Thursday, August 27, 2009

Speed Work - 8/27/09

I've signed up to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K in Cookeville, TN on October 17, 2009. Yesterday, when I posted the link on Facebook to my personal home page that will be used for fundraising on the Komen website, I received 2 cute comments. My running buddy, Lauri (PA), said that she didn't think I could run anything less than 26.2 miles. Another running buddy, Susan (TX), asked if I had forgotten some miles. It's nice to know that they think so highly of me, lol.

This will be Cookeville's inaugural Race for the Cure, and my running buddy, Dallas (TN), was the one to encourage me to participate. I'm glad that he did. Even he commented on Facebook that I was giving up a weekend to run a marathon or an ultra so that I could run this race. But, honestly, I'm looking forward to it. It's a new challenge and a different adventure. I even signed up for the competitive division, which only means that I'll get a chip for official timing and placement in the results.

Now, I have less than 2 months to incorporate some speed training. I don't do speed work, lol. I turn my nose up at the whole concept. It's not fun. I feel like I'm going to pass out. My VO2 Max must be non-existant. My heart wants to explode from my chest. The last time I did speed work I pulled a hamstring that took months to heal. I have no practice in running all out. Can an old dog be taught new tricks, lol?

My goal is to finish the 5K in under 30 minutes. That means that I can't take any walk breaks. It's been a long time since I've run a race where I didn't walk at all. Ten minute miles is easy and slow for most runners; it's pedestrian pace for the elite. For me, I'll feel like the Road Runner from the old cartoon if I can pull it off.

I signed up for the Race for the Cure in Nashville, TN in 2003. I never even made it to the start line. My friend, Sharon (TN), picked up my race packet for me and brought it to the hospital, where I was laid up from experiencing blood clots in my left lung. I was about 4 weeks into radiation treatments for my breast cancer, and unfortunately, the radiologist "over-radiated" my chest. Thinking I had heartburn that would eventually pass, my running buddy, Joe (TN), and I went to a 10 mile race the day before the Race for the Cure. The minute I started running, shock waves of pain went through my body. An ambulance was called, and I was taken to the hospital. Five days later, with the blood clots dissolved, I was released from the hospital. Through the years, it had not even occurred to me to sign up for another Race for the Cure.

Six years later, here's my chance to redeem myself. The crazy thing is that I was probably in better shape then than I am now. Back then I was slowly rebuilding my mileage, doing the shorter races so that I could get back to running marathons. At that time, running ultramarathons was still a dream of mine.

So, speed work it is. Nothing mind blowing - once or twice a week on the track so that I can judge my progress. Nine to 10 minute miles is the goal. I've done it before, so maybe I can do it again. I just have to sustain that "speed" for 3.1 miles. That's as easy as a piece of chocolate cake, right?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Paul - 8/21/09

Paul (AZ)

Last night, my running buddy, Charlie (CA), called me and asked me to talk to Paul. He told me that he would not be able to respond, but if I could just say something to him, it would lift his spirits. I was caught off-guard. I had nothing prepared. What would I say?

Without thinking, I said, "yes, of course." He told me to hold on. I called out Paul's name. There was only silence. I spoke words that probably didn't mean much. I can't even recall exactly what I said to him. I do know that I told him that I was praying for him and that I cared about him. I hope it was enough.

Charlie came back on the line. Fearing the worst, I asked, "why can't he talk?" Charlie said that he's too weak. I told Charlie that I was glad that he was able to visit him. We said our good-byes. I hung up the phone, wishing that I could do more and wishing that I was quick-minded enough to offer words of encouragement and comfort.

Last Friday night, before I headed to Michigan for the Fallsburg Marathon, Charlie sent me an e-mail and then called to see if I had opened it. I hadn't. As I was talking with him, I opened and read the e-mail. Oh, no . . . .

Another friend of Paul's had been trying to get in touch with Charlie to tell him that Paul had liver cancer and was in a hospice. We all know the meaning of a hospice. The doctors have given up on him. Our running buddy is dying.

Saturday night, Charlie called to say that he had called the hospice and would go to Arizona to visit Paul. It turns out that our friend has (maybe) six weeks to live. I have to call, but I have to prepare what I'm going to say. Six weeks may come sooner than we expect.

Sunday passed. Monday did the same. On Tuesday I wrote a short letter to Paul and shopped for a card. Hallmark makes cards for every possible occasion; however, I did not see a "my friend is dying" card. I found a "I'm thinking of you" card. It was true that I was thinking of him, but it still did not seem appropriate. But it would have to do.

