A Struggle to a PR

Every have one those moments when have to do something, but you know you are going to get hurt in some manner while doing it? – you just don’t know the when or the how.. but it’s definitely going to happen. I have some speed recall slots from a few of these times in the past (my Black Belt tests and a few races where I made it to the starting line knowing my hamstring was not in a good place come to mind). Turns out I had a similar moment about a month back. Now normally I will just accept it and initiate the healing as soon as possible, but this time there was more at stake in the coming weeks. So there I stood staring at a flatbed of very heavy items that had to be offloaded for Project Auunold. Too heavy for Linda (well, she wasn’t going to go anywhere near it even if she could thanks to a past incident) and the delivery team didn’t send enough people. With an internal sigh I went to work and 30 minutes later I was trying my best to stand up straight. Not a big issue in context of that particular day, but a huge issue considering the IVS Half Marathon was a mere two weeks away. MAJOR SUCKAGE. With only a week to go before taper, the training runs were in full ramp, but luckily I had capped a 13 mile run the previous day so the endurance was already locked in. With the help of my chiro (if you just smirked, you probably are not a runner) and a tremendous amount of care and feeding, the back finally settled down a week later – I had to cut down the mileage, but I was still determined to get some miles in (don’t think the chiro was too happy with that).  9 Miles on that Sunday brought my confidence back up … but that lasted only 4 hours until I jammed my hip hitting a bad dip while mowing which pushing it totally out of whack – a test run the next day confirmed the damage – like running on Jello legs. CRAP. More stretches, more chiro, more heat, more ice and definitely more electrodes. Turns out the left leg was jammed up two inches shorter than the right. With the taper, the runs were only around 5-7 miles so that provided some relief. Literally two days before the race, the hips were finally snapped back into its proper alignment.

… and what does that mean?

That’s right, I added another half marathon finisher medal to my collection. As with last year (link here), this was at the the IVS Half Marathon in the hilly Springdale Cemetery.  I’m pretty much addicted to this race now and anyone who trains on hills would love it as well.  One thing is for certain, you will feel like you EARN that finisher medal.

Hit the jump to learn more than you probably want to know about the race!

There were a few things different this year.  Thanks to the injuries, my start weight ended up at 154 (wanted to be at the 152 mark to put me where I was for last year’s).  Not a big issue (still a lot less than I used to weigh) and the extra insulation felt good since it was a nipply 52 at start time (it was a balmy 54 at the finish of the race).  Another big difference was I had to opt out of my traditional Illini Orange race day tech shirt (too damn cold) and my feet were not feeling comfortable in my orange shoes so literally swapped those out at the last minute for my training pair (exact same brand/model – as a runner, when you find something you are comfortable in you tend to buy a LOT of them in case they screw it up in the next version .. which ASICS did).  – I also switched my hat and sunglasses – might as well throw all superstition to the wind.

Time to get the blood flowing through the back and hips!

As usual, my personal event photographer was on the scene to capture the moment(s).  There was a slight misfire this year in that she couldn’t find me at the start.  I’ll take some of the blame on that since I made a clothing decision while listening to the anthem.  54 is right in the middle of my running gear – less than 50 .. no problem,  60 and above .. no problem.  50-60 is a debate on being cold or possibly overheating.  I opted for not overheating and discarded my long sleeve over shirt.  I was finally able to catch Linda’s attention before making the turn to pass her again.  She did manage to get a shot of me at the start – can you find me?  On a side note, that tall guy in the middle has an unfair leg advantage, the lady in the loser Greenbay shirt was waaaay to happy for the start of a marathon, the lady in white in the lower left is struggling waaaay to much for the start of a marathon and the lady in pink (behind her) looks like she is preparing to flash the camera .  Mental note, RABBIT!

Did you find me?  Here’s a hint, I still found a way to sport the Illini Orange, but this shirt provided a little more warmth than my standard race day tank.  There I am behind all those runners taking the start of the race too serious.

By now, Linda had found me and captured the moment.  There is one advantage of having a multi-loop race course – you get a visual study of what kind of transition your body goes through as you progress through the race.  Take note how happy and cheery I look in this shot (a lot of that due to the relief of actually making it to the starting line – stats show that only 96% of people who set out to race some form of marathon actually make it to the start)

Not let’s look at what the first loop (6.55 miles) does to your disposition.  Pretty much lost that big smile, but other than that and working up a good sweat not looking to bad.  The most important visual being that I am still VERTICAL so all the treatments were holding up to the pounding.

