Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Girl Named Velcro, and Random Thoughts

I have puppy brain! We are announcing the arrival of the newest member of our family, Miss Velcro. She is a red tri and she was born 5 weeks ago. We will be bringing her home in another 3 weeks.

We are so excited! As soon as I saw her picture, I knew she was the one. It was love at first sight. I could not stop thinking about her, and as things unfolded with the litters at Sky Blue Aussies, she was available. We have our eye on another pup who is only 3 days old as of today, so I will fill you in as soon as we know everything is certain with our second puppy. Velcro will have a sister, and most likely she will be coming home a month after Velcro.

Running is minimal but more consistent. I'll talk about that below, after I get the shitstorm off my chest.

Recent Random Thoughts

I haven't been writing on my blog much, it's been hard with all the distractions, between puppy brain and it being Pinktober, the month where cancer and pink become intertwined and there are a lot of things going on. I spoke 3 times in one week, and I have more coming up before the month is through.

I had somewhat of an "aha" moment yesterday when I was thinking about my struggles with getting my program off the ground. It's a challenge to get people to want to do something. Everyone I talk to about it, including healthcare providers, sees the obvious and intense need for this type of education for patients and their caregivers. But there are a lot of barriers to people being able to use it in the way it is intended. I've been barking up the wrong tree trying to get it through the traditional healthcare channels.

One thing I am doing, that should help, is writing a book, which will not only have the program in it, but will also discuss why everyone needs to be in on this. Healthcare is so screwed up and it's only getting worse. Absolutely unsustainable. Yet cancer is about to overtake heart disease as the number one killer of Americans, and our healthcare costs are rising at an insane rate, and our health outcomes and general public health are getting worse. We have more obesity and diabetes, more lifestyle-related illness, and our administrative costs of running the healthcare system are exceeding our ability to put our resources into patient care and education.

Healthcare Heretic Again

I am being the healthcare heretic again, and working to make nurse groups aware of a documentary film project. Health 3.0 is a concept that goes beyond this transactional model, we call it 2.0, of healthcare where physicians or providers don't have relationships with patients, instead they are more of a factory, cranking patients through appointments in 15 minute intervals. Check this out for an example.

This short video is being mild about it. What I wish I had time to say is that all of these cancer centers and freestanding emergency rooms popping up everywhere are only being built because the current system incentivizes it. The hospitals get paid more. They can get reimbursed at a higher rate for emergency room visits and can charge a facility fee for setting foot in a cancer center, rather than an independent oncology practice. This disincentivizes patients from visiting their oncologists for follow-up visits. The hospitals can charge up to $400 for a facility fee alone (not including the doctor's bill) just for having an appointment in a room at the cancer center.

Had I realized just how slimy this whole process was, I would never have supported the local facility as I did half a decade ago. The Big Heist is right. It is a heist, to the tune of 20% of our GDP. Not acceptable. But people need to wake up and get off their obesified butts!

Remember how when we were talking about the need for the Affordable Care Act just a decade ago, lamenting the overuse of emergency rooms because people didn't have insurance for primary care and preventive medicine? Well, now we have high deductible plans again, with rates rising, driving people out of the market, but hospital executives can clean up on higher reimbursements and facility fees. And we're not doing a better job for patients. Dumb and dumber.

Here we are again. The vicious cycle of healthcare, now has consumed independent physician practices, has doctors all working as part of the giant healthcare factory, working at the whim of their employers, being told what to do by insurance companies, and nurses are understaffed and miserable again, physician suicide rates are rising, and nurses are leaving the profession because of burnout and injuries from overwork. There's no nursing shortage, just a shortage of nurses willing to put up with the abuse.

And the people who wrote the ACA: lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry, hospital executives, and insurance companies, have ensured they will rake in big bucks while starving the masses.

General Random Thoughts about Running

I've been running about 4 days a week on the average. About 6 or 7 miles each time.
I know!!!

It feels good to run when I feel like it and I feel refreshed afterward. My friend Emma is training for her first ultra, so doing long runs with her has gotten me out on the trails. I'm so enjoying this.

I miss my hair color. I now have a streak of reddish brown in the front of my scalp. It's a deep brown with a reddish tint, but it's my natural color. People pay a lot of money to get their hair tinted to that color. Now I have just a streak of it to contrast with my grayish white. What are you gonna do?

I refuse to dye my hair. I am getting too many thumbs up when I run, and I need that for the motivation. Plus it keeps the creepos quiet. Nobody catcalls their grandma. Much preferred this way.

