Monthly Archives: November 2013

Turkey Trotting and Giving Thanks

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It’s Thanksgiving.  I am curled up on my couch under a blanket with my laptop as my Starbucks sits nearby on the appropriately named coffee table.  By all standard definitions of this day, it does not seem to fit the traditional descriptions.  There is nothing cooking in my kitchen.  I don’t have any ingredients to make the usual Turkey day fare, not even a pumpkin pie.  My house is quiet except for a rerun of an old Friends episode on the TV for background noise.  My kids are having Thanksgiving with their dad this year.  My mom is in Florida, my sister in Georgia, my brother and his family in California, while I am “home” in the Lou.  I’m not watching football or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I’d like to think that if someone was here we might go outside and throw a football around at some point, but I’m not even sure where the boys left the football.

All that said, to me, it still feels like Thanksgiving, in some weird way.

I got up early this morning and put on my running clothes. I pinned a bib to my red FLEET FEET singlet and joined 4,000 others at the Chesterfield amphitheater in the bitter cold to run the annual Turkey Trot.  Kristen found me as I wandered in a daze toward the Start.  The timing truck was stationed at the Finish line and I planned to leave my coat in the truck so that I would have it right when I got done.  As Kristen and I jogged from Start to Finish, I waved to several friends along the way.  I stashed my coat and we walked back toward the start with FLEET FEET Race Timing Manager, Jake.  Jake’s wife Lauren just had their second child 2 days ago, so they have much to be thankful for today.  Jake was especially thankful at the “timely” arrival of his son (see what I did there?)  which allowed him to still be available for today’s event which is one of the biggest races on his yearly docket.  Well done, Baby Goldsborough.

A few minutes later, Kristen and I ran into Marxkors who was stripping down to her race gear.  She was clearly feeling more ready for the 3.1 miles of pain than I was.  The hacky cough thing that came on a couple days ago in combination with the 20 degree temperature didn’t have me thinking that today would go so well.  But I was there and I was going to do it anyway because I’m a runner and that’s what we do.

Kristen and I made our way to the front of the crowd at the start line where Ron grabbed me for a big Thanksgiving hug.  Then we pushed our way into the herd, somewhere between the guys in the front wearing tiny split shorts and all the people wearing turkeys on their heads, just before the race got underway.  I’m pretty sure Kristen’s only goal was beating the guy in the banana suit.

The gun went off, the race started and we ran.  The great part about a 5k is it’s only 3.1 miles.  The sucky part about a 5k is because it’s only 3.1 miles, you run a lot faster than endurance pace.  My body doesn’t like to run fast.  Especially when it’s really cold out.  And I’m sick.  And I potentially may have stayed out too late with friends last night.  But, it was worth it.

Sheila and Kelly passed me early in the race. Nick poked me in the side as he ran by with a big smile. I waved to Andy on his way back of the out and back.  I yelled to Marxkors as she passed too.  Just under 24 minutes later, I crossed the finish line after seeing several familiar faces along the course.  Kristen had finished just a few steps behind me with a PR.  That’s good, I’m glad one of us had a decent race.  My time was over a minute slower than the last time I ran that course two years ago.  Oh well, it was a good start to the day, and actually it got even better.

As we headed for the post race refreshments, I saw Flavia and Nick.  As we stood talking, Kaitlyn walked up and asked me to tie her shoe since she couldn’t feel her fingers.  Tony and his son Elliot showed up in their Elvis costumes and Elliot immediately began disrobing.  Faith and her daughter Kylee came by with hugs.  I saw another Kristen and said a quick hello.  We all split off and I went to get my coat from the timing truck.  Jake was busy scrolling results on a laptop inside the truck but I whispered Happy Thanksgiving to him anyway.  I talked to fellow Fleet Feet-ers Chris and Tim for a few minutes.  Tim’s wife Lisa was the overall winner for the women, with Maxkors taking second.  That’s a good day.  I grabbed a banana and a water and went to check the results monitors.  They were scrolling alphabetically at H.  Being a “J”, I knew I didn’t have to wait long.  I was the 60-something female finisher, number 18 of women 30-39.  Pretty respectable considering the circumstances.

As I was about to head out, I saw one of the other Maxkors siblings…Alicia.  She was with one of my social running Steve’s.  We talked for a few, did hugs and said happy Thanksgiving.  As I walked away I saw Kelly; Sheila joined us after she gave up on waiting for her name on the results.  Then, Lisa and Marxkors.  How cool did I feel standing there with the top two women?  I have some very fast friends.

Then I walked back to the car.  After I got the heat going, I pulled out my phone and started fielding texts from so many friends.  My mom had tried to call, I called her back but left a message.  I sent a text to my baby girl and asked her to give hugs to her brothers for me.

I drove over to Starbucks to get my well earned coffee.  Funny that I ran into Alicia and Steve as soon as I walked in.  I laughed as I said that I was just going to follow them around all day.  Alicia joked that if I wanted to come over for Thanksgiving I should just say so.  I responded saying if I was going to be alone, the Marxkors would likely have been the first people I would have called to invite myself over.  And I know I really could have done that.  Not just with the Marxkors, but with several others.

And that’s when it really hit me.  Even in being “alone” today, I’m not really alone.  I started the day off with so many hugs from friends in the running community that I am so fond of.  And the texts I’ve received remind me that even if I choose to be alone for part of the day, I am not forgotten, I am loved and I am blessed.

So while outwardly, today may look like any other day, it still feels like Thanksgiving in my heart, just like every other day.  I am so thankful for my awesome kiddos who are celebrating with their other family just down the road.  I am thankful that they are healthy and happy.  I am thankful for knowing that I can count on my family, even when they are far away.  I am thankful for my friends, near and far, who love me in spite of myself.  And I am thankful that 12 years ago on a random Wednesday night I called my parent’s home phone just to say hi.  Typically my dad would pass the phone off to my mom, but that night he didn’t.  He stayed on the phone with me for several minutes talking about nothing of consequence and the last conversation I ever had with my dad ended like this…

Dad: Bye now.

RRG: Bye Dad.

Dad: Love you.

RRG: Love you too…

Then we hung up.  Those were the last words I ever heard him say.  We should all be so blessed.

Where ever you are today, make sure your loved ones, family, and friends that are like family, know that you give thanks for each one of them.  I am thankful for each one of you.  Happy Thanksgiving.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get out of my hoodie and running tights and get ready to go to dinner with a couple of my kickass friends who refuse to let me have Thanksgiving dinner alone.

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Navigationally Challenged

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It is well known fact amongst my friends that I am, what we like to call, “navigationally challenged.”  You can tell me how to get somewhere, and I will inevitably go the wrong way.  You could paint a straight line on the ground, tell me to follow it, and I would likely still get lost.  We all have our strengths, following directions is not one of mine.

It’s not an inability to read a map so much as it is execution error.  I am easily distracted. And the google map thing on my phone, really confuses the heck out of me, especially when the arrow is moving in the opposite direction of my travel.  How does that work!?

Each time I set out to a new destination, I think, “Ok, this is it, this is it!  This time I will get there with no mistakes.”  But alas, I always wind up wondering, “Wait…is this where I’m supposed to be…?”  I typically manage to get where I’m headed eventually, but not without earning an interesting story or two in the process.

Last weekend, I found myself wandering around the Arizona dessert, which was mostly intentional.  I was out in Phoenix with friends to volunteer for the Arizona Ironman in Tempe.  Our mission was to acquire a special wristband that would allow us to be at the front of the line to register for the same event next November.  I was convinced the whole idea was crazy.  An Ironman? That seems like an awful lot, doesn’t it?  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and then a full marathon.  I mean, I love running 26.2, but after all that other stuff?  I’m not so sure about that.

We flew from Lambert airport on Friday evening.  Farrell was seated right next to me, and Adrianne was just across the aisle.  The boys, Mark and Ron, were somewhere at the back of the plane. Farrell and Frenchy (Mark) have both completed a full Ironman, the rest of us can only boast the half distance.  I am the least experienced of the group, having completed 70.3 only once, with 3 total Tri’s to my repertoire.  Nicole was supposed to claim that title but sadly things didn’t work out for her to join us.  Chances are, I wouldn’t have agreed to this ridiculousness, if it hadn’t been for Nicole’s persuasion.  But it wasn’t until about a week before we were set to leave that I found out she was no longer joining us.  Total bummer.  We had also lost Brian and Martin along the way.  And then there were 5…

We arrived in Phoenix, Friday night.  The girls all stayed at Farrell’s uncle’s house and the boys were at a condo just a few minutes away.  After dropping off our stuff, we all went out for a quick beer to celebrate our arrival.  We didn’t stay out too late since we had an early volunteer meeting the next morning at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

We got to our meeting right on time Saturday morning.  We met our volunteer coordinator, Emily, and wouldn’t you know it, Emily was a collegiate rower like myself.  She actually knew my coaches Bebe and Joanna from Michigan State.  Small world. After receiving our instructions, we wandered through the expo.  Several athletes were in the water for the practice swim and the transition area was filling up with bikes.  We teased Ron that he should earn commission selling goggles since all three of us girls bought a pair at the Aqua Sphere booth, he did score a free pair for his efforts.  Mark bought a new Rudy Project helmet in a fantastic shade of neon green.  We ate free samples of Ciobani yogurt, and smoothies made by Vitamix.  We all made various purchases at the Ironman Official Merchandise tent, where my friend Jayne came over to say hi.  I’ve known Jayne my entire life since our dads were colleagues in the early days.  Jayne’s boyfriend Jimi is an experienced triathlete, who was competing in his 4th full Ironman this year.  He was hoping to finish in 9.5 hours.  He is incredibly impressive, to say the very least.

As we made our way over by the main drag in Tempe to find some lunch as supplement to our free snacks, I looked to the right and saw my friend Judy walking down the street.  Judy and I met on the shuttle from the Dallas Whiterock Marathon expo a couple years ago.  She had just completed the Lake Placid Ironman and was convinced I would be picking up triathlons too.  I laughed at her.  No way!  We ended up finding each other again at the Pre-race Pasta dinner that night and were fast friends.  Although this was the first time we’ve seen each other since we met in Dallas, we’ve stayed in touch and have plans to swap travels for races in St. Louis and her native Boston.

