I had a lot to do today. The main objective was to finish preparing my drop bag in preparation of my 50-mile run. I found a drop bag ‘master list’ online, which was a huge help. Preparing my gear for each loop was fun as much as it was motivating.
Andrea and I left the house at 1pm. I made last minute plans to pick up Alison in Trinity and take her the Rocky Raccoon 1-miler kid’s race. Once we picked up Alison we stopped by the Walker County Storm shelter to pick up my race packet hoping to beat the crowds that would be there closer to the pre-race meeting.
We arrived at Huntsville State park thirty minutes before Alison’s 4 pm race. When Alison and I talk on the phone she is always telling me about her “training”. Each week she reports how many times she ran up and down the road or loops around the house, and she tells me how many jump ropes she completed. I usually tell her what a great athlete she is, but inside I chuckle at her because she takes her fitness so serious at the ripe old age of eight.
While registering for the race we sized up the competitors. Two girls there were older than Alison, one of the girls was easily 12-years old and towered over Alison by more than a foot. There was also a boy the same age, yet larger than Alison. Everyone else was younger than her, yet deserved equal respect. In the minutes leading up to the race I kept whispering to Alison, “Today is your day. You’ve trained hard and I know you will do GREAT”.
At the start there were 10-12 kids. For the first time, Alison lined up at the front. Usually she is content with being in the back of the pack, so I was surprised to see her on the line. Andrea offered to run with her, but she refused any help. The course was an out and back one-mile trail run. Once the race started I was only able to keep Alison in sight for a tenth of a mile. For the short time I could see the runners, the leaders were four strong, with Alison leading the way.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity. About eight minutes into the run we spotted the first runners on their way back. The runners were too far down the trail to determine who they were. As the runners approached I noticed the leader was wearing a black shirt. Overwhelmed with emotion I thought to myself… Alison was wearing a black shirt, I think that’s Alison! Within seconds I was able to confirm the front runner was indeed Alison. Following closely was a boy of similar age. The crowd exploded in excitement. Not only because it was the kids race, but there was a serious battle to the finish.
From the look on Alison’s face, she was clearly tired. The other runner was on her heals, so I cheered as loud as I could to make sure she held her lead. As I had mentioned to Alison before the race, TODAY WAS HER DAY. Alison crossed the finish line first OVERALL in a mind boggling 8:31.
The swag was nice and I mean really nice. She received a red golf shirt with the race name printed on it, an engraved finisher’s medal, and the first place prize, which was a large hand crafted gecko lizard. The first place prize was triple the size of the other awards, which were hand crafted horned toads. Before the race started she had seen the frogs and instantly fell in love with them. She had told me, “I hope I win one of those frogs”.
Alison left everything on the course. She didn’t hold anything back and was rewarded for her effort. Even while holding her larger first place medal, she admired the smaller trophy. Not only did I notice this, but so did the Race Director. Without a second thought they allowed Alison to trade her larger first place award for the trophy she really wanted.
Then came one of those moments every parent dreams of; There was one very young boy out on the course who had not finished yet. Even though Alison had finished long before the last runner came in, she met him at the finish line and gave him her original first place award.
I cannot think of another moment when I’ve been more touched. I was so overcome with emotion I found it difficult to hold back tears of pride. The entire time I overheard people talking about Alison. At least a dozen times I heard people comment among themselves saying, “That’s the girl that won the kids race in EIGHT minutes”.
WHAT A DAY! It doesn’t get any better than this.
Once we finished at the park we went back to the Walker County Storm shelter for the pre-race meeting and dinner. Alison proudly wore her finisher’s medal among the 700 ultra-marathon runners.
The meeting went as I expected. I was in awe at the vast number of runners. The one thought that kept crossing my mind was; what are the trails going to look like with this many people on them at one time?
Alison was starving and I made plans for her to eat with us, but Erin arrived minutes before the food was served. I felt bad because I wanted Alison to eat amongst her fellow runners. As for the food, it was AWESOME. On my first round at the self serve buffet I had salad, pasta, veggie marinara sauce, garlic bread, and a piece of chocolate cake. I couldn’t resist over indulging in a second serving of spaghetti, using tomorrow’s 50-mile race as an excuse.
Andrea and I stopped by Wal-Mart for a couple last minute race supplies. Up to this point everything was going perfect. Things took a different tone when Andrea noticed a voicemail from our hotel. Once she got a hold of the hotel we learned they had over-booked their rooms and needed to move us to another hotel. If that wasn’t bad enough the hotel they moved us to was also full, so they had to move us a second time. Somehow we ended up at the Econo Lodge.
I’ve never been a fan of hotels. Call me a germ freak, but it just makes my skin crawl thinking about the nasty people that might have been sleeping in that bed or walking around barefooted in the room. YUCK! Knowing that my options were limited, I tried to subdue my frustration.
We arrived at the Econo Lodge, which was next door to the La Quita. We had stayed there before and were totally grossed out. The girl at the desk pf the Econo Lodge was friendly and aware of our situation, which was a huge help. I had assumed it would get confusing trying to explain everything. Unfortunately, one of her first comments was, “They told you it’s a smoking room, right?” After she said that I had had enough. I was considering driving back home. After pleading my case for a NON-smoking room she made a phone call to the manager and got permission to release a room that was on hold for the manager himself.
All at once, everything turned around, but this time in a positive manner. We were given the managers non-smoking room and since it was the mistake of the original hotel, they paid for our room! Truth be known, the property and our room were both in pretty good condition.
Andrea had two vital roles during the race. She was attending the race to support me and more importantly she was my one and only crew member. I spent a couple hours diligently discussing my race strategy with her. We went through my drop bag, so she knew where everything was and when I would need certain items. Everything seemed in order and I was in bed by ten pm.
As I posted on my Facebook;
DEATH before DNF.
Tomorrow I’m going into battle and I shall return victorious!