Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, Everyone

I have had a busy week, so getting to my blog has been a chore. Last weekend we had a garage sale at my Mom's house. It was successful in that we got rid of alot of things and made room for more! We didn't make a bunch of money, but we had fun anyways.

My good friend and Doctor, Tom McCarthy, died the other day of Brain Cancer. We have been good friends for about 26 years. He was only 60 years old. He loved God and I know that he is in a better place now.

I started on some new meds for Restless Legs Syndrome. Wow, they are kicking my butt! Last night was the last night for me on these meds. I was able to sleep without the severe body movements that have kept me awake for years, but they have made me into somewhat of a zombie. Yes, a zombie, right in time for Halloween! The medication can also make you have compulsive tendencies. Compulsive shopping, compulsive gambling...well, you get the picture. No, those meds are not for me. One of the things that I like about me, is my energy. These drugs take that away. I want "me" back. I need to find another more "benign" medication. Obviously, my running has suffered, but hopefully not for long.

I am loving getting stronger and I want to try hot yoga too. The Coastal Challenge is getting closer and I am feeling good. I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween tonight. Beware of the candy jar!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why do you run?

This story was in Excite News. Let it inspire you.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The routine was the same as always - the exact way I have grown accustomed to dealing with the hours before a big race. But on that November morning last year, everything else was different.

I had awakened before the sun and come downstairs to all of my running gear, laid out perfectly the night before, exactly as planned. There it all was: bottled water, my fanny pack, gels to eat along the way, my precious iPod with its playlist calibrated just for me. Exactly as planned.

I had even pinned my number to my shirt in advance. Alone, in silence, I ate a banana and a granola bar and half a bagel. Exactly as planned.

I thought to myself: I need this routine. I need to be a robot today.

Nearly five years before this day, before I started running, I had been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in my left shin. Then, much later, came the thyroid cancer; they found that one looking for more melanoma. I was 51 and I had two forms of cancer. Now here I was in the middle of chemotherapy - weakened, scared, with more chemo scheduled for the following day. And I was heading out to run a half-marathon on the streets of Philadelphia.

What was I thinking?

I arrived at the starting gate and joined the pack of runners. The sun was coming up. Nearby, I could see the city's art museum, where Rocky climbed the steps in triumph so many years ago.

I never heard the starting gun, but the people ahead of me began to move.

I clicked my iPod. My song came on - "Gonna Fly Now," Rocky's inspiration. Appropriate for Philadelphia, for this race and for me. The tears started coming, as they often do when I begin a run. I brushed them away because I didn't want to irritate my contacts.

And then I ran. Exactly as planned.

I was running for my life, in a sense, though I knew that competition was really unfolding inside my body, far beyond my control. I was running in affirmation, in defiance. I was running to prove that I could, to show that I was not defined by the clusters of renegade cells that were growing within me.

To deal with something in my life that has not, in any conceivable way, gone exactly as planned.


I haven't always been a runner. Cancer made me into one.

Two cancers, actually. They're unrelated, which is good. There are two of them, which isn't.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that among the 10.1 million cancer survivors that were alive as of January 1, 2002, about 8 percent had more than one form of cancer diagnosed between 1975 and 2001. Three cancers is "almost unheard of," one doctor told me. I guess I should be thankful for that.

This year, 62,480 cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are expected in the United States and 37,340 cases of thyroid cancer. While my melanoma was a recurrence, I still saw it as unfair: Fewer than 100,000 people in this country got one of those cancers; I, a regular tennis player and nonsmoker, got both.

The melanoma begat two surgeries - one to take it out and one to make sure it hadn't spread. What's more, I was informed that I could develop lymphedema, a sometimes painful swelling of the leg due after surgery that happens because the lymphatic system has been compromised.

"Unless you want a fat leg, stay on the couch with your leg up. No running and very limited exercise," one oncologist, considered among the best melanoma doctors in the world, told me.

Then, I was not a runner. I'd been intrigued by it and thought I might try it someday - whatever someday might mean. But to be told, at 46, never to run, made me realize that I was too young to be sentenced to a lifetime on the couch.

So I took up running. I started slow and short, built up, pushed myself, gained endurance. I won't say it was easy, but I won't whine, either. I ran my first 5K a year later, then a 10K, then two half-marathons.

My decision to take up running produced varied reactions from my doctors. Most were supportive. Some were concerned. One shook his head and told me not to do it. My brother Bruce, a crack marathon runner, said what many others echoed: Go for it. If you can't do it, your body will tell you so.

His words reassured, but only to a point. Because somewhere along the way, I had stopped trusting my body.


When it came to running, at least, my body didn't betray me. So I ran. And then I ran some more.

