Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Heaven Sent

Antelope Island.
Depending on the time of year, it can be a buggy, nasty, smelly mess. Or it can be a stark, dynamic, beautifully unique piece of heaven.
I have missed it.
It is so serene and remote, in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, less than half an hour from home.
Had I not shattered my ankle, I'd have run my first 50k out there in October. As I did shatter my ankle, the island and I have unfinished business. I love it out there. So when I signed up for this years Secret Wrangler Exchange, and I listed Salt Lake County and Davis County (including Antelope Island) under the places I was willing to go. I was mentally begging to be sent out there.
Larry must have heard my mental pleading.
The email came with a list of clues. Links to be exact.

Hint #1

Hint #2

Hint #3

Hint #4

Hint #5

Hint #6

Best hints ever. I was already thoroughly entertained, nervous, and excited. 5 miles out meant 5 miles back as well. I'd not gone more than 7 miles on my hardware, and I was itching to try.
I had worked a busy 8 hours on my feet the day before, and my legs and ankle were sore. But Aaron agreed to go out there with me, so we made it long-needed date, and headed out on the late morning.
The first mile on the ankle is always a little uncomfortable. It just so happened that we were also being scrutinized my large land mammals during that mile, so there was motivation to keep up the pace.
Hello Buffalo!

Once we got in the groove, rock hopping, taking pictures and playing around, it started to feel good. Really good. For the first time in a long time, it started to feel light and loose and playful. No ankle rolling, not a single thing in 9.8 miles that I had to stop and sit out for!

My leg muscles began to burn long before my ankle did. The island swallowed us into its little time warped world and took all the pressure off, soothing my frazzled brain and my battered soul. Dirt, sun and laughter. In the middle of the winter desert, on an island, in December, with snow-blanketed mountains in the near distance we lost ourselves to the landscape and the weather. It was just awesome.

We arrived at the old wild horse corral and with a little effort found my hidden gift, divided it into our packs and headed back the way we came.

When we came within view of the car, we realized there was a herd of bison directly in the trail in front of the gate between us and it. Thankfully, they were feeling lazy and just sort of moved along as we moved in. After a few nervous minutes, we made it to the car.
I can't say my legs were sorry to be done, and my ankle would probably agree with them, but the rest of me could have stayed out there for days!
Beautiful day with my favorite guy!
9.8 miles
1018 ft of vert.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Count them where you can

I can't stay here. Sad and lonely in a world full of joy, beauty, support and love. I've never planned on it. I've been fighting in surges to climb my way out. I promise. I have never intended on quitting. Believe me, every excuse as to why I have been down this many times and this long has scores of possible solutions and adjustments that I'll never stop trying. It doesn't have to be big and dramatic. But sometimes it is. In my life, a little drama comes attached to big passion.

I went out yesterday. Aaron was out running a new peak with friends. I "let" him go again. He always asks me before he plans adventures. As if I would draw the line and say no, and sentence him to live within my physical limitations. I appreciate his sensitivity, but I know what it's like to wither in the absence of things you are passionate about and I'd never ask that of anyone else. Lest I wallow too drearily in jealousy, I made my kids breakfast and then put on my luggiest running shoes and some layers. Then I ventured out in the drenching rain that played on the verge of snow. Simple. Park at Davis Creek, hop on the BST North and run or walk, or whatever my body will let me do 'til I feel like turning around. Old stomping grounds. So familiar I could almost do them blindfolded. My ankle hurt from the first few steps. I kept hearing Brian's voice in my head, "Know when to shut it down. Know when to pull the plug." But I needed this so badly. Nothing was so severe that I'd do damage. Run to Steed Creek. Cross the stream and up the hill. I stepped wrong and my ankle rolled. Walk it off. Nothing serious. It rolled again. It's weak. Just be more careful. My face screwed up in anger and the tears began to fall. I'm so tired of crying. "Please!" I called aloud. "Please! I need this! I need a good one. Please!!" Walk it off. My entire foot ached with every step. It's so familiar now, the pain.  The bully in my head began to pick on me. "Idiot. Drama queen. Wimp. People do this crap all the time, and you're gonna cry about it? What makes you so special that you're aloud to whine about it? Why do you even try? What is the point?" I hiked over the rise to a flat spot and picked up the pace, careful to land just right. "Stop it. Just stop it." I spoke aloud. "You would never be this mean to anyone else. You'd never stand for anyone else to be this mean to someone, let alone yourself. This is not okay, and it has to stop, now. " Bah-pah-pah. Bah-pah-pah. One elephant. Two elephant. I fell into my hard-trained 180 running tempo that Brian was so impressed with when I'd run on the Alter G. The pain faded as I settled into the groove and let my mind drift. "You are amazing, Kristyan Williams. Do you know what you are doing? You are winning. Everyday. Give yourself a little credit. You are amazing." I gave myself the pep talk that everyone else has tried to give me for months. The one I couldn't hear through the muffled cloud of depression and anxiety. Up the hills, down the hills, One elephant, Two elephant. I've never been able to run up the hills consistently, but there I was, running. My hat brim was dripping. I could taste fresh winter on my lips as the rain and snow collaborated in their drenching, driving slush. Sweat on my flushed skin beneath all the layers. The cold stung my face even as my body core radiated heat, and I was alive. My nose caught the startling scent of wild sage on the trail side, and I smiled softly in pleasant surprise. I was vaguely aware of the watch beneath my layers, ticking away the miles, until suddenly I was at Farmington Canyon.  I tagged the gate posts on either side of the road with my flushed fingers and turned South. One elephant, two elephant.  The rain was coming faster and harder, steadily drenching and re-drenching my clothing. I began to be able to pick out individual ice clumps against the mountain backdrop ahead of me as the misty snowline danced on the mountain just above. "Do it. Do it. Do it!" I called to the raindrops, daring and cheering them to turn to snow. I reached Steed Creek again. Cross the stream, up the hill. Half a mile to go. The ache in my ankle was nothing compared to the searing in my glutes, thighs and calves. It burned so good! It was strength, it was growth, it was the feeling of non-surrender. I crested the hill to see my mom-van waiting below, just as the slush finally made the transition to actual snow. As I trotted down the slope, I mentally licked a finger and made a tally mark in the victory column.
I have to count my victories where I can. In the swampy mire of this struggle, I need these little beacons. Gold stars. I'm a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a fair athlete, a fighter, a lover, a passionate soul. I cannot and will not let this snuff me out.

5.25 miles

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Try again

"She's back!" they call in solidarity, joy and true sincere encouragement. I love them. All of them. Without their encouragement I would be the lowest of the low.  The sentiment rings true, but the words echo false inside me. I'm not back. I'm not the person I was. I never will be again.
What I was has been pulled apart and broken up. All of the parts of me are lying in bits all around, and I'm slowly picking them up as raw materials to build something new. Sometimes I miss the old me. She was pretty awesome. There is no point in mourning her. She's right here, all around me. In scarred pieces. At times I can't help but mourn anyway. Building is easily as hard as it is rewarding. It's painful. And at times when I try to go back and rebuild what once was, the denial, the inability to do so is startling and frustrating.
I run, but it doesn't feel the same. I go alone so that I can set my own pace. I go places where I probably wouldn't be able to go fast anyway and let the scenery distract me. It's much better than nothing. Sometimes I love it. I miss adventures with friends, but I'm afraid to even try to keep up.
I try to practice yoga, and find that I have shoulder issues from being on crutches for months. The way I practiced before doesn't feel good. My ankle doesn't move in the same way. An old neuroma, aggravated by my ankle therapy and compression, shoots tingling jolts into my forefoot and toes. I dare not go to a class, for fear I can't keep up. Even though I have begged my own students to come anyway in the past. I can't even fathom teaching one right now. I miss my little tribes.
So what happens when you have to learn to be a new you? Find what works all over again? Figure out what is right for you NOW? Well, I'll tell you one thing. You cry a lot. You bounce between strong and weak. Happy and devastated. Fine, and very not fine.
You try old things and you try new things, and when you are shut down again and again, you throw a tantrum, mope a little bit, give up, laugh some, cry more. And then you get back up, and you try again.

