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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

#13 Part II: The thank you edition.

This is the part where I try to express my gratitude and appreciation, by combining every line I’ve ever read in a Hallmark card, for all the people who helped me through this year. I’m going to guess the Kleenex (or whoever’s asset Kleenex is) stock is about to spike right about now thanks to me being a crappy sappy.

So without racking my memory of when I used to read a thesaurus my grandma got me to find every other word for “gratitude”, I’ll simply go with my favorite way of showing appreciation.  And that is, “Thanks so much”.  I probably would have done this crazy adventure, with or without each of you, but you all made it a hell of a lot better:

To my wonderful hosts throughout the year: Daytona Barker, Maureen Sweeney, Alissa Revak, Carrie Barker, Marsha Papas, and Anna & Michael Primeaux.  I am so fortunate to know people throughout the country, but far more blessed to have such kind friends WILLING to open their homes to me and support me on my crazy dream.

To the few who were gutsy enough to run with me and cross a finish line: Laura Jones, DeAnna Castello, my sister Lauren, and Anna…

…and the ones who were early birds enough to stand on the sidelines to cheer me on instead: Mom, Dad, Daytona, Shaina, Alissa, Caitlin, Brad, Sarah, Kelley, Katie, Matt, Mr. & Mrs. Klowden, Carrie, Kirstin, and Michael- thanks for being there always and in-person.

To my old co-worker, Chris Jones- the first person I told my crazy idea to one day at work and the first person to tell me what an awesome idea he thought it was.

To every friend and friend-of-a-friend who came out to celebrate my best race, any race and my final race pub crawl, cheers to you.  

To every friend, stranger, college buddy and high school classmate who I’ve run into over the past year (admittedly, most at bars) and told me what I was doing was cool, crazy, insane, inspiring, awesome, or just plain stupid, thanks for motivating me...and listening to me obsess about running.  Johnny Pyne, I’ll always remember how you told me my blog was “cool and hilarious” last year when I ran into you at Charlie’s in Elmhurst.  I had no idea you were following my blog until that moment and indirectly supporting me; it was those random moments of support that helped me through the entire year.

A few of my best supporters:
Mel & Pete, Kevin & Heather, and Uncle Bruce- I felt like you were all always there watching over me, waiting for updates from Mom, and on-your-toes ready to congratulate me.  Thanks for being the best cousins and uncle a girl could ask for.

Shaina- With every Facebook post about running, with every blog post, you took every opportunity to send me a message of good wishes and luck.  Little things like that don’t go unnoticed and I truly appreciate you being my “fan”!

My roommates and best friends- Caitlin and Sarah.  I don’t think there was a single race you two didn’t wish me luck, ask me how I did and tell me when I was “really hitting my stride”.  And thanks for putting up with my sweaty ass on a nightly basis after every run.  And making sure to ask me when I’d be home after a 12 mile run so you’d know if you needed to send out a search party along the lakefront.

Kirstin- what can I say to someone who laughs at how emotional I get about sentimental things but who has become one of my closest friends in the past year?  Thank you, for designing my fundraising postcards (we got some hefty ROI), for traveling with me to Indy, to giving me a new song for each race to add to my playlist and for at least pretending like you cared about my race stories on a regular basis even if you didn’t (but I think you actually did).

Brian Weil- I don’t know why, but you’re one of those people I always say your last name with your first. Anyways, I think since the day I met you and we gushed about our love for racing, you always found the time to ask how my races went.  You also always managed to get my competitive blood going when you’d clock a faster time than me. So thanks for always caring and for indirectly motivating me to kick your ass in a race someday.  Your race-morning texts never went overlooked.

Chad- Aw, my main squeeze. This is where most girls would gush about how amazing of a man their boyfriend is and how they couldn’t have done it without them. Well, you know I’m not like that and I would’ve done it with or without you so I have no idea why you put up with my weird antics. But I do know that if you could somehow turn back the hands of time to have been there since I started this journey just so you could support me all along, you honestly would have.  The fact that you actually considered dropping over $600 on a last-minute flight to Mobile, AL to be there with me is just absurd…but also just shows how much you care.  (Thank God you didn’t, you know how effed up that place is from my stories).    Your genuine support and charisma (and waking up at 5AM to call me and wish me good luck) for my last few races truly meant a lot to me, mister. 

My dad’s slot car racer friends (for lack of a better description…Hey Roberto!):  Your kindness and generosity baffles me.  For being a group of “goofy guys”, you are all definitely “dads” at heart.  Thank you for hosting a race in honor of my breast cancer fundraiser and for the extremely generous donations.  Thank you for reading my blog so much that when you’d ask my dad “how’d the race go?” You were taking about my races, not the slot car races.  Roberto, sorry this post took so long. And sorry you’ll be short on reading material.

Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Marge and Aunt Linda- Thank you for fighting the terrible disease of breast cancer so courageously and inspiring me to take this journey on.  Thank you for reminding me about the important things (people) in life; thank you for being the whisper in my ear on days I didn’t want to train anymore.  From both Heaven and Earth, you all watched over me and supported me so very much.

And finally, Bob and Mary Ellen… the most supportive parents in the entire world (I checked 13 states, so I think that description is fairly accurate).  I made you both a promise a long time ago that I’d hook you up for life when I made it big so you could live a luxurious and worry-free retirement.  I’m utterly failing at that promise, and seeing that I just spent my bank account to travel the country the past year, this isn’t looking too hopeful…yet.  But I did accomplish one part of that promise: I feel like I made it big.  Thanks to you.  Without the values, courage, love, dedication, discipline, motivation and work ethic you both instilled in me, I would have never been able to accomplish this feat.  (Note: I did not say athleticism. I have no idea where I got those freak of nature genes, because I know they didn’t come from you.)  Combined, you were at 6 of my races and I know if I had asked or not known people at the other 7, you would have been there too (okay, maybe not the Alabama one. I don’t blame you).  From driving me 25 hours within 48 hours to Atlanta and back to watch me run to sending me simple “Don’t forget to hydrate. I love you” texts, you both were there for me in the greatest way possible.
Dad, I’ll always remember something you said in the car when you picked mom and me up from the airport when we arrived back home from my final race.  I sat in the backseat with Honey and thanked you for picking me up again from the airport, and you responded, “Well, that’s always just been part of your marathon thing.”  While I did my best to always ask you and mom ahead of time if you could take me to/from the airport for my races, you guys always just assumed you would and always seemed to be happy to do it.  I’ll always remember that because it just goes how completely selfless and supportive you were whenever you got the chance.  (Fine, Honey the dog was too…happy dad?)   I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay you for the love and life you both have always given me, but truly showed the past year more than ever.

