Sunday, August 6, 2017

Birthday Bridge Repeats

Each year on or around my birthday I do a Birthday Challenge. It involves doing some sort of something a number of times corresponding to my age. It frequently involves running--I'm so one-dimensional. For my 50th birthday, I ran 50 miles with my friend K2, who's birthday is also in July and we are the same age (well--he's actually 17 days older.) We've done hill climbs, which ended falling way short of our goal. I biked my age once, which was not really a big deal. In 2011, for my 52nd birthday, we did 52 bridge crossings on the Arkansas River RR Pedestrian Bridge. Our mileage total, since the bridge is a 1/4-mile one way, gave us a perfect half marathon and it was 103 degrees when we started. It was a battle, but running on the shaded bridge is actually not that bad when a good breeze blows along the river.
Picture by Eva McCarthy
It's hard to come up with something different every year, so it was no surprise that this year would be another running event. This year I decided to go back to the RR Pedestrian Bridge but instead of doing 58 crossings, I’d do 58 out and backs. That would add up to around 29 miles, and that’s just what I needed in my training schedule.

I sent out a Facebook invite to 200 of my running friends, and the interest was high. 35 people confirmed they were coming, and there were about that many “maybes.”

This event was also significant because in the next few weeks the RR Pedestrian Bridge is being demoed and a new fancy schmancy bridge is being erected in its place. Our old bridge has decades of fond memories and it seems like once again progress is blasting away another piece of art and history. Having this running party gave a lot of people a chance to enjoy their bridge one more time.

Picture by Clint Green
I left in time to get there by 7:00 pm, but I didn't allow time to drag my huge-ass ice chest loaded with water, Gatorade, various beers, and ice .8 of a mile, so I rolled in about 7:10. There was already several people there--some waiting, and some had already started knocking out some repeats. I was thrilled to see so many friends showing up!!

Picture by Chrissy Whitten
One such friend was Chrissy Whitten. Chrissy and family recently moved to Tuttle, OK (130 miles away!) and she made it to my birthday run. Chrissy had 58 repeats dialed in, and she never misses her mark. I was honored that she came. :-)

Picture and shameless selfie by Clint Green
There was no formal start or finish. Some people had already begun, and runners came off and on through the evening.

Picture by Clint Green
I took a short break every 5 laps to fill my water bottle, and drink a Gatorade. A couple of times I had a shot of Fireball or a beer. I was not the only one who brought a cooler so there were enough refreshments to supply a small country. Clint caught me opting to run with a Dos Equis instead of my water bottle.

Picture by Johnna Ellison
My buddies BfkaM and Travis ran several miles together. I'd catch up, or they'd lap me and I'd hang with them for a bit,  eavesdropping and drafting all the while.

Picture by Eva McCarthy
This sort of thing is really FUN for me, but I was surprised at how many people told me it was the best birthday party ever. I don't know about that, but running with friends IS always enjoyable.

The following picture and quote were borrowed from Laura Bower's Facebook wall. She clearly illustrates the difference in desired ways to spend a birthday. :-)

Picture by  and quote below by Laura Bower
"Ideal birthday according to me: Sleep til noon. Spend all remaining hours wearing stretchy pants and stuffing my face with cake until I pass out, a contented smile on my buttercream frosting-coated lips and a defibrillator and my Last Will and Testament at the ready just in case 
Ideal birthday according to TZ: Run up and down the pedestrian bridge 58 times to celebrate 58 years, thus completing the world's flattest ultramarathon as the very picture of health, vitality, and questionable life choices. 
Gosh, I love being friends with psychopaths. Thanks, TZ, for letting me be part of your rampaging lunacy!"

You'd expect miserably hot weather the first week of August, but we have had a change in the weather pattern and the highs have stayed in the 80s. With a steady southeast wind, it was a near perfect night for running. When the sun went down, the temperature dropped around 10 degrees, and if felt like a late September evening.

I was sitting at 21 laps here. I am assuming BfkaM and Betsy had about the same. Once night fell, little by little people called it a night. More people rolled in even after 10:00, so up until midnight, there was a continual stream of runners on the bridge.

I stayed pretty steady as the temperatures dropped, but somewhere around 11:00, the wind died down and the heat and humidity raised their ugly head. I started mixing in a 100 step walk break per lap and stayed steady on the shuffle on the rest.

The spiders were out in full force, but they politely stayed on the side railing. This husky orb spider seems to have snared the moon.

Calm water formed a brilliant reflection of downtown Tulsa. This was the best of several of my iPhone picture attempts.

Picture by Justin Walker
Justin Walker aka Jwalk photographed the total downtown Tulsa area caught in a massive spider web!! 

Around midnight, the crowd began to dwindle. Despite being determined to finish what I started, the thought of quitting crossed my mind. I had entered the falling-asleep-on-my-feet zone--usually the beginning of bad things. I had run a few laps with Kathy earlier on, and I told her I was not here to practice DNFing. Spitting out things like that especially on social media is good reinforcement to NOT QUIT.

We finished the last bridge crossing in a sprint. Keep in mind that my sprint near the end of a long run seems fast to me, and would win no age group awards.
BfkaM had brought a huge poster for us to write our laps. 
58 times, I made a mark on this page. 
Kathy Bratton and Cameron Plate also completed 58. 
Chrissy got in 58, and then stayed and ran 13 more with me for a total of 71. 
Lots of other people ran over the half marathon distance. Thank you so much to all who came out!! 
My running friends are the BEST!!

My friend Jwalk summed it up like this: He said he loved the bridge, but this would be the last time he ran it. He wanted to remember the last time as the Birthday Bridge Run.

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