Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Relay # 4: The Flaming Legs

(I'm going to pretend that it hasn't really been three whole weeks since my last post. I very much love blogging, so my absence has been against my will.)

...And so it happened that this past Sunday was my favorite Sunday of the year here in Oklahoma City---Memorial Marathon Sunday! For the fourth year in a row, friends and family joined me in comprising the unstoppable Flaming Legs, which I meant as a play on the Oklahoma band "The Flaming Lips," though I think most people missed the reference. My friend Amber, who took leg number two, found us knee-high socks with flames on them to complete our image, and so we were born. I took leg one (10K), Amber had leg two (5K), my sister Christa took the always-dreaded lakeside leg three (12K), BJ's cousin Connor took leg four (5K), and BJ took us to the finish line with a 10K. We finished nowhere near first (or even in the first half of finishers), but as one guy pointed out on one of the shuttle rides, we didn't finish last either. So there's that. We all ran with good heart and with our own individual purposes, and Van joined us and supported us from the sidelines, taken care of by all of us at some point or another so that we could each fulfill our duties. It just so happened that while he and I were on the shuttle to relay point 4 (Christa's and Connor's exchange), he had the biggest diaper blowout he has ever had. He was in the carrier at the time, so the carrier was subsequently rendered useless and I had to ride the remainder of the journey with the unpleasantness of poop all over us. For his part, Van sure didn't seem to mind. Look at that smile after he was cleaned up at the exchange!

Four of the five Flaming Legs members. Amber had to leave before the finish to get her little one.

 In the last month I have begun feeling overwhelmingly tired. I think it finally caught up with me, that whole three kids in a three-and-a-half years thing. After we get the boys asleep at night and I catch up on a couple of house-related things like laundry, the energy to go running has simply not been there. This is unusual for me, as I often make the time to go anyway, even at the end of the day. I figured I would be in some trouble during my six-mile leg of the relay because I have only gone running once in the past month, and that was only for two miles. In fact, two miles was the longest distance I had run at all since having Van in December. In my dreams, I fantasize about being able to run every other day, do yoga on the days between that, and then take a seventh day to rest. To date, I haven't reserved the time or energy for such a dream, but I feel motivated to make it happen soon. So, as you might expect, I thought that running the entire six-mile leg was out of the question. The race (course map) begins alongside the memorial and winds through downtown before turning north onto Lincoln and heading up toward the State Capitol.  Children's Hospital is about halfway through the part on Lincoln, and I had plans that I could not stop before I ran past Children's Hospital--about 2.5 miles into the leg. That I knew I could do, and I had resolved to run with extra heart past the hospital in honor of Van, Aiden, and Callen, three little men I love who have all spent time in the hospital.

 The run felt great in the beginning and I breezed through downtown. On to Lincoln I wound, but I began feeling tired at about two miles. I blew kisses and cried a little as I ran past the hospital, and the fatigue began to feel overwhelming. I decided I would let myself take a walking break at 13th and Lincoln, but as I ran through the intersection, I looked back in the direction of Children's Hospital and could still see it perfectly. Crap! methought. I can't stop if I can still see the hospital! So I trudged on for another 30 seconds, with my breathing declining and my legs telling me they couldn't do it and needed to stop...and then something happened that I think only happens to people who call themselves runners. I hit a true second wind, one like I have never experienced in my lifetime. I suddenly could see that the course began gradually sloping downhill, a breeze hit my face for the first time in the run, and Mumford & Sons hit the height of their song just when I needed it. "Raise my hands, paint my spirit gold, and bow my head, keep my heart slow." My sweet boys Van, Aiden, and Callen gave me all the energy I needed. All of the sudden, running was easy. There was no need to stop, and my legs moved effortlessly for another mile and three-quarters. Never have I ever! I hit one more low point at 26th street heading south, but talked myself through it, this time thinking of my dad and how he completed the Yellow Brick Road run and obstacle course when he was in the FBI National Academy in Quantico in 1999. By the time I headed back north from 23rd street onto Harvey at mile 5, the sideline support was loud and frequent. In the end, I ran every step of the 6.2 mile leg.

The Yellow Brick Road

This year, I dedicated my race specifically to my dad, who was one of the first responders to the Murrah building on April 19, 1995, and to baby Tevin Garrett, an 18-month-old who lost his life in the daycare that day. Following the race, I had the opportunity to tie my race bib onto Tevin's memorial chair and to give my dad the medal, which he deserves. I love being able to so tangibly give my efforts in this race to others. The entire experience is so incredibly fulfilling.

Image of my dad captured as he arrived at the site

Baby Tevin
I feel as though I can finally consider myself a runner. I have run consistently enough in the last four years that apparently I can totally drop the ball in training and still physically and mentally talk myself into laying down six miles when I need to. I type that with a smile on my face because I have worked hard to get to that point, as running does not come naturally for me. I find myself wanting to channel my friend Melissa G-J, who regularly runs long distances with gusto and inspires me to run further, just as she unknowingly inspired me to give birth without meds to Van. I think to myself, If Melissa can do it, I can do it! So thanks, Melissa! I approached this race with the exact same frame of mind that I did Van's birth, namely with a flexibility that I can give up if I need to, but with a belief that I wouldn't really need to. I am beginning to think that this frame of mind works really well for me. I spoke in my marathon relay post last year about my desire to run a half-marathon, but I've decided to put that on hold for a little bit. Though it may be my ultimate goal, a more realistic goal in the meantime is picking up my pace. Yes, I ran all of the 10K, but it took me nearly an hour and 20 minutes to do it. Can I work hard and shave some serious time off? I sure hope so. I would love to run a 10K leg in less than one hour next year, so that's what I'm going to train for. If I can accomplish that goal before the relay, then I'll run the 7.6 next year instead, finally biting that big bullet for my team. (This year, the headwind coming off the lake was supposedly the most discouraging part of the entire course. It was the only part of the entire leg that my sister had to walk briefly during, and we heard one marathoner complain that he missed his time goal by 40 minutes because the headwind from the lake sucked his soul out and he never recovered.) So, on that positive note, let me leave you with encouragement: if you live in Oklahoma and you've ever considered running even short distances before, sign up for next year and make yourself do it! You could do a relay or the 5K run. The race is amazing and unifies the entire state. Sideline supporters give "Thunder high-fives," and perhaps only in this race can you find the staunchest of OSU fans (me) directly handing the relay chip to the staunchest of OU fans (Amber) with nothing but love for the other and all we stand for. In other words, on Memorial Marathon day I even find myself loving OU. Now that's some power! I'm thankful to my relay members, to my parents who volunteered at a relay station, to friends who volunteered at water stops, to all of the support and love on the 26 mile course, and to all the FB love. With love to all.

Remembering the 168. We'll be back next year.

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