Thursday, April 23, 2009

thoughts in rehab

So if you've wondered where I've been since Ragnar (besides the usual rounds of mommying and housework), I've been in Ragnar Rehab. Rehab for a runner refers not to going cold turkey on the endorphin addiction we carry - are you kidding me?? - but trying madly to rest an injury while simultaneously maintaining the running addiction at the highest level the injury will allow.

The fallout for me of running 38 miles and change on a downhill road course has been a nagging knee pain that emerges about 30-45 minutes into a run and only subsides when I stop to walk. Downhill seems to make it worse. Despite casually trying to ice my knee after my runs, and then less casually decreasing my runs to 3x a week with cross training, I started feeling it ache occasionally even when not running, and decided the casual method wasn't working. A little research convinced me it might be ITB - a common long distance runner knee malady - so I continued the icing and reduced running further to 2x/week only on trail, hoping the softer surface would reduce impact on the joint and allow healing to progress. Finally, my husband and a couple of my Ragnar teammates made "go to the doc, dummy" comments, so I bit the bullet and went to the doc. Since then I've had an xray, seen an orthopedic specialist, and got an MRI for which I am awaiting results with the proverbial bated breath.

In the course of the past few weeks in runner's rehab, I've decided it's not so very different from rehabbing less healthy addictions. For one thing, the primary addiction is starved which leads to funneling energy into various other, lesser addictions - in my case, spending a lot of time swimming, cycling, hiking, ellipticalling, yoga-ing, basketballing, racquetballing, and lots of other -ings in mad attempts to attain the calorie burn and endorphin rush of my sport of choice.
Secondly, the seriousness of my efforts increases in direct proportion to my desperation for the addictive agent in question. The more unattainable running becomes, the more I do the work - the ice and heat and exercises necessary to achieve my goal. Runner's rehab echoes that ugly cycle of desire, denial, fear, frustration, and occasional lapses that rehab from unhealthier addictions seem to generate. I ice, it feels better; I try to run, it feels worse. One step forward, two steps back. I cross train, it feels better. I miss a couple nights of good sleep, it seems to ache more. I try Motrin, and get a rebound ache after it wears off. One step forward, 3 steps back. Progress is agonizingly slow, roller-coasterish, or seemingly non-existent.

Third, both addictive and injury rehab seem to involve lots of pondering one's life, choices, and patterns of behavior. I deal with thoughts like "how did I get here?", "why does God apparently want me here?" and "what would life look like without this?" I may not come up with coherent answers, but pondering seems inevitable.

Fourth, both require support. Support from longsuffering friends and family willing to listen to me whine about how hard it is and only occasionally tell me "I told you so", or "go see a doctor" or "time for intervention;" and support from addiction/injury professionals who have the expertise to help me out of the hole in which I find myself.

In fact, the one differentiating factor from addiction rehab is that my ultimate goal is to return to the addiction that precipitated this pain in the first place, without causing the injury that resulted. My goal is to dance that fine line of training that takes me to my physical edge without sending me hurtling over into pain, injury, and overtraining. To be the best I can be, within reason (and sometimes without reason). To "run and not be weary, to walk [if I have to] and not faint" (I think Isaiah was a runner). To inspire others to be all they physically can be, as much as possible in this life, if for no other reason than that God designed us with these amazingly strong and versatile bodies and probably didn't intend for us to abuse them by sitting on a couch watching TV or staring at a computer for what ends up being years of our short lives. Speaking of which... I'm done. Time to get on with living.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ragnar Relay del Sol 2009

Completed the Ragnar Relay del Sol last weekend, ultra version. I've run over 30 races in the past 7 years, but I don't think I've ever felt so accomplished at the finish of any of them. (Except perhaps my first race, when I surprised myself by leaving my brother in law in the dust and won first place in my age division). Running with a relay team felt more meaningful. Running over 200 miles with a team of five other people put it on an adventurous scale I hadn't experienced in a race for a while, and gave my part in it more importance knowing that the others were depending on me. ompleting over 38 miles of that at less than an 8:30 pace may have made it my best racing effort thus far. What is doing a 10K at 7:15 or a half-marathon at sub-8:00 pace compared to 38.5 miles at 8:30?

