Friday I got up and made myself a pancake in the shape of a deer (an obese doe, specifically). I then drove to Dayton, OH. Dayton looked like an overpass. I went to the expo to pick up my race package. You can NOT pick up your race package the day of the race NO EXCEPTIONS, “Due to Security Considerations.” Welcome to the Air Force Marathon.
I went to the hotel. I am reading MOTEL, by Stephanie Freele (Bannock Street Books), and I can say my place was a hotel, not a motel.
I rested in the hotel. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. You had to arrive very early for the 7:30 start, “due to security considerations,” meaning the entire marathon would be run on an air force base and you need to go through the entrance gates, etc. Before sleeping, I ate my pre-race meal, a mixture of liquids and gels and potato chips and solvents and Near Beer and oil additives. My body felt like a Global Hawk. My stomach did the cloud-cover, the sandstorm. I then descended into the arms of Morpheus.
Toss, turn, dreams about asphalt. I woke, dressed, didn’t have any coffee, so took a caffeine pill. I then tied my microchip onto my shoe. The air force gave us a special microchip we could keep after the race (usually you turn them in). I felt eerie wearing a government microchip. I felt like Tom Cruise for a moment.
I am now a government number: Humanoid Model # YSB6H6 2421. That’s frightening, folks.
Drove to base, went through security, boarded a bus that crossed massive runways (scary stuff here, in the dark, on a military base, feel like Tom Cruise again, or maybe an alien–where is this bus going? I kept thinking, Concerta Wire.)
I don’t have any photos of the actual race (besides # 5 below) because I wanted to run a decent time, sans camera. You will have to use your imagination and my words. What did I see?
1.) The START and FINISH was a long chute wedged between a row of Vietnam era jets and airplanes. These jets and airplanes had names like FLYING BOXCAR and SPECTER GUNSHIP and they stank of death and rattles and proud people and rattle and maybe one had a nose like a giant bowling pin where they kept all the radar.
2.) Two people parachuted down, spiraling, spiraling, trailing these massive flags through the air, an American flag and a POW flag. Impressive. The flags had weight-balls on the bottom to keep them off the actual parachuters. Both landed exactly on the target, feet in front of the START line.
3.) Two F-16s predictably did a fly-over. They were lung-shaking loud. A man yelled out, “That’s the sound of freedom!” They shot over low then straight up over the runners, and when I looked up I saw their afterburners, two glowing hot orange eyes.
4.) I note several runners WEARING THE RACE SHIRT while running the race! Are you fucking crazy? This is a MAJOR runner’s taboo. NEVER wear the race shirt before you finish the race, period. Bad, bad karma. Oh man…
5.) Cannon blast! We start. Just like Boston earlier this year, a runner bit it immediately, tumbled down, and grabbed his right knee. He yelled out, “URGHHHH.” I thought, “This guy trains his ass off for a marathon and it’s over in one minute.” Yep, he’s wearing the race shirt.
6.) The course? Some greenery, some ball fields. Lots of runways and industrial buildings and odd gray machines. Sort of Road Warrior meets Technical College. I don’t know what to say about running 26.2 miles through a place like this:
Lots of parked fighter jets. My uncle once told me that if you approached a parked fighter jet on a runway, you would be immediately shot down by a guard. So, you know, I didn’t do that. I ran on by.
Let me tell you something about this race–and it had nothing to do with the surroundings, but more to do with a questionable trail race I ran a few weeks ago and possibly my shoes had too much mileage on them and I should have bought new ones for the race or possibly X number of factors, you just don’t know, you never know–but I BONKED pretty hard.
Bonked: To “bonk” is to completely run out of energy mid-run. This generally happens somewhere between 17 miles and 20 miles into a run. At this point your glycogen stores are depleted and your legs feel like lead weights. This is also known as “hitting the wall.”
Felt like this:
About mile 10 it started. My L heel burning (I broke this heel 9 years ago so it routinely gives me problems), my R hammy tightening a bit. My cardio was fine but the legs a bit leaded. I figure no big deal, I’ve caught my 2nd wind many times before. Not this time. It is a slog, but I keep pace. Note these splits.
1:28:37 at the half marathon. Right on schedule to run UNDER three hours.
Same with mile 20, right on pace, folks. Then the BONK.
PAIN, PAIN, PAIN. Here is my mind: Forget any time. Forget the finish, how far away. Focus on this: GET TO THE NEXT MILE MARKER. When I was at 21, I focused only on 22. Once at 22, only on 23. I was in a blurry tunnel, deep inside my brain and soul, trudging, everything in my world focused on the few feet in front of me–one step, next step, next step. I’m not going to lie: It was hellish.
(I would like to note I’ve only had one other marathon in my life like this. Most are rather wonderful.)
I thought the worst thought ever: DNF. But hell no. Hell no! I shuffled home. And I did not walk, I ran (not to be elitist, go ahead and walk if you want, I just don’t [so far!]).
The finish. Whew. I was so 100% HAPPY to be done with this race. I mean seriously.
Official time: 3:07:11 (43rd overall)
An air force captain placed a giant medal over my head, I shook his hand, I said thank you, I went to a tent and folded up like origami. Here is the medal and shirt (a tech shirt–thank you marathons for giving tech shirts runners can actually train in!)
Both the shirt and medal are covered in the RQ-4 Global Hawk. This unmanned aerial vehicle boasts long-range surveillance capabilities and extremely precise targeting of weapons. Meaning it can see you from very far and then blow your ass away. So my medal and shirt are basically advertisements for Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense mega-company. So there you go.
I re-boarded the buses.
I limped to the hotel, to take a hot shower, some ibuprofen, a beer. This was in my bathroom, wedged alongside the tiny shampoos.
What the hell?! (And what’s with the quotes around flash?)
Who are these people?
With a sigh, I crumpled up the note, tossed it, flushed, took one final step, and collapsed into the bathtub.