Saturday, June 25, 2011
About my upcoming adventure
This post is a copy of an e-mail that I will be sending to a large number of people in the community before I leave for Death Valley on July 8th. It explains how to follow me, why I'm doing it, how to support me, and a few other important details.
I will be running in the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon across Death Valley again this year, and I have added an extra "twist" to my journey this time that I want to share with you. The race starts at Badwater, the lowest point in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level, and runs across Death Valley, crosses 3 mountain ranges, and finishes at 8300 feet elevation on Mount Whitney.
The race begins for me at 8 am Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, July 11th. My race bib number is 72. There will be a webcast at the official race website. There will also be postings on Twitter and Facebook, if you search for Badwater Ultramarathon. You can keep track of my efforts there, until the official race is finished for me, by 8 am Wednesday July 13th.
My plan this year does not stop at the finish line at Whitney Portal at 135 miles. When I arrive at the finish line, there will be the usual photographs, awarding of the belt buckle, and celebration for each finisher and their crews. But we won't hang out too long.
We will continue back to Badwater, with a climb of Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley at 11,000 feet, on the way back. The total length of this journey is approximately 285 miles, with roughly 24,000 feet of vertical gain and the same amount of descent, over 6 days. I will be finished by mid-day on July 17th. During our return trip, there will be Facebook and Twitter updates from the PVHS Foundation as we go along. The crew will send updates whenever we have Internet access and cell phone coverage (not consistent in Death Valley) and these will be posted here at my blog http://alenegonebad.blogspot.com , as well as on Facebook, and the Foundation's blog.
This is a different journey than the route that has been taken as the traditional "Badwater double" route to the small handful of people who have ever done multiple crossings on the Badwater course. That traditional route has included Mount Whitney, highest point in the lower 48 states.
When I first told a few people with longtime ties to the Badwater race, I was met with some skepticism and questions like, "You should do Mount Whitney", or "It's not REALLY a double unless you do Mount Whitney." "This run is about going from lowest to highest".
Well, I'm not like everyone else. I'm not doing this to compare myself to others or follow anyone else's tradition. My journey is about crossing the desert, and that's one of the reasons why I've chosen Telescope Peak.
Anyone who has been through cancer can tell you that their own journey is not like anyone else's.
I'm doing this in support of the Poudre Valley Cancer Center project, raising funds to build a comprehensive cancer center in the Fort Collins community. This Cancer Center has been envisioned and planned by local cancer survivors, and will provide top-quality medical and wellness services in a facility that will serve the needs of people impacted by cancer, for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, post-treatment, and getting back to a healthy, thriving,active life.
The Cancer Center is important to me because it will provide a link between the often disjointed steps along the journey from a cancer diagnosis to treatment to moving beyond treatment and regaining health and wellness, something that is a difficult process for many.
Recently a group of several cancer survivors and a few others were in a meeting, talking with a local artist who wants to build a sculpture for the cancer center. As we were discussing the sculpture, a common theme was the transition from being hunched over and withdrawn, wrapped up deep within oneself, to healing and growing through care and treatment, reaching out past one's own self, and finally reaching out wide, arms outstretched to the sky, welcoming all that life has to offer and living every day to the fullest.
My philosophy is to live each day as an adventure, and to make the most of every day. I plan to do this as long as I have my health. Running across the desert in some ways is a metaphor for going through cancer treatment. But the "trip through hell" for me is by choice. For others, their trip through hell is not by choice, and it's real. They can't stop at the finish line, because there is no finish line except for hope.
Even after cancer treatment, life has changed forever, and the trip back to wellness is as much a double crossing of the desert as navigating across through cancer treatment the first time is. The Cancer Center will provide resources to ease the transition into survivorship, wellness, and thriving beyond cancer. No one does this alone, it requires a team of dedicated, positive people to help.
My run is also entirely a team effort, I could not do this alone. I have a fantastic crew of 5 people, Stephanie Willingham, my crew chief, my brother Nathan Nitzky, Ed Green, Felix Wong, and Dan McGlothlin. Training has been going well. 120+ mile weeks, hours in the sauna, and trips to Florida and Arizona to run in the heat have all been part of the preparation for this year's run.
Some people have asked what else they can do to help me with my run. The best way to help me is to support the building of the cancer center, with donations to the PVHS Foundation, and by spreading the word. Messages of support are always welcome, I apologize that I won't be able to answer any e-mails until I get back to Fort Collins, but I will be able to receive them when I'm out there.
All this year, we have been raising funds throughout the community with the Save Change to Create Change initiative, with 100% matched funds by Poudre Valley Health System. If you have not already, will you consider making a donation to the PVHS Foundation, in honor of my efforts in Death Valley? If you already have, please tell someone else about it and spread the word about the Cancer Center. Online donations can be made at http://generosityheals.org or http://engageinlife.org Donations can also be called in to 970-237-7400, or text ENGAGE to 90999 from your cell phone to make an automatic $5.00 donation.
I will be giving several presentations this fall with a video and slides from the trip, and lots of stories to tell. I'll pass those details along later. My crew will be providing updates along the way wherever we get Internet access, which is unreliable and far apart in Death Valley, but we will do our best to keep you informed of our journey and how it's going.
Please, forward this e-mail and spread the word to everyone you know who has been touched by cancer, wants to support the Cancer Center, or is interested in supporting my journey.