Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Ten

So remember how I said I wasn't going to run hour-plus sessions anymore? Kinda lied, a little.

This morning was the Fargo Mini Marathon, the last big running event in the area before the cold well and truly sets in. I signed up for it because, well, I did 10K that one time at Katy's house, I might as well get a medal out of it, right?*

Except last night I had a whiny freakout (see Facebook for further details) that extended into morning in the form of weird dreams, from the very plausible (set alarm for 8:45 instead of 6:45, missed race) to the very far-fetched (tidal wave drowns runners, self escapes with a mermaid). So from about 4 a.m. onward, I was waking up, talking myself down, and getting fitfully back to sleep. My bedmate was not pleased.

When 6:45 actually happened, after non-actually happening about five times, I crawled from bed, popped in lenses, braided hair, and put on running tights and race shirt. The weather was supposed to be nice: 62 and sunny. However, the race was starting at 8 a.m., at which point 62 is not feasible. Temp outside was 31. I put on an extra pair of pants and my heavy jacket, whining and grumbling, while the cats whined and grumbled about not getting fed.

Cats fed. Me not fed: there was no breakfast food in the house that didn't require cooking, and anyway I didn't fancy such a long run with an omelet sloshing in my belly. Glass of water. Out the door.

Driving through downtown Moorhead I realize I am, in fact, hungry. And there's a train in my way. I pull through a convenient McD's and grab an egg McMuffin. Train has still not passed by the time I reach the crossing, chomping away on my hot and tasty non-vegetarian non-local non-good-for-me breakfast.

When I reach parking, on the Moorhead side of the river, it's actually no more than deeply cool outside. I swap my heavy jacket for the sweatshirt that lives in my car, grab my phone and headphones and car key, lock up, and head across the river, stuffing the key down my shirt as I haven't any pockets.

The Fargo Civic Center, which is not very big, is packed with that fearsome breed: Spandex-wearing runny-people. I hide in a corner and try not to be noticed by the massive muscly men and whippet-thin women. Many are in blazing pink: apparently, this race is to fund breast cancer research. I feel a little selfish for not having "Running For X, Who Beat Breast Cancer" emblazoned on my clothing in Sharpie. I decide I am running for myself, in honor of the breast cancer I will be developing any minute now (thanks, genetics). Feeling warm and overdressed, I strip off my hoodie and extra pants and stuff them behind some rolled-up mats in a corner. Then, suddenly, the crowd (that a minute ago seemed to be made of nothing but people in skin-tight shirts and capris) is made entirely of people in windbreakers with fuzzy earwarmers. I work harder on hiding. Am I overdressed? Underdressed? Gaah!

I am, as far as I can see, the only person carrying her phone in her hand instead of on an arm strap. I wonder if I will be disqualified. Also my lips are feeling chapped and maybe I have to pee and I forgot to wear a headband and was that Egg McMuffin really a good idea? Man, I am such a wuss.

Gradually, the crowd thins as first the half-marathoners, then the 5K folks take off. I maneuver to the back of the 10K crowd, where I hope the other slow people are congregating. When we start, I feel almost exactly like I'm on the first climb of a roller coaster that I am now seriously regretting. But too late now! We're through the loading bay doors and out on the streets of Fargo. I turn on my zombie run for the day, which is an expedition to someone's garage to collect power tools.

We cross the bridge I just walked over and veer north into the park that edges the Red on the Minnesota side. Even sulky and cold, I can admit that the river, covered in mist and edged in frost, is just beautiful and well worth waking up early for. Maybe not waking up early five times, but still . . .

I'm mostly keeping pace with the folks around me, many of whom are running and walking by turns. I'm using my at-least-I-can-keep-it-up-more-or-less-indefinitely shuffle-jog, which determined walkers can overtake without much effort at all. Oh, well. 2K down; 8 to go.

Then on the path, what do I see? A lost glove! I scoop it up and yank it on, exulting. In addition to being a convenient way to keep my poor sorry fingers at reasonable temp, the glove will also serve very well post-race to be chopped up and made into little sleeves to wear over my toe rings, so I don't scratch the poles during pole class. I've been waiting for one of these gloves to cross my path for weeks now. Ha ha.

We all clomp over a wooden foot bridge onto the North Dakota side as I listen to the Abel Township radio coordinators and the New Canton radio coordinators squabble in my ear. In this park, we pass Mile 2 and its accompanying water/Gatorade station. I slosh down some Gatorade. Then I pass a guy handing out those little packets of energy goo. I've never had one, so I grab it as I go by.

Energy goo, as I learn when I tear the packet open and squeeze a little into my mouth, tastes like all the nauseating regret of a post-candy-binge sugar hangover without the actual pleasure of eating any candy. It tastes like artificial honey and Red 40. I make a face, but swallow anyway. I've already passed all the trash cans, so I'm stuck with it for now. I take a little dollop at a time and let it dissolve on my tongue. This isn't pleasant, but at least it's something to do as I clomp along through the park past Kilometer 4 and listen to the New Canton runners make snide remarks about the living conditions at Abel. The sugar actually keeps me salivating, so my mouth doesn't take on the feel of old packing tape, and makes me keep my tongue down so I don't inhale it and choke.

The zombie mission finishes by Kilometer 5, and the airwaves are taken over by an extremely awkward New Canton DJ. I'm now encountering dozens of folks who have finished the final loop and are on their way back.

By Kilometer 6, I'm being overtaken by people whose level of fitness is weirdly high for people who've been behind me all this way. Then the pacer goes past, and I realize they are the first of the half-marathoners. Sigh. I settle in and keep plugging away at my shuffle-jog.

I've only finished half the goo by the time I hit the aid station again, and throw it away without regret.

Somewhere along here I find a discarded headband. Score! I pull it on and mop the sweat from my face with the glove. New headband. Awesome.

Back through the Moorhead park, now encountering scads of people from the other races headed north. One more dang kilometer. I feel like I should be speeding up, but most of this distance is for getting out of the river basin and back up into downtown, so I figure just not walking is victory enough. And really, my left foot hasn't fallen asleep and I'm not freezing to death, so I'm not doing half-bad really.

I make it across the finish line just inside the Civic Center door at a little over 75 minutes. I snag water and a medal as I pass by and just keep on going, because I know if I stop moving forward my lungs and throat will lose the rhythm they were keeping with my feet, and trip all over themselves, and give me hiccoughs, which at this point would probably kill me. So I walk briskly back outside the building and do a few quick laps around the lawn while I wait for my heart rate to come down. Then, when I feel capable of standing still without choking to death, I head back inside for a peculiar but well-appreciated second breakfast of chicken noodle soup and chocolate milk. My stash of extra clothes is still where I left it. And that was my Saturday morning.

The Zombie tracker informs me that I did every kilometer in somewhere between 7 and 8 minutes (7:01 for the first one! New record!), which is a very good pace for me, for that distance (overtaking half-marathoners be hanged). I want to add some self-deprecating commentary about my slowness and general unfitness to be running, but if now-me made those kind of comments in front of last-February-me, last-February-me (who could barely shuffle-jog for ninety seconds at a stretch, but did it anyway) would be very entitled to kick now-me in the face. So I will forbear, and take the liberty of being proud of myself.

And now I am home, resting my sore self and watching the cats dismember my number.


*Yes, I wanted a medal. Yes, I am a millennial. So sue me. Except don't, because all my disposable income for this month went into registering for this race. Again, because I'm a millennial.