Friday, February 17, 2012

I Won't Turn Back

When there is no turning back, then we should concern ourselves 
only with the best way of going forward. 
Paolo Coelho

Going forward.  

That's the direction I'm heading towards now. 

August 21st 2011.  The day I quit  half way through my attempt at an 18 mile marathon training run.  Even though two friends kicked my ass to get out there and get it done.  My mind was spent. My heart was weak.  My body, unbeknownst to me at the time, was broken.  The next day I felt pain.  Emotional pain.  Physical pain. 

I never ran again (except for two or three illegal runs) for almost 6 months.  Not really ran.  For six months. 

Not with my heart. My mind.  What was left of my body.  I may have moved my legs.  But, I had pain.  Lots of it. As great as some of those runs felt to just be running.  In reality, I was faking it.  Because I wanted it to be ok.  My leg to be ok.  Me to be ok. 

It wasn't.  I wasn't.

Being hurt sucks.  Getting hurt sucks.  Hurt of any kind just plain sucks

Sucks because you can't control it.  Sucks because you cannot fix it.  Sucks because.... It. Just. Sucks

I can still distinctly recall last spring when one of my Daily Mile friends got injured.  I read his posts about him not being able to run.  His frustration.  While I felt bad for him, I couldn't really relate.  I had never been injured.  In all my years of swimming I was never injured.  Not once.  No shoulder pains.  No knee pains.  Nothing. Since I started running everything HAD been ok.  I had some minor pain in my sciatic area.  But, nothing to be really bothersome.  I was running the best I ever had.  I was in the best shape I had been in in years. Every race was a PR.   I really couldn't relate to his frustration.  I felt bad for him. But, in reality I could not really relate. He eventually just stopped posting.  

However, I remember when he started to make his comeback a few months later.  How wonderful it was to read he was on the road back.  Ironically, just as I was falling off the road....

I have so many running friends who are fighting off injury right now.  We are at all levels of recovery.  We all know.  We all get it.  Sadly.  We all just want to be well.  To be us again.  To run. 

The other night a friend was talking to me about my injury.  Telling me that during this time there was surely something I learned about me.  Something about ME that I was able to discover during this time.  I'm still not sure what it was.  Kind of sad that I can't figure out what I learned.  But, I did realize I started blogging during this time.  Weird.  I didn't even realize that this all began because I wasn't running.  

I would talk to my friend Mike about running.  About our injuries.  One night he told me I should write a blog.  Looking back perhaps it was his polite way of getting me to talk it out in a blog instead of bugging him.  Ha.  He had a blog.  A very good blog.  His wife, Julie, was just about to start her blog. But, what was I going to write about?  I had nothing to say.  Nothing anybody would want to read.  

But, I started writing.  I still have no idea what about.  Or why.  Or to whom. But, I wrote. 

So, maybe that's what I learned while injured.  To start letting thoughts in my head get out a bit.  To let some of what brews in my head while I run to be released.  Perhaps not for others to read necessarily.  However, if someone else gets it, fantastic. But, maybe more for me.  Just me

To my friends still injured: it gets better.  You WILL get through this.  I promise you.  Promise

I'm taking the baby steps back.  I'm running again.    I have a long way to go.  A very long way. But, I'm not going back.  I cannot change what happened to me.  With my injury.  With my life. I cannot change that I got hurt.  I cannot change how bad it made me feel.   How miserable some days really were. It wasn't my fault. 

I can only go forward. One step at a time. One word at a time. Ahead.

I won't turn back.  I can't.  And, I wont.

Run on.  Write on.  Be.  

Oh, and that friend who was injured last spring?  He went on to finish his first 100 mile ultra in the fall.  How 'bout them apples? 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Make It Count

Today I ran for Sherry Arnold.  A runner.  Who woke up early one morning and never returned. Can you imagine?  She went out for a run and never came back. 

