6 Mile Slug Lane

I have finally returned home after a long journey around the U.S.  At least it felt like that… Well, I did pass through quite a few states and flew over a few more.  I had to go to Crescent City, CA to say my final farewell to my Paps.  I must say that is was an eye-opening experience and not as depressing as I thought it would be.  The eye-opening part was due to the fact that I had not seen my family in quite some time and it felt wonderful to be blessed with their presence.  I realized that I had been missing out for a few years and now understand how important it is to stay connected.  We even played charades one night and I laughed so hard that I nearly fell out of my chair.

I stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house (along with everyone else it seemed) and woke up each morning dressed head to toe in my running gear.  Oh, the jokes and comments started almost immediately.  “Do you get up every morning to go run?”  “What is the point of running when you can drive there?”  “Don’t you need some fat in order to run because how to you get any energy?”  Yes, I had to walk through the crowd hovered in the kitchen in order to get out the door.  Then, there was my dad.  “Where are you running to?  How far are you going? When will you be back?  I am going to get in the car and drive behind you!”  Come on dad, I am 33 years old!

The journey past the comments and stares was well worth it when I stepped outside.  I know they thought I was crazy for stepping out in shorts and a tank top (okay, maybe they are used to it and I just thought I was crazy because I spent the whole time walking around in pants and a jacket… even while indoors).  Yet, it was so refreshing to actually feel a chill.  All I could think of was that I had stepped into runner’s paradise.  As soon as I started running I warmed up and it felt perfect… absolutely perfect.  I enjoyed the scenery of the nearby mountains covered in fog and the expansive redwood forest just beyond the fields.  I didn’t quite know where I would end up, but I just wandered up and down roads.

I had to run on the roads because there were no sidewalks.  I also found it interesting that I did not see anyone else around.  No one was running, walking or riding a bike.  When a tractor or a car would pass by, they would just stare at me like I was some sort of alien.  I think they were wondering what the heck I was doing.  Did her car run out of gas?  Is she running away from someone?  I just didn’t get the feeling that people understood what I was doing.  I don’t think they run for fun out there.  That’s okay because I had the road to myself. Almost.

By “almost” I mean that it had just rained the night before and when that happens there are things that come out.  These things are known as slugs.  Slugs are basically snails without a shell.  I am not sure why they weren’t given shells to protect themselves, but they have an ugly, slimy appearance so I suppose that helps in warding off predators.  Well, they were populating the roads that day and I literally had to weave in and out of slug traffic.  I could tell that some never made it across the road before a car came along.  I am sure there is no need for me to describe how I know that.  I must say that they were the only ones not criticizing me for running that day.  That is why I have named my running route after them:  6 Mile Slug Lane.



Running for my Paps

I knew that when my dad called me and sounded the way he did that something bad had happened.  I already knew what he was going to tell me before the words came out.  My Grandpa, Paps, has been ready to cross over for some time now.  He has been struggling ever since my Grandma passed away 14 years ago.

I was surprised to find out that he is still holding on even though medication is the only thing pumping his heart and a machine is forcing him to breathe.  I can only hope that he is not in pain and that he will find peace soon.  I am sure that my Grandma is waiting for him.

The first thing I wanted to do when I found out the news was to go for a run.  That is the only activity I know that allows me to think, while keeping me busy at the same time.  I do the dishes to get my mind off things, but that just isn’t very productive.  If I can think while engaging in activity, then I feel I can handle a situation better.

As I ran, I thought about my last phone conversation with Paps.  I am not sure why it always comes back to that last conversation, but it does for me.  I talked to him about 2 weeks ago which was only a few days shy of his 90th birthday.  He often talks about the past and every time I talk to him (which was never often enough) he always brought up the day we went for a walk on the beach.  It was an unusual day for him (and for me too I suppose) because I suddenly turned towards him and told him I wanted to join the Coast Guard.  He was utterly baffled because I had never, ever mentioned anything about the Coast Guard before (nor any service for that matter).  That thought had never crossed my mind until that day when we walked down the beach and I glanced over at a Coast Guard boat in the water.  Well, I did follow through with what I said, but that is another story for another time in a different blog.

