Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Ballad of Captain Calliope

Have you ever had a "What the hell was I thinking" moment? Allow me to rephrase - have you ever had one other than the one you had upon realizing that you had clicked onto this particular site and had subjected yourself to what may be waiting for you here? Perhaps during your management of Martha Coakley's campaign for the United States Senate?

I have them on a not terribly infrequent basis so I presume that we all do. I know not whether my presumption is equal parts pie-eyed optimism and psychotic break or whether one is the favored ingredient in the mix. I suppose the possibility exists that I am the only one to have ever experienced such a feeling. But if that was indeed the case then the catty cottage industry of critics savaging what some unfortunate wore while traipsing across the red carpet at one awards show or another would exist only in my mind's eye; right?

I run for exercise, health and enjoyment. And since I run by myself in hours once described by Francis Albert Sinatra as wee and small, occasionally I enter a race. It affords me the chance to run in the daylight and in the company of others. And it permits me a barometer by which to assess whether I am actually making any progress in this whole running thing. As I was reminded on New Year's Day the whole measuring stick thing can really jump up and bite you on the ass if you are not careful. I spent the final two miles of the 5K I had entered unable to close a twenty yard gap on a rather smallish old gent who (conservatively speaking) looked to be twice my age. To add insult to insult, as I was mulling over my own inadequacy in not being able to catch up to Father Time I was passed about ten yards from the finish by a woman who appeared to be (and who the final results confirmed to be) about ten years my senior.

Ambition is a wonderful thing but it can also be very, very dangerous. I am very much looking forward to Memorial Day weekend and my participation for the first time ever in the Bolder Boulder 10K. The emotion I feel is eagerness and not anxiety. I will be taking part in an event whose finish line is located in Folsom Stadium - the football home of my beloved Buffaloes. And I will be taking part in it with Rob. He and I have signed up for it together and we shall take advantage of what I hope like Hell is his "temporary" status as a resident of the Mountain Time Zone to participate in it. I am certain that there are cooler ways to spend Memorial Day but at present allow me my moment to gloat; OK? I shall be much obliged.

While I am eager to run in the Bolder Boulder, it is anxiety and not eagerness that is confronting me as we now have drawn within ninety days of the Unite for Charity Half-Marathon at Rutgers University. I was initially giddy over the prospect of testing myself over a distance that is more than twice the distance I have ever run at one time - as well as being a distance that is about 1/3 of what my brother-in-law Russ considers a minimal training distance. In my defense, Russ is crazy about this type of stuff - having recently competed (on back-to-back days) a half-marathon and a marathon in Florida. As the calendar page has flipped from the last decade to the present one, cold hard reality has used its exquisitely sharpened elbows to secure a prime location on the other side of the glass in my bathroom mirror. It forces me every day to look at it squarely and ask myself whether I have indeed mislaid what little remained of my mind.

If I had enough courage to stand there and answer that question then I would share it here. I do not and thus I cannot. I would have more I suppose if I had not - several minutes after paying my non-refundable entry fee - read the part of the promotional materials for this event that stated there is a ceiling on the entrants' finishing time. I thought I might be able to complete it at any pace I might fancy. Apparently, that sort of Nancy Boy attitude is frowned upon. All runners are required to complete the race within a fixed amount of time. While it did not indicate what shall be done to anyone who fails to comply, it struck me as rather sinister.

I suddenly saw myself being tracked by a team akin to a big game hunting party for the last few miles as my pace slowed perceptibly and it became an open question whether I would finish "on time". I was left to wonder as I ran if they were going to permit me to finish or - instead - wait until I entered a less publicly-visible part of the course before shooting me in the ass with a tranquilizer, throwing a net over my head and carting me back to the assembly area, strapped across the hood of the vehicle like some water buffalo caught somnambulating in a restricted part of the zoo.

I am confident that as the weather continues to warm and as my creaky left leg continues to feel better that this moment of self-doubt will pass. OK perhaps I am more hopeful than confident but baby steps; right? Thirteen miles to cover. That's a hell of a lot of baby steps.


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