Tuesday, August 12, 2014

El Vaquero Loco 50k #BRE

It was my third time going up to Afton, Wyoming to the El Vaquero 50k event.  And I didn't regret it, not one bit.

Many of the Happy Utah Mountain Runners (HUMRs) showed up to the event this year.  We had a base camp set up on Thursday before the race (thanks to Lane Farka) at the Cottonwood campground... many other potential campers I'm sure were thinking, "Sheesh... how much space do these people need?"  Well, with easily 30 people in our group... a fair amount.

I got up to Cottonwood camp, the start/finish for the race, about 1pm on Friday.  I hung out with Lane and ate some lunch, set up my tent, then ventured over to the neighbor who turned out to be Joe from Pocatello, whom I helped with some blister issues at the 100k back in June at the 40 mile aid station, and Jodi from Salt Lake.  It was a great, relaxing afternoon.

I typically get pretty worked up before events:  anxiety, low appetite, I get really quiet because on the inside my thoughts are racing and my heart is pounding.  It was great to be around such a nice, positive, energetic group of people prior to the race.  And I ate well at the pot-luck dinner that we had at camp.

It rained all night.  I had a few drips through my tent, but ended up sleeping fairly well.  Got down to the start line at 5:55 am to check in (start time 6am) and Ty Draney, the race director, said, "I didn't want to have to cuss you! [for showing up late... ]" Sorry Ty!  I said some morning hellos and looked down at my wrist to start my GPS watch and dang!  I had left it in the tent.  Seems I would be running this race "by feel".

As it turned out, I didn't feel great for the first 12 or so miles of the course.  You see, I'm not a morning person.  I think it must have taken me nearly the full 4 hours to get to the half-way (turn around) point to actually wake up.  I did run with my friend Ann for a lot of the first part of the course, until she ditched me a couple miles out from the aid station at the turn around.  Lane was captain at that aid station at mile 15 and told me, in a nutshell, that I looked like hell.  Thanks, buddy. Ann was there, too, and gave me some words of encouragement.  I knew in my heart that I would have a good second half of the race, but it didn't hurt to hear confirmation from her, as well.  (She ended up dropping out because of a nagging injury sustained in a race two weeks prior.)

Lane fed me and got me to drink some fluids.  I took about 10 minutes to sit at the picnic table at the aid station and then decided it was time to start moseying up the road.  I continued to eat a little bit as I moseyed next to the rushing Swift Creek river.

About a mile up the road, I got back on the single track trail and hit my stride.  Seems all I needed was a bit of calories and a kick in the butt.  I must have passed 20 people on the 8 mile climb out of Swift Creek.  Dee, from Syracuse, Utah, heard me striding towards her to overtake her, and was amazed by my speed.  Seems I really am a second-half runner at this race (I feel like I've alway raced well in the second half of this event:  in the previous two times as well).

I got to the horse packers' aid station and grabbed a few chips and some "magic elixir" (Mtn Dew, mixed with water and nuun electrolyte tablet) and passed Corey, one of the HUMRs.  I made it up to Corral Creek lakes and passed Jim, another HUMR.  I got to the high school cross country kids at the next aid station and took some more magic elixir.  I passed Kember and her husband, and she took some photos of me (thanks Kember!).  I got to the top of the climb above Corral Creek and knew that I only had three and a half miles to go:  all downhill.

I spied 3 blue shirts ahead of me:  three of the HUMR boys:  BJ, Aric, and Ryan.  What?!?  I had actually caught them?  I was having a good second half.  I blew past them and despite my diabolical laugh, I tried to be supportive and give them some words of encouragement, "Only 3 miles to go!  Pound out the downhill, let's go!"

I must have run that last 3 miles in about 30 minutes.  I was smelling the barn (and the cheeseburgers) and it smelled good.  I got to the last creek crossing and let out a sigh of relief!  Through the campground, tossed my pack on the ground, sprinted the last quarter mile to the end:  cheers from the crowd.... Aaaahhhh!!!!  Finished.  Hugs all around.  Smiles.  A great race.

As I hung out with my friend Ann at the finish line, we told stories, laughed and cheered other finishers across the line.  We ate cheeseburgers.  We drank beers and huckleberry sodas.

