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In which the Captain breaks the pen

27 Dec

The day after Christmas, spent quietly, for the most part, in my Dad’s world. How can I describe this place? Pieces of Bill, yet there, surrounded by fibrous webbing of garbledygook, intoned as if with complete clarity, so one is forced to nod in agreement even though one is not quite certain what one is agreeing to. He was on today. Because I was the last one left in the room, I became the one who was responsible to make sure he didn’t harm himself. He is like an overgrown toddler with a thousand years of life experience. It is disconcerting and yet under it all, there is a hint of jocularity. He likes to have fun and be silly, especially when I, the caretaker of convenience, take my job too seriously.

I had a win. Judy mentioned she had to get his fingernails cut, and I remembered a time when my sister-in-law managed to get her father’s nails cut by giving him a “manicure.” So I spent some time massaging my Dad’s hands until he was nearly catatonic, nearly snoring, and then gently snipped nine of the ten fingers, being careful to avoid the sensitive half of a finger on the tenth. This took an hour, and the success gave me confidence and my Mom felt I was safe enough to leave him with me so she snuck off with a book. I sat and he stuck to me like glue the rest of the day. This is different from the last time I visited in April. Then, I had my friend Megan with me and he was anxious any time Judy left the room. This time, he was only anxious if I got up to do anything. He had basically fixated on me and I could not so much as put my hair in a ponytail without freaking him out.

We read a little book, “Advice from a Tree” he had been carrying around with him all morning. He’s a tree guy, always has been, and I thought this was nice that he liked this little book. I would read a little and he would read a little, and it didn’t always come out right when he read his bits, but when it did, it was in a voice of authority and control, and my head would snap around to attention, the daughter obeying the father.

When I came in from my run in the morning, he looked at my shoes and said, “yeah yeah, I used to go with the fellas” and I wondered whether he was connecting the shoes to running or connecting the shoes (blue with gold laces) with the navy.

And we drew. Inspired by LMB, who spends hours sitting by the window drawing drawing drawing Bill carries a pen around and occasionally marks a stray envelope, recipe card, the newspaper, objects left lying on the table. He likes to carefully encircle existing shapes. He has an artist’s diligent hand. For a full ten minutes I had his attention as I drew waves, a ship, some jumping fish. When I handed him the pen, he looked at me rather sternly, and then proceeded to snap the pen in half. He is strong. You might see an old, feeble man walking, holding someone’s elbow, but give him a pen and tell him it’s his turn to draw, and he can take a pen apart with vicious intensity. It was stunning and frankly, freaked me out thank you very much.

He loves dancing with his daughters and granddaughters. Tonight, Katharine and Paul made dinner at their place, and we all turned up in the cute, kudzu encircled house and sat listening to Bueno Vista Social club and suddenly we were all dancing. He’s a card and a flirt and no longer has any timing or rhythm but shuffled across the floor with an appropriate, somber look on his face. For a moment there was no Alzheimer’s, only Bill, but it was only a moment. Watch out when he yanks his hand back as if burned when you grab it for a spin. But then he will come up and kiss you on the forehead. How utterly confusing this can be.

My niece’s boyfriend, Jake, takes Bill’s arm at the end of the evening to help with the stairs outside. We take it slowly. I am behind them and behind me, my niece, six months pregnant and cute as a button in a white woolen hat, chats with LMB. Judy goes to start her car. Jake is a natural and Bill likes him. He has been here two days and Bill gravitates to his voice and seems to like when he is in the room. I mention to my mother that she should try to convince Lily and Jake to move here, because Jake should be Bill’s caretaker. She nods, agreeing. She is so tired, but so happy to have so much of her family here for Christmas. I wish I was here longer, but I know I could not do this every day.  I am not even sure I could do this for more than one day. I know it is harder for her, losing her best friend, piece by piece, day by day.

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A more normal time?

When I lean in toward my Dad’s freshly washed hair, thanks to the difficult struggle Debbie, the nurse, had with him this morning in the shower, I smell shampoo and shaving cream and a little sweat he generates from constantly moving. The caretaker of convenience cannot sit with a book or expect to catch up on e-mail. She must be attentive and move like a shadow in the erratic, concentric patterns of gray matter gone scritchy-scratchy, of lost connections and missed synapses, of robust physical health (for eighty-one!) cursed with shortness of breath, the result of frustration and every-other-moments of panic. Like a baby’s, his facial expressions can change in an instant – storm clouds and then – AHA! – the kidding, muppet-like gaping guffaw. In my stages of grief over losing him these past five years, this is perhaps the most tragic and the least emotional for me. Gone is the weepy, sorry-for-myself stage.  Gone is the anger and helplessness. Now it is like being a miner – constantly chipping and looking – what is left? What is there? Is that gold or is it a reflection? Trying to savor the gold.

At every coming and going I hug with feeling my sisters, and even my brothers-in-law to say thank you I’m sorry I love you please forgive me don’t go. I don’t realize I am doing it until I feel the bit of resistance telling me I’ve hung on a little too long. It’s just like, like, the little hunky dory kid needs a little reassurance that we are family, I got all my sisters (and brothers) and me. I wish my two brothers and my other sister could be here. As we sit at the table feasting it could almost be normal. It could almost be a scene from when Bill was still okay, but then nobody is really fighting anymore so we definitely are not normal, anymore. We are all good to one another, now. Or we try.

The kids, who are not kids, are not like we were, and do not stay up much past nine, don’t sit at the kitchen table drinking red wine and eating the rest of the chocolate mousse. How different they are from what we were. How different we are.

Someday, I tell LMB, this could be me.

She blinks twice and goes back to her drawing. Next to me on the couch, Bill says, “yes, yes I know.”

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I’m here to tell you about this little tramp called Stone Cat Trail Race

15 Nov

I am not going to tell you why I ran fifty miles over eleven and a half hours in the woods last Saturday. I’ll leave it to you to conjure in your head an image of me, whatever context you normally see me in – a sensible wool skirt and boring grey sweater… and now picture me in some tatty Nike shorts over a pair of underarmour tights, a black “Run With The Beavers Trail Race” T-shirt, plaid pink arm warmers and a pink “Pinnacle Trail Ultra” Smart wool hat. If this does not jibe with your usual Curious Monkey sighting, then you are in for a treat, because this is the me I sometimes refer to on Monday mornings. Now you will know the secret of why I come in to work with glowing eyes, scraped knees and bruised elbows. Yes. I run (and often trip and fall) in the dirt. Often far. Mostly slowly.

Stone Cat Trail Races happens every year, usually the first or second Saturday in November, and features two races: a trail marathon (26.2 miles), and a fifty miler. A few months ago, after finishing Wakely Dam Ultra, in one of those punk-post-ultra fevers, I placed my name in a lottery and out came a spot to register for this puppy. So yay. Which now meant that all of my training focus had to somehow incorporate a lot more miles beyond the Portland Marathon. Well, O.K. then!

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we do 4 of these loops.

I just want to say before any of this that I really dug the training for this race, especially the last intense month of late September and October where for four weekends straight, Tom and I got out on the Vin Gormley (Little Rhody Runaround route) trail in Burlingame. I got to know that trail very, very well. One fine Saturday I did it four times. I think this is the thing that made Stone Cat so great for me, because Burlingame is physically and mentally demanding, as well as beautiful. It’s not hilly, but it’s unforgiving and complex and stippy-steppy. And although I rarely see Tom while I run, because he is far ahead of me and much faster, there was something about being out there and knowing he was also out there that was very cool.  I also got out on some nice road runs with my road pals, a couple of good long rides with my bike buddies, ran a “destination” marathon with some other good friends, and was inspired by incredible endurance feats by a couple of Trail Animals I look up to. Surrounded by so much girly (all of these friends are girls, btw) goodness (the toughest goddess kind of goodness) gave me some awesome pocket superpowers to pull out when shit would inevitably get low at Stone Cat. In addition to the mental game being strengthened by all that, I spent those two months eating some heavy duty carbs and not feeling anything weird about it… I just ate like an offensive lineman and no apologies for it. Learning to run with a fistful of oreos, half a banana, and a few chugs of gatorade is an acquired skill.

The day of Stone Cat arrived and I was prepared. Because I was going to a conference and flying out of Boston the next day, I had developed a very complicated spreadsheet packing list and nothing was left off of it. I was a crew of one, a project manager and narrator of this very silly story. As my alarm clock beep-bop-blee-nee-weeeeeee-doo‘d, I rose quickly and barked at my crew in the mirror to get her shit IN GEAR. Within a half hour I had gooped my feet and chafe-prone bits in diaper creme, dressed, pinned my number on, and gone down to the Comfort Inn’s dining room, where the good staff, indubitably jazzed up on Red Bull, had opened four or five bags of bagels and plugged the waffle makers in.  It was 4 a.m. and that place was hopping with Runners and Their Handlers, including dogs (I love a dog-friendly Comfort Inn). Sleepy children and partners-of-runners sat bleary eyed over coffee while their Runners picked at oatmeal. I sat where I could and nibbled a plain bagel with peanut butter. Janet, another awesome trail runner from Rhode Island, came to say hello and introduce her friend who was running the marathon. I didn’t hang out too long, because I just can’t. My crew lugged her gear up and headed out. I sure hope she didn’t forget to print out the DIRECTIONS! Sigh.

At the start, after parking, my inept crew lugged my crap to the left of the ball field, which, now I know, would have been better on the other side, but whatever, I forgive me. Then my crew complained that she couldn’t see shit and WHERE IS MY HEADLAMP? I set everything up, and without warning, the sun popped up and it was almost time to go.

