This past weekend, I traveled to Virginia Beach to take part in the Shamrock Half Marathon and to take part in a Polar Plunge in the icy waters of the ocean. I stayed with my friend Holly, who planned to run the half with me, and another friend Virginia, who was running the full marathon. We stayed in a cabin that Holly's daughter declared was "creepy," but I agreed with Holly's assessment that it was merely "rustic." Rustic, but with running water and electricity. There was a bed in the loft, but Holly and Virginia told me I wasn't allowed up there for fear I would knock my head on the ceiling and get a concussion. We'd packed for 80 degree temperatures, but the weather changed, with a new forecast of a chilly and windy start of the race. So we went to Rite-Aid and bought matching black velour jackets studded with rhinestones. They were actually for children--I bought a size 2XL and it fit perfectly. I've appended a photo so you can see how Goth the three of us look. The original plan was to throw these youth jackets away once we warmed up during the race, but they were so nice that we ran the races with velour jackets tied around our waists.
During the run I spotted a shirt that said, "I'm an Ultra Runner. This is My SHORT Run!" It made me giggle because it was definitely a short run for Holly and me! We'd hoped to maintain a 10:30 pace throughout, and maybe even pick it up at the end. This would result in a finish somewhere around 2:15 to 2:17. Last year, my finish time was something like 2:14. But training for an ultra does not make you faster. Plus, as someone very dear to me reminded me after this race, I've been through a lot since I last ran the Shamrock Half Marathon.
Experts tell you not to try anything new on race day. But for me this was a short run, so I decided to try some new food. I usually eat Cliff Bars and Gu brand gels. (Gels, for those of you who aren't runners, are little squirts of mainly sugar in a liquid form. They are easy to digest when you are running and your body does not have to work to convert the food into sugar, which is what fuels you when you run). Someone had told me about a product called Vega Sport. So I bought a gel and a bar in this brand. Around mile 7 I felt great, and we were maintaining the 10:30 pace, as planned. I tried the new orange-flavored gel. It tasted like what your dog might throw up if you forced him to eat oranges. BLECH. Around mile 9, I was tired and started to slow. Holly went on with another friend, Judy. I decided to eat the new bar. It tasted like chewing tobacco! And the more I chewed, the bigger it got. Apparently these bars are not for runners, but for baseball players!
After the chewing tobacco incident, I could not get my mojo back. My pace slowed considerably. Thankfully, my knee wasn't hurting and I didn't experience any boob zingers. I was just tired and hungry! Finally, about three miles from the finish, I spotted by teammate Jack Martin, who was walking. Jack was coming off an injury and had planned to walk a good bit of the race because he'd only run about 6 miles in recent training. When he does run, though, Jack is faster than I am. In fact, he'd run the first couple miles with his son at a pace quicker than 9:00, after which he'd started walking, except when he saw someone he knew. He must be a fast walker because, here I was, not able to catch him till almost mile 10! He said he was happy to do a bit more running, so I asked him to run some with me and keep me sane. We had a blast in those last few miles. Somewhere along that stretch, I saw Holly's mother, aunt and daughter, and handed them my beautiful velour rhinestone-studded jacket. I will wear that again! When we finally got to the finish line, I was very happy that this run was so short! My finish time was 2:22, resulting from an average pace of 10:51 . It was slower than I had hoped, and for a moment I felt like a turtle. Not that I mind being a turtle: they are green and it was a Shamrock race! But later, the race organizers sent me an email that showed that I ran faster than 40% of the entire field, and faster than 49% of the women in the race. Among the 45-49 year old ladies, I ranked 245 out of 532--that's the TOP HALF. Not a turtle! Maybe not a cheetah, but not a turtle.
Ice Bath Challenge
A few days before the Shamrock, I began talking about taking a dip in the ocean after the race WITHOUT A WETSUIT. The plan was to go all the way in and get my head completely wet. And to see how long it might take before I came running out of the water, screaming at the top of my lungs!
You see, the water temperature was only 54 degrees. Now air temperatures of 54 are not so bad, but water temperatures of 54 are cold! The water temperature at Ironman Coeur d'Alene was actually a few degrees warmer, yet for that swim I wore a long-sleeved wetsuit and two swim caps. I found a website describing how to avoid hypothermia in 50-something degree water. It suggested that you should "climb aboard the wreckage." A surfing website described the water temperature on that particular day in Virginia Beach and suggested that you should wear not only a wetsuit, but also "neoprene booties and a cap." And I was going to go in the water with a skirt and a sports bra, nothing else. After finishing my race alongside Jack Martin, Jack introduced me to his son, an avid surfer. He mentioned that he had stuck his toe in the water and "if you can stay in for a full minute, I will greatly admire you!" I began to get a little worried,
But I couldn't quit! I had promised people that if they made donations to my fundraising site I'd go in. A friend, Brian Lilley, who was running the full marathon publicized the stunt too, and for that I am ever grateful to Brian! During this little "polar plunge" campaign, I received $250 in donations, to which people had added 13 cents (for my half marathon) or 26 cents (for my friend Brian's marathon).
So, I had to go in. Despite of the warnings from Jack's surfer son, I braved the elements. I ran out in the waves, and they knocked against me. I screamed! It was so, so cold. I recalled the cold water at my Ironman CDA race, and I was so happy I wasn't expected to stay in for 2.4 miles of swimming! I dunked my head under, only to be whipsawed by a tsunami-like wave. Wow it was bracingly cold!
It was tough going, but I'm sure immersing myself in that cold water was good for me. My muscles are not sore now, and I'm ready to hit the trails again!