Scatter my ashes here...

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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Being Home

Now that I've been home less than a week, I feel domesticated again. I think the traveling took more out of me than the race itself.

I was supposed to go to a conference in Orlando next weekend and at this point I am just caught up on my sleep from Cleveland. The thought of flying across the country again this coming Thursday to sit on my butt for three days and then come back and recover from traveling again was more than I could handle. So I cancelled all my plans. Maybe next year. I'll stay here and get more work done and be less exhausted.

It's fall but the weather is still warm. I've been harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, raspberries, serrano and jalapeno peppers and carrots the past few days. I can barely keep up. The salads have been delicious. It's weird to be having all your summer veggies so late, but that was because we had to replant everything in July after the hailstorm. At least our growing season has been extended this far to let everything ripen.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be cooler and cloudy but I am going to watch the weather this week and get up to Estes Park to see the colors before they fade.

Dennis was gone for part of the time that I was gone, so the girls are watching both of us carefully.

Dennis came home from a conference and brought this little bug back with him. A norovirus particle. Cute. I can deal with the soft fuzzy ones but the real ones suck. Keep them away.

Speaking of viruses, the Iris virus has attacked us and is insisting on being spoiled ever since we got home.

I signed up for 24 Hours of Boulder today. I was going to wait and watch the weather but I figured what the hell. I want to do it, and if the weather sucks, I'll just see how bad it is. I'm looking forward to it. I've been running the past 3 days and it's almost scary how good I feel.

I don't feel at all like I ran 80 miles last Saturday. Yesterday I did 10.6 miles and felt great. I'm only getting about 20 miles of running this week, no more than about 40 next week, depending on how the legs respond, and then an easy week going into Boulder.
Yesterday I spent most of the day at a fundraiser for a local organization where I set up a table for my business. It was a golf tournament, and I sponsored a hole. It does support locals who have breast cancer, even though I prefer to keep everyone with cancer in mind, and that men get breast cancer too.

I did a radio show in late June and they just got the podcast up on their site. With the editing, it sounds like I'm talking a million miles an hour. There were actually breaks and 3 callers during the whole show which got edited out, so it sounds kind of jammed in there. But if anyone cares to listen, here is the link. It's about 30 minutes long. I will be speaking on the same show again on October 21st, the topic will be about the gaps in cancer care after treatment, and the pinkification of breast cancer.

I went for an easy run this morning along the Power Trail. The trees and foliage are starting to change colors down here. October is the most colorful month in town. My favorite.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lake Erie 2, Alene 0: National Championships at North Coast 24 Hour Fall 2014

North Coast 24 is one of those races with a character of its own.

It's subtle, but there’s a unique understated charm. It's well-organized, and has a definite following of locals, and it has a way of growing on you, even on this westerner at heart who loves mountains and small cities, not big urban messes with sketchy downtowns and crowds of people.

Being in downtown Cleveland might as well be another country or planet to me. One of my former patients used to work in law enforcement and warned me before my first trip to Cleveland, “When you're in Cleveland, just shoot, and walk away."

It's hard to find your way around downtown in a modernized but also partially decaying cityscape where the streets don't make any sense. To visit the downtown areas shops and restaurants you have to park first. In between lightposts, trash cans, fire hydrants, there are very few scattered parking meters which force you to find parking garages, the entrances to which are inhabited by panhandlers.

And then trying to get out of the parking garage is another adventure. We thought we were going to witness a crime scene there when an impatient driver in front of us was getting pissed off at the first car in line. The guy just lifted the barricade up and out of his way instead of paying for parking.

I ran here in spring of 2013 and at the time I didn’t think I’d come back. Not that there was anything wrong with the race, it was just that I couldn’t see traveling all that way when I could find something closer to home. But then it was announced that the 24 hour national championships would be there, and I wanted not only a competitive race, but a chance to hit my 120 mile goal.

I missed last year’s nationals due to a hamstring injury, but it also happened to fall about three weeks before I quit my job, so I was about as stressed as I’ve ever been and wouldn’t have been a good time to race anyway.

The thing about North Coast 24 Hour is that it’s next to fickle Lake Erie with crazy weather and wind. Talking with Joe Fejes earlier this year about races, he advised me to seek a fast race or a track for my 120 mile goal, because he felt North Coast was a difficult venue, and the weather was unpredictable.

I knew about the weather from my first experience there, but I usually can do well in the heat and I figured that might be the thing that made it hard in the fall, and maybe rain. I am not used to running in humidity, but I’ve done well in it before, so I wasn’t concerned as much about the weather as maybe I should have been.

I thought being in a competitive race would be good, and it was. I learned a lot watching the other runners, and learned a lot about my own racing style and preparation. It was more like feedback this time. I feel like I’ve got it down really well.

But Saturday September 20th was not the day I hoped for, and the same could be said for most of the other runners there. All week Saturday’s weather forecast looked hot, sandwiched in between milder days. It never budged. Thunderstorms were predicted for Saturday night and Sunday.

The weather forecast turned out to be very accurate except the temperatures got even higher than predicted. At one point someone said it was 85 degrees. I saw 81 on my phone when I checked it around 5 pm.

I've been to this race twice now and both times the weather got me good. Now I understand why Joe felt it was difficult. It’s not that the course is hard by itself, the weather is a contributing factor, but it’s what goes on in the park all day that makes it difficult.

I say this not as a criticism of the race itself, but just as far as practicality for running optimally. I think Joe meant there is an advantage of having a controlled venue like a track where people are only there for the race. And also there is something to having a race with fewer distractions, as there are lots of things going on all over in a busy urban park like Edgewater.

Between people often walking three abreast and the random pedestrians, kids, bicycles, kite flyers, smokers, large groups (and I hate to say it but large people like the guy in the shirt, and even bigger), it got quite crazy and chaotic around mid-afternoon and it was very difficult to stay on the inside throughout much of the loop. Especially the half that goes alongside the water.

I would say there was a lot of extra distance covered on that course due to the amount of passing people. The area where we all had our tents and tables set up was almost impassable at times during the afternoon.

