Friday, December 30, 2011

I, State Your Name... The Year in Review

January 1, 20111 I went for a run .  For the new year.  For my new year.  It was absolutely freezing.  As in bone-chilling cold.  But, I made a decision.  A decision that 2011 would not suck.  It would NOT suck like 2010 had.  A year when my grandma died.  The person who loved me most in this world.  What made my life.... stop.  Still. 

It stopped.  Sure.  But, it also gave me the ability to reflect on the fact that I would NOT let 2011 suck me in.  It would not win.  I would win.

So, mid morning, January 1, 2011.  I went for a run on my running trail.  And, I logged my very first workout on Daily Mile.  I was just recording it for me.  I had no friends there.  Had absolutely no intention of having friends there.  I just wanted a place to keep track of my runs.  To be accountable. To me.  

To not let 2011 beat me.  This year was going to be all about me.  Finally.  Not anybody else.  Just me.  I was going to be less selfless and more selfish.  I was going to say no more.  I was going to say yes to the adventurous spirit in me.  I was going to take risks.  I was going to step out of my box.  Skydive out of the box.  I was going to live.  My life. 

I had resolutions.  A little eclectic perhaps, but resolutions.  I was going to do my best to attack them too.  Because after all.... why be the person of old.  The person of 2011.  I was ready.  Ready for a new me.  A different me.  A better me.

Running was at the root of it all.  It would give me the mind, body, and spirit to be the me I wanted to be.  Needed to be.  Hoped to be.  

That New Year's day was so cold.  I remember one mile in I was convinced I might get frostbite.  The wind was just howling.  I literally could barely run as the headwinds were that strong.  But, I was NOT going to give up.  Give in.  On day one. No way.   By the end of the 5.5 mile run I was warm and shedding layers.  I finished my first run.  I felt awesome.  

I was going to do this. I was going to do 2012.  But, I was NOT going to do this alone.  You were coming with me.  I surely didn't know that when I started that cold January 1st run.  I had NO idea that I would have company.  So much company on the reinvention of me.

Somehow friends trickled in on Daily Mile.  One here.  One there.  People motivated me.  Made me laugh.  Suddenly I was texting people, talking to these people.  Becoming friends with these people.  How did this happen?    Who are YOU?  And why are YOU here? 

YOU met me for a little blizzard run along the Chicago lakefront.  YOU were nice.  YOU were fun.  YOU were inspiring.  YOU made me believe I could run a marathon.  YOU giggled at me when I ran four miles through truck tracks in the post twenty two inch snow Blizzardpalooza. 

I watched you run 100 miles.  Who are YOU?  And, why are you doing such crazy things?  I didn't know. I didn't know YOU.  But, I couldn't stop watching.  I was amazed.  

YOU stayed up with me until 2 am to register for the Chicago Marathon.  YOU started running with me on my runs.  YOU made me laugh. We talked about our fear of pooping during the marathon.  We talked about work.  We talked about our worries.  YOU talked with me about how we would do this race.  We ran. 

St. Maarten Greenhouse 10K
YOU made me run the  St. Maarten Greenhouse 10k.  After three weeks of sun and fun YOU told me it would be an easy 5K.  It turned out to be a brutal, hot 10K!  I hated YOU.  But, I also giggled at YOU when I received my age group medal.  First place baby!  

YOU ran The Chicago Shamrock Shuffle with me.  YOU hung out with me afterwards on a most glorious Chicago day and drank beers.  Lots and lots of beers.  YOU agreed we would continue to have college girls weekends revolve around a kewl race.  YOU texted me all day when I was with my girls.  YOU asked how the race was,  how the day was. 

Shamrock Shuffle
I watched YOU try for your first 100 mile race.  I stayed up all night worrying about you.  I talked with another YOU about how proud we were for what YOU did.  It may not have been 100, but it was a worthy accomplishment indeed.  I was proud of YOU. 

YOU started Chicago Marathon training with me.  YOU commiserated with me when I told you how I was dripping wet from a hot ass run.  YOU told me how it sucked too.  It was YOU I lifted my skirt up to show my disgusting raw meat thigh chaffing. It was YOU who screamed in horror.  

YOU ran again with me, or let ME run with YOU to Do Life along the Chicago lakefront again.  This time no blizzard.  Just sun, fun, and some really amazing people. 

It was you who came to Chicago to run the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon with me.  It was YOU who held my hand as we crossed the finish.  It was YOU who was incredibly generous to me and my stranger friends, offering us an unbelievable weekend.  It was YOU who screamed out the window on the cab ride.  I watched YOU do a really incredible thing. I watched YOU impress me.   It was YOU who hung out on the balcony, looking at the gorgeous city skyline, talking about life, our lives.  It was YOU who cried with me, hugged me, laughed with me. It was YOU who made me grateful I had such dear old friends.  I was so grateful for finally meeting YOU in person.  It was YOU who stayed out way into the night with me, doing silly, stoopid things.  It was YOU who I didn't want to say goodbye to. 

