Monday, December 20, 2004

Oy, I hurt. And I blame it all on her.

My sister is one of the reasons I'm in this mess.

She ran The Big Sur Half Marathon a couple months ago. In 1 hour and 50 minutes. She looked like she had so much fun, it planted the germ in my brain that eventually mutated into the crazy plan to train for the marathon. She was so excited when I told her about the plan, that she promised to go on some training runs with her much slower brother.

Sunday was our second run together, through the streets of San Francisco. If you all remember how well our previous session on a Minnesota treadmill turned out, this one, with hills, could only be worse.

My sister lives about 3,000 feet above sea level, on the top of one of San Francisco's legendary hills. Our plan was ambitious: Run (more like jump) from her house down to sea level, then past the marina and out to the Golden Gate Bridge, then back up the hills to her house. I had trained. I was ready. I could do it. Right.

It started out easily enough, rolling down the hills with ease, although at times I felt like my feet thumping down the sidewalk measured on the Richter Scale (think the walking trees from Lord of the Rings.)

Then we hit the flats. That's where the taunting began. She would sprint ahead about 200 yards, then sprint back, and then face me, running backwards, wondering at my slowness. I would flip her off or call her a nasty word, and the cycle would begin again.

She suggested that I try to lengthen my stride. I did. I was going faster, almost gliding along, with the bridge looking, oh, positively golden in the distance.

Then, around four miles, I thought disaster struck. It started as a tickle, a little twinge in my right hamstring. Soon, as I loped along, it developed into full-fledged pain. The next time my sister swung back, I told her. We stopped and stretched it out. It felt a little better. Stopped again. Stretched. Better.

We got to the bridge and the pain was gone. I was relieved. So I trooped back along the waterfront until the ascent back up to my sister's apartment started.

The first few hundred feet up, through a park and a street, were OK. Then we got to this insane hill. I swear. It was steeper than most people's roofs. I shortened my stride, taking little-half foot baby steps as I hefted my mass up the incline. About halfway up, I lost my breath. At 3/4ths, a coppery taste started spreading in my mouth. I wondered if my lungs were bleeding, but I couldn't stop. At the top, two flights of concrete steps stared me in the face. As I ran up them, I screamed like an animal from the bottom of my gut, and the sound echoed off the bay windows above, scaring the crud out of a woman walking her dog next to us.

Disturbing the peace violation aside, I made it up the hill, and jogged the rest of the way to my sister's apartment, panting like a lab on a hot day's duck hunt. My sister hardly broke a sweat, but I looked like a wreck. Hell, I was a wreck.

I woke up this morning in my bed in Pacific Grove. I felt a tickle in my throat and my nose was stuffed up. And now, my calves hurt. And my quads hurt. And my glutes hurt. And my foot hurts again. And I feel a little something nagging me in my right hamstring...

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