Scatter my ashes here...

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Life, Death & Running

I did it because I knew I wouldn't be doing much running for a few days in Arizona, but my last hill workout of multiple Maniacs looked like a bad ventricular tachycardia on an EKG. I felt good, though, despite the warm day, steep hills, and slow pace.

I was sort of hoping for hot days in Scottsdale, but instead we got cooler temperatures and tropical-feeling humidity. Pretty uncomfortable for running. That was okay though. My husband and I went down to visit my dad and stepmom and celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

Our visit was low key. Perfect for what we needed. We walked around some, did some shopping, drank some beer and ate. And ate. And ate. I felt like I was going to burst by the end of the three days. So much good food. I walked the canal in the humidity. It was overcast and you could smell the canal hanging in the air. There were a few ducks out, nothing like this spring. There were hundreds of quail around with their babies. Baby quail are so cute. I saw a HUGE coyote running across the grass at a downtown Scottsdale hotel lawn. I'm sure he was well-fed.

I stay in touch with several of the Arizona runners from when I lived there. A few weeks ago one of the runners who happens to be my friend Kirk's brother-in-law, Jeff, suffered a cardiac arrest during a run down there in Phoenix. I didn't know about it until I saw another runner's post on Facebook that he was speaking at the service. Jeff was a late-life new runner. He probably lived longer as a result of running than he would have if he never started. Still, that was a shock, something you never expect. His wife is Kirk's sister. I met them years ago, when they lived in Oregon and their kids were little.

But then our last day there, we found out, again, on Facebook, that one of the runners we knew from ultras was involved in an accident on his way home from work on the night of June 9th, with bad head trauma. He was taken to Maricopa County hospital. That's where I got my first job offer out of nursing school, in ICU there. As an ICU nurse, I always dreaded having someone come in as a patient that I knew.

Well this was horrible news, it was Dennis Poolheco, he died later that night at county hospital. He was a great runner, he did ultras and trail runs. He won the Man Against Horse race something like 6 times. And he used to come to a lot of the events I ran. I got to know him a little, and he was always such a nice person, and everyone loved him. I can still hear him laugh, and see his smile. So easygoing and fun to be around. He was a great competitor and also so humble. I kept thinking of him, the whole way home, and today the thought of it kept invading my thoughts.

Dennis was Native American from the Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona. He was involved in creating the Paatuwaqatsi Run, one of the most beautiful running experiences I've ever had. One that I'd like to go back to, that Katy and I were talking about doing again next year.

Losses to the running community are always hard because everyone runs thinking they will stay healthy and live a long time, in that healthy state. At least that is what they assume. So when things do happen suddenly to runners and they die, it's always unexpected. It's almost like there was that extra expectation of a long life.

It is horrible what happened to Dennis, though I am glad he didn't have to suffer any longer in that condition, because it's too cruel of an outcome to survive an injury like that. Surviving isn't even the right word, it's more like being plugged in to a socket. It means days on a ventilator and a million tubes and lines to pumps going in and out of the body, and if the person has pain they can't communicate it and might not even be aware of what it is, just agitated in a non-communicative state. Not the way anyone would want to be for any period of time.
He outran us to the other side, wherever that is, if there is one.

Live every day as fully as you can. Have all the adventure packed in sooner rather than later. Forget all the trivial problems of our too-complex lives.

Run in beautiful places. Look at the landscape. Look at the sky. Breathe.

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