Sunday, July 20, 2008

Midnight Madness – Part 2

At Midnight we departed, led by Lora’s bright Olympic torch, glowing rings, and solitary strand of white Xmas lights wrapped around her left leg. She hadn’t travelled more that twenty yards past the cheering fans before she was first mistaken as the Statue of Liberty, an error that would be made several more times before the night was out.

“If she were the Statue of Liberty, she’d be GREEN,” I’d shout, with a muffled, “dumbass” behind.

Securely surrounded by nearly 400 other highly reflective and luminous souls, it didn’t take long for our little gang to zoom … straight to the end of the line. Doe and I had a bit of trouble slowing down enough to be backpaced* by the others, but we eventually found our rhythm and settled into a nice groove of chatting, joking and making new friends.

* pacing done by someone behind you without them knowing it, matching their speed just enough to stay a little bit ahead of them … really good for overlistening ;)

I didn’t feel glowy enough, so I began picking up whatever discarded enlightenment items I found – in true pirate fashion, what I couldn’t steal, I scavenged. With the addition of a couple of necklaces and a few wristbands I felt sufficiently luminous.

Since Maureen had invited me to the group and it was she that I knew best, I ran closer with her for the first stretch. Lor-I had the Garmin®, so she was “the Pilot.” The plan was to run a mile and a half or so, then walk a half, repeating as necessary along the 8.5 [or .4?] course. I wasn’t sure whether Maureen had ever run Kelly Drive before, so I pointed out on of my favorite landmarks, the Boathouse Row lighthouse [officially named Turtle Rock Lighthouse]. Coming the opposite way, as you would in the Distance run, this beacon near the 12 mile mark says, “you’re almost done!” However, on this night, it said, “See ya later, gator!”

We passed the John Kelly, Sr. statute [“Why is there a naked dude rowing, dude?” Doe asked. I explained who Kelly was and why they renamed East River Drive, Kelly Drive], the Temple and St. Joe’s Boathouses

It didn’t take long before the heat and humidity to produce a nice sheen of sweat on us, but nothing could prepare us for the sight we found at the first water stop just before the Strawberry Mansion Bridge: a tall, heavy-set gentleman, in full uniform of a Hessian soldier from the Revolutionary War. He wore a wool jacket, flannel pants, leather boots and gigantic – I don’t know the technical term – “pope hat” Sadly he was running on his own; I guess he couldn’t convince the rest of the platoon to come along.

That would have been an awesome sight.

We walked and chatted, some of the girls took a bio-break and we took off again. We were proceeding up Kelly Drive to the falls River Bridge and home down MLK – the UltraMarathoners were traveling the opposite way. “YAY! We turn left, just like NASCAR,” I shouted to Doe; recalling the original WAH! who we both worked with at one time; probably the goofiest chick I’ve ever met [which says a LOT] and Dale Jr. fan besides. However, when I would turn around and run backwards to talk to the girls, I ran the risk of slamming into one of these exhausted and fragile heroes.

More than once did I hear “RANDY!” from the cute chorus jogging ahead of/behind me.

I pointed out the Laurel Hill Cemetery entrance, knowing that Maureen trains in one at home in Boston, and the rock tunnel where everyone screams while running in the street for PDR – sadly we had to stay on the running path, since the roads couldn’t be closed for the event. The entrance is at the end of Hunting Park Drive, which we all know leads to the TastyKake Bakery [I wonder if she ate the KandkyKakes, I bought for her?]

We ran under the Twin Bridges of Roosevelt Blvd. and over the Falls River Bridge. Lora and I remarked that not only was it weird to be going the “wrong” way, let alone, in the dark, that there was no bagpiper there, as is the tradition at the Distance Run.

Coming off the bridge, a slight confusion began regarding the sign that said “4 Miles”

Were we for miles from the start or the finish? Since the sign had it’s back to us [going the “wrong way” we figured it was the 4 mile marker for the outgoing runners – meaning it was 4 miles to our finish.

It was about 1:15AM Sunday, but the energy and friendship felt like 8:00PM Saturday – even though Maureen was struggling a bit and Doe was riding the fine line of knee discomfort.

We had traded places with the Hessian again before meeting up break station #2. The Fuze® juice they offered was tasty, although it certainly needed ½ a cup of water per cup [rum would be nice, too. Another time]

Don’t take this the wrong way, but Martin Luther King Drive, was a LOT darker than Kelly Drive. It was amazing though, how many people were just out strolling in the park – other these ultra-marathoning knuckleheads. It’s not like FairmountPark is adjacent to any neighborhood like Central Park is. If you cross 5th Avenue, westward, between 59th St, and 110th St., you’re in Central Park. To get to this part of Fairmount Park involves the Schuylkill Expressway in some respect. There were many strands of bright white Xmas lights to notify runners of impending points of collision. Lor-A’s lights had disappeared from her leg long ago, and Maureen had whipped out her headlamp by now. Invigorated by the halogen lamps, the swirly playful snails on her skirt jumped to life … well, if snails could jump, that is.

