Thursday, December 27, 2012

End of the World as we know it!

End of the World Marathon
Day after the End of the World Marathon
Humble, TX (the H is silent we learned)
Dec 21, 2012 and Dec 22, 2012

This really just turned into a weekend in the sun as my 2nd cold of the winter was hanging on tight. The first day I made it part way into the 3rd "loop" of 4 and decided to head back to the start/finish line to DNF. My thoughts were that it wasn't worth it to end up in the ER or having an issue somewhere on the course, and not worth it to become more sick due to participating in the marathon.

We earned some sunburns, enjoyed the vitamin d exposure, but hated the design of the roads and freeways in the area. We enjoyed the company tremendously of fellow marathon maniacs, 50 staters, and mega-marathoners (including 5 people that have done >100 marathons this year!). The race was a bit of a who's who in American marathoning, but not in terms of speed but rather in volume of races.

The course was this abandoned feeling lot including condos in various stages of completion, complete with the packet pick up condo having moderate water damage as noted by HH. They had fun signs along the course, including "pre's car" near an abandoned car frame, "dehydrated quick sand" near a sandy section, and "alien trip wire" in a section with some tall grass.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hienten

Photo Credit: Glen Anderson

Back side of the sign that my dad had made
for the Fox Cities Marathon Sept 2012

Next up: Icebreaker Indoor Marathon in the Milwaukee suburbs, 96 laps in the Pettit Ice Center in the heart of a mid-west winter

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Katrina Story Part II

I was feeling motivated to continue my Katrina story in light of hearing about all things Sandy going on  in NYC and NJ right now. Part 1 of my Katrina story can be found here.

I am thrilled to see the rave reviews in the news of how FEMA has been handling things this time around when compared with with Katrina. I am always a little puzzled though when people are in a mandatory evacuation area and yet a few days after the storm are complaining about the government not providing enough food/water/electricity/etc. Umm, mandatory evacuation area. There just must be something about the human condition where we must re-learn the same lessons learned over and over again. Great story on NPR today about the garbage situation in NYC, I recall the large pile of garbage bags on our front lawn in New Orleans for weeks and recall that pickup began again in October, about 5 weeks or so after the storm hit.

The story left off that we had just evacuated from the hospital on Tuesday (the storm hit very early Monday morning) in New Orleans and had driven approx. 1 hour West to Baton Rouge, crashing at one of the ER MD's parents house. We took turns taking showers and calling family. I had someone at my house, I recall perhaps this was my sister, get on the interwebs right away and book a one way plane ticket from Baton Rouge to Seattle. Not knowing when the hospital may open and when life would return back to normal, I figured I could hangout in Seattle to wait for what was next. The return ticket was on the order of about $400 and was surprisingly for Thursday, 2 days away. Right after the phone call and a shower, I crashed hard on the bed in the spare bedroom for a several hour nap. We tried to watch some of the news on the TV, we were shocked at what we were seeing, but the group was not too into focusing on the TV and we didn't watch it for any length of time. After dinner, we headed next door for overflow sleeping area at the neighbors and while the kids slept in their parents bed with them, they allowed us to sleep in the kids beds. I will always remember the lady of the household setting us up with a carafe of coffee in an insulated container up in the kids play room so that we may have some once we got up. She said "I never want anyone to see me before I have had a cup of coffee."

We all felt guilty for leaving the hospital, and so on Wednesday, we had heard there was a makeshift hospital set up inside a large gym at LSU in town, so we headed there to volunteer for the day. Most of us were in the "ER section" where patients that were being evacuated from New Orleans, both private homes and hospitals and being flown in helicopters or driven in ambulances there for evaluation and then to rebook them a hospital room somewhere else in the state. There was a line of ambulances bringing patients there, and luckily an even longer line available to transfer patients to new hospitals. There were every private company of ambulances there along with helicopters landing in the adjacent field frequently. The entire setup was like a one floor hospital, with the main difference is that in disaster medical triage they will also have a black area for patients that will imminently die and/or are beyond any resources that we would have. As far as I know, they had 0-1 person over there the day we were there. The setup was run by the Public Health Corps and they were dressed in khaki uniforms that made them look like military personnel. We got armbands to show that we could administer medications after showing our medical licenses, however they had very limited medications. The ER MD whose parents we were staying with, volunteered to be in charge of the medical surgical area. Once it was decided by volunteer physicians that the patient needed to have continued or new hospitalization, then they would fill out a little slip of paper and bring it to a central desk where they had people calling hospitals to find an admitting physician and an available bed.

