Saturday, December 20, 2014

Miles for Midwives Campaign

Above you see me, with the woman who gave birth to me into the hands of a midwife, my grandfather Arnold Branham.
Arnold and LaRae Branham are my grandparents, and they were pioneers in the field of modern midwifery. 
My grandmother was a natural healer, and birthed 10 children at home. My grandfather is still living and will me 89 years old in January. He became the Community Midwife in his small community of Eagle River Wisconsin because of my brave grandmother who challenged the abusive birth standards and practices to women during her time. Because of their influence we have a family of fearless, creative thinkers. I've dedicated my life to improving maternal health in this country and I'm on a mission to log 2400 miles are raise over $24000. Please donate to my campaign, on the link below and help spread the message. As my wonderful coach says "Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much" Lisa Smith-

I will be tracking my miles on Strava at:

(Pictured LaRae and Arnold Branham with midwife, psychotherapist, and Ultramarathon runner Tara Tulley at 2 years old. LaRae lost a battle with cancer at the age of 55 in 1989. Her short life touched many many people and her legacy lives on). 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

New cross training companion

I need to work on my speed and leaning up because my next goal is to complete a 100 mile run in under 30 hours. Once I complete a sub 30 hour run then my next goal is a sub 24. I've got lots of work to do, but I believe anything is possible. Here is a picture of my new crosstrianing buddy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Running 100 miles from Yellowstone- Driggs, An Epic Production

It's  2:45 am on September 20th, and I hear the morning song playing from the speaker on my phone. I've had a few hours of fitfull sleep in a shared hotel room with my family, as I anticipate the start of the final attempt for a 100 mile completion in 2014. 

I spring out if bed, quitely dress, and then walk out the door to meet the other runners in the lobby of the Graywolf Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana. 

Soon Jay Batchen calls out "5 minutes until start time" as about 60 runners scramble out the door and line up at the start line. 5-4-3-2- and the race has begun. We all start together to end on our own own journies. It's 4 am, and I am grateful that it is not as cold this year as it has been in years past. This is my third attempt at this 100 mile course in general, and my 8th time attempting a 100 mile distance course. If I finish, this will be my first finish since attempting the first 100 mile course, the Bear 100 in 2009. 

I think back through my failed attempts and the work I have done to try to find anawers and cure my body of dysautonomia, and the disadvantages to running that come with it. Ironically, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tacycardia Syndrome (POTS), about a week before I met Lisa Batchen for the first time. Lisa was running through Utah, during her 50 miles in 50 states run, and I joined the group for her last few miles at Liberty Park. 

During the Spring of 2010 I was prompted to see Dr. Elizabeth Joy after I started having some difficulties in everyday functioning and experiencing serious hydration issues, which you can read more about in archives posts , regarding POTS. Two days before I had joined Lisa at Liberty park, I had finished what would me my last succesful 50 mile finish for a few years, at Squaw Peak 50. 

Now here I was in 2014, attempting Lisa's course for the 3rd time and hoping that my year of training with her,
and my dedication to healing my body would pay off today enough for a buckle. I felt confident as I started to pass,1 ,2, and then finally 3 people! The reason this was exciting to me was because after my POTS crash in 2010, I experienced a few years of becoming a speed outlier- meaning that because of POTS, I was no longer at the middle of the pack, but sometimes several hours behind the back-of-the-pack. 

I made my way to the continental divided, and soon the sun was rising and I crossed the Montana border, into Idaho.

 I arrive at the first aid station and I am 15 % through the course. I feel good so far, and as the sun comes up I hope I have done enough to increase my tolerance to sun exposure. Because I have POTS, I have insensitivity to direct sunlight and warmer temperatures. I also have difficulty maintaining proper electrolyte balance in my body. To improve my tolerance I have started supplementing with a product called Q96, and it seems to have helped my heat and sun tolerance issues. I mix salt capsules and potassium directly into my water with amounts varying based on altitude and tempuratures I am running through. In 2010, when I was diagnosed with POTS, I was seeing Elena Yorgason, an athlete and dietitian who has worked with the US Olympic ski team, and had done a lot work determining my sweat rate, base metobolic rate, and sodium/potassium hydration balance. We had determined that most of the time I should always mix electrolytes with my water to avoid serious hydration issues I had experienced during my first 100 mile attempt. 

Now I'm always playing a fine line between maintaining a proper level of sodium and potassium, which I need in much higher ammounts then the average person, and the unplesent side effects of increased sodium intake on my stomach and gastro-intestinal system. This is what I will be gadging all day long. 

Because of these issues, I have to carry a lot of things with me, making my hydration pack heavier than I would like it to be. However, I've learned that a heavier pack and being prepared with what I need to correct my body if it gets out if balance is critical to successful running. 

