The Finish

I wasn’t planning on writing another post, but I suppose I should for posterity, so this will be the last one. Long story short: I survived!

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Mom & Dad, Colfax 5K, Saturday May 20th

We were fortunate to have incredible weather all weekend. My parents rocked the 5K on Saturday, followed by turkey legs at the Jazz Festival and an awesome pasta dinner that evening.

I woke up around 3am on Sunday morning, after barely sleeping from excitement. I did some yoga, to help stretch out my hips and back, made breakfast (toast, peanut butter, hard boiled egg, strawberries, coffee), and left to get Jaime about 4:30. It was a cold morning, but the sun came up quickly.  After a moment of silence for Boston and the National Anthem, we were off! We did a good job of pacing ourselves early on, but were still much faster than any training run we had done (averaging 10:30 miles for the first 5 or so). We got split up when Jaime stopped to use the restroom, but re-connected around mile 15. The course was beautiful in some places – cherry creek trail, views of the mountains from Sloan’s Lake, gorgeous neighborhoods. Running through the Broncos’ stadium was really motivating to me for some reason – and fun! There were volunteers, police, and spectators all along the way, which was awesome. Many residents had made signs, or put out additional water and orange slices. I was feeling great for the first 17 miles or so, trying to enjoy the moment.

Start line

Start line – 6am, Sunday May 19th

We came back down Colfax, through the stadium again, and that’s when I started fading (mile 20). It wasn’t really the “wall” people talk about with respect to muscles – I had been fueling and hydrating pretty well.  But my back and hips were done with the pounding of concrete and my upper body felt almost too heavy to keep up. I wanted so badly to maintain my time, but I had to stop and walk at times, which was disheartening. I tried calling Dan (microphone built into my headphones), but he couldn’t hear me, which was probably a sign from God saying: “Nobody wants to hear you whine. Hang up and keep going”. So I did. It took me over 5 hours to finish, which is frustrating because I felt capable of more, but I won’t have any regrets because I know I gave it my all. Seeing my family, friends, and coworkers at the finish line cheering, brought me to tears!  I’m so grateful for the support.

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Would I do it again?  Honestly – Yes. If I can get my back issues worked out, through physical therapy for example, I would love to try to beat my time. The time commitment of training is arduous, but there’s something powerful about pushing your body to its limits. I challenged myself to do something I didn’t know was possible, and I persevered. I feel invincible right now. And sore…very, very sore. But this helped solidify that I can do anything I set my mind to. Another fun fact I learned – I could eat whatever I wanted to and still lost weight!  Completely unintentional, but a nice surprise.

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All in all, it was a fun, slightly painful, and truly meaningful weekend. The support I’ve received has been overwhelming and humbling. I’m so grateful for such generous friends and family. I wouldn’t have completed this without them.

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Let’s see…what’s next on the bucket list?? :)

Final Week

This is it – the final countdown.

Training
After resting as much as possible, hoping my back would heal, I finally went for a swim on Tuesday night. It felt okay, in that my back didn’t feel worse, and I was pleased to see my lung capacity has increased. I also got two short runs in this past week. But my back still hurts, especially when I’m sitting. This final week will include yoga, maybe swimming, a short run or two, and a walk the day before the race.

Since my last post, I’ve received a LOT of feedback from family and friends about back pain. So, thank you to everyone for your ideas!

My mom suggested I get a massage, so I scheduled one for Wednesday after work and I’m so glad I did. I found a nearby practice, Little Creek Massage and Health, within walking distance of home. Noreen, who did my massage, was awesome. First of all, she was able to get me in last minute and after work hours. Second, she knows her stuff. I talked though my injury with her and she knew exactly what was going on.  Long story short, there’s a muscle in my leg that goes under the hip joint and was rotating my pelvis forward, causing the low back pain. Her husband is a former NFL player and she prefers the medical/injury side of her job, rather than the “fluffy stuff”, as she calls it. So, I felt confident in her knowledge and I definitely felt better after the massage. Needless to say, I booked another one with her the day after the race :)

My mom’s friend, Beth, is an athlete, who has competed in multiple races and triathlons. She put on her “coach hat” and has been counseling me this week with all kinds of great advice about “active resting” and mental endurance. It’s been incredibly helpful. For example, she sent me this article about mantras. Beth also had a really great idea of putting together a list of 26 people, one for each mile. This will not only keep my mind occupied, but it will help me stay motivated. It’s all mental now. There’s nothing more that can be done to prepare myself physically, I just have to have faith in my strength and ability to finish.

