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Yeti Washington 100k

Reviving the blog for this one…… Yeti Washington 100k is set about an hour outside of Seattle in the cascade mountains along the John Wayne Pioneer trail. The race is a 100k or 100 miler, a true Ultra. The Yeti races are known to be “back of the pack” friendly and relaxed, and is some what of a cult, the Yeti cult. I figured for my first 100k this would be a great option for a mid-back of the pack ultra runner. Plus, beautiful scenery of Cascades and cooler weather in Washington.

My ultra running has evolved since my first 50k in 2017. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid as they say. Multiple 50ks, 2 50 milers, now it was time for a new challenge a 100k. I’m often asked why? Why would you go 62 miles? That’s a 2 part answer. Why Ultra’s? Besides running being a metaphor for life (more on that later), it’s meditative for me to get lost in the trails, in the miles of God’s creation. I don’t listen to music, so if I’m running with friends we talk about life or nothing at all. If I’m solo, I let thoughts come and go, I talk to God, I pray, or I just talk to myself, not out loud but you get the idea. I am aware of what’s around me yet focused on the moment, on the mile I’m in, or on the next step. Sometimes, lets be honest most of the time, ultras are about how long can you suffer, because at some point you will suffer. There is the innate drive with in me to see just how far can I go, can I push through the fatigue, the pain, the mental challenges and prove to myself I can do hard s***, really hard (things).

Now back to the Yeti 100k……. I was able to be consistent and locked in on my training, but my longest training run was 40 miles, 22 miles shy of what I needed to go to finish. This got in my head and I was super nervous and really doubting myself before this race. The mind didn’t care I had done tons of 50ks and two 50 milers, this was double a 50k, a 100k. That played with my mind the days before the race, then I received the best pep talk motivation video from my U of M Football crew. https://youtu.be/fHM3zTipUP8

Those guys have no idea how much that meant to me. Plus there was no DNF’ing this race. I had to go back to Memphis with a buckle after that video. So the race started at 7 am at Hyak, it was cool in the mid 60s.

The course went out through Snowqualie tunnel 21 miles to Cedar falls. The first aid station was 13 miles, not a big deal at the start in 60 degrees. The next aid station was 8 miles, Cedar falls turn around. The course is just breath taking, lush cedar trees, ferns, mountains, wildflowers, water falls and drops to you death off the side of bridges.  This stretch was a nice down hill grade all the way, so I mentally preached to myself “just go easy don’t push, just glide, Monica”. “Stay on top of your fueling, take ecaps, drink”. I did really well that first 21 miles on everything. Then I turned around and headed back to Hyak. What goes down, must go up. 

It started to heat up, the sunshine was shining and beautiful, but it was waaayyyy hotter than expected. I trained in the hottest summer Memphis has had in a long time, but I was never more than 4 miles from ice and cold water. Now. I was minimum of 8 and then 13 miles. I got hot and I got nauseous. It became very hard to get my gels down especially one an hour. The aid stations did have ice (at least to my knowledge) it became harder and harder for me to run because every time I ran I heated up and got super nauseous. So at mile 30, I made the decision. I told myself “You have to slow down, Monica and walk more.” “This is the long game to the finish, you will do better when the sun goes down an cools down”. Honestly my legs felt better running, but I would get so hot, I had to walk it.

Along the course I could always have someone in my line of sight or close by. One guy doing the 100 mile who had also started the walk came up beside me and asked ” How are you enjoying Washington?” my response was” its freaking hot, what the heck? But it is beautiful.”

We chatted for a bit and reassured me the weather isn’t normally this hot and it was super hot that day. 88 degrees was the high, I know Memphians would be begging for that kind of weather in July. For an Ultra it is not good, especially one where aid stations are a minimum of 8 miles apart. As I made my way back to Hyak, I was looking forward to that tunnel to cool off and get out of the sun. I began to preach to myself as I got hotter and more fatigued, ” You have to get through the aide station, just get in get what you need and get out Monica”. I knew if I got through Hyak aide station at mile 42ish I would finish, but I was fading fast. Then I saw the tunnel. Thank you Lord!

I entered the 2.4 mile tunnel with my head lamp on, I was so hot my breath fogged up the air so much I couldn’t see more than the next step I needed to take and even that was a challenge. I cooled off some but not enough to run because now I couldn’t see because of the fog. .4 miles out of the tunnel was Hyak aid station. I grabbed my drop bag mixed up an alka selzer and downed it. My premade tailwind was hot because it had been out in the sun but I was out of everything by this point and had to refill with what I had. Even the water out of the coolers at the aid station were luke warm. There was pizza, wraps and boiled potatoes. Still was nauseous but knew I had to get something down,  I grab a handful of potatoes put them in a zip lock bag with salt and stuck them in my pack. I ate pickles and oranges because seemed the only thing I could get down.

At Hyak, Sam came up to me and asked how I was doing. Sam and chatted early on in the race. He was from Atlanta area and doing his first 100 miler. We leaped frogged along the course and every time he would say “Hey Monica from Memphis”. In my head I said “Hey cute young Sam from ATL”. He wasn’t looking good at Hyak and I wasn’t feeling good at Hyak. So I said ” I’m in the suck” he responded “I’m hurting… BAD”. It was weirdly encouraging to acknowledge “Me too, we are in the suck together”. I sat down to put on some Chapstick on a hot spot on my foot before it became and blister and Sam was behind me chowing down on pizza. I was jealous, I wished I could get down pizza, but can’t wallow in the misery. So I got my shoe back on filled my pack with all the hydration it would hold and off I went to the next aid station. Eight miles to the turn around for the 100k.

I had so hoped to cook down but as the sun lowered my temp did not. I ran a bit at a time but I still had to walk a lot. About 2 miles from Hyak here came Sam. He looked like a new man. I asked how he was feeling, and he said so much better “I was the walking dead back there” as he ran off and left me. He was definitely better and I was jealous. By this point my legs were aching quads felt like concrete, but I kept going.

