Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Over the next couple of weeks, I will post some highlights and favorite memories of my 15 year running career. Here is one of those stories:

April, 2007 - This race was a local 10-miler and one of my best distance races ever. I finished in 1:35. 

A racing event - or any running for that matter, is a tricky wicket. There are so many variables (nutrition, hydration, training) that it's almost impossible to duplicate a successful race. I'll be the first to say that running is a fickle little bitch.

But on that day, running was my bitch. I had been pacing a friend who was running her first 10-miler. At five miles in, I got an endorphin rush and told my friend that I'd see her at the finish line. I took off like a shot and I felt like I could run forever. 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Pier to Puke

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post some highlights and favorite memories of my 15 year running career. Here is one of those stories:

In September 2005, I ran the Pier to Peak half marathon. It is the most difficult race I have run. Ever. The event takes place at sea level and makes a 4,000 foot elevation gain to one of the highest peaks overlooking our town. It is absolutely grueling. So, naturally - I ran it again in 2009 and 2010. 

The first year that I ran Pier to Peak was my best effort out of the three races, finishing with a time of 3:16:53. That doesn't seem too fast - but in 2005 I was running a personal best of 2:05 for a half marathon, if that gives any indication to the intensity of the course. 

Mr Doll was out of town, so I had asked My Best Girl spend the night. The plan was that I would leave at 5am and she would drive up after the run later in the morning, and pick me up the top of the mountain with Boy and Girl Doll. 

The kids worked my friend pretty hard and weaseled a carbonated soda out of her to drink during the ride up. What makes this event so memorable wasn't the run itself, but the ride home when Boy announced that he didn't feel good - and then threw up all over himself and the back seat. Both kids were crying and Girl Doll yelled, "Why did you have to throw up?! IT SMELLS SO BAD!" My Best Girl pulled over to the side of the mountain road and we all fell out of the car from the stench. 

While all the other runners wound their way down the mountain past us and onto parties where they celebrated their nubile bodies and added another notch on their Pier to Peak belt - I stood on the side of the road, quickly stripping Boy Doll out of the vomit clothes and into a dry, spare change of clothes I kept in the car...you know, in case of the apocalypse or times like this. I dumped almost a whole container of baby powder on the floor mats and back seat which seemed like a good idea at the time - because who doesn't like the smell of baby powder? Instead of covering the odor, it just made everything noxious. 

Dude. Nothing kills a runner's high faster than having to deal with vomit. We drove the rest of the way home in silence...punctuated by the occasional dry-heave.

Summer 1999

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post some highlights and favorite memories of my 15 year running career. Here is one of those stories:

For my 30th birthday, I was 'gifted' a triathlon. Prior to that, I had never raced in any event. 

I was a total amateur.  Until I began training, I hadn't run farther than a couple of miles in my lifetime, and didn't even know how to swim the freestyle stroke. I took swim lessons and trained for two months. The morning of the event, I worked frantically to get the baby's bike seat off the back of my mountain bike. 

I'm not superstitious, well, not much, anyway - but I remember freaking out when I pulled the bib out of my racing packet and saw my number: 1313We decided that it had to be good luck to get a number like that. And it was. 

I didn't set any records or even place in my age division - as a matter of fact, some tool volunteer disqualified me for crossing a double-yellow line and not adhering to the laws of the road, but I completed it. 


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Smack Talk

Sunday was my half marathon. It was one of the best, most organized races of the dozen or so half marathons I've run. Disney has definitely got it down. I ran the whole thing despite feeling sick, being under-trained and pacing a 15-year old. 

Actually, that last part was pretty impressive: I had mentioned in my previous post that one of Girl Doll's besties decided to run the race, with no training and only a 10k under her belt. She is a much faster runner than I am or ever was on my best day. I figured we would run the race - just not together. It wasn't until her mom told me that Bestie was not happy about being in different corrals that I realized she wanted to run with me.  

Girl Doll's Bestie and me at Tinker Bell expo.

Ready to roll!
I tried to smuggle her into my corral but it didn't work. I told her that I would wait for her, since our official chip time didn't begin until we crossed the start line. I explained that the pace would feel really slow, but to settle in and suggested she take water at each station. Although I know she can run a 7-minute mile, she stuck with me and paced herself well.

The race was amazing. We ran through Downtown Disney, California Adventure and Disneyland before hitting the streets of downtown Anaheim, CA. It was magic to see everything lit up at Disneyland, and run through all the places that we'd just been the day before visiting the park. Although we didn't stop, there were plenty of photo opportunities with characters along the route, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella to Jack Sparrow. 

So, yeah. I made a fair amount of smack talk about Tinker Bell but truthfully, she was a wonderful host. Running through the castle was a highlight of my half marathon career. At the end of Main Street was Tinker Bell herself, waving to each of us as we ran by...and I swear that she pointedly made eye contact with me. So, I have this to apologize for:

And this:

Just after mile 7, there was a water station and port-o-potties. I told Bestie that I had to use the potty and she said that she would walk ahead and drink her water. This is where we got separated. 

Once outside the potty, I looked all over for her. I started running, figuring she was just ahead and considered calling her name as I went. I had assumed she would eventually take off and run on her own anyway; despite never doing any distance running, she is in excellent condition from basketball and can easily outrun me. I never found her until we all met up in the family reunion area. And I'll just say it right here: the first 7 miles with her was far more fun than the next 6 without.

13.1 miles, done!
My cheerleaders!
So what do I get for all my bad-karma smack talking? Sick. Really, really sick. It's a similar version - although the more potent, wicked step-sister of the bronchitis I had about a month ago that includes chills, high fever, wracking cough and total fatigue. I should know better than to mess with a fairy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Toe Jam

Two summers ago, I jammed my big toe at one of those giant party warehouses with wall-to-wall trampolines.  I really had no business jumping from a trampoline into a giant foam pit to begin with, given my history of neck issues - or the fact that I'm forty-something but, whatever. 

I made the mistake of hesitating mid-air on the trampoline, and came back down on my pointed big toe; essentially, jamming it back into my own foot. After I landed in the foam pit, I had trouble climbing out because the pain was intense. However, I have both an enormous tolerance for pain and I am incredibly stubborn. I did it twice more and both times, I hesitated and jammed the same toe in the same way. Maybe stubborn is synonymous with stupid? 

I've run at least four half-marathons since that summer. My foot has never healed right and is chronically painful, ranging from mild soreness to excruciating pain.  I had casually mentioned something a year ago to my family doctor, and he said something about how soft-tissue injuries take a long time to heal. Six months later, it's still very painful so I went back to see my family doctor recently. After an x-ray, he diagnosed it as arthritis and referred me to see a podiatrist. 

After an additional weight-bearing x-ray, the podiatrist agreed with my general practitioner: arthritis, with the bonus diagnosis of bone spurs and calcification as a result of the trauma. He told me that my range of motion on my healthy left toe is 70 degrees as opposed to my right toe, which is 30 degrees. He also prescribed orthodics. I have an appointment in February to cast and order them.

Although it's not really indicated, he said that he could surgically remove the bone spurs and shave down ::shudder:: the bone calcification. He could also reconstruct (holyhell) the bones on my foot to mechanically correct (WTF?) the rest of my foot by bringing the bones (OHMYGOD) that come into my big toe in line with the rest of my foot (months of traction) so my big toe thrusts  forward less (heh, he said 'thrusts'), which will end the perpetual cycle of (buzzzzz...white noise). THERE IS NO WAY I WILL DO THIS.

You won't be surprised at his next recommendation, but I'm a knucklehead so I sure was: he advised me to stop running. Sure, I'll do that...after I run the next three half marathons I have already paid for. The final race of the three I won a lottery to enter; it's across the country and I've already paid for the airfare. So, yeah. I've got some unfinished business...then I'll stop.

I'm sure that I am in a stage of denial over the whole thing. I convinced myself that after these three races and I 'retire' from distance running, but my long term plan is to cross-train more that I will run occasionally...a few times a week, no longer than 3-4 miles.

The first of the three races is in three days and is the Tinker Bell half marathon. I am sure there will be stories to share around that experience; the least of which will be that I am running with one of Girl Doll's best friends, who has never run farther than a 10k in her lifetime and hasn't trained at all - but thought it sounded fun. Teenagers have awesome confidence like that.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post some highlights and favorite memories of my 15 year running career. In the meantime, I'm off to kick Tinker Bell's ass. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


When I learned how to drive at 16, the only car I had access to was my mom's jalopy Datsun, and it had a standard transmission. I was terrified but eventually figured out how to work the clutch and stick-shift.  

