For reasons purely selfish, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week’s weather. From the cooler temperatures and clouds to the light rains and breezes, this week has been a welcome respite.

I am someone who will never complain about winter and even though our past cold season was rather long, I tolerate cold much better than heat, which is why my race calendar has dropped off significantly.

Following the Cornbelt 24-Hour-Run the first weekend in May, I skipped a few events and went back at it Memorial Day weekend with the MedCity Marathon in Rochester, Minn., where my most recent fear was confirmed: being jipped out of a spring and tossed right into the lion’s den of SUMMER. Grrr.

It was a quick trip, just 21 hours from arrival to departure, and unfortunately the cloudless morning allowed temps to climb into the 80s. Both half and full marathon runners were bussed from Rochester to the race start in Byron. With the first half spent on county roads, the course rolled past gorgeous farm land that even included a few buffalo corralled in a small pasture.

2014-05-31 23.53.57I rarely spend much time studying a race course and while I knew Rochester had an impressive trail system, I didn’t think the course would join it. But it did, and I found myself struggling to focus on the “here and now” of 2014 vs. the summer of 2011 when my dad, Tom Reed, was at the Mayo Clinic for nearly a month following surgery for lung cancer.

In 2011, the thoracic nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital printed off maps of the trail system which offered me regular sojourns into nature and the chance to worry and fret and cry safely away from Dad’s bedside.

To say the least, it felt a little sad to be back on those trails.

While the lovely volunteers were wonderfully peppy, the heat continued to climb which did little for my spirits. What really helped were the three different times people offered coolers full of ice cubes which I’d drop into the back of my shirt, stuff under my ball cap and hold in my hands.

I was frustrated. Not only did I not have the proper equipment with me i.e. a sweat rag, but I had yet to mentally acclimate to the challenge of heat. Heck, I was still running in jackets and gloves just a few weeks before!

Then there was the little issue of course markings as a few areas during the last several miles lacked both volunteers, traffic cones and paint. I followed those in front of me and was lucky they knew the way. Later on at the finish line, I saw fellow Cornbelt member, Chet Doyle of Rock Island approach the finish from the opposite direction. After he came back around through the chute, he said a few ill-marked turns cost him dearly in more time and mileage. Ugh!

I’d hoped to finish in under 5 hours, nothing too crazy, but still respectable. However, given the memories that were haunting me, the heat that was grilling me and the tentative progress along a few confusing areas, 5 hours began to slip away.

Despite this there was still fun to be had. With a couple of different places on the course in which you’d meet runners headed back at you, I got to enjoy one of my absolute favorite things: Hi-5’ing!

Running buddy Bennie Rheeder of Cedar Rapids taught me to never pass up an opportunity to Hi-5 a kid, but I’d argue it’s even more fun when you’re just a few miles from the finish and you’re tired and hurting and the tank is on empty, to have fellow runners scream and cheer at each other while swapping palm sweat!

Eventually I made it to the finish line in 5:13:08. Given all the circumstances, I was just happy to be done and sitting in my air conditioned car!

I really haven’t pushed myself since then. My son Maclane and I walked the Color the Quads 5k May 31st which, having run the event last year, is a much dirtier experience as a walker.

If you’ve never heard of a “color run” it’s when several color stations are positioned along the course where hoards of volunteers spray you with blue- or red- or green- or yellow-dyed corn starch. It gives you rainbow nose candy and blue ear wax, perfect for an 11-year-old boy whose nickname is “Fluffy.”

Even though we walked it, the heat was high and left me exhausted, which brings me back to the blessed weather break that I thoroughly enjoyed this week!

With breeze enough to keep the bugs away and cooler temps to keep my sweat at bay, I armed myself with a power drill and, with the help of Moira and Maclane, modified their swingset!

Gone is the rocking horse attachment on which neither child could fit. By moving Moira’s single, painfully narrow swing to one end and drilling fresh holes through the top at the other, the three of us found ourselves gathered ‘round the swingset, enjoying the gentle sway of our new porch swing!

And isn’t that what summer break is about? Not so much grueling races, but having fun and knocking out little projects . . . and then taking a little break in the swing.


Originally published 14 June 2014 in The Observer.

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