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crew monkey tells me I pack all wrong.

 

My friend Liana, who was running her second fifty in as many weeks, was nowhere to be seen. The night before, she had texted that she was waiting on the mail for her headlamp which still had not arrived, even though she’d had it overnight shipped. I sent a wish to the gods that she managed to get it, and that she would get to the start in time. I recognized a couple of TARC folks at the start, one who came over to say hello and wish me luck, who was doing his nnnnnnth? Stone Cat. His kind smile put me at ease. I patted myself on the back and told myself “Good Luck! See you at the end of the loop!” and the crew in me went and sat down in a chair and took a nap. The Runner Monkey me lined up, listened to the good man tell us some last minute race details, and we were off.

I sat back a little to let the fasties go first. We all ran across the field and then stopped at a bottleneck in the woods. I’ve read that in years past, this race started in the dark. Well, since it was after daylight savings, it was light out, making it certain we would be ending in the dark. I thought about this and tried to calculate at what point or loop this would occur for me as I listened to two women chatting ahead of me. I introduced myself and the three of us ran together the first few miles.  The route comes up a double track, hooks left into the woods, and heads up an incline for the next mile or so. We all walked fast for that mile. At the top, one of the girls and I broke out in a light (very conservatively paced) run, which I maintained for the rest of the day, for the most part.

At two miles in, I got passed by Liana. She was heading up a hill. HEY! I yelled. She slowed a little and explained she had been late to the start. She then took off ahead taking my new friend with her, and I hung back, thinking I would see her on the downhill. I did, but then not again for a long while.

At four miles in, the first aid station was playing Tom Petty. They were already partying although it was about seven thirty in the morning. I clapped with delight when I saw they had cheez-its, fig newtons and oreos – exactly the foods I had been training with the past two months. I loaded up, drank a cup of gatorade, topped off my water, and ran on.

When I came to a hill, I hiked up, and then bombed down. It is my way.

I started running with a dude called Loring, who was tall with grasshopper legs. He had a pretty good pace going and I got behind him and tried to stick it out. Eventually, I realized I would not be able to keep the pace up, so I hung back. After awhile, all the runners became fairly spread out. We were still running with the marathoners, so occasionally I would be passed by a fast one, or I would pass a slower runner. Sometimes, I would catch up with someone and we would talk briefly. But mostly, I just ran my own thing. I had a nice flat fall somewhere around here, but I was lucky, there was no horse poop and the ground was soft.

I came in to the second aid station blowing snot rockets, and I guess I must have impressed them because they all cheered wildly. “Oh My God Look At Her Shirt!” said one and then next thing you know I was surrounded by all of these people who wanted to know about my Run With the Beavers shirt. I told them it was a great trail race in Rhode Island but it was like they weren’t listening, they were just laughing at my shirt. I extracted myself from their grip, afraid they might tear my shirt off, grabbed my cookies and split out of there. Whew!

I caught up with Carin, the girl who had run away with Liana, and she ran me the next five miles. I was glad to have her with me when we ran in to the evil clown on the trail. I don’t know why race organizers think it’s cute to place people in the most terrifying costumes out in the middle of nowhere… no. Nothing wrong with that. Right? I might have overreacted a little but nearly punched the poor guy when he revealed himself to be animated and not just the stuffed shape of an evil clown.

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photo courtesy farnorthendurance.com from a 2013 race.

The photo above is not my clown, but you get the idea. I screeched, much to his satisfaction, and Carin and I boogied to get past him onto the right turn onto single track. Carin stayed with me all the way to the end of the loop. She was great company and I liked talking and running with her. I hoped we would run together again, but for the rest of the race, we just saw each other in passing.

As we came down the last half mile of the first loop, I saw first Liana, then Janet, then some of the TARC people who I don’t know that well, but know their faces, heading out for their second loops. I hooted and hollered good wishes, excited to see them and anxious to be done with the first loop. Soon enough, we came down the field, into a chute, across the mat, and around a little horseshoe.

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photo courtesy Stone Cat Trail Races. Me coming in from a loop.

 

I came out of the chute and went down the side of the school to the porto, where I very efficiently took care of business while removing my long sleeved underarmour and replacing my t-shirt. It crossed my mind briefly to change into a different shirt, but I thought those aid station ladies would probably leave me alone the second time around, so I left it on. I ran back and now to the left of the chute to get a Gu out of my bag. All in all it was first loop in 2:33 and out of there by 2:39. As long as I kept these things under three hours, my crew reminded me, I would be all right.

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I thanked me, gave me a big hug, and off I went, eating a banana and some cheezits.

The second loop was all on me. At the end of the first big hill, about two miles in, I ate the Gu, thinking it was safely far enough away from the next aid station that I could then have Gatorade (because Gatorade and Gu is like drinking wine and then vodka, and then more wine, and then more vodka…) I met a nice girl with a hydration pack in the next section, and we stayed together awhile. She was exceedingly nice and very cheerful, and this was also her first fifty. We spent the rest of that loop leap-frogging one another. This was also when I got passed by a few of the leaders, which was so cool and also a little demoralizing, but mostly cool. One sprite nearly ran into a tree trying to politely pass me on a downgrade. Before I could ask if he was okay, he was gone. These frontrunners are amazing.

At the first aid station they took my water bottle from me, filled it, and told me to take some pumpkin pie because I only live once. I skipped the pie and took their cheezits, a couple of oreos, a half a banana, and some pretzels. Must appease the monkey.

I got into the flow between the two aid stations and was feeling great. Coming in to the second, I got the same shit all over again about my shirt. “Would you LOOK at her shirt? That shirt is AWESOME!” I thanked them all, because really, THEY were awesome, and we all basked in mutual adoration for one another. Because the volunteers are everything. I wasn’t at the point yet that I was like, I love you guys!!! But I think I knew it was coming. I got my food and skidaddled.

In the last mile of loop two, I suddenly felt what had been a developing hot spot in near my big toe go raw and I knew I had a blister that must have busted. I made a mental note to change my shoes before the next loop, and hoped that would fix the problem. As I passed by the scary clown, he had his mask up and was offering runners Pellegrino. I declined and boogied, still mightily afraid.

And before you can say apes agape at the gate three times fast, I was back at the start/finish. I came out of the chute, ran to my bag and changed into different shoes. I texted Tom and before the siren song of the chair could start calling, I headed out for three. Once again, I did the Gu in the first two miles, and mentally checked that the Hokas seemed to be better than the Cascadias because I no longer felt the blister.

Loop Three was that loop that we all do this for. You know, that blissed-out Pocahontas Nike commercial rolling across hill and dale for miles and miles and miles.  It was groovy and fluid. I ran alone and I ran with people. The marathoners were pretty much all done, so it was really quiet out there. Stone walls, leaf-colored trail, rubbly up-trail, some logs to step over. My legs grew tired, like, late afternoon tired, the drowsy tired you get when lying on a beach blanket after a long swim tired. I didn’t see people for long sweeps of time, and when I did, they were also in their zones, so we all respected that and kept to ourselves, for the most part. I noted the trees swaying above me in the wind, the angle of the sun, the beautiful pond, marsh, cattails, woods. In passing a runner, coming down a hill, I fell for the second time that day, this time, a comical face-forward first base slide. I immediately got up and said, I’m OK! And asked the guy I had just passed if he would check to see if my nose was scraped. He said it looked okay. I was worried about showing up all beat up at the conference.  Dusting myself off, I thanked him and moved along.

Coming in after the third loop, I got pysched. Because I knew I was going to finish. I had done three, I had survived, I was over the hump. Sure, I was tired, and I had a few hours ahead of me, but I felt pretty good, notwithstanding. I hadn’t really eaten any real food, though, and I was a little dizzy and nauseous. At the start-finish I must have looked pale, because someone plied me with noodle soup and a grilled cheese. I ate that, and started out, but realized I forgot my headlamp. I ran all the way around the chute, back to my bag, texted Tom I was on the final loop, got my light and a long sleeved shirt to wrap around my waist, and off I went. I think it was like 2:45 in the afternoon. Knowing I would be out past dark was weird, because it was still sunny. But it was cooler. As I headed up the hill in the first mile, the nausea disappeared, and I got back into a groove. However, I was definitely tired and I could feel the miles beyond what I had ever done before. At this point I was about at mile 40. Now I wasn’t seeing anyone on the trail. I wondered if I was DFL (Dead Last.) The first aid station was sort of wrapping things up. I thanked them and told them I’d miss them and mentally said goodbye aid station, I wouldn’t be back again today.

In another few miles, I ran in to Liana. It was getting dark, and we didn’t have our lights on yet, but I was just about to put mine on. She was walking, because she had injured her foot. It was painful for her to run downhill. I walked with her a bit and asked her what she wanted to do. She told me that Tony would meet her at the next aid station and walk with her to the finish. She told me to go on ahead and she would see me at the end. She didn’t seem overly upset, but resigned at the fact. She had run a good race up to that point, but knowing she had run fifty at Ghost Train not two weeks before in nine and change hours, her body was likely still recovering from that effort. I ran ahead, popped on my light, and watched the sun go down. At the second aid station, they told me they all voted and my shirt won best shirt at Stone Cat. So while I can’t win the race, I can win the fashion show. It was at that point I got very emotional and was all, I love you guys. Because really. Those volunteers. I am getting choked up just writing this.

Five miles left. Out of the aid station, it got really, really dark all of a sudden. I pulled my overshirt on, took my bearings, and headed out into the night. Without light, the woods took on a new shape, and it was hard to know where I was on the trail. Some landmarks appeared in my headlamp, others completely eluded me, making me constantly second-guess the trail. I looked and looked for those pink ribbons. They were few and far between. At one point, feeling hopelessly off-trail, I noticed a bobbing light ahead and headed toward it, hoping the runner in front of me was on the right track. And then I heard coyotes. first far away, and then much closer. It was both really cool and a little scary. My quads were burning and suddenly, I was pretty much done with the trail. This always happens to me, this moment of being so over a run. But I was prepared. This was the low I had trained for. I conjured images of my friends and family who had sent me wishes for a good run, and thought about them one by one (and you guys seriously I felt like I was receiving telepathic messages so if you were thinking of me around four thirty, then I was receiving.) I thought about a family friend who was sick. I thought about my Mom.  I thought about my Dad. I thought about Tom, and how he’d probably like running in the dark and tell me “what’s five more miles?”. Suck it up, Buttercup. I thought about a project at work. Not noble or poetic but it would have to do. I thought about those cute freaking dogs of mine. I thought about LMB, or rather worried for her, because that is what we mothers do. But she is tough and honest and creative and I know deep down that she is just fine, because we raised her that way, right? So run along, Mom. And in thinking all of these things, and all of these people, I must have picked up my pace because I caught up with the bopping light, and found myself running with Christy and her pacer. I had run with her earlier. Her pacer was on Twitter updating her friends on her progress. While he ran! Incredible. Where was my tweeting pacer??? We shared a laugh and I stayed with them for the next couple of miles. As we came closer to the end, I noticed that they had put glow sticks along the trail. We had one section of single track left and then it was double track all the way. We cruised through it, considering we were all tired and a little slower from it being very dark. The double track seemed long. I said goodbye to it, I wouldn’t be seeing it again today. We flew down the last hill and Christy picked it up and pulled ahead, leaving me and her pacer to try to keep up. I wasn’t sure I had enough in the tank for a sprint that far out, so waited until I knew the field was in sight. I could hear cheering (still? It felt like nine o’clock or later) and then suddenly, finally, the cones for the field and I was home free. I pumped my arms and with quads burning like hot coals I pulled down the long, dark field toward the lights at the end by the school. I had a big grin on my face knowing I would not have to go back out there. Someone shouted my number and they were all clapping. I sprinted across the timing mat, smiled broadly, and then burst out in tears. Christy gave me a big hug. I told them all it was my first fifty. They gave me some pizza and pretty much fawned over me for a couple of minutes. Normally, I have a big appetite when I cross a line but I wasn’t hungry. I was very sniffly and emotional. I was happy. I did fifty!

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Curious Monkey comes across the finish line at 11 hours, 27 minutes and change.

 

Later that night, as I lay on Liana’s couch in Malden, awoken with a start by a falling dream, I thought about the day and something I had been thinking about. People ask me why I do these crazy things, and I don’t have what I think of as a good “reason.” I don’t run for a person or cause. I run for entirely selfish reasons. It is not necessarily for recognition, because mostly, people think you are insane when you tell them what you are up to. Mostly, I don’t tell people, because it involves answering that “why????” question. Because really, I have no reason that I can readily explain. There is something really primordial about pushing physically and mentally, and the healing that takes place afterwards, including insatiable hunger and need for sleep. These are things that come from living life fully and being exposed to extremes. And when you work in a cube all day staring at a computer, that’s where the real crazy is. And exposure to extremes and elements and the power of achievement can keep those crazies somewhat at bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would you do?

21 Oct

Gosh, today a squirrel jumped on a transformer and in a series of explosions managed to shut down the entire Downcity.

Here is how it went down in my building.

10:21. The lights flickered, and went dead.

10:22. Multiple exclamations ranging anywhere from “Oh, Fog and Hail!” to “What is going on?” (answer: power is out!)

10:23. Ruminations in the dark. (please note: In cube hell, there is no way to tell if it is night or day.) Someone starts eating a ham sandwich.

10:23. Bathroom break!

10:25. Out in the hallway, elevator emergency bell is ringing. Ring ring! RIIIIIING RIIING!!!! Muffled shouts. I holler at the middle elevator door. “We hear you! But I think the power is out!”

10:26. Curious Monkey decides to take the city beat and goes for a walk.

My route:

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Ironically, the above route sort of looks like a squirrel.

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If you turned the map with East at the top, it sort of does.

Anyway, man! that picture above is the likeness of one evil looking squirrel, isn’t it?. The kind of squirrel that would jump on a power transformer to… to… transform itself into a super electro-charged squirrel!

Because, WHY ELSE?

All squirrel-related conspiracy theories aside, during my walk, I noticed that the city had turned itself inside-out:

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There were people outside of their offices, standing there on the sidewalk. What to do? What to doooooo?

Many were on their personal telephony devices, talking talking talking to SOMEONE about how they were just in the middle of all this work and oh my lord the power went out and no one knows what is going on???!!!

Many were not talking, but merely staring at their phones. Because the phones might impart some Very Important Message about What To Do In Case Of A Power Outage.

I bet twitter looked all like this:

OMG this is soooooo weird- apocalypse??? #poweroutageProvidence

and

Man outside of gtech said it was terrorists #poweroutageProvidence

and

WHEN can I go BACK TO WORK???!!! #poweroutageProvidence

Actually, I made that last one up.

In any case, as I took a seat on a park bench with a strategic view of black smoke billowing out of 15 West (OMG Fire in RISD dorm??? #poweroutageProvidence) which was AKSHULLY from them firing up an old stinky generator, I struck up a conversation with my RISD pal Dave Chandler about all the outrage from the outage. #poweroutrageProvidence.

We humans are pathetically unprepared. I mean, what do we do? We kind of stand there. As I walked by the parking garage on Dorrance St., an attendant was commenting to a passerby that “all my lifts are down. All these cars are stuck.” I envisioned what would happen if this were a for-real-OMG-apocalypse! and rather than it being this giant panic, I think it would be a resigned sigh. And then, once the internet goes down, tears.

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Further down Dorrance, there was a food truck guy. After Portland, when I see a food truck, I look again. This was your regular old food truck, nothing fancy, but the guy was cooking for his one customer. They seemed okay. No power? No problem. I’ll have three weinuhs up the arm, all the way.

On my return loop, via the upper part of the squirrel’s tail and back (if you are tracking the route, as certainly you may be inclined to follow in these historic footsteps of Curious Monkey’s walk on The Day The Powah Went Out Because of A Squirrel in Providence Downcity) I started thinking about last Friday’s College Leadership Rhode Island session. It was an interesting day. An amazing day. It happened here: Harrington Hall, right near the prison, in Cranston, RI.

In the morning, upon arriving, none of us knew what in creation this building was. We only knew it was near hell (the DMV) in Cranston. An imposing brick structure built in the 30s or 40s. Some guys out front, smoking. I wasn’t sure this was the place. I was glad I was wicked early, because I circled the building about five times before deciding it was the right place.

When I walked in, I saw some conference tables and some tired looking chairs, and some hopeful paintings covering some less hopeful peeling paint. The carpet smelled a little like armpit. I saw some familiar faces and wondered, uh, why here? We were soon to find out. I got my name-tag, got a coffee, and my CLRI colleagues eventually filled in. Our first speaker was the AMAZING Jean Johnson. She told us why we were there. And showed us Manny’s Story. It was very moving, and gave us some background before later in the morning when we were all actually “booked” into Harrington Hall’s shelter, upstairs. Suffice it to say it was an eye-opening experience, one I will never forget. It puts things in perspective. We also had great conversations with some other non-profit leaders throughout the day.

I have always wondered what it must be like to be homeless here in Rhode Island. I have traveled to New Orleans, Long Beach, San Francisco and Portland and have seen some serious homelessness, made apparent. In Rhode Island, it is less in-your-face apparent. We see them, but we don’t see them. The same old regg’luhs. But their struggles are just as real and perhaps even more so, given our winter weather. It is wonderful to know that people like Jean Johnson and House of Hope exist, but there is so much more Rhode Island could be doing. We can all be doing.

The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless envisions a State of Rhode Island that refuses to let any man, woman or child be homeless

 Wouldn’t that be nice.

I imagine, though, that some of these guys at Harrington Hall, some of these folks on the street or under the bridge are way, way better equipped than any of us to handle a day like today.

They know what it’s like to suddenly find yourself out on the street, with nothing to do, unsure of what happens next.

Without electricity.

Without a phone.

Without power.

#poweroutrageProvidence

The Portland Marathon: Part II – 26.2 up (and down) the Willamette

15 Oct

Portland was my third marathon in 2014. After last Fall’s Baystate Marathon, I had changed to a new training plan (Hanson’s) that increased my mileage and intensity in my training. While this approach did work in some ways for me, my Spring marathons found me suffering from heat related stress after a cold winter of outside running. Going from long runs in 30-50 degree overcast weather to 80 degrees and sunny definitely took its toll on me. I don’t fight heat. I abide. My times reflected the more laid-back pace. So much for a 3:55 BQ (Boston qualifier.) While I was disappointed, I knew in my head that my heart wasn’t really in it – I didn’t have the right passion or reason to go to Boston. In fact, I wasn’t sure I WOULD go to Boston even if I did get a BQ. It was just a number I felt I “should” meet, and I am competitive. But on thinking about it (and after a humbling response to my inquiry about the reality of my hitting that number from an expert on Runners’ World forums) I started re-thinking my priorities. Why do I run a marathon? Do I even like the distance?

With that in mind, I vowed to run Portland to enjoy Portland, no matter the time or weather. This would be my first visit to the Pacific Northwest. It is my brother and sister-in-law’s home, and I wanted to see it through the eyes of a runner. What better way than to do it on a partially closed course, without having to worry about knowing which way I am going? Of course, if you are reading this, you probably know me, and if you know me, you know that I love maps and love navigation and especially love route-making and way-finding, and that I did plenty of research on the route prior to running the marathon. But still, a marathon allows one to run for a very long time and see things (and the people of a place) in a unique way. With this in mind, my training leading up to the marathon was less intense, and while I got the miles in, I didn’t focus on speed, but on endurance and being present in the moment.

Marathon morning arrived with another day (after three similar days) of promised clear and sunny weather, with a projected high (and dry) of 70 degrees by noon. I dressed quickly in a loose tank over a running bra and bicycle-style shorts (the same ones desperately needing replacing after many seasons…) injini toe socks with a light sock over, and the Saucony peregrines. The Saucony is a narrow shoe, and I had not run longer than 20 miles in them, but that 20 was a good 20 and they are light and seem to do the job, so that’s the shoe I went with. I had worn Brooks’ Ghosts in the Spring races, and while I love the wide footbed of the Brooks’, the shoe felt heavy and square. The Saucony pair also happen to be the marathon colors, which were the same colors of the 2013-14 Superbowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks. So I was all matchy-matchy with the banners and signs for the marathon.

Tobi, Megan, Tom and I ate our breakfasts and got out the door. It took about 10 minutes to drive downtown. We were earlier than we had to be to get in to the parking garage which was not very near the start, but I do like to have some distance to walk before a race in order to get things moving (in the customary parlance) and to shake out the nerves. We sat in the car until we started seeing people moving along, and we got in the salmon run toward the start downtown. It was still quite dark, but there was a lot of action. Photographers stopped groups like ours to take pictures (later available for twenty five bucks a pop.) We located our starting areas and after taking a “we-fie”, split up to our respective corrals.

portlandMarathonWefie

L-R Megan, Tobi, me, Tom. photo courtesy M. McCulloch

Tom was in corral A, Tobi and I in corral C, and Megan in Corral G. We walked Megan over to her corral, said “Good Luck!” (this being her first marathon, ever) and Tobi and I walked back to C. Once there, Tobi got in line for a last pit stop and I chatted it up with a 10-year veteran of the Portland marathon, a sprightly older fella with a pointy beard. He told me that the Portland marathon was not about a PR. “The bridge gets in the way.” Deep inside, a last little glimmer of “maybe I could bust 4 hours” started to fade. I let it go. I reminded myself it was not about the time. Someone on a bullhorn started getting us moving. Tobi was still in line for the portos so I caught her eye, wished her luck, and moved with the herd to the next part of our waiting area. Once there, I noticed I was standing next to the 3:45 pace group, so I back-stepped twenty feet until I got to a saner place at the back of the pack. We all sang a unique national anthem (worth the watch), and our wave start lined up at the start. We waited for a train. You could hear the train whistle. In the distance, up the road, we could see the B wave bopping up and down. I was oddly calm. A part of me thought, you know, I’m not sure I really feel like running 26.2 miles right now. Sigh. Then the dude on the megaphone started hustling us again, and before my lazy brain could say any more, we were shuffling across the start line, our shoes clomping across the timing mat and the chorus of beeps as people started their watches. I pulled a little to the right to let the fasties pass. I was determined to go out slow, but immediately, we were greeted with the most amazing sounds and sights. On our left, about 100 feet from the start, a high school or college drum corps belted out a fast-tempo concussive that got my heart racing and my legs all shibbery. Just beyond, there were cute teeni-bopper cheerleaders, and a very LARGE early-morning crowd at the start (largest I have ever seen at any race). In a few more streets, another drumming band, this one Chinese (I think) along with real Chinese dragons dancing right next to me as I ran. I was carried away and really enjoying this first mile. A man came up on my elbow and asked about my shirt, which says “NRA – you can have my shoes when you pry them off my cold, dead feet.” for Narragansett Running Association, not the other NRA. I am not a frequent member of NRA but have done some runs with them and love the jersey, so I wore it to honor Little Rhody. By the time I finished explaining that, we were at the 1 mile marker. Oh my! I looked at my watch and realized that first mile went way too fast. I told the guy talking to me that I was going to slow down, so see yuh. He took off ahead, and I settled in to a great pace. It helped having such great crowd support. Amazing people, so friendly. And the bands. Nice! At about mile two, I saw Tobi pass by me up ahead. I mentally sent some good thoughts her way. I was so caught up in the bands and the people that I basically took no note of my location, but I know we passed beneath the Chinese gate, and we moved through an older part of town that was reminiscent of New England mill towns. Then the road moved up a long hill, and we could see the leaders come flying down the other side. That was cool. At the top of the hill, it turned hard left and we were now the leaders flying down the hill. I looked left and saw that the G bibs were heading up the hill, and looked for Megan. Finally, I saw her, running with a big-ass smile on her face. I yelled “Go Megan!”, but she didn’t hear me.

The next few miles began a long, straight, hill-less out and back along the river, with train tracks and warehouses on either side, along with some wide open lots. In the distance, a skyline of douglas firs met the blue sky. The sun was up and it was starting to get warmer. I was feeling very good at this point, and it was work trying to keep my pace back. There was plenty of water stops, so I skipped a lot of these early ones. Along about mile 7, there were pirates high five-ing the runners, playing pirate-y music and generally gargling into a microphone. I said “arghhhh” and did a little jig. I started looking for Tom in the stream of runners coming back the other way. They all had the sun in their eyes as it came up behind me. Finally, about one hour and six minutes in, I saw Tom. He was bolting, I tell ya, just flying up the road. I yelled “WOOOOO! Go Tom!!!” but he didn’t hear me. He was busy getting ready to high five those pirates on the return trip.

Now that I had seen three of the four of the my Portland marathon party (I did not expect to see Liz until the last six miles of the race) I started getting into marathon mode in my head. This wasn’t just some random run in some random town. I was in PORTLAND, OREGON baby and I was running the PORTLAND MARATHON! A quick check of my watch told me I was running on average a nine minute mile, which I knew was kind of ridiculous and maybe a little ambitious because it was only going to be hotter. As we finally came around the corner past this Christian rock band, and headed back into the sun, I realized the same thing that seemed to transport me at Wakely was happening here. I was coasting. Relentless Forward Progress. I was not in a bad place, or in a super good place, I was just getting the thing done. The crowd was cool and everything but I was not as present as I would have liked to be. I think my body or my brain just does this. I can’t quite explain it except that in front of my eyes is a narrow course and everything else is a blur. The sun, the bands, the people, the buildings, the fir trees, the other runners… I might latch on with my eyes to a swatch of pink, or a pair of purple socks, or a black wristwatch, and keep the thing in my sights for awhile, running to stay moving. I did remember to stop and get a drink, and when we took another hill at about mile 13, I noticed a woman with a corgi at the top of it. And then we were on highway 30 heading up toward the bridge. In the distance, I could see it, the St. John’s Bridge.

photo courtesy tripadvisor.com

I knew we had a way to go before getting to this bridge. From my research, I had learned that this is a busy highway, and it is not closed for the marathon. We were to run alongside oncoming traffic with only orange cones separating us from the trucks and cars racing by. I was glad for all of the training I had done along Division Street and route 3 in West Greenwich. I was quite comfortable with the cars, the industrial buildings, the noise, and the lack of spectators. Again, I was in a good spot mentally. I had taken a little cup of gummy bears at the last rest stop and worked on one, putting the rest in my back pocket. I thought about the bridge. If I was feeling good now, how was I going to feel once I was over on the other side, facing the sun? I was worried about that. That’s what got me both at Raleigh and Maine. I am not good with full sun in my face. But I figured I would wait and see. Pretty soon, we were heading up the on ramp to the bridge. This was a big hill. I was doing pretty well, just chugging along. But I noticed that pretty much everyone had started walking – power walking, really – to maybe save energy? “How smart!” my lazy brain chimed in, “you know, you could save a lot of energy just walking! I mean, they are all walking as fast as you are running. How bout it?” So I started to walk. Immediately, a woman came up on my right. She was wearing headphones and had a shiny black ponytail. She turned toward me, wagged her finger, and said, “uh, NO. You are going to run this.” So I started running, and kept up with her til we got to the bridge. Once there, the grade was much less steep, so I was running well again. The girl dropped back and said, “I’ve been pacing behind you about two miles. You can’t walk now!” So we ran together until the top of the bridge, and I looked out at the views. On the left was up the river, and dark woods and islands. Way off in the distance was a peak – what was it? I think it was Mt. St. Helens. And straight ahead was Mt. Hood. What an awesome sight. To the right was the sun, and the city. I took no pictures, because there are already a billion out there. And I don’t want to spoil it for you, oh you who may someday run this awesome race.

Needless to say, I blew down the other side. That is just my thing. I like the downs. I bomb the downs. At the bottom, a handful of soldiers were saluting a veteran runner. I got very choked up. Then we were off the bridge and bombing down this little side street, and then a sharp left and up into a neighborhood. And that is when the heat started to bother me.

This was about mile 18. I was hot. I was starting to get cranky from the sun and no shade. And this neighborhood was eerily quiet. There were people out there, but they seemed kind of dazed, as if the runners had woken them up, and they stood around their driveways and on their front lawns with coffee mugs, in slippers and pajamas. Christ, it was pretty late for pajamas. But I guess if you live in Portland, and it is sunny outside like this, you come out and just kind of… sun yourself.

