The Tour de Pain: where runners run 3 races in 24 hours, testing their bodies and pushing their limits of physical activity. It’s tough, it’s hot, and believe it or not can be dangerous if you aren’t prepped correctly. I did the Tour de Pain: Extreme in March, and there was no way I was going to miss this “normal” version of the three race deal, so when I requested the Saturday off, I made sure that my manager knew it was for this race… and I HAD to have it off.
The three races: a 4 mile beach run, a 5k road race, and a one mile sizzler. That last mile is aptly named, as it is run in Downtown Jacksonville, around a building of mirrors, at the hottest part of the day. I had convinced two of my co-workers to run this race with me, and the three of us had a lot of fun doing it.
4 Mile Beach Run: I hate beach running. I’ve hated it from the moment I hurt my foot a few years ago and developed a bad case of Plantar Fasciitis. The sand is soft and my foot never falls correctly, the wind is always too rough or blocked by the buildings, kids and parents dig holes into the sand leaving behind giant puddles… It’s just not my thing. So when I headed to the beach for the first race of the three planned, I kept repeating to myself “I don’t have a time for this race. I just want to go and relax and take my time and have fun.”
Let’s be real. That never happens.
It was hot and the humidity was at 92% and I have no air conditioning in my car. So when I got there, I gathered my stuff and headed to the beach to just enjoy the breeze. I arrived early so I spent a lot of time just wandering around and enjoying myself. I originally had my water bottle with me, but walked back to the car and put it back. I figured it’s only 4 miles and it’s on the beach, and there is water every mile. I’ll be fine. I noticed a girl who was running in a tutu and got a little jealous. I learned the hard way that running in a tutu on the beach was a bit problematic a few years ago and haven’t done it since… but with that girl wearing one, I wanted mine. Waited for a few friends and then headed to the start line.
Crystal and Valerie are fast runners. They say they aren’t, but they are. Moreso than just faster than me, too. They have some good speed to them, and I knew as they talked about not being fast that they both were going to finish the race before I would. So we agreed to meet at the Dunkin Donuts tent when we were done. We stood there as they played the national anthem, hands over our hearts and staring at the flag over the Lifeguard building.
NOTE: During the National Anthem… some random lifeguard decided to lower the flag and fold it up and take it away. The stereo playing the Anthem was loud. I know he heard it, or at least saw that we were all facing the building. He should have waited. I found this to be so disrespectful and shameful. I hope someone said something to that guy about it too.
ANYWAY – the cannon goes off and so do we. The other two take off like I expect them to, and in my ears over the music I hear Dreamboat’s voice: “Take it easy this race. You hate beach running, and this time isn’t the important one.” I tried to take it easy and kept a pretty decent pace for the first mile, all while dodging some really random water puddles and… streams or something in the middle of the sand. I can’t really tell you what they were, I can just tell you that some of those puddles were deeper than they looked. At almost 2 miles, I started to feel beaten up and overheated. I kept a gel with me for that very reason.
At just before 2 miles I took that gel in hopes of getting some salt back into my body. I wasn’t kidding when I said that heat and I don’t get along. I could already feel the salt caked on my face and it had little to nothing to do with the sea breeze. Crystal was running by and high fived me as she did, and then I grabbed water and walked the turn around. That sand got churned up good, and was super soft. I respect those who were able to run it! Then I started on the two mile trek back to the finish line.
Despite my slower pace, I felt pretty good. I would run for an extended period of time, and then walk until I could take a deep breath easily, then run again. Kind of an abridged Galloway method, which is how I usually run in the summer. I had picked out certain people in my head that I wanted to beat on the route and was ahead of all of them, so I felt pretty confident despite the time I heard in my ears every quarter mile (thanks Runmeter!)
Then, less than a quarter mile from the finish, I saw two guys that I had been chasing the entire time. One had taken off running and the other was walking. I looked at him, feeling dead myself, and said “Come on! You can do this! Let’s run the finish together!” and that got him running. He took off, leaving me in his sand. I smiled, as Crystal did the same thing to me, running up next to me and encouraging me to go strong. I was so happy to cross that finish line, I almost didn’t realize that I missed that time goal I didn’t have of 50 minutes.
