Tuesday, May 01, 2012

With Joy in My Heart

"Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot... rinse, repeat.  If you do right foot, right foot, then you're skipping, and all of a sudden, you're having FUN!!"
Frunners - running and cheering - pre-race at the hotel.
That's what I told my friend Marci on Sunday morning, as we stood in the corrals at Oklahoma City, waiting for our turn to cross the start line. We were both anxious about her race, about how she would do when facing down the demons at Mile 23. I knew that her paces would be faster than mine and as soon as we crossed the timing mat that I wouldn't see her again until after my race when I backtracked to the spot where she was picked up off the course. But I said that to her just as much as I needed to hear it for myself. 

The race two weeks earlier at Big D was disastrous for me. The weather was horrid, sticky humid and then pouring down rain. I couldn't ever get into a good breathing rhythm, I hurt so bad starting at mile 3, and I bitched and moaned and whined the whole way. I broke my "race commandment" and cried on the course. A lot. I cried painful tears, because my legs really did ache more than they ever had during a race, any race. I cried grieving tears, because I think this was the first time I had seriously cried since my father passed away last June. I cried ugly angry tears, because I was mad at myself for letting my training slip and thinking I could still pull off a half-marathon. I wasn't having fun during that race. I didn't seek out any of my Frunners, even though I knew plenty were out and about. I didn't want to be there. And I had a miserable day. It showed in my time, the slowest since New Year's Day, and a full 15 minutes slower than Cowtown. And it showed in how emotionally spent I was at the end of it. When I saw my dear friend Mark handing out medals at the finish line, I all but collapsed into his arms, just so glad to be done, and so grateful to have a tight hug to start to make things better.

I KNEW that my results at Big D were not representative of what I could do. I know I haven't fallen THAT far off my fitness since Cowtown.  Post-race, I realized that the big difference was my mental outlook that day. I didn't want to be there. I was tired. I had just had a tetanus booster that made my entire body ache, and in fact, during the race, my whole left arm was in pain whenever I tried to use my arms to boost myself up the hills.  I wasn't invested in this race and it showed in my performance.

I came to Oklahoma knowing that I wanted it to be a different race experience. Really, I had considered for a brief moment not doing the half at all, and just cheering for Marci. I wanted to be ready to fully support her and be there for her if and when she needed me.  But like the incredible friend that she is, she told me that I had business to take care of there, too, and that if I wanted to run, I should run. For me, it wasn't about last year, it was about getting back on the horse and seeing what I really could do, and getting the joy back.  So I signed up, and planned to meet her at the Mile 23 medical tent, and I set out to run with joy in my heart.

The weather was atrocious on race morning.  We had been awoken at 2 AM by wind, rain and what sounded like hail on the hotel windows.  When we stepped out on the street, the humidity immediately enveloped us, and the air was thick and heavy, with grey clouds around reinforcing the 40 percent chance of rain. We had our ponchos, and I wore my rain jacket over my orange shirt and longhorn shorts, because I knew I wanted to represent Texas and UT while running through the streets in Sooner country. It was not a PR day.  But we knew that if it rained, we'd be OK. We've run in the rain. We knew that if it was hot, we'd be OK, maybe slower than we wanted, but we have certainly run in the heat. We knew there were hills on the course, but we knew we could handle those.  All we had to do was go out and remember: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, rinse, repeat.

We were in Corral C. WAYYYY in the back. 

I took pictures in the hotel lobby when all our friends showed up to meet us for the walk to the start.  I took pictures outside the porta-potties, in the corral, and I snapped a quick pic as we crossed the start, before I hit my watch.  But then, I put the phone away. I didn't text, shoot pics or mess with my music for the whole race (except at mile 12 to tell Amy & Drum I was nearly done and would be headed their way shortly). I just RAN. And, guess what?  I had fun. I smiled. I waved to the volunteers, high-fived little kids, and begged for people to "hook 'em horns" for me. I got a kick out of the reactions from people as I did that - some laughed and relented, some just shook their heads, but with a smile, and some very enthusiastically gave me a high hook!! It was fun!!

What's surprising is that the weather at this race ended up being very close to what we had at Big D. Hot and humid, then a little bit of relief with the rain after about 6-7 miles.  But unlike at Big D, where I just whined and complained, I didn't let it bother me this time. I just went with it. I passed a few groups of firefighters in full gear with full marathon bibs on and thought, well, if I think I'm hot, I don't even want to think how hot these guys are. I know where the hills on this course are, having done the full for two years now, so I knew what i was up against.  And I handled them as best as I could. And I kept smiling.

This was about an hour after I finished.
Between the rain, sweat & pouring water on my head, my hair was kind of a mess. 
I was so involved in having a good time that I nearly missed Amy and Drum at mile 6, and would have gone right by them if they hadn't started yelling at me  I cut across the street to get hugs and a picture from where they were standing on a bus bench, then continued on my merry way.  I stopped at the half/full split and turned around and yelled at the full marathoners, "YOU PEOPLE ROCK MY FACE OFF!!" and was overjoyed to see Jennifer Fletcher, my OK girl running her first full, right there! I ran over to her and gave her a big hug and told her she rocked, and that exchange right there put a pep in my step for the next mile!  And so I ran.  I ran a bit here, walked a bit there, but for the most part, I just ran. I kept up a pretty good clip for the first 7 or 8 miles, then I found myself walking more, and slowing down some. But instead of having a fit about it, I just took a deep breath, and kept smiling. And kept going. Pretty soon, I was headed toward the finish, at Mile 10/Mile 23, and I started to remember landmarks from last year.  This is where Fi and Marci ducked into the Vietnamese sandwich shop so Fi could go potty. This is where I picked up the garbage bag off the lawn. This is where I stopped for biofreeze for my knee. This is where they put Marci in the van....

And as I ran, walked, slogged, whatever, I kept a positive mental attitude.  I was glad to have come back, and I was glad to be feeling pretty strong for such a miserable day and a hilly course.  I wondered about Marci's pace, about MK's attempt to qualify for a corral for Chicago.  I was tired, yes, and hot (I dumped cups of water down my shirt and on my head even when it was pouring rain), and my legs were screaming from the hills. But I kept moving, and I was happy.  And when I finished, it was with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I was nearly 10 minutes faster than Big D. Slower than Cowtown, but that's OK. I slowed down a LOT in the last four miles, but that's OK, too. I was happy. And really, that was exactly what I needed.

Bling me! 

Mission accomplished for this race. It was a nice note in a fabulous weekend with some really good people. I really enjoy the company of my friends, and race road trips are just a special kind of happiness for me. We forge relationships on these trips, and to me, that just makes everything better and more fun. I don't know that I will come back to Oklahoma and do this race again, maybe the half, maybe on a weekend when the Race Weather Gods aren't out to torture us. But I do know that for my own reasons, this is once again, a Race to Remember. 

PS. Marci finished the race, upright and smiling, too. It was GREATNESS!! But that's her story to tell. Stay tuned.


That Pink Girl said...

Oh my cries, I just love you so much! And YES, despite the weather, so many smiles, so much JOY!
Congratulations on finding that skip in your step again!

And, I know Drum but who the hell is AMY?!?!

Anonymous said...

I don't know who Amy is...but That Pink Girl is hilarious!!

It made me happy to see you finish the race with such a huge smile on your face. The joy was back and you passed a little of it on to me too.

Robert Tracy said...

You rock, Mama C! Quite a great race OKC puts on! I thought the same thing about those firefighters! Very impressive! ... Annnnd I had an absolute blast hanging out with ya!

gretchen said...

Love ya, Mama. It makes me so happy to know that you ran happy. That's what it's all about.