Tuesday, February 26, 2013

And It Comes To This....

"I am strong...I will just run through this....I will heal as I go and become even stronger.."

"Just get in another mile....you will warm up then and the pain will go away..."

These were the bullshit lines I fed to myself on almost every run for the past 3 months. This is what I would tell myself when my leg was killing me and I did not want to go on....when tears streamed down my face and I felt like a failure...too ashamed to return home after what seemed like only minutes gone...

After all, I have worked so hard. I have come so far. I am getting really good. And I somehow managed to inspire a few people along the way. I mean... people actually read this blog and enjoy it!  How can I quit now? I mean...how can I just go "yeah...my ankle hurts so I am going to take some time off...see ya!"?

And how can I not run?! It has become a part of me... a part of what I do just about every day. When I run I get to explore...I get to be in touch with nature...I get to think...I get to escape. I get to dream. I get to be a kid again. Can I not just ignore a little pain for all that?!

"When did I become such a weakling?!"

Now, don't get me wrong...there have been some days when I really thought I was on my way to being 100% OK. I really thought (having never been injured before) that this was the best way for me and my body to get over a simple sprained ankle. I mean...common...it is a fucking sprained ankle. Who the hell bitches about a sprained ankle?!

Turns out I do.

Now...just to "beat a dead horse" even further...we all know I sprained my ankle some three months ago and since then I have made it worse by running a winter trail race..skiing on it...and running trail and road. Each night I have come home...taken some pain medication and wrapped it with ice...waking up with a very wet and cold ankle (not to mention ace bandage and bed sheet). I really did think this was the best way to take care of things. In my mind I really did think my body could heal as I ran...somehow getting stronger and performing better then ever. I guess I hoped I would "evolve" past the injury.

I swear...I was not taking drugs. This really made sense. And it made me roll my eyes at those who tried to give me pretty good advice.

What kind of advice you ask? Well...let's see...first there was:

"You should not run on an injured ankle....trust me....I had the same thing last summer and it takes longer than expected to heal".

Yup..that is the first thing I saw on my FB page after a picture of my post-trail ankle made it up. Of course the first thought that flew thru my head was: "What does he know? He does not know me. This is nothing...I can over come this. Plus...I really doubt he took time off....he lives in the fucking Alps".

Turns out he was right. I should not have ran on it...and it is taking longer to heal then I ever expected. Apparently if you live in the French Alps you know a thing or two about trail running. And I am not being sarcastic.....and when I say "lives in the French Alps"...I literally mean he lives IN THE ALPS. Turns out pretty damn good advice can come from people you don't know...

Moving on...then there was:

"Don't let stubbornness turn what could be a few weeks off into time spent in a boot or surgery or something worse".

That came from a woman who I do not pay to be my running coach but still is in every sense of the word. I think she has literally had to restrain herself from beating the crap out of me each Tuesday at the brewery runs. This lady knows things. I watched her sit out from an injury a few months ago and never really thought I would be in the same position. I never really thought a sprained ankle could be so painful. Now I wish I had followed her advice and just held tables while everyone else ran. She is back and better than ever!

"If you can't run without limping, you can't run. For me, it was a rushed return from a sprained ankle that sent my achilles into its death spiral. Compensation always hurts something somewhere. Give it rest."

Now, when I saw this pop up it caught my attention. I have watched this person and other members in his family destroy the competition for years. He was one of the best at my school. His father coached. His brother ran in qualifying for the Olympics in Oregon this past summer. He himself ran for his university. I always viewed him as unstoppable. The man could run whenever and as far as he wanted. I always admired him...

After tonight's run all these people came into my mind. One is a total stranger. One is a friend who I love dearly. One is someone I have not seen since high school. The one thing they all had in common was brutal honesty that I did not want to acknowledge.

However, I am now ready to accept that I have to take time off. The pain is getting really bad. When I run the whole foot goes numb. The ankle hurts and now the knee is killing me. The other ankle is even starting to give me problems. My stride is fucked. I am actually running heal first...which makes no sense at all. I have changed shoes...changed stride...changed environment and nothing has helped. I ice  constantly and it relieves it until the next run. The pain was so bad the other night I had to take a Lortab. Who the hell takes that shit unless they are really hurt or have had surgery?!

We will see how it goes. I am going to have my doctor look at it in the next few days. While I give her a rest I am really going to focus on some cross training and core work. I am not one who can sit around and just "rest". I will do my best to work the rest of my body and hopefully when the pain stops my running will be better than ever. Run The Bluegrass is in like 30 days but I am not sure if I will be able to compete....and that has me really discouraged.

