I’m starting to think about MdS as a restful vacation with a bit running thrown in. I’m not underestimating the desert...
Comrades with EliotLiza
Eliot ran his second marathon, his first 50k, his first 50-miler and his first Comrades Marathon yesterday (55.6 miles). I will begin marketing my 4-week “Floor to 89k Plan” next week. It’ll come with a large piece of poster board, a Sharpie, a Team RWB shirt, and maybe some Vicodin.
Eliot did such a great job yesterday. He is a pile of groaning soreness today, but yesterday he was inspiring. His right quad kept cramping the last 15 miles of the race, and he’d do this great maneuver where he’d count to ten, slap his thigh for 15 seconds, and then swing his leg out stiffly in front of himself, bending forward after it. He looked like of one of those water-drinking bobbing bird toys. Then the pain would let up for a while and he’d ease into a run.
We stayed with the 11-hour pace group (They’re called buses.) for about 20 miles before the threat of leg cramps forced us off. We were sad to see the bus drive off. Jeffrey, our driver, knew what he was doing. He set a beautiful pace and slowed us on all the downhills, calling out “Easy! Easy! (E-ZEE!! e-ZEE!! e-zee!! It sounded like a train breaking.) His uphill walk breaks couldn’t have been better timed either. Jeff’s wife or girlfriend counted down: THREEE…TWOOO…ONE!!! and then raised her hands above her head. We’d all follow suit and the bus would slow to a walk. The stops varied in length, but they always seemed to suit everyone just fine. And then we’d start running uphill again.
We passed a lot of runners who were walking slowly with a I-shouldn’t-have-started-out-so-fast air of dejection about them. One of Jeff’s protégés would holler at them:
“Get on the bus!! This bus is BLESSED! Get ON the bus!!”
A lady who joined us knew Jeff from his bus driving at the Two Oceans Marathon. She immediately started telling her running partner what a rockstar he was. Apparently he’s a pretty well-known driver. I wish there was a way to send him a thank you note. (I’m offering that up to the Internet to see if any magic happens.) The bus also broke out into “Shozaloza” every few miles. Eliot and I hummed along appreciatively. If I ever run Comrades again, I’ll learn the words beforehand.
The only downside of the 11-hour bus ride was how crowded it was. You could barely move your arms without knocking into people. It was concert-trampling crowded. I don’t have panic attacks, but at one point when the road narrowed and the tall people blocked out the sun around me, I thought, “I could have a panic attack here.” The smell of humanity was also impressive, but nothing a runner who’s left wet running clothes in the car trunk in the summertime hasn’t smelled.
We made the finish with 12-minutes to spare. We would have had 13 minutes, but a runner collapsed in front of us on the road just outside the stadium, and it seemed bad form to hurdle him and keep going. And, of course, Eliot wasn’t capable of hurdling at that point. A medic arrived on scene in less than a minute and we weren’t forced to enact any sort of sentimental drama.
“Go on without me, Eliot!”
“No!! I won’t leave you! We’ll finish together!”
“Just go! Please!!!”
We did cross the finish hand-in-hand though. And then we sat down to a nice styrofoam bowl of lamb stew in the International Tent. Eliot’s smile was ear-to-ear until the post-race stew-induced nausea hit him.
For my part, running with him and trying to be of use to him was my own best Comrades. I am also quite proud of my math skills. Kilometers to miles to miles per hour to miles per minute to kilometers per minute and hour — to the next cut-off to the next cramp to the next jarring downhill or the next steep uphill. I feel like a lot of my elementary school teachers would have been proud. My brain still hurts a bit.
My dad ran his first ultra marathon today.
It was the hardest thing my dad had done in 20 years.
Today I saw a monkey not in the zoo.
Yesterday I also saw a monkey.
Dear Reader, Don’t leave your door open or monkeys will steal your food.