The sun is up and the day starts to warm up, and the unplesentry of direct sun exposure begins. However, I am grateful because I am not experiencing the severe nausea and headache I have in the past when being under the direct light with no escape. I pass the second checkpoint, at mile 25, and begin emphasizing keeping my core body tempurature cool, in order to keep my body from experiencing unstable blood pressure drops and raises that slow me down and leave me feeling dizzy and week. I dip a buff in ice water and put it in my head , I tie a neck band with cooling beads on, and I feel good as I make my way toward the turn off at mile 37.5. I feel confident and I control my speed and the hills that seamed difficult in the years past seem very mild today. I hit the aid station at mile 37 right before 2pm and take a few minutes to prepare for then next climb. By this point I am retaining too much water and so I forgo the salt and potassium directly in my water this time, because I'm feeling restricted slightly in my breathing that comes with not eliminating enough of the water I intake. 

The next 14 miles are a bit rough as I have some stomach issues and am having a start of the breathing constriction. Around mile 45 I decide it is time to incorporate albuteral, which I carry and use very judiciously when my breathing becomes constricted. I'm able to eliminate enough fluid that by mile 51 I'm feeling better. 

The stomach issues cost me an hour off my time. I had been hoping to reach mile 51, 2 full hours before the cut off , but instead I reach it 1 hour before the cutoff, or 15 hours into the race.  Still, this time is faster than in years past , and I'm still feeling well, as I move on. 

Having a little more difficulty through the canyon I reach mile 60 with only 2 hours to hit the next aid aid station at mile 71, and I need to speed up. In order to accomplish this, Jeff, my husband and crew goes ahead of me one mile at a time and I make a head game if cat- mouse , pushing up and down hills. I reach the checkpoint 10 minutes after the 2:30 am cuttoff, and receive permission from Lisa to continue on the course. 

However, now my body has a shutdown moment. Suddenly my breathing is very constricted and I'm feeling lightheaded and dizzy, especially on hill climbs. At this point I face the harsh realization that I don't have the ability to go faster without compromising my breathing more, and am probably going to be coming in beyond the 32 hour cuttoff. I struggle feeling defeated and forlorn again about the reality of POTS and it taking away another 100 mile hope from me. I walk a few yards up the hill and then I drop to all fours and moan in defeat. Then I stand up and push up a few more yards and drop again and I'm yelling and singing strange words with no context into the night in attempt to open up my lungs, and make breathing a littler easier. I had made the mistake of using one to many doses of albuteral and for the next 4 hours until it wore off, it made climbing the hills more difficult. Six hours minimum between doses I decide! If I use it at all. 

I hit mile 77 as the sun rises around 6:30am, the past four hours only being able to progress 6 miles, and I want to give up. I go through every logical reason to quit and what I'm going to say to everyone about why I couldn't continue. I tell Jeff I am done, and he starts to drive me away, and then in a quarter of a mile I tell him "no stop!" Go back. I do this 4 or 5 times, and finally grab a bottle of Deep Blue rub, and as I'm rubbing it on my calves I decided to rub it all over my chest and back, and my breathing starts to become a little easier. I get out of the car and walk slowly and realize that if I keep a slow pace, that is like a meandering walk and don't push my breathing I can do this without the lightheadedness. So I walk up to the car again and tell Jeff to be prepared for a long day, to go get some sleep, and just check on me every two hours, but that I was not quiting. 

I see Lisa's van and tell her she can close the aid stations but I'm continuing and I will see her at the finish around 4-5pm tonight. I also ask my mother to come up and pace me the last few miles of the course, and she makes arrangements to drive up from Utah. 

I am in much better spirits, and even though I had Jeff get all my drop bags, the aid station at mile 81 decided to hold out for me and I reached mile 81 around 10:30 am, about 90 minutes before the official race cut off. The next 10 miles were very difficult. My lungs had difficulty with both steep down and uphills, and more so on the downhills. I could only maintains a pace of 2 miles per hour, and when I had 14 miles left , I had to take an hour break to recover my lungs and close my eyes a bit. At 14 miles it was about 1pm and I had now been awake and moving for 31 hours. 

I continues on, slowely, and finally around mile 89, about 4pm, I see my mother climb out of my van and she starts walking with me. 

We slowely walk and reach mile 91.5 around 6:30pm. There are 8.50 miles left, and we march on. I'm feeling sick and week again, and start to feel confusion and we reach the turn off at the dirt road. One of the other runners who had finished hours before came out to try to encourage and meet me, and unfortunately was in a car accident right in front of me as he crossed the road. 

I was very very grateful he was not injured and felt terrible that he was in an accident while coming out to try and support me. I had to continue on, and as darkness approached my breathing became more difficult again. 

