06 May 2013

RR St. Jude Country Music (Half) Marathon, Code Word: Doing the Nasty

Despite being on the NTP (Nita Training Plan, also known as not training at all) for this race, it ended up being redeeming in a lot of ways. It was in many ways a baptism. And I'm not just saying that because of near-flood conditions.

The day after I got home from Nashville in January, all hell sort of broke loose in my emotional and spiritual life, you may recall, and I'm only now coming out of the carapace I'd built around myself to try to ward off the crazy. As much as I tried to stay with it and engage with the process, I really hate change. I hate it. It's uncomfortable. As I once memorably said to a pastor's wife and dear friend, "I like my comfort zone. It's comfortable." I wasn't being ironic or witty, either. I was dead serious.

So, all that is to say that I had mixed feelings about returning to the scene of the crime. (Except love is not a crime. Only denying it is.)

None of this makes sense. It's not a narrative, it's not about running, and it's not about the race.

Welcome to my life, folks.

I don't know why I thought flying down to Nashville at 7:10 in the morning was a good idea; surely the hundred dollars extra a flight at a human hour would have cost was worth not having to get up at 3:15 in the morning and drive to Newark. Alas, it was not to be. Mags lives literally on my way to the airport, so I offered to drive her, for which she gave me a mason jar full of homemade moonshine. We hit the expo pretty shortly after checking into the hotel, where I accidentally got interviewed by Channel 5 News because I was wearing a Boston Strong t-shirt. Fortunately my interview is only quoted in the write-up, and not on-camera. I do, however, make a cameo as That One Chick Who Indiscriminately Hugs Strangers Because They're from Brighton and Are Safe from Terrorists. After the interview, said Stranger from Brighton asked for a picture with me from her organization. Due to the unfortunate combination of biology and Adidas's graphic design department, it appears she is pointing enthusiastically at my enormous rack. She is, but not for the reasons people normally do.

My breasts are not from Boston. But they stand as one. Er, two.
Then there was all sorts of stupidity involving the hotel shuttle and a comped lunch because of the hotel shuttle, and then I fell sound the hell asleep for a few hours until everything started happening at once.

Thursday night ultimately found me with my beloved friends the Masons and their lovely neighbours Inspector Dave and Sunny, drinking moonshine from a mason jar around their living room coffee table and ultimately watching He-Man reruns because it got that late and we couldn't find the remote to change the channel. In truth, we could not turn away.

Friday, needless to say, was spent drinking a lot of water to undo that hilarity, lunch with Mags, a little bit of solo wandering downtown, at loose ends and at odds with myself, and then back to the Mason Jar. See what I did there? No? Ok. Anyway, Steve had left for a couple of house concerts in the upper midwest, so it was me and Jude and the kids, and we had a splendid time eating pizza that's better than any pizza so far from Brooklyn has a right to be, catching up, and watching Pitch Perfect which involved my staying up far later than I ought to have done.

And then it was race day and I was up far too early for the second morning that week. It started raining just as I got into Geoff the Jeep to drive to the start shuttle at LP Field. After that it was sort of all downhill. Except the parts that were uphill. I spent the better part of pre-race loitering in a McDonald's near my start corral with several hundred of my closest friends while the skies lightened...and opened. By the time I lined up for the start, it was full downpour and I was as cold as I've ever been in my life. Fuck this noise, let's run so I can at least feel my feet again. My feet, which are starting to ship water.

For by you, I can run in the night. You'd have loved this race.

At the expo, we had been given blue and yellow Boston commemorative bracelets with 4.15.13 on them. Just prior to the start, we were asked to hold those arms in the air, and give the peace sign during a minute of silence. It was the peace sign that undid me. I'm tearing up just writing about it. Then they went straight into the national anthem (which was aca-awesome). Fortunately it was raining because by the time they sent off the wheelchair start with Sweet Caroline there were thirty thousand people bawling their eyes out.

And then we were off. I was in a closer corral than I often am, but still pretty far back, so there was a lot of standing around shivering. While I was waiting, I bit thumb-holes in my throwaway jersey because it was clear I was going to need every layer of clothing I had on.

My back had been very tight in the area just north of my right hip for several days leading up to my flight down there, and with the wet streets I was really concerned about slipping at some points. Mostly I was just concerned about not drowning. I hadn't realised this was going to be a run/swim duathlon when I signed up for it.

It had been obvious for several weeks that I was going to run the half course instead of the full. Between the loop-de-loops in my life, the exams schedule, and the part where I broke toes walking into a piece of furniture in the middle of the night to avoid a cat, that message was loud and clear. Nevertheless, at one point during the first three or four miles I felt really good and thought briefly that maybe I'd attempt the full after all. Fortunately within moments I realised the folly of my ways.

By mile six things were utterly ridiculous. It was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. There was water coursing down the road on the hills. I was doing a lot of walking because of my back, and a lot of peeing because of the rain. Something about being waterlogged from the outside makes drinking water at rest stations fairly redundant. Seriously, I peed more during this half marathon than I did during any full, ever, or possibly even put together, and for that matter more than during El Scorcho. Which I would like to remind you was THIRTY-ONE MILES. In short, there was some serious peeing happening in Nashville last weekend.

Anyway, somewhere past Belmont in the middle of mile six or seven, a very lovely young woman offered me her red Solo cup full of mimosa. Whoever you are, I love you. Then, a half-mile later, another lovely woman, somewhat older and probably a mom, had dry towels stashed in the trunk of her minivan for runners to wipe their faces off so we could see for even a little bit. Whoever you are, I love you even more. Maybe.

And then I squished and slogged and sluiced along for another seven miles. I had a bad moment on Twelve South when I had to run past the Frothy Monkey, because they were open. And selling coffee. Hot, glorious, yummy, bone-tingling coffee. And then I was past them at the top of the hill. Sad Monkey.

Met another thyroid cancer survivor at mile ten, going on seven years strong. April 27th was my fifteenth cancer-versary, and it was because of this that I became a runner in the first place, so this was pretty sweet. We exchanged soggy hugs when we parted.

Right around mile 12.5, I met up with Susan, who had a cramp in her foot, and no wonder because it was cold, man. We were all little clenched shivers of wet humans trying to keep our shit together. It had long ago become obvious that I didn't give a shit about this as a race anymore, as long as there was a pot of hot tea waiting for me back at the Mason Jar (Jude's British; this is a completely reasonable expectation). I had long blown any PW out of the water, so to speak, mostly because of the standing in line to pee FOUR TIMES, but also because have I maybe mentioned that it was raining like pouring piss out of a boot this whole time?

This is not me. This is some other drowned rat of a runner.
So anyway, Susan and I sort of trundled our way back in to LP Field, which for the record is also "just around the corner and up the hill" from mile 13. (Long story, but that's how the finish line of my very first ever 5k was described by the cop directing traffic. Suffice it to say that "up" is not a word you want to use in front of first-time runners if you do not want dirty looks in response. Eight years later at my first Marine Corps Marathon, my dad stood at the bottom of the Very Enormous Hill up to the Iwo Jima Memorial that comprises the last 285 yards of the marathon and greeted me with, "Just around the corner and up the hill." If I could have lifted my arm at that point I would have gladly slugged him. Instead I just lobbed my water belt at my mom and kept limping along.)

I got my kick in and finished strong, then wrung out my shirt and skirt while in the finish chute, which cracked some people up. I'd taken off my throwaway simply so there'd be at least one picture of me on the course. Turns out I'm barely in the frame. Dorks. That's ok, I look like every other freezing, waterlogged, drowned rat of a runner looked that day. Susan and I did take a picture together at the end, which was really sweet. Then I set about finding Geoff the Jeep, because he had a dry zip-up for me, and more importantly HE HAD HEAT.

Due to the way the finish line was set up, I had to walk fully three quarters of the way around the stadium to get to where I'd parked. By this time, the rain had stopped. Of course. I wrung out everything I could, including my hair and my hat, and hopped in for the ride home. Under normal circumstances it would have taken two minutes, but I couldn't get onto the damn road in the right direction and had to get on the freeway to get off at the next exit. This gave me enough time to text Jude and let her know that maybe she needed to meet me at the kitchen door with a couple of towels.

God love her, not only were there towels, there were cheering teenagers at the front door, a hot fig and honey bubble bath with a scented candle on the toilet seat, the pot of tea, and leftover pizza. Eventually I thawed out and took E2 with me to Kroger (so I could find it) to get the crucial ingredients for Thai green curry supper. If you're wondering why I went, it's because I offered, so that Jude could get Bean down for a nap and the big kids could maybe not kill each other. Also, E2 and I sort of bonded big time last weekend. Love. Her. While at Kroger, I made the beautiful discovery that you can buy beer in the grocery store in Tennessee. So I did, which made both Jude and me very happy later that evening.

Slept hard Saturday night and barely made it out of my pajamas in time for Steve's return, and thank god because wouldn't that have been awkward. I mean, this is a man I've known for close to twenty years and I'm pretty sure he's seen me throw up at least once (yay cancer) but he does not need to see me first thing in the morning, ever. For the sake of our friendship, I found some clothes I could put on without too much effort, since going up the steep stairs to E2's bedroom to get them was about enough activity for me, thanks.

Sunday was lovely. There was a walk round the neighbourhood in the sun, lunch at Calypso (omg fruit tea addiction), spontaneous friend visits, French cricket in the backyard (where I fell over, because of course), more spontaneous friend visits, and enormous pork loin barbecue. So. Good. Oh, and haircuts for the guys, because Steve is in barber school. With a mustache like his, it's the perfect place for him. Here, Steve nails Cal pretty good.

After altogether too much food and good company and helping Steve with the washing up (what, darlin, I'm Irish. We can't help ourselves. We wash up. It's how we do.) it was time to head back to my hotel room and give them some family time alone, which they don't get nearly enough of between Steve's tour schedule and the E-Team being with their mom during the week. I dearly wish I could have caught up with Steve more, but we managed to get some good talking done in the little bits between other stuff happening.

Monday I slept until almost noon and spent the rest of the day reading in the sun by the pool and trying not to nap. Which was closed, but that was fine. I didn't want any more water. Possibly ever.

And then it was all over until next time. There's a lot I'm leaving out, but some of it is utterly inexpressible. Only know this: once a door has been shown to you, there is only one way and that is through.

Flying Inland.