Rick and I tackled the 10K walk/run at the Hayward shoreline this morning. We were both a little nervous about it.
Unlike the Faith Fancher 5K walk last weekend, which was more a community get-together than a well-organized event aimed at encouraging healthy ways (it included a BBQ at the end of the event), this event was structured in satisfying ways. I got to pin a number on my t-shirt, and, as we waited for the walk, a fund-raising event for the park, we talked with Molly.
Molly is a runner, and we knew she'd be spurting ahead of us. I asked her how she dealt with water and bathroom needs during a longer run. She said it depends on whether she's watching her time. She didn't think she would need either during this "short" run. Molly has been known to participate in marathons that dwarf official marathons. She did add that one of the organizers said there was a port-a-potty "somewhere on the trail," but he couldn't remember where.
That eased my mind a bit as we prepared for the push-off. Somewhere out there is a toilet, in case I need it. I just have to find it. A diabetic who has had their colon shortened sometimes cannot predict the need for such things. It makes me nervous to think that I will be out on the trail for 3 hours, and makes me stop drinking the water I really should be consuming.
Immediately after the race began I fell to last place. I kept telling myself, "this is not a competition, this is not a competition," over and over. But I knew Rick's male brain was telling him, "This is a competition, this is a competition," and, true enough, he spurted out, not at the head of the running competition, but among the fast walkers. I wouldn't see him again until the end.
I stayed with some of the stragglers until they turned left to join the 5K walk. Since I had pledged to do the 10K, I stayed to the right and found myself all alone. I kept up a pretty good pace, a pretty steady one, through the first 3 miles. I told myself I could relax a bit once I reached the half-way mark.
Along the way they had water stations. The first two had eager volunteers with dozens of cups of water available. At about the 3.5-mile mark, I found a deserted water station; I helped myself to a swallowful. After that, I didn't find another.
It's a lonely trek, but I found I enjoyed that. Being careful not to drag my feet and stumble in my growing fatigue, I still found myself keeping a pretty good pace, albeit a slower one, after the 3-mile mark. Once I got past the drainage canal, there were no walkers, bicyclists or dogs to occasionally pass. There were the birds, the squirrels and me. And my thoughts.
At about the four-mile point, a tall olive-green obelisk, like the one in the movie "2001," grew on the horizon. Could it be...? A thing of beauty it was, and it grew larger with every purposeful step. The porta-potty. I knew it was mine alone, as there was no other human around. I think I could have made it all the way through the 6.5 miles this morning, but I wasn't certain. And after my visit with this wonderful manmade invention, I was certain I could walk until the end.
The last two miles I found a bit slow-going. I could feel my quads complaining, but not screaming. My back hurt, though, probably because of my posture. I tried to keep my form throughout the walk -- arms bent at the elbows and pumping, pelvic tilt -- but I always look down at the road, lest I stumble, and that's probably the problem. The longer I walked, the more my back ached.
There were no markers in the last two miles, no water stations, no walkers, no nothing. About a 100 yards before the station house, a truck pulled past me, picking up the remaining cones from the walk/run. When I got to the station, Rick was standing there waiting for me. Only a few volunteers remained, cleaning up, and nobody told me my time or "way to go" or anything. It was the lonely conclusion to a lonely walk. I was the last one to come in, and they hadn't even known the last participant was still out there.
But I wasn't there to compete or race, or even get the camaraderie of walking with a group. I was there to challenge myself. My goal was to finish. And I did that, at my own pace. As Dianne Davidson once sang, I'm built for comfort. I ain't built for speed.