Alternate title: Stress City.
I drug myself out of bed to go to November Project on Wednesday morning, because one does not make friends at November Project by not attending November Project, no matter how slushy the ground may be. The last Wednesday of every month is PR Day (which I knew ahead of time), and, for November Project Chicago, this apparently means running Cricket Hill, over and over and over again.
All told, I think I made seven trips up and down Cricket Hill during November Project on Wednesday, and my calves were SCREAMING. I anticipated major soreness Thursday as a result, but happily had no problems…until I went for an intended three miler Thursday afternoon.
Literally on my first step, my left shin hurt. This, alone, wasn’t concerning — I often have a weird ache or two when I start running that quickly fades away. But this shin pain wasn’t fading away, and with a race coming up on Sunday, I decided to cut my run to two miles.
I came home to stretch and foam roll, as one does, but neither of these things touched my shin soreness. I put on compression socks, iced, and drafted an email to my
boyfriend physical therapist that I planned to send the following morning if my shin still hurt. I’m no stranger to shin splints, but in my experience, the only way for my shin splints to heal is to stop running entirely for awhile. That’s all well and good when I’m not training, but right now I am training — in addition to Shamrock, I have two 10 milers, a 5K, a half marathon, and Ragnar all on my calendar for the next two and a half months. Stopping all running for a month isn’t exactly an option at this point. I also did the hop test to see what would happen, and immediately panicked once I failed it.
Friday morning arrived and my shin still hurt, so I sent my email to my PT and continued panicking all day. It hurt just to exist on Friday, and walking made me want to cry. Not exactly how I wanted to feel with 48 hours until my first race of 2015. My PT (bless him) emailed me back quickly, said it sounds like tendenitis, and told me to ice and roll the my calf, and NO RUNNING until the race, where I should run/walk if my pain ever got above a three. And also, how about you come into the clinic next week and I’ll take a look at it? Sighhhhhhh.
I iced like a maniac all evening Friday, and it felt a little better, though I still couldn’t even come close to passing the hop test, which was terrifying. Tendenitis is one thing — a stress fracture is QUITE another. I’ve tried to be very careful in training–my mileage does increase by more than 10% per week (only because my mileage has been so low that increasing my weekly mileage by 10% would often mean adding on, like, less than a mile per week. Haha.), but my long runs never increase by more than one mile–so I didn’t feel like I was the “ideal” candidate for a stress fracture…aside from the whole “I didn’t run all January, and when I did run in February, it was pretty much just on a treadmill once a week” thing, but this whole hop test thing was freaking. me. out.
I volunteered at the expo on Saturday (more on that later this week), and my shin held up all right during that, though not so much in my trip to Target after the fact. I spent just about all of Saturday afternoon on my floor with my beloved bag of frozen peas and prayed for the best.
(Look! I got a new rug to match my new bedding!)
I woke up STRESSED OUT OF MY MIND on Sunday. I know this is pretty silly, but I felt a lot of pressure to perform well at Shamrock due to…my bib number. I KNOW, I KNOW. I actually know even more than most, because I volunteered at participant packet pickup, so I know for sure that bib number had nothing to do with anything at this race, at least for us non-elites. Plenty of people in Corral A had bib numbers over 1000, so the fact that my bib number was below 1000 (and I was in Corral C) meant nothing. But it felt like it meant something, and being in Corral C felt like it meant something, and being in Wave One and having a red bib REALLY felt like it meant something. Shamrock and the Marathon are not the same thing, but you have no idea how much I envy/respect the people fast enough for Wave One and red bibs at the Chicago Marathon. I see those people are Serious Runners, inspiring awe in my lowly Corral G/blue bib self. I aspire to be one of those people, so being one of those people at Shamrock made me feel like I needed to live up to Serious Runner standards.
I obviously had no clue what to expect out of my race due to my shin (which felt better on Sunday than it had felt since my run on Thursday), but I really wanted to do well. I have an extremely hard time going into a race not hoping to PR or expecting to take it easy, and Shamrock was no exception.
My shin hurt briefly while running, but soon enough my brain didn’t have the ability to worry about shin, because survival became the #1 priority. When I began this training cycle, I retired my Garmin and switched over to a Polar M400 (which I LOVE, btw), and it struggled from a GPS standpoint (either that, or I did a TERRIBLE job of running the tangents–my watch measured me running 5.19 miles, which is almost a quarter mile more than I should have run–so my splits could be wrong, but according to my M400, I ran an 8:10 first mile and 7:34 second mile. YIKES. Talk about going out way, WAY too fast. By the time we turned onto LaSalle, my legs felt like they could fall off: not exactly how I like to feel less than halfway into a race.
Franklin was a NIGHTMARE thanks to the strong winds out of the south. I tried my best to draft behind people, but that didn’t work out so well. I. Was. Dying. Breathing hurt. Running hurt. Everything hurt. I, once again, remembered why I prefer long distance races to short distance races. I started telling myself, “You. Have. Got. This,” with each step, and pondered the grammatical correctness of such a mantra (I don’t think that’s very good English — “You have this” or “You got this” probably would’ve been better, but I like my mantras to have even syllables since it makes life easier to say each word on each step for me. Feel free to roll your eyes at my weirdness.) as we turned onto Harrison. I liked being on Harrison: on Harrison I could see the building at Harrison and State, which was only two blocks from Michigan, which was less than a mile from the end. And boy oh boy did I want this race to end.
I kept chugging along, thankful to at least mostly be out of the wind at this point, and did everything I could to hang on down Michigan, up Roosevelt, and around the corner to Columbus, including breaking out my favorite marathon mantra that gets me through ALL of Michigan Ave. on marathon day: “Round the corner, up the hill, round the corner, then you’re done.”
I kept an eye on my watch heading up Roosevelt and though I knew a PR was out of the question, I aimed to finish in under 43 minutes. I just squeaked in with a final time of 42:58. That’s actually a personal worst for me by about 30 seconds, but given the conditions and circumstances (not just my pesky shin, but also the fact that I have done literally two speed workouts in all of 2015, compared to 2014, when I was doing both intervals and hills once a week), I’m not too torn up about it.
I gasped for air for awhile and then made my way over to the hospitality tent, which is probably my main motivation for running the Shuffle in the first place. See: oatmeal bar.
Thank you, B of A. I ❤ you (<– not true. But that was quite possibly the best oatmeal I’ve ever had). I planned to meet one of my CARA friends in the hospitality tent, so I hung around there for quite some time. Long enough to get lunch all of 90 minutes after my killer oatmeal.
Thank you, B of A.
All in all, I had a MUCH better race experience than anticipated. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, I still can’t pass the hop test, but at least I can, you know, walk. We’ll see what comes of my PT injury screen on Wednesday — hopefully not much of anything, other than a brief reunion with my PT. I didn’t plan to run again this week until Wednesday anyway, so this shouldn’t put too much of a damper on my training. Fingers crossed for good news!