30 September 2014

On freedom, pt 1: Much is required

The Oxford English Dictionary defines freedom in the following ways:

1.    The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint:
1.1  Absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government:
1.2  The state  of not being imprisoned or enslaved:
1.3  The state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily: (freedom from)
1.4  The state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing)
1.5  The power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.

In the 1700-1800s, most people immigrated to the colonies for the opportunity to create a better material life, that is, "freedom from want." A life where the centuries of rigid socioeconomic structures imposed in the monarchical governments did not apply (that is not to say that there weren't social or economic strata in the colonies, but we are the land of "rags to riches" based on one's own work ethic) and where each man would have an opportunity to be measured on his own merit and character. (There was also a land ownership component to this, which the colonies had in abundance.)

That reason, along with the below, are what make us unique as a nation; these reasons are durable and are integrated into the fabric of our national identity (and I would say that no other country in the world can claim all of them as attributes of their national character):

1. Freedom from oppression (tyranny)
2. Freedom to worship
3. Freedom from fear
4. Freedom to create

In each of these reasons, that word, "freedom" is inherent. And if we look at the first definition of freedom, the word "power" jumps out, and if we look at the last definition, we see "independent." There is power in freedom, personal power, the ability to self-determine, to think, believe, act as one wants, independently (of course, not in the Hobbesian sense, let's hope).  And I don't imagine to create a rosy picture of our history, which was difficult, steeped in conflict over these ideals (to which many of us are incredulous for we cannot even conceive that one would NOT want these freedoms) and which had its own internal hypocrisies as freedom was only meted to a portion of the population. BUT, the notion, the concept, of absolute personal freedom is UNIQUELY American.

I think the hardest concept to collectively wrap our heads around is that we have something that is so precious, yet I think we as a society often take it for granted. We have always had it; perhaps we have lost sight of what a gift it is? We have the individual opportunity to become anything that we wish - it doesn't mean it will be easy, it doesn't mean will succeed, we will more often fail, but there is nothing that prevents us from the pursuit of our aims.

How do I know this? Because I am the child of an immigrant who left her country in the 1960s. Because I wore the same clothes to school for days in a row and pretended to do extra homework because I didn't want anyone to see my meager lunch (or sometimes entire lack thereof). Because I excelled in school despite having no academic guidance at home because my mom was working two jobs, and despite having to work myself after school and on weekends. Because I played sports in hand-me-down shoes and made varsity anyway, despite enduring nicknames based on my ethnicity and my poverty. Because I dared apply to the best schools and bore the cost through student loans to become the first in my family to graduate from college. How did it happen?

Because I wanted something more and better for myself and I knew that if I didn't work for it, it would never happen and more importantly, there was nothing to prevent me from working for it. Crucial to this was a mother who made hard choices. When we were in middle school, my mother made the decision to live in an upper income area, despite having no car and no way to get to public transportation but a five-mile walk, because the school system was better for me and my sister. And despite intermittent additional hardships, during which time I lived with non-family, and by other matters of providence (or, as Malcolm Gladwell would say, critical moments of societal intervention, in the form of teachers and coaches who pushed me and others who allowed me to believe such things were possible), I made my way from Polk Street to the halls of Wellesley College.

I have the freedom of independent self-determination, but with that freedom, I also believe I have a responsibility to become more than simply self-serving and self-gratifying. I believe that I must become part of something that makes us as a collective better. It is what led me to the military; it is part of why I want to go to law school, it is part of my solution-seeking nature, to find the best possible outcome and to help others achieve. I also believe I have a responsibility to continually grow as a person, and find a way to utilize whatever knowledge I have to a greater purpose that personal promotion or material accumulation. I am not some gracious self-sacrificing lamb, it's just that I want more for us as citizens and as a nation.

This country gives us the greatest gift we could have, and, in the words of one famous revolutionary, circa 30 A.D, "To those who much is given much is required."

28 September 2014

Tired squirrel recovery

I've spent this past week recovering from the YT50; and I daresay that I could probably use another week but I have to figure out how to be actively training and recovering at the same time because the line-up for the next two months is not insignificant: the Marine Corps Marathon is in four weeks and two weeks after that, I have the Croatan 24-hour Ultra Race.

This is how I felt after my six-mile run on Thursday: 

And this is how I felt after my 11.5-mile bike ride yesterday: 

I also ended up with some odd twitching in the muscle/tendon/ligament area on the outside of my right leg immediately above my knee. I stretched, rolled and stretched again and it kept palpitating. Weird. If anyone knows what that is, I'd love some insight. 

