Sunday, March 24, 2013

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Today was the Rock CF half marathon!  I ran it, because I was registered, despite losing the entire training month of March thanks to my IT band.  I'll start with my thoughts on the race, then move onto my performance.  


The race was AWESOME.  I loved it.  

The organizers were great, packet pickup race day (and race day registration, what!) was a breeze.  I got there super early (5:50am) since I was up anyway, and I wanted to park on-site at the high school instead of using the shuttles.  Packet pickup was at Grosse Isle High School, so we could stay warm pre-race and there was even plenty of seating, thanks to the bleachers.   
Pre-race devil/blogger photo, modeling the bleachers.  Left to right: @kmjones234, me, @protometal1@DetroitRunner1, Steph.  @matthews_mark was also there, but left to get in some pre-race miles (silly marathoners), and we didn't think to get the photo beforehand! 
And then a redo on level ground: 

And one of me and Jeff, who refused to get a haircut yesterday because of some superstition about the hockey team, and refuses to smile for photos, for some unknown reason.  Grouch. 

 I haven't tried on the shirt yet, but I almost always like and wear the long sleeved tech tees, as long as they're not white.  It's the short sleeved ones that never seem to fit right.  The back is nice too, but I'm in bed under the electric blanket and didn't take a pic of it, so take my word for it.  

There was like a 1/4 mile walk to the middle school which is where the start line was.  I headed over there at like 7:40 or so and didn't have to wait in line at all to use the porta-johns there.  There were also portapotties outside the high school, and multiple bathrooms inside the high school.  From 5:50 to 7:50 I think I used the bathroom 3 times and didn't have to wait in line for more than 1 minute at any time.  Huge perk.  The race started on time, somewhere between 8:00 and 8:01.  Nice.  

The course was great, basically along the perimeter of the island.  I had heard it was "pancake-flat", but I wouldn't call it that exactly.  There were certainly no "notable" hills, but it was a very gently rolling course.  Perfect, in my opinion.  Right before mile 10 you got to run through the aircraft hangar, which was really cool.  They had several small planes and a lamborghini in there, as well as an abundance of cheering spectators and clowns.  Very cool.   The finish was on the high school track.  I love a track finish.  The surface feels so good under your feet and gives you a little pick me up for the finish kick, if you're into that sort of thing.  

The weather was actually perfect too.  It wasn't as windy as I expected, and though I think the forecase said around 20 degrees, it felt warmer than that to me.  I definitely overdressed.  If I had been "race-ready" today, it definitely should have been PR conditions.  

Post-race food was chocolate milk, panera bagels, and SO MANY COOKIES.  A lot of them looked homemade.  Three of my favorite things.  I tried more cookies than I probably should have.  They were all delicious.  I've never seen so many cookies at a race before!  I didn't see any fruit, but maybe I missed it because I was too busy ogling the cookies.  Fine by me, though as I type this I am kind of craving an orange or a clementine.  

I think it might be my favorite half, in terms of size, location, price, course, time of year, cookies, etc.  It's also for a great cause.  Cystic fibrosis is a tough disease that doesn't get a lot of attention.  It is a chronic condition diagnosed in infancy or early childhood that really affects an individual's quality of life, and the median life expectancy in the US is just 37 years (improved from just 6 months in 1959!) .  A twenty-something clerk from my unit at the hospital died from it just a few months ago.  I think they said they raised $70K for CF through the race today.  Very cool.  Emily, the race director, has CF and is a runner.  Check out her amazing video story here, it's short, and worth a watch.  The race motto is "Breathe deep, run hard." I love that.  So yeah, you should do this race.  I'm going to make it an annual thing for sure.  


This is the part where I tell you about my run.  I'll give you a hint: it wasn't pretty.  I wasn't sure what to expect today.  My running for March has been pretty much nonexistent.  I was initially doing some cross-training, but stopped basically everything involving my lower body about a week ago to let my knee completely rest, and hopefully heal.  I figured either my knee would be unbearable and I'd have to DNF or walk because of the pain, or it would be fine, and I'd be able to run well.  If my knee didn't hurt I expected around 2:05.  That is kind of my "normal" time, but I had trained for better than that up until March 1st.  I figured the lost fitness would put me back to "normal".  I guess I underestimated how much I'd lost, though it's possible that I just started too fast and could have done 2:05 if I had paced better.  (I guess I just gave away that my felt pretty decent, and didn't really affect me at all today).  

I definitely did start too fast.  I put my Garmin in km/hr because I wanted to run by feel, so I really didn't know how fast I was going.  Here are the splits: 

My knee was a little tight, but not really painful for the first four miles.  At mile 4 it really loosened up and I didn't notice it much at all, but that's also the point when I realized I was in big trouble cardiovascularly.  I was tired.  It's no wonder why.  Here is my running for March: 

3/1: Aborted long run at 8 miles due to knee pain.  
3/5: 20 minutes on the Alter-G treadmill at PT at just 70% body weight I think.  
3/9: 2.6 mile test jog at like a 10:30 pace.  
3/17: 10K walk/jog at 14:xx pace.  
3/24: Half marathon.  I'm so smart.  

I was kind of foolishly optimistically hoping that I didn't lose much fitness at all, and that the past 3 weeks were like the Best.Taper.Ever, but it was not to be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I'm thrilled that my knee held up and that I was able to finish.  Just less than thrilled that I wasted this training cycle and the perfect course to PR.  This was my PR goal race for the year.  

