Monday, August 31, 2015

Showers and sweat.

When I was a ninth grader in Seattle, Washington in 1951, the criterion for getting an “A” in physical education was to take 40 showers after class during the semester. I’m not kidding!

Thirty showers meant you got a “B”, 20 were worth a “C” and so on. Clever kids that we were, we soon discovered that in reality, you didn’t have to take a shower at all to get credit for one. The teacher did nothing more than check to make sure that the towel you turned in was wet. It wasn’t too tough to dampen down a towel and turn it in.

I don’t remember what kind of physical activities we engaged in during gym period, but I know for sure that there was not a single step of running in the curriculum. We would no doubt have balked at that. We were girls, after all, and girls weren’t supposed to sweat back then.

When I moved to Philadelphia in 1952, things were a little different in the sports arena. The high school I attended had girls’ tennis and swim teams. Girls also played lacrosse, a funny game I’d never heard of in which you cradled a little ball in a basket on the end of a stick and you actually had to run with it. As a junior, I tried out and made the fourth team, the lowest of the low. I soon quit in disgust. Apparently there had been too many fake showers and not enough sweat in my past.

The college I attended a couple of years later was spread out across a small Ohio town—dorms up on a hill and classrooms a mile away close to downtown. Every day we walked that mile in the morning, then back to the dorm for lunch and repeated the process in the afternoon. None of us would have been caught dead on a bike. Just not cool.

I didn’t start running until I was in my thirties, but once I started, I found I couldn’t stop. And to this day I don’t feel as if I’ve earned a shower unless it follows some kind of workout that produces some sweat.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Open Thank You Note

An Open Thank You Note

Dear Joyce and Lou,

I had no way of knowing when I called to say I’d be in Ohio delivering a granddaughter to college close to your home, how fortunate I was to have made that call. We agreed to get together, you and I, college buddy of many years ago--for dinner or something—and then Joyce said, “You know, you could say with us.”

I was tagging along with my daughter, Kristin, as she drove her daughter, Ellen, from their home in Cheyenne, Wyoming to begin her senior year at the University of Dayton.  Kristin was excited to meet my friends and so we accepted their kind offer to have us stay.

Two days and 1200 miles later we were being greeted with open arms into a spacious home where you two quenched our travel thirst with big bowls of juicy watermelon before bed. Next morning at your over-the-top welcoming church we joined in belting out Onward Christian Soldiers and America the Beautiful—how could you not love it?

In the afternoon we deposited Ellen at the quaint house she will share with three roommates, joined a roommate and her family for a meal, and then Kristin and I returned to your house for an evening spent chatting and watching a movie.

By the time we left on Monday morning, fortified by bacon, English muffins and a delicious egg casserole, I’d come to know Joyce and Lou in a way I never had before, in their home environment, among the friends who treasure them and for whom they obviously do so much. And Ellen and Kristin had a couple of new friends.

Joyce and Lou, we’d like you to know that because of you two, our cross-country trip became a memorable experience. I only hope that Ellen will leave the University of Dayton with the kind of long-lasting friends Joyce and I made at Ohio Wesleyan so long ago. A group of ten of us still get together every two years to spend a few days for the pure enjoyment of being with each other.

We call ourselves “The Committee” and next fall we’ll gather at Joyce and Lou’s home in Middletown to spend our time together. We have a treat in store. It’s getting harder for some of us to travel but I have my fingers crossed that every one of us will make it to their front door and beyond. It’s a place where hospitality reigns. I don’t want anyone to miss it.

The moral of this story: Don’t plan a casual surprise drop-in when you have friends at your travel destination. I almost did. I’m so glad I let them know we were coming. May your experience be as rich as ours was.

Thank you Joyce and Lou
Libby, Kristin, Ellen

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Record Breaker

Donna Messenger, now 72, broke her own record of two years ago at the Pike's Peak Ascent on August 16 with a time of 4:48:54, a new ascent record for women 70 and over. Her previous time was 4:49:38 in 2013. Despite a fall and time out for repairs, she descended in 3:38:54, making for an 8:27:39 marathon time. Now she's home in Idaho surrounded by forest fires and encouraging the gash on her leg to heal.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Welcome to Colorado

Crossing a grassy hill in City Park early last evening on my way to my daughter’s house to welcome her brother-in-law, the newest member of my extended family, traveling cross country with his dog. Quite unexpectedly I began to reflect on my presence in this state that has been my home for more than 50 years.

It happened because, ever since I was forced by my dad’s job, to move west away from Seattle east to Philadelphia when I was 16, I’ve been on a campaign to “go West.”

“Not one dime to go west of the Mississippi River,” my dad announced when I was ready for college. I went 500 miles west to Delaware, Ohio. By the time I graduated and married shortly afterwards, I’d convinced my husband-to-be that settling in Ada, Ohio so he could attend law school there, wouldn’t be my #1 choice. “How about the University of Washington in Seattle?” I asked.

He wouldn’t agree go that far, but said “yes” to Colorado where he had fond memories of the mountains he’d driven through at age 14 in a car “borrowed” from his parents, headed alone from his home in Ohio to see a girlfriend in California. No driver’s license, no GPS, just enough money for gas, he made it to his destination and his parents survived the trauma.

We arrived in Boulder late summer 1958 and six years and four kids later settled in Fort Collins. Since that time two brothers, two sisters-in-law and their various offspring have come and gone and come back again, to Colorado. At current count there are three generations and more than two dozen assorted folks with family connections that call Colorado home.

I never made it back to Seattle to live, but it still holds a special place in my heart. Even so, I don’t know of any better place to live than in Colorado.

Welcome to the newest-to-Colorado foursome from New York City who will embark on the adventure of adjusting to life in Telluride. Their dad and their dog have arrived. Mom and the kids come early this week.

Monday, August 10, 2015



The days are still blessedly warm—some would say way too hot. But now in the early mornings the light arrives a little later and the air has taken on the dawn coolness that returns each August to remind us that the warm season is on the downhill run. I love summer, and it always makes me sad when I realize that it won’t go on forever.

Summer visits come to an end as well.  My grandson, Cougar, who lives in Tokyo, spent the month of July in the U.S. He went home this week and so did his dad, after a visit of nearly a whole week. It was hard to see them go. I know, these days, theoretically, they’re not much more than 12 hours away, but still, it feels like a long way.  Life is busy and visits are necessarily rare, making them treasured times.

There’s this myth that summer is time off time—less to do—more time to hang out, read, swim, do nothing.  I’m not convinced. The days are longer but they tend to get filled up with attention the garden demands—or I, at least, think it does.

In a week or so, school will crank up again and the grandkid generation in my family will scatter—to New York, Florida, Ohio, California, Spain, to work and to school. But not Adam, my mid-twenties grandson and Allison, his significant other, who are fulfilling a long-held dream of backpacking through the European continent for six months. For several years they worked hard and saved their money, then quit their jobs to make this trip of a lifetime. According to Instagram, they’re having a high old time. They promise to be home by Christmas. Even the best and longest of adventures come to an end. The important thing is to grab the window of opportunity when it emerges because it won’t be open forever.

I plan to make the the best of what remains of summer and keep in mind that fall is on the horizon with a whole new set of good fun things to do.  Already, the grass has quit growing so fast and the garden is offering up edibles unlike anything you can find at the supermarket.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The challenge of Pikes Peak

My friend Donna Messenger and her husband, Bill, came to visit last week. Now they live in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, but between 1969 and 1979, they lived in the hills north and west of Fort Collins and were teachers, coaches and stalwart members of the Fort Collins running community.

In 1972 Donna, who was 29 at the time, did the Pike’s Peak Ascent in Colorado Springs in a time of 3:28:26, placing first in her age group and beginning a tradition that continues to this day. On August 16, she’ll ascend Pikes Peak for the 17th time, in 43 years, and she’ll race down the hill too, in an attempt to break her own 70-plus age group round trip record. Over time, she’s won the race 6 times and placed 10th or higher 10 times.

Because she’s a multi-time overall Pikes Peak race winner, she’ll never again need to qualify or pay an entry fee for the race. Her fastest ascent , 3:02:24, came when she was 32.  Her fastest round trip, 5:05:40, she did the following year, 1976 at age 33.

We did a couple of training runs together last week, reminiscing about the time we ran the same mile together ten times, back and forth, getting in a 20-mile training run—a first for me—in preparation for the Denver Marathon. That year, 1976, a huge May snowstorm kept Donna from getting out of her mountain home and made it impossible for her to compete. She made up for it by winning the fall Denver Marathon that year.

All stats aside, why does Donna continue to run Pikes Peak? She’ll tell you that she loves the challenge of the altitude and the rugged trail. Being in the forest makes her happy. “I like working hard,” she says, “seeing if I can overcome the elements.”

She looks forward to the camaraderie of the trail and after so many years of running the race, she knows lots of the returning participants. For her, the hardest part of the race is between timberline and the A frame, three miles before the summit. “When that stretch is over you know you’re going to make it,” she said.

She doesn’t run as many shorter races as she once did, but her training is consistent and focused on being prepared for PP. “It’s a great goal for me,” she explains.

That 70-plus round trip record of hers she’s out to beat? 7:57:08 in 2013. Stay tuned and I’ll report.