Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends!

The weekend after Thanksgiving is always a good time to get your i-ate-way-too-much-turkey-dinner bum off the couch and out for a good run.  Last year Kristie invited a bunch of her friends to come out to Millerton Lake to do just that.  We joined with a huge group of Sierra Running Club members and took to the trails along the lake.  It was a gorgeous morning and amazing to see so many people out enjoying a good run and it wasn't even an organized race! It was such a great morning Kristie took a picture of all of her friends that came out.  This was us just over a year ago.  Little did we know what we were starting!
The next weekend Kristie invited even more of her friends and Tara and Jason volunteered to bring us all out to the trail on the bus.  This was all of us after the run.

We tried to get more people out the week after that.  It was freezing cold, like frost on the ground, I can barely breathe cold, and just about everyone decided to stay in bed.  
Kristie, Marlon, Jill and I were the only ones to brave the temps that morning, but we were rewarded with gorgeous views as the sun rose.
Weekend after weekend all through the winter we continued to find fun trails or routes to run.  We always invited lots of people but eventually the group wittled down to a handful of small regulars who could be counted on.  Kristie, her husband Nick, Marlon, who had been a regular at Kristie's spin class at the gym, Andrew, a friend of Marlon's who also goes to Kristie's class when his schedule allows for it, and me.
Once we weren't getting any takers on our weekend runs we started a group message on Facebook to coordinate our weekend runs.  Various typos, choice of attire, and running habits led to nicknames.  I heard from a friend that we could get shirts made for fairly cheap, and Kristie and I decided it would be pretty funny to get some done.   
Now that we actually had "uniforms" we teased that we were kinda like a team or club.  
But we still kept trying to include others in our runs, in fact, Andrew even added three people to our facebook group message.  None of them ever showed up or contributed to the conversations for months.  And when one of them finally did we decided to start a new conversation with just the 5 of us.   Andrew named it The Runners and the name has just kinda stuck.
The dismissal of the would be runners led to a sarcastic conversation about getting permission from the board before adding anyone to our exclusive club...this was followed by a riotous list of bylaws, and Kristie nominated and voted in as president.    
We are politically incorrect and tease each other incessantly.  
As we rack up the miles on our shoes we have learned tons about each other.  Like not to let Carrott near the oatmeal, he can consume troughs of it at a time.  Ninja's uncle Mushu is a regular at Table Mountain casino and his grandma can hock a mean lugi! No one runs behind one of the Jonkers, the other one has a mean streak of indian blood and is not to be messed with.  Haskins showing up on time will make the ninja's eyes go round, but when Haskins is a no show at least she shows up to let you know why, dragon breath, pj pants, curlers and all!
Someone claims to have a cousin who looks like one of the the men(?) below.  This said cousin has yet to make it on a run, but a member of his running club has commented that "we make it look so easy!"
However some mornings nothing is easy, not even our regular 6 mile run.  The shopping carts along the way have been known to be turned into a rickshaw or two on a few occasions...
Not to worry, our exclusive club has all of it's affirmative action bases covered, we have a ninja.  This is the test we can use to prove it...
We don't always know exactly what Marlon is up to or where he comes up with all of his comedic remarks. He just keeps pulling them out, and none of us can stop laughing!
When I got in to the St George Marathon I told The Runners I was going to be needing them to help me out with the long runs.  Nick decided he was going to go ahead and register for his first full marathon in Santa Barbara just 5 weeks after St George.  He convinced Andrew and then Marlon to join him. After a while Kristie agreed to go for it as well.  Eventually they convinced me to sign up and join since I would have already done the training for St George, what was one more marathon right?
This was the training plan they decided on and then we got serious.  We'd run twice during the week in town and then found something a little more exciting for the long runs.  
We can always count on Marlon bringing some kind of treat for everyone after a long run.  Tangerines, cut mangos, watermelon chunks, or pineapple slices were regular offerings.  He and Andrew might even go drop off water for us somewhere mid run.  I won't tell you what nickname they got for all their kindness though!
So often it's hard to get out of bed and get running when it's still dark outside.  Featherhead is a master at finding pictures appropriate for every conversation.  These guys are friends of "thumbs up" Haskins and always seem to show up when we need a little encouragement!
Some mornings came so early we all showed up delirious!
Others we coudn't even show our faces!
Whenever the jenpod is around nobody needs to bring their own music, but I would bring mine for the  last several miles I would have to run on my own while I was still on my St George Schedule.  It came in handy for capturing moments along the run.
Like the day Nick was down for the count and the only thing that revived him was a massage using ancient chinese remedies.
Luckily he made it all the way back for our little feast Marlon had provided at the park.  
But that wasn't the last time Kung Fu Panda had to bring his skills to the rescue.  He's considered changing career courses and getting a job at the 555 relaxing station. He's been working on his accent and has no problem with the hair pulling, it's just all the spankings he's having a hard time with.  
Luckily we all were still in one piece when the weekend of November 10th rolled around.  We met at Batter up for breakfast before caravaning down to Santa Barbara for the marathon.  
