Scatter my ashes here...

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

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Ome Mil Cempohualli: Across the Years 2020 and 1000 mile jacket

I'm back. I just took an unplanned 5 month break from blogging and pretty much all writing in general. No excuses, I ran out of words.

I haven't done much in the way of ultras either, I ran a 100k this summer with Felix, and then all hell broke loose. Pretty much the whole year was a series of hell breaking loose, but somehow we made it through to a new decade.

We'll have plenty of challenges ahead of us, but I really hope 2020 turns out to be a better year than 2019 was.

To sum things up, last year read like a textbook case of multigenerational aging trials and tribulations. In May, my mother-in-law broke her hip. About that same time, my husband was getting forced out of his management job at the hospital. He found a new job right away and in his own quiet polite way, told his old boss to go to hell, surprising her in the process. They wanted him to leave when they were ready to get rid of him, but he made the move first. I was so proud of him. There's nothing quite as satisfying as being able to tell your shortsighted, incompetent, Peter Principled superiors at work to fuck off.

Now he works 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at a much less stressful, yet lower-paying, job, where he doesn't have to play babysitter on a salary. It hasn't been easy, not emotionally for him or financially for us, but you do what you have to do. And the thorn in our sides was we were making great progress on paying down our mortgage, until this, but, at least we have a roof over our head. I could say so much more, but things happen and this is the state of our country and for-profit healthcare system, and you know the rest...

We got through that mess by early summer, and then I was planning to do some long runs as I was preparing for Across the Years. This year I was within striking distance of the 1000 lifetime mile jacket at that race, I signed up for the 48 hour knowing that the remaining 103 miles would be pretty easy to finish in that time. I hoped I'd be able to run substantially more miles, but as the year went on, the family aging streak continued.

I did manage to run the LongView marathon inaugural race in Loveland, my first road marathon in who knows how many years. I did it mostly running and in under 5 hours, 4:51 I think was my finishing time. And then a few weeks later I planned to visit my parents in Arizona, since the year had been so chaotic I had not gone down there for my usual visits.

I arrived in Phoenix on November 2 for a 3 day visit, and on the morning of November 3rd, I was out on the canal enjoying a beautiful Arizona fall morning run when my phone buzzed at me. I checked it, and saw a text and voicemail from my stepmom. "Come home, dad fell, he thinks he broke his hip, the paramedics are here..."

I called her, and she said she was headed to the hospital. I ran home, took a quick shower and went to the ER, where my dad had been Xrayed and was was waiting to be admitted.

As things turned out, he had surgery that night, where they did what's called an ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) where they put a carbon fiber rod in his femur, and then he was in a hospital room upstairs. The drugs and anesthesia did not agree with him and the next few days were a haze of pain and hallucinations and delirium.

Thinking I would only be there for 3 days, I packed minimally and didn't bring my work stuff with me, but I wanted to be able to stay there and help my stepmom, especially when he made the transition to rehab after the hospital. My brother, who is also a nurse, was planning a vacation to start that weekend. So I flew home, grabbed my work stuff, and turned around and flew back before my brother left town. I stayed for most of the following week, including with my dad overnight in the rehab facility his first night.

I'm not going to get into it, but suffice it to say that rehab facilities, like any healthcare facility, are understaffed and patient safety is an afterthought to the administration. They have no idea what level of staffing it takes to keep delirious, confused, disoriented recent post-op patients from climbing out of bed and falling on the hard floor. My dad did it twice in the two weeks he was there. It was a learning curve for our family, because we have not had to deal with this in the past for any of our older relatives. And don't even get my dad started on the cafeteria food...he was truly living in hell for two weeks. We brought him as many homecooked or restaurant meals as we could.

My dad is now back at home, improving steadily, and when I was down there for Across the Years, he is doing so much better. It's a slow process and he's having lots of physical therapy, but he is much more independent and moving and transferring much more easily than before.

Two parental broken hips, upended retirement plans, and a job loss later, it was December and time for Across the Years and I had missed out on doing any more long runs. That really doesn't matter because I have the base and the mental capacity to make it through pretty much anything, as long as I stay slow. I managed to break a tooth two days before Christmas, so I had to go to the dentist and get a temporary fix before the race. Meaning I'd have to be mindful of what I chewed on that one side during the race, too.

