Once, on a weekend backpacking trip when I was twelve, my Scoutmaster quoted Napoleon Bonaparte to us: “An army marches on its stomach.” His (the Scoutmaster’s, not Napoleon’s) point was that we should carry baby wipes with us to wash our hands after defecating in the woods. I don’t think that was exactly what the man who conquered Europe had in mind, but then again, I’m not a military historian. In any case, the reason I’m repeating it now is that I just got back from my first race of 2010, Pretzel City Sports‘ Chilly Cheeks, and as in the past, GI trouble kept me from having a great race.
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. The first problem was that we decided to trust a lowly computer over god-like Pretzel City race director Ron Horn when we followed a GPS system rather than Ron’s directions, landing us along some desolate section of the Northeast Extension. Yet, we were undaunted.
Long story short, we showed up with just enough time to park semi-illegally, sprint to the Port-A-John (my old friend), and then jog to the start, where someone was holding our numbers for us. I wormed my way up toward the front and went out way too hard, trying to pass as many people as possible before the course went down to single-track. This turned out to be a bad idea, as I quickly began to feel like lactic acid was pooling, and in my forearms of all places. My stomach went next, apparently still upset from having been filled with coffee but not allowed to empty its contents for a (very) full two hours. I rallied toward the end to pass a couple people, finishing 22nd out of about 700 (by Ron’s estimate) overall. Not shabby by any means, but not fast enough to win an age group award. No matter; we got beers anyway.
When the woman (whose life has clearly been untouched by the pure joy of open-mouth smiling) who took this picture saw it, she said to Matt, “You look good” and then, turning to me, “You look stupid… I’m just kidding… no I’m not.” “Whatever,” I said, “See you next Tuesday.” Okay, I really didn’t, but I thought it… about three hours later when I was replaying it in my head. Damn you, brain!
Anyway, so the race is in Reading, which I consider to be part of Pennsyltucky, although Wikipedia disagrees. For those who have never known the distinct pleasure of residing in the Keystone State, everything outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is fairly wacky. This sometimes turns out to be wonderful, as when you have a trail race that ends at the Liederkranz German Singing & Sports Club:
Where the house band plays (and I am NOT making this up) a mean bluegrass cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”:
What more can you say about that? Nothing.
So the beginning of my racing year wasn’t quite as auspicious as I had hoped it might be, but I performed better than I felt, so I guess there’s something to be said for that. I plan to do at least two more Pretzel City races between now and Boston and after that… this year I want to make my first foray into ultramarathoning. There are some 50k races in California I’ve been eyeing, and there are a few mid-Atlantic ones in the late summer and fall that I could tackle as well. The long-term plan is to do Western States. Why not dream big?