‘Always’ Is a Strong Word

For indeed now it feels not like going, but like going back.                                                   -C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

The last few weeks I feel as though I have been always on the road, always travelling, always moving. In a week and a half at the beginning of July, the General and I spent 32 hours flying over the familiar highways of Wyoming and Montana, like a time machine taking us back through flashing memories to the Home Place and old friends.

drive1My big farewell from living in Seward NE for four years was finally spending Independence Day in Nebraska’s Fourth of July City. After two big roadtrips it was fun to see so many familiar faces on the streets of Seward. Many of these streets were closed off to house a massive car show, carnival rides, dance performances, and hundreds of vendors and craftsmen spread out across the lawn of the city courthouse.

I walked around most of the day with newlyweds Matt and Maddy, watching our friend Brandon in a pole vaulting competition and viewing the extensive parade from a professor’s lawn with scores of other Concordians. In the evening many local friends threw house parties and barbecues, so I bounced around from one to another until it was time for fireworks.

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Cousins visit the Bitterroot

The fireworks show was incredible–perhaps the best I have ever seen. Lasting over 20 minutes, the lights flooded the sky in large flashing booms above thousands of people lying on blankets in Plum Creek Park. They also shot off an impressive ground show, sending out a simultaneous wave of radiating light from below.

After the professional show, Maddy, Matt, and I lit off a few of our own fireworks before I party-hopped again until the wee hours of the morning, bidding everyone farewell. It was everything I had imagined for a Seward Fourth, the perfect sendoff.

Bucket List: Participate in a Seward Fourth, check!

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Rodeo in Sheridan WY

My inspirational nomadic friend Bridget surprised me by asking if she could crash on my couch on the night of the 6th on her way back home to Montana–interestingly enough, I was planning on leaving the following morning myself for our Home Place in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Welcome to Part 2 of the Jarvite Gypsy’s caravanning experience! This trip went smoothly, mainly because we agreed on a GPS route to use at the beginning of the excursion. Florida lesson learned–the beauty of piling excursions atop one another is the rapid rate of acquiring knowledge about such essential details.

We were also excited about the 80mph speed limits all the way across the state of Wyoming!

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Rodeo with Bridget

We happened to be staying in Sheridan WY the night before the opening day of the largest rodeo in the Mountain Circuit! So before driving out on the 9th, Bridget and I took an short detour to watch some calf roping.

Bucket List: Watch a rodeo in Wyoming, check!

All of this placed me in the Bitterroot in time for the Missoula Half Marathon, which I have run for the past four years. I think I’m going to make this a tradition!

drive15After a brief stay at the Home Place with the cousins who flew in the day after I arrived (I was able to squeeze in a hike between my arrival and theirs; it’s impossible for me to be in Montana for more than a few hours without hitting the trails), our family packed up the speedboat and headed to Bigfork MT.

We spent some time with my grandparents the first day, and then took the boat out on Flathead Lake the next day, though it started out cold and cloudy. It took us a little while to find a spot that wasn’t too choppy for wakeboarding, in Woods Bay on the northeastern side of the lake. Nearby were the Raven and the Sitting Duck restaurants on the lake, complete with boat docks for parking on the lakeside.

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View of Flathead Lake from the Sitting Duck

The weather warmed up when the sun came out later in the afternoon, and my wakeboarding was perhaps some of my best ever, even though I haven’t been out in two years. Of course we broke out the tube for a while before the day was over. We had an awesome stay at the Marina Cay Resort, on the mouth of the Swan River where it flows into Flathead Lake, and includes a pool, outdoor restaurant, tiki bar, and often live music, as well as a giant chess set!

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Happy birthday, bud

On the 15th I drove from Bigfork to Bozeman, which I have recently termed the Promise Land. My friend Elias was turning 21 that day, and I made it in time to go to Bridger Brewery with him for lunch.

drive12The rest of the weekend included a barbecue and Bozeman’s Music on Main on Thursday and a concert on Friday, as well as going downtown three nights in a row.

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Palisade Falls

No trip is complete without some time in the great outdoors and catching up with a few friends: Will took me on a hike up to Palisade Falls near the Hyalite Reservoir. Naomi showed me her new gypsy van which she will be taking down to New Mexico in a few weeks.

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Hyalite Reservoir

I also went for a few morning runs on some of my favorite paths: Pete’s Hill, which offers a gorgeous view of the city, especially at sunrise or sunset; the Sourdough Trail, which cuts through a few neighborhoods and Graf’s Park south of town near the Museum of the Rockies, and feels like a tiny patch of untouched wilderness; and the Gallagator Trail, which cuts across the city from Kagy in the south by the museum to the public library on Main Street, and is dog- and cyclist-friendly.

drive7All of these places, Sheridan, Hamilton, Bigfork, Bozeman: all are familiar, either because they were past homes or favorite stops on past roadtrips. I have been going to so many new places recently that I almost forgot what it was like to see a place for a second time. New memories are made, not to replace the old ones, but to layer atop them and make them richer. Old places do not get used up: there are always more experiences to be had.

‘Always’ is a strong word: but when you get itchy feet as often as I do, that strength is enticing, drawing forward in the crisp novelty of the moment or back in timeless memories to the place where it all began.

