Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Trot

Rather obnoxiously, I enter each bedroom, loudly singing my version of Adam Sandler’s Thanksgiving song.  “Turkey for you, and Tofu for me….” I’ve done my 10-mile warm up and it’s time to wake ‘Team Basehart’ for the 116th Annual Turkey Trot.  It is an understatement to say they do not share my enthusiasm this morning.
            For the past several years, “Team Basehart” has consisted of me, my son Noah, my brother-in-law Mike, and his son Alec.  (There is a Diane Basehart who runs, but she’s adjunct to the core team.) This year, as per my birthday request, Mark has begrudgingly joined the team.  I remind him of his commitment as he lies in bed. He grumbles something about skipping it and buying me a sweater.
            After all are awake, I face another protest.  No one will dress up with me.  Even my ever-obliging son refuses to wear the turkey hat.  Um, hello-----Turkey Trot---, time to let your freak flag fly….  This is NOT how I envisioned this at all. 
            Having free will, I put on my ‘vixen’ t-shirt, my red and green ribbon jingle bell skirt and topped off the outfit with a pink sequin Santa hat.   I know I can’t pull off “hot”, but with a bit of time and concerted effort, I can still knock out “cute”.  Game on!
            We pick up the rest of the team.  And we’re off.  Mike and Alec wont dress up either.  Exactly what is this world coming to?
            The start is packed and alive with this great energy.  We huddle somewhere in the middle.  As always, one of my favorite things happens.  Someone in the sea of humanity recognizes one of us and yells “Basehart”.  I always feel like so close to my family when all five of us turn. 
            Once the race is off, it’s time to watch the show.  Snowmen, reindeer, Santa and his helpers, gingerbread men, and a varied flock of turkeys surround us.  The boys seem to latch on to some cute little elves whom they enjoy running behind.  Note to self, talk to the boys about objectifying women.
            That leaves us old-timers.  I look at Mark and ask if he hates me.  “Yes” is prompt reply, accompanied by a wink.  He then runs a few paces ahead.  That leaves multiple- marathoner Mike and I.  We people watch, and in Mike’s case, dog watch. Mike is so much like Mark it is eerie.  They even made similar comments to the Occupy Buffalo people.  "Hey, you workin' today?" and "Why don't you occupy a desk?".  Good heavens---must I be the only token democrat in this family?
            This race is like a moving reunion.  Mike could be the mayor of the Turkey Trot.  He knows everyone.  I’ve yet to figure out how he runs with a coffee in one hand and shaking hands with the other.  I see past and present students, co-workers, running friends and even my gyn (doubt that he recognized my FACE)!  One well-placed gust of wind landed my Santa hat right in front of Kris and Denise, whom I’ve termed the ‘Ultra Angels’, as they’ve helped me pick up my dragging butt in a previous race or two.  What a great day!
            Mark continued to run strong.  Mike and I stayed with him and gave him encouragement he did not want.  The old guy ran every step, and didn’t complain in spite of it being hard for him.  When we got towards the end, I asked him if he had enough for a sprint.  The devil glare told me to stop asking obvious questions.
            We held hands as we finished.  He was smiling and proud of himself.   When I next looked at him, I fell a bit deeper in love.  He came out and did this for me, even though it was very hard for him.  Dang!  I’m a lucky woman.           
            On the ride home, all the four of them could talk about is how next year we should  wear matching t-shirts and dress up.   Sigh….

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I saw you running...

 Oh no…. Some one has sought me out to tell me that they saw me out running.  This is not good, as I know where this is going.  Although I long to hear “you were flying” or “dang, you looked good”, experience tells me that this is not the turn this conversation is going to take.

I know what is next.  My sanity is about to be questioned and I’ll be spoken to like I’m a four year old.  Didn’t I see the traffic, hills, weather, etc. that should have kept me pursuing something in doors?  I’ll smile politely and say something like “that’s what makes it fun”; fully aware I’ve just confirmed my sanity in their eyes.

I was thinking about this typical conversation that I’ve had with MANY people over the years.  I assume that they are simply concerned for my safety, and I am appreciative of their regard.   However, I wonder what they actually SEE when the look at me running? 

When I drive past a runner, I’m looking at stride, pace, gear.  My husband swears I’ll get whiplash if more cyclists choose the same route as I drive.  I can’t tell you how many times he’s refused my request to stop and let me talk to the rider who’s bike is maladjusted.  “But, he’s KILLING his knees….”

