Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Hill climbing and stability: Let your weekness drive you do your strength

I'm currently in an evolutionary phase. I have been struck my many challenges in life, and overcome many. But the biggest one right now is speed on hills, and stability to run fast down steep and technical hill courses. I've overcome hydration and electrolyte imbalance issues. I've figured out the optimal diet regamine to regain my health improve my performance, and to keep my POTS symptoms at bay. I don't understand completely why I'm driven with a passion mostly toward accomplishing things that do not naturally come easy to me and mastering them.

I've thought about the things I'm good at that I like, but something about it coming easy to me either makes it not as exciting, or makes me want to take it to an impossible level that I'm not sure is even possible.

I look for the races that are the hardest, I can't see the point of running something I already know I can do, unless I'm trying to do it faster than I believe is even possible.

I'm getting back on track to follow the No Sugat, No grains, high-fat' low-carb lifestyle that I know was working for controlling inflammation, improving energy, and almost eliminating POTS flare ups. I had a few rough months of transitioning into a space that I can freely evolve.

But now I'm awake within myself completely, living my purpose without the limitations of fear and false beliefs of those who are constantly afraid of losing control and want to limit your growth by projecting their inner demons onto you. I won't accept emotional abuse and will only work in an environment of love and respect that foster my creatives being.

So now I take on the challenge of pursuing transforming my relationship with hill climbing and stability on uneven and unstable terrain. The impossible goal, that I will achieve of running up and gliding down mountains with speed and confidence and bending to the Earth as I'm focused, present, aware, and in flow.

In a year from now I promise, I will not be the runner you recognize now, the one who does fine with the pack until that steep grade climbs up or that trail becomes unsteady on the way down. This year will be a year of hills and making the unstable stable and natural.

My purpose I believe is to emerge as the one one expected or took seriously,
Except for the fee that are in my closest inner-circle, or have the ability to bend their view to include the unseen possibilities.

The theme of my life has seemed to be disgregarded as a possibility of success. But I'm grate for the disgregard, because it's taught me that I don't need approval or belief from others to succeed. Sometimes I fail many times in the process of trying to learn, an those failures are taken as evidence by others that I don't have what it takes.

But if you happened to notice, as many times as I've failed, I've come back doing better the next time, because of what I learned before.

This year it will be hills and trails and speed.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Desert RATS take 2 in 2017: parallel life lessons a write up of the last 6 months really!

In 2015 I finished Desert RATS 143 mile stage race, a difficult and hot race held in the desert of Moab/Loma area following the Kokopelli trail. This year I decided to take this challenge up again. Unfortunately, after officially hanging on to y standing in the race through 4 stages, during the last day, the Marathon stage, after 15 miles I hit a wall for a 5 mile section and suddenly could not move fast in the heat. After struggling and completing that tough section 2.5 hours later, and recovering somewhat I had unfortunately lost too much time and ended up at the aid station with only 6 miles left and 30 minutes before the cutoff time.

So I only got to run 136 out of 143 miles this year. However, the trade off was that I think the group of runners this year bonded more that in my first experience, partly because of some of the near death experiences she shared on the trail. 

This year has been a year of a lot of major changes. This year has been a year of a lot of painful moments or realizing that in some areas of my life I was investing too much in people who did not respect what my gifts and talents or purpose, and after seeing clearly that I was not being valued or respected I had to make some major shifts in my life. 

It was a painful yet natural transition. I started practicing more intently meditation and reading The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success and daily focusing on manifesting my full potential and living my purpose and reaching those who really needed what I had to offer through my training and life experience. 

For about an 18 month period I left my private practice, which was successful to work for an agency full time. While I believe i was there for a purpose to learn and to make some connections I would not have made otherwise, ultimately I had to make a decision to either give up on the skills I have invested in throughout the years because it was not the right population focus I was fully trained to serve. While I gained more skills in certain areas, I felt I was not living up to my purpose in reaching women I know need my skills and in which very few providers are available. 

So after a few months of putting the intention into manifesting my purpose, it became evident that the universe was moving me in a different direction. During that time I invested a lot of time and money in becoming EMDR trained, and in advanced training to be able to effectively apply that new skill set to the specialized population I work with. 

As I made the decision to let go of the team I had grown to love working with, and move back into private practice where I have the freedom and ability to take those clients whom were not appropriate for the purpose of the agency, I landed in probably the most peaceful and powerful office spaces I could. At the end of March, I had a passing thought to contact Bobbie, the Manager of The Herb Shop/ and Ginger's Cafe, and see if there was a single office space upstairs available to rent.

That weekend I was at a crossroads realizing that I was turning away a lot of people seeking my help while trying to remain aligned with the agency that was also transforming in a different direction. I don't think my transformation is wrong and neither is theirs, but it was like the purpose for the time and space I was there was complete and the universe was answering my daily intentions to manifest my total potential and be aligned with what Deekpa Chopra refers to as Darmha. The concept of Darmha has really become a focus and part of my life, in that the idea and belief that each individual is here with a unique set of gifts and talents that are equal to everyone else, but unique. Something that each person has that they can do better than anyone that has come before or after them just for the fact of the way of being with those gifts. 

So I was not yet convinced to leave the agency, having much love and respect for my co-workers and people I saw with more heart and purpose than any other agency I had previously seen. But I knew I needed to re-establish my own space to allow for those people that were seeking me out, because of my Darmha to access me, and me to have some separation in that from the purpose and goals of the agency that did not interfere and clash. 

I had been very intently praying and meditating that weekend, while participating in an intensive EMDR workshop, and had that thought that maybe I could be open to both. Bobbie happened to have an office space opening up at the beginning of April (this was the middle of March). I had put the intention of having clear understanding if I was to continue to also work with the agency or if I needed to be moved to a completely new space to put my heart and soil into what I was understanding that I was here for. 

After that weekend training it became very clear that the agency was not any longer a good fit for what I am skilled at and that I needed to move on. Still undecided if I would just have a small sidebar private practice and seek out an agency that might have clientele that was a closet fit for my background I went to Washington DC to the ISSTD conference to attend an advanced workshop on EMDR with dissociative and complex trauma cases. That workshop ended up completely transforming the way I practice in a way that I believe has made what I do more powerful and I'm seeing people with a lot of distress have faster relief and more complete healing. I'm very greatful that I went to that training.

As soon as I gave my notice to the agency, and even before moving into the office space it was like the floodgates opened and I had a sudden increase in people wanting to work with me, before I was even set up to do so. Luckily Lindsey , the message therapist Across the hall opened up her room for me to accommodate people until I got back from D.C. And the office space I was renting was available. 

While in DC another wonderful thing happened, I was invited by the National  Maternal Mental Health Coalition to attend advocacy days and to come back to D.C. In May. I also had already committed to and was preparing to run:walk 100 miles around the Capitol on May 6th to raise awareness about Mental Health Complications of Childbirth with effect 1 in 5 women. I know this is. A big part of my purpose is to both treat, advocate, and raise awareness through running about Maternal Mental Health and especially with an emphasis of Postpartum addiction. 

While on that trip I also got to spend time with some great therapist that I have connected to remotely through the years as a network of therapist advocating and treating extreme abuse and recognition of dissociative disorders and complex trauma. 

As my life suddenly slowed down, it was like complete realignment was happening to my body and spirit. I was able to also start more actively participating in the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative. 

Within two weeks I was already 60% at capacity for my practice. I had a successful run at the Capitol, getting some news coverage on the issue, I was able to meet and connect with some of my heroes in MMH adovcacy work, and my practice is now full within a few short months, and the space has significant connection and meaning.

The space of my office is where I started midwifery school in 1998. The space is connected to my grandmother LaRae Branham who was a master healer and had completed Dr. Christopher's Master Herbalist program many years ago. It was like my grandmother, whom I've always felt has guided me since she died at a young 56 years of age when I was 11 years old. I feel she has directed my path into the healing arts as a continuation of the work she started, an evolution built up on her and my grandfathers missions passed down to me. 

I also had a very strong impression that running to bring awareness to the problems my purpose was addressing was critical part of my mission. Going back fully into private practice has allowed me to also be more dedicated to running and training. 

