Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Black Dog

When you legs get tired run with your heart -unknown

Staunton State Park
We all run for different reasons, but when it comes down to it the black dog standing at the gate is often what pushes, at least myself, to run ultras, to run harder, more challenging races, to continually push the limits of endurance. This week was a recovery week, but it was as if the black dog was standing at the top of every run, pushing me to run faster.

My legs were still a bit beat up from the racing I've been doing over the past six weeks, so I made a real effort to focus on quality over quantity on my runs. On Sunday, rather than chase weekly mile totals, I went for a 10 mile run at Staunton. I managed a pretty decent climb up Mason Creek, despite some heavy legs. After cruising into the saw mill I headed up toward the lookout point to hit the 5 mile turnaround. After I turned around it was like I saw that black dog and just found another gear. I flew back up to the top of Mason Creek so fast I didn't even realize I was at the top until I was headed down. My legs were light and my feet felt like they were just floating over the trail. It was that feeling you live for as a trail runner.
Sweet Annie
But what couldn't be erased from my heart on my runs this week is something that has deeply touched the Ds community lately. In the past couple weeks, we have lost three of our little ones, all 2 years old. Little Annie touched my heart deeply. Something about her smile just reminds me so much of James. 

A lot of stories have gone around about Annie. What I have learned is that she had very complicated medical issues dealing primarily with her heart. She was also denied a heart transplant that may have saved her life. Many of the stories have noted that she was denied the transplant because of her Down syndrome diagnosis. From what I know this is not entirely true. Annie's complicated medical issues also factored into this decision. In 1996, the courts ruled that a person could not be denied a transplant simply because they have Ds. What amazed me was that was 1996! That was not that long ago that people, including medical professionals still saw the stigma of Ds before the person. I do question if Ds played into the doctors' decision to consider her ineligible for a transplant, but it's a question no one will ever have the answer to. It also made me question if any of James' doctors or therapists still think this way. Does James get the same level of care because of his Ds diagnosis? 

Staunton State Park
Over and over again I kept hearing that Annie was denied a transplant because of Ds because she "would not contribute to society". That's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to hear, whether or not it was true, that obviously someone out there thinks that kids like Annie and James will never contribute to society just because of their almond shaped eyes. Those same eyes that sparkle and light up a room. That melt your heart with the simplest grin. So again I'm reminded that each day I have to fight for James. To fight like Annie's parents did for her. To fight for the best therapy, the best medical care, the best education...for everything that James needs. To never assume that he is getting the best. To question every doctor or therapist as to why we are or aren't doing something more to help him. When James was born I was told to be prepared to fight every day. I don't think it really hit until this week just what that really meant. It's a good thing Dan and I have learned to never quit, to never give up. We don't quit races and we'll never quit fighting for James. 

Week June 16 - 22

Miles Running: 36.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 6

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Leadville Marathon Race Report

Dream big, train hard and fight until the finish. Never, ever give up Ellie Greenwood

My heart weighed heavy as I walked to the starting line on 6th Street. I wished Rob was there telling me how great the extra vertical on the course would be. I thought of Fiona and Ryder, two awesome little grommies with Ds who had lost their fights this week. I knew Rob was holding their hands sitting on a mountain top watching us as we prepared to run. I thought of Annie, another beautiful lil grommie with Ds, who was fighting a courageous uphill battle, but never stopped fighting. As the national anthem played I looked to the bright sun in the clear blue sky, wiped a tear from my cheek and vowed to fight for every mile today. 

Dan and I were lucky enough to get some inside tips that there was a course change and a copy of the new route on Thursday. Of course we had no idea how much elevation this would add to the course. At the expo the guy going over the new route mentioned a pretty steep section on part of the change. Ready or not we were off and running down 6th. I felt surprisingly good running down 6th. Last year I began to worry as I was already feeling out of breath. I kept a pretty steady pace uphill for the first 2.5 miles and then we started going down. I was expecting a short downhill here, but instead it kept going for about 3/4 of a mile. While I enjoyed it I knew it would come back to haunt me in a few hours. Then we were back to climbing and I was pretty sure that would continue to the first aid station 6 miles in. I finally arrived at 1:15 which was right on pace and I felt pretty good about it. It was super windy and I was starting to get pretty cold so I filled my water bottles quickly and then headed out. 

