May 25, 2012

The reason for the long weekend

I was to walk down the aisle of the First United Methodist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky, on November 6, 2004.  I did walk down the aisle of this beautiful stone-clad church, only it was 9 months earlier and not as I dreamed.  Instead of donning my plain, yet elegant, Jim Hjelm wedding dress and carrying calla lilies as I planned, I walked down the aisle wearing black following my fiancé's flag-draped casket.
February 19, 2004, is a day that will never forget.  I will never forget the gorgeous blue skies, the uncharacteristic spring weather, the clothes I was wearing, and the look in my parents' eyes when they told me that my fiancé had been killed hours earlier by an improvised explosive device in Iraq.  The unfathomable news that I had lost my soulmate of five years brought me to my knees.  My hopes and dreams came crashing down all around me.  The future that I was yearning to start had ended in seconds.  
“It’s hard to deal with the pain of losing you everywhere I go, but I’m doing it.  It’s hard to force that smile when I see our old friends and I’m alone.  Still harder getting up, getting dressed, living with this regret.  But I know if I could do it over, I would trade give away all the words that I saved in my heart that I left unspoken.”  --Rascal Flatts
Yes, my life changed.  But I slowly learned and accepted that my life wasn’t over.  I had to live... make new memories... take on new adventures... I had to dance.
“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance... Never settle for the path of least resistance. Living might mean taking chances, but they’re worth taking. Loving might be a mistake, but it’s worth making. Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter. When you come close to selling out, reconsider. Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance... I hope you dance.”  --Lee Ann Womack
No matter how much time passes since Jeff's death, I still have never ending stories and memories to share because there was never a dull moment around Jeffrey.  Ever.  And I share these stories because I want Jeff to be remembered for his million dollar Crest smile and magical charisma... not just a number that scrolls along the bottom of CNN.
I can still hear him doing his best Will Ferrell impersonation from Saturday Night Live by screaming “I drive a Dodge Stratus!”  And he was quick to point out that it was a Sports Edition.  In his Dodge Stratus Sports Edition, he would never adjust his clock for daylight savings time... and this drove me crazy bonkers.  He said that it was a waste of time because he would just have to change it back in six months.  Well, I missed class one day because of this... so after a very animated conversation with him, I changed his clock to the correct time.  The next day, he had changed it back to the wrong time... he said it confused him having it the right time.  Whaaa???  It confuses you having the RIGHT time??  Only Jeffrey and that’s why I loved him.
And then there was a time where I couldn’t walk for a week due to our stubborn competitiveness.  We were very active together, but everything was a contest... and Jeff did not have the “I’ll let the girl win” mentality.  He wanted to win... and win by a lot.  So one day when I was running my mouth, I challenged him to a lunge contest (Jeff was the most un-flexible person ever and lunges were impossible for him, so I thought I could actually beat him at something).  I might have had the book smarts, but he definitely had the street smarts.  During our lunge-out, I was stunned when we were at lunge number 200ish and he was still going.  I was so absorbed in my own lunge pain that I was totally blind to the fact that he had figured out a way to brace himself with his own weight.  I finally screamed “UNCLE!” and he was once again the victor.  The butthead finally revealed his cheating once I was able to walk the next week, but he did so over the phone so that he wouldn’t have a black eye.
