I RAN A RACE. I ran a race for the first time since APRIL. April 10th to be exact.
I haven’t written here in a year and a half. Literally. May 17, 2015 was my last post. Every time I started to write it felt trite. Forced. Repetitive. Boring. I mean how many times can you write about being injured, then feeling great and running a few great races, and then being injured again before it starts to sound like a snooze fest. So I started to write and never posted dozens of times. But lately I’ve been thinking about how much I love writing. Miss writing. About the reasons why I started this blog in the first place. And I decided it was time to wipe the dust off and put my thoughts to “paper” again. I might have been furiously re-reading old posts, which I never do. All I wanted to do was re-read my 2013 NYC Marathon recap, which I do every year during the week of the marathon, and ended up down a rabbit hole re-reading old posts for the past two weeks. As I read race recaps, tears streaming down my face, I was reminded of how amazing running can be. How anything is possible. How much I love setting a goal and working hard to achieve it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been courageous enough to do that.
I’ve spent much of this year injured. Again. I’ve been pretty quiet about it. Understandable, right? So let’s get you up to speed.
At the end of April, after a spring racing season that gave me so much hope for the fall (2nd fastest half marathon and 2nd fastest 4M), I ended up with an annular tear. More simply put, a tear in one of the discs in my back. L5-S1 for all of you science nerds (like me).
Once I was on the mend, I developed sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. Again. The two injuries overlapped and left me on the sidelines. Again. I didn’t run at all for 40 days. In June, the physical therapist cleared me to start running. So with much trepidation, as I’m sure you can imagine, I slowly put one foot in front of the other. Again. It was clunky. And awkward. And slow. And glorious. And so began my return to running. Again.
But let’s get to why you’re really here, shall we…
I actually didn’t intend to run the Race to Deliver. It seems to be my theme for Fall 2016. I’ve signed up for a couple of races that I decided to skip at the last minute. The Bronx 5K and the Poland Spring 5M. My heart just wasn’t in those so I traded them in for a solo 5K in Central Park on the day of the 5K and a 60 minute Flywheel class on the day of the 5M.
As of last night, I still hadn’t decided whether or not to run today. In fact, I was still signed up for Flywheel until 4pm yesterday. I ran six miles yesterday which made me consider skipping the race but I did set my alarm like I was running. I woke up rested, before my 6:45am alarm, and still felt undecided. I got out of bed to test my legs which felt surprisingly fresh after yesterday’s run. I made coffee and used the bathroom several times. How does that happen? How does my stomach know it’s a “race” day? Yesterday, I went twice. Today, like seven times. I digress. Sorry for the TMI. Back to my Libra nature indecisiveness. I sat on the couch, still in my pajamas, texting Abby while I enjoyed my coffee and watched the news and weather. It was definitely colder than predicted so we chatted about what to wear and whether or not I was going to run. Ultimately, around 7:30am, she said “Just run it, we can say hi before and/or after.” And just like that, I decided to put on some running clothes, rip off the band-aid, and get back out there. What was the worst that could happen? I jumped out of the race if I wasn’t feeling good and ran home? It’s extremely challenging to regain confidence in yourself after an injury. It’s even harder after three years of injuries. I didn’t doubt my ability to run four miles. But so many doubts raced through my mind. Was it smart to run four miles the day after I ran six? Was it smart to run a race the day after running six miles? Even though my plan wasn’t to race; just run it at a comfortable pace. Was it smart to run all of those hills after running six miles yesterday? Was running in shorts crazy? Should I just play it safe and do yoga? The thoughts were driving me insane until I finally decided to silence them and just get out there. Stop thinking so much. Just RUN.
The race start was COLD. I mean, not 2013 cold, but cold compared to the 65 degree weather NYC enjoyed yesterday. 39 feels like 31 with 14 mph winds. I temporarily regretted my decision to run in shorts; until I started running. Now I’m 100% converted to racing in shorts. Even in cold weather.
The first mile surprised me a little. When my shiny, new Garmin vibrated I glanced down to see how I was doing. I was pleasantly surprised to see the first mile split was 10:10. It felt closer to a 10:30-10:40 pace. I felt comfortable and thought I could run the whole race at this pace. I continued to run at a comfortable effort (does that make any sense!?!) for the next two miles.
Mile 2: 10:06
Mile 3: 9:55
I couldn’t believe I was able to run a 9:55 pace. On the rolling hills. With a headwind. And still feel like I was running at a comfortable effort. Once I passed the mile 3 marker, at the top of the last hill of the race, I looked down at my watch again. Was sub-40 possible? Does this thing work? Are these paces right? I didn’t have a goal for this race except to finish. I actually joked with Abby that this race may actually be a personal worst (slowest 4M was 42:43). I didn’t even wear my lucky neon yellow race socks. Once I realized that sub-40 was possible, I decided to find another gear and cautiously race the final mile. Push it just enough without chancing hurting myself. I’ve only just started doing “speedwork” again so I didn’t actually know what I was capable of. I love the final mile of the New York Road Runners 4M races. Mostly downhill until the final 800 meters or so. Just before I made the final turn onto the 72nd Street Transverse, on my way to my first finish line since April 10th, I saw Abby and Ashley. They both high fived me and gave me the push to finish strong.
I was no longer afraid. No longer doubting myself. I pushed it with all I had left and crossed the finish line feeling something I haven’t felt in more than seven months. Pride. Excitement. Hope. After dry heaving (per usual), and with a huge smile on my face, I text Abby a picture of my watch and went back to find her and Ashley, who were waiting for me to finish.
Mile 4: 9:21
Official time: 39:55; 9:59 average pace
I love this race. I run it almost every year. It’s still my current 4M PR from 2013 and likely will be for a long time (I mean it will be quite some time until I can run 36:02 again, let’s be honest). But I think I’m finally starting to believe in myself again. Finally starting to replace fear with courage again. And finally starting to allow myself to dream about what’s possible in 2017. Only time, and a lot of prehab/strength/yoga, will tell…
Do you doubt yourself after being injured? Are you always cautious?
Did you run a race and surprise yourself lately?
I need some new running tunes. Tell me your favorite running song you’re listening to right now…