Sunday, August 31, 2014

Race Report: Just as out of shape as I thought

You know how sometimes you race and it is a magical experience in which you effortlessly run far faster than any recent work-out indicated was feasible? Yesterday was not that day. Yesterday had more of the feel of opening a credit card bill, knowing I owe a lot and the balance being every bit as bad as I feared or stepping on the scale after the Christmas holidays knowing I way over-indulged, hoping that my metabolism magically sped up and took care of it all but knowing it is going to be bad, and it is.

Yesterday was a 1:38:41 half marathon raced all out. That is a Whopping 18 minutes slower than 4 years ago, 11 minutes slower than even last year. 18 minutes! I can shower, dress, make our lunches, load up the kids and be off to work in 18 minutes. That is a mind boggling chunk of time. But it was not really a shock to run that time, it kind of makes sense given the larger context and I find myself strangely happy for having run it. Also happy that I am happy about it (if that makes any sense). Both happy AND happy to be happy. It's like I am channeling the seven dwarves over here

It was a bit of  an unusual race in that it was logistically tacked onto an ironman and half ironman so the start time of the marathon was 5.30 pm and start of the half marathon was 7 pm which personally suits me much better than dreadful morning races. It also meant that there was a lot of comraderie on the course. The course itself was a 5.275 km loop run 4 X for the half marathoners. The start/finish was on a track which, by the end of my race, was under the lights. Personally I love loop courses and I love running on the track at night so two points in my favour. There were no km markers on the course which I found irritating especially after paying an entry fee that was so exorbitant I am embarrassed to write it here. There were only about 70 people in the half marathon but btwn all the other events going on concurrently, it didn't matter - there was always someone else to chase.

I went out in 1:32:30 pace for the first loop which I knew was probably optimistic but I was hoping not by too much. At 3 km I passed  a woman who I would eventually beat by 10 minutes which I mention only because of what happened next. I passed her and she immediately threw in a huge surge. So,  I ignored her, continued running at my pace and about a minute later I caught her again and slowly started to pass. Surge. Again. Repeat same sequence. The third time I caught back up to her she threw a surge and an elbow! Seriously at the 4 km mark of a tiny, community half marathon with absolutely NOTHING in the way of prizes. Throughout all of this, she was breathing HARD, like middle distance hard and we still had 17 km to go. This time I lost my temper and said "you are being so stupid." (Am not at my most active while self-propelling at more than 13 kph.) She was wearing headphones so who knows if she heard. This time I dropped it to about 4/km which I hoped I could hold for a minute without wrecking my own race and lost her for good. From then on I entertained myself by seeing how much I had built up my lead on her on every lap and was pleased to see that with every lap I put 2-3 minutes on her. I wished I hadn't lost my temper but it was irritating.

Anyway things were okay until about 12 km and then the body just started falling apart. Aerobically I was fine. Injury wise I was fine (hallelujah!!!) but quite simply my body just hasn't run many kilometres lately and it was not ready to deal with 21 consecutive kilometres. My hip flexors were so tight, I thought they were going to just walk off my legs in protest. It felt like my hamstrings were going to peel off the back of my legs. My quads ... Oh the quads! I could feel every single insertion point. I have definitely felt far better at the end of most of the marathons I have run. In other words, it felt like I was running a half marathon on about 40-60 km of running per week and no long runs at all. I told myself to just get to an hour and 5 minutes of running (arbitrary time) and then I could have a (45 second) walking break as a reward. I could tell by timing someone I had been running with that I only lost 20 seconds by doing this so I essentially repeated this every 10-12 minutes until I finally got to finish under the lights at the track.

So, no longer injured (yay), asthma under control (yay), very out of shape especially muscular endurance (booooo) but this can be fixed (yay) and surely I can only get faster from here???
And yes, I did beat the crazy surging lady ... Actually I won which was kind of fun also though I would take a faster time over a win any day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Blogging like so many other things is easy to just stop doing. We all go through life with a set of priorities, for me it goes like this: family, work, running - nothing else happens until those priorities have been satisfied and typically once I reach the third item on the list, it is time to go back to the first item without ever moving further down the list at all. It also turns out that starting a brand new job with two kids is noticeably more hectic than working at the same job for the past decade and having two kids. Who knew? Anyway once I had stopped blogging for a week, then two, then a month, then five, it was markedly easier to not blog than to blog. And always the challenge is, when you start up again, where do you start? And finally the answer came just start with something.... Any old thing.

So here is my something.

I have been going through a symphony of injuries. I like the word symphony because of its implication that these injuries were all playing together to create a whole greater than the sum of parts which is definitely how I experienced them. It began in late May when I offered to pace a friend for part of her marathon. She was in sub-3 shape and I was kind of well, in excellent donut eating shape by that point. But I figured with my experience, muscle memory, blah blah blah I could pull it off! And I did! To the tune of 14 km at 3:05 pace (my friend did go on to PB though due to various factors did not break 3) but back to the symphony of injuries, I actually wound up winning 32 km that day when all was said and done. This might not be particularly far in absolute terms but it happened to be about 18 km further than I had recently run. Enter injury number 1 - joint pain in the toes for which I immediately took 18 days off.

So I did everything by the book, time off, rehab, stretching, I even came back on a walk run plan. I WALKED RAN - I was so mature, patient and good and was rewarded with immediate severe Achilles tendinitis which really, I must say, pissed me right off. I rightly felt like I had DONE MY TIME and that if my body was going to spring another injury on me it should have had the common decency to do so while I was rehabbing the first so that I could have taken care of both together -bc we all know that that is how bodies work right? Anyway I then discovered eccentric heel drops (god, I LOVE that name) which studies have shown that 3 x 15 per day can improve Achilles pain in even long term chronic cases. So, of course, I started by doing 100 a day because, apparently, I had used up my dose of intelligence and maturity for this year with the walk-run thing. Anyway that, predictably, led to calf strains in both calves. Then I tried heel inserts to ease the Achilles which led to weird ankle injuries and on and on and on.

In the midst of all of this I really did begin to seriously wonder if I am simply at the end of my lifespan as a runner. Sure, we all hear about the 90 year old who is still running a sub whatever marathon and I always assumed that would be me too, I really have no back up for self fulfillment and am counting on this body to carry me through. In the midst of this symphony however I began to realize that being an octogenarian road runner is not guaranteed. This body came with no guarantees which might seem like kind of an obvious thing to say but really, somehow I thought maybe mine did. So,on the eve of my 40th birthday I began to wonder if this was it, because not only did I seem to be chronically injured but even when not injured I was just running so much slower than I used.... I think I have said this before but my marathon pace seems to have become my half marathon pace And my 10 km pace seems to have become my 3 km pace etc.

So this is where I am now - I am back running, up to 15 km. sometimes I even get a whole 5 km that is pain free but importantly, the number of pain free kilometres seems to be slowly increasing. The acute Achilles issues seems to have dullened back into their old baseline chronic condition ( yay, back to chronic). I am doing regular eccentric heel drops and not being stupid about it. I think that my lifespan as a runners not yet ended though I truly do believe now that I will never run as fast as I used to. But I am starting to be okay with that - truly, if I can continue to run at any speed, I will work to appreciate that. In fact one very run I say out loud: "I appreciate this." How's that for maturity?

And that I guess, is my something.