But the universe seems to be reinforcing over and over again that mg purpose in running is not primary to win medals around my neck to add to my ridiculous wall of ego. The rack that holds the metals and memories of many running experiences. While those have been experienced that have served me, it now is time that the primary purpose of my running adventures is aligned with serving others and helping to improve access to mothers who need help and can not find it.

My purpose for me through my capitol run, to completion when my training had lacked earlier in the year due to working overtime almost every week at the agency job. During my Capitol solo run, I felt very alone. I think I was meant to experience it alone . It was as if no one was available to participate or make MMH awareness and maternal Opiate addiction a priority that weekend. 

I don't blame anyone, it just was that way, and I think was meant to be that way. No one came to run with me through the night, only my husband and kids showed up to the rally I planed hoping People who cared about the issue would come and walk a few laps with me. 

But the people who needed to be there did show up. First of all, because I had decorated my car in hashtags to correlate with the National MMH week, the state troopers securing the capitol looked me up to see what I was about, and before even talking to them one of them offered his support in getting me water or anything I might need, and stated that they would have patrol out watching out for me as I ran through the night. 

Second Fox News came out and did a pretty good interview and video of me and raising awareness at any level to the public is a plus. 

Third, my family showed up for me.

Fourth, Carla and Reese Thorne showed up. The theme of my running is serving, and I felt humbled and honored that for he first time I go to take my turn pushing Reese, who is confined to a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy and loves to experience running through the legs of those who are able to run. It was a great honor and I also learned very relevant to my purpose as I learned hat Reese had been adopted by Carla after her children had grown up because his birth mother struggled with mental health and addiction issues. It made he experience even more meaningful .

After that run I felt inspired to take on running the state next year, and having time to garner more support and involvement from key players. I was able to get to know Amy-Rose White more personally while we we at advocacy days, and although while we were once co-workers a few years ago, the distance in locations of practice really limited how much we were able to connect at that time. While I have had deep respect as well for Amy-Rose's great accomplishment in bringing stakeholders in MMH to the table in Utah, my work for the agency made it difficult to have time for a lot of direct involvement with the UMMHC until recently. Now having the commitment and support of the UMMHC players for next year i am hopeful we can make a big impact, and that I will accomplish running across the whole state of Utah Next April-May.

The other unexpected blessing from being too busy with the agency work, is that the midwifery school that had been an important creation for the time it was necessary was reaching the end of it's purpose and i was financially struggling because my practice had supported much of the costs of running the school, and I felt like I could not continue to invest in something that was another fulltime job that i was paying a lot of money and time to supplement the success, and we made a difficult decision to close it after I attended the MANA conference last year and saw that the changes that would be coming in the future would require more resources on a much greater level than we were equipped to continue. We made the painful but necessary decision to close the school.

Anyway, back to the subject matter. These changes have left me with a more pointed and singular focus and time to develop these areas that need to be manifested. I'm very committed to running the state next year. I believe the universe has reinforced this purpose in a way I did not expect.

First, two weeks before DR stage race, I started the Squaw Peak 50 hoping to get my 6th metal. After mile 35 a conflict of how it was appropriate for me to finish with the course sweep, and me being too overtired to think it through and reasonably work with him left me to make the decision to drop out of the race and after walking 1.5 miles out of the Little Valley Aid Station, to turn back and to go back to the aid station and drop out. While I think i very well could have finished, I was overtired and the personality conflict with the sweep who thought I should not rest for 10 minutes, even though that is what I always do after that aid station so that I am refreshed and can continue and speed up, I just made the decision to take the pressure of his anxiety off of myself by going back.

It may have been my tiredness and perception, but it was what it was. There I met Julie Peirce in person, and because she had dropped out we ended up talking a lot at the aid station while the crew was making preparation to close up and drive down to the start/finish, and then at the start finish we had a good two hour or so conversation and discovered we had many things in common. I don't know what the future holds as a result of that conversation, but I feel like for whatever reason it was important, and important for things to come in the future, and it would not have happened had it not been that sweep, and had I not been irritated enough to be willing to quit to have a peaceful day, without pressure to not take any breaks to rest. It was as if the universe placed that there to remind me that my purpose is not metals it is to serve and to connect and raise awareness, to educate, and to help in healing the many wounds of our society. So in a weird way, while i was was initially disappointed with myself for letting the sweeps perception and personality irritate me, when normally I could have worked with understanding his concern and sharing mine and compromising, it was as it was meant to be. a reminder that I was training for something more important for a metal, and so the metal was removed from my possibilities even though I was fully capable.

Two weeks later Desert RATS happened. It was much hotter than in 2015, having an extreme heat wave with a warning from the National Weather Service to stay inside, and avoid exercising outside during the day. I'm not sure what the temperature actually hit on the second day of the race, but I've heard as low as 108 and as high as 120. At any rate HOT!!

I went in with the intention of getting my second finish for this course, and wanting it really bad. I knew I was fully capable and prepared and had been heat training with tire pulling the two weeks before.

As I arrived it was a larger group than we had in 2015, and Catra Corbit was there. Someone, i met very briefly when we both DNF'd the Buffalo 100 some years ago ( i can't remember the year!) and I new as a "facebook friend" I had always admired her ability to beat to her own drum with her amazing pink signature hair and her tattoos. But I didn't really know her beyond that. I came to discover how genuine of a person she is, and I really respect her story of overcoming addiction to ultrarunning, with a style unlike anyone else.

The first day was the break in day. Hot, but only 19.5 miles of only a small section of technical trail and climbing. With a very generous cut off time, it allows for runners to feel successful and more confident as they start to adapted to the heat. It is also the only day I have been blister and chaffing free in both times i have now participated.

DR is also an important personal race for me because it is showing me just how much more well I am and what I have overcome since my body completely crashed in 2010 and I was diagnosed with POTS. The most challenging and most likely factors to make it impossible for someone with POTS to run a race successfully are steep hills, heat, and direct sunlight. Overheating and electrolyte imbalance, particularly hyponautramia can be an even more serious concern with a Potsie than a person with a normal autonomic nervous system. Hill climbing, while not necessarily dangerous, is more difficult for me than most people. Due to having an autonomic nervous system disorder it means that my body works twice as hard at other people just to stand up, and for me hills are a challenge because I have not yet found any hack into my heart rate not speeding up, and inducing an asthma attack when I am climbing a mountain. I compensate for the time i lose on hills by either starting way early  on very hilly course when allowed (Thank you John Bozung for always making this possible for me to participate in your races),  or being faster on the flat and downhill sections, because my heart-rate does not speed up too much when I run fast downhill or on flat ground. I am convinced there is a way to overcome this, and someday i will hack it. But it is the one issue i have to prepare for and stratagize. I very badly want to complete the Wasatch 100 course, but will not enter that race lottery again until i figure this issue out, because until I do I will never be able to complete it within the cutoff times where there is not the option of an early start.

DR is more doable because although there is hill climbing, it is not as steep, and because although it is hard the race director has made the cutoff times possible for a person like me to complete, which I am extremely grateful for.

After crashing in 2010, halfway through gradschool, i struggled with the physical symptoms I was experiencing but powered through and found away to successfully graduate with my masters degree in 2011. I also met Lisa Smith-Batchen within that same week that I had an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Joy, who is my favorite doctor, because she had a treadmill station to do her notes on, and also treats POTS. I also love her, because unlike many doctors who would have told me running was impossible for a Potsie, Dr. Joy is up on both her athletic medicine and knowledgeable in POTS and endurance athletes, and told me that continuing to run was one of the key factors of overcoming my symptoms and strengthening my autonomic nervous system.

But it was a slow recovery. I had been getting faster and faster and had begun moving up in my times, and from the midpack to the top 25% of the pack on some races. But than my body just crashed and the dysautonomia made me have to slow down, heal my adrenal glands, and spend a lot of time and money problem solving.

