No sooner had we said our collective “We do”‘s, pressed lips and took our bows, were we then struggling with our artistically formal clothing, attempting to strip down to something dangerously related to our birthday suits. It wasn’t our birthday though, it was our wedding, so we stopped short of illegality. Michelle ran up the steep, grassy hill to have her dress maker help her undo the corset and have a friend wheel her mountain bike and corresponding shorts over to her. I was at the grassy altar, struggling with the top button on my finely pressed, collared shirt, a struggle I was losing as I can’t remember a time I ever utilized that button. But with the only tie I now officially own, the button became a necessity. There I stood, looking rather ridiculous in my bright red running shoes, short running shorts that barely stuck out from beneath my white button down dress shirt and me with a goofy grin on my face as I finally worked the button free. My son, August, stood watching in amusement, confused as to why his papa would go through all the trouble to put on dress up clothes and then take them right back off, in public no less.
To answer that question…we had a reception to get to.
Michelle and I had, at first jokingly, discussed running and riding on the trail that began at our wedding ceremony and snaked through the best woods in all of Indiana, ending at our reception shelter, but very quickly we fell back on our “Wait…why not?” attitude and made the decision final. We asked a handful of more athletic and adventuresome friends to come along with us, but in the end only Michelle had company with two other mountain bikers. My coach had planned on it, but forgot his shoes at home.
The wedding party piled into their cars and took the short 2 1/2 mile drive to the shelter while the 4 of us entered the woods single file, giving one last wave before taking off on the 7 mile trip to our waiting party. Despite the difficult 22 miles the day before and the 10 that morning, my legs felt great and my spirits even greater. I had, after all, just gotten married to the most wonderful woman I thought didn’t exist. I hung off the back of the bikes, periodically making ground on the hills and falling off on the descents, but soon there was enough uphill that I couldn’t take it any longer and blasted out ahead, running way way WAY too fast for both a recovery run and extra mileage. But I couldn’t help it, I had just gotten married.
We all twisted through the woods before popping out at Hoosier’s Nest, an outhouse sized cabin, before deciding to enter back onto the trails and rolling our way to the end and out onto the road that double backed towards our shelter. Our guests were waiting, but we were having too much fun on our mini-honeymoon. This portion of the trails were roller-coaster fast and so the bikes had quickly gotten away from me as my legs began to pound the trail harder and harder, weakening with the effort.
A couple miles later the singletrack finally flattened out and I was able to reconvene with my waiting bride and friends, taking a short breather before heading down the road that double-backed the trail and led us to a series of wet, paved descents steep enough to warrant caution signs for cars. I cautioned Michelle to hold back, knowing her aggressive riding tendencies and the wet turning asphalt as a poor match. I didn’t realize, however, how dangerous it might be for me as well, as the road began to drop and my weakened legs struggled to hold myself upright with each successive pounding. Michelle laughed at my comical braking gait and as ridiculous as my form felt, I would have laughed too if I wasn’t so worried about losing footing, gaining a severe concussion and missing my entire reception party. Talk about a wedding disaster.
Ultimately, we made it to the reception, 40 minutes later, soaked in sweat and 90% naked. The guests applauded, but I sensed a slowed, muted clapping, unaware of their instinctual repulsion at our sweat and appearance. We made a quick bow and curtsy before heading back to the car to clean up and change. Michelle already had a beer in hand before we made it to the hatchback.
The next day, after a morning spent with the boys at the water park while Michelle headed back out onto the trails with a couple guests, we drove home to unload our wedding supplies and just enjoy each other’s company for the first time that weekend. I couldn’t miss my run though, so we both went out for another 10, myself running and her riding yet again. We received congratulations from some of our athletic friends also out on the trail that day, the most encouraging by recently engaged couple on road bikes who came up behind us.
“Now there’s a healthy looking couple.”
We are immune to the weight newlyweds gain as they get lazy in their routines, finding comfort in each other’s sloth and gluttony. We, instead, challenge each other and enjoy the active interests that brought us together in the first place. We continue on with our joys, refusing to succumb to the lure of prime time television sitcoms, the comfortable and socially acceptable barrier between activity and communication. We are the anti-couple.
Plus, Chicago is less than a month away. Our wedding was the 11th and with all the last minute preparations and celebrations, I completely overlooked that relatively inconsequential, but still quite harrowing mile marker. One month to go. I’ve got 2 more weeks of high mileage work to do and then 2 more of taper before the big showdown. No rest for the weary….or married. Michelle comes along for the ride, because she enjoys watching my dedication and enthusiasm, but this time because of a more personal incentive.
The Chicago Marathon is offering monetary time bonuses. $1000 if you break 2:21. $2500 if you break 2:19. If you’ve followed along at all, you know I’m going for sub 2:19 and a US Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, money bonus or not. It’s been my goal all along and this is just icing on the wedding cake. Heck, it’s not even the icing I care to eat, because for me this isn’t and never has been about the money. This has always been, first and foremost, about a personal accomplishment, about stepping past what I thought were my previous limitations and performing “one perfect act”, hitting an achievement I had never even considered it was so far out there, so seemingly out of my league. This is about adding one more deep, deep notch into the bedpost of life accomplishments. One more story to replay in the final moments of my life.
So the money is nothing to me, which is why I promised it to Michelle. Heck, she deserves it. She puts up with not having me around at least 40 hours a week while I’m at work and then puts up with me not being around another 14 – 20 hours a week when I’m out on the roads training. She puts up with my injury whining, my fluxuating moods related to my runs, my sometimes complete exhaustion and my sometimes over-exuberance. She puts up with a lot. So I promised her the money…with a couple stipulations.
I told her IF, and that’s a big if, I win any portion of that money, whether it be $1000 or $2500, she can have it, but she can only spend it on one of two things.
1. A new computer for our photography business, or
2. A new mountain bike
Now, we already got a new computer for the business so the mountain bike is all we have left. A $1000 won’t get her very far for a bike, but the $2500 will make her the envy of the trails that’s for sure….and it will make her ride extreeemely enjoyable. I want that for her. Hell, as much as she supports my running, it sure would be nice if my running could in turn support her mountain biking. That’s peanut butter and jelly right there. Natural peanut butter and sugar-free jelly, of course.
I promised her that money and I promised her a committed relationship for the rest of our lives, till one of us buries the other or we “follow you into the dark”. I intend to make good on both of those promises.