Tragedy and the tribe

It’s now been a week since the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon and although a suspect has been charged it is still going to take a much longer time for all the people touched by this tragedy, including me, to process all that has happened and the feelings associated with them.

When I heard what had happened on Monday I took the events very personally.  Not only where there friends of friends there, and thankfully all of them safe.  I felt that this tribe of people known as “endurance athletes”and our culture, and what it stands for, in a literal sense, was attacked and that it might be taken away.

My life nearly ended August, 27, 2008.  That’s the day that I set out from my house for mellow late afternoon run.  I had just come back from Chicago and competing in the Chicago Triathlon in front of my family for the first time.  I felt that I did pretty well for being my first year trying this whole endurance sports thing.  After multiple knee surgeries from my soccer playing days I found triathlon as an outlet for my very competitive side and my desire to remain active.  The “HTFU” aspect appealed to me as well.  Growing up, I played every sport I could, but I was always the smallest one on any field.  My dad helped me make up for it, by installing a healthy: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” approach that helped me suceed.  I knew that by working just a little bit harder, and never giving up I could be successful.

I mean just look how small my arms and legs were when I was 6!

I mean just look how small my arms and legs were when I was 6!

During rehab for three consecutive ACL reconstructions I was told I could ride a stationary bike and I could swim.  So that’s what I did.  When my knee was healthy enough I started running.  My dad, with his infinite advice, said, “Why don’t you start doing triathlon’s?”  Sure.  Why not?  It’s active, its competitive and most of all it’s a battle not only with your competitors and the course itself, but with your mind.  To convince yourself to never give up, to make it a mind over matter battle got me hooked.  However, without the doubt the reason I stayed with it, decided to work in the industry, to make it my lifestyle was because of the tribe.

Endurance athletes are a tribe, plain and simple.  However, the best thing about this tribe is everyone is invited.  There are no limitations.  Endurance athletes except everyone…seriously, they do.  Doesn’t matter what you look like, how old you are, how much money you have, if you like girls or boys, if you worship god, allah, or your neighbors cat.  Fine, most “normal” people think we are bat-shit crazy anyway for hitting the road at 5:30am to go ride our bikes 80 miles, so who cares!?  It’s the bond that comes with knowing endurance sports cannot be faked.  You cannot bluff your way through a triathlon.  You can’t fake a marathon.  You can’t relax your way through a century.  It’s completed through hard work and effort, and in a belief that I am not going to give up.  Most of the time the only difference between what “normal” people think is crazy and what members of the tribe do is the effort they put into it.  The other  amazing aspect about the tribe, is the instant, inescapable bound that binds people together.

What other sport can you think of that you see other competitors actively encouraging, supporting, cheering, helping their fellow competitors?  Go to a marathon and watch competitors high five each other.  Go to a triathlon and see as soon as everyone from top pros to regular joes cross the finish line, they turn around and cheer on others that haven’t finished yet.  Do you have an extra tube?  One of the things I hear most in the parking lot of local bike races.  This bond that we are all in this together.  I experienced this first hand in the days, weeks and months following August 27th, 2008.

What a difference a couple months make.  May 2008.  I mean, it even looks like I have an upper body in this pic!

What a difference a couple months make. May 2008. I mean, it even looks like I have an upper body in this pic!

In some ways I wish I knew more what happened, in many ways I am happy that I don’t.  All I can say for sure is that I left the house to get a little bit of that “runner’s high.”  That feeling that no matter how crappy your day was, you can hit the road and lose yourself in your run and come back to reality feeling better.  Unfortunately, that’s not what happened to me.  I was hit from behind by a car traveling somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35 mph.  Only thing I know is that I left the house for a run, woke up with someone telling me I was in the hospital.  I  didn’t know my own name or where I lived, let alone how I got there.   When I was finally able to tell the nurse that I worked at a bike shop they were able to get in touch with the owner of the shop, who’s family I was living with, and have him come to the hospital and contact my parents.  The short list was a fractured vertebrae, a severe concussion and a lot of road rash.  No broken bones and I was alive.  I’m convinced that I am part X-man, but that’s a post for another day.

3 days after Chicago Triathlon I looked a little different.  I apologize for not smiling, but I don't remember taking the photo

3 days after Chicago Triathlon I looked a little different. I apologize for not smiling, but I don’t remember taking the photo

The outpouring of love, support and generosity that was shown to me by my friends, triathlon club, other competitors, total strangers during the time following my lengthy road to recovery made me realize that the tribe is made up of some of the best people in the world.  That has only been solidified by my experiences since that day in 2008 and put on display to the world with the bombings at Boston on Monday.

