Getting Back to Racing by Run(ing) Down the Aisle for (almost) 8 Hours : Suwanee, GA (June 25, 2016)

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).