50 Days on Saint John’s Wort

I don’t really know what a meme is, but I think I’m starting one today … in medius rex. I am on day 5 of taking Saint John’s Wort, an herb/drug (yep, you read that right – “drug” – come all ye with the cries of “Hypocrite!”). Saint John’s Wort is a holistic remedy (or not) for mild depression. I tend to get very blue in the winter months, so I thought I’d try an experiment on myself for 50 days … because there are exactly 50 300mg capsules in the bottle I purchased form Weaver Street Market. I didn’t chart my mood for Days 1,2,3 or 4, but I did look up the side effects on-line for livestock who eat the plant that Saint John’s Wort comes from and it said this:

“Mania and hyperactivity may also result including running in circles until exhausted.”

Well, geez, I’ve been doing that for 30 years … every Wednesday night at the track. I can handle that side effect.

On day five I have observed the following three things:

1.) Dave is calling this herb “Saint Joan‘s Wort.”
2.) I don’t fall asleep as easily at night … racing thoughts and all that.
3.) I am feeling slight trepidation when I actually swallow the pill (more so than on Day 1).

Maybe St. John’s Wart is what caused my pajama day.
It looks harmless enough in the photo:

st. john's plant

pajama days


I was feeling surly today, so I decided to run in my pajamas again. Have you ever thought, “I just can’t be bothered to change into running clothes”? That’s what I was feeling today and yesterday. If I have to change clothes, I won’t run. I was warm and comfy in my week-end pink pj’s yesterday and, rather than change into running layers for the cold, I drove over to the trail-head “as is” – assuming I’d make the quick change to real clothes in the parking lot. Instead, I laced on my shoes and hit the trail in my flowing pink pajamas. Wow, was I fast! (or, at least I thought I was). That silk really cut the wind. I was completely set free from convention – and routine. Surely, that truculence was out of my system …

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning unable to budge from my cozy bed again. Hmmmm? Perhaps that electric blanket we got for Christmas wasn’t such a great idea after all. I decided to try the power of pj’s again. Where I was alone yesterday in my freaky outfit, today I met a group of ladies for a track workout. “Are those pajamas?!” they wondered, laughing. “Why yes,” I admitted, “I’m feeling surly today.” We all jogged over to the track – me with my spikes and pj’s – and did our extremely grueling 5 sets of 5 X 100m sprints. I might have cried had it not been for those pajamas. Seriously.

I wonder if anyone else has a trick to make it out the door on those “I don’t wanna run days.

Remember the camp song?:

“I wear my pink pajamas in the summer when it’s hot;
I wear my woolly undies in the winter when it’s not;
and sometimes in the spring
and sometimes in the fall
I jump into the sheets with nothing on at all.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

Black-eyed peas and mustard greens

There aren’t very many people in Chapel Hill who are actually FROM North Carolina, or the south, so you might not know about the traditional New Year’s day meal of black-eyed peas, mustard greens, and cornbread. Here’s what Dave read aloud from wikipedia before he prepared and served a delicious meal yesterday:

Black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day in the American South and in some other parts of the USA. The traditional meal also features collard or mustard greens or cabbage. This is supposed to bring good luck and financial enrichment. The peas stand for good luck, the greens symbolize paper money. Cornbread also often accompanies this meal.

These “good luck” traditions date back to the U.S. Civil War. Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, would typically strip the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock and destroy whatever they couldn’t carry away. At that time, Northerners considered “field peas” and corn suitable only for animal fodder, and as a result didn’t steal or destroy these humble foods. Many Southerners survived as a result of this mistake.[1]


* 1 1/2 pounds mustard greens
* 4 strips bacon, chopped
* 1 Tbs. canola oil
* one medium onio, chopped fine
* one medium celery stal, chopped fine
* 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 2 150z cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
* 1-2 Tbs cider or red wine vinegar
* salt
* freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wash the mustard greens in several changes of cold water, stripping off the leafy green portions from either side of the tough central stalk. Discard the stalks and rip the leafy portions into small pieces. Shake to remove the excess water.Cook the bacon and oil in a medium dutch oven until the bacon is crisp, about 6 minutes. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.Add 1 cup ctock and mustard greens, stir well and cover the pan. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the greens have wilted, about 4 minutes.Stir in the black-eyed peas and remaining 1/2 cup stock and cover the pan again. Cook, stirring until peas are heated through and the greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.Serve immediately with hot cornbread on the side.