There were some awesome views of ball as we headed around the trail. I was trying to keep a pretty fast pace hoping to drop down out of the wind quickly. Soon enough we were on a pretty steep and technical decent. I had a hard time keeping much of a pace here with the loose rocks and unsure runners. I knew I was losing time, but was more concerned with not losing my teeth on a rock. Somehow in my head I told myself this downhill was the part we weren't doing on the way back. Oh how that would turn out to be a lie! We came out on a forest service road that quickly joined up with the heavy half course. From there it was a short 1.5 miles to Aid B before the climb up Mosquito. I had vowed to run as much as Mosquito as possible and so far I had maintained a good 60 hike 30 run on the steep sections. So I continued this for about a mile up Mosquito before the trail got too steep for me to maintain that pace and I resorted to primarily hiking. Near the top of the pass I was able to resume a 90 hike 30 run pace and was feeling pretty good. I passed Elizabeth, Peggy and Bill and we exchanged hugs and kisses. Then I saw David heading down and was amazed at how well he was doing. He was really looking strong. A few minutes later I hit the summit and paused to take it all in. You never reach a summit without taking a minute to appreciate it...that's just a rule no matter how much you're racing for a time.

Battle scars
Once I started heading back down I didn't waste any time. I quickly passes the Jansen's again and then saw Ben for another high 5. A couple minutes behind Ben was Dan. He was looking really strong and I could tell he was running so much better than either year I've seen him run this race before. A quick kiss before Dan yelled at me to go get the 3 girls ahead of me. So I did just that. As I approached the bottom of Mosquito I was guessing I was near 4th place for women and feeling pretty good. I ran into Allisa almost halfway up and looking like the altitude had taken quite a bit out of her. And just as I thought that I felt my feet slip in the mud. There was no place to go except straight ahead, so I lifted my head, let my arms slide forward and proceeded to superman down the trail. I quickly popped up and began running, half hoping maybe there was some way no one saw what had just happened. Hardly the case with 1000 runners on Mosquito, but dreaming is what I do best! I did a quick assessment of my injuries and appeared mostly covered in mud. I respectfully told a couple of people who gasped at my attempt at flight that I was quite all right before continuing to race downhill. You just don't run fast downhills without a few mishaps.

Half a mile down the trail my hand and elbow began to sting and I realized I should maybe take another quick peak. Another quick assessment revealed blood was now completely running down my left arm, both knees, both hands and a significant chunk of skin was missing from a knuckle. I still didn't think anything was more than a surface scrape but figured I'd have a medic take a quick peak at Aid B. I arrived at B looking quite haggard covered head to toe in mud and blood. A medic was quickly called as someone else began to fill my bottles. I told the medic I just wanted to be sure none of the scrapes were too deep. He confirmed my suspicions that everything was surficial, but started insisting on cleaning me up. I grabbed my bottles and told him I would get cleaned up at the finish. 

Run for Rob
A mile and a half back at A 1/2 the volunteers again looked at me horrified asking if they could clean me up. Back down the forest service road to the turn off for the full. At this point I was just behind a small group of runners, but pretty much by myself. I saw the group of runners ahead of me continue straight on the trail, but happened to notice an arrow pointing up the technical downhill I had earlier convinced myself I would not be going back up. Well do they know something I don't? I stood there confused for a moment before the group behind me caught back up. Everyone had thought the same thing I had, this was the loop we were supposed to cut out, no way we had to go back up that. But no one was sure. Finally I just said well I guess I'm going to follow the arrow even if it ends up adding several miles. Begrudgingly everyone else decided to follow me. Turns out this was right and one girl even thanked me at the end for making sure we all stayed on course. 

