Scatter my ashes here...

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

Monday, March 28, 2011


There was a thread this week on Woofie's ultra list about taking time off. I'm re-posting my post there on this blog. I think it applies to everyone! So here it is:

Speaking of my favorite four letter word...

I love R-E-S-T!!! I always look forward to my time off after I've been training for a while for an event. It gives me a chance not only to rest my body, but my mind too. I feel it helps preserve my enthusiasm about running ultras, which can take so much time out of my life. I've been running ultras for 20 years and if I didn't take periods of time off from running, I wonder if I would have lasted this long.

When I started running 27 years ago, I started like many "born again" runners- with 10Ks, progressing to road marathons. I was quite competitive back then and beat the crap out of my body, didn't eat enough, didn't rest enough, and was injured more of the time than I was healthy. Being in my 20s it was easy to bounce back. If I was trying to do that now, it would likely do a lot more damage. Fortunately I met some ultrarunners 7 years into my running "career" and that changed everything.

As I've gotten "older" (I'm 47, started running ultras as an infant of 27) I have changed my approach and philosophy about running ultras, and my training has evolved with my interest in doing longer events. I've weathered the usual assortment of injuries, mostly occurring BEFORE I started doing ultras, an autoimmune health condition that causes severe fatigue if I overdo it, a couple of career changes including going back to school, and periods of pure mental burnout, where I've said "I'm retiring from ultras after this". Of course that only lasts a few weeks, until the next interesting event I hear about...

I find that what pushes me to burnout seems to be the final 8 or 10 weeks of training leading to my goal event for the year- so I only have one of these big "goal races" per year, everything else is a training run. Seeing my other races as training runs helps me avoid burnout, I can relax my approach and I don't run myself into the ground.

The other factor I see contributing to burnout in many runners is their dependence on running for their social lives. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I love runners and most of my best friends are runners. However it's important to diversify your social circles because it's important to expand your horizons...every so often we need to pull our heads out of our, well, you know... and remember there is a big world out there that doesn't know running, and we live in it, too. It is so refreshing to have a conversation about something other than running, isn't it? I *SOOOO* appreciate my running buddies who can talk about things besides running.

I look forward to staying in this sport as long as I can keep moving forward. The fact that I am moving forward AND looking forward after 20 years in this sport is due to periodic rest.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Run 'til it falls off...

I had a tough running week. It was a challenge for me, as I didn't feel so great for most of it. I didn't get the miles I'd hoped for, but things got better toward the end of the week.

When I speak about running, I always tell the audience that you have to take setbacks and turn them around as positive events. You have to be able to re-frame the not-so-great experiences and look at them as helpful and part of the process of moving forward. The old silver lining cliche.

I had the opportunity to do this for myself the other day. This week was exceptionally exhausting for me, before I even got to my running days.

As I entered the hospital Monday morning to go into work, after crossing the bridge from the parking garage, there was a table staffed by two people who were giving out snacks and other stuff. I stopped to ask what it was for. They said, "It's certified nurses' week. Are you certified?"

Resisting the urge to smirk, I said, "Yes, I am." I actually do have my certification in critical care, even though I don't work there any more.

They offered me some granola bars and juice, and handed me a
little tag to wear on my badge that said, "Certified".

Obviously they didn't know who they were giving that to. It was NOT going to be used as it was intended.

Monday and Tuesday I had two long, busy, exhausting, but extremely gratifying days at work, because I felt like I was able to make a positive impact on a patient's it was well worth the energy. But then I had a staff meeting early in the morning on Wednesday after my two long work days, and I happened to wake up at 3:30 am that morning, not by choice, but by another one of those nighttime hot flash/sweat fests.

After waking up early for that I felt completely wiped out. I knew running was not going to be an option until I got more sleep, so I headed over to the sauna and sat in there for 40 minutes. Then I came home and fell asleep from 11:30 am until nearly 3 pm. When I woke up, I felt human again. So I went running with the Wednesday night group, and they always kick my butt, they are so fast, it's my weekly speed workout to run with them.

After that run, I was wiped out again, and Thursday morning I went over to Tortilla Marissa's and hung my artwork in the restaurant. I had big plans to get some long miles in afterward. When I woke up that morning I knew it was going to be a challenge to get even a few miles in. I managed to crawl for 4 miles with the girls, and then I was done. It was 11:30 and I needed a nap again! After a 2 hour nap, I got another 7 miles in and that was it for the day. I was toast.

Friday morning I needed to get a decent long run in. Forty miles had been my original plan, and I started out with good intentions. I did my first 4 miles with the girls and after that I knew I was in trouble. I set out from the house and decided to do an out and back on the bike path and see how that felt. A few blocks into it, I started walking. I kept on moving and eventually the walking pace turned into something respectable.

Friday ended up as a 20 mile walk, which was useful, as I need to keep working on that walking pace. But the BEST thing that came of that was I started to develop a friction spot underneath the ball of my left foot, which has a callus on it. That's the one that became such an issue during Badwater in 2008, and slowed me down so much.

When I peeled my shoes and socks off Friday afternoon, I could see that a deep blister is forming underneath that same callus. That is AWESOME! I am going to keep working on growing that blister so the callus will eventually peel off, as it did after Badwater 08. That way I can start with a callus-free foot before Badwater this time.

Today I went up and did Rock Repeats and had an absolutely kick ass 22 mile workout. Five Rock Repeats at a good consistent pace, with the last one as the fastest one.