I know the “stadium seating” and “bracket on the wall” stories have been told ad nauseum, but they are such classic stories that I have to share them for the billionth time.  I mean, who creates stadium seating in their college apartment and draws a larger than life tournament bracket covering their entire wall?  Jeff sure knew how to put his degree in civil engineering to good use:  stadium seating was epically constructed in apartment 215 at the Royal Lexington apartment complex during March Madness.  It started out on a small scale with only two measly levels, but quickly grew to four levels. Yes, four levels.  Furniture from all the surrounding apartments was borrowed (sorry apartments 115, 214, and 216 for not having any furniture during the month of March).  Love seats were placed on top of coffee tables for level two... sofas were placed on short dressers for level three and tall dressers for level four. The maintenance staff threatened that putting excessive amounts of furniture in one apartment was a fire code violation.  Well, for Jeff, that went in one ear and out the other.  On game days, forty people were successfully crammed in his apartment, each with a seat on a couch.  I’m actually surprised the floor didn’t cave in.  
So how do you top four levels of stadium seating?  Well, after I returned home from a spring break trip to Jamaica, Jeff picked me up at the airport.  He had his signature mischievous grin and I knew he was up to something when he told me he had a surprise for me.  I was scared to walk into his apartment not knowing what to expect.  You can imagine the look on my face when I saw the NCAA tournament bracket drawn in black permanent marker, covering an ENTIRE wall in his living room.   Are.  You.  Kidding.  Me.  Those were the only words that stumbled out of my mouth.  His apartment soon became a tourist attraction.  Everyone had to see it.  It was pretty amazing, but again, Jeff never did anything unless it was going to blow you away.
Jeffrey had a larger than life personality, and even after death he managed to transmit that personality in “heavenly messages”... the strongest and most touching centered around our Cosmopolitan article.  Months after his death, Cosmopolitan magazine contacted me about writing a feature article on our relationship using the letters and emails we shared while he was deployed (in their research, they came across an article about Jeff in our local paper and that is what started their interest).  One of the last letters I sent Jeff was a cheesy card... on the cover of the card there was an open pea pod with two peas... the inside said “We are two peas in a pod.”  In Jeff’s last letter to me, he had commented on how corny the card was but appreciated my attempt at humor.  The Cosmo article was written by a free-lance writer, who covered the war for the New York Times.  His article was apparently too PG for the Cosmo editors’ liking, so they tried their best to rewrite the article by adding every sexual comment we made to each other, attempting to make it as close to “Fifty Shades of Grey” as they could.  Fast forward to the magazine release.  I was really nervous about the article and probably read it 100 times before I noticed the “sign.”  On the page after the article, there was a Glad Wrap ad.  With only a picture of a huge pea pod taking up the whole page.  I still can’t figure out what Glad Wrap has to do with a pea pod, but I can’t help but think that was Jeffrey telling me that everything was okay... in his over-the-top way.  Does heaven have credit cards?  Because no telling how much a full page ad in Cosmo costs.
And that is what has helped me through the past eight years.  Memorial Day is celebrated with barbecues and pool openings.  My birthday also falls over this weekend, so I always considered it “my birthday weekend” growing up.  Now I also consider it “my hero’s weekend.”  Losing the person you love most in this world can completely change your outlook on life... but I know that Jeff has been the shining stars at night to guide me in the right direction and the butterflies and ladybugs during the day to give me hope.  Jeff’s story is only one of thousands... so as you sit down this weekend with your family and friends with a cold beer in hand, just remember the sacrifices that were made so you can enjoy this long weekend.
“I thank God for my life and for the Stars and Stripes.  May freedom forever fly... let it ring.  Salute the ones who died... the ones that give their lives... So we don’t have to sacrifice all the things we love.”  --Zac Brown Band

May 21, 2012

Conversation imitation with no limitations

Have you ever had a conversation that is so classic that you wish you had it recorded so that you could play it over and over again on a bad day?  You need my job.  Every day you are guaranteed a conversation sensation.  Some of the dialogue with my patients can be frustrating... sometimes it leaves you with the thought that this person should not be allowed to procreate... actually you wonder how this person even figured out how to procreate.  But most of the exchanges are epically rib-tickling.  And someone like me should not be allowed to keep all of these heart to hearts to myself... so after working the long weekend, I have compiled my favorites from the past week and I now present them to you.
The Prenatal Fable:  college-aged girl vs me
Girl:  Can you please show me where the prenatal multi-vitamins are located?
Me:  Of course (I walk her to the vitamins)
Girl:  Well, I saw these, but they are not prenatal MULTI-vitamins.  They only say prenatal vitamin, and my doctor said specifically that I had to get the ones that say prenatal MULTI-vitamin.
Me:  Prenatal vitamins and prenatal multi-vitamins are the same.  It’s just different wording on the label.  Both contain several vitamins, and therefore both are multi-vitamins.  (I hand her a bottle.)  These are what you need.
Girl:  Oh, okay.  Well, I’m going to check Wal-Mart because I need the ones that are multi-vitamins... I don’t think these are right.
Me:  (You win.  I don’t even have the energy to argue with you.)  Okay, I hope you find what you’re looking for.
I Dread the Sudafed:  frequent-flyer crazy patient vs me
Patient:  Hey Tracy, can you get something for me?
Me:  (Ugh, you never get my name right.)  Sure, whatcha need?
Patient:  I need the 15 count.
Me:  15 count of what?
Patient:  Oh, shoot, I forget what them is called.  (thinks for several seconds)  OH! The 15-count Sudafed.
Me:  Sudafed does not come in a 15 count box.
Patient:  My doctor said it did.  He said the 15-count is the only one he wants me to get.
Me:  (Who offered you money in the parking lot to come in and buy Sudafed?)  I’m sorry, but we only have the Sudafed that comes with 24 tablets in a box.
Patient:  How much are them?
Me:  (Scans the box)  $3.99
Patient:  That’s not the ones I need.  My doctor said it was the $10.69 box.
Me:  (WHAT?!?  You’re doctor knows the exact price of our Sudafed??)  Why don’t you call your doctor again on Monday and find out the exact name of the product he wanted you to get.  I don’t want to sell you something that he doesn’t want you to have.  Let me know on Monday what he says.
Patient:  Hmph.
The Infection Selection:  girl in her late-teens vs me
Girl:  I have a problem.  I have to go pee every ten minutes and nothing comes out.  And it burns so bad.  Do you think it’s a yeast infection?
Me:  No, it sounds more like a urinary tract infection.
Girl:  What can I get for that?
Me:  You really need an antibiotic to get rid of the infection.  But we carry Azo that is in aisle 8 on the bottom shelf in a blue box... next row over.  It’ll help with the burning pain, but it won’t get rid of the infection.
Girl:  Okay, thanks.  I’ll try that.
Girl:  (returns with Monistat in her hand)  Is this what I need?
Me:  (What is wrong with you people? I said it was a UTI and to get Azo which is in aisle 8, the next aisle over.  How did you end up with Monistat, which is in aisle 3 on the other side of the store?)  No, like I said, I don’t think it’s a yeast infection.  Based on your symptoms, I think it’s a UTI.
Girl:  Oh, well can my dad come up here and sign me out an antibiotic?
Me(HUH??!?  How do you sign out an antibiotic?)  No, you’ll have to get a prescription for an antibiotic.
Girl:  Well, how do I get one of those?
Me: (Did you grow up in a cave?)  You’ll have to see a doctor, he’s the only one who can write a prescription.
Girl:  This is bull-shit. (grabs the Monistat and walks away telling her boyfriend to go pay for the Monistat at the front register)
Me:  (I hope for her sake that putting that Monistat up hole #2 will cure the infection in hole #1)
A Stand for the Banned:  deranged lady vs me on the phone
Lady:  Do you have extended-release Aleve?  I only have the Aleve you take every four to six hours and it’s not working for me.
Me:  Ummm, Aleve is every 12 hours.  They don’t make an Aleve that is every four to six hours.  Do you mean Advil?
Lady:  No, I mean Aleve.  Maybe that’s why I had a stroke.  
Me:  You think Aleve caused your stroke?
Lady:  I don’t know.  I had a stroke two days ago... and it was a major stroke... not one of those little TIAs... I think there was a brain bleed.  I got real dizzy and almost passed out.
Me:  Well, what did the doctors tell you?
Lady:  Oh, I didn’t go to the hospital.  
Me:  Ma’am, if you think you had a stroke, you really need to go to the hospital.
Lady:  I can’t.  I’m banned from the hospital.
Me: (This keeps getting better and better.)  Huh?  How are you banned from the hospital?
Lady:  You see... 
Me:  (Oh Lord, I shouldn’t have asked)
Lady:  I used to live in Dallas and I worked at Lowe’s and one day it was really sunny outside... it was a Tuesday in March, and I was driving home from getting groceries... they had a sale on strawberries and this place has the best strawberries... I was by myself... I usually take my daughter grocery shopping with me but this time she couldn’t go... and there was construction so I decided to drive home the long way.  
Me:  (Please get to the point)
Lady:  I was going to try to plant flowers that day because it was really nice outside and maybe even take a walk... I can never get my husband to take walks with me.  Well, this lady rear-ended me in the car.  And when we went to court, this lady’s lawyer forged my name on all these documents saying that I admitted to being on drugs when she hit me, and that I forged prescriptions to get Oxycontin.  So, the judge ruled that I am now banned from all doctors and all hospitals.
Me:  Maybe the judge just meant you can’t see any doctors for pain medications.  I’m pretty sure the hospital would have treated you for a stroke.
Lady:  Oh, no.  All the hospitals across the country have my name on a list where they can’t treat me.  I’m fighting it in court now, but I have to suffer with my pain until then.
Me:  (What in the world is this lady talking about?)  So, did you have a question?
Lady:  I forgot why I called.
Me:  (Me too.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you took Aleve every four hours, self-diagnosed yourself with a “major stroke,” and are banned from all hospitals).  Well, if you remember what you needed, then give me a call back.
Lady:  Okay.  See, that stroke is messing with my memory, too.  Thanks.  Bye.
Me to my tech:  Do not ask me any questions for three minutes.  My brain is hurting.
Stranger Danger:  a 4 year-old boy vs me
Me:  (ringing up a little boy for his antibiotic)  You must be Joey.  Are you sick today?
Kid:  No, I feel fine.  
Me:  Then why did you go to the doctor?
Kid:  My mom made me.  She said I had a fever.
Me:  Did you want to add any flavor to the medication to make it taste better?
Mom:  (Nods her head for a yes)
Me:  What kind of flavor do you want?
Kid:  Lady, you tell me what you have.
Me:  Oh, I have EVERY flavor!  Just name it, we have it.
Kid:  Hmmm, okay, I want blueberry.
Me:  Well, except that one.  
Kid:  You said you had everything.  How ‘bout cotton candy?
Me:  (He has to be pulling these flavors out of his butt.)  Well, we don’t have that one either.  How about I give you the list.
Kid:  (his mom reads him the list)  I want bubblegum.  It better be good.
Me:  Okay, you’re ready.  Can you verify your address for me?
Kid:  No.
Mom:  You know your address.
Kid:  Yes, but I’m not giving it to her.  She’s a stranger.
Mom:  (verifies address for me)
Me:  Would you like a sucker?
Kid:  No, I don’t take candy from strangers.
Me:  Well, Joey I hope you feel better
Kid:  I told you I wasn’t sick. (walks away)
Me:  (I just got owned by a four-year old)

