Sunday, December 7, 2008

But yes, I'm still running...

(Thanks to Marek for these photos)

Rainbow at the beginning of the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon

First, apologies for the lapse between posts. I really do try to post every other day except our weekends, but we've been running around alot (literally and figuratively) and 3 out of 4 members of the family came down with a rotten fever that's been making the rounds here in Dubai. I didn't get it. As we all know, Mommies are not allowed to get sick if they can posssibly help it.

Now, back to that running around...

I have been though a major amount of frustration due to a foot injury. I broke the other foot previously, (at the UW during ballet class, no, I am not a dancer,) but walked around on that oblivious for quite a while before seeing a doctor who was almost as surprised as I was by the X-rays. He said it would never heal without surgery, and as it didn't bother me all that much, I walk around with a broken foot and couldn't care less.

This time, however, I had run with the Striders (and gotten lost with another runner, so we have no idea what our final milage was, probably 27 km or so---maybe 17 miles) and felt fine. Then I ran the Predictor the next night. I didn't realise anything was awry until the finish, then hobbled painfully back to the car. Something was very wrong. I whined, I medicated, I elevated and alternated soaked in near-scalding water and ice water. Nothing worked. Walking more than 1/4 mile made me limp with the pain. I was gimping around and watching my dream of the marathon in January slip away. A trip to a Sports Medicine/Orthopaedic surgeon confirmed this, and I was off running for 20 days.

20 days is too many days of training lost if you're 6 weeks out from attempting your first marathon.

The doctor took X-rays and said that though there weren't any bone splinters (which is very good) that it was a case of acute tendonitis, and gave me the oddest prescripton of my life: tumeric powder, crushed onion seeds, arnica, cod liver oil, glucosamine sulfate (this I was taking back in the states but hadn't taken here) and 2 sticks of celery. He said that anti-inflammatories inhibit collegen regeneration. I trusted this guy despite the odd script; not only had he been highly recommented to me, but he examined my feet and didn't so much as raise an eyebrow over the fact that I've run off most of my toenails So I went with his regime, and after the 20 days started running again. It was awful. It was like starting out all over again. The foot was healed, and for that I was grateful, but ugh. I ran a few miles with Graham and was ready to throw the towel in.

This of course made me a really fun person to be around, I am sure. I decided to be stubborn, but also to be smart. Regretfully, I gave up my dream of running the Dubai Marathon in January, and have set my sights on January 2010.

In the meantime, I had signed up for a half marathon before this all happened. I was truly worried about completing. Mike couldn't believe I was even going to go out and try, not that he tried to dissuade me. He merely asked me not to cripple myself.

Good plan.

The night before the Half I couldn't sleep. Thomas kept waking every 30 minutes or so with bad dreams (usually he sleeps like a rock, go figure) so I was in and out of bed anyway. I ended up getting maybe 4 hours of sleep, if that. 5 AM I walked out to meet Graham for a ride to the starting point, and we picked up Cai (short for Cainwen---she's a Greenwich, London UK girl, and the way she rolls her Rs is one of the prime joys in my life. She's also an incredible runner, completely gorgeous, and a lovely person all around) and drove down to the Dubai Creek Golf Club for the start. It was still dark, lightning rippling across the sky north of us, and the air was damp and cool. For me, it was perfect. Just like home.

We were all suffering from fits of nerves and I was very glad to have good company before the race. As the sky brightened, and the runners milled around restlessly, I kept telling myself, this one it to enjoy, run smart, nothing else. Nothing else.

Finally we were off. Despite many fearing that it would rain (I would have loved it, but not if it was accompanied by the usual high winds) the weather remained perfect and cool, (about 65F).

One of the best things about living in Dubai is that I can say something is brilliant. The course we ran was just that, brilliant. It might even have been camelicious. It was clearly marked, had course marshalls well placed, plentiful water stops, supplimented with fruit and electrolyte replacement fluids and even damp sponges for the runners.