My donors-Thanks to you, I far surpassed my fundraising goal by over $1,000.  More importantly, thanks to you, someone out there with breast cancer is going to live a little longer.  So to my donors, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much: Sara Brown, Brian Weil, Marsha Papas, Sue Hillsand, Sue (Mrs. Lepore- you’ll always be that to me!), The Lansdowne’s, Shaina Chechang, Morgan Meyer, Caitlin Humrickhouse, Sarah Klowden, Katie Kieft & family, The Sullivan’s, Chad Walker, Nick Henderson, Hayley Besheer, Kirstin Whittington, Bryan Hauhe, Veronica Martinez (and her lil’ children!), Amanda Plymale, Allison Gordon, Kiran Gummadi, Pete & Mel Dean, Kevin & Heather Dean, Uncle Bruce, Steve Bauer, Lish Hammer, Steve Sorrentino & my dad’s fellow racers, Larry & Molly Klowden, Hayli Dennis, Lauren Minger, Mary & Pat McDonald, Alissa Revak, Uncle Don & Aunt Marge, Aunt Lorraine, Bob Quitter, Carol Henderson, The Koehler’s, Cheryl & Manny Zapata, Ashley Dick, Doug & Vivian Beach, Stefanie & Ray Zimny and my parents…I really, really, really hope I didn’t forget anyone! Your generosity has truly been humbling and so very much appreciated.

And so, the end has come.  My roommate’s boyfriend, Matt, used to always tell me how I should turn this blog into a book; while I’ve always dreamt of being an author, I can’t say I’d want anyone to pay for my horrible jokes and pictures of my smelly, sweaty 13.1 worn-self.  So thanks for reading my free horrible jokes and not telling me how disgusting I looked after every race.  Thanks for holding me accountable and thanks for being here until the end for me.  The End.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

#13: Part 1. "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

Hello Internet world. I’m still alive.  Two months since my last race, I’m finally getting around to blogging about it…and in that time, I’ve managed to clock a 14th half marathon that I was completely unprepared for & decided to run 12 hours before race time, which just goes to show it’s been far too long.  Sorry I suck.  I will give myself the credit of your average back-of-the-class C- student and say that I’ve had a LOT of this written already but I just never got around to finishing it and posting it until now.  While most of you probably think it’s due to a very lethargic attitude and intense procrastination (fine, it kind of is), I have this itty-bitty inkling it’s also the emotional twitch inside me whispering, “if you finish writing your last blog, it really means it’s over.”  Maybe I’m being dramatic, but the past 13 months have been remarkable. And I hate change. And I don’t really want it to be over, like a desperate girl that just got dumped in a sappy rom-com.  So here’s to the written word that will end this adventure, but will keep my memories alive in cyberspace.  I'm writing it in 2 parts: this first one will talk about my final race and part II will be what I like to call the "thank you edition". 

Because I ran and wrote about this exact race one year ago, I won’t go into the details about the flight, the expo nor the majority of this weekend.  Perhaps it’s because that since my final race, I’ve seemed to perfect the art of laziness…okay, no it’s not (I don’t consider running 10 miles tonight ‘lazy’).  Instead, it’s because I simply want to focus on the actual race itself—that proved to be powerful, emotional and completely beautiful.  And what I want on this blog goes, bitches.

I must mention that I was not alone for this final voyage; Mary Ellen made a repeat appearance and cheer section at the finish line.  I do have to make one mention of something expo and Mary Ellen related: she gave me one of the best gifts I think I’ve ever received (excluding her unconditional love, of course).  It’s a sterling silver necklace with a tiny rabbit and when you look at the chain, you notice a little turtle in front of the rabbit: it was a “Tortoise and the Hare” necklace to remind me that “slow and steady wins the race”, as the old fable goes.  The perfect keepsake to remember this race.  Mary Ellen was accompanied at that finish line with my cousin Kevin, who was incredible enough to make the stop in Jacksonville on his business trip to Orlando.

Arriving in Jacksonville
Signing the boards

My mom's signing

Ready to run at 5AM race morning in my custom tee!
My forever reminder that "slow and steady wins the race". 
It was a cold morning: 30 degrees that “felt like 21” according to my landline of a cell phone that always needs to be plugged in to stay charged but somehow predicts weather fairly accurately. This weather in Florida is what Alec Baldwin might deem Frozen Planet.  In my favorite black spandex race shorts (thoroughly documented in pictures throughout this past year) and a custom long sleeve race tee I designed so everyone I sped past would know what I’ve accomplished and obviously care, I weaved my way to my corral.  With a fresh playlist that combined a variety of recommendations from my Facebook Friends and Facebook strangers that I happen to be “friends” with, I took out the race with a modest 8:17 first mile.  I promised myself to just enjoy this race, especially after my mental turmoil in Alabama the month prior; I promised myself to run first with my head and then with my heart; and among these promises I told myself that my time didn’t matter for this one.  The sun began to rise at mile 2 and as I crossed the highway bridge nearing mile 3, with the sun kissing the ocean to my right, my eyes welled with tears.  Cue: The First Single by The Format, a tune that kindly reminds me of the summer of 2008 and my best friend Daytona that ensued a theme of thoughts surrounding pure happiness, friendship, accomplishment and memories.  I trudged on, picking up my pace ever so slightly with each mile.

Miles 5 and 6 cued the next symphony of tears.  I’d tell you to close your eyes and picture what I’m about to write, but then you wouldn’t be able to read it…and I think poor HK (my girl Helen Keller) passed before she could whip up some brail computer screens.  Come on Apple, get on it.  My feet resisted the damp sand below my feet as I entered the two-mile stretch on the beach.  The breeze was frigid but the ocean just yards to my right was soothing and breathtaking under the morning sun.  The beach was lined with supporters and just as last year, the large boards runners signed at the expo in memory and honor of those who have fought, survived, are fighting and lost their lives to breast cancer.  I couldn’t resist the tears, it was worse than watching George Clooney crying in a Honda Civic.  It was worse than baby penguins in need of sweaters from an oil spill (it’s real, Google that shit).  It was entirely beautiful and a flash of time I’ll treasure until I get old and senile.  With the tears filling up my eyes, I was actually crying.  Not just tearing up, crying.  And let me tell you, crying and running is hard.  I suggest choosing between the two, and I’d 90% of the time go for the latter.  Though I do enjoy a good cry.  The spectators probably thought I was bat-shit crazy: 1. For crying and 2. For being one of the few morons in shorts.

Miles 7 and 8 were strong for me, clocking sub 7:30 paces even with the cold wind fighting me.  I’m always the weirdo smiling while I run—I swear it actually helps.  So as I passed the beach houses, my eyes dried and I was bobbing my head to some super ghetto jams.  As I approached mile 10, I could already anticipate the incline.  I had spent the entire race avoiding the dread of the uphill stretch.  The wind was brutal; it continually smacked me in the face to the point that I couldn’t even feel if I was still smiling or not.  The mile 10 highway ramp started the incline as it wrapped around higher and higher to the same bridge where I watched the sun rise.  And then the real battle commenced: mile 11.  I can’t say it was a battle of blood, sweat and tears; but it WAS a battle of wind, tightening muscles, sweat and tears simply from the wind’s power and my contact lenses drying.  It took everything in me to push as hard as I could as I watched 95% of the runners give-into the battling winds and walk up the hill.  But all I could think was: This is it, Jenna. This is your last race. Finish it knowing you gave all you got.

Mile 12 relaxes in a slight downhill fashion, allowing for a speedy finish.  I rounded the corner to see the finish line and got goosebumps (1. Because I was freezing and 2. Because everything I had worked for the past 13 months was coming to an end).  The wind continued to resist my stride.  I ran and sprinted, as hard as I possibly could.  I darted my eyes around the crowds in search of my mom and cousin, who were out-of-sight.  And with my last strides, and every ounce of strength left in my body, I pulled myself across the finish line.  And puked (per usual).  And as I was puking, my heart welled with joy, pride, accomplishment and every overwhelming emotion possible, leading to tears (go figure).  I think I cried more that morning than an entire theater watching Rose let go of Jack in 3D.    I felt like Luol Deng shooting a 3-pointer; I felt like that dog in The Artist claiming its Oscar; but I was just an average 24 year old from Elmhurst, IL, finishing what I said I would do with everything I had in me and that’s all that really mattered.  Next thing I realized, the race volunteers were asking if I was okay and trying to get me into the medical tent.  I looked at them baffled, thinking “uh yeah why wouldn’t I be okay?” and then I remembered, when most people are puking and crying it means something’s wrong.  They didn’t realize that’s just normal behavior for me.

In an ideal world, I would have run my fastest time at my last race; in an ideal world, it would have been a perfect 55 degrees with a light breeze at my back; in an ideal world, my knees wouldn’t bear the pain of pounding on pavement for the past 400 days; in an ideal world, my eyes wouldn’t burn from the sweat my brows failed to catch; in an ideal world, I would've raised enough money to find the cure for breast cancer.  But that's not how things work and I can't say I'd ask for it any other way (minus the curing BC); I ended up clocking my third fastest time 1:42:22, which I couldn't be happier about knowing I gave it my all.  I surpassed my goal of $2,620 and raised $3,505.60 for breast cancer research through the Mayo Clinic thanks to the many fine people in my life.  So after all is said and done, that sounds pretty ideal to me.

I gathered my medal and in an instant spotted my mom and cousin bundled in their winter gear.  I was waving and smiling, trying to get their attention and they finally spotted me.  They threw their arms in the air waving and immediately started snapping pictures; I tried to smile but couldn’t- my face was literally frozen.  My cousin Kevin said he could tell I was trying to smile but just couldn’t manage as my cheeks were stained white with pink circles in the middle from being so cold and wind- burned.  I can still picture my mom, doing her “I’m so proud of you stance” that goes something like this: She’s smiling so wide you think it’s for a camera, she has a little shuffle in her feet as she bounces slightly from side-to-side, she has her arms up and out, bent at the elbow, as if she’s about to shake the shit out of some maracas, and just yells “WOOOO JENNA LYNN! YOU DID IT, (starts shaking her arms up and down, getting’ those imaginable maracas moving) YOU DID IT! I’M SO PROUD OF YOU” and pulls you in with her mini Mexican drum-poised arms for a big hug.  It’s the best.

Best cousin for being there! 

There she is, good ol' Mary E.
Words can't describe how much I appreciate you both being there for me.
13 months. 13 medals.
Trying to make an excited face but it was still too frozen. 
After moments of hugging and letting my face thaw, we agreed to meet up after I finished winding through the runner-area.  After parting with them, the excitement and emotions subsided.  I continued to try to take it all in, but in reality, my continued feelings were a bit anti-climatic and it no longer felt like I had just finished my 13th half marathon in 13 months.  I reengaged with my mom and cousin under a finishers’ tent, where I bundled on my post-race apparel and celebrated with them quietly.  Kevin and my mom took turns taking pictures of me, with me and asking strangers to take ones of our trio.  The 26.2 with Donna race to finish breast cancer does a great job of offering post-race amenities and entertainment (this year was a Sister Hazel concert.  Looks like they haven’t been doing much since they peaked when I was in middle school.) However, “All for you” and free bananas wasn’t nearly as tempting as a hot shower and warm clothes as we stood in 35 degree weather, so we headed to the hotel shortly after.

We finished the afternoon with a celebratory lunch and beers.  Mind you, finding an open, normal restaurant for lunch in Jacksonville, FL when you have no idea where anything is, is actually rather tricky.  Our first attempt at the cafĂ© my mom and I celebrated after last year didn’t open for another hour so the three of us proceeded to see all that the hood of Jacksonville has to offer.  We passed the ghetto, we passed strip clubs, we passed adult superstores, we passed abandoned restaurants with fucked up names, we passed more strip clubs until we finally found a road that lead to civilization and normal eateries.  At this point, our definition of a normal restaurant was anything that looked open and had cars in the parking lot.  When we spotted a Capital Grille, we realized any restaurant around there would do so we opted for a brewery with a full parking lot.  We dined, parted from my cousin Kevin, and headed to the Jacksonville airport for our trip home.

When I started this journey last year, I was just bored and wanted to do something crazy.  I was recently heart-broken, living with my parents (nothing upsetting about that, just a matter-of-fact), and thinking this was a really fun idea without fully thinking it through and understanding the commitment it would take (financially, physically, and timely) or how hard it would be to stay motivated…and on my body.  As I reflect on all the experiences I’ve had throughout this crazy adventure, I realize how different of a person I am- for holding myself accountable, with no true reward besides 13 generic medals, a sense of pride and being able to say I accomplished something that not many will in their lifetime.  I’ve become so much more self-motivated, disciplined and as a result have so much more respect for myself.  Though it may seem boastful, it’s the honest truth.  I’ve also strengthened many of my relationships and friendships- from getting to visit/see my friends across the country to getting to see who actually supports me.  I’ve gotten to see cities and parts of the country I may have never gotten to see had it not been for this experience (honestly, why the hell else would I EVER go to Mobile, AL?)  I laugh at the times I thought I was stressed or had “so much going on” before I had to commit hours of my weeks to training and traveling for this;  I laugh at things I used to consider “hard”; I laugh at my weak self from a year ago who postponed training for this journey a week to cry over my shithead ex-boyfriend; I laugh at the brat I used to be towards my parents (okay, sometimes I still am) who were by far my biggest lifeline through this.    I think what I’ve come to realize is that when you set a goal that’s really big—and is bigger than you, as a single being—and has a bigger meaning for others that can benefit from it, you grow a little and you live a whole lot.  And I am happy to say I have done just that.

All 13 race bibs
"Wouldn't you say my collection's complete?" 
Thanks for reading, supporting, believing and putting up with my long-windedness.  It’s been real.  Stay tuned for part-two: you may be thanked if you're important enough.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Compilation of Motivation

Here are 20 things that motivate me as I prep myself for my final race, in no particular order. Enjoy:

1. The Chicago Bulls starting lineup theme song
2. My family & the undeniable support they've provided me throughout this journey (See below and Mel, Pete, Kevin, Heather, Uncle Bruce, Aunt Elizabeth, all of mom's cousins, Uncle Bob & Carol, and so many more! Oh, and Honey and Sassy, the dogs.)

3. Eminem's "'Til I Collapse" (The song I've listened to before and during every race since high school)
4. Katy Perry's Firework music video (Stop judging.)
5. My friends who have pretended like they enjoy hearing about running to a nauseating extent for the past year to show they support me (Below are just a few of my avid supporters)

6. Positive affirmations, including, but not limited to: I feel happy, I feel healthy, I feel terrific!; Ease your pace, smile on your face; I'm so FUCKING beautiful!
7. This. Completely unbelievable.
8. The Long Green Line documentary
9. "A true Runner ran even when he didn't feel like it, and raced when he was suppose to, without excuses and with nothing held back. He ran to win and would die in the process, running to him was real, the way he did it the realest thing he knew...hard as diamond, it made him weary beyond comprehension, but it also made him free." -Once A Runner
10. The fleeting daydream that one of the following will be at the end of my race and say to themselves, hot damn I need that shawty (the shawty being me): (Don't worry Chad, I'll keep you around)

11. Seeing this everyday in my room. And the idea of adding one more to it.

12. The fact that I'll be able to say I finished something a very small percentage of people have accomplished.
13. Sexy calves. Don't even get me started about how much I love a good set of calves.
14. People I see running faster than me along the lake front
15. The knowledge of how hard I've worked for this, my self-discipline and determination.
16. Maybe if I keep running, my body will morph into this by swimsuit season. Maybe:

17. The feeling of finishing.
18. All the survivors and fighters of breast cancer I'll be running along side this weekend.
19. My Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Linda
20. Chasing my goal of 1:39, but knowing that even if I don't hit it, I can guarantee I'll run with every last bit of energy and heart I have left in me.


Monday, February 6, 2012

#12. Mobile, AL: Running is 90% Mental...and Mobile is 100% Weird.

"Ummm because it’ll be hilarious”, has been my response to everyone who asked me why I chose Mobile, AL for my January race.  (That, and I knew it’d be decently warm and there’d probably never be another time I’d visit the state of Alabama.)  Hilarious was an understatement.
            The only thing I knew about Mobile, AL prior to my trip was that Kanye West’s workout plan got Alamay from Mobile, AL to date outside the family, a doublewide and she rode a plane (Mom- I’m sure you have no idea to what I’m referring, feel free to dig out my old Kanye West’s College Dropout CD from 2002 and listen to track 2.  It’s probably next to Avril Lavigne).  Turns out Kanye’s stereotype was fairly accurate.
            After a flight from Chicago to Atlanta, and then a packed connecting one from Atlanta to Mobile I arrived at the regional airport that resembled a lobby of a Holiday Inn.  First of all, the flight was packed because the Go Daddy Bowl Game was going on that Sunday night and it was between Northern Illinois University and Arkansas State.  So, I was among fellow northern Illinoisans.  Little did I know I would soon be among the strangest breed of people I’ve ever met.  The people in Mobile, Alabama have got to be from a completely different planet.  Them and Lady Gaga…but I don’t think they’re from the same one.  After a mix-up with my car rental, I was greeted by my first Alabama alien: Miss Mary Tabb, my first of many cab drivers.
Miss Mary Tabb reminded me of an aspiring, hard to understand, slightly-hoosier Whitney Houston with spunk.  She informed me of the booming metropolis of Mobile, home to about 300,000 southerners (which surprised me with it’s size.  That’s what she said. HAR.).  While she southern drawled about her trip to Chicago 12 years ago, I realized 1. The meter wasn’t running and 2. I’ll need a lot more cash than what I came with now that I’d be cabbing it everywhere.  Mary reassured me that she took credit cards though no machine was in sight.  Midway through the trek to my hotel, Mary stops at a red light and hobbles out of the car with no warning.  I wasn’t sure if she was doing some sort of Chinese fire drill or a rain dance.  She got back into the car with a credit card machine and an orange Fanta.
            After a flat $25 cab ride (which for all I know Mary could have ripped me off—though on my trip back to the airport the next day I learned she actually gave me a $2 discount. Thanks Miss Mary.), I arrived at the Comfort Suites.  Exhausted from my early rising, I decided to relax with Mindy Kailing’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  After that read, I’ve decided she’s my second favorite Indian—second to the one and only, Aziz Ansari, aka T-Strike (Parks and Rec, anyone?)  I strategically planned to make my way to the downtown area in the late afternoon so I could knock out 3 southern birdies with one stone: 1. Pick up my race packet 2. Eat my free pasta dinner and 3. See the Mari Gras parade and keep my shirt on.
I asked the front desk how far the government building in the downtown area was from the hotel.  With a casual “oh just a couple miles; just straight up Dauphin, right on Broadway and left on Government and you’ll be there” explanation, I figured it couldn’t be too far and decided to hoof my way seeing that it was a beautiful sunny, 70 degree day.  Now, let me go ahead and ask you this, readers, what do you think of those people you see just hoofing it alongside a busy road?  Do you think they’re a crazy bum wandering along with no actual destination?  Because that’s normally my first instinct.  And, that was me.  The only difference was this little nomad actually had a destination in mind but just no idea how to get there.  So while people drove by, assumingly thinking “dat bitch is cray”, many thoughts crossed my mind on this trek.
Thought #1: what the fuck am I doing with my life?
Thought #2:  Why is this street called Daphin?  I keep wanted to say dolphin.  Damn, I wish I was at the zoo.
Thought #3: (context: just walked by a restaurant called "foosackly's") Must take a picture (click). How is there an entire restaurant devoted to just chicken fingers?  That’s like an appetizer. Or a meal for 5 year olds.  I wonder what the variety of their tenders entails…
Thought #4: (thought ensued after a black teenager shouted out the car window of a truck, “Back dat ass up girl!”) Is he talking to me?  Why would he yell at a white girl with literally no ass when he’s in a town full of booty-licious apple bottoms?
Thought #5: Where am I?
Thought #6: (thought ensued after seeing two speed bump signs: one that read “speed lumps”, one that read “speed humps”) What.the.fuck.seriously. I guess they like their roads like they like their women: lumpy.
Thought #7: That hotel dude is an asshole. Seriously, where am I?
Thought #8: (it starts to drizzle) COOOOOL.
Thought #9: (look at watch and realize it’s been an hour) This is definitely more than two miles.  Did I already pass Broadway?
Thought #10:  This isn’t funny anymore.
After a solid hour and a half, and 6 miles later (I came to learn based on my cab ride back), I arrived at a CVS on Government to get some water, which I decided would be my homebase for the weekend.  I arrived in the skyline views (HAH) of downtown Mobile.  The two tallest buildings that served as the city’s only remotely skyscrapers (okay, they weren’t close to anything like Chicago) were hotels.  I wandered the streets of downtown; many of the old buildings reminded me of the French Quarter of New Orleans with a very European style (minus the berets); other shops were a bit run-down or out-of-business adding a tone of sadness to the otherwise lively streets.  The streets were crowded with Northern Illinois fans and Arkansas State, so in a sense, I didn’t feel too out of place-the NIU flags waved with familiarity in the wind.  I walked down to the port harbor and then back to the government building to pick up my race packet.

