Posted: April 16, 2012 Filed under: Goals & Milestones, Training | Tags: 13.1, Columbia SC, excitement, first race, Fitness, half-marathon, marathon training, milestone, motivation, Palmetto Half-Marathon, PB, personal best, personal record, PR, race, race report, racing, running, training
13.1 x 2 = Awesome
If you just want to read about the actual race, scroll down to “The Starting Line” to begin.
Seven days before race day
Week 7 of my marathon training has me running 12 miles on Saturday. In order for that to happen without risking personal humiliation I needed a change of scenery and I needed to arrive there feeling like Wonder Woman, so I opted to take the bike and check out a paved trail along the Savannah river, running along the fall line of the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. What can I say? I get bored rather easily and I need distraction. This time I actually had the opportunity to steal the Sponsor’s truck which was parked in the driveway while its owner was sleeping off the nightshift.
I jumped into my running gear, and “half-squidded” it across the river to the North Augusta Greeneway. Yes, I basically rode half naked. Top half in leathers, bottom half? In a world of pain if I end up on my side for one reason or another. Some of my motorcycling friends are going to give me hell for this one, since I am a rather loud-voiced advocate of ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) and that such gear should also fit properly and have the minimal features required to actually be considered safety apparel. But that is a different story for a different post.
I get there, secure my gear on my bike, check the park’s map to figure how to run the trails without the least amount of repetition, refill my water bottle and make one last pit stop before hitting play on my Nike+ app and get moving. It is already in the high seventies, if not the lower eighties and it’s humid. But I have new food for my senses to soak up. For some reason I feel alive today. Happy, even. I am enjoying the new sounds, sights and smells and am actually happy to be running.
Wait a minute here! Happy to be running? Who the heck are you and when did the pods take over the body? Yes. I can’t deny it, but I am actually happy to be running. It’s only been about a mile, I’m sure I’ll snap out of it here shortly. Two hours and thirty-eight minutes later I complete my scheduled 12-miler with having set a new personal best for the half-marathon distance by nine minutes.
I ride home happy and secure in the knowledge that even though I might not make my arbitrary goal time of 2:26 (it’s twice my bike’s competition number, in case you were wondering what hat I pulled that out of), I can give my adrenal gland a rest knowing I will not embarrass myself in public by dropping dead halfway up the first steep hill I come to. Mission accomplished, even though that trail seemed uphill both ways. I swear it.
During Week 8 of Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Marathon Training, coach is telling me to run 3 miles on Tuesday. I miss out on that mileage due to unforeseen events during an unscheduled motorcycle joy ride that culminated in carbo-loading and beer drinking at the Carolina Ale House with the Slower Half. I said screw it and skipped the run. After all, it’s only three miles. And my calf muscles are still screaming bloody murder, and the right one is extremely unhappy where it attaches to the whatnots behind my knee. I don’t feel too bad, Hal himself said to take an extra rest day if we needed it. I needed it. I hadn’t been out with my baby in over four weeks. All work and no play saps the life force away.
Wednesday I’m supposed to crush six miles for the sorta-long run. As good as I felt Tuesday, I couldn’t understand why I felt so drained, unmotivated and sluggish today. I felt downright depressed. I was hoping that my mood would clear in time to maybe still get the procrastinated morning run in before it turned Dark:30. It didn’t. I ended up moping around until it was too late, succumbing to the misery and watching TV all day, not doing a damned thing other than wallowing in thoughts of self-sabotage.
Thursday. I don’t even remember Thursday. I didn’t run Thursday. I remember that much.
Friday is a rest day in the program. I rested. Surprisingly, when Mr. Slow woke me up with coffee and a few kind words, I’m not even sure what he said that served as the catharsis, but my mood returned to its normal levels. Now I was free to get excited and a little anxious about the race. I decided to hop on the bike, run a few errants and then book it the almost 100 miles to Columbia, SC to pick up my race packet and do a little pre-race recon to ease the nerves and scope out the traffic situation.