While I talked to Judy, Ron waited for me, and the others went ahead to find somewhere to eat.   They landed at Loco Patron.  Sheila and Kelly Farrell joined us (same last name at Linds, but not related).  They also came out from Stl and were singed up to volunteer to get Kelly registered for next year.  I know both of them as customers at the store, and Sheila is a badass in my age group in the West County running community.  We ordered margaritas and our server replaced our basket of tortilla chips several times before we finally ate.

Loco Patron was at the base of Hayden Butte, so after lunch we decided to go for a walk to burn off some calories.  We hiked to the top, enjoyed the view and walked back down for some ice cream at Sparky’s.  (Shane might kill me for saying this, but I of course thought it was hilarious to find this place since his last name is Sparkman and he has recently earned this nickname from me.  I even brought him a Sparky’s bumper sticker.)

We all parted ways for the rest of the afternoon with plans to reconvene for dinner in Scottsdale.  Everyone was already rather impressed with my ability to eat, as well as, my planning the next meal while still partaking in one.  It’s a Jacobs’ skill.  We know how to eat.  I really like food.  #1 best thing about racing? Carb loading.

After naps and showers, we went for sushi and drinks in Scottsdale.  Not surprising that it’s the hip hot spot of Phoenix.  But again, we didn’t stay out too late since some of our crew was planning to be at the start of the main event the next morning.  I, on the other hand, planned to sleep in and then take advantage of my mountainous surroundings.

I woke up Sunday morning to a text from Frenchy who had met a new friend at the course.  Somehow he found my friend, Elaine, my mom’s downstairs neighbor in Michigan, and they had determined their mutual connection in me.  Funny side note: Ron ultimately declared that traveling with me is like traveling with Kevin Bacon because I know everyone.  6 degrees of separation from Rambling Runner Girl.

It was Sunday morning, I had nowhere to be until Sunday night for our volunteer shift, and there was a mountain almost directly in the backyard of Farrell’s uncle Joe’s house.  I knew where I was headed.  Since I hadn’t planned very well, Joe hooked me up with a water belt and some Gu.  I had some Bonk Breaker bars that I grabbed a well.  I laced up my shoes, strapped on my Garmin and set off to enjoy the day.

Before leaving, Joe showed me an aerial view of the surrounding area on his ipad so I wasn’t going blindly into an unknown region.  Basically, I would find the trailhead about a block away, wind my way around to near the peak, cross the ridge to the next peak, head into the valley, go through a tunnel under the freeway and find myself at Dreamy Draw State Park where I could follow the trails up to Piestewa Peak.  Oh sure, I got this.  No problem.

Joe mentioned it was easy to get lost on some of these trails.  Ummm, yeah, he wasn’t kidding.  I made it to the top of the first peak without too much trouble, other than my labored breathing.  But somehow in crossing the ridge, I ended up on the backside of the mountain and got stuck when I found myself in someone’s backyard.  So, I back tracked, went back up to the ridge and got myself back on the right trail.  So far, the running was minimal, hiking was the majority and there was even a little rock climbing involved.  I made it to the next peak and followed the trail winding down into the valley.

I continued along the trail in the direction that I thought would get me to the tunnel.  I saw someone out for a walk, upon learning I was from the Midwest she welcomed me to the area.  About a half mile later I thought I saw her dog cross the trail up ahead of me.  Oh, wait, that’s not a dog.  That’s a coyote.  (Cue the tumbleweed)  Eventually, I found myself in another neighborhood.  I turned around, wove my way back through the valley and ultimately found the tunnel.  At this point I had probably added an extra 2 miles or so.  I’d been gone an hour and a half, but had only traversed about 5 miles.  It was slow going up through the mountain trails, I’d stopped to take pictures and enjoy the view.  I wasn’t completely sure when everyone was planning to meet back at the house or what the schedule was so I called Farrell.  They were still in Tempe and wanted to take a nap when they got back so I knew I had some time.  I was more than happy to continue with my adventure.  And so I did.

I located a water fountain, got myself a refill and wound my way up toward Piestewa Peak. I stopped occasionally to take in the view or send a text to my trail running crew who was out doing a long run on the Chubb trail back home. A few times I had to stop because I would see something that would remind me of my dad and was brought to tears.  Sunday was November 17.  November 17, 2001 was the last time I saw my dad alive.  The last time I hugged him.  It’s been a long time.  I miss him.

November is a tough month.  Ask anyone who is missing a loved one this time of year and they’ll tell you the approach of the holidays is hard.  But when significant dates fall at this time of year, it can make it even more challenging.

That run/hike was exactly what I needed the other day.  I traversed a total of 14.5 miles in about 4 hours. At times I wasn’t sure I would actually make it to the destination I was seeking.  I thought for sure I was going to run out of time and have to turn back early.  I kept getting lost, even though I convinced myself I was going the right way.  I had to go backwards sometimes, before I could assess where I was and get back on track.  I had moments of highs, and moments of painful lows.  Sometimes I had a hard time catching my breath.  At times, I just had to sit down right where I was, but then I picked myself up and kept on going.  I even had surprise encounters and found things I might not have if I’d stayed true to my course.

On Monday morning, I used my wristband that I earned the night before at Run Aid Station #5 cheering on people who were nearing the end of their Ironman journey. I got in line at 5:45am, with about 2,700 other athletes, to register for Ironman Arizona that will take place in Tempe on November 16, 2014.  Along with my friends, I was among the first 100 people to sign up.  And this is one time I can honestly tell you, I have absolutely no idea where I’m going. Sure I know where I ultimately want to end up, but how in the world am I going to get there? The year ahead is going to be a challenging one.  I will mess up.  I will have good days and bad days.  I will smile with pride at the beauty of what I’ve accomplished and I will cry in frustration and pain.  I will encounter pleasant surprises and I will have set backs.  I will probably miss a workout now and then.  I’m going to have to lean on my friends to help me get through this.  And I will definitely get lost a time or two along the way.

There is something to be said for the element of surprise, isn’t there?  Something to be said for the journey itself.  Sure, we know what we think the destination is, we can even see it right in front of us sometimes.  Initially we have to step out in faith that we’ll get there.  That doesn’t mean getting there is easy, or that it will go according to plan.  Think about everything we’d miss if we knew exactly where we were going all the time and nothing ever went wrong.  Isn’t it so much better when we find something unexpected that forces us to stop and enjoy the view?  And when we struggle through the hard times, it makes it that much more satisfying when we finally reach the summit.

I am in for a huge reward when I arrive in Tempe next November for race day. But it isn’t necessarily about reaching the end of the road that is the pinnacle.  It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  And all of the unexpected, and perhaps misplaced, steps that I will  take along the way.

“All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost” -Avicii

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The Malibu Sunshyne

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Two weeks ago, on the day I said Goodbye to the Pathfinder, I was remembering the events of that very same day three years ago.  October 29, 2010.

I had only been living in St. Louis for about a month.  We didn’t even have a house here yet.  My kids were off school for the day and we had stopped at the dollar store in the valley to buy some items for the Christmas in a Shoebox program.  It was a Friday, so I’m not really sure why they didn’t have school that day.  Parent/Teacher conferences maybe.  After our little shopping excursion, we were on our way to Lifetime for me to get a workout in.  I remember talking to my mom on the phone as I drove south on Clarkson Road.  I pulled into the Lifetime parking lot as my mom said, “I’m getting another call. I’m gonna let you go, so I can answer it…”

I wish I could tell you that I never had to find out what that phone call was about.  But unfortunately, about an hour later I got the news.  My 30 year old sister in law had suddenly left this life and we would never have the chance to meet my unborn nephew this side of Heaven.  The first words to escape my mouth were “Oh my brother…” as my legs went numb and then I sank to the floor of the Lifetime lobby.

That evening I was on a plane out to LAX.  It felt like the whole world had slowed to a stop.  It was like I wanted to run, but I couldn’t feel my legs.  I finally arrived in Sherman Oaks, California and as soon as I got to my brother, without any hesitation, I climbed right in the bed with him.  My 2 year old niece was sleeping nearby, unaware of how drastically her life had just changed.

The last picture of Sunshyne that my brother texted to me just days before she left us

The last picture of Sunshyne that my brother texted to me just days before she left us

The next week went about as you would expect.  We told stories about the Sunshyne that we all knew and loved.  We laughed, we cried, we tried to figure out what to do next.  We planned how we would celebrate Sunshyne’s life.  We ate meals prepared by loving friends who wanted to do something to care for us.  We went from one meal to the next simply because it seemed to pass the time.

We had an amazing service to celebrate the woman who was loved by many.  She was sweet.  She was funny.  She was beautiful.  She had a huge faith with a personality and a voice to match.  She had an amazing smile.  I remember sending my brother a text about a month earlier that he needed to listen to the song Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars because it sounded exactly like what he would say to Shyne.  It was the song we used in the video of her photo montage.

The day after her service I was on a plane back to St. Louis to see my babies after a week of being in SoCal.  I was supposed to be on a plane to JFK in New York that day to run the New York City Marathon that I had been training for.  But after a week away from my kiddos, I knew where I wanted, and needed to be.  Aside from the fact that my body, while trained for a marathon, was somewhat wrecked from the week of grieving with my brother and all of Sunshyne’s friends and family.

Shyne had just run her first half marathon earlier in the year and was signed up to run the Malibu Half Marathon a couple weeks later.  I loved how running had bonded us.  She would text me to ask for running advice.  Her texts would always start out, “Hey sis…”

Shyne after the Fontana Days Half Marathon

Shyne after the Fontana Days Half Marathon

Since Sunshyne was registered for the Malibu half, I offered to come back out to LA the following week to run it in her honor.  By the time I spoke up, it was too late, and her bib had already been given away.  But I told my brother, since I had just run Chicago a few weeks prior in extreme heat and I was trained for New York, I was going to sign up on my own, to run the Malibu full marathon, for Sunshyne.  I believe his response to that was, “Awesome.”

I made the trip back to LA a week after I had left.  It was good to be reunited with my family and be able to love on little Brookie.  We spent Saturday visiting with friends and getting ready for me to run a marathon the following morning.

The Malibu marathon isn’t a very big race.  There were only about a couple hundred people gathered in a parking lot about 13 miles inland off the coast of California getting ready to run.  The first half was somewhat desolate.  There was minimal crowd support, no real scenery to speak of and little to no shade available to block the rising SoCal sun.  The “aid stations” consisted of a couple of card tables with some jugs of water and some coconut water that I couldn’t even gag down.  Trust me, I tried.  It didn’t go well.

So, by the time I got to the Pacific Coast Highway to head south from the point the half marathon had started, I was ecstatic to see that amazing costal view and my little fan club consisting of my mom, brother and niece.  Most importantly, they had the Gatorade and bananas I had bought at the store which seemed worth its weight in gold to get my trashed body back on track after a very rough first half to the marathon.

That was without question, the hardest race I have ever run.  It wasn’t my slowest, not even my second slowest.  But it was the hardest race ever.  It was hot.  And hilly.  And my body had already been through the wringer.  I walked more than I ever have in any other race.  I was dragging myself through parts of it.

I ran a 30k trail race this past Sunday, which was only my 2nd trail race to date.  It was in my favorite park, Castlewood.  I had a ton of friends there running, volunteering, supporting.  I started with Shalini and Erin, after breaking off from Chad, Tracy and Tim in the start corral, and waving to Nick and Jenny from afar.  Most of the crew was running the 20k instead, but I, like Chad and Tracy, had decided to go for the big one.  It was 3 loops through the park, up the enormous staircase 3 times, through the creek 3 times and up Cardiac Hill 3 times.  I knew it was going to be hard, really hard.  I woke up Sunday morning and I have never felt my legs shaking so much before a race.

My text conversation with Shane the night before had gone like this:

RRG: My fan club keeps growing.  Imma need it.

SS: Piece of cake for you Lindsey.  Come on.

RRG: Only cause I have a good coach/tour guide.  Don’t want to let you down…

SS: Not worried here lady.

RRG: Good, well, that makes one of us.

I was scared.  No, scratch that.  I was terrified.  But here’s the thing, sometimes the best way to get through the hard times is to appreciate our surroundings and the ones who are with us in the process. We count our blessings, if you will.  The race went way better than I planned.  The weather was perfect.  I ran most of it with friends, Shalini, Erin, Chad, so it was basically like every other weekend of doing what we do.  I saw more friends each trip past aid station 1 where I took a cup from Emily’s hand and Gerry shook a cowbell in my face.  I saw Shane at various points on the course since he was the official course marshal on mountain bike.  I saw Steve as I looped past the start/finish area because he had been assigned the duty of post-race refreshments.  He was threatened with his life if he didn’t save me some BBQ.  He definitely came through.  As usual.

Our group of friends that had come to spectate/take pictures/cheer us on bounced around all over the course.  Tony, Kris, Dan, Wes, Hibbard, Steve.  It was like playing hide-n-seek in our favorite park.  I never knew where someone was going to pop up.

By the last loop, I caught up to Chad again.  He commented on how great I was doing.  And that’s when I took off to finish that last loop with a vengeance.  I had been hoping to finish somewhere around 3:15-3:20.  I smashed that, finishing in 3:07.  I was the 8th female overall.  And 4th in my age group of women 30-39.  But what made that race, was the atmosphere.  It was being in a beautiful place that feels like home, with the people who have become my Missouri family.  I even said to Shalini that I wanted to pack up our little posse and put them in my pocket to take them with me to all my races.

Some of our crew at Castlewood on Sunday

Some of our crew at Castlewood on Sunday

So, back to the Malibu marathon 2010.

The second half of that race was a totally different experience from the first half.  The first half was miserable.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it.  And then, my family showed up.  They drove along the PCH, stopping every mile to wait for me.  They would give me Gatorade, or energy gels, or bananas.  They would cheer me, walk with me, drive by and honk and yell and hang out the window.

The PCH, is hilly and challenging, but you can’t beat the view of the Pacific coast.  At one point, I was running along and I saw my mom, brother and Brookie standing by the side of the road on a cliff overlooking the ocean holding a sign that said, “Lindsey Jo Running for Sunshyne” with a big smiling sun in the middle.  I grabbed my phone and snapped a quick pic.  Then I kept on running.  At another point, my brother put Brooke in her stroller and the 4 of us were walking along watching a school of dolphins down below in the water.

