Sunday, September 25, 2011

'Beautiful Day'

Yesterday was a good day, for many reasons.

At 5:15 a.m., I drove in the dark to put out water, power drinks and food along my planned route, which would start and end at Grassland Park. The route that traverses farms, grassland and the Harpeth River follows Moran Road, Old Natchez Road and Del Rio Pike. Runners World magazine has a photo feature called "Rave Run" in each issue; yesterday's route would qualify.

My solo run began at 5:45 in snappy sub-50 air and with a Dire Straits shuffle on my iPod. I ran through patches of mist, which became increasingly enthralling as the sun slowly rose. On Moran Road, I gazed at horses, silhouettes in the misty dawn framed by barns in the distance. A red-tailed hawk chased a small bird, hoping to conclude the dance with a morning meal. Bluebirds chirped from fences, while mating doves watched them from a higher perch. The sky alternated between rose and sky blue before settling on a dominant azure.

A common sight along Moran Road

I stopped for only a minute at miles 3, 6 and 8.5, simulating the race I'll be running next month. Near Mile 6, my good friend Michael rode alongside on his bike, chatting for a few minutes before continuing his 40-miler to Leipers Fork. He was one of hundreds of bikers I would see; I saw only 10 runners the entire morning. Everyone said hello.

Part of the challenge of running 20 miles is the loneliness as the mileage increases. But I was loving the music, the scenery and cool air. After the Mile 10 turnaround, where my average pace was 10:40/mile, my knees began to ache mildly. As the discomfort gradually increased, I struck up conversations with Dori, as well as Chuck, Sigourney and other friends whose lives were cut short by cancer. Their soothing smiles gently nudged me down the road. The pain faded.

I picked up the pace the last three miles, finishing in three hours, 31 minutes, a 10:33/mile average pace.

Feeling good, I cranked up some U2 and drove to the fuel stops to retrieve my trash. When "Beautiful Day" started, I thought of the irony. That was Dori's favorite song. I shed some tears, something I hadn't done since early August. I thought, "Today is indeed a beautiful day, my love." I knew she was there with me yesterday.

This week's 36 total miles went very well. I have one more really long run, 22 miles, in two weeks. I would love for that run and race day to be similar to yesterday. Spirituality cancels the pain.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When It Rains ...

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm asking friends for too much support for cancer research funds. Then, I have a week like this one.

A few days ago, I read about a prominent attorney who died from AML, the same cancer that took Dori's life. Today, one of my co-workers announced he lost his young brother in his early 40s to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His brother leaves a wife and two boys, ages 12 and 9. This afternoon, a friend told me about a co-worker who lost his three-year-old to stomach cancer.

I thought today about other obvious reasons I'm running, and the ask becomes easy. So here's the link. Some checks are in the mail, putting the effort at $9,000. Your help is most appreciated. I hope the Kanzius Cancer Research folks think this effort is a good one, and I hope more people do something.

One other thing. I spoke with someone who helped me put in perspective when a friend says something awkward or even unintentionally hurtful. He said maybe I could relate to this: "Other than your husband being shot, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"

Don't worry. I'll only think about that and won't ever say it. Our secret.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Right Again

When Vanderbilt hired football coach James Franklin last December, Dori took notice while I yawned. I had already decided not to renew my two season tickets, frustrated with decades of ineptitude and seeming waste of half my busy weekends. Dori kept chirping all winter, "Jim, I like this coach. You need to support him. He seems a lot like Tim Corbin (Vandy's baseball coach)."

"Give him a chance."

She finally wore me down, and I purchased four tickets, not two.

Yesterday, Vanderbilt smashed Ole Miss, 30-7. After watching the first three games, I see a much better coached, aggressive team. The offense isn't quite there yet, but they are creative and play hard. The defense is amazing. They punish opponents and are trying to score harder than the other team's offense. They've scored at least 23 points the first three games and set up other scores. Special teams? I wouldn't want to return kicks against us.

Yesterday's blowout win was Vandy's largest against an SEC opponent in 40 years. After the game, the coach and players talked about each other, using words like "family," "we," and "each other." The schedule looks daunting, but I'm looking forward to watching these guys play more football.

I left the house yesterday morning at 5:30 to run 13 miles. Armed only with an ipod, yogurt pretzels and water, I ran downtown, around Vandy's campus and back home. The beginning and end of the run weren't easy, but overall I ran fine, a 10:26/mile pace. This week, I ramp up the mileage considerably, running 20 on Saturday.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Got Your Back

My friends are doing everything they can to help. This weekend was no exception.

