Scatter my ashes here...

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

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Best Things in Life...

Are friends.

Followed by running, writing, and dogs, though not necessarily in that order. They all rank high up there on my list.

When you have any combination of them, it's pretty hard to beat.

Today I met with Libby James, a longtime writing and running friend in Fort Collins. We used to both write a monthly running column in the local paper along with our writer/artist friend Tom Riggs. We have a lot in common, mainly writing and running, but Libby is much more prolific than I am when it comes to writing.

She has published several books, I am not sure how many but she's written about running, and a number of other topics and genres, like historical fiction- her latest work. She's a great writer and that's not even the tip of the iceberg as far as her life stories. She happens to be a multiple-time age group world record holder at running, too.

I've always been inspired in running by the older runners who keep going, into their 70s, 80s, and even beyond. Libby falls squarely in that category although I wouldn't even try to categorize her. She's a lively, focused, interesting, and talented human being who has contributed great things to the world, including her offspring.

I met her at her house and we took off for a few laps around the cemetery, which happens to be one of our favorite places to run, another thing we share. Then we came back to her house where she made tea and we sat and talked books and plotted schemes around our favorite topics.

I got a peek at her latest book which hooked me within the first page, and I plan to read it as soon as I catch my breath around here. She's been at this a lot longer than I have been, and actually has her own shelf of local authors' books, she created a small lending library. I'm excited to be adding Navigating the C to her collection.

On our run around the cemetery we talked about our friend Morgan whom we lost last January. I felt like she was listening. After our run I kept seeing the name "Morgan" everywhere, like the directional sign near the university pointing to Morgan Library, and bright lime green colored objects, which was her favorite color. I realized the last time I saw Libby was last spring at Morgan's memorial. I've been intending to get together with her and the book kept taking over all my thoughts and plans.

We talked about how important it is to take the time to get together, these connections and conversations are so important, more important than the many distractions in everyday life.

I started this morning missing Donut Friday because I was up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. Maybe it was just being excited because before bedtime I found out that my books were being overnighted from Amazon in time for my book signing this Sunday. They have been super slow on production and last week when I checked, they told me I wouldn't receive them until January 31 or February 1. My book signing is on the 28th, and I ordered them on the 10th, with expedited shipping.

But they came through for me. (I've actually been very impressed with almost everything they do at Amazon around the book creation process.) When I arrived home from Libby's, the books were waiting for me!!

And I always have plenty of help with the boxes.

It was one of the best mornings I've had in quite some time (would have been 100% perfect if I'd made Donut Friday!). Ready to start getting this book out there to see the light of day in the world. I have more to say about that, in a future blogpost. For now, you can find Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, on Amazon.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Big Launch

Just a quick post for now, the big news is, I am now an author. I announced the release of my book, Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, yesterday. It's sort of a slow leak, I've let small numbers of people know and I'm still in the process of spreading the word through next Tuesday, then I will begin beating the bushes to let everyone I can possibly reach know about it.

I don't even know if I feel like writing about the process. It's been a learning curve, sometimes exhilarating and sometimes exasperating, like when you find out your books that you carefully pre-ordered to arrive in time for your first book signing event are delayed in production because they are backed up from the holidays! (it's almost February!!) and they might not arrive in time!!


Anyway I am just really glad to be at a place where I can start working on something different. The marketing aspect of this is a learning curve too. But I look forward to it.

Since I got back from Across the Years, I was sick for two weeks with some kind of upper respiratory crud, not sure if you could say it was the flu. I did have a slight fever- 99.8 is what I got, and I felt like crap, and even this week I'm not quite 100%. I only ran twice this week, Donut Friday and bagel Saturday, 3 and 5 1/2 miles respectively. No donuts for me, but I did have a bagel today. Not a very good plan for someone who wants to lose 20 pounds. But I pretty much wrote this week off since I've been so busy and it was cold. I am such a cold weather wimp!

I also planned my birthday run this year, which will be a taco theme. I plan to hit at least 4 or 5 different taco joints on my 54 km or so run on my birthday. I'll end up at the Rio, for the margaritas. I have been so much better since the new year about avoiding beer and margaritas, which were my downfall. I blame it partially on the Trump effect, but I am finding I enjoy a cup of tea in the evening too. Not quite as much as a strong margarita, but I am determined to lose this spare tire.

