Run Like a Child: A Training Epiphany

I changed my mind tonight about running at the gym. I used to think it was a cop-out to run on a track or in the gym. I like trails, twists, hills, variety.

But I saw a video today in a running support group I belong to on Facebook that inspired me:

This man lines up on the sidewalks of NYC behind a blue chalk starting line to see if passers by will engage him in a spontaneous race. They do, and he clearly holds himself back so they can win. Then they all receive medals at the end. They were all so ecstatic!! I liked that it was diverse: children to older adults who maybe were athletes once. There was a whole line for the challenge!

But my favorite was watching the children. They were squirming to start, and several races were with multiple children and then groups of teens as well. It was pure PLAY for them!! They ran as FAST as their bodies were able, arms pumping hard, bolting ahead of the dude instigating this video. They ran with ragged breath and a giant smile on their faces.

And I was so happy!! I realized that they were teaching me something. I NEED to run like that. I need to remember that running is STILL PLAY– that it’s fun.

So tonight I switched up my run. It’s now dark earlier. Instead of running outside, I went to my health club and ran the track. I set a time instead of distance and told myself I would run as hard as I could for that amount of time.

And I LOVED IT! I was breathing hard, sweating. Because the track was smooth I didn’t have to worry about tripping on anything in my path. It’s on a carpet. I never run like that because I’m always in my head. What’s my pace? How far have I got left? Do I like the song playing?

I realized this a great way to do speed work and interval training.

Tonight I realized that running indoors at a health club isn’t weak at all. In fact, it’s inspiring. It was packed! Seeing so many others working out gave *me ideas on workouts I could try myself, especially on the machines I am clueless about using.

I resolve to do this type of speed training once a week– without worrying about maintaining a pace. I can run safely in a well-lit, smooth area without tripping. And seeing others pass me up also motivated me to keep it moving when I got tired.

I’m learning to design my training the way I like it.

I’m proud of me.

And hopefully I’ll learn eventually to run like I’m playing Red Rover, straining to break through the chain of my friends joined hands.

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One Tough Pumpkin: Race Bling!

You know you’re a runner when you’ll do a race alone.

Originally I planned to run The Great Pumpkin Run 5k in Oswego with a friend, but she had to back out. We’re still cool. Then I realized that this race looked like too much fun to pass up! It was at Keller’s Farm Stand– how fun is that?! It also included a black half-zip hoodie- black with an orange jack-o-lantern face. I LOVED IT!

So today I hoisted a pumpkin and went for it. There was a “Tough Pumpkin,” option– completing the challenge entitled you to a second medal. Paying a small fee allowed you to select a pumpkin from two large pins, weigh it, and carry it during the race. I saw it in the promo pictures and it looked really fun! Plus, you get COLD apple cider at the finish line.

I loathe everything pumpkin spice, but I’m a sucker for apple cider!

So yesterday at packet pick-up I tried out a few pumpkins and walked with them a short distance. I guessed one would be six pounds, and the scale confirmed it. Perfectly round with a long stem to carry it with, I felt ambitious! Two other people selected theirs first: both wanted the smallest one possible. Even the man!

The weight range was 2 to 10 pounds. So I was satisfied to be in the middle. I wanted to EARN that race bling. So I made some rules for myself:

1. Keep it on my shoulder or above my waist at all times.

2. Only hold it with one arm. Switch off when necessary.

The parking situation was crazy! A much bigger race than I estimated. But I got to the start line 5 minutes early, and it was exciting!

There were a lot of people in matching team costumes– one was for a birthday. I felt a little jealous at first, I always do. It’s awesome to do races with friends, but the races I want to do don’t usually line up with what’s on the circuit for my running club, or they may conflict with my friend’s schedules. So the majority I run solo.

But running alone also makes me feel that much more like a serious runner.

I also told myself I wouldn’t wear any headphones this time.

So I started with my left arm, and held that pumpkin high on my shoulder.

And ran– sloooowly. And yeah, also walked.