Around mile 95 I started experiencing hallucinations, and gatoraid started 
tasting like pure acid to me. I also started to lose feeling of sensations in my skin where I had rashes that were burning, I could no longer feel the irritation. There is a difference between discomfort, and intuition telling you to stop immediately. My Intuition was saying there was a problem I needed to address immediately . So I stopped around mile 97 and did some internet research on my phone and figured out that most likely due to restricted breathing and the fact that I had stopped eating protein for two hours I was experiencing a combination of metabolic and respiratory acidosis. I consulted my uncle who is a Dr., and started drinking water mixed with potassium bicarbonate ( because I had no sodium bicarbonate that he recommended), and starting eating small ammounts of protien. 

It also started raining really hard and the tempurature dropped, so I decided to stop for the night on the course and rest in the van as I waited for the rain and lightening to stop and my body to recover. During the night I eliminated cups and cups of fluid, and finally the rain tell up, and the sun rose for the third time. 

It was now September 22nd, and it happens to be my birthday! What a glorious sunrise for a birthday, and hey, I'm going to finish 100 miles on my birthday. I make my way down the final half mile of the dirt road, and enter the highway 2.5 more miles to the finish. Several times I have tears in my eyes as I realize, I'm finishing 100 miles. But I quickly bite my lip to stop crying as I don't want the cars passing by to stop and ask me if there is a problem and get me out of my rhythem. 

I'm going to finish at exactly 9 am, and  1/2 of a mile before the finish I hand my phone to my mother and instruct her to take pictures. When I get to the light right before the finish, my mother yells at me that Lisa is not here yet and that I must wait to cross the finish line. So I start running in circles around the traffic light pole for 5 minutes laughing at how crazy I must look to the cars passing by until Lisa arrives in her PJs and Grant comes to escort me across the street. 

So now it is 9:07 am actual time when I cross the finish line. Exactly 53 hours after I started this adventure. I am grateful and have no words as I realize I just did my first 100 miler! I hope with many more to come, and much faster the next time around. 
Lots if hugging and tears.
My mother got me through the last 11 miles.

My awesome crew 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

100 miles on POTS

This is my short report. My long report will come later, maybe in a few days when I've had time to relax and think through thoroughly. I just finished 100 miles yesterday at the Yellowstone/Teton 100. The official cut off time was 12pm on Sunday. Lisa Smith-Batchen who runs the race with her fabulous husband Jay 
Batchen, has also been my running coach for the past year. I finished the race at 9 am, 21 hours after the official cut off. I was very surprised at the ammout of support and respect I have received for finishing 21 hours late.

To the POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tacycardia Community), me being allowed to continue and finish 100 miles has given a lot of them more hope then most people can imagine. Let me give you a though. What if you were told you have congestive heart failure? To many people living with POTS this is the quality of their lives. Even though we don't have congestive heart failure, because our autonomic nervous systems are dysregulated this is how we feel every day. We walk around with many of the same symptoms experienced by someone who has congestive heart disease, only it is not our hearts that are diseased (unless POTS is secondary to another disease which for many people it is). 

Before I write the details of my race report, which will include details of how I stay running and able to continue when I have POTS symptoms attack I want to let the average community know why people with POTS are so amazed that someone with POTs could do 100 miles of anything. I don't want to spend a lot do time writing about what POTs is, is an excellent resource for that, but I want to describe how it feels to have POTS so that the grater public can appreciate why running at all seems like a miricle to someone with POTS. 

There are different forms and causes of POTS. I have hyperandrogenic POTS. I've had symptoms in a milder form most of my life, and never realized I was different. Athletically, I have never been the fastest or greatest at anything. I joined track my last year of highschool, and discovered I loved running and because I was never fast, I had never joined before. 

However, even though I could not run 5 minute sprints like the fast girls, I tried and tried and soon when from a 10 minute mile to a 7 minute mile, and discovered I could run for a long time without feeling winded as quickly as the fast girls.

I was an orchestra geek in highschool, and I soon went on to have a career, marry, and start my family.

I played around with running but when my kids were being born it was difficult because I would start training and start succeeding and then get pregnant again and due to POTS symptoms could not continue running safely during my pregnancies. 

When I was done having babies, and my youngest was 5 years old I became serious about running again and 2007 I started running marathons and 2008 I started running 50 milers. 

I had POTS issues that I did not know what they were, I just thought I was not as good as everyone else, and must need to train harder, however the more dedicated I became to training, the slower my speed started getting, until I had a POTS crash in 2010, you can read about that on my running with Dysautonomia page on this blog. 

I was very blessed to find Dr. Liz Joy, in 2009 and to work with dietitian Elena Yorgason who was able to help me strategize and figure out a very calculated hydration and nutrition system for endurance running that I continue to use and adjust according to my bodies needs even though, sadly she is not in private practice anymore. I also feel grateful for Dr. Joy, who never even blinked an eye when I told her I wanted to continue distance running even though I have POTS, and Elena for agreeing to work with my through my pain of a body that doesn't work like everyone else's. I mostly kept running because I never though POTS was something that should keep me from running, and my loving professionals who treated me didn't tell me otherwise. 

