A funny thing happened on my way to a half marathon…
So last time we saw our heroine, she was fresh off her high of running a half marathon PR at Surf City (not to mention smoking Matt Damon). I had high hopes for the Hollywood Half, and with eight weeks to train, I was looking forward to pushing myself even more by tacking on extra mileage and throwing in some tempo runs on top of the hill/track work I was already doing with Trainer. Because, as you know, if it isn’t broke, for sure you should mess around with it and fix it (read: screw it up). Obviously more is better when you’re staring down 50 years of age, right? Argh! When will I learn?!?
So you know what happened next. I strained my butt/hamstring after my first hill workout post-race and instead of taking it easy, I kept pushing and added in extra speed work on top of it. At about two weeks after Surf City, I knew I had a bit of an issue and thus began my crazy-making attempts at fixing my problem by getting four opinions:
- Dr. #1: “STOP RUNNING. You cannot run for four weeks. This [high hamstring tendinopathy] is the type of injury that ends running careers.”
- Dr. #2: “You can run but lay off the speed and hill work until I can work on it a little more.”
- Trainer: “You’re not injured.”
And of course, the most reliable…
- The Internet.
Option no. 4 only increased my anxiety tenfold. I mean, how many times can you Google “high hamstring” “recovery” “stop running” without making yourself mental?! My careful examination of renderings of the human skeleton in an effort to diagnose myself rivaled that of a bomb tech deciding whether to pull the red wire or green wire. The internet was not my friend.
I elected to go with somewhere between opinion 2 and 3, leaning more towards 3. I took a full 1½ weeks off of running, and then slowly started building up my mileage. After a couple weeks I found my long run times were a bit slower than pre-Surf City and that my legs were fatiguing early. At first I thought it was just from losing some conditioning taking those couple weeks off, but then I wondered…could it be…that I changed shoes after 19 years in Nike Air Structures?
Yes, dear reader, in yet another case of when something is working, I will for sure find a way to mess it up, I decided to change shoes. Never mind that I have tried SEVERAL times to change shoes in the almost two decades that I’ve been wearing the Nike Structures. There was the Asics experiment that gave me blisters, then the Brooks (yuck) go-round, followed by the fairly recent trendy Hoka attempt. This last time (ha!), I went with the more reasonable change of switching from a Nike stability shoe to a Nike neutral shoe. I wanted (want! I want!) so badly to be in a lighter shoe. The Structures make me feel like a Clydesdale, especially since I have to wear orthotics for my flat hobbit feet. I figured now that I was on a midfoot strike and no longer pronated that I was at last going to be able to wear the fun lightweight cool kids shoes. The Nike Air Elites were fine…for the shorter runs, but my legs weren’t having it on my long runs. Worse, I started getting the beginning stages of plantar with them. Ugh. I went crawling back to the old clodhoppers.
So even though my hamstring was feeling better, and I was back in my old shoes, I now had only about two weeks to go before the Hollywood Half, and I knew I wasn’t in any shape to PR it. Moreover, I was worried that I’d hurt myself going hard because my hamstring was still not 100% — after all, last year I strained my calf at the Hollywood Half and had to miss a little over a week of training. Since Hollywood isn’t my “A” race anyway – Mountains2Beach at the end of May is – I started toying around with the idea of dropping down in distance and doing my first 5K in eight years. What?
Since it had been so long between 3.1s, I really had no idea what to choose as a goal or even what to expect. Perhaps more perplexing was how to race it. Treat it like a track distance and go out as hard as I can and then try to hold on for the last two miles? That sounded insane and painful. Or maybe run it more like a mid-distance race and take it easy and kick it into gear the last mile? The distance seemed too short to leave the last kick until one mile to go. Trainer mentioned something like if at 1.5 miles I was feeling good to just floor it. Ultimately my race strategy was a well-thought out Give Full Effort. More specifically, I figured 8:05 minute miles was a good goal. Oh! And I was also going to try my hardest to not stop at the water stations in an effort to get some practice in for my longer races.
One of the best parts of the race is that you can take public transport – yes, in LA – to the race. The Metro drops you off close to the start, but I took the next exit over and was one of those people that annoy the shit out of me at the half and full marathons by doing a warm-up run before the race. Really? You are in such good shape that you can run 27.2 miles? Anyway, since I’m old and it takes me at least a mile to get warmed up, I ran the mile to the start line. It felt good to be the annoying one for a change.
The worst part of the race is that 5K, 10K, and half marathoners all start at once, and no one is really enforcing the Stay In Your [Pace] Corral rule, so it is a major clusterfuck. I tried to stay at the front of my corral, but I could tell there were runners in my group that were supposed to be in much slower corrals, and the first part of the race was spent dodging in and out of these people. I tried to be careful, but at some point, some of them caught elbows. I only sort of glanced at my watch to make sure I was around 8:00 min. miles.
The race went by quickly! I checked my watch at what I thought was an early part of the race and realized that I only had 1.5 miles left. That was bizarre. I kept a steady strong effort and felt good throughout, with my hammy only giving me a few twinges. Having said that, I have a feeling I could have gone a bit harder, since I remember feeling pretty awful at my last 5K. This did not feel too bad at all, but who knew? The distance was a difficult one to gauge.
Well, friends, you’ve probably been on the edge of your seat wondering “Well, how’d she do?” Or you’ve fallen asleep. Either way, here are the results out of the 1800 plus participants who ran the 5K:
Official Time: 25:42
Age Group: 3rd place
Women: 15th Overall
YO, let me say it for the people in the back: THIRD IN MY AGE GROUP!
Not to be ungrateful, but my time would have won last year. Two speedsters must have aged up because they were blazing fast. In fact, the woman who won my age group was the first woman overall. *Shakes Fist*
I managed to beat my 5K time from eight years ago by five seconds, which is pretty cool, but I did not get a new PR — that time was set over twenty years ago and is 24:50. However, I do plan to fix that, which I recognize is a little crazy, but a certain amount of delusional thinking is healthy, I think. Also, despite my triumphant time, it was a major Fail on not stopping at the water stations. Well, only half a fail. I never walked the water the stations, but I did get water at each (all two of ‘em!) one. I just sloshed that stuff all over my face and kept it pushing. I guess that’s an improvement?
I ended up hitting my goal pace by running an 8:04 pace on my Garmin (the course went long), and my splits were 7:49, 8:12, and 8:09.
Anyway, I enjoyed the 5K distance which tells me I definitely need to go harder. I feel like I should want to puke afterwards, and like a true weirdo runner, I’m looking forward to it. A cool thing about running a 5K is that my whole day wasn’t ruined trying to recover…the not so awesome thing is that I couldn’t have my guilt-free post-race food fest that I usually have after a half or full marathon. I ate reasonably. Boo.
As for now what, since it was “only” a 5K, my training wasn’t interrupted too much, and I was able to do a strong 9-mile run the next day and resume training the next week without having to take any time off. I’m now getting prepared for the Mountains2Beach Half Marathon on May 29 and simultaneously adding on mileage in preparation for the Ventura Full Marathon in September. So back to the norm.
Hopefully part of the norm includes getting back to more regular blogging now that I’m not going to so many physical therapy appointments, poring over the internet for solutions to my problem du jour, switching shoes, and freaking out about my butt, but no promises.
Hope everyone’s running and training has been going well!