Adventures In Running

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Switching blogs

This is my last post in this blog.  I am moving all my content over to  I hope you continue to follow me there.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bryce Canyon Volunteering

On June 14 and 15, the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers ran the Blubber Creek Aid Station at the Bryce Canyon 2014 50/100 mile race. This aid station was at mile 27 and then 73 (for the 100 mile). Volunteering is such a great adventure. When you are unable to run - it helps to be hanging with other runners. I will admit I took a couple of short hikes/runs because it is impossible to be in a location like this and not take advantage of the trails.

 Here are some pictures from this race.

One of my goals when "racing" down to the race was to see my friend, Ed Ettinghausen. Ed runs as The Jester and is a truly great runner and gentleman. I was thrilled that we got to the aid station just a few minutes before Ed passed through at mile 27.

This was the core of the aid station. Krystan Williams kept the food coming and helped make this one of the best aid stations I have ever seen.

The Blubber Creek Aid Station in all its glory.

You can't beat Mother Nature.

Sunset- so very beautiful.  Just wish I had known that we would soon be freezing.

The Jester - part 2. Ed coming through again at mile 73.  Ed is in the process of trying to set a world record for "Most 100 mile races completed in a year" in 2014.  I was thrilled to spend some time serving Ed during the race and learning more about how he accomplishes these races.  All I can say is "Jester On!"

I really hope that next year I will be out on this race actually participating in the 50 mile race. If not - I plan to help out the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers if they are running an aid station again.

U of U Graduation Day

May 2, 2014 was an excellent day for our family.  Our son, Kevin Christopher Lee, graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Chemistry.  Kevin worked really hard on this degree and it was a tough one and we were so proud of him.

I have to admit that Larry (Kevin's dad), Jennifer (Kevin's sister) and I (Kevin's mom) alternated between beaming with pride and crying during the ceremony.  And that had nothing to do with the most boring commencement speaker we have ever heard.

Just a few pictures to commemorate the big day.

The graduate

 Kevin and his dad's side of the family

Kevin and his mom's side of the family

I adore these kids! 

Running Again

It's been a long time since I blogged.  While I was not running or working out much there didn't seem to be too much of a point in keeping blog posts coming.  Time to get my act together and get back into the habit. 

Nothing super exciting has happened - but here are some of the highlights:

1. Plantar Fasciitis - Dr. Brady basically told me to not walk, run, or do much or anything that would have me be weight bearing from the start of April until the start of July.  Boring!  And hard to do.  This was a total mind challenge for me. During this time I did a lot of swimming and pool running.  I could have taken up biking again - but I am not thrilled with a sore bottom.

Treatment for the PF also included the following:
  • Rolling my foot several times a day.  I used a variety of torture instruments to do this including a lacrosse ball, a foot massager,  a foot rubz, and The Stick Footroller.
  • Calf massage - by keeping the calf muscles loose using various massage techniques including the stick, a foam roller and other torture devices, we have been able to loosen up the joint.
  • Lots of chiropractic adjustments.  Dr. Brady would almost yank me off the table each time but we were able to break loose most of the scar tissue preventing my foot from bending. 
  • Probiotics to help with the arthritis in the joint. 
  • Lots of foot, ankle, and calf stretches. 
  • Taping the foot to keep the PF from tearing.
  • Altra Shoes/Orthotics/Vibram Five Fingers.
At this point in time I have almost the same flexibility in my left foot as I have in my right.  This is a huge improvement.  I am pain free about 97% of the time.  If I overdo things or twist wrong, the PF pain comes back - but not for long.  I have been told I will probably deal with this somewhat the rest of my life - but just need to make sure I keep it under control.

2.  Volunteering - I volunteered at the Bryce Canyon 50/100 in June.  My next blog post will be more about that.

3. Dropping out of races and selling off race entries.  At this point in time I am only planning two races in 2014 - the St. George Marathon in October and Across the Years in December.

4. Starting to run - I have been allowed to run 2 days a week since the start of July.  For the first two weeks this was only 15 minutes at a slow jog each time.  I am still pretty slow, but up to 30 minutes each run and increasing by 5 minutes each time I run. It feels good to be back.  I have very little endurance, but truly missed running and can't wait until I can get back on trails - even if it is for only short amounts of time.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rock Bottom

After almost two years of pain of one type or another in my left foot, I have reached the point that I need to find out what is going on and if I can overcome this. It is one thing to be sore and stiff from hard training or a long race. It is another to be sore and stiff from very little activity. If I run one day - it takes 2-3 days before my foot quits burning. We are not talking long runs - more like 4-6 miles.

