Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ringing in 2012

Well, I can't say I'm sad about seeing 2011 leave us. Good riddance to a bad year! Okay, maybe not all bad, 'cause even in the darkness there were rays of sunshine, and those rays continue to get brighter and brighter. And while I learned many valuable lessons in 2011, let's just say I've had enough lesson-learning for awhile.

The toe is feeling sort of okay. It's better when I tape it to the 4th toe. The bruising has now crept into the top of my foot, which helps explain why the foot was a bit swollen last night.

But I didn't let it stop me as my last run of the year consisted of 12 peaceful miles on the Elk River Trail in the beautiful Headwaters Forest. I love that place. After the first 3 miles, you climb for 2.5 miles, then get to run downhill with wild abandonment if you want to. Usually, I have that whole section to myself, but toward the end of today's downhill festivities, I came upon four walkers who were gracious enough to step aside and let me continue my dance.

I ended the year with 647.6 miles under my belt, which ain't too shabby considering I was out of the game for six months.

So as we leave 2011 behind and take our first tentative steps into 2012, I wish you and yours all the love, happiness, peace, joy, and prosperity you so richly deserve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And It Keeps Getting Better . . .

As I was walking through my living room this morning (walking with a purpose, I might add, as sauntering is rarely in my vocabulary), I managed to slam/jam my left little toe into our ottoman (yes, the same foot I injured back in March). In the same instance, I heard a cracking sound, although that could very well have been my brain registering what I'd just done. As I instantly fell - okay, slammed - to the floor, grabbed my foot, and yelled "OW! OW! OW!" over and over, I couldn't help but think, "Really? REALLY? Has this really happened?"

Now it's the afternoon, and my toe has swollen quite nicely and is turning a lovely shade of blackish-blue. I can finally walk without limping, but it does protest if I scrunch up my toes. Is it broken or just sprained really bad? Dunno. But I intend to test the waters on my run this evening.

And thus continues the "Fatozzig Journal of Injuries."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Staying Hopeful

Someone suggested I try one of those straps that you place just below the knee. Don't know if it's coincidence, but I've worn it my past three runs with no knee problems. I'm almost afraid to try running without it because the pain I experienced before was so bad. I have an appointment with my ortho for a final foot looksee, so I'll ask him about the knee at the same time.

Other than this knee issue, my body seems to be bouncing back in a halfway decent manner. This past Saturday I did 11 miles out at Headwaters and had a great time! Headwaters is one of my most favorite places to run. The 2.5 mile climb after the 3-mile mark is challenging enough to get your heart pounding, but not so bad that you wonder what the heck you're doing out there, and then coming down those same 2.5 miles - Woo Hoo! Fun stuff! A downhill running delight!

I have decided against trying to get into Chuckanut up in Washington. Originally, I was going to try because I had a ticket through United Airlines that I needed to use before April 28. When I originally had to cancel my travel plans (due to the foot injury), United told me I could not get a refund, but I could use my canceled ticket toward a new flight within a one-year period of the original canceled flight. (Are you following me?) Now they're telling me that because I didn't cancel the original itinerary I can't put that ticket toward a new one, but they'll refund me my money (less a $50 refund fee). I know - What?? None of it makes sense to me, either, but so long as I get my money back, I don't care. So, instead of Chuckanut, I'll probably due a run in the Bay Area through either Pacific Coast Trail Runs or Coastal Trail Runs.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It Just Keeps Coming

On tap for yesterday's workout was 5 miles with 3-4 hill strides in the middle. The legs felt great, and the strides went as best as can be expected at this point. My left knee has felt a tad twingy over the last few days, and unfortunately, last night it decided to do the ultimate twinge and stopped me dead in my tracks around Mile 3.5 and 1.5 miles from home. May I say, OW! Freaking OW! I ended up having to power walk back home, and about .25 miles out, had to resort to sort of a squatting walk with the left leg as it hurt to fully extend the leg. I think it's just inflammation, and I think the culprit is the inserts I put in my shoes to help my low back. They're thicker at the heel, and I'm assuming my body has become so use to the lower, flatter profile of my Inov-8s that the insert has thrown things off. This stinks as using them has made a big difference in my lower back.

The knee is still puttin' on a pretty good hurt today, especially when I first get up from sitting, so I'm doing the ibu and ice thing. I'm going to lay off doing anything (except core and upper body) until at least Saturday. If the knee feels even slightly off come Friday evening, I'll postponed any running until Sunday. I keep telling mysef, "Must Not Be Stupid! Must Not Be Stupid!" It's still early enough in my base-building that not doing any running for even up to a week shouldn't set me back much.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life . . . .

Wow! I haven’t posted anything since September 11 - almost three months. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything going on in my life, it’s just that the things that have been happening have left me worn out and needing to take a break from everything.

