Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty-One

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie sat across the round table in the hospital dining hall from Alyson, who had come into Jennifer’s room this morning while making her rounds. Alyson intended to make good on her offer of coffee from the day before. Jennifer was still sleeping, so Melanie agreed to join her.

Melanie wrapped her chilled hands around the mug and relished the warmth. The hospital coffee was surprisingly good. She breathed in the rich scent of fresh ground beans and freshly brewed coffee. It made her miss working at the coffee shop in Blue River. Blue River seemed like forever ago.

“I demanded that they stop serving two day old coffee, since I essentially live here at the hospital after my husband passed away,” Alyson said as she smiled a twinkle in her chestnut eyes.

“There really is no sense in leaving,” Alyson continued. “Especially since the Justice Law passed. Bodies, alive and dead, continually stream in through the ER doors.”

“You don’t ever leave?” Melanie asked.

“I’m sixty-five and have no interest in learning to be a sharp shooter and caring a gun strapped to my body. In here, I have everything I need.”

“Is that why there are three and four people to a room?” Melanie asked.

Alyson nodded. “It wasn’t like that before. We are constantly overwhelmed now. There are so many Jane and John Doe’s in here that you’d think the Doe’s were rabbits.”

“No one comes in to claim their relatives?”

“Everyone is afraid, child. Mostly it’s strangers, who bring in people they find shot or stabbed on the streets. Families would rather live in ignorance about the fate of their members than risk their own lives checking the hospitals for anyone who has gone missing for a few days.”

“They can’t just call in?” Melanie asked.

“Goodness, no! We don’t have time to sort that out. Sometimes the victims who do wake up or come in conscious, don’t want to give their names out of fear they will be found by whoever tried to kill them in the first place.”

Melanie silently contemplated her cream swilling in the dark coffee. She hadn’t really considered the impact the Justice Law would have on the health care system. The government cannot pay enough police, how were the hospitals going to be staffed and supplied? The more Melanie found out about the Justice Law the more she was convinced that those in charge were either idiots or this whole thing was some corrupt population control mechanism.

Alyson sipped from her mug. “You’re mom is doing well. She’s a fighter, much like you I expect.”

“We are very different,” Melanie said. “Don’t you have children?” She asked wanting to change the subject from her and her mom’s bumpy relationship.

Alyson shook her head. “The hospital and patients are my children. I dedicated my entire life to my career and caring for other people. Alfred, my husband, wanted children, but I thought it would hinder my ability to become a doctor and remain objective in making difficult decisions. He loved me anyway, such a good man. I’m glad he didn’t have to see the world come to this.” She waved her hand.

“How did he die?”

“Leukemia. He was a fighter too, all the way to the end.”

Melanie hung her head. “I’m sorry.”

“Sometimes, I think that the dead are the lucky ones. They don’t have to watch this horror show. No more suffering.”

“People can be so cruel. They forget that they are more similar to one another than different,” Melanie said looking out the window at the jagged mountains in the distance and the grey clouds caught upon the peaks.

“Do you want a refill?” Alyson asked.

“Yes, please. With cream.”

Alyson took Melanie’s mug and went back to the counter.

Pieces of conversations from other tables drifted to Melanie.

“The morgue is full again,” said a man to her right.

“I should have become a mortician or a grief counselor,” a woman to her left said.

Everyone’s life has become focused on death, Melanie realized. Who to kill, who could kill you, how you can prevent your loved ones from being killed; the business of death was growing. It had become an everyday conversation. In less than a month, the Justice Law and transformed the way people view life.

Compassion and kindness had been replaced by fear and placing a value on your neighbor’s life. Every person decides what to do and not do based upon if it is worth dying for, rather than is it the right choice.

Alyson returned sliding a plate of pancakes and eggs in front of Melanie and setting a full mug of coffee before her as well. “You need to stay healthy for your mom, even when she gets out of here, she will need your help with everyday things until she regains her strength.” Alyson slid into the chair again and sipped her black coffee.

Melanie squeezed the ketchup onto her eggs and smeared the pancakes with butter and syrup.

“What happens to the bodies without names or families?” She asked and shoveled eggs into her mouth.

Alyson looked away from her. “There is a mass grave dug, once a week, in the cemetery down the street.”

Endurance Sports Show: Take Away Part two

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Part one includes information on running myths, low carb endurance, and running biomechanics and can be found by scrolling down after this post.

Here are the major points I took away from the lectures on Open Water Swimming and Transition Two in Triathlons at the Endurance Sports Show this past weekend.

