Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Four Mile Firefighter 10 Mile

I'm on a posting rampage, it seems, but I wanted to get a quick race report out there before all the details get blurred in my mind.

Sunday was the Four Mile (canyon) Firefighter 10-mile Race on paved and dirt roads. The race starts in Boulder and ends in Gold Hill. Races got to see beautiful scenery along the course with views of the turning trees, the mountains and the big rock formations on the side of the road.

I know these are horrible pictures of me, but they pretty much sum up how I was feeling at the finish. As you might have guessed, I was in over my head. My body was struggling from the start:


Yup, not much I can add to this.

Going into the race, I knew it would be a challenge on maybe not all but many fronts. I'm not in great shape. My mechanics are still way off, and 10 miles seems like a long, long run to me. So, naturally, I jumped in anyway. It's hard to pass up an uphill race when there are so few of them around. That probably wasn't a wise move considering the state of my body and all its twinges and aches. I gave it a shot, though.

It was a long bus ride from the finish line, where we had to park our cars, to the start. Those of us running kept talking about how long the ride down seemed. I could have sworn we were scooting down the hill for days, but it turns out it was only about 20 minutes or so.

Though the day would end up sunny and hot, the morning was cool, no cold. Most of us huddled around the fire pit near the registration table as we waited for 9 a.m. to roll around. Finally it was time to start, so we jogged up to the road and off we went with a police car leading the way.

Almost immediately, a small group broke away forming a large gap, which left me leading the second group. Unfortunately, my hamstring/hips were clicking and catching, so I didn't want to risk pushing it harder than I was, even though the racer in me hated to see that gap getting bigger. My foot was holding up better than it had in past races, though, at least at the start.

Before we even hit mile one, the gap between the two groups was large enough for a second cop car to squeeze in between the two groups, so it made me feel like I was leading the race. Of course, I couldn't back off the pace at that point! I felt obligated to at least hold steady, but my mind went back and forth between wanting to really race and wanting to pull back and make it a fun run for my already hurting body.

I led the second pack for what seemed like a long time. One guy passed me further into the race, but I passed him back. While I was still in front, a group of cyclists cruised by us. I didn't think much of it until the last guy to pass me leaned in and shouted, "You know, it looks like you're not wearing anything under that shirt." I was shocked. Because it had been cold at the start, I wore a t-shirt with shorts. My number was pinned to my sports bra. His comment did not sit well with me. I ditched the shirt a few aid stations after that, because the temperature kept rising. His comment lingered on my brain for a while. Not cool.

At about mile six, things started to fall apart, my body, I mean. Both feet started hurting, and my hips were really locking. In an effort to relieve some of the pain, I skipped, jogged and made funny wiggly movements, hoping something would loosen up my hips and hamstrings. As much as I wanted to push myself in the last miles, my body really wouldn't allow it. It was frustrating, but I had to accept it. A few people passed me. I let them go. I knew I was right on that line and could end up with a full-blown injury if I did much more than jog.

I crossed the line in 4th place. It was a very small race, but it was still nice to feel part of the crowd. Approaching the finish line, I felt mixed emotions: disappointment, sadness, fear, relief and pain. Everyone was so nice, though. I want to be able to run again, really run. I don't know how to get there, but I'm going to keep searching for answers.

Now I'm just taking things very easy, hoping my body will recover, so that I can keep running. I'm back on the bike some, just to keep things from getting worse. I'm glad I did the race, but I can see that I need to figure out how to attack these mechanical issues before I can think about doing more of this kind of stuff.

Looking a little better in the early stages.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton

I'm almost finished reading the book, "Fast Girl" by Suzy Favor Hamilton. It's about her life, her outstanding running career, her family, relationships and her struggle with bipolar disorder. Despite some passages relating to her sexual encounters that were difficult to read in terms of making me feel uncomfortable, I have to admit it's a hard book to put down.

Because I have known Suzy since high school, it was also difficult for me to read about all the pain and mental anguish she suffered. We shared a lot via letters when we were younger, but I didn't know the extent of her struggles.

In one radio interview by John Mercure relating to her book, Suzy was confronted by supposedly hard-hitting questions that were really nothing more than a way for the host to attempt to stir up controversy. He couldn't seem to understand what Suzy was saying, or he simply refused to hear her. Either way, I think Suzy handled herself well.

Mercure was incorrectly claiming that the book is mostly about sex and insisted there were too many unnecessary details about sex and sexual incidents. The truth is that the majority of the book focuses on her life, her challenges, her running career and her relationships, especially the one with her husband. The sexual content is contained within the last one third of the book.

