Like all the races of this kind, the night’s sleep before a marathon
can be adequately described as “crap.” I can never seem
to get to bed on time nor am I very ready to wake up ridiculously
early. The night before had been relaxing
enough but the pre-race jitters just get the best of me. That,
and I’m always stuck in a room with a rather large, bald, mean-looking
SOB named Gary Bash. (I think I’m more of a nuisance than vice
versa, just ask my wife).
So up in the wee hours of the morning (much “wee-er” than
necessary thanks to Phil
Patch who insists that timeliness means hours, not minutes
before a race) and I was once again dressing for a most arduous
even known as the 2001 Wild Wild West
We fumbled around in the dark since the sun hadn’t even
bothered to pop up yet, and made our way over to PJ’s, the local
café that’s connected to the Dow
Villa. We nodded at he only other people there who likely
remembered the FDR years, and took our usual seats. There’s
nothing like filling your tummy with slop from a greasy spoon
prior to running 26.2 miles on a trail. Ah, heck, let’s just
chase it down with a diuretic like coffee just to make it interesting!!!
My goal for this year was to finish in a better time than
last. Posting a 6:03 in 2000, it
seemed reasonable to shoot for breaking the 6 hour mark. My
training had been better this year (I actually tried this year!)
and I was feeling good. I even had a grudging nod from my bowels
when they at least let a representative portion of my meals
escape during the pre-race squad/prayer session. I liken this
to letting the women and children go from a hostage situation
but rest assured, the men were still being held captive.
It didn’t take long to become independent. I think we all
broke apart within the first mile and only caught glimpses of
each other. I stayed with Gary long enough to get some pics
but soon, the solitary run won over.
I ran past the usual milestones and it gave me little bursts
of pleasure to run across familiar territory. But without much
of a plan, I started out too fast and the heat started to get
to me. I began plying “reel in the fish” by setting goals on
distant runners and trying to catch them. This worked for a
long time and I felt like I was making good time, slowing down
long enough to catch my breath and talk to people I caught up
There was one guy who bothered me though. He was an older
man with a beard and looked a little hyped up, likely from too
many power gels. He kept yammering at me and when I told him
what I was doing, he gave me the good ol’ free advice (kind
of in a demeaning way) that I shouldn’t do that but try to keep
a pace. I thought to myself “If I could keep a pace, I wouldn’t
have to hopscotch from one person to the next!” I was rather
glad when he sped ahead and I hoped I would pass him up, at
a high rate of speed, later. (You may be able to decode my use
of foreboding at this point.)
The year before, I had hit mile 22 feeling bad but snapped
out of it by mile 24. During the last couple of miles, I found
some crazy strength and let it all hang out, passing dozens
of people in the process. I kind of depended on that same push
for this year’s race and thought that if I could make up some
time, it would be the difference in a PR and, well, 6+ hours
of running like a fool.
But there were bad times in Jasonville. At about mile 20
things started to really suck. I felt dizzy and the 90+ degree
heat wasn’t helping. My legs were cramping relentlessly and
my declining math skills were telling me that I wasn’t going
to make the time I wanted. I walked with a lady who cheered
me on but it was no use. I felt like crap and had 6.2 miles
Stumbling along, I managed to get a pace going here and
there. When I hit the 24 mile mark, I insanely expected the
power burst I’d experienced last year. When I reached down to
flip that switch, I got that sound of a sputtering car in the
cartoons, followed by the sound of a starter when the battery
was dead. Sorry but I was walking the rest of the way. I had
a sentiment for my aspiration to break the 6 hour mark and it
had something to do with the French variant of intercourse.
This same sentiment came to mind when the echoes of advice from
Charlie Manson a ways back started uncloaking into reality.
I watched as my watch ticked past my previous year’s time.
My legs were now a snake’s den and my energy level was in the
negatives somewhere. I very unceremoniously trotted across the
finish line at a heart-breaking 6:14 to the sporadic and pathetic
cheers of the few people still around. Needless to say, I was
not too happy but I kept myself from verbalizing my feelings,
again, something akin to the French sentiment. If Manson was
still around, I would have given him a vicious beating, well,
maybe a good smack. OK, at least a hard stare and a few demeaning
thoughts about his family!
I learned that Phil had blazed in at 5:02 which, by his
standards, upset him that he didn’t get under that 5 hour mark.
By my standards, he can kiss my white, hairy ass. Brent came
in at 5:46 which marked almost a half hour off his previous
year. It’s amazing what NOT stopping every couple of miles at
the end of the race to launch mud will do to a running score.
But Gary was still out there and we waited. He had finished
with Brent the year before so he, like me, would not enjoy a
faster race score this year.
It seems he, too, had cramping troubles along the way and
came across the line at 7:03. This tells you something about
our personalities since he was as cheerful as ever while I,
well, was not so cheerful.
While waiting for Gary, I had found it very much a necessity
to sit down and lean against a wooden sign about .2 miles from
the finish, where we had parked. When it came time to escort
Gary to finish line, well, I was in no shape to participate.
I don’t think gunfire nor a naked supermodel could have gotten
me on my feet at that point so they left me where I laid and
retrieved the Bashman. By the time they got back, I was dozing
and they had to help me up. I stood there, only able to balance
myself on completely dead legs, and opened the beer they handed
me for the picture of the four Horsemen. I was physically and
mentally crushed, I was pissed, and I was feeling like I needed
a tampon. All in all, not the best race but the best was yet
The drive to the race
Night before the race