Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This race is honestly named. It truly IS 8 hours of hot, humid, punishing, grueling exercise on a 3.05-mile trail in Ann Dever State Park in Englewood Beach. Despite that, the race had a lot of things going for it. Heat doesn’t usually bother me (or at least, it did not until this summer) and even though it is a trail race, it is mostly packed shell and pebbles (although there are – at least to this pavement lover – a fair amount of stubborn rocks and roots). There are real bathrooms nearby. A covered pavilion has tables and benches with room to set up a personal aid area. My feet were in pretty good shape. More to the point, I had completed 62 miles at this same park last November at the Save the Daylight race. It was hard but I managed.

So, what happened to me here this Saturday? I could only manage to finish 21 miles, not even a marathon distance. That means it doesn’t count as a race for my Maniac statistics. It does, of course, have significance for teaching me some valuable lessons as well as learning to accept that not every event will be a happy one. I guess out of over 220 marathons and ultramarathons, having one or two that falls completely apart is to be expected.

My plan was to try and finish 9 laps with a total of 27.45 miles. Eight laps would only yield just over 24 miles, so it was 9 or nothing. The race began at 10 am and the weather was already 80 plus and humid. Even sitting under the pavilion was shirt-drenching. RD Justin gave us a few last minute instructions and about 30-35 of us took off. I was at the very end, naturally, so I was not surprised when everyone disappeared around the bend. I kept my eyes on the ground to watch for any rocks and roots determined to trip me and, aside from the debilitating heat, I felt pretty good. Over one short wooden bridge and then one longer one, past the half mile marker, then the one mile, the mile and a half, and the two-mile marker – all seemed to be good. Still following the arrows, I made another turn and then – whoops, there was the one-mile marker again! How did that happen? I must have made a wrong turn somewhere. I turned around to retrace my steps and began asking people who were running towards me how to get to mile 3. They pointed, I followed, and eventually found my way back to a recognizable place.

But getting lost cost me, not only in time and mileage but also mental courage. I had begun to panic when I realized I had somehow missed a turn. I lost at least 30 minutes by going in the wrong direction and having to retrace my steps. When I mentioned it at the aid station, I was told others had made the same error. After giving my bib number to the lap counters I set off again, this time determined not to get lost. After I hit mile 2, I looked carefully and saw that there was indeed an arrow pointing to the right but it was on the left side of the road and it looked as though we were supposed to make a quick brief right and then turn left (where 2 more arrows pointed up the road). I moved the first arrow to the left side of the road so I and others wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Later, someone moved it to the middle of the road, but that was okay and much more understandable than hidden on the left.

Bottom line – I think that people who are setting up directional signs for a race should walk the course with people who are NOT familiar with the course so any problems can be identified and signs appropriately placed.

Anyhow, my timing was completely off and I realized that I would not be able to get in 9 laps. As it got hotter (and yes, it did get even hotter) and as I got more and more tired, I had to watch the trail very carefully. My feet began to hurt. Initially I had put on a pair of Sketchers trail shoes, lightweight but probably too small, and after 3 hours on the course my feet started to swell. I switched to my Hokas, made a trip to the restroom, drank some seltzer water, and tried to eat something. But I didn’t find any food appealing. I tried a few potato chips and a peanut butter quarter. Nothing helped. I was glad I had brought along 3 small bottles of seltzer because that, along with water, was the only thing I seemed able to digest.

By 6 hours, I had had enough. I called Darcy to pick me up in an hour (our hotel, the Fairfield Inn, was about 45 minutes away) and was able to complete 7 laps before he arrived, bearing a serving of chocolate milk. I thanked the volunteers and RD and we left. We stopped at Publix to get some groceries (crackers, hummus, salad, cheddar cheese, and a little 4 pack of wine) and we had a picnic back at the hotel after my much-needed shower.

It was a day of discouragement, marked by several things I simply could not control. Getting lost, losing my appetite, wearing tight shoes, dealing with the hot sun and a pebbly course – it all seemed pretty overwhelming. I came across a huge tortoise along the trail that seemed to be moving faster than I was during that last lap.

Would I recommend this race for walkers? Yes, but with certain caveats – you must love the heat, enjoy trail races, and plan ahead (make sure to walk the course at least once before the race to make sure you understand the course). Me, I think I will skip this one next year.