Oh yeah, that did it. Nothing like playing in rush-hour traffic at speeds 30 miles over the posted speed limit to make you feel alive. It trains the senses, sharpens the reflexes and hones the skill. Playing a game of Frogger with the commuting crowd and getting your lean angle kicks on cloverleaf ramps is prescribed skill training for the redneck road racer. To my defense? I’m a goodie two-shoes in all other areas of my life. I have no other vices, I don’t even drink enough to be considered problematic and I’m a really cheap date, I don’t eat a lot and I’m buzzed halfway through my second beer.
When I returned home, after 196 miles, I was nicely tired out, I barely managed to eat a few more carbs, laid out my gear and set the alarm for 4:00 am and went to sleep.
Six Hours Later: Racing to Race Day
I get a call from hubby at 4:00 am. He will be back in time to come with me. This day is off to a good start already. I smile as I get ready. Logistics have just gotten a heck of a lot easier. Since I am now meeting my husband at his work, I don’t have to worry about what to do with my gear and how to pack it for the bag drop at the start. That saves time, too. I end up leaving the house 20 minutes late anyway, because I can’t concentrate. I’m excited, a little nervous, and my brain is mush.
I am freezing my tush off on the 40-mile ride to meet up with the husband. I’m glad I’m wearing my winter gloves, but I didn’t think it was cold enough for a neck warmer. Holy hell, the cold air is rushing straight down the neck hole into my jacket, I’m shivering by the time I get to the state line with 25 more miles to go. I’m in a full-on race tuck, my elbows dropped below my knees, hugging the bike tightly with not so much as a toe sticking out in the offending breeze, trying to stay in the bubble to keep warm.
I arrive with a massive neck and shoulder ache and the chills. I unceremoniously park the bike with a dive of the Beemer’s nose, kill the ignition and yank the key before the kickstand is even fully extended, jump off the bike and straight into the waiting pickup truck. “Damn, it’s freaking cold out there” serves as a good morning to my smiling husband and off we go towards half-marathon destiny in a more civilized fashion.
The Starting Line
That would be me rocking the pink mini skirt and the speedos with the go-fast hot pink accents.
We arrive with about 45 minutes to spare. There are people everywhere. Running to and fro, warming up, stretching, and standing around in small groups chatting. There is music playing over the PA system and the mood is cheerful. I am shivering in the cool morning air and since I am too restless to stand around we start walking away from the starting line so I can jog in place and get my heart rate up and maybe quit being so cold. 15 minutes before the race Joe hands me my gel so I can eat it. Espresso flavored, in lieu of my morning coffee. Yum! I head for one of the women only port-a-potties and relieve myself one more time, just as the newbie tips I’ve read online instructed me to do, even though I didn’t feel the urge to go. I immediately regretted that decision. I tried to hold my breath, not touch anything without falling over or peeing on myself, without much success. At least I didn’t have an accident and there was paper still on the roll. That’s something.
Note to self (and other first time racers): Bring a packet or two of single-use disposable antibacterial wipes to clean your hands with after the fact. Heck, bring a smallish stash of TP (or a single-use wet-wipe), just in case.
By the time I emerge from the plastic outhouse, the race is about to start. Everyone is instructed to line up in order of their pace, faster runners in the front, slower runners and walkers towards the back. Since we were already milling about towards the back of the crowd I didn’t have too far to go. I find a spot in the very rear where the 5K runners and walkers are hanging out. They are easily spotted due to their yellow bibs. I actually ended up standing next to my “bib mate” #782, and I wanted to say something profoundly geeky to the girl, but I bit my tongue and kept the mathletics to myself. When I’m nervous, I talk way too much and I also break the verbal speed limit of pre-coffee cadence and coherence and I blabber, sometimes about more than one subject at a time. No. I’m keeping my trap shut and smile and nod and radiate a friendly aura, but I’m keeping it zipped. I’m enforcing the five-word sentence limit.