May 16, 2012

I am the decider

One of my favorite Bushisms (I like to think of George W Bush as a modern day Aristotle) that I need to incorporate in my life is:  “I am the decider, and I decide what is best.”  I am The Decider.  I decide what is best.  So as The Decider, I get to pick my future husband.  I have a 10-point list of specific criteria.  Put on your seat belt.
  1. Resembles Chace Crawford (or the real Chace Crawford will do)
  2. Cooks, cleans, and does laundry (or will hire someone to do it for me)
  3. Educated at an ivy-league college (or military academy)
  4. Bilingual (preferably Spanish or Italian)
  5. Iron Man triathlete (or Olympic/professional athlete)
  6. Can recite Allen Iverson’s famous press conference (because it’s my favorite quote)
  7. Has a vacation home (ideally something similar to George Clooney’s Italian villa)
  8. Certified sky-diver (so we can go tandem)
  9. Can distinguish a zone defense from man-to-man defense (so we can have educated conversations)
  10. Is aware of current foreign affairs in the Middle-East (again, so we can have educated conversations)
Now that we have all laughed (well, number 9 is not laughable, I’m totally serious about that one), I’ll come back to reality.  I’d be excitedly thrilled to find a strapping lad who can check off 4 out of 10 on this list.  5 out of 10?... then you can go ahead and put a ring on it.  I’m completely aware that I’m more likely to win the powerball or get struck by lightning than find a Zeus-like creature who fulfills all ten of these wishful wants.  But I do have a realistic list... ten must-haves in a mate that are non-negiotable.  You don't need a seat belt, but hold on to the "oh shit" handle.
Watches SportsCenter, then Keeping Up With the Kardashians, then Monday Night Football, then Chelsea Lately 
Watching reruns of SportsCenter all day long is not necessary, but I dated a guy once that didn’t even know the channel for ESPN.  If watching football, he should teach me what a play-action pass is... not me having to explain that the offense has four tries to move the ball ten yards.  Then, even if he thinks the Kardashians are a train wreck (they are), he can at least fake genuine interest because I know after seeing Kim he’s singing in his head “if a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face...”  And if he doesn’t think Chelsea Handler is funny, then I have no hope.
Has some inkling of athletic ability 
Just because the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee is broadcasted on ESPN, that does not make the spellers athletes.  The same goes for bowling, hunting, and race car driving.  I just want him to have some coordination and to carry in the groceries without getting winded and breaking a sweat.  I can teach our child how to throw and catch a baseball, but someone else has got to teach the kid how to dribble.  Oh, and being able to bust a move on beat with rhythm is acceptable.
Accepts that I become a psychotic, obsessed, crazy woman every year from October until the first weekend in April.
He has to obey the cardinal rule that nothing ever gets planned during a Kentucky basketball game.  Ever.  And he can’t take it personally when I unintentionally ignore him as I spend unreasonable hours on the KSR website... and don’t expect me to move from the couch during the month of March.  But if he can name the last ten NCAA basketball champs, then he’s a keeper.
Never utters a word of disapproval when I buy a pair of Jimmy Choos 
I may on occasion bring home a pair of shoes that cost more than I earn in a couple days, but that doesn’t mean I want to perform CPR when he sees the receipt.  My theory is that as long as there is food on the table (and by food, I mean peanut butter and honey sandwiches), then there should be no complaining.  Just as I won’t complain if he buys a set of Titleist AP1 irons, or whatever else expensive things boys buy.
Doesn’t have bad grammar 
If I ever hear the likes of “I seen that,” then I’m politely walking away.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard.  I got nothing else to say about this.
Likes my family... and I mean ALL of them
*He has to like my family, because we do ridiculous things when we are together (such as write rap lyrics and make math videos).  I don’t want looks of disapproval when he sees this:
*One night my sister and I were playing history trivia while my dad made up the questions (I promise we are not always this geeky).  The conversation went something like this:
Dad:    What was the term used for those who first settled on Plymouth Rock? 
Me:      COLONIALISTS!!!!! (I was really excited I got one right)
Dad: You mean “colonists”?
Me:      Oh... tomato, tamato
Sis:      I know!  Quackers?
Dad: Did you mean “quakers”?  Jeez, you’re both wrong. They were called _______________.
**I think the correct answer was pilgrims, but don’t quote me on that.  I wasn’t paying any attention to the answer because I was too busy wiping my tears from laughter.  This explains why neither of us passed the AP US History exam.