Retrieve. Retrieve.


“You should go
from place to place
recovering the poems
that have been written for you,
to which you can affix your signature.
Don’t discuss these matters
with anyone.
Retrieve. Retrieve.

When the basket is full
someone will appear
to whom you can present it.”

from Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing

Book of Longing

Drugs Killed Ryan Shay

This morning as I was groggily driving to get my car serviced, only a few sips into my morning coffee, I glanced over to make eye contact with a handsome, square-jawed young man who was merging into my lane. The Beatles song, Blackbird, was playing and I looked into this man’s eyes the way you do sometimes with strangers, and thought, “It’s Ryan Shay. He’s not dead. He’s alive and driving on I-40.” But, of course, he is dead. I was there, in New York, at the Olympic Trials – coaching from my Central Park northern post in Harlem; I participated in the terrifying game of telephone as fans up and down the race course passed the message that someone went down at mile 5, that an ambulance has whisked away one of our own. None of us in our intimate, extended running family wanted to believe it. This can’t have happened, not to someone as strong and brave and all-American as Ryan Shay. Ryan was our everyman, our steadfast soldier , the midwesterner with the big heart (oh, God, I realize how sad that is) whose workload and ability to take pain was as fabled as a Paul Bunyan tall tale.

I met Ryan Shay only once. I was in Morocco on my last world cross-country team and he was on his first. This college freshman may have been baby-faced, but he was no boy. He ran like a man. Feminists like me shouldn’t say things like, “He ran like a man,” (or “throws like a girl”- ugh!), but there was something about the way Shay carried himself that was different from the other boys.

I didn’t learn of his 140-mile training weeks at altitude until after his death. I didn’t know he believed this marathon trials was his last chance to make an Olympic team. So, when I read all about this everyman hero who burst his heart in effort, I – like so many runners throughout the world – became obsessed with “Why?!” Like Shay’s father, who demanded an autopsy to dispel any rumors of performance-enhancing drug use, I felt an urgency to uncover the truth. I spent countless hours Googling and reading stories on LetsRun. I tried to read between the lines when they spoke of “enlarged heart” and “adrenal fatigue;” was this code for EPO and HGH? I didn’t sleep well all week; I was foggy in my work as a mom and coach. I was so sad and I didn’t know why.

But then, this morning, I saw that guy on the highway – Ryan – and it hit me. Performance-enhancing drugs killed Ryan Shay … not because he used them … God, NO!, he wasn’t dirty. He would never, could never, have cheated – not this hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, Bunyan-esque HERO. Oh, yes, Ryan Shay was clean clean clean clean clean … but he was competing on a dirty playing field. Don’t you see?!?!?? Drugs killed Ryan Shay because he broke his heart trying to catch up. He set out to prove that sheer, honest, brutal hard work was enough. He ran himself into the ground, into adrenal failure and eventual heart failure because he believed – Jesus, we ALL believed – that a clean athlete still has a chance in this f__cked up, drug-sucking, running world. But he didn’t have a chance. Drug cheats toe the starting line of every final in Olympic and World Championship events. We all know this but we turn a blind eye because, why?!, no harm done.

But HARM WAS DONE, PEOPLE!! Ryan Shay is dead. I have been crying all morning over this.
Alicia Craig Shay will cry every morning for the rest of her life over this.