I never got up the courage to call. I took the coward's way out, placing my letter inside the card and mailing it on Wednesday. I promised myself that I would call him.

Last night, on Thursday, thanks to Charlie, I verbally told my friend that I cared about him. It wasn't enough. It does not matter how I feel. I can't imagine how he feels. Is he in pain? Is he crying? What is he thinking about?

One of Paul's goals was to run 1,000 marathons in his lifetime. I copied the above picture from the Across the Years 72/48/24-Hour website. In 2006, when he ran 183.305 miles in 72 hours, his biography on the website said that he was scheduled to hit 1,000 marathons in 2009. Has he achieved that goal? Does he think about that? Does it matter to him at this point?

I am sad for my running buddy. Below is the short letter that I included in his card. I still don't know what to say to him. But I will run for my friend on Saturday because he can't run for himself. It's not enough, but it will have to do.


I don’t think we’ve run any of the same races this year. I was expecting to see you at the Viaduct Trail 100 Miler in Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago. I called Charlie to let him know that I had again DNF’d another 100 miler, but more so, to tell him that you were not there.

The last time I saw you was at the Mother Road 2. You had given me an extra pair of gloves and a jacket to keep me warm towards the end of the race. I wasn’t moving fast enough to stay warm, but I finished. You had cried at the table where we were all gathered to eat breakfast. Some of us had finished, and some of us had a bad day at the office of our choice. I’ve thought back to that day often and wondered what made you cry on such a wonderful occasion.

Charlie had told me that you had lost a lot of weight. He’s so small, I thought, that he can’t afford to lose even a pound. But I figured you were running doubles and 100 milers with fervor, and that kind of schedule just takes it’s toll on one’s body.

Imagine my anguish when Charlie sent me a forwarded e-mail that he received saying that you were in a hospice with liver cancer. I am speechless. I am so sorry, Paul. I had no idea that you were sick. Having metastasized breast cancer to the bones, we are sister and brother against this unbearable and horrible disease. I realize that your struggle is a lot worse than mine, and my heart goes out to you. I wish that there was something I could do or say to make it all go away.

You are such a great runner. I always wondered what made you so strong, that you could run all of these long races back-to-back. I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to do it as well as you do. So, to me, it doesn’t make sense that someone like you who is physically and mentally strong should ever have cancer. It’s not fair.

There is no answer for the “why” question. God knows best. I know that you are a believer. Continue to be strong and to have faith.

Take care, my friend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fallsburg Marathon - 8/15/09

I love the Fallsburg Marathon in Lowell, MI! It's a long 9 hour drive for me, but it's well worth it. I had to work all day on Friday and didn't hit the road until almost 6:00 p.m. I ran into road construction 2 or 3 different times, which didn't help the situation. I didn't get much sleep in the car before the start of the race. I was about an hour away from Lowell when I decided to stop at a rest area to sleep for 2 hours. When my cell phone's alarm went off, I changed into my running clothes and arrived at the race site in Fallasburg Park about 45 minutes before the start.

Now if you noticed, the name of the race is spelled differently from the name of the park. It is not a typo. I wish I had a story to explain it, but for two years in a row, I've forgotten to ask Dan, the race director, why that is, lol.

In the race packet is a t-shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. The finisher's award is a medal and a huge, thick, hot pink bath towel with the race name embroidered on it. I love the towels that Dan gives the runners. I have 2 brown towels from last year when I ran the marathon and the Wild West 100K, which is held at the same location.

I talked with my running buddies, Eugene (CT) and Cathy (NY), before we started. After the start, I quickly lost track of Eugene. He's been having some back problems lately, and he's been known to go off-course (i.e., get lost) at some races, so I'm not sure which situation kept him out of the results. He successfully finished the Lean Horse 50K the following weekend, so at least I know he's okay.

Cathy and I would spend the day together. Since there was no cut-off, there was no pressure. Cathy runs an evenly paced race, so I was determined to keep up with her. She runs one minute and then walks one minute. On this course with the rolling hills and trails, we would deviate from this routine periodically to walk the uphills and to take advantage of the downhills.

It was hot but not very humid. Most of the course that is on the roads and exposed is run in the early part of the race, while most of the trail sections with the canopy of trees for shade is run in the afternoon when the temperature really starts heating up.

We started on the road and went up a short hill passing through the first of 3 covered bridges. We then follow rolling country roads for a few miles. At some point, we saw 3 deer cross the road right in front of us. Cathy said they represented her daughter and 2 of her friends that have succumbed to cancer. Respectfully, we said hello to the deer, who were now hiding in the woods as we passed by them.

