This morning, MM and I woke up a little after 4am and turned on the Olympics to watch the swimmers and gymnasts while we got dressed for our half marathon until I finally said, “OK, it’s time for our lil' ‘lympics.”
Limp is right, girlfriend. But more on that later. First, the good, the bad, and the "fuck this" moments from today's race, the Chicago Distance Classic.
The good: The weather was fan-freaking-tastic. It was an almost brisk 60 degrees at the start, a few clouds, and as far as I could tell, the humidity was nonexistent despite the fact weather.com told me otherwise. I mean, you don’t just get days like this in mid-August Chicago. We’re lucky if it’s not in the 90s. Sometimes, we’re lucky if it’s not in the 90s in October. Just saying. I’ll get over that someday, I swear.
Other than a little stomach pain, which I concluded was probably nerves, I felt pretty darn good at the start line. I was well-hydrated, well-nourished, and I started the race strong. Really strong. Like under 11 minute mile splits strong. Around mile four, I started to wonder how to weigh the need to slow down and conserve energy versus the opportunity to just go with it, and see if I can sustain. I don’t know that I ever actually came to a decision, but the internal debate kept me busy for another two miles, and by that time, I had dropped back to an 11 minute mile. Other than the lingering feeling that maybe I should stop to go to the bathroom, I was solid.
Then, the bad: Around mile six, I experienced a new pain. New pains in running are always mysterious, and in the middle of a race, it's difficult to determine the best course of action. If it’s an old pain, chances are you’ve researched it or even gone to a PT for treatment, stretched it, cared for it, and you know what you're capable of doing with it. With new pain, if you can still run, there's really not much else to do but keep going and hope it goes away... quickly. That’s what I did even though shooting pains gripped my left hamstring. I felt like it would let up, and after about two minutes it did.
For the most part, until mile eight or so, my legs were still moving. I saw a work friend at mile seven and told her I felt good. I had decidedly dropped back to “my pace,” an 11:30 mile, but I was moving. If I could hold out the last few miles, I could still manage a PR.
Not today friends.
By mile nine, both legs were tired, but my left quad hurt as though it had been going up and down mountains rather than running the flat-except-for-that-one-eight-foot-“climb” Chicago Distance Classic course. I slowed down. Way down. But I kept running because I figured if I stopped, my left leg would be so uncomfortable that I may not be able to start up again. I ran until mile 12. This is actually the longest I have ever run with walking once – not for a break, not for water, not for nothing.
At mile 12, I realized there was a woman walking in front of me, but I was running so slow, I could not catch her. That’s the moment I mentally said, “Fuck this,” and started walking – well, let’s be fair, it was less of a walk and more of a limp-walk. As suspected, my left thigh continued to be tight and intensely sore.
As I walked through the last aid station, I looked at my watch. The hope of a PR was long dead (10 minutes is long, right?), but I figured, “Lou, you are less than 10 minutes away from the finish line. You can still manage a race record if you rally... like right this second.” And so, with yet another, “fuck this,” I picked up my aching legs and valiantly headed to the end.
So there you have it, 2:38:00. Even. One minute and some change faster than last year’s CDC. I crossed the finish line, and did some perhaps melodramatic limping while holding on my left thigh. I found MM, laid down in the grass, and contemplated never getting up again.
My biggest concern right this second is that my not-so-stellar performance today was absolutely 100 percent about my legs. Yeah, the stomach was not great, but I have a few solid ideas as to why, and it didn’t hinder me. Had I been running the marathon, I would have stopped at a bathroom. But this is a half marathon. There isn’t time!
Which brings me to my next major concern. I’m all for believing in myself and that shit, but seriously, I have to question my ability to actually run a marathon when my legs are SCREAMING at me, and I’m only halfway there. This is what training is for, right? Of course, I have no idea how I am going to run 15 miles next week. It sure wouldn’t have happened today.
What do we attribute this to? Did I just go out of the gate too fast? And, if that’s the case, then why is every single long run I attempt a struggle? Am I experiencing training fatigue, or am I over-trained? Am I on a collision course headed straight for an injury? The pain I felt today caught me completely off-guard because, if nothing else, I’ve been lucky to be injury-free (and for the most part, pain-free) this season.
There are other bloggers (and granted this may be perception) who seem to have the ability to go from race to race to race. How do they (some of you) do that? How do you train seemingly all the time? I’m starting to wonder if I have it in me. I’ve been training since late-February for various events. I have two months to go. And that’s if I actually make it to the start line of this year's marathon.
I know. I’m such a baditude.
So… friends. Where do we go from here? I’m thinking ice bath. Bat shit crazy? Or crazy like a bat shit crazy fox?
P.S. Lest we not forget MM. He crossed the finish line at 1:42:16, good enough for a corralled start at this year's Chicago Marathon, which is exactly what he was trying to do.