Thursday, September 27, 2012

The most important life lessons- Embracing the Suck yet again

Sometimes life gets in the way of regular posting and reading.  And I realize that it's o.k.  But every time I have sat down to write something it just seems trivial and unimportant.  While I try to separate my real life and my running lives into two different blogs, sometimes they mesh together.  Really, isn't that the whole point though, to take lessons I learn while running and apply them to real life?  That's what I'm trying to do everyday.  Few things teach me more life lessons than running.  So bear with me while I share some really personal experiences that have happened the last weeks and then maybe I'll be able to write again about the trivial things in life.

It takes a tragedy sometimes, to make you realize what's really important in life.  It's not that we don't really already know what's important.  It's just that it gets hidden and disguised by the busyness of everyday life.  My sister in law Mandi and her husband Jon had a beautiful baby girl 2 months ago.  It was a normal pregnancy.  We were all thrilled for her.  I remember just days before she had her that we talked about names and decor of the baby room.  It was also fun because another sister in law JaNae was also pregnant due about a month after.  I love all my nieces and nephews and love getting to hold them as newborns and watch them grow up.  

They knew right away that things were not right when little Scarlet was born.  She had trouble breathing on her own and couldn't swallow by herself.  But as the weeks went by and test after test was done, other things were discovered that were wrong and she wasn't getting better.  They transferred her to Primary Children's Hospital and almost immediately they had a diagnosis.  It wasn't good.  It was extremely rare and degenerative.  She was never coming home.  While we were sad, Mandi and Jon continued to amaze us and inspire us with their strength and faith.  And little Scarlet had a presence.  Boy, did her spirit radiate goodness, purity, and love.

Last week we got the news that the doctors had told them it was time.  Time to take their little baby off of everything keeping her alive.  I was shocked.  I didn't think it would come so soon.  And while little Scarlet was fading, things were not going to get better.  Only worse.  I could not imagine what they must be going through.  How do you make the decision to basically end your child's life?  How do you sit and hold your baby waiting for her to die?  I cried.  A lot.  Mostly for Mandi and Jon and what they were going through.  And not being able to do anything to relieve their suffering.  I've known Mandi since she was 12 years old.  I watched her grow up.  I watched her go through high school.  I watched her date losers.  And I watched her absolutely blossom when she married Jon.  She is one of the most beautiful people I know.  Both inside and out.  It hurt to see her look so tired; physically, mentally, and emotionally.  But spiritually, she was strong.  I knew they were going to be o.k.  No matter what they faced, they were going to be o.k. together.

Last Wednesday little Scarlet passed away.  It was heartbreaking.  Everything in my thoughts revolved around them.  Running became a time to cry alone behind my sunglasses.  Then and in the shower.  The tears were always there just under the surface.  Someone asked me about her when I was picking up the kids from ballet the day after she died and to my surprise I started sobbing.  It was unexpected that it was so close.  I was just so heartbroken.  I hugged my children a little tighter.  I savored each touch, each whisper, each "I love you".  Mandi never got to hear her little girl even cry.  She never heard her laugh.  Her arms were never wrapped around her neck.  And while all of this is beyond sad, I have great faith that the time will come when Mandi will hold her baby in her arms again.  I know that she will raise her and she will be her daughter forever.  I believe that her little body will be made perfect in the resurrection.  I believe that God is fair and just and all things will be made right in the eternities.  All experiences here will work together for our good.  It's hard to see now because we don't have the whole picture laid out in front of us.  But He knows.  He knows what challenges we need to grow.  Without this knowledge, I don't know if I would ever be able to be truly happy again.  

For a while now I've adopted Mike's mantra of Embrace the Suck.  It simply means that instead of looking for the easy way, I'm going to look for hard things in my life and then embrace them.  I quoted Jeffrey R. Holland a while ago where he said, "A life without problems or limitations or challenges - "life without opposition in all things" as Lehi phrased it - would paradoxically but in very fact be less rewarding and less ennobling than one which confronts - even frequently confronts - difficulty and disappointment and sorrow."  So instead of avoiding hills, I seek them out and run them.  When I had my stress fracture, I tried to embrace that experience and learn from it.  And I know that when I do, I grow.  It's never easy or fun to go through hard times, but it seems that during those hard times, that is when we grow the most, re evaluate what is really important in our lives, and when we can feel the love of God the most.  But only if we open our hearts enough to let Him in.  It's easy to see how someone could become bitter and close everyone out. And you could say, rightfully so.  It would be easy to never run again because it's too hard.  But in both running and in life, if we can learn from the hard times and open our hearts, we will be better for it.  We will grow and in turn be able to help others through their hard times.  

