Running (Away) as Fast as He Can

I woke up two Saturdays ago to a 4:30 alarm. Chandler had to be on the bus at 5AM for a cross country meet and asked the night before if I’d make him breakfast-to-go so he could sleep until 4:45. I made him a fried egg sandwich (making sure to poke the yolk and fry it hard so it wouldn’t make a mess) and a protein shake and drove him to the bus. I made some much-needed coffee, putzed around a bit, walked the dog, ate breakfast and Dave and I were out the door by 6:30 (okay, we always run late – 6:45). We drove through downtown Los Angeles just as the sun was rising. Watching the sun peek over the mountains and reflect on the high rises was breathtaking. I would have taken a picture, but I was driving. Plus my windows were filthy. It probably wouldn’t have turned out anyway.

We got to the meet, found our team in the maze of pop-ups, and wished Chandler luck just before he was called to line up for his race. He was running the JV National race with 16 schools and 111 runners competing. This was JV so I was hoping for a strong finish from Chandler, but it was an elite race, so I wasn’t sure how he’d do.Dave and I and my friend Debby (a mother of one of the other runners) found what we hoped was a good vantage point to watch the beginning of the race.

If you’ve never seen a cross country race they are both fun and difficult to watch. It’s a three mile course so you can never really see all -or sometimes even much- of the race and have to criss-cross and run ahead of the runners to different parts of the course. How much of the race you see depends on the sight lines of the course and how much you’re willing to run around. We saw the race start and then headed over to the one-mile mark. When the runners passed us they were still all close together and Chandler was in the middle of the pack.

Mt. Sac JV National Race

This is one of the more difficult courses to see a lot of the race, especially if you want to see the finish because it’s such a large event and it’s difficult to navigate all the people. Debby and I decided to head right to the finish line so we wouldn’t miss the boys crossing. Dave decided to head down a little before the finish because they come out of a narrow chute and when you stand at the finish line that is literally all you can see.

As we were nearing the 15 minute mark we knew the boys would start crossing in the next minute or so and heard an announcement.

“Did he just say a runner from Agoura is in front?” Debby asked me.

It did sound like he said that, but it couldn’t be. Our school is a Division III school and we were running in a Division I & II race against bigger and better schools. The odds of one of our boys winning was slim.

“It sounded like it, but he must have said Great Oak,” I said. They’re the school that’s ranked #1 in California.

And then I heard my friend Marisa, who was standing across from us at the other side of the finish line yell, “Chandler, Chandler!”

And I screamed, “Whooooooooooo!” as I saw my son come up the chute and cross the finish line first.

I was in shock. These are schools we never run against, so I really didn’t know how Chandler would finish. Plus, he started off the season injured and this was his first race where he was back to feeling 100%. I know that he’s been disappointed this season not being able to run varsity, but there was no room for disappointment when he crossed that finish line with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. As proud as I was of him (and trust me I was), I was even happier for him.

Mt. Sac finish line

I always love to see Chandler race, but I’m especially trying to hold onto these proud moments this year. If I could, I’d squeeze them tightly in my hands and never let go. He is so anxious for college, it seems he already has one foot out the door. A year from now Chandler will be far away, running in college at races that I won’t be able to watch.

I knew this time would come faster than I wanted it to, but not nearly as fast as it has.

Even faster, than my fast, fast son.

Hello Old Friend

I have a good friend I’ll call Joe who lives on the East Coast. I met him and his friend, who I’ll call Jack, in Ireland in the summer of 1986 while backpacking through Europe with my friend Simmah. Since he lives almost 3,000 miles away from me we’ve never seen each other much.

Odds were against us remaining friends. Not only because of the distance, but because the following summer I ended up falling madly in love with Jack. And for a very short while he loved me back. Then he broke my heart. But that’s another story.

Joe and I don’t talk on the phone very often. I’m not the best about keeping in touch and he’s even worse. (Way worse.) But I still count him as one of my dearest friends. You know those people that you don’t talk to for a couple of years and then you visit them or call them and –BOOM!– you pick up right where you left off – no awkwardness or resentment about phone calls not made, emails not sent? That’s how it is with my friend Joe.

He’s not on Facebook, so we can’t keep in touch that way and somehow over the last three or maybe even four years we’d completely lost touch. It doesn’t seem possible that we let it go so long without talking, but sometimes the minutiae of daily life gets in the way of things that are precious.

About a month ago I found an old picture of us – Joe, Jack, my friend May and me- taken in 1989 during a weekend spent at a beach house in New Jersey. (I had gotten over my broken heart and had started a cautious friendship with Jack again.) I snapped a photo of the picture with my phone and texted it to Jack and Joe. Remember these people? I asked.

