Zen and the Art of Running Very Slowly

My family does things real fast. “Let me make this clam dip real fast.” “I have a story I have to tell you real fast.” “Just a sec, I gotta go the bathroom real fast.” Normally we are a family who enjoys the use of proper grammar, but when it comes to doing things real fast, we just don’t have time for –ly. That would constitute a whole other syllable, and syllables take time. And so, we get up out of bed real fast, we load and unload cars real fast, we make a drink real fast, we fix meals real fast, we get errands done real fast. We’re perpetually in a race, a race against doing anything real slow. My brother, what with his “chess” and his books on “neurology” is an outlier, but nonetheless he shares the underlying trait that fosters this obsession with real fast – a complete and total absence of patience. It is a quality possessed by exactly no one in my immediate family.

My sisters, although they may protest, are also real fast in the literal sense. Back in the day Becky used to run around Lake Morton, a small lake near our house, and it would boggle the mind how quickly she would make the journey. So, too, with Cindy, who likes to pretend to be unaware of how speedy she is. While my dad is not real fast he is real quick, the kind of real quick that astounds the eye. My mom was not just real fast but extraordinarily fast, and put on an exhibition of her still formidable speed last year when she sprinted to prevent a mare and foal from reaching an open gate and a highway beyond. My brother is also real fast, at least when sprinting, a fact few know.

I am neither real fast nor real quick. I am simply real slow. But this does not stop the impatient spirit of real fast from burning brightly in my heart. And so it was that when I took up running, I was obliged to also take up the art of zen and running very slowly.  When I first begin my run – even to this day – there is a flurry of panicked thoughts. “But I have to get to the grocery store! I don’t have time for this!” “I still need to do laundry!” “I need to hurry!” “I need to do this real fast!” But I cannot do this real fast. My body will not let me. If am to do this, I will be doing it real slow. And so, one by one, I have to reject the messages from that panicked voice.

As the run goes on the voice changes. “This hill is hard. If we can’t do this real fast, let’s just not do it at all.” I always answer the voice, “are you dying?” “No,” responds the voice. “Then I say good day to you, sir.” Considering that the benchmark required for stopping is being near death, the voice always loses. Although it may sound like an odd sort of encouragement, I cheerlead the negative voice by saying, “let’s resign ourselves to the idea that we will be running forever. We will never stop. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow, hill or flat, pain or no pain, we will run forever. So we don’t need to keep thinking about it.” It takes a couple of miles, but eventually, this voice wins. Once the win is had, the run settles into something continuous, neutral. When I get back no longer matters. Neither do the pending chores. Thoughts flit by and go along their merry way, but the mind is quiet. It no longer asks the body to do anything but continue on, slowly, steadily. Patience is at hand. And it stays with me for a good ten minutes upon arriving home.

Destination: Awesome

Josh Gates

Josh Gates' half decent Britney impression.

I remember precisely the moment when I fell for Destination Truth, the Sci-Fi – oh, I’m sorry, the ‘Syfy’—Channel’s paranormal adventure show.

Host Josh Gates was in a small Mexican town, where he had become involved in a parade. And by involved I mean to say he made like Ferris Bueller and took over a float. The emcee announces something in Spanish, Josh turns to camera and translates, telling us, “that man just said I was in the new Batman movie.”

And so it was done.

This episode had already featured a near death experience in Romania wherein their plane decided to let go of its own roof – I don’t know what that roof had ever done to that plane, but that plane had had enough – and a scary-fun paranormal encounter in a haunted Romanian forest. As though there were any other kind of Romanian forest. Did I mention they had been in Romania? Romania is entertaining. You can pretty much film anything in Romania and it’s going to be a smash hit. (See, Borat.)

In that first episode, and in the rest of season 3, I found something more than Romanians using a car as a horse drawn cart. In a world that is smothered by not only overproduced one hour dramas and sitcoms, but overproduced reality shows, and most damning of all, overproduced reality thanks to the 24 hours news cycle and those that ceaselessly manipulate it, Destination Truth is blessedly free of the ties that bind. Even with the blatant Orbitz product placement. Also, Google Earth. Use it. After the Orbitz and Google Earth plugs are done, Josh Gates and company get into the business of randomly traveling hither and yon, searching for strange things and always finding them – though not usually the ones they set out to discover in the first place.