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Running Compass Says: Athens Marathon 2014

Spring Break 2014. Plane was delayed. Pro: free night in Minneapolis. Con: missed Greek IV class the following morning.

My bag was a flight or two behind me, so I parked near an outlet to charge my phone and pass time by flipping through my newest issue of Runner’s World magazine. I scanned through the list of upcoming races in the back as is my habit: Vegas at Night, RunDisney, maybe Boston someday… I’ll just have to keep running my whole life so I can do all these fun races.

Then my finger landed on something unexpected: Athens Marathon. November 9. Original course of Pheidippides. The Athenian herald collapsed and died after sprinting 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to give word of the Athenians’ surprising victory over the Persians. Hence the marathon was born.

History Me began to wind up as it united with Runner Me and became a whooping, hollering, skipping fool in an airport basement around a lot of grumpy people without their luggage. Few would have understood my ecstasy, so I didn’t pause to explain.

In three days I had my registration confirmation in my email inbox.

But the email was in Greek. So I hope it was the confirmation anyway…

Since then I have run two half marathons to keep me in shape but still rest my knees after 2013’s crazed marathoning rampage. Feeling sufficiently rested, I began training a week before I flew out for Italy this August.clv3

I didn’t know how training would be in a place with which I was not familiar. Even in places I know well, it can be difficult to find 24+-mile routes with proper hills and little vehicular traffic. What if everyone thought I was crazy? What if I was the only runner? What if the streets were dangerous at night?

Whatif whatif whatif.

I refuse to let ‘whatif’ control my life. So I set my sights on re-entering a strict training regimen.

I ran the Corri la Vita (Race for Life) last Sunday: a fundraiser for cancer research. Thousands of runners gathered between the duomo and the baptistery. I didn’t know where to line up for the 13K as opposed to the 5K, so I followed the crowd and kept my fingers crossed.

Note: a race of any length is called a ‘marathon’ in Italy, so things got a bit confusing when my host mom asked me if I wanted to run this race.

There were so many runners that I walked for parts of the first three miles. The course was beautiful: we ran up into the hills behind the Piazzale Michelangelo, which has great views of the city.

There was a man in a gray shirt and shorts, a bit shorter than myself, with a distinctive running style and a large vein on the left side of his forehead that I could see from my vantage point of…behind him, for most of the race. We passed one another several times on the 8-mile course.

The roads were narrow and had two-meter stone walls on each side, so when the crowd got tight, there was no way to get around the mob. It was a fun run for me, so I didn’t worry about it. I cruised up the last two hills and back down along the Arno into the city center. We ran through the Piazza della Repubblica and ended in the Piazza della Signoria, in front of my favorite castle tower (which, I learned in Medici class, is where Cosimo the Elder was imprisoned in 1433). A band played and there was free water (a big deal in Florence–almost as big as free bathrooms), and thousands of people milled about the square, mostly happy, friendly runners.

The man in gray had passed me with half of a kilometer left, and turning a corner I suddenly found myself stuck behind three walkers. ‘No–I can’t let him leave me behind after all this–‘ and I leapt around the runners and caught up to the man. We crossed the line in stride together, and he laughed and gave me a slap on the back–he knows what’s up. I wasn’t imagining our friendly competition.

It has been encouraging to find that Italians are quite active people. I knew they were famous for soccer and such (I’m trying to catch a home game for Florence’s team sometime this semester) but I didn’t realize athletics so permeated the daily lives of the people.

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I am certainly not alone in running. In fact on some mornings, if I sleep in a little and let the Italians and the daylight catch up with me (Florentines are not morning people in general), it’s so crowded on the paths along the Arno that I feel as though I am in a race already. There are just as many female runners as male, and scores of walkers, many with dogs.

Gyms here are expensive, probably due to lack of space in a city where the buildings are hundreds of years old and difficult to renovate to fit large equipment. Despite the expense, however, many Italians are members of one gym or another. I have been intimidated by the apparent fitness of many of the Florentines with whom I rub shoulders on a daily basis. My Pilates instructor looks like he could punch through a brick wall.

Athletics and active lifestyles are greatly promoted through ads, classes for activities outside the gym, and the presence of athletic stores. Yet I am still surprised at the number of people who light up a cigarette before or after a run.

Cristina, my host mom, religiously uses Virgin Active a couple miles away. Friends of members get one free trial day, so I made the most of mine, staying for over four hours! I could have lived there–after lifting for over an hour, I swam in two of the three pools and tanned on the lawn for a while. I finished off my day with a salad from the cafeteria. If I had $450 just lying around, I would definitely sign up for a semester’s worth of this bliss.

But since I don’t, I have been ‘forced’ to find other ways of keeping in shape. I brought a jump rope with me, and that has saved me many mornings when I have already maxed my weekly mileage but my muscles are still zinging from inactivity.

You know. Zinging.

I’ve also taken up yoga and Pilates with classes through the school. Although they are not a fair replacement for my regular lifting sessions, which I miss dearly, I have noticed great improvement in my micro muscles, stability, and flexibility.

My newest workout craze is pushups: I took on the ‘100 pushups/day’ challenge for the month of October. I just heard about it this morning: I’m only 40 into my 100 as I write late at night, but I’ll get them in! Who’s with me?