Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Name Game

Yesterday, I got off my lazy ass and went to Rob's 3 hour spin class. This was my first time back at spinning, always smart to jump in to an endurance class after a long absence. The music always has a theme. This time it was Names- so Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, In the Name of Love, Mambo Number 5, etc.

I also learned how to play "Screw Your Buddy" which kept me entertained while I bruised my booty beyond repair.

Screw Your Buddy:
The first person chooses a torture the class will endure for a set time period, like a minute.
The person next to them has to work harder than the rest of class, and gets to pick two other people to share in the misery.
Next round person two picks the torture and their two buddies to share the pain.
And so on and so forth.

If you chose someone to feel the burn, chances are you'll be their buddy next time.
If you chose a torture the class especially hates, you'll be everyone's buddy.

Torture options:
Seated climb
Standing climb
Freezes: low resistance while standing where you try to maintain a perfect circle
Jumps: Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, sort of like mass on wheels.

I got home, took a shower, and ate an entire calzone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cancer quicker to claim the uninsured

Election year coming up. And a picture of who suffers when health care legislation is neglected:

Patients with no insurance twice as likely to die within 5 years
The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage, according to the first national study of its kind and one that sheds light on troubling health care obstacles.

People without health insurance are less likely to get recommended cancer screening tests, the study also found, confirming earlier research. And when these patients finally do get diagnosed, their cancer is likely to have spread.

The research by scientists with the American Cancer Society offers important context for the national discussion about health care reform, experts say — even though the uninsured are believed to account for just a fraction of U.S. cancer deaths. An Associated Press analysis suggests it is around 4 percent.

Those dealing with cancer and inadequate insurance weren’t surprised by the findings.
“I would just like for something to be done to help someone else, so they don’t have to go through what we went through,” said Peggy Hicks, a Florida woman whose husband died in August from colon cancer.

Edward Hicks was uninsured, and a patchwork health care system delayed him from getting chemotherapy that some argue might have extended his life.
“He was so ill. And you’re trying to get him help and you can’t, you can’t,” said his 67-year-old widow.

The new research is being published in Cancer, the cancer society’s medical journal. In an accompanying editorial, the society’s president repeated the organization’s call for action to fix holes in the health care safety net.

“The truth is that our national reluctance to face these facts is condemning thousands of people to die from cancer each year,” Dr. Elmer Huerta wrote.
Hard numbers linking insurance status and cancer deaths are scarce, in part because death certificates don’t say whether those who died were insured.

Annual cancer death tollAn Associated Press estimate — based on hospital cancer deaths in 2005 gathered by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality information and other data — suggests that at least 20,000 of the nation’s 560,000 annual cancer deaths are uninsured when they die. Experts said that estimate sounds reasonable.

That’s around 4 percent of the total cancer death toll. One reason is that most fatal cancers occur in people 65 or older — an age group covered by the federal Medicare program. Another is that more than 80 percent of adults under 65 have some form of coverage, including private insurance or the Medicaid program for the poor, according to various estimates.
Some are enrolled in Medicaid or other programs after diagnosis, when the condition worsens and their finances erode. But such 11th hour coverage can be too late; early detection is the key to catching many cancers before they’ve grown beyond control, experts said.
“Insurance makes a big difference in how early you are detecting disease,” said Ken Thorpe, an Emory University health policy researcher.

In the new study, researchers analyzed information from 1,500 U.S. hospitals that provide cancer care. They focused on nearly 600,000 adults under age 65 who first appeared in the database in 1999 and 2000 and who had either no insurance, private insurance or Medicaid.
Plight of uninsuredResearchers then checked records for those patients for the five years following. They found those who were uninsured were 1.6 times more likely to die in five years than those with private insurance.

More specifically, 35 percent of uninsured patients had died at the end of five years, compared with 23 percent of privately insured patients.
Earlier studies have also shown differences in cancer survival rates of the uninsured and insured, but they were limited to specific cancers and certain geographic areas.
The new findings are consistent across different racial groups. However, the fact that whites have better survival rates cannot be explained by insurance status alone, said Elizabeth Ward, the study’s lead author.
The researchers were not able to tell if the numbers were influenced by patients’ education levels, or by other illnesses.

Experts said the study also hints at problems with quality of care after diagnosis: such as whether the patient got the appropriate operation from a high-quality surgeon, whether the tumor was thoroughly evaluated by a high-quality pathologist, and whether there was access to needed chemotherapy and radiation.

Blaming quality of care “The differences that we see in outcomes after people are diagnosed, even among those with early stage disease, suggests that problems with quality of care may be an important reason,” said Dr. John Ayanian, professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard Medical School. He didn’t participate in the cancer society study.

The study makes an even stronger statement about the role insurance plays in the timing of screenings and how that can raise the likelihood of a late-stage diagnosis, experts said.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey last year of 930 households that dealt with cancer found that more than one in four uninsured patients delayed treatment — or decided not to get it — because of the cost.
Such was the case of Edward Hicks.

The retired laborer, had surgery for colorectal cancer in 2005 and was thought to be clear of the disease. Chemotherapy was suggested after the surgery, but he didn’t get it.
In February of this year, his wife grew worried when he lost energy and appetite. In April, he told her he felt a lump in his stomach.

Hicks, who lived in Fort Meade, Fla., couldn’t get an appointment with a specialist, but a family doctor checked him into a hospital and specialists saw him in late May. They said he was terminal but that chemotherapy might extend his life a little, his wife said.

She was able to get donated chemotherapy drugs from a pharmaceutical company, but it took time to arrange the treatments, which didn’t start until mid-June. Meanwhile, her husband’s health deteriorated. In July, after just a few treatments, he stopped the chemo, saying it was too hard. He died on Aug. 21, at age 64.

Friends and family told Peggy they believe he would have lived longer had he got chemo earlier, when he was stronger. She doesn’t agonize over that, she said, trusting in God’s will.
But the devil’s in her mailbox — she is facing a $21,000 hospital bill and other costs from his death.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
© 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Erin Go Brrrrrrrrrrr

Friday, I got cleared to go forth and exercise, which was lucky since I had signed up for the Celtic Five Miler which was the next day.

It's not that I enjoy running in the freezing cold on hills, I don't. It's that this race always has the most awesome premiums. Gorgeous celtic designs on Brooks running gear. And cheap. I had already paid for the jacket and I couldn't very well wear the jacket without running the race. So Lead Legs Kevin and I hiked up to Baltimore for the privilege of running in sub-arctic temperatures.

It turned to be a pretty morning, clear and COLD. And a fair number of both the tri team and the tri club were there. I had a good time. It felt good to run. And I wasn't last, I was second to last, but I wasn't last. And that was fine considering all that had gone on in the weeks before, and that I stopped at the car to divest one of my fourteen layers of clothes. And I'm finally on the board with the USAT challenge.

People who run faster than me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

All the king's horses

Last Friday, I went back to see the ortho since my progress in PT had pretty much stopped. I opted for surgery and signed release forms to both rip it free under anesthesia and to arthroscopically excavate the scar tissue. The expectation was that the shoulder wouldn't give under anesthesia enough to make a difference and the surgery was pretty likely. This was kind of rushed given the holidays coming up. If I waited until after the holidays, it would continue to hurt and freeze more. If I did it right before the holidays missing a bunch of PT, it would re-freeze and I would enjoy a third visit to the hospital. I was scheduled for surgery 3 days later and tacked on to the list of patients for that day.

Tuesday, I went in to the hospital.

New Boy took me, maybe to make up for the last time. It was a point of honor. He was very sweet the whole time.

Last time I was at the surgery center, this time I was at the hospital. Given the choice, I would go to the surgery center instead of the hospital. Overall, the surgery center just seemed cleaner and the staff of a higher calibre. Although the hospital didn't make me pay in advance so there's something to be said for that, but they made me take a pregnancy test (???!) so whatever.

After contending with a nurse(?) of dubious competence (she dropped needles on the floor and didn't wash her hands), meeting with the most fabulous anesthesiologist ever, and fending off the deadly antibiotic, I went under expecting to wake up with a new set of scars.

Turns out they were able to wrench it free so no new scars. I was in the OR for a total of like 20 minutes. The ortho came out and gave the news to New Boy and said he'd be able to see me soon. Well apparently I was a little cranky about not eating breakfast and as I'm wont to do when anesthesia isn't involved, once I've skipped a meal I will continue to sleep until someone wakes me up and forces me to eat. So I didn't come out for close to 2 hours. This made New Boy a little nervous.

I was concerned because at first my shoulder was worse. It was tight, inflamed, and cranky. Couple that with us getting snow right after the procedure and I had lost all faith. My PT, the Dr, and Jopoppa all told me to quit whining and ride it out. It's been a couple weeks and it seems better now. I can even wash my hair and put it in a ponytail.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Resting during recovery

Winter conditioning started this week.

After being woken up by a fox early monday morning, it took everything I had to guilt myself out of bed and go. I hadn't run all weekend and was looking forward to this for a long time, which got me out of bed. I was house-sitting for a woman from the boathouse and I couldn't find her blender, so I missed out on my protein shake, but settled for scarfing down a banana and one of those salty/sweet "granola" bars. They really are addictive. A quarter of my daily calories in like 3 salty sweet tablespoons of goodness.

I had purposely fought to get into the M/W/F section since I really liked the coach. I was nervous about being able to row the whole time and justify my slot. Thankfully, the coach had us doing 5 minute build intervals with 2 minute rest sessions. With a few modifications, I was mostly able to keep up, but it was frustrating to basically have to re-learn how to erg and to have such bad output.

The workouts go like this:

You row indoors on a rowing machine (erg)

You row for one minute at 18 strokes per minute (spm), the next minute for 20 spm, then 22, etc., until you've rowed for five minutes. Then you have a two minute rest session where you can either paddle through, rowing at a super easy pace for two minutes, or completely stop rowing. Last year after a season of triathlons and running, I preferred to paddle through and log as many meters as possible. This year, I am working just to finish the five minute sets.

