Monday, December 15, 2008

With footwork impeccable...

After two days of sheer late night indulgence you might have thought that I would take it easy and go back to being content with staying home with the kids.

Hardly. This would not be The Dubai Way. More! More is the Way. Bring it on.

With this firmly in mind to assuage any guilt over my transformation from Mild-Mannered Mommy into the closest I will ever be to Party Girl, I headed out for the Mirdif Milers (running group #3 of the 3 I run with) social event. Graham came by to pick me up, along with the lovely Cae, our designated driver. A real necessity in a land where they really mean it when they say your blood alcohol level better be 0% if you intend to drive. Less if possible.

The event was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in their Belgium Beer Cafe. Car keys were handed to the vallet and we went in to find the so-called cafe. It was hilarious. On a discrete brown door, written in brown letters, was the legend "Belgium Cafe". I felt like I was entering a speakeasy. Once inside, we parted thick brown velvet curtains, revealing a wonderful two-story nostalgic restaurant of deeply stained woods, waiters in long white aprons, staircases, and dark corners. Graham had insisted in a gentlemanly sort of way that he would pay for Cae and me, and we thought it a very thoughtful gesture. After dropping off our "secret Santa" gifts on the table, Graham made sure we had drinks. I asked for a dark beer. I haven't had a good dark beer since we got here, and it has grieved me sorely.

What arrived was a fantastic gift. In a glass approximately the size and shape of a mucho grande margarita glass, a gorgeous beastie of a Brown Belgium beer with a lovely frothy head. Cold, sweet, like drinking a chocolate cake. It was definitely high-octane as well, and dangerously drinkable.

We had expected dinner, but instead were tempted with a steady stream of appetisers; hot seafood or cheesy puffs, mussels, and tasty sorts of sauces. Best of all, though, were the pommes frites, (chips to the Brits or steak fries to you and me), brought in paper cones, with mayonnaise for dipping, just as I remembered them from a childhood trip to Europe.

An evening of jollity ensued, and another of those beers. I was gifted a hilarious roll of toilet paper showing a rabbit with a hair dryer holding up a snowman for his carrot several languages, no less. I bought Graham a third tasty beverage, thinking it would be a sneaky way of paying him back in a tiny way for his hospitality. Already appearing pleasantly glazed, he had prudently not intended to get a third beer. Not long after we agreed it was time to go home.

"Graham!" I rebuked him, "you can't leave a beer like that sitting on the table!"

"You have it then," he said, having drunk perhaps a third of it.

I've never had a hangover before...

The next day was Saturday, and a day I had been looking forward to. Once a year the most (in my opinion) exciting race for the Dubai Road Runners hits the scene: the Predictor Pursuit.

In this race all runners are handicapped according to their average time for running either the one or two laps around Safa Park. The slowest runners are sent out first, then the next slowest, and so forth, until the fastest runners are finally given the go to chase the slow ones. It's a mad dash. Also a feat of organisation, and Graham, with the aid of Katrina, manages to pull it off every year with panache. So at least I drank his beer (and suffered the results) for a good cause.

It was still really, really good beer.

It is possible that here you are thinking: slow learner. You would be correct in your assessment, my friend.

However, in defense of the slow learner strategy, while much grief would be avoided if I adopted a more prosaic method, it does make life much more interesting.

Anybody who has more than one child can tell you this.

The runners were all gathered at Safa Park in the usual place, stretching and socializing, this time topping the red DRR shirts with donned santa hats and glittery garlands.

I was allowed to begin 5 minutes and 30 seconds after the first runners were set off. This may seem like a huge handicap, but in actuality not too many slow runners who attempt the 2 laps had shown up. So the mass of runners was in line behind me, all panting for the chance to run me to ground.

I felt like a fox pursued by hounds. Silent hounds, in the dark. It was like that recurrant nightmare where you're trying to run or fly away, and you can't go fast enough, or high enough, and they're going to GET YOU.


I set out and ran my tushie off. One lap down, still not caught. Running alone in the dark. One-and-a-half laps. At about 5K I had counted 2 runners passing me and began to have the spark of a dream that I might actually win a place for the race.

I had ungratefully left my lungs writhing in agony alongside the pathway (and after all they've done for me, too!) and refused to quit, despite unmistakable signals from my various parts that I would have another unpleasant waking should I continue. I could hear the footsteps coming up behind me. Dodging through the abaya-clad women and recreational runners (who must have wondered what on earth happened to their plan for a nice sedate evening around the park) I was passed too many times as the end approached. It was kind of a relief, even if I was a little bit disappointed too.

As we pounded our way down the home stretch I was passed by a petite runner named Madhusmita who always runs the second lap faster than the first (that sort of self discipline is really annoying) and pretty much always beats me. It's also admirable (again, in an annoying sort of way) that she has a very young baby at home and sports a perfectly flat tummy and trim figure. When we'd first gotten there I greeted her as she was pulling off a sweatshirt, all sweaty from having run a warm-up lap.

Apparently just, you know, running the race wasn't enough of a challenge.

It's a good thing she's so likable. Anyway, she passed me, as she always does. I doggedly kept runnning. I was giving it every ounce of go juice, and then I went up on my toes for the sprint at the end. Unbelievably, Madhusmita slowed down just steps away from the finish chute and I whisked past her for a glorious two second gain.

Probably a good thing I'm so likeable off the racecourse too.

I decided to leave the lungs on the ground where they lay, and staggered around for a bit, meeting up with Cathy. She said all sorts of nice things to me, and when I finally got enough breath and brains back for the operation, I asked how she'd done.

"I think I won." she said, almost sheepishly.

I was so excited it's surprising I didn't die right there and go to heaven. I suppose it would have been a good way to go. "You mean you let me stand here and go on and you WON?!!!" I was bouncing all around with beatific motion.

When the results came in, sure enough, Cathy Ogur got first place for the 1 lappers! In her !OH !OH !OH hat she'd held them all off...awesome!

I'm pretty sure you can see from the expressions on our faces what a great moment that was.

Note the striking (if irreverant!) resemblance to the Holy Grail (Monty Python version) her trophy brings to mind. We both thought it immediately. It was, of course, also accompanied by a nicely wrapped bottle of wine. Utterly perfect. Completely deserved and well, well earned.

More excitement when we learned that Emma Phillips broke the track record for the 2 lap female record at Safa. As she had broken the record for the 1 lap at the end of November and won the Mina Seyahi 10K back in October, it was just another fine day for her. Impressive.

As we were all sweaty and stinky and exhausted, the only thing to do was guessed it, to a party.

The Dubai Way.

As a postscript, though hardly as exciting as Cathy's win, the actual times for our runs were posted the next day.

Graham both emailed and mobile texted mine to me. He's such a nice man. I texted back: Holy Guacamole!

I had taken another minute and 23 seconds off my best time ever.

This would explain the jettisoned lungs...

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