When I got the the turn around aid station it was getting dark. Thank god they had bug spray. I met up with Melissa, we asked we were doing both knowing we are in the full blown suck, but again encouraged that we weren’t alone in it. I asked the aid station peeps, so just back to Hyak to the finish right? She kindly responded ” Yes back to Hyak then back through the tunnel and back to the finish” honestly I though she was kidding… Like when people tell you “your almost there” but you so are NOT. So I got out of the aid station and headed back by now its getting dark and I’m thinking surely it will be cool enough for me to run, but nope. Melissa caught me and I was glad to get caught. We started talking, mostly about how much this sucked and how bad we hurt. Then we kind of took turn encouraging each other for real. We walked most of the way back to Hyak with our head lamps on. Praying to ourselves and then literally praying out loud. “Jesus help me”. I remember it being super dark but beautiful all at the same time. I look up and saw this massive amount of stars covering the sky, and then just focused on one foot in front of the other. We did talk though a lot about our lives and what we love what we do. Then we rounded a corner and there was light! The Hyak aid station!

My friend Lisa was waiting and Melissa’s friend was there too. I lost it when I got to Lisa. Emotionally and physically spent doesn’t describe what I was at that aid station. I was crying saying ” I’m so sorry we signed up for this, it was my idea, this is awful and now I still have to go under the finish line through the F’ing tunnel and back. She grabbed me by the shoulders sat me on a bench and said what do you need. It snapped me back.” I need water” she said “you have come this far you can do this, you just have to go through the tunnel and back. It’s done. You can do this.” She filled up my water I grabbed some oranges and made sure I didn’t leave without Melissa.

As we headed out of the aid station, Lisa was talking about how cute and sweet the race director Jason was and how she wanted me to take a picture with him. All I wanted to do was punch him in the throat for making me go through the tunnel again. He was at the finish line as we walked under and he gave me the biggest hug and smile and said ” How are you doing?!” I said ” I’ve been in the SUCK for the last 30, that’s how I’m doing.” with a smile of course. He responded with” You are there you just have to go through the tunnel and back”.

Thank You Jason for my 1st 100k

The tunnel is 2.4 miles ONE WAY. So Lisa snapped a pic and off we went. It was dark in that thing, and I honestly had a melt down half way through, like I panicked and I kept saying “I cant do this” and Melissa was like “you got this” I somehow flipped a switch and just kept going one foot in front of the other. no idea how far we had gone or how much further we had to go was BRUTAL. Then I heard the water fall and could see some sense of light, the moon. Thank God. Then turn around and head back, shoot me now.

Luckily there were some teenagers who had ventured out at midnight to go through the tunnel and they headed back a little after we did so they were laughing, and cutting up all the way back. IT helped take our minds off of how much it hurt and how far we had to go. Luckily we were walking fast enough for them not to catch us. And then a glimpse of light! the end of the tunnel! only .4 to go. First race that I didn’t at least run it in to the finish, nope I walked it and got that buckle!

Melissa & I with our hard earned buckles

I have struggled with this race because it did not go the way I had hoped or expected. I thought I would be done before dark not after midnight. I thought I would run a lot more, but my body said otherwise. So as I have processed this race over the last 2 weeks, I would’ve only done one thing different. I would have asked a friend to come crew. That big of a distance needs a little extras support than aid stations that are at least 8 miles apart. That’s the only thing I’d change, but not the only thing I learned.

I don’t think there is any better metaphor for life than running, especially Ultra running. There are always highs and lows in life and ultras, it gets harder than you can ever possibly imagine, but you keep putting one foot in front of the other. God sends you help along the way through people you meet or the beauty of the stars. I gained a deeper understanding of what my athletes go through with season ending injuries, how you get overwhelmed with how far you have to go and how you have to approach rehab one step/process at time. How it is a long slow grind and you end up in the suck, but there is help along the way and one day you look up and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I read a beautiful quote this week by Elizabeth Elliot from Secure in the Everlasting arms

He makes us wait.

He keeps us on purpose in the dark.

HE MAKES US WALK WHEN WE WANT TO RUN,

sit still when we want to walk,

for He has things to do in our souls that we are not interested in”

I believe God just wanted me to slow down, take in all the beauty around me, the people around me. If the race had gone how I wanted it too, I would’ve never seen views like this

I needed to slow down to let all of that wonder and beauty seep into my soul. To experience a strength that is not my own. Now that’s why I run Ultra’s………

Special thanks to Jason and the Yeti cult. the Ultra community is friendly and supportive but his one seemed even more…. and Jason if you ever read this, I really wouldn’t have punched ya in the throat. I’m so thankful for a wonderful brutal race to be my first 100k.

Man words can’t describe how much I appreciate my people. Lisa My fellow Ultra running frien and so much more, Jack my training buddy extraordinaire, my running coach and friend Mark and all my people that encouraged and check on me . Big Love to you all.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/kLxoyxUXpojqvMmq8

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Blog Restart New Focus Life with Running, Yoga, Sports Medicine, and whole lot of Jesus.

It’s been interesting 6 months, lots of hard life changes and great accomplishments and a knee injury to boot. I just returned from an amazing trip to the Dominican Republic, where I took a “teaching vacation”. I taught a daily yoga class on the beach at Secrets cap Cana. I can’t describe in words the beauty of that place and the pictures don’t do it justice, but was a much needed time away of rest and relaxation and some focused quiet time with God. It brought such Joy to share the gift of yoga with the fellow guests at the resort, they even asked me to teach a class on the day I was leaving, which is typically “travel day” so we are not required to teach a class, but I loved it so much I couldn’t resist. It was one more chance to share Joy and soak in breath amidst the palm trees, soft white sand and aqua blue waters.

I didn’t teach. Holy Yoga class but I did include some worship in my playlist and ended each class with a breath prayer. As in instructor it’s hard to tell if people like your class, I’ve grown to realize that when people sit there quiet and almost dazed as class ended, then it was a good class because they were truly relaxed at the end. That was something that took time for me to learn. I’m a runner first and ex basketball player and we respond with claps and cheers fist bumps and high fives. That’s not yoga. Yoga is going deeper, focusing on breath and putting aside all distractions so, for me God can speak. That’s why I end with a breath prayer. Whether you’re a believer or not God is speaking and breath prayer takes you to a deeper quieter place. There is just something about the breath that allows him to draw close. Well allows us to realize he is close. It’s a simple thing, breath prayer. During Savasana, Final relaxation for those non yogi’s out there, you just inhale a word and exhale a word. My favorite I have come to use is “Inhale Joy, Exhale Life” “Breathing in Joy” “Exhaling the heaviness of Life”. With each breath the mind, the body, the soul breathes in Joy, and with each exhale, out goes the hard things of life that weigh us down. Obviously, you don’t have to be a believer to benefit from Breath prayer but oh how it takes you deeper and closer to God.