Kristen Armstrong has a quote that goes along perfectly with this. I'm glad to be here right now, poking at my threshold. I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don't want to shrink back just because something isn't easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can't and I can. Maybe that spot is called I will.” And I know that when I get to the place where I have done all I can, that the Lord is there and He will take over.  Running for me has been a divinely physical, mental, and spiritual journey.  More than any other lesson taught, I have learned that I can do more than I thought I could.  And when I feel like I can't take another step, somehow I'm able to.  It might be slower than the first but it's still a step.  I have felt divine help more than once during a run and it translates into the rest of my life.  When times are tough, and I want them to be tough, I can keep going.  And when I feel like I've taken my last step and I've done all that I can do, He will lift my heavy load and He will carry me.  

While I would never wish for a challenge like my Mandi has behind her and in front of her, I am envious of the love that she feels and the spiritual events that she's witnessed.  It's rare that heaven feels so close.  And it's only because she has allowed it in.  She has embraced the suck in a truly magnificent way.  I admire her and Jon so much.  They are pillars of strength.  They are great examples to me.  I hope that when more hard times come my way that I will have learned enough to be like them.  

It got me thinking about hills and doing things that make me uncomfortable while running.  You don't have to have an injury or have things happen during a race that are out of your control, to embrace the suck.  So how does that apply in real life?  I don't think we have to wait for a tragedy or something hard to come along to embrace the suck in life.  We all have challenges in life, big and small.  I think that by working through those challenges with a smile and with gratitude we are embracing the suck and in turn it makes us stronger and more prepared to handle the big things in life.  And like the hills I seek out now, I can sacrifice more of my time to studying, prayer, and service to others.  Sacrifice.  With a smile.  That's embracing the suck in real life.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A 14 mile trail run in Millcreek canyon

For a couple of months now my brother has been trying to get me to run down in Salt Lake with him up Millcreek canyon.  It has been such a busy summer that I couldn't do it until last weekend.  And I'm so glad that I did.  It was beautiful.  

We saw 3 lakes while on our run.  The weather was perfect, cool and sunny.

 The autumn leaves are starting to come out and we had great views of them.

This was the wake up call that my body has not completely recovered from the 50K.  My calves were tight the whole way up and my body just felt tired.  I don't know what I was expecting.  I plan on keeping my runs short until everything feels good again. 

My brother and me

I was so excited that Heather got to join us for the run as well.  It seems like it's been a while since we've run together and I've missed our time together!

Hollie, Fast Cory's sister also joined us for the run.  She's training for her first marathon in a couple of weeks.  You can tell she's Cory's sister by her great sense of humor.  I enjoyed listening to her tales of pacing Cory during his 100 miler last year.  I hope to get to run with her again soon and look forward to hearing all about her first marathon!  There's nothing like your first!

We had run on some pretty technical stuff.  Lots of rocks and roots.  It felt like an obstacle course a lot of the time.  But I was pretty proud of myself for not falling.  I'm kind of infamous for tripping and catching myself several times during trail runs and even going down a few times.  So after we got on the nice soft dirt covered in pine needles, I must have let down my guard a little.  I tripped on a tree root and went down.  In my mind it was really graceful.  More like a somersault.  But in reality, it probably looked like a face plant.  I wiped myself off and went on our way.

About 5 minutes later Heather went down.  And being the good friend I am I took her picture before helping her up.  :)

It looked like an enchanted forest much of the time. It was really really beautiful.  It was busy though.  Especially towards the end.  I am used to not seeing a single soul on the trails and we were passing people and their dogs the entire time.  Crazy busy.

As we were on the way home, we stopped for some lunch and it was here that I realized that I still had quite a bit of dirt on my face.  No wonder people were asking me if I had fallen.  What a day...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Zensah Compression Socks Review

Recovery.  That's what this week was all about.  I already told you about  my ice bath and then Epson salt bath.  I foam rolled and used the stick to massage my sore muscles in the car on the way home.  And I made sure to eat a mix of protein and carbs to hep my body recover well.  

So it seemed like the perfect time to talk about one of my favorite ways to recover.  It's not new.  And most of you might already own a pair of these.  If not, they are worth the investment.  Compression socks.  I own 3 different brands of compression socks.  So when Zensah asked me to do a review of some of theirs, I was happy to oblige.  I already own a pair of their shorts and calf sleeves and LOVE them.  So I wondered if these would really be very different than the calf sleeves.  I wore them last year during the Utah Valley Marathon last year and loved them.

First, I have to say that putting compression gear on is an art.  And I feel bad for the men out there, because us ladies have an edge in this department if they've ever put on pantyhose.  It takes real skill.  In fact, there are You Tube videos on how to put these socks on your legs.  And if you try to do it like normal socks... let's just say that I want to be there watching you do it for a little chuckle.

