Monday, September 10, 2012

"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

This past weekend, we went to Chicago to do another race. As many of you know, I live to do 5k’s, Warrior Dashes, Mud Runs, Color Runs and whatever other races I can find. A dear friend of mine told me several weeks ago that I needed to stop throwing my money away. To which I replied “How can it be wasting money when I get a really cool race shirt and medal?” It’s completely beside the point that the shirt will end up in a donation pile by next year. To me, it’s the thrill of completing something and wearing my “shirt” of honor least once.
The other thing that a few of you know is I have a tendency to share my more embarrassing moments, sort of comic relief for myself. This weekend didn’t disappoint. The race that we had planned to do was on Sunday morning, so Saturday we spent the day sightseeing, taking pics for upcoming book covers and carbing up for the race. The weather was perfect and there were a handful of soon-to-be-married couples creating memorable wedding shots all along Michigan Ave. We happened upon one couple that was recreating their own surreal version of “The Kissing Sailor” moment right in front of the John Hancock building. I turned for a better look and when I did, I stepped into the street, hit an uneven bit of pavement and twisted the hell out of my ankle. Not one of my “cooler” moments. I did save face and refused to cry, but the damage had been done. I was going home raceless-without a finisher’s medal, overstuffed and a shirt that might as well have said “I paid to do this race and all I got was this crappy shirt.”  
I learned two valuable lessons this weekend. Rubbernecking no matter how much someone looks like they just stepped out of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is at best dangerous! And second, I learned that even though I feel 37 at heart, this body isn’t as young as it used to be. Normally, I would wrap a bum ankle, get my ass to the starting line and self-medicate with Advil later. Now, not so much. What I did do was hobble back to the hotel, prop my feet up and play Words with Friends with my mother, groaning randomly for sympathy. Admitting that my body is breaking down slowly is a little hard for me to do. Not doing a race because of a sprained ankle calls into question my invincibility and inevitably the itchy wool tights and giant S on my chest will have to be retired sometime soon. Granted, when they were handing out super powers I did ask for the ability to teleport. Yep, didn’t get that or you can bet I would have “winked” myself to the beach every day. But I’ve made do with at least believing I was invincible, tripping along somewhat oblivious to the wrinkles showing up in my face, the creaks of protest from my knees when I walk up the steps, or the sore hip from being in the car too long.
I’m rolling my eyes a bit here because I’ve made myself sound 87 and not 37. It isn’t that I’m old, it’s more of realizing what the little aches and pains foreshadow. When I see my mother who I still consider “young” at 62, I realize I can’t remember what she looked like when I was 5. In pictures, she’s a beautiful 30-year old with a wicked twinkle in her eye that looks similar to mine. Now, she’s a little grayer, her face has a few more wrinkles and she’s constantly looking for 1 of 19 pairs of reading glasses she misplaced somewhere. Somewhere along the way, she went from a young woman to a mother to a grandmother and I see myself on the same fast-paced journey, sans the kids.
And knowing that I’m getting older doesn’t make me want to settle in and admit defeat, it only makes me want to work harder to age gracefully. I may have twisted an ankle and missed this run, but there’s a Title 9 run in October that’s yelling my name, with many more to follow. My new goal is to be in the best shape of my life at 40 and actually do another half-marathon. I know at some particular point, I’ll join my mother and we will spend lazy weekends rocking on the front porch remembering the time she chased after the neighborhood boys and beat them in a water gun fight. But for now, I’ll keep pounding the pavement, cycling the open road and pointing myself to a healthier future. And stop sightseeing.
As a footnote to this blog, while I was hobbling around town I did find this kickass, “I will shank you” pair of shoes that I can’t wear for fear of breaking my ankle, or for the public ridicule that I would surely subject myself to. But I can look at them and know that somewhere there is a woman walking the streets of Chicago wearing this pair of shoes and wishing to god she had worn a pair of Saucony’s and done a 5k instead. I know her body is probably feeling worse than mine right now and that makes my smile just a little bit bigger.