Antarctica Half Marathon

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.


First 10k

I got in 6.2 miles last weekend. It’s a mile short of where I need to be on my half marathon training schedule, but given I’ve been so sick, I’ll take it. It’s my first 10k in many years.

Although neither bothered me too much on the run, I’m still suffering with a sore throat and wicked cough. The coughing attacks have been so bad, my back is sore from muscle strain.

While few people believe me, they insist it must have been something coming on before, all of this has been the direct result of a flu shot. I was perfectly healthy walking into the travel consultation and perfectly sick walking out post-flu shot.

I just didn’t expect the effects to take this long to blow over. It’s been eleven miserable days. Sick or not, I have a training schedule to stick to, so I got out there and got in a 10k.

Typically, experts recommend following “the neck rule” when determining to run while sick. The neck rule basically states that if you have pain or agitation anywhere on or below the neck, i.e., sore throat, stomach issues, fever, congested chest and lungs, etc., you should not run. Anything above the neck, i.e., stuffy nose, watering eyes, or simple cough, you’re probably okay to run.

Even with the neck rule in place, health professionals encourage runners to use common sense and check in with themselves.

For me, I had a sore throat, but was able to knock out six miles comfortably. Afterwards, I needed lots of rest. It knocked me out for the following 24 hours.

The run started off slowly. The first mile being the hardest followed by the second mile being the second hardest. After the third mile, I fell into a rhythm with my footsteps and breathing and moving forward.

I overdressed with long pants and a three-quarter zip over a performance tee. At 54 degrees, I could have run in a tee and shorts and was from start to finish.

Overall, it was a comfortable way to spend the time. No coughing, nice and warm, listening to music, getting some vitamin D. If you’re feeling a little off or down, I’d encourage you to get a run in. It doesn’t have to be six miles, but just something to warm up your body and muscles.

I also took a solid thirty minutes post-run to stretch, foam roll my legs and IT band, and ice my knees. The self-care felt wonderful.

Cold and flu season is upon us. My recommendation to anyone debating on running is if you can do it without hacking up a lung, go for it.

Skip the hard stuff (intervals, speed work, hills, etc.) and plan for a solid rest and recovery time post-run. You’re gonna need it.

Stay healthy. 🙏 💪🏼🏃‍♀️


Victory

Chicago Marathon Medal

Plagued with injury, against all odds (and doctor’s orders), more fear than most that I will crap myself on the course, I got through it. But I did more than get through it. After 26.2 miles, I found myself finishing with my arms raised up in victory across the finish line, even with a distinct limp (lovingly referred to as my pimp limp for the next five days). Then, shortly, a medal was placed around my neck. Tears fell down my sweat-dried and salt-dusted cheeks; and I could only muster up a head nod when the volunteer said, “congratulations,” for fear words might cause uncontrollable sobbing.

I hobbled slowly down that victory lane watching other runners seated along the parallel curb, some drinking beer out of plastic cups, others icing shoulders, knees, and ankles. All of us with a profound sense of accomplishment. My grandmother would be proud of me.


Recovery

Image

It’s been a few weeks since my injury and I haven’t seemed to be able to recover. I can go about five miles before debilitating pain sets in. It starts in my foot, travels to my toes and then up into my shin, eventually traveling along my IT band to my hip, where it likes to exude a leg-numbing pain. Man, it sucks. So I’m bummed. The marathon is about five weeks away and it’s looking like I’m likely not going to finish it, or run/walk it slow enough to officially DNF. I’m sick over it. Praying for a miracle.


Gratitude

SF Bay Water

I have a ton of gratitude for all that has come my way. I get to eat dinner everyday and sometimes hem and haw over which cuisine I might fancy. And I often get to have seconds if I so desire. I get to sleep in a comfortable bed every night with clean sheets under a roof that doesn’t leak in a house that is a safe place. I get fresh water freely and take hot showers daily. I work inside a building where, unless I’m really clumsy in the cafe, I won’t lose a finger or limb. My life is abundantly blessed.

Today on my 10 mile run I thought about many of the things, big and small, that I am grateful for including the ability to run freely under an open sky, at my own pace, feeling myself breathing, watching the path disappear under my feet, pushing my boundaries under my own will. It was perfect at times. I’m so lucky to have moved to a place where I have relatively easy access to a running path that will serve as my marathon training ground. I’m so lucky to have the means to afford running shoes, shorts, bras, hats, etc. And to afford to enter a marathon, with both my time and money.

All of this gratitude helped ease the pain on the run today, but make no mistake, there was pain. Enough to scare me into wondering how the hell I’m going to do almost three runs like the one I completed today with less than three months left of training time. I thought the fear and anxiety would have subsided by now, but I couldn’t have been wronger. The reality of how long this run is couldn’t be more real or scarier. I just don’t want to let anyone down.


Beginner

beginner

Marathon training has officially begun and I’m on track. That’s not saying much, it’s only week two. But with all of the upcoming travel on my schedule, I don’t know how long that will be the case.

It scares me to think about all of the miles I have yet to lay down all in preparation for the long run through the streets of Chicago. If I follow the training plan that I adopted, when all is said and done, I will have run over 425 training miles before running 26.2 on race day in October. That’s like running from Chicago to Canada.

The training plan pictured above you can find at the Chicago Marathon site at http://assets.chicagomarathon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2013_finish.pdf. After reviewing several different types of plans from CARA’s training peaks plan to Hal Higdon’s plan to Runner’s World’s plan – a plan I also loved, but this one to looked to be the most compelling. Incorporating weight training, cross-training, and yoga plan feels good as long as none of it is overdone. The RW plan includes running  exclusively, is 20 weeks long, and claims to be foolproof.  Either will probably get a beginner in a place to complete the marathon.

And that’s exactly what I am, a beginner. My goal is to finish the race. If I do that, I’ll have achieved all that I set out to do. I hope I can.