Time ticked on and on:  9 hours, 10 hours, 11 hours... and Ann's husband still was out on the course.  It was his first 50k.  Where was he?  Was he ok?  We decided to move up the road, start packing up camp, and wait for him to emerge from the woods.  Thank goodness when he finally came, he had a smile on his face.  "That was a hard race!"  Yes, yes it was.  And beautiful, too.  We went for margaritas and Mexican food in town after the race.  If you haven't been to Agave in Afton, Wyoming, I highly recommend it.  The margarita pictured is the medium size.  Yes, there is one even larger than that on the menu.  They do not do things small in Wyoming.

Thanks, Afton.  In the words of the HUMRs:  Best Race Ever #BRE.

Photos by:  myself, Ann Hilton, Kember Pollington, and Kolby Tyler

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bighorn 2014 race report ~ Roll With It

I woke up at 7am and started getting dressed for the Bighorn 100.  The race start is at 11am, so I had plenty of time to drive from Sheridan to Dayton for the pre-race meeting at 9am in the park.  Looking through my clothes, I almost could not believe my eyes:  I had forgotten to pack a jog bra.  Whaaaa???  How could this be?  Don't freak out.  DON'T freak out.  Everything will be fine.

I texted my crew, Ann, who was on her way with some friends who had stayed in Riverton, Wyoming (3 hours away) for the night.  She had an extra jog bra.  Don't freak out.  Roll with it.  Everything will be fine.

I drove past the Walmart and was half tempted to go in and buy a jog bra.  But my aversion for big box stores kept me away.  I stopped at the Albertson's and got a bag of ice for the cooler.  I ate a few bites of breakfast (almond butter on whole wheat bread).  I was on my way.

It's always nice to see so many friendly faces at an ultra.  Especially one as big as Bighorn.  The event itself is not big, but the terrain is huge.  The thought of it can be somewhat daunting, so I try not to think about it too much.  Seeing friends and knowing that they are there to take on the terrain themselves, or seeing friends who are crew and are going to be out on the course supporting the runners is a huge comfort.

I ran into Missy Gosney at the start and she gave me a jog bra.  My mind was somewhat set at ease.  My crew had not arrived yet, but would be here shortly.

Lining up at the start-line area (4 miles up the Tongue River dirt road), I tried not to think about nerves and tried just to eat a few more bites of food before things got going.  Then Ann, my crew, showed up.  Thank goodness.  She would take my car to the aid station at mile 13 and meet me.  Everything was fine.  Just roll with it.

The first climb (nearly the entire 13 miles to the aid station and 5,000ft of gain) was relatively uneventful.  I ran with Quintin who snapped some pics of me passing a line of guys who were a foot to a foot and a half taller than me.  It was fun.  The views were beautiful.  So beautiful, that I stubbed my toe (hard) and threw my lower back, my SI joint, out of whack.  Mile 10 and already "injured".  Walk it off.  Just roll with it.

I met up with Ann (so happy to see her) at mile 13 and prepared for the long downhill to Footbridge at mile 30.  The weather was perfect:  70 degrees, sunshine and a few drifting clouds.  Everyone continued to be all smiles.  Quintin snapped a few more pictures of me in the trees on the descent.  It was like we were out for a long training run, if you didn't think about the part where you continued through the night into the next day.

I met up with my old friend Billy at Footbridge, mile 30.  He "owed me a crew" from Wasatch last year, and he really helped me out.  Helped me sort through my gear and what I did or didn't need.  We made some good decisions on gear and I didn't get over loaded with weight.  I ate well, drank some soup, and was on my way.  I was a little bit ahead of schedule from last year, and Billy told me to slow down a little.  Don't burn out.  I felt good, and was not pushing, so I resolved to just run comfortably up the Little Bighorn River canyon.

The run up the canyon was good and smooth.  I ran nice and relaxed.  My stomach had been just a little bit "off" all day, but I didn't think too much about it.  I always have a sensitive stomach at these types of races.  I had looked in my pack for an anti-nausea pill earlier in the day, and found an empty pill wrapper.  So instead of having two doses of medication, I only had one.  I had decided to save it, as my nausea was not "that bad".  And then, I saw a flash of light ~

No, not an epiphany.  Nor a hallucination.  Lightening.  Followed by a long, low rumble.  Another flash.  And then another.  Rumble.... as I got to Elk Camp aid station (mile 44.5), it had started to rain.  And ironically, as I joked with the aid station captain, I had left my rain jacket at mile 13 at Dry Fork Ridge because, "I didn't need it... "  Oh, the irony.  I asked him for a garbage bag, and he whipped out his pocket knife and made a few nifty slashes for arm holes and a head hole.  I was now sporting a garbage bag dress.

