humor

I WANT MY MOMMY (Dethroned: Part Two)

(For part one, click here.)

“Hi, can you hear me?”

“Yes! Is everything okay?”

Babs’s voice came through my car’s speakers loud and clear, surprising me. I wasn’t expecting such strong cell service in eastern Oregon.

Hello…?

“Yes, but I’m, ah, driving east because OREGON IS ON FIRE,” I replied.

“Oh my god, Pop and I were watching on the news. It looks awful. Is Bend safe?”

“Yeah, so far, but the smoke reached hazardous levels this morning and I was like, ‘Nope.’ I’ve been driving east for 90 minutes and it’s still smoky. It feels apocolyptic.”

View as I bolted out of Bend on September 11, 2020. Looks like fog, right? Nope. That’s wildfire smoke (on an otherwise sunny day).

“Wow…well, you know, you could always come here.”

I hadn’t dared suggest it. Not only was “here” still 3,000 miles away, in New Jersey, but my parents were firmly situated in the vulnerable population group when it came to COVID-19. Even though I hadn’t seen another soul in over a week, was it too risky?

“Go see Grammy?!?!!?!” -Uncle Jesse (the doodle dog)

“I was thinking about it!” I laughed. “I’m gonna stock up on wine at Trader Joe’s in Boise and keep you posted.”

Priorities.

That night I made it past Salt Lake City and my fate was sealed: New Jersey or bust. Was it selfish? Crazy? Would state border police stop me and shove a giant Q-Tip up my nose? Send me packing back to Oregon? Put me in one of those cute little jail cells like on Once Upon a Time?

Aw.

I hadn’t seen my family since early December. Before moving to Bend, Oregon in June 2019, I lived mere minutes from my parents, sister, niece, and nephew. Game nights, family dinners, and weekend outings were standard fare.

After a stressful move to a new apartment last November during a massive snow storm, battling severe winter depression, and then, you know, a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, my priorities had fully shifted from “greatest global good” to “DEAR GOD SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME A HUG.”

I put pedal to the metal as I burned through 11 states in four days. It felt amazing to have a plan. To work towards a tangible goal. To learn every country song currently topping the charts. To head towards the promise of human interaction – under the same roof! I basked in the glow of those formless, wordless things that turn “existence” into “life.” Hand sanitizer, masks, and pushing doors open with sweater sleeves were tiny prices to pay for the return of hope.

Over the following month, I filled my family love tank to the brim.

“Wow, you drove all the way back to Bend with your mom? How did that go?” several people asked after hearing that I made the long return trip from New Jersey to Oregon with Babs in tow.

Impromptu photo shoot near Des Moines, Iowa.

“You know, any other time maybe we would have gotten on each other’s nerves, but it was great. I just kept thinking, ‘What if this is the only time I ever get to do this?'” I answered.

A new perspective had settled in. A calm acceptance that this might be as good as it gets. A project manager and lifelong planner, I was finally starting to make decisions based on, “What makes sense today?” The ultimate answer, of course, has always been the same -follow love- but the approach was different.

To many of us, “love” equals “security,” and that means planning and preparing to care for our families, communities, and environment in the future. Heck, that’s why I’m vegan. But what if…we can’t? I’ve spent nearly four decades with my eyes firmly planted on the horizon; sometimes a source of comfort, but more often, anxiety.

To operate under the seemingly morbid idea that tomorrow might be worse -or never come at all- brought a strange sense of peace. It turns out that decisions made by asking, “How do I follow love and joy today?” are pretty damn solid.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Happy birthday, Babs!!!

~*~*~*~*~*~

humor

The Secret to Running a Marathon (During a Pandemic…Or Ever)

Go Jules Go How to Run a Marathon Title Graphic 14APR2020

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

Two dozen ice cubes hit the bottom of six water bottles. I paused halfway, switching hands, my left fingers already numb from reaching into the ice bin for the eighth time.

Uncle Jesse’s collar rattled as he pranced from paw to paw, letting out a low whimper every few seconds. His evangelical nature revealed itself every time I began our sacred ritual: Water bottle…yes…backpack…YES…leash…YES!…sneakers…PRAISE JESUS YESSSS!!!!

Uncle Jesse running Lake Michigan
Can I get an “Amen”?!

I wonder if he knows what he’s in for today, I thought, pulling a package of tortillas from the fridge.

