Thursday, September 18, 2008

I don't know where I'm a-gonna go...

So anybody want to know how the race went? Let's just say I was yelling my lungs out near the finish, and when it was all done I had barely broken a sweat. But, of course, there's more to the story... Mike had hurried home, cutting out from work early so we could all drive out to Creek Park for the 5K.

The kids and I dashed out to the driveway to meet him, map and directions in hand, cutting it close. So, of course, when we got to a critical fork in the freeway, going to an unfamiliar destination, we chose the wrong one, facilitated by my utter inability to be the navigator.

"You should be reading this map! I should be driving! I cannot read this blanketty-blank-blank map!" No, really, I probably said exactly that: blanketty-blank-blank. Maybe I said "darned" or "danged". There were kids in the car, after all. As with all roads Dubai, the U-turn back cost us far, far too many minutes, and the clock went much faster than we could in the traffic towards the start.

As the starting time came and went I spent my time trying to console Mike, assuring him that I wasn't too disappointed (well, at that point, what are you going to do?) and praising Bethy for being (mostly) quiet while we'd sweated over the route possibilities.

Thomas, being the smartest one in the bunch, was snoring in the backseat.

Finally we made it through the world's most poorly timed traffic light (well, maybe not; there are a lot of candidates for that dubious honor, but it was pretty awful!), U-turned, navigated flawlessly back to the park, and found our way in, the race now in full stride.

Mike took the kids to a play area and I jogged up the course to the last corner before the end, and stood there, clapping my hands and yelling encouragement all by my lonesome to the runners as they came into view.

I am sure some of my Americanisms were annoying: "Awesome! Strong finish, let's go, look at that smile, great job! You're at the very last corner, it's right theeeeeerrrre!!!!" as opposed to the more popular "Well done!" preferred by the Brits. I had decided that if I couldn't run at least I could get out of the way of the race organisers and make a fool of myself in some sort of positive capacity.

The faster runners were busy racing, but the later "plodders" (like myself) seemed pretty happy to see me, grinning back, saying thanks, thank god and such. When the last runner had finished I made myself vaguely useful by passing out water (the race was timed to end at Iftar so the racers could get rehydrated after) and organising the trophies (probably the closest I'll ever get to one here!), and trying not to mind too much a comment made to me by another runner, though I have to admit it kind of capped off the whole missed race experience.

I was making light conversation with another runner, a tall Indian fellow, about marathons, and I said how much I admired a fellow runner, a very small in stature Asian woman who was lightning fast and due to run a marathon in a week.

"Oh, you should have seen her when she started," he said "She was," (here he looked me up and down) "as big as, no, maybe even bigger than you!"

He wasn't done. "Now look at her! If you stick with it, you might get almost as fit as she is."

Now, no matter how you turn it, this was not exactly the most thoughtful thing I've ever had said to me. I was feeling pretty darned cute in my new red running kit...until that moment.

I swallowed hard, and at the first possible moment excused myself to go make cranky faces where I wouldn't be observed. Darn him and his no-so-fit-himself self. I handed out a few more waters and smiled and smiled until I felt almost happy again.

It's possible I made a slightly aggravated comment to Mike about what had happened, to which he snorted and gave a suitably supportive response. He's quite comforting that way, I must say.

Graham, hearing why we'd completely missed the start of the race, reassured us that the roads in Dubai are indeed unfathomable and that even those who have lived here for 20 years still get lost. Thoughtful sort, that Graham, and puts on a great race, too.

This morning I got up at the usual 4:30 instead of sleeping in, as is deserved on most weekends, to mentally make up to myself for missing the race. By sheer stubbornness I found my way to where the marathoners known as the Dubai Creek Striders gather for their long weekly run.

I had attempted to run with this group once before, and for the first time in my life, not completed a run I'd started. Back in August, my first try with the Creek Striders, I'd given up and gratefully accepted a shared taxi ride with the woman lagging far behind the pack with me back to the start point.

After an hour of running on that day, the second half of the run defining misery, and having neither brought money nor my cell phone, (so stupid of me!) I had few options and no run left. I felt this was a failure, and it made me pretty unhappy, though I'd known it was truly my only choice. So, with the missed race and my previous aborted attempt still lurking around the edges of my consciousness from August, I was determined.

I had brought long running pants and a light long sleeved jacket in case those were needed to run off the park course during Ramadan, but looking around at the other runners I realised they weren't necessary. (Thank goodness for that!)

I'd drunk as much as I could prudently stomach of water and electrolyte mix, since I didn't know if we would be stopping at petrol stations along the route. The time before the group had, to catch a breather and more importantly, to rehydrate.

Two people in Dubai were fined 1000 Dhs apiece this week for drinking during the day at petrol (gas) stations (remember, Ramadan, total fasting in public for adults), so I held out little hope on that point, and wouldn't carry any form of hydration, regardless.

The route changes every week, so as long as I could keep up...

Fortunately there were the usual stops at petrol stations, the fastest runners going ahead to purchase water and cups and electrolyte replacement fluids for all of us, though this time we skulked around the back of buildings, trying to be discrete and inoffensive.

No fines were incurred either, no one was mowed down by a motorist, and I only heard one obviously obnoxious comment made by a passing motorist (the last being par for the course in the US). As the comment wasn't in English, so much the better.

I had started out the run with Graham, and then when he left me in his wake, joined forces with a gorgeous, typically fit-bodied runner named Anna, originally from north of London, a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines (they only hire the most beautiful women), and we spent the hour and 18 minutes of running (not counting the rest stops) getting to know one another. She was hilarious, regaling me with tales of being single in Dubai ("Hideous!" she said "Love, you're so lucky to be married!" I think so too, for many reasons,) and all about how her Mum lives in Vegas now and has been picking up Americanisms, which she finds appalling and pretends not to understand when her mother uses them.

About 13 km later I was a happy camper, finished, soaked through, and thrilled to have done well.
For those of you who are so, so bored with running stories (I refuse to apologize for something I love, but still...) let me tell you about our front door. Grandparents of small children may want to skip this story.

(This, of course, guarantees you'll read it, but you can't say I didn't warn you!)

Our front door is very beautiful, polished dark reddish wood. It also, sometimes, will not open.

Truly not open.

As in I'm fighting with it for ten minutes not open. This also happens to Mike, I must assert, as there are those of you who are rolling your eyes, knowing my difficulties with things mechanical and the like.

This door is also the only way into the house. There is the garden, sure, but our gardener has the only key to the door in the outdoors wall.

So, one morning, Bethy was all ready to go out and wait for the little blue school bus. Lunch packed, hair brushed, pleats on uniform ironed, sunscreen on. But...the door wouldn't budge.

Really wouldn't budge.

Minutes passed.

Much inelegant straining, grunting, and even a spot of door agitation by foot commenced, to no avail. Mike was called, which didn't open the door either.

I could hear the bus coming. There it was, it was turning around out of sight, it would be coming back and then what would I do?

In a moment of crazed desperation, I flung open the kitchen window, pushed aside the flowerpots, hoisted Bethy up over the kitchen sink and onto the windowsill, her shrieking "No! NO MOMMY!" and me shrieking back "JUMP! You must jump!"

So she did, flying out like the little heroine she is, landing on all fours, and popping back up grinning as I pushed her backpack out after her.

She straightened up just as the bus pulled up, strode down the walk as though nothing untoward had happened, as I nearly sobbed after her, "I'm SO proud of you! You're my hero! SO brave!"

The door came open a few minutes later and I gave it a extra boot just to try and establish my dominance, motivated more by humor than frustration. A can of WD-40 and a few days later, I was still having problems with the door, and this time I gave in to reason and passed Bethy out the window to the befuddled bus attendant, (HE couldn't get it open either, thank you very much), the bus driver grinning like crazy and shaking his head at the insane American and her defenestrated daughter.


sherrip said...

Ah, I knew you would do fine in the race...didn't even break a sweat :) Seriously, too bad the traffic/navigation did you in, but you amaze me with your determination to run. Good job on the morning run (well done, well done! perhaps someday you'll...)JOKING!

Sorry, can't help but smile thinking of you wrestling with that door...maybe it won't be just Bethy going out the window, but her mother as well... :)

Natalie said...

Hey Sherri! I ran again tonight with a truly nutty group who hands out reflective vests before they hit the road...after dark. Maybe 9 kilometers later I decided that while it was a good group a good run, and certainly a challenge, that I think I'm going to stay on park tracks as much as I can from now on.

Yeah, yeah, someday...

I can almost smile about the door...still fighting it...Mike is threatening to give me door-opening pointers...