conquer

Victories and Setbacks

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain,
torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage. “
Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is composed of victories and setbacks.  Great victories are always eventually followed by setbacks, and setbacks by victories.  It’s all a cycle. That’s just the way of things. Keeping this in mind helps me maintain perspective.  When I’m doing well, I do my best to enjoy it knowing it won’t last; and when things get rough, I remind myself that it will pass.

In terms of my life and ongoing struggle with daily existence after trauma, I’d say I’m on the victory side of things.  However, running has fallen into the setback zone.  My entire life I have been plagued by knee problems.  As long as I’ve been walking, my knees have popped out of place. The pain and other joint issues associated with this have always limited my running.  When I started using the Vibram Five Fingers (don’t ask me why it’s “fingers” and not toes), I noticed a dramatic improvement in my joint pain.  Basically, I didn’t have any.  I was hurting all right, but it was all muscular.  Everything was going fine and dandy until last week when, deluded with my new sense of limitless, I decided to up my mileage by a full hour instead of 30 minutes.

That is how I became rudely reacquainted with the nagging pain of IT band syndrome.  It’s a running overuse injury that I am all too familiar with.  Initially, I was not aware of its reemergance due to the new location of the pain. However, when it got to the point that even gently brushing anything against my tibial tubercle (the bony knob just under your knee) caused me to jump in agony, I decided to do a google search on “lateral knee pain” and then “pain, tibial tubercle”.  What I found was my familiar nemesis IT band syndrome.  Apparently, if you continue to run when your IT band is irritated, you develop terrible point tenderness –you guessed it– at your tibial tubercle.  So after patting myself on the back for pushing IT band syndrome to new personal heights, I looked up the treatment: six weeks of rest and stretching.  This was not an acceptable option.  Six weeks of “rest” would have me in the loony bin.  I needed to exercise for my sanity sake!  More reading.. there was also a mention of strengthening weak muscle groups- this seemed more palatable.

At the moment, I am trying very hard to limit my running.  I have been spending quality time with the stair climber and doing general conditioning/strength training.  There was a moment or two that doubted I would be able to run the marathon in Oct., or ever.  Of course, then I came back to my senses and realized I would never allow myself to quit.  Plus, if I tried, my best friend Randi would assuredly put me back in line.

Everyone needs a good friend to hold a mirror up when you need it, tell you what you need to hear (even when you don’t want to hear it), and hold you accountable.  Randi has been my best friend since high school; and while I have many incredible, amazing friends who I cherish, Randi is the one I can count on to do all these things.  I, through coercion, begging, and even a little arm twisting, have convinced her to do the Diva Half Marathon with me.  I have been “encouraging” her to do the Hartford Marathon with me as well.  Every time she comes up with an excuse or says she’d never be able to run that far- I assure her that I’m convinced she can.  When her motivation starts to wane or she gets discouraged by running injuries, I do my best to encourage her (like buying her cool running gear and books for her birthday).

I have to finish that marathon, IT band syndrome or not!  I need to prove to myself I can do it.  Plus, I want to show Randi that she can do it.  After all, she is the athletic one!  I would not only be letting myself down if I quit, but also my best friend.  There’s just no way that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be training for the NorCal Tough Mudder next month.  On this afternoon’s agenda, time at the gym with my very own personal trainer (my boyfriend Adam- the seasoned marathon runner and Tough Mudder alum)

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Fatigue- My Enemy

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nothing makes me feel more stuck in a rut than coming up a against a week without restful sleep.  Even when I am really making progress at life, all it takes is a few nights of nightmares for my “inner critic” to go crazy.  Fatigue makes me vulnerable, and it is always a reality check as to just how much work I have left to do and my road to a “normal” existence. The truth is that every day I am waging war with myself.  Like the cartoon characters with a little angel and devil on each shoulder, I carry an ongoing argument in my head with my negative inner critic.  On good days, I can tune out these thoughts (generally along the lines of feeling like an isolated, negative, unlikable, damaged, worthless person).  However, a few nights of sleep deprivation sends me into a tailspin of self-deprecation.

