Saturday, January 23, 2016

Things that go boo for me.

Dear Diary,

There are things I have always feared, and avoided.

Cold. I have always avoided going out when it's cold.  I'm not sure why. All winter long I would sit inside, stare outside, and eventually Baboo would come home.  "I didn't get around to it," I'd say.

Dark. I also have avoided running in the dark.

Cold and Dark. Yeah. Fuck that. Fuck winter.  All winter long, I'd only run on weekends, if at all, long after the sun came up.

Hills.  I have avoided hills like people avoid going to the dentist.  I would sign up for a race that had some, and then perseverate on all the suffering that lay before me.  Of course, I would avoid them in training, and then suffer throughout the race.

For 2015, I made a resolution to face my fears.  There is an old song, called "wear sunscreen" that is a commencement address speech set to a beat.  In it, the speaker says, do one thing every day that scares you.  I done a few of those.  Staring into the water of my very first olympic distance triathlon.  Standing on the shore of Lake Coer d'Arlen at the beginning of Ironman CDA.  Crossing a rushing river on foot with nobody around to help.  Cutting my hair short.  For 2016, it was returning to Bandera.

I did the Bandera trail 50k two weeks ago.  Throughout 2015 I ran more consistently than I ever have, mostly on the foothill trails which, I might add, are rarely flat.  Much of this occured after a secnd peson was finally hired to help me at work.  When I run in the foothills, I usually hike the hills, leading me to believe that frankly, i probably wouldn't get much benefit.  So throughout Bandera, I was tense, and looking at the profile I kept on my phone.  I knew that at mile 22, the climbing began.  Towards the end there would be two monster climbs.  At mile twenty, I pulled out a package of Buttered Popcorn flavored Jelly Belly beans, which I love, to chew on and keep my mouth moist.  

The challenge of Bandera, you see, isn't just that the are hills.  It's that the hills are all covered with loose, base-ball-sized angular rocks.  There are also some places where you can't step up, because the next step is waist-high.  So you hoist yourself up,as Baboo says, like climbing a very large, very fucked-up staircase.  Coming down can be treacherous.  To train, Baboo suggested that I do certain trails in the foothills that had similar conditions.  I did those.

Also, there is sotol, which is yucca with serrated leaves.  There's a couple of thickets of them.  It's best to run through them, arms overhead, with tights on.  They will cut your legs, arms, and hands, otherwise.

Mile 22 came...and....went.  Then mile 23...24...25...i stared at the profile again, puzzled.  I'd encountered a few knolls, but not the monster climbs I remembered from the last time I was out here.  Not at all the ones I'd memorized from the elevation profile.  Where were the monster climbs?  I jogged along, enjoying the cool air on my exposed neck,  

I finally decided, they must have changed the course.  

So, moseyed along, chewing on my jelly beans, surprised by a rather nasty little climb near the very end, but it was short.  I trotted past a guy standing still at the top, breathing heavily, leaning over.  i picked my way down the final difficult descent.

Eventually I finished, in about 9:15, which made me pretty happy because I'd hoped to finish under ten.  

But not as happy as I was when I realized, they hadn't changed the course.  My definition of monster climb was what had changed.  All because I started working on my fear of cold, and of hills.

I went back to our rental car to keep warm until Baboo finished the 100k in 14 hours and some change. [Freak] We returned to Albuquerque and our lives.  

Last week, I went back to the hair dresser.  Cut it, I said.  It's getting in the way.

Yesterday, I got up and headed out before dawn.  It was cold, and it was dark.  It was a short run, but I did it.  It felt marvelous.  I didn't die.  It was easier than I thought.

So maybe hills aren't scary.  Cold isn't deadly.  And armed with this knowledge, I went shopping on ultrasignup.

Gonna be an interesting year.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

An overdue race report.

Dear Diary,

On November 14th 2015, I did the Franklin Mountain 25k.  That might seem like a departure, but when I tell you about it, you'll understand why I had to write about it.

