Thursday, June 6, 2013

Second Half, Second Half

When last we met, I was describing how excited I was to be running in my second-ever half marathon race.  My first was the Women's Half Marathon, described in excruciating detail in that link.  My second was the Swamp House Half Marathon, and I was really looking forward to running it.  I was sure that I could beat the time of my first half (2:11) by a lot, and maybe even come in under 2 hours.  I had quieted the scaredy cat whiny baby in my head when I completed the whole 13.1 miles the first time, so all that was left to do was keep putting miles behind me between November and March, and to keep from injuring myself.
D'oh!  D'oh! And a double d'oh!

I didn't feel great after the November race.  I had pulled an abdominal muscle, which hurt for a few days, and when running all weird and breathing all wrong to make my abs not hurt so much during the race, I hurt my knee, too.  The smart thing to do was to take some time off, so I did.  The stupid thing to do was to take the rest of November and most of December off.  I ran a little, of course (If I don't, I start to feel like Old Yeller at the end of the movie.  Before he gets [SPOILER ALERT] killed, when he's all snarly and foaming at the mouth.)  I ran a 5k with Husband early in January, and a 5k leg of a 15k relay a few weeks later.  That day, I had decided to add some extra miles to get back into my planned training, so I ran home from the race site.  About a mile into the 3 1/2 mile trek home, my knee started hurting.  A lot.  I took a couple of walk breaks,  iced it when I got home, and rested, compressed and elevated it for a couple of days.  A really annoying, super frustrating pattern developed:  Run.  Ouch.  RICE.  Run fewer miles.  Run more miles.  Ouch.  RICE.  Run fewer miles.  Run more miles.  Ouch.  RICE.

I figured out that the source of pain, felt mostly in my knee, was actually my IT band.  Quick summary- the IT (iliotibial) band runs from around the hip to the outside of the knee.  When running (like I run), friction is created between the band of fascia and the bones, which can cause pain.  Although I pictured a rubber band when I first heard the description of the problem, to me, it felt like the opposite of a rubber band (whatever that may be).  When it would start to hurt, it was like my whole leg, starting from my hip, was getting shorter; getting pulled too tight.  I found some relief when I learned some stretches and went to some yoga classes.  I practiced improving my running form, I set a personal record in a 5k race, and I figured out a racing plan.  I realized that my form breaks down when I get fatigued, and bad form = pain, so my plan was to feel fresh for as many of the 13 miles as I could.  I decided to run for 10 minutes and walk for 1 minute.  I had my masseuse friend SpectacularLeigh work out any extra tension at the fabulous salon where I also got my hair done, and I felt like I was ready.  Since I had injured my knee, I had not logged nearly as many miles as I had originally planned, so I adjusted my goal from finishing under 2 hours to just having a good-feeling race.

I subtitled this race "Psychological Prowess", and here's why: I had some pretty significant mental hurdles to plow through in order to have a great race-
My best friend and biggest fan, Husband, was out of town for work.
It was really, really cold on race day.
I hadn't run more than 4 miles without pain in months.
Still nursing Baby had wakened me in the night, giving me <4 hours of sleep.

Sing with me!  Free your mind and the rest will follow.
My dad picked me up on race morning and left my mom with Baby and then-5 yr. old.  We met my sister and the three of us arrived at and parked in the super-easy-to-find field near the start line.  Did I mention that it was really cold?  37F, which felt like 32F with the wind.  We stayed in the car to keep warm until the last possible minute.  We didn't even get out to line up at the port-o-lets.  The race directors had planned well, so the lines weren't too long, but there was no line at all in front of the bushes.  
Just watered, not fertilized.
We lined up at the start (my sis and I had some of our husbands' socks on over our shoes to try to keep our toes warm- it worked!) just before the National Anthem.  The race started promptly, and we set off through the quiet neighborhoods.  My first mile was a 9:12 pace, which was right where I wanted to be.  The first time my watched beeped to indicate that I should take a walk break, I barely slowed down.  Mile 2 was a 9:11 pace, and I did slow to a walk after another 10 minutes of running.  Mile 3 was 9:01, and I felt great.  I wasn't in any pain, and I felt like I was taking the race easy enough to keep the IT band pain away for a while longer.  