Across the Years was shaping up to be a super exciting race this year for a number of reasons. Aside from the 1000 mile jacket, one of the runners I've known forever through ultras, Tracy, was getting married just after midnight at the event on January 1.
And there was the new years celebration, and my friends Connie and Marissa DeMercurio from Colorado were both running ATY for the first time. I asked them if they'd join me on the final lap as I finished the 1000th mile. And then the usual joy of being at ATY for me is seeing my Arizona running friends and others I know from so many years at ATY and Badwater and other ultra races I've run in my life. The tribe.

My usual group of friends from Colorado were mostly not there this year. Anne Watts was, she ran the 24 hour on the 29th and it was a hard one for her since she (and all of us) lost Matt last spring. But she was out there and we got a chance to talk and walk together. I am going to Kansas with her this coming spring for Prairie Spirit.

The Pence family-Anne, Eric and Ethan- missed out this year too, they had some other events going on. Sasquatch unfortunately got sick a week before the race, and during the race he texted me to tell me he had gone to the ER with breathing trouble. He was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia! Good thing he didn't try to come down and do the event. Fortunately he's home now.

I took it super easy the first day and night, I rented one of the small tents, I brought a sleeping bag, foam pad, and a pillow yes!, and pampered myself in the tent after just 50K, with a sponge bath, total change of clothing and socks and shoes, I even slept 3 1/2 hours each night of the race.

The second day I did the same. I ran only a total of about 6 1/2 hours through the whole event, the rest was walking, socializing, and hugs. I'm pretty sure that by the time I finished the race, I had received more hugs than the number of miles I ran.

I wanted to be finished with the 1000 early enough so I'd have time to enjoy the New Years midnight celebration and Tracy and Sally's wedding, and then just kick back and take it easy until 9 am on the first when my race was over. It worked out perfectly, I got done with 1000 miles right around 9 pm.

Connie and I finishing my 1000th mile
I enjoyed the festivities at midnight, had a glass of champagne and did the usual midnight lap. Then Jubilee, the race director, officiated the wedding ceremony. There were no dry eyes from what I could tell.

I wore my SpongeBob pajama pants while watching the few crazies participate in the underwear beer mile- it was COLD outside! Tracy and Sally tied empty cans to their waists and ran with the cans dragging behind them. There was wedding cake in the heated tent, and I have to say this was the most fun ATY ever.

I kept doing laps for a while but got tired and crawled in my tent after I had a few more miles on. I woke up late in the morning, but there was still time to spare for me to get another 5 miles or so. I ended up with 117.34 miles. It always seems like it takes forever to pack up afterward, but I did it, and drove back across town to Scottsdale, slept for a day and half, and then was able to visit and hang out with my dad, stepmom, brother, and sister in law.

And now I'm home, with Dennis and the Wranglas, feeling leg-weary but happy. There are some work-related changes on the horizon this year for me, and I'm continuing to work on improving at Spanish, and have started to pick up some- very limited- Nahuatl, because I have big plans for an adventure in central Mexico in the coming year or two, something I've been wanting to do for a long time but need to do before I get too old. More about that later.

And I've been enjoying the increased population of bald eagles who nest near the lake I run around daily, on most of my runs in the neighborhood.

Sushi in the aid station- THE BEST!

Mike Melton- our AWESOME timer
As I was running one of the hundreds of laps in ATY, I had a conversation with Martina Hausmann, the German runner who is almost up to her 5000 mile jacket. She said I would have to go for the 2000 mile jacket after this. And she's right. I would like to be able to do that, in less time than it took me to do the first 1000. If I live long enough. But what I really want as my next goal, is a Geezer hat, like the guys in the timing tent wear at ATY, including my recently-minted Geezer friend, Mike Melton. He told me I'd have to be 60 to get it. That's just a little over 4 years away.

Ma cualli yancuic xihuitl. (Have a happy new year)

Mike shows us how to have a good time!

My 1000 mile jacket and 100 mile belt buckle