Scatter my ashes here...

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012


As far as I'm concerned, summer can end each year when I get back from Death Valley. By late July, I'm done with the heat, I'm ready for the screaming kids in the neighborhood to go back to school, and I'm ready for the best running days ahead. From August through November, the weather keeps getting better and better for running, until we start getting the storms that bring ice to the roads.

I did a grand total of 115 miles of running during the month of July. I did more miles on the bike than I did running. But finally, I don't feel like my legs are flat and stiff and sluggish anymore when I go out to run.

What a week this end of July has been. I've experienced every possible emotion, and all somehow connected with running...hope, happiness, joy, envy, anticipation, sadness...I'm not even sure where to start!

I guess I'll start with the bad news and work my way to the good news.

At Western State College in Gunnison and at Adams State College in Alamosa, there is a long standing running rivalry that exists to this day. Their cross country and track teams, considered among the best in the nation, are just two hours’ drive away from each other, each with their own distinct cultures, but close enough that many friendships develop between the running alumni of the two schools.

On Friday July 20th, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference awarded Hall of Fame awards to several individuals and teams. Among the recipients were the 1986 Western State College men’s cross country team, and Pat Porter, a two-time Olympian, and an Adams State alumnus. My husband Dennis was an assistant coach of the 1986 Western State team, having graduated from and competed for Western State College. Dennis was a national champion in the 3000 meter steeplechase, ran against Pat in cross country, and was a teammate of Pat's on the U.S. team at the World Cross Country Championships in 1990. This picture is of Pat in the middle, flanked by our friend Steve Cathcart (left) and Dennis (right), at the Hall of Fame awards less than two weeks ago.

This past Thursday, July 26th, we heard the shocking news that Pat, along with his 15 year old son and son’s friend, were killed in a plane crash.

Pat was admired by so many runners. They were in awe of him, and he inspired them. He was funny. He used to call Dennis “The Truck”, a reference to his relentless, solid, focused running style. I have laughed many times over the years over that reference to the truck.

Pat was 53 when he died. His wife Trish and their daughter have lost a husband and father, son and brother. Words don't do justice to such a tragedy.

This morning I was out for my normal human being run of 5 miles on the bike path, and I ran into a neighbor whom I know from the cancer support group I often attend. I saw him out walking his dog just before I left for Death Valley. He and his wife were just processing the news of a recurrence of his cancer, without many treatment options, but they were going forward wth more chemo. He had just had his first cycle of chemo when I saw him then.

When I saw him this morning walking his dog on the bike path, he was bald. His hair was falling out already, and he buzzed what was left off. We talked for a few minutes. He's in good spirits despite the dire news and the steroids that have caused him to gain weight and mess with his moods and sleep, and his second chemo cycle starts tomorrow. We laughed about getting charged up for Chemo Monday.

Tomorrow is Chemo Monday for both of us. I'll most likely be giving chemo to some other patient where I work. Somewhere, someone is out there running an adventure run, and we're at Chemo Monday.

Speaking of adventure runs, yesterday Cheryl Zwarkowski finished her Badwater triple crossing of 405 miles. That means she must not have done Whitney, so like me, she stuck to road crossings. It took her 12 days. A big congratulations to Cheryl for her accomplishment. I wish I could have been out there too, and more.

Oh yes, I'm envious. Not to mention the reference to her post-Badwater vacation in Hawaii.

Money is the biggest limiting factor that I have when it comes to doing these adventure runs. I suppose I will need to get after it and find some sponsors or support, because I'd like to be able to go beyond what I've done before, but it takes me too long to save that kind of money on my own. Another project...

What I really enjoyed most this past week was going for a bike ride with my friend Troy. We were planning to do about a 30 mile ride, and he asked me to pick the route, so I took him toward Windsor to do a loop over there. When we stopped for a water break, I pointed out the path that goes to all the way to Greeley, that I've ridden dozens of times, but not yet this year.

He mentioned that we ought to do that some time. Then I suggested we go that way, and he went along with it. We ended up riding over 50 miles, which was his longest ride ever. We went slow and easy, and he was really strong at the end, so I'm sure he had a lot more miles in him. I usually ride alone, so it was great to have him along and get a chance to talk for hours instead of in 2 minute sound bites passing between work shifts.

I've been told I have that effect on people if they run or ride with me, I can sneak in an extra 20 miles before they even realize what's happened.

And the other happy news is, I'm not running an ultra in August, I'm going to the beach instead, with Dennis! We're going out to visit my parents in Manhattan Beach in August for a few days. I can't wait.

So...I go back to work Chemo Monday tomorrow and then Tuesday. By Wednesday it will be work hangover time and another week will be halfway done...and it will be August.

August means fall is here, finally. Fall starts in early August up high in the mountains, when the raspberries are ripe for picking and the highest aspen trees are just starting to turn slightly gold. The temperature actually dropped into the 50s the other morning, it was 58 degrees when I woke up. The days are noticeably shorter.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Beyond Blisters: Working on a Medical Team

I just got back from my third year volunteering on the medical team at the Badwater Ultramarathon.

It's almost as much fun as running the race. Almost.

But in some ways it's even more fun because I get to watch and learn from the runners and the other medical team members.

When people ask what I do in that capacity, they often think I treat blistered feet. That is actually only a small part of what I do, we actually have foot care specialists for that and I rarely have to do any more than a minor thing involving blisters. Mostly what we treat are varying forms of heat illness, but we see a lot of other problems, too.

I am going to share some of my observations with my readers, with the intention of improving runners' and crews' future experiences at Badwater or other races in the heat.

I consider volunteering at Badwater an honor and a privilege, it certainly is not something I take for granted. I am thankful to Chris Kostman, the race director, and medical director Dr. Megan Dell, and I hope to continue to volunteer on medical at Badwater in the future.

It's a huge task that Megan takes on as medical director. She needs to make sure that all the runners and their crews are safe so that Chris can focus on his duty as race director to oversee it all. The goal is for everyone, runners, crews, and staff, to arrive at the finish line intact and keep anything from happening that endangers their safety, lives, and the future of the event.