The physical therapy I did earlier this year was good and helped me get over the three types of tendonitis I was battling. But it caused my plantar fasciitis to flare up - that was not so good.

After reading some blog posts and asking around on Facebook - I set up an appointment with Dr. Brady in Provo. I've seen a chiropractor several times on my foot and he helped some, but nothing long term. So, with some skepticism, I did the long drive to Provo. Boy, was it worth it.

A technician started off my massaging my foot. She found lots of tender spots in the foot and ankle. After applying heat, Dr. Brady came in and started asking my foot history. And the injury history to my left leg. He wanted to know anything that might be a contributing factor. It was almost embarrassing to say the list: born with partially formed hip sockets, knee surgery at 19, three foot surgeries, tearing out a tendon in a fall but not seeing a doctor on it, the infamous dog brush to the ankle episode, etc.

Within a few minutes of comparing my feet/ankles, he pointed out what is probably been my problem all along. My left foot does not pronate (roll in) and seriously supinates (roll out). In fact, I had to work hard to pronate the left foot at all. He then did some massive alignments in my foot as well as massage that about shot me through the roof. After that he put an herbal patch on and taped the foot and sent me home with the initial plan.

Right now I am wearing a boot for at least two weeks and working on pronating the left foot whenever I can while sitting and standing. I basically need to relearn how to walk correctly. I will also be working on massaging/stretching the foot, ankle and calf and letting the PF heal.

It may take a while to get this to heal and learn to walk and run correctly, but it will be worth it. He cautioned me that I probably have quite a bit of arthritis in that ankle and that might determine the long term prognosis. Let the fun begin.

Or maybe I should say, let the healing begin.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Starting Over (can I skip 2014?)

2014 has been off to a rough start. Most of January and February were spent recovering from my foot injury at Across the Years. In February I got hit with perfect storm of illnesses. In less than an hour I went from feeling great at signing paperwork on my new vehicle to crawling into bed and wishing I could die. 36 hours later I went into the Instacare to be told I had bronchitis, asthma, sinus infection and an ear infection. I was started on my inhaler and a z-pac of antibiotics. A few days later, I still had no energy to even watch tv, read, etc. I just laid there. I had no appetite, so when I did eat I just forced down junk food to get in calories. On Wednesday I tried to go to work. After an hour or so things started spinning around and then I got vertigo so bad I had to have co-workers drive me home. Back to a different doctor who said, "Oh yeah - you have the flu on top of everything." Too late for Tamiflu - so I just rested as much as I could and started forcing liquids. I have never been as sick as I was for 12 days. I hope to never be again. At this point I have lost all of my endurance. Hopefully a lot of my nagging injuries are healed. I started walking over the weekend and took my first run/walk last night. Basically - I am starting over. Hope things get better from here on out.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tendonitis and PT

Other than a few steps, I haven’t really run since my ATY race finished on December 30.  I spent a few days totally on crutches with no weight on the foot and then 2 weeks in a boot until I could see my podiatrist.  This was just in case it was a stress fracture.

The podiatrist was able to narrow the foot injury down to tendonitis stemming from the tendon on the middle toe. So – now I have tendonitis from the large toe, middle toe and small toe.  It was obvious in an ultrasound that there is a lot of fluid around those tendons.  His recommendation was a couple of weeks of physical therapy.

My first PT appointment was last Thursday.  My physical therapist spent over an hour analyzing my feet, legs, and hips and then gave me my assignment for the week.  She had a valid point that since all of my injuries are to my left foot (and knee) that there is probably some imbalance on the left side that is causing me to adjust for the imbalance and resulting in the injuries.  She also found that my glutes are very week and we are going to work on those and the hip abductors to get them stronger. 

The left foot was slightly swollen in the measurements, so am increasing the icing to 2-3 times per day (from 2-3 times per week).  The most obvious difference between my two legs is the flexibility of the soleus muscle in the calf.  Ever since my second foot surgery in 1999 (I fell two weeks after this surgery and apparently tore a tendon, but that was not discovered until last year) I have had significantly reduced ability to stretch the soleus. So – I am doing a lot of calf stretching in addition to the hip work. The final exercise at this time is balance work to strengthen both my balance and my foot muscles.  I am being limited to a daily walk of no more than 1.5 miles.  That’s probably a good thing, because the foot hurts even walking that far.

