PR=Personal Record…it could be a new time or a new distance. I earned both on Sunday.
And I was pissed.
I feel much better today…but I’m still angry. And disappointed. And in pain.
But at least I’m in a place to tell the story.
(ETA: This is a long post. I’m using it as my journal to myself…if you need the quick version: I finished. It wasn’t as I hoped. I’m moving on.)
If you visit here often, you know that I have battled tendonitis in my knee. My left knee kept me from from what was to be my first Half Marathon in October. Thanks to rest, physical therapy and armed with new knowledge I confidently approached training for a Half again starting in January.
And then a few weeks ago on my 8 mile long run, I started to feel the tell tale signs of tendonitis in my knee again…this time my right knee wanted in on the action (or lack thereof). Because I knew the signs, I felt like I knew what to do to hold it off. The knee does what the knee wants I guess.
Last weekend I was supposed to do 10 miles. The weather had been HORRIBLE. And the forecast (at that point) for race day was just as bad. So mentally I made a shift. I had put in the miles and could confidently cross the finish line. It would be a PR because it was my first Half. I would try to enjoy it…rain, mud and all. I found a break in the weather last Sunday and enjoyed the first 5 miles of my 10 miler. I had planned on doing as much as I could and calling it good. But I was feeling good. Until 5 miles. Then the knee started barking again. So I slowed way down and walked. About 1 1/2 miles from home, my husband and kids were in the car ready to cheer me on (they were coming home from the gym) and I hopped in the car. There was no sense in pushing it further this close to race day. I scrapped my week day runs and just concentrated on being really good to my knee. I iced several times a day, cut my favorite class (which has a lot of plyometric jumping) out of my week and just did one spin class.
I woke up Sunday ready to go. I did everything ‘right’ as far as what works for me in prepping for a long run. I was so amped by the time me and one of my besties (hi Amy!) and our ‘chauffer’ (Hi Meg!) arrived at the start line. The weather, by the way was gorgeous. A bit cold, but beautiful. We had lucked out and while there were some changes to the race course due to flooded trails, for the most part, it looked like it would be a good day.
This race (mostly due to some flooding) was a little disorganized at the start of the Half. Very little parking and no drop off area meant for some frazzled nerves. Six portapotties meant a long line. And then they announced they would start the race in five minutes. No worries…we are chip timed. Uh…there’s no mat at the start…which means gun time is your start. Oh well…we decided potty time was more important and we had our Garmins so who cared?
We watched them announce (in loud voices) “Ready” “Set” “Go”…hilarious! We did our business and came out ready to run. The field was gone now. So we walked on to the course. Um…the ‘start line’ is back there…okay…so a few of us lined up and counted our start out loud…3…2…1…go. It was such a funny start. A quick check of our watches and a mental note to subtract 5 minutes from our chip time and we were off.
My buddy Amy is a sub 8 minute miler. I knew she needed to get going…so I wished her luck and told her to go. I settled in. My knee was tight, but we had just started so I tried to relax. About 1/2 mile in, we had to climb up a little embankment to avoid some standing water. Right after that, I notice that my knee really wasn’t settling in. I check my Garmin and see that I’m running kind of fast (for me). I can’t maintain 10 minute miles for the whole 13 miles…slow down sister. Then my knee really starting screaming.
At this point I’m angry. Seriously? A half mile in? No thank you Mr. Cranky Knee. You WILL behave…and I’ll run until you do. HAHAHA.
At about 1 mile I decide that making it behave is not going to work. So I give myself permission to walk the first minute of every mile. At about 2 miles it hurts enough that I’m not going to make it stick to a time frame but just run until I can’t…and walk until it feels good…then run until I can’t. By the first aid station (mile 2.8?) I’m walking more than running.
And I’m holding back tears.
It hurts, yes. But more importantly…this is my FIRST Half Marathon. I have been training for this. I’m ready for this. I’m not planning on winning any age group awards. I had a time goal in mind and I wanted to cross the finish line strong. The time goal is not happening. And crossing is questionable.
I argue with myself. I argue with my knee. I scream at God. By this point I’m walking. Picking up the speed to run causes my knee to buckle. Hello? I have TEN MORE MILES to go.
I decide that I have to cross the finish line. If that means I need to walk the whole dang thing…then so be it. But I’m not strolling. I’m walking with purpose. I was walking 12 1/2-13 minute miles. That’s some serious walking. I’m praying. I just want to finish. I want to celebrate God’s design of a body that could actually travel that kind of distance…even with a bum knee. (Yes, I was up. And then I was down. And then up again…very emotional)
I started pegging off other walkers ahead of me. Hello Lady in the Green Hat…you’re going down. And I’d pass her. Hello Lady in the Vibram Five Fingers (funny story…see below)…you’re next. Hello lady in the turquoise top…goodbye. I was walking with determination.
The race course was along the American River. A really pretty course for the most part (there are some really ugly parts too (hello traffic and construction)…and hilly (up up up, down down down…not fun with knee pain). I was so angry that I should have been enjoying it and couldn’t. Instead I was focused on my knee pain. I would spend time searching the side of the trails willing someone I knew to randomly show up so I could hop in their car and climb into my bed to sleep this nightmare away. No such luck. Keep on keeping on.