I could not have made it through that race without my family being there along the way.  And then, I was a mile from the finish.  I was in the home stretch.  And just as the finish shoot came into view, a song shuffled onto my ipod.  It was one of Sunshyne’s favorite songs that I remember her singing in my kitchen back in Chicago over the Christmas vacation when she was just pregnant with Brooke.  As I came down that final 100 yards, I had tears streaming down my face.  I remember someone on the side yelling, “It’s ok, you’re almost there”.  They had no idea that the tears weren’t about how physically challenging that race had been but it was about the emotional battle that I was fighting and that it was my family who carried me through.

It wasn’t until after the race when we were back at Evan and Julie’s that I finally took a look at the picture I had snapped mid-race.  My jaw literally dropped when I saw it.  I said, “Adam, Oh wow, you’ve got to see this!”  I showed him the picture of Mom, Adam and Brooke, standing on a bluff overlooking the ocean with the sign.  And the three rays of “Sunshyne” shining down on each of them.  They weren’t the only ones getting me through that race that day.

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Tomorrow is the 3 year anniversary of running the Malibu marathon in honor of my sweet sister in law.  I think its appropriate timing that this falls in November, a month filled with being thankful.

I am thankful for the opportunity to know Sunshyne and the reminder that her life is to me about not taking anything for granted and living every day to the fullest.

I am thankful for my health, my legs that carry me through this big ol’ beautiful world of ours, and the gift I have been given to write about my journey.

I am thankful that my brother has remarried an amazing woman who loves him and Brooke like I can only hope to experience someday.   Simy came into our lives with perfect timing and we have an unmatchable sisters-in-law bond.

I am thankful for my family who celebrates with me in the good times and carries me through the hard times.  All of those who were chosen for me and given to me, as well as those who have stepped into that role over the past few years to help me feel more at “home” here in St. Louis.  I am more thankful for all of you than you will ever know.

Happy November.

The most recent Brookie/Auntie Linds selfie.  Its a tradition. One that makes me thankful.

The most recent Brookie/Auntie Linds selfie. Its a tradition. One that makes me thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Path Finder

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It’s been a crazy (insert here: very challenging) week.  Right after my marathon weekend of working, parties and running a half marathon with Elvis and the bananas, my Pathfinder died a tragic death.  On Monday evening, I was driving from Shane’s over to meet Katrina for sushi in the Central West End and the Pathfinder started shaking.  I was convinced it was the transmission and I hoped that I wouldn’t end up stranded on the side of the road somewhere.  I made it to meet Katrina and then eventually we got back to her apartment, where I stayed for the night so I wouldn’t have to drive out 64/40 to West County in the dark.

On Tuesday morning, I was headed for the dealership for a fortuitously scheduled appointment to get my heat fixed.  On the way there, not only did the shaking get worse, I had full on smoke coming from the hood.  Oh dear Lord, please just get me to the dealership.  I was so happy to turn off of Manchester onto the Nissan property, I almost cried.  But it wasn’t until an hour later, when the news came about my SUV that the tears were unleashed.  The word was that it would cost more to fix the failed radiator, transmission, breaks and rotors than the actual value of the vehicle.  The upside of that, it made it a really easy decision what had to be done.

After leaving my mom a voicemail, I started tearfully trying to figure out what to do next.  I called Shane.  It’s nice to have someone in the business of selling cars when you find yourself in a somewhat desperate position such as I was.  He was on the other line, so I tended to other things until he called me back. Not only did I need to buy a new car, I was currently stranded with an inoperable vehicle.  I enlisted the help of my neighbor, Stephanie.  She agreed to pick the kids up from school and tend to them, so at least I didn’t have to stress about that timing.  I got in touch with Dan (since there is more than one Dan in this post, we’ll call him Dan #1) who was willing to be my chauffeur.  I called Britta and asked her to be my “brain” because I was such an emotional train wreck, I couldn’t think straight (Why is it that hormones have really bad timing?)  We talked through everything that I needed to do and I felt better after a conversation with my sounding board.

I’m 38 years old and this was the first time I’ve ever been through the process of buying a car by myself.  I was terrified.

After what felt like an eternity, Shane called.  He said “Get over here to me so we can handle this.  Leave the Nissan there, we’ll figure that out later”.

Dan #1 showed up in the Nissan lounge to see me having a tearful phone conversation with my mom, and then he transported me around town gathering what I needed and ultimately delivering me to Shane in Creve Coeur.  I spent the afternoon at Plaza Mercedes and drove away with my 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe, which has been named Isaac after my Great-Grandfather.    I found the registration from the previous owner in the glove box and as it turns out he is from the same very, very small town in Illinois that my dad grew up in.  My aunt actually graduated from High School with his mom.  It’s kismet.

The old Pathfinder on the right, the new one on the left...

The old Pathfinder on the right, the new one on the left…

Strangely, it was really hard to say good-bye to that heap of junk that was my Pathfinder.  Partly because it was fun to drive and had lots of great road trip memories like out to the Smoky Mountains and up to Racine.  But also, it really lived up to its name.  In some ways, it did actually help me find my path.  It definitely taught me a lot about finding my strength as I had to fight to keep it over the past few years.

