Monday, May 5, 2014

worst race time, best race!!! (running the NWM in DC 2014)

Where do I even start?

Gosh, it's been so long since I posted to my blog I almost forgot how to sign in, but my past weekend was such an amazing experience I just had to share ... so here goes...

Last fall, I eagerly awaited news on the results of the random draw to run DC in the Nike Woman's Marathon series.  I knew better than to get my hopes up as this was my third time trying and both previous times I was declined.  The random draw closed its registration and much to my surprise just a few days later I received an email stating my entry had been accepted and I was going to "RUN DC"!!!  Extreme excitement was an understatement!!!

The race date was set for April 27th, 2014.  I quickly booked a flight and confirmed a hotel in Washington, DC.  I had never been there and was very excited to see the city and visit Capital Hill.

As per usual, I took most of December off running.  With Christmas shopping and holiday time and New Year celebrations I cut my mileage almost down to nothing.  January 1st marked a new year and the start of my training, not only for the NWM but for two other races I had signed up for (The Chilly Half Marathon and Around the Bay 30K).  Building up a solid base commenced the first of the year.  The weather here in Canada was particularly brutal this winter with cold temperatures, wind and ice which meant a good portion of my runs were indoor on my home treadmill.  I was enjoying my indoor training so much so,  I had had a couple of "long" runs on the treadmill and even a "double run" day!!  Around mid-January I went for a cold outdoor run and I vaguely remember feeling a weird twinge on my shin which sorta hurt but disappeared as I kept running.  I casually passed it off as an injury from getting hit in the leg with a shovel a couple of days prior.  In the days to come,  I ran but the pain worsened until finally,  I just could not run another step.  Now,  in my days of running I have seen plenty of injuries ranging from sore muscles to blisters to broken toes and stiff hips but never,  never,  had I had pain like this before.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I loved to run but even the mere thought of running just made me cringe.  I knew something was wrong in my gut.  I got advice from friends and later that week I booked an appointment at the sports injury clinic to see the doctor.  

I sat in his office and explained my problem.  Quickly he ran his hand up and down my leg and felt the huge lump on the side of my shin.  Moments later,  I was handed a requisition for a bone scan and off I went.  In the days to come I could barely walk.  I couldn't put any weight on my leg and I limped for over a week.  Going down stairs was excruciating.  I spent a lot of time resting, icing, popping Advil and elevating but nothing helped. 

A few days later I had my bone scan appointment.  I had obviously researched shin splints and stress fractures so when I looked over at the screen during my scan I just knew it couldn't be good news.  There,  right in the spot of my lump was a "hot spot" on the scan.  The technician had tried to reassure me by saying, "I have seen worse" but deep down I knew what this meant... I was going to be taking a long, long holiday from running.

Official diagnosis: Posterial Tibia Stress Fracture

The days ahead were sad.

To keep busy,  I swam,  did some pool running,  indoor cycling and stretching.  It was all good but I longed to run.  I was missing what I loved to do everyday...

The days and weeks passed.  I had to miss out on the two winter races I had signed up for.  Worst of all,  the Nike Woman's Half Marathon was nearing and I was dying inside thinking I would have to give this up too.

The race was six weeks away when the doctor gave me the okay to begin running again.  Great, right?  WRONG!!!  I was also given a schedule for "getting back to running after a stress fracture" which involved seven full weeks of easy walk/run sessions as well as, cross training.  After the seven weeks was up,  I would be able to run 10K if all went as planned.  ONLY 10K!!!

So, what did this mean for the NWM and me?  

I began the walk/run sessions and figured that at the very least I could "fast walk" the half marathon and still be able to finish by the cut off time.  I could also collect my finishers shirt and my bling, which if you don't already know,  is a Tiffany necklace and pendant.  

My training,  if you want to call it that,  was going as well as could be expected.  I was running 5K with no walk breaks and inching my way up to 6, 7 and 8K runs.  As much as this made me happy, the thought of completing a 21K run would be next to impossible.  Not only was my leg not ready but my cardio had suffered and the rest of me had too.

I met with my doctor again to discuss a strategy for the run and the plan he came up with was to try to run the first 10K and run/walk the remaining as long as I had no pain.  I was okay with that.  I hated envisioning a three hour finish time but if that was the way it had to be I was accepting of the situation.

The weekend before the race I set out to do a 10K run with no walk breaks.  This would be my longest run since my stress fx diagnosis.  I ran the 10 and felt great!  I decided to push just a little more and ended up back at my house at exactly the 12K mark.  I was thrilled to know I actually had a shot at finishing the race the following weekend.  

The very next day my leg reminded me that I was still injured.  It was throbbing and pulling and twanging ... I knew I wasn't re-injured but it was enough to have me worried and send all kinds of doubt through my mind.

