“There are places I remember all my life/Though some have changed/Some forever, not for better/Some have gone and some remain/All these places have their moments/With lovers and friends I still can recall/Some are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all…”

The Class of 1998 at TVHS chose this song as our graduation song, and it always reminds me of Bridget, our class president, who was responsible for bringing The Beatles so much into my world at the time. Shortly after our vote and the song was announced, I went after school one afternoon in spring that year to the local Warehouse music store and purchased my first compilation of Beatles music. I still have that red album and use it often in the car when my Katie and Eric and I are driving around town.

Even now, listening to “In My Life” as I write the introduction to this blog post, my throat grows lumpy. We had just thrown our mortarboards up to the sky standing and cheering on the TVHS field, the world forever open to us…but only for so long. In the seventeen years since I left campus that first time—not yet knowing I would be back to teach there for five years—I have only come to realize more how life is reinvention and cycle, how bound up we all are in each other’s narratives, how the most important stories are the ones we choose to tell again and again, like the great Norse gods at the hall. Life is the epic interpretation of a world that would otherwise be soundless and colorless (music and color not existing in-the-world, strictly speaking, but as a psychological state) were it not for our brains parsing all of the oscillations and wavelengths that come at us into an order and coherency—that is the true miracle. The very music and vibrancy of our lives depend upon our presence in the moment, our commitment to our interpretative faculty.

Every time I set foot on TVHS, the old is new to me. I turn over in my mind all the layers of time and story that exist there, for me. My friends, my own students, my teachers, my colleagues…all the connections in time both big and small. Thousands of lives criss-crossing through space and time. TVHS will always feel like a piece of home to me.

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(Early this morning, 7 AM, an hour before the event: TVHS will always be so lovely to my sight)

With three races planned for this month, today’s 5K was the first of the post-winter season. Put on by the  TVEA (union) and organized by the beautiful Dawn Sibby (an alum herself who had just returned to teach there when I was in 10th or 11th grade), this 5K was open to the community and celebrated fitness. On the way over there in the car, Bill and I wondered how marked and race-like this event would be, as one never knows, and we weren’t certain who was responsible for the course set-up. Well, it was impeccable. Both Dawn and her husband Ed (also one of my teachers once) are runners (Ed is doing the LA Marathon next weekend), and they know how to make a good course with ample markings and true to distance. My Garmin clocked 3.10 EXACTLY. This was a far more put together race in many ways than either of the races I’ve done in the local wineries. ROTC students helped to guide, and those students did their job with alertness and a sense of responsibility. As the course leader, I often did not know in advance where precisely I would be going; every time I needed it, a student volunteer was right on the ball, or there was a well-placed arrow. Amazing job, you guys!

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(Listening to instructions from Dawn before the race lined up)

Coach-husband Bill and I talked about strategy for this race. We both agreed (we are so often on the same wavelength about everything, including training and race plans) that I needed to look at this run as an entry into race season, a way to get my head back into game/race mode after a season of training. I was not to allow it to “take the edge off” my adrenaline (more on that in a minute), but rather to allow it to hone the adrenaline and practice getting into and out of “race mind.” I often practice interpreting my adrenaline as excitement, versus nerves; Deena Kastor does the same thing, and recently discussed it in this article. I agree wholeheartedly with her that one of the keys to racing well is to know how to interpret energy into positive energy. I have a tendency to feel nerves, and I actually train to feel the nerves as other forms of emotion, just as I train very consciously to let myself feel pain but not the suffering. The physical training all year is incredibly important, and I do that as a given; what many people may not know is how much mental training this racing gig requires, as well. I’ve come to believe that, for an athlete who has met all of her training obligations and made sure her body is ready, the most important factor on race day is her state of mind and what she’s done mentally to prepare for it.

I lost sight of that a bit in December, when I went into the Holiday Half with a bit of what I call a “floppy mind.” I wrote that race up at the time, and it is in my archives. There were significant physical factors, too, that contributed to that race not being my best; however, what bothered me about that race was the feeling beforehand that I wasn’t “getting my mind around it” in the proper way. I guess the best I can say is that neither my body nor mind was in alignment for that race, and that happens; combined, though, with what felt like a difficult winter training schedule (lots of pitch dark, cold, 4:30 AM runs to lay base at tempos that at times felt like I was going backwards in my training), I have been worried not only that my body would come back online for racing but also that my mind would be where it needs to be.

So for this race, at my old stomping grounds, I decided to take my body’s readiness on trust in the process….and to focus this week on getting my mind into the right place. This week I had only one session of speedwork (in addition to taper week types of mileage), and Bill designed it to help my mind. After some 100s, I had to see what I could do on a quarter (400 m). He wanted 80 seconds; I gave us 77.4 seconds. I felt the bear on the last 100 of that quarter mile, not something I feel even in my most stressed anaerobic states most of the time. Before I can start to conquer the bear, I have to feel him. After racing season is over, I have some new goals. The bear and I are going to have smackdowns on the track. But, back to this race…

I knew that today I would center my running in my heart and head, and just let my body do its own work. TVHS is so significant and special a place to me. I spent time all this week remembering specific people in specific places on that campus. I knew that, whatever the course, I would have memories along it. I remembered standing with the seniors of ’98 on the field during our special breakfast, arms linked and smiling, a big line of us. Mrs. Cutler kissing a pig on the field. Football nights and confetti in our pockets. Watching my brother graduate. The senior float during Homecoming. Trying to get up that XC hill during 9th grade P.E. with Mrs. Martin. Steve and I playing tennis. The very place where I dropped my binder and was worried about being late for class. A million other memories with hundreds of other people. I felt deeply that this would be a sentimental and symbolic race for me, and it was. That energy was so overwhelmingly positive that I found myself excited for this race without even trying not to have nerves.

