Is it just me or does it sometimes feel like it takes a while to fall into a rhythm?
On Saturday, I put on my wetsuit for the first time since purchasing it in January, and I attempted my first open water swim of the season. Coincidentally, it was also my first swim ever in a wetsuit. I’ve been certified for Scuba for several years, but that doesn’t really count as “swimming” in a wetsuit. This was a new experience. The wetsuit is tight and restrictive and makes it somewhat more difficult to breathe and move one’s arms. In addition to the fact that the water is murky and there are no lane lines to follow so swimming straight becomes another challenge. The goal is to work on “sighting” the big orange buoy that you’re headed toward. However, on the way to the first buoy on Saturday, my goal was to not drown. With the buoyancy of my Quintana Roo Ultrafull that might have been nearly impossible, but if anyone is capable of giving it a good shot, it’s me. My first couple hundred meters were ug-ly, but eventually I started to remember things like keeping my head down, breathe when I need to, slow down and relax which ultimately helped me find a rhythm…sort of. I managed to get through almost 2 full loops of the .62 mile course. Not too shabby for my first time out there. However, now I’m even more terrified of the fact that I have less than 2 months until I have to do that in Lake Michigan. Yikes.
After the swim, I ditched my wetsuit when I found a bunch of my tri-peeps and we hopped on the bikes for a nice flat ride in Newtown. Tracy and I got to catch up on all sorts of topics while we rode, until we saw lightening and we quickly decided it was time to bail. No wipe outs for me in our 20ish miles…success! We got a little wet as we tried to race the rain, and we got stuck waiting for a train to pass. Again, rhythm still somewhat eluded me, but at least we managed a solid brick workout before a fun night of breaking in the party deck at my house.
This was a rare weekend that my brother happened to be back in Michigan visiting my mom. Since I had to work until 5 on Sunday, it’s a 6 hour drive each way and I had to be back to reclaim custody of my kiddos early this morning, I wasn’t sure how to swing the possibility of getting up there to see him. But, as I thought about all the times in our lives that our parents had driven 1, 2, 10, even 16 hours to watch either of us participate in our various sporting events for a couple hours, only to turn around and drive all the way home, it suddenly became a no-brainer. Seriously, one time when I was in college, my parents drove through the night from Michigan to Atlanta, slept a couple hours in their van, watched my team row on Lake Lanier and then turned around and drove straight home to get my dad back for a meeting. I heard my dad’s voice echo in my head saying, “It was crazy but I’m glad we did it.”
And thus, on Sunday, upon leaving work, I embarked on the 350 mile drive to Exit 1 off of highway 94 in the mitten. I grabbed a quick coffee and ham sandwich at Starbucks so I would only have to make a short pit stop while filling up the Pathfinder. I passed the miles belting out the lyrics to my all-time favorite stage show, Les Miserables. At exactly midnight, I pulled into a South Cove guest parking spot. As soon as my brother heard the buzzer at my mom’s condo, he knew it was me.
Monday was Memorial Day. And while I very much appreciate the service of those who have fought for and given their lives for our country, I was also spending the day reflecting on my own memories. Mom started pulling out various boxes for AJ and I to go through. Old school papers, a journal my dad had given me when I graduated from High School, AJ’s old sports gear, my old softball uniform and my prom dresses. It goes on and on…
Eventually, I made my way out into the blustery Michigan weather for a run. What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than a run down memory lane? As soon as I started I thought of James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams saying, “The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces”. I thought it was a hazy mist, but it was more than that, it was my memories thick in the air. A little over 30 years ago, Al and Kris Jacobs stumbled onto a little beach town known as New Buffalo and the adjoining town of Union Pier nestled down the road. They spent nearly every summer there with their children. Eventually, they bought a place right on the harbor.
When I hit start on my Garmin, I overlooked the grassy knoll where my dad had walked me down a makeshift aisle to give me away at my wedding, which is the same grassy knoll my kids love to fish and kayak from. I ran up the hill, over the bridge to the beach, where as a child I dug countless holes in the sand with my brother and where I spent endless hours drifting in the waves with my sister, singing Madonna songs, while we all laughed at my dad falling asleep under the umbrella listening to the static of the AM radio trying to catch a Cubs score. As I ran up Marquette road, I passed the start line of the Bison Stampede 5K, the last race I ever ran with my dad. I continued on Marquette, what we had dubbed “the lake road” so many years ago, past Camp Sokol, Sturgeon Beach and Apple Lane. Where Marquette ends into Lakeside, I made a left. I hadn’t really planned to go any farther, but I felt pulled to keep going. I ran along the road that I had walked with my dad as a little girl to get donuts at Ramberg’s Bakery for breakfast. Eventually, I came to a sign that read Gintara’s. I stood at the entrance of the resort, staring down the driveway. I remembered playing tennis on the courts there with my sister. I could see the main house where we went to check in so many consecutive summers. I knew it was there, even though I couldn’t see the “Boathouse” down the staircase that we had packed our family of 5 into for sticky summer nights, sleeping on blow up rafts, playing Scrabble and never quite being free from sand in our toes. I could see the big cottage that we had rented a handful of times with groups of neighbors and friends, the Lundbergs, the Coltons, the Simms, the Gardners, the Cirannas and my high school girlfriends. It was just over 4 miles from my mom’s condo to Gintara’s. I stood there for a moment, taking in the smell of Honeysuckle, before turning and heading back the way I had just come. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve run that stretch, whether for a nice easy run or in training for a marathon or anything in between.
It’s still amazing to me that every time I run that road, there is a new house going up; but there are still so many familiar homes that have been a part of every journey along that stretch, now just a little more weathered than they were years ago. Always changing, and always staying the same. By the last couple miles, I was cruising, flying along the blacktop like I had found my rhythm. And then, in the distance, I saw two people running toward me. The taller, goofy one started leaping through the air throwing his arms out in front of himself. I gradually slowed my pace and fell in line with my brother and sister in law. We wound between the houses, down a long staircase and onto the beach, where our pace ultimately slowed to a walk as we scanned the sand for beach glass. It was a perfect way to finish that run.
And it reminded me, sometimes, finding your rhythm doesn’t mean going along at exactly the same pace all the time. Sometimes it means going fast when you feel like you can, other times it means slowing down because you need to catch your breath. It’s about knowing when and how you need to change it. Life can go zooming by if we let it, if we get too focused on being in a rhythm.
When I had to stop at the first buoy of my inaugural wetsuit swim to regain my composure, Annie swam by and checked on me. If I’d had rhythm, I would have missed that. When the train stopped us on our bike ride, Tracy and I dismounted and laughed about the comfort of bike seats (or lack thereof). If I’d kept my pace to finish out a solid 8 miler on Lake Michigan, I would have missed that walk on the beach with AJ and Simy. Life is about so much more than getting in a groove and coasting along. It’s about appreciating all the little things that force us to change up our pace.
Driving 350 miles for a mile walk on the beach, a burger at Redamak’s and hugs from my family…well, as my dad would say, “It was crazy, but I’m glad I did it.”
Now that’s my kind of rhythm.