I can’t say I didn’t struggle miles 18-22. All in to the sun. Very little shade. Lots of fun downhill! It was getting later and I figured Liz had already walked and was likely already done. Another neighborhood seemed very friendly with a big band on a lawn, and someone with a sprinkler. Heaven!  I walked a few times. I looked at my watch. I saw the possibility of a four hour marathon pretty much fade at that point. Okay, I thought, maybe a 4:15.

At mile 21 or 22, we had a nice long downhill. I pretty much bombed it, full sun and all. Some guy was getting sick to my right. Everyone walking occasionally. It was like we were all one body moving as one, just get it done. The crowd started to pick up a little. I had a little shade in the lee of some buildings. I picked it up again, and then saw ahead that we were going to be crossing another bridge. That meant we were near the end, YAY! But that also meant another little hill to get up to the bridge! I tucked it in, took a deep breath, and got ready for the left turn. Police officers were directing traffic and allowing cars between bands of runners. I picked up my pace a bit to be a part of a pack that was getting ready to turn left, and made it. We crossed the lane, started up the ramp, and I felt surprisingly fine. As I got to the top, we started to circle around this little loop, and I heard my name. I turned, and there was Tobi. I was very confused, because there is no way I could have caught up to her. But she said she had been slowed by the heat and had lost some steam. We took a quick walk break and then I said, “hey there’s this woman running with purple socks and she’s kind of slow but steady, so let’s just get behind her when she comes up.” So we waited and then we saw her, and we started running over the bridge. Before we knew it, we had passed her and were moving right along, Tobi in front of me. We came out on the other side and I could feel our pace increasing (and I knew I would not be able to keep up, even if only for a mile or two.) On our left were some old guys and a rock and roll band. I could hear the crowds in the distance. Suddenly Tobi called out, “Hey look! There he is!” and we saw HIM.

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photo pinterest.com

Yes, that’s right, we saw the unicycling flaming bagpipe playing darth vader.

And all I could think was, MAN, his legs are FILTHY!

Not, “hm, that is so weird, does he just show up at all of the events in town?” or “gee, why does he ride around playing flaming bagpipes? Why Santa, WHY?”  No. Just, “wow. those legs could use a bath.”

It was as if there was a Portland Visitor’s Center Fairy and she had granted our party three wishes and the one that someone wished hard for (probably Megan) got thrown in as a bonus. Like, why YES you can have the flaming bagpipe unicycling guy viewing. HERE!

After that, all I knew was, I was at the most loathed point in the race, yes, that moment when you are okay with 25.798 or whatever. Like, do I REALLY have to keep running? Can’t we just call it done? I briefly considered just walking to the end. I was done. It was hot. I was looking forward to the part after when I could collect armfulls of food and meet up with my peeps. Yes, and visit the porto.

And it was slightly uphill.

And the people were yelling “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!” and I’m like, okayokayokaaaaaaaay shuddup.

And then the sign.

photo from blisterscrampsheaves.wordpress.com

And the purple chute, which meant I was nearly, nearly there.

Nearly there…

A left turn… um, still not quite there…

Another turn, a little rise… oh for…

Another turn and BAM! Finissio! Like, Immediately! Like, you are done!

And someone is giving me a medal.

And I am walking walking walking up to the food tables and just making this little cradle out of my bent arm to collect all of my free marathon food! And chocolate milk and more Ultima drink and water… and some crackers, some halloween candy, DAMN, I wish I had a shopping bag. Because girlfriend, I can eat after running 26.2. Oh yes.

And they gave me a finisher’s shirt which I fashioned into a food hammock, and tried to walk back down to get more food but An Official Volunteer gently turned me back and said “please move forward.”

And they gave me a finisher’s jacket, which I suddenly felt the need to put on right away.

And I kept walking and finally saw Tobi sitting on the side, on a curb. I put my stuff down and visited the porto while she chatted up this exquisitely handsome lad.

And then I made her get up and walk, unfortunately busting into her small talk (sorry, Tobi!)

And we walked. We walked and walked, completely lost. Since we had no drop bags at this race, we had no map, and no phone. Just a general sense (and not so good) of where we were supposed to go. Little realizing that as we dallied, my poor sister waited on us at the agreed upon spot (sorry, Liz!) and we did not wait for Megan to come in (sorry, Megan!) I felt like I had to keep walking or I would never be able to walk again. We saw some tweaky street boys and asked them for directions and they kindly obliged. We finally found the parking garage, and damn if we didn’t take the stairs (whose awesome? We’re awesome.) We found Tom sleeping in the car. We changed and went across the street to this amazing amazing amazing fountain.

Teachers’ Fountain, from http://www.portlandoregon.gov

We sat and soaked.

And Liz called.

And Megan called.

And eventually, we were all together again.

And we drove back to the house, and took long showers.

And Peter and Stacy brought over this amazing barbecue, and Liz brought ice cream and pumpkin pie, and it was all soooo soooo good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Portland Marathon 2014: trip and race report – Part I

8 Oct

Part I: Getting to Portlandia

While it is still fresh in my mind, I want to talk about my recent trip to Portland, OR. We got back earlier this afternoon, after a red-eye flight with connection in Atlanta, so I feel like a drunk simian with eyelids like sticky, cheap venetian blinds. The flights themselves were uneventful, except the Portland to Atlanta featured a full eclipse of the moon, which was pretty darned cool. Especially delightful was when, somewhere over the middle part of the West, I looked down and saw, reflected in a large body of still water, the half-eclipsing moon, and the lights from our plane. And nothing else. Because of this event, and because I watched American Hustle on one of Delta’s headrest screens, I did not sleep. This is the first time in many years I have gone without sleep for so long.

sleepy-monkey

pics22.com

There was also a lady barfing in front of us, and a man who put his hands up over the back of his seat, continually blocking my movie screen, which was on the back of his seat, so technically, I guess, belonged to him. I would occasionally poke his hand to make him move it. He was usually asleep. Lucky him. Anyhow, I did not sleep well at all this week, and it is not for lack of a good comfy bed. We stayed in an Airbnb in Northeast Portland in the Albina Arts district with my two friends, Tobi and Megan, also doing the marathon (Megan her first.) My better half was doing the half (and despite being stopped mid-race by a train got a 1:38 and 6th in his age group…) My sister Liz did the Family 10K walk, also her first event. And my brother Pete spent the day Sunday making us a smoked pork shoulder.  More reason not to sleep. Because Portland is an eating town.

I also didn’t sleep well because I am worried about my Dad. More specifically, I worry about my Mom becoming tired and overwrought caring for my Dad. And in worrying or having anxiety about it, I also become tired and overwrought, but the kind of tired where sleep is elusive, and it is easier to do and distract.

So here goes. After not sleeping, I will attempt a trip report.

We arrived in Portland after flying all morning and passing the beautiful Mt. Hood from the air. This is not my shot but this is pretty much exactly how it looked from our plane:

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images.summitpost.org

We were to see this magnificent peak, and a few sisters and brothers, over the next week. But this was a first for me, and I was astonished.

The weather in Portland was an unseasonably warm 75 degrees and sunny, and dry, and stayed that way all week, and in fact, got a little warmer for the marathon. But on that first day, it was nice to see Portland in the sun. From the airport, we took the train downtown, picked up a bus heading back over the Willamette to the Division neighborhood, where my brother and sister-in-law live. They have a tiny little magical cottage called The Spider’s Knee. Tom and I found it with no problems, especially after viewing this sign, I knew it was their place:

courtesy P. Janes

We dropped our bags and went out to find some supper. Up on Division, we found Pok Pok, or it found us. Trust me, if you ever feel like killing a weekend and spending 350 bucks on a plane ticket, fly to Portland and eat at Pok Pok. Tom had the shoulder of boar and I had chicken skewers and let me tell you… Actually, no, let their website tell you. We didn’t know they were famous, only heard the clanking of forks upon dishes. That’s a sign. We were not disappointed. After dinner, we dog- -and-people-and-bike-watched from a coffee shop. We met the nicest folks, the nicest dogs. People are good in Portland.

On Thursday, Pete took us for a hike up Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls on the base of Mt. Hood. Enormous salmon flapped and flipped their exhausted selves up the rocky, near-dry river bed, many to a certain end. I have never seen fish that big or desperate. And the trees. Trees cartoonishly big.

We drove back through Hood River and over the Columbia into Washington, where the road twisted and turned. Surely Bigfoot lurked in the shadows ready to jump out and thumb a ride in Pete’s big red truck. The sun continued to shine on this day, making it hard to believe it ever gets dreary and damp. We came up alongside Bonneville Dam, and Beacon rock, and the enormity of these features along with the distant Mt. Hood reminded me that the Pacific Northwest is far different from our older, more rounded northeast geography.

On Thursday night, we checked in to our house, shopped at New Seasons and waited for Megan to get in from Indiana. This would be her first marathon.

We settled in, but I couldn’t sleep. Too much in my monkey brain. All those sights, I couldn’t decompress.

The next day, my sister Liz and later, my friend Tobi arrived. We met my sister downtown for Voodoo Donuts (the magic is in the hole.) I had the one with a dirty name that has oreos and peanut butter. Yum. This is my arm raising it in triumph.

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courtesy M. McCulloch

It just kept getting better.

