My Comeback Song

Comeback as defined by Merriam-Webster:

comeback noun | \ˈkəm-ˌbak\

: a return to a former good position or condition

: a return to being popular or fashionable

: a new effort to win or succeed after being close to defeat or failure

Dear Reader,

My apologies for my long absence. This entry marks my comeback. Let’s start with important updates. Get comfortable because this is a long one.

  • I am back in Los Angeles after 2 years in Seattle.
  • I am back to running after a serious ankle injury that reformed my right foot into Franken-foot.

When last we left our heroine, she was living in Seattle with her sister’s family of 2 stepdaughters and a brand-new baby boy and a dog. Well, that baby is now 3. My 2 nieces have blossomed. I miss them every day.

Here’s the short story:

2014

  • February I am unemployed for 4 months.
  • July I secure a new job and an apartment in Seattle—a 4-story walk-up with no elevator. Thank you, cool 1920s building.
  • August I move into my apartment the day before I start my new job.
  • August 9 2 weeks later I am out with friends. A cell phone is stolen. I fail at being a superhero. Instead, there is a snap of bone, a lone cop, a crowd of onlookers, strangers surrounding me, trying to help, an ambulance ride and storytelling in the ER. This begins the heroine’s long descent into madness and despair.
  • August 11 Surgery is successful to repair the shattered bones. I have no medical insurance and dollar signs swirl in my head. I am defeated, helpless, angry, held captive in a hospital bed and succumb to my inner demons. Their powers grow and the world turns black.

    Franken-foot

    Franken-foot

  • August 13 My sister and her husband pick me up and install me in their guest room. I am disgraced and full of self-loathing. The pain meds have rendered me useless. I have had anti-nausea drugs since the night in the ER. The pain meds continue to make me sick. When I run out of the anti-nausea drugs, I am sicker than sick. I am dehydrated. I stop taking opioids after 4 days and the withdrawals have the same effect. I can’t hold down food. I can’t even hold down water. In 2 weeks, I lose 12 pounds. I am in crisis. My sister is worried and unable to help me. I refuse to go to the ER. I will ride out the withdrawals. I worry I will die in this bed from a stupid broken ankle. How did I get here? I spiral into depression that will last at least 2 months.
  • September I have not been able to work since the accident. I am finally able to eat food again. But I am losing my mind and paying rent on an apartment I lived in for only 2 weeks.
  • October I return to work thanks to the support of 2 dear friends, who have committed to chauffeuring me to and from work every day for the duration of my recovery. I will forever be in their debt. They pack me up and move me back to my apartment.
  • October-December I become quite adept at navigating the world with crutches. My friends drive me to and from work. They deliver my groceries and pick up my laundry. I am humbled by their acts of kindness. I cry more than I need to. I try to remember that my condition is temporary. But, I am isolated. I don’t leave the apartment after hopping up the 4 flights. I am careful not to slip on wet sidewalks. I manage to fall 3 times during this period. I learn to fall on my left side and to protect my head from hitting hard surfaces, like porcelain. The day I had to climb the kitchen counter with one good leg to change the lightbulb was a personal victory but also scary. This sheds light on the small things we take for granted in our lives.

I pray to Zeus, Apollo and Athena, to Buddha, to Jupiter, Minerva and Janus. I seek counsel from the Norse gods Odin, Bladur, Eir, and Magni. I ask for strength and forgiveness. I make promises that I will likely fail to keep. I seek redemption and fight my own anger. I look outward for inspiration and inward for hope. I want to be a whole person again. I want to overcome my failed attempts of charity and compassion. Mostly, I want to run again. I limit my Facebook viewing because I know it will lead to envy of my friends who are running. I do not want to live in this dark space. I take joy with every new small thing I can do on my own.

I make myself small promises. I learn to do things slowly. Is this the message the universe and the Norse gods are trying to send me?

The demons are losing their hold. My anger flips sideways and becomes something else—not power, nothing too loud. It is a slow building up of positive energy. My smile returns and I start making plans. I will conquer this moment and return to my former self. Or something better. That is the hope. That is what I owe my friends, my family, and my supporters. That is what the universe has brought me with this gift of being broken and in debt. Monetary and spiritual debt. I will somehow climb the dark mountain and reach the light. I will take back my body. Blah, blah, blah. Trying is all I have these long, slow, dark months.

