Scatter my ashes here...

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Eighty Miles for an Ice Cream Sandwich

After the Summer DIY mis-adventure, I was feeling a bit frustrated about my progress in running. I needed something challenging that I could do with a minimum of preparation and fuss. I wanted to get 80 miles in 24 hours that day but it was not my day. I decided to fall back on a strategy I used while getting ready for Badwater, which was back to back long days. I decided to do 80 miles split up into two days, which would give me the opportunity to recover between the runs by sleeping a full night, as well as two consecutive days of running, like the 48 hour I am training for, and to avoid worrying about a safe place to run at night, as I would be done before dark, or close to it.

I chose a Friday and Saturday so I didn't use up my whole weekend, and I'd have time to rest on Sunday. I wanted to get some work done in the garden, pick some grapes to make jelly since they were getting ripe fast, and get to the Farmer's Market for green chiles on Sunday. The plan was to run 40 miles each day, for a total of 80. I wanted to get each day's miles in under 12 hours each day if possible. I didn't know how I'd feel and it was supposed to get fairly warm, around 90 degrees. I planned to do out and backs from the house and shorten them up as the day got warmer so I could access the ice for my neck. I also wanted to get a minimum of 6 hours of actual running in for the weekend.

I woke up at 4 am on Friday and got out the door at 4:48. My first stop was at Lamar's donuts to meet the donut Friday group. I figured I'd get a few miles in before I met everyone, run a few with them, and hang out for a short time before going on to get the rest of my miles in. I ate two donuts, one before the group run, and one after. It was nice and cool in the morning and I took advantage of it.

As it got warmer I decided to stop by a convenience store I have been to many times and get an ice cream sandwich. I went in, and they had no ice cream at all! This is after 30 miles of running! I was getting close to the end of my day so I decided finish up closer to my neighborhood and I went to two more different stores, and NO ice cream sandwiches!

I finished up soon after at 2:55 pm, getting my miles in their entirety, with 5 hours of running, and the whole thing in 10:07 which included all the stops. I felt good about that, and I didn't feel tired. I felt like I could have kept going, but I didn't want to be greedy. I wanted to get some good miles in the next day.

I ate dinner, had a beer, got some sleep, and decided to save the ice cream sandwich hunt for the next day.

Saturday morning I woke up early again before my alarm went off. I left the house at 4:55 am, and ran toward the east side of town. About two miles from my house I was near Fort Collins High School, running through a park, and looked up into the sky, which was just barely getting light, and I saw a giant meteor- it looked like a comet! The Perseid meteor showers were that weekend but I had not planned my run around them. I saw a few other sparkles in the sky after that but nothing like the huge flying spectacle I was lucky enough to catch.

I ran a loop around Rigden Reservoir. Looked like someone had quite the party the night before- with fast food trash bags and syringes. The opioid epidemic is here, too. Unless they were someone's insulin syringes, but I doubt it- why would they use so many?

The morning stayed cool and I stuck to the neighborhoods on the east side of town, they had plenty of shade. I didn't even go home until 22 miles to put ice on my neck. But I did stop at the corner of Timberline and Vermont, near the high school, at 15 miles, it was only 8:47 am, but I didn't care- and they had one last ice cream sandwich, just what I was looking for, in the case. The traditional vanilla ice cream between two rectangular chocolate wafers.

I savored every bite of that sandwich and kept going. I was so excited to find the ice cream sandwich that I forgot I needed to buy more cold drinks, so after a short out & back, I had to go back to the gas station again. Good thing I ate the last ice cream sandwich or I would have probably bought another one!

The day got a little warmer than Friday, but I was still making good time. I only ran a little over two hours on Saturday, but it put me over my goal for the weekend as far as running time, by more than an hour. And, I decided to hit the gas station at Lemay and Harmony for another ice cream sandwich around 30 miles. Just as I was headed south on Lemay about a half mile before I got there, I got a text from my friend Serena.

She and her boyfriend Colin were out shopping, saw ice cream sandwiches, and thought of me, and they decided to find me and deliver one to me! They caught up with me right around 31 miles and I got to indulge in another delicious perfect treat. Serena and Colin are moving to Reno next week, which I am sad about, but very happy for them, because they have a great opportunity there.