Before about a year ago, I didn't really know anyone else with POTS , and I never talked about it because even most doctors don't know what it is and it is difficult to describe and explain to people. I just quietly ran at the back of the pack of races and not being able to finish many, or being to slow to make cut offs, but sti trying and trying and through the who time learning out to be proactive and keep symptoms under control and prevent them when possible. 

Sometimes, I had to fail at a race in order to produce a symtom that I would then have to research and figure out how to control or work with, and recognize the early signs of a symptom when I could still do something to reverse it. It's taken me 4 years of doing this kind of running and DNFing over and over again in order to get through 100 miles. And like the races that I failed at, this 100 mile completion produced some new problems that now I have to research and learn how to prepare so that my next 100 miles will be faster and less painful. 

So back to the thought of running with congestive heart failure: I wake up in the morning, most mornings flu symptoms are present: nausea, sore throat, shaky. I stand up, slowly so that I don't faint when changing positions. I Walk around the house for 20 minutes, eventually I no longer feel flu-like. This is every day of my life. For the first two year, I fought through chronic fatigue as well, and still have times that I battle this. Imagine feeling like You haven't slept for 2 days, every day, even though you are sleeping most of the day, or at least trying not to fall asleep.

Now imaging running for 24 hours or more, when your body has difficulty being awake for even 12 hours a day sometimes.

Imagine that when it is hot outside your blood pressure started going really
High and then really low, and then normal, and then changing all over again, cause nausea, body anxiety, dizziness, and feeling like you are going to die. 

Imagine this. Because your body has dofficulty with positional changes that when you are laying down your heart rate may be 55, but if you stand up and just stay standing for 10 minutes within that 10 minutes your heart rate climbs and climbs to 120-150 and if you don't move you will faint. 

When I'm running flat or down hill, my heart rate is fine, but when I'm climbing hills because of POTS, sometimes i have to slow down a lot, and take frequent breaks as my body has difficulty regulating my heart rate while climbing hills. 

Many of my symptoms i have been able to minimize, and I've found suplements, like Q96, that helps my body to regulate this better, and I'm tolerating heat, sun, and hills much better. 

Now imagine, because your body does not absorb minerals well, you have to mix in 3-10 times the amount  of sodium, potassium, and others minerals than the average personin order to be able to operate for an extended period of this means always a balance of not becoming hyponaturemic or Kalimic but also by bloating and causing GI issues. I'm always battling this from mile 20 and beyond.

Now imagine that your lungs start retaining fluid after about 30 miles and you can't pin it all on one cause, fluid balance issues seem to be the main issue, pots makes it difficult for me to sweat and there for lower my core tempurature and all that fluid builds up. 
I have become better and better at preventing it, or at least delaying the onset, but had never done more than 63 miles successfully before this race, and so the lung issues hit me at mile 71! It took me 22.50 hours to complete 71 miles, well within reason of finishing
At 32 hours had I not had the breathing issues hit. It took me 30.5 hours to complete the last 29 hours. But being allowed to complete it gave me the opportunity to work with my compromised breathing, find things that managed the symptoms, and next time I will know what to do to help it not get so bad. Sodium bicarbonate saved me at mile 97. I started having symptoms of repertory acidosis at mile 93. I did not even know what this was before Saturday. I starred hallucinating, and anything I put in my mouth tasted like pure, burning acid. I also stopped feeling. I had places where my skin was irritate that had previously been burning, that suddenly I had no pain sensation in. 

I had to stop at mile 97 for almost 9 hours where I researched my symptoms, consulted with a professional, and sipped on potassium bicarbonate (because I didn't have baking soda), during that time I eliminated cups and cups of fluid, slept, and returned to normal enough to finish the last three miles in about 90 minutes. Now I know how to prevent this in the future, and I will always carry baking soda along with my electrolyte mix. 

That's all for now, I will write my full report later. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Race to 100 for Dysautonomia International $10 per mile

Many individuals suffer from chronic invisible illnesses like mine, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. I'm blessed because I've been able to mitigate or minimize many symptoms, and I am able to run and function normally (although it has taken a lot of effort in healing!) But at least 25% of individuals with POTS can not function normally and many had to end careers and some are bedridden. Help find a cure for dysautonomia by donating to my race for 100 campaign to support research and treatment for those suffering from this hidden, chronic illness.

I've officially joined Team Dysautonomia and wish to raise $10 for every mile I race for the remainder of 2014 and 2015

Wasatch 100, 2014 race report

October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month! Please consider a donation to I'm grateful I can run, because 25% of those struggling with POTS are significantly impared by their illness, and I'm in the 50% that still is struggling more than 4 years after being diagnosed. I'm seeing improvements, but many people struggle the rest of their lives. 

It was a temperate Thursday afternoon on September 4 th, as I pulled into Sugarhouse park like I have in years past. Here it was again, the prerace briefing of the Wasatch 100, one of the toughest 100 mile races in the Rocky Mountains.

