Monday, November 14, 2016

Running on Empty (I finished Lumiere's Challenge!)

"Go all the way with it. Don't back off. For once, go all the goddam way with what matters."
--- Ernest Hemingway

Well, I did it. The race that I've been blogging about for seemingly forever is now done, and I finished it. And someday, I shall write about it in a way that will be enjoyable to read. Today is not that day. Today I write to express my frustration and whine about still existent pain. And while I'm immensely proud that I finished this race, I'm so sad about how it all turned out.

For those of you in the dark about what I'm talking about, the race I completed last week was called Lumiere's Challenge - a runDisney challenge race which requires participants to complete a 10K and a half marathon in the same weekend (Saturday for the 10K; Sunday for the half). When I signed up for this race in the spring, I thought it was a totally doable challenge. I had run one official half marathon, and completed two other half marathon distances for fun. I had several 5K and 10K races under my belt, and I still had 7 months to train. But things don't always go as I hope and plan for them to go... Training runs get missed; work pressures trump personal goals and personal matters trump everything in-between. Alas, I really gave my training 110% in the last three months, and felt confident about my races for the weeks leading up to race time.

Exactly a week before my race, I got sick. I kept trying to talk myself out of it (ha ha ha) but I was genuinely sick. I couldn't swallow, had difficulty breathing, and couldn't muster up the strength to run more than 3 miles. I had planned that week as a taper week so it really shouldn't have been the end of the world. In typical Becky fashion, however, I let my mind get the better of me and landed in Florida with none of the confidence that I left with in California. I was scared.

My final training run on Thursday went ok - it was hot and muggy in Bonita Springs, but my pacing was on-target. I felt good after my run, and my illness had completely left me. Still, I felt uneasy as I went out for my 10K on Saturday... smart enough to know not to push it, but fearful of going too easy. While my nerves made the first three miles a challenge, miles 4-6 were a breeze. I was perfectly on pace, took my time taking pictures with other runners and the scenery in Epcot, and even ran into a friend I made via Instagram around mile 5. I finished the race feeling pretty good, and a little less fearful of the half that was to follow. 

And then came race day...

Nothing seemed to go right leading up to my half marathon. I didn't sleep well at all the night before, slept in later than I liked the morning of, and hopped on a bus that went the totally wrong way to the starting line. I didn't take the time to eat or drink anything before jumping into my corral, and started off faster than I should have after the gun at the starting line. While the first mile went ok, the next mile was a struggle, and my nerves got the better of me and I had to stop to dry heave on the side of the road by mile 3. Once I collected myself, I felt better... and I finally found my groove around mile 4. Miles 4 and 5 went through Animal Kingdom - a beautiful park with more entertainment than I had seen all day. I felt confident as I waded through the crowd here, even passing the people I had been using as pacers up to that point. I grabbed water at the water stop, and I felt really good...


I'm not sure what happened. I may have tripped on the curb, but a fellow runner said it looked like I fainted. Regardless, I fell. AND I FELL HARD. When I finally snapped out of the haze I was in from falling, I discovered I had a shattered iPhone screen, a badly scraped and bruised left hand, a very swollen and badly bleeding right thumb, two skinned knees, ripped pants, a torn shirt, and a very sore foot. A fellow runner helped pick me up and tried his best to clean me up and keep me away from the crowd. I'm embarrassed to say I was hysterical. I really hope I said thank you (I'm pretty sure I did?), but I just wanted to crawl into that gutter and cry. He helped me for nearly a mile until we reached the medical tent where the volunteers were encouraging me to stop my race. This was near mile 7, meaning I was nearly 1/2 way through with the race. I thanked them but begged to continue... "Just let me see what I can do." 

The next three miles were a combination of ugly crying and limping. Those poor volunteers... every single one of them cringed as I approached for water or Powerade. I don't blame them. I looked more like a zombie from The Walking Dead than like the colorful, bubbly characters typically found in a runDisney race. The next medical tent was at mile 10. The bandages on both of my hands had fallen off by this point, blood smeared into my shirt as I held my thumb against it. I limped into that medical tent and asked if they could wrap my hands instead of slapping a bandaid on, and they complied. Again, they asked if I wanted a medical escort (they were concerned that my thumb was broken and I may have fractured my foot), but I again asked to continue. "I'll hate myself if I stop now."