We hit a rolling dirt/gravel road next, and covered bridge #2, followed by some beautiful trails, before emptying back onto the road. After the short road section, we are on the trail leading back to the start/finish area. The relatively flat, rockless, and rootless (are those real words?) trail circles the lake where locals are fishing and swimming. We then cross covered bridge #3 and are back at the start/finish area.

Just as we are leaving to start the 2nd loop, Chuck (OH), a fellow 50 Stater and Marathon Maniac, won the marathon in 3:20:22. Chuck finishes and wins road marathons in the 2:30-2:50 range, so that gives you an indication that the hills on this course are no joke. The fact that Chuck was finished and we still had 13 miles remaining indicates that his speed is also no joke, lol.

Cathy and I headed back out onto the course. The 2nd half is mostly on the North Country Trail. It is my favorite section. As we went back uphill to the 1st covered bridge, I was getting excited. We turned onto the gravel/dirt road which steadily continues uphill for a couple of miles, and then I saw the chalk markings leading us into the woods onto the trail. The North Country Trail runs 4,600 miles through 7 states. It's on my list of things to do when I retire, lol.

Once we hit the trail, I was in heaven. It's single track with just enough roots and rocks to keep it interesting. There were several pine tree sections. Running on the pine needles felt wonderful under my feet. I don't even mind the power line section which has several sandy areas. As I led us through the trail, I could hear Cathy's watch signaling the one minute intervals, but we were ignoring it and running when we could and walking when we couldn't run.

Too soon we were back onto a rolling country road. We passed another runner along this section, who was not carrying a water bottle. He did not look happy, but he was still moving forward, so we went on. We had less than a 10K to the finish, so he would make it.

Once back onto a trail section that we had covered in the first loop, we passed another runner that didn't seem too happy. He, too, was not carrying a water bottle. It's too hot; aid stations are every 3 miles; and we're on a hilly course with trails. I just didn't understand why some runners did not heed Dan's instructions about carrying a water bottle.

We returned to the short road section leading back to the last portion of the trail section around the lake. We were ending a wonderful day, and I was as content as I could be. At some point, Cathy stated in disbelief that I had returned to this race after running it last year. I laughed and told her that I'd be back next year as well. She stated that she probably would be, too, lol.

Cathy won the female grand master's division in 7:15:54. She received even more swag including a polo shirt, jacket, and a bottle of massage oil (for hard working muscles, of course). My finishing time of 7:15:55 was about 40 minutes slower than last year, but last year I ran this race completely alone. Thanks to Cathy, I enjoyed this year's race much more.

Note: A few days later, I received a certificate with my official finish time. Dan also included a nice finish line photo of Cathy and me looking like the trail divas that we are, lol.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bone, PET, and CT Scans - 8/11/09

I've been having new pains in my right foot and in the groin (for lack of a better term) of my left leg. I don't know what the area is called on a woman where the upper thigh meets the pubic region, that area that folds in when one sits down. The entire foot hurts from the foot pad to my heel and looks puffy compared to the left foot. The big toe seems to be crammed into the toe box, and my running shoes and loafers feel a little snug. It hurts to stand in one place too long, and walking and running aggravates it. After 6 or 7 hours in a race, the whole foot is one unsettled nerve.

Although the foot pain is bad, the groin pain is worse. I would rather stand for hours than to sit for 15 minutes at a time. When I stand after sitting, I can barely move. The start of a walk is an exercise in patience. I start off limping, placing most of my weight on the sore, right foot, until I work out the kink in my groin. After a few steps, the pain eases off until it is barely noticeable. Laying flat on my stomach or back doesn't cause any problems with the groin, but the foot protests. Pain relievers have done little for the foot or the groin.

I just assumed that the new pains meant that I had new cancer sites. That's how it's been in the past 2 years. And I just knew that my scans would show that the bone cancer was continuing to spread. My oncologist recently switched my scans from every 3 months to every 4 months, so it's been a while since we've discovered any new sites.

On Monday, I had the bone scan. I went to the hospital to have a radioactive substance injected into my arm. For whatever reason, we can never use the port for the radioactive substance, so as usual, this turned out to be an ordeal for the medical technician. She couldn't find a good vein, missed the one that she thought she could get, and then proceeded to move the needle around inside my arm, trying to find it again, before finally giving up. She pulled the needle, found a "child's" needle, and mumbled something about injecting the radioactive substance slowly due to it's smaller size. I'm so accustomed to medical personnel missing my veins that it doesn't bother me at all. The medical technician is more distraught than I'd ever be. I guess they feel that they are the professionals and that they should get it right on the first or second try. I always try to assure them that it's not their lack of skill but the lack of cooperation of my small veins.

