My first contact with USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) happened the day before the World Championship in the Netherlands. David and I were in the team hotel business lounge reading. I was quaking with fear because I had just been locked into the hotel restroom (which had three access doors to pass through until you were in the inner sanctum of it—for the most heroic level of bathroom seclusion I have ever encountered; it was like Narnia.)
In any case, the innermost door got jammed. Ultrarunners aren’t known for their excessive corpulence, so I couldn’t exactly thrust it open. My best bet would be to use my endurance to widdle the door down with my body over time by repeatedly running at it, and that could take years. So there I was, safe inside of the triple-door Narnia bathroom where no one could hear my screams. I did scream.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow my underdeveloped noodle arms did get the door open. I thank God for that.
I ran out of the restroom shaking and alive, like I had just been given a second chance at life and this would be my renaissance (my run-aissance). That was when the USADA woman started calling my name and said I needed to come with her for a pre-competition drug test. I asked her if I could bring my book and my husband. The four of us (USADA agent, me, husband, and book) piled into a tiny car and headed to the drug-testing area.
I honestly didn’t mind the drug-testing because I found it to be of some sociological interest, except for the fact that they took a bit of my blood, and I was counting on using it in the race the next day.
The following day was the Championship. Nearing the end of the 24-hour, I pushed as hard as I could until the horn sounded, completely oblivious to everything that was happening around me. I turned around and realized a woman had been following me on her bicycle. As I sat down, she approached me and told me I would again have to go for a performance-enhancement drug test. I always love a good test. (This is a nerd problem.) I went. I was unenhanced.
Drug Testing Pool (not fun like ‘Swimming Pool’)
I thought all of this was behind me after that day, but every year, USADA selects a batch of athletes to include in the International Testing Pool. These athletes have to record their whereabouts on a weekly basis, including a 60-minute daily time frame when they will periodically be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancers. It keeps the sport honest. Ostensibly, the top-performing athletes are more likely to be taking drugs because they are standing out in some significant way, so this is a good thing. I personally don’t want to race against people who are physiological cheaters.
Hypothetically, though: It doesn’t really matter if you barely have the fortitude to open a bathroom door.
I just wish there were a second testing option: I could either 1) take a blood test, or 2) show them how bad I am at pushups.
A Discourse on Drugs
I don’t even like alcohol. My second grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Beer. I thought beer was a curse word, so I called her Mrs. Bear all year long. These days, I'm no better. Every Sunday at church, I receive holy communion, and when I drink the wine, my face involuntarily scrunches up because I hate the taste. The pastor must think I'm the loveliest girl, always making faces at a holy sacrament. I even wrote a term paper at Yale on the negative ramifications of performance enhancers on human dignity concerns in sport. I have philosophical qualms. So really, this is a poetic injustice in my life.
But here we go. I’m not sure what this will be like. The best part about running is being free and challenging myself to try difficult, unexpected things. And I like prepositional running (before things, between things, after things; fitting in running when I can), so my locations are a bit unpredictable. I don’t like the idea of having to report my whereabouts. Also, I am pretty sure girls are supposed to be mysterious like Jane Eyre, and now I’m always on the map. Alas, I can never be whimsical and elusive.
In other news, I'm training a lot. I rarely talk about it on my blog because it is probably assumed. Since RR50, I’ve been including more pace runs, core work, and plyometrics, and I feel stronger and more consistent than I have in a while. It’s exciting. Track season has also started up again! It is a joyful thing to be reunited with my runners. Here we go, Falcons.