A few months back, I got candid about some of the struggles I was having with losing dad at Christmas. I felt it was important to be honest about the ups and downs of grief. But, today, I want to share the flip side to the lowest of lows. The highest of highs.
My 7-year old is excited about baseball, which means I’m excited about baseball. I’m pitching in where I can with a series of other dedicated parents to coach. On a side note, kudos to every coach who attempts to teach boys in Little League because wow, there’s something to be said about 17 high energy children throwing balls and swinging bats around you. I digress, though.
This week, Jake wanted to play catch. Dad had a meeting which meant for just a moment, I was the cool parent. Prior to heading out, I reminded Jake that I once played Little League. I even showed off my team portraits and our championship trophy circa 1989. He won’t admit it, but I think he was impressed.
Afterwards, we headed outside with gloves and ball in-hand. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather… the signs of spring literally sprouting around us… or, the pileated woodpecker pecking above my son’s head. But, I was immediately taken back to a similar scene 35-years ago. A time when I would beg my dad to head outside and play catch with me. The answer, no matter how tired he was, was always yes.
Back and forth the ball went. I made Jake practice his pop-ups and grounders. He worked on pitching. The nonstop chatter only disrupted by the snap of the ball in my glove. I found myself wanting to capture and savor every second of this exchange while also reminiscing over how I’ve come full circle. I won’t get too cliché here but when folks talk about how meaningful moments are sometimes the simplest of moments – this was it.
The past few months, I’ve been really struggling with how to pay tribute to dad – asking myself how do I keep his legacy alive while also not dwelling in his loss? How to not rush past the pain but to also recognize that life goes on. And that’s actually ok.
This isn’t a post about faith. It is a post about family. But, sometimes the two are blurred. And in this moment, I can’t help but think dad was with me coaching me as I coached Jake.
I’ll certainly play catch with Jake again. I’ll certainly watch him surpass my skills and grow up to be his own person. But, I know he’ll do that without me imparting just a little bit of my dad in him first… and the circle of life continues.
May marked my first double digit in-person race in 18-months. It was my first time running in Eau Claire. The race promised to be an exciting weekend away with one of my favorite gal pals. My training, while not all in, had been consistent. I took Friday off to pamper myself with an early morning spin class, a savory maple latte, browsing an amazing independent coffee shop and investing a small fortune at my favorite Red Barn bare root plant sale (hey, some girls love purses. I love plants).
Things took a little dip when my spin instructor informed that Eau Claire is not in fact a flat city. In my defense, there was no topography map with this race. But, I definitely knew that wasn’t a good sign. She is after all, a seriously badass runner and if she thought Eau Claire was hilly, I was in trouble. Later that day, my bestie’s dad had a terrible accident resulting in her going from runner to caretaker in a heartbeat. I was devastated, for obvious selfish reasons, but also because I’ve been there. I know how challenging it is to balance work, life and caring for family. At the end of the day, father’s always come first.
As I modified my packing, I knew I needed to modify my intentions as well. Sure, I went into my training in January with a specific time goal in mind. I really wanted to clear 14-minute miles. My race a few weeks prior indicated it might be possible. I also knew, similar to how circumstances can change, this too was not a guarantee.
On Saturday, I began the journey south. I opted to “pop in” to see my boys at our family cabin. It was cabin opener and a mere 90-minutes out of the way. The extra car time gave me plenty of time to revisit my why. You know, that thing that’ll fuel your run when there’s nothing left to give. I knew I’d need it come Sunday morning.
I’ve talked a TON about my why. Heck, I even wrote a whole book about it. But, in this moment, my why felt different. It felt like a signal of acknowledging the next normal. The normal where COVID-19 still factors into daily decisions but doesn’t prohibit me from running with strangers. The normal where dad’s still in my phone but won’t answer my call. The normal where I’m starting to discover I’m living in a master’s body that doesn’t rebound as quickly as I’d like. But, at the core, my why remains as simple as because I can.
Race eve I listened to the course director breakdown the pending race. It is here my fears were calmed when she mentioned the course was relatively flat. Looking out my window at some serious hills, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I went to bed that night firm in my why and a hope that Sunday’s race would be successful.