That being said, I will be back on my regular training schedule tomorrow, but probably only do one double-digit run next week and then work my way back up to two the following week. I thought about jumping back on the track for speedwork, but am going to save it for the Dec & Jan races, which are 21 and 25K respectively, so will allow me the time to train slow and long while still building in speed. 

It is all about staying healthy and injury-free for the rest of the year, leading up to next April and the Marathon des Sables in Morocco - the last race in the series and the hardest - 150 miles across the Sahara Desert (near the Atlas Mtns) carrying all my food, survival gear and clothing for seven days, with a compass, a map and sometimes flags in the sand guiding you to the water allocation point. (That's the only thing you don't bring - 9 liters of water are allocated daily to each runner for drinking, food prep, hygiene. How you use it is up to you.) 

So, I will continue to try and hit race goal times, but know that each race is a test of my strength and stamina for the big culminating adventure....excellent, Ted!

26 September 2014

Know thyself...

I have a little app on my phone, DailyQuote, and it pings every day at 0900. Why? Sometimes it's nice to consider what others have considered before, sometimes it's a humorous quote, and every now and again, I read the quote and just shake my head. Today's quote set me to thinking; however, so I will share it with you:

"How can one learn to know oneself? 
Never by introspection, rather by action." 
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I don't know that he meant to go out and run multiple ultra-marathons by that, but I feel like I relate to this much more than those who say that meditation allows us to fully recognize our inner selves. Not that meditation isn't extremely beneficial for de-stressing, calming and re-centering, but I have found that I am only able to gauge who I am and what I am capable by doing or actively being the thing.  Introspection may allow us insight into perhaps our motivation for an action, but it is the action itself which then defines us.

Par example: One can say, "I am kind," but if one's daily actions do not reflect that, then that is not who that person is. Similarly, one can reflect on one's courage til the cows come home, but it is only when faced with adversity that one's mettle is tested. I know I am simplifying the above statement a bit; it is my own perspective (obviously) and I am sure that there are many out there who may have tangential or completely divergent views. For me, I hope that 1) my actions truly reflect who I currently am, and 2) throughout my life, I continue discovering more about myself, known and unknown, as I encounter both adversity and triumph.

Since it's Flashback Friday, here's a look at me in 2001, less than a year before I raised my right hand and donned a flight suit, when I was still working in the "dotcom" world:
Fall 2001 in San Francisco,
at a cocktail party prior to attending the Webbys Awards
Have a great start to your weekend!

24 September 2014

Yoda vs. the LSAT

I retake (!!) the LSAT on Saturday morning in hopes of pulling up my score a few points. That is not to say that I bombed it the first time, but I also didn't score where I felt I should have to properly apply to the schools I am hoping to attend. That being said, while I enjoy most of the LSAT exam sections, I am not great at standardized testing, so I have been studying and practicing taking the test for the last month.

Where do I find inspiration? That's right - in the wisdom of a little green alien. I am a big Star Wars movie fan - Episodes IV-VI, that is (ok, I thought the Ewoks were cheesy, but liked the storyline in Return of the Jedi. Luke was the man in the A New Hope, but after that, it was all Han Solo. Just sayin'). Anyway, so Yoda is guiding me with his positivity:

The way I look at it, this will be my last go at it, since I need to turn my focus to the application process, essays and resume as well as garnering recommendations from my former senior officers. Which I hope they agree to do. And say something nice. Regardless, I will be applying because this is what I have been told by the diminutive sage: 

Off to study a bit more. Also, the Yellowstone-Teton 50-miler full photo gallery is posted! Pictures are mine, as well as some from fellow racers, George V., Gordon S., and official photographers, HG Photography. I included some of the images from the 100-mile race as well. (My YT50 race recap here.)

22 September 2014

The mighty YT50: Burning in the sun

Race day! My first official 50-miler, point-to-point, end-to-end, start to finish. At 0530, it was a crisp 43F degrees with nary a cloud to suppress the waning starlight twinkles. I heeded the forecast weather and went with my t-shirt, calf sleeves and mid-thigh compression shorts for my race gear, with my trusty visor and glasses ready for up top. (Key to my race day outfit was the Pumpkin Noodle's fairy bracelet, which she asked me to wear on race day.)  Over the shorts, I added two more layers, both upper and lower, and my woolen cap to keep me warm as we drove up the mountain to the start. Up at the start, last check on nutrition prep and I got my number and running shoes on and configured to satisfaction. I was nervous and excited.

The start at Upper Mesa Falls, ID
Co-race director Jay gave me a huge hug and asked how I was doing. "You know me, Jay, perpetually under-trained," was my deadpan (and honest) reply. I took a look at the other runners and found that most of us were not only from out of the ID/WY/MT area, but a good chunk were from the east coast, with FL, NC, SC and NY well represented. To the last runner, everyone looked prepared with nutrition and water packs, K-tape, more than one pair of Hokas and brightly colored gear. I stripped off my outer layers, slathered sunscreen on my face, fell into the crowd and waited for the horn at 0900.