Drugs killed Ryan Shay … and every single distance runner throughout the world who has ever injected himself or herself with EPO, who has ever taken one single gram of HGH or testosterone or whatever the latest untestable magic potion is; all you cheats who think, “I’m only hurting myself,” well, think again. YOU killed Ryan Shay.

At least Ryan Shay is free to fly and RUN in heaven on a clean playing field.

by, The Beatles

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Black bird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,oh
You were only waiting for this moment to arise, oh
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

ryan shay


It is late, nearly midnight, and I know I should be asleep. My family is all tucked in their separate beds; I can even hear them snoring. This is one of those nights where a life problem is stuck in my craw (where does that expression come from?). I just finished watching Bicycle Thieves (formerly called The Bicycle Thief) by – probably – my favorite director, Vittorio De Sica, and I am unable to make sense of my happy/sad feelings. I rented the movie so my 14 year-old could know it and know me. Last spring I made her sit through Cinema Paradiso much like my mother made me read her favorite books: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill a Mockingbird, East of Eden, etc. Afterward, Sarah Jane kissed me sweetly on her way to bed and wondered aloud, “Why don’t adult movies have happy endings?” But it was happy. Sort of. When the little boy, Bruno, reached up to hold his father’s hand in the midst of the most despairing moment an honest man can endure (caught stealing a bicycle out of desperation), I cried and sighed and felt all of my emotions smear like the crayon-shaving leaves we made this week-end.
melted crayons

That little boy will be a man in the blink of an eye. My three girls will be hare today, goon tomorrow (from Little Bunny Foo Foo) and then it will be over … this parenting thing. I spent the first decade of parenthood complaining to high heaven about how hard it is/was and wishing I had “a life” only to realize in this second decade of being a mom that I have the greatest, fleeting!, life imaginable. Here today, gone tomorrow. Maybe I rented Bicycle Thief because I wanted to be the one who showed it to Sarah Jane (before her film teachers at NYU assigned it for historical perspective). Maybe I wanted to make autumn crayon-shaving leaves with my middle child all morning Saturday (making one helluva mess in my kitchen) because next year she won’t want to. Maybe I gave my Lizzie too many kisses after her bathie tonight because she might start saying “Yuck!” tomorrow. I can’t bear this … this time flying-ness of life. I want to hold on to their chubby hands and feel safe. Why don’t adult movies have happy endings? Because they’re like real life, Saries.

wall of infamy

marion cheater
Marion Jones’ fake-ass, tearful apology for her shameful and criminal use of performance-enhancing drugs has me ranting again.

First, I e-mailed the coaches at my alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill, to ask if they plan to take Marion down from the Wall of Fame (I have received no response yet). Then I phoned in to the NPR talk show, Talk of the Nation, to comment on the story they were doing about Doping. They took my call! I wanted to know why everyone is referring to this as a moral or ethical issue. Drug cheats are no different than common thieves, I said.
Next, I wrote the guest cheater on NPR, Joe Papp (cyclist serving a two year suspension) and asked him:

Hello Joe,
I was the caller on Talk of the Nation who spoke today about the criminal element in using performance-enhancing drugs. I want to ask you if someone broke into your house and stole your High Def TV or if someone broke into your bank account through identity theft and stole thousands of dollars, don’t you think that thief should go to prison? Why aren’t you in jail? And also, why do you keep referring to the DRUGS you took as medicine? You weren’t sick; you are a thief.
Keep telling your story and maybe the next generation of athletes will see that crime doesn’t pay.

Unlike the UNC track & field department, Joe DID write me back, immediately. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi Joan,

Thanks for contacting me.

With regards the criminal aspect, I think that is the area where the anti doping agencies have the best chance to profoundly influence sport. If more countries criminalize the use of performance-enhancing drugs, it will be a much more serious deterrent.

As far as my use of the words medicine or drugs – the products I used were medicines, albeit ones that we used inappropriately. Even amphetamines had a legitimate medical use in some cases.

