Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Five potential half-marathon excuses

1. It was hotter than Karl Rove in a corduroy burqa. At least it was supposed to be. Mercifully, Chicago’s week-long crème brûlée blowtorch of a heatwave got dunked in an early-morning downpour on Sunday that made the temperature at the start of the race downright perfect, if maybe just a little on the humid side. Unfortunately, once the sun came up, the heat was back in full force. Which for me was around the 10-mile mark. And though the last 3.1 miles were pretty brutal, I managed to finish only 10 minutes behind last year’s time.

2. I was bleeding, part 1. Good running prep involves trimming your toenails. It does not, however, involve trimming your toenails so short that your exposed toes chafe and bleed in your socks. Unfortunately, I got a little ambitious hacking away at my left big toe on Thursday, and it hadn’t grown back very far by Sunday morning. I was convinced the tender sensation in my shoe during the race was blood oozing and caking around my foot, but when I finished and gingerly removed my sock, I found that it had been nothing but paranoia. But I’m still using it as a scapegoat for my slowish time.

3. I was bleeding, part 2. Matthew and I carbo-loaded at a charming little Italian chain restaurant across from Millennium Park on Saturday after we picked up everybody’s race packets. I made it through the entire meal without hurting myself, but as I bit into one of the wafer cookies Matthew bought us for dessert, I managed to chomp off about 72 lbs of left-inside-cheek flesh with it. It bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled. And it was still so swollen during the race it impeded my ability to eat and drink. And I never know whether to order the fish or the chicken when I’m drinking my own blood.

4. We were tired. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the fiancé’s and my all-time favorite musical. Along with about 70 other musicals. We’d been unable to see it during its Chicago run, but it closed the weekend of the half marathon and we weren’t about to throw away an opportunity to hear one of David Yazbek’s best lyrics sung live and in person:
The air is French.
That chair is French.
This nice sincere Sancerre is French.
The skies are French.
The pies are French.
Those guys are French.
These fries are French!

So we saw the show on Saturday night. And we loved it! The new opening number isn’t much of an improvement over the old opening number (though it eliminates that stupid “Her family fortune was obscene / Her dad invented Orangina” pseudo-couplet) but the show is still a gem from start to finish. All three hours of it. Which didn’t get us to bed until 11:30. And we had to get up at 4:00 to be all stretched, hydrated, parked, gear-checked and in line for the 6:30 start of the race. But it was all totally worth it.

5. I had what we will euphemistically call “plumbing problems.” In the days before a long run, I always try to time my, um, sitting-and-reading moments so I can enjoy long runs on an empty tank. If you know what I mean. But apparently eating my own cheek threw off my internal timing, because I just couldn’t get the tank empty before the half marathon. If you know what I mean. So I ran all bloated and sluggish and full of … discomfort. If you know what I mean. (Poop! I’m talking about poop here! Sheesh!)

So, in short, I ran the half marathon in blistering heat with bleeding toes, oozing cheeks, a head full of show tunes and a butt full of euphemism. I’m lucky I finished at all.

Fortunately, I did. And fortunately (depending on how you look at it), Matthew brought his camera.

Our group was kind of small … just Matthew and me and two of his friends. And my big handsome fiancé, who ran with people from his own pace group:

The sea of runners was thick, and the view from our 10-minute-mile pacing point was pretty impressive. See that little white horizontal stripe on the horizon? That’s the starting line. It took us over six minutes just to get to it after the gun went off:

Matthew told me to look exhausted for this shot. Then he proceeded to mug for the camera like Lindsay Lohan at her weekly arraignment. He’s both the ham and the cheese:

Matthew didn’t tell me to look exhausted for this shot. I did it all on my own:

Here’s Taz and me near the 8-mile water station. I love this shot of the vast cup-littered lawn with the skyline in the background. It sums up everything I love about running in Chicago:

And here are Matthew and me at the finish. We had our picture taken by the professional race photographers on the right side of the flag, and then we went around to the back to take our own free photo. Which is why the flag is backward. But if you just focus on our shiny medals, you’ll hardly notice:

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