Yesterday’s post was kind of a downer, so today I thought I’d balance that out with some kudos, shout-outs, and gratitude from the Cleveland half marathon.
- I had a fantastic weekend, the last five miles of the race aside. For months, I looked forward to seeing K and J, and I was not disappointed. I flew in early and left late, which I know jacked with K’s schedule, but she and her family were nothing but gracious! Honestly, part of the reason I am feeling sort of blue is that I no longer have this event to look forward to, no race with these two amazing friends on the horizon.
- The volunteers and spectators at the race were awesome. Every water station had dozens of cheering volunteers with a plentiful supply of water and PowerAde–some races run out by the time slow runners like me come through, but not here. They were great. And crowd support along the entire route made such a difference. Several spectators read the Rogue Running logo on my shirt and shouted “Go Rogue!” which made me smile every time, especially considering how far I was from home. K’s husband and kids stationed themselves just before Mile 11 and seeing them helped push me on. And wow, the last quarter-mile down East Ninth and Erieside, crowds were four and five deep most of the way in. I hurt, but there was no way I was walking in front of all those cheering people–their enthusiasm carried me to the finish. From funny signs to noisemakers to music, Clevelanders rocked!
- The entire race was super well-organized. From the ease of packet pickup at the expo to having the stadium open at the start to Popsicles at the finish line, everything went smoothly. I never thought, ooh, they should do THAT differently. Huge kudos to the race organizers!
- I saw two people get loaded into ambulances and another sitting on the curb, injured. I’m thankful that despite my slow pace and hip flexor pain, I was capable of running across the finish line. There’s definitely a silver lining in that. And I didn’t really hurt much afterwards, either. I mean, I was sick and my hip flexor wasn’t happy, but I didn’t have that day-after soreness that makes me hate stairs. Maybe a little, but I toted my backpack and a carry-on suitcase through three airports the next day without a problem.
- The race medal is spiffy! It’s a hefty chunk of hardware–and the guitar in the middle spins!
- I am thankful for all the support I’ve received throughout my training and on race weekend. The camaraderie from everyone at Rogue, the texts K and I exchanged throughout the weeks leading up to the race (“go run!”), the post-race texts and emails from people who had been tracking me, the Facebook cheers–all of it meant so much to me. Thank you.
I’ve spent most of 2013 training for last weekend’s half marathon. Since January 1st, according to my Garmin data, I’ve run 289.83 miles in 70 hours and I’ve burned 36,952 calories, most of it while battling a couple of recurring injuries and a bout of running funk. This year’s journey has taken me through two 5K races, two 10Ks, one 10-miler, and two half-marathons from which I logged 4 PRs, one at each distance.
And then there was Sunday. I didn’t have a spectacular race thanks to the aforementioned injuries. I didn’t slay the beast, didn’t sail triumphantly across the finish line with my friends. But I stuck it out and finished, which, while an accomplishment, wasn’t the one I was going for.
So now what?
I’ve come a long way since last July. When I started, I could run maybe three miles, and only with a walk break or two. From there, I built endurance, then I improved my speed. I don’t want to quit, to walk away from the progress I’ve made. But I’m exhausted. School gets out in 10 days, so things are crazy at work. And I hurt–not the usual day-after soreness, but deeper aches built throughout months of effort.
I guess I’m having an episode of post-race melancholy here. I looked forward to the Cleveland half for months, and now I am sort of aimless. Some people finish a race and are so inspired they immediately sign up for another one. Not me, not now anyway. I’m frustrated by my hip flexor and my slowness, and truth be told, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make my time goal. But instead of that disappointment pushing me to try again, it just makes me want to curl up on the couch.
Probably not a good strategy. So now what?
My race report was also my 100th blog post. That round number reminded me that in a lot of ways I have done what I set out to do, and then some. Last July, I planned to run one half-marathon as kind of a bucket list thing. Yet Cleveland was my third. I’ve made new friends, I’ve traveled for a couple of races and got to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have done.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my ability to be resilient out there pounding the pavement, the track, and the trail. It’s funny–several people have asked how my race went, and when I described my struggles during the last five miles, they wanted to know, “But did you finish?” And I am horrified that someone thinks I would just QUIT. Not only did I finish, I ran across that finish line. Barring a medical emergency, I would have walked, I would have limped, whatever it took.
So now what?
