A Lesson on Being Punctual

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I am perpetually late. I hate this about myself, I really do; it’s not an admirable trait to have. Living in the ‘burbs doesn’t help matters either; I never know how much time to allot to reach the city—last night, for example, it took 23 minutes to reach the Haight; this afternoon, an hour and 19 to get to Nob Hill. And my running buddy Autumn is 10 times worse. This will play an important part later on in the story. We ran yet another half marathon in Santa Cruz over the weekend, one that we didn’t really train for but thought “hey! We’re running a full in October. We better get on the mileage.” So I hit up one, Moose, and dragged her kicking and screaming to the beachside hippie enclave. And by kicking and screaming, this is what I mean, i.e. how she could be found 90 percent of the weekend:

(She looks pretty miserable, no?) We would, however, pick the one weekend annually where the mercury in Santa Cruz grazes 98 degrees (yeah, Nick Lachey)—not ideal racing temps, especially if you’re used to training in a mild and manageable 65 degrees, 365 days of the year—and all goes the opposite of planned (I won’t bore you with those mundane details, because there were many). It was surely one of those everything-that-can-go-wrong-will sort of weekends, but Santa Cruz told us, “it’s not you, it’s me,” so I felt a little better and it made it sort of alright. Plus, Moose and Autumn are the most upbeat of travel companions, so they kept my otherwise sour mood in check at times (and fed me ample root beer floats to put the smile back on my face), even when a random dude came up to me on Pacific Avenue and slugged me in the back, unprovoked.

But that’s neither here nor there. At least Santa Cruz was cordial enough to make race time at 8am (as opposed to San Francisco’s ridiculously insane 4:30am marathon start), which means we got to sleep in until the leisurely hour of 6. Well, maybe sleep is too strong of a word, considering half of the night was spent tossing and turning. I never sleep well the night before any sort of contest, but somehow, I drifted right off to dreamland—initially. Around midnight, though—two hours after this trio of grannies passed out, mind you—we were all awakened simultaneously by some eager beavers on the floor above us who were clearly ready to get the race started early. Back and forth they ran, jumping on beds, creaking and doing God knows what. Now, I’m not always the polite Southern belle I try to (somewhat unsuccessfully) pose as, so I marched my pajama-clad booty up to the top floor and knock, knock, knocked. Two Miley Cyrus wannabes answered the door and I, quite cordially given the circumstances if I do say so myself, explained that we had a race to run bright and (not so) early (OK, so I lied, sue me) and demanded asked could they please keep it down. “We’re trying. We told him to shut up,” one of the mouthbreathers said. I don’t know this “he” they spoke of; I couldn’t see who else was in the background.

I returned to my bed and still, it continued, as I tossed and turned in a huff, finally provoked enough to call security on them. Then, hordes of drunk MILFs from a wedding descended upon the building, their cackles echoing in the hallways and only proceeding to up my annoyance ante. I covered my head with two pillows, thus sending me into a I-hope-I-don’t-suffocate-in-the-middle-of-the-night! panic (I didn’t), and sometime after 2am, finally drifted off to sleep. Jemima then texted me a good luck chant at 4am (6 where she was in Chicago), causing more fitful slumber, and the alarm beeped far too early, but at the same time, much too late. I ordered room service—c(r)appucinos, a pre-race necessity for any runner who doesn’t want to take potty breaks at random intervals along the course—and watched VH1 to pump ourselves up (who even knew VH1 still played music videos? I thought it was all Bret Michaels and Flava Flav these days). Our coffee didn’t come, and then it didn’t come some more. The clock ticked closer and closer to gun time. 7:15. 7:21. 7:29. Autumn was still applying her makeup (I have no good answer for why), and I began to panic, as I’m Type A like that and don’t like to leave things to the last minute—heck, we hadn’t even checked in for the race the day before. We finally got our coffee, downed it in one swift gulp. But no daily constitution. This was going to put a slight cramp (no pun intended) in my day, but we had to go.

We arrived at the Boardwalk at 7:48 to standstill traffic, only causing my stress to mount. In the end, we parked on the other side of the river and walked a mile or so to the start. Luckily, there was no real line to get our numbers, but the line for the Porta Potties? Ginormous. Because while no constitution was on the horizon, that coffee, it did stir the bladder (am I borderline TMI for you today? I’m thinking so). We jumped at the end, about 23 people deep, as the gun sounded. Oops. We well missed the start time. No bother, because we were running on a chip anyway, so we’d be timed from the second we crossed the line. But by the time we did our thang, there weren’t any half racers in sight and the 10Kers were already lining up to go.

We took off at an insanely speedy pace, breaking a sweat before the mile 1 marker—it was 85 degrees at 8am after all—and it wasn’t long before we were passing people left and right, but wooboy do Santa Cruz runners not know proper race etiquette. There were walkers blocking both lanes, slow runners in the fast, parents with strollers serving as moving barricades. It was ridiculous. I was scaling cliffs and jumping ravines to get around people, which only added to my annoyance and energy expended (I think I should get a good 10 minutes knocked off because I was polite enough to dodge, as opposed to bulldoze, them over like I well should have). Autumn, East Coast native that she is, was not so polite, and I had to run ahead of her at times out of my embarrassment for her calling others out. She and Stroller Dad nearly got into a fistfight. That was justified, though; who on Earth takes up an entire dirt race lane that’s only three-people wide in the first place, pushing his child in a Kiddie Cadillac?! Not cool, Mr. Santa Cruz Stroller Douche.

My poor tum was sloshing about, and considering we hadn’t eaten prior to the race, thanks to the tardy room service, I was feeling more than a little faint. I tried to choke down a gel—they dispensed Hammer Gel raspberry, which surprisingly was almost as tasty as Gu—but my full belly would not allow a single morsel to pass go and collect $200. The last few miles, I all but terrorized the course out of sheer agony and heat exhaustion. I ran like the wind (or more realistically, sped up to seven-minute miles), just wanting to get it all over with and behind me. (Not to mention, I’m a total sun whore, skin cancer be damned, and the pool was calling my name.) Despite our late start, Autumn and I still crossed the finish line in the the top 20 percent. But instead of sticking around to get our times, we had more pressing things to tend to.

As a Southerner (and Jeanie’s daughter), the most important life lesson you’ll take away with you is that it’s never too early for a margarita.

  • April 22, 2009

    Perhaps it’s because I just watched 28 Weeks Later, but “hordes of drunk MILFs” would make a fantastic horror flick no? errr, they’d have to be all bloody an stuff..

    Okay, maybe not. But I STILL want to see http://www.blacksheep-themovie.com

  • April 23, 2009

    Wow, sounds like a bit of a crazy weekend, lucky you still got some beach and margarita time in to make up for the random punching incident and the stomach issues!
    Ooh and totally off topic but related to the last post my copy of ‘Do Travel Writers go to hell?’ just arrived from Amazon (10€ including postage= total bargain!) I’m saving it for my 8 hour flight next month!

  • April 23, 2009

    Haha, that would make a good horror flick!

    Wow, that was the most stressful experience ever, I’m still riled up from reading it- it was like a dream where everything is slowed down and you can’t run fast even when you are chased by a killer.

    Congrats on the race!

  • April 23, 2009

    You guys were way overdressed for the heat in those capris — those margaritas were well deserved!

    Did they actually allow strollers in this 1/2? That sucks.

    I did a 5-miler this winter that did officially ban them, but this lady ran with her double-wide anyway. She actually hit my foot with it … but I did cut her off — she was in my way!

  • April 23, 2009

    If I had gone through everything that you did that morning, I’m pretty sure I would have passed out before I even got to the starting line. Congrats on finishing without blowing chunks or wetting yourself; you’re one up on me.

  • April 23, 2009

    Wow- sounds like fun. And by fun I mean utter misery.

  • April 23, 2009

    A coworker of mine did Boston this weekend. I have such great admiration for people who can RUN. I can’t even walk a mile without complaining (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point). I’ve been meaning to run here in Toronto, but the weather is not cooperation. It’s 4 degrees C right now (39 F), rainy and damn windy / cold. It’s ok, there’s always next year (hahaha).

  • April 23, 2009

    I’m impressed – heat and no daily constitution on a 13 mile run? That’s some serious running cajones (I have no idea if I used or spelled that word correctly – it just sounds good!)!

    And I concur: it’s NEVER too early for a margarita.