We turned onto a main road, and cars were backed up as far as I could see.  My mom was planning to bring my kids to the finish line after giving them breakfast and bundling them up, and I couldn't see how she was going to get there with the traffic and road blocks.  Before I let myself get too worried, though, I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths.  I thought about how beautiful the sunlight looked coming through the trees, and how good the cold air had started to feel, and how grateful I was to be able to run.  I realized that I would really be okay with it if my mom had to turn around and go back to my house with the kids; that I was going to have a great race no matter what.  Mile 4 beeped in at a 9:09 pace.  I walked when my watch indicated it was time, and then I walked through a water stop so I could wash down my gooey, sticky fuel chews.
I cut them into quarters and still had trouble chewing them.  The energy boost without feeling barfy was great, though!
The extra walking made mile 5 a little longer, 9:54.  I was starting to feel some twinges of pain, especially when going uphill (probably only Florida natives like me would even call this course "hilly" with a straight face, but whatever) so I let myself slow down and tried to concentrate on my form.  Mile 6 was 9:51, and I was still feeling physically okay when I saw my brother-in-law and his parents at mile 7, which was 9:49.  My friend and training buddy and sister's sister-in-law (all the same person) stayed with me, even as I slowed down further.  She didn't make fun of me when I tried to convince her that 7.5 + 4.5 = 13 (we saw a very confusing sign about free beer in 4.5 miles) and she walked with me when the pain really started to set in.  I was still able to run for the majority of miles 8 and 9, which put them at 10:20 and 10:16.  Right around the 15k mark, we turned onto a road with a different sort of pavement.  I'm not sure what it's called, maybe Hellcrete?  Satanment?  GRAVEL?  I've heard that some people love running on it, but it was hard on my hips and other joints.  Most of the next miles were spent walking, because every time I started to run, it felt like my right leg was being pulled up and held in a vice.  It was hard to bend it, and hard to straighten it.  13:26, 10:14, & 12:22 were my next 3 mile times.  

I had tons of energy, was in great spirits, and was still enjoying myself, despite realizing that I was not going to beat my first half marathon time.  (I did try to convince my friend at mile 12 that it was possible for us to finish around 2:05, and she didn't make fun of me for that math error, either!  She's so kind.)  I started running again when we got back on a normal road, and soon saw my dad, then my sister's oldest son ("Umm, do you know you're not running very fast?"  Thanks for the motivation, kid.  "No, I'm just saying, I mean, you're like, a runner, and I'm keeping up with you!  I'm not saying you're slow, but I'm not fast, and I think I could beat you to the finish line.  Oh, and everyone else is already done."  Yes. Thank you.), and soon after, I saw my mom, son, daughter, and other nephews cheering and clapping (Would that have been so hard, dear, oldest nephew?).  Mile 13 was at a 10:27 pace, and I improved to a 9:43 pace for the last bit.  (Maybe I did need the rough talk from my nephew?)
Well practiced at cheering for runners, these boys are.
I crossed the finish line, got a water and my medal/bottle opener, then turned back to look at the clock.  I may well be the only runner to feel this way, but my slower-than-planned, really painful race was G-R-E-A-T.  It reminded me of my third College Algebra class.  Nope, not the third class meeting of the semester, but about 1/4 of the way through the third time I had enrolled in the class (I actually only failed it once, and barely.  The teacher didn't like me [may have had something to do with how often she had to wake me] so I literally failed by 1 point.  The other time, I dropped the class after 2 meetings because I couldn't understand anything the instructor was saying.  I'm pretty sure he thought he was teaching astronomy.).  During that Algebra class, and during that half-marathon, I actually heard heard a click in my brain.  After the click in Algebra, I was awake, interested, and passing all the tests with flying colors (and as you can all now attest, I'm not really a "math girl").  After the race click, I realized that racing isn't about numbers for me.  It's about my own accomplishments, my strengths, and getting as much out of the experience as possible.  The time on the clock is just like icing on the brownies. Yes, I know it's usually 'cake' in the saying, but I contend that icing on cake is not an extra bonus, it's a necessity.  Icing on brownies, though, is an unexpected treat.

Result: 2:14:57

After the race, I changed clothes, fed Baby in the car, and re-joined my family.  The little boys got to wrestle and jump on each other in the bounce house, my sis and dad got age group awards, I snagged a free beer, berry danish, bagel and banana, and enjoyed the festivities for a while before we left.  The traffic had never actually been as bad as it looked from my perspective during the race, and getting out was a breeze.  My family and I stopped to get lunch at:
Where the sauces are the only thing hotter than the order-takers.  Imagine Hooters girls with happily married parents, and you'll have a good picture of the T.F. employees.
The (really pretty) girl who took our order had actually been volunteering at a water stop during the race, so I felt like a bit of a star, wearing my medal and accepting her, "Wow, I don't know how you guys run that far" with a smile.

Today's advice was going to be deep and important, but then I got caught up looking at taco pictures when I was searching for the Tijuana Flats logo image.
Is my mouth the only one watering right now?

So, you get this: take advantage of their Taco Tuesdaze deal.  2 tacos, chips and a soda for the low, low price of $4.99.  If you live somewhere without the addictive, delicious, worth every gram of fat tacos made by T.F., I'm very, very sorry for you.  You should probably move to Florida.  Ooh!  Then, you could run the Swamp House half marathon with me next year, too!

What do you like on your tacos?

Have you ever heard "the click"?

1 comment:

  1. That was an especially fun post to read.

    I saw that you posted it to Fb yesterday but it didn't show up in my email until JUST NOW!

    37 degrees really is cold. At first I thought you meant Florida-cold. Which is even warmer than LA-cold.