anatomy of a race

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The night before: Go to pre-race pasta feed with training group. Talk about leg pain. Eat pasta. Lots of it. Comment on how garlicky it is. Keep eating it even if you know you'll have dragon breath later. Talk about leg pain again. Go home. Obsess over leg pain. Pack race bag. Set alarm. Go to bed. Wake up 5 million times during the night to pee and worry about leg pain.

4:45 a.m., race day: Wake up. Realize that yes, that pasta was really garlicky. Test out leg. Pain. Feed cats, feed self, pee 5 million times. Down ibuprofen.

6 a.m.: Arrive at race. Talk about leg pain. Debate not running the race. Warm-up with training group. Realize that maybe leg pain is really not that bad.

6:30 a.m.: Glance at ever-lengthening port-a-potty line. Opt to pee behind a tree. Leg doesn't hurt while peeing.

6:45 a.m.: Spot friend in port-a-potty line. Tell friend the trees are a better option. Friend tells you what he has to do can't be done behind a tree.

7:05 a.m.: Race starts five minutes late because so many people got stuck in port-a-potty line.

Mile 1: Start slow. Very slow. Almost frustratingly slow. Leg pain. Debate dropping out. Try hard not to step on the shoes of the person in front of you. Complain silently that the running path is too narrow and there are too many people. Wonder where the hell the first mile marker is. Watch as many people pass you.

Mile 2-3: Leg starts to feel better as your muscles get warmer. Path is still crowded, though. Talk to running buddies to pass time. Wonder if people are listening to the conversation. Wonder if people find the conversation annoying. Complain out loud about the path, which seems to be slanted to the right, aggravating your leg and also making it hard to run in a straight line.

Mile 4-5: Walk through water station. Leg pain. Apparently, it is easier to run than it is to walk. Get passed by a runner blaring music. Wonder why she doesn't have headphones. Realize she's playing Daft Punk. Feel glad that she doesn't have headphones. Choke down two Shotbloks. After near-gag moment, decide not to have any more Shotbloks.

Mile 6: Tell running buddy you are feeling good and are going to pick up the pace. And even though you really do feel strong, the truth is, you really just want to run away from the guy behind you, who is having an annoying conversation that you have grown tired of listening to.

Mile 7-8: You are feeling good. You are flying. Your legs are weightless. Your arms are relaxed. The crowd is breaking up, and you are passing people. At the 8-mile marker, you look at your watch and realize this won't be a PR, but that's OK. Your goal now is negative splits, and you just want to go.

Mile 9: The course takes a weird loop and suddenly you feel like you are running in circles. This messes with your mind and makes you slow down a little. You run behind a guy who has a big bloodstain on the back of his shirt. You try to imagine what might have caused this. A big zit, perhaps? A peeling scab? Running is kind of gross, you think. Another guy with a goatee and headphones passes you, laughs maniacally. And you wonder, WTF?

Mile 10: You start picking people off. Bloody shirt guy? Check. Woman in black pants? Check. Woman in pink shirt? Check. You are focusing, pushing. Leg pain? What leg pain? When you hit the 10-mile marker, maniacal laughter guy laughs again. You begin to chase him down.

Mile 11: You catch up to someone you know. You pass her. You catch up to two other people you know. You pass them. You start to see the full marathoners head back out for the second half of their race. You encourage and applaud every marathoner you see. And secretly, you are thankful that you aren't one of them. At least not today.

Mile 12: You are running alongside maniacal laughter guy, who is also cheering for the marathoners. You think, Maybe he is not so maniacal. You start talking to him. He turns out to be very nice. You ask him what he was laughing at earlier. The answer? A very funny podcast. And then you pass him. When you look at your watch, you are running a 7:37 pace. Negative splits? In the bag.

Mile 13: Still flying past people. Your port-a-potty line friend has already finished. He sees you round the corner and enter the finish chute. He cheers. You yell out a thank-you and keep going. You hit the finish line at 2:08 and change. Not a PR, but much better than expected, especially with the leg.

Post-race: Give everyone in your training group a sweaty hug. Try to ignore the woman barfing in the trash can next to you. High-five maniacal laughter guy. Stretch out the leg. Yes, there is pain. Grab a bag of Pop Chips because they are free. Stop at the medical area to ice the leg. Meet the training group for breakfast. Eat poached eggs and hashbrowns and vegetarian sausage.

And feel grateful. So very, very grateful. And then go home and nap with two orange cats.

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