It was a beautiful clear day after the fog burned off. It was gusty up there and with the wind in your face it was freezing. But most of the time it was perfect.

I could see clouds on Longs Peak, and above Coyote Ridge.

There's another runner I met up there a few weeks ago named JP and he's training for Leadville. We found out we were doing the same workout and Katy and I ran into him last Saturday.

JP was up there today but he got a late start, so I was finishing my 3rd as he was starting out. It really helps to see another runner up there doing the same workout. By trying to guess where we'll pass each other on each out and back, I can try to push myself to run harder.

So tomorrow the plan is to do the long miles on the flats again, and alternate running and walking a lot, because walking creates more friction on the bottom of my feet. I'll run until the bottoms of my feet fall off! And that is the silver lining.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Signs of Spring

The Goodwill bin was recently moved from it's location near Sunflower Market to some other place in the universe. I am used to dumping my old running shoes in there. I have almost a dozen shoes ready to go to Goodwill or somewhere, but they have been sitting in my car for a couple of months because I keep forgetting to find a new location to take them to.

It's been cold all winter and I park in the parking garage at work, which I am sure is the coldest place in Colorado, colder than Gunnison, maybe the coldest place in the universe. But yesterday I went up to Horsetooth Mountain Park to meet Katy for Rock Repeats, and I got a surprise when I opened the door to my car on the warm, sunny morning when I stopped to refill my bottle.

I really need to find a place to unload those shoes. Dennis says they moved the bin because of me and my shoes, I was contaminating it and they had to call in the Hazmat team to decontaminate the Goodwill bin.

I found some cilantro growing in the garden yesterday. And the bulbs in the yard are coming up with green tops.

Maybe I have spring fever, too. I was sweating at night, all week, and not sleeping very well. Damn hormones. Last week was a rough one for me, I've been burning the candle at both ends still trying to clear out all the clutter and detail from my life so I can just concentrate on training.

Basically it's just finishing up with taxes, framing a pile of artwork, miscellaneous commitments, life details and obligations. Nothing bad, but it all takes time, energy, and patience. Patience is what I seem to be missing these days.

Things got delayed with my artwork due to a mistake in the framing shipment and now it will be next week before I can get my artwork in to Tortilla Marissa's, but this coming week should be better than last week. I've been feeling very Towanda-like, hot flashy, hormonal, and on edge. I need to be able to focus on my training and get in the right frame of mind, and I'm starting to resent all the little distractions. Maybe just a few more days and I can do that.

I got my abbreviated workouts in this week, got the basics in, but not many miles. I guess that's still okay at this point. The best workout of the week was yesterday's three Rock Repeats with Katy. That was fun, I miss running with her. Now my legs are sore, but not as sore as after last week's first two Rock Repeats. I'll take that as a positive sign. I must be making progress.

Another one or two Rock Repeat workouts and I will have bashed my quads sufficiently so I won't get sore anymore. That will be awesome. It's hard to get the legs into the hill workouts after not doing hills since October!

And I'm down to nine toenails again this week, after keeping a full set for nearly three months.

And I did 35 minutes in the sauna the other day without my heart rate going up much at all. I think I have permanently altered my body's thermostat. Or maybe it's because my body can't tell the difference between a hot flash and the sauna. Maybe I've been heat training all this time without even trying. Who needs a sauna when you can do it naturally?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Year!

Key lime pie, the perfect birthday cake.

It's been two weeks since LOST and I feel recovered. I've had some great workouts this week, short distances but I felt good. I just got home from two Rock Repeats and nailed both of them faster than I did all last year or the year before that. I feel like I'm starting my final Badwater training at a much higher fitness level than I did last time.

I am so thankful for my health and my ability to train and run at this level. I've been feeling good. I just had my mammogram last week and thankfully it was normal. I was almost hyperthyroid when I had my labs drawn in January. I have made a small adjustment in my thyroid medication and it seems like I don't need so many long naps the past few weeks. I'm going to get my labs drawn in a couple of weeks to see if it's working the way I think it is. I need to get it just right before Badwater, being hyperthyroid makes it harder to tolerate the heat.

My birthday was the other day and I celebrated another year, which is always a good thing. Making the most of every day adds up to more good years. I was fortunate to have spent a good portion of this birthday around people who know why having another birthday is always worthy of celebration. Those are my wonderful friends from the Survivorship Advisory Council, Sharing the Cancer Journey, and the PVHS Foundation.

I shared my story and gator pictures from the LOST 118/Jurassic Park 114, and they shared their company, wisdom, stories, a pistachio birthday cake, a card for me, and their enthusiasm about our ongoing efforts to make the Poudre Valley Cancer Center happen.

This week the NCI (National Cancer Institute) and CDCP released new figures on the number of cancer survivors in the U.S., about 12 million. That is roughly 4% of the population, or 1 in 25 people.

These numbers only strengthen the case for providing local facilities to provide services for cancer patients and survivors, or thrivers, as I prefer to say. Here in Fort Collins we are raising funds to build a cancer center which will do just that. Anyone with a history of cancer has special healthcare needs because follow-up and vigilance are so important. This is a major portion of our population and is growing all the time.

We've had difficulty getting our local newspaper to help us bring this cause front and center, and I think part of it is the unwillingness to face the fact that cancer is a nearly universal disease. They seem to think, "but we just did a story on cancer", maybe they think it won't sell papers. But people are curious, and they love reading stories about cancer survivors with positive outcomes. More and more, we are seeing positive outcomes.

