2016-07-02 10.10.01

New stairs on the left, old stairs on the right. 168 vs. 125 stairs, but somehow the old stairs still seem more difficult.

As I attempt to literally work my ass off at the Swallow Cliff stairs, the scene is always ripe with juicy conversations to overhear and interesting things to see. Note that anything in quotes is verbatim according to my memory (which, to be honest, might be slightly suspect) and everything might be taken out of context, especially if it increases the humor quotient.

Here’s a sampling:

“Oh, that was her friend with her in that Facebook picture? I thought it was her daughter and figured that maybe she had decided to start being a good Mom. I guess not.”

I spent three flights of stairs hustling to keep up with a pair of women who were talking about one of the women’s relationships — turns out she was having an affair with a married man. Her kids did not approve, but she thought they were old enough and out of the house enough that their opinion didn’t count. She raved about how thoughtful he was, always texting and calling and making sure that she was doing okay, but was unhappy that they didn’t get to spend a lot of time together. Turns out that this man’s wife? Yea, she has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair. The woman having an affair assured her friend, “I don’t expect him to leave her, of course. In fact, I think it makes him more attractive knowing how he takes care of her even though he’s in love with me. I know – I’m like a saint, aren’t I?” Whaaaaa…..?

On an average day, I’ll hear at least 4 different languages. Six, if you count Teenage-Girl-Speak and Mansplainin’ as languages.

“She drinks for attention because she’s weak, and he sleeps with her because he’s a dirty, dirty bastard.”

During the last few flights of my workout, I was very slowly going by a woman who was taking a quick rest break. She was muttering to herself, “Why do I do this to myself?” I answered her in a gasp, “I ask myself the same damn thing every time up these stairs…” Shared misery, it’s what we do.

“Rock your choo-choo, rock your choo-choo, rock your choo-choo….” said the woman who was singing along to something obviously transportation-related on her headphones.

As I walked on the hiking path, attempting to get my legs back under me after a tough stair workout, I listened to two birds call and answer each other; I felt like I was eavesdropping on their conversation just as much as anyone else’s that day.

Two well-muscled dudes having a heart-to-heart: “I’ve tried being the Bro Dude, doing my own thing and letting her do hers. I’ve been Romantic Dude, with flowers and everything. I’ve been Thoughtful Dude and Rude Dude. I’ve even been Cuddle After Sex Dude and she still can’t figure out whether she wants to stay or go. Dude, I don’t know what dude to be to please this chick.”

A woman wearing a weight vest boasted to her friend, “This was just getting way too easy so I had to go out and buy a weight vest so it would be worth doing.” Lady, I’ve got my own weight vest, made entirely of cookies, pizza and ice cream. Beat that.

My favorite, the one that made my day: a group of women in a circle at the bottom of the stairs, already done with their workouts. “How many did you do, Sharon?” “10!” <high-fives and whoops> “I did 8!” “I got 10!” “7 for me!” <more high-fives and celebrating> “I did my best ever – I did 5! I’m so happy! And TIRED!!” “You go, girl!” “That’s awesome!!” <high-fives all around>

Pretty cool, eh?

I see her in the girl that effortlessly breezes past me on the bike path as I painfully slog through my training run. She’s in the pictures on my wall. She’s in the stashed tubs of running clothes that are too small to be even close to respectable, much less comfortable. She’s the ghost of Laura past. The ghost whose last act was to race a marathon exactly as she wanted and then fall of the face of the planet, never to be seen again.

We all have these ghosts hanging around, often haunting us long after we’re done with them. I think about the person I used to be — 5, 10, 25 years ago — and even though I can see the evolution from then until now, it’s clear that there existed aspects of myself that are long gone. And like anything else, some I breathe a huge sigh of relief to be rid of and others I’d welcome back with a warm hug and a cold beer.

IMAG0152

The morning of the 2011 Chicago Marathon, ready to rock ‘n’ roll. This girl is gone (though the accomplishment lives on).

But of all my past selves, I think an inordinate amount about my fairly recent, formerly in-shape, runner/triathlete self. Just below the surface, my brain berates me for letting her “get away”, for allowing myself to become so out of shape. Thing is, that girl — that marathon running, triathlon racing girl — she’s not me anymore. And it’s not that I let her get away, it’s that I made a series of decisions to change my life and marathon running and triathlons weren’t part of the new picture. I was using training to avoid facing other problems; in the end, that strategy wasn’t doing me any good.

Spending energy trying to get her back is moving in the wrong direction. I’ve talked about this before; it seems to be a challenge that I recognize but haven’t yet conquered. It’s getting easier, but there’s still this whiny toddler in me stomping her feet and just wanting to go back to how it used it be.

Some of the difficulty while forging this new identity is that it closely resembles what I used to be — no matter what changes life brings, being active is a part of it. And therein lies the problem:

I go to Swallow Cliff to do stairs and I’m reminded that this wouldn’t have been so hard just 4 years ago.

I get emails about fun half marathons and remind myself that I can’t just sign up because I can no longer roll out of bed and run 13 miles like I used to.

I’m in my basement doing strength training and look at the wall where I have my lift PR’s listed with weights that are ridiculously beyond what I could do right now.

It’s something that I constantly fight against — the almost compulsive need to compare Laura Now against Laura Then.

Life keeps circling around, bringing us back to the same sorts of things, over and over again. Rooted in the fact that we all have certain in-the-bone desires and joys, we are always moving both towards and away from something familiar. But, that something is not the same familiar thing. No, it’s kinda sorta like the old thing, but not quite the old thing. Every life has recurring themes, though I would argue they are variations on the theme rather than simply recurring themes. And it’s up to us to notice these themes, make sure they bring us joy and figure out how to change them to fit our current selves.

For me, I keep coming back to the theme that being active is not just important, but part of what makes me who I am. But that activity? That part, I think, needs to change. Take softball, for example — not only my first love, it was something I was good at and played at every single opportunity. There was a time when I was playing adult recreation league games almost 5 days a week and wanted nothing different. But then, it started getting more difficult … injuries cropped up, recovery time after games stretched longer than 24 hours and an early work schedule made late games untenable. I scaled down to two days a week, then one and then finally gave it up.

It was a rather bittersweet decision, but I knew I needed to move onward. Soon after, mountain biking entered my life. See — kinda sorta the same … rough and tumble activity that makes my heart sing. Same, but different. Familiar, but new.

In this vein, I’ve been thinking about what my new thing might be. I’ve been saying for a long while that I want to run again, that I miss being a runner. And yes, that’s true, but I’m starting to come to the conclusion that running might be me moving backwards rather than forwards.

I loved the feeling I would get while running — the working hard and sweating and moving — but I think I loved even more the fact that it was so damn quantifiable. Ask anyone — my competitiveness is legendary. The ability to track times and pace and rack up personal bests was like crack to me. Being able to get on a racecourse and measure myself not only against past times but against all the other people out there? It was a high like being the best kind of drunk, you know, where you really are funnier than you would be sober and aren’t yet falling down, spilling your drink or convinced that your karaoke singing is good enough for you to Make It Big.

And right now there isn’t much that I do that falls into the same sort of category. Yes, I continue to challenge myself with my workouts, always striving to achieve more than I did before, but that isn’t quite the same.

I know that I miss that. And I think that I need to figure out some way to incorporate that into this new identity, but I don’t think running is it. I love the racing venues and the community of people, but it’s been frustrating to be so slow and whenever I try to ramp up my training, I injure myself. This body doesn’t appreciate me lugging around 40 extra pounds while trying to run, apparently.

Right now I’ll be happy with pushing myself up the stairs at Swallow Cliff — more and faster, please — but I’m keeping an eye out for something else to compete in. I don’t know what it is right now, but I’m looking for it and letting the universe know that it can send something my way anytime it would like.

 

 

 

Lawdy, folks. Where does the time go? It’s like the world has spun off its axis: both the Sox and the Cubs are atop their respective divisions. What’s next? Actual Spring weather in May (i.e. perhaps a temperature warmer than 40 degrees and cooler than 85)? Belle ceding control of the house back to me? Me posting something on my blog? I’m tellin’ ya, anything seems possible.

So, climbing this monster is on my agenda:

Angels Landing

The hike to the top of Angel’s Landing. Yes, it’s just as scary as you think it is.

