Scatter my ashes here...

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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ten Thoughts for the New Year

What a crazy couple of weeks to wind up my year! Life is unpredictable, it keeps you on your toes. I thought I'd share these ten thoughts as I move from 2011 to 2012.

1. Instead of being in Arizona as I'd hoped, I am still in Fort Collins. I am missing Across the Years. The real reason is in # 2 below. But I am also glad to be here, I rarely get to spend New Years with Dennis, and also, the drive would have been too much anyway right now, I'm still foggy in the afternoons from my thyroid not being quite right. I am starting to feel better in general though. I hope to attend the race next year as a participant, and run a new PR.

2. Part of the hazard of working in management is that that occasionally you get a wingnut- someone who is off their rocker completely, or has enough screws loose that the wheels come off at the slightest provocation. Dennis experienced this last week at work, in the process of a disciplinary action against one of his employees. Without giving away too many details of what happened, let's just say that we've felt somewhat like we're in a witness protection program this week. Fortunately our employer takes these situations very seriously and did everything possible to ensure he was safe, and not only that, they extended it to me. That's why I stayed home, I figured if I went away all I'd do is worry.

3. Writing- I've been doing a lot of it. Between guest blogposts, blogging for ONS, the Coloradoan column, and a few other writing projects, not to mention my own blogs, I've been doing a lot of typing at the computer. It's great, I love it. Blogging is such a great way to interact with readers. I spend a lot of time answering comments and e-mails as a result. It's been challenging, and I'm having fun. I'm looking forward to what 2012 brings. I just wrote this post today, check out giraffy's blog. She's a runner, but so much more. She's an amazing mom, who counts her blessings every day.

4. Another one of my favorite bloggers, Patricia Singleton, wrote a post about healing as a gift to ourselves. Her blog is about healing from childhood trauma and sexual abuse, but it applies to so many other things, too. All of us have experiences in our lives that require healing. I think this is a fantastic article.

5. Eradicating apathy- It's an election year, and a leap year. We all have an extra day in which to do good things. Make it count. Be an informed voter and exercise your right to vote. Healthcare reform, greed, and whether the government can work for the people, are three issues front and center this coming year. If it affects you or anyone else you know, get going. Don't sit there and let things happen. Speak up. If you're spending a lot of time texting or talking on your cell phone, use your electonic gadgets to spread the word about what's important to you. Mobilize other people to action, and follow through.

6. On nursing as a profession- I was replying in a private e-mail to some one who had commented on a blogpost I worte on nursing. After I replied to her, she wrote back to me and thanked me, then mentioned that she'd never heard such honesty from someone in a position of power and authority. Wow. I'm not in a position of power OR authority, I'm just a blogger. I don't even get paid to write. It took my breath away.

Blogging is such a powerful medium. And perceptions are powerful, too. Makes me a little fearful, that when I talk about nursing, I have to be careful what I say. But I have some serious opinions about the nursing profession. And it's funny, when I verbalize them, I rarely get disagreement from nurses who work on the front lines, in direct patient care. I love what I do, and I'm lucky to have landed where I am, because my employer is like a gem. I have never worked in a place where I've been treated so well in so many ways.

But so many nurses all over the U.S. still work under conditions that are little more than paid slavery. Where are the professional nursing organizations on healthcare reform? Why are they not advocating for themselves? We need to jump in, get involved at this juncture, to ensure that as we reform healthcare, nursing is reformed, too, so we receive the compensation and working conditions fit for a professional who is expected to operate under a heavy workload, stressful work, huge responsibility, and a high level of skill and knowledge.

7. Running- oh yeah, isn't that the purpose of this blog? I'm getting there. I reached 50 miles in a week, once. I'm doing strides. I'm trying to get enough sleep. January 1st is the first day of spring. No more excuses after that.

8. The girls got a new hedgehog and a frisbee for Christmas. Iris plays with both of them, Isabelle waits for Iris to grab the toy, then she chases Iris around.

I got some booties to keep my feet warm in the woman cave, too. Not pictured: Spongebob fleece pants and yellow spongebob t-shirt. I'll model those later.

9. The woman cave is done. Just a few little touch-ups, now it's time for furniture- a desk, chair, and storage for art supplies.

10. The conditions in our neighborhood are treacherous again. Every year, the ice dam happens, and the entire sidewalk and most of the street become a huge skating rink. The bigger streets and bike paths are clear, but getting out of my neighborhood is taking your life in your hands. Now we have 50 degree weather and it's melting everything. I hope it lasts long enough to see the retreat of the ice shelf. They should have science class field trips to our neighborhood, it could be a mini-model of Antarctica and global warming.

This is what I have to negotiate with the Buffaloes just to turn off of our street.

Skating rink in the first 0.1 miles of my run every day.

The ice dam at the end of the street.

Readers, thank you for coming to Journey to Badwater, I hope you'll keep reading, and thank you for putting up with my many tangents over the past 5 months since I've taken this long break from doing any serious running adventures. I suspect that some of the topics above are a few that I'll ramble to, in between training and racing. But I'm committed, January 1st, first day of spring, it's back to the business of running. Happy New Year, and Happy Journeys!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I'm really glad the axis of the earth has shifted tonight. I know it will lead to some better stuff soon. The past week has been really crazy, full of unexpected twists and drama that I really don't want to deal with. I don't have the energy or patience for it. But how boring life would be if it didn't freak you out every once in a while, and keep you on your toes.

The least of it was that I re-sprained my ankle last week. After 5 months of diligent rehab, I was out for an easy run, 4 blocks from home, stepped off the curb and landed just the right way to give it a good twist. I said a few choice words, and I was okay enough to run home. I iced, said a few more choice words, and then Isabelle reminded me by bending her ears that she does not like four letter words to be said in her presence.

