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Six Things Pain is Teaching Me

I thought I knew pain. I had had my share of it — from hip arthritis to sprained ankles to gallstones and two bouts of childbirth. But nothing has been like the past two weeks of astonishing, electrifying pain that has nearly disabled my every activity.

It started so innocuously. There was an enticing looking trampoline in the back yard of a house we were renting to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I climbed on to bounce with friends, no more than a few minutes.

But the morning after that two-minute jump, I woke up and found that my neck and upper back felt stiff and tweaky, like I’d slept on my pillow wrong. I figured it would go away as soon as I started moving around and loosening things up.

I was wrong. I entered, for the first time in my life, a growing, debilitating, excruciating pain that just would not go away. By the fourth night,I wasn’t able to sleep in my bed any longer. I was up every two hours, crying, only able to find intermittent relief if I rolled around on the floor with a lacrosse ball wedged underneath my shoulder blades.

I went to an acupuncturist. It got worse. I called my primary care physician. I went to physical therapy, where I was iced, and electrically stimulated, and taped. I got prescriptions over the next week for muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, narcotics in stronger and stronger doses, laxatives to ease the constipation of the painkillers, and finally, a Fentanyl patch, which is what they give women in labor. I felt like I was in labor, and that I was going to give birth to a spiny creature through my upper back. This made me vomit violently, causing even more spasming in my back. I had an MRI, which took every ounce of meditation practice I had ever experienced. I took hot, neck-deep baths with Epsom salts.
hot baths up to my neck
hot baths up to my neck

I applied blue ice and microwaved, aromatherapy shoulder wraps. I got a plastic goose hook with a sharp beaky hook, and the only thing that allowed me to tolerate walking around was simultaneously digging that thing into my upper back, poking and clawing at the relentless spasm. A sweet friend came over and gave me a wonderful shiatsu treatment and when she left, I was comfortable lying on blankets on the floor. I dozed off feeling blissed out. But when I got up, the pain returned.

The only thing that gave me pure relief was regular doses of Percocet which allowed me to drift into comfortable sleep. The minute I put myself into a sitting or standing position for more than five minutes, the chewing, clawing sensation resumed.


I have learned many things during this Time of Pain. Things I never really appreciated until now. I learned that:

  1. Pain is expensive. During this period of pain, I had to give up hundreds of dollars for concert tickets I had paid for. Nobody on Craigslist or Facebook wanted to see Jackson Browne as badly as I had. Ditto for a triathlon I had registered for (I went, driven by someone else, to cheer on my friends who had signed up to support me). Ditto for a hotel room I had pre-paid to stay in for a friend’s out of town wedding. It has added up big time, all these things I paid for when I assumed I would be active and well.
  2. Pain is boring.Not only for me, wandering from one horizontal surface to another, but for the kind people who ask me every morning,”How do you feel?” and getting the same tired, dogged answer every time. “Not so great.” I wonder how long these friends will want to stick around when I am not the upbeat, active person I was before that damn trampoline.
  3. Pain is on its own timeline. It seems like maybe it’s getting better. My husband (who has been a saint, and given new meaning to the words “in sickness and in health”) observes that at least now I am “comfortable at rest” instead of “agonizingly uncomfortable no matter what position.” But two weeks into it, I want to be better than able to lie around on my back all day. I need to get up and out and around. I need to be able to drive my car without crazy discomfort or narcotic wooziness. Pain doesn’t give a shit about my schedule, my calendar, my job or my plans.
  4. Pain doesn’t show on the outside. After I employ Lamaze breathing techniques to endure a shower, toweling off, getting dressed and drying my hair, numerous optimistic acquaintances have exclaimed, “You look so much better!” But I am cringing from the stabbing red-hot poker that is assaulting that area between my scapula and my thoracic spine. They don’t notice that it doesn’t take longer than me for ten minute to end up on the floor again, seeking out the ball, the foam roller, the ice bag. I know that I looked “fine” when I was cheering my buddies on at See Jane Tri, but I was feeling terrible. I had to stop several times to roll on a picnic bench.
    Lily rocked the tri. I rocked the cheering on. Sort of.
    Lily rocked the tri. I rocked the cheering on. Sort of.
    I had to lie down on the ball every few minutes.
    I had to lie down on the ball every few minutes.