The Mobile Regional Airport, reminiscent of a Holiday Inn lobby. 
A restaurant devoted to strictly chicken fingers. Normal. 
Downtown Mobile. 
A little bit of home
The Mobile "skyline"
            The building was crowded with runners and their respective family members eating the complimentary pasta dinner.  This was definitely a bonus as no other race offered this amenity fo’ free, AND it freed me of having to dine by myself in a restaurant.  Not that there’s anything really wrong with that, but I’m just not the type to dine out, go to movies or drink by myself.  That would just make me either an old, single retired person, a lonely cat woman or an alcoholic.  I’m definitely not the first, I might be on my way to the second and I attempt to avoid the third.  I walked through the minimal vendors they had present at the small race packet pick-up area and spotted three girls in massive, debutant-like pastel dresses.  Yo, Little Bo Peep, where’s yo’ sheep?! They honestly looked like that and though I desperately wanted to take advantage of this hilarious photo opportunity, I just felt bad for these girls as I figured the race crew hired them as humiliation mascots.  I quickly retrieved my packet and two t-shirts and checked out the course map they had printed on poster board.  It was decorated with two post-it notes: one that said “hills start at mile 10.5” and the other that read “If you’re running the half and you go across train tracks, you’ve run too far”.  Great, mile 10.5 is typically when my legs begin to feel like the bricks of the Home Alone mansion and knowing me I’ll be completely zoned out and run off-course across train tracks and end up in the backyard of Alamay’s doublewide.  Digging through my race bag, I noticed I had no time chip for my shoe- odd.  When I asked where the time chip was, this is what the woman said: “Oh there’s no time system.  The clock just starts when the gun goes off and your time is whenever you cross the finish line after that”.  Wait what?  “If you’re wanting to run for time, I suggest you get to the front of the line.”  Oh, you’re actually serious about this?  THIS.IS.BULLSHIT.  I actually got intensely angered on the inside by this news.  Never in a million years would I have signed up for a race (let alone travel 3.5 hours on a plane to a town where I had more teeth than all its residents combined) if I had known there was no official time chip.  I made up my mind to channel my inner-Kenyan and make sure I was at the front of the pack.  I marched past the pastel bubbleyum freakshow girls and hit up the free pasta dinner.  I sat with another loner and we exchanged a few well wishes of luck and I headed back out to line up for the Mardi Gras parade.  Within the hour, the streets were overflowing with Mobile locals.  I stuck out like a sore thumb (another figure of speech that confuses me) as one of the only white girls inter-mixed with the majority of the Mobile population being black.  I was caught in the middle of chanting Ll-A-BAMA football fans and watched the parade, which included a pissed off horse that wouldn’t behave (and crystallized my hatred for those beasts with killer hooves) and a large grocery shopping cart which reminded me that I had to do that when I got home. And I hate grocery shopping. I headed back to the CVS from earlier in the day and called a cab. Living in Chicago makes you forget that in most cities, you have to call-ahead for a cab; they aren’t as numerous as the amount of times you see Scalabrine on camera during a Bulls game.  So I stood in the parking lot (in what I later learned was “the ghetto” of Mobile…whoops. Whatupfoools) for a solid 20 minutes until my cab arrived.
            The cab ride that lead to my discovery of my 6 mile trek earlier that day brought me back to the hotel to catch some ZZzz’s.  After a goodnight’s sleep, I was ready for the race.  I had pre-arranged my cab for pick-up that took me to the course.  I knew the intersection at which the race started but when I arrived my normal hour in advance, I was perplexed with the lack of other runners present and a lack of start line.  I asked a few people around where I could find the start line (because yes, I will talk to just about anyone and have no shame in asking strangers questions. My friend Kirstin, circa race #10 in Indy, loves this trait about me. And by love I mean, wants to taze me when I do this with her around).  They pointed to a neon orange piece of tape along the ground.  No other signage indicated the start-line, but just a long strand of tape that you might find around the perimeter of a freshly painted door.  The gear check-in was equally as horribly visible, being a soccer mom mini-van with a poster-board sign on the side, half way up the street from where the race directors said it would be.
I finally took my spot at the front with my shoe nearly toeing the highlighter orange tape across the street.  The Easter egg girls (still in their Barbie prom gowns and serving as humiliation mascots again) lined in front of the runners, next to the local Boy Scout troops and in unison, the entire crowd sang the National Anthem.  The feeling of community resonated throughout the singing patriotic crowd.  (I really think my vocal bliss added something special, especially considering my parents have a CD of my Sandburg Middle School drama solo performances in A Christmas Carol and Meet Me in St. Louis. I was quite the thespian.)  With the jammin’ local DJ (who probably had a name of like Mobile Mike) and the gun fired, we took off.  I was flying and felt great (which would later be the cornerstone to my demise)…until I realized I clocked a swift 7:18 first mile.  I attempted to ease my pace, but with my adrenaline pumping and the surroundings of elite runners who can actually maintain a fast pace the entire run, I continued to take it out way too fast.  By mile 4, I could feel my legs weakening; my hip flexors stiffened and my left knee whimpered with pain.  I maintained an 8 min./mile average until about mile 7 when I hit a wall; the worst part was realizing that I did this to myself simply by getting cocky and taking it out too fast.  I played a mental blame game trying to convince myself that it was the RACE’s fault for my stupidity, with their lack of time chips FORCING me to the front; I knew it wasn’t such an intangible thing’s fault- it was my own.  And the mental downfall ensued.  This was my first race wearing the Garmin Forerunner my dad gave me for Christmas and it’s awesome—it takes your heart rate, tracks your pace and elevation with a GPS, has a virtual race buddy—and does so much more (thanks again, daddio!).  But for all it’s incredible features, I focused on one: the feature of the pace buddy that darkens to a black background when you’re under pace.  With every mile, I solely concentrated on my pace that was increasing as I slowed: 8:07, 8:19…8:35.  And I completely, mentally gave up.  My mind threw in the towel as I focused on just staring at my slowing pace every few minutes—it was addicting.  I forgot the fun and enjoyment and freedom running gives me and I was swallowed into a physical vs. mental war.  And 1:47:01 later, I ran through the narrow finishers chute and walked through it, completed defeated.  No guts, no glory.  No puke, no heart.  Okay, that shit I just made up is terrible, but I didn’t puke and while most of you are probably thinking “Um aren’t you happy you didn’t taste last night’s regurgitated noodles”, assuming I have normal, non-bullemic readers…I wasn’t happy about the non-vom.  Because, I’ve puked immediately following the races I ran my fastest; the races I literally gave every last bit of energy I had in my body; the races where I ran so hard, I puked.  And I knew I didn’t give everything I could; I let my mind win and forgot to run with my heart.

