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

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
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: