Culmination

A year is a long time to be working towards a goal - espcially when there’s so many individual milestones to be met along the way. In 2018, ...

Jan 17, 2020

Dare Greatly

I've heard it a lot this year - go big or go home. I've even been guilty of saying it a few times! But then I started pondering the statement. Go big or go home. What does that really mean? Is it the encouraging statement that we mean it to be, the phrase challenging us to step up to the next challenge or a distance that intimidates us? Or does it limit us from really pushing the limits and doing what scares us?

Like most things, it can be taken either way. I know a lot of people will toss out Go Big or Go Home when they sign up for a goal race or an event just on the edges of possible. In this context, it's a challenge - if you aren't willing to do something huge where you might fail, why bother trying? That's how I interpret it anyway! Do this crazy thing - go big. And if you don't think you can step to the line, then just go home and do something else, something less epic. If you aren't willing to try, then just quit now. To me, that's not very encouraging and not the best motivational saying. Now, I know other people will read Go Big or Go Home in other ways, including the motivational aspect. But for me, that's not the kind of motivation I need.

Last year was kinda a Go Big year - with six huge races, as well as everything else I was doing. Even then, I still avoided the Go Home part of the saying. Yes, I was challenging myself in many ways, but if something happened, I wasn't quitting. I would reboot if possible and adjust. It's being true to yourself and to the demands of both the day and the year. Yes, I went big, but I never focused on what could happen if I didn't meet the goals at specific races. I never felt like it was Go Big or Go Home - it was Go Big and be smart!

For 2020, there's fewer races - just two long runs at Silverheels 100 and Sangre de Cristo 100k. My third attempt at the 100 mile distance and the return to Music Pass. And with a tighter focus on my races, there's fewer chances for redemption if something goes wrong. I can reboot in the middle of the race if needed, but I still have to reach the finish line. That's why 2020 will be the year of Daring Greatly. I don't have the second and third chances at solid races.

Dare Greatly. Challenge yourself to something that scares you and will test you (Silverheels 100!) Dare to step to the line, to look into the unknowing, realizing that nothing is for sure. Be honest with yourself, respect the challenge. Through the challenge you will change - as I discovered in 2019. The greatest challenges are the ones that scare you, so daring to attempt them - regardless of outcome - is a great achievement. With that in mind - that it is the process that matters and the challenges that matters, more then the results - I know 2020 will be an amazing year. I may not achieve everything I hope to. I've already backed down goals for my first race due to my root encounter. But I will still be there at Stories, just with a different perspective. From volunteering to racing, from course marking to course sweep - instead of being involved in just my miles and my day, I get to see the entire race. I will see others heading out into the cold dark, Daring Greatly to reach their goals.

Dare Greatly. What ever happens, whatever your goals.

Jan 4, 2020

Expectations

This was something I was struggling with as I eased back into running. How could I feel sorry for myself with my running? I was out there, covering the miles. Sure I was walking a little more (okay a lot more in the beginning) then normal. Sure, my pace was significantly slower then normal. I was even moving slower then during my recovery runs after both Stories and Sangre de Cristo! But I was able to get out and move. That was the important part. Everything else would come back later. That’s all easy to say when you are alone, out by yourself and just focused on recovery. It’s a different world when you are immersed in the competitive vibe that is Colorado Springs running.

I told myself prior to the Rescue Run - no expectations. Pin the number on and just run what you felt. Staying away from the crowds before the race helped with the no expectations goal. But what would happen once the race started? When everyone I normally ran with took off? I didn’t know would happen at that point. How well would I be able to balance honoring where I was with my recovery and my running with the fact that I had a number on my chest? Despite my forgivings, I started near the front, with the women I’m usually racing. I wanted to be clear of any traffic if there was ice further out on the course. And if for some reason, I felt good running - maybe I would be able to contend for some age group points. We would see.

The first half mile actually felt really good. I was right in the mix of where I normally was - maybe just a little further back. But I was around the people I usually run with. I knew it would all change when we hit the major hill at end of the first mile. I wasn’t running up that hill. No way. Sure enough, I had to slow to a walk just as the course rounded the steepest section. I haven’t walked up that hill in years! But I had to respect what I was capable of doing in the moment. That mean walking. And that meant seeing the group of women I was with vanish up the hill and see another group pass me. Ouch. That one hurt mentally. Seeing my normal competition just run away from me and not being able to do anything about it was rough. I plastered a smile on my face, and just focused on running. Even stride, smooth gait pattern, breath as deeply as the ribs allowed. Gradually I was able to make up some of the distance I’d lost with my walk up the hill. But it wasn’t enough. While I was running comfortable, I was wasn’t running fast. It was just comfortable. I didn’t attempt to push the pace any more then where I was. Even so, the descent off Grand Mesa towards the finish area wasn’t super comfortable. The ribs were sore and the muscles weren’t pleased with the effort. Somehow, my comfortable run still got me into the top 10 women - but with my slowest time for the Rescue Run in about 20 years. I was happy with the effort and how I felt after the race, but not necessarily pleased. I had a long way to go...



One of the things I’ve decided to do with this whole thing is be a little more open. Life isn’t all sunshine and unicorns. Things go to hell some times and life really can suck. So instead of making it look like everything is fine, I’ve been honest with my feelings throughout. It’s okay to be frustrated with the setbacks and with how the recovery is progressing. I like giving myself low public goals and then berate myself for not reaching my personal high standards that no one but me is aware of. That doesn’t help with staying mentally healthy through this process. I also wasn’t prepared for the effects of words on the mental aspect of recovery.  

At the Neilson, my motivation wasn’t really there. I knew I was going to be slow - relatively. I knew the ice on the course would affect the speed of the start. I started a little further back in the pack and got a little boxed in on the first section of ice. Anxiety through the roof as I carefully made my way through the ice, watching both my feet and everyone else around me! Uff. My motivation took another dive. I had to get through the first half mile and then things would smooth out and I would be able to run a little. Meh. Not so much. Again, I felt decent running but there was no turnover, no speed at all. I didn’t have an extra gear - stuck in first gear the entire time. Again, my slowest time for the Neilson ever. Part of the recovery process, I know - but internally, I wasn’t happy. Last year at this time I was a force. A formidable runner with both endurance and speed. I could show up to a race of any distance and feel comfortable with my ability to place in the top five. Now? Not so much. A completely different person.



When I posted a photo from before the race, with the comment that I was slow - so slow, I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I was just stating a fact. I was slow - almost two minutes slower over the two mile race. That’s huge. Of course I was disappointed and frustrated. I’ve tried to avoid commenting on time or pace on any of my posts up until this point. Why? Because I know. I know that my slow is fast to most people. I know that my slow is actually faster then many people’s race pace. I don’t need to be told that. While being open with my recovery, I’m trying to not degrade the people I am running with. I know how hard they are training to reach their goals and that speeds are relative. That doesn’t change my perspective or the facts - that right now I am slow. I know I am slow, compared to where I was last year. 

I know the speed will come back - as will my endurance. I have to keep the goals of the year in focus and not get caught up stress of comparing myself to who I was last year. It’s 2020 - my expectations have to change with the year. 

Dec 31, 2019

Tabula Rasa

The start of a new year always brings out the dreams. As we turn close the book on one year and open the next, it appears that we have a blank slate for what we can accomplish. Tabula Rasa - the mind in it’s blank slate before being influenced by outside impressions. That’s what a new year is, right? Time and goals in the original pristine state before we get a chance to start screwing things up. It’s one of the greatest things about the turn of the year - that clear calendar and the opportunity to dream big.

Or is it? As 2019 ticks to a close and 2020 dawns before us, is it really fair to completely wipe the slate clean? That purges not only goals that weren’t met and things we’d rather forget, but the things we did accomplish. It doesn’t honor that the person who started 2019 isn’t the same person who is starting 2020. The blank slate idea erases the things we learned over the course of year - both from failures and successes. And without recalling those lessons, we are doomed to repeated them. So wipe that slate clean as you start the new year, but remember the things you learned.

This rings very true to me this year. While I would love to have a blank slate for 2020, it’s just not possible. I can’t turn the page and forget everything that happened in 2019. Every mile taught me something about my mental strength and physical endurance. Each race was a chance to meet new people and see old friends. Yes, there are some things I would love to erase (root in KC perhaps?) - even that taught me important lessons. Lessons on patience, recovery and the importance of friends. If I start 2020 without acknowledging that, then all the pain was meaningless. It also forms the basis for my goals for 2020. Before I can dream big (or admit to dreaming big) I have to think small. Small means getting healthy, letting the ribs heal. Small means being aware that I had major surgery and a chest tube for several days and it’s more then just my ribs. Small means slowly building into the distances and intensities I was handling easily before November 13th. Small means smart and there’s no way I can accomplish the big goals I have planned without being smart.

Tabula Rasa. It means not looking back at what I was doing on January 1, 2019 and comparing who I was 365 days ago with who I am now. It means acknowledging all that I did in the last year, all that I learned and all that happened. 2020 is truly a blank slate, but that slate was formed from the lessons of 2019.

Dec 28, 2019

The Loneliness of Recovery

Recovering means stepping away from the trails, from the snow and just focusing on getting healthy. But that step back also means distance from the people and the tribe of athletes you surround yourself with. Even as an anti-social runner and cyclist, this past month has been challenging. There's a different kind of loneliness when you are so far separated from what you love. The photos splattered across social media of sunrises, epic days on the trail and generally being outside pull you. Everyone one else is out there, yet here I am, settling in for another day on the trainer, another round of water running or treadmill run. Staying focused on the end result is important, but there can be a dark cloud surrounding the process if you aren’t careful. Recovery isn’t all sunrises and unicorns - instagram worthy posts of doing the “right” things. There’s a lot of feeling angry, worried and testing the limits.

It starts in the hospital room. On the other side of the badge, it’s hustle and bustle - call lights going off, meds to be given. The hallways are busy with patients walking, family members, nursing, housekeeping and everyone else going about their business. But inside the room? That hustle and bustle is isolated to the sliver of hallway visible from the door. With the door closed, it’s even more isolating. Just the sounds of the room - the suction, the ticking of the clock, the bed inflating when you move -  and the swirling thoughts always trending towards the worst possible outcomes. Even more so when there’s pain like you’ve never known every time you try to move and breathing is a challenge. The only link to the outside and to help is that call light. Add in IV, O2 cording and a chest tube to suction and that call light becomes ever more important. I was lucky. Even with the chest tube to suction, I was still able to get up and move around during the day. I had an extender on the suction so I could reach most of the room. I was never a prisoner in my chair or in the bed. As such, because I was independent, I was left alone for most of the day. Unless it was time for vitals, meds or if I wanted a walk, it was mostly just me and my mind. A scary place to be at times, especially when you are in the medical field and know all the things that could go wrong. You don’t realized in the moment, when you are robbed of your independence, how important that contact can be. Something for me to remember when I walk into a room.

Then freedom! Time to go home. Instead of the isolating walls of the small hospital room, the comforts of home sound appealing. Except - in the hospital there are people around, from staff to visitors. You are never really alone when at the hospital. At home, it’s very different. Everyone else is at work, going about their lives and you are stuck in the middle. Healthy but not. Simple tasks are insurmountable, so the frustration builds. And the signs of health, of pre-crash fun, are all around when you are at home. I almost found the first few days when I was home alone the darkest. I couldn’t really do anything! I was still hurting, not breathing well and tired. Walking to the library was about all I could muster before wanting a nap. But taking that nap involved attempting to get comfortable. Almost not worth with it. The dark thoughts shift from wondering about getting healthy to my identity as an athlete.

That leads to misbehaving. To pushing the limits just a bit more then I should. Yes, there was still pain. Yes, the breathing was still hard. It was only two weeks after major surgery, but such a nice day. The trip to Lake Pueblo was just what I needed mentally. I was able to ride a few harder things, had to walk a few other. But no major increase in pain. Yes, I was sore, tired and aching. But I’d been able to ride my bike! This is the danger zone, as I found out the next time I tired riding outside a week later. Stepping off the bike wrong tweaked not quite healed muscles and ribs, sending my entire right side into spasm. Had I done something to seriously set back recovery? After a well deserved lecture, time to simmer down. Allow things to heal! Internally, I was even more frustrated. Why wasn’t I healing or recovering as quickly as I thought I should? Back to the darkness, the isolation of not being able to participate in things I wanted. 

There is another aspect playing into the challenges and the darkness. Fear. The crash was nothing I could have predicted. I wasn’t going down a crazy trail or a steep technical downhill. I was on one of the easiest trails we’d ridden that day. It was a fluke - the combination of leaves, wet roots and one tree just in the wrong spot. I do keep replaying the crash and there is nothing I could have done to prevent it - short of not riding that day! Out of all the crashes I’ve had, I’ve never had mental issues getting back on the bike. Until now. Those three rides outside were mentally challenging. It would only take one wrong step (which I did) to really hurt myself again. Instead of focusing on the trail, I was focusing on not crashing. And that’s the best way to crash. I have to get out of my head and relax. Just ride my bike. That is going to be the hardest part I think - letting go. Letting go of fear and expectations - both real and imagined. Expectations about recovery, healing - any timeline I may have had. Embrace the step away and the seeming loneliness to allow myself to come back stronger - mentally and physically. 

Dec 18, 2019

Simmer down

With healing ribs and better breathing,  I decided that maybe I could start doing a little more. Sure, I wouldn’t be racing Sawmill, but maybe a little mountain biking and some attempts at harder running. I was just factoring the time from the crash with my thought process. The ribs felt a lot better for sure. Still tender at times, still not the best sleeping but I was moving better. If I didn’t try riding now, it might be months before I got outside to ride!