     

  5. Chronic pain is absolutely debilitating. I am a physical therapist. I used to work primarily with people who had endured years and years of pain. I think about them now. I think about how they used to relay their stories to me and weep. How I didn’t really understand the depth of the mental and emotional exhaustion that pain can exact on a human being. It has only been two weeks for me, but I see that this could be a long road.
  6. Pain is mysterious. Nobody can explain, really, why it hurts the way that it does. Maybe it is a rotated or twisted thoracic vertebrae, out of alignment with a rib. Maybe it is a neuro-electrical loop that won’t close or stop. Maybe it is muscle spasm. Maybe it is the “moderate narrowing” of my cervical spine, pressing on my spinal nerves. Maybe it just IS. Many people can jump and fling themselves around on a trampoline to no ill effects.

As I write this, I don’t know how or when I will feel “normal” again. When I will be able to effortlessly bathe, or eat a meal, let alone drive around in my car all day and practice as a home health physical therapist. When I will be able to swim in open water, ride a bike or run a 5k race. All of these things are like dreams to me now. All I can do is take each moment, each moment of discomfort, to try and learn someting, try and find a shred of compassion for myself and this situation. All I can do is ask for patience and a bit of relief.

heat? ice? whatever.
heat? ice? whatever.
sadly, this is not always possible.
sadly, this is not always possible.

The Week In Which I Cried A River, then Found Hope

hip
These are my actual hips.

So it’s been a rough couple of months out here. I’ve basically been having nonstop right hip pain ever since the Oakland half marathon, and it’s been bumming me out big time. The hardest part has been not knowing for sure what was wrong – was it a muscle pull? Bursitis? For a month or so I thought it might be due to some pretty big fibroids I have. But although they are clinically classified as “huge,” they have not grown or changed in size since 2009. So my gynecologist was not ready to do anything drastic until I got a complete workup from an orthopedist.

I finally went and had that evaluation on Wednesday. First he did a physical exam. He said he was pretty sure that I did have hip arthritis, and also based on my symptoms, pretty sure I am going to need a total hip replacement.

Thud.

(that was my heart falling out of my body onto the floor)

I had been sort of bracing myself for this possibility. I tried to recover myself quickly and then I asked, “But what about running?” I think I had this picture in my head, like, as soon as I can just get FIXED, then I can carry on with all my usual stuff, that has, been by the way, on hold for a long time. He said, you know, people are going to do what they’re going to do, but we really do not recommend it. Especially for a young person, we want that new joint to last a long time, and the more you use it, the faster it will wear out.

And then I started crying. And pretty much didn’t stop for about eight hours, until I passed out from sobbing. I had to go to my Weight Watchers meeting. I drove past the site of See Jane Run and totally LOST MY SHIT.

I thought, that was my last race. Of my entire life. I thought, I was going to do that half marathon. And now I never will. I was choke-sobbing all the way to the parking lot of my WW center. I tried to pull myself together. A few of my observant members noticed that I looked like hell. They asked me if I was having a bad day. I really could not even talk about it for fear I would start hysterically wailing right there. I went and hid in a storage closet until the meeting was supposed to start, and miraculously I got through it more or less. It was frankly a relief to talk about SALADS for half an hour.

I got back in my car. The waterworks resumed. I had this image of coming into the house and seeing my beloved medal rack with all my race bling hanging there. I was wailing as if the world was over. Part of my world WAS over. I went home and crawled into bed. I felt like I was seventeen years old and the love of my life was breaking up with me. The love that I had never thought I’d have. Who ignored me my whole life and then finally turned their attention to me and said I was worthy.

Mr. McBody came in and held me as I carried on. I told him that he was not allowed to utter the words “swim” or “bike” until I deemed it acceptable. It was like when we lost our first child. People kept saying I would go on to have other wonderful children. Which turned out to be TRUE, but at that moment it was the last thing on earth I was able to hear. So, I might go on to have a wonderful biking or swimming life, but at that moment I needed to mourn the running.

Sometime during all this melee, I received a text from my dear friend Carla. She texted, Have you seen hiprunner.com? They have an e-Book….

my new community
my new community

I took a look at the site on Thursday, when my head was throbbing and my eyelids looked like giant waterbeds. I made some sort of wild noise of disbelief and joy as I read about other runners who had undergone hip replacements and who were… RUNNING! WHAT!?!?!?!?!? I immediately posted a comment of OMG OMG OMG are you kidding me?! I received a very warm welcome and an invitation to join the Hip Runners Club. Did I want to participate? HELL YES.

