Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weeks Three and Four: Into Summer Rest

Mon 6/11 2 miles
Tue 6/12 2 miles
Wed 6/13 2 miles in Huntington, West Virginia, my home town, at the beautiful Ritter Park.
Thu 6/14  After the strangest evening of my life, any thought of running Highlands Sky disappeared. EO's diagnosis was grim: severe brain damage from lack of oxygen. He was unresponsive, breathing on a respirator, but my brother John, my mother, Christy and I hung out with him all day, joined by my sister in the late afternoon. We talked, and laughed, and cried, and we included him in all of it. We all became closer.
Hospital Rock Trail February 2011
It's covered in briars in the summer.
Sun 6/18  10 ½ miles in Huntington. A really nice run with my big brother through some of our old spots. Kevin told me he had done this run starting in 1977 when he ran 10 miles a day, same loop, no idea what he was doing. We ran the two and a half miles of crushed stone trail to the west end, then through Harvey Town and across Fifth Street to the back access to the Huntington Art Museum.  The climb to the museum—Mount Futhermucker, we fondly call it—is a brute. Added in a little 1930s neighborhood and a tour of the park. Nice to see two old men go at it.
Christy and I drove home to Spartanburg to pick up L and Q, and their cousin at camp, to come back to Huntington for the funeral. 
Total  16 ½ miles in four runs
Sat 6/23  9 ½ miles at Jones Gap. This run should be counted in time—2:27. What a brute of a run. Jones Gap never fails to remind me how tough it is. About 2000 feet of climbing in the first three or four miles, then brutal and difficult downhill. Two waterfalls and some great views later, I ran back to the car by the road.
Falls Creek Falls Trail to Hospital Rock Trail. Returned by Jones Gap Road.
Sun 6/24  5 miles at Croft. First hot-hot-hot run. Bristol and I stopped in the creek twice for some sitting.
from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to cut-off over to Palmetto
Total 14 ½ miles in 2 runs
One of my first concessions to age was taking a couple of months every year to run with little focus. It started in my late thirties when I lived in the mountains in southern California. The winter snow limited trail access near my house, so I turned back mileage and intensity until things started to melt in early March.  Teacher vacation made summers training camps, with lots of outings and races.  I did that for so many years that when I stopped teaching six years ago, the habit stuck with me.
Last summer I really paid for it. The summers here in South Carolina are very hot and humid. Training in the heat with a focus on a race in late July, combined with antibiotics because of a tick bite, led to a DNF, only my third in 28 years.  Several years ago my brother told me he spent the Tennessee summers running a couple of week day runs of five or so miles, and a long run of 15-17 miles in the mountains every week. He said he was fresher than all his friends who trained hard through the summer, and came back stronger in the fall.
So there I am, in rest mode. I’ll still run far if I feel like it, and I have a couple of longer runs planned. I’ll run four or five or six or seven days a week, probably 25-40 miles a week. I’ll start back in September, and may run a 50k in October. I’d like to run faster than last year at the Camp Croft Half-Marathon in November. I’m still holding off planning for Pine Mountain in December.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

