Today marked my tentative return to racing, hot on the heels of my tentative return to training. Tomorrow it will be six months to the day that I suffered a catastrophic fracture to my right sacrum on the hills of Central Park in the Club Championships. I have kept the racing shoes I was wearing at the time, with that race’s D-Tag still attached, within view of our bed. Every morning I wake up, see the shoes, and remind myself that I’ll race sometime again.
This morning I finally got to cut the D-Tag off and put a new one on. It was a meaningful moment. I’ll admit that I was a little reluctant to wear the same shoes, lest they jinx me. But I’m not superstitious in the least, and I love racing in them (they are men’s — unisex, whatever — Asics Gel Hyperspeeds that I inherited from Jonathan, for whom they were slightly too small).
I almost didn’t run this race, the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler. Twice. Yesterday I ran two very easy 3 milers on the treadmill, as Coach Sandra’s pre-race schedule instructs. I couldn’t do the 100m strides (’cause I was on the stupid treadmill). After the AM run, my right leg didn’t feel good. Specifically, it’s an area in my groin that I place somewhere between the innermost adductor and the hamstring insertion point. I will call it my “graint.” My graint hurt during and after that run. I stretched and rolled the hell out of the area for an hour afterwards. Then I did the second run in the evening. Same issue. More stretching, rolling and cursing under my breath. The issue abated for a few hours but reemerged while I was, of all things, lying on the couch watching Spartacus. I went to bed, figuring that if it was still complaining in the morning I’d bag the race rather than risk a repeat performance of August.
This morning arrived, way too early, because I was nervous, at 5AM. All was well with the graint. In fact, everything was going really well. No traffic. Conveniently located snowdrift to park in. Baggage wasn’t too crowded. Then I went for my warmup just north of the start line. The course on East Drive was a mess. Slush and black ice abounded. It was especially treacherous in spots immediately south and north of the 72nd St Transverse. I probably ran under a mile to warm up, primarily as an investigative sortee to scope out where the worst spots were on the road. Was the entire course going to be like this? 15 minutes before start, I nearly headed home. One overextension of my graint and I could be screwed for months to come.
Things looked a little better on Cat Hill where, not coincidentally, there was some sun. I figured I should run at least the first half mile conservatively (and note where other runners ahead might be falling on their asses) and be careful in the shady sections. I lined up toward the back of the blue corral, where it was Sardine City.
I didn’t feel well. I haven’t slept well all week and the cumulative deficit showed in the mirror this morning. My stomach was screwed up before the race, no doubt due to nerves. I have not run at a sustained high effort for more than two miles since the summer. And, atop all this worry, I remain worried about getting reinjured. I have learned that it can happen easily and without warning.
So, yes, “conservative start” were the watch words today. I was glad to be in the back of the corral. Let others fly out and find the ice patches. I didn’t want to feel pushed to run faster than I was comfortable running. My “fast” running has been around 7:10 lately. Not surprisingly, that’s the pace I ran today.
I left the Garmin at home, but I wore my basic Timex so I could at least get my finish time and, if I remembered, the mile splits. I didn’t look at my watch while I was racing, as I’ve learned that this is A Bad Thing To Do. Mile 1 was on the slow side: 7:20. I somehow missed the 2 mile marker, but at 3 those two together were 14:24. I made up time on the last mile, a 6:59. I did not race all out today, although I was close. To be honest, I was worried about my graint exploding with rage should I push the pace below 7:00. But it was fine throughout and I only felt slight complaints at the end. Within a few minutes, those were gone. It’s fine now.
The purpose of this race was threefold:
- Simply have the experience of racing again. I have missed this unbelievably so.
- See if I can run fast without retriggering my chronic injury.
- Get some sense of my current fitness level.
As for 1, I got it. It was fun. I wished I’d raced a little harder, but item 2 took priority. That was also good. I feel confident about going back into hard training again. I will add some fartlek work (on the treadmill, not in the pool, yay) this coming week. Item 3 was about where I expected it to be: I’ve been doing tempo work at around 7:15 on a flat treadmill. It makes sense that I’d get about that pace racing on hills.
I missed out on an AG award by 1 second. That’s okay. One lucite paperweight is enough for me. Official time: 28:42, 55th F overall. Well off my best on that course of 27:34, but that’s no big surprise.
I am so fucking happy to have run a significant distance on the faster side with (seemingly) no ill effects. You have no idea.