I took my driver's test but I was so nervous, I struggled with following even the most basic instructions. My three-point turn involved about a half-dozen points; by the end of the driving test my instructor was so frustrated with me, he was on the verge of shouting. Not surprisingly, I didn't pass.  

I was so overwhelmed about re-taking the driving test that I never pursued getting my license - that is, until my mom drove across two states to give me her old car. My 'new' car was a faded red, 1980 Datsun 310. It had over 100,000 miles and the odometer bounced up and down at any speed past 65mph. Although I initially worried I wouldn't know how fast I was driving or if I was speeding, I didn't need to; any speed faster than 70mph made the whole car shimmy.

By that time, two years had passed and I had to re-learn how to drive. One of my friends took it upon himself to teach me to drive...again. His favorite mantra was: The Clutch Is Your Friend.

Prior to that, I had gotten around on a moped. A few of my friends in high school drove Vespa. I drove a Yamahopper. It was about as far from cool you could get, compared to the 5-mirrored scooters the Mods rode. It took me a half hour to drive across town to get to my job, and cost 25 cents to fill up the tank.

And then yesterday, this happened:

Wasn't it only a couple of months
ago that she learned how to ride a bike?!

You hear it all the time: how quickly the time goes and how fast children grow up. I was recently reminiscing about my first night away from my daughter, which was also was the same day she officially became a big sister.


And now thisGirl Doll passed her written driver's exam and received her learner's permit. I really have no idea how my daughter got to be so big and so independent. I am still reeling from the fact that she is old enough to drive at all - let alone document-ready to get behind the wheel. 

Congratulations, sweetheart. I am so very proud of you! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013


In November, I brought our old girl dog to our veterinarian. She had began losing weight and developed a bad cough. I worried she might have pneumonia.

After listening to her lungs and determining they sounded clear of any fluid, our vet suggested x-rays of Girl Dog's chest. Reluctant to leave my side, she was taken into the back while I sat in the waiting room. A few minutes later, Dr. Lynn called me back into the doctor's area. Her tone was deliberate and hard to read. I half-expected her to tell me that they were unable to take an x-ray because our fussy old dog had refused to let them pick her up. 

It was not the case; Dr. Lynn was serious because of what she found on the x-rays. She could see two large tumors within Girl Dog's left lung. One tumor was near her heart. The larger of the two was near her trachea; she was coughing because the tumor was pressing against her windpipe. 

Dr. Lynn said that she would post the images in an online forum for other veterinarians to view and offer their opinion. She would also confer with her colleagues. However, given the recent and steady weight loss, our vet diagnosed the tumors as malignant. Due to her age and the nature of the malignancy, the only treatment she advised was steroids to slow the growth of the tumors. 

I was shocked. Scrappy and unpedigreed, we had always joked that Girl Dog would live to be 18-years old, at least. When I tried to explain our inside joke to our vet, my voice cracked and I struggled not to cry. A few days later, Dr. Lynn confirmed the diagnosis. She told us that she expected Girl Dog to only live another 6 months.


We adopted Girl Dog in 1998. Most of the dogs available for adoption each had detailed resumes of their history. The only information the shelter had for her was that she was approximately one and a half years old, and had been taken from a ranch 'that had too many dogs'. The placard on Girl Dog's run read that she was a Queensland heeler/Labrador retriever mix, she liked children and was good with other dogs.

I could see the Queensland heeler attributes: she had a mottled, white and brown coloration on her chest and feet which is common to the breed. Aside from being taller than the typical short-statured cattle dog, I couldn't see any Labrador traits in her. After all this time, I only recently learned what at least one breed of her pedigree truly was, courtesy of my longest and dearest childhood friend who was visiting last June. She has worked at a dog shelter for the last 5 years, and out of the hundreds of dogs she's been in contact with, my friend discovered a mild allergy to only one breed of dog: the Shar Pei. So, guess who broke out into a rash while petting Girl Dog this summer? This explained the thick ruff on her chest as well as the soft folds of skin I could feel on her shoulders when I used grooming tools on her coat. 

What I noticed right away that day at the shelter was her eyes; one eye was half blue and half brown. Her other eye was brown, although darker in color than her 'special' eye. When we were looking at the rows of dogs available for adoption, her pretty eyes and big smile set her apart. They brought her out to meet us, and she seemed to get along with our daughter and our older dog. We decided to bring her home to be apart of our family. 

