Changing or shaping – it depends on how old you are.

Changing or shaping – it depends on how old you are

When we set of for Belgium in Nov 2010, we were full of optimism – why would you go otherwise?

Friends and colleagues knew more than we did – Wow you’re brave – was a regular expression. Others lived the dream with us ‘Wonderful, what an adventure, you lucky things’ And indeed we were and are and have been – brave, be-wondered (new word), adventurous and adventured, lucky – well no, fortunate yes.

Hold on – not lucky!?

Exactly, I firmly believe you make your own luck. There are exceptions like winning the lottery (though again you had to buy a ticket to be in), but invariably where we end up is where we take ourselves.

Happy us (Ok it's NYC but hey...)

Join the front of the queue or stand back until the course is a safe one – well trodden, predictable and, well, if we are honest boring. Most of life’s joys lie in the hidden corners of our lives.

Like having children – there is nothing predictable about that adventure and anyone who thinks otherwise better look at just how quickly the world is changing around us; and then of course throw in the infinite possibilities of the children you will have and then raise with the habits you will draw them to and those you will repulse them from.

Many of my joys, if not all, have been from stepping out from the usual path including my marriage with Chrissy and having our own amazing children.

My sporting and outdoor adventures have followed a similar pattern – my most memorable being largely spontaneous and largely uncharted (running the Heaphy track with 2 others – at a weeks notice, and an impromptu 28 km circuit around Lake Rotoiti –South island – prior to a friends wedding).

And then there was Belgium. Easy, right?

Life isn't always a box of chocolates

Well, as readers of this full blog would know, not exactly. None of it was Belgium’s fault. Entirely the blame lies with me.

Somewhere in in the aging process there is a change that takes place. Until a certain age an adventure to a new land and way of life – well it ‘shapes’ your life, enriches it, opens you to possibilities, blah, blah, blah… Then there is a stage at which such an endeavor no longer shapes your life – it changes it – BAM, BAM, BAM!!!! Clearly if you’re not ready this hurts.

And there I was, and here we are.

For the girls this has very much created a time that will shape their lives in ways we can’t imagine from here – and increasingly the third culture kid phenomena is being observed and understood globally.

For me, everything has changed. New Zealand is still home, but I am no longer fixed there like before. I won’t comment for Chrissy – if she chooses to comment in her blog, I’ll let you know. I’ll get back to New Zealand, but I’m not really in a hurry.

Home

Looking back much of the tension after our arrival I think was driven by the unrealized, deep down, recognition (I know that sounds oxymoronic but hear me out) that there was no going back. To return was futile; we came to create something new and exciting. Our company Chairman often says “It is what It is”. “It” took us quite some time to adapt to that fact as far as Belgium was concerned.

So 24 hours after completing my first mountain bike in Belgium since we came here – I now realize it was a bit more symbolic than just a ride. I had finally said to that deep down part of me “It is what It is”, and that deep down part of me accepted it (again without me realizing). A week earlier I had declared that I would only listen to the French speaking Brussels radio station (Pure FM), whilst commuting so I could improve my French (sacre bleu) – this was more than wanting to be able to understand the commentary on the six nations, I’d finally shifted to an attitude of ‘well you’re here, make the most of it’.

So the two events are connected and represent a sea change in my stay here in Belgium.

Seeing the light?

On the drive to the airport I was thinking about our plans to go to Croatia for a summer break – and how the fact that I already live somewhere that I can’t understand the language means I no longer have language as a reason not to go somewhere; liberating.

For our girls this will and has already shaped their lives. They are well down the track in accepting that they can travel and communicate wherever they wish – as I left this morning they were conversing in basic Dutch inspired by having been to see K3 – the enormously popular Belgian trio of women who appeal to all the sub-teens. They go to school with Dutch, Spanish, Americans, Germans, Czechoslovakians, French, Indian, Austrian, Chinese, and talk of places we didn’t even know existed until our high school years. What that leads to I have no idea, but I know they won’t live in one place forever.

