Scatter my ashes here...

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

got toenails?

As I write this, Danny Westergaard is approaching the finish of his fifth consecutive Badwater crossing and will be going for his third summit of Mt. Whitney in the next day or so.

It occurred to me that there are only a few people in the world who really appreciate what he is doing and are inspired by it. He's got quite the following on Facebook, but it still comes down to a small number of fans. I have no doubt that someone will attempt to break Danny's record in the near future, but records are made to be broken.

Here I sit in the basement, feeling the cool carpet between my toes. I lost another toenail today after my run out to Dixon Reservoir. I finally had a full set, and now I'm down to 9 again. My feet, like most other ultrarunners, are my worst feature. I have two more toenails that look close to falling off, and my big toe on the left foot has looked scary ever since the Keys.

I'm only a month away from Lean Horse. I have been doing roughly 20 miles a day on my non-work days this week. Last week I managed to do 85 miles including the 50 miler and I feel good this week, I'm recovered, so that tells me I'm in a good place. I'm not nearly as fit as I'd like to be but I have time. I still have an extra nearly 15 pounds on me.

Across the Years is 5 months away and I want to be ready for it. I hope to have lost a good portion of that weight by then, and have some good consistent miles this fall., Being able to keep the long day after day miles going on some weeks, with more regular weeks for rest, will help me build the strength to determine by the end of the year if I'm anywhere near ready to tackle the double Badwater next year.

I started my new job in outpatient infusion this week. I love it. There's a ton to learn. It's fast-paced and I'm on my feet, which as far as I'm concerned, counts as cross-training. When I'm not at work, I'm beating my toenails running up and down the Horsetooth Rock service road, getting the gravel hills in for Lean Horse.

The way I see it, the fewer toenails I have, the less weight I'm carrying around, right?

I wonder how many toenails Danny has.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chasing Dreams

I just got word that one of this year's Badwater runners completed a quadruple crossing of Death Valley, summiting Whitney twice, for a total of 584 miles. So far. He is now about to start on his fifth crossing. To my knowledge, no one has ever done a quintuple crossing before.

Most people don't understand why someone would want to do that, and I can't put myself inside of Danny's head or his heart but I think I can understand the drive to do it.

Danny said he was running in honor of his father who died from complications related to prostate cancer recently. His cousin was the sole crew person for him on the last three legs of the journey.

When I reached the finish line in 2008, despite the condition of my torn up feet, I wanted so badly to turn around and go back across the valley. As I drove back toward home that year, the whole way through Death Valley I dreamed of going back, it seemed like the logical thing to do, to go see the course and experience it in reverse. There is nothing like seeing the sunrises and sunsets and the extremes in between, the colorful rocks and the sky.

Becoming part of the road, part of the heat, you connect with that environment in a way that you cannot explain to anyone unless they've experienced it. But some people do get it.

Teresa Perdue-Hickey, a beginning runner I recently met in Fort Collins, said a beautiful thing about running after she watched the Badwater videos from this year. She said, "I love how running isn't at all about running.. it's about catching up to your spirit and running within that space for as long as you can".

I hope to do a double crossing of Death Valley in the near future. I'd like to do the race again next year but at this point not sure about a double then. It's a possibility, but I might save it for 2014 when I turn 50, it would be a fun way to do a 50th birthday celebration.

Allowing yourself to dream, even in the face of hard times and difficult situations, unhappiness, depression, grief and loss, then finding the window of opportunity to go after those dreams and chase them down, and catch what you can, is what drives some people to achieve the things many people think of as impossible or beyond their limits.

It applies not only to runners but to anyone. Finding a way to move forward, getting caught up in the pursuit of a dream, is one of the most healing things you can do. And it's really a gift, in honor of the people in our hearts, who inspired us in the first place.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Unchain Me!

What a nice day. It's been a great week.

This morning Dennis and I ran the Run for Hope 5K, it was a great chance to enjoy a relaxed run and socialize. It's a benefit for the PVHS Foundation and carcinoid cancer awareness. Dennis ran too, and he won his age group, brought home some hardware. Not bad for an old man, my old man.

It was a cool morning, humid but the temperature was perfect for the run. I got a few extra miles in with the Buffaloes before and then afterward.

After two weeks of not doing much, I finally got a fifty mile run in this week on the bike path, and only my closest and most trusted friends know the special name I gave that run. It was my cleansing ritual, my detox run.

After the race this morning we went out to breakfast. On our way out of City Park we noticed there was an Australian Shepherd show at the park, so we decided to go home after breakfast and get the girls and bring them to the park to see their "cousins". There were some adorable puppies, and we talked to some of the breeders and people showing their dogs there. The girls got excited to see the other Aussies, they act differently with their own breed than they do with other dogs. They know.

After we got home we both were tired and Dennis fell asleep on the futon. I went upstairs and took a 2 1/2 hour nap on the bed. I needed that. I have not been sleeping long enough, I always wake up early in the morning. We stayed up the night before the 5K and watched a movie, and then I woke up at 4:45 am, my usual wake up time.

Even without the nap, after my 50 mile run, Dennis remarked on how happy and relaxed I looked. I have heard that so many times this week. It's amazing how good it feels to have an unhappy weight lifted off your shoulders. It's going to be a bit longer process than a week to be completely unchained. I've paid quite a price in terms of my health and overall well-being.

Speaking of weight, I topped out at 130 pounds when I got back from Badwater. I have never weighed that much in my life. I have gained 18 pounds since 2007. It's stress, eating junk at work, eating too much at home, mindlessly, not paying attention to what I'm doing. It's the unhappiness that took such a toll on me. Now I feel like I'm carrying a lead brick when I take every running step.

So now the work begins, to shed the layers that I've been wearing for quite some time now, making some other gradual changes that will help me feel like myself again and will also contribute to getting my body and my whole, intact self back. Life is too short to stay in an unhealthy situation. After my 50 mile run, having all the poison out of my pores, I took a torch to a symbol of it to finalize things. It's behind me. Time to move forward.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Badwater 2010

Badwater 2010 was a memorable, smooth race for the runners and the medical team.

The highlight of the race for me was seeing Jack Denness reach his goal of finishing Badwater at age 75. Jamie Donaldson from Denver broke her own womens' course record by about 35 minutes, the men's winner was Zach Gingerich, who placed high last year. Seeing Jorge Pacheco, Oswaldo Lopez, and Marcos Farinazzi, all contenders for the men's title, gutting it out through the race even though their races didn't go as planned, they all finished in admirable performances.

We treated a few runners for dehydration and a few other concerns but nothing serious, no serious hyponatremia, no IVs were necessary, and we almost didn't have to use the I-Stat. There was drama, as usual, with some of the crews and runners, but it was very calm the whole way through. We were mostly sitting around waiting. We went up to the finish line, went out on the course, and everyone looked good. There were only 7 DNFs out of a field of 80 starters.

I started my week off by going to Phoenix first, and visiting my dad and stepmom. The next day I flew to Las Vegas, spent the night there and got my supplies at Wal Mart the next morning, then took off for Furnace Creek. When I arrived in Furnace Creek it was 120 degrees.

At the pre-race briefing Lisa got inducted into the Badwater Hall of Fame for her contributions to the race as medical director and her two great performances there including her win in 2007.

After the pre-race briefing we had our dinner and medical team meeting and then went through the supplies.

John Vonhof along with Denise Jones and Jacquie Florine provided foot care for the runners. John's book, Fixing Your Feet, will be in it's fifth edition later this year.

Lisa and Tim went to the 6 am start, then Kim, Jeff, and I went down for the 8:00 start and weighed the runners in, then we watched the start and some of us went back to Furnace Creek while the others stayed through the 10:00 start.

We waited around Furnace Creek with no business until it was time to close up shop and go to Stovepipe Wells with all the medical equipment. It was Tim's birthday so Lisa ordered something that he had to share with the rest of us.

Paul Grimm, and Dale Perry, his crew member, both from Colorado.

In Stovepipe Wells last year it was busy. This year we had maybe a half dozen runners who neded oral replacement salts and fluid and they got up and went back on the course. Mark and I drove up Towne Pass around sunset to checek on runners. Most looked amazingly good even with the hot headwind they were fighting, going uphill.

This year I went ahead earlier to Lone Pine. Most of the runners were moving very well and it looked like it was going to be more of a pack coming in instead of being spread far apart. I got some sleep that night and in the morning we watched the front runners come through town. Jamie came through and she was flying. She looked great.

Early in the afternoon Megan and I went up to the finish line to hang out there for the rest of the afternoon. It was fun watching the finishers. We really didn't have any medical issues at the finish line either. Tim and Mark relieved us around 8 pm and then Dave went up there to spend the night.

There was very little medical business in Lone Pine that night, Sally was in the medical room and she got to sleep, too, and Megan and I got some decent sleep.

Really the most interesting thing that happened had something to do with this:

Wednesday morning most of us went for a run. I got an hour and a half run in, in the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine. I had a great view of Whitney and the Owens Valley. Later we went through the medical supplies for next year, waited while the rest of the runners went through town, and we heard that Jack Denness was on target to finish.

We went to the post-race pizza party and we gave Jack two standing ovations when he enetered the school cafeteria where we had the party, and when Chris brought him up on stage for recognition with the other finishers.

Jack said something to the effect of, "75 is just a number". Art Webb had another sub-48 hour performance at age 68, too.

We all said our good-byes on Wednesday evening, Tim and Lisa and Mark were going to climb Whitney, the rest of us were going separate ways. Megan is going to be the medical director starting next year. I told her I'd do it again in the future, but I really hope to be running the race in 2011.

Thursday morning I drove back through the valley to get to Las Vegas. The temperature hit 125 degrees. Coming home took forever, the flight was delayed in Vegas, then we waited on the ground forever, arrived in Denver late, baggage claim took forever, and then finally ot on the shuttle to parking, got my car, and then there was late night construction traffic on I-25 going north, going 10 mph near Berthoud.I was hungry, sleep deprived, and thought I would never get home. Finally I did.

My anxiety about starting my new job and being able to stick to my current running plans was relieved as soon as I got back. Today I got my schedule for the next month and it's awesome. Today I went out and got all new scrubs, new work shoes, and when I start my new job, I'm burning all of the old stuff. Actually donating it to Goodwill, but I like the idea of burning it. Maybe I will burn one thing, just to make it official, and it will feel great!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air!

This weekend was a celebration of many things. July 5th is Isabelle's birthday, it was Fourth of July and our first Fourth of July in Como since we got the cabin 6 years ago. We didn't know it before, but now we do, that we can watch the fireworks display close-up from our futon in the cabin, through the screen door. How cool is that?

But equally it was a celebration of my new job! I am leaving ICU within the next month to work in the oncology department, in outpatient infusion. It's something I've been wanting to do for quite some time and it couldn't have happened at a better time. I found out just before leaving the house to drive up to Como for the weekend.

Sometimes waiting for change is almost as stressful as the thing you're wanting to change.

While we were in Florida a job was posted in the oncology outpatient infusion clinic for relief hours only. Those are minimal hours and I would keep my ICU job until I could get the same number of hours as I have in ICU. With the relief job, I applied, got an interview, and then heard I got it, except that there might be some real jobs like what I wanted(not relief, but guaranteed hours), soon, and if I was interested I should apply.

And it was supposed to happen soon. How soon, I didn't know. So I went into the checking the job postings 6 times a day mode, checking my email, checking for voice messages, and generally being on hyper-alert and realizing just how ready I am for this change.

After 3 weeks of touch and go, knowing I have a job in the department I want but not the job I want, but the job I want will be available, maybe soon, and then waiting for the job to materialize on the job postings, so I can apply for it, then applying, and waiting to find out if I got it, and waiting...and waiting...and waiting...

All of which went really fast in retrospect but while I was waiting it seemed like


Dennis told me there is a reason I'm having to wait, that it will be a good thing.

When I didn't hear by Friday of this week, I decided I needed to just leave town for the weekend according to my original plan, to run the Leadville marathon, hang out at the cabin, and not stress about it. I packed up the car, got the Buffaloes in the back seat, and was on my last trip back into the house before locking up and leaving, when I saw the message light on the phone. I thought it might be Dennis since we just got off the phone making plans for when he followed us up to the cabin later after work.

I checked the message and it was the manager of the oncology department asking me to call her.

I did.

It was the job offer!!!

I asked if there was anything I needed to do right away, but since we were going into a holiday weekend, we decided we would work on it next week and enjoy the holiday.

So I stuck to my plans, but there was an extra reason to celebrate!

Dennis arrived at the cabin in the middle of the night. I woke up at 4:45 am and had to drive to Leadville, over an hour away.

I arrived at the Sixth Street Gym by 7 am and picked up my race packet, ate my sandwich, drank a lot of water and gatorade, and packed my pack full of warm clothes. I talked with some people I hadn't seen in ages, since I rarely come up to Leadville anymore.

Finally it was time for the start. I was blown away when I saw that they were using timing chips for the event. I can't believe this little race that started in 1992 when there were a few dozen of us, now has hundreds of runners and chip timing!

I was in tourist mode. I had my butt pack that was bigger than my butt loaded with warm clothes, food, camera, batteries, and drinks. I might as well have brought my AAA card, a credit card and a toothbrush.

I took my time, I planned to get a lot of walking in and didn't care to push it. I got plenty of miles in the past two weeks and all I needed was the vertical. I was in pedestrian mode and I had told Dennis it might be 5:00 before I got back to the cabin, because the marathon might take me 7 hours or longer.

And it did. I socialized at the aid stations, talked to old friends, more people from Leadville I haven't seen in years, people from ultras I haven't seen in months. I ran most of the first half with Dale Perry, he will be at Badwater next week crewing for Paul Grimm. Dale got to the top just ahead of me and then he pushed a little faster than I did going back, so we didn't see each other again until the finish.

