Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pop goes the muscle

So the running has been going, how do I say this...? Poorly, as of late. Since my shin started to hurt I haven't been able to put on any distance of consequence. Then, to add insult to injury, my left achilles/calf started to hurt after any run, regardless of the length or speed. The Butterfly 5K damn near killed my legs and it took a few days to recover. I'm starting to think that I have never run before and that all these aches and pains are because of a lack of conditioning. Alas, this is not so. I think my legs have just decided to give up and are doing all they can to stop working.

I noticed that my shoes have surpassed the 300 mile mark so I figured that maybe they have lost their cushioning and that was the cause of these injuries. While 300 certainly isn't a huge amount maybe that's their limit. So down to DB Sports to pick up a new pair. I tried on the New Balance 1225 but after walking around in them for a few hours I realized they were just too loose so I brought them back for a pair of the 769s in a wide width. Better fit but they have one really annoying problem; there is a bump that pushes up into my heel on the right foot. I did a test run on my treadmill and it certainly was annoying. This seems to happen with a variety of different shoes and the only thing I can think that it is causing it is the transition from the heel to mid foot in the shoe is slightly back of that point on my foot therefore I feel a slight ridge on my heel. While it isn't too bad I am afraid it will cause more issue.

What does all this have to do with today's race? Just this: my legs have felt terrible and my training has been in the toilet. But the Marshfield Road Runners' 20K is a Grand Prix race and I couldn't just let those points pass me by. And the kids could go to the fair afterwards.

We packed into the official minivan of the 2009 GNRC Grand Prix and showed up at the Marshfield High School before the race officials could even open registration. Fast forward and we are lined up at the start line. We take our marks; we get set; and they pull the cord on the cannon. It skids forward about a foot and doesn't go off. "Oh, damn. Um, Go!" the official exclaims. He pulls the cord again and there goes my eardrums.

But we were off! My planned 7:30 pace rapidly devolved into a 7:10 pace after the first 10 yards and stayed around there for the next few miles. I tucked in behind a trio that were running a comfortable pace and I really felt great. It barely felt like I was running very hard. Just after the second mile my left achilles/base of the calf started to get increasingly tight. Since it had been bothering me for a couple weeks I brushed it aside, just another sore muscle to deal with. The hills didn't help it much but what are you going to do? This was a race after all.

We crested the long hill for the first time (it was a loop race, we'd see that hill again) around mile 6.5. Everything was going great. Other than the pain in my calf I felt strong and was picking my pace up a bit. I turned left about 50 yards after cresting the hill and ran another 100 yards or so. Suddenly there was a pop (I swear it popped!) in my calf and a severe pain. Something had gone terribly wrong. I was reduced to hobbling along the side of the road. Runners started passing me by, further pissing me right the hell off. Are you fucking kidding me with this injury? I can't even make it over 6 miles without something literally tearing itself apart?

I continued to hobble along for another half mile not knowing if I would be able to keep running; but I was damn sure that I would be finishing this race. Death before DNF. If I had to walk the remaining 5 miles I was going to.

Finally it started to loosen up and I gradually increased my pace. Jeff W and John had paced me just after the blowout so and I was determined to catch them. After a mile or so I began to push it. By mile 9 I had gotten back down to a 7:20 pace. The only thing slowing me up was the stabbing pain in my calf and the need to keep it just slow enough to not suffer a relapse.

Towards the top of the long hill, for the second time, I caught up to John. I kept feeling better, the leg was loose but still really painful. The big question now was where Jeff W was. He had to be close. Cresting the hill it was almost entirely downhill from there. Mile 11 arrived and I could swear that I could see Jeff in the distance. It was go time in a big way. If I wanted to catch him I would need to really pick it up.

Thanks to the downhills and some crazy need to grab that extra Grand Prix point I managed to pull out a 6:30 mile. It was definitely Jeff in front of me so I kept up the pace to catch him. Finally I did. Just before the final turn into the High School I blazed by him and raced for the finish line. I covered the last .4 miles at a flat 6 minute-mile pace and only 9 seconds ahead of Jeff. I was pretty psyched to have been able to pull out a finish like that.

Of course as soon as I stopped the pain crashed in. This was really painful. Nine hours later it still hurts and I am really not looking forward to feeling what it is like tomorrow morning. I'll explore my thoughts on why this stuff keeps happening to me later but for now I will close with a big "F U" to my legs for failing so spectacularly as of late.

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