A big key in the beginning was working with an specialized dietician in Athletic performance, Elena Yorgason, who was able to collaborate with Dr. Joy, and with her help I was able to determine things like sweat rate, and how much salt and potassium I actually needed to both stay alive on the race and manage the heat and sunlight effects. I also learned out to use evaporation cooling with Elena, to keep myself from overheating. For three years we worked on this formula until it became reliable for me, and intuitive, and I no longer had to always on a time regimen take a salt tab, eat a certain amount of calories, and pay attention to it the whole race, because my body just started knowing, and adjusting, and talking to me intuitively. Now I can self regulate intuitively to keep those things in balance, and have not had a problem with overheating or electrolyte imbalance on a race for years.

But even with that, there was a 3 year period that I started many races and did by best, unable to finish because I always timed out somewhere. I started having panic attacks on courses about failing at some point, and realized I had started quitting not because I couldn't do it anymore, but because i was so afraid of failing that the anxiety of when i would fail was taking me out. I realized this at Kat'Cina Mosa in 2013 when i had a panic attack and just quite do to anxiety at the first aid station.

It was than that I realized i needed more personalized running support. Up until that point I had done a few years of wonderful Personal Training with Tandi Suitter in Mauy Thai, and she really also was a key factor in helping me to overcome the balance issues that my dysautonomia brings, by strengthening my stability and core, and besides I LOVE sparring and miss it greatly.

But at that point, My professional life was changing, I had moved from Lindon to Springville, and it was no longer easy for me to just go to that gym every morning and day to train. My kids were also getting older, and busier and in three different schools! Oy! So sadly, I had to stop training with Tandi at that time, and an online personal option that was more individual on my time schedule when I had time around working was more feasible. So i sought out help from Lisa, and it has also turned out to be just what I needed to grow. With Lisa's support and help, I started to be more confident and we were able to start targeting areas to strengthen my running by making me more consistent in times, needing less breaks and being able to keep a steady pace. Even though sometimes slower, it gets me to the finish more often than the panic of having to sprint down the hills and burn myself out to where I couldn't keep the pace and slowed down and timed out.

I started to overcome the mental blocks that had been created through my difficulties in overcoming the limitations of POTS. In 2015, a few weeks before DR I received an email that Reid was offering her students a special to come run his suffer race. I was interested in the opportunity but intimidated thinking I couldn't handle the heat and would fail. Lisa felt confident that I was fully capable and so i trusted her confidence and signed up. At the check in, the race doctor, Jaramy, saw that I listed POTS on my health form. While I was impressed that he knew about POTS, he said the magic words to ignite my oppositional defiance of doubt "I've never seen anyone with POTS who could complete a race like this because of the heat". It was obvious that he expected me to drop out, so being myself it made me more determined to prove him wrong. By the end of the race, I think we developed respect for each other, me because I saw how much he actually supported my success through helping solve blister and severe chaffing problems, and me for him because I think he really didn't think it was possible for me to finish.

I was painful enough that it took me not just 1 but 2 years to forget enough to come back! Fastword to 2017, I had decided in 2016 that i really wanted to complete the race again, but was in a financial strapped situation because the school was costing me a ton of money, I had ended my private practice, and was working overtime an needed my salary to cover the bills that the school had costs me. Reid graciously allowed me a payment plan, and I entered the race.

So I felt reasonably more confident, but also cautious because although i am healthier physically evem more through 2015 through a major diet change of eliminating sugar and grains, and fat-adapting, it has also been an extremely stressful year, and the amount I was working, and transition period made training from January -March very difficult to fit in, and the stress also led to me getting more lax and to start allowing food back in that I know are factors in inflammation and weight gain with POTS. So I had started to correct this pattern back to the one I know makes me a healthier person and better athlete, but there were still some effects of the stress load I am recovering from, and am in the process to now working on reducing inflammation again, and dropping the weight that I believe is a part of POTS, and adds to making running challenging.

Day one, I took it easy, and finished just fine, having an easier time on the climbing than I did two years ago.

Day two is where the real race begins. 39 miles across sand, and asphalt, with almost no shade and the heat from the ground makes the temperature effects hotter. Knowing that it would be a hotter year, I prepared for this by having the capacity to carry enough water to drink and hydrate and to also use evaporative cooling to avoid over heating. I also invested in clothing that would aid in cooling by 15-20 degrees when water is poured on it. This is a critical factor in me being able to run in heat at all. I started the course conservatively because it was hotter, and i feel like my pace is more even then it was 2 years ago. I can keep a slower pace the whole time, without overheating and without slowing down, if I go at a pace that is not raising my heart-rate to an anaerobic range in the heat. This was my strategy, and it was working well. It was still difficult, but I was managing it just fine. I had tried to do everything I could to prevent the terrible chaffing that occurred in 2015, and avoid the horrible blistering, but with the sweating and water on me, it was impossible to keep tape in place in those areas, and anti-chaffing creams would just melt right off of me in the heat. I left the aid station at mile 17.5 and hit the asphalt, and it was the hottest part of the day, the heat required me to even take it easier on the downhill. When I reached the bridge, I discovered K Ray and Mikey, whom I really didn't know, but later that day would become women I now I have deep connection too and hope to see at future races. We talked for a bit under the bridge and cooled down but knowing that my overall pace had to be slow and steady, the key of that working is steady, spending less than 5 minutes at aid stations, and instead of stopping to rest, slowing down to a resting walk pace occasionally to reset, and then going back up to the pace that is necessary to finish under the cut off. with the heat, and knowing how important it would be to conserve my energy for the Expedition stage, I took Day two very conservatively and strategically to not overdo it, but to finish in time. The other challenge was that in 2015 the water was too high, and the stage had to be shortened to 35 miles. This year the water was not high at the normal camp, and I had to complete the full 39 miles the course is designed for in the same amount of time.

As I was working my way up the long sand-dirt road, the hottest part of the course, that is long and exposed, K Ray and Mikey would move ahead, because I can't do hills as fast, and then they would rest in the shade, and a little while later I would pass them, not having the luxury to stop if I was to finish on time. We continued this pattern for a few miles, when I had passed them again, and I came upon Han's around 24.5 miles into day two. He had collapsed and one side of his body was moving. At first I thought he had just fallen and was trying to get up, but as I stopped to question if he was OK, it was apparent that he was not fully cognizant and appeared to be having a seizure on the course. I am a midwife, and also have been first responder trained, and immediately recognized that this was a very serious situation. Luckily one skill I have developed through both practicing as a midwife and therapist is the skill to slow my brain down during an emergency, and to think calmly and clearly. Part of my brain is very afraid, but the part in control is the part I have trained to just do what is needed to quickly stabilize people when these emergencies occur. However, this was the first time I saw someone with actual heat stroke, and not just heat exhaustion. Han's was in serious trouble. I tried to help him stand up to walk over to shade, which luckily he collapsed in front of a tree, where trees were far apart on this section. However there was a birm and I discovered that Han's was limp, and I was holding him up, and I he was unable to move himself. Grabbing one of my front water bottles, I quickly poured the contents over the core of his body while I tried to figure out how i was going to manage dragging him over the berm to the shade myself. Luckily Han's is not a man large in stature, although he is large in heart!

At that moment I saw Mikey and K Ray come around the corner and shouted out to them to help me lift Han's to the shade. They realized he was in trouble and ran up and we were able to move him, and immediately started working on cooling him down and stabilizing him. While K Ray and Mikey started to cool him down with their water, i started to monitor his vital signs every couple of minutes. When he first was brought to shade he faded in and out of consciousness, and his pulse was week and erratic and breathing rapid and shallow.

Together we worked to remove excess clothing that could trap in body heat, and even removed whatever cooling clothing we had available to use as tools to start to cool him down quickly. I also had him start slowly sipping on my oral rehydration salt solution, that i happen to carry as a vital substance to my success in the heat. Within 25-30 minutes he stabilized enough to become aware of time, person, place, and situation again, and his vitals also became more normal and stable.