I’m dropping plans for most of my races early in 2014 and figure the Ogden Marathon will be my first race of the year.  I hope to do lots more time this year on trails and get back to running stronger and doing more vertical than I was able to do last year.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Across the Years 2013 - Post Mortem

Since I have been a  Product Manager and/or a Project Manager for a few years, I regularly do a "post  mortem" on projects to determine what worked well and what did not work. This allows me to remember things that I want to follow in the future and things I want to avoid.

The following is an unofficial post mortem on my first 48 hour race this week.

What worked:
  • Feet taping was 95% effective. Blister bandages on the heels and big toes, elastotape on the heels and balls of the foot, medical tape on the big toe (this one needs tweaking).
  • Moisture control of the feet was 100% effective. I used Drymax socks for the first time and was very pleased with them. I also used Squeaky Cheeks to help keep the moisture content down.
  • Lubrication - I used Butt Paste on the typical areas where I tend to get chafing and it worked well. The only chafing I had was from my shirt sleeves the first day in the left underarm.
  • Buffs - these were great for holding ice and preventing my head and neck from getting sunburned.
  • Two new food favorites - Kings Hawaiian Rolls and oranges.  These were both life savers and my stomach could handle the rolls when it was fussy about other food.
  • Renting a large tent and cot - these were well worth the money. I need some method to lay down and rest and also to get out of the weather.
  • Poles and bike gloves - these were very handy when my foot started having problems. Worth having along for emergency backups.
What needs improvement:
  • Taping of the big toes. My only issue with "blisters" was at the base of my big toe where the tape rubbed against the joint. I need to use either more flexible tape, or a thinner strip of tape.
  • Heat control - I used ice in my hat and buff, but hot temperatures affected me more than expected. Perhaps a spray bottle or other method to cool down better.
  • Mental preparation for running all night. I don't know if I just need to train on more late night or early morning runs, but this did intimidate me - more so because I was suffering when night came.
  • Overall health - I think the two things that prevented me from running the race I had planned was extra weight and not weight training. These will be a focus this year and I have vowed not to run Across the Years again unless I am at least 20 pounds lighter.
  • Preparing for all options - I covered a lot of these - but need to bring some spare shoes like crocs (other than running shoes)
  • Organization - bring along containers to organize my supplies instead of just having them in gallon Ziploc bags.

Across the Years – 48 hour race 2013

I have been wanting to do the Across the Years race for quite some time and this year seemed to be the perfect year.  Granted, I was not in the shape I really wanted to be in, but the race is the perfect chance to chase that elusive 100 mile belt buckle and also challenge myself to new levels.

A simple mistake a little more than a week before the race left my chances of even running dropping pretty low. I walked to work in a snowstorm in wool socks and running shoes and rubbed blisters onto the back of my heels. The left foot was the worst, with a sock full of blood and lots of exposed skin. Through lots of care, walking barefoot, prayers and miracles, two days before the race I was able to wear running shoes again and by race day I had no pain in either heel.

I flew down to Phoenix on December 28th.  My daughter and son-in-law (Jennifer and Jeremy Merkley) were driving up from El Paso, Texas to meet me and support me in the race. I had written up multiple lists and even shipped a box of critical supplies off a few weeks earlier and they were bringing other items on the list.  My carry on backpack and suitcase also contained other race gear – I put nothing in my checked bag that I would need at the race. After an uneventful flight, I was met by my kids and we headed off to find our hotel.  We stayed in a Holiday Inn within 20 minutes of the race and it was a great location. I had a sleeping bag in the corner and they shared the bed (the plans were that I would be spending the next two nights at the race course).

We met several other racers for dinner at New York Pizza Department and it was nice to get to know some other runners as well as actually get to know several Facebook friends. Then we swung by the race course so that I could check things out and we could offload part of our gear into the tent (with a cot) that I had reserved.