The next five minute set, you start one higher than the last set, so you row the first minute at 20, the next at 22, etc.

Last year, I could row comfortably at a 30 or a 32, this year, I'm struggling to hold a 26.

Pre-surgery, mybiggest problem was rushing the slide, which is basically coming back up to stroke again too quickly. On the water, you stroke to move the boat, and sort of glide, then stroke again. If you're late, it's like flooring the accelerator then slamming on the brakes. If you're early, it's like driving with the parking brake on.

This year, I'm not rushing since I need the recovery to rest to keep up.

It was good to be back, but incredibly frustrating not to be able to perform the way I want to.

And don't even get me started about the winter holiday challenge. I've had to delete all the emails about it to remove the temptation to push too hard and ruin my recovery. 100,000 meters in a month isn't hard, is it?

Our workout:


18, 20, 22, 24, 26

20, 22, 24, 26, 28

22, 24, 26, 28, 30

20, 22, 24, 26, 28

18, 20, 22, 24, 26

2 sets of 10 crunches, 2 2 sets of planks for 1', 1 set of planks for 1' on each side, 1 set of 10 crunches.

Even not being able to do the planks, my abs are sore.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More soapbox time

And a word to the wise ...

Why medical debts shouldn't count
For many, the road to ruined credit is pockmarked with medical collections, often for tiny amounts or billed in error. The truth is that medical debt rarely indicates whether a borrower is high risk.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

It's a good thing Greg Hilfman of Los Angeles has health insurance because an unpaid medical bill has sent his blood pressure soaring.
Hilfman's wife was in a hospital two years ago for pancreatitis, and Hilfman said she was treated by a "cadre" of doctors and specialists. All but one submitted bills to their insurer, Blue Cross of California, in time to get paid.
Six weeks ago, however, a woman from a neurologist's office contacted Hilfman, explaining that the office "didn't have the right address for Blue Cross" and thus hadn't submitted the bill within the one-year period required for reimbursement. She demanded that Hilfman cough up $540.
Hilfman was furious. He'd never heard of the doctor and insisted he'd seen no bill or any indication there was a problem with payment. Now he's worried he'll have to pay a bill that should have been covered by insurance or risk damage to the couple's credit reports.
"How is this fair?" he asked. "They can say anything they want (to the credit bureaus), and I have no recourse."

Tiny debts with huge impacts Hilfman is right to be concerned. The Your Money message board is littered with complaints from folks whose otherwise pristine credit was sabotaged by a medical collection. Sometimes their records were besmirched over absurdly small amounts that nonetheless had big impacts on credit scores.
Poster "sunny_light," for example, recently discovered a medical-collection account for just $7.
"I pulled my credit report last week and found out," sunny_light wrote. "I promptly paid the collections people. But now my credit score is down by like 80 points."
Medical collections are surprisingly common, at least according to a 2003 Federal Reserve study of consumer-credit reports. Nearly one in three consumers (31%) with a credit report had at least one collection account reported, and more than half of those were medical collections.
The amounts owed weren't substantial: 36.5% of the medical collections were for $100 or less, and 86% were for $500 or less.

Medical collections make up half of all collection accounts:

Collection type
% of collection accounts
Median amount owed
Source: Federal Reserve
*Includes large retailers, banks and finance companies
**Includes smaller retailers, law firms, individuals and educational institutions

Yet any collection account is considered a major negative to lenders and to the credit-scoring formulas they use. Though the impact of a collection on your scores fades over time, it will shave off points for as long as the negative mark remains on your report -- typically seven years.

Your chances of having your credit ruined by a medical bill are soaring for a variety of reasons:
More people are uninsured or underinsured. The U.S. Census Bureau counts nearly 45 million uninsured Americans. An additional 16 million or so are underinsured, with too little coverage to protect them from catastrophic medical expenses. Medical costs have been rising at a much higher rate than inflation, and those without insurance are often charged more than those with coverage (read "How to survive your hospital bills" for details). Thus a single accident, illness or emergency-room visit can easily result in an impossible-to-pay bill for many uninsured and underinsured families.

Medical-debt collection has become big business. An unpaid or disputed bill is more likely to wind up on your credit report because of a sea change in the way medical bills are treated.
"The reporting of medical debt (to credit bureaus) is becoming much more common," said Travis Plunkett, a spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America. "Medical-debt reporting has become more professionalized."

Get your insurance claims paid
Good records, detailed claims and persistence will help you get your money faster and avoid problems.
A decade ago, most hospitals did their own collections or assigned them to a collector who worked on contingency, collecting a portion of what was owed. Smaller providers typically handled collections in-house. Only the largest companies tended to report collections activity to the credit bureaus -- and then only after repeated collection attempts had failed.
Today, physicians groups and other small providers are more likely to outsource their collections to agencies that use negative credit-report entries as a tool to urge patients to pay.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of for-profit hospitals and even some nonprofits regularly sell their bad debts for 2 or 3 cents on the dollar rather than try to collect the money themselves. So-called debt purchasers buy huge portfolios of debt, and one of the first things they do is post the collections on the consumers' credit reports.
"Health-care-debt buying did not exist" 10 years ago, said Michael Klozotsky, an analyst for Kaulkin Ginsberg, which tracks debt-collection trends. In 2005, purchasers bought at least $3 billion of bad medical debts, and the market seems to be growing 11% to 15% a year.

Continued: Confusion abounds
Medical billing is a mess. Even when a consumer is covered by insurance, confusion abounds. Doctors and hospitals often insist the consumer is ultimately responsible for the bills, saying medical providers bill insurers only as a courtesy. Yet frequently the providers have agreements with insurers and government agencies to accept discounted reimbursement as payment in full; the providers aren't supposed to pursue patients for payment.
Meanwhile, insurers are constantly changing what's covered and by how much, and providers move in and out of covered networks. Providers also claim some insurers deliberately drag their heels on reimbursements, adding to the chaos and uncertainty.
"Insurance companies are often contributing to the false reporting of medical debt," the Consumer Federation's Plunkett said, as tussles over payment increasingly get turned over to collection agencies.

Medical debt is no predictor of risk Even when medical debts are legitimately owed and left unpaid, though, some experts question whether they belong on credit reports.
There's no question that medical bills pose huge risks for the finances of many families. Medical problems were cited as a factor in nearly half of the bankruptcies studied by Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren (.pdf file).

Still, many mortgage lenders who specialize in serving low-income communities have discovered that discarding medical debts often gives them a better picture of a borrower's true creditworthiness, said Michael Stegman, the director of policy for the MacArthur Foundation's program on human and community development.

"If all their other credit accounts are in good shape, or they haven't established credit but they've had no delinquencies on their rent," Stegman said, "the fact you have a bad medical debt or an outstanding judgment over a medical bill is not a good predictor of default."
One such lender, Self Help of Durham, N.C., has a 1% default rate on its mortgages, which public-policy director David Beck said is comparable to mainstream lenders that use credit-scoring formulas that take medical debt into account.
"Our experience has been that medical debt isn't generally reflective of a borrower's ability or willingness to repay," Beck said.

It's not clear that these lenders' experiences with low-income borrowers can be extended to the population in general, but it's time to find out. Credit-scoring companies such as Fair Isaac, the creator of the leading FICO scoring formula, should research whether medical debt really is predictive or not.

In a bind? 4 tips Personally, I think we could solve much of the problem of unfair medical-debt reporting by excluding all collections under $100 from credit reports. I also think medical debts should be treated differently, with shorter statutes of limitation on collection and reporting (say, four years instead of the current seven), to reflect the fact that medical bills are a fundamentally different kind of debt from credit cards and auto loans.

Unless that happens, here's how to reduce the chances of your credit getting run over by medical debt:
Bird-dog your medical bills. Don't assume your health-care provider and your insurance company will eventually work it out. Follow up on every bill or claim with an unpaid balance. If a debt remains after more than a month or two, ask your provider and your insurer what the problem is and what you can do to help.
Negotiate if you're uninsured. As I discussed in "How to survive your hospital bills," you may be able to qualify for charitable assistance that could reduce or eliminate your bills. Even if you don't qualify, you should try to get the amount you're charged reduced to what an insurer or government agency would pay.
Get payment agreements in writing. If you don't have insurance and want to make payments, make sure your agreement is in writing. One Your Money message boardcontributor agreed to pay her health-care provider $50 a month to pay off a $1,600 bill. No agreement was signed, however, and the provider recently started demanding $150 a month.
Try to talk your way out. If despite your best efforts a medical bill lands on your credit report, you have a couple of options. One is to dispute the bill with the credit bureaus as "not mine"; sometimes collection agencies won't bother to verify the disputed account, and it will fall off your reports. Option two is to negotiate with the collection agency to remove the account from your credit reports in exchange for payment.

Get your insurance claims paidGood records, detailed claims and persistence will help you get your money faster and avoid problems.
Ideally, you'd get that promise in writing before you pay anything, but sunny_light managed to sweet-talk a collection agency rep into clearing a credit report after sending the $7.
"I called that collection agency woman again and talked and talked and talked to her with lots of 'please' . . . and then it was quiet for a while so I thought she hung up . . . but then she said she was looking at my file . . . and finally she said 'normally we don't do this' and then she told me to check my report in about 30-45 days," sunny_light wrote. Two weeks later, sunny_light checked, "and the $7 medical bill (paid) has been removed from all three credit reports . . . and my credit scores went back up!!"

Columns by Liz Pulliam Weston, the Web's most-read personal-finance writer and winner of the 2007 Clarion Award for online journalism, appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money.
Published Nov. 19, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Platoon vs. Peloton

Fellow Bella Nikki was recently featured in an article, and that's pretty damn cool so I'm posting it. I'm fixing some of the errors the reporter made.

