August 1, 2015
St. Paul, MN
Half Marathon #23
I made a prediction yesterday about the outcome of today’s race. “DNS (Did Not Start), DNF (Did Not Finish), or PW (Personal Worst)”.
My prediction was correct.
I strained my low back a couple of weeks ago. There was one day of serious pain, then lingering soreness. It was barely noticible when I re-injured it on Tuesday.
It was way worse the second time around. I could work, but barely. I got no sleep. Walking was a Herculean effort. Advil, muscle relaxers, stretching, scaldingly hot showers were the routine. By Friday, I could get it to relax after about four hours. I had done no exercise of any kind over the last four days. Things were not looking good for this morning’s event.
It only took me 30-45 seconds to get out of bed this morning…a definite improvement. I grabbed some Advil and a hot shower, then a heating wrap that I would wear until the start of the race.
Before leaving home, I slowly jogged down my long driveway and back. It hurt. Not a lot, but I didn’t run far either. This wasn’t a good sign.
I got there early, got my bib and just slowly walked around.
Walking hurt. Hills were not fun. Neither were stairs.
I did a little more stretching and a little more walking. Muscles were loosening up a little more. Back was tight, but not exactly painful. But I knew that one wrong move would drop me to my knees.
That’s when I did the “one wrong move”.
I didn’t see the curb. It was a short one, maybe two inches in height. But when my foot hit the concrete, a jolt went through my spine…but it didn’t drop me (it was close). I held on to a nearby pole, tried to slow my breathing and tried to relax. The spasm subsided. Only a little bit more sore.
That’s when I started to realize how colossally stupid I was being. One wrong foot-fall, and I would set myself back a week or more. This was a throwaway half marathon. My core triathlon season starts next weekend (4 races in 16 days). This could risk all of those events.
I almost left…but I couldn’t. I could not swallow the DNS. It might end up being a half-mile instead of a half-marathon, but I would try. I would go slowly. I would be cautious and conservative. I would walk if I had to. I would stop if I were making matters worse.
I lined up at the starting line. I joined the 2:30 pace group (My personal worst is 2:24), as 2:30 was the slowest pace group available. When I lined up, someone else in the group told me that I was in the wrong coral. I looked “too fast to be back here!” I was flattered but explained that this was my first run after an injury. I honestly didn’t think that I could finish, and that I would be walking a great deal. She wished me luck and told me to be careful. I honestly didn’t think I could hang for the whole race at that pace. I was serious about the walking. The race started with an out and back. I could easily bail after 5 miles. Of course, if my back did what it already did to me twice, I would be laying on the ground waiting for a sag wagon.
This was really stupid.
The gun went off and we eventually crossed the starting line.
There would be no DNS today.
The first half mile were proving to be a mistake. With every step, the back was tightening a little more. This might be a short event…
After that, the back stabilized. It was neither getting better or worse.
That’s when the next jolt hit.
It didn’t drop me, but it reminded me about how precarious my state of health was at that moment.
I continued at an 11:30 minute/mile pace (I was deliberately going as slow as I could) and the jolts continued…about 1-2 jolts/mile (for such minor transgressions as looking to the side, or a footfall on uneven pavement).
This continued for the first 4-5 miles. Then the spasms stopped. I have no idea why. The soreness was still there, but no worse the when I started. The slow plodding continued.
The sun was coming down on us and the shade was retreating (and I had forgotten to apply sunscreen). It was not oppressively hot, but it was getting unpleasantly warm. I started to wear the water at aid stations and drinking the Gatorade.
By mile 10, I had pulled away from my pace group. I was walking through the aid stations, but running the rest. It was at that point that I noticed something. My back wasn’t bugging me. My feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hips, knees, and neck were all in more discomfort then my low back.
I thought about speeding up, then thought better of it. I carried on, looking at my Garmin and doing some mental math. It would be close, but it would be a personal worst.
It was, but not by much.
There was no DNF today.
Finish Time – 2:25:33 (old PW – 2:24:54).
I correctly predicted the PW, but still very pleased with the results. It was a recovery run, and the back feels great.
Sometimes, in this sport, we have to re-evaluate the definition of victory. This was not a traditional victory for me, but it was a victory…