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The Moneygoround

Today’s post is a little different from my others; rather than talk about my training or latest race experience I’m going to address my accident last December, or rather, some of the more tedious elements of its aftermath, namely paperwork, billing, and insurance.  Yep.  You might want to skip this one if you’re not in need of a sleep aid.  On the other hand, I’m hitting stuff that I, as a very fortunate individual taking my first trip in an ambulance at age 55, was unaware of and would very much have liked to know.  I encourage you to read on.

By the way, before I start

Scottsdale Osborn is an excellent hospital with an attentive nursing staff (as I discovered when I accidentally sat on my call button) who took care of me through a confusing and traumatic episode in my life.  I have no complaint about their level of care.

Everyone bills separately

To date there is no TV medical drama, soap opera, or reality show centering on the billing department. The fact is, every doctor you see in the hospital, specialist or not, bills separately.  The ER doctors bill separately from the other doctors via a place in the Midwest that wanted to know whether to bill my medical or auto insurance.  The medics in the ambulance bill separately from the ambulance company, which didn’t get my insurance card at all.  The tech who fitted my finger splint billed separately from the company that provided the splint and the hand specialist who determined I needed a splint and wasn’t in Cigna’s network despite their website’s claim to the contrary.  But the X-rays, CT scan, and MRI were bundled into the overall hospital bill, which also covered room/board, nursing, meds, labs.  And all these had to bounce off Cigna first, then come back to me before I knew what I actually owed.  Three months later I think the last of the bills from this one visit has finally trickled in.  I think.

Pre-approval required

Reviewing my paperwork post facto, I find that the official reason for my admission to the hospital’s trauma floor was Hemothorax.  And that Cigna had to pre-approve this.  Is Hemothorax a big insurance fraud issue?

You need to ask for your medical records

When my cat had kidney surgery, she left the hospital with a detailed report including images and a minute-by-minute post-op nursing log.  Me, not so much.  My discharge instructions were slender and mostly said to take my meds and followup with my GP (and yeah, you definitely want to do that).  Granted, the doctors did discuss my care in detail while I was there, which advantage my cat did not have during her surgery, but the combination of shock and morphine reduced my fact-retention capability to a feline level.  I went back later to the hospital to get my actual reports and images; that said, there was no additional cost and just a short wait while they copied the files to disk.  Seeing the images for myself, I understand why the specialists get paid the big bucks to interpret them.

“Balance billing” ate my medical rider

https://www.oraclelawgroup.com/2009/12/17/understanding-balance-billing-liens/

This link written by a lawyer describes “Balance billing” far better and more concisely than I can.  But let me break it down for you in terms of how it applied to my situation.  (Where $$$ are specified in the following they’ve been rounded to make easier to follow.)  I have a pretty typical high-deductible insurance plan through my employer. The bill from the hospital for my overnight stay was the big Kahuna, around $27,000 as submitted to my health plan.  The “in-network” negotiated price for these services was $18,100, of which Cigna paid $17,300 and I paid $800 out of pocket.  I had previously bumped my auto insurance to $2000/person to cover this gap.  But – the hospital had filed a lien against any money I might get from insurance or lawsuits related to the accident.  And that lien was for the full $27,000.  So my $2000 payment from Farmer’s went straight to the hospital.  Although this was my highest single bill, the others added up to about that $2000 that I never saw.

(Note: The legality of “balance billing” apparently varies from state to state, but is currently legal in Arizona.)

Not a fender-bender

We didn’t all get out of our cars and exchange insurance information.  I left on a back board, the other victim I later learned died on scene, and the driver at fault had to be cut out of his vehicle.  Four months out and I still don’t know whether he even had insurance, and without an official yea or nay I can’t pull the trigger on my Uninsured Motorist coverage and get reimbursed for my out-of-pocket expenses.  Which, by the way, I don’t see any of until that lien is completely paid off.

