Sunday, January 26, 2020

HURT100, long run, lots to say...

"And when you get to where you're going, turn around and help her too.  For there was a time, not long ago, when she was you."

I feel as if I owe it to the girl who lands among this long winded post in her search for "Running after surgery" or "Can you run far after you break yourself?" and my favorite, "Will I ever be me again?".  Google was my best friend while on bed rest, hoping for hope. Hoping to read positive stories about triumph and pain that goes away. Googling for hope turned out to be a real sight for sore to you girl, here is my story, full of hope.

7weeks out from my dream race, HURT100, I broke my leg in a trail race.  Sitting in ER I asked the doctor if I could still make it to the race, because bones heal in 4-6weeks, right?  He laughed, told me miracles happen.  Turned out I couldn't even make it over to the race to cheer on my friends or crutch around volunteering. My break landed me with a little plate and 9 pins, which held the bones back in place beautifully.  But the ligament damage & a shard of bone that spiraled to the back of my leg needed more attention and bed...peeing in a husband and son tending to me. Dear Girl, that part is another story, you will learn to depend on others and lean in to love with all pride and ego aside.

Put up a goal.  

I put HURT100 2020 on my mirror, I had exactly a year to go from bed rest, to crutches, to learning to walk in physical therapy, to rehab & finding motion again, to jogging, to running.  Every google story (including my own doctor) said it would be roughly 11 months or more till I'd be running again.  One doctor even told me I'd most likely never run that far again, I never saw that doctor again, proclaiming she was bad for my health. That's your first step-surround yourself with only the best for your mental health!  From there, every day was a GIFT because it was a day closer to running, and that's exactly how you have to fix your focus. Everyday a day closer...

And then I fought daily to find new normals.  Dear Girl, remember, comparison is the thief of joy.  You will have to find ways to poke around problems until you find a solution to how you can enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going. You aren't the same and maybe won't be the same.

With every new baby step forward I believed deeper in my goal of running 100 miles again.  Oh, but Dear Girl, remember what I told you, focus on yourself in the here and now because I was tempted to peek back at the once strong runner I was, the fearless girl who felt she could run forever and would, all by herself sometimes deep into the valleys.  When you are struggling just to wiggle toes and you lose all the feeling in the top of your foot, it is not a "sign" you should change your goal, it means you spend more time on those redundant PT drills of trying to pick up a towel with your big toe and the guy next to it until you can do it. And you keep your hope, whatever you do, hold hope.

3 months post surgery I did my first race, was a race and I was there.  I had just learned to walk again and walked the 5k of a trail race. It was the beginning of "running screwed."  From the start of this whole mess I had to laugh at myself, having the hubs bathe me, crying during physical therapy because I thought I was being given impossible tasks, putting pride aside with all the support that was given to me that I didn't know how to take-laugh, Girl, just laugh.  So, I named my fatty cankle "Runty", she was my new friend, and I'd run got better once I started breathing life and hope to difficult to navigate situations. Um... I think I was last in that walk and I was okay with it.  You will be OKAY, too.  Because being last is so much better than being on the side lines of a life you once enjoyed...remember, new normals.

Around 6 months I was jogging!  Like for real jogging!  I made it up to 10 miles (just once! With walk breaks) and declared that enough to be able to race a half ironman!  You see, if your ultimate goal is 100 miles you do all these other things on the way to the goal that will test your limits, mentally as well as physically.  I thought that would be a great idea.  Dear Girl, I hope you in no way feel like your goal is minimal compared to a 100 mile run, it is NOT.  The point of this is to encourage you to not wait until you think you are ready to begin again. Jump right in and start the journey back to where you hope to return. Baby steps.  The half ironman was really hard!  I questioned my sanity 100 times, I cried, I quit (literally, walked off the course) but then I was encouraged back on the course and finished.  Barely.  As luck would have it, the very man who carried my broken self down the trail after falling was the very man who ran me across the finish line of that half ironman.  It was my longest run since breaking myself and with it came all shades of emotions.  Believe me, it is not always rainbows on the road to recovery.  That race was poop brown! And black with a mix of grey tint. It was just so ugly. Every demon came to demoralize me..."You will never run far again." and the pain, oh the pain!  I was certain the pins were popping out!  But we crossed a finish line and it became the start of crossing many more finish lines...again.

