Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Shamrock 10 Miler - March 16, 2013

When I signed up for that atrocious mess of a half marathon, (Sunshine State), part of the motivation to commit to the race was that it was part of a two race series called "The Challenge" which was presented in part by the Palm Beach Road Runners Club. By registering for both the Sunshine State Half and the Shamrock 10 miler, finishers would not only receive finisher's medals for each event, but a third medal for successfully completing both components of The Challenge.

I was excited when I registered for this 2 part event, but after what happened at the Sunshine State half with poor runner support, lack of water, lack of concern for safety, etc... I was seriously questioning whether I should just forgo the Shamrock 10 miler. I heard rumor that this event was going to be quite different from Sunshine State (because it was handled by the PBRRC rather than a promoter out to turn a quick buck), but I was still hesitant.

Which was why, although they would have packet pickup for Shamrock on the morning of the race, I drove over an hour each way the day before the race to pickup my bib and swag-bag. I told Ray that I needed an excuse to get out of the house and take a break from my dissertation work, but the reality was that I needed to gauge their overall organization and preparation for this event.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Packet pickup went smoothly. People were kind and friendly. I was assured that the awful poison fluid that 82Go markets as "portable water" would not be served to runners. Overall, I got a good feeling about this race. And the next morning... I woke up ready and excited to run.

On race day, it took over an hour to get to John Prince Park in Lake Worth... but on the flip side, because it was only a 10 mile race, it was a 7:30 am start time so we got to sleep in a little.

Did anyone notice that I just said only a 10 mile race? NEVER thought I would say something like that... but I digress.

So anyway, we got to the park about an hour early. And then we ran into our friend Tracey and stopped for a quick photo op. Then it was off to the start line. I was running this race alone, but like he has been throughout this season, my awesome sidekick of a husband was there to support me in this endeavor. I think he might have been a bit more insistent on attending this race knowing how sick I was at the end of the Sunshine State fiasco.

On our way to the start line, we saw an older gentleman who had limited use of his legs and was using forearm crutches to help with his mobility. I saw that he was wearing a bib and I was impressed.

Like, ridiculously impressed.

Because the reality is: if I'm having a bad day, or it is cloudy, or I can't find the right socks, or I'm sad, or I'm happy, or I'm too busy, or I just ate, or I didn't eat enough during the day, or I've got a hangnail/blister/bruise/headache.... yada yada yada... I frequently come up with an excuse to not run.

And here is this guy out there on arm crutches, barely able to walk without assistance, who is about to do 10 miles. Granted, I don't know his circumstances, but it makes my complaints seem so superficial. And it left me impressed.

The course was fairly straightforward. Through the park and around the lake until you hit 5 miles, then you loop back to the finish line for a total of 10 miles. At least it seemed fairly straightforward until I actually started moving.

From the first 0.1 mile, I couldn't seem to catch my stride. We passed the 5K start line (there would be a 5K which would start at 8am), where people were starting to line up for their race, and the crowd was cheering. I thought that they might have been cheering for all of us, and I started to push my pace, but then I realized that the man on crutches was hauling ass coming up beside me. Like a character straight out of a Warner Brothers cartoon, I could almost see the smoke coming off of both the soles of his shoes and the crutches as they pounded the pavement.

And just like that, he was gone.
And I was wishing I had crutches too.
Because my foot pain was so bad I felt like I was channeling barefoot Marv's pain when he broke into Kevin's house in Home Alone. Suddenly, This mysterious foot pain was fully explained. Whereas up until now, I had absolutely no clue what was causing the excruciating pain in my arches and ankles, it suddenly became very clear. 

I have high arches and weak ankles. The pain only seemed to come along when I was just starting a run, or when I was running on uneven pavement. If it was a road shoulder or too much grade elevating the center of the road above the sides, or even around a corner or on a ramp... as long as there was a pitch to the road, the pain would come along, interfering with every step.

And I only realized this during the Shamrock run because the ENTIRE course was around the park's central lake, and the whole path was set up at a steep incline where the side closest to the lake was at a lower elevation than the side furthest from the lake. Guess it was built like that to help with runoff... because it certainly wasn't built like that to help Amy comfortably run!

Like previous long runs, I had anticipated that the arch and ankle pain would dissipate a bit, but it never did. Each and every step was enough to cause me to grit my teeth. By the first mile of the course, it was clear that the pain wasn't going to go away. The pack thinned out and left just me and one other woman trailing at the back. About a mile into the course, she veered off to use the facilities but when I passed her, she was right on my tail.
At 1.5 miles, runners who were participating in the other event from the day (a timed 5K) swarmed around us. With little warning, floods of 5K runners were speeding by us. Normally, this wouldn't be much of a bother, except that they were sometimes running 4 or 5 abreast, they would overtake me from both the left and the right sides, and they didn't seem to follow standardly understood runner's etiquette. For the most part, they were obnoxious and irritating and just got in my way. Thankfully, I didn't have to deal with them long because the split for the 10 miler vs the 5K happened not far after that. 

And then it was just me and the woman I was playing leap frog with.  And soon, the faster runners started to pass us in the opposite direction. I was impressed, and like always, I let them know by cheering them on. And they cheered me on too. 

I think that support and encouragement that runners get from one another is one of the things that I like most about organized races, particularly out-and-back courses. I get great encouragement from the runners who are faster than me, and can only hope that they get an additional boost of energy from the kind words of encouragement that I offer them in return.
Soon though, I was hitting the 5 mile mark, and there were no longer any runners to pass and get encouragement from though. There were other pedestrians out in the park who occasionally offered encouragement, but now that the sun was rising higher and higher, my energy was fading quickly. And my feet! Oh man, my feet NEVER stopped hurting. At mile 6, the pain was so bad I had to stop running and did my best to just remember to put one foot in front of the other.

I started having hallucinations of what it would be like to take my shoes off and maybe put my feet into a cooler full of ice for the drive home after the race. I started wondering whether I could put dry ice directly on my skin. And then it happened around mile 8.

I started crying.

Not a couple of tears. Instead, this was big, fat, ugly, snotty, sobbing, elephant tears. And it was ugly.

Why on earth did I ever start torturing myself by running in the first place? Who came up with this stupid idea? And why the heck did I ever go along with it?

I was hurt, and upset, and mad at myself. Why can't anything ever be easy? Why wont my body let me do this, even after all the training? Why am I such a failure?

Looking back, the logical part of me knows that my brain starts shutting down when I am in pain and this was all just my self-doubt talking... but at the time, it was enough to really get the water works going again.

After about 10 minutes of this self-loathing, I realized that the car was less than a mile away. Which meant that it was less than 15-16 minutes away... even less if I picked up my pace.

So absurdly enough, I picked up my pace. The pain in my arches wouldn't let me pick up my pace that much, but I did speed up a little.

And then I saw it. One of the best sights in the world...

Me ("not impressed") with double medals
My husband standing out in front of the finish line with his arms raised above his head in fists, hooting and hollering, cheering me on, telling me how proud he is of me, and letting the whole world know how awesome he thinks I am.

And nothing is better than that.

Not even if I was a Kenyan.

Chip - 2:32:12.880
Pace - 15:13 / mile
Overall - 433 / 441
Gender - 251 / 258
Division - 40 / 42


  1. WOOT! Double medals!! Congrats! Sorry about the foot pain, I know it well...

    1. Thank you. I've been reading through you blog and saw you had a lot of foot issues as well. I damaged my achilles a few years back and struggled with the same aches and pains you had... but with time and therapy, it went away. this is entirely different pain. i seem to live with a tennis ball in my purse these days for when the pain comes along really strong. oh well. what works for you?