Once upon a time, we had a sense that the world was a huge place, filled with strange things. As a kid, it was my ambition to become a naturalist and move to either Africa or Australia, as I believed them to be largely untouched wilderness areas. Somewhere along the way, the idea that the world was a known entity seeped into our collective consciousness. Nature documentaries went from exploration and descriptions of the wild to a never ending drumbeat of habitat loss, extinction, and destruction of primitive cultures, oh my. Not that these aren’t important messages. They are. But they also make you want to shoot yourself in the face.

Destination Truth, with humor, moxie, and a refreshing disdain for political correctness, opens the world back up to joyous exploration. And holy crap – how wonderfully bizarre this great big world is. For example – the Island of the Dolls. An Island. Filled with Dolls. Dolls are, of course, the most frightening objects on earth. Screw vampires and werewolves, show me a porcelain doll that can open her own, possessed-by-Satan eyeballs, and I’ll show you my pants – filled with fear poo.  

 And while I’m at it, thank God for doing stupid nonsense. Josh Gates and company do stupid things they shouldn’t at least twice an episode, and God bless them for it. If only the rest of us were smart enough to do stupid things we shouldn’t, we’d all be a lot better off.

The Last of the Pioneering Brumbachs

In 1495 history records an individual known only as Der Sohn. Prussian by nationality, perhaps German by blood, he resided in the Rhineland, West and South of the Baltic homeland of the Old Prussians, since conquered by the Teutonic Knights. He came from a farm “in der Brumbach” and so it was that the Brumbach surname sprang forth, with the clan content to stay in the shadow of forbidding Siegen Castle until the intrepid Johann Heinreich Brumbach sent the family tumbling West across Europe, leapt the ocean waters, and fell upon American shores, settling in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Johann Heinreich became Henry, became an American patriot, became a man recognized for his valor in the Revolutionary War. His grandson, Joseph, born in 1799, the year of his grandfather’s death, had inherited Henry’s fearless heart, and again the family set forth towards the setting sun, stopping in Illinois to take stock of where they stood. Joseph became more than just a man, he became a patriarch, burying four wives in the process and siring 19 children and giving 8 stepchildren the Brumbach name. His last wife was a lass from County Cork, who bore six children, the very last of which, Olive, was born to a father 72 years of age. The second to last, Ezra Herbert, known as Zeke, inherited the Prussian pioneering spirit, and once more they rolled on, flowing like water through the valleys and the low places, across the vast, forbidding wilderness of the American West. With him he brought his bride, an Irish girl like his mother, by the name of Mary Theresa Phelan. Zeke and Mary, who went by Mame, traveled by wagon to the Oregon-Idaho border, and there this tributary of the Brumbach family stopped, and put down roots, deep roots, all the more necessary in the softly undulating, treeless hills of that new frontier.

Irish fire forged Prussian stoicism into a substance stronger than steel. Mame was a woman who had taught school in Illinois, the sound of wolves howling accompanied her pre-dawn walks to the one room schoolhouse. In her youth she had encountered a traveling salesman proffering impervious pots and pans, when he challenged Mame to test the strength of a saucepan, she bent it double. The Irish-American proved herself more than equal to the uncompromising demands placed upon her by the role of frontier wife, and helped Zeke establish the family farm. It was anchored by a white American farmhouse, the sort that would permeate the imaginations of Wyeth and Rockwell. Zeke and Mame brought Joseph and then Rex into the world, followed by the twins, Ira and Irene, in 1908. Many years later, in 1917, along came Ezra, the last of the pioneering Brumbachs.

The Brumbach family epitomized the American pioneer, living the predawn life of the farmer, a life of darkness and of light, an Easter life, of Good Friday hardship, and joyous Resurrections. The family accumulated stories, as all families do. Of the Brumbach spirit that lived on in Ira, sending him still further West to the Alaskan wilderness, where he passed away, still just a young man. Of the daring spirit of the only daughter, Irene, who attended college and played on the basketball team while there. Of Ezra’s war hero record in WWII, where he fought in Northern Italy and was formally honored for his ability to keep up troop morale. The intrepid family was the first in the region to own a car, and quickly adopted the most cutting edge farming equipment, which they then rented to other farmers. Smart, pragmatic, quintessentially American, the Brumbach family thrived.

Eventually these Brumbachs, compelled by an unquenchable desire to see and do, moved on, seeking out life wherever they could find it. But Ezra, having returned from Europe and the ravages of war, having missed death by a matter of inches more than once and on one memorable occasion when his helmet, acting as a pillow, was shot out from under him, Ezra stayed. Blessed with the Brumbach intellect, he became a master of the game of chess. Blessed with the Brumbach stoicism, he lived the difficult life of a sheep farmer. Blessed with the Brumbach appreciation for family, he took up the task of maintaining the white American farm house, its barn and outbuildings, its farm land and sheep pastures. He did not marry, he did not have children, he did not move along with time, but stayed still, like a rock in a river, as it all flowed past.

