Tuesday, September 1, 2015

three moves, a career, a breakup and 80 minutes of running

The first move was Sarah Renkoski. Most people don't know who Sarah Renkoski is.

She is my best friend. She was the first and is, so far, the only person in Flagstaff that I can truly be myself around because she is the exact same. We met at Karma, where I bartended until very recently and she was a server. We have the same sense of humor, are both pretty offensive, love to eat, love to shop, love to be honest and honestly love to be bitches. We both love our space, we both love our dogs, we both hate our dogs and we both have superb taste in wine and beer. We are level-headed at opposite times, giving the other one an honest sense of ground and reason. We hung out almost every day and I am now realizing that may have been the clutch of my poverty, because when you love shopping and you love food it's really hard to just sit around. When Sarah and I first started hanging out, I realized I hadn't laughed that hard or that honestly in far too long. Those days seem so far away, and they are far away because everything changes when you're not looking.

Sarah and I both started looking for jobs at the same time, and we got them at the same time. The only difference is that I stayed in Flagstaff, and she moved. She started interviewing for a job with Boston Beer Company, and we started having beer tasting parties on Sunday nights for the several Sam Adams/Boston Beer Company beers (who knew there were so many?) while naturally having Hello Ladies on in the background. If you haven't watched that show, then watch it. If you don't like that show then we aren't friends and also (in the words of Stuart) "You can fuck off." This was the beginning of the end on a few different accounts, but that's hindsight speaking. Sarah left on the morning that Jesse and I broke up for good. Sarah moved, and I was alone again. However that is not really true because a) I have Cohen and b) I am a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ good at being alone because c) I like it.

And the breakup is hard to write about not because it is painful but because there is everything and nothing to say. We are both wonderful people but we are no longer great together, and that is sad. At the same time, now is the most hopeful and happiest I have felt in too long. I can't speak to his account because that would be unfair and rude, but I suspect it is along the same lines. Several of the people I've told have been shocked, and asked "What happened?!" but that is a loaded question and also an impossible question. Sometimes things just fall apart, you aren't right for each other anymore, wants and needs of the relationship don't match up and there's really not much else to say.

This breakup prompted the second move. I moved out for approximately 20 hours into a condo of a co-worker's boyfriend, who had two spare rooms. I quickly realized it was a rash, poor decision on my part. Before living with Jesse I think I've lived alone for too long to have a roommate - at least one that I don't know well. There are a few people that I could see myself being roommates with, but not someone I don't know, or with such a different lifestyle. So I moved back, and that is the third move. The apartment that we shared is expensive for my new salary, but do-able, and Jesse has a kind heart.

So then there is my new career. When Renkoski and I were job searching, I applied to be a rep for Patagonia. During this specific length of time, I was bartending at Dark Sky (Flag's hottest new brewery owned by people who deserve it most) and met a gentleman named Brad, who had just moved back to Flag to run an outdoor store (Peace Surplus) after spending a year and half in Seattle working for AmerSports/Arc'teryx. I picked his brain and asked for advice in the industry after telling him about my Patagonia prospect and he had so much to say. He extended his help to me whenever I needed it, and I soon took him up on that. After two interviews with Patagonia they offered me the job. It was total shit pay and I had to move to Reno. Fucking Reno but the thing is that it is Patagonia. I didn't know if I should take it to get my foot in the door or tell them to (for lack of better words) go fuck themselves for expecting their employees to live off of such a low pay. Anyway, I went to Brad for advice and (a very long story short) I have now accepted a position as the Apparel Buyer for the store that he runs. I have a dream job, decent pay, great bosses and get to keep living the life I've built in this town. I won, and I needed that win so badly.

When Brad called to offer me the job, Sarah Renkoski and I were sitting in my car in the Safeway parking lot. She was dead silent when I called him back (I missed the first call) and while we both rapidly started to sweat in my black car in the Arizona sun we silently celebrated by car dancing and jumping up and down. I'd like to think I was calm and professional while accepting the job, but I think my voice was shrieking with joy. While he discussed the pay she elbowed me and mouthed "That's good money!" as I rapidly nodded my head and smiled wider than I had in far too long.

