BEFORE THE RACE
The Expo was quick for me. I had to get home for a dinner reservation Friday night after work, so I spent a curse-laden half hour navigating the one-way streets downtown until I found the secret parking garage entrance. Then I ran in and grabbed my shirt, bib and swag bag complete with coupons, dried peas, pickle flavored peanuts and some kind of ointment for sweaty areas, then left to curse at rush hour traffic some more.
The night before the race, I laid out all my gear. Pinned the bib to my shirt, put the tag on my shoe, picked out my shorts, socks, the four dollar throwaway sweatshirt from Goodwill; and stuffed my bag with all the other little necessities for a good race. You might think the reason I did this was to revel in the anticipation of the big event, or to drool over my new goodies like the shirt, “Irby’s Derby” personalized bib, the peanuts etc. I did it so I could sleep in.
The alarm went off at 5:15am on race day. I hit snooze a couple of times and rolled out of bed at 5:30 thinking I could have slept another 15 minutes if I had slept in my clothes (next time), chewed on some rubbery instant oatmeal and slammed a yogurt and orange juice. No coffee for me. I learned a valuable lesson years ago about drinking a diuretic before a race.
My running buddy, Steve, drove and his family came along to do a short hike and drive us home. It was 42 degrees when his lovely wife dropped us off then went to a warm McDonald’s to enjoy a hot breakfast and a steaming cup of coffee.
Now, to some of you, 42 might sound like a balmy spring day. But to us Arizonans who are used to days on end of 110+ degree temps during the summer, anything below 80 is sweater weather. With about a half hour to kill, we went potty, checked our gear bags and picked a corral. I’m slow and steady and was assigned corral 17. Steve, who is faster and had mismarked his estimated finish time by an hour, was assigned corral 2 where the stick people hang out. So we met somewhere in the middle.
All around us people were running and stretching. My warm-up routine consisted of jogging in place and shivering. My buddy tried to fasten his timer tag to his shoe, “My fingers are numb. I can’t work this thing.”
“You did it wrong,” I said. He shrugged.
Finally, an angelic-voiced girl sang the National Anthem as Marines held up our beautiful American Flag and a Southwest commercial airliner did a flyby. The airhorn sounded… and we waited. Wave one… wave two… About 30 minutes later, our corral was released and we were off! Clothes flew left and right and my sweatshirt was among them.
“I don’t see any news trucks,” I said. “This is a huge race.”
“They’re probably up ahead somewhere.”
I ran a finger under my nose to be sure no snot had frozen to my ‘stash. Clear. But there were no news trucks.
As usual, he took off and was soon lost in the crowd ahead of me and I thought, Dang it! I have to pee.
It was quite disappointing because I do everything I can to avoid having to go during a race, but the shivering must have knocked something loose. I trotted along, trying not to “shake things up” too much and knew from experience that the first port-a-john would be overwhelmed. It was. Why do they only have one john? I can make it to mile two.
The mile two john had a line 12 deep. I can make it to mile three.
The third mile aid station had five port-a-johns and about 20 people waiting. Ok, I thought. There are more people here but it should go fast. I waited. People went in but they didn’t come out. Did they fall asleep? Are they all going number two? Eventually, a lady came out and said, “There’s no toilet paper!” Someone else came out of another one and said the same thing.
The lady behind me was on the verge of exploding. “Who cares! That’s the risk you take at these things! The people behind you still have to go!”
“I can’t wait for this,” I said to her, watching hundreds of runners pass by. “I’m going to take my chances down the road.” And I bailed after ten minutes of waiting.
Folks, I didn’t see a john without a huge line until mile 8 at a medical tent. Sweet Relief! After that, I smiled as I ran.
Occasionally, I would pass a red timer tag on the ground and think, I wonder if that’s Steve’s.
Mile 9 is the only tough part of the race. It includes a long out-and-back up a hill. At the top was a cool group of people from a school or club banging on large drums. I felt like they were banging for me. “Ooga chaka ooga ooga, Ooga chaka ooga ooga. I can’t fight this feeling, deep inside of me…”
I ran-walked 30 second intervals to the top singing “Hooked On A Feeling”and felt great. (Well, sang it in my head because I was breathing too hard to make a sound.) The rest of the race was quite enjoyable.
As the last few miles came up, more people were there to cheer us on. Some memorable signs:
“Hurry up. We’re freezing!”
“$95 for a half marathon. Only $15 to go.”
“Run faster. I just farted.”
“If I see you collapse, I’ll pause your Garmin.”
The last two miles of the race are where the half and full marathon courses converge and you can see the two sides eyeing each other competitively. Come on! Let’s see what you’ve got. Well, I didn’t have much because I had to take a walk break, but the last stretch was fun because I had just enough gas left to finish strong. As I approached the finish line, I heard the announcer say, “And he’s got a brick!” Huh? What? I looked around and saw a man, medium build, carrying a large cinder block on his shoulder. You’ve got to be kidding me! I’m going to look at my finish line photos because he’s probably in them. There was another guy who dribbled a basketball the whole way, but that’s normal. A cinder block? Really? And more importantly, why? Maybe he lost a bet.
So, I crossed the finish line, got my puzzle piece medal (the second of four), walked by the guy yelling “Repent sinners!” and grabbed a bottle of water. Then joined my buddy and his fam at an Irish pub for lunch.
“How did you do?” I asked.
“Well, my tag popped open and the finish time didn’t register but according to my watch it was about 2:25. How about you?”
I don’t have a watch and all I had on my wrist was the RoadID bracelet so they know where to send my body if anything happens. But my wife tracked me at home and texted my time: 3:09. “If it hadn’t been for that potty break I would have been under 3! Man, I’ve got to pee.”
Now I have about a month before my next half – the IMS half marathon. They also have a cool new medal that spins and they are keeping the second side of it a secret along with the new shirt design. Looking forward to running it with two buddies.