We kept him awake and talking to us, while also trying with all our might to get a cell signal on any of our phones. Mikey was the only one who had one bar, and she was able to get a text message and voicemail to Reid, but Reid did not have cell service so he didn't get the message until the next day. She tried to call 911, to no avail could we get a signal. 50 minutes that felt like 3 hours passed before one of the race medics happened to come down the hill on his bike and he was able to start adding additional cooling with his ice water. 30 or so minutes later, Tyler, the course sweep arrived, and with two of them now with Han's, and Han's now stabilized the three of us moved onto the next aid station, Having just bonded through having to manage a crisis and work together we also were now concerned for each other and decided to stick together to make sure all three of us watched out for each other and kept each other cool and hydrated. We made the 4 slow miles to the aid station, after stopping an hour and a half with Han's and i think where even slower because our minds and emotions were now processing what just happened and we were feeling the fear of the closeness of death we had encountered and acknowledged the fear we had all had that he would not survive based on his appearance when we found him, and the length of time it took before more help arrived

When we got to the next aid station, I gave the report of the events and situation to the Dr, and he told us that had we not come along when we did, Han's probably would have not survived for 50 more minutes that it took for anyone else to come along on the trail. So luckily Han's at 77 years old, is faster than us, and especially me, a Potsie, and we were behind him and not ahead of him. Han's is a strong man!

At the next aid station, arriving around 6 or 6:30, I can't remember, a few hours after the soft cutoff for that aid station, Reid told us that he was lifting our cutoff for the day, due to the situation we had to respond to that was much more important than completing a race, as long as we all three stuck together and finished together. We all needed to stop for a while at that aid station to emotionally recover from the emergency, and also because even though we weren't moving, we were still in the exposed heat during that 1:30 minutes of helping Han's and we needed to re-hydrate, cool down ourselves, and emotionally settle.

Luckily, after that aid station, the heat started to lessen, and we reached the boat dock around mile 35 at dusk. Heading off to finish the last 4 miles, it became very dark and we felt very remote and alone, and were glad we had three of us. I was getting tired after the long hot day, and ornery and beginning to curse the road thinking camp did not really exist and this was a prank, when we rounded the corner, and there was everyone, and we drug into camp around 10:30 pm well after everyone else had finished and eaten dinner, and were mostly already in bed.

But as we crossed the finish line up ran Han's, recovered and grateful to be alive, and we were more than grateful to see him alive. I ate a hamburger and when to bed, unable to sleep hardly at all because it was hot for one, and because the day had just trained me and I think I was still emotionally processing my anxiety from the situation.

The next morning was rough for me, because we had gotten in so late the racer meeting had been delayed until morning, and i had maybe 2 hours of sporadic sleep. I was not in a good mood to start day 3. Normally i prepare my pack and water the night before, to lesson the stress in the morning. I don't like to feel rushed to the start line, and I was on day three.

although it was only 9 miles, it suddenly immediately felt like it was hotter than the day before. I barely had time to finish packing up before the start, and K Ray had to finish packing my bag. My blisters and chaffing had become big despite my best efforts, and i didn't have time to attend to them at all before starting.

I litterally dragged my feet the first three miles, mentally battling not wanting to do this day. Tired, and hurting. The slowness at that point was mental. After about 3.5 miles somehow the thought of having less than 6 miles left was more tolerable than the thought of having 9 miles to do

but being rushed out of there I also did not leave with enough water, and was having to ration my water. I had to use some to cool myself, but also had to drink. Luckily it was only 9 miles.

going to the next camp, I was able to soak in the river, which refreshed my legs, and rest most of the day, and play my little guitalale which helps me in a meditative way to reset.

So for the expedition stage I felt a bit more ready. I had attended to my blisters and chaffing to the best of my ability. I had brought extra water pouches to be filled up at mile 18 to take up the big mountain, because in 2015 I had run out of water 4 miles before the aid station even carrying 120-140 ounces, and it was nearly detrimental to me being able to finish, but I did finish.

The first 6 mile climb to the top of the world I did strong and steady, but then around mile 8 it continues to climb for what seems like forever, and gets hot. I just tried to not think about it by playing a counting steps game in my head I've developed as a way to not pay attention to my negative thoughts about this being the stupidest idea ever.

Then we enter the Rose Garden, which is really a garden of thorny rocks, and very hot. And luckily i had just enough water to get through that part, and reached the aid station around 1:30 or so, an hour later than I wanted to, but still two hours ahead of that aid station cut off.

I recovered and then left that aid station with 210 ounces of water, which was about 35 lbs of water, and by the grace of God as I climbed, clouds came in, and it cooled enough that I was able to make that climb. But my blisters and chaffing were getting bad at that point. Reaching the top, I moved onto the next aid station, and around dark reach that aid with another 2 miles to climb, and then 5-6 miles downhill. The heat of the day meant that although i was just a few minutes over the 17 hour cuttoff the race director had adjusted cutoffs due to the heat and it was still an official stage finish. End of stage 4, still in the race.

 resting again the next day, i was very sore and retaining a ton of water (my ankles were huge!) and blisters very severe, the medics started taking over my blister care, and it was pretty bad, but they got them covered enough for me to continue. I was very determined to finish officially, wanting it really badly after my Squaw Peak DNF two weeks before, as a way to heal that wound. I found that Ibuprofen was the only thing that was effective on helping with the pain of the blisters, but that it was fully effective in that I did not really feel them. the swelling and water retention was was was bothersome and i could feel it in my legs. It made me more sluggish up the hill, but after reaching mile six, I just put my head into focus on doing it mode, and picked a pace that would get me to the finish on time. My chaffing was more of a difficulty then the blisters.

I was recovering time lost on the climb, and still confident when I hit the out-and-back trail section  that was 5 miles off the road to Porcupine Ridge. I forgot the climb involved and the length, i hit it right at the hot point of the day. but the real issue i think was the climb with the fluid retention that made it difficult for me to go fast uphill, in the heat, without overheating. it took me 2.5 hours to complete that section, and while i had figured out enough to feel more recovered by the time I got back to the aid station I found myself with 6 miles left, and only 30 minutes left on the clock. By then I was feeling OK again and could have sped up, but not enough to finish in 30 minutes. I was prepared to finish anyway, even if it was an unofficial finish, when a phone call came in from the finish that they needed to pull me right there.

At first I was in disbelief that I had made it that far, and ended with a DNF, that was hard to DNF with only 6 miles left having completed most of the course, but I decided just to accept it for what it was, because being upset doesn't make it better.

After getting back to the car, the full pain of the chaffing and blisters set in, and it was bad. I checked into the hotel, rested and cleaned up a bit, trying to doctor my physical wounds enough that I could be reasonably comfortable at the dinner.

But I was very tired at the dinner, and I couldn't even manage staying for the awards and speech, my body was just done, and in pain, and couldn't take any more of paying attention or being awake.

As i looked in the mirror I saw how much water I was retaining all over. I am not sure what got out of balance, it is something I am usually able to prevent by drinking enough ORS salts with my water. Maybe I hadn't had enough of them, I don't feel that it was dangerous, It is just part of what my weird body does with racing, and will hold onto for about a week after the race. But i have learned how to mostly minimize it. I think though i need probably an additional potassium rich supplement for that hot of a course, because that seems to be what helps avoid fluid retention for me. I believe that probably played the biggest factor in slowing me down on the detrimental 5 mile section, and I would have finished otherwise.

But I think now as I reflect back, that it was again another manifestation that my running is primarily about a greater purpose larger than a metal, in a way that serves humanity, as evidenced by Han's needing my skills on Day 2.

I think the universe took away that finish to solidify the message, that my primary focus is for a greater purpose, and that races are my training runs for those more important journeys I will be taking in the future. I believe I will finish more races, and the universe seems to send the message until it is fully conscious, and I believe and hope I got it sufficiently through this race. Because the relationships I made and the service that was needed from me were ultimately more important than a finish.

Next up is Kat'Cina Mosa, which I hope now the universe will allow me to finish with me keeping in mind that it is a training run and the real important runs will be the  long journey's I plan to take that have no metal waiting for me at the end, but hopefully will inspire compassion and change in society to make a happier and healthier world through the important protection of maternal health and the mother-infant bond.

That was long!

