I know, I’m behind. I’ve had some pain/pre-injury issues, a lot of skipped workouts, and a 5K PR two weeks ago at Run Around the Square (noted later). But this race was the most encouraging moment of the season, so I’ll focus on that.
My knee was making me very, very nervous. After SEVERAL skipped runs, including long runs, leading up to the Air Force half-marathon (September 17th!!) and icing/elevating/compressing like a champ, I was hoping it would hold up and I wouldn’t do more damages and totally screw myself for Air Force. I made a deal with myself: if it wasn’t warming up well, I’d bag it, and save it for Air Force.
Saturday I woke up bright and early at 5:30 to get some coffee. Unfortunately, I walked to the nearby Coffee Tree Roasters only to find that one doesn’t open that early. So I walked back to my car and drove to the one in Bakery Square, which WAS open, thank goodness. I got myself a small black coffee with two packets of raw sugar (yummy) and headed back to wake up the boy, who was only a little unhappy about being up so early on a Saturday. I prepared us each a half-cup of oatmeal with brown sugar (mine with water, his with milk) and we chowed down and topped off our tanks with water before heading out at 6:45 a.m. to get to the race site to pick up our bibs. The start and DJ booth for packet pickup were in the Macy’s parking lot in Robinson, and it was an easy drive so early in the morning. We picked up our bibs and chips without a hitch, dumping stuff off back at my car. We met up with friends Rob and Cas after we blessed the porta potties and chatted it up. Rob was running the half-marathon, which was scheduled to start at 8 a.m. (5k at 8:20) and was hoping to go sub-1:30 (previous PR was 1:32something). Cas was running the 5K and said she wasn’t going to push for a PR (she had PR’d at the previous weekend’s Steelers 5K) but given the course, certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it. It was advertised as flat and fast, with a 3/4 mile downhill at the start. Definitely PR paradise.
We watched the half go off, about 7 minutes late, and cheered Rob on before getting on to our warmup. We jogged up and down the parking lot, and I did a couple short accelerations. My knee was a tad stiff, and I prayed we didn’t stand around at the start too, too long. We jogged out to my car to grab water as we downed pre-race Gu and then jogged back. I had to do a lot of hopping and butt-kicks to keep loose, but it worked decently well. Before I knew it, we were off!
I wove around trying to find a good spot and a good pace. I had blown out the first mile at the Run around the Square 5K just two weeks prior (set a PR of 25:53, by the way) and didn’t want to make the same mistake – though granted, I crashed on mile two because it went from a downhill mile to a rolling hill trail mile.
They weren’t kidding about the downhill. It was a long, cruising, quad-crushing downhill. I took note of my knee: felt alright. I took note of my speed: oh sh*$t. I thought about slowing down, but my breathing and heart rate were relatively low considering my sub-7 min. pace. I knew if I tried to slow, it would involve hitting the brakes – hard – which could in turn make me tire faster and maybe even hurt my knee more, so I went with it. The hill slowly ended, and we hit the crushed limestone trail which was mostly flat, if not a very very slight uphill (only noticeable because of the prior downhill). I hit the first mile in about 7:08. Oops.
I told myself, okay, you cruised the first mile; stick to the game plan: push the second mile. So I pushed, though I knew I was slower. As my heart rate soared and I wanted to walk, I just pulled it back a little. I tried taking water, but it went up my nose, so I dumped it down my back (the temps were nice but it was pretty humid). The trail part was out and back, so as I approached the turn around, I got to see others flying by. I choked out “thank yous” to the volunteers as I pushed. I saw NB go past me, and we high fived and traded shaky smiles of encouragement. I looked forward again, and saw the turnaround cone. I cut the corner tight, chicking a dude as I did. A couple tenths of a mile later, I shouted out, “Go Cas!” as we passed each other, and she smiled (it ended up her Vibrams were rubbing her raw, so she didn’t’ PR, but still had a fast 5K). I missed my mile 2 split, but felt pretty confident it was sub-8, as I hoped (7:58, it turned out). Okay, I said to myself, just 1.1 miles. Let’s bring it. Let’s hurt. Let’s suffer.
And suffer I did. I kept an eye on my pace, picking other runners off, reeling them in and passing. At the last water stop, where I dumped another cup down my back, I could see the finish, so cruelly close, yet far. I started to push, but had to reel it in a bit, knowing I was kicking too soon. I edged up behind a middle-aged guy, feeling he was pushing my pace and hoping to chick him at the end. I saw the FINISH banner above, and the clock- I was doing it! I was getting my PR, by a LOT – and I couldn’t quite edge him out, but I still gave it all I had. I gasped and gasped past the line, punching STOP a few strides past as NB congratulated me. I gasped and sucked air and wheezed as I tried to tell him my splits and how much I hurt.
We watched Cas come in and drank water and waited for the half-marathoners. The winner came in at 1:12 and change. Rob came in at 1:29 and change, nailing his PR (oh, but he was hurting). We headed to the shuttles to get back to the parking lot to get food and schwag.
We arrived to see that the print outs of chip times were already there, and I heard them reading off the awards, ignoring it as I hunted for my name. I saw my time: 23:42, a PR by over two minutes, noting my age on the sheet, my bib number… and a single digit beside my name. A “1.”
Cas nudged me. “She just called your name.”
I couldn’t believe it! I walked over to the woman handing out AG medals and took mine – first in my AG – in disbelief. Not only that, but none of the overall female winners were in my AG, so I LEGITIMATELY got first, wasn’t bumped up by an overall winner not being counted as part of the AG. I was STUNNED. NB walked away with 5th in his (his AG was freaking FAST) and we were both all smiles and hugs.
My bib and medal are hanging on my bulletin board, and it has given me a HUGE shot of confidence for next week.
So what’s next? Well, we had intended an 8 miler yesterday morning as a cutback long run, but I scrapped it early when my knee wouldn’t warm up (apparently pushing a 5k makes it hard to recover for a long run the next day :P) and NB bagged it short of mile 4 because his shins were sore. We’re taking it easy, and attempting a short speed workout tomorrow. I also bought myself a knee band, which I’m hoping to test out tonight. Judging from googling, checking RW and my symptoms, I think I either have patellar tendonitis or palletofemoral pain. I’m now leaning toward the latter, honestly, since what I’m reading says it can be run through and often gets better during a run, as mine has been doing quite often with sufficient rest and icing. If I’m in pain will I pull out of Air Force? Yes. But I’m hoping it won’t come to that. So wish me luck.
tl;dr? Despite some nagging knee issues, I walked away with a PR of over two minutes at the Montour Trail 5K, with 23:42, and my first ever age group award: 1st in my AG.