Trading disappointment for delight at the Bolder Boulder 10K

Disappointment is one of the emotions I have the hardest time dealing with. As I was standing at the start line of the Bolder Boulder 10K on Monday waiting for the gun to go off, I wasn’t sure how to prepare my mind for the letdown I was sure to have at the finish line. I knew before I even began to put one foot in front of the next that I had no chance of matching or beating my results from the last time I did this race in 2009. I hadn’t run for at least a month and had just found out from my physical therapist a few days before that I had some major pelvis misalignment issues that were likely causing some of my pain and injury. Though he didn’t say I shouldn’t do the race, he did say I should take it easy and stop to do some exercises and stretches along the route. I had no idea what a taking it easy pace would even be. Did that mean I should jog? Walk? I had never done a race where I wasn’t running as fast as I possibly could.

Making my way to the Bolder Boulder starting area at 6:30 a.m.

I was still pondering these questions when the shot fired. I took off at a pace between a jog and a run, but still the questions lingered. What time would I be satisfied with? An hour? Two? Though I don’t have a competitive streak when comparing my performance with others, I am fiercely competitive with myself. Ever since recovering from ostomy surgery, I had wanted to prove that I could do as well in this race as I had before getting so sick.  I knew that was impossible with my current painful hip, but there had to be some sort of goal, right?

As I ran down the street and watched the people in my wave pass me one by one, I realized that this race wasn’t going to be about reaching any pace goals. It was about simply being there. After all, just weeks ago Doug had picked up my race package for me. At the time, I couldn’t even make myself open it. I didn’t want to see the running bib that I was sure I wouldn’t be wearing due to what was thought to be a stress fracture in my pelvis. Yet luck had veered my way.  The x-ray had been a misread and I had been given the go-ahead to run while undergoing further tests for other pain causes. Here I was immersed in the event that I had wanted to do so much, and all I could focus on were things I had no control over. I couldn’t make my injury go away, and I couldn’t magically make up for a month of lost training time. I could, however, adjust my outlook.  As I ran under the banner marking mile two, I flicked an attitude switch in my head from the side that read  I am so bummed that I am not going to get the time I hoped for to the one that said I am so amazed to be running through the streets of Boulder surrounded by beautiful views, music on the street corners and onlookers handing out treats to the runners like bacon, cotton candy, and marshmallows.

I much preferred the second attitude and decided to keep the switch there for the remainder of the race. (I did, however, avoid catching any marshmallows. I had already had my fill of those the day before after consuming six of them to slow output before my appliance change.) At every mile marker, I stopped to do the exercises the physical therapist had recommended I do during the race. I knew that these stops were sabotaging my time, but I no longer cared. When my hips started to hurt slightly at mile four, I slowed down the pace. I had no worries. No expectations. In the past, I would never have veered off course to become a target for child with a Super Soaker. Never before had I taken advantage of the offers for high fives from sideline spectators. I don’t remember looking at the stunning vistas of the Flatiron rock formations along the race route in previous race years. At the slower pace, I took all this in.

Every other time I ran the Bolder Boulder, I finished in just under an hour. This time, when I looked at my watch at 59 minutes, I still had a little over a half mile to go. Just for old times’ sake and knowing that I was close to the end of the race, I picked up the pace and ran as fast as I could for that last half mile. I felt strong and vibrant as I entered the stadium and sprinted the final half lap to the finish line. Other than amidst the marshmallow-catching antics earlier in the route, this was the first time I thought of my ostomy during the entire race. I thought of  all the things I had gone through since last entering that stadium in 2009, and how lucky I was to be back to health and running there again.

As I crossed the finish line, the letdown and disappointment that I was sure would greet me there had been replaced by delight. And when I finally looked down at my watch to see my time, 1:06:33, I was even more blown away. That was only about eight minutes longer than my 2009 time. This was certainly enough to please my self-competitive side — well, for the most part. In the stands after the race, there was a moment when I lamented to Doug that had I not been injured, I would have really nailed it. He reminded me that I was injured and that I did nail it. Oops, that little attitude switch had gotten bumped into the wrong place again. I put it back to the “here and now” slot, slathered myself with some sunscreen and sat back to watch others racers jubilantly cross the finish line — including a banana, gorilla, coyote, bear ,and unicorn. Hmm… maybe my goal for next year should be to run the Bolder Boulder in costume.

