And thus this post concludes my Base Building phase. I’d write about my final week of base building but in fact, it’s pretty much just this race. I did some CrossFit on Wednesday in which I actually jarred my knee a little during jump drop squats so I decided to rest all the way until the race. So here you have your base building finale and a race recap, double whammy!
It’s the first time I’ve pulled out of a race, but I’m okay with seeing that “DNF” next to this title. I didn’t finish. Life will go on. But it’s not because I couldn’t (aerobically, I could have done it with the pace I started at) and it isn’t because I got injured. I didn’t finish because the outcome wasn’t worth the risk. Would I get a nice medal and get to say “I did it!” with a smile? Of course. But would I set myself back a couple weeks of running because I hurt myself? Possibly. That’s not worth it to me at this stage.
Driving into Syracuse on Saturday was terrible. While I was able to maintain the speed limit on the thruway, the snow did not stop and the roads were not plowed. This did not bode well for racing conditions and I knew it. After packet pick-up where I always turn the wrong way onto Bridge Street and then checking into the hotel, J and I found a Polish restaurant for an early dinner and hit up Wegmans for snacks, water, and race day fuel. We spent the evening watching TV and relaxing in bed, goofing off and keeping each other entertained, all while I would every hour or so complain about how stupid this was going to be.
I woke up Sunday morning with the same sentiment. It’s cold out. This is stupid. Why am I doing this? I’m never doing this again. Remind me of that when October comes around and I sign up again. It’s a never ending cycle. This is so stupid and I’m always going to do it.
Thankfully, it was warmer than it has been for weeks now. Apparently with the windchill it was 9 degrees, or so I read in an article after the fact. Either it’s been so cold that 9 degrees feels amazing (totally plausible) or it was actually the 25 degrees or so my phone said when I woke up. I opted to wear my Reebok tights (my favorite), an Under Armour tank top, Under Armour long sleeve, and then my Saucony side zip Drylete hoodie, with my Rochester Americans fuzzy hat and gloves. I was very comfortable for the temperature.
J and I found Laura, met Megan, and then found Heather. Heather had already said she was thinking about opting out of the race and I honestly thought she was kidding until she walked up. “Nope, not doing it.” I just stared at her thinking if she wasn’t running it, somebody who was in much better running condition than I was, what was I even considering? I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try, so I toed the line and reminded myself of my strategy.
The first mile and half of the race wasn’t terrible. In fact, it was mostly pavement and I was able to keep up a good stride and focus on my form. I also knew from Megan that there was a good mile and half of pavement before things got risky. Even once we reached the point of the parkway that was a little snow covered, I was still able to maintain a decent stride because it was soft and slushy (10:17, 10:13). But then this is where it got stupid.
There was one little beacon of hope in the middle of all the snow, a tiny line of bare pavement, barely big enough for one person. I noticed the left side was covered in snow, which is where we run back. Fabulous, I’m never getting out of this alive. While I tried to stay on this little strip of pavement, so did everyone and their mother. My pace was not their pace. My stride was not their stride. My options were to slow down and keep on this strip, which more often than not was on a slant, or pass people and do my best in the conditions. Running on a slant isn’t going to help my legs, especially if I can’t commit to good form, so I opted to pass people. Running through inches of soft snow on top of packed snow and even some ice kills. Sometimes I’d have good footing but the next step would make me slide. It was really tough (10:29).
Upon realizing just how much snow there was to run through at this section, I quickly did the math in my head. The turn around was at mile three. I just spent a mile and half running through absolutely crap and my legs were already feeling it. I decided to see how the next mile was and make my decision on if I’d complete another loop. Three miles of snow total was somewhat bearable but anymore was questionable. The snowy parkway didn’t dissipate (10:18). In fact, it was still crappy until about mile 4.25! I did some more quick math here and I realized that about 5-6 miles in total would be through this. I couldn’t handle that.
I started to pick it up and turn this race into a tempo. As I passed people, I’m sure they were trying to figure out why I was flying so early in the race. There was a nice stretch of pavement all the way to my finish and I took advantage of it. Had I continued for the full race, it would have looked something like this: 1.5 miles of pavement, 3 miles of snow, 4 miles of pavement, 3 miles of snow, 2 miles of pavement. That is why I’m happy with my decision to cut it short. I finished my last three miles all over the map: 9:18, 8:46, 9:18. I decided on seven miles because it would be my longest run to date, but only by about 3/4 of a mile.
Ultimately, those last three miles surprised me. I felt in control and I still wasn’t breathing heavy despite my drop in pace. I’d glance at my watch and shock myself at the pace I was carrying and the effort I wasn’t feeling. After this winter and all my paces being over ten minute miles, this was a welcomed surprise! It gave me such hope for the Buffalo Half Marathon this Spring. I wasn’t planning on looking towards a PR by any means, but you know what? I think I might be coming for you, Buffalo!
When I walked it in back towards the start, I did a mental scan of my body. After the snowy portion, my left ankle felt sore and my right hip flexor was on fire. Though I managed to maintain a decent form during all of it, I definitely felt the tired form starting to take over. The important thing is that I didn’t really feel injured. I didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t anything like last year.
So, maybe I didn’t finish, but it was the smart thing for me to do.
I couldn’t find my YakTraxs and I don’t have trail shoes. I was already a step behind the game, not to mention with the longest run of my year being 6 miles… let’s be honest here. I certainly don’t judge anyone else who raced; plenty of people running by me were way more prepared and didn’t look like an injury waiting to happen. At one time, that was me…. but I’m not there yet. I have been putting in the time and effort to get myself to that point and I’ll get there. I’m finally making those strides and picking up momentum, but a race like today was not worth throwing it all out the window. Been there, done that… oh you know, a year ago.
Another plus of cutting out after just over an hour? I got to see Laura finish and I didn’t make anyone wait for me to get our butts to Blues Brunch. I think this was the ultimate motivating factor… blues, booze, and breakfast pizza.
Right now, I’m pro-actively taking care of my little aches and pains. As I type this, I’m sipping some tart cherry juice for inflammation, icing my hip flexor (though anyone watching might say it’s looking a little like I’m icing something else) and thinking about how my legs feel a little stiff (three hour drives after any race aren’t fun). I’m a little nervous at the strain I put on my hip flexor because it has that same soreness in lifting my leg that I felt after finishing the Buffalo Half Marathon that sent me into physical therapy, but I think it’s mostly just a result of all the stabilizing I had to do today. Some ice, stretching, and relaxing should take care of the problem. I hope.
Finally, after some more consideration and thought about the race, I realized something huge today.
I’ve been waiting for that moment when I could say I’m training and recovered. For that final moment where I’m not injured, I’m not just recovering from an injury, and I’m not bordering the injury/recovered line. I thought it was going to be completing a certain distance (this half marathon) or a weekly mileage goal. Yes, it is some of those things – a ten mile week has happened and it hasn’t hurt. But I think today was the moment. It was a mental hurdle I had to to cross. I knew that it was the right choice to drop out. I knew that I could turn the crappy outcome into a good workout by running strong with a fast finish/tempo. I ran today not thinking, “Does something hurt? Is that an injury? Is something bad going to happen?” but about a strategy!
I’m not injured. I’m not recovering from an injury. I’m not on the track to becoming injured again. I’m just Brittany, just running, and finally just training. Let’s go, 2015. I’m ready for you.