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China - Chuckanut DOUBLE, Part 2

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We didn't return to the hotel until nearly 2am. Exhausted and filthy we both fumbled around, showered and tried to sleep. The gunk in my lungs rattled around and my legs ached and twitched uncontrollably for the better part of our horizontal time. The morning (nearly noon) was hectic with me not being able to move very quickly, neither of us very coherent and needing to pack up before the awards ceremony for our evening flight, all in less than an hour. Starving and still buzzing from our shared experience we did our best to fit our explosion back into our suitcases and meet everyone for lunch on-time.

The aftermath of winning Gaoligong hit me in waves. Much like the ocean on a stormy day builds, crests, crashes and retreats, I felt the emotions of this race win.

Wave: The finish line also the location of the awards. The magnitude of the awards ceremony was huge. Ushered around in different directions. Photos. So many photos. Making a Golden foot impression for a future path of champions. Announcers. Video clips and montages from the three different race distances were projected and amplified for hundreds to see & hear. Massive trophies. Loads of sponsor prizes. Photos. So many photos. Such a great celebration of everyone’s accomplishments. Honoring all finishers, calling out the top 8 men and women and all age groups.

 impressive group of volunteers

impressive group of volunteers

Wave: Just before the rush of the awards, while sitting in a chair staring the trophies in the face, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to a friendly face and in an instant realized it was my trail buddy, Shi. All we could exchange was hand gestures of gratitude, a hug over the fence and a final high five. I insisted on a selfie and felt so lucky to get to say congrats to the soul that saw me through those dark miles.

Wave: Receiving the trophy from Michele Poletti, the founder of UTMB and the man that ran through the night with me in 2003 when I won the first edition. It hit me deep that 15 years later I was at their first international edition. 15 years! In 2003 I won the first UTMB event. 15 years later I won their first international event. To unintentionally be in both of those locations for these inaugural events, fit and ready to run hard, and win. To win the first at 25 years old and the second at 40. My thoughts of 40 then and what I think of 40 now. Another story to write someday but a life point that hit hard on this trip.

Wave: Late travel back to Beijing. A day to regroup and celebrate with Vasque distributor friends. Travel back to Seattle and hit the ground running.

Time for Chuckanut

 photo: Glenn Tachiyama

photo: Glenn Tachiyama

We arrived in Seattle Tuesday morning after an all-night flight. After 11 days together pretty much 24/7 it was hard to say goodbye and jump back into our respective worlds that were both rolling at high speeds. We did our best… I drove straight to my condo to check in with the PD pup! I missed that little girl. After a quick walk and tug with toys I had to hobble up the hill for lunch with my parents and Doug McKeever in downtown Fairhaven. Luckily everything is really close. Our intention was to meet to talk final logistics in the week leading up to Chuckanut, but ultimately lunch was about helping me land and ground myself by sharing stories and photos from our awesome adventure. I managed grocery store stops for myself and for a lot of the aid stations goods before returning home, unpacking, starting laundry and crashing.

The next 3 days were a massive build towards Chuckanut. Ironically each morning I woke at exactly 4:27am. Jetlag. But then my brain would kick in to high gear thinking through all that needed to be done prior to the race. It turns out you can get a heck of a lot done before 8am. With 15 years of experience Race Directing a lot of the to do list feels like pressing play on a movie. Everyone knows what needs to be done and with extra eyes on the project I was confident it would all come together. We didn’t have smoke bombs and laser lights like I experienced in China (future planning?), but was definitely one of our best events to date.

Every year we wonder about, plan our best and do silly dances in hopes of having beautiful weather to show off the beauty of Bellingham to the participants at the race. We plan every detail each year, yet, we cannot plan the weather - the one thing that makes a significant difference on the outcome and overall feel of the day. It is March in the PNW and we hold the race the third weekend of the month intentionally, to give our runners a true Chuckanut experience. More years than not we end up peering out from under rain jacket hoods and burning extra calories trying to stay warm enduring the length of the day. I know we would have figured it out had we had a typical year. My 100-mile tired body would have had to rally just a little more. But I am soooo thankful that this year’s event was gifted that beautiful day. We didn’t shiver through the hours. We enjoyed perfect running weather, and it was just warm enough for all of the volunteers, crews and fans to get out on a sunny Bellingham day. The finish line was full of community members, friends, crews, runners. People hung out, enjoyed the food trucks and even stretched out on the grass (which last year was a mud pit).