Depending on the benchmark one uses, Sunday’s race was anything but successful. Turns out relatively flat includes a long stretch of uphill at the start and then a series of never-ending rolling hills every time you crossed a bridge. BTW the race is called Bridge 2 Bridge – turns out there are A LOT of bridges in Eau Claire. I was not prepared. And I paid dearly for it. By mile 3, it was clear that even with the help of an Uber, I would come nowhere close to my goal time. I was definitely disappointed. I even had a moment where I contemplated quitting, only I had no clue where my car was and figured it might be shorter to just finish the race then walk home. In racer moments, this was an ultimate low.
Luckily, my why kicked in. I had plenty of time to take in the scene. It was a gorgeous course with over-the-top friendly racers and volunteers. Despite being May in northern Wisconsin, the weather was borderline hot with the perfect mix of sun and shade. I was running with real people on a real racecourse. Spotify did not disappoint with the perfect race tunes. I was once again reminded of Henry Ford’s famous quote, “whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” I crossed the finish line Sisu strong.
Statistically speaking, that race was rough. I finished not only in the back of the pack but the bottom finisher for my age group. It was my slowest time ever. I set a record in new chaffing spots and my calves are still recovering. If I’m being honest, do these numbers disappoint me? Absolutely. I’ll be taking the next few months to evaluate what’s next in my running and fitness journey. In the meantime, I’m reverting back to the basics of just moving my body every single day.
That said, I’m proud to share this story. I had many, many opportunities to quit the past 4-months. My initial race was cancelled. Spring was well spring, resulting in abnormal training conditions at best. Work is busy. Life is busy. I’m grieving. Plans changed. But, yet, it still always comes back to if I get to run, why wouldn’t I? It really is as simple as that.
So for the hundreds of runners that passed me this weekend, thanks for your words of encouragement. For those sitting on the sidelines wondering if they can, you can. I promise you that. It may not be pretty but it is still worth it. Afterall, success is all relative… and for the record, Eau Claire is not relatively flat in this gal’s eyes, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This past weekend, I lined up for my first in-person race in over 18-months. Since then, I’ve attended a game changing personal development conference (important for me to note, the conference was a game changer but the host is someone I’ve since lost most respect for), launched a book, said goodbye to my father, navigated a global pandemic and gained what I’ll lovingly call the friendly 15 (aka work from home chips).
Since January, I’ve done average on my training runs. In fact, according to Hal, I’m sitting at a solid C as I enter the final weeks of training for a 10-mile run in Eau Claire. Hal also says based on my training that I will hit my goal time come May 1. This race was a good prequel to seeing if that was true.
I crossed the finish line with no clue what’ll happen May 1. I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty but a few race highlights.
Turns out one should not assume the course is the same and Duluth’s hills are alive and well. I’d like to say this was a pleasant surprise. It was not.
COVID-19 has changed the start of races. Some good. Some bad. It is nice to know there isn’t a sea of people ready to crush you at the start. The introvert in me loves it. However, staggered start times, especially if you are starting in a middle time, means you are continuously getting passed by faster runners. It is hard to not feel like a tortoise in the way.
Crossing the finish line is still as sweet as ever. As is the medal.
Post-race cocktails are still delish.
When all was said and done, I finished 4 seconds slower than 2-years ago. I’ll take it. Am I still back of the pack? Yep. Am I still pacing ahead of my goal time for next week? Yep. In fact, my 13:37 per mile time is 23 seconds under my goal for May 1. Now, I recognize there is a huge difference between a 5k and a 10-miler but I’m cautiously optimistic that next week might go well.
All of that said, I recently heard one of those game changing podcasts that have me once again contemplating my why and motivation behind running. Brene Brown interviewed Dr. Pippa Grange about her new book Fear Less. It is currently on my to-read list. But, something she said really struck me. In their interview, they talked about a shallow win versus a deep win.
The shallow win is that carrot stick – that next big thing you are always chasing but yet somehow it is never enough. It is the world record, only to determine you need to set another record. Then, there’s the deep win. You know, the one where you cross that finish line with absolutely nothing left and even if you didn’t beat your PR, you still feel a sense of accomplishment because you ran the race on your terms? These past few months, I’ve been writing in my journal that I want to complete a 10-miler pacing under 14-minute miles. It is an arbitrary goal other than it’d be a PR and in my head, the closer I get to 10-minute miles, the closer I am to a runner versus being a jogger. This might be a simplified version of a relatively complex concept, but it does poise a few questions.
