Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Race Report on the Yellowstone/ Teton 100 miler Running with POTS: A Journey Back Into Ultrarunning

Race Report on the Yellowstone/ Teton 100 miler
Running with POTS: A Journey Back Into Ultrarunning

Back in July of 2010 I wrote a description of POTS and symptoms that are associated with it. To learn more about POTS look at my blog archive.

After being diagnosed with POTS in 2010, I thought I would have no trouble beating it. But it was a couple of years of beating me to the ground after that. I have recovered from a lot of things in my life. Becoming an ultramarathon runner was one of the ways I successfully recovered from a severe eating disorder by changing my mindset around my body and developing positive self-talk.

Turns out those skills would be necessary to work my way back into running. POTS diagnoses was followed by a year of adrenal fatigue syndrome where I literally had to sleep for 12 hours a day. Imagine balancing sleep with a demanding graduate school schedule and practicum for 12 months. It is only with the grace of God that I was able to survive and finish school.

During that time I healed enough to successfully summit Mount Kilimanjaro. To watch my epic recap video visit Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JidL_3pBqbg
Kilimanjaro was a pilgrimage and a prophetic journey of self discovery. I had to make a choice, finish when half of my family had been taken out of the journey due to illness and wonder if they were OK, or quit and go down the mountain with them. A lot of prayer in the decision told me, I had to finish. There would be nothing I could do for them if I went down with them, and I needed to finish the journey. I had a guide, Baraka, who journeyed with me, and when I wanted to turn around just 30 minutes from the summit due to Oxygen deprivation effecting my thinking and my body feeling like it was splitting Baraka said “Come on Simba Lady! We will finish this journey together!” And so we did. Baraka encouraged me, and kept my inner voices screaming at me to turn around and run at a lower volume.

After I graduated from the U of U with a Master’s in Social Work, I was not sure what I was going to do with my life. That was another two year epic journey of trying different approaches to doing the work that I am good at and meeting the requirements of 4,000 supervised hours of mental health practice, while also having a new midwifery school emerge under my feet.

During this time, I had a hysterectomy, and have done a lot of work to overcome the effects of POTS and heal my adrenal glands. I have also had a lot of success and miracles with business, growing midwifery education, and maternal mental health. There were a lot of parallel challenges in that as well, and continue to be, but every challenge that is overcome brings growth and unseen blessings with it.

Stress, body limitations, has made running difficult for the last 3.5 years. In fact, the last 50 mile finish I had was Squaw Peak in June of 2010. It was a tough finish because I was still having a lot of hydration issues. The body difficulties have added 50 lbs of weight to my frame in 3 years, and I have suffered through a lot of fatigue. But I have gotten a little better every year, even though I have entered many races and DNF’d all of them except for The SnowShoe 50 K in January of 2011 where I was dead last finisher, but the only female finisher and ended up with a first place trophy!

Circa Kat'cina Mosa, August 2013: My speed was slowly improving, but when the race started I started feeling hopeless and depressed, and lost desire to race. After thinking about it, and knowing the signs of PTSD, I realized I had a lot of fear that my body would never work efficiently again. I couldn’t’ put all of my mental energy into it, because I had a lot of emotions and built up discouragement about perpetual DNFs, and even though I am pretty good at not personalizing, it was a big sting in my heart when someone jokingly referred to me as “The famous DNFer” when I dropped at Katchina and asked to be taken to Big Springs to be an aid station worker.  What the person who made the comment doesn’t realize, is that it takes courage for me to start each race knowing that I may not finish, but never saying I won’t finish. Always starting with the intent to finish, and only dropping when I have to. What he didn’t know is that the alternative would have been that if I quit running, my body would have likely continued to lose functionality and I would have become bedridden.

POTS can be a scary diagnosis. Some people with POTS get so severe that they can’t climb out of bed in the morning anymore and are bedridden much of the time. I was crossing that bridge, and through all my research on POTS I learned that those who fight their symptoms can keep them from getting worse, and may see improvement. I kept ultrarunning, and starting races because I needed something big to keep me from giving in to those days that I didn’t think I could get out of bed.

I have been able to improve my health and through a lot of emotional healing, work, health and dietary adjustments, I would say that I barely notice that I have POTS anymore. I have to be careful, and I know how to read my body and adjust for what it needs.

After Katchina Mosa, I contacted Lisa Smith-Batchen, whom ironically I had met just a few days after completing Squaw Peak 50 in 2010, and ran the last of her 6 miles with her at Liberty Park on her 50 mile in 50 state journey. I ran Lisa and Jay’s race in Idaho in 2011, and made 46 miles of the 100, and then after a hysterectomy 6 months later, running was more like a walk for about a year.

After a month of coaching she talked me into coming back to finish the 100 miler. I started again, with the intent to finish, but needed to drop at 50 miles. But I made it 50 miles, and that was a milestone! And my legs aren’t sore two days later, even though I haven’t run a lot of distance in two years!

Now my goal is to win. Next year I will be back, and I am going to win a 100 mile race J I have started working on figuring out this metabolism, so I can restore a healthy weight and hopefully solve some inflammation problems. Me winning a 100 mile race seems like a joke right now. But I am going to do it. I dream big, and I accomplish my goals. It is more about the journey to see what I am made of and how far I can go that drives it.