The three of us started texting a bit and Joe told me he was going out to Oregon in July. Looking at colleges? I asked. Our boys are the same age. He told me yes and that also his son was running a race. I had no idea that his son was a runner.

What does he run? Chandler’s a runner too. He does XC, 800M, 1600M.

Joe texts back: XC, 800M, 1600M.

What are the odds?

What are his PR’s? I text. (That’s Personal Record for those of you outside the running world.) Chandler’s are 1:58 for 800M & 4:32 for 1600M.

But Joe is slow with the texting. And I don’t mean slow like me where my fat, old thumbs take a minute to type a ten word text. I mean slow as in he must be doing something else because sometimes it takes 10-20 minutes for him to reply. So I lose patience and Google his son.

Oh. My. God. His son is fast!

Nevermind just Googled him. Shit he’s fast. That’s awesome! Chandler only has to speed up his 1600 by 25 seconds to beat him!

His son’s 800M time is 1:52 and his 1600M is 4:07. And he’s high school state champion for the one mile. I watched the race where his son ran a 4:07 online. I show Chandler and Dave and we are all in awe of his speed. I’m so happy for my friend Joe.

We talked on the phone for an hour the next night. We couldn’t get over the coincidence that our sons ran the same races. Middle distance races – the races most runners hate. We texted during his son’s Oregon race and spoke again the week after.

We talked about running and college, reminisced about old times, and scolded ourselves for losing touch for so long.

“Talking to you makes me realize how much I miss you,” I told him.

He has always been one of my favorite people. He can make me laugh like few others and he’s truly just a good, good person.

We tell each other “I love you” when we hang up the phone. But not in the way that would make either of our spouses jealous. The way you say I love you to a cousin. Or a sibling. Or a true long-lost friend.

I’ll kick his ass if we lose touch again.



Proud Mamas and Amazing Kids

Last week I saw my son cross the finish line first in his cross country meet at the league finals. The second place runner was nine seconds behind him. It was beautiful.

XC runner
Yes, they did run up that hill before they ran down it!     (Photo credit Debby Pattiz)

More importantly than being proud of him, I was happy for him. I knew how much it meant to him to do well and how hard he’s been working. He’s struggled a bit this season. There are seven runners who make the varsity team. He has had to fight for that 7th spot all season long. During the season the coaches would announce the team line-ups at the beginning of each week. Most races Chandler made varsity, but some races he made JV. For the league finals he made JV. At first I think he was a bit disappointed, but then he realized that if he ran JV he had a shot at winning and he became excited.

It was a hard race. He knows the course well, but there are a lot of elevation changes. (For those of you unfamiliar with cross country -or XC-, all courses are different, but they are all three miles in length.)

And it was hot – about 85 degrees. He doesn’t usually run well in the heat. (Of course who does? There were actually trash cans at the end of the race for kids to throw up in and I hear the heat from this race caused a huge puke-a-torium.)

The heat worried me and I think it worried him, so when he overcame it and not only won the race, but more importantly improved his time on the course by 57 seconds, I think he was pretty pleased. A PR (personal record) and a win made for one happy boy and one proud mom.

And then I saw something that made my heart swell up just as much (if not more) for a boy I didn’t even know.

In that same JV race, about twenty yards from the finish line, a boy from another team collapsed. He must have pushed himself too hard in the heat. One of his teammates was just a few steps behind him and instead of running past him and finishing his race with a good time, he stopped and pulled his teammate up. He put his shoulder under his friend’s arm and supported him so they could stumble towards the finish line together. After about ten or twelve steps the boy fell again and his friend tried to pull him up a second time, but the fallen boy wouldn’t let him. “Just go,” he said, waving his friend off. “Just go.” His friend reluctantly ran to the finish. He probably lost more than 30 seconds of his time. A few seconds later the boy who fell was able to get up and cross the finish line on his own. He too, was amazing. He was no quitter.

I don’t know what their coach had to say to the boy who stopped to help his friend. Perhaps he was angry that he sacrificed points for the team. But I hope instead he commended him for his kindness. For the goodness in his soul.

Watching that one boy help his teammate was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. It brought tears to my eyes as I watched it and it brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it. I hope that boy’s mother and father were there to see how selflessly their son acted.

I stayed after Chandler’s race to cheer on his teammates in the other races. And also I wanted to see Sarah Baxter run her last league race. Sarah Baxter is the #1 high school girls’ cross country runner in the nation. She is a running sensation who has never lost a high school race and smashes records at every course she runs. She’ll get a free ride to the college of her dreams and she will most likely make the Summer Olympic team in 2020 if not 2016.