Open Water Swimming: (1) You can draft in swimming just like in cycling; (2) an efficient way around a buoy is to cork screw, roll from front to back to front as you turn around the buoy; (3) sight on nearly every stroke, if you don’t see what you want just keep sighting don’t slow down; (4) you should do speed work in every swim even on recovery swims; (5) there are two main schools of swimming: Total immersion and straight arm turn over, they are not compatible; (6) get comfortable with other people in the water and in open water; (7) triathletes don’t want to build massive shoulders like elite swimmers because it slows them down on the bike and run; (8) swim until your hands brush the bottom when exiting the water, running through the water is a waste of energy.

Triathlon T2: (1) the tri-bike body position makes this transition a little easier than a road bike position; (2) do two sets of deep air squats every day; (3) keep your lower back limber; (4) keep your hip flexors and hamstrings limber; (5) everyone struggles through this transition because the back and core muscles are cramped up on the bike; (6) lacrosse balls make excellent massage tools for the Hamstring. Place the ball under your thigh on the hamstring while on a hard surface, then bend and extend your lower leg. This causes the hamstring to move over the ball; (7) tape two lacrosse balls together to make a massage tool for the back, use it against a wall rolling it up and down your spine.

My big take away: I have a lot of work to do.

I’m pretty solid on my running. I know how to improve in that area. I know quite a lot about running, gear, mechanics, training strategies, physiology, strength, and injury.

I’m sad to admit that I’ve been walking around with an enormous mental block about cycling and swimming: that I can just put in the miles/meters and I’d be just fine. This is probably fine for a goal of “just finish the race,” but if you want to challenge yourself and see, what you are capable of accomplishing, it won’t work.

In other words, I need to apply the knowledge I have about running to swimming and cycling. I need to train as hard at these two as I do with running.

Finally, I was also able to corner one of the physical therapists at the Endurance Sports Show and ask about the pop in my knee two weeks ago. He said if I had torn a ligament, it would have swollen like a grapefruit immediately, and the swelling would not have gone down after two-three days. Diagnosis: sprained knee. I’m clear to run so long as it does not cause pain.

Endurance Sports Show: Take Away Part one

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I attended the Endurance Sports Show this past Friday and Saturday. I wandered through the exhibit hall looking at booths on cycling, running, and swimming. I spoke with athlete’s and experts in all three areas. I listened to lectures on popular running myths, low carb endurances, running biomechanics, open water swimming, and the transition from bike to run during a triathlon. There was so much information and amazing knowledgeable presenters. I’m excited for years to come because this will only get bigger.

I’m going to do this in two parts because I know everyone is busy and can’t read long blog posts.

Here are the major things I took away from each lecture:

Running Myths: (1)Stretching doesn’t reliably prevent injury; (2) warm-ups don’t reliably prevent injury (3) motion control shoes regardless of foot type have the highest injury rate among runners; (4) neutral and stability shoes, regardless of foot type have the lowest injury rate among runners; (5) you should choose your shoes by comfort not foot type; (6) orthotics and store bought insoles have the same injury prevention rate regardless of injury type.

Low Carb Endurance: (1) Low carb athletes are setting major records; (2) Low carb athletes add in carbs during racing and high volume training depending on their tolerance for carbs; (3) low carb athletes consume under 50 carbs a day during low volume days; (4) Low carb athletes process carbs more efficiently and get the most bang for their buck; (5) the product Vespa assist in the body’s transition between burning fat and carbs; (6) low carb runners should be eating a lot of liver or taking a liver supplement and they need to watch their electrolyte levels more than other athletes.

Running Biomechanics: (1) there are ways to reduce impact forces both externally and internally; (2) shoes and gear are external and running form is internal; (3) Cadence is the best way to reduce impact; (4) like everything in running, you don’t want to make major changes to your cadence all at once, so follow the 10% rule; (5) 180 steps a minute is ideal for most (but not all) runners. You can get metronome apps to help with this; (6) maintain a 6% forward lean and keep your feet below your center of gravity; (7) you should be landing with a bent knee. This is more important than the contact point of your foot (heel strike, mid-foot, or forefoot); (8) hip strength is a big deal in running form, it maintains your legs in the proper position beneath your body.

Part Two will be posted on Wednesday: including open water swimming and the struggle of the T2 (bike to run) transition during triathlons.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Thirty

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Melanie had never been religious, yet, she found herself drawn to the small chapel in the hospital and not in mere passing. She had sought it out, asking a nurse where she could find it. She stopped at the threshold of the dimly lit room. White pine benches straddled a narrow isle leading to an altar made of the same pine and draped with a green cloth. No one was in the room. Melanie shuffled along the navy blue runner paving the way to the front, her mind was drawn into itself.

