A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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Super-conference and a birthday marathon

Not just another conference…

It’s hard to believe that we’re well into March already! February was a very full but fabulous month as it was the every-two-year Continuing Medical Education (CME) meeting for health professionals working in cross-cultural health settings across Asia.

The conference is designed for North American (because we tend to have stricter requirements) health professionals who need valuable CME to maintain their practice license. It is of course a full schedule of medical lectures (all optional), but it is much more than straight medical lectures. Workshops in reading ECGs, “ultrasound for dummies”, and use of other techniques and modalities to help those of us working in areas where there is no other specialty consult service (such as when I was working at Kwai River Christian Hospital). The faculty who come take their own time and spend their own money to come and teach us. THANK YOU!

However, it is even MORE than a medical conference! Every two years I get to spend a couple of weeks with friends from all over the world learning, worshiping, crying, laughing, and enjoying each other. These people are truly my peers and it is so refreshing to come together again. Many of us will drag ourselves in haggard and weary – barely hanging on until we can get to Chiang Mai (location of the meeting since 2001). The week is tiring enough, but it is a break from our normal schedules and routines. Although I left quite exhausted – having maxed out my capacity for people interaction several times over – I was also thoroughly refreshed.

Therefore, I want to encourage all of you who support cross-cultural medical workers to support them financially to attend meetings such as this one. It is important professionally, of course. But I know it is also a lifeline for many of us and it is a component of “member care” that enables us to go back and keep going in our work abroad. It is a break for health care professionals AND their families (many are 2-profession families). Another thing to consider in support of your worker is to come and serve as a child care worker at similar conferences. Not a “glamorous” short term mission, but an absolutely essential one! If you are a member of CMDA (Christian Medical Dental Association), consider contributing towards this very valuable medical missions endeavor – your sponsorship helps keep the costs down for us.

BIRTHDAY!

birthday marathon start 7 March 2013My birthday was last week and of course I had to celebrate with a special run! The marathon distance is basically 42km (26.2 miles) and so I had a birthday marathon to celebrate 42 years! Three running buddies showed up for coffee before heading out at the 6am start time. Two ran the first 10km loop, but then had to get off to work. The third gutted it out to the last. He is fit, but I had the special birthday adrenaline and just could not slow down… until he asked if we could walk. <WALK!?!> To his credit, we actually went 44.6km because I found a new trail and didn’t want to turn back so soon. The only thing pulling me back was that I had another (non-running) friend coming to my house to make pancakes for my post-run treat! Besides, I had to be back, cleaned up and fed before my scheduled massage! That evening I spent with another couple of friends at my favorite live music hangout place.

LENT

It is just a few weeks until Easter. I don’t know what traditions you follow for the Lenten season – I actually never really heard of Lent, or thought it was something for me until I was older – but I like to read one of two books to be mindful of the season. This year it is Henri Nouwen’s “Show Me The Way” that takes one through every day of Lent. Nouwen has always been a sort of pastor to me. I know that you will also be enriched from his writing as well. What kinds of practices do you follow for the season, if any?

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Fall Tour 2012

I will soon be returning to the States for over two months but the schedule is packed! Below is a brief overview of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. The dates listed are fairly firm. However, opportunities for speaking at particular venues in those places are still being worked out. I hope that there will be an opportunity for me to meet as many of you as possible. If I’m going to be in your area and you would like to meet with me or host a gathering, please let me know.

SEPTEMBER

2 -6         Arrive Fort Wayne, IN

7-8          Hallucination 100 mile ultramarathon in Pickney, MI

9-11       Novi, MI. Speaking at Christ Covenant Church

12-15     Ft. Wayne

16-29     Sacramento, CA attending a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam training for healthcare professionals presented by the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center, UC Davis.

30 – 3     Orange County, CA

OCTOBER

4-10       Los Angeles area, meeting with community groups of Pacific Crossroads Church as well as meeting a number of other people involved in counter-trafficking efforts.

