Once the snow stopped falling in late June (yes – late June!), I was able to get up in the mountains. Like way up. Like up to the continental divide at 12k feet. That’s where the magic happens.
I love hiking with a goal. A lake, a waterfall, a mountain top, or just a great view. The Rockies have all of that! I spent most of my time this summer hiking up to the divide. I enjoy the long hike, the workout, the views, and just doing something most people don’t do.
The wildflowers this summer have been spectacular. Every week, a new species has been in bloom. It often looks like a garden that’s been intentionally planted.
The colors, shapes, and sizes of the flowers are astounding and pictures just can’t do it justice.
Getting there though has not been easy. I’m still struggling with a high heart rate (170+) just hiking. It’s both frustrating and depressing. The good news/bad news is that my lab work is now perfect. PERFECT. So…what could possibly be the reason? Back to doing more research.
Meanwhile, more hiking, more views, more lakes, streams, waterfalls, and joy.
January 1, 2017. After a very tough 2016, full of a variety of mysterious health issues that turned out to be related to Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease, I resolved to get back on the running track again. I wanted to be driven to a goal, so with lofty exuberance, I signed up for the Bryce 50K in June and the Tushars Half in July. I dusted off an old training plan and, with new hope, I starting running again. Then I got my tests back.
Getting the thyroid balance right is not easy. Doctors raise your levels very slowly so as not to overdose you. Apparently, too much thyroid hormone can cause heart issues or even strokes. So you spend way too long being under-dosed. For most of 2016, I was tired, cold, foggy, and fat (10lbs up). It sucked but I was willing to be optimistic that I was on the path to getting better. Other people with Hashimoto’s seemed to be able to live active, normal lives so there was no reason I couldn’t.
In the fall of 2016, I was definitely better than I had been, but still not great. My running had slowed to just a couple days a week at a frustratingly slow pace. But, my thyroid results showed everything was fine! I will never forget my endocrinologist looking directly at me and saying, “I really don’t know what else I can do for you!” I was devastated. Was this my new life? Will I be low-energy and achy forever? This must be what it’s like when you get old. I should just accept it. But I can’t and didn’t.
Fortunately, I was listening to a podcast one day about functional medicine. It had always been in the back of my mind, but it isn’t covered by my insurance and I wasn’t yet fully convinced that Western medicine couldn’t fix me. Well, I was all over it now. I listened to the same podcast twice. Then I made the decision to give it a try. I pulled $2000 out of my savings and decided I would commit to at least 6 months to see how it goes. I made an appointment that same day.
Our first meeting was all about history. There was a lot I could say no to. But in a way, that made it harder. If there was something obvious in my past, the treatment path would be more clear. So, we started with two tests to see where I was at. The first is called a GI Map. It’s a test for virus, bacteria, and parasites in your intestines. They check for things like candida, norovirus, h. pylori, c.diff, e.coli, etc. The second test was a hormone test called the DUTCH test. It looks at your various hormone levels 4 times over the course of 24 hours.
The GI Map tests your poop. Collecting and prepping the sample is kinda gross. The DUTCH test looks at hormones in your pee. You pee on the paper and let it dry to send off. Then I waited and waited. It took over three weeks to get the results. And, the results were quite interesting! I don’t know why Western medicine does not run these as a matter of course. It turns out I tested positive for salmonella, staph, and giardia. What? I never drink unfiltered stream water. Oh, but my dog does… and he likes to lick faces. Crap. (no pun intended)
The hormone test was a bit more complicated. It showed overly high free cortisol on waking that then plummets all day. Additionally, my other hormones (estrogen, testosterone, progesterone) were all under range too. Turns out to be a sign of adrenal fatigue. Sounds easy – just let it rest. Unfortunately, it needs to rest a long time. Average recovery is 9 months. I also tested high for gluten antibodies and low for gut health. This means my intestines are as porous as can be, letting in all the bad stuff. Plus, now I have to be serious about no gluten. That really sucks.
All of this news really took the wind out of my sails. A few weeks after the results, I jogged about 7 miles on Saturday and hiked 8 miles on Sunday. Nothing hard and nothing at all compared to what I used to do. But, I paid for it for three days after. I had what is called “wired and tired” where I was anxious but couldn’t sleep, as if I had too much caffeine too late at night. Apparently, your body just does not have any reserves at all.
I am on a large handful of supplements three times a day, in addition to the normal vitamins and supplements. I have sworn off gluten, as hard as that may be. I am eating and sleeping well. I even started yoga. The supplements will treat safely and slowly versus the quick and dangerous of pharma drugs, especially the anti-parasite drugs. I’ve since gone way over my $2000 budget, but after being on these meds for nearly two months now, my need for thyroid meds has been cut in half and the nodules I have, that so many experience, have shrunk 25%!
Honestly, I’ve been afraid to face the elephant in the room–my lack of speed. As with any activity, we tend to spend more time on things we think we’re good at and less on those we think we aren’t. I’ve always given the excuse that because I’m not fast, I might as well go long. But, the opportunity came up to run a local 5K charity race and for once, I didn’t have to help put it on. The race organizer asked me how fast I thought I would run it and I offered up that I’d be lucky to break 30 minutes. Surprise surprise! I ran it in 28:33. That’s just under a 9 minute mile pace!
As it happens, in October I was extremely busy putting on the Huntsman World Senior Games Track and Field Meet, hosting over 400 athletes from all around the world for three days. Following on the heels of that was the Gold Butte Days 5K and Half Marathon races, along with the Gold Butte Days Festival, that I helped put on. So, not much time for running and certainly not any long runs. And, probably for the first time, I was forced into recovery – resting this body that has seen so many miles in such a short time.
Without a particular goal, I decided to start all over with a 50K training plan. Of course the first several weeks call for short runs of 2, 4, and 6 miles. At the same time, my training partner Gary decided he wants to build speed again (and thinks I should too), so we’ve started weekly track workouts as well. It all seems to be coming together nicely.
My road runs have gotten much faster. Instead of 10:30 to 11:00 pace, I’m at or under 10:00 pace. I even hit a 9:22 pace on a 2.2 mile run from my house, with a big hill. At the track, I’ve been running 200’s at around 50 seconds, which is pretty fast for me. And, this has all translated to a great trail run a few weeks ago to the Bunkerville Train. It’s about a 13 mile round trip with about 1800ft gain. I went up at about a 15 min pace and down at 11 min pace.
But, the speed work is sneaky tiring. You get home and feel fine. In fact, you can do several runs and feel fine. However, it soon catches up to you. After about three hard weeks of this, I’m feeling a bit beat up and tired. For once, my legs want to quit before my lungs.
I’ll press on, adding a few miles a week, looking for that next big goal.
“Can I pick up your foot?” “What?” “Can I pick up your foot?” “Why do you want to pick up my foot?” This was the confusing conversation we had as I was waking up after passing out for the first time ever.
My training plan called for a 10 mile run today. And, as usual, I’d much prefer dirt and trails to hard, hot pavement. I also knew it might be a few degrees cooler getting up near the hills rather than to run in town. See, it’s an unusually hot week this week and the daily highs are expected to be near or more than 110 degrees.
I made a plan to run my cross bajada 11 mile route at 6am. There’s over 1000 feet of climbing in the first 5 or so miles, so it’s a steady grind on the way up. Then the trail gets rocky and technical as it rolls across the bajada and turns back to a smooth, wide dirt road all the way back down. Though I had planned to go solo, as I’d done a number times before, my running buddy Gary decided he’d join me.
We met at 5:45am and drove out to the start of the route. “What’s your PR for this route?” he asked. “2:14,” I said. “Are you going to beat that today?” he replied. I told him maybe, not wanting to sound anything more or less than open-minded. You never know which runner you will show up as on any given day. Sometimes you feel unmotivated to run but end up running your best and other times you are psyched and get out there only to find your legs under full protest.
We set out just after 6am running at a pretty good pace. The interspersed walk breaks were short, and about 4-5 minutes apart. For some reason, it always takes me about 2-3 miles to get fully warmed up and able to hold a steady run. This route’s climb and Gary’s pace made that even longer. He quickly pulled away. I briefly caught him just before mile 4 but he pulled away again.
I was working hard and my stomach was not. Hard to say if it was the belly full of oatmeal or the full water bottle I downed before the start, but my stomach was not very happy. I kept sipping my water hoping that would help, but it didn’t.
I always love the technical part of the trail but this time it was difficult. I was breathing hard and my gut was wrenched, like someone punched me. I took way more walk breaks than I would have liked to but kept it up. The smooth downhill was a welcome but brief relief and with about a mile to go, Gary, who had turned up a side road for extra miles, passed me and yelled, “PR baby!” I knew I was making good time and it would be close but I was really beginning to struggle. I just focused on making nearby milestones and soon the car was in sight.