The idea of a god never sat right with her, but every time she found herself lost and clutching at the strings of hope, she sought god out.  Maybe this was some menial proof that there was a god or maybe she was willing to do anything to comfort herself through a belief that somewhere there was a sort of unconditional love and peace, that her existence was more than this life.

Believing that there was nothing after death did not sit well with her either, but nothing in life provided her with any assurance that there was more than darkness after the last breath. Melanie clung to this world and the life that it offered her, even though, it was not as she had imagined it.

She struck the match along the small cardboard box. Breathing in the sulfur, she touched the flame to the small white candle.  She sank to her knees. The cold tile pressed into her kneecaps. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.

She wasn’t asking for much, only that they all reach the safe zone alive.  She knew that if there was a god, she had to keep her request straightforward and reasonable. Alive.  Was that too much to ask? She didn’t mind so much if they were hungry, naked, injured, or sick. Just alive. She filled her lungs with the soft scent of incense, which she had not noticed before then.  It sent a jolt through her. It had not been there when she first entered.

Her eyes popped open and she lifted her head swinging it around to see behind her. It was the older woman she had seen in the hallway, when she had sat waiting to be taken to see her mom after surgery.  The woman sat on the bench on the second row. Her violet eyeglasses peeked out of the pocket on her white coat. Her caramel skin glowed in the flickering candlelight. Her head was tilted back and her eyes were closed.

Melanie watched the rise and fall of her chest. A calm tranquil expression softened the lines of age at the corners of the woman’s eyes and mouth.  Melanie got to her feet and the woman opened her brown eyes. Flecks of gold caught the light as a smile spread across the woman’s face.

“I’m Alyson Binkard,” she said and patted the spot next to her.

Melanie sat.

“Your mom’s here right?”

Melanie nodded.

“I’m a doctor in the trauma unit, not a stocker.”

Melanie didn’t need to look at her to see the smile. She heard it along with the suppressed laugh in Alyson’s voice.

“I think god has been watching over your mamma. A bullet in the belly is generally fatal.”

Melanie turned to her this time.

“What’s your name?”

“Melanie Craig.”

Alyson mouthed her name as if tasting it, and nodded her head a few times. “Well Melanie, I expect we will be seeing a bit of one another over the next week or two, while your mamma is here healing up. Perhaps we will get coffee sometime.”

Melanie smiled. “I’d like that.”

Melanie got to her feet and turned to go.

“Melanie, next time you’re in here, will you light a candle for me too?”

Melanie paused. “Of course, Dr. Binkard.”

“Alyson, please,” she said a gazed up at Melanie a sadness pulled at her face.

Melanie walked slowly back to her mom’s room. She looked in each of the rooms she passed. There were patients in each, sometimes three or four. Even in her mother’s room, there was another woman, who had been found at the bottom of a staircase, shattered and bleeding. She would hear the flat-line tone and rushing feet multiple times throughout the day and night, and she would hold onto her mom even tighter.

Melanie has been wandering the halls for three days now. Sometimes she watched her mom sleep, and sometimes she went for a walk. If her mom was awake, she was at her side.

Karalynn sent flowers, cookies, and books for Jennifer.  She visited when she could.

Mitchel brought Sam in each morning and they had breakfast together, and then he would take her back to Karalynn’s where she could play and be a child. She knew she was lucky to have Mitchel to look after Sam and Daisy while she stayed with her mom. She didn’t even have to ask him.

What in the Hell do people do on the weekend?

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Last Wednesday, while doing my strength routine, my left knee popped as I twisted out of the plank position. It had never done that before. It hurt a little. I poked and prodded it, and everything felt fine, nothing was tender. I finished my workout and didn’t think about it the rest of the evening.

The next morning, I went out for a ten mile run. Around mile seven, my knee started to hurt. It didn’t hurt bad, just a small ache at the inner top corner of the knee near the spot that had popped the night before.

“Oh god,” I thought, that would be perfect, an injured knee five weeks before a 100 mile race.

I kept running, of course, the pain didn’t get worse and after two miles it went away. “Whew. Dodged that bullet.”

Once I was back home, I ate breakfast, sucked down some coffee, and got ready for work. As I was bending to get into my car, my knee hurt. In fact it hurt for the rest of the day when I bent it more than just walking. It felt like it needed to pop. The skin was tight over my knee.

“Just great, it’s swollen,” I thought. I iced my knee at lunch and wrapped it with the ace wrap I keep in my desk drawer. I Iced it when I got back from court that afternoon and again after dinner.