Jay is in the bright blue jacket, I am in the center with the red calf sleeves.
Before I get into the race as it unfolded, I am going to attach the elevation profile. You'll notice we start on a slight downslope, continuing down and then the remainder of the race is a net climb, with three significant climbs (in addition to the multitudes on the map), two of which were between 30-35 miles (for the 50-mi folks). Aid stations were approximately 10 miles apart and I had asked my crew to be at the interim 5-mile marks, starting at mile 15. 

0900MT: The horn sounded and we were off.....

Mile 0-10.4: A largish group went off ahead and I fell into a nice pace with about five other runners, two men and two other women. We chatted about the weather, the race course, our home states and generally wondered if we were starting too fast. The views were gorgeous and the air sweetly clean. The course dropped into the base of the falls and we had shade among the pines and aspens as we started the first of the three major ascents. The sun warmed us in a cloudless sky. 

(L-R) Ashlee, me and Mariska at about mile 6. We are all mothers of two.
Mariska went on to be 2nd female overall (after having run a 50K and a marathon
over the course of the two previous weekends - she is pretty much a badass.)
Aid station #1(~1040): I grabbed a few swigs of mint tea, refilled my handheld w/ a water/HEED mix, took some electrolyte pills, some banana and some GU chomps. Lip balm and then a quick head call. Behind the port-a-potty. Nobody noticed. 

Miles 10.4-20.8: The course took a scissoring left after a sloping downhill and up over a bridge before heading onto a soft dirt and gravel road. The clusters of runners had begun to string out and I had in sight several figures identifiable only by shirt and pack color: green, grey/white, blue/red. I followed their bobbing cadences up past farmland and up again and then another turn and up some more. The trees fell away and the sun reflected brightly on the stony road. We each took our turn in the spray of an irrigation hose as we passed it, the prior runner signaling by action to the following that here was some relief from the warmth. I passed blue on red, named Jay, who said he has some muscle aches. I told him he could use my first aid gear at the next aid station if he needed. This somehow spurred him into action and off he went. I would not see him again until about 44 miles. The road dropped into a ravine and another steep climb followed, cresting and bringing the next aid station into sight. 

Aid station #2 (~1240): My stomach was not feeling right and I didn't want much in the way of nutrition but I ate anyway. I drank some protein smoothie, a bite of PB&J, some mac'n'cheese and boiled potatoes w/salt. A refill again but I had to make another head call. This time inside the port-a-potty. 

Miles 20.8-25.5: I started gingerly, testing if my gut was stable and then turned my attention back to the course. The road again turned left and uphill, with a milepost stating 19. The sun was high and unimpeded. Ahead I saw green and grey/white and as the hill continued upward, green got bigger. I asked how he was doing as I passed and green, named Phil, said he was having a rough time of it but that he was alright. I pressed as heat began rising from the pavement. Grey/white, named John, and I ran a back and forth for a while, feeding off each other's rhythm while still running our own paces. 

An absolute dearth of shade. 
Miles 25.5-30.9: We crested another climb and turned right at Squirrel Cemetery. As the runners became dots along the course, support crews with "Runner on Road" placards leapfrogged. Then a quick crew pit-stop for more water, more Gatorade, some IcyHot and the roller on the legs and more lip balm. At this point, all pretense of single-serve crews went out the window, and all crews, including mine, began giving water refills and whatever else was needed from their runners' supplies. Then back against the relentless sun, passing scenic farmland and cresting another staggering climb. I was still running with only a few walk breaks on the hills. My stomach had recovered and I was feeling strong. The mileposts were counting down. 

Aid station #3(~1445): This appeared on the downslope and I was almost surprised. I again felt no desire to eat but did anyway, potatoes, salt, electrolytes, a handful of M&Ms and a refill. This was also the last point for my crew, who departed back to Jackson Hole after I passed through. 

Miles 30.9-36.9: John went ahead and I followed; we dropped into a series of rolling troughs, pummeling the thighs on the way down only to chew them mercilessly as we clawed our way back uphill. My right outer calf cramped. . The sun screamed from above and cast waves on the road, blurring the rolls and mocking my attempts to decipher the distance as the troughs became a steady gradual incline stretching out toward the mountains. My right hamstring cramped. I walked it out. 

Mile 36.9: Just ahead, a blue hatchback pulled up and a woman got out, setting up something on the road. John and neon yellow paused at the set-up and then continued on. It was the race doc, and she was part of a series of interim water stops now being set up all along the course to help runners combat the heat. I took several handfuls of ice, stuffing some into my bra and some in my mouth while she refilled my water. I had more electrolyte pills. 

