Back to basics

I had big running plans for 2021. BIG. My race schedule was going to include a 50k every month beginning in March leading up to the finale of Run Rabbit Run 100 in September. I knew it was a hell of a goal but I was seriously ready. My mileage hadn’t been long but it had been more consistent than it had been in awhile. My schedule, although never easy as a business owner, had a lot less crazy after selling one of our businesses. I was ready to finally try and tackle the 100 mile distance again.

But on Monday, Jan. 18, just a few weeks into a training plan, everything changed. I met a friend for a short five mile recovery and nothing felt right. It was as though my right leg just wouldn’t cooperate and I misjudged rocks and roots by just enough to stumble again and again. I figured it was my SI joint issues. Nuisance yes but nothing to cause concern. A few days later I knew there was something more going on.

I can’t remember what I tried first. Chiropractic probably. Maybe a little massage. I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. My SI. My back. There was a weird chronic pain at the top of my fibula. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely walk. I turned to dry needling (holy. fucking. amazing.). Then dry needling with stim (holy. fucking. painful.) In early February I sucked it up and went to my primary (and I use the term MY lightly since I never go to the doctor and had no history with the woman my crappy, self-employed health insurance stuck me with). After five minutes I was told “most cases of sciatica clear up in 6-12 weeks” and I was offered oxicodone, prednisone and a muscle relaxer. I took the muscle relaxer so I could try to get some much needed sleep, but there’s a reason there’s an opioid epidemic in this country. I (probably not so) nicely turned down the rest then promptly researched other primary doctors in my network and forced a change.

It took weeks before my new doctor could see me and I was in hell. I’m not a crier but most nights I couldn’t sleep at all and those I did were out of sheer exhaustion from inconsolable tears of pain. Never in my life had I felt anything like what I was experiencing. But ask me what was wrong and I still couldn’t tell you.

New doc is a triathlete. Primary reason I picked him. His immediate focus went to my leg since my primary pain point was still the very top of mu fibula. X-ray clean. MRI unusual. There was an edema but not the stress fracture he expected. He put me in a boot but a few days in the pain everywhere was worse. I nicely asked for a lumbar mri and he questioned it saying I wasn’t presenting like I had a herniated disc. But I had a feeling he was wrong and I pushed until he agreed.

There it was in black and white. More than two months after that five mile run I had an answer. L5/S1 herniation with extrusion. If you think of a disc as a jelly donut that sits between vertebrae, mine had bulged out and ruptured. And the jelly, or disc fluid, was hitting a nerve root with a direct line to, you guessed it, the part of the leg at the top of my fibula. I had an answer. Now I needed a solution.

So let me explain my insurance. I don’t get to pick my doctors. There is no real in- or out-of- network. There’s simply them. All self-contained medical centers of you get what what they give. I went to their PT. During my first appointment the ceiling started leaking from a plumbing issue and I ran around helping find trash cans to put beneath the water dripping everywhere. Seriously. Half my appointment was spent with the PT more concerned about the leak then me. And I was so happy that he made sure to tell me over and over again that most cases of sciatic clear themselves up in 6-12 weeks.

During my next, no surprise with a different PT, I was left on an extension table then pretty much talked down to about depression and how to seek help for the mental issues physical pain could lead to. All this awesomeness at offices an hour plus drive from our house. So I went out of pocket with my own PT.

I would try to walk. I needed trail time. But I was lucky if I could make it a quarter mile. I was popping 800 mg of Advil three times a day with 1000 mg Tylenol in between. I couldn’t sit on my couch and basically lived on a yoga mat on the floor. I bought an inversion table and hung upside down but could barely tolerate the leg pain. I read and researched and did daily exercises and stretches but eventually I knew I had two next steps; injections or surgery. Not one for the knife, I pushed my doctor to approve an injection and in mid-April he finally did. And when I called to schedule, I got the next slap in the face that the first available was ten weeks out. WTF. So out of pocket I went again.

Not long after my first epidural steroid injection I could stand up straight. I walked a mile. And then another. Not to be fooled, I pushed for the referral to meet with a surgeon. If I had to wait 10 weeks for a shot, I wanted to be ten steps ahead of the game if it came down to it. We agreed I should wait. Sometimes the body absorbs the disc fluid on its own. We scheduled another injection for a couple months out … just in case I needed it. And I did. All in all I went three rounds before accepting defeat.

I’m now two weeks post microdisctectomy. Surgery is another story in itself and recovery is bound to be as well but I’m hopeful and optimistic that 2022 will be my year.

