My Best Friend is Having a Baby, and it’s Freaking Me Out

A little over a month ago I turned 30. Undoubtedly exacerbated by everyone and their brother’s inquisitions about if I felt older or wiser or if I’d signed up for AARP yet, it felt like a big deal. A new decade! New era! The last time my age had a 0 in it I couldn’t legally drink!

When I was 25 I was excited to be approaching 30. So adult-like, making a cush life with two dogs, a good job, and a husband in a swoon-worthy beach town. Kid-free because we just weren’t quite ready yet, not because they weren’t an option or part of the plan.

When Brian and I split, it was easy to think of everything as a loss or setback. Losing a partner, a second family, someone to share every big and meaningless moment with. Regressing on the “ideal” adult timeline after getting so close to binkies and daycare phase.

After a while though, those “losses” started looking like opportunities. Freedoms. More time for me, and the things that were important to me. I didn’t have to share my time or my thoughts, I had the freedom to do with myself whatever I damn well felt like. Take off for the weekend on a whim? Buy an expensive pair of jeans I couldn’t really afford? Spend a meaningless night with someone meaningless?

The independence was intoxicating and addictive, and before I knew it I was regressing down other adult paths at the sake of dignity, finances, and probably personal safety. (I did get a handful of really great stories from it all at least.)

Looking back, this sudden swing to erratic behavior was clearly some part of the coping process. I was bingeing on all of the things I felt I’d been deprived of during my relationship, and sitting on the cusp of a new decade, it hit me clear as day like my optometrist smashing a pile of bricks against my forehead and suddenly knocking me into 20/20 vision. I’d been playing so hard in the “I can do whatever the hell I want!” sandbox that the novelty of freedom had lost its luster. One-night stands and impulsive purchases began feeling mainstay, the period of shame or regret afterwards shrinking with every instance.

A week before my birthday I’d been back in Ohio doing my usual visit home things; running with Mom, drinking beer with dad, talking about mom and dad with my sister, soaking up time with both sets of grandparents (who I realize more and more how lucky I am to still have around,) and dinner dating with my two best girlfriends.

This visit was different though, as our usual scandalous stories and alcohol-fueled laughing fits were replaced with ultrasound pics and ultra-sobering accounts about human anatomy that my almost-30 self still just wasn’t ready to accept as reality.

Seven months prior I’d been back for another visit, and again Lauren, Shea, my sister and I were out for our ritual dinner date. We evenly poured a pitcher of margaritas between the four of us, and Lauren raised her glass offering a toast. “To Sarah being home, and me being pregnant!” I didn’t know how to react (other than calling dibs on the glass she’d just pushed to the center of the table.) There were hugs and cheers and maybe squeals, and I just sat there with my jaw dropped, firmly gripping two margaritas.

Lauren and I have been friends since we were two. Without sounding too cliche, we’ve been through a lot together – deaths, divorces, graduations, promotions, illness and extreme joyfulness – she’s first-handedly been part of more tallies in my life win-loss column than anyone, a lot of them from across the country, none of which would’ve been the same without her.

T-ball Lauren with the good bangs and me with the big head

T-ball Lauren with the good bangs and me with the big head

I knew Lauren as a kindergartner, a lush college sorority girl, a braces-faced teenager playing softball with one of those silly ribbon scrunchies in her hair. I knew her as all these things because I was there next to her being them, too. (Minus the braces and sorority.) But Lauren the mom? I wasn’t ready to follow her there, and that struck me in a more selfishly vulnerable place than I really want to admit.

For the first time in 27 years, our paths weren’t moving in perfectly parallel paths, and unintentionally, I distanced myself. I changed the topic or avoided it altogether in group texts, didn’t ask about appointments or names or nursery themes. I loved hearing what fruit the baby was comparable in size to, because thinking of the Chiquita banana lady living inside her stomach made it less real and scary than an actual fetus. I made bad jokes when I was uncomfortable, and bad faces when she’d tell one of those “omg that really happens?!” anatomy stories. I was a shitty friend, and continued acting out in that regressive post-divorce behavior to distract myself from the fact that my best friend was moving on to a stage of life without me.

I realize how fucking childish that is writing it out.

