Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm Coming Home

This has absolutely nothing to do with running. But, considering I barely run anymore.... does it really matter?

This has more to do with ME.

Tomorrow I'm coming home.

It's been three years. Since I've been home.

No, not here home.  But, home where my heart is.  St. Maarten.

It's the place where I'm most at peace.  Most happy.  Most myself.

I've missed it.  I haven't been there in awhile.  Because, well, life.  Work. Stuff.

But, tomorrow, I go home again.  Finally.

St. Maarten is not just a vacation place to me.  It's ME.

48 years ago my parents were on a Windjammer cruise in the Caribbean.  They got shipwrecked.  For real. The boat started taking on water.  Somehow, they made it to the shores of St. Maarten.  Awaiting them were some islanders.  One couple, transplanted Americans from LaPorte, Indiana, the DeMyers, took my parents in.  Took them to their home, little beach cottages.  Told my parents they were going on vacation the next day.  That my parents were welcome to stay there for the remainder of their trip. Just clean up before they leave.  And, leave them $10 for their stay.  My parents did just that.  However, they kept in touch with his couple.  Came back to visit them again.

A few years later the DeMyers decided to move back to the U.S. and asked my parents if they wanted to buy the property.  Uh, yes please, thank you.  My parents did.  Huh, a young American couple now owning beachfront property in the Caribbean?  My parents rock.

Let me just clarify.  These are little beach cottages.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing extravagant.  They are simple.  They are quaint.  They are perfect.

So, it's all I've known.  It's been a part of me my entire life.  Sure, we vacationed in Florida, Hilton Head, etc. as kids.  But, eventually we dropped it all for time in St. Maarten.  It was amazing.  French.  Dutch.  Euro chic.  Christmas on the beach.  New Years parties with the beach neighbors. French dinners in town as kids.  Boating on our yacht .... a dinghy - no joke.  Tic tac toe in the sand under the moonlight with my mom.  Hanging in the hammock with dad. Summer of college with friends. Sunset after sunset after sunset. We loved every minute of it.

The island friends I met in bars as a teen (no judging.  They don't have a drinking age) who are STILL my best friends to this day.


It was my dad's favorite place on earth.  His hammock.  His gazebo.  He was so happy here  I got it.  I understood it.

We've had many hurricanes hit us there.  Some in epic proportions.  Landing on the first plane back on island after the worst of the worst was.... awful. Seeing our place..... almost completely destroyed..... was just awful. Overwhelming  in fact.

But, we got our hands dirty.  We worked our asses off.  We got back up.  Each and every time.  We got back up.

Just before my dad died, we decided he needed to get down there one more time.  We knew it would be his last trip.  While my sister wasn't into St. Maarten like I was, she knew this would be a trip to make.  However, that meant I had to take care of my grandmother at home.  I could not go.   It was killing me.  Mom, dad, sister all there.  Without me. So, at the last minute, I asked grandma if she could handle her 90something self for a few days without me.  She said, "sure".  I didn't believe her.  However, I went anyway.

I jumped on a plane.  Showed up at our gate.  Opened the door.  To find my dog and my sister staring at me.  In shock.  I put my finger up to my mouth, "shhhhhh".  "Where's dad?".  She pointed.  I walked up to the door.  Walked inside.  "What's for dinner tonight?!?!?!"

Dad: "Huh, I haven't thought about  it..... uh.... Oh, my god!!!!"

Best. Surprise. Ever.

Ever.  Ever.  Ever.

Pretty sure he cried.  Positive I did.

We, as a family, spent the next 4 days together.  Not something we did much.  But, we did it this time.  We sat on the beach together.  We had dinner together.  We spent time with dad.

It was the last trip he ever made to his island home.  Well, alive anyway.

My dad fought cancer for 8 years.  It was a tough fight.  He gave it his all.  Fought to the end.  I was with him all the way.   Literally.   I held his hand to just before he died.

After he died I got the first plane out I could to St. Maarten.

I got home to the cottages.  After years of stress with dad dying I could finally exhale.  Breath. . Be happy.  Be.

Oh, sure, I cried a whole bunch.  Like a lot.  Dad would never be here again.  That just didn't seem right.

But, our beach home also gave me just the hug I needed.  It always does.

Six months later mom, sister, my 6 month old niece and I took my dad's ashes to where he needed to be.  Our beach.  On my last night there (I flew straight to bridesmaids duties) at sunset we gathered with our toes in the ocean.  We tossed dad's ashes into the air.  Into the sea.  Under his beloved hammock.

It was just what he wanted. It was perfect.

I continued to go home to St. Maarten at least once a year.  To be with my friends there.  With the friends I had met over the years.  To be alone.  To be happy.  To be.

I step on the property and all is right with the world.  With me.