Fast times by the front runners in both mens and womens fields and a very strong finish field (not that many DNFs). I heard so many great stories from our creative aid stations and enjoyed hearing about the special touches that everyone brings to the race weekend. At our award’s ceremony I was too emotional to put lips to the mic, but I enjoyed working with our team to acknowledge the performances that day.

Finish line clean up happened before I could blink. To say the day went by in a blur would not be an exaggeration from this RDs viewpoint this year. At our post-race party hosted by Wander Brewing I did pull it together to thank coRDs Kevin and Tyler and our community. In my many years living in locations anywhere but Bellingham I have always loved how Bellingham owns the Chuckanut 50k. There are countless happenings out on the course and around the event that I will never know about, but are special bonuses that make the Chuckanut 50k unique, classic and renowned in both our local community and in the ultra-community. This year was a test of that ownership, I really only had half a brain to manage the event, but everyone stepped up. Everyone stepped in. Setting a big goal motivates those around you. Adding China prior to Chuckanut was ridiculous but great because of the rally of support that happens to make it so. I didn’t take on that double alone.

Now that we are one month post Gaoligong I remain in awe of how well March unfolded. The China - Chuckanut double executed perfectly, better than I could have imagined, hoped or planned for. I work my tail off to plan things well, and I also know it takes equal measures of luck and support to have details play out perfectly. Because of this I am extremely grateful, and sit in marvel of what is possible.  

China - Chuckanut DOUBLE, Part 1

I tend to think of time in blocks. I look at the calendar and plan each day to achieve the end goal. That goal, a deadline, a race, etc, is the end point and is as far as I can see. Especially as it nears.  Other than planning a super fun summer including 4 running camps (see my SCHEDULE) I haven't been able to think much past March 17 since October 1st when I started training for the 160km Gaoligong by UTMB race in China, which would be March 9. I knowingly added this huge undertaking just a week out from my beloved Chuckanut 50k, March 17, the race I have directed each year since 2003. 

To travel overseas and back, race nearly 100 miles while there and turn around 4 days after landing back in Washington to direct the Chuckanut 50k was a lot to pile on one plate. Fortunately, as is often the case, when we set big goals we are not alone. It is not just our plate, even though it can feel like it. Many jump in, help out, carry some of the load, ease the task and make it a heck of a lot more fun by sharing in the upcoming Goal.

CHINA

By the time DJ & I got on the plane to leave on March 3 the majority of Chuckanut was planned. The RD team of Tyler, Kevin and I moved our schedule up by a month, met weekly to ensure we had every detail covered and cleared out my garage to receive the goods while I was away. The guys & our work sent me off in total confidence that Chuckanut was ready, and now it was time to focus on Gaoligong.

Supported by Vasque Footwear - Chinese distributor and good friend Jack, as well as the race, our trip included a 3 day stop in Beijing. We got to meet with local retailer One Season, run with an enthusiastic group, share some training tips and sign copies of the Chinese translation of Running Your First Ultra.

The whole trip was a whirlwind of activity, travel, sights, eats and incredible experiences. On one our free day we toured the Great Wall (HIGHLIGHT: taking the gondola up (justified to save my legs for the race) and the Toboggan down (the real reason), such a blast I wanted to go again!) got a view of the Forbidden City (it is closed on Monday's) and a few hot spots in the massive expanse of Beijing. We rode the subway during rush hour and popped in to visit the Patagonia store. It was a full day and probably one of my favorite of the trip.