On Sunday morning, after the kids went back to their dad’s, I drove my new Santa Fe over to Castlewood where I was supposed to meet Shalini and Shane for a run.  They had gotten there about an hour earlier and by the time I arrived the parking lots were packed.  I kept an eye open for them while I changed into my Cascadia’s.  I saw Shalini and Rosie across the road about to head up Lone Wolf hill.  Surely they were going to wait for me, right? Nope.  But hold on a second, where was Shane?  About a minute later, I saw Shane cutting across the grass before he looped around and came up the road.  Apparently, Shalini had run into Rosie and taken off a little early.  We learned this when we ran into them on the bluff overlooking the Meremac River.  After a few minutes of chit-chat, primarily about the trail marathon we are signed up for in December, Rosie and I determined we would see each other in a couple hours at the store for work, and then we all parted ways.

This is why we all love to run at Castlewood.  Can you blame us?!

This is why we all love to run at Castlewood. Can you blame us?!

Shane led us down the long, wooden staircase and then we headed out along the flats by the river.  Somehow, while we ran, I began telling Shane my story.  My whole story.  We bonded.  I told him about some of the traumatic things that have happened to me in life and how that contributed to landing me in a relationship where I ultimately felt totally unhappy and completely trapped in an unhealthy marriage.

Occasionally we had to stop running just so I could finish telling part of the story.  Eventually, I realized that somewhere along the way, we had crossed from the part of Castlewood that is incredibly familiar to me, to a part that I had never even seen before.  I kept talking, telling my story.  He didn’t judge, didn’t ask questions, he just kept leading the way.

Then suddenly he stopped.  And he searched my face waiting for me to realize where we were.  I looked at what was in front of us.  A tunnel leading under the train tracks. A big smile spread across my face.  I had only heard of this place, never actually found it, and Shane knew that. Wes had told me that one time he watched Shane ride through this tunnel on his mountain bike. Which had to be incredibly tricky since I had to hunch way over just to walk through it.  Anyway, Shane led me through the tunnel, trying to scare me with talk of spiders in my hair.  Silly Shane, he still hasn’t figured out that I’m not scared of stuff like that.  When we got to the other side, he said, “Come on, I want to show you something”.  So we started up a fairly steep ascent through the woods over some pretty rocky terrain.  It was only maybe 50 yards at most and then we were at the top.  There was a clearing and we were standing on an overlook just above the train tracks.  It was unbelievably cool.

I went back on Monday to take this picture.  And to make sure I could find it on my own.

I went back on Monday to take this picture. And to make sure I could find it on my own.

We only stayed for a second and then we headed down the hill, through the tunnel and back through the washed out area over to the river.  After we came back through the tunnel, I realized I had been to that spot once before but I never quite made it to the tunnel and then I turned around, thinking I was going the wrong way.  I had been so close to finding that place on my own, and yet I just missed it without someone to show me the way.

Sometimes it just takes someone with a little different perspective to take something so familiar and help you see it differently.

Likewise, Sunday night, I got to see the pictures my friend Dan #2 took of me and kids on Saturday at Forest Park.  All of the pictures are amazing, he captured each of the kids totally in their element.  And then I came upon the one he took of me.  I immediately started crying.  I looked so happy.  And I don’t know that I have ever seen myself look that beautiful.  I was shocked.  I see myself in the mirror every day but is that really how other people see me?  Again, sometimes it takes someone else to show you how something that you look at every day isn’t always exactly how you see it.  (Here’s the link to the pictures Dan #2 took:  http://www.littlerubberball.com/gallery/index.php/LJ-Shoot-2013?page=1 )

I got that old Nissan Pathfinder literally the day before I found the courage to speak up and say that I couldn’t stay in my marriage anymore as it was.  Besides my children, who will always be with me, that car was really the only big thing that I had tying me to that part of my life, the old me.  And it stayed with me while I found my strength, my voice, my path.  But there is a season for everything in life.   Now is the season to let go of the past.  It’s the season to take a step forward, not back.  I’m no longer in a season of running away from things, but now I’m running toward my life and all the good things that brings.  I’ve entered a season to start looking at things differently and blaze new paths, even if it takes someone else to help point the way.  There was a season that I wondered if I would ever again be truly happy, but now I know that season has only just begun.

 

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For Love of the Marathon

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This weekend is the New York City Marathon.  A few years ago, I was signed up to cross this magical experience off my bucket list.  I had my plane ticket and hotel reservation, and my training had been flawless.  I was pumped.  I couldn’t believe I had actually gotten in to the New York marathon!

Sadly, a week before I was set to run from Staten Island through the boroughs of New York and cross the finish line in Central Park, I got a phone call.  Tragically my sister in law, my brother’s 30 year old pregnant wife, had collapsed due to a blood clot gone pulmonary and my brother was suddenly left to raise a little girl on his own.  I was on the next flight from St. Louis to LAX.  I couldn’t get to my brother fast enough.

Exactly one week later, on the day I was supposed to fly to NYC, I was flying back to St. Louis to see my babies.  I couldn’t wait to hug them!  I called the airline and the hotel, and I went through the necessary means to defer my registration for the ING New York City Marathon to 2011.  Again, unfortunately, my registration renewal expired during the same week that my marriage fell completely apart, and so it fell by the wayside, forgotten, until it was too late.  Thus, the experience of running into Manhattan to receive a medal remains to be checked off my list.