I do promise to get out on the trails to hike and explore. Hopefully during that time I will find new routes to take. I also promise to keep blogging. I can plan ahead for spring and I would love to share that with you all. I really do hope to come back stronger then ever. It really sucks. At 32 I still feel unstoppable. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Body Is An Amazing Thing....

Long time no post!

I know...I know!!

Anyway, the trails have "been very very good to me!" as of late.  Physically I still feel great. The ankle is allowing me a little over an hour of trail and a ton of road running without much discomfort. Thanks to Swedish House Mafia and my love for techno music, I have finally regained my running stride which I had lost after running while injured.  I don't feel confident enough to sign up for any trail races this month but I am still going to tackle the Run The Bluegrass 13.1 at the end of March. I am just happy to still be out there taking in all nature has to show me. The weather has been just amazing here in Kentucky and it has allowed me to get out and explore whenever I want.  As I have increased my distances I have discovered a ton of new little "spots" for me to just stop and enjoy (which does not help my time).

The housing crisis has hit the birds hard...

This time of year you just layer up and strip as you go....

I am a very lucky girl! 

I have also started to take a look at things in my life that impact my running performance. As you all know nutrition has always been a battle for me. I have struggled with the relationship between food and performance for quite a while, but I finally think I may be on track. What is the answer you ask? Well for me it has been a "no meat" diet.

Now, I love animals as much as the next person but that was not the reason for the change (I believe I have canine teeth for a reason). I was actually having problems eating/digesting meat. I noticed it once I started running...and over the months I have started feeling worse and worse after eating it. It is like my body does not want it. I thought it was "unnatural" but as I researched it more I discovered that it is actually quite common! I cannot tell you how much better I feel since cutting it out of my diet. I am still keeping fish in, as well as dairy and eggs, so I am hesitant to use the term "vegetarian" but we will see how it goes.

I also made the change because the amount of crap we pump into animals to keep them healthy for mass production is just scary. I am not sure the human body is meant to take in all those additional chemicals/hormones. The same goes for all the things we put on our bodies. Just read the back of some of your skin care products and you will understand what I am talking about. I am pretty sure you cannot pronounce 75% of the ingredients, let alone tell me exactly what they do. That is terrifying. I can only imagine how it impacts our bodies performance on a daily basis. Oh how I wish we could go back to simpler times and still smell soooo good :)

OK...OK....enough of that lecture....

Another thing I am focusing on during the winter is cross training. I am basically trying anything that will test my limits and using them to my advantage when running. Tonight...Hot Yoga.

Yes...Bikram Yoga...aka..Hot Yoga...aka..."heat the room up to 100 degrees and do yoga for 90 minutes." 

Now, a few of my running buddies had done this the other week and said it was amazing. Naturally I wanted to give it a try. Not being one to "half-ass" anything..I signed up for the "as many classes as you can do in 2 weeks" plan for $30.00. Best deal ever! I am hooked. This is just nuts. I have never seen my body perform like it did tonight. I am truly a friggin machine..my own goddess...I tell myself to do something and I do it 100%. Right now I feel so "clean". I really can't explain it...but I can share with you some of the thoughts that went thru my head during the practice. Yes...I had time for thinking. There was no music and dim lighting here. Only harsh bright lights and "Bob" leading the way with the instructions of "do not stop breathing...I don't know CPR" and "just try to have fun and stay in this room for the whole 90 minutes." There was no hiding ...everyone could see you sweating like a hot beast!

Anyway...back to the thoughts...at one point during the 90 minutes the following went thru my head:

1. "Holy Cr*p....my lips are sweating?! Can lips actually sweat??!!"

2. "Why can't I hear "Bob" very well? OMG..my ear canal is full of sweat...!"

3. "Dude you are in your underwear...it is 100 degrees in here and everyone is dripping with sweat....don't smile at me...you look old enough to be my dad....I will kick you."

4. "My mat is soaked"

5. "I feel hot...and not temperature wise...this makes you feel really attractive...my skin looks great...who wouldn't want to touch this!?! Argh! Not you old man....eyes forward."

6. "I should just hug the first person I see when I leave this building and see what happens"

As you may have noticed...I am still riding high after the class. I have running tomorrow but will definitely go back Wednesday night and do it all again. The ankle prevented me from doing one pose but other than that...I was able to keep up. I am not sure if I would suggest it to everyone. It is intense. It is hot. There are some times when your body is not too sure if this is a "smart idea". I got dizzy once and had to take some water and I have never had that happen before. If you don't like heat...don't do this. If you don't like dripping in sweat...then don't do this. If your significant other does not like you sweaty....don't do this. But if you are like me and love nothing more than to see your body perform to the max...then do this! I can't tell you how much I smiled when I noticed sweat just dripping down my arms. My body looked amazing to me and as many women know...that rarely happens! We don't work ourselves near as much as we need to......if we did we would see that our potential is limitless. This experience has definitely psyched me up for pushing to the next level in running.

