Thursday, August 6, 2015

Pre-Race Mania

I’m running a half-marathon in just a couple of hours. For one thing, I’m going to blast through this post at “race pace”.

Expect lots of grammatical mistakes.

A half marathon isn’t even that long. My training runs for the marathon I’ll be doing in a couple months are far longer.

And yet on the day of the race, my stress levels are the same as if I have to deliver a baby in a car.

First I prepare like an insane person.

I normally suck at packing. I’ll go on a week-long trip in the mountains with a pair of dingy underwear and a half-charged phone. But when it comes to getting ready for a race, I cause psychiatrists to scramble to update their definition of OCD. I create a giant pile of junk, and just keep adding to it.

No performance enhancing drugs, really!

Then after that I just stare at a piece of furniture for ten minutes like a lunatic. There’s a certain amount of time that has to pass before my brain says “you need shoes, idiot.” Usually I’m just stressing out for no reason. Unfortunately, I actually DO tend to remember just one last critically vital thing. So my paranoia is here to stay. Forever.

Never mind that the one thing is something like a banana. Of course my mind says, “you will DIE if you don’t eat this banana before you run.” More likely I will lose like 12 seconds in a race that takes an hour and a half. But, but… Banana!

In the old days, people would just run free and wild, feet bare, junk swinging wildly. They would occasionally race. Perhaps to a tree. Perhaps to a bison. Which they would then kill with their hands and devour on the spot.  Check out all those partial sentences. I told you the grammatical maulings would be copious.

But today a race is a brutal trial. What will all your friends on social media think when they see that you only did OK, and that you didn’t “obliterate” the race. I mean, those friends who don’t reflexively click like, or +1, or squeeze the balls, or whatever you do these days to show fake acknowledgement of your life’s work.

Nobody cares, really. Only you. Only me. I’m the only one who will sit brooding in an empty bar contemplating all my imagined failings. “I can’t believe I didn’t double-knot my shoes. “I’m such an IDIOT.” Haha, good times.

And I drink excessive amounts of coffee.

Coffee is going to get its own section. Actually, it’s one of  my many addictions I don’t feel all that bad about. I mean, not emotionally anyway. Sure my heart is racing 100% of the day. But other than that, wooooo, here comes my delicious heart attack!

But come race day, I slam coffee like it’s the cure for cancer. There’s a bunch of reasons, I pretend. It hydrates me, sort of. My mouth feels like a desert and my stomach feels like it’s holding a fish tank, but that evens out, right? And there’s something to do with synapses and reflexes and stuff. I may have to dodge a turtle in the road you know!

But the most important reason I drink coffee before a race is something that’s going to make you rapid-fire click the X in your browser like a bunch of nude midgets just popped up on your screen. It’s a great diuretic. That’s right. Are you still here? It makes me poop. A lot. How about now, still there?

Just a steaming pile of...... coffee

I want to be as light as possible at a race. That means I just want to shotgun everything in my body OUT of my body. And coffee, in addition to being God’s nectar, accomplishes this without fail. I blow up that port-o-potty, making sure the next person in line doesn’t make it out alive.

I was told I should make my posts at least a thousand words long, because it makes search engines blow their wads. But I seriously have to leave in like two minutes. I see a word count of 687, 688, 689….. Uuuhhhh, maybe I CAN get this up to 1000….

Race time! F&*# where’s my banana!

Post-race update! 

Spoiler alert: We're all still alive.

Let's bloat up this post a bit! The race was amazing. I ran it with my brother Alex and my epic running pal Geoffrey (who will be starting his own blog soon! Or he'd better....). But let's start from the beginning.

I was feeling tired and sore all day. I was sure I was going to gas after 50 feet and walk/crawl the whole race. Thankfully, with the aide of a giant banana, that didn't happen. But my mild challenge was nothing compared to Geoffrey's!

You see, one of his kids takes Adderall. And not because most Americans are drug addicts. No, his son came to him and said, "dad, I have trouble focusing in school." And Geoffrey replied something like, "well, you know, just focus more." (I'm paraphrasing) Then later his kid came and said, "dad, I saw a butterfly and failed my test!" (Again I'm paraphrasing) So Geoffrey got him a prescription, and wouldn't you know it, his son had like a 200 average the next semester.

Geoffrey gives his son one pill every morning. He keeps it on his bed stand with his pain reliever and other stuff. You know where this is going. Well the morning of the race, Geoffrey went to grab the Adderall for his son and purely by reflex popped it in his mouth and swallowed it. This was immediately followed by full panic mode.

Two facts about Geoffrey:
  1. He's highly sensitive to mood altering drugs.
  2. It's literally impossible for him to make himself throw up.
So after several valiant efforts to stick his entire arm down his throat, he gave up and Googled online, "I'm going to die! What do I do?!" Google said (in a voice that sounded a lot like Morgan Freeman), "Drink, like, a SHIT ton of salt water. 100% guaranteed vomit fountain." Geoffrey did that. Guess what DIDN'T happen? Right, he didn't throw up. So not only did he have Adderall in his gut, he also had half of the Pacific Ocean in there with it.

Did I say panic mode before? This was "the zombie apocalypse is upon us!" mode. And he had to race that evening. Being used to life kicking him in the balls repeatedly, he went to work. He started to feel prodigiously awful. He went to the Urgent Care Center across the street from him. Once again using my power of paraphrasing, the conversation went like this:

"I'm going to die! Like super die! A lot!" Wailed Geoffrey.

"I'm pretty sure you'll be fine," the doctor said, while gazing amorously at the nurse.

"My stomach feels like Mount Doom! There's lava leaking out my nostrils! Help!" Geoffrey spewed.

"Just.... Drink a bunch of water. Like, all of the water. By the time you're done, California shouldn't be the only state with a water shortage." And then the doctor and the nurse went into a closet for a private consultation.

I'm sure the doctor was actually very nice and understanding. In any case, Geoffrey drank a swimming pool of water. Two things happened:
  1. He felt much better.
  2. He had the most amazing high of his life.
He told me all this in the car off-handedly, like he suffers near fatal crises every day. We got to the race. Remember my brother Alex? Well he had only signed up for the 5K.

Why? Because his "training" for the past month had been bathing in a river of beer. He chased a squirrel for a few feet once, I think. But for the most part he had taken a break from running to rekindle his relationship with hangovers. So we show up in the registration area and this happens.

"We're here for the half-marathon, because we're awesome rockstars," said me and Geoffrey.

"OK," said the guy.

"I'm here for a 5K, because I've run less this year than an obese paraplegic," sobbed Alex.

"OK," said the guy. Judgmentally. Then Alex gazed after me and Geoffrey longingly, as we pinned on our half-marathon bibs, which were exactly the same as his 5K racing bib.

"Actually, can I upgrade to the half-marathon?" Alex said, because he too wanted to be a rockstar and had nary a care for life and limb.

"You'd better, you bloated pansy," the guy possibly replied.

So entirely on the spur of the moment, nursing a hangover, with almost no training under his belt, Alex upgrade to the half-marathon. Woohoo! I loved him again.

Alex only needs this to run.

I cruised the entire race at a heart rate of 170. You know how old geezers jokingly say that in their day, they had to walk to school uphill both ways? Yeah, I always thought that was physically impossible. Until the race. It defied the laws of physics. It started and ended in the same spot. And it was uphill 100% of the way. I'm not exaggerating. Every single person there said exactly the same thing. At some point along the way, we hit a vortex that devoured all the down hills.

Nearing mile 9, I realized that someone was trailing me, step for step. I tried to keep ahead, but he soon overtook me. He said something very friendly with a big smile, but I still felt like he was Ivan Drogo, and I was Rocky, the plucky underdog. I stayed close to him, but the distance between us slowly grew.

Then, right at mile 11, we hit the one and only down hill of the entire race. Ignoring the very likely scenario that I would break my whole body, I literally fell down the hill. And zooooomed past the guy at warp speed. He again said something friendly with a smile, and I felt like Rocky, delivering a powerful uppercut. But Drogo was still in the fight!

Two seconds after the one glorious down hill, we hit by the far the biggest up hill of the entire race. There was no way I wouldn't end up on the moon after climbing it. My pace went from a 4 minute mile to a 20 minute mile in the space of 30 seconds. My ass muscles screamed at me. Shortly after the hill, friendly smiling Drogo jogged past me like he ate hills for breakfast.

And I chased him for the last two miles. My heart rate danced around between 172 and 177. I wasn't sure which would happen first: My heart would explode, my legs would explode, or I would throw up all over myself. Somehow I survived. Mile 12. Then the last few blocks. I was hot on his trail.

I had asked him at one point if he was in the same age group as me. He wasn't. So it didn't really matter if he finished ahead of me. But oh it so mattered. We hit the last stretch. I was still trailing at least 50 feet behind him. I couldn't possibly go any faster. And then I whispered my goodbyes to the world and my loved ones, and hit whatever line is three lines past redline.

My heart rate hit 187. I felt like a cartoon dog who just saw a sexy cartoon lady dog. Every beat my heart stuck a foot in front of my chest. I tore past Drogo. For a split second he looked like he would try to race me. But that final blow did it. I finished the race 3 seconds ahead of him. We finished, high fived, and he said a bunch of friendly things with a smile. Our fight to the death was a long forgotten memory.

I finished in 1:35:29, 13th overall and 1st in my age group. Geoffrey finished in 1:43:11, 28th overall and a PR for him. He could have gone faster, but he deliberately ran at marathon race pace to help his marathon training (which matters more to him than blasting a half like stupid me).

Remember Alex? I was pretty sure I would have to go home and return the following morning, right around the time he would finally finish. But by the time I changed clothes, kibitzed with Geoffrey, and bullshitted around, he was already waiting for me in the beer tent! Asshole who had run maybe once in the past month finished in about 2:05! He beat his previous half (whenever the hell that was) by over half an hour. After that I vowed to quit running and just stick to drinking beer, because apparently it worked amazingly well for him.

Speaking of beer, we drank about half of the beer that was at the Fireman's Fair (which the race coincided with). We hung around to get our medals. Then we drove back home, stopped at a pub, had two heaping pizzas, a vat of french fries, and several pitchers of hoppy ale. I likely put 10 pounds back on.

I came home, fell down on my face, and fell comatose. My cat then sat on me, enjoying the lingering body heat from my carcass.

Then, I made pancakes this morning.

The end.

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