Back on the Horse

25 06 2011

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You know that old saying about getting back on the horse after being bucked off? That is what I am doing, ‘cept it is taking two years!

Two years ago is the last time I raced the Stadium Stampede 5K. It is one of a handful of racewalk monitored races that are close enough for my aging car to get to. What happened at that race was a product of my being stressed out, uncentered, and unfocused.

I started on the line with the racewalkers. I knew most of them and also knew they would easily leave me in the dust. The problem I was having was that I couldn’t seem to get up for the race, and, worse yet, what we thought at the time to be asthma was making breathing …. uh …. special to say the very least.

It was nice to see my lung challenged friends, but the event was a series of warning flags for me. First,  I had to pick up my number and they couldn’t find it. When I finally got my chip, the fastening zip ties repeatedly broke. I had a decent zip tie in the car,  but I had to find Bob Carlson to have my bib marked as Racewalk.  Fortunately for me, I ran into Bob in the parking lot and he gave me my sticker.

I remember starting out too fast and hacking even before the first kilometer. Passing the back end of the runners found me going really wide and not being focused. Then the cottonwood trees seemed to be shedding all over me. I usually breathe through my mouth, so not only did I get mouthfuls of cottonwood fuzz but gulps of pot smoke from, I guess, the homeless people under the turn around bridge.

Coming back, I felt like I had swallowed cement. Form was a mess. My knee hurt like crazy and, worse probably, my head was in a really sucking place.

What the hell was I doing? I have no business even thinking I can race because I can’t wrap my head around anything. I might as well have laid landmines. A friend of mine kept badgering me to quit racewalking and give up any thought of being remotely competitive because of my injuries.

As her voice flooded my ears, I truly stopped paying attention and caught my foot on breaks in the sidewalk where roots had pushed through.  I caught myself the first time, the second I landed on my bad knee and rear end.

What the hell are you doing Lizzy??

I could have just sat on my pity pot and watched the race go by, but I am too hard headded for that. I got up, disgusted, and plodded on.

Of course, since I was beating myself up and tripling my stress load instead of getting off my own back, my body reacted by stiffling my breathing further.

You see, it took until a year later for my misdiagnosis of asthma switched to vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) which is exacerbated by stress. By the time I got to the warning track around Bronco Stadium all I could think of was finishing and getting oxygen in me. Of course, I was told by the doc to take a hit off my inhaler – precisely the wrong thing for VCD.

I got through to see the finish line but I was truly on my last breath. I ended up crossing the line and folding over the railing trying to breathe. The kids clipping off the timing chip had no clue where any medical was, but I was rescued by Lynn Cole’s husband Lou.

Lou saw I was a mess. I also had pulled off a shoe – but that is a different story. He brought me over to the Huff & Puff area – where lung challenged friends filled their oxygen tanks.

I got the other shoe off and racewalker & friend Michael Blanchard showed me where there was a gal doing free chair massages. “Liz – everyone has an off race. ” I had already had an off 6 months of races and I was completely reconsidering continuing the sport in any competitive way.

The truly positive was that with the chair massage gal were a couple of chiropractors. When I walked over, the taller of the two was watching me waddle over in stocking feet in the mud. One of the rare times that I have to look up to anyone, but I reached this guy’s shoulder.

Yep – that was when I met Dr. Josh Doktor & Dr. Jared Ottenger of Pyramid Chiropractic. Most people would be offended when one of the first questions asked is “So when was your car accident?” ( Answer: 20 years before) After a quick consult, I asked when they wanted to see me and Doc said “Tomorrow morning. Bring all your shoes and insoles.” I brought in a huge box.

Doc, Doc Jared, & I started that day on a long journey to put me back together. It has been a long road, but I have had a lot to learn about myself. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for “the Boys” I probably would have given up racewalking and my medical adventures of the past couple of years would have felt worse.

Flash Forward: I went to get my number today. Thursday, I looked at the entrance form with Coach Tetro because they changed the run into a money race. I signed up for the walk instead of the run.

First issue was that the walk bibs didn’t have the timing device (protected by a wad of Styrofoam ) attached. “Don’t worry about it. I am sure you can get one on race day.” Hu? Ok – I can pitch a fit like the best of them when necessary. Personally, when you read “race goals” you will realize that isn’t really necessary.

Second: She couldn’t find my number in the walk. Two separate colors, but no number? Sigh. The numbers are filed by last name. Nope not there. Then she looked in the run – again not by last name and couldn’t find it.  Ok – first I find out that my favorite race shoes (Brooks T6) are going to have to be found on line until Brooks realizes that the off center phase is irritating. Then I find out that I am on the list but no number.  I took matters in my own hands and flipped through the “S” section in the run. There I was.

Third: The number is not going to lie flat with 1/4 inch of Styrofoam “protecting” the chip.

I have no clue why they give away white tech shirts. They are unisex and completely see through!  The logo is pretty. This may go to my Aussie teammate David W. Smyth!

Most folks wouldn’t put a race on top of leaving for a goal event,  but since my training schedule was completely trashed by my back and illness, I just have to get back on the horse.

Race Goals: I think any fast folks who aren’t going to Sacramento are going to be at this race. Since I skipped the Bolder Boulder, this is going to be my first Colorado race in at least 10 months! I can’t expect to win the walk portion, but I am going for completely personal reasons. It also needs to be mentioned that I truly suck at 5K’s. I like my distance. The thing is, I have to get better at all distances if I am going to feel viable in this sport.

My 6 Things:

1. To be around people and still hold a pace I am comfortable with. I tend to go out too fast. I have to waddle my own race.

2. To push myself to see how my VCD is going to react in the heat.  Last year was a wash because I couldn’t breathe.

3. To focus on the task at hand and not be distracted. I have spent the year and a half helping others. Time to coach myself.

4. To finish reasonably happy.

5. To get my friend and client Trapper Shaw to a race.

6. And most importantly – have fun & not hurt myself.

And – give Doc a big sweatty post race hug!

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Three Weeks and Counting

10 06 2011

My NZ Teammate and Buddy David W. Smyth reminded me of this today and I shuddered. I have not exited the slow and clunky stage which has been exacerbated by a muscle pull in my rear hip. My massage maven and wonder chiropractors have been working with it but I know it is going to take time to heal.

As I tell clients, it took a while to get into this shape, it takes time to get out. The difference is it took no effort to get in bad shape and will take loads to get out of it.

For me, I am frustrated, but I know that the clumsiness will smooth out eventually and speed will come back with extra vitality. It just takes time, dedication, and attention.

If patience is a virtue, I am more virtuous with others. I think this is the case with all of us. We have the luxury of being patient with others until we can’t be any longer,  but we cart ourselves around everywhere we go.

In a world where we really don’t stop and think, much less acknowledge things, this process is a first stop – but if we get stuck there, it is just a game of mental masturbation. Until we do massive change, we will do the little things that make us feel good but truly isn’t satisfying in the long run.

As I sit with my coffee waiting for Maggie to start in on my back, I am thinking about 3 weeks from now in Sacramento. I have my three well seasoned teammates/housemates (Nyle Sunderland, Tammy Wright Stevenson, & David Smith) who have already promised they are going to be there even if I am the last person across the line – after 90 year old Gramma’s. Even if I get disqualified or can’t finish, they are there. It is trying something new and then growing from it.