I’m not really a virtual race kind of guy – the last time I did one was a couple of years ago when this Italian guy (whose name escapes me) hosted a virtual 10K with a Dungeons and Dragons theme, which I found oddly appealing. I’d like to tell you that the reason I don’t do virtual races is because I am really shy. The truth is, however, that I take this running shit so seriously that they are usually impossible to even consider.
But then XLMIC decided to do one and I found myself immediately torn. I mean, she’s my home-girl after all, despite the fact that I had to sue her last year for ripping off the Dudeband™. But it’s a virtual race. Moreover, it’s called Jingle Bell Hell. I realized that if I did this, I would be making a huge withdrawal from my coolness bank account.
But truth be told, committing to the race stopped being an issue when I found out I could win an old bowling trophy that had been re-purposed for a running race. The trophy looked incredible and I found myself staring at a picture of it for hours. But that wasn’t even it – the winner was also going to get some animal crackers and a few packages of super-disgusting powdered donuts. And since I am one of maybe three people left on Earth still eating wheat, I took this as a sign.
My approach to races is all about mind games, so I immediately e-mailed XL saying that I was going to run this thing barefoot wearing a grass skirt and a serape. I could tell she was intimidated by this and I got the sense that she was already packing up the prizes in a box with my address on it. But my mad scratch had boxed me into a corner. No matter how much smack I was talking, I’m not a dirty hippie so in reality running barefoot was totally out. And I don’t own either a grass skirt or a serape. I briefly thought about rolling into a Hobby Lobby to see if I could cobble up something equally as lame. But I quickly nixed that idea when I realized that I had already spent December’s free cash-flow on a new bike stem made of Kryptonite mixed with the blood of past Tour de France winners that is .03 grams lighter than the one I already had. I had no choice but to run this race straight and depend solely on my blistering speed to win, despite the fact that it had been explained to me at least fifteen times that speed didn’t matter.
Today was race day and I was pretty much ready to go by mid morning. However, I couldn’t find my iPod so I borrowed Ian’s Nano knowing that he had asked me to download a Metallica album a few weeks ago and that that would be perfect to help me crush this run. But when I pressed play, I got a huge shock. Ian had decided to delete the Metallica album and replace it with fourteen different remixes of Party Rock by LMFAO. My perfectly laid plans were being challenged and I’d already started running so I was stuck with the music. This was going to be pure torture. This was going to be pure HELL.
But whatever, I had a run to do. My scheduled run was a progressive 10K with accelerations every two kilometers, so I’d only be running for fifty minutes tops. And I remembered that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After getting over the initial shock of what was coming through my ear-buds I actually found myself savoring the mental challenge of listening to what might be the worst song ever recorded over and over again. I’d get through this.
And I was getting through it. Over the first few kilometers I warmed up. And then at two kilometers I stepped it up. I was feeling good. I stepped it up again at four kilometers, and was still feeling good. But at six kilometers in….
I turned onto a path in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. Normally this path is flat, smooth and fast. But I guess they are doing some work on a flood channel nearby, because they had spread two inches of loose gravel over the trail to protect the trail bed from the trucks that are rolling in and out to support the project. And though the gravel may be good for the environment, it sucks for running and it slowed me down.
I got through this section and back onto pavement with three kilometers to go and recovered my pace. I was back on track to finish the run strong. But then I noticed that I was feeling a little bit of stabbing pressure on the ball of my right foot with every stride. I immediately figured out what happened – a piece of rock, probably no bigger than a small marble, had got stuck in the lugs of my running shoes. While this might not be a big deal to most, I’m like the Princess and the Pea when it comes to my feet, and this little piece of gravel was driving me nuts and totally throwing off my game. Pure torture. Pure HELL.
I normally choose running routes shaped like post-impressionist ducks
I finally finished the run and cooled down with a 5 or 6 minute walk (which I quite enjoyed), but I was only half done for the day as I still had to swim. And many of you know how I feel about swimming. Pure torture. Pure HELL.