I figured the race would be like running down a pipe lined with Kevlar. I fully expected to see military presence, and I basically didn’t and felt a little silly about it. The race was cool, not as much of a turn-out as last year, but still very robust and needed. People yelling at me get me excited and pumped up. I had just finished the race a few minutes before, and so was beginning a fairly long journey to my car. Because of the metal barricades lining the course, I was blocked from crossing the street to where I thought my car was, somewhere over there. Striding briskly down the sidewalk, a beefy meat monster passed by me wearing a PD golf shirt. He looked like a bunch of softballs in shrink-wrap. A bruiser, some real police presence. And he had a huge dog on a leash. I kind of cringed when I asked him, “Officer, is there some way to cross the race course?” He told me to go an intersection and talk to a bunch of cops there. he could have thrown me there, and I’m glad he didn’t. Thirty minutes late I wobbled into the pay lot, got in my car after taking a haggard glamour shot. I drove home. It took an hour, and my IT band has now wound itself tight like a snare drum, screwing up my left leg. I feel burnt down.
Taking glamour shots and sharing thoughts on the old netter net.
Wrapped in the reflective foil thermal sheets they give out after races, I was trying to get to my car. For some reason, I fell in love with the foil sheet. Because of the intense cravings I had for anything clean – anything – touching me, I kept the thermal sheet wrapped around me like a shawl while I trudged to my car. I felt like a Greek nobleman, all stank, wearing a sheet of gold leaf and vellum, touring my realm. Banana sticking out of my pocket, anchored there in a morass of squeezed Gu tubes and a mini-bag of pretzels (mini pretzels in a mini bag) that was also stuck there.
So, there were helicopters flying overhead at the start of the race and I wondered if those hovering buzzing machines were in the service of police or media. The Jumpy on the PA said, “Go!” And off we went.
I lost my salt tabs. I took one when I’d awakened this morning, then taken one three hours later at the start of the race. Eighty minutes into the run I took another. I thought I had two more, but evidently I lost them somewhere. I wrapped them in a shred of cling wrap. That would spell disaster later. I knew I was doomed. The equivalent would be like, if you were an astronaut and saw you only had 15 minutes of oxygen left, and you were floating in space 30 minutes from your ship. I knew I would crash and burn. I was able to make it to mile 19 before the left hamstring started trying to cramp. After that things began to crumble. Actually, things just fell apart almost immediately. I stopped to catch my breath a few times. My muscles began to cool and stiffen. I could tell I was dehydrated and had stopped sweating.
I’d started strong and stayed strong through mile 15, then I lost my 3:15 pace guy. Then the whole 3:20 pace crowd went by. Up ahead an older guy went dish rag on the road, tried to get up twice and both times his legs gave way. A paramedic was on him like oh my god.
The weather remained perfect. Apparently someone broke the half marathon course record.
I accept my 3 hr 34 minute finish humbly as none my best nor me worst. It was exciting to get the chance to go run all over downtown Pittsburgh. The bands were fun. Like, every mile some people on the side of the course are jamming, rocking out, jazzing it up, pickin’, what have you.
Who is that guy? A tall runner wearing a matted blonde woman’s wig and something like a uniform passes me with languid, long strides. A woman wearing red fairy wing, a wand and a frilly red skirt passed me. I wish she had zapped me with her magic wand. How bad is that? If there were three people in the race and you got third place and got your picture taken, it would be you standing a step below a fairy and two steps below a man dressed as a sloven private school girl. Maybe next year I’ll wear a costume. Maybe I’ll run faster. I should wear a salt lick block for a hat.
On the way home I let the wind blow my hair into a hug e nest atop my head. I showered, had a beer. Cheers, Mexico.It took me a week to find some time to insert the race bib photo into the post. It took me three days to walk down stairs without holding on to both railings. That’s because I gave it everything I had. Without salt.