Grab some cawfee, heifers ... this is another LONG one...
Where to start... where to start...
The weekend of the Buffalo Marathon was probably one of the best weekends I've had in a long, overdue while. Being a mom to four teenagers with a traveling husband has its ups and downs. There's always something to do - always someone to drive here or there - some sports uniform to pick up or drop off - some debate to drive a kid to - somewhere to be ALL.THE.TIME.
ALL. THE. TIME.
So when it came time to leave for Buffalo, this Heifer was all smiles. I had my #heiferBelle and we were ready to GO!
Leaving on an early morning flight is always good for me - I'm up almost daily before 4am to run, so having to be at the airport early was par for the course. Arrive, check in, grab some cawfee and sit in blissful early-morning airport-silence and people watch.
I love people watching at the airport. It's just fun. You can tell who's on a work trip, who's going on vacation, who's going to a heifer convention, etc. I was one of the happy people, looking refreshed, ready to get outta dodge and enjoy some time with friends, new and old.
I want to step back for just a minute and talk about narrative...
Same scenario, involving four different people, has four different narratives. My narrative is different from the other 3, etc. That is a beautiful thing. I'll walk you thru this as we go, y'all. My brain is a scary place so try to stick with me as best you can. If you have questions, raise your hand and wait quietly until I call on you.
Fast forward - I arrive to Buffalo in time for dinner. My friend Julie picks me up. Julie is one of these people that when you meet her, you just love her. Gregarious, kind hearted, and a genuine good person. I've known her for about 5 years and just love her ((((THiS)))) much. If you're in Buffalo, look her up. She's THAT cool.
My narrative: "Julie is so kind, she went out of her way, with kids in tow, to meet me at the airport (she even came INSIDE!) and took me to dinner, and then back to my hotel. I will keep her as my friend forever and ever."
Julie's probable narrative "Have to pick up this crazy Heifer from the airport, guess I should feed her before dumping her at hotel and going home to crawl into my big soft bed and get some sleep!"
Thank you Julie, for being awesome. Dinner was great, the company and the conversation were as well.
Arrived to Hyatt Buffalo to find the lobby decorated in Marathon signs. I loved it already.
The best part?? When I checked in... there was a gift bag waiting for me.
I really wasn't anticipating any gifts upon arrival, so imagine my shock and awe when I was handed a HUUUUUUUGE gift bag. I thought I had been given someone else's bag by mistake, but it said Melissa K. on it, and I found myself wondering how many other Melissa K's there may be, when I realized in fact, yes, it was for me. Imagine my giddiness!
A weekend away from home, with friends, AND a goody bag? Are you kidding me? If I'm dreaming, don't pinch me. Clearly I need to get out more. A lot more.
I was super excited when I got up to my room and opened it. Race swag, people. Race swag. I'm still new at this. I'm still in love with every single shirt, jacket, gadget I get as a result of having changed my life for the better. I love it all.
This bag was enough to send me into a few minutes of somber gratitude. I'm here in Buffalo to RUN A RACE. With friends. And to SPEAK AT THE EXPO. Me?? Little old me?? All I did was change my life and get healthy. I didn't do anything any more special than anyone else -- and to have been given this privilege.... just no words for the gratitude I felt right then, and still feel.
Now, let's talk about the actual events. I was in Buffalo to 1) Run the half marathon with a big herd of Heifers, and 2) to speak at the marathon expo, not in that order.
It's really hard for me to say which was more exciting - the thought of running a race with a huge herd of heifers, or speaking at the expo, and having the opportunity to maybe change even ONE life.. maybe give hope to ONE person who was listening, just one. Having the ability to change lives by simply sharing my story... it's the biggest honor and privilege I have.
My narrative: "Oh shit. I'm a little bit nervous."
Julie's narrative, "This is so great, Melissa is here and we're gonna party!"
I was pretty excited for the whole weekend - Friday night there was a little pre-race party which I was privileged to have been invited to. It was labeled a VIP party..and rumor had it that the one... the only... BART YASSO was going to be in attendance.
Now, let me say this. I'm not normally star-struck. Famous people don't phase me, because let's be real. They poop just like me and you. They are just regular people, right?
But I'm new to running, 4-ish years in now. And I've heard about Bart Yasso since day ONNNNNE. I'm talking, people would see that I'm new to the sport and their first question is, "Do you even Yasso, bro?"
And I'm over here wondering "Do I do what? Who? What???" So I did a little research one day. And that is the day I became one impressed Heifer. That's when I knew one day, I too, would YASSO!
This guy has quite literally been there, done that. People say he's one of the nicest guys they meet, as it relates to...yanno...rock stars. I didn't believe it. I figured he'd be puffed up and full of himself, like most rock stars. He'd never even glance in my pitiful Heifer direction, because who am I? Just another Heifer.
My narrative, "I'm gonna sneak a pic of Bart and pretend we're BFF by night's end."
His probable narrative "I hope nobody sneaks a pic of me.. I really hate that... "
Moving on - Julie arrived as my date (and we evidently were a little excited for a night out).
No really. Why did we have our mouths like that? I don't even know... I can't even....
I wore makeup for the first time in oh, probably a month. This is work, people. War paint. Game face, ON. Hair: washed, makeup: heavy.
Julie arrives at the hotel and off we go. We meander down to the lobby like all self respecting VIP Heifers. I was wearing heels. HIGH HEELS people. I was walking like a jacked up linebacker with a limp. Cannot have been any less attractive. I was walking like a marathoner who got lost at mile 26 and end up with 28.9 on their garmin.
My narrative "I just hope I catch a passing glimpse of the one and only Yasso himself!"
Julie's narrative "Has Melissa EVER worn heels before? She needs "GIRL" lessons!"
Get down to the party, help myself to a little roast Buffalo beef and scarfed it down. Met a few really incredible people while we were there, chatting with people. Below is me with Russell, and the two amazing race directors Greg and Rich. Russell is 80 years old and ran the whole marathon. He beat me. Think on this: he's 80 and ran the full. I'm ::coughcough 29 coughcough: and ran the half. He beat me. Allow me to introduce one bad-ass mofo, Russell.
THEN....... the unimaginable... the very thing that I never thought would happen, happened. I see the one and only BART YASSO!!!!! I blink my eyes - could it really be him? The legendary guy who ran a naked race? Who ran the Badwater 146??? NO WAY. Trying to contain your excitement when wearing 4" heels is hard, even on a good day for a sophisticated girl. But for me? I died 6 times. I'm never awe-struck. But this guy? Yeah. Awe-worthy.
I figured, 'Oh why not! You live once, heifer!' So I hobbled over to the one and only RockStar of Running, and blurted out, "OMG YOU'RE BART YASSO! CAN I GET A PHOTO?" (Later thinking, "great job, as if he didn't already KNOW he's Bart Yasso."). Yeah. I'm pretty smooth.
Poor guy. He probably gets this all the time (actually, he does. I witnessed it 42,002 times in one hour)... so I was just one of many. It's all good. He's used to it, right? I admit. I still felt dumb.
My narrative, "I just pooped my pants, it's BART YASSO!
His probable narrative, "Another woman, another photo...it's hard being a rock star.... yawn... are we done yet?"
You have to understand, heifers. This was me, below. This was me as an insecure, dead-on-the-inside, miserable person. This was basically me, my whole life. Until the day I decided I deserved happiness.
So I did what so many of you have done. I changed my eating habits, and I lost weight, simple as that. Nothing any more monumental than any of you have done.
And I started running. And then started this little RHR moooovement. That's it. Anyone could do this - people are doing it all around us - and this is no more special than anyone else.
So what's THIS girl, below... doing in a place like this - a marathon?? With some of running's GREATEST legends?
To say it was the pinnacle of my new healthy life doesn't do it justice.
So how is THAT girl now doing this?
So imagine the sense of gratitude I was feeling just by being in that room with these amazing people. Nothing but gratitude, guys. Nothing but gratitude and happiness.
Fast forward to Saturday. Being a morning person - y'all know I left the parTAY early and was asleep in my room, Golden Girls playing softly in the background, by 10:30pm. Even that was pushing it for me. I lead a geriatric lifestyle. I've accepted it. Saturday is the expo, where I got to stand up and speak to however many people showed up to hear me.
I was super excited that all of my Buffalo Heifer contingent was with me - here's a few pics of us goofing off before I was up to speak. I think it's a Buffalo thing - they point with the wrong finger....
So grateful to have these friends who came out to not only run the race together, but to listen to me speak, and to really help create such a fun weekend!
I don't even know who took this pic. But look! I was scheduled right after my newest BFF, Bart. Talk about the best opening act a girl could ask for!?!
My narrative "HOLY CRAP I have to speak right after Bart. I'm gonna die!"
His probable narrative "WHY IS THIS WOMAN FOLLOWING ME? SECURITY!!!!"
Fast forward to my speech time - I was hoping for a packed crowd of 32,008 people. It fell short of that number just slightly - but I always have a great time sharing my story.
My Buffalo Heifers stayed to hear me talk (a few of them didn't even fall asleep!) And... be still my heart... the one and only Bart Yasso stayed to hear me as well. He realized at this point that we were now BFF, so you really have to give the guy thumbs up for honoring a friendship he got drafted into.
TALK ... ABOUT... PRESSURE....
Finished my speech and looked up to find most people awake. I was relieved. Maybe even Bart liked my story! I'm pretty sure he didn't fall asleep listening to me. Maybe.
(I did meet a woman at the start line of the race who approached me, saying she heard my talk at the expo. I asked her if she wanted my Heifergraph. She looked at me sideways then walked away slowly. #awkward)
The rest of Saturday was spent with friends, relaxing and meandering around a local town, Ellicottville.
Ellicottville sure loves their Heifers. It's a great city tucked into the hills outside of Buffalo... I hear it's popular during ski season, which in upstate New York is what, like August through May? If you're in the area, check it out for sure.
Any Saturday night spent with friends is always a good Saturday night. I was back in the hotel and walked into my room to find this note, which they left for me. Is this some hotel lovin' or what? Really a nice touch. There's that crazy #heiferBelle working her way into every single photo again....