I got invited to join the team back in November. At the time, I had been planning to switch to doing a few fast 10K and half-marathon distances, so I had to switch training gears. I knew I didn't have time to ramp up enough long run mileage without risking injury, so instead I focused on the back-to-back aspect - running hard 2 days in a row, or even 2-in-a-day runs. I hadn't tried that since my back injury, and was pleased that my careful approach didn't tweak the touchy disc. I also hoped it was enough to complete three legs of 10-12 miles each in 2 days, and not crash on one of them.

My teammates included two friends from JR's gym, Bart and Eric, and several others from a running group of theirs - Gail, Shanna, and Brett. Gail, a petite 50-year old with thick dark hair, expressive eyes, and wide friendly grin, was the team's master planner. She kept us stocked with updates by email going into the event, and organized our running schedule complete with color codings, estimated start and finish times, and everything else we needed to know from the Ragnar Bible, as it was called. Both vans were required by race rules to carry a Ragnar Bible at all times. Our team could have gone with one van for all six of us, but Gail insisted on 2 vans. It was a wise choice, considering all the masses of high calorie snacks, technical sweat-wicking clothing, and other racing paraphernalia that crowded the vehicle. My van included Bart and Brett, and we were due to complete the first legs of the race. I am realizing that I could really get detailed now on what happened during those 32 hours of Ragnar, but if I get going, I won't know where to stop.

So here's my condensed impression of Ragnar:

The Ragnar Relay del Sol. Two hundred miles of winding Arizona backroads between Prescott and Mesa. Two hundred miles of white passenger vans, hatchbacks, Hummers, and minivans passing and re-passing each other, decorated with brightly colored team names of funny and often crude description, some topped with mascots of bizarre description, all dedicatedly and erratically following their runners to the finish line. Two hundred miles of adrenaline junkies at various stages of surge and depletion, pounding away at the pavement. Two hundred miles of racers handing off the slap bracelet baton to a teammate at crowded exchanges surrounded by hooting supporters, teammates in costume, cowbells, and rows of brilliant blue porta-potties. Two hundred miles of running uphill and downhill - lots of downhill; of running along white-lined road edges, narrow potholed verges, dust-clouded dirt roads, sandy trail bits, and thick concrete sidewalks. Two hundred miles of passing through Prescott's cool evergreens, Congress's lumpy rock forest, Wickenburg's silent night, Carefree's dark highways, Fountain Hills' hazy purple hills, the Beeline's inexorable afternoon sun, Mesa's quiet neighborhoods. Two hundred miles of running in sunny pine-scented 60 degrees, in cool starry 60 degrees alongside US 60's rushing semi-trailers with only a beaming reflective vest and blinky red butt-light for protection, in wan dawn 60 degrees fighting headwinds and growing fatigue, in late morning 80's fighting sunburn and blisters, in early afternoon 90's battling nausea, chafing, and the looming wall, and in waning afternoon staggering, limping, or surging to the finish line in the park. Two hundred miles of one foot in front of another. Two hundred miles of running party, running silliness, and running determination. Two hundred miles of driving. Two hundred miles of pulling out the Ragnar Bible for directions, and arguing potential exchange times, missing potential exchange times, and digging for cellphones to call the other van. Two hundred miles of leapfrogging, pulling up before the dogged teammate on duty to offer drinks, slaps, jokes, and photo ops every couple miles. Two hundred miles of trying unsuccessfully to catch a couple z's. Two hundred miles of salt-lined technical clothing, electrolyte drinks, granola bars, spare shoes and sweatshirts, water bottles and igloos crowding you with growing chaos in the vehicle. Two hundred miles of new friends. Two hundred miles of discovering how to pull a little more out of your gut. Two hundred miles of adventure - and misadventure. Two hundred miles and thirty-plus hours, in other words, of crazy fun. Yeah, I'd do it again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Choosing the marathon over the sprint

(pic - me on Melanie's heels, knocking off marathon number 5 in St. George, Utah, 10-4-08)

I've put off blogging since September. Some days it was purposely - what to say? - but most of the time, I simply have been too busy living to chronicle life. That is my dilemma with taking pictures, too - when I am behind the camera, I miss out on the fun! In high school, I journalled about everything. I remember my Dad commenting as I bolted from the table after dinner one night when I was 16, "I hope this is one good book you're writing." I hope so too, Dad. At that time, I think I did a lot more commenting on my uneventful life than actually living it. Now I live it and comment much more rarely.