Appreciates my desire to adopt a little boy from Africa 
Preferably one, but maybe two, or three, or four, or even five to be able to field my own basketball team.  I don’t necessarily want to become the next Angelina Jolie (however Sandra Bullock would be fine), but I do embrace the idea of having a blended family.  Of course I’ll have a shirt made for my son that says “Don’t tell mom but I don’t look anything like her.”  And I’ll have a shirt for myself made that says “I love my son because he didn’t cause me to gain weight or have labor pains.”
Is not a picky eater 
Nothing frustrates me more than eating with someone who has twenty special requests for their food... or going to a Thai restaurant and the person orders a hamburger.  I can understand not wanting to eat cow tongue or rooster balls, but we are in our 30’s and he needs to learn to like asparagus.
Thinks I’m the funniest person he knows
See, that was funny, wasn’t it?
I don’t need every door opened or every chair pulled.  But having manners and occasionally acting like a gentleman would be nice.  For instance, holding the door open long enough so that it doesn’t slam in my face as he walks ahead of me.  Or stopping the car at a complete stop before I try to get out.  Simple requests.
Now, the following are just for bonus points and may be negotiable:
  1. Never makes me drive (for his sanity and for mine)
  2. Doesn’t snore (I may need to move this one to the list above)
  3. Doesn’t make fun of my mouth guard 
  4. Accepts that he will have no room in the master bedroom closet (or any closet for that matter)
  5. Spontaneous (because I’m the planner)
  6. Doesn’t have a small dog 
  7. Or a cat
  8. Knows how to use a Mac 
  9. Handy-dandy (my dad won’t be around forever)
  10. Has a grown-up dwelling (does not still have posters hanging on the walls)
  11. Hasn’t changed his name to something ridiculous like Metta World Peace
I think this is a reasonable and attainable list.  Picky eaters need not apply.

May 11, 2012

Only a best friend tells you when your face is dirty

A good friend knows all of your best stories... a best friend has lived them with you.
A good friend offers support when you have been humiliated... a best friend pretends nothing happened in the first place.
A good friend will be there to bail you of jail... a best friend is sitting next to you in the holding cell.
A good friend will take your drink away from you when they think you’ve had enough... a best friend watches you trip over your own two feet and says, “You better chug that, you need to catch up.”

In the late summer of 2008, nine ladies and myself congregated for a seven day escape to Siesta Key. We united for the week to celebrate our 30th birthday, preferably known as “the first anniversary of our 29th birthday.” Dreading the upcoming year when we were all about to enter a new decade (our puma years), we used this trip to honor our 20‘s... scared that once we entered a new period of our lives, we wouldn’t be fun anymore (don’t worry, this didn’t happen... we are still fun... even more fun). Our home away from home was “The Mockingbird,” a three bedroom house with a private pool, just one block away from where The Travel Channel deemed the “Best Sand Beach in America” (**Side note: I was just reading this aloud to my BFF and she cracked up laughing... the house was named “The Hummingbird.” Apparently “The Hunger Games” has taken over my mind). There were ten girls in one house with three king beds and two hair dryers. Let me type that again in case you missed it: ten girls with only two hair dryers. And don’t be shocked when I tell you there was no girl drama that week. Nada, zilch, zero. Even when Hurricane Fay invaded the scene and kept us sequestered in the house for 24 hours putting together a 1000 piece puzzle... you can only imagine the conversations we had. And even one morning after a night unhinged at a beach bar, one of the girls asked another: “Did you make out with who I made out with last night?”... and the answer was yes... and still no drama. Just a bunch of belly laughs and refills on the mimosas.

It’s been proven that those with a strong friend network tend to live longer and healthier lives. If that’s the case, then I should live to be 108. There are friends that come into your life for a reason, then those who are around for a season. But the friends I want by my side in Greece for my 50th birthday are the friends I want around for a lifetime. Lifetime friendships are built on:

trust = Please don’t tell anyone what happened last night
honesty = Your spray tan looks really orange
unconditional love = It’s okay you spilled red wine all over my favorite white pants
compassion = I’m sorry that jerk hurt you, I’ll kick him in the shins next time I see him
Since the Siesta Key vacation, we have managed to invade Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, Marco Island, New Orleans, New York City, Charleston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas and others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. We are spread across the state and throughout the country, but we make it happen by maxing out our paid vacation days each year traveling to be with each other.

We take an annual girls’ trip to the SEC men’s basketball tournament every March. We travel near and far to support each other in half-marathons and marathons. You can’t forget about blue lot Kentucky football tailgating in the fall. Or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane over the Gulf of Mexico (if you consider “perfectly good” being held together by duct tape and the pilot wearing a parachute). Or doing an impromptu A thru Z pub crawl in Lexington. Or the 2,539 bottles of wine that we have shared.