11-13     Lincoln, NE Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at University of Nebraska-Lincoln I’m giving a talk on health and human trafficking

14-16     Denison, IA meeting with supporters and speaking at a local church

17-18     Ft. Wayne

20-21     Tussey Mountainback 50 mile ultramarathon

19-23     Upper Darby, PA (suburb of Philadelphia) to meet with Interserve HQ

24-27     Nashville, TN meeting with Abolition International

28-29     Fort Wayne

30-3       Grand Rapids, MI

NOVEMBER

4              Fort Wayne (LWCC)

5-7          Indianapolis, IN

8-10       Louisville, KY Global Missions Health Conference (I’m a Dean and Speaker)

11-12     Ft. Wayne (GCC)

13           Depart for Thailand

I’m very much looking forward to seeing so many of you!


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Huay Tung Tao Trek 6/12/24 Hour Endurance Run

Where to start when writing about this event? I’ll start with gratitude. Thank you Jesus for seeing me through the organization of this event, for all the help you provided, for the beautiful weather (one can expect a least a little rain in July), for keeping us healthy and safe, and for the wonderful place to run. I also must thank MANY other people, but that would take up too much space on this blog. The whole thing would have flopped without everyone pitching in to help and support one another. Entire families were involved and I feel like we became more like family through the event. Beautiful.

Runners at the start!

Although this was not my first crack at being a race director, a 24 hour endurance run is quite a bit different from a pot-luck “Cha-bu-duo”* 10km run! The idea came as sort of a whim as I was thinking of ways to prepare for my first 100 mile race in September. “I need to start practicing running at night, but what if I could practice running all night…” I mentioned this to a couple of my ChUG** friends and they thought that it was a good idea … or did they really say “good”? Anyway, I thought it was brilliant and went for it! Richard told me as we were setting up before the start, “I may not want to thank you later, so I’m thanking you now for having this brain-fart.”

A timed event, where runners run around a fixed loop and count how many loops they can do within the given time frame, is easier to do than a distance race. For example, I only had one major aid station and an unattended water/electrolyte stop halfway around. Furthermore, more people could participate as I made different time divisions: 6, 12, and 24 hour plus a 3-hour kids division!

A total of twenty-two people participated in the  – some were brave enough to travel from other parts of Thailand to participate in this inaugural event. Most people started on Friday evening, but a group of women opted to start on Saturday morning. I was delightfully surprised to see that they were Mennonite! One does not normally associate ultra-endurance events with such groups of people, but they love sport and there are plenty of athletes among them! I love it when people break the mold, break stereotypes and go for it!

The Mennonite women!

The most common question people asked me was, “Do you sleep at all during the 24 hours?” I actually did not know the answer to that. I had never run at night before, let alone all night, and then continue through the next day. Normally, I am NOT a night person – sun goes to bed, I follow close behind – so I was surprised at how NOT sleepy I was through the night. I don’t know whether it was the constant physical activity or just being hyped up about the event, but I never had the urge to lie down and close my eyes. I did take some caffeine, but not nearly enough to account for the alertness.

Amazingly, it didn’t rain as much as it could have as it is the middle of rainy season here. It rained early (about hours 2-3) and so I had to change from my regular shoes into my “miracle shoes” (the ones with 1400 miles on them – one of the kids named them) early on and ended up running most of the race in them.

Faith ran in the 3-hour kids division, then stayed all night, and all the next day to crew the runners! She also ran extra laps as a pacer with runners to support them. A budding ultramarathoner right here! She and her friend Adrianne were a jou I’m so proud of them!

Except for changing my shoes and socks after the rain stopped I never sat down. I didn’t even stop except for the brief hiatus to grab a drink or a bite to eat through the aid station marking each lap. I also took some brief time outs to award medals to participants as they finished – the race director’s privilege!

I suppose I could keep better track of what exactly I ate but generally it was a lot of watermelon, bananas, super-charged peanut butter balls, protein shake + coffee mix, Clif bars, and, the ultramarathoner’s surprise fuel: Coca-cola.