We took the train up to the airport to get a rental car and pick up Tobi. We ended up with Sparky the Unicorn, a teensy tiny Chevy in baby blue that ended up being a great choice (kind of like riding a quadracycle with a tin roof). Tobi loaded her bags in the miniscule trunk and we went back downtown to pick up our bibs at the marathon expo. We somehow managed to find my sister, got ourselves oriented for Sunday, and drove back to the airbnb house. That night, finally all together, we all seven of us ate out at the Kennedy School. Again, click the link. I can’t even begin to describe this place. Just imagine what would happen if someone took your old elementary school and turned it into a restaurants  / bar / movie theatre / gallery / event space. Yes.

Got up early on Saturday to tackle Mt. Hood. Are you starting to get the feeling that we are never going to rest up for the big marathon? You would be right. I was still waking up at East Coast four thirty, after going to bed at West Coast nine thirty, which meant I wasn’t really sleeping at all. But off we went, driving up Powell Avenue (Girls Girls Girls and oh, Home Depot, too!) until it became bucolic country and eventually led us to Mt. Hood. And up and up we went on the access road to Timberline Lodge. Once again, I will not spoil this for you, because I know you are already planning your trip to Portland, so make sure to add this destination to your itinerary. Sitting on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, built by the Conservation corps in 1938 and used as the exterior opening shot in the Shining, this place gave me the shivers and the awes. Poor Megan was ready to join the handful of snowboarders heading up the lift to sketch out a little of Mt. Hood. It was very scenic and at 6,000 feet, a good opportunity for inspiring long views of the cascades. Definitely a winner. We would have hiked, but the next day was race day, so we basically picnicked, got back in the car, and drove and drove some more along the fruit orchard area of Mt. Hood. Quite beautiful.

That night, we cooked spaghetti (gluten free for Tobi) and got ready for our big day the next day. I planned and plotted parking, logistics, and pinned my bib to my Narragansett Running Club top. We all went to bed early in order to get up early. Once in bed, I read, hoping to sleep. But I stayed wide awake til long past two.

*Part Two: The actual marathon, Monkey Logistics gone awry, and Recovery??? coming in the next few days…

Proportioned to the groove

29 Sep

I have had a heavy past couple of weeks. I am lucky though, because I have been running with some good friends, old and new, and loving up the trails and roads of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Lucky me, right? When the shit hits the fan, I know I can count on my friends.

One morning last week, I was taking the hand towel out of the downstairs bathroom to use at the kitchen sink, and in the process, pulled off and broke this little ornament that has been hanging on the end of the towel rack since we acquired the farm many years ago:

Photo-0087

Since last week, while cleaning, I dropped my Pinnacle Ultra Finisher’s Spike (a spike big enough to kill a vampire, small enough to carry home in your duffel bag) in the sink and cracked it, the sink is off limits until the plumber can be secured.

Photo-0088

We had been using the bathroom as a sort of trophy room; Race bibs lined one wall, and two hooks held finisher medals.  It was kind of cool and showed that man, we have run and biked a lot in the past few years. All of my running friends have one of these areas in their houses. Gail and Dave, Marathon Maniacs whose goal it is to run a marathon in each state (and are nearly there, as well as having completed multiple ultras, townie 5 and 10ks, and triathalons) have their front hallway dedicated to the pursuit of their goal, with some medals framed, photos of them smooching during races (they are Team Smoochie) and extra medals draped over the newel post at the base of their stairs.

I love this! So neat! Photo courtesy G. Martin

I love this! So neat! Photo courtesy G. Martin

Georgia, who this year is completing not only multiple marathons (including Berlin) but also running 5Ks across the state of Connecticut, does this awesome thing:

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Says Georgia: “Annual tradition has it that I post all my running bibs on my cubicle wall, for motivation (in running and in daily life).  The bibs represent the events that I have run in and completed in a year.  Once the year is over I take all bibs home and make a collage out of them.  Then with another new year I start over and decorate my cubicle once again with running events.  It is a great way to stay motivated  and also motivate others to join in and change their lives forever as they take up running.”

There are also the kind souls like Britni who dedicate their races, medals and bibs to children in need.  I asked Britni to tell me about it. “Over the last few months I’ve been running for a 7 year old boy named Aidan, who has hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Whenever I run a race that offers a medal to finishers, I ensure Aidan receives these medals. He absolutely loves them because they make him feel part of the experience and joy that running gives.” I think that this is awesome, and a great motivation to run.

Then there’s Fred Zuleger, a Rhode Island running God. He has lots of bibs.

Photo from The Providence Journal

Photo from The Providence Journal

We see Fred at almost every RI race. The guy is unstoppable. I’m surprised his house doesn’t fall down from holding up all those bibs and medals.

I wish I had taken a picture of our bathroom before I took all the bibs down. But it was beginning to look like a dorm room. So now, in our office, there’s this:

Andy & Tom's excellent Bib collection

Andy & Tom’s excellent Bib collection

I keep the bibs. So does Tom. On the backs, I write the day, my time, and any other bit of information, in sharpie, Some day, I will have to throw them away. I will not make a quilt from them. Or a jacket.

Even though… whoa. Tyvek. Water resistent!

Anyhow, so now our half bath is back to being a half bath in a normal person’s home except that you can’t use the sink, and in the process of pulling the towel off the rack, I broke that little ornament.  And I am keeping it. I am going to throw it in with all of the bibs and medals. Because what I have had of running, all of the friends I have met over the years, the things they do to help others, makes me love them. So the little ornament sentiment rings true.  As dear old Emily Dickinson so proudly wrote it, and would be proud to read it if she was sitting on my toilet:

That love is all there is,

Is all we know of Love;

It is enough, the freight should be

Proportioned to the groove.

Thanks y’all for running me through the weeks. My head has been in the toilet, but my heart has been klomp klomp klomping along.

A yard sale is like sleeping with the blankets off.

9 Sep

I haven’t written in three weeks because I have been consumed with the idea of having this big yard sale. We have a lot of stuff, and while getting LMB all ready to go back to Providence for her senior year, we were all going through a major de-stuffing. I am feeling the twitch of the empty-nester – the haltingly eager desire to get the crap cleaned up and see the floors again. And by god, when pressed, that kid can pack. It took a summer of nagging and some very late nights last week, but she got it done. We helped. A little.

Photo courtesy jerrythinks.com

Photo courtesy jerrythinks.com

It really was so incredibly, shamefully, painless. Her Dad came and got her and her stuff, and before we knew it we were driving crap up to Providence and a few flights of stairs later we were in her newly moved-into apartment, her happy smile testament to her new and much desired independence. And then we left. I did not even cry, and she didn’t text me til the next day. Our job is done. For now.

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That done, we went home and started clearing out bookshelves and taking stuff out to the garage. Tom’s mother Roz was a big help. In just a few of days, we had 75% of a yard sale priced and ready. I made signs Friday morning in lieu of a run, and Friday night, we drove to all neighborhood outlet points and hung them up. Saturday morning arrived at 4:30 and we got to work with the usual chores, walked the dogs, and started pulling it all out into the yard. A forecast for rain and thunderstorms after two worried me a little. But the weather held out, and by 6:50, our first two dealers had arrived. 

They were expected. That’s how it goes, right?

photo courtesy toonseum.blogspot.com

photo courtesy toonseum.blogspot.com

Tom had a lot of stuff he has been hiding or kept stored somewhere that I didn’t even know he had. Within a half hour, the two dealers had big piles stacked in the driveway already, while I was still dragging out my measly contributions to the sale.

Thinking about it now, I actually didn’t have that much stuff to sell. Some books. Some trinkets. I was giving away (for donations to Save One Soul Animal Rescue League ) a bunch of LMB’s old stuffed animals and all of the old children’s books – “For Adoption – all proceeds to…”. Actually, some of those were mine. Including Hot Shot, a stuffed husky Tom won for me at the Woodstock Fair many years ago. Adopted. And Big Bear, a big stuffed bear I got at a yard sale in the Adirondacks one camping trip. Adopted. The Hedgehog Feast, a book gifted to LMB when she was 6 or 7 by my good friend Jackie now taken home to a sweet little private kindergarden down the road. Adopted. All in all, that part of the sale netted a good thirty bucks for Save One Soul. Yay!

The big person books didn’t sell. People don’t really like books anymore.  Except for this kid Cody, who, although born in 1991, was not sure what a Sony Discman was. We couldn’t get him to buy it, either. We did get him to take Tom’s old turntable and a Penguin Voltaire, which will look nice on his hipster bookcase. He said he was in a band. I asked what kind of music and he said, “Progressive Rock. Do you know that genre?”

And then there was the fairy lady. The fairy lady was cool. She had a walking cane and long skirts, long hair, she was very authentic. Almost TOO authentic. Like a spy dressed up to look up like a batty overweight children’s book author with a bad hip. And that is exactly what she was. She took many of the children’s picture books. She said “When I read to my god child, we take the pictures from the books and make a collage, and we talk about what we are feeling about the pictures.”

 She also bought a hamper and a picture of a ship. I helped her carry her stuff to her car, because she had that cane. She told me she was a published author and often hired local artists and illustrators from RISD. Ding! I gave her LMB’s info. So, LMB, if you are reading, you might get this phone call…

We also met many neighbors and old timers from the area. They are always reminiscing when they come up “School Bell House.” I met the woman whose family built Pine Hill Farm up the road, and whose family name graces many roads and lots in Richmond and Exeter. That was cool. And we met some folks who were camping down at Galilee and sold them the woolen rug that smelled like cat pee for five dollars (with full disclosure. We made sure they knew a cat had peed on it and wrapped it in plastic for their ride home.) They were really nice and we talked about politics, which was unexpectedly fun. I realized I was starved for good dinner-party quality political conversation. As my friends all know, it has been awhile since we have accepted any social invitations. I have no excuse. I obviously miss it because I was all over these people like Tom Hanks with Wilson in Cast Away. As they drove away, I thought, gee, I could really be friends with them. And then I thought, wait, friends don’t sell friends a cat pee rug. Tom said they probably got half way down the road, looked at each other, stopped the car and threw that rug right into a ditch.