Think back to 2010, my first attempt at Wasatch 100, just 3 months after being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). That year my body was in peril and I was in trouble with my hydration by the time I hit Francis Peak aid station at mile 18.4, just 20 minutes before the cut off. DNFing that year was the right thing to do, my body just wasn't functioning properly enough, and I had had some trips to the ER and many days in bed unable to move. 

The second attempt occurred in 2012, this time still not fully working and a months after a hystorectomy I made it not even all the way to Francis peak 1 full hour after the cut off. 

Discouraged and defeated I decided not to start in 2013 and instead helped run aid at Pole Haven, and decided that I would train much harder for 2014, and work with Lisa Smith-Batchen on improving my running prognosis. Starting in January I finished a snowshoe 50K, and then 62 miles of Buffalo 100 in March, and then Squaw Peak 50 miler (which I had not been able to finish since 2010), and then Deseret News Marathon,  38 of Kat'cina Mosa 100k, and finally Wasatch 100 came. 

I knew that the first 18 would be tough for me because of POTS, my heart rate goes up too much on hill climbs, and it slows me down, but I kept a slow and steady pace and reached Francis Peak aid Station at mile 11:41, 19 minutes before the cut off. Feeling good, and moving on I continued to Swallow Rocks at mile 35, and made the decision to drop when it was 7pm, and I still had 4.5 miles to Big Mountain and would not make it before the cuttoff at 7:30pm, my decision to drop at Swallow Rocks was of courtesy to the aid workers to not have to wait for me when I was going to time out anyway, and because I'm running another 100miler, Yellowstone/Teton 100 on September 20-21.

I feel very good after Wasatch and recovered quickly, and am feeling confident about a finish for YT100, because I am much faster on road, and not as many steep hill climbs. 

I'm hoping to return to Wasatch in 2015, and with another good year of training have a finish! 

One thing that has been helping lately is I started taking q96, and have noticed: better tolerance to heat, my heart rate is more stable, I have a lot more energy overall,  and I have stopped taking 2 of the medications I was on to control my POTS symptoms. 

All in all, I feel hopeful because I doubled my distance at Wasatch this year , and am on my way to finishing it! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ultramarathon Running and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome(POTS)

Running Ultramarathons with POTS: Recovering Strength and Endurance

By: Tara Tulley LDEM, LCSW

A few individuals have asked me lately how I have been able to continue running with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). I decided I would write my story on how I discovered I had this condition, how it has affected my life, and how I have decided to run anyway.

In 2007 I completed my first marathon, Deseret New Classic Marathon on July 24th. At that time I was also recovering from a long-term eating disorder, and was warned repeatedly that running would kill me. I found the opposite to be true; I found that running was the catalyst that changed how I viewed my body. I started to respect my body and appreciate the abilities that it had to endure, and through a long journey now consider myself fully recovered from an eating disorder, and no longer struggle with the daemons that kept my head bound for many years. Two months after completing my first marathon, I decided to run in the Top of Utah Marathon. I loved running distance so much, that I wondered how many other marathons there were around Utah, and it was then I was introduced to the world of the Ultramarathon.

In October of 2007, I ran and completed the Ogden Valley 50 miler. No one thought I could do it, I had only run two marathons, and had not done much distance training before that summer.  I not only completed a 50 miler, but also discovered that I was not as tired and sore after running 50 miles as I had been running marathons.

In fall of 2007, I also decided to return to school. I had been a practicing midwife in Utah for about 8 years, and had been politically active in passing legislation to license midwives. When I went back to school, I initially thought I would complete another bachelor’s degree that would get me into a Nursing program, with the eventual goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. Somehow that plan changed and I ended pursuing a degree in social work, and a Masters degree at the University of Utah. 

In 2008, I decided to take things a step further. I signed up for the Utah Grand Slam, completing 5 marathons in a 4-month period, and also completed two 50-mile races. I also starting training in Mauy Thai, and started participating in local smoker bouts.

In 2009, my speed was getting better, I signed up for more challenging mountain races. It was during an attempt at the Kat’cina Mosa 100K that I started noticing some odd things about my running. Mountain racing was a different ballgame than road running. In the heat of the August summer, I ran out of water on a difficult 9-mile stretch of the race, and became seriously dehydrated. Making it difficult to traverse down the mountain I experienced dizziness, hallucinations, and made it to the aid station 1 hour after the cut off time. I was completely defeated and demoralized, because it was my first time not being able to finish a race. Brushing it off to poor planning with hydration, and 100-degree temperatures I thought it was a fluke. I attempted the Bear 100 miler in September that year, and again had the dehydration issue and had to drop at mile 45.