It was warm the last few miles but I was still feeling good. I made it home at 3:17 pm, after 10:22 on my feet including all breaks. I could feel my feet a little, but I still felt good and had plenty of energy.

But mostly I was happy to have made my goals for the weekend, without any trouble, and exceeded my expectations. I was worried about being so unfit and not ready for my plans to train for the 48 hour at Across the Years, but this run put my mind at ease and I feel so much better.

I had plenty of energy left on Sunday to do all the chores- I peeled and packaged and froze a bushel of green chiles, I picked 20 pounds of grapes, and a ton of tomatoes, made a pizza with sauce from those tomatoes, and felt like the training is finally paying off.

It is really hard to come back from a break- much more so than it was even 5 or 10 years ago. I can feel the difference my age makes. But I've been persistent for a year now, and I feel I am finally getting some of the endurance back. Speed will come later as I choose to work on it- I'm not looking to get fast, I just want to do some more intense workouts to help build my strength and be able to hold a faster pace for longer. Just for ultras. And that's not really speed. It's just for running more comfortably at a little faster pace than my current 11 minute mile average.

I did go to boxing on Monday and I got so sore. I expected to bounce back from the weekend, but I don't know why I thought that. I was tired. I ended up taking Tuesday off and this morning, Wednesday, I ran the girls 6.5 miles early in the day and found my legs pretty sore afterward. I'm no spring chicken.

But I am happy now. I have Marissa's 12 hour run- There Goes The Sun- coming up next month. And then I'll have 3 more months to train for the 48 hour. I can finally say I'm looking forward to the training. And with the cooler weather, hopefully there will be more ice cream sandwiches available...

Summer Blogging Challenge

My friend Nancy Stordahl is one of my favorite bloggers and she always posts things that get me thinking. She writes a blog about breast cancer and loss. She provides the inspiration for many of my posts, here and in the oncology nursing articles I write. This time she has asked a dozen questions for a blogging challenge to share with readers and other bloggers. If you're new to this blog you can learn a little more about me and my blog.

Here are the questions and answers:
1. How long have you been blogging (or reading blogs)?

I started blogging in January 2008. I've been reading blogs since before that, but my decision to finally run Badwater after dreaming of it for years got me going on this blog, and I haven't stopped blogging since.

2. How has your blog changed?

It has changed from the main topic being running ultras to a variety of things I'm passionate about. I still blog about ultras, but I don't compete or race as often as I used to. For me it's more about getting out and enjoying being outdoors and moving, and the spiritual, mental, and physical benefits (probably in that order, too!) I get from it. I write a lot about nurse advocacy and healthcare, cancer, as well as politics and my own thought processes while I'm out there moving forward on my feet. I like speaking my mind and every so often I've pissed someone off with what I write, which tells me I'm doing it well.

3. What is your biggest blogging challenge/frustration?

Having enough time and energy to write the posts when so much of what I do for work involves writing. It's hard sometimes to want to write for fun, and often I want to write something, but I can't bring myself to sit on my butt for any more hours.

4. What is your favorite post that you’ve written (or read)?

My favorite posts that I've written have to be the series I wrote about Badwater- my first time running it, my second time running it as a double, and my experiences on the medical team and what I learned. Also, the "So ya think ya want to run Badwater" has been the most viewed post. As far as reading blogposts, the old classic from Larry Gassan about people whining at ultras has to be my favorite all time post- it's funny and timeless.

5. What are your goals for your blog?

To convey what goes on in my mind when I get out there and do long miles on my feet. To show the thought processes that result from running ultras, and how they support my mental and spiritual health, and creativity. And I hope it shows other people that it's okay to be different and think differently from the mainstream.

6. How many blogs do you read on a regular basis?

Wow. I couldn't even count them, but my favorite blogs range in content from healthcare, cancer, politics, news and current events, nursing, food, and miscellaneous interesting topics I find randomly. I read at least several blogposts a day.