Joe tells me to keep to the left when I’m crossing over the starting line, so he can take pot shots at me with his Canon and with these last instructions he disappears into the spectator crowd lining the left and right sides of the road. I suddenly feel very alone in a sea of brightly colored, happy people. I feel lost and out of my league. The organizers have a prayer before the race and then someone sings the National Anthem over the PA system.
Shortly thereafter we begin moving forward, slowly at first, but by the time I am crossing the finish line we are at a run. As promised, I am keeping to the left of the road but I can’t spot Joe anywhere. I scan the crowd, but he is nowhere to be seen. Now I really feel alone, I don’t know why, but I wanted to catch a glimpse of him one more time before I embarked on this experience.
Around Mile 7
It feels strange running with so many people. I train alone. The last time I ran with people was in the military, and we ran in formation for the most part, singing cadence and keeping in step. The pace was forced and falling out meant pain later, so you didn’t. They would round your ass up and make fun of you or make you run circles around the entire running formation as punishment. It wasn’t pretty and it meant more work, so unless you were croaking of an embolism you kept up, no matter what. Failure was not an option.
I’m starting to pass people because my legs want to go faster, the pace doesn’t feel right. It feels too slow. I fight the urge, reminding myself that coming out too slow is better than coming out too fast. I have two and a half hours of this and I haven’t run in a week! I can’t help myself and keep passing. I’m trying to be as courteous as I can and dance through the crowd without making contact and giving people their space. I find other people are doing the same thing. Everybody is being nice. Where are the elbows? They must not come out until Mile 13, I’m assuming. I smile to myself at the thought. There is a word for what seems to be happening here: Esprit de corps.
I am shocked to hear the first pace announcement from my GPS app: 9:38 I think it was. I have the application set to tell me my average pace every 0.25 miles, so I can adjust my pace accordingly. I know that if I fall below 11:14, I won’t meet my time goal of 2:26. A week ago, my average pace was 12:02. I keep reprimanding myself to slow down, but my body doesn’t listen. I keep right on going. I tell myself that I will “deal with it later” my right leg isn’t bothering me too much and my body feels strong and my breathing and heart rate are normal. I’m surprised. Maybe it’s because it is cool and not as humid and I am used to working out in 80-90 degree heat with humidity, since I can’t seem to manage to get up early enough on my own to run in the cooler part of the day. My allergies also don’t seem to bother me as much. My sinuses and lungs feel clear and my nose isn’t running. In other words, the God of Speed is with me. The weather is perfect.
As we begin our decent down the Clemson Road cloverleaf ramp, I am happy I’ve been incorporating hill work into my shorter runs. I have read tons of articles on how to run hills and practiced a few things, and wore myself out on hills. Threw myself at their mercy, to be ground up and spit out feeling weak and like a failure. The torture seems to have paid off and I’m smoking the ramp, gaining speed as I let gravity do its thing, lengthening my stride and controlling my movement. I’m passing people left and right. It felt great to see all that work pay off in a quantifiable sense. If I had been on my bike, I would have been sliding sideways around the corner onto Two Notch Road. I can finally say I passed a motorcycle cop and didn’t rate a ticket. 🙂
[BTW, riding that slow on a motorcycle without dangling your feet or power walking the bike, takes tremendous skill. This cop had his machine under control. Dude knew how to freaking ride.]
As I rounded the corner onto Two Notch Road, I wanted to scream praises out loud and maybe do a little happy dance as the race continued up the next hill towards the first water station… with energy to burn and feeling fine.
I was waiting on my sub-10 pace to keep biting me on the bum and reducing me to walking the rest of the way, but the expected exhaustion never came.