During the fall of 2009 I started my Masters program at the University of Utah. I would typically awake at 5am and drive to Salt Lake City to beat traffic, and arrive early at school. I would then go for an early morning run, sometime meeting my brother, Swan, at his training gym (he was working as an elite triathlete coach), and we would run around Sugarhouse Park, and then I would run back to school. I would spend a long day at school and then go home. The days I was not in school, I was working as an intern at the Utah County Justice Center, and also spent long days at that practicum. During the in-between hours I studied and sometimes slept.

In April of 2010, I decided to go down to the Grand Canyon with Jim Skaggs and Brian Beckstead to run the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim challenge. We started at Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim early in the morning, and made our way to the North Rim. I was able to keep up with them for the first 19 miles, but around mile 17, when the heat of the day started hitting, I started feeling very sluggish and sick. At mile 19, at the beginning of the assent to the North rim. I had to stop, and I could no longer keep up with the boys. After lying down to take a short nap, I felt better enough to slowly climb the North Rim.  I was about ½ mile from the top when they passed on their way down, and I felt OK by then, so I told them to go on, and I would return at my own pace.

During the day I had been taking about one Scap (300mg or so) of Sodium per hour, and eating mostly Lara Bars and gels. On the way down I started feeling week, but not horrible yet. When I was about 7 miles from Phantom ranch, I started feeling sick, and was running out of food. I had not understood how much I needed to carry for a self-supported run. I made it to Phantom ranch just after dark, and was able to sneak into the store to buy a few items.

After crossing the bridge at the Colorado River, I crashed. I was dizzy and weak, and slowly made my way up the 9-mile stretch, and finally made it out of the canyon about 3am. I was out of Scaps, out of food, and no stores are open in the Grand Canyon at 3am. I quietly drove back to the campsite, and in the morning found Brian, who had come down with me, and he had to drive my van back the 10 hours to Utah. I experienced hyponatremia and it was a very scary experience. I almost passed out several times when I would stand up and my ears were ringing. I think I ate a whole plate of bacon, and could not even taste it because I was so depleted of sodium. It took me about 3 days of hydrating and drinking sports drinks before I could taste normally again.

In May of 2009 I attended a Global Eating Disorder Conference, and listened to a presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Joy. After hearing her presentation, I knew she might be able to figure out what was wrong with me. I had started experiencing other strange symptoms after the Grand Canyon run. I started having issues with my blood sugar. Any time I ate carbohydrates, my blood sugar would spike to 200-300 on a glucometer reading and then return to normal within 90 minutes.  I also started dealing with increasingly extreme fatigue. By the time that I ended the May 2010 school year I could barely get out of bed. Some days, I would sleep most of the day, and still be tired. Moving was a surreal experience, sometimes I felt like I was not even connected to my body. After seeing Dr. Joy in June, she immediately suspected that I had POTS syndrome. She ran several blood tests on me, and the only one that came back positive was a norepinephrine test showing that I had a pretty good case of androgenic POTS. Dr. Joy told me that what I was doing, running (to increase my blood circulation), increasing salt intake, and caffeine 100mg in the morning was about the best I could do for POTS, and she discouraged me from using a Beta Blocker, which is used in some POTS patients, because she was afraid it would interfere with my distance running.

At the time I was working with a sports nutritionist, and so we started a painstaking process to unravel how to keep my body functioning and able to run.  I was able to complete one 50 miler in June, by putting scaps in my hydration pack and drinking Coconut water. During that race my nutritionist told me to try taking 1500mg of sodium per hour, which was about twice what is recommended for a normal person. I completed the race, but still had difficulty and was still hyponatremic after the race. After that race I ended up in the ER three times needing IV fluids to stabilize, and having more blood sugar issues. For about a month I could barely get out of bed. But I kept forcing myself to move. When you have POTS, every morning when you wake up, it’s like you have the flu. The one way to get over the symptoms for me was to make myself move past it and get my blood circulating, then the flu symptoms would be not as bad when I was moving. 

My nutritionist had me increase both my potassium and sodium intake to 10000mg potassium daily and 5000mg of sodium daily on days I was not active. In the mean time I worked with my Uncle, Dr. Kory Branham, who believed my POTS was likely tied to my adrenal gland function, especially given the blood sugar issues I was having. This was a plausible theory, as my paternal grandmother suffered from Addison’s disease. Over a couple of months of taking a lot of supplements and slowly making myself return to exercise, I was able to reduce my need for sleep to 12-14 hours per day instead of 20 hours per day, and I attempted a couple of races.

The next race, 2010, was the Speed Goat 50K. My nutritionist had me taking 3000-5000mg of sodium per hour in the heat at this point. This was helpful for my energy and hydration, but not good for my gastrointestinal system, and so I made it about 22 miles of that race with severe GI issues.

