At 9:30 am, I was lined up at the start of a local 10k race, The Great Pumpkin Challenge. A race where I had set my 10k PR in 2012 a week after my first marathon. A race, where last year, I had come within seconds of my PR. Today, I lined up with no expectations.
Flashback to last year. 2016 was a training cycle disaster. I went into 2016, tired, continually sore, over-trained. I had run a marathon in Oct 2015 and fell short of my goal of 3:30 by 10 minutes after what I thought was a great marathon training cycle. Instead of taking time off, I jumped right back into training. I trained harder and harder and got slower and slower. I ran 3 HM that fall and could not break 1:45 (4 minutes off my PR) no matter how hard I tried. My final race of the year was the Great Pumpkin Challenge 10k. I ran my heart out, came within seconds of my PR, and wound up straining my left hamstring and my left hip hurt too.
In January 2017, I finally realized that something had to give. I took a recovery week. I gave up on my plans to run the Boston Marathon again in 2017. I was a DNS at Hopkinton in April.
I had been researching different training methodologies and decided to embrace Phil Maffetone’s heart rate training. I would spend the next 2-3 months running at a HR of 125 (180-my age-5). This would increase my aerobic efficiency and enable me to run faster at a lower HR. This pace started out >13 min mile. 8 weeks into the training, my pace at this HR was a blazing 12 min mile. My hip and hamstring felt marginally better.
It was now the beginning of May 2017 and I had signed up for a HM in June. Time to start training. Only after 8 weeks of running super slow, I had lost all my speed! Wait a minute! All this slow HR training was supposed to make me more aerobically fit so I could run faster! Aack! I felt I had wasted 2 months of my running life!
I dug in. My hamstring and hip were continually sore and it was so uncomfortable to sit. Driving was especially excruciating. Then one fateful day, May 22nd, I was walking and caught the heel of my boot on the sidewalk. When trying to keep myself from falling, I felt my left hamstring pop a couple of times. I could still walk, but it was painful. I figured I really pulled it now.
Of course I kept running. My hamstring didn’t seem to bother me when actually running but afterwards in hurt. I went to see an orthopedic doctor and was scheduled for an MRI in early June. Diagnosis: A high grade high proximal hamstring tear – 70-90%. The DR thought I would probably be better off without surgery to repair it. And I was all for no surgery. But when I asked about the recovery time, his answer was anywhere from 6-12 weeks and sometime more. Ugh! I was able to do anything (but running) that did not cause me any pain.
So, for the next 8 weeks, I cycled, I ellpiticalled, and I strength trained. And I went to PT. When I went back to the Ortho, he cleared me to start running 2 miles a couple days per week. Running felt awesome and horrible all at the same time.
Slowly I built back up the mileage. Long run is now up to 10 miles. I don’t remember 10 miles being so darned far! A couple of weeks ago I started introducing some hills. My hamstring is still not 100% healed and hill repeats caused some soreness but I am told that is to be expected. All in all, the hamstring has been holding up well.
Ok, enough history, back to today. Going in to the race, I decided to let the day give me what my legs could do without re-injuring myself. I also didn’t look at my watch in fear of getting depressed. The first 3 miles felt pretty good, I was working but felt limited by my lack of leg speed not by my cardiovascular fitness. It was flat for the most part. The next 3 miles not so much. I had forgotten how hilly those miles were. My lack of hill training definitely made itself known. I was struggling by mile 5. I still didn’t look at my watch. I really didn’t want to know how slow I was going. I had formerly run negative splits on this course. Not today. The hills took their toll. The first four miles were just under 8min. The last two were 8:20’s.
And my time… a personal worst at 49.03min. Almost 3min off my PR. Good for 2nd in my age group though. It pays to be old sometimes. J All in all, I am fairly pleased with the results. It is much better than I anticipated.
And the best part of the day, you ask? By far, it was the 1 mile fun run with my boys!