I also have to say that wearing compression gear for an extended period of time is not always comfortable.  But I never feel that way about my Zensah products.  They are soft and while they are tight, they are not too tight.  I wore these all night long and then my calf sleeves the next day under my dress at church.  

Another thing I really liked about the socks was all the room in the toes.  I originally bought the calf sleeves because I don't like my feet to feel compressed.  Barefoot and minimalist running has only enhanced that feeling and has set my toes free.  So I didn't know if I could stand to wear socks again.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the toes are very roomy and are not tight like they are around my calves and upper feet.  Their website explains it better than I do,
"Zensah compression socks are made up of graduated compression. The greatest amount of compression is at the bottom of the compression socks and as one moves upward, the level of compression decreases. The innovative Zensah compression socks prevent blood from pooling in your feet and help to enhance circulation."

I'm glad to see that besides all the colors of the rainbow, they now have argyle patterns as well.  Now they just need to make stripes and polka dots.  

While I did a lot of walking this week and even a little running later in the week, I fee like these socks helped me recover faster than I would have.  And it's not the first time I've used them either.

What tricks do you have to come back faster from hard work outs or races?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grand Teton 50k 2012 Race Report

I sat at my computer staring at the screen.  There was a choice to be made.  Marathon or 50K.  I chose the 50K.  Then I redid it and chose the marathon.  I changed it again.  I sat and fretted.  Finally, I just decided that I was scared to do the 50K and that's what ultimately made me sign up for it.  I'm still trying to remember to do things that are scary, hard and things that suck.  And not only do them, but to embrace them.  So I did it.  Afterwards I told my brother what I had done.  I didn't think we'd be running together since he's a little speed demon and I AM NOT.  But he was thinking that we would be staying together.  As the date was getting closer, I talked him into seeing if we could switch him to the 50K.  He's never even done a marathon before and he was still game.  I love that guy.  He's a good strong runner and I knew he could do it.  Especially if we just took it slow and enjoyed ourselves.

Speaking of great guys: Jay Batchen, race director, was kind enough to switch him over to the 50K just 3 days before the event with "no additional charge for the extra torture."  I can not say enough good things about this race.  It was well marked.  The volunteers were so friendly and helpful.  And the aid stations were the best.  The course was set up so that drop bags were easily accessible and if we had known how the course was set up, we would have both just carried water bottles instead of the hydration packs.  But I'm starting to get ahead of myself. 

We drove up to Driggs, Idaho for the packet pick up and meeting.  I can not lie and say I was comfortable because I was not.  I felt out of place and downright nervous.  But I picked up our packets and headed for my brother's house where we would be staying.  I ate a carb filled dinner of white rice and ramen noodles.  I ate that before the Ogden Marathon and it seemed to work well.  It's bland, salty, and carb rich.  I didn't sleep well at all.  I was really nervous and I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.  We could see the mountains I'd be climbing from my brother's back window and I was a little sick.  My brother, Tom, who was running with me got in late that night and we made our plans for the morning.  

The morning came quickly and we were off to the ski resort. We checked in and sat in the cafe for a few minutes until the pre race meeting.  Before we knew it, the time had come and we were lined up for the long day ahead. 

There were 19 runners in the 50K and 13 in the 50 mile race that started at the same time.  There were 21 in the marathon and 30 in the 10K.  It kind of baffles me as to why this race is not more popular.  It's relatively inexpensive as far as races go and the scenery can't be beat.  And if you're looking for a challenge, this is it. You should put it on your calendar for next year and we can all have fun together!

We took off at a slow run and with in a few steps everyone was hiking.  The course is set up in 3 loops each ending and beginning at the base aid station.  The first loop was Fred's Mountain.  It's about 5 miles.  It is the steepest part of the course and also the highest point on the course reaching 9,940 ft.   We climbed and climbed.  There were a few runnable parts that we ran through, but it seemed we had to really catch our breaths after so we just maintained a nice fast hike.  There was an especially nice part that seemed like it was straight up.  It never seemed to end.  And all I could think of was that we had this section to do again at the end of the day.

We watched the sun come up.  It had rained hard the night before and things were a little slippery but it was a super beautiful sight.  The temperatures were perfect. Chilly but not too cold.  Towards the top it was windy and we were glad to have long sleeves.  

this is not the steepest hill.  

It took us one hour and 5 minutes to reach the top.  Some of it was an 18% grade.  Steep.  After we reached the top and the aid station we refueled and headed down the mountain.  It was the first time we really got to run and it felt good to stretch the legs out and take off.