So. I have dried my tears. I am dusting myself off and looking toward the next whatever-it-is. I don’t know when this will actually happen because I need to find myself a new orthopedist (the one I saw this week is retiring) and I am going to find one who believes that some form of running post-op will be okay.

And I’m gonna order myself this T-shirt. Game on.

Bring it on.
Bring it on.

Re-Sparked

IMG_9899

It’s been a long time since I blogged. Whew. I was in the midst of the Health Blog A Day Challenge when I seriously fell off the bloggy wagon. It was a combination of suddenly getting a HUGE influx of work combined with having a few days of feeling stuck with the blog prompts. At some point I just threw in the towel and haven’t had a chance to look back since then.

The holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) really threw me, schedule wise. In the past, I’ve either been working super part time OR at a nonprofit OR in the academic world. All of which equalled a big break around the holiday times. I was able to shop, organize, cook and clean, wrap and mail. But I used to spend entire days dedicated to those activities. This year, for the first time ever, my schedule got super ramped up right around Thanksgiving. I was suddenly working many more hours, many more miles from home. I would come home exhausted, fall into bed and do paperwork in my pajamas, pass out and do it again. I knew, however, that this crazy schedule was limited. I just had to keep it up until Christmas Eve.

We spent most of Christmas day in our pajamas. We had no dinner guests so we got up late, opened stockings, made our traditional brunch (Mexican baked eggs and Juniorette’s to-die-for cinnamon rolls), opened presents, took a nap, slowly prepared for dinner (which included a no-work honeybaked ham), ate dinner, then went to see the Hobbit (yay).

IMG_9773 IMG_9754

The next day we flew to Sundance to meet up with cousins and to take part in some epic, gorgeous snow. It was the first time in weeks (months) that I wasn’t scheduled up like crazy.

I spent two days snowshoeing (which I LOVE) in the most amazing, powdery, fluffy, gorgeous snow ever. Also heck of a workout.

IMG_9858IMG_9861IMG_9890IMG_9846

 

It was a good reminder for me. To do what I love. To move in a way that makes me happy. Always good to return to this.

Yesterday afternoon I had the biggest treat. I got to meet up with my dear dear friend Shannon, who was one of my very first blogging friends. Back in the day when I was still anonymous, she was always there encouraging me, supporting me and telling me I could do it, whatever It was. So many times she would Tweet or comment, “I just love you Foodie!” and I’d feel so cared about.

Soon I will be meeting up with one of my other oldest and dearest blogging friends – Carla, aka MizFitonline. When I started blogging four years ago, she was one of the only “superstars” who reached out with genuine interest and kindness, for which I will be eternally grateful. I am so excited to welcome her to my part of the world as a neighbor. Sorry Austin – your HUGE loss is my ecstatic gain.

(by the way, world – you can get your own fabulous piece of MizFit by checking out her BRAND SIZZLING NEW E-book “How to Build Muscle and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind” here – I can’t wait to read it! Maybe on the plane home!)

Today I pondered whether to go out for one more glorious snowshoe hike, or to stay snuggled under the down comforter to do what I haven’t in so long – reading, writing, contemplating the icicles.

IMG_9894

The latter won out and I am so glad. I’ve needed down time for so long, to return to my bloggy roots, to take some time to just lie around and contemplate all that is good.

Day 4 #NHBPM: The Disclosure Post

Day 4 – Sunday, Nov. 4

Writing Prompts: Disclosure post. How did you decide what to share? What do/don’t you share? OR Write about what’s in your bag / purse / backpack every day

I don’t think anyone is really interested in the contents of my bag or purse, so I’m skipping that one.

Disclosure. Ahh. Well, in the interest of full disclosure I’m going to disclose that I don’t disclose everything. I’ll be honest. Sometimes when I am making poor choices regarding my health, I don’t write about it. Instead I just won’t say anything, often until after I’ve “recovered” myself and then I might write about it retrospectively.

It’s hard to write about things we don’t feel good about, especially when we are in the midst of doing them. It’s so much easier to write about crossing the finish lane of a race, than writing “I’m lying on the couch watching multiple episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix.” It’s easier to blog about a great healthy recipe than “I just snarfed down half a jar of peanut butter.” Right?

There was a period of time when I was taking pictures of, and then blogging, every single thing I ate. This went on for a few months. I have to say, it was probably one of the healthiest periods of my life. Because I was committed to one hundred percent full disclosure. I didn’t eat mass quantities of peanut butter or chocolate because I knew that if I did, I was going to have to broadcast it visually throughout the internet. So it gave me pause, and made me really fully consider all of my choices. It made me think, Do I want to share this bite/plate/meal with the world? And if I didn’t feel good about that, I didn’t eat it.

Looking back on it, maybe I need to take up that practice again. It was a good one, and I learned a lot from it. Because it’s in periods of “hiding” that I tend to do things I don’t feel good about.

Here’s to writing more from the shadows….

This is the 4th post in a series of National Health Blog Post Month. Join me! And check out these other great health blogs:

Day 3 #NHBPM: Finding Out About… Pilates?

#NHBPM Challenge Day 3 – Saturday, Nov. 3

Prompts: “I don’t know about this, but I’d like to.” OR A post about a conversation with your doctor

I think I already posted about my most recent conversation with my doctor. So I have to mull this one over. What don’t I know about that I’d like to?

I think I’m going to say Pilates. Gulp.

I have had even more intense negative feelings about Pilates as I’ve had about yoga. I think both of those things make me feel really inadequate. I feel like I am bad at them, because I am super inflexible, and getting more so as the years go on.

Which is probably why I need them.

I took a couple of Pilates classes a few years ago and ended up in tears. I hated every single minute of those classes. EVERY. They were uncomfortable and made me feel just like a big huge failure. I swore to never go back. Plus, the word “Pilates” sounds like the word “Pilate” to me, which is all about betrayal, right?

But recently, I’ve been having more hip and back pain due to super tight, and I mean SUPER TIGHT muscles. I can’t sit upright with my legs extended. I can’t touch my legs below my knees, let alone my toes. I know that I need professional help when it comes to increasing my flexibility. It’s one of those catch-22 types of things. I am inflexible because I don’t do things like yoga, but I don’t do things like yoga because I am inflexible.

Recently I have been thinking about finding a one-on-one Pilates teacher and working on those machine things. I think I have this notion that I need to get stretched out, like on a medieval stretching machine (drawn and quartered?) and I need HELP to do so. This recent yoga challenge was a real eye opener. Part of me wanted to run for the hills and swear (once again) that I would never EVER do such a thing again, but then part of me knows how much I need it. If I keep going like this I’m going to be shaped like a chair for the rest of my life.

So. Gulp. That’s my new goal for… umm… sometime before the end of 2012. I will investigate and find a private Pilates instructor, someone who can help me, maybe, one day touch my toes.

This post is day 3 of the National Health Blog Post Month challenge. Join me!

Is it Possible to Stay Healthy While Traveling?

beautiful Prospect Park where I did a 5.3 mile run

I returned last night from an intense four and a half day trip to New York. It really made me think a lot about the challenge of staying healthy while traveling. I’d say, on balance, I’d give myself a B+ or maybe even a C- during this trip. Overall, it was kind of like a game of Fortunately/Unfortunately.

Unfortunately, I spent two and a half days sitting on my butt at a conference. Fortunately, it was a fantastic conference. And also fortunately, it was in New York City so it involved quite a bit of walking, getting there and then getting around afterward.

my friends changing from conference shoes to walking-to-dinner shoes

Unfortunately, I was crossing from West to East coast, and that always wreaks complete havoc on my biorhythms.  It is TOUGH to wake up the first few days I am back East. Fortunately, I really think that my Sleep Time app helped me! I woke up much more bright eyed and bushy tailed than I can ever remember doing when going East.

It all started with taking the 5am train to the airport.

Unfortunately, I indulged in a little more alcohol than I am used to. I think the fact that I wasn’t driving at all (and hanging out with friends I rarely see, and feeling very… umm.. festive) may have contributed to this.

cocktails at my Lady Writers’ gathering

Fortunately, I was able to make some fairly decent food choices. There was a place around the corner from where I was staying that featured a wonderful breakfast of yogurt, fruit and granola. I had this exact same breakfast more than once.