But it was so beautiful!! We started weaving through an orchard, it looked like. Going between the rows as marked by signs and the occasional volunteer. I almost signed up to volunteer, but was glad I didn’t. They had to wear orange long-sleeved shirts and looked miserable! All their sleeves hiked up to the elbow.

Last night it had been a HOT September day, and I anticipated it would be again today. Checking the weather online confirmed it.

Usually I wear the race shirt provided. This marks the first time I went and bought something specifically for a race!! Last night I went shopping and chose a black tank top with a white skull on it in a lacy design. Sexy and feminine! And my black Nike shorts, which are pretty high. But hey, I wanted to be comfortable in the heat.

And I was. So many people wore the race-included hoodies. I’ve been that person: I usually do. You want to be festive and especially when the swag is comfortable and cute. But sometimes it’s just not compatible with the weather! I’ve had plenty races where I was sweltering or shivering, due to wrong assumptions about the weather and layering.

This time I got it right. Just those little details make me feel like a veteran.

There appeared to be a young couple in front of me: both wearing orange and blacks striped knee socks, black shorts, orange t-shirts, and backward baseball caps. They didn’t hold hands, so I wasn’t sure if maybe they were just friends or even siblings. The male’s hat cracked me up. It was black and white and declared, simple: “Titties.”

That gave me a good snicker.

The course progressed from a dirt trail, to gravel. At the halfway mark, water!

I stopped and asked someone to take a picture of me against a golden field. Not sure what it was: soybeans? Definitely not wheat or corn. They were short shrubs.

I was so happy.

Then at the 2 mile mark, we headed on for the final stretch! A few volunteers pointed us toward the finish line.

One of them was remarked to me: “You got the big pumpkin!”

Hell yeah, I did. It was almost the size of my head, looking at pictures.

Another runner exclaimed, “SHADE!!” The shadows indeed gave us a break.

My only beef with this race is that I never saw a photographer. I was really looking forward to race pictures! Good thing I stopped and took some of my own.

I finished strong!

Received my finisher’s medal, then the second– The TOUGH PUMPKIN!! Posed at the finish line with my pumpkin and my bling. Enjoyed every sip of that COLD cider.

Getting my photo the finish line was such a reward. There were so many times I wanted to just drag my pumpkin or ditch my pumpkin all together. Put I persevered. I got a great arm work-out! They’re not as weak as I thought.

This was honestly one of my slowest races: but I exceeded my own expectations!

I noticed that most people didn’t have pumpkins.

The ones I noticed on the course mostly had chosen ones small enough to still run with without hindering their normal arm swing. I saw one woman carrying hers with both hands. Most people let their arms dangle with it.

I even saw two women with backpacks toting something large: the cheaters! Maybe they had a 10-pounder in there but in my eyes, that’s the easy way out.

I carried my damn pumpkin the whole time, mostly on my shoulder, and I’m proud.

Then Tammie called and we met up. Her car was parked close and she offered to let me put my pumpkin in there so I didn’t have to carry it anymore. I accepted! Then we walked around the farm: the petting zoo, the hay “maze” inside for kids. My feet were too tired for a whole corn maze! We sat in this giant pumpkin carriage type thing and took a picture. She had some stuff to do first that morning, but we had arranged last night to meet up and hang out post-race today.

And I tried something: I did a pull-up gripping the arch to enter it. Wow! I REALLY felt that in my core– no wonder you see all the ripped people doing pull-ups in their work-outs. That feeling made me want to actually work out, in addition to running. Goals!

It was great to have a few hours to just hang out with Tammie. She’s been a friend and a mentor to me since high school. We caught up about our lives and we’re both doing great. Happy. We took selfies and leisurely strolled around.

Thursday night we’re going to see a band she told me about years ago– Here Come the Mummies! She plaid a few songs for me in her car as she drove me to mine.

I’m stoked for FALL RACES! This is just the first.

When Running is Your Coping Skill

A conversation with my Dad this weekend zapped me out of a no-running funk.

I told him I was volunteering for a second race. They were three days apart.

