Sunday, October 30, 2016

A chance encounter

Last Friday afternoon my daughter Kristin and I were taking a hot, windy, humid little jog in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma in preparation for a 15k race we planned to do the following morning when we ran into a couple of guys sitting on a low wall. One of them asked if we knew where “The Expo” was, the place where you go to pick up your race number. “Right down there,” Kristin said, pointing to the Cox Business Center. “Go all the way down the main hall and turn right into ballroom C.”

“Thank you,” one of them said, looking just a little puzzled by what ballroom C might mean. And then we began to talk. They were obviously runners and so were we, and we were just as obviously all going to run in the same 15k race on Saturday morning. It took about 10 minutes before we’d become fast friends. Abraham was from Mexico City and had struggled to get a visa, then ridden 36 hours on a bus, arriving in Tulsa only the day before. Ray, a friend of Abraham’s friend who had volunteered his place for Abraham to stay, had been in the states for 16 years. e worked as a machinist, he told me H He worked as a machinist, he told me, but this guy, despite his slightly broken English, was a philosopher at heart. And he knew how to make friends in a hurry.

Abraham was shooting high. “The Kenyans will come first, then me,” he explained to Kristin whose Spanish is much better than mine. We wished them luck and saw them off on their way to pick up their race bibs. Surprisingly enough, we saw them again the next morning among 7,000 thinly-clad bodies milling around nervously awaiting the start. Just time for a high-five and to wish each other luck.

At the end of the race, as I searched among the throng for Kristin, I ran into Ray again.  He seemed happy enough with his time but Abraham was not close on the heels of the winning Kenyans. “The bus ride was too long,” Ray explained. “Abraham did not have time to recover from it before the race. Next year I will invite him to come a week early.”

It was then that I invited the two of them to come to Fort Collins next September to run the first ever Fort Collins Fortitude 10k. “It goes right by my house,” I explained. “You must come and do it and you must stay with me.”

He promised. I’m looking forward to it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Teabag Evening

Thank goodness for used tea bags. And for Sandy Scott who is part of a group of dynamic women who get together every month for an “artist date.” They take turns planning what will go on when they get together—anything from a walk in the foothills to a session creating collages. The activity takes a back seat to the opportunity to get together, share a glass of wine and a simple meal and do something fun together.

I was out of town when an email reached me asking if I’d be willing to share my tea bag obsession with the group. “Sure,” I said. “I’m flattered that anyone is interested.”

That’s how I happened to drive over Bingham Hill Road and into the foothills to Sandy’s beautiful home on a spacious piece of land with a spectacular view of the surrounding territory and the hills to he west. The leaves were turning and the autumn sun was brilliant until it began to set over the hills.

A couple of the group had other obligations that night, so there were five of us who gathered. My first reaction was how tall they all were. At 5’ 2” I felt like a shrimp, but no matter. Height isn’t a requirement for membership in this group, though I do think they feel a certain kinship, these strong tall women.

All of them work, making their free time limited, but this group is important to them.  Each has artistic leanings which they express in different ways. And they are outdoors people who ski, kayak, ride bikes and horses and generally seem to be up for adventure.

After a homemade chili and salad supper, we stayed at the table and I brought out my stash of teabags, glitter, glue and gel pens and they set to work making notecards using the dried, emptied and ironed teabags I’d brought along as tiny canvasses. “We’re not after perfection here,” I told them. “I have this rule that I never toss one away. I prefer to figure out how to turn my mistake into something that works.”

It was such fun to see how each woman set about making a card. Some combined two teabags and then added a bright fall leaf. Others made use of the natural stain on the teabag to create a design.

And the talk went on.  We discovered connections we had, people we knew in common. Sandy shared that she is about to publish her first book. They talked about their careers, as a physical therapist, organizer of company retreats, consultant and in training and organizational development. Busy, talented people, appreciative of each other, open to trying whatever new thing comes their way.

It was a real treat for me to meet these women, get to know a bit about their lives and watch as they turned little bits of trash into little bits of beauty.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

NOT the last round-up.

I have just returned from the 14th gathering of a group of my college friends. Twelve of us formed what we called “The Committee” in 1957 when we were seniors at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. The by-laws insisted there would be no rules, no officers, no mission statement, no meetings. For two decades we kept this committee alive by circulating a round robin letter that arrived at each of our homes once a year when we removed our own letter, replaced it with a new one and sent it on its way.

When we turned 50 in 1986, we all met together for the first time for a week in a Vermont chalet owned by one of our members. Since then we have met in each other’s homes in Denver and Steamboat Springs in Colorado, Asheville and Denver in North Carolina, Issaquah, Washington, Grand Haven, Michigan, on Long Island in New York, Savannah, Georgia, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles in California and last week in Middletown, Ohio. This was our first meeting in the state where we went to college. These days emails take the place of that old round robin letter.

Our gathering was memorable for lots of reasons: we are or are about to be 80; for the first time ever, one of us was not physically able to come, and a hurricane fouled up travel plans for some of us.

I think each of the surviving 10 of us would agree that this was a supremely important gathering. This time we made no plans to sightsee, go out to dinner or go to the theatre. We came just to be with each other.

We fixed simple but satisfying meals, exchanged books and had a special cake to celebrate our birthdays. We discussed Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal and we each shared a high point and a challenge we had experienced since the last time we’d met two years ago.  We went for walks. And we talked about the amazing, of course amazing, group of children and grandchildren we have produced.

We laughed at the changes time has brought; to our hair, our body shape, our ability to see and hear and our ability to ride bikes and climb mountains.

We all agreed that we wouldn’t ask one of our members to take on hosting all of us in their home next time. Instead we’ll search for a place that will house and feed us for a few days.

One thing we know for sure: as long as there’s more than one of us left standing, we’ll be getting together every couple of years. It’s hard to kill off a committee like this one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Festival of Races

L to R Estelle Hahn, Roger Hahn, Libby James
Fort Collins, Colorado to Syracuse, New York. That’s a long way to go to run 3.1 miles but I can’t think of a better reason to take to the airways, even as cramped and crowded as they are. The 24th running of the Festival of Races 5k Masters Championships ranks right up there with the best running experiences I have ever had. There were lots of reasons.

I had the great good fortune to stay with Estelle and Roger Hahn, long-time dedicated runners. In addition to picking me up at the airport, opening their beautiful home to me, providing me with delicious food and stimulating conversation, in a very short time we formed a friendship that I know will be lasting.

On Saturday morning Estelle and I hobnobbed with runners as we picked up race packets at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Seems like the older runners get, the more committed they become to their sport and to their fellow runners. They can chat forever about past experiences, injuries and other disasters, stats and predictions about the upcoming event. Who’s coming? Who isn’t? What will the weather be like? There’s no stopping them.

Sunday, race morning, dawned cloudy but dry to everyone’s delight. Temperatures in the 60’s, no wind and only a tiny bit of humidity to whine about.

This race is low altitude for me. All season I’ve been trying to get below the 25-minute mark and until I reached the 1k sign on the course, I thought this might be my big chance. But 1k into the race, I was fairly certain that wasn’t going to happen and it did not. Close—25.14 gun time-25.11 net time, but not quite the goal I’d hoped for. No complaints. Everyone needs to have a goal, right?

This was my first USATF race in the 80-84-age group. Doesn’t that sound gruesome? The good news is that, much to my surprise, that 25-minute 14-second time was good enough for an American record, surpassing a time that had stood for 27 years.

Estelle took third in her 75-79 age group, beaten out by Fran, who crossed the finish line at exactly the same time as Estelle did. A photo showed that Fran’s torso crossed the line before Estelle’s did and that became the determining factor in their placement. Estelle, who has done 23 of the 24 Festival 5ks, will be will sticking out her chest a bit more next year.

Some weekends just go by. Others are more memorable. This was one for the books.