TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE, THAT WAS THE QUESTION.
So, which type of story would my loyal readers prefer regarding last Monday’s Leap Day 4-mile race – another standard recap where I set a new PR, win a medal, impress the spectators, etc. etc.? Or whether I avoided an imminent biological emergency with nine hundred other runners and the cops watching?
Yeah, I thought so.
You have been warned.
The aforementioned loyal readers are aware that I face a certain challenge at races, namely that my kidneys helpfully kick into overdrive before the start. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 5K, a half marathon, or a 12+ hour 50-mile trail ultra. Or how many times I have run the race before. Or how carefully I manage my liquids and visit the facilities. Before the start of a race, I need to pee. Sometimes often.
This situation has led to some interesting moments, such as when I ducked into the porta-john at the Martian half marathon one year, and emerged to find that the race had started and everyone was already gone. Or having to pull off the trail every 15 minutes in my first 50K (thank goodness it was dark). But I achieved notoriety with the 2014 Scrumpy Skeddadle, which began as a near-disaster but in the end (yes) resulted in a private porta-potty the following year. You can read the 2014 story here and my 2015 story here.
I arrived at the metropark an hour before the 6:30 p.m. race start. The facility has rest rooms, but they were closed, and a grand total of six (6) porta-johns were available. Fortunately the line was short, and five minutes later things were taken care of.
Congratulating myself on getting there so early, I began my warmup routine; dynamic stretches followed by a one-mile easy jog, then two minutes at half marathon pace, and finishing with four 100-yard sprints. Thus sufficiently warm and revved up, I was ready to race.
Except for one thing.
Yep, with fifteen minutes before start, I felt the need again. And this time the line for the porta-johns was – well – long.
What to do? This was a park, and in the summer it would have been easy to duck into the woods. But in the middle of winter the trees are bare, and I was wearing clearly visible running gear. Plus the park police (God bless ’em) were out in force directing traffic and keeping us runners safe. I figured they wouldn’t take kindly to someone doing his business in public, and I sure didn’t want to find out. The last thing I wanted to do was cause a spectacle, get kicked out of the race, and have the organizers get in trouble. So I decided to try and hold it. Once the race started, perhaps my body would have other things to concentrate on.
But 6:30 came and went, with no start. The announcer told us they were making sure all the traffic was off the course. He tried to distract us a bit. “Who ran this race four years ago?” he asked. “Who brought a friend?”
“Who wants to get this race started?” said someone near me.
Who wants the porta-john line to get shorter, I thought.
Now my need was getting more urgent, and there was no word on the new start time. If only I had a bottle or something, I thought. Then I had an idea. I peered into a nearby garbage barrel, and there at the bottom was a lidded cup from a coffee chain, which I will avoid naming to prevent undue association with their product.
I reached down into the barrel and retrieved the cup. Then I walked to my car. I was parked far enough away that I had a chance of privacy in there. But as I got into the Jeep I noticed someone sitting in the car next to mine. What the heck? The race was about to start. But there he was, and he was looking around every so often.
Well, with him there I just couldn’t go through with it. So I went back to the starting line, feeling the pressure even more. And, of course, the more you try not to think about something, – well, you know the drill.
“Another eight minutes,” the announcer said.
I took another look at the porta-potty queue. Still long – more than eight minutes long. I screwed up what resolve I had left and marched back to the car. Somehow, some way, this was gonna happen.
The guy in the car next to mine was still there, as were the park police not too far away. But I had a plan. I opened the driver’s door and stood right up against it. Then I put the cup in my left hand and made the necessary wardrobe adjustment with my right. My jacket covered my right hand, so nothing was visible, not even to me. Thus shielded, I overcame inhibition and with a little effort was able to relieve myself sufficiently.
Now, what to do with the cup? Pouring it out in the parking lot was not an option. So I put the lid on and set it in the cupholder. Then I headed back to the starting line. No one said a word or looked at me funny. I’d managed to – shall we say – pull it out and pull it off.
Oh, and the race? I did set a four-mile PR (26:32) and won a medal (second place in age group). As for the admiration of spectators, well, if anyone observed my dilemma and its resolution, they admired me in secret. As would I have done with them.
Does anyone out there have a similar story of a bladder-induced “situation” and is willing to share it? Space here awaits you!