Sunrise to sunset

July 11, 2011

There is a light pole at the top of the hill on that one road… that’s where the turnaround is for a 60 minute out and back run. At the light pole at the top of that hill I always stop my watch, turn around and stand there for a moment. Sure my heart rate drops. Sure I am probably violating everyone’s philosophy about stopping and just standing there during the middle of a workout. But I do it every time I run this route.

I run past a new cemetery on this route. Yes…. a new cemetery. Have you ever seen a cemetery being built? Two years ago as I ran along this route I noticed the farm had been bought and construction was beginning. My curiosity flowed. Would it be another new development where there were barely trees or spaces between houses, and the houses looked the same?

No… it would be a cemetery. Two years later it’s beautiful. I am not sure anyone has been buried there yet but for some reason I love to run by it.

At the light pole  at the top of the hill the two white dogs that live on the farm come running and barking like they always do, they seem to have a joyful bark like they want to join me. The farmer was out doing what farmers do and he gave a wave. He’s an older fellow as most farmers seem to be. Up in the early morning tending to his land.

If I have seen the farmland disappearing I can only imagine what he sees and feels. He seems to be a man driven by the tradition of farming, and a passion for his land.

There aren’t many of those around anymore. I hope they don’t vanish.

The sun was rising to my right as I turned around at the light pole at the top of the hill. The light it cast over the farmland and the cemetery and the houses that were all still individual houses….. a pool here a pool there…. was a warm welcoming light. It was hard to imagine, just a few months ago this lands was covered in snow during a relentless winter.

Saturday was a split run. An hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. During the afternoon was a two-hour bike. It was also my first day off all of the antibiotics and pain medications I had been living on for 2+ weeks. While I felt weak I felt good, it was good to be back in my body again. I like so many don’t enjoy the feeling medications afford me. Disclaimer: I did like the feeling of not being in so.much.pain.

When I was recovering from my eating disorder I was offered all sorts of medications. My parents declined for me, I was too screwed up and numb to even make that decision. I was so glad that they did that for me. I need to feel everything, the good and the bad. for me numbing doesn’t solve anything.

That’s when I began to run. And swim, and bike.

That’s ultimately how I healed and recovered. Take yourself on a long bike in the middle of nowhere and you learn how to work things out. You see things you’d never see in a car. You feel things you can’t feel ont he couch of the doctor’s office or in a group therapy setting.

It’s where I found God.

Folks are often surprised when they realize the depth and strength of my spirituality. I am known to drop an F bomb here and there. I am known not to set foot in church. To me though, that’s not where I find my spirituality and faith. For me it’s out in the country, at the light pole at the top of the hill. When I see the magical sunrise over the farmlands. When I see the hawks scream by or the deer trot their way across the field.

That’s where I go to church.

This weekend I asked my athletes to do me one favor on their respective long rides. I asked them to stop. Turn off the heart rate monitor, turn off the power meter. Stand down for a few minutes and just see what you see. I didn’t think anyone would do it. The reports I received though were magic.

“I stood at the lookout point on Canandaigua Lake. I have ridden past that 10 times and never stopped. It was beautiful”

“I stopped on a hill overlooking Naples Valley. It dawned on me that Naples was one of the last standing small towns in this world”

“I stopped near a park where a family was having a picnic. They were playing catch. I promised myself I would be that family some day”.

Incredible things happen to you when you take a moment and stop to enjoy the small stuff. The small stuff is what makes up the big stuff.

My two-hour ride in the afternoon was just as beautiful. I love to destination ride, so I met the boys down at Hemlock Lake where they were taking our dog for a hike. The hikes are generally boy time, so I like to arrive at the end.

I am blessed that we chose to live where we live here in Henrietta. At the end of my street it’s really two roads…. make a right and I can be at Wegmans in 5 minutes, I can be downtown in 15. Make a left and I am right in the country with rolling hills and beautiful lakes and nothing but road to guide me.

Saturday I went left and enjoyed the hills and the trees and more farmland. I enjoyed feeling healthy again. Weak still, but healthy again. Nothing much passes through my mind during these workouts. I am fueled not by pressure to race or perform, I am guided by absolute joy in what I get to do on a daily basis. The numbers …. they come but the experience is what makes it. The journey as we say.

I have definitely changed over the years but I have always been driven by the spiritual side of this sport. It draws me in every single time.

When I arrived Luc was casting into the reservoir with expert ability. There is something about fishing…. sometimes they catch a fish… more often than not they don’t. The serenity of casting a fishing line is almost second to none. I used to wonder what fishermen did out there all day. Now I know they had the same secret as I did on my bike.

They were being present with their world and their spirituality.

My evening run began, knowing I would hit the light pole  at the top of the hill at precisely sunset. Of course I planned it that way. As I ran I enjoyed the sound of my footsteps. Along each road I run I have the choice to run on the pavement or in the shoulder on the soft crushed stone. I tend to alternate but I love the sound off the shoulder. Breathing, running. Dogs barking. Folks out walking. An entire day wrapping up and coming to an end.

At the light pole  at the top of the hill I turned around, just like I did in the morning. This time the sun was on my left. The dogs came out barking. I waved at the farmer who was now standing on his porch, drinking a beer, wiping his forehead. Admiring another day of good old-fashioned work. There was no iPhone in his hand, no ear buds in his ears. Just he, his land, his spirit and his own faith.

On a daily basis it’s my practice to say thank you, to the God I believe in. It’s just something I have done forever. The list of what I am thankful for is too long but it’s really for this life. It has not always been easy but it’s not meant to be. That’s why it’s called life. Saying thank you reminds me to be thankful. For all of it. Every single day.

“See you tomorrow!” The farmer called out as he put his hat back on and walked inside his house. I waved back and began the run home. As I ran the world got quieter as families packed up their outdoor games and picnics and another summer night came to a close.

A four-hour training day under my belt, feeling weak but feeling good. Nothing beats being back in your own body again. Nothing beats having the ability to do all of this. Nothing beats the connection I feel I have with this world.

At the end of the run I hit stop and walked down the driveway. Back into the house where the evening movie had begun. My body was tired but a good tired. Two weeks ago this would have been much too much. At age 20 this is what saved me. through every day in between it’s what has brought me closer to my God, deepened my faith far more than sitting in a church, and allowed me to heal.

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  1. Amen.

  2. really good stuff!

  3. Mary, this was fantastic. I feel the same way, for me my “church” is on the river, on top of a mountain, the hike up the mountain…on a long ride, when I lock eyes with a moose chewing slowly on a clump of grass. Anyway, this was awesome!

  4. Beautifully written.

  5. I’m glad you are feeling better! I like your spirituality. It’s human nature to complicate things. Organized religion is too complicated. The earth is my church. Everything I do is a tribute. Rock on…

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