Courage is when that dragging weight in your chest says, "There is no point." And you reply, "I'll try anyway."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Head above water

I started working part-time last week after over a dozen years of stay-at-home-momming and sporadic self-employment. I hadn't planned on it. It was one of those things I just accepted into my life spur of the moment. One of those "If you get a chance, take it. If it changes you're life, let it." type of things.  So I took it. I love the job. Nothing about the job itself overwhelms me. My coworkers are awesome. Our patients are amazing. The environment is fantastic. But the shift has shaken things up for our little fam, and we haven't found our balance yet. I... haven't found my balance yet. Aaron is fine. The kids are fine. I am exhausted. Stressed. Inadequate.

Maybe it's the season. Maybe my Seasonal Affective Disorder is rocking my socks. Maybe I feel inadequate and out of balance every Holiday Season. Maybe I need to make the time to run in the mountains more than once a desperate time per week. Maybe I haven't had a committed yoga practice in far, far too long. Maybe my life hasn't been on anything resembling an even keel since July.

I hate schedules. Hate them. Everyone is stressed.  And all the stressy people are misunderstanding my loathing of schedules for loathing of them whenever they want to get together. In a season that is scheduled to the minute with everyone wanting to be together, and everyone needing to get their everythings done, I just might explode and splatter bits of me all over the Christmas Decor (I'd probably feel guilty about that too).

So I wake up overwhelmed and feeling guilty- for not enjoying the season, for my messy house, for not having gifts ready for pretty much anyone, for the beef stew that I put in the crockpot at 10 am only to come home from work at 8 to find my family starving because the crockpot had malfunctioned. Then I cry. Then I get to work and do what I can. Then I cry because it's never enough. Vent to Aaron. Fly apart a little bit. Pull it back together. Breathe. Decide what thing is going to get written off the list and forgotten. Then get to work again. Then I fall into bed exhausted and stressed about the next day.  I might grump when I have to pick up the slack. But I'm always going to be there to pick it up.

Some days the gratitude gets trampled by a heard of stress buffalo. It's still there, just flat, hard to make out, and covered in manure.

This crappy, inadequate, overwhelmed, passionate, gloriously imperfect, honest, loving me. This is the only me this world has got. So they are just going to have to deal with my best. It's going to have to be enough.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Do you know anyone?"

Last Monday I went to physical therapy. At the end of an hour and a half workout, Brian was working on my ankle when he beckoned Deann over to ask if they had any prospects for a new therapy aide. It's kind of a blur, but eventually he turned to me and said, "Do YOU know anyone who would want to be an aide?" That's when the bottom dropped out and everything slowed down. The wheels in my head began to grind as I mentally raised my hand. I wanted to work here. I'd known it from my very first appointment. As details of the job unfolded, I went from daydreaming about it to actually considering applying. Twice a week, afternoon to evening. I could actually make this happen! I talked to Aaron about it that night. He was nothing but encouraging. I was more than a little terrified. Was I really going to do this? Homeschool my kids and work part time on top of everything else? I emailed Brian the next day. He asked me to officially apply.
I planned on dropping in to pick up an application on the way home from the kids karate class on Wednesday. I had a car full of smallish ninjas and my baby nephew sleeping in his carseat. I'd just leave the twelve year old in charge and let the baby sleep while I ran in really quick. The front office was a blur of controlled chaos. It was obviously a really busy time. Brian waved from the back. Danny and Brad buzzed through, a little confused as to why I was there and not on the schedule. "She's applying to join the team," De explained as she handed me an application. "No way!" "Nice" There were fist pumps and high fives. My surety that I wanted to work there became more solid. We spend a lot of life searching for tribes- for a sense of belonging, and then sometimes a tribe finds you. You just get dropped into the middle of them and they decide to keep you. I didn't dare assume that I deserved to be there. I did however, dare to hope that I might.
"Fill this out and get it back fast!" De instructed as she handed me the paperwork.
"Should I fill it out now?"
"If you have time, that would be best."
"I have a car full of kids..."
"Take a clipboard and do it out there."
I was not prepared. The giant baby had woken up and Talon had decided to take him out of the carseat to roam the death mobile filled with baby hazards. I'd only gotten a few lines down the page when my heart sank into my stomach. "Previous work experience." "References." My mind went blank, and all of the MLM, self employment, mommy work I'd done in the past dozen years seemed like silly pretend when I tried to put it in ink. The sparse work experience from before motherhood felt like eons ago. I filled out the little boxes and lines with my head whirring, ran it back inside, strapped the now-angry giant baby into his carseat, seat-belted the circus, and drove away with a million regrets flying through my mind. I had not represented myself well. Here this job was practically set in my lap on a silver platter, and I was going to blow it! The moment we got home I put the babe in the highchair with snacks and the older kids watching over him, and raced upstairs to type up a resume to email to Brian. I didn't know how to write a resume for 13 years of the hardest work in the world punctuated by random bouts of entrepreneurship. I did my best. It was a far cry better than my application attempt. I emailed it in with an apology and went back to being the rockin'est mommy and auntie in the land while I waited.
 I needn't wait long. Deann called that same afternoon to set up an "interview" with Brian for Thursday. "Interview" is in quotations because the chat about how awesome it was gonna be to work together, and how "this was so meant to be" was unlike any interview I've ever had. A hug and a high five. That's how we ended it.
Last Monday I went to physical therapy. This Monday I started the raddest job that I never expected to have.
Why is it the raddest job? Because it's not about the money. It's not even about the skill set. It's not about cleaning therapy spaces, hooking up e-stim or traction, learning ultrasound, filling ice packs, overseeing exercises, filling out charts, and doing laundry.  It's about the people. I get to rub shoulders with the most caring and kind humans, as we work together to help broken, humbled, determined people find out how amazing they are. We help them get up and live again. I get to help do for others what was done for me. There is something so powerful in that.
I am so grateful. So blessed

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I was just a smidge late. I pulled into the hospital parking lot when I should have been checking in at the desk and scoured section after section for a spot. Finally I pulled into a space splashed with the words, "Park further, walk more, be healthier!" or something like that. It was possibly a quarter mile away from the doors I needed to go through. As I locked my doors, dropped my keys in my purse and turned, book in hand to face the maze ahead, it dawned on me. I was grateful. So grateful to not have to crutch there, or be dropped off at a waiting wheelchair. The morning sun backlit the stunning mountains as a smile spread across my face and I broke into a slightly lopsided trot. Why? Because I could. There were many curious glances and quite a few jealous glares at the almost-middle-aged woman running through the parking lot in moccasins, with a slightly mad grin on her face. I just grinned harder, and the elderly couple at the doors laughed, bidding me good morning.
Small talk with the strangers in the elevator, a greeting to the secretary at the desk who didn't recognize me anymore, and then I settled into a chair with my novel to wait. Midway through chapter one a couple struggled slowly through the waiting room. They were young. Her face, etched with pain, didn't match her feeble body or the walker that supported it. He was solicitous and so careful at her side. She lowered herself slowly, painfully into the seat next to me and I smiled as I caught her eye for a brief moment. She wasn't in the mood to chat. That much was apparent. Her despair, her suffering, her struggle were palpable in the air around us. I said nothing, just closed my eyes and willed whatever feelings of peace and comfort I had in her direction. It's going to be okay.
My eyes crept to my own scars, healed and faded enough to belie the severity of the trauma which caused them not so long ago.
An even younger man, barely still a teenager crutched toward us and took a seat a few chairs down. His body language said he was sick of this and so ready to be done with those crutches. Oh, how I knew that feeling! I wanted to stand up and preach aloud how awesome this room full of fighters was! "You've got this!" I'd say. "Don't give up! You are amazing!" Instead a wan half smile drifted across my lips and I went back to reading.
Two chapters and some Facebook browsing later they called my name. I walked easily through the doors I had slowly crutched through months before, had my x-rays taken and settled into an exam room. As I waited I had time to reflect on how far I had come. That little smile kept playing at my lips until I gave in and just let it live there. Doc Chardack made his appearance and his usual pseudo-amazed joke about examining the wrong foot. Then he looked at the right one, and the 'pseudo' dropped right off. A smile split his face.
"How does it feel?"
"Pretty good, actually!"
"It looks fantastic. The mobility is really great! Any nerve problems?"
"Just a little nerve weirdness here and there."
"That's to be expected when we cut right along the main nerve branch."
He sarcastically asked if I could run on it.
"What, really?"
"I did a 5k on Thanksgiving."
His jaw dropped. "Are you serious?"
"Physical Therapy has been amazing."
He pulled up my x-rays. Even my bones looked stronger! All joint integrity is maintained. No spaces or dead spots or broken screws. The glaring network of internal hardware, and the few jagged edges where shards of bone went missing made it look like a patchwork craft project. It's not pretty, and it never will be, but it works, and it's mine. It'll do.
"If you can run a 5k, and the pieces haven't so much as wiggled, I feel confident declaring you healed. You're a miracle."
It seemed a weird thing to declare. Healed seems like it would mean that I'm back to what I was before all of this. But I've come to realize that isn't what it means at all. I will never be her again. I have fought too hard to be better, stronger, more compassionate, more adaptable, more trusting, and above all, more grateful.
I will probably have swelling for years to come, and weather prediction powers, and nerve twinges, early arthritis, and pain in the cold, but it seems a small price to pay to live fully.
The Doc stuck out his hand and I took it in both of mine. "Thank you. Thank you for putting me back together. I am so, so grateful."
He smiled and asked if I would go rub elbows with all of his patients and let my good juju wear off on them.
"Seriously, it's all about the attitude. Now get outta here!"
Just for one last giggle, I told him about the 25k I signed up for last night. I chuckled and walked away as his jaw dropped yet again and he laughed aloud.
No return appointment. I thanked the nurses and secretaries as I strolled out, cheeks aching from smiling so much. Then I used the drive home to daydream about sunshine, dirt, and mountain tops.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Split