The hard things lately have helped shift my focus not on my circumstances but to the one who holds it all together. I’m so not perfect in this, I for sure have my days where my feelings and emotions over run my thoughts and spin me into an anxious mess, but I’m a work in progress. It has allowed me such a deeper sense of God when my mind is focused in the right place. I’ve have been called into a season of rest, literally and figuratively. (R-release, E-every, S-single, T-thing to God). I’ve had a knee injury, that I kept trying to power through and run, yes, I know better, but running was my release. So I frantically cling to it, still do, but God said Nope and one day my knee swelled up and so did my ankle. Ok, God, I get it. Now I know I have to rest……. Oh I didn’t want to rest and I would go a week of rest and then try to run, nope knee swells. So I finally got, I heard it loud and clear, “I’m calling you to a season of rest” so I didn’t run or walk or bike for 17 days, only yoga and rehab. I’d love to say I’m healed but I’m not. This morning I think God said ok run with me. So I did a little run walk a whole 3 miles. If you know me, I had crossed over the the dark side of Ultra marathons. Running a 50k (31 miles) in the mountains, and 60k (37 miles on the trails of KY) so 3 miles, whoop tee do, right? But it was the best 3 miles of my life. Now here is where you can call me a Jesus freak, I’m a visual type person, so honestly What I saw was Jesus with his hair pulled back in a man bun and saying run with me, so I did. I was listening to my favorite podcast “ Revelation Wellness, Revin the Word” and she was talking about technology and social media and how it can steal our focus, but also how God can own it, like her podcasts. And that’s when he said “start your blog again and let me own it” He clearly said take your iPad with you to Starbucks and just type. I will tell you what to write. So here I am typing away.

One of the questions posed during the podcast is “what’s your why?” She was talking specifically for ministry, and I was like I don’t have a ministry, but that’s not true. God calls each of us, at the very least to love your neighbors, so we all have a ministry. Over the last several months even in the hard places, God has kept saying “ you are Joyful” that’s how I made you, I gave you my Joy and made you Joy Full. No lie, I have been struggling to find my Joy, but each time I hear him say it bubbles back up.

I’m still growing in this, still in training, but I think God has called me to bring Joy to everyone really. In every situation, every encounter and every hard place. He has placed me in a career ( here’s the sportsmedicine part) where I have a unique opportunity to bring Joy to the sick, the injured. Being injured can leave the heart so down cast. Being in chronic pain can kill the spirit. So he placed me where I’m at to bring Joy, and hopefully healing. He gave me this injury to better relate to the burdens and hardships of not being able to do what you love. So that’s my “why”, that’s why I started typing again, now 2 hours later and a very long blog post. So here it is, I don’t know what the next post will be but you can expect life, (hopefully) Running, yoga, sports medicine and a whole lot of Jesus. Sprinkled with a whole lot of JOY.

“For you make him most blessed (and a blessing) forever; You make him Joyful with the Joy of Your Presence.” Psalms 21:6 AMP

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The Death of an Institution

Today Feburary 18, 2014, I said goodbye to my mentor and friend Eddie Cantler. I met Eddie in the fall of 2003. I had been practicing as a physical therapist for 3 years and was working on completing my Athletic Training Certification. To sit for my boards the last requirement was an intro to Athletic training class. I signed up at U of M hoping a former co-worker would be teaching it and I could just take the tests and not worry with attending class.  Well, Eddie was teaching the class not my former co-worker. I showed up to class, Eddie goes through the roll gets to my name and says “You could be up here teaching this class” and we hit it off from there… I could’ve easily shown up to just take the tests, but I didn’t. I went to class every time tues thur 9:30-11 ( I think). I went in an hour early to work everyday and worked 2 weekend days a month plus work late to make up the time I was out of the clinic for class, I have a great boss.  I loved the class, the content wasn’t new, but Eddie’s stories were. I learned from his experience.

After a few weeks, he’s up in front of class and says “why don’t you come out and do something for a change”. Wow did my life change. I went out to my first practice the next day and the rest is history. Of course it took time and my role evolved as the years past from coming out to a few practices and home games to traveling with the team. Eddie took me under his wing, but he also sought my advice and my clinical skills. Eddie knew that it took a team “to do the job” and he gathered the best around to be apart of his team. I was blessed to be apart of it.

Eddie was a Brass rough around the edges kind of guy. He could Mother F you like nobody business, and it didn’t matter if you were 6’6 270 of solid muscle or the little sweet looking female student. For the first few years I think I was the only person who had not been Mother F’d by Eddie, and then I was the host trainer for the NCAA regional basketball tournament and I became one of the clan.

Some of us were fortunate enough to get the deep down soft side of Eddie. He always wanted to know about me and how I was doing. He took a real interest in my life, especially my love life… Sorry Eddie I didn’t get it done before you left us… I’m still not married. When I ran my first marathon he was out in his front yard along the course the looking for me to come by. Eddie was my mentor, I sought his advice for every job offer that I had and all of them would’ve taken me away from being involved with Memphis and he always said ultimately you had to do what’s best for you. He would sit and listen to me ramble about jobs and relationships and then he would hash it out with me. I’m really not sure how I will handle the next job offer. I know I will instinctly reach for the phone to call him and schedule a lunch.

Eddie has had such a huge impact on my career, I never would’ve had the opportunities I’ve had with out him. Almost all the athletes I have worked with were because of a connection to Eddie. I had so many opportunities professionally and socially all because of Eddie. I don’t know how to put it in words how much he molded me into the professional that I am today. Thank You EDC, I am forever grateful for you.

