Friday, September 5, 2008

10 Miles of Memories

Labor Day weekend is a family holiday for the Gasper Family. I mean it! It is the ONLY time when me and my sisters are all in the same place for a Holiday. I mean it – not Easter, not Thanksgiving, not CHRISTMAS. NADA. But Labor Day, which is a bit odd. I don’t think any of my family really knows the history behind Labor Day. And I must admit, as I’ve gotten older I do feel a more than a twinge of guilt that I’m not out at some Labor action on that day. Usually, I’m stuffing my face with fair fries.

But that weekend has so many memories for my family and me. Our County Fair, The Canfield Fair – is that same weekend and we all end up there at some point. All of us girls used to show horses. And it isn’t as if my parents shelled out thousands of dollars for horses, tack, riding lesions, etc. This was something that we all took on ourselves. We bought our own horses, trained them and bought our own tack – which was usually used.

You could say we kind of looked like misfits – but somehow, it all came together.

Sometimes that is how I feel about my running…I have no formal training, I know my form must look funny, but somehow…it all comes together. But, no grand championships are in my future with running!

On Saturday, I had to go out and run 10 miles in the morning if I was going to spend the rest of the day eating fried food. I got up a bit later than what I wanted to, since I got in late the night before. By time I was out on my run, it was 8:30 am and the morning fog was almost completely burned off.

I like to run down Washingtonville Road by my parents’ house. It is a pretty road with gently rolling hills. But those hills can seem a bit rough running up them. It has one of my favorite scenes from home – a big, beautiful old barn in a state of decay. I don’t know why I find it so beautiful and sad, but I do – especially when it is surrounded by the morning light and dew still soaks the ground. Then, the road connects to the bike trail, which is the old converted RR tracks where my family used to hike and pick black raspberries when I was a kid. On Saturday, I was surprised to find a bike race happening on the road. I asked one of the volunteers how far they were going and they said 8 miles, which seemed really odd to me – but whatever, I just kept going.

The bike trail takes me past the fairgrounds and I cannot help but think about my youth when I showed horses there, being there with my sisters and the friendships I forged during the early mornings at the barn. And I MEAN early – like 5 am. There was always something different about the late summer early mornings – when you could feel the chill of fall in the air.

We used to ride our horses back into the fair parking lot (which dubs as a hay field in the early summer) the parking lot opens up into a wooded area. I always found these morning rides very peaceful and were probably one of my favorite things about the fair.

I also had my adopted family at the fair – all the parents who helped me out. They made sure I had a ride up in the morning, helped me tack up my horse when I was too small to do it myself – gave me pointers when I rode, shared a hug with me when Alex (my horse) and I knocked down a cone or a pole, and made sure I got home at night. My parents were always too busy with the farm to fill those duties themselves. I love all those people like family and it makes me so happy to run into them when I am back at the fair as an adult.

On my way back on my run, I thought about someone I’ve started seeing again…he was running an ironman that weekend. I can never get over how incredible that is – and he can do several of them in one year – unbelievable. All that being said, both of our busy lives make it difficult for us to see each other. And I have a hard time working through that.

As I continued running, I ran into more bikers and asked another volunteer about the race – he said it was an 8 mile loop – and they were doing it 8 times. That sounded more like it. The bike race just made me think of the changing times and how peoples’ recreation is changing – even in the valley. I never would have imagined a bike race there 20 years ago. Some farmers would have been up in arms about it for some reason I’m sure. That is the same reason by the bike trail doesn’t extend through the rest of the old RR track – too many old farmers unwilling to let some yuppies run a bike path through their property.

But, many of those old farmers have had no choice but to sell more of their land to those yuppies riding the bikes.

At the end of my run, I talked with a knowledgeable volunteer for several minutes. He was interested in how far I ran and I was interested more about the bike race. We talked about the different races we had both ran. He tried to convince me to run the Army 10 miler in a couple of weeks in DC – and I had to explain that I have this little thing called an election going on. But, it made me smile – thinking of how I used to live in DC and how my friend Kamden always runs that race.

It was a weird run – a lot of jumbled up memories from different parts of my life coming together in 10 miles.

But, the one constant was that I could eat my fair fries and have my lemon shake, too without any guilt. And if that isn’t a holiday – I don’t know what is!

Monday, September 1, 2008

It Has Been Awhile…

It has been a while since I’ve blogged. Some of you know I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff that I just don’t feel like putting up on the Internet. A lot of it seems to be either dying down or at a stand still, so I I’m feeling a little like talking – or typing as it was.

Some of you may be wondering if I ran the half marathon in Parkersburg…and I did!

My friend Lauren and I trekked to WV for the big race. I was excited to celebrate my 30th in this way. Very different from past birthdays of over indulging in alcohol and waking up the next day wishing I didn’t have to go to work.

