Above: Snapshot of the Expo
Yeah, yeah, so I’ve poked fun at women-only races as being one big old lah-dee-dah cookie tiara fuelbelt detonation of pinkishness. I’ve mocked them as being less of a race and more of a giggle-filled, moving kaffeeklatsch in paisley Asics. But this past Saturday, something really unusual happened. I mean something terribly shocking and probably almost nearly quite possibly undoubtedly unprecedented: I discovered I was….(heavy sorrowful sigh, fake tears)… wrong.
To begin with, I’d been to the expo the day before and tried to work myself up over all the pink and the humungous skirt display (the display was big–not the skirts. Well, some of the skirts may have been for hefty girls…but anyway). And I really made an admirable effort to be crabby about the blazing fuschia bibs with our names on them. I railed to Cheryl along the lines of, “Oh, GREAT. For 13.1 miles everyone is going to be bellowing ‘GO TANYA!!’ and totally mispronouncing my name! What, I ask you, could be worse??” (As a side note, I was named “Tanya” back when it was pronounced the way Tanya should be pronounced. You figure it out. hint: It sounds the same as a stab-happy skater chick! )
Nonetheless, I just wasn’t feeling the hatred. The expo ran smoothly and wasn’t too crowded. Granted, you were forced to go by all the booths just to get to the shirt pickup, but this is not nearly as exasperating as the Country Music Marathon (or nearly any big marathon) where you’re given everything at the start and then, just as you think you’ll craftily escape the entire expo by exiting where you came in, big burly men with clipboards and crew cuts inform you that the exit is at the end of the expo, missy. What follows is the joy of becoming trapped in a combo vortex/corn maze of tweaked-out runners who, naturally, all have to pee but, at the same time, feel an overwhelming and inexplicable compulsion to shop.
Well, anyway, the Women’s Half expo wasn’t like that. It was rather low key. Several people wished me good luck. I ate a free sample of something that tasted vaguely like apple-tinged cork board. Someone handed me a piece of Gatorade gum and smiled. What more could one want from an expo?
The next morning, the weather was perfect with a wee crescent moon just setting as a cool day dawned. Cheryl and I instantly found free street parking about two blocks away from the start, and it was at this point that a creeping dread of the fact that it might be a perfect day and I’d have nothing to crab about in my blog began percolating. We toodled down to the start where there was an announcer making announcements that you could actually hear. Groovy music that didn’t shatter your eardrums (and get off my lawn!) was interspersed with the pleasant announcings. Volunteers were circulating to ask if we had any questions or problems. I know you think I am, but I am not making that up.
Determined to find something amiss, I headed to the porta-potties. But…..
Imagine, if you will, a veritable ocean of available potties on a race day. But wait! There’s more! Imagine that these port-o-lets are achingly pristine with no pee all over those scary urinal things that, for women, are always right at face level when we sit down. But wait! There’s more! Wrap your brain around numerous servant men outside the rows of porties whose only objective in life on this perfect morning is to make sure the o-lets don’t run out of TP. But wait! There’s more! A box of kleenex and a mirror sat beckoning on a little shelf! But wait! One last toilet joy! While I was wizzing, the rows of trees behind the cans were full of blackbirds who were singing away to beat the band, a delightful Handy House serenade.
Needless to say, I was nearly in tears coming out of the toilet.
The move to the start was flawless–perhaps a tad crowded in the corrals, but everyone smelled good, so what did I care? Then as a glorious surprise bonus, good old Jo Dee Messina in her running clothes and messed-up hair sang a serious-chill-bumps version of the national anthem just as the sun was cranking over the top of The Country Music Hall of Fame. Any chick who can belt out the “Star Spangled Banner” and “My Give a Damn’s Busted” with the same aplomb is okay in my book.
And we were off. Right on time. No wackadoodle unnanounced early start, and no long-winded hurry-the-eff-up-before-I-have-to-pee-again chatter. It was pretty cramped before we made the turn up 1st Ave., but I have never seen such polite and accomodating runners. One woman actually apologized when her pinky touched my elbow. Cheryl and I had to do a little weaving to get around some runners, but for the most part, everyone had actually lined up according to her pace. What an absolute dream.
This race’s goal was to pace Cheryl to a PR. And I had my doubts about it. It was a tough course with about 8-9 hills scattered throughout. Her previous PR had been 1:54 on a dead flat course last fall…She’s in way better shape now, but still. Eight or nine pretty good hills? Ay carumba. Anyway, as usual, I kept a mind-numbing chatfest pep rally going as we ran: “Every uphill means a downhill! What a fabulous day! Look how great you’re doing!” …I don’t know why I do this. I’d shoot myself if I were my own pacer. This may give some insight as to why I’m so terrible at pacing myself–I’m probably trying to get away from me.
So, we hit 5 miles and it was a 5-mile PR for Cheryl. She stared stonily ahead as I burst forth with a flood of exuberant proclamations. We had kept a nearly perfect 8:10-8:15 pace, but I had some serious doubts that she could keep it up. But then there was another PR at 10k. And another at 10 miles. The 8:12ish pace had barely wavered. By mile 10, my mouth felt like a dust bowl, so I kept asking Cheryl in deeply-concerned tones if she needed water when we passed an aid station, but she just shook her head and mumbled “finish.” (Damn!)
Mile 12.5 presented the most insulting hill of the race over a steep bridge, and it was here that Cheryl finally hit a mini-wall. She slowed to a jog and then to a walk. She waved me to go ahead, and I said No Way. I jabbered every known corny encouragement known to woman. Nothing worked, until…”Come on! Just over this hill!” “We’re there! You can see the finish!” “You’ve got it!” One after another, women encouraged Cheryl, cheered her, and patted her on the back as they came by. One even grabbed her hand.
That worked. Yeah, as it turns out, women really do support one another in a race. Complete strangers, friends, everyone. Cheryl took off running again. Fast. It was a sweet moment.
And, so, downhill to the finish. As we turned the corner with 1/10th to go, I looked at my watch: 1:47:55. We were going to make it under 1:50! With that bit of news, Cheryl finally smiled, even laughed. As we crossed the line, the announcer shouted “Tanya and Cheryl!” (Could this race BE any more perfect?) “Here they come under 1:50! Finishing holding hands!” Yes. Yes, we were.
And as a final note, remember how I’d made fun of the idea of a Cookie Cafe at the finish? Well, I ate 8 cookies. EIGHT! And, you know, the white tablecloths and flowers were kind of nice. And all that pink? I’m thinking it’s kind of a groovy color after all.
* The term Pinkapalooza totally used without permission.