Nikki was last in Iraq in 2004, not currently scheduled to return anytime soon. However, two of the other gals briefly mentioned are currently in Iraq.

Tales from the peloton November 17, 2007
Velo Bella - When Duty Calls

Many of the women competing at a high level in cycling have full-time careers, but in the case of a few special riders, those careers offer very unique challenges. For a few, their jobs include serving in the United States military in Iraq. Surface Warfare Officer for the US Navy and Velo Bella racer Nicole Shue spoke with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins about her life on the bike while at sea.

The Velo Bella team is a diverse group of women from across the United States. With riders from beginner to world class, the team has fun while taking racing seriously. It's a perfect environment for some special athletes like Nicole Shue and Nicole Messinger, who both work in the US Navy, and with Rebecca Gross and Beth Boyer, who work for the US Air Force. Team manager Alex Burgess regards the careers of these women cyclists as nothing short of heroic.

All of them are currently serving in the US military and have been relocated to Iraq, and Burgess thinks they have courageous stories that need to be shared. "The fact that these women split their lives amongst their family and careers as officers while continuing to achieve to be elite level athletes is a statement on their ability and talent," said Burgess.

Surface Warfare Officer Nicole Shue is a just one of several Velo Bella cyclists who balances the life of an athlete with a career in the US Navy. Shue is out to sea nearly half of every month and though she finds it difficult to train full time, being attached to a ship, she noted that her chain of command is supportive of her passion as a cyclist.

Shue admitted that officers are nurtured to have type-A personalities, a competitive personality that translates well into cycling. "We are extremely organized, methodical and display a strict execution of schedules, plans and missions," explained Shue who tapped into these qualities when training for her latest half Ironman.

When long work days start in the early morning, finding training time is very precious for anyone, let alone someone living on a ship, but Shue found a way to fit training into her life at sea with limited resources. "I received a lot of strange looks when I first brought my bike and trainer aboard the ship. I would set up my bike on the flight deck of the ship during dinnertime, and ride with the sun setting behind the ocean as my scenery."

Rigorous training and strict time management skills are essential qualities of sport and military life, and more often than not, being an athlete can mean having a somewhat selfish existence. However, the responsibilities of an officer extend beyond a single person and into the many lives they are linked to. According to Shue being a Naval Officer is a higher calling. "I'm placed in charge of the sons and daughters of the United States and am expected to mold them into capable sailors, leaders, and citizens - anything less is a failure," said Shue. "There aren't too many CEO's of companies who'd be fired because an employee got a DUI or committed a crime. But Naval Officers are held responsible for the actions of those we lead. It is a direct reflection of our leadership when our people fail to succeed."

Drawing Parallels
To better understand the lifestyle to which women need to adapt as officers, Shue focused on the similarities between her life as a cyclist and applied it to her daily routine in the Navy. Not only because both careers are physically demanding but because both military and sport are traditionally considered to be male dominant activities.

"For starters, I'm definitely the minority!" said Shue. "It doesn't faze me when I show up for the weekly road ride and I'm the only woman there. I realize I'm going to have to work hard to keep up, but as long as I'm not complaining or asking for special allowances, the guys recognize that I'm doing my best and they are supportive and encouraging."

"The same goes for the Navy," added Shue. "My first ship had a crew of a thousand men and six women. That was a scary experience at twenty-three years of age. But once the men realized that I could pull my weight and was a capable officer, we were able to work together to accomplish the mission. And it's great to be part of a team, whether it be a peloton screaming down the road and working as one organism to tackle the miles, or as a ship's crew and sailing together into harm's way, ready to carry out the mission my country depends on us to accomplish."

A typical day
Shue, like many other officers, can be deployed for months along the Persian Gulf. She described a typical day as beginning at six in the morning for breakfast along with all the officers onboard the ship, followed by morning meetings and then physical training until noon. "There are more meetings after lunch and more training all the while the ship is operating in the Gulf, protecting the coast of Iraq and its oil platforms from terrorist/insurgent attack," said Shue. "The workday continues after dinner where the officers have an opportunity to catch up on the administrative work and day's events until it's my turn to go operate the ship, either in the pilot house or down in the Combat Information Center."

Officers routinely get about four hours of sleep each night during their six months deployment at sea. The captain is always close at hand and fellow officers are always in sight, so Shue admitted that though life on the ship can become cramped, but it brings "teammates" closer together and makes the camaraderie unbreakable. "I've met people in the Navy whom I wouldn't think twice to lend them my car, my house, whatever they needed in a tight spot, no questions asked," said Shue.

"The Navy is an extended family," Shue added. "They have to be because so much of my time is spent far away from my real family. But there is definitely a fun side to it too. I have been to countless countries from Australia to Pakistan to Tonga, and have had priceless experiences, seen beautiful places and met some truly amazing people. It has opened my eyes to the cultures of the world, how all of us are so different, yet at the heart of it, we all just want to lead happy, fulfilling and peaceful lives."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cancer to 5K

The Cancer to 5K program is the brainchild of fellow DC Tri-er and cancer survivor Holly.

Simply put, they train cancer patients and survivors to complete a 5K to help keep them healthy and happy. The program culminated with the Ulman Cancer Fund 5K at merriwether post pavillion.

I promise, I am wearing a running skirt, which is not evident in these pictures.

I was supposed to be a pace group leader, but the shoulder intervened. Luckily, I got cleared to run the Friday before race day, so I was able to be a race day sherpa for cancer patient Cheryl.

Me, Kris, Cheryl, and Sherpa #3 who's name I can never remember.

Race day conditions were less than ideal. It did warm up a bit for race day, but it was raining almost the whole time, and quite a few people were no-shows. There was supposed to be a bike race accompanying the 5K, but they ended up canceling it both for safety and because they didn't have enough volunteers to support it. A few of the bikers ran in their bike gear, which was really nice of them.

Holly gave me the heads up that Cheryl had never completed more than two miles in training and was really nervous about the possibility of either not finishing, or finishing last. I reassured them that Cheryl would not have to be last, and that there's no shame in it. Especially when you've just finished chemo.

The festivites started with Lance Armstrong giving a speech and leading the runners out. I have to say it was really cool that he showed up even though it was pouring and not a lot of people were there.

Lance crossing the finish line.

It was pretty hilly and Cheryl had something of a tough time. Kris, the other sherpa, and I tried to keep her distracted/ entertained, and on a good intensity interval schedule so she didn't get tired out before the finish. She really was a trooper, and she wasn't last. There is no way I could have done that 3 weeks after finishing chemo.

Cheryl crossing the finish line.

On a sad note, Jess, a Team Z alumnae, didn't make it to the race because she was in the hospital having surgery for breast cancer. There was a booth at the finish line handing out keychains representing the size of tumors. The smallest was the average size when found by a mammogram, the largest was the average size when found by accident. Jess's was the latter. My heart goes out to her and I hope she is with us for the spring class of the Cancer to 5K group.

For more information:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Major Payne

Today I almost passed out again at PT. The walls got all sparkly, and then the PT made me drink some water.

The good news: I'm gaining range of motion vertically, the bad news: even with all the agony, I'm losing it in rotation. My muscles are locking. And even pulling things out of whack with the cramping.

I am living so far beyond my pain threshold. I've gotten into the pattern of coming home from PT, eating a carb heavy breakfast, and passing out under a hypoglycemic daze. No, this isn't smart or remotely healthy, but it does let me escape from the pain for a few hours. It's gotten to the point where I can't eat before PT since the pain makes me so nauseous. Today, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to drive home. Sitting in traffic with the seat belt over my shoulder going to work was out of the question. I feel really guilty for working from home so much, I really love my job and my co-workers. I'm trying to remind myself that this is necessary to be whole and healthy again and the pain is temporary.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Putting the PT in PITA

Physical Therapy. I need it, yet hate it. My quest to find the person responsible for me being able to row winter conditioning was complicated and had repercussions I wouldn't realize until today. Originally, I was going to see the PT who trains with my tri club. I wanted someone who was sports oriented, not someone who spent their days rehabilitating hip replacements. Someone who understood the demands of the sports I was trying to get back to, and who could tailor my treatment to facillitate that. Problem was, her office was so deep in trafficland it was unreachable except by helicopter. The second problem would become evident later.

Names witheld to protect the guilty:
Since I was clearly not going to be able to get to her office, and certainly not in a timely manner for the next 8 weeks, she recommended I see another PT with her practice at a location closer to my office and easier to reach. When I was supposed to have the appointment with her, I was a little more than 3 weeks out of surgery. Time to start therapy. The new PT was not able to get me in until almost a week from that date and only scheduled me for my initial consultation. First clue. The PT took some basic measurements using a huge protractor, then after a little bit passed me off to a PT Assistant for the second half of my appointment. Second clue. I also was uncomfortable with the fact that PT was carried out entirely in a common space. How they were managing to skirt around HIPAA, I have no idea. Then, I go to make the rest of my appointments and was told they couldn't get me in to see my PT again for ten days. Third clue, and I can solve the puzzle: Q_U_A_C_K_S

It was fairly obvious they were a body shop, they didn't care about their patients, which was evidenced by the fact that this was a critical time in my recovery to regain range of motion and they had no concerns about my not being seen for a long time, or concerned about keeping me with one PT.

Progress is measured in range of motion gained over each session. measuring it is a little soft, and everyone has quirks. Seeing one PT over time minimizes confounds in the measurements. Not to mention, there is a degree of trust involved.

So back to the doctor I went:

Doctor: Where are you looking for an office?
Me: Either X or Y.
Doctor: Why Y?
Me: My boyfriend lives there.
Doctor: Do I need to tell your parents?
Me: Is this a trick question?