For starters, I think I’m going to take it easy this week, see if my hip flexor and calf can recover a bit. Then I’m going to go out for a couple of non-time-specific, non-distance-specific runs. Just see how I feel and where it takes me. Beyond that? I don’t know.
At 6:00am we left the hotel for the half-mile walk to the starting line. The corrals lined up on the back side of Browns Stadium (which won’t be named this for long–it has acquired a corporate sponsor and they’re already taking down the sign on one side of the stadium, preparing to call it something else). The stadium was open so we opted for these restrooms instead of porta-potties. Always a good call, I’d say. Then we checked out the field and we got a guy to take our picture. Several former Texas players had played for the Browns over the years, so it was kind of cool to be inside the stadium I’d seen many times on television.
J is quite a bit faster than K and me, so as we headed to the corrals, we hugged her, wished her luck (her Achilles worried me), and separated. K and I planned to run together with the understanding that she could run ahead if my injuries slowed me down. I was hopeful, but that hilly first mile concerned me.
The race got underway at 7:00 sharp; K and I crossed the starting line about eight minutes later. She had trouble with her Runkeeper app right from the start, and I grumbled about the hills and my hip. But the crowd was lined up and cheering–it was a great atmosphere! We fired up our playlists (which we’d agonized over the last week) and set off.
As we ascended the highway ramp, we cracked up at the spectator holding a mannequin leg in one hand, and in the other a sign that said “This race is LEG–wait for it–endary!” in a hilarious homage to “How I Met Your Mother.”
The next two miles or so were not that exciting, scenery-wise, other than the girl we dubbed Rainbow Brite. Highways and overpasses, mostly. Occasionally a runner appeared from or veered off toward the trees next to the road–I’ve always said there’s no shame in distance running, although I’d have to be pretty desperate to take a roadside pit stop, I think. Especially at mile two. Somewhere around here I told K that if my hip didn’t loosen up soon, the rest of this race was gonna suck. My calf felt fine, although the increasing hip pain could have been obscuring it. The streets were cracked and uneven, and I was afraid I would twist an ankle on top of everything else.
The water stops were staffed by cheering, enthusiastic volunteers with both water and blue PowerAde. At first I stuck with water, but after about two miles the air felt warm and humid so I started grabbing a PowerAde and a water each time.
This part of the route ran parallel to Lake Erie, and the breeze was nice. Soon we reached Edgewater Park and the neighborhood beyond. Residents of huge, gorgeous houses stood on their huge, gorgeous lawns, cheering and holding signs. Little kids still in pajamas played with dogs. K belted out songs from her iPod. She may have danced too. It was festive.
Edgewater was as far west as we’d go, so soon the course turned south, then east. The neighborhoods got a bit, um, less affluent–one house was burned out, although it appeared the fire had occurred some time ago–but families stood outside cheering, ringing bells, and clapping. I appreciated every one of them. At the top of a short hill, a man stood holding a small dog. I was tempted to ask if he would carry me instead. Not a good sign when we hadn’t even reached the 10k split yet.
We hoofed it through the no-kidnap zone and crossed the 10k mark. I got the text (yes, I was tracking myself because the texts include a projected finishing time) and saw that we were behind our A-Goal pace. We could still do it, but it would require a slightly faster pace. I started to revise my goal, accepting that I was hurting and would probably only get slower from here. K was feeling good though, and when we reached the mile eight marker, I encouraged her to run ahead. I didn’t want to slow her down any more than I already had. This was her first half, and if she could do it faster, I wanted her to achieve that. I turned up my music, took two more Advil, and soldiered on.
The second half of the race is sort of a blur for me. Some folks handed out beer (“hydration AND carbs!”) and others blasted music. One woman held out a water bottle and a Gu packet, saying “Take it if you need it” to runners. Some people at a church had set up a stage and were singing off-key karaoke. A group of women flipped their hair to One Direction’s “What MakesYou Beautiful.” Drivers looked pissed off that intersections were closed. Streets still sucked–lots of cracks and potholes, and even a stretch of uneven cobblestones. I walked more than I wanted to.
Between miles 10-11, the course crossed the enormous Lorain-Carnegie bridge. About halfway across, I spotted K’s husband and the kids. They cheered and waved, and it was so motivating. I sped up down the other side of the bridge to the eleven-mile marker. Two-point-one to go.