I could slightly feel my hip on the downhill and right then and there I settled into the peace that I already knew it was going to hurt and I just accepted it.  To my surprise, it loosen up and went away, not return for the rest of the day.  A strange and beautiful blessing. However, I could feel my quads after the steep descent and knew that I was going to be feeling this run long after the day was over.  And I was excited to see what the day would bring.  It's an thrilling thing to see what your body is going to do when you are about to push it beyond what you have before.

Oh, how I loved the aid stations.  Everything you could ever want was there.  My favorites were the mini snickers and later in the day the coke and dr. pepper.  The boiled salted potatoes were really good too.  If there was one thing I would do differently it would be to take some of the stuff in the baggies and try to eat it along the way.  I felt like we spent a lot of time at the aid stations just trying to choke it down.  I ate a fig newton toward the end that took probably 10 minutes.  Although I really enjoyed talking to the volunteers.  Lesson learned for next time.

We headed out to the next loop, Mill Creek, which was about 15 miles and was the place where we were most likely to spot wildlife.  Bear spray was encouraged for all participants as a couple of bears had been spotted in the area  just the day previous.  

I kept looking around and marveling at how gorgeous everything was.  One of the ways I convinced my brother to do the 50K was to tell him that we'd be running in the one of the most beautiful places in the world.  As long as we were there, why not do 5 more miles!  Physical torture is best done in a scenic environment.

 And this was by far the most scenic part of the course and quiet.  Nice freshly cut dirt and pine needled trails.  The smell was magnificent.  The rain really brought out the pine smell.  We had great conversation with a guy from North Carolina for a while and just had fun talking to each other.  We had a 3 mile uphill stretch up the winding canyon road before it went back on trails and even that went by fast.  We played the game of run to a point and then walk to a point.  Repeat. 

 Towards the middle of this section I had gotten behind in drinking and salt pills and had a nice calf cramp.  I could feel the warning signs come out of nowhere and slowed down.  But when I tried to run at normal speed again, it cramped.  After about a half an hour of hiking and another salt pill, I was able to do a slow jog again and then we were back to normal.  I had to really baby that calf though the rest of time and keep on top of hydration.  It felt really good coming in to the main aid station again.

 The final loop of the 25 miles was Rick's Basin.  It had rolling hills for about 5 miles and was also gorgeous.  It was in more wide open fields so you could see a few competitors.  We were mostly by ourselves for the entire run though.  We could also see some pretty dark ominous clouds in the distance that kept building.

We got back to the main aid station to try and eat something and head back up Fred's Mountain for the second time and the end of our 50K.  It was here that I met someone I was secretly hoping to meet.  I knew from their website that she helped put this race together with her husband Jay.  I got to meet Lisa Smith-Batchen.  I really don't get star struck by almost anyone.  I've seen a few stars in Jackson over the years and at Park City and never had a desire to get my picture taken with them, but Lisa is different.  I watched her in a documentary a long time ago, back in 1999, before I even thought about running, in a movie called Running Under the Sun about the Badwater Ultra Marathon.  I marveled back then and marvel more now knowing more of her story.  I was honored to be standing next to her and hear her encouraging words as we got ready to head back out for our final loop.  And as the thunder and lightning and rain started, she and her volunteers found us a couple of rain jackets to protect us from the cold at the top of the mountain.  Click here to read more about Lisa and Jay.  True humanitarians and all around great people.  And they really know how to put on a great race.

Lisa Smith-Batchen and me

Back up the mountain a second time.  Final 5 miles.  This went by faster than the first time for some weird reason.  In fact my body starting feeling good again.  Any aching or tight muscles seemed to get back in gear.  The only problem I had was on the steep downhills with my left IT band.  My brother found that skipping was helping his knee feel better and so I tried it and it worked.  We were skipping down the mountain singing zipidy do da.  We got down to the not so steep down hill and my IT band stopped hurting and we were able to run the last couple of miles to the finish.  It was strange how everything felt good again.  I felt like if I didn't have to do anymore steep downhill I could have gone farther.  But I was glad to not have to suck down another gel or try to nibble something for an hour!

view of the Tetons on the way down


Our families were at the bottom and it was so great to see them.  I was really so happy for my brother and so grateful for the experience with him.  He really is a tough runner.  I felt like we kept each other going during the whole race.  I never felt like my spirits were down and had a smile on my face the whole time. 9 hours and 31 minutes. 7400 ft elevation gain.  

Such a great memory, one I'll treasure forever!

Back at the house, my brother filled up his kiddie pool for us with the coldest water ever.  I don't think ice would have even melted.

 I also had a warm Epsom salt bath after and didn't feel too bad.  I'm really not as sore as I thought I would be.  And I can't wait to do another one!