A Roman Catholic, he did not turn away from the altar after Vatican II, attending the Tridentine Rite throughout his life. He kept with him his books, his chess, his way of life. He maintained a long tradition of letter writing, drafting compelling notes of wit and wisdom, treasured by those who received them, in much the same way his humor was treasured by his fellow soldiers. Long lived and sturdy, like most Brumbachs, Ezra maintained his farming life far longer than most expected. Finally, a degenerating hip forced his retirement and his movement to an assisted care facility. Stubbornly recovering from surgery, Ezra took up the habit of strolling to an old fashioned soda shop down the road from his new residence.

But no amount of stubbornness can indefinitely hold off the advance of time, even the rock in the river is eventually washed away. And so it was that Ezra passed on this March 19th  2008, having turned 90 last December 2nd. His funeral mass, held in the traditional Latin, will be taking place the day after today, the day after Easter Sunday, in the tiny town of New Plymouth, Idaho. New Plymouth, founded in 1896, was the first planned community west of the Mississippi. And so it seems appropriate that this stoic son of pioneers, this descendent of early American settlers, would find his final peace in a place named for the pilgrim’s progress in the land of hope and opportunity, a place whose name evokes the spirit of simplicity and austerity, the shedding of excess, and the bedrock of faith upon which this country was founded. 

It is cloudy in New Plymouth today, with rain predicted to fall through the night. But after the rain there will be moments of sun, and though I will not be there, I can already see Ezra resting within his pine box coffin. A man of the earth held by the warmth of clean wood, adorned by his overalls and boots – a true pioneering farmer, a war hero, a Prussian, an Irishmen, an American. And as I take in the sight, the sun breaks through the clouds, and lays a blanket of light upon him, beatifying his image. He lived an Easter life, of Good Friday hardship and joyous Resurrection. For all of us who carry his blood in our veins, his passing signals the end of an era. And yet, Ezra and Zeke and Joseph and Henry all live on in us. Their faith and stoicism, their fearless sense of adventure, their capacity to triumph over adversity, their very toughness, is honored whenever we, their descendents, express that fortitude we have inherited. Tomorrow, his body will be laid to rest beside his parents, Ezra Herbert and Mary Theresa. But it is with Easter joy that we celebrate the rising of his spirit to Heaven, where even now he is welcomed by the Brumbachs who passed away before him, including my grandmother, his sister, Irene.

Ebb and Flow

Elvis

Elvis, King of Dobermans

In June of 2004, my then newly wedded husband was working in the garage when he heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching. He pivoted around in his kneeling posture in order to see who had walked in. Instead of looking at a person, as he had expected, he found himself eye to eye with a truly enormous Doberman Pinscher. The dog began to cry, and then laid himself flat out on the concrete. Evan came and fetched me, and that was the moment I first met Elvis. He was extremely thin, with open, festering wounds around his neck and between his shoulder blades. He was passing blood, and a lot of it. We gave him water and the only cooked meat I had on hand – a pound and a half of thin sliced frozen Virginia ham. He swallowed it in one bite. After a good deal of confusion and chaos involving animal control (who wanted to put him down because he was a male Doberman), animal rescue groups and neighborhood rumor, I eventually found Elvis’ rightful owner. He lived around the corner, and he was severely stricken by alcoholism.

 Because I could not legally wrest the dog away from him and have Elvis live to tell the tale, I decided on Option B. I approached him one day when he was outside his home, and said in a cheerful voice, “I love your dog! I was wondering if you might be willing to sell him to me?” The man was grateful, as he assumed I was coming to complain about Elvis’ wanderings through the neighborhood. I gathered that the man did love Elvis, in so much as he was capable of loving anything through the haze of his disease. I learned that he sometimes disappeared for long stretches, and when that happened, Elvis didn’t eat until he escaped to find his food on his own. That’s when the man wrapped the chain around his neck, and around his chest, and criss-crossed it between his shoulders. He said that the last time he returned, to find Elvis so thin and covered in sores, he was devastated. But he also was not yet ready to sell him. “Well, how ‘bout I help you take care of him?” I said. The man brightened considerably and took me back behind his house to show me where Elvis lived. “This,” he said proudly, “is Graceland.”

