Well, it has been a year since we said goodbye. Probably the hardest year of my life. I remember so well those last few days we spent together. I spent that last night with you, listening to your labored breathing, wondering if each breath was going to be your last. But then morning came, and I had to say goodbye, knowing that I would never see you again. But I knew you would understand, I had a flight to catch, and I got the call that you were gone just as I was boarding the plane. But I didn’t turn back, I stuck with the plan to head to Lithuania to race, I knew you would want me to keep fighting and chasing my dreams even without you. I got disqualified during that race though, I wish you had been there to help with my technique, you were always the best at that. But I tried, learned a lot, and then came home to a life that felt so different from what I left the week before.
A couple weeks later I went to Eugene to compete in my 3rd Olympic Trials, but most notably my first Olympic Trials without you there. How many races did we do together in Eugene? So many weekends spent in Tracktown, racing, supporting, you officiating. It wasn’t the same at all without you. I finished 4th, but my heart wasn’t in it. The race walk community was going to have a moment of silence for you before the race, but USATF cancelled that at the last minute. Tracy snuck it in at the end anyway. So many people missing you and all that you meant to track and field.
The next day we started getting our house ready to sell, we were headed from Reedsport to Portland. 3 months later we moved into our new home, and the next week I started my new job. I remember so many moves that you were there to help with, even flying across the country to help just to make sure I wouldn’t hurt myself lifting a box. Now we were doing this one on our own. I remember Genevieve grieving how we would never have memories with Pop-Pop in our new house. So true. But I can hear your thoughts on our new house, and I can imagine how many times you would have come up here to go to the track with me.
I got back into training the week after our move too, aiming for the 2022 World Championships. I had a great race in January and I qualified, my first time ever to earn a spot on the world champs team. A friend called me the next week, he said he didn’t even care that he was going to make me cry, he wanted to tell me how proud you would be of me. I know you would be crying too.
I had some other goals this season, none of which seem to have panned out. 6 days after my great race in January I fell and fractured my spine, and a week later came down with Covid. I can hear what you would have said about my fall, and I know you would have fed me peaches and blueberries until I was feeling better. I did get myself going again just in time to race in Oman at the World Team Championships the first weekend in March, my first international team since 2019. What a race that was, I knew you were watching then.
The week I got back from Oman I found out I was pregnant. That was going to be the end of my dream of competing at world champs. But I knew what you would say about that too, and how excited you would be for another grandbaby. My plan was to do one last race, our US National 20km Championships in New York, and then call it a season. I would have been 12 weeks pregnant for that race. The week before the race I went to the OB for a check-up, and the baby didn’t have a heartbeat. I watched the ultrasound, knowing what I was seeing, a baby that was too small, that wasn’t growing, that didn’t have any signs of life. My baby had already left my world to join yours. The doctor said having surgery in the morning was my best chance of being able to race the next weekend, so I went for it. I knew you would want me to keep fighting. It was a rough race, but I finished 3rd at nationals 9 days after my D&C.
We celebrated Easter in there too, the weekend before my race in New York. I was still recovering from surgery. Nick and Ben hid the eggs for the egg hunt, but we didn’t have cones to mark the boundaries or a whistle to start the hunt or official rules or anything. But we still did it without you. Then the weekend after New York, the Oregon association put on a race in your honor. All 3 of your granddaughters raced, you would have been so pleased, I can see you crying just watching them. You have left a legacy in Oregon race walking.
It has been a rough patch getting back to training after all of that. But I’ve got 7 weeks until I’ll be back in Eugene racing at the World Championships. Yeah, right here in Eugene, the track I grew up on with you. They’ve redone the whole stadium, you’d really like it. But they aren’t letting us race on Agate Street and I know what you would think of that too. The race walk will be back at Autzen, but not in the back of the parking lot this time. I know if you were here you’d be driving me down to Eugene already to check out the course and train around the stadium. I haven’t been back to Eugene since the Olympic Trials. Too many memories. Too sad without you. But I’m going to go and race, in the same town that you raced in at the Olympic Trials 50 years ago. I’ll be racing for you. And I know that you will be there with me as you have been all along.