Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who's Watching You?

Take a look around you. In your everyday life, your work life, your social life, who’s watching you? Your child? A co-worker? The young man bagging your groceries? The young woman ringing you out at the department store? Every single day, and at many moments throughout the day, we have the opportunity, known or unknown, to mentor someone, be it for a life time or but a brief moment.

There are four specific women who I have been blessed to have as mentors. Each one in their own way has opened my eyes to the possibilities of my life, to the rewards of persevering even if when you want to quit, of obtaining a dream that seemed out reach.

Marlene Birnie came into my life in November 1987, a few short months after I married and moved to Humboldt County. I had begun working as a receptionist in my first law office in October, and Marlene was hired about a month later as the secretary to Attorney John Davis. Since John’s office was directly off the reception area, Marlene was given the desk behind mine. I was 21 years old, newly married, living in a new town eight hours from my family, new job, and no friends. I cannot recall every little detail, but it wasn’t long before Marlene befriended me and became not only a surrogate mother but a good friend. Always quick to laugh and share a joke, she was a stronghold for me during some very hard times. With no family at the ready, I turned to Marlene often during my year of working with her, and many times since, for her level-headed and thoughtful advice. When my mother died, Marlene’s steadfastness and compassion helped pull me through a treacherous storm. I am sure she never considered herself as being a mentor, but she was. I learned from her the importance of being truly present when a person is in need; of not just offering verbal support, but a shoulder, an ear; of allowing people to have their hurts and pains, while at the same time letting them know that when they are ready I will be there. Thank you, Momma-Seeta.

Catherine Culver came to work at our office first as a temp for me while I was on vacation. Upon my return, her temporary position was turned into a full time position, and thus began what I know will be a life-long friendship. We complimented each other in so many ways during the time we worked together, each not minding certain jobs and duties that the other couldn’t stand. It was a great partnership. Without a doubt, Catherine is the reason I am where I am today with regard to my profession and that I have accomplished so many goals. She is the consummate professional, and from Day One, intentionally or unintentionally, began developing in me a desire to become a better legal secretary. It was Catherine who encouraged me to study with her for the CCLS exam, along with four other members of our association. It is Catherine who told me, “Yes, you can do it!” when I was asked to run for president of our association, and then provided me with much needed support and experienced advice in her capacity as governor and a board member. It was Catherine who applauded and encouraged my decision to run for governor of our association, and it was Catherine who continued that encouragement when I was considering the position of LSS Probate/Estate Planning Section Leader.

Catherine not only instilled in me a desire to continue improving myself professionally, but also showed me the importance of looking professional, as well. She is the one who, without words, made me understand that if you want to be treated professionally, then you must dress the part, and that first impressions are important. If you were to walk into an office and see two equally competent secretaries standing before you, but one is dressed in slacks and a blouse and the other in jeans and a cotton pullover, who would you most like turn to for assistance? Who would you think is more competent and knowledgeable? I will forever be grateful for the impact she has left on my life. Thank you, Friend.

I met Denise Lopes through the CCLS study group in which I was encouraged by Catherine to participate. Our friendship developed slowly within the group, but blossomed over the past couple of years when we began traveling together to Conference, she as LSI Historian for Mary Rocca, and me as governor of our association. Denise is a small but mighty force. She will defend you to the end, but will also, in her quiet way, let you know when perhaps the decisions you are making or the actions you are taking are not the most prudent. Not one to speak out of turn, she quietly observes and gives grounded, well thought out advice when asked, and I have turned to her often for that advice. I have learned much from Denise about guarding one’s tongue and really, truly thinking before opening one’s mouth. She, too, has taught me much about being a true professional, as well as nurtured my desire to continue to improve myself in my profession, and has helped guide me to an understanding of, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” She has been a very calming presence in the midst of some stormy times in my life these last few years, and she has taught me the true meaning of friendship. Thank you, Miss Denise.

