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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rebel. the post i wrote wednesday night that i hope i never have to publish

Whenever anybody dies, I remind myself of this quote from John Muir: Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseperable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.

I lost my constant. My life is a crazy mix of ups and downs; a long strange trip it's been.. In and out of countries and cities and situations, whirlwind of people and lives, and through it all, for over a decade, I had my dog. Everything must change, but he was my steadiness, my stability,  my sidekick that was at least as awesome as me. I got him on the day of my last final at LSU. He endured vet school with me. My first real job as a biologist, then as a veterinarian, and then as a mother. Then almost dying, learning to walk and to love again.

We want growing old and dying to be poetic and beautiful, but it's presentation isn't always so. Maybe usually not. He's been getting senile, deaf, lost his training, so much more. Went from my kickass partner-in-crime to a sleepy old man. He got into trouble he couldn't get out of when I wasn't home, got a bag stuck over his head. We found him laterally recumbant and non-responsive, hyperventilating, hyperthermic. I stayed with him all night, and while functionally he came around some cognitively he never did, and I euthanzed him in the morning.

There are sadder things than euthanizing your own dog. That knock you down worse, that stay with you longer. That first moment in...forever, walking into an empty house. Right? I don't know life without him, I wonder if it will spin out of control now.

But as always, as always, let the good of his life influence you and not the death. We will all be dead in a century, he is not special in this way. But he is special in the amazing life he was - I'm not exaggerating! An incredible dog. Examples: Diving in the Caribbean, he'd follow my bubbles; I could look up and see him paddling above me. Once we went snorkeling and chased down a Peregrine falcon. He saved my life from a burglar. Teaching orphans about dog safety and handling. So much more. I put some of them in these previous blogs:
Note to My Dog On His 13th Birthday
Note to My Dog on His 14th Birthday

If you've ever read my stuff about Reb, you know this is my favorite pic of him. There's so many more I'll get up when I'm up to it. Those blog posts have some good ones.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Let Me Tell You About the *FIRST* Time I Was Hit By an Unlicensed Driver

What's the chances of getting hit by an unlicensed driver Twice in a lifetime? Well, I really don't know & I don't believe in statistics -- don't get me started, BUT it's at least 1:(all the people you know)! HA! So here's the story of my first one!

My awesome Civic with it's beach-scene airbrushed on the hood. The license plate says "Curvy," which someone had changed to "Mikey has Scurvy". I still have that plate!

I was accomplishing my dream at the time, which was going to veterinary school! I had chosen Ross University on St. Kitts Island for multiple reasons. Partly because they had a high acceptance policy/fail rate, partly because I was single & young & the thought of moving to the Caribbean was Awesome, but mostly because they had the highest pass rates on the boards. They Also came with a huge bill. My student loans are $230K. Starting out pay for a vet is $40-$60K. Things to look into DURING planning for school, not after! Case in point from the New York Times:   High Debt and Falling Demand Trap New Vets

Where I was hit. RUSVM are those white buildings (poor me, right? Having to go to vet school There!;) That narrow strip of road in front probably still has scraps of metal from my car!

I loved my life, I loved where I was, and I was attending a fantastic school. I was living out my dream! Then one day I was leaving the school from the back parking lot and turning back into the front entrance to talk to the stationed guard about her new lovebirds. On St. Kitts, you drive on the left hand side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the right. That's when two buses (they're minivans, but are called buses on St. Kitts) entered the scene. They had just dropped off their kids - they were school buses - and were racing each other on this one-lane-each-way road that circles the island. I was making a right-hand turn (equivalent to a left turn in the States), blinker on, just starting to go. The first bus saw & zoomed around me, but the second one which was right on his tail didn't have time, and the bus named "Crucial Vibes" slammed into the back of my car going over 70mph. As an aside, the driver was unlicensed but was never prosecuted due to island politics, much like my more recent crash. Just as frustrating.


Here's a random story about my awesome car. One time I was driving down the road when suddenly the hood flipped up, then to the right and started dragging down the road, sparks a-flyin'. The left hinge had rusted through (all cars in the Caribbean are salt-rusted) and I had to bang it back in with a brick!