So down to Pueblo we headed the weekend before I went back to work. This was three and a half weeks post crash. Easy loop - Duke, Rodeo Ridge, Quatro Cinco... I made the first climb up Rodeo, which sent my heart rate through the roof! A few other things I just didn’t have the umph for and ended walking. A little discouraging for sure - between the muscles around my ribs tightening up and just dealing a skyrocketing heart rate - I wasn’t really ready to ride. It felt good to get out and pedal though! My ribs and the muscles around the two surgery sites were definitely sore when we finished. And I rode for less then a hour! But the soreness went down over night and I was able to go for a run-hike the following day. Maybe I was ready to start doing a little more outside?

Or so I thought. With a little more activity, I started developing some pain at the chest tube scar. At first, just an ache - sore muscles type aching. Then it changed slightly. Instead of that muscular pain, it became sharp - a deep stabbing pain every time I tried moving. Maybe I tweaked something moving a patient or lifted something wrong. Who knows. But last week, when I went swimming it was definitely different. I couldn’t do my flip turns - something that hadn’t been bothering me at all. Sure the muscles were still sore and the ribs stiff, but the scar pain was new, bad and spreading. I did my best to ignore it. It didn’t hurt all the time, but enough that it was annoying. Part of healing, right?

Flash forward to the weekend.  We had a planned trip for some outdoor fun since I wasn’t doing Sawmill and I was still feeling good enough to go. Sure, we wouldn’t be hitting up any of the crazy trails like Holy Cross anymore, but we could still ride some fun stuff. Again, or so I though. I was able to get a solid run in the morning. Lower elevation helped with that! But on the ride, I stepped off the bike wrong and something spasmed. It was in the ribs and in the muscles below the ribs. Movement for the rest of the weekend was a challenge. I definitely felt like I’d gone backwards in my recovery. Had I re-broken something? Torn something? Was I a risk for another hemothorax? I was worried enough that I reached out to one of the docs. He hadn’t done the surgery, but he knew was was going on. Within an hour, I had orders for new X-rays and an appointment for a follow up. 

It’s either a good thing or a bad thing to know the trauma team and for them to know just how crazy you are. It’s a good thing in that I was able to get in quickly to see one of them. It’s also a good thing because they know my job and how physically active therapists are during work. It’s another good thing when they are also mountain bikers and understand some of the mental aspect of recovery and just how hard it really it. No, I haven’t ridden the New Chutes yet, no I won’t be riding it in the snow and ice...  But, it’s a bad thing because they feel free to say what’s really on their minds when they find out what you’d been doing! As in, you’re only three weeks out from major surgery - what exactly made you think you even should be riding outside? And you should know exactly how many muscles attach to those five ribs and what muscles we had to cut through for the surgery. Muscles take time to heal. Ribs take time to heal. Simmer down and let the healing happen. I got the lecture I’m sure they always want to give but can’t because it wouldn’t be politically correct or polite! Can’t say I didn’t deserve the lecture. I was so focused on the ribs and that they were feeling so much better. I didn’t pay attention to how much more was going one besides just the rib fractures. Yes, it makes perfect sense that the muscles around the surgery sites would be painful and healing. It makes sense what any sudden movement or twisting would possibly affect those muscles. As a PT, I should have know that - and been a little smarter with what I was doing.    

So, simmer down and just chill. Now is the time for healing, not training. It’s going to be hard - especially when the trails finally start drying out. But I don’t want another lecture and I want to return at 100%. This isn’t a PT heal yourself deal - this is the tincture of time and behaving. And now that they know I wasn’t really behaving, the spies are out!  

Dec 13, 2019

Missing Out

So it’s 30 days out from my crash. My ribs feel much better, but I’m still getting some sharp pains along the front and where the chest tube was. I was able to go back to work at the beginning of the week - which was super nice. I missed my co-workers and interacting with my patients! I’ve even been able to start running a little. Kind of a walk/jog/hoggle type of run - nothing fancy at all. The ribs ache and I can tell I’m still pretty anemic, in addition to still not quite being able to take a full deep breath. But I’m able to start moving more and moving smoother, which is the goal. Small steps, focusing on the moment and not the big picture right now. I have some challenging goals for next year and I need to make sure I heal well, recovery smartly and take my time building into the training again.