The last time I’d seen her the pee had barely dried on the at-home pregnancy test, and there I was this time trying to hug her over the full blown 8-month baby belly she’d grown since my last visit. I’d lived in the delusional state of baby cantaloupes as long as I could, but seeing her that day pulled me down to earth like the optometrist’s bricks tied to my feet and paid gravity to work double-time on me. No denying it anymore, my best friend was definitely about to birth a human, not a cantaloupe.

Definitely a baby in there. (Lauren ditched the bangs but I kept the big head)

Definitely a baby in there. (Lauren ditched the bangs but I kept the big head)

There are the types of people who you just know are meant to be parents, and Lauren’s definitely one of them. She’s a great human with a great big heart and a selflessness I just can’t comprehend, as made apparent by the fact I’ve been too preoccupied thinking about my lagging behind to see how exciting it is that she’s starting the family she’s always wanted.

This realization finally came a few days after she said she’d been put on the delivery schedule, and a few hours after that I had a plane ticket home. She doesn’t know I’m here, and won’t until I walk through her hospital room door, wine in hand (that’s allowed, right?) and tears in eyes. She also won’t realize how much more this trip is for me than it is for her. (Again with the selfishness thing.)

Reflecting on all of this gave me a peace with turning 30 I didn’t expect to find. I realized growing up doesn’t mean growing old, and it’s certainly not about losing freedoms or giving up on dreams. It’s not a number or a timeline or where you’re “supposed” to be. It’s about finding things that add to your life, that give you more than you could give yourself, and squeezing as much out of them as you can.

I’m really glad I’m in a place where I can chase those things down, and that I get to be here when Lauren *literally* squeezes one of those things out today. (Sorry couldn’t help it, this was feeling way too feelings’y.)

To My Fellow Cleveland Fans on Game 7

It’s a sense of calm, a defensive apathy, a need to conserve. There’s a storm coming, and the only way to prepare for it is to show up ready to ride the waves.

 Game 7 of the NBA Finals is tonight. I’m sitting shotgun in the company Subaru, trekking back from a weekend on the river where nary a 3G signal nor mention of non-water sports reminded me of the stressfully historic night coming on the other side of the trip. Out of sight, mostly out of mind. Distraction is my favorite defensive tactic.
Barring any unforeseen setbacks, we’ll roll back into Bend with just enough time for me to wash the layers of campground off me, go for my ritual pre-game run, and grab my Mark Price jersey before parking in my usual seat in front of the big tv at my local bar. The one I’ve made my Cavs home away from home the last two seasons, and the only place outside of Cleveland that can stand in as my displaced fan family.
We’re somewhere west of Boise and I feel a wave of emotion threatening to wash over at the mere mention of the game, my neurons or synapses or whatever already firing alarms at the prospect of extreme joy or sadness. Fight or flight, but there’s no where to go and no reason to fight. I swallow the lump in my throat, let the anxiety melt away like they try to teach in yoga. There’s no need for it now. I want to feel it all in its fullest when the game clock hits :00.
Tsunami-level feelings.
This is the biggest night of my Cleveland fan-life. If that sounds ridiculous to you, that’s fine. Maybe you weren’t raised on religious football Sundays, summers listening to baseball on the radio, or big wins supplying the only light that got you through dark, miserable winters. Maybe you never hung a poster of your favorite player on your wall or doodled your team’s logo on your binders in school. Maybe you never begged Santa for a Starter jacket.
Maybe you grew up in a place where there was more to life than sports.
I didn’t.
 indians 2007 alcs
I remember watching the Price/Daugherty/Williams/Ehlo/Nance Cavs but was too young to understand Jordan and the Bulls’ annual playoff terrorizing. I watched the ’95 World Series as a nine year old just learning the game, not comprehending the greatness of the situation through anything other than my parents’ reactions. Similarly, I learned about evil and hatred based on their words about Art Modell taking the Browns away from us that year. In ’97 I watched with more knowledge as the Indians come an out away from a title, but lacked the appreciation for the road Cleveland had endured to get to this place of championship contending teams. They hadn’t seen a World Series in four decades, I’d seen two in my first eleven years alive. I celebrated when we drafted that kid from Akron who everyone believed would finally pull us out of our drought. I was at the last game they won in 2007’s ALCS, and pieced together enough broke-college-kid money to pre-buy a World Series ticket, thinking there was no way they wouldn’t close out their 3-1 lead over Boston. I watched as Lebron’s Cavs got swept by the Spurs in the Finals in ‘07, then come up short in the playoffs the next three seasons. I held my breath with the rest of Cleveland for weeks after Lebron ripped his jersey off in the tunnel after that eliminating game against the Celtics, and entered free agency. And then I cursed his name with them as he publicly broke up with us on national television for Miami. I once again pre-bought an Indians playoff ticket in 2013 when they played in the first ever wildcard game, and slowly closed my computer with the flight details page still open, cursor hovering over “purchase” as they dropped that game in the final inning to the Rays.
It’s been rough and at times masochistic, but it’s nothing compared to the heartache my parents’ generation has endured. I didn’t see Red Right 88, The Fumble, or The Drive. Too young to feel The Shot and The Move, not jaded enough to disbelieve “maybe next year!” during those Indians runs. I didn’t live those chapters, was just raised on their history.
Plus, I did get to see the Browns and Lebron come back, so all hasn’t been awful.
(Lebron’s return to Cleveland deserves a post of its own, but the synopsis is: It’s complicated [but here we are in our second NBA Finals in two years])
cavs finals
Following last year’s Finals let down and the never-ending nauseating narrative (biased, yes) about the Warrior’s magical season, I want more than ever to see Coach Lue and the guys raise that trophy tonight. This team is FUN to watch, on and off the court, and they’ve hit their stride at just the right time. This feels as close as we’ve ever been.
I’m really trying not to get my hopes up too high.
Tonight’s game carries the most emotional weight I’ve felt as a fan. Hell, it’s pretty high up there just in life in general. I’m stressed and nervous, anxious for the flood of feelings that are waiting for me a few hours away. There’s not a chance in hell I won’t cry at least a couple times, for better or worse. I’ll try to rein the tears in for sake of being around a bunch of Oregonians who likely care less than a shit about the game, but I have a feeling it’ll be close to impossible. The lack of knowing camaraderie will probably just make it worse. I’ll say “I wish I was there!” too many times to count and I’ll groan when they flash to the watch party at the Q, the ruckus streets downtown, and bars packed full of rowdy Clevelanders. There will be a small pocket of emptiness in either the celebrating or mourning for not being with my people, but tonight will still be either the happiest or the saddest I’ve ever felt as a Cleveland fan.
Masochistically looking forward to it.