I started my 37th loop at hour 18. Seemingly suddenly, the level of pain that one normally endures at that point in a race jumped a few notches and I was no longer able to run – at least with a decent gait. I decided it was finally time to take a break, perhaps 20 minutes? I could do that and still make 100 miles. However, as I sat down my friend immediately noticed my angry red and very swollen ankle. I took one look and knew I was done – no amount of will to finish could override what I knew as a doctor: I needed to stop immediately or perhaps risk greater damage. I was not disappointed (another surprise)! I had done well and I needed to live to run another day. Besides, 137km (85.1 miles) in 18+ hours is not too shabby, and this was just a practice run for my first 100 miler in September!

Three of the 24 hour runners made it the full 24 hours and Brian cranked out 101 miles in just under the time!

Ajarn Dee, a statistics professor, is in my Bible Study and she came out to cheer me!

Although the event itself was not a fundraiser, I asked people to give towards my personal run and pledge a monetary amount per kilometer/mile run. Amazingly, I raised a total of $880 for my project Relentless!

Lessons learned:

  • I did not have the strength training in my legs that is needed to sustain my legs for such a long distance. Partly because I had been rehabbing some tendinitis in my knee in the weeks prior. Strangely, the knee didn’t bother me at all (argh).
  • I have a much better understanding of what it really takes to excel at such events, especially long distance road races, such as Badwater.
  • I can “DNF^” with dignity and for good reason.
  • I learned a lot about race-directing in Thailand and look forward to next year’s event!

I think everyone who participated or volunteered agrees that the event as a whole was a HUGE success and we are already planning one next year!

THANK YOU:

Sunday brunch celebrating with good friends – runners and volunteers!

Ryan, Richard, Ray, Heidi, Caleb, Henry, Ben, Faith, Adrianne, Karl, Ron, Connie, Sai, Jume, Rhea,  Jung, Atsuyuki-san, Ajarn Dee, and all the other people who came out to cheer and help! You guys have NO IDEA how grateful I am for all your support and help in the prep and putting this on. Atsuyuki-san says it was the attitude of the people involved that made this one of the best races he has ever attended!

For a slideshow of photos from the event, please visit this link. You can also visit the Facebook album. IF these links don’t work, please let me know!

*cha-bu-duo: Mandarin for “close enough” and also the name of an annual 10k in Shenyang, China that I organized in past years. The 4th Annual run happens 1 September!

**ChUG: Chiang Mai Ultrarunners Group

^DNF: did not finish


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Depleted

I bonked. In endurance athletic terms applied to my work life, I bonked. Hit the wall. You know when your computer is stuck and keeps circling, circling… trying to load? That was me a couple of weeks ago.

I thought that I was keeping a good balance of my life and work. I have been eating well, practicing good sleep hygiene, emphatic about my Sabbath, in a small group, and of course exercising. (However, by the looks of my dirty house, I do not keep the balance in that department.) I was quite surprised when, a few weeks ago I totally bonked, quite suddenly at that. Kinda like what happens when your computer crashes. Circling, circling…

“Take care of yourself,” everyone says to me, meaning well of course, but it sometimes doesn’t come off very well as it usually means there is no follow up. To a self-sufficient, self-reliant, can-do-it-all-the-time kind of person, it can become a burden. It becomes another thing I’ve got to do for myself by myself. Not to sound whiny and needy, but sometimes I just want someone to take care of me – but isn’t that true of all of us? What I wasn’t doing is allowing my gracious Father to take care of me. I had taken over taking care of myself the way that I thought that I needed to. I wasn’t open to receiving, but going through all the “right” motions in my own way. Not that my way was bad, it was just incomplete.

I dragged through a couple of days, then took an extra Friday off, thinking I’d be OK. Sunday’s rest didn’t give me nearly what I needed. I needed a break and I couldn’t remember the last time I took a vacation. I was past due for one, but I limped through another couple of weeks anyway.