The thing I did do this past week was to get together with my boxing instructor, Alyssa, and she made up a program for me to build my upper body, mostly, but a little bit of power for my legs too, to prepare for doing longer runs again. I need to get back in gear next week and start working out again, and moving.

I guess in a way this year is about starting over and renewal. I'm switching gears from writing the book, looking for opportunities to reach out and speak and get the word out, I'm involved in a few different exciting pilot projects of my own work and of some other people. My girls are growing up and they are running with me, not as demanding as they were as puppies, and I'm already looking at some travel plans like Washington DC and Las Vegas for various endeavors- more about that later- not running-related, but I will share eventually.

I did sign up for a marathon (Revel Rockies) and I'm considering a second one (Leading Ladies- did that one in 2014). And I'm keeping my eyes peeled for an ultra opportunity or two, maybe a 50 and a 100 mile or 24 hour run, we'll see. I do plan to run the 48 hour at ATY at the end of this year. And I am having fun with my running buddies, Fridays and Saturdays.

I hope to blog a lot more frequently, run a lot more, and sell some books...more about the book soon.

photo credit: Pixabay

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Welcome 2018, Flu vs. Toenails, Across the Years 24 Hour Run

How quickly we forget.

That is why so many older people do ultras, our memories are poor so we soon forget any suffering we might have endured, and we go back for more.

As I threatened, I went to Across the Years to run the 24 hour race with my Colorado buddies Sasquatch and Anne and Matt Watts.

Dale (Sasquatch, aka Richard Cranium) is coming off treatment as well as a stem cell transplant for cancer, and he's been training almost the whole time. We've run infrequently together this year but enough times that I've seen him over pretty much the whole treatment ordeal. We ran for about 5 hours together one day a month ago and he was doing extremely well.

We all signed up for the 24 hour race on the 30th, instead of the New Years Eve day. It would be less crowded on the track and more laid back. Matt had about 80 miles to go before he got his 1000 mile jacket at Across the Years, so his goal was clear. Anne was out to get 50K or so and that's all she wanted. Her ulterior motive, so I found out, was to get away from Matt, who had apparently picked up a case of rabies and was compulsively howling at the moon and foaming at the mouth.

I flew down ahead of time and stayed with my family in Scottsdale, and rented a car to haul my crap across town for race day. I met Dale at the track at 7 am on race morning, and we rented a table and set up our stuff. Dale's friend Tom Hamilton, who was in the six-day race, generously offered his tent in case we needed to crash or change clothes or store our stuff.

                                                                                We got our packets and goodie bags, and our ankle transponders. We proceeded to the timing tent to harass our Floridian friend Mike Melton, who was doing the timing and complain about his GPS accuracy. We saw our friends Nattu and Karen, Karen was in the 72 hour race, and Nattu was kicking back, prepping for his upcoming race at HURT and crewing for Karen. I don't think I've seen them since 2011 when I did the Badwater double. They both look the same, fit and happy and it was great to see them!

Finally, it was time for the pre-race briefing before our 9 am start. Mike did a demo of how to make the turn every four hours, since a runner's IQ is proven to decline by 5 points per hour of running. Something like that. They only allow geniuses into the 6 Day race, for that reason.

Soon it was time to start, and we were off. Around the course, which has a variety of surfaces- packed dirt, asphalt, slightly looser softer dirt on the narrow section, and then this hellacious 150 or 200 meter stretch of loose, deep pea gravel, that is new since the last time I ran there in 2011-2012. It certainly added a challenge, both mentally and to the feet, adding a degree of shear that provided excellent conditions for blistering.

The weather forecast was for warm and sunny conditions, high of 76 and low of 45. It looks nice on paper, but it was pretty warm that day. I started with the crowd, running slowly for a lap or so, until I thought, I really don't feel like running now. Maybe later. With 21 minutes of running on my watch, I started to walk, and it felt comfortable and enjoyable and so I stuck with it for the duration.