Despite all of that, I packed my things later that week,  headed off to DC and was determined to "have fun".  After all,  it was one race.  All I had to do was FINISH!!

I arrived in DC, settled at my hotel and set out to the expo.  Oh, how Nike knows how to make every runner feel like a million bucks.  From your name on light up screens, beautiful custom race gear to plenty of freebies, the fun was just getting started... I was excited and sad at the same time.  Oh,  how I wished I wasn't injured so I could fully enjoy the experience but that was not the case.

I had an extra day for sight seeing.  I got up early and went to Capital Hill and the National Mall, walked by the homeless shelter and even pinned down where the race start would be.  After that,  I went shopping in Georgetown and back to the expo for one last look around.  The energy was amazing.  Even though I travelled alone, I met and talked to so many people.  Everyone was so pumped about race.  The city was full of runners.  I had never felt such a tremendous vibe surrounding a race... it was incredible!!  I must have walked 25K that day.  Soaking in the city, the gorgeous weather and the beautiful sites.  Probably not the smartest thing to do before a big race but I was enjoying every second.  That evening,  I gave my leg a break.  Ice and rest and was in bed by 9 p.m.


My alarm sounded at 5:20 a.m.  There was no hesitation,  no hitting snooze,  no "five more minutes".  I was up and excited and quickly showered and dressed and headed straight out the door for that six block walk to the race start.  The streets were quiet and unfamiliar.  I was a little nervous but took the most direct route.  As I was walking, I heard a voice shout out, "you runnin'"?  Startled,  I looked around and saw a homeless man sitting on the ground.  I smiled and replied, "yes"... "well, good luck",  he said.  That exchange of words made my day.  I just knew from that moment on that it was going to be good.

Thousands of runners lined up in the corrals.  I wore a green pace band.  The corral I should have been in before I became injured.  I lined up with them anyhow.  I knew I would probably get trampled as they all breezed by me but I didn't care.  Music was blaring,  girls were shouting,  singing and taking "selfies".  The weather was perfect.  My kind of running weather... not too hot,  not too cold.

The gun sounded and we were off!  Our first couple of kilometres were along Pennsylvania Avenue leading up to the Capital Hill building.  When we got there we ran right by it (that was super cool), we passed through a long tunnel and then popped back out on the other side.  The scenery was beautiful.  The monuments, the bridge, the cemetery... I just gazed around taking it all in.  For the first little bit of the run I was concerned about my leg.  I was paying attention to every little feeling but soon after I realized that it was not hurting.  I had compressed it with a sleeve that was so tight I could barely feel anything at all.  Before I knew it, the "mile 6" sign was in front of me and I realized I had almost ran half of the race... and wait... this was where I was supposed to start to walk!!!

Instead of walking I popped a gel.  I stopped quickly for water and did a quick assessment of my leg. All was good so I kept on running.  Mile 9 approached and I realized at that moment that I could actually (maybe) run the entire race!  My body was getting tired and other parts of me were sore but my leg was strong.  I was hoping it was the real deal and not just endorphins running through my body making me not feel pain.  I was praying that my leg would hold up and not just snap from the constant pounding of the run.

With 2 miles left I was getting tired.  My running form was starting to suffer and my metal toughness was dissipating.  All I could think about was being able to say,  I ran the entire race without stopping and that beautiful Tiffany blue box at the end.

Familiar territory was up ahead!  I recognized the last stretch and could see Capital Hill.  The sun was shining beautifully,  the cherry blossoms were vibrant.  I was taking in the smell,  the sun and the last mile of the run.  I was getting stiff.  My body was working hard and it was using muscles that it hadn't had to in so long.  I ran and ran.  I turned a corner and saw the finish.  I continued to run and just then I realized... I FINISHED!!  My goal was to come and "just finish" and I did just that.

My official time 2:08:44

I was in shock.  I completed that entire run (albeit slow) without stopping, without any leg pain!!!
We funnelled through the finisher's area.  Bottled water and goodie bags handed to us and then everyone lined up to receive their "little blue box".  We were greeted by fine, young men in tuxedo's and everyone stopped for a photo op.  The day was grand.  Never to be forgotten.

The "little blue box"

happy, happy

If someone asked me to sum up this race,  I would tell them that this was easily one of the best weekends of my entire life.  It's been a week and I am still beaming on a runner's high!!!  This day will be etched in my memory for a very, very long time.  I am already planning my registration for the Nike race in San Francisco this fall and again in DC in the spring of 2015.  Maybe next time I will actually be able to "race".  For now though,  I can live with the fact that my worst race time was actually my best race!!!

Thank you Nike for such an incredible experience.  I loved every minute of DC!!!

NWM "We Run DC 2014" Finisher!!!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Kim! Glad the leg cooperated, that race looks so amazing.