Saturday, May 28, 2011


Thursday, on day seven, climbing up through Ochoco National Forest, I finally felt like I was in a groove.  Lighter traffic allowed me to lose myself in my thoughts, appreciate the unfamiliar yet inviting ponderosa forest that surrounded me, and even sing my favorite old songs loudly for my own amusement.

The day before I decided my ankle needed a break, and my sister Doreen sprung into action, calling a fellow Caldwell-Banker real estate agent in Prineville, were I sat moping, to see if there were any runners there who might host me for the night so I could heal. They suggested Norm Smith, who owned Xtreme Fitness Center with his wife Alicia.  Norm has completed many Ironman competitions and happens to as nice as he is inspiring.

Within minutes, Doreen called Norm and Norm called me and I had an invitation to relax at the fitness center during the day and an spend the night with Norm and Alicia. Thank you, Norm and Alicia! So I had a half day of rest, ice, and ibuprofen for my ankle, and I felt ready to test it out the next day.  Norm leaves for work at 3am, so I could get an early start and have lots of time to cover the 40 miles to my next lodging.

I intended to walk the whole day, and beyond if needed, until my ankle proved to be up for running again. I would stop midway to camp if my ankle pain returned; I had enough food and beverage for two days if necessary.

Before setting out, we weighed me--good news, no change in weight--and my stroller--yikes, 60 pounds!  I am convinced that I injured my leg on the full day of descending Mt. Hood, and my heavy stroller surely compounded the problem, adding to the strain on my legs and altering my stride.  I should say that the stroller is strikingly easy to push with 40 pounds of cargo.  I couldn't be more happy with it.  Yet, I underappreciated--foolishly, since I know better--the strain of all this downhill running so early in my trip.

Back to Thursday: the early start was glorious, and I was on top of the world with enthusiasm and optimism.  I had no pain while walking, and it was encouraging to realize that I could walk 40 miles per day if I needed to heal.

Unfortunately, thirty miles into my walk as I crested the pass and began a steep descent--the first of the day--my ankle developed significant pain.  It was windy and sleeting at the time, so I limped down from the pass as gently as I could, and the pain subsided as the road became less steep.  The pain returned as I climbed the mile-long steep gravel road to the bunkhouse.  Upon arrival I iced immediately, but I had already done too much damage.

I woke up Friday morning at 5 without improvement in the pain or swelling, so I went back to sleep and slept to 8--much needed catchup. I spent the rest of the day Friday resting, icing, and elevating my leg. I also took regular ibuprofen--6 tablets per day.  Even these things did not significantly reduce the pain or inflammation.  It is very hard for me not to make progress for home, but I understand, thanks to many of you, that I need to recover before traveling on.

This lodging was provided to me by a son Nick of Joan and Nick's from Portland.  Nick maintains this "bunkhouse" for teams of scientists doing fieldwork  in the area.  Living here at this time are Julie and Donovan, who are studying the movement patterns of beavers in this challenging high-desert environment.  Nick has generously welcomed me to stay on here to recover, and I really don't think I have a choice to move on yet.  My next lodging, also provided by Nick, is another bunkhouse 46 miles away.  While that normally would be a perfect day's travel distance, I expect I will want to camp along the way so I don't overtax my ankle before it is strong. I'm very grateful to Nick for these places to stay.  There is no cell coverage in the area, so it is nice that I have access to a phone so I can talk with my family.  Also, the view, as you can see in this picture, is stunning.  What a beautiful area!  Nick has also given me much-needed route information for my next several days of travel through areas with no services.  Thank you, Nick!

So, it has been a time of paradoxes.  On the day when I first had confidence and enthusiasm that I will make it home, I disable myself and cast new uncertainty on the trip.  Secondly, though I worked hard to pack light, preparing for the many contingencies resulted in a heavy stroller, which ultimately decreased, not increased, my chances of succeeding.  Both of these were predictable, and hopefully they will be two small lessons among many at the beginning of a long adventure.

Thank you everyone for your support in all of the many ways!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ankle is my first test.

