Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day!

I just want to say Happy Fathers Day to my wonderful father who taught me so many, many things.  

Being dragged around the country from race to race while I was little taught me a love for long road trips (although I think being crammed into a Chevrolet Chevette with my brothers instilled in me the knowledge that I didn't want kids).  Thank you for never actually pulling the car over as you threatened to do many times.  I remember the feeling of the open road in the wee hours of the morning, the smells of fields, the stars above and the feeling that our family were the only people left in the world. The smell of McDonald's coffee will forever be associated with those trips.  Thank you for finally buying a van and building the sleeping loft in the back... I genuinely believe that act saved me from fratricide.

Watching you run incredibly long distances taught me stubbornness, fortitude and mental strength.  It also taught me to be kind to those who were slow in the head because obviously you had been dropped as a child.  Seeing the skin peel off your feet, watching you vomit copiously but still stagger off onto the trail in the dark made me realize that there was something wrong with you.  When people asked if I wanted to run long distances "just like daddy", I answered with a vehement "NO!  I HATE running!"  As embarrassing as it was to admit that my dad ran abnormal distances and ate baby food while doing it, I also was proud to have the skinniest, fittest dad on the block... knowing that you could run down and kick ass on any guy that hurt me was a great comfort.

I kicked against the running gene for 34 years... I saw that running made you cry, made you bleed and hurt and made you cranky and tired all the time... it didn't look like a good time to me.  What I didn't see clearly at that age was the peace and joy running also gave you, and I didn't realize what an amazing treasure that your running friends and the whole running community were.  I was learning lessons of patience and selflessness by waiting for hours at aid stations to crew you... it paid off later in college when I became the best bike racer's girlfriend because I didn't bitch, moan and complain about doing exactly what I had grown up doing...albeit with more expensive toys and a lot more shaved legs.  

During a drive across Wisconsin at age 34 when my running genes suddenly woke up and said "it's time to run", I had no choice but to listen.  And then I understood.  Understood you, understood the joy and the peace that is found in the long run.  Understood the mental testing, understood the lessons you were teaching, understood what a lucky childhood that I had.  It comes all back around again next weekend when I will run Western States... the first place where I saw you cry, saw you in pain and laid low but still saw you run down the track at Placer High to finish your first 100 miler.  That was 30 years ago... and I'm just sorry that it took me this long to make it there.  Thank you for everything Dad.  I love you!