7. How do you determine what to share and what not to share; in other words, do you have blog boundaries? (or comment boundaries)

I have to be careful when it comes to healthcare and cancer, just to protect the privacy of people, and I don't want to post anything embarrassing to someone when it comes to any topic. But I don't hold my feelings back.

8. When things get hard, what keeps you blogging?

Knowing there are readers who have stuck with me and do read my posts. A lot of times they comment to me personally via email or in person if they live nearby, or on Facebook, instead of in the comment section, so I know they are reading. And there are followers out there who I find out about- who don't list themselves as followers in the Google sense of the word. Sometimes it can take me months to finally catch up on a topic, but I do get around to it. While I was writing my book that was the hardest time to keep blogging, since the book was published, I have been better about keeping up with the blog.

9. What is your biggest Cancer Land pet peeve today, right now, this minute?

People who treat cancer like it's a race or sporting event. When they tell a person with cancer "you got this!" or "keep fighting" or the other cliches from CancerLand. Who are they to say these things? I know they mean well, but they sound so stupid. Like a cheerleader with pink pom-poms. How do they know the person has "got this"? How do they know "fighting" is going to help? It's like they have this back channel to a divine power who assures them that their friend with cancer is going to be okay? I am sure the person's family and oncologist would like to know that too... I hear it so often, it just gets really tiresome. That's one of the things I wish they would read my book for- to understand that there are better ways to support people with cancer, and to learn something real and useful about cancer before they are faced with it, in themselves or someone close to them, so they can be part of the solution, instead of exacerbating the problem and giving false hope because it makes them feel better about their own fears.

That probably sounds judgmental and harsh but that's how I experience that social phenomenon.

10. What one piece of advice would you offer to a new blogger?

Do it, write what you want, don't worry how you sound. Your readers will find you and you'll attract a following. Just keep at it. If people don't like it, they don't have to read it.

11. Share something most people do not know about you. A secret sort of thing.

When I'm not out running, my favorite thing to do is be home with my dogs and just hanging out. I'd rather do that than be around other people.

12. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Playing with my dogs and scratching their bellies, gardening, cooking, hanging out with Dennis (my husband) and photographing scenery and landscapes, in hopes that someday I'll get motivated to paint in pastels again.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Summer Urban Adventure: DIY 50 Miles

The race I'd signed up for on July 21, the Lactic Acid Trip 24 hour, in Bailey, on a track, got postponed until October. Since I don't know that I can make it and the weather could be an issue in October, I decided to make my own 24 hour run. I asked around for some places where I felt I could run safely all night in a loop that would allow me easy and frequent access to my aid station. My friends Crisann, Felix, and Joanne all live in a quiet neighborhood in the north part of town and Crisann offered to let me use her house as my aid station and bathroom.

The benefits of this run would be a safe place to run alone in the dark, multiple short loops for variety yet easy aid access in case of hot weather, the availability of a deep gravel path similar to the conditions I'll encounter at Across the Years, and little traffic.

I sprained my ankle in June when blinded by the sunrise, I stepped on a pine cone and rolled forward. It had been about 6 weeks since the sprain and I was doing well with it, until last Wednesday Crisann and I were out hiking near the Rawahs and I misstepped and rolled over on it again, re-tweaking it. It only hurt at the moment I did it, and then it seemed to be okay after some ice, ibuprofen, and rest for a couple of days. I was a bit concerned about the ankle but I taped it the morning of the run and it held up fine other than getting puffy the day after the run.

I woke up at 3 am, unable to sleep very well, but I had a good five hours of sleep- which is enough to get through another 24 or so hours. My car was mostly packed with my supplies, all I had to do was load the coolers with ice, drinks, and food that I'd prepared in advance. I threw everything in and drove to Crisann's, set up my table, coolers, and junk in her driveway. They left the outdoor lights on, and I was set up in 15 minutes and ready to go. I started at 4:30 am on the nose.

It was cool but humid, 69 degrees at the start, and I began by doing the short loop around her neighborhood which was about 1.15 miles according to my GPS. Once the sky got a little lighter, I went out the other two loops, one of which I called the fork, and the other an out and back to the main street leading to their subdivision. One was about 1.65 miles and the other was 2 miles. Both of these had hills and climbed a little less than 50 feet each, but I knew the vertical would feel good for variety and would add up over the day.