I have had grand moments. Sworn to live life large after being mediocre and complacent for many years. I've fed my spirit until it feels so expansive as to burst ecstatically from my body. I have been a powerful, joyful, brilliant, generous goddess.

There is a dichotomy to life.

I have been laid to dust. Felt broken, helpless and hopeless. I have crumbled and shrunken. I have felt so empty, hollow, friendless and small.

The expanse of the one is made possible by the juxtaposition of the other.  Both are inevitable because I will not settle for a constant bland middle. Both the highs and the lows will pass. They always do.

Because I know this, I can live with gratitude, even when I am low, and small, and lonely. I know the warmth that waits me when I endure and push through.

The grand moments that are yet to be will be all the more bright for the darkness I've endured.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Home again

I went out.
Brian cut my PT sessions down to twice a week. When Wednesday rolled around and it was crazy busy, and I had been nurse, chauffeur, teacher, cook, secretary, and EVERYTHING all day long, I told Aaron I needed to go out and he agreed.  I put on my running clothes and my Garmin, and I tied up my shoes. I drove to one of my favorite nearby spots that I knew wasn't too technical and I started to walk. I walked on the brink of running, knowing I should be careful, knowing what my body needed and knowing that what my heart wanted would take over eventually. There was sunshine peeking through the clouds, and it was just me and dirt and freedom. It felt amazing. It felt like home.
 I made it to the spot where I had taken a picture on the very last trail run I did, the morning before my accident. I cried. If I'm being honest, I sobbed. But I didn't feel sad. I felt grateful. So so grateful to be there in that spot 4 months later on my own two feet, that I couldn't contain it. I stopped and took the same picture. The leaves are all dead. I missed the colors, but I didn't care. It was so beautiful to me.
Steed Creek

When I asked the doc when I'd get back to the trails, and he said "you might not", he didn't know what a soul is willing to go through to get home again.
I walked until I couldn't not run anymore, and then I gave my heart the lead for just a minute.
I ran.
With the goofiest grin on my face as the tears streamed unabashedly down my cold flushed cheeks.
There are no words for that feeling.
I am so grateful.

I still have a long way to go. But I'm going. And I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


So close. So close.
I've been attending physical therapy faithfully 3 times a week. Brian initially told me we'd have about 1 hour sessions, but they quickly drew out to 1 1/2 and then to 2 hour sessions as we added workouts and got carried away with various challenge games. 2 hours, 3 times a week.
Only about 15 minutes of that consists of massage and manual joint mobilization. The rest is work.
I honestly don't know if I've ever worked out so hard. Spinning, heavy shuttle squats, stretches, balance regimens, resistance bands, throwing around weighted balls, plyometric work, isolations and full body movements. Crossfit type HIIT sessions have come close, but I never dreamed I'd be working this hard to get my health back. And I LOVE it.
I revel in the challenge, the relationships I've gained in the clinic, the environment of people working together to overcome unenviable circumstances. It honestly has me researching PT schooling.
I get a thrill every time a slip into my Altra Superiors again and move.
The Alter G treadmill is the key right now.
These ravishing shorts zip in to complete the pressurized chamber around the legs.

This ingenious machine lets me run at a fraction of my bodyweight with proper form and without compromising my gait. I progressed quickly from 70% to 75, 80, 85 and 90%. That's where I am now. 90%. I've even been able to use this progression to speed train my legs to move faster than they were previously accustomed to. I may just come out of this stronger and better than I started. Brian looked me in the eye the other day and said, "Now is when you want to jump the gun and take off. That's exactly what you shouldn't do." Gah! I know he's right!
I am so grateful to be moving again. Every time I put my running shoes on, it's like reuniting with old friends. But we need dirt, my friends and I. I am outright itching to get out on the trails again.
Hiking with my littles. Ary stole Saia's Altras.
 I've done a few small, easy hikes and just soaked it all in, but it just makes me crave more! My heart lives there!! I want to be were people are scarce and nature is abundant! To feel wild and primal! To be so close, and not get to let loose is just a little bit maddening. I have to step back and remember how grateful I am to be where I am. To get to dream about races I might actually get to sign up for and run again! I am so grateful!! I can wait. I can do this. It is worth it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

You've got this.

You've got this.
Whatever it is you've been striving for, working towards, worrying about, or that has been sprung on you, you've got it. You can handle whatever comes your way. You are strong. Have you had moments of weakness, craziness, defeat? Yes. So what? You're still you, and that much stronger for it all. Your track record for survival so far is pretty dang awesome. Will it be hard? You betcha. But since when have you ever taken the easy road? Will it take time to see the results and be where you want to be? Maybe. Probably more than you were prepared for. So what? You've got time. This is exactly what you've been given time for. Time will pass. What are you going to do while it does? Worry? Wait? Stress? No. Not you. You'll fill up that time with life and love, work and growth. And you'll be all the better for it. So go get it. Whatever it is you want.
You've got this.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


They say to be careful what you pray for. Whoever "they" are.

The topic came up in a recent conversation with my physical therapist Brian, as his magic hands beat the crap out of my ankle in the very best way. We were discussing the humbling lessons I'd learned from this whole dramatic ordeal.
"You weren't praying for patience were you? Never pray for patience!" He chuckled. "You just end up in horrible situations that try your patience!"
I laughed aloud and said all too knowingly, "Oh I've learned that one the hard way!"

There is a part of me that is pretty sure God isn't some smart aleck trickster, sitting around waiting to twist our heartfelt pleadings into cosmic jokes, or smack us off our high horses the moment we find our confidence. But I do believe there is something to be learned from every trial, every experience... Whether you believe in Him or not.
So as I drove away from the PT office, and my heart felt that familiar tug from the nearby mountains, I entertained the question. What had I been praying for?
The answer came like a bolt to my brain. It was so obvious that I let out an ironic "ha!" as the sting of emotion filled my eyes. You see, before my accident I had been training for my upcoming 50k, and in a constant battle with anxiety and depression. I was mostly winning, but somehow ended up feeling downtrodden and inadequate most days. My runs, which should have consisted of determined training, were reduced to mere survival therapy for the most part. I often questioned why I spent so much time on something that I sucked so badly at. My logical brain knew that I was exceptional in many ways. That I was strong, and intelligent, and blessed, and kind, and really pretty awesome. But for some reason I couldn't believe it. The monologue of negativity would pop up at the most inopportune moments. I am so stinking slow. I am not as strong as I should be. I've put on weight. Who am I to be teaching yoga and giving advice? I am obnoxious. No one really likes me, they just put up with me. I am not a good enough mother. My poor kids, I'm ruining them. I can hardly be called an athlete. I'm a crappy friend. When was the last time I called my sister? I can't keep up with this house. I'm hardly bringing in any money. Such a poser. Such a loser. What is the point? What is the point? What is the point? Things I wouldn't say to an enemy if I ever had one. I knew this couldn't continue. So with a shot in the dark to a God that I was once so sure of, I started praying for more gratitude. GRATITUDE.

