Doing the Right Thing
What does it mean to “do the right thing?”
Doing the right thing doesn’t have to be a big deal. Try just giving someone a compliment. Or holding a door. Maybe letting someone that you believe doesn’t deserve it cut in front of you in traffic. Or it could simply be paying attention to the kind people in your daily life.
I had a massive cycling crash 3 weeks ago. The trauma of this crash still sits with me in a very uncomfortable way. When I crashed, I went over my handlebars and slid down the road for a while until I stopped. I ultimately broke 5 bones and I also had significant cuts and bruising. After the fall, pure survival instincts kicked in. With my pelvis broken in 2 places, my back broken in 2 places, and a broken thumb, I low crawled with my forearms and left leg to the side of the road immediately so I wouldn’t get hit by a car.
A young girl immediately pulled over and asked if I needed help. I emphatically said, “YES.” She pulled over and 2 or 3 other adults also stopped. 911 was called and my bike was taken out of the road. While all the souls that stopped were extraordinarily kind to me, this one particular young girl sat with me. She talked to me and helped me stay calm. I was a severe mess and in shock. I just needed someone to talk to me about anything and help me stay present and not pass out at least until the ambulance arrived. The pain was so severe, having a conversation kept me stable and present. She had a bike rack in the back of her car and took my bike. She helped me call my husband. Most important she “held space” for me. I so desperately needed someone to be with me. I was so grateful I was not alone. I knew I wasn’t ok. She didn’t tell me any of this nonsense. She was just there. I can’t explain the power in having someone just be present for me in a really rough moment. Overall, this kind soul saved me.
People are innately good. Yes, really bad things happen. But, when push comes to shove those of us that are good people are the majority. We just have to be louder than the haters and those that will do evil. And I think evil can occur with inaction as well as direct actions.
When you see something, please step in. Do not assume that someone else will help. Do not assume that someone else will do the right thing. Step forward. It all matters, big issues and small. If you see something in this world that you don’t like and find yourself complaining, maybe sign up to be part of the solution. If someone is a jerk to you, maybe it’s not about you. Maybe they are having a really bad day. Sometimes, letting it go is the best thing to do. Let it pass by.
I hear Gandhi’s quote in my head, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” We can do this NOW. There is no waiting. There doesn’t have to be a tragedy and you certainly don’t have to wait until some skinny redheaded chic crashes her bike in front of you. Yes, those time do matter for sure. But, life happens in the meantime. Those small acts of kindness and quiet action can save us all. It is up to you and me. It is not about what someone else does. We’ve got this my friends.
On Wednesday May 25th, 2016, after crazy packing and supply acquisition, I left for Goshen, Vermont. I drove to the Blueberry Hill Ski Resort. I was very nervous and going into new territory. I participated in a 72-hour trail race. We would run for 3 days, and whoever runs the most wins. It’s a bit “Alice in Wonderland” I know. The longest timed event I had done before this was 24 hours and it was on a paved 3.5 mile loop.
I arrived and checked in. I wanted to get camp set up before it was dark. And the bugs immediately shocked me. They were overwhelming. The smart veterans were wearing mosquito nets. I lasted about 5 minutes before I sprayed myself with bug spray. The ultra community is great. Those that arrived earlier than me offered to help me set up my tent and carry my gear. I got to know people very quickly. I was also immediately impressed with the runners that were participating in the 888 kilometer race that had started one week prior. True grit and passion!
My gear was packed and ready to go the night before. And I slept surprisingly well. I was able to fall asleep after I got my gear packed for a 8:08am start. But, I woke with nerves. I was up before dawn and ready to go. I did my best to eat, but could only stomach so much food. Sean, one of my crew, arrived early and was able to be there for the start. There was a good group of us. We lined up for pre race photos and we were off.
Our start was uneventful, but we all must’ve been nervous because we took off in the wrong direction. We were quickly corrected and set on the right course. The course was a figure 8. The top loop was 7.5 miles. The bottom loop was 20.5 miles. Both loops were adorned with creepy creatures (fuel for later hallucinations) for roughly the first 2 and last 2 miles. See the pictures. There were witches hanging from trees, bloody pigs, weird clown dolls, freaky cats and mirrors, and mime clown masks hanging from trees.
