I have become a huge fan of SpongeBob SquarePants this summer, as we played a dvd of some past episodes over and over again in our minivan (before it was rear-ended about 2.5 weeks ago...it is still being repaired). As I write the title of this post, I am singing the SpongeBob song ("It's the best day ever!") over in my head. Nathan loves SpongeBob, too...as you can see from this picture:
(We saw him on an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls, on 8/23/08, note the picture's date. We skipped a bigger trip we had planned to Whistler/Vancouver to take care of some important family things before school started, and wanted to get out of town for a couple of days.)
But our "best day ever" didn't occur in Niagara Falls...it happened the day of the 3 mile run/walk
which my aunt, uncle and cousins put together on Labor Day, on Harsens' Island.
The race is a race which has occurred on Labor Day on Harsens' Island for a while, usually as a fundraiser for the Fire Department. My Aunt Donna had the idea to turn it into a fundraiser for breast cancer research and enlisted the help of the Cross Country team at De La Salle Collegiate High School, of which my cousin Sean is a member. To play a sport at De La Salle, the boys need to do a service project, so this was one they could do - help at the walk, and recruit 2 runners and 2 walkers. (This was fun for me as I ran Cross Country at Regina High School, which is a "sister school" to De La Salle...so all of my years running in the Catholic League came back as I watched the team warm up and run this race.)
I didn't know what to expect on this day...we just loaded up the double jogger into the station wagon (minivan still in shop) and thought we would figure it out when we got there. As soon as we got there, Emma decided she wanted to run this 3 mile race. I tried my hardest to convince her not to run, as 1) she has never run a race 2) she's never run 3 miles non-stop 3) she had played her first 3 travel soccer games on Saturday (2) and Sunday (1) and 4) I didn't know if I could run this race with her, having only finished chemo 4 weeks before. Once she found out there were only 2 girls running in her age group (13 and under girls) and knew she could get earn a medal by finishing, she was definitely not going to be convinced to walk instead though (She's walked this far with me, so I knew she could do that). Plus I wanted to see what would happen, even if one or both of us were going to crash and burn.
So we signed up to run, Bill signed up to walk with Katie and Nathan in the jogger. We did a little warm-up, and got to the back of the starting area where we wouldn't be in anyone's way.
The race started....the cross country runners took off. Emma was giddy, and excited. I told her we were going to take it easy and just go at a nice pace, and not to waste her energy, just have fun and see the sights. It was a 1.5 mile out-and-back course.
The fun began almost instantly, as we turned the corner and saw the South Channel. My family has had a cottage on Harsens' Island since 1911 and my sisters and I spent many, many happy summer childhood days there. Soon after, the leaders were coming back (winner ran the first mile in 4:40), and after that, we saw my cousin Sean and my cousin Kevin on their way back. My Dad was calling out times at the 1 mile/2 mile mark!
We ran a pretty good first mile, kept the pace through the 1.5 mile turn/water stop (Emma dumped water on her head like a pro), saw my dad again at the 2 mile mark. At about 2.25 miles, we saw the walkers coming down the course - we passed Bill, Katie and Nathan who were walking with my Uncle Jim. Then we passed Nancy (my stepmother, the highly favored Grandma Nance!) walking with Uncle Mark and her dog Rocky. (They were the only 2 people + dog to go swimming in the middle of the walk...crazy fun family!) Aunt Donna's dad was manning the water stop at the 2.5 mile mark. Right before that I had noticed Emma's shoe (which had been untied for a while) was actually coming off her foot and made her stop for a second after the water stop to tie it ("NO! I DO NOT WANT TO STOP!").
We kept going until the 2.75 mile mark, and we kept the pace until I told her "OK...now, you can go if you want to." "I can't go anywhere!" "OK, then let's just stay like this, this is perfect."
At the finish line, Aunt Donna, Uncle Kevin, and Molly the dog were waiting! She sprinted to finish ahead of me - 27:50. Not bad for an 8.5 year old! She won her age group (the 10 year old running finished in 44:00). Bill had tears in his eyes when she walked up to get her medal! Not bad for me, either - I don't know when the last time I ran 3 miles non-stop was...maybe before my diagnosis in February?
The rest of the day was blissfully fun also. We stopped at the cottage (Uncle Mark and Uncle Bob use it most, Aunt Donna's parents live across the canal so Uncle Kevin and family stay there and we grew up swimming back and forth between the two). The kids loved seeing this cottage again, I loved seeing them jump into the canal like we did. Uncle Jim drove his boat down from his place at the Old Club. After a while, we all loaded up and drove the boats to Horseshoe Bay - my Dad and Nancy drove home from the race and drove their boat across Lake St. Clair from Grosse Pointe Farms to meet us!
The family swam and hung out together in Horseshoe Bay - my 3 uncles, my aunt, my 2 cousins, my dad and Nancy, and my little family - swimming between boats, playing frisbee, fighting for floats - like we did growing up. Emma went tubing for the first time with Bill (from Uncle Jim's boat) while Nathan, Katie and I hung out on Dad and Nancy's boat and soaked up the sunshine. Nathan fell asleep in the cabin on the way back to the cottage.
It was almost magical to share all of these things with my children - my great family and my memories. We drove home just in time to put our things out for the big first day of school...just a teeny bit of red on the cheeks and our minds full of this day of both so many firsts and so many memories.