Running the Redman

Written by Mary McDaniel

It was nearing the end of July when my friends & fellow OKC Memorial Marathon runners (Jan Hamlin, Kendra Farrill & Pam Frank) decided that we would begin training for the 12/4/2011 Dallas Whiterock Lake Marathon.  We had our first training run on 7/23 & put all of the upcoming training runs on our calendars for good measure.  Within 2 weeks of starting our training I received a phone call at work from a co-worker.  Francis Schrameck said that a little birdie had mentioned to him that I might be a good person for his team, Sheer Nonsense, to get to step in for their marathon runner who had medical problems, on their upcoming triathlon, the 2011 Redman.  I told him that I’d only done 1 other marathon & that if winning or having a really good time on the event was important to their team, that they probably wouldn’t want me, as I am pretty slow.  Francis stated that I was the first person to ever mention winning, and that the way his team enjoyed a good time was by sitting on the sideline with a cold brewsky while they waited for me to cross the finish line.  I told him it sounded like they were my kind of teammates!

I read up on the Redman website about the event, since I’d never been involved with a triathlon before.  The event would begin with a 2.4 mile swim in Lake Hefner (Francis’ event), followed by a 112 mile bike ride (our bicyclist, James Lanier’s event), followed by a marathon / 26.2 mile run (my event).

I continued to follow the training plan for the Dallas marathon since there’s no way I would be able to condense the 4 month training program down to the 6 weeks that I had between then & the Redman.  I was a little concerned since I’d only be able to work up to 16 miles by the event date:  9/24/11.  The day before the event my training buddy, Jan, encouraged me & helped lessen my worries some by reminding me that we had 2 PR’s (personal records) on our training runs that week & that I would do great.  Never-the-less, I only got about 5 hours sleep the night before the big event due to nerves.  I’d had a dream that at the transition between the bike & the run, I’d taken off on bike instead of running!  I was also worried that I wouldn’t be at the transition point when our bicyclist came in from his bike ride.

On the morning of the event, as I rifled through my “swag” bag of goodies that I’d received at the packet pick-up, I learned how to apply the numbered tattoos and all the specifics about transitioning – things I’d never encountered when doing bicycle events or running events.  Although I wouldn’t actually be starting my run until around 2 in the afternoon (after the swim & bike events were completed), I really wanted to see Francis swim and then transition to James on his bike.  After James began his ride, I would head back home, try to get nap, then be back near the transition area by 1pm to wait for the completion of James’ bicycle ride.

That morning the 3 amigos (team Sheer Nonsense), met at James’ bike in the over packed bike corral near the “magic” transition circle.  We were each filled with excitement.  Francis donned his wetsuit along with the other 800+ swimmers that morning.  I jockeyed myself near the start at the water’s edge as the gunshot blasted & the athletes commenced their swim.  Francis was easy to spot amongst the flailing arms, as he was the only swimmer doing the breast stroke.  As Francis exited the water after his excellent 1 hr & 17 min finish time, I stood near his lake shoes & hollered & pointed so he knew where they were.  He decided against putting them on & proceeded up the hill to the magic circle to transition the timing chip to James.  I yelled after him that I would bring his shoes up.  Unfortunately due the course being roped off & me not being allowed in the bike corral during transition time, I missed James exiting on bike & never saw Francis to give him his shoes (didn’t realize those were the only shoes he brought to the event either – yikes!).  I walked a mile to my car & headed home for homemade pancakes & I hoped for a short nap.  Enroute to the car, I walked up next to 2 folks from one of the other co-ed relay teams (there were only 3 co-ed teams in the event), so chatted for a bit.  The girl was their runner, as well, and had run in many marathons, including Boston where she’d had a qualifying time of 3:33!  They were super nice & stated that they’d driven up from Houston for the event.  We wished each other good luck as we parted to head to our cars.

