Friday, June 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third, my family showed up for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was long!

The End for now