Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Liz's Shoes

We often see makeshift memorials along-side the road as we whiz by and, perhaps, after a momentary pang of sadness for the lives lost we continue on. There are so many such sites of loss, replete with wilted flowers, faded cards, and teddy bears rapidly breaking down in the harshness of the roadside. 

I went for a ride this afternoon after spending the bulk of the morning reading Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point. It was one of those interesting days that mark the transition between summer here in the Pac-NW and fall. Though windy, the air still had that softness that is summer, the clouds side slipped through the sky like seagulls, and the sun caressed my cheeks. The city in was in its full-Tuesday cry but there was also a sense of breathlessness or waiting that always attends around approaching holidays. Labor Day is coming up and the school season begins after the holiday with the optimistic smells of freshly cleaned classrooms, paste, and new school supplies. 

I decided that I would head North and East over the top of Lake Washington towards the Redhook Brewery. GVB is running the Super Jock 'N Jill Half Marathon this Sunday and I was thinking of meeting him after the race for a brew and lunch. I ran this a few years ago, had a blast, and set a PR (just under 2 hours). Had a nice sunny tail wind up until I reached Juanita Drive when the wind started shifting around (or was it me) into an on-coming quartering head wind. 

Bothell is a strange place. I've run, ridden, and driven through it, around it, and even flown over it (but didn't really notice as it slid under the wings) and I still cannot figure it out. How does one describe a place that combines a cute little old-town with urban sprawl and cookie-cutter homes lining up along a river right along-side trailer parks. Then there are the brightly colored chickens that live around the Sammamish Trail. The first time I saw them, the first time I rode through here, I thought I was seeing things. 

I was in a noticing mood today—noticing how the air felt, the leaves on the ground, and the looks on people's faces (bike riders seem to have a rather unique squint) for example—and then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw them. A pair of bronze colored shoes sitting on a park bench. I had to stop. 

They are Liz's Shoes. 

Elizabeth Duncan, a runner, was killed by a 16 year old driver who, while apparently trying to beat a red light, lost control of her car and knocked down a light pole.  

I didn't know Ms. Duncan (and why would I) but I certainly shared the anger at her senseless death. Every runner, and most bikers too, has a story or two of almost being hit by a motor vehicle. It is like playing the lottery and yet we still take the risk. Her credo, "Life's Short, Run Long", becomes all the more poignant in this light. 

And on my way back I noticed yet another memorial along the bike trail just west of the Wayne Golf Course, two narrow strips of what looked like concrete nailed together in a cross with blue lettering on them. I didn't stop, couldn't stop, not for this one.

I had to press on. To finish. All around me were reminders of endings, mistakes (like this architectural misjudgment), and transitions. This ride became more than simply a ride. 

Liz is right, "Life IS short, Run Long!"


Aimee said...

That house is STILL there? It looked like that when I lived in Kenmore/Bothell in 2003.


There are no words in me to type regarding Liz. Just feelings.

GVB said...

As someone raised in Bothell, I can tell you that the "strangeness" you feel when running/cycling through is very real. It was even weirder when I was a kid. For example, the fence that now lines the old train trestle crossing from Wayne Golf Course to Blythe Park is only there because one of my classmates decided to dive into the river and shatter his spine. Good times.

Now for my story about the bronze shoes...I was on mile 20 of my last long run before Vancouver, headed east on the Sammamish River Trail. After dodging the chickens at Bothell Landing, I went under the bridge and came face-to-face with a mob of people blocking the trail. The mob didn't seem at first glance to be purpose driven; in fact my first thought was that they were a group of volunteers waiting for instructions for a clean up project or some sort of eco-problem solving effort. With no discernible path through the mob, I managed to say (in my best "I've just run 20 miles and might die" voice) "Clear the trail please."

The response came from somewhere deep in the crowd, and that response was "Fuck you mother fucker!"

Now, I love me some profanity, but this response seemed harsh. A few steps later, the person I assume to be the keeper of the profanity lunged from the crowd and blocked my path and commenced a long tirade about my lineage and presumed sexuality. Well now my oxygen starved brain is just confused.

Somewhere in the midst of the tirade, amidst snapping cameras (no doubt some of the mob was hoping for a YouTube beat-down or evidence in the inevitable assault trial) a slightly more reasonable person stepped in and explained to me that the person about to kill me was the brother of the women who was being memorialized by the bronze shoes on the bench, which I still couldn't see due to the huge mob.

Meanwhile, another very angry young man stepped in and offered to do his own part to kick my "pussy ass." Awesome.

Once I got the whole story from a very apologetic woman (apparently the wife of one of the dudes who were going to kill me) I did suggest that if the person they were there to remember was a runner as they described, she might agree that other runners be allowed to pass through the crowd on the trail. This didn't go over well.

I went on my way, having avoided a Jerry Springer beating, to Woodinville, where I turned and came back toward Bothell. The crowd was gone. I stopped and paid my respects before kicking the last mile back to the Palace.

Good times.

But we have escaped Bothell now. The Palace is no more. We're rollin' the Love Shack in Kenmore now baby. See you at Log Book Park.


rpd said...

Aimee, yeah the house is still there looking very much worse for wear.

GVB, quite a rough story. There is a lesson or two in it though. Emotion trumps reason every time or does it.