When it comes to cancer, I have found that people don't want to think about it, they don't want to know about it, and the idea of personally having to face cancer oneself is wrapped in a lot of fear. People don't want to know about what they fear, they'd rather ignore it. Accessing preventive care services, like colorectal and prostate cancer screening, mammograms, pap smears, skin cancer checks, all of these ways we have of detecting cancer early, is still something that too many people avoid.

As a registered nurse who works in an oncology outpatient clinic, I am amazed by the number of my fellow nurses in the other areas of the hospital who say to me, "I could never work with cancer patients." "I don't know how you do that." "That must be so depressing." "I know I should do it, but I keep putting off my mammogram/pap smear/colonoscopy".

Actually I have never once felt depressed since working here. Yes it is sad and difficult when we lose one of our patients, or when one of our patients gets bad news. It can be challenging to provide the right amount and type of support to the patient and patient's family, too.

But I feel great about what I'm doing. Yes I am providing treatment for people with cancer, sometimes with very toxic drugs, but those will give them a much improved chance at a higher quality of life for a lot longer time than if they refused treatment.

Most nurses outside of oncology that I've talked with are unaware of the numerous biological therapies we are using that don't have the toxicity of chemotherapy, and the many amazing drugs we have available now to prevent nausea, infection, and help patients successfully complete a course of chemotherapy with many fewer side effects than just a few years ago.

I would say 90% or more of the patients with cancer that I see have healthier, more positive attitudes, with a better appreciation of life and gratitude for all the wonderful things in their lives, than people who have never experienced cancer.

If so many of my fellow nurses who don't work in oncology, who are generally much more informed about health care than the general public, are this uninformed or in personal denial of the need for information on cancer prevention and treatment, then imagine how little the general public knows!

What this reaction from my colleagues tells me is that they are largely uneducated about the current state of cancer treatment and survivorship in this country. And we need to educate them, because they are the ones who can make a huge difference in educating the public. They can be our allies in explaining how important it is to have access to services under one roof for people undergoing treatment and for those who have completed treatment.

This includes not only traditional surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, but also complementary therapies, wellness services such as physical and occupational therapy, exercise classes, nutrition information, financial re-planning, and support groups for the social and emotional health of people who have had their life courses significantly altered.

Fatigue is a huge issue for people undergoing cancer treatment and after they have completed treatment. This affects quality of life, including ability to work, maintain financial stability, social life, and just doing everyday tasks. While going through cancer treatment it's not unusual for a patient to have 80 or even 100 separate appointments with doctors and other care providers.

The thing about chemotherapy and related cancer treatments is that timing is everything. You can't cancel an appointment, the effectiveness of the drugs depends on staying on a strict schedule. Your chance at survival depends on it.

Imagine being exhausted all the time but having to keep multiple appointments each week, and what if you had to drive to those, and those appointments were all in different places, different offices, and maybe even different cities. What if, on top of that, you felt too tired, sick, or couldn't feel the soles of your feet due to side effects of chemotherapy.

Imagine keeping track of times, dates, and locations of all those appointments when your brain is foggy from treatment. Imagine trying to find a friend or family member who could take you to all those appointments, especially out of town appointments.

Having a centralized location in your hometown for all of these services would make a huge difference in quality of life, ability to keep appointments, and a successful outcome for people with cancer. The Save Change to Create Change program is trying to raise a million dollars, but it's not the only way we're trying to raise funds.

If one in two to one in three of us will have cancer at some point in our lives, there's no way to avoid the issue, even if you are not personally diagnosed with cancer. Someone you care about will be, at some point. It's a huge public health concern and it needs to be addressed, especially with the aging population we have.

It's time for all of us to dig into our pockets, couch cushions, car seats, write letters to the local paper telling them to make this Cancer Center a priority in our community. Cancer Survivors' Day is April 2.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jurassic Park 114

got gators?

Another Day in Paradise

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale to sunny skies and 80 degrees. Bob picked me up at the airport and we went to their apartment. Bob and Suzanne live in a high rise apartment building in downtown Fort Lauderdale overlooking the ocean and intracoastal waterway. The humidity and the salt air hit me as soon as I got out of the car. I stood on the balcony for the longest time, just breathing the air and taking in the view.

I had only met Suzanne once before, at Badwater, when she was out there with Bob last summer. I have known Bob since 2008 and have seen him every summer since then at Badwater, and he directs the Keys 100, which I ran last year. As soon as I arrived they both did everything to make me comfortable and have the most relaxing pre-race visit ever. And it was.

On Thursday Bob and I went shopping to get our supplies and food for the race, and got our stuff packed up. I got a scenic tour of some of the more colorful parts of Fort Lauderdale. But the coolest thing was that Bob's upcoming race that he directs, the Palm 100, is going to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Fort Lauderdale as a city, and will finish at the giant neon 100 that has been placed at the corner of Las Olas Blvd and A1A. Very cool addition.

Obviously they knew I was coming to Fort Lauderdale. They were ready for me.

After a relaxing day with some easy packing and shopping, Suzanne cooked the most amazing pre-race meal I can remember. I was ready to run 200 miles after that!

Okeechobee: Cobweb Capital of the Universe

Friday morning Bob and I left for Okeechobee. The plan was to drive to the lake and look at some of the parts of the course, go to the pre-race briefing and meet Phil there.

Bob showed me the sugar cane fields and refineries, the area is agricultural, on land that used to be part of the Everglades. Lake Okeechobee was built to prevent a huge disaster of a flood, something like Katrina. It's located about an hour inland from West Palm Beach and is in the same county, but you can't imagine the two places having anything in common. Lake Okeechobee attracts mostly fishermen, and
the area's economy depends on agriculture and tourism but it seems like a completely different world, like you've stepped backward into another era.

Sugar cane refinery.

Endless agricultural fields.

Old building in Belle Glade.

Along the course.

My first view of "LOST", Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail.

At 80 miles on the course. Hmm.

We had to check into our rooms at the hotel first. When I made reservations for this trip I didn't pay too much attention to it, it was only for one night, so I think I booked the first room I found.

Travelodge. I know that humidity and sunshine help things grow, but this place seemed to specialize in two things: cobwebs and bugs. I am sure they left the cobwebs there for a reason: because only cobwebs on steroids can work as bug repellent for the kind of bugs they have in Florida.

We went up to our second floor rooms, up the rickety stairs, and got clotheslined by cobwebs. Obviously no one had been up those stairs in a while. The doors of the rooms were covered with cobwebs and bugs.

Actually the rooms themselves weren't too bad. You just needed mosquito netting and bug spray, and to turn off the lights before you tried to open the door to the room.

We briefly scoped out the town of Okeechobee, found few choices for a pre-race meal. There was McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, a Chinese buffet-type place, and a few little bar and grill type places. Would you eat a pre-race meal at a place called Lunkers?

We went to the pre-race briefing at the Holiday Inn Express and realized we should have stayed there. But it was no big deal. Phil met us there, but I didn't even recognize him at first. I have known Phil since 2008 and I just saw him 8 weeks ago at Across the Years. In the time since Across the Years he grew his hair out and had a scraggly beard. I've never seen Phil with hair before!

We listened to Mike's brief pre-race briefing. The main concerns were going the right way through a few of the towns where you had to get on and off the main trail, cross bridges, and wind through parts of town with some traffic. There were also parts of the course under construction and we needed to know how to navigate through those areas.

It looked like only about twenty people would be in the race. Some of those were running it as a team, like a relay. I knew I would be out there by myself for most of it and I was fine with that, I just hoped I'd be able to find my way on the tricky sections. I asked Bob and Phil if they would pace me on the construction sections at night.

We settled on Pizza Hut. I got pasta and salad. The salad bar was pretty marginal. I ate lettuce. The pasta sauce was a little strange, and the pasta itself was lumpy, gummy, and stringy, stuck together. Even if you're Pizza Hut, can you screw up pasta? Phil and Bob got pizza. Maybe I should have ordered gummy worms instead. The waitress was pretty much convinced that we were going to order what she wanted us to order. It was an interesting place, to say the least.

Hold the Mustard

We didn't spend too much time going over things, Phil and Bob are both Badwater veterans with plenty of ultra running and crewing experience, especially in the heat, so I wasn't concerned. I just needed to let them know a few particulars. Like what kind of food to get me at the restaurants.

There was McDonald's so I asked for my usual pre-race breakfast sandwiches. And since the options were so limited, I had to let them know for future reference, for later in the day meals, of my aversion to certain foods. Namely, mustard, pickles, things with vinegar, mayo, ketchup, and cinnamon.

After fighting our way through the bug swarms at the hotel, we went back to our rooms and I slept soundly for 7 hours.

Race Morning

We congregated at the start in thick fog. It was cool, but not cold. I felt comfortable in my tank top and shorts. Phil sprayed me with bug spray and sunscreen. I had not exposed my legs to the sun since October. I knew the sun was going to be an issue, so I was glad for the foggy start.

The sky was getting light at 6:30 when Mike started us. Mike said the word, and we were off. We ran through the Okee-Tantie campground parking lot up onto the road, which we followed until shortly after that we turned onto the two-track dirt/loose gravel/grass road for the first 35 miles of the race.

Early in the race I ran with Tammy from Canada who is also running Badwater, and Jim from Florida, whom I know from a long time ago, in my early ultra days. As the sun rose, the thick fog started to burn off, and as it lifted, it revealed some beautiful Everglades-type scenery. It reminded me of Jurassic Park, for some reason. I half-expected to see silhouettes of huge dinosaurs appear in the mist.

At 10 miles we hit Indian Prairie Canal, the first crew meeting place. Bob and Phil met me and advised me on which way to turn once I climbed over the next barricade. I ate my second McDonald's sandwich here. I felt fine, the heat and humidity were not bothering me at all and I felt like eating.

There was a cooler chained to a barricade on the trail, that Mike said we would find at numerous places along the way. There were jugs of water, there was ice, electrolyte capsules, snacks, drinks, and even hand wipes for those, as Mike said, "who want to be dainty". There was also a clipboard inside each cooler for us to sign with our arrival time when we got there.

I stopped a minute and reached into the cooler, signed my name and time on the check-in sheet, and grabbed a very cold can of coke. It tasted great. Thanks, Mike!

The trail was up on what looks like a levee, and on both sides there is "water". On the right, it was a canal, and on the left, there was lake. For most of the first 20 miles "lake" looked more grasslands, swamps and forests, or another canal, but later in the race it was obvious that there was a big body of water out there. Lake Okeechobee has a circumference of about 118 miles and is about 9 feet average depth!

On both sides of the trail, there was a drop off, usually pretty steep, of about 20 to 30 feet down from the trail down to the water. That was comforting, since all the talk about gators. Not that the gators wouldn't ever cross the trail, because they are found in both the lake and the canal. But most likely they wouldn't be bothering us.

Lake on the left.

Mike had told us in the briefing that as long as we always kept the lake on our left and the canal on our right, we would stay out of trouble and shouldn't get lost.

There were birds everywhere. Flocks of egrets, seagulls, pelicans, storks, herons, even a pink flamingo that I saw later in the day. I saw both osprey and eagles. And turkey vultures. They were everywhere. Waiting for the runners to drop.

The next few checkpoints were uneventful, I felt good, the only thing I was looking forward to was getting off the rough surface. I had pre-taped my feet and right ankle, and my usual annoying little tendon problem was there. Not bad, but I did look forward to not having that nagging occasional pain from the uneven surface.

By noon the fog had completely burned off and it was getting warm. I felt good. I kept a slow but steady pace. I was looking for gators in the water and along the banks of the canal and hadn't seen any. I really wanted to see the gators and was hoping I wouldn't be disappointed.

I decided to be a smart ass at one point around 23 miles, near Lakeport. It was starting to get warm. I was feeling good. I had just left the aid station and Bob and Phil were driving past me on their way to meet me at the next stop. I waved at them like I needed something. I made a motion to Bob to roll down his window.

He opened the car window and I said, "Pardon me, do you have any grey poupon?"

Mustard became an ongoing joke the rest of the way. They teased me relentlessly about mustard. Every time I didn't feel like eating something, Bob would say, "you know what would make that go down so much easier? A little mustard."

Darwin Award Nominee # 1

As the afternoon went on, it stayed hot, and I had my hazmat jacket on along with my sun hat. I was feeling great, and I had settled into a consistent walking/running pattern. I continued eating and drinking well, my hands weren't swelling, my feet felt good, and other than looking forward to getting onto some pavement, everything was as perfect as it could be.

Bob and Phil waiting for me.

When I did hit pavement at Moore Haven I had a little celebration. By myself. It was such a relief. Lake had started to appear on the left, and it no longer looked like grassland. I saw more birds, occasional osprey nests, and a lot more of the dead trees that gave the whole scene an eerie appearance, like something from dinosaur times.

I got into the town of Moore Haven and there was a tricky set of turns that needed to be negotiated, going over a bridge, and then getting through town before getting back on the trail. One of the volunteers, Kathleen was there for us, she got us through.

I was near several runners at that point, and it sounded like one was struggling with the heat, dry heaving on the road as we went over the bridge. I had been leapfrogging with all of them throughout the afternoon. I knew most of the other runners were ahead of me, but I didn't know how they were doing. It looked like the turkey vultures were about to start feeding, though.

At one point Bob pointed out a pink flamingo in the water along with other birds. I wished I knew more of the birds I was seeing.

Once we got through town I was close to another runner for a while. His name was Steve. He was from Ohio but was now living in Florida. We had a good conversation for a while and passed each other back and forth quite a few times all the way into that night. I got ahead of Steve going through Moore Haven but he was close behind me when I looked back once we got on the trail again.

The sun was getting lower but was still intense. I was feeling good, but I started to feel like I could use some caffeine. I decided to ask the crew for my doubleshots when I met them again. I was still looking at the water. I'd seen a few things that looked like they might be gators floating in the water but I wasn't sure.

Suddenly, they were everywhere. I saw one, then another, then another, sunning themselves along the banks on the canal side. It was easy to see why they weren't appearing on the lakeside. People were driving these boats really fast, and they were loud.

The gators were huge. I was a good 50 feet away at the closest point, they were way down the banks, but I could tell they had to be at least 10-12 feet. Some looked bigger. They looked prehistoric, fitting in perfectly to the Jurassic Park-like environment.

I kept stopping to take pictures, each time I got a good view of one. I was standing up there on the asphalt trail, in my sun hat/hazmat suit outfit, in my shorts, with my green gaiters on, and I hadn't been around many people yet on the trail, other than runners and crew. Suddenly lots of people seemed to be out and I remembered I was close to town.

Two kids on bicycles, maybe 20 years old at the most, appeared and stopped next to me as I was looking down at the water. They asked if I was in "that race". I talked to them briefly, they asked where I was from. I told them, Colorado. After a few minutes I started walking again and they followed along for a short way. The next time I stopped to take pictures of a gator, they saw it. They acted like they'd never seen one before. I took my pictures and went on my way.

I turned around at one point and saw Steve coming up behind me, he'd gotten closer throughout all my photo opportunities. At one point I saw one of the kids halfway down the slope, off the trail, but I was pretty far away.

Soon after that Steve caught me and we started talking. Apparently the kid had wandered down to get closer to the alligator and had been throwing rocks at it! Steve said he basically told the kid to get back on the trail and quit being an idiot, that the gators can run 30 mph and they are so quick and powerful they can drag you under the water before you even know what's happening.

A likely Darwin award nominee.

Clewiston: Reptile Capital of the Universe

The sun was starting to set and we were approaching Clewiston, at 48 miles on the course.

I saw Phil coming toward me on a bicycle. He borrowed Steve's wife's bike to come out and find out what I needed before I got in to town. He told me there was a real bathroom with running water and I could change into my night clothes, and he wanted to know what I would eat. They got me a sandwich at Burger King- grilled chicken-plain, no mustard of course, and I wanted more coffee drinks.

I took some time here to get cleaned up and wipe the sweat off, and I even brushed my teeth, knowing I wouldn't likely do it again until the race was over. I took off my socks and shoes, looked at my feet, pulled off some tape that was wrinkled, and everything looked good. It was getting dark, I needed my headlamp. I put my feet up for a while and ate and drank, and checked my cell phone for e-mails.

By the time I left Clewiston it was dark, but it was still warm. I changed into a t-shirt and clean shorts. Phil sprayed me with bug spray again. First I had to wind through town, go through traffic, over a bridge, then turn left and go past a cemetery, a big yard full of earthmoving trucks, and then up onto the trail again.

Leaving the parking lot where I met Bob and Phil, on the sidewalk, a two foot snake slithered out. I saw the pattern and thought "rattlesnake". I stopped. The snake saw me and turned around and headed back into the grass. It wasn't a rattler, but it made me think, here I am in the dark on warm pavement, perfect snake conditions. A few feet later I almost stepped on a huge toad!

Past the cemetery I got back onto the trail and it was dark, no moon. There was enough light to see, but the problem was that the trail paralleled a highway and the headlights from the oncoming cars made it impossible for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, so I really did need my light. Every time there was a break in the traffic I could go without the light. At one point I sensed something, there was a dark thing ahead of me, across the trail.

Soon after that, I saw what looked like a coral snake on the trail. Nice. Snakes, gators, what else would there be out here? There were no other runners in sight, and it was a long way. I kept on moving, didn't want to think about it. I could see black shadows on the sides of the trail from the grass, my mind kept telling me they were gators.

Number Two

Before the next stop my stomach started feeling weird. I didn't feel nauseated but there was something not right. It was a change from how I'd been all day. I asked Phil and Bob to get me my bag with the pepcid in it. I didn't know if that would help, but it might. I swallowed the pepcid and drank more gatorade. Not a half mile after I left them, suddenly, I felt like I had to GO. NOW. There was no time to get off the trail, I had to stop right where I was on the edge of the trail.

I only had a small amount of toilet paper and a few wipes with me, and it was a while before I'd see Bob and Phil again. They were charging my cell phone and I didn't have that either. I remembered that the coolers out on the course had the wipes in there, but I don't think those were the kind meant to wipe those parts. But at least I could get my hands clean if I ran out of alcohol gel.

Once I recovered from that episode, it happened again. And again. Four times before I saw Bob and Phil. Butt wipes and the big alcohol wipes were the priority at the next stop. We were getting close to the construction area where Bob was going to start pacing me. I wasn't able to eat at that point, my stomach was not happy and nothing sounded good. I knew I had to keep the calories going but I couldn't. I did drink some. I was glad it was cooling off, I'd have an easier time replacing electrolytes.

Some time during the night, I was meeting them at a stop, when suddenly I remembered what I'd noticed hours ago but kept forgetting to ask. Phil had shaved his beard and hair off at some point during the race, but I didn't realize it until now. So I asked him the burning question. He thought that was a hoot, that I was so out of it that I didn't notice.

But Phil, now you look like the way you're supposed to look like. At least ever since I've known you. I didn't recognize the other guy.


Bob joined me at 68 miles and I continued to have diarrhea. By the time we got to Pahokee at 76 miles, my butt was so chafed I was miserable. Fortunately Bob had a few of his own supplies to help me, so I was set. At Pahokee my blood sugar was really bottoming out and my feet hurt, I was a wreck. I was spaced out and couldn't think.

I knew I needed to get off my feet, get some sugar, grease my chafing skin, and get some caffeine. Eventually I ate some jello and gummy worms. And I was ready to go.

Gator Eyes and Fireflies

Bob and I went back out on the trail and I kept trying to eat worms, which was working. I ate a few pretzels, and was able to drink a little. Bob held the flashlight. The entire 20+ mile section was not what we expected. The asphalt was torn up, it was dirt with holes and ruts in it, so you had to be aware of where you were putting your feet. As the sugar kicked in I felt myself coming back to life. I was still having to do my pit stops frequently, but it was improving.

Bob was shining his flashlight on the water. The lights caught the alligator eyes which were the only thing visible above the surface. Very cool. Earlier I had seen lights in the water and asked Bob if he knew if it was fireflies or bioluminescence. He wasn't sure, could have been either one, or both. If I let my mind get to me, I could have imagined that the gators had underwater lights.

Second Sunrise

Soon after Pahokee, around 80 miles, we started to see light in the eastern sky. We could hear roosters for a while, and then dogs barking at us from the yards of the houses that were up against the other side of the canal.

As it got closer to dawn, the cacophony of roosters and dogs was so loud and it sounded so funny to us in our sleep deprived state, that Bob and I were laughing hysterically. It sounded like every house in Pahokee had at least 6 roosters and couple of dogs. And every one of them was crowing or howling.

Once the sun came up, we could see the Port Mayaca bridge at 91 miles up ahead of us. I had not slept at all, but I didn't feel I needed it. I never got sleepy. I pounded enough of those Starbucks doubleshots, I should have been awake. Bob was more sleepy than I was. He was stumbling for a while, and I was trying to keep him awake with Dr. Seuss-like rhymes, rapping, and gator jokes.