At the end of the bridge I made the left turn at the baseball stadium and passed the Hard Rock Cafe, and soon I started seeing people wearing medals. I also saw a guy getting loaded into an ambulance, and I appreciated that I just had some leg pain. Then more sirens and another ambulance. Sirens during races have never meant good things, but now, for a minute, I thought of the Boston Marathon finish line. But the yellow-vested volunteers continued standing along the road’s center stripe, high-fiving runners as we passed. “Less than half a mile now!” they shouted. I was grateful for them.
I made the left turn onto East Ninth, where the half split from the full. Spectators were everywhere. I could hear music. Marathoners were coming in from the other direction–they ran on the right, half-marathoners on the left. I was impressed–these runners were finishing a full marathon in the time it took me to run a half. I crossed an intersection lined with SWAT team members in full gear, and I remembered why they were there. At the bottom of the hill I made the final left turn in front of the Rock Hall. Spectators were three and four deep, cheering and shouting and making noise. One guy banged a drum, and others held signs. The crowd support was fantastic!
My Garmin beeped for mile 13 but I still couldn’t see the finish line. My hip flexor screamed–I’m sure I looked awkward and pitiful. Bon Jovi shouted “It’s my life, and it’s now or never!” through my headphones. And then, there it was: the blue banner, the timing mat, the volunteers with the medals. Just after I crossed the finish line, about five texts came in–the tracking one, and congratulatory ones from people who had obviously been tracking me.
I gratefully accepted a medal, water, and pretzels, in that order. I made my way out of the finishers’ area and got a text from J–she and K were trying to find me. I headed to the firefighters’ memorial right next to the finishers’ area and told her to meet me there. I hoped that wasn’t like saying “Meet me at Big Tex” at the Texas State Fair, an impossible task. And then she and K appeared out of the crowd, and we had a three-way hug moment. We were a motley crew of injuries and emotions, and now finishers’ medals too.
I saw some people with popsicles and made it my mission to locate the source. Naturally, they were inside the finishers’ area, but we stood at the fence and waved at one of the volunteers, who cheerfully brought over a couple of popsicles for us. I have no idea what brand it was or anything else, but at that moment it was the best popsicle on earth.
We gingerly and slowly made the half-mile walk back to our hotel, showered, packed up, and got in line to check out. As we stood there, a huge wave of nausea overtook me, and I leaned against the wall. K said I looked pale. I tossed her my credit card and asked her to put half of our room bill on it (J had another room for her and the boys), and I went in search of a restroom.
After a few minutes I felt a tiny bit better, so we walked over to Tower City in search of food. I wasn’t even a little hungry, but J was threatening to gnaw off her own arm, so off we went. I just ordered water and iced tea; I must have looked really bad because the waiter brought me a pile of saltine crackers too. As lunch went on, I just got worse and worse. I’m pretty sure at one point I put my head down on the table.
I’ll spare you the details, but a few trips to the restroom later, and I felt markedly better. Still had no appetite, but I wasn’t contemplating curling up in a ball on the floor, either. I don’t know if it was the Advil from mile eight, the PowerAdes at every water stop, or just my body’s way of saying ENOUGH. But there was rebellion. And it was not fun.
Unfortunately, J had a six-hour drive ahead of her, so she had to hit the road. We walked her back to the hotel parking garage and said our goodbyes. We piled in K’s car–I wasn’t flying out until the next day, so they were stuck with pathetic post-race me for a while longer. When we got back to their house, I curled up on their super-comfy couch for a while. I drank some water, and after an hour or so I ate half a breakfast bar. I started to feel more like myself, which was good for a number of reasons.
Aside from the obvious, I was hoping to meet my cousin for dinner–I haven’t seen her since we were kids. She ran the half-marathon too, but she’s much faster and we didn’t cross paths at all. We’d been texting and trying to arrange a get-together, but the universe hadn’t quite aligned right Friday or Saturday. Post-race Sunday was sort of our last opportunity. So when I started to perk up, I texted her and we worked out some dinner plans.
We went to B-Spot. I had packed light, so all I had was jeans and a t-shirt–I hoped that was good enough for the Iron Chef. Apparently not, as we had to wait about an hour for a table, then got stuck in the back with a server who never once refilled drinks. The food was good though, and the Vanilla Bean milkshake restored pretty much all of the 2000+ calories I’d burned (and otherwise lost). It was great to catch up with my cousin, and I hope she will come visit Austin soon. Our family is not close, geographically or otherwise, so I am glad I got the chance to see her this trip.