Last, but most assuredly not least, is my mother, Yualene Gleason. Words cannot begin to describe this truly remarkable woman. Although not diagnosed until a number of years later, my mother became afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, along with at least two other types of arthritis, at approximately age 22 after having two children she was told she could never have. For years I watched this disease wreak havoc on her body, put her through unimaginable, agonizing pain. Through it all, her one goal, her one desire was to protect her children, to not let the disease rob my brother and me of our mother, and when she had grandchildren, rob them of their grandma. She was a woman of unwavering faith in her religious belief, and never once did I hear her ask, “Why me?” Through surgeries, infections, hospitalizations, tortured and twisted hands and feet, my mother bore her pain and suffering with grace and dignity.

Over the years, many people have expressed to my family that it was my mother’s grace, dignity, selflessness, and compassion toward others that helped them through their own times of trials and tribulations. But to me, her most selfless act came the day I married. A few short weeks before, she had had surgery on both feet to fix a horribly painful condition called hammer toes. The surgeon broke both of her feet from the arches down, cut the tendons to straight the toes, then inserted pins through ends of her toes into her feet to hold everything in place. These pins stuck out of her toes by approximately 2 inches. On the day of my wedding, while being walked down the aisle by my brother, the incisions on both of her big toes split open. It wasn’t until my husband and I had left our reception a few hours later that she told my dad she needed to go home because she was in so much pain. She did not say anything sooner, lest she somehow mar my wedding day.

My mother died in 1989 when I was 23 years old, just as we were embarking on a new, and what I am sure would have been a wonderful, adult mother/daughter relationship. To this day, I feel the hole that her passing has left in my life. However, in the short 23 years we had together, she taught me the true meaning of humanity, compassion and love, and to never give up no matter the obstacles or the pain. As I write this, I am about to embark upon my first 50k ultra trail run. 31.06 miles. A distance my mother could never have comprehended being able to walk, let alone run. I will cross that finish line because of her, I will cross that finish line for her.

All four of these women - my mom, Marlene, Catherine, and Denise - have touched my life, been my mentors, mostly, I am sure, unintentionally. I am honored to have them in my life, and to each of them, I will forever be grateful and thankful.

Every day we have the opportunity, knowingly or unknowingly, to mentor someone, be it for a life time or but a brief moment. Take a look around you. In your life, who’s watching you?

(Written in April 2008, submitted to and published by The Legal Secretary Magazine)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pics from SOB Run

If you're so inclined to view them, here are pictures the professional photographer took at SOB, and which we are able to download at no cost. Very cool.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Siskiyou Outback (SOB) - July 11, 2009

Overall - 152/164
Age - 30/34

Fashion Report: White short sleeve tech shirt w/pink piping around the sleeves and neck, hot pink sports bra, black shorts, hot pink gaiters, dirty used-to-be-blue Mizuno trail shoes.

Last year, this race kicked my a**. Royally. It was my second 50k (31 miles) in two months time, and I was ill prepared for what was in front me. Consequently, I was met by the Grim Sweeper and pulled from the race at Mile 21.9 for not meeting the cutoff time of leaving the aid station by 11:45, let alone even getting there before that cutoff. I wasn’t even close.

This year I was going back for revenge, although about six weeks ago, I was seriously worried about my abilities and, quoting from my own blog, was afraid that mountain was “going to eat me alive.” Between gall bladder surgery and an ankle that had been acting up, I was feeling “weak.” (That’s for my buddy, Denise.) However, the further I got into my training for this run, the more confident I began to feel, with finally my main worry being the altitude. My mantra going into this race was “Stuff Your Face with Food” and “Relentless Forward Motion.”

The Siskiyou Outback (SOB) 50k meanders off and on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), starting at 6500' feet and climbing to 7100', with 4200' of elevation gain between. On Saturday, my buddy, Karen, her daughter, Kimber, and I made the 3-hour drive from Eureka the Ashland, OR, with two soon-to-be well-deserved stops along the way: the DQ in Cave Junction for an ice cream cone, and Harry & David’s in Medford for fruit, Jalapeno Moose Munch, and dark chocolate truffles (yum!). Karen’s sister, Kate (an amazing ultra runner), was planning to meet us in Ashland after driving 6 hours from Northern OR; ironically, however, we came behind her on I-5 just outside of Grants Pass, and she followed us to Harry & David’s.

