Thursday, November 4, 2010

Part 10: The Sufferfest Peaks

There is a term in endurance sports “Sufferfest”. Seems like an oxymoron as ‘fest’ implies some type of celebration or enjoyment. But it is paired with the word ‘suffer’ which has obvious meaning. But the endurance athlete is an odd one. For some reason, we enjoy the suffering....sort of.

A race is more satisfying the harder you have to work for it. It’s hard to explain it. My theory is that the endorphin rush is better the more you hurt. Maybe it’s some odd natural crack. Whatever.

I knew I had arrived at the sufferfest at mile 20. I actually SAT down! I was in so much pain I had to sit and take a load off my feet and legs in the hopes a little break would leave them refreshed.

I knew I would get back up. But unfortunately, when I did, I didn’t feel any relief. I reversed my ratio to 1:9 run: walk. But soon I just ignored the time all together and walked as fast as I could and shuffled for a few steps to try to break up the walking. The last 6.26 was going to be the longest 6.26 of my life.

The mile markers had stopped clicking by a long time ago. Now it seemed like hours between each one. I knew once I reached mile 24 I would feel better mentally because from then on it was down hill. But I was still looking for mile 21 and I had left mile 20, it seemed, hours before.

Finally, mile 21! Just one more mile until the rest stop that was giving out Ghirardelli chocolate. I tried to be excited about it. There was much excited talk about the chocolate mile before the race. But right now, I couldn’t care less! In fact, I felt a little sorry for the kids at that rest stop. They were trying to be so chipper and hand out some of the best chocolate in the world. But so many of us just ignored them.

The weather was worse and so many of us were hurting. I was reminded of the old zombie movies where everyone is spaced out and walking funny.

I remember mile 23 would never show up. The mile between 22 and 23 was the most painful and seemed to take the longest. A coach came up to me and started the assessment.

“How you doing?”

“I’m in pain. But I’ll make it. I’m just thinking how much worse it was doing a century. It’s worse when your butt is sore because you’ve been on a bike seat for five hours!”

“Well, it helps to think about which fireman you’re going to pick when you get to the finish.”

I had heard a lot of other women talk about which fireman they were going to pick at the finish. I didn’t get that. Who cares?!?! They all will be handsome and I was more interested in getting the necklace than looking at the firemen. Besides, with the way I was feeling at this point, I was sure the firemen would all look like blurs.

I was just going to head toward anyone holding a light blue Tiffany’s box! (I just hoped I could tell the difference between a fireman and another racer at that point. It wouldn’t be very sportsman-like to take the box away from another finisher! Oops!)

So I kept plugging away.

Somewhere between mile 23 and 24 two tears plumped up out of my eyes. First out of the right eye then out of the left. Plop. Plop.

What was that? Am I crying? I paused to make an assessment. Hhhm. No. I’m not crying. At least there’s no more tears.... Is there? .....Nope. That was it. Huh. Weird

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