Tag Archives: anxiety

To just finish and have fun. A Gorge Waterfalls 100k 2017 race report.

It’s often been said that ultra marathons are a lot like life. It has its ups and downs, both physically and emotionally. Spectacular moments and also times when you want to fall to your knees and just cry. The unexpected can and will happen. How you respond to this adversity will effect you in so many ways going forward. FullSizeRender 8 The challenges and rewards of taking on an ultra are many. As a person who faces ongoing mental health challenges, one reason I took up running ultras was to remind myself difficult obstacles can be surmounted and that I am capable of more than I realize. This reinforces belief in myself from day to day.

My latest race, the Gorge Waterfalls 100k dished out plenty of challenges and rewards. The race began at 6:00 am after race director James  Varner filled us in on some wrinkles Mother Nature provided to this years race.  Because of the rough winter there were still some sections of snow on the course. One snowy spot in particular created a dicey situation. On a steep downward section of trail the snow was still deep and packed. Running down would be dangerous because one could easily slip and tumble down to the water and rocks below, not to mention twisting and injuring an ankle or foot.

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The snow bank before the steps were added.

So kudos to Rainshadow Running for taking the time to actually shovel out steps in the snow bank. We were urged not to run but to walk down as the snow would not hold up to such pounding from some 300 racers. I needed no urging to go slow when I came to the snow bank in the still dark morning. Also, there were more downed trees then usual so we would have numerous opportunities to test our scrambling and limbo skills.

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Just one of the many downed trees we’d have to negotiate.

Lastly, due to one particular mud slide the trail was impassible and we would have to rope climb around that section. All would add to the fun of the long day, right!?

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Readying at the start

Having run this race in 2015 I had an idea of what to expect. Last time I took the first hill climb of some 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles too fast and I vowed to go slower. Well, I did take it at a somewhat easier effort, but I should have gone even slower. Maybe it was my running poles which I was racing with for the first time that gave me more confidence, but more likely it was the emotional high of running my first ultra race in almost a year that overwhelmed any practical thinking at this point. On the descent of this first hill I continued to run harder than I should have. I love taking downhills. Usually running them with the attitude of the harder and the faster the better. So once I did reach the top of the first climb I let loose and didn’t worry about pacing.

This somewhat fast pace out of the gate wouldn’t necessarily have doomed me for the latter stages of the race if I would have handled my caloric intake better. Just days before the race I decided to run with a bottle for the first 13 miles until the second aid station where I would pick up my hydration vest. Packed in the vest I carry various energy bars and gels. Well, I forgot to bring some of those with me so I had to rely on just my water mixed with Tailwind along with the first aid station for calories. To further compound my situation when I did reach the first aid station instead of taking a few extra minutes to take in some much needed calories and even grab something to take with me for the next 7 miles I hurriedly ate just a bit, said a quick hello to a friend manning the aid station and took off again. I believe these first 13 miles put me into a quick calorie deficit which I’d not be able to overcome.

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Upon reaching the second aid station a fellow running friend Drew Dinan who graciously offered to crew me, was there to hand me my race vest and offer words of encouragement. I’ve never had someone crew me in a race before so it was a learning experience. I very much appreciated his help but I had feelings of guilt. Knowing what a long day it would be for him hanging out just waiting for me, moving from one location to the next. At least that’s how it played in my head. Next time I will certainly try harder not to worry about anyone crewing me as it defeats some of the purpose of their being out there. Drew is also a darn good ultra runner so he knew what he was getting into by offering his assistance, so I should have focused on that when feelings of guilt arose. However that is one of my personal challenges I face on a daily basis in dealing with generalized anxiety disorder.  I worry too much about what others think. Knowing that I shouldn’t worry about something doesn’t mean I can stop myself from doing it. Just one of the “little” challenges such a mental health problem creates. To his credit throughout the day each time I saw Drew he always offered words of encouragement, a laugh or two and even reminded me of what really mattered. I was out on a fabulous trail doing what I really loved, trail running.