Mary’s Peak 25K

This morning I’m running the Red Hot 33k in Moab. Hahaha oops. Hi Utah. Also hi I got up early enough to do this.

I’m wildly unprepared, finishing up a round of antibiotics for an inappropriate case of strep (long story, kind of), and still somehow stupidly excited. Road trips to explore beautiful places has been a constant around here, and I hope none of these adveture-enabling lunatics change their minds about them. Even the untrained racing part.

Just for shits and giggles, I finished the last 5% of this race report from my first “proper” trail race back in June.

Because why not.


 

Yes, I ran a race measured in kilometers. It was even on trails! It was also over a month seven months ago.

But perhaps the most shocking thing here (because come on, no one’s shocked by the untimeliness) is that I ran a race at all. According to Athlinks (my only source of information, since I stopped keeping a running log and can’t backdate my brain past last week) it was my first race since the Deschutes 5k last August when I was in Bend for Oiselle Bird Camp, and my first trail race since Haulin Aspen Half, which I ran during Emily’s cross-country move road trip. To cap off the full-circledness, we stayed at the Flomas House that weekend, who own the company I now work for. Kinda bizarre tracing it back like that.

Bend Races

Deschutes Twilight 5k (2014), Haulin Aspen Half (2013), Fangirl’ing my future employer

(wish I could trace back to wherever I left those sunglasses…)

Emily conned me into registering for Mary’s Peak 25K sometime back in May, probably after I said something along the lines of, “man I sure don’t miss running on concrete surrounded by a million people anymore!” which she apparently interpreted as, “get Sarah through the trail/ultra gateway, asap”

Sure, fine, sounds fun, twist my impressionable arm. I hear the snacks are great at trail races.