What also has me excited is that it looks like the next installment of "Summits of My Life" may be underway. Ol' Kilian has headed to Nepal to explore mountains for a month in a tent. Yeah...a month in a tent...in the mountains....hopefully they will stay warm...and logical....and thin (not like in America where we are "fat" and "illogical"....still cannot believe I read that....and I cannot believe I am still a fan after it! Argh!) This has to be training for something big. I already cannot wait until the next movie!!!

Well....as you can imagine...after hot yoga you drink a lot of water....and with that I will be saying "good night" :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Let's Fly For A While"...


I think it is safe to say "I'm Back!!!"

(Oh...the title...yeah. I can't get that damn "Balloons" song out of my head from the Summits of My Life soundtrack. Thanks Zikali.)

The trails were anything but "crappy"...well...actually....

The roots of two trees made a "bridge"...it was awesome!

I am back on the trails! I returned this weekend for the first time since I blew my ankle out for a second time on Jan 26th. I got to explore a new set of trails yesterday and it was amazing. I took it pretty easy...sticking to ones that had a "moderate" difficulty rating and only spent a little over an hour at a pretty comfortable pace.

The trails themselves were in really good shape. I was relieved to see they were not frozen (ankle blow out #2) and pretty compact. They were muddy but if you complain about that then you should just stick to the road! They were also very fertile. "Fertile" you ask? Yes....if you want to get the full experience of my run...come smell my poor XR's. They are covered and smell like crap. Literally. I am not sure how much actual "dirt" is stuck to my shoes. Based on all the animal tracks I was running over...I am thinking not much. The good thing was that since they were in such good condition I was able to work on my "eye-foot" coordination. After running a few weeks on the road...and then in a foot of snow...I was a little worried about how well I would be able to "see ahead" on the trails. This is a very important part of my trail running since the health of my ankle depends on it. I did well. There were not many slow downs and I felt pretty comfortable navigating my way thru lots of natural debris.

Not crossing that!!!

I am also happy to report that my ankle did pretty good on the run. Oh...how is the ankle you ask? Well, the ankle seems to be doing "OK" if you want to be an optimist. I adopted the frowned upon "run thru it" approach when it came to healing...and it seems to be going "well". The swelling has stopped, however, there is now a constant pain all the way down into the foot....and a vein I have never noticed before running completely over the outer left ankle bone (how do you like that for medical terms?!) I have no trouble running on it....but I put on some high heels last night and almost fell over due to the odd pain that came from being on that kind of an incline. I think I may have to have her checked out. No "I told you so" comments please.

High heels? Yes...high heels. I do not recommend them. I also do not recommend re hydrating at a brewery after a long trail run. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Run...shower...get dressed up and head down to your favorite hang out for a few pints. All was going well....great atmosphere...great friends...great beer...and great food (can you say beet grilled cheese sandwich?!) And then it happened. Have you ever seen the same person out and about everywhere and have no clue who they are? That has been happening to me...for 7 years. Each time it does...I point it out...just to make sure I am not seeing things that are not there. This person is everywhere...including just about every race I do and our West Sixth running club on Tuesday nights. Last night the little group I was with made this observation known to "said person"...after a long trail run and 3 pints. The conversation was actually pretty awesome...with it being pointed out that if we see him everywhere...that must mean that we are everywhere. Good point. Well played. It was funny. What was not so funny was his mentioning of doing trail running.....that would just freak me out. Anyway, after that great evening I am left with enough lactic acid build up to kill a cow and random muscle cramping due to dehydration. I feel wonderful....yeah...just wonderful.

Well enough of that... back to trail running. I am actually thinking about getting a team together or joining a team for the Ragnar Trail Relays 24 hour race. Nothing can go wrong here. Trail running...at night...with a team...in the mountains of West Virginia..in June. It sounds like it would be an amazing experience. I would love to try trail running at night and to do it in a relay team event sounds like the best way to give it a go. However, I will quit immediately if I hear any banjo music playing....just sayin'. Take a look...it is not until June...if interested perhaps we can get a team going.....plus it is sponsored by Salomon so it is bound to be a good event.


