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Bruised But Not Broken, Often Gasping Marmot

Last we caught up a few weeks ago, I was whining about the smoke messing up my PR attempt at Leadville Marathon… What has this marmot been up to since then? Well the mountains kept calling to me, so the weekend after Leadville I headed a bit further south for the race with the most eye-candy-per- mile, the San Juan Solstice. 50miles up and down some mountains, playing along the Continental Divide for hours, what more could I ask for?! Well it would have been nice to not spend the last 2 hours of the race gasping and wheezing because my lungs had had enough of all the stuffs in the air… And then another hour at the med center with the miracle nebulizer... But thankfully so many more hours were filled with the greatest memories of pushing myself to my physical limits (well muscular limits instead of stupid lung’s limits) while looking out at the impressive mountain ranges I dream of climbing, that I’ll forever look back fondly upon that race experience. 

A few days later my asthma doctor finally got me a new drug to try out, I could make it up the stairs at my house without getting out of breath, and I could feel the effects of the bi-monthly sports massage that I now rely on to keep my glute and back muscles all happily working together to keep my easily-angered disc in check.  Of course instead of a true recovery period, I jumped on the chance to join a friend in Breckenridge for a weekend of mountain biking and trail running.  And then for the July 4th holiday, I found some friends to climb the Crags route up Pikes Peak, plus a bonus quickie down-and-up the top mile of Barr Trail (since I won’t be seeing that again until Pikes Peak Marathon!). 

So now we’re caught up to this most recent weekend of racing! I’d never raced longer than the 7miles of Winter Series 1 in the impresively hilly Cheyenne Mountain State Park, so I knew the half marathon distance of the new Summer Roundup route would certainly be a challenge. And I so love racing a course where I have no prior time to try to beat… sooo of course I couldn’t help myself. I had also been wanting to do a mountain bike race in Winter Park this summer and that Saturday before the Summer Roundup was the only one that I technically didn’t have anything else scheduled… (sidenote- when I say ‘mountain bike race’, read this as : paying money for the opportunity to ride a beautiful area of trails I don’t ever visit, that is flagged for a route of known distance so that I won’t get lost and hopefully someone would come across my body er bike if a bear dragged me away!). So, Saturday morning I start at the little mountain bike race with a promise to myself to not take any risks because I was just here to enjoy myself. Well maybe put forth a little effort on the climb because it’s not that bad. Until I’m going downhill in the trees, and hardcore bike racer that I am (not), it’s now time to brake a bunch and enjoy the views. Lalalala this is beautiful…. Flowy smooth singletrack, isn’t this nice… falalala…. Wham. I’m flying through the air. What.The.*#&$#*.  I’m on the ground. Missing some skin on my arm. Hm I can stand up, can’t really breathe, crap move off the trail before the next group of racers runs me down… Trying to look around to see what the hell I hit while I catch my breath… Nothing. At. All. No idea what made my bike suddenly stop and my body to keep moving (well that’s momentum). After a half dozen kids zip by asking if I’m ok, I finally get back on my bike and finish the course, without falling again PHEW. A quick stop at the volunteer EMT tent to get patched up and head home. 

So barely bruised, I get myself to Cheyenne Mountain State Park with plenty of time before the race so I can get in some warmup miles. Not feeling especially spritely, as expected, but other than a little bit of throbbing where my leg hit uh who-knows-what, all systems are go!  From the start line, things go pretty much as expected- Up up up… A little conga line action…. A little bit of space… I do just a little bit of passing… But there’s a lot more of me saying, yeah go ahead and pass, and constantly waving my hand so the person behind me knows which side to pass me on. Gasp gasp…. Ohhh it’s my buddy TIMMM!!! No I can’t sprint more on this downhill, I’m never going to make it up the next hill! Phew here’s a nice aid station before the other big loop…So many people are passing me, so easily it seems...Then quiet. Except for my huffing and puffing.

Woah I’m actually catching up to a few guys who easily passed me just after the aid station. I entertain myself with a debate as to whether these guys paced this race as badly as it looked like I had, maybe running ‘too much’ in the first loop when it didn’t seem so hard and falling apart on this bigger and harder climb, or if they had just rushed in the moment to pass me on the wider easier-to-pass section before the singletrack returned.  But even with this level of fatigue I’m fighting to ignore, I know I wouldn’t have raced it any other way given a second chance. I certainly didn’t sprint the first few miles, the effort felt moderate and reasonable. Snapped back to the current state of pain when I hear a chatty voice up ahead, around the next bend… I’m not getting any closer but I recognize Tim’s voice. HOOOOW is he able to chat so easily when I can barely breathe?! I keep seeing the 3 guys right as they’re rounding the next corner in front of me… I think I’m getting closer but I’m not.  I keep resorting to some hiking steps up this never-ending climb...YEESSSS! We’ve finally crested the top of Talon! Hopping over some rocks, no full-out sprinting that’s for sure, since I have the cautious mind again only a half hour after I’d twisted my ankle on the first descent… But wait, now I can see one of the guys… now all 3 of them. Huh?  I know Tim is a super strong descender, I was looking forward to having him as my rabbit to help me push through the fatigue in the final miles of the race. But woops, I guess I’ll make the pass now and just finish this thing up! Hopefully not freaking out too many of the racers still heading up the hill as I’m barreling down (I promise, I was totally almost-completely in control when it seemed like I was heading right at you!), I'm ready for a final thrashing of my quads to bomb down for the last 5k of the race. Wohooh the smooth descent of the 2nd loop was much appreciated after all the rock hopping I had to do on the descent of the 1st loop! And there it is, the 2nd race was over. So a happy ending to the race for this marmot right?

No I wanted to make Sunday in to my ‘long run’ day. So after downing a few cups of water I head back out for a few more shuffling miles. CRRIICCKKK. Ok it wasn’t that loud. I didn’t fall. But something in my body. In my chest cavity/rib cage/lung area (?!) , something went awry quite suddenly. I still don’t know exactly what hit the ground or what body part impacted with my bike when I crashed the previous day… But I had had a very slight discomfort on the side of my rib cage on Saturday night. I felt absolutely nothing during the half marathon except the searing pain of breathing so hard and gasping for any bit of oxygen that I could get in to my body. But suddenly during my cooldown, not-breathing-hard-at-all miles, there was a weird clicking-movement of something tiny in my chest. Taking a deep breath both made the clicking-shifting thing happen as well as a horrible searing pain in the side of my chest. I try to quiet the screaming in my head by concentrating on what is causing this bizarre clicking, but I only know it’s timed with each breath. Eventually my slow shuffle descent brought me back to the finish line, and I stopped by the EMT tent so they could check that my heart and breathing sounded ‘ok’. A short while later I painted on a smile to accept the 5th place female award that I was shocked to have earned that morning. And then immediately off to urgent care for chest x-rays to make sure that there was nothing super-scary going on…

And as seems to be the theme in trying to get a diagnosis for any of my pains this year, I got a vague diagnosis of inflammation and sent on my way. I’m grateful that nothing showed up on the xrays, nothing’s broken, no protruding or detached parts, but it really would be nice if someone would tell me when my breathing would normalize again (and really curious if I damaged the lung lining or tiny muscle or cartilage, since my medical friends have only decided that it’s not a rib problem!). So now this bruised, or perhaps merely inflamed-but-not-broken marmot will keep riding that fine line of heavy training and recovery- 3 ½ weeks until the 125km Canadian Death Race and 5 ½ weeks until the final chapter of the Triple Crown at the Pikes Peak Marathon. Hopefully I’ll be breathing freely at the end of my August adventures!

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