Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hot, hot, hot 5K!

The Leesburg 5K/20K race is notorious for having warm, sunny, humid weather. After all, it's in the middle of August, when the DC Metro area is at its steamiest. Last year I ran the 20K as a training run as I was coming back from six weeks with mono. I registered for it as a training run again this year, simply hoping to beat my time from last year.

Photo by Cheryl Young
On Wednesday, I looked at the forecast and saw that the starting temperature would be around 72, heating up to 80 by the end, with the dew point being 72-73. And sunny to boot. Yikes! When I realized that I wouldn't even run a training run in that weather, I decided to drop down to the 5K. Earlier this summer, I ran 10 miles "easy" in similar weather, and shortly after that I purchased my treadmill. Given my immune system issues which are triggered by running hard in warm weather, I didn't think running this 20K was worth the risk.

Even the weather for the 5K was forecast to be miserable, so I told my coach I was going to run it as a workout. He pushed back on that, and told me I should race it all out. He said it would be a good opportunity to run hard and test my fitness. I don't really think I can test my fitness with a dew point of 72, but I agreed that I would run it as a race and give it my all.

As for my bike injury and hematoma, that's mostly cleared up. I no longer have pain with running. The bump is still there in my groin, but it has shrunk down significantly, and at this rate should be gone in another week. I saw the last of the bruise yesterday, too.

Before the Race
Greg and I were a little late leaving our house (6:15) so we were more rushed than we would have liked, but it all worked out okay. I picked up our bibs while he used the bathroom. I ran into my friend Amber, who I had met at the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans half marathon just over a year ago. One of the reasons I like to do this race, despite the crappy weather, is that a lot of people come out for it. It's a good way to see friends and socialize. It's a fairly competitive race, too, as many local runners use it as a tune up for fall goal races.

Greg and I put our bibs on and I drank my Generation UCAN. I also had an Energice ice pop, which would have been better to have after my warm up and immediately before the race, but the logistics of going back to the car made that impractical.

I started my warm up and Greg headed for the start line of the 20K. The 20K started at 7:30 and the 5K at 7:48. Weird timing, but I liked the precision! I had run the 5K back in 2017, and I knew there was a coffee shop on my warm-up route where I could go to the bathroom. However, the coffee shop was no longer in business, so I found a gas station instead. I like to go to the bathroom 15-20 minutes before I race just to make sure everything is "out" that is coming out. 

On my way back, I was able to see the 20K runners, including Greg, shortly after they had started. Given how hot I already was on my warm up, I was relived that I was not among them. Finally, 7:48 arrived and it was time to get going.

Mile 1
I did not have a goal time for this race. I thought I would be happy to go sub-22:00 in these conditions, but I didn't really have a goal in mind. I knew that the first two miles were mostly uphill and the last mile was downhill, so I made sure not to go out too hard in the beginning.

I knew that Amber was in much better shape than I was, and yet I found myself near her for the first half mile. I looked down at my Garmin and I wasn't going all that fast, and I felt fine, so I just maintained that effort.

Except-- it was definitely way too fast. I clocked in at 6:52, and even though that seems conservative for me, it was not given that there was 40+ feet of gain and it was very warm and humid.

Mile 2
This mile has a lot of turns and I knew to expect them. We ran around a large school and it was mentally exhausting. Even though this mile wasn't as hilly as the first mile, I was running out of steam already! I only glanced at the Garmin a few times and I wasn't surprised to see how slowly I
was running. I didn't have any pep and I was exhausted. I was not feeling this race at all.

Shortly into this mile, I passed a high school cross country guy. A number of them had lined up at the start wearing the same jersey, so it was obvious that their team had come out for the event. As a 40-year old woman, it did feel good to pass a high school cross-country male! That perked me up mentally.

After that, I needed something to motivate me to maintain my effort, so I reminded myself that I wanted to be the first Master's Female. I didn't know if they had an official Master's award, but if they did, I wanted it to be mine. And if not, I wanted to win my age group. There was a turnaround which allowed me to see who was ahead of me. I knew 3 out of 6 of them, and they were all younger. And it's really hard to tell how old someone is when they are in running clothes, especially when you are trying to race at full effort. I just assumed they were all younger than me so that I would still be motivated to push hard. My Garmin beeped at the end of the mile in 7:06. Not pretty, but I was still maintaining my placement.

Mile 3
I knew this mile would be downhill, and I needed that badly. If you execute this race properly, your last mile should be your fastest. Probably by at least 10 seconds. This was not the case for me. I tried my best to simply hang on to the effort level, even though I felt like I was running through molasses and I was dead tired.

The only thing I cared about was making sure no women passed me, and I was confident that they wouldn't if I simply maintained the effort. My time for this mile was 6:55. Not what I would have expected for a downhill mile! Keep in mind, I have run faster miles than this at the end of half marathons.

