Thursday, April 17, 2014

41 Years and Tradition

There aren't many things in my life that remain the same as they were 5 or 10 years ago. In many cases, I struggle to even remember events from many years ago as my memory isn't the best. Today, I hold on to few traditions and choose, rather, to live intentionally and create new memories with those closest to me and make today and tomorrow the best it can be. I often fail but still try to keep moving forward.

For my 41st birthday this year, I held on to one tradition, that being running from my home and running through multiple towns and seeing a few friends/family along the way, and later returning home in mid-afternoon. The day started sans alarm and I saw my whole family off and going on their days. I have some flexibility in my job so I got work done early and then took my business phone with me on the run so I could answer calls and even make a scheduled conference call along my journey (which I did!). Within my first 2 miles along my traditional daily route, I snapped this photo, not because of the snow, but because of its beauty. While snow should be LONG gone by now (and it was by afternoon), this was gorgeous. For us in NE Ohio, our winter is now ranked 5th longest from the first snow to the last snow..in history. Temps at the beginning of the run were in the upper 20s but would rise to the low 40s.
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For fuel for the run, I didn't take much. It was like scrounging for leftovers to make a lunch. I took a few Hammer Gels, a single Perpetuem Solid, and a tube of Hammer's FIZZ. The FIZZ tablets are how you can create a bottle of Heed electrolyte drink out of a dry tablet. So much easier than carrying a bag of Heed powder on an unsupported run. As for planning for the distance, in year's past, I had run my age a few times in miles. Last year, I pooped out early...way early. This year, I had run a 50K only 4 days prior and my quads were NOT happy when I awoke in the morning of my birthday. My wife actually gave one a squeeze and I nearly yelped! I seem to need a solid week to fully recover from my ultras. With the 50K's fast and banging downhills, my quads certainly took the majority of the beating. Still....it was my birthday and I had miles to run. I did some math before I ran and discovered that 41 KILOMETERS equaled 25.4762 miles. "OK...I can run that. Forget 41 miles. That's not happening. But a marathon? Sure. I can do that no matter how tender my quads are. Right? Right." (end self talk)

My route took me through a lot of country and into the nearby city of Kent. Around mile 11, I came upon this elderly Korean lady standing in the middle of the road, standing beside her old, gold Mercedes with the door open. She stopped me and told me how her feet kept cramping up and she didn't feel safe to drive any longer. Long story short, I helped get her car off the road and into a nearby driveway and spoke to her husband who was en route to Cleveland. I got him turned around and gave him directions to find his wife who was in the middle of nowhere. He hung up but not before saying "thanks for being a good samaritan!" ... no accidents, right? I got running again but with a bigger smile knowing that God used me just a little bit just then.

Not too much further along my route, I came upon downtown Kent and the selfies began. First up was a stop at the Haymaker Farmer's Market mural under Haymaker Parkway before I headed down along the mighty Cuyahoga River on the Portage County Bike & Hike Trail. My target was a locally-owned, Christian bookstore so I could surprise the owner, Ann, for a 2nd year in a row on my birthday run.


I found this home as I came out of the trail near the river. Had to snap a pic.
Arriving at the bookstore around mile 16 or so, I said "Hi!" to Ann and she graciously filled my water bottle up and a new FIZZ tablets went in to give me a fresh bottle of electrolytes. The next thing I knew, Ann was climbing up to her upper cabinets telling me she had something for me. I was thinking "Ann, I can't carry any books today...I'm running!" but soon she came down with a most wonderful treat. Grinning from ear to ear, I thanked her, snapped a selfie with her and hit the road. Within a tenth of a mile, it was gone in two bites flat. "Thanks, Ann!!!"

Moving back east now towards the center of Kent, I made my way through the library (bathroom break!) and then down along the boardwalk high up over the Cuyahoga River. I always pass through here on my birthday run and take a photo of me running on the walk. There was one distinct first this year: snow on the boardwalk. Where the sun hadn't touched yet, snow remained. Last year, I cut my run short around 20 miles near this point due to the heat. Heat? Not so much on this run but still gorgeous sunny skies.

As I left the boardwalk area, I snapped this photo looking across the river and Old Glory. I think this river section and the bridge shown are probably one of the most photographed areas in Kent. Senior photos, wedding photos, etc. can be seen getting taken all year long down here, especially from Spring to the arrival of the fall foliage. In prior birthday runs, I laid down on those rocks for a few minutes sunning myself. Not this year! I'll get back here soon and make up for it. Passing over this bridge, I headed onto Kent State University's new Esplanade and onto campus where students were milling about and moving between classes. Before that, I had to endure the awesome smells of restaurants in Kent during the lunch hour. So good and tempting to stop and eat! After moving on past through the campus, I picked up the trail again and headed towards the KSU football stadium where I'd turn towards home.

In years past, I mapped out every mile and turn before I left. This year, I just wanted to run and decide every turn as I reached it. I have a pretty good guesstimate of distances and had my Garmin to track my overall mileage which was plenty sufficient. At this point of the run, I knew I'd certainly hit my 41 kilometers with a little extra.

I headed back into the country hills towards home and before finishing my run at home, I stopped by my parents' home where my dad was working. We talked for a few minutes before explaining my tradition of birthday selfies so with his permission, I snapped one, and I kept on moving towards home. Upon arriving at home, I reached an even 28 miles or 45.0616 kilometers. My quads? Trashed. This morning? Not too bad but they are absolutely getting rest today. I do have a "real" marathon in 11 days, ya know!

A Recoverite shake, a few snacks, a hot shower (I was freezing due to being so dehydrated) that lasted a LONG time, and then some rest before heading to dinner a few hours later for my birthday dinner. Not a bad birthday at all. A pretty good one. Like I told my wife a few days back: While I am not meant to be alone in life, I believe I am while on the run. I can't adequately explain that but it's needed and I am thankful I have it. Polar opposites, for sure. I've had lots of those miles over the past 5 days and hours of thoughts to process much of life..it's past, present and future. For my 41st, it's just a day to me but a day I like to hold on to just a tradition or two that are mine and I can cling to. I got that...and for that I'm thankful.

Have a great day, friends.

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