Finish line
This climb was tough, it hurt, it was slow, it seemed to go on forever and mentally I was really struggling to get up it. I knew there was no way I was going to make 4:40 so my motivation had tanked. I also lost a couple places on the climb and was watching the podium slip further away. Finally we crested the top, rounded a corner and were back at Aid A. In previous years at this point you basically got to just cruise downhill to the finish. But we now had a pretty decent climb ahead of us again. I tried to keep the two girls who had passed me in my sights so I could get them when we finally started back down, but I just couldn't keep up. My legs were flat and just had nothing left. I finally hit the downhill and started to really take off. I could see the two girls ahead of me racing it out and pushed it another level. I glanced at my watch and saw I was at a 6:40 mile and felt good. I was gaining on the girls, but as the finish line approached I was just never able to quite catch them. I needed about another quarter mile. 

I finished with a 5:11 and in 7th for the women. I was definitely disappointed with my time and place, but I had ran my heart out and I can't be disappointed in that. It was a hard day on the trail, there was approximately 800 ft of extra vertical, a superman crash and emotions were running high. But it's the Leadville Marathon, this is what you come for and it's exactly what I got.

Week June 9 - 15

Miles Running: 47.8
Hours Hiking and Running: 9 
Ball Mountain a week before the race

new course map

Fun at Mountain High Pies!

Supporting National Headache and Migraine Month

Family recovery run along the Mineral Belt Trail

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Place to Belong

What did running give you that you couldn't have gotten any other way? 
It gave me a place to belong -Ben Comen

First Rockies game!
One of the things I have always loved most about trail running is the sense of community. It's an eclectic group of people to say the least. In high school it was often a collection of those who had been cut from other sports or who were maybe not quite coordinated enough for other sports. There were also those whose parents were runners or who had somehow gotten hooked at an early age. I pretty much fell into all of these categories. I'm short, awkward and far from graceful. 

This sense of community is also why a part of me really hopes James likes running as much as Dan and I do. Every track or cross country team I have been a part of has been a group of some of the most accepting people I've ever met. You often had to beg other members of my tennis teams to cheer for each other, but with runners it was never even a question. Everyone had already gathered at the finish line or sporadically throughout the course to cheer for each other. I always felt at home on the track team, like I belonged. 

When I first heard the story about Ben Comen I couldn't help but cry as I watched his video. I watched him struggle, I watched him never give up and I watched him succeed. I watched the way his team embraced him. He wasn't just the water boy, he was an essential part of the team. I'll never forget this story and often think about Ben when I think of James' future. Whether James runs or not is up to him, but I want to give him the opportunity to be a part of a team, to participate, just like Ben did. I don't want James to have to just sit on the sideline and watch others. I want him to be in the action.

Like any mom I worry about James. I worry he won't be accepted. I worry that others will make fun of him. And I know Down syndrome or not at some point someone will make fun of him. I don't want to push running on him, but I hope he finds a sense of belonging like I have found in the trail running community. And I am hopeful the trail running community will accept him just as it accepted me. 

I also can't just be hopeful. Being hopeful didn't teach James to walk, being hopeful hasn't improved his communication skills. If I want others to accept James I have to be accepting as well. My life experiences have introduced me to a community I never thought I would be a part of. I never thought I would be a special needs mom. But here I am. The people I've met not only in the Ds community, but others with special needs have taught me so much about patience and acceptance about what's important in life. I'd like to think I've brought some of that to the trail running community. That maybe there'll be one person I meet out on the trail who sees my RDS shirt or hears me talk about James and stops and thinks for a moment before they use the r-word or maybe they simply smile the next time the bagger takes a little longer to pack their groceries than they would like. Maybe instead of making fun of the person who is barely jogging  faster than you can walk around the block in your neighborhood you invite them to go for a run with you. The trail running community has been so accepting to me that I really hope this amazing group can continue to operate the same was even as it grows. The only way it will is if we all try a little. 