On the way back I caught up to the crazy dude with Ultimate Butt, the term we use for those old Ultimate Direction packs that ride up with your shorts, exposing your cheeks to everyone running behind you. I tried to avoid him, he was chattering about who knows what. I didn't want to get stuck with Mr. U.B. because he never would have shut up and he probably could keep up with me if I tried to run ahead. So I kept him in sight, but not close enough to see the details, and with enough cushion so he couldn't recognize me if he turned around.

And there was this woman who was behind me on the way up the pass and just ahead of me on the way down. I was trying to avoid her because of her annoying voice. One of those nails on chalkboard voices. She had to be all perky and cheer for every single person on their way down the pass as we were climbing up. Squeak, squeak, squeak. Driving me crazy.

About a mile from the top I wanted to turn around and yell back at her, if you would use your breath to climb the @#$%&*! pass, you'd be done in half the time! But I didn't. I got ahead of her enough so I couldn't hear her anymore, and I talked with Pat at the aid station on top of the pass for a long time even though I was freezing, and took pictures and gave Miss Perky Squeaky Voice plenty of time to get far ahead of me. Unfortunately I caught up to her soon after the aid station at the bottom.

I think I just needed to be alone and look at the scenery. I think I was emotionally fried. My work week was pretty miserable last week, and I was so excited and hopeful about the new job that it was stressful waiting. There's always the fear that you didn't get the job. What if.

As I found things getting on my nerves I stuck close to the back of the pack and strategically passed people only if I knew I could go past them fast enough to avoid getting in a conversation.

I could feel my toes jamming into the front of my shoes on the way down. The Leadville marathon is almost all straight up or straight down, there are only a few miles where the road is fairly level, in the middle section by the mines. I was wondering how many toenails I might lose after this one, now that I have ten again, they won't last long.

I always forget just how hard this marathon is. It takes way longer than it needs to, to do 26 miles. I could get the same vertical in my back yard on Horsetooth Rock, in a lot less time, just not the altitude. I'm to the point with Leadville where I think I'm over it. I spent so much time up there in the past. I still think it's beautiful up there but I feel like I could find new places to explore.

It's really a suffer fest at this point, since I don't train for cold and I don't train for high altitude anymore. Actually though since I was going so slow I felt surprisingly good even on top of Mosquito Pass. I had no problems with my stomach or my appetite. Usually I'm queasy above 12,000 feet. This time I was just lightheaded, probably would have sounded like a Gooney Bird except I wasn't being very sociable.

I did tell one older runner I was close to the whole race, that as you get older you forget how painful it was the year before. That's why we come back. This time it took me 3 years to forget. If I go back to run it again in less time than that, I'm in trouble.

I got back to the Sixth Street Gym seven hours and thirty three minutes, long, torturous, lost in thought, but scenic hours and minutes after the start. I thanked Ken and Merilee, said goodbye to Dale and Ron, and took off for Como before Dennis started worrying.

I stopped at the KOA in Buena Vista and got a shower for $8.00 from a pipe sticking out of the wall, but at least it was warm water. I forgot how everyone up there in those campgrounds, both the visitors and the workers, all sound like they're from Texas or Arkansas. It's been a long time since my days of doing forestry work in the summers, living in the back of my truck, and coming into town once a week for a shower.

On Sunday we took the girls for a hike on the ditch trail and then went back to the cabin. The town of Como swelled to several hundred people, there was a parade with a float, and live music, booths, nasty greasy-looking food wagons, and lots of large people walking around aimlessly, holding nasty greasy-looking things, dressed in red, white, and blue.

For a town of 20 permanent residents and maybe 100 in the summer, it was a big crowd. We waited all day for the fireworks, as the sun went down it got cold and windy. For while we thought it would either rain us out or it would be too windy to have fireworks, but there was a steady stream of headlights driving into town, hundreds of cars were arriving.

The fireworks started and Isabelle got scared. Poor thing, she was trembling. We had to talk to her and comfort her the whole time. Iris didn't seem to be bothered at all. We poured some beer in Isabelle's bowl hoping she might drink it and it would calm her down, but she was too scared. Iris drank it instead and then feel asleep, snoring on the futon.

Finally it was over. We watched the stream of red tailights proceeding out of town and along Highway 285. Monday morning when we woke up, town was dead quiet again. You would never know that a thousand people and their cars were there just a few hours ago.

It was cold and windy in the morning too. We left to drive back to Fort Collins late in the morning. As soon as I got home I wrote my letter of resignation, and I'm on my way to a big, welcome, healthy, much-needed change within the next few weeks.

A BIG breath of fresh air!