Famous Potato Half: Say yes to the pain cave

Since Boise races are notoriously inaccurate and I had heard this course was long (spoiler: it was), I did not go into this race with a time goal in mind, only an average pace goal. I have found that I do better with average pace goals anyway, as it helps me focus on the process and run the mile that I am in.

The start of this race was a little hectic. It was delayed due to the fact that not all of the busses had arrived. The port-a-potty lines were long. I was standing in line with my friend Laurie when she pointed out to me that I really needed to calm down. I know that my pre-race anxiety is an issue and one that I need to get under control in order to keep my heart rate low at the start of races, but what I did not know is that it is an issue that is apparent to those around me. I thought I hid it well. I guess not. While we were still in line, the MC suddenly announced, “ok, everyone is here, let’s start!” Laurie was kind enough to offer to drop off my bag at the gear check for me and I ran off to the start line, trying my best to get a place at least in the middle of the pack. This was not the best way to begin a race.

I plodded along on pace and did fine until about the 7th or 8th mile, when it started to feel hard, as it typically does in a half marathon. Around mile 10, things really started to feel awful. Also around mile 10, the race goes by the finish line and then loops around the last 5k. I do not like races that give you a preview of the finish before you finish.

The 10 mile mark of this race also marked the entrance to the pain cave, and it was a place I did not want to go. I was afraid of the discomfort, fearful of failing, so I let the negativity creep in. “You could just stop right here,” I thought. “Just step off the course right here and this all stops. All of it. The pain, the agony. You don’t have to do this. Why are you doing this?” I thought about stopping. Then I wondered what I would say to my kids at home. That I stopped because it was hard? That I didn’t know if I could stay on pace the last 5k? That I didn’t even try? No, that wasn’t acceptable. As in life when things get hard, we must stay the course and keep going. One step at a time. Because the way out is forward. So I moved forward. Slowly, painfully, up the hill, past my teammates and coach who were so kindly cheering but who I can only remember in a blur because I was so deep in the pain cave, and towards the finish line.

FP Mile 10

In the pain cave. Unhappy. (Photo @boisebetties)

Although it felt like I had slowed exponentially in the last 5k, I had really only slowed down one, maybe two seconds per mile, and when I crossed the finish I had met my average goal pace.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t fight the pain cave. Say yes.
  2. The only way to get to the good stuff on the other side of the pain cave is to run through the pain cave.
  3. Keep going. Always keep going.



FP Finish

Outside of the pain cave with giant potato. Much better.

My Gait Analysis Follow-Up Appointment: A Valuable Lesson in Dissociation

St. Luke’s Sports Medicine is a very generous sponsor of our running team, the Boise Betties, and as part of that sponsorship we can send a runner or two per month in for a detailed gait analysis. This month it was my turn. Two weeks ago, I went in and completed paperwork, did a videotaped session on the treadmill, and several strength and flexibility tests. This week I went back to watch the videos and learn about the areas in which I most need to improve.

As most of us do, I cringed at the idea of having to watch myself run on video. I asked those who had gone before me if it might be appropriate to bring beer or wine for the viewing session. Maybe some Xanax? My coach met me there for my appointment too, with pen and paper in hand so that she could take notes and incorporate any suggestions from the therapists into my training program.

I have done a gait analysis before. I have seen myself running on videotape. I am not sure I had seen myself running on videotape in super slow motion. All I could see were portions of my body moving up and down in disjunction with other portions. Ga-gunk. Ga-gunk. I tried not to focus on that. I tried to play scientist and focus on angles and hip drops and detach myself as best I could from any emotional attachment to the image on the screen, instead trying to soak up what information I could from the health professionals in the room who could teach me how to improve.

But occasionally the eating disordered 16 year old that is still stuck inside me would rear her ugly head: “Look at all of that extra on you. No wonder you are not faster.” To which the older, wiser and more dominant 40 year old woman would reply: “Excuse me little girl, this body can run marathons. This body has birthed three beautiful children. This body is strong. And this body keeps going. So excuse me while I keep listening to these physical therapists because I do not have time for your crap.”

