The year was half over, and running races in March, April, May, and June was fun, but the brain and body needed a rest. By late July of 1984, I was ready for a break from racing, but there were still a few commitments to be fulfilled before we took a trip out west that summer. Two days after my miserable DNF due to a sidestitch at Prairie State Games, I took entire day off. That was only the second day I’d skipped a workout in months. The real reason I skipped the other day was the hard night of wild dancing and outdoor dalliance with my downtown girlfriend. It was a warm summer night, and we walked out on the pier at North Avenue Beach to connect under a brightly shining moon. But the dancing was so intense and lasted so long that the next day my foot hurt. Plus, I was hungover. And also, a bit guilty and remorseful. The dichotomy of my life was catching up with me. And finally, even my thighs were sore from three solid hours of dancing. I knew something had to change sooner or later.
I planned on one out-of-town race in late July, a trip to the old college town to run against former teammates. So I picked up Linda in Geneva and we drove out to Decorah, Iowa in my Plymouth Arrow. Our plan was to meet up with our friends Bob and Kirsten Snodgrass and camp out at Phelps Park (legally or not). We drove separately and met them in Decorah on a Friday afternoon.
A crap fest
There was just one problem: On the trip up to Decorah, I’d taken the back roads. Somewhere in southwestern Wisconsin, we came around a big bend on a remote country road and faced a long stretch of rich-smelling hog slop running across the two-lane pavement. There was no way to slow down or avoid that shit, so we plowed right through it for a few hundred feet. The smell soared up through the vents and we both nearly gagged for a half-mile. We opened the windows as fast as we could despite the warm day and drove along letting the breeze circulate inside the car.
We figured that would take care of the problem, but once we got to Decorah it was evident the encounter had other ramifications as well. The stench of that pig slop hung on the undercarriage of my car and attracted what seemed like every fly in the county. Swarms of them clung to the underside of the car, so I parked it some distance away from our campsite.
Bob had a good laugh about the whole scenario. He and I used to trade funny stories about bathroom emergencies that we’d either experienced ourselves or heard about from others. We joked about compiling a book titled Crap Tales. It probably would be a bestseller.
The morning of the race in Decorah dawned cooler but still humid. I knew that I was fit, but the motivation to win just wasn’t there. I felt flat. One of my ex-Luther teammates won with a time ten seconds faster. I finished in 26:00 and was glad just to have the race done.
Back home, I stayed out in the suburbs and ran a thirteen-miler the day after the race with Linda accompanying me on a bike. On Tuesday, I had another side stitch during training. Plus, my thighs were sluggish and tired. Gee, I wonder why? Dude, give yourself a break! Yet Wednesday on August 2nd, I ran a morning workout of a 5:20 mile, a half in 2:20, and a 1.5 jog. Then in the evening I ran a set of 4 X 800 in 2:30-2:17-2:16 and 2:15. The depth of my obsession was great.
Heading into the weekend, I was scheduled to serve as a pacer on Sunday for one of Trent Richard’s clients, the president of the advertising agency that I’d been pacing in workouts. But on Friday night I got a call from the owners of Running Unlimited asking me to represent the team at a 5K race in the Northwest Suburbs that next morning. I appreciated their sponsorship and didn’t want to say no even though I’d already raced plenty that year. So I showed up with Linda in tow.
I’d forgotten my racing shoes, so the owners ran back to the store and grabbed me a pair of Nike Eagles. I was grateful for that, but a bit embarrassed. I also wasn’t sure that racing in a completely fresh pair of shoes was a wise idea. As it was, I laced them on with just minutes to spare and lined up for the 5K.
There were one or two other Running Unlimited guys on hand, including Bill Friedman, the man that had recruited me for the team. He was always a tough competitor even though he was ten years older than the rest of us. But given the situation, and the fact that we’d driven an hour that morning to get to the race, I wasn’t interested in wasting time. I took that pace out in 4:45, ran through two miles in 9:34, and finished off the 5K in 15:04. Even Friedman was impressed with that effort. “It’s not easy to run that fast on the roads,” he told me.
It always feels good to win a race. But it really feels good when you weren’t even planning on running a race at all. I’d gone from hardly caring about racing the week before to tearing it up the next Saturday. Such are the vagaries of long-distance running.
Duty and booty calls
I still had the 5K pacing to do on Sunday morning, so I showed up for the run downtown the next morning. Linda had enough for the weekend and stayed out in the burbs. I warmed up lightly and met up with Trent and his client near the starting line. My protege looked fit and ready, and I’d paced him enough in workouts to know that his goal of breaking 17:30 as a Master’s runner was in reach. His mistress was hanging out to watch the race.
We passed through one mile in 5:26, right on pace. At two miles we hit 11:15, and he was still good to go. The last mile was a bit harder for him, but we crossed the 5K finish line in 17:25. He was ecstatic. His mistress was waiting for him at the finish line with a big hug. I couldn’t help chuckling at that similarity between us. Me and my downtown girlfriend. Him with his work wife. The only difference was that I was not yet married.
Over the course of my life, I’d meet plenty of men with a woman on the side. And honestly, a few women with men on the side as well.
I’d also meet company leaders quite willing to sex it up with callgirls without seeming to feel any guilt about their behavior. And though I got invited now and then, I never spent time any time hanging around strip clubs throwing money at naked women. The one time I did join a friend at a club in Minneapolis, he got so drunk that he insisted on trying to rescue a pretty stripper from her occupation. “She’s too beautiful to be up there,” he insisted. “I’m going backstage to talk to her.”
“You won’t make it,” I warned him.
He refused to listen and commenced walking around the main stage headed toward the curtains blocking the dressing room when two giant bouncers appeared. They each grabbed him by an arm and lifted him clear off his feet. He was half their size and kicking his legs in mid-air as they carried him straight across the room and right out the front door. They may have thrown him into the street, but I don’t recall that clearly. I had to grab his jacket in the cloak room and join him outside. That was an interesting lesson learned.
Lincoln Park Pirates
I knew so little about the really wild world that I found amusement sitting in our Lincoln Park two-flat, I watching a parade of wealthy guys dropping off escorts from their limos and changing shirts before driving home to whatever the rest of their life offered. And while I had my shared of thrills during two years of Bohemian existence living in the city, once I got married I was never unfaithful to my wife. Once committed, I played by the rules and was proud to do so.
But not everyone around me did the same. A work associate of mine once asked what I thought about the idea of his having an affair. I told him: “Well, when you’re married, you have this road map, see. And your job is to get on the right road and follow it. But once you have an affair, all roads become an option. I think that’s a hard way to live.”
He agreed, and a week later her broke off the affair. But it took him some time to get the other woman out of his world, because she was a bit crazy. Not Fatal Attraction crazy, but crazy enough. Sometimes in life, we have to pass through some crap but the flies keep coming for us.