As I did, I felt thankful that the drugs and surgery hadn't stopped me. And as I ran my physical and metaphoric races, I began to realize that my chosen sport and unchosen condition shared many of the same traits.

Runners, for example, seem to have their own language - PR/PB (personal record, personal best), chip time (finishing time recorded by a small electronic chip), and distances of races like 5K, 10K and of course the 26.2-mile marathon. Cancer, too, has its own language, and terms like PET scan vs CT scans (imaging tools that help doctors pinpoint the location of cancer), stages of cancer, clinical trials and recurrence have become daily conversation points for me.

Runners cheer each other on. The fast ones who finish first populate the sidelines, cheering for those of us still running. Cancer patients do the same thing. During long and frightening days in the cancer center, you see people holding hands and clinging to each other.

Me, I usually huddle in the corner with my work e-mail, trying diligently to forget where I am. When I do talk to my fellow patients, I always hear good news - like the guy with lung cancer who was there alone because his wife couldn't handle it. He wasn't complaining; he was focused on his next vacation and on a recent Eagles game he'd seen.

His goal was not to worry his wife. Mine was more finite. I wanted to race and, like any runner, to win. And I did.

OK, it wasn't winning in the traditional sense. I didn't come in first that day last November; in fact, I crossed the finish line that day way in the back. But for me, it was a more towering personal victory than I could ever have imagined.

My close friend awaited me at the finish. Around the country, my parents, sister and brother were tracking me on the race's Web site. When it crashed, my sister tracked down my friend to find out how I was, how I looked and if I had finished. My brother the doctor, my brother the marathoner, told me later that he was "sweating bullets."

Early this year, two months after I finished the race, I finished chemotherapy. My first post-chemo scan was in April. I would have done just about anything for positive news. And I thought I had done everything right.

On April 15, exactly one year from the first recurrence, the scan showed "uptake" - one of the words that cancer patients don't want to hear.

It means doctors are seeing "something" - maybe scar tissue, maybe a reaction to the shots, perhaps more cancer. In my case, the uptake was in both the thyroid and melanoma sites. That meant it could be a simultaneous recurrence of both cancers. Every doctor I spoke to said that would be all but unbelievable. And yet suddenly possible.

The news came back a few days later. The good: I did not have both cancers again. And the bad: The melanoma was back.

A day later, I ran. It had become what I do, how I fight back, how I shake my fist and press forward despite feeling like an unseen enemy is always following, always chasing.

It was a local race, only five miles, and I finished. I knew, however, that my metaphoric run - the one against an unseen enemy that just wouldn't go away - was only gearing up.

During the Chicago Marathon last year, which was held in brutal heat, a young man dropped to his knees a half mile before the finish line. Another runner ran by him, stopped, took a few steps back and said something to him.

The first man struggled to his feet. Together, they ran to the finish line.

I still wonder what the runner said to the man who was down that inspired him to get back up. I could use some of that.


I began this story with a run, and I end it with one. But first I must tell you about what happened in between.

It is not a happy ending. But neither is it entirely bleak, and in that I find hope.

For me, the summer of 2008 was not a good one. From May to August, I did not run at all. Radiation therapy kneecapped me and a debilitating round of chemo made sure I stayed down. For the first time, I lost a significant amount of weight - 15 pounds.

I now feel as if I know what it's like to be in a coma. I called in sick for four days - something I never do - and slept for 15 hours each day. Nothing I ate stayed down.

I was enveloped by my illness. It was controlling me. The fatigue was so intense, the sleep so deep that it was as if a chunk of my life was sucked away. I rose only to take a shower. One afternoon I tried to make tea and slept through the kettle's whistle. I awoke to the kettle burned dry to the stove and belching smoke. I had few conversations; that took too much energy. A trip to the grocery store was overwhelming.

One night around 5 p.m., as I was getting back in bed and closing the shades, I saw neighbors firing up their grills for a summer dinner. I felt as if I was slipping away from the world I knew. I would ask myself: Is this what it's like to die?

One recent day, I met with my doctors. They told me I looked frail. I felt frail. But I responded in a way that, by now, will probably not surprise you:

I ran.

The morning I did, in August, was exactly three months after surgery and 19 days after my treatment ended.

What, I wondered, would happen? I felt slow and stiff. I felt thankfulness and I felt hope - hope that I could do the run after all, hope that the drugs had worked and the cancer was gone.

I powered up my iPod. The same song came on as I had heard during that run last year - a day that now feels as if it happened a lifetime ago. I listened to the lyrics, and they penetrated my brain:

"Won't be long now. Getting strong now. Gonna fly now."

My goal was to run a half-mile without stopping - a small goal in the running world but a big one in the universe I now occupied. The one that mattered most.

