For about five days, I’ve been in a state of…evacuation. I don’t know how else to say it politely. I’ve been relegated to soup and water, because nothing else holds (and truthfully, neither does soup and water.) I’m sure I lost 6-7 pounds this week.
A critical point of the matter was last night, when my buddy, Patrick, came to take refuge in my extra room, the Shark Tank (named for the Northern California hockey team which adorns the room.) He lives in Salt Lake, so driving an hour at 4 in the morning wasn’t his first choice. My wife relented.
We spent Saturday night getting our things ready, which comes almost second-hand, now. Shorts- check. Shirt with bib pinned- check. Glide (don’t ask)- check. Watches, iPhones charged- check. There’s more, but the point is that it’s pretty easy to get ready, anymore. There used to be a time when I’d stress and stress over a running race, the night before.
Triathlons are a whole ‘nother story, because there are no documented cases of complete preparedness among any of the athletes ranks.
Our stuff all ready, we watched some of The Matrix on TV and debated the virtues of reality, then finally decided that it was time to call it a day.
My alarm sounded at 4:45 AM on Saturday morning, so I headed out to the family room to wake Patrick and give him the bad news: It was time to go run a 1/2 marathon. I kissed my wife good-bye, who kindly reminded me that “you should not be doing this.” She was right. But sometimes it’s not about doing the right thing- it’s about being stupid.
Into the truck and down the street, we stopped at the gas station and picked up some fruit and gatorade, then drove on, down Center Street in Provo, until we arrived at the bus pick up.
After some witty discussion with our linemates regarding the wisdom of taking the last bus (you can sleep in), we eventually made our way up the stairs and into the back of the bus, where I had to sit on the floor. Please keep in mind my “condition.” As the bus vibrated up the mountain, past Vivian Park, I held on for dear life (this sentence is ambiguous on purpose.)
We finally made it to the top of the route and were dropped off, all 38 million of us, where a few small fires warmed us in near 45 below conditions. I suppose that, in defense of the race, two fires could warm a large group of people. There are recorded incidents where, for instance, a large corporation (like a Super Wal-Mart), on fire, could conceivable warm a large group of people. But in this instance, we were dealing with what could have been mistaken for a misplaced coal or two, with huddling masses pushing and shoving for scraps of warmth.
But it was finally time to line up for the race, so we reluctantly lined up, all of us, near the pace marker that was about 30 minutes too fast for us. It’s one of the most difficult times of a race to be honest with yourself. Five minutes before a race, we are all optimists.
Miles 1-3: This was mostly just a test to see if I could keep fluids inside my body on a voluntary basis. I succeeded and deemed that moving on to mile 4 was an appropriate next step. Also, I secretly decided to go for my goal- to beat a sub two hour time for the 1/2 marathon. I was feeling lucky, punk. Here’s how the rest of the race spilled out for me:
Miles 4-6: I kept a fast pace (7:00-7:30 Minutes Per Mile), because when the mountain’s inertia offers you free forward momentum, you don’t turn that down (there is a limit to this that is only learned by experience.) At one point, I lost two minutes in the Port O’ Potty, but fortunately, nothing tragic or shocking was experienced therein.
Miles 7-9: These would be the last miles that I’d enjoy. If I’d known that, I might have relished them more. Instead, like an idiot, I looked forward to pwning 10-13. At the end of mile 9, I’m alarmed to discover that if I’m really going to PR and end this race in under 2 hours, I’m going to have to pick it up and take less generous water and walking breaks. This news breaks my heart.
Mile 10: Brutal. I didn’t hit The Wall, but I might have broken a metacarpal from bumping it. I lost all energy. It was fortunate that an aid station hit me up with a peanut butter packet. While it almost made me sick, it did give me a bit of a kick for a half a mile or so (I’ll take what I can get at that point.)
Mile 11: I can see the big, blue “Mile 13″ arch where the race ends. I hate it when I can see the end of a race more than two miles out. Do you want to know how long it takes to cross a finish line that you can see for that long? ”Days” is the correct answer. It takes days.
Mile 12: My knees are buckling and I’m reconsidering my career in IT, my home investment, whether we should keep the cat and if folk rock is really where it’s at. This is nothing new. Toward the end of a race, I regard most decisions in my life to be a colossal mistake. It’s not until I cross the finish line and get a drink that these feelings are dulled and I don’t feel at odds with EVERYTHING.
Mile 13: When I hit mile 13, I’m good. I can always run a tenth of a mile (Non runners: A half marathon is only 13.1 miles on the race website’s “Course Details.” In real life a half marathon usually ends up being about 13.8 or more, for tax purposes. I’m just sayin’.)
Final thoughts on the race: I’m happy with the outcome of this race. I met my goal of a sub two hour time with a chip time of 1:59:42. I cut it pretty darn close, but a win is a win. I owe my brother, Patrick, a little bit of thanks for my accomplishment. Last week he introduced a song, called “Not your fault”, by Awolnation. It was stuck in my head for most of the race. At first it was really annoying that I couldn’t think of another song to replace it. But after a while, it was the perfect cadence-setter.
One more thing: In this race, I learned that, even if there are rules and mores that must be followed in society, if I am desperate enough, I will pick up an orange that I’ve dropped onto the asphalt, which I’ve already been eating and suck the marrow out of it until it’s dry- black dirt or not.