The appointment was very humbling (to say the least), yet also eye opening and gave me things to work on. For example, I saw that I strike the ground with too straight of a leg, which I believe is a compensatory pattern due to years of pain behind the knee cap. The knee pain may be due to weak hips and my glutes not firing so I am going to continue working on hip strength (which I was already working on) and glute recruiting exercises and see if I can make any improvements in this area over time.

In running practice the next morning we did hill repeats. They were the first ones I had done in months, since I am just coming back from injury. I could feel my quads and lower back over working while my glutes were still sleeping. I felt frustrated and remembered my appointment the day before. As I thought back to all of the things that were “wrong” with my running, I felt overcome with negativity and frustration. I was not appreciating my body for the things that it could do, but rather getting angry with it for the things that, in my mind, it was not doing.

Later that day, I read an article about a Playboy playmate who had taken a picture of another woman in the shower at a gym without her permission and then body-shamed her on social media. I was horrified. Who does this? Here we have a beautiful woman who feels the need to take a nude photo of another woman, post it online thereby violating this woman’s privacy in a horrible way, and say awful things about her. Don’t you think it has something to to with the fact that deep down the perpetrator, a playboy model, feels insecure about her own looks and her own body, so she tears others down to feel better about herself? We all know there is a better way. This mom’s response is the best.

Each body is beautiful because each body is uniquely ours. Our bodies can do amazing things. When we push ourselves, sometimes we learn that our bodies can do things we never thought we were capable of. Of course we do not look like photos in magazines. Those are not real. We are. Let’s celebrate each other and what our bodies can do, not what they canNOT

Today my body completed its first race, a short sprint triathlon, since I turned 40 three months ago and was diagnosed a day later with a stress reaction in my foot. I am so thankful for what my body could do today and am hopeful for the future. And next time I am doing hill repeats, I will be thankful that my body is able to run up a hill, no matter which muscles are propelling it. My glutes may be a little late to the game, but they will get there. I will make sure of it.

How Many Runners Does it Take to Decode a Swim Workout?

Four.  The answer is four.  With one of them being a high school swimmer, another a college swimmer, the third a 70.3 IronWoman, and the fourth who sometimes fancies herself a sprint distance triathlete but has minimal knowledge of swim lingo (that would be me!).

So I’ve had this nagging/reoccurring/annoying/difficult to diagnose hip soreness issue since I had my third child (he’s three and a half now so I’m ready to be done with the hip thing) and it has been really sore this week so I used this as my motivation to check out a Swim Fit workout at my local YMCA.  I looked online to find out more information beforehand.  It is advertised as a coached workout for any level swimmer looking to improve speed, stroke, and/or endurance.  Sounds good!  I also tried to find someone at the Y to talk to about the workouts, but no one seemed to know anything, so I just showed up on Friday morning at 6:30 am with my suit, cap and goggles.

The Masters swimmers were finishing up their workout and I asked the lifeguard who would be coaching the Swim Fit workout.  She said the coach wasn’t there yet and gave me a nice speech about listening to my body during the workout and told me if I needed help I could always call out for a lifeguard.  Good to know! 6:30 rolls around, still no coach, the Masters swimmers are getting out of the pool and other swimmers are getting in, so I ask a nice lady how the Swim Fit workouts work and she tells me just to follow the instructions on the white board.  Like so:


Um, okay then.  Another guy gets in the lane with me and tells me he’s just going to swim freestyle the whole time.  I think he has the right idea, but I am going to give the workout a try since that’s why I came.  400 swim: okay, 200 kick: got that, 4×50: makes sense, 4×75 build: say what?! And what are those times there? Is that how long it is supposed to take me? And why only three times? 1:10? That’s about how long it takes me to swim 50 yards, not 75. Wow, I’ve got some work to do.  Okay, nevermind.  I’ll just do 4×75. The bottom half of the board also confused me and by the time I got there I had already swam a mile, so I called it good.  Again, maybe the guy next to me swimming freestyle had the right idea!

I went home, posted the workout photo on the Boise Betties running group page, and my swimmer pals came to my rescue.  Together we (read: they) decoded this workout (for my amateur self).  That, my friends, is teamwork!  The next question is, how many runners does it take to fix my hip so I can get back to the track and the trails where I really want to be?!