The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Small Town

There is not one ounce of me wanting to get out of the car.  Rain bounces off my windshield and I have 10 miles to run.

I open the door.

Deciding the 41
° didn't warrant my gloves, I tossed them aside and step out of the haven of my car.  I hit "start" on my Garmin and I am on my way to run the streets of the small town where I grew up.

My route begins on Front Street; the iconic street in town.  Original homes boast well manicured lawns with massive oak trees flanking each side of the road.  Their incredible branches canopy the road.  The harshness of the winter has caused these trees to loose many pieces of themselves.  I watch my step as I navigate through.

The rain is still strong.


The church my parents attended - as were my grandparents founding members - is on my left, my parents' lawyer in which closed out their estate is  on the next block and the financial advisor I now use is kitty-corner from him.  Only in a small town can so much of your life be wrapped up into 3 small blocks near each other.

Main Street is ahead and I run by the middle school which suffered a tremendous loss this week.  This small town made the news and not the way you would hope for your community.  The death of a student shattered people's lives and put an ultra-bright spotlight on difficult conversations.  My heart breaks for all affected. #voiceforvylit


The corner farm and garden store where my youngest got his first pair of cowboy boots is open.  I make note to be sure to stop and see what new gardening treasures are in for this year.  The local transportation company is buzzing with activity.  I wonder if my cousin is working.

On a whim, I turn into the city park.  A handful of years ago now, the community decided to revamp the park.  A massive play structure was designed and created.  The company I work for donated not only materials but man hours and machinery.  Community helping community.  I love that.

I take the trail which loops me behind the YMCA and spits me out next to the creek.  My siblings and I spent countless hours with our cousins playing in that creek.  Today, the rains melting the record snowfall has caused the creek to spill it's banks.  It swirls with activity.


Leaving the park I run by the first house my sister and her husband owned.  The rose bushes still line the white picket fence.

Further down the road I am greeted with the sign of the first major housing development the town experienced.  Financial shenanigans brought federal indictments and destroyed numerous peoples' bank accounts and retirements.


I turn toward the lush, green golf course.  More trees grace this curvy road.  A teenager driving a brand new SUV decides her need to turn into a parking lot outweighs my life in the cross walk.  I screech to a halt and yell "THANKS" in my mama bear voice.  She doesn't even tap the breaks.

The road curves toward empty soccer fields.  The Rest Home is ahead.  After daddy died, my siblings and I donated to them all of his medical supplies.  Lord, there were so many.  Before mom passed, she wanted to make sure Dad wouldn't have to worry about it and stocked the home full.  FULL.  Daddy would have wanted us to lessen the burden of another and so we gave them all away.

My girlfriend's green truck is parked in the driveway.  Lori isn't home.  She has left to take another group on a tour of Israel to walk where Jesus did and pray where Jesus prayed.

Our favorite ice cream store lies ahead.  It's too early for them to be open now.  When they do open, they will be busy.  They are always busy.  It happens when you make the best ice cream on the face of the planet.

Two SUVs pull up next to each other in front of the store. They are parallel with the store and both facing the same direction.  I watch a man jump out of one vehicle and lean into the passenger side window of the other.  He takes something and quickly puts it in his front pocket.  A drug deal or someone handing him a stack of bible verses for the kids in his Sunday School class to memorize tomorrow?  Both are entirely possible.


The road takes me by my high school.  Despite being a Saturday morning, there are a few cars in the parking lot.  I wind pass the elementary school and the original middle school.  Long gone are the giant semi truck tires half submerged in the gravel that we would play on at recess.  
 

Middle school; such tough and stretching years.  I remember hiding in those big tires and crying more days than not my entire 5th grade year.  One, because my mom gave me an "adorable" Dorthy Hamill haircut and everyone thought I was a boy.  And two, because I lost my first grandparent that year.  My grandfather was a tough old Dutchman who was not real affectionate.  Loving in his own way I suppose.  The next year I lost my Dad's mom who I most fondly remember giving us the biggest bowls of ice cream we'd ever laid eyes on.