 

I was attracted to this half marathon because of the neat Martian medal in the shape of an EBE (extraterrestrial biological entity). My husband, a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and space exploration, was willing to go along with me. After all, I did the Extraterrestrial 51k race in Area 51 in Nevada and we both enjoyed that trip, so why not try this race?

Roswell is a bedroom suburb just north of Atlanta, so traffic on Friday was heavy but fortunately most people were leaving the city while we were heading around it. Our hotel was an expansive quiet Doubletree on Holcomb Bridge Road situated about 1 ½ miles from the race site at Riverside Park. Since the race is an evening race that begins at 7 pm on Saturday, we probably could have left early Saturday morning, but we wanted time to check out the course during the daylight hours, so we drove up on Friday.

Whenever we travel around the Atlanta area, we can usually find a Taco Mac for at least one meal. That was true this time as well. Our Friday afternoon dinner was guacamole and chips, burger for Darcy, flatbread pizza for me, and a selection of local draft beers. We relaxed at the hotel and watched the Olympics.

Both of us were tired and slept late on Saturday (late for me is 7 am, but it still counts). It was strange not having to rise early to get ready for a morning race but it was also a nice change. We had a leisurely breakfast at the Peachtree Diner just down the road. Darcy had corned beef hash and eggs with biscuits and gravy while I delighted in a bagel, cream cheese, and lox platter. After we ate our fill, we drove down to the race site to get an idea of where to park for the race.

There were hours for packet pickup on Thursday and Friday at several running stores in nearby Marietta and Alpharetta but it was much easier for us to get my bib, chip (D-ring for shoe), and short-sleeve red tee shirt (cotton blend with an EBE on the front) at the park on Saturday afternoon from 4:30-6:45 pm. The parking lot was crowded when we arrived at 4:20 and as time passed it became much harder for people to find a spot. There was additional parking at another lot and along the road as well as an overflow lot in Sandy Springs with shuttle service.  It should be noted that in addition to the half marathon, there is also a popular 5k that begins ten minutes after the half start.

I met up with my friend Cheryl who arrived about 5:30. She was planning to register for the race but hadn’t made up her made until the evening before. I was happy to see her for several reasons; she and I have a similar pace plus I wanted to hand over some quilt tops I had sewn but wanted her to machine quilt for me. Cheryl makes beautiful quilts from tee shirts (her business is called Run With It Quilts and her website is http://gallery123uniques.com) and she made a very large one for me from 15 of my national and international racing shirts. I love to make quilt tops but simply can’t find time to hand quilt everything I make and I find machine quilting a burden, so I gave Cheryl five tops to machine quilt for me.

After Cheryl registered for the race, Darcy drove us back to the Doubletree so we could rest for a while. That seemed a better idea than standing around in the heat and sunshine waiting for the race start. Around 6:20, we returned to the park and Darcy dropped us off and returned to the hotel. Cheryl and I joined the throngs of other racers at the starting line. Someone sang the National Anthem and we began to move at 7 pm. Weather was still hot and humid but I knew that once the sun went down some of the heat would dissipate.

The first few miles were on road but then we turned onto a trail that wound around a lake. This trail portion only lasted for a mile or so but it was treacherous for me, with several big roots that crossed the path and the occasional loose rock. Most people would find it easy and very runnable but since I tend to trip over the smallest pebble, I slowed to a cautious walk. Once we were back on a paved path that ran parallel to the road we originally ran on I was fine and could pick up my pace once again. I was glad it was still daylight for this section of the race.

We passed by the starting area and through the park on our way to the other long out-and-back. This section was notable primarily for the very long but gentle incline from miles 5 through 7. We finally turned around at approximately mile 8 and I was relieved that the entire race except for the brief trail portion was all pavement. It was dark but everyone was prepared with headlamps and there were enough people in front of me that I could follow the course back to the finish line. Aid stations were every 2 – 3 miles, with water, Gatorade, and gels.

I finished in 3:04, a little slower than my usual time, but I was extremely pleased. My feet did not hurt at all (except for the usual post-race pain) and I was able to maintain a fairly steady pace throughout the race. I realized that I do need to work quite a bit on my speed if I am to regain my customary finishing times, but I think I am finally past the after surgery complications.