The course went out around the golf course and up over Dubai Creek on Al Garhoud Bridge, (anything that adds vertical distance to a run makes me very happy in pancake flat Dubai. I love hills. Pacific NW girl! ) then over Al Maktoum Bridge and out along the Creek. I wasn't laboring, I wasn't hurting, I was a happy camper. Past groups of coppery-skinned construction workers who smiled and clapped for us, their colorful scarves beneath the yellow hard hats, then the waterfront workers, the yachts and Dhows, the swirling industry of the creek front, to the 10K checkpoint, one hour and 4 minutes into the race.

At each checkpoint you run over an electronic pad which registers the time chip worn on your shoe. I had dutifully attached mine with the ziptie provided, and in fact had joked with a fellow runner just minutes before how sad it was to see a jettisoned chip lost by some unlucky runner along the course. I looked down at my shoe as we approached, and the ziptie was there all right, but the chip was gone.

Oh, heck and then some. I ran up to the course officials there. "I've lost my chip, guys, what do I do?"

"You've had it then," one said, "no help for you, I'm afraid."

Running for me then. Not for a time.

I still had my race number pinned to my chest, and plenty of go in those legs and feet in which I'd despaired not terribly long ago. I didn't care all that much about getting an official time. As it was, I was nearly laughing out loud, greeting spectators, waving to little kids, thanking each and every racecourse marshal for coming out. Probably annoying the hell out of the runners around me for being so chipper.

As we ran out towards Port Rachid I got my first glimpse of that wonderful piece of history, unmistakably the soaring white ship topped with that distinctive red funnel; the QE2. How fantastic. I knew that she'd come to Dubai to stay, on a flotilla parade led by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in his yacht, people waving UAE and the Union Jack flags, fireworks and a jet flyover. How brilliant to get to see her during what was becoming the best race of my life.

The course then took an interesting turn: under the Creek. Down, down, down into a wide pleasant tunnel that must be very hot during the summer months. Now it was merely warm, air slightly stagnant. I loved floating down the ramps, zipping around the corners, hand squealing on the handrail like a little kid, zipping along the flat beneath the wide waters, then on my toes flying back up on the other side past and with verbal admiration from other runners who, sanely, aren't as fond of hills as I am.

The sun was fully up now, people milling about. Past Heritage Village, back along the long stretch of the Creek, the down into the Souks, where merchants were setting up for their day. We shared the passageway with Hindu men sporting newly placed orange dots on their foreheads, old old Arabic men with few teeth, milky eyes, and deeply ceased dark skin, young men carrying large loads across their shoulders. Ducking past a goat. How wonderful to be running thorough this. I couldn't imagine a racecourse through Pike Place in Seattle; here it was fitting.

After that it was just a matter of milage, and they went by easily enough. Back out into the streets, fewer than 5K, then 4, back over a bridge, past the wonderful guy playing his guitar for us as we sucked down some more fluids at a station, the smells of the Creek and the sound of our footfalls on the pavement and breathing...

The last bit, and suddenly I was running alone though the palm trees. I could hear the announcer up ahead somewhere among the twists and turns of the Golf Course road, calling out names and numbers as others passed beneath the finish banner. I joked with spectators even now, asking what was for breakfast, putting on a show of "sprinting" for the coffee.

Around the corner, final true sprint, and done.

Even though I had no time chip the announcer was really on the ball and called out my name, and I was handed my finisher's medal by one of the enthusiastic kids passing them out.

Now Graham and Cae (faster runners than I, as you might imagine) and I met up again, showered and changed in the club, and then went to breakfast. Not only was there coffee, but a gorgeous spread overlooking Dubai Creek. Real pork bacon. Real pork sausages with mustard. Fruits and breads and pastries and eggs and the ubiquitous tomatoes and beans. The good food and good company and sense of accomplishment were truly heaven. I wore my medal.

The trophies were beautifully detailed Arabic coffee pots, shining in the sun. Graham couldn't help himself and stole the Men's Overall Winner trophy, though just for a moment, until he was busted and put it back. "Just wanted to get close to it," he said in that unmistakably British voice of his.

We all squinted into the sun, cheered the winners, and had a rollicking good time.

Best of all, I could walk the next day. Albeit groaning like an old dog, but happy nevertheless.

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