It’s been a tough year for my husband and me. Some who read this know the situation, the rest will have to remain in the realm of suspense as it’s not something I wish to discuss on the world wide web. But suffice to say, it’s been an extremely tough year. My foot injury in March was but a drop in the bucket catching the torrential downpour of pain - emotionally, physically, and financially.

We are, however, beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and with each passing day, the light grows larger and brighter. Part of that light is my husband finally admitting, and coming to terms with the fact, he is an alcoholic. After 24 years of both of us suffering through this disease, I cannot fully express my joy and relief at being able to say that the suffering, while not over, is being replaced by living. We still have a long, hard road ahead of us - as you know, an alcoholic is never cured, but has to work hard each day to maintain sobriety - and each of us continues to struggle as we work to put our life together back together, but he has fully embraced his sobriety, and I believe we are on the road to healing and recovery, as individuals and as a couple.

The changes that have come over my husband in the past eight months, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, are still a bit overwhelming. He’s lost close to 50 pounds, other physical manifestations from the abuse of alcohol have subsided, he is thinking clearly for the first time in years, he is finally beginning to understand he has a life worth living and it’s a good life. He’s a good man who really screwed up, but as I’ve told him a number of times, we are blessed that when he hit rock bottom, it didn’t bring about the injury or death of another person. For that, I am so very thankful to God each and every day.

When we slammed into the pit together, we came face-to-face with our faults as individuals and as a couple. Although no marriage is perfect, we had lost sight of who we were to one another and the respect that is suppose to accompany that relationship. Many people questioned why I chose to stay with my husband, but I tell you now, I have had to do just as much soul searching as he has, and I have had to hold a mirror up to my own face, as well. It takes two to tango, my friends. Rarely is the dying of a relationship solely the fault of one person.

We have friends who have chosen to walk away, but we have had just as many who have been willing to forgive, wrap us in their loving embrace, and give my husband a second chance. I don’t fault those who chose to leave, and I don’t wish them ill will. Just the opposite, I fully understand the choice they’ve made. I do, however, hope that maybe one day they will be able to forgive, even if they continue to choose to not have us in their lives.

Many have told me they admire my resilience, that the strength I have shown throughout these past eight months has been both admirable and astounding. I appreciate each and every one of those comments as they have sustained me during some very long, dark periods. On the other hand, it surprises me that people are astounded by my attitude.

When I vowed 24 years ago to love, honor, and cherish my husband for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health til death do us part, I meant it. Those weren’t simply words said by my pastor to be repeated, I . . . meant . . . them. Fortunately, I never stopped loving. Unfortunately, I stopped cherishing. Some may say it was inevitable given the circumstances. I say the circumstances were no excuse.

We are coming to terms with what happened, and we are slowly building our relationship again. It’s not unlike when we first started dating and were getting to know one another. We’ve been given something precious - a second chance at a better, more fulfilling relationship and life. We have been very blessed in so many ways, especially with regard to the people who have surrounded us. Certain individuals reading this will know I am talking about them, and without giving specific names, I say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you. I will never be able to fully express how much you mean to me, to both of us, how much you are loved, and how so very grateful I have been for your support, love, and understanding.

One of the greatest blessings, however, is that these last eight months have led me back to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is true that in our darkest hours when we cry out to Him, He wraps us in His loving arms and saves us from ourselves. I spent the last 24 years pushing God out of my life. I spent the last eight months finding my way back to Him. The peace I have found in His loving embrace is like nothing I have ever experience before in my life. The blessings He has bestowed upon me, upon both of us, have been overwhelming, and each day brings new blessings. I am finding a foothold in a local church, and have been warmly accepted into this new family. My husband has indicated an interest in attending when the circumstances finally allow, and for this I am also so very grateful and thankful. It is my profound hope and prayer that we are able to begin our life anew with a relationship built not only on mutual respect and love, but also on a faith in God.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I have also returned to running. It’s close to two months since I started back, and am slowly building my mileage again. I have switched to Inov-8s for both road and trail as the wider toe box is more agreeable to my foot. I still have issues of minor swelling now and then, but I appear to be over the major hump.

As such, I’ve set some lofty goals for myself for 2012. If all goes according to plan, I will be running the Chuckanut 50k Trail in March, the Western States 3-Day Training Camp over Memorial Day Weekend in May, the Mt. Hood 50-Mile Trail Run with my friend, Kate, in July, and perhaps a final 50k or marathon in October/November. I don’t know if I’ll accomplish each goal, but I am thankful to finally be able to set them again.

As 2011 comes to a close and we prepare to enter the new year, I pray that God enriches your life with His blessings, and that 2012 brings you the joy, peace, and lasting happiness you so richly deserve.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same…
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling, “If”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001


Tell your children, tell your children's children. Never forget the innocent lives lost on 9-11-01.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Are You Willing to Make a Leap of Faith?

(Me on left and one of my very best buds ever, Karen, on the right. Nope, we don't have any fun together at all.)