The medal is a glow-in-the-dark EBE medal, a fine addition to my collection of half marathon medals. The race is a fun race for walkers as long as they can handle some trail, don’t mind the August heat, and enjoy night races. Me, I am a morning person, so just staying awake until the race began was a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

 

 

The premise is a neat one – just finish the specified number of miles within your chosen race’s time frame and you will be refunded your entire race registration in cash. For example, if you select the 6 hour race, you would need to complete 24 miles within 6 hours in order to get your $24 registration fee back. The 8 hour race required 32 miles to get a refund of $32 and the 12 hour race required 48 miles to get back $48. Those are pretty cheap registration fees to begin with, even without the potential to get one’s money back. If you don’t complete the required mileage, the money is donated to the Air Force Special Operations Combat Control Association. I decided to register for the 8 hour race and hoped to do at least 26.2 miles. Even if I were able to finish 32 miles, my plan was to donate my refund back to the Combat Control Association. It’s pretty hard to find ultra races in the southeast in the deep heat of summer, so I was happy to sign up for an inexpensive race.

At this point in my recovery from foot surgery (just over 3 months), I wasn’t sure I could even get in a marathon distance but I was game to try. If I succeeded – great! If not, it would be a relatively inexpensive training race. Since the 8 hour race began at 11 am, we left early Saturday morning for the 3 hour drive to the popular beach resort town of Destin, arriving about an hour ahead of time thanks to entering into the Central Time Zone. We found the race site at the Morgan Sports Complex without a problem. I set up several chairs alongside the course, with my drop bag on one, a cooler with ice and snacks on another, and one just to sit on. After checking in with the race officials and getting my bibs (one for the front, one for the back), I just sat and waited. My friend Cheryl soon arrived and we kibitzed until the prerace briefing at 5 minutes to 11.

While this is an extremely low-key race, with only 23 entrants in all 3 races, there were a number of rules that had to be followed in order to avoid disqualification. For instance, racers could not:

  • set up any kind of shade for themselves – no umbrella or tent (although their supporters were free to do so)
  • leave the course to go into their (air-conditioned) car
  • receive aid outside of the official aid area

We were also promised to be yelled at, jeered, and encouraged to quit early (obviously so we would relinquish our registration fees) and every so often, race officials would walk the .83 mile course clockwise (as we ran or walked counter-clockwise) yelling at us to give up and ring the little bell to announce we were throwing in the towel. I think I was more worried about being scolded for walking than I was about the high heat and humidity.

And yes, it was indeed hot and humid. Someone said the temperature reached 110 degrees and that was probably accurate. A few trees along the paved course gave us a thin sliver of shade in certain areas and occasionally there was a warm breeze. The only real relief from the sun and heat came during the early afternoon when some cloud cover gave us a brief respite. Otherwise it was pretty miserable even for a heat lover like myself.

To reach the marathon distance, I had to complete 32 laps. My plan was to finish 16 laps in 4 hours and repeat. Although I had some distinct soreness in my right foot, I was able to move at a 14 minute per lap pace for the first couple of hours. As I walked, I was able to forget about the pain in my foot and instead concentrated my discomfort totally on the burdensome heat. I had brought energy bars, cheese sticks, candied ginger, and crackers, but I only wanted seltzer water (3 bottles) and S-caps. I tried to eat but had no appetite and couldn’t even finish a small granola bar. The aid station provided ice and water but no food or other drink. I was so glad I brought my seltzer because it helped settle my stomach somewhat. I was glad I was only doing the 8 hour race.

During the brief period of cloud cover, I felt slightly energized but that didn’t last. I was happy to finish lap 30 after 7 hours on the course. Two more and I was done, with a total 26.88 miles, good enough for 1st place finish for women in the 8 hour. I was content. Okay, so there was no medal, no tee shirt, no beer mug – just satisfaction for having finished a fun race in August heat.

Darcy met me at the finish line and helped me pack up the chairs and other stuff. We stopped at a McDonald’s for some chocolate milk, then Subway for sandwiches and beverages, and finally our hotel, an attractive and quiet Hampton Inn in Niceville, a short distance away. I was tired, cramping, and covered in salt and sweat but a cool shower and a good night’s sleep helped immensely.