Race Weekend

After weeks of subpar training, fluke and faux injuries, and a super random illness, we’d gone back and forth between “maybe we won’t race” and “maybe I won’t come at all” and “fuck it, let’s just sit on the Ninkasi patio all weekend.” Early Friday, a few hours before I was scheduled to maybe possibly leave, we decided that I’d come to Eugene and if we were up to it we’d drive out to the race, and if not we’d just play on the trails (and patios, obviously) in town. A happy medium between all the options, really.

* Remember when a plan (err, lack thereof) like this would’ve sent Type A stick-up-her-butt Sarah into a tailspin of uncontrollable uncontrolledness? I left that bitch in SoCal. Oregon Sarah is super chill and loves non-plans.*

Just as I was shutting down my computer at work and getting ready to point the Dodge west, I got the following confirmation to our itinerary:

FullSizeRender 4

I expected to start feeling some nerves on the drive over. Two and a half hours over the Cascade Mountains, lots without radio or cell service, could’ve been a bad recipe for a self-imposed mind fuck.

“This drive is longer than I remember…” (you’ll be running longer than this tomorrow)

“C’mon baby, rev that engine, push up this hill!” (are you going to be able to encourage your legs like this tomorrow?)

“Damn, I really need new wiper blades…” (speaking of new things, hope those new trail shoes you bought two days ago don’t ruin you!)

“Man there really isn’t a single radio station coming in.” (there isn’t going to be a god damn single note of musical entertainment on course)

It never happened though. I actually had to force myself to make up those fake freakouts just now. The only thing I really ever worried about race eve was deciding between the panini or tempeh salad* at Beer Stein for dinner. (to accompany the don’t-even-think-about-anything-else soft pretzel)

Spoiler: There were probably a few other things I should’ve at least considered for a hot second prior to gun time.

*Went with the salad, if you’re wondering.


Race Morning

The race was a little over an hour away in Blodgett, and Em’s 50K boasted an ass-crack’ing early 7am bus time. To say the rattling of pans and coffee brewing (my alarm clocks when lodging at Sweatspace) woke me earlier than I desired consciousness would be a tragic understatement. I laid on the couch for a while with my eyes half open, not moving, waiting for the coffeemaker to chime, signaling it was safe to come to life.

As soon as it did I rolled over and, half to myself, half to Emily, said (in a gravelly mumble), “I get to wear my new shoes today.”

“YEAH YOU DO.”

(continues laying on couch with covers pulled high, a tired, shitty grin slowly starting to creep on my face) “We get to play on some new trails today.” <—- still not quite excitable enough to warrant an !, but a major victory for non morning person OUaL.

“FUCK YEAH WE DO!”

We ate, coffeed, and dressed – which in yet another “Oregonian Sarah is completely not at all like SoCal or Ohio Sarah” plot twist, meant dumping 9 tops and 6 pairs of shorts onto the dark living room floor and picking the coveted race day outfit solely by what would match my Picky Bars hat best. Pockets? Chaffing? Possibility of being photographed in spandex? Fuck it all, who cares!

On the drive over I finally decided to address some of the lingering “unknowns” about the race. Here’s what I DID know:

  1. My longest training runs were 1:45, maaaybe 12ish miles (race is 15.5), and also has anyone seen my GPS watch? I clearly haven’t used it in the last few months.
  2. I’d never run a “real” trail race, and the use of words like “technical single track” “hazards” and “muahahaa, this is gonna hurt!” in pre-race correspondence from the RD had me thinking it wouldn’t be the same as the dirt path river loop in town I call “trail running.”
  3. My brand new Brooks Cascadias would probably, hopefully, perhaps not totally demolish my feet. If I was lucky.

If those small factors didn’t already have me concerned for my livelihood, the next few minutes did.

“So it’s technical, but only like 1000′ feet of change, right? I’ll probably be fine.”

“Where did you see 1,000 feet?”

“Oh I don’t remember, somewhere… 1,000 isn’t a lot, is it?”

“Sar, I’m pretty sure it’s more than that.”

After pulling up the course map the next 30 minutes were spent trying to convince myself that “2,500′ of gain and 3,000′ of loss” were practically tomato/tomahtoe to 1,000′ change. What’s the big diff, right?! RIGHT??

<gulp>

Luckily after a little while Emily distracted me with talks about aid stations.

“I’m SUPER PUMPED to stop and hang out at aid! What kind of snacks do you think they’ll have?! Man I’m just so stoked to not have to eat a fucking gel or worry about drinking while running. This is going to be the best. Do you think there’ll there be skittles??”

