Friday, July 26, 2013

Grandpa Herb

This past spring my paternal grandpa, Herb, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  Like many pancreatic cancers, his had spread widely without any symptoms.  No one thought anything was wrong until his skin turned yellow.  We were told he would die within the next few months to a year.  His health is holding up well so far, but he has had to make funeral arrangements, cremation plans, and prepare for my grandma’s future as a widow.

      My paternal grandparents are two of the coolest people I know.  Not just cool for people I know over 50, but seriously awesome.  For example, when they retired about twelve years ago, they didn’t choose to continue living in small-town Brookings, South Dakota, nor did they follow the trend of many retirees of moving to Arizona or Florida.  I’m sure they would have been happy following either of those paths, but they chose their own by moving to a condo in downtown Minneapolis.  They wanted to be able to experience all the cultural opportunities of a big city – the international foods, orchestra, plays, jazz festivals, arts shows, and any other happenings.“Your grandparents retired to downtown Minneapolis?” my friends will ask in disbelief.  “Yeah,” I say smiling with pride, “They are such hipsters.”

    My grandparents taught me many things, but one of the most ingrained lessons I learned was to try new things, especially to try new food, travel to new places, read new books, and explore new ideas.  My grandparents were the first people to bring me to Chino Latino, the edgy bar and restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis.  I remember feeling so mature as I sipped my pineapple drink, served in an actual pineapple, sitting among the flickering candlelight.  My brother and I were the youngest people in the restaurant, and my grandparents by far the oldest, but they wanted in on the latest cuisine trend and were kind enough to share the experience with their grandchildren.

As a political science professor, and eventually the Dean of Arts & Science, at South Dakota State University, my grandpa believed in teaching his students how to think, not what to think. He was also active in politics, working with George McGovern, serving as the state and county Democratic Party Chairperson, and running two successful gubernatorial campaigns.

My grandparents are great role models to me for loving others and honoring them.  In the 1970’s, my grandparentsgood friends Kent and Jim came out to their friends as a gay couple.  While many of their friends turned their backs on Kent and Jim, Grandpa and Grandma continued to value their friendship, and have continued to visit them yearly to this day. It would be easy for my grandparents to get stuck in the social norms of when they grew up, but they seem unfazed by anything.  Gay men walking around Loring Park in speedos for the gay pride parade? Let’s go.  Granddaughter just got a big tattoo of a tree on her back? Okay.  Republican convention held in downtown? At least it’s interesting.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dream Come True

                     Beautiful stadium with view of Mediterranean Sea and Monaco cliffs.

I had a blast running at Monaco. The stadium was filled, the music was blaring, and the weather was beautiful. Boys and girls were lined up along the railing reaching, begging, pleading for an autograph or a high-five from us steeple women as we did strides and drills before the race.  I never would have imagined getting to compete in front of thousands of people with some of the best athletes in the world. It was a dream come true.

                                                                The stands are full!!

                      Fireworks at the end of the meet.  They know how to keep people happy. 

I was at a really good place mentally.  I was ready to enjoy the experience, and my body felt ready to go.  I was ready to be ecstatic about going to Worlds, but i was also just as ready for Shalaya to get the standard.  Unfortunately, my body didn't feel great d it ing the race, and I ran 9:49.  And, Shalaya ran a tough race and got the 'A' standard, so she will go to worlds.

I am frustrated because I haven't come close to running my PR again this year.  I felt so good running that Payton Jordan race, I know I have that race again in me, and faster ones, but it hasn't clicked again yet this season.  I'm also disappointed I have gotten to run so few track races this year.  I was hoping to get some more PRs in other events. My 3k flat PR is only 10 seconds faster than my steeple PR for crying out loud.  But I'm being reminded by all the wise people in my life that is has been a long year, I've made great strides in cross country, and it is so cool that 9:49 is a disappointing race for me now. I've had to learn many things the hard way this track season without an agent, so I will learn the ropes that much better next year.

I'm trying to decide the rest of my schedule. I'll run either the 1500m or steeple at Ninove, and probably take a break from there.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Hello all,

I'm writing from the fabulous Fairmont Hotel, getting pumped for my first Diamond League meet in Monaco. I have heard Diamond League meets take care of the athletes, and so far this rings very true.  I was picked up from the airport, driven to a fancy hotel that overlooks the sea, and, most importantly, given vouchers for my next five meals.