I'm currently dealing with a herniated disc in my lower back which is causing me some nerve pain throughout my left hip which is hindering my running. I can't recall whether I have written about my running lately (likely not) but I work with Emily Harrison as my coach, Shea Tinder as my massage therapist and Dr. AJ Gregg as ... everything else? He helps me weekly with my current injury, nutrition (racing and day-to-day) and strength training. I truly believe I have created the perfect trifecta of a team to help me succeed as fast and best as possible. Yesterday I ran for 80 minutes and was relatively pain free. This felt like a victory, and for the first time in too long I felt quite positive. So far this summer I've PR'd in every distance I've raced, including a win at a hard mountain half marathon. My ultra season starts at the end of September, and if I can keep my shit together mentally I think I will be very successful.

So I'm currently in the middle of a lot of changes, but I find it exciting and motivating. I'm starting a career, my home life is back to just me and my dog, I'm buying a plane ticket to Connecticut and I'm finally getting back to longer distances in my racing. I worked my last shift last night as a bartender at Karma Sushi. I am thoroughly excited to be getting home at 5pm instead of 11:30pm, and with a  company where I can grow, while being in the industry that I love and am passionate about.

My FAMILY is also coming out to visit tomorrow morning for an entire week. A lot of people would be like "Ugh, my family is here for a week," but my family is the best. It is not only my immediate family but also some extended, and they are amazing. They are hilarious, they are incredibly good at drinking beer, (more importantly) they have wonderful taste in beer, and I can't wait to laugh with them, share this place with them, and just be with them. If you know them, you get what I'm saying, and if you don't know them, then a) you should and b) I feel bad for you.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

On life being short or whatever.

In November of 2013 Jesse had a seizure while we were out running on the trails. I never wrote about it, and I wish that I had. Yesterday it happened again, and now I'm writing about it.

We went on the Kachina trail. I just recently played around on this trail and loved it, and I knew Jesse would too. Kachina starts up at Snowbowl and goes at least 5 miles to Weatherford (and I think beyond that?). I'm falling in love with this trail because it's not only up high but also very runnable. For the first mile or so it's very nice - little rollers with a couple of passes through small aspen meadows. It comes to some small outlooks with nice big boulders, and when we got to this part we ran in to four ladies (to be known later) having lunch/taking a break. The trail drops down a bit and becomes more technical with boulders to navigate between/on/around. I asked Jesse to lead because when he leads we go faster, and me trying to keep up improves my running. We went a little over a half of a mile until he stopped and said he wasn't feeling well. This never happens. I always wimp out on a run before Jesse does, even if he's not feeling that great. I'm always the first to be like "Ugh, I need a minute." or "Fuck, I need to walk this". He sat down and I made a joke with "'Tis the weather for a seizure". I now regret saying this.

And no, I didn't have my phone. I usually don't run with it when we are both together. 

The weather is always the same when it happens or there are symptoms. It's usually dreary, humid, and a bit cold. That's what it was like up in the peaks at 11:30am yesterday. The clouds were low, it was humid but comfortably chilly running weather. 

The left side of his body twitched twice before moving into full-blown convulsions. This is different from last time, as last time it began with him standing up. I was also not terrified for his life at this point, because I've been through this before and I knew it would be okay. I tried to hold him and kept saying things like "It's okay," and "I'm here, I'm right here". Last time he stayed on the ground until he regained somewhat of a consciousness, and this time it was different. 

