As I've built up over the past 7 weeks, various goals have come and gone. As my running progressed, the soft time goals in my head kept dropping. 1:20. 1:10. 1:05. And finally, 56:59, to solidly PR. The universe laughs.
I had probably one of the worst run-ups to a race I've ever had. On Friday, I grudgingly headed out into the cold to run 2 little miles, just to shake things out. My HR was high. I was coughing. Tired. Had a stitch in my side. Who knew 2 miles could be so long? And then finally, heading up a tiny hill, my shoelace got caught on a tree branch and threw me - hard - at the ground. Road rash on both palms. A nasty gash on my knee, ripping through the fabric of my too-expensive CW-X tights. And - as I discovered later - huge bruises on both knees, as well as my right hip. I limped home, dripping blood on the sidewalk and cursing.
Saturday morning I woke up incredibly sore from my sidewalk tumble. So I decided to skip the swim I had planned and instead spent all day baking - and tasting - peppermint cupcakes, chocolate chip peanut butter mint cookie cake, and Christmas-decorated butter cookies with a friend. The poet finished school on Saturday, so we went out to the Melting Pot to celebrate, where I had bread and cheese and marshmallows and chocolate and carmel and cheesecake and - without thinking - a martini. I drank several glasses of water and we got to bed early, but at that point I basically stopped mentally planning a PR. Oh - and the forecast - 44º and rain.
I woke up about 2 hours before my alarm to a dull pain in my lower back. I tossed and turned until the alarm went off, and when I went in the bathroom to get ready, discovered the reason for my lower back pain. Fantastic. I got dressed anyway, kissed my babies, and we left.
I met up with Amy to get my number, we parked 384 blocks away, and headed to the start. The poet was kind enough to come spectate, and let me wear his jacket and carry his umbrella as we walked to the start. By the time we got there, I had to pee. Liz came and got her number and waited for me, and I was next in line to pee when we heard, "GO!" and everyone started.
So I jumped out of line, we worked our way around to the start, and went. Liz was kind enough to start with me, and I was just planning on hanging with her as long as I could. My rough plan was to start around 9:15 pace and work my way down from there. We chatted through the first couple miles, and while I felt like we were running a bit fast, it was still a pretty comfortable pace. I was trying not to Garmin-watch, but I glanced down at the 3-mile mark and was pretty happy to see 25:xx. I felt Liz pick up the pace at the turn-around, after declaring that she was going to run me to my PR and, "not let me wimp out!" Friends are good.
I started to feel the pace, though, and put my headphones in around this point for an extra push. I know that running a 10K is about feeling extremely miserable during the last half, so I just tried to keep running and not think about it too much. Between miles 4-5, my hip flexors started to burn like crazy. When we passed the 5 mile mark, I looked down and saw 45:xx and knew I was going to PR. I tried to pick up the pace even more, but I was out of gas. I got a wad of snot stuck in the back of my throat, and didn't have any energy to hork it out, so instead I just grunted like an elephant for most of the last mile. When we came over the little bridge and onto Ohio Drive, Liz picked it up even more (wench, I've been chasing you for 6 miles), and I just yelled, "OWWWWW." A bunch of people laughed. Losers.
As we were coming into the finish, I was watching for the poet. I finally saw him just before the finish, bent over, fiddling with his umbrella. Um, you're supposed to be race photographer extraordinaire!? I yelled his name and he looked over, surprised. He caught this shot:
I'm in the white top, black pants.
He had set a timer on his phone when I crossed the start line, and knew I was trying to get into the 56:xx range. The reason he almost missed me?OWWWWW is right. I busted a big hole in that daggone PR.
Get it? 53! Snerk snerk snerk. Also, our hair looks amazing.
As soon as I stopped running, my calves and quads tightened up quite a bit. We grabbed some water and chatted for a minute, but it was freezing cold and I was soaked, so we headed back to the car. I made the brilliant decision to take an ice bath when I got home, but I only lasted for 8-9 minutes before giving up and turning on the hot shower. I took a very long nap, and then spent the rest of the day with a completely upset stomach. Ginger ale, bread, maybe a cupcake, then more ginger ale and bread. I honestly don't care if my stomach is angry after a race, as long as it behaves - which it always has - during.
So, a few things to mull over. This hurt like a bitch, but it's supposed to. I felt good enough to chat my way through the first half, which is a big step - being able to chat through three 8:44 miles without a break. I didn't walk at any point. I slowed down at both water stops just a tad, but no walking. I did stop once to tie my shoe, in mile 2 (stupid jingle bell). When I was done, I had absolutely nothing left in the tank - a feeling that I haven't had probably since the 4-miler I ran last March. It's a good feeling. I was - and still am - incredibly sore and am limping around like a gramma, but hopefully the swim I did this morning (and the hot tub time after) will help loosen things up. I don't think I injured myself, I just think I ran pretty hard for a long time and I haven't done that in months.
Looking at the numbers... I don't want to analyze things to death, but I do know that my 5K PR is about to take a hit. My second-half 5K split was a 25:49, which is both faster than my official 5K PR and my unofficial 5K PR. Also, this race is based on 7 weeks of walk/running - no speedwork, no tempo runs - and tons of cross-training, all of which I am going to keep up. The next few weeks will go back to rocking the walk/run, and I'm going to be so careful about everything that is sore and hurting right now, but I feel like I can finally say: I'm back. I am on my way back. And it feels so good.