Around Mile 9 or so I had to pop the two Advil I had stashed away in case the pain in my right leg became bad enough to slow me down. On a training run I would have slowed down, but this is a race. I’m eating the pills. These are desperate times, and I can’t come home with a DNF, especially not after I’ve managed to keep my average pace below the 10-minute mark for 8 miles. This is also when I switched to Gatorade from water because I could feel my electrolytes going whacky, or at least I think that’s what was happening because I started to have goosebumps and experienced chills. Another cup of Gatorade and an orange later, the chills were gone.
Around Mile 10 I knew I could have the time goal of 2:26 in the bag with lots to spare. But I kept waiting on the hammer to fall. Running this fast for this long on a body that isn’t trained but to run at a 12-minute pace AFTER taking an entire training week off must have consequences. Not to mention the abuse I’m putting my shredded right calf muscle through. And why the heck am I not out of breath yet?
Fight to the Finish
We need more cowbell! The fight for 642nd place. Why? Because THIS is racing. 🙂
Around Mile 12 I have to start fighting. My hip flexors are sore and are beginning to be painful; this is a sure sign that my legs aren’t going to want to go much further at their current pace. Now I am really glad I’ve taken those two Advils earlier. In my training this marked the time of a definite decrease in speed and stride length because my legs were starting to feel extremely heavy. It almost feels like I am running in water.
Getting back up that dreaded Clemson Road ramp is a feat of pure willpower. I see a girl two runners ahead of me simply walking up. I want to stop and walk, but I am afraid that if I start walking I would not be able to start running again; that my hip flexors and calf muscles would just tell me to piss off in a refusal to cooperate. I could have made better time walking up the ramp, but I just put my head down and baby step it up that puppy, concentrating on just keeping those legs moving at roughly the same speed they were moving before. Do not stop. Do NOT stop! After what seems like an eternity at a snail’s pace, getting passed by a few people, I finally reach the top of that awful ramp and things start feeling a little bit more manageable again. Once I was over the bridge and back to a slight decline of the road, I was back in business.
I never could catch the girl who walked up the ramp. I tried, because her strategy was sound. I wanted to employ it, but I didn’t dare. I regained my lead on a few people who passed me on the ramp. And I held off a few attempted passes by others.
When I finally round the last corner and saw the finish line up ahead I just want to die. I keep running but for some reason it doesn’t seem to get any closer. What the freaking hell!?! My running app’s voice-over announces something along the lines of being almost there and making it count and to please tap to hear my “power song.” My power song is “King of the Mountain” by Redline, the Isle of Man TT “theme song”. I would like to tap, but I don’t think I’m coordinated enough at this point.
Almost there! The fight to the finish.
The last few hundred feet to the finish line is like running the gauntlet. I feel claustrophobic and exposed all at the same time. All these people are cheering us on as we come in, but I can’t hear them. Yes, I have my music on, but I could hear people talk at the water stations, I could hear traffic. I can’t hear shit now. Eyes on the prize. Almost there. Why the hell am I hauling ass? I don’t know, but I’m now in “just want this to be over quickly” mode.
I see movement and a flash of color in my peripheral vision. Someone’s trying to pass me to my right. I turn my head slightly to check the situation.
My racer mentality kicks in. Oh, hell no!!!
I increase my pace, she keeps up and gains. I redline it, give it all I have; so does she. The crowd is cheering. I still can’t really hear them nor see them. I have tunnel vision at approximately 8-9 mph! Last time I had tunnel vision I was going a little faster than that… maybe 130 or so, more importantly I was pulling some Gs. This would be funny if it wasn’t so damn painful.
I’m thinking to myself that we are giving the crowd what they want to see. The glory of victory and the cruelty of defeat. We are crowd pleasers, true racers. I think I beat her to the finish line, but I’m not sure.
There are three pads lined up and I’m not sure which one is the actual timing pad. I would assume the first one, but I’m uncertain so I cross all three, but I’m already slowing down. I think I have her on the first pad, but she was passing me and had me on the second and definitely was ahead of me on the third.