2015

  • January I get a walking boot and use one crutch. I take a short drive. I am unsteady and scared. I take back my independence. I thank the world for its support. I learn to walk again. I go to physical therapy. I take comfort in the small exercises my therapist makes me do. My poor right leg is shriveled and unfamiliar. The surgical scar is prominent and the plates and screws that protrude from my thin skin are visible from across the room. I have been marked.

    Pins and Scars

    Pins and Scars

I start walking downhill to work and uphill back home, Igoring my way and freaking out people along my route from Capitol Hill to Downtown. I decide to return to Los Angeles.

  • February I am crutch-free. My confidence returns. I secure a job and say my goodbyes to Seattle. My feelings are mixed. Seattle is a beautiful destination to visit, but Los Angeles is my forever home. I drive to San Jose for a short visit with a close friend and then travel on to L.A. I find an apartment my first week back. I start work. I plan my return to running.
  • May I run for the first time, a short flat mile on the chip path with a dear friend. It’s a small victory.
  • June I run my first 10k obstacle race (Camp Pendleton’s World Famous Mud Run) with my L.A. crew. My body hurts. I worry that I will always be in pain.
  • July My L.A. crew encourages me, telling me about the Team NutriBullet L.A. Marathon Training Program. I commit to running the Hawaii Ragnar Relay in October 2016.
  • August I mark my 1-year anniversary of my superhero accident with a hike/run in Griffith Park. I nervously apply to the Team NutriBullet L.A. Marathon Training Program and make it on the team. I shed tears. I follow those tears with a batch of brownies.
  • September My first day of practice with Team NutriBullet. I am sleep deprived due to fears shouting loudly in my head.

My goals are simple. I don’t care about how long it takes to finish the marathon. My only marathon was in November 2011. I didn’t enjoy it and vowed never to run another one. Never say “never.”

I want to love this race from start to finish. And I want to be a stronger runner. On the first day of practice with Team NutriBullet, someone spoke about enjoying the journey. That is all I want. And if I can inspire others to live healthier and push harder—if I can give back to anyone who needs support, I will feel like I’ve paid it forward. I will feel like I learned the lesson of the broken ankle.

During my healing, I never wanted to blog about my injury. I didn’t want to indulge my pity party. Now, I want to record my return to running. I hope that my words will hold some kind of wisdom and charity, gratitude and perspective. I hope that I can remain humble, but ultimately become a better person—someone who can walk in the world with a smile that asks for nothing in return.

And, so it begins. This is my comeback song. Cue the music, maestro. This is a good ol’ fashioned country song. Only, this song is about a broken ankle, not a broken heart. Bones and hearts heal. Spirits endure.

Posted in Adventure, Change, Lifestyle, Running | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Rebirth and the Importance of Glue

Rebirth of a chair

Rebirth of a chair

At least I can repair a broken chair. Here it is in all its glory. Reborn to do the job it was created for. Amidst the gloom of my two-job-rejection day, I can look upon this chair and have hope for tomorrow. I too can be reborn, repaired, rejuvenated and realigned.

Here’s to the joys of spring that bring renewal of many things. Let’s just hope the glue withstands the weight of many bums, light and heavy, seated there.

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Debbie Does Chair Repair

Well, here I am again with another year of adventure and job hunting. After a yearlong contract job at Xbox, I’m back to searching for work. It’s week 3 of unemployment. I spent the morning searching for and applying to jobs. I’ve had a spattering of interviews. Nothing solid has presented itself yet.

I’m still living with my sister and her family. Since I’m not paying rent, I feel obligated to be useful—more so now that I’m jobless.

The struggle with being without a job is finding the motivation to do something—anything. I find myself stretching chores out over the course of a few days. On Monday I’ll vacuum. On Tuesday I’ll do laundry. A chore a day.

Today, I decided I needed to do more. So, after a morning of job hunting and maintenance cleaning, I decided it was time to repair the dining room chairs. After locating the appropriate tools and wood glue, I managed to tighten the screws of the “good” chairs. The tougher battle was the one chair that needed gluing.

Pieces of chair

Pieces of chair

Glue of any kind is a challenge to work with. As you can see from the photo, I managed to dismantle the chair to its individual pieces. And glue I did. It’s not pretty, but it’s glued. Now I wait for the glue to set.

Tomorrow I’ll put the chair back together and hope it withstands the weight of sitting. Then, it’s off to the next home project. A girl’s got to earn her keep after all.

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Six in the city

The minute I mention Seattle to anyone I can guess the next words to leave the person’s lips—rain, cold and clouds. The weather is always a topic of conversation. I knew this, but it wasn’t until moving that I realized how ingrained the weather is here. The rain is just a part of the fabric of the city. People carry on with their lives without thought or care. I’ve been told that it’s all about planning for the possibility of rain because the weather here is unpredictable. One day it can be sunny and 70. The next day it can be rainy and 56 degrees. There doesn’t seem to be any way of knowing. Even the weather forecast is unreliable. Every day is a guessing game.

View of my new city

View of my new city

Within my first month of living in Seattle, my soon-to-be brother-in-law instructed me on acclimating myself to living here. He told me not to bundle up and to go outside no matter what the weather. I tried this. I was cold in December. I remember wearing layers and winter coats with hoods. I remember thick socks and waterproof boots. My first run had me wearing double running tights and two layers of long sleeves over a short-sleeved wicking tee. And a hoodie.

Eventually, I found myself shedding the layers. When I finally started working at the end of February, I started leaving the house without any kind of jacket. Not because I suddenly grew a thicker layer of skin. No. I just plum forgot to grab a jacket. Now, six months later, if I see sunlight through the window, I automatically think it’s 70 degrees outside and don’t bother grabbing one. My workout gear is mostly running skirts and tank tops. More than once I’ve complained about being hot only to discover that it’s 56 degrees outside. Often, I’ll drive with my sunroof open and keep it open even when raindrops begin to come down. Just a glimmer of sunlight makes me think it’s warm outside.

Sure, I know it’s June. But if the temperature drops to 60 in Los Angeles, people break out the scarves and winter coats. It seems strange for me to think that 56 degrees is warm.

All this to say that I’ve adjusted quite a bit since I first drove my SUV into the Emerald City. I’m still adjusting to some things. Driving here is certainly different. I’m learning to drive 60 mph. I’m still unclear why the speed limit is so low. And I’m ever baffled at why everyone drives 5 miles under the speed limit—all the time, even when there’s no traffic jam. That will never make sense to me. I hope that I’ll get used to the other driving peculiarities. For now, I’ll just plan for stupid and practice driving calm. And rant about driving in a future blog.

One view of Lake Washington

One view of Lake Washington

What I can say about driving in this city is that I have one of the most beautiful commutes in my life. In the morning, I drive east toward the sun. Having Lake Washington as a backdrop to my drive into work eases the pain of being awake so early. The way the morning light reflects off the water as I cross the I-90 bridge makes dealing with traffic and idiotic driving almost peaceful.

Commuting home driving west toward the setting sun magnifies the beauty of the lake and puts the punctuation on the end of my working day. No matter what the traffic is like, once I hit the bridge and look out onto the waters of Lake Washington, I feel a sense of calm. A smile spreads across my lips and I feel my heart open up to the possibility drifting on the surface of the lake. Couple my beautiful commute with a job I love with a team of people who are smart and funny and you have the ingredients to a successful move.

Sure, I’m still living with my sister and her family. That was the original impetus for this blog—talking about the transition from singleton to live-in auntie. And a lot has happened in these last six months. In addition to getting a job, I found three sets of running partners. I feel fortunate to have found like-minded runners. Runners who included me in their runs with open minds and open smiles and many words of encouragement. I have them to thank for my current level of physical fitness. I’ve run in three local races and learned many different running routes around Seattle and Redmond.

With my family, I’ve visited a number of scenic destinations, including the Kitsap Peninsula, Samish Island, Tiger Mountain and other points north and west. I’ve watched my nieces grow taller. My baby nephew turned a year old. He now walks and has four teeth. He has a sense of humor that fits perfectly into this family.

And I’m my sister’s official wedding planner, which has been an interesting way to learn about Seattle and the Puget Sound area. It’s been a busy six months and time seems to have flown by. But, I miss Los Angeles.

Just a few weeks ago, I visited Los Angeles to participate in a team race with my old running partners. I rented a car and drove the city streets of neighborhoods I could navigate with my eyes closed. I miss that town. It will always be in my blood. I miss my friends. I miss the weather. I miss the energy and the vibe. I was there a short four days and questioned why I ever left.

Then, driving over the I-90 bridge to work made me realize what a great city I’d moved to. This part of the world is astoundingly gorgeous. Rain or shine, it’s filled with magnificent views and natural beauty. It’s the Emerald City, but it’s also a visual wonder. A water lover’s paradise. There’s still so much I haven’t discovered about Seattle or Washington state. I am left making plans. Endless plans. My future is bright. But for today, I vow to enjoy the scenery. And to fall hopelessly in love with my new city.

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Done and Done

March 9, 2013, 6:50 a.m.

I woke before the alarm screamed and felt like I’d been tossed around by an angry bull in a bullring. I could have used four more hours of sleep. Instead, I was bleary-eyed, headachy and pulling on running gear before 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Race time was 8:30. I had no choice but to get myself ready. Our friend, S-, was already at the park, waiting in his car for my arrival. Clothes on. Next, food.

Oatmeal and water, and a banana for the road. My soon-to-be brother-in-law was driver and support crew. The girls were at their mother’s house. My sister was still in bed trying to recover from being sick. The baby was beside her. They were the smart ones, all safely tucked away and snoozing.

We drove off into the fog. Yeah, fog. It was 46 degrees. Cold. I had put on two pairs of running tights, a short-sleeve wicking shirt, a long-sleeve wicking shirt and a pullover fleece. To keep my ears warm, I’d added a headband/ear warmer thing. I felt bundled up but knew I’d still be cold. Off we went.

Andre had mentioned traffic into the park. I hadn’t really given it much thought. Luckily I had the best driver in the world, so we managed to reach the parking lot with 10 minutes to spare. We joined S- in line at the porta-potties. Soon, a voice crackled over the intercom announcing that the race was delayed by 15 minutes. That meant 15 more minutes of standing in the cold.

Strangely, I wasn’t nervous. Normally I would need to pee at least three times before the race. I call it nervous pee. This time, I decided to forego the bathroom lines, thinking I could hold it for 13.1 miles. I’d done it before. I figured I’d just keep my head down and my feet moving and stay out of my own head about it all. That was my race strategy in a nutshell. How bad could it be? I’d managed one long run, that 6.2-miler I’d written about 3 weeks ago. At any rate, little did it matter now.

Ready to run.

Ready to run.
Photo: Andre Helmstetter

S- was great. Encouraging. Supportive. Of course, this was a man who could run 26 miles without thinking about it. I was concerned I’d disappoint him or hold him back. I encouraged him to run his own pace and that I’d see him at the end. He decided we should start the race together and then do our own thing. So, we lined up behind the 10-minute mile pacer and waited. We made small talk. Andre snapped a few pre-race photos. Then he left us to situate himself at the start line so he could snap us crossing the line.

Soon, there was the crack of the start gun and cheers from the crowd of spectators and runners. We were off and running. Sort of. We had to wait for our wave to get to the start line before we could actually pick up our feet and run. S- stayed with me for a few minutes and then he was off. I saw his head bobbing in the crowd ahead of me. Then, I settled into my run.

At first, I couldn’t feel anything. My legs were frozen and numb. I decided that was a good thing. It would delay the pain. One of the first things I noticed was the quiet. Oh, there was plenty of race chatter and feet pounding on the trail around me. The quiet was within me. Not my head. My head was saying things like: “You’re supposed to be sleeping,” and “You idiot. You’re not ready for this. You didn’t even train.” The silence was me missing my L.A. running crew. I’d always run races with them. Always a familiar face in the crowd along the race route. Not today. Today, the route was full of strangers. I knew I would see Andre and S- at the finish, but I couldn’t help feeling a little lonely the first few miles, especially as I witnessed the scores of other runners and heard snippets of their friendly conversation. Undeterred, I kept my feet moving. Soon, my bladder distracted me with its own protests. The park bathroom we passed was locked. I saw another runner stymied by its unwelcome door. The porta-potty near mile 3 looked like a popular nightclub with a line of runners patiently waiting. I ran on by. I tried to think about other things. I took in the huge lakeside houses. I kept my pace steady and tried to guess what time it was. My watch was set to pace time not clock time. It was a good distraction for a while.