I started back off, now doing a run from utility pole to utility pole, then a walk for the same distance, trying to stave off the persistent cramping in my right leg. Milepost 4 passed as I caught up to neon yellow, named Gordon, just as I cramped again. We chatted and worked together to keep the run/walk pattern. At milepost 2, I was reduced to a walk/run. Lisa, the other race director, drove up in her van, asking if we needed water and how we were doing. We gave a thumbs up and she sped off in search of other runners. 

Those were the only clouds seen all day.....
Aid station #4(~1710): We shuffled into the tent for more ice, more potatoes and salt, and I used my stick to try and loosen the cramps. I was feeling frustrated because I wasn't sore, with only a small ache near my right inner Achilles, but I couldn't stave off the cramping. We set off again, committed to finishing together and with Gordon on the look-out for other runners coming from the rear (we had heard that the first 100-mile runner was on his way). The sun started its downward arc, but that gave us no respite from its heat.

Miles 41.4-50: I again attempted a run/walk pattern but the muscles kept seizing and I settled for a full-on, step-it-out military march pace, head down, shoulders back and no desire to slow down. We turned onto another gravel road, lined by aspens and oaks, which steadily inclined, the trees falling away to pastures of cows and horses. The gravel was large and rocky, with edges of which could be felt through my shoes. We saw a figure in the distance; it was Jay, stopped at his support vehicle. He dipped behind the crest of the slope and disappeared. I tried to run again. I cramped. 

The gravel road lured us to an asphalt crossing, but we were cruelly directed across it, continuing on the gravel for another two miles. Gordon was the perfect companion, encouraging and understanding but also never letting me fall off pace. Just as we approached the stop sign signalling the final right turn, the first 100-miler runner passed us, Grant Maughan, on his way to break the course record by almost 30 minutes. We cheered him on and I tried to run again. 

We made the turn, heading directly into town with 2.5 miles left in the race. I couldn't hold the run and Gordon said, "Are you kidding? I have never walked this fast in my life. We are moving." The sun began its sleepy descent, casting a golden glow and throwing town lights into relief. We saw the sole town stop light, and I focused on the interim markers as it drew closer, blinking green to yellow to red. 

At about 200 yds to go, I turned to Gordon and said, "One last try?" He said, "Hell, yes, you have to run to the finish!" I picked up my legs and as soon as I strode, I felt it cramp. I kept going, keeping an off-syncopation stride but somehow "running" to the line. 

Mile 50 (~1921): Lisa and Jay were there to greet me with hugs and photos and the amazing words - FIRST WOMAN FINISHER! (7th place overall)

The finish in 10 hours, 21 minutes. 
Gordon, who got me through those last miles. 
Sunburned and happy to be done.
Fairy bracelet on the left arm above the watch. 

A HUGE thank you to Lisa & Jay Batchen, my dear friends who invited me to run this race. Thank you for a wonderfully executed race, a superb group of volunteers and race support folks and for believing in me. Thank you for letting me share my story, my fundraising efforts and my adventure with you. You guys are amazing. 

19 September 2014

The mighty YT50: In the Hole

I landed in Jackson Hole yesterday to overcast skies and stormy weather which clouds obstructed the sweeping view normally afforded those arriving in Teton Valley. As I stepped onto the tarmac, this was my view:

Nonetheless, I was stoked to be here, for both the race and for seeing good friends. My longtime buddy, Xan, picked me up at the airport and we trekked over to Dornan's, a great spot nestled up against the Snake River in Teton National Park, and noshed on salad and pizza while watching the storm pass over the peaks. 

Afterwards, it was off to rest for the night at his digs. This was my view the next morning. The rest of the day was spent in race prep and taking in the scenery. 

And in case you thought I was kidding about the whole bear spray thing, this was in the window of one of the provisions shops in town:

Race goes off at 0900MT tomorrow!

17 September 2014

How's your Constitution?

Just a small historical note for all you Americans out there - today is National Constitution Day.

This is the day in 1787 that the Constitution was signed and ratified, formalizing the nation's government and decreeing that all who are born within the United States shall be citizens.

If you haven't read it lately (or at all), here is the first paragraph you still should have heard:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

Here two links to take you the rest of the way: The Constitution and Constitution Day. (Don't forget that the Bill of Rights is actually amendments 1-10 and not separate from the rest.)

Your history and civics lesson for the day. Boom.

