Tag Archives: Heather

LA Cancer Challenge 5K/10K – 2015

October 25, 2015

Pretty much I have run the LA Cancer Challenge every year since 2004.  This is a special race, one of the few that is a cause that I will run for

The past couple of years I have had to be goaded into running, not because I don’t want to support the Hirshberg Foundation (for Pancreatic Cancer Research), but because it has traditionally been around a week post-Twin Peaks and I am usually not recovered from a 50K (or 52.5M as was the case last week) enough to walk a 5K.  (OK, honestly, I can walk a 5K, like at Boeing, but I hate to spend money on a race that I am just going to walk.)

Last year, my friend, Doug, offered to pay for my entry if I could show up to run. That was pretty effective guilt-tripping.  Yes, I will run.  No, you don’t have to fund me.  Support used to be a lot better for this race, but we are getting on ten years since Heather Stevens died, and also, the past few years, the race has been on the same day at the Rock’n’Roll LA Half Marathon.  I’m hoping in the future that either folks will get tired of the expensive RNR events… or that the races will be on different weekends.

Another twist this year was that they had to move the race very last minute.  The LA Veterans Administration location decided they could not host events that didn’t directly benefit Veterans.  (So I guess it will be a ghost town for a while.)

The new location is in Woodland Hills.  Arrgh.  The drive to the LA VA was pretty substantial, similar to my commute in 2000 to West LA (around 25 miles one way).  Well, Woodland Hills is another 15 miles away, so a really long drive for a good cause.

The semi-good news is that two of my reliable compadres, John Hunter and Steve Schatz are going to carpool up, and I can go with them (Richard Parker, too).  The bad-ish news about this is that they decided we needed to allow 2 hours to get up there.  Honestly, there is usually not much traffic on the 405 Freeway at 5:30am on a Sunday.

We arrived more than an hour before the race, which allowed us to leisurely stroll from the parking lot to get our bibs (shaped like pumpkins!) and shirts, stroll back to the car, take a little nap, hang out in the team area, and that left another 20 minutes before the race started.

Like previous Cancer Challenges, they start with the 10K and then do the 5K, and the course is a loop course.  I liked the course OK, except for a weird section where we passed an intersection, ran 10 yards, did a U-turn, and then made a right-hand turn at the intersection.  Not that I had any speed, but nothing like doing a bunch of tight turns when you are trying to run fast.

Early on in the 10K, I had some issues with breathing.  This usually happens when it is the first time I run post-ultra.  I just gutted through as best I could, throwing in walking breaks when needed.  I ended up running near the front of the pack (think the race was smaller this year) coming in 50th overall. (50:51)

Had a small break before the 5K.  Not really enough to recover.  And in the second race, my quad got really tight, as if I had been running downhill a lot.  At least I didn’t have to run two loops, but I got sick of this loop pretty quickly.

I was happy with my results.  Being able to manage 8:00 – 9:00 minute miles 8 days after an intensive ultramarathon (on a sprained ankle) is impressive in my book.

Probably my favorite moment was running into one of my hash friends.  People always ask me to take their picture because my bird’s-eye view has a slimming effect.  She asked if I could take her picture with the Start/Finish Line in the background.  I thought I did a good job until I saw it later on Facebook, and I had mistakenly cropped out the “S” of START.  (Swear I don’t think you’re a tart.)

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LA Cancer Challenge 10K – 2010

October 31, 2010

Ever since my friend Heather Stevens was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I have made it a priority to run this event and to get others to run this event, too.  However, because it hits on a Sunday in the fall, the tradition is that the Long Beach Hash has their Halloween run on the same day and people don’t like to do the long drive and do both (but I’ll do it).  Back when Heather was still alive, we made a concerted effort to either have the hash be closer to West L.A. or have a late start.  Since I am the Trailmaster for the Long Beach Hash, I worked it out to have the start be around 2 miles away from the Los Angeles VA (where the race takes place).

Leading up to the race, I have not had a good time of it… my back has been hurting and maybe I tried to come back too soon from the trying No. Cal. 50 miler.