 Graceland was a screened-in porch so filled with detritus there was barely home for Elvis to lay down. As soon as he saw me the giant dog arose, his face nothing but a smile, his whole body wriggling in excitement. The man showed me where the food was kept, where the water was, and for three months I went to Graceland three or four times a day to walk Elvis and feed and water him. I got him a collar and a leash, better dog food, and took him to the vet for a preliminary exam. My vet diagnosed him with a severe parasite infestation, but unfortunately, it was more than that causing him to pass blood continuously – he also had cancer. That August, his owner told me that he wanted me to have Elvis. I asked how much he wanted for the dog, but he replied he wanted no money, adding, “I only have one condition – that you keep his name Elvis. Elvis was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Elvis is the King of Dobermans.” And so it was that Elvis, King of Dobermans, moved one block down the road and became our dog.

Elvis P. Dog

Elvis, recuperating after one of his many surgeries.

During this time Elvis was in the prime of life. His weight quickly soared from 85 to 105 pounds. His energy, strength, and endurance were extraordinary. Tremendously tough, nothing slowed Elvis down. He had his first surgery to remove ulcerated tumors from his colon. They said it would take several hours before he came around – by the time the short car ride was over he was ready to go on a walk. He had another surgery, and another, for his horribly bad teeth, for additional cancers and tumors, he went through heartworm treatment and swallowed what must have been hundreds of pills. He became a favorite at the vet’s office, where he serenaded the staff with his signature “singing” – as they called it.

Throughout it all, Elvis’ joy for living was unparalleled. This joy permeated his being, and made him a very kind dog. Despite his experience with starvation he was never possessive over his food, and this was a dog who was quite passionate in his love for kibble and doggie treats. He was always kind, always a gentleman, and accepted his difficulties with grace. As our vet would always say, when his hand was halfway up the rear end of a truly powerful killing machine, palpating for tumors, “I’m so glad you’re a good dog, Elvis.”

Unpleasant medical procedures notwithstanding, Elvis saw life as one gigantic party to be enjoyed. Being a clever dog and quite the Houdini, if he ever heard the far off sounds of a college party, he would find a way to escape and join it. I will never forget the calls I received. “Um, your dog’s at my party? Take your time getting here, though. He’s really sweet!” “Your dog is at Spittoono. He’s eating all the children’s hot dogs.” The greatest lure of all was Spittoono. Where else can a dog find a live band, fried Twinkies, and hot dogs to steal all in one place? I took to writing in Elvis’ voice in notes to my friends. Elvis’ greetings always began in the same way, “Hi! I’m Elvis!” It was just the way he said hello to the world.

As time progressed, and Elvis added deteriorating hips to his long list of ailments, he began to slow down. He did not pull on the leash anymore – although he would still strive to figure out a way to make his walks longer – an Elvis trademark. No matter what he had going on, he was out to live life, and live it thoroughly. Last summer, Elvis developed an abscessed tooth. Nothing unusual, and we’d been down that road before. But then what had appeared to be an abscess grew and grew, and it became apparent that the inevitable had finally occurred. On October 13th 2007, Elvis was diagnosed with bone cancer in his jaw. We knew that his propensity for growing tumors would one day catch up with him. But when it finally did, it still felt like a surprise. Elvis had been cheating death for years. It turns out death always keeps an ace up its sleeve.

Our vet expected us to put him down within three or four days, as the cancer was extremely painful. He sent us home with painkillers to buy us time to say goodbye. Elvis, it turned out, would not be denied one final minor miracle. One day after his diagnosis I discovered him leaping up and down in front of the back door, his black head bobbing into view with excitement over his favorite combo – dinner and a walk. As soon as the painkillers reached his system he had rallied, and for two wonderful weeks he was as bright and bold as he had ever been. He rode in the car, he went on nature walks, he made new friends, he ate as much as he wanted, and life was a joy.

And then, on October 25th, it wasn’t anymore. The pain had returned, and this time there would be no rally. Our vet, who had tended to Elvis so carefully for so long, came to our house. He gave him a sedative, and explained that Elvis would be quickly dropping off to sleep. And we stroked his beautiful face, deformed by the tumor and the nerve damage it had caused, and told him what a good boy he was. Time passed. And more time passed. And then Elvis sat up, brightened, and looked like he was thinking a walk sounded like a good idea. Our vet walked back over, saying, “Elvis, I gave you enough sedative to put a 190 lb. dog under a surgical plane of anesthesia. You should not be awake right now.” I said, as I said so many times over the course of Elvis’ life, “he’s the toughest dog that ever was.”

