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What I’m Thankful For

As I’m standing in front of the mirror brushing my hair in “my bathroom” at my mom’s house, I’m having flashbacks to my middle school days of the late 80’s when I was sporting the permed long curls that I took the liberty of highlighting myself with a couple of bottles of Sun-In, and long summer days spent running carefree at the beaches in Carlsbad.

In “those days” the drive from Fallbrook to the stairs at Tamarack Beach seemed like an eternity.  The twenty mile one-way trip was always filled with anticipation and excitement as I couldn’t wait to grab my boogie board out of my parent’s Ford Bronco and dive into the waves.  My sister was the surfer and would go out and shred with the boys but she was too cool to drive with us.  She would pull up in her red Pontiac Fiero with her board strapped to the top, secured with Thule racks.  She sported the Uggs back then too just like today on Thanksgiving.  She’s always been cool like that.  As I comb through my long blond hair, not much has changed over the last nineteen years, but things have definitely evolved-for the better.  I am the one that surfs now and my sister has temporarily put the waves on hold while she is caring for her two month old little boy.  I still have long blond hair but thank God it no longer has any trace of the chemically induced curls, and the color, well I have upgraded from the bleach in a bottle to the perfect highlights Lisa at Model Call Salon in La Jolla gives my hair.  Yep, she grew up in Fallbrook too and we have a ton of fun chatting and laughing about the days at Bonsall Elementary, the underground newspaper her brother started and oh my gosh did you here that Dominick’s Deli opened up a second location in town.  You know, all the vital details.

I still run but now instead of running into the waves with my boogie board, I run marathons.  Boston Marathon, New York Marathon…I’ve run them both.  Placed eighth and ninth respectively.  Not bad for a girl who got her start in a small town.  But you know I wouldn’t have had my childhood be any other way.  When I come back to Fallbrook for the holiday so many good experiences come back to life.  I run up Mission Road from my mom’s house and turn onto Stagecoach Road and run right past the high school where I spent four very focused years.  In those four years I won twelve San Diego CIF section titles and five California State titles.  I have an easy time retracing my steps on the high school track as I recall the 10×400 meter repeats Coach Hauck would have us do every year on the first day of track practice.  Our track isn’t dirt anymore.  Nope, it’s been replaced with a state-of-the-art all-weather red eight lane track.  Mr.  Hauck would’ve been proud.  He passed-on a few years ago. Collapsed right at the track he had devoted so much time to.  I run up Stagecoach to Ranchwood Lane.  A quiet, anonymous street with a handmade wooden sign stating its name.  I make a right turn and immediately remember all the runs with the “boys.” Donny and Ian Forsyth, Tim Heck, Brian Purcell.  Mr. Hauck knew I was too fast to run with the girls and that the boys didn’t dare allow themselves to be beaten by a 4’11” 75 pound girl, so I ran many runs on Ranchwood Lane listening to boys be boys while I hurried to keep pace. Now instead I’m listening to a mix of Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, Usher and Kings of Leon on my iPhone 4S.  I’m laughing to myself because the only cell phones back in 1991 looked like a big grey brick and weighed about the same.  Now I have one strapped to my arm and I can order a pizza with my Urbanspoon app or check my account balance with my Bank of America app.  Like I said not much has changed, but a lot has evolved.

As I make the turn off Reche Road and head south on Stagecoach Lane to retrace my steps, the smell of sagebrush mixed with a late fall crisp, but warm morning totally awakens my senses and I remember the trips we would take in my dad’s red 1991 Jeep Wrangler up to Fresno, CA each year for the California High School Cross-Country State Meet.  It has always been held the weekend of Thanksgiving.  Yep we would pile in the Jeep, turkey-cranberry sandwiches tucked away in the back and I would play my Gameboy and listen to Oingo Boingo on my Sony Personal CD player during the five hour trip north.  My mom has the 1991 Red Jeep Wrangler now.  It’s had a few rebuilt engines put in it by Eric at Peter’s Automotive, but it still runs great and everyone in town still knows my mom by her car.  In fact, I saw Mr. Hutcherson at the gym in town this week and he asked how the car was running.  He sold my parents the Jeep back in 1991.  As I make the turn off Mission Road up towards my mom’s house I remember the thousands of times I have made this turn before.  Sometimes exhausted after a two hour training run, sometimes soaking wet after being relentlessly pelted with rain during an early spring run, sometimes numb after trying to process the change in my life that I didn’t like, but this time secure, content and happy.  You see, I am not just the girl that runs really fast and can beat the boys anymore.  I am a woman who has a career, is fit, intelligent and back doing exactly what she loves to do…run carefree.  Not a lot has changed, but a lot has evolved.  And for that, I am very thankful.

Follow Milena on Vitalyte.com as she blogs about sports nutrition, healthy sports drinks, being a woman and a modern athlete, as well as her personal life.

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