Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Nutty New Year on Peanut Island

Mary Gorski's Race Report...

I have often wanted to do an "across the years" sort of race -- one that started on New Year's Eve and ran across into the new year.  When my friend Nikki Seger suggested that we join her at the inaugural Peanut Island run, it didn't take much to convince me.  Recently relocated to Florida, she hoped to entice a few friends from the north to visit.  The Li'l Mister and I, along with Bonnie Busch and her Li'l Mister, started to make plans.

We made those plans back in early fall.  At the time I had a bit of a nagging back-ham-hip thing going on that had brought my running to a halt.  It would be a couple of weeks before I was on my way to diagnosis and treatment.  "Sure, I'm not running at the moment, but whatever this is, it will clear up in plenty of time.  No problem! " I thought.

Eventually I learned why I felt like I had a Sports illustrated shoved into my butt cheek -- I had an SI joint dysfunction, along with a side serving of related maladies.  Gosh darn it, I had no idea that I even HAD an SJ joint!  So a bunch of PT work, massage, chiropractic whatnot  and their own side-servings of co-pays.  November 1 -- still no running.  But by Thanksgiving I was able to start -- ever so tentatively -- to lace up my shoes and do a bit of running.  It was truly something for which to be thankful!

Peanut Island was only a month out from my tentative return to running but it was the perfect format for runs of a tentative nature.  The course was a 1.25 (or so)-mile loop.  Do as many loops as you can in 24 hours.  As long as I did one loop, I will have done the run.  Even the Li'l Mister -- usually my personal sherpa and crew person -- signed on to do the race.

I had been bragging back home that we were going to Florida over New Year's.  "Enjoy the lousy weather of Wisconsin, I'm headed to the sunshine state!" I said.  And then I humbly ate my words as we touched down to an unseasonable cool front.  Florida news was filled with stories of freezing fruit and chilly tourists.  But Mother Nature smiled, and while temps weren't tropical, they did become pleasant -- 60s and 70s during the day.  Perfect running weather.

Our little gang caught the ferry for the short ride to Peanut Island on New Year's Eve morning.  To be honest, from shore the island didn't look like much, but as you got closer and the boat slid into a quiet cove, its beauty pops out.  Sandy beaches.  Manatees lounge under water by the pier.  Fish wander between them.

We hauled our load to race central and set up our tents.

Race packets were distributed in  burlap peanut bags.  There were a few serious runners, but most seemed to have a relaxed approach to the race.  In our group expectations were mainly unexpected.  One person had a significant health concern that had just come to light; others were tentatively testing mechanical rebuilding.  I had only been running a few weeks -- would I be able to do more than just  a few miles?  Would it be smart to even try?

We lined up at the start and RD Bob Becker sent us on our way.  During the next 15 minutes (or so) we'd tour the rest of the island on a cement-bricked beach path.  Pros of the path?  Easy footing, generally flat, lighted at night, beautiful views night and day, lots of bathrooms with REAL flushing toilets and the companionship of fellow runners.  The distance was perfect -- long enough for variety but short enough to always give you a feeling at the start of each loop that "I can muddle through another," regardless if you are feeling tip-top or not.

The downside of the path?  Those concrete bricks felt brutal after awhile.  I enjoy pavement runs but there was something about those bricks that made my feet feel like bricks themselves.  Soon after starting, my feet felt tight in their shoes.  I tried another pair.  Same hassle.  I'd only run-walked three hours and my feet were already out-growing the largest shoes I had.  A few others noted similar issues.

Nikki offered to lend me her larger shoes but I decided to just try going without shoe inserts and that did the trick.

Speaking of Nikki, one of the highlights of my race was having the opportunity to sing, banter and solve the problems of the world with her during most of my loops.  Dealing with a significant health issue, she wasn't sure what her capabilities would be on race weekend but she held up well, often leaving me behind for a loop as I lounged and re-grouped now and then.

She passed 50K, and then I did as well.  She passed 50 miles, and I did too.  I was ecstatic for both of us.  I didn't know how long I'd hold up and  had fully expected to spend most of the 24 hours cheering runners from the sidelines.  This was a wonderful surprise.  Nikki was tentative as well but moving strong.

Eventually, my body started to remind me that it hadn't been on its feet for hours on end in a very long time.  Back in September I had hoped to pass the 100-mile mark during the 24 hours.  Now, I was thinking that a 100 was still a do-able idea, but that I'd opt for the more frequently used metric system.

I passed the loop that gave me my 100K (actually, 101 or so) and sat down with Nikki to celebrate.  She had already surpassed my 100K by then and decided to continue to see what more she could do.  Away she went to pile on the miles.

Meanwhile, our friend Bonnie Busch was doggedly plowing through the course, loop after loop.  While many of us took some time at midnight to toast the new year with champagne and enjoy the fireworks of Palm Beach, Bonnie kept on running.  In the end, her determination paid off and not only did she surpass 100 by several miles, but took the woman's top spot in the last hour of the race.

The Li'l Mister enjoyed enough laps to tire out his feet and earn his sweatshirt.

Awards distributed, tents packed, and back to the ferry dock we headed.  We left the mainland in 2010 and returned in 2011.

What a fantastic event with fantastic friends.  Lots of international runners as well.  Thanks oodles to RD Bob Becker, his volunteers and race timing guru Mike Melton.  The final race results are up at:  http://www.peanutisland24.com/

A few photos of our little group are at:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=262909&id=780618499&l=d6827e5f37  Susan Donnelly also has some great pics at:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?fbid=1772641357389&id=1279942565&aid=101909

Happy New Year!

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