My last trip was stellar. Epic.  Best time ever. My friends made me smile more than ever.  Giggle more than I could stand. I came home exhausted.  With a smile on my face.

But, I haven't been back in three years.  Three LONG years.  Life.  It keeps you from living sometimes.  Sadly.

But, tomorrow, I go back home.

To my friends.  To my beach.  To my hammock.

To. My. Home.

To me.

Like every time, I will cry when the plane lands.  Like every time, I will cry when the plane takes off.

Like every time, I will be happy.

I will be me.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - It was about...

So, yes, 2013 was the year I FINALLY ran my marathon .  That was HUGE for me.  Of course.  But, 2013 wasn't just about my marathon and me.  It was so much more. 

It was about some random guy on the internet whom I barely knew for some unknown reason taking on my charity case to be my coach for my swim portion of my triathlon relay team.  He got me back in the pool.  Pushed me hard.  Then pushed me harder. Listened to me bitch and moan.  Then pushed me more.  I found my love for swimming again.  I killed my workouts.  I found my peace.  For 5 months I swam strong and rarely missed a workout.  It was the most dedicated I've been to training since I was a swimmer back in high school.  I think it helps when I'm training in something I don't suck at (hello running).  It makes it easier to stick to it.   He also forbid me from running.  That was a hard one.  But, being smarter (or smart ass?) than I, he was trying to actually let me HEAL from all my injuries.  

When he did allow me to sprinkle in running with my training it was in baby steps.  Slow.  Short.  Unlike the old me who would just jump and and go.  He must have been onto something as with only a few weeks of short and slow I ran a  humid 5k and was only minute off my PR.  I was surely pleased with that considering it had been ages since I raced anything thanks to my constant injuries. 

It was about having post race brunch at coach's with a table full of The Internet.  Giggling hysterically over the inappropriate conversation with people I adore.  Runners. 

It was about my Tridiot teammates and I having another great race.  We put lots of pressure on ourselves to finish near the top.  The competition is tough.  Each time I am proud of how we do.  Each time we have a blast. 

It was about driving across state lines to finally meet a badass chick for only a 45 minute window of opportunity for breakfast.  Only to have it end up being an almost 3 hour breakfast. 

It was about never being alone on my training runs as someone always seemed to be running alongside me.   It was about early morning texts.  It was about late night texts.  It was about people checking in on me.  It was about me leaning on people. 

It was also about showing up for a half marathon with excruciating plantar fasciitis pain, perhaps more so because I wanted to see some of my favorite running friends.  

Sure I pulled out at the miles 6 medical tent.  However, I think that was how it was supposed to be.  I had to wait WAY too long for my chariot to bring me back to the finish/start.  During this time my DM bestie kindly was waiting for me (forever) after he finished and ran into one of our favorite people - someone I had never met!  

It was about meeting people unexpectedly and reconnecting again. It's certainly about making me giggle.  A lot. 

It was about being alongside one of my favorite people cheering on friends once again at the Chicago Marathon.  It was about getting old hugs.  It was about getting new hugs.   It was about walking alongside someone as he finished up the 26.2 miles after he had pushed himself through 9 very painful  and inspiring miles with a sudden back injury. 

It was about having friends from all points of my life standing alongside me at 6 a.m. on a very cold November morning as we were about to start the half or full marathons.  My marathon. Childhood swimming friends.  Running friends.   It was about having friends with me at the start line.   It was about having friends all along the way cheering me on. 

It was about my sweet niece and nephew cheering me on and giving me hugs when I really needed them. 

It was about an Idiot making sure I'd have my running club visor JUST IN TIME for my race.  #IRC4Life. 

It was about someone pacing a runner for 21 miles and then coming back on his bike and waiting for my slow ass at mile 20 to help me at a point I really needed company.  It was about someone dropping her sign at mile 21 and joining my posse and running alongside me.  It was about someone finishing HIS half and running back through the race to round out my posse.  It was about these people keeping me going when I was feeling my worst.  It was about them making me giggle when I wanted to cry.  It was about them getting me to the finish line. It was about a childhood friend waiting for me for hours after her half was done to run with me down the finish chute.  

It was about getting my medal and walking out to see all these people waiting for me:

It was about ending up my year by, after a three year injury sabbatical, running the Turkey Trot with my niece and nephew.  It's only because Ironkid and I ran side by side that I was able to push myself  harder than I have in years to miss my PR by only seconds.  She and I had a blast weaving in and out of people and pushing each other to the finish.

So, sure, 2013 was about my marathon.  But, in reality what 2013 was about to me was THESE people.  Because, without all these people my marathon would not have happened.  

So, thank you, thank you, thank you for making my year an epic year indeed. 

Monday, December 30, 2013