One of my favorite quotes about southern California comes from Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968):
“Some people around San Bernardino say that Arthwell Hayton suffered; others say that he did not suffer at all. Perhaps he did not, for time past is not believed to have any bearing upon time present, or future, out in the golden land where every day the world is born anew.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve used pieces of that prose before somewhere or other on this blog; indeed, now and again I use it in every day conversations when describing this place. It’s befitting that the quote affords a bit of blog deja vu though, for today was my fifth race with Charlie Alewine Racing and I was once again back at the Long Beach Running Path.
Charlie offers a frequent runners program wherein if you run 4 of his races, you get the fifth one free. So today was a “freebie.” And I was looking forward to it as a chance to somewhat redeem myself after a rough showing out in Bagan; I thought this would be a good recovery run on a well-known course and what was forecast to be pretty ideal starting line temperatures in the mid-50s.
The race however was far from a walk on the beach. What I had imagined to be an ego-boosting race was more akin to a roundhouse kick to the face delivered by Chuck Norris, followed by a roundhouse kick delivered by Jean Claude Van Damme, and ending with a bone-smashing aikido chop from Steven Seagal.
My tailbone injury is apparently not healed as by the third lap of the four lap course I was definitely feeling a twinge of pain in the ol’ buttocks (not a metaphor… a literal pain in my ass). By the fourth loop I was feeling that old Ventura Marathon misery. I had started today’s race on a slow pace and it just got slower… and slower… and slower with each passing mile.
I am astonished at how quickly the endurance training dissipates when training is curtailed or (as in some of the past weeks) avoided in its entirety. It takes so long to build back up. I find myself demoralized rather than energized by the run.
It was for all intents and purposes a shameful, embarrassing, and depressing showing for me.
I didn’t trip and I finished and that’s not nothing I suppose. And as always the volunteers and fellow runners were inspirations. a large group of friends from all over North America had converged on Long Beach for this weekend and wanted to run their first half marathons — so they all PR’d and that was fun to see.
But as I slouched toward my car, I didn’t feel as I was in this golden land like I had been born anew. I felt old and wounded and sad. This was not how I imagined this day going.
Still, thanks for the free run, Charlie. Maybe I’ll be better the next time. It’s that (possibly misguided) hope that keeps me getting up way too early on a weekend and toeing the starting line at a race.