YOU ran into me at the RnR medal engraving.  I could not stop talking to YOU.  We shared something.  We got each other.  YOU were me.  I was YOU.  YOU inspired me.  So much so I had to come cheer you on when you ran your half.  And reward you with a #DES gift. 

It was YOU I texted the night before I was to do my longest run ever, 15 miles.  It was YOU who texted me at 5:30 the next morning to tell me to get my run on.  YOU kept texting me all along the way to keep me going.  I texted YOU back when I struggled.  It was YOU I texted when I was done to celebrate my accomplishment.  It was YOU who made me feel proud. 

It was YOU who tweeted to me to stfu and get out there for my 18 mile run.  YOU who told me to stop chatting and start running.  It was because of YOU I tried.   I texted YOU three miles in crying because my body and mind were failing me.   YOU  told me to go home.  Try again.  YOU made me giggle for the next half hour until I felt better.  It was because of YOU I tried again. I ran another five miles.  It was YOU I tweeted a picture of my legs on a bench and said #epicfail  It was YOU who let me cry.  It was then YOU who told me to get up. Walk home.  Try again.

However, it was not to be.  I would not run again.  Really. 

YOU were injured too.  YOU and I spent time talking about our injuries.  About our sadness that we couldn't run. I watched you get YOUR run back on.  I watched you RUN.  Again.  I was happy for YOU. 

YOU  finally convinced me to go to the doctor.  It was YOU who talked to me during my appointment because I was nervous.  YOU were there for me when I had the bone scan.  The MRI.  It was YOU who told me to hang in there. YOU  told me to keep my chin up.

I still did cartwheels.  YOU did cartwheels. 

YOU sent me encouraging messages.  YOU told me that I would get better.  YOU made me feel better that I was NOT running.  YOU also told me to be strong.  

I saw YOU on Oprah.  I saw YOU on the cover of Runner's World.  YOU will be on a national commercial on New Year's Eve.  Seriously?  Who are YOU people?  And, how could you possibly me MY friends? 

YOU woke me up early in the mornings and chatted with me before work.  YOU made me giggle all day when I should have been working.  YOU stayed up late at night with me talking about life. YOU shared your struggles.  YOU listened to mine.  YOU told me your secrets.  I told YOU mine.  YOU encouraged me to blog.  YOU were my biggest cheerleader.

IRC - ti no trid emos bur

YOU sent me kewl stuff.  YOU played with me on Twitter.  YOU crept into my phone.  YOU made me #giggle when I didn't think the day would allow.  YOU made me feel good about myself when I didn't think I deserved it.  YOU made me feel worthy.  Of loving myself.  Of allowing others to love me.  YOU made me BELIEVE.  I am YOU and YOU are me. 

YOU got me out of my little box.  YOU made me see another side of me.  YOU scared the crap out of me sometimes.  But, YOU also made me laugh. 

YOU taught me to #DoEpicShit.  To rub some dirt on it. To Whooooo!!xBeatCancer 

YOU made me feel okay when I couldn't run The Chicago Marathon.  So, instead I watched YOU run.  I cheered YOU on.  I held my #DoEpicShit sign for YOU.  YOU screamed my name when you ran by.  YOU smiled at me.  YOU came back and gave me the most awesome schweddy hug.  I watched  YOU finish.  I cried tears for YOUR accomplishment.  I was proud of YOU. 

I watched YOU complete your first 100 mile race.  I stayed up all night cheering YOU from afar.   I updated WHOever I could so that they could come along for YOUR ride.  I paced the floor when things looked grim.  I jumped for joy when things looked promising.  I nearly lost my mind when YOU texted me after you finished.  I was so proud of YOU. So very proud of YOU.

YOU ran your first half marathon.  I was there at the start in spirit.  For YOU.  But, YOU wouldn't answer YOUR phone.  Because you are silly like that.  But, I was there for YOU.  I was proud of YOU.  I was running a little 5k that day too.  But, I was thinking about YOU.  Because, YOU, my dear, are amazing.  Inside and out.  

When life socked me in the gut out of the blue it was YOU who kept me calm when I vomited out of fear as I tried to ride my bike away.  From the pain.  YOU made sure I got home.  Not only in one piece. But, while holding my hand.  And, my heart. My soul.   

I read YOUR blog. YOUR words touched me. Hit me in the heart.  In the stomach. YOU made me think.  Cry. Be.  Better.  Stronger.  Wiser.  

Without running it was YOU who kept me sane.  It was YOU who talked to me more. It was YOU I listened to when things got bad.  It was YOU I celebrated when things got better.  It was YOU who let me lean on your shoulder. It was my shoulder that let YOU lean back.  

And, somehow, I made it to the finish line of 2011.  I may not be running over it.  It's certainly is more of a hobble.  But, over the finish line I still go.  

However, there is no way I would get anywhere close to the finish line if it weren't for the amazing people in my life who I met this year.  People a year ago I didn't know existed.  People who I cannot even imagine not in my life. They are the air I breathe.  