In August of 2010 I again attempted Kat’cina Mosa. I started out OK following the high sodium regimen, but on the most difficult climb of the race, suffered a severe hyperglycemic episode. I had taken an Ensure before the climb, and about half way up started feeling dizzy and seeing yellow half moons in one of my eyes. I had to stop for about 30 minutes, and wondered if I was having a stroke. I recovered, and made it to the checkpoint at mile 23, and went on to barely make the cutoff at mile 41 at the Little Valley Aid station. At Little Valley, I again drank another ensure, and within 30 minutes started having blood sugar issues again, this again slowed me down, and I had to quit at mile 46. What I discovered is that fructose, especially high fructose corn syrup is not tolerated by my body during long events.

After Kat’cina Mosa, my body was very tired, and I started my second year of graduate school demoralized, and sick. I could no longer keep up with the early morning trainings before school, because I was too tired. I needed at least 12 hours of sleep per night. I managed to struggle my way through Grad school, I attempted the Wasatch 100 in September, but had to drop at mile 18, and it was the most difficult year of POTS in 2010-2011. However, slowly but surely with perseverance and strict adherence to nutritional needs, I started to be able to do things again, and tolerate running. In January of 2011, even though I was still pretty sick, I was able to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, and completed a Snowshoe 50K that same month.

I graduated with my MSW in May of 2011, and tried a 50 miler, but suffered a stress facture and dropped at mile 25. The rest of the season I was out for running. I did, however complete 45 miles of a 100 miler in October of that year. In February of 2012, I underwent a partial hysterectomy. That year of running was a wash, because it took 12 months for my abdominal muscles to strengthen, and I could barely keep a power walking pace. However, I experienced an unexpected benefit of some of my POTS symptoms decreasing in severity. I slowly started improving, and by summer of 2013, I was able to slowly finish 30 miles of a 50 miler.

I again attempted Kat’cina Mosa 100k in 2013, but experienced a panic attack on the course, and dropped at mile 13. I realized on that course that I had experienced so many set backs from racing, that I was having PTSD symptoms on races about DNFing, and as a result DNFing. So in September of 2013, I connected Lisa Smith-Batchen about couching, and working through my running anxiety. My body was working better, but my anxiety was pulling me down.  I was able to complete 50miles on Lisa’s race in 2013, and completed a 50K a week later.  Another challenge that came with POTS and a hysterectomy, is that despite the fact that I exercise and don’t over eat, I gained 50 lbs. After starting training with Lisa, I’ve been able to drop about 25 lbs, and slowly I finally starting to see my weight come off. That has also taken a lot of nutritional adjustments, and continues to be a challenge.

Through a lot of training and effort, I have started completing ultramarathons again in 2014. In January I completed a Snowshoe 50k, I was slow, but I finished! In March I attempted a 100 miler on Antelope, and was only able to make 62/100 miles, but that was the furthest distance I have ever completed, so it was a win. Then I completed the Squaw Peak 50 in June of 2014, I had difficulty with some POTS symptoms in the heat and was slow after mile 33, but I finished! I ran the Deseret News Marathon again and finished on July 24th. And then there was Kat’cina, I felt OK for the most part, but had difficulty on some of the hill climbs with speed, and my heart rate, and it slowed me down. I was rushing to try to get to the cut off at Little Valley by 4:30, but fell and hurt my back on the way down. I was devastated, because I wanted to finish this year so badly, but reflecting, I realize my speed still is increasing, I did not get dehydrated, and my blood sugar stayed stable.

My next challenge to overcome with POTS is increasing heat tolerance, and increasing my ability to tolerate hill climbs and my speed. I’m hoping Kat’cina helped my body so that I can finish Wasatch 100 this year. The first 18 miles are going to be the most difficult for me. That is the big climb on Wasatch, and that is where I have timed out twice. I plan on doing a lot of heat and hill work in the next 3 weeks, and praying that I make it. It is my dream to complete 100 miles, and it is a bigger dream to beat POTS, be a fast runner again, and win a 100-mile race. As my coach says, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough”. I know I can do it, I know there is a formula, and somewhere there is a cure for POTS waiting to be discovered. When it is discovered, I’ll be first in line for a cure! I dream of someday, being able to be fast climbing hills again. I visualize it every day. I am faster every year, and yes I still have POTS, but it is not dictating my life.

Some things that I’ve learned from POTS:
Sleep is important. I no longer practice high volume as a midwife because my body doesn’t handle endless nights with no sleep as well as it used to. 

What worked for me may not work for everyone; you should see a doctor who specializes in POTS to determine what is right for you.

Fatigue makes everything difficult, but perseverance out wins fatigue.

Respect your body

Medications: some medication have helped me such as a serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). These medications are typically prescribed to treat depression, but with Androgenic POTS SNRIs have help control my norepinephrine response which helps mitigate: dizziness, flu-symptoms, fatigue, and increase blood pressure and circulation. This is what has helped for me, but your case may be different since there are different causes of POTS.