I spent more time socializing and in the food tent than I ever normally would. The food offerings were perfect, they had my PBJ standby, grilled cheese, quesadillas, and plenty of other good stuff. The best thing was the fresh vegetarian sushi they made in the aid station. Wow.

I saw an old running acquaintance who used to live in Fort Collins but has since moved to Arizona, Rick. He was volunteering at the aid station so we got a chance to chat for a while. And Steve Finkelstein, who in past years would be found in the timing tent, was there to visit. I saw so many runners I've known for years, it was so much fun to catch up and be there.

Every four hours at the turnaround Mike and his helpers would be leading some kind of dance at the turnaround point, depending on the time of day, it looked like a bunch of staggering uncoordinated lunatics, making sure everyone went in the right directions round the orange cones.

At 12 hours I had just hit about 40 miles. I had roughly estimated I might get 70 or 80 miles at best, so it seemed reasonable. I rewarded myself by using the real bathroom, with flush toilets. It was warm in there. It didn't really get cold until about 11 pm and I grabbed some extra clothes off the table and took them with me into the real bathroom on the next lap. There were few people in the bathroom and I used one of the stalls to get changed. I was trying to pull my compression shorts up over my shoes and up my legs without cramping or falling over. I was having to contort myself in this little stall. Why I chose to go in there to change is beyond me, but like I said, the IQ does diminish.

In the middle of my contortion act, I suddenly thought of my friend Stephanie Willingham. This was a classic moment that we would have shared, if she were crewing me, she'd be helping me, and we'd be giggling. And so I started giggling, hysterically, so hard that I started to get side stitches and worse cramps. To the point that I was almost howling, I could hardly breathe I was laughing so hard and my sides hurt so bad. The other people in the bathroom could hear this, and one person asked me if I was all right. One of those, you had to be there moments. I finally freed my foot from the bottom of the shorts and pulled things up, and was able to catch my breath and return to the race.

Throughout the night, Matt Watts had been lapping me constantly, and every time he came up behind me, he launched into a barkfest, startling all of the people nearby at the moment, and a few times, me. I think he was concerned that I missed Gypsy and Velcro and wanted me to feel at home. Most of the time I was checking over my shoulder, but a few times he got me good! I promised there would be paybacks.

I had taped my feet before the start because I knew I had not spent enough time on them to prepare for 24 hours on these varied surfaces. Anticipating my usual problem spot, under the ball of my left foot. My feet actually felt good until at least midnight, so I didn't mess with them. Dale was being meticulous about his feet, changing his socks and shoes every few hours. But I prefer to leave my feet alone unless I feel there is something going on. My hands weren't swollen much, I had been peeing plenty, and I was taking in fluids and S caps. I think what happened was when the temperatures dropped at night, that's when everything got thrown off. Around 2:30 am I noticed my right heel was bothering me, and it was affecting my gait. I had about 56 miles, I think. My right calf hurt from raising my heel, avoiding putting my full weight on that side. Time to look at the feet.

I stopped in the medical tent to ask if they minded if I work on my own feet in there, and they were fine with that. It would be warmer in there, and if I had a cramp they could help me. I went to my table and grabbed my foot supplies and a fresh pair of socks. My left foot felt fine, so I didn't want to touch it.

Once I got my shoe and sock off the right foot, I discovered that I had a huge blister on my right heel, which I had to cut with scissors because I couldn't lance it with a pin. A huge amount of fluid poured out onto the floor of the tent. The top of my right foot had also blistered, and popped on its own. That was bloody, so I cleaned it best I could, and covered it with antibiotic ointment, telfa, and a tegaderm.

Getting my freshly socked right foot back into my shoe was one of the most painful experiences I've had in some time. I managed to get the shoe on, but then I couldn't walk- couldn't put weight on my heel. I taped it so it would continue to drain with the direction of force as I walked, but it wasn't ready for body weight. I thought I was done. I decided to go into the warming tent and sit for a while, have some hot cocoa and figure out a plan.