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Yoga for Athletes

Yoga is becoming more and more poplar in the sports world, from the Dallas Cowboys adding yoga into training camp this year to the MLB having a yoga coach on staff like the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays. Professional sports are embracing yoga as part of recovery and training. Once something starts on the professional level it tends to trickle down into college, high school and youth sports. This is one trend I am thankful to see.

Yoga is not some new trendy fitness fad. Yoga has been around for thousands of years, most research would say Yoga started 5,000 years ago in India, but there is actual evidence of yoga postures on artifacts dating back to 3000 B.C. The word Yoga means yoke, join or union. Yoga consists of asanas-physical postures, pranayama-breath control, and meditation. Yoga is not just stretching, it is physical movement linked to breath and focused mind, a mind, body, soul practice. There are several types of yoga as well, Hatha, Yin, Iyengar , Ashtanga, and Vinyasa to name a few.

I started a yoga practice in 2004 as a way to cross train for running. I was all about the intense workout the physical aspect, give me a power yoga class and I was totally happy especially a Hot power yoga class. That’s the pretty typical American view of yoga. Over the years my practice has grown into a mind body soul focus. Breath and meditation has become the most beneficial part of my yoga practice. I also became more aware of how easy it is to get injured in a power yoga class. Moving through transitions of poses as fast as you can set one up for injury. These two aspects of growth in my own yoga practice led me to seek a Yoga teacher training certification to share the benefits I had experienced.

So what exactly are the benefits of yoga for athletes? The same benefits for anyone. Yoga can help manage stress, improve flexibility, strength, and balance.

Yoga brings balance to the autonomic nervous system, our flight or fight response. Yoga, in particularly pranayama, breathing techniques, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system. Parasympathetic nervous system lowers the heart rate, stimulates blood flow to the digestive system, and brain. Resulting in a more relaxed state for body and mind. As competitive athletes most of their day is spent in the sympathetic state, the excited state, from intense weight room workouts to practice to games, basically living in a sympathetic over drive. This can occur when the body perceives a constant stressor, the bodies brief sympathetic response persists all day. An all day response is not how the body is designed to work. Just like an average person this constant excited state can have negative affect on the body. It can suppress the immune function, raise blood glucose levels, affect kidney function and raise blood pressure. Yoga practices benefit by decreasing the bodies excited state through calming down the body activating the parasympathetic system through breathing techniques and meditative relaxation techniques.

Yoga can improve flexibility, strength and balance. A study performed in 2016 looked at a 10 week period of twice a week yoga activity for athletes verses athletes with no yoga activity over the same time period. The yoga activity consisted on downward dog, low lunge and chair. Sit and reach test, shoulder flexibility test and stork stance were used to test flexibility and balance. The yoga group showed significant improvements in flexibility tests and balance tests verse non yoga group.

As a medical professional I don’t believe in making blank statements about something without the research to back it up. Personal experience is also adds another dimension of proof. Personal experience and proven research are why I am a firm believer in yoga, especially for athletes. In my personal opinion Yoga is a great tool to enhance sports performance and aid in recovery after games or hard days or training.

Personally I have seen the benefits of yoga in the athletes I had the opportunity to teach. I use a slow flow vinyasa class, moving through asana’s at a slower pace linking each movement with breath. These athletes get the intense workouts in the weight room and on the field or court, that’s why I opt for slow flow over power vinyasa. I had one athlete come up to me after class and tell me how the breathing techniques taught during class have helped him sleep when he had trouble falling asleep at night. I have taught classes where athletes (not Memphis football) were snickering and giggling in the beginning of class but after savasana , final relaxation pose, sit up with a relaxed calm look on their faces not saying a word. The “dazed zen” look is what I call it… a successful class.

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Big Sur Marathon…. What a Race!

My running coach has us write a marathon story after each race, so I figured I’d blog about it….I really don’t even know where to begin, because words just can’t do the Big Sur Marathon justice, but I’ll try my best….. Kind of like Boston, Big Sur is a bucket list marathon. The course runs along HWY 1 from Big Sur State Park to Carmel, CA. 26.2 miles of the most beautiful scenery you could image. You are running through Mountains, Redwoods, Ragged Coastline, and the beach. Did I mention running mountains? Yea, it’s a brutal course too…… Which is why I had shied away from this race, I really don’t like hills. I mean, really, REALY don’t like hills.

So last summer when the registration opened up, I thought if I can get my friends to go and make a trip out of it, I’ll do it. So out went the emails to my best friends, we always take a trip and this could be the trip. Wasn’t hard to convince them to spend a week in Monterey, CA. So, I had no excuse and I signed up and so did my best friend Rebecca. Ha, she said she knew if she didn’t, she would be ticked at herself for not doing it once race day came. Big Sur was her second marathon.

So on Friday April 26th we arrived in Monterey and hit the expo. For a smallish marathon the expo was excellent, easy to navigate, hardly any lines to get our packets. Overall great experience. We went back the next morning to hear Jeff Galloway speak about race strategies. I needed all the help I could get. I had done my hill training and YES there are hills in Memphis, but as my Mentor (old school athletic trainer) Eddie put it when I told him I was running Big Sur..”Are you ******* NUTS? They have ******* mountains out there, NOT Hills!!!” (for those of you that know Eddie, you get a laugh from that and know exactly what he said)

Jeff Galloway gave some great info and said to expect 15-20 minutes slower race time than you usual. I did my best to make myself not have a time goal to go out and just enjoy the race, and I did pretty good. I just wanted to beat my NYC time, which I did;)

Race day started at 3 am, thank goodness for the 2 hour time difference. We caught the School Bus shuttle at 4 am to take us to the start at Big Sur State Park. Thank goodness I typically don’t get car sick, going up that winding road would definitely make one sick. I heard a few did. We met a nice couple from Florida, it was her first marathon. About an hour later we arrived at the start wearing our throw away sweats. We found friends of Rebecca’s from Columbus, OH and luckily I found my running bud Daniel and we hung out until 6:15. So hear’s a teaching moment….I was careful not to drink too much fluids, so I wouldn’t have to make pit stops during the race. It’s recommended to have 6-8 ounces 2 hours before the start. A runner should be hydrating 1-2 weeks before the race, not cram it in the day before or race morning… So we had our pit stop before the race and then we lined up at 6:15, walking up a big hill. Which means the start was down hill. So misleading…