As I have made my way through these streets I am struck by the sandy gravel covering the sidewalks every few feet.  Where has this come from?  It is all over town.  My guess is the massive snow and ice storm that hammered the town was fought valiantly with plowing and sanding the streets.  In the true fashion of the town, the streets are incredibly clean. Oddly, the sidewalks are not.  This is remarkably unlike the town.  Then again, we have yet to see any sunshine for people to get out and tend to their yards.

My route has taken me into the neighborhood my best friend from school once lived.  The hours I spent there flood my mind.  Amazing how different the place looks now - some due to changes and some due to seeing them through the eyes of an adult.

I stand at the intersection waiting for the only light I've encountered to change.  Across from me I see the corner my friends stood and watched Dad's funeral procession.  After working 25 years for the school district in the bus garage, they honored him by giving a bus procession to his final resting place.

 
The light turns and I run down the hill and behind the store my sister in law has worked for 20 years.  A discarded vodka pint lays in the bushes.  Local kids or trash blown from the last wind storm?  Not really sure.

The clanking of a horse's tack gear spills from the open horse arena at the fair grounds.  The roads are getting busier now.  

I'm in my last mile.  Still more gravel.  I turn back onto Front Street.  The rain has let up considerably.  There is no wind.  My car comes into sight.  My run through my small town complete.

I peel off my soaking coat and throw it into my trunk.  I put on a warm sweatshirt and head for home.

The weather man says tomorrow and the next day we can expect sunshine.  What I do know for certain is that small town will be out with brooms sweeping off the sidewalks and freeing it of winter's gravel.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Learning Tree

The sky a blanket of grey; the rain misty.  The air is cool on my face.  After sleeping in a bit and enjoying a morning with my boys, I left for my run a bit later than I typically do on a Saturday morning.  Ankle recovery isn't all bad.

The neighborhood begins to hum.  Saturday plans begin to unfold in each home. My pace is easy. I round a corner and The Learning Tree comes into view.  A massive oak tree with branches straight up to heaven. 

Years ago I nick named this oak The Learning Tree. Each year as spring begins to kiss winter away, parent eagles will use this tree to teach their young to hunt.  A young eagle will be found in its branches while the parents swoop down on rabbits and squirrels and critters in the surrounding field.  An impressive sight that never tires.

No eagles teaching this morning.

My hope is to run 7 miles, the longest since twisting my bad ankle (again).  The weather is world's apart from last week and the excitement shows in my step.  I am happy to be out running with no snow, no ice, no wind.  I make my way to my favorite country road.  A road with beautiful views and rolling hills.  This will be a good test of my ankle.

I've gone a quarter of a mile and another runner pops out from a long driveway.  She waves and turns away from me.  A runner with beautiful form and impressive speed.  I watch as she turns down a private road. 

A mother-daughter duo emerge walking from their property and onto the road.  It isn't long before I catch up to them.  I do my best not to startle them and we wish each other a beautiful morning.  The birds sing, we all smile.  A beautiful morning indeed.
 

Looking ahead I see people gathered at a mailbox.  Neighbors being neighborly.  As I approach I hear "CHERIIIIII!!!" and the older gentlemen holds out his to give me a high five.  I give him a high five.

"Steve!  I wondered if I'd see you today!"

"CHERI!!!" a familiar voice calls.

I turn to see the people Steve talking with and discover my cousin Ted and his daughter Olivia.  They live up the road and were out talking a walk.   We laugh at the realization we all know each other.

Steve, being retired, has more free time now to do things he likes to do and that includes running.   The first time I ran with Steve was on that country road.  Two runners sharing the same road and a bond cements.  We chat for a bit before he says he needs to go so his wife doesn't worry.  Ted, Olivia and I carry on and it isn't long and we all part ways.


Unexpected encounters interject fun into my run.  I am smiling.  The highest hill of the road is fast approaching.  The house half way up the hill is still not finished.  How long has it been?  2 years?  3 years?  There is always progress, yet it remains incomplete.  I've decided the owner is building it and doing it with his own funds.  What I do know for certain is the house will be a stunning work of art.  The new wrap around porch makes me long for summer days.  The views they will have will be amazing.

