Sunday, March 20, 2016

Long Drives and Long Runs-Hat Race

I thought he had already left for work.  I went into our bedroom, and shut the door.  We were both surprised when he found me, on the floor, in child pose.
M:  “What the hell are you doing?”
E:  “I’m just trying to figure out how to get it all done”
M:  “Tiggs, you’re exhausted.  You know you can sit this race out.  We kinda like having you around here, anyway.”
E:  “No.  I’d feel worse if I missed it.  Besides, there are lots of people more busy than me.  I just need to re-focus.”
M:  “You’re kidding, right?  You are human, you know…”
I didn’t see him again to the end of the school day, when I was leaving work.
M:  “Basehart!  You going or what?
E:  “I’m still not sure.  I have to go home, finish that paper, check in on Nat and make sure she is set for when I’m gone, start the laundry, make a few phone calls, pack, and hop on the bike for a half hour to loosen up my legs.”
M:  “Yeah...everyone is THAT busy. I’ll see you and your Tetris mind on Sunday.”  

And, off I went.  Off for a 5.5 hour drive to the Hat Race.  I am a busy woman.  I’m up before dawn, and don’t stop until my hard deadline of 11 pm.   I don’t watch TV.  I don’t sit around.  I’m able to handle multiple priorities, and strive to remain present in all that I do.  I live by lists, not only of things to do, but how long I expect them to take, and exactly when I can fit things in.  I do have a ‘Tetris’ brain, and get angry with myself, when I metaphorically drop a plate.  Mark tells me I know how to “get s**t done”.    My solo race trips are my time to free my body from moving from task to task.  It gives me time to organize my mind and plans.   It affords me the time to simply stop moving.  
I relish having this time.   I am not latent.  I fill up a lot of Post-it notes on these drives. My children know they have unfettered access to me, and we have had some of our best talks, while I am behind the wheel.  I love the leisurely pace of knowing that I can pull over and eat at a Thai place that happens to have sushi, or find the ultimate pizza in some corner of the world, I would have otherwise missed.   There is something unique and freeing about going somewhere I’ve never been, and knowing I can take care of myself.  My New Year’s Resolution was to make someone smile everyday; on these trips, I smile.
And, then there are the races themselves.   I rediscover who I am when I am on these trails, they keep me from simply getting enveloped by my wave of responsibilities.   Trail running reminds me to just let life’s little annoyances go.  They really don’t matter.  I can simply process and release them.
I have run the Hat Race before.  In fact, this was to be my third running (my hat trick!), and I received a lime green lawn chair for my efforts.   I started this race, as I do most others….I texted Rog.   “Remind me to get a full psychological exam when I finish.” I wrote.  His response made me smile from ear to ear: “Trail time is your exam.  Your drive is unmatched.  Enjoy your craziness and kick some mud”.   It’s just what I did!
The trails offer me peace like no other place on the planet.   I remember being on this very trail over the summer, during a particularly low point for me.   I was really struggling, both physically and emotionally.  I can vividly recall a text I received from my friend Mary, while running this trail.  It meant the world to me and was just what I needed, exactly when I needed it. I am forever grateful for having this woman in my life.
Mary and I, and our good friend Jess, went out for St. Patrick’s Day.   We collected free drink cups and laughs so hard, my tummy was feeling it the next day.   Being alone on the trails allows me to cherish and re-live these moments.  And, more importantly, to be thankful that I not only made it through that low point, but gave me time to acknowledge that I am stronger because of it.  
So, yes, Mark may unexpectedly find me again in child’s pose.   I have my lists and my responsibilities.  I will get it all done.  But, as I start this week of vacation, with a to-do list as long as my arm,  I just might have to take a drive, and go for a run.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cheers----DC Rock and Roll

I have a sister.  She is no longer with us, but I see her often in my dreams.  
To set the stage, Jeannie was an incredibly beautiful woman.  She had many eyes on her and she knew it.  She was the type of woman, that even in a crowded room, your eyes sought hers out.   She  was once described to me as “not just pretty, but unforgettable”.  
She also had her flaws.  She fought battles that she didn’t care if she lost.  She lived with reckless abandonment, and was never afraid of breaking more than a few rules.  She portrayed herself as confident, strong, and stubborn, but there were a few cracks in her facade.
Lately, I’ve been having a hard time letting go of a conversation we shared. I remember sitting on my dad’s swing with her.  She was telling  me about a band she just went to see, and reflecting on her hero worship for the singer.  I remarked that it must be incredible having all those people cheering for you.   Her uncharacteristic response, and what has been echoing in my dreams, “I don’t know if I’ll ever know that feeling.  Most times when I hear someone say my name, they are not cheering for me”.  
With these thoughts into my head, I left for the starting line of the DC race.  I’m often criticised that I don’t put enough “running stuff” in my blog.  Allow me to rectify.   I implemented a plan to run 5k tempos with .9 recovery repeaters.   I ran even splits and used the spare change miles at the end to run at 85% of my maximum heart rate.  There, that’s out of the way.
Back to my sister.  Being in DC, the word bravery enveloped me.  Both stone monuments and living men and women, in all types of uniforms, oozed it.  I looked at my sister through a fresh lens of bravery.   Seeing her struggle.  Seeing her fail.  In spite of her challenges, seeing her brave enough to live her life on her own terms.
My dad was that way.   He wasn’t going to play by anyone else’s rules.  My children are that way.  They each have struggles that they try to hide from the world.  Mark, born with a medical faux pas, is taking the stage tonight to say “f*ck you Poland Syndrome” in his third body building competition.  All showing bravery, and frankly, impressing the heck out of me.
Today, I did nothing brave.  I just ran.  I ran while police are facing dangers they may never see coming...while EMT’s and firefighters are putting their lives at risk to save others...while soldiers run in while others run out… and while a confident, strong and stubborn woman is finally brave enough to let go and know that today, the cheers are all for her.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Gotcha---Green Jewel 50k

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I ended up at this race.  But, one thing I’ve learned is that unexpected things can have the most memorable results.  

Rog knows how I am at the start.  While he played Mayor--I swear, he’s the Kevin Bacon of the Ultra world--I stared at my shoes.

“Gimme 4 miles”, I said
“Gotcha” was his reply.


I flashed back to 13 years ago.  Sitting on an airport floor, and strangers had just placed a terrified and exhausted baby in my arms.

I had walked into the airport with a fully loaded diaper bag, and no baby.  I remember being  on the shuttle to the terminal, and a kindly lady asked Noah where he was going.  He said, “We have to get my baby sister, so we can share Mommy”.  

They told me not to cry.  They said culturally, it might appear that I was unhappy with the child.  I tried my hardest to comply, as I got my first glimpse of her being pushed in a stroller, down a hallway, very far away from me.

After an eternity.  There she was.  All the heartbreak...all the paperwork...all the waiting and waiting...over.  

A plane full of people stopped and watched me become a mother for the second time, but I didn’t see any of them.  I locked eyes with this child:  mine, clouded with tears...hers, dark as night.  She was scared.  She had never seen a non-Asian.  The smells were different.  The language was unfamiliar.  She had just been removed from her foster family and her country, and flown across the ocean.  She was four months old, and everything she knew had been taken from her.  She was simply in survival mode.

But, there we were: two strangers, who had just become mother and daughter, staring at each other.  I reached out and touched her face ever so gently.  I was ready to whisper, “naneun eomma haeyo”,  Korean for ‘I’m your mommy’.  I never got the chance.  As the words were forming, Natalie, or Woo Young at that time, intensified her gaze, and pooped.  I didn’t even try to hold in the laugh!

So, my first words to my daughter….”Don’t worry little one...I gotcha”.

Back to the race.  I spent much time thinking about “I gotcha”.  Not even just the words, but the feeling of knowing someone has your back.  That special connection between two people that lets each know they are safe with each other.  It can be expressed in a multitude of ways, far beyond mere words.  Sometimes, it can be as simple as knowing someone is thinking of you.  I’ve been blessed to have many people who “get” me and allow me to “gotcha” them in return.  

I didn’t plan on running this race. The opportunity arose, and I went for it.  I got to spend the day with a good friend, and do something that I love to do.  I didn’t expect the grinding elevation, the ice, the cold, the sharp descent, the hot cider and warm fire at the finish.  This race was unexpected, but it  triggered the thoughts of my first moments with my daughter.  

So, if a buddy contacts me and asks me to drop everything, drive to Cleveland to run a crazy 50k and celebrate some good news, I just might say, “I gotcha”.