My year started off with a bang.  My running was on fire.  I felt amazing.  My life was kind of fun and exciting.  I was meeting some really amazing new people who enriched my every day.  It was all good.  Great in fact.  Then, I couldn't run.  And, the awesomeness of 2011 faded away quickly.  I no longer felt good.  I no longer felt like me.  The new me anyway.  I was drifting back into the awfulness of 2010.  And, the years before.  But, each time I started to fall back, a friend would pick me up.  Lift me up.  

YOU became my closest friend.  YOU became more than a friend. YOU were there when I needed someone.  I was there when you needed someone.  YOU made me worry.  YOU made me care. YOU gave me someone to cheer for.  YOU cheered for me. YOU made me laugh.  YOU made me giggle.  YOU cared about me.  I cared deeply about YOU.  YOU made me believe.  In myself. 

YOU made my year.  YOU.  

Yes.  YOU.

Who will YOU be to me for 2012?  I cannot wait to find out. 

* I love the fact that in many of these YOU's it can refer to SO many people.  Each one thinking it's them.  And, they are all correct.  Yes, YOU are. :D

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Not About the Bling. It's About the Pierogi.

Merry Christmas. I'm not giving you a present.  Sorry. No soup for you.  It's not that you are on my naughty list.  Because, quite frankly, most of you that I know certainly are.  But, I'm not buying gifts this year.  

I am making the pierogies.

I'm a giver.  Giving of myself.  My time. My heart.  My soul. And, during the one time we all give, I'm just all out of giving.  It's not that I don't care. I do.  It's not that I don't love.  I do.  It's just that I no longer think that putting something in a box will show that I care about you. I'd rather just show you that I care about you.

Christmas memories for me were my grandmother making her home made pierogies.  She would grind the meat.  She would roll out the dough.  She would stuff dozens of pierogies.  My grandfather would be right by her side.  Her sous chef.  Listening to her orders.  Helping her wherever he could.  That's what he did.  He was a helper.  A giver.  On Christmas.  In life. 

My sister and I would head over to grandma's late afternoon and do a somewhat ceremonial assisting in the pierogi making.  Really all we did was stuff the last of the pierogies, boil, and place in the dish.  We weren't there for the hours of work before.  But, we still felt like we helped grandma in some way.  Really, it was about dipping a hand in the tradition.  If only just barely.

As grandma got older (She died at 102 1/2 years) I started to think about how someday we wouldn't have these pierogies awaiting us for Christmas dinner.  Because, someday, grandma would no longer be around.  The thought saddened me.  No grandma?  No tradition passed on? How could this be? So, I was determined. Determined to learn from grandma her art of pierogi making.  So, in her late 90's I started shadowing her on Christmas.  Watching her.  Helping her.  Asking for the recipe.  Never getting the recipe.  You see, grandma's don't have the actual recipe for their signature dishes.

It's all in their head.  Years and years and years of making it.  It doesn't need to be written down.  It's tattoo'd inside their brain.

However, I bugged her for years to give me the exact recipe.  I told her that I needed it to to pass along.  For the future generations.

Finally, one year she gave in.  She wrote it down.  Kind of.  I still think she left some things out.  I would have also added : plus a little sprinkle of grandma's love.

**** Here's a tip for anyone with family recipe's >>>>>  Have your relative write the recipe in their handwriting.  Attach it to the back of a printout of the same recipe.  Laminate.  Each time you make this recipe you can see the person's handwriting who passed it onto you.  It'll make you smile each time.  I guarantee it.

So, from that year forward, the Christmas pierogi making was MY JOB.  The first year I thought I was going to die. Three days. ALL day.  Grinding meat.  Rolling dough.  Stuffing pierogies.  Boiling pierogies. Frying pierogies.   Wanting to nap.  For hours.  I have NO idea how my grandma did it all those years.  It's hard.  It's time consuming.  It's been a bit better over the years.  Some modern tools (manual pasta machine grinder instead of rolling, for one) have helped. But, it's still hard.  Lot's of hours.  By myself.  No help.  Each year I question why I'm doing it.  Does anybody really care. But, then I remember, that, yes, it's worth it.

That first year I was SO nervous about what grandma would say.  I was waiting for her to take her first bite.  Second bite.  Third bite.  No comment.  What?!?!  Finally, she says, "The dough is a little thick, Andrea, but very good"  I had to giggle at her comment about my imperfection because it was SO my grandma to not realize she was making backhanded compliments.  But, I took it as a full on compliment all the way.  In my eyes I passed Grandma's Pierogi Making 101. Yeah me. 

I was an over giver.  I buy good presents.  But, then I keep grazing.  Keep buying.  Over buy.  My family received excellent gifts from me.  But, really, in the end, did they care what I bought them? Did they even remember what I bought them?  I doubt it. But, they do remember now that  I make the pierogies.  We don't give these puppies up easily.  We even have to divide up the leftovers.  Nobody gets more than someone else.  We eat them for the next week.  If you don't eat them someone else will.  So, it's your call.  So, we eat them!

