Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I will forever be Team Kyle in my heart

Remember that little 26.2 mile jaunt that I did way back in May?  The day that I became a marathoner was also the day that I discovered the amazingness of Team Kyle.  After I had run, after I
showered and changed, after I tucked my sweet little sick mini into bed I sat down with my runner's high and of course Facebooked that I was in fact a MARATHONER now.  After all, if you don't post it it didn't happen right?  The comments of congrats came flooding in, including one from a guy who happened to be out on the course with me.  Sean Kelley, a follower had recognized me as I passed him at mile 20 and although he didn't say hello (we were ALL struggling in that heat) he mentioned he saw me onFacebook.  Then, a few days later I received this message:

My wife and I are co race directors for the Team Kyle 5K. This year will be the 3rd Annual. We would love to have you join us for free in exchange for you writing a blog post about your experience at this race. (Including a TK5K tec shirt) Sound good? Please checkout the Team Kyle 5K run/walk page on Facebook as well as the regular Team Kyle page. This is a great family event. Please let me know if you have any questions.

I immediately went to the Team Kyle page.  And from the moment that I first started reading I knew that I ran that Maine Coast Marathon for a reason.  It was not for me to become a marathoner, I could have run any other 26.2.  I was not for me to push my limits or challenge myself, my kids do that to me everyday 24/7, I can get challenged and pushed without the running.  It was for me to have a connection to this little boy that is no longer Earth side.  It was for me to come into contact with people that do everything in their power to grow Kyle's legacy.  It was for me to become so humbled and yet blessed by the knowledge that a little boy who wasn't very big when he left this world had the biggest heart there ever was.  

Kyle St. Clair was born premature.  His life started with a 9 month stay in the NICU.  He accrued over 45 surgeries and many more long hospital stays.  He passed away on January 8, 2013, leaving his strength, love and hope inside all of the people that he had touched.  Kyle still touches the lives of people with his abundance of strength, love and hope by the work of the Team Kyle Foundation.  The mission of the Team Kyle Foundation is to "Pay it Forward". They identify needs of local children with illness and disability and offer any support that they can.

After reading about Kyle I knew that I would run that race even without having my registration fees paid. Paying it forward is right up my alley and I could feel the amount of love shining through the foundation in Kyle's honor.  I wrote back that I was all in and then sat back to wait for October.

Summer flew by and before I knew it, it was Friday night, the night before the race.  Although, they offered packet pick-up the morning of, I knew that my schedule of getting two kids ready for a soccer
game, a third packed to spectate with other fans on the freezing cold sidelines and myself actually to the start would be tight.  Having my bib the night before would take some pressure off.  We made it a family date night and drove the 40 minutes to Cabela's the packet pick-up location.  20 minutes away I knew I would barely make the 7pm end of the event so I posted on their page that I was in fact coming and VIOLA as I walked in with 3 minutes to spare they had my stuff already in a pile ready for me.  This was the beginning of the nicest group of volunteers and race personal ever to be found.  We chatted and they all admitted to following Crazy Mama Runner (YAY!!!!!), I admitted that I was crazy nervous for my first 5k that I would be racing myself since before I was pregnant (over TWO years ago!) and I grabbed my goodies (great tech shirt in orange for Kyle, bib, pens, pencils and sponsor swag). 

The day of the race dawned and with it the freezing cold and insane winds, along with the monster of a sleepless night entwined with the doubts of fear.  I dressed in my orange shirt for Kyle and a few more layers and headed out to make the drive alone, sending my mini support team in the other direction for a soccer game.  I arrived at a lovely location with the easiest parking I had ever had for a race.  Crossed the street and admired the live band they had playing as I made my way to the port-a-potties.  Four of them, which was more than enough and there was no line at all.  It was then that I contemplated just staying in the port-a-potty until the start of the race to try to stay somewhat warm.  Glancing down at the time I decided that 30 minutes in one was INSANE and so I headed back to the car.  Updated Facebook of course and worried some more.  I made up my mind that I was not going to let the excuses win.  It didn't matter that it was freezing, my legs were still dead from Reach the Beach, my support team wasn't there or that I am battling a pretty miserable case of the shingles.  Kyle endured so much more and still managed to look at the world and want to help OTHERS.  If it wasn't a day for a PR or even a sub-30 then who the hell cares.  I am honoring a little boy that left too soon and I wanted to be present in that face.  I said a prayer and I got out of my car.

I made my way back to the start line for the second time.  Used the potty again, and yes again contemplated staying in it as long as possible for warmth.  In fact I stayed in for 3 minutes before I sucked it up and stepped back out into the cold to shiver.  The band was still playing and the energy from the other runners was starting to kick up.  I joined in on the high knees, and hip swings as much to stay warm as to prepare for running.  The horn sounded and we were off.  I was out in the front of the pack and just stayed 
there, still ramped up on RTB running and counting my "kills".  I started to want to puke as the course left the dirt parking lot and made it's way into a development of adorable houses. My Runkeeper hadn't yet made a noise and I knew that I was not even near a 1/2 mile.  Then I heard her speak to me 5 minutes in and I was running an 8:26 pace.  SAY WHAT?!  That is when the first stroller runner passed me and I decided to run it all out.  The course wound it's way through more housing developments and around some gorgeous water scenery.  Cute little wooden pumpkins marked the mile points.  At mile 2 another runner and I gave each other the thumbs up.  We were both pushing it and with just over a mile left to go it was going to be all guts and glory to the finish.  Around mile 2.5 we made out way back out to a main road and headed back to the dirt parking lot.  The wind was something else as it was a strong head wind and here came the only sort of hill that was out there.  I powered through and turned in to the last tenth.  Not many runners had made it back yet but the crowd that was there was cheering everyone on.  Full on sprint to the end and I was done.  

TWENTY-FIVE minutes and FORTY-TWO seconds it had taken me to run the adorable and mostly flat course.  A PR by almost 30 seconds.  I stood next to the finish and started clapping for all the other runners coming in.  I stood there until the very last of the Team Kyle participants came through.  I watched his little sister run through the finish shoot over and over again with squeals of giggles and I watched everyone smile and chat.  I felt warm from the inside and I couldn't have been happier. 

I stayed through the awards and the raffle drawings and the mood of all of those people never wavered.  I listened to Kyle's mom speak and I couldn't help but feel like Kyle was there too, even though I had never personally met him.  The overwhelming feeling of community and love was everywhere and I walked back to my car when it was all over forever grateful that I had run that marathon way back in May.  

These are the races that I love doing.  The ones where the cause is in your heart the whole time.  You remember the charity that you signed up to run for.  The ones where you can actually see the lives that are changing and growing and helping.  I will forever be a Team Kyle runner.  This will not be the only Team Kyle 5k I do.  I am looking forward to running it again next year and to helping spread the word to others to run it as well.  I promise you that if you ever run this one you wont be the same.  And the coolest thing of all is that there is a virtual option as well.  I highly recommend Maine running of course but if you just cannot get here sign up for the virtual race and let Kyle touch your heart too.