7:00 am Friday
I pile into a rental van with a driver, two friends and three people I’ve never met to trek to our starting point in the 200-mile, 36-hour Milwaukee-to-Chicago relay. Our team has 12 runners, but our van holds runners 7 through 12 so we don’t have to be all the way to Milwaukee for the 7:30 am start. Which means I get to sleep in my own bed instead of a van with six strangers the night before I run.
2:00 pm Friday
I’m runner number 9, and this is roughly when I start my first leg of the race … give or take a couple hours depending on how fast runners 1 through 8 get through their first legs. I have to pound out 8.40 miles on this leg. And thanks to my mega-double-hella-wicked sinus infection—which after 15 days is finally 99% gone—I’ve done exactly two training runs—maxing out at 6.34 miles last night!—to build up to what promises to be a freaking painful hour-and-a-half-plus of running in what promises to be freaking endless rain. And since I have what we will politely call the sense of direction of Sarah Palin trying to find her own ass with a flashlight, there is a very good chance I could miss whatever directional signs are placed along the route and find myself frolicking among Adam and Eve and the dinosaurs in cerebral Kentucky’s venerated Creation Museum without much effort. For this, I am actually nervous about a run. Which hasn’t happened since I ran my first half marathon almost 10 years ago.
1:30 am Saturday
Eleven runners later—assuming Adam and Eve don’t run over me riding their dinosaur to church—this is roughly when I start my second leg of the race. After sleeping and stinking and politely trying not to fart in a van full of sweaty, rain-soaked runners I barely even know, I get to leave the safe confines of my pleather bucket seat and run 6.46 miles somewhere in the wee early hours of Saturday. In anywhere from a 30-50% chance of rain. But it’s 1.94 fewer miles I have to get lost and wander off to dance to Quisling John’s music at Rush Limbaugh’s fourth temporary wedding.
12:30 pm Saturday
And then I’m back to running in the hot afternoon sun, assuming all the predicted rain clears up. So I’ll either have heat stroke or wet-shoe blisters to complement my unrelenting swamp ass. The start time on my last leg actually has a massive give-or-take window on our runner spreadsheet to accommodate the giant time variables involved in propelling 12 people over 175 miles through 33 legs to get me to the start of my last 5.86 miles … which is the one number that’s fixed on our spreadsheet.
4:30 pm Saturday
This is our predicted finish time, in a Chicago lakefront park that’s literally stumbling distance from my house. Or a short plane ride from the BP Gulf Coast Aquatic Preserve. Depending on my state of mind—and level of hydration—I may actually drink some alcohol to celebrate what will be either my coolest or my most horrifying runner experience to date. But either way, I get two T-shirts out of the deal. (I need more T-shirts!) And maybe some new lifelong friends. Unless they accidentally breathe in the van after I run.
One week later
I start my hardcore training for the New York City Marathon. Can I get a WOOT?