He was focused straight ahead, leaning forward like a zombie, eyes half open, shining his flashlight straight ahead in the early morning light.

"Hey Bob!" I tried to startle him awake.

Slience. Then, "wh-what?" He jumped a little.

"What do you call the guy who got eaten by the gator?" I had a big grin on my face.

"Uh, I don't know."


"Very funny."

Breakfast of Champions

When we arrived in Port Mayaca, the boy scouts were waiting for us so they could take down their aid station. I had found out during the night that I was the last remaining one in the race. Everyone else had dropped out. So that made me DFL. (that's dead f***ing last, in ultraspeak) Which is fine with me, and I planned to finish. I didn't come all the way out to Florida not to finish the race.

Mike had called Bob and asked him how I was doing. He was checking up on everyone who was still out there. We were moving along.

We had to go over a big bridge and then down the grass across to where we picked up the trail again. The boy scouts didn't have much for food that I was interested in. My gut was aching, and I remembered the yogurt I bought. I asked Phil for both yogurts. I scarfed those down, and then I asked for some V8. That tasted great too. Then I remembered we had chocolate donuts. So I ate a few of those.

Pretty soon I was out of the chair, feeling great, and I was covering up for the day's sunshine. Phil sprayed me one more time with sunscreen, and I tied my sarong around my waist, with my white jacket and sun hat on again. It was 7 miles to the next stop and I had to be prepared.

Like the idiot that my sleep deprived brain was operating, I left Port Mayaca without my ice bandana, and two full bottles, but not with enough ice. It wasn't very warm when I left, but within 2 miles I was hot. I slowed down so I wouldn't overheat. There was a slight breeze, not as good as yesterday's but enough to blow the sarong off my legs so the backs of my already burned knees were exposed to the sun. I tried reporisitoning the sarong and it didn't work. The wind was determined to let the sun bite me.

Don't Choke on Yer Freedom Fries

Soon after that as I was powerwalking along the trail, I came across the next candidates for the Darwin award. Two guys were down by the canal, with their car, and two dogs, throwing the frisbee out in the water for the dogs. Except there were gators all over the place, I had seen them all the way up the canal since Port Mayaca. The two guys stopped when they saw me walking by above, in my outfit. They stared for awhile, smoking cigarettes, then waved. I waved back.

I met Phil and Bob at Chancey Bay at 98 miles. They brought me an egg mcmuffin. I wasn't too excited about eating it, but I did take more gummy worms. I stocked up really well on ice and grabbed my ice bandana, filled my bottles with lots of ice, and started on the S caps again. It was hot, and the breeze wasn't as cooling as Saturday morning's was. There was no fog at all, just relentless sunshine on the path with no shade. My feet were hurting, and I could feel my right little toe. I considered stopping to pop it at some point but that thought flew out of my head. I wasn't thinking very clearly. I'd been peeing a lot, and I figured I was okay.

Finally, Suffering

By the time I got to Henry Creek at 105 miles I had run out of ice 2 miles after I left Chancey Bay. I also ran completely out of drinks 2 miles later. I had 3 miles to go, no ice or fluids, I was peeing like a racehorse, and I had the presence of mind to call Bob on my cell phone. I was starting to get calf cramps and I'd slowed down considerably. I had to remember to ask them to put more sunscreen on me because it felt like my lower legs were about to blister in the sun.

I can't remember which stop was Phil's last, but he needed to get going to go back to Titusville, and he was headed home. He said good-bye after helping Bob and I at that last stop. Everything was fuzzy, and I needed to get off my feet. Somehow I realized I had been peeing so much dilute urine and all the fluids I drank in the last few miles, maybe I was hyponatremic. I sat down in the chair and babbled at Bob about it, I asked for V8 and salt.

I mixed up two little sodium boluses, of a can of V8 with two extra salt packets dumped in each, and I downed those. It tasted so good!

Bob got me set up with sunscreen and ice, and I went on my way after a while. I did feel somewhat better and more clear-headed as time went on. But my feet were hurting like hell. I had slowed down so much, and my right calf was screaming, from altering my gait because of the blister. I knew I had to stop and take care of it, but I didn't want to. It was too hot, and I was too out of it. I was miles from my foot kit and I wanted to just keep going and get it done.

There were only 3 segments left, of 3.4, 2.4, and 2.2 miles each. And then there was the final segment, which was probably a couple of miles at the most, getting off the trail to go back to Okee-Tantie campground to the finish line. I saw that Mike had posted to the ultralist that I was still out on the course with a projected finish time of 38 to 40 hours. I certainly didn't plan on being out that long. I didn't think it would take more than 34 at that point.

At each stop, Bob would meet me and give me what I needed. At one point these people were out for a walk on the trail and they stopped and stared right at me. I mean, REALLY stared. No compunction about staring, that's for sure. Were you raised by wolves? Dinch yer mama ever tell you it ain't po-laht to sty-arr?

I really don't blame them, here I was, this deranged tourist in their territory, looking as crazy as Ghadaffi, in my sarong and white head drape, my green gaiters and goofy running shoes with yellow reflective tape. I was in a small town, in the deep south and they probably had open season on anyone who looked a little funny...good thing they don't know my birthday is the same day as Osama bin Laden's. I'd be target practice.

