living in the now

Still rambling about running. Sometimes other things.

Sham rocked II

There are so many ways I could start the race report for the Shamrock Half Marathon. I could wrap it up in one word: awful. But it really wasn't. I could use the words frustrating and disappointing, but it hindsight 10 hours later, it really wasn't.

I could start with discussing the 8k the day before. To me, it was just a normal easy run with an old friend of mine. I finished in 46:11.60, never running hard until the last half mile. In fact, we started more than half way back just to not get wrapped up into thinking about running fast. In the end, it was a 9:18 pace and I placed 1,353rd out of 4,920 runners. The weather was great. After the run, though, I felt a slight pain in my left foot. Nothing major. Nothing worth worrying about. The rest of the day was spent taking it easy, drinking lots of water and enjoying being away from home.

The half-marathon race report starts at 10 p.m. last night when I went to bed. I feel asleep quickly only to be awakened an hour later by some apparent domestic issues across the hall. Then a couple of hours later, the fire alarm at the hotel was going off. I looked outside and it was POURING down rain and very windy. I thought if the hotel was on fire I'd grab my wife first, my race number and my race outfit. Fortunately there was no fire and the alarm went off about 10 minutes later and I quickly went back to sleep. (Note to self and anyone else Googling Virginia Beach: Don't stay at Marjac Suites.)

So ... at 5:25 a.m. my alarm was going off. By then the rain had stopped but it was still windy. As we (my wife and my mom included) walked toward the start line, the wind was ripping through us. It was a bit chilly - mid-40s - but nothing like last year. I met my friend Travis on the way there and we continued to battle the crazy wind. The forecast was for 20-30 mph winds throughout the day, but these gusts were definitely higher. Once I got to the start line, the winds died down and were not a factor at all for us half-marathoners. (The marathoners who started an hour later probably have a different story.)

The race started slow. Even though I was closer to the start line than I was last year, my first mile time was 8:40. It was no big deal though. I avoided weaving in and out of people to conserve my energy. There was plenty of time to get on track. Mile two was in 8:11. It was a nice increase and I was feeling good and warmed up. I tossed my gloves that I started with and logged the next mile in 8:05. A nice steady increase.

Between miles 3 and 4 I tossed my long-sleeve shirt and began to pull away from Travis just a bit. The fourth mile was in 8:02. In my head I knew I was on track, but my head was also reminding me of my left foot pain. I could feel it, but it wasn't anything unmanageable at the time.

The next three miles were the best of the race - 7:55, 7:53, 7:56. Around that halfway point I knew that beating last year's time could be done. At that point I was feeling awesome physically. I was ready to maintain that pace for a couple of miles and then pick it up the last 5k. It was very similar to the way I ran this race last year.

Between miles 7 and 8 though, I couldn't ignore the pain in my foot though. I spent the next couple of miles speeding up and slowing down between the cones on the road. Keeping a pace wasn't working. Mile 8 was in 8:04. Nothing really wrong with that. I was still on track assuming I could pick it up the last bit. Mile 9 was also 8:04. OK ... hitting last year's time is still a possibility. Just pick it up, is what I was telling myself.

Picking it up, though, just hurt. It was like taking a nail to the side of my foot and hitting a hammer. People around me were picking it up and I was passing no one. When people would pass me, I'd pick it up for about 5 seconds to keep their pace. It helped a bit because I still hit mile 10 in 8 minutes flat. In my head I knew if I ran a 5k like I know I can, I could still hit my time from 2007. It was kind of far-fetched, but I tried to pick it up. Mile 11 was 8:06. It was then that I knew I better slow down and not hurt myself more than I already had. Beating my goal time was out of the question.

As I slowed a bit, my foot began hurting worse. Just before mile 12 I had to stop. So I stopped briefly to stretch my foot. I still hit mile 12 in 8:56, but despite my body having plenty of fuel left, my foot had nothing to give. As the race turned onto Atlantic Avenue, I stopped twice to stretch a bit. I wasn't about to turn onto the Boardwalk and walk in front of all the supporters. My last 1.1 miles was 11:10, with the two stops included. It was saddening to be getting passed by everyone, but I was leaving what I could leave on that course. I would have loved to have finished strong -- my upper legs, my lung and my brain wanted to and could have had it not been for my left foot.

In the end, my chip time was 1:49.07, an 8:20 pace. Had I never ran this race before, I would have been thrilled with this time. For a short time, I was very disappointed that an injury came out of nowhere to kill my momentum. But how can I be upset about that time? I was 836th of 5,501 runners; 104th out of 365 in my 25-29 age group; and 620th out of 2,339 men. And I probably saved myself from a serious injury by stopping when I wanted to push it.

As for the Dolphin Challenge -- doing both the 8k and half marathon -- I was 36th out of 222 participants. Not bad for not really racing the 8k. (Note: these actual number of runners could change in the next couple of days.)

Afterward, I had trouble finding my mom and my wife -- somehow they missed the slow guy crossing the finish line. I went to the tent on the beach and had a couple of beers and then ventured back to the hotel. Here at the end of the day, my foot doesn't hurt me too much when I don't have shoes on. My legs aren't too sore either. It kind of feels like a hard shorter race rather than a half marathon.

As for now, I'm going to enjoy the fact that I finished this race in one piece. It's only my fourth half marathon, and only my second one with a race frame of mind, so I'm still getting used to what my body has to go through to get ready for this distance. With the exception of this freak injury, today was perfect. I did everything right. Mentally and physically, I feel like I have a lot of potential to still unlock.

For the record, though, I will not be running a marathon this year. I have some ideas for a long-distance race or two this year, but that's another post for tomorrow or later this week. It's time to drink some Magic Hat and eat some pizza.