Tuesday, April 2

"Just a Short Run" That I Almost Cut... Shorter

Saturday morning greeted me with 25º and frostbitten grass. I took out my dog, warmed up my car, and drove off with my boyfriend to North Park in Pittsburgh. It was one of those mornings that you don't know how to dress for because you know it's supposed to warm up, and you're bound to warm up once you start running, but when you're waiting for the race to start you become certain that you've never been so cold in your entire life. Ever.

I wasn't feeling 100% when we got to the park. On the ride there I had gone through my mental checklist and discovered that I forgot my iPod nano. I wailed in disappointment. I was about to run my second longest race and I had to do it without music?! I have been training with music to help me keep my pace (not too fast, not too slow). NOW what was I supposed to do?! I lamented this fact for about five minutes until I realized that I was really getting on my boyfriend's nerves. So I changed the topic to how glad I was that he was there.
Look how happy I am that the race
is over! I'm sporting sweet Oiselle
gear top to bottom.

When we arrived, I waited in a ladies' room line that coiled around the inside. Fortunately my boyfriend was kind enough to grab my number and chip for me. I honestly don't remember feeling so digestively odd before a race. I don't have to say that I'll spare you the details because, frankly, there aren't any. I can't nail down what was going on.

The race is called Just a Short Run. There's a 5k, an 8.1 miler, a half, and a 30k. The race started uneventfully. The first loop was a 5k with a decent hill, which the race director bragged about before sending us off, and I made it up the hill. It was the downhill that triggered my mental and physical demise. My calves had been hurting since my running group's hill repeats on Tuesday (3/26). I had iced them and stretched them, and worn compression socks, but they weren't cooperating. They cramped up. I tried to glide down the hill so I wouldn't do any damage. 

At the close of the 5k loop, the 5k racers finished and the rest of us crazies kept running. It was at this point I considered quitting. The Chatty Cathies around me had gotten on my nerves. My self-talk had become pretty negative. My calves were yelling at me in their own language, and my guts were already screaming "NONSENSE! THIS IS NONSENSE!" Yes, guts, I know it's nonsense. You're right. But I plodded on.

I really wanted to stop. Then I saw my 5k time. Oh, hell no. I was not letting that be the tone for the day. It would've been my worst 5k time ever. No thank you.

I did a quick diagnostic check: I was warmed up (nearing 40º now?). I could breathe well (for a change). I shed my gloves, my facemask, and my windbreaker, and I pushed onward. 

I tried to get away from the chatterboxes. Most of them had been running the 5k anyway. Fixing my internal problems? Not so simple. I took some Gatorade and a gel thingy at the aid station. I'd have to wait for those to kick in. I tried to stretch out my calves, but no dice. It felt like angry piranhas sunk their teeth into the back of my legs and were holding on tighter with every step I took. 

The next loop in the course was the five mile loop around the lake. I had run this before--twice, actually--in the ten miler I ran in February. But for that race we ran in the opposite direction. I think the course was much kinder in that direction... Sigh. I walked some. I had to. Those piranhas were chowing down. I didn't feel like I was going to pass out anymore, which was an improvement, but my legs were really unhappy with my decision to keep going.

It was incredibly difficult to ignore the physical pain. I can very easily claim that it would've been easier if I'd had my iPod, but I don't know that for sure... 

What I do know is that once I started focusing on my breath--because I could breathe! Oh, joy! I could breathe and not have an asthma attack!--I found a pace I could keep and I rode it to the end of the race.

I finished the 8.1 miles in 1:40:59. I'm not super psyched about the time, but I finished. It is on par with my pace for my ten miler (2:08:29), so I feel good about that. 

I know I need to learn more about how to better fuel myself before races. I also know that I'd prefer to run my races with my iPod... but that I would probably benefit from a few runs without music. 

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