With water bottles filled, I turned to sustenance, folding a few falafel balls into a wrap for me, and a sweet potato into one for Uncle Jesse. It was getting harder to believe the entire world was on lockdown, with Mother Nature beginning to show her sweeter side, beckoning restless souls to pack a picnic or meet some friends for happy hour around a sun-soaked table.

OH GOD I MISS THIS.

I checked the weather one last time. High of 60 with “abundant sunshine.” I was still getting used to the latter. Springtime on the east coast usually brought warmer temperatures by mid-April, but also a lot more rain. Bend, Oregon, on the other hand, still saw frigid nights and little precipitation.

Uncle Jesse double rainbow Maston 2020
And when it does rain in central Oregon? This happens.

As I packed my hiking bag, I went the extra mile (pun sooo intended), grabbing an empty shopping sack and stuffing spare socks, a shirt, Band-Aids, an extra hat, and a hand towel into it. I cast a glance at the calendar where I’d been counting down the days until this moment.

8 miles @ Maston

Crazy hilly 13 miles @ ?? Butte

REST

Easy 5 miles @ Shevlin Park

18 Miles @ Tumalo Reserve incl. ?? Butte (seriously does it have a name?)

REST

Every square of 2020 was filled with pencil scribbles tracking my progress, even though the Bend Marathon, originally scheduled for April 19th, had been canceled in March, courtesy of COVID-19.

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As a final step, I put two extra sandwiches, water, and a can of Coke into a cooler bag. I clicked my race belt on, grabbed my hat, and put on my dusty and trusty Altra trail running shoes.

Jules Altras by Deschutes River

“Allons, mon chien!” I declared, tossing Uncle Jesse’s leash and my ear buds into the shopping bag as we headed outside. Neither four months of marathon training nor eighteen months on Duolingo French would be in vain!

Jules Uncle Jesse snowy run by Deschutes River
How do you say, “I run until I cry” in French…?

I took a gamble on a new trailhead about 25 minutes east, near the Badlands, and landed in an empty parking lot just before 10:30am. Scoooooore. It was rare to find an empty trailhead on a Saturday morning, even during a pandemic. While a huge part of me felt guilty every time I got in the car to find a quiet place to run, it still felt safer to pick an open, abandoned trail than play ‘dodge-a-pedestrian’ while running on my neighborhood sidewalks.

Badlands trail sign
Besides, when you’re talking 26.2 miles, you’re eventually going to run out of sidewalk.

Before COVID hit, I’d spent countless hours trying to find the least-used trails in a 30-mile radius – research that now paid off handsomely.

Uncle Jesse on trail in OR
#IntrovertForTheWin

I moseyed over to the trailhead map, popping my ear buds in and snapping my water-filled backpack around my chest. Delighted to find a network of trails long enough to cover 13+ miles (meaning I wouldn’t have to do more than two loops on the same trail), I started my audiobook, locked the car, and began jogging. Uncle Jesse eagerly darted from side to side, making sure no stick went un-sniffed.

Uncle Jesse butt shot sandy trail mountains

The wide, sandy trail was packed down, mostly flat, and totally deserted. A cool breeze wafted by as if I’d placed an order. Wow. Okay. This will work. I’d spent so many training runs trudging through thick sand, narrowly missing mountain bikers, and/or getting snowed on, that this felt like running inside Darren Criss’s smile while petting puppies.

Darren Criss puppies zipper pouch
OH MY GOD HOW DO I NOT HAVE THIS?

The first hour flew by, even if my pace was nothing like flying. I was 6 years older and 20 30 40 (thanks, COVID-15) pounds heavier than the last time I thought I could run marathons.

Jules-Hamptons-Marathon-27Sep2014
Jules’s 2014 marathon recap: “This experience was f&*#$%^ awful!”

But I was also four years plant-powered and properly trained now, with a rock-solid faith in both my legs and my mental fortitude. I was a week ahead of schedule [for the originally scheduled Bend Marathon on April 19th], so if I couldn’t make the six hour cut-off time today, I’d simply try again next weekend, with no one the wiser.

Scott Jurek Badwater finish
So basically I feel like Scott Jurek now. Photo credit

While I may have missed the adrenaline rush of cheering squads, the aid stations, and the course markings of an official race, I didn’t miss the hard pavement, early start time, or collective anxiety, which usually peaked 20-30 minutes before race time in the form of mile-long port-a-potty lines. I especially didn’t miss the well-intentioned, but severely misguided “Good job!” and “You got this!” cries of much faster runners as they whizzed by.

Go Jules Go prep for half marathon Nov 2019
I also didn’t miss doing this the night before.

Hour two was harder than the first, as I began to realize there was no shade whatsoever; parts of the trail grew sandier while my backpack seemed to grow heavier. In hell, a mountain of sand and nothing but warm Gatorade and Donald Trump speeches will await me. Around the same time, I accepted that I would chafe in new, exciting places, despite wearing entirely road-tested gear.

Jules Salt Lake City trying stream water Jun 2019
Well that’s gonna be fun tomorrow.

I stopped just before hour three under a rare, shady tree. Uncle Jesse stared at me with big, questioning brown eyes. I pulled out our wraps and we ate them quickly. The other bonus to jogging vs. running long distances seemed to be that I could eat whatever I wanted without gastrointestinal distress. GU? Electrolyte chews? Energy bars? You can keep ’em! On all of our longer training runs jogs, we had simply stopped at the halfway mark and eaten sandwiches.

Jules Broken Angel burrito
Refried bean burrito for breakfast and falafel wrap for lunch? Don’t mind if I do.

The high desert sun grew more intense, though there was still a strong breeze, and our water grew warmer as we neared hour four, running along a dreary stretch of power lines. I made the executive decision to turn back to the car for more water, cursing inwardly as my toe collided with another lava rock hidden in the thick sand.

Uncle Jesse sandy trail
So…much…sand.

“And the making of a hero…,” the British narrator continued on my audiobook, Natural Born Heroes. Though I’d normally hang on Christopher McDougall’s every word, I tuned in and out, distracted by trying to retrace my steps.

Marathon mountain view Apr 11 2020
I was also distracted by this view.

Just as we neared what I was (…pretty…) sure was the path to my car, I spotted a man and his dog – the first person I’d seen all day. Guhhhhh. I did an about-face and started off in the opposite direction. The unexpected detour meant it was almost five hours in before Uncle Jesse and I reached Suba-Ruby.

Subara car commercial

If we’re not even close to 20 miles, I’m calling it, I thought, defeated. I glanced at my Fitbit. 21.5 miles. I grinned maniacally.

“Oh, less than 5 miles. We are making this happen,” I said aloud. Uncle Jesse tilted his head in response.

Uncle Jesse head tilts on backseat car cover 25Dec2019

I took a few gulps of deliciously frosty water from the cooler pack, quickly refilling Uncle Jesse’s Water Rover and my go-to bottle. I gleefully swapped out my ill-fitting bigger pack for my beloved little Camelback, and we set off to conquer the last few miles.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200414144512946_cover
Is it legal to marry an inanimate object?

During the final 45 minutes, stiffness settled into my legs and every minute crawled by. I refused to look at my watch until I couldn’t bear it. Knowing I could do all 26.2 miles offered little comfort; I still had to do it. I imagined sitting on the couch with my cheap bottle of Trader Joe’s bubbly, eating whatever the living f#@& I wanted, watching my long-awaited Redbox rental, Little Women – including all of the special features, dammit.

00100sportrait_00100_burst20200214170453363_cover
Nerd alert.

When we finally rounded the bend back into the parking lot, I had to do two more tiny loops before my watch signaled that we’d hit our target distance. I let out a small laugh.

Marathon Fitbit screenshot Apr 11 2020
Booya.

“You’re a marathon man now!” I shouted to Uncle Jesse, 10-year-old Vegan Wonder Dog, who had already climbed into the backseat and was staring at me with tired, but alert, eyes. Par for the course, his expression seemed to say. He hadn’t missed a single training run.

Uncle Jesse snow romp 2 Cascades 2019
Sheer determination.

I poured water on a towel and wiped off my wind and sunburned face, wedging my “2020 Bend Marathon” trucker cap on, having finally earned it. I fed Uncle Jesse another sandwich, snapped a photo for the obligatory social media show-off, and we headed back home, where we sat on the hallway floor and shared a pint of Coconut Bliss ice cream.

Go Jules Go Uncle Jesse post marathon April 11 2020
He hogged it all.

Though I laid low and downed a couple of Aleve the next day -mostly for my back which wasn’t used to carrying such a large, heavy pack during runs- by Monday we were right back at it, running jogging eight miles like it was nothing.

Jules vegan sweatshirt
Plant-powered. For. The. Win.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I’m almost 38, overweight, drink like a [quarantined] fish, and have no business feeling this great after running a marathon – much more than I can say for my younger, thinner, meat-eating self.

Also I love you. And if you’re a nurse, that love is, like, getting weird.

~*~*~*~*~*~