I finished in 2:18. Not a PR but a good time, nonetheless. You’d think that your body would breathe a sigh of relief not to be running anymore, only I now was having a hard time catching my breath. I walked around for about 3-4 minutes and started feeling even worse. I took a sip of my protein drink (always bring those for after long runs) and it didn’t sit well. Then my head started really spinning and I felt nauseous. “I REALLY don’t feel well,” I told Gary. So, I sat down on the ledge of the back seat of the car. My head started tingling. I almost told him I feel like I’m gonna pass out. But, I didn’t want to sound melodramatic and really didn’t believe it would happen.
Next thing I knew, he was asking me if he should pick up my feet. I couldn’t understand why he would ask that since I was sitting in the car. I opened my eyes and found myself sitting on the dirt! “How did I get here?” I asked, confused. “You just slumped down and slid out of the car. Did you hear me ask if you were still with me?” Gary asked. “Um…no?” I replied. I guess he asked me a couple times. It really was a strange feeling–just like I went to sleep for a few minutes and woke up.
I laid down in the backseat and put my feet up on the headrest. Immediately, I felt so much better.
So, was it because I:
ran too hard?
ran too fast?
ran on a full belly?
ran when it was too hot?
I’ll probably never know, but chalk that one up to yet another new experience.
PS. This might explain it. Also read that your blood pressure can drop after intense exercise. The two might be related.
When people are involved in high intensity exercise over at least several minutes, they require a LOT of blood flow to the working muscles. So the blood vessels in our muscles, especially the legs, dilate to accommodate all this increased blood. Now, our body depends on contraction of our leg muscles to push blood from the legs back up to the heart. During intense exercise our ability to maintain adequate blood pressure depends on this pumping of blood back to our heart by our legs. If you suddenly stop running, the blood return from your legs to your heart suddenly drops and so you don’t have enough blood to pump to your brain–plop, down you go.
I know this whole running and racing thing is new, but I just don’t get how people can stick to a training plan and still do other activities, i.e., live life. One suggestion I have heard is to categorize your races (or events) into A and B groups. Your A race is your top priority and your B race you do for training and/or fun and it counts toward training for your A race.
Well, I noodled with this one for a while with the Grand Canyon crossing coming up. I finally decided it was my B race and the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run is my A race. I guess that made me feel ok about it being part of my overall training plan. My schedule (which I’ve hardly followed at all yet for this A race) calls for longer miles with back to back runs on the weekend, so hey….that works.
On May 16, three of us set off for the North Rim. Gary and I picked Candy up at the Las Vegas airport and took a side trip through Zion on the way. We arrived at the North Rim about sunset, took some requisite tourist snapshots and had dinner inside the lodge. It wasn’t bad and was somewhat reasonably priced. The North Rim park had just opened the day before and the workers at the lodge were still working out some early-season kinks. Back at our cabin, we packed our packs and went to bed in anticipation of an early morning rise and drive to the North Kaibab trailhead.
At about 6:30am, we headed down into the big ditch. I told myself I wasn’t going to run as fast and as hard as the first time, the time I shredded my calves and could hardly walk for a week, including fearing the return trip. Movement down the canyon is pretty easy and almost begs to be ran, so I did. The trail has many steps made of either logs or stones sticking up, most of which you need to jump over. But, I felt pretty good and we did stop for several photos since it was Candy’s first time. I mean, you really do need to take in the scenery!
We cruised along down the North Kaibab trail, following Bright Angel creek. We took Candy on a 1+ mile side trip to Ribbon Falls, which is this really cool water fall that tumbles down a cone-shaped rock that has been overgrown with moss. There were lots of people there playing in the water and generally having a good time. We hung out for a while, took lots of pictures, and headed back out to the trail, precariously crossing Bright Angel creek over stones instead of backtracking to the bridge.
After heading down the canyon further, through what I call the desert section which is very exposed, we dropped into the box where the canyon narrows. You can mark your progress by crossing the 4 bridges along the way to Phantom Ranch. The day started out warmer than last time by about 10 degrees and we started about an hour later. This concerned me since we were now set to attack the climb out in the afternoon. I was pretty hot already and sweating pretty hard. You can see in the photo how sweaty and red-faced I was. This will turn out not to be a good thing.
