Writing, Running, Being.

The finish line is a shifty Thing and what is life, but reckoning?
Ani DiFranco

Thursday, January 28, 2010

losing things

"Riches do not exhilarate us so much with their possession as they torment us with their loss" - Epicurus

Yesterday our garage was broken into and my and my husband's mountain bikes were stolen. I don't want to dramatize the situation but I really feel the need to share a little about our bikes. Maybe this is part of the healing process.

I moved to Colorado permanently after college in the Spring of 2005. I had a little graduation money, a newly acquired Bachelor's degree and an ex-boyfriend waiting on the back burner in case anything fell through. What I didn't have was a clue about what I wanted to do with my life. I did know that I needed a job. I started by getting in my car and driving North on Academy Blvd. I applied to several retail stores as I made my way up Academy, not really caring which of them called me back, as long as one of them did. Then I reached Bicycle Village. When I walked in that store I immediately wanted a job. These were my kind of people. They were all college or post-college age, all fit, fun and intelligent. And they were so NICE. I spoke with the girl at the register for a long time. It was the first conversation I had had with anyone since moving and it felt so good. I loved the idea of being surrounded by bike people. I had a road bike and was into triathlons at the time. My goal was to do an Ironman, and I thought keeping this kind of company would ensure that I didn't let that goal slip away.

I got the job and my entire world opened up. I learned so much and met so many cool people. Being from Kansas, I hadn't a clue about this obscure sport of riding fat-tired bikes on trails encumbered with rocks and roots. I had to learn about mountain biking quickly since my new job was to sell the bikes. I became more and more intrigued with the sport. I coveted the mountain bikes in the store so fiercely that I often had dreams about riding them on the trails my road bike would never dare to brave. Of course, even with my employee discount, I couldn't afford one of these things. Not any of the good ones anyway. That's where Brian came in.

I met Brian at an ice-skating rink. All of the Bicycle village employees had gone skating and one of the girls brought her boyfriend, who brought his roommate, who was Brian. Brian worked for the rival bike shop, Criterium. He said he could take me mountain biking on one of their rentals. I was in! I called him the next week and we planned a ride. It was supposed to be an easy ride since I had never been off-road before. It ended up being the hardest thing I had ever done in my life (including a couple 1/2 Ironman triathlons). We rode The Buckhorn and Captain Jack trails in Cheyenne Canyon. The ride took almost 6 hours and was anything but beginner friendly. I almost cried at the top of the first climb. Brian is a GOOD rider and apparently has a hard time gauging the difficulty levels of trails for ordinary people. Anyway, I was hooked. I went on a few more rides with him on that rental bike and then one night he called me at the shop and said "I have a bike for you." Really? What did that mean? He said it was a loaner, but I was stoked! I went to his house that night where he finished putting the parts on and fit me to it. The frame was his very first mountain bike. It was custom-made for him but he had designed it himself before he knew much about geometry so it was always a little too small. It was perfect for me though. Between Brian and his roommate, there were enough parts to put the bike together for me. Yay!

Mountain biking became my thing. My new thing. I rode it almost every day, even if it was just a short ride at Palmer Park, a sweet mountain biking spot right outside my apartment complex. My skills had a long way to go so I rode every chance I got. My endurance was pretty good from road biking and running, but mountain biking still kicked my ass! I loved working at the bike shop even more now because there were so many experienced riders to push and teach me. There was always someone to ride with, no matter what day, what time or how last-minute it was. That summer I did some races on that bike. I did the Buffalo Creek Xterra, the Crested Butte Xterra, and even won the beginner category at the Wildflower Rush XC race. I also raced the Super-D there, which is a cross between downhill and cross-country. I went over my bars and got this bruise.>>

Over the next couple years, I rode with Brian a lot. We rode all over Colorado together. He really opened me up to this beautiful state and its endless trails. Somewhere along the line we started dating. One thing led to another and I got pregnant. I continued to ride until about 3 months of pregnancy. Since becoming a mother, I have only gone on a handful of mountain bike rides. While my love for mountain biking never faded, running was the more practical activity for a new mom. I dove into running and left my mountain bike hanging in the garage, promising it I would take it out again when I had more time away from the baby. Time passed and I lost interest. I grew more in love with running. I set all kinds of running goals and only thought of my bike when I had an injury or a friend who wanted to go riding. I did not consider myself a cyclist any longer.