She now looks at the back of my hand. When they give up on my arm, they always go to the hand next. In the past, I have even been asked to be prepared to take off a shoe, because that would be the third place to try a needle stick - in the top of my foot. She asks if I've had lymph nodes removed from my left arm. I tell her that I have. She nods and jokingly says that's probably where I'm hiding my good veins. I agree with her, even though prior to lymph node removal, no one could get those veins in that arm to cooperate either. I am never to have needle sticks or a blood pressure cuff applied to my left arm due to the removal of lymph nodes. It has something to do with the inefficient transfer of fluids through the body with fewer available lymph nodes, which could cause swelling and a build up of bacteria in the arm.

She finds a vein in my hand that she likes, sticks the smaller needle in, and misses. She again starts to fish around for the vein. I then feel a slight pinch. I look down and see the blood return. She's found one. Did a look of relief just run across her face? She now injects the substance (slowly, as she stated before), and once the tube is drained, she removes the needle and applies a bandage. She tells me to drink lots of fluids, to urinate as much as possible, and to come back in 3 hours. That means that I can go back to the office and work for a couple of hours.

Bone scans take about an hour. When I return, I am immediately taken back to the nuclear medicine area and asked to empty my bladder one more time. The medical technician then takes me into the room with the scanner, and I lay on my back on the table, resting my head on a pillow. She binds my feet together and places a hard cushion behind my knees so that my legs are elevated and slightly bent. For the first part of the scan, my arms rest along my side, and for the second part, I will raise my arms above my head. The machine is very quiet, unlike an MRI machine, and slowly scans and takes pictures, starting from my lower body and finishing at the top.

On Tuesday, I have the PET and CT scans. I really hate these because of the two bottles of contrast that I have to drink prior to my appointment. I've had all of the different flavors (apple, berry, plain, and vanilla). Banana is the exception. I cannot stand the taste and smell of bananas. No matter the flavor, however, the stuff is still nasty. I often wonder what drinking barium is doing to my body. It's probably causing as much damage as all of the radiation, but I can't argue with a necessity. I sip one bottle while getting dressed and sip the second bottle on the drive to the medical office, finishing up as I park the car. I sit there for a couple of minutes, trying to keep from throwing up 2 bottles of contrast. This is always a struggle.

There are a lot of people in the waiting area, and it's not even 8:00 a.m. I learned years ago to always have something to read while I wait. That way, I don't feel like I'm wasting time. I have stood in long lines for various reasons, and while everyone around me was grumbling about having to wait, I was perfectly content reading a good book. I never get to the level of being anxious, and I can pretty much tune out everything around me while I'm reading.

I'm finally called to the back, so that they can start an IV and inject another radioactive substance. Again, they can't use the port. My arm and hand are bruised from the prior day's attempts, so the medical technician searches for available veins in the forearm. He finds one, but of course, he misses also and thus begins the fishing around for the vein. I feel the familiar pinch, see the blood return, and watch the substance go into the vein. He tapes the needle down so that it can be used again during the scan. I'm asked several questions about surgeries, my breast cancer, my mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, blood disorders, and a list of other medical problems, that I'm grateful to not have. It's a new facility that they've sent me to, so it's like starting all over with the medical history. I'm wondering why they just didn't forward over my records from the other PET/CT facility, but I don't ask.

At the other facility, I'm usually left alone to lie quietly with the lights off, while soft music plays in the background. They give me a pillow and blanket, recline the chair, and tell me to relax for 30 minutes. I am not to read, I'm told, when they notice my book. However, this does not happen at this facility. They leave me for about 15 minutes (no pillow, blanket, or music), and I am free to continue to read.

A different medical person comes in and tells me that I need to drink some more contrast, since I've had to wait a little while due to all of the patients they've had this morning. I groan. He apologizes. It's okay, I tell him. He gives me a big cup of what looks like lemonade, none of the thick, chalky white looking substance that I had that morning. And to my surprise, it tastes like lemonade. It's actually pretty yummy. Now why can't they give me 2 bottles of that to drink instead of the other nasty tasting contrast? Do I sound like a 4 year old child, lol?

A few minutes later, a war begins in my tummy. The two different types of contrast are fighting for position. My stomach is essentially empty except for the contrast because I am not to eat or drink anything else for 8 hours prior to my appointment time. This is not good.