The most interesting thing here was there were 3-4 physicians to every RN in the whole place. So a patient would come in, they would all rattle off orders with almost no-one around to execute those orders. We had very little ancillary services so we couldn't execute most of their orders, but it was just a weird situation and opposite of staffing ratios in the hospitals. I did end up meeting a radiologist that lived a half a block away from me in New Orleans during volunteering, although I never talked to her or saw her again after that one day.

We had patients repeatedly ask to go home, and upon questioning finding out they lived in very hard hit areas where most homes had water up to the rafters. They were certainly in a bit of shock as they didn't listen to us when we told them that they would not be able to go home anytime soon. The day sped by and we headed home mid-afternoon, still uncertain of our own futures just as much as our patient's that day were.

My flight was to leave the next morning (Thursday, Katrina was early Monday morning) and I got a ride from one of my co-workers there. Sitting at the gate in a small regional airport, I chatted with a couple sitting nearby. They had evacuated from New Orleans East after walking from their flooded home to the elevated interstate from where they were evacuated from. The husband had recently had some type of brain surgery and had an extensive crown of sutures still in place across the entire top of his head. They had no idea where they would go once the plane landed in Texas (I roughly recall it was either a Houston airport that the plane was going to or Dallas-Fort Worth). We boarded on time but sat on the tarmac for 2 hours with the pilot telling us that the air traffic controllers of this small airport were directing traffic for both the airport and all of New Orleans, and they were overwhelmed which was probably an overstatement. After a layover in an airport in Texas, I arrived late night in Seattle but luckily before the last ferry to the island, where my parents live. I had with me a small bag of some clothes and camping gear, the stuff that I had taken with me to the hospital for "3 days of supplies."

It is now Friday, and to kill time I went with my sister to the local coffee shop to get online to start changing all my mailing addresses, to file with FEMA, and to figure out what was next. Early afternoon I get a call from a co-worker that had started working at a regional hospital, the same hospital that I was supposed to start orientation at on Monday, the day Katrina made landfall. They had called on Saturday, 2 days before the storm to let me know that orientation was suspended until further notice.

In this call, my friend had spoke to the ER manager at this hospital and she had said that I could start working whenever I showed up and that we could do orientation in a few weeks. I spurred into action and could find a flight only to Houston as the closest airport. I could not find a rental car from any of the regional airports, but as luck would have it, I got ahold of a co-worker that was planning to drive from Houston to NOLA on Saturday but was willing to wait until my plane landed at 1pm. So, the trip was a go with less than 48 hours in Seattle, and I was headed back to New Orleans.

After easily getting through a checkpoint on the interstate just before entering Jefferson Parish, we stopped by my co-workers home. I was spooked in an empty neighborhood at night with no power. After a quick look around, we headed to hospital #2 where I would live and work the next few weeks. He picked up his daughter and they dropped me off. This was 5 days after Katrina made landfall.

The next 7-10 days was a blur of sharing a room with a co-worker in the same day surgery unit that was not being used, sleeping on a very comfortable bed. Working at night 8 hours from 11p-7a, getting paid around the clock by the hospital for "disaster pay," and eating bad hospital food. A few times in the morning when we got off work we headed out with the national guard in their big trucks to deliver water and MRE's to people still living in their homes. We got a lot of request for ice and formula, but we had neither. Each day we would hear about a CVS opening or a gas station and to stave off boredom we would drive there during the day to buy things and to just get out. A few times I rode along as a co-worker bought chew and cigarettes to hand out to national guard to say thanks for their service.

We took a few trips to co-workers homes during the day to help clean out fridges and tear out wet carpet. Our hospital badges were a magical key for us to get around the city and through check points. One day, we took a trip from Jefferson Parish to Orleans Parish (the "county" in which NOLA resides) to pick up my car from the parking garage at the hospital I was in during the storm, and to check on one of the nurses homes in uptown NOLA. I did not grow up around guns, and during the entire storm ordeal, there were a lot of guns around and that came out of the woodwork whenever we would leave the hospital. We even had to wear our ID badged in the hospital at all times as the national guard would make rounds in the hospital and we could be stopped even when going to/from the shower area.

After 10 days of a lot of people drinking alcohol off shift, suspension of general morals that people often describe happen in war torn areas, we were told that we needed to move out of the hospital. My co-worker lived nearby and had a spare bedroom and invited me to live with her. In hindsight, the house had had 6-8 inches of water from flooding in it and there was more mold growing in it every day. We were puzzled that we couldn't get the fridge smelling non-moldy despite copious amounts of bleach to wash down the insides. Turns out we were just living in a box of mold, and after I moved back to my own apartment, they needed to cut out a good 1-2 feet of drywall throughout the home.

