Race Weekend

Over a year ago, in July, my world was turned upside down a bit when I was laid off. It was something I never saw coming and I was completely heartbroken by it.When I got home that day, I went for a run… for several reasons. The main being that it is difficult to cry when you are running so hard you can barely breathe. I also needed the runners high. Despite my world crashing down around me, I knew runners high would delay a lot of the sadness that I was too in shock to experience right away. It was also the only thing in my life that I actually had control over.

As a person with slight OCD tendencies, especially when it comes to my finances, not knowing how long your savings would need to last or when your next paycheck would come caused me stress and anxiety for months. I had ZERO control so I controlled the only thing I felt I could control… my running.

Now, I had already planned to actually train for a 10 mile race that I already had already signed up to run. The plan I had put together wasn’t aggressive, but it was by far more than I had done in a LONG time in terms of training.

With a few years of really bad running and dealing with the side effects of a prescription, I had come to realize that my biggest obstacle I was facing was this unrelenting fear. A fear that I couldn’t really control, but I could fight.

Being laid off ended up being the best thing for me (in more ways than one) but the biggest benefit was what it did for my running.

I actually had the time to focus on running and dealing with the fear. But of course, that time was two-fold. Sure, I had the time to focus and put a lot of effort into something but I also had WAY too much time to think which can definitely backfire when you are dealing with fear.

Eventually, I overcame that fear… Quite frankly, I kicked its ass.

But I also did something else; I got faster… a lot faster. Part of that was attributed to being very consistent again and part was contributed to, what I, jokingly, referred to as “the unemployment diet”. I took advantage of the spare time to introduce a LOT more protein into my daily nutrition and I cut-out processed carbs. I was still eating carbs but in the form of potatoes and sweet potatoes that I could cut and prepare myself.  

Someone that was with me every step of the way during those three months where I changed my eating habits and threw everything I had into running started to introduce the idea that I could aim for race times in distance races that I never would have dreamed of on my own. He believed in me when I did not and that gave me the confidence to actually chase after those times.

For the first time in YEARS I started to consider doing something that I had completely written off. I considered running a half marathon for time.

The first time I decided to run a half, it was kind of on a whim and I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into but I also had a very easily attainable goal… to just finish.

The race itself was very rocky but I succeeded. I then decided I was going to do all this distance running but an injury set me back and then I kept getting really bad colds every couple of months… colds that would leave me completely out of the training game for a week to ten days each time. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t keep up with training and ultimately decided that I was done with distance running for good.

But then there was that time that I signed up for a ten mile race two days prior to toeing the line. I hadn’t truly trained for the race but I had done a half and a ten mile race before so I knew what to expect. I decided to use the race as a training run and run the first 7 or so miles (my planned longer run for the week) as training and if I needed to walk the rest, then I would.

Something magical happened that day… I succeeded far beyond my expectations and actually ran a very good race. I also managed to PR. This set me up for starting to get back into the distance running game. Ten milers were my new goal and my training was centering around two a year… one in the spring and one in the fall.

But despite my best efforts, I was still failing to hit the goals I was setting for myself… mostly the training.

All of the success with last fall gave me the courage to truly go after a distance. So I started to look at half marathon races with the big caveat that it could not be in a month where I had the potential to deal with some warm weather… which basically leaves me with the months of November, December, January and February.

Not a lot of options in the Chicago land area. There is a half every January but I felt like it was too close to another racing feat that I was undertaking… one that I got horrendously sick after… so that ended up working out.

Still, I came into 2015 with one goal – Find a half marathon, train my ass off (perhaps literally) and go for broke on race day and nail an aggressive time goal of 2:15

Nailing a 2:15 half marathon would be an over 30 minute PR for me

Then Chris mentioned a new race he found that he wanted to run and my goal race date was set for November 1, 2015 in Milwaukee.

So, I put together, essentially, a year-long training plan. Anything and everything I was doing was to prep my body and my mind for that race.

You see, I still had some training related demons. I had NEVER done a training run of more than 10.47 miles (and that run was not alone). I knew what I needed, mostly from a mental standpoint, in order to achieve my time goal.

It would mean running a LOT of long runs and though I did toy with the idea of asking friends to run with me, I also knew that it would be better for me to them myself. I would need to get over my long run fear.

The fear was significantly smaller than it was at this same time last year but I did still have a lot doubts.

It was an aggressive training plan and I knew it. The majority of the training would be three months of hard work after two solid months of base building.

The plan also called for doing each distance long run twice… so I was going to be doing two 7 milers, two 8 milers, two 9 milers, two 10 milers and two 11 milers before finishing with two 12 milers.

It was the most aggressive plan I had put together to date but I was determined to nail it. I wanted this race. I had a minor set-back in June when my right IT band decided to be fickle and act up (and I still can’t figure out why) but I knew I was still in positive territory… After all, I purposely build in wiggle room to all of my training plans.

But there was one set-back that wiggle room would not be able to account for… getting injured.

For two weeks, I had been running with mild pain in my calf. The running intensity was definitely there and I have always had tight calf muscles so I didn’t really think anything of it. I ran my first 11 miler and though I was hurting a little bit, I mostly felt great. I only had 4 more weeks of intense training before I could start my two-ish week taper.

The following day, I hurt a lot more than I thought I should when I woke up so I decided to go on a two mile shake out run… and that is where everything fell apart.

The pain I had been feeling in my calf was now so intense that the pain was mostly unbearable and every single step hurt whereas before, I would be able to warm up a bit and the pain would greatly subside.

I didn’t want to do it, but I decided to take a week off, skip my second 11 miler and then resume the plan first my first 12 miler. But 4 days later with no running (and barely any walking) and I was still in a lot of pain. So I scheduled an injury screening appointment and got the confirmation that I had an injury.

But I was also cleared to run but if I felt pain, I would need to back off and/or bail. It was better than nothing so I tried to maintain some of my plan… But the pain was relentless and with every step forward I had two steps back.

I knew I had to ditch what remained on the training plan and do the physical therapy to get better. I was crushed

The training plan was mostly there to give me the mental confidence I wanted going into this race. There has never been a question of finishing the race… I know I WILL finish the race. The question remains whether or not I can finish the race the way I WANT to finish the race.

6 weeks later and barely any running and the mental edge I had planned for myself is gone. This race will be run on sheer will and stubbornness. I want this one.

I have no idea where I am at but I am going for broke