Given the unpredictable factors: weather, judgement of the runners and their crews, the presence and behavior of several hundred people involved with the event, in addition to spectators, tourists, the general public, and highway traffic spread over 135 miles, that's a huge responsibility.

Before I go any further, I'll state that what I write here is my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone else on the medical team or associated with the Badwater Ultramarathon. I'm not writing as a representative of the event, this is solely my own personal opinion from my experiences and observations.

My background

As a registered nurse, I have a certain type of training and background complemented by my 20+ years of ultramarathon experience, and two Badwater finishes, including a double road crossing of 270 miles in 2011. I have worked in critical care nursing in the past and now I'm an oncology nurse in a hospital-based clinic. Both of these nursing backgrounds have been amazingly helpful at Badwater. And I'm not even giving chemotherapy. Let's just say I'm used to treating really sick people.

I also have a background in exercise science and behavioral science from my academic training in natural resource recreation. So I'd say I'm pretty well-rounded in the various aspects of running as a recreational and human performance event. At the same time, I'm certainly not an expert on any one particular thing and I rely heavily on the judgement of the other medical staff at the race.

I see some common themes every year and those are what I'm going to discuss in this blogpost, along with how I view the runners' decisions and what I think about when I am out there on the course or seeing runners in the medical area.

What nurses do

First it might be helpful to explain what nurses do, since a lot of people don't really understand what our role is. Then you can understand how I look at my role on a medical team. Nurses act as patient advocates. We do everything possible to ensure that the patient we are caring for has the safest and best possible outcome from their treatment for a certain condition. Normally this occurs in a health care setting.

We don't diagnose or prescribe, we carry out orders from a physician when it comes to medications and medically indicated treatments, but in terms of total, holistic care of the patient, we act independently and have our own practice.

We educate patients, which is a huge part of what we do. We teach them how to manage their condition, about the medications they are taking, about the treatments or tests they undergo, what complications to look out for, and what symptoms to report to a doctor.

We look out for the safety of the patient, provide hands-on care, and help the patient access resources that will help them restore their well-being, and lead to the best outcome.

You might ask, How does that differ in a setting such as running a race under extreme conditions?

I ask, Why should Badwater be any different from the health care setting?

The answer to both of these questions is, at Badwater, not only are we paying attention to things like heat illness, we act in a preventive role and as safety educators. And safety is the number one, overarching thing we look out for.

What I do at Badwater
So when you come to me in the Badwater medical room and I weigh you, and you're down 8 pounds from your starting weight, your clothing is all full of salt, here's what I'm going to look for: First, are you making sense when you talk to me?

I'll say, Tell me how you're feeling. I'll ask questions like: Have you urinated? How often, how much, what color? How much and what kind of fluid and electrolyte replacement are you taking? Have you been eating? How's your stomach? Are you swelling anywhere?

I will take a set of vital signs if you feel "off" at all. I will help you regulate your body temperature. You'll be hot and sweaty when you come in and then you'll get cold as you sit there in the air conditioning.

We have to assess how dangerous the runner's condition is: low sodium can progress to seizures, coma, death. Dehydration by itself is usually easy to fix if it hasn't progressed too far. A cardiac condition can be life-threatening, especially in this heat.

The medical room gets jammed with people so we have to kick them out if they don't have a legitimate reason to be there. We can't listen to patient's lungs, heart, etc. with all the noise. So we have to be the bad guys sometimes and throw everyone but the runner and one crew member out. Sorry, but it's in the runners' best interest.

As long as you can keep fluids down, I will make you drink and eat something, I'll keep you there until you have to pee, if you haven't been peeing. Your kidneys and brain and gut and other organs need blood flow to keep functioning and if you're hot, all the blood has gone to your skin to keep you cool. Your body produces stress hormones that can make you retain fluid and make you puffy. After you sit there cooling down, you might start to feel better: mentally, and by eating, drinking, and urinating.

Once you're feeling better mentally, I am going to talk to you and your crew member about how to keep you out of the trouble you got in that brought you in here in the first place. And what to look for, if and when to follow up or come back to us at medical.

I'm going to explain to you what's going on with your body, electrolytes, fluids, about the blood flow, about heat stress, and why you need to stay cool. How you're more susceptible to blisters when you're not hydrating properly.

So when you're peeing, have regained some weight, and you're functioning better, plus keeping fluids down, we're going to let you go. And the time spent will more than pay for itself, because by fixing the things that slowed you down in the first place, you will perform much better.

There's a lot of education to be done in every case, both with crew and runners. They need to be more careful about intake and output. We try to pat them on the back for coming in to see us, because it was probably the best thing they could have done at that point- gives them a chance to turn things around when they're going bad.

You might ask...

Should I have a medically trained person on my Badwater crew?

Well, it's not a bad idea, but don't let that give you a false sense of security. That person also needs to have some idea of how this event differs from the setting in which they practice medicine.

I can tell you that even if a person has medical training, until they have experience working at some of these endurance events in hot weather, and know what's the reality out there, they don't really know how to treat the runners.

I say that because we get a lot of runners who have medical personnel on their crews, but they don't necessarily have experience themselves racing in the heat, or have no prior Badwater experience, and they really have no idea how to manage their runner.

I can't even tell you the number of times I've heard some version of this statement from a runner: "My wife is a doctor and she's on my crew". Well, if she's not an athlete, has no experience at endurance events in the heat, hasn't been to Badwater before, her telling me how much urine output you've put out on the average over 8 hours is not going to help me determine the integrity of your kidney function when you're catatonic and dehydrated 40 miles into the race.

"Well he's been averaging 30 cc an hour of urine output" the wife says.


This tells me nothing. He might have peed the entire 240 cc (1 cup) an hour into the race and hasn't peed since. Which ain't much of a pee. This isn't the air conditioned hospital, folks. Sorry, but 30 cc an hour at Badwater doesn't cut it.

The same parameters we use in emergency and critical care for the general unwell population in hospital settings doesn't apply here in this group of people and in 120 degree heat and physical exertion. The runner is also power breathing and power sweating out there. The runner had better be processing a lot more fluids than that through their kidneys or they're in big trouble. That means they need to be taking a lot of fluids in, and peeing a good portion of them out.

