I am composing the post in my head all the way to the race. The joy of the GPS.
Back in the Stone Age, going to a race in a little town was always an adventure. There was no map. If you were lucky, you had a vague address. Then it was a matter of driving around randomly till you spotted someone who looked like he knew where he was going. Bike rack, a plus. Race bumper sticker, gold. You would follow him and hope for the best, getting there just in time to do the math and figure out that with 12 people in the port-a-pot line, 11 of them would make it in before the starting gun. You were no. 12.
But that was then.
We now have GPS. I have a navigator with a vaguely European accent. I need only steer, taking occasional naps along the way while I may or may not be driving.
Mr. GPS is flawless. Drive on I-37, he says. Then, continue driving on I-37. And then, drive more on I-37. This thing is amazing. We make it through San Antonio, down the highway leading out of town, and then onto the smaller road that leads to the race.
Mr. GPS says to turn onto a small farm road. OK. I marvel at how crazy this would be without technology. How would I possibly find the way on these little roads. A left, veer left again, then a right turn onto an even smaller road. Only a mile to go. Then a quarter mile. Then 200 feet, and Mr. GPS announces we have reached our destination.
Which is a locked gate to an abandoned property. Mr. GPS is very proud and waits for his dog treat.
I’m a goner.
Luckily, it’s 6 a.m. I work on deadline professionally, so I don’t like to push things when I’m traveling to a race. I have a couple of hours to make things right. I just don’t know how to do it.
I turn to facebook for help. Luckily, Dave is there for me.
I retrace my path and try it again, much the same way you try cranking the dead car battery again just in case it was bluffing. We end up at the same plane.
And then, an idea. I pull out Mo’s Garmin, which tends to have better luck sniffing out trail run locations as long as they’re not in Bandera. It seems to be on the right trail. And then its battery dies. I know there’s a USB cord in the car somewhere. Probably next to Mini B, the racing pineapple that disappeared in there over the Fourth of July weekend.
And then, another idea. I switch to Google maps. Because, well, they’re Google. They’re probably watching me now anyhow via satellite. Maybe they’ll just call my phone and tell me. Sadly, it gives the same directions.
I consider just running a Gumbo race using this house as a starting line, but the Gumbo Franchise Fee is prohibitive as she stockpiles cash for the Raccoon Baby.
There’s nobody out here to ask. It’s dark. I’m annoyed. I’m on the verge of saying forget it. I start down the other farm road, trying to find a way back to the highway, when I see it.
A pickup drives by with a trailer bearing the logo of the race management team running the race.
A U-turn, an acceleration, and I’m back in 1980, following the guy who knows the way to the race.
I arrive at the start at 6 a.m. for an 8:00 race. Sleep is for sissies, so I sleep.
I revel in the simple joy of a race with flushies.
And then they have a race.
It’s one of those events where everyone but me appears to be from a church in the community that’s raising money to feed folks. I’m feeling unsympathetic, having eaten a life raft-size apple fritter on the way (take that one of the list of pre-race foods, Jenny). I’m pretty sure the race director just went out in his pickup and drove 3.1 miles down the road to measure the course. But it’s nice to run a little race that felt like the old days when racing was just some chalk and a guy saying go. I think about the San Antonio Marathon tomorrow and the 3,500,000 people trampling each other. I like this one.
There must be about 100 people for the 5k and 10k. We all head out together, and it’s nice to have people to pace off of. That’s the idea of driving three hours in the middle of the night to get here. We go along and I settle into an OK clip. Then as we hit the 5k turnaround, everyone does.
One woman is about 20 yards ahead of me and leaves me in the dust. Damn Newtons. It’s at about this time that I realize why they call it the Hill Country. We’re in a gentle but relentless roller coaster. The countryside is beautiful, with cyclists and Ford F-350s my only road companions.
As the first guys start coming back after the turn, I can see there are only about 10 people in the 10k. Not quite the throng to push me along that I had sought. A sheep and an endless series of pelotons cheer me on. My pace is much slower than I had hoped for, so I just concentrate on suffering. It doesn’t feel like I’m pushing enough, but I can’t figure out how to shift to the next gear, so I just move along. Maybe this will sort itself out over the months.
And then, the finish line.
It’s my fastest Saturday run so far, and the fastest 10k I’ve run in a long time (1:12.40-11:43), so I’m good with it. And the race itself was much easier than the ordeal to get there. And, yes, I swept the 50-59 division. Mo and Jenny collectively declare it to be the ugliest award ever. I will sleep with it tonight nonetheless. Women are so superficial.
And then, just like in the old days, I get in the car and drive from rest area to rest area to rest area, driving and napping and stretching and eating and still loving that feeling that comes from race day.
Next race is in a month.
Mr. GPS will be sleeping in.