Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I should never run a road half marathon as part of a long training run

It was maybe the Thursday before Labor Day when Rob said something to the effect of, “Hey, there’s a half marathon on Monday.  That seems like something you’d be interested in."

And I thought, why not.  I had yet to run a race in Fort Collins, and with the Bear Chase 50 looming on the horizon, it might be good to get one in before that.  Plus, it would be a good way to start off a high mileage week:  run over there (2.5 miles), run the race (13.1 miles), and run back home (…wait a minute, that’s 6 miles).  Once I realized the start and finish were at different locations, and the finish was a lot farther away, I didn’t think I would want to run home afterwards.  No matter.  Ever eager to put our new cargo bike to use, Rob offered to bike over to the finish line with Will and take us both home.  It sounded like a good deal.

One of the biggest problems with doing a race as part of a training run is figuring out what to do about clothes and gear.  It would be in the high 40’s when I left home to run over there, but likely in the 70’s as the race ended.  Also, I have this thing about going cup-less at races, which is to say, I don’t like to take paper cups of water and throw them away.  It just seems so wasteful.  I do all of my training with either handheld water bottles (for short distances) or a vest (for longer runs). 

After much debate, I decided to wear Rob’s Anton Krupicka vest to the race but with a bottle of water in the front pocket instead of a bladder of water in the pack (because I can’t stand the way a bladder doesn’t attach to anything and just sloshes around).  It is slightly awkward showing up to a half marathon wearing a hydration vest (made for a much longer run), but whatever.  At least three people asked me very detailed questions about the vest because they were considering buying one.  Also, it was a good thing I had worn the vest over there because I had some swag to pick up with my packet (a pretty nice t-shirt) and otherwise I wouldn’t have had anywhere to put it.

Finally, we were off.  The race began on the track at Poudre High School, then headed south to Hughes Stadium.  Though it was a road race, part of the course went on some kind of bumpy gravel, and then there was even a tiny snippet of single track as we went around Spring Canyon Community Park.



I got off to a pretty good start, although somewhere around the halfway point, my water bottle fell out of the vest front pocket and I actually had to backtrack a little bit to pick it up.  

I started to feel really, really tired by about mile 7 or 8, when we ran along the Spring Creek Trail (paved).  This is where I run on days when I’m not on one of the area trails.  The course was really spread out by this time, and I had trouble making myself remember I was in a “race” and not just a leisurely morning run.  I slowed down a lot.


I was feeling pretty awful by the end and just wanted to get it over.  My time of 1:45:XX was about 4 minutes slower than my half marathon PR, about a year ago in St. Louis.  I didn’t really care, since I wasn’t trying to beat that time anyway, and was actually kind of surprised that I’d managed to do it in under 1:50.

Meli finishing

My time was good enough for third place in the Older Ladies division, and I got a commemorative glass beer mug as a prize.  We stayed around at the finish line for a while, chatting with a couple of Rob’s trail-running friends who had also done this race, and then Rob biked home with Will and me on the back of the Surly.  

IMG 3959 Verdict: It wasn’t worth it.

My quads were really sore for a few days after the race, so I took some time off.  On Friday (4 days out), I tried running again and felt pain in the same area where I had a stress fracture/tendonitis over the winter.  Shit.  I stretched, iced, panicked.  This was the same thing, the same exact thing that had kept me from running last February-May.  I had soooo thought this was behind me.  I’d been worried about my dodgy peroneus brevis, wrecked from my brief foray with Altras, and I’d been worried about my also-dodgy IT-band, wrecked from switching to 8mm drops after the Altras.  But my calf had seemed virtually indestructible.  This was an injury I had not been expecting.

About 3 weeks have passed by now, and those weeks have not been filled with running.  The Bear Chase 50 miler is on Saturday, just 5 days away.  I have been trying to manage this injury as best I can.  Hiking doesn’t hurt, so I have been doing that as much as 3 hours a day.  Finally, on September 14th, I ran 8 miles pain free was ecstatic.  Bear Chase: game on!!  

I cautiously resumed running last week and things were mainly okay until yesterday, when I did 10 miles at Soderberg.  I felt great during the run, fantastic in fact, but afterwards at home I could not deny that my tibia hurt.  

I’ve got 5 days to make this go away.  I’m no longer scared about anything pertaining to the Bear Chase 50 as much as the possibility of not being able to run it.

My one request is that the next time I have the bright idea to run a road half marathon as part of a long training run, someone please tell me not to do it. This whole distal tibia injury began last winter when I was running over to Forest Park to do the Frostbite series races, and then running back home.  In fact, I think I can trace the first twinges of it back to January 25th, when I did the half marathon as the middle leg of a 17 mile training run.  I’m going to assume that I will (eventually) bounce back from this, but then let’s never let this happen again.

What I learned from this race: Road half marathons, just say no to them.

Mile 1 - 7:35
Mile 2 - 7:48
Mile 3 - 7:22
Mile 4 - 8:17 (oh hello uphill bumpy gravel!)
Miles 5 and 6 - 15:29
Mile 7 - 8:02 (dropped water bottle!)
Mile 8 - 8:48 (where the hell did that come from?)
Miles 9 and 10 - 16:05
Mile 11 - 8:18 (I can no longer talk or smile)
Mile 12 - 8:04
Mile 13 - 8:08
Mile 0.1 - 1.08
Total: 1:45:10 

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