While the thought of taking a break was very appealing to me, another part of me was drawn to work even more and I kept putting it off. I felt addicted to work: I could stop for a day or so, but I’d soon get back to my fix. I slept well, but upon waking I was preoccupied with ideas and tasks. The solution to my restlessness was to do more, to feed the addiction. I was looking I knew that I needed to stop for a while but I became preoccupied with what shall I DO, even if I didn’t feel like doing anything? Furthermore, the thought of planning a low-budget holiday was stressing me out, so I just decided to have a “stay-cation” and try to be true to relaxation and restoration even while staying at home.

I asked forgiveness for the way I was living life on my own terms. I started to pray and ask God what would nourish and restore me. Goodness knows I didn’t have a clue.

So last Friday, I pulled the trigger and said, I’m OFF! I felt better immediately. It was great to spend a Saturday afternoon hanging out with my friends and their kids by the pool instead of in front of my computer. Saturday I also hatched a plan to knock something off my bucket list, which I will write about in the next post.

I do think that one can keep a good and sane margin and still have a break down once in a while. It is easy in this fast-paced and info-loaded world to forget the big story of which we are a part. We forget that our rhythm extends beyond the week through the whole year and beyond. Consider the Bible and the rhythm of feasts and fasts of the seasons, and on through the Jubilee years. There is a purpose to everything and every time, and we have to be more conscious of the way we live in the times.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 The Message


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Suanpruek 10 Hour Ultra-marathon

Three weeks ago, I learned about the Suanpruek 10 hour ultra-marathon, a timed race in which participants race to see how far they can go within the time period. I didn’t have much time to prepare, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run an ultra marathon that is so close and easy for me to go. Plus, the timing was perfect because I was due to be in Cambodia on 7 May and would be passing through Bangkok anyway. The women’s record, set by last year’s winner was only 84km – certainly I can do that! Besides, a chance to race is a chance to learn and there isn’t anything to lose! Check out this inspiring video!

I arrived at the race start with my kit: mat, toolbox with food, electrolytes, changes of clothes, and other essentials. Walking around the area looking for a good place to camp, I noticed that various running clubs had set up canopy tents, so I struck up a conversation with one of them, BangKhunTian.

“You are alone, and no team? You are welcome to put your stuff here!”  SCORE! The cameras came out and before I knew it I was part of their team – which would mean so much more as the race went on.

Pre-race fare was hot coffee, white bread spread with jelly or pandan paste and rice dishes like khao man gai (rice steamed with chicken). Talking with people during the race, many of the participants weren’t even there to run all day – they were there to do a certain distance and then stop – and not even try for time. Just run/walk, enjoy friends and the event, then camp out and eat and cheer on all the other saps the rest of the day. It is definitely a different – and refreshing – running culture here. Sure, there are plenty of tough competitors, but a 10 hour ultra-marathon didn’t scare the average and recreational runner from participating. The same goes for the 5 and 10km runs that happen nearly every weekend. It was great to have so many people (over 200?) at the start, and 28 women were signed up for the 10 hour open.

A colorful runner!

I’ve never done a timed event like this where you run around a tight (2.1km) loop, but the brevity of the course lent to intimacy and a lot of people interaction. Spectators were cheerful and smiling and helpful. There wasn’t a time where I was bored, or wish I had an mp3. I was also the only white-skinned female participant (an African woman was part of a relay) so I suppose I was a novelty as well. The event also featured a 2×2.5 hour relay so there were always runners cruising through the course.

My adoptive team started really coming on board about three hours into the race. When I came in for a shirt change, they gave me one of their shirts! I got many more thumbs up from the spectators after that – I was running with a Thai team! The team started telling me my place and informing me about how far back my competitors were. They gave me cold wet towels for my face. When I was cramping and stretching they offered to massage (I declined the chair) but massaged me as I stretched. When I needed more water or electrolyte beverage, they supplied.

