Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recap: Prairie Fire Half Marathon

Race Day: Sunday, October 14, 2012 @ 8:00am

Race Day - 1

In the weeks prior to this race I had been combating a massive depression that I did my best to hide from friends and family...not always with success. It wasn't until yesterday, October 12th, that I finally decided that I would participate in Prairie Fire. This involved last minute packing and planning which I really hate as I typically pack several days in advance even up to a week in advance. To top it off, I planned to car camp for the night prior to the race in order to save a few bucks ($7 on base vs $100+ at the starting line...I reservation I now regret having cancelled). Anyway, I managed to get everything that I thought I needed while still packing minimally after waking up at 3am and doing my packing then.

By around 6am I was on the road to Wichita, Kansas which would be about a 9 hour drive including the loss of 1 hour due to the change to Central Time. The drive itself was fairly uneventful and I made pretty good time arriving at the expo at just before 3pm CT. After stopping to pick up my race packet, I got in the car and set my GPS for Offutt AFB where I had planned to camp out for the night. Lo and behold! Offutt AFB is located in Nebraska and was the base I had planned to stay at when I had planned to originally do a Saturday half marathon at Valisporo just outside Omaha. Okay. So I began to freak out. I was on a very limited budget...just over $100 for the trip (gas on the gas card). I knew there was no way I could pay for a room near the start so I decided to go ahead and drive to McConnell AFB to see if they had rooms available. Unfortunately, the Air Force lodging prices had just gone up from $39/night to $53/night at the beginning of the month. Figuring that at least I'd know it would be a decent room I was lucky enough to find the base after incorrect directions from the GPS and getting lost for about 10 minutes.

After finding the back gate to the base I finally made my way to the Air Capital Inn and was able to get a temporary lodging facility (basically a 1 bedroom apartment) for $54 for the night. As I got back into the car after registering it began to rain and by the time I made my way to the building that I was assigned (just behind the building with the office) it was throwing down. I don't mean just a little hard rain, but torrents of rain. Monsoonal rain. Wet to the bones rain. As I drove slowly through the parking lot I searched for where my room was...I saw the room number preceding my room and decided that would be the place to park. Wrong. When I got out to start carrying my stuff to the room I was unpleasantly surprised to find that my room was not where I thought it should be, but rather on the other end (not side) of the building. In order to find it, I had to walk in an open corridor getting pelted by the rain. I walked up the north corridor and didn't find the room. I walked down the south corridor and found the room at the very end of the building...the total opposite of where I had parked. I threw whatever I had in my arms and took a deep breath before tackling the rain that was coming in almost horizontally and rather painfully. I ran back to the car and moved it to a space just outside my room and began grabbing what stuff I needed for the night. As I finished up, I turned on the TVs only to find a severe thunderstorm watch in effect with the potential for 2" hail. Joy. Not only was I soaking to the bone, but my car may get smashed up here in tornado country. I took a few minutes to try to wring out my shirt during which time I realized that the pasta dinner would be starting in just literally over an hour. Here I was with a dinner ticket and soaking clothes and hair. Luckily the rain had let up and I decided that I'd take a chance and go to the base exchange to see if I could get a cheap outfit for the night.

About 40 minutes later I got back to the room having found a shirt, skinny jeans on clearance and an umbrella for less than $25. I quickly dried my hair (the rain had stopped by now) and stuck the blow dryer in my shoes, alternating every few minutes, to dry them out a bit. Thank goodness I don't wear makeup! I got dressed and headed out to the dinner with just enough time for the ~15 minute drive to the venue. I arrived just in time to sit down towards the rear before dinner was served and introduced myself to the table. There was another Beth who was also a relatively new runner with this being only her 2nd half marathon, another nurse who had just finished a contract at a hospital in Santa Fe and was heading home to Florida (if I remember correctly) after running the full marathon and finally a young man with his family who was running his first full marathon and would be heading east to visit his family right after the race. The food was pretty good although there was absolutely no protein offered...kind of odd, usually there's at least a little protein at these things. Dane Rauchenberg, ultra runner and author, was the guest speaker and was really rather interesting and entertaining. We all left at around the same time, before the event actually closed down...actually I think I was the last one at the table.

