Chrissie Wellington raced last year’s Ironman World Championships last year with a torn pectoral muscle and road rash. She not only raced it but she won it in a record time and put in a blistering run, for which she is not typically known for. With what happened to me yesterday there were questions, and a few suggestions, that I don’t race the A2A Half-Marathon. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would run the race, and the only question was would I race the race. The deciding factor would be how my hip felt when I woke up on race day morning.
I did all the things that I would normally do before a race. I ate pizza the night before with Karen, Frances (owner of Virawear) and a few other friends. I had a bowl of granola, two rice cakes with peanut butter and was in bed by 8:30pm. When the alarm went off at 4am I checked my body parts for anything that would tell me that I absolutely could not run. My hip was sore but bearable. My shoulder did not hurt. Then I felt my hand and man alive that was killing me. I quickly put the pain out of my mind by telling myself I don’t run with my hands. I also started channeling my inner Chrissie. I told myself that if she can race 140.6 miles with those injuries I could run 13.1 miles with what I had. The question about running versus racing still hung in the air.
I consumed my race day breakfast which is exactly the same as my night before meal but with added coffee. Karen and I always pack our food and when she went to make a shake in the morning and we noticed we left the base back at home we went downstairs for the hotel breakfast. Karen had a waffle and asked me if I wanted half and against my better judgement I did eat half. Don’t do anything new on race day right? After breakfast we got in our car and drove to the stadium to be bused out to the starting line.
At the stadium I took a few quick steps to see if the hip would cause me pain and there was a throbbing but bearable. Onto the bus we went and on the way there we hit every bump imaginable and that was causing some pain. Finally we made it to the start line and I went for a warm-up. After running about 0.5 miles with no issues I decided to do some dynamic stretches. Again, no major pain and I made up my mind to run this race.
Prior to the start a Bronco came racing up the road and tearing up the grass and looked to be losing control. Let me rewind and tell you that this race starts in the middle of Route 77 in Arbuckles, Okalahoma. I mean, literally, in the middle of the road. There was a white line signifying the start line and that was it. It was the greatest start to a race I’d ever seen and the road was to be closed for six hours. It was fairly scary to see this guy tearing up the road. Another runner confronted him and he pealed out and left. That certainly got the heart rate going. After that we lined up about 10 feet behind the start line and listened to the Star-Spangled Banner. Gave Karen a kiss and wished her luck, then after the countdown and shotgun start the race was on.
The legs were feeling fresh and I started running when the Mile 1 marker came up on me. I thought to myself that was very fast and looking down at my watch it proved it was. 7:35 for the first mile and then we hit mile two and again 7:35. Now the first two miles are downhill completely and while I tried to hold back I could not and after hitting the 2nd mile marker decided I was going to race this event.
As the route leveled off and I got into a rhythm I was being passed by a lot of runners. I fought the meathead in me knowing that once we hit Mile 9 we were going to be going back uphill. Stay in the zone, race and keep all your splits steady. If you recall from San Juan, where I screwed up my watch, I decided to show 3 fields. Those fields were Current Time, Avg-HR and Avg-Pace. When I looked down I saw an average pace of 7:49/mi and I made it my mission to keep that under 8:00/mi. That was my goal as I knew that would put me in at 1:44 and I would be happy with that.
As each mile ticked off I noticed that I would feel the throbbing of my hip every other mile. I think this was due to the fact that I was taking water every other mile from the pain. I would focus on the water and not recognize the pain that when I passed a water station I would recognize the throbbing. If you noticed I said taking water off the course, and that is because I forgot the EFS Liquid Shot at the house. At the expo I asked about a local bicycle shop and there was not one in Ardmore and the closest one was 28 miles away. I was going to live off the course and that means water and water only as I cannot keep Gatorade down.
As we neared Mile 6 I started noticing those that had passed me by 4 miles earlier and they were running considerably slower. The route had turned into rolling hills and the humidity was picking up. When I saw the rollers I told myself to run through the hills and keep my perceived level of exertion the same as the flats and pick it up on the downhill. I also kept telling myself that if Chrissie can do it so can I. As I passed each racer I gained strength. I finally caught up to one racer who has passed me back at Mile 2.5. I remembered him because of his backwards BAA hat as well as Landrunners shirt. I found that gear and it became a bullseye. I ran up on him and then passed him going up a hill. With that as my strength I powered up the hill and did not hear his footsteps after about 0.25 miles.
I kept at it and kept picking off one runner after the other. I was gaining strength and they were losing it. It was around the 10 mile marker that the wind truly picked up and almost knocked my feet out from under me. I was out there on the open road with nothing to block the wind. I got to mile 11 and saw a few other runners that I hunted down when I heard the footsteps and deep breathing. What was going on here? I was being caught by somebody? Who? You guessed it…..BAA hat man. He passed me but I kept on his hip and then fell in behind him and let him block the wind and fed off his draft.
I felt strong so I passed him and gained ground on him going downhill and kept finding other runners to run behind until their pace was not fast enough for me and I passed them. At Mile 12 BAA passed me again and I fought to stay with him but his kick was too strong and he started to pull away. I vowed not to let him have more than 0.10 miles on me and I would push at the turn into the stadium and catch him if I could.
With this in my mind I noticed another runner in front of me and thought I was hallucinating. The woman was wearing a black tank top with Peace, Love, Run on the back and I knew I saw this 4 times before. I started questioning if I had been passed without me knowing it but when the man pacing her called her name I knew it wasn’t the same person. I also got pissed off with the on-course support and blew past her on the hill and left her behind and kept BAA in sight. We made the turn toward the stadium and I started running harder but so was he.
As we enter into the stadium to do the final 0.25 miles in the track I was putting in every last ounce of strength I had and never caught him. I finished about 15 seconds behind him and when I crossed the finish line is when my hip decided to tell me that it was still apart of my body. I slumped over and the volunteers brought me my medal and two bottles of water and asked if I needed to see medical. I repeated two or three times that I did not need medical but that I had crashed my bike the day before and my hip was throbbing to the high heavens. I finally gained the strength to walk around a bit and my hip started to feel better.
I looked down at my watch and saw a time of 1:44:22 and a distance of 13.13 miles. I was thrilled because I knew that I had met my goal of a sub-8:00/mi pace for the race and that I ran a very good race in terms of distance. Of course the majority of the race was straight down a highway but the first two miles required turns in the highway that could have been detrimental to the distance run because we had the entire highway to ourselves.
Karen and I left went to the hotel and cleaned up before hitting the road. After we got home we noticed that I finished 7th in my Age Group of 43 competitors and 30th Overall. Better than that was that Karen finished in 1:58 and came in 3rd in her Age Group. This was her 2nd podium finish in four Half-Marathons this year. I am so proud of her accomplishments and where her running has come from. Great job Honey!
This is the third race in three weeks and I’ll be happy that next weekend is a 5.5 hour ride and 30 minute run brick on Saturday and a 2h45m run on Sunday with no racing involved.
Mile Splits for the race:
- Mile 1: 7:35
- Mile 2: 7:35
- Mile 3: 8:01
- Mile 4: 8:16
- Mile 5: 7:52
- Mile 6: 7:51
- Mile 7: 7:32
- Mile 8: 7:53
- Mile 9: 8:01
- Mile 10: 8:22
- Mile 11: 8:13
- Mile 12: 8:22
- Mile 13: 7:46
- .13mile: 7:42/mi pace (0:43)