Sunday, November 15, 2009

OBX race report

The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” Leo Tolstoy

The Outer Banks Marathon weekend was amazing! Almost a year ago, I started planning this trip with some of my running friends. In that year, we connected across the states via facebook and became an amazing support group. The changes that happened through the year were astounding, but 6 of us made it to the start line, one for the 8K, 4 for the half marathon, and one for her first ever full marathon.

The weather was amazing, getting a little warmer each day until I woke up to warm, sultry beach air and knew I would run my half marathon barefoot. I had old socks and 99 cent flip flops to wear while standing around on the cold asphalt so my feet wouldn’t be numb at the start. My friend Cathy and I decided to do a quick warm up for about 10 minutes so I ran in my socks, adding nearly a mile before the start of the race.

They started us in waves with guns for the elites, 6 to 8 minute milers, 9 to 10, etc. so I located the 2:00 pacer and wormed my way to his area after dropping my socks and flip flops on the side lines. He confirmed we would be keeping a steady pace from start to finish, including the dreaded bridge to Maneto Island. I was nervous, but ready to get going.

The first 6 miles were a breeze. I was chatting away with other people in my pace group, cracking jokes and laughing without ever being out of breath. I loved how comfortable I was. I could see how easy it would be to run too fast at the start, but I stuck with the advice I have been given and stayed with my planned pace. A couple of miles in, a guy caught up to me and said, in a very curious voice, “I just noticed you aren’t wearing shoes.” We had a nice chat about barefoot running, benefits, where to find info, etc. and he continued on his way. Occasionally, I would hear comments behind me as people spotted my feet, but they weren’t as shocked or laughing as people were at the 10K, half marathon runners are much more serious. My one scary moment in the race came when someone tripped on my foot. I don’t know how it happened, if she was cutting behind me or I was trying to get past her, but suddenly I realized her foot was hooked on mine and she was headed for the asphalt. Without thinking I reached out, grabbed her arm, and pulled her back to her feet, asking if she was okay. She gave me a weird look, like “what the heck just happened,” but we never broke stride, both of us just kept running.

At one point we turned off to wind our way though some housing tracts. In these areas the asphalt was very rough and my feet were still cold, so they stung a bit and I was a little concerned about how I would keep up the 9:05 minute miles we were pulling if it didn’t smooth out, but eventually we turned back onto the main road and it got easy again. We could see the bridge and Manteo Island, which brought on the jokes about, “Look, there’s the finish!” while we were still many miles away. I was a little worried about the bridge, which I knew would be scored concrete like the twin bridges race back in June, but the bridge was very comfortable to my feet and the roads had been well swept of debris.

The bridge had been my biggest fear. By mile 10, things had started to be a bit more difficult. The easy relaxed pace of the first half had given way to having to push to keep up with the pacer. Conversation was trailing off and most of the people around me were concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. Looking up the bridge, it was an unbroken sea of people. I picked a song I used to sing to my kids at bed time and decided not to look up until I had run though all the verses, “Young Mr. Moon flew away in the night…” “…chanson pour toute le monde”, and there I was cresting the hill with the pace group, having lost no time. Down the other side we went, trying not to get carried away, but glad to have the hard part behind us. On the back side of the bridge I spotted my track club’s photographer, so cool to see a friend! We yelled hello, and on I went.

Somewhere at about 11 and a half miles, I hit a wall. Not a huge wall, but suddenly I was REALLY tired and wanted to quit in the worst way, but I kept telling myself, just 15 more minutes, just 10 more minutes, just 5 more minutes, and there it was! The finish line!! With the last bit of life left in me, I kicked it up and pulled a few feet ahead of the pacer. The Queen of England could have been high fiving the finishers in full regalia and I wouldn’t have noticed, all I knew was I crossed the timing mat.

Crossing the finish line meant coming to a sudden stop at the traffic jam of runners collecting medals, visors, water, Gatorade, and stampeding the food table. My head spun from the sudden halt and I was afraid I would pass out from not cooling down properly. Slowly, I walked through the gamut and made my way to the oranges and bananas. I downed both the water and the Gatorade is single swigs, realizing how dehydrated I was when my toes started curling with cramps. I hobbled over to the trash can to toss my orange peels and saw a runner in Vibrim Five Fingers talking to someone saying it was only bad once when he stepped on a rock. I had caught up with him near the finish line and laughingly told him to man up, referring to my bare feet, but he just picked up his pace and didn’t get the joke. When I pointed to my feet and said, “This is why I was saying ‘man up’” his eyes about popped out of his head, it was a cool moment.
It was a hard run, but the last couple of miles weren’t as hard at last week’s 10K so I knew I could talk myself through it. My feet fared well, one very small blister on the ball of one foot and one blistered toe, but they were dried up and fine by the next day. My friend that ran the full, on the other hand, had several huge blisters on her feet.