Our vet administered another shot, and then Elvis did drift off to sleep.

In the weeks after Elvis’ death I felt restless. I kept thinking I needed to feed him. Kept wanting to check on him. Eventually this abated, and life returned to something like normal.

My husband and I recently got a kitten for his mother. She has a grown cat who we felt needed a friend. As we took the kitten home she took to purring in the carrier, and upon arrival, she immediately made herself at home. She dashes from me to him, and from him to me, purring and loving up a storm. Thanksgiving gatherings left her unfazed, as she went from guest to guest to spread her love and joy. “Hi!” She seemed to say, “Hi! I’m a Kitten!” in a very Elvisian manner. We then introduced her to the cat who would be her friend, and he tried to eat her.

And so now, as I write this, a little creamy colored ball of fluff with blue eyes and an uncomplicated, joyous heart, purrs beside me, as unlike from the giant Doberman as she could be, and yet, in the matter of spirit, beautifully similar.

The Half Marathon

This was originally written at the conclusion of my time in Team in Training.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;                
The ship has weatherd every rack, the prize we sought is won;          
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,            
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.

Okay, so, not directly applicable, and yet the Walt Whitman poem has been going through my head with all the tenacity of an 80’s pop song, and so perhaps placing it here will exorcise it from my mind. Yesterday was the day of reckoning, a blind date you can’t ditch and yet you know is going to last for hours and cause you suffering, you just don’t know how much.

Had the Myrtle Beach Marathon come at the end of November I would have been in fine shape. I was fit, mentally in the game, and ready to roll. But then there was a sickness, and then another sickness, and then, right there at the end, the massive implosion of my mental health as I quit my job. The moment that sums up this period of my life: jogging in Pendleton, crying. Woman runner passes me, presumes I am in the 10th mile of a marathon training session, gives me double thumbs up. I kind of nod in her direction, in a “let’s just go ahead with your version, and skip over the fact that I am on mile one and having a nervous breakdown.”

With all this Mary J. Blige-worthy drama leading up to the race, I had become a giant stress ball, a giant stress ball who hadn’t been in proper training for months.

But then my dad talked to me and said, “what’s the worst that could happen?” And I answered, “I’d have to walk.” “Big deal,” said my dad.

And I realized that it wasn’t. What was the big deal in walking? Would walking mean I was a failure? Would walking take away from the incredible experience of having connected with all of you? Would all the dollars you donated be worth any less if I walked during the race? With all of that said, would I be willing to nearly kill myself in order to avoid the shame of walking during the race? The answer is yes, yes I would.

But I went into the race at peace with whatever the outcome would be. I went to sleep the night before at nine, happily snoozing away until my sister Cindy called me at ten, tension in every syllable. She had sick children on her hands, didn’t know what was going on, and knew she had to get up in six hours. As she drilled me with questions about the location of the start of the race, she sensed my drowsiness – “were you asleep?” she hissed resentfully. Ah, siblings. Love on top of love. Once we got Cindy’s situation figured out I went back to bed and woke up at 4:30, surprisingly chipper. Cindy, too, was a happy camper when I met her down in the lobby, and we had a good time driving to the start of the race, despite the circuitous route we were forced to take. We arrived literally two minutes before the start. The mass of humanity, 3,500 runners in all, created a palpable warmth – a welcome change from the 26 degree walk over to the starting line.

And then we were off and running. I said good-bye to Cindy. I only saw her for a brief moment or two before she disappeared into the crowd. In fact, I only saw everyone for a brief moment or two. No matter how much you want to believe that “what really matters is just doing it” it still sucks to have hundreds and hundreds of people sweep past you as though you were standing still. And run past me they did – old people, disabled people, heavy people, little people, big people, fit people and unfit people alike, all of them were faster than me. At least 3,000 people ran by me in the first mile. It was disheartening. It went on and on and on, and, knowing that the water stations were at every other mile, I determined that there must be mile markers only on the even numbered miles. And then there it was – mile marker one.

Uh-oh, thought I.

But I kept going, and listened to the sounds of the conversations around me. Everybody, it seemed, had a buddy. Two people behind me talked about textbook storage. “Teachers,” I thought. Four older gentlemen talked about how they were Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp. “Old friends,” I concluded. But my eavesdropping was distracted by a new, unexpected threat – people passing me at a walk.

Yes – people passed me at a walk. A lot of them.