When Brian and I discovered our garage had been broken into, we immediately started taking inventory. We have a lot of bikes between us, so it took a few minutes to realize which ones were gone. When I realized it, my heart sank. Oh. No more mountain bike. Since it is winter, and I haven't mountain biked regularly in two years, it is taking some time to sink in. It's not necessarily the bike that I am mourning. If it were, I would have started mourning it when I was pregnant because that's when we really lost touch with each other. I feel like a little chunk of "me" was snatched from my garage. For my husband and I, bikes are part of our identities. Our relationship was founded on a love of bikes. Bikes brought this family together. Brian is a frame builder and he hand-built his stolen bike. It is his baby, his art. I know this is harder on him than it is on me.

Last night after all the venting, cussing and "why-me-ing," Brian hugged me and said that sometimes you have to lose something you love. It builds character. Upon hearing that, I felt a little sense of peace. The bikes were merely this: metal; rubber. Albeit expensive metal and rubber... The important thing is that we have each other. The garage was robbed of the bikes that began our relationship, but our family remains intact and love tenaciously abounds.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This is not a testament, BUT....

Everyone's talking it. Everyone's trying it. I hate to be such a lemming, but I jumped on the bandwagon. I did it 2 miles into my run yesterday. It was warm for January but since it was late in the day and overcast, there weren't as many people treading the Santa Fe as I had expected. I had Jonas in the stroller and he was sleeping. I had Zeke on the leash and he was pulling HARD. Apparently I'm not the only one who can't handle a week off of running. So there we all were, trotting merrily down the trail. I was focusing hard on my hamstring, trying to analyze (honestly) how it felt. I was admitting to myself that it did indeed hurt. Well, it didn't necessarily hurt, but I could feel it. No wait, I'm supposed to be honest, ok, it hurt. Two cyclists passed. I felt the urge. Then I passed an elderly couple with dachshunds and thought "I'll do it just after I pass this next lady," a mom walking with a stroller. Then the trail divided and I went to the right, onto the singletrack. I noticed that the dirt was different than the main trail. It was smooth and dusty as opposed to gravely. I glanced back once. I realized I was still in plain view of the mom and her stroller, so I kept going. Then I thought "what the heck," stopped abruptly, ripped off my shoes and socks, stuck them in the trailer and took off down the trail barefoot.

It felt wonderful. I ran through a few icy puddles and even that was okay. It was liberating like skinny dipping. So fun! Then my trail looped back around to the gravely stuff and it got harder. I found myself running only on my toes. I tried to roll gently onto my heel and that was really hard to do. I thought perfect form would come naturally once I took off my foot-coffins, as they have been called on barefootrunning.org, but it wasn't that simple. I still didn't know if I was doing it right. I never know if I'm doing it right. But one thing I did know, was that my hamstring felt fine. 2 points for barefoot running.

In case you haven't heard of this new-old trend of barefoot running, I'll explain it briefly. The theory is that our feet are meant to be naked. Their response to the earth teaches the rest of the body how to move properly. In countries where bare feet are less of a social stigma, there are fewer foot problems. I think this idea is already becoming more mainstream. If you're a semi-recent, newish parent, chances are your babies wore Robeez or a similar soft-soled shoe when learning to walk. This is because they allow the foot muscles to develop and function properly by not putting anything but a thin piece of leather between the foot and the ground to which the feet respond. Barefoot runners claim that the overuse injuries so many runners are plagued with are a result of bad form, which comes from habitually running in shoes that are too built-up and do not allow our soles to feel the ground. I myself am ridden with overuse injuries. I've suffered IT band syndrome, piriformis syndrome, knee problems, stress fractures in my feet and now this hamstring thing. I hate how they're called "overuse" injuries, like you're not supposed to use your legs. Come on, they're my legs, I'll use them as much as I want! Alas, there's always some kind of untimely protest so I'm willing to try anything now.

I had read the warnings about barefoot running. Take it s l o w they say. I tend to get a little overzealous when trying something new and fun so of course I wanted to do the whole run without my shoes. I probably would have if my feet hadn't stopped me. I also read on barefootrunning.org that your feet are like two coaches. They tell you when you're doing it wrong and they make you stop. So I stopped and put my shoes on, ran some more and then tried again, then finished up with shoes. I felt good after the run. My feet were definitely tender and my calfs a little sore. Hamstrings feel fine. Well, if I'm still being honest, they feel not-worse, but that's a good thing, right?

As soon as I got home I started Googling. I read tips and techniques for barefoot running, watched some videos, read testimonies of converted runners and got myself all convinced that this is the right thing to do. I kept seeing Vibram 5 Fingers pop up in discussions and there seemed to be a bit of controversy surrounding them. Many people are using them as a transition to barefoot and swear by them. The barefoot purists say that there is no substitute for barefoot running; you can only learn it by actually doing it. Makes sense. the Vibrams, or any "minimalist" shoe still protect your feet and therefore don't allow your soles to tell you how to run gently. So you've still got bad form, but not the support offered by traditional running shoes that your bad form needs.

I'm not about to give up all my miles until I can do them barefoot. I just can't let go and start all over like that. So if I decide to go barefoot, I will still have to wear shoes for most of my miles. Now, which is the lesser of two evils? My running shoes, or a minimalist shoe like Vibrams or Nike Frees? This is where my dilemma lies. I am an instant gratification girl. This flaw is manifested in my body when I get overuse injuries. I know that I am going to have patience with my body if I choose barefoot running. I haven't even totally decided if I'm going to convert. I say it now, when I'm injured and desperate for an answer but when I'm healthy again I can totally see myself giving up on the barefoot endeavor that I know will take years to become routine. I want to run injury-free, I want to run a LOT, and I want it now!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hamstring Drama

I'm on Day 3 of no running, due to some hamstring issues. I have been having pain in the very top of my hamstring where it connects to the ischial tuberosity. I'm thinking it might actually be one of the ligaments up there and I'm HOPING it's not an avulsion, the common running injury that occurs when the overuse of the hamstring muscles force them to pull away from the bone. I think if that were happening I'd be in much more pain, and as it is now, I can tolerate it just fine while running. If I sound like I don't know what I'm talking about, it's because I don't. I'm not a doctor and I haven't seen a doctor.

All I've done is frantically Google every combination of every word and phrase that says "my 'right-here' hurts, fix it!" And when one site doesn't give me the answer I'm looking for I click away onto the next one. What I'm looking for is something easy, something cheap, and something that doesn't involve dreaded REST! I keep hoping to find some miracle witch-doctor cure in an obscure little corner of cyber space that says "Crush 3 cloves of garlic, mix with catnip and fish oil, smear on affected area then jump up and down on one foot under a crescent moon in the presence of a dog, a cat and a black squirrel." Ya know? That would be something I can do about it. The fact that I can feel something there that isn't going away made me decide to take some time off. Honestly, I have been feeling this literal pain in the butt since before I started my ultra program. I know, I never said anything. I guess I was in denial. It happens. Lesson learned.

So today (Day 3 no running) I started getting antsy. You know that feeling when you haven't been on a run in awhile and everything starts to annoy you? And you start to feel fat and lethargic and and anxious and you can't seem to think of anything to do that will satisfy you? Yeah, that started today. I failed at everything today. My brain wasn't functioning properly at work, I was unsuccessful at getting my toddler down for a nap, I ate a sugary, unsatisfying snack then skipped dinner. F- for the day. I was feeling quite sorry for myself, sitting around the house after work, wondering what people do with themselves on beautiful 54 degree sunshiny Colorado days when they can't run.

I ended up talking myself into swimming. I used to be a competitive swimmer, but since high school the pool has served as rehab for running injuries only. Oh, and triathlon training before I became a mom. It's so weird that swimming was once something I loved. Something I absolutely lived for. Now I hate it. I have the hardest time motivating myself to get into the water. Today I told myself that it would give me a little bit of quiet time and relieve my anxiety. It worked. Sort of. I swam 2000 yards, which is not bad considering I don't swim regularly, but it wasn't satisfying. I felt like a vampire drinking synthetic blood (sorry, True Blood on the brain) when I thirsted for the real thing. The swim was just sustenance. It wasn't satisfying.