The race started right on time 6:45, right after the moment of silence for Boston. Our corral was 3rd about 6-9 minutes behind the official start. I said bye to my friends when we lined up because we don’t run the same pace, I met others waiting around me, a woman from Sacramento, who had only run 14 miles in training because she was injured and she was gonna take it slow… Thanks….Ha! who am I kidding, I know I’m slow and off we went. Taking it easy and holding myself back the first 5 miles. I went out way to fast my last marathon and suffered greatly, I wasn’t goin to make that mistake again, especially with the hills I was about to face. Hurricane Point is a 550 ft 2 MILE up hill climb at mile 10-12. That wasn’t the first hill and it sure as heck wasn’t the last. The first 5 miles were in the forest, huge trees, a winding road which opened up to the “plains” with mountains to the right, coast to the left and beautiful green pastures. I’d love to say this was flat, but it started some of the rolling hills, luckily we saw whales out in the ocean to distract us. The sun had just come up so when you looked back at where we came from, the fog was lifting and the sunlight shinning down created a halo over the forest, breath-taking really….

We past Punta Sur, a lighthouse off in the distance, and onto Hurricane Point. At the base of it was the Taiko drummer’s pounding a way, to help you pound away at the pavement. This is where I had the most fun, believe or not, the biggest hill. I talked to several runner’s on the way up Hurricane Point. A couple running on their 7th wedding anniversary, her dressed in white, him in black, her maid of honor in pink and his best man in pink and a pink skirt. Hilarious! I talked to a gentleman in his 50’s who proceeded to tell me he had been injured and only able to go as far ar 12 miles in his training, YIKES! I saw 2 girls who had run Boston, they had their Boston bids on the back of their shirts and their shirts said something like “We are Boston We will not be stopped, We are Boston Strong“or it was “We will Keep Going, We will Stay Strong, We will Run Now“. I asked them if anyone had taken a picture of them running to get their shirts. They said no and when I offered they jumped for joy. I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture myself. I ran with them most of the hill. They told me Miska was stopped at mile 25.5 and the other girl, who I forget her name, was stopped at 25. They were both Boston natives and obviously great friends. Miska found a dime and picked it up. She started talking about how her brothers made fun of her when she would pick up a penny that wasn’t heads up but that her grandmother always told her she should pick up a pennies even if they are not heads up, because “if you watch your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves“. Before I knew it, I was at the top of Hurricane Point. As I made the turn at the top, I could hear the piano a mile away just past Bixbey Bridge. What a breath-taking site. As I ran down to the bridge  another runner said “Words can’t describe” and I said “Amen” because words or pictures can’t describe the beauty I saw especially coming down to Bixbey Bridge.

I crossed the Bridge and tried to take a video of the piano player, some how that didn’t work so well, it was upside down. And now 13.1 half way point, this is where it started to get tough. 12-13.1 was down hill, but 13.1 was up hill then down, then up another hill. The mile marker at 14 was a picture on Kenyans saying “We call that walking in our country” well guess what? it was… I was walking up the hill, and the 35 mile an hour head wind wasn’t helping either…….The head wind got us from mile 9-20 I think, I just remember it being brutal and forever there…..I continued to talk to those around me and I thought “Lord, just get me to mile 20, I know I’m good once I hit 20“. I pray a lot during races, especially from 17 on….I got there and I did have a sense of relief, but mile 20 begins the hills of Carmel Highlands, OH What FunThank God! for the Strawberry lady at mile 23. Woo hoo!! a down hill at 23.5!! which honestly at that point the downs hurt as much as the ups, so I don’t know why I just said Woo Hoo…. The down hill winded down to Carmel Montesary Beach, where the belly dancers were shimming at mile 25, right at the bottom of a straight steep up hill. “Seriously??? mile 25 ya gotta put a steep up hill??” What goes up, must come down, thank goodness.. I can see the finish and mile 26 marker, which was a picture of a choir and all it said was “Hallelujah”…. Amen to that…. I hit the finish looking for my friends Jo and LJ, and found them right before I crossed the finish, grinning ear to ear.

I finished Big Sur!!! Jeff was right, 20 minutes over my usual time but beating my NYC time. Crossing the finish after 26.2 grueling miles, is the BEST FEELING in the World esp if the announcer calls your name “MONica BAker from MEMphis, TN”……….. I walked around got my chocolate milk and banana and returned to the finish to wait for my other friends. I got to cheer for Daniel as he came across the finish. I saw the man who said he’d only run 12 miles cross the finish line and I screamed my head off as Rebecca came across. I had a blast cheering on the runners and seeing their faces of Joy as they crossed the finish line. I saw the Boston girls too.

Seeing them reminded me, I never had any fear of something like Boston happening. I didn’t worry about my friends at the finish or my running buds. I was just caught up in the moment and I LOVED every Hard Minute of it. After the race Rebecca and I topped it off with an ice bath in the Pacific Ocean…….What a race………

Rebecca and I with out Medals
Rebecca and I with our Medals

Jo and Me at the finish
Jo and I at the finish

Pics i took on the course
Pics I took on the course

Uncategorized

The Dream of Boston Marathon becomes a Nightmare…

My mind has been racing ever since I saw the first Tweet from @runnersworld @ 1:55 pm CST “#BostonMarathon press room on lockdown. Loud noises heard near finish line.” I thought this has gotta be a joke, right? or maybe a random gas leak? It seemed like hours, but was only two minutes before the 1st image was posted on Twitter of Smoke rising up from the finish line area. Still, I was in shock, this couldn’t be an attack… NOT on the Boston Marathon……

The Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl/National Championship of Marathons. It is the single most recognized race in the world. Qualifying for Boston is the Ultimate accomplishment for a marathoner and it’s only for a select few. As of September 2012, 0.5% of Americans have run a marathon and of that 0.5% only approximately 10% are fast enough to qualify for Boston. Once you’ve been bitten by the Marathon bug, the ultimate goal is the Boston Marathon. Honestly though, for many of us, like myself, it’s just a HUGE DREAM. I would have to run an hour and 8 minutes faster than my best time to qualify, but it’s still the Ultimate Dream……

As a kid you dream of being a professional athlete, high school you dream of state championships and college scholarships and for a select few,post college, a real dream of becoming a professional athlete. For most former athletes, after college, we are left to find a new sport, a new goal. My love for running led me to half marathons and then to Full marathons. The Marathon is my sport, if you’re an athlete or a former athlete you understand. So in my adult life, one of my biggest dreams is to run Boston. That dream turned into a nightmare for so many yesterday at 2:45 est.

