Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bloomsday fun

The Bloomsday crowd just headed out the driveway. Annie and Rachel will pick up Kelsi and then drive to Spokane to join 45,000 other Bloomies, including Annie's cousin Laura for the 30th annual Bloomsday Race. It's approximately 7.5 miles, and it includes a daunting Doomsday Hill. Annie and Rachel figure it couldn't be as bad as the steep hills in Seattle.

They're going injured, though. Annie has an ingrown toenail that seems to be infected, while Rachel was asking for band aides to cover the blister on the back of her ankle where the new running shoes rubbed. Annie says she's run in her new shoes once, while Rachel claims four outings for hers. I told 'em they'd at least have good-looking shoes for the race.

I guess it's good to start the race injured rather than to finish it that way as I did 25 years ago. My brother Jim and his classmate Howard Knight accompanied me in 1981. I couldn't wait to earn my Bloomsday T-shirt. I'd done some running for about a month before the race but was hardly in great condition.

We arrived in time to park and find a gas station restroom before lining up in our appointed area. When the mob started moving, I was exhilarated, knowing I was fulfilling a dream. As the mass of humanity proceeded forward, my usual people-watching desires took over. A lot of runners were moving much faster than I, so the faces surrounding us changed quickly, keeping my eyes busy. About a mile into the race, I spotted Judy Moon in the crowd.

Just as I looked her way and opened my mouth to say hello, I stumbled on a rock and landed really hard on my left ankle. Ankles have never been a strong suit among our family genes. I'd twisted my ankle several times and had even ended up in the U of I infirmary on another race years before.

In that unofficial speed event, we had taken the dormitory stairs instead of the elevator to avoid having to eat dinner with someone we didn't like. About four flights downward going at top speed, I landed at the bottom and severely sprained my left ankle. I looked upon the incident as a Biblical lesson---one of many I've learned over this lifetime.

My subsequent Bloomsday fall in 1981 yielded equal misery. I lay on the cement for a minute wincing at the excruciating pain. My brother Jim slowed down and came back to help me. As more crowds ran by, I made up my mind----stupidly---that I came to get a T-shirt. Against his urging to go to a medic station, I said, "No, I'm going to finish this and get that shirt. You go on ahead."

He complied, and I jogged and walked the remaining 6.5 miles. I thought I was gonna die a few times, but when, far off in the distance, I could hear the "Rocky" theme, my desire to finish in heroic style took over. I think my time was something like 1 hour and 37 minutes. Not great, but, at least, I didn't finish last.

We had to go to the convention center to retrieve our shirts. That meant a lot of standing in lines in a warm building. Those moments of standing without moving brought out the worst in my bad ankle. By the time I got to the desk to pick up my shirt, my leg from the ankle up to the knee had swollen to twice its normal size. The pain with each step taken had intensified also. Nonetheless, I still had to find my brother and Howard.

So, I hobbled through the crowd looking for the boys. I remember seeing Sue and Jim Austin. He's the local pharmacist, and he loaned me an icepack. Later, the medics gave me some aspirin and said I'd better get that ankle to a hospital. Well, it was a long, agonizing walk to our red Ford pickup with the standard shift. That's when I faced an additional challenge. Neither of the 16-year-old boys would drive my pickup because they had never driven in city traffic and didn't want to start that day.

So, I had to bite the bullet and deal with even more misery as I drove up the steep hill to Sacred Heart Medical Center. Believe me, putting the pedal to the metal with a broken ankle can test one's mettle. Later, we learned that it was definitely a broken ankle. the doctor in the emergency room splinted me up and told me to go to my own doctor the next day to have it cast. Then, and only then did my brother finally agree to drive my pickup.

My Bloomsday experience 25 years ago yielded me one T-shirt, a big medical bill and 3 1/2 weeks of hobbling around in a cast. In spite of it all, I remain proud to this day that I held up the family tradition so ingrained in all of us by our mother-----don't be a quitter. Sometimes that may cloud our better judgment, but in my case, the experience created yet another memory I shall never forget.

I'm sure the same will be true for our injured young ladies today, but they're both approaching the race with that ol' "No pain-no gain" attitude. Like me, they'll enjoy the experience and deal with the pain later.

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