Yes, it was expected …. for years. He had Alzheimer’s disease. A disease that sucks the memory out of him and the life and energy out of the family that cares for him.
And, I have been suffering from a connective tissue disease that is most probably Lupus but could be RA. Technical medical stuff way outside the scope of a ER/ICU nurse. But I am educating myself and trying not to become a hypochondriac at the same time. (Dr. Google is scary.) In the era of COVID diagnostics move incredibly slow.
My political push for the life of the bear was sidelined. My exercise was sidelined. My health was sidelined.
My poor mom. She is so brave. She didn’t sign up for being a nurse. It was thrust upon her. 3 years of being the head of the household with a man she loved and made love with turning into changing the diaper of an infant that weighed (at the end) around 140 pounds.
I worked a 12 hour night shift and had a glass of wine so I should stop now.
But this feels good, crying on my laptop keyboard and throwing my heart out there. I love my mom and loved my dad and love my husband and I am sad.
(Photo courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican, on a run 8 days after the event with my dog and Dan Schwartz, reporter for the paper. Dan is not pictured.)
June 18 I woke up at a painfully early hour, downed 2 cups of coffee and a bagel, egg, and cheese, and was out the door with my husband at 0600. We had signed up to do the Valle Caldera trail marathon. This marathon was originally scheduled for April but moved back because of a big snow storm which made the area impassable for emergency vehicles. The Park service was concerned about the safety of the runners so the event was postponed.
My biggest concern about the change of day was the heat. It was very hot for a marathon that day – around 85 degrees. The marathon course was changed to a 2-loop run following the 1/2 marathon course twice. I toed the line at 0730 with my husband and we took off. Mike is fast so he was out of sight almost immediately and I was running with my people… the ones that get there eventually. The first loop was hard – it had already heated up significantly and I was getting a little grouchy at 11 – 13 miles because people along the course were cheering “you’re almost done”. No, I still had another lap to go. I had to walk for awhile when I started the second lap. I was dehydrated. I stopped at the mile 14 aide station and hung out for about 10 minutes – rehydrating and cooling off. I was passed by one runner there. I was told at that time that there were still 9 – 10 people behind me that hadn’t dropped because of the heat. After the rest I perked up a little bit.
At every aide station I took in fluids, especially iced ginger ale, and rested a couple of minutes. After the big up (for the second time) from mile 18 to 20 there is a long sweeping downhill with good footing. I enjoyed that and started feeling okay. I was caught on the flat by another runner just before the last aide station I made it to. When I arrived at the station he was just leaving. I spent about 5 minutes there drinking ginger ale and chatting with the wonderful volunteers. I stepped off trail and followed the flags and dodged the prairie dog holes for about 1/2 mile then gratefully stepped onto an actual trail again. It meandered next to a creek and had a few boggy crossings that offered up cool water to my sore feet. I started to calculate what my time would actually be at the end of the marathon. I had been shooting for 6.5 hours but it was looking more like 6:45….
“What’s that?” I thought as I looked to my right. “Dog?…Shit! Bear! Pretty Bear….crap, it’s charging me…I need to do something here….books say make yourself big and sound authoritative.” I raised my hands and yelled “NO!” then saw a cub over her shoulder. “Well that’s not going to work.”
Then I am on my ass and am being attacked by a bear. Microscopic momentary panic then I get it together and start thinking. Bite, BITE, BBIITTEE!!. I scream. It is feral and I don’t even realize it is me but then know it must be because it is not the bear and she is angered to a frenzy by the scream. She whacks me in the right side of the head with her left paw and I thought my eye had popped out. I reach up to push it back in and realize it is just my sunglasses. I roll to my right and she bites my left neck. I see the teeth and eyes and snout and think…”I should try for her eyes” but then don’t want to for a bunch of reasons. I don’t want my hands injured, she has a really long snout and I don’t think I can reach her eyes, I think she doesn’t want me to fight. She tries to shake me but can’t get a good grip. I realize later that it was because of my camelbak. She was only able to get one tooth into my neck, about 2 cm from my carotid. I roll onto my belly with my hands and arms scrunched under my torso and covering my face. I can’t remember really how I had my legs but I think my knees were scrunched up some. I shut up and hold completely still except for some hyperventilating. She bats my back with a paw and hits the camelbak. I don’t move. She is huffing…Huff, Huff, Huff. The only time she didn’t huff was when I screamed. After I shut up she continued the huff. She walked away huffing and went to the base of a dead tree several feet away. There was the damn cub, at the top of the tree. I stopped my Garmin so I would know how long I was down after the attack. “No,” I think, “If I stop the garmin then it is stopped. I won’t know time elapsed that I am down. That’s important in a trauma. The Golden Hour.” WTF. Once a nurse, always a nurse…? So I start the Garmin again and she glances over from the tree. The damn cub is break dancing at the top of the tree trying to figure out how to get down. Upside down. Sideways. Right-side up. I have this irrational urge to get up and help the frigging cub get out of the tree. But I play dead and listen to the huffing of the Mama and the tree-scratching of the cub until the sound is gone. During this I am evaluating my injuries. I think if there is anything fatal it is the neck bite but I am sure as hell not going to check it out until she is gone. I don’t need her to beat me up any more.
The sound is finally gone. No more huffing. No more scratching. I estimate another 10 minutes then tentatively start yelling for help. In a deep voice or as deep as I can muster anyway. I don’t want to sound like the injured animal I am. Finally I hear a real sound. Big and purposeful. It is the next runner on the trail, Kenneth O’Connor. He yells “I hear you!”
To be continued….
(Honestly, I have been working on this so long if I don’t publish what I have it will be next year before I am ready – if that makes sense to anyone.)