The temperature at the 6am start was a balmy and overcast 28C. By 10am the temp would hit 40C and would stay at least that high for the rest of the day. “Drink before thirst, eat before hunger” is what they say and I tried to put electrolytes and sugar in my body every time I took a sip. I also took in fruit and powerbars with a bit of protein as well.

I felt pretty good through the first half of the race, and had logged about 50km by the five hour mark. As the race went on, however, it was all I could do to concentrate on my running, eating, and drinking. Sunny Blende, sports nutritionist, says that “ultra races are really an eating and drinking contest with exercise and scenery included”. This is so much truer in hot weather when fluid and electrolyte balance can cost you more than a race.

I gradually succumbed to overheating, got dehydrated, and behind on electrolytes, all of which contributed to nausea. I kept pushing fruit and liquids down until at last – relief! – I purged and cleared my stomach.  I downed a gel a few minutes later, and kept up the drinking and eating as best as I could, but the cumulative damage was done. I was just gonna fight the rest of the time. Knowing the dangers of heat exhaustion (and worse) I kept checking to make sure that I continued to sweat and convinced myself that I was.

The Thai running community here is helpful and caring to each other as anywhere. I was a perfect stranger – as a lone white female, stranger than most. When I was paralyzed with leg cramps, runners stopped to help massage and sprayed something on them to help. When I was puking, a runner stopped and put his hand on my back just to show he cared. Finally, a one of my new teammates offered (no, insisted) to run with me and I had a buddy for the last two laps – how grateful I was for her!

The woman on my right ran with me the last two laps, the one on my left was my masseuse.

While I did all that I thought I could do to prepare, it occurred to me that perhaps I should have done more runs at 1pm than at 6am. Sometimes, though, things go wrong and you learn a lot from the experience as well. Even so, I led most of the race and was passed within the last two hours when I really tanked. My goal was to reach the women’s record (84km) set by last year’s winner (who didn’t place this year) and if I happened to win or place – great! Second place, a goal achieved, and lessons learned is a great experience indeed!

from left to right, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

More photos can be seen here, here, here, and here (notice the cheerleaders!)…


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Running for Justice

Hello friends!

Many of you know that I like to run long distances. I love challenging myself to see just how far I can run with the time and resources that I’ve got. Many of you know that is how I came up with the name Relentless. The more I do these ultra marathons, the more I want to do the next one. Unfortunately, there aren’t many ultra marathons within a reasonable travel distance – most of them require international travel – which I don’t have the time or money to do. Therefore, why not make my own ultra marathon event? Just for FUN! In China, I organized a Cha-Bu-Duo (“close enough” in Mandarin) 10km run for my friends, and it was a blast!

An ultra marathon distance event, however, requires quite a bit more organizing so I decided to make the race a timed event, as in, how far can participants run in the allotted time? I want to see what I can do in 24 hours, but to get some friends running with me, there will be 6 and 12 hour events as well. My friend’s kids want to run as well, so a 3-hour kids division will also be offered! This event is designed as a “fun run” with participants anteing up an entry fee to help cover the cost of rentals, food, water, and other necessary items for the race. It is not a fund-raiser for my project per se. Other runners are welcome to raise money for their own projects in a similar way as I am. We plan to start our adventure at 6pm the evening of 20 July 2012. We will all be running through the night (cooler that way) and some of us will still be running all through the next day.

For this 24-hour endurance event, I’d like to raise money for my project Relentless (www.gorelentless.wordpress.com). Specifically, I would like to fund medical outreaches to red-light districts and after-care shelters for abused and trafficked people. The money raised through this event will help outfit my medical kit with supplies and medicines such as a blood-pressure cuff, extra stethoscope, scale, eye-chart, commonly used over-the-counter medications, disposable clinic supplies (e.g. gloves, swabs, hand sanitizer), and other items. I could also help fund the expenses of Thai volunteers (nurses, doctors, etc.) who are willing to travel with me to these places. If you have any questions about how the money will be used, please contact me directly.

