Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daily Double

I spent a solid chunk of the weekend with my face buried in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, a book that I snagged from the $3.99 post-Christmas clearance table at Borders. It's about a group of coders who abandon Microsoft for the greener, Lego-encrusted pastures of Palo Alto and their own startup company. It has aged remarkably well for a three-hundred pager that takes place at the dawn of the internet age and there's a voyeuristic part of me that enjoys anything written in Diary Style, except for Samuel Pepys because his journals are borderline-educational and rarely involve references to Velveeta cheese slices.

Anyway, Daniel--the narrator and Diary Master--introduces his flatmates and co-workers by listing their dream board of Jeopardy categories, the seven things that they would flat-out rock, leaving their buzzers smoking and the other contestants staring blankly into the audience, wishing they'd told that pre-commercial story about the time they held a koala.

I paused for a few minutes, the book hovering above my sofa-sprawled body, and decided that my perfect arrangement of Trebekery would be:

Semi-Obscure British Musicians
How to Breathe With a Mouth Full of Teddy Grahams
Sweatpant Lore
Where to Get Three Cases of Diet Coke for $10
Alienating Your Neighbors In One Elevator Ride
Microwaveable Meals

On Saturday, though, I absolutely found the Daily Double in the Disappointment category. I'm three weeks into my marathon training program, spending yet another winter avoiding sidewalk cracks and shin splits as I prepare to run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. Last year [as a lot of you know] that race ended with my Achilles tendon on suicide watch and I spent the remaining eight months of the year trying to recover, attempting to keep my legs and lungs in shape with Spin classes and enough hours on the ass-enhancing Stairmaster to ensure that my butt now lives between my shoulder blades.

Anyway, the first 21 days of training have gone well--spectacularly, surprisingly so--but I was all kinds of apprehensive about Saturday's eleven mile run. Eleven miles would be the longest distance I'd covered since last April, and I was terrified that I'd end the morning either crumpled on the pavement in one of the nicer neighborhoods or ducking into the sketchy-ass Chevron on the verge of soiling myself. I just knew it was going to end poorly, possibly with pain and tears or swift, unyielding diarrhea. This is also the attitude I take into most of my relationships.

I told myself that if, by some chance, the run went well and didn't end with a trip to the ER or trying to surreptitiously discard a pair of stained spandex pants, I would come home and sign up for Boston. Registration opened in early September, but I was hesitant to enter my credit card number, partially because I hadn't fully healed and partially because the entry fees are close to $200. Spending that kind of money means switching to an even shittier brand of ramen noodles, the ones that are just broken shards from the other packages and instead of a seasoning packet, the directions suggest that you place your unwashed hands inside the cup while they cook.

Back to the run. It went well. Beyond my wildest Moody Blues-style dreams well. Most of the time, I kept my watch tucked underneath the edge of my mittens, stopping it only at intersections and not obsessively checking my pace at the driveways or box elders or dead squirrels that served as mile markers. When I finished, halfway through the crosswalk beside my building, I was shocked to see the numbers 1:25:38 on my watch, which came to an 7:47 pace. That's way faster than I expected to be at this point and I briefly wondered if putting my home-office in front of the microwave may have helped me grow a second set of lungs.

After a long shower that used every drop of hot water and gave me enough time to belt out several selections from Dire Straits' lesser-known albums (On Every Street, yo) I toweled off and headed toward the computer. Destination: The Boston Marathon. Within two seconds of staring at the Boston Athletic Association's website, my eyes fell to this headline:


The marathon is full and has been since mid-November. All 25,000 race numbers have been accounted for and I'm not going to be wearing one of them. This has never happened; I've never registered before January and my friends have routinely run Myrtle Beach in mid-February to qualify for Beantown in April. I was devastated. Heartbroken, even.

I didn't know whether to laugh--because this is just another offering to the Gods of Fail--or to bawl because none of it--the injury, the long-ass recovery, the 6:17 final mile I did to requalify for this year--none of it mattered.

So I did both, reveling in being bipolar for the rest of the afternoon.

And then I moved on, refusing to dwell on my inability to get another embroidered windbreaker that I'll never wear. I tried to find another race within the same time period so--instead of Boston--I'll be running Nashville's Country Music Marathon on April 24, a race that is entirely contained within Travis Tritt's beard.

Yes, I'm disappointed but I'm trying not to let it show. Perhaps the biggest entry in the Pro-Nashville category is that my sister's wedding is the Saturday before Boston Marathon Monday, so that meant I would've spent most of the day Sunday trying to get from rural West Virginia to Logan International Airport, a situation that probably would've only worked if I built a spaceship from a stack of charger plates and leftover silverware from the reception. Plus, at least now I can get hammered at the reception.

Confidential to My Mother: You may want to order another bottle of Absolut. Otherwise, I'm bringing a handle of Aristocrat and running it through your Brita filter.

Confidential to the Other Wedding Guests: I apologize in advance for the inappropriate touching.

So. Nashville it is. I'll see you in April and, eventually, I'll be one hundred percent delighted to weave through your downtown streets, leaving a set of adidas-branded footprints all over Toby Keith's face. [Mile 8, according to the course map].

Now I'll take "Microwavable Meals" for $800, Alex.


Bradshaw said...

I have two aunts who ran that half, and another who ran the full. The aunt who ran the full said that the final two miles (the straight uphill final two miles) were two of the toughest she's ever seen. So, if you can train on hills, I would totally recommend it. Good luck though! I'm sure you'll do great.

Anonymous said...

I heard that when you qualify for Boston that you qualify for the next 2 marathons....so you'll be all set for Boston 2011 :)

zlionsfan said...

wait wait wait. You were supposed to be checking the site while you were still in recovery mode so that perhaps you could tempt yourself to spend money you didn't have in hopes that you would actually recover fully in time to start training? And even then it only would have mattered if they gave you an estimate (or an exact count) of entrants to date ... more likely, you'd have checked at some point in November, at less than 100%, and come to the same realization, except without the progress you've made so far this year, and what would you have done then? Put off your training until 2011?

Sorry, I don't believe this counts as fail. Disappointment, devastation, that part I can see, but not fail.

M. Brooks said...

Wow, that really sucks about Boston.

I'm running the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, too. Although I've heard it is the red-headed step child to the half-marathon they put on, I think it will be a good race. Good luck with your training!

Randal Cooper said...

April 24, huh? I may kidnap @sloganeerist and make the drive to Nashville to cheer you on in person.

I assume the race goes by someplace where the less-athletically-inclined might just sit comfortably and have several hours worth of beer.


Jeff said...

Two things.

1) I'd be shocked if there weren't a secondary market where you could buy someone's entry. (Prob very expensive thought.)

2) www.gmap-pedometer.com let's you track your runs and share maps of them. Could be fun. (I know - could also be too personal.)

Ms Behaviour said...

Nooo! I'm with zlionsfan though.

Meanwhile, you have perfectly summed up my life with "I just knew it was going to end poorly, possibly with pain and tears or swift, unyielding diarrhea. This is also the attitude I take into most of my relationships."

Michael said...

I used to joke about that with people-what's your dream Jeopardy categories?

Now I know I stole it from Coupland. I read that book shortly after it came out. I think my Dad had it in hardcover.

Argle Bargle.

Word Verification Bingo: "Baing"- the sound a gun makes when you're being shot in the classy part of town.

Cagey said...

I can't imagine being disappointed in missing a marathon, but that's because I used to run. If I never run a single step until I croak, I won't miss it for a second. There are so many more enjoyable ways to abuse yourself... [grin]

Nate said...

I've had that Coupland novel on my to-read list since high school, but I've never picked it up. I will now.

re: Nashville: I'm sorry you didn't get to run Boston. Would it help to know that Reba is going to be handing out water and Gatorade at Mile 21? I don't know if that's true or not, actually, but it's worth running the race to find out.

Sun Runner said...

Oh, girl. You mean you hadn't heard about Boston before this?! (obviously not). I registered on September 10, because as a first-time Bostoner and one who barely squeezed under my BQ time (I had 45 seconds to spare) I wasn't going to take any chances that I might not get to run, because seriously, this may be my one and only Boston Marathon. So when I heard that registration closed in mid-November I was very glad I had registered so early. Then I felt really sorry for all the people who BQed and wouldn't be able to run, and the people who were training for late fall/winter races in order to BQ...all for naught. Major suckage. I remember quite well your epic race of 2009 and that you had re-Q-ed by one second (whew) and I was kinda hoping I'd bump into you at the race this year (but in a crowd of 25K, what are the odds of that?).

Well. Make Nashville your bitch and BQ for 2011.

Trail gal said...

As a long-time reader (first time commenter) I was really hoping to bump into you at Boston too! So sorry to hear you missed the deadline, I only made it because my friend posted on his blog about how the race is filling faster than ever before this year. Glad to hear your training is going well. I think it is lovely that you'll get to savor the wedding a little longer.

Anonymous said...

If someone drops out, can you have their spot? At least one of those 25,000 people has to realize they can't do it for some reason.

Perfectly Shelly said...

I havent commented for a while......I am fat, so I don't run.

I do, however watch copious amounts of television, so we have that in common.

I read your blog every frackin' day, and squeal with delight when a new one appears.

You are the funniest blogger around.

Stacy said...

I tore my Achilles last spring and not running a marathon. Oh no, for me, it was the elliptical trainer. Shamefully embarrassing. I note all of this only to explain that I now intend to use the line "Achilles tendon on suicide watch" as much as possible.

I lived in Music City for 5 years and loved every minute of it. The city is heartbreakingly lovely in April, so at least you'll have that.

Tim said...

I blame this on Oprah. Before she decided to "run" a marathon who ever even heard of a marathon filling up?

himynameisjeffrey said...

I'll be running the Nashville Half. Cheers!

Lorna said...

Well, for what it's worth, the Nashville run sounds more fun anyway (especially since it allows you to get hammered at the reception!) If you can find the time, I left you a Happy 101 award at my blog...

Janet Isserlis said...

i love what you write, that you write it and that you run. i run, but only a little, and tragically to music on my iPod that i'd be shamed, and shunned, to reveal.

you make me laugh out loud.

can i love you from afar in a not-creepy internet way?

Mickey said...

Blast! Better luck next year?

And Travis Tritt should be smooth sailing. I once did a 10K in Captain Lou Albano's beard- the rubberbands really created some bottlenecks.

Red Rider said...

Having done a bunch of marathon's and many Boston's back in the day, if you can hit your qualifying, then register for next race as soon as you can. If you get hurt during training - I heard BAA would accept a deferment to next years race. Boston is the Queen Mum of m'thons and a great experience. Good luck in Nash!