Other than that...not much going on here. I am going to try to get out to the new trails for long runs on the weekends and concentrate on the trails behind my house and the road (ick) for the remainder of the winter. Soon it will be time to start planning my running trip out west. I need to figure out when exactly I want to do that. I have been looking at houses in Colorado and it is going to be an amazing time...when I get that time figured out and booked. Oh well....nothing like last minute planning right? I also need to find a new book. It has been a little bit since I have read one from cover to cover. I tried Born To Run and just could not get into it (I know...people must be reading this thinking I am crazy). Any recommendations (again) are appreciated. This time I will download it to the IPad....the last book I purchased did not fair too well.......

Don't think anyone else will be reading this...and yes...I think those are coffee stains...I just don't know...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fear Is A Four Letter Word...

"Anyone whose goal is "something higher" must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves."


I have read this quote multiple times today. It hit me when I saw it this morning because it has summed up the past few days. 

Since Sunday we have all been recovering from our ski trip. As you know from my previous post, it was a wonderful experience and I really did enjoy myself. I came back feeling refreshed and relaxed.

"Came back" being the word here. As mentioned before, I am not really fond of change. Like many, I hate returning from vacations. This trip was no different. So much so that my own father could tell when we were talking on the phone the other night. 

"You are not happy to be back are you?....You miss it out there don't you? Why do you think I have spent my life fighting for and defending it? Just hang on...one day you will get there...and you can always return to visit until then."

He hit the nail on the head. I do miss it. I miss everything about it. I miss walking thru the forests and mountains. I miss seeing nothing but snow in front of me and the silence it brings. I miss looking up and feeling the flakes drop from the grey sky onto my face. It has been hard. It is like spring here in Lexington and I miss winter. I know it will be back soon...but nothing like what it was in the mountains. I miss 4 degree days on my skin!

I also find myself harping on an experience I had on those mountains. I experienced fear. Fear that literally stopped me in my tracks (err....skis). 

Downhill skiing terrified me. So much so that at one point my brain was literally telling me "Andi-do not do this". I took my boots out of the bindings and made my way to the lodge on foot. I can't remember a time when I backed down from a physical challenge. It really caught me off guard. While I was in the lodge...all warm and toasty by the fire...the anger did nothing but build. In the end I stepped back into my skis and returned outside....but it was the first time in a long time I doubted my ability to do something. It really was a wake up call. I felt like a kid. I did not trust myself and my body to not get hurt. The instinct was so strong it made me back away. It was odd. The fear made me cry and shake.  I have never been so pissed at myself. I was determined to get past it...and made some progress...but it left me feeling that much "less."

It was during this trip that I realized this fear had been building...it had been festering since I tore my ankle up the week before and it had finally come to a head. That whole race left me feeling defeated as a person and runner. It made me feel foolish. 

Since that has happened I have been taking it easy and avoiding the trails and fields. I am not sure if this is a good thing. It has me feeling lazy. It has me missing it....but at the same time it has me worried that I will get hurt again. It really has me confused and lost when it comes to running. I have been reading my Trail Runner magazine...looking at all the races coming up in the spring and I am doubting myself. I am even wondering if going out to Colorado is worth it. 

I have taken a few days off from running, which I never do. I went out for a run last night and my legs felt like they were tree trunks. It was horrible. I had fun while doing it but could not help but remind myself that my body does not like time off. I came inside winded and exhausted. I sat in the shower staring at my ankle...cursing it....really not thinking much of anything. 

I have no idea where the doubt is coming from. I need to get past it and I think the trails are the only way this will happen. As I type this I am looking out into the fields behind my house and they are calling. Perhaps this is just a "mental inner-vertigo" and I need to start fighting my way back. This past week has been a reminder that life is very short. I need to take every opportunity I have to enjoy what I am doing. Colorado will happen....I don't think I will participate in organized races, but I will get out there and let myself just explore. Until then I will use the time I have here to prepare. I don't know how many winter trail races I will do. I don't know how much time I have to give this friggin ankle to heal. 

Wait...umm....how many snakes are out in Colorado? *random brain fart*

As you can see...I don't know a lot right now. But I do know one thing...when I feel uneasy I tend to change myself.,..it brings the control back to my life. No....not another tattoo (I only have one :) ) or piercing (only in the ears people!)....but I did chop about 9 inches off my hair. It was weighing me down. I was pulling it back all the time...."holding it back" and it was time to let it be free. My curls are back people....my curls are back! And like my curls...I need to make my way back to the trails :) 

It is funny...when I was younger...camping was a Holiday Inn....now....I need the outdoors. I now understand why my father has spent his life defending the environment. I now know what he feels when he is out there and why it is so important. It is a part of all of us...we just have to find it in ourselves. If we just let ourselves listen it will talk to us. It will welcome us...and if we fail to visit regularly it will call us and remind us! Next time you are outside...stop....close your eyes and breathe in as long as you can. Hold it in. Feel your lungs...feel your body respond to nature. It is amazing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Mountain...She Can Heal You....