With each successive segment my calf got tighter and my feet hurt worse. FInally Mike called Bob and said he was going to start backtracking along the course to start picking up the coolers, and he would stop by to see me so he got a chance to talk and say good-bye. He gave Bob instructions about how to get to the finish line and told him to call him when I finished so he could send out his press release.

My Own Personal Finish Line

Before the last stop, Mike was headed back along the path toward me. You can't miss him, he's about 10 feet taller than I am. He walked in toward the next barricade at the last stop with me. We talked. I was dragging my butt. I was down to less than 2 miles an hour! When we got there, he told me, now it's just another 4 miles!

My jaw dropped. "You've got to kidding me" I said.

I thought it was less than 2! I really thought I was at at least 116. Apparently not.

I thanked Mike for doing such a great job, because it really was awesome, I never once got lost or questioned the course, he had everything out there to help us, and he does such a thorough job. How many race directors do you know who would go out on the course at the end to find the last runner to cheer them on.

Mike took off and it was just me and Bob, and about a dozen other locals, fishermen, and whatever else people were doing, milling around. I needed to change out of my wet bra and shirt and there was no place for cover. I couldn't walk very well, and I was shivering, so Bob stood in front of me and watched for traffic.

I managed to get my wet clothes off and my dry stuff on without flashing anybody, but there were still plenty of stares. Here's this woman in this crazy getup, limping along and staggering like a drunk, with a bad sunburn, and this weird guy who obviously doesn't live around here, standing over her, offering her bottles of water.

The sun was setting and I was facing the prospect of having to re-dress for nighttime. I stood there shivering. Bob said, sit down in the chair, I'll get you warm clothes. I told him what I wanted. He went down and got the stuff from the car and brought it back.

We weighed the possibilities of dropping here. I was thinking about it. It was 6:30 pm. I'd been out 36 hours. I had 114 miles. I was moving at maybe 1 1/2 miles an hour at the most, plus it would take me a while to warm up after this stop. At that rate it would be at least 10 pm. I really hadn't planned on this going for two days. My feet were trashed, I remembered Steve's comment about tearing his sartorius in the cold at last year's race.

Then I thought about Badwater. It simply wasn't worth it to risk hurting myself, then I might not be able to do Badwater, and that would truly suck. LOST was intended to be a training run, and I had gotten that out of it, plus everything I expected, and more. I saw gators! I got two long days in the heat, sun and humidity. I fought with electrolyte problems, I toughed it out through diarrhea.

Four more miles really didn't matter. And it certainly mattered even less with the fact that it would take me another 3 hours to do it. Bob had done a great job of crewing me and I felt bad that it went this long, plus he had to drive us two hours back to Ft. Lauderdale that night. Bob was absolutely willing to stick it out to the finish. But I wasn't willing to make him do that.

Once I thought through it, and got dressed, I tried standing up slowly. My calves both seized into spasms. I sat right back down.

"I'm done." I said.

Bob brought the car up and arranged things so we could get me in. He asked if I was sure, he wanted to make sure I didn't regret my decision. I knew I could easily finish, with a bit of suffering, but what do I have to prove? I was completely and totally satisfied with my run and the whole experience there.

I SAW GATORS!!!!! And I had fun with Phil and Bob. And I had a great run, a dream of a training run, saw some different scenery, and I have no regrets whatsoever.

I happily climbed into the car, and we headed back toward Fort Lauderdale after a brief stop at the Okeechobee McDonalds so Bob could get something to eat before we drove. I wasn't hungry.

It took a while at McDonald's. When Bob came out, he told me they forgot to make french fries, so they were out. Apparently the previous morning the same McDonald's had been out of coffee because the coffee machine was broken.

I was glad to be leaving the land of cobwebs and reptiles, princess that I am.

Me at the finish line. My very own finish line.

When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Suzanne made soup and a sandwich for me, I took a shower, I showed her some gator pictures, and I crashed hard for 9 hours. I had such a great time on this trip. Bob and Suzanne were wonderful hosts and I can't imagine a better race trip than this was. Phil and Bob were an awesome crew. It was fun, and low stress. Actually stress-free for me. I hope I wasn't too much of a princess, but the only comment I had from Bob was that he liked my sick sense of humor. Good.

I had a great time. I highly recommend this race, whether it's the LOST 118, Jurassic Park 114, or whatever you do, it's well worth the trip.

On the way home I took off my shoes, socks and tape. My feet are swollen, but really the only bad blister was the little toe.

It was good that I did this. I will prepare these feet for Badwater, knowing these are consistently my problem spots.

Back Home, Moving Forward

I was thinking about Save Change, the fundraising campaign of which this race is a part. Because this campaign is also about wellness and movement, I think my experience at LOST is even more valuable to take forward and show that sometimes you have to weigh all the options and things don't turn out ideally.

It's hard to be involved in a fundraiser and have a challenge set out and sometimes being a human being means you aren't going to accomplish every single thing. There are so many examples in life of where things like this happen, and people beat up on themselves for it. There is never any reason to beat yourself up. Things do not have to be perfect, they rarely are. There are many people who need to learn that lesson so they are not afraid to challenge themselves.

There are always things you can't control, and because they interfere with part of a goal, that absolutely does not mean failure in any sense. Doing your best with the resources you have is all you can ever ask of yourself. I hope everyone reading this can see that and know that just because you didn't dot every i and cross every t, it doesn't give the experience any less value or meaning, sometimes it means more.

My next order of business is to relieve the swelling in my feet and drain my blisters, and continue training for Badwater!