To read more about POTS go to: http://www.dysautonomia

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kat'cina Mosa 100k August 2, 2014

Well, this was my 5th attempt at a finish for this course. Year one-2009, dehydrated at Windy Pass streach, which made me time out at mile 38, little vally. Year two- made it to mile 46 in 2010 but had a lot of problems due to POTS that year and timed out, 2011- suffered a stress fracture so I worked at the Correl aid station instead, 2012- tried to run this course a few months after having a hysterectomy, got to Big Springs 2 hours after the cutoff, 2013- was having some PTSD symptoms about DNFing, yes PTSD symptoms related to races since the last 4 years have been a fight back for my health and running. I dropped at mile 13, and went and helped out at Big Springs. 

So for 2014- I got a running coach last year, and have slowly started completing races again. I thought I had this one for sure. Still struggle a bit with uphills, and this course is a lot of uphill. I did fine but was a little short on time after reaching Windy Pass at mile 29 at 1:45. The cut off for Little Valley is 4:30 to be there and complete the 1.5 mile in and out. So I rushed out of Windy, and managed a great fall coming down Windy and landed  square on my lower back about 4-5 miles down. At first I ignored it, but it got excruciatingly painful to breathe or move the next 3 miles, and I was an emotional train wreak both because I was in a lot of pain, but more because I had my heart set on finishing.

Now trying to figure it how to increase my tolerance for hills, running with POTS means my body works 3-4 times harder to get up and stand up than most people, and hill climbs are challenging. It's much better then before, but still needs improvement. Going to be doing a ton of uphill climbing in the next 3 weeks to get ready for Wasatch 100. 

Antelope Island 100 - March 21, 2014

I just realized I never wrote a report on this race. I made 62/50 of this race, furthest distance I've successfully completed. My leg gave out at mile 60 due to a big bruise I attained two days before to my quad while sparring. I started have muscle spasms in that leg about mile 13, and it just got worse from there. By mile 50 I was barely moving, had it stripped out and got moving slowly again, but it just gave out at mile 60 and wouldn't do anything more at mile 62. 

Never spar before a race! 

Deseret News Marathon July 24, 2014

I decided to sign up for the Deseret News Morning Marathon as a training run this year. Did a slow controled downhill run and it was a hot morning! 

Squaw Peak 50 report

On June 6th I again set out hoping for my 3rd finish of Squaw Peak 50. This was my sixth start, and I have not successfully finished Squaw Peak since 2010. After starting coaching almost a year ago with Lisa Smith-Batchen, I've slowly started to see glimpses of possibility of running with speed and endurance again. It has not been easy. My POTS symptoms have improved a lot, but I still have some disadvantages. No matter how hard it train, I still have extreme difficulty with speed uphills. I started my journey with Squaw Peak at 3 am, and surprisingly did not get passed by any runners until mile 12. The heat started making me sick around mile 20, but I was slow and steady and able to make the cutoff at mile 33 by 1:45, 45 minutes before the cutoff. The last 17 miles were rough due to the heat, over exerting myself in the heat to make the cut off, and some extreme blistering, but I finished! That's to Gary Wood and Lynne Neilson for pacing the last 17 miles.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dreaming on Kathoola 50K snowshoe race

I recently finished the Kathoola 50K Snowshoe Race on January 25th, 2014. I have to admit, snowshoeing is not my favorite sport, but of the 5 times I have started this course, my only other finish was in 2011 after climbing Kilimanjaro. I've made a commitment to train hard this year, to push through my anxiety of the past. Push through POTS, push through adrenal fatigue, push through major surgery. That is what has been my last three years. I have been working to improve myself and get back in the game as an ultra marathon runner. It is a sport that I love, but developed some PTSD symptoms over racing after a couple of years of setbacks.

We all have things to push through, and this race was one of them. I pushed through it. I broke through a wall when I did 50 miles of the Yellowstone/Teton 100miler, after not having finished 50 miles in over 2 years. I finished 50k on Antelope Island two weeks later. Since then I have been working on nutrition, and pushing through emotional walls in training, making sure my running dreams are not put on the sidelines as my business and practice grows. Running isn't everything, but it is important to have dreams, and to keep dreams alive. Running is about bettering ourselves.

One week after finishing the 50k on January 25th, I did another 30 miles, this time keeping a 5mph average pace most of the time. Not my fastest, but not my slowest either :) My speed is improving, my body is starting to work for me more consistently, and my mindset is pushing through the anxiety of not being able to finish.

I am now scheduled to run the following

March 21-22 Buffalo 100m on Antelope Island
March 28th Behind the Rocks 50m Moab
June 7th Squaw Peak 50 m
August 2nd Katchina Mosa 100 K
September 5th and 6th Wasatch 100m
September 20 and 21st Yellowstone/Teton 100m

And I will probably throw in a 100K on Antelope Island again in November.

I hope to be much much faster by September and complete Wasatch 100m with a strong finish :) I am thinking I want an under 30 belt buckle.