Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tuco's Dramatic Role

Tuco has more friends around the globe than any dog before him, and he keeps seasonal residence with two families who love him very much in Salt Lake City and Santa Barbara. He turned 15 this month and is the picture of health, as Edwards detailed in a recent blog.

Tuco's got his own ideas on things and almost all of his actions are premeditated. Last night, he must have been after the Oscar for Best Dramatic Role.

Around a lot of details, I had to leave Tuco at home while I took Beata and Copper on a hike last night. When we left, he settled onto the kitchen floor. No biggie. When we got home 1.5 hours later, he had moved in the kitchen, left one small turd in his wake (not abnormal these days), and was still just hanging out. I put his food in front of him and he wasn't super stoked to eat, but he didn't seem anything outside of normal. Halfway through my movie I decided to go say hi to him. Oh no! The Rat was splayed out and his underbelly was drenched in, well, not sweat. Poor guy was panting and unable to support his weight to move or even get his legs under him. Well, I'm not a real reactionary, but with Edwards gone for just over 24 hours, Tuco was not giving up the ghost on my watch.

Kindly, our neighbors helped me get our stinky dog in the car. Everything at emergency care went as expected, which is to say, there isn't anything wrong with Tuco. He stayed the night so they could monitor his heart, which is 15% weaker than it should be, but here's the thing: "He doesn't want food." (ah, yeah, if you aren't frying up some fresh bacon, he probably isn't interested) and "He has gotten snappy" (EXCELLENT. Back to normal.)

When I picked him up today he was alert, walking, and happy to be heading home. He had also run up quite a tab! Oh well, like I said, he's not giving up the ghost on my watch!

He is weaker than normal and I'll continue to keep a close eye on him, but my feeling now is that this whole "I'm having a heart-attack" thing had less to do with reality and more to do with a big fat pout about Steve Edwards going on an adventure without him. (That's right honey, he knows what you are doing in Mexico and he doesn't like it!)

For everyone who knows and loves Tuco, he's OK. However, if you are in the area please make sure you come by and wish him a happy 15th year. At 105 human years, I'm not sure how many more chances you'll have.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Birthday Challenged

My anxieties were growing Friday night when I picked up my packet for the Moab Red Hot 33k. The room was buzzing with all kinds of “we love running” and “we love running together” energy. I felt lonely, but gave myself a cheesy little reminder to relax and focus on the fact that the challenge will be meaningless if I don’t learn more than I already know.

WHAT I ALREADY KNOW: I know that I can somehow finish a 33k. I know that I’m so good at judging myself that I can suck the joy right out of any experience.

WHAT I DON’T ALREADY KNOW: I don’t know if I can run 33k in less than six hours. I don’t know if I can quiet my self-judging little mind enough to enjoy it.

Off to a rocky start at the condo, my Birthday Challenge morning started out with a lot of fear and frowning. At the starting line, everything changed. Everyone was so… nice. Edwards, of course, knew people in the field and they immediately invited me to run with them. This little group split up within the first mile but their support got me off-and-running.

Next, there was a girl from Colorado whom I paced nicely with until the first aid station. It would be the furthest she had ever run as well and it felt good to have some company in the experience.After the first aid station we separated and I trotted on ahead.

After running alone for a little, I found another girl – not chatty – whom I would begin a game of “leap-frog” with. Looking back I guess I would have passed her and stayed ahead the whole race if she hadn’t gained advantage twice when I a. got off course and b. hit the deck when my right foot slipped in an icy little divot. I didn’t realize it because she’d taken her jacket off, but I passed her on the way to the finish line. She was walking. I hope she wasn’t injured and I do appreciate that she always gave me someone to chase after.

From mile 8-12 there was George. George runs with two walking poles and I was very envious (just imagine the pressure I could take off my hips if I had my own walking sticks)! George was super nice and tagged along behind me encouragingly for quite awhile. I thought maybe he was just going my pace, but then I saw a picture of my backside, which I believe explains his company a little better. With so much inspiring scenery, I'm flattered to have had George right behind me.

