Monday, January 17, 2005

Costanza runs Carlsbad

13.1 mi.2:20:04 hrs./mins.CARLSBAD HALF MARATHON10:41 mins./mi.

Sometimes I don't know what compels me to do what I do. Sometimes I don't know why I behave in bizarre, unfortunate ways. Sometimes I identify with George Costanza, that short, stocky, bald jerk who was Seinfeld's sidekick. So it was Sunday at the Carlsbad Half Marathon, my introduction to the world of road racing, where I went nearly naked, taunted musical acts, broke-up a water handoff, and swore at a Kenyan.

My foibles started early in the morning. I woke up at 4:45 a.m., 15 minutes before my alarm was set. Immediately, I started drinking. First, 24 ounces of water. Then a yogurt shake. Then, another 24 ounces of water. Then a couple of bananas. Then shower, get dressed, and load up the car with girlfriend, sister and sister's friend. We got into the car, then, before leaving the hotel, we got out and had a final bathroom break. We had hoped to leave at 6 a.m./6:15 a.m. at the latest, but ended up leaving the hotel at 6:45.

No problem, right? We jumped into the rental boat, a late model Mercury Grand Marquis, and cruised cop-style down I-5 to the very scenic starting line in a shopping mall parking lot. Already, 50 ounces of water and 16 ounces of yogurt were begging to exit my body. I was about to burst, but there was nowhere to find cover in the mall parking lot. I headed to the city of porta-potties erected near the start. The lines there were longer than Flo Jo's nails. It was an excruciating wait. TIme slowed down as I inched my way toward the potty. Finally, one minute before the race was due to start: sweet relief.

But I was in such a hurry, I didn't empty my whole bladder. I dumped all my sweats on my girlfriend and ran to the starting herd, even as I felt liquid continue to beg me for an exit.

Crossing the starting line, everything seemed good. It was a fresh day, and despite a cold, I felt well-trained and confident. Before the race, my sister said to me and her friend that she was excited, becuase this was the first race she was running with people who she loved. Awwwww.

At three miles or so, I noticed that I had settled into a pace next to a nice couple wearing orange shirts. I asked Mr. Orange Shirt how fast he was going. He said he was running 10 minute miles. Uh-oh. That was a lot faster than I wanted to be going. And my bladder was still in distress. So I pulled off at the next porta potti, barging in on someone doing their business. No matter. I waited my turn and continued running, never to see Mr. Orange Shirt again.

Soon, I settled in again. Bladder emptied, it was time for my first big test: taking fluid from an aid station. I was so excited to run the race, I bought a brand new white shirt to run in, a $20 Adidas jobber with blue stripes and fancy fabric. Soon. the shirt was covered with orange Gatorade. Drinking out of cups while you run is really hard. I'd say about a fifth of the liquid got in me, and the rest got on me. It was an incided that was repeated several times during the race.

Without a thought, my Gatorade covered self had gotten to the halfway point of the race. With the sun at my back and the ocean at my shoulder, I decided to pick it up a little bit.

"I love gravity," I snarkily remarked to a skinny guy next to me as I left him in my wake.

"It will work against you in a few minutes," he said, directing my attention to a hill ahead.

Around mile 10, things started to get difficult. I started to worry that I came out too strong. That I was too confident. I felt my heart rate coming up, I began sucking wind a little and my legs were starting to hurt.

I slowed down. I started to get a little weird. First, I lifted up my shirt a little, displaying my hairy belly to fans, fellow runners and roadside musicians. Then, I started drumming on myself, slapping out beats on my belly. It distracted me from the pain. It attracted strange looks. So be it.

At mile 11, I think I was starting to lose my mind. The music had lifted me up and given me energy at each mile marker thus far. I saw a rock band playing on the side of the course. The lead singer was wearing a green and gold jersey with #4 on it: Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers. My heart filled with hate. For a moment, I considered stopping and mooning him, a la Randy Moss. Instead, I just ran over to the side of the course, and without stopping, screamed Favre Sucks!!! at the top of my lungs. Minnesota, represent.

He looked bewildered. I just ran away to the next rest stop. Mile 12, one mile left to go. I could hardly control where I was running, but the end was in sight. In front of me, a volunteer tried to hand off water to a runner. I broke up their handoff like it was a game of Red Rover, spilling their drink on the floor. I kept on running.

The last mile was curvy, and I tried to go hard. I got into a pack with three other runners, all in their forties, and I whipped off my shirt.

"Where's the goddam finish line?" I wheezed.
"Up around the next bend," said the guy next to me.
"I just want to finish strong," I said.

One bend came and went. No finish.
Then another turn. No finish.
A third. Still couldn't see the mall.

I was out of gas. The pack went on, and I slowed down to a gimpy jog.

Then it happened. I thought I heard motorcycles chasing me. I started to see people gathered. I heard a roar come up in the crowd. They were cheering. Loud. For me. I started to run again. Fast and hard, with long strides, almost jumping around the corner.

The volume of the crowd increased to a stadium roar. I knew I was inspirational, I thought, but I couldn't believe the support. To get myself psyched for the last 200 yards, I screamed a nasty word, that starts with mother and ends with something a little bit uglier.

As my epithet let loose, he came up beside me. I bet he thought I was swearing at him. It could be my imagination, but I think he looked at me for a second, before leaving me behind. So, the crowd was cheering for him. The overall winner. I guess I can handle that. A few seconds later, shirtless and sticky, covered in Gatorade, I crossed the finish line.

I finished, and I pased a lot of skinny people on the way. I came in 2,485th out of 3,725 runners. I wasn't the fastest, but I wasn't the slowest either.

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