Week June 2 - 8

Miles Running: 40.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 8.5

Everyone takes a spill once in awhile during a run!

Rockin' his Digger hat!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dirty Thirty-Three Race Report

Going into Dirty 30 I wasn't sure how my body would have recovered from Quad Rock. Would my legs hold up? Would I be able to run a quality race? The week leading up to the race I took a few days off. The days I did run I could feel my legs had definitely started to recover so I was hopeful for a good race.

Views of the big mountains running with Nick
Saturday morning I made the hour drive to the race start and quickly parked hoping to get on the bus that was already loading runners. After scanning the line I realized there was no way I was going to get on that bus. So I re-checked my gear, took advantage of the no line porta potty before getting in line for the bus. I ran into Nick and Allisa while waiting for the bus and chatted with both for awhile. It felt like buses kept coming, filling up and leaving and I was always too far back in line to get on. I wasn't too worried though, both Anton and Kerrie were behind me and I was pretty sure the race wouldn't start without them! 

The race ended up starting about 20 minutes late. I was a bit worried Nick and I were lined up too far back, but the RD assured us that in less than a mile we would hit double track that would allow us to get our places. Well a quarter mile in I wasn't just in a conga line I was at a dead stop waiting to get in the conga line. I tried to remain patient knowing we had a long day ahead of us. Finally Nick and I hit the double track and were able to run our pace a bit. 

My legs were still not feeling great and the cold I'd been fighting all week had definitely left me fatigued. The first five miles passed with countless ankle turns, but otherwise pretty uneventful. Around 5ish miles we came up to a river crossing (okay that's a Colorado river) but it was still up to mid-thigh. So much for having desperately been trying to keep my feet dry through all the mud we crossed thus far. But in Colorado your feet rarely stay wet so long, not to mention there was really no time to worry about it. Then we started our climbs, at least this is when I really remember the climbs starting. I was worried because I was hiking much earlier than I had anticipated. Nick started pulling away on each climb, but as soon as the grade lessened I would catch back up. Nick and I passed Allisa around 6.5 miles. She was looking good so I figured she wouldn't be too far behind us. 

Then came the best part. We came around a corner into a small meadow that revealed awesome views of the big, snow-capped peaks. The sun was shining, the sky bright blue and for a moment I almost forgot I was racing. Hnads down my favorite section of the course. Then we ducked back into the trees. This was where I began to realize I was really going to have to pay attention. There seemed to be a million different trails going in every direction and there weren't a ton of flags on the course so I really had to pay attention to make sure I didn't miss anything. After a short downhill we started our scramble. There were seriously times where I was literally climbing hand over hand to get up some  pitches. The trails were awesome, but I hadn't realized how technical this course was so I was getting worried about my splits. I had assumed I would be able to run more of these sections. There were numerous moments where I was scrambling up rocks only to get to the top and have to stop and look around trying to decide where the hell the trail was actually going. 

Finally we hit a downhill stretch and my legs were ready to run...ah but the conga line that I had been dealing with for 15ish miles was still in full force. There was no passing on this section without taking some serious risks. And if you weren't even remotely close to as comfortable on technical downhills as I am you were going to be barely running. So needless to say I lost a lot more time here than I anticipated. 

Hanging at the park with Daddy
I got into aid station 3 around mile 17 just as it was starting to get hot. and 8 minutes off my split Allisa had warned me about the upcoming hill so I slammed a couple bottles of water and a ginger ale. Nick had gotten a bit ahead of me coming in, but I saw him heading out so I knew I could catch up to him pretty quickly. I took off out of the aid station feeling the best I had all day. I caught up to Nick just past mile 18, but I was feeling good and hiking strong so I had to just keep going. That's when everything I thought I knew turned upside down. I had studied the course profile and the climb was supposed to end around mile 19. Well mile 19 came and went, mile 20 came and went and finally somewhere around 21-22 miles in the climb ended. I was super confused on how I had been so off my mileage. But I knew the next aid station was at 23.5 and I just wanted to get there. It was really getting hot and I was riding a fine line of dehydration. Then mile 23.5 came and went, the miles kept ticking by 24, 25 and finally there was the aid station. This was my longest stop. I ran out of water 2 miles earlier and was crazy thirsty. So I chugged water, heed and ginger ale to gear up for the next section. 