When Edwards met me at the halfway mark it was a curse and a blessing. First, the curse. When my man showed up something in me got all “girlie.” My man had arrived! How had I survived without him? How was I going to survive without him carrying me? No matter how much I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t help the emotional shift that happened when Husband got there. Mostly though, it was a blessing. He scouted the course, found easier routes, let me know the last aid station was a lot further than it was supposed to be, gave me water, talked to me, encouraged me, popped Cliff Blocks right into my mouth, and took pictures. He was just fantastic.

The elevation map they published pre-race was a bit of a sandbag. The steep uphill part was correct, but the steep downhill part? I guess if they mean the last 2.5 miles (not the last 9), sure… It made 6.5 miles a lot longer and harder than I had pictured, but, what was hard? The whole thing was quite miraculous. I was running, in spectacular country, I didn’t care about my time, and I was smiling.
I didn't even know I was smiling, that's how good it was.

I was surprised to find near the end that although I expected to have gas left in the tank to power up for the last few miles… I didn’t. I had enough to coast in at a reasonable pace, but there was nothing left for a glorious, arms up finish line performance. I guess for a Birthday Challenge, you know you picked a good one when you have just enough fuel to finish.
You can almost see the word FINISH between all the people. I was SO excited to be there!

My time was a surprise. 4:34 minutes. Since 6 hours was my goal, I was very, very happy. Despite natural inclination, I continue to NOT compare myself to other people. I did AWESOME for me. It was difficult. It was further than I have ever run before. It was a magnificent way to spend my birthday.

WHAT I LEARNED: I can run 33k on a trail in less than 6 hours. I can turn down "the noise" and have fun!
Look at the little girl "gaining" on those lean ultra-runners!

Celebrating with a little Veuve Clicquot and conspiring for next year... 34.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Romney's Red Hot Birthday Challenge

When Edwards and I met, he was in training for his 47th Birthday Challenge.

47 Miles on his fixed-gear road bike.
47 on-sight climbs
47 Miles on his single speed mountain bike
47k of Running

To be completed in 24 hours

He succeeded and I was so much amazed that I proudly and adamantly proclaimed that I would never do a Birthday Challenge!

Fast forward two short years and someone went and organized a Valentine’s Race in Moab called the Red Hot 50k. Only, it’s not just a 50k, they also have a 33k, and don’t it be it all that I’m turning 33 this year? Two days before my birthday I have the opportunity to run my first ultra which happens to be 33k for my 33rd Birthday.
Training for the Red Hot in the FREEZING cold!

I realize that for many athletes and most trail runners this doesn’t sound like much of a challenge. For me, it borders on “damn near impossible”. Let’s weigh the governing factors which have shaped my running career.

1. Auto accident #1: I broke my femur. The surgery required cutting through the length of my Gluteus Maximus and I still have two screws above my right knee and a rod that sticks out of the bone and into my hip. When these foreign objects catch nerves… it hurts.

2. Auto Accident #2: Two torn ligaments in my right knee, pelvis cracked in five places. Physically all it really did was add insult to injury (and further hinder my performance in sports that require strong, fast legs).

3. I am predominantly slow twitch muscle fiber which never really allowed me to shine in the sports people care about. Sure, I was always decent at The Mile but that never overshadowed my poor performance at Dodge Ball (or Baskeball, or Baseball, or Football, or Gymnastics...).

4. Recent knee injuries due to previous tears or new damaged caused by being old and active.

Needless to say, I don't run.

Darned but they don’t call it “The Birthday Pretty-Hard”.

So, the goal is 33k, before they close the course or - if I'm being ambitious - in under 6 hours.

There are days when I’m sitting around and think I’ll just get in the zone and run for however long it takes. Then there are days when I’m running and I think, “this is going to be impossible.”