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The Lazy Marathoner: More porta-potties!

May 4, 2009 |  1:16 pm

Medal I gave myself plenty of time to get to the starting line on Sunday for the Orange County Marathon and Half-Marathon. The point-to-point race started at 6:30 a.m., and runners were being shuttled by school bus to the starting line near Fashion Island. So, I woke up at 3:30 a.m., left my house by 4:30, parked at the Orange County Fairgrounds by about 5:10 a.m. and then started my tried-and-true pre-race routine. It goes something like this: Find a bathroom, use it. Find the next bathroom, use it. Look at how fit everyone seems to be. Fret about not putting in more training hours/kick myself for all those Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Find the next bathroom, and use it. Luckily, the fairgrounds have plenty of bathrooms. Not porta-potties. But real bathrooms! And there was no waiting.

From an organizational standpoint, the race went downhill from there. The shuttle-bus line took forever. Because people kept cutting in, and of course the race volunteers did nothing to stop it. So annoying to the people (LIKE ME!) who dutifully got there early and took their place in line. Always interesting, though, to watch cutting-in techniques. At one point, a woman sidled up next to me and began wheedling her way in line, talking to me like she was my long-lost friend. I had two choices. I could spend the rest of the day stewing about it. Or I could say something. I opted for the latter. "Are you serious?" I asked her. "Have you been waiting on line or did you just cut in?" To her credit, she  answered, "I cut in." "At least have the decency to cut in line behind me," I told her. And she did. (Apparently the people behind me did not care.)

When I got off the shuttle bus, I started to make my way to the porta-potties. (If I even think about a glass of water, I have to find a rest room, OK?) But I was stopped in my tracks. It was the longest bathroom line I have ever seen, anywhere. Actually, it didn't even look like a line. It was just a disorganized, chaotic mass of people. I kept walking.

When I got to the starting line, I launched into my other pre-race routine: Watching the "real" runners warm up. In a parking lot adjacent to the start, they ran up and down and around and around, doing light drills. Some of them looked like they could win the race. I wanted to tell them, "You know you are about to run 26.2 miles, don't you?" Me? I am lazy and prefer to save my energy and just do some gentle stretching.

I ran a pretty relaxed race -- not that I was "racing" anyone or anything. I have been struggling with two nagging injuries. The bone running the length of my left foot, and connecting to my big toe, begins hurting after I hit the 10- to 12-mile mark. And I have been experiencing something akin to shin splints -- only it occurs on my "inner" calves. (Shin splints typically hit the front/outer edge of the calf.) It hurts pretty badly going up hills, and going downhill can be painful too. (When I am not running, walking down stairs can be excruciating.) Well, there were several mild, undulating hills the first mile out and several more at the end of the half. There wasn't much to do except walk the uphills and grind through the rest. I finished in 3:09. Doesn't exactly bode well for a sub-six-hour marathon, but I guess it could be worse.

The weather was perfect, and the race course was stunning, with ocean views as it wound its way along PCH, and along picturesque Upper Newport Bay and then back to the fairgrounds. Organizationally, though, it left something to be desired. The were only a handful of porta-potties along the route, and at each one there seemed to be 20 or so people waiting. It was so bad that some people were running off course to do their business in the bushes, as well as in porta-potties at a handful of construction sites along the route. Not sure the good citizens of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa signed up for that. At one point, I remembered a park bathroom not far from the race course, so I dashed off -- no waiting! -- and then ran up ahead to get back on course. But that's just ridiculous to have to do -- it also kills any kind of pacing.

Getting out of the parking lot was a logistical nightmare too. The street exit was so close, I could see it from behind the wheel of my car, yet it still took me 25 minutes to get out of the parking lot. You'd think that a place like the Orange County Fairgrounds would have the parking situation down to a science.

One suggestion to race organizers for next year: Get more porta-potties, of course. But even if you cannot afford that, how about arranging for runners to use other park bathrooms along the way, and those in the campgrounds. At least one of the camp bathrooms that I tried required a code to get in. And others might have been open, but I didn't want to keep veering off course to find out. If they were indeed available to the public, a few well-placed signs would have helped.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: This is a picture of me, taken by some nice lady I stopped while hobbling back to my car.