About me

Always a wanna-be athlete. That’s me. Admiring the smooth graceful power of athletic movement, wanting it, but never quite there. . . .

1955 -1976: I grew up pre-Title IX – ever the “tomboy” – constantly reigned in by concerned parents. . . Went to Caltech in the early seventies – before they had enough women to have actual women’s teams. That’s where I met Hal – my life partner and favorite running buddy. . .

I always loved to run – felt it gave me clarity, and running fast was the closest I could get to flying, another of my youthful aspirations. . . I was plagued from childhood by a torn meniscus in my left knee, which would periodically cause my knee to lock up, swell, and hurt. As time passed, those episodes became more and more frequent.

1979: A ski incident the year Hal and I got married did me in. The entire lateral meniscus was removed in 1979 – I was told by my surgeon to anticipate total knee replacement in 15 years, and to avoid running.

Didn’t do a real good job of following the doc’s orders. Continued to run, entering age group competitions in the San Gabriel Valley, wearing a knee brace. Had a couple of kids.

1991: I prepared to enter PT school, determined to learn enough about rehab to fix my knee and the world. At the same time, Hal, the children, and I moved to Santa Barbara – an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up, even though PT school was in Los Angeles. Too much! I came down with pneumonia – and the aftermath was a trigger of a latent autoimmune disease diagnosed as Lupus. My hands and feet started to break down.

1992-1997: Those are years I’d rather not re-live. I hated my feet. I hated my hands. Somehow, I completed PT school, often using a cane, hardly able to walk, unable to hold a fork, carry a plate, or open a jar. Took up swimming and stationary cycling. When I felt up to it. Glad I didn’t have to live with me. Poor Hal. Poor kids. As a Physical Therapist, I often had to use a cane. Patients told me I was “an inspiration.” DIdn’t feel like one. Felt like a person who had grown old before her time. . .

1998-2003: Lupus quieting down. Discovered Spinning. Started to feel more like myself. Dabbled in a few triathlons – still limited by pain when running. My “runs” were more of an “modify your gait and endure it” experiences.

2004-2006: Took up cycling. Joined a Cat 4 women’s cycling team – Femmes Fatales. Fun to compete again!

2007 – March 2009. Hal started to run daily – training for long distance races. I watched. I lusted. Finally, I cautiously tried. And tried again. And again. And again! To my shock/disbelief/rapture I’m getting away with it! Gotta keep myself reigned in – space out the training, keep the races short – but Man! It feel great to be flying down the road again. Not on wheels – just on my own feet..

Hal and me, finishing the 2008 Platt River Half Marathon in Denver, CO

Hal and me, finishing the 2008 Platt River Half Marathon in Denver, CO

April – May 2009: Hal continued to train, me at his side. But Hal started to have problems with his training – he was always tired, seemed to be getting slower. Meanwhile, I was building distance, getting faster. Then his speech started to become sluggish, slurred. His Neurologist ran an enormous number of tests. I won the Women’s Elite Master State Street Mile.

June- July 2009: Hal continued to have problems- and was sent to UCLA for more tests. We celebrated our 30th Anniversary in SLO – and for the first time we didn’t quite finish our annual bike ride – where we cycle the number of miles that we’ve been married.

August 5th, 2009: Hal was diagnosed with ALS. And my life changed forever.



  1. Fran, I literally stumbled upon your blog while researching Nordic Pole Walking in Santa Barbara. I live in Carpinteria and am interested in making sure I learn the proper technique before setting off and thinking I’ve got it when I don’t. The entries on your blog really moved me, so I am trying to connect on a heart level first to see how you and Hal are doing. Secondly I’m wondering if you can connect me with someone who might “teach” me to pole walk.

  2. Dianne –

    I am still working part-time – and would love to introduce you to Nordic walking in our area. I will send you an email with more –


  3. That “Anonymous” comment above was me.

  4. Hi Mrs. Finney. I’m a writer. I’ve been covering Bitcoin for the last 3 years and I’ve been wanting to ask Hal some questions about it for a very long time as he holds a unique status in the evolution of the technology. I don’t know if an interview is within the realm of possibilities, but I’d really like to at least send you an email to introduce myself. I’d be very grateful if you would send me a note. Sorry to clutter your comments section with this request…

  5. Hey, been in semi retirement for about a year and was browsing my past coworkers and history. Was sorry to read about this news. Hits close to home, ran a lot, did the Kelrof twice, ’79 and ’80, i bike everywhere and have 2 kids in college. Went to caltech from 1977 to 1980. Worked at aph tech from 1981 until the video game induced breakup in the summer of 1982. Aph was a great place to get started and the senior people like Hal made a big difference. It was like going to grad school, everyone was sharp and friendly. It definitely was a great first job, when the senior staff left, I felt it was time to leave too for silicoj valley. Anyhow I hope life for you, Hal and your family progresses as best it can given the present circumstances.

  6. Fran,
    I just read the Forbes article by Andy Greenberg. Besides the fantastic story of your husband’s genius, the picture of you two–you especially- is beautiful.. Your spirt and spark shine in your eyes..then finding your blog and reading your athletic and PT training…

    Thank you for writing and sharing what you and Hal have done.

    • SeaSea –
      Thank you! I have not been very active on this blog over the past couple of years – documenting our life changes as Hal’s ALS progressed had become too emotional…glad people still find my old entires worth looking at, and maybe I’ll get back to it an add some more recent news…

  7. Fran we have tried to find everything written about Hal that we can, and wish we had known more a long time ago about both of you wonderful people. Barry and Erin of course are pretty quiet about everything. We have been following Hal minute-by-minute the last week and filling the air waves with thousands of prayers by dozens of people at our church, for your strength, peace, and comfort. We try to give Erin all the support we can!
    luv, kevin and patrice maturkanich

  8. Hi Fran, my mother just passed away and was at the time of her death the oldest living Lupus patient. Her doctor worked out of the U of M in Ann Arbor, MI and was astounded at her tenacity in dealing with it for so long.

    Is your Lupus under control these days?

    Thanks, Dave M.

  9. […] via Fran’s Fragments and […]

  10. […] via Fran’s Fragments and […]

  11. […] via Fran’s Fragments and […]

  12. […] around Fran’s Fragments and […]

  13. Dear Fran, we recently published BitcoinComic.org and dedicated our graphic novel to Hal. We would be proud if we can send you a copy of the comic. Could you send us your address for sending it to you? Thanks, Alex

  14. […] via Fran’s Fragments and […]

  15. Fran,

    I’m working on a movie/art project and the story includes you and Hal. I would love to do your love for him justice and if anything ever comes of my movie, give a huge share to ALS research or a cause of your choosing. Can we talk on the phone?

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