I don't remember any Christmas gifts I received as a child.  But, I do remember my grandma and grandpa at their kitchen table, working hard at making the pierogies.  Grandpa being the helper elf.  Grandma the ultimate Santa. That's what it's about.  The family.  The time.  The love. Not the sweater from The Gap.

I have several friends dreading the upcoming holidays.  Whether it's that it's never a good time with family or friends.  Or that this year is different.  They have lost a special loved one in the last year.  There are troubles in the family.  Someone is ill. It's the dark cloud hanging over the holiday.  I don't know what to tell you.  Except that love the ones you're with.  Even if it hurts.  Because they may not be there next Christmas.  For whatever reason.  And, if it's too painful to do that get out there with someone who can give you that deep breath, that hug you need, the shoulder you need.  A friend.  A neighbor.  A running partner.  And, if you know someone who is in need of that special love this year, call them,  talk to them.  Tell them you care about them.   Give them an extra hug.  Invite them over for Christmas dinner.  Just because.  Because it's not something you can put in a box.  It's so much more.   

I'm in the middle of Day #3 of Pierogipalooza. I'm tired.  Tomorrow, I will head out to buy little stocking stuffers. Yeah, because I just can not have a little something, something.  I know, I know....I can't help it. It's who I am.  

But, still, you won't be receiving any gifts from me this year.  I am a bit sad about that because I have met some really amazing people this year who are certainly gift worthy.  However, I hope that my friendship.  My ear.  My shoulder.  Me.  Everything I have given you throughout the year is better than anything I could ever put in a box and tie with a bow.

However, if you are really, really,  nice,  you just may get a pierogi.  


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Every Picture

Why do you run?

We see that question asked a lot.  On blogs. In running magazine articles.  Everybody has a reason why they run.  Or so they say.  Something so obvious on the outside.  Much deeper on the inside.

There's your picture.  Then there's the story behind your picture.   You may give a reason why you run.  Because you wanted to lose weight.  Because you wanted to run a marathon.  Because you needed a hobby.

But, what you really may be saying is it's not about the weight, it's about running from what made you gain the weight. It's not about the marathon, it's proving to people who say you can never do anything that you indeed can. It's not a hobby, it's a lifesaver.

Every time I start to get to know a new running friend I'm so tempted to ask, "So, what is your story?  You real story?"  But, I don't.  I know in due time it will come to me.  Not because I asked.  Not because it's necessary I know. But, because eventually they will tell me.  Because eventually we will become closer friends.  Because eventually they will trust me.  Because eventually it becomes less about the run and more about the person.

When I watched this years Chicago Marathon I watched the 40,000 faces run by me.  Faces of runners.  Faces of people.  I wondered what their stories were.  There was the woman who works at Target.  Your neighbor.  Your friend's college son.  The veteran.  The single mother. Your husband. Your college roommate.  The recovering drug addict. These are all things others see on the outside.  But, most people don't see what's on the inside.  What really fuels them to run.

Sex addiction. Depression.  Alcoholism. Obesity.  Mental illness. Sex abuse.  Serious physical illness. Bad marriage. Financial struggles.  Infidelity.

It's some of what fuels people I know. Fuels them to run.   Yes, they run to feel good.  To be healthier people. To be stronger people.  To be better people.  But, in reality what they - we - run for is to be free.  To be free of the demons that threaten to destroy us. Free to run. Free to live.  Free. To. Be.  

I'm amazed each time someone opens up to me.  Tells me their story.  I feel honored that they trust me with such intimate things.  What is ironic though, the more people who tell me their story, the more that hear mine back.  Maybe not all of it.  But, bits and pieces. Here and there. Sometimes having someone open up to you  allows you to feel it's ok to do the same.   And, what we often find out is sometimes we are more similar than we are different.

Each person's story is intense.  Because it's their story. We all have our shit.  But, your own shit is the hardest.  Because it's yours.  I cannot specifically relate to many of my friends demons. But, I certainly can empathize.  Listen.  Hear.  Care.  Love.  Be there.  I may not know the solution.  I may not know the right thing to say.  But, I do the best I can.

However, I can still clearly remember  what one friend told me when talking about his demons.  He said that it may be something he has, but it does not define who he is.  I've never forgotten that.  He is so right.  What happens to us,  what we live through,  what we are going through, what we struggle with.  It does NOT define us.  It is NOT who we are.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that.  But, it's important that we know that we are who we are because of things we've experienced.  And, we are better people for surviving.  It all. And, we will survive. 

Running helps us get through it.  Run past it.   Run the hell over it.

Sometimes, someone shares something that knocks me off my feet.  Hits me so close to home it makes my stomach turn.