The acts of selflessness, the willingness to help others.  The stories of people finishing then immediately running to the hospital a few extra miles to donate blood.  This is the stuff that I have know for years.  It’s also the part that is hardest to understand.  Why would anyone want to hurt the people that are some of the very best around?  It’s a question that probably wont have an answer, but I do know that the people effected, will have a network of worldwide support.  Sometimes it just as simple as lacing up your shoes and going for a run.  That’s what I had to do.  I just recently got back to running over the summer after finally conquering my back injuries.  It’s amazing what a pretty girl telling me she runs can get me to do!  You run…Wow! Me too!   Although, the relationship didn’t work out, I am grateful for it, because I got the “runner’s high” back.  That feeling of escape, of freedom.

It just seemed right.  I had to run.

It just seemed right. I had to run.

By the time I got back there was already an invite to join the Facebook group “Run 26.2 for Boston.”  It’s a group dedicated to posting images and stories of running for those that can’t and in support of the people of Boston.  It might sound hokey or contrived, but to members of the tribe it makes sense.  I felt this senseless act of violence very personally.  It felt like a part of a world that has meant so much to me had been taken.  What a realize now, is that the world is now going to see in the next days, weeks, months, years how strong the tribe is and I am happy to call myself a member.

-b

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The Pledge

I was cruising the interwebs a little while ago and stumbled upon this website, GFDA.com.   From what I can gather from the website, it was started by two graphic designers that started the site as a bit of a joke, but quickly realized that the website was gaining some traction.

The Pledge

The Pledge

One of the most popular aspects of the site is the GFDA “Pledge.”  I am not sure exactly what it is about it, but it has really struck a nerve with me.

As I am currently dealing with some tough times personally, professionally and physically and the pledge has given me a bit of inspiration to go out and say “Fuck It.”  Time to focus on what I have going on that is good in my life, instead of dwelling on what isn’t.  If I focus on the good things, then the bad things will take care of themselves.

I realize that this way of thinking comes in very large part from my parents who have been practicing the “pick yourself up and dust yourself off” method of living their entire lives.  I know that life can’t always be “rainbows and puppy dogs.”  When things aren’t at there best is when you find out the most about who you are as a person.  You also find out about others.  It’s a real shame when people give up or walk away when things aren’t going well.  Whether it’s a personal relationship or a professional one, how to understand and negotiate stress and hard times make the relationship that much stronger and better.  I feel sorry for people that can’t understand that.

Complete

Complete

I’ll end this with one of my favorite quotes.  To think what issues Churchill was wrestling with when he said this, makes me realize that I can tackle and overcome mine.

He just became Prime Minister.  His country was being bombed nightly and he had to make decisions that would effect millions of people.  Puts my problems in some perspective.

He just became Prime Minister. His country was being bombed nightly and he had to make decisions that would affect millions of people. Puts my problems in some perspective.

Cheers

B

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Rodeo Beach Trail Half Marathon

Golden Gate on race day.  A sign of things to come.

Golden Gate on race day. A sign of things to come.

Now, since it’s the second year in a row doing it, it has become a tradition to head up to San Francisco around Christmas/New Years to visit my sister and have some fun.  This trip was much needed after a rough end to 2012 personally and professionally.  There is something to old saying that there’s; “Nothing Like Family.”   Even though I don’t have a big family we are as close as can be.

Another great reason to head up to SF was to attempt my first ever trail half-marthon.  I have just come back to running after almost 3.5 years away from it due to injuries and have never done any trail running and I have to say it’s been a blast.  It’s done my head as much good as my body.  To be able to step away, hit the trails and feel like you are alone in the great wide open is so satisfying and needed to help alleviate the stress of everyday life.  Now, I know, living in San Diego is a charmed existence to begin with, but everyone has stress to deal with and doing athletic things have always been my release.  But, back to the race.  It was the Rodeo Beach Trail Half-Marathon in the Marin headlands.  Since, the race was on January 30th it was a great excuse to get some exercise in before the debauchery of New Years Eve!

Rodeo Beach Trail Half Marathon

Rodeo Beach Trail Half Marathon

I flew up to SF on the 29th and had a great day exploring the city with my sister and her boyfriend.  After a pre-race meal at Rosamunde, great sausage place, probably not the smartest before race day, but it’s so freaking good I couldn’t resist.