It quickly became obvious that Girl Dog clearly had some kind of trauma or abuse. In the parking lot of the shelter, I tried to pick her up to put her in the back of our car. She freaked out and jumped away when I brought my hand under her stomach to lift her. The whole time we owned her - even when she struggled to get into the car as she got older, she never once let me pick her up. 

We soon coined an expression about her: "You can take the dog out of the ranch, but you can't take the ranch out of the dog." We discovered quickly that Girl Dog had never lived in a house; she stole food off the kitchen counters and the dining room table, and foraged through the trashcan. We also discovered she wasn't housebroken. This was almost a deal breaker. However, Girl Dog was crazy smart. She quickly learned to go 'down and around' by the side of our house, in the designated potty area we call 'Poop Alley'. 

I took Girl Dog to obedience classes every week with our young daughter on my back in a Kelty backpack. Eager to please, Girl Dog trained quickly and we began taking agility classes soon after. The classes were a wonderful confidence builder for her. Since Girl Dog was so intelligent and fast, she was a natural at learning the obstacles. 

Despite the obedience classes and being exercised regularly, Girl Dog would  take advantage of any food-stealing opportunity. Even though she was sick on  literally dozens of occasions, she never learned. She would be in agony one day, after ripping into an unattended bag of dog food, gorging herself until she was miserable and her stomach was distended...only to eat the homemade, salt-and-flour Christmas ornaments off the tree the next day. Her trash stealing wasn't simply pulling out a wrapper from the waste basket; it was a full-on, CSI-style forensic extraction of every food item from the can. I would come home to find the kitchen floor covered with hundreds of tiny pieces of shredded cardboard, after she dissected the trash for last morsel of food.

Internet, this dog loved a costume. There was an annual dog parade in our town that we entered every year. I had found an inexpensive dog costume that consisted of a soft pink cape with a tall, matching princess hat.  We planned a whole parade entry around her: The Pretty Princess and Her Court. Boy Doll was the knight and Girl Doll was her lady-in-waiting. Wearing our Renaissance finery, my bestie and I were her maids. As we approached the announcer's table, we began to throw rose petals for the Princess to walk on. I am not exaggerating when I tell you: my dog was so proud of all the adoration and attention that she pranced, just like one of those gated ponies. We took home the Judge's Choice award that year. 

Girl Dog was constantly underfoot. One day I was going from bedroom to bedroom, putting laundry away. In each room I almost tripped over her while she slept on the floor, and I remember wondering if she often slept in our bedrooms during the day when we were gone. It was only in the last year of her life that it occurred to me; she was always underfoot because she wanted to be where I was. As she got older, I would momentarily lose her during our walks on the beach - only to discover she was conserving her energy and shadowing so closely behind me, that I couldn't see her in my blind spot. She was a pain in the ass - but for almost 15 years, she was my pain in the ass. 

After the end of our first dog's life, Girl Dog became our only dog for 3 years.  To her horror, we brought home a puppy four years ago. Despite the new pup's adoration for her, she had no interest in him. However, she knew her duty to our family. Even as recent as three months ago, and although she was beginning to struggle during our walks - she broke free from my daughter to attack a dog that was threatening Boy Dog. She might have been old, but she would cut a bitch before she let anyone in her family pack be harmed.

After her diagnosis, I promised I would not to let her suffer; but I did ask her to do me one last duty - to stay with us through for one more holiday. I couldn't bear to lose her over Christmas. She loved her walkies and food, so I used those as indicators that she was still comfortable and without too much pain. Until her final day, the trash had to be put up and she continued to scrounge the kitchen floor for tidbits. I broke my heart to see her deteriorate,  until I could see her ribs and every vertebrae in her spine. She kept her promise to me and stayed with us through the holiday. 

A few days into the new year, she would barely eat half of a small, cat-sized tin of the expensive, high-calorie dog food I had bought for her. Later the  same morning, she didn't raise her head to greet me when I returned from a run. It was my turn to make good on my promise. 

Cafe Au Lait, 1998-2013
This photo was taken 6 years ago.
 It is my favorite picture of my sweet girl.
On January 5, 2013, I sat on the floor of our vet's office and I said goodbye to my faithful friend and companion of 15 years. My children cannot remember a time she wasn't in their lives, and I will miss her dearly. 

Rest in peace, my good girl.