 Because sometimes,  their story is my story too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fat in a Box

I ran on Saturday.  After ten weeks of no running, I ran.  I raced the Chicago Hot Chocolate 5k.  I wasn't really sure I was actually going to run at all. The shin had been quiet for a few days, but it acted up  there the days before the race.  I was worried about running. But, the doctor did  tell me to do a light run before today's appointment.  So, I did.  I ran a 5K.  My legs ran.  My mind ran.  My heart ran.

I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it felt.  Even though I was in a lot of pain, I was so happy.  To be on the run again.  Running from what?  Running to what?  I still don't know. But, running.

Today I went in for my ortho appointment.  I had more xrays done on my shin.  This time also on my spine and hip (aka, AK area for those in the know) to see about dics problems in my back that possibly could be causing my UBHA pain. Thankfully, the spine and hip looked good. 

The results are that I will continue to stay on Injured Reserve for awhile longer.  Apparently, the good old ortho doctor is not so sure it's a stress fracture after all.  He thinks it's taking WAY too long to heal. I agree.  So, his thoughts are now that it perhaps may be some type of tumor causing pain on my shin. Oh, yes, goodie.  He said tumor.  Before anybody freaks out, I am not freaked out.  Well, not yet anyway.  More tests to follow at 5 am Friday and then we go from there.  I'm pretty confident it's still a stubborn stress fracture.

I'm more freaked out that I still cannot run.  Ten weeks of no running is hard.  Hard on the soul that's for sure.  I need the run.  For me.  For my sanity.  For my body.

Running was always mental therapy for me.  Absolutely.  But, along the way of that journey my body kind of followed suit.  As I ran not only did I feel better mentally, but physically as well.  My body started to change.  Honestly, I didn't even notice it.  Not until people started making comments to me. Strangers even.  Telling me that I looked great.  It was weird.  Very odd in fact.  I wasn't used to this.  Remember? I used to be invisible.

It was hard for me to come to terms with the change in my body.  Honestly, I never really thought about how I looked.  I mean I thought about how I looked. But, I didn't see myself as a fat person.  I'm tall.  I'm used to people telling me I'm big.  But, I guess I didn't realize they were also referring to my size in general.  Honestly, I think I hid it pretty well.  Well, at least I thought I did.

Until I lost weight.  From running.  Sixty five pounds of running my ass (literally) off.  The weight was on for a reason.  To protect me.  It kept me safe.  (a whole other blog that may never be written) I was scared to lose that security. I didn't know that then.  I know it now. 
But, oddly, I felt good.  Felt good about myelf.  For the first time in a VERY long time.  The New Andrea.  It was nice.  People who know me would say I was always confident person.  But, it was a lie.  I was not.  But, I began to feel it more now.  Own it more.

People made comments.  I still get them.  The ones I get often are from people who haven't seen me in awhile, a year or so.  It's usually a stare, then, "Oh my God, you lost a ton of weight."  Of course all I hear is, "Holy shit you were a big fat pig"   Its embarrasses me.  Of the person I used to be. 

 But, then I see my friend Claire.  Who who owns her weight loss journey  like nobody's business.  When we ran into each other at the 2011 Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon medal engraving  our lives collided.  We had met earlier this summer at Chicago DoLife 5k .  When we met this second time we couldn't talk enough about running, social media, our running friends and how our lives had changed drastically through it all. She lost weight but still saw the fat girl of old.  I stood there before a beautiful woman full of confidence but not yet owning her beauty. I couldn't tell her enough to jump out of that box and own it.  All of it. Be proud of it.  Be the New Claire.

After our conversation, Claire become an unofficial #DoEpicShit  girl.  She earned it.  For sure.  I'm amazed each and every time I see her rock yet another race PR.  I had the pleasure of cheering her on for the  Chicago Half Marathon She looks phenominal and is now training for her first marathon.  One hundred and twenty five pounds and one year ago a different woman.  Now, a women possessed.  A beautiful strong women.

So when people tell me I look great I think of Claire. I still just stare at them.  I'm horrible with compliments  I don't get them often.  When I do, I don't know what to say.  I have to learn to accept them. I'm just so used to deflecting them.  Because I am not worthy.  Don't feel worthy of them.

I'm getting better though.  When they ask me how I did it, I tell them I run.  I didn't try to lose weight.  I ran for my sanity.  The weight was a by-product of that.  I get excited and try to get the person to run too.  I encourage them to sign up for a 5k.  I want them on my party train.  Choo-Choo!

Problem is this train is stuck in the station.  Not only am I mentally shot not being able to run,   I'm freaked out that I will go back to the old me.  The sad me.  The fat me.  The unworthy me.

I started 2011 with resolutions.  They were interesting ones to say the least.  But, the goal was to get me out of my box.  To stop living the life of the old me. Needless to say I skydived out of my box right out of the gate.  It felt good.  It was fun.  I was happy.

But, now here I sit.  Not running.  Still. 

I'm scared I'm going to crawl back in that box if I can't run.

 It's dark in there.

 It's lonely in there.