You two in matching shirts…you are next…and you up there, power walking old man…down you go.
It’s kind of funny…when I run I’m not usually pegging off people to pass…I’m just enjoying myself. But with the pain and the frustration I guess I needed to will myself forward and passing people was doing it.
Pretty soon, though, I passed all the walkers…and I was basically by myself. I was in that limbo land between the last runner (who I couldn’t see) and the first walker. I saw lots of people going the other way…Marathoners. And that made me angrier. They were on mile 13 of their marathon (they had an out and back) and I couldn’t muster it up to run my half. I would try to run and then realize that my knee wasn’t going to hold me so I’d walk again.
Mentally I was going through all sorts of emotions. There were times that I couldn’t see anyone in front of me. That was really hard. It felt like I was out for a walk on the trail by myself. Not super motivating to push yourself toward the finish line.
Around mile 4.5 I saw a bathroom and thought, why not? I stopped and did some business and moved on. In that quick 5 minute stop, a few of the people I had pegged off earlier then passed me. So I spent some time pegging them off again.
I am a rule follower. The race rules said no electronic devices. It was the first race where I saw them lay it out so strongly. I didn’t bring my earbuds. I did have my iPhone with me for safety reasons…that, and it’s pretty much my security blanket and I feel naked without it. But I had no way to listen to it. In looking back, I could have just let it play, I was pretty much by myself. LOL. But I spent a lot of time thinking about how I got there. What I did wrong? It was just as torturous as the pain my knee.
But, I did take out my phone and text my husband. He was planning on meeting me at the finish with our three boys. This is the text: “My knee is killing me. I’m averaging 13 minute miles. I want to cry.” I wanted to let him know that I wouldn’t be at the finish when I originally thought. And I needed someone to know that I was holding back the sobbing. Luckily, I sent the same text to my running buddy who wasn’t running the race (Hi Mandy!). I popped my phone back in my pocket and continued.
Vibram Five Finger lady was about my mom’s age. She was run/walking…kind of. She would pick up the pace for about a minute and then slow back down to a leisurely walk. I overheard someone asking her about her shoes…did she like them? Her response nearly made me choke on my gel. It was her SECOND time wearing them. LOL. I’m not super big on the minimalist shoe revolution…but I’ve seen enough on other blogs to know that you are supposed to work your way up in them. She had gotten them that week, wore them Saturday for a quick walk and then decided she would go out and do 13.1 miles in them. This made me giggle. And distracted me. I was able to focus on the soreness she would be feeling the next day rather than the pain I was having. I hope she didn’t really hurt herself. And I hope her soreness on Monday wasn’t enough to deter her from wearing them again.
I kept powering ahead, passing all the walkers again. Marathoners were passing me more and more…on their 20th mile as I was on my 7th. Several of them were so sweet in saying “good job” “you’re doing great”. I refrain from screaming…no I’m not! And I stop myself from sobbing out loud. I didn’t want to distract anyone.
My husband texts me back. Now before I tell you what he says, I will say that my husband is so supportive. He has been a great encourager of my new love of running. In his own way. My husband is a big, rough man’s man. He doesn’t always think before he speaks. But his heart is so big. He loves me. He loves our family. He loves God. More than you would ever know based on his gruff exterior, probably. His response to my text: “Ok”. It made me laugh actually. He was matter of fact. Ok, you won’t be there when you said you’d be there. Ok, I can’t help your knee pain. Ok, you didn’t ask me to pick you up on the course. OK.
Like I said, thankfully I had texted my running buddy too. Her response was more of what I needed. I wouldn’t normally quote her here…but her text was exactly what I needed to hear. And I’m tearing up just typing it: “You’re awesome! Who cares how fast the miles are? The race is the same distance no matter how fast you cover it!” I love her. She knew just what to say. And while I won’t say that it made all the pain, frustration, sadness and disappointment go away…it did pick up my heart a bit and carried me through.
At about mile 7 I came across a man walking his dog. He was cheering on people who would run past him. This is what he was saying “Good job, good job…you’re almost there!” He didn’t speak English real clearly but that phrase was clear. Um…we had 6 miles to go. We are not almost there. I was torn between laughing out loud and screaming at him to shut the hell up. I just smiled and moved on. I hope he was just ignorant and not really being a complete jerk.
Mile 8 brought us to a weird little part on the course. Run up the hill to traverse over to the path that leads under the road. Run up more hill to get to the road and run along side the busy road to get to the other side of the trail. And then run straight down to get to the trail again. Easier to follow than to describe…but it was a mental obstacle. Up, down, up, up, up…down down down. Um, cranky knees don’t like to go up and down…especially at the angle this trail does. Ugh. On a positive note, I passed another old man power walker. Well, it was interesting. I could see him literally above me on the road when I was down on the trail still. He had a running bounce…but he was barely going faster than me. It kept my mind off my knee for a while. And then I passed him. He had to have been about 75. Good for him. That’s awesome that he was out there doing it!