We had them going! A podium worthy finish fighting over 642nd place. 0.85 seconds separated us in real time. Our chip times weren’t as spectacularly close.
I wanted to high five her and tell her that she has made the finish of my first race a thing to remember. Something that makes that side of me that is slightly crazy and overly competitive sing praises to the God of Speed. But by the time I’d gathered my senses and my finisher’s medal Miss 325 had already disappeared into the crowd.
The satisfaction of placing 643rd. 🙂 Who said I couldn't make this in 2:26? Proved y'all wrong I did. I kept true to my basic rules of racing: 1. Find someone to follow 2. Pass someone (don't come in DFL) 3. Finish ~ Oh, and I didn't throw up in my mouth sitting on the grid this time. >.<
Finish Time: 2:14:05.60 (new PB and official first PR)
Finish Position: 643 (out of 933)
Finish Position [Females]: 291 (out of 511)
I also set a new (unofficial) PB for the 10K distance: 1:01:02
The Palmetto Half Marathon Course Map
I try to run with a steady pace, rather than negative splits, since I don’t have the patience for starting out slow, it’s not in my nature. I’ve tried.
2. 9’38″/mi [Fastest]
8. 10’42″/mi [Slowest]
Racing Firsts: Mementos of 643rd Place. This even triumphs the purse money I won in my very first motorcycle road race because I got up and the other guy didn't. And I placed 3rd then. 🙂
Posted: March 29, 2012 Filed under: Goals & Milestones, Training | Tags: Barber Motorsports Park, competition, courage, goals, Greg McMillan, half-marathon, inspiration, lap record, lap times, Mat Mladin, milestones, motorcycle racingracing, pace calculator, Palmetto Half-Marathon, PRs, road racing, running, track records
I like numbers. I have a semi-pathological obsession with numbers. Numbers, unlike words, never lie. You may be able to misrepresent them, which takes words, but in and of themselves they are true to the nature of their representation. Numbers prove words true. Applied mathematics makes sense out of life, for the most part. Theoretical mathematics are just plain fun. “What is” versus “what could be”. Hence, my obsession with lap times, mostly my own, rather than anyone else’s.
I’m a very competitive individual. When I’m lacking decent competition I will compete with my own self. Decent competition here is defined as competing with racers who are at similar skill levels to my own, preferably on the faster (or better) side of things. An easy win isn’t anything for me to aspire to. I do like easy wins, don’t get me wrong; but “cherry-picking” my way around the competition just doesn’t feel nearly as good as that win you’ve earned. The win you’ve fought so hard for, you weren’t sure if you’re going to make it, and in doing so scared yourself on several occasions because you were giving 110%, pushing the envelope way past your personal comfort zone. I like those. Those are awesome! That’s the stuff a great story is made of. A story worth telling. A story worth reading. An inspiration; the fuel that keeps the flame alive and burning brightly. Coincidentally, those are also the races that will be remembered: the nail-biting, edge of your seat, heart-pounding close ones. Good times! Good times!
It would be utter nonsense to compare my “PR” of the best lap I ever turned at Barber Motorsports Park with that of Mat Mladin, who currently holds the track record of 1:23.664, with an AVERAGE speed of 115.474 miles per hour. I barely haul that on the front straight, never mind averaging it. Not even close. If I could get into the upper 1:40s consistently I’d be holding a press conference. My PR for Barber is 1:52. And that is NOT my consistent average.
Here’s a word problem for you:
“If Mat and Em left pit road and entered the track at the same time and there was no other traffic, where on the track would the lapping pass happen and at what time in the race?”
I give you a hint: When Kevin Schwantz crosses the finish line on a Saturday afternoon sighting lap with no brakes, Em is still trying to figure out whether or not to shift on top of the curb or before it, even though it really doesn’t matter either way at her current speed or the gearing she’s running, not that she would have to shift at all if she didn’t want to.