If you remember, in February on my way to Vegas for a family reunion I took a very short side trip to Zion National Park and absolutely fell in love (because while Vegas is awesome, just look at this scenery … beats watching drunk people any day). And I declared my love with a non-negotiable edict:  I’ll be back.

(just like Arnold Schwartzenegger but without the accent)

And I wasn’t lying — I have officially planned my Fall trip back to the park. And it turns out that I’m not the only one who is completely entranced with this idea, so I’ve got a posse coming along with (because a climb with near-death experiences is always more fun with friends!). With that comes another non-negotiable edict: get into good enough hiking shape that my heart doesn’t burst out from my chest while attempting any of these climbs. Because that would be messy. And I’m guessing my posse wouldn’t be too keen to clean up after me.

A plan is needed. While there are expressway overpasses that can be “climbed”, the one place in the Chicago area that might be able to help me out is Swallow Cliff, home of what used to be legendary toboggan runs. While the tobogganing was closed in 2004, the stairs up to the top of the run remain and have been a favorite of gluttons for punishment for years. There are 125 stairs to the top (supposedly it’s about 100ft of “elevation gain”), which sounds much easier than I find it to be. Of course, the folks who are bounding up the stairs two at a time might disagree, but I find it a literal breath-taking challenge.

Here’s what I’m subjecting myself to, at least twice a week:

swallow cliffs

Swallow Cliffs stairs. My biggest fear is tripping on the way down and taking out a dozen people with me. While that YouTube video would definitely go viral, I’m not looking for that kind of fame.

Not quite as terrifying as Angel’s Landing, but let me tell you, by about the 5th round of these, standing at the bottom and looking up elicits almost the same reaction. I know that this will eventually get easier (it HAS to get easier at some point…), but right now I trudge upwards, trying to keep my heart rate at a non-heart attack level. I’m attacking it with a plan — I time the workout and once the workout is about 10% faster than it started out being, I add two more flights of stairs. I’m finding that taking the “how many flights to do” decision out of my hands and putting it into an algorithm gets better results. I mean, who can argue with math, right?

I’m still at the beginning stages of this; I recently graduated to 10 flights of stairs, but other factors conspire against me as well. The seemingly light-switch speed change from late winter to summer has suddenly reminded me how much hot and humid can really suck the life right out of you. Still – I’m there getting it done. No promises on what Utah weather will be like, so no sense being a wuss about it now. Character building, right?

Here’s my entire plan for being able to conquer Angel’s Landing in October:  doing stairs at least twice a week, shooting for three times a week, and upping the number of flights as prescribed (also, sandbagging to avoid upping the number of flights is explicitly not allowed… baaaaad Laura…). Progressing through the 5×5 Stronglifts lifting program, hitting that Mon/Wed/Fri to build some muscle and make me stronger. And trying to get out for a long hike at least once a month.

All I can ask of myself is to do the work. I can’t control results, but I certainly can control what I put into it. Some might say, no pain no gain. I’d rather think of it as sweating now for more fun later on, like saving for retirement except shorter term and more scenic. All I know is that I haven’t been this excited about a trip in a long time; between the park and my awesome posse, it’ll be a blast as long as keep my heart inside my chest.

 

 

 

 

4350431493_390dff81ec_z

Ice Picks

I sit on the couch, eyes barely opened, the TV just white noise in the background. There’s an ice pick stabbing me over my right eye and another one stabbing me up through the base of my neck, also on the right side. The migraine isn’t literally killing me, but it does make me wonder if there’s an ax among the ice picks so I can cleave off the right side of my head because I’m sure that would hurt less.

Instead, I wait. Not patiently, not gracefully, but a tortured “when will this end” wait. I sit still, every few minutes reminding myself to take a deep breath and relax, sometimes rocking a little bit because the motion is soothing.

As the drugs finally start taking effect, I can feel the ice picks loosing their hold. As though someone is carelessly pulling the ice picks out of my head, I still get shocks of pain, but overall the agony is slowly ebbing and I know that relief isn’t too far away.

Afterwards, I lay slumped on the couch, TV still murmuring in the background, tired from my fight even though I barely moved a muscle. I take a deep breath, relishing having my body back and grateful that it didn’t take all night.