I have never run in a garbage bag before.  In fact, I have always felt a little sorry for the people who do run in garbage bags.  Poor dears can't even afford a rain jacket.  But can I tell you what?  That garbage bag rocked the weather.  I was warm, I was dry, and my psyche was still intact.  Had I continued on in the rain without it, I'm sure the soul-sucking mud field of the next 4-5 miles would have beaten me.  I maneuvered around a downed tree and ran into Missy G (who had loaned me the jog bra) and we both yelled out, "Missy!" and laughed.  She was on her way down from the turn around, and I was almost there.

I got to Jaws at mile 48 and saw Ann.  I resolved not to cry.  I tried not to think about the fact that I would have to turn around and hit that mud field again.  She sat me down and fed me.  We changed out of my wet down vest and into my warmer, dry down jacket.  I put the garbage bag on again (with a smile) and ate some good food (cheese quesadilla, soup which was way too salty, fruit, bacon) and got me out of the tent to continue on.  Galen was there and took some great
 pictures.  I look miserable in one of them, but really I think he just caught me between smiles.

About a hundred yards out of the aid station, my stomach turned.  "Oh no, " I thought.  Here it comes.  I tried to keep it down, I really did.  But I had eaten just a bit too much.  I hurled into the sagebrush.  I managed to keep about half of what I had eaten down. I faced the mud field with determination.

The sun would soon be up and I knew that my stomach always got better once it turned to daylight again.  I ran into Billy pacing and Emily going down the canyon and we crossed paths several times.  Running in the wee hours of the morning is always tough for me.  My body really wants me to lay down after the long night and just have a rest.  When I felt my eyes flutter and want to close, I knew I was close to Footbridge again and I really wanted to make it there before the 50 mile racers overtook me.  I took a 5-hour energy out of my pack instead of lying down and started to sip on it.  Billy looked at me and said, "Ultra runner's cocktail of choice!" and we laughed.

I made it to Footbridge (mile 66) and an aid station volunteer immediately asked me if I had crew, to which I replied that I did not.  She said she would help me (I just love the volunteers at this race).  She got me a bucket of water and a washcloth for my feet.  I got all of the mud off of them, and assessed the damage:  not too bad.  Just a few small blisters.  I washed and let them air dry before putting on clean socks.  The volunteer got me food, and I ate.  I switched back to my lighter pack, got rid of my warm clothes, put my mud-caked shoes back on, and was on my way.

As I hiked up the steep incline out of Footbridge, I couldn't help but remark that the 50 mile runners had not caught me yet.  I was about 2 miles up the hill before they had.  I was moving well, but my nausea was still ever-present, so somewhere in there I took my one nausea pill.  It helped a little bit.  I made it to Bear Camp and got a few bites of food and a refill on water.  The volunteers here greeted me by name as one of the volunteers is the cousin-in-law of a friend from Salt Lake.  I felt comforted and welcome.

I continued up the trail through the woods through fields of arnica flowers.  It was beautiful.  And then another surprise:  Ann had run down from Dry Fork Ridge (about 10 miles) to meet me and bring me back up the hill.  I was elated.  I thought I would meet her at the next aid station at Cow Camp (mile 76), and here she was several miles early.  We chatted for quite a while until all of a sudden I felt really yucky and asked her if we could just have some quiet-time.  I started going to a dark place again, as I had near the mud-fields the night before.  Why was I doing this?  This was dumb!  Who would do this to themselves?  Was it all really worth it?

And then we heard voices behind us.  Who the f*ck talks going up this hill?  A-hole.  Just move it along and go past me.  I don't really care.  And then I heard the voice, "Hi Ann.  How's it going?"  It was my former running partner from the year before.  The guy who ditched me because I "wasn't fast enough".  The guy who said he needed to train by himself because he needed to prepare for his own 100.  The guy who had then down-graded to the 50 and not even started the 100!  I could not believe my ears.  Was he really so bitter that he could not even say hello?  Could not even acknowledge that I was out here doing the 100 that he could not start?  Ann said hello to him, and as he passed, I said, "Hello, [name withheld]".  "Oh, hey," he replied.  "What's going on... "  "Oh, just running 100," I said.  Wow, the nerve of that guy.  Can't even be civil.  Rise above... rise above...
But in truth, I was infuriated.  What a small creature he was that he couldn't even say hello, yet said hello to my friend.  And do you know what that infuriation did?  It brought me right back out of my dark place and into the light.  I knew at that moment that I would finish.