After a short shopping spree, we headed on to Ashland, checked into the Manor Motel (very cute little place), drove the short distance to town to pick up our race packets at Rogue Valley Runners, the running stored owned by Hal Koerner, Mr. Western States 100 winner himself (FYI - He completed the race in 16:24:55, and finishers 2nd-5th place finishers did it in less than 17 hours. Ho-ly crap!), on to pasta at Martinos (or something like that), then back to the motel to rest up and get ready for the next day.

Saturday morning dawned too early (as usually) at 4:30 a.m., as Karen and I were taking the 6:00 a.m. start to ensure finishing within the 8.5 hour time limit. Kate wasn’t participating in the race, but since she’s getting ready for 100 in the Hood in September, was going to drop us off, go do her 20 miles on a section of the PCT that Hal had told her about the day before, then pick up Kimber and meet us at the finish line in the early afternoon.

It was cool up in the mountain, but we knew it wouldn’t be long before it warmed up. (Actually, it stayed very pleasant the entire day with a nice cool breeze.) The early field looked small compared to last year, but with a ring of a cow bell, we were off. We hadn’t gone far when I had to chuckle. Last year, I wasn’t even out of the parking lot when I had a wardrobe malfunction. My outer sock (I wear 2 layers) slipped down into my shoe. I should’ve known then that it was a portent of things to come for that race (mental eye roll).

But no slippage this year, and Karen and I chatted easily as we moved along with the crowd. Toward the bottom of the first service dirt road, we took a right-hand turn onto the trail with Karen leading the way. It was pretty cool to look up and see the snake of runners ahead of us. We had a gentle pace going with a number of folks behind us, but since we were all trying to get our breath under control due to the altitude, no one seemed in a real hurry. Part way up our first climb, Karen dropped into the 20/20 run/walk combo we’d been practicing, and I followed suit. The guy directly behind me asked to pass, which put a new guy behind me, Steve. Steve was from Jackson, Missippi and another sea level runner.

At one point during a walk/run combo, and after the first aid station at Mile 2.7, another runner or two asked to pass, Karen, Steve, and I stepped over, I popped in behind the last of the passers, and Karen ended up somewhere down the line. I would see her only one more time during the rest of the race.

I’d actually like to stop right here and say a huge, huge THANK YOU to all the aid station workers at SOB - along with all the other races in which I’ve participated. If you’ve never participated in a trail run, especially an ultra, I cannot begin to tell you what a God-send these folks are. They spend hours manning these stations, providing food and fluid. I mean, we started our run at 6:00 a.m. These folks were out at their stations much earlier than that, finalizing all the preparations. We, the runners, could not do what we love to do without their aid and support. So a BIG, BIG THANK YOU to anyone who has ever worked an aid station.

Siskiyou Aid Station, 9.1 miles into the run, provided comic relief and the first opportunity to rummage through our drop bags. All the guys were dressed in drag, including one guy who had on some “sexy” lacey, nighty with tennis balls for breasts. On the second time through, I told him he had the boobs of a 12 year old girl. But I digress . . .

I was already carrying a 26 oz bottle of fluid in my waist pack, but after thinking about last year, which was so warm, and some discussion with Karen the night before, I opted to go ahead and pick up another hand-held, just in case. I was bound and determined this year to not cut my own throat by being under-hydrated or under-fueled. I already had my Ultra powder in my bottle, so I handed it off to an aid station worker to fill with water while I filled my sandwich baggy with pretzels, potatoes with salt, fig bars, and a chunk of banana. With everything all set, I took off with Steve in tow and began the climb out of Siskiyou. We weren’t far up the service road when I had to visit the little girl’s room behind a tree. Steve offered to hang onto my hand held and kept marching up the road. I soon caught up with him, and he pointed out that Karen was up ahead of us. I yelled out something out to her (can’t remember what), and I was greeted by the world renowned single finger salute, to which I had to yell, “Is that your number of friends or your IQ?” I’m sure she smiled at this (‘cause she loves me), but that was the last time I saw her until the end of the race. Later, I would find out that due to Steve’s unwelcome assistance, he had thrown her mind off of what she was doing at Siskiyou and ended up leaving her salt pills behind. She ended up with the squirts, which threw her race off by a good margin. (Sorry, sweetie!)

