A couple hours ago I was standing in the L.A. Convention Center’s west hall amidst the hustle and bustle of the Quality of Life Expo. I’d just picked up my bib for Sunday’s Acura L.A. Bike Tour and I was wandering the exhibitors area stuffing whatever freebies there were — nuts, nutrition bars, pain relieving patches — into my goodybag. Before long I found myself at the other end of the floor where the marathoners were picking up their bibs and goodybags and posters. Instead of praising myself for deciding several months ago not to participate, I’m suddenly thinking “I could sooo kick ass this time” as the reasons why I opted to wuss out and not do the marathon this year become hard to recall. Something about a lack of training and a surplus of sensible thinking.
See, I have a history with the city’s annual 26.2 miler that’s as dysfunctional as it is codependent. I did the damn thing on foot for the first time in 1994. Made the mistake of doing it in a nearly new pair of Reeboks and by the time I practically crawled across the finish line the shoes’ heels were blood soaked. 1995 saw the debut of the bike tour and with cycling being more my speed and style, I’ve done it every year since. Then came 2003 when friend and fellow B.la contributor Cybele decided to do the marathon on foot and I decided to join her — but not at the expense of the bike tour. So I did the bike event in little more than an hour and then rolled back up to met Cybele downtown for the marathon, which we walked — in slightly less than eight hours otherwise known from Mile No. 4 on as as An Eternity Of Blisters And Cramps. The following year I was planning to be an idiot and do both again, but a nasty lingering chest cold and the warm weather conspired to knock some common sense into me and I went home after the obligatory bike ride. Begrudingly.
Last year’s marathon arrived with its organizers recognizing that there was a small group of lunatics who do both events. Dubbing them “duatheletes” they extended an invitation to be pampered with mini-massages aboard a glorified MTA bus that transported them — escorted by motorcycle cops, no less — from the end the bike ride to the start of the marathon. With such an incentive, I opted to do both again — this time with no marathon training whatsover and easily 30 pounds heavier than when Cybele and I did it in ’03. The 21-mile bike ride was no problem, but once again I was reduced to gingerly hobbling across the marathon’s finish after some eight hours of ever-increasing agony. I even had the audacity to moblog the descent into hell and madness.
Mind you, every time I finish a marathon I vow never — ever! — to willingly subject myself to such needless torture and senseless cruelty. Of course, that stance lasts about a day… maybe two. So here I am about two hours ago standing in the convention center’s west hall thinking “I could soooo kick ass this time.”
My delusions are aided by the fact that I’ve stuck with a new year’s resolution and dropped 25 pounds in eight weeks. Physically I’m the healthiest I’ve been in three years. Mentally? That’s another matter. The pull of the marathon and my rationalizing brings me a step toward the registration area.
And the three- and four-mile walks with the dog I’ve been doing four and five times a week for the past month suddenly morph from leisurely jaunts around the neighborhood to pre-marathon training sessions. I take several more steps and begin to fish into my backpack for my wallet and a pen.
Am I so helpless to resist the urge to spend this Sunday beating myself up? Thanksfully no, I am not. Distracted just enough by the announcment over the PA system of free coffee samples at the Don Francisco booth, I veer off before getting locked into a place at the end of the line. Whew!
I head toward the exit. I don’t look back. Outside as I unlock my bike it’s just started to rain and there’s that oddly alluring smell of just-wet asphalt that wafts up and clears my head completely. Until next year.