Yes I feel a little ungrateful grumbling about this

I’m grateful to the medical personnel who cared for me; to the people who invented, engineered, and lobbied to make mandatory the safety features of my car that kept me alive; to my friends Pete & Donna who interrupted their dinner to drive across town and keep me company in the ER; for the safety net of the 911 system, which incredibly did not exist when I was a kid; grateful that I’ve healed so quickly; and aware every day that if I’d left work just a few seconds earlier that day I might not have come home.

Next post I’ll be back to happy running reports, I promise!

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Down on copperline

IMG_2046-cropGalloping Gertie Half Marathon

Gig Harbor and Tacoma, August 13, 2016

Once upon a time my home town was known primarily for a bridge that fell down, Almond Roca, and an arsenic-spewing smelter.  The smelter is gone now, and the bridge was replaced long before I was born, but the legend of “Galloping Gertie” still clings to the span across the Tacoma Narrows.  This run was originally meant as a diversion while I was visiting my Mom in hospice, but she couldn’t stick around and so I wound up running it in her memory.

It’s a warm sunny morning when I join the other runners congregating in the lobby of the Galaxy Theater in Gig Harbor.  The area has built up considerably since I was a kid, the start and finish located in a plaza of trendy restaurants with sculptures and hanging baskets of flowers everywhere.  It’s a leisurely morning for me as the half doesn’t start until 8:00; I have time for a cup of coffee at my hotel and a pastry and fruit cup from the box breakfast the hotel provided.

The first mile of the race is downhill.  Speeding down Pt. Fosdick road, I can sense as each runner around me goes from “Whee!” to “OMG, I have to run up this on the way back!”  The course begins to undulate, passes into leafy shade.  There are fir needles underfoot, wild blackberries along the edge of the road, then a long wall of cattails before the course turns left and climbs towards a tunnel.  On the other side we pop out into sunlight and are running downhill again towards the foot of the bridge. Wild rose bushes line the pedestrian walkway, packed with red rose hips and clung to by late season scarlet blooms.

The steel cables stretch to the towers overhead, the dark water of the Narrows glitters underneath.  These are the towers whose lights I watched from my bedroom window before the trees grew up; the train’s horn that I’d sometimes hear at night wound along the shoreline.  As I crest the span, taking photos, I’m passed by the 2:20 pacer.  If I have any strategy, it’s to hang out somewhere between 2:20 and 2:30, and that’s what I wind up doing for the remainder of the race.  Mount Rainier is just visible, a white apparition hovering in the haze above the hills.

Once on the Tacoma side I climb again, cross Highway 16, and then climb up through the tree-lined War Memorial Park.  (Can you sense a theme to this elevation profile?)  The next few miles are a ramble through the neighborhood overlooking the bridge, wood shingle homes with gardens that I envy with my Arizona eyes, overflowing with sunflowers and blooms of every color, especially green.  Several kind folks are out offering garden hose spray downs due to the heat of the day, which I decline politely: “I’m from Phoenix; this is nothin’!”

Somewhere in here I pass the 7-mile mark, making this my longest run since Rio back in May.  I’m taking short walk breaks on the hills now, as I retrace my steps back to the bridge and over to the Gig Harbor side.  Ahead of me, a runner yields to temptation and samples tart blackberries from the brambles at the side of the road, and I follow his example.

The heat may not match Arizona’s, but the sun is taking its toll and I’m happy when we drop into the shade of Pt. Fosdick road again, even though it’s a long uphill slog.  Tired of the song Candida that’s been running through my head the past 10 miles, I dial my mental iPod to Walk Off The Earth’s Happy.  It quickly morphs into: “Crappy!  Shuffle on if you feel like you really want to puke-a!”

“This is the last hill!” a volunteer promises, and then I’m routed through this zig-zagging course through the back side of an office complex.  Rounding the parking garage I see the finish line and just stop.  It’s like 200 feet away and I’m tired and don’t want to keep moving.  Somehow I pull my act together and cross the finish in just under 2:30.

IMG_2022-crop

She likes to mooove-it mooove-it!

