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.


Barefoot AngieB said...

Great Job!!! Nice report too!

Sherri said...

wow, running barefoot. I can't imagine. excellent time and great job on meeting your goal. I'm impressed. did you practice barefoot a lot to get used to running barefoot? I'm guessing that's an obvious yes.

robison52 said...

Congrats on your successful feet, oops, or feat! Very smart to have your a couple of half-marathons under your belt before attempting a full marathon in the next two years. Isn't facebook and forums fantastic for connecting with like-minds, you have support, motivation, and making yourself accountable with a couple of strokes on the internet...makes you wonder how we survived without cell phones and computers!!

southofthecliff said...

Nice work. Er, play, I mean.

greentigress said...

Lol @ 'man up' = hysterical...!!!

Great Half Marathon - your first barefoot half? amazing time!!

runrgrl2007 said...

You are my HERO! Now that you have convinced me to give this barefoot running a try, you have to promise to run a marathon with me! LOL! Seriously, we need to find our race for next year and make this an annual trip for all of us.
Great report!

Andy said...

That's pretty cool. I was running close to the 2-hour pace group for a while and heard several comment on your barefoot running.

WendyBird said...

I hope they were good comments, LOL

Clare said...

catching up...congratulations to all of you! wish i could have made it with you. still haven't really broken 7 miles yet, not sure what my problem is!