fear

Waterbury Duathlon Recap

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

-Dale Carnegie

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It’s the moment you have all been waiting for!  That’s right, it’s time for my Waterbury Duathlon Recap!  Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die or get maimed.  That means I am now officially someone who competes (and I use the term loosely) in more than one sport!  I am a duathlete!

To say I was nervous going into this event would be a gross understatement.  Absolutely TERRIFIED would be a more accurate Imagedescription.  Luckily, my uber supportive and encouraging hubs came along for backup.  I was a little surprised when he registered because he had signed up for the Five Boroughs Bike Tour the day after.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love him?

Anyway… he made sure our bikes were all prepped and ready to go the night before, so we were all set to go in the morning.  After finally settling on parking at the YMCA (after driving around in circles forever a few times) and taking a short walk to the start, we headed over to registration.  Can I just say that I have never raced in an event that required an ankle bracelet for a time chip.  There were also so many stickers and bib numbers!  It was just a little overwhelming… especially given that I didn’t even know how to rack my bike.  It made me very grateful to have the hubs there to show me how to set everything up.

I was also relieved to have my first race involving cycling with our YMCA family!  There were lots of familiar faces, which helped to put me slightly more at ease.  Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.  All I could think was if I could just get through the bike, I would be fine.  My motto for the day was “go slow, have fun,” and I repeated it over and over in my head.

The thing that frightened me most was that the bike course was in downtown Waterbury, and it wasn’t closed.  This meant not only did I have to contend with my general clumsiness on the bike, but do so while avoiding traffic.  Are you freaking kidding me?  As if I’m not challenged enough. lol  Had I only known what was coming!

I think you could have given me all the time in the world, and I still would not have felt ready at the start.  My bike was racked, my transition area set, but there is just no feeling prepared when you step outside your comfort zone.  As crazy as it sounds I think I was almost more afraid of the USAT official than the actual race.  Not that she wasn’t a nice person, but it was more than a little intimidating to go from just running to a race with rules and penalties.  I was so scared of accidentally drafting or doing something I could get disqualified for…  As if the race official was going to care about those of us in the middle or back of the pack.

The first leg of the race was a relatively flat 5K.  It went by fairly quickly despite the fact that my legs weren’t feeling great.  I tried to just relax and focus on my running form.  I reminded myself that just because I didn’t feel great at the start didn’t mean the whole race would be bad.  If ultra running has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t judge a race by the first three or even ten miles.  As long as you hang in there, chances are things will turn around… eventually.

I was actually surprised when I looked down at my watch at the end of the 5K and saw it had only been 22 minutes.  I made my way around the park into the transition area and caught a glimpse of the hubs on his way out.  I tried to take my time getting set up for the bike leg because it was my very first transition and I didn’t want to forget anything.

roadrashThankfully, I managed to mount my bike without too much difficulty; even though I did accidentally release the fastener on my shoe by hitting it on the pedal and had to fix it before I could get on.  Still, before I knew it, I was clipped in and on my way!  I was relieved to find they had officers at each intersection to direct the traffic.

I just was starting to relax and think it wouldn’t be so bad when the hills started…

It wasn’t that the uphills were particularly hard.  Sure some were steep and long, but it was anticipating all the downhill that had me spooked.  What goes up must come down, right?

I was probably the only person who dreaded those down hills more than the up.  As it turned out, it was with good reason!  When we did finally reach the top of all those hills, we were rewarded with an incredibly steep downhill.  Not just a downhill, but a downhill through traffic, with a sharp right turn at the bottom!  I kid you not, I thought it would be the end of me!  I couldn’t help but visualize myself wiping out on that turn.  It was not pretty!  All I could think was that I should have unclipped because I was going to eat it!  What’s worse is that it was still downhill after the turn!!!!  Even worse still, the course was a loop, so I had to do it all over again on the second lap!!!!