Maybe this is growing up? Who knows?

Parkersburg has some pretty parts of town, but it is depressing to see parts of it. I would like to see a census count of evangelical churches and strip clubs in the town. It seemed that no matter where you turned you saw a church and 9 times out of 10 – there was a strip joint across the street.

Lauren and I got there on Friday (8.15.08). The race was on Saturday. We didn’t want to eat dinner at the hotel that night so we sent out to dinner and found a local Italian joint that could have been in Salem, Ohio (near where I grew up.). The owner had photos up on the wall of famous people who had visited the restaurant – my favorite was of course of Boom Boom Mancini.

Unfortunately…the food was pretty buttery and didn’t sit to well with us, so we both had some problems in the morning. Ugh. You can tell from our photos!

The race course was very scenic and the crowd was awesome. It seemed like the whole town came out for the race. And I’m pretty sure there were some late night bets (the race has same day registration) that got some Parkersburg citizens to gear up for the race last minute judging from their running attire.

Parkersburg sits on the confluence Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers – which makes the vista pretty unique. The course initially takes you through the Julianne St. Historical District with the stately old homes and then down toward the river bottom to the decaying industrial flats. Once you get out of the town proper you spend most of your time running through rolling hills. Everyone seems to come out to cheer on this race in the area – it is great.

Folks were dressed up in costumes, local cheer leaders were out, as well as bands. There were more race volunteers than at other larger races I’ve been at and we had – 17 water stops!

The race is a kick off to the weekend festivities in Parkersburg – it is their homecoming weekend. After the race concludes a large parade snakes through the town – some folks we talked to boosted that it was the largest parade in WV. It seemed as if every pageant winner in the state was there to wave on her loyal subjects from Miss WV down to Little Miss Christmas.

There was also the largest contingent of Shriners I’ve ever seen – IN MY LIFE.

The rest of the weekend Lauren and I relaxed at the hotel, lamented at the fact that the hotel lied on their website about having a hot tub, sauna and Olympic pool and checked out the town. (The hotel had free passes to the local YMCA that had these amenities – but wasn’t on site.)

We also got a massage from a local masseuse who commuted from Bellsville Ohio to Parkersburg for work. A pretty depressing scenario that the only place an Ohioan can find work is an hour and a half away in WV.

And while we were still high off the adrenaline from the half marathon…Lauren and I crazily talked about running half at the Columbus Marathon – which is 3 weeks before the election. Yes, we both need to have our heads examined! And yes, we both registered for the race on Friday!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Patterns Become Ruling Routines

You know, the older we get I think the harder it is to let go of our routines. I wonder if that is what helps provide us with more stability in a crazy, hectic life. You know what time you are getting up, when you are going home and what you are doing when you get there. If something upsets that routine – it can affect your whole mood.

It is one of those things that I’ve noticed about myself and about my friends. I used to be a lot more spontaneous. Where did that go? I can remember a conversation with a friend not that long ago reminding me of how I just picked up and moved to Chile or how I just decided to move to Ohio – because of my idealism.

We were talking about me moving back to DC and well, that decision is harder. Is it because of routine? It is crazy to think that I’ve been in Columbus for MORE than 3 years and have had the same job for almost 3 years and have lived in the same place. This is the first time in my life I’ve had that type of stability. Is routine what makes us less risk adverse? Is it age? Maturity?

I don’t know where this is going, but I guess it came up because I was at work for 12 hours today and before I went in…I told myself I was working 8 to 8 and no more. I get done, what I get done. I came home, was playing phone tag with several different friends. One who I haven’t talked to in a while….and we spoke briefly before she went to bed at 10. It was a little awkward, because we both were unwilling to change our routine to talk to another.

When I got home from work – I did my usual. Took Ariel for a walk and then went to the gym. Then, came home and tried to call my friend and finally reached her. This was at 10 pm.

You know…I think we got to do more. Routine isn’t an excuse for not talking to people. I know I fall into this all the time and my friends do as well. But, we gotta do better.

Sometimes I think we let routine and our “daily life” be an excuse for not connecting, not being spontaneous and living a life that is well, full of comfortable patterns but with little real adventure.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

6 Weeks Out!

Well, started training for the half marathon…and boy a month of lightly hitting the gym, doing fun runs with my dog and well, probably drinking a little too much doesn’t do much to help you keep up your stamina!

I logged 22 miles this week, and they were all rough runs.

But, each one was better than the last one, which is good. I am hoping I can regain my speed quickly by doing tempo runs. These are a first for me and I’m sure the people at walking around the park that I run at think there is something wrong with this manic who is running like crazy then jogging slowly, then running like crazy again.

But, I logged 7 miles yesterday and didn’t need to stop to walk, stretch or anything. I ran three miles at a harder pace and 4 miles at an easier pace.