I often run alone. Sherry could be me.  However, I try to make sure it won't be me.  Each run I take is different.  The path is different.  The time is different.  You really could not predict my where and when.  It's pretty much by chance.  But, partly because I don't want anyone to know where they can find me.  Should someone be up to no good.  I always let someone know I'm going out for a run.  Whether it's a family member or a friend.  Yes, I do have some random runners who text with me on some of my long runs.  Yes, I need the motivation  The giggles.  To keep going.  But, more importantly, I need someone to know that I've made it home safely.  I've never told them this.  But, it is part of why I need them for runs.  To make sure I'm okay.  

When I first read about today's tribute run a few weeks ago on her cousin's blog - Shut Up and Run I was still not running, due to injury.  My goal was that, no matter what, I would run for Sherry today.  Somehow.  Someway.

Today people all around the world ran in memory of Sherry.  I was one of them.  I got up on a very cold, windy, Illinois winter day.  The sky was blue, the air was brisk.  It was beautiful.   I normally run on roads near my home.  However, today I decided to run along the nearby river path.  We had snow last night.  So, the path was a bit icy and slippery.  But, I made sure I took my time with my footing.  With my thoughts.  For Sherry. 

I passed several runners along the path.  Two separate times I passed groups of young men.  Probably from the local college, a running powerhouse.  At no time did I feel uneasy about passing them.  Maybe I should? But, I didn't.  Each time the guys gave me smiles, "good mornings", and "have a great run". 

I stopped here, along the river, to spend some moments to think of Sherry.  About how absolutely horrible this is.  That she woke up.  Went for a run.  Who would think something so horrible would happen?  I think about what her the last words her family spoke to her.  The last words her friends said to her.  

When I was in high school, a 10 year old girl whom I had babysat on one occasion went missing.  She was sick.  Stayed home from school.  Her mother had a neighbor check in on her staying home alone.  She came home from work at lunch to check in on her.  When her older sister returned  from school later that day she found the front door knocked down.  Her sister gone.  Days, later they found her.  Raped and murdered.  A 10 year old girl.  It was my first knock of how life can be so horribly, awfully, and incredibly senseless sometimes.  

Her family surely never expected when they left for school and work that day that they would never see her again.  Surely, they were all running out the door heading out to where they needed to be.  Perhaps there were hugs.  And kisses.  And, some I love you's.  

But, like Sherry's family and friends, they didn't know these were the last words they would say to her.  

Do you leave people with words that you would be happy were the last words they would ever hear?  Were they happy words?  Did you make them smile?  Did you make them laugh?   Did you leave them feeling good?  As they walked away from your face, or hung up the phone, or read the last text, would that last impression be a good one? 

Or would it be one of hatred?  Uncaring?  Indifference? 

When you know someone is sick and dying you say what matters.  You say what needs to be said.  You make sure they know it.  That when they die they know that they are loved.  That they mattered.  That they will be missed. 

Last night I spent a great evening with my 10 year old niece at her swim meet.  My niece, the same age as the girl murdered when I was young.  Whoa.  That thought makes my heart sink.  Deep.

She smoked her race and continues to dominate in the pool (that's my girl).  Due to other family obligations I was there alone.  For four hours.  She came up into the stands to sit with me a few times.  To chat.  To tell me she was so glad I was there.  I told her how proud I was of her. Of her swimming.  Of what a wonderful young lady she had become.  She brought her friends up to chat with me too. They were funny.  Made me smile.  

After the meet we went to dinner.  I told her that I was having so much fun on our "date".  She giggled and said that her friends always tell her that she has the kewlest aunt ever.  That she thinks she's pretty lucky to have me as her aunt.  Oh em gee.  My heart swelled. 

I took her home.  Chatted with my sister for a bit about the meet.  Said goodbye to everyone.  Went to my car.  My niece came running out screaming.  I thought she had left something.  I stopped.  Asked her what was wrong.  She said, "Nothing.  I didn't tell you I loved you." 

Awwww.  I love her so.  She hugged me, hard and tight.  Told me she loved me.  I had my typical response, "I love you MORE"  She giggled.  Said she loved ME more.  I said I loved HER more..... and we went on.  Like we always do.  Until we laugh so hard we have to stop.  

I went home.  With a smile on my face and a heart full of love. 

You never know what the last words to others may be.  

Make them count. 

Because you sometimes, sadly, can't go back and make it right.

