I’m guilty. Once again I learned (the hard way) that good intentions and wishful thinking do not necessarily make an idea a good idea. When it comes to running these days I know what I need to do but it’s not want I want to do. Instead of a good angel/ devil on my shoulders I have a smart, responsible runner who sees the big picture versus the overly ambitious, race adrenaline addict. Take a wild guess at who won the battle Saturday morning when it came to the matter of a little 20K race…
Before I jump into that I will back up a few days... Last Thursday I “graduated” from Physical Therapy.
After about two months of rehab on my plantar fasciitis my physical therapist cut me loose. I am now able to run every other day without pain or discomfort. I typically keep these runs between 4-8 easy paced miles. He still doesn't want me to doing any speed work- as this seems to be what aggravates my PF (plantar fasciitis). I am going to continue doing my stretches at home and wear my night splint. I asked my PT about an upcoming half marathon that I was considering running- NOT racing. I asked him if it would be ok for me to run it a little slower than my marathon pace. He was hesitant but said if I was up to that mileage and I didn’t race it I should be fine. I could always drop out if I felt heel pain.
There happened to be a 20k in the Arkansas Grand Prix series this past Saturday that I thought would be the perfect “training run” to prepare for the half marathon. A 20k is 12.4 miles so if I were in normal racing shape I would shoot for tempo/ half marathon pace. I knew that after several weeks and months of mostly easy running there was no way I could even touch my tempo pace. I did a little speed work on the alter-g treadmill at PT once a week but nothing that would give me a lot of confidence going into a half marathon. I was genuinely curious about what kind of shape I was in. Was running at or a few seconds slower than marathon pace a reasonable goal? (Spoiler Alert- The answer is NO!!)
In my mind, if the 20k went well then I could do the half marathon. If it didn’t then I’d know I wasn’t ready. My main goal was to run easy, strong and not feel any foot discomfort.
Before the race I bumped into our local elite (she ran in the Olympic Marathon trials in ’12 and has already qualified for ’16). I asked her about the course. She said it wasn’t her favorite- a little hilly the first few miles and the last few but there were some decent stretches in the middle. While I wasn’t that worried about the course since I wasn’t all out racing, I still hoped my “not racing pace” wouldn’t feel too hard!
As a side note- I never race with music anymore because it is a distraction to me when I’m trying to focus on pace but I wanted to keep it fun and relaxed. I had my music, my training shoes on and I just wanted to enjoy running a distance I’d never raced before.
The Arkansas 20K is in Benton, AR every September. It starts and finishes at Benton High School and is a basic out and back along city streets and an access road. The race always starts at 7:33 a.m. This year temps were in the upper 60’s and humid at the start.
6:58, 6:49, 6:53,6:57, 7:02, 7:12 (43:xx at 10k)
My plan was to keep everything just under a 7 minute pace. If marathon pace is in the 6:45-6:50 range then surely I could hit right at or under a 7 for 12.4 miles?? This seemed logical in my far too competitive mind… I knew I was third female from the start. I passed a few guys- one of whom kindly opened my gu for me right before the 10K turn-around. For some reason I couldn’t get it opened with my hands and because of dental work I could not tear it open with my teeth…
7:01, 6:55, 7:11, 7:33, 7:44, 7:45, 3:17 (6:58 avg. for last 0.47)
At the turn-around I could assess how far behind the first two females I was (pretty far) and I also learned how much lead I had on the fourth place female. (Not much- a minute?) Up until mile 9 I was feeling pretty good but the last 3 miles were HARD! Apparently that’s what happens when you run a 12.4 mile race when you haven’t run more than 9 miles in MONTHS. Basically it felt like the last 3 miles of a MARATHON but my splits were much worse. My splits actually reminded me of my final miles from marathons I ran in 2012. It was rough… To make matters worse my heel pain returned around miles 8 & 9. It wasn’t awful but I could feel it. There were a few times in the last mile I turned around to see how much of a lead I had on the 4th place female. Again, not much of a lead… 20-30 seconds at best. Once my watch beeped at mile 12 I picked it up. I was dead tired but I was not about to get passed in the last half mile.
Finish- 1:29:24 (7:12 official avg.)
(3rd OA female)- Official Results can be found here.
Running any sort of cool-down was out of the question. I needed to rest my heel asap and take off my shoes! I had a huge blood blister on my right pinky toe side from my training shoes. This has NEVER happened to me before. How did it happen during a 12.4 mile race?! The shoes I wore (Asics gel nimbus) are extra comfy and supportive (just what my heel needs right now!) but a little too roomy for racing. Also, I think I’d only wore this pair 3 or 4 times… Are there racing shoes out there for plantar fasciitis survivors? I’ll have to look into this.
Post Race Thoughts-
It’s been hard for me to acknowledge and accept where I am right now. I know I am NOT ready to run a half marathon. Even at marathon pace. I’m never going to get better enough to train if set unrealistic expectations on myself. There are several upcoming races I normally run every fall but I’m putting on the breaks. And it’s so hard… IF I’m doing ok I may run in one local 5k in a few weeks but we’ll see. I know I am not ready for a half marathon.
I really need to stop focusing on what I cannot do right now and think about what I CAN do. I AM able to run every other day or so at easy pace and I need to be happy with that. I might be at this phase for a while. From everything I’ve read and heard plantar fasciitis can take several months to heal. I think I’ve been so used to training and pushing myself to get faster for so long now that “just” easy running doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough. I know this is not the way I need to think. I AM able to swim and bike on my non-running days. I AM able to take a break from competitive running for these few months. Maybe I need that.
In closing, I’m trying to listen to the smart, responsible, runner angel on my shoulder. I will be patient. I will be content. I will keep moving forward.