Before the Marathon Sunday, I had some prior engagements to attend. Headed to Ashland for Homecoming. It was also the 45th Anniversary for the Phi Delt chapter on campus.
I guess I didn't clear that with Jodi's best friend Deb, as she replied..."What, he's not going to be here?" Supposedly she was under the impression that we would be discussing the "spectating" route for the next day during dinner Saturday...
After putting the finishing touches on a gift bag I headed up to Ashland.
The A.U. campus has changed quite a bit since graduation. New student center, new streets with buildings, new sports facilities and a brand new state of the art football stadium RIGHT NEXT to our fraternity house.
I mean, had that been there back in the day, I definitely would have gone to more games. Of course they also built a huge new pool, which would have been awesome to use. Our practices and meets were in a pool with barely any deck space.
Didn't really have a plan for the day (shocking I know), so I stopped by the house, then headed to the parking lot where the brothers and alumni were tailgating. Ashland is a "dry campus" but I guess they allow alcohol in the parking lot during the games for tailgating (as long as it's in cups)
After awhile we headed to BW3 to watch the games and hang out until the Phi Delt dinner. Definitely weird seeing people old and young, as well as realizing I was in the 'old' category. LOL
Headed back to the house to change and get ready for the reunion dinner. We had about 175 people, which included alumni, family, actives and pledges at the PumpHouse Grill in downtown Ashland. Had a few speakers and presentations before settling into an amazing buffet dinner. Pasta, salmon, pot roast, veggies....Luckily for me I had not eaten all day.
Awkward moment time.....So a woman approached me, waiting as I finish a conversation I was having. I notice a camera in her hand, so I figured she wanted me to take a picture. No, she asked if she could take a picture of my fraternity pin that I was wearing. Her exact words were...'Oh, I don't want you in the picture, just a close up of the pin.' We laughed and I was fine with that. After 2 attempts, I guess the lighting was bad and the pictures were blurry. Well all of a sudden she says..."Ok, I'm gonna need you on the floor now". I tried not to laugh and she told be to hurry up and lie down, she doesn't have all day. Well, I was looking around the room for cameras thinking I was getting punked. It's not everyday I get told by a woman to get on the floor (insert laugh here) In my typical smartass self, I responded....'You think it'll be better down there, huh? Do I get to at least get to know your name first?' She paused and said not important....She never got the picture and later in the night as she walked by she laughed and pointed at me telling her husband that I was the one she wanted on the ground....
Tried to mingle and meet all the new guys as well as the older alumni, saw the plans for the new fraternity house and listened to some music.
As the night came to a close I needed to head back to Columbus. Would have been nice to hang out more and chat, plus the actives were having a pancake breakfast at the house in the morning. But I figured it would be more fun to hang out at a little race instead. :-)
Jodi had told me that I could crash with her and Deb in their hotel suite and left a key at the front desk. That helped me out, seeing how it saved me time and got me about an extra 45 minutes sleep, so decided on the couch rather than my bed....lol Plus I would not have to worry about not waking up as we planned all meet up around 5:30.
As for the football game, it was a successful Homecoming weekend for them. Ashland won the game 20-17 on a field goal as time expired. They played undefeated Wayne St University, who was ranked #6 overall in the country (Division II) The win moved A.U. into the Top 25 in the country at #23. It may not be big boy football like the Big 10, but still cool to see the alma mater play well....
Missi and Deb drove down from Cleveland Sunday morning (they are both early birds), so we hung out until Jodi was ready to rock and roll. So Deb, Missi, Deb and myself headed out to take Jodi to the start. On the drive to downtown it seemed like everyone and their mother was out in traffic at 6am. So Deb decided to take a different exit and go the backroads, which helped get us there alot quicker (and saved Jodi from stressing) Made our way to the start line after a pit stop and got as close as we could.
After a few hugs we headed into the nearest building to hangout, warm up and chat while Jodi headed thru the maze of people for the start of the race. As we were hanging out, one of our objectives was to figure out how we were going to maneuver around the course to support Jodi. I had screen shots printed out of different mile markers, as well as the map of the course. Originally we figured we could drive to mile 7, but after looking at the map more closely it made no sense. It would be easier to walk a few blocks south to mile 9. This also helped because then on our way back to the car we could stop around miles 12-13 and surprise Jodi again.
We settled in at mile 9 and guesstimated the time that Jodi would pass by. In the meantime we cheered on the runners and also did a little people watching. Saw a 7ft guy running in a bear costume, a couple dressed as Fred Flintstone and Wilma along with a few other odd looking costumes. Then there were a few "was she/he really wearing that?" type clothing. I really do think people need to use the mirrors at their homes. I realize that it's not a fashion show, but wowwwww.
We finally saw a quite surprised Jodi running along the side of the road and she looked really strong. Wasn't even breaking a sweat. Watching a half marathon or marathon, it always amazes me the people who make it look so easy and effortless and others that look like they are in complete agony...The four of us headed back and planned to hangout around mile 12.5, although first the girls grabbed some coffee. They ran out of hot chocolate, so I was sh*t out of luck. Timed it perfectly as Jodi saw us and again had the effortless, fun times smile on her face. The easy part for us was done, now off to the important part...Finding our way towards mile 18 so Deb and Missi could join Jodi on the course when she needed it most.
Seeing how the 3 girls are from Cleveland and I live in Columbus, you would think I would be the one to navigate us around. Well, not so much. I'm blaming all the road closures, although the girls won't buy that excuse...LOL But no problems, we made it to the spot pretty quickly, parked and walked to the corner. This is the part of the race where people start to wonder, people start to break down, not sure why (insert sarcastic giggle) You could tell some of the runners were feeling it and you could tell just the opposite.
As we support the runners we know Jodi will be coming down the road. Sure enough we see her and yet AGAIN, if she was feeling tired you would not know it. I think she was partially excited to see us and partially exhausted but she still looked strong. As she comes up she almost tackles Deb and I and gives us a big hug, then joins Missi and Deb for a hug as they join her on the course to take her to the finish.
Deb and I head back to the car and try to navigate to the next stop, where I will attempt to hop on the course. I would have loved to jump in at mile 18, but 8 miles is a bit much since I just am coming back from injury. Again, we relied on the printout and Deb's phone app, but we made it there pretty easily. As we were waiting we chatted and supported the runners. I made the mistake of supporting too much. A guy came around the corner and slowed down to a walk, hands on shoulders and head down. I told him to keep it up and he's got this...all he did was turn and look at me and I think he was thinking to himself...Dude, shut up, how about you run...
The girls come around the corner and for the first time Jodi's face looked of pain. She wasn't happy to see me....heehee, I'm kidding. Miss and Deb looked at me and just shook their head, sort of a silent "not up for talking" shake. I hopped on the course with the 3 girls and Deb hurried back to the car to meet us at the finish line. I could tell Jodi was trying to focus and her head was spinning, but I already knew I had something up my sleeve (besides my arm that is). It was really quiet until we came to mile marker 22. This number is significant to Jodi based on her past 2 attempts. The first one, she literally has NO memory of anything past this marker and the second one, is what I like to call the awakening and a creepy mist left her body as we ran the streets as she called out mile 22. So this time I got her attention, smiled and asked what she saw. She kind of chuckled and yelled out 22. At this point she picked up the pace and relaxed a bit....mission accomplished. We continued along the course and I kept doing that at every mile marker. Around mile 23 she had mentioned that she was running all on her Uncle Joe's reserves. Her uncle passed away a few months back and she was dedicating the race to him. Miss and Deb both joined in with words of encouragement which at this point Jodi needed. As we approach mile 25, I knew she needed all the strength she could muster up. So I asked her what that flag said. She responded with a "25", but that was not good enough. I asked again and she responded. Still not good enough. After about 3-4 times she yelled 25 pretty loud and with a SMILE. The funniest part was the reaction of the other runners around us. I actually think her yelling might have awoken them as well to help them realize and finish strong. At this point Missi took over and in her best boot camp instructor voice, told her to finish strong and enjoy the last 1.2 miles. This was HER day. We approached mile 26 and my eyes were on Missi (no not cuz she looked hot, though she did...lol) but because I was waiting for the go ahead to get off the course and let Jodi finish what she started. I know Jodi had mentioned to me that she wanted us to cross the finish line with her, but this was not our race, this was HER race. Luckily she just kept going towards the finish. Granted she may have been slightly distracted knowing she was going to finish and she may have been a bit tired.
I needed to catch my breathe since my arse is slightly out of shape. Missi was feeling good so Deb and I followed her towards the finish until the corner with about 0.1 left. We tried getting off the course and people were yelling at us not to stop, which was kind of comical, especially with the looks on some of their faces.
We made our way to the finish line/family area to find Jodi and give her our congrats. Her smile said it all. Deb unfortunately got stuck in traffic but we finally all met up and slowly headed back towards the hotel to shower, grab a bite to eat at California Pizza Kitchen for a post race meal before the girls headed back to Cleveland.
This was HER race. (you can read her recap here). No Cleveland demons, awesome training runs topped off with beating her goal time. Nothing like earlier in the year. I mean who else can say they ran a marathon AND beat their personal best time by almost 2 hours?
Words can not explain how proud I am of Jodi for her day. I was honored to be able to share in her day with her and friends. She did not allow thoughts or people to distract her, she was not going to have a repeat of May. In the hotel afterwords, she tried to act surprised while telling us her next stop was a sub 4 hour marathon. We all knew better, since she made no secret of that desire. But we also know one more thing. When she tries for that sub 4....she will get it!
Until next time...