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Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Fairytale Ending

(Other than the parts where my second wallet of the year was snatched and our car died on the way home from the airport. Thank goodness for heroes like Marc Lombardi and Margot Murphy!)

I really couldn’t have scripted a more enchanting ending to my Watson Fellowship. One year after I left them and thirty since they last visited Europe, my mom and dad met me in France for the final nine days of my trip. In addition to catching up like our life depended on it, we shared a little bit of my vagabond existence, sight-saw until our legs went numb, and most specially, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Before my trip becomes even more of a muddled dream, here are some highlights from our reunion and my very last week abroad:

Mass at Notre Dame on our first night in Paris:
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Sight-seeing like it was nobody’s business:
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Daily bakery runs, a few fancy meals, and equally scrumptious dirt-cheap picnics:
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A day marveling at the Versailles palaces and gardens (and appreciating never having to sleep in such a pattern-overloaded bedroom or eating dinner in front of a dozen empty-plated guests every night):
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Two nights in Lyon, France, the true City of Lights:
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A surprise (to my mom) return to my parents’ honeymoon spot in Lucerne, Switzerland:
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Two nights and a neat boat tour in Strasbourg, France:
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A few hilarious, bizarre, unexpected encounters like this summer parade in Strasbourg…
(those would be firework-popping exterminators in pursuit of giant, dancing insects)

…as well as a senior citizen folk-dancing performance and an outdoors Weather Girls concert:20130716-154712.jpg(remember “It’s Raining Men”? That’s them!)

Finally, a day trip to beautiful Baden-Baden, Germany:
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It’s only been a week since I hit home, but I already feel like I could have snatched that final excursion straight out of a Disney classic. Having my parents to myself for a full week, I got to describe my journey slowly, thoroughly and spontaneously, get the full scoop on what’s been brewing around Dallas and the Wade home since I left, and give them a little taste of what life has been like for me these past 12 months. Every day had some incredible moments, but the highlight for me was visiting my parents’ honeymoon spot and celebrating their thirty years of mostly blissful, always model marriage to each other.

I’m now back in the real world of Dallas, Texas, and have replaced the thrills of traveling with the excitement of seeing everyone and everything that I’ve missed. I don’t expect my wanderlust to stay dormant for too long, but for now I’m savoring every second of being home.
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Deep in the Heart

Fifty weeks ago, I ran away from home. Since then, I’ve traversed 22 countries, slept in 72 beds, exhausted 11 pairs of running shoes, run 3504 miles, and befriended hundreds of the world’s finest humans.

20130708-212807.jpgAfter a spectacular final week with my parents (that update’s coming next), I’m back in Paris awaiting my final flight in the morning and the embrace of a curly, blonde Wombmate that wouldn’t dare be late for the most important pick-up of his life or show his face at DFW in anything but a bedazzled pair of red, white and blue overalls.

The mature, insightful follow-up to this tornado of a year is probably a reflection on the sights I’ve seen, discoveries I’ve made, challenges I’ve overcome, and growth I’ve experienced since July 2012. But there’s only one place that’s on my mind right now, and it packs more punch and pride in its panhandled, bumpy-tailed border than anywhere I’ve traveled and is consuming every last bit of brain capacity I have. So I’m going to let my thoughts of Texas and home run as wild as the legs that bolted away from there twelve months ago as I list, in no particular order, some of the things that I’m most looking forward to returning to:

  • Real-life, face-to-face family and friend time! I could end here since it’s far and away my #1 source of excitement, but I’ll go on.
  • Texas and everything good about it: TexMex, blue bonnets, summer nights, thunder storms, steak, country music, southern hospitality, and that beautiful Dallas skyline.
  • The freedom of driving a car (and the expertise of a tried and true driver’s ed teacher, Prof. Kim Wade)
  • Holidays at home with my main people. Christmas 2013 will be the first one in FOUR years that all 4 Wade kids will be home together, and ecstatic doesn’t even scratch the surface of my feelings about that.
  • My own room and Rachel’s cozy bed (thanks, Sis!)
  • A familiar kitchen and all the tupperware, spices, and grocery store trips my heart desires
  • My favorite running spots, which have endured more pounding by my feet over the years than is fair: White Rock Lake, Norbuck Park, Rice track, Outer Loop, Herman Park, Jesuit track, Town Lake…
  • Timeless traditions and routines that I’ve missed sorely: coffee and pedis with Deb, dinner parties with my Dallas buds, embarrassingly frequent Hungry’s dinners with Rach and Les, holiday prep with Mom, Bread Runs with Dad, pre-race Starbucks stops with Jim, Ruggles with my team, etc.
  • My piano and the banjo the Meltons so generously left for me to master
  • Getting to pick from more than 5 outfits every day (but let’s be real– I’ll still wear running clothes 90% of the time)
  • A fresh dayplanner and the ability to get back into a routine and make all of my own plans
  • A life without let-lag, adapters, time zone calculations, metric and currency conversions, luggage, language barriers, and a reliance on Skype (for at least a little while)
  • Early morning coffee, newspapers, crosswords, and animal-watching at our big kitchen table
  • My favorite stores and restaurants: Whole Foods, Hungy’s, fro-yo, Breadwinners, Celebrity, Target, Anthro, etc.
  • Regular gym, training room, and ice bath access (yep, I said it!)
  • Having a phone (although it has been pretty awesome being basically unreachable for the past year)