Part III - Continued recovery and a hospital re-opens.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon 10/7/12

The Lakefront Marathon was a repeat state for me but I signed up for it after going back and forth a little on it. But knowing that it was Kris Hendrich's last year as the RD combined with having received several recommendations from 50 Staters that it was a good one to do for Wisconsin. Getting to sleep in my own bed the night before and after the race was a bonus too.

Kris in the flourescant green at the start line

I was my weekend to work, but I was able to finaegle off until 3pm, in which I was then scheduled to work until 11p. Packet pick up was about 3 blocks from our apartment at MSOE's gym, but I was working during expo hours the first day and had HH pick it up for me.

Race start was at Grafton High School which is North of Milwaukee and the course is a point to point running to the lakefront near downtown Milwaukee at Veteran's Park.

Runners hanging out in the high school pre-race

USPS were transporting drop bags from the start to finish,
first time I have seen USPS involved in this type of thing usually it is UPS

This is how I look like from HH's height

View from my start spot, they also had a sign for under 2 hrs and 2 minutes,
the current world record for marathons, there was no-one in front of that sign

Marathon start under way
My goal would be to try to break 4 hours due to the flat course, being trained up, and cool weather but I was unable to get out of 2nd gear and choose instead to cruise through the course. It was very scenic, road closed to traffic on the right side of the road, peak fall colors. However, apparently due to people living in the neighborhoods complaining about people cheering during the race, there were very few access points for spectators. I just had HH stay home with plans to meet up at the finish. The course because of the lack of spectators was quite, boring. I never wear music anymore due to safety concerns, but this would have been a great race for music and/or a podcast.

The lowlight was overhearing the 4:20 pace group leader say "because it is cooler today, I am drinking less water and more gatorade today." This statement makes no sense at all as a person when it is warmer would try to drink more gatorade to make sure you were replenishing electrolytes at a fast enough pace, particularly if you were not using electrolyte capsules. I unfortunately spent many miles being simultaneous confused and very annoyed at pace group LEADER's statement that I vowed to cross the finish line before she did. I finished 4:17:05, pace of 9:49 minutes/mile, and beat her and her group by almost a minute.

The finisher medals were awesome, it was great they had chocolate milk in the finishers area and that the post race food was already pre-filled in a bag and it was easy to grab and go. I met HH and his brother at the finish line, we walked about 0.5 mile back to the car and was home and in a hot shower in minutes. I showed off my medal at work the next 2 days and gave a co-worker jokingly a hard time that my medal was bigger than the Chicago Marathon medal that took place the same day. I am still pretty new to my department and I feel that the medal help to tell the story of my adventures. Luckily, I got a few comments that they were inspired to start running again......along with people asking what place I finished in, and the distance of the marathon.....

Before too long I hope for all of them to know these things......

US Bank building looming over the park

Almost done!

Finisher area, the magical chocolate milk came from inside that tent!

Trying to escape the finisher area,
note chocolate milk held tightly in the left hand

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lake Tahoe Marathon Day #3 9/30/12

Since we had "picked" the restaurant for the group to eat at after the Day #1 marathon, then it was on Jennifer H. to pick Day #2's dinner spot. It was a little North of Stateline (where the casinos are located) in Zephyr's Cove and we met there separately at what looked from the outside to be a dive bar. They were a few minutes late due to driving past the place and having to circle back. They had found it in a travel magazine at the hotel/casino and it was billed as one of the oldest bar and grill in the area. Once seated, we got the story from Jennifer about her wallet. Turns out, other people were off in the woods using the restroom, due to the whole only 1 port a potty thing at the startline and a girl had found the money, credit cards, and her ID. Then, with the powers of Facebook, the girl sent a Facebook message, found out where she was staying and then dropped it off at the front desk of the hotel! Nothing missing. Jennifer had also suffered from achilles tendonitis (heel pain) pain from day #2 which made for a slower day for the last marathon on day 3.

Anywhoo, dinner was actually really good, the waitress was great, and we hatched plans to track down the 72 mile runners that had just started in South Lake Tahoe at 8pm for the "early" start, in order to cheer them on. However, as we approached the turn back up to the top of Heavenly where our hotel was, we turned left to go to bed early. We were caught by the others as they saw us turn, but it was worth it to get the extra sleep since the start line was 1 hour away on the far side of the lake.

Start line was at a park beach in Tahoe City, with the race starting at 7am. They had a bag piper playing at the start, and we saw the same guy again about 13 miles into the race on a scenic overlook.