Another hint: She wouldn’t see Mat again, short of catching a quick glimpse of him heading out of Turn 6, once he disappeared from view in the middle of Turn 3, until she was unceremoniously lapped a shortish while later.
I try not to make it a habit to keep tabs on my competition. An activity, a friend of mine calls “lap time stalking”. She says it helps her confidence to know what she’s up against beforehand. I rather not know how I stack up against others. It becomes self-evident once you’re on the track with them. You either know wether or not you have a chance to keep up and possibly even have a chance at beating them. If they pull away from you like the newbie equivalent of Mat Mladin in my silly example, you might as well pick on somebody your own size… I mean, speed.
The same also holds true if the roles were reversed. It wouldn’t be any fun for me to pass another rider who runs in the 2:20s at the aforementioned racetrack. It’s boring and uninspiring, just like Mat would feel about my hanging out in the raceline with him. Non-consequential at best, a liability at worst, and an inconvenience every third lap or so. Like a sprint runner passing the fitness walker at the gym’s indoor track.
The stalking of lap times has the opposite effect on my psyche. If I had known what kind of times the boys were handing in during my first race weekend, I would have stayed home; not that I left the house thinking that there was even a remote possibility of me winning anything. I just wanted to do it and be part of something fairly unique. I headed to the racetrack with only one goal in mind: I didn’t want to come home with a DNF (Did Not Finish) or, worse, a DNS (Did Not Start). The former meaning I probably crashed out, and the latter meaning I didn’t have the courage to grid up for the race in the first place.
That’s also my attitude about running in my first half marathon. I’m not entertaining any notion that I’ll be winning anything. I just want to say that I did it and crossed the finish line under my own power.
Last place is always preferable to being a no-show or a quitter; and who knows, there might even be a few people I could pass and finish ahead of. That was true for my first road race on two wheels, it will also be true to my first road race on two feet.
However, this didn’t stop me from trying to figure out where (and how fast) I would finish and where I could finish in my ultimate goal, which is completing an official marathon. On my quest to comparing the “what is” with the “what could be” I came across this nifty little tool. The runner’s (free) equivalent of the motorcycle racer’s (expensive) data acquisition: Greg McMillan’s pace calculator.
I plug in my PR of 30:00 for the 5K, which just so happens to give me the best projected outcome and furnishes me with all sorts of digits I can use in my marathon training. You can try it for yourself here.
Caught in the act by my daughter (I think she was trying to report on a heinous fashion crime though): At Barber Motorsports Park looking at posted lap times and race results.
Who said theoretical mathematics couldn’t be fun? Probably the same person who also insists that playing around with applied physics wasn’t a pleasurable activity. Talk to me once you’ve put your knee down for the very first time cornering your motorcycle or have set a new personal best for the mile in your run. We will then revisit the subject of “speed is relative” and can be enjoyed on any level, as long as you have a grasp on what the accomplishment means to you personally.
I will never complete a lap in the 1:23s at BMP, nor will I ever complete a marathon in the 2:15s. What I will do, however, is be inspired to reach for my own personal best, by working hard and not giving up when things seem to get too tough; and enjoy my triumphs and be proud in my accomplishments, no matter how they may compare on a broader scale.
There is always somebody faster.
Just do it and be your best. Discouragement is highly discouraged. And discouragement happens when you compare yourself to others, especially to those (way) out of your (current) league. Don’t compare, but compete. And competition happens when you find someone who’s at your own level… and then the real race begins. The one you have a possibility of winning. The one that happens with the person directly in front of you. Let them inspire you to give it your all and then give a little more; and as you pass them, you’ll inadvertently do the same for them.
And that is where it’s at.
Chances are you’ll end up pulling each other along to the finish, crossing the line together in an impromptu team effort towards a common goal.
Chances are that the motorcycle you’ve been chasing and trying to hopefully pass for the better of five laps, inspired you to go faster than you ever have and you’ll still end up doing the happy dance in front of the posted race results, looking like a complete dork, even though you’ve finished the race in the back of the pack.
