i enjoy weddings. i like to put on a fancy party dress, eat tiny foods, and toast to happiness with champagne. i like to sit at tables with place cards, hoard minty candy favors, and get really weepy, even if i don’t know the bride and groom that well. i. love. it. LOVE.
but the that i love MOST about weddings happens at a certain point in the evening when i look around and realize that everyone around me is exceptionally sweaty and maybe a little overserved from the open bar. and then i realize maybe i am also sweaty and overserved. and suddenly, without warning, the greatest thing in the world happens. and that great thing, of course, is this:
magic. there is no other word for it. at that moment in time (and, now that i am 30 and have been around the wedding block at least 17 or so times, this moment has happened on many occasions), this song is represents everything that is amazing in the world. there is nothing else that matters! i stop whatever i am doing, even if it is talking to my own grandma at my own wedding (yes, true), and i RUN TO THE DANCE FLOOR AS FAST AS MY STUMPY LEGS WILL TAKE ME, and i BELT it out WITH my eyes CLOSED, pumping my fist in DELIGHT!
STRANGERS WAITING! UP AND DOWN THE BOULEVARD!
THEIR SHADOWS SEARCHIN IN THE NIIIIIGHT
STREETLIGHTS, PEOPLE! LIVIN JUST A SOMETHING SOMETHING
what does this say about me, besides that i am hugely ridiculous and that my dad will refuse to be seen in public with me, now that i have very publicly admitted my love for journey? the answer is this: although i am pretty much a shy librarian type, i love an epic. anything gigantic or over the top? move over, i’m jumping on that bandwagon! (another example: red sox. eighth inning. sweet caroline.) this love for drama might be the only reason my body and mind survived the biggest obstacle that marathon training has thrown at me yet: the epic of 19 miles.
it all started on the saturday before last. for those of you in the boston area, you might remember this as the beginning of the great deluge of 2010. at the time, i wasn’t aware that we were going to get so much rain that the park at the end of our old street would flood and people would be able to float a boat in it (yes, also true). i mean, i kind of knew that it was going to rain, but whatever. whoop dee effing doo, that’s what i said.
that morning, i put on my freakazoid spandex suit, and coupled it with my sporty little running jacket. that would protect me from the showers, i thought! surely, i was in great shape! i gathered the rest of my items, including the approximately 183 gu’s that i now have to carry with me in a fanny pack (i have a new system almost figured out that seems to serve my blood sugar pretty well– 1 gu and 10 jelly beans every 7 miles. my dentist will be so pleased to hear this, i’m sure.), 183 packets of aforementioned jelly beans, gloves, and chocolate milk. i was ready!
nandi and i met at the corner of our street, and we trekked to davis square and hopped on the T, with not a raindrop to be seen. when we disembarked from the T in back bay, this was no longer the case. fat drops cascaded from the sky, and i sighed mightily. suddenly, i was not feeling so hearty. after a quick team meeting in the little back bay gymnasium where we hang our hats, we set off into the rainy, cold gloom.
trudge trudge trudge
trudge trudge trudge
through the windy streets of back bay, over the arthur fiedler footbridge, and to the esplanade i ran, accompanied by my fellow rain warriors nandi, kelly, lisa, and a lovely woman who i think might be named teresa, but i am terrible with names, and teresa is my mom’s name, so maybe i just want this to be this woman’s name, because i love my mom. anyways. the first five or so miles went well enough. the weather was colder than i had anticipated, though, and i began to regret my wardrobe choice of a too-short short-sleeved shirt under my sporty little running jacket.
and then i began to really regret it.
right around mile 5, i began to feel an unpleasant tugging on my stomach. uneasily, i peeked under my too-short shirt. sure enough, rain was flying up under it and soaking my stomach, which is a pretty sensitive area for me, because this is where my pump and blood sugar sensor are connected to my body. (click here for a helpful visual.) the pump looked fine, but the sensor was a completely different story. because it’s kind of a hefty piece of machinery, it doesn’t really just cling to my body weightlessly, like my pump does. instead, the sensor needs to be stuck to my tum with a large piece of tape that is pretty similar to the tape that hospitals use to affix IVs. because the tape had gotten so wet in the first five miles of our journey, it had started to shrivel up and peel off. what’s worse is that since the sensor wasn’t being held snugly into place with the tape, it was sort of bouncing around. and what’s worse than THAT (please don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you are eating or have a weak stomach), is that since the sensor was bouncing around, the tiny little site where the sensor enters my stomach was grossly bleeding. not gushing, mind you. but still, not pleasant to even look at, much less run 14 more miles with.