  • April 23, 2009

    there is so much to comment on in this post! ok, here goes:

    a) coffee makes you NOT have to pee? huh?
    b) your late-ness was my nightmare the other night. i dreamt that i was with my friend shannon, and she had it in her head that we could start the race anytime between 8am and 1pm. we got there after 1 pm and i ran alone.
    c) the heat was also in my nightmare … because we were so late it was sweltering. that’s probably b/c in real life, it’s supposed to be 85* on sunday. wha?! i’ve been training since february, and it’s never been hotter than 65*!
    d) i did know that VH1 plays music videos still, thanks to my 5:45 am treadmill dates at the gym. i’m quite familiar with all the kanye, kelly clarkson, plain white Ts and other random videos that i didn’t know anyone still made.
    e) most of all: you’re amazing for just randomly running a half. again, training since february! and i’m a nervous wreck. here’s to hoping i don’t die! i really wish i could do headstands on the beach afterward.

    i think that’s all 🙂

  • April 23, 2009

    Great job! What was your time for the half? My last half marathon was interesting (and gross!) instead of running through the finish line I decided to “blow chunks” about 5 feet from the end. The announcer called out my name on the P.A. It was mortifying.

    I bet your margarita was utterly satisfying.

  • April 23, 2009

    eager beavers = bad kind of beaver. but congrats on the race! and bring some of that santa cruz weather with you to NYC, please!

  • April 23, 2009

    wow, good for you for sticking with it and running the race. we just had the boston marathon this week and year after year i look at those people and think: wow, they must be crazy. i think i’m also jealous of the stamina and their hard work. maybe some day i’ll work up the strength to run one. for now, i’ll stick with trying to run a mile under 10 minutes, haha.

  • April 23, 2009

    Wow, you’re such a champ! I am impressed.

  • April 23, 2009

    I’m making notes about the coffee here! Oh, and “wow” to the yogi pose. Two years of yoga, and I never got there. 🙁

  • April 23, 2009

    Hey, I ran that race one year! I think it was 2004. That was my first (and last, to date) half marathon!

  • April 23, 2009

    shit. i will totally fail at race etiquette. but i won’t have a stroller…so that’s something, yes?

  • April 23, 2009

    Minimal training and the heat – impressive! I admit I looked up your time 🙂 People are trying to convince me to run the Vancouver half next weekend – but I’ve said hell no! I haven’t run more than 4 miles at any one time in months and I am not going to start by running 13.1!

    Good job!

  • April 23, 2009

    I could never do that. I COULD be the one to get the food ready and be there for moral support of course. And enjoy the beach. Great photos!

  • April 23, 2009

    I totally need a margarita after reading that 😉

  • April 23, 2009

    Dang girl good for you for busting out sub 7 minute miles at the end of a race with sweltering heat and an upset tummy. Way to put that stroller rage to good use! I’m a “runner” myself but I use that term loosely cause I think I’m sprinting if I get under 10:30. Basically I jog, with a soft J. I’m definitely in awe of your speed and your friend’s amazing ability to do that crazy headstand on the beach. The hell?

  • April 23, 2009

    I can’t believe you ran a 1/2 in that heat! YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR!

    Also, Chicago is only 2 hours ahead of California.

  • April 23, 2009

    Wow. you just decided to run a 1/2 with no real training? You must be in crazy good shape! Here I am preparing to run my first ever 10k and thinking I’m a big deal….ha!
    If coffee does to your plumbing what it does to mine, I can see why it would be good to drink up (with ample time) before a race. I’ll have to try it. And maybe set my sights on a 1/2 later this year!

  • April 23, 2009

    BEACH! BEACH! I’m jealous.

  • April 23, 2009

    I’m impressed you were able to run a 1/2 with no food in your stomach! I would’ve crashed even before I hit the starting line … congrats!

  • April 23, 2009

    miley cyrus wanna be’s and mouth breathers…I can totally picture them and in turn want to strangle them for you. Um and how on earth did you run without food in your tum?! You are super woman I tell you

  • April 24, 2009

    This was such a funny post! I love that you call your morning business your daily constitution. Quite clever 🙂 And what’s up with that guy hitting you in the back? How awful!

  • April 28, 2009

    Congrats on the half! You are a rock star, clocking 7 min in your last mile. I am impressed!

    Can’t wait to run Bay to Breakers with you and your crew. It’s going to be so much fun.

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