Edie and Olive - going crazy in NYC (one of my favourite all-time pics)

However, to view this as the dream start for their lives is as fraught as our optimism in coming here. Everything is just a beginning and it very much has to do with what paths are chosen. And more important than bringing them on this journey is that they understand where the reward in life is; somewhere off the beaten track and before the precipice.

And then, as I understood and then forgot whilst standing in “Belgium’s headlights’, sometimes you still need to jump – your life can’t simply become a predictable series of ‘adventures’, because that is oxymoronic and pointless.

I marvel sometimes (as I am sure my parents did) that I have been able to survive some of these jumps, but daily I need to remind myself that is no reason not to ‘jump’ anymore. Everyday is discovery.

I re-tweeted a quote from Deepak Chopra last week rephrased it’s like this

– If you treat every moment of your existence as a miracle then happiness will follow –

It found me at a good time.

Thank you Belgium. Thank you Chrissy. Thank you my amazing daughters.

Our happy little Belgians - and friend Milla

Thank you ‘change’, without you I’d have none of this. Nothing.

So what do you plan to change today?

Go make yourself lucky.

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ING NYC Marathon – Epilogue

And so what of it…

Marathon fireworks two nights before the race

Well it’s renewed my passion for running, even if that does mean I need time for my ankle to rest, it renewed my belief in what people can do – anyone who puts there mind to it – the marathon is the metaphor – and it’s a very good one (I thought often through the race – why 26.2 (Iike really “why?”) – but more particularly what if it was less, what if it was more, is the story highlighted in history because someone realized something about that distance – and of course there is no answer, but isn’t it amazing that 47,000 people can get off the couch to do this, when we know for sure it isn’t easy).

And of course it proves that there is reward, real reward, in taking ourselves through these things, through pain and discomfort we wouldn’t ordinarily endure, by avoiding the ‘seemingly safe’ and taking on the ‘not so obviously safer’ route of pushing our boundaries and reminding ourselves of what is possible.

I remember my first training run – the day I found out I was in (true) – I dragged myself around a 2 mile circuit of Staadspark in Antwerp on a fairly hot late April day, got home to pop open a beer and then had the phone ring with the charming Bertrand offering me a ticket to a concert he was off to (his wife was unable to go and Chrissy and the girls were in Italy), my legs aching I headed off and had a great night – apart from having to stand for about 90 minutes more than I would have liked.

And from there to 26.2 miles in New York. Before that I had completed probably fewer than 10 runs in over 10 years, and not been past  6 miles in over 15 years.

The highlight of my training is still the novelty of running to the Nederlands from Antwerp (a convenient ½ marathon and my longest training run). The previous night I drove out there with the girls and cycled back to Antwerp with them in the bike cart. They had a great time and so did I, we did lots of crazy stuff along the way and I remember how excited they were when I got them home to Chrissy.

Edie and Olive - 2hrs after I'd finished (they'd been at Lion King) - we were all pretty stoked - so Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square saw the Croad girls celebrate in style!!

I was up at 5 the next morning and headed off into the sunrise on a beautiful late spring morning. It was peaceful, clear with a frosty mist drifting across the horse paddocks, probably to date the most beautiful day I have etched in my mind of Belgium. I completed the run on schedule and drove back to Chrissy and the girls before 8 in the morning –  I still had a whole Saturday up my sleeve. Magic, pure magic.

Honestly next to giving birth (not me, Chrissy – to our two wonderful children) this has to have been one of the best returns for effort I am aware of.

It costs a pair of shoes, a little organization, a bit of determination, a bit of care, and any 26.2 mile course you can find.

You’ll love yourself for it, and people will regard you as a superhero (even your kids)… which is all quite nice if you can get used to it!!

Be strong – go do something you never thought you would, and let me know what it is and how great it feels.

ING NYC Marathon – across the line

The Mountain Lion - I was looking out for this in the run - it helped get me home!