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Before I left the aid station I dropped to the ground to try and stretch out my right hip and glute. It was an issued I had been dealing with the last couple months and it now reared its painful head once again.  It would literally be a pain in my ass until midway through the race.

As the miles continued to mount I gradually eased up on my running intensity and tried to take in the scenery.

FullSizeRender 9I even stopped on occasion to take a photo or two and sent out short texts to my wife and family who were following me and wanted to know how far along I was. At one point I think around mile 25 I saw on a long straight stretch of trail a runner approaching. I immediately knew it was Jim Wamsley. As he got closer I noticed how fluid and fast he was moving. As he got right next to me I shouted to him to bring it on home. It seemed he needed no encouragement as he looked like he was racing in a 50k race not 100k. Having such an encounter, just the two of us on a stretch of trail, both running in the same race, one being one of the best ultra runners today and the other a mid pack runner is one of the things that makes trail running special. As I later stepped aside for more front runners to run by many of them countered my words of encouragement with their own. Some thanked me for my getting out of their way and one guy even let out a loud primeval scream as he came down a switch back towards me and several other runners. Yelling “You guys look awesome!” or something to that effect. Needless to say moments like that give average runners like myself a nice emotional boost.

The trail continued to offer plenty of sweet trail to run on along with muddy shoe sucking sections and occasional snow packs to gingerly walk over as well as rocks. Lots and lots of rocks underfoot. I almost forgot how the embedded rocks in the trail over time will tenderize the soles of my feet and by races end they were a bit sore for sure.

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By the time I reached mile 31, the halfway point and turn around I was feeling good except for the nausea I was feeling.  I had encountered this once before in a race and knew what it meant. My body was craving food but it was hard to put anything down because I felt like I’d just throw it back up. I forced down as much as I could and indeed after awhile as I’d started running again I regained some energy and the nausea dissipated. But it was short lived. My body seemed to use up any calories I took in very quickly and I’d be back at the nausea stage again. I was to repeat this process the entire second half of the race.

Some 48 miles in I came to Elowah Falls. It’s a spectacular waterfall among many amazing ones in the Columbia River Gorge. I stopped at several spots to take in the view and also on the foot bridge to feel the spray from the splashing water.

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Elowah Falls

As I continued down the trail I noticed a trail marker pointing up off the trail and up the steep hillside. Slowing to look I just thought “Well that can’t be right. Someone messed with the course markings. ” and kept going. Well I came to an abrupt stop. The trail in front of me was washed out.

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View of the wash out from other side of approach.

I thought about trying to cross anyway but one look down the steep hundred foot drop finally nudged my memory from the prerace talk. There was to be a rope at one location to get by an obstacle. Hmmm. I walked back and taking a closer look at the last arrow marker I now saw several pink ribbons leading up the hillside and then I saw the muddy rope which now blended in to the hillside. Another runner came up to me and I said I guess we go up.

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@glenn Tachiyama and @ross comer going up rope section to bypass the trail washout at Elowah Falls

As I packed away my poles he grabbed the rope and went up. I soon followed. It looked worse then it was and I soon had found my way back onto the trail and off the brief detour.

As the race progressed I had some emotional ups and downs as my body continued to complain in so many ways it’s lack of nutrition. But I tried the make the best of it. Taking in the scenery and on occasion taking another photo or two. I had to dig deep for motivation to keep going. It was in these late stages of the race I reminded myself why I did this. Running races was both a motivator to me and a reward. When I started running several years ago I did it mainly because I had found that excercise helped me combat my anxiety and depression. Over time running became one of my cornerstones in maintaining my mental health. I chose running because it was my favorite form of exercise.   Even though I got much enjoyment out of it I often found myself lacking motivation.  When my mental health took a downward spiral I just couldn’t do it regularly. But I soon found that signing up for races helped motivate me to get out and run regularly week in and week out. Because I knew if I didn’t I would pay dearly come race day. And once race day was here I always have three goals in mind. First and foremost is to just finish the event and have fun. Second goal would be a time I feel is a fast finish for me but doable. Third goal was if all the planets aligned and I was having a great day to go for an even faster finish time that would put me near the top 20% of finishers and near the top of my age group. Well today was a day goals two and three would not be attainable so I focused on just beating the cut offs and thus finishing in under 17 hours to qualify my entry into the Western States Lottery. I finished in 16 hours and 8 minutes and was very pleased to have done so. It was a hard earned finish, with many unexpected twists and turns but in the end I got it done and managed to even have a little fun along the way.