Events of late include: 1) my marathon on October 4 (3:45:46, qualified for the 2010 Boston Marathon by a hair!); 2) our subsequent week-long camping trip in Zion National Park; 3) a charter school conference I prepared and ran a booth for on behalf of Ironbody and their Fittest Kids program ( in early November; 4) our family's Thanksgiving feast, for which I roasted a turkey AND a chicken (just in case!) and made stuffing and gravy and a 2-layer birthday cake for my parents which looked a mess but tasted fantastic; 5) my close friend Alisa Lyon's wedding to her new husband Eric Sloan which I had the priviledge of attending tonight AND at which I read a marriage blessing; and 6) Open Door Fellowship's Run for the Fund 5K which I've been helping organize for the past month and which takes off tomorrow morning at 9:00 am. Which means it is idiotic of me to be sitting up at almost midnight tonight blogging about all this, because I have to be at the park with the banners and boxes of fruit at 6:30 am, but hey, to get all of the above done I have not made long sleep nights a priority of late so why start now?

I've enjoyed all of those exciting accomplishments (I'm very confident the race tomorrow will be an accomplishment and not a disaster). I am sad, however, that in accomplishing all of the above, I have missed out on some important things. The little things. Things like quiet times on the couch with my Bible and journal, or just a good book. Things like date nights with my husband, which got replaced by nights spent side by side at our computers, as I designed T-shirt logos and marketing text and business cards and banners and looked up stuffing recipes. I've missed things like reading to my kids and playing card games or chasing them around the house, replacing that time with running around town like a mad thing. I've been trying to fit my running and other training around turkey and perfect wedding present shopping trips and visits to the park and visits to Grandma's care home and client training and holiday parties, as the days get shorter and colder. And my husband and kids, sometimes patiently and sometimes exasperatedly, put up with all this craziness.

So I ask myself, is this being a renaissance mom? Or am I just insanely busy? These are all wonderful things I've signed up for, but is that a good enough excuse? When do I cross the line from productive to unproductive busy-ness: is the difference dictated solely by the sheer number of things on my calendar, or by my emotions surrounding the activities, good or bad? or by the stress my husband and kids may or may not show, or by my lack of quality time with them? Or all of the above? I thought of my mom, who in classic mode shuffles away from hours spent rough-housing with her grandchildren insisting, "But I had so much fun!" And she spends the next week on a heating pad on the floor, recuperating. When do we draw the line?

I guess I have to keep redrawing the boundary every day. On days I notice my back beginning to spasm, or the short temper I have with my poor kids just being kids, and have to draw the line that day - I will choose not to mop the floor, for instance, or run that extra errand, or stay up late on the computer that night. Or perhaps, as I have recently, I will notice the trend of not reading to my kids or getting dates with my husband, and I will turn off the phone and put off Audrey's nap for another half hour to spend with them, or actually call a sitter for the much needed time with the man I married twelve years ago, and remember what it was like to pay attention to him alone for a little while.

I watched my friend Alisa get married tonight. It was beautiful and yet I knew, from comments she'd made, that many of the beautiful touches were so inexpensive - the dress found on deep discount, her shoes at a closeout sale, no bevy of bridesmaids in ugly dresses, little name cards marking our dinner spots made by her friend, and an intimate group of less than thirty people witnessing the event altogether. It was beautiful, and I knew that she got it. She figured out that balance for herself as she planned her wedding, and spent more on the week of honeymoon than she did on the wedding. She put more effort into getting to know her man over the past few months, and making sure he was a man of God worth spending their life together, and planning the rest of their life together, than worrying over long attendee lists or the color of the invitation envelopes. She gets it. Not that I am surprised, she is a smart girl. God's put her through a lot to get to this place. I only hope that I get it, too. That I continue to make wise choices, as she has, about my investment of time in the long haul, not the short dash. The marathon, not the sprint.

Hmm, that's a good thing. I've never been a good sprinter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

in the home stretch

>study in time flying: Audrey 6 mos vs. Audrey 3 yrs.

