Swiftly fly the miles
One leg following another
Laden with endorphins and tears
– Adapted from Fiddler on the Roof’s Sunrise, Sunset. Apologies to Sheldon Harnick, lyricist
Some husbands like to go fishing, boating, or even hunting for the weekend. Some husbands spend their weekends watching sports and then watching even more sports. Some husbands have hobbies that involve power tools, or musical instruments, or even alcohol.
My husband runs.
Hey – I’m not complaining mind you. My fellow runner widows all understand. I have two friends whose husbands have run the Boston Marathon. We’ve commiserated on our husbands’ diets, their training schedules, etc. Yes, it’s annoying when they only want to eat healthy. Do they need to run for HOURS on a Saturday?
But when it comes down to it – I’m really proud of Steve and his running. Which is why this post is about one of his races. Yes this race was back in March – but like fine wines….sometimes time makes everything a bit sweeter…..
Back in January of this year, we were both recovering from our Disney runs. Me from the half and Steve from the full. There were days I thought I might never run again (thank you stupid foot injury) and Steve approached it quite differently. He was quietly considering doing the Goofy in 2013 (which he has since signed up for!). And then he got asked by someone at work, Joy, to consider running across Florida.
Now, Florida is not a particularly wide state (if you don’t count the part where I-10 cuts from Jacksonville thru the Panhandle). But to run across the state – heck any state – seems a bit much. But the invite was to join a relay team to run the Sunrise 2 Sunset Relay – 180 miles from Ft. Myers to Jensen Beach. And because runners are those rare, odd ducks, he said SURE! Why not spend two days in a van with other runners, alternating legs across the middle of Florida where there are bugs, rain showers, and alligators? Cause you know – most of us think these things are slightly….crazy?
Even crazier was that Joy’s goal was to have an ultra team (2-6 members) so that there was EVEN more to run for each runner. The other option is a full squad of 7 to 12 members. But heck – why not go all out? And Joy did meet her goal – she got 4 other crazies (including her daughter) to sign up with her and Steve. All of them were runners but only one had had previous relay experiences yet they were all strong and motivated! And faster than me! 🙂
Now keep in mind I am not writing about this race from the perspective of a relay runner. I was just the cheerleader, moral support, snack chef, and Twitter update follower – the running widow as it were.
I dropped off Steve on Friday morning at the meeting place – complete with all his gear including flashing light for nighttime, reflective vest, Gatorade, and even some long run cakes I had made for the team. They headed to Ft. Myers for an early afternoon start – and I headed home to get the kids from school and plan our meet up with Daddy on the east coast of Florida.
The team had a plan for who was to run each leg of the race which was some complicated Excel sheet that I never quite understood. I think my comment to Steve was along the lines of ‘better you than me’. But the downside of the race was that from the get-go it was HOT. Not Florida in March hot but more like Florida in August hot. So things got off to a blistering start for all the teams.
I kept up with Steve by checking any Twitter updates and talking to him on his cellphone. I think all told, he and I talked on the phone more across those two days than we have in 13 years of marriage! But it was good to keep his spirits up and hear updates of where they were and what was going on.
The plan for Saturday was for me and the kids to go help set up the Easter egg hunt at church and then leave to drive across to Jensen beach to meet the team at the finish. As it turned out – we probably could have stayed for the whole egg hunt as their team (the Roads Scholars) was a smidge later than we anticipated….like by about 6 hours or so.
I should have figured we had more time when I spoke to Steve that morning while still at the church. He was flagging and in his words “really needed to burp”. Apparently while Steve is an incredible runner, he’s a lousy fueler. Somewhere along the night road, he took up the role of navigator (to the relief of the driver and the rest of the team) but that meant he forgot to eat and keep his intake steady and at a good level. His gastric woes were overwhelming his focus and his emotions. And his math skills. When I asked where they were and how far they had to go – his numbers seemed to suggest they had 10 more hours on the road. Hmmm…. So I talked him for a bit and then passed the word around our church friends there to pray for him (and his tummy).
Despite the idea that the team wouldn’t be near the finish for half a day – the kids and I set out with hope high for improvement across the day. We drove across stretches of road we had never wandered before and saw huge trucks piled high with Florida citrus crops. We also had a mini adventure in a FL turnpike service plaza that I don’t care to remember. I learned that the gps on my iPhone was MUCH better than my actual car GPS. Despite the detours and the traffic, we eventually found our way to the finish line in Jensen Beach.
Many teams (especially ones with 12 runners) had already found the finish line too. So the parking lot was filled with white vans sporting inspirational writings on them. I had forgotten how well our kids can read when our son pointed at a van and asked, “What does ‘suck it up, buttercup’ mean?” They both found the phrase hilarious until I used it on them the following week during some grumbling about homework. Reverse psychology indeed!
The kids spent part of the afternoon in a water splash zone, and I kept an eye on the time and the race course map. I talked to Steve a few times and tried to not mention how many teams had crossed the finish already. When it became clear that they were winded and dealing with a rainstorm on the horizon, the kids and I left to go find some dinner and wander in a few stores.
All the while, Steve’s team chugged on. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to ride in a van with a team of sweaty runners – many of whom you just met the previous day. It seems that they got along just fine and really supported each other – through the night hours when alligator eyes were glowing at them (seriously) and during the last few legs when the rain was coming down in buckets. The camaraderie of the event is one that I sort of started to think might be fun. I was watching the other teams finishing and counting up 11 other women I know who might run it with me. I even had team names and slogans for the vans. Keep in mind – I was not actually running while doing this. I was merely entertaining two kids – which should be an Olympic event anyway. But you often get caught up in the moment and think “Well why not?” (Of course many of you might be thinking I was a lunatic for even thinking “why not” – and you’re probably right. Those of you not thinking that – click on the Sunrise2Sunset link above and let’s get a team together for 2013!)
Much to our relief and delight, many many hours after they had started, the team came in sight. Yes it was dark, and they were smelly. And they were the last team to cross the finish (although NOT the slowest team by far as there were staggered start times). And most of the beer at the after party was drunk already. But the first glimpse of Steve was wonderful – for me and the kids. Even if he looked pretty worn out, wet from the rain, and just tired.
is this the finish line???
We cheered them all on across the finish line and found them some seats at the after party. Thankfully many were still partying late into the night!
Been there, run that, got the medal!
A big thank you to Joy for getting him out there and organizing a whole team. That’s not an easy feat at all. The team took up a challenge that many would never dream of doing and she cheered them all onward. I think they were all pretty pleased with their novice relay experience.
Later that night, I asked Steve if he’d consider doing it again – and his tired reply was along the lines of “ask me in about a month or so.” I haven’t asked him again….but you know crazy runners…..he might actually say yes.
Check out these pics – see he looks like it’s so much fun! Here’s the team before they started.
All smiles – cause we haven’t run yet!
They had lots of water breaks due to the heat.
See – he loves what he does.
Making it look easy
Sitting in a van going 5 mph means lots of conversations – and naps.
Let’s ignore all the stink in the van, shall we?
And yes it was that dark when they finished!
Whew – we are done!!! Where’s the beer?