I ran two miles. Yes, it took more than a half hour. Yes, it was difficult. But I expected it to be harder. And I didn't expect it to be quite so ... exhilarating. I was not shuffling around, not in a hospital bed or sick from drugs or closing the blinds at 5 p.m. and leaving the world behind. I was outside, and I was running.

I wish I could tell you that the surgery and the drugs worked. But I don't know yet if that's the case. I am setting smaller goals these days, in both my running and my life. My aspirations are more compact than they once were, but they still loom large. My reach, I hope, still exceeds my grasp.

I'd be lying if I told you my future wasn't cloudy. But aren't all futures? My two races are, today, being run in parallel fashion. I am racing against cancer and against my own clock. Under the most adverse of conditions, I am becoming a decent runner.

Few things unfold exactly as planned, it turns out. And now, though I am weakened, I am stronger, too. I can handle more, appreciate more, understand more about the world around me. I can cope with the unknown, too; I'm not happy about it, but I am capable.

And I fight. It's an old metaphor, but it's all I have. I'm fighting to become a runner and a healthy person, and giving up either fight is not an option. I may be in the back of the line for the moment, but I am running two races. I am a dedicated runner now, and I plan on finishing both.

Exactly as planned.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Typical Monday

Before I say anything, I want you to go to my friend Ronda's blog and check her out. Wow, what a body! Ronda is an awesome fast ultra runner from Oregon and a very amazing person. Check out her blog, and be prepared to be impressed! She keeps me motivated and inspired everyday.

Here is a few pics of me at the Firetrails 50 miler this Saturday.

Today was the typical Monday at work. I heard that my good friend and Doctor is dying of Brain Cancer. He went home from the hospital today with Hospice. He was diagnosed in January. Several of the Doc's I work with have died of Brain Cancer. Scary to think about and kinda creepy too. It makes you wonder what is in the hospital that could be contributing to this sudden rise in Brain Cancer. Remember to live each day as best as you can. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

I am just about ready to blow a gasket over our new Comcast internet service. Don't even get me started, but I will say that we only have 358 days left of our 1 year contract!! Have a great week. Thank you Pete Hazarian and John Medinger for the photos.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Firetrails 50 mile

I forgot what it was like to be cold. Really cold. I am absolutely cold to the bone. It may be because I used up my heat reserves yesterday at the race or just because it is October. I don't know. The pic above reminds me of how I am feeling. I can't wait until summer arrives.......

Yesterday I ran the Firetrails 50 miler. It has a total elevation gain of (+)7,800 feet and loss of 7,800 feet. It was an awesome day and the trails and volunteers were just great. I finally got to meet Victoria. She was sitting with her pink cast propped up volunteering at the finish line. It was nice to see her as I always tend to shy away from running events when I have an injury. I hate to be reminded of what I can't do and she is using volunteering as a motivation to get her back to where she wants to be.

The Race:
My plan A was to finish in 8:38. Plan B was to finish in under 9 hours. I made out my pace chart for a 8:38 finish and held on to it for a 8:38 finish. Unbelievable!! How did I do that? Believe me, it was only a coincidence! But amazing just the same. I was 2nd woman overall and first in my age group. I broke the 14 year age division record by 48 minutes! Pretty exciting for me as this age thing really bugs me. I hate that I am as old as I am. History proves that women don't do as well as they age (running), as men their same age. How many fast 57 year old women do you see compared to 57 year old men? See what I am saying?? It's just a bummer. The important thing is to keep on keeping on. Enough said. Oh, and for the record, I am not 57, I was just using that age to make a point. I ran the whole 50 miles in my Drymax socks without one blister and not a hot spot anywhere on my feet or toes. Thank you Drymax! I wore their trail running sock which is a high density protective padded sock. My feet stayed dry and free of dirt and debris. I've had a history of blisters and very sore toes during all of my long runs and races. Wearing Drymax socks have completely taken away that problem. I love that I can run feeling confident in my socks. Check out the Drymax blog to see what your favorite athletes are up to!

Have a nice Sunday and happy blister free running to ya'll!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A bit of my life of running

I spent the whole day running around town trying to find stuff for my race tomorrow. All the way across town for 2 packages of Luna Moons. Back to another part of town for this, and for that. Whew! I'm exhausted. I think I will feel more rested after the race!

Last night I went over to my brother and sister in laws house to visit with their two kids. My brother asked his 4 year old to clip his hair, and Tyler attempted to do that. When he lost interest after a few minutes, I took over. Within about a minute, the clippers died, so my brother is left looking like he has had brain surgery. I don't do anything with any rhythm or rhyme so his hair is really botched up. Sorry, Wally!

I wanted to show you all some pics from my running life. I will attempt to do this again. My blogging skills are less than okay, and putting these pics up have proven to be beyond my blog abilities. I am going to try again.