So, what do non-runners or more casual runners see when they look at someone out on the roads/trails?  Does it look like a break out has happened at the Looney bin? Am I tsk tsked for being a moving obstacle to go around?  Do I earn someone some imaginary points, in their make believe game involving my death?  Do I look like I’m putting myself at risk?  Do I really look crazy?

I take many precautions when I run.  I wear reflective gear.  I’m pretty certain Brooks has outfitted me so that I can be seen from space.  I run on sidewalks when possible.  I make eye contact with drivers at intersections.  I am aware of my surroundings.  I also recognize that there is no guarantee of safety involving any task in life.

But, when I run, I am saner than any other time in my day.  I get to reflect on the funny things kids have said to me during the school day.  I get to figure out how I can maximize my time, so my children can excel at their passions.  I get time to thank the universe for surrounding me with people whom I love, and who love me in return.  And, if I get to tackle some killer hill or monster weather at the same time, well, that’s what makes it fun.

So, I may look like I’m crazy, but, looks can be deceiving.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Girls on the Run

I'm 44.  I'm not a big "birthday" person.  I don't want a fuss.  I prefer simple to extravagant.  Surprises drive me crazy.   I usually take the day off from work, go for a great long run, and call it a day.

This year was different.  My family each promised to go for a run with me.  It was not a cop out gift, it was honestly the most touching and thoughtful gift I have ever received.  Each promised to give me 1:1 time, for a run of my choosing. PERFECT!   It makes me smile, just thinking about it.

Today, is Natalie's turn.  She and I will run the Lindsay's Legacy 5k.  She is involved in a program called "Girls on the Run".  As such, Natalie has handed over her Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to a couple of amazing coaches who have taken her from zero to 5k ready.  This program builds up girls running stamina at the same time it builds their self-esteem.  It's a tweeners paradise-- as there are no princesses here!  I've enjoyed picking up Nat from these practices, all pink-faced, exhausted, and smiling.

It's been amazing to watch Natalie tackle life's obstacles.  From the moment I plucked her off of the counter top, as she was trying to climb on top of the refrigerator, she has been known as the "get 'er done girl".  Many doctors have used the word "low" with Natalie.  From speech, to vision, to muscle control, I've heard that word a lot.  We've had lots of therapists, surgeries, and tests.  Luckily, Nat has never internalized that word.  This girl can move mountains.

I digress.  She had originally picked Mark as her "Buddy Runner", but I'm using my birthday trump card to take his place.  The morning starts with gripes.  Nat could go pro at complaining.  As much as she had been looking forward to this run, the reality of giving up Phineas and Ferb is really altering her universe.  After much feet-dragging, we make it to the race.

We greet friends and coaches, get pink polka-dots sprayed into her hair, and wiggle our way to the starting line.  Once the gun goes off, something changes as Nat morphs into a giggly, smiley, squealing ball of happiness.  We ran through someones HUGE pile of leaves.  We spontaneously danced at the mile markers.  We skipped.  We sang (badly).  Nat looked at the Niagara River and said, "That's why I like running, it's so beautiful."  Looking at her, I couldn't agree more.

Finally, someone said "200 yards to the finish".  Nat looked at me and simply stated, "Mom, were gonna need a bigger trophy shelf".  There's nothing low about that!  With happy tears in my eyes, I took off in a sprint to keep up with her.

Way to get 'er done, girl!   And, if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, I'd like the same thing again.  It's just what I've always wanted. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mendon Ponds 50k Race Report

My day started early.  5:30 am to be exact.  My husband's extreme dislike of Saturday morning alarm clocks resulted in a literal  kick in the butt that got me moving.  It's time to race.  I know this drill:  re-think what I'm going to wear, put the things in my pockets that I ALWAYS forget,  grab my running backpack, ultra tackle box, breakfast and head out the door.  I'll use the drive time to fine tune my race strategy and supply needs.

I arrive 20 minutes before the start.  I see hills and frost, better get the gloves and the light coat.  I grab my timing chip and race number and huddle at the start.  I scan the field.  No newbie's here.  People know each other, they are in mis-matched clothing, and they are lean.   Many wear shirts from the Sehgahunda trail marathon.  One lady said it was tougher than Ironman.  I make a mental note, I'm running Sehgahunda.

Without fanfare, the race director tells us the trail is being run in reverse direction, reminds us it is not a PR (personal record) course, and sends us on our way.  I saw my friend Gary at the start.  This guy has just qualified for Boston and run 75 at the Summer Beast.  He's ready to race, and I'm pretty sure it's the last time I'll see him.  So, a quick hug and a well wish, and he's off like a bullet from a gun.