I sincerely thought of ditching my bike and quitting I was so shaken.  I almost cried.  In fact, I’m surprised my lip didn’t bleed from how hard I was biting it.  Despite my better self preserving instinct; however, I didn’t quit.  Instead I finished my first loop and headed out for the second.  I dreaded coming though the downhill again, but I was determined to get through it.  The second time through was even more awful because we had to navigate between a line a traffic and row of parked cars.  There was almost no margin for error.  I was SO glad I had practiced riding through all those lane dividers on the Cheshire bike path and managed to keep myself straight.  Thankfully, I made it all the way down and around the turn without crashing.  Once I got back to even ground, I knew I was in the home stretch.

I plowed through the rest of the course back to transition, and after being redirected to the appropriate exit (yes, I initially went the wrong way), I headed out for the final 5K run.  My legs felt heavy as I expected they would.  Again, I focused on form and tried to relax.  Despite the fact that I felt like I was barely moving, the miles were going by quickly so I knew I was moving at a good pace.  The sun and heat were killing me, but I had already survived the bike.  There was no way I was going to let a little warm weather take me out!  It kept telling myself “It’s only 5K, it’s only 5K “.  I chipped the miles off one by one, then before I knew it, I had the park in my sights!!!  One of my swim buddies was volunteering near the park directing runners, and I shouted his name because I was so happy to see him.  I think he was surprised to see me already so close to the finish because I had told him how terrified I was about this being my first event with a bike.  He told me I was “Rocking it!” and I continued on my way.

At that point there was only a short distance… including a ridiculous staircase (I mean really?  A staircase?  Sadists!) to the finish.  The hubs was there at the finish waiting for me.  I ran straight to him and I could see the time on the clock was 1:57!!!  I cannot even explain what it felt like to cross that line!  I had been so scared and worked so hard.  It is just indescribable what it meant to me to actually take the leap and do it.  Less than a year ago I bought my first real bike, and now I’m a duathlete.

winning

The hubs and I went to check the results and he was excited that he had one of the fastest times on the bike course.  (Woohoo! Go hubs!!!)  I was just happy to have finished.  I was ecstatic it was in under 2 hours, and in utter disbelief that I finished in the top 50.  As part of the race, we got bracelets that entitled us to a free beer and sandwich at one of the local pubs so we headed over to eat.  Instead of finishers medals, we were each awarded a pint glass.  I know, again with the pint glasses.  I’m going to have quite the collection!

spoils

Actually, we left our glasses at the pub… Okay they took them, but we didn’t mind because they had the pub logo instead of the logo for the race anyway.

After we got home and cleaned up, we headed out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants followed by  ice cream at a local creamery.  Just in case you were wondering, I did not feel the least bit guilty about all the calories.  I especially didn’t feel guilty for the DELICIOUS  s’more martini I had with dinner to celebrate.

smore

Overall the hubs and I both had a great experience.  It was a very well organized event, and I was glad that my first tri event was on our home turf.  It definitely made it less intimidating and added some comfort level.  Plus, it was fun to see so many familiar faces out on the course.  I was really happy that the hubs was so pleased with his performance.  One of the guys from the bike shop we use had recommended he get into racing, and I think his performance might help encourage him.

When we finally got home from all our festivities, the hubs showed me how to clean the bikes and re-lube the chains.  I had told him that I want to get comfortable with the maintenance, so he has been introducing me to the basics.  His mom sent us a text while we were working to let us know she saw our race results and that we had done better than we originally thought.  Sure enough, I had placed second in my age group, 12th for the ladies, and 48th overall!  Not too bad for my first time.  The hubs had finished 26th overall and was well ahead of me with a time of 1:42.  For the record, though, I ran my second 5K faster than him. 😉

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It’s hard to imagine, even now, how much this journey to triathlete has changed my life.  It has forced me to face and conquer my fears on a regular basis.  I decided I wanted to someday finish an Ironman before I even knew how to swim or bike (properly).  Now, I am well on my way to achieving that dream.  I may not do a full Ironman in the next year, or even two, but now I have the foundation to get there.

