Saturday, February 11, 2017

Phantom Ponies And Bare Bums

Not everything in an ultramarathon is inspiring or spiritual or life changing. In fact, much of a race is mundane and mechanical and even easy to forget about entirely. Occasionally, there is not much more than discomfort and pain. And sometimes, there are moments that are not inspiring nor mundane and not necessarily painful, but utterly and comically absurd. This was one of those moments.

So much of the 2016 Daytona 100 Ultramarathon had gone exceedingly well to this point. Sure, there were some dark points. Yeah, I was slowing down. But, by and large, a great day.

Of course, in a 100 mile race the unexpected or overlooked seems to always happen. And I knew this particular problem might happen, but forgot to discuss it with my crew and forgot to be prepared. I had overlooked this problem despite having dealt with it in training a couple times. That evil, nasty thing nobody likes to talk about...groin chafing.

76 miles into my race and I noticed the first hint of that chafing feeling. Nothing bad, but an instant "UH OH" moment. "UH OH" because some bad bloody chafing could end my race and I wasn't carrying anything deal with it. "UH OH" because I had just left my crew who drove on ahead to the 80 mile aid station. I had packed plenty of chafing solutions, but those were somewhere off in the dark distance, in the buildings of Daytona miles ahead. "UH OH" because I wasn't thinking clearly.

Solutions began to bubble forth in my brain. The first solution, stop trying to run and walk to my crew and minimize the damage. Of course, walking is one thing. But walking to prevent thighs from rubbing another thing altogether. So I began to walk with this bizarre "I'm riding a horse" kind of gait. This horse-riding and damage-reducing walk seemed to help for a while, but slowly the discomfort increased again.

A second idea struck! Readjust my shorts so that the liner was no longer sitting on the same location! Yeah, that definitely helped as I continued to walk along while riding my invisible horse. But it required constant adjustment as my shorts slid back into their natural place. And my wonderful pacer (oh yeah, I forgot to mention I had someone running with me during this pants adjusting, horse riding moment) began to give me kinda funny looks as I continually jammed my hand down my pants.

I really need a good long term solution to get me to my crew without ending up a bloody mess and ending my race. We'd made it less than half way to my crew vehicle while moving at about 20 minutes per mile and my race goals were slipping away. And then the absurdity struck. My half-witted brain put the puzzle together. The solution was so obvious and yet so preposterous, it took a while to connect.

It was night and very dark. We were running -- well, horsey-ride walking -- in the dark along the beach away from civilization. We were alone with only the occasional passing car to see us. I was wearing a rather long shirt and a coat. When I got the liner moved off the chaffed area, things improved dramatically.

The solution? Oh yes, the solution. Absolute genius! I pulled my shorts off my ass. Pulled them straight down and walked bare-assed! No more liner rubbing against the damaged skin! No more further damage occurring! Ultramarathoning genius of Einstein-ian proportions!

Of course, I still had a couple miles to go to get to my crew vehicle where a variety of lubricants waited. And now I was walking with pants pulled of my hinder, still riding that mysterious and difficult to see stead that kept my thighs from rubbing, and my joints beginning to stiffen from too much walking and too much cooling down. And my poor pacer along for the ride.

Adding to this foolishness, we began to enter the outer limits of Daytona. Some late-night drinking establishments at first...oh, the stories the patrons must have told one another! A restaurant. A grocery store. Street lights. Some condo buildings. We were entering civilization and street lights and people, but still no crew vehicle... no relief. My rear-end (and much more!) a gust of wind away from being exposed to an ever increasing number of drunken vacationers and revelers! What a sight it would have been. Bum out, legs stiff, bizarre and stiff walking manner, delirious look on my face, a race bib pinned to my clothes in the middle of the night. And my poor pacer at my side likely trying to hide his face.

Then, FINALLY, the traffic light I knew to be the location of the 80 mile aid station came into view. My crew would be waiting. Lubricants, compression pants, new shorts, solution upon solution upon solution. Just waiting, a half mile or so ahead.

10 minutes later and the ordeal had ended. The absurdity was over. The humorous figure I was casting across all of Daytona disappeared into the ether. My tuchus was covered. The phantom pony evaporated into thin air. Only the stiff joints and muscles after for miles of awkward walking lingered. And the worst of the damage seemed to have been avoided. (I would learn in my shower the next morning how wrong I was on that last point!)

Ahhhh, the joys of running ultramarathons. I think I recognized the humor of the moment as it was occurring, but I was in no mind to appreciate it. Oh, to have been on of those barflys watching me pass by!

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