The last 0.18
As I turned onto the final stretch, which is uphill, I saw that there was a woman about 8-10 seconds behind me. That motivated me to start my final kick early. I didn't want her trying to pass me. It worked and I was surprisingly able to run a pace of 6:32 up that hill. Amazing what I can do when I'm threatened by competition!

My final time was 22:05 according to my Garmin, and 22:08 according to the official results. I know that the distance of my Garmin will usually not match the official results, but the official time should be the same or faster. I always start my Garmin before I cross the start line mat, and I stop it after I cross the finish line. So I don't know how they added an extra 3 seconds, unless they didn't get my net time, just my gun time. This has happened a few times in the past, and even happened at the last 5K I ran through this same race series. But last time, I wasn't even listed in the results at all so I had to talk to them. Since this isn't a PR for me, I didn't care enough to talk to them about it, but it's annoying.

After the race
Once I regained my ability to speak, I congratulated Amber who had finished over a minute ahead of me! I then cooled down and waited for Greg to finish his 20K. I figured I would run him in the last 0.2 miles, but when I tried, he was too fast for me, and I couldn't keep up. Turns out, his last mile was faster than my last mile! He's in excellent shape right now and does much better in the heat than I do.

Shortly after Greg finished, they started handing out the 5K awards and I won first place in my age group, which was the main goal. I do not think I would have placed in my age group at all if I had run the 20K, so I made the right choice.

Final thoughts and takeaways
I kind of bonked today, and I'm okay with that. I think it was a combination of going out too fast, not being in 5K shape (had to take 9 days off after the bike accident), and obviously the heat/humidity. I ran 4 miles at an average pace of 7:05 just over a week ago in cooler weather and on a flatter route.

Prior to this race, I had assumed that my max heart rate was around 190. This was based on running with my new Garmin + HR monitor for the past two months, and seeing it get up to 187 at the Firecracker 5K in July. Well, today it got up to 196!  And it averaged 186 for the last 0.18. This definitely shows that I ran the race to my fullest effort level and I was not slacking.

I ran this race over 40 seconds faster in 2017, but I was in really excellent 5K shape back then, and it wasn't quite as warm that year. It's not a helpful or relevant comparison, so I'll stop there.

I was the 7th overall female and it was a competitive field. The Leesburg 5K is a popular local race and the first two females ran 18:xx.

I'll be running two more 5Ks before I settle into marathon training, and I am excited to see how those go. Hopefully, much cooler!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

I will never be a cyclist.

Just hours after I published my "Running in Oslo" post last Saturday, my international running adventures came to an abrupt stop.

Greg and I had signed up for a group bike tour of Oslo on Saturday afternoon. There were 14 of us, and we were led by a local guide who worked at the rental bike shop. We had signed up for this "Oslo
By Bike" excursion a few months ago, and it was my idea. Greg was actually shocked that I wanted to ride a bike. I hate bikes! The last time I rode a bike was in 2007 when I rode 11 miles through Tuscany. And prior to that, I hadn't ridden a bike since around 1994.

But biking is always the analogy people use to talk about things you never forget how to do. It's like riding a bike, they say. If this had been a mountain bike ride, or a really long ride, I wouldn't have signed up for it. But it was only seven miles and it was two hours long. I figured it couldn't be that difficult. I could run, or even walk, that distance faster.

When I first got on the bike, it wasn't a familiar feeling. I had to remember how to balance, steer, etc. Unfortunately, there was no clear area in which to do this. The bike rental place was in the middle of the city and there were swarms of people everywhere. In, fact, we had learned yesterday on our boat tour that this was the busiest time of year in Oslo because many people had time off from work and it was a very popular tourist spot. Plus, the weather was warm and sunny which is not typical for Oslo.

I spent the first part of the bike tour frustrated and scared. We were led through crowded plazas, over speed bumps, up and down curbs, weaving through masses of people. This photo shows one of the areas we rode through, as seen from the boat the day before at the same time of day.

One of the crowded areas we biked through
We all had to keep stopping and starting and everyone was really frustrated with it. If I were a pedestrian in that area, I would have been annoyed by such a large group of cyclists plowing through the crowds.

Finally we were on a bike path and I felt more comfortable, and like I was starting to get a handle on the steering, the gears, etc. The guide then took us through a wooded area on a gravel path. It was hilly and curvy and there were roots sticking up, so it was much more difficult than anticipated. Finally I didn't feel like the worst cyclist in the group because I was able to go up the hills just fine and my athleticism kicked in.

We stopped at a beach for about 15 minutes (this is why the tour was long--we kept stopping). Greg snapped a photo of me and I posted it to my Instagram Story, saying that this was the last time anyone would see me on a bike. At that point, I knew that I had no desire to ride one ever again, That said, I was proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and getting on a bike. I wasn't looking forward to the way back, though, knowing we'd have to bike through that busy plaza. I also thought it was kind of a miracle that I didn't have an accident and wondered if I should take the bus back and end it on a high note.

