Optimism must grow in my bones. Nevermind my lack of training, and never having run the full distance one single time before race day. Nevermind the extra weight I gained since signing up (hey, running makes you hungry, man). And nevermind the sleek, lanky physiques of the runners I know which in no way compare to my pudgy soccer legs (and lungs). I was sure that I could gut it out and run a half marathon, just because I wrote it down on a “to do” list.
I guess calling it “optimism” might be over-selling it just a tad. That sounds like I intentionally summoned it myself, from deep within. It was actually more ignorance than intelligence.
Oh, I know how it happened. After characteristically banging my head against Deployment Cycle Phases One through Three, unhelmeted headlong progression into the next phase was inevitable. Standing at the crossroads of a hopelessly long list of inadequacies and the dumbfounding length of Husband’s remaining months of mobilization, I set out to conquer Deployment Cycle Phase Four: Optimistic Oblivion.
This can only mean one thing. There are lists to be made. I am a natural born list-maker so I’m rockin’ this part. I’ve always got at least five lists at home and another five at work. I even have a list of lists to be made.
It’s the accomplishment part that is going to stump me. I’m the first to admit that having these lists lying around is virtually useless, since I rarely consult them. They become stale and get misplaced. But I’m okay with that; I love it when they resurface and I can mark off ten items at once. It’s only a problem when the birthday list shows up in the sexual harassment file folder, and a vivid description of some (allegedly) lude behavior turns up in plain view of the unsuspecting babysitter. I’ve got to think of a better title for that list than “to do.”
But as much as dust-collecting lists are a useless exercise in babysitter distress, the actual process of creating them is exponentially more valuable. Writing things down somehow makes them manageable. Real. When you write things down, it’s like willing them to happen.
“Mobilization Bucket List” is already lost in Listland, but I remember most of it, and am happy to report that there will be an end to world hunger and cancer and war by the time Husband returns. And I remember the first item vividly:
1. I will complete the San Antonio Half-Marathon.
Though I was born to be a list-maker, I was NOT born to be a runner. On my 39th birthday when I had the idiotic life-changing epiphany to take control of my life, I signed up, paid for, and committed to a half marathon with some friends in San Antonio. Soon thereafter in rapid-fire succession my uncle died, a friend’s son died, my mom was diagnosed with a rare cancer and needed my help through radiation treatment in another city, and Husband was mobilized. Through that chaos I did run, but it would be a stretch to say I “trained.” As the appointed marathon date loomed near I felt the onset of panic. Listen, in the law (and many other professions I suspect) there goes a saying: “fake it till you make it.” And I faked it right up to the bitter end. Y’all.
Boarding my flight, I started to imagine (i.e. fantasize) about my luggage getting lost and my running shoes being hopelessly chucked from the cargo hold somewhere over my route, maybe even being drowned mercilessly in the Great Salt Lake, never to be seen again. To get my mind off things, I settled into my seat and cracked open the overambitious “Brilliant” book I had criticized just weeks before. I figured if I was going to end world hunger I should probably see what this author had to say about my aspirations.
I got all the way to page 30 before I felt complete disgust, self-loathing, and inadequacy over my mediocrity. I often find I’m a B+ at everything, too many things, and an A+ at very little. This is maddening. But I’m thinking this on my way to a half marathon! I decided something is really really wrong with me.
Once in San Antonio, a reunion with friends and a nice Tex-Mex meal alongside the Riverwalk took away all the anxiety and harsh self-evaluation. That night three of us girls piled into one room and determined to turn in early, but predictably that plan didn’t work out so well as we chattered on.
And that’s when three things happened.
First, and I’m not sure how to say this delicately, so I’m just gonna throw it right out there: ten hours before the race started, I got my period. Right. There’s really no comment I can make that can adequately convey my own disgust over my body’s inconvenient timing of this event, so let’s just leave it at that. Period.
Second, I went for my toiletries bag to discover it was not there. No help was coming from my suitcase. The toiletries had obviously been chucked from the plane over Salt Lake instead of my shoes. No feminine products were in sight, and there was no mascara brush to gauge my own eyes out, either.
In desperate search of a tourniquet, or anything else that would somehow contain blood flow for thirteen point one jarring miles, I went downstairs and scanned the lobby only to be disappointed by an already darkened and locked necessities shop. With my face pressed to the glass I could see single-serving toiletries hanging neatly in a matrix of overpriced columns and rows. Two twenty-five year old boys were checking in at the desk, so I simply asked the clerk for help with some “toiletries.” The kid behind the counter said, “what kind do you need?” The group of young men looked at me, waiting for my answer like they were all going to help me out. As the silence hung there I thought about the grocery checker who dared to comment on my last tampon/pad/chocolate purchase, and the resulting broken computer pen pad.
“How ‘bout I show you,” I said with a sappy smile, and walked over to the dark window. I stabbed my finger at the glass. “Do you really only have two individually wrapped tampons in this whole entire ever-lovin’ hotel?” (I thought a little Texas slang would really drive the point home.)
He sheepishly backed around the corner and a laughing female desk clerk came back to assist the crazy menstruating lady. I reluctantly returned to my room with only two tampons and five less dollars in my pocket. I thought about how much tequila I could have purchased instead to end the misery.
Back in the room, I laid out my socks, pinned my bib to my race day shirt, and we all gave each other last-minute pep talks. We finally turned down the lights and silence floated downward as I worked hard to breathe deep and slow my pounding heartbeat. In the midst of my silent prayers for clean sheets in the morning, event three occurred. A rugged Texas drawl broke the silence to inquire, “YEW WANT THUH CHIPOTE-LAY CHICKEN OH-UR THUH FIESTA SEWP?”
As it turns out we had an adjoining room with a drunk Texan and his floozy returning from the UT game. Either Floozy was deaf and dumb, or the Drooling Drawler had Alzheimer’s, because he repeatedly described the room service menu to her in deafening ten second intervals until someone in our room finally shouted through the door crack, “GET THE CHIPOTLE CHICKEN!” Only a call to the front desk (likely the thirteen year old clerk who was already scared of me) quieted their intelligent conversation so we could at last get some pre-race rest.
So that’s how I entered my first long distance run in front of 30,000 people: insecure, unprepared, bloated, and tired. Looking back, it’s amazing what I was able to overcome with just a little optimism and a lot of oblivion.
Yay for oblivion (and Ben-Gay and Alleve)! Yaaaaay.
Since I’m behind on posts this week, tune in for special edition weekend posts starting tomorrow. Saturday brings “Marathon Rookie Milemarker Highlights” and Sunday will reveal the final post of the marathon series, “Paralyzed Pedestrian.” After that, we are setting off to tackle Mobilization Bucket List Item #2. Don’t ask me what that is … I have until Monday to come up with something!