I definitely need to ramp up my speed and rebuild my endurance and stamina but I’m sure that will come in time. Meanwhile, this race is highly recommended for walkers who want an inexpensive chance to get in some training miles. There are bathrooms right on the course (hooray!) and the entire course is asphalt except for a small section on grass. There are also places to sit but I like having my own chairs. Be sure to bring your own food and drink and anything else you think you might need. I’m not sure if this will become an annual event but if it does, I may try it again.

Originally I had signed up for the 12-hour version of this race. However, I was concerned – and rightly so – that I might not be able to complete a 50k in 12 hours, not after two recent foot surgeries. My training race last weekend pointed that out clearly to me. When I emailed the race director about this problem, she was happy to transfer me up to the 24-hour race for just a small increase in the price. It was well worth it to me and made the difference between achieving my goal or being frustrated.

Darcy and I left for Georgia around 8 on Friday morning. Traffic was light until we reached the outskirts of Atlanta. Even the bypass routes, especially 285, were filled with lots of trucks and vacationers, but fortunately there were no tie ups or accidents. We kept moving, just slowly (kind of like me in ultras). It took us about 7 hours to reach our hotel, the Holiday Inn, on the outskirts of Dahlonega proper. We’ve stayed here before on two previous Merrill’s Mile races and the hotel is clean and convenient, with friendly accommodating staff.

We were hungry so we headed to the attractive downtown area which has street and free public parking lots and several appealing restaurants. As usual, Darcy had done his homework and chose several places for us to consider. We had an excellent lunch at Spirits Tavern, where I had a 4-cheese grilled sandwich, sweet Southern cole slaw, and a local brew, while Darcy had a burger with a fried egg on top and hard cider. The only real downside to this restaurant was the loud canned music; it was hard to have a conversation but the food was very good.

After we ate we walked to the North GA Running Company a couple of streets away and I picked up my bib and tee shirt (gray short-sleeve tech – I love the design on the back but can’t stand the slippery feel) plus some arm bands made of the same material. I will give the arm bands to a runner friend who also does ultras and doesn’t mind the tech fabric. The races are chip timed but we had to get the ankle chips on race morning.

Then we returned to the hotel to see if I could get some sleep. Amazingly enough, I fell asleep quickly and slept all the way until 4 in the morning. Since the races began at 9 on Saturday morning, there was no reason to get up too early. I had my coffee and then lounged around until Darcy woke. We wandered down to the lobby so he could get something to eat and then left at 7:30 for the race site at Camp Frank D. Merrill (an Army Ranger training camp). It took about 30 minutes driving time. We arrived around 8 and I set up my chair and drop bag inside the oval loop of the paved course in between several runner tents. Later I moved my stuff to a ‘free’ tent for runners who didn’t have their own so I could keep my things out of the sunshine.

Merrill’s Mile has a race for everyone. One can choose between 6, 12, 24, or 48-hour time limits, beginning on Saturday or Sunday in the morning or evening. Because the 0.9902 mile paved oval is not shaded at all, many wise participants opted to start the 6 or 12-hour race in the evening hours to avoid the very hot sun. Of course, that was not me. I wanted to begin at 9 in the morning so I could enjoy all that sunshine and humidity (and not all of that is meant to be sarcasm – I do prefer heat to cold and humidity to rain or snow, but it was hot even for me).

There is one aid station that has the usual ultra food choices plus watermelon and popsicles. I mostly relied on my own food, especially since I ate a filling dinner in the middle of the race, but I did enjoy the tortilla filled with sweet potatoes and black beans – yum! At the opposite end of the course is a table with just water, handy for filling up a water bottle without any crowding.

The fact that the ‘mile’ is not really a mile means that it takes several laps to achieve any reasonable distance so I figured I would have to do 34 laps to get in my 50k distance. That would give me 31 miles plus some extra for insurance. I had a plan. I wanted to stay on the course all morning and for part of the afternoon. Darcy would check on me around 4 pm and if I felt I needed a break (and I was sure that I would), he would drive me back to the hotel and I would rest for several hours or perhaps overnight and then return me to the course to finish up. There was no phone service at the Camp except for Verizon and since we had ATT, there was no way I give him a call at any hour to say ‘come pick me up now, please.’

I was doing fine until my 15th lap when my feet started to hurt and burn. I did another 8 laps, more slowly each go-around and thought seriously about changing shoes (I had 4 pairs of various sizes and widths) but it was so close to 4 o’clock at that point I decided to stick it out with what I was wearing (my very comfortable New Balance Boracay men’s size 10 D) until Darcy appeared. He showed up promptly at 4 and I was ready to head out with him. I left word with the RD and time keeper that I was taking an extended break and we drove to Dahlonega and the Bourbon Street Grille. I wasn’t very hungry but I knew Darcy was famished so he ate and I nibbled (the steak and guacamole salad was great but I saved most of it for breakfast after the race). Then we went back to the hotel where I showered, changed clothes, and elevated my legs on some pillows while icing my feet.

It made a difference. Four hours later my feet were still sore but not as wrecked as they were earlier. Although I seldom take any medicine while racing, I did take one Aleve just for extra insurance. I put on the same pair of NB (yes, they were that comfortable), packed my other 3 shoes just in case, and at 8:30 pm we headed back to the course.

I had completed 23 laps before we left at 4, so I had 11 more to reach that magic 50k number. I decided to just stay the night and arranged for Darcy to come get me at 4 am. I figured that the 7 hours from 9 pm to 4 am should give me plenty of time to do at least 11 laps, maybe more, and also allow me time to rest if need be. Night is not my favorite time to race but this experience would come in handy for the upcoming 24 hour races on my schedule.

Without the hot sun, it was surprisingly pleasant on the course. The humidity was still present but there was also a cool refreshing breeze. Fireflies and other bugs were plentiful and we could hear frogs in the nearby creeks. The RD warned us about the possibility of poisonous snakes crossing the road in the darkness but I never saw any (and, believe me, I was watching for them!). I managed to do those 11 laps before midnight and then just kept on going. I did change shoes once or twice, mostly for a chance to sit down and rest a bit. Final tally: 43 laps=42.795 miles in 14 hours on the course (broken up into two 7 hour segments). I usually do 40 to 45 miles in a 12-hour race but I was very grateful to have the full 24 hours to get this number.

At 4 am Darcy was waiting for me to finish my final lap. I turned in my chip, received my dog tag medal, and we took off for the hotel where I promptly fell into a sound slumber. A couple of hours later we were on the road headed for home. It turned out to be a great 4th of July weekend!

It was time! I felt extremely eager to get out there to restart my racing ‘career’ despite my concerns. I was approximately 5 weeks (left foot) and 9 weeks (right foot) post-surgeries and still experiencing intermittent pain, swelling, and soreness. Once the pins had been removed from my left foot, I had begun walking – slowly – but I had not done more than 5 miles a day. And when I say I was moving slowly, I mean VERY slowly. I began by doing 30 minute miles and managed to get that down to 25 minutes. I would go out early in the morning before sunrise to get 3 miles done while the Florida heat and humidity were still reasonable and then aim for another couple of miles during the heat of the day so I could acclimate to warmer temperatures.

Did I feel ready for Run Down the Aisle? Not at all! But at least this was a timed race so just getting out there would save me from the dreaded DNF and I could experience a racing environment without worrying about how many miles I had to do.

Darcy and I drove up to Suwanee, GA, on Friday morning. We stayed at a local Fairfield Inn and had some excellent meals and draft beer at a nearby Taco Mac.

This was a unique race in many respects. Heather and Patrick, the race directors, had met at a race and decided it would be a wonderful idea to get married at one. They chose lovely George Pierce Park in Suwannee, Georgia, for their venue and invited their family and friends as well as any runner who wanted to join them in a timed 8-hour race in 100 degree Georgia heat. Heather wore a white running outfit with a short veil while Patrick donned a tee shirt (at least for part of the race) and shorts and exchanged vows in front of a lake while about 30 runners and a number of guests and family looked on. There was sparkling (non-alcoholic) cider, a wedding cake, and the usual array of ultra snacks, plus pizza at noon.

The course was a paved .55-mile loop around a lake; about 4 hours into the race everyone changed direction so we had a chance to experience the few minor ‘hills’ in a different way. The race began about 7:05 in the morning and ended at 3 pm. Friendly volunteers kept track of our laps and occasionally would pace us on a loop or two (thanks, Kevin). There was a big covered pavilion where we could set up our own chair and belongings. And – joy of joy – there were real bathrooms!

I did have a few goals for this race but I kept them flexible. I figured as long as I got out there and did 6 miles it would be more than I had done since my last race, a half marathon, back in April. If I could do 6 miles, I would try to get in a half marathon distance, and if I were successful then I would aim for 15 miles. To count the race for Maniac statistics, I would need to complete 48 laps. Normally, that would not be a problem. I can finish a marathon distance in under 8 hours without a hitch. Normally. But this was a very different situation and I realized going in that I would not be able to complete 26.2 miles even if I still had the stamina to do so. My feet just wouldn’t go that far without considerable pain. And that might not be wise in any case.

How did I do? Surprisingly well, considering. When I began the race, I had some pain and discomfort in both feet but after a few laps my left foot felt pretty good. My right foot, on the other hand, was very sore and gave me trouble the entire race, though the pain changed from a 5 to a 9. I thought that was kind of strange because my right foot was 9 weeks past surgery and should have been in better shape. Of course, removing the bunion from that foot involved bone reduction and was probably more traumatic than the soft tissue excisions on my left foot.

I managed to do 13.1 miles in 3 hours and 15 minutes and was extremely pleased. That was only about 20-25 minutes longer than my usual half marathon time. I did a few more loops and began to think positively about maybe getting that elusive 26.2 miles in. If I could do another half marathon in another 3:15, I would even finish with time to spare. Well, that was not to be. After reaching 15 miles, the wheels came off and I began to experience a lot of pain in both feet. Heat played a factor as well, since the temperature rose to 100 degrees; several runners cut their race short because it was just too darn hot. I don’t usually mind hot weather but added to my foot difficulties, it became just an additional nuisance.

I changed shoes, thinking that might help. I have been wearing D-width New Balance shoes and my wide toe box Altras because they are the only shoes that can accommodate my swollen feet. My toes are still so tender that I cannot wear my Injinji socks so I have to wear larger softer fluffier socks. But blisters were the least of my problems. After 2 additional shoe and sock changes, I realized that I had reached my limit. At 19.2 miles and 6 hours and 15 minutes, I called it a day.

Yes, I could have stayed a couple more hours and trudged around for a few more loops but my scars looked red and angry and they hurt. I was apprehensive about doing damage that would keep me from sticking to the rest of my racing schedule. I called Darcy and asked him to come get me. While I waited for him, I rested on one of the picnic benches (right next to the cake, of course) and chatted with the volunteers and other racers. Although it was Heather and Patrick’s celebration, every runner got some presents. Our medal was an attractive one, with pink and red conjoined hearts, but we also received a key chain and ring box and a champagne glass; all these had Heather and Patrick’s name and the date on them. Plus, we were also given small bottles of bubbles to blow we could blow as well as sweet smelling rose petal soaps.

If Heather and Patrick decide to celebrate their anniversary every year by throwing another 8-hour race here, I will definitely sign up. And maybe next year I can reach that marathon distance (or better).

Long plagued by inherited foot problems like bunions, hammertoes, and overly constrained tendons, I finally decided to take a break from racing and deal with some necessary foot surgeries. Although I had originally registered for the Ottawa Marathon on Memorial Day weekend, our recent plans to concentrate on more local races meant no air travel for a while and so we canceled our Canadian trip plans. With this break in my schedule, it seemed like late spring would be a good time to undergo these operations.

I’ve already mentioned the first surgery in my previous post so I will just give a quick recap here.  After I completed the Lake Minneola Half Marathon in April, I underwent the first foot surgery three days later. I’ll omit all the excruciating details but I had several things done: my big toe nail was removed completely (it had begun as a ‘normal’ black toe but never fell off and instead began to harden and grow sideways into my skin), a troublesome bunion was shaved off, two hammertoes were straightened. Since this involved not only soft tissue incisions but also bone reduction, I had the surgery done under general anesthesia. Overall, the experience went well. Three days postop, I was off all pain medications, though I had occasional breakthrough pain plus pins, stitches, casts, and bandages hampering my mobility.

When I returned for my three week visit, the stitches and hard casts were removed and I was given a splint to wear for protection and straightening, a cream to soften scars, and some range of motion exercises. At four weeks I could actually fit my foot (if I removed the cumbersome splint) into one of my wider running shoes. My toes are still somewhat painful but much better than before and I am very hopeful. I am supposed to wear the splint at night and when I am resting.

On May 19, three weeks and one day after my first surgery, I returned to the podiatry office for my second surgery. Since this operation on my left foot was to involve only soft tissue issues (a release of a tight tendon on my big toe and straightening two other toes), I had it done under a local anesthesia with only Ambien to relax me. About 16 years ago, I had had a big bunion removed and a hammertoe straightened but in the intervening years, my other toes had begun to cause problems. Since I was taking time off from racing to deal with one foot, I figured it would be wise to double up and take care of both problems, incurring only a few additional weeks’ recovery time. I fell into a relaxed dreamy haze after the local anesthetic took effect; my husband was allowed to stay with me in the surgical area and he watched the doctor and surgical nurse work on my foot while I kept my eyes shut tight.  Later he filled me in on what transpired.  I’m glad I had my eyes closed.

About midnight the local anesthetic wore off and I awoke in desperate severe pain. I quickly swallowed a narcotic pain pill only to follow it two hours later with an Advil to help it along and 3 hours after that another narcotic. I used more pain meds after this surgery than the first but I gradually weaned myself off and by the fourth day only took the occasional Advil. After both surgeries, I found using my office chair with wheels to move around the house invaluable since it gave me respite from putting weight on my feet. This especially helped after the second surgery since I wasn’t yet fully functional with my right foot.

The one-week postop visit on this second surgery was pretty mundane. The two slender pins (which stuck out a bit at the ends of my toes and looked pretty strange) and all the stitches remained intact and everything was re-bandaged and rewrapped. I can hobble along in my Velcro shoe, putting weight on my heel to distract from the obvious difficulties of walking. My balance is not so great under these circumstances but it is just a matter of giving everything enough time to heal.  My next return visit is in two weeks. I hope to have stitches and pins removed at that time and maybe – must maybe – I can begin to train for my next race.

I think it’s important to emphasize that I had these surgeries for fairly serious reasons. I had long ago given up on pretty toenails and wearing sandals. My feet hurt badly when I walked long distances and the pain I felt during my races was getting increasingly troublesome. One solution I guess would be to walk and race less and avoid any exercise that caused pain. I was told that these kinds of foot peculiarities are genetic; my mom always had difficulties with her feet. Her solution was to refrain from walking much at all, with the result that she had numerous other health problems because of her sedentary habits. She was very overweight and developed hypertension, high cholesterol, and type II diabetes. Although I inherited Mom’s foot problems, I had no desire to replicate her medical difficulties. So the surgeries were a necessary evil if I planned to continue an active lifestyle.

Post surgery, probably the hardest thing for me to accept now is my complete lack of activity during this recovery and recuperative period. I feel like I am losing all the stamina and endurance I so carefully nurtured over the last 10 years. Without any aerobic exercise during the day, I find it almost impossible to fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night. My usual insomnia (waking up around midnight with difficulty falling back to sleep) has developed into difficulty falling asleep at all on some nights. I realize this is temporary and should disappear once I get active again. In the meantime, it’s hard to work around it.

How do I spend my days (and nights)? I am reading a LOT (thank goodness for the public library), hand quilting lots of projects, catching up with emails, and sorting through papers and books. I get up and move around every 15-30 minutes or so during the day to get at least some activity.  Now that I am past the elevate and ice stages, I am cooking, doing light cleaning (okay, not much of that, to be honest), and going on errands with my husband (with him driving since my clunky Velcro shoes make it too difficult to accurately hit the gas pedal and brake in my little Civic).

One point I would like to emphasize for any runners or walkers who face foot surgery. I think it’s important to make sure your medical practitioner understands why racing is important to you. I chose my podiatrist because he was a marathoner; I felt he would have a better understanding of the difficulties I was experiencing and why I wanted so badly to continue my racing as soon as possible. He is extremely empathetic and is working with me to recover as rapidly as medically feasible.

My next race comes up in less than four weeks. It is an 8-hour timed race in Georgia and – while I really want to complete a marathon distance so I can count it for Maniacs statistics – I will be happy to finish even a few miles as long as I can do them sans pain or problems. I will be so grateful for that.

As I write this I am lying on my bed three days after surgery, my legs elevated and right foot bandaged and iced. The surgery was planned and carefully orchestrated to fall in between the races on my spring calendar. Even with attention to meticulous timing, it was hard for me to avoid signing up for enticing races.   I had to weigh the pros of finally taking care of some long-standing foot problems with the cons of missing out on good races and losing the strength and training I had worked so hard to attain. However, I realized it was time to take the plunge before my foot problems became more severe.

But before I made a date for my surgery, I tried to squeeze as many races as possible into my schedule. I managed to do four races in March and three in April, including this excellent half marathon in Clermont, Florida, a small city just west of Orlando. Unless I experience a miraculous recovery, the Lake Minneola Half Marathon will have to tied me over until my expected return to racing in June.

The trip was a brief one. Since Clermont is only a four-hour drive via several interstates and the Florida Turnpike, we left on Saturday morning and planned to return on Sunday right after the race. Our first stop was at the race site at Waterfront Park at Lake Minneola. The weather in south Florida was already hot and humid and the lake was filled with swimmers and sunbathers enjoying the warm temperatures. Packet pickup was from 11 to 4 on Saturday at the Highlander Building right across the street from the lake. It took less than 2 minutes to get my race shirt (short-sleeve royal blue poly-cotton) and my bib along with one of the rectangular chips that must be attached to one’s shoe laces (it’s been awhile since I’ve seen those). There is packet pickup on Sunday morning as well.

We had reservations at the local Hampton Inn but since our room wasn’t ready yet we walked over to Carrabba’s for lunch. Since this race attracts mostly locals, there is no specific host hotel but the area has many options. The Hampton was clean and attractive but rather pricey; this was one of the reasons we decided to stay only one night. I suspect that the high cost of a room was due to the fact that it was bike week in nearby Leesburg. However, we were able to get a late checkout so I could return after the race for a quick and very welcome shower before leaving.

On Sunday, I was up and ready to go by 5:30. The race was supposed to start at 7, with a 5k at 7:40, but since I always like to get to the race site in plenty of time, we arrived by 6 am. Usually Darcy waits with me until the race begins, but he was feeling miserable, with a troublesome cold, cough, and sinus congestion so he dropped me off and returned to the hotel for more rest. The weather was in the upper 60’s and pleasant so I didn’t mind at all; I wandered along the lakefront and people-watched until the race began. There were real bathrooms plus additional portapotties.

Around 6:45, an announcement was made for people to line up out front. Everything seemed to be extremely well-organized; timing mats were placed down, banners with pace per mile were set up, and people chatted and laughed. The atmosphere was casual and relaxed and I began to enjoy myself immensely. The usual angst I feel before a race was not present. I realized that this was in large part due to the nature of a half versus a full marathon. Many people sported Fanatics and Double Agents shirts (and I had on my Fanatic singlet and Maniac cap).

The race began about 5 minutes after 7 (something about fog, I think) and we headed north through some relatively hilly neighborhoods. Yes, it surprised me too, that there were hills here in central Florida, but – because they occurred during the first 6 miles – they were a minor issue. The rest of the course was pancake flat and took us around the lake, through some well-heeled neighborhoods, and back again by the Lake. The trail is completely paved and in great condition, no cracks or tripping hazards. Several of the aid stations offered gel packets as well as water and Heed.

Around mile 6 a young woman caught up with me and said she had seen me at the Tomoka half. She complimented me on my steady pace and told me she had to run a bit to catch up with me. That made me feel pretty good since she seemed about two or three decades younger than me!

I crossed the finish line in 2:48 (right around my usual half marathon finishing time) and collected my medal, an attractive beverage opener on a narrow lanyard. Post-race food included pasta (with and without meat), fruit, and water. There was a table with several computers so people could check their times but it seems a technical glitch made that impossible. It was kind of funny, too, that as we crossed the finish line, the announcer read off our numbers but not our names or where we were from. In fact, the only complaint I could make about this race (and it is a very minor one) is that I had to wait a couple of days to see results posted online.

The half marathon has a 4-hour time limit, with several finishers who came in over that limit, though not by much. This year there were 486 finishers and they were evenly spread out over the course. I always had people I could see in front of me and behind me, which I find very reassuring. I highly recommend this race for walkers.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers