Thursday, May 21, 2009

Foot Recovering Nicely

As painful as that foot pain was for the first few days, I'm now certain it was a case of extensor tendonitis from an episode a few days earlier when my shoes were too tight and I pushed through a hard workout anyway. That explains everything, including the swelling up into the shin for the first few days.

For the record, this hurt as badly or worse than the tibial stress fracture I had so many months ago. Lesson learned, though, not every severe pain from running is a broken bone.

The really good news is I am now healing very quickly, and am feeling no more pain or swelling. I am able to wear normal shoes and walking and jumping isn't a problem. The bad news is, Vince wanted me to wait a full two weeks in between seasons before I start running again. This is day 9 of that hiatus, and time clicks by slowly. I am anxious to run again, and hope that maybe I'll get early release and get in a few miles this weekend.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 Race for the Summit

Pre-race details. I awoke half an hour before my alarm went off and was actually hungry. (Usually, the necessary bite of breakfast this early is a battle for me.) The rain chances had dropped to near-nil, and the wind was non-existent with an air temperature of about 50 F. Other than the course being unmercifully uphill for the last mile, things were aligning well.

I'd taken the time to familiarize myself with the course (perhaps to an excessive
level). But, I knew every turn and every elevation. This was something that was going to serve me well today.

It's also worth noting that I went into this race quite prayerfully, asking God to grant me the strength, speed and extra strokes of the heart I was going to need to reach my goal. For those of you closest to me, you know that my running is more than about the run. The fact that I can run AT ALL is nothing short of a miracle. I thanked Him for the gifts He had given me to get me here today.

Warm-up. I approached my warm-up a little differently than I usually do. I tend to prefer a very slow jog, I'm so in fear of burning any energy I might need later on. But, my last several interval workouts I have run my 3 warm-up miles at a decent pace (typically around 8:20 or 8:30) with no impact on my "energy." I thought I'd perform better in the race if I ran a more natural warm-up pace. This also turned out to be a good decision (and one I will follow in future races). My strides just before race start felt great, and I was light on my feet.

Race Start. It was unlikely that I'd reach my 22:00 goal here, let alone a PR (beat my previous best of 6 weeks ago, 22:17). The last hill was a killer, and I knew it. I am weak on hill
s. So, I carelessly tossed any real hopes aside and planned something risky. I decided to go out for the first two miles as fast as possible. I wanted to be way under 14:00 to have time in the bank for the final hill / mile.

Of course the gun went off and the 70+ elementary school group surged ahead and sprinted from behind us, and then all petered out in about 50 yards, making us all dodge them left and right to keep from running into them at a sudden walk. But, once that was over with, we were finding our spots, and life was good.

Mile 1. There were a few people who surged ahead of me in the first quarter, as I was settling into my suicidal pace of 6:35-ish. It was a gamble, but I was going for it anyway. Once I found my position, I was not passed again for the rest of the race. I passed the first mile mark at that pace, and pressed on. Really, I was feeling as good as I've ever felt at this point in a race, and that was encouraging.

Mile 2. Here's where things got interesting. The race was pretty flat here, and I was gaining ground on a female who had passed me very early in the race. I watched her knees knock, and decided she didn't have it in the tank. I easily blasted past her. She never fought back.

We reached the end of mile 2 at a water stop and the timers were calling out 13:20s and I was somewhere in there. I knew that I was where I wanted to be before the hill started. I'd been steadily gaining ground on a male in front of me. I decided to try to pass him after the stop. I was listening to him breathe, and it sounded shallow. I overtook him, and then could hear his foot turn-over and breathing quicken. He didn't like it and was going to try to pass me. He never did, and I eventually didn't hear him anymore. I was surprised I won that one.

Mile 3. Shortly into this mile, the ascent began. I knew I'd suffer badly on this hill. The beginning was the worst. But, having run it two days ago, I reminded myself it was going to flatten out just before the 2.5 mark, and I would get a chance to rest before the ascent began again. By 2.4, every nerve, every fiber of my being cried out to quit. I felt like I was crawling in pace. But I started to tell myself the 22:00 was going to be worth it. It was definitely going to be worth it. And I was filled with a hunger to go for it, stronger than I have ever felt before. This is a feeling that has eluded me in previous races. I've "let it go" at this point.

At about 2.5, it flattened out as I'd known it would, and I recovered just a bit. The rest of the hill loomed ahead. I remember looking at my watch for the last time and I could see the finish at the top of the hill. It read 20:30. I couldn't decide if I were 90 seconds away or not.

The final 0.11 miles. I crested the hill, and my body was on fire. My arms were tingling, and I thought I'd have to stop and throw up. It was all I could do not to dry heave at this point. I have never felt worse. I honestly thought I couldn't make it to the finish line. But, I was terrified to look at my watch, and couldn't have done the calculation anyway. "Dig Deep!" I shouted to myself. "It's worth it!" So, I did. I surged with more than I thought I could have possibly had in me. Surprisingly, the average pace for this final segment turned out to be 6:35. Hard to believe I had that in me.

Not two feet from the finish I was greeted by an over-zealous (but very well-meaning) volunteer shoving a water bottle in my face. Rule #1 after I've finished a hard race. Give me space, air and time before approaching me about anything. I was just beginning to dry heave...

My final official time was... amazingly, 22:00. And, that was the goal I set out for myself as I approached the season. The funny thing is, not more than a week ago, both my buddy Rick and my coach Vince got the sorry-filled email about how I'd picked a goal too hard to accomplish and how I'd set myself up for failure and disappointment this season. Both of them, of course, believed in me anyway and told me so. Thanks, both of you, for your continued endless support and encouragement!

I'll post pictures from the race soon.