Saturday, March 30, 2013

Drought, my ass, a race report.

Dear Diary,

The second weekend in March Sweet Baboo and I flew to San Antonio to run the Prickly Pear 50k. This consists of three 10-ish or so mile loops in Macalister park.

The first loop, well, kinda sucked. It rained almost the entire time. It was a light rain, but steady. The mud was thick, and the combination of mud and grass made nice, heavy bricks stuck to the bottom of my feet.

I came into the aid station, where volunteers were wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas. hey, where's this draught I keep reading about? Draught, my ass. My clothes were soaked. My glasses were constantly covered with fine droplets. The good news is that the anti-fingerprint and anti-fog coating I paid extra for was well worth it. When I wiped my lenses, they were instantly clear, no smearing. I finished, shed one of my soaked shirts, swapped my giant-ass hat for a regular running hat, and drank my Ensure Clear. My hair was soaked, and I was glad that it was shorter.

The second loop was good. It stopped raining and I actually made better time. The trails were drying up rapidly and running on them was more like a sticky movie theater floor. I pulled ahead of several people doing my whole, run-walk-run thing. Around mile 17 or so, I sat down for a moment to dump the rocks out of my shoe. Then I stood up and startd jogging, and--OW. Ow, ow, fucking ow. A sharp pain stabbed through my foot and I could barely move. Clearly, I had strained something slipping and sliding on the wet mud and rocks.

The next three miles were agony. I hobbled into the end of the second loop and, well, there was Baboo, finished already! Or not. Turns out he was waiting for me so that he could finish with me. He had been waiting, in fact, for over 90 minutes. I sat down to inspect my foot. Nothing. No bruise, no redness, no swelling. When I retied my shoe, it stopped hurting. Turns out that I had tied my shoe too tightly before. Who'd have thought that would be so painful?

Not that the final loop was better. All my toughness from last year's 100k runs was eclipsed by a winter of sloth. I had not put in the time on my feet and kegs, and buddy, they let me know. I got an ache that started in my hips and began working its way down to my lower legs. Ow, ow, ow.

Baboo was unfailingly cheerful. Whereas I whimpered, it's never going to end. It's a diminishing function. He replied, There's more behind us than in front of us!

When I whined, I'm never going to make it, he soothed, you're doing great, sweetie!

After I shuffled ten or twenty yards slightly faster than a walk, I heard, great run, sweetie!!

Obviously, it did end. We did finish. Three minutes under the cutoff, I dragged my whiney ass across the finish line, Sweet Baboo running easily and lightly just behind. He told me he was proud of me. (I live for that) we got a neato glass finisher's medal, and fajitas.

The we we went to see "silver lining playbook." I had my very own bucket of corn, with butter. Awesome.


Next week, the Inaugural Navy Marathon race report.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The saddest thing, ever. A race report.

Dear diary,






This is Burn Lake.

Burn Lake is in Las Cruces and it was formed while they were constructing I10 through there--they were excavating dirt for building overpasses and hit the water table, and hole started filling up. No word on what they planned to do with that giant hole--maybe it was slated for a runoff pond for flooding but in any case, the lake formed, and according to Google maps, at one time looked like this (below).

The lake was used as a runoff pond, and had no outlet, and there are lots of farms around here, so around 2006 or maybe before, swimming was banned due to high amounts of e. coli found in the water. They built soccer fields around it, meanwhile, and lots of picnic shelters.

Then within the last year or so, it just dried up, they said, due to the drought. But you have to figure, this means that the water table in Las Cruces has dropped twenty feet of more. Such is the case when you move in a bunch of gringos who insist on having green lawns in the southern Chihuahua desert.

Srsly, the saddest thing ever. No swimming, y'all.

Te El Paso marathon, which I did last weekend, is also just the saddest thing ever.

First, it's E Paso. Sweet Baboo spent this weekend doing health screenings on lots of guardsmen and women who live there, and not one person he met likes El Paso, even ones who were raised there. Even on a Sunday afternoon, the place seemed lacking in human activity in the downtown area. It's flat, it's dusty, and the wind blows constantly--it doesn't have the romantic charm of, say, Santa Fe, 300 miles to the north. It makes Albuquerque look like a lush, tropical paradise.