Couldn't ask for a better forecast!

Couldn’t ask for a better forecast!

I can’t thank you all enough for your support these last few months. I’m honestly overwhelmed. I mean, I knew I had loving and caring people in my life, I just didn’t realize how you would each rise to the challenge with me and help me through this. As cliche as this sounds, I couldn’t have done this without all of the support and motivation.
But… I need you now, more than ever. If you can take a moment this week to send me a text, email, or write on my Facebook, I’d really appreciate it. Something, anything motivating, will help. Running a marathon is anxiety-provoking in and of itself, but I’m also incredibly nervous about my back giving out. I just need to be reminded that I’m strong, healthy, determined, and capable. It’s go time!

Here are some suggestions :)

Chuck Norris Pain Voice RunStole

And finally, I need to remember why I decided to do this in the first place. Yes, to challenge myself, but also because I’ve been so inspired by working in the field of brain injury. I need to remember all of the individuals I’ve met – survivors, family members, caregivers, professionals – who make life worth living, despite devastating trauma. Thank you for teaching me how to cherish each day, under any circumstances.

Here we go.  See you at the finish line!

2 Weeks To Go

Fear.

Something happened and I tweaked my back. I’ve had lower back pain on and off for years and I’m not exactly sure why. I probably inherited some of it from my dad who has back issues, some of it is probably from my side job of dog grooming during college, some of it is probably stress related, and I’m convinced some of it is probably due to the world not being designed for 6ft+ people! Needless to say, over the years I’ve thrown it out a few times and had to miss school or work.  I’m only 27, so this is pretty upsetting.

How NOT to pick up a large dog. Less back, more legs.  (She wouldn't look at the camera).

How NOT to pick up a large, bratty dog. Less back, more legs. (She wouldn’t look at the camera!)

Last week around Tuesday or Wednesday, I started to feel that all-too-familiar pain.  But Jaime and I had a 17 mile run scheduled on Friday after work and it was meant to be our last “long run” before the race.  I thought not running and missing a training run would have done more damage than running it.  Well, I might have been wrong and I’ve been in even more pain since the run.  I’m freaking out a little because I only have 13 days to heal, while still maintaining my fitness level.  According to my schedule, I’m supposed to do 2 5-mile and 2 8-mile runs this week, but I’m debating even going to yoga tonight because I’m in that much pain.

I tried “resting” as much as possible this weekend, but there were errands to run and chores to be done. I’ve been able to take some pretty heavy medication to help me sleep.  I have a heating pad and Dan got some menthol cream, which feels good, but only temporarily. If anyone has any advice, I’d greatly appreciate it.  There is no option, however, that involves NOT doing the race.  I’ve worked too hard and come too far to back out now.

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I need to keep reminding myself why and for whom I’m doing this.  People with brain injuries often experience worse pain, both acute and chronic.  Not to mention the emotional repercussions.  My back will probably get better, like it always does, and I’ll go back to being active.  But brain injuries, despite plasticity, can cause irreversible damage and force people (and families) to change their lives entirely.  Yet they go on – living happy, healthy, active lives. It’s amazing of what the body and mind are capable. I need to remember that resilience and optimism, now more than ever, knowing my body is strong, listening to it, and taking care of it.

Thoughts and prayers are welcomed these next two weeks as I try to heal, stay fit, and prepare for this ridiculous challenge!

3.5 Weeks To Go

Seriously?  Less than a month?  I can physically feel my chest tightening from the anxiety!

Last Friday Jaime and I did 20 miles together on the Highline Canal Trail.  We had no major issues this time – the weather was gorgeous, Jaime knew the route, we both had hydration packs and fuel, and there were restrooms along the way. We were able to chat most of the time and the neighborhoods we ran through were beautiful, which helped pass the time.  The majority of the run was decent and when we passed the 13 mile mark, I experienced this huge high – I was almost giddy. I had to restrain myself a little bit because I didn’t want to expend too much energy, but it was exciting to realize how far I’ve come since last year when I was training for the half. We talked a lot about Boston and I believe it really motivated us to keep going.  In addition, I felt like we were on the same page with respect to speed, fuel, stopping for the restroom, etc. which is a great thing to have in a running partner!