I realized mid-email tonight that 3/4 of this year is over. Gone, done, past, bye-bye. I took my daughter out tonight on a girl-date with a few of our girlfriends, and watched Audrey acting like a little girl. She's just not a baby anymore. She insisted on sitting in a highchair at the ice cream parlor for some reason, and spilled some of her lime-green ice cream on the floor, but she's not a baby any more. At least I could still read her stories tonight and tuck her in bed and know she'd be asleep in a few minutes. My son Jude is getting so big he insists on reading stories to me or worse, just to himself, and climbs into his bunkbed and tries not to sleep for the next hour in case we watch TV.

Today I also visited my grandma on our weekly trek to her care home. My grandfather passed away when Jude was a month old, and I don't think any of us thought she'd survive this long. She turns 94 this December, and has Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and slowly advancing kidney failure. She had a bandage on from trying to punch one of the caregivers last weekend - my kind, sweet-tempered, wouldn't-say-boo-to-anyone Grandma! - and I just listened to her try to remember the right sequence of words for saying grace before lunch, and watched her doze off while we worked a puzzle, and couldn't help laughing with her when she shook with laughter at Audrey making silly kissy faces during lunch. She is not the Grandma I used to know - the one that created a thriving vegetable garden from the sandy Yuma soil in their backyard, and used to fry up cornmeal-battered catfish like nobody's business. But I also never know when she may be gone forever, so for the memories, and the hope that she is comforted even on days she doesn't seem to remember us, and for my kids to know what it's like to love someone just because, and a hope that someone will visit me if ever I am in such a position, we keep going. And the weeks go by.

Yesterday I noticed my friend Sylvia has been secretly expanding with her unborn baby - number three, due next February. I forget she is pregnant sometimes, with this baby. I think she forgets she is pregnant, sometimes. Poor third babies, I think. At least Sylvia is one of those intentional moms that saves cute artwork and takes pictures and writes down the mile-markers of baby's first year.

Another marker of time passing. Victor turns 41 this weekend. No birthday bash this year (sorry, sweetie, last year was the big one!), but maybe a new gas grill for the backyard if he's lucky.

Lastly, I have two weeks left to my marathon in St. George, UT. October 4, the big day, draws nigh. The website (, of course) lists 16 days, 8hours, 33min and counting. Yikes! Actually, I feel very physically ready for the marathon - long runs, speedwork, weights, and the half marathon 2 weeks ago all indicate a good race. (And now I finally get to taper!) But I feel not at all ready for the camping trip in Zion National Park to follow, which requires more logisticial preparation of grocery shopping, gear-checking, vehicle tuning, and packing. I hope we can fit everything in the truck. Nissan Pathfinders are not the roomiest of SUV's, especially with 2 kids and their bulky carseats taking up the back seat. And all their books, and their latest favorite toys, and Blankie and "Robey" and Bear (of course!), and you get the picture, I guess. Then there's Victor's fishing gear. I'm hoping he's not planning to bring his flyfishing float tube, for instance.

All of these updates simply to observe that time sure flies, whether you have fun or not. I just want to be present enough in the moment to notice the little things - like my daughter's shy smile when she whispers which dress she wants to wear "so everyone will know I am a princess;" and my Grandma shaking with laughter till the tears run down from her reddened eyes onto lined cheeks; and my husband's attempt to be nonchalant when he tells me what he wants for his birthday "if anyone asks;" and the seconds ticking away on the marathon website, inviting me to watch the moments pass. Please, God, let me not miss these things in my anxiety over the past I can't change and my hopes for the uncertain future.

Friday, September 5, 2008

doing the South Carolina boogie (and a run, of course!)

So I went to a wedding in South Carolina last weekend. Anyone who knows me well understands that flying cross-country for the weekend is not something I do often. In fact, I realized as my heart rate raced to match the plane engine whining as we left the ground, the last time I flew in an airplane was to San Francisco for my first marathon when Jude was 10 months old. He's five now. My heart was racing with excitement. I actually like flying. Not the waiting around in the airport lugging my luggage, but the part where I watch the ground drop away to neat brown and green squares, and mountains recede to tiny bumps, and cars and roads to miniscule dots and lines. I like flying into clouds, and I don't get motion sickness even in the worst turbulence. I always ask for a window seat. I like the sensation that I'm on an adventure, and all normal routines, pressures, and duties are suspended just like we are in the sky. I suspect flying is a novelty that wears off with time, but I loved it the first time when I was ten and flew from Phoenix to San Jose by myself to visit my Grammy and Grampy's house, and I still enjoy it today.

