Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Final Adventure of Fat Man and Chubby, or, How Not to Prepare for a Half-Marathon

It’s been a short summer for our dynamic duo, who have found myriad ways to avoid preparing for the Big Day. But the day dawned, as days do, regardless of our steadfast procrastination. And it dawned with a vengeance. Would our heroes survive?

Fat Man had been circling Portland’s Back Cove like a dog prepping its bed for most of the summer. Now intimately acquainted with every pothole, washout and linden tree on the route, he finally turned 7 miles at 9:20 per, and added longer runs of 10 and 12 miles. He was feeling reasonably prepared until the Monday before the race, when a fateful telephone call informed him that he was to be without his race partner.

Chubby’s plantar faciitis had put her on the back foot (pun intended) since the beginning of the summer. What with one thing and another, she simply didn’t feel ready to tackle the full 13.1 miles of running in Hanover. “I’ve tried to run a half-marathon before I was ready, once. I’m not going to do it again. But you can still come and stay with us, and I’ll pass you gu during the race.” OK.

Now alone in his quest, Fat Man commenced a final week of training: A solid 9.5-mile jog near Squam Lake in New Hampshire on Saturday. Back to Portland for a 3 mile Monday, a 5 mile Wednesday and a 7 mile Thursday. It was a beautiful week, with clear skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. My times were right on target. I was feeling so good about my preparation that I left work early on Friday and wrecked my motorcyle.

There’s really nothing like rolling along an entrance ramp to pack a whole afternoon of rugby fun into about 10 seconds. When your soft brain hits your hard skull, you see stars. That’s a minor concussion.

Instead of an early start to Vermont, I had to wrangle with two of Portland’s finest, who were hell bent on telling me that what I said happened couldn’t possibly have happened. They were pissed that they couldn’t write me a ticket, so they compromised by insisting that I either move the bike immediately or let them call a wrecker. Here’s the picture: I’m standing on a median, bleeding from my arms and talking with my insurer on the phone while a motorcycle (!) cop insists that I get my bike out of the median RIGHT NOW or I’ll call a wrecker and then stare you down until you get off the phone and MOVE THAT BIKE OFF THE MEDIAN, YOU CAN’T LEAVE IT HERE. Well no shit, buddy. Give me five minutes to stop bleeding and rent a truck at the U-Haul (a 2 minute walk away) and I’ll move the wreckage anywhere you want it.

2 hours and a U-Haul later, I was on my bloody way to Vermont. (Many thanks to my colleague Wolfe, who babysat me by the side of the road whilst I sorted the mess out, and let me have his Vitamin Water after I asked him for iced tea and then changed my mind.)

Alas, my relations with the Boys In Blue were just beginning. Driving through Moultonborough, NH, I was pulled over for having a headlight out. “Why is your hand bloody?”

“I was in a motorcycle accident this afternoon.”

“Then why isn’t that covered up?”

“Well, it isn’t bleeding, so I thought I’d let it air out a bit.”

“Where was the accident?”

“Portland, Maine.”

“Wait right here.”



“Where did you say the accident was?

“It was in Portland, Maine, at about 2:30 this afternoon.”

“Was an officer called to the scene?”

“Not by me, but yes, there were two. No public or private property, except for my bike, was harmed, and no one but me was involved.”

“Wait here.”


“Well, Portland PD has no record of that. Where was it specifically?”

“I don’t know why they have no record; there were two officers there: an officer in a cruiser and a motorcycle cop. The younger officer, the one in the cruiser, was filing the report. The accident occurred at about 2:30 on the Washington Avenue on-ramp to I-295 North –“

“Alright, well, I can’t hold you here. Get that headlight looked at.”

Oh, you can’t hold me here for, what? Public bleeding? Go figure.

About an hour later, I was pulled over in Vershire, VT, for the same reason. Those guys were pretty nice, though.

After spending the night with Chubby and Husband Mick, the day of the race dawned.

Actually, it didn’t dawn so much as it oozed over the horizon and covered the world with gooey, sticky humidity. The sun struggled to shine through air that was positively chewy. The temperature began to rise. And rise. By the time of the race, humidity was at 75% and the air temperature was 94 degrees. Here’s a picture of me before the start of the race, looking like the victim of an accident involving an electric loofa and a tube of toothpaste:

And they’re off! No one looked really excited to be out in this heat, but there were about 520 of us there anyway. That's me -- in the back...

Chubby and Mick met me at two places along the course with (mercifully) cold water and gu. The water supplied by the race staff was about as warm as my sweat, singularly unrefreshing and slow to leave my stomach. Bad news. Worse yet, after a week of race prep in mild Casco Bay breezes, the temperature continued to climb. After meeting me at mile 6, Chubby and Mick headed over to mile 10. Along the way, the outside temperature thermometer in their Jeep, which is mounted under the front bumper, read 100 degrees.

I don’t do well with heat. Too big, too fair, too northern European. Through mile 7 I was right on time for such a hot day, but by mile 8 I was toast. Even when the humidity was relieved by a violent thunderstorm, I couldn’t get it back. The wind blew sand into my mouth, so I chewed on that for about a mile. It also blew down several trees along the course. After the rain passed through, the temperature remained high but the humidity lessened slightly. Not that I noticed. Check out my David Marcus Memorial Racing Stripes:

Embarrassingly personal detail: I’ve been wearing little round band-aids on my nipples to keep this from happening, and they work well. But with the weather, my shirt stuck to my chest enough to wear through the small amount of skin not covered by the band-aids.

Finally, some 2 hours and 43 minutes after I started, I finished, and was finished. I had been shooting for 2:11, but that’ll have to wait until next time. Plenty of lessons from this, my first long running event (and only my 3rd event ever).

My very sincere thanks to everyone who contributed by sponsoring me. Together, we raised $1088.70 – an impressive figure! The special efforts at CHaD are well worth supporting. Chubby, who has had a chance to work there from time to time, reports that CHaD focuses relentlessly on improving the experience from a child’s point of view. The work they do is critical to children in the upper valley. Thanks for chipping in.

Altogether, the race raised over $142,000 for CHaD. Thanks to you all, and remember: Always wear your helmet.