Also known as the race where I got a little more than just a medal at the finishing line.
But before we get there, here’s a spoiler: I ran a comfortable BQ with a 3:19:43, my first race in nearly 1.5 years. Hooray!
Last week, I wrote about my recent confidence-boosting workouts and plans for the race. While training had been going awesome, and I’ve experienced no back pain since the bike accident, I started feeling a slight twinge in my left shin on Friday morning following a tough workout on Thursday night. I wasn’t sure what to make of it: a normal soreness from training, or something more? Following my 14-miler on Saturday, I decided it was still just there and took off from running on Sunday and Monday. I decided to get my legs moving with a morning workout on Tuesday, and felt pretty crappy. But worse, my shin pain was pretty bad when I finished.
I’ve had two consecutive stress fractures before in high school, first in my right tibia and then in my left. I’m now pretty aware of what they feel like, and had no doubt in my mind that the pain was the start of a stress fracture. Enter race-week panic mode!
I weighed the pros and cons of both options:
- Scrap the Lehigh Valley Marathon: Safer, more sane route for my health but total fail on the marathon front. If I took the next 5 weeks to cross-train, maybe the mild stress fracture would subside and I could still race Chicago? Unlikely and only time would tell. Even more depressing, I wouldn’t have a qualifying time to be able to run Boston ’14. Then, I’d be scrapping Lehigh, probably Chicago, and definitely Boston.
- Run the Lehigh Valley Marathon: Run on a possible stress fracture and turn it into a definite stress fracture over the course of 26.2 miles. Drop out if my leg is about to snap in half. Get the BQ time and be able to race Boston ’14! See how things go, but most likely not be able to run Chicago.
Obviously, I went with the later and probably need to get my head checked out. I know everyone might not have made the same decision, but I was okay with potentially scrapping Chicago ’13. While I have been gaining confidence in my fitness, there is a slim chance I’d get minutes within my PR at Chicago, let alone under it. Running Boston ’14 will not only be awesome for all the #BostonStrong reasons we all love, but personally it’ll allow me more time to get back into PR shape and go for that sub-3:00 that still alludes me.
My pre-race prep was anything but normal. I had a stressful and off-schedule week leading up to the race due to work, staying way late and even working at the office overnight (I don’t know how night shift workers do this.) Pretty sure my diet of nothing but pizza, sour gummy candies and way too much coffee didn’t help, but I wasn’t too concerned because I love my job and at least the craziness took my mind off of the race and shin pain.
After a relaxing haircut and a nice long sleep on Friday night, I drove out Saturday afternoon with my friends Noelle and Veronica who were kind enough to accompany me on this crazy journey. We headed straight to the expo to get my bib (#999!), checked into our hotel, and had enough Italian food to feed a family of at least six.
I woke up race morning around 5 a.m., which was definitely not early enough to digest my pre-race oatmeal, banana and coffee for a 7 a.m. start, but I had no desire to set my alarm for the 4 a.m. hour. They drove me to the start, but traffic at the exit meant I was hopping out of the car at 6:45 a.m. and running on the highway offramp to make it to the start. Ooops!
Half asleep on the highway
I ran into Meg (hi, Meg! You had an awesome race!) and my teammate Audrey at the start, and easily hopped into the crowds a few minutes before race time. One perk of a small race= no strict corrals that make you feel like you’re going to war.
The gun went off and I tried my best to settle into an easy pace. My goal was to run around 8:00 pace, then settle into 7:50s for the bulk of the race, and then drop it to 7:40s or under the last few miles. Considering most of my training and long runs hover between 7:55-8:15 pace, I figured this was doable and would feel comfortable for 26.2 miles.
But of course, race day comes around and the adrenaline flows! My times early on were faster than I wanted, and I tried to reign it in but decided to go where the day took me. I even had to stop and tie my shoes, twice. My leg was feeling mediocre and after a few miles of pavement through neighborhoods and parks, I welcomed a soft trail.
I’d guesstimate about 75% of the race was on a light packed dirt trail along the canal, which was absolutely beautiful and scenic. If I lived closer, I’d love to do long runs there! I settled in, made a new friend named Greg who was also aiming around/under 3:25, and waited until mile 11 where my friends were waiting to hop in with me. The trails were great, but got very narrow at times where we had to run single file and that drove me a bit nutty.
Noelle ran with us for a few miles before hopping out around the half-way mark to get the car and drive to the finish, while Veronica did the rest of the race with me as the end of her long run (which was mighty speedy, it turns out!) I was capable of running the entire thing solo, but having a friend to keep me company was SO helpful! I felt incredibly strong and the miles just kept ticking off.
Look at how much fun we’re having?! I hate myself on camera.Running is flattering on nobody.
Things got a bit tougher mentally around mile 21, especially once my shin decided it had nearly had enough. Each step felt like a slightly painful jab, but I decided it wasn’t debilitating. Plus, I’m pretty stubborn and I wanted to finish the race since I had come so far.
With two miles to go, I realized if I kept around a 7:30 pace, I could break 3:20. I never entered this race gunning for time except a BQ with a cushion, but my competitive side kicked in and I decided to focus a little more on the last mile to get it.
Because I hate when my watch auto-laps/beeps ahead of mile markers in races, I typically manually lap split at the mile markers during races. I was too scatterbrained to remember to do this before the race, and then I missed some markers throughout, so the splits below don’t make sense in spots.
It’s also the first time I have ever negative split a marathon? I’m guesstimating around 7:42 pace for the first half, 7:31 for the second. I felt really, really good, and am really happy that I was able to hit a 3:19 relatively comfortably on just over 3 months of semi-consistent training. While my body might be a bit broken right now, I’m pretty impressed that I was able to bounce back after a rough winter and spring and get that BQ time with tons of wiggle room. You go, body. Sorry I fractured you.
Veronica, me, Noelle
After the race, I was so happy to finish but needed ice immediately. I met up with friends, grabbed a beer, and immediately hobbled over to the grass to sit and ice. Once we walked back to the car to head back to the hotel and hit the road, I noticed that I could barely put any weight on my right leg. The pain was so excruciating I couldn’t help but keep laughing because it was so ridiculous and stupid that I just ran a marathon on it.
Coincidentally, I had a regular doctor’s appointment scheduled for Monday morning at 9 a.m. so I was able to get my leg checked out and get an air cast boot to help alleviate the pressure when walking. I have a referral for a bone scan that I intend to get this week pending some doctor/insurance stuff, but I am 95% sure it’s a stress fracture so I’m looking forward to seeing the recommended healing time and how long I’ll have to be off of it.
In my experience, it’s about 6-8 weeks, which is just in time for base building…
So, there’s the good and the bad. I have a few things in mind that might have contributed to the injury but for my sanity, I don’t want to get hung up on them too much: I switched to a new model of lighter shoes for all my training runs about a month ago, and even though I was pretty cautious about building my mileage slowly, I increased the intensity of my workouts and long runs kinda quickly, etc. The reality is that sometimes these things happen, and I’m just adding it to the list of weirdo injuries that have plagued 2013 thus far.
And of course I get the bone scan results next week, all of the above is pure speculation based off my prior experience and how I feel. Until then, I’ll be taking a hiatus from the bridle and sporting these kicks, just in time for New York Fashion Week.