I had initially left Jeff in my dust, but he ended up passing me at mile 10, and finished just under 2:05.  I do think I could have done that if I had stuck with him from the start, but hindsight is 20/20 of course.  (Will I ever learn the START SLOW lesson??  I used to be so good at doing that, back in the day.)  On the other hand, at least I know I started at PR pace and there was no way in hell that I could have held onto that today.  If I had started slow and finished strong I might have wondered if I had better in me.  Jeff and I did run together through the hangar, and got a dorky hand-holding picture, which I'm sure will look terrible because my jacket and running belt were all bunched up and discombobulated around my waist.    Oh well.  For all the races we've done "together" I think this is the first on-course photo-op we've had, since we usually separate and run our own races.

Those last 4 miles were HARD.  I was feeling my knee again at mile 8, but it wasn't terrible.  I was really just exhausted, and obviously out of shape for this.  I was definitely doing the survival shuffle.  My "rule" was that I had to keep "running" no matter how slow, and then I could walk for as long as I needed to through each water stop to recover.  I'm actually pretty proud of myself mentally today.  I was really struggling, and usually throw in the towel and walk when it gets that bad (ie at Martian last year).  Although, I don't think I've ever felt that bad at the end of a race before.  My arms were tingling (and it wasn't from being cold), and I was feeling kind of lightheaded.  Not fun.

I ended up with 2:10:34, or 9:59 pace.  I'm so glad I at least squeaked in under 10:00 mpm!  That's something I guess.  Good thing I kept up with the shuffle instead of walking.  Third worst time ever.  Second worst, if you drop the Groundhog due to the 8 inches of unplowed snow on the ground.

The funny thing is that my first half marathon in 2005 was 2:03:54, and I had never run further than 7 miles ever in my life.  Ah, to be young again.

BUT, I'm running again.  And I finished.  Race #3 of 13 x 13.1 in '13 completed.  I'm hoping I can regain some endurance fairly quickly.  I'm going to do like every other day short runs to ramp the mileage back up and get on the foam roller, stretching, and strengthening PT exercises now that the pain isn't as terrible as it was.  (Though it still remains to be seen whether I will be able to walk tomorrow.....)

Looking back, I think I see where I made my mistake to get my knee angry:

Here is a list of my long runs recently, excluding the February races.  The circled date is the first run where I ever really felt the knee pain that wouldn't go away for days after the run.  It is also at a much faster than normal clip for me.  In fact, that would be a "recent history PR" if I ran that at a race.  That was three weeks in a row where I out of the blue basically ran pace for no good reason.  I should have slowed way down for those.  And, I should have gone to the Polar Dash Half in Chicago on 1/25, which I had considered but ultimately decided against.  The weather was great that weekend and judging by those paces 1/4, 1/11, and 1/17, I had a PR in me back at that time, at least for the past 3 years, if not for an all-time PR.  Instead, I have an injury and a 2:10 2nd from worst ever finish.  And although I'm excited to get back to running again, my knee is still far from perfect.  It's going to be annoying for weeks to come, I'm sure.  I did use my IT band strap today, so I'm interested to see how it does without it on a few short runs this week.

Oh, here's the medal.  I like it, though you can't really see it in this picture:

Check out the Rock CF facebook page to see better photos of the lanyard and the medal (although I'm fairly sure the background on mine is green.  Maybe not).

Sadly, my day is not yet done.  I locked my keys in my car in the race parking lot (my first day with the 5 month loaner Volkswagen GTI from the research study I mentioned in this post).  I hitched a ride back to A2 with a friend, and drove my "real" car to the UMTRI office to pick up a spare key from them.  Now I'm waiting for Jeff to get back from the hockey game so he can drive me back to Grosse Isle to get the GTI. The mistake I made was putting my Aveo key in my skirt pocket for the race, instead of the GTI key, and then locking BOTH keys I had for the GTI inside the car. I'm so freaking smart.  Now I get to waste an extra 2 hrs driving today.  Here are some shots of my new ride though.  I get to drive it for 5 months, and they're paying me $200 to do it.

Built in navigation, heated seats, sunroof.  Nice.  

I added my car magnet, which I swear was centered but I guess I just suck.  

Parked behind my "real" car, which has manual windows, manual transmission, and basically zero bells and whistles.  

Addendum: I Just read MegO's recap and realized I completely forgot to mention that she ran into me on the course!  It's funny because she called it "early" in the race, but I would have definitely called it the middle, only because I remember that I was already tired!  Great job Megan(s)!  


  1. Great to see you and meet Jeff. I'm glad that you were able to run today! Hopefully the knee will continue to behave.

  2. I honestly think it's a great time considering your longest run was 8 miles at the beginning of the month. I love the course too. I'm sure had you not had issues, you definitely had a PR in you. Luckily there are plenty of other halves to make it up. I said early in the race because I really couldn't even remember when we saw you and everything felt "early" until the last 5k. Then it felt like the longest 3 miles ever haha. Glad we got to chat for a few!

  3. I need to remember this race and keep it on my radar. I need something a little earlier to strive for. Not a bad run for losing all that training.

  4. Even though your time wasn't what you were hoping for it is great that you and your knee made it through. Sweet free ride!


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