Dad: “Have you run this week?
Amee: “No.”
Dad: Pause. “Are you still running?”
Amee: “Yeah.”
Dad: “Better stop procrastinating. Gotta do what you gotta do.”

I had to laugh. Months ago he was asking me why I was running so much! It had been 14 days since my last run. A week ago, I had a major panic attack at 3 a.m. I’m back on track now, thanks to being pro-active and reaching out to people as well as using different coping skills.

But I notice that lately if I’m in a bad mood or struggling to accept something, my friends and family ask about my running:

“Would a run help?”
“Have you run today?”

It’s sweet and reassuring. It means they’re paying attention.

It’s an alert that maybe running is more important to me than I even noticed.

And I’m starting to get it. If you lace up and go consistently, especially when you don’t want to– running becomes a vital aspect of your routine. It’s another source of stability in your life; something you do regardless of your moods or even if you feel a little ill.

Dory told us, “Just keep swimming.”

I want to be like her. In my case however, the mantra is “Just keep running.”

I’m so hard on myself. I need to stop comparing myself to other runners.

And when I volunteered at these races, my running friends were thankful for my support on the course. But they also made a point to ask why I wasn’t running it.

“You gotta get back to running!” one person told me.
“It’s great to have you out there cheering,” said another, “but you need to get out there kicking some ass.”

That made me laugh. Me, kicking ass at a circa 14 minute a mile pace? But I realized, that’s just my own insecurity.

I’m racing on a regular basis. In the pictures, I’m clearly working hard. I’ve got a good stride, I’m IN IT. I LOOK like a runner.

Even if I don’t always feel like one.

Tonight I was well-rested and got a lot done at work! I came home excited to run. I broke it in half: I ran to and from someplace I was going. It wasn’t quite 3 miles– 2.92 when I added up both distances.

But I already feel more sane. And going home was easier, I was faster.

I’ve got a 5k this weekend, and there are several races from September to November I’m planning. GAME ON, I’m ready!!

The Last Firefly

Tonight I attended a 5k as a volunteer, not a runner. And was inspired!

Total last-minute decision.

Right when I reported for duty, I was happy. After hunting down someone in charge I was told to cut open the bags of colored powder at a table. Kids who had just done a 1 mile color run were coming over to get two bags each, with a countdown to throw it all in the air following.

Their energy was more refreshing than sweet pink lemonade. I was definitely at the cool table– it was mobbed! All different ages, jostling each other and deciding which colors they wanted. I threw powder at them and they loved it.

They danced around, they egged me on. There were also clear plastic bottles full, usually intended for condiments. I squirted the powder on their bright white t-shirts and especially on their hair– they were delighted! Of course, I patted myself down generously as well.

My next assignment was to get dropped off at a spot on the course to help direct them toward a turn. I went inside and found a supervisor, who directed me to the corner of the gym by the back doors. There I found two gals from my running club, Diana and Terri! We all got to wear these dashing neon orange crossing guard vests, and Terri took a selfie of us in them! Then we loaded up into a van and Jody joined us. Dropped off at designated locations to direct the runners around corners or just encourage them.

The last woman I saw come around was followed by a car. She was an older woman, sweating and smiling all the way! I had talked to her as she was running toward my post the first time, and told her I liked her silly yellow headband. It had two yellow sprouty things on springs on it, waving as she shuffled on.

She had on a bright yellow tank top and thick, beautiful white hair.

“We’re fireflies,” she said. I cackled at their creativity. The race was named the Firefly 5k– perfect. She kept on, undeterred about being the last runner. I admired her. On July 4, I was the last runner in my race!

I was picked up in the same van less than 30 minutes later I believe, and then I was told which direction to walk back to the finish line.

But en route, I saw all the supporters of the runners and decided to stay and encourage people.

And I saw almost every person come up the hill. I gained a new perspective about racing. Instead of focusing on how I’m always “back of the pack,” I saw how hard EVERY runner was working. Some were full-on sprinting, seemingly dancing and barely touching the ground with the balls of their feet. Others were a steady pace, but still really labored. Some were walking. Some were wincing, favoring one leg — but determined.