Monster shopping cart in the Mardi Gras parade 
Tiny finish line 
Bubbleyum twins, thanks for the entertainment!
First marathon finisher
            Filled with disappointed and self-frustration, I continued walking through the chute to retrieve my medal.  It was then that I remembered to put things in perspective and not be so hard on myself:  The First Light Marathon benefited a local charity, L'Arche Mobile, which is a home for mentally disabled and handicap citizens of the Mobile community.  Four of its residents sat in their wheelchairs, supervised, and passed out the wooden medals the home’s residents had painted and made for finishers.  As the one resident reached to hang the ribbon around my leaned in neck, I remembered that this is what my journey is all about—though I’m running to fundraise for breast cancer research, every individual race I sign up and pay for benefits a charity and helps others.  I may have not run my fastest time, but I did a good thing and the resident smiled with an unspoken “thank you”.  I couldn’t help but to think about my Uncle Dennis, my mom’s brother, who, too, is severely mentally handicapped and in a wonderful facility in Kankakee, IL, where its residents do arts and crafts, similar to the painted medal I had just received.  It was an emotional realization but a much-needed one for me to walk off the course with a small smile on my face.  I made my way to a bench to stretch and call my family and boyfriend awaiting my results.
            Walking back to my home base (the sketchy CVS parking lot), I watched the first marathoner come in to the finish—the crowd roared with encouragement as he clung to his thigh in obvious pain.  This moment, too, reminded me of why I wake up at 5AM on one Sunday every month: the feeling of just finishing.  Nearing the local CVS pharmacy, I made friends with two cops who were directing traffic for the race.  They immediately realized I wasn’t from their hood and whipped up some friendly conversation.  This was when I had the perfect chance to ask the perplexing question that had been on my mind all weekend: WHY were those girls dressed up like Princess Peach?!  They explained to me that they were Azalea Trail Maids (I just had to wikipedia that shit because I kept calling them Amazon Ezekiel trail girls. My bad.)  These girls are “official town ambassadors” that hone “southern hospitality” mannerisms of the old-time era in Mobile.  I wanted to ask if they still had make-shift slaves just to remember “the old times” too.  Yeah that was pretty terrible of me, but I still don’t get the point of those cakepop girls.  Which, led me to snap a photo of them without guilt as I discovered they CHOSE to dress like this and were not, in fact, used as freakshow mascots.
            I hung out in the CVS parking lot waiting for my cab where I was approached by a short, limping lady.  The next words out of her mouth really just summed up my experience in Mobile, AL: “You wannnnntttt some Koooool-Aid?” she asked.  In my teacher’s pet, nervous, if gerbils-could-talk-this-is-what-they’d-sound-line voice I gently responded, “Umm…no, thank you.” As the effervescent advocate of her Kool-Aid she rebuttled with, “I’ve got allllll kinds of Kool-Aid” and hobbled off with her kooler pack on wheels.  I mean, there very well might have been some nice, refreshingly-chilled purple drank in that mini-fridge on wheels of hers, but I think it was most likely packed with drugs.  Those drugs clearly ate away at this woman’s teeth and seeing that I was called shark by my 7th grade teacher because of my crazy grill, I have every intention of keeping my fixed beaver-like chompers in tact and just said no.
            The cab company that I’m sure knew me by the sound of my Chicago voice retrieved me from the sketchy parking lot and I hopped in the shower upon returning to the hotel.  With nothing left to do in Mobile, I decided to just head to the Mobile Airport with plenty of time to spare.  I arrived there at 12:31PM.  The only reason I knew this was because that was the time Chad (boyfriend) called and I told him I’d call him back once I was through security; I called him back at 12:44PM.  Yes, a whopping 13 minutes to navigate through this “airport”.  In fact, as I pulled up my email to get my eTicket number to plug into the check-in kiosk, the woman behind the desk asked for my name and before I knew it, she was pointing to my name, flight number, confirmation number and eTicket number on her clipboard.  Yes, they had a clipboard with every single traveler’s flight information; I felt like I was checking in for a 4th grade field trip.  Up the stairs, I stood in the short, single-file line that they deemed “security check”.  The TSA worker that stood at a very student-council like podium chatted up a storm and may or may not have actually looked at my ID. The workers cackled about my “running stick” and seemed to lack any security protocol which got me to the gate area in minutes.  Since there were only 7 gates and my flight wasn’t for another 3 hours, I didn’t have a gate assignment so I set up shop at a table where I ordered a sandwich and finished my book.  My flight was delayed by about 40 minutes but luckily didn’t affect my connecting flight in Atlanta.  A flight of slumber, I was back in Chicago and welcomed by Bob and Mary E.
            And that, ladies and gents, is Mobile, AL in a nutshell.  I can honestly say I’m glad I ventured there as part of this trip, but those 30 hours there were enough to last me a lifetime and I can’t fathom a reason as to why I’d ever return.  Farewell, Miss Mary Tabb, keep driving your cab. 
            And here I am, 6 days away from my final race.  And I.cannot.wait.  Nor can I truly express my excitement so I'll restrain for now. I’ll be posting one last time before the big finale. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 6, 2012

#11. Dallas, TX: 13.1 Miles of Misery

...I know, I'm being so morbid. But seriously, it was just fucking miserable and you'll understand why when you keep reading. What wasn't miserable about this race was the fact that I got to see and stay with my favorite newlyweds: Anna and Michael Primeaux. (Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson sucked compared to them. And they're divorced now so it's really no comparison).
Meet my attractive hosts: Anna and Michael. Yes this is a picture of a picture.
Not only was my flight to Dallas a steal of a century, it was the perfect excuse to see my boo and her mr. boo. (She doesn't call him that, I just felt inclined to right now).  Anna made her debut in my blog longgg ago when she planned on doing all the races with me; but as explained in a much earlier post as well, she came to her common sense and opted not to but DID decide to do this one in her hometown with me which made me all giddy and shit.  This was the third time I got to see my favorite mischevious boo in about a month in a half thanks to her bachelorette party, followed by her epic wedding and then this race.  Anna had to work Saturday morning when I jetsetted so I was glad to see Michael didn't forget to pick me up.  Foster the dog joined too.