 I do not want to go there again.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Living EZ

(Photo courtesy of Michael Maidwell )

Yesterday I asked you to tell me what you saw in this picture.  
What did you see?

Looks like a bunch of cyclist enjoying a ride.  Kind of makes you want to be along for the ride - huh? 

Often we on Daily Mile talk about what a wonderful community we have.  A community of runners, cyclists, swimmers, walkers.... athletes.   Ultra runners to Couch to 5k runners. All encouraging each other.  Lifting each other.  On good days.  On bad days. Inspirational.  Strong.  Hilarious.  There. For each other.  Each and every day. 

I watch and read posts and am amazed by the expressions of love and support.  For people for the most part you have never met.  Why?  Why are these people so invested in each other? 

There must be something in the endorphin's.  In our desire to be better people.  To be healthier people.  To be happier people. To be sane people.  It makes us more caring.  More loving.  More human.  Just plain more

So, what is the picture above about? 

(Sheila Mulder)
 It's a funeral.  Yes, a funeral. I bet you didn't guess that one.  The cool doode with the beard and white glasses riding the cruiser is Michael Maidwell, lead singer of the band Orange Grove. Runner.  This is the funeral for his father, Malcolm MaidwellHis father was instrumental in starting and organizing running, biking, triathlons, and kayaking etc. to the island of St. Maarten back in the day when these sports did not exist there. In May, Malcholm Maidwell died after a long battle with cancer.  For the funeral Michael and a relay of cyclists, runners and kayakers traveled around the island to Michael's father's final resting place out in the beautiful Caribbean waters. What a great tribute. All those athletes who were encouraged, inspired, & supported to get their kick-ass on because one man thought it was important enough to have these sports accessible to them. 

Think about if you didn't have access to your run, your ride, your swim. Malcolm made sure the people of St. Maarten did. 

When my father died 9 1/2 years ago my college girlfriends jumped on planes from all over the country and were by my side for the funeral.  I have to say it was one of the days in my life I felt the most love.  How strange is that?  The day I buried my father.  Yet, the amount of love surrounding me was immeasurable.  They were there for me at the funeral, at the luncheon, and then took my butt to an Irish pub afterwards and fed me pint after pint and made me laugh. Smile.  Breath.   My friends and I weren't then, but, we are now...runners.  

Just like Malcolm, my father's final resting place was the the Caribbean waters of St. Maarten.  It was much quieter affair for us. I took my dad in my purse with me on the plane. I know, don't even.  A little under his favorite hammock, a little on the beach, a little in the ocean.  At sunset.  We didn't have the large group that Malcolm had.  But, we had love nonetheless. 

I smile when I think about Malcolm's funeral. How amazing it must have felt for his family to have all those athletes embracing their broken hearts. How great is that?  Being in a moment of great sadness and being surrounded by a community of love.  

So much love that instead of tears you find yourself riding high with a huge smile on your face. 

We run, bike, and swim.  We have good days. We have bad days.  We struggle with our workouts, our injuries, our home life, our jobs, and just plain old life. But, no matter what kind of day we have, we know that at the end of the day this little community of love that surrounds us will make sure we are Living EZ.  

That no matter what, we are feeling irie, mon. 

Orange Grove - Living EZ

Suck it Cancer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What do you see?

Photo courtesy of M.M. 

This is one of my favorite photos. 

Tell me what this is a photo of? 
What are the words you would used to describe it? 
How does this make you feel? 
 What do you see

Let me see what you think.  
Tomorrow I will tell you who this is and what it is a photo of.  
I bet you'll be surprised.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Run Alone

I don't need your help.  I'm not weak.  I can pick up that package.  Who cares that I'm wearing heals.  Excuse me, but I can lift it.  Let me be. I don't need you to help me with my luggage.  I'm fine, thank you very much.  See that chainsaw I have in my hand?  I'm chopping down a tree. Leave me alone.  Paint that entire beach wall?  Yeah, so what? Three coats, both sides, in the hot sun.  By myself.  You couldn't hang.  Don't even try. 

You want to help?  If you are a doode, no matter a stranger or a friend, you can hold the door for me. That would be nice.  I would like that.  However, other than that. I don't need your help.  

Because, I run alone

When I need to run. I run.  I don't meet up with groups of runners.  I don't make running dates.  I don't have running meet ups.  I just figure out when in my life I have time and have run out of excuses why I can't.  Then I run.

I like to run alone because it my time to clear my mind.  If you recall, running for me was a way to escape the stress and overwhelming drama as family members were dying.  This was a time for people to not depend on me.  To not need me.  For me to be me. 

I don't typically like to run with others.  Not that I hate it.  But, I like to go at my pace.  I worry that I'm too slow for some and too fast for others.  I need to go at my speed.  Whatever that is on any given day. It's my time to talk to myself.  To have discussions with me. 

However, I'm learning to accept people into my run.  