*overuse of the word “inspiration” in its various forms was completely intentional*
Posted: March 25, 2012 Filed under: Goals & Milestones, Random Thoughts of Speed | Tags: anxiety, depression, dreams, emotional stress, inspiration, life is crap, Mario Andretti, motivation, perseverance, quotes, racing, running, stress, training
The past several weeks I have asked of myself repeatedly where I could possibly find motivation when the reason for said motivation has gone; unceremoniously packed its bag, and left in the middle of the night to disappear without so much as saying goodbye.
"Dear Miss Busa,
it's been fun. But I have to go. Our relationship is just not working for me anymore.
P.S. Please don't try and find me."
Motivation, you are just like all the others! You swine! I will never be motivated again. Ever! I haven’t been able to figure it out. My motivation didn’t even leave a forwarding address. Or did it?
Today, during some research for an essay I am writing, I stumble across a quote by Mario Andretti. Words I’ve been needing to hear for a long time. Words that make me feel a little less lonely. Words that give affirmation to the knowledge that dreams are not easy to achieve, because if they were, everybody would be a rock star, wealthy and living the life.
Unlike the rock stars, I really don’t want much out of my life. I have most everything already. I just want to be damn fricken fast and have a two-car garage. I’d take the former with a healthy dose of the relativity theory and the latter I would also live in, if I had to.
“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.”
I’m going to run today. After almost two weeks of skipping out on most of my scheduled marathon training, because I just really didn’t see the point anymore, I am putting myself and my white flag-waving attitude on notice. The worries of a crashed economy, the rising cost of living, and an uncertain future were suffocating my will to live well.
My life as I have known it for the past fifteen years is quickly falling apart around me; and the stress of continued unemployment and pending financial hardship were enough to throw my happy-go-lucky disposition into the crapper. My brain chemistry went into crash-override and switched itself into depression mode and left me with smudged and streaky eye liner.
This is only an interruption of your dream. If this had been the actual end of your dream, this interruption would have been followed by the rolling of the closing credits and a fade to a wakeful state.
…because all I want to do is ride.
And scare myself on occasion. Because if you aren’t scaring yourself you aren’t going fast enough. I think Mario said that, too.
Posted: February 25, 2012 Filed under: Gear, Goals & Milestones | Tags: Bajada, challenge, customer service, endurance, Fleet Feet, hybrid, knee, marathon training, MCL, medial collateral ligament, micro review, Montrail, neutral, normal arch, overhead squats, pain, RICE, runner's knee, running, running shoes, snatch lifts, strength training, supination, under-pronation, under-pronator, weight lifting
Failure and Success
I barely made it through the first week. Sometime during the final miles of my very first long run I noticed that my left knee was whining. I had slightly twisted the same knee on the Thursday run; however, it took me a few more days until I finally put my knee trouble in the context of possible injury, since the pain didn’t start until two days later.
The first long run in Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 program is six miles, but I did a little over seven instead, because I wanted a 10K time on the books for me to aspire to beat later. I also ran my fastest average pace yet and set a new PR for fastest 5K.
I don’t learn squat from nothing. I set out to do something, promise myself that I will take it easy, slow and deliberate, just as I am told, and then go head over heels, balls to the wall, fire lit under posterior, all-out, do or die. But that’s me. I can’t help myself. And most of the time, that is exactly the sort of behavior that holds me back over the — pardon the pun, long run. I am stubborn and deeply competitive with myself (when I lack proper competition). Did I mention perfectionistic tendencies and the gentle touch of OCD, perhaps a smallish dose of insanity? Yes? I thought so.
I don’t like to “live and learn”, the way I roll is “crash and burn”.
Research online and self-diagnosis led me to conclude that the MCL (medial collateral ligament) of my left knee is acting up. Time for some RICE, which is some needful knowledge I also picked up by traversing an eclectic selection of reputable medical sites and runner’s forums. RICE stands for Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Personally, I like to get RICED and add drugs to the mix, because someone has to support the pharmaceutical industry or else those poor bastids go broke (note: heavy sarcasm).