Thank you Dizzy’s for the yummy Power Breakfast!

Fortunately, I was able to continue my Yoga-A-Day Pose. Unfortunately, I only did it one day. Here I am bridging in my friend’s kitchen.

So unfortunately, there were a lot of things that were less than ideal while I was traveling. But fortunately, I kept track of what I was doing. And the less-than-active days spurred me to take my last full day and do a really, really long (and beautiful) run. Which I really needed.

185% before noon

On balance, it wasn’t stellar but it wasn’t terrible. I did my best. Now I’m home but the next two weekends will involve MORE travel. Fortunately, my next trip is a short one in the same time zone (yay) AND it includes a Fun Run (for Juniorette’s Family Weekend/Homecoming at her college) which I have signed up for. It’s good when you can incorporate activity into your schedule like that. The next trip is longer, and also on the East coast (BLERGH long plane trip! Time change!!) but the good thing is that it will have virtually no mandatory events, so I can include as much exercise and napping as I want/need. So it might even be like a mini vacation.

It’s a work in progress, learning to incorporate healthy choices into travel. I love to travel, and happen to like to do things that aren’t always local, and I love a lot of people who happen to live far away. So I’ve got to figure out ways to make it work.

How do you stay healthy when you’re traveling, especially when it involves a lot of meeting/sitting?

 

Challenges Can be… Challenging!

I’ve been thinking a lot about a comment that was left recently, in which Karen said, “I don’t ‘do’ challenges…” and I nodded my head. She’s not that kind of person. So many people aren’t. But then I had to think. I AM the kind of person who does a challenge. As often as possible. Who almost needs a challenge in order to get ANYthing done. Left to my own devices, I’m likely to sit around and watch TV shows on Hulu all day. But given a challenge – and suddenly I am capable of things I would never consider on my own.

I am currently in a ton of challenges, some private ones just with myself, and then others that involve hundreds or more people.

  • The Writing Challenge:  I recently challenged myself to write as many consecutive days as possible on 750words.com. Blog posts do not count. I’m now on Day 3, which means I’ve earned myself a Turkey sticker. Yay me! Writing has been so important to me (so I say) and yet I do not make it as much of a priority as I’d like. So I’m just doing this on my own.
  • A running friend of mine has challenged me to run every day. Any time or distance. I am now on Day 5. Last night it was almost midnight and I hadn’t run. I put on my shoes and ran circles around my little street for 5 minutes. I’m saying that counted. But… no way would that have happened without the Running Challenge.

    on the running trail
  • The Yoga Challenge: I have done one yoga pose a day for the past 15 days. Except for today. Tomorrow I will do two. I admit that I tried today’s pose in the morning and it scared me so I backed off. I will complete it tomorrow, with picture, as well as tomorrow’s pose.
  • Creative Process Challenge: I’ve been reading this bookwhich asserts that for successful writing to occur, you must do three things. Process, product and self-care. I count the running and yoga as self-care. The product is what happens with the Writing Challenge. But now I am also challenging myself to 15 minutes of non-goal oriented creative process per day. So far I have played with pink Play-Dough and done a drawing of a pumpkin. Two days down.

    i love the smell
  • The Big Blue Test: from now until Nov 14th (National Diabetes Day) I am participating in the Big Blue Test. This very test helped me understand the link between diabetic health and exercise, and I will be forever grateful. I encourage everyone, diabetic or not, to participate, because every test done means that $5 will be donated for much-needed medical supplies.

SO those are the things I am doing right now. That’s a minimum of an hour (or more) committed to Challenges per day.  I’m finding the time where it seems there is none. But I can say if I weren’t doing the challenges, that time would be lost.

I think I am the kind of person who NEEDS challenges. Interesting.

Have you ever participated in a challenge to get yourself going? Are you doing one now? Tell me!

Whose Idea was This?? A Month of Yoga

Actually it was GrowSoulBeautiful‘s idea. I met them at Fitbloggin’ where they had a cool yoga photo booth. But I almost totally ignored it/them, because you know, yoga just isn’t my thing. They were really cool and nice people with a nifty project, but… you know.

Then I got back from Fitbloggin’ and October started and before I knew it, everyone and their sister was doing this #YogaADay challenge on Instagram. I happen to love Instagram (look for me there under “foodiemcbody” of course). So I was seeing people popping up all over doing these challenges.

I thought about it for a minute. It seemed like, come ON, one pose a day? I can do that, right? It’s something like #couchto5k but for Yoga newbies or Yoga-phobes. Which I just might be. But it seemed like the most gradual, small way of entering. I jumped in.

The idea is that you do one pose a day, according to the chart above, and post a photo on Instagram with the tag #yogaaday. So then if you do a search for that hashtag, you see all the people doing that same pose on the same day. There are hundreds of people! Which is both good and bad. It’s inspiring and cool. People do their poses in amazing settings. And some peoples’ forms are absolutely perfect. Awe-inspiring, really.

And other people – like me – are, um, not so perfect. A lot of these poses are really, really hard for me, and I know they are just the beginning ones. (I can’t wait for the Dead Person Pose on Day 14! That one I got down!) I can usually only hold them for a microsecond before I start screaming or fall over. Then when I see the picture, especially when I post around the same time as the perfect-yoga-form people, I want to die of mortification. But it’s like, showing up, being real, not worrying about being perfect, all the stuff I learn from my good friends.

Sigh.

I’m not sure what will happen at the end of this 30 days. If it will inspire me to take a class or get a teacher and get BETTER at this, or if it will make me permanently head for the non-yoga hills. It is a very humbling experience. I can’t say it’s fun. Every day I face the pose with more than a little trepidation. But I try it. I suppose if I kept trying it I would get better. But do I want to? Is it a goal of mine?

I still haven’t decided. But I do know that this challenge is challenging more than a lot of other things I’ve done. It’s right up there with mud races and triathlons. It’s OUT of my comfort zone, that’s for sure – both physically and emotionally. I’m not quite sure why.

It’s not halfway done yet. Anyone out there want to jump in and join me? I’ve loved having company of some other folks during the first 11 days.

couldn’t get my hand to the ground…
Days 1-4 I was often either in pajamas or work clothes
my coworker/supervisor joined in at work
that’s Mike from my gym
my trainer DJ
flying in front of the bookshelves
Mr McBody managed this MUCH better than I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Recap: The Muddy Buddy!

I really worked hard for this bling.

One of the things I have loved the most in this past year has been bringing people along on their first official race. Mary joined me in her first 5k at See Jane Run; Sofia joined me in the Color Run (and went on to do her first half marathon and is now training for her first full marathon — WOOHOO!) and this past weekend, my friend Ericka threw her fears to the wind and joined me in the wackiest race of all – the Muddy Buddy. I don’t even remember how this happened; but I think it was via a Facebook post when I thought she was joking about joining me. Ericka has been my workout buddy with our beloved trainer DJ for several years now – we have sweated together plenty, but she has always declared herself “not a runner” and she was content to cheer me on from afar.  I actually have no idea what came over her, but I was so psyched!!

DJ really helped us get our butts in gear for this one.

Ericka and I have both had our health battles recently. We celebrated our 50th birthdays, and then I got diabetes and she was hit with Graves disease. Our combined age is 105 (!!!) which put us squarely in the “Women Masters” category for this race. I reminded her that we are in a tiny percentage of 50-year old women with chronic diseases who are participating in athletic events at this level.

I have done a few “fun runs” of 5ks recently, and they truly have been fun for me. But I knew this one was going to be tougher – including off road biking on a mountain bike, likely hills, and those crazy obstacles. If there’s one thing I don’t feel super confident about, it’s my upper arm strength. However, I told Ericka that our aim was to FINISH, and to finish was to win. I really believed that.

We are both writers, and we needed a team name. She came up with “Dirty Wordsters” (haha). I made us matching team shirts (thanks to watching my daughters make dozens of them for their crew team in the past 6 years) and she decorated the bike with dirty words like “filth” and “slime.” We so clever!

pencils on the move!
“dirty words” – hahaha

Mr. McBody and I picked up Ericka at 5:30am and we drove down to San Jose to this park. Lily’s husband, who grew up there, had already warned me it was “pretty hilly.” Since he was a varsity triathlete at Cal, this was something I took very seriously. Ack. HILLS. Not my favorite.

We got there, jumped around to warm up, visited the PortaPotty, and tried to relax. But I was hecka nervous. I heard the race announcer say that the first mile was “straight uphill.” NICE!