Oh, and one more thing- one day I was actually able to reach my mouth with the toes on my left foot. I haven't been able to do it again, must have been a good flexibility day. I'll keep working on it until I can do it consistently. Then I will post pictures.

photo credit: Donna Rohde, Sky Blue Aussies

Sunday, October 9, 2016

DoNut Hunting...

This morning was the Fort Collins Running Club Tortoise & Hare 4K at Rolland Moore Park. Team Donut Hunters showed up in full force, pith helmets, donut hunting license, and all. This is about my speed these days.

It is really nice to get out in the morning and do a few miles, and not feel obsessive about doing double digits in miles or hours of running! This morning was amazing with the running club though- it used to be we'd have a dozen runners show up at these things. This morning there were over 150 runners! There was even a backup at the finish line! It was a gorgeous fall morning, the leaves are bright, the air is crisp and cool without being too cold.

One thing I was really pleased about was that I ran a faster than usual, but relaxed pace, didn't push it, and felt good the whole way. Ended up averaging 9 minute miles. Didn't know I could do that. I have lost a couple pounds, maybe even more than that. I've been trying to be good, cut out the beer and margaritas for the most part, and just the other day I had my first donut in a while.

I'm still going to work on dropping the rest of this weight because I'm pretty uncomfortable and my clothes are still tight.

The big exciting news is that our new babies could be born any day. We are waiting for word from the breeder in Nebraska to find out if there are any red or black tri girls in the litter due tomorrow, and there is another litter due in two weeks. It's the same blue merle dad for both litters, and both moms are red tris. I'll let you know as soon as I know. We will be able to bring the puppies home at 8 weeks, so we're looking at sometime before Christmas, if all goes well.

I am definitely in mom mode, I was shopping for puppy things yesterday, looking for agility equipment, baby gates, thinking about what we will do with training them- making my home schooling lesson plan, etc. My friend Joanne just got a puppy about a month ago and he was at the T & H this morning, her husband was watching him while Joanne ran. He is adorable, and he'll be more than twice the size of our girls when he grows up.

I even had a dream the other night that I was giving birth!! That's really weird.

I have been stretching consistently in the mornings, and been somewhat consistent doing my core exercises and hip exercises, and some weightlifting. I got my DEXA scan results back and the only thing they found was very mild osteopenia in my lower lumbar spine, which is probably not all that unusual and is unsurprising to me. I'll just continue doing what I've been doing, maybe more lifting and making sure I stay on top of the vitamin D, thyroid etc. I won't be able to get re-scanned for a couple of years at least, and the first few years of menopause tend to be the worst for losing bone, so I'll be curious to see what happens.

I am still missing my mouth with my toes on the left side, a couple of inches to go with my flexibility goal. I can easily bite my big toenail on the right side.

I've been busy doing local speaking engagements and preparing for tweetchats and an international online summit for breast cancer recovery. I've been so busy I haven't had time to work on the book manuscript but October is a busy month in my line of work. Pinktober.

I'm tired today after a long week and another busy week ahead of me. But I'm feeling generally pretty good, much better than I did in July and August.

I'm busy planning a birthday run this year, too. Yes, another crazy birthday themed run, something to do with donuts. Stay tuned!

Donut Birthday Run

Alene's 53rd birthday donut run (56K or 35 miles)

Donut Triangle Course 35 miles
Saturday, March 4, 2017 Start at Dunkin Donuts in Fort Collins at 7 am sharp. Get there early if you want donuts before you start.

Run to Loveland Dunkin Donuts 9.4 miles (approx. 9 am)

Run to Windsor Dunkin Donuts 22 miles (approx. noon)

Run to Fort Collins Dunkin Donuts 35 miles (approx. 4 pm)

Run one segment, part of a segment, or join Alene for the whole Donut! Triangle.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Healthcare Heretic Rants Again...

(Disclaimer: I don't speak for the concept or creators of Healthcare 3.0 but this is a stab at explaining what it might do for nurses, and we need to make sure nurses are included as this idea is fleshed out)

The other day as I was having a conversation over coffee with a local colleague who is a psychotherapist, our conversation shifted to healthcare. There's been a lot of talk about Healthcare 3.0 as an answer to the problems of our current escalating and unsustainable costs that aren't making a dent in our health as a society. As a nurse, I get asked on social media what healthcare 3.0 could do for nurses, who are understaffed, burned out, ready to burn their scrubs and walk out. Let's start at the top.

My colleague said something interesting about people who have executive jobs. Often they think it works for them, but the way they are functioning is not working well. They make a lot of money, they may have status in their communities and workplaces, but they are deeply unhappy. They are unable to connect with the underlying source of their unhappiness. So intently focused on what they think they have to do to maintain their status, money, and power, they can’t face how it affects other people around them: their spouses, children, community, or their own health and well-being.