16 September 2014

The mighty YT50: Pickle juice & bear spray

As I read through the YT50 race director's preparation emails and the website race page information, I found a few gems:

 - We have to tell you to carry bear spray for your own safety.
 - All racers, crew and staff must display courtesy, good taste, decorum, and sportsmanship at all times. Nudity is specifically not allowed, especially in a snowstorm.
 - Don't pet the buffaloes.
 - Watch out for cows on the road.
- All runners must move forward on the course under their own power without any additional assistance. This includes drafting, the use of any type of trekking pole or walking stick, or any other form of physical assistance from another person or mechanical device. (Soooooo.....the roller blades are out?)

I also get to wear a whole outfit of "glow gear" - because a glo-belt will not suffice for scaring off bears, apparently - which consists of two flashing lights, one front and one back, and a full reflective vest. And you thought the Marine base PT rules were strict! (Here's the full list of rules and regulations.)

I am excited for the race, and I have to say, grateful that I am only running 50 miles of it. I don't think my legs are quite ready for 100 miles, especially at altitude. Below is the course overview, winding through a portion of the Targhee-Caribou National Forest, through some farmland and into Driggs, ID. The 50-miler starts just below 6000' MSL and ends just about 6000' MSL (not AGL, mind you, for all you pilots out there), dipping back down to around 5200' MSL early on, like mile 8, and then I get to steadily climb back up.  Thankfully, while there are three rated climbs on my run, they are only 4s and 5s - whew!
(Click to enlarge)
I am selecting what to pack for food along the way as well as which racing gear to bring. I have my GU Chomps, Stinger Waffles (now in ginger!), and my electrolyte capsules, which I'll pack, but most of my distance race food doesn't come in packages. Pickle juice will be obtained in Jackson Hole, as will the potatoes, chicken broth and rice, and stuff for mac'n'cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I like the Bolt Farms soy protein smoothies and the Sweet Leaf's Mint & Honey iced tea in addition to water. I am sure that some of the hydration drinks that I used to drink back in the day as a triathlete have been greatly improved upon and probably worth trying again, but I just haven't found myself able to stomach the gritty feel and the chemically taste, even with some of the "natural" ones. (I am open to suggestions if anyone has something they love.)

What else for the gear list? K-tape, IcyHot, hand-held H2O bottle, running visor, sunscreen, shades, my rolling stick, ibuprofen, compression calf sleeves and recovery socks and running gear to take me from the low 70s to the low 40s (if I end up taking a REALLY long time to finish). And lip balm, totally key. I really dislike when my lips feel dry while I'm running.

Weird, I know, add it to the list.

14 September 2014

The Invictus Games

I've been following the Invictus Games this week, watching the results and how Team USA is doing. If you're unfamiliar, the games are

"an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women. Teams will come from the armed forces of nations that have served alongside each other. The Games will use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation, and generate a wider understanding and respect of those who serve their country. The event, which is championed by Prince Harry, will be a celebration of resilience and passion. 

The Games will shine a spotlight on Armed Forces personnel and veterans who have put their lives on the line for their country demonstrating how they and their families are valued, respected and supported. For competitors, it will offer a memorable, inspiring and energising experience in their journey of recovery. Over 400 competitors from 13 nations will take part in the Invictus Games."
(from the IG website)

I also have been interested because a friend is there: Major Richard "Trainwreck" Burkett - we were in the same squadron from 2009-2010 - and he won gold this week in archery, specifically compound bow. He was involved in an aviation mishap in Morocco in March 2012 and ended up at Walter Reed in Bethesda, where, completely coincidentally, my sister was assigned as his family liaison for a time. I remember several conversations we had during his recovery as well as what he was hoping to do next in the Corps. I am incredibly proud of him for his determination as well as am immensely grateful that the games have given him the chance to do something he loves.

At the rounds (photo: Victoria Long)
Medal ceremony - Maj Burkett is on the right. (photo: IG website)
Shooting at an earlier competition in support of fallen SEAL,
CPO C. Campbell  (photo LCpl Jackeline M. Perez Rivera) 
The USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment's Facebook page has been covering the games and Team USA in depth. Take a look if you get a chance. Humbling and inspiring and another reason for me to have undertaken this fundraising endeavor.

(Just another reminder for me how essential organizations like the Semper Fi Fund, MARSOC Foundation as well as the USMC WWR are in aiding those who have been injured in service and how they assist in getting those Marines and Sailors back to their lives. As a reminder, you can donate here to help support these organizations. No amount is too small.) 

12 September 2014

The mighty YT50: Flashback Friday

In one week, I will be driving the overpass from Jackson Hole, WY to Driggs, ID in preparation for the Yellowstone Teton 50-miler, race no. 5 in the series. The race is run by Dreamchaser Events, owned by my dear friends Lisa Smith-Batchen & Jay Batchen. (You may recognize her name from an earlier blog post or the article in Runner's World about her recent Quad Badwater.) The 50 and 100 mile-races go through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, ending in the foothills of the Tetons in Idaho.

