Monday, May 5, 2008

Slow and Steady...

...does not win the race but it DOES finish the half-marathon. Because I am slightly insane, I decided the best way to make myself get back into shape was to sign up to run a half-marathon.

This was not my first half-marathon; it was actually my fourth. I ran the Detroit Free Press race in October 2006, the Country Music Half-Marathon (seriously) in Nashville last April, and the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon - the same one I decided would kick my ass back into gear - last May.

I have referenced the fact that I have let myself get out of shape in this blog before. This is not an exaggeration. While I may not have gained a zillion pounds or look that much bigger, I have lost all my muscle tone and most of my endurance - both things I had when I ran my previous half-marathons.

I started "training" for this race a little late - like a month ago. Two miles were kind of a stretch at that point. I expanded it into three, then four, but I did not log a single run over five miles while preparing for the mini - and those five miles were not the smoothest I'd ever run, either. Needless to say, I was a bit concerned. (Of even more concern was the fact that I spent about two hours downloading songs and arranging my "Amy's Running Mix" playlist on my iPod for ultimate motivational order only to find out that headphones and earbuds were banned from the mini.)

I lined up in my corral with a feeling of trepidation. 25 minutes later, when I finally crossed the starting line (35,000 people makes for a bit of a chaotic start) I wasn't feeling much better.

After a mile of dodging the walkers (START AT THE BACK - THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!!!) I was wondering exactly how the hell I was going to establish any kind of pace.

And then I got going.

I was feeling good when I got to the 5K mark, and I felt even better when I got to 10K. I thought maybe I would walk for a minute or two before I hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the highlight of the Mini's course) because I believe that one does not walk on the Speedway - but I felt good enough to keep running.

I ran my 2.5 miles around the oval and came out thinking maybe I'd walk a bit then, but I felt so good that I figured I'd at least run to the 9-mile mark. I hit nine thinking "Gee, maybe I should under-train for every race!" and continued running toward 10.

At 10.5 things started to go downhill.

Suddenly I felt like I was running in a pair of flip flops instead of sneakers. I was acutely aware of my feet hitting the pavement - hard- with every stride. My calves starting cramping up a little and my old ankle injury threatened to make an encore appearance. I wasn't exactly tired, but my body was shutting down.

I stopped and stretched out (and got annoyed as I watched people pass me) and then tried to continue. It wasn't much better. I re-laced and retied my shoes and started again - not much improvement. I sort of limped across the 11-mile mark, got my Gatorade, and then VERY slowly plugged away at the last two miles.

Of course, I sprinted the last quarter-mile (like that was going to make up for three miles of almost-walking) and almost plowed over the idiot with the microphone who happened to be standing in the middle of the street in front of the finish line. If he hadn't jumped out of the way, I would have just run in to him - I had too much momentum going to stop at that point.

Anyway, my finish time ended up not being incredibly horrible - about 2:40/2:45. Really, it wasn't much slower than anything else I've run. And although my knees were in agony for the remainder of the day (and well into the evening) I didn't seem to be much worse for wear.

The moral of the story? It felt GREAT to be back doing something athletic and mildly competitive. I want to be back in shape. Proving that I could still do this wasn't good enough because I know that if I can do it in this kind of shape that I can do it better.

It's time to hit the gym.


Jennifer said...

Congrats on both starting and finishing the race. I could not even imagine considering doing something like that. Good luck with the next one:)

John said...

Good for you Amy! I have a hard time hitting a mile and a half without my calves and shins feeling like someone is stabbing me, and I used to be decent runner. Maybe now I'll have more motivation to get out there and get going.

Lisa Gibala Warren said...

So glad to hear you made it without killing yourself! Have fun at the gym, or hiking or whatever you choose to do! I think I am going to highlight your running victory at the barre.