Resting in the stadium with Doug after the race.
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Hanging out at the crag (feat. new video)

Lately, Ostomy Outdoors has turned into Ostomy Indoors. It feels like it has been so long since I have been outside doing even the smallest outdoor adventure and our video camera has been sitting on the shelf untouched for months. This has all been due to the hip pain that I have been writing about lately. My orthopedist gave me the go-ahead to work out again, yet I am still experiencing significant soreness in my groin and hip. A small uterine fibroid was ruled out as a possible cause, so my doctor wants me to go in for one more MRI just to make sure it isn’t a lower back issue. This has left me in limbo-land; I’m unsure if I should proceed full throttle with my trail running and other strenuous activities, or if I should hold back until I know more. I can work through some pain, but I don’t want to cause an injury.

Maybe as a result of some of this uncertainty, my spirits have hit rock bottom lately. I have been feeling super tired despite getting lots of sleep, and my normally positive attitude has been playing hide and seek with me. Yesterday afternoon, after bidding my brother-in-law and nieces farewell after a fun weekend visit, I spontaneously decided that Doug and I needed to go rock climbing that minute. It was gorgeous outside, and even though I had a daunting to-do list, every cell in my body was telling me I needed to get my body on the rock for some inspiration, or the gloomy emotions that I was experiencing would continue. Also, I was sure that my sore hips could handle the smooth, methodical movement of climbing.

Doug and I are fortunate in that we live in close proximity to some amazing climbing areas. We quickly tossed gear into our packs and within 30 minutes we were driving up Clear Creek Canyon to one of our favorite local spots. As I grabbed my climbing pack out of the car and headed down the trail, an incredible peace came over me. Gone were all thoughts of painful hips. Doug and I were going to be on the rock in a few minutes, and that was all that mattered.

It is hard to describe how much I love rock climbing and how vital it is to my life. Doug and I got into this sport together and have been been climbing since we first met in the college dorms in 1990. That year, we bought our first carabiners, rope, and a beater Toyota pickup to use on climbing trips. We have so many memories on the rock and have made many life decisions based on our shared love of this sport, including my desire to have a permanent ileostomy to treat my UC. To be out climbing with Doug again is joy in its absolute purest form.

However, as I climbed that afternoon and into the evening, there were moments of disappointment when things felt harder than they used to. I had to constantly remind myself to quit comparing my performance to the days of old. Things have changed, and though I may eventually return to my previous climbing abilities, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that I was back outside, covered in that wonderful mix of sunscreen, chalk dust, and dirt, and loving the amazing feeling of my body moving upwards over the rock. I ended up having so much fun that I completely forgot about the special solar viewing glasses sitting on my bookshelf at home all set for watching the 7 p.m. eclipse. We completely missed it! At first this disappointed me too, but I decided an afternoon in the canyon climbing and laughing with my sweetie was  so much more memorable and important. It was exactly what we both needed.


The inspiration that the spur-of-the-moment climbing excursion brought was also much needed. I hadn’t filmed a video for Ostomy Outdoors in a while, and hadn’t really planned on filming anything yesterday. Along with being in a mental funk, I was also in a creative one. Fortunately, climbing outdoors rekindled the desire to film, and I was glad we had brought the video camera along. At first, being filmed again felt as awkward as getting back on the rock after not climbing outside for months. When the camera rolled, I felt tentative and unsure of what I wanted to say. I wasn’t even sure when we left the canyon if the random footage we filmed could be woven into a coherent movie. I hadn’t really filmed any tips or tricks and wasn’t even sure it had a theme. Once I got home though and watched the clips, a story did begin to emerge. This day at the crags and this little film is about reconnecting with my passion, and discovering its ability to infuse my life with the hope and creativity needed to keep moving forward.

Happy anniversary Ostomy Outdoors

Today is the one-year anniversary of Ostomy Outdoors. I can’t believe it has already been 12 months since I wrote my very first post! I never imagined when I started this blog what a big part of my life it would become. I am so thankful for all the things that keeping this blog has taught me and brought to my life… including so many new friends. Thank you all for reading, commenting, emailing me and continuing to inspire me with your stories and experiences.