  • So what’s next? First, some stability, familiarity, and as much family and friend time as I can convince them is necessary. After a month or two of getting my life sorted out at home, training hard, helping out at my parents’ law office, and starting to process the last twelve months, I’ll move back to Houston for at least this fall. Under the guidance of Jim, my trusted coach for six years and counting, I’ll take a leap into the daunting, exhilarating world of post-collegiate running while assuming a volunteer assistant role at Rice, holding a part-time job, and figuring out what my next big step will be. The only thing I’m sure about at this point is that I want to give professional running my all while I’m still young and fresh. But where? Texas, Colorado, California, D.C, or elsewhere? At what distance do I truly belong? And how will I occupy the time outside of running? Graduate school is likely, but where and in what discipline?

    There’s plenty of time ahead to mull all of that over. For now though, about a year after fleeing the coop, there’s only one place my heart and mind belong: my snug, familiar, memory-laden nest in Dallas, Texas, with its root-busted driveway, fragrant magnolia trees, enormous kitchen window, and perfect layout for two parents and two sets of twins.

    From the depths of my heart, with its Texas-shaped hole that will be plugged by this time tomorrow, I appreciate y’all sticking with me during my sensational Watson journey. Your support and prayers mean more than I can express and brightened what would have been had a much rougher romp through all those unfamiliar territories and new faces. As fun as it has been describing my journey through this blog, I’m really looking forward to giving my computer and timezone calculations a rest after a few final posts, and catching up with each of you in person in the coming weeks. So those of you currently in Texas– get ready to be squeezed like anaconda prey and to fill me in on your past year. And those of you in other states and other countries– let’s figure out how to cross paths in either your or my stomping grounds as soon as we can. (That means you, hosts who have welcomed me into your home like a long-lost daughter. My door’s as open as yours was and I hope you’ll find that out for yourselves.)

    Sayonara, nomadic life… Here I come, Texas!20130708-214511.jpg

     
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    Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    A Friendly Finnish

    All year, I’ve been writing about world-class runners and world-class hosts. I now want to introduce you to a third type of world-class influences on this trip: my nearest and dearest friends from home.

    Other than a few special occasions (like this, this, and this), their presence this year has been confined to email updates, Skype chats, prods for NBA (non-blog-appropriate) info, and the occasional revamped Sisqo song in a video message.

    But not last week!20130701-093447.jpgArmed with two weeks of vacay time, hot-off-the-press Masters diplomas, and a globe of possibilities, two of my best friends from Dallas jetset all the way to Scandinavia for a supersonic spin through Copenhagen and Stockholm and a full week of Finnish fun with their girl B. Not your average vacation or reunion destination… nor your normal amount of fun or folly.

    Claire and Matt’s arrival in Helsinki coincided perfectly with Midsummer’s Eve, one of Finland’s biggest holidays that empties cities as Finns flock to countryside cottages for a weekend of grilling, eating, drinking, sauna-ing, swimming, boating, mosquito-slapping, and celebrating this special time of year in which the sun refuses to fully set.

    After we rented a cottage online and I wrangled up some new Finnish friends, we hit to road to Kangasala, Finland, population: Pia and Bob Taylor (but don’t even play like you’ve never thought about vacationing there).20130701-093536.jpg

    Once we settled in and got the lay of the land (by which I mean that Claire and I napped hard while Matt trudge-trudge-TRUDGEd through thick fields and patched up a sinking canoe with a homemade grass plug), our Frinns arrived and kicked the weekend off right with a good ole stranger-on-stranger prank.20130701-093546.jpg



    Ice broken and respect established, the night rolled on with more sauna time, branch whacks, and wieners-in-a-cup than most holidays call for. But Midsummer mandated it, and we love it for that.20130701-093554.jpg

    I woke the next morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, all ready to forage in the shrubs and moss for our breakfast. The hordes of mushrooms the Badger raved about never materialized, but we did make a tiny strawberry skewer (serving size: 1 small rodent).20130701-093818.jpgMore importantly, the Badge got a second opportunity to prank us by hiding a package of mushrooms under some moss and waiting until we found it. Tricky Badger!

    A long run, some breakfast tacos, and one last bro-sauna later, easily the best Finnish Midsummer celebration we’ve ever had came to an end as the Badger, Antti-Pekka and Kari hit the road, leaving three wannabe Finns to brave the elements on our own for the rest of the week.20130701-093825.jpg20130701-093840.jpgWhat didn’t come to an end was our excessive use of Badger’s trademark “Come on, MAYNE!” Not even close.

    For the next five days, Claire, Matt, and I alternated between quiet, leisurely cottage time and aimless explorations through nearby towns, filling the in-betweens with Suomipop, Yksi (“one” in Finnish and a highly recommended change from Uno), and more scrambling to catch up on all the scandals and happenings from last year.20130701-103052.jpgThe Finnish countryside must be one of the most underrated destinations in the world, and I’m so thankful that the three of us got to reunite and unwind in such untraditional, picturesque surroundings.

    Other than one refueling mishap (don’t even talk to us about Finnish gas stations), our rental car was perfect for scooting around the countryside and taking day trips to nearby towns. Tampere and Jyväskylä offered nice glimpses of less touristy towns and both had a few jewels tucked inside. Also, 10 bucks to anyone who can pronounce the second one without sounding like a fool! 20130702-065153.jpg20130702-065159.jpg20130702-065204.jpg

    For the last two nights of Claire and Matt’s visit, we rolled back to the Sink to do a little city-exploring and island-hopping. Though I was awestruck for the second time by Helsinki’s massive churches and cool Russian architecture, the highlight for me was Suomenlinna, an 18th century sea fortress that spans six islands and contains elements from its time under Swedish and Russian control. The whole area teems with molehill-hideouts, dark stone tunnels, and mossy crags, and made me want to do a little defending on Finland’s behalf (but not in the winter, for more than a few hours, or for real).20130702-065306.jpg20130702-065311.jpg20130702-065317.jpg

    Matt and Claire’s visit ended way too abruptly for my liking, but not without one last “Come on, MAYNE” as they strutted their stuff out of our criminal-infested hotel (my bad! or good?). Our entire week was wonderful, but the best part of it all (fine– besides the popcorn fridge) was having two easy-going, joke-cracking, long-time buds by my side who I felt not one speck of pressure to be polite, serious, or guest-y around. They reminded me that my eagerness for home is justified and cemented the fact that I do indeed have the world’s most loyal, fun, sincere, and witty friends. So thanks, you two, for spending your precious vacation time getting very jet-lagged, sleeping in a mosquito-ridden hut, “showering” in a sauna, and brightening up last week and the end of my trip in a way that only close friends are capable of. On a scale from Sheep to SKG, I love y’all a RatchDaddy amount and will forever be thankful for our awesome, unusual, Finnish reunion.20130702-201038.jpg20130702-201047.jpg

    For my last two nights in Helsinki, I crashed with Venla Paunonen and her boyfriend Mikko for the second time, and got to know the lovely Paunonen family a little better through Venla’s impressive speed session and a day in nearby Porvoo.20130703-091140.jpg20130703-091147.jpgThey were my last true hosts of this trip and I couldn’t ask for a better family to end on. Thanks for the meals, bed, tours, and 5am ride to the airport, Paunonens, and I hope and believe that we’ll cross paths at some races or training camps in the future!

    As of last Sunday, I can FINALLY say that I’m happily reunited with my dear Mom and Pop after a year apart. We’re last-hoorah-ing in France this week before storming Dallas on July 9th, and I’m delighted to get to share the tail end of my Watson journey with them. I can only think of three elements that would make this reunion better, and their names are Matt, Rachel, and Luke. Fortunately, though, in less than a week we will all be inhabiting the same state and timezone and boy, am I ready for that!

     
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    Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Uncategorized