But still. Tomorrow I was supposed to be heading up to Golden for my planned final race in the Transcendence Series - the Sawmill 50+. Even though I’d finished my challenge at Indian Creek and didn’t need Sawmill, it still was on the calendar. I was looking forward to a low key winter ultra where I could just have fun and face the challenge the weather provided. Since I’d reached my season goal, I was leaving the option of only doing one lap on the table. I didn’t need the 50k, but wanted to be among the community of runners that make the Human Potential Running Series so great. I didn’t care about my time, the distance I chose to run, or my place. I just wanted to run.

After we got home from Kansas City, it was pretty clear that I wouldn’t be able to run a 50k in four weeks. I was still holding out hope for doing the single 17 mile loop at that point. Walking a few miles was painful and I wasn’t breathing well at all, so I did what was smart. Taking a chance on doing the race would be stupid. I emailed John and said I was out and to pull me from the starting list. (Not so I didn’t show up as DNS. That really doesn’t matter! I have a DNF that doesn’t show up on ultrasignup and that actually annoys me a little. My record isn’t the perfect green that it shows!) I figured with Sawmill being sold out, I might as well give someone on the wait-list my spot. I would hope someone else would do that for me one day. I admit toy hesitated before sending the email. Once it was done, it was done and no matter how good I was feeling on the 14th, I would be out. I thought about holding on for few more days, but the Saturday urgent care visit convinced me that I really needed to think longevity and not just “now.” I felt like crap and didn’t feel like I was recovering at all from the crash. I know what was happening, but that all affected the recovery from the crash even more. Instead of dealing with “just” one or two broken ribs, I was now dealing with five broken ribs, some very cranky lungs, severe anemia and all the post-op challenges from two surgeries and a chest tube for three days. 

Sunset isn't the end - it's the start of new dream


I know I’m in no shape to run 17 miles tomorrow, let alone 34. I know that pulling out of Sawmill was the best for long term recovery and for long term goals. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. I really wanted to be up in Golden, facing Belcher hill again and being part of something special. I have to remember that one day, one event doesn’t make a runner. It’s the life long commitment to the challenges and the adventures only found through ultra running. I might miss this challenge, but the greater adventures are coming next year. I’ll see my tribe at Stories - both running and volunteering! I have a great weekend planned, although still working on the theme for Home Base over night. And then come July - time to #daregreatly as I step up to Silverheels 100. I knew after Last Call, I wanted to tackle Silverheels. Part of daring greatly is being smart. That is the challenge right now. It doesn’t mean I can’t be sad about missing Sawmill. It just means I have to acknowledge and then look past the sadness and frustration that I’m still hurting and not healing as fast as I would like. It means I have to honor what my body needs in the present so I am ready what is coming.

Dec 2, 2019

Perception

One of the hardest part about recovery? The self-consciousness of what you are doing compared to what you usually do.What you can do is huge part of identity - and it's no different for me. I'm the crazy one running four laps of the neighborhood in the mornings before work. Or the runner who heads up into the hills with a full pack and doesn't return until hours later. I'm the one at work who climbs up the stairs every time, without fail. Or the perfect metronome in the pool, gliding from wall to wall without ever stopping. All of that - part of who I am and how I define myself.

Until the 13th of November. In the time between the 13th and when I went to the hospital on the 21st, those identities I've created felt like they were slipping away. I felt like I should have been improving, but wasn't to the degree I normally do. Granted, I now why now, but still... To go to the pool and not even be able to swim 25 yards or be able to kick because I'm gasping for air and my entire right side is hurting? Or to try pedaling, but not even be able to get on or off the bike comfortably. I didn't even try running because walking was a challenge. I've had other setbacks where I've had to alter my perceptions, but none such as drastic as this one. The risk of losing vision is life changing for sure, but nothing like the risk of losing everything.

I have to learn to shake off the idea that people are watching and judging - that the person driving down the road noticed that I started walking right when the road turned up. I know realistically that nobody cares. I'm just a pedestrian strolling down the sidewalk, sometimes running sometimes walking. Pushing myself to run more then I should or maintain a pace that I can't handle will set the recovery back by weeks. Only through being honest with myself and what I am capable of doing in the moment can I respect the processes. If that means walking up every hill because my HR is through the roof, then so be it. If it means keeping the pace nice and easy so I can breath, even better. I have to honor how my body is recovering, both from the broken ribs and then everything else that happened. Worrying about what everyone else thinks is counterproductive. Even for someone as comfortable in my skin was I am, it's a challenge.

Trying not to worry about what the neighbors think!

Then comes the next question. If I have that sense of embarrassment that I've stopped to walk or that my pace isn't as fast as usual, how do others handle it? How many people don't ever try taking that first step because they are afraid of the silent (and sometimes not so silent) judgement from others? And how can I be more welcoming to everyone when I am back to 100%? Something to ponder while I work towards health.