It took a crushing blow to gain it.

I spent weeks in devastating pain and the deepest depression that all of the things that I had unwittingly defined myself as were leveled. Dust. Start over.  But I never had a single day without something significant to be grateful for. I could do little for myself and I was attended to without even having to ask. And I came to realize as I mourned for those things that I couldn't do, and dug in hard with the things that I could, that I was awesome. I was so loved. I was strong. I had been all along. This incredible life of love, beauty and adventure that I had built on so many fronts was phenomenal. At first that just made me yearn for what had been all the more, but slowly, day by day, I am finding the wonder in what I am now and what I have now. There is a certain beauty in starting over. And the overwhelming emotion that comes with seeing with fresh eyes is gratitude.

The difficult side of believing that everything happens for a reason is that it's hard not to either wallow in guilt, or feel incensed with the bad stuff happens. It's tough to notice the building and refining process when I'm on my back with the wind knocked out of me. Hard to acknowledge a divine hand when I can't feel past the pain of my own flesh and bone. Skeptics may say that things just happen- good and bad alike. But whatever the rhyme or reason, I am getting what I prayed for. Should I give credit to God? Yoga teaches that divinity lies within all of us. We are each a part and portion of the divine collective. God dwells within us all, His hand is in everything.  So I could take credit for hard fought survival and gaining from the experience, sure I could. But I feel that to do so would be.... ungrateful. I'd like to think that I've learned that lesson for now.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Slow Limp to Freedom

"There are some patients that I have to crack the whip on, and some that I have to pull back on the reins. I think it goes without saying that you are the latter." 
Brian is my new physical therapist. He is excellent at what he does, and easy to get along with. I've been to see him 3 times in the past week. We chose to take the aggressive approach to therapy.

At 11 weeks post surgery, after 2 weeks of being up to 50 lbs weight bearing, I ditched my crutches a week early. I still wore my boot out of the house, but at home, I got to work using my ankle as it was intended to be used. It hurt some, but not in a bad way, so I took it as a go-ahead. At 12 weeks post surgery, Doc Chardack pulled up my x-rays and showed me the faint line around the outside of my talus that meant the bone was alive and growing. I did a seated happy dance. Then, he wished me luck and set me loose. No boot, no crutches. I asked him for a PT prescription. "I have goals. I have mountains to climb." He shook his head with a stifled smirk and wrote up the scrip. I walked to the car with a huge grin splitting my face. I turned in my knee scooter, tossed my boot in the back of the pirate van, and cranked the radio up. As I cruised down I-15, my eyes would skip over to the parallel Wasatch Range. My mountains. I spoke to them like old friends. "Soon. I'm coming." And then I cried. 'Cuz I do that lately... way too much.

The coming Friday, Katie and I took the kids geocaching up Skyline Drive in Bountiful. I needed to be up. I'd missed too much of Fall already. We spent a few hours driving, with frequent stops for mini hikes. It felt good to test what my ankle was capable of. I was careful, but not too careful. I tired quickly, but my soul felt fed. The fall colors were radiant. My kids were thrilled. Katie was the best company, as usual. I was so happy.

My mountain buddies.
I paid for it that evening and the following day. It was painful, but oh, so worth it.

On Monday, I met Brian. In a room filled with generic workout equipment interspersed with specialized therapy equipment and lined with massage tables.  We liked each other immediately. With measurements and prodding, and muscle tests he evaluated my needs and my progress. While he worked, we discussed hobbies and background, interests and goals. He declared me Wonder Woman and gushed about how incredible my healing and my capabilities were for the severity of my injury. Then he said it. Those words I had been aching to hear, but not daring to hope realistically for. "I am confident that we'll get you running trails again." They rang golden in the air and I smiled so big that my face hurt. I cried ugly, happy tears the whole way home. Of course I did.

Physical Therapy has been less painful than I had been led to believe. Brian says, "Hurting people is old school." I love going to therapy. Real movement followed by massage? Yes please. Me time. I want to push it harder. I want to work out, hike, go for walks, do interval training. But I find that the everyday mom stuff, as much as I've pared it down to basics, comes first and takes too much energy. At this point, it's one or the other. If I work out, or go out much, I can't make dinner. After a week of painful in between days, Brian strongly recommended that I take it easy in between PT sessions. The problem is, I thought I was.

I get frustrated. And when I do, I name the simple things I'm grateful for. The autumn colors, the sunshine, the mobility I do have. My leg is starting to have shape again. It's getting its curves back. My ankle looks like an ankle. A scarred ankle, but an ankle. That makes me happy.

It still hurts everyday. By evening it is swollen and sore, and shades of the old bruising come back. I ice and elevate and try to rest when I can, but life is demanding. Field trips, holidays parties, scout derbies, home school, house work. A busy day means a night with my foot on ice. And sometimes most of the next day with it propped up. How can my house be a wreck when I'm on my feet all day long?
I am frustrated. But I am grateful. I will run again. How long have I waited to be able to say that with confidence?

I just want to run. My heart throws tiny tantrums as I browse the images of my friends adventures. I wanna go! But my time will come. I keep on telling my mountains, "I am coming. I am coming! I'm just coming very slowly. "

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Crewing the Bear: A pegleg crew is only fitting for a pirate

In October of 2012, I found last minute babysitters and headed out into the desert to crew my brother-in-law Matt on a 50 mile race. I was new to this trail and ultra scene. I wasn't sure what I was getting into. We slept in a freezing cold tent under endless stars. We got up stupidly early in the morning. Then we followed a bunch of crazy runners in our car full of junk food, stopping to blast music and have dance parties on the dirt road as we cheered people on. In the midst of all of this drawn out hoopla, I fell in love. With everything. The desert, the sport, the mindset, and an entire community full of people who would become like family over the coming years. I've crewed, paced, run and volunteered at many races and fun runs since then. Race weekends are some of my favorite weekends. But I had never crewed a 100 miler from start to finish until this past weekend.
When my husband signed up for the Bear 100, I knew we were in for an adventure. And when my own goals unexpectedly changed from completing my first ultra to being able to walk again, the adventure got much more complicated. I was devastated to miss crewing my brother Steve on his first hundred at Ouray just two weeks after my accident. I would not be kept from being there for Aaron.
I had arranged for my rad baby brother and his rad wife to come stay with the kids while we headed up to Logan for the weekend in our little Mercury Milan. We would attend the pre-race meeting, drop off the drop bags, go to dinner and then stay overnight at my gracious aunt and uncle's home in Providence, just ten minutes from the start line. Somewhere along the way Thursday evening, we would meet up with Aaron's brother Matt in his big bad FJ Cruiser- our crew car. Matt would crew with me for 75 miles and then pace Aaron during the last 25 to the finish. We had a great plan. But you know what they say about best laid plans...
Between me and Aaron, I don't know who was more nervous... well... it was probably me. Running a race, while extremely difficult physically and mentally, is infinitely more simple than crewing it... on one leg. Plus Aaron and Matt just aren't the worrying type.  We checked in on Matt via Find My Friends periodically throughout the evening to see if he was on his way up from Salt Lake yet, and noticed that he was not headed home from work, but was at Primary Children's Hospital. My heart took a pogo stick into my throat. I had just talked to Alicia earlier in the day about their baby and how he had been running a fever. Through text and phone calls, we checked in and discovered that he was not doing well, and the cause was a mystery. I kept having to push the panic back. I was worried about my nephew and his stressed out mama. Compounding that, the possibility had entered my mind that Matt might not make it to the party. Not that I would blame him if something were really wrong, but it would leave me scrambling to crew on my own in a not-dirt-road-and-trail-worthy car. I began to study the aid station maps that I had been relying on Matt and his GPS to get us to.  Aaron laid out his pirate clothes for the next morning and settled in to bed. Eventually I realized I needed to turn the lights off and let Aaron sleep, so I packed up my maps and reluctantly settled in. We slept fitfully.