Then the admission of guilt:

Doctor: Why do you go see a PT at Quacks are us?
Me: I knew someone there.
Doctor: Was it on the list of recommended therapists?
Me: Is this a trick question?

So the good Dr. gave me a contact for a legitimate PT. They were polite, made my whole bank of appointments at once, tried to keep me with the same therapist, and spent a lot of time talking about my injury, the surgery, what my goals were, and generally getting to know my health history. They are great.

The caveat is that since I got started with a competent therapist so late, my shoulder had already started freezing. We have only been able to make marginal progress in regaining range of motion. Which led to to today. 8 weeks after surgery. Signaling while driving, getting dressed, washing my hair, are all difficult if not impossible. The membrane holding my shoulder in place has overachieved and fused itself to places it shouldn't have, causing frozen shoulder. The first step to thawing it is to stretch and heat or ice. That was the last three weeks. Now, we come to the fun part, forcing it to move until literally it rips free. It makes a sound like a pair of pants splitting up the back, and is excruciatingly painful.

All in all I wouldn't recommend it. Friday, I almost threw up from the pain, today I almost passed out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

99 Red Balloons ...

Earlier this month, I did the Light the Night walk with my company.

The LTN walk is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I was still feeling a little guilty about only having completed the Rock n Roll half marathon for the TNT program. So I suckered New Boy into walking with me. We drove to Reston Town Center and made it just in time. The walk is held at night, and you're suppsed to carry a battery lit balloon, and the sight is pretty cool, tons of floating flickering balloons in the woods. We were late, so our balloons were sad and unlit, but there were so many people out, it didn't really matter. We headed out for a roughly 3 mile walk on unseen paths through Reston, including past the place where I had surgery.

There were a group of high schools in front of us including a cancer survivor. It looked like the kid was wearing a wig, so I'm guessing he was still in treatment, but it was nice (kind of) to see that wasn't stopping them from being teenagers. There were also cheerleaders cheering us on, and volunteers with posterboard signs with cancer facts on them every so often.

It was good to get out for a walk and to support a great organization. And I was really happy that New Boy supported my charity effort.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sling blade

The psychic shoulder required professional help to fix it. So, the Thursday after Labor Day I had surgery.

I wasn't allowed to eat for 12 hours before surgery, so Wednesday night, New Boy stuffed me full of portobello ravioli. The next morning at o'dark thirty, superfriend M picked me up and took me to the hospital. I gave her the list of allergies, phone numbers, etc. and she sweetly hung out with me while waiting for everyone to be ready for showtime. She also managed to get the nurse to give her my prescription for Percoset which she got filled while I was under the knife. There were a few interesting moments. The first of which came when we were talking to the anesthesiolgist, going over my list of allergies. I said, yeah and I'm deathly allergic to K right as the nurse was apparently hanging a bag of it on my IV. Nearly comical freezing mid-air.

The second came when I woke up from anesthesia. I had warned them I don't handle anesthesia well. I didn't remember going under, thought I hadn't had surgery yet, and inexplicably had the overwhelming urge to sob. The nurse told me this is common if you have control issues. Shocking. All I knew was I was confused, and I wanted to see New Boy RIGHT NOW. They also couldn't get my blood pressure down and I was cold and shaking, piled under five hospital blankets. I don't know what they do to make them so warm, but it's like getting laundry straight from the dryer.

M took me home, kept track of my schedule of drugs, and basically babysat me until New Boy picked me up at lunchtime. The next day she brought me Starbucks and baby-sat me again while New Boy was at work. The plan had been to try to meet up with a third friend B for lunch if I was feeling up to it, or just caged, but B wasn't available, and I felt like ish. The GA had completely worn off, I couldn't sleep, the Aleve upset my stomach, and the Percoset made me itch and it difficult to breathe. It's 1:00 and New Boy is not home yet. Turns out he decided that this was the most appropriate time to buy a HDTV. Yes, while my friend is at his house watching me so he didn't have to take off a ton of vacation time, and I am in pain, he is going to buy a TV. Not bothering to call and check on me first, or ask if M has to be anywhere. He also said a number of things that were pretty cruel, like I was self-centered. Needless to say, this did not go over well. Last I checked, I'd had surgery, was having a reaction to the painkillers, and had taken care of him during his comps and when his mom was in the hospital. I had hoped my boyfriend would take care of me post-op out of love, but at the bare minimum quid pro quo Clarice.

I ended up at M's house for the duration of the weekend. She and her husband were kind beyond words, and I owe them a ton. Especially Saturday morning when I woke from my Percoset induced haze and thought it was Sunday, and got a little panicky and belligerent. I hate drugs. Their cats kept watch over me both nights, watching to make sure I was still breathing, occasionally crawling up to check, then crawling back down to the foot of the bed.

It's been six weeks and my shoulder is slowly healing, trying to heal things with New Boy, but the wound from the fight seems deeper than the one from the surgery.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Biking with the Bellas

A while ago I trekked with VeloBella Nikki to the Pennsylvania Keystone State Cat race.
Cat racing is competitive cycling. It's a world ripe for spoofing in a "Dog Show" type of movie ("But you picked the one that looks the least like a bee ..."), or a bud light Real men of Genius commercial (We salute you spandex wearing tube sock cycling guy, you may weigh in excess of 250 pounds, but you still sport your areo helmet. Does that remind you of something? You shave your time by a whopping tenth of a second. I'm only 14 minutes and 59 seconds behind the next guy now ...)

Anyways, I had emailed the race director to ask if it would be okay to race since I had no experience with CAT racing, or really with group cycling. This was an all ladies race and a pretty small one, I was thinking this would be a good one to cut my teeth on.

Emails modified to make them more entertaining:

Dear Race Director,
I was wondering if this would be a good race to try for my first. I come from my triathlon background but I'm not a freak. I have a road bike and am not a squirrelly a-hole. Can I handle your race and sit with the cool kids at lunch?

Iron Panda

Yo IP,
CAT cycling is the real deal and requires skilz. If you even think about coming to my race, I'll take you to skool.

Cycling rulz, tri geeks drool!


So, aptly frightened off by the race director who told me there would be hills aplenty and technical riding, I decided to tag along as a spectator. Nikki was racing, so I got up at o'dark thirty to get to Nikki's by the butt crack of dawn. Then we and her bike drove up to PA. We got there with a good couple of hours to spare. We were the first Bellas there, and among the first racers there at all. It was freezing cold and I was working on about four hours of sleep, so I took a nap in the car while Nikki warmed up, I am the best sherpa ever.

Slowly the Bellas trickled in, but the race still looked pretty empty. Turns out there was a major accident on 81 which meant half the race was stuck in trafic. They ended up delaying the Cat 4 race almost an hour during which I learned all about Cat racing. Such as: roadies hate triathletes, drafting is not only legal but encouraged, you are REQUIRED to wear the dreaded bike jersy, you are not allowed to ride a tri bike or any bike with aerobars, time is irrelevant- only relative place matters, there aren't volunteers on the course unless you bring you own, and finally roadies hate triathletes. It's some weird West Side Story jets vs. sharks, Redskins vs. Cowboys inane hatred. Which brings me to the next point, the course wasn't cake, but it was totally doable, and nothing like what the race director was making it out to be. And with only 14 women in the Cat 4 race, I could have scored points. Cheap points, but points nonetheless.

Nikki and Hilary set off to the start and Hilary's husband, her little boy, and I headed to the feeding zone. The Velobellas are sponsored by Kona bikes, so the cheering has an Aloha theme, decked out in a Hawaiin skirt and lei, I listened while Hilary's husband explained the art of the feeding zone. Holding out the water bottle such that the athete can grab it while riding without running into you or ripping your arm off. All while cultivating the best sock tan known to man.

All in all I'm excited to check this out next season and might make an appearance at a She Got Bike this season. Nikki and Hilary were all hot for the cyclocross season. That looks hardcore and like a lot of fun, but I like big races and not being cold and wet. And I'm more than capable of injuring myself without the assistance of trees.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This Beach Rocks

I have been broken and thus not blogging. I will endeavor to catch up.

Earlier in September, I returned to the Materland of VA Beach for the Rock N Roll half marathon. Much as I had hoped this wuld be a race for me, I had some limitations, and thus was just trying to finish healthy. The Thursday after Labor Day I was having surgery to fix the psychic shoulder, so this was my last hurrah for the season. At the same time, I didn't want to do anything that would make them postpone it (weird electrolyte levels, another kidney stone, etc.).

I took it slow, treated it like quality heart rate training time.

I did completely lose my temper near the end. Walk right, run left. It's not that hard. I don't care what kind of walk/run program you are on. Walk right, run left. And no f-ing headphones. Especially if you are walking on the left. Or my personal favorite, walking on the left in a row, talking on your cell phone. During a race. Not to mention, if you plan on walking the entirety of the race, don't line up in the 2:30 corral. You are the people who make my morning commute hell by driving 50 in the left lane while shaving. You are a race escalump.

Funny stuff you missed:

There was Elvis running, a juggler, a woman in a wedding dress, a guy in a '70's blue tux, and Spongebob Squarepants!

And the on-ramp leprechauns.

Funny t-shirts:

"Race official: Do not pass"

"Will run for chocolate"

"The end is beer"

And funny signs:

"Run if you think I'm hot!"

"Your hair looks great!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I do not heart: heart rate training

I was informed that my strategy for running all out, feel the pain plan is not a good one for endurance sports. Part of the Team Z education has been that I need to work on heart rate training.

What it is and how it works:

Heart rate training is supposed to increase your performance at a given level of effort/heart rate zone.

