Friday, September 17, 2010

Chapter 3: Running on Empty

T2 was a pretty quick transition. I changed shoes, dropped the helmet, grabbed my hat, race number, a few flasks of infinit and headed out for the run. I was actually feeling pretty good at this point. The run course is two loops so you never really have to head that far out. At least that was what I tried to convince myself. I was no more than 1/4 mile out when I realized I forgot something.

Yes, I forgot my sunglasses. Unless it is pitch black out, I like to keep my eyes covered. I also don't want people to see that I am really suffering so if I wear dark glasses, they can't see the pain in my eyes. At this point there was no turning back. I knew exactly what happened. I had them in my hat in T2. When I grabbed my hat they fell out and I never picked them up. So they stayed behind with my bike stuff. 

This run course is super flat and two loops. There were aid stations every mile so there was no worry about not having enough water. Part of the course loops through a trail and is shaded. 

I found a nice pace (aka slow) early on and focused on keeping the feet moving. The first part of the run is along a multi use path and is smooth. I tried to find someone that was moving at my pace so I could just follow their lead. I did find one guy and he was moving a little bit slower, but I decided to stick with him for a while. I matched him stride for stride and finally pulled up alongside him. We started chatting and he was telling me that he hoped to be able to run the whole thing. He recently got a cortisone injection in his hip. Naturally I went into DPT mode and asked him what was the shot for. He said he couldn't remember what the doctor said. My first thought was "Wow, you let a doctor shoot you up with something and you have no idea what it was for." Instead I started my eval right there. I asked him some history questions. Since I couldn't ask him to stop so I could do some tests, I had to go by questions alone. After a few, I asked him "Did the doctor say you had an impingement?" He then excitedly said "Yes, that's it. That's what he said." Phew, I am getting better at this stuff. I had him diagnosed in less than one mile. 

We ran along together for a little longer. The trails were killing my foot. My running shoe does not have a lot of forefoot padding so the trail section had some gravel that was digging into my foot and creating a hot spot. I had to alter my stride a little in the trail section to avoid landing on a small rock with my right foot.

While I was happy to be running in the shade, I was happier to get back out onto the path again. There was another aid station and this one had some ice. I put some into my hat and thanked the volunteers. So far, so good. I continued plodding along by myself now. I had walked through the aid station for the ice and the guy I was running with kept on running. At this point I needed to run as far as I could and just think about hanging on. In the course write up, they said just after the aid station that I passed through, there would be a misting station and ice towels. I was excited thinking about the towels. But I saw nothing ahead. Hmmm, must be around the corner that's coming up. I get to the corner and try to contain my excitement for the towels. But when I turned, there was no one there. It's like thinking there is a surprise party waiting for you and you open the door, waiting to hear everyone say "surprise", but it's an empty dark room. There were no towels, no misting station. Damn it, I can't have nice things.

I continued on the path and came across another woman. We chatted a little bit and then we separated. I got closer to the turnaround area. You have to be careful of your footing. You have to run across a grass field. I slowed down a bit so I could make sure I was on solid ground. Last thing I wanted was to roll my ankle. Wingman came along with me. That's the nice thing about this course. Spectators can see you come and go several times. I remember passing a woman that was sitting on the tailgate of her SUV. She was cheering everyone on and paying compliments. When I passed she called out my number and said I was "awesome" and that I was doing better than she would. When I turned to look, I saw she had on a walking boot and crutches. Seriously?!? Of course I am doing better than you. At the time I thought it was a dumb thing to say. I wanted to grab her crutch and hit her with hit, but that would end my race right there.

I got to the turnaround and went back across the field. Wingman was with me again cheering me on and talking to me. I bid him farewell as I crossed the road to start the 2nd loop. This loop was much harder. It was getting warmer and I was slowing down. I was dreading the trails because of my foot. If I had know, I would have worn a different pair of running shoes for the race instead of lightweight trainers. Oh well, nothing I can do now.

I stumbled upon another runner and we talked about different races we've done. He did a half marathon the week before this race. He was also wearing a Garmin so I asked him about our pace. I knew it was a little too slow for me so I picked it up a little. When I got to the trails, I was moving really slow. The looks rocks were bothering my foot. I kept moving, though. Seemed to take forever to get out of there. As I got closer to the end of the trail, I swear I could hear the music from the Wizard of Oz:

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light

It was like the Emerald City was near. I knew the 10 mile marker was coming up soon. My hamstrings were getting tighter with each step. I crossed the wooden bridge again and started to battle mentally with myself. Finishing was never a doubt, but the speed in which I finish was an issue. I started doing the math and knew I had to maintain a certain pace to finish in a certain time. I knew I wouldn't make it, but wanted to salvage something here. Then something caught my eye to keep me occupied. They had trail markers and I saw a word that I had to say over and over in my head to get the pronunciation - Chickahominy. That is a mouthful, especially when you are exhausted. Seriously, I was saying that work over and over again for 1 mile. 

For the last 2 miles, I crawled along. When I made my way back to the main path, I knew the end was in sight. I saw the mile 12 marker and knew it was close. When I crossed the road I met up with the Wingman again. He was all smiles for me and that always lifts my mood. We chatted a bit and then he left to meet me at the finish line. I ran the rest of the way around to the finish line. Wingman was there and finally, this race was over.

I was starving the last couple of miles of the run and was looking forward to some free BBQ. I got to the tent and they were serving pulled pork sandwiches. Not what I had in mind. I looked at another tent and they served burgers and hot dogs but we had to pay. Wingman got me a hamburger and it was the best burger I ever had (I did say I was starving). At that moment, I wanted to be alone with my burger. I polished it off and went into transition to pack my stuff. Wingman put it all into the car and I finally got to sit down. We drove back to the hotel and I took a shower and a nap. We got up later and went out to eat.

It wasn't an overall great result, but my swim was not bad for getting lost and being in a current, my bike split was great, and the 1st loop of my run was good. 2nd loop was forgettable.

So a plan is being put into action for the offseason. I really want to kick some butt next season so it's time for a covert operation.

I noticed something about my finishers medal after I got home. As I had exited the swim, I thought it was a little long but now I have proof. According to the medal, the swim was longer than 1.2 miles.

If you look closely, you can see the swimmer calling for help.

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