In healthcare especially, people who have executive jobs often are fostering the climate of creating more work and finding justification for filling positions that contribute little to patient care and outcomes. They are contributing to the problem of the providers’ agony of having to spend more time in front of the computer than they can ever spend talking with their patients.

It’s disruptive to patient health and satisfaction, provider health and satisfaction, public and community health, the economic sustainability of our healthcare system, and our entire national economy as a whole. As healthcare costs have soared along with administrative costs, so has the distress in communities over healthcare access and availability, jobs and security.

We are all connected to the greater community. And when someone is sucking the resources away for their own benefit and not sharing, it hurts everyone.

Look deep into the eyes of a healthcare CEO. It’s been said that CEOs can be ruthless, sociopathic people. You might be able to tell in their eyes if they are truly sociopathic or just in deep denial of what their everyday decisions and actions are doing to those around them.

I believe many, if not most of them, are human beings who have taken to heart the myth that status, power, privilege, and money are what defines a person’s worth, especially for men, and while they might on some level know this is a myth, feel too entrenched in the status quo and fear the discomfort of change, believing that the price they might pay personally and professionally would be too steep.

Eventually they start to pay for it in their own health- mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. They might get sick, be depressed, get divorced. Or they might realize it when a family member has a serious illness.

It takes courage to take risks, to make change. They might think they are more comfortable sustaining their standard of living, with the vacation homes, the disposable income, sending the kids to college without financial strain. Their financial security is well-padded with the promise of a golden parachute.

On the other side of the fence in healthcare are nurses. Near the bottom of the totem pole in the direct patient care hierarchy, nurses do the heavy labor physically and mentally. Expected to function as well as machines, they are given the near impossible expectations of being able to safely care for a number of patients of varying acuities, safely administer medications and other interventions, and document everything that happens all day, with every patient.

Nurses have the most responsibility, the least power and authority, and often are abused, bullied, and disrespected, even by their own peers. They are not included in decisions made at the top of an organization that directly affect their working conditions and may pose a risk to their safety, their patients, and their licenses.

When more work is piled on nurses, if they complain, they are told they are not managing their time well, or can’t multitask. If they complain about unsafe conditions, they can be fired. When things get out of control, or a mistake is made, they are the first to be blamed.

The only reason nurses are in the position we are in today is because we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into a lie. We have never challenged the old guard of dinosaurs who live in the days when nurses couldn’t be married, never questioned the doctor and could only wear white caps, stockings and dresses.

The fact is, today, nurses need to stop making excuses that we can’t make change or speak up because we are powerless and we’ll get fired from the jobs we need. How badly do you need a job that leaves you insulin resistant, overweight, hypertensive, with back pain, foot pain, or headaches. A job that leaves you sleep deprived, grouchy, unable to spend quality time with your family, but spending a day or two each week uncompensated while you recover from your 12 hour endurance shifts?

Just for raising this point I’ve been attacked by nurses who get defensive, usually because, “I have kids. I’m a single mom. My spouse is unable to work, disabled, etc. I’m supporting my parents, my kid is in college, I’m in debt…” and so on.

We all have choices in life, and there are no guarantees! What if you got injured or sick? What if you got fired? What if the hospital burned down? What if you lost your job for some other reason? What would you do? You’d have to find another job, but what if you couldn’t? You would have to come up with some kind of contingency plan, right?

No one is saying you should give up your job and stop supporting your family. What I’m saying is, you shouldn’t have to be abused while you’re trying to do it. You shouldn’t have to fear for your job and be forced to do things that are not safe, that damage your health and well-being and compromise your own ethical standards just to keep your employment. You ARE NOT powerless, you can do something. The fact that people do make excuses for not speaking up is reason enough for making change. There is ALWAYS a way.

Nurses need to quit attacking each other and having turf battles in the workplace, social circles, on social media, and in the community. We are all connected. Again, we’re not powerless, but we need to be more courageous. True leadership moves us forward, is not regressive, and requires courage. We have to be willing to take risks, to put our ideas out there, expose our ideas to the light of day instead of hiding behind private conversations in quiet corners.

If we were allowed to do our real jobs: to advocate for the patient, educate the patient, and navigate so the patient and family could find and access the resources they need, in addition to providing basic but highly skilled nursing care, we’d be able to practice like the professionals we are, not as wait staff on roller skates. We could each be experts on our own patients and bring in specialized, available experts when needed. We’d have time to have conversations with the patient and identify issues so we can collaborate with physicians, who would get the full scoop on what we’ve seen in our assessment and concerns we have about the patient, resulting in better outcomes.