A female medical technician comes to take me to the scanning room. Normally, I am taken to a restroom first to empty my bladder because, just like the bone scan, the PET and CT scans take about an hour. She tells me that the scans work better with a full bladder. I am shocked. I've never been told that before. She also tells me that if I could hold it 5 or 10 minutes, we would be done. Again, I am shocked. This is totally different from the PET and CT scans that I've had in the past. I'm all for this - the less time, the better. I try to ignore the sounds coming from my tummy, and I hope that she can't hear them.

I lay on the table, and we start the first scan, from feet to head. I am never sure which scan is which, so I always assume that the first scan is the CT. Once that's done, she injects a die into the needle in my arm. Usually the die burns so bad that tears come from my eyes. The technician would then massage the area until the vein settles down. Today, there is no burning. I still feel the warm, tingly substance entering different portions of my body, but it doesn't hurt today. I am again amazed at the difference between this new facility and the other PET/CT facility. I tell the technician that it doesn't burn and that it normally does. She responds that if it's injected slow enough it shouldn't burn. So the other facility had been rushing this substance through my veins?! Shame on them, lol!

The table again starts to move me through the machine. A couple of minutes later, it's over. She proceeds to remove the needle and to place a bandage over my forearm. That's it? I am so used to being there much longer that I'm actually giddy. I tell her that I want to come back there in 4 months when it's time for the scans because it was much quicker. She said that it should not have been since they use the same procedure that their sister facility uses. I know better and wanted to argue the point with her, but I didn't really want to take the time, and she didn't really have the time, so I kept quiet.

Now I had about a couple of hours before my next appointment. But first, I had to take care of my tummy issues. Once that was over, I ran a few errands until it was time to see the oncologist for my monthly treatment.

By the time I saw my oncologist, she had received and reviewed the results. The bone scan showed that there were no new cancer sites. The good news was that there appeared to be a lot of scar tissue which indicates that the Zometa is still working. The PET and CT scans were also good. So, what were the new pains? I described them, and the oncologist nodded her head. It's the Femara, she said. Unlike with the Tamoxifen, my bone cancer had seemed to be arrested with the Femara. She wanted me to continue to take it as long as I could tolerate it. She would give me another prescription pain reliever that I would take twice a day, every day, if the Aleve was not working. My hydrocodone prescription had run out a long time ago. She really did not encourage Advil. It didn't really matter because neither the Aleve nor the Advil was working on the new pains; they barely helped with my old pains. She wanted me to take the Aleve at the onset of pain and to not wait until I couldn't tolerate the pain any more, which is what I had been doing all along. Pain management is a difficult science, and it's a lot of trial and error. Since I hurt all day, every day, I really don't want to take that much pain reliever. And I really didn't want to be on another prescription pain reliever. I told her I would stick with the Aleve and if the pain became worse (not sure how it could get any worse), I'd come in for the prescription.

The next thing on the list to discuss was the anemia. My port had been assessed, and the nurse had filled up the little tubes with my blood. The good news was that my counts had neither gone up nor down, so I wouldn't have an IV iron infusion today. I was to continue with the iron pills and B and D vitamins. She also wanted me to add some calcium pills, since the Zometa seemed to be pulling the available calcium from my body to repair the bones.

In addition to the Zometa, I would have a booster shot of Lupron today. Lupron prevents my ovaries from producing estrogen. When I first started the Lupron shots, I would get them every month. When the tests came back that my ovaries were completely shut down, I was given a Lupron injection that would last 4 months. The 4 months was up today. I was required to reduce the weight on my hip by lifting my leg behind me and bending over as they pulled my pants down to inject the thick substance into my butt muscle. The injection site remains sore for a couple of days afterwards, and the small lump dissipates over the same time frame.

So another month of treatment was done, and I wouldn't be due for scans for another 4 months. It was a relief that the groin and foot pains were not new cancer sites. I would have loved to hear that the tumors in my back and pelvic bone were completely gone, but all of the reading I've done about bone cancer over the last year and a half says that will never happen. To know that the tumors are stable and not spreading is the next best thing. Now that I knew that the foot and groin pains were a result of the Femara, I could deal with it. I had been dealing with the pain in my back and hips for so long now that they were my friends. I just have new friends to entertain from now on. It would scare me to death to wake up one morning and be able to hop out of the bed pain free, rather than to ease out stiff and sore.

It was time to go back to work and get back to my every day life. But first, I had to take care of my tummy issues again. It had to be the mixing of the different contrasts. I would be in the restroom several more times that day before I finally had some relief, lol.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Viaduct Trail 100 Mile Run - 8/8/09

Shiran (NY)

Tiger trying to keep up with her new running buddy, Carl (DE)

So . . . I'm sitting in the airport, waiting to board a plane to Philadelphia, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had not packed any socks. I knew I was forgetting something! My list of things to do when I arrived in Lanesboro, PA for the Viaduct Trail 100 Mile Run just went up one item. Wal-Marts are everywhere, so this would not be a big issue, I thought.

What I thought would be a 3 hour drive from Philly to Lanesboro turned into a 4.5 hour drive. Friday evening traffic and road construction will extend any trip. This was not a big issue either. I would still have enough time to do some shopping, to get some dinner, and to get a good night's rest before the race the next morning.

The race directors, Carl and Dave, had told us that it would be okay to camp at the start/finish area, but I ended up staying at a rest area not too far away. Lanesboro is a very, very small town. It may not even be big enough to call it a town, and it definitely did not have a Wal-Mart.

After checking out the start/finish area and Lanesboro, I headed back to the main highway to see if I could find a place to do some shopping. The New York border is about 15 minutes from Lanesboro, so I ended up in Binghamton, NY. I did not find a Wal-Mart there either, but there was a Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked up socks that were relatively cheap and worked out well during the race. I also picked up a sports bra on sale and ended up wearing that as well, since I wasn't all that excited about the one I had brought with me. I know that you should never try new gear during a race, especially a 100 miler, but even the bra was a good fit. There was no rubbing or bouncing at all - the most important factors for a sports bra, lol. I also picked up some gels, and then I was on my way to the next stop.

I now understand why some races charge such high entry fees. Getting my own supplies was not cheap, lol. I found a grocery store called Giant and picked up all kinds of high calorie and salty foods. Not that I was planning to eat all of this stuff (just being prepared), but my shopping basket had: two 64-oz bottles of Gatorade, 1 box of miniature blueberry muffins, 1 pack of trail mix, 1 can of Pringles salt and vinegar potato chips, two 20-oz bottles of Mountain Dew, two 20-oz bottles of Pepsi, 1 pack of miniature 3 Musketeers candy bars, and 1 box of strawberry breakfast bars.

After my Giant shopping spree, I found a Subway to get my signature foot long veggie on wheat bread. I then headed back to the rest area to eat and to pack my drop bags. I split all of my goodies between the 2 drop bags. Saturday night's weather forecast was rain and cool temperatures, so I added rain ponchos, 2 long-sleeve technical shirts, 2 pairs of my new socks, an extra pair of shoes, a pair of tights, 2 hand-held lights, and a head lamp. I felt I was prepared for anything so I settled in for the night.

Carl and Dave were doing this race as a "Fat Ass" event - no fee, no aid, and no wimps. This is my favorite type of race. They would provide water and drop bag service at the start/finish and at the 12.5 mile turn-around point, with a mid-point water stop only. The race was on a rails-to-trails, with four 25 mile out-n-backs, making up the 100 miles. They had capped the race at 30, and at some point had started a wait list. When I asked to be put on the wait list, I was #4 from the top. After a few months, I finally made it off the wait list and onto the official starting roster. Race day came, and only 17 of us started.

It was a beautiful, cool day for running. I actually started out with one of my long-sleeve technical shirts over my short-sleeve technical shirt and shorts. Sleeping in the rental car the night before, I had become cold and draped myself in every piece of clothing I had brought with me. I'd rather have cool weather than blazing hot temperatures, so I wasn't complaining.

We started under the viaduct and immediately hit the trail. The worse part of it for me had to be the old bridge we had to cross. There were gaps between the slats. These gaps revealed a fast flowing river below us. One slip moving from slat to slat and down went your leg. I was too big to fall through the slats into the river, but I didn't want a broken leg or ankle either. All of the other runners ran or walked quickly from slat to slat with ease. I lost the whole field trying to cross this raggedy-a$$ bridge. My whole body just trembled. I had a hard time balancing my big feet on the narrow slats, and it really freaked me out. It would have been easier for me to swim across except I haven't swam since high school, and I doubt that I remembered what to do in a body of water deeper than I was tall.

Once I crossed the bridge, it was all good. I caught up and passed the last 2 guys. The trail was wide with trees, wild flowers, and brush on both sides. Occasionally as we neared a street crossing, we would pass a house. Once we crossed the street, we were back on the trail.

