Today call me rinsed. In fact, I’m pleased to report that as of this moment, my laundry regularly makes it through 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 too will be seeking renewed glory (or maybe first-time glory) 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 and her friend June, both of whom had already run something like 45 halfs. XLV halves? (I told you. Roman numerals? Baffling.)
At the time, my longest run had been six (VI) miles, and I had three (III) weeks to double it. As I imagined dragging my couch-loving butt across 13.1 miles to half-marathon victory, I was at first truly excited. Then truly scared. (Especially about depicting 13.1 in Roman numerals.)
Still. The course 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 the day before the race, I packed up our family, snatched my one pair of running pants from the washing machine in mid-rinse cycle, and headed to my sister’s house.
“She has a dryer,” I thought. “That’ll work.”
Why the rush?
I’m glad you asked. You see, I’d told my sister we’d arrive in time for lunch, and lunch is very important.
On the drive I was equal-parts hopeful and hungry. (Lunch!) And that’s when the storm set in.
I dried my running pants at my sister’s house on Saturday, but I needn’t have bothered. Sunday was a wet wet (wet) day.
On February 3rd, 2008, Di and June and I were literally racing in the rain. I was prepared, though, having borrowed a (FREE!) jacket from my wiser/drier friend. I had not, however, considered that the relentless downpour might agitate the laundry detergent in my 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 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,” she told me, “you should see the view from behind.” Apparently, the place of greatest friction had announced itself the victor: I was bubbling from my lunch-seeking, couch-loving butt.
And oh, how I wish I were kidding.
Unbelievably, this was not the worst part of my experience that day. By mile ten, the excruciating pain in my I’ve-never-run-this-far-before knees grew more debilitating than the suds.
“Crap,” I moaned loudly, alerting Diane to impending disaster.
“What is it?”
“My knee. Knees. Both of them.”
“Is it the Tide?”
“No.” I winced, sliding a bit on my own soap slick. “I think my patellas hate me. Both of them.”
“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 that looked to have been packaged sometime during the Nixon administration. Or 45 (XLV) halfs/halves ago.
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 long-ago 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 surfboard-shaped “finisher” medallion.
I’d earned my lunch.
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 MMXI.
Just to be baffling.