Sunday, May 22, 2016

Brooklyn Half Recap: A Big Ouch for #30

I've run a lot of races in my life and yesterday's Brooklyn Half Marathon one of the first times I've ever felt that I didn't deserve the medal at the end. Sure, I completed the course, I just didn't feel like I earned that medal. I wasn't sweaty. I wasn't out of breath. I wasn't tired. I didn't feel like I accomplished anything when I crossed that finish line. I just felt relief, frustration, and a lot of pain. In my third running of the Brooklyn Half, I didn't exactly run the race, I had to walk it. It wasn't my choice, it was my only option, and it was miserable.

Yesterday was the Brooklyn Half Marathon and it was my 30th (!!) half marathon. The day this race opened its application, I set an alarm for it and immediately signed up when the time came. The race sold out in 47 minutes. From that fact alone, you can tell how popular it is. The Brooklyn Half Marathon is the largest half marathon in America and is a super fun one to run. You run the streets of Brooklyn for a bit, do one loop of Prospect Park, and then run along Ocean Parkway out to the Coney Island Boardwalk where you cross the finish line. So needless to say, I was excited to run this race from the moment I signed up. It's such a great race and I was actually really looking forward to be a part of it again and maybe even get my sub-2:00 half (something I have done once, but haven't gotten in quite a few years.) However, the race did NOT go as planned. Not even close.

About six weeks ago I came home from my usual Tuesday morning run and felt a weird twinge in my knee. I didn't know where it came from but it was painful. I took a full week off running, all while icing, elevating, and resting it before trying to run on it again, and it still hurt. The pain wasn't constant but was enough to be uncomfortable and annoying. I couldn't figure out how and why it just came out of nowhere. I was all set to run the More-Shape Half Marathon mid-April and wasn't sure I'd be able to do it because of this out-of-the blue injury. I didn't run the entire week leading up to that half, even though I had trained for it. The day before the race I did a quick two-miler and felt no pain so decided to give that race a go. I was so lucky throughout the race to not have any pain, finished with a big smile on my face and a top-five time for myself. Because of that,  I thought that I was in the clear. Then three days later, the pain randomly came back. I decided to make an appointment with an orthopedist and he diagnosed me with tendinitis in my lower hamstring almost where it hits my knee. This made total sense (and was what the Internet had told me when I obsessively googled about this pain). He prescribed some Physical Therapy and told me to keep in touch if the pain didn't go away.

I planned to follow the PT plan and feel 100%. The morning of my first PT session, I felt a different pain in my hamstring, much higher up. Again, this came out of nowhere, wasn't caused by anything specific, and was quite painful. It was like a pulled muscle, so I figured with some more rest it would heal. I mentioned it to the PT but he was trying to figure out the source of the original hamstring pain and I wasn't even sure if it was a big deal or just some random soreness that would leave as fast as it came. I took another week off of running because of this new hamstring pain and when I tried to run again, I was super unsuccessful and only made it a half-mile before I felt like my hamstring was going to snap. I am not exaggerating. Ugh. By this time, the Brooklyn Half was now one week away so I knew I had to rest it the entire week. Since I had been resting my leg so much, the original lower hamstring pain disappeared, but the new one was still present, but had at least decreased. On Friday (the day before the race), I tried to run a quick two-miler to test my hamstring and it was doable, but not even close to being 100%. Would I be able to sustain that discomfort for 11 more miles? I figured I'm in fantastic shape and this pain would be an annoyance, but nothing more. I could not have been more wrong.

Race morning, I woke up, foam rolled a bit, hydrated, ate my peanut butter toast, and hit the road to Brooklyn with some friends. I took some Tylenol and Aleve before the race and was super nervous about what would happen, but figured if I had to walk the race, then I'd walk. But even though I told myself that I would be okay with this, I didn't think I'd actually have to do it. Once I crossed the start line I started running very mindfully in order to finish this race in one piece, but my leg hurt. By mile two I knew that if the pain stayed like this, it would suck, but I could make it. But once I hit mile 2.3, my hamstring totally spasmed/pulled/did something very uncomfortable. I let out a shriek and immediately had to stop. I pulled to the side of the road to stretch and tried to run again. I made it like ten strides before I had to stop again. FUCK. I was in some serious pain and could not run anymore. I walked another mile before I tried to give running one more try and lasted like eight steps before it felt like my hamstring felt like a rubber band that was about to snap. This is not exactly a feeling you want, especially in the middle of a long race. From this point on, I knew that I would be walking the rest of this race. Ugh. I thought about pulling out of this race, but didn't do so for a two reasons: 1) I checked a bag and it was going to be meeting me in Coney Island so I didn't even have any of my belongings (keys, wallet, etc...) and 2) I would hate myself if I quit no matter how much pain I was in.