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A New Year with some new and old goals.

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has transpired since then. Several racing goals where accomplished in 2016 while others fell to the wayside as I had to take a couple months off from running due to an injury. Life had its ups and downs as it does for us all. I continue to battle depression and anxiety with mostly positive results of late. Instead of going into more detail on the months that have passed since my last post I am going to write a bit about the future.

Going into 2017 I’ve set some lofty goals for myself by signing up for the following races. In April I will be running the Gorge Wateralls 100k. This was my first 100k race two years ago and although I did complete the race I hobbled several of the last miles to the finish. I feel I have unfinished business with this course. In May I will be running the Smith Rock Ascent 50k in my own backyard of Central Oregon. I look forward to racing another challenging 50k race with numerous local runners from my hometown of Bend. In July I hope to be racing in the Mt. Hood 50 mile race. Currently I am on the wait list to get. This will be my first time running this course near the iconic Mt. Hood. Lastly I hope to complete my first hundred mile race Pine to Palm in September. I had signed up for the race last year but a severe case of shin splints derailed those plans.  I am stoked for what lies ahead.

As those of you who may have read some of my previous posts I am an individual who lives with some mental health problems. I suffer from anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations. This is an ongoing struggle with many up and down days, weeks and months. I found excercise and especially running has been very beneficial in combatting its negative effects. When I began running I didn’t find many sources available to assist me in my particular situation. As I’ve come forward in the past two years to start openly sharing my experiences I’ve found there are more and more runners and people in general who suffer similarly. In response I am going to create a website aimed at being a source of information and inspiration to others. I hope to also make it a place where others can share their experiences too. I’ll post more information once I get it online. The name of the site will be RAADS standing for Run Against Anxiety Depression and Suicide. Stay tuned for that and happy trails to you all.

Elite Marathoner Prevents Apparent Suicide Attempt During Run

Elite runner Adriana Nelson was out for an easy 4-mile run on Thursday evening in Folsom, Calif., when she came across a man she sensed

Source: Elite Marathoner Prevents Apparent Suicide Attempt During Run

Getting out the door.

I sit on my bed thinking about going out for a run. Nothing extremely challenging for myself. Just a 45-60 minute workout which I routinely do several times a week. But now I sit immobilized. A huge weight seemingly holds my body down. I imagine getting outside, but am unable to change into my running gear and get going. It’s not a lack of motivation or laziness. I don’t suffer from any physical illness that would prevent me from running. I suffer from depression and anxiety. The last few days it has reared its ugly head and now drains away at my motivation and passion for not just running but for life itself. Even though I know getting out there for a short bout of exercise would benefit me I just can’t will myself to do it. That’s the challenge with these type of illnesses. It can disable an individual to the point of being unable to help oneself. From the outside most people can not even tell an individual is waging an unseen war within. Even friends and loved ones who are aware of ones illness can often times not appreciate or understand just how hard the battle is. This is why I have begun to share my own personal stories and experiences. To help better educate others who are unaffected and to also give hope to those fighting the disease like me. For it is a disease which one needs to attack from different fronts and on this day I reach out to someone I love and who cares about me. I text a brief message and she offers me words of encouragement. I read the response but remain where I am. She writes some more. Then more. Finally it gives me the last push I need to start moving again. It’s not as easy as it may sound reading this, but sometimes that’s all one needs to get over that hump. Sometimes it’s a hug. Sometimes a shoulder to lean on or an attentive ear that will listen. Sometimes just being there so one doesn’t feel alone. Some days nothing seems to help. But today her words of encouragement are enough. Enough to get me out on the road to running and wellness again.