Over the next 6 months I had to go from 10 miles to 100...without getting an injury from over-training, with no feeling in the top of my foot, only minimal motion in the ankle, oh, and the real kicker-on a trail.  I was only jogging the roads so far because the ligaments had yet to reach a place of "readiness" to take on uneven surfaces. Physical therapy was my new hang out! And I loved it!  You better learn to love whatever it is you must do, not what you want to do.  Attitude is everything and I was just so happy to be running. 

2 months later I found out I was actually accepted into HURT100.  Isn't that funny?  My goal wasn't even something certain because we have to enter a lottery then wait...  Once I was "in" I ran every single race I could find on the island!  2 marathons, a couple half marathons, short trail races, and with each one I was slowly getting stronger. I never reached any previous "fast times" you may or may not.  Just keep reminding yourself you are setting new Personal Records!  These will be your best times with this newly put together body part of yours.  If people beat you, do me a favor and smile with a genuine heart, if you pass people, be genuine and wish them well. I'm not sure where you land among a crowd of runners but I do know it is absolutely fair to be consumed with feelings of wanting to win or wanting to simply finish. Just don't beat yourself up for not accomplishing either-because wining and finishing may not come as easy as it once was, whatever your level was.  

2019 was my year of "just wanting to finish".  Some races a finish was no problem, others it was that same monkey on my back telling me it's too soon to be running or trying to go fast. Be careful what you read because almost all post-surgery stories (and doctors) warn against almost everything thing I did-listen to your doctors, I clung to the words of my doctors and they moved mountains for me.  During Ohi'a Volcano Half Marathon the voices were loud again and violent. I entertained asking for a ride back to the finish (and I wasn't even in last place this time!) I just kept hearing echos of those before losing the pins, re-breaking the bones, I was hearing the ligaments pop over and over in my head the way I heard them during my fall (I hope you don't have post trauma flashbacks). I tried to be brave but I went weak.  I hurt. My ankle hurt and I limped through the finish.  But I finished. I just wanted to finish everything I started but realized that might even be too big a goal for year one. After that race I had another check-up, ultrasounds and x-rays all said I'm GOLDEN on the road to recovery, as for the pain, it was a new normal, arthritis had set in, the cold makes my bones ache where the plate and pins are set, and the nerve damage is still sorting itself out...but I was normal.

Then came my big test for HURT100...

Peacock 55 miler...what the heck!?  That race was a giant puke fest, full of crawling and crying.  And demons, "You can hardly finish a 55 mile race, how will you make 100?!"  Let me just tell you, the voices will attack you harder and more loudly the closer you get to reaching your goal.  Don't ask me why, but they sound real and you may be tempted to entertain them-don't.  Search for something positive in the darkness.  That race left me in a puddle of concern as just about everything that could go south did...but there were 2 things that left me with hope.  My ankle didn't hurt and I had wonderful people pulling for me, like those who helped me make it to the finish.  I just had to get my mileage up and learn to eat on the run again.  3 months to go, I could do it.

2 weeks before the race I decided to run a 50k.  This was actually for a friend.  In fact, I found the more you do something for others and take focus off yourself the less you will see the struggles.  Hilo to Volcano was for our friend Sylvia who was hit by a car during a training run.  I won't go into that, but a couple weeks before the race she was the one who encouraged me to do it.  Not many think it's wise to run 31 miles soon before a 100 mile race but she understood my leg, heart, and mind needed it.  I ran for her. It was a beautiful day in many, many ways.  All my loose ends got wrapped up and I was now emotionally ready for HURT100.  Dear Girl, the point of that thought is this, sometimes you will have to do things others may not understand.  Whatever that may be, listen to your heart and take a page from my story, this is your healing and it doesn't have to reflect anything other than your heart and goals. You do you.  By now I also hope your demons have left you, mine finally left me after nearly a year of bad dreams and confidence crushing ping pong ball games I played with them.

Now to HURT100...

I was so excited.  Nothing but gratitude lingered within me.  It all came together, a full year later from my fall, all the people who helped me.  My family.  My students.  My doctors who were pulling for me (and shocked I was running long before Scientific healing said I would/should). The HURT Ohana who welcomed me back.  My training partners. My crew who came to support me. The list was long and the race went like this...

Loop 1, miles 0-20.
Home.  I felt so at home on the trails, as if I was never taken from them.  I breezed the first loop, calm and thankful.  It was my loop to just soak up the moments, to take it all in.  Hug the volunteers, talk with other runners, smile and laugh.  It was nothing but sheer happiness that first loop. A finish never felt like a question.

