Monday, September 14, 2009

Lungs on Legs Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran in a race for the first time since I hurt my back (again) in May. I spent all summer going to physical therapy (instead of the chiropractor) and religiously doing lunges, ab work, and lat exercises to strengthen my thoraco-lumbar fascia. Yes, my butt and lats were apparently too week to support this ligament that stretches across your lower back. I couldn't have made a better choice! Instead of waking up every day feeling like I am 90 years old and wondering how I'm going to get out of bed, let alone get through a full day of work, I get up, stretch, and every other(ish) day head out for a run! I was almost convinced that my running days were over because of the constant pain I was in. Need help with your lower back? Let me know and I'd be more than happy to share with you the exercises I've been doing! :) Here is a pre-race picture:

The Lungs on Legs Half Marathon started and finished at Damonte Ranch High School. The 13.2 mile course wound through the Double Diamond/Damonte Ranch area neighborhoods and even part of a trail. It was a beautiful morning, and the perfect temperature for a race, and fellow Team Library Dork member Dave came to spread some awesome team support and take pictures, even though he's still dealing with a calf injury. I started off at an easy pace, and soon the pack spread out into groups of various running paces, and I found myself running next to a girl who looked about my age. Even though we didn't say anything, I found my pace perfected matched hers, and we settled into a silent understand that we would run together. The miles passed pleasantly, and I enjoyed looking at the mountain scenery (which was visible throughout the entire race) and the houses and landscaping, and noticing the interesting smells in this section of town: the boggy marshland, a bit of sewer, and farmland? It smelled like horses and cattle and farms (brought back memories of when I lived in Germany when I was little!) even though I saw none of these. And manure! This was mostly at the start of the race on the outskirts of the development. Once we got into the neighborhood, it smelled like wet lawn, asphalt, and (I swear!) grilled hot dogs! Around mile the girl I was running broke our silence with a comment on the beautiful scenery (we were running around the marshes at this point), and I replied with something to the effect of the roasting hot dog smell not quite matching the landscape around us. Then I introduced myself and we shook hands. She had been training with a running club in town (with Eclipse Running? Not sure.). We chatted for a couple minutes and both agreed it was nice to have someone to run with, and settled back into comfortable silence. At the half way point I noticed we were right on schedule for a 2 hour half marathon! If I could only keep up this pace... Right around mile 9 I could feel my legs starting to get tired, and I concentrated on my breathing and posture. This is where the trail section started, and as I looked around, I saw some wild horses! That perked me right up! Three were 11 of them, and one was still in the foal stage of life. :) We passed them quickly, without them showing a spark of interest of the steady stream of ants running by. Right after the 11 mile mark I was really feeling the miles, and started to get a strange stomach cramp right in the front of my belly- not the usual side stitch. I didn't want to stop, and I ran for another half mile before I started to feel nauseous. That did it. I didn't want to barf during the race, so I was forced to walk. There went my 2 hour half marathon pace. I told Kendra to keep going (she was getting pretty tired too, and stopping I swear is contagious, and it's SO hard to start running again after walking!). My head started to spin and my legs felt like they had clod-hoppers attached to their ends. After a few minutes, my head settled down, and I picked up an easy jogging pace and made it to the last aid station and dumped down a quick cup of Gatorade. I took a Gu after the first 45 minutes of running, and really wished I'd brought a second one with me. Or some Shot Blocks (which were in my car- how stupid was that?!). I found myself walking sometime during the beginning of the 12th mile, but by then the school came into sight and I was NOT going to walk in plain view of the cheering spectators! Not gonna shame TLD like that. :) That was one painful last mile though- I wanted to walk, and why did they make us run all the way around to the back of the school to finish? That was just cruel, passing the finish only to circle around the school to run through the chute. It was convenient for the race officials, and the layout of the race, but it was really hard to jog past all the finishers and booths and water when I wanted to be finished. Here I am about 1/4 mile from the finish, in the front of the school, nicely faking a positive smile. Nice butt shot, Dave.

But finish I did, and even found some hidden reserve burst to, well not sprint, but run the last 50 meters. Thank goodness Dave was there there for me to lean on! You can see from my expression and slumped form how tired I am in the last few yards:

It was a great race, and flat! I didn't quite get up to this distance in my training, and I thought a flat road race is what I needed to build up some endurance. I greatly prefer trails though- the soft giving dirt is so much easier on my knees and hip flexors. Good training for me and yes I still have a long way to go, but mostly I'm super thankful/grateful that after a good half year of being in pain, I can actually run this distance when I wasn't sure if I had any running days left only a few short months ago.

Some stats for this run:

~30 songs I listened to on my iShuffle
11 wild horses that I saw on the trail
10 streets + 1 section of trail
10+ interesting smells
2 number of times I had to walk about mile 12 (not including the few steps when I paused to gulp some Gatorade at the last aid station)
??? number of times I wanted to walk during that last mile
0 number of times I actually walked during that last mile
1 huge blister (Skipped taping my feet since these were all road miles. Mistake!)
1 awesome running partner

=2:07.42 of running time! Results are up on already!

I found the girl I was running with after the race- she finished only 2 minutes in front of me (I thought maybe she would keep the 2 hour pace), and asked if we could take a picture together.

Thanks Dave for coming- I really appreciate your positive spirit! I needed someone to collapse on at the finish line~


Turi said...

Good job! Way to grind it out. Glad the fall racing season is starting back up - hope to get out for a race with you soon. Go Team Library Dork!

Gretchen said...

Awesome job!! That's so exciting that your back is getting better. Stay on top of it!
Also, I love your description of the course with all the smells. Very vivid! I'm pretty sure you will get that 2 hour mark sometime soon.

slowrunner77 said...

nice job...sorry i didnt make it out there too, but when the alarm went off at 6 after a relatively sleepless night, i just couldn't drag myself outta bed!

Peter Lubbers said...

Great run, Amber! And great to hear you no longer have that much back pain thanks to the stretching. Awesome.