I knew I was out of running and cycling for the weekend. I guess I should count myself lucky that it is a low mileage weekend. But, Saturday was the first team marathon training run. So Lame.

I met up with my team Saturday morning and explained that I couldn’t run. I hung out and drank coffee with Swiss Miss, who was going to run later in the day because of child care issues.

I spent all day Saturday laid up on the couch reading. All Day! I’m antsy. I’m bored. I take the dogs for a walk since walking doesn’t hurt. By Saturday afternoon, doesn’t hurt to bend anymore, but it’s still a little swollen and hurts at that top inner corner when I squat.

I spent all day Sunday laid up on the couch reading and writing. Swelling is gone. I continue to ice, compress, elevate, and rest. The swelling is gone. I’m antsy. I’m bored. I go get coffee at Starbucks just to get out of the house. I take the dogs for a walk.

At three in the afternoon, I text J$, “What in the Hell do people do on the weekend if they can’t run and cycle?”

“They watch T.V., eat food, and sit on the couch.”

“No wonder Prozac is doing so well.”

 

How Far I’ve Come…

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It’s President’s Day weekend in the United States. Holiday weekends memories for me are full of prior race adventures. Six years ago, Red Hot 50k was my first official ultra. Red Hot is held on President’s Day weekend during February in Moab, Utah.

It is about thirty-three miles long and 10,000 feet of ascent. I love Moab so; it was a perfect race for me to start running ultras. Red Hot is not an easy 50k. It is along the slick rock trails around the city. In 2009, there was two feet of snow on the high plateaus, which was unexpected. The snow had been turned to powder by the front-runners, so for us mid-pack runners, it was like running in fluffy sand at the top of the plateau. I slipped nearly falling with three or four other runners right on my heels and a one hundred foot drop on my right. We descended to a dirt road, winding us around to the next climb. Gold Bar is the highest point of the race and a brutal climb. You have to reach it by 12:30 p.m. or you will be disqualified from the race.

From Gold Bar, the trail descends on the petrified sandstone mountains called slick rock and then back out on a dirt road. Then it’s a roller coaster ride up and over petrified sand dunes that require a running start, with hands on the ground in front of you to clamber up to the top. Runners chug along a lazy winding dirt road overlooking the white and pale green hills for three miles. We slowly lowered our bodies through rock crevasses down onto next boulder and into a sandpit and narrow canyon. The race finishes by taking runners down a rock strewn switch back road in Pritchet Canyon. Runners ride buses back to the starting line where their cars are parked.

The following year, I went back to run Red Hot wanting to improve my time and enjoy the challenge and beauty of the course. I had convinced J$ to come along. The week leading up to the race was not kind to me. I was vomiting. The Friday before the race, I felt much better, but was not at the top of my game and decided to drop to the 25k distance at packet pick up. The 25k is the first 2 miles and last 16 miles of the 50k.

Race morning was incredibly windy and greeted us with blown over port-o-potties. Out on the course we were saved from the wind while down in the canyons, but up on top at Gold Bar it was howling. J$ and I made it well before the cut off and began the descent.

You have to pay attention on the slick rock because you have to pick up your feet despite descending at a steep grade. I caught my toe and rolled ten feet down the rock face. The fall scared J$ more than it did me. I rolled right up onto my feet, and he started looking me up and down checking for damage, but I was ready to move. I laughed, said I was fine pushing away his hands, and we continued the descent. Fair warning to those captivated by the beauty of red rock cliffs, you have to keep your eyes on the trail.

After the climb to Gold Bar, the descent, and roller coaster sand dunes, Jeff asked, “Does it ever level out?”

“Yes, there is about a three mile dirt road coming up I swear.”

We kept running and Jeff became convinced the flat road was an illusion. “You must have been hallucinating. Were their unicorns on this flat road?”

Six years later, I’d like to think that I am in much better condition and could crush my eight hour finish on the 50k course from 2009. Red Hot may have to go to the top of the list for 2016, perfect way to open the season.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Nine

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Eric drove like a madman, squealing tires at every corner and blowing through traffic lights hammering on the horn.

Melanie held firm pressure on her mother’s stomach. The blood was seeping between her fingers. “Hold on mom.”

Eric threw a glance back at her. He was hard to read, his expression stoic. She didn’t know if she should be saying goodbye to her mom or if it was going to be all right. She didn’t want to ask.

They bumped over something.

“What was that?” Melanie asked her heart racing.

“We’re almost there,” he said as he turned his face forward.

