Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Race ya?

The author in a formal dramatization
It was one of THOSE runs. Not the “I-could-run-forever-why-can’t-the race-be-today” kind. No, this was of the “how-can-there-possibly-be-more-poop-left-in-me” variety. To be fair, one could argue that I had perhaps indulged in my wife’s birthday cake a bit more than was necessary the night before, testing the old “if the furnace is hot” theory. What I didn’t realize – or didn’t care to acknowledge – was that during marathon training, this (gestures to bird-chested frame), is a delicate ecosystem. In other words, consume confections at your own risk.

After making a number of, err, deposits along my nine mile loop at roughly two mile intervals, I was never happier to emerge from the trail onto the neighborhood street that would, in one mile, return me to the comfort and privacy of my own home.

Side note: There’s the ‘ol rolodex of mantras and workouts, but make no mistake, there is also a catalog of suitable “bathrooms” along my various routes, each with their pros and cons. Some, for example, are best befouled prior to the sun coming up to ensure maximum coverage, while others are safe after sunrise yet bring the inherent risk of poison ivy in sensitive areas.

As if the run hadn’t been challenging enough, a garbage truck rumbled past me, leaving me caught in the sickly, sweet wake of rotting refuse. If I could do it without breaking form, I would shake my fist at the garbage truck convoy that seems, without fail, to race by me each-and-every-god-damn-morning in the summer, permanently embedding that smell into my nostrils, nay, my soul!


The last half mile of this neighborhood street features two rather large hills that one must climb before crossing over the main road and back into my own neighborhood. I neared this fateful point and prepared to ease into the initial climb. I noticed, however, that since spotting the truck, my legs had started turning over more quickly. I also noticed that this truck’s run had the driver and rider making frequent stops at nearly every house, but not all. They lingered long enough for me to pull even as I started my initial ascent. There existed the brief possibility that I could salvage this dumpy run – more than anyone could salvage what was overflowing from the curbside garbage cans (bada bing!). And that’s how I found myself catching the eye of the rider as he swung onto the back of the truck. I pointed at him, smiled, pointed to the stoplight a half mile away and mouthed, “Race ya?”

He laughed, called something to the driver who then hung his head out the window, looked at me, then at his partner, then back to me. He grinned and gave the thumbs up. The race was on.

The truck chugged a few houses ahead of me then came to an abrupt, almost dramatic halt. The man in the back leapt off the truck and sprinted over to the cans on the right side of the road, while the driver flung his door open and hustled to the bags on the left. They laughed as they looked back at me and hurried back to the truck that wrenched into motion again, hitting me with another blast of dumpster bouquet.

I had pulled even as they bounced ahead another two houses and repeated the routine, dodging the driver as he swung the can around to empty it into the back. I lengthened my lead to two houses (wondering if perhaps they could smell my wake trail) and started to crest the first hill when the truck come back to life behind me. I had reached the mailbox that signaled the top of the hill and only a quarter mile to the stoplight. Puffing audibly at this point, I ran through the top and used the backside to lengthen my lead.

The truck grinded behind me and the brakes squealed as I started powering up the second hill. With only two more houses before the wooded clearing to the light, I had to pour it on here to maintain my lead. I leaned into the hill and pumped my arms harder, feeling light and fleet. (how could I not after the run’s previous events). The truck groaned behind me, its engine straining against the hill. Lactic acid began to gather in the tops of my quads, but I could see the cars racing through the intersection. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of looking back, and instead rounded the final curve and slammed my hand into the walk sign button – victorious!

The truck pulled next to me and all three of us wore big grins. The garage men applauded lightly and I gave a quick fist pump (careful not to shake it at them). The light turned green and we saluted one another before going about finishing our job for the morning. I trotted back to the house happy to have made the most of this once crappy run. 

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