We were all tired, and the food coma didn’t make things any easier. We headed back to K’s house, where I slept like a rock. Around lunchtime Monday, we headed to the airport. Despite the things that went wrong for me, race-wise, I’d had a great weekend. Now it’s time to go back to the real world, until next time.
Saturday morning began with a trip to the adjacent Tower City Center for coffee. Priorities, people. Tower City was originally built in the 1920s as a train terminal, and while it’s still used for that, these days it also houses a huge multi-story mall.
The interior, at least in places, resembles New York’s Grand Central Terminal, one of my favorite buildings.
After acquiring a caffeinated beverage for me and muffins for the kids, we wandered around the square a bit. Fountains of water, a statue of Cleveland’s founder, an old church, and the statue to soldiers and sailors–which apparently appeared in The Avengers, along with several other downtown buildings.
K and her family arrived and the kids all hit the hotel pool. At this point, K realized she had forgotten her foam roller–a critical need for my hip flexor and calf problems. I started to worry a bit–these injuries could make or break my race. We could have gone to a sporting goods store–K’s husband works for one–but the parking situation was already dicey, and there was a home Indians game this morning so lots would fill up quickly. Instead, we went back to Tower City on the off-chance Foot Locker or Champs Sports would have one. When that failed (the guy in Foot Locker didn’t even know what it was) we improvised. At the toy store we found one of those huge water cannons–it was round and covered in the same foam material as the roller. The diameter was a bit small, but it would work. MacGyver win!
After lunch, we headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of my must-see places on this trip. It took a while to get there since construction had closed several walkways and race prep had closed others (the finish line runs right in front of the museum to the football stadium). At least we knew what to avoid in the morning, since the race starts on the other side of the stadium!
The museum is a giant pyramid, designed by I.M. Pei, that sits right at the edge of Lake Erie. There was some sort of youth music festival going on in the plaza in front of the museum–tents, drumlines, and perhaps unrelated, some bikers who looked like ZZ Top.
We got some discount vouchers with our race registration–I used mine right from my phone–so we got our wristbands and headed to the first exhibit. The museum is organized weirdly–you start at the first floor, then go up to two and three. Because it’s a pyramid with an open atrium at the center, the upper floors are smaller and the exhibits sort of snake around the perimeter. And because of this music festival thing, which also had a stage inside the museum, lots of people milled around the main floor watching the performers. Also in this area were a couple of displays of famous guitars, plus Alex Van Halen’s drum set and the ZZ Top car from Eliminator.
The first floor exhibits covered the origins of rock and roll, Elvis, the Beatles, and The Rolling Stones to U2 and Michael Jackson. One of the kids was fascinated by Elvis so we watched the exhibit video on him for a while, then took pics in front of one of his sparkly jumpsuits.
The Michael Jackson exhibit had the Billie Jean jacket, a white glove, and the Grammy he got for Thriller, among other things.
And there was a great exhibit of Robert Alford’s photography, a veritable who’s who of the 1980s. Another cool display touched on censorship throughout the rock and roll era, from protests over Elvis in the ’50s to Frank Zappa and Tipper Gore in the ’80s.
From there we went up to the third floor. We skipped most of the films here–footage of inductees’ performances–but I loved the wall of inductees’ signatures. They glow brightly on a black background, like they were written in silver ink pen and illuminated with a black light. I’m thinking not every artist signed it specifically at his or her induction, since I know some were inducted posthumously. But as far as I can tell, every artist is represented. I was oddly fascinated by Stevie Wonder’s signature.
From there we went down to the second floor for the Video Killed the Radio Star exhibit, which was basically a trip through my teenage years via iconic MTV videos. You know, back when MTV played music. I felt like this era was a bit under-represented in the museum. Yeah, Madonna’s is one of the photos at the entrance, and I saw Springsteen, U2, and ZZ Top, but the big exhibits focused on early rock and roll. Maybe that’s how it should be, I don’t know, but as a teen from the ’80s, I was hoping for more stuff I could relate to. Overall though, I really enjoyed the museum.
However, spending the day before a race wandering like a tourist goes against pretty much all conventional wisdom, including the advice from my sports doctor. J has been having some Achilles issues and her foot was Not Happy by the end of the afternoon either.
