.m. on the Beach. Starting on sand was a little challenging, but fun. We quickly filed into one-by-one and headed up a trail. Some people had headlamps, but most didn’t. We all went on a short out-and-back, and I got to see some of my friends, which was really nice – and of course, be wowed by Kami Semeck, Anton K., Jen Shelton, among others.

The hills were tough, but I was feeling pretty good. However, I very quickly felt the heat. At mile ten, I dropped my long-sleeved shirt and gloves into my first drop bag, and headed on. Around mile 15, I realized I would soon be out of water. I’m usually fine at ultras – but I usually don’t run upwards of 7 miles with no water, and I’m usually not suddenly thrust into heat like this.

At the mile 19 or 20 aid station, I asked a volunteer if they had an extra water bottle. We improvised; she filled an empty plastic juice bottle with water.  I ran with this rather awkwardly the rest of the way.

The course was full of ups and downs…I got passed on those horrible, somewhat technical section leading down to the beach, but then felt strong going upwards. There was tripping, gasps at beautiful views of the water, of beaches, of rolling hills. I could not believe there were this many trails with phenomenal views, just outside one of the coolest cities in the U.S.

Mile 28.5 (and again around mile 40-ish) had a great Hawaiian theme, complete with leis, popsicles, potatoes, and very friendly faces. Scott Jurek was helping out; I think his girlfriend was running the race as well.

Everyone loved my all-pink ensemble: pink visor, pink tank, pink polka dot skirt, pink compression sleeves, pink gaiters. “The pink lady!” It cheered me up, but at the end, when people told me how good I looked, I ensured them that I felt like utter crap.

I tripped on the clumsy grass and fell. A man running behind me had me take a salt pill, and I stumbled on awkwardly. I felt like I was falling apart.

Around mile 49, I just wanted the stupid race to be over. That’s why 50 milers are my favourite race: just when you’re aching for it to be over, it is.

I continued on, mostly alone, as I was most of the race. I met some kickass people, but found myself running ahead of them or falling behind – towards the end of the race, it was mostly falling behind.

My shins were aching increasingly, on the lower anterior portions. I could feel blisters growing. I was very sunburnt, dehydrated, lacking salt, electrolytes, sugar. My asthma (usually quite in control) was not very stable and I found myself using my inhaler multiple times, especially whenever I tried to push it on an uphill. (At the end, I simply walked every uphill rather than run, for the mere reason that I was worried my asthma would not push me into a full-on asthma attack.) I was quite disoriented and was crying hysterically on and off the last 12.5 miles.

At the final aid station, not knowing there was another aid station (and hoping, oh please, we were almost at the finish), when a woman told me how much longer, I allowed myself to bawl in front of her.

“Take some ibuprofen,” she told me. “I can give you some.”

“I can’t,” I wept. “I can’t take ibuprofen.” Stupid surgery messing up everything. “I hurt everywhere,” I told her. “My shins hurt…my asthma is messed up. I have blisters and I’m so out of it. I hate this race.”

She listened to me cry. “Would you like me to run the rest of the race with you?”

I stared at her in shock. “That’s five miles!”


“No, you need to run your race.”

And that’s why I love ultrarunners…this woman, who did now know me at all, would throw her race (and any training she had put into it) to help me – a complete stranger. (I remember at The Boston Marathon when I paused to find my endurolytes, completely dizzy and not a single runner offered support. Road runners are a different breed.)

I encouraged her to go on, and was weeping as I entered the final aid station.

The volunteers were quite concerned. They made me take endurolytes, eat jellybeans, cookies. “Sugar depletion,” they diagnosed. They asked me if I was sure I was okay, told me I would be okay. Before leaving, I threw myself in a volunteer’s arms, completely bawling. I felt selfish for crying at a wonderful, beautiful race when I have so much to be thankful for in this world, but I just couldn’t stop.

I went on, crying, eating jellybeans. I stopped crying, and pushed it up the hills. The last 3.8 miles felt like 20. I used my inhaler, cursed my shins, struggled on the climbs, cried some more.

Finally, you get to the top and see the race down below. It looks so close – but it’s SO far. Much of the downhill was on asphalt, and I’m pretty sure the course is designed this way is so that it could torture my aching shins. I almost cried with each and every step, and tried to run in a very controlled fashion.

The finish was windy, but beautiful – waves crashing in, cheers. I crossed the finish line and began crying out of control. Karen helped me, along with some of the race volunteers. They covered me with blankets as I cried, shivering, suffering. It was over, but I still hurt. I lied down on the dirt ground in front of the heat lamp with a fleece blanket saying MIWOK 100k (BTW, great race swag: a t-shirt, hat, bottle, bag, bottle of beer, blanket, more), crying, shivering.

I woke up, sunburned, in pain, feeling horrid. I felt nauseas, almost like I had the flu. Was it sunburn? Was it hell? Who knows, but it sucked.

I got this feeling of being so selfish for not enjoying this beautiful race and wonderful opportunity (especially when I won’t be able to run post-recovery), but I just couldn’t make myself do it.

Overall, it was a beautiful struggle. I’m SO glad I finished, although the end completely sucked and was painful and unhappy. However, finishing when you’re in pain – it proves just how strong you are.

And just because I’m from New York and weak on the hills doesn’t mean I’ll let the hills conquer my soul.