Chemistry

As bad as the episode this week was, as I always say — better living through chemistry. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t even have a 50/50 chance of stopping a headache from turning into a migraine, but then my doctor and I finally found the migraine drug that almost always stops the situation above from happening; it cuts the headache down in its tracks. And the quality of life boost from this has been enormous since I typically will deal with headaches for about 9 days out of every month — starting 2 days before my period and ending two days afterwards. Predictable, yes, but welcome? Not at all.

The last time I tried to get my prescription refilled, I unexpectedly found out that my doctor had left for California and hadn’t left me a referral to another doctor, which meant that I needed to find a new doctor ASAP — there’s nothing like the idea of going without my migraine medicine to make me not procrastinate on a task that I would normally ignore for months or years. Without any other guidance, I did what many do: I spun the doctor roulette wheel and blindly picked one of the names that came up. I went to see her this past week and unlike my luck when I’m at the casino, this pick turned out pretty good.

A Doctor’s Intervention

Imagine this: a doctor who not only listens, but talks with you instead of at you. I knew she probably had patients stacked up behind me, but I never felt like she was rushing me out of her office and she took the time to explain her expert opinions rather than leaving me with with questions. I was able to bring up all of my concerns — from whether my thyroid was a problem (possibly, but not bad enough to want to treat with medication), to a blood test that indicated a high risk of heart disease (best thing to do is treat with diet and exercise), and even the best way to deal with my hormonal migraines and inevitable monthly weight gain.

My doctor also brought up concerns of her own: my previous doctor had not mentioned that one of my blood tests showed that I was pre-diabetic. Well, so barely pre-diabetic that it’s like pre-pre-diabetic. But still — even being close to that line gave me a scare. It’s one of those things that other people have, not me. I’ve always been an athlete, always been relatively healthy, but apparently that was far enough in my past that this disease that was always an “other people” disease was now something I have to call my own. Luckily, as with the heart disease risk factors, this is something that is totally within my ability to control through diet, exercise and losing some weight. Of course – this falls into the simple, but not easy category. The Oreos in my cupboard back me up on this.

So, between my doctor and me, we came up with a strategy. One of the challenges I’ve been facing with weight loss is that I keep bouncing around the same 4-5 pounds. I lose it over the course of 2-3 weeks and then gain it all back again when I have my period. Part of it is the normal bloating (sorry, TMI!), but a lot of it is constantly having a headache and that pushes me to eat bland, carby, sugary stuff. And not only that, but the headaches make working out miserable, so I’m effectively sitting on a couch eating bon-bon’s for 9 days a month. Not a very effective weight loss method, now, is it?

How to get around this? Well, since menopause doesn’t seem to be in my near future, the next step is birth control pills to stop me from getting a period at all. The theory is that without the monthly headaches and weight gain, I can bounce myself out of this cycle and really start making some headway. A little bit of sustained progress is good for the soul. And the belly, in this case. And the idea of being able to avoid probably 90% of my headaches? I’d give the right side of my head for that.

And An Opportunity

But as you all know, the weight — that number on the scale — isn’t really what I’m focused on. What I really want is to be healthy and fit and in shape. I want my athletic life back. No surprise there, I know; I’ve been talking about this for awhile now, though progress has been a lot of one step forward, one step back. It’s like a going nowhere tango.

And as you ALSO know, I love numbers and tracking and data and spreadsheets. It’s why calorie counting is always effective for me — if I can track it, I’m a superstar at making those numbers look good. Of course, my downfall is that I always eventually tire of the part where I have to log everything — that part I’m bad at — if the numbers could appear magically (someone needs to invent a way to track the calories we eat automatically) then I’d be golden.

And here’s where an opportunity comes in that I’m cautiously excited about. When I got home from the doctor, I was wiling away time online (because that’s how I react to being told to eat well and exercise more — I sit on the couch and play on my computer) and one of my tech magazines had an article about a new 3-D body scanner that was going to be coming out. I know! How cool, right?

A company called Naked is taking pre-orders for their in-home body scanner. You stand in front of a mirror, a disk (that doubles as a scale) spins you around and you get a 3-D model of your body with measurements and body fat analysis done automatically. Over time you can compare your 3-D models to see progress you’re making. How awesome does that sound?

