Friday, April 8, 2011

A woman walks into the bar...

Argentina. Even the name sounds exotic, foreign, slightly dangerous. For over a year Larry had been planning our first trip to this new country. Visions of tango dances, Buenos Aires cultural sights, fine dining and shopping, and wildlife encounters in rural La Pampa enticed me. I couldn't wait until late March, 2011 for this trip of a lifetime.

Enjoying a lunch tango with Jamie, Ann, and Larry in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Then I ran a 32 minute PR at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon on 10/10/10. My 3:59:12 time more than qualified me for the ultimate runner's dream, the Boston Marathon, which will be held April 18th, 2011.

I did the math and realized I'd be gone 13 days, 2 -3 weeks before the marathon I trained so hard for. I needed to continue my training not only if I wanted to do well in Boston, but tackle Heartbreak Hill? No way would I give up my Argentinian vacation with Larry, but I was bummed about the timing of our trip.

So - I decided I would run. Wherever and whenever I could, through the streets of Buenos Aires, and then, as I told Larry after our outfitter told us there was nowhere to run at the ranch in La Pampa, no one else had ever done it, too many wild animals, armadillo holes so large a semi truck could sink into them (OK, he might not have described the holes as that big but that's what I was hearing...) "If I have to run circles around the ranch all day, I will".

My runs in Buenos Aires were like several other big city runs. It's fun to run around city streets while everyone else is going to and from work, you really feel like you are part of the city life. And then I found Buenos Aires' version of Central Park - actually several long green leafy parks with lakes and hundreds of other like minded people running, walking, and biking. My people, only in Spanish!

I was glad to check off the miles on my marathon mileage chart in this pretty city in South America. The only problem was, after running all around the parks, I, being directionally challenged even back home with English languages street signs, got horribly lost and arrived back at the hotel over an hour late. I used as a landmark that guy on the horse statue I noted at the entrance to one of the parks. After a spectacular run, waving to my people, saying "Buenos Dias" to everyone like a real local, I kept running into that guy on the horse statue but the streets looked very different from where I had been before.

Soon, I figured out that on almost every street corner the Argentinians have erected a guy on a horse statue. Bad landmark to follow, I figured out too late! Finally, the ninth or tenth statue I passed almost seemed to have the guy quickly point the way to me to find my way back to the hotel. To this day I believe that guy came back to life and did that for me to help me out! Otherwise, I'd still be running around the parks and the statues. Anyway, once I arrived back at the hotel and Larry was happy to see I hadn't been kidnapped, I began planning my runs in La Pampa. This time there'd be no guys on horse statues to keep me company, only wild animals to keep me company. I was dreading these solitary runs, scared of the wild animals. And at that point I didn't even know about the electric fence I'd have to crawl under...

Fast forward a few days to Estancia Poitahue in La Pampa. Larry and I are sitting in the ranch's bar, along with the other American guests, enjoying our pre-dinner (dinner starts between 9:30 - 10:00 PM) drinks. The door opens, and a woman walks into the bar, followed by her husband. They introduce themselves (Sue and Dave) to the rest of the gang, hometowns are exchanged, and then Sue turns to her husband and starts talking. "So I ran in Buenos Aires," she said, a slightly tense edge to her voice. Her slim, athletic build seemed poised for action, as if she could take off on a run any minute. "Tomorrow I'll start running around the ranch."

Her words. Her intense talking about running just minutes after entering the bar. Why is she not relaxing on this vacation like everyone else (except for me)?

Looking at Sue was like looking into a mirror. Was it possible? "Sue," I asked, "is there something that you are training for?"

"Yes," she said, smiling. Her face lit up and she said, "The Boston Marathon!"

"Me too!" I said. And, to not sound like a poser, I let her know I knew the date. "21 more days!"

The other guests looked at us and thought either, wow, what a coincidence, two Boston Qualifiers at this ranch in the middle of Argentina, or wow, two Boston Qualifiers at this ranch in the middle of Argentina, must not be that hard to qualify since 20% of the guests here qualified for Boston!

Sue and I started talking and never stopped. We ran together almost every day on that ranch. (We took one day off to go shopping in the big metropolis of Santa Rosa).

Short runs, middle distance, long runs - we stayed on our schedules and had epic runs. Hills, sand, ruts in the road - none of that mattered. We talked and laughed on every run. Our 12 miler went by so fast it seemed like only 12 minutes had elapsed. Not only did wild animals cross our paths (red stag, blackbuck) but we ran by scary looking cows (to me anyway, Sue is a Hoosier and wild cows don't scare Indiana girls like they do Jersey girls)and even had to crawl under an electric fence!

Don't fry for me, Argentina!

In addition to being running nerds, we had so much else in common we were almost like twin sisters. Same profession, both of us avid readers, mothers of two kids (boy first, then the girl), and Sue even worked for and is friends with one of my law school friends! I've visited her high school in Indiana and our son is now a student at her alma mater, Indiana U. We were meant to be friends - and Boston brought us together!

Sue and I are texting and emailing daily, planning our weekend in Boston. Larry and Dave, both former military guys with wicked senses of humor and similar life of the party personalities, will hang out together and be our cheering section during the marathon. We plan to move the party that was Argentina up to Massachusetts. The roar of the red stag (Rooooaaarrrr!!!) will become the roar of the crowd. As Sue would say, "the adventure continues!"

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