Race morning came early, like 4:30am early, but that’s the nature of the beast.  After my sister Vitamix’d,(did I just make up a new word?), me up some super juice and had some oatmeal we were off.

Choice of clothing was of a bit of a concern for me, since I knew it was going to be a lot colder and, well, I know I got to look good.  I believe it was a balmy 43 or so when we got there, but I knew, or thought, it would warm up, and I hate wearing too much when I’m racing.  Getting ready in the parking lot I was able to do something special for a couple of friends of mine.

Doing the bull dance, feeling the flow.

Doing the bull dance, feeling the flow.

My sweet pre-race pose.  I'm sure I struck fear into my fellow racers

My sweet pre-race pose. I’m sure I struck fear into my fellow racers

Since I started back racing again I have worn some pink “eye black” and writing names of people that have had to fight cancer.  I started it because my mom is a cancer survivor and one my aunt’s lost her fight to Cancer and I did it as a way of honoring them.  For this race I had the honor of racing with the names of two of my friend’s mothers’ names that both, sadly, lost their fight with Cancer.  I think about Mrs. Caradonna and Mrs. Gow a lot, especially within the context of my Mom’s fight with cancer and I really appreciated both of their families for letting me wear their names.

In honor of Mrs. Caradonna and Mrs. Gow and their families

In honor of Mrs. Caradonna and Mrs. Gow and their families

As the time to race drew near I could feel the emotions of racing and doing something I haven’t done before.  The plan was to do a short out and back on the road, then 12 mile loops of some beautiful trails.  Easy peasy, right?  Wrong…gun goes off and one guy heads off the front and 2 others and myself settle into 2-4th.  As always I use the sage wit and wisdom of my friend James, who tells me to just go with the leaders, don’t hold back.  Better to blow up, then to not even see the front.  The race organizers told us to do a mile out and back.  At the turnaround point there will be a guy waving a flag, no problem.  Well at about .75 miles I turn to the two other guys I’m running with and say, “Isn’t this supposed to be a mile total, so the turnaround should have been at half a mile?”  They agree, but we look back and see people following us, so as lemmings going over the cliff, we keep running.  Finally at a mile with no sign of a turn around point we make the executive call to turnaround.  As we are heading back we see the same guy with a flag that looked at us and didn’t say a word when we ran past him and I say, “Hey were you the turnaround guy?”  And his reply was, “Yeah…sorry.”  D’oh!  All a part of racing and trail racing I guess, but the first 20-30 people ran an extra mile at the start.  Not a big deal except we had to navigate the rest of the field during the first 2 mile climb.  I managed to get through it and get to the top of the climb and see some spectacular views of…Fog.  Cold, Windy, Rainy FOG!!  Now’s the time to say that my choice of tank top and shorts was probably not my best move!  As I look and see frost all along the trail I realize this is going to be a long day.  Thankfully, after the first descent that was pretty much blind, thanks to the Fog we got into some absolutely beautiful country with views of both the ocean and the bay.  Plus, the sun came out and I felt sort of warm(er), or at least I could feel my fingers.

So...I could have been a little warmer.

So…I could have been a little warmer.

After the first aid station around mile 5, there was another long, gradual climb and I could see a couple of people in front of me, but couldn’t gain time on them no matter how hard I tried.  Last aid station with 3 miles to go and it was straight downhill.  Downhill is definitely a place where I need to improve, must still be thinking about the 3 ACL reconstructions I have had on my left knee.  Made it to the bottom, with about a mile to go, which was already 13+ thanks to my extra credit at the beginning.  I could feel my body starting to say it’s had enough.  That’s alright I’m still pretty close to the front of the race so I was stoked.  What I wasn’t so stoked about was three people passed me inside the last .75 miles!  Stupid extra credit miles.  I managed to finish 9th overall and also ran the farthest I ever have at one time 14+ so ultimately I am happy.

Longest "Half Marathon" ever!

Longest “Half Marathon” ever!

9th Overall, I'll take it.

9th Overall, I’ll take it.

My sister, her boyfriend and a few of her friends were at the finish after doing the 8K course.  Always great to see a few familiar faces cheering you on at the finish line.

I am always stoked to be able to cross something new off “my list” and trail half marathon is completed.  I learned to always be alert for the unexpected and no matter what have fun doing it.  It’s way to much effort and energy to be angry.

Much deserved and appreciated post race.

Much deserved and appreciated post race.

Now, just hope I can get this hip injury figured out before Catalina Marathon…

Cheers

B

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