The rails-to-trails was rocky in some areas and smooth in others. It was relatively flat, except for 2 "V"s, where we would run straight down one side and immediately start back up the other side. Since race director Carl had told us to follow the trail by imagining how a train would travel, I was puzzled when I got to the first "V". He had said that a train pulling all of that weight would not make any sudden turns. Therefore, if we followed sharp turns, we would definitely be off-course. So, how could a train travel down a steep descent and then pull back up on the other side? It wasn't until I was running with Carl (DE) that my question was answered. There was a bridge connecting the 2 sides of the "V", and when they built the rails-to-trails, the bridge was removed, probably due to safety issues. I'm not sure why that had not occurred to me before, lol.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Somewhere along one of the initial road sections, a runner catches up to me, and we start chatting. Shiran (NY) had driven down to the race that morning but had been stopped by the cops for a tail light that was out, so he had started the race late. He didn't seem to be upset at all and had luckily gotten off with a warning. At one point, we were talking about the railroad spike that we would receive at the finish for our efforts. I had told him that since I had flown and only had carry-on luggage that I couldn't take my spike onto the plane with me. I had planned to ask and pay one of the race directors to mail the spike to me. Shiran immediately offered to mail it for me and he had only known me for a couple of miles. How cool was that!

Way too soon, it was time for Shiran to take off. He would remain cheerful, encouraging, and fast the entire race. Shiran would also steadily move up the field to finish 7th overall in a fine time of 23:44:19. Wow!

A few miles down the trail, one of the runners that I had passed once I crossed that raggedy-a$$ bridge, passed me back. That meant that only one other person was behind me. It's always comforting to know that someone else is attending the back-of-the-pack party besides me.

At the turn-around, both race directors were there. I told them that I loved the course, and they seemed please to hear that. They commented that they were worried that so many runners started out so fast and that I seemed to be on a good pace. They were just being nice, lol.

It was starting to warm up, so I put my long-sleeve shirt in my drop bag and grabbed some chips, a gel, and a breakfast bar to nibble on the way. I also refilled my bottle with Gatorade and headed out. The last guy was close behind me, and right after I finished up the first of the 2 "V"s, he caught up to me. He introduced himself as Carl (DE), and then a little light went on in my head. He was the race director for the Delaware 100 Mile that I was signed up for in September. We started chatting and ran many, many miles together.

Carl was training for the Cascade Crest 100 Mile, a very difficult race in Washington. He had successfully completed sixteen 100 mile races, including Massanutten, another difficult 100 miler in Virginia. Whether he knew it or not, I had decided to hang with him as long as I could. He was such good company and a treat to run with.

We made it back to the raggedy-a$$ bridge, where Carl breezed right over it, and I tip-toed my way across. How in the world would I cross this bridge 6 more times?

Back at the start/finish area, Carl and I refueled at our drop bags. With one out-n-back and 25 miles down, we headed back out. It was very warm now. Since there weren't many of us, it was like a small family. We would all give each other encouraging words as we passed by one another.

I followed Carl's pace. When he walked, I walked. When he ran, I ran. I was determined not to DNF another race for the year.

We made it back to the 12.5 mile turn-around and refueled. I asked the race directors if we would get back to the start/finish area before dark, which would give us 50 miles. They believed that we could do it. I thought about that raggedy-a$$ bridge and grabbed a light from my drop bag just in case. I couldn't imagine crossing that bridge in the dark.

Carl was now on a mission. He wanted to finish 50 miles before dark. Shay (PA), a volunteer, offered to run with us for a couple of miles, and we gladly accepted her offer. Although not an ultrarunner as of yet, she was great company. I'm sure Carl enjoyed hearing someone else's voice besides mine, lol.

Byron (NY) came along and asked for water. I had Gatorade in my bottle, but Carl had water in his camelback and shared with Byron. He chatted for a minute but quickly went on ahead as the second place runner was close behind him. He had taken a nasty fall earlier in the day but refused to drop out. The bruise on his arm was not pretty, but he said that it was his finger that was causing him the most anguish. It turns out that it was broken. He went on to win the race in 18:26:57 before heading off to the hospital. Now that's what I call TOUGH!

The sun was going down, and it was cooling off. Carl began to pick up the pace, and I had started dragging. My right foot had been bothering me all week, and now it had started screaming at me. It actually felt better to run than to walk, but after almost 50 miles, I was walking more than running, and the foot was feeling worse. I popped 2 Advils, which did nothing to numb the pain. It didn't matter. If a sore foot was the extent of any problems, I could finish.

I soon lost sight of Carl. I was now alone, only seeing those who had started their 3rd or 4th out-n-back. When the coast was clear, I ducked off into the brush for a potty break and then started walking towards the start/finish area. By the time I made it back to the raggedy-a$$ bridge, it was dark. Carl had already started his 3rd out-n-back, and all I could think about was my aching foot.

