Saturday, December 26, 2009

what it's about

First, let me start by saying, yes, I realize that I haven't published anything since the first part of 2009 so to those of you who keep watching...surprise! I actually have written many posts over the past nine months, but haven't published them for one reason or another. Either I couldn't quite get the wording, the words were too personal for my comfort level, or other times I just flat didn't bother. In any case, I do have plans to put the majority of them on the blog...not all, but most. Luckily, I kept note of the date and time of the original writing, so there will be some continuity to this ongoing story. That brings me to the reason for finally making my thoughts public after all this time....

I should tell you that this post has absolutely nothing to do with running, but it warrants a read probably more than anything I have, or will, put out there. I'm in Texas at the moment, visiting family for Christmas. It's loud, tiring, chaotic, and wonderful! Every year I head south with excitement because it's been a whole year since I've seen everyone, and trepidation because it's only been a year since I've had to combat all the nosy questions from everyone. That being said, I'm very lucky to be surrounded by the unthinkable madness and overly inquisitive family. As you've probably seen plastered all over the news (or been stuck in), Oklahoma got pounded by a blizzard on Christmas Eve - the day after I left. So many people I know had to rearrange their Christmas plans, but luckily most had family nearby and were not faced with spending it alone. I know a lady, though, who is 80 years old and aside from her 15 year old dog, has no family any closer than Tulsa. I know another lady, who also doesn't have family here, but being Jewish, she doesn't celebrate Christmas. Given the part of the country that we are in, her heritage puts her well into the minority category and she is forced to constantly remind people that Hannukah is her winter holiday. Unfortunately, the difference often precipitates incorrect assumptions or crude jokes...not always intentional, but wearing nonetheless. Her response is to try to educate those individuals on Judaism, and teach them that diversity is a positive thing in this world. Sometimes it works. More often than not it doesn't. In any case, she walks a frustrating path on a near daily basis.

So back to the blizzard.... While this storm separated a lot of people who had planned to observe this holiday together, it brought two very different women to one dinner table on a snowy Christmas Day. You see, my straight-out-of-New York, Jewish friend who continually battles society forcing Christianity on her set that aside for an evening to keep her 80 year old, native Oklahoman, very Christian neighbor from being alone on this day. She took care to find out what constitutes a traditional Christmas dinner and even took in consideration the always anticipated leftovers. She then cooked said dinner, invited her over, and spent the evening celebrating a holiday she doesn't believe in just so her neighbor didn't have to celebrate it alone. That, my friends, is what this season should be about. The giving of yourself, embracing the idea that we can have varying beliefs, welcoming differences...

Now before I upset anyone, I know December 25 is a Christian holiday, but this wasn't a story about Christmas vs. Hannukah, or Christian vs. Judaism. It is merely a story about one woman doing something amazing for another and I hope that's what you take from it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

seeing it for the first time

Merry Christmas Eve everyone and let the madness begin! I arrived at my parent's house late last night after a long drive through both sides of Dallas traffic (completely forgot that they like to get a two hour head start on 5:00 traffic), a stop at Whole Foods (where I spent an hour and a half talking to the super cool beer and wine saleslady), and several rounds of turtle-speed inducing sideways rain. As soon as I walk in I'm bombarded by "Aunt A!" screams from little ones who should be sleeping, and gut-wrenching barking from another room. My initial reaction is an enthusiastic "Hi and What the hell is that?!?!" I forgot they got a new pet. They call it a dog, but I'm not convinced. Anyway, it's a clear indicator of the chaos that's about to ensue over the next couple of days, so in preparation I quickly lug Henry (my dog that is unmistakably a dog)in, immediately pull him from the grasp of the unidentified screaming creature, and crawl into bed.

Several hours later, I'm up and on the search for the coffee pot. My parents are lovely and store a coffee pot just for me to use at Christmas because nobody else drinks the wonderdrink. How anyone survives a normal day, let alone the holidays, without coffee is beyond me! Anyway, I quickly find the pot and am excited to discover that the coffee filters are still in the cabinet since I forgot to buy any on the way down. So after chiseling out last year's used filter (yes, I forgot to take it out when I put it away and literally was chiseling it out with an ice pic), I start the coffee and oatmeal and shout out that I'm going for a run. I throw on some shoes (no socks because I forgot them), running shorts, a sleep shirt (yes, I forgot my tank, too), and head out. I did, however, remember to load my iPod with Christmas tunes and a few NPR podcasts.

Headphones on for the first time in eons, I latch the screen door, brush past the old, wooden swing, and hop off the porch. I'm moving at a slightly quicker pace than anticipated. It's a chilly morning, completely overcast and with slight breeze...almost too chilly for the little bit of clothing I've scrounged together. God, it feels good to have the legs moving! As my mind starts to wander, I realize that in over two decades of either living in or visiting that house, I've never gone for a run there. Sure, as kids we'd take off down the street, but it was always just to get to our destination, and we were so focused on what we'd get into once we made it that the world between those two points went unnoticed. So this morning, as I'm moving forward on my own to no particular ending point, I actually see how much the trees have grown. You used to be able to see paths through the bushes, but now it's a virtual forest. I pass by the ditch where we found my neighbor's cat who didn't survive the snake he apparently got too close to. I remember her older sister and I trying to keep her from seeing it as we bagged it up and brought it home to bury. Where the dirt road from my parent's house meets the blacktop is the little church they go to. I was dragged to that place three times a week until I graduated high school! Don't get me wrong...great people, but it just wasn't for me. Just about a half mile down the road is my step-grandparent's home. Papa died a few years back, but Mrs. Swearingen is still there running the show. She's good like that....always has something very grandmothery going and just likes to take care of things. Incidentally, everyone calls them 'Papa and Mrs. Swearingen,' related or not. Papa used to take us on wheelbarrow rides through that yard. He taught us to drive in the pasture next to the house. There were many weekends that he'd have us out there bailing hay all morning and after stacking the hay in the barn, we'd pile in the back of his truck and cut into a fantastically juicy, home-grown watermelon, and it would be gone in a matter of minutes! A little further up the road is an old shack that we'd venture into if we wanted a good scare. It was never very sturdy to begin with, but it really looks run down now. Years ago when you snuck in, you were faced with a wall decorated with satanic praises. As you make your way through it, you'd see depictions of devil worshipping rituals, heavy metal band names, and random violent-looking splatters of red paint. I don't care to be spooked today, so I speed up just a little bit. About three or four minutes later, I pass the house of a former classmate. I don't recall much about him...just that he was really quiet and for the first few years I was at that school, he was in the special ed class. I kind of think that he wouldn't have needed to be there if he had the proper help at home. I do remember, very vividly I might add, his crazy dogs! They would bark and growl at their first sight of you. Needless to say, we only ventured that far on foot once. Truthfully, had I remembered that I would've turned around at the satanic shack. Luckily those dogs are no longer there waiting to pounce. I'm enjoying this unexpected nostalgia and would like to keep going, but I know that there is a little red-headed fireball waiting for me back at the house, and I'm anxious to see what sort of mischief she plans to drag me into. So I start back, all the while looking for anything I may have missed along the way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

invasion of the santa clauses and all things christmas

Just a short post to say that the inaugural Santa Pub Crawl was an absolute blast tonight! We had a wonderful mix of costumed people from the Landrunners, Trailrunners, and Tri-OKC jingling through Bricktown and spreading more Christmas spirit than Oklahoma City has probably ever seen!

On a separate note, a year ago today (well, technically yesterday since it's now 2:30 a.m.), I had one of the best unplanned runs downtown ever and accidentally stole a napkin from my favorite pub. To my readers: long story as to how I remember this; and To my favorite pub: my most sincere apologies, but I've probably more than made up for the cost of that napkin over the past year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

now i believe it

So this weekend was the Dallas White Rock Marathon, and what a great weekend it was! There weren't as many Landrunners participating as there were in 2008 (only three that I know of), but we still had a fun time. Upon our arrival into Dallas, we headed straight for the expo where we promptly picked up the race packets, tested out our acting skills, chastised our friend for skipping out on announcing this year, and tried unsuccessfully to stalk Bill Rodgers....typical expo activities, really. That evening was much more low key than last year's White Rock Eve. There were NO Brazilian soccer players in the immediate area and the wine consumed was limited to the tiny samples from the wine guy at Whole Foods. I even tried to go to bed early, but insomnia kept me up watching reruns of Law & Order SVU. At least it was the good L&O series, though. Anyway, I finally caught a couple of hours of sleep before bounding out of bed, wide-ass awake at 3:45 a.m. - two and a half hours before the alarm was set to go off! With very little sleep and a whole lot of time to kill, I made my way down to the lobby in search of some coffee. Of course they operate on reasonable hours and the breakfast room didn't open until 6:00. The kind front-desk lady did offer me one of those awesome Doubletree Hotel cookies, an apology for being unable to caffeinate me, and directions to the nearest place with fresh coffee. Quick sidebar here... If you've never had one of the famous Doubletree Hotel cookies, you are missing out! It's so good that I saved the package with the list of ingredients so I could try to replicate it, and this is coming from someone who would rather have an extra hunk of bread or glass of wine for dessert! Okay, so it's 4:00 and I'm heading out for coffee and to fill my car up. By the time I make it back to the hotel, other runners are starting to stir, so I chat a bit with a man and his kid while they wait for his wife to come down. Finally it's time to throw on the shorts and head to the start line with zippy Christmas music blaring all the way over.

It's chilly to me, which means it's perfect for most everyone else. Very little wind and no drizzle already makes for much better running conditions than last year. As the gun goes off, I start repeating my Tulsa plan to myself - run the first six miles slowly, walk the next, and repeat. I'm still, yes STILL, trying to be smart. I need good running karma for my body since I have a lot to make up for from throwing it into that ultra a few weeks ago. I feel too good, though. My legs have missed the hills, there is no pain, and they don't want the slow, boring miles that Dr. Tom has prescribed. I compromise and settle into what feels like about a 9:00 pace next to this intriguing set of runners who invited me into their conversation. Nearly to the six mile mark, the guy says to his friend "We're doing great...holding between 8:23 and 8:33 pace." My comment was something along the lines of "Holy fuck, Dr. Tom would have my head!" and I back off. Okay, so intelligence comes and goes with me...

Once again, I'm reasoning with myself. Since I slowed down as soon as I heard the pace, I can go ahead and run the next two and then take a walk break. It didn't hurt. I ran to the eight mile mark. I walked mile eight. Okay, so it wasn't the original plan, but it was definitely preplanned. I'd conjured it up TWO WHOLE MILES ago! At the tenth mile, I entered back into a run, but quickly forced another walk break even though running felt better. I wanted to be able to fly down the Katy trail to the finish line without my conscience screaming at me. Wasting no time once I hit the end of the walking point, I sped up and started picking my people to catch. If you're a runner, you know what I mean. It's one of the oldest mind games out there, but somehow it works every time. I chase and catch my targets all the way to the end. I feel fast and nauseous and wonderful, and I'm completely clueless about my time until I round the corner onto the straightaway that takes me to the finish line. That's where my blurry eyes notice the clock says 2:10:33. It's over ten minutes slower than last year, given the injury plaguing me since the middle of the summer, I'll happily take it. Not only that, but for the first time I actually believe that I can make it to Boston one day.