This weekend we flew to Minneapolis to see Aly, her sister, and her beau. I was really excited to see her – it had been since June! – and was also excited at the prospect of one more cold weather experience.
I got a cold weather experience, all right.
Earlier in the week, Frank had the brilliant idea that we should all run a 5k on Saturday (because what’s a trip without a race?!). He found one called the 100% Irish For a Day 5k/10 miler at a place called Lake Harriet Bandshell and persuaded us all to sign up for it…except for Aly’s sister, who it turns out is effing BRILLIANT. I wasn’t looking forward to it because the forecast called for it to be about 15 degrees and windy, and because I didn’t really want our Friday night to be dictated by the race Saturday am. But I went along to get along, and we signed up.
We picked up our packets on Friday afternoon, and I was pleased that we got nice long-sleeved tech shirts, headbands that covered the ears, and socks. It helped explain the $36 entry fee. Also, I found a cute pullover and tank top, so I was feeling a little better about doing the race.
So, after a fun evening at a weird restaurant – Hell’s Kitchen – we crashed pretty early.
When we woke up Saturday morning, the temperature was 16, and the winds were between 25 and 35mph. Awesome. (I didn’t check what the wind chill was until afterward…it was between -5 and -8.) The only pants I had to wear were the running tights I’d used in the half-marathon, so I put them on, with a long-sleeved tech shirt + my cute new pullover, plus gloves & headband. I also wore my puffy coat over top, with the idea that I’d take it off when the race started.
Here’s how we looked before the race:
We got as close to the start line as we could, and dropped Frank off before finding a place to park, because his race started 15 minutes before ours. It took us a while to find a spot, but we finally did, and set off toward the start line.
Except: the start line turned out to be more than a mile away from our car. Normally I wouldn’t mind a stroll before a race, to warm up, but this stroll was along a lake. Have you ever noticed, while taking a stroll along the shores of a lake, that there’s usually a breeze? There was a breeze along the shores of this lake as well. A breeze that took the 30mph winds up a significant notch, whipped ice into our faces, sprayed us with the snow it blew from the drifts around us, and windburned my legs through my pants. It was really painful, and very miserable.
Add to that the fact that I have some lung issues. The smallest thing can sometimes knock me off my game. On this particular day I think it was a combination of the really cold air and the fact that my sports bra was way too tight and constricted my chest. Whatever the cause, I was short of breath just walking to the start line.
I reasoned with myself that I shouldn’t do the race, but then concluded I’d probably be far colder just standing around waiting for everyone else than if I were moving, so I decided to do it. I left the puffy coat on, and I’m so, so glad I did. I told Aly to go on ahead (Brendan was already pretty far ahead of us) and I plodded my miserable ass around a second lake. It was marginally warmer at first, but I could barely manage a fast walk/shuffle – outright running was out of the question. The race took us along a neighborhood, and there was a steep hill to our right, protecting us from maybe 30% of the wind. My legs were still really burning, and at times I was walking through ankle-deep snow in my sneakers, and I kept slipping on the ice, but I was doing all right until the Mile 2 marker.
At that point, the trees opened up, the hill disappeared, and the wind really whipped through. I pulled my hat down and my coat up until there was maybe an inch of skin exposed, and I just looked at the ground. To look across the lake and see how much farther I had to go was really disheartening:
I found this pic on the web. It wasn’t nearly this cheery-looking outside on the day of the race.
The core of my body was warm enough, but I had to take my fingers out of the glove fingers, and bunch up my hands into fists in the middle of my gloves, and to wiggle my toes to keep them from freezing. I was a little worried about what my legs would look like later. I was miserable, and fighting back tears, and the worst part was that I was absolutely nauseated. I still don’t know why that happened, but I had to keep myself from throwing up about a dozen times.
About this time, Frank ran by on his way to finish his race. I hollered at him to come back and get me when he was done, and he said he would.
A lady nearby was running while pushing a stroller, and I was shocked to see that there was no shield on the front of it. When I looked at the baby, he was crying, and had well-defined purple circles on his cheeks and across his entire nose. I’m nearly certain that he had, or would have, some frostbite damage on his face, and the sight of him so upset really bothered me. The mom didn’t look too pleased, either, and when her husband jogged up to her she let him have it. He took over with the stroller, and actually ran with it facing backwards to help protect the baby from the wind, but I’m not sure how much it helped.
Finally, finally, I saw Frank, about .1 miles from the finish, and he walked me in to the end. I didn’t even see the clock, but it must have taken me at least 45 minutes. He said Aly & Brendan had gone to get the car, and I was so relieved at the idea that I wouldn’t have to walk back next to the freezing windy cold lake of death, but I was wrong. And devastated. Frank tried to get me to eat or drink something before we left the finish area, but the very idea made me heave a little, so we set off toward the car.
I don’t remember a ton about the walk. I think I was trying to find my happy place and not cry in front of Frank (or curse), so I just held on to his arm and walked next to him with my head down to avoid the wind. I do remember the people in front of us walked reeeeally slowly, and that I didn’t have enough energy to pop around them and get ahead. When we finally reached the street from the lake, I realized that I had NO IDEA where the car was parked. I hadn’t counted on not being with Aly & Brendan during the walk back to the car, so hadn’t paid attention to where we’d parked it. UGH.
Frank and I walked up the main street, and I texted Aly to tell her my predicament and my location, but didn’t hear back. I didn’t have Brendan’s number, but I asked Aly’s sister to text him to let him know where I was. She said she would, but before I could find out if he’d responded, my phone ran out of juice. Double ugh.
After about 10 minutes of walking up and down the street, I started feeling really badly. Frank saw a girl sitting in her car, knocked on the window and asked if we could sit in there with her for a minute. Thank goodness she was super nice and that we didn’t look too sketchy, because she said yes. I think she said her name was Sarah. THANK YOU, SARAH. When I climbed in, she said she’d noticed us walking and had thought, wow, she looks like she’s freezing to death. She was waiting for her friends, so we waited with her for a good 10 minutes. Frank let me have the front seat, near the heater, but she’d been sitting still so long that the air coming out was cold. So, it was like sitting in front of an air conditioner. Obviously, I didn’t complain to her about it, but for the first time I started really shivering. Like, shivering so much I couldn’t answer questions and Frank had to answer for me. Finally, he got out of the car to go see if he could see Aly’s car, and poor Sarah got a phone call that her mom had been taken to the hospital. Right then, Aly pulled up behind us (yay!!), Frank walked back to the car (yay!) and the girl’s friends walked up so she was able to leave and check on her mom (hopefully yay!). Thank goodness.
I curled up into a ball in the car, and 20 minutes later in the hotel room, my lips were still blue, along with the tips of my toes. I took a super hot bath for about 30 minutes, and then hobbled to the bed and lay down for about an hour. I was still fighting back nausea, so Frank got me some hot chocolate and made me sip it to get some sugar in me. It took a few hours before I started feeling all right again.
I’m still surprised by how badly I felt, and for so long. The half-marathon was way easier for me than this thing. I didn’t eat before the race, but I’ve never eaten before a 5k before and have always felt fine afterward. I guess maybe because I was struggling more to breathe, and my body was using a lot of energy to warm itself, I expended a lot more calories than normal and just depleted myself. Lesson learned.
Lesson fricking learned.
Update: Just noticed that Frank did a race report, too, and now I’m laughing hysterically at the differences in the reports. His basically says, “Today was chilly.” As our friend Al says, “The truth is in there somewhere.”