Scatter my ashes here...

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Despite the Horatio Alger myth that a few people still cling to, in the world we live in, you can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

No one does it all alone, everyone needs help to get somewhere. No one ever achieved anything in this world without having some basic support to lean on, whether it's a family source of money, connections to other people, a solid secure upbringing, combined with good health and a little luck.

For anyone who struggles, whether it's from being impoverished, poor education, lack of parenting, addiction, abuse, mental health conditions, or whatever it is, it's not possible in this world to achieve a secure, stable, comfortable quality of life all on your own. Yes it does take a certain amount of self-discipline and motivation, but having the power and resources at your disposal to really succeed at changing your circumstances requires help from other people. No one exists in a vacuum.

The AIR Foundation seeks to help individuals rise out of homelessness and addiction through

Activity Inspired Rehabilitation

This Denver-based organization helps people who are in recovery programs train for marathons, to help them work toward gaining the building blocks needed to succeed in the world. Some of the AIR Foundation's goals include assisting people in recovery with goal-setting, self-confidence, self-discipline, teamwork, giving support and encouragement, providing connections with the community, and helping them navigate a path to success to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Last Saturday, members of the Fort Collins Running Club and other local runners joined members of The AIR Foundation and it's founder, ultrarunner Nick Sterner, for a run at Horsetooth Reservoir on a cold, windy day. About 25 people came out for the run.

photo credit: AIR Foundation and Fort Collins Running Club by Nick Sterner
At the end of 2008, this organization lost it's funding. The smiles, determination, and positive attitudes of the participants who joined us showed what a great program this is, giving people hope and support that they use for success. One of the participants proudly announced that he is about to graduate from the program, and he's been clean and sober for 16 months as a result of being involved with the AIR Foundation. I could see and feel his enthusiasm in his encouragement of the other runners as he powered up the steep hills above the reservoir.

If you're interested in supporting the efforts of The AIR Foundation, go to their website.

This organization is helping people locally, and the evidence is in the smiles of the participants who are so proud of their accomplishments. Anyone who struggles deserves a chance. For anyone who struggles with addiction, it often takes much more than one chance, and this program is giving a chance to real people, real human beings, who might otherwise still be out on the streets and living with no hope.

It's worth supporting with whatever you can give.

Because every human being deserves to be this comfortable.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Banana Diet

The question was raised on Woofie's ultra discussion list, "How do I get better at running ultras?"

My running partner Catharine is new to ultras and she's trying to figure it out to prepare for her first 100 mile race this year.

Next week I am doing a long training run, it will involve something in the range of 10 hours or 50 miles. We're going to allow 12 hours which will include up to 2 hours of rest breaks. Catharine is going to join me. She's going to use it as an opportunity to work on her eating, drinking, and resting habits.

What does this have to do with bananas?

About 15 years ago I was running the Pueblo Marathon and I was standing at the starting line with all the other runners. I had my usual pre-race snack, a banana, in my hand and I was eating it as we waited for the race director to make announcements before the gun went off.

Everyone was bouncing around with all their pre-race energy. I stood there calmly, eating my banana, with my water bottle pack around my waist. Few people were carrying waist packs, they planned to rely only on the water cups at aid stations. One of the other runners looked at me, surprised that I was eating right before the start. She said, "I could never eat right before a race, I'd be sick."

I said, "This keeps me from going out too fast."

She looked at me like I had just said the strangest thing she ever heard. But a few seconds later, she said, "I might be wishing I ate a banana when you pass me around 20 miles."

As it turned out, I did pass her late in the race, and I went on to finish second or third among the women. When she got to the finish line she came up and told me she remembered the banana when I flew past her. She said she was going to try it in her next marathon.

I want to show Catharine that the things you'd think would slow you down, like eating, drinking, walking, and resting at aid stations, even sleeping, actually buy you time. They are part of a strategy of self-care that pays off dividends in the second half of a long race.

As I've moved to longer distances, I have come to rely on these strategies even more, building in rest breaks, taking the time to eat well, followed by a period of walking in order to digest and use the calories. I also take time to get off my feet and change any clothes that are uncomfortable, like a wet bra, socks, or anything else that I'm aware of. I like to wash my face and neck because they feel sticky and sweaty. Inside my elbows and behind my knees I do the same. That always makes me feel better.

I follow this run/eat/walk/run pattern using the eating periods as rest breaks to drink, take in electrolytes and calories, stretch, get off my feet, and get comfortable.

When I switch from the walking back to running, it takes a few minutes for my leg muscles to adjust to the rhythm again, but after a short time I feel refreshed and running is so much easier.

There are so many factors in a long race, like eating, drinking, electrolyte intake, efficient crew, efficient use of rest stops, staying warm enough, and putting a little thought into what you'll need before you reach the aid station so you don't waste time. If your brain isn't working because you've neglected to take care of your caloric needs or you're getting hypothermic, you're not going to be able to think clearly and you'll waste time.

If it's cold outside or you've been running all day and are depleted, and going into the night, getting out of your wet clothes and dressing adequately are equally important. You burn a lot more calories if you're trying to stay warm. People who don't understand might say, "Well isn't that the point of all this, to burn calories?"

No it's not the point. A successful finish means you minimize your energy output to keep all your momentum going in a forward direction.

It's a complete change in your thought process if you've been indoctrinated like most runners who start by running 5Ks and 10Ks, move up to marathons, then venture into ultras. The marathon mentality is a tough one to break, that idea of running as fast as you can, as lightweight as you can, with little to no intake of calories and a minimum of fluids. The "speed is everything" paradigm.

That strategy works if you're an elite runner in the shorter distances, but it doesn't apply to ultras, at least not once you get into the 100 mile length races and longer.

The other thing I hear runners say is,"I'm afraid if I start walking I won't be able to start running again." You can do it. It takes practice in training runs to get used to the awkward feeling of making the transition from walking to running, but it is all mental. Some people don't believe it so they won't take a chance to try it.

They are too afraid, because they don't have enough confidence in their ability, or they still view walking with that old school mentality, that it's not really running, or that they've somehow failed if they don't run every step of the distance.

It takes some faith to know that a slower pace will allow you to run faster in the end, but it only takes a few marathons of going out too hard and then bonking and dragging yourself the last 10 miles or so to the finish line to figure out that you're doing something wrong. Unfortunately I've seen a lot of runners who never quite get it, too afraid to try something new.

Try something new this year. Break out of your old habits, find the things that aren't working, and make that leap of faith. You never know how far it might take you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The three second rule

Iris and Isabelle have a new year's resolution. They are going to run more this year. They are going to support their mom in her goal of being more obsessed.

Obsession comes naturally to Australian shepherds. They are the ultimate OCD dogs.

If you want to share my goal of being more obsessed with your running this year, here is some Australian shepherd wisdom to take with you on the run:

Run off the leash. Beg until you get your way.

Bark louder than all the other dogs. Fence fight until the other dog gets tired.

Soak up rays. Cool off in the snow banks. Drink when you're thirsty.

If it looks good, drool. If you want attention, look cute.

People are clueless, they need direction. Herd them where you want to go.

If you're out running and you get hungry, pick things up off the ground and eat them. It's easier than carrying a pack.

Don't eat cigarette butts. Spit them out. They're not good for you.

If it's not yours, leave it alone. Leave it alone if it's not yours.

And the most important rule is Mom's rule: If you have to sniff it more than 3 seconds, it's bad for you.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Go Get It!!!!

When you see something you want, go after it. If you've been drooling for a while, don't keep sitting there because eventually you'll drown!

I believe in making an adventure out of every day. When I didn't feel good last year, I wasn't doing that. I was fatigued and depressed. I felt like I wasn't living life fully. My running went down to almost nothing, and my enjoyment of life went with it. Everything I do in my life suffered. I wasn't sleeping, and my fatigue got to a point where I felt unable to function, until one day I had one of those experiences when you hit bottom.

None of us know how long we'll be here. If you listen to cancer survivors, you hear many of them say how much the experience made them change their behaviors, and their attitude toward life. When you get a reality check on your mortality, appreciating every day and making the most of it becomes a higher priority than ever before.

It's not necessarily to have a life-threatening illness to take that attitude, though.

Why not make the most out of every experience you feel is worthwhile? Why live life halfway, making a half-assed effort toward doing things?

For so many years I always wanted to do Badwater and never could get it all together, between the time, money, health, fitness, and most of all, energy. I've suffered from fatigue at various times, for years. You might ask, how can you run ultras and have fatigue? Well if you talk to many ultrarunners you'll find out that many of them do far more training miles and race events than I ever do. I have had to learn to manage it.

Even when I'm balancing things and managing my energy well, I still have fatigue. I am starting to learn that it's not so much fatigue but when my energy is misdirected. Being a creative person presents problems for the people who like everything to be black and white. I find myself living this theme over and over again in my life, because people don't know what to do with me.

You know, the people who don't color outside the lines, because that messes things up and they get off track with the plan. I drive them crazy. They like a safe, comfortable, narrow little tunnel to live in. When I let too much of my energy get caught up into their tunnels, it makes me crazy. I get tired of beating my head against the brick walls of their tunnels. I get frustrated, angry, and eventually, if I let it go too long, depressed.

I like to live my life so I can do things. I don't do brick walls, lines, or coloring books unless they have blank pages. I don't like to feel like I'm being restricted or held back from living to my potential. I have two choices. Shrivel up and die, or rebel and break out.

One of the clearest memories for me in the entire Badwater run was in the last 5 miles. I was powering up the final ascent to Whitney Portal on that impossibly steep road, and making great time on my sub 48 hour goal. One of the finishers ahead of me was on her way down in her support van after leaving the finish line. The van slowed down as it approached me, she hung her head out the window and dangled her finishers medal, and yelled, "GO GET IT!"

In my sleep deprived, euphoric haze, I'm sure I cut a few extra minutes off my finish time just by the little boost she gave me with those words.

Recently I was losing a lot of my energy in anger and frustration over a situation at work where I was not getting my needs met. I've taken a lot of steps to correct that and I am doing better all the time. There are things I'm unable to control, that are interfering with my "GO GET IT!". So I've had to take an alternate path, and it's taking me time and effort to clear the debris from that path so I can travel it.

Sometimes we can learn things from unexpected events. Sometimes we encounter people in our lives, and we don't understand why, but they make a huge difference.

I have a friend who is dealing with horrible anger, from a situation over which he has little control. When he is at his worst, it's painful to be anywhere near him, he exudes toxic, negative energy. He knows this, but he doesn't seem to be able to control it.

That's how he's coping with things right now, and no one is going to change that except him. I tried too hard to reach out to him and he wasn't having any part of it, he needs to do things on his own, his own way. So I've backed way off and let him know that I'm still here and I care what happens, but I'm staying away.

When he is able to let go of the anger, he is one of the most enjoyable people in the world to be around. I've learned a ton from him and his enthusiasm helped propel me to get off my butt and make a Badwater finish a priority, and in many ways he has been pivotal in helping me see where I need to go from here in my life's work. He's inspired me, including the times when he's been at his worst.

It's important to me to honor those people in my life. This past week I had a really nice conversation with that friend, one of the first we've been able to have in a long time. I caught him in a rare moment, when he'd let go of his anger. I appreciate him so much, anger and all, in ways I've tried to tell him but there really aren't any words for that. What it means to me is all wrapped up in the energy that's carrying me forward in my pursuit of new and exciting endeavors.

I'm off for a run now, and then I'll come home and get back to work. There's a lot to do.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blue Moon Across the Decades 12 hour run

As I think about the year ahead, I will focus on the good things that are coming my way, and I'm letting go and dropping the burden I've been carrying from the difficult events of the last year. I am thankful for the gifts in my life, and for the opportunities I had to grow and learn. Life is an ultra, and every finish line is the start of the next adventure.

I planned the Blue Moon Across the Decades run as my solution to missing Across the Years. I only wanted to do 12 hours over the two days, no big mileage goals, I'd be happy with 50. I only wanted to run 6 hours and then I could walk the rest of the time. I needed it for my head more than anything. This would be my longest run of 2009 if I went over 30.

This year has been pretty rough. In the past couple of months I've begun to see things more clearly, I've learned a lot and I'm doing a lot of personal growth, figuring out what I want and how to help it happen. I'm on a journey to steer my life back in a direction that feels right, that takes me back on the path that I know will lead me to happier places. Running, as always, is a big part of that and I haven't devoted nearly enough energy to it all year. I've allowed the energy-sucking forces to take away from my enjoyment and participation in my favorite activity. I can't let that happen anymore!

Since I haven't trained much all year, I didn't need to exhaust myself by running all night, trying to put in 100 miles or 24 hours or some big goal. I figured a 12 hour run would be enough to get some miles in and get my head cleaned out of some junk, and get focused on the good stuff ahead.

I took almost all of last week off, I was sick with a cold. I did one snowshoe run of 30 minutes that week. My legs felt sore each time I ran once I started up again. Weird. On December 30th I ran 11 miles, 5 in the morning by myself and then met Catharine and several others for a 6 mile moonlight run on the Poudre Trail. Afterwards we sat at Starbucks and talked, and I bought some snacks for my run the next day.

December 31 started like any other day in our household. The Buffaloes got their treats, went outside with mom to look at the sky, and ate their breakfast. The moon was full and setting in the west. It was 13 degrees outside our kitchen window. The humans had coffee and got ready for their day. Dennis got ready for work and I prepared to go on my run. Iris brought me her duck.

It was 10 degrees when I started, just after the moon set and the sun was rising in the southeast. I put on two pairs of tights and four layers on top, a set of gloves under my mittens, a neck gaiter, earband, and hat. I had my lightweight pack, just one bottle, a few gel packs, and my MP3 player.

I told the girls I'd be back to take them later but I needed to start my run alone. I wanted to get a good chunk of miles in before I had to make any stops.

I went west on the Spring Creek Trail out to the stadium before I turned around. I saw Larry from the running store but no one else I knew. There were few runners out so early. I got back to the house at 10:30 and got the girls' leashes. They danced around all excited. I wanted to take them for a decent run but they were pulling me on the ice and I didn't want to risk injury with my already tired legs.

Catharine and I made plans that I'd check my email when I got back to the house and if she could, she'd run with me to finish her mileage for the year. She had 7 miles to go on her annual goal.

I took the girls home after just 2 slippery treacherous miles on the ice. I promised them we'd do more after New Years. Our neighborhood never gets plowed. The streets are too small. I thought I was paying taxes too, but I guess that's not enough to get your street plowed after 2 blizzards. It's like 4 wheeling over a mogul run in the intersection at the end of our street. It's been cold and nothing has melted yet.

Regardless, I went home, refilled my bottle and drank a bunch of gatorade and water. I changed into dry clothes and left the house at 11:30 to meet Cat at the clinic. She met me coming up the Power Trail. We did our seven miles to get her goal for the year. It was a clear, perfect day, not too cold but we didn't get too warm, either.

Catharine reached her year goal of 3500+ miles, 3503 to be exact. That's 70 miles a week all year. I've never done mileage like that, I told her. Awesome job, Cat! We took a quick break for a photo op and then she went back to work and I ran home.

Becoming friends and running partners with Catharine over the past year is one of those gifts I am so thankful for, something I didn't expect or anticipate, but was meant to be. Who would have thought that here in Fort Collins I'd meet someone my own age who likes to run as much as I do, is open to doing the ultra distances and gets the same crazy ideas for training runs that I concoct in my head, that most people consider insane running plans.

It's one thing to have someone to share those miles with, but to find someone who can make just the right amount and topic of conversation, makes our runs that much more meaningful. We have a mutual friend, Steve, who knows we are two peas in a pod and when he found out we'd met each other and were running together, he said, "That's trouble!"

When I got home from the section with Cat I was starving. I had 27 miles in. I had left a can of soup on the counter to remind myself to eat, but I didn't need a reminder. I devoured the soup and made a sandwich. I drank more gatorade and took some magnesium. I took a long break, changed clothes again, and headed out for the rest of the daylight. I only needed a little over an hour to get my 6 hour running goal, and I wanted to do 8 hours on my feet for the first day, which would leave me only 4 hours for January 1st.

I decided I would run until the moon rose. I went out the bike path again. I walked a solid hour to let the food digest and I saw several foxes, and four deer. I thought about what it would be like to be circling the track at Across the Years, and thought of many of the runners, wondering how they were spending their holiday and what their running plans were. It was starting to get to late afternoon, about my favorite time of day at ATY. I always love sunset and going into the night. I'd stop and eat whatever food they had for us at the aid station, and get more warm clothes on, recharge my batteries and get out again, ready to listen to music and move forward under the night sky.

But this time I was on the bike path in Fort Collins, the sun was setting, and it was getting dark. I forgot to bring my light. I made it home at 5pm just before dark and left Dennis a note on the counter. I grabbed my light, put an extra layer on, and took off for my final 40 minutes.

When I got home it was exactly 8 hours of moving forward since I started, I had 6 hours of running in and 2 hours of walking, and I had 40.4 miles the day. The moon was full above the street and it was bright on the snow.

The girls greeted me with barking, smiling and howling. Dennis came home with some champagne.

I had a typical night of sleep that night. I woke up in the middle of the night, couldn't sleep for a while, then slept until 5:30 or so. I got up and made coffee, started the day again as usual. It was slightly warmer, 15 degrees outside the window. I wanted to drive over to the Roost and use my car as my aid station. The Roost was opening at 9 am for a sale and Cat and the others would be there to shop and then to run at 10 am.

I left the house and made one stop at Starbucks around the corner. I got a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and some so-called "low fat" banana chocolate chip coffee cake for the road. Eric, the awesome barista there, asked me how things were going in the world of crazy running. I told him what I was doing and I asked him to make that hot chocolate good for 20 miles. He said he calibrated it for 18, so he dumped a little more chocolate in there for the extra miles.

I parked at the Roost. No one was there yet but I could see Steve and the others inside setting up for the sale. I took off and did my first leg of about an hour and 20 minutes, stopping in the store after 9 am to do a little shopping. I got another pair of shoes and a running bra. At 10:00 I took off with Cat and the other runners, there was a group of about 20 of us. We ran about a 4 1/2 mile loop. The morning was getting warmer and the sky was clear. The clouds lifted from the front range and we were treated to these incredible views of Longs Peak, the Mummy Range, and Horsetooth Rock.

After the group run I decided to finish my last hour and change from the Roost. I said Happy New Year to everyone and took off for my final 7 miles. I did quite a bit more walking the second day, trying to get my fast walk rhythm again, even though I felt good when I was running. I had no idea what distances I was covering the second day since I don't run on those roads on a regular basis. I managed to get 17.4 in the four hours. I finished back at the Roost at 12 hours on the nose, with 57.8 miles for the two days. I went inside the store and had some water, hung out for a while talking with everyone before I left to go home.

When I got home, I took a shower, ate something, got comfortable and wrote down some goals for the year. Then I crashed on the bed with Iris for about 45 minutes. Dennis told me he could hear me snoring from all the way downstairs. Afterwards we went out for sushi. When we got home, I sat upstairs quietly for a while, reflecting on the run and the coming year, ready to take in all the good things ahead of me.

Then I went to bed before 8:00 and slept a solid 9 hours, without waking up! If 70 miles in 3 days is what it takes to sleep, I'm all for it! I hope I can spend this holiday next year back at Across the Years, but whatever happens is okay with me. I plan to be running, somewhere.

Happy New Year!