Ditched: Two Runs & A Race Weekend
I skipped two runs, including the long run, and stopped lifting weights (or the bar the weights would go on, if I had any). I didn’t go to Talladega to race either. The promised rain and thunderstorms for the weekend gave me plenty of excuses to stay home and “rice around”. Sitting under a canopy in the rain all day, peeling myself out of wet leathers and freezing my tush off, because the mercury is so lazy it won’t even climb into the 60s, is not my idea of a good time. Windy, cold, AND wet? Tempting, but I’ll pass. You’ll have to pay me to race in that shit. Seriously. Not to mention that if (when?) I wipe out, I get to fix my own crap, too. I have no sponsors, I really don’t have to show up if I don’t feel like it. That’s just one of the perks of being a member of #TeamBrokeAssRacing. I know those missing points are going to come back to haunt me, because that’s the way it works. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all. I’m not one of those people who catch breaks. I have to earn every glossy leaf on my puny laurels. “We want… [dramatic pause] …a shrubbery!”
High Performance Rubber
I went to Fleet Feet in North Augusta, SC and had my final drive and suspension analyzed. Seems that everybody looks to the shoes first when encountering knee and foot problems. I had guessed, after reading up on the subject, that I was a mild over-pronator. WRONG! I am what the extremely helpful sales dude called a “supinator”, I under-pronate. He said it was mild, so he opted to put me in a “Neutral” shoe. He’s probably right, since I spend a lot of my time standing around bored on the outsides of my ankles.
He asked me what features I was looking for in a shoe or if I had a brand preference. I shrugged, I really didn’t know enough to be picky. He also asked me if weight was an issue, and I blurted out: “Yes. Lighter means faster!” Another guy, who was helping the lady next to me, looked up and grinned like the Cheshire Cat. I felt totally stupid at this point and added: “Not that it matters, that was the racer in me talking.” I feel myself turning a nice shade of blush. Dude smiles and nods appreciatively. We are all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad. It’s all good.
My guy disappears to fetch his first two selections of specialized foot rubber. After trying on several pairs, I ended up with the Montrail Bajada in construction-worker orange trimmed with can-you-see-me-now neon yellow. They are the ugliest set of athletic footwear I have ever laid eyes on. But I promised myself not to be a girl about it and choose based on color or style. Function over form, please. This is, after all, a performance upgrade, not a fashion statement.
The Women's Montrail Bajada: A hybrid trail/road running shoe that is lightweight, runs a little narrow and is ugly as hell. But my feet seem to like it so far.
Fleet Feet Gets My Vote
I really enjoyed my shopping experience at Fleet Feet. I felt so out of my league walking in there carrying an old pair of sneakers of known make but unknown model, feeling like a complete poser hanging out in Running World. They made me feel welcome, listened, and wished me the best for the Palmetto Half-Marathon in April. They also didn’t flinch when I mentioned that I hate running, but jumped into it solely for enhancing my endurance. “That’s a common occurrence for athletes who are made to run or are into team sports; they tend to look at running as punishment.” He just called me an athlete, didn’t he?
Their return policy also took the stress out of the decision making process. I can bring them back, no matter, if something turns out to be less than ideal after putting some mileage on those soles. Their prices are the same as can be found online. I’m out of 7% tax by shopping locally. A markup I am more than happy to pay for this kind of service. And here I thought excellent customer service was dead in this country. They’ve earned a new customer.
I will re-start the Squatter’s Challenge after I have determined that the shoes have remedied the knee problem. If it’s something else, I better go see the Medicine Man and stick my leg in an MRI machine before I continue. For the time being, I have sworn abstinence from Overhead Squats and Snatch Lifts, but have taken it upon myself to knock out the occasional push-up and maybe an inverted sit-up or two.