“Hey, stranger! How was Germany?”
Pat was already standing inside the pool lobby, waiting for Pool Guy to show up and turn on the lights at 5:45AM so that we could get our swim on. I hadn’t been at the pool since the 2nd of October, about three weeks earlier. (That’s my longest no-swimming streak in about four years, by the way.) Between traveling and recovering from the Bay State Marathon, last Friday (the 25th) was my first chance to get back in the water.
“I dunno. We never made it past London.”
A lot has happened in the last five weeks.
Following the JDRF ride, I moved on to preparing for a 10-day European vacation with Lisa. There were lots of (mostly pleasant) details to attend to: figuring out what we might do and see in London, Brussels, and Berlin; attempting to cram in as many German lessons as possible; buying travel insurance; packing; getting as much done at work and around the house as possible; etc.
Meanwhile, I was building up to a peak in my marathon training. Fourteen miles one Sunday, sixteen the next, an easy week, and then eighteen miles three weeks out from the race. The morning of my birthday (the 4th) I ran 20 miles, finishing my long run about ten hours before our flight to London (via Iceland) took off. I was looking forward to some easy running somewhere in London and doing a tempo run in Berlin’s Tiergarten. My foot was giving me fits the first couple days in London, no doubt due to the accelerated marathon training plan. Ironically, it felt much better after I almost twisted my ankle in Cambridge. By Tuesday morning, four days into the trip, I really needed a run but still wasn’t 100% confident that running was a good idea.
Monday night had been a flurry of activity. We arrived home from Greenwich to find an urgent message from my mom on Facebook that we should call her. She and Miles, her husband of twelve years, were midway through a cycling trip in Austria, Italy, and Slovenia when Lisa and I landed in London. Through the modern miracle of Skype, we called Austria from my mobile phone. It’s an understatement to say I was shocked to learn that Miles had a heart attack and died earlier that day (the 7th). A month shy of his 63rd birthday, he was still fitter than most people half his age. When we rode together in the summer of 2012, he matched the fast tempo I threw down as we raced the dozen miles back to town so we could pick up the car after Mom had a ride-ending flat.
A few hours of Skyping later, we had canceled our Berlin hotel and changed our flights home. The earliest flight we could get was late Wednesday afternoon, so the next morning—instead of taking the Eurostar train to Brussels—we slept in, saw a couple of exhibits at the V&A, and toured Westminster Abbey. It’s a strange feeling to do things one enjoys yet also to want to be somewhere else at the same time. We enjoyed our day, but my heart was hurting for my mom, who was also trying to get home.
It had been a long time since we bought tickets and then immediately checked in for a flight, but that’s what we did on Thursday. We were home for about 36 hours . . . just long enough to do some laundry, repack, get a week’s worth of mail from the post office, and drop off more food at the kittysitter’s. The next day we were in Casper. We did a bunch of odds-and-ends for Mom over the next week, but really the most important thing we did (I think) was just to be there.
The memorial service was Thursday, the 17th, and it was a rather tough day. Miles had made a lot of friends after almost 40 years in Wyoming, and everyone had heart-warming anecdotes to tell. Mom made a really wonderful slideshow with pictures from throughout Miles’ life. Thinking about where he had traveled, what he had seen and done, and the people he was fortunate enough to have been with, it really made me realize that Miles lived the kind of life that inspires others to get out and do stuff, too. I hope that someday I’m lucky enough for others to say the same about me; Miles set the bar high in this regard.
Three days later, I ran my marathon. (I’ll write more about that soon.) The two weeks since have been an attempt by me to transition back into work, home, and athletic endeavors. Despite not getting the full vacation experience, we were away from home and work longer than expected. I’m using my down time to catch up on things I’ve been wanting or needing to do for a while: practicing my Spanish, reading the newspaper, watching “Breaking Bad,” declutterring my life, scanning slides, and (yes) even writing dispatches here.
It’s good to be back.