Ah, the best laid plans come crashing down, like an airplane falling from the sky. No – like the “other shoe.” Or, better yet, like a waterfall, dumped down to earth sent by the gods of the Great Northwest.
Friday night, Bill and I attended a wedding about 20 minutes outside of Portland. The Bride and Groom had provided their guests with a canvas tent under which we could observe their nuptial recitations, but it was unnecessary. The sun was shining. Speckled light filtered onto the green grass meadow through healthy, well manicured evergreen trees. We enjoyed the celebration until about 9:00pm, at which point, Bill and I made our way out to our car and commented, “Oh, it’s sprinkling. So glad they got a nice night before this began.”
In the morning, when we awoke and saw that the soft sprinkle of the evening before had turned into an earnest downpour, Bill said, “Well, let it empty itself out. It can’t rain like this for two straight days.”
Bill has lived in the Northwest for 30 years but his optimism over the weather has never waned, no matter how many times it has been proven ill-placed. When he made his comment on Saturday morning, I just shook my head and kept my mouth shut. I had a feeling – a bad feeling. The thing is, I didn’t have this bad feeling before we left Bellingham, so I didn’t come prepared for the pouring rain. It’s stupid, I know. I’ve lived here for 43 years, myself, and I should know better.
Because I didn’t come ready for hard rain, we scrambled on Saturday at the expo to find me some raingear for the following day and ended up with a wrinkly, paper-like, disposable rain jacket made by a company called Sheddable Shell. And Bill reluctantly loaned me his baseball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes (reluctantly, because he needed it himself if he planned to stand in the rain and cheer me on).
Sunday morning, I “tweeted” (yes, I tweeted!) that it was still pouring and that it was going to be a long, wet day. Bill got me to downtown Portland by about 6:30 am, and I stood in the rain for a half hour waiting for the start of the race and then another fifteen minutes waiting for my corral to get to the starting line. I (and everyone else, I’m not taking it too personally) was soaked by the time I hit the start button on my Garmin.
The race was well organized and well supported – one of the best I’ve participated in – but it was just a hard day.
My plan was to repeatedly run five minutes and walk for 45 seconds – a Galloway-like routine that was supposed to give me breaks and, therefore, make my pace more steady and a little faster overall. I followed this plan for the first half of the race and tracked with the five-hour pacer that whole distance, but by the time Bill met me at mile 20 (his third station on the course), I’d given it up. Actually, I gave it up at about mile 14, when I felt myself slipping further behind the pacer every time I walked. I SO wanted to finish close to five hours, but it just wasn’t to be.
A little more than halfway through the race, the rain made me feel unhappy, everything began chaffing. I started to develop a blister on my left, very wet foot. And the plantar fasciitis started RAGING in my right foot. This was the first time in a long time that I felt like crying during a race. But I didn’t do it! Not me. I cranked up Harry Potter on my iPod and pushed. I literally ignored how miserable I was.
Now, it’s not my policy to ignore my pain. I’m quite fond of complaining and adjusting my pace to accommodate discomfort, but the pain in both my feet was at the level that if I had given it even the time of day, I would have had to quit. And I couldn’t endure that option.
I finished the race in 5:34. Not my slowest, but almost. As soon as I crossed the finish line, the damn sun came out.
Slowly, painfully, I made my way toward the family reunion area to meet Bill. Shortly after finding him, I stripped naked in the bathroom of a pizza place near the where Bill had parked the car and changed out of my drenched clothing into something dry. Then I limped back to the car and took my shoes off to survey the damage.
Once we were on the highway on our way home, Bill said to me, “Wow, we paid $150 for you to run in the rain for five hours and then limp back to the car.”
“We should shop around,” I said. “I bet we could get all that for less.”
Still, the war wounds and crazy-awful discomfort (though I’m sure I could get all of that for half the price I paid in Portland) are worth every penny. Once again, I see I can do more, endure more, push through more than I would have thought a few years ago. Three cheers for the RAIN that makes us strong!