The 7-mile loop was not awful, but there is a significant climb. About a mile or so in, you have to climb Mt. Romance. There is nothing romantic about it. It is straight up and quite a challenge. It doesn’t last too long. I just had to suck it up, power walk as fast as I could. When we reached the top of the Mt. Romance it is winding trails with hills that are mildly rolling. It was a great place to pick up a decent running pace again. However, there are swamps. I came to call these the Swamps of Despair. This mud was black, nasty, full of flies, and would suck your shoes off. This loop, along with the 20 mile loop was filled with black flies. The flies were relentless. They would swarm incessantly. The flies would go into my mouth, nose, ears, and even behind the lenses of my sunglasses. High grade DEET bug spray was a requirement, and we had to reapply frequently. Even with the DEET, at times it would get so bad I thought I might go insane.
The 20 mile loop (and it was longer than 20 miles, just sayin’) was a mental soul suck. It was slow going. On the first day, I ran my 2nd 20 mile loop of the day at night. Sean, my friend and pacer joined me. About 10 miles in, I slipped in a stream on a rock and banged my left ankle bone really hard. It was excruciatingly painful. My foot swelled and every step hurt. I honestly wondered how I could finish this technical loop in the dark while I was in so much pain. Needless to say, I yelled quite a bit. Every misstep was blinding. The pace was very slow and I really wondered if I was going to be able to continue with the race.
My routine when I finished running for the evening (sometimes it was actually morning) was very simple, but it seemed to take a lot of effort. I would check in and let the race volunteers know I was at camp. I would immediately eat and drink something. I would then walk to my tent and prep for shower. After shower, my support crew would make me some food. Typically this food would be as calorically dense as possible. It was not easy to eat because I was nauseated. Then I would go into my tent and care for my feet. This would entail popping blisters and applying ointment so my feet would be blister resistant the next day. Then I would try to eat a bit more and sleep.
Another issue we all had was the heat. It was in the mid 90s and humid. The Vermont marathon was actually cut short, but we are tougher than that! I actually run well in the heat. I get hot like everyone else does, but I seem to process the heat better than most. However, during Infinitus I was having major stomach issues. I was having cramps and dry heaving. Also, my mouth and GI system felt HOT. I refused to let myself vomit. I was afraid; once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. I also had worked very hard to consume these calories. I didn’t want to start all over and lose them. I was able to some how get it together on night one and recover. Many dropped due to stomach problems. When I woke up the second morning I was ok. My body was properly trained to recover from these long endeavors. I had gotten enough hydration, electrolytes, and food to make up for the deficits. But, throughout the race I would struggle with nausea and an intensely overheated GI system.
On day 2 I started to get into a groove. I ran the 7 mile loops solo. The only really tough spots were the climb and at night. The 20 mile loops were run with either Sean or my husband Bill. Having them along for moral support was amazing. They were also able to tell me when to power walk faster and when to run. They were also great about bug spray and sunblock application, and also for telling me when to eat and drink and take salt.
One would expect it to feel scary or creepy in the forest, but I run in the woods at night and this is not new to me. I learned to avoid the technical sections in the dark. However, in some of the heavily wooded sections, on the single track trails we could hear large animals to our immediate side. There was really nothing we could do but keep moving forward. The animals didn’t want anything to do with us, frankly anymore than we wanted to be around them.
Late night on day 2 is when things got weird. In the past, I have had mild hallucinations while running. Typically, I am just so focused and when I get tired I start to see things that aren’t there. I see a leaf or a rock and turn it into a face or another inanimate object. I usually know what I am seeing is NOT real. I did start to have these sort of hallucinations late night on day 2. They became very intense. I did not know that what I was seeing wasn’t really there. At times, when I was alone some of the things I saw really freaked me out. At one point, I felt really awful. My stomach was hot and sour, my feet hurt, and I was tired and cranky. Something happened. It was like someone flipped a switch. All of a sudden my pain disappeared. I also felt extremely drunk. I was very wobbly and dizzy. I honestly didn’t care though because I could run and was pain free. I think I was annoying the heck out of Sean because I was laughing non stop and being off the wall weird. I somehow acquired the nickname “Hula Girl” because I felt like a dashboard ornament shaking side to side. We completed this 20+ mile loop, and I went out for the final 7 miles of the night. It was a very slow 7. The hallucinations were strong and epic. I actually took out my mace at one point because I thought I was going to be attacked. Ah, the joys of ultra running…
On day 3 I was simply going to run all day, as many miles as I could. Sure I was tired. I averaged about 3 hours of sleep each night. But I knew that it was the last day. I learned that I needed to prep mentally for my next loop as soon as I began the current loop. The staying in the moment idea does not work for me. If I stayed in the moment, I would stop. I needed to have a plan to get back out on the trail as quickly as possible before I changed my mind.
