Mistakes were made. Oh the mistakes.
I chalk it up to being a n00b, and partly because this sport is just so damned unforgiving.
This was my second race. I had a pretty good time doing a 5K last fall, so I figured I’d up the ante this time. I don’t regret making that decision. It has been a long journey of discovery. But not entirely in a good way. And once I managed to reach the end of Shitville Road, let’s just say I should’ve worn boots instead of Asics.
A couple of months ago while completing an 8-mile run, my left heel started hurting really badly. So bad, I had to walk the rest of the way home. I took a week off, hoping it was tendinitis. My coach suggested rest, stretching once the pain subsided, and strength training. A week later, it still hurt. I took two weeks off, and started back up gradually. The pain returned. Turns out the culprit was a much worse monster called plantar fasciitis.
After a close look at my calendar, I had a decision to make. Bail on a 10K in late January or continue on. I decided to stick with it by running every other day and doing a long run on the weekend. This solution seemed to work. Sort of.
The week of the race, I did a few shorter runs on a treadmill and a couple hours of cycling. No running the day before. I still felt the injury, but it was tolerable.
Then I came up with the bright idea of popping one Ibuprofen a couple hours before the race. Mistake #1. I’ll explain later.
After checking in and picking up my bib, I did a quick warmup. A half marathon wave began 10 minutes before ours. Then we were off.
The first thing I noticed was how unbelievably cold it was. The next thing I noticed was I had a lot of trouble breathing.
Fortunately, those two things wore off after about a mile.
I tried to be responsible and grabbed a cup of water about three miles in. Mistake #2. Half of it went up my nose.
Other than that, things had been going great. But then came mile four. I approached a turnaround (Mistake #3 coming). It’s a large white sign that says 10K and has a U-Turn symbol on it. Which means turn around.
What did I do? I KEPT GOING. I still can’t figure out why. My brain, in all its wisdom, told me to follow the other runners who continued on, not realizing these were half marathoners. I finally turned around after about a tenth of a mile.
By that point I was pretty fucked. But I didn’t realize exactly how much until later.
I tried to make up for this by picking up the pace. Mistake #4. My injury really did not like this. And to make matters worse, a large blister began forming on my right big toe.
Fortunately, mile five is pretty flat and mile six is only partly uphill. But nothing could save me at this point.
I finished at 1:01:19, about six minutes over what I had hoped would be my finish. Even without screwing up the turnaround, I still wouldn’t have made that goal, but it would have been a little closer.
I drank a few tiny cups of water (Mistake #5) and walked around a bit, waiting for the scores to come in. Once they arrived, I was surprised to see that I had placed third in my division. I had majorly screwed up during the race and still managed to pick up a medal. For a n00b runner, this kind of recognition feels like winning the Olympics.
But the excitement did not last. They called the three names. Mine was not one of them. Turns out the company that was hired to handle the race times had not updated its list with all of the runners and one woman in my division sneaked in 45 seconds ahead of me.
And that, folks, is why the tiniest mistake can cost you. Pissed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about that situation. The fact is, if you can blame someone else for a problem, it’s an easier pill to swallow because you can distance yourself from it.
But the only person I can blame here is ME.
And here’s the worst part. Because I was so consumed by a damned medal, I did not properly rehydrate following that run. I could have walked to my car to get the bottle of water I had responsibly packed for the day, but between my foot pain and not wanting to miss announcements, I ignored it. Once I got home, I started feeling really, really ill. Not enough water. No electrolytes. The irritation of that ibuprofen I took earlier. Feeling majorly bummed.
I ate a banana, hoping it was merely hunger. But I think that made matters worse.
At lunch, I felt like I was going to pass out. And I felt like I had knives in my stomach.
I collapsed for 45 minutes once I was back at home, wanting to die.
How can something so awesome leave me feeling this way?
As the tech support guys like to say in their special brand of techie snark, “It’s user error. Dumbass.”
I know, I know. You’re probably saying, “You’re completely focused on the negative!”
OK, here’s the upside. A year ago, I would not have been able to complete a 5K, let alone a 10K. And it definitely would not have been at a 9:42 pace. It would not have been without stopping, and maybe a little bit of cussing and crying too.
Out of 105 runners, I finished 38th (13th among 57 women). My fear, starting out, was finishing last.
So there’s that.
I’ll carry these painful lessons with me to the next race.
And hopefully my comprehension of signs will improve between now and then.