In my life before abuse, I didn’t stress over much because I had absolute faith that things would always be okay and I would always land on me feet.  It was a rosy view of things, but every problem I ever faced had always worked itself out without too much fallout.  I figured that if I was a good person and treated other people with kindness, generosity, and respect that I would – in the grand Karma scheme of things- receive the same in return.

Over five years of psychological, emotional, and ultimately physical abuse (not only on the part of my ex-husband, but also his family- whom I loved as my own) shattered my view of that reality. It was a gut-wrenching, devastating, and absolutely heart breaking  experience. There are not words to describe the sensation of betrayal.  A group of people who professed to love and care deeply about me had used me.  I had shown them nothing but love, kindness, compassion, and generosity; and in return I was greeting with back stabbing, lies, cruelty, and manipulation.  I didn’t deserve it, and I didn’t understand how any person could be capable of treating another that way.

As much as I want to regain my rosy-colored perspective of the world again, I have found it tremendously difficult.  The whole situation wreaked havoc on me both emotionally and physically.  The thought of ever being in that place again (of feeling completely unstable) still gives me anxiety and nightmares.  It literally keeps me up at night.  Not every night, but frequently when I’m over tired or run down.

I don’t ever get upset about any of the belongs I lost in my escape from my abuser; however, I am at times resentful that a man came into my life and took my view of the world as a safe place from me.  It is the ONLY thing that I miss from before.  It wasn’t his to take, and I want it back.  I want my sense of security back.  I want to stop keeping people at arm’s length to avoid getting burned again.  I want to believe that because I am a good person, good things will happen to me.

I am getting there, but it is a process, a LONG process.  That is why every time I get into a bad sleep cycle and the negative thinking creeps in I feel like it’s no progress.  One thing I have regained for certain,though, is my determination (running has been crucial in rebuilding both my determination and self-esteem), and I am determined to let go of worrying and focus on the positive change I want to be in the world. 🙂  I am also determined to get some sleep tonight!

Goal for tomorrow- short leisurely run with Penny, and maybe some gym time.

“I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!”


“I am woman!  I am invincible!  I am pooped!”

  ~Author Unknown

The amazing view on my run today.

Today I continued my quest toward running a full marathon!  I figured it would be a good day for a long run because I have not run much this week and will be working the next two days without a lot of other opportunity to get mileage in.  Earlier this week I had attempted a light, fast paced run; but my body was not cooperating, and I ended up at the gym instead.  I was a little disappointed, but got some solace in the fact that I survived 15-whole-minutes on the stair climber- which I hate more even more than push ups (and that is saying a lot!).

None-the-less, I wanted to make up for my less than par workout and gain some ground.  I got up early and straightened up the house a little before setting out.  It was still cool and looked like it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  I headed over to the Bridle Trail, a relatively flat, gravel path not far from my house.  I had not been there in several months, and thought it would be a nice change in scenery.  The trail runs through the woods, so it stays well shaded and keeps the temperature significantly cooler than running on the road.  I was actually a little chilly when I started, but quickly warmed up as I settled into my pace.  I chose my beat up asics over my vibrams because I don’t like running over gravel (or pavement) in toe shoes.

Not long into my run, I was greeted by another runner with a happily meandering chocolate lab in toe.  His companion lagged behind him enough to keep me company for a while before he wandered off again with his owner.  I made a mental note to start bringing my lab, Penny, out on more of my short runs.  (I used to run with her regularly; however, now that she is getting older, her endurance is not what it used to be. )

I had set the timer on my phone (which I use as an ipod) to alarm after an hour and forty-five minutes figuring I would just turn around and run back.  I hoped to be able to cover at least 15 miles in that amount of time.  For most of the way out I felt terrific.  I soaked in the beautiful views and wondered why anyone would run on the road when they could have a much more peaceful and splendid backdrop.  I was so absorbed in my surroundings that it felt like no effort at all, and I started to think that running a marathon would not be that difficult.  I frequently joke to Adam that “running on a flat surface is easy. I could run forever it’s flat.”