I made my way back to the base...with correct GPS instructions this time and got my gear ready for the race the next day. I was just glad that with the rough afternoon that the race had a start time of 8am rather than 7am that had been the norm through out my earlier races. I was glad that I opted for a room instead of trying to find the Famcamp since the t-storm warning was still in place with the continued chance of least I would be warm and dry, not having to run to the bathhouse to use the restroom or shower in the rain, etc. And mostly I'd be able to sleep in comfort and spread out as much as I wanted. I had forgotten my meds (realized that at about 5 hours into the drive) so I had to settle for Benadryl for sleep, Tylenol and some Endurance Caps (electrolyte capsules) instead. After I taped up my knees for support, I headed to bed and was finally asleep by around 11pm.

Race Day

Woke up at 5:30am. Went straight into the shower, ate my typical breakfast, taped up my feet and got dressed. I left the base at about 7:10am which was plenty of time to park and get to the starting area...or so I thought. The drive into downtown was fine until I started hitting all the closed streets. Ugh! I finally got to a lot that I thought was relatively close to the starting area only to find out that it was no where near. So, I headed back to the car and drove around again and again parked in an area that I thought was close to the start. It was now about 7:40am. As I followed some obvious spectators I became a bit worried when I saw a mile 1 marker. I asked the volunteers there if the start was straight ahead but they weren't sure. I broke into a jog (mind you I typically do a 12 to 13 minute mile) and passed one of the course bands. I asked another set of volunteers if I was headed in the right direction and they said I was...I guess I should have gotten a little more specific. I was now in a slow run...rather than a jog. I was beginning to panic. I began thinking how I drove 9 hours, suffered through the storm and now was going to miss the start of the race because I had parked a mile and a quarter away from the starting area. I finally began to recognize the area and headed in the direction that I thought that the starting line was at. I was near tears by this point. After hitting several dead ends, I finally saw the venue. I broke into a full run as I heard the announcer declare that the race would be starting in a couple of minutes. I literally had just enough time to tear off the tab on my bib and toss it and my gear bag to one of the girls at gear check before heading to the start where I heard the words..."We'll be starting in 1 minute!" Whew! I fired up my MotoACTV's GPS, tried to catch my breath and tried to calm the surge of anxiety that had suddenly welled up with the relief of finding the start. It wasn't good though that I was already panting before the race had even started. "GO!!"

And the run was on...I began walking with the occasional jog still trying to recover from my unofficial pre-race mile. I eventually felt like I was in a groove and began  an alternating run-walk. Bad idea. The first part of the race wasn't too bad. mostly flat going through part of the Riverside area, Old Town, along the Douglas Design District into College Hills and back (for the most part...the last part of the run was on the other side of the river). I had stopped a regular run-walk system at about mile 9 opting to just run as far as I could...typically only 100 feet or so then walking as long as I needed to. Since I was passing my car on the way back I decided to go off course and dump my race belt in the car. I just grabbed one of my 10oz bottles of G2, my camera and my phone (I thought) and got back on course. By the last 2 miles or so I was exhausted and had started to cramp up in my right foot. By that point it became a mostly, if not all, walking event. I'd look out for the course photogs and try to pretend that I was running as I went by them with not a lot of success. I tried to run across the 2nd bridge but it was a no go and I finished the race walking...slowly. I was way over my goal of 3 hours and my foot was cramping badly. After stopping for a massage (where I realized that I must have forgotten my phone in the car), some oranges, a whole bunch of chocolate milk and a Gatorade I made my very first trip to a medical tent to get an ice bag. I sat around listening to the band while waiting to get an ART (active release therapy) chiro to do a demo on me in hopes of loosening up my legs and back before the drive home. I waited for over an hour...everyone else was packing up to go and this chiro was just there chit chatting with the person before me. I had to get on the road so I just said forget it and headed out on the 1.25 mile walk back to the car.

When I got back to the car, I noticed that my phone wasn't anywhere in the car. I spent a half hour searching everywhere in and around the car even following part of the course (after traffic had already started back up) to see if it was smashed on the street somewhere. Crap! That was my lifelink home. Luckily I had my tablet with me and texted the old man that I had lost the phone (again). I decided that it was permanently lost so I decided to go to the nearest Y and take a shower before hitting the road. I checked my texts (no voice capability on the tablet) and the old man had gotten a call from a man whose wife had found it. I used the Y's phone to call him and we began a several hour long telephone tag to get my phone back. Since it was already past 4pm I decided that I'd have to stay another night and drove back to the base to try to get a room. Luckily they had plenty of rooms available and I ended up in a first floor room in the main building. After getting some near San Francisco quality Chinese food in town, I was finally able to get back in touch with the guy and get directions to meet his wife for the return of my phone. That happened at a little after 8pm so I was really happy to have found a room already.

By the time I got the phone back, my right foot was hurting terribly and I could barely put weight on it. In fact, I was basically just walking on the instep because I was fairly sure that I had managed to get a stress fracture of my 5th metatarsal (the outside foot bone). I was going to go to a civilian urgent care/ER when I remembered that there was a VA medical center (read ER) in town so that's where I headed (I didn't need any extra medical bills). After nearly 4 hours I was out on crutches with a post op walking shoe. Joy. I was to be non-weight bearing for 7-10 days...lovely. I got back to the base, figured out a way to carry 2 cans of soda while walking with 2 crutches. At 48 years old, this was the first time I had been on crutches let me tell you...I was no good at using crutches. I finally fell asleep sometime after 2am...

Race Day + 1

I woke up just after 6am. I decided to just take my time and head out by 9am or so. I lounged around a bit, played on the laptop and finally started getting ready. Let me tell you, I was just glad that there was a shower stall instead of a tub in the bathroom. Being non-weight bearing on one foot really made for an interesting shower.

I finally headed out a little before 9am. The only eventful things happening on the way home was getting lost within the first 5 miles and having to backtrack and my first stop at a McDonald's on I-35 service area for lunch (my first lunch at McD's in a couple of years).

I arrived home around 7:30pm MT to a choir of 7 canines barking and howling for mama/gramma. After a weekend like that I was really surprised that I never really fell apart emotionally. I had come close on race day, but I managed to get through it without melting down. Maybe I was actually on the mend...

Official Time:  3:11:27 (Personal Worst by about 5 minutes)

What did I like about this race?
Nice, mostly flat course, nice weather this year (for the race itself), goes through some nice areas.

What did I not like about this race?
Finish area was a bit disorganized...ran out of food for the late half marathon finishers (only had half a tray of oranges when I arrived and I was essentially chased off of the marathon finishers table). The food was almost out at the runner's food tent in the runner's village as well.

Would I do this race again?
Yes, but I'd train correctly (had only run a max of 5.5 miles and only about 15 runs total most of which were only 3 miles or less) and be much better prepared. It was my fault as far as getting an injury all due to poor preparation.

Dane Rauchenberg, ultra runner and author.

I represented Team Red, White & Blue for this race.
Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the course.
I believe this was in the College Hills area.
Going down Douglas Ave, the return trip.
Keeper of the Plains Plaza & Sculpture in the Riverside area.
Coming over the pedestrian bridge at Keeper of the Plains Plaza.
2012 Half Marathon Finishers medal.
Close up the HM Finishers medal.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Recap: Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Half Marathon - Rachel, NV

Another long delayed recap...

Race Day: Saturday, August 4, 2012 @ 10:00pm

After arriving in Vegas after my trip from UT I arrived just in time for the expo and packet pickup. I skipped checking in on base and headed out to the Hard Rock Resort to get my packet. The expo wasn't much, only a few tables (reminded me of the Wisconsin HM's expo that I did) but packet pick up was fairly smooth. All I can say is that some women really need to reconsider wearing a teeny tiny bikini (there was some sort of beach party going on)...'nuff said. Before heading to the base I found L&L Hawaiian BBQ and got some dinner since the closet (and only) Hawaiian BBQ place is almost 2 hours from where I live. I headed to the base and checked in and got my gear ready for that night's run. Sorry, no pics I was just too exhausted and busy trying to decide if I really wanted to do this race...ultimately I did it, but in reality shouldn't have.

I tried to nap for a few hours prior to the race so that was a total bust. I was still contemplating not running but since I had made the drive & had my gear ready I might as well do it. I got ready and headed back out to the Hard Rock where the buses would bring us to the appropriate starting line (there was a full, a half and a 10K). There was a single bus for Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics (me) and 50 Staters so I managed to get a single seat on that one. Our driver managed to get lost for awhile...imagine a full sized bus making a 15 point turn on a 2 lane highway, lol. And then the bus in back of us had the front window "explode", there were no injuries other than some scratches and cuts on the driver. I never found out what happened.

We eventually dropped off the marathoners where everyone picked up some glow bracelets (at least that's what I remember) then loaded back up to head to the half marathon start. Everyone had to wear some kind of reflective clothing and this time I just went with a reflective vest. All the while on the bus I still really had doubts about participating. I did get off and I did start actually doing a run/walk/run for about 6 miles then finally feeling so tired, fed up and just wanting to get the damned race finished that I just started doing a brisk walk to finish the damned thing of. This was probably the most un-enjoyable race that I've done so far...not because it's a bad race...but just because I was sooo not in the frame of mind to do it. The course is mostly rolling hills with the first, I'd say, 5-6 miles of the half marathon being a very gradual uphill.

I finally made it to the finish at the Li'l AleInn that you see in a lot of Area 51 documentaries. I did not partake of the free breakfast and drinks at all...all I wanted to do was get back to my room to sleep. I took one picture in front of the cafe as proof as I had been there and immediately got back on the bus for the 2+ hour drive back to Vegas. Just before the bus left, I realized that I had lost my camera and was searching everywhere that I could in 4 minutes before the bus left. About an hour into the drive I found my camera...I had put it in the zip up pocket on my reflective belt, damn, did I feel like and idiot. I did manage to get 1 hour of sleep on the bus and was just thankful that I didn't have to do the driving myself.

When I woke up on the bus I got a few shot of the Nevada sunrise and as we drove into Vegas I thought that was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen, not because the Strip is supposedly beautiful but instead it meant that I was just that much closer to getting to my car and some sleep. Once we got out of the bus I couldn't get to my car fast enough and headed to the base stopping at WalMart to buy some breakfast at McDonalds and 40# of ice for an ice bath. When I got on base I headed straight to my room for a 20 minute ice bath and ended up sleeping for some 13 hours straight. When I got up I did some laundry so I wouldn't have to do any at home, grabbed another meal in town at the base exchange food court since the Popeye's on base had already closed and headed back to my room to pack and sleep another 9 hours for my drive home on Monday.

Race Day + 1
I woke up fairly early around 6am and began packing up the car for my 12 hour trip home. In the middle of my packing up I managed to forget my key card in the room. If you know anything about military lodging you understand that the building used for lodging can at times be a couple of miles away from your actual room. So there I was in a dilemma. Do I walk the ~1.5 miles one way to the office and get another key which would be an issue because I didn't have any ID with me or do I wait until housekeeping or the building's management office opened. It was probably 7 or 7:30am and normally housekeeping arrives around that time. I managed to find one of the housekeepers but she wasn't on duty, didn't have a master key and told me that the rest of the staff was in a meeting which she didn't know how long it would be. I figured it would be some quick briefing and they should be back by 8am so I decided to wait. Eventually a little after 8 or 8:15am the supervisors showed up and cleared my identity with the front desk and I was finally able to get in my room. I finished packing up and headed out. I can't remember if I had breakfast or not that day.

The drive home was fairly uneventful except for one jackass in a blue pick up who would speed up to pass me then slow down. Eventually my moderate road range kicked in and I got in front of him and blocked him doing the minimum speed limit while another Toyota, whom the truck was also messing with, next to me did the same in the inside lane moving only to let others get by but moving back in to block the blue truck as soon as the other vehicle(s) passed. We continued this in tandem for nearly 20 miles before we both took off doing 80+ on the interstate leaving the blue truck in the dust. I totally love when people work on me to screw over assholes on the road! lol. I finally got home around 10 or 11pm and went straight to bed only to spend most of the next 3 or so weeks sleeping and only being awake but not necessarily out of bed for more than 3-4 hours.

So, my total budget for this "race" weekend peaked out at $450-475 including gas, food and lodging (military lodging was only $39/night but has now changed to $53/night). Looks like I'm going to have to find some alternative cheap lodging for any travel I do in the future.

Official/final time: 3:22:50

What did I like about this race? 
It was a great race even though there were plenty of rolling hills. Nice medal.

