Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Weekend Full of Women

For the few men who read my blog, don't get wasn't full of women in "that" way.

When I was younger I never seemed to care about having female friends. Whether it was because of my own insecurities or my one track mind that always happened to evolve around the current guy I was dating, I never made time to get to know others who swam in the same superior gender pool as myself. Over time it's become painfully clear that to impress and get along with other women means way more than doing so to our counterparts. No offense guys, I appreciate you for your limited capabilities but to the women in my life, well, I salute you. My existence would probably be lacking if I didn't have my girlfriends.

On Saturday my friend Kelly from PA came to town and we ran on the Buckeye Trail. The weather wasn't as cooperative as I would have liked but she didn't bat an eye at the cold drizzle that welcomed us onto to the path. This was her first time running this trail (she just ran a half marathon last month). I met her on the Weight Watcher message boards so I was nervous about meeting her face to face for the first time but once I met her I realized I had nothing to worry about-she's as funny and cool in real life as she is in invisiland. It's a shame she doesn't live closer because I would love to run with her on a more consistent basis. It's so nice when you're in someone's presence that puts you so instantly at ease. We chatted the whole 8 miles so the time flew by! I was kinda sad to see the run end cuz I felt like we could have just gone on forever. Afterwards we went to the Winking Lizard for lunch and a very well deserved beer. I swear, that beer tasted so fucking good for some did the food but that's not such a surprise coming from the fat girl that still resides in my head.

Then today I met up with Red & Debi along with the rest of the group for 13 miles. Contrary to yesterday's weather, this morning was screaming perfection from the minute I stepped outside. The air still had a light chill in it but the coolness felt good against my bare, shorts clad legs. As I drove the route to Lock 29 something came over me, something that seemed to put every nerve in my body on notice-this run was going to be good. Descending into the valley, the fog of early morning was slowly taking it's time in burning off but the effect it created was spectacular. The filtered sun welcomed me like a playful child, begging me to run and find out what lay beneath the fog. I met the group in the parking lot and we set out for what promised to be an enjoyable trip. Feeling strong while running is always like getting an unexpected gift-doesn't really matter what's inside the box, just the fact that someone was thinking of you is enough to make you smile-that's what I feel like when my body obeys the wishes of my head. Just like with Kelly, I feel instantly at ease with these women I ran with today (with the men too but talking about that defeats the purpose of this post, so I digress). This was only my second time running with them but their ease of manor and personality makes me feel as though this was a ritual I'd been doing for years with them.

So to sum it up, the women in my life are priceless. I'm lucky-I have an abundance of smart, beautiful, witty females that grace me with their presence. It turns out they're my unexpected gift.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Race to Remember

First, the morning was spectacular! Bright. Blue. Cloudless. Just a tinge of cool in the air. My friend and "running task-master" Maria, and I headed downtown with positive attitudes and our usual silliness. I was very glad that Maria joined me for this race. She knows the cause, AD, is near and dear to my heart. It made the race all the more worth running when I had someone to share it with.

The race was to start at 9 and we had plenty of time to grab our bibs and racing chips, then slip back into the car as the "tinge of cool in the air" was cooler down by the river! Me, not realizing it was just a few minutes to 9, and Maria, thinking the race started at 9:30, had a quick run to the pack, as it was about to start without us! We laughed the whole way over!

With a "tater" and a "Have a good race!" we were off! Maria was doing the 10k, while I opted for the 5k. She broke away, as she is much faster than I, while I trotted at my turtle-like pace. With every step I took, I thought of my dad. In his younger, healthier years, Pop was fast. He played baseball on a farm team for the Indians many decades ago and could cover the whole outfield if they wanted him to! I, as humorously exhibited in my running, did not get my Dad's speed. Come to think of it, I didn't get anyone's speed, so if you have any to spare, please send it along!

The course was beautiful, and runs along the Cuyahoga River, not far from where my dad spent most of his youth and young adult life. There are hills to face, which is the second reason they call it a Race to Remember. Ugh!! Everyone has their hurdles. Hills are mine!

I finished the race with a minute shaved off from my last race. Maria had an outstanding run, especially if you consider she was just doing this to get some "easy" miles completed. She told me the last mile she thought of my dad. It brought tears to my eyes, even though that was not her intent.

This is the second of many races Maria and I will run together in friendship and camaraderie. Thanks Maria, you have no idea how glad I was to have you there for support on all levels!

The cause, the course, my friend, truly made this a Race to Remember!

