This race is part of my 2016 quest to do 12 races in honor of people with ALS who have been an inspiration to me. This is Race #7.
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot of the 4-H camp sponsoring the race, I knew this was the PERFECT tribute to our friend Artie. The race bibs were hand drawn on scraps of fabric. If that isn’t a grassroots and community-based effort, I don’t know what is. Freaking adorable too 🙂
The race director, Steve, came right up and welcomed me while DP was getting our bibs. “Is there anything you need?” he asked. Nope, all I needed was permission – what a contrast to the Cape Ann Triple Threat.
DP came back and handed me my bib: #179. “They tried to give me this one, but I told them they must have made a mistake,” he said, as he began pinning on #178. “I assume you asked for it.”
“Ummmm, no.” I stared at him. “Really?? Maybe they read my blog…” (or saw the gazillion Team Drea photos online). Well, that’s cool. It can’t be a coincidence though.
Just then Steve called out to everyone milling around. “If you’re ready to go, mosey on down to the road. I’ll give a few instructions and we’ll get started.” (Yes, he really said mosey. Maine may be a little more southern than it realizes.)
Gesturing to the long porta-potty line, he said, “Don’t worry, we won’t start without you!”
DP and I grinned at each other. As we moseyed, he said it reminded him of the one time he flew out of the little (now closed) municipal airport in Hickory, NC when the pilot himself gave the safety speech before everyone boarded the plane toting their own luggage.
Once we reassembled at the start line, Steve reminded us that the roads were open, to run against traffic, and that there were porta-potties around Miles 8 and 10. “Or,” he said smiling, “this is rural Maine, so if you really need to go, I’m sure you can find some woods.”
He was also kind enough to introduce me. And with that, he rang the 4-H camp’s bell and off we went.
DP wasn’t planning to do this race. He’d let me sign him up in June, worked out a training plan, but then a lot of things collided and he was unable to train. No biggie.
But the week of the race, we agreed he could probably pull it off. He runs 3-5 miles 3x a week anyway, at a higher pace than I trike, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
And for awhile, it wasn’t. We leapfrogged through the first 6 miles (marked with lobster buoys) – I coasted down the hills gaining momentum for the inclines; he caught me as I cranked slowly up the hills at my snail pace. We’d driven the course beforehand, so I knew there were at least a couple of hills where I’d need a push.
By Mile 7 though, DP’s non-training and the constant rollers caught up with him. He had shooting pains down his back, through his legs, all the way to his feet. But since the course was a loop, he didn’t have much choice but to walk the rest.
He said I could go on, but nah. I don’t really care about PRs anymore and I’d much rather be with him. Besides, if roles were reversed, he’d never leave me.
So we slowed down. I enjoyed the Maine-ness of it all – everywhere I looked could have been an idyllic New England postcard: moored boats in the coves, stumps of islands held together by boulders and fir trees, tidy historic cottages clad with cedar shake shingles, endless fields of wildflowers – black-eyed susans, Queen Anne’s lace, and tons of others I couldn’t identify. No, on my last day in Maine, I didn’t mind coasting.
I figure all marriages are like this, the good ones anyway. Marriage requires constant calibration to one another – hard days at work, head colds, holiday shopping, even how to spend free time, and that’s before throwing all the responsibilities of raising kids into the mix. Keeping a marriage strong demands both people continually making decisions that take into account their own needs, their partner’s, but above all, their union.
That seems so obvious – and so impossible. And so tedious, considering how busy and full all our lives are. It’s unbelievably cliché to say, but letting love lead is the only way to keep it all in balance. Sure, it might lead you to making dinner AND doing the dishes because your partner is tired, but he or she will never stick you with all the household duties for too long because their love for you restores the balance.
ALS blows up that hard-won equilibrium. Suddenly, all the chores shift to one side, along with the responsibility as sole breadwinner (not to mention all the new medical expenses), plus – increasingly – the basic daily needs of the one with ALS: dressing, showering, eating, etc. It’s like trying to recalibrate the balance with three elephants sitting on one end of the scale.
It’s so unfair, it’s maddening. Several people have told me that ALS ruined their marriage or drove them to the brink of divorce.
That is why this race is as much dedicated to Arthur’s wife, Janet, as it is to him. The love between them is obvious and so endearing. PickALS is something they have created together (with help from a lot of friends and family). DP and I need role models like this – to see that ALS can’t overwhelm and snuff out the deep love and joy from a marriage once one person assumes the soulless title of caregiver.
We picked up the pace for the last mile, cruising through the finish, and collected our handmade pottery medals (lovely!). Then we made a beeline for the blueberry pancake breakfast – in the mess hall of course.
When I saw Steve again, I had to ask. “Did you know to give me #179?” pointing to my windbreaker.
“No,” he said, looking confused. “What’s the story behind it?” And so the story of the Blazeman touched one more person. One more instance where the number found me…smh.
I was chowing down on a brownie when someone asked me to come out to the porch where the awards ceremony was going on. They gave me a “trophy” for participating…a handmade coffee mug stamped with “Blueberry Cove 13.1.” So kind!
Thank you to Steve, Ann, and the whole Blueberry Cove crew for welcoming us and hosting such a special race. And thank you Arthur and Janet for being such an inspiration to us – we love you guys!
Finish Time: 2:46