I may have gotten the the nickname Mario as I lead the crew.  Nick and Kristie almost left us and went to Valencia, and Bruce said the Karate Kid was driving with white knuckles.  I don't know what the fuss was all about, we made it safe and sound!  We went to lunch in Isla Vista with Carter and a bunch of his friends and then made our way to the Expo in time to get our bibs and buy gloves.
From there we went straight to State Street for some carb loading.  Every restaurant had the longest wait, we almost gave up! 
Until a waitress came out with these garlic balls to help us endure the wait.
They really were that good!
By the time we went in our group grew to include Carter and his roommate Cameron, (sadly Jed was out of town) and Julia.  Dinner was awesome and were all sufficiently stuffed!
But not too stuffed to have some fun with random pianos sitting out along state street that night.
The guys even practiced a serenade for their pet hamster, before we all headed back to our various hotels.  
We met in the parking lot at the boys hotel bright and early the next morning, but it was off to a rough start! Kristie took issue with Nicks peanut butter, Marlon and Andrew were exhausted after a night of spooning, and I was all wound up!
The previous weekend had been one of the most emotionally draining weekends in my life.  It was followed up with Brynnes eyelid surgery that Tuesday.  I had spent two pretty much sleepless nights in the hospital and then two more at home before leaving for this second marathon. In the three weeks leading into this one I had only run 5 times and I had been sick for two weeks after St George.  I was running on empty and the race hadn't even started!
In fact in all of our pre-race anxiousness, we had given ourselves too much time for everything that morning.  We were the first ones to arrive to the shuttle pick up so we waited it out in the car for about a half an hour just trying to rest and relax.
When it came time to start gathering up our things and loading the bus I had a good laugh.  The guys had brought a full on feast to consume during the race! 
Uncrustable sandwiches, pretzels, cliff bars, Gu, you name it, they had it, and it was all going into their pockets and pouches!
And if you think that's funny, check out our ninja wearing sunglasses when it's dark outside!  It's not because he has a thing for Stevie Wonder, it's just that he has a hard time keeping his eyes open when we take pictures!!
Kristie totally has his back on this one though! That's what friends are for!
Meeting other runners at the races is always fun.  Marlon got a glimpse into his future when this guy rolled up.  He had his sunglasses on too. In fact we didn't think there was a single thing this guy didn't have on him!  He was loaded up with so much stuff!!
While there was talk about how cool it would be for all of us to come across the finish line together, we decided that trying to all stick together during the whole race would be just as crazy as all of us trying to do EVERYTHING just wasn't going to happen.
We waited inside a nearby high school gym for the race to start.  It ended up starting about 30 minutes behind schedule.  We were dying a little at this because we all would have loved a little more sleep.  If only we had known!
But the gym was great for people watching
Meditating, or praying to all of your deceased ancestors,
getting a bit of support,
and just stretching and hanging out
We were a little chilly at the start, but grateful for clear skies.
 The forecast had been predicting rain, clouds, and high winds for Saturday morning, but the sun was out and it actually turned out to be a nice day!  We were ready to get this show on the road!
5 miles into the race the course passed right in front of Carters apartment.  He came out to cheer us on and got a picture of Marlon, Andrew and I.  We were all feeling good and had been talking the whole time.   Nobody was really trying to push for any times today, just wanted to finish.  I wasn't sure that I had a finish in me that day, but I was going to give it a shot!
  10 miles into the race I was feeling the week I had just been through and was wiped out. My knee that had been giving me problems since finishing St George started to bother me on any of the uphill sections.  I sent the boys ahead of me and a little while later Kristie and Nick caught up to where I was. After two more miles I lost sight of them too.  After seeing Tara and Shelley finish St George with out doing all of the training, I knew that I could finish this race too, but I'd really have to just take it slow.
I was running the race emotionally and physically empty, but I was determined.  I loved seeing these signs along the last stretch of the course.
I shed a few tears of frustration and even made a phone call home where I got encouragement to finish from my sweet family.  
The last two miles of the run looked like this.  It was gorgeous!
The last mile of the course was lined with American Flags.  It was so cool! When I finally came across the finish line I bawled.  Finishing this race when I felt like I had nothing to give showed me that I am stronger than I think I can be.  Sitting here now I honestly have no clue what my time was, I just know I finished the race.  Sure I wish I had been in a better place and that I could have finished with the rest of the runners.  They all ended up coming in each within a few minutes of each other right around the 4:30 mark, each overcoming different obstacles along the course.  It was a great race for all of them, and it was a finish for me.
The best was having Carter there at the end.  It seemed so fitting.  Another example of great things that can come from hard situations.  
My experience with this run was a good reminder of truths I have always known, but am sometimes slow to remember.  Sometimes in life our trials and struggles leave us feeling empty and done.  Sometimes we have friends who can help us get through, but sometimes we are on our own.  Sometimes it helps to have a good cry, but the best help always will come if we remember to call home.  We  are never really alone, and if we can remember this, we will find the strength we need to make it to the finish.    
Sometimes it's hard to imagine that I can even make it there, but if my past trials are any indicator, then I have to believe that what lies on the other side of any finish line will be better than anything I could have imagined.  I just have to keep running.

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