Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hood to Coast 2008: "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in."

After upwards of a year of not fooling anyone with protestations to the contrary, earlier this week I joined a Hood to Coast team and will participate for the third straight year in the famous festival of running, van-riding, and stinking. (Last year's coverage here, here, and here, and lightly scattered amid the late-August 2007 postings.)

Up to a week ago, I remained firm in my resolve to take a year off from Hood-to-Coasting, but as August approached and then arrived, I started to ponder the prospect of watching the event pass by, literally and figuratively, and it wasn't a happy thought. When I had two consecutive nights of dreams centered on the anxiety of the outside-looking-in perspective on the event -- such are my kid fears -- I knew I had been wrong to deny the pull.

So when a team within earshot announced they were down a runner, I threw in immediately.

This year's team, consisting of people with whom I work but don't know (mostly), is another of the "just for fun" variety: our overall pace is projected to be somewhere in the high 8's to low 9's on the minutes/mile scale, so I expect to be an outlier of whom the others whisper, "Isn't he taking this running stuff a bit too seriously?"

To tackle that directly: yes. Yes I am.

More often than not, I enter these running events with the same thought: nothing is at stake, I'm just going to take it easy this time. And that holds for about half a minute, or until someone passes me who, in my head, "shouldn't" pass me, and a competitiveness kicks in. And so I run as though something is at stake, as though passing the next person ahead of me, or avoiding being passed by the person whose footfalls I can hear behind me, actually matters; as if my future happiness depends on completing the leg in 38 minutes instead of 39 minutes.

It's a sickness I love.

I very much look forward to spending 24-28 hours riding in a mini-van, that span interrupted by three hilly, difficult, too-dark, too-bright, too-hot, too-cool, too-dusty but glorious runs somewhere in Oregon. Not that I would hope for a serious injury, but I actually hope one of my teammates has to drop a leg so that I can run a fourth. Or even a fifth.

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