Please consider pledging a certain amount of money per kilometer run. Yikes! (You might think) Katherine could run quite a few kilometers in 24 hours! I actually don’t know what I can do, since I’ve never done anything like this before. However, knowing that I can raise more money with each step I take will motivate me to push myself!  My goal is to run 100 miles (about 160km).

Upon completion of this even I will inform you of the distance covered and the total pledge amount and the details of how you may choose to give. Donations can be made through my sending agency Interserve by this website:  https://capitaldynamics.com/interserve*, or by check mailed to Interserve USA PO Box 418 Upper Darby, PA 19082-0418. I can also accept cash or a transfer via PayPal and I will issue you a receipt from Interserve for your donation to Relentless.

What I need to hear from you is how much you plan to pledge and the method you would like to use for donation to help me keep track of the person and amount.
 
Please return the following information to me via email pediattude@gmail.com or gorelentless@gmail.com.
 
Name______________________ Email:_____________________________  pledge _________ per km
Preferred method of donation: online or check donation to Interserve_____   PayPal ______  cash_____
 

Thank you so much for your support in this RELENTLESS effort!

Katherine

*note, some people get an error message saying that this is an unsecure site. If that happens, please visit the Interserve USA website for more information.

24 hours of:

justice.compassion.service.joy.freedom.hope.love.patience.endurance.shalom

kindness.humility.peace.sacrifice.perseverance.forgiveness.promise

fun.truth.encouragement.focus.courage.passion.relentlessness


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Songkran and other Hot (season) Activities

This weekend is the Thai New Year and the Songkran Water Festival. Basically the entire country is in a giant water fight and NOBODY is immune to getting wet! It comes at the peak of hot season and the water splashing is quite refreshing!  Chiang Mai is one of the go-to places in Thailand to celebrate. I have been in other places in Thailand during Songkran, but I have never seen anything like this! The moat that surrounds the old city is lined with people and the whole city is jammed with cars all around the moat and roads leading to/from the central city, and pretty much anywhere one can find a station of people ready to douse whatever person or vehicle comes along.  It’s such a fun time, and perfectly good and right for everyone to soak a perfect stranger.

Think about it, grown-ups and kids playing squirt-guns and others riding around in the back of pick-up trucks with drums of water throwing buckets of water and cannoning everyone. It is license to PLAY – it is generally good clean fun and everyone has a great time. I remarked to my friends that it looks totally ridiculous to see adults with enormous brightly colored squirt guns running around. It IS GOOD to let go and get ridiculous sometimes – it is good for the soul indeed. Thailand is known as the land of smiles and this festival shows them off brilliantly.

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The work is growing steady and sure. I’m networking like crazy in Thailand and am currently involved in a couple of networks of organizations working in counter-trafficking and general child-protection efforts. Within these networks, I’m working on developing some tools to assess the medical/health needs of the organizations, planning some trainings, and learning much about the current situation in Thailand. Meanwhile I am doing a few “red-light” clinics and am developing more with other groups. The international projects and travel have slowed a bit – this is a blessing as I need and want to focus on Thailand. Even so, the ones going are keeping me pretty busy! I still go to Cambodia fairly frequently (my next trip is in early May) as the medical advisor for the Chab Dai Coalition.

One of the upcoming things I’m looking forward to is that I’m going to start mentoring a Thai Pediatric resident who is also in my Friday night small group. She just finished her internship and has a couple more years to go. I’m also learning a lot from the couple of doctors who lead our small group, and it is a refreshing time (and helps me with my Thai language as well).

Of course I’m still running! I launched ChUG – Chiang Mai Ultrarunners Group – to help bring together those few hardcore runners who like to go long. It has been fun to have others to run with on Saturday morning long runs. Since long races (there is a 10k many weekends throughout the year) are few and FAR (as in distance) between, we sometimes hold our own “Cha-bu-duo” races – like the marathon we did for our friend whose goal is to run a marathon every month. He couldn’t find one that he could do in March, so we did one with him, complete with homemade medals!

Three of us are wearing our Chiang Mai marathon shirts as a kind of team uniform.