I signed up for the 10 miler again this year. I think I must have been on heavy medication.
Last time when I signed up I did it on a whim. The weekend of the race my family was in town. As I was out with my brother and father grabbing some beer for dinner, I said out loud, “Maybe I shouldn’t run it…I haven’t really trained.” My brother and father, always the supportive types, nodded in agreement (or maybe they were just in agreement over what kind of beer we were going to buy…I can never tell if they really hear me talk).
So, I come home with a case of beer and say to Rhonda, “I don’t think I’m going to run in the morning.”
Notable Note: when explaining to your wife that you’re refusing intense physical exercise because you are afraid that you haven’t trained enough, do not do it with a 12 pack of Sam Adams in your hand.
Write that down…you’re welcome.
The look that came over her face is difficult to describe. The closest descriptor I can come up with is “angeratred.” It was as if anger and hatred had procreated and out burst this little devil of an emotion that demanded you sleep on the couch with all the lights on while Tool blasted in your ear buds.
Suffice to say, I ran the next morning. Waking up a 4am to drink coffee (apparently runners do this) and eat a banana (they also do this), I pinned my number to my shirt, stretched my “hammies” and walked to the train line.
And had a great time. I ran like the wind! I felt great, had tons of energy, and even jumped over the finish line. Oh, and Gatorade never tastes so good as it does when it has the finger tips of adolescent children dangling in it just before you grab it out of their hands at the hydration stations…
I signed up again this year. And I trained.
And it sucked.
We woke up extra early, chipper and cheery. As I stepped out of bed I noticed something: my heels weren’t cooperating with the rest of my body. I was walking like I had a bum wheel. And this, plus the fact that the day before I pulled my back while trying to turn on our Super Nintendo (vintage baby), made me rethink this whole “Let’s run 10 miles just for fun,” thing.
Side-note: to heal my back, I drew a bath. It was about 5pm. I got in, grabbed a beer, was soaking away when a “raprapraprap” came from the front door.
I couldn’t move quickly so I slowly got out of the tub, all the while the “rapraprapraprap” continued as if the knocker somehow thought I didn’t take them seriously.
I grabbed my robe, slung it on, grabbed the beer, and went for my glasses. Although, the only ones I could find were my prescription sunglasses…
I sling open the door, and there is the maintenance man of the building. Apparently our tub leaks. And I stared him down with a beer in one hand, my robe on, sunglasses (at 6pm) with the bath running.
It was like I was either auditioning for a reality slot on “Basketball Wives” or I’m just not well put together. You decide which it was.
Anyway, so my heels and back are hurting. I fight through the pain though (because I’m a “champ”…at least my 7th grade basketball coach called me that…once…after my only basket of the season), and I pin on my number.
Ready. To. Go.
The Soldier Field 10 Miler is fun. You cross the finish line on the 50 yard mark while people are in the stands cheering. It is exciting. It’s too bad that, by the end of the race, the only thing you want to do is get out of there as quickly as possible.
Actually, I imagine that’s how the Bears feel after a lot of their games…
So we get on the train, get downtown, round the museum campus drive and arrive at our starting corral. That’s when I look up and notice the sky is green.
Not grey; green.
Now, I’ve lived in Ohio. I know what a green sky means. It means “grab the cat, swallow mom’s earrings, and hide in the basement.”
But, we couldn’t do that because they had us in the huge corrals. We were in corral 12 to be exact…with 11 corrals ahead of us. And I began to picture what would happen if a tornado did sweep through at that very moment. The scene where the cow goes flying by twice in Twister came to mind…only the majority of us were wearing the yellow “10 Miler” shirts for that year, so instead of cows flying everywhere it would be streaks of yellow, like a dandelion massacre during the mowing of the lawn.
The national anthem brought me back to reality. That and the fact that my heels hurt.
After about 30 minutes of standing in that corral pretending to stretch (overrated), we finally get going. Rhonda always brings her digital watch (with the gross velcro strap that smells like it may have just come from a sewer treatment facility), and so we hit the “start” button on the stop watch as we begin to pick up speed out from the starting line.
And then we stop. We have to. Because some yahoos in corral 12 think that the “10 Miler” is actually a “10 mile stroll” and you have to run around them for the first mile.
Notable Note: don’t sign up for the Soldier Field 10 Miler if you can’t run through mile 1. K?
Anyway, we pass through the tunnel at McCormick Place, suffering through some woman slinging a cowbell on the sidelines “cheering” us on. Frankly, I wanted to jog over to her, snatch the cowbell, and throw it in Lake Michigan. Thanks for the “support,” lady. We already were standing in corrals for forty minutes, you dingin’ that cowbell doesn’t make me feel like any more of an athlete…just more like a cow.
