A quiet morning along Lake Michigan.
A quiet morning along Lake Michigan.
The temperature was in the lower 70s, clouds dotted the sky, a slight breeze skimmed off the lake and we were surrounded by more than 32,000 people. What a perfect day for a first race.
It was Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle, the largest 8K road race in the world and I was finally getting the opportunity to run a race with my husband. Though neither of us are avid runners, I’ve always wanted to do a race with him. He’s cheered for me at my races, but I wanted him on the frontline, not the sideline.
We decided to run the race as part of the Imerman Angels, an organization that provides one-on-one support for those with cancer. I was running on behalf of my two cousins, Jimmy and Chubby who died of cancer. (With the support of family and friends Hubby and I raised $525! Thanks again to all who donated.)
There’s something magical about races, a sense of community, excitement and strength that everyone should get to experience at least once. And today was my husband’s day.
A few minutes before the race was to start, we were jittery with anticipation, marveling at the crazy ways people paired running gear and shamrocks. Hubby was worried I’d leave him behind. I reminded him how he had trained way more than me and that he would be fine.
Then the crowd lumbered forward. We were off.
We paced ourselves fairly slow, as I always fear I’ll run out of gas at the end of the race. My smile grew as we neared one of my favorite views. It’s just as we’re about to duck under Michigan Avenue, you can see Nordstrom above you and the bobbling mass of runners sloping below.
Around the first mile I felt a stitch in my side. Whoa, what’s going on? Not too long ago I ran 3 miles and felt like I could have done it backward, now I’ve got a stitch at Mile1? This isn’t good.
Meanwhile Hubby’s chugging along like the little engine that could, giving me encouraging grins every few steps. We hit up the drink station and I thought Mile 2 would be better, but at the end of that one, someone had swapped my legs for concrete pillars.
Now Hubby’s shooting me some concerned looks, he can tell I’m hurtin. I’m wondering what’s going on with my body. I’m hot, I’m sluggish and it seems my runner’s high is late on arrival.
“If you want to go ahead, that’s fine. I don’t want to drag you down,” I told him.
He shook his head. “No, we finish this together.”
The temperature climbed and I could tell I was hot, too hot. I saw an onlooker with a water bottle and wondered if I could ask him for a swig. I started to think about all the people I was running this for. I heard my cousin Chubby tell me: “Now girl you finish this race, you ain’t that big.” And I imagined Jimmy smiling at me in a fur coat. (One of my favorite memories of him is when a bunch of us went to try on fur coats for fun, he tried to talk Hubby into getting one for me. Hubby wisely refused.)
I thought of my Twitterfriend who was diagnosed with cancer two weeks after having her first child, of my friend Glenn who’s an amazing man and lost his mom to cancer. She had to be spectacular to raise such a great person. I thought of Andre and his stark honesty about his courageous battle, a little girl named Anna who has since passed. All of them fighters, all of them great. If they can fight such a rotten beast like cancer, surely, surely my ass can make it across the finish line.
“You’re doing great baby,” Hubby smiled at me. I just nodded. My cheeks were on fire and I was starting to get chills. I knew I was dehydrated and overheated. This was not good at all. Instead of being smart and stopping to walk and get something to drink, I plodded forward.
A black woman in the crowd yelled for us to dig deep and keep running, that we were almost there. That helped me kick it up. Hubby and I rounded the corner that was the last leg of all major Chicago races. It’s a hill. (Why do they put the end of the race atop the only hill in town?)
And we dug, dug, dug our way to the top of that hill. We turned the corner, and could see that beautiful banner that reads: FINISH.
A woman who was quite… rotund passed me and I thought: No way. I sped up, she did too. I sped up more and kept it up so that she wouldn’t even try to catch up. Hubby was right next to me. Just before we got to the finish line, we embraced the cliché, clasped our hands together and crossed.
“We did it baby,” he said.
Yes, I thought. We sure did.
My husband and I just revisited this yummy well this weekend. We call it the fountain of youth because it’s soooo good. Even better, it’s free and all natural.
This is called the Flowing Well. Adam Channing hand dug the well to 55 feet deep in 1895 and it’s been flowing steadily since. The water in this well flows from aquifers where water at a higher elevation puts pressure on the water below it causing it to flow out readily when given an outlet.
Hubby and I love tasty water. Some might say that we’re water snobs. Our favorite is Voss, followed by this well near Whitewater, Wis., next is Norwegian tap water (essentially it’s melted virgin icebergs), then Fiji water and Evian comes in fifth place. We first stumbled on this place when we went camping in the summer and we were happy to find it again, since it’s in a rural area along Clover Valley Road in Whitewater, Wis.
My husband complained to me that it’d been too long since we’d gone on vacation. I thought he was being ridiculous since we last had a weekend getaway in November. Then I remembered ah yes, it’s the Norwegian in him.
Hubby was born in Norway and moved here when he was 19. In his “muthaland” as he calls it, the law requires that workers have at least 25 paid vacation days and there’s 10 public holidays.
In the U.S., employers are not required to provide any paid vacation and usually large companies allow for 15 vacation days and 10 paid holidays, according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the U.S. was dead last when it comes to the world’s richest countries. Twenty of the richest countries require companies to provide paid vacation days. Not ours.