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A long flight on Tuesday took us through Kungming and in to Tengchong where the focus of the trip changed to the excitement of an international race. Collected from the airport by the race committee and women adorned in festive dresses we were shuttled to the hotel and joined the large group of athletes from afar for a family style dinner. Each meal was served this way. It served as a gathering place and check-in on the growing size of the group. Staffers from UTMB joined the table sleepy the next morning after 30+ hours of travel. We chatted and passed plates with the friendly top finishers of the practice edition, other first timers curious for experience, and learned the different distances everyone would run in the next couple of days. Gaoligong hosts the THT 55k, RCE 125k & MGU 160k events. The first two starting Friday morning, MGU that evening.

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Our host, Pavel gathered the elites for a morning shake out run and media turn. We ran some, but mostly did circles for the cameras. In the town square we joined locals whipping and spinning tops (another highlight!) and eventually jogged over to the start. A grand archway that was being dressed for the occasion. Banners, lights, massive speakers... the magnitude of this production started to set in.

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In the downtime before the race, with nothing left to do but pack gear and control nervous energy my mind wandered back to the crazy winter of training that got me ready for this challenge. It was an incredibly cold, wet and dark winter to train through. To force myself and PD outside when we both would rather cozy up on the couch became a joke; she wouldn't want me to put on her harness and I wouldn't want to tie my shoes. Later, when my training hours were too long for her to join me or to be home alone I had friends check in on her and I would get after it with my Shuffle. I was SO very fortunate to have some key long runs broken up by the company of Trail Sisters, all of us hoods up, hats on and continuous movement to keep warm. 

There were a couple of days I returned home near hypothermic and didn't have enough dexterity to turn the key in my front door. Once magically inside, I hopped directly in the shower, shoes and all to warm up. The insane amount of food I prepared and consumed still amazes me. Forget salads! I went after the densest calories with the least amount of chewing I could find (still whole foods of course... mostly). One night I finished my Mom's dinner and Sister's dessert after wrapping up a 100 mile week. My Dad had insisted on dinner out to celebrate and it meant the world to me.

These seemingly countless hours on the trail forced some intense emotions brought up by the rawness of hard training. I sought help from loved ones and Coach Shelli to deal with the psychological hits. The huge reminders that I've been through this before, perhaps not to this degree, that I have the tools and I just have to use them were lessons I had to draw on again. My most key tool that I can in hindsight realize that this race proved to me once again, is listening to my body. By early February injuries and niggles started to creep in. Why? My mileage was dominating my time, dialing in Chuckanut, and my normal kooky schedule coupled with integration in my new family was a collection that tapped all resources. And then I got a head cold. 

I wasn't doing the basics. I had one more training block scheduled, but in listening to where my body and heart were at (cues thankfully pulled from conversations) I opted to listen. I scratched the training block, made more time for strength training, yoga, cooking and sleeping. Somewhere deep down I knew mileage wasn't what would help. 100 milers are tough - they remain one of the hardest endeavors I take on. I know that at some point on course my mind will try to talk me out of it. There have been a few races that I've sailed through without that mental challenge, but the norm is "what the heck are you doing?" To go into a 100 mile race already tapped would not provide the deep resources needed to push through that headspace. I have to want it. And where I was at I didn't want it. Fast forward to one day before the race, I sat in bed with my legs up the wall and thought back over those challenges, and felt huge gratitude that with the help of friends I made the choice to chill and take care of basics. I felt ready. The nerves fired, my brain wanted to review the course profile, to plan drop bags, talk race logistics... I felt the excitement to go. Preparation is key and in this case preparation was not more miles.

The RACE:

Nearly a month later writing this, the race story is more of a blend of all the personal stories I've heard from friends, family, clients and perfect strangers watching online, DJs crazy crewing adventures, countless photos and video outtakes. I look at the finish line photos and think "so much happened to get there." I remember the start of the race, being announced like an NBA star running to center court. Running through the streets of Tengchong with Kaori and James making jokes about our short shorts and reminding each other that we have a long way to go as others huffed and puffed while sprinting by uphill. Heading in to CP2 I had endured a 5 mile stretch of everything hurting, all of the injuries and niggles I'd worked so hard to heal with PRiME Sports and Trailhead Athletics were talking at me and I wondered if the first quarter was already like this... but then I saw the second place women only a few minutes behind going into CP2 as I was leaving and something shifted. Call it adrenaline or a full body realignment but my brain switched and I knew this was my day. All pains disappeared.  I had to remind my legs as they focused on putting more distance between us that it was still early, and I forced myself to slow and eat extra as a tactic to stop the surge.