At mile four I started to feel fatigued. My right hip wasn’t happy. I started thinking about the Cliff Shot energy gel I had in my pocket. I was going to take it at the halfway mark, and the station at mile six had water. Between mile four and mile six I began to hurt. My right leg, and everything that keeps my right leg attached to my body, was seriously unhappy. Volunteers, almost all of whom were elderly folks, rooted us on at every block. I thanked all of them, but I don’t think they know just what a service they provided.

And then people started passing me in wheelchairs. Their race started 30 minutes after mine. As we crossed one intersection a cop cheered a wheelchair athlete as he whizzed by. I couldn’t help but think, “what’re you cheering that guy for? He’s faster than the wind.”

In the fifth mile I became very concerned. I started thinking about my grandmother Francis, who died of brain cancer, a cancer that began as lymphoma, and my grandfather, John, who died leukemia. “Don’t go to the well yet,” I thought. “It’s way too early to start that.” On my toughest hills I think about my grandparents who died of leukemia and lymphoma. I mentally refer to it as “the well.” But I didn’t want to have to pull out that mental leverage over my body so early in the race. I wasn’t even halfway through, and already I was falling apart. It was around eight in the morning, and I concentrated on the ocean to my left and the volunteers to my right.

And then, a woman walked up to me (yes, she walked up to me. As I was running.) and she asked my name. Her name was Pat, and she was a walking coach with Team in Training in Columbia, SC.  Pat and I began to talk, as she walked and I ran, and there was the sixth miler marker, and water so that I could take my energy boost gel. As we continued on, Pat told me about her family, and I told her about mine, and there was mile seven. She told me about her work, and I told her about mine, and there was mile eight. Another woman joined us and told us about her dog, and we told her about ours. And there was mile nine. We turned away from the ocean and headed back inland, and the neighborhood was cute and charming. And there was mile ten. Somewhere in there my right hip had stopped bothering me – I didn’t notice when it stopped.

I took another gel boost, which turned out to be unadvisable as it made me nauseous. I didn’t tell Pat that, but I think she sensed it. So she told me about her son in college and her other son in Iraq, and about how he had just been sent to Baghdad after having been stationed in Okinawa. She told me about her student who had leukemia. He was in the 5th grade, and I could tell from her voice she didn’t think he was going to make it. And there was mile marker 11. We turned into the wind, and headed for mile 12. Pat asked me, “does your back hurt?” “No,” I lied. We ran into the wind for what seemed like eternity, and finally, finally, finally – there was mile marker 12.   

This is the last mile I thought, I better enjoy this. I drank some water, which made the nausea come back. But really, I wasn’t doing too badly, all things considered. A little bit of a sore back and a little bit of a sick stomach – not bad at all. I picked up my pace a little and enjoyed the final mile – Pat took a picture of me running by the sign that said “turn left – finish line” and then she turned back to coach somebody else to the finish line. As she left I thought, ‘that woman was my guardian angel in this race.’

As I ran down the chute I felt pretty good, pretty strong – much better than I had felt from mile four to six. I came around the corner and saw Evan and his mom, Alice, waiting for me. Everyone else finishing at this point was walking, and walking very slowly at that. Evan told his mom that they should start checking first aid stations for me. Ye of little faith. While I cannot independently verify this, I’m pretty sure that I was the last runner to finish. A dubious accomplishment to be sure, but hey – it’s unique talent to be able to run that slowly. My final time? 3 hours and 25 minutes.

Cindy and Carrie

I totally forgot I put that sticker on my face. Huh.

I found Cindy at the Team in Training tent. We were anxious to get out of there. Especially Cindy, as I’d told her to wait for me, and she’d gone hypothermic in the meantime. Not surprising, given that she finished in less than two hours. My sister – she is wicked, wicked fast. And so we snapped this picture and went on our way.

And so our Team in Training adventure has ended. Cindy is already agitating for another half-marathon, and I suppose I am stupid enough to go along with that. I didn’t, after all, die, so I guess there’s no harm in going in for a second try at that.

While it goes without saying that the running aspect of this experience has been illuminating (you never know what you can do until you try), without a doubt the best part of participating in Team in Training has been connecting with all of you. It has been an incredible blessing.

P.S. As a little post script to this story – as soon as I found Cindy she told me our mom had called her right after she crossed the finish line. She said that at 8:20 I had popped into her mind, and she was worried I’d hit a wall and wasn’t doing well. 8:20 is right about when I’d reached bottom and had gone to my mental well. And then found my guardian angel.

You can never underestimate the power of a mom. Or of dead grandparents.