To lead this change, we need share our vision for nursing, establish we want to see, and make it happen, through policy changes, influencing public attitudes and understanding, and working together instead of at odds. Here’s a partial list of some of the things nurses would like to have:
•Safe staffing ratios that are not just marginally safe, that truly allow us to provide GOOD care.
•Time to think about what we are doing instead of rushing from task to task
•Time to collaborate- with nurses, other staff, physicians, managers, administrators
•Time to give attention to patients, to have conversations with them where we can listen
•Time to take breaks, lunches, vacations
•Adequate time to get our work done within the hours of our shift
•Getting paid for all the work we do
•Feeling safe in expressing concerns
•Not being rushed
•Having our needs acknowledged and addressed and met.
•Not facing bullying or disrespect from peers, other providers.
•Having access to decision making input
•Getting feedback
•Being communicated with
•Transparency from the administration in matters pertaining to our own jobs
•Support and time for professional development and growth and education
•Opportunities to lead, advance, contribute, change specialties or positions, or back down, cut or increase our hours when we want to or need to
•The ability to take time off when we are sick without being penalized
•The ability to work at a human pace without being replaced by robots
•The ability to use technology in the workplace that works for the patient’s best interest and supports our ability to do our jobs well, but doesn’t detract from the quality of our work with the patient.

What is leadership? Instead of an entitlement, it should be a privilege that is earned and kept through service to those you are charged with leading. Instead, many executives see themselves as entitled: to high salaries, nice perks, golden parachutes, and all sorts of other protections and padding.

Poor leadership consists of insecurity and fear of losing one’s job, the unwillingness to support others out of fear of exposure of one’s shortcomings. Instead of allowing people to shine, insecure leaders avoid creativity and keep the innovators out.

Toxic leaders poison the entire organization layer by layer. Morale drops, turnover goes up, and patients suffer. It’s not just a trickle-down effect throughout the organization, it’s a full stream raining down on their heads, like a burst sewer pipe upstairs from the hospital cafeteria.

Leading is not proselytizing, it is not enforcing the blind following and worship of a megalomaniac. It is not about overseeing a passive audience of yes men and women, or the intolerance of dissent. It requires independent, critical, and creative thinking that comes together to make improvements.

We need to clearly define what nursing would look like under 3.0. We must have a place at the table, as equals. Nursing is no less important than medicine. What is less important, is all the administration and extra fluff that does not improve relationships around the level of care.

Healthcare 3.0 would bring nurses fully into leadership, to an extent to which we have never been included or taken seriously before. Healthcare 3.0 is an idea that can be implemented and can save us from the impending healthcare Armageddon. There isn’t a single person who won’t be affected.

We need courage, we need everyone with a stake in this to face the fact that we are humans taking care of humans in healthcare. Outcomes matter, but we can’t lose sight of the real human condition that “outcomes” represent.

We cannot exist solely for the sake of constructs like technology, efficiency, or productivity. The relationships must drive these constructs, not the other way around. Those things can happen as a result of doing our one-on-one patient/provider relationships well. Let’s stop making constructs the holy grail and get back to focusing on relationships.

For more information on the Healthcare 3.0 concept, you can read Dave Chase's article here, or you can also watch ZDoggMD's rendition, Lose Yourself, below.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Return to Gunrackistan...A Love Story

"My stonehouse burnt down, nothing obscures the light of the bright moon" -Masahide

Gunnison, Colorado. One of the highest, coldest cities in the U.S. Also one of the most beautiful, and the still pristine way of life- small town, with a culture that is disappearing and barely clinging to its existence. Ranching and recreation are the economy. And then there's Western State College (now Western State Colorado University).

Up the road 30 miles there's a ski town called Crested Butte. Culturally different- progressive, liberal, upscale, hipsterish. The locals refer to Gunnison, downvalley, as Gunrack. Gunnison old timers might have names for the Butte too but I don't know them. Hippie town, maybe.

I lived in both towns back in the 80s and 90s for a brief time, a few years here, a few years there. After college, Crested Butte was a great place to hang out and play, wait tables and run or ride mountain bikes over passes with names like Oh Be Joyful and Block & Tackle, Conundrum Pass and Teocalli Ridge, Gothic and Paonia, Green Lake and Washington Gulch.

Gunnison tourists go hunting for elk. And college girls.

I remember shooing a Chevy Blazer packed with hunters away from the women's cross country team one day as we were walking up the hill to the track for practice. And sitting in a bar on a September day after a long mountain bike ride with my girlfriends, being serenaded by some drunk hunters who wanted to buy the local girls rounds of drinks.

Crested Butte tourists go alpine skiing, telemarking, nordic skiing, ride mountain bikes, and sample the microbrews and upscale establishments.