The race director and my crew told me early on that I was leading, but I didn’t want to know the stats. I needed to run my own race. However, on the morning of day 3 I looked. I was leading and there were a few women that were close. My goal was to stay a loop ahead of them, and then keep running! The competitive drive was OUT. It wasn’t that I wanted to beat anyone else. It was about doing the best that I could. I went into this race with a goal of running 150 miles. It became apparent that I wouldn’t hit 150 (the man in first place would, the second place man did not) but I was OK with not reaching 150 miles if I won.
At roughly 11pm Saturday night, I finished a 7 mile loop. I finished and the race director hugged me. I didn’t know why. He told me I had won! I was ready to run more! He told me I didn’t need to, and I was done. OK. I was the first woman and 3rd overall. I covered 115 miles. This number seems low to me. However, with the heat and challenging terrain, we all completed fewer miles than we anticipated.
It is normal for me during races, to contemplate never running again. I usually pick another sport. I decided to quit running (AGAIN) during this race, and I would play soccer and run sprint triathlons. Well, maybe I didn’t quit running. I signed up for the Infinitus Trail Races for 2017. I signed up for the 888k (552 miles) and there is a 10 day cut off. There are also other races 8k, 88k, and 100 mile. I highly encourage you to try one of these races. The race directors are wonderful. The race organization and volunteers are also amazing. I have no complaints whatsoever about the race. And I feel like my ultra running family got bigger. I walk around all of the time feeling like a member of the Island of Misfit Toys (Rudolph reference.) And being with the Endurance Society at their race, actually allowed me to hang, for 3 days, with fellow Island members.
I would like to thank Bill Fanning and Sean Meehan for their awesome race support. They fed me, cared for my feet, got my gear together, pushed me when I needed to be pushed, and kept me sane. I also extend great thanks to my wonderful coach Lisa Smith Batchen. She puts up with my endless questions, never takes me seriously when I complain, and coaches me with never-ending love and kindness.
I am typing this from home in my living room. I am in a medical bed. I need assistance to do everything and when I do move it is with a walker. I have a nurse and PT coming out to my house and my family has been amazing. I also have so much support from my friends. I can’t accept much company and help yet, as I am still dealing with significant pain.
Here’s the thing… This was NOT a sign from God or the Universe. I was on a bike ride less than a mile from home. This could have happened to anyone. And frankly, an inch or two different and I may have been killed or paralyzed. So, frankly shit happens. Do not tell me that this is a message from a divine being. Bad stuff happens every day. I got some on Wednesday. It is what it is. And frankly, it is insane to think that God or the Universe is going to punish or stop me from living a lifestyle and being able to coach others while they achieve their dreams. I work hard to live my dreams and I am not crazy or insane for this. I am blessed. I am fortunate.
I am working so hard during every moment of the day. I will get better and I will be better, faster, and stronger. I thought I knew physical pain! HA! Insert idiotic laugh HERE. I have an understanding of what trauma victims endure that I could have never grasped before. I will NOT allow myself any negative talk. This is hard. I want to say that I can’t do this, or I’m too tired. NO. Maybe I will cry. Maybe I will break down. That’s ok. I breakdown and then I go ahead and do whatever it is what I have to do. I will stand up, I will walk a few feet, or I will eat even though I am overcome with nausea.
Here’s the story… Last Wednesday was pretty much an all out awesome day to start. It didn’t end on such a high note.