We (most of us at least) live the single life, so we celebrate each other at any chance we can because the opportunities are limited. As Carrie Bradshaw once brilliantly said:

“If you are single, there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you… Hallmark doesn’t make a ‘Congratulations, you didn’t marry the wrong guy’ card. And where’s the flatware for going on vacation alone?”
I love that quote. I want to register at Macy’s, then throw myself a “Congratulations, I have been single for eight years” party. I would have a cake made out of cupcakes and would wear the perfect dress from Alexander McQueen. And I would really appreciate Kate Spade chinaware. The best part is that I know my friends would totally embrace this idea. After all, we have each other to thank for all the boyfriends that we are not married to (or we divorced). Any future boyfriend will not only have to pass the Dad test (I take pity on the poor soul), but also pass the friend test, which could possibly cause the potential groom to jump ship. If he can survive a night out with my friends, then he can survive a climb to the top of Mount Everest. If he can survive taking 25 jumping pictures of us without getting irritated, then he can survive a marathon with no training.

These lively girls have been witnesses to all of my crazy stories over the past few years, and they have partaken in most of them. We will still be sharing adventures when we are 80 and have to use valet parking so we don't lose our car. These amigas will always be my best friends... because they know way too much.

May 1, 2012

Pain Now, Beer Later

“You guys are on crack.  You all haven’t stopped complaining once today about how sore you are, and here you are now planning your next race.”  Our toes, ankles, calves, knees, quads, hips and even biceps hurt, not to mention all the blisters that we popped and the constant trips to the bathroom.  Yet, we were already scouring the internet for our next race in the fall.  My friend’s husband, who was the only non-runner in our group, had been listening to our moaning and groaning since the race ended and was tired of hearing us complain about something we volunteered and paid money to do.  But it’s hard to convince a non-runner that completing a long race is the most rewarding experience.  Even if he didn’t understand, we still needed a non-runner in our group, because who would cheer, take pictures, and carry our post-race backpack?
During a visit to Charleston this past December, a friend and I started to discuss our next race.  Not sure how we picked the Nashville Country Music Marathon, but I signed up and devised a training plan that I had every intention of following.  More friends decided to join the “fun,” including several who were half-marathon virgins.  There ended up being eleven runners in our group... eight who were running the half-marathon (13.1 miles) and three crazy fools who were running the full marathon (26.2 miles).  The training started in January and lasted longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage*, and on April 27, we all arrived in NashVegas ready to unleash our inner Kenyan spirit.
In New Orleans a few weeks ago, my friend and I stumbled on the perfect running accessory:  a blue and white tutu.  Some of the other girls decided that we should rock a tacky neon theme.  So why not do both?  The night before the race, each girl had to have their outfit approved to be at least an 8 on a tacky scale of 1 to 10.  I passed wearing a neon yellow tank (think construction yellow), argyle neon arm socks, and a blue and white tutu.  As a group, we looked like a hot mess that could be spotted at night from the International Space Station.  We pinned our bibs, attached the chip timer to our shoes, laid out our outrageous running garb, and headed to bed... dreading the 530am wakeup call.
A 6am meeting time was agreed on for the morning of the race.  The fact that eleven people (nine being girls) walked out of the hotel together at 615 was nothing shy of a miracle.  Getting to the start line from our hotel was the next hurdle... it was two miles away... and walking was our only plausible option.  I knew walking was a bad idea, but it became a horrible idea when I was attacked by itchy-leg syndrome (or boringly known as exercise-induced uticaria).  I promise it’s a real condition... google it.  It has something to do with histamines that build up in your capillaries, and when you walk/run the pounding action causes the histamines to be released causing the most excruciating itchy pain imaginable.  It happens to me randomly and this was the worst possible time.  I immediately started clawing at my legs uncontrollably, causing scratch marks that turned into red bruises all over my thighs.  The itching eventually stopped shortly before the race and thankfully I was able to run the race itch-free... because I was going to have more important problems to deal with during the race.