This was a well-organized race with great volunteers.  I had to dash back to my hotel to check out, but got to hear some of the actually quite good band at the afterparty.  Swag was a good quality ¾ zip pullover with the race logo.  Scenery: see above.  Recommended.

 

Garmin activity

 

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Once in a Lifetime

Into the Blue Again

Journey to the Bottom of the Earth

Monday evening I met with my longtime coach David Allison to go over my twelve-week training plan. Less than a hundred days left until the Antarctic Ice Marathon, and stuff’s getting real!  From the moment I first saw pictures from this marathon, I knew I had to be a part of that incredible landscape.

It seems most runners who do this race have some kind of fundraiser.  Mine has been pretty low key, mostly because I’ve always considered the connection between one person running for fun and another person making a donation to charity a little bizarre.  Since the beginning of the year I’ve been making donations to the Heifer Project, 26.2 cents per mile run.

This week I kicked off a series of incentives, drawing on my previous experience as a singer-songwriter.  For each $50 raised for Heifer through Journey to the Bottom of the Earth (not including my own donations!) I’m releasing a video of a song from my back catalog that’s never been recorded before, by me or anyone else.

(If you choose to donate, you can do so with the full confidence that Heifer will not use your donation for frivolous expenses, like high-tech web design.  I shouldn’t be dissing Heifer, but their fundraiser site has one fugly boilerplate.)

So – twelve more weeks! The race date is sometime November 18-23, depending on the weather in Antarctica. I plan on keeping this journal more up-to-date than it has been recently, and posting daily over on Facebook at Journey to the Bottom of the Earth.

Hints for this desert lizard on surviving the polar cold are appreciated!

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E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon – 8/9-10/2014

Matter of fact, it’s all dark

[She’s ba-ack!  Trying to get caught up on this year’s races with a few quickie posts.]

Venus in the east

Venus in the east

Just getting to the start line on Nevada’s remote Extra-Terrestrial Highway is and adventure.  In Las Vegas temps are in the low 100s and the short walk to the Hard Rock Hotel has already sweat-soaked my race gear.  In contrast, the air conditioned bus is absolutely frigid.  It’s a two hour drive to the middle of nowhere, then everyone tumbles out for photos next to the legendary “black” mailbox.

I’m not a big fan of sleep deprivation, so any event starting at midnight is a stretch for me, but surrounded by the excitement of all the other runners about to do this crazy thing (marathoners and the 51K ultras start from the same point), the late night fatigue falls away and I’m off at a respectable clip.

The full moon is excessively bright, washing the stars from the sky and casting the naked Nevada hills in stark daylight contrast.  Like many of the other runners, I’ll douse my headlamp later in the run, and ooh and ahh at the fireballs from the Perseid meteor shower.  (I counted nine throughout the course of the night, not bad considering they had to be as bright as Venus or brighter to overpower the light of the Moon.)

The first miles fly by, but the course is uphill for the first 13, and the late-night fatigue returns around mile 11-12 as one false summit after another presents itself.  Finally, at 2:30 in the morning, I reach the midway aide station, where they are just running our of jelly for the PB&J sandwiches but still have plenty other snacks.  Huge props to the volunteers, who were out there all night, and in temps that were perfect for runners but a little chilly for just standing around.  It’s all downhill from here – mostly.

Around Mile 15 the distant lights of Rachel, the first lights I’ve seen all night not attached to a runner or support car – come into view.  A huge sense of relief washes over me, until I do the math and realize I haven’t covered 2/3 of the distance yet.

Dawn is brightening the sky as I pass Rachel for a final out-and back, and the wheels gently but decisively come off.  I’ve got one sprint left in me, and that’s for the finish line; I’m walking the last two miles in.  I’m still a few hundred yards out when one of the ultras comes running up behind me.  “Let’s finish this together,” he says, and we do.

In brief: an unforgettable race, and one that kicked my butt.

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One Run For Boston – June 7-30, 2013

Amy (stage 54) hands off to Nancy (stage 55) on Leupp Road west of Leupp.