He tried to stand up immediately, and fought me when I tried to keep him on the ground. It's not like Jesse is a huge person, but he has a solid 30 pounds on me and is much stronger, and I lost that battle. He was trying to speak to me but it was so slurred and mumbled because his motor skills and brain just weren't there yet, but when he started to form words it was a different Jesse than I have ever seen. His voice was different, for starters. He literally did not sound like himself. He was also severely panicked. He kept saying we had to leave, we had to go, and we had to go now. As tears streamed down my face I tried to get him to sit down and he would not. From the second he started convulsing, I started shrieking for help. I screamed as loud and as long as I could, hoping that those four ladies would hear me. I still do not understand how they couldn't. In his panicked state, Jesse covered my mouth several times as I tried to scream for help. As we stood there, me fighting to get him to stop and him fighting me to start walking, he kept tipping back towards the side of the trail that drops off. I grabbed him aggressively every time and he would try to correct his balance. I had no choice but to start walking with him. I held both of his hands and stayed on his left side, placing myself between him and the steep drop-off side of the trail. All it would have taken was one little misstep and I think he would have been dead. He would have fallen and not been able to stop himself. I asked him his birthday, and he didn't know. I told him I couldn't wait to be back in Michigan in a few weeks and he asked me what I was talking about, and why I was going there. He soon began to think that I was injured - that we were walking like this because of me. He started to say things like "It's okay you just have to push through and we'll be back at the car soon," and "You can do it just stay focused". So I went along with this and started to say that I needed breaks, that I needed to sit down. When we would sit down, he would sit for almost 10 seconds and stand back up, wobbling, saying "Okay so do you think you're okay now? Can we go now?" And every time he would jolt backwards or start to fall I would support him with everything I had and scream for help as loud as I possibly could and started to sob. When I would try to make eye contact with him nothing really happened. It was like he was just looking at my eyes and not connecting. He just wasn't there yet. Everything that was happening was completely out of character for Jesse. If I was feeling that shitty on a run (which has happened), the last thing he would do is try to push me to get going. He is always patient. 

Several times he stopped and told me not to cry and that we would be back soon. The one thing I just cannot stress enough is his voice. It didn't sound like him and it was constantly rushed. Every word that he was saying was so fast and said with such urgency that nothing I could do would calm him down. He kept second-guessing me, telling me that we needed to turn around and go back to the car. Every time I told him "This is the way back to the car," and he would ask me how I knew that. It was the longest half mile of my life, and all I kept thinking about was those women that were stopped and hoping they were still there. I would give anything if they were still there. As we climbed up some boulders I saw Nice Lady #1, #2, #3 and #4. I immediately collapsed into tears and said "You need to help me. This is my boyfriend and he had a seizure and he doesn't know what's going on and he won't listen to me."

It was here that Jesse started to come back. Maybe it was me fully breaking down that pulled him back, or maybe it had just finally been long enough since the episode. Two of the women were nurses, which is always immediately comforting. They had plenty of water and food. Jesse kept saying that he didn't want to die, and he was terrified that he was going to die out there. They walked with us over a mile back to the trailhead. Jesse was more coherent but kept asking me the same questions over and over. He eventually realized he and already asked, but asked anyway, such as "I'm sorry Kelsey I know I already asked but I can't remember, ___(question here)___." 

I got back to the car and immediately called Erin. Erin is my boss. I was supposed to be at work in 2.5 hours. Last time this happened I was also scheduled to work (back in the Bravo days), and when I called they said "Well, we need you to come in for a few hours." And I did. This time, all Erin said was "Get to the hospital and don't worry about work. Let me know what happens." I work for wonderful people. I work for caring people. 

Jesse saw a neurologist (who actually specializes in seizures) and got a diagnosis of 'provoked epilepsy'. The doctors and whole experience at FMC was so much better than the previous experience at Borgess Hospital. Last time it was "But was it really a seizure?" And this time it was "This was a seizure, here's what we're going to do." I won't go in to details because that is Jesse's personal business and not mine to divulge. 

But now, a day later, I still feel emotional about it. I still start to cry when I actually replay it in my head, and on my run today I became angry. This isn't necessarily life-altering. He has medication, but can still do what he loves and I have no doubt about any sort of actual debilitation from this. We've talked a lot about what he does and does not remember, and he remembers not wanting to die. He told me he just kept thinking that he didn't want to leave me, and that he wasn't ready to leave me yet, and we have a whole life together to live still. And we do, and we will. To have a love as big as this sometimes feels unreal to me. I continually think I am the luckiest person in the world to have Jesse Scott as my significant other.

But then I thought about all of the people that are so willingly unhealthy and don't seem to give a fuck. Here is Jesse, the least deserving person of something like this (not to say that anyone deserves to be an epileptic), and he was worried about dying. He was worried about leaving me. My own mother smokes a pack of cigarettes a day and doesn't seem to worry about that. People die long and painful deaths of lung cancer and somehow, in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't seem to bother her. How can she not care about that? How can someone not do everything possible to stay alive as long as possible? How can people be so selfish? What the fuck is wrong with people? How do people not care about their health? And how do people in much more serious situations deal with things like this? And most of all, HOW DOES NO ONE FUCKING TALK ABOUT IT? Why is it unacceptable to talk about it? Why are interventions only acceptable for drug addicts? Why is it rude for me to call out women on my Facebook Newsfeed that post things like "I just want to be skinny" and then eat a fuckload of fried food? "Because it just is, Kelsey." I know that you just have to accept people for who they are. That is one of the rules of life. Sometimes that is just so hard, though and sometimes life is just too unfair. And sometimes I just feel like kicking and screaming about it in my own little corner of the internet. 

I have a friend, Scott Spitz, who has been living with cancer while still being an elite athlete and holding true to his ethical vegan standards. How does he deal with seeing people treat their bodies like shit, when he is the one that has to live with cancer? I know that you have to let it go. You just simply can't worry about other people that much and I will never understand people who are fat and can't breathe while walking up stairs and still eat shitty food. Perhaps writing about it is my way of letting go and cleansing myself of those kinds of frustrations. ...At least for a little bit.

I thought about my own health and how I treat myself. I work with a nutritionist and sports chiropractor (Dr. AJ Gregg), a professional running coach (Emily Harrison), and get worked on by a professional masseuse (Shea Tinder) to keep things in check - all just because I want to be the best athlete that I can be, and I have never felt better in my life - physically and mentally. In no way do I expect that of other people, and I understand the whole "Life is short, I'm going to do what I want". But my point is that life is short, and maybe people only realize that when there are close encounters with death. I also am not saying that everyone should be an athlete or measure every meal and record every ingredient. That shit is tedious and annoying and even I can't comma to doing it every day. I'm not preaching for people to live my lifestyle and I'm paranoid that people are going to think that I am. But people die of obesity. People die of lung cancer. And sometimes people just die. Several times my mother has told me "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." And that is so true. Oh, the irony. 

I suppose it is necessary for me to wrap this post up with going back to Jesse. He is now back to normal (though a bit tired, seizing is exhausting, yo) and in good spirits. He also has a beautiful, sweet new mountain bike. :) 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Not-Forgotten TNF50 2014 Explanation in 2015

We can start with what happened in San Francisco.

Anyone who knows me, knows that the Bay area (more specifically, the Marin Headlands) is my favorite spot in the world. If you know me and you feel like you didn't know that, scroll down to my race report from TNF50 last year. This year was a world of difference.

My training for that race this year was very course-specific, because I was so familiar with it. I thought this would be a great advantage to me, and it was, until I didn't care anymore. It's the hardest thing to describe and I feel bad saying or even typing the words, but I stopped caring about that race about three hours in. And I don't know why. I loved where I was, but I hated what I was doing. I started to slip off my goal time and I just stopped. I actually, quite literally, stopped. I remember staring at the sky with my eyes so furiously burning with frustration that I think a few hot tears actually escaped. The only reason I kept making it from aid station to aid station was because I had to find Jesse, so I could finally drop. There were a few course changes this year, and one involved over two miles of road running; a nail in the coffin, to say the least. It has to be said that I felt fine, physically. I wasn't bonking or low on water or even tired. My muscles didn't hurt and my feet felt fine, my breath was steady and my heart rate only spiking when it should. The downhill to Stinson Beach is the best part of the course, in my opinion, and I charged it just as hard as I did last year. The difference was that last year it was out of joy, and this year it was out of desperation to be at the bottom, and to be done. Once I saw Jesse just before the aid station I stopped and said I was done. He did his crewing duties and attempted to change my mind but I believe he could tell that was not happening. Every time I went to explain why, a lump rose in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. I knew there was no way in hell I was going to continue, but admitting defeat isn't always easy. I didn't want to finish 'just to finish'. I've finished enough 50milers that just a finish doesn't feel like an accomplishment anymore. I used to think it was humbling, and now it is just confusing. I've dropped from ultras before, smiling and laughing while doing so, but this race is different. This race is always different for so many reasons. It will continue to be different for every reason.

So after 20 minutes of standing there, watching people come in and leave the Stinson Beach aid station, I finally spoke without almost crying, and officially dropped. We then walked across the road to the ocean, and I stood there, rinsing my shoes from the mud (God, the mud, it was so wet this year), and letting the salt water burn my blisters and wash away with a blood tint. And standing there was amazing. Looking over my shoulder at Mount Tamalpais I clenched my jaw with frustration, disappointment, confusion and happiness.

After talking with Jesse about it, we collectively decided that I just have to do something different. I cannot keep doing this 50mile dance right now. I decided to do the Antelope Canyon 50k, and attempt to do it somewhat fast. A shorter distance with a different kind of effort actually lead to me thinking about an 'off season'. I've never really had an 'off season' before.

We had that talk with this view. The whole weekend we had this view. I get lost in my own mind thinking about this view.

The next day we went on a recovery run on the Coastal Trail. This is the best trail in the entire world. I'll do my best to describe with pictures.

So Jesse taught me to swim (One of my favorite things in my life is that my significant other is also my coach in many sports, and knows when I seriously need his advice). NAU has an amazing aquatic center, and it's pretty fun. I grew up on a lake, living in the water all summer and often times well into October (only my brother understands), but I never really learned how to appropriately swim. What I've been doing for 26 years is an awkward hybrid of a doggy paddle and a breast stroke.

I swam a mile last week and I was so proud of myself it took everything I had not to squeal. It felt like when I ran my first 5k, except Katie wasn't there to hug me. I just smiled and quietly skipped away from the pool. (But, of course, I spilled my victory to Jesse as soon as I saw him.)

So now I'm going to run a half marathon next weekend. Jesse is doing the full (in Sedona), so I figured I'd do the half while I wait. My longest run since TNF (which was December 6th) has been 9 miles, and that happened just now. Besides that I've only been swimming, weight training and in the past week, approximately 5 speed workouts. I also occasionally snowshoe at Snowbowl in the morning, up 1,000+ ft, and then run down (while Jesse skis). I'm well aware that I'm likely setting myself up for failure here, but I've never been to Sedona and I'd like to just have a good run. At the very least, I know I can still gut out 13 miles.

But it's incredible how ridiculous my behavior was to just do a 'long run'. A 'long run' of (what I wanted to be) 10 miles. I had four cups of coffee, changed into my standard running attire and stepped outside. I didn't even open the door all of the way, but just stuck my head out. Fuck it's kind of cold. Stop, just go. So I stepped onto the patio. But seriously I should take water because I"m dehydrated already. So I filled a water bottle, and stepped back outside. But this probably isn't going to be enough because I've had so much coffee. Maybe I should take my pack. So I filled my pack. A liter of water. Third time is a charm. But it's not that sunny so I should probably dress a little warmer. I chose my cozy Salomon headband and thin gloves. I sat on the couch and stared at the ceiling. I thought about going to the gym instead. I thought about asking Jesse if my 35 mile run in the beginning of December was good enough to count as a long run for a half marathon at the end of January. If there's anyone I can count on to rationalize absurd training ideas, it's Jesse. I actually sighed loudly and shouted a word that was a cross/blending of "UGH.", "Fuuuck" and "Goooooo". So I went. And I was too hot. And I only took two sips of water.

And I had fun. I did a few pick-up miles in the middle where my legs started to fill with cement, my breath was some sort of rigid three-part instead of having a steadiness, I could feel my hip bones rubbing on the top of my shorts and I was absolutely sure a rib in my left side was puncturing my skin. But it was worth it. For the first time in a long time, running was hard, and running being hard was actually fun.

It's easier when this is your view.

I'm going to attempt to update this blog much more often. I'm a writer. And it feels good to write again. Even if it was just a race/running update.

*The next update will likely be about Cohen. There's a lot going on there.