There are about five zones:
Zone 0- You're dead, asleep, passed out with a bag of potato chips next to you.
Zone 1- You're sitting, typing your blog, etc.
Zone 2- Lower level effort, you can say about 6-8 words between breaths, you are mostly burning fat for fuel.
Zone 3- Working a bit harder, jogging/running, burning about 50/50 fat and carbs.
Zone 4- Pushing it, running hard, 1-3 words between breaths, mostly burning carbs.
Zone 5- Working it like the rent is due. Full on running as hard as you can. A bonk or heart attack is imminent. At your anerobic threshold and beyond.

Why this matters:
If you are like me, you have a much more plentiful stock of fat to burn for fuel, and a limited supply of carbs stored in your system. You could probably run a 5k in Zone 4 and not run out of fuel, but you can't run a marathon or other long race in Zone 4. Attempting to do that results in the dreaded bonk.

You got caught up in the adrenaline, you weren't paying attention, or you just felt good. Either way, you ran in too high a zone too early in your race and ran out of fuel. You burned through all your carbs like an Escalade doing 90 with the AC on. Sure, you could try to drop it to Zone 2, but it's too late. Even in Zone 2, you're still burning some carbs, they're the kindling for the fat fire. And now you're out. You feel like you can't go another step. All you want to do is find and eat sugar.

Since my ultimate goal is long course, I'm attempting to do some Zone 2 training. It is painfully boring. I'm at Zone 2 just walking on the treadmill. I'm in Zone 4 jogging at a 4.8. Boring, boring, boring.

Don't even get me started about the complete lack of pride in that work out. I get distracted because I don't want the people on the treadmills around me to think I'm a sissy. It has sucked the joy out of running.

Patience is not my greatest virtue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When staying alive means going bankrupt

This is just appalling.

Health insurance didn’t keep cancer-stricken California woman solvent
By Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor

In our second Gut Check America vote, readers rated health care as the issue of most concern for them. After a false start in Oregon, we found reader Kathleen Aldrich, a Lompoc, Calif., resident who wrote to us about how her battle with cancer drove her to bankruptcy, even though she had health insurance. Here is her story:

LOMPOC, Calif. - Kathleen Aldrich, financially ruined by two bouts with ovarian cancer, is not who you might assume she is.
She raised three kids as a single mom. She worked hard for years. She had good jobs. She paid her bills. She lived in a nice house and drove a nice car. She had a decent credit rating. She had health insurance.

Now she has a record of bankruptcy and is the embodiment of the fear that nags at millions of U.S. families: that they are but one medical calamity away from losing everything. Like Aldrich, they — and perhaps you — could be.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Aldrich says thoughtfully, sitting in the neat, pale green living room of her tiny stucco duplex in the middle of this mostly middle-class American town. “I don’t see that I did.”

Just turned 50, tall and blond with a quick smile, Aldrich is gratefully in remission for a second time from the ovarian cancer, the No. 5 cancer killer of women. Despite “feeling like a little black cloud follows me around all the time,” she has a lot to live for, from a budding long-distance romance to a precocious 6-year-old granddaughter named Alyssa.

A cat named Jack and a great boss
She has a friendly cat named Jack, a boss she adores and a grassy park nearby where she can stroll for miles as the long summer evenings unwind in Lompoc, a flat checkerboard between the bumpy brown California hills to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The town, best known for a federal lockup that has housed the likes of junk bond king Michael Milken and Nixon confidant H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, also is home to Vandenberg Air Force Base, diatomaceous earth mines and 42,000 residents.

But her life is hardly idyllic. Two years and four months after her second trip through the hell of chemotherapy, Aldrich is embarking on the painful new journey of trying to rebuild her life and her credit rating. The bankruptcy has quashed all thoughts that she might someday retire. More immediately, it has left her unable to obtain thousands of dollars of work on her teeth, which likely were weakened by the powerful anti-cancer drugs.
And it has left deeper wounds of shame and guilt over having to walk away from unpaid bills after a lifetime of responsible living.

Aldrich’s situation is "asinine" but increasingly common, said Dr. Deborah Thorne of Ohio University. Thorne, co-author of a widely quoted 2005 study that found medical bills contributed to nearly half of the 1.5 million personal bankruptcies filed in the U.S. each year, said that ratio has likely worsened since the data was gathered.
Bankruptcy in the light of large medical bills is “unfortunately the only choice many people have," she said. "They will never in their lifetimes pay them off.
“To talk with these people again and again is so frustrating. They’re such thoughtful, kind folks who are being set up by the system we have now. What’s most appalling is they’re ashamed.”
Like Aldrich, Thorne said, three-quarters of the individuals in the study who declared bankruptcy because of health problems were insured.
"When the illness began ... they were floored," she said. "They assumed incorrectly that if you have health insurance that you’re fine and that you’ll get the treatment that you’ll need and not have to mortgage the farm to pay for it.”

In the beginning, that assumption appeared accurate to Aldrich.
She was working at a credit union when she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Her employer-paid insurance covered most of her expenses as she underwent surgery and her first round of chemo, which continued well into 2002. She changed jobs later that year, carefully paying her own insurance premiums through a COBRA extended health benefits program until she qualified for the group plan offered by her new employer, a title company in Montecito, an hour down the coast.

But while she was on leave for surgery to repair hernias and a bowel obstruction caused by her first operation, she was laid off. Once more, she used the COBRA process — established by a federal law that lets employees who lose their jobs maintain their health insurance for up to 18 months by paying their own premiums. Again, her insurance paid most of the bills.
Aldrich had landed a new job as a processor for a Lompoc mortgage company when her cancer returned in 2004. Though she didn't have health insurance through her employer and her COBRA benefits had been exhausted, she had continued to buy health insurance, paying $533 a month.

She underwent more surgery and returned to chemotherapy treatments at Santa Barbara Hematology and Oncology, a large medical practice in the area. As the nausea and hair loss subsided in the spring of 2005, she began to receive bills from the practice that eventually totaled more than $15,000.
Where's the $7,000 cap?Aldrich was stunned, since her policy with Blue Shield of California had a $2,000 annual deductible and a co-payment schedule that was supposed to cap her maximum annual “out-of-pocket” cost at $7,000 when using a “preferred provider,” as Santa Barbara Hematology is.

Still dazed by the chemo, she said, she tried to get the bill corrected, calling both the medical practice and Blue Shield. When nothing seemed to work, she turned to her sister, Mary Beth Fisher, a registered nurse for 35 years who spent the last part of her career in administrative jobs for medical practices, handling plenty of insurance matters.

“I said, ‘I know you can get ahold of someone who can help you get through this mess,’” Fisher told In the end, though, she said all they got was the run-around from both the medical practice and Blue Shield. “It was always ‘talk to another person, put your request in through e-mail.’”

Fisher said that in her experience, case workers are available on both sides to help resolve such problems. “I was astounded that she wasn’t offered that kind of assistance or support," she said. "… It really was that nobody would talk to you.”

No help from Blue Shield
Fisher believes the source of the problem was that the oncology practice had been paid more for the same services under Aldrich's previous insurance policy and did not change its billings to reflect the terms of its contract with Blue Shield, Aldrich’s new carrier. But she said Blue Shield did little to make the change clear to the doctors group.
Blue Shield spokeswoman Elise Anderson said privacy laws prohibited her from even acknowledging that Aldrich is a Blue Shield client, but she was confident the company’s customer service process works well.
Lynn Humphrey, administrator of Santa Barbara Hematology, also declined to discuss Aldrich’s case.

According to the sisters, Santa Barbara Hematology sent Aldrich’s case to a collection agency just a few months after the dispute began and refused to discuss the bill after that, a common practice in collections cases. Then, they say, Aldrich was dismissed as a patient for being “a pain.”
The sudden severing of the relationship with the young doctor whom Aldrich still reveres as the woman who twice saved her life was particularly painful.
“I was so devastated and embarrassed,” she said. “Was I a pain during chemo, the whole time? Am I a piece of crap or what?”

Fisher stated repeatedly that she was not looking for any kind of handout for her sister. Seventeen years older than Aldrich, and Aldrich’s guardian after their mother died when Aldrich was 14, Fisher said, “I told Kathleen she had a part in this." She owed money for her treatment. But not any more than $7,000, they believed.

Aldrich and Fisher say they continued trying to work the problem out with Blue Shield, the medical group and the collection agency over the next year. But on July 24, 2006, the collection agency sued Aldrich, seeking nearly $20,000 in debts, attorneys’ fees, court costs and interest. The lion’s share of the total was the $15,239.52 that Santa Barbara Hematology claimed it was owed.

A short time later, Aldrich said, a sheriff’s deputy showed up with the paperwork to attach her wages from Santa Fe Mortgage, where she is the sole employee of owner Fred Bittle, a loyal supporter throughout her ordeal who pays Aldrich more than the going rate specifically so she can purchase health insurance. The prospect of having her $3,820 in monthly pay drastically reduced to satisfy the debt was nightmarish for Aldrich.

Her bank account already had been wiped out as a result of her unemployment and periods when her medical treatments had robbed her of the ability to work full time. She also had borrowed more than $15,000 from Fisher and another sister and had no way to repay the $7,000 she agreed that she owed other than a little at a time.

Nothing in the bank“I have no savings,” said Aldrich. “I probably have 10 bucks saved. I live paycheck to paycheck.” Her No. 1 goal was to keep up with the premiums on her health insurance, and she remembers thinking, “I might as well quit my job if they’re going to garnish me because there’s no way I can make it.”

After consulting with an attorney, the sisters came away believing that the only solution was for Aldrich to declare bankruptcy. “He said, 'This is such an incredible mess that I don’t think you can afford the amount of money that it would take if we could ever figure it out,’” Fisher said.
“I did not want to do that,” Aldrich said. “That is not how I was raised.” She tried to figure out how to pay the judgment, to avoid the blemish of bankruptcy any way that she could. “I was willing to drive a crappy car. I’m not very materialistic. I was even at one point looking to just rent a room somewhere to cut costs,” she said. It seemed hopeless.

