Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reveling in the rhythm

The day before Charlie and I were scheduled to run the Turkey Trot, he volunteered to be a guinea pig -- excuse me, research subject -- at IEEM, the exercise-research facility where he worked this past summer. This particular study involved locating a nerve in Charlie's calf (which apparently was as eek-inducing as it sounds) that connects to the part of his brain which regulates blood pressure during exercise. After it was found, tests were done to determine the brain/nerve connection. Or so I think; I'm too embarrassed to ask Charlie to explain it to me again.

Five hours after the test began, I went to pick Charlie up so we could pick up our race packets at Luke's Locker. As the researchers were removing the various leads, Charlie asked about exercising. 

"Oh, after 24 hours, you should be fine," he was told. 

Charlie and I looked at each other. Then Charlie asked about running eight miles -- a distance he neglected to mention he had never run before -- 17 hours later. It was the researchers' turn to look at each other. After a brief silence, he was given a reluctant OK, with the stipulation that if, at the 3.1-mile/8-mile split, we'd head for the shorter finish line if he wasn't feeling well.

Thanksgiving morning dawned glorious and cold. We ate oatmeal and a banana, layered up and headed out. We took our places in the corral for timed runners, and when the gun went off, so did we. We'd decided to stay together till the split, then go at our own pace. Those first couple of miles, we did well keeping tabs on each other, somehow sensing each other's proximity despite the thousands of runners sharing the streets with us. 

To ensure we wouldn't lose each other, we'd stopped by Sports Authority the day before and bought walkie-talkies, the whole idea of which amused us mightily. Aside from the entertainment factor, we figured they'd come in handy if we did get separated (as we did at last year's Trot and this year's Race for the Cure), and thus curtail post-race wanderings looking for each other.

When we saw the arrow pointing one way for the 5K and another for the 8 miles, I could sense Charlie right behind me, and also that he was up for eight. So we kept on, maintaining a steady pace as we got into the rhythm of the run and of each other. 

In previous Turkey Trot races, port-a-potties were -- if not everywhere, at least every so often, and more than one at each location. This year, though, though, there were hardly any. So when I spotted one around Mile 4 or so, I told Charlie to go on; that I needed to stop. He started to continue, then asked if I wanted him to wait for me. Sure, I told him, if you don't mind.

My hands were obviously more frozen than I realized, because by the time we started running again, we'd lost a few minutes. I could tell that was fine with Charlie, because he seemed to be lagging just a bit.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"Hanging in there," he said. "I'm fine."

We passed Mile 5, Mile 6, Mile 7, running up some hills and down others (while I tried to remember who had told me this year's course was flat). When we could see the skyline, I picked up the pace. As we got closer, I yelled, "Just two minutes!" When the finish line was just a few breaths away, Charlie dashed ahead and crossed just before I did. 

I couldn't stop smiling; neither of us could. We accepted our plastic-wrapped medals -- the first I've ever received in a Turkey Trot! -- and put them around our necks. We hugged each other and headed for the banana and power-bar tables. We saw our dear friend Yolanda, plus recognized a couple more runners. We had our picture taken, then headed home and to Thanksgiving dinner at my sister Jeanne's.

We had a wonderful time that morning, as we have in each of the races we've participated in. Some we've only started together; this was one of the precious duo we finished together, too. 

Charlie turned 21 the end of October. In two months, he leaves for a semester in Austria. He won't be home till July, and we've made a bit of a pact to limit communication to the occasional email, plus (isn't it funny how old-fashioned this sounds?) letters or post cards.

All of which makes this race -- these miles together; the meals, the hugs, the talks and the silliness we share -- all the more precious.

When I think back on this Thanksgiving, on his first 8-miler that I'm tickled beyond words to have experienced with him, I will, of course, remember exalting in the finish. Even more though, I will feel incredibly lucky, undeniably blessed, to sense each other's presence -- whether looking over a shoulder or scanning the crowd ahead -- every step of the way.

Oh, and the walkie-talkies? We didn't need them. Which, truth to tell, doesn't surprise me. Not even a little bit.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Embracing time

My mother likes to be awakened by the sun streaming through her window. Not me; I prefer my morning runs to be finished long before I even think about squinting. But this morning, that changed -- for me at least -- with the backward turn of our clocks.

From this Sunday through spring, unless I start running at  5 a.m. (which is doubtful, though I like the idea of it) I'm going to need to carry sunglasses along with water, raisins and an old driver's license for ID.

It's an annual event, this borrowing an hour of sunlight from dusk and presenting to dawn -- with a bit of a flourish -- these precious 3,600 seconds. The deeper we go into the cave of year's approaching end, though, the less light the days offer anyway. But for now, the morning gift is fresh and new; the evening dearth of light, a bit perplexing. We have to remind ourselves why the sky is dark when we leave work, and to psyche ourselves up to face it head on.

We can think of this tossed-around hour as an extra one, which NPR's Scott Simon (who keeps me company on my Saturday morning runs) said in this essay. An hour in which, he told us, we can at least dream of reading "a book we made the time to buy, but have never been able to find the time to read..."

Or this which made me take a quick and deep breath: "to have another hour to talk with our parents again, or pat a family pet we loved."

Time, and this isn't exactly profound, is weird. It's iffy and fickle and makes no guarantees. It seems at times limitless; at others, way too finite. Yet those are among the reasons we cling to it, and bargain with it; battle it and coddle it. Say what we will about it, we want to very much for it to be our friend. Because of everything that time is, above all it is precious.

So on this, the first official day without Daylight Saving Time, what can we do but honor, not just the hour that most of us probably slept through, but minutes and moments that make up our lives. Of course we'll fall short. Huge chunks will pass in a heartbeat; minutes will drag by.

And then forgiving resilient souls that we are (or try desperately to be), we'll stand up straight  and dust ourselves off. We'll put on our sunglasses and, vowing to be ever aware and ever appreciative, we'll open the curtains to let the morning light stream in.