Monday, June 27, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Small Town

We were going fishing.  That was the plan, that is, until our little pug, Ty, decided to do a face plant off a moving ATV.  He was seriously injured.

We headed into Mountain View, WY, the closest town from the remote spot in the Uinta Mountains where we were camping.  We flew down the dirt road into Lonetree, and as we made the curve the car stopped.  Just stopped.  We pulled over and it started back up again, but it wouldn’t go into overdrive. 

I checked my cell phone for service every 30 seconds.  (Are we there yet?) We finally made it into cell range just outside of Mountain View, and I found the Uinta Veterinary Hospital in Lyman.  I called to let them know we had an emergency.  Then I called again because I didn’t trust the Google map directions.  Then I called again because we just couldn’t see the place. 

Meanwhile, the car is getting worse.  By the time we finally arrived at the vet, the car would only go into first gear.  I hauled Ty into the hospital, which was really busy.  They checked me in and we waited for the one veterinarian on duty to take a look.

Outside, Paul chatted with a few locals.  They recommended Bradshaw for towing; Rees Automotive for the repair.  We knew we were looking at a new transmission – not something they stock in small-town Wyoming.  We also knew that we were stranded.  Our car was broken and we had no way to get back to our campsite where a working vehicle awaited.

Dr. Osborne, the vet on duty and hospital owner, had good news.  There were no broken bones and the lacerations could be stitched up.  He would need general anesthesia; the surgery would take about an hour and a half, and he’d need at least that long to recover.  Well, we weren’t going anywhere.

So we stayed all day at the veterinary hospital.  One of the vet techs, who had just finished her pre-vet program at Utah State, brought us coffee.  Each time a tech went to lunch, she offered to bring us something.  “No thank you.  My stomach is still tied up in knots.”  One of the techs offered to talk with her husband about taking a ride up the mountains and returning us to our campsite. 

We watched all morning and all afternoon as people came in and out of the hospital.  About half of these people weren’t there for the animal care.  They were picking up or dropping off items for a virtual silent auction.  The story:  a local young man was severely burned in an auto accident and was at the University of Utah Burn Center fighting for his life.  Dr. Osborne’s wife had set up the silent auction to raise funds for his medical bills, and the entire Bridger Valley had rallied around them.  It sounded like everyone in the towns of Mountain View, Lyman, Fort Bridger and Urie – and the surrounding ranch lands – had either donated an item, bought an item, or both.  As of that afternoon Mrs. Osborne had collected $25,000 of the over $50,000 raised.  Wow!

In the end, Bradshaw came to tow the car to Rees, we gathered Ty up with an assortment of medications and the dreaded cone of shame, and rode with the vet tech and her husband up the mountain.  They refused to let us give them money for gas.  The kindness and hospitality of the people of these small towns gives me faith that, even in the face of all the evil we see in the world, there is hope for humanity.   

Sadly, Ty died at 6:10 AM the next day.  He never woke up from the anesthesia. We took him back to Uinta Veterinary Hospital.  Their final act of kindness to us was to arrange for him to be cremated.  We made a donation to the silent auction fund in his memory.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yellowstone Half Marathon

Sue, Cheri, Tracy and Rachel at the finish
The Yellowstone Half is officially in the books!  And what an amazing race it was!

Paul, Sue and I arrived in West Yellowstone, MT on Thursday afternoon, June 9 and pulled the trailer into the Buffalo Crossing RV Park.  The park was not much to look at – pretty much a gravel parking lot interspersed with railroad ties and picnic tables – but the location was fabulous!  We were right around the corner from the entrance to the park, and walking distance to pretty much anything the town had to offer – including the Race Expo.

This year’s Race Expo was set up like a Forest Service campground, complete with the brown and beige sign and, get this, the Forest Service!  They were there with a fabulous display on the bears of Yellowstone Park.  After all, the Yellowstone Half Marathon is a trail race, and the trails are right smack in the middle of bear country.  The Forest Service advice:  run with others, make noise, and if you think you’ll be all alone on the trail, carry bear spray.

Sue and I had signed up for the Bison Double, a 5K on June 10 followed by the Half on June 11.  The 5K was, for the most part, on groomed dirt roads, so we both made pretty good time.  Sue placed first in her age group; I placed second in mine.  Not bad, considering neither of us had planned to really push it for this race.

We had planned to just run and enjoy the half as well.  It was our first ever trail half marathon, so we both expected to run more slowly.  The race started on the same groomed gravel roads, but after about mile three we landed on a two-track snowmobile trail.  We ran through woods and meadows.  It was particularly beautiful along the river.  Not that we got much of a chance to see the scenery – we were both pretty focused on the terrain ahead.  Sue crossed the finish line 6 minutes 55 seconds ahead of me for a first place finish in her age group.  I finished 4th in mine.

Trail running is a completely different skill than road running.  I felt muscles I didn’t know I had as I focused on keeping myself upright on the trail.  I was surprised to see more than one runner stumble on flat ground after maintaining against the rocks, twigs, and other uneven surfaces of the trail. 