By mile 6, I could take it no more. Luckily, I spied the porta-potties by the water stop and picked up my pace so that I could get in line before other runners caught on. I reached the line just as the two doors opened and the two women ahead of me slipped through. I would have a short wait. Hydration and a gu and I was back on the trail. Thankfully, the sun had also come out and warmed the route. I peeled off my fleece and soon my long-sleeve wicking shirt. I felt pretty good. I would be ok. I could do this. And, anyway, I didn’t have a choice. How else would I get home? It was a one-way route from one end of the park to the other. The sun shining over the lake made for spectacular views. It was a good day to be on a run. I started to enjoy the scenery. I had my GPS watch for company. Random spectators cheered us on along the trail as if we were Olympiads. Every now and then a car would cruise by on the road above and its driver would honk in support.

Mile 8 and 9 and I was sufficiently warmed up and feeling pretty good. Then the route led us from the peaceful and scenic trail to the ugly suburban road. Things started to get tough. The lake view had turned into the usual stale mini-mall and corner gas station. My knee started to complain against the pavement. I hated passing the line of cars with their exhaust and car radio noise. My mind was starting to take over. I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. One side was cheering me on and the other was admonishing me for my stupidity. Why didn’t you train? Why did you agree to this in the first place? You know your knee won’t hold out. Your plantar fasciitis is killing you. You won’t be able to walk after this.

The devil was winning. That pissed me off. I fought to focus on my form and keep my feet from dragging. I’ll show you, I thought. On I went. I kept my eye on three or four runners around me to make sure I kept my pace and didn’t fall behind. All I had to do was make it to mile 12 and then it was all home from there. By mile 10, fatigue was setting in. I really just wanted coffee and a cupcake and maybe a shot of whiskey. I pushed those thoughts aside and kept my feet going. Finally, I found a reserve of energy that got me to mile 11 and into the park again. That was a torturous meandering of the parking lot for two miles. I hated seeing finished racers with their medals draped around their necks walking back to their cars. That pissed me off. My mind took over again. The negative voice feeling its power. I felt myself slowing down. I looked at the lake and then at all the runners ahead of me and behind me.

By mile 12, I was pretty done. But not yet. I could get home now. One more mile. I picked up my feet. There were still scattered spectators cheering us on. I could hear the finish line before I saw it. I grew impatient. I wanted this to end. I picked up my knees and pumped my arms. I knew I shouldn’t sprint the last mile. I extended my stride. I vowed to catch up to the two people ahead of me. I was breathing heavy now. And those two didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Finally, I saw the balloons of the finish line and the crowd waiting for us. I pumped my arms and ran faster. Faster. I passed one and then two and saw Andre. I think I waved or something.

The click of the timer as my foot crossed the finish was notable. I stopped my GPS watch and was pleased to be done. S- was standing on the right side, smiling and calm. Fresh. He didn’t even look tired. He’d run in at 1:44. I finished at 2:20. I’d beat my estimated time of 2:30. Not bad for not training. And I was done. I could walk the post-race booths and collect the spoils of my victory: bagels, bananas, recovery drinks and other goodies. I was done. And I was alive. Alive with the high of running. What a feeling. It carried me home. I felt my smile run through my entire body. Sure, my legs were stiff and my feet burned. I’m calling it a good run. Mostly, because it’s done.

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Hello, My name is …

“What’s your name?” asks my niece.

“Lulu,” says I.

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No. It’s Auntie Poofina,” she demands.

“I just told you my name is Lulu.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Ok. Then it’s Deb…a..rah,” she insists, stretching out the name.

“It’s Lulu,” I repeat.

Names. We all have them. They’re given to us from birth, and we usually keep them. Unless, of course, you’re P. Diddy, Eminem, Prince, or someone born with a name you hate so you take matters into your own hands and change it. Whatever it is, a name is significant. They’re labels. Identifiers. Some names lend themselves naturally to derivatives or nicknames. Newspapers love to dub criminals with nicknames. Secret agencies use code names and false names. Criminals use aliases. Writers use pen names or pseudonyms. And nicknames usually include alter egos. For example, comic book characters.

As a child, I was called “Little Debbie Snackin’ Cakes.” Not very clever or exciting. But, it could have been worse. And it was. My younger brother called me “Medusa” because I had curly hair. He grew up and now has hair like mine. I like to the think the universe paid him back.