What gets runners in trouble most often is not taking the time to cool down so they can do a better job of processing fluids and calories.

What can I do to make the medical team's job easier?

1. Fill out your racer medical history form accurately, honestly, and completely. Don't omit any of the medications you take, including supplements or herbs. You would be surprised how many people in general, including endurance athletes, take things like high blood pressure medications or anti-depressants. These things can sometimes affect your ability to tolerate the heat or exercise, and we need to know about them, especially if you get into trouble out on the course. You'd also be surprised how much we find out when runners come into us, and they start talking, we learn a lot and then we go back to their medical form and they have left out a lot of important information.

2. Use us when necessary, but appropriately. We are there to ensure the runners' and crews safety. Don't occupy a medical team member's time and resources by asking for things like massages, special visits by the roadside for non-emergency situations, looking for a place to take a nap if you don't have a motel room, or in chit-chat if there are other runners around who need help.

3. Choose your crew wisely. I'll talk more about this in a later section, but it's very important. We treat a lot of crew members for heat illness and other issues out on the course.

4. Crews, when your runner is done with the race, have a blanket ready because they will cool down rapidly. After the medal ceremony and photographs at the finish line, get your runner off the mountain. The rapid ascent to 8300 feet makes altitude sickness a complicating factor with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Take them down to Lone Pine so they can begin recovering as soon as possible.

Safety on the course

This is the other thing we do when we're roving between medical stations.

I'm interested in preserving the runners' safety and the race itself. The importance of the rules becomes even more apparent when the sun starts to go down the first day. The biggest mistake I see crews making on the road is not paying attention to oncoming traffic. They park too close to the edge of the shoulder so when they open their drivers side doors, they are obstructing the roadway.

I'm going to pull over and talk to the crew if your door is open into the road even if there's only a couple of inches to spare when you pull all the way off the roadway. That's why those vans with the doors on both sides are so useful- the crew can use the passenger side to do their business in those narrow areas instead of the side facing the road.

Look both ways before you cross the street! Wear your reflective gear. Use the lights on your vehicle appropriately and according to the rules. Remember there are lots of people not associated with the race on the road. When it's dark outside, visibility is poor, even with your lights and reflective gear.

The later it gets in the race, the more tired everyone is, and it gets harder to be alert and aware of your surroundings. That's why crews need to rest and rotate shifts, and take care of themselves as well as the runner.

About crews

Since it seems like we treat almost as many crew members as we do runners, this is important to mention.

Runners, please think about your crew members when you choose them. Not only is it important for the runner to have their own head screwed on straight to run this race, but they need reliable, healthy crew members to help them do it. Physically and mentally healthy.

Not only does it affect your performace as a runner when you have crew issues, but it affects the other people on the course, runners and everyone else.

If a crew member is not physically fit to withstand 48 hours in extreme heat, sleep deprivation, heat stress, and can't manage their own stuff- meds, food, drinking, proper clothing, and they become incapacitated and do something that endangers everyone, it's not only a safety issue for the runners and everyone else, this is a threat to the future of the race.

Runners really need to be the gatekeepers when they choose their crew members. Know your crew well: do they have medical conditions that make it inadvisable for them to be out in the extreme heat? Can they adequately prepare for the conditions they will be exposed to for up to 48 hours at Badwater, with sleep deprivation to top it all off?

Let me repeat that in different words. (Because I can't emphasize this enough.)

When a runner makes poor choices as to the crew members he or she chooses for an event such as Badwater, the runner is not only endangering their own ability to finish the race safely, they are also endangering their crew members, other runners and crews, and the future of the event.

If one person becomes ill, they have just compromised the health and safety of everyone else on the crew. There are fewer people to cover the roles needed, less rest, everyone is more stressed and tired, on top of the already demanding event. Crewing for Badwater isn't like any other race. It's constant, it's intense, there is no break. The crew is heat stressed and needs to take care of themselves. As the event goes on, people become more tired, less alert, it's harder to keep on top of things like hydration, food, etc.

Do I need to say it again?

Psychological Issues

Nurses often joke about how much of what we do is psychiatric nursing. I think the same thing applies in ultramarathons.

If a runner is struggling, sometimes they just need to talk, to talk out loud through their decisions, or to see if what they're doing makes sense. And sometimes we just need to let them cry, and sit there with them as they process their disappointment, when they realize the best option is for them to quit.

I always observe how the runner is interacting with the crew. Is that an added source of stress for the runner? What I want to know is, is the crew doing anything that is hindering or endangering the runner? And if they are, can it be fixed through communication or just a little education on the spot?

Some crew members forget that the reason they are out there is to crew their runner and help them successfully and safely get to the finish line. That is what a crew is for. Being a crew member is not so you can get a training run in, or wield control over other people. We see a lot of interesting dynamics out there. Occasionally, the best thing a crew member can do is leave. See my blogposts "So ya think ya want to run badwater" and "Big Bad and Superhot".

What The Medical Team Does, and Does Not

The medical team is there to help runners and their crew members in the event of some physical problem such as dehydration or heat illness that can be turned around or fixed so the runner can continue the race, or to keep such a problem from developing into a serious or life-threatening emergency which would require full medical attention and transport to a hospital.

If someone has a minor injury that is in no way life-threatening or endangering their runner's safety, they can come in to see the Medical Team at the nearest station. Sometimes people just need to talk and we are willing to listen.

We don't do IVs. An IV is only done when medically necessary and it always means the racer will be disqualified. If you're of the mindset of some of the triathlons and other races out there that provide IV rehydration to participants at the finish line, you're in the wrong place. Placing an IV, especially in non-sterile conditions such as a race medical tent, increases the risk of infection or bacteremia from contamination.

If the race is over and you're feeling like you need IV rehydration, there's always the emergency room of the local hospital. I don't encourage this unless the runner is unable to keep food and fluids down. The best thing to do is to rehydrate and recover by drinking, eating, and resting.

