LAS VEGAS, NV – The Yankees have shown a pulse in the two non-Hughes pitched games this weekend, the Mets surged to two games above .500 (while R.A. Dickey got shelled in Toronto…there was no Will Middlebrooks in the National League last year), and the Knicks have seized the momentum in the NBA with a nice streak and Carmelo Anthony vying for his first scoring title. Saturday was a pretty good day for former Knicks coach Rick Pitino, getting a thrilling win over Wichita State, while a horse he partly owns, Goldencents, held off then pulled away from even money favorite Flashback down the stretch in the Santa Anita Derby, and Pitino won’t have to travel far to watch him in the Kentucky Derby next month. I’d love to say I was reporting from Santa Anita on Saturday, or that I was in Las Vegas to give you Mets fans a report of Zach Wheeler and Travis D’Arnaud , but the Area 51s were in Sacramento. I was here for an entirely different reason: another one of those Spartan Races, this one the “super” version; eight plus miles of rocky terrain and mud holes and over twenty obstacles.
Leaving “The Strip” and its monorails and glass malls and ten-story video walls, the scenery turns to golf courses and strip malls and then empty strip malls and browner golf courses, and finally desert. Rocky, dry, geological desert. Who knows how many mob snitches we’d be running over today? We showed up right before our assigned heat…my wife signed us up for the “elites” so we could be in the first group, which in my case means making a mockery of the word. We show up just in time to tighten our shoelaces and get into the corral as everyone yells “Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!” and when I yelled “…is on fire!” apparently nobody heard me.
Surrounded by buff shirtless dudes with numbers drawn on their foreheads, a couple of guys in “Win or Lose We Booze” shirts, and Under Armor everywhere else, I sported the free Shaq jersey they handed out at the Lakers game the other night for its retirement. Looking for any edge I figured a little Kazaam magic couldn’t hurt. Of course, this thus dubbed me “Hey Lakers!” by some, and “Lakers suck!” by others, and one guy who earnestly told me it was the “shirt of a champion.” This was near the beginning, when I had spare breath for small talk, and I started pointing out that they’re clinging to that eighth spot so who knows what… “Shirt of a champion” he repeated, miffed, and ran on ahead. I’m down to my last razor (I made the last pack last for years, you guys ever “strop” them against your arm?) so by necessity I’ve grown out a fairly bushy, more salt than pepper beard. Some guy ran by me brushing at his chin and saying “good to see some maturity out here.”
Near the end, when I tried finishing strong with a little bit of light jogging, a guy behind me said I was inspiring him, though when he found out he’d started in a heat 45 minutes after mine, he said “Well, I’m about half your age.” My brain deprived of oxygen, I resorted to speaking in tropes and said something about age being just a number, though in my case at that moment it felt like just a Google. Call me Spartan. I Am Sparta! I Am Ancient Ruins!
Fortunately, it’s a good group, these youngins. The dudes in the Win Lose Booze shirts offered their backs to step on to scale the eight-foot walls at the end. My cheap Shaq jersey, be it of a champion or not, left me with a rash on my shoulders, but otherwise I’m uninjured and was happy to be poolside, replacing calories in Guinness and noting a number of dudes with numbers still on their arms walking gimpy as well.
Grote2DMax, who likes Spartans, tomorrow.