The lower corner just before you take a curve to the right to cross the mat and pass the aid station was challenging at times as pedestrians seemed to have no idea that they were crossing our direct path.

It took a lot of energy, both mental and physical, to get around the people, who of course had no idea they were hindering our progress, and it’s not their fault either. We were the invaders, we were the crazy zombies who took over their park.

Not that it was all bad. I had a lot of fun. Despite the poor conditions for running I enjoyed it. It was entertaining, too. There was the “Kale Yes I’m Vegan” guy, that’s what his tank top said, who spent the entire day and part of the evening jumping rope and working out in the east corner of the park with some sort of gas mask on.

And it was a beautiful scene next to the water, a clear fall afternoon with kites flying, people out enjoying it, weddings, nuns walking, people grilling with their families, a mix of people watching, but also very distracting. I don’t think I would have been as distracted if I was running better. I would have been concentrating on my stride and forward progress and not looking at the scenery as much.

I think that was my last trip to this race. It is such a well-run event though, it's too bad. But to be realistic, I live too far away, it's an expensive trip, and it just hasn't panned out for me. I don't have a lot of time, I’m getting older and I want to get my goal. So I will move on to somewhere else. Not sure where that will be yet, but I’ll find it.

What Happened

Beth McCurdy and I met each other at the keys 100 in 2010. She’s from the Atlanta area. Then we ran together again at NorthCoast in 2013 in the horrible wind snowstorm. This time we decided to share a room to help with costs in Cleveland. It was a good match even though I usually like to have my own space. Beth understood all my quirks and it turns out we both have interesting quirks before races, we share many of the same obsessions, preferences, and weird habits pre-race. So it worked out well. Compatible weirdness.

I flew into Columbus again this trip, it's an easier airport, better flights and less expensive from Denver, plus my friends Lynn and Suzy Newton live there. I stayed with them for 2 nights before the race. I’ve known Lynn through running since about 1997. I know their daughter, too, the three of them used to attend Lynn’s races in Arizona such as Across the Years. Lynn decided to run North Coast this year, too.

I always sleep well at their house, I had plenty of sleep hours and good food in the tank by the time I left for Cleveland Friday morning. I drove to Cleveland to meet Beth at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn. On my way into town I stopped at Whole Foods and did our shopping, Beth gave me a list of what she wanted.

Neither of us wanted to attend the prerace dinner as we are both not into expending a lot of energy and socializing the night before the race. We found a good restaurant in Lakewood that has pasta and salads and ate there for our prerace meal then holed up in our hotel room to relax and prepare for morning.

Bill Damman offered to help us. Poor guy, I don't think he knew what he was getting into. But he was very generous to help us with our gear before and after, brought us ice during the heat of the day, and checked on us. He covered our gear before the downpour, and set up a tent for us to change in or sleep in if needed.

Neither of us slept well the night before in the hotel, but I wasn't worried because I had so much sleep at Lynn's I knew I'd be okay. I got maybe 5 hours, but I had plenty of crack gels- the chocolate cherry Clif shots and drinks with caffeine if needed.

We got to the start and got stuff set up and everyone was saying hi as we got ready. I had to organize my table. I saw quite a few runners I know and met a few new people. Beth knows everyone. We got set up next to a tent that said Virginia Tech Hokies. Wheaties Boy territory. I sent him a picture and took it as a good sign.

It was already quite warm. I knew we'd need the ice from Bill. I had my plan at a very conservative pace. I realized I might have to slow even more for the first half, and I was prepared to do it.

Soon it was time to line up at the start. There were about 170 entrants, so it was pretty crowded. They start you a little before the aid tent and finish line because of the course measurement, so you get to 100 miles on the finish line mat instead of some random place.

Then we were off.

I started out according to my plan, at a relaxed pace, talking to a few runners and then doing most of my laps in silence. I needed to get a feel for how my body wanted to run in the conditions. It felt easy and I immediately stuck to my planned run/walk pattern. I got through the first 20 miles or so at exactly my planned pace and I knew that I would have to slow down to get through the afternoon, so I did that.

I started putting ice on my neck sometime after noon. A lot of people were feeling the heat, there were already people running with ice packs on and talking with their crews about hydration and electrolytes. I knew by the time I got to about 35 miles that it was not going to be the day for performances. I accepted that and knew I still had a chance to run faster after dark. Pretty much everyone I talked with was saying the same thing, we were all just waiting for dark. It was a survival race.

It was a bloodbath out there though. So many runners quit early. In the afternoon I saw quite a few suffering in the heat. People who were flying and leading early in the race one by one started to drop. I felt pretty comfortable with the pace in the heat, but I backed off early. Harvey Lewis was moving well in the men's race along with several other guys, and in the women's race it seemed like there were a lot who dropped. I'm not sure.

I was there to run my own race, not worry about what they were doing. Debra Horn was there and she was running very well, but she wasn't going blazing fast. She seemed to be running smart. Beth looked good early on but we run differently, she likes to run and I do the run/walk thing. I lost track of her for quite a while.

Some of the older runners were amazing though. Those of us in the USATF national championship race had our age groups on bibs on our backs, and there were some 70+ year olds out there who did not in any way look their age. They were moving well too. The two women I saw in the 65-69 age group looked great, too.

I went through 50 miles in about 10:25 which is a lot slower than usual, but it was necessary. I have no idea where I was at 100K because after 50 miles I stopped paying attention to splits and just focused on moving forward and staying cool. I ate a couple of PBJs and then stuck to yogurt. My stomach was fine.

The afternoon was chaotic with masses of people in the park. I stopped for 10 minutes and got into Bill’s tent to change into evening clothes. My legs were surprisingly fresh. I’d been well-hydrated, peeing hourly, and I didn’t have any muscle cramping when I had to crouch into the small tent to change clothes.

I got back out on the course, but it hadn’t cooled down. The park was still full of people at sunset, it was beautiful though. There was this group of people facing east and doing their Muslim evening prayer, and the seagulls were circling around overhead, along the waterfront, and it was such a calm scene despite having so much going on out there.

As it got darker, it was still too warm to need any extra clothing. I could feel a blister in the usual spot under my left foot, the ball of my foot, the same spot that got me at Badwater. I looked at it when I was in the tent and it just looked like a friction spot. I changed socks but didn’t do anything else to it. In retrospect maybe that’s when I should have broken out an Engo patch or something, but it was not bothering me running.

As the evening went on, it stayed at about 75 degrees. I no longer needed ice but it was not comfortable for picking up the pace. The blister was there but I decided to keep going since it wasn’t affecting my gait. It always took about the first 24 hours for it to be a problem at Badwater so my thinking was, I should be fine to make it through morning. But I’d been walking a lot more than I anticipated due to the heat, and I think that made it worse. When I ran, it was starting to hurt more, especially on the little downhill section going into the aid station.

Sometime around midnight I passed Andy Lovy, the race physician, who told me to be prepared as they were expecting a storm to move in with heavy rain somewhere around 2 am. When I went through the aid station, Bill was working in there so I asked him if he would cover Beth’s gear. When I went by our table I had a garbage bag ready to go so I could cover my stuff, but I didn’t know if she had anything, and I thought she was in the tent sleeping. She’d been having nausea earlier and decided to lie down in the tent and take a break.

The wind started to pick up and I grabbed my rain hat and jacket when I started to feel drops. I continued moving, but it only rained lightly. It did cool things down a little. Eventually I started to notice my groin and hamstring on the left side were getting tight. The blister had been hurting, and it was affecting my gait, which is what I wanted to avoid. I decided to stop by the medical tent to see if the foot care people could help me. I had my own foot care stuff but it was raining and dark, and I thought I’d see if I could avoid digging around out there.

When I went in there were about 4 people who appeared to be students, they all converged on me at once. I told them about my foot and they had me fill out the form, just like Badwater. No problem. I did warn them that I am a nurse and a pain in the butt. I took off my shoe and sock, and a woman who said she was the doctor came over and looked at it. It was the start of a deep blister under that same spot that hasn’t caused me any problems ever since Badwater in 2011. Back to haunt me.

Then she asked me some questions, turns out I’m allergic to the supplies they had available to pad my foot, and they were unwilling to try popping the blister. John Vonhof would have jabbed it with a scalpel. I was a little annoyed but it really is the runner’s responsibility to take care of their own feet. I had all the supplies I needed at my table, so I told them I was going to go and work on it myself.

I know I probably sounded like a bitch but I warned them. I guess what irritated me was that if they didn’t feel comfortable doing what I knew needed to be done, that was fine, I just wanted them to not take so long to make a decision, it seemed like they spent a lot of time making me wait and I’m not sure what for. But then I have little patience with anything these days.

Anyway I apologized to them as I left and thanked them, and went to my table and sat down in the dark. The rain had stopped, so I sat down in the wet chair and dug out my foot kit and my headlamp, and went to work. The blister didn’t have much fluid in it, but it hurt. I tried poking one area with fluid and got very little out. I taped over it and pulled some hypafix up and over the space between my toes, hoping that if it did eventually pop, it would drain.

I got back out on the course, and Beth got up at some point and we ran together for a short time. She was up and down, she’d feel okay for a while and then awful again. I was fine but now I couldn’t run or walk very well either. The blister really hadn’t improved from draining the few drops of fluid I got out. Walking became more painful and around 4 am, the sky opened up with a fury. It was a steady downpour and puddles were forming everywhere, some parts of the course had sand that washed over them, and I was barely moving. I got my rain jacket again, which I had ditched when it never turned to steady rain earlier.

With each lap as I went across the mat and saw the results on the screen, it seemed like it was taking forever to accumulate miles. I was only at 78 or so. Earlier in the night I realized that 100 might be a good thing to focus on, but by the time the rain really started, I knew I was doomed, and it was getting ridiculous.

In the middle of the serious downpour, I was headed east along the lake and realized I was going at Andy’s pace. (He’s about 30 years older than me) . I caught up to him, and we walked together in the rain. We could see the portapotties in the distance and I pointed them out as my goal. I said, when we get there, I’m hiding inside to get out of the rain. He said I might do the same, and told me that it would take about 4 minutes to get there from where we were. We giggled as we headed toward our goal.

There we were, in a raging rainstorm, along Lake Erie with the wind blowing in the dark, at 4:30 am, planning to hide out in the portapotties. I asked him what that says about our sanity. He would know, he was a psychiatrist.

When we got to the portapotties I got inside and stood there for a while. I had my phone with me, which I had used to text Wheaties Boy when things started getting ugly. I snapped a selfie in there, standing there, seriously questioning my sanity. I decided that I was done. I got out and limped the rest of the loop back to the mats and aid station. When I crossed the mat it said 80.2 miles. That’s where I was done. I was over it.

When I got there, Phil McCarthy and a few other runners were in there, doing the same thing I was. Lots of other people had left much earlier. I gave my chip to Dan, the race director, and talked with him for a while. He gave me my medal. I ate some hot food and sat down to talk with the others in there. Soon Beth walked in, looking drowned rat-like in her hoodie. She told me she was thinking about being done too. I didn’t want to influence her decision. I had warm clothes, I could stick around until morning if she wanted to finish.

She went out for another lap or two and then came back. She was done. She said she felt lightheaded like she had low blood sugar so I got her some M&Ms and she sat there for a few minutes. I went to the tent, where Bill was sleeping, and asked him if he could help us get our stuff back to the car. I drove the car closer and we loaded up and went back to the room, showered, and napped until about 10:30 am.

We didn’t sleep much all day, we did eat breakfast and then hung out around the room, talking. Later we went downtown and had a drink and ate. I tried a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company. It was okay.

I was really glad Beth and I shared the room and stayed together because it made it a lot more fun, especially when our races didn’t go well. But in running the race this time, I realized something, that I did just fine with my body and almost everything was good. The only issue was the blister, and I did a good job of backing off on the pace. My body has plenty left, I was not sore or even very stiff.

I didn’t realize the callus had built up that much again, and running on asphalt in the heat and humidity despite being well hydrated, that is my bad spot on my foot. It got me. I had no issues when I ran on the track last spring in cooler conditions and more miles. So in a way this is good, once the blister heals the callus will peel away and I can start working on reducing it again.

But somehow this experience left me feeling even more confident that 120 miles or more is well within my capability. Things can go wrong in any race, weather can get you, or something else can happen. The faster you go and the more you push yourself, the more things that can happen, so you just need to hit the right one. It will happen, like Joe was telling me. Eventually you’ll hit the right one.

We slept Sunday night and then Monday morning Beth headed to the airport and I drove back to Columbus to return the rental car and catch my flight out. I spent a little time in Columbus before I had to go to the airport. I mailed my cooler back to myself with my laundry in it. Then I ate lunch and walked around as much as I could on my sore foot. On the drive back from Cleveland for some reason I felt very happy. I came to the realization that I had a lot of fun and the 120 goal will be there for me to pursue in 2015.

Then I was checking Facebook and I got this message from my friend Eddie in Boulder. He asked me about the 24 hours of Boulder race coming up in October. The one that I couldn’t do the last 4 years when I worked because it always fell on my work weekend.

For some reason I got excited about that. The thought of running around under the stars all night again sounded like exactly what I needed! I didn’t get to enjoy the night at North Coast the way I wanted to, so this would be my chance!

I might do it. I’ll let the blister heal, and then see how I’m feeling. I think it will be a go. Except I’m watching the weather and will wait to sign up until the last minute. I don’t want to run in any more downpours this year! I’m done with that!

In the Columbus airport there was a Jeni’s ice cream vending machine. I could not believe my eyes so I took a picture. I went to Jeni’s twice while I was there. That is the best ice cream ever.

I started my day at 7 am Eastern time, and didn’t get home until 11 pm Mountain time, so it was an 18 hour day of travel after the exhausting race. I was toast. The girls yelled at me, I had to shut the front door quickly so they wouldn’t wake up the whole neighborhood. Dennis was at a conference out of town so the house was quiet.

Lynn wrote me later to tell me I had won my age group. I guess that should be consolation, but I don’t feel consoled by that. Eighty miles is not the performance I wanted. I want to make my goal. I just need to find the right place on the right day. Lake Erie beat me out of my goals twice now, but I won't forget either of those two events. Definitely memorable. Thanks to the lake.

That’s all there is to it. I might think of some other things, but I don’t feel disappointed by the experience. It was valuable, even in its shortcomings. I have been doing this for nearly a quarter century and I still learn new things every time. I love this sport and I am so glad I’ve gotten a chance to enjoy it from so many different perspectives, competitively, recreationally, as adventure, from the race director, medical, staff, and volunteer perspectives, and now, as I’m getting older, to be able to come back to the competitive side again.

I can’t wait for next year!

Certifiable: North Coast 24 Hour Nutshell

Well after 18 hours of traveling yesterday I am officially brain dead so this blogpost isn't going to happen until after I get some sleep. So I will finish the long post later, maybe after a nap.

The official results aren't even out yet, but the race fell on a day that was less than ideal for performing well for most people, so the overall mileage totals were low, and a lot of people went home early, which was wise if you were trying to salvage a chance at something else, or if you were somewhat sane.

High temperatures in the mid-eighties, after a warm start, and then downpours at night made this race one of those where you just can't win. (Unless of course, you were one of the two winners!)

My race ended at 80 miles, in a portapotty taking cover from the rain, at 4:30 am, due to a blister I was unable to fix that left me limping, barely walking through the storm, giggling with Andy Lovy about our sanity. Andy happens to be the team physician and he was a psychiatrist for many years.

But after all that I am not as disappointed as I might otherwise be. I had fun, it really truly wasn't the right day for it, and it's another race. I move on. I will shoot for something big next year. I learned a lot from this race too.

I am just glad I am not injured, that I am done with my racing season for the year, and I get to go forward.

Oh, yes, and before I forget, I won my age group too. I guess I could take it as consolation, but I really don't care about age groups so much, not yet anyway. I still have my goal and I'm determined to go after it next year.

I will write the full blogpost and hopefully have that posted in the next 24-48 hours. Sit tight and I'll have the whole story here soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wrapping it up Ritual

I did my last couple of runs here in town the past two days. I felt good, it's much easier to run a decent pace now than it was a month ago. I only got 20 miles on my feet last week, and did 6 1/2 yesterday and 4 1/2 today, with a lot of walking after my run yesterday.

I think I will be feeling bouncy by mid-week though. Give me a couple of days cooped up in an airplane and rental car, and I'll be ready to fly in circles. Velcro strips on the ceiling...

As of today the forecast for Cleveland on Saturday is very warm with possible rain at night, and some good wind. There's a 16 mph wind predicted, high of 79, low of 66. We'll see how much that changes by the weekend. At the lake, the wind is always a factor, hopefully it will cool us off.

I am ready, and I have recruited a very kind person named Bill to refill the ice in the cooler for us if it is a warm day. Beth and I will be meeting at the hotel on Friday and being mellow. We both like to keep our energy conserved for the race, do a minimum of socializing and such.

My plan is to go very steadily and consistently in my run/walk pattern through the first 12-18 hours. There is nothing to be gained by pushing too hard early. Especially if it's hot. I'm not even going to pay attention to any kind of numbers until after midnight. I will be completely in my own race and my own world.

In these competitive races, it's too easy to get caught up in someone else's pace and it can destroy a race plan. Can't worry about what anyone else is doing. I'm not racing them anyway, I am racing myself, for my own best performance. I have printed out Nick Clark's words to me that he sent me last spring, and I have had my pep talk from Wheaties Boy. I am ready to go.