I was just beginning to believe my jest was true when I brushed my hand across my leg and realized I couldn’t feel it.  In fact, I could not feel anything from the small of my back down.  I wondered if this was what an epidural felt like.  Like any other endurance athlete (and I use that term loosely), I figured that if I ignored it long enough, it would just go away.  Besides, I wasn’t having any pain.  I tuned it out and kept going, but it didn’t go away.  Instead, it got worse.  Then my back and legs started to hurt.  I looked at the time.  I had only been running an hour!  This was disheartening.  I wondered if my asics were a bad choice.  Yet, I kept running because it was not just about the mileage- it was about training my body to keep going when it didn’t want to.  I knew I would have to get used to this feeling if I was going to get through over 26 miles.

By the time I was ready to turn around and head back, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to move my legs.  I was afraid to stop and walk, convinced that I would not be able to get my body to run again.  I began to doubt my ability to complete this task, and kicked myself for adding an additional 15 minutes each way.  At times, I was distracted by butterflies and bright yellow birds who seemed to follow me along with curiosity.  There were also a wide variety of wild flowers in white, purple, and yellows abutting the tree line.  I tried to concentrate on the scenery: a lovely pond, tall fields, small cottages.  However, my legs were aching and numb.  I didn’t think it was right that they could be both at the same time.  I kept plodding and hoping the time would go by quickly.

When I finally reached a stretch of the trail I remembered from early in my run I was elated- only to be crushed again by the long stretch before the next familiar site.  I thought it was funny how quickly I went from feeling like I could run forever to feeling like I had been running forever.  I dreaded the idea of doing this for over 5 hours and began to question why I ever thought it would be a good idea.  Maybe I was capable of running 10 or 15 K thanks to my vibrams, but this was starting to seem insane.

Then, before I knew it, I was back at the 2 mile mark.  I remembered how I used to struggle to run from my car to this spot and back when I was first breaking in my toe shoes.  Now it seemed like such a small distance!  Over and over in my head I chanted “TWO MORE MILES, JUST TWO MORE MILES!!!!”  I kept pushing; my body kept trying to quit.  I wanted to finish running, not walking.  I continued to drag myself until the sites became more familiar; and, finally,  I knew I was almost there.  I dragged myself all the way back to the car, and a funny thing happened.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t fall over.  I didn’t even throw up!  Instead I drove myself home and tried to stretch- until my lap was filled with a very happy lab and bulldog.

it got a little muddy

another view from the trail

You can’t always get want you want…

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need”

The Rolling Stones

Yesterday I completed the last 15 K of my YES Endurance Race journey.  Adam and I had both been sick all week, so I was terrified that I would not be able to finish (although I told Adam I would drag myself across the finish line if I had to).  Reducing the mileage was not an option.  I wanted to complete the longest distance offered.  Anything else would not feel like a challenge.  I had been training for weeks, and I didn’t want to sell myself short.  Unfortunately, the day before the race my throat was ON FIRE.  I had taken decongestants all day to try to relieve the sinus pressure.  That night I had nightmares about not being able to compete (and by compete I mean finish, as I have no delusions about my skill level at running).

When I awoke on the morning of race day, I was relieved to find I was feeling a little better.  Adam and I both got up early, took our decongestants, and had some hot tea to soothe or throats before heading out.  The weather for the race was beautiful, but a bit hot.  Luckily the humidity had broke!  It was not as crowded as at some of the other venues, but there was still a good turn out.  I was one of 7 women who had signed up for the 15 K option.  I recognized a few familiar faces, as the race has developed  bit of a cult following.

After a few minutes idle chit-chat, all the runners approached the start line, and soon we were off.  My body fought me the entire fist 5K, but I continued to force myself to run.  However, by the time I hit the steep hills my legs were giving out.  I wondered if I could survive 10 K let alone 15!  I kept reminding myself that “what goes up must come down” and that this stretch of hills had to end eventually.  I knew getting downhill would give my legs a chance to recover, and that (with any luck) the course would get easier.  Still, it was one thing to think it and another to force my achy, virus ridden body to do it.

It’s funny something as simple as a cold can really affect your running performance.  I was aware that the 15 K would be a struggle for me, having done a few lengthy runs on my own without hills as tough as the YES series offers.  Yet, I did not expect for my symptoms to affect my running as much as they did.  Frankly, it took almost all the fun out of it.  As much as I tried to find my rhythm and enjoy the scenery, my body felt like it was burning up, and I was having trouble breathing.  I sincerely wanted to quit- which is actually not unusual for me.  It generally happens at about mile 4 when I hit the first “wall”.  I had experienced it enough to expect it and to know that I would feel better if I push through it.  However, this was not my typical 4 mile wall; this was like hitting the wall for the whole first half of the race.