For 2 weeks every summer I do ZenduranceNow Training Camp. While my girls are at day camp for 2 weeks, I put work and most of life aside to train all day with the assistance of my coach, Lisa Smith Batchen. I did this for the first time last year and LOVED it. I was 3 days into Camp when I crashed my bike.
I use Camp as a ramp up of sorts. I was just back to training after an epic experience at the Infinitus 72 hour Trail Race. I won 1st place female and 3rd overall. It was GREAT! It just took me a few weeks to bounce back from.
Getting to live, eat, sleep, and breathe training is a dream come true for me. It is pure joy. It is also extremely hard work. But, it is safe to say that I am in the best shape of my life and I was very up to the task.
On Wednesday, I dropped my daughter off at day camp and went to the Reservoir and did a 5-mile tire drag. After I planned an easy recovery bike ride on the flattest course I have around my house, and then I was heading over to CrossFit Unlimited Potential for my strength training.
My bike ride was relatively uneventful at first; I was actually riding very easy. When I was less than a mile from my house they were paving the road where I was riding. The road gradient was very bumpy so I went to get off of this section of road but when I was doing this I hit a bump in the road and lost control of my front wheel. I went over my handlebars and slid on my right side, and banged the hell out of my head. And, of course I was wearing a helmet!
I knew it was bad. However, survival instincts kicked in and despite my broken hip I low crawled with my forearms and right leg to the side of the road so I wouldn’t get hit by a car. A few people stopped, thank God. And one very nice girl, whom I later found out, is the stepdaughter of a friend/client of mine. I couldn’t move from my hands and knees and I waited until the ambulance came.
When the ambulance came, they called my husband and cut my gloves off so they could get an IV in my hand. They also gave me pain meds through my nose. Getting on the ambulance was excruciatingly painful. I screamed and cried. It was awful. But the pain only got worse as I got to the hospital. My clothes were cut off and more examinations and moving of my body is awful ways. I was given huge amounts of painkillers. In real life, I wouldn’t even take a Tylenol, so this was VERY foreign to me. There were 10-12 people around me, working very hard. There was a nurse holding my hand. I was scared and in pain and I had no idea where I was or why all of this was happening. Thank God for nurses.
I was in the Hartford Hospital Emergency Department for about 12 more hours of tests, painkillers, and confusion. I had blood work, tests on my heart and lungs, an MRI, multiple CAT Scans, and multiple sets of x-rays. I am grateful for the social worker that sat with me. She was also a triathlete and training for Timberman and when she talked about her training and racing it pulled me out of my pain. Eventually, Bill arrived as he had driven from Stamford. He was also able to hold space for me and help me preserve a little bit of dignity when it seemed that the pain and trauma took it all.
I was finally admitted onto an ortho floor and really the pain continued. Every movement hurt. Getting my pain medications working appropriately was top priority. Fortunately my breaks did NOT require surgery. I was here for 3 days until I went home. I started physical therapy. And I was told that people with my injuries don’t move and get out of bed. I was able to walk partway down a hall with a walker and demonstrate that I could walk 2 stairs so they could discharge me.
This is the story so far. I will reach out for more help when I need it. Right now, I am functioning at about 12-24 hours at a time. And I know I am taken care of until tomorrow. I appreciate your prayers, well wishes, good energy, and strong mojo.
Rock the Ridge 50 mile Race Report
April 30, 2016
It takes a while for me to sign on to a race. I’m not the type of person to dive into a cold pool or ocean. I put my feet in and think about it for a while before I make the plunge.
Rock the Ridge 50 mile is a fundraising race, and to be honest I almost did NOT do the race for that reason. I run for TEAM RWB and I put all of my efforts into racing, supporting, and raising funds for this organization. However, I learned that one of the race directors was also a member of TEAM RWB and that we could fundraise for TEAM RWB. I was IN! Thank you to those who donated to TEAM RWB on my behalf.
This is a great 50 mile race. It encourages many first timers because the course is not very technical. The course is run mainly on dirt roads. There are significant climbs but the overall elevation change is not brutal.