Is my goal going to help or hurt my love/hate relationship for running? On the one hand, my training has been a bit more consistent after the chaffing/undertraining/almost dying half-marathon of 2019. On the other hand, I’m wondering what happens if I don’t hit that time. If I’ll still feel that sense of purpose and achievement I generally feel, even when things don’t go well, because I kept showing up.
For the most part, my running goals have revolved around maintaining toenails, run/life balance and avoiding roadside potty disasters. But, the competitive part in me wants to set the bar a bit higher while also not losing site of what really does matter to me – just showing up and trying my best. It is an interesting conundrum to contemplate as I enter this last week of training. I guess we’ll see what happens when I cross the finish line.
In the meantime, I’ll be fine tuning my playlist (spotify premium is worth every nickel), doing a couple final training runs, carbo-loading, and gearing up for a weekend with my bestie who has graciously decided to hit this crack of dawn race with me and celebrate afterward at the Leinie Lodge. To me, right or wrong, shallow or deep, this seems like a for sure win-win to me.
I’m less than 1-month to my almost half-marathon. Hal’s plan this weekend was for me to run an 8-miler…outside. I knew it was time and the weather forecast left me no runway for excuses to run inside. Don’t get me wrong, I loath the treadmill (minus the Tim Riggins part) but running outside is well hard. And frankly, everything seems hard right now.
My recent racing reset has done wonders for my body and soul. I came back from Florida recharged and ready to hit the road again… for about a week. Then Easter week hit. For many, Easter represents those crunchy mini Cadbury eggs (delish), Peeps (gross), and serious religious significance. For me, it marks the weekend mom died.
That’s a tough tradition to break. I’ve celebrated more Easters without mom than with her. Decades have passed since her passing. Yet, I always find myself Easter week replaying the activities of April, 1996, while also trying to find new traditions and memories to fill that void. I’ve had mixed success.
I genuinely enjoy prepping an Easter dinner. I’ve long since abandoned being a holiday church goer but instead celebrate my faith privately. I set aside time on Good Friday to honor my mom (today it was a spin class, latte and 3-mile waterfall hike at the crack of dawn). I savor the Easter candy and embrace the bunny themed décor.
In my quest to be healthy, I am doing my best to do some health habit stacking. This week that included a morning chat with someone I really respect, a set bedtime routine, minimal snacking, lots of water and my training plan. Yep. I said it. My training plan. Last week, Hal said I needed to run 4.5 miles twice. The first time I dived right in. The second time, my body said F-that. I compromised (trying to practice grace here folks) and said I’d walk the 4.5 miles. I was feeling a bit beat down and guess what – the work-out worked.
I came home to chaos. We have new chickens and they haven’t settled into their bedtime routine. The neighbor cat was back. Jake was hyped up on sugar (than you Iron River PTO). I took it all in stride. Right until I didn’t.
I was scrolling through my phone to text someone about a rental when I saw it. Dad. He’s still a contact in my phone. I paused for a moment, trying to shove the wave of emotions down. The practical person inside of me said to hit delete and move on. That this was no big deal. He was a contact in my phone and now he’s not. But I couldn’t do it. I’m not ready to say good-bye.
There’s lots of conversation about the stages of grief. I hate that. They aren’t stages. They are moments. There are moments of anger and sadness and denial and negotiating and acceptance and meaning (if you buy into the new theory of 6-stages of grief). Right now, I’m in the season of allowing myself to pause and be sad when needed while also trying to allow myself to enjoy meaningful moments of joy. I’m in the season of not ready to hit delete but not denying he’s gone. I feel his absence and presence every day.
So Dad is still in my phone. We’re in the process of updating his and mom’s headstone. He sits on my sister’s fireplace. I’m slowly coming to peace with how much our broken healthcare system contributed to his final days. This spring we’ll say one more goodbye to him, but it definitely won’t be our final goodbye. That’s the thing about transitions – I’m finding they can take as long as one needs.