The course is a hilly trail, loaded with roots and rocks that are currently covered with leaves.  I thank the heavens that I don't have to run it at night, because I know those leaves will mask some obstacle that will bring me down.  At some points the trail is only about a foot wide.  I believe it is used for cross country skiing.  Other places, it is a typical trail.  It reminded me of Chestnut Ridge.  It is a 10k (6.2 miles) loop that I will run 5 times.  The first key to the type of trail it is going to be, is a sign that simply says "poop" with an arrow pointing down.  Lovely.

By far, my favorite section of the course is a section just after the mid-point aid station (with the BEST apple cider I have ever had).  I was running along and I saw this sign that stated "Caution!!!  STEEEEP slope"--yes, there were four E's.  My first thought was "what a silly sign, runners will figure out it is steep when they get there".  Then I came to it.  The view must have been akin to what ski jumpers see at the top of the podium.  There was this near vertical drop of rocks, roots, and loose gravel, all on a foot wide trail.  I was glad that I didn't run this race last year, as I'd have to run UP this monster.  I watched a few runners take a few tentative steps, and then I gunned it.  Somewhere between a gallop and a full sprint, arms waving, pony tail flying, I blasted this thing.  Woo Hoo!!!!  It was like finding my inner four year old.  Psyched I'd get to do that four more times, I took off giggling.

I finished my first lap.  Dang, where's the aid?  I didn't know this was a FA (fat ass or unsupported race).  Oh well, into the tackle box I go.  Honey roasted peanuts and a Luna bar will be great.  I duct taped my shoe where I didn't quite clear a root, decide to keep the jacket because I would need the pockets to carry extra food, ditch the gloves, curse myself for not bringing my Cascadia trail shoes, and take off for loop two.

First mistake---ditching the gloves.  My hands were freezing.  Good thing for the coat, my hand held water bottle goes into a pocket,  I tuck my fingers in my sleeves and I suck it up.  Second mistake---not running the first loop faster.  I get caught with the starting runners in the 5k, 10k and 20k version of the race.  I felt like Mufasa from the Lion King in the canyon when the antelope charge.  Small trail, fast runners, uugh.

I started the third lap with out much drama, but with my gloves.  At the midway point, I ran into my friend Gary.  He was a lap ahead of me.  Since this was a training run for both of us, we decided to run together.  This by far was the best part of the race.  If you've never run an ultra, you should, just for the bonding.  Sharing time with someone when you are running long distances is an amazing experience.  Thank you Gary!  He finished his race (his 40th marathon) and I headed off onto lap 5.  Oh, he also showed me where the aid was at the turn-around :)

That final lap was wonderful.  It was a beautiful day, and I felt privileged  to be able to spend it as I had. I thought about my friend Nick running his first marathon and I silently wished him luck.  Then I contemplated the 50k distance.  I decided that it is a good training run distance, but I really wanted to go longer.  Wanting to go longer in an ultra is a huge deal.  When I was ready to cross the finish line, the race director asked if I wanted to go around again.  'You betcha!' was my answer, but alas the race was done.  

That night, I couldn't get that race director's question out of my head.  I even dreamed that I was still running at night on those trails.  That hill would be FREAKIN' AMAZING in the dark!  Some people dream that they are falling from great distances.  Last night I dreamed that I was falling over roots and rocks.  I've toyed with giving up ultra running, and maybe that will happen someday.  But, as long as there are STEEEEP hills, that day is not today.

p.s Does anyone know when registration for the  Sehgahunda opens?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Welcome to my blog...

I found running (or running found me?) about 5 years ago.  I was having a hard time dealing with a new diagnosis that came my son's way.  Some family friends invited us on a trip to the ocean.  A chance to be near the ocean is a no-brainer for me, so I jumped at the opportunity.  I soon found out that a few of my persistent vacation-mates were runners.  Next thing I knew, I found myself on the sand at 6 am for a "run".

That first day was rough, but the next was better.  By the end of the week, I was hooked and bugging THEM to get up to see the sun rise.  I also discovered that running gave me time to think and work out my parental concerns.  I was amazed that I had found something that would settle my mind AND make my pants fit better. From that point on, I was a runner.

Fast forward five years.  Running has become a form of meditation for me.  I crave it.  It has been said that you can't run away from your problems.  I have learned that you can, however, run through them.  Running has been there to see me through all that life has thrown at me.  I've turned to it in celebration and in turmoil.  Heck, I even wrote my sister's eulogy while running!

I don't know where running will take me, but I've certainly enjoyed every step of the journey.