The End for now

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pony Express 100 Mile race report

Healing from my POTS crash in 2010  has been a journey in regards to my ultrarunning journey.
In 2007 when I ran my first 50 mile race I was still in recovery from an eating disorder but had started to find my true voice and was doing pretty well. Life and running got better and better both physically and mentally, and I had started to find self-love and appreciation for my body through distance running.

By 2010 I was in a healthy spot physically and mentally, and in the middle of my grad school program at the University of Utah. It was than that my body crashed, and so did my running performance due to this new disease I didn't know I had called POTS. The next year I struggled and finished a couple of races. By 2013 I was healthier physically and mentally the soul searching to come to peace with POTS I was in a good place, but finding my anxiety around DNFs overtaking every race.

Still very slow in 2013, and having gained about 50 lbs due to POTS and hormone changes with my hysterectomy in 2012 I connected with my coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, and have been working with this wonderful runner and human being ever since then.  After a 3 year streak of chronic DNFs, I finally started finishing 50ks and 50milers again, albeit chasing cut offs and sometimes timing out of some races, but no luck at 100s, that was 2014.

However, at the end of 2014 I entered Lisa's race in the Yellowstone-Teton mountain range and although I had many issues with POTS and new symptoms I didn't know about that I had to learn to manage, I finished that race 20 hours after the cutoff when I drug myself into the finish line 52 hours after I started. The problems I encountered included breathing problems and fluid in my lungs from mile 72 onward,  and respiratory acidosis that caused me to have to stop for 7 hours at mile 96 of the course to take in bicarbonate until my body was stable again.

By 2015 I had learned how to avoid those issues, but still couldn't drop the weight and was slow. However I finished Desert Rates 150 mile stage race in the heat of the Desert, chasing cuttoffs but finishing officially, a big breakthrough for someone with POTS. But still did not finish a 100 miler officially that year.

Early in 2016 I learned about fat-adapting and after reading Primal Endurance by Mark Sissons and Fitness Confidential by Vinnie Tortorich I wasn't sold, and in early March completely changed the way I ate. I started training in a low intensity HR zone 80% of my runs, and eating 70% fat diet, low carbs, cutting out all grains and processed sugars completely.

The first 4 weeks sucked,  but after that things changed in big ways! My weight started dropping, after 5 years of not being able to drop any weight, my energy improved, my inflammation went down, and my POTS symptoms started to decrease in severity. I stuck with it, and slowly found my time starting to improve.

I finished Squaw Peak 50 for the 5th time, I finished Kat'Cina Mosa 100k, after 7 previous DNFs. However for both of those races,  I was able to start early. So the moment of truth came with this race, Pony Express 100. No early start option, 30 hour cutoff no matter what. If I wanted a buckle and an official 100 mile finish, I had to do it.

March of this year 12 days into fat adapting I DNF'd Buffalo 100 due to my body being in Keto flu and not ready to handle the run and the changes I was making.  So Pony was my last shot at a 100 for 2016. A course I had DNF'd at mile 56 or so in 2014.

When I started fat adapting I had reached a weight of 201 lbs and generally have stayed in a stable range of 193-201 lbs for the past 4-5 years. But my Pony express I had reached a weight of 158 lbs, in a healthy way I had dropped the extra weight and I don't diet, I have lifestyle changes that support my chronic health challenges and needs. So at 43 lbs lighter, fat-adapted, and my body working bettter i was in better odds to start this time.

5 am: the first wave of runners are off, I walk for half a mile, because I had promised Lisa I would not run the first half too fast, but after .5 I started jogging, and took advantage of them down hill. A moderate 4.8 miles for the first hour. Then I picked it up a bit. 5.5 miles per hour the next hour. By the three hour mark I was 15.5 miles into the race, and by 4 hours at mile 20. After that it started getting hot, and soon the uphill climb started. Still maintaining around 4 miles per hour, I hit the climb to Black Rock Pass,  and after a big stop to deal with some GI issues, felt better and continued speeding up to 4.5 mph.  At 11:45 hours I hit Blackrock aid station, about mile 48.9. In 2014 when I attempted I had started at 4am and hit Blackrock at dark. This time I started at 5am and hit Blakrock before 5pm. 2014 was nearly 15 hours to hit mile 50, this year I hit mile 50 in almost an even 12 hours. At mile 50 I was having a few stomach issues, - problem with my POTS, and took a prescribed Zofran that helps ensure my POTS symptoms do not prevent me from being able to keep myself feed.
I found that I was able to take in hammer gels, and within 20 minute felt better, and after. 20 minute rest a slow walk, took off running at 5.5 miles per hour, making up time.  Taking in a gel every 30 minutes I got to Fish springs at mile 58, by 7:30 PM. I had a longer stop there because I had to find all my warn clothing, reflective gear,and use the toilet.

Around 8pm I was moving again, back toward Blackrock.  It was about 2 miles, around mile 60 that the 7-8 gels I had taken in after taking a Zofran, which slows the bowels down,  hit and the pain in my gut was horrible. I managed to keep up a fast run: with some little walks. However with the temperature down, I started discharging all of the water I had  retained in the heat and seemed like I was having to stop every 5 minutes when my bladder would refill again. So that slowed me down a bit on my way back, but I finally got to Blackrock x 2 around 10:15pm. I was their I saw Terri Sawyer who had just finished the 50 miler, and heard that Blu and Melcom had finished just a little bit before I got back and had headed home, and that Josh was close as would finish his first 50. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit jealous at that point that they were done, and I still had over 50k to go.

I sat long enough to force a brat and some real food into me, but not long enough to get comfortable. When I started moving again the arches of my feet were cramping and having weird nerve pains shooting through them. I stopped about 2 miles up the road to change my socks, and aplied litcocain patches to the arches, wrapped my feet in rocktape around the arches, applied Trail Toes and put on a new pair of toe socks. I had been faithfully changing socks and applying trail Toes every 20 miles up to this point, but this was my last pair of socks, so this last change would have to last. This method proved to work, as I ended up with only one tiniest blister on one pointer toe.

During the morning and afternoon Janella Willis, my friend and co-worker had been crewing me in my Mini Cooper, and Jeff and Helen, my husband and daughter had been crewing me in his aged Subaru Outback. Janella had to leave around 4pm for a while but returned around 11:00pm, after I had my feet fixed up. At that point I had just under 30 miles left, so they decided to tag team. janella would crew me for 10 miles while Jeff slept,  and Jeff would take over in 10 miles.

Those next 10 miles became a struggle due to my stomach becoming a wreak, cold setting in, and the feeling of respiratory acidosis starting. I feel like because I need to control my asthma especially on a dusty course, having to use albuteral every 4-6 hours puts me at risks for respiratory acidosis on 100 milers. But this time I knew the symptoms and new that bicarbonate would correct it, and so I started using Endurylit3 fizz tabs regularly, and soon started to feel more normal again. Unfortunately I didn't realize eating them straight instead of letting them dissolve in water would cause sores in my mouth. So I soon found that out, and started diluting it as it was intended,  but not before making it difficult for myself to eat anything without pain for the rest of the course.

The last 30 miles is a lot of uphill with one 5-6 mile downhill section in there. I found that my power-walking muscles felt fresh and started power-walking at 17-15 minute miles on the uphills and flats, and jogging the downhills. As it got colder, the sweat made it difficult for me to stay warm at all, and I started losing more and more time by having to sit in the car to avoid hypothermia every couple of miles. I soon discovered an emergency poncho over my layers trapped in the body heat enough that I could go longer. I started asking Janella to go further and further ahead each time to force me to avoid the temptation of the same car for longer periods of time and I started moving Faster again. By mile 80 when Jeff took over again, the fatigue started killing me again,  and the effects of Zofran not being able to void myself of spent gels from Horus earlier causes a lot of distress for hours. While my legs were find, the last 25 kills my stomach was in misery, and as the morning moved closer to dawn the temperature decreased more.

Jeff had been stopping every 1.5 miles at that point, but around mile 89, he was asleep, and he 1.5 miles was slowing me down by virtue of wanting to climb in a warm car too often, so I walked on by,  and kept moving until he woke Up and found me at mile 93 after the sun had risen. I finally could take off the poncho and heavy outer layer,  and then around mile 93 the 6.5 mile uphill started. The deception is you can see the whole 7 miles ahead of you and it appears to be only 1.5 miles to the end, so you move and you move and it becomes a discouraging climb pretty fast.