The next aid was Wrangle Gap (12.5 miles) where two sisters were hanging out to provide water and Gatorade. These ladies are a hoot, and I thanked them profusely for being there for us. It was some where between here and the turn around at Jackson Gap Aid Station (16.4 miles) that Steve and I ended up getting separated. He was a nice man and I had been happy to have his company for awhile, but by this point I was ready to be on my own, with my own thoughts.

Jackson Gap Station can be seen long before you get to it, so it’s fairly deceiving as to how far away it is. Between Wrangle Gap and Jackson Gap, I couldn’t help but ruminate on how by this time last year I was failing in a really bad way, from nausea to dizziness to an inability to run hardly at all. A radiologist name Phil had stayed with me for quite a bit of the run last year and I know it was because he was very worried about me. (How I ended up with these guys hangin’ with me, I have no idea. I seem to recall another guy named Russ who tagged along with me for the final 3 miles of my first 50k at Forest Park. ;o) ) This year, although I was by no means fresh, I could run, I could breath, I could enjoy myself and it was, well, a remarkable feeling.

The trail from Wrangle to Jackson is also one of the prettiest sections as you are afforded breathtaking views of alpine meadows and the mountains beyond. Last year there was quite a bit of snow, and although it was cooler this year, there was only one small strip. At Jackson, although it was windy and cool, the workers, along with the runners, were in great spirits, and they readily filled my hand-held while I stuffed my baggy again. I asked the time, and was extremely encouraged to find that I was well ahead of the cutoff time of 11:45 - the cutoff for going back through Siskiyou Gap. I gave the puppy dog there a couple of good scratches and pats, and I was once again on my way. And again I thought about last year. It’s downhill leaving Jackson, but by that point last year I was such a mess, I couldn’t even think about running. This year, I grinned like a fool as I ran down that service road.

The return trip took us past the sisters at Wrangle Gap again, then onto a long stretch of single track, technical trail - and this is where I started having problems with my IT band and the sides of my calves. Much of the trail slants to the left with little room for error or you’ll go tumbling down the side of the mountain. Every downhill stretch put unwanted pressure on that band and, I guess from the slant, the sides of my calves, especially the left, started to feel the pressure. I stopped a couple of times to massage the band in the hopes that it wouldn’t get any worse, and although it talked to me the rest of the race, it never became a big issue.

There are also a couple of good climbs through this section, and I moved over a number of times to let faster runners pass. One guy told me, “Oh man! You were my rabbit! But you’ll catch me on the down hills.” I didn’t see him again ‘til the end, but I could definitely relate to the “rabbit” remark. Often if I’m struggling a bit, I will fixate on one person ahead of me and do my best to keep them in eye sight. It helps pull you along, forcing you to keep moving.

At the encouragement of both Kate and Karen, I had decided to leave my Garmin behind so as to not fixate on pace and time, so it was hard to judge the distance between the stations. Just when I was wondering when I’d reach Siskiyou Gap again, there were signs that read “Feeling Hungry?” “Too Tired To Be Naughty?” “Take a Break” “With a Bagpiping Hottie.” I could then hear the band playing, and finally popped out of the trees into the aid station - where I was once again greeted by the cross-dressing workers. They had a great little bluegrass band playing, and it really helped lift the spirits. It had also warmed up a bit, so I got a worker so soak my Coolmax Bandana with water, while I ditched my hand-held and filled my baggy, then took off for the final 9 miles.