On the drive home I started really getting nervous about not being there if James came in early.  The conditions were ideal for the bike ride – 85 degrees and no wind.  I still thought I might have time for a short nap though.  As I arrived home & made Kurt & I pancakes I decided that I’d better get back up to the event & just hang out & stretch or something – so much for a nap!  Kurt had planned to just drop me off & come back later to watch me run & finish with Jan, Kendra & Pam, but decided he’d stay with me (awe, thanks sweetie!).  We got back to Hefner around 11:30 or so & found Francis shortly thereafter, walking around barefoot.  We hung out near the magic circle as I stretched & we chatted.  James had estimated 5 – 5 1/2 hours for the ride, so we figured we might see him around 2pm or so.  The on-line tracking that was supposed to be used to track an athlete on their course wasn’t working, however, so we just weren’t sure.  I moved into the bike corral & chatted with the other relay racers that were awaiting their cyclists.  David Price with the team, Big Balls Racing, offered me 2 tickets to the awards banquet that would be the following day. It was fun to hear the guys playing their mental games on each other.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity of waiting, Francis spotted James entering the bicycle corral & I quickly entered the magic circle.  James stuck his foot out, I grabbed the timing chip, velcroed it to my ankle & off I ran – start time was just about 2:35pm.

The run course would include 4 laps on the east side of Lake Hefner, starting at the north end, rounding Stars & Stripes park & then back.  Runners would be passing each other back & forth throughout the event.  I immediately felt the effects of my mere 5 hrs of sleep the night before, but soon my adrenalin kicked in & I was feeling pretty good.  The other athletes were phenomenal in their support of each other.  Throughout the day I would hear, “You’re doing great – keep up the good work!” or “Looking strong!”.  In turn, I tried to encourage others as I passed them.  The water stop volunteers were awesome too!  At one point the fitness director at my old gym, Nancy Shidler, pulled up next to me in a golf cart to encourage me.  I said, “Nancy, you probably don’t remember me, but back when I weighed 350 lbs, you did my 1st fitness evaluation at Pacer Fitness Center.”  She claimed that I was her hero (actually she’s mine!) & rode off with a big grin.

As I rounded a corner near the lake I spotted my friend Heidi Randell shooting official race photos.  She shouted encouragement as I strode past her.  Soon I was nearing the “Louie’s Loop” that I’d rounded so many times on my training runs.  The sight I beheld was one that brought me a big chuckle:  My wonderful friends & training buddies (Jan & John, Kendra, Pam, Anita) & my wonderful husband were there cheering for me & doing the “wave” from the sidelines!  They were truly the funnest group out there that day!  As I passed Steve Schlegel he even commented that I had my own cheering squad.  Actually, they cheered & did the wave for every runner that came past them, to the point that they commented the following day that they should have “trained” to do the wave for 6 hours 😉

Near the end of my 2nd lap, I took a cup of Gatorade from one of the water stop volunteers – big mistake!  Almost immediately my stomach began cramping.  The cramping waxed & waned throughout the remainder of the run.  From then on, I limited my drinking to water & 7-Up.  Nutritionally, all I’d had that day was a pancake for breakfast, so to supplement & keep my energy up, I made sure to take a Hammer Gel whenever I needed it.  I took 3 during the run.  I took my baggied ibuprofen a little before the half way point, to help alleviate aching feet, knees & hips.

Well, it appeared that by my last lap all of my fellow relay runners had already made it in, as I missed their smiling faces & encouragement as we passed each other.  As I started on my final lap the sun had started going down and the sunset was the most beautiful I believe I’ve ever seen!  The least fun part of the course was the keyhole loop around Stars & Stripes, as there were no water stops or volunteers to keep you motivated.  My last time through the keyhole was the worst, as it was now dark and the runners had thinned out so that I was doing the loop without any other runners around, which was kind of creepy.

At the beginning of the run when I needed water, I would barely walk long enough to get a cup down & then I’d immediately take off running again.  By my 3rd loop, my walks during the water stops began getting longer & the starting back up part began getting harder.  By my 4th lap, the adrenalin was helping me to keep running for longer periods again, although definitely not as fast as at the beginning.  Kendra & Annita remained at the Louie’s Loop as I approached, however, my other cheerers had made their way to the finish line, together with my 2 teammates.  The view of the finish line lights were a welcome sight as I picked up my pace to cross the finish line to cheers from my friends & a quick photo from my boss, the official finish line photographer, James Randell.  I grabbed a finisher’s shirt & gave hugs to all my wonderful friends, then promptly changed into my comfy-comfy shoes.  I would find out later that I finished in 5 hrs & 58 mins – 14 mins less than my 2011 Memorial Marathon time.  I was happy!  My teammates enjoyed the awards banquet on Sunday morning as I enjoyed sleeping in & the fun part was that we got 3rd place in our division 😉

My Redman experience was one that I’ll cherish forever.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to do all 3 events myself 😉  !!!