By Will Geiken
In a quiet, sunlit clearing of Golden Gate park sits a set of dilapidated tennis courts and a decrepit restroom. I’m guessing that very few people have had the pleasure of enjoying the peaceful serenity of the empty courts on a Sunday morning, that even fewer have run loops around those courts, and that only a select few have enjoyed running loops around those courts while waiting for their friends to use the restroom. And yet, there I was, jogging in circles as Sean took his turn at the head. Fortunately, I had Neil and Nicholas for company, and together we avoided looking like lunatics, or at least lonely lunatics.
With Sean’s exit, it was my turn. As I passed by him I heard him utter the words that no one wants to hear when heading into a restroom. “There’s no door on the stall,” he declared with a finality that sent my heart plummeting.
Upon entering I discovered that not only was there no door, but an individual coming into the restroom was immediately met with a view of the open stall. Fortunately for me, the stall was unoccupied, and I hurried to get things over with.
Alas, I was not quick enough. Only moments after my arrival, a few Strawberry Canyon boys darkened the restroom door. I laughingly explained that there was no door to try and ease the shock of turning a corner and being confronted with a defecating man, but my efforts were in vain. They fled immediately. “Well good,” I thought. No one likes a voyeur.
Only a few seconds after the Strawbs' departure, poor Nicholas entered the restroom. Our eyes met, and in his face I saw a flash of repulsion and, at the same time, a kindred understanding. He knew that he was to be next. I grimaced in apology, and he departed without delay. However, despite the fleeting and awkward nature of the moment, I feel that Nicholas and I have been made closer by it.
But enough of restrooms and the beauty of shared discomfort. Eventually we managed to break free of the tennis courts and made our way over to the start. After only a quick set of strides, the soothing voice of Pete Sweeney called us to the line and got the race underway.
I put in a fast first ten steps intending to settle behind whomever took the lead only to find that Max Norris, a Strava athlete, had the same intent with much better execution. Thus, only a few meters into a race I had intended to run strategically, I wound up at the front of a pace line. I took a few winding steps to see if Max really wanted to sit that badly, and he followed me like the body of a snake behind its head. “Well, that’s that,” I thought to myself.
For the first mile I kept the pace earnest while keeping my breathing relaxed. With some slight undulations we came through at a modest 4:52 before beginning our loop of Stowe lake. Now, because there were some hills around the lake, and because I have a reputation to uphold, this was where I began to try and gain some separation. My first few bursts were unsuccessful, but, at what proved to be the steepest of the little hills, I crested and found that I could no longer hear the slap of shoes right behind my own.
With some breathing room, I kept the tempo up and worked on trying to extend the gap with fast turns and tangents. This gave me a bit more to work with as we broke from the lake and entered the last mile. Running on open road, I continued to up the pace, hoping to put enough distance between Max and myself that I could enjoy the lead. But in spite of my efforts, and with all credit to Max and Nicholas on their duel over the last mile, I never got far enough from the footsteps to relax. It was a blessing in disguise though, as there’s nothing like running scared to keep your knees lifting and your arms driving through the finish.
After crossing the line, I turned and watched as Nicholas, Sean, Neil, Reesey, Reed, and Carlos clinched a commanding team win. Meanwhile the Aggie ladies put a scare in the SRA Elite and beat out the ever-impressive Impalas. Fast forward through a long and taxing cool down, and we gathered for Celebratory post-race beer and bagels from Gordon Abbott. Twas a good day, a good day indeed.