Monday, March 12, 2012

Come downstairs and say, "Hello"

Home is a place you can go to after a prolonged absence and feel like you never left. I am lucky enough to have two places that fit that descriptions.

I set an alarm for Saturday morning, but I didn’t need one. Shortly after it went off, I was eased into alertness with the sounds of birds chirping. I am not trying to sound cliché, but the sound of the birds truly was soothing and comforting. It’s one of those things you don’t notice until it is replaced with a buzzing air conditioner fan that’s meant to dull the noise of traffic and drunk people outside your window, no matter what hour of the day. Suddenly, the stress of Friday night was gone. The bumper-to-bumper traffic from the Upper West Side to Laguardia, the delayed departure, the tiny plane so small that every sound and worse, every smell was amplified; all of that was worth it to be waking up in Charlotte.

After taking it all in, I was off to do what I did nearly every Saturday morning when I lived in Charlotte; meet Paul for a run at McAlpine. I had put in another tough training week, all of it centered around a workout we had planned when I booked the trip earlier in the month. I was excited to run with Paul again as his tenacity always makes the work challenging. I wanted to hit the target times he had set for the intervals and be a worthy training partner for the fit Brit.

We did a light three mile jog to the starting point and rolled into the first two mile interval. The goal was to run 10:30. We went out a little fast, which was surely my doing, but evened it out before it could impact the rest of the workout. My Garmin clicked off 5:12, then 5:15 for 10:27. Next up was four 400s. With the lack of foot speed I have talked of often, I knew I’d be sucking wind. I struggled to hang on to Paul as we did each one in the low 70s. Then came the real challenge of the workout. We needed to do two miles again in the same pace or faster, but this time on tired legs. As we started out, the impact of the 400s was immediate. After running at sub 5:00 pace, 5:10 pace felt very easy. That lasted for roughly three-quarters of a mile and then it was back to reality. The final 1.25 miles of the workout was a challenge. Paul and I ran stride for stride, holding pace and finished in another 10:27. This was a hands on the knees, no words for a couple of seconds kind of workout. Those are both indicators of success.

Since I don’t get to Charlotte often, Lauren and I tried not to waste a single minute. I got back to Sloan and Jamie’s house following the workout and finally got to meet the beautiful Ruth Ann in person. (We had previously only met on Skype). Add another baby crush to my list. She’s a five-month-old heartbreaker! Then, it was off to Toast where we met Caitlin and devoured three of the restaurant’s most delicious/sweet/unhealthy entrees and I saw Caitlin’s engagement ring for the first time (Nice work, Garrett!). We stopped by the local bookstore and the outdoor store before meeting up with Paul, Lisa and the girls for more food, this time frozen yogurt.

In my brief visit, it was really important for me to see the Norman family. Earlier in the week, Aimee passed away following a long battle with cancer. Her life touched a lot of others, as evidenced by a memorial service that was standing room only, and signs around the city thanking God for her time on this earth. Our trip to their house was quick, but it was good to see them and more importantly, see them smile. It’s proof that Aimee’s presence is permanent.

The afternoon was filled with a recovery run with Aaron and Paul (we spent a lot of time together on Saturday), a beautiful “memorial party” for Milton, who also passed away earlier in the week and then a laid-back evening of beers and stories at Selwyn Pub with Caitlin, Paul, Lisa, Aaron, Barb, Billy, Mike, Allen, Lori, Ashley and Michael Jordan. Ok, so Michael Jordan didn’t sit with us, but he was at the bar and I did see him as he watched the team he owns, arguably the worst team in professional sports, lose yet another game.

Lauren left for Manhattan Sunday and I spent the entire day with Caitlin. Since we only see each other once every couple of months, we tried to cram all of our catching up into a 10 hour hang-out marathon. It started with a big group long run at McAlpine. 17 miles with more than a dozen friends never feels like 17 miles. Then it was breakfast at Panera, a stroll down East Boulevard, coffee at Dilworth Coffee and the drive to Aaron’s to chill on his couch watching the UNC game and Saturday Night Live on DVR. All of it before the all-too-soon return to the airport where I would board a plane and be thrust back into the fast-paced world of New York City.

Something about being in Charlotte with Lauren feels, for lack of a better word, right. We met there. We became friends there. We fell in love there. Many of our best friends are there. We got married there. I wish we had the opportunity to see everyone during our visit, but we’ll never be too far away from home.

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