You'd think a leftwinger like me would want nothing to do with Gunrackistan and it's entrenched cowboy culture, locked into the old days when men didn't know what quiche was and definitely couldn't pronounce it...

Cattle country. You ate meat there, it's what's for dinner.

When I first arrived in the valley I was still a vegetarian. But.

I fell in love with Gunnison anyway. I have never been so in love with a place. Ever, and I doubt ever again.

Crested Butte is a beautiful spot in the world. Towering peaks surround a bowl-like valley, the colors of avalanche chutes filled with green aspen and dark green spruce, and snow chutes remain year-round. Wildflowers and painted Victorians and blue sky with fluffy white clouds and clear air lend a palette of color to the surroundings.

I love that, but Gunnison...

the whole area is something different. Maybe it's the sagebrush.

I thought it would be hard to live in Gunrack after being a Buttian. But it drew me in even tighter. I cried for a month when I left to move to Fort Collins for graduate school in 1989. I wanted to go back so badly. I was fixated on it.

One of the mistakes of my youth was that I thought I wanted to go back and teach there. Then I had a chance, a 2 year temporary contract to fill a sudden vacancy that was offered before I even defended my dissertation. I jumped on it, of course. Except by the first day of my second year, I can remember going to class, and counting how many days were left in the school year.

To put it mildly, it used to be a very backward, regressive type of atmosphere that seems to have changed all too slowly. Back then, there was a palpable fear of and hostility to women, and anyone who might be a little on the progressive side. Newcomers who didn't play the game with the old guard didn't make them too happy.

About 20 years ago the college experimented on the wild side- it hired a woman as president. That was enough to freak the good ole boys out, especially when she brought in a whole slew of new, young faculty many of whom were women and a few of whom were (shhhh!) lesbians. A word that didn't even exist in the lexicon of the good ole boys. They couldn't even say the word. Enough to put a few of the old boys over the edge. Politically it was a difficult time in the state's politics, and being a state school we were subject to whatever happened at the state capitol.

The new President wasn't too supportive of the old boy coaches getting away with the same old crap. Which created a lot of tension.

This was at the same time as Amendment 2 was on the ballot and there was a big political fight going on down on the Front Range. Someone was stomping and kicking the good ole boys in the shins with steel-toed boots, but you'd think the wearer of the boots had indoor plumbing or was gay. Focus on the Family, James Dobson, Bill Perkins, and the Colorado Springs contingent were in their homophobic heyday. (Remember Bob Dole and Family values, this is a Christian nation, and so on...)

Yes, the good ole boys and their minions, wanting me to allow a student to get away with not doing any work and give him a passing grade so he could play football or wrestle or whatever. Stopping me in the hall to ask important, pointed, questions such as, "If you're married, why don't you have the same last name as your husband?" or "Are you a vegetarian?", or "What do you think of Title IX?"

All very relevant to our job descriptions. "Are you in that 'women's group?'" Emphasis as if women was a four letter word that needed to be spoken quietly. (Translation: Do you hang out with lesbians who plan to take over the world from men, replace us from our jobs, emasculate and castrate us?) My office mate was in the exact same boat as I was. She loved it when our fellow faculty members praised us by saying "good girl". Among other things.

Looking back, I see how backward things were even in the 90s. Not only awkward and socially tone deaf, but just twisted and fixated on the threat of feminism, as if their nuts would drop into the toilet and go "Plink-plink!" into the water as they flushed.

I look back at the painful times, but there were many more good times, namely the relationships that came out of that time.

Right here in this building I met my husband. Webster Hall in Gunnison, at a 5K with a pancake breakfast afterward in August of 1986. I won the race for the women that day, too. I think it might have been the first race I ever won.

My friend Heidi and I became friends and running partners. She started out as one of my students, and we ran in the cold predawn mornings together. We are still close friends 20 years later, even though she lives in Arizona now.

And there was the team. The Western State Mountaineers. The athletes on the cross country and distance track teams, so many of whom we stay in touch or have reconnected with, and still see on occasion. Scattered all over the state, we can always count on running into someone from those days every so often.

And then there's Coach.

The reason we were back in Gunnison last weekend was Coach. My husband Dennis, a former cross country and distance runner on the team, was being inducted into the college's Sports Hall of Fame. Coach and another friend of ours from way back, Joe, had nominated him.

Coach is one of a kind. I can't even describe this guy, he has a presence that is larger than anything in the valley. You'd have to meet him to understand. But they definitely broke the mold after they made him and there is no way anyone who has ever been around him or has worked with him can help but be influenced, and inspired by him. ""

I can't say I always got along with him, I didn't. We butted heads A LOT.

