Monday, April 23, 2007

It had its ups and downs

First of all, I would like to say thank you, blog, for giving me something to keep my mind off the miles yesterday. You were a lovely and therapeutic distraction as I composed for you a mental list of all the things that made me struggle, caused me pain, and pissed me right off during an incredibly grueling 13.1-mile run:

Mile 1: I had worked myself into a tizzy all week fretting about what to wear, since the forecast called for rain. But at 7 a.m., the sun is out and there's not a cloud in the sky. We get off to a fine, fast start and begin to wind our way up the Santa Cruz coastline.

Mile 2: The course takes us through a fancy oceanside neighborhood, where we are greeted with the mouthwatering aroma of bacon. Several of us comment on the sheer torture of this scent. We hate you, mystery bacon-maker.

Mile 3: Turnaround point for the 10K runners. THAT'S RIGHT, BITCHES! TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND AND RUN HOME TO MOMMY! (Sorry to my girlfriends who ran the 10K and will read this. I didn't mean it, honest. This is just how I pumped myself up.)

Mile 4: I encounter a competitor so annoying, so obnoxious, so wildly unacceptable in a running competition that I burn with fury. She was speedwalking a half-marathon, which is mildly bothersome in and of itself. I know, speedwalking is hard, it burns calories, yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. But lady, I am RUNNING. I'm sweating and panting and running, and apparently I'm not even able to run faster than you can friggin' walk. So you irritate me. Also, do you really need six bottles of water strapped to your back during a WALK?!? But anyway, this isn't even the bad part. The bad part is she won't pick her feet up off the ground. Instead, she shuffles. She drags her fat, stupid feet noisily across the pavement, and I wince at every step. Scraaaape. Scraaaape. Scraaaape. And every time I speed up or slow down to get away from her, she seems to do the exact same thing. The Shuffler plagues me for the next mile or two.

Mile 6: A hill looms ahead. Most people stop and walk, but I am determined to lose The Shuffler. No way she can move her ass up that thing quickly. So I take it at a run. Halfway up, I feel slightly dizzy and my legs hurt so much that I consider stopping. Then I pass this girl who calls out to me "Wow, keep going! You're doing great!" Thanks to this most awesome stranger, I get a little second wind and finish the hill, leaving The Shuffler in. my. dust.

Mile 7: Runners are greeted with another interesting scent: horse shit. Like, the real stuff. We are near a horse ranch on a dirt trail that is dotted with huge, steaming piles of green manure. Later we are kept on our toes dodging potholes and puddles the size of swimming pools, along a path so thin it looks like it was carved by a wagon wheel.

Mile 8: I stop for a quick water break and ask for a gel packet. Guy tells me they're out. "WHAT? You are OUT?" I sputter. "For, like, the ENTIRE RACE?!?" Sorry, yes. For the entire race. Fireballs shoot out of my eyes, and I spend the next mile fuming about the incompetence of the race organizers and of humankind in general.

Mile 9: Race volunteer hands me an orange-flavored gel packet and a cup of cold water.

Mile 10: I actually do a tiny fist-pump as I hit double-digit miles and, for the first time, allow myself to look at my watch. I'm doing great, seriously. I'm on track to shave maybe 10 or more minutes off my last half-marathon time. My energy is good, I'm not in any real pain, and we're winding our way back to civilization.

Mile 12: Here, friends, is where it all goes to hell. I feel a tiny twinge of cramp in my right side, so I slow down and concentrate on breathing deeply. The pain subsides, so I start to run again, but then it returns worse than before. I fight as long as I can, but the cramp forces me down to a walk. I begin to freak out a little. I have never had my breathing trick fail me. Then I hear a sound that sends a chill down my spine. Scraaaaaape. Scraaaaaape. Scraaaaaape. Holy crap. ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? I turn around and sure enough, it's The Shuffler and her goddamned water bottles. This makes me pick up my pace, significantly.

Mile 13: Cramp goes from uncomfortable to downright crippling. It feels like a tiny animal has sunk its sharp little teeth into my gut, and the pain shoots up and down the entire right side of my torso. I stop completely and bend over. I start crying because this pain is ruining the end of my race, and THE END IS MY FAVORITE PART! You could argue that my entire 12 weeks of training is all intended to get me to this part, the end, the most exhilarating, impossible miles that make it all worthwhile. And here I was, blubbering like a baby on the side of the trail. I begin to walk again, and well-meaning runners try to encourage me with things like "C'mon!" and "Almost there!" I wanted to turn around and yell at them, "No, no, no! STOP THAT! I don't need that! I don't do this!" I try to run again, but it's more like this really pathetic, limpy jog.

Finish: We hit the last quarter-mile. All of a sudden we're surrounded cheering spectators. I can hear music and I know the end is right around the corner. I forget the pain for a minute or two and hit the finish in a full run. I'm filled with relief that I did not have to WALK across the finish line. Sure, I very nearly crumpled into a heaving heap four steps later, but I did not walk across the finish line.

Overall a decent race, but that ending ... boy, did that sting. And the pain in my side is still there today, so I'm thinking it might have been a mistake to push it. I should have stopped and walked right away, making sure it subsided before I picked up the pace. Save that for next time, I guess. Official results haven't been posted yet, but I'm pretty sure that despite the late setback, I improved on my last time by a minute or two. And I did get a cool medal, which I will display for you now:


Robyn said...

Oh, the shufflet! That kills me. I always seem to find someone like that who annoys the hell out of me. Like the know-it-all at the ACES conference who ended up in every class I went to no matter how much I prayed.

Robyn said...

Oops. I meant "shuffler."

shraddha said...

first off, i am so proud of you for kicking some major ass on the race. But your description of the shuffler, the shooting pain and the lack of gel made me laugh out loud! you know you rock, right?