The rest of the climb up to Dry Fork Ridge at mile 82 was very hard.  At one point I sat down in the creek to soothe my chaffed butt (haha, literally and figuratively!).  I got up to the aid station and they had pizza!  Delicious.  I changed into non-muddy super high-cushion shoes and busted out.  I would rock the next section of the course, and that is exactly what I did.

After two more aid stations that I pretty much just blew through, I saw my best-buddy Ann's face once again.  She had caught a ride on the river road and hiked up the river trail to meet me once more and bring me the 7 miles back to the finish line at the park in Dayton.

I ran that road like nobody's business.  I threw down 13 min-miles and passed people.  After what happened last year (tendonitis in my feet and I could barely muster walking the road to the finish) I was determined to have a strong finish.

And I did.  I sprinted into the park at 7 min-mi pace to the cheers of my friends and onlookers.  "Go Missy!"  I heard through the rushing of blood through my ears.  I did it...  I did it... I did it.  Fist raised across the finish line.  Nearly an hour faster than last year.  A smile on my face.

Bighorn 100.  I hate love you.

Until next year.

(photo credits:  Ann Hilton, Galen Garrison, Quintin Barney, Jeff Stowell)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sting or Bee Stung

Some of you know that my favorite (absolute favorite!) energy food for trail running is Honey Stinger products.  It was a long, painful road of puking and nausea during races that finally brought me to try Honey Stinger gels and chews.  You see, years ago (we're talking the late 1990s when I started running ultra-distance trail races) I used to eat GU and Cliff-shot products because to be honest, that's all that was really available at the time.  I had friends who swore by them.  I tried them, and in shorter races (50k) they worked fine for me, but after that point (50 mile and 100-mile distance) my stomach was an absolute wreck.  Put that together with the fact that our choices of electrolyte drinks were Powerade and Gatorade and it made for a very difficult situation.

Over the years, I figured out that my stomach just does not tolerate maltodextrin, which is the main sugar source in many energy products.  When I take it in, my stomach immediately cramps.  After hours of ingestion, my stomach is bloated and will not let food pass to digest it.  I begin vomiting.  It's a painful way to end a race.  There's enough pain in ultra-distance running without puking your guts up while you are out there.

Honey Stinger products are either made with pure honey, or organic tapioca sugar.  When I eat them, my stomach says, "More, please!" which is an excellent way to stay fueled during a race, compared to the alternative that I experienced in the past with maltodextrin products:  "NO MORE ~ blurrrp!"

Last week, I put in an online order to Honey Stinger to stock up on some organic gels and chews before a couple of races that I have coming up.  I didn't need any gels right away, so I let the box sit in my kitchen for the week, and hadn't opened it until today.  Much to my pleasant surprise, the kind folks at Honey Stinger had added a jar of pure, organic wildflower honey to my order as a gift!  Gosh, I love this company.  My tummy is happy, my body and brain function during races, and now a sweet treat.  Every year at the Outdoor Retailers' Show in Salt Lake City I make a point to stop by to say hello and rave about how much I love their products.

I put in another order today, because you can never have enough Honey Stinger.  And they just came out with two more flavors:  Strawberry-Kiwi and Chocolate (both caffeinated).  Hopefully they will come before my big race next week.

And with that, I give you a very interesting story on the history of Honey Stinger, told to me by my friend Leon Lutz (of Pennsylvania)...  enjoy!  And remember:  Sting or Bee Stung!  Packet in, Packet out!  Happy trails!