It's Just Pier, Myself & Time

Last week was a very good week in terms of working out. Just easy runs were scheduled and my strength routine didn't seem as daunting as it usually does. My eating on the other hand was dismal. The sun rose and fell on my nonstop piehole stuffage. So when Saturday night rolled around, my faith in the ease of Sunday's race had all but disappeared. The connection between eating bad and poor performance is curiously strong for me; not saying that in every instance bad eating has affected me adversely but it does trippy things to my mental's almost as if to say "nice try sister but we both know that weakness breeds weakness and I'm just gonna have to try to teach you that lesson again". I'm making it seem more internally ominous than it really is but these are just the thoughts that float through my head...nothing permanent or debilitating, just a reality of how my brain works. Anyhow, I turned to George Saturday night and informed him that this race tomorrow morning just might suck my ass. We laughed about it and I said out loud "this race isn't even really a race. This isn't about time. I'm scheduled for an easy 6 miles anyway so I'm just going to go and enjoy myself". And as I speak, I look directly at him, seemingly to the unpaying audience in my head, to be addressing him-yet my heart and spirit know full well that the comment was made on their behalf.

Besides the mental tug of war going on inside my brain I knew one thing for sure: this race (A Race to Remember) was special, it was different and I'll tell you why. Over the years I've run alot of races-I can't tell you if or what any of them benefited because whatever it was (although this sounds harsh I truly don't mean it to be) didn't have any bearing on my mind one way or another-I go to races primarily to challenge myself, compete against myself...hence the normal selfish preoccupation being, well, ME. But the cause for this race has become pretty prominent to me-a fact that I wish wasn't the case yet the reality is that my dear, dear friend Pier's father is battling Alzheimer's and she in turn has become a pillar of strength for her family and an astounding picture of what I can only describe as incredible. The only experience I've now had with this terrifying disease is through her struggles as caregiver, cheerleader and general captain of her family's ship, plowing through wave upon wave of uncharted, often times dark waters. I feel helpless to her anguish-as her friend all I really want to do is scoop her into my arms to protect her from this hurt and promise her that it's all going to be okay. Since I'm not able to click my heels three times and magically send her and her family to a pain free place , I'll do the best I can-which is to support and listen and provide either a shoulder to cry on, or a sounding board for her anger, or an uncontrollable laughing jag or in the current case, a donation in the form of race dues that will hopefully go towards finding a cure.

The dawn of Sunday morning promised to be a beautiful day. Pier picked me up and I quickly noticed that she was all jacked up on caffeine. I love when she's like this-her already infectious happy attitude gets stronger when combined with coffee. As we make our way downtown, my concerns for whether this race will be one of my best vanishes and I realize how lucky I am to have a friend like her.

We get our bib numbers and saunter back to the car. Although the sun is shining the temp hasn't really warmed up and my corpse like hands need to be thawed before the start of the race. We sit there for a little while and then I look at her and tell her that I really should pee before the race starts so we get out of the car and turn to make a b-line for the bathroom. Out of the corner of my eye I see everybody lined up and it puzzles the hell out of me. I turn to Pier and say something like "what the fuck is everybody lining up so early for?" Which I follow up quickly with "Doesn't the race start at 9:30?" And in true Pier fashion she mocks me slightly and says in her best Homer Simpson voice "Doh! It starts at 9!" Looking quickly at my watch it confirms that yes, my bladder will have a workout as well since it's 8:57 and the race is about to start. We laugh as we make our way to the mass of runners lined up who are obviously not as time-tarded as I seem to have become.

The race commences and Pier and I bump fists, say a quick good luck to each other and we're off! As I approach mile marker #1 the monotone voice of the soon to be bored volunteer confirms that my first mile split is as deliberately slow as I had hoped it to be. All I kept repeating to myself was "run comfortable"...and so, I did. My legs felt strong and my breathing clued me in on what type of effort I was exerting which was a step below the challenging level on my pain-o-meter. By mile two I was well on my way to just enjoying the sunshine and by mile three since there was a lack of suffering on my part, there was little to concentrate on except how surprisingly long three more miles suddenly seemed. As I hit mile four though I realized how nice it'd been to disregard the mile splits, how relieved I was to not have had to feed the inner demon that normally took my focus from enjoyment and perverted it into a masochistic dissection of all the things I could have done better. I hit mile five and happened to hear the guy shouting out times say something like 39:mumble mumble (see, I told you, I wasn't really paying attention at that point). But the second I heard 39 I started trying to do the math for a projected finish time and splits which was unsuccessful since for some reason when I'm running I lose all ability to do simple addition and multiplication. It was in this last mile that I thought the most about Pier's dad. Without even knowing he was doing so, he helped carry me towards the finish.

I tried to simplify it and told myself when my watch said 45 minutes I should try to start hauling ass. So that's what I did. With an overflowing reserve in the tank (or maybe it was really just my near bursting bladder I was feeling) I picked up my pace and before I knew it, I had the finish line in my sight. I sprinted the last little bit and crossed the line with an official time 47:54 (splits were 7:44).