At this moment I am at total peace and feel so renewed.

My wall of windows :)

As I type this I am listening to Zikali, curled up on the couch in front of a wall of windows overlooking mountains covered with snow. The snow has started to fall again and the trails left by my run about an hour ago are quickly being erased. The skies are grey and beautiful. I cant help but love this place....I am so happy to be sharing this experience with people who love it as much as I do. My soul is truly happy and in touch with everything around me. This is what life is about...

This afternoon included an amazing run thru the woods in about 10-12 inches of pure powder. My ankle hurt a little and I took it pretty easy since I was unfamiliar with the terrain and could not see anything under foot until I was either on it or tripping over it. The woods were silent....the only noise coming from branches cracking under the weight of fresh snow. The mountain was very happy today and provided for a wonderful workout. Coming out of the woods my legs burned...my breathing was hard and I was left with no other option but to fall in the snow...to just lay in it and look up like a small child. It was such a pure joy...the kind of joy we as adults sometimes forget to notice. It is something we need to do more often...to feel the snow on my skin was wonderful...it was invigorating...it let me know I was alive.

Making my own trails...

Afterwards it was off to the hot tub overlooking the same wonderful forests. I discovered that the best feeling in the world is sitting in a hot tub in about 20 degrees with the fresh snow falling on your face. To look up and see the flakes coming down...the cold breeze on warm wet skin...it is magical. You cannot help but smile. All the aches and pains from the previous day just melted away.

Oh yes, the previous day! As you all know from prior posts, I am on the ski trip I have been so impatiently waiting for. Yesterday was a day for skiing (if you want to call it that) and I was reminded that I suck. I totally suck at skiing. You honestly will not meet anyone as horrible at it as me. I admit this and respect the fact that I am the worst and will most likely head down to the Ski Barn and purchase the t-shirt that says it. I should just stick to XC skiing from now on and not bother the mountains with downhill.

I also forgot how horrible downhill ski boots are. They are painful if you have not worn them in a while. They restrict my legs and I can't stand that. While I enjoyed the experience, I could not help but feel disappointed in my ability. My plans to move to the Swiss Alps and use skiing as a primary source of transportation have been demolished. I am determined to get better but until then I will just continue to provide entertainment to all around me. Actually...I am not really that bad....or so I have been told....but I still have a long way to go! It was a good training though as most of the time at this place you had to get out of your bindings and walk back up hills (to reach ski lifts)....it felt good physically...if only I could learn to relax mentally while doing it...I just wish it was more of a natural activity like running is. Come to think of it...I think I would have been happier just running up and down the slopes!

Oh...and it was 4 degrees...and my jacket was huge.

Other than that....this evening is the last night before I return to Lexington. It has been a wonderful time. I will not say much as it is not hard to imagine all the great times had when a group of 14 people share a cabin in the mountains :)  What happens in the mountains stays in the mountains people!

In all seriousness...this little trip has been a life and soul saver. After getting injured on the trails the other weekend, my spirts were down and I was starting to wonder if I would be able to enjoy running without the anxiety of injury/pain.

This environment has really recharged my batteries (but not my liver). I am relaxed, more relaxed than I have been in a while. When I was out in the woods, creating new trails in fresh blankets of snow...I felt truly at peace. The silence...the contrast of white and grey...the tracks of all the animals who call this place home....it provided a beautiful feeling. I wish I could put it into words for you...I am trying to find a way each time I experience it....but it is hard. It is almost like you could relax so much there would be no need for breathing. Everything melts away. You look around and all your senses are sharp...your vision....you hearing...the feeling of branches and creeks covered under foot...it is like that feeling that you get when a loved run wraps their arms around you. You feel safe...you feel taken care of... you belong there. It is perfect and you don't want the feeling to ever leave...and it almost makes you sad because you know it will leave until you are lucky enough to return and embrace it again. I would stay forever if I could. I wish you were all here to share it with me. I wish I could have had you follow thru the woods and see everything I did. I wish I could have stood there with you taking in all the beauty around us....I wish you could have laid in the snow with me...looking up and smiling as nature kissed your face with perfect little flakes of snow.

 The embrace of this mountain is just wonderful...she is a wonderful thing and I will miss her very much when we leave tomorrow. She is a blessing.