Truthfully, there’s not much you can do with a name like mine. In high school, some friends called me “Gecko,” because of the impatient ticking sound I made when someone played a joke on me or said something I disagreed with.

In college, one guy called me Denise because he thought I resembled Denise Huxtable of The Cosby Show. For four years, that’s what he called me. I’m not sure he knew my real name. It didn’t seem to matter. If he said, “Denise,” I responded.

At work, people always ask me my preference: Debra, Debbie, or Deb. I usually say that I don’t care. But once I told someone he could call me Delores if he wanted. And so he did. Another person at work called me Curls, again because of my hair.

When I first met my sister’s soon-to-be stepdaughters, they dubbed me “Auntie Poofina.” It’s what won me over. Again, it was based on my hair. Obviously, my hair is a character all its own and deserves its own name. At any rate, Auntie Poofina was born. She’s just one of my alter egos it seems.

Yesterday at dinner, the youngest niece asked whether my sister would be changing her name after the wedding. A discussion about whether this should or should not be done took place. The eldest niece decided that she didn’t think any woman should change her name just because of marriage. My sister stated that anyone could change his or her name for any reason regardless of marriage. She suggested changing hers to Pocahontas or Cleopatra. I suggested Orange Porridge, which led Andre to sing the Orange song from H.R. Pufnstuf, which naturally led to a YouTube viewing for educational purposes.

Of course, I like to give nicknames to people I meet, too. I keep playing around with different names for the baby. The family name for him seems to be Monkey Butt because he has pants with a monkey on the seat. He also has pants with a frog and a dinosaur on the seat, but Monkey Butt has a special ring to it. In addition to that, I call him Pumpkin, Munchkin, Baby Cakes, Dolphin Boy. I’m sure I’ll call him other names as he grows.

After all, nicknames are terms of endearment. If someone gives you a nickname, it’s usually because they like you. Of course, there’s the other side to that coin. The Medusa moniker my brother gave me wasn’t a term of endearment. Not the way I saw it anyway. He may remember it differently. At the time, I wasn’t pleased with it. Name-calling is a form of bullying, which is a hot topic these days. It wasn’t when I was a kid. If someone called you a name you didn’t like, or one that was degrading or insulting, you usually sassed back the sing-song nursery rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” I’m not sure any of us believed it when we said it, but it was one way of dealing with the situation head-on.

Good or bad, names are significant. They mean something. The name my parents picked for me was important to them on some level. The names we choose for ourselves—be they nicknames or pseudonyms or alter egos—they have meanings that are personal, that come from a special place that may only mean something to us and no one else.

So, when I hear “Auntie Poofina” being shouted at top volume in the middle of the produce aisle, I don’t flinch and act embarrassed. I love that a stranger will hear that and wonder: “That’s a strange name,” or “Did I hear that right? Is someone really named Auntie Poofina?” It makes me proud to hear the name directed at me because it makes me special. It makes me a part of this family and for that I can be grateful.

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Run, baby, run

Yesterday I was sitting at the dining room table with my niece and my soon-to-be brother-in-law, eating lunch and talking. We were having a good time until Andre informed me that I was running a half marathon in March.

“I thought it was May in Tacoma,” I said, suddenly alert and too stunned to fully react.

“No, he said March, Lake Sammamish.”

He is a friend of the family’s who I had met for the first time just after the holidays, when he and his wife came for a visit. When he was told that I was a runner, he offered to run with me around one of the lakes and soon we had agreed to run a race together. A half marathon. In May. In Tacoma. May seemed totally doable — far enough away for me to get in enough training to make it possible for me to actually enjoy it and not too soon to scare the crap out of me.

Andre: “Let me check with his wife, but I think he said Lake Sammamish in March.”

I Googled and discovered that not only was it in March, but it was March 9. A string of swear words and an apology toward my niece followed.

“Fine,” I said, as I typed away on my computer. “This is me signing up for the race on March 9.”

“Well, wait. Let me make sure that’s what he said.”

It’s what he said.

Good thing I started running again over the weekend. I clocked almost a 5-miler on Saturday with my brother-in-law. Seward Park loop twice. Then Sunday, a 2-miler with my sister. Monday, another 2-miler with the bro-in-law. Wednesday, a 1.5 run. Today, I went balls to the walls and threw in a 6.2-mile run with hills. I will either be primed for the run come March 9 or break something. But, either way, I’m running it.

