Monday, May 4, 2015

CROSSING THE FINISH SWINE

Should I be embarrassed to say that the main reason I registered for the Flying Pig's 10K race is because of the logo?  Cincinnati is hosting this year's All Star Game and as soon as I saw the adorable little piggy in the baseball cap I knew I had to have a medal of that.

The all-powerful Shrinky Dink charm.
I did not go into Saturday's 6.2 mile race with any great expectations.  In the back of my mind had always been the goal of finishing just under an hour and 30 minutes.  That would require a pace of a little better than four m.p.h. the whole way.  I can walk that fast, but not necessarily for six miles.  And Cincinnati has some hills.  Quite a few hills.  This was not like walking loops around a high school track.  As of Friday evening my personal best time had been one hour, 33 minutes or roughly a 15:06 per mile pace.  To finish in goal time, by the skin of my teeth, I need to average no more than 14:30 per mile.  Ugh...  Yeah, I couldn't do that.  I'd never done that.  Still, Friday night I kept thinking about it.  I even made a tiny Shrinky Dink tag for my shoelace.

I honored my Earthathon team on my racing bib.
My cheering section for the 10K consisted of my sister (the Inmates' beloved Uncle Chester) and my husband.  For some reason my children turned down the chance to get up at six a.m. on a Saturday so we could get downtown and in position for the eight a.m. race.  In fact, my sister regularly stays up until three or four in the morning, so she wasn't running on all eight cylinders, either.  (Even on her best day she's lucky to be running on six.) 

The race's corrals were lined up on Joe Nuxhall Way next to Great American Ballpark.  I was in corral F, reserved for those of us who thought it would take us longer than 1:30:00 to finish the race.  Yeah, we were literally the end of the line.  But we were festive!  There were piggy hats and piggy tails and sparkly tutus, my favorite on a burly 30-something man.  What we lacked in speed we made up for in attitude.  Fearing footage of me plodding along the course would turn up on YouTube, I made myself as inconspicuous as possible in capri pants and the Flying Pig t-shirt.  I have this phobia about going viral on the Internet...  At one point my sister suddenly glared up at a window above the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum before realizing the man looking down on her was actually a poster of Pete Rose sliding into third base.  (Later at lunch she said she felt like she was having a "flaccid assback".  She'd meant to say "acid flashback."  Yeah, she needed some sleep.)

I handed my jacket off to the Vulcan and my purse to Uncle Chester.  They both wanted off the course before the race officially started and they got trampled by a woman wearing a pig nose and sequined pink headband.  As the 4500 participants slowly moved as one toward the starting line, I plugged in my earphones and got my Green Day-heavy playlist ready.  While the handy Flying Pig app allows family and friends to track folks in the real races (i.e., full and half marathons), my cheering section was stuck with the lower tech version of me texting my husband at each mile marker.  As we went over the starting line, I clicked the chronograph feature on my watch and set out to the tune "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers.  So I wasn't really going to walk 500 miles, but at that moment it kinda felt that way.  (Anyone familiar with Cincinnati and interested can see the course map here.)

I walked along for about a quarter of a mile, my legs gradually warming up and getting looser.  Then I did the strangest thing.  I started to jog.  I had sworn I was not going to do my basset hound trot in public, but there is power in the combination of adrenaline and a slight competitiveness.  I began to pass people.  And every time I passed some boney-ass looking cute and perky in her Lycra jogging shorts, I felt a shot of energy go through me and I went just a little faster.  I know, I know.  It's petty and bitchy and juvenile.  Damn, it was fun. 

I crossed that bridge at some point...I think...
We crossed the bridge into Newport, Kentucky.  I glanced at my watch at the first mile marker as I fumbled to pull my phone out of its case and text The Vulcan.  It read 13 minutes and change.  Wow, that was well under the pace I needed.  I continued to walk, tossing in a jog about a third of the time.  At the second marker I was still well under pace.  I felt the energy shoot up again.  Could I do it?  Could I actually get in under 1:30:00?  I tried to do mental arithmetic and figure how much my pace could slow and still make the goal.  I gave up as I slurped water at the 2.5 mile station, spilling more on my shirt than I got in my mouth.  My notorious lack of a sense of direction left me wondering why nothing in Cincinnati was looking familiar.  We had crossed the bridge back into Ohio, yet my surroundings still looked like northern Kentucky.  It wasn't until I got to the three mile mark and we started to cross the big bridge that I realized that other bridge had been over the Licking River and we were still in Kentucky.  Yeah, this is why I never leave home without my phone and MapQuest app. 


As we crossed we were saluted with honks and waves from a guy in a cement mixer and the driver of the train going the opposite direction.  Once over the bridge into Ohio I knew I was past the halfway mark.  I glanced at my watch and the time was under 41 minutes.  Holy crap!  I was still on pace.  A little more Green Day, a little more jogging, a little more adrenaline when I lumbered past the skinny bitch in the pink jogging skirt.  Okay, she may have been a perfectly nice lady, but she was thin and had nice legs and probably would have made fun of me in high school, so I used my bitterness to my advantage. 

By mile four we were back near the stadium and the spectators had increased significantly.  So did my anxiety.  I slowed down to a walk again and tried to figure out if I could reach my goal without any canine cavorting.  Then I thought, "To hell with it."  I caught my breath, then went back to my ungainly gallop.  At mile five I texted my husband for the last time.  All that fiddling with the phone and its case and trying to type was slowing me down even more and I needed all the seconds I could get.  I shoved the phone case in my pocket and checked my watch.  It read an hour and six minutes.  A few quick calculations and I realized I could walk the last 1.2 miles at a very moderate 3.2 m.p.h. and still come in under 1:30:00.  I couldn't believe it.  I could make it.

As "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred blared in my ears I started to get worried.  What if I suddenly hit the wall?  What if some muscle decided to pop and I could only limp the rest of the way?  I had visions of me crawling to the finish line as all the skinny bitches ran past me and my goal slipped away.  I started to jog again.  By that point I probably looked like I was wearing ankle weights, my feet fighting gravity with each step.  I chugged up the tiny incline on Pete Rose Way that now felt as steep as Mt. Everest.  The six mile marker was in sight.  I could make it.  I think I can, I think I can...  OK, only two-tenths of a mile.  I inhaled deeply and slowed down to a walk.

Up ahead I could see the "Finish Swine".  I was gonna do it!  I looked to my left and could see my cheering section.  I waved my arms at them and then saw their looks of recognition as they picked me out of the crowd.  I gave them two thumbs-up as I walked past and there are few times in my life when I've been quite that happy.  I intended to just walk across the line, but in my peripheral vision I caught one last bouncing Barbie coming up on the inside.  With a final jolt of adrenaline, I scuttled away from her and across the line.

I tried to catch my breath as a teenage boy put the medal around my neck and another guy handed me a Mylar blanket.  I'm sure I looked like an idiot, smiling to myself as I wandered into the recovery area practically jumping up and down.  I slurped a cup of Gatorade and grabbed a bottle of water.  My cheerleaders were to meet me outside this participants-only area.  I didn't see them, so I took the opportunity to email my mommy.  My official time, I found out later, was 1:21:41.  I honest to God didn't think it was possible.  I didn't think I could move that well if I had a zombie on my ass and a donut truck in front of me.

So, do I consider myself a great athlete now?  Not hardly.  The real athletes were crossing the finish line before I hit the first water station.  It never was about me being fast or good compared to anyone else.  It was me compared to a past me, By-Default-Girl.  I remember trying to do Jane Fonda's workout tape when I was in high school, her second one that had an aerobic section about three minutes long.  I couldn't do it.  I had no stamina whatsoever.  That certainly didn't improve as I got older.  My joy isn't because I did something no one else could do.  It's because I did something I didn't think I could do.  And there's magic in that, I tell you.  Magic.


2 comments:

Nancy Susanna Breen said...

Congratulations! And your post is incredibly well written--something else you're really good at.

lillianscupboard said...

This is a great post with great pictures.