I will post more about the race this weekend, there are some fun facts about the course and the area that I'd like to share but today is Flashback Friday! One of my WRRC buds asked me last weekend why I do a FBF rather than a TBT; the primary reason is that because I have flashbacks, of the clinical sort, with respect to my injuries (Pts. One and Two) and the resulting trauma.

During the four days of internal bleeding/open abdomen, although I was given drugs to assist in "erasing" the memory of what I was going through, my mind was still operating quite diligently. How do I know this? When I finally awoke and had regained some of my faculties, K. showed me notecards and sheets of paper on which I had asked questions regarding what was happening, where our daughter was, whether I would fly again, where the family was and what my odds of survival were. I asked 50/50?.  (For the record, the doctors gave me much worse odds and my CO at the time briefed his staff for casualty assistance prep and the aftermath).

In case you are unfamiliar, if a person is intubated (or has other tubes inserted into their bodies), the normal reaction of the body is to remove the object; so, despite being sedated, I would have reached to pull out all my tubes, one of which went directly to my heart, so my wrists were strapped down. K. noticed me waving my hand around and initially thought I wanted to hold his hand, but when I started using my index finger to write, he got a Sharpie and some paper. I thus communicated with him throughout the ordeal, recognizing voices and asking who was there, even as they kept me "unconscious". The most harrowing moment for him came after one of the last pulmonary failures when they brought me back.

I asked, "Am I alive?"

So, even though I wasn't supposed to remember, I do. And it has caused some seriously difficult moments. I have been through a run of prescription drugs which did nothing but impair my daily functioning and the sleeping drugs just increased the nightmares. I have weaned myself off the drugs and have been working to rewire how my brain reacts when a flashback occurs and part of it is replacing the horrific memory with a positive one, even if it's completely unrelated. Part of that is my FBF post, to remember moments of happiness, and kickstart my brain to focus on those moments rather than spiral into the abyss. Does it always work? No. Is it infinitely better than being drugged out and losing who I am to erase a trauma? Yes.

Your pics for today are seriously old school, trips to Central Park with my sister when we were but young'uns. The last pic is the Bubbaloo and I'm just gonna throw out that I see some family resemblence. Have a great Friday!

Me and my sister doing who knows what but getting a kick out of it!
Feeding the geese and ducks, of course!
Carriage ride!
The Bubbaloo this summer!
Yep, he's mine alright...

10 September 2014

On mental toughness

Back in college, when I was running under the direction of the venerable John Babington, he had a saying - It's not just your legs, it's your head. Mental toughness, ladies. I just thought he meant get through the workout without whining. It was even on our team sweatshirts, the MT, that thing that would get you through the lung pain and leg agony of training and competing to your maximum level.
I still have my CC sweatshirt. Damn straight.
I don't believe I had any great MT at that time; while I loved running, my emotions sometimes overcame my physical self: my senior year we had a race which fell on the one-year anniversary of my father's death and I tried to use it as motivation, knowing that his wish was for me to live greatly and passionately in all my endeavors. Instead, the memory of him led me to tears, which led me to not be able to breathe properly and eventually, the only voluntary DNF of my racing career. So much for mind over matter.

Twenty years on, I am able to say that I am mentally tough. It was an accumulation of both difficult circumstances as well as my own desires to persist (stubbornness, perhaps?) that have allowed me to understand how crucial my mindset is with respect to achievement, both physically and professionally. It is not that I seek perfection or to be the best of anything, which should not be interpreted to mean that I don't set the bar high; it is that I will not allow any circumstance to determine my fate. I alone will do that.

What does MT mean to me? It means getting back up. It means pushing through whatever limits you thought were there, even when every ounce of your being says stop. It means that sometimes you have to be a self-involved stoic and ignore external distractions in pursuit of your aims. It means that physical discomfort is not a factor. It means that even if the tears flow, you move forward and don't repeat that thing that brought the tears in the first place. It means saying, "I will" instead of "I don't know if I can."

There have been a spate of running articles (see below) this past year recently about how the mind can aid or detract from your ability to compete at your potential. Throughout my military career, I also referenced many articles about MT and how to optimize it as a pilot and Marine and ultimately, how to use it to recover from injury. (Incidentally, the Marine Corps has developed several MT/resiliency programs to help train Marines for combat - OSCAR and RAPTOR.) I think that regardless of what your goal is, MT is vital, because there will be roadblocks, things out of your control, moments of failure and days when everything goes to shit. And if you can tell yourself to get up, keep moving, keep fighting the good fight and maintaining your focus - then you've got MT.

