Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dreams Come True

Now that I've had a few days to let the stardust settle in my mind I think I'm ready to scratch out a few lines about my trip to Disneyworld on January 11-14 in Orlando, Florida and the related Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.

I had registered for the marathon last July with my son Jacob's special one Jessica and for any late comers to this blog you need to know that a heart attack and bypass surgery last August waylaid my plans to run this marathon. I was just glad to be able to be alive and see the spectacle and watch my son run it in my place. He and Jessica finished the darned thing and I don't know how because their training went almost totally to hell in November and December. Deep down inside I thought of suggesting they scratch because frankly I didn't see how two first timers could get through that distance on minimal training, but by damned they DID IT! They are the proud owners of a Mickey Mouse medal as big as my hand, it is beautiful and I'm really proud of their grit, determination and lack of fear. They are two gutsy competitors and I gained even more respect for them but I would have understood if they had pulled out too because I've done enough of those things to know how hard they are, even with proper training.

I had anticipated having a pretty good time at Disneyworld because of its reputation as the gold standard of amusement and theme parks but the occasion exceeded my expectations, frankly I was blown away and very impressed and it takes a pretty major jolt to impress me at this point in my life.

My daughter Sarah, soulmate Shayne and my two youngest granddaughers Rylee, age 7 and Scarlett age 5 joined in the fray and we had a wonderful, wonderful time. Sarah asked me what my favorite was and for the first time in my life I really couldn't pinpoint a favorite because in my mind everything was perfect, fun, good, clean and just pure fantasy. Jessica's mom Eileen and her friend Dick also enjoyed the weekend with us and it was good to be able to compare notes with Dick, who had bypass surgery two years ago. He told me I would be able to run marathons again. I almost cried when he said that, because I really want to and right now I'm still a bit beat up and out of shape.

Rylee is a bit bashful and shy about exteme events such as intense roller coasters but she finally agreed to ride the thunder railroad or some such thing and she sat with me. I was a bit concerned about doing this because I wasn't looking forward to a screaming seven year old on my hands about half way through a darned roller coaster ride. As it turned out it was one of the funniest and most fun times of the trip. After the initial up, down, up, down then a slower ascent up to catch our breath Rylee looked at me with a "what tha hell" quizzical look on her face and said "who's driving this thing?" We all laughed out loud at that one and I'm still laughing on the inside about the fact a little tot faced her fears, threw in with the family and ol' Grandpa Sam and let the good times roll. I confess I've been suffering a little lack of confidnce the past month about whether anyone will ever want to run with me again, much less ride a roller coaster, so it felt good that everyone felt secure that gramps could handle the coster with his little granddaughter. Needless to say, after it was over she wanted to ride the thing again and again. Sounds a little like distance running doesn't it. Once the first one is in the bag, bring on the next mountain.

Naturally, after that whirwind coaster ride I started to get cocky and went with the "big" people in our group on the Aerosmith Rock and Roller Coaster, and that my friend WAS one hell of a trip. They announced before we mounted that people with heart conditions should not do this one. Of course, I ignored their advice and figured that even though my running buddy Tanya wasn't there to give me CPR at the end, the Disney people surely must have a para-medic or two around. I have to face my fears and not let my setback keep me from living a full life. I was really grateful that no one in my group suggested I better not do it. They know me pretty well and are aware that I'll make my decisions and live or die with the consequences.

Jacob did say that that was his first and last marathon and that's also a fairly typical reaction to that event. Jessica has some crazy -assed idea to run one marathon in each of the 50 states. Either the person is hooked and wants to get to the next big run or the curiosity is satisfied and it's NEVER AGAIN! Either way it's okay and Jacob now has a first hand personal account of how difficult it is to cover the distance and has a fresh appreciation of all those who choose to make marathoning or ultras a career.

A bonus was running into Jenny Hadfield, a super special lady, the co-owner and coach extrodinare for Chicago Endurance Sports. She was there to run the marathon in honor of her father and with her brother, a first time marathoner. They both got through it in fine shape. Karma keeps on happening for me and bumping into Jenny in the middle of all those people and theme parks was sort of an out of body experience. She and several other runners with CES were instrumental in saving my fanny last summer and helped encourage me during my recovery. I'm forever in their debt and they're always in my thoughts and prayers.

I've never understood the special bond among runners and I've given up trying to understand it, I just know that there is a special connection regardless of age, gender, speed or financial status and I'm okay with that. When I think of equality I think of a brisk 10 mile run with one or more friends, it doesn't get any simpler or better than that.

We'll encourage each other, compete with each other, sweat, bitch and moan but in the end we're friends forever and for that I'm enternally grateful.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Snow Run 2008

My first run of 2008 was an eye opening experience, a brutal reminder and reality check of how far out of shape I've gotten since my little "event" of a heart attack, surgery and setback of last August.

I decided to walk to Lincoln Park and jump into the annual New Year's Day 5k race. I debated much of New Year's Eve and early this morning about doing this run because of the roughly six inch blanket of snow that included some ice and a blanket of powdery new snow that fell last night and earlier this morning.

The race didn't start until 11:00 a.m. so I had plenty of time to go through my usual mental gyrations of trying to talk myself out of venturing into the 20 degree temperature and 10 to 20 mph winds from my warm home here near the Lakefront.

But, I bundled up and headed out the door, knowing that if I got into trouble there was always the walking route I could take, and frankly I just wanted to start 2008 by being around some runners and get away from some of this god-awful depression and self-absorption. That mission was accomplished and as a bonus I ran into 4 or 5 of my old running friends, who were glad to see me. I sure was glad to see them.

When I started running I knew within about 100 yards that my mind had again deceived me and instead of running what for me would be an average pace I was going to be going real slow with a sole goal of finishing the thing without slipping and falling down. What amazed me, other than the sheer beauty of the morning, was the fact that there were some other people running just as slow as I, so I had some company despite my snail's pace.

I got through the darned thing but it took me 40 minutes, which is the slowest 5k I've ever ran, including my first ever attempt at the race so I have a lot of work to do and what's on my mind now is the concern that there is the possibility that no matter how hard I work, I may have lost the capacity to even run a somewhat respectable steady pace. In other words, it was really hard and another humbling experience.

I was on my feet about three hours total including the walking around and jawing time before the race and the walk home afterwards. Once upon a time that amount of time walking and running would have been a bit of a warmup for me but today's race pretty much wiped me out, and I don't like it one bit. But I think I better get used to it, accept it and work on being grateful that I can be somewhat mobile and take care of my business.

I will say that the blanket of snow, the piles of snow on the barren trees and the jovial and friendly atmosphere helped soothe my wounded pride. So I'll try to take it a day at a time, a run at a time and hope for the best in 2008 and try to accept whatever life deals me.