My 4 year old daughter loves soldiers. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she will unequivocally without hesitation reply soldier. A litany of various ever changing vocations will follow. But soldier is always on the list and it’s always the first one.
So imagine her delight upon the realization that mommy’s big race was going to be run on an Air Force Base where soldiers live, work and train. Thrilled does not even begin to describe her reaction upon walking into an expo where full fatigues abound. And you can probably further imagine the sheer and utter horror my poor child felt upon not being able to meet and greet a single one.
We were running late.
While we left the pre-race dinner at OG at 5:00PM giving us plenty of time to make the 10 minute drive to pick up our packets and get to my mom’s 5K by 6:30, we were not fully prepared for the traffic. At the expo exit, cars were at a complete standstill and backed up clear to the expressway. So we waited…and waited…and waited some more.
And then, my 4 year old had to pee. I mean, of course she did. Because when you are stuck in a traffic jam with someplace to be yet nowhere to go and your patience is wearing thin, of course that is exactly the time your kid says “I have to go potteeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
Eventually we slipped our way in through an entrance I’m not really sure was an entrance, but the fella directing traffic, or whom I at least assumed was directing traffic because of the bright yellow vest and little wand stick thingy he was holding (although really not using) didn’t seem to be opposed to our idea of entering so it worked out. But then again, maybe that was just some dude who wanted to make sure he was safely seen by oncoming traffic at the expo. I don’t know.
Upon our arrival, we quickly enacted a divide and conquer plan. My parents would head to packet pickup with Tiger Baby in the stroller so my mom could get her bib and get ready to run. I’d race my about to explode daughter to the bathroom meeting them near packet pickup when we finished so I could get my goodie bag too. Easy peesy lemon squeezy we’d be all set in just a few minutes.
Only one problem. Just as we were walking out of the bathroom, someone announced over the loud speaker that if you hadn’t picked up your packet for the 5K yet, you’d need to do so at the start. All other packets were inside. And all I could think was “CRAP.”
You see, this meant my parents were headed outside with my toddler, my stroller and my purse, my purse which had my wallet in it which contained my license required for packet pickup NO EXCEPTIONS (which I must have read 97 times before I left). And furthermore, they were headed outside with oh a FEW THOUSAND OTHER PEOPLE. I had to find them and I had to find them fast. We were closing in on 6:30 and I didn’t want to miss my mom’s race, but the expo was officially closed at 7:00 and I certainly didn’t want to miss my marathon because I lost my parents and thus my id and couldn’t pick up my packet. Really. How seriously stupid would that have been?
So my poor desperate soldier lovin’ child! I literally, dragged her by the hand through the entire expo as quickly as I could trying to find my parents. “Mommy! Mommy! There’s a soldier! Can I meet him? Look there’s another one. Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY! Look there’s two! I HAVE to meet them. Mommy I just want to talk to that one. Mommy pleeeeeeeaaaaase. THAT ONE IS A GIRL! I HAVE TO MEET HER!”
But dangit. We just didn’t have time. I finally stopped. Got down and looked her in the eye and said, “Honey, I promise you. You WILL get to meet a soldier, probably even more than one. But right now we have to find Papa and Nana. Ok?” She looked at me with the saddest little eyes and said, “ok.” What a trooper! (no pun intended).
We weaved our way in and out through the crowd around the expo ignoring all the vendors I so desperately wanted to check out, but if my daughter wasn’t going to get to meet a soldier, then I couldn’t justify stopping to look at running gear no matter how funny the shirt slogan. Finally, we found my dad, 2 year old, stroller and purse waiting right at the bib pickup. I grabbed my wallet and he went outside to find my mom who had gone on to where ever they were now handing out 5K packets.
After picking up my bib, my 4 year old and I had to head down a massive flight of stairs to get my (super sweet) shirt. And there at the very top of the stairs, before we even took one step, she spotted him. Another soldier. “Yes baby, you can meet that one if he’s still there when we get down.” She talked about him with every step, the entire way, “I hope I can meet him. I hope I can tell him my name. I’m so exciting to meet him.” (She never says she’s excited. She’s always exciting.)
And she did meet him. And let me tell you, Shane made my daughter’s day. She still talks about meeting him. This larger than life, tall as an oak tree fully fatigued Airman, got right down, shook my daughter’s hand, asked her name and spent a good five minutes or so talking to her. And he was even a “runnin’ soldier.” He was going to run the marathon the next day. She was tickled pink. And I sadly, I didn’t have my camera. Talk about kicking yourself. It was just so precious. Shane, where ever you are, thank-you. Not only for your service, but also for creating a mental picture I will never ever forget.
Fully satisfied that she had now met a soldier, we were free to head out to watch my mom’s race. It was actually far easier to find them amongst the crowd than I had thought. Tiger Baby hadn’t slept a wink all day and had had it with being confined in a stroller. All I had to do was follow her growls. It took about a minute.
Then we were all in for a treat. The Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performed just before the start of the race. They were A-MAZING. Well, at least they were once I got a chance to watch them after consoling my distraught daughter that these soldiers throwing rifles with knives on the end of them were not going to hurt us. “They’re our soldiers remember. They would never ever hurt us. They’re here to protect us.” To which she kind of giggled and said, “oh yeah, that’s right I forgot.”
Still I have to admit, the mom in me surfaces rather easily. As I watched these highly skilled professionally trained Airmen toss their weapons around with precision and seeming ease, my initial thought was, “I surely hope those guns aren’t loaded.” Which was quickly followed by, “How on earth do you practice for something like this?” Think about it for a second. I mean, even if you start off with pillow soft mock weapons, the first time they give it a shot with the real deal has got to be seriously intense don’t you think? (Anybody else have, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” running through their head?")
And yes, we also got to meet some of the Honor Guard at which point I resorted to taking crappy camera phone pictures which apparently I am unable in any way, shape or form to get off my mom’s camera and post for you here or enjoy myself later since my own phone was left in the car and my camera was making the trip to Dayton a little later with my husband to keep him company on the long ride down since I FORGOT IT. Grrrr….
But anyway, next was the national anthem sung by an Airwoman with an amazing voice (yep, my daughter totally dug that) followed by a B-52 flyover (what a massive airplane that is!), then the gun for the race.
Now, my mom had claimed she was going to run around a 36, but must have been wearing her speedy shoes because she smoked it and actually ran 34:38, placing her 4th of 60 in her age group. Way to go Mom! That’s some serious wheels.
We headed back to the hotel after the race (Residence Inn. Totally excellent besides the wretched complimentary breakfast in the morning. Huge rooms with a full kitchen: refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, cook top, real plates and silverware, so you actually don’t need their breakfast anyway).
My now slap happy baby was bouncing off the walls. And when I say bouncing off the walls I do really actually mean bouncing off the walls, and coffee tables, couches, etc. She pretty much couldn’t walk straight anymore she was so tired and was bumping into everything nodding her head up and down, but fought sleep with everything she had the minute my mom tried to lay her down. So I gladly (and thankfully) slipped out to a room of my very own that I’d have to myself all night
Back in my room, I mixed up my Cytomax for pre-race, Gu Brew for during, and Gu Recovery Brew for after like a little chemist. Then laid out all my clothes, bib, watch, sunglasses, Chica Band, shoes, fuel belt for the next day figuring the more I could get ready that night the better. I checked the alarm clock one last time and called the front desk for a 5AM wake up call just in case the alarm failed me. Took one last peek at the course map, then snuggled down into the big deep cozy bed I’d have all to myself. Ahhhh….
It’d be 26.2 in the morning…
P.S. Miss part one? You can read it here.