Sarah’s too fast – I couldn’t get a clean shot of her!

Watching her run is a true joy – she looks like a gazelle. She makes running look effortless. (And I can attest that it is not!) When she runs by everyone from every school cheers. She finished her race 85 seconds ahead of the 2nd place runner. Incredible! And then instead of cooling off (or puking in a trash can) she stood at the finish line to cheer on her teammates. She may be a superstar, but she is no diva.

All eyes are on Sarah Baxter’s time (She crossed at 16:25)

Watching your child -and other children- succeed truly is one of the greatest joys in life. It’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

I feel so lucky and so blessed that I got to witness my son run faster, a girl who is the best in the nation run the fastest, and a boy whose name I’ll probably never know slow down to help a friend.

What has you child -or any child- done lately that made you feel lucky? Made you feel blessed? Made you feel proud?

This is Not a Lay Low Weekend

Chandler likes what he calls lay low weekends. Lay low weekends are do-nothing weekends. He’ll do his homework. Maybe play some video games. Revel in the luxury of boredom. This is not a lay low weekend. This is a sports weekend. Chandler had a Cross Country meet on Friday. He kicked butt and got a PR. (15:51 in case you’re curious. That’s right my son ran 3 miles in under 16 minutes. Sorry. Braggy mommy moment over.) After the meet he got off the team bus and met some friends at the high school football game and got home around 10:00. Marley skipped cheering her brother on at the XC meet and went to a friend’s house for the day. She and her friend went to the football game as well. Of course everyone knows that football games are more about socializing than sports. Especially for 8th grade girls. They’ve got to check out the social rituals of high schoolers to help lessen the culture shock they’ll be experiencing in one short year. Dave and I enjoyed an impromptu dinner at a cute Mexican place called El Rey a few miles from the meet in Ventura. I’m still eating clean and eating four meals a day. In all the excitement of the day I forgot to eat my third meal. Forgetting to eat is something that never happens to me. The food was amazing. And not just because I was so hungry. (As a bonus, the owner/manager was also super hot quite handsome.) We’ll be back for sure. Saturday morning everyone got up at 6:00. Chandler had a 15 mile run at 7:00 and Marley had to be on the soccer field at 7:30. After we got home we barely had time to catch our breath before Dave and Chandler ran out the door to volunteer at a triathlon in Malibu. (I told you it was a sports weekend.) Marley got a haircut. Then we ran errands. As I type this I’m daydreaming about the beer I’ll be enjoying tonight with the burgers I’ll be grilling.  Tomorrow the kids have nothing going on but I have to go on a stupid sucktacular 2.5 mile run with the run club that I accidentally joined. I’m tempted to blow it off, but I signed up to bring pretzels and water. But afterwards I’m going to do a whole lot of nothing. I’m going to lay low.

It’s Hot

On Saturday morning I was wasting time on the Internet pinning things to my Pinterest page. Inspiring sayings that look like this:

Wouldn’t you like a life like this?

Yummy food I really and truly do hope to make one day that looks like this:

Tuna and chickpea salad
Tuna and chickpea salad – sadly I’m the only person in the Ross household that would eat this!

I was also pinning pretty clothes I’d like to own. (BTW – I’d also like the life that goes with clothes like these!)

You can totally see me wearing this right? (No? Sigh…)

and this…

Fall fashion with leopard shoes
Adorable! Love those shoes.

and this…

Beautiful fall fashion for office
Wouldn’t I look nice wearing this to my publisher’s office in NYC? (You know, if I had a publisher?)

and this…

gray and teal fall fashion

not to mention these seriously cute brown boots…

My life will not be complete until I own these boots! (Click the picture if you want to find out how to buy them. They’re only $43.00!)

and finally this…

greay and peach fall fashion
I cannot tell you how cute I’d look in this!

Then I left the house to drop Chandler off at the bus for his cross country meet and take Marley to her soccer game. This is what the the car thermometer said:

102 degrees in September in Los Angeles
Hot hot hot

Yes, mid-September is still summer, people, and it’s usually Los Angeles’ hottest month. My poor kids. It’s way too hot to run 3 miles or to play soccer for an hour.

How to pack an ice chest for hot soccer games
Ready to go with cool towels, Gatorade and plenty of water.

And even more importantly, poor me. How am I supposed to obsess over warm and cozy fall outfits that I cannot afford and have no place to wear in weather like this?

It’s just not right.

I’m curious… are you pinning on Pinterest? What do you like to pin? Follow my Pinterest page here. (I promise to follow you back!)