We got back to the hotel and discovered a giant fan blowing on a section of carpet in our room–evidently there had been a water leak. Fun times. Working around that, we got ready for dinner. We walked to a place near the hotel–K’s friend works there, and they have a vegetarian/vegan menu for J. I had an amazing ravioli and vegetable dish. Mmmm, carbs! After dinner, J went to the bathroom and took forever, and then I realized that what she’d really done was pay the check before any of us could protest. I know she tends to do this and I was still slow to catch on. D’oh! I blame sleep deprivation. But I know her well enough that arguing does no good, and I appreciated the gesture, so I just plotted a way to get it next time.
From there we went back to the hotel. An early morning awaited us–race organizers suggested 6am arrival. So we
neurotically methodically laid out everything for the morning–clothes, shoes, gels, sunglasses, Chapstick, all that stuff–and charged phones and Garmins. I rolled my calf and hip with the water-cannon-turned-foam-roller and tried to calm my brain. I’d been able to live in The Land of Denial all day, but now I had to face the reality of the race.
I have this habit of waking up before my alarm when I have something important–flights, races, whatever. And so I knew even as I set my alarm for 5:30 that my eyes would pop open before that. Little did I know K and I would both be awake at 4:30.
The weekend really started before it was technically even the weekend. I was up by 3am and at the airport by 4:30. Yawn. But the good news is that a super-early flight out of Austin got me to Cleveland by noon.
K picked me up at the airport and we headed to the expo, which was practically next door. Got our shirts and bibs, then scoured the booths for cool stuff. They had a table of previous years’ tech shirts for $5, but considering I didn’t run the race in the past, I thought it would be disingenuous to buy one, even for $5. Then I found two that didn’t have the year. Score! So for $15 I got a short-sleeved and a long-sleeved tech shirt, plus a cotton tee for my kid.
After a quick lunch, we turned the GPS toward the house where I lived until I was almost four. We briefly looked like stalkers, taking pictures in front of the house, and when the guy with his dog in the neighboring front yard looked askance at us, we got back in the car.
From there, we decided to drive the race route. Of course, this is a double-edged sword. I’m completely unfamiliar with Cleveland, so it was nice to have an idea of what to expect during the race. But driving it took almost an hour, and it hammered home just how damn long a half-marathon really is.
The first mile is uphill, which kind of concerned me–if my hip flexor and funky calf were feeling good, a hill is not a problem. But that early on, they might not be loosened up yet and that could spell disaster. Fortunately the rest of the course seemed reasonably flat.
The first four miles were so pretty, along Lake Erie and past Edgewater Park. It turned kind of sketchy around miles 7-8, and K suggested we try not to get kidnapped–it turns out, those girls who had recently been found had been snatched right around this area. Shudder.
The second half of the course went through a bunch of tree-lined neighborhoods, then over the Lorain-Carnegie bridge (yikes, a hill at mile 11) and back into downtown past the Indians’ and Cavaliers’ stadiums. Downhill past the Hard Rock Cafe, up and down again past the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then straight to the finish line in front of Browns Stadium. Yay, a downhill finish!
After driving the course, we checked into the Renaissance and dropped off my stuff. We pleaded for late checkout, but the desk clerk said they were all booked up and the best they could do was give us an extra hour. Good thing we weren’t running the full marathon–there’s no way we’d make a noon checkout. I wonder why they chose to be one of the race hotels if they couldn’t accommodate post-race runners?
Somehow we’d scored a room on the super-secret 12th floor, which required card-key access. K’s husband said the Seattle Mariners were in town to play the Indians, and they were staying at the Renaissance too–perhaps even on this same floor. Sadly, I didn’t see anyone who looked like a baseball player, though. There was also an a capella singing convention going on, and every elevator ride included little old ladies from Pittsburgh and Indianapolis singing to each other. K called them the Sweet Adelines.
We picked up Mediterranean takeout for dinner. Our Third Musketeer would be arriving soon, and we were all meeting at K’s house for a while. J brought her six- and seven-year old boys, and after being in the car for six hours, they needed to run around a bit.
After dinner, we trekked back to the Renaissance. The parking situation sucked, but eventually we found a space. The Sweet Adelines had brought a LOT of cars.
I scored some free wifi with my husband’s Marriott Rewards number, but I was tired and crashed by about 10:00. Which is good, because we had a touristy day planned for Saturday.
I’m a planner. Seriously. I make lists and piles, then pester everyone with my OCD-style nattering about inconsequential details. And since I’m traveling on Friday to Cleveland to run the half-marathon with two friends, the list-making started eleventy-four days ago.
I’m excited about this trip for a bunch of reasons. One, I’m meeting two great friends for the weekend. We are going to do dorky tourist things and laugh ourselves silly. And two, it’s a nostalgic walk down (fuzzy, probably inaccurate) Memory Lane for me. I was born in Cleveland and lived there until I was 3.5; after we moved, we visited my grandparents every year or so, at least until I was a teen. I still have family there, and thanks to Facebook, I’ve been in touch with my cousin and will get to see her for the first time since we were kids. And she’s running the half too!
So not only is everyone within earshot (or text range) subjected to my annoying babble about the race, and what race crap I need to pack, and whether everything will fit into my carry-on, and OMG is it going to rain? My parents were also forced to answer questions (What was our street address in Lakewood? Why do I remember someone hitting the side of the house with the car mirror?) and search Google Street View to find the right house from 1970-freaking-four. And once I get there Friday, my friends will be required to participate in some drive-by stalking of the old ‘hood.
Then there’s the small matter of the race itself. Oh yeah. I’ve been training more or less continuously since last July, with only short breaks after each of my two previous half-marathons. I have a time goal, but I’ve been battling this calf thing (and recurring hip flexor thing) so I’m not sure my goal is realistic. But the course is pretty flat and the weather should be, well, if not cool, at least not Texas hot. I just hope it doesn’t rain! Can you imagine the complaining that will ensue on race day if I have to deal with that? K said she’s got headphones just in case she needs to drown me out. And J will be way ahead, totally out of earshot.
My sports doctor/chiropractor has worked miracles for me this year–he fixed my hip problem after my first half-marathon, and he’s working on my newest calf issue. So when he invited me to sign up for his 5K, I wanted to participate. However, my half-marathon is next Sunday, and I didn’t think it’d be a good idea to race three weekends in a row on this funky calf, so I got my son to run it instead.
It rained hard last night, and I wondered if the weather would get in the way of the race. But it was sunny and clear as we got out of the car at Brushy Creek Park.
The Wacky 5K was a super-small race–I think maybe 30 people turned out. I told B there weren’t many kids and he had a good chance to place in his age group! It was so small, they got everyone together for a group picture at the starting line.
Did I mention it was a costume race? Well, you could run without a costume, but he tacked on five minutes to your finishing time–one guy got bumped from the top three because he was costume-less! B wore his Indiana Jones costume from a couple of Halloweens ago. His whip was AWOL, but the hat still fit. I thought he might actually look like Indy at some point, with his hat flying off as he ran down the trail. But he said it stayed on–and there were no rolling boulders. Or nuclear fridges. Some of the costumes were really fun. My favorite was the family of four, each holding bicycle handlebars, running in a line and ringing a bicycle bell. Clever!
I enjoyed being a spectator–I don’t get to do that very often, and it’s fun cheering everyone on. Of course, there’s not much to do between the starting horn and when the lead runners return (it was an out-and-back course), but even in a costume race, it didn’t take that long. The winner–a clown–finished in about 21 minutes. I wondered how B would do by himself–usually he runs the first mile of a 5K with his dad. This time he was on his own.
Last week, he set a personal best of 30:19. When thirty minutes passed today, I knew he wouldn’t PR. But it turned out he wasn’t far behind that pace. He finished in 31:38–his second-fastest 5K ever, good for 11th overall and 2nd in the 19-and-under age group. The kid who beat him was at least 13–tough category. I loved watching the determination on his face as he ran toward the finish line. I don’t normally get to see that–either he’s way ahead of me, or we’re running together.
The final finisher was a young girl–maybe six years old–and her family. They wore butterfly wings and walked the whole thing. She won her age group.
With my half-marathon just two weeks away, I probably should have gone out for double-digits again. But instead, we ran our third Chuy’s Hot to Trot 5K, which is always the first weekend in May, coinciding with Cinco de Mayo. This year, it was held on May the Fourth.
As this is Central Texas, it’s usually pretty warm for this race. We’ve run it the last two years, and both times the last mile has been brutal, running into the sun. This year, it was uncharacteristically cool–in the 40s–overnight and I knew that with the cooler temperatures, I had a chance to step it up and PR. I wore my T-Rex shirt for some extra PR mojo.
