"Good morning runners!" boomed the voice from twenty speakers set up along Central Park's East Drive. "Welcome to the Colon Cancer 15K! How many of you this morning thought you were showing up for the four miler but forgot to set your clocks ahead?" Meekly, I raise my hand. I notice the other slug-a-beds discreetly don't. "Well, you thought your were going to run four, now you're going to run twice that far!" the cheerful announcer cheerily announces. I want to strangle him. But I am at the back of the pack, about 75 yards from the start line, and my arms aren't that long.
Flashback: My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I struggle with myself, hitting the snooze bar twice before laying there an additional fifteen minutes trying to decide whether I really want to go do this run or not. After all, I could just as easily catch three more hours of sleep, then go out about 11 or noon and have a nice six or eight-mile run; no subway trains needed.
But I paid seventeen dollars for this "privilege", my ego berates my id. Get up!
I finally get out of bed and put on water for to make a cup of my Magic Tea. I go about the pre-race routine in an orderly manner, a comfortable pace. For some reason, I've been constipated lately, and that drags out my morning. No problem, though. Plenty of time. By 7:10, I'm halfway through my Magic Tea and am idly checking email. Then I hear the announcer on NY1: The temperature is a muggy 44 degrees and the time is 8:10. You didn't forget to set your clock forward last night, did you CRIS? My eyes dart to the upper right corner of my computer screen. Sure enough, this dumb piece of machinery knows enough to put the clock forward, but I had completely missed any and all reminders about Daylight Savings Time and now find myself an hour late.
I leisurely finish my cup of tea.
On the train, I reflect that though I had initially bandied about the thought of doing the 15K, I would much rather run the 4-miler this morning, though I doubted I'd arrive at the park in time to do so, as the race would begin at 9 a.m. 10 days ago, I'd signed up for a bunch of NYRR races - my first ones for the year - and had realized at that time that I was probably not ready for a 15K. But I'd signed up for the 15K anyway, intending that if the next long run (of March 4) went well, I'd go the distance; but if it went badly, I'd just run the 4-miler.
The run had gone badly. In fact, 1/4 mile out, I'd aborted it. It wasn't any one thing; it was a compoundment of factors that made me say, this just isn't happening today. I've only had moments like that once or twice before. And I hadn't run in the ensuing work week, either, a I just began a new job, am in rehearsals for two dance concerts, and am embroiled in a battle with my computer for control over my massive library of photo documentation of my design work. (Praise be to Adobe Lightroom, I am now getting it under control, catalogued, and a large backlog of RAW files processed much easier than in Photoshop.)
I got to the park in time to hear the distant muted announcing for the 4-miler. The race was being run already. I made my way to the registration tent to pick up my bib. D-O-P-H-E-R, I said to the volunteer at the D,E,F box. She looks for my bib for awhile - too long a while. When did you register? she inquires. At that moment, my self-manufactured reality shatters and falls away, like a painted glass from a window frame, and I'm left looking at the true reality: I'd in fact forgotten to register for the race. That, as I registered online for a multiplicity of races, I'd purposely unchecked the box for this race, intending to come back and register for the race I thought I could run after my March 4th long run. And I'd never come back and registered.
Once again, I had an out: I could have just run a leisurely six miles and called it a day, not part of the race at all. But I'd come all this way, mentally gearing up for a run I really didn't want to do, and here I was at the registration tent. So I signed up. Then I noticed that not only had registration fees gone up, but LATE registration fees were also up. (All fees are up 25-50% over last year. Angry face.) To run this race today, I'd need $25. OR... $20 and a winning smile. I turned to one of the two staff members in charge of the tent, a woman I've gotten to know by volunteering at the Marathon Expo for two years. Theresa, I get her attention. I flash her a worried smile. I'm a little short...I've only got a twenty on me. We work something out that doesn't involve sexual favors, and I get a bib. God bless that woman. I am taken back to all those times one of my parents would say, "and what are you going to pay for that with? Your good looks?" Apparently, yes!
Now I have to run the race. From this point on, the race is standard, and course of it agonizingly predictable: the first mile is hell, the next two tough, I'm finally warmed up after mile four, really enjoy mile five, feel like it will never be over, then amazingly, the finish line is right there in front of me. Extremely minor shin splints BEFORE the race, none during. Some minor knee pain. The big slow-me-down factor is my lungs; no surprise there. I wind up walking a short distance about once a mile.
My watch is off. It beeped a good 200 yards before the first mile marker and even I felt that was short. It consistently beeped 200 yards or so short, such that I was able to predict with startling accuracy that it would been the "tenth" mile mark just as I turned the final sharp left onto the 72nd street crossover for the finish. Don't know when the watch got off (remember, it gauged long at Houston), but that was damn frustrating - mostly because it's exciting to look down and see I'm holding an 8:30 pace (when I'm not walking/coughing my head off) and then realize that's more like a 9:15 pace in reality.
My coughing generated some notice today. One woman, as I passed by coughing, muttered something about "cover your mouth for gawdsake." I turned to her and very pleasantly explained "it's not catching, I have Cystic Fibrosis," etc. She appeared to understand and didn't say another word about it the entire race (we wound up playing tag like runners at similar pace often do). Two other runners, at different times, actually ran up behind me, put their hands on my shoulder, and asked if I was all right. I told them yes, even though inside I was crazy with, no i'm not all right i shouldn't out here i wasn't ready for this i hate having to walk because i'm short on oxygen... You get the picture.
Truth was, I was all right. I had no business taking on a 15K today, not with my lousy winter training. Winter training: F. Resolution to build a better base: F. Resolutions to join a gym, start weight training, find a running partner, begin speedwork: F, F, F, and F.
Today's 15K, blisters and dry heaves included: B+.
Not a bad run, really. A sub 11-minutes-per-mile pace (10:40 or so) and I even managed to conquer Cat Hill on the first loop. Beautiful weather; couldn't have asked for anything better; low stress in general.
digital PS to the ladies who choose to wear tights to run in. 1) If you wear a diaper, do not wear tights of any kind. Please. 2) If you're going to piss yourself in a too-long race, wear a diaper. 3) If you're going to wear non-running clothes, such as your standard white panties and standard blue every-day tights, you might want to check yourself in a mirror before running eight miles of a race, getting all sweaty, and bending straight over to re-tie your shoes. Not that I didn't enjoy the view, but I should like to help you protect your modesty.