Coach and I are very strongheaded people and of course we would butt heads. I don't agree with the way he goes about doing things, but it works for him because the system was designed around him and his needs, they accommodated him and his ways for years, and it dates back to a very old paternalistic time, and he's managed to have his way. And I was a newcomer, not to mention the gender, age and heretical nature of who I am.

But still, I can't help but admit I like the guy, the person he is. It's easier from a distance. But how could you not like him, anyone with that unique of a personality, you really can't help it.

So, the long story is my husband ran for Western State College (now Western State Colorado University) in the early 80s, and was one of the top runners on team, ever. He was national champion in the 3000m steeplechase, set a national record in that event at the time, was one of the top cross country runners, 4th in the national meet, multiple time All-American, and so on.

Pretty awesome accomplishments.
After college he coached as an assistant and then I came on as an assistant coach a couple of years later. That's when Dennis and I actually started dating. I moved to Fort Collins to go to graduate school, and Dennis left to go to Adams State College, the rival college, two hours down the road and over the pass, because Dennis was working on a masters in physical education and the program got cut at Western, but still was offered at Adams. So he went there. Not to mention that Adams State College legendary Coach Joe Vigil was the Olympic coach for distance runners.

Running for Reebok, under Vigil, Dennis improved at cross country and more. He competed and finished extremely well all over the country, in road races and made the US Cross country team and went to France and Italy to compete in the World Championships and other races. That was in 1990, the same year we got married.

Coach was at our wedding. I guess I should have prepared my dad because Coach gave a toast, and my dad was like, "who the hell is this guy??? He sounds like a relic, a dinosaur."

Yes, my dad is a sharp judge of character.

Despite the paternalism, I've always called Coach by his first name. I never was one of his athletes or students, I was one of his assistant coaches, and later we were fellow faculty members.

But I think to him, a woman 30 years younger than him, who was the same age as many of his athletes and that he had seniority over, I sensed there was a slight bristle. Other young faculty members and assistant coaches called him Duane. Maybe it was just my projection. But I felt like it was important to establish my ground, my territory, that I wasn't going to be pushed around like a member of the team.

He never said anything about it, and I know he would have if it was that bothersome to him. But in my mind, he's really Coach.

Anyway, many years later Adams State asked Dennis if he'd run on their team at a masters race, Dennis said yes. Then a week before the race, someone from Western called to ask Dennis to ask if he'd run for the Western Team. He'd already committed to Adams and stuck with it.

After that race, which Adams won, Coach did the finger in your face thing, using his classic relic-like, dinosaur-like, paternalistic I'm the coach and I rule your life voice. Which really upset Dennis.

And they didn't speak to each other for years. As the years went on, many halls of fame with lots of athletes inducted, and Dennis was never asked. People would comment, when is it going to be your turn? Dennis thought as long as Coach was around it wasn't going to happen. Disloyalty was Coach's biggest peeve.

"You can't break with tradition. This is the Western Slope!" he would have said.

So...a few more things happened. Pat Porter, US Olympian, former Adams State runner and Dennis' teammate from the US Cross Country team, was named to another honor several years ago and Dennis and his friend Steve went to the ceremony to see Pat and honor his award and celebrate. A week later, Pat was killed in a plane crash.

Then, Coach was inducted two years ago. I forget what I was doing but I didn't feel like going. I just didn't want to bring any upheaval into my life at that point. I wasn't ready to go over Monarch again and see the valley and be reminded, and I didn't go. Then I found out how many people on the team showed up and was kicking myself.

They did settle things, finally. Coach is getting up there in age, he's dealing with some health issues. He's not physically well, but to see him, he never ages, he never changes, and he doesn't seem to have less energy. Still walks and talks and carries himself the same way, with the same booming confidence of a man who knows he drives things.

He might as well own the town, it could easily be named after him. I know that a future building or major renovation, perhaps the new Mountaineer Bowl, will be named after him. It should be. Hell, the whole county should be.

Except I think the Mountaineer had a heart attack. Must have been all that red meat.

For the induction weekend, it all worked out perfectly. It looks like maybe this new president and athletic director might have better plans and a considerably firmer grip on the world outside Gunnison, having been other places.

Dennis's family came up. At first I didn't want to go to the football game or the president's breakfast or the plaque hanging, but I went to all of them. Some of our old friends and Dennis's old teammates came up. It was a small group but the right energy. There were a lot of people I wish I would have seen, and I wish I would have had more time up there, but the ones I really didn't want to see were not there or didn't come up. Some of them don't even live there anymore. A good thing. New blood is needed, even in Gunrackistan.