I'm not a shrink. Roadside psychiatry is not really one of the things I do. If anyone has a concern, they should feel free to come to one of the medical stations, but unless someone is in danger, we generally don't make roadside visits for non-medical issues like massages, pep talks, and hand-holding.

What's it like working on the medical team?

It's a good mix of physicians, nurses, first responders, an exercise physiologist, and foot care experts. (I think we could use a clinical psychologist too.) We're all professionals who are committed to our areas of expertise in our real jobs, and the combined level of education, experience, and skills make this particular bunch of people top notch.

We don't get a lot of sleep. We share duties like covering different stations, the finish line (where we all freeze), getting sleep and naps, getting food or short run breaks. We have to do inventory and keep organized for all the equipment year after year, making sure supplies don't expire, having enough of certain items and discarding what we really don't need. Also, we need to be anticipating runners' needs at each station and being ready for that.

In a successful year like this one, there were no IVs, almost all the runners we saw were able to go back out on the course and finish with oral fluid and electrolyte replacement.

During the post-race party, we always get runners who come up and thank us for our care. We were able to help them turn the problem around, get them back on the road, to a successful finish. Sometimes they amaze us, someone who looked like death coming in to Stovepipe Wells spends a couple of hours cooling off and rehydrating, and they blast off to the finish line. Nothing makes us happier than to see the runners we treated 90 miles down the road cross the finish line with a big smile on their faces and their crews faces too.

It's really fun, we're a big bunch of nerdy people, and we all have a sick sense of humor. Yes, almost as much fun as running the race.

As you can see, we do a lot more than blisters. And we wouldn't come back year after year if we didn't love it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lowering the Bar: Not An Option

Who says as we age we have to lower our standards for ourselves physically?

Why would you lower the bar for yourself? Why wouldn't you keep striving to improve?

Why do numbers like age have to mean anything, why do we think they limit us?

Art Webb, age 70, who calls himself "The Grinder", finished his 14th Badwater on Tuesday, in a personal record time of 33 hours and 45 minutes. That was good for 29th place overall in a field of 89 finishers. Art has amazed us over the years with his impressive performances as he's gotten older. In 2010 he recovered from a long delay due to hyponatremia at Furnace Creek to finish in 46 hours. This year, he barely stopped and was motoring uphill in mid-race, one of the first runners to arrive at Towne Pass.

Art knows how to keep himself going, he only trains for this race each year. He and his wife Christine are always there at Badwater, socializing and obviously enjoying their time with the other runners, smiling and laughing even during the toughest moments.

"It's only a number" said Jack Denness when he finished the Badwater Ultramarathon at age 75.

When you free yourself from thinking "I'm too old to improve", you have quit shortchanging yourself. Don't settle for less.

You might not run 35 minute 10Ks at age 70, but you can improve and excel in other ways, making the most out of every day you have.

I think I've said it here before, when I was 40 I said I want to be healthier and more fit at age 50 than I was at 40. I'm well on my way there, as long as nothing weird happens between now and then.

I'm looking at doing some sort of adventure run, hoping to include Badwater as part of it, that year. But it doesn't end there. I don't know what the future holds, but I don't plan to stop finding new ways to challenge myself and new adventures to experience.

You don't have to lower the bar as you age. If you ask me, Art Webb stole the show at this race. And he certainly deserved to. He's my hero, more than any fast runner, front-of-the-packer, or course record-setter.

Postal Detour in Pahrump

I'm back home now after an interesting and amusing trip back from Las Vegas. I got home late last night and I'm really brain dead, but I have to work this weekend so any serious thoughts will have to wait for blogposts next week when I can think and write intelligently.

Yesterday was my last day in the valley so I mailed my laundry back home in my little cooler, like I always do. If I send it priority mail it doesn't get too nasty by the time it gets home. Plus that spreads out some of the unpacking work to a few days later. I sat out on the patio overlooking the valley while I drank coffee and ate breakfast, then I went for a little hike in Golden Canyon and up to Zabriskie Point to take a few pictures.

When I took my cooler to the Furnace Creek post office, the woman behind the counter joked that it looked like I was sending organs for transplant in my little white cooler, the way it was packaged up. I told her it was one of the runners' hearts.

Speaking of the post office, in Pahrump this time there were some road work signs on the main drag and one of the construction signs said "Postal Detour". I wonder if that's when you have to take a detour and it totally screws you up and you end up in a road rage because of it?

I am lucky enough to know my way around Pahrump well enough that I didn't have to go postal.

I noticed something else in Pahrump. There was a big sign on the way out of town, looked like someone had nailed some pieces of plywood or particleboard together to make a giant A-frame sign on the side of the highway, stuck an American flag in it, and the sign was hand painted, big white letters on a blue background "Mitt Romney for President 2012".

Nearby there were other political signs for people running for local office, but these were neat, official, professionally made signs, including those for Judge Wanker.

I thought Mitt Romney was extremely wealthy. But here's this obviously slapped together sign made from what looks like some scraps pulled out of the landfill. If Judge Wanker can afford a real election sign, then what's with Mitt Romney and his ghetto signs? Is this his way of appealing to the common people?

When I arrived at the Las Vegas airport, I found out my flight was delayed by at least 20 minutes due to bad weather on the east coast, so they said. I happen to hate the Las Vegas airport, it's so disgusting. Dirty, smelly, full of nasty looking restaurants with bad food that smell greasy, vending machines that sell underwear, and people who look like a cross between Walmart and the Las Vegas strip.

A bunch of very large people sitting in front of an oxygen bar. Interesting. High heels and short shorts, and a lot of skin showing, regardless of body habitus, seems to be the fashion statement at the Las Vegas airport.

I sat down at a table in the quietest area I could find, near one of those food court things but far enough away that I couldn't smell the grease trap. I bought a salad at a little so-called "fresh and healthy" stand and ate that while I people-watched. An airport worker was cleaning the grunge off of the wall surfaces nearby. There was a big contrast between the clean area and the dirty part.