Oh well, the pool is all I've got for now. It will have to do. I know that some more seriously injured runners are thinking "3 days? Psshhht! Talk to me in 3 weeks!" I know, I know, but the worst part of having to take time off for an injury is not knowing how long you will need. I'm sidelined indefinitely and if I'm back up and running tomorrow, then yeah, I'm a drama queen. Hopefully next time I blog I will have something more positive to write about. Like miles of trails and sun. Until then, I'll live vicariously through you other blogging runners. Run an extra mile for me!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Primary TVs and Treadmill TVs

Every year Old Man Winter brings me the same things in varying degrees. Snow, ice, cold, and a case of seasonal depression. The Winter Blues, or "The Coldrums" as I call it. Well, not every year. The few years I lived in Colorado before becoming a mom, weekly snowboarding did an excellent job of fending off the Coldrums. Now here I am with a 2 1/2 year old who needs his outside time and long days that sometimes hover around zero degrees. Thus I have set out on a quest to discover the Great Indoors.
With my son, I play games, build castles with blocks and read stories. My husband and I have started a few home improvement projects that we knew we would only work on when we were "stuck" inside. We ripped up all the carpet in the bedrooms and stripped the hardwood floors underneath just before Christmas. We devised a plan and re-arranged furniture to maximize and create space in our little 800 square foot house. In the living room stood a humongous, obtrusive, particle-board entertainment center with a dinosaur TV in it. It took up precious Crossfit and yoga space and served as a "catch all" for junk mail, toys, etc. We had to get rid of that thing. But where would the TV go? We contemplated not having a TV but we're just not ready for that yet. It is a point we hope to reach in the future. TVlessness.

We rarely watch TV. We don't have Cable and with the switchover to digital TV, the channels we used to get just don't come in anymore. The TV does serve as a useful baby-sitting device at times when I need to make dinner, get a few miles in the treadmill, or have an important discussion with my husband. It also keeps me on the treadmill for as long as I need to be during Jonas' naps. I've found that watching a TV series on DVD works nicely because if it's a show I'm into, I can't wait for the next snow storm so I can get on and watch my "stories". Right now it's True Blood. I can run on that thing for almost 2 hours if Jonas sleeps that long.

We agreed that the TV stays. Well, not that TV. We bought a new flat panel television that mounts on the wall to save space. Really, we only bought the TV to save space. Well, that was my reasoning anyway. My husband was thoroughly geeked out over the pixel resolution, LCDness and general flatness of the thing. Like I said, the old one was a dinosaur. We went to Best Buy, found the cheapest one in the size we wanted and then I set off to find a salesperson to sell it to us. That was a lot harder than you might think. Those sales people don't usually hang around the cheap TVs. Finally I managed to drag a pale lanky gamer kid over to our aisle. I left Brian to talk with him and chased after Jonas, who had spotted the drums of the Rock Band display. Several minutes later, Brian came to get us, new TV boxed up and resting on his shoulder like a boom box (he would never have been able to do that with the dinosaur). I was impressed. "That thing must be light, " I said. "Yup, it is." Brian replied.

When we got home Brian told me that the young salesman had actually tried to talk him out of buying that TV. Some salesman, huh? He said that the resolution and quality were inferior to say the least. He asked if this would be our "Primary TV" and if so, he wouldn't recommend it. To get the guy to sell us the thing, Brian told him no. This was the Treadmill TV. We already have a sweet TV. A very big, very expensive, very high-def, (very imaginary) "Primary TV". The salesman was still hesitant to sell it. I can't blame him. If we all went blind from squinting at that low resolution, he would have it on his conscience. Brian had to convince him that I wouldn't mind low-resolution because I would be "going like this" (he mimed me bouncing radically while running in place).