He pulled the hummer up to the ambulance entrance hitting the horn twice and then jumping out. Three men in blue and red scrubs came dashing out with a gurney as Eric pulled open the backdoor. “She’s been shot in the stomach.”

The men pulled while Melanie pushed her mom out of the back seat. Jennifer groaned and her eyes fluttered as she slid onto the white sheet on the gurney. Melanie followed them inside with Eric a few steps behind her on the phone. She only caught a few words he was saying, “Jennifer…. shot….I don’t know…. Doctors took her.” Melanie stopped listening to him and focused on her mom’s now pale features.

They pushed the gurney down the hallway. Hospitals all smell the same. Everyone in the hall stepped aside to let them through. A doctor in a flapping white smock jogged to catch up to them.

“O.R. four,” he said.

They pushed through heavy metal doors and the man in red scrubs turned and stopped Melanie from entering.

“You have to wait out here. Your mom?” he paused bending down to look directly into her down cast eyes.

Melanie nodded her head.

He continued, “She is in good hands. Dr. Johns is our best surgeon. We’ll come talk with you as soon as she is out of surgery.”

Melanie didn’t move. She stared at the pale grey doors. He touched her arm and she jerked, and turned to look at him.

“My name’s James. How about you come back out to the lobby with me? You can get some hot chocolate and sit down. Are you hungry? I’m sure I can find something for you to eat.”

Melanie nodded slowly. She barely registered his gentle hand on her back as he led her back down the hall and planted her in a chair. A few minutes later, he brought her some crackers and hot chocolate. She wrapped her hands around the warm Styrofoam cup.

Memories of her father’s funeral drifted through her mind, his pale grey visage lying there in the ivory casket. Her mom had told her not to go in during the viewing, but she had to see him one last time. All the warmth of his skin had been left on the frozen mountain where the rescuers had found his body.

After a while, James left her and she was alone in the small lobby outside the operating rooms floating between the past and the present. She couldn’t lose her mom. Not now, how would she take care of Sam and where would they go?

She didn’t know how long she sat there. When she came out of the fog of memories, Eric was sitting next to her reading a Men’s Health Magazine. He flipped a page.

“What’s taking so long?” she whispered.

He closed the magazine and set it on the chair next on him.

The metal doors open and Melanie sprang to her feet, dropping the Ritz crackers that were in her lap onto the linoleum floor. She looked down at them.

“I’m Dr. Johns,” a man held out his hand to her.

She looked up at him. His walnut hair was peppered with grey. He gave her a small smile and then dropped his hand to his side. He was dressed in black slacks and a dress shirt. She could smell his spicy aftershave. “Melanie Craig right?”

She nodded.

“Your mom asked for you.”

Melanie grabbed his hand. “She’s Ok?”

He nodded. “She will be, but we are going to need to keep her here for a few weeks.”

“Can I see her?”

“We are moving her into a room. Once we have her set up, I’ll send a nurse out to take you to see her.”

“Thank you.”

The doctor eyed Eric before leaving them.

Melanie sank into the chair. She laughed a little and exhaled audibly.

“Is Karalynn coming?” Melanie asked and then remembering the crackers on the floor picked them up and opened them. She shoved three into her mouth. She held the package out to Eric.

He shook his head. “She doesn’t want to bring your sister until she knows your mom’s condition. She thought it would be better to not tell Sam until we had some idea about what would happen.”

Melanie shoved more crackers into her mouth.

Eric handed her a bottle of water. She grinned at him. He smiled and got to his feet. “I’ll go call Mrs. Christopoulos and let them know the good news.”

Melanie unscrewed the cap on the water. Dried blood was caked in the creases of her knuckles.

Melanie sat picking the darkened blood from beneath her nails. She glanced up. An older woman with a slight hunch in her back and a long white doctor’s smock met her eyes. She pushed her violet glasses up on the bridge of her nose. Melanie stood, but then the woman turned down another hallway.

Melanie paced from one end of the lobby to the other.

James reappeared after Melanie had made two laps across the room.

“Your mom is waiting for you,” he said.

A hanging lantern lamp in the corner of the room provided a dim glow in the room. She approached the edge of the bed. The head of the bed was slightly elevated. The color still had not returned to her mother’s face. A light green blanket covered her mom. Melanie sat in the chair next to the bed, and Jennifer pulled her hand from beneath the covers and rested it on her daughter’s.

Her mom’s hand was cold. Melanie wrapped it in her own.

“I love you mom.”

“I love you too Mel.”

She held her mother’s hand while she drifted off to sleep.