Spring Training has come to our house. A year ago, Monica was just toying with the idea of running a marathon. Today, she’s got her eyes set on getting competitive. She doesn’t think she’s going to the Olympics or anything, but she’s loves getting faster. She’s working with a group of seasoned marathoners and a running coach who have shelves full of trophies. In the first ten years of our relationship, I was the first out of bed nearly every single morning. Yet, today, Monica woke at 4:30 in order to drive to the interior of the state to join other runners who seek these mythical formations called “hills”. (Here in St. Pete, the only hills are parking garages and bridges.) She’s running 40 – 50 miles per week and on a typical Sunday, she’ll run 15 miles before I’ve had my second cup of coffee.
Her training involves competing in cute little cuddly half marathons (also known as “further than most people have every run in one day”). She ran the St. Pete Beach Classic half marathon in 1:52:09, which is quicker than you go can 13.1 miles in Orlando in a car. Her performance put her in the the Top 10 in her age group. Having tasted the air near the podium, Monica’s competitive nature is on full display. She’s not the sort of person who needs to win. But if she thinks she can win, she’ll put in the work to do it. A few weeks after that race, she finished third in her division at St. Petersburg Distance Classic. Apparently they’re all “classics.”
Top left: Monica surveys the weather at the St. Pete Beach Classic – and the 17 mph winds that arrived that morning. She packed her trusty toaster, because her pre-race ritual requires a specific type of toast, with peanut butter and banana. Ignore the Swiss cake rolls and oatmeal cream pies. That’s how we carry our vitamins. After she finished the St. Petersburg Distance Classic (not the Beach Classic) she recounted her race to 80 year-old “Coach Joe” – who holds a slew of records and runs circles around athletes sixty years younger.
By contrast, my winter reads like the diary of a Florida retiree. I started out by getting the Flu™. The real Flu™ – not just the off-brand “oh, he has the flu” – but the actual Flu™ that will sue you if you use its name when referring to their actual product (like Kleenex™, Coke™, and Tupperware™). And yes, I got the Flu™ shot this year, like I do every year. I fall in to that category of “people with medical conditions” who should get the Flu™ shot because we’re at risk of “serious complications or death.” This resulted in repeated obligatory conversations about how each year the Flu™ vaccine only covers a certain percentage of Flu™ viruses. But even if you get the Flu™, it’s less severe (how do we really know that?).
I also joined AARP – at the ripe old age of 45
So Monica is in the best shape of her life, and I can tell you all the benefits I’m getting with my AARP membership. Did you know that you don’t have to be 50 to join AARP? They helped me with some very consequential questions about health insurance and the membership paid for itself on our first 10% at the Carrabba’s up the street! (Dear god! Someone get me a craft IPA before I lose my Hipster Writer Dad Cred!) AARP is not a sponsor of this blog. Yet.
But I digress. I haven’t spent all of my time watching “Murder She Wrote” reruns and eating Jello fruit salad. I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I’m focusing most of my writing energy on a memoir project – a book that shares some of my experiences and highlights how it has changed my perspective on life. Daily I come in to contact with people who are so stressed about unimportant things, while missing the big picture. I’d like for people to benefit from my experience, without having to face a terrible diagnosis. It’s hard to know what’s unimportant until you realize you could lose it all. Then, the important things are easy to see. I also think it’s very important to laugh. I mean – we’re all going to die – but I just happen to know what disease is coming for me. It has saved me a bundle on sunscreen. (Watch – now I’m gonna get skin cancer.)
As I looked back on the past three years, I found myself pondering Jack Kerouac, whose writings I dipped into during my post-surgery soul-searching. He famously drank himself to death here in St. Petersburg. The result of my contemplation was this piece which appeared in Creative Loafing – Tampa. Subsequently, I was invited to help “roast” Jack Kerouac at a local literary event. It was a fun time hanging out with other writers, pretending to be Beatniks, while taking potshots at the Godfather of the beat movement. Read the article to find out my eerie connection to Jack Kerouac.
My voice almost failed me during my reading. Limping through on one vocal cord, I let “Jack” know that his writing was inspirational to many – but completely lost on himself as he threw his life away when he hit middle-age. He took the news in stride.
Spring will be busy. The kids’ soccer and dance seasons reach their apex. We’ve got some camping planned. And our big trip will be for Monica to run the Cleveland Marathon. Why Cleveland, you ask? Because of the siren call of Lake Erie? Because of its reputation for hip modern amenities? No. It’s because my doctors are at the Cleveland Clinic and we have great friends there who offer a beautiful place to stay out in the country. We tried – and failed – to get my medical tests and doctor visits to coincide with the race. But dammit – we like Cleveland and we’re still going. One blog called Cleveland “the Virgin Islands of the Midwest.” (This blog. Just now.)
We’ll also spend our spring finalizing plans for the summer. Sorry, we’re not doing a two-month, epic continent spanning marathon, but we’re not going to just steam in the Florida heat. We have a Cleveland / Blue Ridge Parkway / Great Smoky Mountains road trip scheduled. And we’re also analyzing our budget to see if we can afford to hop across the pond. We jumped on some cheap seats to London on a nearly bankrupt airline, but we aren’t sure if we’ll make the journey. (If anyone has ever rented a campervan in the UK or France, I want to hear from you.)
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“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Check out Jon’s periodic column, “So How’s That New Book Coming?” at Creative Loafing – Tampa. His 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at email@example.com. Monica is a freelance grant writer, non-profit consultant, tour guide, and connoisseur of 70s rock lyrics.