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But LOOK at all this stuff. If I saw books like this at a tag sale, I’d be all over that action. But we couldn’t move them. So if you are looking for a nice Christmas gift, come to my house and go in the garage and pick out twenty books for free. Your holiday gifts are covered. And they don’t even smell like cat pee!

Meantime, because of all of this de-stuffing, I was not able to run on Saturday. It’s probably not a bad thing, because it was hot and swampy. My running pal Georgia ran the Run Around the Block 15K, which I really wanted to run. You basically get on a ferry in the morning, run this race, spend the rest of the day on the beach, eat and drink, and go home on the party ferry. Sounds fun, and it would have been a good training run for Portland. As it was, I sat in front of this old hipster camper making change for twenties.

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It was a good workout. Yeah, really. I had to keep getting up to help get stuff from over heah and put it over theah.

And only one person asked to see the couch inside. I took her inside and she took one good look and turned around. So we still have a sectional sofa with dog hair and a couple of snags on it (but no cat pee!) that is perfectly comfortable if I can pay anyone to please take it. Please?

It feels good to de-stuff. I am digging this action. In the de-stuffing, I moved our Rack of Running And Biking Accessories from the office to the basement, which had been cleaned out last week prior to the yard sale. What a difference such a small thing can make. And it doesn’t end there. De-stuffing can be addictive and carry over into other areas of one’s life. It can lead one to do such crazy things as Finishing Up Last Night’s Dishes so the house looks nice when Tom gets home from work. Or Cleaning Out the Running Shirt Drawer (a very big deal, as any runner knows.) Perhaps in the de-stuffing, I clear a little stuff from the fuzzy grey matter, too, and make that machine work a little better when it counts.

One thing I did not have, for the most part, was the classic Yard Sale Regret.

While I got a little misty eyed when the kids’ table that had been drawn all over by a young LMB went for four bucks (gulp – let it go…) for the most part, it was all good.

This is only phase 1 of our overall Shaw De-stuffing Process. Stay tuned for more.

 

 

 

 

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This crappy week, made better

17 Aug

Just when you think you can’t take another shred of bad news, when NPR starts pissing you off, when work leaves you feeling uncertain and confused, when facebook reminds you that you pretty much suck because you aren’t jumping at the chance to dump a bucket of icewater over your head, the universe opens and drops in more crap to make you more sad than ever. That was this week. You were there. You know what I’m talking about.

What do you do with a week like this one? Do you get under the covers and just want to die? Or do you work like mad to distract and forget?

I get lazy, mostly. If it wasn’t for upcoming stuff, namely, getting to see my brother in October in Portland for the Portland OR Marathon, I probably would have blown off most everything this week.  As it was, I was reminded of the incredible fragile nature of this planet and all of us on it, and got out to do some appreciative sightseeing of it.  On Tuesday night, Tom met me at the Kingston Train Station and we ran down in to Great Swamp.

photo courtesty trailsandwalksri.wordpress.com

This is an overgrown and vibrant, hyper-verdant management area in South Kingstown that features all kinds of interesting wildlife, including mosquitoes, and holds a history of bloodshed.  And not just by mosquitoes. It is very quiet here, and maybe a little haunted. Since my runs of late have been sluggish, it was nice to push the pace trying to keep up with Tom.

As I ran along, I thought about how good it is to run, that it helps my heavy, sad-this-week brain. I know it helps Tom’s. With the sun peeking through the clouds, spotting two great blue herons – one lifting off directly in front of us – I felt connected. Like I had a purpose. What kind of purpose? I don’t know. I wasn’t put on this earth to walk and run on it, but maybe we are all here as part-and-parcel cells of it, and sometimes, we need to connect back to Big Mama.

In stark contrast to Tuesday night’s run, Thursday night’s along Atlantic Avenue at Misquamicut Beach was an eye-opener, also featuring all kinds of interesting wildlife of an altogether different sort.  Apparently, Thursday nights are fun drunk nights at Misquamicut.  Still, we were fairly safe seeing as we were running alongside it, not stuck in some patio bar between all those muscles and Banana-Boat and tiki drinks. From afar, it always looks fun, right?

photo courtesy goingout.com

Right. So, Georgia and I ran along, and we got whistled at. Hooted at. Like, three times. Once, by a car-full of boys no older than 16. I think they were quite alarmed when they turned around and saw that we were old enough to be their mothers.

I also couldn’t help but note that if Tom had been with us, we wouldn’t be getting hooted at.

But in a way it was my fault. I was the one who said no, let’s not go through Watch Hill, where the rich pinot-grigio drunks go on Thursday night. Let’s go where the regular drunks go.

Thankfully, this section of Misquamicut lasts only (a very long) two miles, eventually crossing into quieter Weekapaug.  At the bridge, five or six teenagers acted “normal” while a police car cruised slowly by, and then proceeded to mount the railing to jump off into the breachway. It was a hot night and if I was 13, I probably would have joined them.

Up through quiet Weekapaug, the ocean in the distance. The houses are smaller than the Newport or Watch Hill mansions here. Still, stiff white shirt lawns and precise gardens, though.  Maybe they have enough for a gardener.  But there are real live dog-walking people who are maybe tourists, but long-time, several-weeks tourists.

More old family salt than New York money. Outside of a chapel on Noyes neck road, about fifty beach bicycles lay helter-skelter on the lawn. A Thursday night dinner. Folks in khaki and plaid milled about with paper plates and plastic cups.  Georgia said, “We should crash it.” I said, “We smell.” We laughed and continued on, inhaling the sweet scent of rosehip.  As we headed back to Georgia’s house, I thought once again how incredibly lucky I am to creep upon the surface of this planet.

Friday, after a half day at work feeling like I couldn’t put my head around a problem, I pulled a hookie and left early to get out to Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge in West Greenwich, RI, with my friend Marci.

Photo courtesy trailsandwalksri.wordpress.com

There is no jogging allowed here. So Marci and I settled for a nice long hike. We spent the first fifteen minutes chatting and catching up with each other, until we were sort of stunned into a quieter mutual meditation. This place is pretty amazing. Beautiful trails feel like somewhere else. Once again, you can throw a whole bunch of crap at us humans and then send us out in to the woods and it all gets better.

Sometimes, you want to be around people, or at least see what they are up to. On Saturday night, Tom and I decided that we wanted marinated ribeye, and THE place to get marinated ribeye in Hope Valley is Ma n Pa’s on Main Street. Their ribeyes are enough to make a grown man cry. So we decided to ride our bikes there. Being another incredibly beautiful evening, the 7 miles down there seemed too short. We extended our ride to circle by the Washington Country Fairgrounds to traffic-watch (it is unusual to see traffic around here, so WOW!) A long line of cars down route 112 with country music of various ilk coming from truck stereos. You could feel the excitement. Saturday night is the last night of the fair and people here take this shit very seriously. We have been once or twice and it was very swamp-yankee summer. So no stopping as we strung past the line of cars past the fairgrounds entrance and finally (ahhhhh…) back to quiet old roads. We then took a circuitous route along the turf farms of Switch Road back to Main Street to get our steaks and a pint of coffee ice cream, all of which got stuffed into jersey pockets for the rest of the ride home. Back at home, Tom built an “artisanal fire” and we sat looking up at the stars all night. From the back of this little blue marble in space.

No matter how cruddy the news gets, and the facebook gets, and the fighting, and the greed, and the hypocritical nastiness, it is sometimes quite comforting to me to realize that all of us come from and go back to the same stuff.  It is imperative – I would say it is our duty – to examine the home we are living on every once in awhile.

Maybe if more people got outside more often, there’d be a little less crap, and a little more love, and bad news wouldn’t hurt so much.

photo courtesy space-pictures.com

 

 

Farm life is like your life, but we get up earlier.

10 Aug

On Wednesday, August 13th, we celebrate ten years at Paradise Farm. My, how time flies. I remember that Friday the 13th that we closed. We spent a late night before at Tom’s, packing the rest of his house (except the sun porch, where we camped the last night) into a moving van. Early the next morning, we drove it, and our cars (in stages and via park and rides) to the “new” house, where the owners, Reen and Jay, were still packing. We had formed a good relationship with them (after we submitted our bid, we had lunch with them, and they hung in there – refusing other offers – while we spent the spring selling our two houses to get enough for this one.) They were headed to Florida that day, and we knew they also had to leave things until the last moment. We parked the trailer outside the new house and drove up to the multiple closings.  A few hours and a good lunch later, we drove back down and, with the help of my good friend Janet and our wonderful realtor, Bill, unloaded the trailer in less than two hours, under a threatening sky. The minute the last heavy tool came down the ramp and into the garage, the skies opened.  We cracked beers and sat in the gazebo, our first day in Paradise. And the next day, never sitting long enough to let the moss grow, we cut four 20+ foot encroaching cedars surrounding the house foundation (probably freaking the neighbors a bit – we move quickly!) and later that afternoon, got in the car to drive to North Carolina to pick up my daughter and niece from my folks’. Oh, but we were so young.

