Despite the way it reads from the title, this is not a post about my marriage. Though, if pressed, I’d admit that my marriage is the best “ultra” I’m ever involved in. BAM! Adorable lovey-bullshit achieved. Happy Valentine’s, losers.
Actually, this is a post where I tell you about how I was some other man’s valentine, with my husband’s blessing….He may have even pushed me out the door a little forcibly to get rid of me… I like to think he was just preempting my tendency to skip races because I want to sleep in. And as part of this arrangement, I willingly tied myself to another person and sprinted a 2 mile race… for a box of chocolates and a pint glass.
I figure I should probably put up a warning for adult content…
Uh. Not “adult activity” kind of content….just… talking about it…
“Adult content” here, is for the innuendo jokes that were made with reckless abandon by my friends, me, and chuckled at via text by my husband.
If you’re sensitive to sexual innuendo, then you should probably just not read this post.
So, about the race,
The Labor of Love:
It’s a 2-mile race put on at a University by the Greater Cincinnati Runner’s Club. The race offers tons of options for running/racing under a “Valentine’s Day”-esque theme. You can run as a single, as a couple, combined age group, as parent/child, or as a “blind date” (the race sets you up with an “unknown” partner and combines your times for your ages or whatever their method is…I didn’t read it, it didn’t apply to me. But the results this year were adorable), or, and this is what I participated in: the “ball and chain” category.
The “ball and chain” theme has the running partners tethered together with a length of caution tape and they have to finish together and still attached. The rules didn’t specifically outlaw using the caution tape to trip up other runners or “clothes line” them as you passed so they wouldn’t pass you later on, but I still got the vibe that these tactics were frowned upon.
My husband runs… but he’s not a competitive mind-set kind of guy. And, to be honest, I think he looked forward to a day off from me floating around the house being a distraction and convincing him that we should do something (which usually ends up being us going to the book store and me buying three more books to add to the pile of books I’m not reading yet because I read slower than I buy) for a day. So when my running group friend Paul asked if I wanted to “be his Valentine” my husband was all for loaning me out for a day.
Paul and I ran this course last year, coming in….uh… who knows? I had a hard time understanding their awards method last year…I just figured we were in the top three “Two-persons-of-some-type” ranks, since another friend and his daughter took first, the ball and chain couple ahead of us took second and we got third…
I arrived well ahead of start time…mostly because I thought it was a half hour earlier than it really was. Yes, Paul, I know you texted me with the actual start time… that doesn’t mean that I actually read the time. It was early in the morning. I hadn’t had coffee yet. Stop judging me. So I got to spend about an hour and a half just awkward chilling while the volunteers milled about waiting for runners with better sense to start showing up. Another running friend and his daughter arrived and kept me company while we waited for the start time to tick closer. These two were running the combined age group category. As he said, “I bring the age, she brings the speed.” She is wicked fast too, and qualified for Boston on her second marathon. I hate her. Don’t worry. I told her so in person too. She’s cool with my hate. Whatever, jerk.
Paul eventually showed up, and we conferred about how we were doing – running-wise. Paul recently had a pretty bad injury that benched him for a good chunk of last year. I’m still dealing with that whole, my back and hamstring are sharply voicing anger and hate due to a non-firing glute muscle thing. I was feeling okay at that moment, but my hamstring was tight, and I hadn’t done outright speed work for a couple of weeks because of it. We both agreed to try and keep the pace around 8 minute mile splits. Something that would push us a little, but wouldn’t break us.
“The safe word is ‘ouch’.” I told Paul.
“Woah.” Said our other running friend.
“This is suddenly taking on a kinkier twist.” Paul chuckled.
“Oh, stop being a prude. I’m going to go grab something to tie you to me with.” I commented as I walked off.
I then texted that whole conversation to my husband, with the follow up statement: “I haven’t even bothered to remove my wedding rings. Its scandal. Pure scandal all over.”
Almost immediately he replied: “Hold on while I gasp and clutch my pearls.”
*snort* He said ‘clutch my pearls‘. Hahaha!
Paul went over to the indoor track (The race uses the university’s gym as a base of operations, and it’s a really, really nice space. There were so many bathrooms that there was no waiting in an uncomfortably long line before the race! That’s always a treat) and started doing warm up laps.
Pashaw! Warm up laps.
Warm ups are for punks.
Actually. Paul is a much better runner than I, and tactically, he knows what he’s doing. It’s highly recommended in all kinds of running circles, and articles, and magazines, and books, and… you get the point… that people do some kind of running warm up before the race to get the stiffness out of the muscles (Specifically to do some mythical thing called “striders”…whatever those are…). I confess that I was legitimately worried that if I did a warm up lap or two, I’d probably break my hamstring or get too injured to actually be useful in this race. I also always harbor this uneasy belief that those couple hundred meters of jogging before the race could bring about my undoing in the later miles… “If only I hadn’t used my precious energy reserve before the start to practice running! I’d have the leg power and energy to not bonk out here!”
Paul did his warm up and I worked on dynamic stretching, which does usually help me prevent pulled muscles in sprints. And lets face it. A 2 mile race? That’s meant to be a long sprint.
The race official called the 10 minutes to start and everyone moved outside into the cool, sunny day to gather at the start line. Paul and I took our place at the very front and wrapped the caution tape around our wrists/hands.
“8 minute miles.” I reminded Paul. And me. But. Mostly him. Last year, we took off, and he drug me the first mile (which is all down hill) at a blistering 6-5:50 minute pace…which resulted in me pulling him back up hill… (“Yin and Yang” he called it).
“Yes.” He agreed.
The start gun guy was very…uh…low-key… about starting us. I heard “on your marks,” *piff*. He didn’t even raise the gun up. There was a breath of pause as everyone realized, “oh, we start now”, and then we were off.
6:40 minute/mile pace. That’s what my watch showed. I commented on it.
“We can slow down.” Paul said. And then we didn’t. As we hit the half mile mark though, and the down hill was broken by a slight uphill, we did back off some. We could both still pass the talk test – proven by how we kept chatting with other runners passing us and being passed by us.
Mile 1 was a solid 6:40minute mile, according to my Garmin.
“I’m just going to assume that you don’t know the difference between the number 7 and the number 8.” I commented through gasps of air to Paul as we made the loop at the turn around and started back up the hill.
“It’s true.” Paul replied.
It’s an “out-and-back” course. Ergo, mile two consists of going back up the hill we came down. Paul is a strong short-distance runner, but I’ve noticed that hills do tend to wipe him out some. Truthfully, I was expecting a bit more wipe out from myself going back up as well. My hamstring was giving me a sharp indication of it’s dislike for the activity at that moment and I was winded. Unfortunately for Paul, I have difficulty with gravity. My husband accuses me of this all the time when he runs with me. Basically, I tend to run just as fast, if not faster on uphills. I just… well, I enjoy running up hills. (Yes, I know I’m not right. Why do you think I run with a running group called “Pain By Numbers” and am trying to do a marathon a month?)
Paul was a lot stronger going up the hill this year. Holding back some on the first mile really helped. Still, as I was locked on to destroy…uh… I mean pass…yes… pass this girl about three-quarters of a mile into the second mile, I felt a tug on the caution tape. It was followed by two more insistent tugs and I thought to slow down a little. But I was already locked into “lets pass this bitch” mode (If you’re that girl, I don’t mean anything by it, I just do really enjoy passing people when I’m struggling in races. It gives me a mental thing to lock onto that isn’t ‘dear God stop now or pass out!’). So I glanced back at Paul, who had the same ‘the struggle is real’ face going that I figured I had, and asked, “You okay?” Because I was sincerely concerned for his health and if he was feeling an injury. He huffed a “yes” at me and I turned back and proceeded to pass the girl and pulled Paul along until he saw the finish line just in reach and he surged with a strong finish kick.
Final time: 14:22 min. We beat last year’s time by 20 seconds!
I walked with Paul as he caught his breath and we commented that we likely came in second, since there was only one other tethered team in view ahead of us the whole time.
“I used the safe word a couple times.” Paul commented. I looked at him blankly.
“I said ouch…. like seven times…” He explained. He didn’t look mad, so that was good.
“I didn’t hear you.” I said sheepishly. “Also. Didn’t you joke that you might say the safe word ‘accidentally’ during this when we started running?”
“I probably just figured you were joking… Did you tug on the caution tape?” I asked sheepishly.
“Yes! I wanted you to slow down….”
“You kinda did for a second…”
“Uh, yeah… sorry about that… I was kinda in ‘destroy’ mode and I really, really wanted to pass that other runner.”
“No. Now I’m really sorry about that. At least I made sure you were okay…”
Paul did forgive me for not slowing down… even more-so when my husband showed up after the race (to drop off some money so I could buy gas to get home…My car was on empty as I drove to the race… and now you see how I live my life). My husband commiserated with Paul about how I suck at slowing down sometimes, usually on hills. My husband allowed that at least he was never tied to me when that happened though, but Paul pointed out that my husband really was tied to me…just not physically. My husband laughed, but didn’t look like he regretted it, so that was cool of him.
In the end, my friend and his daughter placed in their category, and Paul and I took either 3rd or 1st in ours…. I couldn’t tell… because the guy called all the other rankings starting with the lowest place, but I know there was one couple tied together ahead of us… so..uh… who knows? My husband told me to ask the race officials, but really, who cares? Everyone gets the same thing: A neat pint glass with candy inside and (new this year!) a gift card to the best running store ever!
I had a blast, as usual. This is a great little race for anyone: Serious runners, beginners, and walkers. And with the couples theme – its super encouraged to bring a friend or a family member or a loved one… or just come alone!