I have only been able to finish 100 milers if I completed the first half in 12-12.5 hours. I arrived at the start/finish area to complete 50 miles in 14.5 hours. I knew that I would not finish under 30 hours. I talked with race director Dave, and he told me that they would wait for me to finish. That was encouraging, but what could I do to make the foot feel better? And I really didn't want them to wait for me if it took me much over 30 hours. But I had to at least try and give it my all. Maybe I could catch Carl, and we could finish this thing together.

I sat in a chair with my Pepsi and changed my socks and shoes. I grabbed trail mix, a gel, miniature muffins, and refilled my bottle with Gatorade. I had been nibbling all day, but I still seemed to be hungry more so than usual. I also grabbed a jacket, tying it around my waist, and a head lamp to go along with my hand-held light. I announced to the volunteer that I was going back out. She asked if she could do anything for me. I told her that I needed someone to carry me across that darn bridge. Bless her heart; she told me she would if she could. We both laughed, and I headed out, cursing the raggedy-a$$ bridge. It turned out to be the last time that I had to cross it.

I arrived at the same road crossing that I had met Shiran earlier in the day and for some reason I headed up a street that ran almost parallel to the trail for a little while. Once I realized that I was on pavement and not on the gravel and dirt trail I turned around, but in the dark I had a hard time finding the trail. I almost cried. Where was the trail? At that point, I should have turned around and went back to the start/finish, but I still had delusions of catching Carl and being able to finish. Calm down and focus! I finally wandered around until I saw a marker. The trail was right where it had been all day. I was getting tired, lol.

Half way through the "out" portion, I stopped at the water only aid station and filled my bottle. A couple of runners who had been together most of the day, just as Carl and I had, were leaving. They had seen Carl and said that it was too bad that I could not hang with him because he was looking good and moving well. I agreed and immediately knew that I would not catch him. I wished them well and trudged on.

Now it had started to rain. I wasn't moving fast enough to stay warm, so I put the jacket on that I had wrapped around my waist. My foot was killing me. Every step on a rock sent a shock through my foot and up my leg. I was also starting to weave across the trail. And a few times I became nauseous. I leaned forward, hands on knees, expecting to hurl, but nothing came up. What in the world was going on? I rarely have tummy issues during a race.

The last six miles to the turn-around were a struggle. One of the lead runners on his last out-n-back asked if I was okay. I told him that I was, but clearly, I wasn't. It was time to drop, but I had to make it to the turn-around point to do so.

I soon saw Carl coming towards me. At this point, he had to be at least 4 miles ahead of me, which meant that I had about 2 miles to go before I could drop. I'm not sure how I had expected to catch him. I wished him luck, and we both continued on our separate ways. Carl would finish his third out-n-back giving him 75 miles in 22:30. That was good training for the Cascade Crest 100 Mile.

All day long I had seen cute deer hopping across the trail and running through the woods. Imagine my surprise when a little while later I smelled skunk. Come on! Wasn't I having enough problems already? I moved my lights across the trail. The last thing I needed was to be sprayed by a skunk. The smell was messing with my tummy, and I again bent over, hands on knees, expecting to vomit. Again, dry heaves was all that I got. I stumbled on, and then I saw the skunk, scurrying into the brush. I was now motivated to run a few steps. Please don't spray me! Please, please, please . . . .

I finally made it to the turn-around (without being skunked). Race director Dave came out onto the trail asking who was there. I told him. He asked how I was doing. "I'm done," I responded. I had just DNF'd at 62.5 miles in 19:47. If this had been a 100K race, it would have been a PR for me. Darn!

I sat down in a chair by a small fire. My foot was so sore. It was throbbing uncontrollably, and I was exhausted. Dave talked with me for a little while, and then he woke up a volunteer to man the aid station while he packed up the drop bags of those that had visited the turn-around for the last time. He then helped me to the truck.

Once back at the start/finish area, I climbed into the rental car, cleaned up, and changed clothes. I then took a nap. When I awoke, it was light out, cloudy, and drizzling. I drove the short distance to the start/finish area and said my good-byes to the race directors. I gave them an unopened bottle of Mountain Dew and Pepsi and the remaining Gatorade since I couldn't take any of it onto the plane. They were planning to run Carl's Delaware 100 Mile so I will see them again next month. I told them I would be back to their race. I enjoyed the course, and I really did have a good time.

Sitting in a chair with his railroad spike was Shiran. I congratulated him. He had remembered that he had told me that he would mail me my railroad spike. I told him that I did not finish. He said he'd send me one any way. I laughed and told him that I wanted to come back next year to finish and earn it. I'm sure he understood.