Anyway, if you want to talk more [with phone #]



Come into the light …

My 14 year-old was writing this poem around the same time I posted “Introspection.”
Musta been something in the air. Or was it a full moon?

The 19-oughts were industrial,
Monopolies ruled the nation.
The tens had WWI,
Creating a sensation.

Roaring twenties had a boom,
As stocks and credit soared,
Leading to thirtie’s depression…
Unemployment, dust storms, and more.

Second world war came in late ‘41,
With a huge united force,
But fifties wanted calm,
With suburbia’s birth, of course.

In came sixties…
Rebellion! Revolution!
Anything at all,
Against common institution.

Seventies turned the world,
Just a bit TOO far.
It was no longer about the issues,
Just stoners and guitars.

The eighties and ninties were odd,
Not much happening politically.
But was that a bit of a front?
A false reality?

Now we’re in 2007,
A new millennium.
Things are starting to happen now,
But little is being done.

I don’t want “time travel”,
To re-live the past.
But don’t you think it’s time,
For another movement at last?

Choose an issue,
Pick a side.
CARE about what’s going on,
Don’t just hide.

Don’t hide in your sports,
Your gossip, TV, clothes.
Narcissism ISN’T RIGHT,
But the self-obsession grows.

Something needs to happen,
Or nobody will care,
About anything at all,
Except their makeup and hair.

I’m not saying I’m perfect,
Or my ideas are right.
Just try to leave your own little world,
And come into the light.

– sj kerwin


“It is in the nature of things to change. Nothing can last beyond its given time. And I think that instinctively we know what that time is. What is it that makes us know when the summer turns? The smallest shift in the light? The slightest hint of chill in the morning air? A certain rustling of the leaves in the birches? That is how it is – suddenly, in the midst of the summer heat, you are overcome by a tightening of your heart. The realization that it will all come to an end. And that brings a new intensity to everything: the colors, the smells, the feeling of sunshine on your arm.”

from, Astrid and Veronika

My daughters all had birthdays this spring/summer. They went from being 13, 9, 5 (still little girls, really) to 14, 10, and 6. One year shouldn’t make all that big a difference, but I felt a shift …. the smallest shift in light … in my life. Sarah Jane will be going to high school – HIGH school – and will be running on the amazing CHHS cross-country team. Her voice sounds like a grown-up on the phone, a bit raspy and confident (like a sorority girl or a college soccer player – you know the sound? a too-deep voice, almost a bark). Anyway, she’s not a little girl anymore. Neither is Rosie or even Lizzie, my “baby.” I saw a TV show last night where the mother of a 9 and 13 year-old said, “I’ve done the mom thing, now its time to focus on me.” Yuk. I don’t want to focus on me – how boring. I’ve been with ME for 45 years. This new generation of American adults who have fallen prey to the consumer propaganda of beautifying self (to the point of carving up actual body parts with plastic surgery, yikes!) and finding self and loving self, and self-care, self-help, self-exploration, self-discovery, blah blah blecchh, bores me to tears. I want to go screaming back to the Vales of Har.*

Maybe Benjamin J. Barber feels the same way:
Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole

What about you?
Continue reading

Drink in your summer, gather your corn

I went under the house last month and found my childhood “memory box” swimming in mildew. After we four children moved out of my parents’ home, my mother gave us each a cardboard box filled with report cards, art work, school pictures, letters from camp, family photos, newspaper clippings, etc.. One per child. Jeff, Julie, Joan, John.
jeff, julie, joan, john

My box traveled with me from college to my first apartment, to Charlotte to teach, to Durham and a house full of runners, to a storage unit, then back to Chapel Hill for graduate school and more running … but I never actually opened this box marked, “childhood” until my first daughter was curious: “What were you like as a kid, Mommy?” I showed her my straight-A’s and told her that McDonald’s once gave out cheeseburgers for every A on a report card. I showed her the science fiction story I wrote in 4th grade titled, “Trapped in Lamaracus” where the main characters enter a machine with two doors marked “life” or “death.” (oooh, deep). I showed her a photo of my first love, Dale Busby, and lots and lots of pictures of my life-long love … running. I was sad to see the mold taking over this shot of me with Carlton Frazier – fastest 400m man in the state, 1980. Carlton was my idea of what a great runner should look like … unbelievably smooth, graceful, like a god. Carlton was talent; I was grit. He ran 47.36 and I never broke 60.