I persevered and around mile 94 my Garmin died, and I just had to be and move and hope that the hill wouldn't eventually end. Finally around mile 80, Jeff Jumped out of the car, the rolling uphills increased and I was 60 minutes minutes ahead of he cutoff. A few minutes later Davee Crockett, race director drove up to inform me I was 1.7 miles to finish. I finally made it to the top of the hill and sort of joggedish for the last downhill to finish in 29:26, at 10:26 am.  Under 30 hours my first official 100 mile finish within the set cutoff time wit no early start!

While the first 50 miles were relatively a breeze finishing in a respectful 12hour,  the next 25 were not bad either , the last 25 were a challenge because of the cold and my stomach issues. The last 50 miles took me 17:26, with the slow down mostly occurring in the last 25. However despite the stops, 'y legs move at 3.5-4 mph the whole last section. Of course I want to go faster,and of course I want a 24 hour finish. But for this time I was elated to have finished in under 30 hours and well under the 30 hour  cuttoff with more than 30 minutes of leeway.

As I ran into be greeted by Jeff, Helen, Janella, race director, and two volunteers, I was both in awe and relieved. My first attempt at a 100 mile race was in 2009. Back then, I had POTS but didn't know it, and dehydration and electrolyte depletion had cost me what had started as a strong effort at the Bear 100. It may have taken me 8 more years to overcome the challenges of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome to a point where now I am competitive again, and getting faster, but it was worth the battle. I have hopes and dreams to make my next goal a sub 24 finish, and to finish a Mountain 100.

Thank you to my crew, coach, and those who always support my dreams. I've been through a lot of discouraging times, but it's been worth the pain and battle to get to where I am now, and see the improvement in my overall health and wellness.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kat'cina Mosa 100 k- A tale of two Potsies

I'm It was a dark and not stormy night, as all good stories begin. Let me give you a bit of history. Kat'cina Mosa 100k is a grueling mountain race touting over 12,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, over mostly technical trails and high peaks. 

I'm a fighter, and I hate having to stop a race. Any time I DNF (did not finish) or as my coach says MTRC (made the right choice) there is a deep internal part of myself that gets pissed off, and a raging desire to go back and take care of unfinished business. I also have Hyperandregenic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome otherwise know as POTS http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/pdf/RoweOIsummary.pdf

Basically my autonomic nervous system doesn't properly regulate, and thus courses with a lot of climbing are more difficult for me than someone with a normally regulated autonomic nervous system. I've experienced 6 DNFs of this course, and this year I decided I wold do whatever was necessary to finish. 

My friend, Tiffiny, who originally I met when she contacted me through this blog, also has POTS. She has attempted this course one time in 2015, and during her DNF attempt had an encounter with a cougar when she stepped on it's tail around mile 21 of the course. Tiffiny in is another tough fighter, and I was honored to team up with her to complete the course together this year. Due to her cougar experience last year, naturally she had a lot of apprehension about the course this year, and so we paired up as two tough gunslinging chicks, and she also brought along three tactical flashlights as back up cougar repellent. 

Because we both have POTS, and have difficulty with climbing, heat and sun, we got permission from the race director to start early to give us the best chance of beating our symptoms and doing as much of the course as we could at night. After all, we can not compare ourselves to anyone else running the course because we are who we are and we have what we have. So we started out around 8:30pm on Friday night of August 5th. 

I've made several changes over the past few years to work with my body to be able to complete ultramarathons while managing POTS. In the 2013 race, I had made several improvements, but around mile 11 on this course I had a panic attack because the two previous years I had some pretty serious symptoms between mile 16-23, which I would consider the toughest stretch of the course. That year my anxiety was what made me quit, not my physical symptoms, and I realized I needed more help to refine my training. That's when I started working with my coach Lisa Smith-Batchen, whom I have been working with ever since http://www.dreamchaserevents.com/About-Us/Lisa-Smith-Batchen/
In 2014 and 2015 my performances were  better, but I was still not able to complete this course.

This year I have made several changes to my diet and training that have made a huge difference. Since March of 2016 I have been living a fat-adapted lifestyle, meaning I eat no sugar and no grains, and 70% of my diet consist of healthy fats, while eating about 20% protein and 10% carbohydrates. I became interested in fat-adapting when I saw athletes who were having amazing performances and recoveries by training their bodies to utilize fat as a main energy source for fuel in performance instead of relying on carbohydrates, while also training their bodies to perform at improved speeds while staying in a low aerobic heart rate threshold the majority of the time. 

Fat-adapting has been incredible for me, becuse I no longer have energy stabilization problems during events, I don't dehydrate as rapidly before, I've been able to lose 40 out of 50 lbs so far that I put on after my POTS diagnosis in spite of different dietary adjustments, and high miles. Overall the Fat-adapted lifestyle has reduced the impact of POTS and improved my health. 

You can see in the picture above that dietary changes, not exercise have decreased the amount of body fat I have while increasing my muscle mass. I am totally converted to this lifestyle because I feel better physically and mentally, and with the weight loss, it's increased my endurance and performance. For more information I suggest downloading Vinnie Tortorich's audiobook, Fitness Confidential, and listening to his podcast. I have both the printed book and the audiobook, however in Vinnie style, he does not stick to the script and there is more information, plus some inspiring stories of his battle with Leukemia and finish of The Furnace 500 after leukemia that you won't get in his printed book. 


Back to the story: as Tiffiny and I set out we were feeling pretty good as we watched the sunset and made our way uphill, on the Squaw Peak road up through Rock Canyon. We chatted about anything and everything as we got to know each other more personally, and compared our experiences of being runner's with POTS. We lamented at the invalidation we receive from outsiders who think we must not really have POTS if we can run ultra's. The truth is we are ultra because that is what keeps us healthy, we battle or symptoms constantly and ultra running is what helps  our autonomic dysfunction be a bit more functional. 

I feel extremely greatful that when Dr. Joy diagnosed me with POTS, she never told me to expect to be disabled or to stop running, in her wisdom she told me running was the best medicine I could take to stay healthy. Tiffiny's experience was different. Her doctor told her to be prepared to get on disability and to stop running. Tiffiny reused to accept that bad advice and kept running and fought, and she holds a job as a busy surgical nurse. She proved her doctors wrong, and not science is starting to catch up and support our method of overcoming POTs,  by literally training ourselves to outrun it! 

As we approached mile 16 of the course Tiffany started to become apprehensive. Mile 16-23 is a tough climb off over 3000ft, from Rock Canyon to Lightening Ridge, on a single track. In the past this climb has caused me problems, and this year I was surprised at how steady I was able to kept moving without my heart rate racing out of control. Tiffany met the cougar on the decent of this trail. The climb is about 3.5 miles, followed by 3.5 miles of equally difficult decent.

It was about mile 21 last year that Tiffiny was running down the trail and stepped on the Cougars tail that was hidden in the vegetation. She was understandable anxious to complete this part of the course in the dark. She carried two technical flashlights, which were amazing, as they lit the path to daylight standards. About .75 of a mile to the highpoint Tiffiny froze as she spotted what she thought was a big cat, and so I fired my glock into the air, to see that it was only a deer, phew! We made our way down and got to Big Springs aid station just before 6am in the morning. From big springs we left to climb the second toughest part of the course to Windy pass, about 6 miles gaining close to 4000 ft. We were relieved to get most of this climb done before the heat hit, as this climb can be a completely different hell when the sun is straight upon us, especially for Potsies. 

I started struggling a bit, but as we reached Windy Pass aid station, and I saw my homies from AIIA (Addict II Athlete) my morale was boosted, and after a minute of resting we started the decent into Little Valley.