The front of my left ankle began stiffening yesterday, so I babied it through the afternoon. By late afternoon it was clearly a problem to reckon with, so I iced it and took a short rest. I decided to walk until it loosened up, but it became increasingly stiff.  A couple of ibuprofen at 6 pm seemed to help, and I walked for 3 ply more hours until darkness came and the stiffening returned.

I wasn't sure what I would wake up to, but so far I am encouraged.  I haven't hit the road yet (cell battery died during the night so no alarm), but it seemed to improve somewhat. I plan on being extra careful today--I always am careful--and continue on the ibuprofen.

Meanwhile, the evening was lovely for a walk.  The scary highway traffic that dominated the rest of the day diminished, and in the quiet I was serenated by birds and treated to watching the effortless elegance of antelope running in the grasslands to the east.

With fewer cars the drivers were more friendly. I generally move onto the loose gravel shoulder when passed and make eye contact. There were many more friendly waves, beeps, and smiles.  The most exciting encounter was in the afternoon when I entered Madras and was greeted at an intersection by Rob and Tracy Berg, who run the airport in town. A friend of theirs, who heard about my trip through my brother-in-law's website, saw by my tracker that I was entering town. They dropped everything and raced over to meet me. (They needn't have hurried; I was moving slowly.) They offered me all the hospitality a road-weary traveler might want, but I was anxious to keep moving, given my slow pace. I did take away the joy that comes from feeling at home in a far away place, when lovely people reach out.  Thank you.

Now, off to test my ankle!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update from Mt. Hood

I am so moved by all the support I have been getting. Thank you! I have not had time (yet!) to respond individually, but reading all the encouraging, loving comments has been sustaining me.

My body seems to be holding up OK; my biggest worry is getting sufficient calories, especially over the next several days when I enter a region with few or no services. (I am bummed because I just ate a yogurt and then realized it was artificially sweetened, wasting some precious appetite.) In retrospect, it might have been easier to run westward, since I am still figuring so much out about how to manage everything on the road; it would be much easier if there were places to buy food along the way.

My biggest challenges are more emotional, particularly at the beginnings of days when I am often filled with self doubt and loneliness. However, the emotional highs have been intense and life changing. I generally have an incredibly rich life, filled with family and friends that I love and who love me back. However, the amount of deep emotional connectedness I feel with so many people right now, old friends and new, and even strangers, has been powerful. Some of this might be explained by how dependent I am on others right now. But I think a bigger part is that people have such goodness, and my circumstances are such that I am seeing that goodness from so many people all day long and so intensely.

This morning is 32 degrees and raining, and I will be running along the shoulder of a truck-filled highway. I have 48 miles to the next settlement, Warm Springs. I’m hoping Warm Springs is aptly named! But in spite of this gloomy start, I know I am ready to take on the day, and I know that it will be filled with joys and challenges that I am so privileged to experience.

There is so much I want to say, but I will end for now with deep thanks to all of you. I hear that you are being very generous with donations to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, which means a lot to me. Thank you! So many of you have been sharing word of this trip through your own networks, and I am touched several times a day when folks contact me and I hear how they came to find out. Not only does it serve my goals, but it is really such a lovely demonstration of community at its very best. Finally, many people are sharing their own stories of loved ones with Alzheimer’s, some privately and some to be published on the ‘Alz Stories’ page, and I feel so honored to hear these stories and to help share them. I believe that people need to hear these stories of dignity and pain, to understand the nature of Alzheimer’s.

I included a photo here of my Portland friends Joan and Nick Bouwes, who over these first few days have been the epitome of love and thoughtfulness. I needed their support in these first few days, and I will carry their generosity with me always. Through Joan and Nick, I had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people, including Seth, who reminded me how joyous it is running with others (and who fixed me up with maltodextrin!).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Almost ready...

Flying to the Oregon coast Wednesday, looking forward to getting on the road, deeply moved by the support of friends and family, and, increasingly, people I have yet to meet.  Thank you!  Once in a while something just feels right…