"I want my milk and cookies. I wanna go home. Wah, wah, wah."
~some random Sergeant Airborne
A few poor sons of bitches actually took the bait and walked up to the front to get their milk and cookies. Of course, once they got there, they were made into fools. We were all told that it was our mission to ensure that these jackasses got through the next three weeks of training without quitting.
This past Sunday, starting at around mile 6 in the California International Marathon, I wanted my milk and cookies, and I definitely wanted to go home.
I reported on the weather forecast in my last post. The weather forecasters were wrong--it was worse than predicted when we arrived at the starting line. All I recall is seeing some guy in a garbage bag being blown sideways when we drove to the runner drop off point. I was barely able to move forward in the wind while being pelted with rain as we walked toward the starting line.
Once I was safe inside the elite tent, I was absolutely drenched, but temporarily sheltered from the weather. Then, I found a force that I would unfortunately let affect my race in a much more insidious way. She seemed pleasant enough as we chatted away before the race. She asked if we could run together and I agreed thinking we would start together and then find our own rhythms. After mile 2, when she told me that she didn't have a watch or GPS and needed me to give her our splits, I realized she wasn't going to run her own race. I can't really explain why this affected me like it did, but having someone ask every 1/2 mile or so what our pace was when gale force winds were blowing us all over the road just pissed me off.
I told her at the start of the race I didn't know what time I was shooting for--that time seemed irrelevant on a day like this--so I was baffled by her constant need for pace information. I could hear her sigh when I told her our pace was 6:45 or 6:50 when we turned into the wind after mile 6. We were drafting off of some big guys, but the gusts were even slowing them to what seemed like a crawl. Still, "how fast are we going now?" came after every mile marker. I finally told her I was no longer keeping track of our pace. I wasn't lying. I really didn't give a shit what pace we were going into these winds. I just wanted to make another turn out of this stuff. The fact of the matter was that my legs were cramping as we ascended every hill. I didn't understand why this was happening so early in the race, but it was. I was having a tough enough time staying focused on getting to the next mile marker let alone babysitting someone who forgot their watch or decided not to wear one.
The crampy legs and mile by mile audible reminder of just how slow we were going had me thinking about milk and cookies very early in this race. I told myself I should try to at least get to mile 10: Old Fair Oaks. I could drop there. I got through the town and decided I could probably make it to the half marathon point. There was a nice Safeway to seek shelter inside. I passed that and kept going. I realized that my friend had stopped asking me what our splits were. She must have dropped back. This lifted my spirits a bit but not a lot.
My next target, and this was going to be the real stopping point, was mile 19 at Watt Ave. I live about a mile from there. I could just run home and get a nice cup of hot coffee and see my dogs. That pleasant vision danced through my mind as I slogged through the middle miles of this race.
God damn it!
I see people I know.
And they're cheering for me.
I can't quit in front of them.
Maybe I'll stop at mile 20.
By this time, I was laughing at myself. I was in the flat part of the course and most of the cramping in my legs had ceased. The weather had ceased to be ridiculous too. I was being passed by a few runners, but I wasn't slowing much more. I didn't have anyone outside my body reminding me that this was a suckfest.
I knew what would happen if I took the milk and cookies. I wouldn't get to quit. Even if I stopped running, I would hate that I had quit and would beat myself up. Instead, I felt oddly excited about the prospect of sticking this bitch out. I was sort of proud of myself for hanging in there and wondered whether I would break 3 hours or not. I decided to give it a shot and see how I finished. I became more and more excited about finishing as I ran past 23 and 24 miles. Only two to go. I had one girl ahead of me as I headed into the final straightaway. I sprinted past her at the finish in just over 2:59.
|I know, I know: "do not copy". Sorry, Sport Photo. You captured the sprint finish!|
|2nd and 3rd place 45-49 year olds at the awards ceremony. Yes, she looks like she's 19.|
I am already planning my next races, to be revealed after Christmas. In the mean time, this week is all about indulgence--milk, cookies, wine, pizza... Whatever the hell I want.