Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Plan

Twelve days...twelve days...twelve days...

The 100th running of the Bay to Breakers is happening on May 15th. I've been training for it for weeks, with a little more than one more week to go before I have to rest in preparation for race day. I'm worried, readers. Excited, but worried.

Bay to Breakers and I have a stormy past. The first year we entered, AB and I finished in just over two hours. That's an average of about 3.8 miles an hour, even with the slog of the 11.5% grade of the Hayes Hill and a "mandatory" stop at the bison paddock so that I could take pictures of them. Even at that pace, I bruised my toenails so badly that two of them fell off. We had not prepared at all for the event. My running shoes were too short, and neither AB nor I had run more than a mile or two at one time. We hadn't done any training on pavement. He could have finished faster, but he slowed to keep pace with me, and I struggled to keep pace with him.

The second year, we trained a little harder. I did more cardio at the gym, and trained with weights twice a week. AB did at least a couple of full miles on the treadmill. We still raced together for the first few miles, but I encouraged him to run ahead at mile 6, and he gratefully sprinted away from me. He finished at 1:32, and I finished a few minutes later. We felt great.

And that's when things went horribly wrong. "Let's walk back along the race route and see all the floats." I knew what AB really meant was "let's walk back along the route because I want to see the party that's going on behind us." I often think that AB thinks he missed out on a whole lot of the college experience by meeting me when he was so young. We didn't go to keggers, and we never went to Cancun. We studied, and we had jobs. We were responsible adults, which feels like a synonym for "boring" in retrospect. I feel bad for him, bad that the opportunity to experience the Spring Break culture passed him by. So, when the opportunity to be among drunken revellers presents itself, I sometimes cave in to his wistful suggestions.

So we walked back a couple of miles, and then a couple more. We ended up all the way back at the panhandle, stepping around people passed out on the grass and urinating in the street. What we'd neglected to factor into the plan was that these people had been drinking for several hours by the time made our way back down the route. Some of them had been partying for the entire weekend. It wasn't as interesting as he'd hoped it would be. It was actually kind of gross. "You wanna walk back to the buses, or catch a cab? Remember, the bus line is back at the park, so we'd be walking in the wrong direction to wait in line for an overcrowded bus full of sweating drunks." When presented like that, the obvious choice is to get a cab, right? We thought we'd walk up a few blocks to the Haight and hail one. Easy. We felt smart.

Who would have thought that it would be impossible to get a cab on race day, with fifty-thousand people jammed into the park or passed out within a mile of it? People with forethought, that's who. The cabs stayed far away from that half of the city that day. Well, we didn't know. So we kept walking, thinking eventually we'd see one. We were not carrying phones for some reason, so we couldn't call a dispatcher. Walking, walking, walking, periodically pausing at bus stops in case we'd found a line that didn't go near the park and wouldn't be full. Dozens of packed buses lumbered past us. More walking. Eventually, we came down to Van Ness and started to see cabs and half-full buses. "Well, we're so close now that we might as well keep walking, right?" We agreed on this, not realizing that we were still two miles from our car. I don't know if it would have made a difference if we had known. We were marching for the pride of marching at that point. We laughed merrily at our own stupidity as we skipped across streets and past confused tourists. "I think we took a wrong turn somewhere! Do you know which way we go to get to the race?"

We got back to our car at the Metreon, turned the heated seats on and drove home. When we got out of the car, we realized how much damage we'd done. Everything stiffened on the drive home. AB's legs would not straighten out, and my foot felt like someone was hammering a railroad spike through the right edge of it. We hobbled into the house - him hunched over like he had a hernia, me hugging the wall and hobbling - and fell on the couches, unable to get back up for the rest of the day. I had to hop up the stairs on one leg, because I couldn't put weight on my foot. Later, sitting at my computer with my leg up on another chair, I used Google Maps to plot out the hike we'd done. The race is 7.5 miles. We'd covered more than seventeen miles on foot.

Still, that was my best run yet at 1:38. "Next year, we're going to CRUSH this thing!"

For one of us, this turned out to be true. AB finished the race in 2009 in under 1:30. I took considerably longer, in part because it was hot that day, but in larger part because I didn't have him to pace me. We'd decided to run the race separately right from the starting line. I was proud of him, but very disappointed in myself. Things went awry that summer, with Daisy moving, my job ending, and the house needing so much preparation before it could be rented again. I got out of the habit of working out, and eventually stopped going to the gym altogether.

Last year, we registered and paid to race, then slept in. Our excuse was that we'd just taken Molly in and didn't want to leave her at home, but the truth was that we'd done absolutely nothing to prepare for it. I hadn't made any effort to stay in shape in almost a year. I was in the worst shape of my 30s. It was depressing. "We'll decide tomorrow morning..." We stayed in bed with our eyes closed until 9:30 the next day, neither of us letting on to the other that we were awake. Once it was too late to make it to the race, we got up and went to Starbucks. "NEXT year, we're totally doing it."

And that's this year.

I've been running at least twice a week for a few weeks now. I bought a treadmill when my beloved chick gym abruptly closed, and The Amazon's been giving me running goals each week. AB has also been running, and doing the Insanity DVDs. I did my six miles last night and, while it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, I'm not feeling at all bad today. I'm running on the road tonight, so that race day won't be the first time in two years that I've tried it. It'll be good, no matter how I finish. I keep telling myself that it's just one event, and that my REAL goal is to finish and not be crippled with sore muscles or plantar fasciitis for weeks afterward, and that's true.

But still. I want to crush this thing.

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