So it was just me and the boys.  The car ride consisted of a lot of work talk, wedding recap, Michael tip-toeing around asking me if me and his friend were dating yet, and Michael's jaw-dropping at the length of my reverse city commute to and from work.  When I told him I typically spend 2.5 hours in the car to go a full 44 miles round-trip, Michael reminded me of the nauseating comparable drive from St. Louis to Columbia, MO taking only 1.5 hours...for 125 miles. He couldn't comprehend the daily pergatory  I put myself through...he doesn't do well with traffic, probably similar how I don't do well with olives. Or foam on hangers.

Back at their Athropologie-esque apartment filled with creams and tans, Michael had some work to wrap up and I had some trashy TV to watch while waiting for Anna.  Though Michael pities me for my brain-numbing commute, I can't say I envy him as a first year CPA who is literally always on-call for work.  I think in the hour and a half we waited for Anna, he had to log onto his work computer three different times, took a work call and his phone made some weird little noises that I'm sure was code for "do this NOW Michael, xoxo, your boss".  He did take a few breaks to show me all the tricks he's taught their dog Foster (who they also call Doodle, Uncle Schnoodle and I think just about any other name that rhymes with noodle.  Poor pup must have daily identity crises).  But let me tell you, Foster/Doodle/noodle brain has got mad skill: he sits, rolls over, high fives, twirls, fetches the remote, hand/paw shakes, and can probably play the keyboard too.  He also has THE whitest teeth I have ever seen.  Both canines and humans included.  Now, I obviously don't check out dog's grills on the reg, so that just goes to show how eye-catchingly white his chompers are; his smile nearly made me melt (kidding).  Then, there's Chauncey the cat.  Chauncey and I go wayyy back: she was my roommate senior year.  I lost the battle to my two cat-loving roomies and when the poor kitten was rescued from a hood of a car, how could I say no to providing such an innocent, harmless creature with shelter?  Well, Chauncey wasn't harmless: she was a bitch.  But a pretty cool one.  And so, we met again.  Now that she essentially suffered from the feline version of gingivitis leaving her with a mere two teeth and is declawed, she's pretty harmless and spends most of her day sun-bathing stretched out or playing her Friskie's fish game on the iPad.  (Yes, there's an app for cats.)  So let me recap Anna and Michael's pets: we've got multi-titled Foster who can do about 20% of the things humans can and Chauncey the cat who is tech-savvy enough to play on an iPad.  The only pet I've ever had was Russell the hamster, who was the biggest (well, technically smallest) 1.4lb asshole. All he could do was chew through his plastic, colorful-tubed wonderland that I so graciously provided him with and roll around in a ball filled with his own droppings and slamming into walls while doing so.  Russell just bit me and stunk up my bedroom.  I'm not bitter at all by the fact that Anna and Michael's dynamic duo pets trump my worthless furball (who is now buried in a check box in my backyard, RIP).

Anna came home (I like how I'm talking like I actually live with these lovebirds) around 12:30 and with bellies growling we scoped out some brunch.  The three of us (me being the mistress) ate a feast of veggie scramblers, breakfast burritos, homemade breads and potatoes at a restaurant that reminded me very much of the Egg Harbor Cafe in the good old Elmhurst.  Post-brunch, Anna and I rid her hubby of the ride and headed off to the Texas State Fair Grounds, home to the race expo.  Though the area the State Fair Grounds is in is questionable, Anna assured me that the last time she was there, the two gangsta teens that were circling her car on bikes didn't actually do any harm-- and trust me, no one messes with Anna. Or Texas.

Making our way across the parking lot, the multiple-month Dallas drought decided it was bored and it was time to shit a torrential downpour on us.  Anna always likes to blame these unfortunate times on karma paying her back for the time that she flicked off an entire school bus of little children.  Looking like wet Raggedy Anne's we made it into the expo center home to all the warm, dry people that beat the storm.  Anna originally wasn't planning on spending the $120 registration fee and running the race as a bandit, bib-less with me; but the atmosphere and my sweet race packet inspired her to officially register.  In the race bag, runners typically get a bunch of marketing material, postcards for other races, sample muscle lotions, mini energy bars and a race shirt.  What do you get in a Dallas, Texas race bag?  An ENTIRE box of Cliff Bars and TWO shirts: one participant and one tech finisher tee. I guess everything really is bigger in Texas.

The rest of the afternoon included curling up on Anna's couch; obsessing over Chauncey the cat; watching Michael leave for Petsmart; watching tv; obsessing over Foster the dog; obsessing over Chauncey; watching Michael return from Petsmart with Christmas pet toys (though Foster seems like he'd be more of a "Festivus for the rest of us" type of dog); stretching; ordering food; eating food; and Anna's friend Lyndey coming over to join us for a bit of our relaxing evening.  Lyndey brought over Anna's belated wedding gift of the widest array of classy kitchen containers I've ever seen.  Anna and Michael now have more wine glasses and flutes than a New Year's champagne toast; they also have EVERY small kitchen appliance you can imagine: a toaster, juicer, food processor, mixer, probably a Belgium waffle maker they have at Holiday Inn continental breakfasts, and something that looked like R2D2 on top of their cabinets.  Lyndey told us she didn't register for the half marathon, but as a natural athlete, she would join us.  Shortly after she left, Anna and Michael hit the sack and although playing middle spoon was tempting, I hit the couch.

We awoke to even more Dallas drizzle in the morning.  We layered on our race clothes for the predicted chilly temps (though I still sported my fave spandex shorts) and Michael played Nigel Barker, noted fashion photographer, shooting quick pre-race pics of his ladies (I love playing mistress.)  He told us he'd catch us around mile 3 and Anna and I set out to pick up Lyndey.  We fetched our third muskateer and slowly made our way to the race.  Dallas did not think the traffic patrolling through which did not agree with Anna's road rage.  Finally in the State Ground lot, we prepped ourselves to face the rain.  On our walk to the race, we did spot Anna's high school boyfriend. Ah, sweet nostalgia. Hey, Grant, Anna's ex.
We waited in what seemed like a never-ending line to use the porta-potties.  Who knew taking a shit could be so popular?  We shivered our way to the starting corrals where I was asked by a preteen where we pick up our race bibs.  I wanted to feel bad for the adolescent who was a day late, but I just couldn't and informed him with an "ummm yesterday?"  and scampered off.  The three of us somehow ended up in corral D-3 when I was supposed to start in corral A-2.  So we weaved through thousands of people, past 10 minute mile pacers, 9 minute pacers, and runners securing their iPhones in ziplock baggies shielding their lifeline from the rain.  We finally made it to the beginning of corral B which would have to do as the National Anthem commenced and fireworks went off; yes, fireworks.  In all the races I've run, I've never seen this 4th of July sky artwork before a race (evidence #2: every thing's bigger in Texas).  I'm actually surprised they didn't fly the Texas flag, because all Texans are obsessed with the Texas flag.  Anna and mine's other roommate senior year, Katty, another Dallas native, is a prime example of  having this Texas flag love affair.