The message of "Fast Girl" is definitely not what Mercure suggests, that working as an escort is glamorous and exciting. If anything, Suzy goes out of her way to describe the many ways in which she was not thinking clearly in the situation, taking risks that she was fortunate to come out of relatively unscathed. Sex was her vice. You wouldn't expect to read an account of a recovering alcoholic's life without reading at least a little bit about his drinking habits. He might even go as far as to say that he enjoyed the feeling of being drunk. Does that mean he's promoting drinking? I think not.

People might assume that there's no correlation between mental illness and an increase in sexual appetite, but if you look at individuals with excessive dopamine levels in the brain, they often exhibit what's called polymorphous perversion or hyper-sexuality. Guess what? Zoloft is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, so when Suzy said that her behavior started to change after taking Zoloft, it make sense to anyone with more than a few brain cells. Probably in people who are simply depressed and not also bipolar, this mechanism wouldn't lead to the same outcome as Suzy experienced.

Having had a backward and intense response to Prozac that made me feel like a completely different person, so much so that my behavior changed in a negative way, I understand what Suzy is saying regarding Zoloft. I believe There's a connection between brain chemistry and abnormal or excessive behavior, be it sexual or otherwise.

If the only message that John Mercure can get out of this book is that having sex with strangers for cash is glamorous, that's sad. It's not Suzy's fault that he is unable to comprehend the words on the pages in a more accurate way, and it just shows that it takes some deeper thought to fully understand mental illness. Suzy's book has the potential to help a lot of people who might be struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, addiction and other mental issues.

One of the most important messages in Suzy's book is that people who suffer from mental illness should't be judged or feel ashamed of themselves.

People will think what they want about Suzy, but I hope that this book will help anyone who is dealing with or anyone who knows someone who is dealing with mental issues feel less alone.

As far as Suzy making money off of this? I don't see anything wrong with that. She made it clear that she is planning to donate at least some of the proceeds to charity, but even if that weren't the case, I wouldn't see a problem with it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


For a long time now, I have wanted to be one of the lecturers selected for the TedxBoulder talks. I was told that they tend to pick people who are part of the in crowd, so to speak. As everyone who has watched these talks knows, the lecturers are generally well-spoken, smart and interesting. It's somewhat intimidating to even go through the selection process.

One thing that's written on the submission form is that it might be beneficial if you have attended lectures in the past, so, for the second year in a row, I bought myself a ticket after being rejected as a speaker. The lecture is going on right now. Obviously, I didn't attend, but I had every intention of going and actually got as far as the check in process.

First let me say that this week, I have been feeling very emotional and sensitive. A lot of stuff is going on, and I also had a bad encounter with a nasty woman who yelled at me. Granted, I was volunteering for something, and got lost on the way there, pretty much missing out on the event. Still, nobody died or was left hanging, and I apologized and even offered several ways I could make up for it. This woman's reaction was so disgusting, I could hardly believe it. How the fuck do people end up so fucking full of themselves? I don't get it. I get anger, but I will never understand why people think it's OK to take that anger out on someone else who is doing the best she can.

During the week, too, some supposed good 'ole Christian boy was a dick after he sent me a private message asking about my religious upbringing. I wouldn't answer him. Later, I and a few others commented on a public post relating to abortions on his facebook page. He is someone who has mocked Caitlyn Jenner, supported defunding Planned Parenthood and is adamantly against gay marriage, which is his right to do but comes off as unkind at minimum.

Initially, I was trying to be nice and thoughtful in my responses, but when he started to act like a condescending ass, I was less nice. He ended up blocking me, because that's the civil, mature Christian thing to do, I guess. Actually, that's not at all true. I shouldn't even be sarcastic about that, because I have many tolerant Christian friends who would never act like that, even if they don't share my beliefs.

By the time today rolled around, I was feeling better, but then some jerk on a bike swerved around me while I was out jogging, squeezing in front of me just as I was going through a small opening in a gate on the sidewalk. I surprised myself by the string of choice words that came out of my mouth. But, really? What the hell? You couldn't wait the entire two seconds for me to go through and just had to whip around, cut me off and zoom through? God, people can be real shits.

This evening, when I showed up at the doors for the lecture, I was early, so I waited until a minute after the doors opened and got in line. I noticed that one of the volunteers was about as unkind as possible to the lady in front of me. She was perturbed, because, even though the email stating that anyone who was attending need not worry about bringing a printed ticket, the volunteer didn't want to bother looking up the lady's name. Fortunately, the lady had her phone and could access her email and also her ticket for the volunteer to scan. I saw that transaction and scouted out someone who appeared to be a hell of a lot nicer.

