I was first introduced to the Mermaid Series in 2009. Since then I've run one of their 5K's, a 10K, and attended one Open Water Swim clinic. Being a lone runner, long runs feel so daunting. So last week, when I saw that their Sirena18 race fit in line with what my coach had scheduled for me yesterday I decided to register for it. My feeling was that it would be nice to have a supported long run.
The race was held in the East Bay at the Quarry Lakes Regional Park. I hadn't been there before but found it without any problems using Google Maps. There was a $5 fee per car to enter the park. In pre-race communications we were warned that there could be a backup of cars but fortunately, I didn't experience this. In fact, I had a zero wait time since I got there really early (6 am) to pick up my race bib.
The race bib and race shirt pick-up took all of 30-seconds. It was there that I also learned that there were only 125 ladies running the Sirena18.
After I picked up my stuff I walked the 30-seconds back to my car and hung out there for a bit. Then I used the real bathrooms (!!!) before doing a 1-mile warm-up. It was a little chilly so I wore my Oiselle arm warmers. As soon as I done with my warm-up I ended up taking them off because I knew it was going to be a WARM day.
The 18-mile race started first with the half marathon, 10K, 5K and Mini Mermaids (little girls run) starting in 30-min increments later.
We were summoned to the start area about 5-min before the gun went off. Although this was just a training run, my stomach felt a flutter with nerves. It was about that time that I saw Kristin and Sima who were running the half. It was nice to see familiar faces.
As soon as the race started I realized that I hadn't really looked at the course map, which meant I would be "running blind." I was annoyed with myself because I like to know where I'm going and what to expect.
I felt abnormally good on the first mile but I knew that the pace was way too fast for that distance. I spent the rest of the first 10K consciously trying to slow down. I got a lot of help when the course turned to gravel. I've run threeotherraces on gravel and did not enjoy it.
The gravel terrain did not bode well for my right foot, one of the four "niggles" that I am dealing with. I had wrapped my R foot with KT tape. It was the first time I used KT Tape in two years and developed a nasty blister on the arch of my foot.
Somewhere between Mile 6 and 7 the route turned to road. This is where I was supposed to pick up my pace with progressive 5K's. Instead, my paces fell off a cliff. The blister kept getting worse so I stopped took off my shoe and ripped off the KT tape (ow!). It was too late - the damage was done and I'd have to deal with the blister for the rest of the race.
Also, with the KT tape now off the foot pain came back. I limped along as best as I could but my gait definitely changed. I was forced to take a lot of walk breaks. It was really frustrating because when I ran, I easily hit my target paces but my foot didn't allow me to keep going.
The remainder of the course (except for the last mile) was an out and back. It was mostly unshaded, hot and had a lot of bugs.
Being that there were such few 18-milers we had spread out and I ran most of Miles 6-11 alone. We ran along a multi-use path where we also had to avoid aggressive cyclists and maneuver around walkers.
All I could think about was how I could have been running in foggy cool weather across the Golden Gate Bridge - for free - instead.
In my lowest moment, I contemplated DNF'ing. But then I ran into my friend Mark who was doing a 20-mile run also in preparation for SFM. I told him how much I hated his usual running route and how much pain I was in. I wondered why we didn't just run together to which he responded that I wouldn't have gotten a Mermaid pendant running with him :). He also told me to just to go as best as I could and that, "this isn't the race." He repeated that to me several times and I kept repeating it to myself for the rest of the miles.
About three-quarters of a mile after I saw Mark I hit the turn around at Mile 11. Though my foot pain kept getting worse and the miles became slower, mentally I felt a lot better. On the way back I picked up the back of the pack half marathoners. Just seeing other runners on the course helped. I ran when I could and walked when I needed to.
I finished in 3:26 – a lot slower than I planned, but I was glad to have finished the day with a total of 19-miles. It was just a training run so I didn’t feel too badly about my time. I was just happy to have gotten the miles in.
After I crossed the Finish Line my foot hurt so badly that I thought it was broken. I found a shaded spot and stretched it out for a long time.
As with all Mermaid races, the post-race food spread was excellent, and free massages were offered. I attempted to stand in line for both but ended up getting neither. The lines were too long and/or slow moving. I didn't have the patience to keep waiting for almost an hour.
Eighteen to twenty mile runs always take so much out of me that I sometimes I can't even drive afterwards. So I was surprised that other than my foot, the rest of my body felt fine. I really didn't feel any stiffness or soreness at all. And my foot felt better as the rest of the day progressed.
While I was out on a course a guy ran by and asked me where were the men in the race? I told him, "Sorry, this is a ladies only race." And now that it's over I am glad to have participated.
The Mermaid Series is a wonderful organization for women. Their leader, Coach Heidi, writes inspiring messages in their monthly newsletter. For women looking to try running or triathlons, or if you are stuck in a rut, this a great organization to get involved with. They are always so supportive and uplifting.
And the bling ain't bad either....