Running with a Sunburn

I do not recommend getting a nearly second-degree sunburn before running your first 4-mile race. I actually do not recommend getting a nearly second-degree sunburn at all, but I’ve said that before, and I didn’t learn my lesson.

Kayaking on Saturday was going so well. I had applied SPF 30 before we got on the water, but after 14 miles and nearly 4 hours, I could not re-apply it fast enough or even enough, apparently. By the time we were loaded up the kayaks onto my dad’s truck, he looked at my legs and said, “Are you OK?” Sure, I was fine. I had even covered my legs for almost the last hour of kayaking. But like always, I fried.

I knew it was bad. My legs were hot to the touch, and even the heat from the sun through the truck window onto them was too much. As soon as we got home, I began chugging water (also beer, to take the edge off) and applying cold compresses. My new cooling towel got a LOT of use. Before bed, I even took ibuprofen (which I am not supposed to be taking with my suspected peptic ulcer, and definitely not when I have been drinking earlier in the day – but I was miserable) to try and calm the swelling but the damage was done. I tossed and turned all night – wearing the warmest layers I brought with me because I was FREEZING from being so burnt. It was almost a relief when I heard the birds chirping except for the fact that I was in SO MUCH PAIN.

I sucked it up and after a few gallons of water, a cold shower, a LOT of aloe (thanks, Dad!) and some more cold compresses, I got ready to go for a bike ride. I donned myself in running capris, shin sleeves (to cover the rest of my legs), a t-shirt, a long-sleeved zip-up, and a sports bra that hurt SO bad on the burn so I switched into what I call my lazy bra because it has no support but also no clasps or hooks. The only skin showing was my face and a tiny slice of my ankles, and I lathered on 3/4 of the bottle of sunscreen. I managed to not get any more burned, but I was pretty uncomfortable for those 16 miles. It was hot and I was sweating and also the shin sleeves were digging into the most painful part of my burn.

Afterward, I treated myself to more beer, a quick dip in the creek with the pups, more cold compresses, another cold shower, lots of aloe, and a fabulous dinner of burgers on the grill followed by s’mores over the campfire. To top it off, I saw four satellites and one shooting star before bed. I slept a lot better, thanks in part to the beer. I woke up, had a cup of coffee, peanut butter on toast, and we hit the road.

Getting to the race was painless. We found a free parking garage (those are so unheard of around Boston!), got our bibs and swag bags, and I enjoyed the AC indoors for as long as I could. I re-applied sunscreen for the 15th time and we headed to the start line, where I had my first Gu ever. I think it was the vanilla orange one, and it was WEIRD tasting. I know you aren’t supposed to try something new on race day but I was really tired, hungry, and just dragging. It seemed to do its job because I actually felt pretty great for the first 3.25 miles of the race. My chest hurt as if someone had punched me in the lungs, but really it was just the sunburn pain there. My legs felt fine and I wasn’t too sweaty thanks to the wonderful homeowners along the route who sprayed us with hoses and handed out water between the official water stops. And then the homeowners who were either performing live music, singing, or blasting their radios also made the race a lot more enjoyable. I tried to run in the shade wherever I could find it but I would say 75-80% of the race was in the full-on sun.

It wasn’t until after the final uphill around 3.5 miles that I actually allowed myself to walk for a bit. I normally wouldn’t, but I was gassed. I hadn’t run since the BAA 10K except for a measly 1-mile shakeout on Friday morning. When I could see the American flag way high up and heard people saying, “See the flag? That’s the finish!” I decided to book it as much as I could. I sprinted the final 2/10 of a mile and kept running past the finish line until I found shade.

My official time was 40:40.2. I was hoping to be under 40 minutes but considering how painful every step was on my swollen, tight, blistery skin, I’d say that’s pretty good. I otherwise felt great so I wonder how I would’ve done without my pre-skin cancer status…



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