I don’t mean to bore you with statistics, but wanted to give some perspective on our different viewpoints. Our trip in November was the last hurrah as a family of three and my seven-month-pregnant-self rocked a bikini at a waterpark in Lake Geneva, Wis. (Me to hubby: “You can tell I’m pregnant and not fat right? <insert eye roll.>)
This past weekend we went back to Lake Geneva. We like the area because it’s close to our home, yet the culture is so different that it truly feels like a getaway.
This time we returned to a privately owned batch of cottages steps away from Lake Como. It’s called Duffy’s and Hubby and I were excited to go back because we had a great time there with Logan two years ago, plus across the street from the cottages is Duffy’s pub, so being the lushes that we are, we were happy not to have a designated driver.
We left on Friday early afternoon and came back Monday afternoon. We didn’t do anything fancy, but we enjoyed ourselves. We grilled yummy grub, went on walks, stayed up late, played board games with Logan, and after the boys were down Hubby and I talked.
It felt so good just to talk about nothing with him. We’re so rushed with responsibilities and pressed for time that our conversations can seem task-oriented and feel more like a business meeting. “I’m working late on Wednesday and Thursday this week.” “I’m going to the store, what do you need?” “The bathroom sink is wonky again.” “It’s time for an oil change.” “Logan has soccer on Saturday…”
And it was a good vacation. We got away from our To Do lists, focused on our family and we’re all better for it. We all recognize the importance of getting away, but all of us can’t, won’t or just plain don’t do it. I’m glad I’ve got a Norwegian to help me to stop and enjoy life.
No joke. In 10 days one of my dreams is about to come true and the best part is that it’s going to benefit cancer patients.
The dream? It’s running a race with my husband. I know, I know. It sounds eye-rollingly mushy, but don’t tell anyone: I’m a closeted sap.
I have always been enamored by the idea of running. It’s the purest form of exercise, just you and your legs pounding the pavement. No weights, mats, ropes, pulleys, bars, BOSUs. Nada.
I started running in 2002, largely because many of my co-workers were doing the Corporate Challenge, a 5K. I didn’t want to be the one bringing up the rear, so I put mine in gear and started training. It sucked in the beginning, but I stuck with it and fell in love.
I love the runner’s high. I love how running gives me time to think. I love what it does for my body. (Finally I found something that could turn my pear shape into an hour glass.) So let’s fast forward several races, including the 2006 marathon. In that race, I asked Hubby to jump in after mile 20 to help me get to the finish line. He ran with me until about mile No. 25 and hearing his footsteps next to mine, pushing me to keep going meant so much. He’s not an avid runner, but he stuck it out with me and I wanted that experience again.
Also, in most Chicago races there’s a beautiful view that always gives me chills. You’re on Grand Avenue and about a half block away is Michigan Avenue. Looking up, you see upper Michigan Avenue, it’s almost like a bridge. And you can read the sign for Nordstrom. The street slopes down so below you is a sea of bobbling heads, runners whooping it up because their voices reverberate off the walls of lower Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile’s underbelly. The energy is electric and at that moment I always feel like I can do anything. I want to share that moment with my best friend, my Hubby.
He’s always known this. And I’ve tried not to pressure him into running a race with me, just gently asking if he’d like to join me some day and finally, this year, he’s strapping on his shoes and running his first race. I’m soooo stoked. We’re doing the Shamrock Shuffle on April 10.
This year we’re running as part of a charity team, the Imerman Angels. It’s a neat group because they focus on pairing cancer patients with people who have successfully fought the same type of cancer and it connects parents, spouses, kids of cancer patients with other caregivers and survivors. It’s a one-on-one service and it’s free. Which is why we’re raising money for them.
Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for the race and this group hasn’t matched with what we’ve raised. We’re still quite short of our fundraising goals, so even if you’ve got an extra $5 to share, click here and make a donation.
I’m running the race in the name of two people in my family who died of cancer. One was Jimmy Bryant, who had lung cancer. He was a hilarious guy who enjoyed the finer things in life with humility. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it was true. Some of his best tales were those about him being a fish out of water as a city boy who would spend time on my grandparents’ farm.
The other person is Claire Chisholm Bryant, another cousin of mine, but she was known as “Chubby.” Jimmy’s humor made me giggle and smile with amusement, but Chubby’s made me belly laugh. Growing up she was one of the adults who was easy to talk to and her sense of humor was rooted in commonsense.
I will think of them throughout the Shamrock Shuffle’s 8 kilometers. Them as well as a host of other folks whose lives have been touched by cancer. Andre, an amazing coworker whose strength and talent seem endless; my daycare director who is a mother of four and is just like family because of her love for my boys. And there’s a special person in the Twitterverse who I bonded with during my third trimester as we both were having health issues and hoping our little ones baked as long as possible. She’s a spoonie, and my mom is too. She had a healthy baby girl, and then a few weeks later, my Twitterfriend was diagnosed with cancer.
I will think of each of these people and other friends as inspiration when I plod along my 8K. And I’ll smile even broader when I hear the footsteps of my best friend right next to me.