1) Competitor Magazine: Comfort in discomfort: why mental practice matters
2) Competitor Magazine: The seven traits of mentally tough runners
3) Runner's World: Train your brain to run your best
4) Competitor Magazine: Keys to running with mental toughness

08 September 2014

I say motivated, you say....

I was able to sneak in an easy 3.5 miles this morning after dropping off the munchkins at school and made it to my car just before the skies opened up and heavy sheets of rain came down. I am going to say that it's humid if your cheeks and elbows are sweating. It was a nice way to start my day.

After the doldrums of August, I am rejuvenated. Not because I have more energy or a renewed sense of purpose, but I have just decided that I can't NOT fight the good fight. (Yes, I know, double negative.) I have a lot on my plate - the LSAT is in three weeks, my next race is in two, I am preparing for a new PEB with the DoD which will happen between now and the Marine Corps Marathon in October, law school admissions open mid-September and I still have all the everyday life items of making sure the munchkins know they are loved and cherished every day (and fed and bathed, you know, the basics).

It's all a work in progress, but that's the key: progress. It won't get all done in one day, but it will get done. And it will get done well. Motivation is a funny thing - it is not based on what we want in the moment, but on how hard we are willing to work to achieve the desired end-state in the future (what some of us would call 'goals'). I only know that I am refocused and am keying in on two major things: what I need today and what I want tomorrow.

What's that saying? Oh yes.....

Have a great Monday!

05 September 2014

Mileage: AUGUST

August mileage is posted; numbers are creeping up! 

Thought for the day: 
'We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.' 
- Randy Pausch

Today's Flashback Friday sees me in the late summer of '95, right before I went back to school.....

That was a seersucker vest...sweetness.
So, there I was, on the Esplanade,
rockin' the oversized stripes.

04 September 2014

Hacking my way through

In some ways I wish I wasn't adamant about putting up the good fight, sometimes I wish I could just let it slide and accept defeat, even against principle. But I can't, and today was a reminder to me that the injuries I received while serving, while different in nature and circumstance, are no less severe in their consequence and aftermath than those of some of my fellow Marines who were injured in combat. I make no direct correlation to the types of injuries, only the effects and affects, if you will. 

Apparently, if you can get off your ass, you are good to go. 
When I went through the disability evaluation process with the DoD the first time, one of the line officers determining my case actually said to me, "Well, my wife had four c-sections and she never had a problem," indicative of the mindset of many of those who've read my case files and have filed my injuries away under 'pregnancy complications' rather than 'surgical error resulting in massive internal bleeding and full pulmonary failure'. I also have heard, "Well, you look great, so I don't get how you could be badly injured," which feels just like a slap in the face, as though my working extremely hard to recover and maintain some level of fitness and gain strength must mean that somehow, I am not massively limited.  I was also directly told today that my being a woman who was not injured in combat may result in prejudicial decisions against me by those reviewing my case. Awesome. And last, when I was on medication, it resulted in quite unfortunate side effects, including memory loss, so I have weaned myself away from it so I have all my faculties, good and bad; this has become a sticking point wherein governmental administrative officials determined I must be greatly improved if I am not medicated. I won't go there with my perspective on this. 

So, here I am again, in offices and cubicles, laying out my case to lawyers and veterans' service organizations, with the documentation to back it up, that states that their conclusions are once again wrong. I will be asking my doctors again for additional statements to corroborate their original letters and assessments and then, most likely, I will be making trips to Winston-Salem and Washington, D.C. to stand in front of administrators and staff officers and plead my case that I should be measured against me, my previous abilities across the board and where I am now, not as a number, not as a non-combat injury statistic and certainly not as a woman, but as an officer of Marines who is no longer able to serve. I hope it is enough. 

02 September 2014

A little R'n'R: Split the negative

I made it up to the Hampton Roads area late Friday evening and quickly settled in with Stacy M. (who is stationed up in Norfolk and with whom I deployed twice), catching up on the minutae over Thai food and ice cream. Saturday morning was a 0530 wake-up as she was running the 1-mile Run in the Sand. This is where I discovered that I had packed two left shoes, as my two pairs of Brooks Ghosts are the same color, they are numbered 1 and 2, and I somehow grabbed both left ones. Sigh. So, I grabbed my Brooks Cadence, in which I was planning on racing. I also searched in vain for the roll of Rock Tape purchased the day before as well as my IcyHot roll-on and ibuprofen. Seriously?