I also like weddings. This one was the last of my three first cousins. My mom's brother had 3 sons. My parents had 4 daughters. They lived in Virginia, we in San Diego and then Phoenix. Needless to say, we didn't get to visit much. We always had fun when we did, though, so when Aunt Lynn called me in the spring to ask that me and/or one of my sisters make the wedding, I took her seriously. The cost felt prohibitive, besides the time away from my kids, but thankfully my parents bestowed the gift of the flight and car rental cost, and my sister Linda footed the cheap hotel we found on the web (thanks, guys). [She might not even have to pay that bill, since we found stains on the sheets, ticks in the bed, and a shower that screamed at us when we tried to get clean! We switched rooms, but Aaauggghhhh!!!]

The trip got better. Because Linda and I were relatives from waaayyy out of town, Aunt Lynn invited us to be part of all the wedding party fun, like the rehearsal dinner, the wedding breakfast the morning of, the gala reception, etc, with none of the wedding party un-fun, like standing around for endless wedding pics and holding flowers and fetching something blue and taking things to the tailor for adjustments.

Not only that, I got to run in another state! I love finding new places to run. That's one of the reasons I like to pick out of state races once in a while, as an excuse to vacation and to run new trails. I cracked Pin (Linda) up all weekend by complaining about being hungry every two hours thanks to my overdrive metabolism, and by seeking daily exercise options. In fact, we got to the hotel at 8pm Thursday night, and I told her at 9 that I was going to go check out the hotel exercise room. Hey, it was only 6pm by Arizona time! She came along and got to laugh at the tiny four-machine room, and we watched "Flubber" on TV while biking for 30 minutes or so. On Friday I drove to nearby Peak Fitness (sounded like "Pete's" off the drawl of the hotel clerk, and I laughed when I saw the sign), and did my weight workout. On Saturday Pin and I got up at 6am and drove out to nearby "Paris Mountain" State Park so I could run for an hour while she walked around the lake. It wasn't open until 8am, so we parked down the road and sneaked over the fence. We were still late for the wedding breakfast, but it was worth it. And sweet Aunt Lynn saved us a box with fruit, eggs, sweet rolls, and grits. You gotta love the South!

Saturday afternoon marked the big event, and we got shuttled up winding hills to the small, exclusive chapel on Glassy Hill, overlooking a panoramic view of South Carolina's misty green Greenville County below. Half an hour later, vows and rings and kisses exchanged, we shuttled back downhill to the reception and most everybody ate and laughed and danced the night away. You know my position on dancing, so you won't be surprised that I waited until the whole room joined in before I ventured on the floor. Getting lost in a bunch of people that don't know one foot from another is easier than being the center of attention in one's dressiest dress and high heels. Oh, those heels hurt by the time we limped back to our car at almost 2am!

On Sunday, I got to breakfast with the family and friends at their hotel (I shudder to think what our hotel would have served, had they ventured into foodservice), while Linda went to church with a friend she discovered in nearby Erskine College. Breakfast over, friends and family hugged and waved off, I got to wander down the street to partake in the excitement and expo freebies offered by the 115-mile USA Cycling Road Race Championship scheduled that same day. I missed the photo finish that occurred hours later, won by a two-thousandths of a second, but I enjoyed witnessing the first and second laps that brought them to the halfway point, with cowbells ringing and hollering all along the thickly lined, barricaded roads, while the lean and sweating cyclists whirred by in an airy blur of wheels, helmets, and brightly logo'ed shirts.

I was having so much fun that I entered that sensation of complete relaxation that a good vacation brings. I didn't actually twig on to it until I caught a couple's eye while passing and they excused a second glance saying, "You just look so relaxed!"