Missed Miles

There are so many things I should have written about this past year — actually more like two years — and I’m super irritated at myself for not having done so. I finished the Dead Horse 50 miler last November. I’ve run tons of incredible new trails that deserved stories … including one where I almost tried to chase a bear. We bought a Jeep Gladiator Rubicon and are totally decking it out as an adventure vehicle. We’ve gone camping to Steamboat Springs, Leadville, Fruita, Zion and even took a road trip to Vegas. My first, and with any luck last time there (yup so surprise that I wasn’t a fan). There was a really shitty month. REALLY shitty. But we’re going to just leave that one in the past.

There really is no sense in crying over missed miles so I’m just going to suck it up and try again. I know I know I know … I decide I’m going to write again. I decide I’m going to train again. So I pick a race, I post on here a few times and then I fall right back into radio silence. You don’t have to believe me when I say this time is going to be different. Hell, I’m not sure I believe me but … this time IS going to be different.

There are some really cool upcoming adventures in the works. There are some really cool ones I’m going to write about even though they have come and gone. So let the Running Trail Tales begin again.

Cheegan

cheegan

Four years ago, I took a first step in major diet and lifestyle changes. I’ve never been a huge red meat eater but I ate poultry or seafood almost daily. One evening, after a hearty dinner of grocery store rotisserie chicken, I found myself with a bout of nausea that, almost a surprise to myself, led to the proclamation that I was done with eating land animals. Always having been on the fence from a moral standpoint, my boyfriend Don didn’t hesitate to join me on an adventure into pescetarianism.

About a year later, after two episodes of food poisoning on white fish, I lost my appetite for seafood altogether and decided to go fully vegetarian. Don, still struggling with the moral side of the meat and dairy industries, took the extra step into veganism and it’s been a mealtime adventure for us ever since.

The kitchen is not my domain. Never really has been. It’s not that I can’t cook but more so that I never really found any pleasure in it. But as I experimented with new ways to satisfy our hunger, I’ve come to find an almost enjoyment in it, and as I’ve had to learn ways to make meals vegan friendly I’ve little by little shifted my diet in that direction.

Although I probably won’t ever go fully vegan (I can’t say never since I certainly never thought I’d even be able to manage being a vegetarian), I’m now what I prefer to call cheegan. I’m a semi-vegan who cheats … mostly with cheese. And eggs.

I hope to start posting some recipes of what mealtime looks like in our house these days so keep an eye out for some of the ways we made the transition.

Dead Horse Training: Weeks 2, 3, 4 … hell pretty much all of it

So here’s the high level summary of my Dead Horse training the last two and a half months:

Total planned mileage — 480
Total actual mileage — 316

Well crap. I knew I was a tad bit off but didn’t think the shortage was quite that big until I sat down and actually added up numbers. I suppose that’s why I made a plan that broke down mileage weekly that I could have, and should have, been looking at on a far more regular basis. Oh well. I suck at this set-in-stone training stuff.

Regardless, I’ve had some kick ass fun trail time! I summitted two 14ers; Pike’s Peak and Bierstadt. I ran two 50ks (race reports to come on those soon. No, really I promise. Soon). I climbed the Manitou Incline. And I explored a bunch of new state parks and trails. Yeah I know. I really wanted to take my Dead Horse training seriously but what’s the point if I don’t enjoy the miles along the way. At least that’s the lame excuse I’m making for myself because I should have enjoyed 164 more miles!

Race day is in just a little more than two weeks. So I guess that means I should be in taper. Which is probably a good thing because I’ve also got a cold and feel like total crap. I won’t lie … I’m kinda’ thinking this thing may turn into a DNF but I’m gonna give it all I got.

Dead Horse Training: Week 2

Two weeks of training done! Like actually done done. Miles hit. No cheating. Well sort of. I swapped Thursday and Friday and a couple miles here and there, but at the end of the week, I had run my planned total of 40. Probably the highest week milage I’ve done since Antelope Canyon 55k in March.

Dead Horse: Week 2 — plan to actual

I’m settling into a little bit of a regular schedule already which is nice. Mondays are awesome to have as a rest day. Tuesdays are a super short run so I tend to do those solo. Wednesdays, my mid-week long, I run with a small group first thing in the morning. We usually do a 6.5 mile loop and I tack on after where needed. Thursdays … so far this is my struggle day (I’m even writing this on a Thursday evening and have yet to run today’s miles) but since rest-day Fridays tend to be less chaotic in my world, I keep it as backup. Saturday long I can usually find group run options and Sundays there’s always someone looking as well.

This past Saturday, however, I had no takers on company. Seemed most everyone around here was running Leadville, crewing Leadville, pacing Leadville or spectating Leadville. With 16 on my day, I decided to get creative and leave from my house in waves. Five miles with Quesa, our bulldog boxer mix. Four miles with Relic, my little man border collie and my daughter Sierra (yup. successfully getting her out there again). Five miles with Ellie, our border mix, and Sierra’s bf Kenzie. And the final two with Hendrix, our non-running, couch potato white swiss shepherd mix. I couldn’t have asked for a better hodge-podge mix of running partners.