Sunday morning arrived with lots of excitement on our parts and we loaded up the car and headed off to Camelback Ranch in Glendale for the start of my 48 hour race. After picking up my packet and taping my feet, I was ready to go and we milled around with other 24, 48 and 72 hour runners for the 9 a.m. start and watched the racers currently on the track. My plans were to run 2.5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes for as long as I could.  I forgot my GymBoss, but had a watch and knew this had worked well for me in my past several races.  Jenn and Jeremy were going to head off after the start for several hours since I knew I could pretty well fend for myself through marathon distance. (Famous last words). I was also going to avoid listening to music or audiobooks until after marathon distance so that I could save that assistance for later when I knew I would be suffering.

The race started and we all headed off. Ultras are a different beast and many of the participants just started off walking – because you have a long time to go and there is no point in pushing yourself too early. A lot of us were there to accomplish the 100 mile finish and knew we had to pace ourselves. Others were looking to set US or World records or push themselves to new limits. The first several times around the track I just enjoyed taking in the atmosphere, seeing many people I had heard of before but not met, and learning the course.  Lots of gravel, some asphalt, and a few concrete sections made my home for the next days.

The day started off well and I was running and walking easily. I made sure to keep up on my food and water intake as has always worked in the past. Then I hit 20 miles.  Other than one race when I had food poisoning, I have never had stomach issues in marathons. I did today. At 20 miles my “stomach went south” and I started feeling horrible. No energy. Trying to decide if I needed to hurl or hit the Port-o-potties.  This went on for six long miles.  I laid down a few times to rest and cool down from the heat. I rolled my legs and back with the Stick. Nothing was really working.  J&J came back around then and I told them of my misery while resting again. They had brought some more food and I thought I could handle a King’s Hawaiian Roll and an orange. I slowly ate them and then decided to start up again. At this point – I had completed my slowest marathon ever (7 hours and 30 minutes). It was pretty discouraging and I knew that unless I could improve my time, my dream of 100 miles was starting to fall apart.

Jennifer had conspired with my sister, Marcia Nielsen, as well as my Aunt Mary Steck and my friend Leslie Petersen and put together some motivation bags for me. I was given my first one at the marathon point and enjoyed opening the bag and reading the messages of encouragement and support. There were also mini minions in each bag (I love these!) as well as some treats and various glow-in-the-dark items for the long nights I was to be facing.

Back on the track, a miracle occurred. After a long stop in a POP, I suddenly felt great. I hadn’t been able to run in a while because I was battling IT Band issues in my left knee and my stomach felt better and my knee quit preventing me from running.  I had four blissful miles where things were starting to look up again.

Then, at 30 miles, the real challenges began. My left foot started to cramp. I can’t really explain the sensation, but it felt like a muscle cramp or something in the middle of my foot. I tried rolling it out with a lacrosse ball and massaging it, but it didn’t seem to help.  I had changed into my orthotics at mile 26 – but that had never caused problems before. I didn’t know what to do. This took me to a real low and I was battling the emotions from knowing 100 miles had slipped away. Jenn was doing the job I assigned her and trying to keep me motivated.  At 50K I was ready to quit for the day but she encouraged me to go on to 35 or 40 miles and reassess.

At 35 miles, I spotted Jenn in the warming tent. I stopped there and sat down at the table in defeat. This last lap had been emotionally and mentally draining as I battled tears from the pain in my foot. Jenn had me sit down to get warm in front of a heat blaster and I just laid my head down on a table in surrender. I had been mentally calculating things out during the past several laps (about 1.1 mile per lap) and told Jenn that I thought the pain in my foot was probably a stress fracture.  I think at this point she realized I needed to take a break or I would drop out completely, so we decided to go back to the hotel and rest for a while.  Jeremy was going to be back at the race from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. to volunteer and I could come back with him (it was about 9 p.m. then).

We went back to our hotel and I cleaned up and took some pain medication and laid on the bed. I couldn’t sleep because everything was hurting, so I just laid there and rested and tried to regroup. As 12:30 approached, I told Jeremy that I was going to try to sleep because I still was not able to race at that point and would go back when he got done with his volunteer shift. I took more pain meds and a sleeping pill and fell into blissful sleep.

I awoke the next morning feeling really good. No muscle aches or anything. Then I got out of bed and about collapsed from putting weight on my left foot. It got better as the foot loosened up and Jenn and I talked and I decided I wanted to give the race a try. I had dropped my plans the night before from 100 miles to 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) which was farther than I had been before. I think Jenn was still hoping I would be able to do 100 miles – but I knew only a miracle would allow that.

