Amy Blake, our official #AMRinSaucony, has a tale of an ultra adventure--and the suprising body part that brought her down.
My husband Scott bought a new pair of hockey skates last week. It was a purchase he’s been contemplating for a while now—well over a year—and after a lot of research and trips to the local skate shop to try on different pairs, he settled on one, a.k.a., “The last pair of skates I’ll ever buy,” in his words.
Having a few months of being in the Masters running division under my belt, the transition to being 40+ has been mostly unremarkable. But I’ve been thinking about those skates, and how we’ve moved into a phase in our life when certain major purchases are now potentially the last we’ll ever buy. Because we’ll either get too old to use them or they’ll simply outlive us.
Makes you stop and think, right? And then weep quietly in your Metamucil?
But, back to running. Remember that ultra (Fall Back Blast) I was gearing up for last month? It’s been a week since the race. You know how when a memorable event occurs you flash back? For example, after my eldest was born, I'd think, oh, a week ago I was at the hospital and they'd just started the pitocin! Or, wow, I can't believe that a month ago, at 7:45 Scott was cutting the umbilical cord. That kind of thing. This morning when the baby woke me up at 7am, I thought, last week at this time I was at my friend Karen’s house in her guest bedroom, turning off the alarm on my iPhone, popping a penicillin, and trying to decide if I was in any shape to run in the woods for a very long time.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t finish the race.
Here’s the thing: Friday night, at a get together at Super BAMR Hostess Karen’s house with a group of BAMRs from WI and MN—many of them women I’d met at the AMR Run + Refresh Retreat last spring—I started to feel, as they say, “under the weather.” (Polite way of saying I felt like s***.) It started out with chills, so I threw on a hoodie. That didn’t help, and I noticed my left breast was unusually sore:
And it hit me: Mastitis.
And having enjoyed this oh so special sometimes side effect of breastfeeding two times prior with my son, I knew exactly what it was. (I’m still nursing Clara; she turns a year old next week!)
For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this, think flu on steroids. At least that’s how it has affected me. Mastitis is one of those things that could share a category with Voldesun - The Boob Thing That Must Not Be Named. Utter the word in conversation with women who’ve had it and no explanation needed; there is an instant shared sympathy.
The good thing about this particular situation (yes, there is actually a good part) is that I was staying with a Doctor Karen, so I got on antibiotics right away. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get me to a place where finishing the race was a consideration.
Well, it was briefly a consideration as the race day endorphins kicked in. I did make it to the starting line, making a deal with my body that I’d give one lap a shot (the course was four 12.5K laps on some sweet singletrack in Eau Claire, WI). That hope faded quickly – about two miles in. I knew there was no way I was making it for the entire distance. And after about 10K, I was just praying I'd make it to the finish of the first loop.
I’ve only had to drop out of a race once. When I tried to run Twin Cities Marathon in 2011 while 11 weeks pregnant with my son, I quit after 17.5 miles. I rode that yellow school bus to the finish line, grateful to be off my feet on what was the toughest race I felt I’d ever run. At the same time, I was devastated, feeling I was so close to the finish and second guessing myself. Could I have made it if I’d stuck it out just a little bit longer? (Okay, maybe having 8.5 miles left to go isn't really "close." Still, it hurt, even more than my pregnant body of softened ligaments.)
I can say with absolute certainty that I did not for a second think I made the wrong decision in giving up on my ultra goal. I’d given my best, and on that particular Saturday, it was 12.5K.
The Fall Back Blast was supposed to be the pièce de résistance for 2015 – the last race of the year following baby #3 and a new distance. A new badge of honor to go along with turning 40: the title of ultramarathoner. But as the saying goes, timing is everything, and it was not my side for this race.
But the consolation prize was not so shabby. I got a much needed weekend away to myself, and even though I spent it completely miserable from a physical standpoint, I got some much needed rest and uninterrupted sleep without my three kids climbing all over me. (I love my kids, but the last thing you want to do when dealing with mastitis is deal with anything or anyone else!) I spent the weekend with some of my favorite people in the world and made some new friends. I felt pampered. Truly. Pampered and enveloped in BAMR love.
This post was tough to write. No one likes to bomb out in a race, but the whole experience has given me a lot to think about. I had a really full year of running and races, more than I’ve ever attempted before. Two half marathons. Two 20 mile training runs (I’ve only made it through one of the 20 milers in any training plan in the past) and two full marathons, PRing in October. I am completely content with what I’ve achieved this year; it’s more than I ever imagined I’d be able to take on after having a baby.
The thing that hurts the most right now is that I’m hurt, physically. I’ve had some issues with my hip that have finally caught up with me to the point that I haven’t run since the Fall Back Blast. I’ve nursed it for a week, hoping it just needs a little rest. And maybe that’s why the sting of this DNF isn’t so acute. I’m putting all of my energy into not losing my mind on the longest hiatus from running I’ve had since April.
And not to get all hippy dippy motivational poster-y on you, but this whole thing—not finishing the ultra, being temporarily on the DL (disabled list)—has me hearkening back to my preggo days, when the mere thought of running for a full city block sounded like the best. thing. ever. It’s so easy to take running for granted when you’re healthy.
Sitting on my butt this week has reminded me: don’t take the run for granted. And don’t let it take an injury to remind you of that.
Back to that race. After some much needed sleep that afternoon, I made it back to the course to watch Karen and Anna finish the race. They gutted it out for just short of seven grueling hours on a challenging course.
Not finishing gave me the chance to do something else I don’t get to do very often: be a spectator and celebrate with them in their victory, which is the next best thing to crossing the finish line.
I’ll have ultra redemption; I’ve already got the date on my calendar marked for next year’s race. Freak sudden onset boob issues aside, I’ll show up more prepared and 12 months most post-partum than I am today, with the benefit of having a course preview.
And while it wasn't the outcome I was hoping for, I'm okay with it. Really. Because I know that there will be other races. Unlike Scott’s new pair of hockey skates, this one won’t be my last.
Photo creds to the Chippewa Off Road Biking Association and the Fall Back Blast!