Saturday, August 23, 2008

Running in the Family

No race report or update today - at least not for me personally - but just an attempt to capture some thoughts about running in the family. We just returned from Jordanelle State Park where we spent much of the day with Alysia (and many other family members) who was competing in her first ever triathlon! Congratulations, Buggy! She competed in a Sprint distance event and did great. I won't steal her thunder about the race, as I'm sure she will want to report on it, but it was just great being able to be there with her, provide what meager support we may have been able to give, and just enjoy the moment and accomplishment with her. We're proud of you!
I guess it was one of a number of things that again reinforced the meaning and value of family this week. When we got home a few hours ago - it was eerily quiet - not something we had experienced in the last week - and it, too, kind of sunk home. (That having been said, we DO expect Emily and the Boys back tonight!) So what all happened to bring home thoughts of family? For starters, last weekend there was a great set of events with virtually the entire family (on my side) here and together. We celebrated Karen's birthday on Sunday with a pasta spread extraordinaire (courtesy of Emily's culinary planning). On Monday we celebrated Emily's birthday with a really fun visit to a water park - again everyone there. Then of course, there was the call to Alysia on Wednesday evening with news of a potential heart for Grace. The family mobilized in anticipation, waiting, and lots of prayer. After 12 hours of surgery on Thursday, she came out with a new lease on life - with a grateful family for the heart and a very real awareness of the sacrifice and pain of a family now smaller. Although Grace is hardly out of the woods and has a long, difficult and dangerous road ahead for many months - her events took a toll on sleep - but one we have been glad to pay. Grace's news had come on the heels of some medical information that Karen had learned about that required some additional tests and consultation - and that is always unsettling, as well. (With more information still to come.)
Then there was today. I guess they all worked together to provide a pretty powerful reminder (again) of just how precious family is - and just how grateful I am to be running in this family - which has certainly not come about due to merit.
Thank you. And if there is perhaps any message in this post - run each race like it is your last.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

(Celebrity?) River Runnings

When we finished our race last weekend I had learned something; Wisconsin and Minnesota are pretty places! I had no particular reasons to think otherwise, but after spending several days up there I was duly impressed. But first things first - on August 2nd, we ran the inaugural River City Ramble Half-Marathon in Red Wing, Minnesota, a town of 20,000 people (and probably half that many hanging flower baskets) on the Mississippi River about 50 miles SE of the Twin Cities. Its claims to fame are Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Pottery - both of which played roles in our weekend race activities.

As for the race, we were impressed and pleasantly surprised by the weather. We had expected midwest heat and humidity, but it turned out almost pleasant. The race started and finished at a very scenic Park on the River then transitioned to a walking/running/bike path for the rest of the out-and-back. It was through a valley, generally shaded and only nominally uphill for the first half, but then that same downhill for the return which, psychologically, still makes a difference. We managed times that, although still short of our PRs, were pretty good.

What made this race special for us was the hospitality and welcome. We had coordinated some things with the Race Director and he ended up with our "story". He put us in contact with a writer for their local paper (Red Wing Republican Eagle) who did a story on us and our "quest". The story - with a front-page lead-in, ran the day before the race. (Yes....we came home with a number of copies! from 8/1/08) Since the race didn't have any finisher's medals, the Race Director presented us two pieces of Red Wing Pottery during the awards ceremonies - it was kind of cool!

This trip will be among our favorites for the pre- and post-race travel and activities. (It was also our first without Rachel, who stayed with her Aunt Kathy in Chicago. That was kind of weird - and we kept wondering why she wasn't in the back seat!) We spent an afternoon in Madison on the way up, visiting the Capitol and Univ of Wisconsin. This gave me my first taste of the lakes the area is so famous for, as Madison sits between two very picturesque lakes. The next day we spent a leisurely day traveling 60 miles on a National Scenic Highway along the Mississippi River between La Crosse and Red Wing. The river, the bluffs, the forests and the scenic hamlets contributed to this being a great drive. Even managed a hike up onto Brady's Bluff at Perrot State Park with some sweeping views of the river valley. In Red Wing after the race, we visited the pottery store and the factory shoe store - leaving with 3 more pairs of shoes than we came with! Later, in the Twin Cities we inspected the Capitol in St Paul and spent a few minutes in their magnificent cathedral, followed by a Twins baseball game in the Metrodome (very interesting venue). On our return day Karen insisted on seeing the Mary Tyler Moore house in Minneapolis - and, of course, I obliged (nothing spectacular, but the residences/estates in the area along Chain of Lakes were pretty amazing) and we later stopped at Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo WI - another scenic gem - with a hike to Balanced Rock and Devil's Doorway. All in all, I learned that Wisconsin is worth a visit - even if they CAN'T claim to have any decent skiing.
As for any profound thoughts - isn't discovering Wisconsin enough?? I might only add a thought about expectations - which you have read here before. They can be powerful obstacles or enhancers to performance. Although we expected dreadful weather - I think we were prepared and, as a result, were able to take advantage of pretty good conditions. The moral - don't let expectations dictate performance.
Nineteen down - thirty-one to go!