All crash pics from Dr. "LJ" Shank

I didn't have my seatbelt on and that's the only thing that saved my life. I Always wear my seatbelt, and this one time for whatever reason I didn't. Crazy! I was thrown from the driver's seat to the passenger seat, which was the only place in the car that was not smashed.

The passenger side, after they cut me out 


St. Kitts had a brand new "Jaws of Life" and this was the first time they used to cut someone from a car. An ambulance took me the short distance to the hospital, where no lie there were chickens and goats running through. A nurse tried to give me an injection but I kicked her to keep her away - I wanted to be fully alert no matter the pain! I had break-away glass in my eyes that my friends had to wash out for me. X-rays showed that I had a right clavicle "zed" complete fracture. Later I found out I also damaged my hip, but that was misdiagnosed (by a stateside doctor.)
NOT my radiograph, but might as well be! "Zed" fracture.

That hip injury started a Whole other thing, you can read about it & my racing here! My LZ Guest-Blog "Monique's Caught the Triathlon Bug"

I remember everything... The hard hard impact. Harder than anything I've ever felt. Lying there in the passenger seat, with my head out the window. Not being able to move my right arm. Glass in my eyes, blood.  I knew I was too shocky to feel pain. I didn't know if I was going to live or die. But then I thought, everybody I loved knew that I loved them, and I was IN vet school, which had been my goal my entire life. So, I was okay with dying if that's what was going to happen.
Since it happened in front of the school, everyone heard the crash. People showed up from everywhere; workers from the sugarcane fields, friends from the school. The support of my colleagues and the school faculty & staff was overwhelming, I'm brought to tears just thinking about it now! They followed me to the hospital.
I remember there was a shuffling outside of the radiology door & the nurse saying, "Fine! Only one of you!" and my classmate Lauren meekly came in. They knew I wouldn't be going home for a while, and you know, Rebel needed to be taken care of, so could it be her? HA! I've just been smashed up & they're worried about the dog! ;) I love them so much! (Lauren took very good care of Reb by the way.) (I also heard that Dr. Reich's first response was, "Was Rebel in the car?")

Coincidentally enough, my college friend and fellow Shotokan brown belt Sue Chin was coming to visit from the States the very day I was hit. She had to go directly to the hospital her very first day in the Caribbean! It was extremely lucky for me though because true to her nature she immediately took care of me (she's an MD now). Even though I couldn't even get out of bed on my own I was determined she have a good time, and after being in the hospital for a night, I was released & we headed down to my friend X's Shiggidy Shack to have Carib beer and "Ting with a Sting" - I had to start Sue off right! Wow, I just checked out X's website, he seems to be doing well! (meh, now the link's not working) Don't be fooled, he has a silly side, he's a Hasher! ;) Anyway, we traveled around the island, and various friends & colleagues of mine made sure she lived it up in the Caribbean! Such great people there. Sue and I stayed with a colleague, then the school's psychologist Mrs. "Turtle" Jane Sandquist sent her son to pack my bags & have me stay with her until I was better. That may have been my greatest time on St. Kitts because she lived in a beautiful house with the most beautiful property, had tortoises and mango trees and lovely grandchildren, a ton of books, and she is the most fabulous cook. My colleagues would bring me my studies and homework until I could get to school again.

I ended up failing Pharmacology by 0.4% (69.1 and needed a 69.5, Ross doesn't do "D"s), & I decided to take a semester off. I was disappointed that I failed, especially by such a small amount! I knew that I was going through a lot at  the time and it was an understandable thing to fail such a hard class under those circumstances, but I was inconsolable. However, I returned to school the following semester with a vengeance, and have excelled ever since! I had to keep trying.
Life sucks and it's not fair. But what do you do, give up? Fuck that. I wouldn't be a vet now.

Here's some Kittitian newspaper articles:






Sunday, April 20, 2014

Feeding Marshmallows to Alligators. I Wonder What Other People Do on Easter.

I'm sitting under a Bald Cypress on the lakefront on the Northshore, on this beautiful springy breezy day. Life life life can be soooo good. Always new adventures.

This morning was a feed-the-alligators marshmallows kind of time. I can't think of a better way to spend Easter.
You have got to watch this video

I've been pretty vocal about the whirlwind of change going on in my life right now. I'm feeling less anxious and more excited, more accepting. I made a vow to myself when I was a kid to experience everything I could in life, and meet all the different types of personalities I could. I guess it's still my goal. Like a sort of Dr. Doolittle.