Wow, I really am, I thought. How novel. And I bought myself a coffee (decaf, so not to get un-relaxed with the jitters), and ran into fellow wedding-goer Mark Horowitz. Mark hails from Los Angeles, and with his unruly mop of blonde curls and eclectic clothing choices, is frequently compared to Napoleon Dynamite. He introduced me to a fantastic digital version of Boggle on his iPhone on the way back from the wedding, which passed the drive time marvelously. On this occasion, he collected a hug and his double espresso, and bolted for a shuttle sending him back to L.A.

To top off our fantastic holiday, Pin and I went on a driving exploration of Greenville's "Upcountry" north and east of our hotel, and enjoyed a murky, misty sunset view of Greenville County from "Caesar's Head." Not often do you get to enjoy a fantastic veiw from the head of a deceased Roman dictator, I might add. We made hilarious observations on South Carolina countryside from the town of "Pickins" (fodder for many puns) to the looming kudzu vine overtaking the state.

So that was my trip. I ran, boogied, partied, drove, and relaxed marvelously in South Carolina. Now back to reality!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

shanghai'd by the olympics

I love the Olympics. The amazing feats of sheer athleticism, the inspiration of all-out efforts, the grimaces as the athletes pull out all stops to attain a shiny metal disc and a moment of glory on a stand. I love the drama of the background stories that the media puts together, I love laughing at the obscure sports (and often giving them grudging respect after watching them), I love feeling the pain of the losers, I love the whole thing. What red-blooded human being doesn't love the Olympics, honestly? I think we all have at least one competitive bone in our body to which the Olympics make their siren call.

So the Olympics, as you might have guessed, have totally shanghai'd my last week and a half. Since we don't have cable, I'm stuck to whatever broadcast offers in the evenings, so don't picture me ignoring the kids and hubby all day and night while I keep up with all the events. No. And I still do have a lot I'm doing during the day, but the nights. I normally shut down around 10pm, don't function too well after that. Well, more than a few nights the past 10 days I am still cheering on the American swim team (wasn't that men's relay AWESOME?!!! Phelps rocks the casbah!!!) and the women's gymnastics and the volleyball and the marathon, and now track and field! I groan when I set my alarm as I crash in bed at midnight, but I still do it, more nights than not. I mean, it only comes around every four years.

I didn't think they'd suck me in so bad this summer. But my change in work schedule just prior to August gives me a little more time freedom, and then my parents invited us up to Sedona last weekend so the addiction started on Friday the 8th as we watched the opening ceremony stuff and then hours on Saturday watching the women's weightlifting and the dramatic beach volleyball matches, and I was hooked. Let's be honest, though. The addiction started back in the 80's watching my first memorable Olympics on our neighbor's borrowed TV (we didn't have one when I was growing up!). I joined the hordes of little girls that dreamed of being the next Mary Lou Retton, among other heros that paraded before our impressionable, hero-seeking eyes.

So that, in a nutshell, is where I've been the past 10 days. I have eaten, and worked, and slept. Have had to nap in the afternoon with the kids, for goodness' sakes, to keep this up! I mean, my own marathon training is taking it out of me too, I had a gnarly 16-miler at South Mountain this weekend, and got another ugly 20-miler coming up next weekend (they're all ugly after about 15, I start just slogging away about then). And I still visited my Grandma last week, and took the kids to a picnic lunch at Squaw Peak on one of the cooler mornings, and got surprised at my own birthday party (!), and went to Bible study and shopping and the rest of life kinda went on as usual. I'm not dropping out of existence, but I am wondering when I will get to bed early again.

You'll probably still find me in front of the Olympics again tonight.

Friday, August 1, 2008

...and "Medaling Moms"

I couldn't resist.
Vic found this MSN article on "champion moms...some of the women who've been able to give birth and gain athletic glory"
I like how the (male) author phrases that, like it's some incredible anomaly, or an oxymoron. Well, it sure ain't easy. Notice how more than a couple of the clips on the individual women mention plaguing injuries. On the other hand, there seem to be a lot more "medaling moms" appearing since the medical community decided to ease up on treating pregnancy as a debilitating medical condition.
Then I thought about all the moms I know and admire...all of you are champion moms! Anyway, I thought the profiles of these high-achieving moms pretty inspiring. So enjoy.