I told Candy I was concerned I didn’t have a lot of energy, figuring it was more about the motivation to climb 5000ft in the direct sun. She empathized and we carried on anyway. Gary and Candy were ahead of me for most of the first several miles, but I’m used to that. At some point, Candy kept going and Gary slowed to stay with me. A couple times, we crossed a stream and I got in at every chance! It was cold, wet, and wonderful. It cooled my core temperature, but didn’t do much for my stomach that seemed to be getting worse. By Indian Gardens, I was feeling pretty bad. Gary was kind enough to carry my pack for me. How did I get so lucky to find such a great running partner?
By the three mile house, he made me sit and cool down. I was so afraid I was going to throw up. I sat there and tried to breathe steadily and take sips of water. It was an odd thing that immediately after swallowing each sip, my mouth was still as dry as cotton. He also asked me to take an S-cap. I reluctantly said ok and while trying to swallow it, almost lost everything in my stomach. It took about 10 minutes to settle down before I could get up and sort of feel human again. I’m pretty sure it was a combo of heat exhaustion and dehydration. I stood in the water faucet trying to get cool and wet again, but it wasn’t easy given it’s configuration. We set out again. Even though we knew there was only 3 miles left–3 miles!–I knew it would still probably take 2 hours!
As I knew would happen eventually, we made it out, cleaned up, and went to dinner. Saturday was for sightseeing. Although I did that just 6 months ago, this was more for Candy since she hadn’t been there. Gary has been several times. Still, it was fun and the three of us laughed and did silly things along the way. We put a do-rag on Gary’s head, we mimicked the signs we found, pretended we were jumping or falling off the cliff, and a number of fun things. You can see the evidence in my photo album. That night we went back for sunset but, unfortunately, it was somewhat obscured by clouds and wasn’t that great.
Suddenly it was Sunday and time to head back. I was pleased that my calves were not shredded like last time, so I’d be able to run. That’s not to say they didn’t hurt! But, this is my MOST favorite part of the trip–South Kaibab at sunrise. Although we hit the trail at 5:30am, it was still a little on the late side for sunrise, but the colors were still fabulous! Every single section of this trail is stunning. You float right down with vistas that go for miles. And, with it being only 7 miles long, you’re to the bottom in no time. I really felt great and made sure I drank a LOT.
Once again, I found it odd that the trip back up to the North Rim seemed easier than the trip up the South Rim. Partly I think it’s because you get down to the bottom so quickly from the south and aren’t as tired. Plus, because you get there quicker, it’s earlier in the day and still cooler. Lastly, once you turn the corner away from Bright Angel creek and really start to climb, you’re mostly in the shadows on the narrowing canyon. Still, it’s not easy and I was getting pretty tired. Fortunately, I still felt ok this time. After having to wait for THREE mule trains in a row to pass, I made it out in 7:45. Gary tells me that’s pretty good. 🙂
So, now I’m curious about how long the crossing *could* take if we didn’t stop for pictures and focused on just getting there. I’m guessing I could get somewhere around 7 hours from south to north but not sure about north to south. It would be great if we had support and didn’t have to carry our supplies (food/clothes/sundries) across each way. I would also be sure to be fully rested before each crossing. Lastly, I would start each crossing before sunrise to take advantage of as much coolness as possible. One day I’ll give it a try. But for now, I accomplished my B race. 46 miles and 11K elevation gain. I think that’s pretty good, don’t you?
So, I already broke my own commitment of going to the track every Wednesday morning. It started two weeks ago when I ran our club’s Tuesday night Pizza Hut run. It was a beautiful night and I was ready for a challenge and pushed hard for 4 miles. I came in at just over a 10 min/mile pace, which is awesome since the first 2 miles are very much uphill. Come Wednesday morning, I was too tired to consider going to the track and also figured that the fast run the night before counted towards speedwork.
The rest of that week was spent getting ready to help host the Mesquite Senior Games Track & Field and our club’s Spring 5K. Though we did do a (relatively) short trail run on Thursday, that was it for the week.
This is my second year participating and helping with Track & Field. The event was pushed out two weeks to help ensure better weather, and we had it. It was a beautiful day and the event went off perfectly. After having arrived at 6am to help set up, I participated in the discus, javelin, and softball throw. I learned how to do these just ahead of the event last year and practiced twice ahead of this year’s event. Even still, I had a great time and bettered my record in 2/3 of the events.