And the three of us were off as the clouds above held off the rain.  We took the first mile out very modestly and then the rain ensued.  From mile two until the end, we were running in frigid rain that smacked us in the face like tiny swords of a tiny man.  Anna and I kept an eye on one another running almost side-by-side but after about mile 3 we lost sight of Lyndey.  We looked for Michael but didn't spot him.  The roads were slick and it didn't help that Dallas has streetcars that run along rail tracks through the road-- I observed this because I nearly twisted my ankle as I slipped on the cylindrical metal rod.  There is really no other way to describe this race but completely cold and miserable.  By mile 5, every positive thought had escaped my mind and I just wanted the race to be over.  Anna and I stuck together til about mile 7, where she pulled away and got ahead.  The competitive side of me tried to chase her but my legs felt like bricks and the rain seemed to push them back down every time they were lifted.  My soaked clothes clung to me, but I honestly felt worse for the women around me running in yoga pants that were clearly not water proof and weighed them down.  Actually, I felt the absolute worst for the small dog I saw tucked in a spectator's coat.  Why would you bring such a helpless creature into a Dallas tsunami?  Poor little guy.  We ran through Highland Park- a very ritzy area of Dallas lined with spectators holding signs that read "Giddyyy-Up!" and the most gorgeous mansions; I tried to appreciate their visual appeal but my mind wouldn't clear itself of how miserable and cold I was.  All I knew was that my legs were tightening, my hands were frozen, Anna was well ahead of me, I was soaking and I had a badittude.  Nearing the finish line, my vision began to blur and I assumed it was my contacts being intercepted by the raindrops smacking me in the eye.  But then I just felt like I was in complete vertigo.  I crossed the finish line, threw up per usual, and couldn't gain balance.  I was so out of it and shivering; my body wasn't warmed up at all after  the entire 1:46 run (woof, back to my old times, I thought)- it was just cold and I was so light headed.  The race directors tried to get me in a wheelchair but I resisted seeing that all I wanted was to be inside in warmth.

I teeth chattered my way into the building to redeem my medal and the post-race snacks.  Instead of just a goody bag worth of bananas and energy bars, Dallas offered a full buffet of food, even including fresh pancakes that smelled like Maple trees.  Bags of pretzels, popcorn, Lara Bars, Gatorade, waffles, chocolate milk, orange juice were all present- I'm surprised they didn't have a sushi bar.  Nothing really appeased my appetite besides one thing that caught my eye: hot chocolate. Yes, please.  It warmed my veins and I held tightly to my wet belongings to start my trek back to Anna's car.  On my way out, I noticed they had race officials with cell phones for runners to utilize if they needed to call any of their family, fans or spectators: brilliant concept.  Of all the races I've run, I've never seen this type of amenity and it really does make a whole lot of sense.  Then back out in the rain I trudged.

I had originally thought the race was the most miserable two hours of my life when little did I know, the walk back to the car would be far worse.  The State Fair Grounds are not exactly small, unless you're comparing them to China.  There were so many different parking lots and the rain continued to pellet my face as I searched for our area.  All I had as a point of reference was the Ferris Wheel and when I realized it was a good 3/4 of a mile in the distance, I knew I had a ways to go.  With no extra clothes on hand, I kept dropping my free food in puddles because I was shivering so uncontrollably.  Probably close to 25 minutes later, I reached Anna's car to find her trying to warm up in the heated vehicle and strip into warm garb.  "HOLY SHIT JENNA, THAT FUCKING SUCKED" was I'm pretty sure the first words out of Anna's mouth.  She, too, is vulgar, and if you think I despise the cold, meet Anna: she hibernates when it's like 50 degrees out.  We laughed and bitched about the terrible race and discovered she finished about 3 minutes ahead of me.  It was then I discovered that while my iPod had continued to bust out jams the entire race, not a single button of its face would work.  The rain killed my dear iPod as if it was the Wicked Witch of the West herself.  Good thing it was stuck on a favorite Christmas tune of mine: Hanson's What Christmas Means to Me. (Okay quit judging, it's feel good AND I'll proudly say that Hanson was in fact my first concert when I was 9 years old AND I owned the Hanson home video on VHS, which starred Billy Bob Thorton, which still perplexes me).  Anyways, I flashed the parking lot of SUVs as I layered on a few warm items and we waited for Lyndey.
Post-race...Foster making an appearance
Not moments later, Anna looked at her phone to discover a text from Lyndey saying she quit and just bolted home during the race.  I can't say I blame her- it WAS pure misery and we did run right by where she lives.  Plus, seeing that she wasn't even registered and was more running this for "fun" and there was nothing "fun" about this race, I've got mad props for her intelligence.  We stopped by her place on the way home to give her her keys and belongings and continued on to Anna's.  I'm pretty sure we sat in her parking garage for a good 5 minutes avoiding getting out in the car and back into the frigid air.  We shimmied our soaking bodies into her building and upon opening her apartment door, were greeted with big mugs of hot chocolate and a bar of dark chocolate (one of my faves), compliments of Michael.  Whatta gem.  I love being the third wheel and girlfriend to the married couple, especially at this moment. We warmed up with our chocolaty treat and hit the showers (separately).  Upon reviewing Michael's photography skills of the race, we soon learned that he thought two random, strange women were Anna and me.  What a bad photographer. And husband. Kidding, I love me some Michael.  (But this explains my whopping two pictures from the entire trip as seen above). I continued my crucial role as third wheel to a Greek food market where we got linner (lunch/dinner...why hasn't anyone come up with an official name like brunch yet? Linner, it is...I should copyright that.)  It was still raining.  And then it was time for me to leave the rain forest of Dallas, Texas and my favorite couple (aside from Bob and Mary Ellen, obviously).

I made a meal out of pretzels and chocolate milk at the airport because I'm clearly on Jillian Michael's diet.  A flight in complete slumber, I was home in Chicago.  I can't say Dallas was one of my favorite races (far from it), not only because of the external conditions, but also because I just lost sight about just enjoying the races and having fun with it.  So, as I prep for my race this weekend in Mobile, AL (my second to last race, HOLY SHIT!) I just need to remember my love for the "game" (if one calls running a "game") and to ignore the alligators, racists, and hillbilly's I very well may encounter.  And it's my first race flying solo-- it's go time baby. See ya when this little birdy returns from flying south.  In the meantime, DONATE: only one more month to go! I'm SO close to my goal!!!!! Yay for self promotion. Bye.