Saturday, August 30, 2008

Run for your life. A summer retrospective.

Blessed are we who suffer, for we are the lucky ones.

I was running today in the beautiful afternoon sunshine, pulling a 6:20 up a shallow hill after 10 similar speedy miles and I was struck by something strong enough to pull me out of my blogging silence. I was tired, my body was working hard to keep on the pace I was pushing it, I was trying to push myself, to suffer a bit. As I came up the hill, I saw another runner approaching, shirt off, running smoothly down the hill, not fast but not slow either. He looked to be about mid-50s, healthy, vibrant. When we were nearly to one another I noticed that in his chest, just about his heart, pressing out under the skin was a pacemaker. I went around the corner before I allowed myself a reaction. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but I was overwhelmed by one simple thought. Gosh, we're lucky. We runners, we ultra crazies, marathon maniacs, elites and everyone in between. It was one of those moments where I was suddenly filled with graciousness to be able to go out day after day and push myself, work hard and suffer. Here I mean suffering like we do, whether it is the final 5 miles of a 100 miler or like today, running mile 15 @ 5:55 pace. It is beautiful. That man, whoever he was, was running for his life, literally. And we, each in our own way, are too. Whether it is physically, emotionally, mentally, the things we experience as we plod, sprint, cruise, crawl, bound along seep out into our lives. It changes our lives, it can't not. I carried on up the hill, with a smile on my face and pushed myself with the joy of someone who at least for a moment, understands suffering & that when it is chosen like this, how much it brings to our lives.

Everything in between

I have been a blog slacker since Vermont, I know. I think it is that I have been too busy being, to write about being, too busy living to stop to record life. Jonathan was teasing me that he has been looking for my blog, denouncing my veganism but I've found that with un-defining myself I feel no need for discussion about it. I am just living, eating and enjoying the heck out myself.We went to Kingfish Cafe last night, I wanted to take JB out for a CC celebration/ birthday dinner. I have wanted to go there for many many many years. It was a liberating feeling to feel that I could choose or not whatever I wanted on the menu. Yes, wheat and I are still not friends, so that mac and cheese wasn't gonna happen, but everything else was fair game. I chose the vegetarian hoppin john griddlecakes and delicious green salad, while Jonathan had the bbq'd ribs with collard greens and potato salad. We also had some fantastic fried green tomatoes and hushpuppies. I never had to utter my former "special needs" instructions to the waiter or quiet my inner foodie. Jonathan offered me a taste of his ribs, indicated they were absolutely delicious and I took a bite, and they were. Since my last post, I have tried several things that I hadn't eaten in a long time, testing out to see what I can eat without problem. There are things that I have found I can now include in my diet if I so choose and things that are still better off out, like wheat and large amounts of dairy. I have found that by opening the door and allowing myself the freedom to choose from a wider range of foods, that my diet has pretty much stayed the same, but I feel much more liberated. I am excited about food again, I can go to the many restaurants on my "must try" list and not feel like I am doomed to be served a special plate of broccolini. So there is no great denouncement of veganism, my fridge is not suddenly stocked with ice cream, steaks and pork butts. But if it were, that would be okay too. I just feel like me again, the fast foodie me. And I like it...

I am back to hard core training for WC100k now and have been for several weeks. I am enjoying pushing some high mileage weeks, but moreover, excited to be working on getting fast again. Intermittenly in the mix, I finally figured out what has been wrong with me all year long. I just haven't been myself, physically and emotionally. I had a bunch of weird symptoms that seemed unrelated and back in February my doctors told me I was fine. Wrong. After Vermont, I decided to go get performance testing done at Seattle Performance Medicine to check my VO2Max, RMR and such. I also got fasting blood tests done for the test. I did all the tests, and Dr. Cooper is going over the results indicating the numbers are consistent with a good runner, but that there were some oddities. I was switching to anaerobic on incline running way too quickly, and staying aerobic on the flats too long. My heart rate recovery was 93 beats in 2 minutes (should be no more than 50) and my max HR was very low. By the time she was through the results, she seemed less and less convincing that everything was normal. Finally she asked me if I had gotten bloodwork done and I indicated it should be in my file,she flipped to it and did something dr.'s generally aren't suppose to do, exclaiming, "Oh my God, that explains it! You are hypo-thyroid." She told me that I needed to get on meds immediately and that it invalidated all of my numbers. Everything will be much much better once the meds are working and at the appropriate level. I have been working at 75% all year. She said it is lucky I am in one piece (since I am also anemic). Undiagnosed hypo-thyroid often leads to overtraining because you don't see performance gains and so you think you just have to work harder. I wondered how I had ended up getting slower when training harder, I wondered how I was losing muscle (which is a symptom of hypo-thyroid), I didn't think it was possible to lose muscle that quick. I just have never felt that good this year. And that explains it. There is a great article here, that talks about that they are finding a correlation between athletics and hypo-thyroid, that it can be induced by high level activity. I am looking forward to feeling better and finally being able to see progress in my running. It is a nice thing to consider that I have had a good year thus far, when not working at full capacity.

Since Vermont, I have volunteered at WR50 as a highway crossing guard, ran (and was 1st woman) a marathon in 3:04 (which probably was more like a 3 flat since the course was long....drat!)during a 105 mile week(!!) and paced and crewed at CC100. Both volunteering and pacing were awesome experiences. CC was a blast. All of the usual suspects were out there. I was pacing the talented Monica Ochs for her first 100 and despite some stomach issues for the entire second half of the race and course vandals which had us running bonus miles, she turned in a great time of 26:52. It was a very different experience to be a pacer, you feel entirely responsible for keeping your runner on track and getting them to the finish line. It was such a beautiful course too, I am tempted to run it in the future. I got in about 51 miles with all the bonus miles. I missed out on pacing my bestest everest training partner and friend, Jonathan, who decided on the tuesday before the race to run his first 100. During my pacing duties for Monica, I was able to see Jonathan several times as he and Monica alternated good patches and bad patches and passed each other numerous times. He passed us for good after the last hill (yes it was actually finally the last hill) and came in at 26:06. What a day!

I am sure I could write more, but I think I am just going to leave it at that. I have more living to do....well, sleeping. Heading up to Bellingham tomorrow to run with my buddy, Dan (who also did CC100 last weekend in 30:48!) to do a few hours on the trails up there.

White River 50 miler


Cascade Crest 100 miler


And just so you foodies don't think I have abandoned you, here are a few pictures of what I've been cooking up.

Italian Roast Veggie Casserole w/ Marinara


Roast Asparagus Pasta Salad with Baked Tofu with a Tarragon Vinaigrette.

Quinoa Salad with Marinated Portabello Mushrooms and a creamy garlic lemon dressing
(photo above & below)

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