carlton frazier

But I could be counted on to run my rock-steady 62 on the 2nd leg of the mile relay. My senior year we got 4th at state with Angela Boyce, me, Lisa Blakeney, and my other track hero, Sandra Carter. Here we are – fuzzy in the photo, but oh-so-clear in my memory – holding the stick for East Meck.
mile relay
I wonder what these gals are up to now? Do they remember me? Are pictures of our relay team growing moldy in their basements? Lately, time is playing tricks on me. Last week I had the baton in my hand for a 400m at age 45 … some, 27 years after this photo was taken … and my 64-second relay split wasn’t that far-off my high school best … just two little seconds …yet almost a billion seconds have passed since the state meet in 1980 (851,472,000 seconds if I did the math right) and I feel like I am swimming in mildew.


(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Yes, star crossed in pleasure the stream flows on by
Yes, as we’re sated in leisure, we watch it fly

And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me
And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me

Time can tear down a building or destroy a woman’s face
Hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste

Time waits for no one, no favors has he
Time waits for no one, and he won’t wait for me

Men, they build towers to their passing yes, to their fame everlasting
Here he comes chopping and reaping, hear him laugh at their cheating

And time waits for no man, and it won’t wait for me
Yes, time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me

Drink in your summer, gather your corn
The dreams of the night time will vanish by dawn

And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me
And time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me

No no no, not for me….

Old Dog, New Tricks

I just returned from the USCAA National Corporate Cup Relays where I competed for Dave’s company, AT&T, in the “wife” category. You can run for a given company as an employee, a retiree, an alum, or – new this year – as a spouse. Because of an elaborate scoring system, and a labyrinthian age/sex classification method of handicapping, my 45 year-old female self was a bonafide ringer in this competition. heh heh.

On the first day, I ran the 400 leg of a DMR that had to have at least one woman, and someone over 40 – ME, on both counts. My earnest 63.8 second quarter didn’t really HELP us … but it didn’t hurt us either (which was the point of burying me on that leg). AT&T placed 3rd and we got to shake hands with celebrity presenter, Steve Scott, on the awards’ stand. Next up was a mile in some crazy distance relay, called the Pyramid Relay, with 5 people … mile, 800, 800, mile, 2-mile (?) … I think that’s the order. The best part of this race was that Dave and I were on the same team. I loved hearing my husband’s encouragement as I was struggling to hang on to a hard pace:
corporate relays

On day two, Dave and I both ran the 10k road race which is scored like a cross-country meet – lowest score wins. My first place in the 45 age group (thus, scoring just one point) packed as much punch as the #1 finisher overall. It’s actually harder to do well if you are young and fast. heh heh, again. 70+ year-old Ironman Roger is AT&T’s ringer on the roads. I loved being out there cruising around the reservoir early in the morning with just a few die-hard spectators … teammates offering support, between sips of coffee … knowing each of our efforts mattered more than our finish in the pecking order. I loved knowing the dance wasn’t dependent on the audience. AT&T needed my 1 point and I was happy to do my part.

“Did the dance stop because there were no witnesses?
No, the dance wasn’t dependent on an audience;
it had to be performed, not because of acclaim, but because of need.”

from 37 Days<

rosie’s face

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with suggestions for what makes a good team. I am sure my talks will go fine, now that my brain is percolating with your ideas. One thing no one mentioned was how important knowing each other on a team is. This is important in all successful relationships. To know someone well, both parties need to be vulnerable: the knower and the knowee (not a real word, I “know”). I am currently in a quandary trying to get to know someone in the team of my family. I am trying to figure my middle daughter out, whom I jokingly refer to as “Silent Bob,” What is she thinking?

rosie's face

Her face is so open but she plays everything else close to the vest. Rosie is the poem I still can’t understand, but I will read and re-read her until I do.