The Pirate with pre-race nerves
We found ourselves buzzed on nerves in pre-dawn preparations. Dressing, packing up the car. Matt was still not on his way. There was a pressure mounting in my chest. By the time we made it to the starting line we knew that the babe was okay and that Matt would come, but we didn't know when. We parked and I crutched after Aaron to the check-in.
We chatted with friends and met other crew members in the low light. And then it was time. Aaron and Nate headed off into the start crowd. I stood with a group of crew members and new friends. Kelli whom I'd met volunteering for Bryce- she was crewing her husband Scott, and Nate's crew- his wife Steph, and Ben whom I sort of knew from the Wranglers page (he ran with my brother and husband sometimes).  So yeah, best buddies.

The start was called and the runners took off up the road toward the canyon mouth. The pressure in my chest threatened to push out of my face. Then came the question, "So what's your plan?"  I can only imagine the look on my face. I was a crippled deer in the headlights. Everyone else had spoken of going back to their hotels to sleep a little before heading up to Leatham Hollow. I just shook my head lightly and shrugged. There was no plan. I was going to go back to my car and wait around for hours by myself, and then attempt the drive to Leatham Hollow and cross my fingers that my car stayed functional. I would pull it together and be brave and just get it done. To me it seemed like the only thing to do. Only it suddenly sounded really stupid to me when Ben said it out loud.
"No. Come back to my hotel, have some free breakfast, we'll transfer Aaron's stuff to the truck, and you'll go up with us."
My relief almost came out of my eyes and spilled down my face.  I wanted to hug them all for adopting me on the spot! I only narrowly escaped becoming a blubbering drama llama before I turned to crutch back to the car.
Steph dropped Ben off at his hotel and went back to hers across the street. I climbed out of my car and went to meet Ben in the lobby. We sat and talked, then noticing that carrying things is a difficulty for me on crutches, he proceeded to serve me breakfast. His positivity was contagious as we chatted over scrambled eggs, fruit and hash browns, and before we knew it, Steph was back with Nate's dad to pick us up. Ben ran up to his room to get his things, and I crutched out to the car to decide what I needed to take to the first AS. As I hopped on one leg and rummaged around in the car, pulling things out willy nilly, a man dressed in a business suit stopped to ask if I needed his help. This injury has let me see the kindness in strangers and I am constantly amazed. I thanked him for his offer and assured him I had help coming. We loaded my things into the truck and headed to Leatham Hollow, talking and joking like old friends. The ultra community is just packed with awesome people.
At Leatham Hollow, I began to realize how useless I would actually be as crew. Everyone was so solicitous and kind, carrying my chairs and bags for me, but it was all I could do just to get from the car to the trail on my own. I couldn't even carry a water bottle to refill. How was this going to work?
For now, I had my new friends. We settled in our camp chairs to wait as the sun came over the mountain, cheering runners through and taking pictures. Anna Frost flew by. 
"She is my ultra running girl crush," I admitted aloud. Ben was quick to retort, "Are you making fun of me?!" I laughed out loud and assured him I was being quite serious!
A few friends came through and Canice, who I knew was running with no crew or pacers, borrowed a chair for a minute as he went through his drop bag. From that aid station on, we adopted him. He wouldn't run this race without support.
We cheered friends through and watched vigilantly for our charges.
"What color is Aaron wearing?"
"Um... Pirate? He may very well be shirtless at this point though."
And there he was, running well. Shirtless and happy as can be, slightly ahead of schedule.
My almost-nekkid pirate coming in to Leatham Hollow.

Crewing is a funny game. It's mostly being at the right place at the right time, just hanging out and cheering, then the frantic flurry of your runner coming in. Pictures, water refills, food, physical care (sunscreen, blister prevention/care, chafing prevention/care, adjustments, stretching or rubdowns), sock and/or shoe change, clothing changes for weather, etc. It's almost like a pit crew at NASCAR. Then you talk them up, say your encouragements and send them on their way. Pack it up, drive to the next spot, and do it all over again.
He was doing well and having a blast. So we packed it up and headed out, back to Logan to find Matt. Except.... "Wait, that's Matt's car!" On our way out of the parking lot, there it was. He had just missed Aaron, but I was SO glad to see him! I called out to him and he came around the side of the truck and in my relief, it was all I could do not to jump off the truck and wrap my arms around him! I refrained. Those things usually end up kind of awkward. He followed us down to Logan to transfer stuff over and get the rest of our stuff from my car.
From that point, things smoothed out for me. Matt is solid. He is smart, experienced, level-headed and reliable... and great company to boot.  Eventually I figured out what I could actually do to help (not as much as I'd have liked), and we got a pattern going. I was getting quite the work out trying to haul what things I could on my back, and hooked on my crutches, back and forth from the car.
I was SO glad to have Matt driving in his big tough FJ as we scraped the aspens while squeezing past cars on the narrow dirt road on the way up to Cowley. It was around noon. My ankle began to feel pressure. I looked up at the semi cloudy sky and declared, "The rain is coming... I'd say within about 6 hours."
"6 hours huh?"
"About that... I don't know, I'm new at this."
The views were incredible. The colors were surreal! We joked with Ben and Steph about the Bob Ross happy trees and how it felt like we were in a painting. We tended to Canice, who was doing well. Aaron came in to Cowley Pass running alongside Kelly Agnew and looking good. Really, piratey good actually. 
Mm, mmm, piratey good!
He had a small hotspot on the back of his heel which we helped him tape up as we fed him grapes. I was happy he had finally eaten something solid. He was only running with a single handheld water bottle and some Gu packets and salt tabs in his Quantum. And it was getting hot! I was worried about his hydration, to be honest. And I groaned a bit about it to Matt, but didn't bring it up directly to Aaron because I figured he knew what he was doing.

We hurried on to Right Hand Fork. We needn't have. It was a mere 4 miles for us, but 7 or so for the runners. Parking was kind of insane at this aid station, but we parked where we could and hiked it in, returning several times to the car to shuttle in needed items. I was starting to feel the burn- in muscles, lungs, and underarm chafing! It seemed like we waited a really long time here. Again attending to and chatting with Canice as we waited for Nate and Aaron to come through. Finally we saw Nate. He came in hot and flushed and told me right off that Aaron was not far behind, and we needed to tend to his hydration when he came in, as he had been dry heaving and was coming in overheated.  I thanked him, and promptly began to worry. I'm efficient like that.
When Aaron showed up, he was smiling, but definitely needed cooling down. We got him drinking and sent him over to have creek water poured on his head by the awesome volunteers. Then we parked him in a chair and went to work getting all his needs taken care of. Well, Matt went to work. I crutched around trying to be useful, but mostly just talking a lot and trying to help Aaron cool off and get enough to eat. Quite a while later, I kissed him and we sent him off running again, carrying much more water, and looking much better.
Leaving Right Hand Fork