That night, we put on the Mesquite Spring 5K. I think the 90-degree weather scared most people away. But the evening was beautiful with the sun having gone down behind the mesa and a gentle breeze blowing. The 19 runners took off and I biked out the photograph them.
Enter the following week…After months of preparing for big events like these, it can be a bit of a let down. You realize all the things you put off in order to make them happen. In particular was my running schedule. I feel like I hardly ran at all in April. So, Monday afternoon, on the way home from Costco, I stopped for a 6 mile trail run on a trail(dirt road) I’d always wondered about. All alone, I ran/hiked up the trail nearly 1100 feet in just under 3 miles. Beautiful vistas at the top! So inspired that I ran ALL the way down, 3 miles at a 9:40 pace!
Tuesday morning I got up and was determined to log some more miles. It was going to be hot, so I set out early – on the road at 7am. The first few miles went fine. It’s a gradual uphill on the way to the dump, which is a 10 mile out and back. There was no breeze that morning, so when the sun came up, it really started cooking. But, I kept swigging from my bottle and finally made it to the dump–the 5 mile point. Feeling tired but I knew it would be mostly downhill at that point, so turned around and headed back.
Immediately, I didn’t feel good. I drank more water and kept going. Although net/net it’s downhill, there are a couple uphills. I ended up walking those. Then, as I got to about mile 8, I started feeling really bad. It was hot. I was hot and dizzy, almost delirious. Began walking 100% and getting concerned I wouldn’t even make it back. I did but paid the price. I was nauseated all day long. After weighing myself, I’d lost over 5lbs in one morning. That’s 4% of my body weight. This is AFTER I drank 20 oz before the run and another 20 oz during the run! That unfortunate experience ruined any chance of this past Wednesday’s track workout.
We did do a great LONG/HARD trail run on “Dirty Thursday” though. We’d heard about it last January. It’s the Beaver Dam TV Tower trail. 6.5 miles and 3000 feet up to the top of a mountain that houses dishes and towers. Here’s the video:
Sadly, we did not get much more running in last weekend. The trail run left my legs shredded! We did go watch a friend do the St. George Half Ironman and that was cool and inspiring! HOWEVER, I did go to the track on Sunday morning. Did 4×400’s at 2 min or less each with a 200 in between. Best/fastest ever. Oh yeah…then biked for 35 miles. 😉
So…back to planning….Still trying to figure out how to plan for the long Tahoe race, either 50K or 50M, around everything else I’m doing (Grand Canyon in 2 weeks, etc.) and still work on speed. I need to “straighten the line.” It’s a work in progress!
Speed is a relative thing. I play softball with guys old enough to be my father. When I run the bases, they think I’m fast. I run with people who’ve been running for years. I marvel at how they can run 8 minute miles and still hold a conversation. The only way I could run an 8 minute mile is downhill, and I still wouldn’t be able to talk.
But, since running is what I’m into, I look at it from the glass half empty–I’m slow. Slow as a slug in my mind. It’s sometimes frustrating that after all this training for the past year, I still can’t keep up with people who don’t train much at all. My middle daughter is one of them. Routinely hits an 8 minute mile pace when she runs, which isn’t regularly. Granted she has youth on her side, but still…
So, I’m back to work on speed. I had done speedwork for a couple months last fall. I think it helped but didn’t run many races to be sure. I was able to run most of my Ragnar legs in under a 10 minute mile pace, which is fast for me. But nothing since. Doesn’t help that I’ve been so focused on long runs (20 milers +) and races (50K and the 12 Hour races) that I’ve lost touch with the thought of having any speed.
Today begins my effort to get some speed back. I’d love to routinely be able to run under a 10 minute mile pace, without the benefit of hills. That’s my first goal.
This morning, alarm set for 5:30am, I got out of bed, got dressed, tossed down a little cereal, and drove over to the high school track. The morning was still dark, damp, and cold from the storm that had moved through the past couple days. The car said 41 degrees. I did 4 laps of light jogging, then 6 laps of fast (for me) running with a jog lap in between each one. Then finished with two cool down laps. Times for each lap were:
2:15, 2:09, 2:11, 2:13, 2:08, 2:07
That’s about a 2:11 average which “could” be an 8:44 mile pace if you could paste them all together. Unfortunately, that’s now how it works. Anyway, point is, I did it. I made the effort and hope to continue this plan every Wednesday.
Oh, I and got these spiffy new running/racing shoes too. Stay tuned to see if it all works.