Down goes mile 2, and we head up the onramp to cross over to Lake Shore Drive. That onramp, by the way, is a 2.0 on the incline level of a treadmill. Trust me. It felt familiar.
At mile 3 my heels really start to bother me. The only thing that kept me going was chuckling at the people who ran off into the woods off of Lake Shore Drive to use the bathroom. Really? You can’t run 3 miles without taking a leak? But I guess body functions like that are just a non-issue on a long run. When you look around and think to yourself, as the teacher did at the beginning of the seminal movie Dazed and Confused, “Some of you aren’t going to make it,” I guess the least you can do is let them go to the bathroom with minimal embarrassment.
Miles 4 and 5 were terrible. You head down LSD and make a nice little turnaround at 51st street. At the turn around a guy with a mic was trying to entertain the runners, but really all he was doing was confusing us all. C’mon man, either sing the song or don’t…but don’t mock me by doing the “running man” while tossing me a thumbs-up.
The other guy with the bullhorn kept saying, “If you’re having difficulty, please find a person with a vest.” But if you’re having difficulty by mile 5, chances are your vision is blurry and everyone is wearing a vest.
Side-note: speaking of vests, we saw some of the coolest full chest/back tattoos on this run that we’ve ever seen. Seriously. Apparently wings and koi fish are way in. What I wish was not as “in” was short-shorts on dudes who shouldn’t wear short-shorts. Ok, back to the story.
Heading North now on the Lakefront Path, you begin to notice how beautiful Lake Michigan is. And you begin to dream that, perhaps, no one will care if you jumped in for a swim and abandoned this whole “race” thing. And the weird burning sensation in your thighs just eggs on those fantasies.
It was at this point that we walked through a water station. I drank a cup of water. I swallowed a bug. Bring it.
Moving back into the race of runners, I notice this guy walking on the side of the trail. But I had seen him before. An older gentleman with an odd gait, I had seen him walking back at mile 3.5. But wait, if I saw him walking back there, how did he catch up with me?
And then I saw it. This dude took off like a bottle rocket, weaving in and out of slow runners in a full on sprint. I would catch up with him again at mile 8 (or as I called it when I passed by it, “8 Mile”…and then sang Eminem for a quarter mile). His 10 miler experience was more of a “sprint and saunter.”
Actually, I’d sign up for a “sprint and saunter.” That sounds more my pace.
The only thing that got me through mile 7 was the big JT. Justin Timberlake, that is. I tell you what, that kid sings music that is good to run to. “It feels like somethin’s heatin’ up, can I leave wichu’? started flying from my mouth before I realized what I was saying. I’m sure that was unfortunate for the runners beside me. When you’re running long distance, polite talk doesn’t include discussions about what is “heatin’ up”. That’s why you put Vaseline under your pits.
By mile 8 (8 Mile) though, my heels were seriously killing me. I thought about packing it in and walking. But then I remembered my mantra, “You paid for this…” That usually makes me finish something.
I pulled it out from somewhere. Rhonda set the pace, I just followed her lead. At mile 9 she thought she’d be all sorts of awesome and speed up. That was a mistake on her part, and I thought about gently tripping her to make that mistake known.
But she resumed a good speed and we sailed on past McCormick and began the home stretch.
As you round the back way through the tunnel at Soldier Field, you suddenly remember that tunnels are dark. And that the pavement there is uneven. And that you’re wearing sunglasses (those very glasses that made you look super slick to the maintenance people). And then you get these wonderful thoughts about twisting an ankle, therefore putting your running career on hold for the foreseeable future. By mile 9.75, I’m darn near delusional, trying to figure out legit ways to throw this thing.
And then you see the green turf, and the finish line, and you realize that you’re coming out of the side entrance and that you don’t really have to run the whole field. And that they have a medal waiting for you.
And by the time all those realizations have crossed your slow brain (speaking from experience here), you’re already across and someone is shoving a water bottle into your shaking hands. 10 miles of hell conquered.
They then give you fiber-packed granola, not taking into consideration that you have to take the train half-way across town again before you’ll hit a decent bathroom. But, alas, it was worth it.
My heels still hurt, and the procession at church on Sunday was a bit like Frankenstein taking up the end, but it’s good to stretch yourself, even if you don’t really stretch before a race.
A good takeaway from this whole thing, though: that’s the last time I train for a 10 miler. I did so much better going in cold.