I do relive that moment every time I talk to Paps.  He also enjoys reminiscing about all of the experiences we shared together when I was a child.  Back then, I was a very lucky only granddaughter so my grandparents spoiled me.  They would take me on many travels, including Pennsylvania and Florida (who would have thought I would end up back in Florida?).  My Paps was wild back then.  I vividly remember when he took me to Disney World and convinced me to ride on a fast train.  He said it wouldn’t be scary at all.  Let me just say that I was not happy with the outcome.  I had just eaten before the ride and ended up losing my stomach contents in a trash can at the end of the ride.  He just stood there and laughed at me.  Thanks Paps…

My Paps was also big on “going out for a bite” (that is always how he worded it).  He loved going out to eat and that is probably why I eat out way too much.  Almost every morning he would go out for a donut and coffee.  I loved it when he would take me.  I am surprised I didn’t become an obese child.  I am not sure how he just celebrated his 90th birthday because he seems to get by without drinking water.  Yes, my Paps does not drink water.  He even tells those WWII stories about when he would offer his canteen of water to the other soldiers because he wouldn’t drink it.  I guess he just drinks enough coffee to fulfill his water intake for the day??

Lucky for me, I have many more memories that I will reflect on during my runs.  Thanks Grandma and Paps for all your love and everything you taught me about the world.  I hope you are together again soon.

And I used to call him “Pap-Pap.”  At some point I figured I  was too old to call him that so I started to call him “Paps.”  🙂

Pushing Yourself Towards Greatness

First of all, this is my 50th post since I started writing this blog.  I write mostly for myself, but I do enjoy knowing that there are a few people who may find my stories slightly interesting.  I hope that I can be a positive influence on others and maybe even entice a few folks to take a crack at this running thing.

Last night I also realized that I enjoy encouraging others to be successful runners.  I couldn’t have been happier when I was asked to be a running coach for Team in Training.  I am not an elite runner so it may seem as though I don’t have a lot to offer the novice runner.  Quite the contrary, in fact, because I have a lot of passion.  I am also human and just plain average when it comes to running.  I do make mistakes and I expect my trainees to learn from my mistakes so that is why I share my embarrassing stories.  You just have to be willing to remain humble.

With that said, I love encouraging others to work harder and strive for greatness.  I suppose that is why I became a teacher.  Since I am not currently teaching, I guess that this is my new outlet for helping others. However, when it comes to this team, I find that I don’t have to try very hard.  They seem to find the motivation within themselves to push through the tough terrain.  I must say that I am proud to run next to someone who has made a choice to work towards running further from one training run to the next.  I know it isn’t easy to do something that pushes your body to the limit.  It is amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.

Some do need more encouragement than others.  When an activity becomes too tough it is human nature to back off and take the path of least resistance.  That was how I used to approach running.  If it became too hard, then I would slow down.  Yet, running is very much a mental game.  I have learned that if I push back when it gets difficult, then I can achieve more than I ever have before.  It does take a lot of willpower to do this, but it can be done.  One step at a time is the best approach.  You can’t expect to run a half-marathon in under 2 hours overnight.

Not only does it take willpower, but it takes passion.  You can only achieve greatness if you want to.  Someone recently told me that they didn’t want to run fast.  Well, they won’t run fast.  If you don’t want to run far, then you won’t run far.  That makes perfect sense.  What doesn’t make sense is when you say that you can’t.  If you want to, then you can.  It does take work though.  Sometimes people can’t do something because they don’t want to work at it.

I tell my trainees that if they make it over the hill before everyone else, then they have to turn around and come back up the hill.  If they want to improve their running and not just settle for what feels comfortable, then they will turn around and come back up the hill.  Yes, it is a challenge, but that’s the point.  The point is to move out of your comfort level in order to achieve what you never thought possible.