Score! The young lady who helped me was very sweet. I mentioned that I didn't have my ticket, and she immediately reassured me that she could simply look up my name and allow me inside. She found it right away and ushered me toward the door. Just as I was stepping over the threshold, people who had already gone in were being shooed outside by an angry lady yelling at them. "It's not about the door time," she shouted, "It's about what's going on on the stage!" as if the people who had been instructed to go in were at fault.

At that moment, staring at the woman's contorted face as she shut the door in a grand gesture and twirled around to stomp back into the building, I decided I had had enough of people's bullshit. I turned around and left. I do not want to be a speaker anymore. I don't want to be associated with people who treat other's so badly and appear to think they are better than everyone. No thank you.

I'm fortunate that I have my little platform here to discuss recovery, body image and mental health. I feel very lucky about that.

I was writing a post about Suzy Hamilton's new book, "Fast Girl", but I had to vent about all this first. That post will come later.

Monday, September 14, 2015


I've been hesitant to post about my running progress, because there's a part of me that's hugely disappointed. I'm thrilled that I did more than I thought I would or could this summer, but the athlete that hasn't completely died in me is not happy. Given how often I thought I would have to give up running completely in the last few years, I know I should be elated with where I am, but I can't help but think that I want more.

After the 5K "race" (I can't really call it that, but it was something more than a jog), I realized how beat up my body felt, mostly because the restrictions and imbalances that may look slight are more than meet the eye. They end up causing some major tweaking the faster I try to go. I was forced to back off any kind of training, and finally ended up going back to the doc for some cortisone shots in my left foot. It helps some, but the trade off is that I lose some proprioception each time.

Shots in the foot are never fun, but these were even more challenging, because one nerve is so trapped in scar tissue, the doc couldn't get the needle in very well. Then, once he got it in, he had trouble pushing in the plunger. The other nerve is deep and was also a bit squirrely, rolling around trying to avoid the needle. The end result is that the burning and occasional sharp pains are still there, but they're much more muted. I have some other options to explore, but I've been able to run with a bit less pain lately.

The Rattlesnake Ramble 2015

Well, that was embarrassing...

Over the weekend, I jumped into the Rattlesnake Ramble. I keep wanting to call it the Rattlesnake Rumble, but it's not about snakes fighting. I learned a lot in this race, mostly that I completely suck going downhills. Anything technical isn't quite my thing either. I managed to do quite well on the wide uphill roads, though, and I even made some real runner-like moves out there on those sections. Unfortunately, the downhills and super rocky terrain got to me. One or two of the people who were hiking the gnarly ascents were going faster than I was jogging, but I noticed a few of them were also cutting the corners on the switchbacks.

The recap:

Things started out just fine. I felt pretty strong and was doing well initially. When the sun got in my eyes after we turned onto the first rocky section, I was running blind, and I started to get discouraged. A few people, one of whom threw a hard elbow into my side, passed me while I was trying to figure out how to run by braille. Despite losing some places, though, I rallied and passed a few people back once we hit the main road before the second big ascent.

I also ran right by the water station without realizing that's what it was. Nobody was holding cups of water, so it didn't register until well after I had passed it that a big white table in the middle of nowhere was a water station. D'oh! It seems obvious now, but I missed a much needed drink of anything liquid as a result.

On I charged, though. I sort of held my own, even though I'm not that great on the real technical stuff going up or, especially, down. Because I didn't know where the top was, I was hesitant to really go for it at any point.

The downhill was what did me in. I think somebody's grandma passed me near the bottom of the single-track trail. It was ridiculous how awful I was on this descent. Frustration made me let loose a nice string of expletives while I was dodging people and trying not to trip. Oops. I was basically jogging, just trying to stay upright, though at one point, I did sit down in order to get myself down one of the steeper corners. I also crawled over a rock on the ascent, so I'm guessing I wasn't looking very graceful out there.

I had the feeling that nobody would be around at the finish line, but I somehow managed to not come in last. This may be my worst placement in a small race, but I was second to last in my age group, which means I got 7th in the 40-49 category. The race was limited to about 100 people.

I didn't feel like a runner after that adventure. No more gnarly downhills for me.

I'm just hoping my body can recover enough to squeeze in a few more good workouts and maybe even a race or two before I wimp out in the cold weather and decide to do more stationary biking or yoga. Come on left foot; you can do this!

Making up lost ground where the trail was more runable.

This wasn't even the technical part! 

Heading back toward the road. 

Trying to stay upright.