Friday, February 3, 2012

SeVeN eLeVeN

  A couple of months (?!) ago,my friend,  Mike tagged me in a game where you tell 7 random things about yourself  and then tag  more bloggers to do the same.   Apparently, this took me awhile.  I don't know what the hell I did for three months.  But, I finally did it. These aren't very interesting.  And, I'm not sure how random.  But, blech,  here are 7 random things about me. 

1 -  I was never a runner. I was a swimmer.  Since the age of 5 I swam competitively.  I was never the best.  But, I held my own.  I had the fortune of a birth date that allowed me to swim down an age group for a summer every few years.  These were the summers I got to be somewhat awesome in the pool.  Other than that I was a good bench player.  Was good for rounding out a decent relay.  Could push someone's ass in practice a bit harder.  Not quite beat them.  But, make them work harder for that lane lead.  Oh, yes, and I was a great cheerleader.  Shocker. 

I was captain of my high school swim team  and made the State team for all four years of school.  I also swam for a club team and was lucky enough to qualify for our National Team.  Again, I barely made the National standards, but made them I did.  I got a huge kick out of watching my teammates kick some major ass in the pool though.  How kewl to have two teammates on my team go on to become Olympic swimmers.  One for the U.S.  and one for Italy.   

Connie (L.) and me (R.) hugging Olympian and general great guy
Rowdy Gaines at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials. 
Connie and I were on rival high school teams but teammates on our club team.  She kicked my ass quite regularly.  We just reconnected last fall after not seeing each other  since high school.  Wow. That was pretty great to reconnect.   I dragged her ass to Daily Mile and am thrilled to see her progress in her triathlon training.  Wheeeee!    
Connie, Olympian Steve Lundquist, our
1988 Olympian teammate, Susan & me. 

2 -  I worked at the U.S. Olympic Training Center  While in graduate school I was lucky enough to earn an internship with the U.S. Taekwondo Union at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.  After my internship was over they asked me to stick around and work until the Barcelona Olympics were complete.  I was more than happy to do so. 

Working at the USOTC was pretty amazing.  We ate lunch with the athletes in their dining hall.   Thankfully, we also had access to some of the exercise workout areas when the athletes weren't doing their workouts.  That was fun.  We socialized with many athletes and had fun following their paths towards an Olympic Team.   Since all my friends worked for different National Governing Bodies (sports)  we had fun perks for many sporting events.  .    

Living in Colorado wasn't so bad either.  Waking up every morning looking at Pikes Peak was pretty amazing.  Often we would wake up early on Saturday mornings and take the hike up to the top (12+ miles) and hitch rides back down with some tourist in a car at the top.   A few times we hit the mid point camp and made it a two day trip up and down.  Wow, I was SOOO out of shape.  I look back and think how much better I could do this hike now.  At least I hope so.  

3- I volunteered with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics  For one month I had a very kick ass job with the Atlanta Olympics.  When deciding which areas I would try to volunteer for I made a conscious decision not to pick a sporting venue.  I wanted a more well rounded experience.  Lucky for me, I got exactly what I wanted >>>>> Accreditation.  Every single person associated with ANY part of the Olympics needs credentials.  Athletes, coaches, volunteers, press, everyone.  

I processed a variety of people coming through the accreditation center.  But, of course, processing the athletes was the best part.  It was SO fun seeing some big time names come through.  You were kind of forced to have small talk with each person as they made their way through your section.  My absolutely favorite was the men's Greek water polo team. Hands down.  No contest.  They were absolutely hilarious and fun.  And, gee, imagine that, Greek gods.  

Some days I worked in the Athletes Village.  Credentials for the village were extremely tough to get.  So, having that on my pass was pretty awesome.  Days I worked in the village I would often spend my off time just walking around, taking in all the amazing people around me.  As volunteers we were all invited to watch the complete full on dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremonies.  A great thrill. 

I met up with my former team mate and former Olympian, Susan, to watch some swimming events.  That was pretty awesome.  She also invited me to attend an Olympic Alumni cocktail party.  Oh, yeah, just a wee bit kewl to hang out with some pretty impressive athletes.  Even chatting up with all those big names in the room, my favorite athlete I talked to was a little old lady ( Annette_Rogers ) wearing her 1932 LA Olympic gold medal and chatting away like it was yesterday.  Wow, she was super cute.  I loved her. 

Susan and I were there the night of the Olympic bombing.  Literally standing in the exact spot where the bomb went off.  Watching the concert.  It was super late.  We were tired.  We decided to head home.  Less than 5 minutes later the bomb went off.  We were lucky.  To say the least. 

4 -   I lived in Seoul, Korea for a few months.   After college graduation and before hearing about my acceptance into graduate school I had time to kill.  My college roommate, Julie had moved to Seoul to be with her family and start a new job.  She asked me to come join her for a few months, or whatever.   I said, what the hell, and jumped on a plane.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do.  But, I was young.  Why not?   

I arrived there the day the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) started.  With Seoul, being the home of a very large U.S. Military base tensions were a bit high in the city.  But, we felt pretty safe.  Almost all our friends were U.S. Military.  So, we did spend lots of time on the base as well. 

In the evenings, I taught English to Korean businessmen and university students.  During the day I ran through the streets of U. N. Village, where we lived.  Running by Rev Moon's  house each time.   My mother was convinced someone would open the gate and come out and kidnap me and make me marry in a mass wedding ceremony.    I would run to the local shopping and nightlife district, Itaewon, and browse for deals.  I also spent lots of time in bookstores.  There were very small sections of English books.  But, I think I may have read all of them.  While standing in the store.   Late evenings were spent hanging out with friends, both local Koreans, and U.S. Military.  Our hangout was in the popular Itaewon area.  Nothing like spending your nights out on Hooker Hill.  Was always strange passing by hookers on our way into our little dive watering hole where we all hung out.  

I was a freak in Korea. Im 5'10" and blonde.  I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I often got whispers, stares and points.  They weren't shy about it either.  It was certainly an interesting feeling for me.  

5 - I once did 15 shots.  I know, I'm classy like that.  While in Korea my friends and I took a trip to Boracay, Philippines.  Whoa, this was amazing.  Super, super beautiful.  The people.  The island.  Everything.  I'll never forget this trip. 15 Shots and Still Standing ? Yup, the first American women to do so.  Check. Playing pool at a cliffside bar we had to hike up to?  Check.  But, the pool table, uh, how the hell.... oh forget it.  Ultragliding?  Check.  Nights with toes in the sand at beach side bars with vagabonds traveling the world?  Check. Unforgettable trip?  Check. 

6 -   I'm a Cubs fan.  Yes, I know.  Go ahead with the jokes. But, it's more than just baseball for me.  It's about my grandma.  My grandma was a life long Cubs fan.  Growing up on the South Side of Chicago she somehow found a love for the Northsiders.  She was a fan all her 102.5 years.  I don't know how, but she never went to a game at Wrigley Field. That's until we took her.  At age 90.  She went to her first baseball game at age 90!  It was awesome. To see the glint in her eye as she looked around the ballpark.  Looked at the field.  Looked at the game.  It was so special.  We took her every year after, for at least one game.  As she continued to get up there in age the Cubs organization always treated her like a queen.  Her last game to Wrigley came at age 102.5.  

So, yes, I'm a Cubs fan. I wouldn't have it any other way.  Go Cubs Go!

7- My home away from home is a little cottage on the beach in St. Maarten.  40something years ago my parents went on a Windjammer Cruise.   Unfortunately the boat hit a bad storm and became in distress.  Somehow the boat managed to barely get to the shores of St. Maarten.  Back in that day there were very few people on the island at all.  But, word somehow got out to them.  People were waiting ashore for the passengers when they came ashore.  

When my parents disembarked they were met by a lovely American couple, Howard and Evelyn DeMyers's,  who were living on St. Maarten.  This couple was from LaPorte, Indiana, but retired to the island to work on their artwork.   They took my parents to their beachfront cottages.  The DeMyer's were leaving on vacation the next day.  So, they told my parents to stay there for the rest of their intended vacation and leave them $10 for their stay.  My parent's did just that.  They kept in touch with the DeMyer's and returned to visit them on St. Maarten in the years to follow.  Eventually, the DeMyers decided to move back to the U.S.  They offered up their little piece of beachfront paradise to my parents before they left.  My parents bought it.   For pennies.  

St. Maarten Greenhouse 10k
It's been our little piece of happiness ever since. These cottages are nothing special.  Little cottages on the beach.  Nothing fancy.  But, it does me right.    I am my most happiest here.  No contest. I have many fond memories of my childhood here.  And, even more amazing memories as an adult.  I have friends on the island I have known for over 25 years.  Including my dear friend Robert-Jan .  I did my first St. Maarten race  last year, joining RJ at The Greenhouse 10k.  After 3 weeks of constant partying this was a really tough one for me.  Ahhhh, but, lookie here, I won my age group!  Hee, hee.  I really should have vomited afterwards.  A lot.  I would have felt SO much better.  RJ joined me last August to run his first half marathon, running start to finish with me at Rock n Roll Chicago. 

Unfortunately, we've had many horrible hurricanes in the last decade or so.  Two, were particularly devastating for us.  Backwards hurricanes.  Coming from the west, back tracking again towards the Caribbean. We've suffered some pretty terrible damage to the property.  Seems like we would never get back to what it once was.  And, somehow, we do.  But, not before a lot of my blood, sweat, and many, many tears.  

I feel so lucky to have had this special place to escape to.  It brings me such peace.  I am my most happiest here.  Always.  
~~~~~~~>>>So, that's SeVeN about me.  Not very interesting.  But, something.  The instructions for when I was tagged was to tag other bloggers to do the same.  I know, I know.... it's maybe not something ya'll want to do.  But, dammit, I don't care. 

>>>>>>Addendum:  I was gong to post this last night.  But, then later yesterday Becca tagged me in another post.  So.... I guess I'll combine the two.

The rules:
1)  Post these rules.
2)  You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3)  Answer the questions set for you in their post.
4)  Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5)  Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them.
6)  No stuff in the tagging section about “you are tagged if you are reading this.” You legitimately have to tag 11 people.

Sooooo......4 more random facts:

8 - I met both Ozzy Osbourne and Tommy Lee While I was in high school we were in Indianapolis for a swim meet and they were in concert in town.  They happened to be staying on the same floor of the hotel as us.  I know, weird.  Women were jumping in laundry carts, climbing up fire escapes, you name it, to get on our floor.  We thought it was hilarious.  Very entertaining.  One of our parents called us up to the hotel bar because he was sitting with Ozzy and told him we wanted to meet him.  Ozzy couldn't have been nicer.  I still remember holding his Heineken as he signed autographs for us.  We met Tommy later.  They were SOOO loud in their room.  (duh)  We giggly girls just went up and knocked on the door and Tommy, dressed only in itty bitty running (ha) shorts opened the door.  Invited us in.  This is where I could get all Dear Penthouse Forum on you.  But, it was actually really normal.  We sat on the bed and Tommy asked us about our swimming and we talked about their music, the concert, the silliness going on in the hotel.   He offered us tickets to the concert, but we had to decline because we had to be up early  for our meet. Honestly, he couldn't have been nicer too.  

9 - I have a double jointed hip .  Great bar tricks in college.  And, I suspect the REAL source of my leg injuries.  If I only knew back then....  I can also do the splits.  Or could.   It's been a bit hard with the leg n shit.  But, this is when I know I'll be back.  When I can do the splits again.   I can also do a mean cart wheel. But, y'all already knew that. ;) 

10. I've been to a nude beach.  A lot.  Meh, it's not as exciting as it sounds.  St. Maarten beaches are pretty Euro anyway.  So, you kind of see and do pretty much anything.  But, there is a specific clothing optional beach where wearing a suit is NOT the norm.  You really do get over the giggling pretty quickly.   I think last year at RnR Chicago a group of us  decided that we wanted to have a nekkid 5k on the beach early one morning sometime.   The St. Maarten Pink Monkey Nekkid 5k is still in the works.  Y'all are invited. ;)