So now I have one more half marathon behind me, and one more ahead of me next month. My goal for the next couple of HMs is to continue to finish under 2 hours, but to be able to do it more comfortably and get more accustomed to the distance. I haven’t made any decisions about when I will start training for my first full, but it will be in the next 2 years, I’m sure. This weekend is dedicated to putting my yard back together after a strong Nor’easter, but next weekend I will return to my long runs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wicked 10K Race Report

With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.
**Thomas Foxwell Buxton **

It has been a weird couple of weeks. After my calf injury, I didn’t run for a couple of days and then went back to my training plan and ran 5 miles on Saturday, three of them at HM race pace. After the run, my calf felt good and the next morning it felt the best it had since the injury so I knew I was better off to keep running carefully than to rest more. So Sunday I went ahead and ran my 12 mile long run. With all the progress I have made, I felt it was time to step up my long run speed and keep it at 11 minutes per mile. It worked out great! I finished my run in just under 2:12 and felt really good, not over tired or sore. The calf felt great too, a little tight, but not too bad. At that pace, I would still have a PR of 26 minutes better than last time!

A few minutes after I got home from the 12 mile run, my neighbor stopped by. She had her dog with her so while we talked, my puppy hopped and played around her very patient older dog. We do this all the time and Lucy stays with Kramer, showing no interest in anything else, until this time. I don’t know what got into her, but she saw a car coming and decided to catch it! Unfortunately, she did catch it, and in the process her foot was run over and crushed. It was beyond horrible! We got to the emergency vet clinic where we spent the next several hours before leaving her there for the night. In the end, she is okay and should have no problems after her 6-8 weeks in a splint/cast, but it was a really scary couple of days.

Needless to say, it was an extremely stressful few days. At first they thought her injury was much worse and the stress of worrying about her, the vet bills, and canceled plans, had me exhausted and not sleeping or eating well. By the time the day came for my 10K, I was still tired, had hardly run all week, and had lost 4 pounds from all the stress. My friends that were going to go with me to cheer me on had to cancel to fly home for a funeral so I headed out to the race alone and feeling defeated already.

There were 5,000 registered racers with friends in tow so the boardwalk was a mad house. This is not the first race put on by this company here in Virginia Beach so I was appalled at the lack of organization. There was nothing to give people an idea where to line up, so there were walkers, with strollers even, at the front and anyone trying to set a consistent pace spent the first mile or two dodging people and trying to break through groups walking 4 or 5 abreast. I managed to keep my tongue in check and didn’t yell the profanities that were popping up in my head, but a couple of people got a pretty good elbow.

After the first couple of miles, people thinned out a bit and it got easier to maintain my pace. I had my virtual partner set up on my Garmin so I could catch up to pace if I walked at a water stop or got stuck behind people. By mile 3, I was already feeling tired, but I knew I was prepared for this speed and distance so it was all in my head. My super-hero cape had also turned into a bit of a problem. Running against the wind, it created a lot of drag. Running with the wind it tangled up in my ankles and drove me nuts so I carried it draped over my arms for most of the run. I seriously considered ditching it in a trash can, but it would have taken too long to get all the safety pins undone to get it off.

When I reached the 4 mile water stop the conversation in my head started:

I can’t do this for two more miles!
Yes you can
It is a lot hotter than it was supposed to be
So what, you trained all summer
I’m tired; I haven’t had enough rest this week
Oh well
I’ve been under a lot of stress
Tough luck
This cape is heavy
You picked the costume
The wind is blowing hard
It will be blowing next weekend too
My calf is starting to hurt
Hold your form!
I’m really tired!

I finished with a chip time of 54:08. My Garmin, set for the 10K distance, thought I was done 9 seconds before I crossed the line, which shows how much I lost dodging walkers at the start! That’s okay though, what I most wanted was the confidence to join the 2 hour pace group for the Outer Banks half next weekend and now I have it.

After the race, I picked up my free beer and waded into the cold ocean to cool my tight calf. It was so peaceful standing there with the waves lapping at my legs and carrying away the pain and strain. Later I talked to people that had seen me running barefoot and wanted to know more. It really was fun hearing the reactions as I ran. All my previous runs have been small local ones where most people either knew about my barefoot running, or saw me around the start. This race was huge though, with literally thousands of runners, each one I passed was shocked. I heard everything, surprise, horror, laughter, and the inevitable, “OMG, we just got passed by someone in bare feet!”

Although the costumes were a kick, the race wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped. My head really wasn’t in the game, it was home with my dog, or in Kabul with my husband, and the crowd was just too much. I’m okay with that many people for a half marathon or farther, but I think I like the smaller races for short distances. I was 31st out of 363 finishers, which just doesn’t have the same ring as 3rd out of 36, and there wasn’t a single familiar face at the finish line.

Next week OUTER BANKS!!