We arrived a bit early and sat in the car for a few minutes, not wanting to brave the cold just yet. Not something we’d normally do this time of year! It was 51* when we headed to the starting area. I had dressed for the run, not the current temperature, but I saw lots of people in long tights and heavy layers. I’m sure that was comfortable while they waited at the start, but that attire was gonna suck a mile into the race. I also saw a couple of totally superfluous items for a 5K: a couple wearing Camelbak water backpacks, and a guy with GU in his Fuelbelt. Dude, it’s 3.1 miles. Really? So yeah.
One wheelchair racer was participating, and Elvis sent him off a few minutes before the rest of us. And then it was go time. I knew my biggest challenge was going to be taking it easy the first half-mile. I have a terrible habit of getting swept up by the crowd and starting off too fast, and if I wanted any hope of maintaining a pace fast enough to PR, I couldn’t blow a gasket the first mile of the race–I had to have something in the tank at the end.
This race goes around my old ‘hood, so I know the area pretty well. The first mile goes up a bit of an incline–my Garmin shows about a 70-foot elevation difference–but it’s not a huge hill or anything. I kept my pace steady, passing some people who had stopped to walk. The wheelchair racer was having a tough time on the incline, and I passed him at about the one-mile marker.
The second mile meandered through the neighborhood, back the other direction, and thus back down that incline. I picked up the pace a bit. As the course turned on a street two blocks from my old house, I laughed, knowing the high school me would be shocked at my running this race, or any race.
I walked through the water station just before the two-mile marker, but a quick glance at my Garmin told me I was on pace for a PR time, which spurred me on.
The last mile goes right into the sun. Even though the temperature was cooler than past years’ races, I was warm. Sweaty. Breathing hard. I tried not to focus on my watch, just on putting one foot in front of the other as fast as I could. I made the final turn into the Chuy’s parking lot. Just past the traffic circle I saw my family (they’d finished a few minutes earlier) standing with some friends. B waved, and I mustered the energy to wave back. They cheered, but all I could manage was a brief smile. All my attention was on the finish line ahead.
I crossed the finish line. Stopped my Garmin–which showed a definite minute-and-a-half PR. Grabbed a water from a volunteer. Sat in the grass catching my breath. Incapable of complete sentences. B sat next to me, proud to tell me he’d PR’d too. After a few minutes, we got up, ready to find the Krispy Kremes.
Meandering through the parking lot, I saw two kids in Star Wars costumes–a Darth Vader and an R2D2. The Force was strong today.
Alternative title: don’t diagnose yourself via Dr. Google.
I went to my sports doctor today (he’s an Ironman athlete, chiropractor, and sports therapist) for my calf/lower leg/Achilles problem. He fixed my hip flexor issue last fall, and I still see him every two weeks or so to keep things working smoothly, so I knew I’d get the straight dope from him today.
He did not share my concern about an Achilles problem, focusing instead on the calf muscles–which, if you’ll recall, I learned are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. He used
medieval torture something called the Graston technique involving stainless steel tools (or so I’m told–I didn’t look) and a hell of a lot of pressure. Let’s just say it this way: before he started, he reviewed a pain scale (from 1 – 3). Two = “you hate me” and 3 = “you can no longer speak,” with the goal to stay at a two. It was handy, but sort of made me feel like I was in labor, or getting stitches in the ER.
He pushed and scraped and then taped it up. I go back on Thursday (and probably a few more times before the half) and should be able to take on the Chuy’s 5K on Saturday. Way better than the prognosis Dr. Google had for me.
I went out for a short three-mile loop around the neighborhood this morning. It was mostly like yesterday’s 11-miler, except with more loose dogs that chased after me, and a car that almost sideswiped me. And yeah, that nagging leg pain.
So when I got home, I consulted Dr. Google. I checked out about a zillion diagrams of lower leg anatomy (and can’t every English major make an accurate medical diagnosis from Google Images??) I’m beginning to think that my problem is not with my calf–the gastrocnemius muscle–but with either the upper part of the Achilles tendon or the lower soleus muscle where it meets the Achilles.
Most people, it appears, who have Achilles pain feel it more in the heel (here’s where the English major makes a Greek mythology reference about Achilles’ vulnerable heel), and that doesn’t bother me at all. But even if it’s not the Achilles itself, it’s definitely painful at the point where the muscles and the tendon meet.
And of course there’s not much I can do for it. Ice, tape, ibuprofen, rest. Oh, and see my sports doctor for a real assessment. That’s on the schedule for tomorrow.