but, as i have continually been proving to myself over the past four months of training, i am one tough cookie, and i am also one stubborn cookie. so i stopped for a minute, smoothed out the gross old shriveled tape as best as i could, and then tucked my too-short shirt into my freakazoid spandex pants, thinking that if the tape stayed dry-ish for the rest of the run, i would be okay. and it worked! now, i don’t really like to toot my own horn, but man! let me just have this moment:
trudge trudge trudge
trudge trudge trudge
after a few more miles, two things happened. first of all, we crossed over to the cambridge side of the river, and the wind ceased to be at our backs. instead, driving pellets of rain flew into our eyes and mouths, and gusts of winds pushed us back with obnoxious force. secondly, i began to get really thirsty. normally, on our team runs, volunteers can be found along the route, staffing little card tables filled with dixie cups of water. however, on this run, fewer volunteers than normal had turned up, which i totally understand because by this point, it was pretty much a MONSOON. had i been thinking harder that morning, i would probably have anticipated this reality, and brought some water with me on the run. but nope! i was at the mercy of the two waterstops we did have.
the first waterstop was magical. staffed by nandi’s beau, the toyman, and his great pal gary, it my run’s equivalent to hearing “don’t stop believin’.” i could not have been happier as i gulped three or four tiny dixie cups of delicious delicious water, and i could not have been more appreciative of the two amazing guys who stood in a rainstorm for over an hour just to provide our team with said dixie cups of water and encouragement. i hope that there is a special place in heaven for these two grand men, along with a special place in heaven reserved for tiny puppies and ponies, and everything else that is adorable. clarification: it doesn’t have to be the same place in heaven. i just hope that all these things wind up in heaven.
trudge trudge trudge
trudge trudge trudge
on and on we ran. my sensor situation was behaving as well as it could– i kept checking my shirt, but it managed to stay mostly tucked in a la steve urkel, and therefore, mostly dry. at one point, kelly started speeding up a little bit. and so, if you know me at all, you know that i then had to speed up too. kelly recently wrote an excellent explanation of this behavior, which i will now quote. the astute kelly writes, “Laura and I both grew up participating in competitive Dr. Mario Nintendo tournaments with our fathers. This probably explains our similar running styles: try to keep up with the other person, and say nothing when the pace is slightly quicker than you might otherwise run by yourself. Oh yeah–and if there is even an ounce of energy left in a single muscle of your body, sprint the last few yards to the finish line in a not-so-subtle attempt to cross before the other person.”
yeah, that’s basically how it is. now, kelly was quite a little speedster on that 19-miler, so i was focusing all of my thought and energy on keeping up with her. which may explain why i simply missed the next water stop on our journey. i plumb didn’t see it! and kelly didn’t either. so off we went, quiet competitors trying to outgut one another, and still breathe and move with the monsoon trying to blow us off course.
“surely,” i gasped, “things will improve when we cross to the other side of the river!”
over the longfellow bridge we trudged. by this point we had about 13 or so miles done, and were beginning to get a little ridiculous. so we started to try and recall all of the various merits and drawbacks of the super mario brothers 1, 2, and 3 nintendo games. it was a very involved conversation that i really think you can only seriously conduct while attempting to run an ungodly amount of mileage. we even discussed how cute mario looked in his random little teddy bear suit in mario 3! (does anyone know what the purpose of that suit was? we didn’t.)
“wow!” i thought as we approached the hatch shell, “we’re almost there!”
i need to stop being optimistic, i think. as soon as i said this, the WORST wind EVER howled out of nowhere, slapping us in the face and almost lifting us off the ground. but we soldiered on, little happy nintendo conversation forgotten.
the last six miles of this run were a level of difficult that i have never before experienced. i was parched, yet drenched. my sensor hurt, my blood sugar was dropping, and my hands were so frozen that i couldn’t even open my jelly bean packets. (thanks, kelly!) but we kept going. as we hit mile 17, i hit the wall for the first time in my running career. every step felt terrible, and although nothing specifically really hurt, i just felt like i didn’t have anything left to give.
that’s when i saw the man on the bike. and that’s also when i started screaming at him. he wasn’t close enough to hear me, luckily, because i am pretty sure that i would’ve gotten my @$$ kicked if he had. but man, was he annoying me. why? well, he wasn’t pedaling fast enough. no, he wasn’t in our way. but looking at him wobbling along in the distance made me so ANGRY that i couldn’t help but scream.
“kelly! make that man speed up! why won’t he speed up? HE’S MAKING ME SO SAD!” i howled in the windy, rainy, messy monsoon.
kelly managed to keep her wits about her, and just sort of looked at me questioningly. we soldiered on. and on. and ON.
finally, we crossed over the fiedler footbridge and headed back towards the finish.
“kelly,” i said, tentatively, “do you think that maybe we should run 19.2 miles, just in case my GPS watch isn’t giving us the exact right mileage, and we can be totally sure that we did this?”
“um, okay…” she said quietly and slowly, the way that one might talk to a rabid dog or rearing horse. clearly, at this point, i had gone all kinds of crazy. together we ran, using every ounce of our strength to propel us to the end of our crazy journey. (and, just in case you’re wondering, we did try to race those final steps, but it ended in a tie.)
talk about epic.
into thin air: a personal account of the mount everest disaster, by jon krakauer
i was so obsessed with this book that i stalked a sherpa. really, i just went to the museum to see a sherpa speak about this amazing trek, but still, i was obsessed enough to be a stalker. seriously, though, folks, this is a remarkable read. krakauer does a fantastic job of reporting the facts in the context of a thrilling story. i think that it’s his best work, hands down.