White Christmas…or, Welcome Back (Part IV)

When I say “white Christmas,” I’m not referring to the pasty whiteness that returned intact despite a week-long Caribbean cruise. I know Scott was impressed with my dilligent application of sunscreen and preservation of the permanent sport bra, socks, and running shorts tanlines.

Nope, my white Christmas was of a more conventional variety. It starts with a sad story, one that I haven’t really talked about much. We frequently spend the holiday in Kansas visiting relatives, but because of the cruise we had planned on a Christmas in South Carolina instead. In one of those terrible reminders of just how little control you have over your life or the lives of those you love, however, our plans changed. Just after Thanksgiving, my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. Due to how far it had advanced and his age, there was no treatment. The doctor sent him home with painkillers and made an appointment to check on him in January.

Obviously, I needed to get to Kansas. I immediately booked a direct flight home on December 24. That was the easy part. Trying to predict the future and determine whether I should drop everything and get home now or cancel the cruise altogether, however, was soul-wrenching.

In the end, an ice storm in Kansas made an earlier trip impossible, and we set out for the cruise with prayers for time…lots more time…time we didn’t have. When the plane landed in Kansas City on a rainy Christmas Eve morning, Grandpa was already gone. I miss him terribly, and the thought that he’s no longer there to visit with, laugh with, and play cards (a big thing in my family) with is hard to grasp.

I had a big welcoming party to meet me at the airport, which was just what I needed to start off six days of giving and receiving comfort from those who knew Grandpa best. Mom, Dad, and Lil’ Brudder helped get me and my gigantic suitcase back to my icreasingly ice-covered hometown. A quick family meeting determined that we needed to leave that afternoon to cross river and woods to Grandma’s house, but first…marathon training would not be put off. Lil’ Brudder and I braved the elements to run a very wet, very windy, very prickly 5-miler. The temperature — 28 degrees — was to be the warmest weather I would run in for the rest of the trip, but “warmth” is not the word I would use to describe that run. How does one describe a sky raining needles of ice that threaten to freeze eyelashes together and sting exposed skin? I guess one describes it just like that. Owee! Lil’ Brudder tried to run behind me for awhile to “protect the face that was his livelihood” (he’s an engineer, folks) only to discover that a 6’1″ giant cannot hide behind a 5’2″ girl. Who knew?

We cleaned up, opened presents (the “best present ever” award goes to the welcome mat my parents got my brother…it says, “Hi, I’m mat.” My brother’s name — Matt. Priceless!), and headed for Grandma’s. The trip took twice as long as usual, but we made it unscathed and awoke Christmas morning thankful for the early departure. Six inches of snow had blown across the prairie and drifted against the house and our cars…not to mention across the road. Wind gusts of at least 40mph effectively squelched any thoughts I had about running on Christmas day. Brr!

After another night at Grandma’s, we returned home to find at least a foot of snow drifted across the driveway. Alas, there were but two snow shovels, so I made my chilly way into the house while Dad and brother shoveled like the manly men they are. Later that day we went out for another 5-miler, taking the camera with us to record what is surely the most snow I’ll see all year. The temperature? 16 degrees without getting the windchill involved.

About two miles in. We thought this would be the biggest drift we'd find.

But then, we found THIS glorious pile of driftiness. No ice needles apparently means excessive running enthusiasm for this girl.

This is probably the single best picture I've ever taken...and with cold fingers. Isn't it snazzy? Doesn't it look like it could be a cover for a certain running magazine?

 The next day was the big one — 13. It was a “down” week in training for me, but given the weather conditions 13 was going to seem plenty long! We planned to brave the country roads to get a little change in scenery. We ran four miles to the end of the town lake, surprised to find the dirt roads passable. With logic held at bay by the childlike delight in running in snow, we opted to go further away from town for my brother’s 14-mile loop instead of heading back to town and finding some pavement. Was it worth it? Yes. Was it painful? Absolutely.

Have I mentioned the temperature yet? Well, it’s now 8 degrees with at least 8 inches of snow blowing, drifting, and generally becoming a nuisance. For 4 miles, running on mostly dirt roads with occasional packed snow is a fun adventure. For 8 miles, it’s a fun but slightly tiring adventure. Miles 9, 10, 11, and 12 — run into the wind on increasingly snow-covered and treacherous roads — suddenly make running seem like the worst idea EVER. This is when random stabilizing muscles (hip flexors, back, abs) and ankles begin to scream from the unaccustomed overuse. The last two miles, I felt like I had sprained an ankle. I don’t remember ever turning it, but after two hours of “don’t fall down, don’t fall down, don’t fall down,” it was seriously unhappy. This is also when, I’m embarrassed to say, I too begin screaming…at inanimate objects. “STUPID SNOW HILL! I HATE YOU! YOU TOO, WIND! WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM, ANYWAY? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO COLD?” Oh, dear.

Temporary insanity aside, I’m pleased with my snow run. First, I ran a mile farther than I was supposed to. Let’s check and see how often that happens…oh, that’s right. Never! Second, as unpleasant as the last miles were, it was fun to run in a completely different environment. And of course, it’s always fun to run with my brother. He brought his camera again, and although it was even more unhappy than my left ankle to be out in the snow and the cold, we got some great pictures to commemorate the time.

Mile 2 -- Life is good and the snow is beautiful.

Mile 9 - Let the screaming begin.

Mile 10 - Maximum driftiness. I think that brother was hanging so far back to get away from the screaming.

I’m proud of the running I managed to do outside of my normal routine. I owe a lot to my brother, who ran every step of the way with me and is such a great encourager. The best part is that my brother posted the above pictures to his Facebook account and got several comments from friends who said, “I saw two people run by my house and I thought, only Megan and Matt would be running in this weather.” Hilarious that they thought that, and even funnier that they were right. There’s lots of times that I get a little down on myself and don’t feel like a runner anymore, so it really makes me feel good that after quite a few years and many other great runners who have come through our hometown, my brother and I are who people think of when they see runners. I’m going to hold onto that for the next time when I start to fret about being “slow.”


8 responses

  1. Love it, love it, love it. “Best blog ever,” raves The New York Times. “Spoken like a champion,” exclaims President Obama.

  2. Pingback: There Just Aren’t Words… « MeganRunning

  3. Pingback: Challenge within a Challenge « meganrunning

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