Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Cow's Turn to Cheer

The Pocatello Marathon is August 31. I can’t wait! Oh no, no, no. I am not running. I will assemble some friends and my cow suits.  We will dress up, hold signs, ring cow bells and cheer until the runners come home.

I have a slew of cow suits in my guest room closet. Things as funny and vibrant with so much to give should not stay in the closet. They should come out, inspire and entertain.
My cow suit cheering routine began at an American Cancer Society Relay for Life seven years ago. I had a couple cow suits, so our team became “Cows for a Cure.”  The overnight relay begins with a Survivor Lap.  Cancer survivors ranging from decades into remission to currently undergoing cancer treatment walk a single lap often accompanied by their caregivers. Teams are encouraged to surround the track to cheer with reckless abandon for the sea of purple shirts before beginning their own night’s trek.
I can distinctly remember a Relay when my herd’s campsite was located near the end of the lap. Some of the survivors were tired and weary. They were likely in the middle of their treatments and were giving all that they could to keep walking.  Their bodies were limp. Smiles were absent. Their shoulders heaved trying to catch elusive breaths. That single lap was their own marathon.
When they saw the cows as they rounded the final turn, the floppy ears, black and white flannel and slightly irreverent rubber udders were like magic.  It was breath-taking to see how our energy and enthusiasm can give a bovine boost.
The cow suits made their Pocatello Marathon debut in 2011. A friend and I suited up to cheer for her husband in his first attempt at the daunting distance. We carried a sign that says, “Keep Mooooving!”  I’ve managed to make that sign last through a couple marathons and numerous city fun runs. It’s ready for this year.

Some people shy from the cheers. Some roll their eyes. Some smirk at the ridiculous udders, and some garner the breath to merrily moo at us.
I didn’t play sports until junior high, but I can recall people cheering for me long before then. There were three-legged races during Girl Scouts, the softball throw on elementary school field days, and while I gained my nerve on the BMX bike track behind the Pineridge Mall.  The applause of crowds has been a mainstay in my life as an athlete and coach.  Although while coaching, it feels more like people are cheering at me rather than for me.
Many marathoners aren’t used to cheering along a course like ours. They expect solitude and scenery. Some revel in that while others can be overcome by the mind games of a marathon.  I can see it on their faces, and I love to offer a little Holstein help to keep people moving.

Pocatello’s marathon starts on Crestview Rd. at the top of the Buckskin Saddle at 6am. The route continues on Buckskin away from Pocatello along Hoot Owl and Rapid Creek roads. The course links to the half marathon starting line at the corner of Inkom Road and Green Canyon Road. The 10K start is on Old Highway 91 in the Gap at a pull-out for a Historical Marker, and the 5k start is at the Bannock County Jail, and all of the races finish through Ross Park just past the pool. There are 26.2 beautiful miles for cows and people to cheer.
Our marathon organizers also put on a 1.5 mile race for ages 18 and younger and a 0.2 mile mini course through Ross Park for kids 10 and under. It’s an event of fitness and fun for the entire family.
Details can be found online at I know the perils of saying “never”, but I will never run a marathon. This heifer’s mind, body, social life, and career could not handle the training regimen. That’s ok. It’s my turn to cheer. I am delighted to be a marathon supporter and Pocatello’s is one of the best.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wonder Calves

I’m groggy. I’m sipping coffee at my dining room table and checking on things for work. It’s been a rough week of work reminiscent of the end of semester scramble in college. I am hoping for a cowing engagement this morning , but I’m wrestling with whether or not I should keep working. As I’m waffling and head to the cow suit closet, I feel the smile sweep across my face. My decision is made.

People always ask why do you dress up? Why the cow suit? The Bovine Beginnings entry explains how the cow suit came to be, but some subtle aspects of the cow suit joy came to me years into my routine.  A conversation with a friend about Wonder Woman a while back explains it perfectly.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column for our paper called the Power of Pioneers. July 24 is Lynda Carter’s (the actress who played Wonder Woman in the 1970’s show) birthday and it’s also Pioneer Day. That's a holiday in which Mormons in our area celebrate their forefathers' trek west to escape religious persecution.

When I began working on the column comparing Lynda and the Pioneers, I asked a former high school friend, who might like Wonder Woman and Lynda carter even more than I do, what the draw was for him. He also enjoys dressing up, but instead of cow print duds, he goes as Wonderman featured here. (Uh. Yeah. If I tried on his outfit, it would be clear why I stick with the large baggy flannel suit.)

Ryan pointed me to an article and interview with Lynda, and he had this to say:

I always thought it was just the spin, but it's what it represented. I was 5 years old, but knew I was "different", and I knew enough to be afraid to share keep it secret. But I also knew I was fabulous in a way. Here's what sums it up for me: She [Lynda] believes the connection began during the original 1975-79 run of Wonder Woman, a strong character that resonated with gays because the superhero also had the secret identity of Diana Prince.

Lynda notes, 'I think the reason is the secret self. It really is about the secret self. You had to sort of hide in a way. It’s the transformation into acceptance into who you are. It’s about being strong and you’re not going to get bullied.'

So, at the time it was her strength, her costume, her beauty, the spin...but retrospect tells me it was that having the secret and getting to express myself would be the most WONDER-ful thing.

Ryan went on to say,I took the path of junkie IV drug user and alcoholic for 13 years, so I was a liar about everything. Literally everything.  So, 7 years sober, 7 years honest. Wonder Woman was a big part of my recovery after rehab. Took me back to who I was supposed to be!”

So that’s it, People. The cow suit takes me to a person I am supposed to be. Lighthearted.  Carefree. Fun-loving. I don’t worry about people questioning or judging my short hair, my masculine build or my "lumberjack" gait. My mom chastised me for years about walking like a lumberjack and how I needed to walk like a lady. In the cow suit, the lumberjack stride is perfect.

In the suit, I invite you to judge me by my appearance. It’s slightly irreverent but disarming.  It exudes an “I don’t care what people think.”  If I represent that mantra enough, maybe I’ll actually succumb to it.

So many of us don’t feel comfortable in our own skin, and maybe not always, but at different times in our lives.  Emergent wrinkles, a pudgy waist, a crooked smile, a crippling shyness, a shaky confidence… That’s the beauty of dressing up in a costume. You’re slipping into a skin completely within your control and you give yourself permission to step outside of yourself. Or right back into the self you’re supposed to be.
None of my selves will ever feel comfortable dressing up like Wonder Woman, but my calves are over the moon about these.