Coming out the park and heading towards Columbus circle was a bizarre feeling, I wanted to feel totaled, exhausted, dehydrated, spent, but I didn’t. My legs were traveling slowly but one after the other much like they were at mile 2. It was both a time of elation (I’m nearly there) and disappointment (I could have pushed harder) – and before you say it – go back and read my earlier comment, that’s just running and me!

I was running alongside a woman (I have this theory about running next to the best looking woman you could find, there were actually quite a few to choose from!) from the navy down that stretch but as I turned into the home stretch (back into the park and slightly uphill) I pulled away easily (I’d already caught and passed the Nederland guys) and then in the last 100 yards (just when I could have been ‘zooming’ across the line) I had Chrissy’s words in my head ‘look excited when you cross the line’ and I remember totally losing focus as I desperately tried to conjure up some ‘cross the line elation performance’.

I settled on crossing the line with what seemed like a large leap in the air (the video shows it to be about 3cm {: ) and thrusting my hands in the air.

Unfortunately it was such a well conceived piece of choreography that I completely forgot to consider whether the audience might be able to see it, so despite hundreds of camera’s and video’s at the finish line, my Oscar wining performance remained largely obscured as I ran in behind two runners and it looks more like I managed to stall some sort of exhausted fit.

I further added to my ignominy by not even stopping across the line, but quickly clearing the crowds (and photographers) with the one thought in my mind being “Right what’s the time I don’t want to keep Chrissy and the girls waiting after the Lion King”. Yes, I understand I should be seeking help for some of these pre-occupations.

Fortunately with thousands of people crossing the line every 10 minutes the route out of the park was quite lengthy and I had time to reflect on what I had achieved and I certainly felt pretty good looking at the condition of the many around me, but I also felt good for them. I loved seeing all these people give their all for something I have always loved doing – running.

There was no one being impatient, it was a well-behaved crowd of tired men and woman. The odd person being plucked from the queue by attentive medical staff, and a number just sitting as far out of the way as they could to re-hydrate or ease cramped muscles. It took a full 40 minutes to get from the finish line, to the gear truck and then out to the nearest subway.

Olive on the monkey bars in Central park - right next to where I exited two days later.

Music to my ears

A brief word on Music – the race started (each wave in fact) – with a Firefighter from one of the 911 brigades singing Star Spangled Banner, as the gun fired Frank Sinatra’s New York New York boomed over the speakers. You couldn’t mistakenly think you were in the London marathon!

Through Brooklyn it was covers of Born to be Wild, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, The Bangles (Girls just wanna have fun), Metallica, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and of course the choir in Lafayette, Katy Perry hit the waves on a few occasions and there was also a fair bit of Hip Hop and Rap – all but one of which was a mystery to me.

I can’t recall any music at all down 5th Avenue or through central or across the line – but I’m sure there must have been. But in the Bronx I did here the track which to me defines my trip to New York and I’d been waiting to hear all the way along, it defines New York exceptionally well and speaks of the music of ‘the time’ – you’ll all be surprised, I have this on my i-Tunes, I love the sound, the emotion, the lyrics and the way the song captures so much about NYC – look it up and have a listen and imagine you’re running the ING NYC marathon yourself: Jay Z (Featuring Alicia Keys) – Empire State of Mind.

Me and my support crew the day after. I wouldn't have done it without them 🙂

(Next post i’ll tell you what it all add’s up to…)

ING New York City Marathon – Part two

It is indescribable, something I have never seem in a sports event to this level (and I’ve done many of the most popular events in NZ). I would run it again just for that feeling – and I’m sure it would work me over just as much the second time.

Through Brooklyn, every ¼ mile (out of respect to the Americans all references will be in miles) was another band – folk, rock, pop, electric, and down Lafayette Avenue the Choir – I could have just stopped there a while and listened. However all of it added up to feeling like you owed it to them; to give it your best.