I wanted to run with all the conviction in my body, mind, and heart to lay down a new layer of meaning and narrative on an old place. When I was a student there, and a teacher, I was known for academics—not athletics, not in the least. Here was a chance to merge a new phase of my life with the older phases, to try hard at something in a place where it has always meant the world to me to try hard to do, and be, my best. I’ve experienced failure there, and triumph, tears and laughter, uncertainty and confidence, love, anger, self-discovery, the making of best friendships, everything. It was a place—and with my students—that I found purpose and solace after my miscarriage. Many of the most important mentors of my life originated there. I’ve watched a generation of colleagues be my age now, and then grow and evolve into their current ages and states of being. Twenty years is a long time to know people. I think of the first time I met Beth, or Donna, or Kathy… And in the second phase: of meeting friends like Sandy. I could see the shadows of friends and my former selves all over the campus, and it really felt like past-present-future time were all happening at once, in a rightness together. Difficult to explain…

Last night I thought about the symbolism of it all, and then I spent time listening to Foo Fighters and just immersing myself in their music. I watched some interviews with Dave Grohl, checked when the Sonic Highways documentary would be available on Amazon. Foo Fighters are one of my go-to pre-race bands. They get me in the right mood.
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(1st place in the race, and Councilman Chuck Washington was there to give out medals)

So how it turned out: I was the first person in, male or female. Yeah, I won the thing…and that was cool! Now, had the track team been there? Or GOHS’ track team? Well, I would have eaten it in the wake of the Wolfpack, which is one of the best teams in the NATION. Thankfully, most the top of the track teams were at meets today, so that helped. Any high school track member who has trained should be able to do that course in about 18:00. I clocked in at 20:06. Hey, though, I will take it. We did that killer XC hill on our campus—freakin’ TWICE, man. I had a 6:29 per mile pace despite that hill, and my Garmin, which gives elevation and pace data throughout the run showed on our debriefing tonight that most of the race (other than my two hill bouts) was at a 6:00/mile or better, with a significant portion nicely under 6:00. The hill—steep like a beast and filled with ruts and hairpin turns on the downslide—was so killer that at times the Garmin showed my pace slipping way down. But you know what? When I was in 9th grade, I could barely run the darn thing…so, forward progress!  I am far fitter now than I ever was in high school. Also: based on this level of fitness on this challenging course, I am looking now more hopefully than ever at a substantial Carlsbad 5000 course record in a few weeks. I think I could have a big drop from last year. We’ll see. I’m stoked to try, I know that much! This was hills…Carlsbad is flaaaaaaaaaaaaaat, so flat, and I have my own personal course record to beat. I can run a dozen different courses and get different times; the meaningful PRs are those done on a repeat course, in my opinion. How else can we measure the growth? Not by comparing one course to a different course…too many variables.

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(With Mr. Brown, my AP Euro teacher)

So what I loved? Running into teachers before the race! Mr. Brown, Mr. Kingsberg…some of these teachers had transferred to other sites by the time I got back from college and had my own classroom, so they are still more like ” former teachers” to me than colleagues, you know what I mean? And some I hadn’t seen in years! Too exciting!

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Before the race, in mama mode. I loved that today, and always. There is a balance between self-fulfillment and my own personal goals and then being able to live for, and give to, these two precious people.

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On your marks…

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Heading toward the dreaded TVHS hill, the second time…

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First back in the gate on the track for the last bit of the race. The next person in was almost two minutes later. I could feel no one on me, but I still pretended there was (mentally) and tried my best to kick it all the way in. Practice what we want to do on every race, right?

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Finishing the race with one of my 9th grade teachers on the left of the picture, and one of my 12th grade teachers on the right. I am 35-years-old, my friends, so how wild is that? I love being part of this school and this hometown.

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My favorite coach-husband-best friend-teacher-guy

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No matter the race, or what I win or don’t, or the pace, or whatever….I am a mama first. Although my sports have become for me a way to know myself and to fulfill myself and experience life more robustly and vibrantly, I never forget that my husband and children were the motivating factors to get started on this journey. Two and a half years ago, I decided to become healthy for them, and for me. I want to live as long as I can with them. Joy is here, on this Earth, right now. THIS is what we have. I decided that I will fight kicking and clawing to stay here as long as I can, and that when it is my time, my children will know that I had to be ripped away.

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After the 5K, the kiddos go to do field events: dashes, tosses, soccer kicks. Very well done, TVEA! I think Eric has some sprinter genes like Daddy…

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And that Katie will have endurance like Mommy…

I will try to post some more pictures of the kiddos’ field events on Facebook tomorrow, I think, since it is getting late and we lose an hour tonight. Coach has scheduled a 10 miler tomorrow (which is what I was hoping for, actually). But legs, what sore race legs? Ha ha. It might be a sloooow 10 miler, people, if you happen to be out and about in Temecula tomorrow morning! Throw me some Clif Bloks around mile 7 if you see me, okay? I’m gonna need them!

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