Today ended up being the perfect day to celebrate this anniversary, as I got some amazing news. The MRI results on my hip and pelvis came back showing absolutely no bone damage– including no problems from prednisone and no stress fracture. Turns out what had originally looked like a fracture on the x-ray ended up being nothing. What did show up on the MRI though was a uterine fibroid. I already knew it was there, as my surgeon had told me about it after my ileostomy surgery. However, it has gotten a bit larger. The orthopedic surgeon thinks it may be hitting a nerve and causing my pain, so he referred me to ob/gyn for further evaluation. If they feel the fibroid isn’t an issue, the orthopedic surgeon will refer me to one of his colleagues that specializes in lower back injuries to see if something might be going on there.

My doctor also said that, depending on what I can tolerate pain-wise, I can go back to any workout activities I want to and it will not cause any damage. This news could not have come at a better time because yesterday I was really in the dumps. I had discovered that my body decided to vote its canine tooth team member out of my mouth due to a strange autoimmune response and that tooth extraction may be imminent. (I will write more about his in a separate post.)

But fibroids and teeth issues matter none to me now. I can walk! I can run! I can climb!!! And how does one celebrate an anniversary and such great news? Chocolate? Wine? Both good choices, but what I really wanted to do was dance. I drove to the gym from work intent on making the 6:30 p.m. Zumba class. I threw on my neglected workout clothing, grabbed some water and barged into the fitness activity room at the gym. Oops- there was no salsa dancing to be seen. Instead, people were spread out in meditative yoga poses and didn’t seem too happy with the interruption. In my excitement over the good news, I had completely gotten my days mixed up. Yoga is on Thursday and Zumba is on Friday. It was too late to join in on yoga, so I did 20 minutes of elliptical instead. I didn’t care what fitness activity I was doing. It just felt so good to move my body. I realize now how much I rely on exercise to reduce my stress, and how much not moving much had increased my anxiety and tension levels.

There is one more reason that I am so overjoyed with this news: I will be able to get back out on the trails with my video camera. I have so many outdoor activities planned for the summer that I want to film and write about. Here is to the next year of amazing adventures for all of us!

Me on the snowboarding trip in April 2011 that inspired the idea of Ostomy Outdoors.

A long restless night

Darn that almost-to-be supermoon. Its bright light made me think it was morning and it is barely 2 a.m. Jolted awake by hip pain, I was hoping it was almost time to get up and start my day.  Instead, I am faced with some long anxiety-filled hours before the alarm clock is due to ring. It has been a while since I have been up at this hour in pain, but in the past few weeks this scenario has become a regular occurrence.

At this late hour, I am scared, hurting and my mind is having trouble being positive. If you have read some of my recent posts, you know that I have been dealing with recurring hip pain, and that I had an x-ray that showed a possible pelvic stress fracture. However, the  orthopedic surgeon I saw wants me to have an MRI to rule out a few other things rather than simply dismissing my troubles to the probable stress fracture. One of the main reasons he suggested this is because my hips had been hurting a lot at night which could be a red flag for some more serious conditions. The orthopedist said that if my pain happened to ease up significantly before the MRI date, I could actually cancel the appointment. Unfortunately, the pain is not mellowing — it is getting worse.

I try really hard to not be one who dwells on the what ifs, but sometimes expecting that of myself is downright unrealistic. After all, my body hasn’t exactly proven itself trustworthy in that regard. So what is the big fear that has me hanging out in my recliner in the wee hours with a mug of Sleepytime Extra tea instead of snoozing blissfully in my bed? I am scared that I might have osteonecrosis. A major risk factor for this gem-of-a-condition (of which I am experiencing just about every symptom)  is a history of being on high doses of prednisone. I took up to 80 mg per dose when I was in the hospital during my final UC flare. My doctor assured me that the MRI that I am having this Monday is very good at picking up this disease and that he will let me know as soon as possible if anything shows up.

Until then, I am allowing myself the liberty to freak out a little. The results of my test will probably come back showing that everything is fine and that I am just dealing with a stress fracture. But in some strange way, ruminating over one possible worst case scenario at 2 a.m. on a Friday night is helping my brain cope with the uncertainty — because even in my mind’s wost imaginings, I can see glimmers of hope and the realization that I will be okay regardless of any struggles that lie ahead.

With that reassuring thought, I am going to head back to bed, armed with some mindfulness meditation exercises to help me relax and hopefully get some sleep.