|Bonnie snapped this photo at bib pickup before the race, |
making it look like I was about to be devoured
by the Tucker Tiger, while I was attaching my race bib.
The training cycle for next weekend's Publix Georgia Marathon has gone very well for me, knocking out the long runs with the 10 min / mile pace group. After completing a 22.5 mile run four weeks ago, I declared myself ready to run the marathon, with considerable confidence that I would break the 4:30 mark. And then, three weeks ago:
I ran the Southside 12K.
Coach Amy Begley had advised us to run the race at marathon pace, which for me would have been a 10 min / mile pace, finishing just under 75 minutes. But I had realized, if I could maintain my 10K personal record 8 min / mile pace for two more kilometers, I would finish in less than 60 minutes. And I did just that, recording a time of 59:36 for my first 12K race. I deployed a new mantra that pushed me up the last tough hill going into the finish line.
But I paid dearly for that effort. I didn't think that I was injured at first, but as the general soreness faded in the next day or two, I was left with a sore Achilles on the left ankle, weakness in the right ankle, and a painful left hip, which was either an IT band or a quadriceps strain, maybe both. I've struggled with several runs since then. Two weeks ago, I did finish a 20.5-mile run at a 12 min / mile pace to complete my third 20+ long run of the cycle. But the injuries are still bothering me, despite spending considerable time on the foam roller and less time actually running. Certainly I haven't been overdoing it during the taper period. I just hope that I can run without too much pain next weekend.
|Good turnout by the Tucker Running Club!|
For the fifth consecutive year, I registered for the Charles Harris Run for Leukemia. This is a fast net downhill course, typically held in the weeks before Peachtree Road Race registration closes. If I hadn't injured myself a few weeks ago, I probably would have raced hard today to see if I could trim a few seconds off my previous personal record of 49:28. But I was in no shape to do that today. In fact I deliberately made sure that I registered a week ago for the Peachtree Road Race, to remove one major reason to try too hard today.
|Part of the Ben's Wizards team, before the race: |
(l-to-r) Richard Wilson, me, Teresa Ducuara, Michele Richard
The main motivation for continuing with the race was to join the Ben's Wizards team. A few years ago, one of my running buddies Richard Wilson lost a friend and co-worker to leukemia. Ben Newman was only in his 40's when he passed away. Richard had told me a little about Ben in the past, and when Richard and his fiancé invited me to join Ben's Wizards, I was happy to join. They created purple shirts for the team, purple being the color adopted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
I warmed up with about a quarter mile walk inside the Tucker High School gym and then began to run slowly, feeling considerable pain in my left hip. After less than a half-mile, I stopped for the Tucker Running Club photo, then resumed with two laps on the track outside, barely at a 10 min / mile pace. With some trepidation, I headed for the start, taking a position near the back of the pack.
|With Donna Roberts, who worked the water station at the Southside 12K|
My main running goal for today was to try out a new mantra. Turns out, the mantra that I used in the Southside 12K was "too strong," pushing me so hard that I injured myself! So I needed a more appropriate mantra.
|At the 40 km water station in last month's Tokyo Marathon, Yuta Shitara picked up a badge|
with his mantra, driving him to a second-place finish and a new marathon record for a Japanese runner.
While that might have worked for Yuta Shitara in the Tokyo Marathon, in which he won a 100 million yen award for setting a new marathon record for a Japanese runner, that would be too mild for me. And then I realized that I've been carrying the perfect mantra on my wrist ID: "Quitting is not an option." That comes from our Weight Watchers leader, encouraging healthy eating in moderation, while in the midst of a largely sedentary society with abundant and inexpensive fast food options.
|Mantra slightly modified due to Road ID character limit|
The race started shortly before 8 am. Some of my friends in the Tucker Running Club were a little surprised to see me starting behind them, but I needed to start slowly and carefully. I had set my watch to a 4:30 run, 0:30 walk, and took the first walk break midway through the first mile. Getting back to a run was a little difficult for the first few steps, but as my legs warmed up, I was able to stride a bit better. Intending to run the race at a 10 min / mile pace, I was a little surprised to complete the first mile in 9:40. I decided that if I could stick with the 9:40 min / mile pace, I would finish in a respectable time of 60 minutes. But in mile 2, I slowed to 9:57, and needed 10:04 for mile 3. I passed the 5K marker at 31 minutes even, on pace for a 62 minute finish.
It's amazing how an injury can plant so many negative thoughts in my mind. I started to wonder, in next week's race, should I drop from the marathon to the half-marathon? or the 5K? That would really be a shame after all of the effort that I've made to prepare for 26.2 miles. "Quitting is not an option!" And that's when I decided that I would try to push myself a little harder. For mile 4, I was back to a 9:43 pace. I also realized that the transition from walking to running was part of my problem, so decided to skip some of the walk breaks for the rest of the race. I certainly wasn't winded, as my voice was strong as I thanked the volunteers at the water station. I was beginning to pass other runners, and hadn't been passed by anyone since I had stopped taking walk breaks. My attitude began to improve as I just focused on running. "Quitting is not an option!" Finishing mile 5 in 9:21, and less than 49 minutes elapsed, I realized that I could run the last 1.22 miles in 11 minutes if I managed a 9 min / mile pace for the rest of the race. The great thing about the Charles Harris Run is that the mile 5 marker is at the top of a hill, with a 100-foot drop over the next half-mile or so. I started to accelerate, passing more runners heading downhill. The pain was still there but wasn't any worse, so I just focused on setting a faster pace, enjoying the easiest part of the course. At the bottom of the hill, we turned onto North Druid Hills Road, with a slight uphill. "QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION!" Since I wasn't winded, I ran strongly uphill, passing more and more and more people as I drew closer to the finish line. As I reached the 6 mile marker (8:42 for mile 6, 57:30 elapsed, I could see the top of the finish line banner in the distance, and I realized that I would definitely complete the race in less than an hour. I passed a few more runners, which encouraged them to run faster trying to stay ahead of me. I wasn't really racing them, I just wanted a good finish for myself. As I drew near the finish line, I could see Bonnie ahead, ready to capture my photo. At the start of the race, I hadn't expected to celebrate at the end, but as I crossed the timing mat, I flashed a big smile and raised both hands, pleased that I had run better than I had expected.
|59:50 gun time thanks to a strong finish!|
I forgot to stop my watch until I had pulled off to the side to chat with Richard and Bonnie, but I estimate that my official time was between 59:30 and 59:40. Although my legs were sore, I didn't feel any worse for the effort. In fact the race has improved my confidence that I may continue to recover in the week remaining before the marathon.
|With Richard after the race - mission accomplished, |
paying our respects to Ben's memory.
Ben's Wizards will run the Winship Cancer Institute 5K in the fall.