We were in the last wave to start, the “Women Masters.” (ie, the old ladies) I was relieved to see other women our age. It’s not often you go up to other women and ask, “How old are you?” but I did just that and when the other women said “53” I jumped up and gave them high-fives. Yeah baby, we rock. I was feeling pretty fierce and ready.

Rawr!! Dirty Wordsters!

We moved on up and saw the other waves taking off. We saw some people walking their bikes right from the Start line. I kept saying, I’m gonna walk, I’m gonna walk, but then when I was at the Start and I saw everyone on their bikes, shame took hold of me and I was like, well, I’ll ride, until I can’t. I’m actually glad I did.

At the starting line: pretty nervous

The starting horn went off and I got on the bike. I was glad to make it up a few hundred yards before it just got TOO steep. At that point I’d say 90% of the participants were walking, pushing their bikes. Damn that bike was HEAVY. Pretty soon the “runners” were overtaking us (bike members went first, then runners). But they weren’t really running either. Like I said, it was hecka steep. And it went on. And on. I felt like I was eating dust, just heaving for every breath. It went on for a full mile. Just up. And up. And up. It felt pretty darn grim.

At the top of the hill was our first obstacle, and time for me to leave the bike in the “Bike Drop” for my buddy. Of course she had passed me by, walking! We climbed on this spiderwebby thing, up and over. I got a tad bit freaked at the very top, but managed it OK.

Then it was more rolling hills, run, bike, obstacle. Each of us had 3 bike parts and 3 running parts. I was jealous that her first bike was this gorgeous downhill section! But then I got to run that as well.

What can I say? It felt long. It felt really, really hot. We were out in open fields with NOTHING out there but for a dirt trail. But it was okay. There were lots of other people around us – ie, we weren’t being left in the dust – including what seemed to be many younger people (what???). We kept passing the same folks off and on.

The obstacles, which I had been nervous about, weren’t too bad at all. There was a mud tunnel, which I have to say we were very prepared for. We do a lot of low crawling and walking in our trainer workouts. The high things were not so bad. Until the very end (I’ll get to that).

The entire course took us about an hour and a half (OK, exactly an hour and a half)! Which had been my optimistic estimate. I’d looked at other race results and saw that many women our age were coming in between 1:30 and 2:00. So I was hoping for 1:30 at best, and well, whatever it took, as long as we finished.

For the final leg, Ericka was on bike and I was on foot. She had to wait for me for a while because we were supposed to do the final 3 obstacles, including the Mud Pit, together.

waiting on the road for her buddy

Eventually I showed up. We were both pretty tired, but stoked that it was almost over. The first obstacle was a some sort of giant ladder climbing thing. (I think) Not bad. The second one was a rope climb over this blue wooden wall. It didn’t LOOK that bad. I grabbed the rope. Then started to walk up. Hahahaha. The wall was covered in something very slippery — lard? butter? soap?? In any case, we tried and tried and after a few minutes just looked at each other and said, “Uh-uh.” We walked around it.

thwarted by the soapy, slippery wall! This picture makes me laugh and laugh.

Then it was time for the infamous MUD PIT. Ooooh boy!! I will say that the cold wet mud felt REALLY GOOD after all that dry dusty heat. We crawled under the flag ropes like a couple of mud puppies. Laughing.

Then we had a little female mud-wrestling moment.

Then clambered out. I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood the word “clamber” until then.

It helps to get a helping hand from one’s buddy.

Then we ran through the finish holding hands. Then we got our medals. We were PSYCHED!

I thought they were cups of water, and was very excited to find Oreos inside

Then it was shower (aka garden hose) time. Boy did we need that.

Ayeeeee!

To say that we were filthy was an understatement. But that was the point, right? It was darn hard. It was challenging. We really, really pushed. But in the end I am proud to say that we came in with 43 other teams behind us, most of them younger than we are. That made me feel really good. Not bad for 52 and 53, huh?

So many people asked me, “WHY on earth would you voluntarily sign up for something like that?” And looked even more incredulous when I answered, “Because I’d never done one.” Ha ha, I know, most people haven’t, and have no desire to. But for me, it’s about changing it up, finding new things to do to stay active and most importantly to have fun.

Special shout-out to Mr McBody, star medic, bike tech support and paparazzi. Love!

What’s the wackiest, craziest or most fun race you’ve ever done?

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