Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Missing Miami

I've been running sporadically here and there; dabbling in soccer and you know, the occasional run-for-your-life backyard water balloon fight. But I don't even feel guilty admitting that it's hard to stay motivated about running while I'm living here. I really miss my boardwalk runs. I miss smelling the salty sea air and feeling that breeze on my body. I wouldn't have any distractions but the occasional fellow walker/jogger and the ocean as my constant companion. I could follow the boardwalk planks for miles, until they merged into a concrete pathway lined with rows of palm trees. It's no wonder that I got into running while I was living in South Florida. I could tolerate the humidity really well, it was so flat and open; the sidewalks and paths were calling my name every evening. Back here, the streets and sidewalks are crowded, hilly and filled with stagnant summer air. I realize that I was running in this environment for years prior to living in Miami so it seems silly to gripe about the difference. But I can honestly say that the running atmosphere is one thing that I can't toss into the 'Grass is Always Greener' syndrome that's come over me since I've moved back home. When I was living down there, I missed home. Now that I live here, I miss it there. I'm sure if I were to go back down, I would miss it here again. But for not even one moment did I ever prefer running here than down there. Miami really is a paradise - for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to be home. But I think it's fair and understandable that I miss the quintessential paradise destination that was my home for one year. I must say, I've been running around wonderful Rock Creek Park and finding myself gazing over the Potomac River at our gorgeous skyline dotted with so many famous memorials in the sunset. But it's not the same. I was spoiled!

Last night I had a great 7 mile run, hills and all. You can see me sporting the awesome zany sports bra that Victoria gave me as a goodbye gift at my last dinner in Miami. It cheered me up instantly! Keep posting your Facebook pictures, all of my Miami friends. And Victoria, keep booking your infamous Tri's. You've been motivating me from Day 1!! I'm thinking of you each time I go out there.

I miss all of you guys down there - and my Nike's miss you, boardwalk planks! 


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Antietam Battlefield 10K - Success!

It was a grey and quiet when I woke up, late, at 7:15am on Sunday morning to drive 90 miles out to Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD for this 'local' 10K. Who am I kidding - I didn't drive. Alejandro bravely took the wheel since I could hardly keep my eyes open, recovering from a wonderful Saturday night.

Antietam is the site of the bloodiest single day battle of the American Civil War. Over 23,000 men, including six generals, between the Confederate and Union forces, were killed in a 12 hour period. As we pulled into the National Park, their sacrifice was palpable.

This was the friendliest race I had ever been to! There were about 450 registrants total, including the 10k and 5k. Local volunteers greeted us warmly when we picked up our packets and directed me to the (clean and toilet paper-filled!) port-a-Johns. Yep, I was prepared this time. Volunteers and racers were still cheering every participant from the earlier 5k as they came across the finish line. Before our race, a high school junior sang the National Anthem. She blew Deborah Cox out of the water. (Deborah sang the National Anthem at the ING Marathon in Miami earlier this year for 25,000 people.) This girl's powerful voice cut straight across the National Park and directly into my heart; my hairs bristled.  We stood in a moment of silence for all soldiers, past and present. I felt a lump forming in my throat. To stand in silence over a battlefield was pretty damn powerful for a bleak, Sunday morning. Then the starting gun screamed... and we were off!

There were big hills, there was lots of uneven pavement and the air was muggy and thick. But I could hardly keep my eyes off of the beautiful countryside. Alejandro ran with me for the first 3.5 miles then took off when I slowed, as symptoms of a hangover and sleep deprivation crept in hard.

Award Ceremony at the Finish
This was the second race in which I found a running buddy for the last two miles. I passed a 44 year old Navy retiree, Mark, walking in his toe-shoes and everything, who picked up his pace to jog with me in the final miles. You can learn a lot about someone when you're running next to them. It's like sitting on a plane; you're next to that person until you reach the destination so you might as well make the most of it. He had quite an inspiring story - he lost 200+ lbs and quit his 2 pack a day smoking habit about five years ago, when he found himself winded after climbing a flight of stairs. I asked him how I would ever get my little brother to stop smoking and he said, "He won't stop until he's found something that's worth living for. You're just going to irritate him by asking him to stop; he's got to want to do it for himself." He told me that he had failed out of college and was driving home from a late night bartending shift at 22 years old and pulled into the Naval recruiting station thinking, 'Anything is better than what I've got going for me right now.' That man changed his own stars. I asked him about any little idiosyncracies he has when he races. He said every time he runs, he remembers all the buddies that he lost in Iraq and Vietnam and feels that they're running there with him.
Burnside Bridge

PS - My three idiosyncracies are:
 1. Lucky pink underwear reserved only for race days
2. Never, ever walk
3. Always sprint over the finish line

We finished in under an hour, sprinting over the finish line. I said goodbye to him and was suddenly flooded with nausea. I proceeded to sprint down to the port-a-Johns and yak my brains out. I instantly felt better and we had a lovely morning driving the 8 mile loop and touring the battlefields. I highly recommend a visit to this historic site during the summer months; its an amazing story. Oh, and while you're there, why don't you go for a little jog?  :)
Gallery photos of Antietam National Park; taken on days a little brighter than mine!