Scatter my ashes here...

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

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.