Now I’m getting passed by more and more marathoners. And it’s not like they are just passing me and staying in sight. They are passing and moving on. With the curves in the trail I couldn’t see many people and I still felt like I was doing it all alone.
At mile 10 my spirits raised a bit. Only a 5k left? I can totally do a 5k. Can I run? I tried. Nope. Back to speed walking. At this point I was so sore from the crazy fast walking that I was slowing down to 14 minute miles. And now that is making me mad. At that point my friend who was actually racing (who I knew was long finished) texted me to see if I was close. Her kids were going nuts. But she wanted to see me finish. I was ignoring the text beep and just concentrating on one foot in front of the other. But then I wondered if my husband had an epiphany of encouraging words so I looked. (Ha ha, just kidding…I’m telling you, he is great…just not that way). I didn’t want to explain over text, so I just told her to go…I wasn’t close. There was no way I was going to have her wait another 45 minutes with her kids when she had finished 30 minutes ago! I guess right about that time, there was an ambulance entering the course from the finish line. She jokingly texted that she hoped it wasn’t for me. That made me laugh but I was so focused on finishing that I didn’t respond to her. (Did you keep wondering, Amy?) I didn’t get to see who or what it was for but I did see the bike riding EMT packing his stuff up and the ambulance driving away in the distance. I hope it wasn’t too serious.
When I knew I was within a mile, I was shocked. I had just walked nearly 13 miles on a really bum knee. Shear desire to cross that line was the only thing that kept me going. I’m telling you, I seriously considered calling my husband to just pick me up when I crossed that road at mile 8.5. He would have been seriously annoyed at all the time I’ve taken for training. And I knew I’d be so mad at myself for not crossing the line. But here I was. There was a short up hill to the finish…seriously? And it was around the bend, so I wasn’t sure how far away it was. A race official said we had about 50 yards to go. I figured she knew what she was talking about so I picked up the speed. And then I ran. I was NOT going to WALK across that line. As soon as I ran, my knee actually didn’t buckle like it had been doing all along the course. It didn’t feel great, but it carried me. I ran around the bend and heard my husband. Then I saw my boys. I nearly stopped from the weight of the emotion I felt. But I kept going around the curve and pushed across the finish line. The timer was for the marathon and I knew my gun/chip time was off so I barely even looked at it. (I’m lying…it said just over 4 hours…but I couldn’t do the math for me right then and for some reason I didn’t look at my Garmin.)
My kids ran to me and hugged me. Hubby gave me a giant bear hug and I sobbed harder than I have in a long time. Then I remembered that I needed to go to the bathroom. I handed hubby my medal and did my thing. While in there I realized that I hadn’t stopped my Garmin. 2 hours 55 minutes 56 seconds. At least I broke 3 hours!
My running buddy was planning on being at the finish line, but I didn’t see her. Thankfully we saw each other before I left the area. She was so supportive and brought my spirits up. I knew I was smelly. And tired. And I needed to bawl my eyes out. So we hightailed it out of there.
I took an ice bath when we got home to try and hold off further damage. The minute my legs hit that water I bawled. The cold was a shock to my system, but really it was about letting out the pent up emotion from the past 3-4 hours. Sheesh.
I showered off, hobbled down stairs and enjoyed my kids. I hobbled a lot all Sunday. By Sunday night I was feeling better emotionally. My anger had subsided and my disappointment was at the forefront. Hubby and I talked a lot about whether Half Marathons are really my thing. 10ks were sounding really good.
I didn’t remember I had handed him my medal until nearly bedtime. I went and found it. Honestly (and I know many of you will try to talk me out of this thought)…it doesn’t feel like I earned it. Well, I earned it…but it’s not the way I wanted to earn it. I hung it up where we tack up our bib numbers and stuff. But I haven’t looked at it since. It really doesn’t feel like I reached my goal. Sad, but true.
Monday I woke up sore in places I am not normally. Walking that fast was not what I had trained for…I had run during my training. It think walking like that used more of my hamstrings and calves because they are crazy sore. Oh! And I’m just remembering my shins were killing me about half way through the race, too. Sigh.
My knee actually felt okay until I had to walk a longer distance than around my house. I limped around on Monday. But Monday night I hopped on the bike at the gym to try and loosen up that built up lactic acid. I just pedaled…no speed or tension…for 45 minutes while I cracked open the book Mile Markers by Kristin Armstrong. By the first chapter I knew it was going to be a book I didn’t want to put down. By the third chapter I was starting to cry and I had to put it down because I looked like a freak at the gym.
Today, I feel even better. I’m looking forward to figuring this thing out. I’ve got some quality time to spend building a strength training regime for my hips, glutes and core as well as exploring my other treatment options. And while I’m not planning a race any time soon (well…) I do think I’ll have a do-over some day.
And today I’m going to get out on the trail….and walk. I’m meeting my running buddy for some girl time. I’d love to run, too. But that will come again someday.
p.s. I do have my “Runner-versary” 5k this weekend. I’m super excited for my hubby run a new PR. I’ll be doing what I can. I just want to be there celebrating this past year. I’m letting him wear the Garmin.