Or - Who Really Needs Skin on Their Feet?
The date is November 27, 2011. I’m in Seattle, Washington to participate in the Seattle Half Marathon. Everything so far has gone excellently – I got in on Friday, picked up my packet on Saturday and even explored the town taking in a city lights tour, exploring the aquarium, eating good food. Sunday morning arrives and I wake up, get my race gear on and K-Tape up. I’m done quickly so I lay back down, “just for a minute” . . . and wake up 3 hours later. I missed the race.
You know when you do something stupid or regretful and you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Feels like it makes your blood turn hot and you slap yourself on the head with your invisible hand every time you think of it? That was Seattle for me. Every time I thought of Seattle I did a mental headslap and knew it wouldn’t go away until I could “color it in on my map”.
Fast forward to March, 2012. I’m scanning the chatter on the Half Fanatic Facebook page and a picture catches my eye – it’s of a medal, in the shape of a star, with a cupcake in it. It was going to be the finisher prize for the Cupcake Run in Arlington, Washington and I immediately wanted it. The race was also a fundraiser for a friend of a Half Fanatic who had some extreme medical costs and I was sold – a cupcake at the end of the race, a cupcake medal, a fundraiser for a good cause AND I’d finally be able to color Washington in? Score! I got out my little debit card and before you could say “Bob’s my uncle”, I was registered, had a flight booked, and my hotel and rental car reserved.
I flew in to Seattle early Friday morning. I had to pick up the rental car and drive about an hour to get to Arlington so I was glad I was getting in early. But of course, I didn’t consider the time it would take to get said rental car – I think it was newbie day at the rental counter – everything was so painfully slow. Friendly, but slow. 12:30 pm and I am finally dragging my suitcase to the Kia Soul I had rented. I got in at 9:45 am. I wasn’t exaggerating about the pace - it was slower than me in a half marathon. But I still have most of the day so I decide that I am going to make the most of it. There’s no packet pick up today so I can explore. And I brought my passport. It’s been neglected lately and had been crying at me to take it out and use it so I plugged in “Surrey, British Columbia” into the GPS and pointed the Kia out of the parking garage and on to my adventure.
Once the GPS was clear of the parking garage, it synched up its satellite and began to spout out driving directions – in Portuguese. Traffic was heavier than I am used to and the GPS yelling at me in a foreign language did nothing for my state of mind. Because I was unfamiliar with the land (the three times previous I had been in Seattle, I walked everywhere) and the traffic was heavy, I just headed north and hoped for a place to pull over so I could either disembowel my Portuguese navigator or switch him to a language I could understand. Fortunately for my bank account, I did not have to rip his electronics out and we found a language that was mutually beneficial and off I went to Canada – happily listening to my audiobook (“Bloodsucking Fiends”) and growing excited to get out of the country – even if it was just to Canada.
The area is absolutely beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed driving along and looking at the sites. Traffic threw me, though, as it never really seemed to let up. The border crossing was long and quite disappointing – no stamp in my passport. But I did enjoy the second look I got from both sides when I told them the reason for my trip was to participate in a half marathon. The Canadian guard couldn’t believe I was going in to Canada just for a few hours and the American guard was quite snotty in his response. Rating guards, however, I would have to say the American was more of a pain in the ass than the Canadian guard. I had to roll down all the windows of the car and answer in depth questions to the American guard. The Canadian just wanted to know why I was going to Canada if my race was in Washington. He was amused, tho, when I told him my passport was yelling at me to be used. The American, not so much.
After my foray into Canada, I began the drive back to Arlington to get ready for the race. At the hotel, I got all my race stuff together, prepared my bottles of Cytomax and hit the rack. I was determined that I was not going to sleep through this one so I set 2 alarms, prepared the GPS for the start of the race and crawled into bed.
I love Saturday races. They never seem as rushed as a Sunday race and knowing that I have time to recover is comforting. This race was advertised as a “fat” race. A fat race is one in which there is very little course support, not one that is advertised to my fluffy people. Hence the reason to bring my own Cytomax and snacks. This race actually had more support than what I expected – there was water on the course along with a finish line supplied with cupcakes, and other assorted munchies. It was a small race, no more than 100 and most of the runners were within driving distance of the start. I like small races – you get time to talk to fellow runners and it seems much less chaotic than a Rock-n-Roll style race with 25,000+ runners. And it’s so much less serious – walkers are just as welcome as runners and everyone is there to have fun. I’m not disparaging on the larger events because I have just as much fun there, but the smaller races are more laid-back and not nearly as nerve-wracking as the larger events. In any case, I digress.
The race started at 8:01 am and I found my place at the back of the pack. I turned on my tracker and set my iPod and went on my way. I decided before the start of the race that I would enjoy the course and not focus on time. I wanted to work on my form and I wanted to work on maintaining an even pace from start to finish. Most of my races I start out strong, peter out around miles 8 to 10 and then pick up steam for the last 5k. This time I wanted to work on keeping one pace for the entire 13.1 miles – sounded like a pretty good plan and I was ready to give it a go.
The course was a trail and had a gradual incline for the first 7 miles – sort of reminded me of the course in Ireland, without the severe incline and wind of the Mooathon. At about mile 2 or so (no mile markers so I’m not real sure – but my calf stopped hurting so I figured it had to be after mile 2), I stopped to take a picture of the lane and it was at this time that I met my walking buddy for the rest of the course – Jeanne. Jeanne and I started a short dialogue and she was thrilled when she passed me – cause it meant she was not last! In any case, we got to talking and we walked the whole course together. I think I encouraged her for the first 8 miles or so and then she encouraged me the rest of the way as I began to have a severe malfunction with my feet. More on the feet later. Jeanne has challenged herself to walk 10 miles every day in March and that just total blew me away – what an incredible goal! I forgot how many miles she had already logged but it was impressive. We talked about our kids, the races we’ve done and our goals. Jeanne has also done a couple full marathons and so I listened to how she prepared for them and thought maybe, one day, I would be able to do a full marathon as well. Maybe. One day. When I have lost the last few bits of my sanity.
Jeanne passing me.
We were beginning to wonder where the turn-around was when we encountered a runner on her way back in. She told us that the course wasn’t quite measured right and to pay attention to our GPS if we had them. We walk on and after a few minutes I look at my phone and we had reached 6.7 miles. Not wanting to walk further than we had to, we turned around and headed back in. It’s at this point my feet start to bother me.
I have always had trouble with my feet. Whether it’s blisters, cramping or pounding of the toes against the shoe, my feet are never comfortable, never easy to deal with, never without pain. I’ve tried different shoes, different socks, different bandaids. I thought I finally got it down with the Rock-n-Roll New Orleans as I had no issue with my feet other than the toe pounding. But this time I had a new pair of shoes, that while I had worn previously on light workouts, were new to the whole continual walking thing. I kept having to loosen the laces and each time I loosened, my feet seemed ok for a few minutes and then would start hurting. And the hurting was different – instead of the blister feeling on the balls or toes of my feet, I felt pressure and burning on the tops. It began to consume me, this new pain, and I slowed and I am afraid I held Jeanne back. Finally the finish line came in to view and she and I crossed together. We were given our medals, got our cupcake and soon the pain was replaced with the endorphins that I have come to thoroughly enjoy. Jeanne and I exchanged emails and I look forward to seeing her on a course again some time.
After a few minutes of milling about and chatting, I head back to the car so I can get to the hotel, get un-stinky and check out. I had been given a late check-out and I was pushing it. I said good-bye to Jeanne and fellow Half Fanatics and hurried back to the hotel to shower, pack and head back in to Seattle.
As I was peeling clothing off for the shower, I discovered why my feet were hurting so much. The shoes had managed to rub the skin off the tops of my feet. My new beautiful, bright pink shoes rubbed my feet raw. A totally new phenomenon for me – who ever has heard of the shoes rubbing the skin raw? And seriously, who really needs skin on the top of their feet when you get a medal and cupcake?