I am a sucker for the turkey trots. Nothing better than to prepare yourself for a day of guilt-free gluttony than an early-morning, run-your-ass-off-in-freezing-cold-weather (40s is "freezing cold" for me, okay?) until you can taste bile and almost puke at the finish. Great way to kick off Thanksgiving!
After hitting the snooze for 30 minutes, I finally got out of bed. I convinced myself I didn't need to wake up too early because I didn't have a zoo of animals to feed and walk. I was right. The battle was driving my parent's car to the start. They have this new Infiniti that looks like a big, purple eggplant. No offense, mom and dad, but it does. It's keyless. Keyless? WTF? I sat in the driver's seat for about 5 minutes, trying to convince the car how I wanted to position the mirrors, the seat, and figuring out how to turn the dang thing on. I cautiously drove it down the street, mild panic and terror rising in my chest. I'm convinced the purple eggplant has a higher IQ than I. At any minute, I fully expected a female voice to come blaring out of the dash, "Operation New World Order commence. Kill the humans! Robots attack!"
At the race site, I was freezing. It was 45 degrees, and my thin-skinned San Diego body can't take it. I feel like a wild animal that's been pampered in captivity for 4 years. Suddenly, I'm being reintroduced to the wild against my will. I want 70s and sun again! I stood in line, after line, trying to figure out the procedure of Race Day Registration. Being a planner, I've actually never registered on site before. I didn't like it. Way too stressful.
After finally procuring my bib and chip, hunger began gnawing at my insides. Great. I hadn't been hungry at the house! I began scanning the tables for food. Nothing. Jogging around to keep warm, I spotted a table at the far end of the park with mounds of crisp, yellow, savory bananas. I ran over, giving them my best puppy-dog look, "Can I please have a banana?" This big, fat woman, looked me down, sternly, with her hands on her hips and her chin bobbing ever so slightly back and forth, "No! If I give you one, I have to give everyone one." I looked around. I was alone. Everyone? No one would know! I pleaded to no avail. "Do you know where there is some pre-race food. Gu? Gels?" I asked, verrry politely. "I don't know anything. Everything is different this year." I came very, very close to saying, "Happy Thanksgiving!" in an overzealous tone but was too afraid of her wrath to be sarcastic. Instead, I gave her a long, pitiful look as I walked away. My look said it all: I just wanted a banana, and it's Thanksgiving, and I was very nice, and the least you could do is be nice back but, no, instead you took out your stress and bad day on me, and you're VOLUNTEERING! Next time? Stay home! I think my look made her feel very bad. At least I hope so. I continued my hunt for food. I spotted a volunteer's banana on a table as she handed out safety pins and shoe tags. I thought seriously about swiping it like an opportunistic (and ravenous) hyena but somehow restrained myself. Finally, I discovered a team tent with heaps and heaps of food: bagels, bananas, coffee, granola bars. I walked nonchalantly into the tent, smiling and nodding, and grabbed what I needed. Ah, food. So primal. We are only animals afterall.
I lined up on the start with 30 minutes to spare, satiated but shivering. I found a small patch of sunshine and stood as close as I could to a group of people to benefit from their body heat without invading their personal space...too much. They were probably wondering, "Why is this strange skinny girl trying to hug us?" I'm just cold, really!
The gun went off, and I was so relieved to start running. The crowds thinned out pretty quickly, and I let the adrenaline surge pick my way around and through, zig-zagging in and out of the crowd. Apparently, there were 11,000 runners! The cold morning air propagated missiles of snot rockets and spit bombs that I had to dodge, glistening like morning dew on grass. I glanced at my GPS. 7:20s? I felt SO good! I didn't have a time goal; I didn't care about pacing. I just ran. As fast as I wanted. It felt wonderful. Freeing. I ran like that for 2 miles before my pace slowed naturally.
The San Jose Fire Department kept me company, running along at a good clip in matching dark navy uniforms, chanting in unison. A fireman in front carried their flag. I love a man in uniform, and a fireman? Oh, rescue me! I drank in their chanting; it was extremely motivating. I was sorry to leave them at mile 2.5 but smiled and told them, "You guys are AWESOME!!!"
Somewhere at mile 4, it started getting difficult. I wasn't breathing hard, my legs didn't hurt, but it just felt hard. Hmm. No biggie. I just slowed down for 30 seconds to 8:00s before recovering and surging forward again. I think it was more neuromuscular fatigue than aerobic fatigue. Afterall, I can't remember the last time I've done speed work. I slowed just a bit, running that fine line between laying it all on the line, that this hurts-I-can't-keep-this-up-another-minute feeling (anaerobic) and la-de-dah, I-could-do-this-all-day, let's-sing-a-song feeling (aerobic). All the runners were quiet now, running in blissful, peaceful, meditative solace, yet sharing the comfortable silence of other runners, sharing their sweet pain. We were all in our own private world, somewhere between heaven and hell. I was more near the heaven spot, bathed in waves of endorphins, akin (and healthier) than most narcotics. My body had become physically numb from head to toe, and I floated over the ground, barely feeling my feet spring from stride to stride.
At mile 5, I began to put some mustard on it. Whatever I had left. Now I was panting, gasping for breath. My lungs burned. It felt wonderful. My face was hot and read. Beads of sweat trickled down my forehead, tickling my temples. I can't keep this up, I can't, I told myself. Who cares? This is FUN! I forced myself to slow, knowing I still had 1/2 a mile to go. That can be a long way if you're going all out. I felt my breathing recover, my legs raring to go, chomping at the bit. The adrenaline surged through my veins, making my body tremble, my stomach slightly naseous, my legs wobbly. So hard to resist; so hard. Not yet, not yet. A little farther. Finally, I passed the 6 mile mark and knew there was only 0.2 miles to go. As if the gun was going off, I shot ahead, zig-zagging around the runners around me. I couldn't control myself. How can you not sprint through the chute when everyone else is sprinting and the crowds are cheering?
I surged through the finish, completely exhilarated. The crowds on the other side forced me to stop. Oh, God. Oh, God. I'm going to puke! I pushed people out of the way (Sorry but it was better than puking on you!) and walked out of the crowds, walking, walking, until the hot-red-faced and pukey feeling subsided (I get like that after every race). My legs felt rubbery. 10 minutes later, as if cooled into cement, they began to turn to rubber bands and I fought my way over to a fence for some well-deserved stretching. I'm back at my parents now and ready for some pumpkin pie!