As I said before, Siskiyou Gap is where I was pulled last year, so I was facing unchartered territory. There were a couple of short, nasty climbs out of Siskiyou (well, they seemed nasty ‘cause I was so tired) that I opted to walk. Two guys, then a third guy and a girl, then a 4th guy passed me. I began incorporating my run/walk climb to the best of my ability, and ended up passing 3rd and 4th Guys, albeit at no great pace. They remained a short distance behind me, but not so far that we couldn’t commiserate with one another. 4th Guy and I ran down into Willamette Meridan Aid Station close together, where the worker informed us that it was three miles to the next aid . . . and it was all up hill. Those, my friends, were the longest three miles of this entire race. Karen had told me about it last year, but until I actually experienced it on tired, worn out legs . . . . ho-ly crap. I stayed in front of 3rd and 4th Guys, and I remember at one point one of them saying, “Is this climbing ever going to end?” Man, it sure didn’t seem like it. There was very little of that three miles I was able to run, but I tried as often as I could.

Just when I thought the climbing would never end, we popped out of the trees onto a fairly flat single track that ran along the end of the mountain. I could see the aid station in the distance, and my remark to the great guys who greeted me was, “those last three miles sucked!” They smiled, filled my bottle, told me I only had another 2.6 miles to go, and encouraged me to get moving. I asked the time, was very happy to find out that I was more than half an hour ahead of the cutoff time of 1:15, thank them for being there, and took off for the final 2.6 miles. I would hit one more aid station with the workers greeting me with shouts of “Good job, 206!” and fresh cold watermelon (YUM!!), and sooner than seemed possible, I could see the service road on which we’d started our run.

With shouts from a couple of guys telling me I was only .80 away from the finish line, I hit that road and incorporated my run/walk as much as I could until I topped out onto the pavement where I dug deep and started running as hard as I could without puking all over myself. I was actually getting goose bumps with the realization that I was going to finish this race. . . . . . .Then I rounded the corner and saw the clock at the finish line. I was going to finish this race in less than 8 hours.

To cheering from the crowd and the announcement of my name and number, I crossed the finish line in 7:39:13, had my finisher’s medal hung around my neck, and got a huge smile and hug from Kate who, with Kimber, was waiting for Karen and me at the end. I cannot begin to express the overwhelming feeling of not only finishing, but in beating my time from my very first 50k (Forest Park) a little over a year ago by more than hour.

This race is a turning point for me. Up until now, I have had some pretty big doubts about my ability to participate in ultras. As I said, my first ultra in May 2008 ended up with me finished in 8:45 and barely able to walk, my second at SOB last year found me pulled from the race at Mile 21.9. This year - WOO HOO!! Those doubts have officially been erased by this finish, and I am so very ready for my next challenge!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's An Emotional Marathon

I know. The title. WTH now, you ask.

Well, first and most importantly, last week, after two weeks of trying to get him better, we had to put to sleep one of our kitties. Even up to the end, the vet wasn't 100% sure what was making him so sick, but we finally said enough's enough. We just couldn't see putting him through anymore crap. It broke our hearts, but it was the right thing to do.

BK was a feral who adopted us 3 years ago, and with whom I literally spent hours and hours getting him to trust us. He eventually did, and ended up being just one of the sweetest cats ever. He soon learned that life inside was much better than life outside, and took to sleeping on our bed for hours on end with our old guy, Fatso. We affectionately called them the Bed Sluts. I'm sure gonna miss that guy and his "kitty rain dancing."

Second - SOB is this weekend. Ack! Ironically, after all my boo hooing in a previous post, it's not the mileage I'm so much worried about anymore, it's the altitude. Bleck! Anybody got an extra oxygen tank? I remember that "somebody sitting on my chest" feeling from last year. But then I eventually bonked so bad, lack of oxygen was the least of my problems! This year my mantras are "keep stuffing your face with food" and "relentless forward motion." Inadequacy in the fueling department last year is what completely derailed me.

So that being said, I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be for that beast of a mountain. And I WILL be back here saying, "I DID IT!"