6 weeks to go until the half marathon in Parkersburg WV and until I turn 30:) -- looking forward to both. I think I am ready to close the chapter of my 20s in my life.

Over the past month work has been a lot of stress. New staff starting, traveling around the state and making time for exercise, family and friends hasn’t been easy. My balancing act is better than in the past – but I could really feel the drain in June.

I really think training will help with balancing. I know it sounds crazy that it would, but it gives me more structure to my day.

Well, I’ll hopefully be writing more over the next several weeks while my training is going on for the half marathon. Feel free to comment.

And, a shout out to Josiette whose birthday is Tuesday. How does it feel to be 30, J-Dawg?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Self Debate

So, I need a race. I need to register, make the commitment to run and create a plan. Work is getting BUSY and I need something to help bring me some sanity. After the Cleveland Marathon I took a week off running/exercising period. Now, I’ve been running and going to the gym, but nothing longer than 3 miles.

I will say it has been nice to enjoy seeing my friends and not have such a strict schedule...but now work is filling that free time more and I need a plan to create some balance.

I am considering the half marathon in Parkersburg WV. It will be a good excuse to get outta town for my 30th birthday. Damn, 30. You know, I don’t feel 30…I thought 30 would feel old. But, I don’t feel old at all.

I would say I’m just a little more mature, which is a good thing. I handle things better than I used to -- if I do say so myself -- stress, friendships and family. I guess…in a lot of ways those things can at times be intertwined.

Oh, and we did reach the Joliba Trust Goal! I received a few late contributions that put us over the top. So thank you!

Tune back in later…I promise to write more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If you don’t like the weather in Cleveland, wait 5 minutes.

That is a saying in Cleveland and on May 18th – it was so true. When Micah and I started out in the morning at 7 am, it was pouring down rain. But, I was optimistic that the Cleveland saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Cleveland, wait 5 minutes,” would ring true and I wore my sunglasses in spite of the rain.

Even with the miserable weather, friends and family came out to cheer on Micah and me. It was fantastic! But, the sad news of the day was that my parents and sister only made it to one mile marker before getting caught up in a fender bender! Thankfully, everyone is okay.

The Cleveland Marathon takes you from downtown Cleveland across the shoreway to Lakewood. It is pretty amazing running across the bridges in Cleveland. Too bad it was raining in the morning and the view across the lake wasn’t that clear. Nonetheless, the beginning of the race is very exciting! You feel great and there is an amazing energy throughout the participants and the crowd. Plus, you have the bonus of having the half marathoners with you – so there are a lot more people.

By time we got into Lakewood, Micah and I had our eyes open for our friends and family. As we rounded the bend onto W. 117th, we saw them jumping and shouting in the rain. It was fabulous. Shortly there after, Micah and I saw this family that seemed to follow our pace throughout the race. There were 3 kids, a mom and a grandpa – and they were awesome. I saw them about every five miles and they had such great energy and were always giving people high fives as they ran by. I’ll tell you at mile 21 – their high fives helped me get up a wicked hill while I was running into the wind off of Lake Erie.

I must admit, that some of the euphoria of the race can wear off by time you reach mile 13. The half marathoners are heading towards the finish line and you are wondering to yourself...“um…why didn’t I just do the half? I still have 13.2 more miles to go!” The other issue at mile 13 is that the crowd REALLY starts to thin out. There are a ton of people cheering for the first half and it dwindles at the second half. So for those marathon spectators reading out there – trust me – your marathoners will love to see you later in the race. It is when they’ll need you most.

The second half of the marathon goes through midtown and then over to MLK Blvd, which takes you through one of my favorite parts of Cleveland – the ethnic gardens. We were lucky and the sun came out, but it didn’t get too hot in the second half. Heck, it was even starting to rain again as I finished mile 26.

At mile 15, it was great to see some friendly faces from back in Youngstown…the Haus family came out in full force and was cheering me on – and it was so great to see them there. At mile 16, there was this guy who was struggling…and I gave him an extra Gu that I had…I hope that it gave him the energy needed to keep moving on.

At Mile 18, I saw Rachel and Marilyn again. Plus, I got to see my friend Susan, who came with her baby Cole. It was fantastic that they were able to make it out.

My pace was great…until mile 20. Damn, the wind off the lake hit me and I went from running perfectly on pace to having my time go up by 1 to 2 minutes per mile. What a bummer…and it was so rough to have the view of downtown Cleveland in front of you, but feel so far away. During this time, I really concentrated on the Joliba Trust. I thought about their work and what hopefully they’d be able to do with the donations we’ve all raised. This helped to push me through to the end.

Then, while nearing the home stretch, I saw my friends Jed and Sarah – cheering me on. How Sarah had the energy…I don’t know considering she had already finished the race!

Crossing the finish line was great. I was happy at taking nearly 20 minutes off my old time. Even if I didn’t reach my goal of a 4 hr and 30 minute marathon – I guess that gives me a goal for next time!

I am also happy to say that we came close to reaching the goal for the Joliba Trust – we raised nearly $2,000. We feel short of the $2,000 goal by just $83. So, if you haven’t given yet – please do so – you can make the difference!

I also want to give a special Congrats to Micah and Rachel – not only did Micah have a great first marathon – he also got married a week later!

So, that is it for now…just resting, walking and hitting the elliptical at the gym. I plan on running two half marathons this summer. I’ll keep you all posted!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WHOA! 5 Days to go!

At 4:30 pm today….

I don’t know where to start…so I’ll give you my final fundraising pitch. We’ve raised $1,100 so far – which is awesome! But, we are still $900 short of the $2,000 goal. I know you all should have received your tax refunds AND now you should be getting your nice stimulus check. Instead of spending that money on that flatscreen TV you’ve been wanting – how about giving it to a good cause – AND a cause that won’t help stimulate the George Bush Economy!? And for those of you who haven’t given yet – and you know who you are – I will do call time. Oh yeah, you’ll be getting a call and I’ll be hitting you up for a donation.

As for the running update…I did my long run on Saturday evening this past week, which wasn’t that long – only 8 miles. It was great to get outside, since I was inside all day at a staff training for work that went pretty well. The weather was beautiful. I could not have asked for a more perfect night – other than the gnats. Lots of gnats – I am pretty sure I got some extra protein while running;). The allergies were still bothering me – but I just concentrated at running at my marathon pace, so I wouldn’t be pushing it too hard. I was still running about 30 seconds a mile too fast – but significantly slower from my past 8 milers.

I am actually excited that it is supposed to rain like all week in Cleveland. I am hoping it will wash more of the pollen away and my allergies will be less severe. I am feeling pretty good right now and I’m looking forward to my short 3 mile run tonight – AND seeing Ariel…

At 9 pm today….

I am back! Anyways sorry for the switch on my train of thought…I was at the DC airport when I was writing the three paragraphs above and had to board my flight.

It was great to get into Columbus, get to the office, pick up Ariel and go home and run. It was a really weird feeling being super elated to be back. I can truthfully say that is the first time that has ever happened. Usually, I am pretty melancholy when I get back from DC. Most of you know that the transition from DC to Columbus has been difficult for me. It has been harder to make friends – and ironically enough – more of them are involved in politics than my friends in DC.

I am not putting all the burden on Columbus – because that would be the easy thing to do – a lot of it is because of how much I chose/choose to work and the odd fact that I’ve become more of an introvert as I’ve become older . (or I could just be reverting back to my true self…I was very much an introvert as a child) I lost touch with many people in 06, since I was working like an insane woman. Case and point … after the 06 election, I finally called my friend, Susan to find out that she was 6 months pregnant! Yes, I was an asshole. I should have made time to call.

I also think the visit to DC jogged my thought process on what am I going to do after this election. Stay in Ohio, move back to DC, move somewhere else – like out West? I’ve given myself an August deadline to figure out what I want to do. Why August? I don’t know…maybe because that is the last month before election stuff becomes really crazy, maybe because I’m turning 30, or it is just completely arbitrary. August could come and go without me making a decision.

I know that if I move back to DC, my life would not go back to how it was before I left. People are in different points in their lives now. I would no longer have the party pad where everyone would hang out before heading out in Adams Morgan or U Street. Nor do I have a strong desire to go out and party it up in AdMo. My alcohol tolerance is pathetically low and I tend to be in bed by 10 pm. I never quite regained my party-all-night stamina after my lung surgery. If I stayed here…would I still work for America Votes? Would I do something else? What about Chicago? Montana? Northern California?

Is this one of those decisions when I have to make a list?

When I moved back to Ohio in 04 – it was a gut decision. I had to move back – it was for my country, my state, my family. I had to work for change. The consequences of that decision didn’t matter to me – a significant paycut, leaving my friends and network in DC, moving to a city where I knew practically no one. And, those consequences have been frequent reminders of the fact that my personal – NOT professional – transition to Ohio has been very difficult.

My current decision is different, less idealistic and a little selfish.

My whole thought process on this blog is weird…too much thinking about too much stuff. I should be writing about the marathon this weekend, which I am really excited about – but scared at the same time. I have been pretty consumed with it this week. I freak out about the taper – since I worry about my stamina, etc. I am more worried about it this time since I had to cut my last long run in half because of my allergies.

Well, I should cut this off. I’ve been writing this at Northstar – the cafĂ© across from my house where I eat WAY TOO OFTEN! I need to get home and unpack and mentally prepare myself for tomorrow – and yes, that usually entails making a list.