I did turn around and fly back to Southern California the following week for the Malibu Marathon, that I ran in honor of my sweet sister in law (that full story coming soon).  But this weekend, while my friends are boarding the ferry to the start, and as I receive texts that they have crossed the 5k, 10k, 15k and so on to the finish, there is a part of me that will be running vicariously through them.

I know this race means something different to each of them.  And I also know how they have poured their heart and soul into training for it.  The blood, sweat and tears culminate into that one shining event.  The Marathon.

The following is a piece that I recently wrote for the Fleet Feet newsletter as I prepared for the Chicago marathon.  Many of you may have read it.  But for those of you racing this weekend, read it again.  And know that I will be running along side you, if only in spirit.  Bob, Jodi and Wes…this one’s for you!

For Love of the Marathon

Fall.  This is arguably the most wonderful time of the year.  Apple picking.  Pumpkin patches.  Weekends full of football.  But for a runner there are even more reasons to rejoice.  Cooler temps.  Lower humidity.  Easier breathing.  Trail running at its finest.  And perhaps the biggest and best, the pinnacle of what we have all been working so hard for all summer long.  Race day.

People often wonder how we can get up well before the sun and push our bodies to the extreme distances that we do, before most of humanity has even considered stirring from their cozy slumber.  As runners, we find the rewards in the sunrise, the bragging rights of completing a 20 miler in sometimes brutal conditions, the sweaty satisfaction of a grueling speed work session, and occasionally allowing ourselves to go ahead and eat the entire pint of ice cream.  Because, let’s face it, we’ve earned it.

But with the entrance of Autumn, the real reward of all that training comes down to everything that we’ve been striving toward.  There is an understanding among all the athletes at a race expo.  Whether you will be starting at the back of the pack, leading the way or somewhere in the middle, we are all runners.  We have all logged the long miles to get to where we are in this moment.  We all have a different race plan, but we all share the same goal…to get to the finish line.  We are not racing each other so much as we are out there to compete with the person who we face in the mirror each morning.

We stalk the weather report and agonize about the possibility of changing our planned running attire.  We debate about how many Gu’s to bring with us. We study the course until we know the location of every hill.

Eventually, on race morning, we gather in our assigned corrals and toe the line with a feeling of “Ok, this is it.  Here we go…”  Then we take a deep breath and move forward with the rest of the pack knowing that this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  Don’t start too fast, don’t start too slow.  And then, the melodious sound of Garmins beeping as you cross the start and get things underway.

We scan the sea of spectators, searching desperately for the familiar faces of people who have come to cheer us on.  We laugh at funny signs along the way.  We read the inspirational messages printed or hand written on the shirts of the runners around us.  We try to take it all in, but sometimes it feels overwhelming.  So we settle in, and just run, because that’s what we came to do.  Perfect strangers clap and call our names like we’re long lost friends.

It’s amazing that all during the same race we can feel like we don’t ever want to run again and just moments later we feel like we could run forever.  We go between feelings of “I love this!” and “Why in the world am I doing this?!” in a matter of seconds.  We have to push through the words “I can’t”.  We realize that we can, and we will, and sometimes we start to hyperventilate at the idea of reaching the finish.  We approach the “wall”, but then we tell it to get the hell out of the way and we run right through it.

There is something about the moment that you see the finish up ahead of you and you pull from every fiber of your being to get you there as fast as you can, but you have already spent every ounce of energy, you’ve laid it all on the line and you’ve got nothing left.  So you dig deep inside and keep going, knowing that a part of yourself is forever left on that course.

There is absolutely nothing in the world like the feeling of crossing the finish line of a marathon.   So much emotion wrapped up in that one moment.  It’s elation.  It’s exhaustion.  It’s disbelief that it’s really over.  It’s closure, you’ve done all you can do. The reality is that sometimes its disappointment.  But it’s important that we have no regrets in the race that we ran.  It’s about reflecting on everything we overcame to be standing there at that moment when someone puts a medal around your neck and says, “Congratulations!  You did it.”

Some days everything comes together and we walk away with a PR.  Other days, we have to overcome the devastation that things just didn’t go as planned.  Sometimes we swear it’s the last time we will attempt this crazy idea of running 26.2 ever again.  But after all is said and done, we ultimately come back to it, because of the feeling of being there, surrounded by all those other sweaty bodies, plodding along, breathing heavily, fighting to prove that we can persevere.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, it’s all any of us can really do.

We all have a different journey that brings us to the finish line on race day.  We all have different obstacles.  But we’re all in it together.  And the beautiful joy of the marathon is that we are reminded of all that the human spirit is truly capable of.

It’s Fall.  You’ve put in all the hard work and now it’s time to trust your training.  You can’t do anything about the weather.  You never know what’s going to pop up on race day that will try to stand in your way, but you’ve trained your body to keep going and you’ve trained your mind to believe that you CAN!

Your moment is now.  Get out there and run your race!

 

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