I slogged along here with a belly crazy full of water. I kept reminding myself I would thank myself for it later. I was way off my splits, but really unsure of what was going on with the mileage. Maybe the aid stations were just not quite in the right spots I kept thinking. Just a few more miles and one more climb. I easily ran the downhill with the guy I'd met from Amarillo. As we made a jog in the trail around mile 26 he asked the course marshall how many females had passed. She estimated 6 and I nearly fell over. There was no way I could be that far ahead. This pushed me though and I quickly passed 2 girls. Then we started the climb up windy peak. I passed another girl near the bottom, but counting the girls I passed coming down I was guessing I was around 10th, but couldn't be sure. Windy peak seemed to go on forever, but I finally reached the top, got my bib checked and turned to head down. I was completely expecting to see Nick not too far behind, but never saw him so I began to worry about his race. 

I cruised easily into the last aid station just as my watch hit 30 miles and 6:40. Where had things gone so wrong? How was I not already at the finish? I was confused, tired, thirsty and ready to be done. The  volunteers cheered 2 more miles and I nearly fell over, what? How do I have 2 more miles? Arrr...head down and get this one finished. So I charged out of the aid station on a downhill jeep road. I was enjoying the downhill, apparently too much, when I realized I had caught sight of a yellow flag but hadn't seen anyone or any flags in awhile. I stopped and looked behind me. There were 2 guys not too far behind so they should be on the jeep road by now. No one. Hmmm...I kept going and kept looking back. I could hear the finish line now, I had to be going the right direction. Then I hit a gate and a campground. No sign of flags or course marshalls anywhere. I looked up the hill I'd just run down and muttered a series of profanities as I realized I now had to run uphill to figure out where I was. I'm guessing I only went off course for a mile or so, but it was enough to mess with my mind. I found a flag and a couple other runners and got back on course. But the next mile had very few flags and I kept thinking I was going the wrong way...mostly because

I was heading back uphill and I was sure that could not be right! I seriously asked at least 3 different people who were headed in the opposite direction if people were still going my direction and every time they said yes. So I kept going. Finally I saw another volunteer who assured me this time there was only 1.25 miles left. Seriously? It felt like they just kept adding miles that or they were measuring by Horton miles because my Garmin  never measures long for a run. But I was running downhill and could hear the finish line...again...I cruised down the last hill and through the finish line knowing I'd given up at least one place when I got off course. That one place would turn out to be the 10th place woman. I was so frustrated at myself for not paying closer attention. 

After I finished I wandered mindlessly toward the barn to collect my bag. The atmosphere was pretty subdued. My stomach could not handle the smell of over cooked burgers for another second. I lost what little contents I had left in my stomach just as I got passed the food area, good thing for everyone who could handle food. I finally found my way to the beer before finding a log to sit on and wait for the bus and hopefully see Nick and Allisa finish. A bus came about 30 minutes after finishing and knowing Dan would be worried about where I was, since I had finished an hour later than I expected, I knew I couldn't wait any longer for those guys to finish. Turns out they probably finished as I was getting on the bus. Overall it was not my best race. I'm still not sure what all went wrong, besides going off course and the course being 2 miles long, but I still should have been closer to 6:30. Not every race can be your best and this was certainly not my best. It's a learning experience. I learned I definitely need to improve my technical running, especially my technical uphill running. 

130 miles complete up next Leadville Trail Marathon!

Week May 26 - June 1

Miles Running: 52.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 11.5