I thought I would make a quick post. Although I have a valid excuse, I am short two posts for this month (actually 1, but trying to not count my No Internet post since it really was not a true post). Although chronicled in posts pasts, I have been battling a knee problem which has put me in the doctor’s office a couple of times and months of therapy. From the diagnosis, it is technically an injury at the insertion point where one of the lower hamstring muscles attach slightly below and to the inside of the left knee. This has been a nagging injury since the Bix7 run last July and has really hampered my ability to train for this year’s running events. I had to bail out of the Cat Power Race 5K, but finished a controlled run at the Corporate Chase in Chicago (3.5mi) running with my friend Pakage who was participating in his first road race (congrats to him on finishing that race without stopping once!!). That race was the first test of the rehab progress and it passed with flying colors although obviously not at full speed. This lead up to the first real test of the season which was the Steamboat 4 miler in downtown Peoria. Somewhat regrettably I had to forgo the medal this year for the 15K, but the voice of reason came through loud and clear. My orthopedic doctor and my therapists were quite pleased at this decision, but it did leave a small hollow part in me. I had completed 5 training runs >4mis in the hills at Jubilee Park by Monday of race week so I was confident my cardio was in check (for at least this race) but did not push the speed beyond high 8s and low 9s in hopes of at least getting to the start line. An appointment with the ortho doctor was set for the Friday before the race just to get some final reassurance, but keeping with my training regiment I took a slow run that Wednesday to cap off the race training. The heat was coming in that day, which was a blessing since the Steamboat is appropriately named seeing as how the humidity is usually through the roof that day with temps usually in the high 80s at start time. At the end of that Wednesday slow run, something twinged in the mid-hamstring on the injured leg. The heart sank as frustration came flooding in. Months of rehab, hours and hours of stretching every night and another injury rears its ugly head mere days before the race. Knowing the main race was coming up in two months (Bix7) and this being the last race scheduled before that one, I decided to let mind rule the body, told myself it was going to be fine and made a conscious decision to nurse it Saturday and let the running gods decide the fate. Each day it felt a little better and the doctor gave me sufficient confidence the primary injury area looked to be progressing well. So, the clothes were laid out, the bib attached to the shirt and the alarms set for 3:45am (note, the training runs are grueling, the stretching is tedious, the strength training draining but all pale in comparison to the shock to system when the buzzers go off before the sun even bothers to get up).
The good news was the leg felt pretty good and most of the mid twinge had subsided. The race was a go! I was pretty much locked into an internal debate on how to approach this particular race and a number of scenarios were racing through the old noggin while the traditional pre-race picture was being shot by Linda. I wanted to get a true test of how much work was still needed to make the Bix, but didn’t want to put myself back at ground zero if it wasn’t ready. 5 minutes from gun time, I decided to hold back the first two miles and check the mechanics as well as verify all of the other joint and muscle components were working in tandem. As a plus for the day, a major storm had blown through in the early AM leaving a fairly cool day in its wake (~73F at gun time). After all the ceremonies were completed, the elites were given the official start signal and the masses began their trek. As planned, the first mile came it at an 8:35 which was slow for me, but the legs were holding together. At mile 2, my pace was maintained until I saw the split time and decided to keep tradition and hit negative splits. Speeding up a tad it clocked in at around 8:24. It was decision time and looked out ahead looking for some rabbits to reel in. It was good to feel the wind again and starting picking people off one after another clocking it at a favorable 8:00 for the third mile split with the legs feeling good. The hill work definitely helped on the cardio side leaving plenty of gas in the tank for the final push. Finally hitting a good stride since last July, the rabbits began to fall faster. The hamstring started to whine a little about 3/4s in, but nothing sharp so kept the pace. Turning the last corner the running driver locked into the final gear giving me a 7:35 close.
I turned to the guy to my right and congratulated him on a nice race while internally patting myself on the back for holding off his strong charge to the finish. To his credit he responded “Thanks, you won today, nice job” No, I didn’t get to the podium (and not a goal for me), but I met the challenge and defeated the injury demons with a negative split race. I think official race time due to timing chips was around 32:33 which is right there with my better times for that race in the past. Knowing I had more to give in my first two miles is enough to know a PR was easily attainable and I was not fully back yet. Clearly all the hard work and advice from my doctors and therapists is paying off. Another month of hill work should get me to the Bix7 starting line ready to race. It has been a tough year of ups and downs but it just makes completing the challenge a little bit sweeter. By the way, I thought I would share this picture with you as well.
It seemed fitting … look behind me … there’s danger in every race, but this year I was victorious. Best wishes for whoever required that ambulance. Oh, and the Back on the Road part. As soon as the race was over, we headed home, did some final packing and headed out to Acadia National Park in Maine. Nothing like 23 hours in a car to validate whether the acid is out of the legs eh?
… posted on the go from I90 tollway somewhere in the middle of New York