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Deep in the night, around CP 6 I met up with a fellow runner. He walked when I walked and ran when I ran. At first I was frustrated thinking "run your own race." We went into CP 6 together. I got a HUGE boost from a surprise note in my drop bag. (This photo apparently went viral on WeChat). Emotional happy tears sprung up and made it hard to eat the bowl of noodles one of the volunteers had made for me. I stuffed my pack with my planned race food, changed headlamp batteries, smiled for countless selfies with aid station staff and other runners before finally heading back on course. On this out and back I didn't see anyone else. Heading up the Tea and Horse Trail I decided to text DJ, first thanking him for the note and letting him know I was hoping for 24hrs, but feeling like the course might have a different plan. As my phone buzzed with messages coming in from overseas (I'd had it in airplane mode) I smiled for all of the energy I could feel being sent my way helping motivate me through the night. I made the choice to save those for later, only texting with DJ during the race. 

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Not long after I put the phone away I turned around to find Shi (his name I pulled from looking at his race bib) walking in stride with me again. On the next hill when I wanted to walk he waved his hand forward and started jogging. The next one when he walked I said "let's go". We went on like this for hours and miles, through the cold predawn, through sunrise and multiple checkpoints. We picked up another runner around CP 9 and while we couldn't communicate in language we spoke "running." We laughed, we fist bumped, we waved each other on, gave thumbs up, grunted and mostly smiled. Having running buds in these key miles to keep intentional forward progress happening was key. Not being able to communicate allowed my head to wander and my headspace wasn't as good. Miles 45-65 on the course were tough. Ridgelines just above, we'd climb towards them and then suddenly switch and dive back down. I couldn't find a running rhythm. Some of the trails were newly cut, soft under foot, barely formed into a steep hillside. The guys insisted I go first and having them on my heels made me move faster over terrain (especially downhills) that would usually cause me to stall. I hate holding people up and that alone forced me over terrain that would normally give me pause. My eyes had a hard time focusing and I had a moment of worry reflecting back on Hellgate Frozen Eye Balls in 2007, but convinced myself it wasn't cold enough for that. 

I knew I would get to see DJ finally for the first time at CP 12 around mile 68. There was a 5 mile paved decent to that CP and with the negative self talk I was enduring I had to try something to get in a better headspace before then. I took 2 Advil for my patellas and popped in my music for my attitude. My trail buddies had waved me on (as we'd been doing) so I assumed they'd catch up (as they'd been doing). After each course turn I'd check over my shoulder, but could only see the 2nd guy (never got his name). There was something in Shi's eyes & smile and the fact he was sitting on a rock when he'd waved me this time that in hindsight made me realize that I might not see him again.

My attitude adjustment (music from my 2005 Grand Slam playlist) helped! The sun shown, we were out of the trees, I could run (albeit pounding downhill) and I knew a very familiar face would be waiting at the bottom. Only 4 hours later than I had hoped to be checking in to CP12, I found DJ waiting with a cheerleading squad of local town kids. We all ran through the streets together. The lightness in their smiles and the encouraging words "You are f'ing crushing this" DJ shared provided the tipping point at just the right time. I knew at this point I'd have to go into the second night, but I also knew I would finish strong if I stayed smart. I know how to run 100 miles and my body was remembering.

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In only his second time crewing me ever the man rubbed my legs had every eat available, repacked my pack, wiped my salty face, talked me through the next couple of miles (which he'd hiked that morning while waiting for me) and kicked me out of there with the good news that he and Jack would figure something out to see me at CP15. Their stories of hired cars, fish and beers and the villages they traveled through are an entire different post.