Highline Canal

And then…mile 17 hit us like a brick wall.  Like a slap in the face.  More like knives stabbing us in the legs. Suddenly all of my muscles didn’t want to work and my joints were aching with every step. It was incredibly difficult to keep solid form and posture, and it took everything I had not to stop and lie down. Those were the longest three miles of my entire life. I was in tears by the time we got back to our cars. This is going to sound really mushy, but all I could think about was Dan.  On race day last year I underestimated the number of runners & spectators, as well as miscalculated how long it would take me, so I wasn’t sure if Dan would be at the finish line, or if we would even be able to find each other. But he was there and we did find each other and it made everything better. During our training run on Friday I kept thinking about that moment – how all I wanted was to collapse into his arms. Knowing I was going home to him got me through those last few minutes and may be my saving grace on race day.

I read this article last week about an ultra-marathoner (named Lizzy) who just sort of fell into running long distances. Born to Run talked about another woman who did the same thing.  It’s not like either one of them intentionally set out to compete – they just truly enjoyed running, for hours, if not days, at a time.  I want to love running that much. I have dreams about it sometimes, where I’m running full speed and it feels incredible. The solitude, the freedom, the strength it requires has so much meaning.  But Lizzy talks about who is at the finish line waiting for you, and how that is also part of the motivation. This year I’m thrilled that not only will Dan be there again, but so will my parents, who haven’t seen me compete athletically since college.

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Vail, April 20th

The closer I get the more emotional this experience has become.  I have so much anxiety that sometimes I lie awake at night visualizing the finish line over and over again.  The pain I experienced last Friday was disappointing and scary.  I also have so much pride and gratitude for my body. Despite not looking much different than I did in January, I feel strong and powerful.  We got a sweet last minute hotel deal in Vail this weekend, so even though I ran Friday night, I still managed to ski on Saturday.  I’m trying so hard to cherish these moments – my health, my youth, my strength – while I can.  You never know what will happen tomorrow – accidents, disease, trauma, terrorism – anything could take away the gifts we’ve been given.  I hope I can live my life without regret, knowing I made the most of each moment. This sentiment is reinforced by my job and trying to support people with brain injuries, who have had so much taken away, yet still find happiness.

Happiness

Training is starting to taper off.  Since Friday I’ve only done yoga, swimming, and a short run (well, and skiing).  The longest I’ll do this week is probably 12 or 15 miles.  Next week I don’t intend to go above 17. And then it’s smooth sailing until race day… hopefully :)

5 Weeks To Go

The tragedy in Boston yesterday has cultivated so many emotions for me these past 24 hours. I’m not really part of the marathon/running culture – I don’t run with a club, it hasn’t been a long-time sport for me, etc. But when I ran the half marathon last year, I experienced an incredibly enthusiastic and exciting finish line, surrounded by thousands of people in City Park. I can picture that day, that moment, and begin to lose it when I think about how terrible it must have been for the runners, spectators, and race organizers yesterday. In addition, many people do races and competitions for causes, like cancer or brain injuries. After months of training, raising awareness and money, I can’t even fathom how devastating it would be to make it to race day and not be able to finish. My deepest and sincerest condolences go out to the city of Boston.

Pray For Boston <3

My degree at DU taught me a lot about the trauma experienced during events like yesterday. But no amount of training or education will ever be able to answer the question of “why” people do these senseless acts. And I don’t want get to a point of being callous – I want to experience the heartbreak, the grief.  I want the victims to know people care and are deeply affected by what’s happened to them.

I didn’t go for a run last night. I should have. My training has been less than ideal the last few days – I’ve had some back pain and didn’t get a long run in this weekend. Now is the time to start getting serious and maintain consistency. Jaime mentioned how many individuals will be amputees after the attacks yesterday and it helped me realize we need to cherish our health, our youth, our athleticism, while we can. This week I will be strong – I will be running for all of the individuals who can’t anymore. I will be running for Boston.

If that wasn’t motivation enough, we learned this week that BIAC now has 14 individuals signed up to run for us! We are so grateful for the support.

I’d like to share one of the team members’ story:

“My name is Casey Ritt and I just registered for the Colfax Half Marathon, and am interested in running for BIAC.  My mother suffered a cerebral aneurysm from a subarachnoid hemorrhage in December, and I’d like to dedicate this run to her and help out BIAC.  I’m a former D1 Volleyball player, aspiring sand volleyball professional, law student, and I KNOW that I couldn’t have achieved any of my goals without the support and love of my mother.  My mom is an absolute inspiration and she has been my biggest, and loudest, fan through my athletic career.”

