Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Perfect Running Specimen

I am now in full-on training mode for the City of Oaks marathon, which I got clearance to do on my trike (want to run the half or join one of our Team Drea relay teams? contact me!)

So last Sunday, I convinced DP to drop me off at a trail nearby while he ran some errands. For the local folks, I was on Beach Drive near Cinderella’s castle the Mormon Temple. For the non-local folks, it’s a beautiful place to ride – the trail winds between tall trees creating almost a full canopy. Since it was late in the day, rays of sunshine streamed through from the setting sun. One on side of the trail is a lazy tributary to Rock Creek, the other side is two-lane road which has more bicyclists than cars on Sundays. If it weren’t for the ongoing hum and occasional air brakes from the Beltway, it would have seemed like a ride through deep woods.

No, I didn't take her picture. That would have been stalker-ish.
I was riding along enjoying myself when I saw her. The perfect running specimen. Calf muscles tensing, arms pumping, ponytail swinging. Not wearing the shapeless race t-shirt and mesh shorts I was in, but a strappy fluorescent orange spandex top with sweat on her shoulders and fitted black shorts showing off her cute figure.

I couldn’t help it – I followed her. I followed her, even though I knew better. I felt the ache of my wound that won’t heal and tasted the bitterness in my mouth. I’m better than I used to be. For six months after I stopped running, I could not see someone jogging without crying.

I watched in awe at the grace of her feet that innately knew to push off the ground, her ankles carrying them effortlessly through the stride, and toes naturally flexing just enough to position themselves to hit the asphalt at the perfect angle again. Ah, the rhythm of running.

And yet, she wasn’t thinking about any of it -- the motor neurons firing, the muscle fibers straining. She was listening to music through her headphones, thoughts undoubtedly far from the neurological glue holding her together, making this evening’s run possible. I never thought about it either.

I chased her for awhile, feeling very much unglued as I tried to keep up with my uneven pedal stroke and legs shaking uncontrollably as I bounced over little tree root earthquakes in the trail. Eventually, I watched sadly as she turned off down another path, even though I knew it was for the best.

Left alone again, I pulled my thoughts back into the trike and actually had a pretty good time. The deepening shadows matched my mood and I tried to focus on my own journey. The ability to be outside using my muscles in any form was a gift, and I knew it. A deer and I had a brief staring contest. She won by snorting. I jumped and laughed out loud.

I cruised back and forth on the trail within a couple of miles of our starting point so I would be close by when DP came back to pick me up. When that got repetitive, I ventured into an adjacent neighborhood and came upon a hill with a long incline. It looked steep but doable so I decided to try it. I changed gears and settled into cranking up the hill, using every part of the stroke to press through my quads and pull up with my feet. This is my favorite kind of riding (and living) – working hard but feeling the satisfaction of getting to where I need to be. It’s a rarer feeling these days.

The street was mixture of ranches and modest homes with wide lawns, all neat and tidy with freshly cut grass and shrubs maintained by the family gardeners, not professional landscapers. It reminded of my neighborhood growing up.

Up, up, up I went, from one intersection to the next until I was afraid that DP would be mad that I’d strayed so far from where we’d agreed I would go. So I looped around to check out my accomplishment. I was sweating, breathing hard, and happy.

It looked similar to this, minus the cushion.
On the way back down, I let myself go. It felt just like the billy cart my dad made be 25 years ago – basically a plank with 2’x4’s at either end and four lawnmower wheels. No engine, no brakes. We were supposed to sit upright and steer with our feet, but most of the time my friends and I lay down on our stomachs and steered with our hands, our faces inches from the pavement as we whizzed full speed down the hills in our neighborhoods without helmets. Life really comes full circle, I thought. Even if I was happy I had brakes this time.

I was back on the trail starting mile 7 when DP called to say he was back with the takeout and toilet paper. As I pulled a U-turn for the last time, I saw the pop of fluorescent orange. The perfect running specimen! In the distance, I could see DP waiting for me, lifting the hatchback of our Subaru to load the trike. For once, I didn’t feel the ache. This is my journey and I wouldn’t trade it. No way.


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  2. Never, ever judge your insides by what someone or something appears to be on the outside. They may be a complete wreck on the inside and may never have had what you have.
    I love having those special memories pop in on occasion. They are truly a gift. Kinda like you are to others. Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey!

  3. "Post DX, I also on the far to few excursions with thoughts of past adventures on trails which were my "highways" thoughts of the present "highways" which I now followed were part of my always constant, ("always follow your bliss") like me you did...I enjoyed your ride and reflections...with you in spirit), Jon, (alswarriorpoet-spirit)."

  4. You give me such perspective on life. Your ability to make the best of a bad situation never ceases to amaze me. You may not be the perfect running specimen anymore, but I will tell you that you are certainly the perfect triking specimen =)

  5. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hi Andrea, I ended up here by way of Jessica Sorrell, a friend of yours who will be running at the next event in Baltimore, MD. I too know how awful this disease can be. I lost my grandfather, who was an amazing, god fearing, loving family man to ALS 10 years ago. If you had known him, you would agree. I see your strength and outlook on life, and its so inspirational. Not many people know about ALS until it hits home. I commend you for your strength, your positivity and last but not least your faith in God. I pray that one day, there will be a cure for ALS, but until that day, continue to keep your faith strong and remember that you are not alone in your fight. You seem to have a great support system, and that is key when fighting this battle. You have a great heart, and have an awesome way of remind people of the simple things in life we often take for granted. You are truly an inspiration!! God Bless


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