"I'm going to take a few hundred keystrokes to share a story that has long fascinated me.  Back in the early '00s, I [Leon] worked for a bank (of all dog forsaken employers) and created legal documents (of all dog forsaken things) for corporate loans (of all... well, you get it).  When you create such binding documents, you need to research the full legal name of the borrowing entity from its current legal name all the way back to its genesis.  One of our "regulars" was Dutch Gold Honey, a born-and-bread Lancaster, PA-based company.  Turns out that way back in the '40s, successful businessman Ralph Gamber, after seeking medical attention for some health issues, was told by his doctor to get a hobby before he dropped dead from the stress of work.  Perhaps begrudgingly, Ralph got himself a nice relaxing hobby in the form of a beehive, but... being a driven individual, he ended up a few years later with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of hives and an ahead-of-its-time concept for a healthy alternative to candy bars.  His EN-R-G bar didn't put a dent in the (by then) 1950s candy bar business but his thriving hives did lead to the establishment of Dutch Gold Honey, today the largest family-owned honey producer in the United States.  They were the ones who first put honey in the bear-shaped bottles if that helps put their impact into perspective.
AND, LEON, WTF does this have to do with... ?
I'm getting there.  Ralph had a son, Bill.  Just as driven as his father, Bill took over for Ralph years later as the head of Dutch Gold and (I believe) he still sits on the board.  Bill had a son of his own, Bill Jr., who moved west before I had a chance to meet him.  The kid stayed busy running, climbing, riding mountain bikes, hiking, camping, etc.  'Cept entrepreneurism was in his blood and he was driven in his own right and from that eventually came Big Agnes, the cool little (though less little all the time) company that builds some of the sweetest tents, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags on the planet.  Junior also had a honey heritage and plucked grandpa's original business name from the history books to reestablish EN-R-G Foods and Honey Stinger as we know it today.  Through my job, I've since become friends with Bill, Jr. and we swap stories now and then about life back here in the Keystone state and our peculiar strain of 6 degrees (not even) of separation.
It's a small, beautiful world and sometimes the departing and then reconnecting paths that we walk are incredibly intriguing."

You can read more of Leon Lutz's ramblings stories on his blog:  http://thisbeesknees.blogspot.com

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Run Swiftly Through the Low Points ~

We all mourn losses.  Give your life enough years, and you will mourn many too, if you haven't already.  I'm not very old by any means, but I feel that I've had more than my fair share of loss.  I try to tell myself that loss makes me stronger.  It makes me appreciate the good times even more.  It's good to feel low because it makes the highs feel even higher.

A couple of weeks ago was Mother's Day, and as I wrote before, I took it even harder this year than most years.  Not really sure why, as my life has been going really well lately.  Maybe that's the time when [God, the universe, etc.] decides to knock you down a notch.  That's what I feel like happened to me.  I found myself on the Wednesday after Mother's Day still crying about my mom.  Not sobbing uncontrollably, mind you.  Just getting a bit teary-eyed a couple of times a day, and missing her.  I started wondering what my problem was.  It's times like this that I turn to my friends for support.  I have some great friends.  My girlfriends are the best, and take me out running and to coffee, even when they have other plans for the day they seem to fit me in and take care of me.  This type of friendship is even more appreciated because I don't have a mom to turn to.

I also had just been on a great trip to California with my running partner of the last year.  We had an amazing long-weekend running the trails of Mill Valley and eating good food.  We attended a wedding reception in Napa.  It was a great weekend with lots and lots of miles.

After getting back from the California trip soon afterwards was Mother's Day, and soon after my running partner seemed to not really want to run with me anymore.  I invited him on a couple of runs and he said no (he said yes to one, but seemed out of sorts and not very interested to run with me).  He set up runs with other people and didn't invite me along.  I took it personally.  Despite being a physically strong person, I am emotionally pretty sensitive.  He was running with other people and I was running by myself, so I started running with other people too.  But I wanted to run with him.  I couldn't figure out what was going on.

I had a few 20-milers stacked up on my training plan, and I figured it would be easier to motivate and get through them if I had friends along.  I invited a handful of friends, my running partner of the last year being one of them.  A day later, I got a curt reply, something to the effect that he would be running similar mileage, but that I was too slow of a runner for him to go out with... huh?  I took offense.  I admit it.  I reacted defensively and emotionally.  How could I not?  I was missing my mom and I just wanted to go run with my friend.  Here he was being what I felt was insensitive and selfish.

Needless to say, the conversation turned brutal.  The more I reacted to his insensitivities, the more harsh he got.  I can only explain this as him trying to assert some "tough love", which I was not in any place to accept.  I was too hurt, and the more the conversation escalated, the more hurt I became.  He would "text bomb" me, saying that, "This is how it is.  No negotiations.  You are not allowed to comment, as I will not respond to your texts if you reply."  What?!?  I am still trying to understand this flip in his attitude.  A supportive friend and running partner over the last year has suddenly, inexplicable dumped me.  Some of the things he said to me were downright cruel and not worth repeating.