Instagram Story mid-ride
We got back on the bikes and rode through the woods again. Only this time, I wasn't able to maneuver the bike as well I should have been able to. Since the path was wide, we were not riding in a straight line, and people were riding next to me. There was a fairly steep hill that curved around, and as it curved, I wasn't able to properly steer while also getting up the hill, so my bike hit the back of another rider's wheel, and I went tumbling. Nobody else fell, but I was on the ground with just a minor scrape. It was really scary, but since I wasn't hurt, I got back on the bike, vowing to stay away from the other riders.

We got back onto the bike path, which was great, but then it was time for the crowded plazas again. I don't know why I simply didn't get off the bike and walk it back to the shop. We were close enough at that point. If I really stopped to think about it, I would have done that, but instead I felt like I had to keep following the group over the curbs, the speed bumps, and the train railways.

There were actually two tour guides-- one in front and one in back. The one in the back told the one in the front that she needed to slow down on multiple occasions (every time we stopped), but she didn't slow down. At one point, the tour guided us to drive in the middle of the train railway. This area was clearly for trains only- not pedestrians or cyclists. To do this, I needed to cross over one of the railways to get in between them, as there was no room left on the right side of the railway. As I did this, my tire got stuck inside the rail and the bike stopped. I fell onto the bike, ramming my pubic bone directly into the bar. I screamed in pain and in fear. It was maybe the worst pain I had ever experienced.

I walked away from the train track full of fear, and Greg and the tour guide from the back of the group came toward me. The other riders and the guide in front had no idea that I had fallen. Since we were so close to the bike store and the cruise ship, the tour guide from the back took our bikes from us and we walked back to the ship to get an X-ray. It hurt to walk, but thankfully, I was able to walk.

Back on board, I found that the entire left side of my groin was hugely swollen. They did an x-ray and found that nothing was broken. I was in extreme pain, but they weren't able to give me anything except for Advil and an ice pack. I really liked the nurse and the doctor, but they weren't specialists in this kind of thing and weren't able to give me stronger pain medication. That night, Greg and I ordered room service as I continued to ice the area.

4 days post accident
The swelling and the bruising were severe over the next five days. Today, one week later, the bruising is still dark blue over much of that entire area, and looks worse than this photo, extending all the way down to almost my knee. Seeing so much swelling and bruising made matters worse, as it was a constant reminder of how harsh the blow was.

I tried my best to enjoy the rest of the trip, which included stops along the coast of Norway, ended in Bergen. I was in constant pain, and walking wasn't easy, but it didn't seem to aggravate the issue. The worst part was not knowing the extent of the damage. All I knew was that the area was very swollen and painful, and I had a sizable hematoma. Regardless, Greg and I had paid a lot of money for the trip and been looking forward to it for over a year, so I wasn't about to let this accident ruin it for me. As I wrote about in my previous two posts, I love running around new areas on vacation. So it was definitely a bummer to not be able to run in the port stops during the rest of the trip.

We returned home on Thursday evening, and I saw a doctor yesterday. The swelling is gone, but I have a big bump on the left side of my pubic bone, which is the hematoma itself. Even at rest I have a small level of pain, and running definitely aggravates it. My doctor was able to isolate the muscle group that was impacted, and it's the lower abdomen. Thankfully, all of the adductors are in great shape. I never realized that the lower abdomen was used so much in running, but it is painful with each toe-off, so I guess it's pretty critical.

So as of now I have the constant pain of the hematoma, as well as an inflamed/irritated lower abdominal muscle that is painful to run on or to move in certain ways. I do not know when I will be able to run again.

I think this injury is difficult for me on a number of levels, mostly because it feels like something was taken from me.

1. I wish I would have followed my gut instinct and gotten off the bike instead of following the group over the rail tracks.

2. I have been taking it easy all summer with running and had planned my race schedule around being able to start training more seriously after this trip. Instead, I'm digging my hole deeper and will need to rebuild before progressing. I really thought I'd be able to crush a 10K in early October, but now I'm doubtful.

3. I don't know when I will be able to run again, so I am dealing with uncertainty and things being up in the air. And even if I am able to run, I don't know how long it will take to be completely pain-free.

Now that I've gotten that off of my chest, I do have the perspective that I am lucky the accident wasn't worse. I wasn't seriously injured and I can walk. Nothing is broken. This isn't as bad as having mono because I am still able to walk around, go to work, and live my non-running life.

I do blame myself for not trusting my instincts and for following a group of people who were riding in areas that I felt unsafe in. (Later, the other people on the bike tour said that they felt unsafe, too, and didn't find the ride enjoyable because of all the obstacles. One person also got their tire stuck in the railway, but he was able to stabilize himself and not fall.) But, on the other hand, I am not beating myself up too much because I was just trying to get the most out of our time in Oslo, even though it meant hopping on a bike.