At one point I looked up and saw a familiar face coming toward me. Then I realized the person had a Badwater shirt on. It was Keith Straw from Pennsylvania, the one who always runs Badwater in a pink tutu. We talked for a few minutes, he was on his way to catch his flight.

Finally we boarded the plane very quickly and took off for Denver. I got home around 11 pm and the girls screamed and attacked me. So good to be home.

Each year, my visit to Death Valley has been a way to check in with myself at mid-year, much like I do at New Years during Across the Years. I can assess where I am going with my life, am I happy with how things are, or do I need to make changes.

It allows me to clear the cobwebs and see things because I get back in touch with my true self. Not that I don't operate as myself all the time, but in life, it's easy to get lots of other things clouding your vision, that seem like priorities on an everyday basis, but in the big picture, they are not so important.

It's like checking my inner compass, and adjusting my direction as needed.

It's good to get away and not run a race, because I have the mental energy freed up for other things.

So now I'm home. I will be writing a couple of blogposts next week, just grinding the gears in my head about a couple of topics that are important to me.

I decided not to run Lean Horse, but I need something sort of long this fall but not too long. So I signed up for the 12 hour race at 24 The Hard Way, Chisholm Deupree's race in Edmond, OK this fall. It should be a good, fast tuneup before Across the Years, without completely wiping my legs out.

Now it's time for a nap!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Live in Las Vegas

The Oxygen Bar at the Las Vegas Airport certainly attracts a homogeneous group of clientele...sort of a cross between Walmart and the Las Vegas Strip.

To be fair, they DO require a bit more oxygen than the average person...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Walmart Meets The Inn at Furnace Creek

The pool at the very upscale Furnace Creek Inn looked so inviting when I saw it for the first time at last year's pre-race briefing.

When I found out that the normally $400 a night rooms were less than half of that for a summer special they were having, I made a reservation, so I could check it out while I recovered from my sleep deprivation from working the race.

So here I am, having just checked into my princess lair, finished a Fat Tire Ale, and about to go down to the pool before dinner, which normally requires reservations and has a dress code, but not now, as they told me when I checked in.

Since there is no valet parking or concierge service now, I carried my bags down to the room, which overlooks the garden, a grove of palm trees, and the valley. I realized I fit in perfectly with the clientele here, carrying my plastic Walmart bags.

I have stories to tell and blogposts to write, but I'm too sleep deprived to say much, and typing on this iPhone is a challenge since I was officially born in the Baby Boomers generation.

So I'll continue to be a princess for now and write about it after I get home and get back to my laptop.


We're at the post-race party in the jammed auditorium. Racers have been coming up to our table to thank us, which is really cool. Last night was uneventful and everyone finished by 6:30 this morning. Hard to believe it's all over so fast! More stories later...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finish Line Duty

Spent all afternoon at the finish line at Whitney Portal, we had a few runners who were unsteady on their feet, due to dehydration and exhaustion, and a few who were just blistered. Now the all night vigil begins as the rest of the pack comes up the road. The big news was Art Webb's finish in about 34 hours. He's 70 years old, if that means anything... Don't quote me on his time, check the website for accuracy. Dean Karnazes had a strong finish, but was chicked again, this time by Sumie (Japanese runner, 1st place finisher last year who repeated this year). More tonight, time for food and shower now!

Open for Business

Three runners have finished, more have passed through on their way up the Portal road. Balmy 87 degrees in Lone Pine. They look good, we're just waiting for the afternoon to bring some of them in but hoping they won't need us! Mike Morton won and missed the record by a minute! Bet he's wishing he didn't take that last pee break!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cool and Fast

I'm here in Lone Pine to set up Medical ahead of the runners, who not only have cool temperatures but also a tailwind. We stayed busy despite the mild conditions, if you call 109 degrees mild. More later...

Half Bad...

Half the medical team...waiting for the 8:00 wave to start


The 8:00 start was balmy as we weighed in the runners. Once the sun comes up it will be business as usual. For now, we're looking at record times...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Heating Up in Furnace Creek

I was the greeter/tweeter/webcammer at the runner check-in. All that time at Walmart pays off! So fun to see everyone! For today, meetings, and more meetings, and food. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Beer and Clothing in Las Vegas

Here's how my day started: The train at DIA that takes you from security to the gates stalled and all the lights went out.

People are dumb as cows, they continued to pile on to the darkened train like a cattle car. By the time the lights went on it was packed and the doors wouldn't close.

Do you think they had the common sense to get off and wait for the next train?

Once we boarded the plane a young 20 something chick sat down next to me, reeking of cigarettes. She had a wicked smoker's cough which of course she did not even try to cover her mouth with her hand.

I had one of my oncology journals with me so I turned it to a 2 page spread of an ad for a type of chemo for metastatic lung cancer and left it flipped open on my lap for the duration of the flight.

I arrived in Vegas after a quick but turbulent flight.

I picked up my rental car and was out of the airport in 20 minutes. I felt a little queasy from the flight but I was hungry too.

I decided to go check out the sushi place my friend Pam told me about. It was an easy drive on the freeway.

Awesome! It's called Sushi Freak and it was worth the trip.

After that I checked into the hotel and then went to Walmart.

I scored. Eight dollar bras at the Spring Valley Walmart. No more chafing.

I got a glimpse of this classic Walmartian fashion statement: the blurry thong in the picture. Nice. Plus they had touristy stuff for Vegas in there. Now who would go to Vegas to visit a Walmart?

Beats me.

I got a case of water and a big towel to throw over the steering wheel and vinyl in the car when I'm parked in Death Valley so I don't burn the crap out of myself. I remembered to bring my shade screen. Living in Arizona does teach you some things about the heat.

It actually rained a little while I was driving around and the temperature in Vegas was a cool 86 degrees when I arrived. Cooler than Fort Collins!

I have to admit it's a little strange, even lonely, to be here this year without my entourage. Walmart isn't the same experience without Felix and the rest of the crew.

But I do this to get some sleep, because once I get to Furnace Creek, there won't be much sleeping for a few days. We'll be too busy having fun.

So...I might have a beer and relax, take a shower and wash the day's travel grunge off me, and chill out. Tomorrow morning, Furnace Creek!

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Follow the Badwater 2012 Race

In case you're interested in following the race as it unfolds, here is the Press Release with links to photos, video, and other coverage of this year's race.

You most likely won't see me. I'll be somewhere on the course, at the start, then Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs, Lone Pine, or the finish line, tending to the runners' needs. I'm hoping they don't give us much to do, but there's always something unexpected. We'll be ready for them when they show up.

Good luck to everyone in this year's race and a strong, healthy finish.

I'll be sending updates from the course whenever I have access to wifi. Off to Las Vegas first...

photo credit: Nathan Nitzky

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Screaming in the Shower!

No, this is not meant to be a pornographic blogpost or an opportunity to show my boobs to the world like those narcissistic people do on Facebook. I just got back from the sweatiest, slowest, chafingest, longest, torturous-est 8.8 mile run and thought I would chafe my right boob off in the process. I kept moving and felt like crap. It took an hour and a half.

I had a water stop that was perfectly placed 30 minutes into my out & back run, so I got two equally spaced water breaks. On the second water break I finally looked down at my tank top and there was a big bloodstain that leaked through my bra onto the shirt. I'm sure that looked gnarly to all the walkers and cyclists passing me, especially as I ran down Lemay Avenue on my way home with all the morning traffic.

Here's another reason why Walmart is really not so bad. The bra I was wearing today, a Saucony bra, probably sells for 30 to 40 dollars retail. When I run in the humidity, it chafes me. Last night I ran 11 miles, in no less humid, hotter conditions, and faster, which means more opportunity to chafe, but I was wearing my $8.00 Walmart bra. No chafing whatsoever.

I am still really tired from my work days, plus I put in over 16 miles yesterday. I need to pack and do some studying today and tomorrow.

I got some great ideas for some fall mini-adventure runs. Felix is already in for motorcycle crewing. Soon to be announced. Does it involve Walmart? Maybe, maybe not. But there are some places I've always wanted to check out that are within a day's drive from here, and I'm making a list and figuring out some fun and creative routes.

Time to take a shower and expose my chafed skin to the water. If you hear screaming, you'll know why.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Work Hangover Wednesday: Expectations

After two LONG days at work, I didn't expect much from myself today when it came to running, but someone else did. This morning when I dragged myself out of bed, both girls were staring at me before I finished my coffee. No excuses, mom.

Isabelle wanted to come home after one mile so we dropped her off and Iris and I went out for another mile. Then I went out to do a few more, not wanting to take too much out of my legs since they've been pathetic for weeks, and I had a tempo run planned with Shannon tonight.

I did another 3 miles and threw a few strides in, and felt halfway decent. Then I had a few errands to do, I did my weights, and stared into space for a while until I realized I needed to take a nap.

Tonight I did 11 miles, most of it with Shannon on the Power Trail. I didn't feel too blazing fast but considering how sluggish I've been, I still managed to run in the 8:40s. It was 84 degrees and humid tonight, and I felt like it was the best run I've had in months.

Maybe I'm coming out of my running coma. Last week I only got 28 miles of running in, I felt so awful. I will try to get a decent week in this week, then I leave for Badwater.

In Death Valley I won't get much running in at all until I make up for lost sleep, so I'm looking at the last week in July to really hit it again. I think I will be ready by then. This upcoming week with Badwater will be a good thing for me, an extra week to not worry about running too much and rest the legs.

A lot happened the past two days at work and I got to do some things I'm pretty excited about, more about that later. I'm too tired to write any more today, I just want to sleep.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Obesification: Killing Our Kids

I found this fascinating.

Yesterday we saw a young family, the parents and two little girls probably 8 to 10 years old. The parents were noticeably overweight but not what I'd call obviously obese. I'd say average based on the majority of people I see these days. But the little girls were both fat, in my opinion, at least working on obese.

I wonder, what are these kids eating, how much are they eating and what, and what are they doing all the time?

Allow me to rant for a while.

Obesity is one of the most pressing issues we have to deal with not only here in this country but worldwide, as it's spreading. Pun not intended.

This video caught my eye not only because I'm interested in the topic, but I used to work for this organization, Scottsdale Healthcare, it's a good hospital system and good place to work, doing some cutting edge work in certain areas like bariatrics.

I first saw this in one of the e-mail medical newsletters I read daily.

Diabetes is an extremely costly disease. The complications: cardiovascular disease, neuropathies, infections, organ dysfunction especially of the kidneys and eyes. Limb loss. Sepsis. Dialysis. Premature death.

We also need to attempt to stop it before it happens, like not letting people get to a BMI of 30 in the first place, even though some people are more likely to go there due to genetic influences. The video doesn't talk about changing behavior early on, intervening before a person starts to become obese and the metabolic signaling results in diabetes.

Years ago people were not so fat. They were more active. They didn't have the range of sedentary activities to keep them mesmerized. There wasn't the range of bad food, and the ingredients, and the portion sizes.

There is a huge genetic influence on obesity. But that doesn't mean we throw up our hands and say, wait until the person is diabetic then give them a sleeve gastrectomy.
We need thinkers like Dr. Blackstone to manage the medical approach to this disease, but we also need more action on the prevention end of things. We certainly aren't doing enough lifestyle interventions to help solve the problem.

Bad workplace habits, poor city planning, commuting time, work schedules, stress, availability of healthy foods, poor food choices, lack of leisure time, poor leisure time choices, lack of physical education that truly teaches kids how to develop healthy lifestyles, all of these things and more add up to what? Sleeve gastrectomies?


Simple things! Behavioral, exercise and nutritional screening, screening for tobacco and alcohol consumption, electronics use and TV watching. Intervening in each of these areas through real, solid active approaches. Doctors aren't necessarily good examples at all.

I'd like to see total screening in preventive care as an ongoing intervention, with education and practice throughout the lifespan. It doesn't belong primarily in the domain of preventive health care in a doctors' offices. The schools could play a huge role, along with the community organizations that sponsor youth activities. What to eat, how to cook, what to buy, what to avoid. How to increase activity, emphasizing less sedentary time. Adults and children need it.

