Monthly Archives: March 2010

Consider it done.

She was there in the coffee shop where we met, nearly dumbfounded at the ability of a running friend to go knock out 10 miles like it’s nothing. I bit my tongue and just smiled. She wasn’t there at my second 1/2 marathon in Chicago, but she wanted to be. We were together the day I returned. She was there at my very next race, a 10k in which I took first place…I figured I made a good impression. She was there at every race that followed, supporting me through my training and racing, indulging in her photographic interests by documenting my efforts. She was always there.

She was even there when I decided to quit my job…she didn’t blink an eye. She was there when I was then laid off from my next job at the worst possible time. She was there when we searched for the body of a friend who drowned in the White River on valentine’s day. She was there when my sister’s cancer got worse. She was there when my sister died. It almost seems like she has always been there.

We spent the last spring break driving down to Brown County every day to spend time in the woods, she riding her mountain bike while I run the trails. I would get so lost in my thoughts on those trails and one particular run I began thinking about Michelle and our relationship. The trail was perfect, I was feeling jubilant and although there wasn’t a soul anywhere in sight I didn’t feel alone. I knew she was somewhere out there twisting and turning, navigating the roots and rocks and just having a similarly awesome time. It struck me how amazing it was for each of us to be pursuing such an important and innate interest of ours, completely separated, yet completely together all the same. There was no guilt, no need to be joined at the hip, no need to compromise our interests for the sake of the other. We were each our own person, but so close all the same. Our lives and our interests meshed so perfectly that we made each other stronger. It then became so deeply apparent that I couldn’t imagine not having this in my life. I knew we would be in it for good, forever. Right then I knew I would ask her to marry me someday, maybe even that day. And like predestination I came barreling around the corner only to find myself face to face with her as she squeezed the brakes hard. In such excitement and fueled by the adrenaline only experienced on a 2 hour trail run I almost blurted out, “Hey! Let’s get married!”……But I didn’t. We exchanged some excited words and then took off in our own directions yet again, promising to meet back soon. I tried to kick myself in the ass with every step the rest of the run. I missed the most purest of opportunities, the most honest expression I could hope for. No cliches, no down on one knee junk, no none of that, just primal emotion and expression. But I missed it, and I ran on alone, still contented that it was only a matter of time.

Time went on, a lot of it, and she was always there, always supporting me through my efforts, no matter how much they might take me away from her and Noah. Sometimes I got too wrapped up in my running and it began to wear on her, a few times boiling over into frustrated debates, but never a deal breaker. Not even close. I still try to make changes and accommodate her all the same, but it isn’t easy and it’s a process that’s for sure. Still, she is always there…and I am grateful.

Then while out on a run just a couple months ago it hit me. I wouldn’t have it any other way…ever. I’ve made my mistakes in my life and regret some decisions I made, but what’s done is done and here I am. But what if. Just what if I had the opportunity to go back and do it all again with the knowledge I have now…..what would I do different? No matter what I might change, the underlying fear would be that any change, any positive decision I would make might direct my path away from Michelle. What if I did move to Seattle that time I promised I would? What if I decided to stop going into the coffee shop on my free time? What if I broke up with the mother of my son before he was born? What if…what if I never bought that computer that came with a free ipod that was the conversation piece that started our relationship?!! But what if. I realized something then and there, that no matter what decisions I would change, what destiny I would divert, no matter where I might be, no matter where she might be….I would go find her. Above all else, beyond every other opportunity that lay in front of me, I would ALWAYS go find her. THAT would be my priority. THAT would be the one thing I would do again and again and again. And so the decision was made.

The proposal was a mere formality.

I know, I know. It sounds dismissive and anti-climactic, but rest assured it wasn’t. I surprised the hell out of her and got her good with how I “popped the question”. In practice though, it was a mere formality, but only because love is not an agreement or a ceremony or a promise. It’s the act, unstated and undefined. It’s zen. It just is. It’s the comfort you feel in your own thoughts, but with your love in proximity. It need not be legitimized. It is simply the unexpressed understanding between the two of you, the two of us. So the proposal was just to get the logistical ball rolling.

