Race Report: The Hardest Half

October 24, 2010 § 2 Comments

About a week ago, I got up early before work to fit in a 5 mile run. I knew my hamstrings were still pretty tight from a good strength training workout, but I really needed to get a good short run in. About 3.5 miles into the run it happened – a pain radiated from the inside of my left knee. I was then faced with a decision: keep running and finish out this run that, up until that point, felt great; or stop and walk home. To my own detriment, I decided to keep running. I paid the price. I ended up skipping my long run that weekend and the next two shorter runs after that so I could mend as much as possible before the half marathon I was signed up for on Oct. 23.

Friday, Oct. 22: My knee is much better, but I know it’s not 100%. It’s pretty close, so I decided to go for a naked (no running watch) run  so I could feel out how my knee would hold up. By not wearing my watch I figured that I would run a little slower and not feel pressured by those “miles per minute” numbers mocking me as I kept my pace slow and steady. About a mile into my short two-mile run I could feel a slight twinge in my knee and I started to have my doubts about my ability to run the half the following day. If I couldn’t make it two miles without feeling it, how would I do with 13?

Saturday, Oct. 23: My alarm goes off at 4:50. I get out of bed and can feel that twinge in my knee. Crap. Mentally, I wasn’t ready for this. I couldn’t stop thinking about my knee and wondering if I could handle a DNF (that’s “did not finish” for my non-runner peeps). I decided to eat a light breakfast, get dressed and head to the event. I kept thinking to myself, “You’re just running this, not racing. Run, not race. This is just a training run and you’re not looking for a PR.”

Walking around before the race started, I could still feel my knee issues. Crap, crap, crap. Now I was really unprepared (mentally and physically) for this. Only 10 minutes ’til the start. Gotta get ready. I can do this, right? I’ll keep my pace steady and just go the distance to get the miles in. Then, the gunshot start goes off and I go into my running mode: iPod on, running watch started and here I go. I see my husband as I head out and then I’m on my own.

Miles 1-6: Are you kidding me? Not only am I battling my thought that are concentrating on my knee, but I also have to conquer the first few miles being all uphill. Knowing that this race was taking place at a mountain preserve, I should have prepared myself for hills, but I had no idea it was going to be like this. The race announcer wasn’t kidding when he told all of us that the smartest way to start is to be conservative. I did my best not to exert too much energy through these first few miles. The next three were downhill, which was good because I shaved off some time from the first three I struggled through, but the more downhill there was, the harder it was on my knees. My body felt so different running on a constant downhill. But, I didn’t have to worry about that for too long. At mile 6, I saw it. The steepest hill so far. It was so steep, it was bordering on cruelty! After 1/2 mile of what felt like a crawling pace, I made it to the and rewarded myself with a quick walk at the water station and took a gel. Then, I had to turn around and head back. This is when I realized that the next three miles were going to hell. The downhill miles that I enjoyed were now going to be an uphill battle toward the finish.

Miles 7-10: Where’d my energy go? It was  like it vanished into thin air. This constant uphill stuff isn’t for me. My little self-reminders that I’m just running this, not racing it, weren’t helping. The time that I had picked up in the first half was slowly diminishing and I was going to be lucky to make it within the time that I knew I should make it in. I found myself walking some of the steeper hills because I knew I still had several miles to get through before the end. Mile after mile I was praying for some downhill. The only comfort I found was in other runners who were fighting to get through this part of this course like I was. This was one hell of of a course!

Mile 11-13: At this point I know I only have a 5k left, but my legs felt tight and I couldn’t run much faster than I was. This was tough for me b/c I knew that based on my time, I shouldn’t been this worn out. But I’m telling you, those hills did me in. During the last mile I tried to pick it up a little. I’m almost done. I can finish this. I rounded the corner near the end and I saw my husband in the distance. I knew he was there to support me and help me fire it up for the finish, but when he asked me how I was doing, I couldn’t even talk. I was pissed off at the hills; I was disappointed in my performance; and I was worried about the repercussions I would face for running on a knee that wasn’t quite healed. I crossed the finish line and that was it. I was happy I was done, but I wasn’t happy about much else. This was not my run. This was the hardest half I’ve ever done. I love a good challenge, but this was ridiculous. I was totally unprepared for this course.

The day after: My knee is holding up fairly well. I iced it a little after the race and it seems to be “behaving”. I’m going to keep an eye on it for the next few days so I can prepare for my long run next weekend. Aside from my knee, my hips, hamstrings and shins are pretty sore. Any time I get up from the couch I move like I’m 80 years old and when I walk, it’s at a snail’s pace. And this is the damage from me running, not racing, the half!

I am definitely going to remember this event. Not sure if I’m going to do it again next year…but time will tell!

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