My best friend in the hospital. Last time we saw each other we were both in wheelchairs.

I enjoy showing my son around New Orleans, where I grew up. We visited my godmother, went to City Park, saw my elementary school Kehoe-France, and hung around the Mississippi River in Rivertown, Kenner.

The world's first heavyweight boxing championship was held in Rivertown over 150 years ago. It was a bared-knuckle brawl in a makeshift ring on the levee. The winner was "Gypsy" Jem Mace. There's a statue commemorating the event.

It's been a good weekend. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

2014 (Inaugural) Zydeco Half Marathon Race Report by SPECIAL GUEST Annette Coussan (with commentary by me) ;)

The Zydeco Marathon was not my goal race, but one I wanted to do because it was Lafayette's first marathon. I had already accomplished the half at the NOLA RnR, and my focus right now is on muscle building and fine motor skills, not endurance. The amazing and fabulous Annette Coussan joined me the whole way (and private - I'm going to embarrass her by telling you she's been a successful businesswoman, amazing single mother, and world-class rock climber (even on the cover of magazines)). ANYWAY, what I'm immediately most thankful for is her race report here, because I can be lazy this week and not write one. She works at the local state university UL in the disabilities department and documented her experience to inspire them. I'll leave my comments in this bold italics print!
My pre-race posse. Orange again!

It can be really tough to watch people you love work hard, without receiving much of a

reward for their effort.  We all know people who have given up on goals, dreams, and

life, but we also know people who have NEVER given up, despite the reward or lack

thereof.  Recently, I participated in a half-marathon with a friend, who is recovering from

a serious spinal injury.  Her right leg is stiff with only a hint of a bend in the knee. Her

right foot has no feeling. Her stride is full of effort.  She had zero chance of winning the

race, and barely a chance to finish the 13.1 mile course within the seven hour allotted

time.
Already I'm feeling vulnerable. I like to think of myself as tough (and I am), but to have someone I respect so much notice the things I try to heal, it's hard. I even second-guessed posting  this because I don't want you to see my weaknesses. I'm still embarrassed to be around old friends as hurt as I am. But I think the even stronger thing to do is face and accept it, so when I'm even better I can look back on this and see what I accomplished. I can't give that to myself right now, I need to keep looking forward even if looking back means seeing how far I've come, but I know I'll want it in the future.

This wasn’t her first half-marathon.  Last month she competed in one.  It has been her

number one recovery goal throughout the year.  She had even gained national attention

in her pursuit.  You may have already read about her or seen her on T.V.; however, this

race was different.  She was under the radar with no expectations placed on her.  There

were no sponsors, no reporters, no press, and no preparation either. She had spent the

last month recovering from the previous race, and she was working on exercises that

could eventually help her regain the bend in her knee, not training for another 13.1 mile

walk.
Except, I thought I had an 8 hour time limit so we Totally goofed around! Which put us in a race to try to finish under the time limit (7 hours). Oops!

This race was going to be tough.  She started at the front of the crowd of racers. In

an instant, they all zoomed past her.  She was left to walk in the quiet streets.  It was

a particularly cool March morning, and her right side balked.  The right leg was more

stubborn than usual that day.  She’d forgotten her gloves, and her right hand battled

the bite of the morning air.  I didn't forget them, I purposely left them - mistake! My body's like a reptile, slower in the cold. As I walked beside her, we crept along the streets of one

of our city’s oldest neighborhoods. I commented on the bursting azaleas and the great

craftsmanship of the homes.  I went on and on until I finally realized how annoying my

comments had become to her.  Pfft, like Annette could Ever be annoying! Good distraction with her comments and silliness and fart jokes, but never ever annoying. Whatever Annette, you were awesome to spend the day with! While my mind had been on flowers and cute houses

during that first mile, my friend was mechanically breaking down the movement of her

lower back, abdomen, psoas, You have Ms. Alyce Morgan of the Franklin Method to thank for that psoas work! quad, and hamstrings. She systematically had to will the

walking process to continue for one more step and another step and then another.

We spent that first hour focusing on the walking process and hoping for the temperature

to rise quickly so that her body would cooperate with her mind.  This is incredibly true. Your body thinks in function, not form, and if I want to train the right muscles to have proper form again I've got to focus all the time. She had to find a

manageable rhythm.  She was concerned about finishing the race, not having trained

adequately.  Of course, I told her she could quit when she felt it necessary.  She had

already met her recovery goal.  I didn’t want to see her in pain, and I didn’t want her to

hinder any potential to get that right leg moving properly again.

She walked on. She was elated when we encountered her fellow racers again, as they

eventually paralleled or lapped her.  To all you well wishers, please know that my friend

has immense appreciation and ever-expanding love for every, single one of you. The

first couple of miles had been so very hard to push through without you.  It honestly takes me 3 miles to warm up Your energy

DID make a difference when we saw you again. Without your encouraging “shout-outs”,

miles three to seven would have been even more trying.   She is a positive, people-
person, who always meets a compliment with a smile and a reciprocal compliment

because that is her nature.   By this point Annette had let me have her sunglasses so I could stop trying to make eye contact with everyone and focus on form, and let her take over the answering back to all you awesome people (much like Dan did in the NOLA RnR). She then started pointing out all the hot guys - quite the good distraction. There's a lot of you out there! Also, it was fun cheering on all you awesome girls! You rock!


 Paul Kieu is an awesome photographer. I saw him at the Holi Festival the day before too! Andy pointed out how he really captured the essence of us here, me sticking my tongue out and Annette being LOUD! :)



I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.  She is hilariously sarcastic, too.  You

see, while my friend takes what she is doing very seriously, she doesn’t take herself

too seriously.  Unable to look up and break her concentration to personally respond

to most of the well-wishers, she would get frustrated.   Later on during the race, she’d

hear, “You are looking GOOD!”  Under her breath she’d say, “Uh, now that’s not really

true!”  Then we’d crack up laughing.  Others would yell in passing, “You inspire me” to

which she’d mumble, “I’m sorry.”  Again, laughing would ensue.  Runners would call out,

“You Rock” and immediately she’d say, “No, you rock!”   Yes, she is sarcastic, but most

importantly, she is resilient and intrinsically self-motivated with the ability to deal with

her current situation without self-pity.  Throughout the race, she used many techniques

just “to deal”: love for life, sarcasm, silence, laughter, etc... This is simply who she is,

and what she does, regardless of the spinal injury.
I'm trying to find something sarcastic to say to this, but I'm a little overwhelmed, so just, thanks for being so perceptive.
What she's not adding is her fart jokes or catcalls or harassing the other runners or gongers and other people on the sideline! And eating doughnuts. Listening to Metallica and whatever else we thought of. And changing in her office on campus.

And also with you


And it was not easy!  It only got harder.  I think mile 9 was the first critical, low point.  It

was as if she doubted if she could keep going.  She questioned herself aloud, “Can I do

this?”  Her response was to keep walking. Dammit, that's always my response. One day I'll learn to take the easy route. Not really knowing if she could finish, she

had hope that things would work out.  Head down, she kept going.  That mile 10 sign

was a relief.  We briefly celebrated with a silly chant, “Mile 10, please send Hot Men!”  I

even posted the chant on her facebook page. #BestFacebookUpdateEverHA!

Then the real fight began.  Fatigue and pain all bore down on her.  Now only 3.1 miles

from the finish line, she was consumed with meeting the 7 hour time limit.  “Who cares?”

I asked her.  “What does time mean for you in this situation?  It’s a limit set for runners,

not someone walking with trekking poles! TREKKING POLES. Dang press got it wrong (except for the Advertiser) last race, called them specialized crutches?! Trekking poles let me keep weight on both sides of my body instead of leaning to one side with my cane for over 13 miles. I got to meet Jennifer Pharr Davis the night before this race (it was a busy weekend), who set the world record for hiking the Appalachian Trail, and nobody mistakes HERS for "crutches". Sheesh! Also, Alyce is to thank for these, they're really hers on long loan to me. Thanks Alyce! Take your time and don’t injure yourself.”

Just sayin. BTW I totally stole this pic of Jennifer Pharr Davis from Facebook, I'll try to make up for it by advertising Blue Ridge Hiking Company

















She ignored me and kept talking about meeting her deadline.  Then we found ourselves

at mile marker 11.  I had become very demanding of music at that point. Mile 11 was Rooster by Alice in Chains, I remember clearly.