First, it was hilly.  Like crazy hilly.  As in, you were nearly always going up or down, steeply.  Over not-quite 25k, there was a little over 4200 feet in elevation gain. To put that in perspective, the Devil Mountain half has about 2200 feet, the Jemez mountain heavy half has 3400 feet, and the entire Bandera 50k only has 3800 feet of elevation gain.

Second, it was rocky.  I mentioned Bandera above because more than 80% of THIS trail, in my estimation, was covered in fist-sized, ankle-breaking, angular rocks.

How to train for it.  Basically, just pour your toddler's toys all over the stairs at home and go up and down them a few hours per day.  Blindfolded.  While drunk.

That third hill is right about the place wher I said, fuck this race.  Fuck it right in the face.  There are several false summits so you don't realize how long this very steep climb is, but eventually you get to the top and get a breathtaking view of, well, El Paso, Las Cruces, and Juarez in the winter.  A woman near me in the race stopped nearby and said, isn't it beautiful?  I looked to see if she was kidding, and she was not.  I said, meh, and she looked stunned and a little hurt.  You don't think it's beautiful?  I started laughing, part of of actual amusement, and part out of hysterical fatigue.  
No, no. I don't think it's beautiful. Come to Albuquerque.  I'll show you beautiful views. 

Throughout the race i was surrounded by members of the Juarez running club.  One of them jogged backwards and offered me Gummy bear? They are very good.  I took one, out of politeness.

It was very good.

I finished and was asked about the race, ostensibly by one of the race directors, and I told him this race was harder than any half I'd done including Bandera, Devil Mountain, and the Jemez heavy half. He was all, woo-woo! And wanted to do a fist bump.

Map, splits and elevation profile are here.

But here is why I did it, as a slave I am to my contingencies: the medal.  

As one of the organizers said, this a race for grown ups. You've been warned.

What you get: serious badass creds. Climbing practice. Friendly aid stations and enthusiastic volunteers. A very, very cool medal that I'm trying planning to put on display. 
What you won't get: running, or breathtaking views. 

Recommended: highly. At least once. 

Sunday, January 03, 2016

It was the best of times, it was--ah, fuckit.

What I did with 2015.
January, i again attempted the foothills fatass. I have have every year previously, i bagged after a 12 miles. I never seemed to be acclimated to the freezing cold that it always is on New Year's Day, and the initial climb up the canyon wears me out. Later that month, I did a marathon in South Carolina, and picked up that state. At the finish line, they gave us shrimp, grits, and beer.
I was selected to interview at UNM for their doctoral program.

February, I did the Black Canyon 18k. It wasn't that hard of a run, but I had a hip thing going on. When I finished (heads-up) i got a curt nod and a verbal notice that the pizza was only free for the 100-kers. That's it. It's boring, it's ugly, and totally not worth it unless you plan to do the 100k. I said fuck this, and had wonderful Indian food in town. Sweet Baboo did the 100k, and afterwards, we waited in the chilly night air for thirty minutes for his free personal-sized, wood-fired pizza. Oh, also, he did get a buckle. You decide.
UNM said, in response to my application to their doctoral program: we'll put you on the wait list. Which was crushing. It never occured to me that I'd run out of time to get my PhD. This, along with some other problems that affected my self-esteem, sent me into a bit of a tailspin. 

March, I turned 50. FIF. TY. My friends took me out to 10,000 waves, where we hung out and then went for lunch. I took a couple days off. Later that month, I tried to do the Clinton Lake 50k, and failed. I was undertrained and the trail had large patches of slick, wet mud on the uphills. I bagged it after 20.
I got a letter from UNM. I rushed home to open it. It said: Just to let you know, you're still not in.
April and May, I agonized over my hair. Should I grow it? Keep it short? In the end, I asked myself what my priority is, it is fitness. I kept it short. Essays like this one helped bolster my self-esteem while crazy assholes sought to tear it down.  I won't link to the crazy asshole, but I will link to someone talking about the crazy asshole.
For the rest of the year I was able to run an hour in the morning and then jump in the shower, 5-minute blow-dry, then head to work.
I injured my right rotator cuff, probably throwing medicine balls. I could barely lift my lunch bag.

