Scatter my ashes here...

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings

Yesterday it was 80 degrees.

This morning, another reminder that we're in Colorado, and it is April.

Two weeks from now I'll be in Florida. Today, I'll be in the sauna.

Yesterday I was exhausted, after two busy days at work. I had a huge list of things I needed to do, but I spent the whole day in a fog. I missed the Wednesday night run, I was so tired I had to lie down at 5:30 pm and then fell asleep until Dennis came home.

The only productive thing I could do in the morning was go to the sauna and sit there, in the 170 degree temperatures, according to the thermometer in there. I lasted 30 minutes. I had it mostly to myself so there was very little opening and closing of the door to lower the temperature. I started sweating after 2 minutes, so I knew it was hot. I usually start sweating after 13 minutes these days.

I'm starting to get sauna hair again. I'll chop it off after the race.

The snow is pounding down, wet heavy stuff, and it's 34 degrees outside my window, weighing the branches down on the newly leafed-out trees. I hope this turns to rain soon because I'd hate to have broken trees.

Today I seriously need to start planning what I need to pack for my race. I'm going to enjoy my day today. There is something so enjoyable about reaching the point where you're tapering for a race, even though my training this winter and spring has hardly felt like a challenge, I've done so few miles.

The agenda today includes the sauna, a weight workout, a run in this wet cold white slop at some point, and trying to entertain the Buffaloes without getting them all muddy. Yesterday I gave them a bath.

I should have known better.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is it spring yet?

After a week of horrendous weather, driving rain, 30 mph wind, and still cold enough to wear too many layers, today it finally eased up during the morning, enough to run 30 miles easy on the bike path and 5 mile loop.

Friday I'd planned to do my long run but I got called from work and offered double time, and it has to be really nasty outside for me to choose work over running, even with the extra carrot. I worked a 12 hour shift and then paid for it Saturday, I was exhausted. I don't generally like to do long runs the day before I go back to work because I get too hungry and I'm usually tired. But I had no choice at this point.

The 30 miles went by like nothing, I didn't even feel tired when I was done, so that's a good thing. I did have to come back to the house after 13 miles and put more clothes on, I was freezing! Must be the sauna. My hair is drying out, too. Maybe I should get my thyroid checked just in case.

I did take a nap this afternoon, and when I woke up, the sunshine was turning to rain again. My neighbor brought a perennial over yesterday and I planted it in the rock garden. I have been meaning to go to the nursery and get more perennials but just haven't had time.

Whatever happened to the month of April? Three weeks to the Keys and I haven't even started thinking about it! I've been too busy! I need to start packing and planning what I need to bring or send to Mike in Florida before we leave. My office is a chaotic mess of piles of unorganized papers. One of these days, before summer...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Runs with Earthworms

The past two days have consisted of running mostly in downpours, looking like a drowned rat minus the tail. Yesterday morning I took the Buffaloes for their 5 mile loop before the rain moved in. By the time I went out to meet the Wednesday night group at the Roost, the sky was looking dark gray.

We took off on our 6 mile group run and about halfway through we started feeling the drops. By the time we were a mile out from the Roost on the way back, big bolts of lightning were striking somewhere south of Ft. Collins and the rain was getting serious. I was in fast mode and I made it back to the Roost about a minute before the downpour hit. By the time the rest of the group showed up a few minutes later they were drowned rats.

I stuck around to wish Cat and Felix good luck on their run in Kansas this weekend, wishing them no tornadoes. They are running a 100K race on trails, Cat's longest distance yet. I wish I could go, but with three weeks to the Keys I will stay home and run 50K in between downpours.

Today I went out in what started as a light rain, but by two miles into it the water was pouring down my back and I might as well have been running in the shower. I decided to make it just seven miles and go home, hit the sauna, and see if things got better later.

On my way in to the gym, I ran into Rick who is on his way to California tomorrow to run the Big Sur marathon. Good luck, Rick, and enjoy it. That is one race on my to do list.

There was a big blue hole in the sky as I left the gym and I went home and took the Buffaloes for their run before it got cloudy and cool again.

This week I have been tired in general, but feeling good on my runs. Just this past week it finally kicked in, both mentally and physically, that I have made progress in my fitness over the winter. I feel much stronger and can hold a decent pace for a long time, even at the end of a tough run. I still have no speed whatsoever but I can work on that over the summer.

Summer will be here soon. I want to run the Lean Horse 100 in August but I don't want to feel like I'm training for a race all summer. I think I can get away with just a couple of long runs this summer and the rest of my time just doing 10 to 20 mile runs, which don't take up my entire day. I want to put some energy into painting this summer again, I have missed it. I look forward to going out to Death Valley in July again. And Dennis and I will get up to the cabin with the Buffaloes as often as we can.

In other areas of my life, I'm looking forward to change, which sometimes comes slowly, but it will happen when the time is right. I'm tapping my feet at times, but trying to be patient, anticipating good things, and expanding my horizons. It has to rain really hard sometimes before you get flowers. One of these days it will look more like this:

The horizon is a good thing to focus on. Keep looking forward, keep the chin up, focus beyond the shortcomings of the present, and be grateful for all the nice people who are in my life now. And the Buffaloes, always the Buffaloes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Horsetooth Half Marathon

Today I ran the Horsetooth Half Marathon, one of the popular local races that's been around for a million years, or at least as long as I've been running. It's a hilly course that starts by Hughes Stadium and climbs over 500 feet in the first 2 miles. It continues north passing over the dams of Horsetooth Reservoir, along Centennial Drive with views of the foothills, Horsetooth Rock, and Fort Collins, with plenty of challenging climbs until the big descent toward the town of Bellvue.

Then it takes a right over Bingham Hill road, more hills to climb, then turns north on Overland Trail, followed by a turn onto the Poudre Trail bike path for the last 5 miles of fairly flat concrete into Old Town Fort Collins, and ends at New Belgium Brewery (where they brew Fat Tire Ale).

I ran well, I didn't expect to cover the course in much less than 2 hours but I ended up with 1:49 and a few seconds. I powerwalked up all the hills, which was a big advantage for me to pass all the people who went anaerobic trying to run up the big climbs. I flew by them without working very hard on the way down. Then on the bike path I was able to manage sub-8 minute miles without working too hard, leaving me with a feeling of confidence for the upcoming Keys 100 race. I'm feeling a little more fit than I expected to.

I was also happy to beat my time from last November at Boyd Lake, since this is a much tougher course. I did make some progress over the winter. I was sort of dreading the run all weekend and this morning, I'm really not into mass humanity and fast running, but it turned out to be perfect weather, cool and sunny after the fog burned off, and I enjoyed my run.

This afternoon I took advantage of the sunny day to plant the wildflower seeds in the rock garden.

Only four weeks to the Keys!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


It's been warmer lately, the days have been around 60 degrees, but the sun won't shine! This winter has lasted too long.

The past week flew by, and I am exhausted from so much going on. That's okay, I only have one long run left next week and then I can pretty much taper until mid-May. Now I'm spending more time in the sauna. I did three days in the sauna this week and was in there 41 minutes today.

I had an interesting conversation with another person in the sauna on Friday. We sat in there and talked about our philosophies of life and spirituality. We come from very different backgrounds, for example, he served in the Marine Corps, but we still found we had much in common. Rarely do I share more than a few words with people I meet in the sauna but this conversation kept going.

The sauna is a lot busier these days than it was the past two years, there are a lot more people at the gym now and it's hard to find time alone in there unless I go on weekday mornings. I'm still finding it relaxing except when there are too many people going in and out, opening and closing the door and letting cool air in! I like it to be at least 160 degrees. Most people only stay for 5 to 10 minutes, so I get to do a lot of people watching, which is usually entertaining. I love the college students who talk about older people, like their parents' age.

I had a different conversation this week with a woman I'd never met before, who is a cancer survivor. This person could not understand why I do ultras. She was expressing concern for my health. She felt that the stress on my body could result in my getting sick, perhaps with cancer. I told her I appreciate her concern, but I've been doing this for 20 years, my body has made adaptations, and I know to listen to my body when I'm stressed. If I tried to restrict my activities to things that wouldn't stress my body, I don't know what would be left to do.

Yes runners do get cancer. So do non-runners. I've heard of ultrarunners being diagnosed with leukemias, lymphomas, and other types of cancer. That doesn't mean running ultras is bad for you. If you put it that way, then everything is bad for you, since the general population has a high incidence of various types of cancer.

The point for me is that I'm enjoying what I do. I love to run ultras, and I'm living my life the way I want to. I wouldn't be happy if I didn't do ultras. I'd rather live my life to the fullest, being happy.

The Buffaloes are happy these days. They howl in the rain at the sirens from the fire trucks, and Iris loves to hang out with her scorpion.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What Really Matters

Today I presented a slide show and question and answer session at the beginning of the PVHS Foundation's Cancer Survivors' Day event, before the featured presentation by Sean Swarner.

The Cancer Survivors' Day event was inspirational and enjoyable. They had a smaller turnout than expected but it was an enthusiastic audience asking lots of questions.

Sean's presentation was inspirational, he is truly an amazing, determined, focused and dedicated young man. Sean is a two-time cancer survivor, as a teenager, first Hodgkin's lymphoma, then a type of sarcoma that resulted in part of his lung being removed. He has climbed the highest peaks on all continents, and intends to go to the North and South Poles. He is raising funds and awareness for his own foundation.

He talked in detail about his climbing especially of Everest. He had some great things to say about hope, inspiration, and motivation. The thing he said at the end was what I liked best. He said, "We shouldn't worry about dying, we should worry about not living a life that matters."

Right on, Sean.

I believe it's how we live our lives, with enthusiasm, integrity, and purpose, that gives meaning to our time here, no matter how long or short that time is. Life is as big as the sky.

I presented the slide show and answered questions for about 40 minutes before Sean's presentation and got lots and lots of questions about ultramarathons. The other night I was out at a birthday party for Dennis's friend, lots of PVHS people, and I got a lot of questions there too. I love the curiosity, people are fascinated, and I love doing these presentations. I always hope that I find out later that I inspired someone to do something extraordinary, whatever that means for them.

Sean also said some other things in his talk that I found interesting. For example, his approach to visualization of reaching a goal and then making things happen is similar to mine. I sometimes think people who participate in activities that are considered "extreme" or out of the ordinary in terms of endurance and effort, are wired differently.

But I also believe that wanting to do something, really wanting something, is a factor in driving oneself to see it through to completion. I was asked what I do when I feel down, when I feel like quitting. I answered, in Badwater, I wanted it so badly, I never even questioned once that I was going to finish. And when I did finish, I didn't want it to end, I wanted to keep going.

Someone else asked me if I ever pray when I'm out there. I told her, I don't actively pray but I think there's a process going on in the back of my mind that is something like that. I told her how my friend Chris (a cancer survivor himself) says running is like one long prayer.

After we were done speaking, I talked with Sean briefly, he told me he thinks I'm crazy. I told him I think he's crazy, but I think it's so admirable what he does.

Soon my slide presentation will be on You Tube. I'll post a link to it then. I am also going to give a similar presentation this Thursday at Sharing the Cancer Journey.

I've been tired this week. I cut my mileage a bit as a result. I won't do anything longer than 20 miles at a time this week or next. I know endurance-wise I am where I need to be, having done four 50+ mile runs within the last 3 1/2 months. I heard from Mike in Florida, we are starting to make our plans for race strategy. He has a van for a crew vehicle. He's running the entire course with Bob, the race director, in a few weeks. He'll be able to update me on any changes in the course.

Mike advised me not to even think about a PR, based on the weather conditions. I am prepared to finish, and whatever additional time I have left over on the 32 hour time limit will be extra sleep time on the beach!

I'm starting to get excited about the trip to Florida and the race. I need to dig out my Jimmy Buffett tunes!