I wish I could say the journey to mile 12 was easier, but it was more grueling.  The traffic

barriers had been removed, and the cars flowed freely.  There were no more flat streets,

crowds cheering, and water stands.  The race was almost officially over, but there she

was, racing to the finish.  She had to trek the sidewalks outside of downtown and up

to her finish line.  Unpredictable angels, *angles, but I'm not going to correct this because I like the idea of unpredictable angels ;) detours, an accumulation of crispy leaves and

chunky sticks, construction, and the harsh whiz of the traffic tested her.  I didn’t see

the beauty of what she was doing.  I saw anguish.  Trying this hard sucks and I almost

couldn’t stand her suffering effort any longer.  But... how could I say, “Just quit!”  That

seemed almost offensive at this point.   I couldn’t take her pain away, so I told her to

keep going.
Yikes, this was hard to read. I hate that my struggle affected her so much, or that it's even that hard for me to do at all. Annette knew me when I was on top of my game placing in triathlons in my very first year, sucks that stupid Mile 11 was so hard. I know, I know, patience. But wait til next year ya'll,  this won't be a thing anymore. I take that back - "It never gets easier, you just get faster."
I told her we were reaching a tipping point and that if she pushed a little

further, we’d soon reach that mile 12 marker, where a dear friend was waiting for her.

At mile 12, walking did not become physically easier, but her spirits had been lifted.

First, her old friend had joined our little crew. LOEY!! Loey was a college roommate, and fellow veterinarian, who came down from Texas to run her first half with me! She did awesome. Talk about sarcastic... this is when our little posse started gearing up. Second, we figured out that somehow

she had made up some time and had an hour left to finish the last mile. It's that psoas work!  It was very

possible, rather, very likely, that she was going to meet the race cut-off time.  We let

her take over the contemptible sidewalks, and she did her thing.  Serendipitously, with

about .3 miles left, other friends joined our little crew. Nic, Andy, my kid, Andy's kid. Yeah yeah, totally cool having our kids cross the finish line with us. BUT Andy was the best. He had flown down here because I basically forced him into this race ;) He is a seasoned marathoner and he ran the whole, but being from upstate New York he struggled with the heat and humidity. We saw him earlier in the race, and his sweaty hug was cold, not a good sign. At this point though, after he had met and overcame his own struggles, he was quite determined that if he had to go through all that than I sure as hell was going to finish it. There was no chance of quitting at this point even if I had wanted to. Misery loves company ;)  Now, she squeezed out her last

bits of effort.  As we approached the very last traffic light, which controlled four lanes of

traffic, the light turned red, stopping us within mere yards from her finish.  That’s when

the crew ran out in the middle of traffic screaming and waving our hands.  Those cars

just had to stop!  So, I’m sorry if we startled anyone. Ya'll, this was hilarious to see. Those guys totally stopped traffic on Congress. It would have been worth watching the whole race just to see that!

And on she walked those last yards, finishing the race before the time limit with dignity

and utter satisfaction with just a few of the race organizers watching. There were no fan

fare, no press like the other race, just herself to answer to, to impress, and to thank.

She chose to finish that race because she could. TOTALLY worth it. Last race was fun getting flocked by the press and feeling like a celebrity, but finishing up with some of my favorite people on Earth, with the Race Directors that I happened to be friends with and who did such an incredible job pulling off their first marathon, this was the best finish.  She didn’t mean to be hit by a car last

year, but it happened.  She didn’t mean to break her neck in that accident, but she did.

This race, however, she meant to do.  She chose to do, and that is powerful stuff.

Sweetest finish ever.
Photo Credit to the fabulous Christina Gravish

I'll let her wrap it up with the next bit without comment. You've already seen how awesome she is, her following observations she deserves full attention for.
From me, thanks for everything! Thanks to everyone who came down for the NOLA RnR. And thanks to everyone both known and unknown in the Zydeco - we're so close knit here in Laffy, I knew so many of you! Love you all! Looking forward to all of our futures.

Along the race route, we met other people in similar situations as my friend- people

racing when it was hard, real hard, with no chance of winning.  We met athletes with

injuries, determined first-time runners, and exhausted people.  There were a few other

super humans, like my friend: a sweet woman recovering from a traumatic brain injury,

and an experienced marathoner pushing her friend (in an adult-sized jogger), who

obviously had mobility impairments far more severe than my friend’s.  And what about

the people we didn’t meet?   How about the people running away from things?  I’m sure

the race helped exorcise many personal demons that day.

We saw U.S. veterans running with flags, and we saw people running for their beliefs

and causes. For others, it may have been far more simple…an average lady, setting

out to try something new, just for fun or the regular guy, just trying to get in shape.  The

majority of racers, like my friend, were running simply because they wanted to, not to

win.  Only a small percentage of the highly talented, highly trained racers actually have

a shot at winning.

Win or lose, we all have the choice to race- to participate in living- either walking or

running.  As a counselor for college students with disabilities, I often witness that

an ability or disability does not determine a successful student.  Success comes to

students who choose success, and to those who set a course for success.  You see,

many of my students are the first in their families to attend college, and they rely on

federal grants to pay their tuition.  My students are like my friend, “walking” against

runners to the same finish line. Graduation.

These students might not know that success can be theirs, too.  Maybe no one has

pointed that out yet.  They may have doubts, and could use some well-wishers every

now and then.   They may get scared when it sucks to try so hard. Encouragement.

Recognition of their strengths.  These things matter.  They need a course, a well-
planned strategy, and mile markers to keep them looking forward toward their goals, but

they know that their success is ultimately up to them.  

Everyone can choose to give up or keep going, even on a tough course.  We can all

become tough competitors, like my friend, like my students, “racing” because we can.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Note to My Dog on His 14th Birthday

I took my last final at LSU ever - Agronomy - early so I could go pick him up.
We went to obedience and agility classes 3x/week with the infamous Dick Russell.
  The only dog to beat him in contests was my Wildlife and Fisheries professor's duck dog.
We would snorkel in the Caribbean together, he would jump in my car window when it was time to go anywhere.
  Sometimes he made mistakes and went into other people's cars
He had his own social life at the beach, people would approach me and say OH, You're Rebel's owner.
His full name is Terbo Oran Rebel - Terbo for the kennel, Oran means music in Gaelic.
  Rebel Music is a nod to Bob Marley, I knew he would be a Caribbean dog.
He once saved my life by chasing a burglar out of my bedroom.
We played in snow in Missouri, the Fall leaves in South Carolina, the bars of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
  Here in Lafayette it's the neighborhood kids.
Man we've been through so much, I look back on 14 years and travels and experiences and so much pain he was there with me through. Becoming a doctor. Becoming a mother. My one constant in life. My everloving companion.
He's now in his dotage, and deaf. Sleeps a lot. Arthritis in his right knee. He still follows so close, almost tripping me, and now more dangerous than ever because I'm easier to trip since I'm walking without a cane! But not to worry, my responsibility to him is to give him the best quality of life possible, he won't be forgotten in his old age. Or ever.

Happy 14th Rebel!


Friday, March 21, 2014

New Chapters - Canoeing, Freelancing, and of course Saving the Animals!

It's been quite the week. I've been jonesin for some life changes, it's time. I've been irritable and wanderlusting and driving around the countryside with very little aim, all signs. I've been avidly watching BMX and skateboarding and motocross documentaries about Mat Hoffman and Danny Way (go watch "The Birth of Big Air" right now!) My truck's fuel pump went out and I didn't have wheels for the weekend, liked to kill me. (This did give me the opportunity to meet some cool people though, like the guy that helped me out of the road, the cop that drove Snakebyte and I home who was awesome and we had a long discussion about Border Collies, and the girl driving the tow truck - I have a broken neck, she has a broken back, but we both are badass and handled things.) Big thanks to Daniel Hale, Jon Langlinais, and Poupie's for bailing me out!
Anyway, I had to miss camping due to the truck but luckily Nic took Liam, so at least he got to go. Didn't help with my pissy mood, stupid Ides of March. But luckily I have awesome friends (thanks Bike Maldwin, and Marlon!) that totally helped. And this week started, it just got better from there.