We loaded the car back up and made our way to Temple Fork, where upon navigation the chaotic parking, we saw Derek, Aaron's planned pacer for mile 50 to 75. He was early. We were too and we knew we had a while til we'd see Aaron. Go we reclined the seats in the FJ the best we could and kicked back for a nap. Matt slept some, and I came close, but my foot was getting swollen in the day's heat and activity, so I unstrapped my boot and let my leg breathe for a while. We sat, just killing time, cheering at friends through the car window, and then we saw Derek take off up the dirt road. He'd decided to go find Aaron a good 7 or 8 miles early. It was a relief to know someone would be with him for the rest of the race. I knew seeing Derek would make him really happy! I crutched out to the pit bathroom.... which had no toilet paper. I swung by to say hey to some HUMRs on my way back to the car to find wipes, and Ryan offered me toilet paper (He's thoughtful like that.) I accepted, gratefully. Aaron and Derek came in looking pretty good. But Aaron said his calves and the backs of his knees were starting to hurt. He asked for the Deep Blue Rub, but I couldn't find it. So I pulled out a sample pack of Dr. Hoys, and rubbed his calves down while he noshed on boiled potatoes.
Giving him the rub down. I'm useful sometimes.
He had his gloves, jacket and head lamp in his pack. His goal was to hit Tony Grove before dark, but with the clouds rolling in, it could get dark faster than we supposed. Derek handed me his key and asked if I'd take his van on to the next few aid stations. I knew these ones would have paved access, so I agreed and we sent them off up the hill. Then the rains started. It was 5:35pm. Dang, I'm good. We had tucked a cheap poncho in every single drop bag, and we were collecting the extras as we went along.
As I carefully made my left-footed way up toward Tony Grove, the views made me laugh out loud and even cry a little. The golden yellow, the bursts of fiery red and orange, with the deep evergreens poking through, and the storm clouds brewing on the mountain line were overwhelmingly beautiful. There are no words. By the time we hit Tony Grove, stopping on the way up to take in the breathtaking scenery, the showers had let up. "Maybe that's all we'll get." We heard from various crew members. Nope. The ache in my ankle said it had only just begun. The hardware doesn't lie.
Happily, we had a break for a bit. We cheered friends in and out of the aid station overlooking the stunning mountain lake. We bandaged blisters, fed runners, prepped them for the night, and gave encouragement. Aaron finally came as the light was fading behind the storm clouds. He was hurting, but as always, in good spirits. He had some blisters, which we cared for. We got some food in him,  and made sure he had everything for night. It made sense to us to have him change shoes to help with the blister situation. Had I been thinking properly of the rain situation, I'd have never let him change them. The Altra Olympus have very little traction in wet and mud. We didn't know just how rough a mistake that would be. But we sent him off into the night, confident in our ignorance of the coming situation. I knew the game had just begun, that our roughest hours lay ahead as we'd fight to survive the night and as Aaron headed into unknown territory. He was about to go further than he'd ever gone before.  I was nervous, but had no doubt in my mind that he could and would finish. I just feared the suffering that might come on the way. I can suffer. Oh, I can suffer. I'm really good at it by now. But with all that has happened in the past few months, my soul is tired. I knew that watching Aaron suffer and not being able to do much about it would be a special kind of torture. I just didn't know how much we'd have to take.
We decided it would be prudent to drop Derek's van at Beaver Lodge where he would need it before hitting Franklin. This ended up being a good move. Matt followed me there in the drizzle to pick me up so we could backtrack.
Making our way to the Franklin Trailhead aid station, we could see in the dark of night that parking could be an issue. There were two small makeshift lots and a dirt road lined with cars. I didn't want to crutch further than I had to, and we had a good amount to carry in supplies and camp chairs. Luckily, as we maneuvered our way through one of the tiny lots, a car signaled that they were pulling out and we were able to park. I paused to put on warmer clothes and a shoe while Matt pulled out supplies, and then I strapped a camp chair to my back and checked out the trail to the aid station. It would be an adventure on crutches, but the only way to do it was to do it! So off we went. Matt had my back in case I tumbled backwards and through rocks, trees and loads of sagebrush that grabbed teasingly at my crutches, we wended our way to the dirt road and the lit tents in the distance. Matt joked as we went that I'd just invented a new sport in Trail Crutching. We finally reached the aid station and set up chairs. I sank into one to catch my breath all the while keeping my eyes open for friends to cheer and encourage. Not too much later, Aaron came in smiling and looking strong. He was on top of his calories and trucking along. We fed him and re-packed things and sent him on. Matt offered to go get the FJ and drive it up closer to get me and I gratefully accepted. I crutched to the end of the road where a kind young teenager lifted the ribbon that blocked the roadway for me, asked about my injury and wished me luck. I stood there alone for a minute in the dark before my eyes were drawn upward to the vast star-studded sky. It was immense and awe inspiring. I leaned back on my crutches and handed myself over to the wonder and pure gratitude that washed over me like a tide. It is a small moment that emblazoned itself super-sized in my memory, on my soul. Headlights shone my way and Matt pulled along side me. I climbed in awkwardly and we set our sights back to the next stop on our pilgrimage. Beaver Lodge.
 It would be hours until we saw Aaron again, so we settled in the FJ to catch whatever sleep we could. Somewhere in that first hour or so I became conscious to torrential rain. I knew there was nothing I could do, so I tried to sleep more and worry less, but I couldn't help but be concerned for my husband somewhere out there in drenching dark. A few hours sleep and a few conversations later, we made our way to the lodge itself. There wasn't much room, so we settled under the covered porch, used the restrooms and encouraged the friends who came through, cheering on the ones who made it out. It was like a triage tent. Many runners took a cot and never left. We watched as they drew up the DNF board- the list of the runners who had dropped so far. The stack of numbers grew longer by the minute and I couldn't help but wonder how many of our friends were on that list. Canice came in and I chatted with him while he tried to get some calories down. Matt went to change and ready himself to relieve Derek of his pacing duties. Canice had been taking Tums to help his stomach and keep cramps at bay. He had just spoken of how he thought it was working, when in the midst of swallowing a salt pill, all his calories came back up onto the porch. I couldn't help but notice that his vomit was full of black chunks. In low light and on little sleep, my first thought was blood clots and I momentarily panicked until it dawned on me- his calories had been black bean soup! Oh phew! Canice leapt off the porch to finish his purging in the bushes just as Matt stepped back onto the porch. He chuckled out,"Puke and rally!"
The rallying call of the ultra runner.
Happily Canice felt fine, replaced his calories and we cheered him on his way.
When Aaron and Derek finally showed, I had to push back emotion as Aaron struggled, hunched and hurting to even step up onto the lodge porch. The true suffering had begun. His calves, knees and ankles had been tweaked and tired out with slipping and sliding in the thickening mud. He checked in, used the bathroom, and sat down. I scurried to get better shoes, clean compression socks, wipes, and to find the Deep Blue Rub. It was nowhere to be found. Then it dawned on me: I had left a bag in the trunk of my car back in Logan. Aaron moved slowly and stiffly onto a nearby mat and I went to work with wipes, scraping the mud off his legs and massaging his ankles and calves.
Scraping off the muddy mud. Clumps on leg hairs= ouch.
I adjusted his hips, knees and ankles the best I knew how, then I put on his compression socks. (Have you ever put compression socks on a tired ultra runner? It's like trying to put control top pantyhose on a tranquilized walrus.) After I had done all I could for him physically and he lay there shaking in exhaustion, I draped my whole body across his and kissed him on the neck, willing my strength and whatever rest I'd gotten to become his. I don't think it worked. *shrug*
We said our thanks and goodbyes to Derek and I handed him his keys. Matt looked very ready to go. I had seen many others come through in our time of waiting and decided if Aaron was to survive the mud, he'd need trekking poles. Matt was prepared and had some in his car.
Aaron asked if maybe he could sleep on a cot for 20 minutes. Matt responded with tough love and experienced logic. "I don't think it'll do any more for you than moving will. We might as well start walking." We all nodded. Aaron accepted this and laced up his shoes as I packed our stuff up. Missy Berkel and her friend were kind enough to offer to help me get all the stuff back to the car, and I sent my men off into the early morning darkness.  Missy was a godsend in that moment. Her help kept me on task and reminded me I was not crewing alone. I had a community at my back and I could do this.  When I was alone in the drivers seat, I took a moment to give myself a pep talk, then adjusted my seat, checked my directions and set off.
The deep dark and the dumping rain were not good companions. I thought I found the turn to Beaver Creek Campground, and started down the puddled and muddy narrow dirt road. Aside from the sparse ghosts of silent campers in the woods at the edge on my headlights, I was alone. I saw no other cars, no lights, no people in the deep forest. I began to wonder. I stopped to check my directions, I had no cell service. I began to second guess myself. Suddenly I was just a broken girl, lost in the woods in a brutal rainstorm. I felt so very small. I turned the FJ around and went back the way I had come. My desire to support Aaron battled with both my fear and logical caution. I went back to the lodge, stopping to ask if anyone else knew the way to go to the next aid. No one that I spoke to could tell me. Regretfully admitting defeat, I decided to skip that aid and meet them at Ranger Dip: mile 92. I cried reluctant frustrated tears the whole way there. Luckily other crew cars were taking the dirt road up and I was able to follow them. Miles are long in dark and unfamiliar territory.

When I arrived, I snagged a very fortunate close parking spot. I knew I would have plenty of time to wait here, even if Aaron was able to rally and pick up the pace.  I laid my seat back and let my tears echo the rain as I drifted into sweet oblivion.
When I woke, the dawn was struggling to push it's muffled light through the storm clouds. They in turn continued to indifferently discharge their deluge. When would this end?? I shot upright and checked the time. I can't have missed them! As the rain let up slightly, I crutched through the river of mucosal mud to the aid station tent. They hadn't come through yet. Nate's crew was there. We caught up on our runners situations and commiserated over the conditions.  I moved back and forth from tent to car and back out of boredom and cold. I chatted with Hillary and Condor over Kendall's condition. Eventually both of their runners (along with my brother Steve who was pacing Kendall) came and left. Their crews moved on to the finish. I waited and I worried. Aaron's finish goal time came and passed. I felt like I might burst out of my own skin every time a runner appeared in the distance and it wasn't him. I kept telling myself he was with Matt, and they could do anything together. Matt would get him through it. Then I worried about Matt too.  Tired, injured, cold, mud spattered, and helpless to help at all. It was a special kind of torture. A sweet woman from Canada took me under her giant sport umbrella and kept me company. Her name was Mary. She was wonderful. Eventually her runner came too. She stayed as long as she could to share her umbrella with me, and then I moved to the aid station tent and promised to see her at the finish. I was shivering in the cold and wet, holding out in case Aaron and Matt were just out of sight, but I finally moved back to the car to get warm. I moved the FJ to another spot so that I could see the incoming road better. I had been in the car only a few minutes when I looked up and saw him stumbling through the sage brush. My heart leapt and I threw the car door open as an involuntary scream of, "YES!!" tore from my throat. No one else had been in my head to know what I'd gone through in that waiting time. It was super melodramatic, so when I faced them, I felt a little silly.
Making their way through the muddy mess.
Aaron looked awful. He kept moving toward the aid tent and I scrambled to get my crutches, turn off the car and chase them up the mud slick. I didn't have bags, I didn't even have dry socks for him. Aaron called to the check in and met me in the middle of the road, his face a mask of pain and exhaustion. I kissed him solidly. He put his head to my chest as we leaned in to hold each other up and let out one quiet heart wrenching sob. The world stopped. One pure moment. For all that I couldn't do for him, he needed me. He took a cleansing breath and stood up tall, and the world blurred back into motion. Matt found him a chair and some broth and I asked what he needed. "Nothing. I just need to finish this." He was mad. Aaron doesn't get angry often, but he was burning up, and that fire meant fuel for the finish.
"214 OUT!" He called to the volunteers and he set off to finish it once and for all. I cheered him away and thanked the aid volunteers that I had spent more than 6 hours with. I crutched my muddy way to the car feeling ten times lighter at the prospect of the finish. Driving the FJ down to the highway in daylight, the satellite radio picked up "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and suddenly I was big again. Not small, not broken and useless, but in command- splashing like a boss through mud puddles and rocky roads and yes, having fun!  The golden leaves of the forest were sunshine on this cloudy day. I hit the highway only to pull off it moments later to watch a great mull moose wander through a meadow, cross the road right in front of me, and saunter into the forest above. Another moment, just for me.
Over the pass, through Garden City, and into Fish Haven. The tiny parking lot was full, the road lined with cars in both directions. I parked where I could, strapped a chair to my back and steeled myself for the long crutch ahead just as a kind stranger offered to help carry bags. I accepted gratefully. The finish area was wet, with runners and crew crowded under tents, most leaving soon after finishing, chased away by the weather and their pure exhaustion. Once again kind strangers welcomed me under their shelter. Mary and her sport umbrella, the HUMRs and their canopy. Eventually I joined Canice, Joe and others under a race canopy and settled in to cheer the wearied and triumphant finishers. I could imagine a sunny fall day with all the runners and crew spread out on the lush lawn, sticking around to cheer every one in. The rain seemed careless and cruel. Nate and his crew finished side by side with smiles of relief. Runners told of slipping through mud like they had never seen. We joked about dipping their finish buckles in mud and mounting them to the wall. And I waited.
Then there they were! At the end of the drive and coming in fast. (Well, relatively fast.) Matt had a grin like a cheshire cat as he peeled of to let Aaron finish on his own. Aaron skipped toward the finish, calves cramping and a grimace on his face, but a look of triumph in his eyes. And he was done.
My heroes. These two brothers can do anything together.
I crutched out to meet them and take pictures. Everything from there on out was a blur of talk and camaraderie and care for the dirty and tired. The rain didn't let up for days. But at least we could all go home, snuggle in and sleep through it. A well-earned deep, sleep.

They say if you finish a 100 mile race, you will never be the same again.  They say you'll gain self respect, respect for those around you, honor for the indomitable human spirit, and a knowledge of what you are truly capable of. I didn't run it. I am beyond proud of Aaron for having finished an incredibly difficult race. I have no desire to do it myself, and no guarantee I'd even be able to half that with this puzzled together ankle of mine. But I for one, will never be the same.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Part 3- Aftermath: The horrid and wonderful journey of endless tears and not a single step

It has been therapeutic to write down the story of the dramatic and the traumatic. It is the stuff of good stories, and I've always loved playing storyteller. Alas, it was a few short days of my life. When the agony and horror makes you think this is it- the biggest day! My life might just be over! But it's not. And when the peril has subsided and all of your loved ones have celebrated that you still live, then the noise dies down. The confetti settles. The pats on the back subside as the visitors wander off. You sit in the quiet with yourself and you face what comes next: The Everything After.

The Everything After is so very raw and needy. It draws out, hungry for an unending supply of patience, pain, and true love. (No, not Twoo Wuv,  Princess Bride style. Though that is a great movie to watch when you are stuck under an icepack on the couch.) True love. The quiet simplicity. Kindness. Thoughtfulness. Service. Sacrifice.

At first, true love was abundant. My husband catered to my every need. I had near-constant attendants at hand. Friends bringing gifts and meals. Offers to clean my bathrooms and do my dishes. It was wonderful and I felt so very blessed. Dire thoughts only broke through in rare moments, or in conversations about the uncertainty of my future.... or when I missed the mountains. Between gratitude and sorrow, my face was rarely dry.
A week after my unfortunate adventure, Aaron woke me at 4:45 am. At that point I was still waking every few hours to take different meds, nibbling uncomfortably on food in the middle of the night. My sleep quality was unfulfilling, and any unconscious moment was precious. I awoke to his face leaning over me, looking expectant. (It's not the first time it has happened in the middle of the night, but that seemed an odd early morning request considering the circumstances.)
"Can I do something for you?" I muttered with raised eyebrows and sticky eyelids.
"Can you get up and get dressed?" He inquired.
"Am I going somewhere?" I parried.
"May I pee first?"
"That's probably a good idea."
I crutched perilously to the bathroom, my sense of balance not quite awake in the dark. Then Aaron helped me dress and carried my crutches downstairs as I scooted down on my bum. He helped me to the couch and told me to wait there.
"Is someone coming?"
I had my suspicions, but I was half asleep and happy to just let things play out. Aaron disappeared upstairs again and reappeared with a bag stuffed with a sweatshirt that also rattled with pain meds. And as the glare of headlight cast across the living room wall, he helped me to the door and out to the driveway. Renee and Jennilyn greeted me on the front walk with slightly awkward crutch hugs and flung the van door open to reveal my morning chariot. All the middle seats had been removed and the back seat was piled with various soft things. I laughed, exclaimed, and climbed right in.
Jennilyn looked sleepy. "I don't get up early on a Saturday for just anyone, Kristyan."
I grinned at her silhouette up front. "I'm honored."
A short time later they were asking me directions to the canyon, and we bumped up the long, winding, treacherous canyon road to a perfect lookout spot. Farmington Canyon is one of my nearby escapes. My trail home, if you will. I've traversed most of it on foot more times than I can count now. As I exited the car on my crutches, the mountain air washed over me and I gasped. It was if I'd been suffocating and I hadn't known it until that moment. My eyes scanned from the impending sunrise at the top of the canyon, to the lush evergreen mountainsides and out to far off Antelope Island. I could almost feel the trees welcoming me back, and the canyon breeze was the sweetest nectar. The dust in the air, the coolness of pre-dawn, the slow fade of color back into the world. It was overwhelming. Unbidden tears cascaded off of my eyelashes and a sob escaped my throat. Friends who knew held me close as I let it all go, and then drew myself back together again, whispering thanks that could never do justice to my all-consuming gratitude. They set up camp chairs, one piled high with pillows to keep my foot elevated. Renee flipped her fancy van seats backward as Jennilyn set up the camp stove.