The walkers who started 30 minutes before the runners almost needed an alternative start as the sprinklers had turned on throughout the park....luckily they turned off just in time, albeit making for a wet ground start in the grass for all.

Triple Marathoners

Last minute instructions at the start line,
note the tree as it was the official start line

As a slight reprieve from the first 2 days, the first 10 miles were mostly flat and mostly had an entire lane of the road closed for the runners. The other days we were primarily on the shoulder of the road and it got close a few times with both cars and bicyclists along the course. We hugged the lake as we headed south and were treated to being able to watch the full sunrise progression.

Flat at altitude
I'm in green, Jennifer in the blue tank
Now, HH's crewing skills ramped up a notch for this race with adaptation of a resupply messenger bag, as the race was on the left side of the rode and cars needed to park on the right side and then crew had to cross one lane of traffic to offer support.

Work bag turned crew support bag, like magic!
We picked up the half marathoners at, the halfway point, and from there to the finish the left lane was completely closed to traffic which was nice on those windy mountain roads. Then the hills set in, first once that was 1.3 miles long, the second passing Emerald Bay was "only" 0.5 miles long. Cumulative elevation gain for the course was 2,700ft!

Emerald Bay from HH's crew spot

Walking up the 0.5m hill,
I was a little winded while running
After the second big hill to inspiration point it was either downhill, flat, or a little uphill, and was all repeat terrain from the first 10k of the first day's marathon. We finished at Pope Beach (on the park's road) near the town of South Lake Tahoe and was treated to hot dogs from the city, water and gatorade from the race. Some people soaked again in the lake afterwards but it did not seem appealing and most in the group just sat at a picnic table socializing and telling stories.

Finished and in need of some sunglasses.
Marathon Maniac Photo
Hanging out with GREAT people, one of several reasons why I run
The real rockstar of the weekend was HH as my crew. He was super helpful in offering water/gatorade/pretzels on day 1 and 2 as there were only 4-5 aid stations each of those days. He also became a rockstar as he offered these things to all the Triple Marathoners that came by when he was in a particular crewing location. Once I had finished and sat down, he went to go cheer on those that he had helped the last few days. He got hugs from old ladies to thank him for his support, and one couple told him he had to come back next year to help with their attempt at the 72 mile race!

HH in his easy to spot shirt he wore to crew

Day 1 Emerald Bay to Spooner Lake (counter clockwise direction each race)
5:12:04 (11:55 min/mile)
44th/100 runners
1,700 ft of elevation gain

Day 2 Spooner Lake to Tahoe City
4:47:18 (10:58 min/mile)
42nd/111 runners
1,100 ft of elevation gain

Day 3 Tahoe City to Pope Beach
4:56:07 (11:18 min/mile)
2,700 ft of elevation gain

Next up, Lakefront Marathon, Milwaukee, WI 10/7/12
Repeat state, lifetime marathon or longer #48

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cal-Neva Marathon, Day 2 Tahoe Triple Marathon 9/29/12

The race for day #2 started roughly the same place we finished the day before near Spooner Lake, NV. We left the hotel early to be able to make a stop at the Starbucks on the way to the start.

Pre race instructions right before the start of the race
Just before the start, my MM friend Jennifer H. tells us that she lost her money, ID, and credit card in the woods when she went to the restroom, as there was only one portapotty at the start line. She has looked for a little bit but the gun was already sounded for the start. HH and another person volunteered to look for a while and would be in contact with her. The first 0.2 miles is flat followed by several miles of downhill, loosing all the elevation that we gained at the end of the course the day before.

Downhill running stride
There were a few small uphills in the middle of the downhills but nothing lasting too long. With views like this...

After about 10 miles we approached and skirted Incline Village, going along huge and expensive looking homes. About this time we started seeing the cyclists that were doing a full and half loop of the lake, they were heading the opposite direction that we were. Leaving town we were greeted with a moderate climb, luckily HH was there for the resupply.

He saw roughly the same runners most of the day, and was offering to them all the things pictured here. He said after a while when he would see the same runners again "I have the usual," instead of listing everything he had to offer. Initially the people that didn't take stuff started to later in the race, and the people that took stuff early on, stopped taking it later. People tended to go for the gatorade until later in the race then he got more requests for water. I complemented him on his crewing skills, particularly since after I finished, several people came up to him to thank him for his crewing help. He replied "I learned it from Magic Man." You see, Magic Man is the trail name that my dad earned while helping us out when we thruhiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 2007 and the name stuck after sharing his trail magic with both me and my trail family and with other hikers going about the same pace.

Back to the race. The rest of the course had a few hills, went through more little towns than I thought would be there, and continued to enjoyed the views. The last few miles seemed to last a long time but with persistence I was at the finish line, right in downtown Tahoe City along the main street.