Firstly, Tuesday was my second day hanging out at Waggin Train's new clinic with Dr. Scott Broussard. I had contacted his wife Kristin (also a vet) and him about getting back in the vetting world, and they are incredibly awesome and letting me go whenever I can, just to see what I can do. I had to work this week on my schedule not being so piece-mealed so I can go on a more regular basis. Just about every day is my goal. I'm incredibly happy there. The entire staff is sweet and knowledgeable, the clinic is new and state-of-the-art, and the medicine they practice is high quality. That along with incredibly caring doctors really makes this the best experience for me. Plus, they're triathletes. Plus, Scott's a falconer. I could go on and on about the awesomeness they are, but suffice to say, I'm happier than I have been in ages. I can't thank them enough.

Also this week I started some freelance work for an independent Baton Rouge publication called Dig; I'm stoked about this. I love writing, and I basically have free rein to write about any sports I want, bicycles, and vet med/pets. It doesn't pay big, but it's awesome to do something productive again.
Along those lines, I'm gearing up to get my real estate license and work with Gabe Lewis, one of the best people you'd ever meet in the business. It will at the very least be a good interim job for me, I'm quite excited about it. I'll let you know as it progresses!

Lastly but not leastly, racing racing. The Zydeco Half is less than two weeks away, good times! I have Not trained for it. My focus has been hardcore strength training which just isn't conducive to endurance training. I have to focus on strength to get back to walking without a cane. But I'm participating in it, and am so excited to be part of Lafayette's inaugural marathon!
I also just today started training for the 3-day, 135 mile canoe race Tour du Teche, which Dennis Wise (who lives on Bayou Teche) invited me to race with him. He's also an avid runner, Pilates instructor, qigong master, barefoot Yellowstone hiker, etc. I have a lot to learn and a lot of muscle to build, but the race is in October so I have the time I need. Never have I personally conquered that "it's about the journey, not about the destination" idea; for me it's ALL about the goal. With this, though, with Dennis's obviously very grounded outlook on life and how much of a teacher he is, the journey's going to be a key part in my personal growth. Stoked.

I was tough and strong, I got knocked back so far I couldn't even feed myself, and while I would never say it was good I got hit, the time I had to take off allowed me to hone myself in, and participate in things that are going to make me tougher and stronger than ever. I'm not saying that I'm better off for the injury, I'm saying that that hiccup in my life was not a deal breaker after all. I'm back on the path to being better and better, just as I was before. I can stretch up all the way to the sky now, I haven't been able to do that in over a year. Life feels so good. Ever onward.

Wanderlusting
There's a Kestrel in this photo

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Q50 Ultras USA 2014

Sweetest guy ever, I *may* have  teared up when Cesar gave me a copy of the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne with this inscription. He also gave me a beautiful black walking stick which, after conspiring with the streets of New Orleans, has already claimed my blood. That is a different story.


Cesar Torres is the race director of Q50 Races. These are ultramarathons that he puts on around the globe. I met Cesar (pronounced Si-Zar), well, I didn't really meet him for a while. He friended me out of nowhere on Facebook a while back, then we went through this thing where he thought he needed a resume (the guy doesn't need a resume, he's quite self-explanatory) and I don't know, we became friends after that. He's a lot like me except a guy, tall, and even more hyper if that's possible. I don't know, it might not be possible to have more energy than me. ANYWAY,
I saw him for the first time at mile 10 when he was running a water station for the NOLA R'n'R Marathon and demanded he gave me a hug. It was the mile that I was becoming tired and "zombified", and he had on this crazy wig...anyway, again, fast friends as far as I was concerned. He then asked me to be the Guest of Honor for his 50 mile trail race coming up (3 distances to choose from - half marathon, full, and ultra) along with Arturo Barrios, Olympian and world record holder in several distances for multiple years. Needless to say I was incredibly honored and a little starstruck. On top of that I knew I was going to be surrounded by dedicated runners that worked as hard as I did to accomplish feats of their own, which is always the best inspiration for me.
None of this prepared me for what was to come.

This was my first experience with trail racing. I've raced road races, and I know that crowd. I got to Bogue Chitto the day before to see the trails, find my cabin, etc. I brought a book to read and was set up for a quiet evening. Somehow I lost my freaking cane before I went, and Cesar and his crew were busy with some last minute trail adjustments (heavy rains had changed some things) so first thing I did after checking in with the fabulous Jeff Delaune was practice walking up and down hills, over and over and over.