Chris, one of my best buddies agreed to crew for me. I honestly can’t remember if this is the 2nd or 3rd time she has supported me. At this point, I love her and she is a fixture at my races. I want someone on my crew that is unflappable. I want someone that will not flinch if I have a horrific blister or if I throw up. Chris is that woman. She is also very bossy. This is a great thing for me. I don’t need anyone to ask me how I am. I need someone to make me eat, make sure I’m drinking, check on my feet, and shove me out of the aid station. Although, I do wonder if Chris is more nuts than me. Crewing is HARD word. I believe it is harder than running the race at times.
I want to state emphatically that this is a GREAT race. It is one of the most beautiful courses. Runners have incredible views around every corner. There are some killer climbs and the dirt roads started to feel a bit like a treadmill after about 35 miles.
Here is where this race went wrong for me. And the moral of this report is: “do as I say, not as I do.” The week leading up to the race was a taper for me and I had a LOT of energy. I am a very hyper person and the lack of miles allowed me to get every to-do done and then some. But the day of the race, I had no appetite and that night my throat started to hurt. I haven’t been sick in a few years, so I didn’t think much of this initially. However, that night I couldn’t sleep because my throat hurt and I had a 1a wake up call to drive to New Paltz, NY.
I woke that morning with barely a voice. I officially had a cold. But, I took off anyway. Chris and I drove to New York. New Paltz is a quaint little town. However, it is surrounded by poverty. We stopped at an “open all hours gas station” to use the bathroom. It was open, but locked. And the gas station attendant wouldn’t give me the key to the restroom because “he didn’t want me to use drugs and shoot up in there.” I know as an ultra runner we don’t look at spiffy at triathletes in their matching outfits, but I didn’t think I looked like an active addict.
Chris and I then proceed to what we thought was the start line, but we were lost. Thank goodness my friend John was running the race too. We called him and he met us and led us to the starting area. Just in time.
I was feeling really rough at the 6am start. I really thought that a few miles in my congestion would clear and I would feel fine. I did feel just fine until about miles 25-30. I was on a great pace. I was able to eat and drink. I was surprised to notice that I was about 2 hours ahead of my goal pace. However, this is when the fever hit. I was unable to maintain a consistent body temperature and went from cold to hot within minutes. I also started coughing so badly that I would double over and it was hard to breathe. I figured out quickly that if I didn’t speak and kept my pace a bit slower I didn’t breathe hard and the coughing was minimal. I really tried NOT to talk about how sick I was. I made the decision to do the best I could and minimize the negative by focusing on the positive. I was able to eat and drink and overall my body felt ok.
This is when the “do as I say not as I do” comes in. I made a very conscious decision to continue with the race even though I was sick. In retrospect I shouldn’t have started the race. However, I am never sick so I really didn’t know where this was going. Even when the fever hit, I was determined to continue. This wasn’t the smartest decision.
I keep wondering why I kept going even though I felt so ill. There are many reasons: I kept moving forward because I could, a DNF (did not finish) was not something I wanted, and I was simply determined and very stubborn. I explored a level of mental toughness and suffering that I had never reached. I was broken. I have never been physically broken like that. All barriers came down. It was me and a dirt road. It was me and my fellow ultra runners. It was me and running and walking and knowing that I would reach an aid station and Chris waiting for me. I completed the race because I knew I could.
I am still processing this race. There are many feelings wrapped up in this experience. I am grateful and happy. I ran across the finish line and was greeted with cheers and smiles.
Chris and I didn’t hang around too long. I had a fever and I was shuffling the walk that you see runners doing after an endurance event. Chris drove home and she blasted the heat for me. I ate as much food as I could put into my fatigued body.
I paid the price for this and I was sick for a few days after the race. I am recovering now and eager to feel 100% because I have another race at the end of the month.
People sometimes call me crazy or wonderful or insane or great or wild. Maybe I am a combination of all of these things. I love ultrarunning. I love the community and I was to continue to run in the woods until I am not on this earth anymore. I am grateful for my family, my friends, my coach, and all of the people that keep me healthy. I am also grateful to Swiftwick and Fleet Feet West Hartford for supporting my running and keeping me well dressed and blister free. I am truly grateful to the Rock the Ridge Race Directors and volunteers. Job well done. They made the race a happy experience.