What did I NOT like about this race? 
Long bus ride. Driver getting lost (apparently it happened last year as well).

Would I do this race again? 
Absolutely, but I hope I'm in a better frame of mind if I do.

Scary pic of me with other runners in the background.
No aliens or UFOs spotted although there were several wannabe aliens.

Finishing area at Lil A'Le'Inn.

Finishing area at Lil' A'Le'Inn.

Yes, I was really there and I actually finished.
Medal for this race and the plastic medallion for the UT race.

Same pic as above with the UT medallion lit up.

Pretty sunset.

Thankful for some sleep.

Ah, Las Vegas...sleep here I come.

Recap: Legacy Midnight Half Marathon - Farmington, UT

OK, so this report is way overdue. Immediately after the two races this particular weekend (which I found out too late was too soon after the onset of my last severe depressive episode that I was starting to come out of) I fell into another deep depression upon my return home Monday evening. I ended up sleeping almost literally (being awake maybe 3-4 hours a day and doing absolutely nothing) for the following 3-4 weeks before going into an upwardly manic phase in addition to PMS and the most hellish week of constant hot flashes for about a week. Coming down has been a relatively moderate depression but I am more functional and can actually complete single tasks at a time. While this in an improvement it's un-nerving that I no longer have the ability to multi-task. Whatever, just's the recap.

Race Day: Friday, August 3, 2012 @ 8:30pm

Legacy Midnight Half Marathon - Farmington, UT
Race day minus one 
I had an 11 hour or so drive to Hill AFB, UT where I would be staying for 2 nights for this race. I had left home on bad terms essentially giving the husband the option to try to move out of his funk and do something around the house while I was gone, especially since he wasn't in school. I expected nothing hard just washing dishes, helping me take care of the dogs, occasionally working in the yard and doing something to the living room wall that has been in remodel mode now for 4 years (we have not had a functioning living room in that time, good thing we don't do any entertaining). The ultimatum of if nothing happens either he or I would be leaving the house permanently. So needless to say I was already not in a good frame of mind.

I enjoy driving so the drive through northern NM, the lower south corner of CO and the push through to Hill AFB (Provo), UT was calming and I loved going back through/past Moab, Zion and Arches National Parks. I arrived late at night at the base, checked in and almost immediately went to bed.

Race Day 
Since this was a night race starting at around 8:30pm I basically just stayed in my room trying to get extra sleep. Absolutely got no sightseeing in in Salt Lake City as it was my second time there and the first time was only a 3 hour stop over with my infant daughter in a stroller on the way back home from my MILs house in ID back in the late 80's. Got up in time for a late lunch and then headed out to pick up my packet at the starting line. Since I had another hour before the race, I went back to the base and just chilled in the room for about 45 minutes before heading back to the start.

I picked up some of the free glow necklaces, bracelets and rings. In addition I was wearing a microfiber, multicolor lighted mohawk headband and had criss-crossed my torso with mini LED battery operated Christmas light (whose tiny wires couldn't take the bouncing and broke leaving me without my Christmas lights). We were bused the 13.1 miles out to the start and after getting bitten by several mosquitoes I finally found some bug spray and was good for the night. As the race started we ran on a path along a canal then eventually got on the path that follows parallel to I-70 north. I was doing well, even for not training and essentially having only run a couple of times in 8 weeks, and was even heading for a personal PR improving by about 3-5 minutes. Then it happened, the cramping started in my right calf at around mile 10. Prior to this point I had been following a run/walk/run method with the running increasing from 3-5 minutes by the time I started cramping. I continued to stretch and then run until the cramping started again. By mile 11 or 11.5 I was cramping so bad that I gave in and walked/stretched the remaining miles. When I got close to the finish line my calf went into a severe cramp which resulted in me almost in tears trying to get over the line so I could get some assistance. As I crossed, two young men came to my aid and each took a side of me as I collapsed and assisted me to the ground away from the finish line and literally right on the back of the inflatable arch. After about 10 minutes I had managed to stretch most of the cramp out and hobbled over to pick up my finishing medallion (kind of cheesy light-up, plastic flashing medallion). I made my way back to the base, stopped at the shoppette to pick up 40 pounds of ice and took a 25 minute ice bath before heading to bed.