Poet, Carl Sandburg writes:

“Once a little girl showed to a friend a poem she had written: ‘Why didn’t you make it longer?’ asked the friend. ‘I could have,’ she answered, ‘but then it wouldn’t have been a poem.’ She meant she left something in the air for the reader of the poem to linger over, as any of us do over a rose or a sunset or a face.”

what makes a great team?

I will be giving two talks this summer … one to a college XC team in High Point, NC and one to a boardroom of top clients for AT&T (where Dave works).
Both groups have given me carte blanche to speak on whatever I want, so I thought I’d ponder what makes a great team.

If anyone out there still reads this blog, please chime in … what do you think makes a great team?

(If I quote one of your ideas in my talks, I will give full credit!)

Salinger again … exalted brooding


“As years pass and experience writes new records in our mind life, we go back to some works of art we rejected in the early days and find values we missed. Work, love, laughter, pain, death, put impressions on us as time passes, and we brood over what has happened, praying it may be an exalted brooding. Out of songs and scars and the mystery of personal development, we may get eyes that pick out intentions we had not seen before in people, in art, in books and poetry. Naturally, too, the reverse happens. What we register to at one period of life, what we find gay and full of fine nourishment at one time, we may find later has lost interest for us. A few masterpieces last across the years. We usually discard some. A few masterpieces are enough. Why this is so we do not know. For each individual his new acquisitions and old discards are different.” – Carl Sandburg

I just read an essay in the June 11, New Yorker magazine by Roger Angell (one of my favorite living authors) on summer movies. It has me thinking about good summer reads, so I dusted off my old copy of Nine Stories by JD Salinger – possibly the best collection of short stories EVER written – maybe even the best book ever. I realize it is a cliche to say one loves Salinger, but I do. And re-reading him as a mother, at age 45, is beyond magical. All the children in his stories are no longer the painful, pitiful, angst-ridden versions of the grown-up reader (me), but simply …beautifully, perfectly, innocently .. children.

My children, all children. I love them!

Once again, thank you, JD.
nine stories

when will I ever learn?

lizzie and the azalea

For one spectacular week in May, the azalea bush in our back yard has a glorious flowering. It’s usually right around Teacher Appreciation Week, so I clip lush bouquets of fuchsia blossoms for all my daughters’ teachers. This year, May came and went as I was overwhelmed (in a good way, mostly) with my new CAC duties. The “burning bush” flamed out without my witnessing and today I am sad.

In the photo above, Lizzie is posing too self-consciously – making a “nice picture” for us to remember her kindergarten year – but I wonder, as I look at her growing-up face and her no-more-baby-fat legs, what did I miss (?). I usually pay VERY close attention to my people. I go to all the plays and recitals and teacher conferences; I make sure no playday or practice or dental appointment is missed … but this year I did all my Mommy duties in a distracted way. I had another BIG job to do – my athletes needed my attention, too. I still haven’t figured out how “working mothers” do it all. Have you?

I am left feeling like that old song we used to sing on the field trip bus in grade school:


Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Pete Seeger

the little dinghy

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted, so here goes.
I just started reading Ann Crittenden‘s “The Price of Motherhood” and my blood is boiling. If I were one of those geeked-out runners who wore a heart rate monitor all the time, mine would be around 190 right now – about what an all out 400m feels like for a 45 year-old. Anyway, here’s a Crittenden quote from a Q & A interview I found online:

Q: What is meant by “the price of motherhood?”

