Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Bucket List Goes To The Color Run

Des Moines, Iowa.  Perfectly charming Midwest city, to be sure, but if someone had told me in the halcyon days of my muddled youth that Des Moines would one day be the backdrop to some of the more significant moments of my life, well, there certainly might've been a doubtful chuckle or two.  Here we were again, though, in the town where we were married last year hauling the beginnings of our Bucket List along to mark another big moment.  This moment may not hold the gravity of the beginning of a marriage but it did signify the result of following through with something once again: after eight weeks of training, we were embarking on our first 5k at the Color Run.  

We seemed to stumble on this milestone the same dramatic way we did the other Des Moines moment...

"So I wanna run this 5k."
"Well, hey, so do I."

Aaron Sorkin couldn't write more riveting dialogue, right?  Said exchange was indeed the beginning, though, and soon, we were training under an apropo iPhone app called Couch to 5k.  Now, I considered blogging the arduous journey of undertaking becoming a true runner (I've dabbled but nothing serious), but I admit once again that herein lies my superstitious streak.  I was afraid if I put it out there in the world too much, I would do as I've done too many times in the past and not see the task through to the end.   I proved that theory wrong with this very blog, as I set out to be a better cook and somewhat achieved that.  This journey of getting in better shape by becoming a true runner for the first time and running my first 5k, a fortysomething former smoker this trip could very well be fraught with all kinds of twists and turns....and that's just the ankles.

In fact, there were stumbles of every kind; multiple moments of wanting to give up and more than a few emotional shifts.  Don't even get me started on the physical stress.  There was pain from head to toe more times than I can count and we would repeat the mantra of "pain is weakness leaving the body" to each other to get through.  Occasionally, my version sounded more like "stupid #!*^pain is crapmother #@!weakness taking its sweet damn time leavin' my tired-ass #^* body" but nevertheless...

Eight weeks later, we had leapt every hurdle, stuck with the training even in 100-degree weather, and met every challenge, despite plenty of flirtation from both of us with giving up.  We gave ourselves extra time to heal and I audibly and personally thanked my knees, back and ankles after every run.  Ibuprofen became a blessing (and stairs became a curse every day after) but we got there.

We chose the Color Run because some of K's tourism comrades were already signed up and the website videos looked like too much fun.  The happiest 5k on the planet?  We're there.  Everyone wears a white T-shirt and at various times during the 5k, volunteers throw harmless powdered coloring on you so that when we're done, we are all T-shirts that have become multi-colored palettes.  When we were on our way to Des Moines, I had a small sense of panic: Why in the bloody hell did we choose as our first 5k an event where every moment of victory would be splattered by hurled balls of colored powder?  I had visions of being curled up in a mountain of orange Kraft Macaroni and Cheese powder, heaving up a literal technocolor yawn.

 All the angst was for naught as the Color Run was actually a crazy-good time and for me, the perfectly eccentric way to start running 5ks.  We met the tourism comrades in the middles of the vast sea of white-clad walkers and runners at the Iowa State Capitol.  It was a slate-gray, bone-chilly day which was infinitely different than most of the weather we had trained in.  This race had over 30,000 runners and we were in the 17th wave, so there was much running in place and huddling to keep warm.  This was a good time to take in the wild methods of dress many folks used, from white chaps to Superman underoos to Mexican wrestling masks.  After many false starts we were finally off.  The run was a hoot as we came to recognize the approaching color stations by whatever hue of cloud might be hovering by.  The orange one was first and soon I knew what it was like to sprint through a mushroom cloud of Cheetos dust.  The run had many walkers but we ran it all, across the bridges and through the various explosions of color.  The final fourth of the run came as a surprise: it was all uphill.  Still, we kept running, although much of this featured a gutteral and long invective of increasingly creative cursing as the hill was seemingly endless.  The finish line did finally appear and we arrived, exhausted but over the moon and aglow with accomplishment.  Soon, we would truly be aglow as the finish line grew into a big party, complete with the heavy beat of dance music and mass crowd of runners throwing their own plastic bags of powdered color into the air.  From our vantage point, this vibrant multi-hued scene set against the factory smoke and gray Iowa skies looked like a completely awesome and vaguely Armageddon-ish rave.

After copious post-race showering, we celebrated with good friends and Des Moines residents (and fellow 5kers) Kara and Drew with a properly calorie-laden meal at El Chisme, a Mexican-Italian fusion joint.  We nursed our chilled bones and sore muscles with Margaritas, creamy queso, calamari with spicy green dipping sauce and chorizo-stuffed ravioli adrift in a cilantro-alfredo sauce.  On the way home the next morning, we indulged one last time in a hearty breakfast at Nana Greer's Family Table ("food so good, you'll swear we stole your mother"), a homey little breakfast hangout in Osceola, Iowa on the way home, happily noshing on jalapeno-loaded home fries before finally making our way for home.  Soon, it will be Monday and it will be work and the nosh will center again on smoothies and oatmeal and salads.  The sweet accomplishment of the Color Run won't be far from our minds, though....


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