Pier and I reconnected at the finish line and decided that the free breakfast buffet was just way too crowded so we left and stopped at Presti's bakery in Little Italy instead. We sat at a small, sun drenched cafe table and enjoyed our lattes and pastries the way all good little italian girls should. The warmth of the sun was almost cool in comparison to the warmth in my heart. And for that glorious morning I felt anything was possible. I felt everything was possible. And I felt like her Papa was holding our hands the entire time.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sensational Run with Sensationally Red

These past couple weeks have been kinda hard for me in terms of running. I've joked with my friends that running is like my difficult, sometimes unwieldy lover. And let me tell you, over my last few workouts he's kinda jilted me, left me for someone who's obviously more enthralled with him. I try not to become desperate over his absence, I try and busy myself with other hobbies that are apparently more into me at this time but it's that damn Mr. Running that keeps floating through my thoughts and daydreams, so when one bad jaunt turns into three or four in row, I start questioning my relationship as any love struck woman would... "honey, is it ME??"

I bargained with myself, if my next long run didn't find me in higher spirits and better running form then I was going to flirt with Running's younger brother...Walking. But you see, I don't really Like Walking-he doesn't challenge me, and I know I could bend him to my fun is that, really? So then I made myself another deal, maybe I could chum up with one of the girls that Running is fond of-maybe if I got in good with her I'd be able to catch Running's eye again. Now it's no surprise he's smitten with this woman-fiery red hair, a laid back personality and killer wit on top of it all. Her name...Sensationally Red-and I assure you, she is exactly that. I got Running to notice me, hell he was begging for my attention but alas, my focus was on her.

Ok, you get the point-I loved, loved, LOVED running with Red. It's just what my mojo needed. Reading her blog over the past couple a months has endeared me to her even before I met her in real life. The people that she talks about in her blog are lucky to have her as a friend...and yes, I CAN tell that from just one run with her. She insightful and knowledgeable without being pushy. She's full of life and it radiates off of her. And on top of it she's an extremely talented runner. I was lucky enough to tag along with her and her normal running partners-all of whom mirror her laid back, accepting personality. Since I run alone so much I sometimes forget how nice it is to have other people around for long runs. We did 12.5 miles and I swear, I felt like I could have gone forever since I was enjoying the company so much. Besides Red there was Debbie, Kurt and Roger. Kurt was planning on running 75 miles (see, running must be his bitch). I can barely stomach the thought of driving 75 miles let alone think about slogging them out on foot. Roger was slated for 20 miles so it was the three vixens of the group who stuck to the 12.5 miles. The banter between them was so comforting to hear-does that make sense? There are some people in this world whose voices just automatically put me at ease-my mother is one as well as my husband's and now I can add Red to that list. I'm very hopeful that I can run with them again-I know my next run might not be as magical as this one but with Red and her group by my side for those long runs I'm feeling as though anything is possible.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

For the Love of Addiction

I'm addicted to food. My husband's addicted to nicotine gum. And we're both addicted to each other. Minor surgery put him home this past week. So rarely do I get to play caretaker to him; he hates the idea of me being put out in any way. It's ridiculous really if you tally up all the times he's cared for me-but anyway, I digress. With him home and my new found role as nurse, my training ended up drifting into a sort of vegetative state. Out of 23 miles that were on tap, only 8 have been run. I did manage to fit in a few strength workouts but any good those did for my physique were surely thwarted by the copious amounts of food that I might as well have just mainlined. George didn't feel well, I was home for three days straight, what other choice did I have than to try to medicate him with food??? That's one of the ways I show love. Never mind the fact that he wasn't even up to eating some of the stuff I made...well, more for me then, right? Riiiiiiiggghhhht... I couldn't be wasteful!

I'd wake up and make him coffee, get his breakfast and then wile away the tedious hours he ended up having to spend in bed with games, colorful commentary to some of his favorite movies, Lego's and playdough. Oh and a great little game involving shooting a stuffed monkey with a Nerf gun. Childish? Yes....and priceless to boot. Alot of this time reminded me of when we met-both of us had lost our jobs due to the scandalous affair that was in fact "us" so we scraped together some cash and got an apartment together. We had nothing-no t.v., no furniture (except for a bed and a kitchen table that had legs as wobbly as Bambi's) and no other focus except for each other. 11 years later the hours still seem to pass as quickly as minutes... I layed down and started talking to him at 8 in the morning and I SWORE to myself that I'd get up in a little bit to run but when I look at the clock it's already 1 and I should really fix us some lunch so the workout will have to be put off just a little longer...and I tell myself that over and over. Doped up on Darvocet and starved for nicotine (oh yeah, did I mention he also gave up the gum during his recovery) and he is still the best person to be around. I love running, don't get me wrong...but nothing in the world feeds my soul the way George does. Call me crazy but I'm hoping that my runs of the next week draw strength from this unplanned, unglamorous respite that I had with him.