A: For the average college-educated woman who leaves the workforce to care for a child, that probably amounts to about a million dollars in lifetime earnings she left behind. Yet American mothers are not only not paid for all the work they do, but are also penalized for it-in terms of lost income if they stay at home, an inflexible job market that makes part-time work scarce or inadequately paid, and in the case of divorce, they’re refused family assets by divorce laws that don’t count their unpaid work. Unpaid female labor-raising the citizens of tomorrow-is the priceless, invisible heart of the economy. Those in this “unpaid labor force” deserve the same rights and respect as other workers.

I have known all this for years, but because I have been so busy caring for my 3 daughters pretty much round-the-clock it wasn’t until I decided (finally) to go back to somewhat “real” work that I realized the colossal injustice of it all. I hope my husbands (that includes my ex, whom I hold dear as family still) don’t get too pissed off when/if they read this … but we moms in the U.S. really do operate under a double-bind situation. Once a woman has a child it is up to her to figure out how, when, and if she will ever be able to leave domestic servitude again. Almost all fathers I know go right back to work after they have their little 3-6 weeks of paid paternity leave while the young mothers – suddenly home all day every day – have to come up with their own solution to how they will return to their careers. It is not society’s problem; it is a painfully private [secret?] dilemma that every single mother faces if she has ambition to do or be anything outside of the home. In many cases, the grandmothers step in (either a woman’s mother or her mother-in-law) to take over the primary caregiving of the infant. But, I imagine, they aren’t paid for their work either. Grandmothers do it out of their “selfless love” for their children; they want their daughters to be happy and fulfilled in their careers without worrying that Baby is stuck in some 10-hour daycare setting, being rotated like a turkey (change, feed, burp, nap, repeat) with a dozen other Butterballs.

When I left this week to travel to a race with my new CAC athletes it was a business trip. My daughters are old enough now to understand that mommy will be back in 2 days. I had no guilt or hesitation leaving, but as I drove away I did ponder why I had to give up 10 years of momentum in my career. When I left the coaching profession 10 years ago, I was on a fast track [no pun intended] mostly because there are so few female coaches in track and field, and now as I try to return to this mostly-male profession as a middle-aged woman, I realize I will probably never “make it.” I will coach individuals to FAST times, no doubt … but I won’t ever command a big salary at a major university because I missed that boat. If you want to be a mother, you have to choose between the BIG boat or the little dinghy.

I changed my terms.

At the end of a coffee meeting with one of my CAC athletes (Carrboro Athletics Club), after the usual talk about training [its a good thing that your legs aren’t dead; don’t worry, you are working hard enough] and race schedules [I like the idea of opening your track season with a race over and under your chosen distance … i.e. run an early 5,000m, then an 800m before racing the 1,500m], I tossed this out: “What are your terms, Jason?”

“I don’t understand the question.”

“Your terms for success,” I said. What must be in place in your life, in your relationships, in your training, in your racing, etc. for you to succeed? State those terms and don’t settle for anything less.”

“Give me some examples.”

Hmmm … I thought. “For instance, after the 1988 Olympic Trials 10k, I decided to run only what I enjoyed – the 1,500m and the 3k. People thought I was crazy for moving down in distance instead of up to the marathon. Also, I decided I was NEVER going to be a high-mileage advocate, despite what the going theory argued. My terms were low mileage quality/intensity over LSD quantity. Also, I swore I’d never rabbit a race.

This last term gave me pause; it sounded so selfish and, well, UN-Christian. You know how the Bible says you can’t serve two masters? Everything in my life served my running. My terms were strict and necessary … back then.

But now, at age 45, my terms have changed. I don’t think I fully realized this until I lined up for the CAC 5k road race time trial back in March. When the gun went off, I instinctively bolted out to position myself in the front pack … but not for myself, not for my own race. I wanted to hit the mile marker in 5:40 not so I could win the prize, but so they would hit the time. Sub-18:00 was required and I was the rabbit for the job.

Here I am, below, as two future CAC athletes, run away from me toward their finish line. “Go, Caroline! Go, Sarah!”

fleet feet gals