So, swallowing a bit more of her pride, Aldrich borrowed $1,800 more from her sister to pay the legal and court costs for the bankruptcy. Her debts were discharged in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in April, including the $15,239.52 billed by Santa Barbara Hematology. In total, the medical group was paid more than $74,000 for Aldrich’s treatment, which got so expensive that her final round of chemo cost nearly $17,000, according to copies of billing records filed in court.
A familiar situationAldrich’s attorney did not respond to’s request for an interview, but a well-known California lawyer who specializes in medical insurance cases said Aldrich’s experience is not unusual.

“We see it all the time in our practice,” said William Shernoff, who said insurance companies often leave patients on their own to deal with medical providers who bill too much. “None of these carriers go out of their way to help these people. They’re just looking after their own interests, and they don’t seem to have any consumer-friendly people out there trying to assist their customers. They take the first opportunity they can to get rid of any problems, especially if it’s going to cost them money.”

Shernoff doubts that a recent announcement by the California Department of Insurance that it will score Blue Shield and other big carriers on a "healthcare report card" will do much to help consumers.

Blue Shield stands by its serviceAnderson, the Blue Shield spokeswoman, said the carrier has a clear path for handling customer problems. “On anybody’s card there is an 800 number, and you call that 24/7,” she said. "There’s a whole process. The key is you start with the customer service number, and anyone at that number should be able to help you.” Calls placed by to the 800 number were answered immediately by Blue Shield representatives.
Thorne, the Ohio University professor, said that a larger problem illustrated by Aldrich's case is the out-of-control nature of health-care costs and insurance. "We already spend enough in premiums and co-pays that to be asked to pay tens of thousand more for health care is asinine.”
Indeed, Aldrich was paying 17 cents out of every dollar she took home for her Blue Shield policy when she ran up the disputed charges. And she recently got a “birthday card” from the insurer stating that now that she has turned 50, her monthly rate will rise to $619 — just slightly less than her $650 rent. In any year that she needs any major treatment, she’ll be liable for an additional $7,000 in deductible and co-payments, meaning that she would have to devote $14,428 — well over a third of her take-home pay — to health care.

It’s hard for Aldrich to talk about her situation without strong emotions, and some tears, surfacing. But she does not want to be seen as a pity case. She sees herself as a cautionary tale for average Americans: “It can happen to you.”

Her sister agrees, saying that the moral of this story is for people at all levels of the treatment and billing process to pay close attention to details and, especially, to listen. “They don’t realize how critical it is to be exact, what a nightmare it can be for someone else,” Fisher said.
Amid the photos of family and friends, there's a sign on the wall over the TV in Aldrich's little living room. “BELIEVE,” it says, in 6-inch letters carved out of wood. And despite all that has happened to shake her faith in our health care system and doctors’ offices and insurance companies, Kathleen Aldrich still believes.

She believes in working, in getting up and going to the office every day and doing the best she can. She absolutely believes in paying her $619-a-month health insurance premium. She believes that someone is watching out for her. And she believes in love.

“I had some pretty dark times during chemo,” she recalled. “I spent a lot of time alone. I asked God, and I told him the one thing that I wanted to do was to love again, to feel how it feels to be in love and to have a companion.” She gazes fondly at a picture on a nearby table of a handsome man posing in the cab of a truck with a happy dog.

“I met Richard last year. It’s a wonderful feeling to have a companion again and look forward to the little things in life that some couples maybe take for granted. I feel pretty good about the way my life is right now.”

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive

Monday, August 13, 2007

Running for a Cause

Why fitness and philanthropy is such a popular mix.
By Sally Wadyka for MSN Health & Fitness

When breast cancer survivor Eloise Caggiano decided to participate in last year’s 3-Day Walk, she was excited both to raise money for a cause so close to her heart and take on a significant physical challenge. “Walking 60 miles is a true commitment of time and physical effort,” she says. And since the walk requires participants to raise at least $2,200, “everyone who does it is really passionate about the cause.”

But passion for a particular cause is just one of the many reasons why events that combine running, walking, or biking with raising money have become so incredibly popular in recent years. The ubiquitous Team in Training is one of this trend’s prime movers. The program, which began in 1988, trains people to participate in endurance events—like marathons and 100-mile bike rides—while they raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Participants get the benefit of professional coaching, personalized training schedules and team support. And the Society gets an influx of funds to help support research, patient education and other services. In fact, since its inception, more than 350,000 people have participated in Team in Training and together they’ve raised $800 million.

“People join the program for a variety of reasons—the social aspect, the camaraderie of being part of a team, getting fit, pushing themselves to accomplish a goal, and contributing to a good cause,” says Andrea Greif, director of public relations for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
And while Team in Training attracts both men and women, more and more women are using such philanthropic programs as their entry into endurance events. In fact, some events cater just to women—the Nike Women’s Marathon, for example, benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in San Francisco. This October marks the fourth running of the event, which features a women’s-only full marathon and half marathon. While the Nike race doesn’t require everyone to fundraise for the cause, so far participants have raised $40 million for the Society.

Perhaps one of the reasons why more women are getting involved is that many of these events cater to causes close to their hearts. A prime example, of course, is breast cancer. The Komen Race for the Cure—which has been running for 24 years—is now the largest series of 5-K races in the world. It began in 1983 in Dallas with 800 participants. Now there are Race for the Cure events in 115 cities that get more than one million people involved.

Fundraising is obviously important, but the bigger goal of Race for the Cure is educational. “We want to make sure that every single participant in the Race to takes home valuable information about breast health, and that they share that information with their family and friends,” says Melissa Aucoin, manager of the Komen Race for the Cure.

A 5-K race (3.1 miles) is not an endurance event, but that is part of the point. “It’s a distance that appeals to both runners and walkers, and it’s a very achievable goal,” Aucoin says. While the majority of participants are women, the events are designed to be family friendly—the 5-K is open to men and women, and many events feature fun runs for kids. “The passion of hundreds of survivors and their friends and family is contagious, and I think it motivates and inspires even more people to get involved,” says Aucoin.

Even when you have no connection to a cause, charity events often lure athletic wannabes to push their physical limits. The MS Bike Ride—which varies in length from a 30-mile one-day ride to multi-day events that cover a couple hundred miles—routinely attracts those new to the sport. “People are drawn to the Ride because it’s a well-organized, well-supported event,” says Betty Ross, associate vice president of campaign development for the National MS Society. “A lot of people who are looking to do a long ride for the first time join in and let us worry about the details.” Of course, once they get involved, they often find themselves more connected to the cause. Participants are required to raise a minimum amount (which varies by race from $250 to $400). “During the fundraising process, they might discover that they do know someone who has the disease and start to feel a more personal connection to our mission,” says Ross.

Another possible reason for the increase in popularity of fitness-oriented fundraising is that the Internet has made the process much easier. Asking for money from friends, neighbors, and co-workers face-to-face has been replaced with emails and personalized fundraising Web sites. One site,, is dedicated entirely to fundraising—regardless of the cause. So if you decide to run a marathon that isn’t affiliated with a specific charity, you can set up a page on this Web site, personalize with your story and the details about the cause you’re supporting, and email the link to friends and family. They can go online, donate by credit card, and Firstgiving automatically transfers the funds to the nonprofit.

Regardless of what initially attracts people to join, few finish their event without being moved by the experience. “It started as a way to get in shape and run my first marathon,” says Team in Training alum Seth Eisen. “But from meeting new friends, connecting with people affected by the tragedy of blood cancers, to becoming a runner for life, the Team in Training experience was more than I ever could have expected.”

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colo.-based freelance writer who writes regularly for Shape, Runner’s World, Real Simple and The New York Times.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Psychic Shoulder Part Deux

Last Friday, I rolled my virus laden arse off the sofa to head to the orthopaedist's office. I have to say, this is the doctor's office I like best. The magazines are things like SI or ESPN, the walls are Hokie maroon, there are signed pictures of various pro players everywhere, if they had beer it would make a great sportsbar.

So I saw the good doctor, he confirmed that it was still psychic despite resting it another four months, and I set up a date for sugery. He laughed and told me I was like every other patient, apparently, we all live with the pain forever, reach a threshold, and then want it fixed RIGHT NOW!

Two pieces of information I didn't want to hear:
1. I will fully be under general anesthesia.
2. After surgery, no anything at all for four days. Nothing fun for like two weeks. No biking for a month. No swimming for like three months. This pretty much F's my plans for IMAZ.

I've already started brainstoriming on how I'll keep training- elliptical? spinner? the dreaded deep water jogging?


Monday, July 30, 2007

Z team for me

I just joined a new tri team- Team Z. It's based somewhat on the Team in Training model. So far, everyone seems to be friendly, and much less competitive thn the DC Tri club, although the two are not mutually exclusive. With luck and fast healing, I'll race a duathlon with them this fall, and a half ironman in the spring/early summer. Coach Ed seems to be a cool guy, chatty and laid back, and there's another newbie in the group, an adorable redhead who is also a Hokie, so that's pretty cool.

They showed a video of the team at IMLP last year and it made me realize just how bad I want that. I was most impressed by the shot of a girl finishing just 10 minutes before the cutoff, and they were still out there cheering for her. IMAZ is tantalizingly still open, but choosing a Team Z training schedule and visiting the orthopaedist's office served as something of a reality check. But that's another post.

Meanwhile, my homework for tonight is a 50' Z2 run and core exercises.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Back in the saddle ...

I was supposed to run a 10K on Saturday, my preferred distance. However, due to a complete lack of sleep on Friday night, I didn't make it out the door on time. I did however, succeed in watching You've Got Mail approximately 4 times between the hours of 11 and 4am when I couldn't sleep.

