May 7, 2012
Bad Coffee, Bad Race
So I was running a race, as I do, meandering along a trail at what we might call 5K pace, since it was a 5K, but I was probably not going quite that fast, honestly. There was dirt and mud and rocks, which you expect, and I had worn bulkier, treadier shoes, so those things were not a problem. The mud flicked back and the rocks were neutered, and I ran, kind of flipping my feet forward and grasping towards that next rock, that next swath of earth.
This happened, and I smiled at the right parts, enjoying myself when people were taking pictures, and griping inside my head that this wasn't faster, and wasn't easier. There was a lack of pop in my legs, and a lack of romance to the whole endeavor. I wasn't loving it, and it was hot. I felt like I was running in a sweat suit, and was dripping as if I had been, and moving with the same ambling lack of grace.
I was following three guys, two of whom I usually beat, one of whom I always beat. There was a guy in the front, springing along, who should have been further ahead, and would have been, if not for the rocks. There were a lot of rocks, and so we were hopping then, which was fun, and I was close, ready to make a move, if only I could summon the leg drive to do so.
I pleaded with them, my legs, not the guys, begged them, and then reasoned with them. Please, I said. It's only another mile or so, and this is a fun trail for you. You love this. No really, you do. What's that? You say you don't love it so much right now? Well, then the sooner we get to the finish, the sooner you can stop. And the top three get a maraca. You love those, right? No? Well then fuck, just run hard enough not to look like a jackass, and at least don't get caught by anyone.
They listened, or something, and there was a little pop there, and I almost jumped off the shoreline, and in to the water. I am not a triathlete, so it was probably better that I stay dry. Or at least, stay only sweaty-wet, which isn't usually all that pleasant, and wasn't then, to be honest, but was probably better than falling in Clinton Lake. Clinton Lake is not the nicest lake, as far as water goes, and I don't really like deep water anyway. Something about sharks, and how they could be there. You laugh, maybe, but you never know. You can't know for sure that sharks aren't in that lake. No one has looked, because they just assume there aren't any. But assumptions make an ass out of me and you, and anyway, I didn't want to lose my ass to a shark bite, so I didn't fall in.
The other guys didn't fall either, even though I kind of wished they would, but only if they were ok, maybe just banged up enough that I could pass them, and then finish without working too hard. But anyway, they didn't fall, but they did slow down a bit. So I was still pretty close, and decided that this was probably the part where I should start running harder, because there wasn't that much trail left to run, and really, I do like running hard on the trail. I also like it when running hard translates to running fast, but this time, it didn't.
And so the other guys disappeared in to the woods, twisting around the bends and through the trees just ahead of me, and just outside of kicking range, fighting mostly for second and third, because the winner was going to win. The winner always wins; that's why he's the winner. Anyway, he was winning, even though he had taken a wrong turn, which I had done as well. I thought about making excuses regarding that, but decided that I shouldn't, because he was still winning, and had done the same. But he's faster than me, I thought. Well yeah, some other part of me said. That's kind of the point though, isn't it? Kind of hard to bitch about that.
There was a flight of stairs near the end, which I took two at a time, but only for two steps. Then I backed that off to one, and flipped my heels back at a 45-degree angle, spinning out to the side like egg beaters whipping the concrete, only it never got fluffy, which was probably ok, since I couldn't have run up it if it was fluffy. I thought about Led Zeppelin singing about the Stairway to Heaven, then about Gollum, that Lord of the Rings character that Zeppelin sings about too, then sort of sprinted across the grass, and across the finish. The three guys who had finished ahead of me clapped, and we went to get some water, bananas, and to bitch about how fucking hot it was, and how rocks are hard, and you know, you really can't run that fast on this course. And maybe the course was long too. I heard they changed it. Definitely long.
We stood there and caught our breath, our excuses, except for the guy who won, who was pretty gracious about the whole thing. He's always gracious, which is nice, because he's always winning. I am too, and I was then, because the guy who didn't quite place needs to be gracious too, and not whine about how the rock plate in his shoe prevented him from really opening up his stride, or how he had skipped breakfast, and only choked down some shitty gas station coffee on the way to the race, because he had nearly overslept. But you know, it was probably the coffee. You really can't be too careful about these things. If you drink shitty coffee, you'll probably miss a turn, and start to run up the wrong hill, and then probably, you'll go run the course again after the race, and then run around the street some, even harder, because you're kind of annoyed at yourself. So, you know, don't drink gas station coffee, and things like this won't happen.