This, that, and the other

Here's a quick update for June, since summer seems to be flying by at record speed. Don't you ever wish you could stop time and just enjoy the moment? This month seems to have been the exact opposite.

Tiki party pics from the first weekend in June, very early in the evening. We had 50 people and I am so thankful that after less than 3 years in Kansas City that we have met all of these amazing people who wanted to come and hang out with us. I'm going to pretend the promise of free beer had nothing to do with it.

Note Brett with the ukelele sitting on the grill. He was awesome. What you can't see is that the keg was already gone at this point. I really didn't have the chance to drink much since I was busy talking with people, giving tours, and making sure everyone had all the food and drink they needed.

Ok, maybe I had one (or two or three) margaritas.

The next weekend was Andy's funeral. Then this week we had tickets to Mumford & Sons in KC. I can't really describe it other than it was the best show I've ever been too. Their music breaks my heart in the best possible ways and they're even better live than recorded.

These pictures were taken with my cell phone and my cell phone camera is crappy. So we were REALLY close. I even met 3 of the 4 afterwards and had my picture taken with Ben and Ted. They were absolute sweethearts with dead sexy accents. Mmmm...

Next up, Italia. We leave on Thursday and will be gone until July. See what I mean about June disappearing? I'm taking running clothes and my goggles. I'm hoping to try out some open water swimming in the crystal-blue Mediterranean waters. I'm also hoping that we can rent bicycles at least one day and do some riding. Even if its on beach cruisers, it will be better than nothing. Barefoot run along the coast? It's on my list.

Last, I have my sight on the Redman 70.3 in September. I need to sign up before July, but that will be my next race. As soon as I get back from Italy, it will be back to real training. After the 5 mile race and my narrow 2nd place, I'm looking forward to a structured plan again.



I took my running shoes with me to WI and was planning on getting a few runs in, more for sanity's sake than anything else. The day after Andy's funeral I went out for a short 4 mile run on the cross country trail around the high school. It was the perfect run to reminisce and reflect. It started raining as soon as I stepped out of my car and was pouring about a mile into my run. There is something therapeutic about running in a summer downpour.

For a little background, I grew up on a dairy farm in central WI, the heart of America's Dairyland. For the uninformed, June is National Dairy Month and my hometown of Westfield celebrates with a parade and street dance. Seriously. Ice cream, string cheese, and chocolate milk galore. On Saturday, my sister-in-law suggested I run in the Dairylicious Day fun run. That was unexpected, a race in my hometown! There was a 1/4 mile kids run, a 2 mi and a 5 mi option. After watching my 5-year old niece run in the kids run, I lined up with the other grown-ups and ran the 5 mile race. My goal was a sub-8 pace, maybe 7:50 or 7:45 if I was feeling good.

I ran the first three miles with my friend James, who recently has gotten back into running. His wife had other things going on, so he ran the race pushing his little boy in a stroller. We chatted for the most part, then at mile 3, I tried to speed up to catch the women's leader. She was within sight the whole race. I reeled her in a little bit but then hit a long hill. At mile 4 I realized I went out way too fast and there was going to be no chase, just me trying to hold on. Eh, I wasn't really motivated, either. It had been an emotionally draining week and it was an unexpected 5 mile race in my hometown. The women's winner finished in 36:46 and I crossed the line at 37:05 with James (ans Tyson) not too far behind. I may have been 6th or 7th overall? Who knows, there were no timing chips or even a race clock.

This was a little race and other than the kids' run, no finisher medals even. But I did get a recycled gold track medal for winning my age group, and James did the same, pushing a stroller no less. For some reason I found that funny. They ran out of most size t-shirts, so I ended up with a youth M, which surprisingly fits well. Hmm, Wisconsin sizes maybe? The shirt has a giant cow (who happens to look drunk) on the front with "Dairylicious Day" across the front. Well worth the $15 registration.

The only down side: after 5 miles at an average pace of 7:25, I have no excuses during mile intervals with KM. Looks like my speed work just got faster. Not a bad thing, but definitely unexpected.


This thing called Life

I knew my next blog post was not going to be training related. This weekend John and I hosted a tiki party as a house warming/open house/summer kick-off. I was planning on posting pictures and regaling tales of beer, sun, music, food, and of course, friends. All of those things happened, but this posted is dedicated to something else.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I had a slight headache from a concert the previous evening but still excited about the party. It was about 8 am and John said he heard my phone beep a few hours earlier. When I checked my phone, a text message read "Andy Polk died last night. No details. Thought you should know."

I hoped and prayed it was a mistake, but a few phone calls home confirmed Andy died in a farming accident. He was 36. He left behind a wife and 1 year old daughter. I sat on my front step and cried.

Saturday was a hard day for me. I momentarily thought about cancelling the party but decided I wanted to be around friends that evening. I was so thankful our friend James was helping with the food and was at our house most of the day. I think I did well at the party. I was so busy with prep, greeting guests, talking with friends, and giving tours of the house I didn't have much time to be sad. Only later in the evening did I need to leave for a few minutes to gain my composure.

Andy was my teacher, coach, mentor, and friend. I was in his first classes teaching physics and calculus when I was in high school, 12 years ago. He was my throwing coach in track. My senior year of HS, he met me three days a week at 6 am and helped me prepare for club volleyball tryouts in Madison. I made the team. He encouraged me to pursue a degree in math and science. He wrote a letter of recommendation to every college I applied to and was a personal reference through grad school.

After HS, we played sand volleyball for years and kept in touch. After high school, he became a friend. Whenever I was home, I would stop by or we'd get together for a beer. John met him and we spent time at Andy's house on at least a half-dozen occasions. He was more excited than my parents when I told him I received a fellowship for grad school. I was at his house the night after my very first triathlon in 2006. I remember he thought it was awesome but he told me if I started to look like the high school Phys. Ed. teacher, he'd have to kick my ass.

Looking back, it is sad to say, but since I graduated high school, I have spent more time talking with Andy than with my older brother. We invited Andy and his wife to our wedding and we only invited 100 people. We were invited to Andy's wedding and only two of his former students were invited. He was... I don't even have the words. I can't convey the impact he had on me.

As a teacher, he has touched hundreds of lives directly. His memorial page on Facebook had over 900 members as of today. After reading all of the tributes and seeing how much other people are also hurting, I started to wonder. Was I just another student? Did I mean anything to him? I have to believe I did. I have to. I have to believe that I meant something to him, especially since he was so important to me.

The last time I talked to him was Thanksgiving, over the phone. He was with family, we only had a few days in Westfield. "We'll catch up another time." When I hit the 'contacts' button on my phone, his name is the second on the list. What am I supposed to do? Delete it? I just can't.

I have old pictures in boxes that I'm not ready to look at yet. A friend told me I should get out my yearbooks and read what he wrote. I have to save that for when I have time just to sit. I've never lost someone that I have known for that long or been that close to. I can't imagine what his wife is going through.

Tomorrow night I'm heading back to WI and will be with family and old friends for the weekend. Hug your friends today. Because I'm ashamed to say I don't remember the last time I hugged mine.