The Chances

How a 250+ Pound Couch Potato Got Healthy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Me, My Father, and The Ave

I need to tell you about my father.

Ernest Wayne Chance was born May 3, 1935. In his youth, he was skinny by nature but anything but athletic. Other than bowling and water skiing, I don't think he did anything active. In his 30s, when I was born, his sedentary lifestyle had caught up with him and he had a nice, big belly.

He wasn't a bad father, don't get me wrong. He just wasn't very active. There was a small burst during my early teens, when he and my mom decided to start playing tennis. This without any knowledge of the rules, of course, but we did have a lot of fun.

Anyway, one of my dad's favorite activities was camping, and his absolute favorite place was the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Specifically, the Burlington Campground on the Avenue of the Giants, next to the Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center. For most of my childhood we'd camp there once a year. He and my mom especially liked this campground because it was like a natural playground. In the 1800's it was a logging camp, which later got shut down. One of the methods they used for logging was they would use hatchets to make large notches. In the notches they'd put a wooden platform for the crews to stand on, then make another notch a bit higher up. By using this technique, they could get up a tree 15 to 20 feet up, then saw it off and let it fall. The stumps all remain, and the notches made for great climbing fodder for us kids.

Being next to the visitor's center, there was always an evening campfire. There was also a Jr. Rangers program, which by doing various activities, we could earn prizes. One activity was gathering cigarette butts from the campground, and my father helped us win the prize for that one by saving his butts for a week or so before we went up there, hehe.

Once grown, I started taking my family there on a semi-annual basis, camping at Burlington again. It's one of those strange places that never seems to age. Unlike most places you visit as a child, it's truly remained the same as I remember it. In the visits I've made as an adult, I've also done quite a bit of hiking. Grasshopper Peak was one of the first longer hikes I did, back before I'd lost much weight. I didn't make it to the peak because it was just too difficult at the time, and when I got back to the visitor center I found out that I had actually hiked 16 miles round trip.

I still hike, of course, but most recently running's come to the forefront of my fitness activities. In the past, running has been a means to stay fit, but I really do believe that staying fit for me is now a means to continue running. Not much of a difference, perhaps, but it is to me.

So with the natural progression of running, I started investigating marathons. I recalled on the first trip I made to bring my family to Humboldt, we were eating at a restaraunt and I used the restroom. On the wall, they had a poster sized print of runners with numbers pinned to their chests, running what was called The Ave. My immediate thought was that it must be quite the experience, running through the Avenue of the Giants, something I'd really only experienced by car. That's as far as the thought went, since I wasn't a runner at the time, but it did stay in the back of my mind.

Once I started running, the natural progression of things led me to at very least contemplate a marathon, sort of as an unreachable goal that could be there at the end of a long journey. I did a Google search for "humboldt redwoods marathon" and found exactly that, the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon. I was doing my search last year, and the marathon was being held in October. I was doing a 3-miler with my pastor and commented that what I'd love to do would be the half marathon that upcoming October, with the full marathon another year later.

As spring came, things changed as we made plans to climb Mt. Whitney. As time progressed, with all the Whitney training I ended up not being able to do long runs on the weekends because I was backpacking. I had to stop the training plan I had started about a month in. This was entirely acceptable, since Whitney was such an amazing place. I made a blog entry for the trip if you're interested in reading about it.

After Whitney, my workouts started leaning towards running and that's really when my interest in it exploded. Not that my interest wasn't already there, but it really gelled during this time.

One day I was researching marathons again, when I came to the realization that there are actually two marathons run on the Avenue of the Giants. The one in October was the one I had seen before, but there was another, called The Ave. That was a bigger marathon, but was run on a familiar date: May 3.

That's right. The Ave Marathon is being run on May 3, 2009, what would be my father's 74th birthday (he died in 1989). So here's one of my father's favorite places on earth, now one of my own favorite places on earth. My life is steering towards running a marathon, of which one is being held in that place on my father's birthday.

Most marathon training programs are 18 weeks long. I was already thinking The Ave would be perfect when last week I started doing the calculations and found out that next week is exactly eighteen weeks before May 3. I mean, really, can it be any more perfect?

So that's that. Tomorrow I'll be registering for The Ave, and will run it in my father's memory, on his birthday, in his favorite place. The route goes right in front of the Burlington campground, where we'll be staying, once again. When I told my mother all of this, she was dumbstruck. Now all I need to do is muster the ability to run 26.2 miles. That's what training programs were invented for, right?


Vickie said...

Having the goal to run on that day in that place, you will be able to do the 26.2. Good luck and I'll be watching your progress!

Dan Seifring said...

Can't think of a better marathon for you.

Darrell said...

Nice bit of writing here.

What a happy coincidence about the Ave. You've got to do it! Good luck with the training. You'll be great.

Pat said...

sounds like a beautiful marathon. I'm sure you'll do great.