When I entered the tent, I saw Sasquatch, doubled over in a chair, dozing. I pulled up a chair close by and he stirred. He told me he experienced a wave of nausea and was in there taking a break to see if he recovered. I think I dozed, hunched over in the chair, from about 5 am to 6:15 am, when I opened my eyes and looked at my watch. Sasquatch was still dozing. Finally at about 6:45 am I got out and started moving slowly. Sasquatch got out soon after me.

Tom Hamilton saw me at the timing tent, as I asked for assistance with figuring out which direction I should be going in. He got me off my butt to do a few more laps. Somehow I got about 6 more miles in before the finish and finished with 61.9 miles. Just short of 100 K. Sasquatch ended up with 55 plus miles.

It was easy to pack up given the race setup and rented tables. I dragged my stuff back to the car and took off for my dad's house. It's only 35 minutes in early morning weekend traffic. I got home and spent the next 24 hours sleeping, eating, and recovering.

On the afternoon of the 1st, I started to feel a little sniffly, but I wondered if it was just the bad air quality in Phoenix. By the time I woke up on the second, it was clearly some kind of a cold, as it had moved into my throat. I tried to keep from passing it to my dad and stepmom, and did a few things but took it pretty easy. I was supposed to see my friend Heidi, who recently moved to Scottsdale from Flagstaff, and I warned her about the cold. We ended up meeting in south Scottsdale and went for a walk.

My legs felt fine, but my left big toenail was turning purple and felt really weird. I wore sandals all day because any pressure on that toe hurt. Plus my other foot was completely bandaged up from the open blister.

Wednesday I had to fly back to Colorado and I kept a scarf over my face, took some cough medicine and cough drops to keep from sharing the love...I had some masks too but they were so hot on my face and itched my nose it drove me crazy. The flight was quick and easy, and everything went smoothly. By the time I got home I felt like death warmed over.

What is more annoying- having the flu or having a sore toenail? While I have the flu I can forget about my toenails except when the sheets brush over them...what a creepy feeling. Anyway, I took my temperature which was 99.8, so something was going on. Not sure if it was the flu, but I stayed home all week and slept a lot. Managed to get a little work done despite everything, even though the first two days I was home, my head felt like it weighed 50 pounds and it hurt.

I'm feeling a little better today, slept without taking anything last night and no coughing fits.

Here's I want to say, now that I've told my race story.

1. I ran this event with an eye on the conditions, as I have been on the fence about two things, one is a return to doing more ultras- yes, my competitive nature will surely come out in full swing if I do. And the other thing is doing a six day race and where I want to do that. This course showed me that I'll either have to have feet that are tough as nails, or find a different venue for that length of a race.

2. Don't put things off. I learned this with my Badwater Double. If you are thinking about doing something, don't wait. Do it now. You might not have a chance later, or it might not be as easy to get to. Look at Dale, he is back at ultras even with a big question mark hanging over his head with regards to his cancer, but he made the most of it this year and did what he wanted to do. You never know what can happen. Don't take your health for granted.

3. I forgot briefly, in my absence, that ultras in general, and Across the Years specifically, have been a powerful motivator for me as I've gotten older. I've always watched the people in their 60s, 70s and 80s at this event with admiration: Karsten Solheim, Don Winkley, Jeff Hagen, Jeannie McDaniel, are just a few examples of people who continue to inspire me, showing me that there is no limit to human endurance with aging. Sure you might not get as many miles in, or as fast, but their spirit is what counts. And their performances are phenomenal. Jack Denness, Bob Becker, Art Webb at Badwater are some other examples.

I feel so privileged to know these people and have shared miles with them on the same course. And as the years go on, my friends and I are moving into their shadows, following their footsteps, and we'll soon be the old-timers at the events.

4. I have about 180 miles left to get my 1000 mile jacket. I think I can reasonably accomplish that in two years, if I sign up for the 48 hour at least once in those two years. I am going to plan on doing the 48 hour next year and then whatever's left over, I will sign up accordingly the following year. If all goes well. You never know.

5. This blog officially is having it's tenth anniversary. YAY! And now I might even blog more frequently, now that the book is done and I can focus on other pursuits. The book, by the way, will be out in two weeks. You can check out the info here and I'll post on this blog when it's officially available on Amazon.

Happy New Year!