I wish I could say I know me and myself better. If I had a better understand of what makes us tick I think I’d be a happier moi. Right? Just saying. It’s the morning of the Toronto half and my hotel bathroom has seen me at least three times. Nerves and that last water I shouldn’t have downed at 9pm. In the parking lot of the race everyone is gathering and gossiping. We all stop to gawk at the elites blazing by and then resume our chatter. I don’t think I need to but I tell Kisa I want to find a restroom. Preferably one indoors and not resembling an upright plastic coffin. I find a four-staller and wait nearly a half an hour. By then the inkling was a reality and I’m glad I waited. During that time, I’ll be honest, I devised a finishing time. In 2006 I finished in 2 hours and 37 minutes. Back then my motto was, I Just Want To Finish. This time, despite it being nine years later I wanted to shave seven minutes off my time. An even 2:30 and I that’s what I announced to Kisa. I was done with saying, “I just want to finish.” I wanted a PR and 2:30 would do it. I told Kisa to start looking for me at 11am.
Fast forward 120 minutes later and the subtle idea I need to pee (again) creeps into my head. At first it’s just a vague idea, but then the suggestion of hydration makes me think maybe pee? Guys zipping off into bushes make me really question pee?! Finally, fountains gurgling make me know definitely pee! I’m not desperate but I know I’ll take the next opportunity, no matter where it is. Up ahead. Mile ten. I spot a row of four pit stops with four people waiting. I’d be 5th. Quickly calculating one runner per potty, I should be stalled waiting for & using a stall for no more than 3-4 minutes tops. Just to sure, I start my stopwatch because I’m curious. Two minutes. Four minutes. Five minutes. All of a sudden I notice two of the porta-potties haven’t opened. No one has come or gone. The doors remain firmly locked. Humanity takes the place of the runner in me and I wonder aloud if the people inside are okay. I’m picturing them passed out (or worse) in compromised positions, a la Elvis style. Not good. I’m ready to call for backup when luckily, I’m brought back to reality when a girl emerges from one of the middle stalls and snorts loudly in disgust, “YOU do NOT want to GO in THERE. Someone literally lost their sh!t…from both ends. It’s Dis-Gus-Ting.” While she wipes her feet on the grass the rest of us look away groaning and grousing and suddenly I’m back in the race. To hell with the dead runners. Four bathrooms has just shrunk to one but I’m too timid to jump the line and suck it up in the sh!thouse. Now seven minutes have gone by. I’m second in line. Luckily, the guy in front of me announces with gusto, “I’m not proud!” and into the muck of whatever he disappears. A minute later I’m in my (much cleaner) plastic coffin and peeing with gusto. I emerge feeling 10lbs lighter. Yet, I’ve lost ten whole minutes. Pisser.
I’ve been told to ignore the siren call of nature. It’s all in my head. And yet. Yet, if I hadn’t stopped for ten minutes I wouldn’t have gotten angry enough to push myself up to an eight-minute-mile pace for the last three miles. I was only three miles away from the finish line and I
wanted needed to catch the 2:30 pace rabbit…at the very least. I promised Kisa but more importantly I promised myself. Here’s the thing: Thanks to my pee break I flew like the wind, passed the race rabbit and finished six minutes ahead of the pronouncement I made to Kisa. 2:24.
I can’t help but wonder – what would have happened if I never stopped for the bathroom? Would I have come in at 2:30 believing keeping up with the race rabbit was the fastest I could go? Maybe I wouldn’t have tested myself. Maybe I would have played it so safe it was downright stupid? I don’t know. Maybe the next time nature calls I just won’t answer.