Today call me rinsed. In fact, I’m pleased to report that as of this moment, my laundry regularly survives all six of our wash cycles. (Yes, Mom. I’m proud of me, too.) I realize this feat may be difficult for people to appreciate, but thorough rinsing is not a foregone conclusion when I’m the laundress in question. Even more noteworthy is the fact that my current well-washed status coincides with the approach of Super Bowl XLV. (I think XLV means forty-five. But Roman numerals are a bit baffling.)
True, I don’t much care about football. But I do care about the Surf City Half Marathon that’s scheduled, as always, for Super Bowl Sunday. So this February 6th, along with the Packers and the Steelers, I’ll be seeking renewed glory (read: redemption) during my second-ever Surf City Half.
You see, three years ago, in a fit of insanity, I signed up for my first Surf City half marathon with my friend Diane who’d already run something like forty-five halfs. XLV halves? (I told you. Roman numerals? Baffling.)
At the time, I’d barely run six (VI) miles and had just three (III) weeks to double my endurance. As I imagined dragging my couch-loving butt across 13.1 miles to half-marathon success, I was at first truly excited. And then a bit truly scared. (Especially about depicting 13.1 in Roman numerals.)
Still. The race began three miles from my sister’s house which meant I could stay with her that weekend. (FREE!) Surely this was a sign that, like the messenger Hermes, I was supposed to spread my winged feet and fly. So I paid my fee, packed up the family, snatched my one pair of running pants out of the washing machine in mid-rinse cycle (I’d promised we’d arrive in time for lunch) and headed to Huntington Beach.
That’s when the storm set in.
Yes, February 3rd 2008 was a wet wet (wet) day. But I was prepared, having borrowed a (FREE!) jacket from a wiser/drier friend back home. I had not, however, considered that the relentless downpour might agitate the laundry detergent in my merely-half-rinsed running pants. Perhaps you can picture me now, the incessant rain feeding the friction between my skin and those slightly-soapy pants like a sinister backdraft nourishing a nasty warehouse fire.
I began to foam at the knees.
Diane said, “It’s probably just the salt in your body. From the sweat.”
“But it tastes like Tide!” I gasped. And then I knew. “My knees look like this because I couldn’t be late for lunch yesterday!”
“If you think your knees are bad, you should see the view from behind.” Apparently, the place of greatest friction had announced itself the victor: I was bubbling from my couch-loving butt.
And oh, how I wish I were kidding.
Unbelievably? This was not the worst part of my experience. By mile ten, the excruciating pain in my I’ve-never-run-this-far-before knees grew more debilitating than the suds.
“Crap!” I said loudly, alerting Diane to impending disaster.
“What is it?”
“My knee. Knees. Both of them.”
“Is it the Tide?”
“No.” I winced, sliding on my own soap slick. “I think my patellas hate me.”
“Do you want some Advil?”
By way of answer, I began to cry. Or maybe that was the detergent in my eye. In any case, Diane dug from her pocket a packet of (FREE!) ibuprofen she’d been hoarding since the Nixon administration. She then said, “You’ll have to swallow these dry.”
I would’ve laughed at the irony, but I was in too much pain. As I tore the edge of the packet with my teeth, the crushed capsules spilled over my hands. Undaunted, I sucked the white powder from my fingers like a foam-covered junky. Half my body was already bubbling. What did I care? I’d have offered to fold fitted sheets for every one of the race’s spectators if their gratitude could’ve alleviated my hurt.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) we were less than a half hour from the finish line, so the meds didn’t kick in until Di and I were already shivering at our car. We covered the back seat with towels to soak up the rainwater and detergent streaming from my body. At last, my legs grew numb. From the Advil. From the cold. From the thrill of wearing my “finisher” surfboard medallion.
As we popped open the (NOT FREE!) bottle of champagne my husband had brought, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I felt sudsy. And stupid. But mostly? I felt happy.
“How are you?” asked Diane.
“Pretty much ready for a marathon,” I said. But the marathon story must wait for another day.
Because on this day, I’m making sure my laundry completes its rinse cycle. And also that I have my own Advil packet sealed in a decade reasonably close to 2011. Or even MMXI.
Just in case I want to be baffling.