EO Barrett March 16, 1931-June 15, 2012

It’s hard to know how to start.
EO died last week after choking on a piece of meat at a restaurant. C and I were with him and my mom, just visiting as we were heading to Highlands Sky and a weekend in the mountains. His airway was cut off long enough to cause severe brain damage, and he never woke up after losing consciousness in the restaurant while I and others tried to  clear his windpipe. He passed away peacefully on Friday, June 15, at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
Q and I visited in May; he was in good shape, I thought, as I thought this visit. He was moving reasonably well, he was lucid and funny. “I’m still here,” he’d say, with only a touch of sarcasm, or resignation. It  became his most recent and perhaps last EOism.
At dinner that night, we talked about the traveling my parents have done. They have visited 30 countries in the past 25 or so years, and to a whole pile of WVU and Marshall ball games. I asked if they missed it. “We have been everywhere we want to go,” EO said. “We’re content with the traveling we’ve done.” That contentment shined through all EO said that night. EO died doing what he loved: having dinner with his family. That the final meal was an 18-ounce steak cooked bloody rare was poetry. 
EO's death was at least partly brought on by one of the most insidious symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Dysphagia, a weakening of the swallowing muscles, comes toward the end of the lives of Parkinson’s patients. The difficulty swallowing is compounded by a weak epiglottis, my mother told me, which increases the possibility of just about anything swallowed going into the lungs. It also weakens the ability to cough.  Dysphagia is at the root of aspiration pneumonia, the number one cause of death among Parkinson’s patients. EO had double pneumonia after his heart attack this spring, and came through that episode pretty well. But we knew from the diagnosis that this was not a battle EO would win.

EO was a human being, but he was a damn good one. He tried hard at everything, and strove for what was right with unwavering integrity. He used most of what he spent to provide experiences for his children and grandchildren and allowing my mother to work with those who had no money, he might say. He loved knowing people, and worked a room like you wouldn’t believe. He wore a name tag, for Pete’s sake. He was funny, and bright, and shared what he knew with profligacy. He did everything he could to improve the lot of others--the athletes he promoted, the employees of the bottling plant he managed, his beloved teachers and their retirement savings, and most of all his children and grandchildren.
Someone asked me if I would continue my training now. Of course my quest continues--EO would want it that way. My efforts will help discover better treatments for symptoms like dysphagia, and to find a cure for Parkinson’s. Your donations to Team Fox, which benefits the Michael J. Fox Foundation, will help fund those quests. We knew the research being done now would not help EO; it helps the next EO, and the next.   

Read more about EO's life here, and here, and here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week Two: Tapering for Highlands Sky

Mon 6/4 Off
Tue 6/5  Off. First time all year I have taken three days off in a row. I’ll also say that these were three smart days off. My toe has been sore, and swollen. I’ve been icing and resting.
Wed 6/6  5 miles on Cottonwood
Thu 6/7 3 miles
Fri 6/8  7 miles at Croft. I felt pretty crappy until I realized that it wasn’t getting worse or better. Then I felt fine.
from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Palmetto
Sat 6/9 Off. I realized that running today would make no positive difference, and could harm my toe.
Sun 6/10  13 miles at Croft. A great run with 5 or so miles of new trail that we’ve been meaning to get to. Carroll out for the first time in a while, and for the first time in even longer, Gordon, Carroll, Seth and I all ran together. Felt great passing easy miles.
from the riding ring: Foster Mill to the boy scout hut to the lake trail to New Edition out to the road and over to Garry Perry back to the riding ring
I’m nervous about next week’s run. Forty miles is one thing, 9 1/2 hours is another. I haven’t had the strong lead up I did to Terrapin. I’ll take it as it comes, and focus on drinking and eating enough during the race.
Total  28 miles in four runs

Seems appropriate somehow...

Monday, June 4, 2012

49 Weeks to 50 Miles at 50 Years

So I’ve begun. I’ll turn 50 years old in August, and next May 11--in 49 more weeks--I’ll celebrate by running the Ice Age Trail 50 mile race in Wisconsin. In the fifty weeks leading to that race, I’ll have run 2000 miles or so in training. I have other races planned, and places I want to go for runs, and most importantly, I know I’ll pass many of those miles with my closest friends. I’ll write about all of those things.

Betty and EO, April 16, 2011
If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m raising money to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease to hour my father, EO. I’ve pledged to raise $10,000 for Team Fox, which benefits the Michael J. Fox Foundation in its efforts to find that cure. Follow this link to my personal donation page with Team Fox, and help me get to my goal. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has funded more than $289 million in Parkinson’s research, the largest private funder in this field. Their strategic investments will no doubt help find a cure within my lifetime. 