I’ve emailed them to see if I can be a beta tester (I wouldn’t get to keep the unit, but I’d get my hands on it much sooner than everyone else!) and it sounds like they might be interested. This makes my data-tracking, weight-loss seeking, techy heart all warm and fuzzy. I’ve already put in my pre-order (I’m impulsive like that) and if you’re impulsive like that too, here’s my referral code if you want to use it. I get $50 if you use it, but feel free not to use it — that’s fine by me.

(And oh, aside from the referral code, I don’t have any stake in the company, have never used any of their products and am just excited about what looks to be a cool new toy to play with)

 

 


For the month of April, I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s #AprilLove2016 and writing a love letter to a different someone/thing every day. Today’s love letter is to Books.

 

IMG_20160406_172450

Just a few of my favorite books.

Dear Books,

You were the original troublemaker, my partner in crime. You were the reason that Mom yelled at me so often for catching me reading under the covers well after bedtime. Then there were the down-the-nose stares of the one mean librarian who would chastise me for taking more books than I could carry (though my adult self would have caught the twinkle in her eye when she said those words). Not to mention the times that I would try to surreptitiously read, with the book half inside my desk, all while trying my best to look like I was still paying attention in class — yea, that didn’t really work. And my first job when I was 16 was as a library page — and that same librarian would give me mean looks when she would catch me between the stacks reading the books I was supposed to be reshelving (there was a little less eye twinkling during these encounters).

I have some friends who aren’t readers and I always wonder: how can you not be a reader? And how are we friends, anyway?? It becomes a personal challenge for me — it’s not that you don’t like reading, it’s that you just haven’t met the right book yet! It’s my own version of a twisted, geeky Dating Game (that I never seem to win, by the way).

These days you don’t get me into as much trouble — except on the nights when you keep me up well past my bedtime even though work will come much too early in the morning — but you’re still my favorite partner in crime. There’s still little I like more than curling up on the couch with a good book, especially when the day is rainy or chilly (sunny days will sometimes compete for my attention from you), and utterly losing myself and all sense of time. It’s so easy to be transported to another world entirely, whether it be a fiction landscape dreamed up by a talented writer or like a virtual lecture hall where I get to listen to some of the most interesting people share their passion.

As Randy Travis would croon, I’m gonna love you, forever and ever, forever and ever, Amen.

Laura.

Print


For the month of April, I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s #AprilLove2016 and writing a love letter to a different someone/thing every day. Today’s love letter is to Morning.

Dear Morning,

You know, there’s morning and then there’s o’dark-thirty morning where it’s not really morning except for the fact that I went to bed the night before and woke up to start the day. For well over a decade now, I’ve been doing the o’dark-thirty version of morning — in fact, where I previously lived, I had a long enough drive that to get to work on time at 6am, my alarm clock got me out of bed at 3:45am. Like I said, that’s not even really morning except by technicality.

These days it’s a 4:30am wake-up call during the week; it’s not really something I’ve ever gotten used to, though I have gotten used to getting home from work with afternoon to spare. And even though I struggle every day to get out of bed, there is one part that I enjoy: by 5am or so, I’m headed outside with the dog for her morning walk (“walk” is an exaggeration — she spends about 15 seconds outside, comes back in and as soon as I unleash her, she goes back to bed) and I look up and say, “Good morning, Moon!” because I know that the Moon probably doesn’t hear that very often.

I’ll say this, though — the too-early-to-be-mornings that I have such problems with 5 days a week make me appreciate the mornings on the weekends where I don’t wake up to an alarm, but still get up early because my body doesn’t listen to my brain when it tells it to sleep in. I love being out of bed by 6:30am or so, enjoying the quiet of the morning before the neighborhood comes alive and getting through a long list of errands and to-do’s and having the whole afternoon left to play.

Coming from the girl who couldn’t schedule an 8am class during college because she’d have to skip it more often than not, the fact that I’ve become a morning person takes me completely by surprise. I recall a conversation with my Dad at the very beginning of my working career. I was still living at home and I foggily looked at him over my raisin bran and said, “And I have to do this EVERY DAY for my ENTIRE LIFE???” I couldn’t fathom getting up for work 5 days a week for the next 40 years or so. Still can’t even though I’ve got more than 25 of those years behind me already. Oh, and my Dad totally just laughed at me. I’m pretty sure I made his morning that day.

So, here I am. It’s after 8pm and I’m thinking, “Get this post finished up so you can go to bed.” Nighttime has become the enemy now.

My, how you’ve changed my life, Morning.

Love, Laura.

Print

 

 


For the month of April, I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s #AprilLove2016 and writing a love letter to a different someone/thing every day. Today’s love letter is to Feet.

Dear Feet,

I grumble about you, oh I do, especially first thing in the morning when you feel like two painful blocks of cement attached to my legs, but I’ve got to give you credit — no matter what I ask, you seem to come through (and only punish me later when it doesn’t matter as much). These two race reports are proof of how awesome you are and are my tribute to you.

Love, Laura

Winter Trail Frosty Quarter Marathon (February 27th, 2016)

IMG_20160227_125503I was totally peer-pressured into this race; by the time it came around, I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to go because I wasn’t trained for it and I suspected that it would be some form of miserable. As it turned out, a spark of motivation got me down there and a whole lot of patience and good attitude got me through it.

I seeded myself at the back of the pack. With it being a trail race, I knew there wouldn’t be a whole lot of room for passing and I didn’t need anyone breathing down my neck wanting to get around me. I had also decided ahead of time to keep to the intervals that I had been using during training (4 minutes running, 1 minute walking) and had my watch set to buzz at me to keep me in line.

I skipped the first walking interval only because it would have been difficult to get to the side because there were still too many people around me. But at 9 minutes into the race, I was all too ready to take a quick break. As I stepped over and started walking, I heard a voice behind me, “Keep going! You’re setting a great pace!!”  I turned around, surprised, and found a woman smiling at me and motioning at me to start running again. I chuckled and then told her what my race strategy was and she brightened and said, “That sounds good to me!” and with that, I had a running buddy for the rest of the race, which was totally awesome. You know, this kind of thing just doesn’t really happen very often when you’re running with faster people. It’s like there’s no time (or breath) for getting to meet someone new.

Anyway, me and running buddy trudged through a couple of miles — she was in better shape than I was, but not by so much that I felt bad — and I found out that this trail was her stomping grounds and she routinely ran here. It was nice getting a preview of what was coming (or, you know, what to be afraid of!) and the conversation kept my mind off the fact that I was really starting to struggle by a little over midway through. The ups and downs — which aren’t really a part of my training, coming from FLAT Chicago suburbs — were tiring.

And the last two miles or so? MUDDY. Nothing like skeeting down hills because there’s too much mud to get any footing. Or walking through a patch of muck so deep that I almost lost a shoe. Already tired, the mud became my worst enemy, but at least it was something (else) to laugh at. I figured if it didn’t kill me, I might as well make jokes about it.

Finally – FINALLY! – the finish line was in view and I was DONE. The most awesome medal ever was put around my neck and then I made my way through the post-race food area to grab a piece of cake (best cake ever!) and some hot chocolate (best hot chocolate ever!). Really, I don’t know how their food was so damn good. Either Indiana has magic bakeries or anything served to me after that would have tasted like heaven.

After that, it was just a matter of waiting for my friends who were doing the half marathon to finish (something I happily did, considering the aforementioned best ever cake and hot chocolate), taking a ton of pictures and then heading out. What a great day!

Chicago Quarter Marathon (March 24th, 2016)

IMG_20160326_082659Two of the friends featured in the Winter Trail Frosty drove upstate to join me for the Chicago Quarter Marathon. Inconveniently planned for Easter weekend, it was to be a short get together, but totally fun nonetheless.

That morning brought pretty decent running weather; it had been 30 degrees with 45+ mph winds two days prior, so I was really happy with the lower 40’s and only an easy breeze — it doesn’t get too much better when you’re running on the Chicago lakefront in March, right?

After milling around for a little while pre-race, we finally got going. My roommate Kate was running with me — despite being much better trained and my pace so slow that she could probably do it in her sleep, she stayed with me. I kept to the same 4/1 intervals because I was hoping to save enough energy to be able to finish without feeling like death was at my heels. Spoiler alert: it almost worked.

Starting out really felt great. Walking that minute really was working great for me and for the first 4.5 miles I felt reasonably good. My legs were cooperating, my breathing was okay and my heart rate was high but (seemingly) under control. And then, with two miles left to go, things kind of fell apart. My heart rate wouldn’t go down during the minute walking segment, I was starting to feel a bit light-headed and mostly just wanted to sit down and take a nap (not that wanting to take a nap is all that unusual for me). Kate kept me on pace, but was good about checking in with me. She didn’t want me slacking off when I could push a little harder, but also probably didn’t want to have to carry me back to the finish line, either. She was great and kept me going.

The upside to all this was that the weather was great: bright and sunny, not too cold and a gorgeous lake view helped pass the time.

And then the finish line was finally in view. I unleashed my final kick (sounds impressive, doesn’t it?) and was DONE. Then I grabbed a fence to hold myself up so I wouldn’t fall over and fought the urge to vomit Gatorade all over some poor volunteer who was trying valiantly to put the medal on over my head.

Good news: it only took me a few minutes to keep the Gatorade where it belonged and to start talking about where we would go for breakfast. Which, as anyone knows, is the real reason why anyone runs races.

2016 races completed: 3
2016 races signed up for left to do: 2
2016 additional races being considered: 2

 


For the month of April, I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s #AprilLove2016 and writing a love letter to a different someone/thing every day.

 

Dear Home,

I’ve always been pretty good at making myself comfortable in a variety of places. Not only do I move about every 5 years just because I get the urge for somewhere new, but I don’t even have problems settling in to, say, a hotel room that I might be staying in for a week. I think it partially has to do with the fact that it doesn’t take much to keep me occupied; a decent internet connection, a book to read and music to listen to and I’ll be entertained. So, I guess in a sense, I carry Home along with me all the time.

I think it also helps that I tend to live my life all out in the open (which is a nice way of saying that I’m messy and don’t like to put things away) so anywhere that I can spread out my stuff immediately starts feeling like a place where I belong.

I remember the one time when home didn’t feel like home. I was in the midst of selling my house — the market wasn’t good and the house wasn’t getting much traffic — and along with my savvy real estate agent, I decided to have the home staged by a professional to hopefully draw more interest. I was told to stay away for the day and come back when they were done; they didn’t want me arguing with them, I suppose. The fact that for a long time I was pretty proud of the fact that I had an extra refrigerator in my living room was enough to make them certain that my opinions wouldn’t be of any assistance (true story!).

Once I was given the okay, I returned to the house and parked in the driveway since a lot of my belongings were now residing in the garage. I walked in and immediately felt a little spooked and uneasy. It was my house, sure, but it was no longer my house at all. I walked around, seeing everything beautiful and in its place and so perfect that I felt shell-shocked. Even to this day, I find it hard to explain my overwhelming discomfort just being there. It wasn’t even that they cleaned up my mess — it was already in good shape because I was keeping it picked up — but they had removed that last layer of “mine” and made it something that I felt like I shouldn’t even touch.

It was an awful place to live. It was no longer Home; I couldn’t make it Home no matter what I did (while still keeping it on the market, that is) and I ended up moving into my new place sooner than I had planned. It was too uncomfortable to be somewhere I obviously didn’t belong.

And once I moved? I was Home again. And it made me recognize the underlying truth to Home: it’s not only where I am, but it’s the place where I’m allowed to be me, without restriction.

A view of my current humble abode, back when Clarke was still around. And yes, feel free to put your feet up on the coffee table. I don't mind at all.

A view of my humble abode, back when Clarke was still around. And yes, feel free to put your feet up on the coffee table. I don’t mind at all.

So, Home, sorry for the rambling, but thank you for being the place where I can spread out, put my feet up, do some reading and writing, snuggle with the dog and not worry one little bit about dog hair on the furniture. You are the reason that I return from work and finally feel my shoulders come down from my ears. You’re the reason that I can fall asleep, content with life. You’re the place I can go to recover from any sort of outside-world trauma.

Oh, and while I’m writing, do you think you could also fix your roof so you don’t leak? You know, since we’re friends now?

Thanks!

Love, Laura.