Saturday, October 20, 2007

trail running and blood pressure

Since my surgery last August, my body has gone through some expected and some unexpected changes. One of the unexpected changes is my blood pressure. It had been running borderline high (around 130/90) for the last three or so years and my health care provider and I had been keeping an eye on it. She said she didn't know what to tell me about modifying my lifestyle, since I was so active, didn't smoke, didn't drink to excess, and all my chemistries looked good. So it never really climbed higher; in fact the only time it had been high in my life was when I was pre-eclamptic right before my kid was born - 25 yrs ago. So I got laid off last January and lo and behold - my bp returned to normal! Wow! Was that all it was - stress?? Things were going along great until I recently went to see a personal trainer at the gym. He took my bp and it was 150/90. What??? So I started monitoring it again. I had noticed at night when all was quiet, I could hear ringing and had a "tight" sensation in my head. Anyway, it was still up. I bought an automatic sphygmomonometer and started monitoring it. I also contacted my health care provider, and she saw me last Tues. It was still up, so she ordered some blood tests and a chest x-ray (I had an EKG on file from surgery). Also, she said to start monitoring it several times a day. So I am doing that - yesterday was the highest reading - 149/100 - just randomly in the middle of the day. A little scary - but I'm trying to let that go. It could be tranistional, like all these other menopausal symptoms.

So today, I went up to Cougar to meet some people for a run. I was running late, lost my wallet (I found it) and got stuck behind a wide load on I-90. I phoned ahead and left a message, but knew I'd probably be running alone. They were gone running by the time I got there, so I took off on a 5-6 mile loop. When I was climbing, if my head started pounding, I walked. I was glad to be alone because 1) I didn't have the pressure of trying to stay with a group, and 2) it gave me a chance to work on my navigational skills. I returned to the parking lot and still no sign of the gang, so I took off on my second loop. It was much slower; there was more climbing, but I felt like my body was moving more smoothly. I also worked on downhill skills - only rolled my ankle once! Looking ahead and shortening up the stride, sitting back a little (engaging the glutes/lower abs) really got me over the wet leaves, rocks, and roots. When I hit a really hilly part (Quarry Trail upwards from Indian Trail) I started walking and paying attention to my HR, as well as how much my head was pounding. Before I knew it, I was on"flat" land again. Soon I was back at the parking lot where Tracy was stretching. I chatted with her and then headed home to a long soak in the tub (I even ate lunch in the tub). Afterwards, I took my bp machine downstairs, and read my pressure - it was normal. Several readings were normal! Was it the trail? Was it the teary outburst I had at Donn right before I sat down (in which I did feel some relief)?? I'll continue to monitor it, but maybe a morning in the woods (and or a cry) is what I need to calm it down. I just love (not) going through all these changes!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Northface Endurance 10K

At the last minute I signed up for the North Face Endurance 10K run to be held up at Cougar Mountain. With four distances to choose from, runners could go long (50 miles) or short (10K) or somewhere in between (50K or half marathon). I chose to go short. It would be my second longest run and first time back at Cougar Mtn. since my surgery. I've done only two runs in Discovery Park since the summer, so I knew my hill climbing skills, which aren't that strong to begin with, were going to lack a bit. But I was anxious to try out my new Teva trail running shoes and ready to buck up and hit the mountain.

I signed up earlier this week, and got up early this morning to drive over to pick up my packet and get ready. It was cold and rainy, typical NW fall, so I brought lots of options to wear over my base. One thing I will have to work on is suffering the cold at the start. I look like a clothes rack by the time I am done, with all the stuff hanging off of me! One gal, who watched me peel layers during the race, was convinced I was going to be naked by the time we were done! I started out with 3/4 tights (Sub4), my Seattle Running Co short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve tech shirt, a vest, gloves and hat. The vest, gloves and long sleeve shirt were hanging off various parts of my body as I crossed the finish line. But back to the race.

I saw Teresa there who, along with Jan, was doing the Half. I hadn't seen her since the end of July, so it was good to see her and catch up a little. Tom Cotner was there doing the announcing and I struck up a conversation with him between announcements. I know several of his athletes, as well as work colleagues, since he is (was) at UW. I mentioned that my goal was not to be DFL, which is why I chose the 10K instead of the Half. More to come on that later. We saw the Half folks off at 9, which included Dean Karnazes and Nikki Kimball. She is SUCH a stud - I like that (can't remember where I read this) she is my height, and not a skinny stick (she said she weighed in about 130?) and KICKS ASS. I'm sure all that "extra weight" is muscle; she's just tough!

After they were off we gathered round for our directions which amounted to "follow the red arrows and you won't get lost". We took off at 9:16, and headed out to Clay Pit road and on to the trails. My usual doubt about being on course kicked in when we hit a stretch without markers, probably for a whole half mile. I was able to quell it, thinking I could go back if needed. I was really panting hard in the beginning because I stayed with the pack; they finally took off when we got in the woods and I hung near the back. I had been running the hills; after all this was only a 10K! But my steam soon ran out and I started ChiWalking the hills. It was the only place I could walk with my hands and arms moving fast upwards and nobody gave me a funny look. I played leap frog with a few people, and finally, about 40 minutes, we came to the first aid station. Tom was there and cheered me on - really cool! The trail was relatively level for a while and then we took a sharp right and started climbing again. By now, there was a guy following me, but at some distance. Still I felt like I was pulling him along, which was fine. I really focused on trying to be strong and using my upper body to climb. I need to do more upper body strengthening to be able to do that up here where it's hilly. We got to a right turn and started heading down to a creek. This time I worked on my down hill skills and tried to remain light on my feet. Also focused on keeping my left foot landing inwards so as not to roll it, and kep the right glute engaged. Focusing ahead for rocks and roots helped too. My buddy passed me and said he would pull for a while. He pulled way ahead! Finally we got to the creek and crossed the bridge. Now it was pretty wide but I still managed to bang my arm on a railing! Ouch! We crossed and started climbing again. My buddy ran out of steam and I pulled ahead again. At the top, we turned onto a trail going up up up. I hate this trail when I start from Red Town Trail head. You have to climb forever. Ugh. Fortunately, it wasn't that far before turning off of it onto the final trail, which was level. I could hear the finish line but couldn't really see it. Soon I came through and we went right into the finish while the "50" people had to still keep going! I came in at 1:12, which was good enough for first in my AG, especially since all the other 50 year old gals were either running the longer distances or stayed home in bed!

I was glad I chose the 10K. You have to have endurance since you start tripping and falling when your body gets tired. I remember almost falling on the way down to Coal Creek and seeing a huge rock in the ground ahead. Had I fallen, I most certainly would have hit my head on that rock, and it wouldn't be pretty! At any rate, my body is still bouncing back, and I need to remember to be patient with it. I also need to go even lighter in the clothing dept from the get-go so I don't waste so much time pulling off layers. And lastly, I need to trust the trail markers and know that I am on the right trail!

And now for the best part - the awards. As I said, I was the only one in my AG. Nonetheless, Henry Wigglesworth told me a Woody Allen quote - 90% of life is showing up! For my efforts of showing up, I got a gold medal, a nice technical tee, a North Face waist back and water bottle holder, and - get this - a Zune! Since my age group category was last, and I told Tom I had won and that I was the only one in my AG, instead of just announcing my name, he prefaced it with "And dominating her field". What a crack up!

I hung out a little and saw my friend Linda come through during her 50 miler. She said it was tough, very brutal. Also talked to some of the Half finishers who said the course was harder (and hillier) than they expected. Welcome to Cougar Mountain!