Sunday, October 18, 2009

Victory Lap

I am a firm believer in the the power of If-You-Can-Do-It-I-Can-Do-It. In late April a friend from Charlottesville came to town to run the Trail Triple Crown Marathon in White Clay Creek. I had reached a plateau in my weight-loss goals and was looking for something to spur things along. Well, if you ever want to feel inspired you should go make friends with someone who isn't a professional athlete and then watch them run a marathon. Jennie ran on an unpaved trail, through woods and mud, uphill and downhill, and four hours later came staggering through the finish line, a marathoner. Flat on her back and gasping for air, I'm not sure if she still thought a marathon was a good idea, but I already wanted in on the action. For a first attempt, K. suggested I try the St. George Marathon (mostly downhill), and Jennie had barely caught her breath before I'd put in my registration.

Vacations are more fun when you have a purpose, and the marathon supplied this in spades. It didn't hurt that K. and I had met and married in Utah and still had plenty of friends and family in the area. I flew into Salt Lake the Wednesday before the race and caught up with my siblings in Murray. Thursday and Friday we caught up with more friends and family before making the five-hour drive down to the race. On the way, we stopped off at BYU and were pleased to discover that the bench where I proposed was still south of Maeser Hill:
After picking up my race packet and carbing up on the traditional pre-race spaghetti dinner, we backtracked an hour north to spend the night in Cedar City on what was perhaps the most comfortable sofa bed of my life (thanks, Rosalyn and Dan!). We set--and forgot to activate--the alarm for 3am, but luckily woke up on time anyway:
Full moon or not, it was still plenty dark when K. dropped me off at the bus pickup in St. George, and plenty cold as well. Judging by the leg room, it was an elementary school bus that drove us up into the mountains, 26.2 miles north of St. George, while my seatmate gave me a few pointers about the course. We got to the starting line at around 5:30, where it was all floodlights, loudspeakers, and winds in the 30s. Ditching the long lines at the porta-potties, I opted to sneak off into the dark of the woods, promptly barking my shins on a barbed wire fence. After that there was nothing to do but huddle around the fire for the next hour:
There's probably too much to say about the race itself. My training was so completely solitary that it was a novelty to run with so many other people. One woman ran in a bridal veil. Another man held a digital camera above his head while he ran. I made all the typical rookie mistakes and passed a lot of people in the first six miles, making such good time that I briefly considered pushing myself to see how close I could get to qualifying for Boston. Well, there is nothing like 26 implacable miles to bring you back to reality, and all it took was the first, steep hill at Mile 7 before I reverted back to my original goal of simply finishing at all. Towards the top of the hill my iPod started playing "Chariots of Fire" and a stranger, passing me, told me I was almost there. There is solitude in running, but there is also great camaraderie.

The dry desert air sucked all the sweat right off of my skin, so I made a point to drink water or Gatorade at every single aid station. I tried my first power gel (like thick honey) and gave high-fives to kids holding their hands out on the side of the road. It's a great feeling to participate in something where you feel like part of the main event. Most of the uphill was over by Mile 11, but by then I had started to get a spasm in my right calf that stayed with me for the remainder of the race. It was probably for the best. Fearing that my leg might give out at any minute, I ran more cautiously than I otherwise might have. As a consequence, I never hit the runner's wall and never pushed myself to the point of injury or collapse. In spite of everything, I made a respectable time (3:34:20) and crossed the finish line running rather than crawling:

(I'm the red shirt in the middle)

(and here's a close-up to show off my runner's calves :)

After the finish line you're shuttled through the sprinklers, then get your medal, then shake hands with some veterans in wheelchairs, then get dumped in a holding pen where fruit, bread, and popsicles are pushed into your hands.
I limped it off on my stiff legs for half an hour before meeting up with my support network. I was flattered by all the friends and family who came out to see me, and by the many others who wanted to come and wished me well. You guys are the best.
[Pictured (from l to r): sister Mish, nephew Erik, sister Tiff, nephew Charlie's feet, K. and a very foolish man. Unpictured but adjacent: brother-in-law Kyle, niece Ellie, K's cousin John, John's children Samantha and Tim, John's girlfriend Audry and her daughter, Sarah]

The St. George Temple made a good landmark for regrouping after escaping the crowds. Mom and Dad called for a recap of the race, and then it was back up to Cedar City for a celebratory feast (thanks again to Rosalyn and Dan for supplying the venue).

The aftermath has passed quickly enough. The balls of my feet were really sore, but just for the first afternoon. My hip and knee joints were stiff for the first 24 hours, but by the next day my sister and I were standing in the overflow line for General Conference. Over the last two weeks I've gotten the occasional surprise twinge here or there, but I'll probably be back to running in the next week. My sister Mish ran the Top of Utah Marathon last month and now we want to run one together next year. It's hard to find a fall marathon that's not on Sunday, but we can work it out. Hey Mish, how does Richmond sound?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lucy Q

Each of our kids had a womb name. We didn't want to refer to them as just "the Baby," and we certainly didn't want to call any of them "It." Ian was Ziggy (the Zygote) and Sage was Phoebe (the Fetus). Lucy was just Bonus, and that's what she's been. We have several theories about Lucy, one of which is that her little body is ill-equipped to contain her largeness of spirit. If you don't know what's on Lucy's mind at any given time, you must not be in the same building. A biter, a shouter, a sprinter, a hugger--Lucy has no intermediate step between feeling and action. Lucy is as Lucy does.

You'd think it would be easy to give a name to this phenomenon, but we had a hard time getting all our ducks in a row. Does this look like a Zoe Renata?

What about Katherine Midnight?

Once we settled on Lucy for a first name, finding a matching middle name was still just as hard. With an October birthdate, Lucy Octavia was always a contender:

But K. and I also liked the Portuguese variant, Lucy Beatriz:

Finally we settled on Lucy Quinn, which seemed to fit her at the time. However, as she's gotten older she hasn't seemed to grow into it in the same way that Ian has grown into Hyrum and Sage has grown into Dorothy. The saving grace is that she makes a very fine Lucy Q:

Sometimes K. and I still talk half-seriously about changing her middle name. This never gets anywhere because (1) in our state this requires a court appearance, (2) we'd have to change her church records, (3) this would surely nonplus some relative or other, (4) we still can't agree on another middle name, and (5) seriously, who changes their child's name after breaking it in for five years? After giving it some thought, I think I've got a better idea: Middle Nickname. For years we've joked that Lucy's middle name should have been an exclamation point, and while I'd never inflict that on her officially, I see no reason why it shouldn't gain some unofficial traction. In short, friends and family, you can keep sending those birthday checks to Lucy Quinn, but feel free to think of her, in your heart of hearts, as Lucy [!]. Heaven knows we do.