Sunday, due to the unscheduled rest day, New Boy and I went out biking. This was the first time I had been on my bike since October. I've been spinning in the gym, but haven't been out clipless in months.

Within the first five minutes of riding, we hit a stop sign and I couldn't get my feet unclipped. I "chose" falling over in lieu of potentially getting hit by a car. Very, very embarrassing, and also the kind of thing I would mercilessly tease someone else about, so you are free to laugh.
Note to self, buy trainer.

There was also a moment where I thought I might get to see the other side of my handlebars when the trail detoured and became sand and potholes. On the way back, I saw that I was the only idiot on a road bike who didn't dismount for that.

Later, I saw a couple walking excessively slowly in the middle of the trail, walking what appeared to be two Great Danes. Upon approach they proved not to be dogs, but deer!
Deer which the walkers were not quite sure how to avoid.
I can only imagine the deer said something like "On your left! Oooh look a butterfly! Wait, where are we going?"

While ridiculously short, it was a fun ride, and hopefully purged my clumsiness. New boy says I need to get my bike sense back. Bike sense .... shananananana.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

If I had a billion dollars ...

New Boy asked me what I would do if I had a billion dollars.
Easy: train for the ironman and hire Paula Newby-Fraser as my coach, get my PhD, and buy you a green dress. But not a real green dress, that would be cruel.

That got me thinking about the Ironman...
So, the original plan was to race Ironman Arizona in '08. It's now nine months away and registration is still tantalizingly open. But is it really feasible?

I haven't seriously trained since February, I'm just now coming around to it again. I got burned out, got a kidney stone, got mono, and then there's the matter of my shoulder, which I still haven't had surgery on.

I feel like I could go out and bike a century cold, and even run a marathon cold (which is looking more and more likely), it wouldn't be fun, but I could do it.
However, there is no way in hell that I could swim two and a half miles cold. I really don't know if I could swim that distance even after training nine months.

And, the longest distance I've tri'd so far is a spint, so that officially makes me out of my damn mind.

And training for a tri is just so lonely. I'm not a crazy cat lady like Peter Reid who can take hiding out and training in solitude.

And, I don't actually have a billion dollars and triathlon is expensive.

IMAZ is a mostly flat course, which is good, because I just don't do hills on the bike.
And the race would be over in time for me to start crew season.

I would be super fit and I'm itching to push myself.

The timing is prime to do an IM, since I hope to be in grad school next fall and you just can't be in grad school, work full time, and train for anything.

The IMAZ training camp is run by ... Paula Newby-Fraser.

The realization of a dream is priceless.

Any voices of reason out there?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Because tacky shorts won't save your a$$

Yesterday, New Boy and I were driving from berry picking to custard and saw the most fantastically hideous bike shorts I have ever witnessed. They were hot pink, electric purple, and teal all over. Like a South Beach version of camoflauge.

After a series of snarky comments like: "Where do you even buy something like that?" "I don't think you can buy something like that anymore".

I turned to New Boy about to say "Well, at least she won't get hit by a car wearing those, you can't miss her " ... when no kidding, she was hit by an SUV. Like one of those VW "Holy ... Safe." commercials.

The cyclist was going with traffic, and in the crosswalk. The people in the SUV decided to make a right on red, and checked oncoming traffic, but didn't see the cyclist. Thankfully, coming from a dead stop, the SUV didn't have a lot of force, and the SUV stopped pretty quickly once she realized the cyclist was there. But the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet! Had she hit the ground, she could have sustained some pretty serious head injuries. Although brain trauma from a previous crash would explain the decision to wear those shorts.

I promise not to make catty comments about your helmet hair, consider that a freebee, just ride safely.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why we're running ...

Stephanie, who is running in memory of her mom, wrote this letter.

Back in January I accompanied my husband Michael on his trip to Miami to cheer him on as he completed a goal he had been preparing for since October 2006; the ING Miami Marathon. Once we arrived, the excitement was so overwhelming, that on a whim, I decided to join in, and I signedup for the 1/2 marathon. I knew good and well that there was no way I'd be able to do much more than walk most of it, however I still participated and crossed the finish line with a time of well over three hours. The experience of participating in the half marathon in Miami
changed my perspective on my own physical endurance. As I pounded the pavement through the Art Deco District of South Beach, with the early morning sun the sun breaking through the clouds, and the ocean breeze cooling me, I felt a calming presence around me. I looked up at the
clouds above me and all I could think of was how much my mom would love this moment. How beautiful everything around me was and how excited she would be to know what I was doing. It was at that moment that I was inspired to keep doing it. In March 2003, my mom, Betsy, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. For many days after my mom received her diagnosis, I spent at least an hour on the phone with her each night. It seemed that the physical distance between us was too great and no amount of time talking could heal it. The truth of the situation was beginning to sink in and I began to realize that her illness could be fatal. There was one conversation we had that continues to stick in my mind: "Mamma, I don't want you to die." She said to me, "Sweetie, I don't want to die either, but if it's God's plan to take me, at least I will go down fighting. I will try everything possible. Even if the doctors can't save me, maybe something they learn from me will help find the cure for someone else. Maybe that is what God meant for me."
As it turned out my mom went through many new and experimental treatments including conjugated monoclonal antibody treatments. These treatments would not have been available to her if it were not for the research, information, and patient services provided by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since 2003, I have been involved in raising money and volunteering forthe Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When I returned home from my trip to
Miami, I began researching opportunities to continue participating in activities with the Society and incorporate my new found inspiration in long-distance running. As a result of my research I found that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society coordinates a half-marathon in Virginia Beach every fall; in addition the Society offers their program Team in Training that is the number one endurance training program in thecountry. In exchange for valuable funds raised for the Society, TNT provides participants with a comprehensive training program led by experienced coaches who train runners, walkers, cyclists, skaters, and triathletes to complete events in exciting locations around the world.

For the past month and a half instead of sleeping in and enjoying waking up to the warm noon-day sun streaming in my bedroom window, I wake up at7:00 AM to join my Team in Training teammates for our weekly group run.

Last week, I met the 6 mile mark for my training, which is almost half-way for the half-marathon in Virginia Beach. We also had a special picnic after our run in which we met our honored teammates, and I shared with my pace group the story and memories of my personal honored teammate, my mom. It was at that time that I made a commitment to go all the way with my commitment and I will be, in addition to running the half marathon in Virginia Beach on September 2, 2007, running the full Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, DC on October 28, 2007. This may seem crazy to some of you, but in reality, running 26.2 miles is nothing
compared to what patients with blood related cancers go through on a daily basis.By signing up to run the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon and the Marine Corp Full Marathon, I have committed myself to run 13.1 miles plus 26.2miles, and I have pledged to raise $3,300 for the Society. I will berunning in memory of my mom, as well as for the other honored teammates in my local area.

In loving memory of my mom, Elizabeth 1948-2005

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Le Running, not even from the Onion.

President Sarkozy has fallen foul of intellectuals and critics who see his passion for jogging as un-French, right-wing and even a ploy to brainwash his citizens. Attacks on Mr Sarkozy’s pastime, which he has made a symbol of his presidency, began on the internet as soon as he bounded up the steps of the Elysée Palace in shorts when he took office in May. That moment has become the icon of his hyperenergetic administration. The grumbling has now moved to television and the press. “Is jogging right wing?” wondered Libération, the left-wing newspaper. Alain Finkelkraut, a celebrated philosopher, begged Mr Sarkozy on France 2, the main state television channel, to abandon his “undignified” pursuit. He should take up walking, like Socrates, Arthur Rimbaud, the poet, and other great men, said Mr Finkelkraut. “Western civilisation, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.” Mr Sarkozy’s habit infuriates his critics – and some supporters – because he flaunts it so hard. Le running du Président, often clad in his favourite NYPD T-shirt, has become a ritual, like King Louis XIV’s rides at Versailles. He has practised it at summits in Brussels and Germany and he is looking forward to a bonding jog with José Socrates, the Prime Minister of Portugal, which took over the European Union presidency this week. Until “Speedy Sarko” won office, French heads of state shunned physical exercise in public. The late François Mitterrand was privately partial to golf, but the reflective stroll was his public trademark. Jacques Chirac, Mr Sarkozy’s predecessor, was famous for his energy, but in public he moved at walking pace and in suit and tie. Le jogging, originally known as le footing and now more fashionably as le running, caught on in France, as elsewhere, in the 1980s and eight million claim to indulge. But Mr Sarkozy has rekindled a French suspicion that the habit is for self-centred individualists such as the Americans who popularised it. “Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the Right,” Odile Baudrier, editor of V02 magazine, a sports publication, told Libération. Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness. Beyond the self-promotion, some commentators see something sinister in the media fascination with le jogging de Supersarko. The “hypnotic” daily images of presidential running are not innocent, said Daniel Schneidermann, a media critic. Mr Sarkozy uses the video images of his jogging as “a major weapon of media manipulation”, said Mr Schneidermann. Some experts have questioned Mr Sarkozy’s running style and say that he is not helped by being overweight. Renaud Longuèvre, a coach of champion athletes, told L’Equipe magazine that Mr Sarkozy bends too far forward, his stride is off, his arms dangle and his feet hit the ground the wrong way. The coach advised the President to get his feet checked, strengthen his abdominal and posterior muscles and “check your diet because it seems you are carrying a slight excess in weight”.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Fourth of July Five Miler

Wednesday, I rolled my booty out of bed at 5:30 am to trek down to Fredericksburg for a five mile run along the Rappahannock. It was a little alarming to get to packet pick-up and see everyone had thighs the size of my torso. Well-defined ginormous thighs. Fredericksburg citizens must do nothing else but run, and do leg presses. With like 450 pounds.

My performance was about what was to be expected for my complete lack of training and knowledge of the course: usual pre-race turning the stomach inside out, lost my inhaler before the race even started, went out too fast and tanked late in the race, wound up with major back pain from an off-balance gait, and got confused about where the finish line was.