I don’t expect the same for my dad. EO was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, though he has had symptoms for more like ten years. He and my mother deal with the loss of mobility associated with it, and with the other related health issues. For now, there is no cure for Parkinson’s; you can only treat the symptoms. Some of the “symptoms,” like the tics that many Parkinson’s patients have, are actually side effects of the drugs. 

I’m hoping to have a lot of folks in Wisconsin for my race, though I kind of doubt my dad will make it. Parkinson’s is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder, affecting pace and agility. EO doesn’t shake, but he uses a walker. He has a hard time traveling, which hurts because he loves to travel. But he has a hard time even walking down the block, made worse because, as my mother says in all seriousness, he can’t walk and talk at the same time. 
Now my dad can talk, and his encyclopedic memory leaves him with more stories than you can shake a stick at, as he might say. So he’ll stop and tell his story. We’ve heard them all before, but lately I’ve paid special attention to them. I can see him looking through them all as he tries to find the details he wants, his mind sharp, but his voicing of the stories slowed by the disease. Coordinating all of the things he needs to do just to walk down the hall has become complicated, and he tires quickly.

EO can dance, too. He and my mother Betty have been dancing regularly for several years. They've gotten pretty good, and get a lot of attention wherever they dance. Betty told me they get special acclaim now when EO gets his walker to get off the dance floor. 
Mount Pisgah, North Carolina
 April 28, 2012
I also have a personal reason for wanting to raise money: the disease runs in my family, and even though there is no apparent inherited risk, it does seem to affect families. My dad says his father had Parkinson’s, and we suspect that my great-grandfather did, too. My dad’s sister had a form of Parkinson’s. I think about it often, especially as I exercise my mobility for hours on end.  
I hope you’ll follow my quest. I’ll post stories of my training here, and also post about turning fifty, and about my dad and mom’s journeys, and if I’m lucky, there will be guest posts by my family. 
I want this fifty weeks to fifty miles at fifty years to make more a difference in the larger world. I want put my selfish running habit to good use. I’m asking you to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation by following this link to my donation page. All of the $10,000 I raise will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and all donations are tax-deductible. 

You can also help by becoming a follower of my blog because I’ll be asking for some corporate support from the companies whose gear I use.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Week One: Week ending June 3

Mon 5/28  3 miles
Tue 5/29  Not a lick of time as I prepared to go out of town for work.
Wed 5/30 5 miles in Chapel Hill, NC. In town for a conference, staying on the UNC campus. Just down the street from the hotel is a greenway built along the sewer right-of-way, and a pile of attendant trails that loop around in the woods.
Thu 5/31  AM 2 1/2 miles. A nice little loop through Carrboro with some folks at the conference.
PM  4 1/2 miles on the greenway trails.  It’s been a long time since I ran twice in a day. I knew the early run would be short, and I thought it would be a good way to get to see more of Chapel Hill. 

May totals: 172 1/2 miles in 25 runs
Year to date: 853 1/2 miles in 131 runs
Fri 6/1  2 1/2 miles around the UNC campus with my buddy Tim, who’s doing an Ironman in Coeur d’Helene, Idaho in a couple of weeks. 
Sat 6/2  14 miles at Croft with Gordon.  Still working on the general nutrition. Gordon’s recommendation: more whole grains, like oatmeal, for breakfast. In my late-run fatigue, I stubbed my toe pretty hard on a rock and fell. My toe is very sore, which worries me. I have to remember that I won’t add any fitness in the next couple of weeks anyway. 
from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to TC’s to the Lake Trail to New Edition
Sun 6/3  I had hoped to run another two+ hours today, but my toe is tender, especially when I push off and when I turn. I don’t want to aggravate it, and am a little worried, to tell the truth. I’ve been icing it all day, and figure I’ll have an easy  two weeks leading to the race. I’m focusing on eating well, and enough. 
Total: 31 1/2 miles in 6 runs

This is also the end of the first of fifty weeks leading to the Ice Age 50 next May 11.