It Doesn’t Hurt Me

“It’s after the cinder cone on the right, there’s an intersection with a big green sign and it’s the third dirt road on the left after that.”

“I don’t see any green sign,” says Cicely, riding shotgun.

“Google street view had a green sign.”

Half an hour ago we’d been chilling at her friend’s cross-fit gym in Flagstaff;  now we’re driving up and down a featureless road in the southwestern corner of the Navajo Nation, trying to locate the handoff point for the baton that left California two days ago.  With cell towers few and far between communication with the stages before and after us has been sporadic.  A few miles back we passed Amy, who’s running the previous leg, so we know we’re on the right road at least.

We backtrack to find Amy’s support vehicle (i.e. her husband in their Nissan Altima) and synch up with Kate and Danny in the Stinkmobile, where I bewail the lack of landmarks.  “I think our landmark is behind that little bit of tumbleweed over there,” Danny deadpans.    Kate brings out the One Run For Boston banner for us to sign, a blue and yellow map delineating the route that the baton will be taking from L.A. to Boston over the next three weeks.

Amy is a figure in the distance, running down the side of the road, slowly drawing nearer.  I adjust the water bottle in my left hand.  I’ve never run with a baton before.  There’s a too-short time for hugs, a chat, and photos, and suddenly I have the baton and I’m running down the two-lane blacktop towards Leupp, 11 miles away.

It’s Monday April 15 and I’ve just gotten back to my desk after a long meeting.  Out of habit I check the news.  Then I grab my phone, go on Facebook and post the first thing that comes to mind: “Holy fuck.”

This should be a time for meditation, for opening oneself up to the experience, to thoughts of the reasons that I’m running, the people dead or injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, the banality of evil, towards showing our resistance and reclaiming our streets.  Unfortunately even at this latitude and altitude the temperature is hovering around 100 degrees, and after 30 years of living in the Valley I’ve had it drilled into by tiny head that one simply does not exert oneself in this weather.  All of my brain power is taken up shouting down a little voice that tells me I will die if I don’t find the nearest scrap of shade and crawl under until sundown.  Cicely is waiting with the car at the 1.5 mile mark, and I fill up my water bottle while she mists me.  I’m tempted to linger, but she claps her hands.  “Great start, keep it going!”

It’s been a rough year; about Whiskey Row time last year I developed a repetitive stress injury in my QL probably from my desk setup at work, and several weeks after Rapa Nui my back gave out and knocked me completely off my feet. Months of physical therapy, and while I’m still climbing out of that hole I suddenly get a pinched nerve in my shoulder.  I’ve been picking up the occasional race, even jumping into a Ragnar as a last-minute replacement, but not really having fun with it.  Two steps forward, one and a half back.  I just want to not be in pain.

The plain of the high Sonoran stretches off to the distance, tan soil and dried yellow vegetation, broken only by the occasional march of power line towers.  Eleven miles is such a tiny fraction of the 3300.  I concentrate on the wavering horizon, straining to imagine the great prairies beyond, Texas, Oklahoma, all that distance, other hands waiting for the baton.

Sunday, April 24, ballroom dancer Adrianne Haslet says in an interview, “I will crawl across the finish line, literally crawl, if it means I finish it.”  This becomes my mantra on my log runs, whenever I have to stop alongside a canal and stretch out my back, whenever I want to just give up and walk.  You have two good legs.  Get on with it.

Fueled by excitement, a slight downhill slope, and a desire to get the baton back on schedule, I’ve started out too fast, at 9:15 almost my 5K pace.  I need to dial back.  The pinched nerve in my shoulder is killing me, and shifting my water bottle and the baton awkwardly between hands doesn’t help.  Somewhere east of mile 2 I melt down spectacularly, miles from anyone and anywhere.  I’d like to say that I draw inspiration from the runners injured horribly in the bombings, fighting their way back to mobility.  The fact is my brain is too addled by the heat and exertion to be inspired.  I pull myself together and go on simply because it’s the only thing to be done.