Thank you, Casey, for sharing and best of luck with your training!

6.5 Weeks to Go

I ran 18 miles last Saturday, on one of the most beautiful days we’ve had so far this year. It was a relatively decent run – I felt great for the first two-thirds of it.  But I underestimated the weather and the length of time it would take to run that far.  I didn’t bring water, thinking I’d find water fountains – which I did, but none of them were turned on (a wintertime precaution, I’m sure).  So this week I’ll be investing in a camelback of some sort to prevent future dehydration issues! I did, however, sample an organic fuel and felt like it helped, so I’ll be shopping for a few more of those as well.

South Platte

South Platte River

From a pile of snow on my head last week, to a painful sunburn this week. Gotta love the crazy Colorado weather!

Ouch

Ouch!

Jaime and I have another training running scheduled: 20 miles on April 19th.  I feel like I just need a few more of these long runs to build my endurance, and then I’ll be ready to go the full 26(.2).  It’s weird realizing how far that is.  For example, we live off of Main Street in Old Town Littleton, and it’s basically equivalent to running from my house to Red Rocks Amphitheater and back.  Nuts! While I’ve been enjoying the experience, learning a lot about myself and long-distance training, I honestly don’t know if I would sign up for a marathon again solely due to the time commitment.  The rest of my Saturday last week was spent recovering from an exhausting morning run and was sore all day Sunday!  But then again, I hear this kind of stuff (racing, training, etc.) can be addicting…never say “never” I suppose! :)

I’m thrilled to share that I have received another corporate sponsorship, this time from New Hope for the Brain.  Dr. Glenda Lippmann and Dr. Penny Montgomery run this facility in Lakewood, focusing on early dementia, traumatic brain injuries, and post traumatic stress disorder.  They combine state-of-the-art brain wave evaluation and training for individuals dealing with these issues, along with psychological support for families and caregiver.  At this time, they are accepting volunteers for a pilot study involving Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy for brain function.  For more information about their organization or the study, you can email them: info@newhopeforthebrain.com or call 720.999.0609.
Thanks for the support, ladies!

8 Weeks To Go

On Friday after work, Jaime and I attempted to do a training run together. I say “attempted” because several things went wrong. First, we wanted to run on the highline canal trail, but after leaving the parking lot, we were already confused and lost.  No map or signs, so we headed north.  Next thing we knew, the trail ended at the railroad tracks, so we winged it and found a trail along the South Platte River. Then, the wind picked up (a headwind, of course) and it literally felt like someone was pushing against us, taking our breath away. Gloves did nothing to stop the numbing of our fingers. Wildlife, including coyotes, came out of nearby bushes. With no idea how far we’d gone, we finally decided to turn around about an hour and 40 minutes in. That’s when the snow started.  First it was flurries, then it was sleet combined with wind, making it difficult to keep our eyes open, then it was full on snow.  By the time we finally got back to our cars, it was dark and we were soaked.

A little blurry, probably because we were shivering! Notice the piles of snow on our heads!

A little blurry, probably because we were shivering! Notice the piles of snow on our heads!

When I got home I mapped out where we had run and it ended up being only 15 miles (our goal was 17).

Pros:

Cons:

  • We didn’t run as far as we wanted
  • It took us 3 hours (which is way too slow!)
  • We almost got hypothermia and/or frostbite

I’m proud of us for making it through the run, as it was definitely a challenge on every level. I’m nervous, however, about speed. I did some research and I’m going to add hills and sprints to my training, which will actually be fun considering how boring the long runs are getting. I also think I need to swim more, to increase lung capacity. From my rowing days I learned that weight-training with lunges and kettle bell swings can help increase power in my legs, so those training techniques are on deck as well.

I feel like I know what needs to be done…it’s just a matter of actually doing it. I honestly don’t think I could get through this if it weren’t for the motivation of running on behalf of BIAC. I have to give another shoutout to Jaime – within 24 hours of posting her marathon training on Facebook, she received over $200 in donations. She said something that continues to haunt me, even during our run on Friday, which I’ll leave you with to consider:

“Another all-to-frequent survivor of brain injuries is a group that is near and dear to my heart: returning military men and women. These individuals have run dozens of marathons, both physically and metaphorically, for the sake of our country’s well-being and many may never again be able to participate in such events because of that service.”

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