Walkin 'round without a cane

Then I met Danny Burke from Covington and of Life Somatics. He was there to volunteer, and also to teach people about Somatics, which is a form of therapy that retrains your muscles to perform correctly after repetitive use (such as running). He worked with me and it was amazing. This is useful for anyone, and with me, where my brain is trying to re-learn how to move my muscles correctly with the different signals it's getting from my spinal cord, it was really helpful. Better than a massage. I encourage you to check it out.

I also met Charles Dye, Cat Thompson, Paige Johnson, Nicole Latour, and so many other awesome people. Volunteering for this race is a ridiculous amount of fun. Everyone is focused and gets their job done, but is also silly and nice to each other. This type of work environment is so incredibly suited for me that I felt very comfortable right away, even though Cesar was the only person I had ever met there and that was only once before.

SO, that night I was hopeful to meet the legendary Arturo Barrios, read a good book, and get some good sleep in. This is not necessarily what everyone else had in mind. I accomplished one of these things. First thing I noticed walking into the cabin with these guys was Charles's Black Flag shirt, which I commented on right away, and which was followed up by immediate teasing from Arturo. It didn't take 2 minutes for tequila to come out and the night continued from there. Incredible. Felt like I knew these guys all my life.

I was not expecting to have a world champion, a well-respected race director, and the amazing Nicole to go for my trademark "everybody stick their tongues out" picture. At least not right away!

Charles Dye's pic of my most awesome selfie

My most awesome selfie

The next morning, "Paige" came in the cabin at 5-something am ringing a cowbell to wake us up and get started. Woohoo, race day! I was stoked to see what this was all about. We made it out to the course and got ready for the ultramarathoners to get started. What an awesome group of people!

They're about to take off!

From there I was way busier than I thought. I rode around with Cesar checking everyone on the course, and hung out with Arturo a lot. Arturo was incredibly awesome to talk to, and he had a lot of advice for this broken-necked single mother veterinarian. Having 5 children of his own, the advice that stuck with me the most was to let my kid have all the confidence in the world. I was telling him how Snakebyte was perhaps a little over-confident because he did so well in his first few races and triathlon, and his undefeated soccer team. I said I think he needs his ass kicked a little at this point because he doesn't feel the need to practice or train anymore. Arturo says to let him be and have that confidence, he'll get his ass kicked soon enough and self confidence is so important to a successful life that I wouldn't be doing him any favors by squashing it.

Atrturo and me. Tri-Cajuns, he agreed to give a clinic when he's back in town!
Photo credit Nicole Decker. Check her out here: ndeckerrunner

Taking pics of all the runners, shouting encouragement until he can't speak anymore, constantly making sure trail markings were okay...Cesar is fantastic. He also doesn't allow paper or plastic on the trails, and gives away hand-made pottery from local artists, and walking sticks, and other awesomeness as prizes instead of typical medals and buckles. There is no one out there better suited to run trail races.

Kid's race - chase that donkey!

The runner's themselves - well this is the biggest difference I found in road vs. trail racing. These guys were incredibly supportive of each other. Everyone was cheering everyone in. I saw people helping each other on the trails, striking up conversations and running together, all smiles and encouragement. I met so many people that knew my story, or that I knew virtually but never had met in real life. They approached me and just started sharing. Funny story, one of these ladies stopped by at check-in just to say she admired me. We got to talking and I told her I was a vet, and come to find out she's one too! She said her husband and her (both vets) own a clinic in Baton Rouge - Perkins Road Veterinary Hospital. Ya'll. This is where I worked right before I took off for vet school. She and her husband had bought it out about 2 months before I left. We didn't remember each other because it was for such a short period of time so long ago, but I used to work for these people! Awesome! 
All in all, trail runners are a great group of people that I'm stoked to be more involved with in the future.

*Q50 Racers - here are the pics I took! I'm also linking them to the Facebook event site and giving them to Cesar! Here: Q50 Race Photos

Arturo Barrios and I have made a pact to run the half marathon part of this race next year. If the rest of this blog post hasn't convinced you to try Q50 out, you totally should could come out just to do it with us. Ya'll have a great one!