I sipped hot tea and sunrise, lost in the gentle splendor of it all. The smell of sizzling peppered bacon mingled deliciously with dusty evergreen, and for a moment I could forget the pain and stress. Renee handed me a cup of orange juice and Jennilyn passed me a steaming plate of eggs and bacon. She apologized for it's untidiness, but to me in that moment,  it was the most perfect thing in the entire world.

I thanked them, unable to express my gratitude and elation. I felt naked relief. Oh, my heart. We chatted and joked and laughed. It felt so good to laugh! They set up cameras and took pictures of the three of us as the sky turned pastel and gold on it's morning journey to daylight.

It will remain one of the most thoughtful and amazing acts that anyone has ever done for me. They were my angels. And they would spend more time and energy on me in the coming weeks than I ever expected. Renee helped me clean and cook. She brought awesome meals catered to our food sensitivities, and kids to keep mine entertained. She brought magazines and sparkly nail polish, conversation and much-needed laughter. She even brought Jennilyn for girl time and yoga play in the park.
I don't know what I did to deserve either of them. Renee and Jennilyn, I love you girls so much!!

Times like these make the rest of them bearable. I wish I could highlight every moment with every caring friend. Katie was ever attentive and hilarious, bringing movies, magazines and girly things like toenail polish in shades of grey to match my bruising. I can always count on a text or comment from her to make me burst out laughing at inappropriate moments.
Kenzie brought a card addressed to my ankle- telling it to get it's act together. It totally made my day! It was accompanied by more glitter polish. (Apparently I needed some shiny bling for my nails, because everyone seems to know the secret- glitter makes you heal faster. )
Cindy- my selfless Cindy from the planet Wonderful, came to change my bandages when I didn't know how. She has checked in regularly, been my listening ear, and even cleaned out my chicken coop and picked up feed and bedding for me! (Aaron doesn't do animal poop.)
My sweet crazy Sara has spent countless hours, cleaning out and organizing my laundry room, cleaning my kitchen and bathrooms, and best of all, having the most real, honest and understanding conversations.
Steve and Nan brought dinner, company and adjustments. And continue to check in and encourage with calls and texts.
Adam and Nikki cleaned house and entertained my littles.
MaKayle brought my fave ice cream and took up a collection amongst my Yoga Buddies.
Lane hand-delivered spring-loaded racing crutches and pain relieving spray. I know!! Racing crutches!

8 days after surgery, I met my surgeon for the second time.
Dr. Chardack walked in to the room and exclaimed, "The toughest woman on earth?! I was pretty shocked when you left the hospital right after surgery! With an injury like yours, I thought you'd stay a day or two at least!" I hadn't even known it was an option.
He pulled up my x-rays on screen and my jaw dropped. I'm sure some sound like, "Huuummmnnedegewhaaaa?" came out of my mouth before I shouted, "I thought you said a coupla pins?"
"I told you it was a mess in there."
How many screws are in there??"
"No, really. I have been underbragging! How many??"
He turned to the screen and poked at it with his finger, "One, two, three, four... five, six..., seven.  This is a metal plate, and this section over here was mush, there's like a whole buncha little bone grafts in there. "
It looked like he'd just cut it open and spanked the Home Depot over the top of it.

He was still not very forthcoming with information.
"I'm a trail runner and a yoga teacher, doc. Give it to me straight. How long do I have til I'm back?"
I didn't like the answers.
8-12 weeks non weight bearing. 50% chance of osteonecrosis. Pretty much guaranteed early arthritis. Anything on uneven surfaces may be iffy. He made it sound like trail running was out. I refused to accept that. Don't you dare tell me I can't.
"If I was another doc, I'd put you in a hard cast. But if someone did that to me, I'd throttle them on the spot. So you get a boot, but do NOT put weight on it. Keep it on most of the time and don't move around without it. You can bathe without it, but that's about it. Do NOT mess this up. It's your one chance. I can't fix it again."
A nurse snipped and removed the two long rows of stitches... clumsily and very painfully. I had to use my childbirth breathing and meditation methods to get through it. I picked out more fragments of them later that day. She stretched my achilles until my foot was in the right position for the boot. I had to stop to breathe and surrender. I didn't cry. Not there.
I quit taking narcotics on the way home from the appointment. I hadn't taken enough with me for the appointment plus the hourlong wait to see the doc. When it wore off, I decided the pain was more manageable than the heartburn, anger, nausea, horrible constipation (seriously), and other myriad of side effects. When I stopped taking the meds, there was no more hiding. It got real, really fast.

I am a shameless optimist. I strive to highlight the good and live in gratitude everyday. I don't like to talk about the hard stuff. The stuff that is there between the visits and laughter. The stuff that lurks in the recesses of my mind only to face me boldly the moment we're alone. The struggle. But I do it so that others don't have to struggle alone. So that I don't have to struggle alone. I have struggled with depression and anxiety on and off for years. I battle it by tying up my trail shoes, and losing myself to nature. But I can't do that anymore. Not for months and maybe more. I can't run. Escape is not an option. It all came crashing down. Denial, depression, anger, despair.  All of the 'what ifs' and the 'how comes'. Sleeping in that boot was nigh to impossible. With sleep deprivation and PMS on the pile, I was buried. So many tears. So much snot. Poor Aaron.

Then one day, misery became so boring. I was tired of it. I woke up miserable, in pain, wondering what the point was. The pressure in my head mounted and tears started their familiar trickle down my cheek and onto my pillow. My eyes came to rest on my yoga mat. Aside from the mountains, my mat was home. I missed my mat. The morning sun was streaming, golden through my bedroom window. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and lowered my aching body carefully and awkwardly to the floor. I crawled over to my mat and unrolled it in a patch of light, sending dust fairies dancing in the warmth. I crawled onto it and began to breathe. For the first time in weeks, I closed my eyes and went inward. Feeling every movement, exploring what was there. Tears continued to fall, but now out of gratitude. As I flowed through simple movements I began to realize what I could still do. I sent love and acceptance and healing to the broken bits- of body and soul. I acknowledged the trauma and sent love and honor for having met the challenge. I traveled inward even more and found.... me. I was there all along. In finding myself for even a moment, I had found an inner light. My connection to the Divine. My hope. My reality check. I still get to choose. I always get to choose.

It has not been all golden light and zen since then. There is so much more to process and accept. So much more the stand up to and fight. But most of all, there is waiting. With time comes the demons. The doubts, the worries. The dull and persistent pain wears away at me like sand paper. My efforts have untold consequences. One day I am my own hero, taking the kids out for a "crutch", cleaning the house on my hands and knees, tackling a project, going shopping. That night I find blood on my shirt from crutch chafing, my knee callous is cracked and bleeding from crawling too much, my hands are too weak and painful to grasp my toothbrush, and my back and hips ache mercilessly. Every good day has its price.
But I continue to roll out of bed and crawl onto my mat. I find myself and say 'Hello' and 'Namaste'.
I remember that I am not my body, though it is a part of my journey. I find God and check in.

I would be remiss if I neglected to thank one other person. My husband, my Aaron, my everything. I would have blown away bit by bit in this storm without him. To wipe my tears, to attend to my needs, to hold me together when I'm flying apart. To remind me who and what I am. He is incredible.
Thank you, my love.

I have come a long way in two months. I have a long journey yet ahead of me. I am tired. I will keep on. I have so much to aspire to. There is so much more awesome to become.