Friday, February 1, 2013

Really? I am 50 Years Old?


*** Note to my 6 readers (up from 3 last month) - I actually wrote this almost 2 months ago, life has been really hectic so just posting now.......enjoy!

50th Birthday!

On 12/5/2012 I turned 50 years young!  Hard to believe it, when I was a kid most 50 year-olds were grandparents starting to contemplate retirement.  I am definitely NOT a grandparent (my oldest is 11) and I am for sure NOT contemplating retirement!

Originally I had planned to take a whole week off and spend most of it at a friends cabin in the North Georgia mountains (“Sweaty Rob”).  My only plan for this week was to have…..

No plans.

I am not 100% sure why, but unstructured time has become such an important part of my life as I have aged.  The thought of getting up in the AM and not having any agenda, at all, sounds like paradise to me!

Anyway, I really didn’t think this through (common theme in my life) and there was no way I could take a week off work, only 1 week after taking 3 days off for Thanksgiving.

So, plans changed.

Still, the plan was to have a fun party and some unstructured time, which, of course would involve some solo time running in the woods.

Plans changed again.

While we were in South Florida for Thanksgiving, we found out that my mother in law was very sick and would be coming back to Atlanta with us to get her medical care here.  She would also be around family and have her daughter and us to take care of her, which we thought was best.

It is not the purpose of this blog or an appropriate place to share the details of this, but she ended up going to be with our eternal Father on Jan 11th, 2013.  She was an amazing woman and left an indelible mark on me and everyone she ever met.  She will be sorely missed, however, we all know, with as close to certainty as you get with a person, that she is in a much better place now!

So, obviously, my 50th birthday plans took a back seat, which was totally fine with me – family comes before anything and I have all year to celebrate this ½ century mark!

I decided that I would do something special on the actual day of my birthday (a Wednesday).  I cleared my afternoon schedule and planned a day in the mountains.

12/5/12 started just like every other Wednesday morning.  Alarm went off at 4:30am and I headed into work to train with some good friends who are also members of our gym.  I decided to start the day off right, so after a proper warm up, this is the workout we did:

Push Ups
Squats
Rows
Sit Ups
Lunges
Biceps Curls
Triceps Extensions
Ball Slams
Mountain Climbers
Heavy Ropes

Doesn’t sound bad, right?  Well, in honor of my birthday we did 50, yep 50, reps of each and only allowed 2.5 minutes to complete each set (i.e., if you got the set done in 2 minutes, you got 30 seconds rest before the next exercise). 

Very fun start to the day. 

Then I went to my weekly sales networking meeting, received some nice birthday wishes and lot of “cannot believe you are 50” well wishing, white lies I am sure!

Then the real fun began.  

I decided not to invite any friends for this trail run as I wanted to have the whole day to myself, to enjoy, stay in the moment and listen to the Lord.  Also I wanted a whole day where I never, ever felt rushed.

So far, so good.

Drive up was wonderful, as I have mentioned in previous blog postings, I really like solo time in the car.  Solo time driving up to one of my favorite places to run is even better!!!!  I chatted with friends, listened to great music and generally took my time and stopped wherever and whenever I wanted to (it really wasn’t much, just the thought of being able to stop anytime without stressing was wonderful).

It rained the whole way up, which was fine by me, it would make the day that much more “epic”.

Got to the parking lot, and in keeping with the theme of the day, really took my time getting ready to run. 

This run starts out with a pretty long climb (maybe 1.5 – 2 miles) with some drops but mostly uphill.  I took this time to warm up, do a Rosary and some prayers for my Mother-in-Law and try to settle down. 

For some reason, it took me a while to “let go” of the day and repetitive thoughts, perhaps an hour or so.  I just went with it as there was not much I could do about it.

It was really strange, I had been looking forward to this day for a while (my first long run since Pinhoti) and 30 minutes into it I actually had thoughts about turning around and calling it a day!

This is one of the downsides of running alone, especially for long distances.  At least for me, there is a point in the beginning where you think a bit too much and start to question being out there, alone, for hours.

I have found that if you just force yourself to keep going, this thought always passes.

And it did.

After about an hour on the trail, I got into a nice rhythm and started to get to a place of peace.  It really is cool running up on the “Approach Trail” to the AT, especially on a late Wednesday morning.  It was completely empty for the whole way up to the top of Springer Mountain (the Southern Terminus of the AT).

I mean really empty. 

I actually did not see another human being for just over 3 hours of running/fast hiking.  This may not seem like a long time but it felt that way to me.

I made it to the top in about 2 hours, I was really taking my time, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the day.  There was a huge fire up there recently and there were very scary looking sections that were dark and all burnt out. 

There were other strange sections that were completely burnt on one side of the trail and completely untouched on the other side.

Bonus I never thought of of having trails in nature.  They provide an excellent fire break!

When I got to the top I planned on having lunch and relaxing for a while but it was cold and rainy up there so I just had a quick bite and headed back down. 

One cool thing I noticed (BTW, I have been up there many times and never seen this before – usually in too much of a rush) at the top. There was a metal drawer carved out of the rock, with a door on it.

Inside the drawer was a paper note book and a pen. 

Inside the note book were notes from people starting, or finishing, a hike of the whole AT!  Very cool notes and sentiments in this book, wish it was a warm sunny day, I would have sat and read through a lot of it.

Anyway, took my time back down (being careful as I was 2 hours from my car and alone).

I got to a point where I could cut over to “Hike Inn” – an Inn that you, well, can only hike into.  It is about 1 mile of downhill running to get there and they have a really cool room in the back for “through Hikers” that has drinks and usually some good treats. Donation only!

When I got there I finally saw another human and, trend of the day continues, sat and talked to him for a while.

It is always interesting to talk to hikers when you are running up there cause they ask where you have been and when you tell them “to the top of Springer and back” they freak out.

Probably because the average hike time to the top is 6 hours, each way!  I was ¾ of the way back and I was 3 hours in.

I am not fast, by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to regular hikers, I am a speed demon!

Chowed down and then hit the final 5 miles (mostly downhill) back to my car.  I was feeling really good at this point and did this stretch in about an hour, again, doesn’t seem fast at all (12 minute miles) but felt darn fast for me.

Especially now that I am ½ a century old!

Now the absolute best part of training alone would occur. 

Getting back to my car and not being rushed or on anyone else’s agenda.

I got changed out of my cold wet clothes.  This has always been a fantastic moment for me, but it is even more powerful now that I have gotten involved and raised $ for a homeless shelter. 

I count my blessings every time I change out of my wet clothes, into dry ones, and get in my warm car.  I also say a prayer for all the homeless people in the world, especially those that live in harsh climates. 

Immediately after a long, tough run (this one ended up being 17 miles and 4 hours and 15 minutes, including all the stops) I feel so peaceful, content and relaxed.  I really hate when I have to rush, get dressed and move onto the next agenda item in my day.

Not this day!

Got the chair out of my car, cracked a nice cold beer I had waiting for me and, then...

The Sun came out! For the first time of the whole day.

I got to relax and watch the most amazing sunset, I really didn’t want that moment to end.

God was showing off and gave me a wonderful birthday present.

Finally I realized I should get going cause it was a school night and I wanted to spend some of my birthday with my family.

Had a really nice drive home, got a free coffee at Starbucks (bonus surprise!) and picked up a Pizza and ice cream to celebrate with the family!

When I got home the kids had made me some really cute cards and gave me coffee cups (boy, they know their dad) they had made a while back.  I loved the cards and could not believe they had kept the cups secret for months!

What a blessed day.  Was not planned, had other plans for my birthday but God had his own plan and I went with it. 

Always a good idea.