In fact, the day after the duathlon I went to the pool and swam over 2 miles without even getting tired.  The last 1100m I swam continuously.  It’s a far cry from the girl who was terrified to even put her face in the water.  That’s how much stronger and more confident triathlon has made me.

worthwhile

Moral of the story: Some of the most rewarding and worthwhile moments of your life will start with being scared to death.  Don’t be inhibited by fear.  Everything worthwhile in life is on the other side of it.

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Fear: The Dream Killer

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”
-Dorothy Thompson

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Let’s take a moment to talk about Fear.  We have all experienced it.  Its evolutional function was to keep us safe and alive.  However the problem comes when we are in no real danger and still living in a state of trepidation.  We are no longer living in a time when our lives are perpetually in danger, yet the fear remains.  Don’t think it’s affecting you?  Keep reading.

I grew up in a household with a constant undercurrent of fear.  My father suffers from mental illness and was labeled with a multitude of different diagnoses through my childhood.  While they struggled to find the right combination of meds, we lived with the constant anxiety that he might take off or worse.  My mother had promised to never have him hospitalized, so we saw first hand what he was like unmedicated and in the throngs of full on delusions.  At one point he disappeared for days and we weren’t sure if he was even alive.  With the changes in his meds, his personality also changed.  We never knew who we would be dealing with.  During most of that time he was paranoid, angry, and verbally and emotionally abusive toward my mother.  I learned to be hypervigilant at an early age, always aware of the slightest change in his mood.

The fear from my home life carried over into life outside of our house.  We all were charged with keeping the secret of my father’s illness as if it were something to be ashamed of.  We were not allowed to have friends over, and as a result were rarely invited to our classmates houses or birthday parties.  For the most part, we all coped by excelling in our studies.  I found solace in sports.  I did both cross country and track and joined just about every club in high school.  Anything to be out of the house.  Running was a chance to escape my problems, but it didn’t resolve my deep seeded anxiety.

I was afraid of everything growing up.  I was constantly praying and making deals with God.  I would count everything as way to feel like I had some control.  I’d see programs on aliens and armageddon and be too terrified to sleep.  Every thunderstorm I would curl up in my bed with rosary beads in hand.  I was terrified of going to school, of trying new things, and most of all of failing.  Being perfect was how I coped with my lack of self worth.  It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I became fed up with living in constant fear and challenged myself to do one thing that frightened me each day.  This is what I wrote about when I filled out my college applications.

By the time I left for college, I was well on my way to becoming my own person.  I was living on my own in the dorms and paying for my own school.  It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin.  I started working and volunteering, and spent my summers home constantly out of the house.  Yet, I never managed to escape my anxiety and self esteem issues completely.  Perhaps this is why I I was easily seduced by my abuser.  He frequently complimented me and made me feel like I was the center of his universe.  I would have done anything for him.

It was likely my upbringing that lead me to stay with my abuser so long, unaware of just how much fear and anxiety he had generated in my life- fear of saying or doing something that might upset him, fear of another outburst, fear of him doing something to embarrass me in public.  At no point in our relationship did I even realize I was being abused.  I had mistakingly thought that men who abuse their partners are aware that they are abusive.  In reality, people like my ex truly believe other people are the cause of all their problems and behave toward them accordingly.  This is because people like him are completely incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions and consider their victims the problem, not the other way around.

It was after I left my abuser that my fear and anxiety hit an all time head.  The PTSD symptoms I had were paralyzing.  You know that feeling you get when you are alone in the house at night and you hear a noise?  Imagine feeling like that all the time.  It’s literally exhausting.  It ruled my life, and I hated it.  Running and working out helped.  In fact, they were the only thing that helped– not therapy and not meds.  People see how much I train, and they think I’m super dedicated; but the truth is this is how I cope with my anxiety.  The more I trained, the more I needed to train to get the same sense of calm and relief.  Presently I need to workout 2-3 hours on my days off to feel relaxed the rest of the day.  At least it’s cheaper than therapy though, right?

Now while I realize that most of you have not had to grow up the way I did or deal with PTSD, we are not actually that different.  ImageWhat is different is that my anxiety and fear existed on such a large scale that I had to face them head on.  It was the only way I’d be able to function at all.  Yet, many people live their lives in fear without ever realizing how much it holds them back.

When is the last time you thought about something you wanted to do and then made an excuse to yourself about why you couldn’t or shouldn’t?  That is the fear talking.  Don’t say I could never run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, or ultra.  The question is not a matter of can.  The question is whether you are willing to put in the effort.  Find a way. If it is truly a dream find a way to make it happen.  Get a coach, find a training plan, write inspirational notes to yourself, and build up to the person you need to be to accomplish that goal.  Perhaps you can’t do it now, but that is the point of establishing goals.  It’s a about morphing into a stronger, smarter, and more confident version of yourself.  Mold yourself into someone you can feel proud of.

Plus I will let you in on a little secret: getting outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself, while incredibly uncomfortable while you’re doing it, feels BEYOND AMAZING once you’ve done it!  It is one of the best feelings in the world- and it doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Maybe the first step in your case is just to believe you can.  That’s ok because we all have to start somewhere.  It’s your journey and the only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.  Make a commitment to yourself to grow into the person you have always dreamed of being.  Along the way you will learn to truly love and accept yourself; and the everyday fear of not being good enough will slip away.  It’s amazing how little you care about what other people think of you when you are truly happy with the person you’ve become.

Fear is just an obstacle getting in the way of your dreams, and it’s time to get over it.  Don’t let your inner critic hold you back.  He or she is just bitter about your awesomeness.  You are strong, inspiring, and courageous.  You have talents and gifts that need to be shared with the world.  It’s your time to start living fully and leave any lingering reservations in the dust.

Repeat after me: Today I stand no longer afraid.

I am not afraid to try new things– Sure it may be scary, but it’s what makes me feel like I am living!

I am not afraid of being disliked– I’m a great person.  I put others ahead of myself and truly care about the people in my life from friends and family to my employees and patients.  If other people can’t appreciate that, it’s truly their loss.

I am not afraid to fail– Because, hey, at least I am trying!  If I do fail or DNF then at least I know I’m testing my limits!  Have you ever stopped to think what you might be capable of if you just tried?  If you never try then how would you know?

I am not afraid to bear my soul– This blog is 100% me and my truth.  I am not going to hold anything back.  I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.  People can go ahead and judge, but I am going to stay true to myself.  How would I be any help to anyone else here if I wasn’t?

Who’s with me?  What fears are you ready to give up?

 

It gets harder before it gets easier…

“You have a choice. You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat off of your face.
–Gatorade

borrowed from Pushinspire

This morning I was little discouraged by my marathon training…or current lack there of.  It’s not like I’m sitting on the couch eating potato chips, but I also haven’t logged any significant mileage in a couple weeks.  I desperately want to be out there running 20 miles; however, my body, unfortunately, has had other ideas. That being said, I understand all to well that injuries and setbacks are a part of running, and I’ve been extremely lucky that this is the first issue I’ve had since my return to running many months ago.

Initially, I thought running in Vibrams had cured all my running issues, and that the only limitation to my future running would be my own determination.  It wasn’t until recently that I found out that is not exactly the case.  In the defense of my VFF, I have been still using regular running shoes for pavement and gravel; so many of my longest runs have not been “barefoot”.  Plus, I increased my mileage way too quickly on my last long run.  Now that I am re-familiarized with the perils of over-training, I will return to running a wiser endurance junkie. 😉

Happily, I have taken this hiatus from lengthy runs as a chance to work on some cross training and general conditioning- which is especially important now that the NorCal Tough Mudder is coming up fast.  I am pretty confident I will be able to finish, even if I don’t complete every obstacle successfully.  I am also confident about being able to complete the Diva Half Marathon.  What I am terrified about is my body limiting my ability to run the full marathon 2 weeks after.  I’m worried that running 13.1 miles on pavement is going to aggravate my IT bands, and that 2 weeks won’t be enough time to recover before the Hartford Marathon.  I am also scared that I won’t be able to get my mileage up any further beforehand due to my IT band issues.  Finally, my greatest dread is that I will continue to be plagued by the chronic knee pain and joint issues that have stifled my running for so long.  Now that I have tasted the freedom of running without the obstacle of chronic joint pain- I never want to go back.

The good news– since I started running in my VFF, I have have been pain free (minus the current IT band issue- which, thankfully, has been okay on the last few runs)!  Not just without joint pain while running- pain-free in general.  Before, my knee caps popped out-of-place when I walked, and I always had knee and hip pain.  I had it my whole life, so I didn’t know any better.  Now, the only pain I have is in my muscles!  It’s been truly liberating.  It’s something to remember when I feel like I’m not making enough progress.  I have come SO far.  I had dreams of running a half marathon one day, but NEVER believed a full marathon would be attainable.  That was something only super-fit, athletic people could  do in my mind- not someone with a host joint issues.  Besides, I had numerous ortho docs tell me all the reasons I couldn’t and shouldn’t run. I always viewed running as something I loved, but also as extremely damaging to my body.  Look at me now!  I have 4 hours of extremely slow running (without walking!) under my belt with plans for my first marathon in less than 2 months!  What a difference a year can make in a life. 🙂

As an added insurance plan, I have a foam roller to stretch my IT bands in the mail… along with a new box of Clif Bloks. 🙂  What a crazy journey this has been- and it isn’t even over yet!  Whatever happens come October I know one thing for sure- I will make it across that finish line even if I have to crawl!

One thing that has kept me motivated and inspired has been following other running bloggers.  Below I’ve listed some of my current favorites.  As always, thanks for reading!  Comments and Feedback are always welcome and appreciated (you can also email at runningthriver@gmail.com).  Feel free to repost any material from my blog, but please give credit back to this site. 🙂

PushInspire

Marathon Sweetheart

The Primal Challenge

Experience Life With Me

I Run Long

Runwithdesire

Happy Trails Everyone!!!

Denial…

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
       – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I try to convince myself that I am not suffering from PTSD because I have never officially been labeled.  In fact, every therapist, counselor, and psychiatrist I’ve seen has told me that I was experiencing “a completely normal response to a traumatic event” and insisted the anxiety and difficulty sleeping would improve with time.  No one ever uttered the term PTSD.  They looked at me as functioning normally and assumed I was ok despite the fact that I told them otherwise.  The truth is, there is a huge grey area between being functional and well.  People can function without sleep, when they are sick, or even when they are suffering, and it doesn’t mean they are at their baseline.  It wasn’t until I spent time around other individuals suffering with PSTD that anyone pointed out the name for my symptoms.

Then the more I read about other people’s struggles with PTSD, the more I realized I could identify.  I felt guilty because it seemed like my “trauma” was so trivial compared to others.  There are people who have seen loved ones murdered, been to war, and been in terrible, horrific accidents; and all I went through was 5 years of ridicule.  Doesn’t quite seem to measure up.

Here are the DSM IV criteria used to diagnose PTSD.  I have highlighted the ones that apply to me:

Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to  a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of  three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing  symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. A fifth criterion concerns  duration of symptoms and a sixth assesses functioning.

Criterion A: stressor

The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both  of the following have been present:

  1. The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
  2. The person’s response involved intense fear,helplessness, or horror. Note: in children, it may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

Criterion B: intrusive recollection

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways:

  1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: in young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
  2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: in children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content
  3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes,including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: in children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
  4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  5. Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

Criterion C: avoidant/numbing

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and  numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the  trauma), as indicated by at least   three of the following:

  1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
  2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
  3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
  4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  6. Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
  7. Sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

Criterion D: hyper-arousal

Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by at least two of the following:

  1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  2. Irritability or outbursts of anger
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Hyper-vigilance
  5. Exaggerated startle response

Criterion E: duration

Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in B, C, and D) is more  than one month.

Criterion F: functional significance

The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or  impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of  functioning.

Specify if:

Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than three months

Chronic: if duration of symptoms is three months or more

Specify if:

With or Without delay onset: Onset of symptoms at least six months  after the stressor

While many of these symptoms have improved or are improving, everyone that is in bold I have had (and many still have) during the past 2 years.  It is plain as day, and yet denial is a powerful thing.  I can attest, though, that knowing the name and reason for the way I react to stress (or perceived stress) has made it tremendously easier to deal with.  In  a sense, the therapists were right, my symptoms did improve a lot with time (something I am incredibly grateful for!); but I continue struggle with nightmares and hyper-vigilance.  I am sharing this post because I know that there are other victims of violence and abuse who discount the trauma they experienced and are not getting help when they need it.  Everyone is entitled to a happy, productive life- acknowledging the problem is part of the path of getting there.

Resources (just a few of the many) for PTSD:

Department of Veterans Affairs

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Anxiety Disorders of America

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)

Another night, another nightmare

“Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.” 

~Vivian Komori

Last night I dreamt I was in my ex-husband’s house.  Even though we were no longer together, I was visiting for some reason.  He had a bunch of company in the living room. including some of his brothers.  I was tired from having worked late and excused myself to go to bed.  When I left, the rest of his guests decided it was getting late and left to go home.  Enraged by the notion that I caused all his friends and family to leave early, my ex came after me upstairs and attacked me.  He wrapped his hands around my neck and squeezed for all he was worth.  I could feel myself being suffocated, gasping for air with no relief.  Then out of no where, Adam (my boyfriend) came in and stopped him.   I can’t remember much of what happened after that because I woke up.

That is just one example of the many nightmares that have kept me up at night over the past two weeks.  They typically come in cycles, but this one has been particularly long.  They don’t always feature my ex, and they are nowhere near as bad as the night terrors I had while I was with him.  However, they are bad enough to wake me up all night and leave me exhausted during the day.  On the bright side, this was the first nightmare I ever had someone come rescue me in, so maybe I’m making some progress.

Sometimes I wish I had a system reset button I could hit when this stuff happens, but instead I’ve come up with other methods (through trial and error) of dealing with it.  The hardest one if trying not to focus on or stress about the sleep deprivation because the more I fixate on it, then worse it seems to get.  Another trick I use is completely wearing myself out.  If I go through a particularly tough workout, many times that’s enough to work out the excess anxious energy.  Plus, it’s usually a great self-esteem boost!  I also try not to eat, watch TV, or use the computer right before bed (typical sleep hygiene stuff).  However, recently none of this has been particularly effective.

One thing that has changed dramatically over the past year is how much better I can deal with this situation now.  I can acknowledge that it sucks, but it doesn’t send me spiraling backward with frustration and despair like it used to.  I can reassure myself that it will be temporary, and I only need to work “X”  more days until I have another one off to attempt to catch up on sleep.  I am also more aware of my negative thinking, and the fact that it is just that.  It doesn’t make me a negative person, it’s just a sign that I’m fatigued or processing more than usual.  I am finally getting the point where I can cut myself some slack, and that is a MONUMENTAL step for me.

So, although I am currently being plagued by nightmares and had an absolutely terrible day of being run into the ground at work, I give this day an A+.  My reasoning: it sucked...A LOT, but I made it through and held it together. I didn’t get down on myself, cry, or allow myself to become completely overwhelmed.  Six months ago this day would have broke me, but today I made it through exhausted and smiling.

In other related news, I managed to drag Adam with me to the gym yesterday and conquered another 15 minutes on the stair master- and we did push ups (and by “we” I mean I and he critiqued)…  It was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. 🙂

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…