It’s right about at the position below when your inner voice congratulates your body for making it this far and then painfully reminds you that you have to do it all again .. yes, those two huge hills have to be traversed a-g-a-i-n.  That usually leads to a huge sigh but they don’t give you half a metal for finishing half the race.

So back out on the course I went.  The legs still felt good, but I could tell they were starting to work.  My splits were looking really good (except where they mismarked mile 3 – definitely too far between 2-3 and too short between 3-4.  We all commented on this as we hit our watches – any serious runner (that being anyone who trains with a watch) would know when things are not right with the mileage markers which is why the mile overage screw up at the Chicago Marathon a few years back should have been easy to catch.

The second half went pretty good.  I actually lost ground to another runner on the second pass of the first hill which is pretty rare for me but my splits were still looking very good so let it go.  As with last year, at mile 10 I started running out of energy so popped some Stingers I carry with me.  This time I had plenty of gas to make it up the last hill and other than the expected leg tiring was beginning to think this might be a special day.  The following is my favorite picture of all the shots Linda took of me during a race – well, for that matter, any pictures that has been taken of me during the race.  The composition of the statue in the background with my running posture cracks me up – it’s as if the guy disapproves of me looking at my time so close to the finish – Get a move on young man and Carpe Diem.  Well, Mr. Copper (I really do not know who that statue represents), that is exactly what I did.  The reason I was looking at my watch was to verify the time I was seeing on the finish clock.

Oh My, that time is right – time to finish this race and put it in the record books.  Continuing the visual analysis, you will note there is more stress in the body and I was essentially soaked – good thing I didn’t keep that long sleeve shirt on and 54 may be my new favorite running temperature.

I had done it.  Not only did I finish with a personal record for the race, I blew it out of the water.  The time check earlier confirmed I had a chance to break 1:48 and had done just that by a digital tick.  Last year chip time 1:52:11 – this year race time was  1:47:59 (chip time was about 5 seconds faster) – that’s huge in my book and when coupled with the pre-race struggles pretty amazing.

That officially gives me 5 races for the year and in each one of those races delivered a personal best.  I can’t ask for a better running season – although this puts some major pressure on me for next year – this trend of getting faster while getting older seems odd, but taking into consideration I’ve had to fight some serious leg issues in the previous years it’s good to see I might be finally turning the corner.

This year’s splits were pretty good (split performance compared to last year ‘-‘ means faster):

0.5.96 to start (this is a pretty small race – apparently not enough crazy people out there)

8.23.29 (-)

8.20.76 (-)

9.19.46 (told you this mile marker was off)

6.52.26 (confirmed)

8.14.32 (-)

29.10.01 (yeah, I missed a few – mind must have been wandering .. or a nice rabbit during these miles hehehe)

8.44.54 (-)

5.11.30 (accidentally shorted it ‘-‘)

3.03.52 (there’s the rest ‘-‘)

8.24.02 (-)

8.20.92 (-)

8.49.76 (includes the extra .1 big time ‘-‘ )

This put me 43rd our of 168 and on a quick count 10th in my age group.  (last year 62 out of 205 and 10th in my age group which was a different age bracket by the way)

I went for a post race checkup with my chiro and was telling him how great it went.  He asked me what I consider contributed to that big improvement in time – thanks to some analysis I had done the day before I immediately answered – TRAINING MILEAGE.  This became very apparent when checking on my RunKeeper stats.  Check out last year’s numbers compared to this year’s (and these do not include all the treadmill miles spent in the winter months).

2011 Road Mileage:

2012 Road Mileage:

Side by Side Road Mileage:

Based on the slight let down in my chiro’s face I think he was looking for another reason – I followed up with a big thank you for putting me back together before the race.

Oh, Linda took another shot of the statue at the start of the race.  Which composition do you prefer, last year’s or this year’s? – think I’m leaning to this year’s – I like how the flag was captured in the wind and gives a better feel of the “run” aspect (and the duct tape blends in better)

Thanks to Linda for taking all the pictures (and not pulling the UB card on me) – she gets extra credit this year for having to go through my standard taper grumblings but also having extra doses of injury moping.

Another half marathon in the books and another metal on the shelf.  So much fun I’m signed up to do it all again at the end of October (this time in the DARK… )

3 thoughts on “A Struggle to a PR”

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