I started getting antsy and we decided to hire a cab to get back to the race course.  I wrapped the left foot in coban on top of the blister taping and was ready to go before 9 a.m. and headed back to the track.  Jenn was going to take Jeremy back to the track and then get me a hot chocolate and come back. The first few laps were pretty bad. I texted Jenn and told her to go to the Cabelas we had located and pick me up some poles. I was hoping that this would take enough pressure off my left foot and leg to keep me going. I could not run at all and my ankle was really not bending.

Disclaimer: A lot of my relatives and friends are criticizing me for continuing on at this point. However, my line of thinking was – if it was indeed a stress fracture – it was already broken, so I could monitor the injury and if it didn’t get worse, I wasn’t going to do any more harm than had already been done. It amazes me how people seem to think it fine to worry about someone hurting themselves when physically challenging themselves, but pregnancy and other voluntary life situations are far more damaging (potentially) to the body and people rarely get criticized for those choices.

Jenn came back and I did a couple of laps with a single pole while I inhaled the hot chocolate (Starbucks was a block or so away – I love that place!). Then I switched to two poles and started feeling better. After four or five miles with poles, I decided to try a lap without them and was suddenly able to run 100 steps at a time. No IT band issues the second day at all. 

The heat was again an issue the second day and I would stop every 10 K (6 miles) to rest for 15 to 30 minutes.  My entire focus was on getting to 100 k.  It was nice to pass the 50 mile mark and know I was onto new territory. It was also a bit depressing because I had done so much better in my 50 mile race at Pony Express a few years earlier – but I knew that I was lighter then and in better shape.

As evening approached, Jenn and Jeremy were both back at the track cheering me on and supporting me.  As it got cooler, I stripped off my shirt and was down to a sports bra. It was a bit cooler and less restrictive. Again, one of those ultra miracles occurred. I had not been able to run for several miles – but would give it a try at the start of each lap. This time, I was able to run. And keep running. I felt great. No pain. No aches. No tiredness. I decided to see how fast I could make it around the track. I had been doing about 23-25 minutes per lap and as I passed the timing mat I saw that I had done this lap in 13:47. I loved the look on Jenn’s face as I exclaimed, “I can run!”.  I pretty well ran that entire lap and a good portion of the next two laps.  Here I was, 55 miles into the race and I put together not only my fastest lap of the entire race, but three laps in under 45 minutes. 

The wall hit again after those three laps, but they made the entire race so worthwhile.  During those laps, I brazenly announced I could probably keep going after 100K. After those laps, energy went away and I decided 100K was plenty.  It was kind of discouraging to finish what I thought was my last lap and see that I was .3 kilometers short of 100K. I had to power through one more lap in order to honestly count a 100K finish. I did that and sprinted across the finish line in exultation. My friend, Mark Hellenthal must have come out of the aid station as I passed because he hugged me right then and told me how proud he was of me. We did some celebratory pictures at the finish line and I then turned in my chip and got my official glass mug for the race.

Jenn and Jeremy packed up the rest of the tent and I headed to the car. At that point I started to shake violently. I had the same reaction after my 50 mile race a few years earlier. I think the body kind of goes into shock at what it has done when it knows you have safely stopped.  We headed back to the hotel with the heat blasting as I tried to get my body under control. I dragged myself up to the hotel room and did my lovely spasming on the floor as they unloaded the car and brought in all our gear. After forcing some food into me and piling the sleeping bag on top of me, I was finally able to relax and clean up.

I was very pleased after untaping my feet to see that I only had one small blister on my right foot. It was actually caused by the edge of the tape on my big toe hitting against the joint. This was a good sign that my taping was fairly spot on.

After another solid nights sleep, I again woke up and was very happy to not have any stiff or aching muscles. Then I stood up and collapsed. The foot was bad. We decided to head back to El Paso that morning so that I could get into an urgent care facility since my insurance did not cover any in Arizona.

I rested in a nice cocoon in the back of the car all the way down to El Paso. We found an urgent care just before it closed for New Year’s Eve and the doctor diagnosed me with a probably stress fracture and put me on crutches.

Now – I am resting and recovering and reflecting. While the race did not turn out as I had planned, I am pleased with how it did turn out and considered it a successful race and a great way to end the year.