"If you are ever going to achieve as much as you can in a sport, you are going to have to be willing to make a leap of faith to learn how much your body can handle." (Meredith Rainey Valmon)

“The voice of caution knows nothing of real joy. What joy is there in doing what you know you could do? Try something you could fail at… that might just be living." (Neale Donald Walsch)

"You can obtain your goal if you maintain your course." (from a fortune cookie)

Guess the question is - - where is my leap of faith taking me? Good questions, yes, very good question . . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How Do You Spell Freedom?

N-O C-R-U-T-C-H-E-S!! Week 12 - My first full week without the $%*^&. Can you see me dancing - well, sort of. Wouldn't want to overdo things the first week.

The only issues I have are a tight ankle - especially the AT - and the bottom of my foot gets achy. Some gentle stretching is in order, and slowly extending my walking. Here's hoping that by the end of next week I am able to comfortably walk a mile.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Need An Attitude Adjustment

[Rant On]

This is one of those days when all I want to do is shove a crutch somewhere where the sun don't shine. Throw it across the yard while screaming a primal scream. Burn them in effigy while dancing around they're pathetic, melting, skeletons. To say I'm at the end of my rope with these things is quite an understatement.

I had a great pool run tonight, which is an oxymoron. Okay, maybe not completely, but sort of. Let's just say I'm learning to tolerate it since it actually gets me out of the frigging house.

But I digress . . .

My pool run went well, but it's just not - doesn't come even close to being like - trail running. We've had some wonderful, quiet, calm mornings which would have been absolute perfection for a predawn run. But what am I doing? Stumping my way out to my workout shed, trying to keep my crutches from sinking into the wet lawn. AAARRRRRGGGHHH!

I want two feet back, but the way things feel this evening, I don't think that will be happening any time soon. This sucks, my friends. This truly, truly sucks.

[Ran Off]

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Week 10, Day 67

Doc appointment yesterday. He was happy with the progress I've made. I was completely honest with him about my trial walk on Monday (which was okay . . . to a point), so he has left it up to me to determine how/when with regard to eliminating the crutches. Like he said, if I do something and it irritates things, back off. I go back in 6 weeks for another progress update. Hopefully I will be crutchless by then.

I asked him how long he thought it would be before I could run. He said we need to take things month-to-month, but September at the earliest is probably about right. Everything I've read about tendon tears indicates there is a 6-8 month recovery period. September 26 will be the 6-month mark (cripes, that seems so far away!).

I'm not going push it. The last thing I want to do is make things worse and delay the healing process. I can get around on one crutch pretty good for doing housework, etc., which is a big help. Two crutches if I want to move at any speed. Once I'm on two feet, I plan to return to the trails to work on power walking - always a good thing in trail running. Until then, it's still pool running and stationary biking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 9 and Counting

It takes a lot to rock me, to knock me down for the count, but I tell you, these past 2+ months have been doing their best to give me the one-two punch that sends you to the mat for the full 10-count.

My life these past few weeks is obviously not what I thought it to be. From developing an injury that appears to be the type which will take a very long time to heal - that is to say, it's very plausible I will not be running for 8-12 months - to dealing with significant personal issues, I have been on a physical, mental, and emotional roller coaster ride like nothing I have ever experienced before. My personal plans, my running goals, they have been, for an indeterminate amount of time, flushed down the proverbial toilet. A tornado has ripped through my life, and I'm trying to find the pieces to put it all back together, like a life-size jigsaw puzzle.

I have come to realize how much of the crap life throws at you I work out in my mind while running. Though I entered this crazy running world only a few years ago, the thought of not being able to run for a significant period of time has left me feeling out of sorts and unbalanced. Not being able to join my friend, Karen, for our weekend trail runs has, at times, reduced me to tears. I did not know how much I would miss it all until it was taken away, whether temporary or permanently.

I miss the endorphin rush of a hard, but successful, training run.

I miss the quiet of a predawn run, of slowly watching the rest of the world greet the day.

I miss taking my troubles, working through them over miles of dirt, then putting them away in a mental drawer marked "Done."

I miss the hours-long chats with Karen, so different from phone conversations or talks over lunch.

I miss the anticipation of a new and more challenging training schedule from my coach.

I miss feeling sweaty, tired, and satisfied after a 20-mile run.

I miss the anxious butterflies that always accompany me in the days leading up to a race.

I miss the me I become when I am pushing myself to limits I never in my wildest dreams thought I could achieve.

I just miss . . .

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

You will be OK.
Everything will be as it should.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

And the Stumping Continues

Week Six of Crutches.

Went to the doc yesterday and got the results of my MRI:

The crappy news - I'm still on crutches.

The okay news - I get to start, little by little putting pressure on the foot.

The crappy news - It's not a stress fracture, and there is still inflammation and swelling showing on the MRI.

The crappy news - I would've been better off with a stress fracture.

The crappy news - Might have torn the tendon on the downhill run, and if so it's healing as best as can be expected right now.

The crappy news - He thinks I have a mild case of RSD in the foot. At the onset of the injury, the nerves went wacky from the stress and are still totally wacked out. He said most people show up at his office when the nerves have progressed to a "wildfire." He thinks I have more of a "trash can fire," and it's just a matter of getting them to calm down. Have to keep up with the contrast baths and nerve stimulation (which involves a paint brush, and my foot, and . . . heh heh heh)

The crappy news - It could take 6-9 months for the nerves to calm down.

The good news - That doesn't necessarily mean it'll be 6-9 months before I'm running again. I have to be able to walk briskly for one hour without pain before I can progress to running.

The crappy news - I go back to him on the 27th and he hopes I've progressed to putting 50% pressure on the foot. Only 50%!

The crappy news - Doc: "Sometimes stress can make our bodies heal slower. Are you under any stress right now?" Me (trying to not break out into a combination of hysterical laughter and crying, because, well, yeah . . .): "I am under so much stress right now, it's absolutely ridiculous, and there's no light at the end of the tunnel." Doc: "Are you eating?" Me: "I'm trying." He gently admonished me to eat better, get more protein in my diet and to try and get the stress under control. (He and I discussed this further, but I'm not going into details here.)

Sooooo - When I fly to Conference in Los Angeles May 18 thru 22, I'm going to be on crutches. Wonder if the hotel has wheelchairs, 'cause the place the conference is being held is suppose to be huge. *sigh* I would say I need a drink, but that's probably fairly inappropriate at this point in my life, so I'd settle for my pajamas, a box of donuts, and a gallon of milk.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stumpin' Around on 3 Legs

Went to the foot doc on Friday, and no matter how hard I tried to argue my case, I'm still on crutches. Possibly for another 4 weeks. Plus I have to get a bone scan - or an MRI. I just have to figure out which one I can afford. Argh! The frustration level is about THIS HIGH. My initial comment re pool running - I still agree it's great exercise, but lordy it's b-o-o-o-o-r-i-n-g! I can only handle about 40 minutes before I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. The funny part is the looks I get from people trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing.

My buddy, Karen, has been training for her upcoming FatAss 50k on her 50th birthday, and another friend, Arla, just finished her first ultra event, the American River 50 Mile Endurance. I'm insanely jealous of what they're doing, and so damn proud of them at the same time. Arla rocked that course, as I knew she would. And Karen - well, she's gonna have a fantastic time this upcoming weekend. There's a tutu involved. All I know is there better be a whole lot of pictures, too!

Okay then -

Saturday, April 2, 2011


That's what my boss' 7 year old daughter calls me. She can be a hoot.

Today I did pool running for the first time. It was as exciting and exhilarating as watching paint dry, only without the added benefit of sniffing the paint fumes. No matter, after a minute or so, and once I finally got the rhythm down, I was motoring through the deep end like a snail on speed!

It's actually an interesting workout, with the added benefit of a good arm workout. I figure by between pool running, strength training, and stumping around on crutches, I should be as buff as a female atlas by the end of all this!

Friday, April 1, 2011

On the Bench

A few of my fans (and yes, they are exactly that - a few) have been wondering where my race report is for the Pirate's Cove, which I ran on March 19. Life has been busy, as well as other things going on, so until now, it just hasn't happened. However, I'll give you a brief rundown.

Pirate's Cove was run in the Marin Headlands. The same course I ran four weeks prior for Golden Gate, except for two changes. One of those changes I feel made the course harder. If you're wondering about gain/elevation, go look at my previous report where I posted a profile pic.

The race was fantastic. Absolutely 100% fantastic. The weather was total crap again (rain, wind, hail, even a thunder boomer thrown in for good measure), but I couldn't have asked for a better race. I felt great the whole time, never once had a depressing thought, nutrition was spot on. Every . . . single . . . thing . . . clicked . . . like nothing I've experience before. My God, it was a great feeling!

I think a lot of it had to do with the fact I knew what was in store for me. Nothing was a surprise. I knew which climbs would suck (or as my friend Kate described them before - are diabolical), and I was prepared. Keep your head down. Get through them. That's why you're here. Don't be a damn baby.

My hope was to finish this 5 to 10 minutes faster than Golden Gate. I didn't dare hope for better because (1) I had been out here a mere 4 weeks earlier and (2) I only had a very short mini taper for this race. After all, it was to be a training run in preparation for the Leona Divide 50-Mile Endurance Run at the end of April.

As I came down the final flat half mile, the ocean stretched out in front me, I was feeling very satisfied. Neither the suck butt elements, the course, nor my own mind demons had gotten the better of me this time. I was ending this run with a smile on my face, so what more could I ask for?

As I rounded up into the parking lot, like before, I gave it all I had for the final push. The finish line volunteer, who had been trying to stay out of the pouring rain, met me as his truck (the finish line), gave me a hearty congratulations, and handed me my ultramarathoner finisher's coaster.

"Do you have the time?" I asked.

