Yesterday I came home from work, executed a quick change of clothes, and headed out the door to drive 50 miles to run a 5K at 7:00 PM. Why? Because the name of the race promised to deliver one of the best race T-shirts ever and I had nothing better to do on a Friday evening. The T-shirt did not disappoint:
The race was part of the Homer Hogstravaganza, one of those small-town agriculturally-themed festivals which I am familiar with, having grown up in a place which has the Maple Festival every spring. I anticipated a small field with a large contingent of local high schoolers and I was exactly right.
I was out to improve upon my lackluster performance from Sunday's Lyn Yarows 5K. I rested Wednesday, had a good hill workout Thursday with the RF501 gang, and got a good night's sleep. I was ready. It was warmer than my preferred running weather: about 78 degrees. Nothing I could do about that, though. I did a ten-minute warm-up, felt limber and energetic, and wandered over to the start.
The field of 100 took off and I settled into what I felt to be a moderately fast yet not taxing pace. I refused to look at Garmy until mile 1, and when it beeped, I looked down and saw "7:19" which was a complete surprise. Last Sunday I felt like I was killing myself to run 7:45 for my first mile, and here I was strolling through a 7:19 mile. This was going to be a great race! I might even squeeze out a sub-24:00 time! I told myself to stay relaxed, even slow down a little, there was no need to overdo it, to hurt myself...
The trouble started not long after mile 1. I'd say about 1.25. It began as a whisper at the back of my knee, a strange tightness that quickly grew to a roar and then ripped up through my hamstring with a scream. Suddenly I was limping, favoring my leg, the pain with each step a knife stab through my muscle. I thought, what the hell is going on here? Not this again! It hasn't bothered me since Cleveland! And even then it wasn't this bad! I ran all those brutal intervals and tempo runs and hills last night and there was nothing, no twinge, no pain, nothing, what the hell?! I could do nothing but slow down, helpless, furious. For the first time ever in a race I debated stopping and walking. I knew that every step was doing damage, and the pain was unbelievable, but I'm not like that. For better, or frequently for worse, I'm too stubborn (colossally hard-headed) and determined to accept what is happening and do what is best for my body. I was going to fight with clenched teeth through this and finish the damn race without walking. My pace for mile 2 fell by a minute to 8:20, and the searing pain subsided to the point where I was able to speed up slightly. I found that if I ran faster, it hurt less, so I ran faster. I was somewhat cheered by the fact that I still had a lot of fuel left in the tank; my energy level was very high. If it wasn't for my goddamn leg...Soon enough, the finish was just ahead and I finished strong even though I was "duded" right at the line (but I chicked a couple of guys in the final tenth, so it all evens out).
I hobbled around, unable to make my leg do much of anything, grabbed a granola bar, and sank onto the grass with my legs splayed out in front of me. Ants crawled on me and something irritating and scratchy poked the backs of my legs but I didn't care. I just wanted the hurt to go away. I sat there as sweat ran from under the bottom of my Bondi Band into my lap and I chewed my granola bar and wondered for the tenth time what the hell was going on. I scrolled through the info on Garmy, noting that my average heart rate during mile 1 was only 155, a good sign that I was not overexerting myself even though my pace was substantially faster than anything I've done recently. I had done mile 3 in 8:06, which was pleasing. Final time was 24:45 according to the official results. I picked up another sweet age group win as well. Apart from the hamstring meltdown, it was an excellent evening.
Driving home was somewhat agonizing, because I had to use my left leg to work the clutch. Every lift of my leg and press of the pedal wrung a groan from my lips. I got home and fixed an ice pack and sat on the couch watching TV.
I knew my long run this morning was out of the question. FK, TC, and JF all told me I better just chill and not do much of anything. TC scolded me the most: "You...you...you...YOU NEVER LISTEN! I TOLD you, you were overtraining and needed to rest! I told you so. What are the three things you need to get to the starting line of a marathon? Guts, training, and HEALTH." And so on. I got a 20-minute earful.
I know, I know. I was asking for it. I demanded too much of myself and I didn't give my muscles the rest they were clearly crying out for. And now look. Laid up on the couch with an ice pack. I was eating a cookie last night and it broke and scattered onto the kitchen floor and I just left the pieces there because I couldn't bear the thought of trying to bend or squat to clean them up. I can't even bend over to pick up a cat toy off the ground.
I hate being injured. I chafe and seethe at even one day of unscheduled inactivity. I feel like a complete failure, a slacker, shirking duty, I'm going to fall behind in my training, IT'S ALL OVER. Perhaps I exaggerate. NYC is exactly three months away, which is plenty of time to recuperate. I lost three full weeks of training for Cleveland because of ITBS and it wasn't the end of the world, obviously, since I rocked the marathon and qualified for Boston. My goal for NYC (just have fun!) isn't nearly that lofty, so being a slave to the schedule isn't as important this time. I have the mental fortitude to run a marathon, I can do the required training, but yes, TC, you're right, if I don't have my health it's all for naught.
On the other hand, sleeping in this morning instead of meeting the RF501 gang for the long run was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC.
1: One guess what "B" stands for.