It was hot and dry down into Little Valley, and while my energy came back, Tiffiny started to struggle on the way down, we stuck together as we boosted each other through each other's lows of the race. We got into Little Valley, and completed the out-and-back, and started on the long jeep road that winds and winds for 11-12 miles, and see relentless and unending. We were lucky enough to have cloud cover coming into Little Valley, but were not so lucky climbing out. The heat and sun started to wear down on us. I was nauseated, Tiffinies knee was hurting, and we slowly made our way through. About 2 miles before the end of this road Tiffany spotted cougar tracks on the road, and started noticing gentle but consistent rustling in the bushes that seemed to follow us. Me, thinking she was just anxious becuse of her experience last year, kept minimizing it as likely rabbits or wild turkey. As we made our way to aid station 8, Tiffany kept facing the bushes clinking her poles, and blasting music, convinced something. Was following us. 

We arrived, finally, at the end of the unforgiving Jeep road to find more AIIA people cheering us on, as we prepared to decend until a four mile canyon, with narrow single track trail, to get to the paved road in the Right Fork of Hobble Creek Canyon. 

Upon leaving the aid station we broke off to the single track, and as the sun was decreasing in the sky, Tiffiny became more and more apprehensive, and finally 2 miles down the single track firmly demanded that I stop, turn around, and look in the bushes. There I saw the head of a big animal crouched, and realized, it was indeed a big cat, and Tiffiny has not been imagining. The cat had been hunting us for the last 4 miles. It is very unusual for cougar to hunt humans, in fact there have been no reported deaths in Utah due to a cougar attack. It is especially rare for a cat to stalk two humans together. However, when cougar hunt, they sometimes will track their prey closely for over an hour to corner their prey into a position that it can jump at it, and swipe to cut its jugular vein. 

This is likely what this car was doing, following us, and hunting us into this narrow canyon waiting for the perfect position to jump. I once again, pulled out my glock, and shot into a bank Ned too it's head, in which the cat froze out of fear, and we slowly backed away from it. It did not continue to follow us after that point. We came into Right Fork rattled by the experience and ready to be done with the course. 

Having survived to mile 56, we started the decent to the finish line, on the lady 6 miles on the paved road, and were jumpy about any noise we heard. Just before 10:30pm we arrived at the finish, greatful to be done, and showing the world that two determined women with POTS could finish this difficult course.

I'm honored to have run this course with Tiffiny and thank the race director, John Bozung for working with us and allowing us to complete this course. I also thank my coach Lisa Smith-Batchen, and am greatful for Vinnie Tortorich's book, as well as Mark Sissions who's information has helped me make huge progress this year! 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

My recovery story for AIIA

I had the unexpected honor of being chosen as Addict II Athlete MVP of the month, and was asked to write my recovery story. So I'm posting it here as well. I love AIIA and feel privileged to be a part of this team. The bonds, connection, and friends I've made are priceless. 

Addict II Athletes MVP of the month goes to: 
Congratulations! Here's a little about
My name is Tara Workman-Tulley licensed clinical social worker, and licensed direct-entry midwife. My passion is in addressing addiction, eating disorders, and maternal mental health. I believe that to really heal addiction, violence, mental and physical illness we have to start with addressing mental health before, during and after pregnancy. I’m fascinated with the emerging field of neuroimmunology showing the imprint that stress and adverse childhood experiences  during gestation and early childhood  impact not only the rates of addiction in offspring, but in altering DNA to make the net generation more at risk for the same illnesses. By addressing maternal mental health, we not only are helping the life of the mother and her child, but we are helping to mitigate the effects of generational stress and trauma and hopefully altering DNA in a good way that will make the next generation less prone to these diseases. 

My story is long and complicated, so I will attempt to write the cliffnotes version. I experienced quite a bit of trauma in my early childhood, and I am the oldest child of 8 siblings. My parents did the best they could to raise us to be healthy, productive adults, but there were many things outside of their control that impacted us as children. By the time I was 10-11 years old, I remember being depressed and feeling ashamed about my body. Although I am not a tall adult, I gained most of my height early, and I developed as a young women starting at the age of 9. I was shamed for my body size because I was taller and more developed than my peers. By the time I was 11 years old, I was obsessed with figuring out how to become anorexic. My drug of choice was never a chemical substance, I didn’t like feeling out of control, and so controlling my food, exercise, and weight became my drug of choice. 

When I was 14-years old, I remember sitting in a health class at school, and watching very sensationalized documentaries on emaciated women, showing how much they ate, how they cut up their food, how they over exercised, took laxatives, and vomited after eating to control their weight and size. Unfortunately, instead of making me afraid of anorexia, even with showing pictures of Karen Carpenter before her death, I felt like I was connected to those women. In a weird way, I looked up to them for their ability to have so much self-control. It was from that moment that something snapped in my brain, and my deadly dance with Ed (Eating Disorder) began. 

Sadly, the symptoms of my disease were encouraged by the adults around me. I quickly lost weight. I felt like I had really accomplished something. The fact that I could go all day on a few hundred calories, hide the fact that i wasn’t eating, run for miles in the middle of the night, or wake up at 3-4am to exercise for 2 hours before school, and rapidly lost weight was encouraged by all of the adults around me. I was congratulated for my success, and for making my body conform to super-model status. As is the case with many women with anorexia, starvation can only be maintained for so long. After about 9-10 months, the brain can’t take it anymore and suddenly i found myself eating through abnormal amounts of food in the middle of the night, and then spending the next couple of hours over the toilet vomiting. I begin to punish myself for these episodes, but increasing my self-exercise abuse. This progressed to vomiting almost every time I ate, even if I had eaten just a little. I found myself running to the bathroom after every class, just to make sure there was nothing left in my stomach. It got so bad, that I started vomiting blood, but I never told anyone. Additionally I started taking laxatives in high amounts, to ensure that all of the calories left my body. 

I hated myself, and what I had become, but after 2 years of this, I was not able to stop. I became suicidal and hopeless, and sometimes would cut on myself. Finally, I was brave enough to tell my parents, I don’t think they knew how to react. My mom’s reaction was “i don’t think you are really bulimic, this is just a phase or cry for attention”. For a while it got worse after I told, my mom didn’t know how to handle Ed, and Ed became the contention of everything. When large amounts of food would disappear, she would yell out of desperation that I was wasting money and disrespecting the work that went into making the food. She was doing her best, but didn’t understand my addiction, and neither did I. Finally, it got bad enough that my parents sought help for me. I was mad, I didn’t want to see a therapist, I wasn’t crazy. But I went. Unfortunately the therapist I saw for the next 15 months made things worse, and did some very inappropriate things that harmed me and lead to more trauma. 

One day, when I was 17, I thought I had spontaneously recovered, I became a strict vegan, and stopped throwing up, but didn’t realize I was just finding a more socially acceptable way to have an eating disorder. This went on for a while. When I was 17.5 I was raped, and it sent me back down into a bad depression. I was afraid to see a therapist because of my previous experience, but a friend pushed me into trying it one more time, and luckily I found a good therapist, that helped me to get my life back online for about 9 months. I thought I was done, but i really hadn’t addressed all of the trauma and distorted thinking I had. She moved away at that point, and I got engaged. I traded Ed for obsessing about how I was going t be the perfect mother, and wife, and not have to ever think about the bad stuff again. 

Then I got pregnant. The first two trimesters were fine, but beginning my third trimester I started to have severe anxiety, and didn’t know but I was experiencing what is called perinatal OCD. I had crazy thoughts and fears that when on in my head on repeat, and got worse as the pregnancy progressed. I had a difficult but natural home-birth, and thought i was finally in a good place. But then 5 days after my daughter was born, I found myself in a deep depression, and my OCD thoughts worsening. I thought I was psychotic, and felt that I had failed as a mother. But i didn’t want everyone to know I was crazy. So when she was 10 days old, without telling my husband or anyone, I registered for midwifery school. For the next two years midwifery school became my addiction, and my way of avoiding addressing my emotional state. Then 19 months later my son was born, my symptoms worsened during and after his pregnancy, and I was near the end of my schooling, and had less t distract me. 