It was a coolish 75F with overcast skies and a nice breeze at Virginia Beach. (Don't you love when you find the absolute best parking spot? We did, halfway between the start and the expo.) Stacy shooed me away to my shake-out run and went to the start line. I trotted off down the boardwalk, testing the left calf and right Achilles, I had slid a compression sleeve over my left calf in the absence of tape. A little tender on the Achilles tendon as I started but by a mile in, it had warmed up. I kept the pace easy and loose, just getting the blood flowing through the legs; turning around where the boardwalk ended and as I cruised back up, I checked on the sand racers, scanning for Stacy. I did not see her; however, I was happily surprised by the sight of Sabina and Maurice C. running with their kids - Sabina was the Family Readiness Officer (FRO) at my final unit and Maurice is a GySgt and was an instructor in that same unit. Awesome folks and it was really nice to see them. 
The C-crew after the Sand Dash
Stacy finished and immediately said, "Well, that's done." Ok, she said it with a few more expletives, but I'm taking liberties and editing. We walked back to the car, executed a deck change, grabbed a quick breakfast and made our way to the expo. Mission: collect bibs, peruse shoes and find kinesio tape. We accomplished two of three - the only K tape sold was in precut strips (we found some later at a sports store). We did meet a really neat guy at the Brooks shoe booth, Mike from Running Etc., and he was both knowledgeable and extremely helpful. They didn't have the shoes I was looking for in my size, so he told me to come to the store on Monday and he'd help me out. How cool is that?  After that, it was back to rest and relax until dinner at Sideshow's, which we did later that evening before retiring early for a 0430 race-day wake-up.
Looks like I need to do more sit-ups....oh wait....
Pre-race dinner w/Sideshow and family...lots of love here.
 Race day greeted us with 78F, 89% humidity and no clouds. Sweet. We parked at the Farm Bureau amphitheatre, hopped on a start shuttle bus and arrived at the start with about 45 minutes to the horn. I debated wearing the sleeve on the left calf and finally pulled it on over the tape. I left the right leg bare. I got some looks. I warmed up briefly and only squeezed myself into the rear of the corral behind my assigned corral (4 instead of 3) with about five minutes to the start. I was planning on an easy training run.

Below are my splits with my thoughts through the miles:
Mile 1: 8:38 - Go slow, take it easy. Holy cow, is that guy already walking?
Mile 2: 8:33 - Ok, this is good. My word, this feels slow.
Mile 3: 8:14 - This is nice, getting into a groove. That band was pretty decent. That cop was cute.
Mile 4: 8:17 - Am I going too fast? Where's that dude that I started with? Gatorade or water? Water.
Mile 5: 8:21 - Slow down, you've got eight to go. Oh, there he is. There he goes.
Mile 6: 8:26 - Ok, this still feels way too easy. It's supposed to, silly, training, remember?
Mile 7: 8:34 - Gatorade. I dislike walking to drink this. Yes, I'll take another.
Mile 8: 8:22 - I'm going to pick it up a bit and see what happens. Oh hey! Hi, Mike!
Mile 9: 8:19 - Ok, I am going to slowly pick it up. Oh hey, there's that guy from the start again. You coming with? No?
Mile 10: 8:17 - Nice, wonder if I should make it hurt a little. That band's singer was really pitchy. Wait, is my K-tape peeling off my Achilles?
Mile 11: 8:10 - C'mon, lady, stay with me, I could use a pacer. No, no, don't fall off. Shoot. Ok, all me.
Mile 12: 8:19 - Aaaand, I'm off-pace. My shoes are squishing. Stride, slap, stride, slap. My own tape rhythm, great.
Mile 13: 8:02 - I am channeling Ed Eyestone on this overpass. Here comes the boardwalk. I ran this section yesterday, dude, don't even try and pass me. Wait, you sound Scottish...are you Scottish? You still can't pass me. That's right, get back. All y'all get back.
Mile 13.1: 7:22 - Ok, this officially hurts a little.

Watch finish: 1:49:46 (13.17m) / Chip finish: 1:49:52 (13.1m). These will never match, but that's pretty good.
Results: AG: 9/618; Women: 101/4353; OA: 473/7752. Not bad for no speed work for the month, no running for almost two weeks and nursing an injury. Negative split race. Boom. (Actual race pics here.) Most inspirational people on the course? The Team Hoyt and Ainsley's Angels racers.

Stacy beat her planned time by three minutes and after some confusion as to where to catch the shuttle back, we made it to Sideshow's for post-race libations and recovery on the beach. Excellent way to spend a weekend.
Obligatory post-race pic.
Libations - that may or may not be a fantastic tequila concoction. 
The view accompanying the drinks. 
Where we cooled off and relaxed. 
 P.S. I did go to Running Etc. on Monday and found the shoes I was looking for and walked away extremely happy - what a great store, staff and community support. If you're in the Norfolk/Viriginia Beach area, they have two stores and I highly recommend them!