Race Day + 1 
I made it out of lodging by 8:30am after having locked myself out while packing up the car for about an hour. As I was a mile and a half away from the lodging office I tried to find a housekeeper or supervisor to let me into my room. Unfortunately, all were in a meeting and I would just have to wait for them to report to this buildings office. I finally got on the road to Las Vegas for that night's race (ET Full Moon Midnight Half Marathon) for my 8 hour drive on about 3 hours sleep.

Final/Official Time: 2:57:20.4

Things I liked about this race:
The course was nice and primarily flat, well cared for. I would consider it an an easy course nice for beginners.

Things I didn't like about this race:
Finishers plastic flashing medallion, the fact that the race started next to a canal and mosquitoes were abundant.

Would I do this race again?
Only if they got better medals. I don't mean that it's not a good race, but I want real bling.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On Being Bipolar: Recovery? Stability? A Cure?

There’s a word that I’ve been seeing a lot over the past two days after disclosing my most recent (nearly 8 months) exacerbation of my bipolar diagnosis...RECOVERY. I’m getting some well wishes for recovery but in reality is it possible for a person with bipolar disorder to be cured? IMHO I think not. You see, bipolar is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, heredity, socio-environmental  events and /or the ingestion of chemicals whether they be prescribed or illicit. While my own personal neuro-chemical makeup cannot be determined without thousands of dollars worth of tests, I have the unfortunate genetic factor in my favor with a recently found history of bipolar in my family to a known family history of alcoholism, growing up as a child who was molested, having a truly dysfunctional life growing up, losing my father at the age of 8 and being forced to plan his funeral because I was the only living relative since my parents were divorced which led into a very poor and extremely strained relationship with my mother. I've only done marijuana once as a teenager but drank fairly heavily (resulting in essentially a rape by a fellow airman because I was too intoxicated at the age of 17 to realize what was can imaging my horror when I woke up in bed with this person who I hated with a passion and disliked all aspects of his persona even though he was a fellow student leader). I see these as the major life factors feeding my already present brain disorder and only served to bring out the illness in an intensely stressful period of my life.

When you Google the word recovery the most applicable definition you see is:  “A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” The problem with this definition is that the idea of “normal” differs for everyone.  To me my “normal” is to be able to function in any situation whether it’s recovering patient from a sudden cardiac arrest or being able to go into a building with bad memories without having an anxiety attack. “Normal” is no longer in my vocabulary.

I don’t seek “recovery” per se. All I want is “stability.”  The ability to know approximately when my mood swings are going to come.  Knowing the anticipated length of the depressive and manic episodes.  Knowing when the warning signs start showing up to recognize them and take preventative measures.  For the past 3 years that stability hasn’t been there. Things have not been quite as bad as 2009-early 2011 when my life consisted of hysterical crying for the majority of the day, daily/hourly suicidal ideation & complete hopelessness/helplessness. But the last 8 months or so have been pretty much hell. Trying to look like everything is OK on in outside yet on the inside I’m  internalizing not only my issues but that of everyone around me as well. I want stability where my episodes stop cycling every few days or at times a few short hours so I at least know what to expect most of the time.

Is there a cure for bipolar? Simply put, no. Some may see a decrease or leveling off of their symptoms but unfortunately I am in that group whose symptoms worsen as they age. I went from single severe episode every few years to cycling episodes that last anywhere from hours to days to months. In any case, recovery for a person with bipolar is a lot like a recovering alcoholic in that this is something  that we will be struggling with for the rest of our lives.

Maybe one day there will be a medication that I can take via injection that will control my symptomology for months at a time (much like the medication Prolixin for schizophrenia). While such meds are in the work I’ll have to try to take my daily, twice a day and three times a  day medications…something I’m not great at ( this is “non-adherance” in medical lingo and  I am at times non-adherent to my medication regimen which causes a whole new world of problems). Like the saying goes nurses & doctors make the worst patients. Because when in a manic or hypomanic state, the bipolar patient including myself, will feel that they are in fact “cured” and don’t need the medications and therefore stop taking them all together. Unfortunately because of my more that lay person knowledge of medications I tend to diagnose and change my doses (so, maybe my FNP and almost completed PMH-NP education worked a little too well). Always a bad choice on my part.