It’s time to talk about something ugly…and I’m not talking about my Frankenpants. I’m talking about my first 5K, which shall forever be known in the Hot Mess Hall of Fame as “The 5K from Hell”.
This was back when I was just starting to wake up from all the crap the diet industry was feeding me, so I was really anxious to get the hell on the road to healthy. I was unemployed at the time, which makes things worse because an unemployed Dianne with too much time on her hands can be a scary thing. I’d already lost a little weight and thought I was the shit.
Strictly speaking, this wasn’t my very first 5K. I’d been to a few others, which were more like lazy walking 5K’s centered around fundraising events. Show up, get a t-shirt, sign a poster, stroll the track and chat with friends. Pretty easy.
The 5K from Hell was July 3rd. Here in Texas. Most of you already see what a horrendous mistake this was. Sure, a seasoned runner could tackle a 5K in the Texas summer heat with no problem, but a native Californian with over 200 pounds to lose? Not a good idea. I was dead set on this one because it was at a Fourth of July weekend festival and I’m patriotic to a fault. Yankee Doodle Badass.
On 5K day, I woke up ready to conquer the universe. It was going to be awesome! I was going to power through this sucker. My fellow walkers were going to be so supportive, cheering me on as I kept pace with those who had far less junk in the trunk than me. Chubby people sitting on the sidelines would be Inspired to get up walk at the site of me trudging with much determination towards the finish line. There would be unicorns and bunnies everywhere… and world peace…all because I kicked ass at my first 5K.
That’s not even close to what happened.
There were tons of runners and walkers present that day – so much so that the event parking was overflowing by the time we got there. My friend Brenda was with me, which is good because it’s important to have a witness/moral support when you go through shit like this.
First bad omen: we had to park so far away that we walked more than half of a 5K just to get to the starting line (in 90% humidity, thanks to the rain the night before). No matter. This was it. My day was finally here. It was 8 am, 96 degrees, and I was about to walk my first official 5K. Bring it.
The starter’s pistol fired and we were off.
It was incredibly hot and muggy, but I was bravely shrugging it off. Nothing was going to stop me from turning the page on the next chapter of my new healthy life. I had the road in front of me and nothing but old ladies and fellow chubbies behind me. I owned this day. Fuck yeah.
Mile marker 1 came along and I was ready for water. I didn’t bring my own because I thought water stations were pretty much a given at an event like this. Even the lazy-ass 5K’s I’d been to in California had water stations at every mile marker. No water? In Texas?? In the summer??? Really?
There was no choice but to press on. Just before mile marker 2, my heart rate monitor started beeping. (The kind runners wear around their chest, not the kind they make heart attack patients wear…just to be clear.) The wristband readout was blinking at me. 160. The normal max for me was 148, so the monitor was telling me to slow down. I continued to push forward. Fat girl on a mission…look out!
Mile marker 2. No water. No effing water. Brenda looks over at a group of spectators and yells “Where’s the water?” They just smiled at us vacantly and waved their American flags, cheering us on in what was now beginning to feel like the Yankee Doodle Death March. It was sweltering and the sun seemed to be getting stronger by the second. A toddler sat in a stroller, mocking me with his fucking juice box. There was more juice on his shirt than in his mouth. Cocky little bastard.
My heart rate monitor beeped faster. 170. One by one, the chubbies and the oldies started to pass me. By the time we got to the halfway mark, an old man with a flat ass bedecked in Texas flag running shorts shuffled past us. Not a good feeling. Plus, his legs were pasty white.
Then, finally, a water station. Overexcited Boy Scout volunteers swarmed us, extending countless cups of water, often with one or two fingers inside the cup. At that point, I didn’t give a crap if I found a booger floating in one of those cups…I needed the water. I drank as much as I could without stopping and trudged on.
180 on the heart rate monitor. Crap. I really needed to slow down. And then I heard a car engine behind me.
Brenda and I turned around to find a police car, lights flashing, and a city truck tailing us. Workers were jumping out of the city truck, grabbing up the traffic cones as soon as we walked by them. Effing awesome. Not only was I dead last in the 5K Death March, but I was now holding up the city from resuming its normal business.
Sensing my embarrassment, Brenda jogged back to the police car and asked if the officer if she could at least turn the lights off. Nope. Apparently, it’s a city law that all fatties attempting unrealistic fitness goals be followed by a police car with its lights on. You know…for public safety. Can’t have the fatties just get on the sidewalk instead, right? I kept walking, but deep inside I started wishing I could just disappear.
Pain set in. My arches, heels, knees, hips, and back were killing me. Every step hurt. I had trained for this 5K, but the combination of the humidity, heat, and desperately trying to pick up the pace were taking its toll.
188 on the heart monitor. If I had seen the Grim Reaper standing on the side of the road, it wouldn’t have surprised me.
An hour and 6 minutes after we started, I crossed the finish line.
Five minutes after that, I was in the back of an ambulance.
I had to tell Brenda to get me some help when I knew I was fainting. There was no place to sit and no shade. The heat was unbearable. Trying to save the remaining shred of pride I had left, I begged her to tell them not to come with the lights and sirens. A few minutes later, she came running back to tell me that help was coming. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an EMT jump into an ambulance.
Me: Oh God, please don’t tell me they’ve got the lights going…please…
Brenda: Okay, I won’t tell you that.
Fuck. Lights and sirens a-blaze’in, here came my knights in shining armor.
The damn ambulance couldn’t fit under the “Starting Line” banner. I shit you not.
People were scrambling everywhere now, trying to get the banner down and save the fatty. An incredibly fit woman with a generous heart and no visible body fat ran up to me and handed me her apple juice and energy bar. Great…now I’ve got skinny people giving me food. I looked up to thank her and saw two EMT’s running towards me with a gurney.
Sweet jump’in Jesus…make it stop.
Me (head between my knees): I’m not getting on that thing. I have some pride, guys.
Hero #1: Okay, ma’am, we have to get you out of this heat right now. Can you stand up?
Me: I don’t think so. Can’t you just check me out right here? I’m sure I’m just hyperventilating.
Hero #1: No ma’am, our equipment is in the ambulance and we need to get you cooled off.
Hero #2 (trying and failing to console me): There’s nobody left, ma’am. Everyone’s gone home pretty much.
Ouch. Point taken, Trapper John.
Every time I tried to stand up I would start to black out. I wanted to cry but I was more dehydrated than beef jerky. I had nothing left. I had to let them help me onto the gurney.
Me: Just give me the body bag. I don’t want anyone to see me.
Hero #2 handed me a folded white sheet – you know, the kind they usually drape over dead bodies. I put it over my face and they rolled me into the back of the ambulance.
Heart rate monitor: 192.
The two hunky EMT’s started putting those sticky electrode things on my chest…and then on my leg, which was even more embarrassing because I hadn’t shaved my legs. In my delirium, I apparently apologized for that because Hero #2 told me I needed to lighten up on myself.
Hero #1: What’s that beeping?
Me: My heart rate monitor…see? (I held up my wrist to show him the display.)
Hero #2: You know the ones you just wear on your wrist aren’t very accurate. You should get one of the monitors you wear around your chest.
Me: Yeah, I’m wearing it…you just can’t see it ‘cause I’m fat.
An hour later, the final diagnosis was dehydration. When I declined a one way ticket to the hospital, they told Brenda to take me somewhere cool and to get plenty of food and water. So we went to Razoo’s Cajun Café and I ate 2,000 calories and drank about five gallons of water and diet soda. (I hadn’t conquered my food demons yet).
That’s the 5K from Hell.
Not a good experience by any means. It was the lack of water that got me, but I wasn’t ready for an event like this. I joke about it because, let’s face it, some of this shit is just damn funny – but when I’m done laughing it off, there’s a little funky residue left over. The multiple failures of this day took the shine right off the fact that I finished. No matter what else happened, I finished that motherfucker…and yet that’s not what I’m left with. I’m left with the embarrassment and the failure of it all. And a cute EMT touching my hairy leg.
The memory of the 5K from Hell is one of my exercise demons. Find out tomorrow how I plan to get rid of it for good.
Do you have any exercise demons in your head? Have you had a less than stellar experience in the fitness world? Don’t leave me feeling all crappy with this demon lurking around.