Finish line downtown Tahoe City

Me crossing the finish line

Me with Endorphin Dude and Jennifer H.
After a round of soda, water, (beer for some), and some Marathon Maniac cake for one lady turning 50 today (her shirt read "26.2 is the new 50") we hobbled down the stairs to Lake Tahoe to soak our legs. Some got deeper into the water...

Than others....

HH got his feet wet, it was cold!

Took about 1 hour to drive back to Stateline, NV, dropped off two runners at their hotel, lunch again at Baja Fresh, and another stop at Starbucks, back to the hotel to shower, and do this posting. Dinner later with the same crew from last night.

Next up, Day #3 and final day of the Tahoe Triple Marathon. This time there will be a few hundred more runners, regular aid stations, and an entire lane of the highway closed off the entire race!

Emerald Bay Marathon, Lake Tahoe, NV 9/28/12 State #30

The Tahoe Triple Marathon is a series of three marathons in a row around Lake Tahoe in a counterclockwise direction starting at Inspiration Point at Emerald Bay in the SW area of the lake. This marathon is on Friday morning starting at 7am. By the end of the weekend you will have completed one circuit of the lake (72 miles) plus an additional 6.8 miles to add up to 3 marathons.

The first marathon starts at an area where someone said it is one of the most photographed places in the U.S. or close to it. Starting just as the sun was peaking out over the mountains across the lake a trooper pulled into the road, allowed the runners on the the road, and with a shotgun blast as the start gun, signaled the start of the race. It is not chip timed, so time matters when you start at the back of the pack.

With fellow Marathon Maniac Jennifer H.

The first few miles are a very scenic downhill run full of hairpin turns. After 3-4 miles we turned onto a bike path that paralleled the highway the rest of the way into downtown South Lake Tahoe (SLT). The first two marathons of the triple have only 4-5 aid stations along the way, mostly unmanned, and so there are crews that the runners brings along to assist in getting hydration and fuel. After people settled into their paces a few miles in you then spent most of the day seeing the same crews repeatedly, they offered help and cheering, and were a great morale boost.

Once in SLT we turned onto highway 50 and ran along the curb, very close to traffic at times, and at others with a safe shoulder to run on.

For one section, a girl blatantly lifted her arm up as if to magically stop traffic, and ran through red lights, and green left turn signals while cars were turning!! Yikes!! I am glad I lost her when I stepped into a MacDonalds right along the course to use the restroom. A few blocks later there is a Starbucks across the road, and inspired by the Marathon Maniac Dave Mari, I ran across the street to order and drink a beverage during the middle of the race. The line was long so I phoned HH to meet me there, ordered and got my cold chai, waited for HH, chatted for a few minutes once he got there, and was back off running through town, skirting the casinos and through the half marathon finish line.
Back side of the tunnel

After leaving town, the mostly downhill and then flat course turned to large rolling hills and slowed everyone's progress, but the scenery remained gorgeous. Once we approached the tunnel, we got our own lane protected by cones, and this would continue for the last 8 or so miles. The tunnel even had a bar that cyclists could hit triggering lights and a sign that said cyclists in the tunnel. Lots and lots of cyclists everywhere in the area. All day long I saw HH 5-6 times and he had water, gatorade, and pretzels (did not have any the first day). He offered some to runners but we did not have cups, so he could only offer them to those with hand held bottles. We bought some cups later to use for day #2.

The end of the course is a 3 mile uphill with a moderate amount of elevation gain, taking you from about 6,000ft to just over 7,000ft. Most people were walking but I maintained a slow jog uphill, knowing that if stopped to walk that I would have a hard time getting going again.

Chatting with a Marathon Maniac leaving the last aid station
The last 0.2 miles of the race were flat and it was nice to stretch the legs again, although I did not push the pace too much as I had somewhat intentionally barely ran out of water and didn't need to induce the 'puke factor' at the very end, which of course means I was passed in the last 0.1 miles of the race, but it was worth it. Finish in a parking lot near Spooner Lake, NV.
Last few hundred yards, the guy that passed me is just in front of me

Finished! Day 1. 5:13ish
20 minute drive back to town, lunch at Baja Fresh near Stateline, frapp at Starbucks, then back up to the top of the Heavenly Ski Hill to shower and nap at the hotel/timeshare that we got last minute. Back down into town and dinner with Jennifer H. (the MM pictured earlier) and her friends at the Stateline Pub. Great day with great people!

Next up, Cal-Neva Marathon, Day 2 of the Tahoe Triple Marathon.