Were there bears?  More than likely.  But we didn’t encounter them.  Neither of us was ever alone on the trail, and I know I heard the sounds of bells and clapping throughout the run.  The Forest Service?  Volunteers?  I don’t know for sure, but whoever they were, I thank them.

At the end of the run, Vacation Races provided their standard chocolate milk, bananas, and awesome food boxes.  The awards ceremony was probably scheduled too early, as a few of the age divisions hadn’t had the top five runners come in yet, but they still do a great job of presenting the award medals.  Sue and I each came away with four medals and the promise of a fifth medal in the mail.

I love Vacation Races!  Next year – Yosemite!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Blood, Sweat, and Training in the Heat

Summer is officially here.  Maybe not by the calendar, but definitely by the thermometer.  In just a few days the temps here went from pleasant 60s and 70s to 80s and 90s.  Ughhh!  After my less-than-stellar performance in the Red Rock Relay – which I attribute entirely to the heat – I’m really worried about running in the valleys this summer.

For the past four summers, my running challenge has been altitude.  So I studied altitude training and implemented what I learned.  Logic would say that there are techniques for learning to run in heat as well.  I began my research on, where I learned why heat impacts runners and what to do about it. 

According to the article Good Reasons to Love Training Through Summer, “Yes, [the heat] slows your pace--by 1.5 to 3 percent for every 10-degree jump above 55°F, in fact…But by training through scorching temperatures, runners reap a performance boost come autumn.  In hot weather, one way your body tries to cool itself is by sending blood to the skin's surface, where the blood's heat dissipates into the air, says Janet Hamilton, a Georgia-based running coach and exercise physiologist. This cooling action diverts blood (and its run-fueling oxygen) away from working muscles. To satisfy the opposing demands of cooling and exercising, your body makes more blood. Once the mercury drops, your muscles enjoy this surplus. "You feel like you can fly, like Peter Pan," Hamilton says. "If you're on the cusp of a PR, heat training can be the factor that closes the gap."

The article, Ten Ways for Making Hot Weather Tolerable explains the physiology further.  “When you run, you get warm because your exercising muscles increase body temperature. When body temperature rises, a greater percentage of blood flow is directed to your skin surface in order to carry away this internal heat, and you break a sweat. However, it is not sweating that cools you, but rather the evaporation of the sweat from your skin. As sweat evaporates, we are cooled.

Since sweat is composed of plasma from your blood, sweating can decrease blood volume. This is why adequate hydration becomes extremely important in hot weather. ..As blood flow is redirected to the skin's surface, it means less blood is available to your working muscles. With less blood available, the heart is forced to work harder to sustain hard running, and the result is a higher heart rate. Simply put, warm, humid weather means your usual run pace has just become much harder. ..”

And while the above-referenced article did present 10 tips for running in hot weather, I like the presentation from the article Running in the Heat better:

“1. Make adjustments: Don’t do long or higher-intensity workouts during the heat of the day… As a general rule, start your workout slower than you usually do. If you’re feeling good halfway through, it’s okay to speed up a little bit.
2. Wear as little as possible: Wear apparel that’s light in color, lightweight, and has vents or mesh. Microfiber polyesters and cotton blends are good fabric choices. Also, be sure to wear a hat, shades, and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. 

3. Watch your alcohol and meds: Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect. Using them just before a run can make you have to pee, compounding your risk of dehydration.
4. Drink early and often: Top off your fluid stores with 16 ounces of sports drink an hour before you head out. Then toss down five to eight ounces of sports drink about every 20 minutes while working out. Sports drinks beat water because they contain electrolytes, which increase your water-absorption rate, replace the electrolytes you lose in sweat, and taste good, making it easy to drink more.
5. Be patient: Give yourself eight to 14 days to acclimatize to hot weather, gradually increasing the length and intensity of your training. In that time, your body will learn to decrease your heart rate, decrease your core body temperature, and increase your sweat rate.
6. Seek grass and shade: It’s always hotter in cities than in surrounding areas because asphalt and concrete retain heat. 

7. Check the breeze: If possible, start your run going with the wind and then run back with a headwind. Running into the wind has a cooling effect, and you’ll need that in the second half of a run.
8. Head out early or late: Even in the worst heat wave, it cools off significantly by dawn. Get your run done then, and you’ll feel good about it all day. Can’t fit it in? Wait until evening, when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong—just don’t do it so late that it keeps you from getting to sleep.
9. Slow down: Every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. So don’t fight it—just slow down.

10. Run in water: Substitute one weekly outdoor walk or run with a pool-running session of the same duration. If you’re new to pool running, use a flotation device and simply move your legs as if you were running on land, with a slightly exaggerated forward lean and vigorous arm pump.”

So now I know.  And as much as I would like to avoid the heat, I can at least embrace it as a great way to train.  I wonder if heat training will help at altitude.  I guess I’ll find out – the Yellowstone Half is just days away!