Now let’s get nerdy.

Love is like running. A marathon even. The act of love is not defined when you propose to your loved one, that holds no more significance than registering for a marathon. Seriously….it truly is a formality. I mean, it’s not like you WEREN’T going to register were you? Awhile back you decided to give it a try and you found you enjoyed it. Then as time went on and things progressed and got better and better, you realized you actually loved it. You didn’t know what to do if you weren’t running. At some point you looked at the marathon and said, “Yeah, let’s do it. Of course. It’s the next logical step.” And you continued to put in the joyous work towards that end. You continued to enjoy and appreciate and love the effort it took to progress. It wasn’t work. It was great. It was life. So you registered for the race. Just like you proposed to your loved one. It was a mere formality. Of course you were going to register….you had to. I mean, sure, you could run the marathon without registering, going bandit, and the act itself would be no less legitimate than if you did register, but then you wouldn’t be eligible for the prize money in the end. You know, tax breaks, health insurance. So although the appeal to avert “the system” and go bandit feels more pure, more honest, full of a greater integrity to the act…the monetary benefits are still pretty enticing no? And why not? So you register without much fanfare, though you might make a big deal of it to your friends, expressing the cliche, “There is no turning back now!” But of course there is, but then again, why would you? You love this. And finally, you make all the necessary preparations for the race, down to your very outfit. And you are nervous as hell the big day comes, though you don’t know why. There is no reason to be scared. It’s always going to turn out great, simply because you are THERE. You found the love, you enjoyed the process, you did the work, and now you are simply acting out the symbolic representation of all that time you put into it. Sure, you could trip on your face, or forget your gu, or any number of things, and yes, they might be disappointing, ruining the vision you had for the day, but when all is said and done, you’ll be relieved and glad to have it over with. You will have completed the act you’ve built up in your head with such great importance for the longest time. It will feel great, and then you will realize the party has just started. It’s everything that comes after that really matters….you’re in it for good. You’ll, of course, run more marathons, but they won’t be like the first. Some might be better, some worse, but ultimately they will be celebrations, mile markers, ANNIVERSARIES if you will. Each one will be a significant marker to the relationship you started and developed so long ago. But through it all, none of that really matters. The registration. The big day preparation. The marathon. The subsequent marathons. Through it all, the ONLY thing that will matter is that you’ve found something you love and you continue on with it every day, finding the joy each time and appreciating what it has brought to your life. You only hope to add something to theirs. And, of course, over time things will change. The anniversaries will wane in their intensity, the runs may become less competitive, you may feel driven to slow down, you may turn the runs into hikes and the runs may turn you into something else, but you will never give it up. You may transform and be transformed, but once a runner… know how it goes.

And she’s still here, just like she always was, just what I needed. She added to my life in a way I can never fully express my appreciation of. She is truly the greatest thing that has happened to me….and were still just starting. It feels like a warm up. I can’t wait until we really start moving….there’s no telling what we’ll do.

I love you Michelle and am honored to be your future husband, partner, teammate, etc.

Distance Running – A sport of peril and death defying stunts

Here’s a good one for ya.

I had a 16 mile run scheduled for my Saturday long run. Faster, but not hard. The forecast the night before called for at least an inch of snow by morning, but when I pulled back the blinds at 6:15 I was ecstatic to find only the lightest dusting kissing the pavement. I declared triumph and with a renewed excitement pulled on my colder weather clothes and headed out towards the local rail trail for a decent out and back. Everything was just fine.

I took a mile to ease myself into the run and although I was going to warmup for two solid, I decided to slowly pick up the pace after the first. I felt relatively smooth and pushed south on the Monon trail where I hit the first stone mile marker that signified the point at which I would turn around to start the long run North. Everything was just fine.

I moved up the Monon laying the first tracks in the snow besides a thin and swerving line of bike tire tracks. I looked into the lonely stretch of pavement and saw a cyclist moving far, far up ahead. I continued moving up the trail, but tempering my pace until I got into the second half of the run and knew I was good to pick it up. Slowly but surely I moved closer and closer to the guy on the bike swerving back and forth, when soon enough I had actually passed him. Everything was just fine.

I hit the Northern part of my run where a number of runners were putting in miles of their own, some solitary, some in groups. I passed Erin Nehus who just placed 14th in the National Cross race a few weeks back. I passed dog walkers. I passed joggers. I passed groups training for the mini, and soon enough I was at my turn around point. Everything was just fine.

I started the move back towards downtown, passing all those solitary and group runners again, gave another wave to Erin and was soon entering the lonely pavement that marks south of 38th street. My pace had picked up and I was feeling good, not laboring too hard, but certainly moving at a decent clip. Everything was just fine.

I hit the last stretch of pavement that brought me to my final turn around point that marked a 2 mile stretch back to my house to end the run. The turn around point is in a sort of no man’s land under a couple highway overpasses and nowhere near a neighborhood or trafficked streets. The only thing around are some barely used industrial buildings, empty soccer fields and endless lines of cars streaming about 40 feet overhead. Running toward the turn around, everything was just fine.

I saw where the stone mile marker sat, next to a section of pavement that went from covered in snow to not covered in snow. I hit that section not covered in snow, but unbeknownst to me covered in black ice, and shifted my body weight to begin my turn back towards home. And suddenly, before I knew it, LITERALLY BEFORE I KNEW IT….everything was not fine.

Without any recollection of what just happened I suddenly found myself staring at the bottom of the chain link fence that bordered one side of the trail. Of course a touch confused, I got my bearings and attempted to move, but found I was literally paralyzed for a good 3 seconds and seeing double. Suddenly, my vision focused again and my body released its death grip, allowing me full functioning. Still stunned and the entire world dead silent around me, I looked South on the Monon and saw no one. I turned my head North and saw the same. Nothing. I was completely alone. Everything was certainly NOT fine now.

Now, I’ve had a few spills where I’ve hit my head before, a couple of them while wearing my helmet and one where I wasn’t. When I tried to sit up from the wreck where I wasn’t wearing my helmet, the entire world spun violently and I went crashing back to the ground. So sitting there all alone on the Monon, I was quite concerned that a similar scenario might take place, but this time in the cold winter, at 8:00 am and no one in sight. I very cautiously stabled myself with my hands and pushed myself up into a sitting position. So far so good. I slowly stood up and found no problems with my equilibrium and actually quite well all around. I figured I’d just start my run back home and see if I could pick up the pace again, so starting off very slowly I felt no aches or sprains and began a light jog up the trail. Everything, although it seemed just fine, was still certainly NOT fine.

This is where it gets good.

I now had two miles left to get back home and like I said I began a slow jog North to see how my body would respond, but I still had concern about my physical state. I got to 12th street and debated turning left towards the neighborhoods so that I was around other people for the rest of the run home. Here’s the thing though, I have no memory of the point I started running to the point where I hit 12th street. I do remember then deciding to keep running up the Monon and back home. Then, the next thing I remember is being somewhere around 22nd street and 25th street COMPLETELY confused as to which street takes me back home. This is an area mind you that I know very well, that I run EVERY DAY. I know this area better than most people know their own homes, and not only could I not remember anything between 12th street and 22nd street, I also couldn’t remember which street actually took me home.

Then, get this, the NEXT thing I remember is being in the car with Michelle and looking over to see tears in her eyes while she drives me somewhere, of which I have no clue. I THEN remember pulling into a parking garage. I THEN remember walking towards a crosswalk. I THEN remember standing at the counter of the Wishard Emergency Room counter. I THEN remember sitting in a chair and holding my head when a nurse comes over with a wheelchair and pushes me back to a bed for some examination. Everything was, as you can surely tell by now, NOT fine.

Let’s rewind a bit. Apparently, after I successfully made it home that last two miles of which I have NO recollection, I walked into my house and exclaimed outloud, “Michelle, I think we have a problem. I can’t remember the last part of my run. I can’t remember how I got here. I don’t know what happened. Maybe I fell or something. Feel my head. I think I have a bump or something.”