Shortly after this point, we headed up a cloverleaf leading us on to the final stretch into Epcot. This cloverleaf is highly feared by runDisney regulars for some reason... I only found the banking to be challenging since my foot was hurt, but the elevation wasn't bad at all. As I crossed the road I had just passed, several people around me pointed out that the "balloon ladies" weren't far behind (these are the official race pacers, and are assumed to be the last people in every race before the sweep). There were about 30 people that I could see behind the balloon ladies, but I knew the buses were close by. As soon as I acknowledged that thought in my head, the buses and a police car pulled forward, collecting everyone blocked behind. It was so emotional watching this. Despite my good start and better corral, my injuries had me very close to being in those people's position. Sure, they'd still get their medal... but those in a challenge like me wouldn't get their challenge medal(s), and to be so close and not get to finish would have been heartbreaking!

I silently wept but picked up the pace after witnessing this. A much older lady encouraged me to run down the ramp with her, so I did. It hurt like hell, but I did. My foot was killing me, and I was starting to chaff where my pants and shirt had ripped. We went over one more small overpass before Epcot, and again this lady encouraged me to run down with her. I power walked through Epcot in tears. I couldn't believe I was actually going to finish this half marathon! I came around the last corner just before the finish line and was greeted by a joyous gospel choir. Something about seeing them glow in their warm yellow gowns and hearing them sing songs of praise lifted my spirits, and I started to cry with joy. I had less than a fifth of a mile to go, so I decided to run it. Every single step hurt, but I ran to that finish line. And then I cried again. 

I collected my three medals and headed to the bus. (I earned a medal for finishing the half, a medal for Lumiere's challenge, and a third medal for Coast-to-Coast for running two half marathons in two parks in one year.) I was exhausted, sweaty, dirty, and in tremendous pain. I wanted to celebrate, but I also just really wanted to go home. I threw the medals in my bag and limped my way to the bus. A couple of ladies got on the bus shortly after I did, and I heard one whisper to the other that it looked like I must have been swept. I kind of giggled at that... if they only knew! And I finished with them, not behind them!

It's been a week and a day since that race, and I'm still in a bit of pain. I went to the doctor last Tuesday and nothing was broken. My thumb wasn't as bad as it looked - a chunk of my thumb was torn off, my nail was bent in half, and I sprained it, but none of that requires a cast or surgery. My left hand has mostly healed. Both knees are still very bruised and very swollen, but the foot pain comes and goes. I'll walk ok for a while, but I end up limping by the end of the day. I'm the very definition of a hot mess, my friends! But I'll live. I did the elliptical for about 30 minutes tonight. It hurt, but it didn't kill me. I think I'll stick to yoga for the rest of this week, and try to get back at a normal workout routine next week. We'll see. 

On a somewhat funny note... I actually did try to look up pictures from both races on the runDisney page. My 10K pictures were all there, and weren't bad for the most part, but not a single picture of me exists from my half marathon. My guess is that Disney wants to pretend that their zombie racer never existed! LOL. I kind of wanted to see how bad I looked (based on the gasps I got from volunteers at water stations, I'm guessing I didn't look great), but I thought it was funny that Disney deleted them. Oh well!

Anyway, I really will try to do a better overall recap of both races with pictures later this week. I just needed to vent a little bit about this race since I'm still in pain from it. I'm very proud of myself for finishing this race, and am proud of the progress I've made in the last two years. I missed running, and while I doubt I'll ever be a real runner like I was in my 20s, I'm happy to be back at it again. It's never too late, and you're never too old, my friends. 

Until next time... Cheers!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rocky Mountain High

"The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. 
It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it."
-- Herbert A Simon

Hello, friends! I'm fresh off a plane after spending the last four days with one of my best friends in Denver, CO. Denver was as beautiful as I remember it being in the fall, and I really enjoyed my visit. I did some walking with my bestie, some solo running, and a nice hike in Breckenridge on the Continental Divide before heading back to California today. (I really don't know how to relax on vacation! Ha!). 