What you missed: a pretty path along a creek, over rolling hills (ugh), two ladies running in red tank tops, navy shorts, huge yellow ribbons pinned to their backs, and red, white, and blue star wire crowns, and a guy wearing a t-shirt that said "Stay back 200 Ft".

The race benefitted the Lions Club, so all the tables were staffed by sweet little old men and ladies, and it finished at the farmers' market, and conveniently near a Lilly Pulitzer store :)

Monday, June 18, 2007


Several forces combined to make me lazy and not run this weekend. Now I have to get my ish together and run 6 miles tonight.

Motivating factors:
1. Continuing presence of extra 15 pounds.
2. Some internet stalking shows New Boy's Sister, K, ran a 5-miler at a 10:34 pace in March.
3. In person recon revealed she has run a marathon previously, and she has already reached 8 miles in her training.
4. I could barely complete 3 miles at Thursday's buddy run. Lots of things went wrong, not going to talk about it.
5. I want to run a race with New Boy, and he is much faster than I am.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A little Friendly Family Competition?

I love the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll half marathon. There are bands every mile or so, cheerleaders, pirates, beer, and holiday themed cheering squads. It's along the board walk, and it was my first half marathon, and you know what they say, you always remember your first. As part of my training, and because I love this race, I signed up for it again this year. I just found out that the new boy's younger sister who is my age, is training for it as well. So now, I have new training motivation: beat new boy's sister. This is slightly more likely than winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. Did I mention she had a full ride to college on a basketball scholarship? And she is farther along in her training. I wonder how much I can accomplish training-wise in three months ...

Friday, June 8, 2007

Run vs. walk?

So we took another couple mile walk yesterday and new boy woke up claiming he was oddly more sore after the walk yesterday. Then I saw this on the DC Tri forum as well as TrailMule's sensible response.
I have to admit, when coach Sara asked about experience with the run/walk method, I mentally rolled my eyes. I like to do everything full tilt, which admittedly does usually result in my burning out or getting injured. I did expect that I would have to learn this strategy to be able to complete a full marathon. And so, as TrailMule says, I'll have to re-think my walk = weak sentiments. Not like there's a huge difference at my pace anyways :)

Distance Running Made EasyBy Todd Kenyon 5/22/2007

What if I were to tell you that there is something out there that could make it easier to run farther and faster with less recovery and less mental drudgery? Even better, what if this “something” is free, doesn’t come in a bottle (or syringe!) and requires no learning curve or practice? Finally, what if I could almost guarantee that if you use this technique you won’t experience the dreaded FADE at the end of your long races? If you aren’t thinking this is too good to be true yet, you surely will when I tell you that this “magic bullet” is….walking.Before you hit the “back” button, give me a few more sentences. The protocol I am referring to requires you to do your long training runs using a run/walk sequence, typically 10 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking. The apparent progenitor of this method is famed South African running coach Bobby McGee, and it has been adopted by long course triathlete and coach extraordinaire Gordo Byrn. If you don’t know Gordo, his race resume is thick with top five finishes in big Ironman races worldwide, including 2nd overalls in Ironman Canada and New Zealand, and an overall win at the Ultraman Hawaii. Lest anyone accuse him of being a swim/bike specialist, he ran sub 2:50 off the bike twice at IM Canada. The guy can run, and he is a great coach. Visit his website, GordoWorld, and I guarantee you will learn something. So if you have an athlete of this caliber promoting and personally using a training method that might be associated with beginning marathoners, I think it’s worthy of notice.But wait - it gets stranger. Not only should you train this way, you should also race this way according to Gordo and Bobby. Blasphemy you say – walking is for wimps and weekend warriors! You may be right if you qualified for the Olympic marathon trials, otherwise listen up. Bobby claims that sub 2:30 marathons have been run/walked, and Gordo reports that he recently ripped off a 1:16 half marathon (Napa) run/walking. I can personally vouch for the fact that many marathons OVER 3:30 have been run/walked, but that typically involves a lot of running followed by way too much stiff-legged walking, which is exactly what this technique aims to avoid. The basic idea is that the one minute walk allows a physiological “reset.” Instead of your muscles accumulating fatigue and tightening/shortening over the course of a long effort, they get reset every 10 minutes. One of the keys is that the walks should be done at quick cadence with arms held high in run posture. If you drop your arms and relax, your body will go into rest mode and it will get tougher and tougher to restart. The second key is that the run efforts for a long run should be around your Aerobic Threshold (AeT). I will refer you to Gordo’s website for detailed methods of determining AeT, but for well-trained athletes it is typically around the top of Friel “Zone 1,” or about 25-30 beats below AT, or approximately 80% of maximum heart rate. It is a fairly easy effort. Another key benefit of the run/walk technique is that it will greatly reduce or prevent cardiac drift, allowing you to hold a higher pace at AeT for a longer time than during a continuous workout. Now, I am someone who has spent 15 years trying to figure out how to get my run times more on par with my bike/swim splits. Too, I am not exactly built for distance running so I am always on the lookout for something that might prevent the soccer mom with the twin baby jogger from cruising by me at mile 22 of the next marathon. So I was eager to give this a try, and I got several of my fellow Fuel Belt Triathlon Team members to give it a try too. It’s early in our experiment, but we will provide more updates on our results using this program over the course of the season.For a first test, my wife and I went out for a 15 miler, 2.5 miles farther than our recent long runs. First thing we noticed is that you do indeed feel refreshed at the start of each running interval. I also noticed that cardiac drift did not occur until about 12 miles in, much later than normal for me on a warm day. It was relatively easy to hold form throughout the run, and it was no problem covering the distance – we felt like we could easily have gone 20 miles. We averaged only a bit slower than a straight run, even when including the walk intervals. Hence, the running portions were completed at a pace a good bit faster than achieved during a pure run (as confirmed by GPS). At one point we hooked up with a running group who was running continuously. It was interesting to see how little distance we lost to the runners while walking, and we were easily able to catch back on each time without going over AeT. The next day we both felt great on our long bike ride, and then we banged out an 11 mile run two days later. I can say without reservation that I wouldn’t have had a pleasant second run if not using this technique. It’s hard to find a downside with this method, unless it provides less of a training effect. I tend to think it provides for better conditioning since you can run faster and longer with better form and better recovery. What about racing? We all know what the 2nd half of an IM run course looks like about 10 hours in: night of the living dead. If this technique in fact staves off the catastrophic fade, any reduction in overall pace would be more than compensated for. If we assume the walks are completed at 4mph, and you run at 7:30/mile pace, you will average 7:52 per mile, a 3:26 marathon using a 10/1 walk/run ratio. Not too shabby. Speedier types could run at 7:00 pace and split 3:13. As a final example, let’s assume you run between the aid stations in Kona and walk 30 seconds through each. This plan will give you a 3:10 split at 7:00 pace, or 3:23 at 7:30 pace, or 3:36 at an 8:00 pace. Clearly the amount of time lost walking is small compared to that lost during a massive fade. And let’s not forget another major benefit: the walking intervals allow for efficient hydration and refueling.There is a dark side here, however, which I have saved for last. You really have to swallow your pride when you stop for “no reason” and start walking funny, sort of like a race walker. You definitely get some looks, but I think you’ll find it’s worth it. For more info on using walking for faster runs, check out Gordo Byrn’s website at Kenyon is a man of many talents - mechanical engineer, PhD in Marine Biology and president of Nobadeer Capital Management, LLC. In his spare time, he blends his love of triathlon with his expertise as a mechanical engineer and has started, in which he uses digital analysis to help people find their optimum position on the bike.

From the Trail Mule:
"Personally, I have no idea why the community at large has such an aversion to the word “walk”. It is as if most people equate the word “walk” with “weak” – which is a horrible misconception in my belief. As an ultra-distance trail runner (50k/50m/100m) for the past 9 years, run/walk is simply a fact of life for nearly 99% of the field. So many of the trail courses out there have climbs which are so extensive and technical, that it is nearly impossible to run even for the elites. [Note: Yes, even Dean Karnazes walks - I saw him walking slowly up Hope Pass at the Leadville Trail 100 last year just like the rest of us. In his defense, it was lightly snowing and hailing on us and he was at 12,500ft walking up a brutal grade.] Strategically for me, and to oversimplify it, I run the flats, downhill and rollers but powerwalk/walk the hills in just about every race - ultra or triathlon. I am simply trying to maintain the fastest relentless forward progress (RFP) that I can maintain, without stressing my aerobic system into the anaerobic zone. I don’t care if that is running; shuffling, walking, crawling, rolling-whatever, forward to the finish is what matters and in my opinion folks should use whatever system they feel comfortable.As an infrequent fat Ironman in my ultra off-seasons, I can tell you that I have a hard time breaking away from a relatively proven system like run/walk. While the marathon is considerably shorter for me in general, it is still a helluva a challenge after coming off the bike for 6 hrs. At IM Brazil in 05', which has a very quick nasty hill set in the first 10k, I walked almost all of the hills in the opening 10k and still finished with a 4:05 marathon on a day strolling though aid stations and pushing along in the flats. [Note: it is hilly and hot enough that nobody that day ran sub-3.] Listen, in my opinion, the majority of us folks out there who are everyday normal athletes are going to be called upon to walk at some point during a run in a triathlon regardless of distance. It's cool - go right ahead. As mentioned, on steep hills at something like Columbia - I strongly recommend a quick turnover and short steps for uphills. If confronted with a long flat stretch at something like Eagleman – At best, run aid station to aid station and walk through drinking and eating. At less then best, maintain whatever ratio you can to keep moving forward, whether it be 10-1, 4-1, or 1-1 ratio of run to walk.Every scenario is a bit different but it is all about Relentless Forward Progress. Nobody cares at the finish line."