11.  I love to wear heels.  They are more comfortable than flat shoes for me. Again, also probably contributing to my injuries.  And, yes, I'm 6'1"+ in them.  And, that suits me just fine.   

Questions asked by Becca:
1.  If you drink coffee, how do you take it? Cream, sugar,  Ya know, like a hot chocolate. ;)
2. What is your guilty iTunes pleasure? You Shook Me All Night Long,  AC/DC
3. What is your favorite junk food treat?  Any salty chip. Cheetos?  Yummy toxic goodness.
3.  Cats or dogs.  Dogs.  No friggin question.  Dogs all the way.  I hate cats.  They also make me die.
5. What is your favorite part of your body (we all have one and I don't want to know your least favorite)?  The body part that least makes me want to vomit? Oh, my legs.  If only the rest of my body matched.
Our CM11 race sign
6. When drinking beer do you drink out of the bottle of use a glass?  Bottle.  Unless it's on tap.  Then it's kind of silly for them to put it in a bottle. 
7. What would your dream job be? Professional Beach Bum
8. If you could choose a different first name what would it be?  Annastasiabeaverhausen
9. What is your favorite "That's what she said" line.  also one of my favorite race signs
10. What are you most surprised about with regards to your life today? The confidence that running has given me.  Yes, I still loath myself.  But, not nearly as much.  And, I'm not nearly as shy.  Or full of self hatred as I was. Before.   Still a work in progress. 
11. What accomplishment are you most proud of?  I would think I would say each and every new running distance I accomplish.  And, I would hope it will someday be finishing a marathon.  But, in reality the thing I am most proud of is taking care of both my dying father and grandmother until their deaths.  I know that sounds weird.  But, during these times I felt like I had a purpose.  It was the most difficult thing I've done.  But, at the same time the most rewarding.  To be there when they needed me. The most. To feel their love and gratitude.  To my core. To have them tell me so over and over again.  It made me proud to be his daughter.  It made me proud to be her granddaughter.  Still am.

>>>>>  Addendum #2  I got tagged again this afternoon by Nathan

Sooooo, here are his questions and my answers:

1) Favorite running race? Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k
2) What’s your favorite Neil Diamond song? Sweet Caroline
3) Who's the first person people you text after a race? I plead the 5th. 
4) Who makes your favorite race day underwear? Underwear? 
5) What’s your second favorite Neil Diamond song? The 2nd time they play Sweet Caroline after I've had 4 more beers
6) Flip flops or sandals? Sandals
7) Favorite vacation spot? St. Maarten
8)  Favorite Sports athlete? Michael Jordan
9) If you had to get a tattoo what would it be? You mean I'd be forced to? I've never been able to think about a good one here.  I have a few ideas I go back and forth with from time to time.  Maybe an infinity symbol. A palm tree. I don't know. I just don't like the idea of permanency.  Today I guess I would get a tramp stamp picture of  Steve
10) Swim, bike or Run? Swim

11) Favorite day of the week?  Rest day. 

My questions:

1. What was your most emotional race finish and why?
2. Where in the world would you want to run/swim/bike?  For fun.  No race.  Just fun.
3. Who do you miss?
4. What is your favorite t.v. show?
5. Are you worried about doing things right?  Or doing the right thing?
6. What's your happiest childhood memory?
7. If you knew that everyone was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today? 
8. What extreme sport would you love to try or be able to do?
9. How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?
10. What would you tell the 10 year old you about the you of today? What would you tell the 10 year old to do differently?  
11.  What, if anything,  have you learned from ME?

You're it >>>>>  (11 random things, answer my questions, pose your questions, tag others)

(and yes, I know some of you won't do this.  But, I had to try... )
1. Suzi - Ok, just one more beer...
2. Steve - Soul Runner
3. Jeremy - Jeremy Runs This
4. Michelle - Life is Good
5. Logan - The Una Runner
6. Brian - bgfay750
7. Claire -Run Fa(s)t Girl Run
8. Connie - Reaching For the Wall
10. Becky - The Good the Bad and the Becky (I giggle because I know there's no way she'll do this!)
11. Kristie - coachkristie
12. Greg - From Zero to 70point3
13. Kim - Outside My Head