I saw couples, kids, families. A boy who seemed to have been crying, but his dad was walking next to him, watching his son and encouraging him verbally to keep going. Maybe the kid wanted to quit. Maybe he was upset about something else. But you could see the love the father had for his son.

I saw racers going solo, as I often do.

One man seemed to be a giant— he looked to be nearly 7 feet tall! It was almost like watching a giraffe run. I was amazed he could be so coordinated. I realized that we all have our challenges. I am extraordinarily short. This man is astonishingly tall. And there he was, barreling along.

I did my best to constantly encourage them with claps, eye contact, pointing.

“You got this!”
“Keep going!”
“I like your shoes!”
“You’re doing AWESOME!”
“WOO HOO!”

And not just the ones struggling, but the ones KILLING it, too. Because running is hard, whatever your pace. And everyone out there is pushing themselves.

I am always so appreciative in races when I’m just slogging along and suddenly a volunteer is up ahead or around a corner– it inspires me to pick it up, get competitive again. To remember that I can do it.

Trying to beat a PR. Trying to support someone by running that race with them. Trying to block out the pain from injuries. Just trying to finish.

Toward the end, I made an effort to genuinely SMILE at runners. And a wonderful thing happened– it made ME happier to smile at them.

I’ve had a rough start to my weak. A panic attack Sunday night, must from general anxiety. Smiling and *meaning it truly made me feel more relaxed.

I was also happy to realize just how many runners I recognized. They saw me too and some haven’t seen me in months, since I haven’t done any group runs in awhile. We mainly interact on Facebook. They were surprised and genuinely waved and greeted me. One passing by, Laura, reached out to high-five me!

All the spectators were heading back to the finish line. The police left. I wasn’t sure if that last woman was still out there? I didn’t want to abandon her. It looked as if it may rain at any minute, so I headed back toward the finish. As I approached, I spied those same yellow firefly headbands. That woman had her own cheering section! I made small talk with them. They were closer to my age, 30’s or 40’s I’m guessing.

After 10 minutes or so I ventured back toward the street to look for her. And there she was! I ran up and she smiled at me with recognition. I ran back toward the finish line and joined her friends in cheering her on! I was on the opposite side, and we all cheered and yelled for her! Turns out her name is Lorrie.

“GO, LORRIE!” I chanted.

A race staff took her picture.

Lorrie was triumphant! And best of all, she medaled!

Just goes to prove it doesn’t matter your pace– don’t let that stop you from racing. She won 2nd in her AG– which running lingo for Age Group. You can be last in a race and still medal!!

Afterward I went to the after-party in a beer tent with some other peeps from our running club. We got free pizza, we took pictures. We bonded.

Robin told me, “You need to get back to running!”

Indeed, I do. I haven’t been on a run in a bit outside of a race.

Tonight I discovered five vital things:

1. Volunteering at races is almost as fun as running them! Sometimes more.
2. The people in my running club are welcoming, hilarious, good people.
3. I need to sign up for more local races and even some group runs to get to know them better.
4. If I don’t want to pay a race fee or don’t feel up to it, I can always volunteer. And still have a blast with my running peeps.

and most of all…

5. The running community is my tribe. They are energetic, generous and fit.

I may volunteer at a second race this weekend! Someone invited me.

Mud Factor 2017: Save Your Cash for Warrior Dash

I did my first (and maybe only) Mud Factor race today in Wilmington, Illinois. My first Warrior Dash was in 2016, last summer. I’d do it again if I can find someone to go. You might be wondering about the difference: I will tell you.

I actually had a great time! Got major sun on my shoulders. And it was totally last-minute. Wednesday afternoon I was craving a race for this weekend and found this online. I asked a few people in my running club, but no one was game for mud. I decided to chance it solo and then found a friend and her daughter had commented on the Facebook event page. They invited me to join them to run with her granddaughter.

So I was in! They weren’t running until the 1:30 PM kids’ wave, which was only a 3k– 1.86 miles. Of course my giant ego thought that wouldn’t be enough challenge– so I signed up for an earlier 12 PM adult wave to make sure I got the whole 5k experience. I had planned to run BOTH!

Yeah, that didn’t happen! That’s my beef with MF: this course isn’t a full 5k and requires that you run two laps to fully complete it. Warrior Dash gives you a solid continuous 5k course in one long lap.

But my shoes literally got sucked off in the mud about halfway (I’m estimating?) — I finished the rest of the lap in my socks! I stuck them out of the way on that mud hill and my plan was to go back for them and finish in my shoes, time be damned. But my socks were so caked in mud that I couldn’t get my momentum back. And for some reason, my toes were cramping?! It was damn hot and I told myself, “I’ll make up the difference in the 1:30 wave.” So I re-hydrated, had someone take a picture of me, all mudded up. Changed into clean pair of dry socks.

Then I realized I couldn’t wait that long, so I tried again. I think I made it about a quarter mile in (however long was left) before I knew I was done.

This was also my first DNF (did not finish) race: but I’m okay with it. The clock said it took me 36 minutes to get to the 3k mark. That’s respectable. I don’t in any way feel like I wimped out. There was A LOT of mud, it was damn hot, and I had gotten there at 11 a.m. so had already been in the sun 1.5 hours by then.

So I headed over to the wash-off station, which was a joke. The line was probably 45 minutes because they had a shoddy wooden structure with weak trickles of water, it seemed less than 10 people at a time could use it. Right when I got up there, it faltered. Warrior Dash had a more sophisticated system designed to get a big group through quickly– hoses which you can control yourself, with a steady, COLD water pressure.

I ran a mud race alone today. At 12 noon! That’s seriously bad ass. I almost didn’t sign up because I thought I’d feel like a loser running by myself. But it was the opposite: I felt brave. I felt proud. I felt strong.

Mud Factor has less obstacles than Warrior Dash– and my arms are weak. I really struggled getting up the walls with ropes at WD– but today, I kept moving. Even though I haven’t worked out my arms, it seems I’m overall stronger. I ran most of the course, whereas at WD last year I was mostly walking and gasping for breath.

I texted my friend and we met up at the taco truck. Things were getting packed up by then. We took pictures together and they were just as muddy as me! By the time we left it was about 3 p.m.

One thing that’s better about MF is the parking: attendants directed me and it wasn’t in a big mud field like WD had been. It was easy to get out, quick. But there are extra fees for everything: parking, bag check, food truck, bottles of water or Gatorade, merch. And the merch tent has less options, although the staff was great and didn’t hurry me along to make a choice.

I’d say this is a perfect race if you’re a family and really want to enjoy the course with your kids or just have fun with your friends. The savings could go along way if you’ve got 4 or more people to register.

But if it’s just you, the extra fees for Warrior Dash are worth it. The course is more challenging, there are better, vastly different obstacles. There are on-site photographers at several points and your race times are posted. I think pictures were up in a couple of weeks. Going down the big water slide at the end and then leaping over fire to finish WD just makes you feel invincible!! You can opt for a meal-included, and it’s easy to redeem your food ticket. You get a more ornate medal and a big fuzzy hat. There are multiple places to take photos before and after the race, and plenty of props as well to climb on and show off your guns.

Glad I tried a second brand of mud race today or OCR, obstacle course race.

My plans didn’t work out, but I improvised and had a blast! Bonuses were the cool head wrap included with the bib and safety pins. The finisher’s medal is cool and I like the race logo. I bought a neon yellow race tank as well but thus far, it’s not entirely clean after two washings. Hoping I can get it clean tomorrow with some Oxyclean!

And I got some great pictures!

It’s official: I’m addicted to racing!

Race Day Resilience

I nearly forfeited the 5k my work sponsors tonight because of a possible injury.

But I decided to buck up and give it a try: and I was fine! Two plus hours later, no pain.

Tonight I learned that our bodies recover when we least expect it, and to trust mine more when it comes to my running.

And I also had my first-ever race mantra:

“Protect my feet. Make me powerful.”