The LACC course is a 5K loop, with an uphill (but gentle) slope for the first half mile, then a roaring downhill (with a few dipsy-doodles) to the Wilshire Blvd. undercrossing.  When you emerge from the tunnel, there is a mile-long loop around the hospital end of the VA.  It is a gentle downhill for the first half and a gentle (read: annoying) uphill for the second half.  Then you recross under Wilshire, head uphill for about a block, and then a quarter-mile flat dash to complete the loop.  The 10K is two loops.

On the first loop, I feel OK… or at least I think I feel OK.  I run the initial uphill, but I have to walk a bit on the subsequent uphill sections around Mile 2.  My first loop is a respectable 23 minutes and change.

On the second loop, I walk the entire beginning hill, and every subsequent hill, and I feel terrible, and my back hurts a lot (so best not to run the hills).  My second loop is around 28 minutes.

While 51 minutes is a decent time (about 8:30/mile), I am disappointed that 3 weeks after my race, I am performing sub-par.

After the race, I head over to the hash.  Since it is Halloween, I am hoping it is the usual short trail, with numerous beer stops… but it turns out to be the complete opposite.  There are no stops (not even for water) and the trail is 9.79 miles long.  I think a lot of people turned around early because they were wearing costumes!

I walked most of the way with Dulce Barton (who had also run the 10K) and Chris “Undercover” Spenker.  What is notable about doing this hash is that we three had an in-depth conversation about feasibility of doing half marathons (Dulce and I both had done halves and Chris had not.).  Chris had walked/jogged a few 5Ks and wondered if he could do 10Ks or longer.  Of course, by the time we got to the conversation, we had already covered 7 or 8 miles (which is longer than a 10K), and after doing 10 miles… well, what’s another 5K, right?

Chris was just short of his 70th birthday and here he was, thinking about doing half marathons.  It’s like I always tell people… it’s never too late to start running!

LA Cancer Challenge 5K – 2006

October 29, 2006

The first year of the Pancreatic Cancer challenge race without Heather (who died a few months ago).  Her son and ex-husband are here, though, and a lot of her good friends, in memory of her.

We are at the LA Veterans campus, near the 405 and 10 intersection (off of Wilshire Blvd.).

This course has some nice hills, but none of the sharp turns on uneven pavement that the run at UCLA had (2 years ago, I think).  It’s just nice being here.

The day Heather died, another running friend (and her brother, too) were diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  She is in her mid-60s, so just as tragic (probably) as someone under 40, since nowadays 65 isn’t “old age.”  She is still hanging in there, though, 4 months post-diagnosis.  Outlook not great, though.

Even after a 3M race yesterday, I manage 22:10 for the 5K.  Normally, this wouldn’t put me in the top 10 of my age group, but following my theory that when 10K is offered along with 5K, the better runners do the 10K; I end up placing 3rd in my division (and the medals even went 5 deep!).

Red White & Blue 5K – 2006

July 2, 2006

A lot has happened in the month since my last race.

The day after the Naples Fun Run, I put on a special hash event for my friend, Heather Stevens, who is rapidly losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  Even after raising $25,000 to get a special treatment in Switzerland, she is the 10% that it doesn’t help.  I can see a rapid downhill spiral, just by her gaunt appearance and lower energy (she is always upbeat, but not as much so).

I pleaded with the Long Beach Hash to do a special event, but they say that they do not want to play favorites (!) – I hate that… so I take it upon myself to plan an event through the Signal Hill Hash (which is my group) and gather together a nice group of hares, and my friend Doug Atkin donates the beer.  The plan is to do a run that has a beer stop at her house and then everyone can visit for a bit (and/or say goodbye), without having to “force” people to see her before its too late.

We decide to also take donations for her son’s college (a donation BBQ), but later the funds are used for him to help build a better relationship with his dad (long since divorced from Heather), because he already has his college paid for and this is something that will help him now.

We get a huge crowd – over 130 people.

Everyone outside Heather's house

Everyone outside Heather’s house

The following day I am at a hash run and I am thinking, “Please do not let Heather be my next friend to die…” and I get my “wish,” at a hash run when a guy I ran with occasionally has catastrophic heart failure and drops dead on trail.

A few days later, I am at a hash and there is a knife fight on the beach and dozens of cops and helicopters show up – a very scary situation.

Then a week later I start a new job in Irvine and my car starts giving me trouble again.  On my third day at work, I get an e-mail saying that Heather passed away at age 38.