It hurts.  It's sad.  All I can say is, whatever he might be going through to display this type of behavior to a friend, I feel sorry for him.  It's unacceptable as far as I'm concerned.  You don't treat friends like that.  I asked for a little bit of support and explanation and I got, "I'm too busy for you and I'm not willing to listen to your sob story."  Wow.

I've received a lot of support through this from other friends which is very comforting.  It will take some time for this sting to stop burning.  I absolutely hate it when friendships fall apart.  I want to believe that there is a bigger reason for this.  I want to know if I could have done anything differently and supported him more, but I'm resigned to the fact that he is angry and I may never know.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lonesome Heart ~ Mom's Week?

Doggie destruction ~
As I struggled with the bobbin on the sewing machine, I thought to myself, "Mom would know how to fix this!  Stupid sewing machine.  This is the most finicky sewing machine I've ever used!"  I struggled with it for 20 minutes, then finally got it to work.  I was attempting to sew up the holes that my dog had chewed in my backpack, the one I use everyday to go to and from work and carry my lunch.

My mom taught me how to sew.  We spent countless afternoons sewing in the "little room", a den in our Michigan farmhouse.  She also taught me to pack my lunch everyday.  It's rare to have a day that I don't bring my own lunch to work.

This Mother's Day hit me a little harder than most years.  I'm not really sure why.  I started out getting some old photo albums out so that I could scan and post some photos, and ended up crying, looking at how happy I was alongside my mom and the rest of my family.  I really miss being a kid growing up in the Midwest.  So much has changed.  Ahh, adulthood! It feels kind of surreal to think that we live this life trying to find a purpose in it.  Meeting new people and thinking of our future and our past.  I do like to think of how past and future collide in the present.
Patch job ~

Why was I sewing up my backpack at 9pm?  I had gone to an Honors for Nursing banquet (I was an invited guest, for my efforts as a preceptor for the University of Utah College of Nursing) and figured I would talk my friend Suzanne into going (she was also invited, but a little on the fence over whether she wanted to go or not).  Unfortunately, the dogs did not want me to go, and I had left my backpack by the front door on the floor with the remnants of my lunch in it.  The smell of traces of food on the Tupperware were too intoxicating for Franklin to ignore, and he took the pack out the dog door into the back yard and proceeded to dismantle...
Franklin wearing my name tag,
attempting to make me smile.

I was so frustrated to find what I did when I got home.  I'd just had a lovely (free) dinner with friends and gotten a free umbrella, too!  And I come home to 3 pounds of organic sweet potatoes gone, a Tupperware chewed up, and a favorite backpack with holes in it.  I threw the backpack in the trash, but then retrieved it and resolved to put my skills to work on it.  The whole time, as I struggled with the sewing machine, I thought, "Mom would be able to figure this out if she were here!"  And I scowled at the dog and told him how disappointed I was in him.  I took off my name tag from the dinner and stuck it on his head, so that I would laugh at him instead of continuing to be angry.

I got the backpack patched up (after a couple hours of work).  It actually was a good project and sharpened my sewing skills up again after not using them for a while.  I'm pleased with how things turned out:  the backpack, and my life.

Suzanne at the Nursing banquet,
showing off her new umbrella.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Run for Your Mother ~

(l to r) Judy, Mom, and me ~ look at how fast
we are going!  I'm carrying an umbrella
because it was pouring rain.  1979 Kalamazoo Klassic 10k
As many of you know, my mom is the one who got me to start running.  She and her friend Judy (our neighbor) were absolutely THE FIRST moms in our area to start running on a regular basis and take part in races.  My brother and I grew up in rural Michigan in the 1970s and 80s.  Moms were really moms back then and pretty much stayed home and took care of kids and cooked and cleaned from what I remember.  My mom ran probably about 20 miles per week, drove the school bus (it was a manual transmission diesel), AND did all those other "mom" things.  She was a pretty amazing lady.

