Sunday, July 12, 2015


Back in February of 2013 I would repeat the Livestrong marathon championship win for the cancer survivor division. It was perhaps the most beautiful trophy I've ever received because it was clear on "leaves," a very classy and yet classic look. It would be the last race report and trophy that would be heard about only by friends because the next race I would sing up for would be trying to fulfill, a simple dream, to run a marathon pushing my daughter in a stroller. I would turn out to win that one outright and that would change a few things.

Still the trophy from my home course had set on my shelf and  if I am completely honest, it would get cleaned more often than the TV or the pictures that hang on my wall, both as a reminder to be grateful and as a reminder of what life was like when cancer was an abnormality mostly known about by friends. It accidentally got knocked down a few months ago and broke into a few pieces. I take pride in the fact that I'm not materialistic but somehow that one really hurt... I sat and looked at it, left it on the kitchen table. I took a picture and sent it to the race director; they weren't using that company anymore. I thought about supergluing it but didn't trust my capacity because it's pretty heavy glass. I spent almost as much time researching and finding a company who could fix it as I did finding the right brain surgeon once upon a time. And well, while generally frugal, this one was just going to be chalked up on the medical bills column to get it restored. It took a while since apparently it has to be done piece by piece and they warned me it wouldn't look quite the same which it doesn't. Perhaps like it's owner, it's not quite as sharp in some ways and sharper around the edges from being repaired than when it was original, but the scars of survivorship help me notice and give thanks for both the damage and the restoration to a new level.

Perhaps it's apt that it was repaired at almost the same time that I finally finished the first book I've finished reading since brain surgery. I still read Time magazine regularly but books can be complicated with a  faulty memory about names and faces. Still, my counselor when we broke up, gave me a book to read, called Unbroken. I had heard about the movie but said I wouldn't watch it till I read the book through (Almost all the movies I watch are true stories which set up the joke of what does that say about me, that I'm too lazy to read). But to sit there and read a book about a runner who survives being on a boat for almost 50 days, who survives a war camp but eventually returns home and life is kind enough to hand him a family, forgiveness and a chance to carry the olympic torch was one of those stories that messed with my emotions. Like any other time I've taken in both, the book is better than the movie. 

The world would change slightly after that marathon trophy when the next one came, the one about me winning a marathon with a stroller due to a few media pieces and many reporters. Some of those reporters have become good friends, one of those could be argued by the way our lives have intercrossed may well be my soulmate. An ESPN feature filmed which started being worked on in April of 2013 and we filmed in March of 2015 (and a few times in between) is theoretically coming out sometime in August (let me know if you want me to let you know when I've got a few more details). They have said thank you with graciousness for letting them tell my story but while I trust they will do good work, this blog is my story, they are just capturing a 10 minute sliced and well edited version. Like most of the media pieces I won't be watching or reading it cause that just feels too weird. And like all of them, they'd have to do some great editing for the piece not to show me talking about other people because that's the only reason I'm ever in them is to hopefully point people to good doctors, good friends, good teammates, people whose story genuinely deserves to be told. 

But somehow the media pieces and the speeches, I'm starting to feel and perhaps come across as more unbroken. Spartan races have a band comparable to the Livestrong band that I've been given twice which reads unbreakable. I like the spirit of it and it actually does rest in my car but it doesn't apply to me. I am not even unbroken in the sense that I never cracked or defaulted or failed... I did plenty of that. If there is anyway I can remotely echo unbroken it's that I've tried to sit as things were getting glued back together, knowing that some of the surfaces that hit my sensitive areas were stronger than me and created some serious cracks and massive permanent scars. 

Whether it's life or me letting myself know which is truly my emotional state, it's often reflected in the song that Kiana cries out, "why won't you stop listening to that song?". There was a time where the media things and speaking engagements scare me... So when talking I'd go with a companion, realizing that I was talking to a friend I cared in the crowd, or to someone well behind the interviewer who I loved, sometimes intentionally and internally singing from Dave Matthew's the Stone:

I was just wondering if you'd come along
To hold up my head when my head won't hold on.

But I had a New Year's resolution to not use any notes on this year's speeches or interviews, to try harder before and risk my memory more.  Thus far I haven't; I have one on Thursday and don't intend to use any there either.  And the song I'm listening to these days is Rockappella's cover of I'll walk with you

I walk this road, dodging the wind and the ground
Why am I still surprised my feet make no sound?
My love, my friend, if ever the road breaks in two
If ever you're drifting and the hoping wears you down
I'll walk with you

And I think hope, dare, dream that I'm being there for more people and asking less for theirs. I'm not much of a hugger but it's perhaps those people who declare that they are and hug you anyway that help you appreciate another line from the song that surely applies  "my soul was poor, a babe left at your door but now I'm grown, I'm strong from your embrace." Being hugged is a solid way to start healing to getting unbroken. 

So perhaps this is why I've done more Spartans than any other type of race since winning that marathon both in number and in number of locations. It's the only type of race that I've gotten far more friends and family to do anything else. I've never come remotely close to winning one on my own despite winning many road races since then. Because I take it aggressively, they've left me with more scars than brain surgery at least externally. But it keeps challenging me to new things and if you sign up for challenges the ones you don't sign up for are easier. Perhaps it's no coincidence those and the Boston marathon are the only courses that I've ever stopped to hug and kiss people I love both in the middle and at the end of it (and yes like too much of my life it's been in pictures or on videos on the internet). Last year it was the Christmas ornament that represented the most important event of the year or it would be in contention for this year. Still, it should tell you something that my mom has always read what's important to me (my first stroller race was to get her to do one, the first marathon she watched was the Boston marathon, the first Spartan race I did with company was with my little brother with her cheering). She's shown up for two Spartans already and this time when my parents came to visit they showed up and delivered hay for me to keep practicing my spear throw. When your parents love you, it's so good that they bring you spartan hay. Before this year I was 50/50 on the spear throw. I've only missed it once so far this year in 7 spartan races. Appropriately enough my 8th one this year on 8/8 with my family.

Still the song I've been listening to starts with walk with me and after brain surgery well that's all I could do. But it talks about the healing process that when you walk, I'll be  your ground and just like it was once done for me, I always feel an honor when someone literally steps on my shoulder to get through the next obstacle. And the song ends with flying together which I've only done once in a Spartan flying over a fire with someone but that was an amazing moment.

The trophy is back on the shelf and I'm back on my feet realizing that being unbroken has some great possibilities. I changed my social media profile picture to one of me in the cathedral of junk, smiling among unbroken or properly used broken glass, looking up, dreaming, smiling at things more important than a camera. I rarely like pictures of me but it was a moment that captures a connection, one of those moments that leaves you speechless. It is those moments that make you understand why we try to communicate with writing, with songs, with pictures but perhaps the only adequate way is to give an unbroken smile. 

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