You might have noticed that I threw in "some solo running" in that last paragraph. As you know, I've been training for the RunDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and 10K in November, so I was pretty determined to run at least a little while I was away. I tend to be an early riser, so I took advantage of same and squeezed in a run each morning while I was in town (my friend slept in). She lives near some beautiful trails, so I figured they would be the perfect substitute for my favorite trail at home.

If you didn't know, Denver sits at a little over a mile high with an average elevation of around 5,300'. I grew up in a small town that sits a little higher than Denver, and I ran in college in Albuquerque at roughly the same altitude. All that being said, I haven't lived at a high altitude since 2005. My current city (like the last three cities I lived in) sits at around sea level. I haven't done major cardio at a high altitude in a long time, and minor attempts at same (slow hikes; running last Thanksgiving at home; etc) have reminded me that I haven't acclimated to the higher altitude. Still... I decided to go for it  and planned my routes prior to arrival.

My first run wasn't fun. I took the running trail heading south on Saturday. I started my NikePlus app from my friend's apartment, approximately a quarter mile uphill from the trailhead. It's kind of sketchy getting to the trail as you have to cross a very busy street to get there. Once on the trail, however, it was smooth sailing! I felt pretty great until I started going uphill. At this point, I had to stop - my lungs were filling with liquid, and I found it very hard to breathe. I stupidly didn't bring my inhaler, so I had to focus on controlled breathing exercises to get everything back under control. Bah! Once my lungs calmed down, I walked the rest of the way back to her apartment. It was a low moment, y'all, and I felt like crap the rest of the day.

My second run went MUCH better. I started the second day run similarly to the first, only this time I headed north on the trailhead instead of south. I ran down the hill to the trailhead, but then decided to walk for about a mile to get my lungs in sync with my heart rate. I enjoyed it a lot - the trail is beautiful, and I used the time to call a friend back in California. At my turnaround point (I thought this was at 1.5 miles to make it 3 miles roundtrip, but I messed up), I hung up the phone and jogged back. The trail has a bunch of hills and stairs going back so my pace sucked, but it felt much better than Saturday's run. 

While I didn't hit the 3-4 miles I had planned on running on Sunday, I was pretty happy that I got my run in at all. The Becky of yore would never have had the motivation to hit the trail before her friends woke up. This Becky not only got up, but ran in high altitude! Woohoo! I was pumped for the rest of the day... so much, in fact, that I hiked another 2 miles on the Continental Divide (more on that in another post). It was a very productive day!

Alas, back to reality. My goal this week is to hit 45 minutes of treadmill running tomorrow and Thursday, another 3 mile run on Saturday (or 3 mile hike...), and an 8 miler on Sunday. We'll see how it goes. I have got to get my long runs in on time. I only have two more months until my RunDisney races!!!

Have a happy, healthy week, y'all!

--- Becky

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rocky Road (Hiking Pinnacles National Park)

"The desert sharpened the sweet ache of his longing,

amplified it,

gave it shape to it in sere geology and clean slant of light."

-- John Krakauer

Welcome back to the blog! Actually... This post is actually pretty overdue. I have been so focused on personal issues and Wine & Dine race training lately that I neglected to post about my hike earlier this summer at Pinnacles National Park. (I'd like to say that I was clever and decided to wait for the NPS Centennial to make this post, but I'm not that clever.) Pinnacles had never been on my radar before, and I wish I could take credit for wanting to go here. I let my niece choose at least two day trips that we would take on a weekend while she was here, however, and she was adamant about visiting Pinnacles. She had studied geology and volcanoes at school during the spring, and really wanted to check it out. Yes, the spires and caves at Pinnacles are remnants of multiple volcanoes that erupted over 23 million years ago. It's always pretty amazing to remember how old our earth is and how brief our visit is on this planet. 