In ten years, we’ve had geese, chickens, pigeons, llamas, alpacas, dogs and cats, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, tomatoes, squash, peppers, etc. etc. on these seven acres. We’ve buried one llama and one alpaca, sold a lot of baby alpacas, and much of our herd. We’ve also buried three dogs (Spooky, a Norwegian Elkhound mix – a lovely, warm old lady; Jasmine, my mother’s black lab who came to stay; and Jimmy, the big brown galumph with the heart bursting out of his ribcage and a brain like a faded but precious postage stamp.) We’ve caught some woodchucks, and once, a fierce (but pretty – at least from the back!) Fisher Cat. And one moonlit winter night, we had a horse come barreling through the yard, hesitating under our window and huffing billows of silvery, smoke-like breaths. We had four holiday season open houses, drawing hundreds of folks from all over, with a makeshift “store” selling alpaca stuff, tours of the barn, and once, an obstacle course. We have taken alpacas to farmers’ markets, where Tom spun magic yarn and I led alpacas (followed by many, many children) around with a halter.

We wake up early. Even on weekends.

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Tom, Charlie and Coco: morning chores.

We’ve learned some things the hard way. For example, regular humans can not, and should not even attempt to, shear alpacas.

danielatable062006

Even though Tom did a great job. Danny looks pretty happy to be getting all that fiber off. Whew!

We learned that 20 pigeons is too many pigeons. That 18 alpacas means scooping poop twice a day, rain or shine, or snow. Even when you just got married an hour ago. Even if your husband is in the hospital with appendicitis. For a week.

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We have downsized in the past few years. Since LMB went off to Art Skool, it is rather quiet. Three alpacas (two ladies and a gentleman) and one llama and a handful of chickens make much less poop to scoop these days.  It is quieter.

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I think about this. We made a conscious decision to quiet things down. A hundred years ago, we would not have had that choice. We would have had to stick it out, even when we didn’t feel like it was the right thing for us, anymore. I think about this when I scoop poop on a Sunday morning. I have a choice. I go to work and this is all for fun. I don’t panic when the tomatoes come up spotty. I don’t look at the alpacas and see dollar signs. I just get up every day and say hello, and get on with things before going to work.

When I run, I pass evidence of Farms Gone By. The only reminder of the hard work, knuckle-rawing daily sculldudgery that went into sustenance farming are stone walls, cellar holes, and new pine overtaking what used to be fields. All returned to the woods.

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Will Paradise Farm look like this, some day? A hole hidden in the woods?

Who will remember this?

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People say to me sometimes “how do you do it – with school, and the farm, and the training for marathons – where do you find the time?”

Simple. We just get up really, really early.

 

 

It’s all in how you look at it…

3 Aug

I know I am a lucky monkey. I wake up grateful every day. Things that might strike others as bad to the core, my internal optimist-monkey is always compensating for with positive spin, like a C- average marketing student with an internship at Stop and Shop brand generic foods.

Seen 8/3/14 at Stop and Shop, Wyoming RI

Seen 8/3/14 at Stop and Shop, Wyoming RI

 

But true to perception, I am an optimist. A cynical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. This is why Saturday morning, and actually a lot of mornings lately, are surprising to me, because Saturday featured an incredibly cranky me as we prepared to run our 2nd Ocean Beach 11.6 mile road race in New London, CT.

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I don’t know what’s going on with me these days. I know I am incredibly lucky. My family, for the most part, is healthy and happy. My job, although of late it has been stressful, is good and interesting. But I have been burying stuff, or making piles of it, maybe. I worry about stuff. I worry about my Mom and her having to deal with my Dad and his stolen memory, and the changes fast happening with them. I worry about my daughter and the good independence born this year that makes me so happy but also a little sad. She never had a teen rebellion. She just quietly took responsibility for herself and stopped worrying what I thought about it. This is good, and necessary, I know. This is what the optimist in me thinks, anyway. The pessimist-monkey wants to wrap her in bubble wrap until she’s 40.

Saturday I had this stuff on my mind. Every race I do, I think about my Dad anyway. He’s the one who got me in to running when I was 13. You had to do something he liked to get any time with him, since, when he wasn’t out at sea, he was only back for a couple of months. He liked being outdoors, so we six kids had limited things to choose from to be part of his time home. My brother can coax beautiful native flowers out of his postage-stamp sized Portland garden and it’s probably because he chose that aspect of my Dad’s time home – you could make decent cash weeding for my father. I was pretty garden lazy. And chore-lazy. But you had to do chores to do the fun stuff with him, so I got good at getting stuff ready to go to the dump, or raking leaves absentmindedly. I couldn’t wait for chores time to be over so we could get on to the fun stuff – a hike at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, perhaps, or walking out to Hazard’s Beach.  Even getting to go to the dump or to the hardware store was a big deal and I would wait by the door like a dog to go for the ride in the car. When I got a little older, he said he was going out for a run, and if I wanted to go, I had better hurry up. I ran and got on my terry shorts, a t-shirt, my pair of Zipps, and knee socks and off we went. I was so thrilled to be included. I was probably missing out on hanging out at the pool with my best friend or the beach with my Mom and sister, but I was going on a run, like Bruce Jenner, or Jim Fixx. Back then, I didn’t know of any female runners. I just knew I was getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something that my Dad usually reserved just for himself. We ran up to the Art Association, left on Bellevue, and all the way out to Reject Beach, where we turned around to run back. It was probably only a couple of miles, but it felt very far. Along the way Dad waved to a tall man with white hair and told me, “That’s Claiborne Pell.”  There were a lot of runners on Bellevue. I felt a part of the gang. Dad showed me how to execute a sprint finish down Old Beach Road. The next year, I joined the high school track team and I did okay. I was never first, never last, and always, always did the best that lazy monkey allowed.

Lazy monkey shows up at races. This is the monkey who, despite the body being trained and fit, despite my brain being ready to race, tells me that I would much rather be home and should give up this race stuff already, since I am never going to win. And then there’s Tom in the car, saying, “are you ready to win???” and I’m like, dude, I don’t win these things. “Well, how are you ever going to win if you have an attitude like that and don’t line up at the front?” But Lazy monkey doesn’t want to line up at the front, because then she will be passed and have many more reasons why racing in the rain, even a free race, kind of just sucks. At first it does, anyway.

Thankfully, the spirit of my fellow runners was enough to turn around my crappy attitude as we stood around waiting for things to start. I looked forward to the front of the pack and caught Tom’s eye as he turned around to look for me. A lucky happenstance. The gun went off and off we all went, and I went into Run Like a Meanrat mode.  The race starts on a beach and hugs the coastline in the first mile, so it’s really hard to be all pissed off when the ocean is like, right there. Even on a rainy day. The midpack moved along like a herd of elephants. In the distance I could see Tom’s orange shirt. I decided to ignore Lazy Monkey and push it a little, maybe because I was thinking of my Dad and that was a good way to think of him. He wouldn’t like me dawdling.

Around me, I had all kinds. There were the gabbers, who talked for four miles and stayed with me, fast and young, despite my attempts to drop them, until I got a second wind and pulled far enough ahead to not hear them anymore. There was a foot slapper who stayed behind me, annoying me at first but comforting me in later miles. There was the Girl In Purple – one in every race – elusive and steady. I tracked at her heels. And then there was the compact older dude, the Dad Stand-In, who I picked to be my Dad for this run. He smelled bad but dressed like my Dad used to on runs – cotton shirt (old school!), athletic shorts, socks, and older sneakers. Surprisingly fast. I stayed with him when I lost the girl in purple.  Meantime, I pushed my pace as hard as I could. I haven’t been much on the roads and what I have done this year has not been fast, despite using a new training plan and running more miles than ever before. But I had been concentrating on trails and distance for Wakely, and my road miles were showing it.  But I didn’t let negative old Lazy-monkey get to me. I looked around and enjoyed the scenery. And even in the not as scenic parts of New London, I really was enjoying it.

Mile eight and its hill came and went, and I caught up with Amby Burfoot and a few runners running with him. He’s a talker too. I listened to him for awhile. He’s not as old as my Dad but was a big-time runner way back when and won the Boston marathon the year I was born. So that was cool. I decided to pull ahead of them and did so, effectively getting off by myself at mile 10. I felt pretty good at this point, the morning’s cloudy mood lifted, and I pulled out the stops for a sprint finish at Ocean Beach.  Three minutes slower than last year, but still a good race considering I have been negligent about road running.

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photo courtesy Sara Pearson

My Dad would have loved this race. Sure, I can call my Mom and tell her to tell him I ran another road race, but I’m not sure he’d even know what that is, or who she is referring to. I have to remember our runs from Newport now, because he doesn’t, anymore. I have to remember my runs now, for me. And isn’t it amazing that things that we do as parents that mean probably very little to us at the time mean so much to our kids? My Dad probably thought it was cute and funny that one of his kids wanted to run with him, but likely had no high hopes of me ever being a runner as an adult. I think about this when I think about my daughter, and wonder if, despite my neglect or my being missing in moments makes any difference, since she has these memories of us that mean so much to her, and help to define and guide her now that I am no longer in the role of guide. Just as my Dad, and memories of spending time with him, guide my behavior now.

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Meantime, Tom and I spent Sunday afternoon looking at old family slides of his Dad and Mom and Grandparents. Since Tom lost his Dad to Alzheimer’s it was especially poignant. I wonder which one of us will inherit this sucky gene. Anyhow, we gathered the slides to get digitized at Southtree Photo Services.  I will have to go through my box of photos and see if I can find some old slides at my parents house.

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This blog post has been all over the place, I know. But that’s what my brain has been like. Running is good and bad in that it helps you sort through a lot of shit. But it also brings back memories for me, and I am grieving for a person who is still here, but not here. There are a lot of conflicting feelings that go with that last part.

How do you deal with your nostalgia?

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