Break #3 followed Break #2 pretty quickly. As we passed under the Conrail railroad bridge it occurred to me that the high pitched squeal I’d been hearing all night [which sounded so much like The Edge’s slide-guitar effect at the beginning of “With or Without You’] was in fact the screech of freight train wheels.

As we moved out from the final rest stop, I drifted back to talk to “the Pilot” [more precisely “the Navigator” but …]. She confirmed the plan for this 2 ½ mile last leg: run one, walk half, finish running. I sprinted back up to give the info to Maureen, Lor-A and Doe. It was a good plan.

As the four of us passed under the Girard Avenue Bridge at the zoo, the bike path slid closer to MLK drive and the orange glow of the mercury lights. The Art Museum was in full view now, out of the woods and no longer hidden. Although that wasn’t the finish line, we could clearly see that we had not much further to go. In some dude-ish fashion Doe and I decided there would be no more breaks. His knee felt better running than not, so running it would be. Before we could say, “see you later, gator” to Maureen and Lor-A, we were ½ a block away.

“Should we back off” “and we tell them we’re running it out?” we asked each other, nearly simultaneously. We laughed as brothers and passed the first people we’d caught [other than our Hessian friend] in nearly 2 hours.

A sign notified us of “Mile 1” – one mile from the marathoner’s star; one mile to our finish. We both looked at our clocks. 1:45AM on mine; 1:49 on his. No matter it was the difference that counted. We didn’t know that as we passed the dam and made the turn at Spring Garden, we were on the bottom side of an up and down, cresting at Eakins Oval.

As we clicked along, we passed people who had probably been only a couple hundred yards ahead of us all night long.

“Hey, dude, we’re passing people!”

Approaching the parkway, the road was shut off due to construction of the new paring lots at the Art Museum.

“Where do we go?” Doe asked.

“Um, dude, I don’t think it matters,” I answered, “If you’re worried about staying on course, I would just say ‘Follow the skinny white guys?’”

Coming past the Rocky Steps and onto the downhill to Boathouse Row, I heard voices to my left.

It was horribly ironic, running past actual homeless people, arguing/philosophizing drunkenly in the service entrance of the Art Museum, while kicking out the last 1/2 mile in an event which raised $90K for them.

Coming down that hill through the final twists and turns we confirmed that we’d wait for the girls. We didn’t cross the line but Doe clicked us out. We ran that last mile in 8:35. We finished just before 2AM

Spent and dripping in soggy summer sweat Doe and I foraged for water, juice, anything; but paid mind NOT to cross the finish [not like had ‘chips’ or anything]. While on recon, we heard “Will the runner with the light-up glasses report to the awards table please. We have something for her.”

Yeah, Lor-I won. But she wasn’t done yet.

I sent Doe off to the table to let them know, thinking that he’d have enough time to get there and back before Maureen and Lor-A finished, so we could all cross together.

Missed by THAT much.

They crossed about a minute before Doe emerged from the Hall. We guys checked in/out and the four of us waited for the rest of the team.

All in all, The Glo-Pokes and our friends held down 8 of the final 20 spots with Maureen finishing first among us.

No number on The Hessian, but there were only two dudes behind me and Doe [in that order ;)]

Slowly, saltily, and stinkily, we reconvened at Lloyd Hall.

Doe's knee hurt, Maureen didn't feel well and when I wasn't moving, all the glowy stuff just looked really gay. Hugs and high fives were given as we wound down. I handed out the Glow-Pokes shirts to the team. Offers were made to pay me, and I quickly declined.

Close to 3AM, we Jersey boys left the girls, for the evening. On the walk back to our cars, Doe's knee had something nasty to say about the effort. My main focus was, "Hey, dude. It's not the gas pedal, so you can drive home."

Even though we both had to take I-295 home, I chose to take The Ben vs. The Walt. I had a plan, sort of.

I was starving.

As I cruised down Race Street, through Chinatown, I stopped at the first place that was open. I hit my flashers and picked up pint of Veg Lo Mien and three Spring Rolls.

Forty-five minutes later, I washed them down with a couple of bottles of Victory Whirlwind.

The Epliogue >>>


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a ton of fun!! Do you have a photo of yourself? Would love to see it.

sauconRunner said...

Well written! I felt like I was there with you guys, and next time, I'll make sure I am!