My music and self talk 100% improved and this new outlook carried me through the remainder of the race. I stayed focused on every little thing I needed to do to move forward. Fuel every 20-30 minutes. Skip songs I don't like any more. Watch for guys ahead to motivate and move up in the field. Take advantage of downhills to move more quickly. Visualize the guys on my tail to navigate terrain that usually stalls my pace. I kept checking the course profile printed on my race bib and multiplied it by 4. I figured out during that icky 45-65 mile section that the profile would show one bump, but it actually meant four significant climbs. Push hands on my knees to climb more efficiently. Hurry through the aid stations. I hate to think what those selfies look like (stuffing my face with food and ginger tea).

On the final four miles I put my head down realizing that the little cruising roll to the finish line depicted on the bib wasn't the gratuitous finish I'd hoped, instead there were 2 solid climbs. On the second a man carrying lunch for two (this was about 11pm) hiked up with me. At the top he yelled to a girl, who I stood head & shoulders above, carried a drawstring backpack, and wore jeans with converse type shoes, told me she would join me to the finish. At first I was worried, there was some business I needed to deal with trail side, but then 90+ miles in the worry vanished as quickly as it appeared, it was what it was. I had to encourage her ahead while I pee'd trailside. It's hard to explain with a language barrier, but she got the picture quickly.

My trail escort communicated to the many people that appeared out of no where and they would give me huge smiles and thumbs up. Many ran with me taking selfie videos and narrating. All in Chinese. I had no clue what anyone was saying but got the picture they were excited for this finish. We wound down and into the alleys of a small town. I hoped it was the Ancient Village where the finish line awaited. There were lights in the sky and I wondered after the impressive start if we would also be greeted with a show at the finish.

A man with a walkie talkie stood in the path and asked if I was Krissy Moehl. He even said my last name right! And then disappeared. The alley narrowed as we passed small store fronts closed for the night. At the gap at the end we popped out and I gasped at the sight ahead of me.  "Is this for us?!" But no-one could answer me. The focus point of the village, a small lake with a boardwalk path around, pagoda in the middle and bridges on both sides was lit in white lights. Every detail of the beautiful Chinese ancient town was highlighted in beautiful white lights. I crossed one bridge by myself and started the run around the lake. The announcers voice boomed with my name. Someone handed me an American Flag. I turned the last corner and would have stood in awe but my legs were already in motion, the stride they know best.

The finish line was completely orchestrated down to the timing of me moving through the alley. Laser lights, smoke bombs, music, the announcer... it was so much to absorb, especially at the end of 97 miles (160km). People on both sides cheered while snapping photos with their phones. I couldn't help but run to them. To thank them with a high-five for being out here so late at night. The massive banner that served as the finish line tape wrapped around my belly as my jaw dropped in the number of cameras flashing on the other side. I stood there awe struck. Thankfully DJ tapped me on the shoulder and said "Hey" with probably the sweetest smile ever (going to be hard to top that one!) and handed me a bouquet of flowers. (there is a great story around those flowers too!)

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When I started this blog post I thought I'd be able to include both China and Chuckanut stories in the same post. Now looking at the length of this, how many details came up and knowing there are so many more to share, but won't here, I think I'll have to make time to write part 2 - Chuckanut.

Check Out Trail Sisters!

Adding my words and stories to the Trail Sisters site has been an awesome outlet for about a year now. The site hosts eleven awesome contributors, nine enthusiastic ambassadors and additional guest contributors. Through our writings you will find community, adventure, health and conservation topics. There are opportunities for interaction and community building. There are, now iconic, Trail Sisters hats available for sale. Basically, there is a lot going on on the Trail Sisters site and I'm inviting everyone to head over there for interesting reads. 

I will get back to updating my personal blog at some point, hopefully soon. I miss the reflective time and taking the time to capture adventures as they happen. Bouncing from one to the next hasn't really allowed for much reflection, but in my Local Year (which will share in a Trail Sisters post soon) I have intention for more writing.

Thanks for checking in! I'm back to updating my site so check out my Race Run Schedule and additional photos... And as soon as you are done here - head over to Trail Sisters.

Download the #Chuckanut50k race map!

Last year Runner Girl Races teamed up with Maps for Good to create a new Chuckanut 50k race course map and Community Trails map of the Chuckanuts. The amazing (to me) thing is you can download the race map to your smartphone to see your location along the trail—no wifi or cell service needed! 