I took the bottle of water they handed out and guzzeled it down. Crystal and Valerie met me at the finish line (as I was talking to Melissa! A reader and a new friend! I need to like… go have coffee with her sometime instead of just chatting online 🙂 ) and we chatted for a while before we headed to our cars. We made plans to meet up before the 5k the next morning and seperated feeling satisfied with our running and ready for the next race.
When I got to my car, the first thing I did was take off my shoes. Since I didn’t care what water I ran into during the race, my shoes were SOAKED. Thankfully, I drove to the race after work, so I still had my flip flops in the car. Put a towel over my seat and headed home to a delicious dinner made by Dreamboat: Penne with kalamata olives, mushrooms, garlic, olive oil and goat cheese. Was amazingly good, and the salt was perfect considering how much I lost. I was in bed early in preps for the next race.
5k Road Race: Alarms are only best served when they are set correctly. And I had turned on my 5am alarm and my 5:30am alarm without thinking about checking the dates of said alarms. See, I have those alarms set for Tuesday – Friday, so I can run before work… NOT on Saturday. Thankfully, I am a race insomniac and was up and down a few times in the night, anticipating the moment when I would have to get up to run. It wasn’t until almost quarter to 6, but I got up and got to the race in record time.
And this time? I brought a tutu.
I got to the race and parked in the business next to 1st Place Sports. I kind of lucked out in finding a parking spot that close considering how late I was getting there (I know, 6:15 isn’t exactly late, but it is for race day preps.) I gathered the things I needed: my phone, my earbuds, my water bottle (yes. This was coming with me today) and my key to my car. I snagged my tutu and headed to the bathroom line, where Valerie found me. I was feeling a little heavy from the pasta the night before, even though I didn’t eat a big serving, but felt good otherwise. No real pain or stress in the legs, no IT issues, felt good.
As we were waiting in the bathroom line, we had to give Crystal directions to get to where we were. Apparently, her GPS sent her to the Harley Davidson place, not where the race was. Thankfully she found us easily with some extra direction. After the bathroom, we walked over to get some Gatorade and water and just chatted as we waited for the MC to tell us to line up. We laughed when he said “8 minutes or faster” to line up first. Can’t imagine running that fast, we said. Famous last words, I tell you.
I always start at the back of the pack, and work my way forward. I’m a slower runner, especially in summer, so I’m comfortable there. Crystal and Valerie followed me. We stood there and listened to the National Anthem again, and when the cannon went off, so did we. Those two took off ahead of me, and I focused on pacing myself for the three hot miles ahead of me. I finished the first mile in just over 11 minutes and felt great. It actually excited me, making me think that I could get close to my ultimate time goal (that I had planned to make in December) as I grabbed water at the first water stop. We turned into a neighborhood, and the breeze went away, and I got hot.
“Of course,” I thought to myself as I tried to push myself. I walked a little more than I wanted to that next mile. I started to get a little light headed at a mile and a half, but refused to let myself fall victim to whatever was causing it. I started using techniques that Dreamboat taught me when I was running with him.
“Take deep breaths,” he’d say. “Fill your lungs with air, all the way. You ARE breathing, Jamie… you have air in your lungs, just take deeper breaths. No more short gasps…”
I started to take deeper breaths of air when I walked. I kept the walk breaks short, and still kept a pretty decent running pace. I was glad I brought my water bottle with me. Sure, I took a few sips from it here and there, but mostly I poured the water over my head to cool myself off.
When we turned onto San Jose for the final mile, I forced myself to run longer than I had been, and only walking for at most 20 seconds at a clip. I knew how close the finish line was, and I saw the 3 mile clock ahead of me. I knew that I was not going to walk, and that I was going to push myself once I hit that clock for the last part of the race. I remember seeing Valerie and Crystal off to the side and I tossed them my water bottle to get it out of my hands so I could focus on finishing strong.
And I did. It felt like a great finish. Crystal and Valerie came and found me, and we high fived like we always do. They complimented me on my finish and I did the same to them. We took advantage of the free swag that was at the race and then took some awesome photos of ourselves near the finish line. I felt pretty good, pretty strong, and completely ready for the one mile sizzler.
When we separated again, I was smiling.