As people get older, include thyroid screening. You wouldn't believe how many patients I see, they tell me they're tired all the time. When I look at their labs, I see elevated TSH and they're not on thyroid meds. When I ask about it, they look perplexed. Many cancer treatments can affect thyroid function but many of these patients are not getting treatment for cancer.

The thing is, we already know all this stuff. We know what would work. But there's a lack of organized, coordinated societal effort. In the video, Dr. Blackstone acknowledges that some of the other medical disciplines such as oncology and cardiology have had a lot of success with combination therapies, including behavioral interventions and medications, in addition to surgery. It is a multifaceted problem and needs to be treated accordingly.

But when I see little kids who are well on their way to becoming obese adults, it makes me cringe, and I know we are setting them up for failure early on, before they ever get a chance to learn to make healthy choices for themselves.

And I think that's a major failure on the part of the adults in this country. We know better, and it's outright negligence to continue to allow this to happen.

end of rant, for now.

(cross posted at ultrahypo)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Woman Cave Wisdom: Performance Anxiety

It's cool enough in the mornings to enjoy the woman cave again. I've been here most of the morning except to take Iris for a walk.

I've been having lousy runs all week and I finally decided today to just let go and live my day out like a normal person would, do things around the house, not worry about the workout or having to get certain things crossed off the list.

I had to think about why I was feeling so frustrated.

I was having unrealistic expectations of myself, and feeling anxious about getting started on training for my race at the end of the year. I can't force that to happen, it will have to wait until my body is ready.

I ran a 100 mile PR in May and then a 5 day, 163 mile run with a heavy pack 6 weeks later when I hadn't trained for the longer run, or with a heavy pack. It makes sense that I'd be tired and have some crappy workouts until my body says it's ready again.

And by December 30th when my race starts, my body isn't going to know the difference between starting on July 1st or July 31st.

As soon as I caught myself being anxious, I realized how silly it was and I got over it.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone about performance anxiety. She's done three times as many miles as I have so far this year and she's worried about her upcoming 100 mile race. As I listened more closely, I heard her say if there was no timing in a race she would probably run faster than she ever had.

This is someone who has run hundreds of races, of all different lengths, up to 100 miles. She's been running great performances this year. It's not like she's lacking experience. What she is lacking is confidence.

When you expect so much of yourself you get into trouble, because you lose perspective on what's important and why you're doing it. There are times to let go and not worry about it.

Performance anxiety has not been an issue for me ever since I accepted myself for my own abilities. Once you accept that, there is no reason why you can't improve and achieve personal records and perform beyond your wildest dreams.

But some people get so wound up when it comes to running in races because they haven't accepted themselves, they feel they have to compare themselves to other people, and they fear the comparison, fear that they won't measure up, but no one else is comparing.

The only time in my recent memory that I felt nervous was before my Badwater double last year. It wasn't about the race, it was about the whole thing I was about to embark on, going far beyond what I'd ever done before. I didn't trust my abilities enough in an unknown realm, even though I knew I was ready from my training. Once the gun went off I was moving forward, I was in it, all the anxiety disappeared, and I achieved my goal.

Expectations of yourself can be the most damaging, because we performance-oriented and goal-oriented individuals are always harder on ourselves than other people are.

When you do something you are not competing with others, you can only compete with yourself. You have no control over what others do and you only have partial control over what happens yourself. When things don't go so well, you can take the lessons from it, celebrate the successes, and move forward to improve on the next adventure.

I'm going to forget about putting pressure on myself and fill my time with other things, like meeting my friend Pam for sushi tomorrow, and getting little projects done around the house and the yard.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Big Foot, Beer and Fish Tacos

Things are looking better every day for my upcoming trip to Death Valley. That's good, because I need a distraction from the past week. Yesterday I was saying things are good.

They're okay. Can I whine tonight??

Continued shitty runs this week. Five or so miles each of the past two mornings and could barely move, not fun.

It's frustrating when it takes so long to start feeling good. I thought it might be the heat and humidity but that's unlikely. Tonight I did try running when it was cooler and that didn't help.

We got rained out of our evening tempo run two days in a row with lightning and heavy downpours. I did try to go out tonight even after we canceled our plans, because the rain let up for a while, but I felt like crap anyway. I think the universe is trying to tell me I'm not ready to try running fast yet.

So we'll give it a shot next week.

And the other news is that Dennis broke his foot, two fractures, one in his little toe and one in his 5th metatarsal. He hyperextended his foot walking down the stairs the morning after his colonoscopy. He didn't think it was broken until it swelled up and turned purple. So now he's in a boot and waiting to see an orthopedic doc, to see if there's anything else he needs to do.

Dennis's feet are not ordinary feet. He wears size 14 shoes and they are the weirdest looking feet you've ever seen. They are curved, and it looks like his feet stopped growing at some point and then decided to make a turn, and then grow some more before they sprouted toes. And the toes look like most people's fingers.

Did I mention that I've decided against Lean Horse? I just can't make myself go to the Mickelson Trail again so soon. I also feel like I'd do better to just do training runs instead of another race. I could do a few back to back days and get some decent miles in and recover faster than if I run a 100 mile race. I'd like to find some races to run early this fall and I'm still looking, but I don't want to travel too far.

And I'm not running any damn rock n roll marathon with a gazillion people and a 26 mile circus. Maybe there will be a decent marathon within 300 miles of here this fall. We'll see what races appear on the calendar.

It's raining again. I think I'll go drink beer. Sea bass tacos would go with that too. Maybe by tomorrow I'll stop whining.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Work Hangover Wednesday: The Flying Nun

I know, it's Thursday. I'm delirious. I usually work Monday and Tuesday so it would be a work hangover on Wednesday, but this week I worked Tuesday and Wednesday due to the July 4th holiday. Two wacked-out crazy days at work. The kind of days where you try to sit down for 30 seconds and something happens to make you jump up.

Today is Isabelle's 11th birthday and we're celebrating tonight with pupcakes and party hats. I'll post the pictures later. Isabelle is our flying nun. Her little pointy ears with the tufts of hair that stick up, and we call her Sister Bella. I'm hoping to get rid of my work hangover with a good nap this afternoon.

Those two twelve hour shifts were the longest days I can remember in a while. They must have lasted at least 24 hours each. It seemed like it was never ending, we were full all day, but somehow we turned over the chairs enough to keep patients coming in the door. It was a blur, but it took forever to get through the day.

All I know is the patients were jammed in practically on top of each other, we needed so many nurses that we didn't have enough computers for all of us to use, and we were working on top of each other, and when you work in as small a space as we do, with equipment and people and phones ringing and general craziness, it feels like total chaos.

One of my patients did comment that she was amazed at how well we all work together even in a crowded and chaotic environment. We did manage to have some fun, in between. It seemed like all I did was chemotherapy all day. A lot of young people for some reason, on the fourth. That's always a bummer to see people barely out of their teens dealing with the rigorous chemo treatments.

My delirium looks something like this.

Tonight I'm going to do my evening tempo run with Shannon, but I haven't been feeling worth a crap on my runs. Plus the fact that it's humid- nearly 60% humidity and in the 90s, which we are not used to here, certainly not used to running hard in it, and this morning I had another 5 mile sufferfest on my easy little run. It wasn't the heat and humidity though. I just couldn't move my legs. I had no turnover and it felt like my thighs were full of lead.

If I get a decent nap this afternoon things might go better this evening. After the run, we're having the birthday party.

I'm planning to get serious and concentrate on the speed after Badwater, but I'm hoping I feel decent by this weekend on my runs. We're supposed to finally get some rain. I hope we do.

I took the girls for a walk to Arfy's this morning to get pupcakes. We are very sad, we found out Arfy's is closing! It's been open for about 15 years and they just can't keep their heads above water with their little retail store. The girls will miss their walks over there and getting special treats. I don't know what I'll do, maybe have to learn how to bake my own doggie treats? It won't be the same without those special walks.

I got a new snake for Iris and pupcakes for both of them, they are selling everything in the store, so I guess I should think about what buffalo supplies I might need and get them soon. Isabelle doesn't play with toys. Iris plays with toys and Isabelle plays by biting Iris's butt when Iris has the toy in her mouth.

I need to go get serious, I have to do some studying and get that nap. I hope I won't feel so bad when I wake up.

But it can't be too bad with these two characters around.

Here's a link to the birthday party pics, in case you're a bit odd like me, interested in such things as doggie birthday parties...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ten Things I'm Thankful For

Bad runs. They make you appreciate the good ones. I felt like crap on Saturday, felt better Sunday, and then felt somewhere in between but more toward the bad end of the spectrum today. I made myself do strides, and I felt like I had lead legs. But at least I made myself go faster. And I did do my lifting routine and my abdominal workout today, which means I am officially back in it.

Badwater. I love the place and the ultramarathon event named after it. It's become such a fun part of my life. This is my ninth trip out there in 10 years. I love the friends I've made through that event, the memories I have from all my experiences there, the things I've learned about running ultras, extreme conditions, and my own physical and mental abilities as an endurance athlete. It's hard to imagine a summer without a visit to Death Valley to be involved in some way with the race.

I can't wait to arrive in Las Vegas and feel the scorching heat when I walk out of the airport, pick up my rental car, and drive with the windows down all the way to Furnace Creek with the burning air blasting through my hair like a blow dryer. Plus I found a great deal on a room for one night on my way back at the Furnace Creek Inn, which normally is way out of my price range, and I'm going to indulge, hang out at the pool and veg until I have to go back to Vegas to fly home. I might even allow myself some ice cream.

Impending big birthdays. They motivate me, make me want to improve on things in my life over the coming decade. They give me a reason to look forward, think positive thoughts, and dream of what's possible. I still have one more little birthday before I hit the big 5-0, but the gears are grinding at full speed and I intend to do something big, and fun.

Humidity. The good thing about humidity, besides making you pour sweat, is that it means monsoon season is here, and that means rain isn't far behind. We need it. Not torrential rain on the areas that got hit by the fire, though, please.

July. The days are getting shorter, and I'm very happy about no fireworks this year. I know people with kids will be disappointed, but I really hate fireworks, other than the ones that are in organized, municipally sponsored displays. Why? Because they are a tool of the clueless, but sometimes intentionally mean people, that terrorizes animals. Isabelle is terrified of them. Isabelle's birthday is the day after 4th of July and for once she will be able to enjoy her birthday without spending the entire night before trembling and stressed out.

Raspberries. Our raspberries are out of control! Every day I've been picking an entire bowl and eating them or blending them up in smoothies. Awesome!

Trails. When you can't run trails for a long time, it makes you miss them, and we have even more reason to appreciate our trails in Fort Collins, because they could have gone up in flames, but they didn't. Horsetooth Mountain Park and Lory State Park have intact trails, thanks to the efforts of the firefighters.

Firefighters. They should inherit the earth. They deserve to be worshipped. They are amazing, courageous, unselfish, true heroes. It's been so heartbreaking to see the pictures of the damage and hear the stories of those who lost so much. At the same time, I am forever grateful to those firefighters, because Kathleen and Steve were able to return to their intact, undamaged home in Colorado Springs. Troy went back to his unscathed home last week. And Dale has not been threatened by any fires because the High Park fire was under control before it could move south. Let's hope that continues.

Good post-colonoscopy pathology reports. Dennis is off the hook for a long time. I'm up next. Unless they come up with that cure for the common colonoscopy in the next 2 years.

My dad. Two of my friends lost their fathers this past week. A reminder that our time here is temporary, and we need to make the best of it, every day. My dad is in fairly good health in general, for someone with a potentially life-threatening disease. It's one of those things you always keep in the back of your mind, while his health is good and stable, it wouldn't take much to disrupt that and push him over the edge, either. We're making plans to go out and visit my dad and stepmom at the beach in California later this summer.

I am thankful for all these things and people and a whole lot more, that I haven't even mentioned, and above all Dennis and the Buffaloes. Things are good in my world. I'm thankful for that. And one day at a time, finding an adventure.