And that 8-mile run? I did it. Well 7-miles of it anyway. It felt great. And, it was some quality time to have a chat with dad and fill him in on what he’s missed these past few months. Hal gave my overall training to date a B. But, I’m giving myself an A in the just keep showing up category making my overall grade good, not great. But solidly good. And honestly, I’m ok with that. I’m ok with giving myself some grace and seeing where this year takes me.
I’m slowly figuring out what’s next for me. Right now, it is a series of upcoming runs, garden planning, cross-training (yep I started a weekly spin class but that’s a different post for a different day) and rock polishing. I’m not sure what will stick but I’m doing my best to have fun trying during this transition.
I hope y’all find some joy in today, whatever your beliefs might be, or whatever transition you might be facing. And in the words of cheesy Hallmark, Hoppy Easter 😊
Life has a reset button. It is called tomorrow. So here we are. I’m over halfway through training for my first almost half-marathon since pre-pandemic. Last week, I took the opportunity to check out of life. I escaped to Florida and spent 8-days eating delicious food, overindulging on cocktails, soaking in hours of sunshine and swimming in the ocean and long sunrise walks.
I also shelved personal development. I took a time out on reading self-help books, journaling deep thoughts, or attempting to manifest my life and instead just lived my best life. I devoured three fabulous books (The Four Winds, the light we lost, and Her Last Breath in case you are wondering) that gave me a break from the monotony of day-to-day tasks. I didn’t log into a single video meeting. And I didn’t run. Yep. I didn’t run a single step.
I went to Florida envisioning early morning beach runs. Instead, I swapped my running shoes for flip flops. Instead, I took a mental break from wondering if I’d make my running goal come May 1 to just be. It was the perfect reset.
I’m intentionally saying reset versus setback. I knew that if I forced myself to run on vacation, I’d resent it. So instead, I took a time out. I cross trained other ways. I skipped waves, swam with my kiddo and hit 10,000+ steps every single day. And, I returned home ready to run.
I share this because sometimes I think we think it is better to half-ass something versus taking a time out. To acknowledge that what we need right in this moment is an opportunity to just enjoy life. I returned on Saturday with a desire to hit the road. Less than forty-days to go until I see what I’m capable of doing on the course. I’m excited. Cautiously optimistic. My plan come race day – Just show up.
I recently won this bracelet from Momentum Jewelry (thank you Instagram contest!). A great reminder of my intention come race day. And if I fail, guess what? I’ll show up again. And again. And again. Because honestly, I’d rather show up and fail than give up on myself.
A couple other quick notes for those following my self-publishing journey. A special shout out to Perfect Duluth Day for sharing an excerpt from my book! Also, I mentioned a few posts ago but I’m now a semi-regular blogger for Another Mother Runner. My latest post, which focuses on faith, can be found here. If you still haven’t purchased a copy and are interested, please consider buying my book. I can now say you’ll be joining hundreds of folks (some of whom I don’t even know) who have invested in my dream. If I haven’t said it today, thank you to each and every single one of you.
Something tells me that maybe somewhere someone needs to hear this. At least I know I do and I figure I cannot be alone. As a writer, I understand that words matter. I had initially wanted to call this post, setbacks suck. Instead, I’m trying this. Tough Transitions. So much of my life these past few months have been about transitions. This past week, it came to a head in something that is most definitely a first world problem, but was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
My race was cancelled. The one I started pre-training for in January after my dad died and was just hitting my stride on in my real training. The one that I’ve been religiously training for because I needed a win. Not in the literal sense – let’s be real. But, in the sense that I needed to feel in control of something.
Sure, I knew it was a long shot when I signed up. COVID-19 is still real and I respect the very tough decisions race organizers are facing right now. But dam, I needed that weekend to push myself. Yes. I know I can run any number of virtual races. Yes. I know my husband would set-up a mock half-marathon course and cheer me on. But that’s not the point. I had a plan and my plan was turned upside down… again.
I was really mad. So mad I almost deleted Hal’s training plan right off my phone. I definitely was NOT going to hop on the treadmill for my 3.5 mile run without a reason. I definitely wanted to have a pity party. And man did the waterfall of tears start flowing.
To be honest, I’m a bit sad. I’m really, really tired of losing things. And, no matter how hard I try, this idea of finding meaning in the hard stuff is kicking me in the ass. Yep. I’m going there. I think it is time to say that sometimes things just flat-out suck. The silver lining just isn’t there. That if handed rotten lemons, one could make nasty lemon-aid or they could just say, throw the lemons out.
That’s where I’m at today. There is no silver lining to losing my dad. Yes. He is done suffering. And, I am so glad that he is no longer in pain. I am glad that my dad got to make the decision but that doesn’t ease so many of the what-ifs. And, it definitely doesn’t change my reality. I’ve lost my rock and sounding board. In many ways, a huge part of my purpose.
So yep. I’m mad and sad and not ready to find any silver lining. I don’t want to know his legacy lives on in his kids. I want him here. I want him here to say to me right now, who cares if your race was cancelled. Find another. I want him here to provide me perspective and tell me that running will probably kill me someday because it is hard on my knees. I want to fight over the price of a rib-eye and the weather differences between Iron River and Cloquet. I don’t want to drive by the Scanlon exit but rather to it.
So yes, the cancelling of the May 1 race triggered a lot. It reminded me that I need to give myself some flipping grace. That I’m not ok and right now, that has to be ok. That every day I get up and try hard and do the minimum is a win right now. I’m still showering (most days). I’m still loving on my kid and dancing in the shower and finding joy in the most superficial of things (amazon deliveries are almost daily). I’ve settled on a new vitamin stack and I’m letting Hal tell me what to do 4-times per week. And, I’m trying to come to terms with my new reality of being an orphan. I don’t say that for pity. I say that because words matter. And while I am so blessed to have so many incredible people in my life, I am an orphan at 42. It sucks.
On a different day, I might try to say that family isn’t just who you were born to but who you befriend along the way. That I am so blessed to have incredible in-laws and friends and a soul mate and a son. But guess what? I had all of that and dad up until December. So nope, no silver lining yet. No greater sense of purpose or understanding or acceptance. It doesn’t diminish the moments I cherish and the time we had together. It just means I still wish he was here back when he was healthy. Back when we’d play catch in the backyard and chat about nothing for hours on end.
Will it get better? I don’t know. Lots of people say it will evolve and change and become the new normal. An extended transition I suppose. But, the road seems really long right now. So, I’m trying to find control in the little things. The Door County Half was one of those. But, that to turned out to be another transition.
If you’re wondering, when my pity party ended, I ran the 3.5 miles. I found a back-up run that’s 10-miles on the same day. My friend was gracious enough to follow my change of plans. I got back on the saddle and said tomorrow is another day. A chance that maybe someday the moments of joy will outweigh the sadness.
Transitions are tough. They are one of the hardest things to get right when writing. They are painful and cruel in real life. A necessary evil to grow and evolve and to do better. I’m hopeful that some of the roughest, choppiest transitions in life pave the way to something I never could imagine. I’m cautiously hopeful that’s what my future holds. That if I continue to show up and speak my truth, my experiences can someday help someone else through a tough transition.
So if that’s you, I hear you and I feel your pain. I won’t say I try to understand it or that things will eventually get better. Inevitably, just like pain found you, I want to believe joy will find its way to you again as well. At least that’s what I’m banking on.
To tough transitions and finding ways through them without losing sight of all that’s good. Sixty days and counting until race day. Let’s go.
PS For those struggling with grief. A game changing books that have helped me…
Valentine’s Day. What a loaded holiday of unmet expectations. I’m gearing up to channel my inner Finlander by eating my weight in carbs with this TikTok phenomenon known as uunifetapasta. I’ll enjoy this savory meal with my favorite men and a chilled shot of Teramana, Cointreau, lime and Sprite Zero. It isn’t quite a margarita but might be one of the best drinks of ALL time.
But, before I do that, I wanted to talk a little bit about love. Yep. I’m going there. This week marked my first Amazon review by someone I didn’t know. On my first-time author journey, this was a big deal because I honestly didn’t know if anyone who didn’t feel obligated to the read book would. And, it turns out some folks have.
It also tuns out, at least one person, loved it. From Hildee Weiss, “I loved hearing her story of how she got into running and I enjoyed reading her tips and suggestions ranging from what to eat before a big race to what to look for in a shoe. She writes with honesty and humor and with heart.” A five-star review. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt pretty amazing.
My writing is far from perfect. But, the one thing I pride myself on is being honest. I write my truth, for better or worse. I mean how many other gals share their stories about shit-stained pants for the world to see? And, it turns out that vulnerability occasionally resonates with like-minded women trying to find their way in the world. Enough so, that I’m excited to announce that starting tomorrow I’ll be occasionally sharing my running adventures on Another Mother Runner. Dimity and Sarah have been absolutely fabulous to chat with and they are kind enough to allow me to share some stories on the amazing platform they’ve built over the past decade. I am pretty excited. If you are interested in checking it out, sign up for their podcast here. This past week, I also had the opportunity to share more about my running journey on WTIP out of Grand Marais. I was once again extremely nervous, but Annie was an amazing host and it was an absolute honor to share my adventures with folks in Grand Marais. I also dropped off copies of my book at Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, making it now available in 5 places!
Most weeks, this would be beyond exciting. But the thing I’m most excited about this particular week is I just finished Week 1 of my 12-week half-marathon training plan. It was sub-zero so my time was spent on the dreaded treadmill. I had four training runs for a total of 12 miles. And guess what? I did all 12-miles. This week I loved myself enough not to quit running. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. I used all of the hacks. Tim Riggins. Ordering new shoes. Drinking Nuun and using the massage gun. Scheduling the work-outs in my calendar. Doing the Mel Robbins countdown and channeling my inner sisu. Yes. I know that sounds a bit dramatic. But, I’m being honest. Running isn’t easy for me. Especially after a year plus hiatus.
And you know what? It felt good to keep my promise to myself. It felt good to move my body. It felt good to focus on putting one foot in front of another after a challenging month of navigating grief and a harsh Wisconsin Winter. Thank god for therapy, friends and family. I don’t know what the next 75-days hold. I do know that right now I’m savoring this week’s wins and lacing up for another week of showing up not just for those around me, but for myself as well.
Ten hours after my father died, I found myself in a pet store trying to comprehend the clerk as she explained she could not legally sell my son and I goldfish due to not having the appropriate tank prepped for the occasion. It was Christmas Eve afternoon and I had promised my son we’d surprise dad with a fish for Christmas. I was still under the impression that a 25-cent goldfish did not take an act of congress to secure. In the haste of navigating nursing homes, a global pandemic, a hospital transfer and hospice, I had neglected researching the complexities behind purchasing a simple fish. Standing under the fluorescent lights of the big box pet store, I fought back tears (and some serious anger) as my mind raced to come up with a back-up plan.
Meantime, my son, ever so resilient, immediately suggested we peruse the pet store aisles for a pet we could take home that afternoon. He guided me blindly up and down the aisles and before we knew it, I was seconds away from making a 2-year commitment and walking out with a hamster. I was all in until my son confirmed that hamster poop was beneath him and that it’d be my responsibility. In that moment, I regained control, fought the holiday crowds and secured four tropical fish, tank, food, and accessories with a few white lies and a lot of grit. We even made it home and had the tank set-up prior to our 3 pm family zoom call.
It wasn’t until a few days later that my world came toppling down. Grief is like that. It comes out of nowhere and leaves you trying to find meaning in even the simplest of things. But, this isn’t a post about grief. It is a post about promises.
Why the fish? Because when I make a promise, I keep a promise. I knew with every ounce of my being that I would not leave the Twin Ports Christmas Eve without a fish. But, the problem with promises is that commitment ends as soon as it is with myself. Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to break a promise to your employer, friend, family, volunteer committee or even random acquaintance on Facebook but promises to yourself are the first to go? If you’ve figured that out, let me know. Because I am guilty as charged.
Last week, I had the honor of being a guest on Another Mother Runner podcast. We talked about all sorts of things surrounding my new book, including the simple question – do you really hate running?
The simple answer is yes. But, anyone who knows me, knows that nothing is simple. Nothing is black and white in my world. I hate running but I love the act of running. And, I love that even during a global pandemic, runners get to write their own narrative. You get what you put in. And come race day, your time reflects your effort. In a world where everything it out of one’s control, I can still control putting one foot in front of the other. I had forgotten that for a while… but as I’ve pushed out my book… I’m remembering. And the truth is, I need that right now. Losing dad leaves a big hole in my heart… my calendar… and my future. I always knew my dad was sick but given the man had exceeded nine lives, a part of me believed he would live forever. Even while in hospice, I genuinely went to bed believing that there was a chance I’d go visit him the following morning and he’d be skimming the grocery ads ready to argue about the price of a rib-eye.
So here I am. One month later. If you’re wondering, the fish are thriving. I am not. I’m struggling quite a bit on a lot of fronts right now and I want to be honest about that. I don’t know how I’ll come to terms working in health care when I struggle with how mediocre and cruel the system is to people and their families. I don’t know if I’ll write another book or ever lose the weight or grow professionally. Many of the dreams I set out on to achieve in 2020 – pre-pandemic and pre-grief seem tone deaf to the life I’m living right now. The RISE conference a year ago seems like a lifetime ago. I find myself now with a blank page on what comes next.
For those wondering, yes, I’m back in therapy. I’m also starting to ask myself what’s next. Slowly, I find myself setting new goals that are a bit simpler, yet true to what really matters to me. I’m going to grow a garden of only vegetables and flowers I love. No more zucchini or marigolds and minimal beans. Good bye broccoli. I’m going to learn about rock polishing and shine some Lake Superior treasures. And, I’m going to run a race again.
Yep. This was a very long-winded post to say I’m running again with a real goal in mind. I hope to find myself lining up at the Door Count Half Marathon on May 1 and crossing that finish line in under 3-hours. It is a goal that is now ten-years in the making. It is time. I suppose one could say losing dad was the spark… but that wouldn’t be honest. The truth is, I want this for me.
I want to take the next 13-weeks and train hard. I want to make a promise to myself that I’ve earned the right to be selfish for a few months. To say I need this win after a year of losses. I need to feel like I’m in control of something right now – even if it is just for a few hours on a cold and windy May day. If the race is cancelled, so be it. I’ll find another and then another. And when I cross that finish line, I’ll be reminded that the most important person to keep your promises to is yourself.
Iron River resident Beth Probst is a non-athlete. Or so she believes. In 2011, after a few too-many mojitos at a dinner party with friends (remember those?), she decides to give running a try. Logically, she signs up for a half marathon, even though she’s never run a race in her life. And so begins the nearly decade long love-hate relationship with running.
It could be worse: a girlfriend’s guide for runners who detest runningis a candid and at times humorous look at Beth’s running highs and lows, successes and failures, and some tactical tips on how to be a real runner when you feel anything-but. An added bonus, she taps into the wisdom of some of her favorite female running buddies to offer some additional perspectives and advice to help move one from the sidelines to the starting lines.
Of the book, this first-time author says she decided to put herself out there when she realized a gap in the marketplace for the woman who is filled with a lot of insecurities and doubt about running and has only one goal – to cross the finish line upright.
“There is an incredible pressure towards perfect in society,” says Probst. “Running is no exception. When I first laced up, I found countless books that focused on how to run faster, train harder, eat smarter and finish faster. But, for me, the plus-size gal in my 40s, my goal was to just finish while keeping my toenails in-tact. I’ve since crossed the finish line over a dozen times and I still don’t get the alleged runner’s high folks talk about. I figured I wasn’t alone so I thought I’d share my story in hopes in inspires one person questioning if they should run, to just lace up and try.”
Beth never hides the fact that she’s only finished in the back of the pack and had some horrifying running mishaps. But she still keeps showing up. “The great thing about running is you get exactly what you put into it,” she says. “I’ve cut corners on training and ate the frozen pizza the night before a long run—and those mistakes came with consequences. But that’s the thing about life. It is full of choices but they are our choices to make. This book is as much about taking charge of your own narrative as it is about lacing up and hitting the pavement.”
As for who should read this book? The dedication says it all—this book is dedicated to any woman who has felt unworthy… but showed up anyway. “If someone reads this book, I hope they leave with a few resources and tips on how to channel their inner strength – or Sisu – and realize that they have earned a spot at the starting line as much as the person next to them. That’s the heart and soul of this story. And better yet, I hope they even laugh a little.”
The decision was made in an instant but years in the making. “I love you girls but I cannot keep fighting. Please don’t be mad.”
A glance at the nurse and a plea. “Please. I just want to go in peace.”
Suddenly we are out of time. After years of ups and downs navigating a broken health care system watching my dad fight for his life – and win; and advocating for his life more times than I can count, the decision is made. My sister and I advocate for him one last time. We watch dad initiate hospice and support him with all of our heart while feeling a piece of our heart break. He signs the papers instantly. He cannot nor should he suffer for another second in a system where folks fight to keep him alive, regardless of the physical pain he endures and his desire to die. He is ready.
He tells my sister and I he’s proud of us one last time in a sterile hospital room. A man of few words, he couldn’t have chosen a better book ending to a complicated yet rich life. I do not know it at the time, but I will not see him conscious again.
I should have seen this coming. In my head, I had prepared for it over and over again. I had made time for visits, listened to my dad’s endless stories and jokes, and sought therapy to help navigate the struggles of an aging parent. I had worked through my anger surrounding an amputation and a healthcare system that never understood my father. I had resolved all of the what ifs in my life – the times growing up where I was too busy pursuing my dreams that I missed the simple things. You know… the weekend fishing trips, county fairs, camping, phone calls and lunches. I spent the last ten years making up for those moments. I said everything that needed to be said. But yet, I still find myself in this moment, completely lost. Caught in the in-between. The part where you pray for a quick ending but guilt bubbles up and challenges why you would actually wish your father dead. A friend who knows grief all to well reminded me there is a difference between honoring your dad’s wishes and accepting them.
Later on, I find myself alone in the hospice room watching my dad gasp for air. COVID-19 has added a logistical layer of complications in saying good-bye. Science says my dad is on enough morphine that he is comfortable. My heart says he knows I am here. Here. Sharing one last moment with dad.
I choose to use this moment to remember. I remember our fishing opener trips – including the time I was so engrossed in my book that a fish pulled my rod into the lake before I noticed I had caught it. Somehow dad managed to retrieve the rod (with a very tired fish on it). I remember my one successful day of fishing catching Sunnies with dad and how delicious his pan-fried fish tastes. I remember our annual camping trip including the year my girlfriend and I snuck out to meet boys on the beach. My mom had to let us know she knew while my dad just gave us that look. You know – the one dad gives that say a thousand words. It was the same look he gave when I flicked matches into his ice shanty and got removed from a little league softball game for being sassy.
I remember arguing over the cost of a good steak, grapes and a 12-pack of diet coke more than once. I remember the endless conversations about weather where only Google could resolve the temperature differences between Cloquet and Iron River. I remember arguing just to argue and then argue about why we were arguing. My dad loved a good debate about nothing. That trait lives on in me.
I remember the endless days of playing ball growing up. Or, how dad would patiently watch me twirl baton, doing his best not to comment on the fact that I was destroying the lawn with my endless pivots in a quest to land that double turn around. I remember helping him plant his garden and sharing that first ripe summer sweet pea. I remember our trips to the Chicken Swap that resulted in unconventional pets and dad buying me a mule named Goldie and trying to pass her off as a pony because I was sad the pony I had wanted got purchased before we could buy him.
And then there was the advice. I remember dad lecturing me on how I didn’t need another degree to feel smart or that changing jobs wouldn’t make me happy. That a job is called that for a reason. I remember my wedding day where after our father-daughter dance he simply said, I hope he makes you happy and if he does, I’m happy for you. Or, the time he casually asked if I knew how babies were made when he felt I was taking too long to make him a grandpa again. I was 34 at the time.
I remember dad telling me he missed mom too when he knew I was sad. I remember dad walking me down a makeshift aisle at my wedding and holding my son after he was born. I remember him helping me pack for college, see me off to Oxford and inspect my first home. In every critical moment, dad was always there on the sidelines rooting for my success. He’s been the constant in my life. For 42-years, every major milestone has been marked by dad encouraging me to pursue my dreams.
These memories and thousands more will carry me forward. This morning he passed peacefully. And now the waiting is over, replaced with grief. Grief is a crazy beast I’m all too familiar with. A new void in my life no one can ever fill. There will be no story big enough, no fish large enough, or joke bad enough to replace the man who made me. But in this moment, I’m thanking a higher power that dad’s struggles are done and that he’s reunited with mom in time for Christmas. Heaven gained another angel this Christmas and left a hole in my heart. But for now, I will find comfort in remembering and knowing that my dad’s stubborn spirit lives on in the family he created. Not even grief can take that away.