One of Dennis' old teammates, a high jumper, was also inducted. That was cool. And one of my former students too! It was a shared celebration, and seeing everyone after so many years added an extra fun dimension to it.

I wasn't ready until now. It was just so hard to go back over Monarch Pass. I don't know why, because we went over Cottonwood Pass to Crested Butte several times since then. I just couldn't deal with Gunnison.

For years I've been thinking I am just so in love with the place that I can't bear the pain of seeing it and knowing that I can't live there. You can't make a living up there unless you have one of the few jobs or are independently wealthy. Otherwise you need to piece together 4 or 5 different jobs to keep afloat. You have to really be addicted to stay. I must not have been. But I'm obviously not fully recovered.

And now Coach is sick and we all know time is limited, and no one is saying what we all know.

It was a combination of one of the most disappointing, painful experiences and one of the most influential places in my life, but I'm forever thankful for it and the chance to immerse myself and completely and totally fall in love with the place, so much that I couldn't even go back for 20 years. Part grudge, part pain, part fear of being sucked into the intoxication and addiction that would limit my opportunities forever.

I am glad I finally went. I faced it, my discomfort, my fear of not being able to handle it, of it being too painful. But it wasn't at all. As much as I love the place and think it's beautiful and peaceful and there's something that awakens a deep place in my heart and spirit, a feeling that I somehow belong there, at least in the natural environment of it...

...politically and personally I don't have enough tongues to replace the ones I would bite off every day, maybe even every hour. I'm not a lizard, can't grow body parts back. But I know that in Gunnison, they have plenty of taxidermists who could probably mount those tongues on a wall somewhere.

Some things never change
I love that it hasn't changed.
The air is clear, the air smells fresh and the sagebrush and pine scent is everywhere.
I'm glad it's still Gunrackistan.
It would be more painful to go back there and see that it had changed.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Getting Stoned: There Goes The Sun 12 Hour Fat Ass


My first "ultra" in a year and a half.

On Labor Day weekend I usually try to escape Fort Collins or at least hide out. Not being one for crowds, this weekend is the annual Fat Tire Bike Fest in downtown Fort Collins, when New Belgium Brewery hosts this mass humanity event. People ride in costumes on fat tire bikes and then drink a lot of beer. Not that I have any objection to it, I'm just not into crowds, and I've seen the costumes so many years that I don't feel the need to repeat.

So instead of Fat Tire Bike, I chose Fat Ass Run. If you don't know what a Fat Ass run is, it's a term to describe a type of event popular with ultrarunners. Usually done as a social training run, a group of friends get together usually by word of mouth and agree on some kind of a course. The rules are: no entry fee, no t-shirt, no aid, no awards, no whining. Just a good old fashioned ultra without the circus, high prices, and extravagant swag.

Marissa DeMercurio put on this event for the first time a year and a half ago, on spring equinox. It was a success and I was thrilled when she said she would do it again this fall. It gave me a reason to train for something. I had no motivation otherwise. I haven't exactly "trained" but it was nice to have an answer when people would ask me what my next race is. I would tell them, "A Fat Ass Donut Run".

The DeMercurios are a running family, including Marissa's husband Pete Kardassis. Connie is one of my longtime running buddies up here in northern Colorado and Marissa is her daughter. Connie is beyond talented even though she never talks about it. She recently turned 60 and just a few months before her birthday she ran a 3:31 marathon. I can't even run one mile at that pace anymore.

Marissa is starting to get into ultras, has run a 50K and is now training for her first 50 miler. Her goal was to set a distance PR over her previous longest run which was 32 miles. Connie was out there being a cheerleader, training for her next marathon and putting "a few" miles in.

Marissa did provide some items for an aid station, she rented the pavilion at Lake Arbor park and set up quite a spread, including donuts, a staple of these runs.

I drove down Saturday morning in light traffic, and arrived at the park before anyone else. I used the portapotty and got my table set up, along with my ghost peeps for decoration. The sunrise was intense vivid reds.

The plan for keeping track of your distance is to put one of these little stones that look like marbles in your jar each time you complete a lap. You're losing your marbles, or you're getting stoned, whichever way you want to look at it. Each lap is 1.15 miles. At the end of the day you can figure out how many marbles you lost or how stoned you are.

We started at 7 am sharp, with just me, Connie, and two of Marissa's coworkers, Rich and Dave. Everyone else planned to show up during the day and put in as many miles as they felt like running. Last time I ran this I got just over 50 miles and I set an ambitious goal of trying to reach that again. I knew it would be an effort given my low mileage and lack of fast walking practice.