The marathon itself is okay. It's a point-to-point, and they bus you to the start line. It's well organised in that respect. What makes it sad is that in El Paso, a city of over 600,000 which may, or may not, include the very large Ft. Bliss and bedroom community to the north of Lac Cruces--only about 400 bother to sign up for the full. Anyway, they bus you to the top of the mountain and about sunrise you start running down the mountain. The first five miles are spent running downhill, and hopefully you've trained for this so that your quads aren't blown. Then you make a few turns, and around mile 9 or 10 you start running on this runway looking thing, I think someone told me that it's a highway for tanks. The next ten miles are straight down this thing into a headwind that is picking up speed. I couldn't run against this, I just couldn't. But this is why I do racewalk training, so I started doing that, passing a few along the way. Then you're on post, running through the base, and around mile 19 you turn and leave the base and for me, that's where it got very interesting.

When I left the tree-lined shelter of the base, I ran into a dust storm. It picked up until the wind was roaring past me. I walked with one hand holding my hat, one hand in front of me in a futile effort to block the sand, and occasionally looking up to make sure I was going in a straight line.

Now, there are no course markings. Instead, there are El Paso police posted at every intersection, and they stop traffic and also point the way. They did a terrific job keeping traffic away. The aid stations, after mile 16, were every mile, which was important because I was counting on that since I didn't have a bottle. By mile 20, though, the cups of water and gatorade were in boxes to keep them from being blown away, but still had a fine, thin layer of sand in them. It couldn't be helped.

Around about mile 22 or 23, a van pulled up next to me. It was full of runners, and the driver asked me if I wanted a ride. Then he said something else that I couldn't quite make out over the howling wind, but I just shook my head. I wanted to finish. He gave me a strange look and lingered for a moment, and then drove away. I continued on, blocking the sand and wind and then...

And then...

I was alone.

What the guy had been saying to me was that they were shutting down the course. I didn't hear that part. I stood on a street corner in downtown El Paso, waiting for traffic, and looked around, and there were no police, no aid stations, and of course, no course markings. I continued down the street, blocking the sand from my eyes, following empty sports gel wrappers too stuck to the road to blow away.

Now, around about this time Sweet Baboo, Bones, and Miki (who had finished between 3:30 and 3:39) were in the stands, waiting for me, when two motorcycle officers escorted the "last" runner in...and it wasn't me. My friends and Baboo looked at each other. Where was she? They asked one of the police, who informed them that there were a couple of runners out there who had "refused" to take a ride, "but they're miles away." Baboo asked him what their bib number were. "Bib numbers? I don't know." He got the car and went looking, and as he told me later, was immediately lost.

Eventually, the gel package trail stopped. The streets were deserted save for one shaky-looking couple walking towards me, the man carrying a large stick. "Hey...any chance you guys know where the finish line is for the marathon?" I shouted at him over the wind.

He walked up very close to me. "Oh, wow, man, I think it's over by the bus station, man," he waved his arm towards the central part of downtown, and then held the stick out towards me. "You better carry this, man, there's a dog down there that wants to bite you on the leg." He gestured towards an empty lot where I could see no such animal, but I took the stick, thanked him, and continued on my way.

I ran across a bridge over a highway, and then stood on a corner for a while watching traffic go by. I had misgivings. Then I turn and went up a hill towards a park, hoping to be able to see the convention center from there. I asked a man walking his dog, the tiny dog nearly blown off the sidewalk by the wind. "Oh, my goodness, let's see..." And began turning in circles, scanning the city. Well, shit; I can do that. I left him there and continued up the hill. I found myself standing on a corner waiting for the light, and next to me was a man in dusty clothes, scraggly beard, carrying a ragged backpack.

I asked him. He was surprisingly eloquent, "why, I believe, yes, I believe it is over by the bus station." He waved his hand in a southwesterly direction, back down the hill, so went back down again, crossing over the freeway and heading west.

Eventually I encountered a woman trudging up the hill, wearing her finisher's medal. She looked startled to see me, being as she was the "last" finisher. She pointed, and I ran down the hill and turned left, and ran into Miki. Now I was just pissed, and didn't feel like running any more, but sure happy to see someone I knew. It was well beyond six hours since I'd started, so when I came to the finish line where the tracking was being taken apart, I kicked it over and then went to sat down and asked for my medal. It didn't seem of interest to anyone working that I had finished and was accounted for. But a very nice man with a beard got me a medal, and miki brought me some water and chocolate milk.

Miki got on her cell phone and contacted Baboo and Bones, and they drove over to pick us up. Baboo hugged me tightly. I gazed into his face and said, "get me the fuck out of this town."

In case you're wondering I did get a gracious letter of apology from the RD. It was just a miscommunication and a comedy of errors. He's going to take steps next year to make sure It doesn't happen again. I had to guess my time, so I was added to the list of finishers with a time of 6:10. Not a PR.

Oh, and did I mention I had woken up that morning with a headache AND a cough?





 I'm no longer involved in multisport or endurance sports. I've started my own business, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety d...