May, i did the Lake Woebegone marathon (highly recommended) and the Jemez half marathon. (half doesn't sound like much, but it is.). I got help at work, which started freeing up more time for fitness.
I thought about why I wanted a doctorate, and it was all about teaching. So, I put myself out there and offered to take on another Intern. Two people applied, since it was a last minute decision. I selected one, and it as one of the most rewarding experiences I've had, professionally

June, i went back to the Bighorn trail run and finished a race I'd tried to do several years ago. It was a 50k, and I picked up Wyoming as a state.
And then I had my first colonoscopy. Go me.

July, i ran short runs about 3-4 days per week. I was pretty demoralized over a shoulder injury I'd gotten in April. My doctor wanted an MRI before beginning PT, and the VA was supposed to MRI it, but nobody could decide if my stapes implant was metal or not.
Himself and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary.
I discovered articles on how to shop in bulk and then freeze meals to go into a crockpot each day. Yet a little more time opened up for exercise.

August, we ran the Alaska marathon and I saw a moose and a glacier in real life. For an earth science geek it was a thrill. We went for a pre-run the day before through one of the parks near a disappointing town whose name I forget. The run was beautiful. The town was fully of wrecked, rusting ships.
I request records from the hospital where I had my stapes implant in 1983.
That marathon was painful, because I'd been pretty lazy with my training. It was at this time that Baboo challenged me to run every day for a month.

September, I ran 29/30 days. The hospital where I had my stapes implant essentially said, "who? When?"
I had an xray or my head to find out if anything was in there (don't say it.)
As another deadline approached to apply again to UNM, I pondered it.

October, we and some friends did a marathon double in Maine and New Hampshire, and ate some of the best seafood I've ever eaten. I ran 30/31 days.
I finally got my shoulder MRI. My shoulder was healed by then. There was no tear.
I ran 4-5 miles most mornings and then walked 4-5 miles most evenings in September and October, getting over 280 miles in October.
And then, I started coughing when the chamisa bloomed.
The deadline for the application to UNM's doctor program in counseling was November 1. As Lady Chablis said in Midnight in the garden of Good and Evil:"Two tears in a bucket, mother fuckit."
I went to a training at the Beck institute in Philadelphia and got to do a role-play with Judith Beck. If you don't know who that is, that's okay; but for me, it was huge. Himself and I went for a run along the Schulykill river, and no, that's probably not spelled right, and I don't care. We ran up the front steps of the museum. Just like Rocky.

Along the Schulykill River.

November, i coughed through most of the month. I did the Franklin Mountain 25k, which was crazy hard, with a course that was rarely flat and always covered with fist-sized, loose rocks. However, the medal was Awesome...The day after Thanksgiving, it was a crazy windy day, and I had to sleep sitting up due to asthma/coughing. The next day, I finally hooked up my nebulizer and used it in a steamy bathroom. Then I could function. But I still coughed like crazy outside. The running fell dramatically back to what it used to be, 4-5 days per week.

December, i finally admitted to myself that I was doing a lot of things that asthmatics are NOT supposed to do, which was pushing me to my threshold. So, bought a new air cleaner for the living room. There's already one on my side of the bed, so we put long-overdue new air filter in that one. We bought a HEPA furnace filter. We bought dust covers for the mattress, pillows, and dog bed. All our scented cleaners and household products were swapped out for "fragrance free," as was all my personal care products. All my laundry, including linens, started getting washed on very hot water with an extra rinse.
Slowly, the coughing decreased. I started doing steep climbs on weekends.
My Intern, who had finished up her required hours, took me to lunch to thank me. I'll miss her, but I wish her well. I got a request for three other interns. I agreed to take two, for the first time. I've only ever had 1 at a time.

January 1, 2016: i attempted the foothills fatass. I was acclimated, for the first time. I ran, slowly, but I ran, up the initial climb up the canyon. For the first time ever, I finished 20 miles of that fucker.

And so here I am.

I will be blogging more in 2016. That's one goal.


 I'm no longer involved in multisport or endurance sports. I've started my own business, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety d...