Summer racing & season of Pain

Battling the Central Park hills in the Oakley Mini 10k

Battling the Central Park hills in the Oakley Mini 10k

When I look back on Summer racing of 2014, I will remember two things: a fun and successful string of road races, and enduring a lot of pain!

Since I last blogged, I continued my binge of 10kish distance races with Bolder Boulder 10k: 3rd place team finish and

More recovered and savoring the atmosphere with other American runner friends

More recovered and savoring the atmosphere with other American runner friends

16th individually, and a 9th place finish at the Oakley Mini 10k in a strong international field. Bolder Boulder was one of the hardest races I’ve ever run, the combo of the heat, altitude, and mostly uphill first 4 miles left me in a wheelchair for the first few minutes after I staggered across the line. However, I will never forget the crowd support the whole way and the roar of a packed stadium finish. The mini 10k was a bit less dramatic, and I enjoyed getting to celebrate my love for running with so many other awesome women in the longest running all-women’s race!

I had an uptempo cool down after the race, so as I cruised around the Central Park reservoir dodging runners, I hopped up on a slanted curb that was slick from the morning rain and wiped out straight onto my chest. Once the race endorphins wore off, I realized I couldn’t move my elbow and had pain in my chest, and subsequent X-rays showed a cracked elbow and rib. Throughout the coming weeks, I trained through my broken rib as I had been advised that it would hurt, but running wouldn’t make it worse. Sure enough, it hurt like heck for a month, like I was being stabbed continually in the chest, but the pain eventually subsided and finally went away the week after I placed 2nd in the US 10k championships at Peachtree in Atlanta, Georgia, one of my favorite races with a crowd that never disappoints and a challenging course. Right after the race, I flew to DC for my layover on the way to visit my sister in Senegal, which

Now this is a post-race celebration! 4th of July on the Lawn watching fireworks

Now this is a post-race celebration! 4th of July on the Lawn watching fireworks

happened to coincide with 4th of July night where I took advantage of my best friend working in the White House and joined her for fireworks on the White House lawn! It was a surreal moment and unforgettable experience.

Keeping the training up in Senegal, with some company on my strides!

Keeping the training up in Senegal, with some company on my strides

After a short trip to Senegal, it was back to the grind, turning the corner on marathon training and winning the Destination Races Napa to Sonoma half marathon. This was a fun win for me as it was just miles from the home where I grew up and had a lot of family waiting for me at the finish. Running through the hills of the wine country will always remind me of falling in love with running growing up in Sonoma County!

6 short days later, I competed in the US 7 mile championships and placed another 2nd. I was proud of how I ran this race forcing the pace in front of the chase pack (Molly Huddle was out of sight!) for the majority of the race. Bix was an extremely challenging hilly course, and it was rewarding to finally head down the steep hill and cross the line. From Bix I headed up to higher grounds in Mammoth Lakes for a couple week training stint with Mammoth Track Club and helping out with the Altitude Project Christian running camp, a camp Ryan and I have been involved with for 10 years now! While in Mammoth, I felt like my training went to another level, finally fully focused on the marathon and loving grinding out hard long runs and

Visiting the maternity clinic in rural Senegal renovated by The Hall Steps Foundation (with my new niece Aby Zahra!)

Visiting the maternity clinic in rural Senegal renovated by The Hall Steps Foundation (with my new niece Aby Zahra!)

longest-ever tempos. My body was adapting surprisingly well to the increase in work load and I was enjoying having plenty of energy left to fly around the lakes at 9,000 ft on easy days.

Just when I was starting to feel invisible, disaster struck. Out of nowhere after a great training day, I woke up in the night with what felt like food poisoning. 36 hours later of the most painful sickness I’ve ever experienced, they figured out it was apendicitus, and unfortunately we didn’t catch it in time and my appendix ruptured, spilling toxins into the surrounding areas, a potentially life-threatening situation. To this day they don’t know what causes appendicitis, it just strikes you one day and this was mine, in the midst of my best training block ever.

Immediate surgery followed by 4 days in the hospital and my world suddenly was turned upside down. I was in extreme pain in the hospital and could hardly hobble down the hallway, pushing my IV. It’s been all progress from there and I am thankful my recovery has been ahead of schedule, but it took me two full weeks before I was able to run, and when I was, it was a pitiful shuffle while my body regained its strength. As I returned to training, it is hard to imagine that in such a short time your body can change so much- from being in the best shape of your life to “ground zero”.   I had lost weight and muscle from essentially not eating anything but IV fluids for 5 days, and after being on super-all-life-killing antibiotics I could hardly get off the couch.  It’s easy in these moments to dwell on what was lost and have a “why me, why NOW of all times?!” pity party. It took intentionally focusing on what I was thankful for, and thanking God for that, and worshipping Him to keep myself on a positive track.

Chugging away in Mammoth Lakes before disaster strikes

Chugging away in Mammoth Lakes before disaster strikes

I am happy to report that despite the slow start, my running is coming back quicker than expected! I’ve adopted the diet of a college freshman guy (burgers, pad thai, and pizza) and am back to my more normal strength.  I’ve still been dealing with some issues like running through stomach cramping/pain, which between this and my broken rib seems to be the theme of this season. I’m hoping it is preparing me to tolerate even more pain in my racing when I’m finally back at it! And in the meantime, I truly am taking joy in the journey. I’m celebrating the progress, even if it’s something before I would consider insignificant, like running 8-minute mile pace on a run. I love the feeling of running hard and pushing myself, and feeling your body responding and getting stronger. So rather than dwell on

A new season begins in Flagstaff- starting with walk, progressing to a shuffle, and finally back running.  Enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and the joy of the journey!

A new season begins in Flagstaff- starting with a walk, progressing to a shuffle, and finally back running. Enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and the joy of the journey!

races I won’t get to do, like a Fall marathon, I’m focusing on the joy of getting to do what I love again and no longer being in constant pain (and being alive!). I am hopeful I will still get to debut in the marathon, though a bit later than I had planned, and be back out at the races soon!

Huge thanks to my husband for rarely leaving my side in the hospital and sneaking me in Thai food when I was supposed to be just drinking broth and eating wretched hospital pudding J (Though no thanks for losing my engagement diamond ring that I took off before surgery- oops! This operation just got a bit more expensive!) And also thanks to John Ball at Maximum Mobility for busting through all the restricted areas that were putting me in so much pain after being released from the hospital and Steve Magness for once again having to scratch our plan and start a new one. I am thankful for the support people God has brought into my life and all the encouragement from running friends near and far!

22 COMMENTS

  • Reply
    James Anderson

    Sarah, wow, what a road it has been this year! I am sure glad you posted this, so I can focus my prayers while following your progress. My wife and I are both runners, and we like to keep in touch with other couples who are devoted to each other and living to glorify the lord in their life together. we’ll be thinking of y’all on our long training runs together. Peace from Maryland!

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Thank you James! I appreciate your support and prayers!

  • Reply
    Michael

    Hang in there! Running isn’t really running w/o all the ups n’ downs…and both you and ryan have had your fair share. Have Patience, and you will triumph!!

  • Reply
    Saku valdez

    Sara, I have been following you and Ryan for a couple of years now. You will be surprised that you guys have some followers here in the Philippines. I am sure you are in for a great comeback. Boston just might be right for you!

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Very cool! Thanks for the encouragement, blessings to you!

  • Reply
    Ray Jaegers

    Met you at the USA XC Championships in ST. louis. You had just finished the race and your cool down. You were nice to stop and chat for a second. I told you that you and Ryan are inspiraTions to me in my christian faith. Nothing has changed. God obviously had other plans for you this fall. I’ll be praying for you as you recover and cannot wait to see what’s in store. I know it will bE awesome!

    • Reply
      sara hall

      I really appreciate the prayers Ray! They have been answered as I have been recovering quicker than expected

  • Reply
    memographer ALEX Kay

    sORRY ABOUT appendix, sARA. gET WELL AND COME BACK SOON!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Bruce

    Comment I am sorry you had such a scary, painful, experience with your APPENDIX. especially during a good season. Get strong and enjoy Flagstaff. You live in a beautiful forest.

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Thank you so much Mrs. Bruce! We are enjoying your grandson 🙂

  • Reply
    Derek O'Connor

    Comment

    Wow, what a journey, good to hear you back on the mend. Good luck with your training and getting back to full health.

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Thanks Derek! Hope your training is going well

  • Reply
    Jamie Latsko

    wow, what a summer! congrats on the race results and best of luck as you continue healing and making progress in your training…as always your attitude and enthusiasm are inspiring 🙂

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Thank you Jamie 🙂 Hope you are enjoying some great summer running!

  • Reply
    Dan Coleman

    Comment
    i feel your pain sara. In 2010 my appendix ruptured, following what had been my best ever hard bike ride. Unfortunately the doctors didn’t know what it was because my blood work was all normal. a month later, Eventually the pain was more than I could bear so i ended up in ER. A cat scan showed that my appendix had indeed ruptured. but since 30+ days had gone there were pockets of infection throughout my abdomen. spent the next 4 months in and out of the hospital on antibiotics until surgery. loving running again. prayer is a game changer!

    • Reply
      sara hall

      I’m so sorry to hear that Dan! I can’t imagine the frustration you went through, but so glad you are back to full strength!

  • Reply
    Greg

    WOW,indeed what a year for you,and you will come back stonger then ever.

  • Reply
    Cathy

    I just wanted to say I’ve been following you and your husbands careers for years now. I’m just a high school xc runner myself But I Love the amazing example and joy which you spread. You and your husband are truly not only great athletes but also great individuals. You both completely inspire me with the sacrifice, sincerity, and joy which you display in both your running and personal lives. I deeply respect and admire this and hope you continue to enjoy the success and happiness which you so deserve!

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Thank you so much Cathy! That means a lot to me -Sara

  • Reply
    Carley

    sara, the experiences that you shared are extremely inspirational. while i do not run at the level you do, i am a very competitive runner. i am 3 weeks out from a strong pr effort at grandma’s marathon and have felt better than ever. this past week, i injured myself on the foam roller. i continued to run, but my breathing was extremely short, i had pain when laughing/sneezing/coughing, and was very tender to touch. after consecutive days of pain, i went to the doctor only to learn that i have a broken rib. i have been very upset, as i have my eyes set on big fall races. at first, the doctor said to take 4-6 weeks off from any running/cycling/swimming/breath-tasking activities, but then she said to start with 2 weeks. reading your story reminds me that everyone has an obstacle or two to overcome. while this is “devastating” in my little world, i realize that it is just a hurdle in the big picture. thank you for reminding me (and other readers) about the strength that comes with life setbacks.

    • Reply
      sara hall

      Thanks so much for sharing Carley! There are always new races and goals, hope you have healed well!

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