The traveling today was tough. The passengers of the Brussels flight headed to Nice were put on our airplane only to sit on the runway for an hour, circle Brussels for the next hour because of a computer glitch, land, sit on e plane for another half an hour, only to start the process over again on another plane. As people who know me well can attest, I get pretty grumpy when I am hungry. I hadn't packed my usual bag of snacks for the flight, since it had appeared the airline was strict about the weight of luggage.  When we got on the second flight, I thought for sure they would give us a free lunch, since we had already taken one plane ride that ended up a fake-out. Bu, no.  Instead Brussels Airlines decided to make a pretty penny off their disgruntled passengers.  By the time the food cart got to me, the only food left was a Euro version of Ramen noodles in a plastic cup, a food I haven't seen consumed since it was the cool thing to bring for lunch in fifth grade.  So, I ended up paying 4 euros for my weeks worth of sodium, and my appetite was only slightly sated.

But I am here now. I did a shake out at th track, and it was as beautiful as the pictures my dad sent me  as soon as we found out I had made it into the meet.  Thankfully, I felt good during the warm-up, and am hoping for a positive race tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Belgian Good Times

Okay, my last blog post was not very optimistic.  While a couple big things haven’t gone well, many more experiences have been great.  I am so lucky to be able to run, to get to run as a profession, and especially to compete in Europe as part of my season.  Here are a few of the awesome experiences I have had: getting a buddy past from my cousin Troy to fly to Europe, flying first class between New York and Brussels, drinking a mimosa while watching the office on the flight, hanging out with Heather Kampf and Elizabeth Yetzer in Leuven, two of my good friends and fellow Minnesota alumni, having time to read, knowing my way around Leuven from last year, drinking Campari and orange juice while having dinner with Hassan Mead, meeting fellow American steeplechaser Joanna Murphy and hearing about her experience working in the running shoe industry, eating dinner nightly with the Athletes in Action group, meeting other American professional runner like Matt Elliot and Chanelle Price, visiting the Leuven art museum, finding the Leuven city garden, running with American steeplers Aisha Praught and Stephanie Garcia, eating Speculos (mashed cookie spread), discussing funding opportunities outside of shoe companies with David Jankowski, running in the Leuven forest, finding sausage at the Leuven farmer’s market, and eating Belgium pastries. 
                                                        Me, Elizabeth, Heather
                                              Joanna Murphy, Katie Porath, Me, Elizabeth Yetzer

                                                               AIA Group

                                                  People in Europe actually like to watch Track...

                                                    Leuven City Hostel

                                             Not a lot of space in the hostel rooms.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rough Start to European Trip

My European trip has not gone as well as I had hoped, thus far, for two big reasons:

1.       Getting my Russian visa

2.       My first race at Huesden


                I finished 4th at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  Nicole Bush, who won, has the IAAF World ‘A’ standard, so she automatically will get to compete at worlds.  Ashley Higginson has the IAFF World ‘B’ standard, so as the first ‘B’ standard in the top three, she automatically gets to go.  However, Shalaya Kipp also has the ‘B’ standard, so she does not automatically get to go.  If either Shalaya or Ashley hit the ‘A’ standard both of them get to go.  However, if neither of them hit the ‘A’ standard by July 20th, I would get to go, since I am the next in line with an ‘A’ standard. 

                Since I have a chance of going, I went through processing at the Championships.  I had done as much preparation as USATF had asked me to do, by filling out information on-line and bringing pictures of myself.  I was told that in order to get my Russian visa, I would have to go to a Russian embassy in the United States, give money to an express courier to do it, or have USATF do it, which they told me, would be the fastest option.  I was told I would get my passport back on July 1st, or as close to then as possible.  I was disappointed because I was supposed to run a 3k in Cork, Ireland on July 2nd and would have to cancel that race in order to get my passport, but I agreed to give USATF my passport.  As I went through processing, they looked my name up to see if I a ‘letter of invitation from Russia,’ but I did not.  I told them I didn’t know how I was supposed to have gotten one, but I didn’t get an answer. 

                A couple days after the championship, I got an e-mail from USATF saying I wouldn’t get my passport until between July 12th and 15th.  The e-mail said they had expected this delay for people who hadn’t gotten their letters of invitation.  Again, I was frustrated because I had to cancel more races and my hostel reservations.  My questions were, “if USATF knew there was going to be an extra delay, why didn’t they tell me?” and “How was I supposed to get a letter of invitation; I never got any information on it?” But I did not get a response. 