"Yeah. (looking at his computer) 7:20:10."

In my head: "WHAT?!?" Outside of my head, a subdued, "Yes!" accompanied by a fist pump.

"You met your goal?"

"Yep!" with a huge grin on my face.

Let's look at the math:

Feb 19 - Golden Gate 50k: 7:44:06
Mar 19 - Pirate's Cove 50k: 7:20:10

Four seconds short of being a full 24 minutes faster!! To say this was more than I expected is an understatement. I was totally blown away. And upon getting home and looking at finishing times for previous races that were similar in difficulty - A 19:00 PR!

I still find this unbelievable. And two weeks later, I still can't keep from grinning when I think about it.

So why is this post titled "On the Bench"? That's a good question. A great question, actually. I'll tell you why - -

Long story longer, I've been on crutches since Monday. I finally got to see an ortho today, and he concurs I have stress fracture in the top of my foot. Said he'd send me for an MRI or bone scan to get official results if I wanted, but wouldn't treat it any differently, so I opted not to spend the dinero. I go back to him on the 15th. If there's no improvement, then he'll order up a scan or MRI.

He had me stand on my toes and on my heels, which I did with no problem, but now, a couple of hours later, it's still achy. He was happy I was able to do both of those without pain. He also noticed that my injured foot is dark than the other one, which I had noticed, too. Said it's because of nerve damage. Recommended contrast baths 2 or 3 times a day, and taking a soft loofah or paint brush and brushing the top of the foot to help the nerves wake up/heal. Interesting. Those of you with foot fetishes would probably like that one. I'll have to ask The Hub to bring home a couple of buckets that my foot will fit down into.

Two more weeks on crutches. Stay off the foot as much as possible. I CAN do my stationary biking so long as I don't have it cranked down to the toughest gear. No weight-bearing at all. He also suggested swimming, so I'm going to go and chat up the folks at CalCourts re pool running. Our office pays for people to be members. NICE!

Funny: He said something - I can't remember what - and I told him I'll do anything he wants me to, I just want this to heal. He said, "Well, good. Sometimes runners are like heroin addicts. (rubs hand across face) They refuse to stop running no matter what." Big grin He did, however, say he thought running was good for you because it helps build stronger bones. He also said this may be an indication that I might not be able to go the longer distances, we'll just have to see. I asked him if that meant I couldn't do a 100-miler like I've had pricking at the far reaches of my subconscious. He just smiled at me.

Anyway - There you are. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks I'll be able to start putting weight on it again. We'll see . . . .

I've already gone through a few crying jags, and spent about 3 days throwing myself a pity party. Today I finally canceled all my reservations for Leona Divide. :-{

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Golden Gate 50k Trail Run

When: February 19, 2011
Where: Rodeo Beach, Marin Headlands, Sausalito, CA


It is cold and wet. Using a bullhorn, RD Wendell is calling runners to the starting line. I am standing a few feet back. I look to my left, out to the water. A large cargo ship sits surprisingly close to shore. It never ceases to amaze me how enormous they are. Further in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge.

It is cold and wet. Minutes ago, I sat in my car with the heater blasting, cringing while Mother Nature dumped buckets of rain to the earth. Rain mixed with hail. Briefly, the thought of dropping crossed my mind, but that’s the coward’s way out. Regardless of where it happens or in what weather, I have to run 31 miles today.

I turn my attention back to Wendell and wait for instructions for the 50k runners. The anxious excitement in the air is palpable. People chatting with one another, laughing, waiting for the time to start. I am not smiling or laughing. I’m not unhappy, I just know what lies ahead. It’s going to be tough, especially in this weather. I can’t help thinking to myself, a short way up the hill in front of us, most of you won’t be laughing anymore.

There is a young woman a few feet in front of me, dressed in shorts and a light jacket. She is shaking and covered in goose bumps. I don’t know which race she’s running, but she has that fast look about her. I want to get moving so I can hopefully warm up. It’s cold.

As Wendell gives instructions to each group of runners - half marathon, 30k, full marathon, 50k - he asks for a show of hands as to who is running which race. Out of 356 registrants (did that many show up?) - including the 5 mile race - there are only 13 of us signed up to run the 50k. We will be following the 30k course first - the orange ribbons, then the half marathon distance course - the pink ribbons - twice. A total elevation gain of 6,320' - 42% single track, 44% fire roads, 14% asphalt.

Dark rain clouds hang above us, threatening. I have watched the weather report for the past three days. It has gone from partially cloudy to a 60% chance of rain. That 60% has turned to 100%.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - We start at exactly 8:00 a.m. The laughter and chatting continues as everyone takes off in a rustle of running clothes, shoes, and gear. In a little over 2 miles, we will climb over 800 feet, merely a blip on the total elevation gain to come, at least for the 50k runners. It crosses my mind again that most of these people may not have any idea what they’re up against. I refuse to get caught up in the excitement, to go out too fast. It’s going to be a long day, and this course demands respect. Conservation of energy is going to be key to finishing.

Up, up, up the hill, then the first set of stairs. I’ve been moving for almost 20 minutes and haven’t run but a few steps. Finally, I reach the top - that is, the top of the first of many climbs - and run through the artillery battery which has sat atop this hill since at least WWII. I will pass through here again later. Out the back side of the battery, past a couple of bunkers, then the “goat climb” I remember from two years ago when I ran the Pirate’s Cove 30k through Pacific Coast Trail Runs. A steep stretch covered in sharp-edged rocks ranging from walnut size to larger than a softball. They’ve become slippery with the rain and shift under foot. Two women climbing behind me have stopped their jovial banter and are struggling with the climb. One woman seems to be breathing down my neck, and I ask her if she’d like to pass.

No, she says, I don’t want to go any faster than you are.

She is taking large, sort of lunging steps. Take small steps, I tell her. Believe it or not, it makes it easier. Really small steps.


I turn my attention back to climbing and soon leave them behind. I don’t see them again and do not know if they finished.

The rain has started once again, a slight drizzle that, throughout the day, will shift between the drizzle to a steady rain - mostly a steady rain - and will never stop. It’s cold.

Finally, downhill! A downhill marked by wide steps which, I suppose, are meant to accommodate the horseback riders. There is a guy behind me and a woman a short piece ahead of me. We hit bottom, make our way through the horse stables, then finally the first aid station, Tennessee Valley Aid Station, at Mile 4.1. It took me about an hour to run this first section.

Three women are standing around the table refueling. I’ve brought with me chocolate donuts, a Moon Pie, and a couple of Mojo bars, but my goal is to eat as much as I can from the stations to better prepare for my upcoming 50 miler. Unlike last year’s AR50, I won’t have crew at Leona Divide and will have to rely solely on aid station foods to get me through. Now is the time to work on what will and won’t settle with my touchy stomach. Lately, PBJ has been going down well, so I grab a couple of quarters, a hand full of M&Ms, thank the workers and set off down the road.

The road is flooded and I try to run in the shallow sections or through the grass on the side. I pass a man walking and fussing with his waist pack, and from this point on, with the exception of being lapped later in the race by the fast marathoners and passed Blue Shirt Guy, I will be running by myself.

I’ve been wondering who will be my accompanying vocalist today, and suddenly she’s there - Paula Cole. “Postcards from East Oceanside,” more specifically “Bethlehem.”

“Quarry miners, fishermen, in my town of Bethlehem.
“Fish at seven, church at ten . . .”

Wait - “fish at seven?” Those aren’t the words. She backs up and gives it another try:

“Picket fences, church at ten, no star above my Bethlehem.” That’s better. The stanzas repeat themselves over and over in my head.

I turn right and begin another climb. I specifically left my Garmin at home with the intent of running by feel, so I have no idea how long the climbs are, but it doesn’t matter. Climbing is what this course is all about.

“Now I'm only 16 and I think I have an ulcer
I'm hiding my sex behind a dirty sweatshirt.”

The rain. Water is dripping off the bill of my cap. My gloves are soaked. My hands are cold. I pull my fingers out of their individual sections and tuck them into my palms in an attempt to warm them.

There’s a runner up ahead coming toward me. His bib number starts with a 3, which means he’s running the 30k. Is there a turnaround ahead of me? I don’t think so. It’s a loop, isn’t it? He doesn’t look injured, so I have no idea why he’s turned around. We nod as we pass one another, and I continue my climb. Opening zippers has become a challenge as my thumbs don’t want to work, forcing me to stop briefly to struggle with the pockets on my running vest and my jacket so I can get some food and a salt pill.

A short while later, I turn around to see if there is anybody behind me and I see a guy in a blue shirt. Blue Shirt Guy. He’s a distance behind me, and with all the twists and turns, up and downs, most of the time I can’t see him.

The views of the Pacific Ocean and headlands are absolutely stunning, but with the dreariness and nonstop rain, I couldn’t care less. The runoff has created crevasses which, combined with the mud and rocks, has made it difficult to run down hill and I have to watch every step lest I land wrong.

Up, down, up, down, twist, turn, up, down, and suddenly there they are - the infamous Pirate’s Cove steps. Two years ago, I thought they were going to be the death of me. This year, I’m still not excited about climbing them, but I know I’ll make it. As I climb step after muddy, slippery step, I think about my friend, Kate, who ran her first 100-miler out here. How the hell did she do it? I’ve always had great respect for her running ability, but this definitely cinches it.

I stop to catch my breath and suddenly Blue Shirt guy is behind me. As he passes me, he comments out of breath, This course is beautiful, but this climbing is a torture.

Yep, I say out loud. To myself, And it ain’t even close to being over.

There is yet another steep climb in front of us that is strewn with shifting rocks. More slipping and stumbling. Miniature creeks running through the crevasses as the rain continues. At the top, I pass Blue Shirt Guy and never see him again. I’m able to cruise at a good pace on the flats and downs, it’s the climbing that takes it out of me.

This section takes me a long time, and an hour and a half after leaving it, I finally make my way back into Tennessee Valley Aid Station, Mile 9.7, grab some food and begin what I know to be a little over a mile’s worth of climbing. This is the pink ribbon section, the marathon section, the one I will have to run twice. I am, however, able to incorporate my 20/20 run/walk for a portion, and in what feels like a relatively short period of time, I see the grove of eucalyptus trees at the top. I remember them from before. They mean a decent stretch of runnable, albeit technical, single track trail. My mom hated the smell of eucalyptus trees.

“Trying to be class president and get straight A's, well,
Who gives a shit about that anyway?
I want to be a dog or a lump of clay.”

At least Paula’s getting most of the stanzas right - for now.

The unrelenting rain. I try to avoid the worst of the puddles. My feet are soaked through, but they’re the warmest part of my body right now, unless I step in a puddle.

My hands are so damn cold. I can’t even feel my thumbs. Can you get frostbite when there’s no snow? I fumble with the zipper on my jacket pocket, trying to get to my salt pills and inhaler. The cold leaves me struggling with my asthma, but I’m used to that.

Off the single track onto a fire road, rivers of water running on the sides of the road, down the middle of the road. Water flings from the ends of my gloves with each swing of my arms. So much for my waterproof jacket. I am soaked clear through.

Cross a road. I can see the next aid station. I traverse two large muddy, shoe sucking sections and wonder how my friend, Karen, is doing at muddy Hagg Lake up in Oregon. The photographer is at the aid station and, unbeknownst to me, he takes a couple of pictures of me as I grab some more food, stuff potato and banana pieces in a sandwich baggy, shove a handful of M&Ms in my mouth, again thank the gentleman working in the cold and wet, and take off for the 4.5 miles to the start/finish and the beginning of the last 13 miles. As I walk away, I wring the water from my gloves yet again.

I like this next section. Most of it is downhill with only one nasty, muddy, rocky approximately .25 mile climb about a mile down the trail/fire road. While climbing, I take the opportunity to shove more food in my mouth. I’m tired and am getting to that point where I don’t want to eat, but I know I have to. Chew, chew, chew the potato, sip some fluid to help swallow it down. Chew, chew, chew a chocolate donut, sip fluid to get it down. I'm tired of hearing the water running.

At the top I find myself on a paved road, and even though it has a slight rise to it, I am very happy to find that I am able to run. Although my mind and body are tired, I can feel there is still strength in my legs. I am passed by two marathoners, one is a guy, and one is a young lady who ends up being second female for the marathon distance. They will have completed 26.2 miles faster than it has taken me to finish 18 miles, but in my defense, five of my 18 miles were much harder than almost all of their 26.2.

Down the road, down about 10 or so slippery wood steps, across a wood bridge, then about a mile to the start/finish, running along the side of the road. Again I am passed by a young woman marathoner. She smiles at me and looks like she only just began running. Me, I feel like a drowned rat, and I’m sure I look like one, as well.

As I enter the start/finish area, I veer off to the left to the aid station table where a young person immediately asks me what I need. Coke? Yes, Coke would be great. They also have watermelon. I love watermelon when I’m running. The young person hands me the Coke and I ask that it be poured into a cup since I won’t drink the whole can. Not much gives you a boost like Coke, and I am very happy to have it. I shove a couple of PBJ squares in my mouth, followed by a handful of M&Ms, a big thank you to the workers, and I head toward my car to re-up on chocolate donuts and Mojo bars and to get my dry gloves.

I’m tired, I’m soaking, dripping wet, and I’m cold. I shouldn't feel this beat up after only 18 miles. It sure would be nice to reach over, turn on the car and heater, and crash in the back seat. Instead, I shove food in my pockets and start moving through the parking lot. As I pull on my dry gloves, the rain gets steady again. The dry gloves feel really good, but they won’t stay dry for long.

I can’t help myself: Shit. I say it out loud as I make my back to where I started four hours earlier.

Perky marathon runner smiles at me, Good job!

I appreciate her saying that, but I just don’t have the gumption to give more than a grunted thanks in return.

13 miles left.

I begin the interminable climb up the road, then those first stairs for the last time. The stairs. They are slippery miniature waterfalls creating unavoidable mud puddles. I stop and look behind me. Far off in the distance is the Bridge. A mile (or more?) below me is my car. There is nobody in front of me, there is nobody behind me. I know I am the last. I suck it up and continue climbing.

Through the artillery battery, the climb up “goat hill,” which seems even more slippery this second time around. After scrambling to the top, I wring the rain out of my once dry gloves, shove some food in my mouth, and continue on. There will be more technical trail ahead, but right now I am fighting the nasty negative voices that have begun to drown out Paula.

This is ridiculous. This rain. This interminable rain! It and the cold have sucked all the life out of me. My hands hurt, they're so cold. I want to quit, but I hear Trent from RunningAhead in my head: The only way to finish is to not stop. The only way to finish is to not stop. To stop would make me a coward, a disappointment, so I continue to move and finally make my way back down into Tennessee Valley for the last time. As I arrive, the worker, whose name I find out later is Gavin, emerges from his car. His warm car.

Can I get you anything?

May I sit down?


I hold my head in my hand, trying to pull myself together. Cgerber from RunningAhead in my head: Have you been timed out? (No) Are you in danger of causing permanent damage? (. . . unfortunately, no)

It’s tough out there today, he says.

Yeah. This is the most brutal 50k I’ve ever run.

Would you like some caffeine?

Do you have Coke?

He tries to hand me a can out of the ice chest.

Can you please open it for me? My fingers aren’t working.

He pours some in a cup and I have to take it with the palms of my hands since I can barely make my fingers bend.

A lot of people have dropped today.

Am I the last person through here?

There’s one older gentleman who just left, he’s doing the marathon, he says.

I just can’t get warm, I say.

It’s hard, I know. Trying to raise my spirits, he tells me he was recently sick with the flu the week before a 24 hr run, but he had already paid for it and was gonna run it regardless.

I understand where he's going with this. I grab another PBJ square. I’m training for a 50-miler at the end of April, I say.

Which one?

Leona Divide.

I’ve never run that. But you finish this and you’ll be in a great place mentally to finish that race. All you have to do is power walk this and you’ll be fine.

His calm, matter of factness is exactly what I need.

I blow out a big breath. Pity party’s over, I say. I finish my Coke, grab a mouthful of M&Ms, and take off. Thank you very much, I say as I leave. I appreciate your help. And I do. I appreciate all the aid station workers. This would be almost impossible without their support.

As I begin this climb for the last time, I have a renewed feeling of energy in my legs. I try a 20/20 walk/run combo, but find I can move at a much more forceful pace by power walking. Paula has changed songs - “Saturn Girl”:

“In my heart, in my head
Oh, Saturn Girl has always bled
No you're not, from this world
Saturn Girl.”

I shove her to the background in my brain and begin counting my steps over the top of her voice. For some reason, counting has always helped to keep me moving forward.

56, 57, 58 . . .

“In my heart, in my head
Oh, Saturn Girl has always bled
No you're not, from this world
Saturn Girl.”

I pass the older guy working hard to finish the marathon. We exchange brief pleasantries, but I’m not slowing down. My legs are actually working decently right now and I’m not stopping for anyone or anything.

98, 99, 100 . . . 1, 2, 3

Keep counting. Keep singing in my head. Pump those arms. Move those legs.

98, 99, 300 . . .

How many steps will it take for me to get to the top of this monster?

99, 800, 1, 2, 3

“The six-pack of beer, the locker room jeers
I don’t wanna be me/, don’t wanna be here”

She’s singing “Bethlehem” again.

And then the eucalyptus grove again. This time I say screw it and run right through every single puddle. I don’t care how deep they are. I just want this run to be done. Soon I hit the last aid station and there’s my aid station angel from Tennessee Valley.

Are you following me? I ask. Surprisingly, I'm in a good mood. He chuckles, yeah.

I’m just so happy to be here because I know it’s almost over. A moist PBJ, a mouth full of damp M&Ms, a wring of the gloves, a big thank you the workers, and I head out one last time. I look at my watch. It’s 3:00 p.m. exactly. There are 4.5 miles left. I realize if I haul ass as fast as possible through this downhill section, I have a chance of finishing this race in under 8 hours. My legs are re-energized. The only time I walk is when I have to climb that last .25 mile muddy, slippery mess up to the road. Once to the road, I push as hard as I can. Down and around, then the last flight of stairs. They’re slippery and steeply awkward. I can’t count on my legs to not give out, so with each step down, I’m flailing my arms up at my sides, trying to keep balance.

Once at the bottom, I take off and push as hard as I can. Cars pass me on the road. I don’t know if they’re runners who have finished or visitors just out for a rainy day at Rodeo Beach. I don’t care. I ignore them, intent on one thing - finishing this miserable run. I make my way down the side of the road, getting closer to turning toward the finish line, picking up speed with the realization that I will finish in under 8 hours. As I make the turn, I see the time clock and begin running as hard as I can. I can finish in less than 7:45! Push it, Les! Push it! Run! Run! And with every ounce of energy I have left, I cross the finish line. Time - 7:44:03.

The finish line worker presents me with a big smile, a heartfelt congratulations, and a custom coaster that the ultramarathoners receive. I thank her and walk toward the little tent that is the aid station. They have a portable heater set up, but I only want to sit down. I look at the coaster and, as I am apt to do, tear up thinking about what I have just accomplished. This course, the weather - they tried to beat me, but I beat them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lesson #164

Never, ever, EVER eat Raisin Bran the night before a long run.