One Mile Sizzler: Dreamboat came down with me to the one mile sizzler. We had made plans with a few friends of ours to hang out after the race at Kickbacks Gastropub, so I brought a change of clothes with me. And because we are both incredibly anal about making sure we get to a place on time (and knowing how awful the downtown parking situation is) we left really early. Which ended up being a good thing, because the Main Street Bridge was closed. This bridge is the easiest way to get downtown. We took the detour and found parking easily… just as the storm started to roll in.
We found ourselves under one of the pagodas near the landing and the start/finish line and watched the rain over the river. It was kind of intense, seeing the distinct line where the storms ended over the water. It didn’t rain too much over us, but enough to cool the high temps down, which was fantastic. For me anyway.
We wandered around, just being lazy as we waited for the race to start. Valerie found us easily and we stood there chatting about all kinds of running stuff as we waited for the races to start. The first heat was the Master’s men (40 and up) and when they started to line up, we texted Crystal. She still wasn’t there, and we were getting a little worried. She said she was on her way, so we didn’t worry.
We watched the Master’s men run, and these guys were truly inspiring. I think the fastest master mile was just over 6 minutes. CRAZY. And watching the men cross the finish line was even better. There were some much older guys out there and we applauded like crazy as they finished. Then the Open Men (39 and younger) ran. Fastest mile for them? Easily under 5 minutes. These guys were crazy fast. Completely blew me away that’s for sure.
Then the Masters Women lined up and ran. My nerves started to kick in here, as I thought back to a conversation with Brian earlier in the day. I said I wanted a mile in under 12. He said I could do it in under 10:30.
“What? I can’t do a mile in under 10:30! I haven’t been running very consistently. I need a lot of work,” I said to him, shocked that he would have said I could do it in that time. He shook his head.
“I think you can do it. I think you should try,” he said. I shook my head.
“Why?!” I asked.
“Because what’s a goal that you know you can make? Pick a goal you don’t think you can make. It’ll make you work harder,” he said. I frowned because I knew he was right, despite the fact that I also knew my body. I gave him a kiss and we headed over to line up. This time, though, when Valerie and Crystal moved forward to get closer to the front, I walked away from them and got in line where I felt comfortable. I needed a few minutes to gather my thoughts and get a grip on what I was going to try and do.
When the cannon went off, I took off too: only this time, with every ounce of energy I had inside me. I forced myself to breath as easily as I could and pushed forward. When we rounded the first corner, I had to slow down a little bit, and take some better breaths. I was shocked when I heard Runmeter tell me that my pace was on set for an 8:45 mile.
Well, okay then. Maybe Brian had a point.
I continued to push as we went around the building for the first time, and I had to walk a little bit once I made the first round. I just couldn’t breath, and needed air in my lungs. But once I could inhale without any pain, I took off running again. Runmeter told me my pace had slowed, but not by too much.
I firmly believe that last bit of the race could have been faster. I could have pushed a little harder. I could have tried to breath when I was done, and across that finish line. When I rounded the corner to the final straight shot to the finish line, and saw the clock, I was stunned. It was just at about 9:20, and I realized that I really could finish that mile in under 10:30.
Then I saw tutu girl from the first race. She was ahead of me.
I don’t think so.
I kicked it into high gear and pushed forward. I kept looking out of the corner of my eye to see how close she was after I passed her, realizing she had picked up her speed as well. But this race was mine to win. I took my eyes off the clock and just ran toward the finish line, remembering Brian telling me to not stop at the first set of mats, but after I crossed the second.
Once I crossed the mats, I crashed a little. My hands went to my knees, and I tried to catch my breath. Once I felt a bit stable, I stood up, accepted my medal and walked into the crowd. I pulled my phone out of my sports bra and stopped runmeter, which said I had run it in just over 11 minutes. Brian’s video showed a different story.
10:26. I did it in under 10:30 like he said. Fuck. Yes.
Later that night, as we were sitting at Kickbacks, I played with the medal around my neck. I felt proud and satisfied with how I did. The nerves I felt about it being my first race since March faded away quickly as I started to run, and my body remembered what to do. Sure, the timing isn’t as fast as I had wanted it to be, but this was a great showing to get me back into the world of racing and allowed me to remind myself why I loved it so much to begin with.
Because it doesn’t matter how fast we really go. What matters is that we finish, and finish strong. We left everything out there on the pavement, and crossed the finish line feeling satisfied. We did three races in 24 hours, and succeeded. That’s something to celebrate, no matter what our times were.