The nutshell: I felt relaxed and focused, had a great time, ran the whole race, and can’t wait for more.
Expanding on the nutshell:
Theoretically, the day before a race you’re supposed to go easy, stay off your feet as much as possible, let your body recover. While I didn’t do any hard workouts, I did volunteer at the Flower City Duathlon; I got to “work” the finish area to keep spectators out of the runners’ path. But since very few spectators were even in that particular area – and those that were there didn’t even consider getting in the runners’ way – my job was just to cheer. Which was cool. I love to see the diversity of athletes at these events – from those finishing in amazing form and with really fast times, to those whose goal is just to finish, whether alone or with friends. I have respect for every single one of them. Being the girl who was always last in the mile run at school – although I always forced myself to run rather than walk – and now being the girl whose best run or swim efforts are definitely not fast in the world of competitive multisport, I know how hard the mid- and back-of-the-packers are working. So it was totally satisfying to cheer them on!
And then, under one of the few perfectly clear, blue skies we’ve had this spring, I decided to go for a little recovery spin on my bike. No pressure to hit any speed, distance, or heart rate. Just ride the bike, get a little more confidence back, and hopefully make it to my work to water a few plants. Beautiful ride. I wanted to go harder and longer than I did; I didn’t want to stress my legs too much for Sunday’s run. I was alert and aware but not scared. Just back on my bike, and for 48 minutes, which is now my longest post-crash ride. 🙂
I was almost to my car when I met a couple of cyclists in the midst of changing a tube. I asked them if they had what they needed, and they said they weren’t sure. Turns out they were visiting Rochester from Toronto, Canada and weren’t totally sure if they had the supplies they needed for this particular situation. It turned out that between, a couple of tubes with different-length valve stems, a couple of CO2 cartridges, my frame pump, and a couple sheets of instructions, we figured it out. Meanwhile we chatted, traded restaurant recommendations, and shared email addresses. Really nice people, and a great way to spend half an hour.
So after the ride, grocery shopping, and a couple of other errands it was both 6pm and – hello? – TIME TO GET OFF MY FREAKING FEET! And since I apparently wasn’t figuring it out on my own, they notified me. My heels hurt, my arches hurt, all the parts of me that get sensitive with running. As Bart Simpson might say, Crapdamnhell.
But having had some fairly awesome experiences with recovery in the past couple of months – from these same heel / plantar issues – I didn’t freak out. There was victory number one. I put my feet up, massaged my achin’ ankles, ate a healthful but not huge dinner. (My race would be shorter than most workouts; carbo-loading would’ve just made me feel like a brick.) Watched (half of) a movie, rolled my ankles on my seriously awesome Triggerpoint massage tools, and went to bed.
7.5 hours later, at 4:30am, I was awake before my alarm. Love that. Showered, more massage, some yoga, breakfast, and out the door. Yes, this is a little tiny race. As in distance, not number of participants. But getting the race morning thing down was key for me. Feeling organized, like I was controlling the things I could – stretching, nutrition, clothing choice – with the goal of getting to a certain point in time (7:50am) at a certain point of readiness. For this race – really for the first time – I EMBRACED that challenge rather than being scared by it. Sweet. Um, and check in again for my first tri. I predict that it will be less easy to find this state of embrace…but that’s really the heart of these races, right? We intentionally put ourselves into situations that will push us, make us uncomfortable, make us unsure of our ability to succeed. I was so, so glad to be back in the midst of that.
I had two main goals for this race: go in healthy, and come out healthy. Meaning recover well enough during the week to get to the start line in good shape, and then listen to my body so as not to injure myself by pushing too hard. I am not up for a 2 or 4 week recovery block right now; I need to be healthy enough to build to later-season events. My third goal was originally to run MOST of this race, as I’ve been running 1 mile intervals in training this past week. But yesterday morning I was feeling so blasted good that I started to wonder if I could run the whole thing. (And at 7pm last night I was wondering if I would run one step…)
I decided to run the first mile and check in with myself; if my heels needed a break, I’d walk a bit. If not, I’d keep going. Same with mile 2. And of course, if anything really painful or awful came up, I’d just stop and deal with it.
So after arriving with plenty of time – a relief, as I didn’t know how the traffic and parking thing would go – I met Ken, Alexa, Greg, and Josh from Train This. We shot the (gel packets) for a while, and then it was time for the half-ers to start. Here’s a fun game: find Alexa! It was totally dumb luck that I happened to catch her in this photo. Couldn’t spot anyone at the time.
So then, finally, it was time to start! Nice warmup walk up to the start line. Legs feeling loose for the most part. Psyched for the run. Placed myself towards the mid-back of the pack. In training I’ve been running 5.3 mph, which is an 11:19 mile. So I knew that much of the crowd would be ahead of me. Settled into my pace and just focused on form. Pick the feet up, let them fall, lean from the ankles. Run with your ass, lead with your heart. Passed mile 1 at exactly 11:20. Felt good, so I went for the second mile. Picked up the pace a bit, but not intentionally. I was not getting winded; my limiter was my confidence in my legs, but I figured if they were feeling good and I was keeping good form, I’d take a little faster pace if that’s what came. Mile 2, still feeling good. Let’s GO for it. Kept running, did get a couple of twinges in my heels that made me consider walking. But I wanted SO MUCH to run the whole thing. Deep breaths. Relax. Pick your feet up. And they felt better. A little before the 3 mile mark I let myself go a little harder; felt so awesome to run into the finish chute. Finish time of 33:38, which works out to about a 10:30 pace. That’s good for me right now, and running the whole thing was even better. So happy and thankful and proud!
And the BEST part is that I know I have so much room to improve. I was hardly winded when I finished, meaning that my cardiovascular capacity can support way more speed right now than my legs can. My limiter isn’t even my hips – they didn’t give me a single twinge of pain today – it’s my lower legs. I just need to keep teaching them how to run and recover. I have some of the basic tools – yoga, massage, good posture during the day, etc. I have more to learn about run form, although I think I’m on the right track. Mostly it’s time, training, and patience. But I am so thankful for all of the miles that still lie ahead of me.
And then it was time to cheer in more Train This-ers from the half marathon! And then home for lunch, an apparently very extended blog session, and the weekly food prep & laundry laps. Totally awesome first race of the season, and I can’t wait for more.