If you have ever been to a marathon, you know how fun the finish line can be. To see the pure joy on runners faces or even the collapse of a completely spent exhausted runner who gave their every being to get to that finish. It’s electric! You see other runners stop to help pick up a fellow fallen runner and get them across the finish line. In what other sport do your fellow competitors help you succeed? In what other sport does no one get booed? Only a marathon….. It’s hard to describe your feelings at the finish, honestly, I always cry. I’ve ran 6 and I still cry. You are just over come with emotion and elation all at the same time. During a marathon you go through every emotion, excitement at the finish, extreme nervousness at the start, feeling completely defeated and exhausted around mile 20…only through determination does one finish 26.2.

I watched the horror of the Boston Marathon unfold, I just stood in front of the tv motionless, not saying a word, tears streaming down my face, at work I might add….. So many thoughts running through my mind. I knew that most of the people affected would be spectators from the location of the smoke, friends and family supporting their loved ones……..My 1st thought was of my best friend Jo. She cheered me on at the finish of my last marathon in Dallas. She was about 20 yards from the finish. I thought of my friends Rebecca, Billy, and Brandon, who made the trip with me to NYC to cheer me on as I finished the New York Marathon. I thought of my parents who made the 4 hour drive to Springfield, MO to cheer me on along the course and at the finish of the Bass Pro Marathon. I thought of my running buddy Jack, who got me to my first sub 5 marathon and all of my running buddies for that matter. I thought about my friends Ed and Karen who literally followed me around Memphis playing the fight song as I ran my first marathon, St. Jude.

I thought what if that happened to them just because they were there to support me? And then I hear the story of the 8-year-old Martin Richard who was killed. He ran out to hug his dad as he finished the race and then returned to the sidewalk with his mom and sister, seconds later the bomb went off killing him and severing the leg (I believe) of his sister and badly wounding his mother. How does one reconcile such tragedy?

My mind then raced to Who did I know that was running? were they ok? Then I got the text from LJ, Christy Renfroe, our friend from college, had finished just before the blast but no one could get a hold of her. Now this was really personal. Luckily, Christy posted on her Facebook her and her husband were safe. Immediate sense of relief…. The only sense of relief I had yesterday…

I admit this tragedy has hit me hard…. I’ve always grieved and been heart-broken for the victims of other tragedies like Newtown, or Columbine, but this? This hits home. Honestly, striking fear to my core….. Last night, I questioned whether I would run a big marathon again, like New York. Not so much for my safety, but more for the safety of my friends and family. Can I go out and run and not worry about them at the finish. Can I stand in a crowd of runner’s at the start and not be fearful of this happening again?? The fear is still there this morning. Just that un-nerving feeling, ya know, unsettled. I was afraid to go to sleep last night, for fear of the nightmares. So what did I do? I prayed….. And then I prayed some more…..

In 11 days I will line up to run the Big Sur Marathon in California. Luckily, I will have my best friend Rebecca with me at the start and Jo and LJ will be at the finish. As we set out on a journey along HWY.1, I know we will have heavy hearts, but I also know with a lot of prayer that the LOVE of Running will overcome. We will cover 26.2 miles of the most beautiful scenes in the world and do it all in the honor of the victims and their families of Boston, as well our own friends and family. The innocence of my sport was lost yesterday, but I for one will not be overcome fear. I will choose Love….. The Love of Running…. The Love of Others….

The Light Shines in the Darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”-John 1:5

To help victims of the Bombing donate to One Fund Boston

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Perfect words….Spectators are what makes a marathon.

Athletic Training, Uncategorized

Does this stuff really work?

I know it’s crazy for me to think “Does this stuff really work?” I mean, I’ve been a Physical Therapist/ Athletic Trainer for 13 years, so I shouldn’t doubt that what I do everyday works, right???? Well the PT/ATC in me unequivocally knows that it works, but the runner in me, well If you have ever worked with marathoner’s you understand…… God forbid you tell us to take a week off to prevent a minor tweak from turning into a full-blown injury. It’s ironic really because I truly understand both sides. So if I suggest to a runner to take time off, then I mean you gotta take time off and let it heal. My PT/ATC mantra to injured runners is “better to take short time off now, than long time later” When you tell them short time is a week and long time is a months, that usually gets through to a runner.

So when I had my own little injury at the first of January, My marathoner mentality took over. I was running early pre-sun up with my running group and it was a fairly chilly 28 degrees. I made the mistake of not warming up enough, and 15 minutes into a 14 miler I took a step and felt a sharp pain in my calf. I thought “that didn’t feel good” but I thought it will just work itself out after I warm up some more. That didn’t happen, there was pain with every step, so after getting 3 miles out I told my group I had be smart and bail. I headed back, able to run but with pain. I had strained my calf, my right Soleus to be specific. I stretched off a curb when I got back to my car and then rushed home and iced it immediately. I was limping the rest of day and in pain, even with just walking. I knew I didn’t feel a pop, so I hadn’t completely tore anything, but a strain is microtears in the musculotendon junction, so a strain is still a tear.