Yesterday morning, my friend and Team in Training Coach Jim organized a reunion of TNT alumni. He spoke about Dori in a very special way, then presented me a card and heavy envelope, which I didn't open until later. Then he asked everyone to honor Dori by running silently for the first minute of our run. No one spoke for about five minutes. I was deeply moved and motivated to have a great run.

After six miles, I surged ahead, covering 10 miles alone, with only Sammi the Sweeper pulling up in her SUV every 30 minutes to see how I was. At the last water stop at Mile 14, she pulled away. My legs were heavy from Thursday speed work, but I knew I was going to maintain my pace. At Mile 16, a car pulled up, Sammi jumped out, and asked, "Can I run with you?" Heck yea, I said, thrilled to have the company. I finshed 17 miles in three hours, one minute. Later, I opened the card and envelope, which had many generous contributions to the kids' education fund.

After some rest, the kids and I joined my friend Al for some tailgating, then some Vanderbilt football. The Dores upset UConn, 24-21. Last night, I slept like a nursed newborn.

This morning, I hit the road with my friends Caroline and Joe, Julie, Debra, Henry, and three dogs, including Pepper. We hiked Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness, a fairly strenuous nine-miler. I've known Caroline and Julie since high school, and the car ride went by quickly with great conversation, as did the hike. I feel great, after two days of 26 miles of exercise.

I know people are trying to pick me up. They know right now is tough. They know I would do anything to make my kids feel a little better. They are contributing to my fundraising and praying for comfort and peace. I know Dori is watching all this, including her weepy husband yesterday when I read the card that said, "Sorrow isn't forever. Love is."

All of this just makes me want to train harder.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Red Bandanna

People want to help, and many are.

Nearly 50 friends have already given or pledged about $4,000 for the Kanzius fundraising. This isn't the best economy, so I appreciate any contribution. As much as the money for the research, this effort is about locking arms against cancer. Thank you, each and all.

Yesterday's run was hot. My schedule said 17 miles, which I may have been able to do if I had started at 4:30. But I decided to run with the same group as last week, and they start "late" at 6:30. So I ran 12. By the end of the run, it was 85 degrees. I was happy with the 10:30/mile pace. A cold front moves through soon, and I couldn't be more ready for the change. When I retire, I plan to get the hell out of the Deep South for much of the summer.

Other positives include the hummingbird who has graced our backyard feeder the last few weeks and the good return to school and work for the children and me, respectively. I am managing to keep up with lunches, dinners, housework, laundry, bills and other tasks. I hired an afternoon nanny, who is helping me manage the transition from school to dinner. I also traded in one of our vans for a used Nissan Xterra, which the kids are really enjoying. So is their dad.

Sounds great, right? I'm sleeping about five to six hours a night, but waking up fairly often. Apparently, that's enough sleep, because I'm making it through the day. I won't do pills, if you're wondering. I saw enough medication, and their side effects, the last four years. No way.

The hardest thing right now, for me and the kids, is being in the house without her. I'm alone right now, while the kids shop with my sister. The break is nice, but the silence can be deafening. I have music playing to fill some of the gargantuan void. I'm always doing something; today, it was cleaning the gutters, vaccuuming and more laundry. None of it will bring her back, and I know it. So I stay on the move, knowing any extended period of down time would just be too much right now.

A few have said some awkward things in recent weeks. I know they mean well or they're just saying something before they catch themselves. A few asked, "How was your summer?" Some others have said, "I know you'll remarry," which almost made me cry. One of my greatest fears at the moment is being in the presence of another woman at a restaurant or somewhere public. With three or more at a table, I'm cool. Business breakfasts are OK, too. But one-on-one at lunch or dinner, no way. I had an experience earlier this summer, unintentional when a few buddies showed up late, and I was left alone with someone, a very nice person and friend in fact. It didn't matter. I was a mess.

I'm investing all of my energy in a few places - my children, work and running. At some point, I'll have to deal with the rest of my life and pick up the pieces, but now is definitely not the time.

Will and I saw a beautiful story this morning about a young leader, selfless and giving, who saved a dozen people on 9/11. It might make you want to purchase a red bandanna, like one my son is wearing this afternoon.