The sunrise was worth every second of sleep deprivation. Looking east toward I-25 across the plains, the sun was a huge orange globe and the light reflected pink on the silos and buildings at the Budweiser plant.
Once the sky got light enough, I planned to do about ten percent of my miles on the gravel path that winds through the neighborhood. Most of it is loose, deep gravel, exactly like the Across the Years course. I want to condition my feet for Across the Years, which I plan to run in December, and last year the gravel portion, which is about ten percent of the course, killed my feet. I need to be ready for that if I want to make it through a couple of days of running on that course.

My goals for the day were to run 80 miles or 24 hours, whichever came first, to get 8 miles of gravel running, and to run for 6 hours of the time out there.

About two hours into the run I got a text from Felix, who lives around the corner from Crisann, asking me where I was in the neighborhood. I happened to be at my table at the moment. Felix came over and met me, and we started running together. He also took me on a loop around the lake in their neighborhood, which was a nice distraction from the usual loops. Along the way we ran into Joanne, who was out on her run, so the three of us did a few miles together including some of the gravel path.

Felix and I have been friends for many years now, and he's an amazing athlete. He's an ultraendurance cyclist, swimmer, runner, climber, and I'm probably forgetting something. He was on my crew for the Badwater Double, and he was there during the infamous SpongeBob hallucinations. He always seems to show up at the right moment, whether it's for joining me for my birthday runs or arriving in the middle of nowhere in the desert with pizza or ice cream, or coming up with a conversation topic completely out of the blue that distracts me from whatever discomfort I was thinking about at the moment. He always makes me laugh.

We spent a few chunks of time reviewing Spanish vocabulary and conversation, and talking about assorted topics that at this point I can't even remember. The day got progressively warmer and the shady spots fewer, and there was a lot of humidity. Big thunderheads were accumulating over the foothills but the sun was blazing until we got a little cloud cover toward the end of the day. The temperature was in the 80s and got up into the low 90s by mid-day, but the humidity was steady.

We knocked out the 8 miles of gravel before noon, and I got two solid hours of running in by late morning and decided to throw in minimal running the rest of the day until it cooled down in the evening, then I would focus on getting the full 6 hours of running in. I was drinking plenty, taking in S-caps and peeing enough, and I filled my bandana with ice, keeping a big ice pillow on my neck to stay cool.

All day I struggled mentally, I wanted to get into a rhythm and zone out, listen to my tunes and keep a steady walking pace. But somehow I couldn't do it. I was constantly distracted, the neighborhood had too many twists and turns, things to look at, and there were no "blank" areas where I could just tune out and lose myself. Felix was cognizant of my need for alone time and he sort of did his own thing, loosely following my route but giving me the space he thought I'd need, and that was great. But somehow I could not get my mind in the place I needed to be, to enjoy my run. It was like my brain as constantly being called on to look at something, notice something, and I felt overstimulated in that setting. Maybe it's just where my brain was that day.

Felix and I had talked about recent events and how we cope with them. I felt pretty traumatized after the past week between the news of how the President botched things at NATO with our allies and then the Helsinki summit where he looked like an oversized kid who had just been berated, punished, and sent to his room by Putin. Felix told me his strategy for such things- by tuning it out and not listening to the news. I told him how I need to find a better strategy for dealing with all of it, because it upsets me so much.

I was hoping this run would be a chance to reset, clear my mind, and let go of all that worry and frustration. Even though I didn't think about those events during the run, I still could not get my mind into a calm, relaxed place. I started to think about cutting it short for another day, but decided to keep going until the temperatures cooled down in the evening, to see if I could get my mind off things in the dark. After about 30 miles my mental struggle was overwhelming, despite my attempts to zone out with music and run the least stimulating parts of the course.

Whenever it's humid I tend to chafe badly and often get heat rash, and by afternoon I was greasing my legs where the seam on my shorts was rubbing. I didn't see the extent of the chafing until 11 hours in, when I rewarded myself for reaching 40 miles by changing my clothes and re-greasing. I had an outline of my running bra that was chafed- under my armpits and across my chest, and a few spots on my shoulders. I knew I'd be screaming when I finished and took a shower.

Felix would run with me and whenever I stopped at Crisann's to get more food, drinks, or ice, Felix would run over to his house to get his own supplies. Then he'd come back and find me on the course. Usually I'd see him sprinting toward me as I continued in my slow, steady walk.

After my clothes changing break, when Felix found me, he was wearing a "Team Beef" shirt. At that point I was at about 42 miles and it cracked me up. I don't even know why it strikes me as so funny, but if you knew Felix, it would make you laugh too.

I was really craving ice cream sandwiches at that point, and Crisann made an attempt by stopping at Trader Joe's earlier and picking up some ice cream sandwiches. Except they were soy ice cream sandwiches. I tried one and it actually wasn't bad for the first few bites, but then the chalkiness hit me. Not the same. I thanked her but explained there's a reason why I wear a tiara that says "Princess".

I called Dennis around 5 pm and asked him if he could bring me a real ice cream sandwich and maybe some food around 6:30. After another half hour I changed my mind. I'd had enough. I decided to keep going until 50 miles and call it a day. I just wasn't having fun, and I needed to save it for another time. I called Dennis back and told him my plan, and let Felix and Crisann know. I kept going until 50, it wasn't quite sunset, but I'd been on my feet for a little over 15 hours and it was enough. I felt like even in the dark, there were enough things I'd have to watch out for- like cars parked on the street, cracks in the sidewalk or road, corners, curbs, and the usual neighborhood activities that would continue to be a distraction- my brain would never be able to get into a relaxed state.

The official name of the run changed from the DIY 24 Hour to the DIY 50. And Felix, in his usual state of awesomeness, had completed 50 miles too. In about 2 hours less than it took me. Crisann and Felix helped me load up my car and I was soon home to Dennis, the girls, and food.The ice cream sandwich had to wait until Sunday, but I finally got my indulgence.

So... I got a decent 50 mile training run in, with a good portion of gravel, in the heat and humidity, with lots of mental distraction. I'll have to look for another opportunity for a long training run in August. But it was a memorable experience, shared with my great running buddy, and will go down in the history books as another urban adventure.

It was like turning lemons into tepid, sun-fermented, bug protein-infused lemonade, served on the rocks over neck bandana ice cubes and a sweat-crusted rim.

Afternotes: Worst heat rash I've ever had maybe with the exception of Badwater. Feet were fine other than heat rash, terrible chafing on my upper body, and my left ankle looks like a baseball tennis ball. But nothing hurts! No problems going up and down the stairs, walking, or moving. No blisters whatsoever. What's next? Bring it on!!

Photo credits: Felix Wong

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Locusts: Part Two


Dennis and I first met each other in Gunnison at a 5k in 1986.  The town has changed a lot since then but not so much that it’s lost its feel, it’s the crusty old ranchers and the college, and the tourist industry.

This weekend was our 28th anniversary, a day we share with our friend Kirk Apt’s birthday. Kirk, Keith, Dennis and I have a long, shared history as friends. They live in the Grand Junction area now and we don’t see them nearly as often as we used to.

We wanted to go up to Crested Butte and Gunnison for the weekend and take the girls with us. It would be their first longer road trip than 3 hours, and their first time staying in a hotel. Kirk and Keith were planning to go up to Crested Butte, too, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to get together again.

We left Fort Collins Friday morning ahead of the worst weekend traffic, with lots of stops along the way- lunch in Buena Vista, our property, the Mountain Spirit winery near Salida and then over Monarch down into the green Gunnison Valley along Tomichi Creek.

That same feeling (link to old post) came over me as we descended from Monarch Pass, into the promised land…


We stayed at a motel on the east end of town, we checked in and then we went into town and took the girls for a walking tour of Western State campus. They loved swimming in the old irrigation ditches at the park and on the streets in town.




















We planned Saturday around being with Kirk and Keith. We met at the Brush Creek trailhead. Dennis took the girls for a hike and a swim since he’s not running for hours yet.  Keith went ahead of us as she is a road runner and a lot faster than we are. Kirk and I stayed at leisurely pace and his friend Ben ran with us.











We ran a 15 mile loop most of the way around Mt. Crested Butte that dumps us out at Gothic. It goes on single track trail in and out of meadows and aspen forests, skunk cabbage and wildflowers, spruce and lodgepole pine, between about 9000 and 11000 feet. There are some good steady climbs and gentle descents.
Once we hit the turnoff that heads toward Pearl Pass there were no more motorized vehicles. No more locusts on their dirt bikes and ATVs making noise and tearing up dust.


Finally, peace. For five solid hours. I could hear the birds, the wind blowing the aspen leaves, and creeks flowing and rolling over rocks. It was a perfectly clear day with few clouds in the endless depth of blue. The wildflowers were out, the early season ones were in full bloom- lupine, skyrocket, bluebells, mules ears. The cows weren’t out yet, so things were still in good shape, the water was clean and the trails were clear without cow pies and deer flies.

It was dry for the area, still green, but it felt more like July than June. There was hardly any snow left up high. I used to ride my mountain bike on these trails back when I lived here, before I became an ultraunner. I could remember the rides and trail runs vividly. Views in every direction, of avalanche chutes and dry ski runs and snow cornice-topped red mountains.

We saw a few mountain bikers and a couple other runners, but for a Saturday on a summer weekend, it was surprisingly quiet. The tourist season doesn’t really get going until closer to July. I kept asking Kirk the names of the mountains as I couldn’t remember from 20-30 years ago. More memories flooded my head. Sensory overload.

On our run Kirk and I caught up, as we haven’t seen each other in at least 7 years even though we still talk occasionally. We took our time, at a good hiking pace and running the smooth descents and a few flats.


I felt good. Even though I struggled with the altitude the whole way, as long as I stopped to catch my breath and bring my heart rate down, I was fine. I felt lightheaded the whole way, but it was a good lightheaded. Another 1000 feet higher and it wouldn’t have been a good lightheaded!

I sprained my ankle slightly the week before, so I was a little concerned about the trails, but I forgot how smooth they are. I taped it and brought my ankle brace just in case, but I didn’t need it.











After about 5 1/2 hours, we got to Gothic.  Kirk and Ben went toward Mount Crested Butte, and I went into Gothic, where Dennis and Keith were waiting for me. We hung out at the buildings and I got some cold lemonade. Then we took Keith back to her car at Brush Creek.


That was my longest run since the 24 hour in April.  My legs felt fine, I felt strong with the climbing and running, it was just the lack of oxygen that was difficult.




We went back to Gunnison to get cleaned up and then headed back up to Crested Butte where we met Kirk and Keith for dinner at Donita’s. I worked at Donita’s bussing tables for a short time before I started coaching at Western State College in the late 80s. While we were there we saw people I’ve known since those days- Kay, Heli, and another woman, Jenny, whom I knew from 30 years ago. It was funny, she remembered me as “the runner”.   


Town has a lot more retail development and houses all around, things look newer and shinier, but fortunately the locusts were few. It wasn’t busy at all, we walked right into Donita’s at 6 pm on a Saturday evening and got seated right away. By the time we left it was getting busy.

After, we headed back to Gunnison for the night. The sky was very hazy, there was a big fire north of Durango near Purgatory. To the south you could hardly see anything.

I needed this for my psyche, for a calm feeling, after 2 weeks ago being up in the mountains with all the freaking locusts.

Sunday morning, we planned to meet Duane Vandenbusche, Dennis’s old coach from Western, at the W cafe for coffee. We had an enjoyable conversation and it’s always great to see that he never changes. Now in his 80s, he’s sharp and still remembers everybody and everything, and he looks great.



Then it was time to head back over the hill. We got in line behind the locust train over the passes back to Denver.

The extra 3 hours of driving each way was worth it. One more pass, and that sweet sage smell in the air...spruce, lodgepole pine, along with the aspen and arnica.

Coming back is like coming full circle in life. This is where living started.  

I am thankful that I have the memories from when I lived here and got to explore the backcountry before the throngs of people came. When you could go out and not see anyone else all day.

But there’s still some peace here, there is escape possible, you just have to choose your timing wisely. Until the next adventure...