As a runner, I started to freak out, I’m training for Big Sur Marathon in California, extremely Beautiful, but Extremely hilly. I had to be able to train, I couldn’t be out for weeks or I wouldn’t be ready. (Can you hear the marathoner Anxiety?) Then the PT/ATC stepped in, “Calm down Monica, let’s be aggressive you can fix this” I literally said that to myself……..I iced 4 times that day, wore a compression sleeve and wore heels when I went out to dinner. The heels put my calf in a supported shortened position, not a stretched, which helped to take the stress off the calf when I walked. The day after the injury, I rolled out my calf on a foam roller, then stretched and finished with ice. I repeated that 4 times that day. Important to note I didn’t force the stretching, just easy stretch, no pain. The third day I added ultrasound with estim (I was back at work and had access) and a very painful self massage, prior to rolling out my calf on foam roller, stretching and ice. I did that whole process 3 times, plus tossing in some extra icing when I had time. The fourth day I continued the whole process but I started adding bilateral calf raises after rolling out my calf. I let pain guide me, limiting the reps to no sharp pain and using both legs. Day five I did the elliptical for cardio, without pain. By day Six I was able to do single leg eccentric calf decel progressing to a single leg calf raise, I was still continuing the whole process 3 times a day, with extra icing. By day 7, the marathoner anxiety took over I have to run!! Luckily the PT/ATC tempered my mentality. I used Kinesio tape to compression wrap my

20130226-091659.jpg calf and went out for a slow 3 miler. I walked 4 minutes to warm up then started slowly into my 3 miles. I didn’t feel sharp pain, but did have a tightness and discomfort in my calf. I just did my 3 miles, rolled out my calf, stretched, and iced. The PT/ATC won…

The day after I wasn’t super sore, but I was sore, so I continued my rehab routine and went to yoga. Week two, I did my daily rehab routine, ran 3 miles twice that week with no set backs. Two weeks after my injury I did 6 miles of interval run walk with no pain only little tightness. Week 3, I continued my rehab routine with yoga and my running and 3 weeks post injury I ran 10.5 miles without pain, still doing my run walk intervals (3 min run 1 min walk) but that’s how I do marathons. Some of you may have heard of the Galloway method, I highly recommend it. I’ve ran 6 marathoners using this type of training.

After my 10.5 miler, I wasn’t any more sore on my injured calf than my healthy calf. Woo Hoo I was back training! I continued my calf strengthening and stretching a minimum of 3 times a week for 2 weeks. I iced any time I felt a lil soreness and I stretched really well after Every run. I continue to stretch really well after every run. Since my 10.5 miler, I’ve been able to do long runs of 11, 14, 19, 10, and this past Sunday I ran the Little Rock Half Marathon as part of my training for Big Sur with no issues. So yea this stuff does work and I didn’t need a research study to tell me that………

Fingers crossed for continued healthy training, a little luck doesn’t hurt either;)

Athletic Training, general medical care, Uncategorized

The Dreaded “C” word, Concussion…. part 2

So What do we do if an athlete has sustained a potential concussion? Most High Schools and Colleges have policies and procedures in place to manage concussions. A neurological sideline assessment should be performed by a qualified medical professional at the time of injury. These tests may include short-term memory assessment, balance and vision tests, pupil responses and any other special tests deemed necessary by the professional. If an athlete sustains a loss of consciousness (knocked out) the athlete should be disqualified from play for the rest of that day. For a medical professional this is the easy call…. The tricky call is when there is no loss of consciousness. The National Athletic Trainer’s Association Position Statement on an athlete who exhibits concussion symptoms after a blow to the head, but does not have loss of consciousness states as follows: Athletes who are symptomatic at rest and after exertion for at least 20 mins should be disqualified from returning to participation on the day of injury. Basically means no symptoms at rest and after jogging, sprinting, sit-ups or any sport specific, non contact activities. If the player is able to return to play they should be closely monitored during game or practice and then reassessed 24 and 48 hours after injury for delayed onset of symptoms.

So what happens after the game? Parents this is where you need to pay attention….An Athlete with a concussion should avoid taking medications except acetaminophen aka Tylenol after the injury. The athlete should rest and return to daily activities as tolerated. Here’s tips for all the parents out there, video games and watching tv MAY increase concussion symptoms. If symptoms increase, the activity should be stopped. Remember, this is a brain injury, concentration requires the brain to work, so for it to heal the brain needs to rest. This May also mean keeping the athlete out of school, especially if symptoms are remaining at rest. A common question asked by parents is should I wake them up during to the night? The NATA recommends if the athlete sustains a loss of consciousness or had a prolonged period of amnesia, or still experiencing significant symptoms at bedtime, the athlete should be periodically woken up to check for deteriorating signs or symptoms. The athlete should follow-up with the medical professional 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours following the injury for reassessment. This may included computerized neuropsychological testing, a common test is the Impact. IF there is no computerized testing available; symptoms are used to grade progress and return to sport.

Once an athlete is symptom free at rest and non-sport daily activities then the athlete is progressed through exertion testing, like jogging or biking to sprinting. Once the athlete is symptom free with basic level exertion, then a return to sport can be initiated like non contact drills. The athlete must be symptom free during the activity and after the activity to progress to the next level. There is no set time-table on how long this process may take. Could be a day, could be several weeks.

For the parents of young kids who don’t have access to a Certified Athletic Trainer you may have to rely solely on your pediatrician, please remember these steps. If you’re a parent of an athlete who has had multiple concussions, I highly recommend seeking out a Pediatrician or Neurologist who has experience in managing concussions. The Impact website provides a resource to find a physician who is experienced in Impact testing, thus, experienced in concussion management. But if you are on your own, a simple and easy way to know if your child is ready, allow your athlete to play out in the yard once symptom free at rest. If the symptoms return, you know they are not ready to return to sport or play.

The right equipment is key to preventing concussions. Proper fitting helmets and mouth guards are important to help absorb impact forces through the head and neck. Another theory to prevent concussions is having strong neck muscles, the idea is that the stronger the neck muscles, the better ability to absorb the impact. Pop Warner a popular football little league, established practice rules to limit the amount of full speed collisions in an attempt to decrease the amount of repetitive head trauma and prevent concussions. A highly regarded neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu suggests no athlete should tackle before the age of 14. “Our youngsters have big heads on very weak necks and that combination sets up the brain for greater risk of injury” said Cantu.