You can follow the live results, which should be updated approximately every hour, from 9 am Eastern time Saturday the 20th, until 9 am Sunday the 21st, at this link. I hope to be somewhere in the middle of the pack for most of the day and into the evening. That is how I run best.

Iris is not happy about the ritual. She has not let me out of her sight since she discovered the suitcase, I was hiding it in the closet, trying to pack while the girls were napping. You can't hide anything from these dogs.

I had to pack, then repack, first because the bag was too heavy and then the weather forecast gave me more reason to get rid of some of the extra bulky stuff I packed. Finally today I went through everything one more time and took out another pile of unnecessary stuff. The bag still is heavy though, and just as stuffed.

I'll be staying with Lynn and Suzy again in Columbus before heading to Cleveland. Lynn is running the race this year too. I'll be doing a lot of resting and eating while I'm there.

I've been through my list half a dozen times, and I think I've got everything taken care of that I can possibly do before I get to Columbus. All I have to do is show up.

And then DIG IN until there's nothing left. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Purge The Scourge

Just hanging out in the kitchen today, tapering and cooking, I found this ancient gem in the back of the pantry while looking for an ingredient I rarely use. I think this box is about 4 years old.

Bake for the Cure? That reminded me, October is coming again. "Rah-rah! Go Team Pink!"

The pink scourge.

Every fall the Pepto-nauseation-fest begins. Just like months before Christmas, the big money makers might as well start pinking everything up in June. Let's just keep selling pink and squeeze it for as long as we can.

With the Komenesque revelations of recent times, people are beginning to become more aware that their so-called pink dollars are not going entirely to good causes.

Last fall, shortly before I quit working at the hospital, someone hung an object on the wall behind the nurses station. It was a pink decorated bra. The cups looked like Hostess Snowballs, remember those gag-me-with-a-spoon pink coconut thingies they sold in packages of two? It was framed behind glass.

I remember when I first saw it, I mentioned that I thought it was almost offensive. At that point, I don't think I had a single positive thing to say about my workplace, I was headed out the door within weeks. Everyone else seemed to disagree, the other nurses were oohing and aaaahing over it, thinking it was cute. I didn't think it belonged in an infusion center where people were getting chemo.

Taking someone's agony and turning it into a cute, fluffy, foofy ornament. Some people aren't bothered by this, but there are quite a few who are. And cute little pink feathery, coconutty bras make a disease that changes lives (most often not for the better) and often kills people into something adorable and palatable to the public.

First of all there is no single, simple cure. Cancer is too diverse of a disease category to have a single "cure" in the works. Sometimes it can go away and never come back. Yes, in some people, after treatment it never comes back. But that doesn't mean you've cured cancer. The only way to cure cancer as we know it right now is to make people out of something other than cells with DNA in them. Hey, we're working on it...

I personally don't like the color pink anyway, but the fact that it's been irreversibly connected to breast cancer in the mind of the public is the issue I have. Why?

Other forms of cancer get ignored. The fact that men also get breast cancer gets ignored. The fact that women get other kinds of cancer and in other places in their bodies besides in their breasts get ignored, and breast cancer gets lumped into one big category as if there is just one disease going on that one simple pink-funded cure would take care of. And boobs are soft, likeable things that are non-threatening and easy to sell. Feminine and docile.

And it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, do we have to commercialize everything...someone is always opportunistically making a buck. Speaking of cancer and we have discussion of recommendations that all women get screened for certain genetic mutations known to be associated with high risk for certain types of cancer.

The emotional repercussions of testing positive for these mutations are critical to understand and consider so that people can be fully supported if they do test positive, because serious health and quality of life-altering decisions must be made. It's not something that a profit-minded approach will approach carefully.

I am concerned that there is way too much profitmongering in the name of cancer and not nearly enough attention to the very real and personal and immediate needs of people who have it. And it's football season again, will the wonderful NFL with their domestic violence problem don their pink helmets and uniforms again? Watch out for those nonprofits...and you can, here.

This fall, Purge the Pink Scourge. If you're going to donate to cancer, do your homework. Here's a good organization to support, specific to breast cancer: Breast Cancer Action.

But don't forget, cancer likes more than just boobies, and it happens all year, not just October.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Social Conscience...Wake Up and Smell the Autumn Roses

I don't have much running news to report since I'm into my taper. I had some enjoyable runs over the weekend because I was accompanied on Friday by Emma, on Saturday by Laura, and on Sunday with the Fort Collins Running Club for the annual fall club breakfast and run where we elect board members.

The Fort Collins Running Club happens to be a nonprofit, or not-for-profit, as we say now. And that is an important point. The Fort Collins Running Club truly does use it's proceeds to benefit the running community. No one makes any money off the club. It is purely for social benefit.

Not for profit means that the purpose of the entity is not to make a profit. The purpose of the organization is something other than making a profit. That doesn't mean it's a charity.

But organizations with nonprofit status often do make profits and enrich certain entities within their ranks, namely, people. Rather than go on too much about that, I'll get to the point.

I don't normally write about sports other than running, but this whole deal with Ray Rice and other domestic abusers in the NFL has me thinking about all of the questionable activity and abuse that goes on, not just in professional sports organizations, but in other so-called not-for-profit entities. As far as I'm concerned, I think the NFL should not be allowed to be nonprofit. Their main purpose as far as I can see, is to line the pockets of too many overpaid criminals and sociopaths within the ranks of the organization, from football players to owners. Same could be said for many other "professional" sports.

The good ol' boys club makes excuses and defends their members who get away with whatever they are able to hide, and often they don't even need to hide it.

Something happened the other day that got me thinking about nonprofits. I was out and about in town, distributing some flyers for a cancer exercise support group I'm starting. I'm doing it with the help of a local athletic club, they are donating the space and materials, and I am facilitating the group. Neither of our businesses are making a cent off of this. The only monetary benefit to either of our businesses is if someone joins the group and decides they'd like to either join the health club as a member, or hire me for private coaching services, but there is no obligation to do this in order to fully participate in the group.

There is no cost to join the group, we are not charging anything, and neither of our businesses have nonprofit status. However, we are offering it for the benefit of people in the community, to improve their health and well-being at a time when they need help.

As I was out distributing the flyers, I'd go into coffee shops and other places with bulletin boards and ask if I could post my flyer. 95% of the time, the answer is yes, sure. And many of the people I spoke with in the businesses were supportive of the idea of the group and even thanked me for doing something like that.

However, there were a few who said no, or "we have to think about it", their reason being, we only post flyers for nonprofits.

Fair enough. I can understand that if every business tried using their boards for marketing, they'd be inundated with garbage on their walls.

However, two of the entities who said no were Starbucks and the local public library. Starbucks has it's own policy and they are a privately held business so I can understand that, but when I looked at the other flyers on their board, there were several that I thought didn't fit the nonprofit category, for example, an author trying to sell a self-published book.

With Starbucks trying to promote itself as a socially conscious company, I just felt that something offered free to benefit the community in this way would be more appropriate for the board, but that's Starbucks' decision. Even though as two small local business doing something for the community and regular customers of Starbucks, maybe there would be some consideration, in light of the author flyer up there on the board. I let it go.

At the public library, however, you would think they'd want to promote community health. We are two small local businesses. If the big healthcare organizations in town, which have nonprofit status, put similar flyers up with free offerings for community health, there wouldn't be a problem. However, those organizations rake in multimillions of dollars in PROFIT each quarter. Yes, PROFIT.

Yet the people at the tops of these organizations often have very exorbitant salaries and benefit packages while they skimp on the bottom of the organization, namely, the people who do the work. The top brass ask them to work harder and harder for less and squeeze them, they lose jobs and livelihoods when staffing is cut to reduce costs, when those at the top have no worries about paycheck to paycheck subsistence. If they get fired, they have a golden parachute to a new multimillion dollar salary.

Then we have the recent issues with health care IT security. Computerized systems at health care organizations throughout the country are being breached by hackers. Personal, private information is being stolen. The big organizations that claim their clients' information is protected by HIPAA are now soiling their shorts to stay ahead of the law.

All those expensive consultants they hired to help them adjust to the demands of health care reform somehow conveniently ignored the costly legal expense of protecting their electronic health record systems in their rush to grab money. Security is expensive, but somehow these smart guys forgot to include that little detail. Funny how that works. And when these organizations have to start spending megabucks on security upgrades and experts, guess where the costs will be passed along?

The consumers. Yes, you and me.

If we would invest in the needs of the people, instead of the wants of a few criminals and sociopaths, maybe we could justify having nonprofit professional football leagues and health care organizations, that generated money for real health, education, and addressing poverty.

All I have to say is, think. Wake up and smell it.

Just saying...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Deconstructing Construction, and a Mini-Rant

This morning I drove down to Loveland before daybreak to meet a former coworker to run around the lakes with her. The lakes are where I love to run in the fall. We were supposed to meet at 6:30 am and I left the house a little early to get there. I wanted to be there early, she's a new runner and she was nervous about running with me, and she had never been there before so I wanted to make sure I was there in case she had trouble finding me.

Well every damn back road between Fort Collins and Loveland that I usually take to get down there was blocked off for construction. I swear, every time I turned to make a detour, my alternate route was blocked by another road project. After driving twice as far and out of my way several times, I was pissed. Why do they always do this? They can't just do construction on one little part of the road, they have to do it on multiple nearby intersections, so the only logical detours are also under construction. Some bonehead planned that one. We seem to have an ongoing problem with that in this area. Hmmm.

I don't have a lot of patience for traffic anyway, I'm sort of like TOWANDA! I'm older and have more insurance, so get the hell outta my way, get your thumbs out of your ass, put your foot on the gas pedal, point your car in the direction you want to go, get off the phone, quit texting, smoking, eating, putting on your makeup, yakking at the person next to you or on your Bluetooth gadget, and drive with a F@#$ing purpose!

Yesterday I had to go somewhere on an errand at 3:30 pm. It took 5 changes of the light at Horsetooth and Timberline before I could turn right. It wasn't even rush hour. It's not even a big city. But Timberline road is under construction right now, on both the north and south ends of town. It also happens to travel through the part of town with the most growth. Hello traffic engineers?! Hello?!! It took me 25 minutes to go somewhere that normally takes 10 minutes.

It's funny, Fort Collins was named one of the safest driving cities by some insurance company, probably because no one files claims with them. But Fort Collins, is AWFUL in some respects when it comes to traffic, no matter what they say about it being a great place to live. There are so many slow damn drivers, people who drive, as I like to say, "with their thumbs up their asses".

Slow drivers especially make me absolutely nutty. And it's true that slow drivers are worse because they cause accidents, because people get pissed off and then try to get around them and end up crashing into something. I try not to do that, though, I usually just cuss them out under my breath and make snide remarks about their level of consciousness and lack of intelligence.

But I'm launching into a rant, and I don't feel like going there, so I'll save it for another time. Maybe.

Anyway, I ended up driving way around Boyd Lake and down Madison, around to Highway 34, and then up Rocky Mountain Avenue with all the roundabouts by the hospital there. By the time I got there, I was late and hoping Laura wasn't lost. She wasn't. She was sitting in the parking lot waiting. And I was pretty much on time, less than 10 minutes late.

There was a foggy sky and the sun didn't peek over the clouds until close to 7 am. As we came around the north end of the lakes and started on the trail section, we saw this line of pelicans perched on a pipe that extends into the lake.

As we got closer, a heron joined them, first tiptoeing his way onto the pipe, as if he wasn't sure if the pelicans would accept him.

He got bold and sat down in line with the pelicans.

After making himself comfortable, and us watching from the shore, we took off. The entire east side of the lakes were bulldozed and broken up into muddy swaths and there were fences lined up alongside the original road. A subdivision was going in that extended from Houts Reservoir to the end of Equalizer Lake.

