It was everything that Chris Farley would've wanted. There was even a river...well, some of the time there was.
Last weekend one of my best friends had her bachelorette party. Wait, no - that term leads one to believe that I dressed pretty, partied, got massages and got free drinks. The correct description of this event was that my friend decided that she was going to kidnap all her friends, throw us in large white molester vans and not allow us to shower for half a weekend.
She came up with this plan long before she was engaged. We all thought it would pass, that it would be a phase and when the time came she'd do something a little more, well, traditional. Instead, despite the best efforts of all the bridesmaids to convince her otherwise, she firmly stuck to her original plan and forced us to run 205 miles in sweaty Goodwill dresses while sleeping in parking lots like a bunch of dirty hobos.
The name of the race was RAGNAR, which I believe is an acronym for some sort of neurological disorder suffered by all who voluntarily enter. And I did say I was forced - not at gunpoint, not threatened with a messy friend break-up, but because you don't tell the bride no. You just don't. There are only two things you can reasonably refuse to do for a bride - first degree murder and (contrary to the Hangover's depiction of bachelor parties) face tattoos. So when the bride tells you that you're going to run three legs ranging from 2 to 12 miles each through unknown terrain in the dark or the scorching sun and then get in a big van and repeat, you just fucking do it.
I'm pretty sure I've made it clear in previous blog posts just exactly how much I hate running. This fire of hatred burns deep into my soul, as well as my small asthmatic lungs. I also hate heat, which to me is anything above 80 degrees, and this summer was pretty much like I had moved not to Sherman Oaks but in fact to the surface of the sun. Combine that with my complete and utter lack of funds that would otherwise be used for such things as a gym membership and you have the perfect training plan for someone who hates running. Then the only good thing that happened in months, me getting a job, further pushed away any hopes of preparation because I can't be bothered to stay awake for more than 12 hours a day and would immediately fall into bed upon my return home after a grueling day not paying attention to documents for some whiney litigant.
The only people who managed to get out of running either had major surgery or were actively cultivating a child in their womb, neither of which I was willing to do. So I prepared for the potential that I would need one or both of my legs amputated and just went.
After a 6-ish hour drive up to San Francisco and approximately four hours of sleep in someone's nicely furnished garage, I awoke to put on my running clothes in the dark and start this race of insanity. I took a moment of silence for my ankles and likely the last time they would ever function properly before jumping into a large white 12-passenger van with a bridal veil attached to the roof. There was nothing ridiculous about this scenario at all.
The starting line was in Golden Gate Park, one of the prettiest places in one of the greatest cities ever. I wasn't as nervous as I should have been simply because my view was nice. I have since learned my lesson. We got a safety briefing as a team, I put on my pink empire-waist prom dress that made me look and feel pregnant and I cued up Toto's "Africa" on my iPhone. I went to the starting line, completely unaware of what I was in for. It was too early for my brain to properly function and realize the gravity of my situation.
As the race started, I followed the other racers through the park, by ponds and flowers and giant trees. It only took a few minutes before I started having chest pains and realizing exactly how terrible of an idea this was. I was terrified that my team would drive by in the van looking for me to cheer me on, so I ran when I was out in the open and walked when I was behind large bushes or on a woody trail. Did I mention this first leg was only 2.8 miles? Yes, I was already walking.
I started running again when the trees opened up to the ocean, the beautiful beach that I'd spent many a cold day searching for sand dollars on vacation when I was younger. Oh yay! I bet the end of my leg is right here! So pretty. This wasn't that bad after all! Funny though, they hadn't been marking the miles. Every other race I'd been in would always tell me when I hit mile 1, mile 2, etc. No signs, except to turn left or right. I didn't care for this, and as you will see in part II that I have the worst estimation of distance of any human alive.
As I run along the sidewalk by the beach, I notice a sign. "1 mile to go!" Are you kidding me? I've only gone 1.8 miles? It felt like I'd been running for an hour and that I had at least gone three if not five miles. My lungs hurt, my hips hurt, my feet hurt...and then I saw the hill.
My brain remembers it as approximately 45 degrees, but either way this hill was the ENTIRE rest of the leg. I was supposed to run a MILE UPHILL. NOPE. I couldn't even do that when I was running regularly, let alone now when I was basically a blob of atrophying muscles. No. It wasn't going to happen. Fuck this. I stopped and started walking up the hill. It was about this time that I noticed I was getting lightheaded and not walking in a very straight line.
My mind was jumping around everywhere. "Ohh Musee Mechanique! I love that place! I should go check it out. Wait, I have to finish this damn run first. And it's 8am, it probably won't be open. Look at that fucking hill. What a bunch of dickbags, who makes the last mile of ANY run a giant mountain? Fuck this shit. Fuck this race. Oh, hey, that's the last person in my wave that just passed me. Sweet, I'm last. Am I surprised? Nope. Whatever. Jesus this is the biggest hill in the entirety of earth, why does it exist? Fuck plate tectonics, man. Stop making things all not flat. Who the hell is that guy? What a creepster! He's taking pictures! I bet he's some sort of weird sociopath who has a wall of sweaty girls running- oh wait, he's the race photographer. Whoops. I guess I should pretend I'm running. OH THERE'S THE VAN! I'M ALMOST DONE! IT'S RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! ...wait, where's the exchange? The vans are here- WHAT WHY IS IT ALL THE WAY OVER THERE?! WHY IS THIS STILL UPHILL? CAN'T I JUST GET IN THE VAN HERE, THAT'S MY GODDAMN VAN!"
By the time I reached the exchange and handed off to the next runner, I had approximately three working brain cells and they weren't getting enough oxygen. I sat on the bench and apparently I looked so bad that a strange girl gave me her gigantic water and told me to keep it. I don't really remember how I got to the van, but I do remember my friends telling me that "red is good, white and clammy is bad" and that I definitely fell into the latter category.
While stopping at Starbucks and picking up some scones at some ridiculously awesome Irish bakery, I asked "So what time do you think I'll be running my 5.25 miler?"
"5.25? Dude, it's 6.6."
...to be continued.