I drove home from Atlanta on Tuesday, I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday (woohoo!! I’m 33 now!) and then prepared for the in laws to come into town for the long holiday weekend (oh, it’s Easter?) all while I prepared for my next big challenge. I registered for the Tour de Pain: Extreme sometime in late February, early March knowing that the race series was what I wanted for my birthday. I wanted to treat myself by challenging myself to do something I have never done before.
The Tour de Pain: Extreme is a tough race series. A 10k Friday night, a half marathon Saturday morning, and a 5k Saturday evening. I have done each of these three races individually. But all three together, in a 24 hour period is something I have never done before. Last year, I was injured when this race came around. I had finished the Gate River Run with a seriously pissed off IT Band.
This year – I was going to finish.The 10K: Friday we were lazy during the day. Brunch at my favorite diner with the family, lazy time watching television, grocery shopping. We decided to go down to the landing early so we could get decent parking and we could find a good restaurant to sit and relax in. Once we got into the parking lot, I slipped on my tutu and headed over to grab my chip. I had already checked out the route so I had a pretty decent idea where we would be running – over two bridges.
We headed into the Mexican restaurant at the landing, ordered chips, salsa and a pitcher of Dos Equis. We don’t know the name of the place, we know it as the Mexican place at the landing. I had a little bit of beer and a handful of chips since it was almost 2 hours before race start and tried to stay out of my headspace. I have a habit of psyching myself out and that’s not going to help me this time around. I had way to many miles to run.
Tiffany showed up about 45 minutes till start time, and I finally excused myself away from the family and went to get prepared. But of course, not without a photo opp. I stretched a little bit, got my music ready (only to learn that I fried a headphone!) and mentally got prepared. I got in line and stood proudly for the national anthem and then the canon went off. And so did I!
My first mile was way too fast. Under 10 minutes! While I was stoked about the time, I knew that I was hurting myself for the other 5 miles. Still, I pushed on. Not only did we have to go over the Main Street bridge with that epic grating, and the Acosta bridge with the horribly slanted on ramp, but we had to go over the “mini-Acosta” which is the hump that carries us over to Riverside Avenue AND the train bridge (the one I do my speed work on) before crossing the finish line. My goal was to try and beat my last 10k time, but I didn’t. I ended up finishing at 1:12 which isn’t too bad given the bridges. I wanted faster, but eh. What can you do?
After the race, I went home and showered, ate a nice dinner of pasta with spinach and green beans and a slice of strawberry pie. It was my first time experiencing that. Quite tasty!
The Half: I ended up driving to the half by myself. Brian and his family were still asleep and I didn’t want to make them get up anyway. I drove up to Tiffany’s place and hauled her butt down from her apartment then went and parked for the race. I laughed because it was still dark out and all of the police that were there for the race had their lights on.
“OH MY GOD, what’s happening at the landing!?” I joked. She laughed and found it hilarious. People who didn’t know what was going on most likely were confused and wondering that. We were running later than I wanted us to be at, but that’s okay. We still got there in plenty of time. Tiffany wandered off to talk to more Half Fanatics (I have yet to join the club) and I wandered off to find Eric, the only other person from WJXT that was running the TdP:E and didn’t find him.
We got in line and did the usual. National anthem, canon, go. I ran the first few miles with Tiffany over the bridges (again!!) and then she waved me off and told me to go. So, I went. I kept up a pretty even pace for most of it. I crossed 6 miles at about the same time I had done previously but by this time the sun had come out and it was getting warm. I can’t seem to do anything well in the heat! Sucks so badly.
The route took us out to the back side of the Evergreen Cemetery and I walked a portion of that area. I used my gels and found some motivation and picked it up again. But then, I was hurting bad and had to walk. The people that I had passed, passed me by. I tried to pick it back up, but couldn’t find the mojo. I slowed down again.
I crossed the 10 mile marker at 2:03 and figured if I could keep this slower pace up I’d make the goal that I didn’t really set for myself out loud of trying to be under 2:40. I should have known better than to think that way, because just as I got to the water stop near there, my IT Band started to tighten unpleasantly and I ended up doing my swinging leg walk trying to finish the last three miles. I was furious. I was doing so well!!
I crossed the finish line at 2:44 and felt horribly defeated. I scarfed down half a bagel and a banana while chatting with Eric and waiting for Tiffany to finish the race. I limped a lot while I walked around, and knew that this was a bad sign for the final race to come but I refused to be defeated too soon. When Tiffany finished, we gave each other a high five, noshed on some freebie snacks and then headed to the car. I had a shower with my name on it.
When I walked into the house, however, I learned quickly that it was a great thing that I was not eating with everyone else the night before. Everyone in my home seemed to be hit with some nasty food poisoning. Not cool. I took a long shower, ate some food, foam rolled my sore legs and rested up for the third and final race coming later that evening.
The 5k: Finally. The end to an exhausting race series that has left me drained and fighting injuries all over again. The final 5k. It was amazing how many people showed up for this race, knowing that it was the final in the group races. A lot of people apparently signed up for ONLY the last one. I drove up to Tiffany’s place since she lived downtown and dropped off my things at her apartment. I was going to shower there after the race and head to my parents house to see my grandparents who were in town for their birthday.
We limped slowly down to the Landing where the race was being held and I felt dread and excitement fill me. I was stoked that it was the last race, scared to run another three miles when I was hurting, and relieved that it was almost over. We lined up for the final race and listened to the national anthem for the third and final time. Then the canon. and then we were off.
I took two steps across that start line in a run, turned back and looked at Tiffany and shouted “OH MY GOD.” I was in so much pain. I was desperately trying to run as much of it as I could, but knew that I couldn’t get it all out. My leg was screaming, and my knee felt like it was being tugged out of place. There was a small group of us that were cursing those who were able to shoot off like a rocket at the start. CLEARLY they hadn’t run the previous two races we had.
I got to the mini-Acosta and walked up it. I had to. I couldn’t run it if I wanted to, and for those who don’t know – if you have IT band issues you are to avoid inclines and speed. Well, I was going slow as it was…I just needed to walk the inclines. Once over the bridge I did a modified Galloway method: walked until the pain went away, then ran till it hurt. It slowed me down tremendously, but it was worth it to finish strong. One of the girls I was pacing a good portion of the race, Marisa, found me at the end of the race and I ran in with her. I swear that if she hadn’t found me I would have been limping across that finish line.
But once that medal was draped over my shoulders I forgot about the pain and couldn’t stop smiling. I had done it. I had finished the race and gotten a medal for doing the race series that I was called crazy for signing up for. I DID IT! I was so happy.
I chatted with Marisa (who is FANTASTIC by the way!) and then on the way back to Tiffany’s place we grabbed some Hungry Howie’s pizza. Tiffany asked me if I grabbed my beer. I said no, that I’d have one at my parents house later that evening. And I did. And it was delicious.
Hindsight on the race: I had so much fun doing it, and can’t wait to do it again next year. I think it’s a great way to test your boundaries: Your spirit and your physical capabilities. I do need to plan a bit more accordingly and stretch more, take an epsom salt bath between the half and the final 5k, or maybe not do a full 10 mile hike the weekend before and fall a lot. Either way, I’m in love with this race and it was well worth the money and the torture. Can’t WAIT for next year!