When he was 2 months old, a great-aunt called me fat, and it sent me into a downward track. Because I no longer had school to distract me, i started going to the orem rec center and dropping my kids off for the maximum 4 hours i could leave them in the day care because i was afraid i was going to hurt them, and i worked out that whole time. I was also running morning and night when my husband was home. I started taking dangerous amounts of diet pills, and lost a lot of weight. And then when he was 1 years old, i suddenly came out of it, and had 1 full year that i actually was mentally stable and healthy about my body and food. 

But then I got pregnant with my youngest child, and the OCD and depression returned. It lead me to getting into an unhealthy business partnership. When she was 3 years old, i still wasn’t OK, and I started having traumatic memories come back to me, that I had been avoiding for many years. I started wanting to restrict and vomit again. This time I sought help before acting on my urges, but the therapist I saw was not specialized, and did some things that made the situation worse. I got sicker, and finally relapsed. 

I lost 70 lbs in a three month period, and was running 13-15 miles per day, on very few calories. I would come back from the runs, almost passing out, and my health started to decline. I finally realized the therapy I was in was not helping, and found a therapist who was specialized. 

During my recovery I was met with resistance by dietitians who knew i was running, but my therapist was open minded and recognized that for me, running was not really a part of my addiction, and that running actually provided an outlet that made me feel positive about my body. Running became the catalyst to recovery for me. I started to treat my body better as i begin to run marathons and ultra-marathons. 

In early recovery, running was my replacement for Ed, but as i started to find self-love again, address difficult emotions, and heal trauma, running became just one peice of recovery. Eventually, through a lot of spiritual searching, I found myself back in school, and ended up in a social work program in graduate school. I wanted to understand why running was healthy for me, when most of the eating disordered field looked down on my method of recovery. I started to develop and write out a recovery model, that I didn’t know how to describe to people, and figured out that when I was stuck in Ed, Ed was who I thought I was, and that i had to let go of that identity and re-define who I thought I was. That was painful, and it felt like I was losing a best friend, and a worst enemy at the same time. 

The difficulty with a food addiction, is that I couldn’t not avoid my drug of choice, I had to learn how to cope with food, and fullness. My body had to relearn was hunger felt like. I had to learn to sit through the discomfort of fullness. 

As i have developed professionally, I studied and gained expertise connecting the dots between my pregnancies, and relapses, and recognized there were big holes in treatment and understanding of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and eating disorder treatment. When i discovered Addict II Athlete, I was instantly connected to it, because it matched my model of recovery that I had found, and I finally found other professionals that understood and supported my path of recovery. The Erase and Replace model, is exactly what I did to move from recovery to fully recovered and alive. 
I have gratitude every day that I am alive, able to run, and love my body no matter what state it is in. I have evolved to be OK when I can’t run, and I know I am a person that is worthy of unconditional love and acceptance. I seek to help other women and men find the same peace i have found through being recovered.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Run 140 miles in her shoes

I am a woman. I am a mother, daughter, midwife, therapist, survivor, and runner. Most recently, I've become emersed into the world of substance use disorders.

I'm an advocate for maternal wellness and looking at maternal health and mental health as a social justice issue. I'm a survivor of a pregnancy mental health complication, eating disorder, PTSD, and running has been a key part of getting to know who I really am and what my purpose in being is. 

I survived postpartum anxiety after the births of each of my three children, the last of my three hit me the hardest, and led me into a downward spiral of battling an eating disorder that was destroying my life and health. Through my own recovery process I ended up with a degree in mental health, and was naturally drawn to pregnancy and postpartum mental health because of my training and professional background in the birth field. 

Part of the reason I am so passionate about helping mamas be well and feel well both mentally and physically is because I know that a nation of untreated mothers is leading to a nation of sick people and social dysfunction. Fixing our maternity care system and supporting motherhood is the fundamental power of a healthy and loving society. 

As I have become a professional in women's issues I've been drawn to addressing addiction as a complication of  childbirth. While there is a lack of research and data in this area, studies that are available suggest that accidental drug overdose and suicide are the leading cause of maternal mortality. 

On February 11th I embarked on a journey to raise awareness and support for identifying and treating mothers at risks and shedding light on the problem of maternal addiction. Utah ranks number 8 in the nation for deaths related to drug overdose. I decided to join forces with Addict II Athlete and run 140 miles around my neighborhood.

The journey was transformative for me, because the cause of creating safry nets for motherhood is my passion. Throughout my journey, no amount of pain or discomfort was greater then my desire to run 140 miles and finish on February 13th. 

The conditions I was running in were an erie parrallell to the damage that is created by not treating mothers. I woke up to the worst inversion air Utah has ever seen. I ran for 2.5 days in air that was not advisable to breath. The toxic fog brought on challenges that I had to work solely with my higher power to move through.

It was 8:40 am in the morning on February 11th, and I set up my aid station and donation tarp in front of my house. With a bit of intrepidation I tied my shoes, took a breath of the fog filled air that felt searing to my lungs, and took my first lap around my .45 mile block. With each lap the air and cold settled into my lungs and skin and I accepted the fact that these conditions were not going to change. 

Day one was full of more breaks, and I finished my first 50 miles around 1am on Friday morning. The cold humidity and toxic wetness made every part of me want to stop, but I knew I had to get to mile 50 if I was going to finish by Saturday night. I got a few hours of sleep, and woke up to a fog that was twice as thick and heavy as the day before. 

Wanting to delay my start, hoping that the fog would lift, and finally with a push from my coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, I made it out the door again by 8:30 am. Thursday's miles had mostly consisted of running about 45 of the 50 miles around one specific block. By Friday morning I realized that I needed  to extend my course in order to avoid fixating on the comforts that my home provided. If I was to finish and stay on track, I needed to run further away from my comfort zone so that I would rise above the discouragement and easy ability to stop. 

Other than a few laps, with Brandie and Jason Hawks, Judy Sumsion, and Joal Lyons most of my first 80 miles were done alone. My neighbor Michelle Willmore kept coming by to check on my progress and see what I needed.
Around mile 75  I felt alone, and I started to feel discouraged and the weight of the task became heavy. It was right at that moment that a crew of individuals from Addict II Athlete started showing up right when I couldn't mentally take it on my own anymore. The support changed everything, and one of my friends, Jeff Smith, walked and ran with me through the night as the fog once again settled in think and heavy. 

Others who came out to support me on Friday were Terri and Robert Sawyer, Savannah and Tyson Rich, Coach Blu and Marissa Robinson and Jed Jenson and crew. 

The night track was slower, and the more tired my body became, the more effort it took to stay on track to finish on Saturday. By 7 am we made it back to the house for a break and hit mile 104. Breaking 100 miles was a mental challenge, and getting to 104 I started to have hope that I really could finish what I set out to do.

 After a short bath and 30 minutes of rest, I decided to run inside around my pool table until the air outside cleared a little. The air had started to hurt my lungs. I did that for about 7 miles, and during that 7 miles another friend, Cat showed up. As soon as she had to leave, around 112 miles another member of AIIA showed up with his wife blasting motivating music as he joined me for about 6-7 miles and she followed with her van the whole time cheering us on. My spirits were lifted and my speed increased dispite the fatigue my body felt. 

As I hit 120 miles Jeff and Callie came back and Christy Long showed up. We stared to trek up Hobble Creek canyon n when I made them stop and change directions and instead go into Mapleton. Andrea and Justin Garn joined us, and we set out to complete the last 19 miles.  I distracted myself by taking them to my childhood home, and we completed a half marathon circling East and South Mapleton before finally reaching home, and setting out for the last 7 miles.

Throughout the day my spirit overcame dispair and was replaced with hope, and by the last 7 miles a deep resolve set in, and I broke into a run. When I came around the corner, my neighbors Michelle and Keith Willmore, had set up a finish line and my husband,Jeff, and daughter, Helen,  Callie, and the Willmores were there cheering as I sprinted at full speed through the finish. 

Along the way, people heard the message and I am humbled by the response of strangers who have been touched and completed to donate to Addict II Athlete. 

I want to thank everyone who came out to support me. Just like recovery, a run like this is more successful with a support system. Without the team coming to walk with me, keeping my resolve would have been more difficult. 

To donated to AIIA and support the fight for mothers recovering from addiction please go to: