Tag Archives: Running

The Magnificent Mile

By: Colleen

You readers may not know this, but I just returned to the farm again from a 7 week stay in Chicago, mentoring and teaching inner city girl in 7th and 8th grade.  It was a wonderful experience, being able to get teaching experience and to touch the lives of some very wonderful girls.  I would just like to put in a plug for 7th and 8th graders in general. They are FUN! I never thought I would say that, but it is so true.  After they get over being “too cool” and just start to be themselves, they are so sweet and hilarious.

One of the most interesting parts of being in Chicago was experiencing city life.  At one point, I had considered living in the city of Chicago, finding a teaching job, getting an apartment, and living happily ever after, just five hours from home.  Hah, about that…it would work if I didn’t hate the city, which, after my recent stay there, I have realized is how I feel about it.  I felt smothered by the concrete from day one, as I stayed just four blocks from Union Station, very close to downtown.  On the third day, I went to a park down the street and realized that I had not sat on grass for three days.  The farm girl in me was starving for beauty, beauty that I could not find in the spires of the Sears Tower.

Lake Michigan was my saving grace, and as often as I could stomach wading through the crowds and past the homeless people all along the way, I would run the mile and a half down to the lake and run out my frustrations on the lakefront.  The bobbing boats and ever-changing, blue-green water meeting the horizon would calm me down, and prepare me for another day in the concrete jungle.

One of my very favorite memories from my stay in Chicago was when I got a visit from my very dear friend, Katie Hand.  Katie and I run track and cross country together at the University of Dallas, and she hopped on a bus to ride overnight to Chicago to cheer up my last days in the city.  She came to work with me for a day, and we got the question all day from the girls: “Are you two sisters?”

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We might as well be.  This girl and I have been on enough runs together to bond us for a lifetime.  And this is where the story of our Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago starts.

Katie is not the greatest at organization.  There have been many times where I have come to her room to get her to come to track practice to find her asleep or just plain missing.  And so when it came time for her to catch her bus out of Chicago, things got interesting.  She was supposed to leave at 11:30 pm from Union Station.  And somehow she, our friend Monica, and I were a good mile away from there by 11:10 pm.  We were on the train, one stop away from where we wanted to get off, and of course, it was having technical difficulties.  We all looked at each other, shrugged, and hopped of the train.  What else was there to do but run through downtown Chicago at 11 at night for a mile?  Two of us were in dresses, and I was sporting low-heeled sandals and carrying my purse and Katie’s backpack on my back.  I strapped it down tightly on my shoulders and just ran.

There was a moment where the hilarity of our situation hit us as we ran through intersections, ignoring the stoplights and stares of the few people out on the streets with us.  Panting and laughing, we arrived at Union Station with 8 minutes to spare.  Adventures are sure to happen when Katie Hand is around.  Monica and I managed to walk the 4 blocks back to our place of residence without being bothered by the local homeless with a story to tell upon our smiling lips.

Chicago, I may not like you at all, but thank you for the Magnificent Mile.

The View From Above

by Colleen

It’s hard to believe that I’ll already be leaving home next Tuesday.  It seems like I’ve barely touched the frozen ground, and now I’ll be off to the sunny state of Texas before I know it.  But first, I’ll be taking a detour to New Jersey to visit Emma at Princeton and spend some time in New York City.  I’m sure there will be much to report on when I return to Dallas about that.

In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying being home.  Catching up with family and friends…

Holding my beautiful God-daughter…

And watching my little brother play basketball…

Those three things pretty much summed up my winter existence in the years past.  Plus running of course.  It’s been lovely to run the familiar roads of home again, despite the colder weather.  But now, I feel that I am running them with a different attitude.

As I went out for a typical run at home the other week, I looked up at the hills surrounding me.  We live on a ridge, and so everywhere I run I must descend into the valleys and brave the hills to get back home again.  But never once had I thought about those hills; never once had I thought to climb them.  It doesn’t sound like a very important fact, but the obviousness of the thought struck me.  I’ve been living in this place for 18 years and never even tried to scale those hills, to reach the breath-taking top.

And so, I stopped, stepped off the cold concrete of the road, and began to climb.  Slowly at first, picking my way cautiously through the brush and brambles, but then picking up speed.  Suddenly it was imperative that I reach the top, that I see what was there where the gray sky met the pale brown winter ridgeline.  And when I reached the top, I looked down.  The road I had run for so many years looked tiny, and I imagined a tiny Colleen running there, oblivious to the beauty of the view from above.

Being home is wonderful.

Running in Sewanee, Tennessee

by Colleen

45 degree weather never felt so good as it did this past Saturday as I ran in the last cross country race of the season in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Yes, I am quite in the same mind as Mary about winter weather and cold and gloom and all that, but coming from Dallas  (same old sun and 80 degree weather), I was completely exhilarated by the fall weather.

On Friday afternoon, my cross country team and I flew out of the DFW airport, and touched down again just a few hours later in Chattanooga, TN, in weather that I would typically dub horrid.  It was cool, gray, and rainy.  And absolutely gorgeous.  I wore a sweater!  After dinner in a beautiful renovated train station, the team and I explored a little.

We all ended up on one of those famous Chattanooga Choo-Choos (do you know that song?  I do-thank you high school choir!)

Soon enough it was off to bed, and morning came early.  Well, relatively.  Although both of my roommates at the hotel set alarms along with me, not one of us woke up.  We ended scrambling down to the bus with breakfasts in our hands.

The course for the race was absolutely beautiful.  We were running on the campus of Sewanee College, “The College of the South”.  It didn’t look southern at all, though.

There were little stone cottage-like houses for the students, and everywhere there were trees in the height of their autumnal beauty.  I expected to see smoke rising from the tiny chimneys, and missed our chubby black woodstove back home.  (We had a very close relationship-I have the burn marks to prove it).

We got out and ran our warm-up, and boy, did most of the UDers need it!  It was quite brisk out, even for a Wisconsinite.  I stretched and simultaneously posed for pictures quite nonchalantly, so cool in my head band from my little brother, James.

And then we were off!  Running up and around and crunching over the glorious fall leaves, breath frosting the air before our cold noses.  I didn’t run the fastest race of my life, but in the end it didn’t matter.  I was just happy to be there with my team and doing something I love.  Our team ended up getting 9th out of 10 at the Conference meet, but we still had the heart to celebrate.  The world is beautiful, especially when there are maples leaves to throw in the air under a sunny fall sky.

Then and Now-One Year

Then:

Part-time Field Worker Colleen (I say part-time because if I said that I actually worked in the fields a lot my brothers and sisters would die laughing)

Now:

I spend time with my roommate and friends out of the field and in the city of cement, Dallas.

Then:

I ran with this special bunch of girls in the mud and cold of late Wisconsin fall as we miraculously earned ourselves a trip to state competition as a team (and went mud-sliding in celebration as you can see).

Now:

I run with this lovely group of girls and am no longer the giant of the team!

Then:

Let’s just say that layers were required back home at this point in the year.

Now:

The pool closed just last week.  Weather in the mid-80s must be too chilly for Texans.

So much is different in my life already!  Let’s see what more this year has to come….

A Saturday Morning Ramble

By: Mary

On Saturday in the early morning fog, I drove about an hour south to Gays Mills, Wisconsin. Now, Gays Mills is in the midst of the steep and rolling ground that Fernando came to know years ago. Every year when the trees are heavily laden with ripe apples, the town of Gays Mills holds a festival that is appropriately called Apple Fest. Before all the weekend festivities begin, a 2 mile and 5 mile race is hosted. Since last year I ran the 5 mile race, I decided to change things up and give the 2 mile race a try. All runners get to stretch their legs along a gorgeous local winding road.

After the race was over, I had time to kill before the awards were to be given out. So I wandered down main street with a bundle of dried pussy willow that I purchased in my bag, and a cup of hot coffee in my hand from a nice woman at the local natural foods co-op. Perhaps, the best part of the entire morning was meandering down the street looking at the wares that venders were exibiting. I lost track of time while making conversation with vendors while admiring their goods. At one stand, I met and elderly lady who sells jars and jars of preserves and spreads that she cans. She was as sweet as the lemon curd spread that she had me sample. I confessed to her that is was very good, but that I wasn’t going to buy it because I was inspired to try to make my own. By the time I left, she had stocked me with good canning tips, and given me her secret recipe for the lemon curd scrawled on a paper towel with directions on how to make a dozen pints of the wonderful spread that goes on toast, bagels and cakes.

My last and most lengthy stop was at the stand of an extremely eccentric and blunt artist. I dropped in to tell her that I am on an diet this month. (I have a serious earring addiction that I am trying to curb!) Susan, the artist expressed to me that she thought my diet is a stupid one, but that didn’t stop us from conversing and looking over her entire display…sigh. Maybe someday I will share some link to her work. She makes her jewelry out of polymer clay and paints it with masterful taste, last of all she adds beading. With getting caught up in earring lover banter, I lost track of time and almost missed out on getting my award for being the first female finisher in the two-mile.  I didn’t want to miss this because I had on a high school track shirt of Colleen’s that she left behind by accident when packing from UD. Now, Colleen is my running sister soul mate, and I know that she misses running the windy local roads of Wisconsin in this cool fall weather. With my strange sense of humor, I thought it humorous to run it in her name. Literally.

After the little town’s newspaper’s photographer took a picture of the trophy winners from the 2 and 5 mile races…

 the fog was no longer hanging thickly over the valley, so it was time to drive back home. Along the way, I did make a stop at an old apple tree. At this time in the season, I have come to regard the apple trees as free vending machines. Wow, are they ever good! Once again, I enjoyed the apple in honor of Colleen and then ascended back towards the ridge.

Until next time,

mary

A Run to Remember

My editor Kate called me yesterday morning, and what did she want? I’m sure what she really wanted to do was the catch up with her little sister that she only sees about twice a year, but somehow the conversation ended up being centered around this blog (big surprise!) and how my “authorship has waned this summer”. I was told to write a blog post ASAP and even told what to write it about. How nice.

I crankily acquisced. Crankily, because I had not been out for a run yet and it was already 10 or 11 o’clock. I’m a morning runner, and I’ve found that if I don’t get out on the road then, my whole day is off until I do. So, although I had a fairly productive day yesterday, swimming, baking little French bready things, continuing my quest to make the perfect brownie, reading some of my book for college this fall, and attending mass, my day felt incomplete until I headed out the door for a very late run at 6:35 pm.

(Check out my sweet running shirt.  Yes, that’s right-it’s an old Pep Band T-shirt from Cashton high school.  I ripped off the sleeves.  I’m cool like that.)

I’d decided on a whim to run to my brother Gabriel’s former farm, St. Brigid’s Meadows, where my little brother, James, was working that night. The run was beautiful, the weather finally cool enough after the hot spell we had all week. The crankiness I’d been tinged with all day lifted, and I arrived at the farm just in time to see James on the 4-wheeler, taking the cows out to pasture.

(This is Gabe at St. Brigid’s when he lived there a few years ago.  See the cows in the background?  Most of those are the same ones I saw yesterday and have lots of names ending in the same vowel sound: Jolly, Andy, Melancholy-okay, I made up that last one, but you get the picture.)

My welcome was warm: “What time is it? Why are you here so early?”

“Well, I thought I’d be slower getting here, okay. Can I have a ride?” I replied. We have never had a 4-wheeler at Sweet Ridge Farm, and I’ve always jumped at the chance to ride one.

“Sure, hop on.”

A problem presented itself as soon as I climbed on. I just bought new running shoes last week. And let’s just say that they aren’t exactly barnyard, taking cows out to pasture on a manure covered 4-wheeler.

(Yes, white is a dumb color for shoes.  But hey, I’m going down to Texas and running cross country there this fall.  I’ve gotta keep my feet cool.  White reflects the light!  Okay, yes, I did kind of decide to get them just because they are pretty.)

“Those are not going to work,” James stated bluntly as he vainly tried to wipe off a speck of manure on the toe of one shoe with an already dirty hand.

I promptly shucked my shoes and socks.

The cows were slow, and the fact they they only would walk in single file out to the pasture made the whole operation even slower. I didn’t mind. Watching a long row of cows, tails swishing flies away in unison was a sight that I don’t think I’ll see very much in the next four years at college.

James, on the other hand was not as captivated by a sight that he sees twice a week every week. He was so bored in fact that he let me drive the 4-wheeler. Having never driven one before, I was a little bit hesitant.

“Ummm, so how does this work?” I asked.

“You’ll figure it out,” came the helpful reply.

I fiddled around, pressing handles. “Well, you found the brake, ” he noted. Eventually though I found the gas, and drove us all the way out to the pasture. James of course drove us back, with me holding on for dear life and holding in screams of fear and euphoria as he took insane turns and flew over straight stretches of bumpy ground at crazy 16-year-old -boy speeds.

It was the perfect end to an imperfect day. I’m going to miss you, little brother. Thanks for letting your boring big sister tag along.

Mary’s Memorial Day Weekend Half Marathon

This Memorial Day weekend started off early for me as I rose before 5AM to drive to Black River Falls. For several weeks now, I have been feeling like I need to be challenging myself more. I decided a good way to do this was to run a half marathon.
 
Though, I have not been physically preparing myself to run such a distance, my mind has been doing a lot of wandering lately. Maybe it is in part because of the social media. Sometimes I feel  frustrated because often times I see pictures or get updates of others immersed in adventures of striving towards accomplishments.
 
Sometimes I can’t help but feel like I am just here. Just here signifies that there isn’t too much of a cultural aspect to the local quilt that is tucking me in. There is nothing wrong with that, but when I see photos of friends in far away places connecting with others of different cultures, it can sometimes make me feel smothered. Oddly enough, driving the hour to Black River Falls was just the medicine I needed for rejuvenation.
 
You see, the race I ran is on the Ho-Chunk Reservation. The reason for the race is that it is held in honor of a local Rez girl killed in “99. She died in a drunk driving accident. This young lady found healing through running and was able to turn her life around after she started training to run marathons. There was talk about her running for the US Olympic team someday. Coming home after prom though, she and 3 classmates were all killed by a repeat drunk driver late one May night.
 
Seeing all the Ho-Chunks that gathered to run was an inspiration to me. Memories started flooding me of my time living on a Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. There is such a distinctive beauty in the Native American people.
 
Right before the race started, a drum circle provided the rhythm and chanting of a song for Indians while training to run longer and longer distances. It was SO beautiful. The circle drummed mid-race and was at the 12 mile mark too.
 
While running I ended up striking up some good conversations. The first was with a man who was here in the States to see his daughter graduate. She has been over here as an exchange student for the past year. He answered questions about his geographic realm of the world (Northern Italy). Talking to him was very interesting, as was a conversation that I had with an older Sioux Indian from South Dakota who had made the trip here for a powwow that is held. He has been working towards regaining his health. When training for this race, he’s lost 20 lbs. I found this so inspirational! I told him about North Dakota, the Turtle Mountains, the people there, and how much I hated the meth problems that the people there suffer from.
 
Talking distracted me from running, as did watching the Natives as I ran past. I had so much fun waving at the locals, many of whom drove past in ancient beater cars that reminded me once again of the Reservation in the Turtle Mountains. There is such a simultaneous goodness and sadness to those people.
 
How glad I am that I can drive just an hour away and see new sights, heat the beat of drums, strike up random conversations like the one with the man from Italy in way too tight of spandex running leggings (sorry, I am a descriptive writer, so there you have it).
 
The end of the race was disorganized. Though they thought that my time was 1:48, they didn’t know for sure. Because of this mix up they were unsure if I placed 2nd or 3rd. Regardless of this it doesn’t really matter to me.
 
I feel like I won just because I woke up early and forced myself to do something that I was scared of, and because I saw and conversed with especially unique people from different segments of this world….just an early morning hour away from home.