I knew some of the kids I was high-fiving probably would never get to have a pair of decent running shoes, and yet here they were being foisted high by mum or dad or their big brother or sister with grins and encouragement (and meanwhile probably thinking they had just high-fived some super athlete – Olive asked me the night before if I was going to win! – oh to be struck down from your pedestal).

And so it went, not long after turning off 4th avenue I got my first big “Hey Kiwi, go Kiwi…” (see photo to understand that) – it was a very emotional moment and the one I remember best of all (what’s that they say about your first!).

From there the entertainment started to morph – in terms of either passing or being passed by a carrot, an apple, Spiderman, Captain America, Superman, a bride and groom, and a few others whose outfits in general use would have qualified them as a nut-job.

I saw a few Kiwis through the race, but mostly everyone was either running their own race or running with a group – socializing was largely limited to brief interactions with the crowd and the occasional person ‘diving’ out of the pack to hug and embrace mum/dad/son/daughter/husband/wife/brother/ sister/ friend/ or fellow countryman. That was very emotional and I must admit though I had insisted Chrissy take the girls to Lion King rather than put them through the torture of waiting for a brief glimpse of me running by, I was more than a little envious and at times a ‘hug’ would have been better than great.

The ½ marathon mark came up with relatively little effort, I was 4 -5 minutes behind my target, but I knew the slow crossing of the Staten Island bridge (just too many people to weave around) and the brief ‘relief’ stop on the other side (tactical decision due to poor pre-race strategy) had been the main contributors. However the mind games kicked in immediately – I had not trained at any distance greater than this due to a heavy travel schedule and my nursing a niggly calf muscle for the last 3 months. So mentally I switched from cruising to being very conservative – and more than anything that added time to my time.

If I could have run the race the next day with the knowledge I could run it I am confident I could have taken off between 10 and 15 minutes (note the distinction between knowing I could finish and not knowing how much I could run), and that is a little of what holds me back in celebrating – I didn’t hurt enough, in many respects this was probably my most conservative effort in a sports event ever.

As a half-way interlude for you  some random musing– who did I think of while I ran?

Well Chrissy of course, and her determination to run and her enjoyment and satisfaction from running (it was in the end what got me back into a pair of shoes). Olive – she loves movement, and is certainly showing early signs of being a great little athlete. Edie because she just loves doing stuff – whether that ends up as running, downhill mountain biking, or – who cares!

I thought of Lance Armstrong and how he described it as the hardest thing he ever did (I think he is now doing under 3 hours and a half marathon time similar to mine when I last ran one in my 30’s), I thought of the old guy that used to run all over Manawatu where I grew up, he was probably one of my first role models – I wanted to be fit like he was at his age (I hope in reality he was over 40!).

I thought of all the people who couldn’t, of friends I have lost and in particular Francie who died 18 months ago from cancer, I thought of my brother Rodger.  I thought of my older brother Peter who has run plenty more Marathons than me and was in hospital having a quintuple bypass the week Olive was born, I thought of my brother in law Simon who competed at the world heart transplant games in Gotberg this year. I thought of my boss and his family who have endured and survived a tortuous year.

I thought of the impossibility of poverty and the generousness of almost every New Yorker we encountered rich or poor. I thought of my parents and my in-laws and my many friends. I thought of Ray Wood the long tall Texan – Kiwi who has always run and tagged me along with a good friend of his to run the Heaphy track in a single day (49 miles), Ray has been often on my mind whilst I trained, I think he used to find my approach to running quite humorous (that I could pick it up without much effort or thought as and when I wanted). I thought of Dan Rockwell who I should have contacted and who only weeks later came close to losing his life in a car accident.

In short I constantly thought of how lucky I have been, and how lucky I was to be able to ‘compete’.

If you’re not on the list – it’s only because I can’t remember it all and I didn’t have enough energy to run another 26 miles to get a few more in!

Part 3 – in a few more days…..