After running 7 miles (for the first time ever!!) Tuesday and two miles yesterday to prepare for tonight, I noticed some pain in my right foot last night and again this morning. It had been seven days since my last run prior to Tuesday. The pain felt like it was on the top of my foot where the toes themselves connect to my foot. I’m a toe-cracker (sorry if TMI!) and it felt like I had cracked mine too hard. Walking at all was painful, though not agony. Just uncomfortable. But since I’m a receptionist I luckily spend the majority of my day seated.

After doing some Googling and posting on the message board for my running club, I was terrified that I either had a stress fracture or “a complete tear of the plantar plate, where the toes connect to the ball of your forefoot.” The latter was suggested by another run club member who said she’d had the exact same symptoms as me and ended up going to a wonderful podiatrist.

But I wanted to participate tonight with my co-workers, clients, and running club friends.

On my lunch I bought my first bottle of Ibuprofen (normally a Tylenol girl)– because people had said my usual remedy is useless for inflammation. I went home and took two 200mg and grabbed a freezer pack and towel from home. Elevated my foot underneath my desk for the remainder of the day. After work I slathered Bengay on both sides of my foot and hoped for the best.

And tonight, I was fine! I walked a lot because I had to pee BAD. I was afraid to run the first mile, but then the urge passed and I was able to pick it up a bit. The humidity was still horrid, but there was a magnificent WIND and the course ran downhill around a curve too, so that was helpful.

But I really felt like a runner today. Instead of getting all in my head and skipping the race to go to quick care, I just took practical steps to treat the pain and showed up determined to at least try. I had to laugh at myself– I’ve become the very stereotype of a runner who seems to live in total denial of an injury, obsessed with racing.

I’ve already missed one race in April, that 10k that I trained two months to run only to be saddled with such a sever cold I couldn’t get out of bed that morning.

I just want to get the money’s worth for my entry fee! Today I felt bad ass. And beyond that, the thought of having to miss races or even just a few days or a week because of injury made me… surprisingly sad. I had no idea what I had done to cause this pain. Even the possibility felt so UNFAIR!

And along with a several other vendors, there was a physical therapy tent. After the race, I asked a woman to take a look at my right foot. She had me take my shoe and sock off and examined me. She said there was no bruising, nothing seemed broken– I have a healthy foot and the flexing was normal. Relief! She attributed the pain to upping the mileage AND trying a new route simultaneously.

Glad to know I’m back in business! I’ll tape it up to be on the careful side tomorrow, and ice it a few times this weekend. Seemed it’s just pains of adjustment.

Which means I’m making headway as a runner. Which makes me happy.

The biggest gift is proving that I can take care of myself and that my body can heal faster than I anticipated. To not get hung up on “what-ifs” and solving a problem that isn’t even necessarily a definite problem yet.

I’m usually so solution-oriented and sometimes I need to just RELAX.

I get why running is such a mental sport now. It’s all about grounding yourself in your body, whilst also getting OUT of your head.

Prior to racing, we all were lead in some yoga. I was cracking jokes to my co-worker about how UNSUITED for yoga I am. He was laughing along until he just quit the stretching all together, when it was my turn to laugh!

Tonight I allowed my heart to lead, and my feet followed.

NKOTB– FINALLY!!!! At 36, the Dream.

Just got home from my VERY FIRST NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK concert, in Chicago.

I AM WIRED!!! Two friends from work, Cindy and Bonnie, invited me. We bought these tickets the day they went on sale– MONTHS ago. Floor seats!!

It should really be named the Magical Abs Tour, because all FIVE ARE RIPPED! My beautiful Catholic boys from Boston.

Somehow in their mid-40’s they are sexier than they were 30 years ago. And the timing finally worked out so that I could go and see them– I’ve been wanting to since 1988 when my then- best friend introduced me to New Kids Mania.

I literally heard every single song I wanted to hear tonight. I am flabbergasted, they covered material from every single album, including their first one in 1986 and their CHRISTMAS album. I’d say there were maybe five songs out of likely 30ish that I didn’t know. And bless them, for every single note it seemed there was a coordinating dance step– that’s a lot to remember!

Back in the day I was ALL ABOUT Jordan and Joey.

But now? HELLO DONNIE WAHLBERG!!! His gregarious personality is so obvious in the way the moves and dances– always with his arms open, waving to the fans– smiling and joking. Jordan is more of an introvert– he puts himself out there, but he’s more focused on his performance and his dancing, which is still INSANE. Joey has grown into a confident man who knows every woman there wants him and is highly enjoying it. Danny’s athleticism and goofiness; his ABS TATTOO that proclaims, “Elizabeth,” that lucky woman! Jonathan’s smile sneaks up on you; I always liked the that he was the responsible older brother figure of the group.

Boys II Men opened and although it was wonderful to see Nathan and Wanya Morris and Sean Stockman were indeed impressive– they just weren’t on the level of NKOTB. They are missing Michael McCary, the bass who retired from the group because of a MS diagnosis. And they sounded good, but the three of them combined are no Jordan Knight!! They kept their shirts on. They haven’t aged as flawlessly. They’re not as confident. The bottom line is just lack the same strong nostalgic emotional attachment to these three that I’ve had since day one for the New Kids. Although I (still have!) one Boys II Men album which I play regularly, I had five NKOTB albums at one point. From their debut self-titled album, the that tragic “Face the Music,” and even the Christmas album– one of my favorites. Although I didn’t get the one in 2008. Now I will! “Single,” “Remix (I LIke The)” and “Summertime” stand up well 9 years later! Tonight I bought the latest album, “Grateful,” with only five songs on it.

The two best moments: JOEY MCINTYRE passing by me on the right, walking the perimeter on what might have been the shoulders of body guards. Somehow he was above the fans but also right in the thick of us!! I rushed over and strained to reach him– I ALMOST TOUCHED HIM. His leg or his shoulder. I wish I had just given it a good LUNGE, I probably could have made it!! And then shortly later, 10-15 minutes, ALL FIVE NEW KIDS migrated to a proscenium stage directly to our LEFT– we all RUSHED over and I could see their expressions, their sweat, their exact dance moves. And I have so many pictures and videos to prove it!

It was exhilarating and simultaneously reassuring. I’ve always felt uncool for loving NKOTB so much– but being there felt like family. Others spent the ’90s wallowing in grunge, and I embraced the saccharine melodies of pop instead. I still liked rock. But there’s something so refreshing about seeing these guys. Instead of grizzled rockers who look 20 years older and are writing books about their addictions, the New Kids are just regular guys. They have families. They have an obvious affection for not just each other, but the fans. They wanted to give us a show of our dreams, and they did!

I’ve never felt anything like it at another concert. I hope this is just the first of other NKOTB adventures!

Highlights: Cover Girl, My Favorite Girl, Valentine Girl, Tonight, You Got It (The Right Stuff), Step by Step, I’ll Be Loving You, Stop It Girl, This One’s for the Children, Happy Birthday, Popsicle, Call It What You Want, Please Don’t Go Girl, Games, Hangin’ Tough, and of course, STEP BY STEP!!

What I loved most about tonight was the JOY these five men exuded. They were humble. They were excited. They were dedicated. They were GORGEOUS! There was no shred of a feeling of routine or obligation– they were in on the joke with us. And even though unlike several of my friends, I didn’t get to see them as a child, I felt like it didn’t matter. I’ve never experienced such a feeling of unity as a fan at a concert.

Even better, I went with two sisters– Cindy and Bonnie– who are also lifelong fans and were singing and screaming every single word, fan-girling out just as hard and obsessively snapping photos and trying to get video of all the best moments. We kept looking at each other in utter ecstasy, jumping up and down and squeeing away during each song. Even though I only met them two years ago at my current job, through our mutual obsession, we were all three sisters tonight in Allstate Arena.

I jumped, sang and screamed myself hoarse. Two hours later, sober, I’m still aghast at realizing a 30-year-dream.

I work at 7:30– it’s it’s almost 2 a.m.! Time for sleep.

Thank you, Lord, for New Kids on the Block. And thank you for making me a fan.