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!