Saturday, January 21, 2012

Zoo Run Run

I ran this race last year and enjoyed it, so I signed up for it again. Unfortunately, my knee has gone from bad to worse. It was getting to the point where I could run on it some and even got in 54 miles one week. But in one day, it went from improving, to the worse it has ever been. Both my patellar and quadriceps tendon have become pretty swollen, which isn't fun when you add in the mistracking issue. Since Tuesday, I was only able to run two miles but since I'm a cheapo and already paid $40 to race, I decided to give it a go. Besides, I've done much more stupid things than this, for far less money.

I gave myself about a 50/50 chance of starting the race and pulled out all of the stops for my knee. I took four Aleve about 1.5 before the race, watched some YouTube videos and did a botched up version of a tape job using some KT tape, put on my patellar tendon strap and for the figurative "icing on the cake", rubbed on the always minty fresh sports creme. I felt more like a yuppy runner than a blue collar one, so I decided to don some longer shorts to make me look not so ridiculous.

Normally before a race, I like to warm-up very well, especially for a 5k. Ideally, I'd run a 20 minute or so slight progression, along with a lot of fast strides to get my engine running and my legs ready to go. Too many people expect to just jog around for a few minutes and be ready to race. You can't go straight from first/second gear into fifth, so on the warm-up, you need to cover all your bases. However because of my gimpiness, I decided to just jog for a few minutes at a very slow pace. The knee didn't feel too badly and I even got in a few short, half-hearted strides. I then decided I was good to go (well, as good as I could be.)

Jacob Carrigan was there and it looked like he would be my toughest competition. He's been running pretty fast over the last few months and he put a whooping on me in a 5k a couple of years ago, so I was a little worried. I planned to put on my best poker face and bluff my way through the race, hoping he wouldn't try to battle me to the end. Unfortunately, I am usually a terrible poker player.

When the gun went off, a few kids from the homeschooler cross country team took off. Like their education, I decided to let them have a false sense of accomplishment before taking over. After about half of a mile, I was able to stay in the front until the end and ended up running a semi-controlled 16:18. I had to throw in some surges from time-to-time to stay ahead of Jacob but luckily the course had so many turns, it was easy to "hide" and appear a little farther ahead than you actually were. The knee actually wasn't too bad for the first mile or so but the last few minutes, it was on fire and the insane number of turns didn't help its cause.

I was glad I was able to finish and will rest my knee a good bit next week. Overall, I really enjoy this race. The course is very hard to run fast on but if you want to find a fast course, you have several options in the area every month. Running in the zoo is something that is unique and different, which is why I think they draw so many runners. And not to mention, they serve a pasta meal after the race and Blackstone is there serving some refreshment as well.

When I made out my original racing schedule, I had the Cedars of Lebanon Half Marathon as my next race, but I'll have to skip out on that. After that, I was going to try the Race Judicata 5k/10k double, which is probably also out of the books as well. Hopefully I can take a shot at running just the 10k there and be in semi-crappy shape at the Tom King Half Marathon in March.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mississippi Blues

Well, the curse has struck again. After the Rocket City debacle, I took it easy for a few of days and then went back to hard training. Even though I was still pretty congested a little over a week later, my workouts were on fire. Since I peaked for Rocket City and had some pretty fresh legs, I decided to try my which was 6 miles at 85% of marathon pace, a 1-2 minute break and then 6 miles at 100% of marathon pace. That really isn't that hard by itself, but when you repeat the same workout in the afternoon and don't eat any carbohydrates from the time you wake up until the time you finish the second workout, it can get pretty tough.

I ran this same workout three weeks before the Country Music Marathon and ran 39:30/34:04 and 39:26, 33:32. Those splits were actually 10k (which adds just over a minute) and one week post Rocket City, I was able to run 36:05/31:45 and 35:36/31:49. Other than feeling insanely hungry, I felt really strong. I woke up feeling like a million bucks the next day but a couple of days later, the inside of my knee was really hurting. This same thing happened to me a few weeks prior and was gone in a couple of days, so I was hoping it would be a repeat performance.

As time went on, the knee became worse. I wasn't sure if I would be able to run anything hard but headed to the HHS track to give it a go. My plan was to run 6x1600m at around 110% of marathon race pace, which put me at 4:46-4:47, with a 400m jog rest in-between. With the bum knee, a belly full of Demos' steak, soup, bread and spaghetti, and the fact my legs haven't done anything near that fast in a long while, I would have be fine with starting out just under 5:00 and working my way down to 4:50. I ended up feeling rusty on my first one in 4:47. but somehow managed 4:44, 4:43 and 4:42 for my next three. When I would run this workout in college, I would begin to die terribly after four but surprisingly, I was barely tired at all. I decided to drop down the pace a little more and ran my next two in 4:38 and 4:39. I briefly debated two more at sub 4:40 but with the bum knee and the fact that it was approaching 10:30pm, I decided to call it a workout. I was pumped because the pace felt so controlled, despite not running anything near that fast for a long time. With those two workouts in the bank, I was confident that I was in at least 2:17:-2:18 marathon shape. Granted being in shape and going out and performing, especially in the marathon, are two different things.

But as time went on, the knee just became worse. At first I couldn't get in any fast running but then it got to the point where I couldn't run at all. I decided to wave the white flag and keep things low key and then start a new build-up again once my knee is fine. It's frustrating because I never got to race all-out when I was in good shape but at least I didn't beat my body up with a marathon. The Country Music Marathon put a complete thrashing on my body and I didn't feel right until months afterward. When I start my next cycle, I should be able to start on fresher legs. And with the fitness gains I made over the past year, I'll be strong enough to try some new things in training that will hopefully give me some big breakthroughs. 2011 turned into the year of "what-ifs" but I think 2012 has a lot of good things in store.