Friday, February 25, 2011

I Am An Athletic Supporter

And they're off! Austin Marathon Start. Go Erik, Go!

So, we just got back from Austin, TX (FABULOUS city, by the way) having traveled there this past weekend for the Austin Marathon. No, smart-asses, I didn't run it, my athletically-inclined husband did. Me? I just tagged along for the chance to experience a city I haven't seen before and get the hell out of Clovis for awhile. Oh, and to play my role as Athletic Supporter. Yea, there was that.

Taking my life in my hands to get this picture
Let me clarify this title. I'm going to start with what it is NOT. It is not "wake up at a leisurely hour, take a shower and feed yourself, then head downtown to grab a latte before the start of the event." It is not "pick a scenic and comfortable-for-the-temperature spot along the route, settle in and cheer as your designated athlete runs/cycles/kayaks/swims by". It is not "find a good spot at the finish line, get comfortable, gab with your friends or other cheerleaders near by and wait for your designated athlete to run/cycle/kayak/swim across the line". It is NOT "just cheerleader".

One of Erik's many sports.
Nope, being an Athletic Supporter is a whole different animal. What it IS is "being awakened before the crack of dawn by an over-anxious, amped-up person, frantically packing the car with sundry athletic bits and pieces, being rushed out the door without one or more of the following: breakfast, coffee, a shower and/or the chance to hit the bathroom, and a nervous adrenaline-fueled drive ending in an argument over the best place to park." It is "being pack mule, pit crew, shuttle van driver, first-aid station, race coordinator, transition set-up, food station, lost and found, and sport psychologist all at the same time". It is "being expected to be at the start to cheer and take pictures and still make it through crowds and closed streets to the transition area before the athlete to make sure all gear is set-up and waiting, then pick up all rapidly discarded items that are cast off as your designated athlete flies by, repeat (sometimes more than once), and make it to the finish line to once again cheer and take pictures". It is "lugging a 17 foot, 70 pound kayak half a mile as fast as your little legs can carry you and it, then somehow miraculously and with much swearing hoisting it onto the roof of a van, strapping it on and STILL managing to make it to the next leg in time" I'm still traumatized over that one, by the way. It is "being sports photographer while doing one or all of the above and STILL managing to stop and capture the requested "action" shots of your designated athlete and his competitors".

Transition at the Desert International Triathlon
My nemesis. The 17' kayak.
It is frustrating, stressful and sometimes painful. But it is also hugely satisfying. Take the Austin Marathon. Erik has trained so hard for it, through gale-force winds, negative degree temps, sun, rain, snow. He runs. He runs because, for him, it's more than just a way to get exercise, it's a crusade. He was bound and determined to beat a certain time. He knew the marathon course was going to be hilly and here in Clovis there's not an incline within 150 miles. It didn't deter him. He ran. Sometimes his running drove me crazy. Christmas Eve? Too bad, gotta get my miles in. Need help with the dogs? Too bad, gotta get my miles in. Still, most of the time, I admire his dedication to the cause, his drive, his athletic prowess. I don't quite get it, but I do admire it.

Austin Marathon bridge crossing. See? I made it.

But the morning of the marathon found me grumpy and chafing at the confines of my supporting role. Yes, he's worked so hard for this day but, damn it, all I really wanted to do was find a coffee house, grab a latte, and wander stress-free through the festive city, casually making my way to the finish line to cheer him on home. I just didn't want to be dragged kicking and screaming into the drama. Heck, I'm not running the race! Instead, I was rushed out the door at the crack of dawn, no coffee, no shower, no bathroom break, argued with over where to park the van, stressed out at having to rush to drop off his gear bag on 6th St and run to get to the start line at 16th. He's in running shorts and a tank top which weigh, hmm, a few ounces? Me? I've been outfitted with my marathon support gear: big camera to capture said "action" shots, bag containing chapstick, extra GU, wallet (that's 5 pounds, right there!), long lens for my camera, race map, pace card, keys to hotel and van, and I'm holding a water bottle and, at the moment, his gear bag. It's early, I'm tired and chilly and there are too many damn people looking at me and bumping into me. I'm worried that he hasn't had any time to warm up and my stress is fueled by his nervous orders to me. "Ok, so you're going to get pictures of me at the start, right? And then if you could get over to mile 8 to take pictures of me as I cross the bridge that would be great". (He has his own blog and all his athlete friends will be checking in to see the report. No pressure, though). "But just make sure you get back to the finish on time, ok?". Hrrmph, as if I ever let him down. I am now feeling quite resentful. I want a shower, I REALLY wanted to sleep in. I want a latte. But, frankly, it doesn't really matter what I want, now does it? I feel like bitch-slapping the next happy, endorphin-laden, lycra-encased freak that, in their pre-race haste to get to the starting line, bumps into me.

My thought exactly. At the Austin Finish line.
But then it happens like it happens every time I tell myself that THIS time I will NOT get sucked in. He smiles at me with that goofy, excited, hopeful, expectant expression on that damn face of his and says those magic words, "Kiss me and wish me luck". I see the nerves, I see the hope and I see the need to have me...grumpy, rumpled me, as his supporter. Shit, here I go again. So I kiss him, and I wish him luck and I watch anxiously as he jets off to conquer his demons with the sparkle of the lights of the State Capitol shining down and the pink hope of a new day glowing softly on the horizon.  All that passion, all that drive, all that expectation....And I am resolved, once again, to slip into my supporting role and do my best not to let him down. Because, damn it, I AM an Athletic Supporter....and proud of it.

How can you say no to that face? At the start of the Austin Marathon.


Leslie G. said...

You are one fine A.S. and an awesome writer and I hope you get your sleep-in, latte after a shower, maybe even a back-rub pay day. Hugs to you both.

MoonstruckinMontana said...

Ha, you're so sweet, Leslie. Thanks so much and a hug right back to you!

Alison Hanks said...

You are awesome!


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