It was cool and cloudy the first two hours around the lake and for the first half of the run I stayed on target for my 50 mile goal, but soon realized it wasn't going to happen. It wasn't so much the running, but the walking is what killed me. Usually I can rely on my fast walking pace in these events to get me through but I haven't been working on it. When I tried picking up my walking pace my muscles got tired and burned, and then my feet were subject to a lot of friction in my shoes from that type of motion.

I figured I could still get somewhere over 40 miles which was fine, I keep trying to push it as much as I could but I could feel the effects of every donut I've eaten over the past few months...

Sasquatch said he would be late arriving, he was planning on doing about 15 miles. He showed up at some point when I was halfway around the lake and for the longest time we could see each other but weren't making progress catching each other. Eventually Sasquatch waited for me at the pavilion and then we did about 5 miles together.

It was warm most of the afternoon, not sure how warm it got but the forecast was for a high of 87. Then the clouds moved in again and made the last couple of hours more pleasant. I never could get my electrolyte intake quite right. I took in lots of salt and S caps, but I got little side stitch-type cramps off and on. That never happens. Must be my lack of training, and lack of heat training. It was never bad enough to slow me down.

Running laps with Connie, Marissa, and Sasquatch was the best part, I love being able to hang out and catch up. In our busy lives we don't see each other often enough.

During the day there were quite a few people in the park. It was never crowded, but all day long a steady stream of people, with kids or dogs, would be on the path. I saw four Australian Shepherds, including one beautiful red tri at the end of the day.

By the end Marissa had 38 miles and Connie had over 36 miles and these were both distance PRs for these budding daughter and mom ultrarunners. Way to go! And Pete managed 35 or so miles. Keep in mind that they covered these distances while spending considerable amount of time holding down the fort and watching the aid station, making sure delirious runners got their stones in the jar and forcing us to eat donuts very much against our will.

I managed to get 46 miles for the day, I stayed on my feet all day long, which was important to me. I was happy.

I want to thank Marissa DeMercurio and also Pete Kardassis and Connie DeMercurio for holding this event and going through the effort to make it happen. I feel somehow responsible for holding them hostage at the lake for over 12 hours of their lives. Actually 24 hours because this is second time they've done this.

When I got home Dennis had cooked a delicious meal of salmon and veggies and I ate, shared my videos with him, and then it was bedtime.

Today I have a wicked ultra hangover. My feet are blistered, my legs ache, I need to eat and drink. I'm dehydrated. We went for a walk to Starbucks this morning and the thought crossed my mind, "I need a goal to get me through the winter..."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Old and New

The past few weeks have been busy since we got back from vacation, and vacation itself was awesome, I got a chance to stop thinking so much, finally. My brain needed a break. I've been spinning my wheels trying to figure out some of the issues that always come up around having a business, and what I needed was to get away from it all for a while.

One thing I have figured out is that I threw myself into my work so intensely, that I neglected to grieve and resolve the grief over the loss of our two girls last year. I've been working to distract myself, and I never really processed the grief, and it's come back to bite me in the butt. Like an Australian Shepherd.

I have begun working on a memory book of the girls, with pictures, and I also put together a little book of the archives of a newsletter I shared with family and friends during the first 5 years of the girls' lives, called The Daily Buffalo, that I wrote before I went to nursing school.

It's an ongoing project, but I needed to do it. I also realized that I have been giving and giving so much, to others and not putting anything back into myself. I need to do that. That is one thing that nurses tend to do, and I'm guilty of it. So I have resolved to find ways to give back to myself. I have neglected my running, my painting for way too long, and just taking time to take care of myself- body and mind.

I've also figured out some of the frustration with the business model I've chosen, and that's ongoing, but I am going to take a different approach as I move forward. I took a break from social media, which I love in some ways, don't love in other ways, but also drives me crazy. I need less screen time and more unplugging.

I am going to take time for myself and my needs, and hopefully a clearer perspective will follow. It already seems to be working.

Once I process more of this stuff, I will be excited to move forward.

On the running front, last week I managed to do nearly 90 miles on my feet including three long days: An 18 miler, a 30 miler, and a 22 miler. The 30 mile day was on Donut Friday. I now feel ready to get out and be on my feet for 12 hours during the There Goes the Sun Fatass coming up September 3.

The weather is about to change. We've already had a hint of cooler weather in the mornings, it's been in the 50s all week when we wake up, and that is such a relief. And it's dark until after 5:30 am now. I know this is the time for the weather to change because it always happens right around Leadville Trail 100 weekend. It's supposed to possibly dip down to 48 degrees here one night this weekend, according to the forecast. I love it. I am done with the heat this year. I know we might have a hot weekend during the Fat Ass run, but I will be ready with ice.

I like some things about summer, but fall is my favorite season. The cool air feels so good on hot flashes...