                Long story short, I was able to get my passport earlier than expected, on July 9th, and I flew to Brussels the next day.  When I was talking to an agent yesterday at the track, I learned: 1) many athletes had just flown over to Europe and were getting their visas from the Russian embassies here, and 2) USATF sent out information on how to get letters of invitations only to agents, who were told to distribute them to athletes.  Sooooooo, I not only was not given all my options about how to get a visa, I was not given any information on how to get a letter of invitation because I don’t have an agent, even though USATF had all the athletes’ e-mail addresses, and I was coming into my event with the fastest time run so far this season.  Hopefully I will have an agent by next track season, but I don’t think athletes who don’t have agents shouldn’t be left out of vital information.


                I was excited to race the 1500m at Huesden because I hadn’t gotten a chance to race the event so far this year, and I think I am capable of a PR.  Also, Huesden brings in a deep and talented pool of athletes, so I knew I would have some people to chase. 

The day started off a little messy. Many of the American athletes had gotten a bus to bring them from Lueven to Huesden, and all my Athletes and Action friends were on the bus, but I did not get a response back from the bus organizer about getting a ride.  David Jankowski, an American runner who did not race, had figured out the train schedule to get to the race, so I followed him to the station.  We got on the first train and rode about 45 minutes, but found out that although this train usually stops at the place we needed to transfer, it did not on that particular train.  We got redirected on how to get to Huesden, and we had to backtrack a bit, but we made it.  I quickly had to change into my uniform before warming up.  Happily, I was in the same race as my American roommate, Elizabeth Yetzer and University of Illinois runner, Katie Porath, so we got to explore the city together on our warm-up.

Once it was time to race, we got on the track, lined up, and were off.  I was the second person to the inside.  The first woman did not get out particularly well, and I was stuck close to the back of the pack in the first 100m.  Someone went to the outside of the pack, and a small space opened out in front of me.  I started to move into it, but another woman cut me off.  I should have slammed on the brakes harder, but she should have been disqualified for cutting me off.  I tripped on her spikes and fell flat on my face.  We were just past the 100m mark, so the race was not recalled.  It took me a second to figure out what happened, but I got up and kept going.  I had a fine effort, but never really caught up to the pack, and I don’t ever want to know my time.

I came away from the race with track burn on my knees, a ripped spike, and a couple deep cuts from the woman’s spikes.  I also came away with the lesson that if someone cuts me off, I can’t continue my regular stride, it is better to brake than waste a whole race.  I enjoy only having to race as often as I want to, but I have to make sure all those races count.


Gay Pride Parade 2013

          The 2013 Gay Pride Parade in Minneapolis was similar to previous years I have attended with gay and lesbian bands marching, people in quirky customs, and liberal politicians all making their way down Nicollet Avenue.  Minnesota companies who celebrate their GLBT employees set up booths and hand out freebies.  Men walked around in speedos.  However, this year offered a new set of venders – wedding planning services for gay couples since same-sex couples will be able to marry starting August 1st.

I was very much affected by the environment of joy following political and social victories.  In November, Minnesota voters said, “No” to a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.  In May, the Minnesota senate and house passed legislation which legalizes same-sex marriage.  I know this is not the end of fighting homophobia, and that marriage is not the end-all be-all for many gay and lesbian couples, but I think it is an important step. 

Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe was the Grand Marshall of the parade after being very vocal in the past year about supporting gay rights.  He quit writing his column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press after they decided to support the Constitutional Amendment.

                I remember doing my first report on same-sex marriage during eighth grade.  I wrote about the struggles in Hawaii and Vermont to legalize gay and lesbian marriage, and how those had backfired into the Defense of Marriage act.  George W. Bush was elected during that year, and it seemed state after state was changing its constitution to make same-sex marriage nearly impossible.  I remember thinking I would be an old woman before any American gay or lesbian couples were married.

                But it happened! I could not stop tearing up during the parade.  The crowd was cheering on the people in the parade, and the people in the parade were having so much fun.  Couples held hands, kissed, and pushed their babies in strollers.  My cousin walked in the parade with his gay fraternity, and walked around with my friend and my mother.

Ariella and I