If you’ve been reading here for a while, you probably know know the tale of how I started running last year, but then had to take a major hiatus to have my tonsils removed, and spent about one and a half months recovering in the dead of summer, missing out on some really fun-sounding runs and being generally frustrated with my slow return to the sport.
I’m not really sure what I found intriguing about this series of races. Maybe it was the additional challenge. Maybe it was testing my body beyond what I normally would. Maybe I was delirious. It’s hard to say. But Mr PugRunner and I registered for the three-race series several months ago, and I have to say I was really looking forward to it.
We actually weren’t sure if Mr PugRunner was going to be able to participate at all. He had spent the week and a half leading up to Tour De Pain not feeling well. He was being quite careful to rest and stay hydrated, and at the last minute, with the blessing of his doctor, decided to go for it. I’m proud of him for doing so, even though I know it was hard on him.
I picked up our packets on Thursday at the running store: we each got drawstring backpacks and our race t-shirts, along with the bibs and timing chips we would need to wear for the duration of the event. Mr PugRunner kind of laughed at me as I laid out my outfits for the series, and then asked if I was going to put out his, too.
I didn’t photograph them, though. Maybe next time.
Our first race was Friday night at 7:00 PM – a nice 4-mile jaunt on Jacksonville Beach. Running on the sand was going to be a first for both of us, but we were up for the challenge. We arrived a little over an hour before the gun, and got a relatively close (and free) parking spot. Score.
We met up with our friends, used the bathroom and found a nice spot in the shade.
The weather felt alright. It was definitely hot, but there was a somewhat refreshing breeze and in the shade, the humidity was tolerable.
I had some more Gatorade and used the bathroom a last time. We had both brought granola bars with us, but I decided I didn’t need mine. I was pretty relaxed, for me, but my stomach wasn’t up to anything solid. With about 15 minutes to spare, we walked over the boardwalk to the beach and the starting line.
Once down by the water, we realized that the breeze was going to be a factor, and probably not a positive one. Our friends also told us that we would be timed by the gun, so to line up as close to the front as possible. I hate to do that, because I am terrified of serving as a speed bump to the faster people, but I figured that if I just stayed to the right, hauled butt through the start and then scrambled out of the way, I would be able to minimize extra seconds my time and not trip up anyone.
My strategy worked, and when the gun sounded after the National Anthem, I went out fast. The group of runners almost immediately split, with half running down closer to the water, and the rest staying higher up on the beach. There was plenty of hard-packed sand for running, and I was pleased to find it wasn’t that much more difficult than pavement running.
The challenges came from running two miles into a pretty stiff wind. And what I can only describe as tide pools, leaving wide, sometimes deep, puddles and ridges of sand on the course. And people lounging in beach chairs with their families. And dogs whose owners couldn’t quite control them cutting through the runners (it didn’t bother me, but some runners did stop in their tracks when a very large and excited canine leaped at them and that wasn’t right).
Water stops were set up at miles one, two and three, which was much appreciated, especially after the turnaround at mile two. While it was great not to have to contend with the wind anymore, we were now running straight into the setting sun. I felt like I was sprinting between the shadows of the skyline cast on the beach, just to get some relief. Ugh.
I don’t really love out-and-backs, but in this case, it was very, very helpful to have the finish line in my sights. Even if it did feel like it was taking me forever to get there. But, get there I did, and I was so very happy to be done. At least, for the night. It was hard, hard run, and even though my legs weren’t bothering me (thank goodness), the elements and taken a lot out of me.
It was a bizarre feeling, to be finished, but to know that you had to get home, get cleaned up, and be up before the sun to do it all over again. Twice. We were both tired, but buoyed by that runner’s high. We said our goodbyes, went back to the car to wipe down and change into clean shirts and make the almost-hour drive home.
We were starving so we stopped at the local Italian joint for a quick bite. I had a beer but by the time dinner actually came to the table, I wasn’t hungry anymore. I forced myself to eat some, and then it was home for a shower and lights out. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but I managed.
Up tomorrow? The 5K road race and one mile sizzler!
Are you able to sleep after a race?
What’s your favorite post-race meal?