Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Great Mystery

Just a speck on top of Window Rock in Window Rock, AZ

My work has taken me to Texas, Utah, and New Mexico this spring and just last week I had the opportunity to visit the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, AZ. I used to think Denver was a dry climate - and it is compared to Minnesota - but NW New Mexico and NE Arizona are truly wind swept deserts. Having worked with tribes in Arizona and Wisconsin in the past, I was excited to be back among a slow-paced culture, rich in artwork and spiritual beliefs.

My work (training clinicians in STD/HIV prevention) is taboo in many places, but especially in places like the Navajo Nation where there isn't even a word in Navajo for STD. We had a blessing by a local leader before our training and he asked that the Great Mystery be with us and help us fight that which is harmful. The Great Mystery is the Navajo peoples' way of describing God and the creative spirit within each of us. I really like the title "great mystery" because it implies that there is something more powerful than ourselves, it gives us permission to not know everything, and it means that there is a journey. 

Renzo and I have been reflecting back on the journey of the past 3 years that we have been married (as of tomorrow) and especially on the past year of transition. One of the lessons we've learned is that we cannot predict the future - and neither would we want to because the Great Mystery's plans for us have been so much better than we could have planned for. Who would have known a year ago that I would be full-time barefoot runner? Who would have known that I'd have the opportunity to travel all over Texas and the southwest for work? And who would have known that after living in 5 places in 3 years (and thinking that we would not own our own place until we were at least 40) that we would be homeowners? Yes, that's right - if you can believe it, the Amayas now have a permanent residence! Of course we went about the whole process "Amaya style"... decided to think about buying a house and then put an offer on a place within 10 days. We have owned the place for a week now and move in this Sunday! Pictures will be coming soon.

Another thing I could not have predicted is that this summer would be so darn hot, setting a record of 5 days in a row of over 100 degree temperatures. A perfect time to start training for a 50k, obviously. My 13 weeks of 50k training started this morning at 5:30am (ugh) with a 4 mile run. I am pretty well recovered from my marathon (3 weeks ago), but have to admit that I am nursing a mildly sore right IT band. I'm hoping it's just sore from a decrease in exercise these past few weeks and walking in flip flops. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Barefoot Marathon Finisher!

Barefoot Marathon Finisher!

Over 1 year in the making and I am so proud to say that I officially finished a marathon in my minimalist/barefoot shoes!

My dad always taught me to make multiple goals - because even if you don't achieve your number one goal, you can still be successful with plan B and you should be proud of your accomplishments. Goal #1: Break 4 hours (so close - I finished in 4:07). Goal #2: Finish in my barefoot shoes (check). Goal #3: Don't get injured (check). Goal #4: Enjoy the beauty of the course (check, although I may have zoned out for miles 20-23).

The experience can be summed up in 3 words... hot, hilly, and hobbling.

When I ran the Steamboat Springs marathon back in 2005 it was so cold that it snowed the day before and we wore long sleeves the entire race. Seven years later and this past Sunday I was in a tank top praying for shade or clouds to offer a break from the blazing sun and 80 degree temperatures we experienced the second half of the race. I got sweet tank top and sock tan lines out of the deal, plus a little dehydration. Even though I stopped at every water station for 3 glasses of fluids, I still needed 4-5 bottles of water afterwards in order to catch up.

The hot, hot road into Steamboat Springs (mile 22)
The first half of the course is all downhill. You start at over 8,000 feet and make your way down at least 1,200 feet by the time you reach mile 7. We saw horses stampeding through the valley, quaint cabins isolated on a hill, cows grazing in the fields, and snow on top of the nearby 10,000 foot peaks. It seriously is breathtaking - and it's just you and the road taking it all in.

The hills seriously start up around mile 14 and continue to roll until mile 23. Why did I decide to run this race again? Do runners have short term memory? We must - otherwise, why would we put ourselves through the pain again? I kept repeating "hills do not exist" to the rhythm of my stride and tried to forget they were there. My wonderful husband and brother-in-law joined me on their bikes for the last 10 miles, which was such a welcome sight as the pain, soreness, and tiredness started to kick in.

Still moving forward at mile 25! Si se puede!
And now, the hobbling. My calves are so unbelievably tight and sore that when people see me walk they ask if I am okay, if I need help, or if I need crutches. This evening I walked up and downstairs "normally" for the first time in over 2 days - my legs just can't support or move properly after the hills and distance! I have only had issues with stairs after the Steamboat Springs Marathons and not the other flat-lander marathons so it must be the hills.

And despite it all, I have to admit that I actually find it gratifying to be sore for a few days because it reminds me that I worked hard. I am already moving much more easily tonight - probably due to the multiple walks I have been going on each day to loosen up the muscles - and I hope to be back running low miles this weekend.
Celebrating in the shade!

Thank goodness for short-term memory. I remember thinking at mile 20, "how am I supposed to run a 50k (31miles) in September when this is sooooo hard?" And now only 2 days after the marathon the heat and hills seem like a thing of the past and I am excited for the challenge of training again. Don't get me wrong - I am going to relish in the next 3 weeks of laid back casual runs and walks before I launch into the next training schedule, but I get such an adrenaline rush from long distance running!

And the million dollar question... now that I've achieved this goal, will I return to my orthotics and former Saucony motion controlled shoes? No way! I hope to be a barefoot runner for a long time to come :)