When I caught up to Adam, I could see that he was as miserable as I was.  This initially made me feel a little better;  but when I lost him a short distance later where the course split, I became concerned that he was sicker than he looked.  I wondered if he had opted for the 10 K path instead of the 15.  Then, as I had hoped, the course got slightly easier.  The hills were less steep, and I could finally feel my body settling into a rhythm.  I was still miserable, exhausted, and my legs felt like lead, but I wanted to finish.  I thought about how far I’d come, not just in the current race, but through the series.  I had already covered so many miles.  I knew that if I wanted to conquer the marathon in Oct. that I was going to have to get used to pushing my body through fatigue and exhaustion.  I couldn’t stomach the idea of quitting, no matter how enticing it seemed at the moment.  Besides, it was a long walk back to the start and would take significantly longer than just running and getting it over with.  Plus, I really wanted that finisher medal!

By the time I hit 10 K, I was pondering whether to take another shot blok or hold out a little longer when my body gave me the answer.  Too tired to lift my feet over the rocks, I tripped and fell flat on my face.  It took me a minute to get myself up and going again.  I so badly wanted to be finished.  I was desperately hoping there were no more steep hills ahead, as I was convinced they would be the end of me.   I was also terrified that I would lose the trail again, as I had already managed to get off track once and had to double back.  However, the further I ran, the more attainable the finished seemed.  Then before I knew it, I saw the familiar path back to the start, followed by a cheering crowd.  I sailed out the woods to the finish, elated to have found it at last.  When I looked I at my time, I didn’t believe it.  I was certain I missed a loop to the course.  Then the race organizer announced that I had won the female ultra point series (they tally the number of people you  beat and multiply it by the number of races- I won mostly owing to the fact that I was the only female to race all 4).  I was in disbelief, and then overwhelmed by dread.  I didn’t see any of the women that had been ahead of me.  I must have missed a loop.  I didn’t want to watch the other finishers, afraid I would see them and confirm my fear.  I was so terrified of being disqualified.  I didn’t even care about the ultra title.  I just wanted to be counted as a finisher so I could get the medal I worked for so hard.

They never came.  A few people finished after me, but not the ones I’d been following.  The last of the group was Adam.  He got loud applause, as a rumor had already been spread through the crowd that he was running with the flu.  I wondered if someone had seen him throw up on the course to arrive at that conclusion.  I knew he had to be sick not to have been way ahead of me.  We stayed briefly for the award  ceremony, but I never got the medal.  I wish I could say this didn’t bother me; but, in truth, I was devastated.  Once I got into the car, I cried (I’d like to think this was in large part due to a combination of PMS and exhaustion).  I felt cheated.  I pushed myself through pain and misery, through four races for a total of 46 kilometers and felt like I had nothing to show for it.  Sure, I had the experiences; but I wanted something tangible that I could put in a frame and look at on a bad day to remind myself of what I achieved.  Adam tried to reassure me that they would probably send it in the mail.  Despite the fact that this made complete logical sense, I didn’t believe him.  I thought to myself how silly it was that I would rather have a cheap medal than prize money and free race entry to an exotic race in Ireland.  Then I thought about the Rolling Stones lyrics about how “you can’t always get what you want…you get what you need”.   I realized that maybe, even though I really wanted a medal, what I needed was the experience of another challenge.  I was slightly discouraged at the idea of a 100 K race.  However, when I got home and looked it up online, I saw that they have a 50 K option, and that 2 nights lodging and a shuttle from the airport are included in the registration fee.  I wondered if this was part of the “free entry”.  Perhaps there is a trip to Ireland in my future…

Why Me?

Some people ask “Why me?”

I say “Why not me?”

Why shouldn’t I achieve my dreams?

What is holding me back, really?

If other people can achieve success and happiness,

Why not me?

I am capable of creating opportunities.

I am resourceful and committed.

I am no less deserving or able bodied.

Why not me?

What do I have to lose other than fear?