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Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. ~ Albert Einstein

 

As I watch a public television program on Albert Einstein I decide to do an internet search on him and quotes he is credited to have made. There are quite a few and some I have heard of before. But a number of them I was unfamiliar with and one in particular grabs my attention. Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. The more I read and consider this compact, seemingly simple sentence the more I realize it is packed with meaning and implication.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years. One of my biggest obstacles to managing my illness was simply accepting the fact that I could not conquer, squelch or obliterate it. To make it go away forever. That was always my foremost desire. As I repeatedly fought against my illness I would continually step backwards on the positive steps I had slowly made over time. When I finally accepted that this illness is very likely to be with me for the rest of my life it reframed my situation. Instead of looking at it as something to get over or to conquer it became something to accept and figure out how to live with it. By accepting this I stopped fighting it and knowing my limits with this illness allowed me to make better progress.

This same statement Einstein said can be applied to running. I like many other runners set goals for ourselves to achieve. Shoot for PR’s (personal records) and the more talented in our mist go for FKT’s (fastest known times). We compete with others during a race and compete with ourselves during our training runs and even with others through computer apps like STRAVA. Always pushing and striving in an effort to do better. But sometimes this narrow focus can lead to negative consequences. One can get hurt, become burned out or fall into a rut . When we don’t continue to make the progress we’d like we need to step back and reassess. As Einstein accurately stated we all have limits and once we recognize them then we can accept them for what they are. This doesn’t mean one has to give up and believe things can’t improve. However one can start to get a clearer picture on how to adapt and change to work with these limitations and in doing so we may in fact then get beyond them. For instance when I decided I was going to try my first 50k I realized I needed to get better at running hills. I ran my first trail marathon prior to this. It was grueling and it reminded me of the feelings I had when I ran my very first road marathon. I knew I’d be dealing with running more elevation and I did train for it. But the result wasn’t quite what I hoped for. I had the opportunity to ask runner extraordinare  Max King ,who lives in my town and leads a weekly running group, how do I get better at running hills. His succinct response, “run more hills.”  Sounds like stating the obvious. However to get better at something you have to do more of it. Up until then I had been increasing my hill work but not nearly enough. I also had a mental barrier to get over as I dreaded running hills. Once I came to terms with this and fully embraced the hills, then I began to make progress. Although I believe hills are still a weakness for me I am now running them with much better authority.

Learning to take a new perspective and try things differently can make a difference. Einstein would figure out new ways of looking at things to help solve his problems. Continuing to do what doesn’t work is futile. Have the courage to look elsewhere. By acknowledging my limits in running I am able to again continue with improving. One must realize one has limits and can’t just will themselves beyond them. One must first identify what their limits are and then take the time, effort and perseverance to work on improving them. This will allow us to start to move beyond them.  Thanks Albert!

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Running against anxiety and depression.