I would be lying if I said I fell asleep with anything but a big smile on my face that night. Such a fun trip and it was still going on.... so much gratitude.
Cue Sunday morning wakeup, 4am. Yawn. Stretch. Time to get Heifer'd up for a little half marathon. Rumor had it Bart was running it too. No worries though - I let him win. I am all about respect.
Here are a few of the Buffalo Heifers and me at the start line. Mind you, it was 50 freezing degrees, I was wearing my jacket and wool socks. Don't judge. These Buffalo Heifers said it felt like spring. I had to humbly disagree while grimacing in the arctic tundra.
My narrative "It is FREEZING out, let's get this party started!"
Their collective probable narrative "Why's that crazy Heifer look so cold? It's gorgeous outside!"
These people were all freezing too. Even though they look happy. Just trust me. They were cold.
The race course is well marked, and beautiful scenery abounds. I mean, HEIFERS! I could see CANADA from the race course! It's almost as far as Russia. So really I could ALMOST see Russia from the race course!
Fast forward to about mile 9... one of TeamHeifer was down. Heifer Down! Heifer Down! She had a knee issue. Heifers don't leave each other on the race course. #NoHeifersLeftBehind
So.... we did what all Heifers would do. We shoved her in the sweeper/cop car and walked slowly in front, in a show of support. Ok not really. I was a little tired too. An injured heifer was just a good excuse for me and my running Heifer pal, Cleopatra, to slow things down a bit and take in the scenery while we waltzed towards the finish line.
By this time, Heifers, the course was closed. The cones were removed. I'm normally a back of pack runner - but this was the BACKEST of the PACKEST I've ever been.
I was post-cone back-of-pack. It was pretty darn hilarious .... we could hear the music at the finish line... but we turn around and the trusty cop car with our Heifer-friend in there is GONE.
Now, you should know, my faithful trusty running friend Cleopatra is FROM Buffalo. But she's not familiar with the streets of downtown Buffalo. If she was lost in a paper bag, she would need search and rescue to get her out. I have a bad sense of direction, so I get that. I do.
We ended up finishing the race.. the 13.1 in .... 13.76miles.
My narrative "Oh thank Gawd we found the finish line! I'm tired and hungry!"
Her probable narrative "Why's this heifer so uptight? This is my first half marathon and I'm not even tired!"
I used to make fun of those people. Now I AM those people.
Regardless, we finish the race #HeiferStrong (not really, we were all limping, but whatever. Details)... and who was there at the finish line, already done his race, showered, and looking all happy?
MBB. My buddy Bart. Remember? My best friend. By now he's really wishing the weekend was over and I would stop showing up everywhere.
My narrative, "I'm so embarrassed, I finished almost last and I smell like a trash can. But I want to hug my newest BFF!!!!!"
His probable narrative, "SECURITY!!!!!"
Now, let me say this about the Buffalo Marathon race directors Rich and Greg. These guys are incredible. NO detail goes unnoticed and every single thing from race course to volunteers to the after party was handled beautifully.
Check out this after-party, y'all. This city knows how to PARTY. The entire upstairs floor of their civic center was cleared out, so we could enjoy an after-race party.
If we're being completely transparent here... I will admit something within the privacy of this blog. It's just between us... I grabbed 4 cookies, and then I saw the pizza.
My narrative "PIZZZZAAAA! Eat all the pizza!"
Pizza guy's narrative "Incoming Heifer! Stand back! She looks hungry!"
The problem? I was holding 4 cookies in my hand and NEEDED that pizza. So, like any decent respectable Heifer, I shoved all 4 cookies into my mouth and grabbed the pizza.
Don't judge. I was hungry. I got my money's worth out there on the course, so after the now almost 4 hours that had passed, damnit, I DESERVED THAT FOOD!
We partied down for a little while, then I went back to my room to collapse into a heap of sweaty exhaustion. After a little siesta... I met up with some friends to go see "The Falls" and have some dinner.
This entire experience, from Thursday morning when I stepped on the flight, to Monday morning when I boarDed the flighT home ... was nothing but stellar.
From meeting the one and only Fitz Koehler (race announcer extraordinaire!) to running a 13.76 mile half marathon... I quite literally, had the time of my life. Had I met her years ago, I'd have been intimidated by her - she's gorgeous, fit, and so, so friendly. But now that I'm in this not-so-new space in my head these days - she was just one more amazing person in the narrative of my weekend.
I want to thank, specifically, Rich, for helping make this happen for me. I want to thank My Buddy Bart because really, meeting him was a lifetime highlight for me. He said that once he retires, we are going to do lunch. He doesn't know it but I'm already looking forward to it. In that non-stalker kind of way. #notawkward
I also want to thank all of my Buffalo heifers for welcoming me into the group as if we'd been friends forever and ever. You guys are truly amazing and I'm blessed to call you friends. Even Epnu, the French guy who I can't tag on Facebook.
And really, none of this would have happened had I not made that one little decision over 5 years ago... to be healthy.
For all of this, I am just so, so grateful. Thanks for reading.