Sunday I ventured to new-to-me Roxborough State Park with a couple running friends. There are so many trail options around here I seriously think I could do a different one every weekend. I can’t imagine ever not being in total awe of where I live and run.

14 weeks to Dead Horse.

Dead Horse Training: Week 1

This past week started my official training for the Dead Horse 50 mile. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked off an actual plan and I’ve got to give myself kudos for hitting it pretty damn close. I really wanted to get eight on Sunday but I ran with my kid’s boyfriend and he only wanted five so we compromised. It was either that or run alone and though I’m improving on the self-kicks-in-the-ass, I still prefer company.

Here’s the summary of mileage — planned and actual

And some basic stats:
Tuesday — Evergreen Mountain, 778 feet of elevation gain, 14:52 pace
Wednesday — Elk Meadow, 719 feet of elevation gain, 13:41 pace
Thursday — Flying J, 922 feet of elevation gain, 13:21 pace
Saturday — Lair O’ The Bear, 1,686 feet of elevation gain, 15:12 pace
Sunday — Lair O’ The Bear, 896 feet of elevation gain, 14:12 pace

My pace is super slow these days. Granted I’m running trails that require a fair bit of uphill hiking and most of these runs include a variety of doggie stops (pausing for bikes, poop breaks, etc) but I would like to up the speed a bit. Dead Horse has 4,500 feet and, I think, a 12.5-hour time limit so though there’s no need to be speed racer, I don’t want to even risk not making any of the cut-off points.

And here are some pictures from the week:

And my absolute favorite pic.

This was at Lair O’ The Bear which is one of the many nearby parks. I’ve only run it a handful of times and there’s a side trail that I’ve always wanted to try and I’m so happy we did. We found such an incredible view at the top. Man I love where I live and run.

15 weeks until Dead Horse.

Week 16: It Begins

Guess what I did. I made a training plan for the Dead Horse 50 miler! Yes an actual plan. Like days and weeks and stuff that include how many miles I’m hoping to … I mean I’m planning to … I mean I’m GOING to run! I even registered for a 50k in September to use as a training run.

It’s funny how things change. I used to be ridiculously OCD when it came to training. I followed plans. I avoided certain foods and alcohol, and I certainly never ever shorted the Garmin. #parkinglotlaps But somewhere between road and trail I turned a little type B. I stopped picking clothes and pre-filling the hydration bladder the night before a long run. I drank beer the night before a race. Hell I drank beer mid-race in a few. And I kinda liked it. At least during the “training part”. But come race day I missed goals. I hurt. I failed. And it sucked. So this training stuff is going to be a challenge but I’m ready.

My plan officially started today and I stuck right to it! Good thing day one was a rest day.

Sixteen weeks until Dead Horse. Let the fun begin.

Muskrat Love: How I survived The Evergreen Sprint Triathlon

It might have been a bit over-zealous of me to register for the Evergreen Sprint Triathlon. Post-race I finally decided to look it up and turns out the last tri I did was in October 2016. Almost three years ago. And in those three years I’ve swam maybe a dozen times. Ridden my bike a handful more. But I wanted to swim in the Evergreen Lake and I didn’t want to wait another whole year to do it so … Yeah, bad reasoning, but admittedly I’m the master of.

The first thing to hit me race morning was the temperature. Where two days before we had reached a crazy Colorado high of 93 degrees in our little mountain town, I woke Sunday morning to a crisp 45 degrees. No joke! Some huge front had pushed through and dropped the temps by almost 50 degrees. Now, it’s no secret I far prefer the cold, but I’m a runner NOT a swimmer and I started to question my choice of a sleeveless wetsuit, not to mention open water swimming period! But rain, shine or frost bite, I’ve never quit a race due to weather and I wasn’t about to start.

For a small town, mountain race, the logistics were pretty good. This is the first tri I’ve done that didn’t have assigned rows for transition but was rather a free-for-all. Granted the field was only about 220 athletes and I’d never want that kind of chaos in a large race but it worked. My kid, Sierra, and her BF, Kenzie, were my support team since Don was out of town and they made sure I got there on time and had everything I needed though I almost forgot to get body marked. There are so many little things that go into triathlons!

I was in the last wave. You know the old-farts wave. And for once I was truly happy to be back of the pack. Each added five minutes between waves let the sun come up a little warmer. There was nothing about the swim I was really nervous about so standing lakeside a little longer didn’t increase my anxiety and when it was time, I dove in ready to rock.