And then I began repeating that over and over. Michelle felt my head to find quite a large bump and although she acknowledged the bump, I would continue to exclaim, “Michelle! Feel my head! I think I have a huge bump. I think I might have fallen.” at which point she would feel my head. And then immediately after I would again say, “Michelle! Feel my head! I think I have a huge bump. I think I might have fallen!” or something to that effect….I don’t know, I don’t remember any of this. It was at this point she made the rightful decision to put my jibberish speaking ass in the car and take me to the emergency room.

So there I sat in the hospital bed retaining more and more of my faculties, but still trying to make sense of what was going on. I still had my running tights and shoes on, so that made sense. I seemed to have a headache. And honestly, I still can’t remember at what point I realized what had happened and how I got there, but ever so slowly I came to terms with what was going on. A nice nurse came over and gave me two ibuprofen and a large nausea pill, which I desperately needed as I was about to puke real bad, but I barely remember even taking them. I was then put back in the wheelchair and pushed into a Cat Scan room where I laid on a table and promptly fell asleep. I remember having a conversation with the lady who was zapping my brain and I remember it being nice and humorous, but I can’t remember a single word of it or what she looked like. It’s funny to think how conscious I was at that point, but even now realize I was still way out of it.

I was then wheeled back to my hospital bed and left to just hang out for awhile. Michelle popped in for a bit to talk to me and laugh when I asked for a book to read or pretty pictures to look at, finding it quite hilarious that I would try to actually do something considering the state I was in. She ended up leaving to take care of Noah and drop him off at a relatives and I waited to hear back from the nurse and be told if I could leave or get brain surgery. Soon enough, considering this was Wishard, the nurse came back, told me everything was JUST FINE and I could leave as soon as the paper work was finished up.

Surprisingly, the paper work was completed and the doc walked over to send me home, but before he did Michelle asked him if it was ok if I ran the next day….prompting him to say “Oh HELL NO!”, but much to her dismay this doctor had something of a callous demeanor and simply stated, “Oh sure. If he has no reoccuring problems today, he should be fine.” She was not happy with this answer. I was….and I ran 10 concussion-free miles today. Oh yeah, that was the specific diagnosis, a full on concussion which I suffered when I hit that ice and most likely went airborne, hitting my head not once, but twice on the pavement. I’ve got two gnarly bumps to prove it.

So, granted, concussions aren’t really fun, but I can’t help but appreciate the excitement it added to the day. And besides, hitting your head is crazy!….I mean, the craziest shit happens. I’m still completely dumbfounded and fascinated that I will never recover the memory of running? jogging? walking? the full two miles back to my house because my brain was still blocking out the trauma of smashing my head on the ground. I mean, I feel like I was some sort of zombie figure for those two miles and beyond, but I wasn’t simply walking home on auto-pilot. I HAD to be in control of my capacities, I mean, I crossed a number of heavily-trafficked streets and managed to not get plowed over. I had to have known where I was going and stopped for cars and all that, just like normal, but I simply wasn’t retaining any of that process, so to my currently conscious state it seems like it never happened. And that’s annoying, because I want to know what I was thinking. Was I scared? Was I in a lot of pain? Was I pissed that I wasn’t running home? Was I actually running home? Did I talk to anyone on the way? I wish I could talk to that, person now.

Regardless, what’s done is done. In the end I only got a couple sizeable lumps on my head, a series of incredibly confusing aches and pains throughout my body. No newfound sensory traits. No mental porthole to the secrets of the universe. No superpowers. Hell, I probably LOST some of my mental abilities if anything, if I should believe what others have told me.

The important thing is that I still got out to run 10 miles today, figuring it would be better to keep my body in its routine and stay loose than sit around and let the trauma set in, constricting my muscles to stone.

So yeah, If you ever thought running was lame. If you ever thought running was for middle-aged geezers chasing after health. If you ever thought running was boring. Well….you were obviously doing it wrong. Running is the sport of peril and death defying stunts. Running is staring death in the face and laughing at its bad complexion. Running is the sport of mad(wo)men and adrenaline junkies. Running is for those who smash their heads into the ground and laugh at the thought of taking the next day easy. Don’t you forget it.