I think I might just be a little crazy. I got out of bed gingerly one morning because my back hurts because I had hard workouts the day before and have a bad back. What do I do about it? I sign up for 12 hours of torture near Las Vegas, Nevada in March.
“The 12 Hour Hurricane Heat, or HH12HR, is Spartan’s next level standalone event specifically designed to test every facet of your mental, intellectual and physical abilities through the use of mental challenges, nonlinear problem solving, morality, as well as teamwork and individual performance under physical duress.”
Have I done a Spartan race before? Nope. I did a Warrior Dash a few years ago. It was 5K. This is 12 hours. I was delusional at the time, thinking 12 hours of working out is a great training opportunity for the 50 mile Jemez trail run in May.
What makes me or anyone else push the limit like this? I went to a psychologist for a little while when I worked for the VA system so she could help me stay in that job. I didn’t stay but learned a lot from her. She thinks that people are moving more toward ultra events because they are lacking something in their professional lives.
Maybe I am nuts. I want to prove myself for some reason. I had my first DNF (did not finish) in Honduras when I was in the army. I tried a 10K in the hills at altitude after living at sea level for quite awhile. I was dead last and was picked up by the Sag wagon. I attempted an Ironman distance race in Lake Tahoe 3 times in the early 90’s and DNF’d all three times and DNF’d the Mt Taylor Quad twice. Then I got injured on the job.
When I pulled myself out of the deep dark place where I spent a lot of years during recovery from that injury I stopped quitting races. I did a short course triathlon – competing in the Athena division – when I weighed 212 lbs and won. I ran my first 50K trail run a couple of months after turning 50 and finished. I finished Ironman Boulder (albeit in 17:00:01 and officially counted as DNF). I survived an entire marathon at the end of the IM on 12 oz of coca cola because of severe nausea. Someone died in that race with related issues but I finished and I lived. And after a few weeks signed up for another Ironman this October.
I kicked around in my head what I wanted to talk about over the last several days. It became clear after Saturday’s adventure what the subject of this post will be.
I have had bronchitis for ten days, been on antibiotics for a week, and finished steroids 3 days ago. I am addicted to workouts and racing. So, against common sense I went to Taos with my husband this weekend and flung myself onto the mercy of the wilderness.
Saturday morning I clipped on my brand new alpine touring skis and skins and started hiking up Williams Lake trail. This trail starts at 10,188 feet and tops out at 11,173 feet. It is usually about 1.8 miles one-way. Except when you make a wrong turn. I was the second person on the trail after over a foot of snow fell the day before. I followed the other skinner’s tracks. I would occasionally stop to hack up some stuff from my lungs that looked like it could crawl off on it’s own but otherwise felt pretty good. Then I realized that the trail I was following didn’t look familiar anymore and I seemed to be climbing A LOT!. I briefly considered turning around (the smart thing) but my crazy FEAR of skiing downhill stopped me. The trail I had just ascended was steep and narrow with plenty of evil-looking trees waiting for me to slam into them.
So I continued up (STUPIDITY).
Then I high-centered. A small tree buried with snow lurked below me and my skis – still attached to me – sank into the tree well. I was up to my hips in deep snow on a steep hill and narrow ‘trail’.
Thought 1: My new skins worked great on a hill this steep
I wiggled my legs and the bindings released on my skis.
Thought 2: Crap, I can’t lose my brand new skis!
I wiggle some more and am really stuck. I push the poles down to the handles and they don’t touch ground.
Thought 3: I’m kind of stuck here.
I flounder a bit and flop around in the snow. The dogs watch me curiously. The bubbles coming out of their heads: “Is this a game, Mom?”
Thought 4: I might end up spending a long, long time here before someone comes to help.
Thought 5: Work the problem.
I spread my weight over a large patch of snow, dug myself and my skis out of the tree well, and snowshoed down to the actual trail.
What is it that makes me do stupid stuff? And why am I more upset about how bad the STRAVA stats look for that foray than the fact that I was stuck in a tree well? I did spend a lot of time not making forward progress in that tree well and forgot to pause my Garmin.
Since I saw the 1982 IM Kona on TV and bought my first bike I have been pushing the limit. Maybe even before that. I have had setbacks and will eventually get to those bt I know one thing for sure. I will outlast the skinny fast chicks and age up into a qualifying slot at Kona some day because of my stupidity and stubborness.
I am new to blogging. I like to write and talk about myself so blogging seems like a perfect fit for me. I have been doing triathlon for 31 years. I started out in life as the fat girl in school. I was never an athlete. I swam one season in high school (mostly because the high school had a hard time finding anyone that could actually swim). I also tried soccer one season but was told by the coach I didn’t run enough.
Then I lost 60 pounds and joined the Army. I was watching the 1982 Ironman with my then boyfriend and saw Julie Moss drag her ass across the finish line ending up second. I told my boyfriend “I want to try that.” He scoffed “you could never do that”. The next day I went out and financed a bicycle. I was a private at the time and making $496 a month so buying a $500 bike in 1983 was a big deal for me.
My first race was a biathlon (now known as duathlon). I didn’t know how to use the cage pedals so pedaled on top of them. Some people left their helmets on during the run to save transition time. I don’t remember how I did that race but I was hooked. I continued to do triathlon throughout my time in the Army and also did the San Francisco Marathon on a whim while I was at language school in that town.
Here I am 31 years later – solid middle of the pack triathlete – vying for the chance to go to Kona. I have many stories of this 3 decade journey to share with whoever. I am not an expert in anything but I do persevere.
I also know that I will begin to bore people if I tell the whole story at once. So My Plan is to feed my story in a humorous way to anyone that wants to read it week by week.