My peaceful loop was being encroached upon by suburbia! Can't leave any open space unaccounted for, can they? I was afraid it was over. My favorite place to train in peace for long road ultras, destroyed.

Laura and I followed the path to the original road, jumping over chunks of mud and rocks torn up by the heavy equipment. We ran down the east side road and caught the bridge to the south end, which was intact. The construction was all the way down to the existing houses.

We rounded the corner by the big cottonwood tree and finished the loop, then we cut across the trail between the lakes for a pit stop at the portapotty.

While I waited for her, I noticed this sign on the barricade. Temporary. What a relief. At least the loop will still be here, but I am afraid of what the increased density will bring. Of course the condos were built a few years ago on the other side of the lake and that has never affected foot traffic around the lakes much, and I usually run on weekdays anyway. Oh, the benefits of having an obesified populace...damn, I'm in a snarky mood today. I am hoping they won't pave the entire loop, though.

After that we ran backward and caught the ditch road and followed it west. As we were running, I recognized a runner I had met just last Monday at the half marathon, we'd been standing in line together before the race and got to talking. We stopped, I introduced her to Laura, and we talked. Then Laura and I took off, and we soon turned around to limit our run to an hour and a half.

It was so nice to see Laura. She started running about a year ago and when we worked together, she was frustrated that she had gained weight when she had her last baby a few years ago, I think her youngest daughter is 3 now. She dropped some weight, started running, and now she is very fit and seems happy with her newfound passion of running. She wants to do an ultra. Her son ran cross country and track in high school and was a very good athlete. I'm pretty sure he got his running talent from her.

After I drove back to Fort Collins, on I-25, which I would have taken in the first place if I'd known about traffic hell, I got home, took a shower, and went over to Starbucks to meet a fellow nurse, who is in graduate school and working in oncology, to discuss the state of health care in general, our career ambitions, and solve the world's problems pertaining to health care and delivery of cancer services.

Progress is what it is. I guess they call it progress, even though it can be so destructive. Construction is destruction, on the one hand, but it also means growth for the area, economic growth, which is what I need to keep my business viable into the future. So I have to deconstruct it, and deal with the fact that there might be a bit more pavement on my old half dirt loop out there. As long as they leave the view of the mountains, I'm okay.

After our talk, I went out and distributed some flyers for my upcoming bimonthly exercise & cancer support group that I'm starting at Raintree Athletic Club in October. And picked up some crack at Runner's Roost- the chocolate cherry Clif Shot kind of crack, to have for my race. The high octane stuff.

It definitely feels like fall, yesterday I considered turning on the heat! But I didn't. It got down to 62 degrees in the house. Finally, I am not being kept awake hot flashing. Such a relief!

I'm not looking forward to ice, but I have a feeling winter will come early this year. It feels like it's about 3 weeks ahead of schedule. But for the next few weeks, I can enjoy the changing colors and all the other things that make it my favorite season.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Don't Get It...

The decision has been made by the National Park Service in regards to the future of the Badwater Ultramarathon held in Death Valley National Park.

I have an opinion. It's all mine, not Chris Kostman's, or the race's.

In a nutshell, the way it would affect the race, on the surface, is that the park will no longer allow the event to be held in the summer months of July and August. There are additional stipulations too. All of which appear to be things that were already covered. Some apply to all events held in the park, not just this one.

I don't understand why they would want to have the Badwater Ultramarathon during a time, according to the bureaucrats' thinking, when the temperatures were cooler, where there would likely be more tourists and more traffic on the road.

Heat illness has not been an issue that affects public safety either. Most runners and crews do a great job with avoiding that. And the medical team, staffed with real medical professionals, has it handled and fixed in almost every instance, and if it's more serious, which is rare, are more than qualified and prepared to get the person the proper and timely care. They want to hold the race outside of July and August months. It can get just as hot in June and September. Some years in July it is only 110 degrees on race day.

According to my friend Sasquatch, who is a real live meteorologist, and a solo Badwater finisher, "June and Sept are not as hot as July and August, climatologically, but that doesn't mean it doesn't get hot other times as well. We're talking about 6 degrees of difference here."

Here is a climatological summary of the temps and precip in Death Valley, per month:
NOAA data courtesy of Dale Perry

There might be some race directors out there who don't have all their ducks in a row, but the Badwater Ultramarathon is meticulous about participants' attention to safety.

I've heard people saying it's the nanny state mentality. That these decisions were made by people who are too lazy to get up from their desks and walk across the parking lot, so they drive those big government vehicles half a block to the next building instead. There is some truth to these assertions. I worked for the Park Service one summer in college. I've seen it myself.

A bureaucrat comes along and forces a decision. Well, bureaucrats come and go, as is evident from the auditorium at Stovepipe Wells, where the dozens of portraits of former Death Valley National Park supervisors hang in the room where we always had the medical team set up. Perhaps in the future, someone will change their mind. And if not, there are alternatives.

Traditionalists will say that the race is not the same, it has to be held in the heat of the summer. I think this will push more people to do solos, something that could be more dangerous. I also think it could also result in people attempting more risky routes. The Park Service does not understand the mentality of ultrarunners. AT ALL. We are talking about people who, if told they can't do something, will do it times a gazillion.

A few years back, when Michael Popov died attempting to cross the salt pan, that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Badwater Ultramarathon race.

Obviously the Park doesn't see it the way runners do. They see budgets and staffing, that's for sure. Parks are supposed to be for the enjoyment of the people. Which people? I wonder how Xanterra sees it, the company that runs the concessions and hotels and restaurants?

I'm not happy about it, but it remains to be seen what Chris will do and how the relationship between DVNP and the race will be going forward.

I'm thankful that I did the race when I did, and my road double when I did, and I'm glad I didn't put it off until my 50th birthday, which would have been this year, because it wouldn't have happened, at least not the same way.

But I feel horrible for those who have put so much effort into the event for years and years and have turned it from a tiny offbeat little gathering to a real, legitimate, world-renowned race and adventure that captures international attention. And for those who had running Badwater as a long term goal or dream for so many years and never quite made it while the event was as it was, until 2014.