Obviously those of you that know me well, know that number two took much more precedence than one because I'm sure the sweeper truck takes everyone there to get their gear after (or I could have caught an Uber to the finish), but I wasn't going to DNF (do not finish) if I could help it. I'm too stubborn and getting a bad time wouldn't sit with me as long as quitting would. Every single medical tent that I passed was calling my name, but I just couldn't get myself to go inside even though I probably just should have. I was going to walk this mother fucker, even if it took me three hours. For the first few miles I walked, I was mortified because it was still so early on in the race and I shouldn't be walking. I wanted to run into the woods of the park and hide. I felt like the fat girl who had to walk the race. The one who was out of shape and tired already. The one who everyone was like "aw, good for her for trying to run." Of course I knew that wasn't the case but as hundreds of people I was probably in better shape than (fatter and skinnier) kept passing me, I felt ashamed that I was walking. But I also knew I couldn't help it. I knew I was walking because I was hurt. And I knew a lot of people in my position would have just walked off the course and called it a day. But every person that was cheering with a "you can do it" and an "almost up the hill, let's go" I wanted to punch in the face. I would be running if I could, but I literally could not. I know they were trying to be encouraging and supportive (and I usually love those positive cheers and all the spectators...they truly help make a race), but ugh, I wasn't feeling it at all.

Let me tell you, walking a half marathon is waaaaayyy harder than running one. Neither one is easy by any means because 13.1 miles is still 13.1 miles, but to me this was harder. It wasn't because I was in pain, but it's a long race distance to just walk. And walk. And walk. And when you'd rather be running, it truly is torturous. I felt the end would never come. Every mile I got closer to the finish, I would rationalize with myself that I could do it and I'd be happy that I stayed in the race to finish. Usually in a race with four miles left, no matter how I'm feeling I think to myself  "no big deal, I can do four miles in my sleep." With four miles left walking this race, I kept thinking "fuck, another hour."  I am a fast walker, and even injured, I kept a pretty good pace walking (read: limping). I am on my feet all the time wandering this city (and when on vacation, wandering others for a ridiculous amount of miles) so I can walk that distance on any given day, but this just sucked. I felt like I wasn't in a race anymore, I was just trying to get to the train to go home. And when I did cross that finish line, I got my medal, didn't put it around my neck, and limped to get my baggage. Then I cried. I cried for two reasons: I was hurt, I was concerned about this injury and what it could mean for me in the upcoming weeks (or months) and I also cried over the fact that this half-marathon time was disgusting for me. I was embarrassed I got hurt. I was embarrassed I had to walk. And I was embarrassed of my time. Again, I can't help that I felt that way. This is not to take anything away from people with a similar time to mine in this distance as I am a big proponent of ALL runners and their paces. I am a firm believer if someone runs, no matter what their pace, that makes them a runner and it should take nothing away from what they achieved. I've been shamed for my "slow" time from faster runner's in the same distance so I know how that feels. I do not mean to take anything away from anyone else's time, this one was all about ME. It's the ultra-competitiveness in me trying to always better my best and that sometimes does more harm than good for my mindset. But it is what it is.

The entire race I was super concerned that I really injured myself seriously and would have to stop running for like a month (or more). This was the worst part of the whole thing. Screw the pain, screw the boredom of walking, what if I had to take legitimate time off from doing something that I love? This put me in a full panic. I don't know what I will do with myself if I can't run. My days don't feel complete without a morning run because it just starts my day off on the right foot and sets the tone. It's become a part of my life and who I am as a person. Running gives me a purpose and I love that about it. So not being able to run during this mega race really put things in perspective for me. I was jealous of everyone who was running, no matter their pace (and believe me, a lot of different paced runners passed me). It made me realize how important running is for me and not only the physical aspect, but more-so the mental one. It makes me happy.

I need my hamstring to heal. I need it not to be something serious. I need to put this race behind me and get over the fact that I had my worst half-marathon time ever. It was a full hour slower than my PR and almost 55 minutes slower than my average time. With Chicago Marathon training set to begin in three weeks, I don't know if I will be ready to start it. I don't want to rush this healing process and if that means sitting on my ass for the next couple of weeks stewing, but healing, I guess I'll have to suck it up. As long as this injury isn't too serious (I'm going to PT tomorrow and hopefully will have some answers), I know I'll get over this horrible race, but until then, I am sitting here icing and hoping for the best right now. It's all I can do. Sigh.

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