This is a pic of Matt and I during the Miwok 100k a few years ago.

Matt and I on the Hardrock 100 course in 2006.

Wasatch 100 2006

Western States 100 2007 with my Mom.

Grand Canyon r2r2r 2006

Headlands 50 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A fun weekend

Matt and I getting ready to hand out candy on Halloween last year. Only 3 weeks till trick or treat time! What are you going to dress up as?

Boy, did we have a nice weekend! Saturday night we had a nice dinner with friends at someones ranch. It was really fun and we enjoyed meeting a few new people. Most of the people there are our "once a year friends." We see them at the ranch or at a party maybe once a year. They are a great group of people. Cattle ranchers, horsemen, and grape growers. Always a lot to talk about.

This is a picture of my Mom and I on my 50Th Birthday.

Sunday night my Mom and Lloyd, my sister Shawn and her friend Brenda, and Matt and I got together for dinner at our house. We had so much fun talking about the past. We laughed our butts off thinking back to High School when I were getting ready for my High School graduation school trip. We were to take the bus to L.A. for a one day trip to Disneyland. The park was opened only to high school seniors. We were so excited!! When the school announced that we had to wear matching pants and tops and jackets, my Mom was all over it. She pulled out her pink and white checked seersucker pantsuit (elastic waisted pants, mind you), and exclaimed, "I've got the perfect outfit for you!" Let me fill you in on a few facts. I am 5'7. My Mom is 5'3. I have long legs. My Mom has shorter legs. I was 18. My Mom was 45. NO ONE in high school wore elastic waisted pants, much less pink and white checkered, and Seersucker? OMG!!! It was so embarrassing! I remember walking into the park with my pants pulled up high so that the crotch of the pants wouldn't be down past my knees. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear a loud voice on a speaker. Stop!! "Yes, you with the checkered jacket. Is your outfit matching?" Everyone stops and turns to look. I am dying inside. I can't believe it. I am being checked out. Everyone is staring and the man waves me through. I am free to be a teenager in my Mom's outfit. The pants are too short, the waist is too high, and the lapel on the jacket is just too much. I am wearing the outfit that my Mom has made for herself. I died a thousand deaths that night, but we have laughed over that story a million times since. The photo albums proved my story.
Brenda looked at a few pics of my wedding and just cracked up. She kept saying, these pictures are HILARIOUS!! Have you ever heard someone tell you that someones wedding photo's are hilarious? Well, now you have. We were hysterical. The pics were hilarious and I looked like a total dork.

A great night with Lot's of stories. One of these days I will figure out how to get them on my blog. I guarantee that you will laugh too!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Last night Matt and I went to Paul and Colleen's running party. It was great to see many of our running friends and to catch up on every one's adventures. Dress code was that we HAD to wear a 100 mile buckle in order to miss washing dishes, so we all wore our buckles. A few had them on their belts, Lynn used her Vermont 100 buckle as a broach on her dress, and a few of us hung them from a cord around our necks. It was a whole lot of fun. Lot's of stories, lot's of laughs, and of course, lot's of good food! Lynn, me, Florencia, and Leslie posing with our buckles! Suz missed out on a pic because she left too early!

My good friend Stephen and I. We have had some really good times together in the past. I paced Stephen in 2006 at Hardrock 100 and it was an unforgettable adventure. I have so much respect for him and it was great to see him last night.

I just saw that OJ Simpson was found guilty to all the charges against him in his last smart move. How sad that as he sits in prison, he will not be able to continue his search for Nicole's killer. (sniff,sniff)

We had our first rain of the year last night and boy did it pour! I am so relieved that I don't have to water everything. Naomi and I ran for a little over an hour in Annadel this morning and only got rained on for a few minutes. It was fun to catch up with her and fill her in on AC 100 pacing and crewing duties.

Next Saturday I am running in Firetrails 50 miler. I don't know what to expect, so the only guarantee is that I will show up. Hopefully, I will have a good race. Anywhoo, I hope that you all have a great weekend and that you enjoy your day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wild Dollar Bill Bradley......extreme athlete

My friend Wild "Dollar Bill" Bradley was on the channel 4 Sports seqment with Gary Radnich out of San Francisco on Monday night. I have talked about Bill on my blog before. He is a great guy and a good friend that I met a couple of years ago. We have enjoyed some running together and I always get a kick out of him. He is one funny guy! On Friday, Oct.3 through Sunday, Oct. 5th, Bill will be competing in the Virginia Triple Ironman. This race consists of a 7.2 mile swim, followed by a 336 mile bike, followed by a 78.6 mile run. Read more about my crazy, extreme friend by going to his website. He says he has two talents....showing up and suffering. You will understand what he means when you read what he has been up to. Good luck, Bill!