I'm happy with the TV. I think it's modern and fancy and I don't care what that gamer says. I started wondering if everyone has more than 1 TV so I looked it up and sure enough, the average American household has 2.24 TVs. Wow. Ok then. I guess that salesman's question was legit. Here's where I would go into a rant about television's role in Americans' sedentary lifestyles and how it leads to obesity. But I guess I can't talk cause I do have one, and I do love it, bunny ears and all. It keeps me running through the Coldrums.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Balance: I learn as I go...

I just wrapped up my first Rest Week of ultra-training. Apparently I forgot to do the "rest" part. Well, not really. I kept my mileage low (only did 25) but I also did a speed workout earlier this week and lifted weights yesterday. I did a Rare Crossfit workout and then some kettlebell swings and now I'm feeling quite sore! So tomorrow is my regularly scheduled rest day, but then I will head into a 55 mile week with already sore legs. Ugh!

So how do you do it? We know that cross-training, yoga, foam rolling and weight-lifting are all elements of training that will make us strong and prevent injuries, but how do you fit all that in when you're a regular Joe Schmoe with a job, a kid and a mortgage? How do you work all that into the schedule when you're not a professional athlete?

Well, weightlifting during Rest Week is out for me, so here's what I'm going to do: I will try to get in just ONE Crossfit workout per week, though two would be better. I will schedule just ONE day of yoga, because it's better than the zero days of yoga I am currently managing. And I will keep my Monday spin class that I feel obligated to attend with my friends OPTIONAL, skipping it when my legs need the break since Monday is my Day Off. And I will NOT watch TV unless my foam roller is UNDER my IT band causing marginal discomfort. There. New Year's Resolutions done.

Here's to a year of balance. Oh, and moms- you know what I mean by "yoga" right? Not that peaceful, enlightening, moving-into-yourself BS that we hear about. I mean striking a pose when your toddler is distracted by his Legos on the other side of the room. Peace is relative, right?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's 10:33 AM. Do you know where your running shoes are?

I love my dog. I do. He's cute and sweet, and the best running partner anyone could ask for. He sticks with me, never tires, and even provides much-needed entertainment during long grueling trail miles. He comes when I call him (provided I remember the turkey bacon) and he waits for me at the top of steep hills as I slowly stumble my way up. There's just onnneee thing. And it's a small thing, really. It barely even qualifies as a "thing". He chews shoes. Running shoes in particular. He's still just a pup, so I'm working on breaking this habit. But man, it makes me want to scream when I find one of my beloved and quite indispensable running shoes outside with half of the heel missing and guts spilling out. Nooooo! But it's too late. Zeke looks at me with those sweet brown eyes and cocks his head to the side. He notes the fury in my expression and before I can blink, he's on the other side of the yard, tail and butt in the air, legs lowered, ears up, and grinning. The classic "play bow". He doesn't get it.

It's my fault, really. I'm a big girl and I know what happens when you don't put your toys away. Zeke just doesn't allow for slip-ups, not even one. After our run yesterday, we walked in and my husband was mopping. Rather than track muddy footprints through the living room, dampening the chances that my husband ever mops again, I took them off and put them by the door. I left them there all night and this morning I glance over and see just one running shoe by the door. Noooooo! I run outside to search the back yard (we have a dog door so it's easy for Zeke to sneak things outside) and there it is. Cowering under the paws of the shoe monster, with its laces draped between the fangs limp and lifeless, hanging by a couple of threads. I sigh a huge sigh of relief. Relief? After my poor baby has been mutilated? Well, it was just the lace. Totally replaceable. "Bad boy" I say, and snatch the shoe. "Bad BOY!" And he jumps up and tries to grab it back. He doesn't get it.

Both of my current running shoes are now safe and sound, tucked away in their over-the-door hanging shoe organizer in my closet. I promised them it wouldn't happen again, but they look at me with doubt in their eyelets. They know I mean well. And I know Zeke means well. He only does it cause he loves me so much. There is no one else in all the world who loves me that much. There are drawbacks to every relationship. I could name several drawbacks to the relationship my husband and I have. Same for my son and I. Mom, dad, siblings, boss, friends, milkman... But when the perks outweigh the liabilities, I say it's a relationship worth hanging on to.