Sorry, Sister Bella. Doesn't she resemble the Flying Nun with those ears and her habit?

The ankle hurt for two days, I'm taking a few days off now and it no longer hurts. The other stuff is a bunch of random crazy $**# that I won't go into, and will pass. It's not even a full moon, so I don't know what happened. My tolerance for people's crap is pretty low anyway, but it's below zero now, even though I feel like I'm just barely starting to feel a little better with my energy.

I made it through two days earlier this week without a nap. Although I did nap for 2 hours yesterday and 3 1/2 hours today. Probably why I'm awake at this hour blogging about solstice, I was up late enough to witness it. I have felt slightly better while running, until the ankle incident. I think it was because I can't stay awake most days past mid-afternoon, and I was running much later in the day than I normally do.

I also managed to almost rear-end someone in traffic the other day too. I was just not there. My mind was off somewhere else. It was close. Between locking myself out of the house and the car within a week's time, almost colliding with another car, missing my turn while driving that same day, twisting my ankle, and feeling really irritable, I know that I'm not back to myself. I'm in full RPB status. I don't do tired well.

Even though it looks like this tonight, January 1st is the first day of spring, did you know that?

In my world, it is.

Mostly I am tired of feeling tired and I'd rather be doing this than anything else right now. Soon, I will.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


It's a nice day, sunny and 40s. I was toast after work yesterday. We went out to Tortilla Marissa's for margaritas last night, I could barely keep my eyes open after one, then we went home and got some good sleep.

This morning I ran just short of 10 miles at 8:30 pace. I felt good. Started out with Dennis and Frank at Cathy Fromme Prairie and took the bike path. The boys turned around at the new bridge at Harmony road for their halfway point. In just 2 1/2 miles, with a little digging, I believe Frank now has the bug to do a 100 miler for his four years-off 40th birthday. Kids these days.

I ran home on the Spring Creek Trail. Since then Dennis and I have been working on the woman cave all day, with Iris and Isabelle's supervision. We're putting the laminate floor in. It looks amazing. Next step: trim and baseboards.

Iris was supervising Dennis's lunch, too.

Every woman is going to want her own cave after this. I foresee two possible scenarios: Dennis might be able to retire building woman caves, or go into hiding in an undisclosed location from the horde of angry husbands who will be after him.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Curing Cranky

I'm off today and I need something to cheer me up. I have been in a horribly cranky mood. It takes a while to start feeling better when I am going through the adjustment period, waiting for my thyroid medication to start working for me. It could take 6 to 8 weeks before I feel better. The good news is the thyroid ultrasound showed nothing but a shrunken, not very functional-appearing thyroid, and the nodule in question shrunk too, which is great news. Now all I have to do is wait for the increased dosage to kick in. Patience!

So far this week I have locked myself out of the house, locked myself out of the car, burned oatmeal on the stove, and bit the inside of my lower lip while eating soup.

Running is a little better, I didn't feel like falling asleep yet on any of my runs this week. But then, they've all been in the morning. I woke up before work yesterday at 4 am so I went for a 5 mile run. That made me feel oh so energetic by the end of my shift. But if I don't run then, I won't run at all.

I do well in the mornings, I feel pretty sharp and my enrgy feels normal. Around 11 am I start to fade, and afternoons are hell. I get annoyed with myself because I feel so sluggish. It's almost like my brain hurts when I ask it to do anything. Multitasking is difficult, and I get irritated with my own inability to function. My coordination and focus goes out the window. If I could stuff all my daily activities into the first 4 hours of the day it would be great. I'm in zombie land after noon, until bedtime, unless I take a long nap.

So my plan today is to paint the walls inside the woman cave. It's brainless, and at least I will feel like I'm doing something productive. I will also go out and run this morning, try to get my entire workout done before noon. The weather has been warmer, the ice sheets in the neighborhood are shrinking and the footing has improved. Today I'm planning no more than 10 miles with some fartlek. But first, a run with the girls, or I'll be in trouble.

The woman cave is looking better all the time. After I paint the walls we'll put the laminate floor in, and soon I'll be able to move in. I need to start looking for some furniture that will help me keep it open and uncluttered.

I am so envious of my running buddy Paul. He is running two races in Florida this spring, LOST and the Keys 100. I got an e-mail from him the other day and I want to tag along! But I can't. I'm saving my money and it would be silly for me to go run long ultras this spring when I'm not even doing 20 mile runs in training yet. I'm hoping to hit 15 on my long run this weekend. I'm going up to Horsetooth to get some hills in.

I need to get out to the woman cave, stat. I'm in a race with my brain!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Lately I've been avoiding King Soopers, the big store close to my house where I used to shop for a lot of our groceries. It's part of a national chain, Kroger. Instead I shop mostly at Sunflower Market, which is within walking distance of our house and is smaller.

King Soopers used to be a nice store as far as supermarkets go, but then they expanded it. As a result of the expansion, the aisles seem longer, narrower, taller, and more cluttered. You can't see where you're going, because the shelves are so high they impede the view of the directory that tells you what you can find in the next several aisles. And of course it's just what our expanding population needs- more choices of more bad food.

It's also very expensive. Things that are packaged are expensive. They are colorful and are wrapped in materials to make them more visually appealing. I find the supermarkets overwhelming. I feel bombarded with color, clutter, and noise. It's too much input for me, and you get distracted by all kinds of things that seem to jump in your face, which is no accident. You end up spending more money as a result.

Big box stores take a long time to get through if you just need a few items, usually you end up covering the entire store because things are spread out in different aisles. I also find it irritating when you have more than a few customers per aisle with grocery carts, because you have to maneuver around each other and it's hard to focus on finding the thing you want in the multitude of choices.

When I go shopping, for anything, I know what I want and I like to go in, get it, and leave. I find that big supermarkets are a huge waste of time and energy, so if I can't find it at Sunflower, I either don't need it or I plan one trip to the big box, preferably early in the morning before the crowds show up.

Now it's Christmas and every end cap, and all the big aisles, are full of glitzy plasticized garbage, and you have to listen to Christmas music, interrupted by advertisements. The store is crowded, even though they expanded, the aisles are not wider- just more numerous, so it gets to be really annoying when more than two or three people are shopping in the same part of the aisle.

So last night, as I was trying to get to the dairy case and having to navigate through freezer cases in the middle of the aisles, and huge cardboard displays of red, green and gold Christmas crap, I moved my cart to get out of another customer's way, and nearly knocked over a pyramid of chocolate covered Ritz crackers.

I have no idea how long these have been around, but it's new to me. It sounds disgusting, but I don't like Ritz crackers, and they fall into the category of things I would never buy unless I were running a really long ultra and needed salt, fat, and variety. And even then, I'd choose some other crackers.

Seeing this product struck me as so disgusting, I pictured people as wide as the aisles buying them, huge rolls of fat flopping off their waists, shirts that barely covered the bottom of their hanging pannus.

That people will buy this crap is what really bothers me. The food corporations are profiting off the destruction of our health. People spend money on a package of air, surrounded by cardboard and cellophane, with contents of so little nutritional value. I don't know what they cost, I didn't notice the price, but I imagine it's probably 3 or 4 dollars a box. And for that you could buy a gallon of milk, some yogurt, beans and rice, or some vegetables instead.

I'm sure the Nabisco corporation is planning to put a portion of their profits toward national health care and diabetes prevention.

It's apathy. Most people who shop at these stores do know better, but they fall into the traps of marketing. Someone is getting very wealthy off your failure to think. And it's not the people in the factories making the crackers, either.

If the store continues to sell things like this, they will have to expand again because no more than one person at a time will be able to walk down the aisle, they'll be so fat!

Come on people, use some part of your head besides your mouth! Quit supporting the gluttony!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What to eat on your first 100 miler

I just got an e-mail from a friend who signed up for his first 100 miler. He asked me to give him some pointers on nutrition during the race.

I gave him the short and long answers.

The short answer

Real food, as often and as much as possible.

The long answer

This could go on forever, but I can make it a lot simpler. First, consider what foods you like to eat. What tastes good to you? Comfort foods, things that don't upset your stomach, but have lots of calories and are fairly digestible.

Make a plan

If you have special nutritional needs or food allergies, then you need to factor those into your food choices and remember that you might not be able to rely on the aid stations to provide what you need.

If you will have a crew during a 100 mile race, then you have a lot of options. You can use aid station food if there is enough variety and calories to keep you going, or you can have your crew bring, or even cook things for you. If you're running near a populated area, you might have the additional options of restaurants or fast food.

If you're used to running fueled by bars and gels, it's a different story in a 100 miler. You're going to be out there for 24 hours or more, and in that time you do need some real food.

A race is not the place to be a prima donna. It's where you need fuel, you need it fast, and it needs to work. That means staying down once you eat it. Don't worry about a healthy diet during the race. You can do that on the other 364 days of the year. Just eat what appeals to you, but most of all, eat.

Practice in training runs

If you're not used to eating on the run, you need to practice and test different foods during your training runs, or you'll be in uncharted territory on race day. Figure out a way to run a loop back to your vehicle, or home, and try the different foods you think you'd eat in the race, and see how your stomach tolerates them.

This all takes planning and extra work on your long training runs but it will pay off on race day. Don't neglect this important aspect of your training. Same goes for drinks you might use, electrolyte replacement products, medication, or anything you'll put in your stomach on race day.

Aid station take-out

In a 100 miler you're most likely going to have some walking stretches. What works best for me is to eat a good-sized portion of food- not so much that I'm uncomfortable, but a substantial meal, right before I anticipate having a long walk, like before a long uphill stretch. That way you'll be going slow enough to allow digestion to take place, and if you take the food on the walk with you, you can eat it while moving forward. Sandwiches, burritos, a slice of pizza, or soup in a cup work well for aid station take-out.

Little plastic sandwich bags with zip closures work great for portion-sized foods if you're eating "on the run".

Remember, aid stations are not fast food restaurants, they are staffed by volunteers and often will cook something to order, which takes a little while to prepare. If you can let your crew know ahead of time that you'll want something at an aid station, they can get there ahead of you and get the process started so you won't have to wait so long when you're there. If you're on a short loop course, you can always ask that they have something ready for you on your next pass through. Remember that timing is approximate and you might arrive to cold or not-quite-ready food depending on how fast or slow you're running.

How to eat throughout the day

Before the race, the biggest thing for new runners is getting over their nervous stomach before the race. If you have the jitters you won't feel like eating much, but this is the time you need a lot of calories. I find that eating a big breakfast helps me because I can't go out so fast, and the calories I take in pay off later in the first day of the race. Taking in a few hundred calories spread out throughout the morning can help if you're too nervous before the start to eat much.

Keeping a steady stream of calories going works for some people, eating little snacks along the way. Some people like to eat at the times of their regular meals. Some do both. That's why it's so important to practice this on a long run that lasts all day, or into the night.


At night, a lot of people like to use caffeine to stay awake. Coffee, caffeinated drinks, energy drinks, caffeine-infused snacks, caffeine pills, or whatever works for you. Again, try it in training before you do it in the race. I like to start with a little caffeine in the afternoon of the first day. I drink small amounts of cola or coffee drinks from about 3 pm on, every hour or so, unless I plan to take a nap at some point, where I'll let myself get sleepy enough to do that.

Be careful not to take in too much caffeine, because it can cause problems, for example, heart palpitations. You don't need that much, just enough to keep you from dozing off when you need to be moving forward. If you are unsure of what's in a product, especially energy drinks or pills, be very careful and do your research. Dosing is not tested in many of these products and you could end up causing yourself additional problems. Stick to the things you're familiar with- like coffee, cola drinks, or whatever you normally have if you're a caffeine user.

It's important to continue taking in calories at night, even though we're not used to eating during those hours. You might not feel hungry, but if you start to slow down, or feel tired, there's a good chance it's because your blood sugar is low and you need more calories.

Remember to stay hydrated at night even if you're not thirsty. Drinking caffeine drinks can cause you to lose more fluid, so replace fluid losses.

Don't forget

The most common reason for feeling poorly in an ultra, if you're adequately trained, is running out of fuel. Eating a few hundred calories with some carbohydrates will perk you up within 15 to 30 minutes. Keep moving forward, and eat. That's why it's important for a new ultrarunner to have a pacer at night, someone to keep an eye on you and recognize when you're starting to bonk. They are your brain when your brain shuts down, they can remind you to eat and drink and keep the calories going.

If you're running when it's cold outside, or at night, staying warm will help you conserve your energy. Wear adequate clothing, don't let yourself get chilled. It's easy to get cold when you've burned up all your energy all day. A little warm food or some hot drinks will help you warm up, but don't stay in the heated tent or aid station too long, keep moving!

And most important of all, always thank the people who give you food! They are keeping you going, and they are there to help you succeed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Getting warmer

Nice picture? Smathers Beach, Key West.

I'm not wishing I could be there now or anything.

It's 21 degrees now, and I took the girls running when it was 18 degrees. Isabelle didn't have any hesitation today. We ran 4 miles, and other than a few breaks to lie down in the snow and eat it, they had a good run. I went out for 3 more miles and strides afterwards. It felt so much warmer today, even though I was dressed the same as yesterday in 9 degrees.

First thing this morning I got a call from the nurse at my doctor's office telling me all my labs from yesterday were "normal" except for my cholesterol, and to give them a call. I have learned that "normal" can mean a lot of things, so I called her back. First thing I asked her was, if my cholesterol was so high, then what was my thyroid doing? My TSH jumped a point and a half since I was last tested.

I love my doc, and I know she would agree with my concerns about fixing my thyroid first, but so many other health care professionals are clueless when it comes to this little butterfly-shaped gland in your throat. Especially treating an athlete who needs her body to be fine-tuned, and knows when things are not right. I'm not one of those people who fits neatly into the "normal" range, and over the past ten years, after all I've gone through to get properly treated for my thyroid, "Congratulations, you're normal", sounds the same to me as nails on a chalkboard.

Last spring I told my doctor I wanted to cut back on my thyroid meds by skipping one weekly dose to get myself a little more on the hypo end of things so I would avoid problems with the heat in Death Valley. Since I normally keep myself around 1, near the bottom of the "normal" range, she wasn't concerned- there's lots of room to play with thyroid- unless you're as sensitive to it as I am- which I underestimated. I overshot it at first so I went to skipping only two doses a month. I was perfect in July, right before the race. You'd think that two little doses a month wouldn't have such an effect, but it changed my TSH by over a point in just a few weeks.

Well after Badwater I continued with skipping the medication doses as I was doing last spring, and here it is 5 months later, and I don't feel so great. That was my own dumb fault, I should have gone back to where I was. But now that I've overshot the point where I first overshot last spring, I'll find out soon if adding the skipped doses back is enough. I've been so stable the past two years, I was starting to enjoy not worrying about what my thyroid was doing all the time, bouncing from hyper to hypo on a whim. It appeared that the little #$%*@&! finally gave up the ghost.

I've been having all the weird hypothyroid stuff lately, brain fog, always needing a nap, feeling wiped out in the afternoons, getting back cramps at the bottom of my rib cage when I breathe hard, eye twitches, and wanting to lie down and fall asleep during my runs. I've gained back the 4 pounds that I worked so hard to lose, and to top it off, my total cholesterol went from 199 last year to 252 now! I do have HDL of 87, which is a good thing, but my LDL went up a lot.

I know that when I keep my TSH in the place where I feel optimal, my cholesterol has never been an issue. So...I'll try the thyroid fix and see where that takes me, but first, I do have an ultrasound next week and hopefully there won't be any issues. I'll see how that looks before I add back the skipped doses.

Plus having such a hard time dealing with the cold, makes me wonder if it's not just from 4 months of sauna training earlier this year. I have not been feeling hot as often, and I even put an extra thick comforter doubled up on my side of the bed last week because I've been freezing at night lately.

Like my wonderful endocrinologist in Arizona told me, when I hit menopause it might not be fun regulating my thyroid. I get the feeling I'm only at the beginning of the ride.

Maybe I'll welcome the hot flashes when they come back. I could use one now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two Dogs. Seven Miles. Nine Degrees.

This morning I woke up too early, and the temperature was 5 degrees outside the kitchen window when I started the coffee. I had a doctor appointment first thing, and I was fasting because I wanted to get all my labs drawn right after I saw her, and get it over with.

I'll see what my labs looked like later this week, but the appointment went well, no surprises, I haven't shrunk any, I am a couple of pounds heavier than last year, but that's where I'm headed these days. I told her about the brain fog, we're checking my thyroid labs and I'll get a thyroid ultrasound next week to see if anything has changed with my little nodule friend in there, but overall, nothing exciting.

I blew off my run yesterday, it was cold and breezy and I had one of those "don't wanna" days. So I didn't. I ran a grand total of 18 miles last week. My motivation has been in the toilet. It's the cold weather. I am such a desert rat, which really should be my code word for wimp.

Monday starts my new week as far as my training goes, so I had to start fresh today. There were no excuses despite a predicted high temperature of 10. Just last week, I discovered, to my great horror, that my wind pants that fit me last year wouldn't come up over my hips. I was without windpants, unless I wanted to swallow the bitter pill of admitting that my butt is getting FAT and I need to buy a larger size.

I was lamenting my expansion to my friend Keith on the phone Sunday afternoon and she said maybe I was retaining fluid and that's why my pants didn't fit. I asked her, "Retaining fluid in my BUTT?!!"

I do have a big pair of windpants, but they used to belong to Dennis, and they are too long for me and I have to do all sorts of weird adjustments before I can wear them. I just couldn't believe it, that my butt has gotten that much bigger since last year. I dug the small pants out of the closet again, loosened the drawstring all the way, stared into the crotch and down the legs, and fervently believed they were going to fit.

POOF! Suddenly my butt was neatly tucked into them, no problem pulling them over my hips, even with my thick tights on. They fit!

Okay, as outlandish as it sounded, maybe Keith was right. Maybe it is possible to retain fluid in your butt. Or maybe I was so brain fogged last week that I didn't loosen the toggle on the drawstring enough. Or maybe I was constipated. It is constipation awareness month, after all.

Whatever the reason was, my pants fit and I no longer had any excuse to stay indoors. Even if the temperature was nine degrees with a -2 windchill.

I got dressed and then asked the girls if they wanted to go. Iris bounced around until I put her leash on, and she barked until we went outside. Isabelle came down to see what the commotion was, and as soon as I put the leash on her, she sat down in her spot and resisted, absolutely refused to move. She got that wimpy look on her face and I wasn't about to make her go out in 9 degree weather if I couldn't even motivate myself all weekend when it was warmer than that!

I took Iris. Isabelle was content to win the cute Buffalo contest.

Iris had an ice beard after a mile, and we did three miles together before I decided to take her home. I wanted to run faster. She got mad and started barking at me as soon as I took her in the house and went back out to finish my run. Isabelle was content to stay in her position.

I did seven miles total, including some strides once I felt warm enough and the wind was at my back. When I got home, I did my abdominal workout, too.

I was vindicated.

The woman cave is coming along. Dennis is getting plenty of supervision by the Buffaloes. It is going to be the BEST woman cave ever!

I finally got a lot of loose ends cleared up, little projects and things I needed to finish, to pave the way for focusing on the next year's goals. I now have two "projects" to focus on, one is staying up with my writing, since I have a couple of regular commitments in addition to my blogs, and studying for my oncology certification exam, and then there's always running & training. But it feels nice to have narrowed things down to just a few instead of having scattered unfinished business everywhere.

I like it when it’s simple. Give me pants that fit when it's 9 degrees, and I can do anything.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December!

We woke up to three inches of snow, blowing sideways. Last month we started out with two days of snow. This month it looks to be the same, but not so wet this time. The girls were thrilled to play in the snow this morning while I shoveled the driveway and sidewalk.

Iris was smiling and dancing around in it, while Isabelle was lying down in it, typical of her. She'll stay there until she's completely buried, and all you can see are two little black tips of her ears.

Not so good for running, though. As I shoveled, it was slippery on the sidewalk and there were already deep slush puddles forming on the edges of the street. Good enough to soak me in ice water up to my ankles. No thanks, I'm a desert rat for today. Tomorrow I won't have an excuse, though. Gotta get some miles in.

For a while it looked like some blue sky was going to appear, but it was only a tease. I have been indoors working on various projects and cooking for a potluck I'm attending tonight with the cancer support group.

There's still time to run, but I might wimp out. There's something intimidating about slush. I have been feeling good running, even though the past week has been rough with the brain fog. I might not be sleeping enough. Yesterday I went to an early morning event in town and after that, my brain only worked until noon. I was too exhausted to run. Then I took a 3 1/2 hour nap!

When I woke up, it was dark outside. I took the girls for a couple of miles and then finished up 3 more miles on my own. It was a warm night and I took my music, I miss running at night! I'll have to start doing more of that.

Next Monday I go for my annual physical at my doctor. I suspect I'll be giving up half my hematocrit in all those little tubes at the lab!

This weather is okay with me, for now. Until January 1st, snow is acceptable. Only 31 days to spring!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Feed all the Kangaroos...and Run!

Who remembers the Steely Dan song "Black Friday"? There's some reference to "nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos"... and "catch the gray men as they dive from the fourteenth floor".

I saw something about it on Facebook, and it reminded me of this cool picture of my niece Jenny on a trip to Australia. Jenny is now 14 going on 35, and look out world, she is Towanda! She's going to take over the world, which, believe me, would be a good thing. She really ought to be running for President. She does have some political experience in student government already- probably makes her more qualified than quite a few of those candidates!

I worked on Black Friday. I like the feeling of doing the opposite- making money and keeping it in my own pocket instead of spending it on that day like everybody else.

Look out, here comes another rant.

For me, Black Friday is buy nothing day. Actually it's buy as little as possible season, as far as I'm concerned. It's my personal boycott of the whole Christmas shopping season. There's something nauseating about going into any retail store, even to buy groceries, and hearing Christmas music, first of all. And it lasts for over a month, sometimes the onslaught starts after Halloween! After I've heard my first Christmas tune, I'm over it. Change it back to something, anything, please! I wish we could limit the Christmas music to one week- just the week leading up the the actual holiday.

This weekend's papers were HUGE, thick, heavy things- our actual local paper is only a few pages long with four short sections, but the ads made it look like something out of Chicago or LA. How many trees died to make all those ugly full color ads for diabetogenic foods? Do we really need to see pictures of bags of Cheetos on sale? Or digital cameras and megasized TV screens?

I prefer to work on Christmas. I think of it as my gift to the Christian world. Each year I tell my co-workers, anyone who wants Christmas off can talk to me. I'm happy to hide out from the mobs by working.

I'm just so tired of the commercialization and money grabbing, the shameless and mindless consumption of all this plasticized crap. To me, it might as well be porn. It is sleazy.

I cannot understand what is worth pepper spraying or shooting other people over it, or even waking up to stand in line at 4 am to buy some thing that you or anyone else certainly can live without. Personally, I'd rather sleep in, and walk to anywhere I need to go instead of buying another tank of gas. If I can't carry it home in my two hands, it isn't worth buying.

We have an election year coming up, and I'm really tempted to make up my own bumper sticker this time: Kick 'em all out. No incumbents in 2012. Actually, I will vote for Obama, because I don't see alternative candidates who would improve things, but I'm thoroughly disgusted with the state of our government and the way things work against most of the citizens of this country. I can't stand to pay attention, but I can't afford not to. It's gotten so bad that no one can afford to ignore the state of things. We need a control-alt-delete button for our political, legal, and economic systems. Reset, reboot, and start over.

So my goal for this coming year? Eradicate apathy. People have got to quit being apathetic. They have to stop burying themselves in THINGS and THINGS and THINGS they see on TV, and their cell phones, and their text messages, and all the little distractions that make it so convenient to spend money and keep the corporate world ripping all the ordinary citizens off during their willful somnolence.

I wrapped up my buy nothing weekend this morning with a blazing fast-for me- ten mile run on the hills at Horsetooth Reservoir. The wind finally died down and it was a perfectly clear, late fall morning. There's no ice on the water yet. I felt strong the whole way, especially running the uphills and pushing through over the tops, like I never missed any training at all. Awesome.

Quit buying, and keep running.

photo credit: Nathan Nitzky

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Starting the long road back...

The wind is howling today, 60 mph gusts are predicted. Last night it sounded like the roof would fly off. I just got back from a short run with the Buffaloes on the Power Trail. We did 3 1/2 miles and I'll go out again later for another short run on my own. I'm taking an easy week, since my energy has been low.

Yesterday I felt somewhat better from the brain fog, and I went out running before work. During my seven mile run I did an accurate mile as fast as I could on a rolling stretch of the Power Trail. I surprised myself with the time, six minutes and 52 seconds. At first glance at my watch, I was surprised because I really didn't think I could break 7 minutes at this point.

Then, for a minute or so, gasping and doubled over on the sidewalk, I remembered the days when I could run 6:50 pace with the guys for 20 miles. And a 5:52 mile was no big deal, I could run that a week after running the Leadville Trail 100. That was about twenty years and nearly 20 pounds ago. So, yesterday, in my pathetic state of trying to recover from a 6:52 mile, out in plain view of walkers and joggers along the Power Trail, hoping no one would call 911, my unexpected sub-7 was not exactly cause to celebrate.

I often think about how I'd like to get some speed back. I used to really enjoy speedwork on the track, but the past four years I've been focused on longer races with little need to do pure speedwork. And I've made all these plans to add it back in, in some form, to my training routine, but when it comes down to it, I opt for a long slow run. My thought is usually, "I don't care about the speed, I don't need it." I need to quit being so apathetic about the speedwork and realize that it's the only way I'm going to improve on my performances the way I want to.

Just 4 years ago I was able to run a 6:10 mile and ran a 1/2 marathon in 1:37. I also ran an 8:47 50 miler on a warm day on rolling hills and trails. That was also at 112 pounds. That year I did lots of speedwork at 6:50 pace, no problem. As of today I'm at 129 pounds, and a 6:50 mile just about kills me.

I want to get it back. I'm going to be 48 years old in the spring, and I know I still have some speed in me somewhere, waiting to come out from under the layers of fat and years of slow-trained muscle fibers. I need to literally get back on track, and run speedwork on a regular basis! Over the next 6 months I'll have to do it, instead of whining about how slow I am. As for the fat, I have to hope the speed training will jump start my metabolism, and make some changes to how I'm eating. In the past the speedwork always was enough to do it for me, but I never had to lose this much weight before.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Decided to skip the Turkey Trot this morning. I've had a strange week. Forgive me, I need to have a little whine with my turkey.

It started out well, I met Steph down in Boulder on Sunday and we spent the afternoon walking around and just hanging out together. We picked a random intersection, Broadway & Spruce, and walked around from there.

I found this cool Buffalo Crossing sign, and decided if it wasn't too expensive I would buy it. Steph and I shared my Buffalo story with the salesperson in the shop. I was a Ram (Colorado State grad) in Buffalo territory, but because I am the "Mom of Buffaloes", or "buffmom", everyone always thinks I have kids at CU, or I work out a lot, both of which are partially true.

My girls are smart enough to go to CU, and I do work out a lot, though I certainly wouldn't describe myself as "buff". But I figured the sign was a great start to decorating the woman cave, which is now in the process of getting insulation.

On the way home from Boulder, the sky and views of the Front Range were breathtaking.

I made it to 40 miles of running last week. The ankle still acts up when I do too many long runs back to back, but it is improving. I will probably cut back a little this week since it's been a weird week, and then continue to boost my mileage through December.

I had a lot of brain fog this week. I slept fairly well, too, which makes it even weirder. I did wake up early on Monday morning but still got a good 7 hours of sleep. And Monday night I slept 7 hours again- even with waking up for 2 hours in the middle of the night. Monday I had one of those "off" days. Couldn't hit a vein if it was a mile wide when I was starting IVs, couldn't multitask, couldn't focus. Kept banging my leg into the side of the chairside tables. I hate days like that, it's awful when your brain doesn't work right and you're dealing with people and complex situations. Fortunately I got to go home early from work.

Except as I was getting into the shower Monday night, I smacked my toes on the edge of the bathtub, hard enough to make me wonder if I broke something. I sat there for a while, rocking back and forth holding my foot until it stopped throbbing. Then I saw the quarter-sized bruise on my right thigh from multiple hits on the tables. I'm a danger to myself!

Then Tuesday at work I felt better but still a little "off", and it was a long, busy day. And Wednesday, my first day off, I had my usual post-two 12 hour shifts "work hangover"- where I'm just fatigued and brain fogged and absolutely worthless for the whole day. I didn't run or write or do anything requiring brain work- just walked the girls, shopped for food, and basically stared into space at home all day. My annual physical is coming up and I'll get my thyroid and everything else checked out. But I'm pretty sure that it's hormones.

This perimenopausal stuff is really annoying. Sometimes I think, I want to yank these things out of me- I don't need my ovaries and they are driving me crazy! But I would only do that if I needed to in order to save my life. Plus it would only make everything worse- abrupt menopause would surely be worse than this slow, natural process.

That's another one of those things about nursing- when I get on my soapbox about the nursing profession in general and it's need to get a grip on reality. The average nurse is female and in her mid-forties. We are having to function for 12 hours or longer at a time, at a time in our lives when we don't sleep well, and experience all the things that go along with sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations. And don't even get me started on the equipment manufacturers who make little medical devices that require great hand strength and dexterity, plus being able to read small print, all of which many of us are losing at this age...

I should stop my RPB ranting though, because it is Thanksgiving Day and instead of whining about my brain fog, I am thankful that I have a job, which many people do not, and that my job is more than a job, it's an opportunity to help people and be nice to people and do things that make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling in so many ways.

So this morning is Thanksgiving and I feel more clear-headed than I have all week, and I'm almost ready to run and cut up a big bowl of fruit- we're having dinner with Austin and Melissa, which is always fun.

I chose my first race for 2012, the Cornbelt 24 hour run in Iowa in May. I figure it will qualify as speedwork. I want to focus in 2012 on getting a little faster, and doing a number of 24 hour-ish runs. I do have a plan for an adventure run, too, of about 5 days this summer, but the details remain to be worked out, as it's not an official race. It will be a gathering of a few friends who can manage themselves on the road for that long, and we might even end up being self-supported with baby joggers.

I plan on ending the year with a multiday run of some sort, most likely Across the Years. I'm hesitant to plan for too much if my ankle continues to be an issue. But as long as I remain pain-free I will keep moving forward with plans. At this point, if all goes well, over the next year I'll be focusing on preparing for my next race, the 2013 Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York City.

It feels great to be making running plans again!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How lucky we runners are...

In my life outside of running, I am an oncology nurse. I see some parallels between training, racing, and going through cancer treatment, but when my races are over, I can go home and rest. For someone with cancer, there is no finish line.

I see patients running their own personal ultramarathons every day, propelled by their inner drive, perseverance, courage, and will to live. They don’t know where the finish line is, but they give everything they have to the race.

Yet every day at work, a common theme I hear from patients who are in for the battle of their lives, and are as sick as they've ever been, is how much they have to be thankful for.

I see them for weeks or months, until they finish their chemotherapy. Often they have already had some type of surgery that alters their bodies, and they might have radiation too. It’s more than a full-time job for them. Not only do they average eighty medical appointments in the year after diagnosis, but the treatments leave them fatigued, sometimes nauseated, or with nerve damage to hands or feet making it difficult to walk or do fine motor tasks like buttoning their shirts. They can be vulnerable to falls, infection, or bleeding, and unable to concentrate.

No one can manage cancer alone, and not without community support. There are many other equally important needs that go along with cancer treatment, such as having to negotiate family responsibilities, employment and financial issues, and social relationships. None of these things go away when a person has cancer. And not everyone the person with cancer has to interact with is understanding or informed.

Even their families can fail to become educated, sometimes willfully. Sometimes it's because of fear, or sometimes a low educational level. Or they just don't want to know. They expect the person to come home from their treatment and go back to being themselves, to keep doing all the usual tasks at home, or at work, such as taking care of sick kids, doing the cooking, cleaning, and activities that can expose them to life-threatening complications. Imagine knowing your immune system is very weak and having to go into public places where people cough in your face, or don't wash their hands after using the bathroom.

For the cancer patient, all of this is like being on a treadmill that has no “off” switch. After treatment, if the cancer is gone, they can't just pick up where they left off. It’s not like coming back from a running injury. Cancer changes everything. Relationships and family dynamics are affected. The person needs to adjust to changes in a body altered from surgery or radiation damage. If there are lasting effects of the chemotherapy, like nerve damage, the person might not be able to drive. Repeat checkups and scans must be done for years to ensure the cancer has not come back. Nothing is guaranteed but hope.

I'm not writing this as a scare story to dramatize the effects of cancer treatment. This is reality. Some people have these side effects I've mentioned, some don't, and some have it worse than others. This is not all-inclusive, either. There are lots of things that happen along the way in treatment. One in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer, and the older we get, the more likely that is to happen. If cancer hasn't touched you or your family, or anyone you know, then you are in a rare category. Inform yourself, because eventually you will be touched by cancer, indirectly, or otherwise.

Restoring quality of life for the whole person who has been diagnosed with cancer is a challenge. The road back to wellness is a lot longer than the treatment itself. The support of this community in the form of a cancer center will ultimately shorten the distance back to wellness for those with cancer.

The greatest gift you can give is to do the best you can every day with what you have. If you can do something that has meaning for you, and helps someone else, you win the race. If you have your health now, then you already have a head start. Use it to your advantage, and reach beyond your own fitness, competitiveness, vanity, or whatever else is driving your running.

I look around and see so many overweight people everywhere. Even here in Colorado, where we have the optimal conditions for a variety of outdoor activities year-round, we have a growing problem. So many health problems stem from obesity and other unhealthy behaviors like sedentary lifestyles, smoking, overconsumption of alcohol, overexposure to the sun, unhealthy diets. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are costly and a huge burden to all of us.

What is even worse is that so many children are overweight. They are getting a bad start in life when it comes to their health. They aren't active enough, they are exposed to TV advertising of sedentary games and junk food. Not enough of them ride their bikes or walk to school, and they don't play outside the way we did when we were kids.

Schools in our community did something extraordinary this past year to raise funds for the PVHS Cancer Center. Three elementary schools each held a wellness day where the kids ran and walked laps and played soccer. They were doing their best, being active, and turning their activity into a meaningful gift to their community, raising nearly $13,000 through pledges. One of these schools is in a neighborhood that has the lowest income in the city.

This holiday season, when many people are struggling to meet their basic needs, shopping for gifts is overwhelming, stressful, and financially challenging. One great gift idea is to give to a charity in someone else's name. Even a small gift makes a powerful statement.

My gift is my health and ability to run ultramarathons, when I use it to give something back to my community. I'm supporting the Cancer Center here, and making the Survivorship Center within it a reality for those in our community who will need it. Make running your gift this year, wrap it into something meaningful to you, to help people in your community.

If you are fortunate enough to know where your finish line is this year, find your own gift of activity, live it, and give it. Let your finish line be the start of your next adventure.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bucket List Races- Keys 100

This weekend, on my way to Phoenix, I found out the exciting news that Southwest Airlines has preliminary plans to be flying into Key West in the near future, which means one of my favorite races might soon be more accessible logistically. It remains to be seen what the flights will be like, what it will cost, and if it is finalized, but I am thrilled to know that planning for running the Keys 100 could be a little easier.

The Keys 100 race is not only one of those bucket list races, but it's a must do again race. And not just because I got a PR on it the first time I ran it, but it was so beautiful and unique, I want to go back.

Bob Becker is the race director and he does an awesome job with the race. It's well organized and it keeps getting better each year- the course improves and he has made the race easier logistically for running without a crew.

Bob is also holding a new trail race, the Everglades Ultras, this January. If I could run trails, I'd be there. Along with the wildlife and scenery, I'm sure it will be another Bucket List event.

When you're like me, facing a white landscape and cold temperatures for the next 6 months or so, nothing sounds more appealing than palm trees, turquoise water, ocean breezes, and margaritas on the beach.

Go check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Year of the Haboob

I went to Phoenix this past weekend to visit my dad & stepmom and flew into a haboob. Almost.

The flight from Denver was uneventful until we approached Phoenix. We were arriving early, but as we got closer to the city I saw how dusty and hazy it looked. Then I realized we were going to get a tour of Phoenix by air, multiple times, as we circled the dusty valley before we could land. We ended up circling the city for about 20 minutes, just enough to mess with my head so I'd have a slightly queasy feeling for the next 24 hours.

Dad picked me up at the airport and we drove east on the freeway toward Scottsdale and Tempe, and this is what the sky looked like as we drove further east. You couldn't even see the little mountains in town. When we went to Havana Cafe for dinner Camelback Mountain, just a mile away, was hazy.

I thought, I will be spending the weekend in a haboob.

During the night it rained and blew the dust out, and Saturday morning was perfectly clear. It was cool, just 46 degrees, and I met my friend Chris Harrison near the canal at 68th and Indian School for a 10 mile run. My ankle felt fine, even on the soft dirt of the canal after the rain, and we kept a good pace.

It was a laid back weekend. Dad and I visited the running stores, didn't buy anything, but just looked around. The day was one of those perfect winter Arizona days that makes you understand why people might think Phoenix is a good place to live. The little fluffy, puffy clouds in the clearest blue sky that I've never seen anywhere other than Arizona were out and it was a perfect weekend for weather.

We watched the LSU vs. Alabama football game, my stepmom is a native Louisianan.

Sunday morning I ran 7 miles on the canal again and felt fine. Managed to get 32 miles of running in for the week, my biggest mileage week since Badwater. I am making progress.

I've been starting to think about next year's running plans. I'm hoping that things pan out for a fun little adventure run in the Black Hills with a few friends, not a race, but a multi-day training adventure next summer. Low key, low budget, low stress.

I'm looking ahead at a multiday race in New York, most likely in 2013. And other than that I'm going to stick close to home, save my money, and find some good local races, within a day's drive or so in 2012.

I'll be back in Phoenix again in just 8 weeks. I hope Across the Years will be haboob-free.

In the coming weeks Journey to Badwater will be getting a new look. Some of the things on the right-hand side of the blog will be rearranged, and might go away for a short time. I'd like to hear feedback on the new look once it happens, which should be within the next 2 weeks.