I began writing this post long before coronavirus became a constant factor in daily life. I’ll certainly have something to say about the pandemic from the perspective of someone with a serious medical condition. For now, enjoy this break from 24-hour coronavirus programming:
Most days, Monica wakes up at about 4:30 in the morning, sneaks down the stairs, has a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and heads out for a training run (whatever you do, don’t call it “jogging.”) This could mean an 8 mile journey along our beautiful waterfront, or a “track workout” in the coach’s neighborhood – which is is probably-not-coincidentally 1,000 meters around. Or it could mean she’s running the bridges, back-and-forth over the only thing resembling hills in our area (they get chased off by parking garage security when they try that.) The primary reason for running at such an early hour is that it’s often too hot to train during the day.
We do get a few cool months in Florida (70s with 60s mixed in) and with the better weather, there isn’t a weekend that doesn’t have some 5K, 15K or half marathon going, and that means Monica is bringing home lots of metal… medals. Her races have become a bit of a family affair. Many of them are held near our house, so the kids and I are able to get on our bikes and go watch her compete, along with all the friends we’ve made in her running cohort.
Once Monica started making the podium in her age group – her competitive streak took off and her pace quickened. Back in December, she set out to run the California International Marathon in under 4 hours. She smashed that goal by finishing in 3:38:41 -which was under the 3:40:00 a woman her age needs to qualify for the fabled Boston Marathon. That “BQ” time comes with an *asterisk. If they get too many entrants, the slowest qualifiers get bumped. She really needed a 3:35:00 to get off the bubble.
So, she doubled down on her training and set her sights on a winter marathon. Introducing the “Snickers” Marathon:
Yes, it’s a marathon named after a candy bar. It’s in Albany, but not the Albany you’re thinking of… it’s in Albany, Georgia. (Georgia is full of towns with the same moniker as much more famous cities, like Rome, Athens, Decatur, and my favorite, Cairo (pronounced Kay Row).
In the months leading up to the Snickers race, she ran a lot of shorter races. In almost every one she posted Personal Records (“PR”s in the parlance) and made the top 3 in her age group, even placing first once or twice. Barring sickness or bad weather, she was ready for her big run in Albany (murder capital of the USA in 1988).
Always training produces an astonishing amount of sweaty laundry.
St. Pete Run Fest, Gasparilla Distance Classic, St. Pete Beach Classic – we’re lucky we don’t have to go far to find well-organized races.
The St. Pete Beach Classic is a family favorite because it gives us an excuse to stay in a hotel on the beach without leaving town. Monica scored podium finishes and PRs in the 5K and the half marathon. The event has the added benefit of the post-race dip in the Gulf.
Our life doesn’t completely revolve around Monica’s race schedule, and foot racing isn’t the only kind of racing we enjoy. While Monica went to Atlanta to watch the Olympic Trials, I had a chance to take our son down to Sebring, FL, to catch their annual vintage car race. For a cool $40, we camped on the infield for the weekend.
This isn’t NASCAR. Sebring is famous for the “12 Hours of Sebring” endurance race, but we enjoy the low-key atmosphere of the vintage race weekend. Sebring isn’t near anything. Other than the race track, Sebring’s only other claim to fame might be as a destination for snowbirds looking for an inexpensive place to avoid midwest winters.
I also had to sneak off to Cleveland for a checkup on my jacked up arteries and leaky heart valves. As always, they treat me well, and leave me with some peace of mind as I deal with some pretty scary issues.
The Cleveland Clinic presents an interesting juxtaposition against its industrial midwest environment. It’s futuristic. You might think that last picture is Ethan Hawke from the 1997 film GATTACA, but are you sure it isn’t me in Cleveland? A man with inferior genes trying to pass himself off as normal? (Apologies for the 23 year-old film reference.)
The good news is that my doctors don’t want to see me back for six months. The bad news is that they didn’t tell me to come back in a year.
But you really want to know how quickly Monica could run 26.2 miles and how quickly I could eat 26.2 Snickers in Albany. Well – here’s the trip in photos:
Albany is about six hours from our house. Seven hours if you count a stop at Cracker Barrel – because it’s fun to wait for 30 minutes for a table in a gift shop aimed at the coveted “over 70 quilters” demographic, before eating bad fast food. It gave Monica time to shop for some bejeweled headwear before eating canned soup.
We arrived in Albany to find the Flint River overflowing its banks – right into the starting chute for the race. They made a few adjustments to the course – but I think a swimming leg might have made it interesting.
It was just above 40F degrees when the race started – perfect to a runner. Damned cold to the rest of the family.
Monica said it was the hardest race she’s run. She went out a little faster than she intended to and started to have pain in her legs and hip at mile 7. Through 18 she was still on an 8:00 pace – but couldn’t fathom maintaining it for another 8 miles.
She needed to beat 3:35:00 to get off the bubble for Boston. When faced with the prospect of having to train for another marathon to reach that goal – she dug in and did it. 3:34:39. She placed 3rd in her age group – in a fast field where 20% of runners qualified for Boston.
I have to be honest, at around the 3:33 mark, when I didn’t see her coming around the corner to the finish, I got really worried. I knew how hard she’d worked to meet her goal that day and how disappointed she’d be. When those neon yellow leggings appeared in the distance, it was the same feeling I used to get when my favorite sports team won a big game – only the pride was personal.
P.S. March 15, 2020 – In hindsight, I’m really glad that Monica got to run the Snickers Marathon before events like this were cancelled. I feel bad for people who have trained, studied, rehearsed and practiced for events that aren’t going to happen. I hope this remarkable disruption to daily life is successful in protecting people from the virus, and I hope it brings people closer together (metaphorically!) as families and friends. I plan to make the best of what it is – rather than lament what it isn’t.
“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Jon’s 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 leader of a local non-profit, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker.