We did it!
A race four years in the making finally came to fruition. Even after illness and injury, I completed one of the hardest half marathons on the planet. It was hilly, rocky, windy at times, and unbelievably muddy. It was everything but freezing cold.
The race was set on King George Island. It was a little over a four mile loop out and back, set along the Uruguayan base. The race director said it was the best and warmest day in the race’s twenty year history. Thank you, global warming.
Although we started out on a frozen tundra of dirt and rock, twenty or so minutes into the race, the temperature rose and capped out at a balmy 36 degrees. That increase along with ninety-some-odd runners trodding the path and a steady stream of glacier runoff created a sticky, sludgy mud path along with sizable puddles – the kind that steal your shoes if you happen to step in the wrong one – on the race course.
The first loop was mostly run on tractor tire treads frozen in the mud. Every tread was an ankle bender so each step was placed carefully. It made for a concentrated effort and although it was cold, there was almost no wind, so I was very warm about half way in and ready to shed a layer.
On the second loop I pulled off a middle layer – a three-quarter zip fleece – and ran in a long sleeve technical tee and windbreaker the rest of the race. I also shed my gloves, which was a bad idea as the wind picked up during my second loop and I was shivering by the time I got back to my gloves around mile eight.
The race was entirely self supported and no plastics of any kind, including those that house nutrition from gels, beans, or in my case Starburst, were allowed on the island. Runners found interesting ways to squeeze their single serve packs of Gu or other gels into bottles that hopefully didn’t clog during the race.
I unwrapped about thirty candies and popped them into the little bag on my water bottle. The red stains on the blue bag still haven’t come out even after a couple of solid washings. Mental note: I need to find a new nutrition strategy. My friends used sport beans, and they seemed pleased with them. I’ll try them next race.
The last loop was the muddiest and messiest. My achilles was screaming and pulsing with pain, but I wasn’t about to cave. I had come this far and with only four miles left, I wasn’t about to stop. I walked up the hills and plodded lightly down limping a little to help relieve the throbbing.
When it was flat, I ran at about 70% effort. I didn’t want to miss out on all the hiking and excursions if I totaled my ankle. In fact, I ran all the way to the finish line.
I completed the half marathon with a time around 3:30-ish and a smile. It was the worst time I had ever run, but I was happy to cross the finish line at all, with both shoes still on my feet and my achilles mostly intact.
Training is almost back on schedule. I’m still running about a mile short on the weekend long runs (seven miles), but feeling nice and strong during the run and recovering quickly.
Rainy weather has made for interesting conditions in the bay area, but still nothing like Antarctica. Not a snowflake to be found, just a lot of rain and wind.
Luckily, I have a couple more training trips to cold places that should help at least expose my lungs and body to the frigid temperatures anticipated on race day.
Also, I don’t feel like I’m getting the hill work needed in what’s expected on the Antarctic race course, but I’m doing my best to get to the trails.
The run I get to do most days is just outside my doorstep and this is a training no-no. Even though it’s so easy and convenient and connects to the bay trail, which goes on for miles, it’s not even close to what I am expecting in Antarctica.
If I can’t make the time to get to the trails and put in the work, I will pay for this dearly in Antarctica in the way of tired legs and a lot of huffing and puffing. 😟
That two-week sickness really set me back, but I have five more weeks to turn it around. 💪🏼
I still need to finish my packing list as well. The race company posts their recommendations, but I feel like it’s missing quite a few things that will make my race a happy – or at least more comfortable – race. Will post my complete packing list once done.
Until next time, stay healthy. 🙏
It was 2014 when I sent my application in for the half marathon taking place in Antarctica. A couple of months later, I was waitlisted without an estimated date or time for acceptance. My assumption was it would take a year. It seemed reasonable, like most marathons, a year or a little less is about when they open. But not this one.
Four years later, I got the green light to send in the rest of my deposit. The race folks confirmed I would be running in the 2019 race. A full five years later. But, hey, it was official. I had a room on a ship going to Antarctica, and this would be my final half marathon.
The problem with such a long waitlist is I’m no longer in the marathon-running shape I was in back in 2014 or 15 or even 16. I’m older and slower and have really started to enjoy not running for hours, not training during what were supposed to be slow weekend mornings, not enduring a foam rolling after the run. No more ice on my knees and piles of sweaty running gear filling up my laundry hamper.
Come on, I tell myself, trying to get motivated, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. How can I not take it on, and try to enjoy it regardless of how old I feel, or how old I really am? Maybe with all of this training and running to come, I might feel younger again. But deep down I doubt it. It’s more likely, I’ll feel older.
So I’m starting slowly. I’ve signed up to work out with a personal trainer once or twice a week depending on our schedules, just to give myself a base level of fitness. I have a history of getting injured while training and I think it’s because I’m not really that fit before I jump right in to running longer distances. I’ve been working with the trainer for about three weeks now.
I’ve also signed up for the first 5k I’ve attempted in so, so long. It’s a hilly up and down, out and back trail race. Training for that has also begun. Training, meaning, I put on my shoes and attempt to meet the distances, but mostly I’m tired and winded.
Regardless of my fitness level, I am excited about visiting Antarctica. Not many people get the opportunity to visit that continent. For me, Antarctica will be my seventh and last remaining continent to step foot on. I’m pretty stoked.
Now, I just need to get that running and fitness thing moving in the right direction. I’ve missed a couple of training runs already this week. It’s time to get in gear or I’ll never know what it was like to complete my last half on the most remote continent in the world.
I did it. The Summer Breeze half marathon in San Leandro happened last week and I finished it in 2:33. I thought at some points along the way that my left leg might stop working. My IT band was so tight by mile 9 that it was causing pain from my hip down to the front of my ankle with every step. Damn, it hurt, but I kept moving, at a snail’s pace, and willed myself to get through those last four miles.
Taken at mile 11. Does this look like the face of a happy runner?
I think not. But I finished. I’m halfway there.
No idea how I will be able to turn around and run another 13.1, but I won’t think about that for now. I just might throw up.