The shrill call of the alarm kicks me out of my sound slumber. I’ve finally fallen asleep and now at four in the morning I stumble out of bed and think to myself, “Exactly why the heck am I doing this?”
It’s always the same for me no matter what the race. It can be a marathon, a triathlon, or century ride, but when 4:00 A.M. eventually rolls around and I’m stumbling through some strange hotel room, in the coldest part of the morning, I start to seriously question why I don’t just take up golf.
Imaging being able to roll up to the country club at 10:00 A.M. and have a helpful and courteous man takes your clubs to an electric golf cart that comes complete with 800 beer holders.
All you have to do is ride up to the first Tee, gently swing a club, and wait for the beer girl to bring by the libation, and perhaps a Snickers Bar for the long ride up the first fairway.
Instead I’ve just stubbed my toe on the hard corner of the gloomy bed while I dig around in my bag in the semi-dark for my race number belt.
It’s always like this no matter what the race. The night before is always the worst. To start with we go to some restaurant that promises all you can eat pasta.
Because sometime just before the First World War, and during the ice age of running somebody decided that pasta was the official pre-race food.
Because it is a well known fact that Philippides (the messenger sent from the plain of marathon to Sparta for help, and even though he was Greek), just loved pasta. He loved it so much that during his famous 150-mile run he stopped at every pizza joint along the way and ordered a triple helping of the stuff.
Sadly his legacy remains, so today we must all strap on the pasta feedbag before every race. Not only does it make us feel like we’re Olympic Athletes, but here in Boulder (where we have lots of races) it accounts for 50 percent of the Olive Garden’s net profits.
By far the worst part of the pre-race dinner is that we can’t have any alcohol, and boy do I need it. I’m already nervous. Not because I know I’m just hours away from my A race, but because I know I’m about to try something that very few athletes in the world have ever accomplished. That would be to fall asleep early on a race night.
I dutifully head back to the hotel room at like 7:00 P.M. and jump in bed. Six hours later I’m still awake having watched 4 hours CNN and the weather channel. I’ve also managed to try to fall asleep in every sleep position known to mankind, and that includes the way the ancient Egyptians used to sleep with a curved wooden dowel under their necks. No kidding…Google it.
I’ve been to the bathroom a total of 9585 times since I drank 9585 glasses of water at dinner. And I’ve manages to tangle myself up in those freakin’ hotel room bed sheets in such a way that Houdini would not be able to escape the vise-like grasp of the bed.
So if you do the math, and believe me I have not, that means that I fell into a deep slumber at about 3:35 A.M. which means I have a grand total of 25 minutes of sleep before the alarm wakes me up.
And now it is time to again try something that very few, if any, athletes have ever managed to do. And no I’m not talking about an Ironman. An Ironman is a piece of cake compared to the torture of trying to make yourself go to the bathroom when you don’t have to. And just to be very clear here I’m talking about number two.
Because if you don’t go now, you know that the second the race starts your bowels will defiantly try to explode.
I remember the start of this year’s Moab half marathon. The race starts well up a canyon with only about 50 port-a-potties at the start. Now 50 may seem like a lot but not when compared to thousand racers with defiant bowels.
The race start resembles a huge life-sized-bang-a-mole game. The bang-a-mole game is a kid’s Chucky Cheese favorite. These little moles pop out of their holes and the crazed kids bang them with a giant mallet.
It’s the same way at the start of the Moab half marathon. Dozens of racers at the start are squatting behind boulders and bushes with only the tops of their sweaty heads poking out. Their red face and beady little eyes taunt you mercilessly….if I only had a giant mallet and a bunch or quarters?
It is this type of thinking that spurs me to do my duty in the hotel but alas, as I’m sure you must know, this is a fool’s mission. The body will of course wait until the start of the race, which happens to perfectly coincide with the time we normally wake up.
Exiting the bathroom I am left with one main task. The pre-race breakfast. After years of racing I now know exactly what I should and must eat before a big race.
It is tempting to switch my routine to something from the hotel’s breakfast room…so I do. It’s funny how the temptation of a free muffin and coffee can potentially ruin an entire race that I’ve trained for over the past year.
Perhaps it is because I’m not thinking too clearly after just 25 minutes of sleep. Or perhaps it is because I’m an age-group racer and perhaps a muffin and coffee are just what I need to get me through the race.