45. Whatever – Michel Houellebecq
week forty nine – 71.6
week fifty – 40.6
2019 to date: 2,628 KM
I first came across Houellebecq back when his book Submission came around in 2015 and I liked it so I picked up his other stuff and thought that I’d go back to the beginning. Fast forward a few years and I’m reminded of him and my intention when I came across a review of his new novel Serotonin so I picked up his first novel (translated as) Whatever and while I found shades of what I liked about Submission for the most part the (arguably terribly) translated title, in the end, seems rather apt. Whatever, or Extension du domaine de la lutte is the first-person story of a 30-something IT professional. It seems to capture the banality and nihilism of post-millennium existence well enough. I mean, it wasn’t so bad that I’ll stop reading his books, but I don’t expect it to accelerate either. Then again, it’s a new decade in a couple weeks. And I’m terrible at predicting the future.
A week ago I was in Sacramento to run the California International Marathon, which if you’ve been following along doesn’t come as a surprise at all. If you’re new here, Hi! Heck of a place to start. After the 2019 year of racing in which I crushed every one of my running goals, a couple of which I’d had since I started running a few years ago, CIM was going to be the cherry on the sundae. It was not. Normally I’d be writing this a week ago, but I didn’t and I’m glad that I didn’t because it would have been a hell of a lot more bitter. I’ve spent a week trying to figure out what went wrong and I’m no further along that I was at noon last Sunday.
It started pretty normal. I woke up on time, made coffee, went through my pre-race morning routines and got out the door to head to the start without so much as a hiccup. The difference being that it was a few hours earlier than I was used to, but I felt rested and fine. From my motel it was a ten minute walk to catch a 5 a.m. bus that would drive everyone from downtown Sacramento out to Folsom (yes, that Folsom) California. Then we’d all run back. As I walked to find the end of the shuttle bus queue I found fellow Mile2Marathoners Anna, Claire and Sara and joined them in the line. The bus ride was in the dark and uneventful. We’d been told that we could stay on the bus once we arrived but few people did. I was entirely too antsy. I got out, walked around a bit, stood in line for the toilet, found some free coffee, checked my bag, stood in line for the toilet again just in case, then elbowed my way into the start corral near the signs for the 3:09 runners with a couple of minutes to spare before the 7 a.m. start.
I felt ready for anything. I mean, I didn’t feel great, but I figured I felt pretty normal for my fourth time standing the start corral of a marathon. Coach and I had talked about targets, and looking at my recent race times and paces we figured 4:20 pace was ambitious and achievable if I had a really great day. My B goal time was 4:30 pace, so we decided to split the difference and go 4:25. So that’s what I did, and it started great and at 5 km I felt great, and 10 km, and 15 km, and 20 km. I was holding back a bit, but was right on target. When I crossed halfway I still feeling fine but I started to feel like I might need to find a toilet. I fought it for a bit and started to feel not so great, but every time I looked at my watch it read 4:25 pace. I decided not to chance it and went for the next portable I passed, which was into kilometre 25. I got in and out and right back onto pace and thought I was going to be fine. And 26 km was fine, and so was 27 km. But then my body decided that it didn’t want to run anymore. I don’t know how else to describe it. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t even out of breath. I had fuelled on plan. All of a sudden everything was a struggle. I got to 30 km at 2:15 having already slipped to 4:30 average pace. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold it, but I thought I could at least cover the last 12.2 km in an hour, hit my C goal and qualify for Boston with a five minute buffer. I was wrong.
Then I thought I could at least hang on for a new personal best, but I watched that slip away too. Kilometre 37 was my worst split. I was just over three hours into the race when I crossed 38 km and it sunk in that the way it was going, finishing under 3:20 wasn’t going to happen. At that point I think that if it wasn’t a point-to-point course I would have quit. I zombied into Sacramento. I remember being passed a lot, and somehow passing others. Somewhere past 40 km a pub patio stretched onto the course, and some really aggressive dudes were screaming at me to stop and have a beer. I was tempted. I rounded back onto Capital Mall for the short home stretch and crossed the finish line 3:24:33.
Afterwards the Mile2Marathon crew in town for the race met at a brew pub to celebrate our triumph or, in my case, sulk. I was sad and embarrassed and really felt like I’d let people down, but it was hard to sulk when so many other who have become friends over the past year had their own great day. I did take some time to have a private pity party for one that evening, then packed up and flew home on Monday. On Tuesday, the whole Mile2Marathon crew came together and celebrated the year and I was forced to reflect on the fact that in spite of this one event I’d had a really great year in which I had improved running exponentially.
This week has been a bit of a struggle too. I’ve run three times with just the intention of going out and enjoying the run. And I have, maybe too much. Quite a few comments on how soon I’ve gotten back onto the Seawall, and at what paces and distances. It’s a bit frustrating because, yes, seven days ago I ran a marathon and I should be wrecked. But the fact is on that day my body, which I’d trained to race a marathon said nah, and right now it’s not nearly as wrecked as it probably should be. On Wednesday at the end of a 12 km tempo I was pretty mad.
Then yesterday out on the Seawall I ran into Gary and Karen and Mike and, as if I’d forgotten since Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening, was reminded that I’m part of a community that’s pretty inclusive and supportive, and that’s pretty great. Today I sat down for coffee with Coach Kevin to talk about 2020, because we’ve got big plans.