Long story short, with T-minus 22 days until Boston I am still training, but have encountered a few "bumps" that have left me feeling a bit behind in my efforts. My first mishap involved a dizzy spell and my falling off the treadmill 10 miles into my 18 mile run in mid-February. Lucky for me, I walked away with little more than a heavily bruised ego... talk about running bloopers :( The workout was cut short as I did not not deem it smart to attempt to continue. Lesson learned: ease into pace changes on the treadmill! I am assuming my blood pressure bottomed out with the sudden stopping, but regardless I am thankful I was able to get up and "shake it off" :)
More recently, I have developed some complex issues with my left leg, which seemingly involves every muscle and tendon from my upper back to my knee (mainly piraformis, IT band and glute med) depending on the day. Up until this point I had been running strong, happy and pain-free, yet all of a sudden running became stressful, wondering whether or not my body would cooperate on a given day. I slipped into a cycle of perseverating on what was going wrong versus the many things that had gone right and my attitude was generally sour.
Since then, I have continued to train, have yet to miss a run and have had a few GREAT workouts, but my left leg is definitely not 100% with some days being more painful than others. I have been stretching and rolling regularly, getting some deep tissue massage (PT= pain and torture...ouch!), doing some exercises assigned by the hubby and the overall situation does seem to be improving. Even more so, I am being very cautious about how much I am sitting (top aggravator) and even my posture while I stand.
Race Report: Shamrock Half Marathon
Despite the challenges mentioned above, I went into last weekend's Shamrock Half Marathon in a happier mood and with an excitement to race. I felt confident that I was going to have a great day, but sometimes life has a mind of it's own ;)
I was excited for this race for two reasons:
(1) The race is in my hometown and both my dad and sister were also running. A weekend at home was more than overdo.
(2) The course is flat and fast, and all of my more recent half marathons have been fairly hilly. My hope is that this would equate to a shiny new half marathon PR.
Getting to the race was not too fun. In fact, I kept telling myself that the actual race would be 10x easier than my drive home. Not only is it a long drive to do solo (6 hrs, could be worse), but I spent the drive both nauseated and with a sharp, severe pain in my back that seemed to be aggravated by my sitting. About an hour from home, I finally caved and bought some pain killers and tummy medicine, and I spent that night lying flat on the ground trying to find some relief! The next day, my dad, sister and I attended the race expo and picked up our packets. I still did not feel great, and I contemplated skipping the expo, but I also did not want to miss out.
Race morning, I was calm and ready to run and remained positive. I ate my breakfast and enjoyed my coffee per my usual pre-race routine, but was never able to successfully "get things moving." This had been an issue for a few days actually, despite my intentional efforts to correct. We actually got to the starting line with plenty of time to spare, which was good, since I always seem to be running behind! I was pretty excited to sport my brand new ultraVT team jersey, the weather was pretty much perfect for racing, and the 4:30am wake-up for the early start wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be.
On to the actual race... All in all it was NOT my day. I started with the 1:35 pace group, which worked well in blocking the headwind in the first few miles. What did not work well was the random much-to-fast 6:55 second mile we ran (20 seconds faster than necessary). I stayed with the group until about mile 5, when my left leg started to become aggravated and I just could not get it to cooperate. The residual fatigue from training and my stubborn GI also presented challenges, and I knew by mid-way that I was not going to be able to successfully maintain my desired pace for the final miles.
The rest of the race is really a blur. I remember barely getting down my gel and around mile 8 and then wanting to throw it back up a mile later. In the last few miles, I simply backed off the pace. I had little to gain at that point and I did not want to risk hurting my leg further. Coincidentally, I was passed by my neighbor from growing up with about a mile to go. He too was having hip issues and behind his goal pace, just aiming to finish. We ran together to the finish line which I thought was pretty cool. My final time was 1:39:59, which is by no means bad, but far less than what I was hoping for. Post-race I tried to be cool about it all but deep down I was pretty disappointed, my confidence once again took a hard hit and I definitely had a major case of post-race grumps! On a more positive note, both my dad and sister raced well and I enjoyed our family racing reunion.
A major lesson that I have learned from all this is the importance of managing expectations and keeping things in perspective and maintaining a positive attitude. My coach made a very good point that racing a half marathon during peak marathon training is a gamble. In retrospect, I agree and am reminding myself that a less than stellar race is not necessarily representative of my true fitness right now. And while my current muscular challenges are far from ideal, I CAN RUN, and I am very thankful for that. My current training cycle has not been perfect, but I also have plenty of fitness from last year (and beyond) that will carry me through on race day. Yesterday I successfully completed a very hilly (and chilly!) 20 miler that was not pain-free, but overall good, which is another step forward towards my goal. And oh-so-perfectly timed, I finished the run to find this in my mailbox:
Next weekend I have one final long run before my 2-week taper begins. With a bit of an attitude adjustment (because we all need one sometimes ;) I plan to make the most of this final peak training week. Looking ahead to Boston, I am reminding myself of my primary goal, which is to run smart and strong, but above all run happy and ENJOY the moment amongst family, friends and a bazillion other loudly cheering spectators.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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