But not even a few minutes in, I couldn’t quite regulate my breathing. Maybe it was the wetsuit. I hadn’t worn one since 2012 and being encased in a skintight, rubber, full body condom was a bit restrictive. Or maybe it was swimming at 8,000 feet. What, you need oxygen to swim?! The more I overthought it, the more I started to struggle, and the more I started to struggle the more I started to panic. I scanned the lake for a rescue boat and saw a kayak heading towards one of only a few swimmers still behind me but with another boat pulling up the rear, I claimed this one for my own. I held on for a minute until the volunteer asked me what I wanted to do; quit or go on. I hesitated. I am not a quitter but drowning didn’t seem like a fun idea either. “Can you stay with me”, I asked. I figured having someone right next to me if I started to sink like a rock would quell the nerves and thankfully being almost last meant I could have a private boat.

I couldn’t freestyle. At all. Every time I tried to put my face in the water I felt my pulse freak out. So between breast stroke, back stroke and doggie paddle, I inched my way across the lake. Donna, my captain kayak, made small talk to keep me going. At the last stretch I saw Sierra and Kenzie on the shore. They knew something was wrong. I’m historically front of my wave in the swim. But as they urged me on towards the finish I heard Donna yell out and swimming right in front of me was a muskrat! I guess the little critter thought he had his lake back, or maybe he just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It totally made my day though! A little muskrat love to lift my drowning spirits.

Finally out of the water, I made it through transition in just a little more than two minutes. The bike was what I feared most given the first seven miles were all up hill but my only goal was to stay in the saddle. It was a gorgeous ride! Upper Bear Creek is lined with some of the most incredible homes and properties in Evergreen and I simply enjoyed. I wasn’t fast but I held strong and I even made it to the top of Witter Gulch, the hill I was most worried about. The next couple miles were some awesome rollers with downhills where I hit upwards of 36mph! I was surprisingly loving the ride but as I came off of one of the hills and went to downshift for the climb, my damn chain came off. Seriously wtf. I got it back on quickly but there was no way I was able to get going again facing the climb so I had to hobble walk the hill. So. Damn. Annoying. I made it through the rest of the ride with no issues thought I did have to walk one more hill. I feel much better after looking through race pics though because there were A LOT of people caught on camera walking. So glad I wasn’t the only one.

This obviously isn’t me but apparently the cameraman gave up on us stragglers but I really just wanted to show some of the size hills we had to tackle.

I was out of T2 and on the run in less than a minute. Not bad for a novice! Thankfully the run was uneventful. Not fast but consistent and I even got cheered on by a deer hanging out in someone’s front yard.

So. Not a pretty race by any means but I wasn’t last. Close to it (192nd out of 216 finishers and 7 DNFs) but I finished and that’s what counts. Moral of the story … there may actually be some benefit to training.

I’ll Tri Again Tomorrow

Well, ready or not (definitely not) the Evergreen Sprint Triathlon is tomorrow. I swam once. I rode once. And I ran — eh — here and there. BOOM! Trained! Ready to rock it. Seriously though … I may die.

Just so I knew exactly what I am getting myself into, I drove the bike course today. With a starting elevation of 7,133 and a 1,536 foot gain, it’s far different from the Florida riding I rarely participated in. I wonder if I’ll be the only idiot walking my bike up the hills.

At least the swim is short and easy, plus it’s wetsuit mandatory for added buoyancy. The last, and not to mention only, time I swam in a wetsuit was the Augusta half iron back in 2012 so I hope it’s not too weird. Best part of this whole race though is that I get to swim in the Evergreen Lake which doesn’t allow swimming any other day of the year. To be totally honest, that was the primary reason I registered for this race. May have been a tad bit smarter for me to consider doing it NEXT year instead of with a mere few weeks notice but I’ve never been the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to going into races unprepared.

I think I have everything

So wish me luck. My kid and her bf will be there as my cheering squad so if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram keep an eye out for updates. And of course, assuming I survive, there will be a race report.

Beating a Dead Horse

I wanted to write this post on my birthday but somehow I got distracted … for two weeks. I figured an annual milestone is always the perfect place to make life goals and adjustments. Actually the only thing I find more asinine and cliche is to do so on New Year’s Eve but at this point I’ll try anything to get my butt back in gear.

I need some accountability. Because apparently I’m not a good enough self-motivator these days. That said there are two things that typically get my ass in gear; sheer embarrassment and an over-achieving race. I know I just registered for the tri in a few weeks but I can fake my way through that one. So, that said, today I registered for a 50-mile race in November and this week I’m starting to actually track mileage. Thankfully my friend Miriam gave me super cute training journal for my birthday! Maybe, I’ll actually even make a training plan (WHAT?! Who am I?).

20 weeks until the Dead Horse 50 in Moab!

contemplating Moab