3 1/2 miles in I turn around and head back toward home.  As I crest the hill again, I look toward my favorite vista to see the low hanging grey clouds have concealed it's beauty.  It's ok, I'm out here.  And running.  I am happy.

The fields are a yellow-green brought on by winter.  Soon it will give way to the lush green of spring.  Water is running in the ditches and through the culverts.  It's melody of a creek.  I see where the land gave way sliding into the ditch; another reminder of the harshness of last week.
 

Branches are strewn everywhere.  The Great Silver Thaw, Snowmageddon and wind storms snapped branches off the grandest of trees.  Tall evergreens stand like wounded warriors.  Their massive branches broken and lying on the ground.  The sight makes me awestruck with the power of last week's storm.

The Learning Tree comes back into view and with it the unmistaken sound of eagle chatter.  A young eagle is perched atop of the mighty oak.  Although I can not find them, the parent eagles are close by watching from a row of evergreen trees.  Their instruction was clear and the eagle dives toward the field.  Breakfast is served.

My run complete, I open the door to the smell of eggs and toast.  I smile.





Monday, March 7, 2016

Woolley Trail Half Marathon

When the winter has been long and February's only color is grey, what is a girl to do?  You convince your friends running a half marathon in the next county over is a great idea; teetering on brilliance actually.

They didn't buy the brilliance descriptor either.  However, they did agree to run it once the weather forecast promised it wouldn't be 20 mph winds with torrential rains.

We parked at the little church across from the starting line.  It was chilly and none of us really wanted to leave the warmth of the car.  Kathy points out the guy in the car next to us is eating a fast food cheeseburger.   The three of us giggle.  Surely he wasn't going to be running the race and if he was, he'd regret his Breakfast of Champions about mile 4.


The line was short to pick up our race bibs and timing chips.  People were milling about and we watched as the early start marathoners began to line up.  I caught the eye of Heidi, a fellow Marathon Maniac, and ran up to give her a hug and give her well wishes on her race.  8 a.m. sharp they were off and we cheered and clapped as they headed down the trail; then quickly went back to the car where it was warm.

Our bibs in place and timing chips securely fastened to our shoes, we made our way to the porta potty line.  Standing in line, we hear things as "crossing the creek" and "change shoes" and "how many times do we cross it?".  Karen asks someone what they are talking about and we quickly realize we did not get the last email and up until that point had been blissfully unaware we would have to run through a creek.  Twice.

At this point there is nothing we can do about it.  Onward and upward.  We'll just cross that bridge creek when we get to it.  (HA!  See what I did there?!?)


9 am and we were off and running.  Kathy, Karen and I made our way down Centennial Trail.  My plan was to run 3 easy, 3 faster, 3 easy and finish faster. It has been months since I ran any speed and I was looking to reintroduce myself to some faster miles without killing myself in the process.

As with all our runs, the three of us talk about everything and nothing.  We were enjoying getting out from our routine.  Unintentionally I found myself pulling ahead after mile 2.  They wished me a great race and I ran at a pace that felt comfortable.  Mile 4 came and I picked up the pace according to my plan.


The pace felt great.  I felt greatThe scenery was great.  Everything was great.  Mile 5 came and so did the water.  For a quarter of a mile we weren't crossing a creek, we were running down a creek.  The winter rains helped the creek change it's direction and it decided the trail was it's new course. 

A quick glance to the left I spotted where I could get to the high side of the trail by getting very little of my shoes wet.  I leapt to the side and inadvertently cut off another runner.  Apologizing, I moved to the side and Runner Man assured me I was fine and to continue on.  We managed to navigate our way; well, that is until we came up behind a woman tip-toeing in an effort to stay dry.  She would have no part in letting us go by.

We tried to stay in line, but she was making it painfully slow.  Hearing a "SPLASH" behind me, I see Runner Man taking off down the middle of the creek.  It took about 2 nano seconds for me to follow suit.  Once you're wet, you're wet. 

The water was ankle deep and soon gave way to some dry land.  Happy the wet part was over, I fell back into a good pace.  Then I turn the bend and SURPRISE! the creek was back.  This section was much deeper and much murkier than the other.  Following Runner Man, we made our way right down the middle of the creek.  It was calf deep in some spots and where-did-my-shoes-go deep in others.

And it was awesome.

Into mile 6 my feet no longer felt soaking wet and I had gained my pace again.  I noticed the leaders of the half marathon were coming toward me.  The lead man and woman were in perfect unison.  I wondered if they trained together.

Reaching the turn around, I had to remind myself my plan was to run miles 7, 8, and 9 at an easy pace.  I tried to slow to a 9 min pace but felt so good going faster that I found it difficult to reel it in.  Since it was an out and back course I knew the creek running was fast approaching and my pace would slow again. 
I decided to do what felt good for as long as I could. 

It was here I realized I had not seen many women runners hit the turn around before me.  How many had gone by?  6? 7? 8?  Could I place in the top 6 female over all?  I laugh as it becomes clear I am not a competitor.  A competitor would have definitely known how many women were ahead of her.  Not me.  I'm still feeling good.

Armed with this little nugget of wonder, I start to focus on women ahead of me.  There's one.  I reel her in, and pass her.  "Good job" I say as I go by.  She smiles and says, "Go get em!".
 


Coming toward me are the very recognizable forms of Karen and Kathy.  They too enjoyed running through the creek and we give each other high fives.  Karen snapped a picture of me and I gave her a thumbs up. 

The creek is ahead and this time I plow my way right through the middle.  When it gets to be calf deep I try and make my way to the side.  Big mistake.  I sink into 8 inches of muck which apparently fell in love with my shoe as it reeeaaallllyyy didn't want to let it go.  I wonder if I can finish a race with one shoe.

Deciding I loved my shoe more than the muck possibly could, I yank my foot up and keep my shoe.  Back to the creek I go.  Splashing through the creek is destroying my pace but I am having too much fun to care.

Done with the creek, I look up ahead and see another woman.  Slowly and surely I gain on her.  As I come along side her, she decides she has another gear.  It's ok, so do I.  After a mile, she realizes I am not going anywhere and she slows. I go by.  I turn and tell her "Great job".  She says nothing.

Am I 5th?  Am I going to finish in the top 5??  The thought is enough to keep my pace strong.  Finishing top 5 female is something I never thought I could accomplish and I surely did not want anyone passing me in the last mile.
 

With this section of the trail flat as flat could be, I see the finisher's chute ahead.  No matter how many steps I run, IT IS NOT GETTING ANY CLOSER.  This has got to be the longest quarter mile ever. 

An eternity later, I cross the finish line in 1:57:28.  A man with long hair and beard congratulates me, places a medal around my neck and hands me a statue. 

"What's this?
" I ask.


"You won 3rd female overall.

The heavens part.  Angels sing. 

"What?  I've never done that before."  I begin to cry and he hugs me.  The volunteers at the finish clap and cheer and hug me.

 
A short time later, Kathy and Karen cross and we find ourselves warming by the heaters, eating some of the best soup ever known to mankind and talking with those around us.  The man to my right had come in second, missing first to the girl I had witnessed him running with at the turn around.  Although he did not take first, he did manage to score a huge personal best.

"I'm curious," I ask, "Do the two of you know each other?  I saw you after you hit the turn around and you were in complete unison with your running."

With a big smile and  laughter in his voice he says, "No.  We don't know each other.  I just did not want to get beat by a girl." 


"So.  What you are telling me is - not only did you get beat by a girl but you owe the undeniable strength of Girl Power for your PR today."  We laugh and trade high fives and eat more soup.


The runners around the heaters are trading stories, eating great food and laughing with each other. 

 Mr. Cheese Burger For Breakfast Boy?  He ended up sitting on my left by the heater after the race.  I asked him how he felt after eating such a stellar breakfast.

"I regretted my choice about mile 3.  I'm never doing that again."
  


We also learn he drove 3 hours to run this race. Which is proof positive one simply can not beat the great atmosphere of a local race.  The Woolley Run is one of those races.  Terry Sentilla and his crew do a fantastic job with this race and making each runner feel spoiled.

Once I got home, my husband promptly put my trophy in the bookcase in our living room. 

Ok.  I'll admit it.  That silly little bobble head trophy makes me smile.