There are over 30 miles of trails in Pinnacles Park, so we made sure to research ahead of time to pick the trail(s) that would be the best fit for us to do. Katie and I had recently hiked Vasquez Rocks with the Girls Who Hike LA, and that was a good measure of how strenuous of a hike she could take on without further training. We settled for the Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop, a moderate hike around 2 miles long with about 500' of elevation gain. 

You gain about half of your elevation gain pretty quickly - gaining about 200' in the first quarter of a mile (according to my NikePlus app). This is part of the trail is well marked and shady - you're in a canyon for most of the first half of the hike to the reservoir. It was about 100 degrees the day we tackled this hike, so I appreciated the shaded trail immensely! 

We picked this trail mostly due to its level of difficulty, but were happy that it would also include some of the famous Pinnacles caves along the way. This was the first of three that we climbed through on our hike. The "caves" here are mostly old lava tubes, which just added to the appeal for my niece, Katie. 

To her disappointment, however, the trail to the Bear Gulch Cave was not accessible during our hike. It's apparently closed seasonally due to bats that are in having babies during the summer. Bummer! Alas, there was more to see so we continued.

The trail after the Bear Gulch Cave trail split becomes much more of a climb than a hike. The trail isn't as well marked here, and you literally have to climb over and/or jump down from various rocks, cliffs, and trees to proceed. It's a lot of fun, but keep that in mind if you have any type of disability.

As you finally make your way out of the canyon, you go down through another cave. This one is marked a little more clearly, and has makeshift stairs taking you down. My niece and I are short, but I feel bad for anyone tall that has to crawl through here! It's a pretty tight fit. 

The final leg before the reservoir includes about 100 stairs. I wish this picture did these stairs justice - they're very narrow,  steep, hand-chiseled stairs. This makes them a bit interesting (and unstable) to climb, but it's doable. The railing on the left is very necessary, as it's a near vertical drop off the side of them. My niece and I were surprisingly unafraid of these stairs anyway, and kind of enjoyed the view. 

You reach the Bear Gulch Reservoir at the top of the stairs. The view is incredible! Despite passing several hikers along the way, we found ourselves alone up here. It was peaceful, and I really wanted to spend more time there. 

The sun was quickly chasing us down, however, so we had to make up our minds on the route going back to the car. Despite the late hour, we opted to tackle a portion of the High Peaks trail to see how much we could get done before sunset. I'm so glad that we did - the views were incredible!

We really took our time enjoying the view of the spires as we made our ascension to towards the summit. THIS is what Kaitlyn was wanting to see! I enjoyed it too - I think it was around the time that I took this picture that I thanked Kaitlyn for asking to go here :)

While the sun was quickly setting and we didn't want to get caught in the dark, we decided to continue up the mountain. The trail becomes very steep as you near the summit. Kaitlyn predictably rolled her ankle around this point, and we decided that we would only go another 15 minutes before turning around. (Poor Katie! I need to buy this girl some boots next summer!)

From this point, the summit is in sight. We could see people at the top of the mountain, and wanted so badly to continue. But appearances are deceiving... As we neared the top of this trail, I realized that the trail turns into many, many switchbacks as it continues up the mountain. We both so badly wanted to reach the top, but her ankle was throbbing and I started to fear the impending night.

We decided to sit for a while and just take in the view. We hiked for just over 2.61 miles and gained around 900 feet in elevation. It was a remarkable feat for my niece, who rarely gets the opportunity to hike like we did that day. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me as I got to share my love for hiking and the outdoors with a young lady who means the world to me!

If you're ever looking for a good hike, I would definitely give Pinnacles National Park a chance. It's not terribly far from Monterey or Paso Robles, so you could easily add it in to a day trip if you're visiting either area. I have already put it on my list to visit again in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming. :) 

Back to our regularly scheduled running programming beginning tomorrow. I finished 7.5 miles today at just nary over my goal race pace time, so I was pretty happy with that today. I can only go up from here! Big shout out to my co-blogger, Natasha, who finished the Summer Sparkler Virtual 10K today! (You can see her race picture on Instagram). It's been a great weekend, my friends!

Until we meet again...

--- Becky