In February of this year Lisa and I signed up for the Chicago Marathon together. I had been running pretty consistently.  Nothing major as far as mileage.  Just doing my usual 5.5 mile trail loop.  Lisa had not run in many months.  She needed to start to get her run on again. So she met up with me for her first run.  I was worried about this run. Would I be too slow.  Would I be too fast.  Would we not be compatible running together?   It turns out it was great.  We both have long legs so our strides were pretty spot on.  After many months of no running she was right there with me. (Bitch)  I absolutely despise talking on a run.  But, we never shut up.  We talked about work.  Furniture.  Men.  The process in which we shave our legs. Running.  Running clothes. Cute shoes. Not wanting to shit our pants while running. We laughed a lot.  It was fun. 

We continued to meet for runs here and there as often as we could.  However, eventually, Lisa was back in her running shape. She's a runner.  She's speedy. I'm not.  Sadly, eventually, I had to start insisting that we could no longer run together.  She needed to do this on her terms.  Not mine. After loving being a lone runner, I was starting to think I was liking this partner running.  But, sadly it was over. 

I signed up for 2011 Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon . I was doing this alone.  At the time I knew nobody else running it.  I ran it twice before.  I would run it again. It didn't really matter to me if anybody else was running it.  I always race alone.  If people ask me to sign up for races with them my answer usually is, "Sure, but I won't run with you.  I run alone".  As time went by this lone race for me slowly became a race of many friends.  I was excited for them all to come.  I had Daily Mile friends ( Logan & Sara ) whom I had never met coming in.  I had an old college friend, Erin, coming in.  I had a long time friend, Robert-Jan,  from St. Maarten coming in. I had Lisa.  No longer was this going to be a lone race. 

Nobody knew each other.  As someone told me later I was the spoke in the wheel that brought us all together.  We all met.  We all got along really well.  It was awesome.  On race morning we all headed to the start area. 

Erin, me, Logan, Robert-Jan
In the past 40,000 runners takes awhile to get across the start line.  So, with that in mind we decided to take our time to get in our corrals. Logan was starting behind the Kenyans, so he bolted immediately, like as in I have no idea where he went, after this picture. Erin, RJ, & I hit gear check, the bathrooms, listened to the national anthem, then slowly walked towards our corrals.  Only to find them, well, gone. Huh? The start was WAY faster than anticipated.  We saw corrals #20 - #30 lined up around the corner, about ready to go.  But, for the three of us, our corrals were long gone.  None of us were the same corral.  But, we looked at each other, and said, "I guess we are starting", gave each other hugs, wished each other luck,  pressed our Garmins, and started to run.  

I had no intention of running with them for the entire race. I figured we would jog a bit to start and then spread out.  After all, I run alone.  Erin was with us for a bit.  But, then she got lost in the crowd.  We heard a few Wheee! Wheee! 's  and she was gone.  RJ and I continued to run together. We were going at a good pace together.  But, I was just waiting for us to split up at some point. 

 But, we continued on our pace together. To the 6 mile mark.  We both saw the clock time as we crossed and looked at each other.  I said, "That was fast" He said, "I know, that's my fastest ever".  I replied, "We need to slow down."  He answered, "No, lets keep going".  I hated him.

Robert-Jan and me hand in hand over the finish
I'm tall. But, RJ's VERY tall. I was having  hard time keeping up.  My piriformis injury was hurting.  I made sure to get water at every station.  RJ did not.  So, each time I would have to run and catch up to him after drinking.  Thankfully, he was easy to spot.  Thankfully, he slowed down a bit to wait for me.  When I was hurting, he reminded me that I could do it.  When he started cramping at mile 11 or so, I reminded him he could do it.  When he pulled up just before the finish line I told him to suck it up and get his ass to the finish.  I was in pain too.  We could do this. He hopped up.  We ran.  To the finish.  Just as we got to the finish he grabbed my hand.  We crossed together. 

We ran start to finish together.  For the first time I did not race alone. And, it was ok.  It was better than ok.  It was great.  I think there were a few times I would have quit on myself.  Gone slower.  Maybe not pushed as hard.  But, I had RJ to keep up with.  I had RJ to bring to the finish at the end when he was hurting. 

This weekend I had something hit me in the gut. Weird.  Random.  Out of the blue.  But, it socked me to the core.  So much so it made me vomit.  I went out for a long ride (I'm still injured and can't run) to sort it out.  It wasn't working.  Logan was texting me to make sure I was ok. I wasn't.  I was still shaking.  I was still vomiting.  I would ride a few miles. Read something he wrote.  Write back. Think about what he said.  Ride some more.  Read some more.  Write some more.  Ride some more. Until it got better.  Until I could just ride.  At around mile 26 I was lost.  Of course I was. How appropriate.  I was in the woods.  I had no idea where I was or how I was going to get out.  It was starting to get dark. Honestly, I felt like sitting down and quitting. But, I knew another text would come in asking where on my ride I was.  I couldn't say I was under a tree.  So, I took a deep breath and figured out how to get the hell out of there. 

41 miles later I was okay. However, I wouldn't have been if I was riding alone.  But, I wasn't riding alone.

I'm learning how to not run alone.  It's hard for me.  I like the alone part.  I like the solitude.  However, I also need people by my side too.  I can't keep insisting that I don't.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What I Know To Be True « Weight In Vain

What I Know To Be True « Weight In Vain

Katherine is one of the very first people I followed on Twitter.  Through her I found Ben Davis .  Thus bringing me to Daily Mile . All contributing to giving my running journey a huge kick in the ass.

This is her best one yet.  Hits closer to home than you even know.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Fade away

If I could throw this
Lifeless lifeline to the wind
Leave this heart of clay
See you walk, walk away
Into the night
And through the rain
Into the half-light
And through the flame

If I could through myself
Set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day

"Bad" ~ U2

How do you stop yourself from fading away?  

How do you stop others from fading away from you?   

And, how hard do you fight for both? 

Pretty damn hard.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Out of the bleachers

For years I was only a spectator.  A cheerleader.  There for everybody else.  Cheering for everybody else.  Whether for life's great gifts of happiness and joy or through life's struggles.  I was always there. In recent years I was there as family members were dying.  I stopped my life to help keep their lives going.  I have no regrets about this.  I wouldn't trade it in for anything.  Ever

But, I was also there for friends.  As they struggled with their own demons.  Depression.  Alcoholism. Bad marriages.  I listened.  I cared. I supported.  I was the cheerleader. I drove them to rehab.  I helped cover their lies.  I picked them up in the middle of the night when they needed to leave a bad situation.  I listened to stories about how their lives were falling apart.  I helped pick them up when life knocked them to their knees.  And, worse.  Then they would fall again.   I would pick them up again.  They would fall again. Eventually, I stopped picking them up.  I had to walk away.  I had to walk away because somewhere while trying to save others I lost myself. 

You see, along the way of my semi-professional cheerleading gig I disappeared.   I became invisible.  Invisible to the very same people I was cheering for.  In fact, to even those not needing my services necessarily.  Life went by.  I let life go by.  My friends didn't seem to notice or care.   I would be a room with them and somehow I would not be included in conversation.  They would ask how I was but never listen long enough for me to answer. Often I could be in a room with them and they would barely notice I was there.  Sometimes I would leave the room for periods at a time and do something else.  I don't think they flinched.  

How could I become so invisible?  I'm 5'10" (6'1"+  in my pretty heels).  I'm kind of hard to miss.  Yet, people didn't see me.  Life didn't see me any longer.  

Then I started to run.  I ran more.  I ran longer.  I ran in the dark.  I ran on the prairies.  I ran in the woods.  I always ran alone.  Yet, somehow I started to become less invisible.  People started to see me.  I didn't know these people.  They were cyclists I passed on the trail who waved and smiled.  They were runners who I met up with at a light who asked me how far I was running that day.  It was the uber runner guy at my running store who fitted me for new shoes for an hour while talking about my running journey.  About my upcoming races.  About me.   The more I ran the less invisible I became.  Suddenly, people started to notice me.  Strangers who I never knew started talking to me about how different I looked.  I didn't ever remember these people to begin with.  Yet, they somehow remembered me. I guess I wasn't as invisible as I thought before.  Perhaps just to certain people. I was being seen. I just wasn't being noticed. 

Once I started to run I felt better about myself.  I started not needing to save other people.  This was hard for me because I always want to be the one to help others.  To cheer them.  To heal them.  I think it was a way for me to ignore saving myself.  But, unbeknownst to me, I was back to being a cheerleader.  This time, though, it was for me.   I signed up for races.  I ran them alone.  I had nobody cheering me for my life.  Ironic, it was.  All those times I was there for everybody else. There were never there for me.  Races were no different.  But, it was ok.  It was really ok.  It was ok because I had other people who seemed to care about me.  Sure, they were strangers.  However, they asked about me.  They asked about running.  They wanted to truly know how I was doing.  They didn't settle for my standard "I'm fine" answer.  They wanted to know how I was really feeling.  How my running was going.  When my next race was.  How LIFE was. More importantly how MY LIFE was. 

Oddly enough, some of the people I tried to save and had to walk away from have re-entered my life recently.  They have finally saved themselves.  They are back for redemption. To thank me. To tell me that when everyone else gave up on them that I never did.  That I was the only one to stay when others walked away.   That's good to hear.  Even better to hear is them ask about me.  To listen to me.  To hear me. To notice me. 

I'll always be a cheerleader.  I'll always be the one screaming my lungs out for you to succeed.  For you to do your best. For you to stop struggling and start fighting.  For you to never give up.  Because I will never give up on you. Ever.  Even when you give up on yourself.  Even if you give up on me. 

However, excuse me if I do walk away from time to time and cheer for myself once in awhile.  I'm worth it too.  


After all, life is NOT a spectator sport.  And, it's about time for me to join the race.