Yesterday, there were two services simultaneously, for Heather and for “Accidental Tourist,” the hasher who died the day after our special run.

Heather and her son Connor

Heather and her son Connor

Today there was an opportunity to do a Justin Rudd event in Long Beach, a 5K in honor of the 4th of July.  I felt the need to let off a little steam and there were no obstacles or crazy hills to climb, just a straight 5K on the beach bike path.

I ran with a guy I am acquainted with, Bruno Bachinger, for part of the course, but he pulled up at one point, saying that the pace was too much.  (I could’ve sworn he is faster than me.)  From that point on, I didn’t see any other runners and I finished first overall in 20:10.  This win’s for you, Heather!

Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon – 2006

April 23, 2006

One of my favorite events, and this year, we had 7 teams!  So… it was even more of a blast than usual.

I did something this year that totally goes against racing strategies… I had two microbrews BEFORE I ran.  As usual, I had the last leg, and Jaime (aka Buster) convinced me to join him in the beer enclosure.  Buster was knocking ’em back like crazy.

I had a pretty good result for myself, finishing my 5.3 mile section in 39:55 (sub-8:00).  Our team was a little ahead of Buster’s team, so I got to see how well he would do after consuming so much beer.

His team was very worried about him, because he had that glazed look in his eyes that you see when people have too much to drink.  He sorta shuffled off to the lonely section (an out-and-back with no crowd support), and we expected him to take forever to get back… but suddenly he appeared at Mile 3… his fastest 3 miles ever, probably, asking for his team to get him a beer when he popped by again at Mile 4.

Another highlight was that Connor Stevens ran on one of the teams.  I had known him since he was about 8 years old… and now he is 14 and really enjoys running (and he’s fast).  All of his running buddies are 20 years older, but we all think he’s a great kid and really managing well, considering that his mother, Heather, has had pancreatic cancer for the past 3 years.

We had a good time, and our group was the LAST team to leave the park and I think we shut the beer enclosure down, too (by 3pm, or so).

LA Cancer Challenge 10K – 2005

October 30, 2005

This race would turn out to be the last LACC run that Heather attended.  Before the start of the race, they always made a big announcement about people that inspired them – and Heather was the poster child for success in survival.

I was not expecting a great time – the day before I went to the LA Hash run, which culminated with Drag Racing (no, not cars; people in drag, racing), and I stayed pretty late.  The new course at the LA Veterans Hospital Grounds is two fairly hilly loops, so anything under an 8:00/mile pace is fantastic.  Doing 47:50 is great (not top 10 in my age group great, but I’ll take it).

Hope for Heather 4M – 2005

August 7, 2005

I want to tell you a story about my friend, Heather.  I met her about 5 years ago, and she was just another runner, and I also hashed with her.  We had a lot in common – both writers, both went to University of California schools – except that she also has a 14 year-old son (whom we have also gotten to run).

On one of our runs, Heather told me about her lack of work, and I was able to find her a very small position with the company that I worked for… so we also got to work together for a bit.

In 2002, Heather was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, which is basically a death sentence (though the odds of survival have climbed to 1% by 2012)..  Her diagnosis was caught earlier than usual because of another condition, whose symptoms alerted her to the Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis.

The doctors did the Whipple procedure which removes portions of several organs, including the pancreas.  She went through the procedure like a champ and then several months of chemotherapy.  After about 6 months, she was declared in remission… but a few months later, it was back and had metastasized in several other organs.

Heather was the most upbeat person, never complaining about her situation and always willing to try whatever treatment might be the future cure.  The current proposal was a special treatment, only available in Switzerland.  However, it was going to cost $20,000, and she also had to get out there, stay there and recover there.

We helped to put on a 2-mile and 4-mile “race” called Hope for Heather, both a fundraiser for the Switzerland cure and to put on a race (I finished in 32:58, but there were no placings.).  The event garnered $25,000 and paved the way for her treatments there.

Although the success of the treatment was somewhat near 75%, after returning from Switzerland, there was no miracle cure – it even seemed to some of us that she worsened more precipitously after her return.

Ten months later, I put on a special hash run, where we raised money for her son’s college (though since he had scholarships, we used it so he could spend more time with his previously mostly estranged father) and also gave her friends the opportunity to visit her en masse, especially when she was too weak to make any more events.

One week later, she died.  She was 38 years old.