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I along with some 40 million other adults in the U.S. Suffer from anxiety and depression. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)  It’s a debilitating illness that has no easy answers or solutions. Just a constant battle in which I at times feel I am either winning or losing. But whether I happen to be on one side of the spectrum or the other or somewhere in between I know it’s ever flowing and changing. When I’m doing well, feeling generally good, you know a happy person, I tend to forget that this stasis is only temporary. Sooner or later it will start to go the other direction. And when I am at the other end, suffering a severe bout of the illness it feels like it’s going on forever. Over the years with the help of others I’ve developed coping mechanisms that I try to employ and help me along these turbulent seas. About six years ago I realized exercise was quite beneficial. It helped lesson the depressive episodes, made anxiety a bit less severe and in general helped me cope better. I soon turned to running regularly as this was my favorite form of exercise. Doing something I enjoy helps make it more likely that I’ll stick to it at a regular basis for the long term and thus be beneficial to my well being.
But today I struggle. I struggle to get myself outside for a run. In fact it’s the third day I haven’t run or done some excercise and during the last two weeks I’ve not been very consistent. I currently find myself in a place where my mental illness is getting the better of me and this makes everything in life more challenging. Work, family, daily chores and tasks and even going out for a normally pleasurable run all become more difficult to accomplish and deal with. This includes doing things to help myself through this current upsurge in depression and anxiety. So here I sit wanting to be better but feeling helpless in doing anything about it. I share this with you because the majority of the population does not suffer from this mental illness and yet some 18% of you out there are in the same boat as I. So to that 18% of you I say if you are in a bad state right now please hang in there and cut yourself some slack. You are not alone and you can get out to the other side in time. To a place where you are not feeling so overwhelmed and where life becomes more tolerable and even pleasant again. For those of you who don’t fight this illness please be considerate to those who do. It’s a hard illness to comprehend if you yourself don’t suffer with it. It’s important to give support to those that do. Even if you think you don’t know anyone who suffers this mental illness in reality you probably do and definitely come in contact with them. To put it into a runners perspective in Western States there are 369 participants in that  100 mile race. This means some 66 of those runners suffer from anxiety and depression. So in all likelyhood you’d be rubbing shoulders with, pass or are being passed at some point with a runner with anxiety and depression. So many of us suffer and it needs to become more visible and accepted by the general public.  Too many of us suffer in silence and that needs to change.  Although I really don’t want to I feel myself needing to go for a run.  See you on the trail.

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Running against anxiety and depression.

September 2015 is suicide prevention month and I thought this is a good opportunity to touch upon the topic of mental health. I got involved with running 6 years ago without any intention of doing ultra marathons. My main reason was for the mental health benefits it provides. Let me back track a bit. Eight years ago I began coming down with some physical symptoms that no doctor seemed to have an answer for.  I had a battery of tests done over twelve months, saw two Mds, a cardiologist and neurosurgeon and still had no definitive explanation. It was at this time my current Md suggested I might want to see a mental health specialist. After another twelve months of denial (as I thought this could not be the answer) I finally was at my wits end and asked for some referrals. I was soon at a mental health professionals office and was diagnosed to be suffering from anxiety and depression.

Over time I found that in addition to therapy and medication there were other things I could do to help myself. The biggest aid for me was exercise. It was not a cure for my health issues but it has helped immensely.  In recent years there has been more and more evidence showing how excercise can help mental health.  13 Mental Health Benefits Of Excercise. As running was my favorite form of exercise I soon turned to trying to run on a regular basis. For it to be of greatest benefit for me I found I needed to run regularly so I began to sign up for races. Having these events on the calendar motivated me to get my butt out the door to train.  I started out with one or two races a year but found myself taking weeks and even months off at a time with almost no training after the races and as my running dipped so did my mental health.  So I added more races onto the calendar and increased the length and difficulty of the races.  In time this  led me into running ultra marathons.  In the process I’ve made new friends, had longer periods of good mental health and get a reminder that I was capable of much more then I realized. I share this with you today because you or likely some you know also suffers from depression and/or anxiety as I do and they might not be aware of the benefits exercise can be to them. Along with helping improve my mood and reduce stress running has given me more confidence and better self esteem. I also found the courage to publicly speak about this for the first time after being inspired by two other well known ultra marathoners: Rob Krar and Nicky Kimball.  In a unique video called Depressions Rob Krar  talks about depression and its relationship to him and his running.  I was fortunate to see the movie Finding Traction  with Nikki Kimball in attendance to talk and take questions afterwards. She spoke a bit about her depression and I had the opportunity to personally thank her for coming out and sharing her personal life with others.  I also had a chance encounter with another individual after one of my 100k races this year. Although he could no longer run ultras because of some physical limitations he still employed exercise in other forms to help himself with his mental health too. Making these connections with other runners I suddenly felt for the first time not so alone in my problems. There are others out there very much like myself, doing the same things and finding running to be a huge benefit to themselves. And these people have the courage to speak out about this to total strangers has spurred me on to do the same.