Here is how: In the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android) on your smartphone, download a free app called PDF Maps made by Avenza Systems. Once it has downloaded, open the app and look at the bottom of the screen for Store (with a shopping cart icon). In the search bar, where it says find maps, type Chuckanut. It will default to a map view, which is nice but not as easy to use. Click List at the top of the screen to switch to list view. There you'll see our two maps: Chuckanut 50k Race Map and Chuckanut Trails (not specific to the race). Purchase one or both! All proceeds support future map updates.

Once you've acquired your maps, they will be in your maps collection inside the PDF Maps app. You can find them by tapping on Maps in the bottom left corner of the app. Tap on any one of the maps to open it and see your location. You can pinch to zoom in and out and drag your finger to pan across the map—just like you would in any other map on your phone. You can also mark waypoints, make notes, record your tracks, and measure distances. When you have the map open on your screen, you can find all those tools by tapping on the wrench tool in the bottom right of the screen. 

You can see the map HERE on our website and download a printable PDF if that better suits you.

Krissy's Concoction

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1/4 - 1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt (depending on how hungry you are)

2-3 T 7 Sources Oil

1 tsp Maca powder

1/2- 1 Cup granola or favorite cereal

Fruit options: sliced banana, apricots, dried cranberries, raisins and cherries, diced mango, fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries

Optional: Milk

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Mix the first three ingredients until smooth and combined. Pour on cereal and fruit to desired consistency. If the concoction is too thick/dense, adding milk will help.

Sweet Potato, Acorn Squash Stew

Like most of my kitchen creations, recipes start with random ingredients. I love grocery shopping and often fill my basket without an end game in mind. Cleaning off the top of the fridge I found an acorn squash and 3 sweet potatoes. In the cupboard a can of coconut milk and fire roasted tomatoes. In the fridge, mushrooms, onion, and an apple. I did not use any spices other than salt and pepper, so I'm sure this has plenty of options to enhance flavors. I like the simplicity of the veggies showing off their individual flavors. 

The cooking process took a little longer than my belly hoped, and my final goal of pureeing the whole thing failed as I ended up eating the chunky stew. The stew evolved the next day to include protein, moose meat (thanks MONICA!), veggie broth & sriracha to make it a bit heartier and feed a few guests. 

Making it was pretty easy. There is just a bit of prep time.

Preheat oven to 400-425degrees F.

1 acorn squash - cut in half and seeded. Cut side down on a cookie sheet. Fill the bottom of the cookie sheet with water.

3 sweet potatoes - cut into 1/2-1 inch chunks. Spread the pieces on to a different cookie sheet (I needed 2) and drizzle with olive oil.

Put the above items in the oven at 400-425degrees F until cooked through (about 35 minutes). Flip the potatoes at about 20 minutes.

Sautee:

1 onion - sliced and diced

3-6 cloves of garlic, either pressed or sliced and diced

with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then add

1 dozen (or more) sliced Crimini mushrooms

1-2 medium apples, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

In a large stock pot on medium-low heat add:

1 can coconut milk

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

Combine:

Add the sautéed veggies to the stock pot when they are cooked, but still crunchy (I don't like over cooked veggies.) Add the potatoes from the oven when they are cooked through. You might want to cut them into smaller pieces. To add the squash, scoop out tablespoon size portions from the peel and add. Stir everything and simmer on low until ready to serve.

Possible Additions:

1-2 cans of beans (kidney, pinto, black, garbanzo)

1 lb of sautéed protein (I did moose meat hamburger)

1 box of veggie broth

Serve with sriracha or other hot sauce so people can adjust to their own taste. If you like sour cream or other stew toppers (cheese, chives, seeds) I'm sure they would go well with this.

Enjoy!

Mending

I did not tear my meniscus (thankfully!). Seems I was a bit dramatic on my last blog post sharing all of the thoughts that plagued my mind during the onset of my hip injury. Sorry to those of you that I confused. The fear of a torn meniscus was just one of the worrisome thoughts that filled my head while I lived in the unknown.

Working with Heather at Red Hammer PT, we found the diagnosis and the treatment to the problem, a pinched nerve in my hip that referred pain to my knee. Over the last couple of weeks I have gradually increased my running in addition to a ton of hip openers, yoga, massage, e-stim, and focused strengthening. On today's #wednesdaygirlsrun I finally experienced running without any painful symptoms. On a sunny, cool morning in the company of good running buds, my smile couldn't have been brighter. It's awesome to feel like I'm coming through this (I will continue my treatment plan to ensure this does not return) and to look ahead at the calendar, filled with races and adventures, and start planning.

Nerves. New to me.

I’ve torn my meniscus. I’m grinding away my tibia and fibia. There is a piece of bone floating in my knee. Well, at least I’m in Mexico.

I wish I had the ability to block these thoughts from my mind, especially while in Mexico, when pain creeps in to my body. The gift and the curse of ultrarunning is an intense physical body awareness. We know when all systems are working fluidly. It feels amazing to cover long distances while managing our bodies perfectly. And I feel, if we stay in tune, we also know when something is not right. Depending at what point we are in our season or training, we might try to ignore pain, or write it off as nothing too serious. Until it is.

Since the holidays I have battled a stride altering, sharp pain in my left knee. My training right now is about daily fitness and nothing more. I do not need to run everyday, but I choose to stay fit through a variety of exercises including swimming, climbing, body weight core exercises and group training classes. Running is one activity I obviously love to include as an option and my frustration of not being able to incorporate it drove me in to see my PT, Heather North, RPT. My knee pain baffled us both. It only hurt while running. It moved around. I could not palpate it. She adjusted, needled, massaged and e-stemmed to the point of my exhaustion and sent me off with advice to run daily and pay attention to all sensation.

While in Mexico to celebrate Darcy’s birthday I followed the doctor’s orders and reported back to Heather via email. I had the luxury of enjoying a fun girls weekend, soaking up sun and even rode a wave for a split second. Meanwhile her brain was smoking trying to figure it out and had a nervous wonderment if my pain could be bone related (femur stress fracture).

When I returned to Boulder and sat on her table once again we charged through my symptoms, pulled out anatomy books, and reviewed all possibilities. She, thankfully, ruled out the stress fracture for now, and we moved on to a new-to-me injury reality. Nerve. Of course nerves have been involved in previous injuries; nerves tell us pain. In this case, my femoral nerve, the one that flows through a small channel in my hip along with a lot of other anatomy, is pinched. Heather offered that this could be compared to the common Sciatica, where the pain refers to the low back and butt. Mine is on the front in the periphery femoral nerve and refers to my knee.

This all likely started in June. For two weeks after the Cayuga 50mile championships I had to manually lift my left leg to lasso my underwear around my foot. My hip flexor was kaput. It is my belief that scar tissue is taking up some of the valuable, limited space in that region between my hip and pelvic bones and possibly binding the nerve. I’ve managed the hip through some amazing summer (JMT and Kings Trails) and fall (Conservacion Patagonica) adventures. Now it is time to heal it knowing that the injury is in my hip, not my knee.

This incredible shift in my mental view of this injury has been a huge adjustment in my treatment and recovery. Now when I run, I am not thinking that my knee is grinding away bone on bone as the pain builds. Instead I think about my hip, visualize that nerve bound up in there. I work to open my stride behind me, keep my feet from reaching, tuck my pelvis and give space to that otherwise limited area. And wouldn’t you know it, the pain in my knee subsides.

Our treatment plan includes more running, tweaking my form, hip opening stretches, no squats, lunges or other quad builders (she doesn’t want me to maintain or increase muscle mass in that area for now). Instead, I am to focus on strengthening my glutes (all runners should) and stabilizing muscles. E-stem a couple times a day and nerve flossing will probably be the biggest aids to my recovery.

I feel like I’m having another in-body learning experience. To gain an understanding of nerve injuries as compared to tissue (ligaments, tendons, muscle) feels like a whole new ballgame. I love this sport for all that it teaches me. And I’m thankful for all of the insight gained by going through these experiences.