And so the debate begins, are ‘we’ doing enough? Are ‘we’ going over board? Can our favorite sports survive? Concussions have become a very hot topic, hence the title “The Dreaded C word“. It’s gotten to the point that Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears admits to hiding his concussions…. So yes it’s a hot topic, and now it’s your turn to chime in, let me know your thoughts………

Athletic Training, Uncategorized

The Dreaded “C” word, Concussion

The dreaded C word, Concussion……The media coverage The last few years has drawn a lot of attention to concussions in sports. From news of protocol changes in the NFL, to Congress looking at mandating policy on how to handle concussions in youth sports. The term Concussion seems to be everywhere and yet the average person probably doesn’t know what a Concussion really is……..Let’s start with the definition…. The CDC defines a Concussion as a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury resulting from a blow to the head or shaking of the head that alters brain function.

So how do we know an athlete has sustained a concussion? Well, There is a mechanism of injury; a blow to the head, neck or body in which impulsive forces are transmitted to the brain. Concussions can occur in any sport or even just horsing around. The leading high school sport with concussions is football followed by girls soccer. Concussions are not just a guy thing, and it seems to affect each gender differently, so it’s very important to watch for any of the signs and symptoms.

The NATA lists Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
      • Blurred Vision
      • Dizziness
      • Drowsiness
      • Excess Sleep
      • Easily Distracted
      • Fatigue
      • Feel “In a Fog
      • Feel “Slowed down”
      • Headache
      • inappropriate Emotions
      • Irritability
      • Loss of Consciousness
      • Loss of Orientation
      • Memory Problems
      • Nausea
      • Nervousness
      • Personality Change
      • Poor Balance/Coordination
      • Poor Concentration
      • Ringing in Ears
      • Sadness
      • Seeing Stars
      • Sensitive to Light
      • Sensitive to Noise
      • Sleep Disturbance
      • Vacant Stare/Glassy eyed
      • Vomiting

Different combinations of these symptoms can occur and may not show up for hours after the initial injury. Symptoms may also worsen with physical and/or mental exertion. A key point to note is that an athlete DOES NOT have to Lose Consciousness (knocked out) to a have concussion. Loss of consciousness occurs less than 10% of the time. Headaches are the most frequently reported symptoms by both males and females. Males report disorientation, confusion and amnesia more often than females. Girls report feeling more drowsy and being sensitive to noise. Girls also have a higher incidence of concussions than boys in similar sports, like soccer.

So why is there such a big deal made about concussions? Well besides the fact that it is categorized as a traumatic brain injury…. We are more aware of Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) and the risk of Second Impact Syndrome (SIS). SIS is rare, but often fatal and occurs from having a second concussion before the initial concussion has healed. Young athletes are particularly at risk for SIS, all of the cases reported have occurred in athletes under the age of 20. PCS is concussion symptoms lasting for weeks to months to a year or even longer. Both of these injuries can be prevented with the right management of the initial concussion.

Another reason Concussions are such a big deal is the long-term effects of repeated concussions. Some may have heard of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), especially after the deaths of prominent former NFL players who were diagnosed with the disease. CTE is a progressive neurological disorder resulting from multiple blows to the head over several years, most commonly recognized in boxers as the term dementia pugilistica. To make it simple CTE is neurodegenerative changes in the brain. These changes may result in memory problems, behavioral and personality disturbances, parkinsonism and occasionally, motor neuron disease like ALS.

So yes, Concussions are a big deal. So much so a movie was just released, Head Games Documentary about the dangers of Concussions.

Now that I’ve been the Debbie Downer of the day let me be Very clear I do not believe we should end our favorite sports! Proper management, education and prevention is key to the safety of athletes. Concussions are a very hot topic in the sports world. Some debate wether we are being over sensitive, while others debate the sports world isn’t doing enough. I could make a case for both sides, but thats not the point of this blog. The point is to educate athletes and parents. I personally realized the need for this when I recently had someone close to me contact me on what to do when their child had suffered 6 concussions in the last 5 years…..Not all schools are lucky enough to have access to an Athletic Trainer. Parents and coaches are on their own to identify and deal with an athlete with a concussion. Stop Sports Injuries provides a great educational tool for athletes, parents, and coaches. I highly recommend you take a look.

Stop Sports Injuries

I’ve been asked over the years by parents if I would let my child play football. (I don’t have kids) I answer with a resounding yes! The positives out way the negatives in my opinion. Now if you asked would I let them play tackle verses flag pee wee football, well that’s a debate for another time. Again, I cannot stress the importance of the management of concussions. Concussions can be complicated and should be evaluated and managed by a qualified medical professional, unfortunately there isn’t always access to a medical professional at the time of injury. So now you know what to look for……..Which leads us to my next blog entry…… What to do when an athlete has a concussion…….

Uncategorized

Man that was FUN!

I had to take a quick minute to write about my Memphis Tigers and the Victory over UAB, the last Battle of the Bones! So this is just a fun post, not technical sports medicine stuff. This past Saturday The Tigers beat UAB 46-9! A huge win for a program that has struggled for the last 4 years. Pat Forde tweeted ‘@YahooForde: For Memphis to beat down anyone (even UAB) says that program is getting better. Enjoy the rib trophy, Tigers.’

Yes the Battle of the Bones has a trophy, bronze ribs….Only in the south, right?..

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November 22, 2003 was the last time both Memphis Football and Basketball won on the same day. The last time theTigers scored over 40 points against a FBS div 1 team was Tulane 2008 and the last time the Tigers scored over 40 points in a game, UT Martin 2009. So yes, this was a huge win. Mainly because it does show the progress this coaching staff has made. This team doesn’t quit! With only 2 wins on the season, a lot of teams would pack it up and call it a day. Not this Memphis Tiger Team, Not This Memphis Program. These guys work hard Everyday and now it’s paying off.

Now there is an outward visible difference between the Fuente era and the previous coaches’s program. A lot of us knew the program was heading in the right direction, but the W’s weren’t showing it and let’s face it, that’s all some people care about. Now the W’s are starting to come and they are a result of the hard work, mental focus and discipline that Fuente not only demands from his players but EXPECTS from his players. Well I think Tiger fans can EXPECT to see a lot more Gatorade baths too…

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Well done TIGERS! Here’s to a lot more FUN games!