There are some things worth more than money. There is no way I, personally, could put a dollar value on what my experiences have been as a result of being involved with that race in some capacity as far back as 2002. I am one of thousands of people who have participated in this event who could say, yes I enjoyed my national park, I experienced it in the way I chose to. I kept a lot of people employed in the park by doing it. Including the supervisor.

Times have changed. Thinking has changed. Power dynamics have changed. Priorities have changed. The helicopter bureaucrats have prevailed.

The only thing that is guaranteed is change. We will see what happens, stay tuned.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reflecting on Life and Death, Writing, Damn Cancer, and Jane Welzel

On August 31, Jane Welzel, a local runner who was a 5 time Olympic Trials marathon qualifier, and winner of many marathons and other events, along with being a well-loved and admired member of the Fort Collins running community, died from cancer.

She had only been diagnosed this spring, but she had a type of cancer that is often very advanced when it is detected and it was really too late to do much for it with the treatments that are available. From what those who were close to her have told me, she was very brave about the whole ordeal and faced it with a realistic attitude, despite the horrible pain and suffering she surely had toward the end of her life.

I have known Jane since 1990, but I didn't ever get to know her well. We ran into each other every couple of years at a local event or on the trails. She was always nice and we'd always chit chat briefly, and then go on about our respective runs. We had different friends and different interests. My husband and she were competing in road races in about the same time frame and I believe they traveled to several races together. I am not sure if she ever ran for Reebok like Dennis did, but Dennis knew her better than I did.

I remember an old friend of ours, Norm, who used to write for several of the local sports publications, interviewed her in 1989 or 1990. At the time, she was about 35, and she was probably at the peak of her running career. We lived on Mountain Avenue at the time, and I can remember him sitting in our living room, talking about Jane and not only how good of a runner she was, but how great of a person she was. He had interviewed lots of runners, a lot of elite runners, and Jane left a big impression on him as the person she was.

I really feel for the running community, those who did know her and loved her. She did a lot for the local runners in addition to putting on events like the Bacon Strip and Mountain Avenue Mile, she started the Tuesday night track group, organized speed workouts in the cemetery, and she provided a lot of support and inspiration for many local runners of all abilities.

It's a huge loss, and losses are not common among fellow runners, because the whole sport of running as we know it has only been around for 40 years or so. It's something that we will begin to face more often.

But it's hard to watch someone not even 60 years old, who was a runner and elite athlete and leader in the running community suddenly go from strong and fit and active to sick and withering away before our eyes.

The runners from the track group dedicated a bench to her at the CSU track called "Quada, Quada" because that is how she pronounced "quarter" in her strong Boston accent. They did it a few weeks ago, while she was still with us, and she was able to be there.

I am glad to see they have already done these things to honor her in life, and now that she is gone, she is being honored in other ways. I am sure that there will be more than one Jane Welzel memorial events in her honor, well-deserved.

I hope that the local runners who knew her will share their feelings with each other and do whatever they can to cope with the loss, because it's really hard for people to come to terms with the fact that she is gone, and from such a brutal disease. Yes, it can happen to anyone. It sounds like this type of cancer was a hereditary one, her brother died from it too.

Being a runner doesn't make you immune at all. Even if there is no family history, cancer is one of those things that at least a third of us, maybe half of us, will have to deal with someday. While 5-10% of cancers are hereditary, meaning passed down from one generation to the next, cancer is often a disease of aging, of genetics, meaning mutations in the DNA, and of numbers. And it presents itself in hundreds of different forms.

What is important is to honor the memory of Jane and what she meant to the running community here. She did the things that money can't buy...providing support and a venue for runners to do what they love, and also championing something she cared about, which happened to be eating disorders.

Most of the readers of this blog didn't know Jane, but I think a good way to honor Jane is to live your life as fully as possible. If there are things you dream of doing but have put off, no matter how old you are, do them. Do them now, or ASAP. Don't wait. Don't make excuses, because the opportunity might not be there someday.

Tonight I went to a local support group meeting, called Sharing the Cancer Journey, that I used to attend regularly when I was working at the hospital there. I used to go in order to listen to the patient's perspective, to understand what people wanted and needed. I learned more from listening to the people in that group than anything my nursing education or on-the-job training ever taught me. I hadn't been there in a long time, not once since I quit the hospital last fall, probably at least a year and half or two years.

The speaker tonight was leading a group activity on writing your story. He was encouraging people to write, because it is a difficult exercise to go back into your traumatic events and relive the details, but it can be very therapeutic and useful for passing along your legacy to future generations. Since I write all the time it was not anything new to me to do it, but I did learn from how the people in the group responded to it. Writing about difficult things is scary, it bring emotions to the surface and painful memories can come back in vivid forms.

But I have learned from years of writing and journaling that getting the toxic and painful feelings out is one of the most freeing and healing things you can do to purge those experiences and heal. Writing it all out, puke on paper, whatever you call it, freehand writing is powerful. I've been doing it again in the mornings to clear my mind of all the clutter I have because of the multiple projects, thoughts and ideas I have right now.

Writing helped me move through my feelings about leaving my old, toxic, evil nursing job. I knew I had arrived at a healing place when tonight I stopped by my old workplace and said hi to my old coworkers. I was able to walk through the hospital without any weird feelings or a sick feeling in my stomach like I used to get.

If you have something nagging at you, or troubling you, write it out. Get it out on paper, hand to pen to paper. Do it first thing in the morning, uninterrupted, for 15 or 30 minutes or as long as you can take.

I wrote tonight about the experience of finding out my sister had cancer. While it happened a while ago and I have processed it, this was the first time I have written it out, and it was therapeutic in a way I haven't experienced with that story.

The point is, don't take life for granted, just because you run doesn't mean you're immortal, and when you have pain in your life, purge it in whatever way you can, I recommend writing. Expressing what's on your mind, either on paper or verbally to someone you feel safe with, is the important thing. Don't hold it in.

That's all I have to say tonight.