May 25, a link for something called One Run For Boston pops up in my Facebook news feed.  The link takes me to an audacious plan to run a cross-continent relay, raising money for The One Fund Boston.  The question isn’t am I going to do it; of course I’m going to do it.  The question is, who can I convince to take a day off midweek and carpool up north with me?  I elect to spam my teammates from March’s Ragnar del Sol Relay, and Cicely responds.  The legs around Flagstaff have already filled up, leaving empty the stretch east of town, across the Rez.  Still, it’s northern Arizona; it’ll be cooler than Phoenix, right?

At the three mile mark Cicely & I swap places and she runs the next three.  I munch Pringles and blast the A/C, leapfrogging her a mile at a time.  She dumps her water bottle over her head and refills it at each mile. “I’m not carrying my cell phone,” she says, “There’s no reception out here anyway.”

To non-runners, responding to the violence at the Boston Marathon by running 3300 miles across the country must seem like telling someone, “Stop hitting me or I’ll poke myself in the eye with a stick.”  What we’re really saying is: “We are strong.  We are undaunted.  And we will support our injured long after the media spotlight has faded away.”  How do you fight terrorism?  Don’t be terrorized.

Replenished, I take the next 2.5 miles at an easier pace.  There’s a little bit more scenery on this stretch, as I pass by an escarpment and through a wash.  Far off I can see the Leupp water tower, and just concentrate on getting there.  Hallelujah, even before that I spy the little orange Prius parked at the side of the road.

Reading the stories of the other runners in the relay, I feel a little out of place.  Holly, in the stage before Amy’s, ran Boston this year.  Thomas, the second stage following mine, was a few hundred yards from the finish when the explosions happened.  I’m just a dorky mid-packer who’s willing to drive three hours to run five miles.

The final 2.5 miles are Cicely’s.  I pull in at the gas station/general store that, along with the water tower, signifies the town of Leupp.  Danny and Kate are there with the Stinkmobile, along with Mario, who’s driven up from Phoenix with his family, and Thomas, who’s driven down from Tuba City with his.  As we’re waiting, a big dust devil rolls down the road, engulfs us.  “What causes that?” asks Kate.  “Just the wind,” I say.

Living the One Run Facebook page has been like being a single neuron in a huge mind with a single intent.   We watch the ticker, willing the final vacant stages full, then follow the baton’s progress as it tracks from Venice Beach east and deep into the Mojave, occasionally departing from its path as a runner takes a wrong turn or has to re-route around some unforeseen obstacle.  The photos filter in: killer hills; a clandestine midnight snap of a runner sliding under barbed wire, no explanation given; twenty dollars and a note reading “God bless ya’ll” tucked under the wiper of the Stinkmobile;  lightning, bridges, cows, tornados.  Stories are shared, transport provided for runners who need it, flying or driving in from all corners of the country.  People who’d been in Boston, people who knew someone who’d been in Boston, people who’d never come closer to a BQ than five and a half sweaty miles on a remote Arizona highway.

Cicely runs in, hands the baton to Mario; photos are snapped, and he’s off, heading on down Leupp Road away from Leupp, moving the baton closer to the New Mexico border where it will cross early next morning.  There’s a little time in the shade of the gas pump canopy for some more photos with the backup baton and a few laughs; then the Stinkmobile, Thomas and his family depart eastward in pursuit.  Stage 55 is over.   Cicely and I grab some sodas and head back towards Phoenix.

Two things I’ve learned:

It’s not all about you.  You’re a small part of a huge swath of humanity, whose stories and struggles make your petty troubles pale in comparison.

It is all about you.  That huge swath of humanity is made up of individuals like you, and your story and their stories make up the greater story.   It’s all about us.

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Moving

Welcome to my new home for Running Up That Hill, my collection of race reports and other musings on suddenly taking up running at the ripe age of mumble.  I plan to be slowly moving my posts over from my old blog at active.com, but new posts will have priority.

The Active community message boards are still a great place to network and get/give moral support, as well as find out about events; it’s the brittle blogging interface and lacking tech support that’s prompted my move.

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