Loop 2, miles 20-40.
Love.  I was feeling so much love.  My husband was out there as a race photographer, I would stop to hug and kiss him and say, "Do you believe we are doing this!?"  We had tears because we shared the same long road back to this moment.  I shared this loop with Suzanna Bon.  She is a trail running legend who went on to take 2nd place.  She has been running this sport for many, many years.  Setting course records and accomplishing things I'd only ever dreamed of.  She's also 55 years old and reminded me that women can go far into this sport later in life.  It was as if I had my own personal escort through the mind of one of the best trail runners sport has held complete with hope on my next chapter of running.  Again, a finish was never in question.  

Loop 3, miles 40-60. 
Rodeo.  At mile 47 I got to pick up Nick Muragin, a Big Island friend.  I've actually never ran with him so right out the gate I asked him about rodeo...he used to ride bulls professionally and I thought having been a barrel rider during college days we'd have something to talk about. Pff!  We never shut up!  The loop flew by!  And I was over an hour stronger/quicker than my first HURT100 in 2018!  That loop was my favorite loop of the race.  We kept passing Mark (Sylvia's husband), he would remind me to "Stay happy" and I was.  I was running happy-happy to be in my favorite race in the world, happy to be feeling so strong.  Happy I had a crew over here to help me.  Initially I wasn't going to have any crew support because I didn't want to let anyone down.  I was afraid I'd be too slow or not be able to make it.  That was pride & fear again, but we all know fear is a liar and pride is a soul sucking thief. Near the end of loop 3 I started to get really tired. The midnight to 4am miles are absolutely ugly for this woman who enjoys 8:30pm bedtimes! I just wanted a small nap-Nick kept me going and someone gave me caffeine gum. It got better after that and the fun was back on...a finish still never felt like a question.

Loop 4, miles 60-80.
In the woods.  I had Grant Miller now, he's probably the happiest guy I know and his help came when I was literally stuck in the woods. I've shared so many miles with Grant over the years so I could let my guard down and keep it real.  From about mile 67-80 we went from good to questioning a finish.  I don't remember much of this loop, not because my head wasn't there, I just spent so much energy trying to rationalize how on Earth I'd get through this loop because my leg was now hurting.  I kept thinking of Sylvia, she loved this race and always ran herself into places of deep hurt.  The swelling was now pouring out of my shoe and twinges of sharp pain would shoot up the side of my leg.  I'd scream then laugh, laugh because I was happy and felt good everywhere else, scream because I was scared.  Grant and I came to terms (The doctors we are! Not!) that I couldn't hurt myself any worse than it was so I should keep going...that was a 3am thought, I laugh thinking about it now.  He also said nobody would blame me if I stopped, I mean I shouldn't even be in the race this soon after the injury. Thought two was stupid.  Too many people pulled for me, did so much for me, believed in me.  With that we made it back to the Nature Center and did some the pace I was going I'd finish the race with 4 minutes to spare...the 36 hour cut off was closing in.

Loop 5, miles 80-100.
Ouch. Just ouch.  I picked up Kelly Muragin now and her little hula Filipino tita self became my trail angel!  We danced through the sections we could with girl talk and laughter that took my mind off the worries of being able to finish.  Her tuff-love became a pain killer for every moment I felt like crying.  I never felt sorry for myself out there, she never let me,  I just didn't know how to move any faster than I could.  We would close in on the cut off points with hardly any room (in time) to spare.  My mind was strong, my energy was strong, my heart was willing, but every step slowly got worse.  I stopped looking down.  I wanted to loosen my shoe laces so badly because the swelling was so tight in my shoe but I was afraid to look.  All I wanted was a fun loop 5 with Kelly because she loves the trails like I do and we both love to get lost from our real lives deep within the woods.  In many ways we are similar, in our marriages, our motherhood, our friendships. Despite being unable to run through the woods and finish the way I'd dreamed of finishing I never had to say a word, unspoken words she understood and she became my trail angel.  We did finish in time, 34 minutes and 1 second to spare.  I hugged her, hugged my husband, hugged Nick, hugged Jacob my training partner, hugged anyone willing to hug me, I just wanted to keep hugging people because it helped me feel safe.

HURT100 is such a special race and by far my favorite.  From the incredible people, both volunteers and race directors, to the runners themselves and their families who become your family out there, it is just so incredible to will the body and mind forward beyond places it's never gone before.  My race landed me back in the doctors office, your goal Dear Girl, might put you back there, too.  I have one question for you, only you can answer it, is your goal worth it?  

All my x-rays and results came back promising many beautiful years running screwed, as we decided despite some pains and tugs of pins, it's better for me (at least for now) to leave all my hardware in. That is something you may face one day-to keep your "screwed" life or not.  As for new goals, I have put all the races I want to do this year on a map and once again, they all lead me back to HURT100...

