Friday, February 25, 2011

Embarrassing Moments in Ultrarunning

Remember this song, play it if you need to, because you'll need the melody later: "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack:

Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song.....

This incident I am about to describe happened to me about a dozen years ago, and again came vividly back to mind when I just ran the Appalachian Trail in the snow this week on President's Day. 

Trigger warning: this post talks about pooping.  Also, I'm going to ruin this song for you forever.

The tale:  I was on the AT for a run on the way home from work when I worked at Fort Ritchie, MD (since closed by the Base Realignment Commission).

This song just happened to be playing on the radio when I parked the car. Now I am not a Roberta Flack fan, but this tune got in my head, perhaps because I turned the car off while the song was still playing and I was trying to mentally finish it.

(By the way, I always heard this tune as "Strumming my FACE...", not “Strumming my PAIN”, but that's beside the point for this story).

There were several inches of snow down.  Minutes after starting the run I felt a fairly strong urge to move my bowels, right at the same time that I was passing a hiker. I was afraid he’d think it quite odd if I suddenly stopped and peeled off into the woods. So I kept on going, trying to put enough distance between him and me before making my pit stop. This was an open wooded area with no place to hide, especially so with the snow cover, so my only recourse was to try to get a 5-minute lead up the trail on him.

Unfortunately, the urge to poop became more and more intense and irresistible. I’d been fighting an intestinal bug for a couple days anyway, and suddenly it all let loose, and there I was with a pantload of poop. Literally. Fortunately, there was a small stream a quarter mile ahead, the safe haven I didn't quite reach in time, off the trail and out of view.

Suffice it to say that the volume and speed of evacuation, coupled with the act of running, had fouled me beyond belief. We're talking stem to stern here, front beltline to back beltline, and every nook and cranny in between. I had to completely strip to the waist from the bottom up, and in the process managed to soil my gaiters, sox, shoes, and gloves (my briefs and tights, of course, were already fully involved).

I washed out my clothing in the icy stream, wrung it out as best I could (thank goodness for synthetics that don't hold much water!), and quickly dressed again in my wet clothes. Brrrr!!--talk about incentive to get moving! I rejoined the AT as quickly as I could to get running again so hopefully I could warm up.

I had gone but a short distance when I saw in the distance the hiker, who had by now passed me. At that point I felt compelled to alter my intended route for fear of freaking him out by passing him again--I figured he'd think I was stalking him.

The rest of the run, thankfully, went uneventfully.

Now….back to Roberta Flack. The incomplete song from the radio had kept playing in my head the whole time. When I was attempting to clean up, the little stream was big enough to rinse out my clothes in, but I began my attempt to clean myself up by using the only thing I had available: snowballs.

And that's when I mentally replaced "Strumming my pain with his fingers" with "Wiping my a** with a snowball."

With this message I have now totally lost all privacy. Prospective employers will shun me like the plague.

I posted this voluntarily, to be sure.

But see, I get the last laugh: now, for the rest of your life, anytime, anywhere you hear this Roberta Flack song, you'll think of me, and MY lyrics will spring unbidden to your mind's ear:

"Wiping my a** with a snowball."

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