Friday, April 29, 2016

Illini Veterans Memorial 5k Race Recap, April 10th 2016

I have to apologize for how long this took. It was not intentional, but with some of the personal stuff that was going on in the week after the race I just needed to disconnect for a bit and recenter my perspective. It's been a busy and stressful couple of weeks, and I think I needed some time off from the blog (aside from 'easy' posts like random thoughts and workout recaps).

I actually have another post sitting in my drafts about how busy work has been (because it has!), but that's for next time. I'm definitely getting busier and trying to rebalance everything as I do.

That said, I did promise a race recap, so here goes!

Saturday, April 9th
The day before the race was totally up in the air until I got in my car to drive to Cam's. He ended up working something like 10 hours that day, and I wasn't sure he'd even want to drive down to Champaign with me. But he did, so off we drove.

Somewhere like an hour into our ride I realized that all the signs we were passing not only said the distance to different places in Illinois...but how far it was to Memphis. It was so random that I had to get a picture (which took a ridiculous amount of time and strategy...and note the perfectly perfect weather):
I mean, that many people drive this route to Memphis that it needs its own sign??

It's odd to me, but maybe they do. Anyways, moving on!

We made it to Brian and Steph's sometime around 5:30 (we stopped to grab some snacks and liquor before we got there), but sadly Steph had already left to go to school. It was tech week for a show (she's part of the U of I theater program) so we didn't get to hang out with her much. Instead, I bought the boys pizza, we watched a bit of The Office, introduced Brian to the wonderful world of settling Catan, and then I crawled in to bed while Brian and Cam played video games and caught up.

Oh yeah, and I cuddled their cat, Cookie Dough a ton. I think she's the oldest and sweetest cat I've ever seen...and her nose looks exactly like cookie dough ice cream!
Funny story: The entire time we were waiting for pizza we kept ourselves busy looking for Brian's house keys. He'd been looking for them before we got there and he couldn't find them anywhere. And we looked everywhere, including places that those keys never would have been.

At one point I eyed the garbage can and asked if he'd thrown them out on accident, but he said he'd already checked the garbage can.

I'm gonna give you one guess where we eventually found those keys...

Keys aside, I slept really well, on what was probably the world's most comfortable air mattress!

Sunday, April 10th: Race Day!
I've mentioned before that I was really looking forward to this race. The weather wasn't supposed to be great, so I packed three different outfits so I'd be prepared no matter what. I ended up wearing crop leggings under track pants (I'd planned to take the track pants off before running but didn't), a thermal long sleeve shirt, and the U of I Architecture shirt Papa Bender bought me (pictures further down!).

And speaking of Papa Bender - that's the reason I was excited! I'll explain our relationship a bit so you can understand:

My freshman year of college, probably about a day into living there, I was sitting in my dorm room doing nothing when this guy knocked on my door, said "Hey! I'm Bender!" and he's been one of my best friends ever since.

During our senior year I finally met his parents, and they've had a special place in my life ever since. The Benders are some of the best and most generous people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and fortunately, they happen to like me. They even surprise me and send me Chex mix sometimes, and those are gestures that you only make for people you really love ;)

Through the years, we'll meet up with Papa Bender when he's in town for work, and we usually take a picture together. Sometimes it's all of us, sometimes it's, have a collage:

So it's pretty safe to say I'm close with the Benders, they mean a lot to me, and I've always felt special because Papa Bender especially goes out of his way to make plans to see me when he's in town for work.

What made this 5k so special to me is that it's been a journey for Papa Bender, and in asking me to run with him I got to be part of his journey. He's always been so supportive of me, so it was pretty humbling to be asked to be part of this with him. Over a year ago some stuff happened and Papa Bender decided to start losing weight. He started walking a lot, and last fall (around the time I should have run my half) he started asking me about running and 5ks.

So really, this 5k felt like a culmination of all the work he's put in...not just with running, but in losing a lot of weight as I got to tag along for a rather momentous event in his life: His first 5k in 25 years!

I'm sure at this point you want to actually know about the race. We'll start here:

It was miserable weather. It was even worse than the Shamrock Shuffle. Not only was it cold, but it was also windy and rainy. Like, really cold and windy and a steady, cold drizzle the entire time. I took this picture of the bell tower because it's how the weather made me feel about the race:
Looming and Ominous.
The race was small, but well organized (except that it started late, which sucked because it was so cold). The swag bag was pretty decent, although I wasn't able to use most of the coupons and stuff since they were for a local store. Oh well :P

Since it was a race for veterans, they had the presenting of the colors (done by the Air Force ROTC, I believe) and that was followed by the national anthem - then it was off to the start line!

The race was a one mile loop around the quad that you had to do three times (duh). I'd actually never been on the U of I campus, so it was pretty cool to finally see a place that people I knew from high school had talked about during the summers - although that was totally trumped by the fact that Papa Bender got to run this 5k at his Alma Mater. I mean...that's pretty rad, as far as race stories go.

The race actually ended up being just shy of 3.1 miles. My Garmin clocked it at 2.99:
The loop was flat for about .75 miles and then the last .25 miles there was a slight uphill into the wind. And for the first time since the Hustle, that annoyingly optimistic cheerleader in me came out, and I (at least feel like) I coached Papa Bender through that crappy feeling of running uphill into the wind (and rain).

I assured him many times that we weren't last, and that we'd finish the race no matter what. I also told him that it was okay if it felt hard - running in bad weather is never easy, and that there were definitely people who stayed at home that day rather than run in what we were up against.

And we weren't last! No where near it, actually. Although there wasn't any coffee left when we finished, which really sucked because I wanted something warm to drink :P

We grabbed some water and chatted for a bit, then took some pictures (always a requirement when I get together with the Benders). Here we are showing off our matching U of I Architecture shirts:

I loooove this shirt! It's one of my favorites (and matches a customized NIU shirt that Papa Bender got me a few years ago).

After that we walked back to our cars and said our goodbyes, and I journeyed back to Brian and Steph's.

I stopped at a random Starbucks on the way to get that coffee I wanted, and I waited the longest I ever have for a drink: A solid 20 minutes. Perhaps it seems petty, but I can't stand when I have to wait like that, especially at Starbucks. Part of my impatience comes from having worked at a small-business coffee shop, and I know I never had a customer wait that long. Starbucks also has machines that automatically pull espresso shots and they don't steam their milk with any technique or finesse (note: pulling a good espresso shot and steaming milk without scalding it are the hard parts of being a barista). People four orders back in line were getting their drinks before me, and then the barista gave me sass when I asked her for my drink. I was already cold, damp, mulling over personal issues, and had waited 20 minutes for my drink: I didn't need sass to go with it. Won't be going back there.

Originally we'd planned to hang out with Brian and Steph a bit before Steph had to go back to the theater, but our plans completely fell through because it was Mother's Weekend at the university so every eatery was completely packed. Cam and I opted to hit the road when it became clear that we wouldn't find somewhere to eat - so off we went.

I'm not going to dwell on the afters of the race. The 5k was the only good thing that happened that weekend, and despite the other stuff that happened, I refuse to let such a great and personal achievement I was blessed to take part in be tarnished by outside events. The race is stand alone in my mind, and I will always cherish getting do run it with Papa Bender.


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