Hey, I earned that orange slice!  Being an 8-yr-old
spectator is hard work.
And she didn't just run 5ks (I don't think they even existed back then, although there were kids' races called "Fun Runs" which were about 1 mile and not all that much fun, as I remember.  I got just as worked up back then before races as I do now.  I remember being super-stressed because I was afraid I wasn't going to get back fast enough to see my mom at the start line of her race.

ca. 1980 Borgess "Run for the Health of It" 10k
(Some random guy next to my mom.)  She's killin' it!
My mom and Judy read Jim Fixx's "The Complete Book of Running" which was the first book of its kind to outline the health benefits of daily running (or "jogging" as we liked to call it back then).  She even got Mr. Fixx to have his picture taken with us at the Borgess 10k one year (my brother and I pretty much had no clue who this guy was, but we stood diligently next to him and smiled for the camera).  This was after Mr. Fixx had lost like 200+ pounds through diet and exercise and before he died several years later of a massive heart attack.

But I digress.  This post is about my mom and how she instilled her love of running in me!  So to this day, I run, and I love it.  I often think of my mom and what a pioneer she was.  I think of her every time I run.  Today is Mother's Day, and I'm going to do something that we both love(d) best ~ run.

Happy Trails!

Stefan & me with Jim Fixx.  Our mom was
all starry-eyed.  "There he is!  Let's go get your picture
with him!"  She didn't get her picture taken with him...  we
were like, "What?"  OK, Mom!" (eye-roll).  Makes me laugh
thinking back on it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A post about work that I'll try to turn into one about running ~

Honestly, I've really been debating whether or not I should write this post.  Because it's more about work than it is about running.  But maybe I could find some way to make it about running, too... so I'll try.

I've been at my current job for about 5 years.  At the onset, I only worked a day or two a week, pretty sporadically, and didn't expect any benefits.  I was kind of going through a mid-life crisis where I had quit a 7-days on, 7-days off nurse practitioner job managing inpatients at a hospital (which was my first job after getting licensed) which was an absolutely awful job.  I was happy to have a lot of free time where I could just run lots of miles, work once in a while, and build up my credit card debt.

Over the past 5 years, I've worked more and more at my current job, typically averaging somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week, which I think is plenty of work if you have the part-time (unpaid) job of running around in the mountains 10-20 hours per week.  Some might say that I should work more, but after watching my parents work so hard for so many years then only to have major illness affect them from enjoying the things they wanted to do (but never got to do) in their retirement, I've decided to live my life a little differently.  I get the bills paid, anyway.  I have a couple of part-time jobs to fill in some of the financial gaps, too (also un-benefitted).

So imagine my frustration when every Summer Semester (because my job is dependent upon the college population) my hours get cut back to once a week for various reasons, but then whenever someone goes on vacation they want me to cover their hours.  I end up working the hours.  I end up covering people and feeling a little bit used.

The thing that really hits me in the gut is the amount of benefits that I'm missing out on.  I'm actually really OK with paying for my own health insurance out of pocket (because it's high-deductible and probably works out to be cheaper per month).  But my colleagues get to enjoy:  health insurance, paid education hours (many of which are required to retain a license.  Providers typically turn this into a vacation and go to places like Hawaii for a medical conference), half-price classes at the University (to further their education, or just to learn something new), paid vacation hours, paid sick time.  It starts to really add up.  I figure I am missing out on at least $8,000 per year in benefits.  There are a lot of people in the same boat as me.

Why doesn't this change?  Because organizations who are "required" to pay benefits to employees after a certain amount of hours per week (20+, in this case), hold employees below that limit.  When my medical director went to the administrator to ask on my behalf if anything could be changed to offer me benefits, the administrator replied that he should cut my hours to below 18 per week.  Nice, huh?  This from an administrator who earns upwards of $300k per year (I looked it up).

I don't really need more money.  My life is good the way it is.  But I can't help but feel a little bit under-appreciated.  I'm happy to have the free time to go and run when I want (see?  I was able to bring this post back to running after all) but to do a really good great job and have patients appreciate you and know that their good outcomes are in part because of something you did or said to them and to get repaid with lack of benefits and a lower-than-average wage for your job type (I forgot to mention that, too) just hits me really hard.  I start to think that maybe I really am not worth more.  Maybe I made a mistake choosing the job path that I did.  Maybe I should have done something else with my life (Mid-life crisis, anyone?  Nah, I already went through that.  I'm really ok with the majority of my choices.  I have a pretty darn good life).

Maybe I'll go for a run to make myself feel better...  that typically seems to work.  Can't hurt, right?

I've also got a new job prospect lining up that will hopefully work itself out here in the next couple of months...  I'll keep you updated.