My year towards HURT100 captured in photos... 

 The fall down at Kualoa, Duane and another pair of muscles carry me down the hill.

  Bed rest done, PT bound!  

Always worked very hard in PT, rehab, and mobility exercises...hehehe
Hearts and Trails trail run, I did the 5k, walk.  Janet was part of my crew for HURT100 (and the race director of Hearts and Trails).

 First run back!  5k, I started in the back, 5 minutes after the gun went off because I was scared of anyone bumping into me.  One of the original HURT100 guys is a local on our island, seeing him gave me all the motivation I needed to get back running again.
With Duane, again.  He helped me to the finish line of Honu Half Ironman.
 First Marathon back.  Kainoa was so worried, he hung at the finish line for me all race and ran through with me.  We won the thing, no idea how it happened but it felt so good to run 26 miles again!  My longest run since the break and sharing it with Kainoa was the best gift of all.

 My brother Kawika took me on my first trail run back!  And more trail runs after that.  I actually crawled in some sections, my ankle wasn't ready for the uneven surfaces and just wasn't bending YET in ways it needed to.  On this day the road felt super long but being on a trail was medicine to my heart and soul.

 My first run back to Waimanu.  I got a rainbow the moment I saw her...I cried.  This is my favorite trail on the island so being here was like going home again.

 The day we found out we invited to HURT100!  Such a beautiful moment!

My Big Island trail sisters, these are the women responsible for helping me trust God in all of this.

 Peacock 55 finish line, Nate and his daughter brought me home.
My second marathon, the hubs at the finish line...I just love him and Kainoa for all they did for me this past year.

 And a month later another marathon shared with my trail sister from Maui!!  I just kept running every race I could find, not so much to race, but to start and finish things.  I needed to remember how to finish things I start.  My mind had a lot of healing to do after not having finished the race I broke myself.  I was 2 miles from the finish line and tried to run on that broken leg until I just couldn't take the pain any longer.
After the marathon we did a loop of HURT100 with Solange and Dana, our Oahu trail friends.  It was a great 50 mile run day and even better being on the HURT loop with friends and Mikey and Michelle.

 Hilo to volcano finish line... happy as I ever. Photo:  Mikey Brown
 Bib pick up for we go!  Photo: Mikey Brown

Loop1!  Photo:  Mikey Brown
Finish of loop 1 with Tiffany and Grant, man I was so thankful being out there!

Loop 2 with Suzanna and Bobby.  Photo: Brent Wong
Loop 3, my favorite loop and view!  I love Nu'uanu.  Photo: Gary Wang
More loop 3 with Suzanna. Photo:  Paul Smith
Finishing with Kelly...pain face.  Photo; Agusto DeCastro
Finished!  With Nick, Kelly, and Mikey.  Photo: Agusto DeCastro

If your're wondering what I ate for 100 miles and my first ever run over 26 miles that I didn't puke or bonk... Spring Energy, rice balls, potatoes, 2 bananas, salt and vinegar chips (lots of them!), water melons, green tea, Bee Boys apple cider vinegar, and Malama mushroom powder. Photo:  Brent Wong

If you read this far along then you are probably one of those people that have been with me all year long from fall to finish line.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for any kind word or gesture given to me.  While I don't exactly know how to pay everyone back for the kindness I do hope you feel thanked, as I do thank you so very much.  From my doctors at Kaiser, to my husband and son for being with me literally all day everyday, I just love you!  To Kawika, Jacob, and Justin, thank you for waiting on the trails for me, I know it was much slower but I needed you guys and appreciate you being there for me.  To the Millers for supporting my HURT100 dreams in all you did for me, including crewing, I love you like family.  To my crew with Nick and Kelly, JP giving us your home, Tiffy showing up how you always do, thank you for all you did to get me through 100 miles, it was never a solo adventure!  To my sisters Bron & Brooke-I love you.  To my parents, sorry I keep worrying you sick.  Thought you'd be used to it by now.  To Bee Boys, Spring Energy, Jesse Houlding, and Malama Mushrooms thank you so much for taking good care of me.  All the people who shared miles with me, thank you... they were my favorite miles of the year!  hehehe.  AND... to the HURT100 Ohana, you are by far, the best...words fall short on the life I have now that I have a trail life. I'm sure there is more to say but Kainoa wants to say bedtime prayers and I still like tucking in my 13 year old while he lets me...night!

Love Bree. xx

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