“… Did you not bring any fuel?”

“Oh well I have a Picky Bar I thought about carrying, but, no… Should I have? Will I need water, you think?”

*Emily makes sure her name and number are listed as ICE contact info on my bib*

So yeah, Oregonian Sarah has a few downfalls to work on.

sarahoual sweatyemily

“god speed, oual. you screwed yourself pretty good on this one.” – sweaty, who is hilariously almost taller than me in her stupid Hokas.


Pre-Race

Shuttles for the 25K from Blodgett Elementary were 90 minutes after the 50K, so I had a solid amount of time to get ready (shed sweats, body glide everything), decide how to pin my number on (folded tiny, on left leg of shorts, because that’s how Em did it), and dick around on social media. Apologies to anyone that already saw the above photo 10x on every channel the internet offers.

We boarded the busses and I inadvertently did my best “seat’s taken” bitch face (thanks for the training, Southwest Air!) which produced a lovely solo seat free of any awkward pre-race small talk obligations. I stared longingly out the window watching the landscape go by, thinking how cool it was to get to explore a new place this way, and dreaming up the unknown adventures – good and bad – that lay ahead.

And also kind of wishing I had someone to talk to.

Mike the race director gave us a short briefing at the start, most of which was coated in inexcusable enthusiasm and genuine excitement over the course he’d built and the amount of times he was “going to make us hurt! <evil laugh that only endurance athletes can get away with before being accused of sadism>”

I heard him say the first 10k was pretty friendly, the middle was going to suck in the funnest way possible, and that “if you have anything left, the end is pretty gentle.” There would be two aid stations, and a neutral water stop (an unmanned table with jugs of water for refilling handhelds/hydration packs) right after the first gnarly section of climbing, around mile 7.

That turned out to be a helpful little tidbit to commit to the ol’ noggin.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 8.22.37 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 8.23.51 PM

route details


The Dance

Alright I’m actually not going to talk a lot about the actual race since this is almost 6 months post-factum. But, I’ll give you what I can. (For better or worse, a lot of it is pretty vividly burned in my memory.)

After Mike the RD finished his speech we lined up at the nondescript start line (a cone? chalk line? I don’t remember) and after a short countdown all 75 or so of us took off.

Where I immediately rolled my ankle on the first step of non-pavement. GOOD START, SARAH!

The first few miles were incredibly fun. Bounding over rocks and roots in a lush forest, somehow remaining upright after the early clumsiness, already dreaming about what delicious treats awaited at the aid stations. (If you haven’t heard about the differences between road and trail aid stations, picture candy instead of gels, salty chips instead of sodium tabs, and liquids you refill your handheld/pack with instead of throwing them all over your face trying to drink them while running.)

Without much room on the single track to pass even if I wanted, it was great to just settle in with the pack and play follow the leader. Not caring about anything other than soaking as much of the scenery as I could without face planting and causing a domino traffic jam. I had such a great time I totally forgot about the “second 10k is going to crush your soul” warning from RD’s pre-race speech.

I came into aid station 1 smiling and doing a weird jazz hand salutation thing at the volunteers. At some point I’d moved away from the pack I started with, and the volunteers told me a couple guys were less than a minute ahead “if I wanted to chase them down.” I kind of did, mostly just for footsteps to follow. Sarah’s on-the-run navigational skills haven’t been tested too intently and I was fearing getting lost  way more than the miles ahead.

Which, again, was a nice distraction from the pain train waiting for me to board.

I’ve selectively amnesia’d a lot of the next miles. There was a section of trail called “Carl’s Adventure” that afterwards I told Mike the RD I wanted to have a talk with him and “Carl” about his “stupid Adventure” that almost marched me to my vert-dunce death.

But then also high-fived him and said “it was AWESOME.”

There was suffering. There was drinking out of a Hydroflask out of a park ranger’s truck that was parked along the side of the road at one point. Slightly sketchy. There was a dude sharing equal amounts of “kill me” and “ok fine let’s get this over with” that I ran/walked with the final mile. There was a charlie horse forcing me to hobble through the grass to the finish line. But ah, there WAS a finish line.

Then there was definitely some “what race is next?!” over lunch beers after.

Trails, I love you.

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