From the beginning, I had no plans to really race this one. I’d left it all out on the course last week for my 10-mile PR and I still felt some fatigue, plus I had a pretty horrid week at work. And let’s be honest: unless you’re an elite or near-elite, it’s way too crowded to maintain a viable race pace. Still, I expected to run a respectable-for-me time.
But when I said, “Could this week possibly get worse?” I meant it as a rhetorical question, not a challenge.
We were in Corral C–not the fast people, but not the walkers either. I think three corrals came after ours. However, right at the start I had to dodge two women who crossed the starting line, cut in front of me while carrying small dogs, and stopped. Then there were the walkers who had either gotten a Corral B bib somehow, or had lined up in C instead of one of the later ones they were assigned to. I mean, Walking Lady Wearing Jeans and Armadillo Guy, how are you in front of me??
And it was humid. SO HUMID. Let’s just say I was glad my PR race was LAST weekend. So with these factors in play, I gave up even the idea of respectable time fairly early on. Which is good, because I would be less disappointed with by what happened next.
The course followed the streets around the Capitol, then turned west on 15th Street. There’s a short uphill, then a couple of flat blocks and a slight downhill. Somewhere in this stretch, between Congress Avenue and Lavaca, I felt a sharp pain behind my left kneecap. I tried to shake it off for another block or so, since so often these weird pangs come and go, but by the time I crossed Guadalupe, I could no longer ignore it. I was clearly limping and I couldn’t put my full weight on my left leg. I slowed to a walk.
B, who had run only grudgingly to begin with, did not mind a walk break. The others slowed as well. Another block, and M suggested we just bail at the Starbucks on the next corner. It was tempting, I’ll tell you. But I decided I could keep going, just not running.
Climbing the Enfield hills presented a problem–uphill put the wrong kind of pressure on whatever was happening behind my kneecap–so I had to lean on B now and then just to keep moving forward. But weirdly, it wasn’t a consistent pain. It’s not like I’d torn something and there was a before and after. It hurt, then it didn’t, and then another random shooting pain stabbed at me. I resigned myself to walking the rest of the damn way.
At the aid station on Winsted and Enfield, S saw the medical folks taping someone’s leg and suggested that might help me, but after a brief hesitation, I kept walking. I just couldn’t see what they could do for something behind my kneecap. And after spending involuntary time at the med tent back in December 2014, I wanted to avoid a repeat visit if at all possible. Besides, we were more than halfway done. I felt pretty sure I could
limp walk the rest of it.
The water stop sponsored by Whataburger had no Whataburgers, and the Clif Bar station had no Clif Bars. But on the road between Austin High and the Hike and Bike Trail, some spectators were handing out bacon. You can bet we stopped for THAT.
Since we had nothing but time, we amused ourselves costume-watching –Santa, Waldo, Pikachu, and Cookie Monster. The armadillo costume we’d seen earlier was super cool too. But damn, some of them had to be miserably warm in 70-degree temps. The guy wearing only superhero underwear and a cape had the right idea, as far as that goes.
Near the end of the race, the sharp-ish pains seemed to be fewer and further between, so as we crossed the First Street bridge toward the mile 6 marker, I decided I’d try to run the last .2 to the finish line. And of course, my knee felt totally fine. We finished in pretty much my worst 10K time ever, although now I wonder if I could have run more of it than I did. I know it was smart to just walk, especially since I never planned to really race it anyway. But still, this result was NOT what I had in mind.
Maybe next year I’ll dress up as an armadillo.