I have at most 14 days to train for 13.1 miles. Piece of cake. I ran my first marathon in November and haven’t really trained much since. There were a few longish runs afterward but nothing serious. I did a 6-mile trail run on Thanksgiving. Then I decided to relocate to Seattle and focused all my energy on packing and logistics and all the things one does when one leaves one city for another. My arrival in Seattle focused first on the holidays and family and then on job seeking.

But, there’s no time like the present to get back into it. I can guarantee that I won’t be fast. I’ll be slow and steady. At least it’s a flat course, which is fine since my last serious hill runs were left behind in LA.

Today, while running my first mile, I kept thinking, so far, so good. I then realized that I was going downhill, which meant the last mile on the return would be uphill. I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and focused on breathing and my footwork. Stealth like a tiger, light on my feet. Breathe smooth and steady. Try to enjoy this run.

Poised to run

It was my first solo run in Seattle, something I had been putting off because I didn’t relish being cold. Rain I can deal with. Cold? No. I equipped myself with two layers of running tights and a short sleeve wicking shirt, two long sleeve wicking shirts and a fleece pullover. I paused long enough to disregard adding a hooded windbreaker.

At the breakfast table over coffee and toast, I’d mapped out my 6.2-mile course. As I headed east and then south, I tried to take in the view. Mostly, I ran past gorgeous houses and then the lake itself. I tried to keep my pace. This time I was alone and my pace had to remain steady. I didn’t have anyone to pace me, which is something I usually need since I’m a reformed sprinter. With each step, I tried not to focus on the hills I knew I would have to go up on the return.

Running east toward the lake brought me to a park that started at the top of a hill and went down to the water. As I ran down the stone steps, careful not to slip on wet leaves, I realized that this going down would mean a really tough going up on my return. Again, I pushed the thought aside. I still had 2 miles out to go before I could turn around. Why think about returning so soon?

Once I reached the lake, I started to enjoy the run. One thing about Seattle is it sure is pretty. It’s hard to find a bad view. The trail along the lake was flat so I felt pretty good. I felt like I could do this. Of course, 3 miles out I had no choice but to do it. How did I expect to get home, after all?

At the 3-mile mark I finally passed another runner going the other way. Once I hit 3.2 miles, I turned around and headed back, keeping an eye on the glowing yellow of the runner’s vest in front of me. I wanted to maintain the distance between us and use her to pace me going back.

By 4.30 miles, I was feeling pretty great. I’d finally hit my groove and felt like I would make it back. Hills be damned. At 4.50 miles, the other runner had disappeared. She must have veered off onto a side street when I was gazing at the lake on my right. Damn. Suddenly, I started to feel fatigued. I was struggling and my mind started taking over, reminding me of the giant hill in the middle of the park. A half mile later, the park was in view. I crossed the street and went for it. Fatigue be damned. Legs be damned. I was getting up this hill.

Up I went. The stairs were slippery. I kept my head down and focused on placing one foot in front of the other. Halfway up. I stopped. I walked. A hundred yards at most. But there was the top of the hill. I’d run half of it. I felt that was a good feat. But then the trail turned to the left and things were unfamiliar from when I went down. No worries. At least, I knew what street the trail spit me out on. I wasn’t lost. I just managed to discover a different path. I started running again. I passed the old lady with the dog who had walked past me on mile 1. She said hello. I said hello.

Bam. There was the hill I knew I’d meet on the way home. I slowed my pace and kept my feet moving, focused on my breathing. It felt like I was knee deep in molasses, but I kept on running up that hill. Finally, the top. I could cruise on down. But, that’s when I saw it. The last half mile and another hill. Feet flying, wind blowing against me, I leaned into the wind and the hill. I pumped my arms and lifted my knees higher. The light turned green and I cruised across the street, panting. I managed to finish 6.2 miles, alive. That’s my goal, after all, run the half marathon and finish alive. It’s a simple goal. I don’t run for time. I run to finish. Alive.

So, one thing is for sure. I’ll run the race because I said I would. We’ll start together, but he’ll be in front and I’ll be behind. But I’ll see him at the finish line.

Posted in Adventure, Change, Lifestyle, Musings, New in town, New life, Running, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments