15 November 2014

Wherein the Levels of My Geekdom Are Finally Exposed

Though you may think you do, many of you do not fully understand the depths of my geekery. About 15 years ago, I bought a ten-buck Diplomat fountain pen that rapidly became my favourite writing instrument, replacing the four-buck Shaeffer.

About four or five years ago it began gumming up hopelessly. No amount of cleaning or injecting or laying on of hands could solve it. No amount of searching could replace it. And I wasn't about to send a ten-dollar pen to the Fountain Pen Hospital in NYC (though I have sent my Waterman there, with good results).

My writing has suffered. Landfills have suffered (I've been using disposable fountain pens).

I JUST FOUND A REPLACEMENT ONLINE. It's now a $25 fountain pen. I bought two.

Through actual, literal tears. That's the geek part.

01 November 2014

RR Marine Corps Marathon 2014, Code Name: Embrace the Suck

I've known since about mid-August that this race was going to suck. And the way I knew that was by looking at my training schedule. Of course, that would have involved having to actually look at my training schedule, which is something I more or less denied all existence of.

If you've been playing along at home, you know I've had a very rough year. The roughest. In some ways, it was more difficult than the year I got divorced--possibly because I was trying to do it on my own. Or maybe because I thought I was supposed to be invincible about it, or something. But anyway, this isn't that post. This is a post about how I know better than to ever, ever run a marathon when my training is spotty and my longest run to date has been eleven miles. And how I did it anyway, because I'm an idiot. A stubborn, stubborn idiot.

My reasons for doing this were manyfold, but mostly they involved pride. That, and a teeny tiny thing called that MCM Runner's Club. Five marathon finishes and you're guaranteed entry for life. With the institution last year of the lottery entry, this is sort of a huge deal to those of us who are preternaturally attached to this race.

So. Anyway. Back to The Suck.

Woke up late Friday morning, because, you know, my sleep schedule has been a complete clusterfuck for about the past eighteen months, thank you very much grief and anxiety, and still hadn't packed. And the reason I hadn't packed is because I didn't have any clean underwear. Or socks. I did, in fact, have clean race kit, which was unexpected; I'd thought that was down there in the bottom of the laundry basket, but it wasn't. Which just goes to show how long it had been since I'd run. So I did a load of only the laundry I'd need for the race, ignoring the rest of the mountain of jeans and towels and sheets, ran the dishwasher, cleaned the litter box, and generally made things bearable in the home aspect of life so there wouldn't be a mutiny while I was gone. By that time, it was almost 4:00. Ugh.

The drive down was mostly uneventful in the traditional sense, but I was pretty emotional, remembering the last time I drove down for this race. Things were very, very different then and I couldn't help but remember the rambling phone conversation that lasted all three and a half hours of my drive in 2012. By the time I hit the exit for BWI, I realised I was more completely and honestly in love than I had been in....well. A long time. So. By the time I got to the hotel, where the festivities--by which I mean beer--had started without me, I needed to detour to my room for a few minutes for a good stormy cry.

That taken care of, I went downstairs to hang with the running family: Gunz and Nita and Carl and Holly and Moo and the ever-elusive JW. Beer was had, and chips were had, and birthday cake was had (Carl's son turned 22, which I still can't figure out because wasn't he just like 16 last week?) and then ultimately bourbon was had because Nita. Gunz finally showed his punk ass around 11:00, which took the onus off me of being last bitch in (thanks for taking one for the team, dude).

Saturday we hit the expo first thing, though the line for security was already the snake that ate its own tail. Mostly we were there for packet pickup, though Nita needed a phone armband because she was waiting for a phone call from her daughter in basic (that never came, because of course, because Air Force) and I wanted to hit the Mizuno booth. Which.....wasn't there. Sadness. Lunch. Naps. Dinner was a hoot, as we were joined by Len, Jeremiah, and Flex--BIG FLEXY LOVE--and Flex is always a joy to be around. His enthusiasm and humour are infectious. Big. Flexy. Love. Seriously. That man. That smile. Those dance moves.

Sunday, turns out, I wasn't the only one who heard the alarm, rolled over, and thought, Do I really want to do this? I could totally stay in bed. We were all on the NTP this summer. Nobody was ready for this. Nita herself hadn't run long except Mega a month ago, and Gunz had taken a bad fall there and pulled himself off course at Mile 20, worried he'd broken his wrist and damaged both knees worse than the Marine Corps had. And Len's training had paralleled mine in distance and regularity, but at least he has the excuse of being my mother's age with a very ill wife and a bum hip. So I had company in The Suck.

First Len and I couldn't find each other at the start line, because we were staying in different hotels and I was herding cats with the group in the hotel lobby. We hooked up just in time to start with the....um, I think we were with the 4:30 pace group, which is sort of hilarious but also gave us a good cushion to beat the bridge. The first two or three miles were trying to get into a rhythm, visiting European trees, warming up, and talking about Len's underwear. What? We're runners. When you've just veered off into the shrubbery to pee next to each other, the next obvious topic of conversation is the advantages and disadvantages of your particular choice of skivvies in this operation. (The part where usually he's all, "It's a secret passage--to my penis!" and I'm trying not to blurt out, "Wait, you wear underwear?")

By about Mile 6 I was finally warmed up and feeling sort of ok. The fact that Mile 6 is entirely downhill totally helped. That was sadly short-lived, though. My back has been tight since about January, due to how much sitting on my ass writing a dissertation consists of. Mile 7 brought that tightness to new levels of Suck. Seriously, everything that wasn't my abs was cramping by the time we got down out of Rock Creek Park. Len wasn't doing much better.

At Mile 11 Len made the painful but ultimately wise choice to pull the rip cord. He promised to meet me again at the bridge. So there I was, on Hains Point, alone, devastated, discouraged, sore, tired, and oh great. Mile 12. The Blue Mile. The Blue Mile is lined with pictures of military members killed in action. Hundreds of them. And friends and family members holding full-sized American flags with black name stripes on them.

Mile 12 is where I lost my shit.
At Mile 14 I passed Groundpounder Matt Jaffe and his crew. He was starting to look pretty grim, but still encouraging. Promised him the next mile. Sadly, the next mile brought hamstring cramping badly enough that I was worried about a tear, so I stopped at medical and had them wrap it.

Off Hains Point I ran into Len! He toddled with me a little--I was doing mostly walking at that point--and said he'd see me at the bridge. More walking. Midway through Mile 16 I passed Matt Jaffe again. His team was trying to get him to sit down long enough to massage a trouble point. With the vehemence of a man who's run this marathon 38 years in a row, he barked out the strongest NO! I ever want to hear as I passed. (I found out the day after the race that the pace car had passed him on the bridge and forced him onto the bus. My heart absolutely breaks for him.)

Near the Capitol I ran into Amanda Sullivan, crutching her way to awesomeness. I've chatted with her online and her enthusiasm and joy astound me. She's the only person I've ever seen straighten up from puking after Mile 20 with a smile on her face and say, "Man, that bridge isn't playing. Phew!" and then keep on her rhythm with that same smile.

Quick chat with Len on the bridge (which basically consisted of me flopping against his ribcage and groaning, "I hurt like a motherfucker," and him handing me his squashed baby Snickers bars that he'd been saving for hard times such as this.)

More trudging. Six point two miles of it. The only bright spot was when a total stranger handed me an entire can of Coors Light heading into Crystal City. A cold Coors Light. Normally I wouldn't touch the stuff, but in the mood I was in, and the way my lower half felt, it was seriously the best thing I've ever tasted in my life. Glug.

And then I was at Mile 26 and I am good goddamned if I'm gonna hit that hill walking. When you've been on the course roughly seven hours, apparently this makes Marines very happy. I made about 30 new friends charging up that hill. Which is good because I very nearly needed them to peel me off the pavement after I crossed the finish line.

So I have a new official PW for any marathon I've ever completed. And I mostly don't care because I knew it was going to be The Suck. I was hoping it would stay in the six hour range but meh. Sometimes you just have to embrace The Suck.

I expect The Suck and I to announce our engagement any day now.