My friend and I stood in corral 25 trying to decide on a running strategy since we both had training plans that consisted of no training plan.  Other friends had trained using the Galloway run/walk interval method, so I decided to cling to them to avoid being picked up by the sag wagon, and increase my chances of crossing the finish line.  As the gun went off, there were five of us who were going to stick together and push each other to the finish.  With 30,000 runners, it took 45 minutes to cross the start line, which gave us plenty of time to use the port-a-potty to take a port-a-poop*, take a 5-hour energy shot, get our iPods ready, allow our Garmins to find the satellite, and post a few last minute pictures to Facebook.  There were 13.1 miles ahead of me and I was already asking “are we almost finished?” (that’s what she said*).
Next time I run a race, I might want to check the weather channel first.  Kentucky has had a mild spring this year, so there weren’t any days that I ran in temperatures hotter than 65 degrees.  Needless to say, I was not prepared for the hottest day of the year... by 9am it was already 80 degrees.  I was overheating from the beginning.  At mile two, I ditched my arm socks.  My tutu came off at mile four.  I attempted to carry it, but finally tossed it at mile five.  And then at mile 5.77, I became overly dehydrated.  I needed water... NOW.  The next water stop was at least half a mile away and I knew I couldn’t make it that far.  One of my friends noticed a mom-n-pop grocery store up ahead, so we ran in there for me to buy a liter of water and for my friend to use the restroom.  While inside, I opened the freezer doors and put my face on some Lean Cuisine tv dinners trying to cool off.  After the ten minute pit-stop, I was partially rehydrated and back to the grind.  I can’t thank the spectators in the neighborhoods enough for having sprinklers set up for us.  I wanted to kiss the onlookers set up on the side of the road with coolers of ice.  Towards the end, I finally had a game plan for the water stops:  first grab a Gatorade, then a water, then a second cup of water to dump on my head.  I just didn’t want to be one of those runners on the side of the road getting IVs from the paramedics... so I kept telling myself I’m doing this for Katniss*.
First lesson learned: check the weather.  Second lesson: check the course elevation.  I heard that this race was hilly, but “hilly” doesn’t do it justice.  I felt like I was running up the side of Pike’s Peak every five minutes.  Those weren’t “rolling hills.”  No way, José.  I know rolling hills and these were no stinkin’ rolling hills.  Remember when your Grandpa would say, “I walked to school uphill both ways”?  Well, now I believe him because I ran uphill to the turn around point, and then miraculously it was uphill to finish line.  The next race I run will be in Kansas or Oklahoma on a course that is as flat as my chest.
This race did not lead me to a PR.  Not even close.  I was the length of a Seinfeld episode away from my previous worst time.  But this was my favorite race and produced the best memories... and I’d rather have fun over fast any day.  The organization of this race was impressive, as were the pit stops along the way offering anything from fruit to salt packets to Krispy Kreme donuts.  And then there was emotional gratitude by everyone towards the inspirational Marine who was a double amputee with above-the-knee prosthetics on both legs (and he finished before I did).  
Of course the best part of any race is the party.  Sitting with my friends in the parking lot of LP Stadium at the post-race festival was very rewarding... we had such pride for each other.  But I smelled like a combination of a wet-dog and Mexican restaurant... and desperately needed a shower... a long shower... with lots of soap.  We then prepared for our after-party, which of course we designated to be at some honkey-tonk bar on Broadway where they don’t sing rap music.  The night slowly progressed to a haze, but I know I did finish the night at the Paradise Park Cafe (the world’s most famous trailer park) inhaling a cheeseburger and the best tater tots ever.  
I am so masochistic that I’m doing this all over again next weekend in Indianapolis with my cousins.  I had the most painful massage ever yesterday and I hope my legs can actually move by Saturday.  I’ve often been asked if I wanted to attempt a full marathon, but I’ll stick with the 13.1 miles since I don’t go all the way*, even if it’s at your pace or mine*.  
>>> I can’t claim all the good one-liners.  There were some great signs along the course and some witty comments shared by friends, all denoted in the story with an *.  <<<