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Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether to toe the line or DNS. It can be even harder to know when a DNF would be the best call. I now know I should have made the first choice about the Indy Women’s Half Marathon, but if I had to start the race again I would have made the second choice, pride and other considerations aside. But I’m getting ahead of myself... Expo fun After I PRed at the Plaza 10K at the beginning of the month, I felt really good about trying for a half PR in Indy. Typically I don’t have to slow down much from a 10K to a half; last year my differential between the 2017 Plaza 10K and the 2017 Indy Women’s half was 8 seconds/mile. To hit my big goal time of sub-1:20 at Indy, I could slow down about 14 seconds/mile from what I ran at this year's Plaza. I felt really good about going for that, and thought if the weather was good and I could get in a fast pack that 1:18:59 would be realistic. Starting about 10 days before the race, I felt a niggle in my calf (another post coming with full details about this). Initially it was too tiny to even worry about, and loosened up after a few blocks or at most a mile into my runs, but 6 days before the race it started getting worse and I started worrying. I did not enjoy my runs like usual during race week, because I was worried that my body was betraying me. I also had a short but intense stomach bug on Tuesday during race week that certainly didn’t do my recovery or body as a whole any favors. I had ART for my calf twice during race week, hoping for relief. I really vacillated on whether or not I should start the race, and had pretty much backed out, but the lightened up mileage of race week had me feeling like a race horse and I became optimistic that I could race and then take a few days off afterward to address the issue. On Thursday morning I told my parents my decision to race, since they were traveling to my home that day to leave for Indy with me on Friday morning. When I went in for ART on Thursday evening my coach told me he did not think racing on it would make it worse or that it would jeopardize CIM in any way, so I felt validated in my decision. He didn’t even think I’d need time off afterward as I expressed. He said it was a minor strain to my peroneus longus, a stabilizing muscle on the outside of the calf. I also rationalized it away by deciding that if this turned into a season-ending injury, I would be happy that I went to Indy to go for a PR because I might never get to my current fitness level again. Worst case scenario, I wanted a last hurrah. Throughout this time, my instincts were screaming at me: “Don’t do it! This is a bad idea!” I wouldn’t listen; I told myself I would power through the pain, mind over matter. I was honored to be featured as one of the Five Women to Watch in the race, but this honor also greatly contributed to my stubbornness about a DNS. I was already printed in the race program; what a loser I would be for pulling out last-minute. The weather forecast was also perfect for racing, at 50* and light wind (bad weather would have made pulling out much easier). This was NOT the photo I submitted to be published, & IS the worst photo of me from the 2017 event...not sure what happened there, but it disappointed me Starting photo from 2017 - can you find me? Posing with bib #3 My sweet mom My sweet dad Race morning my calf hurt on my warm up, but I was used to the feeling from the week before. It wasn’t terrible and I figured I’m just power through. Prior to this race, I'd never really tried to race with an injury so didn't know the reality of your body simply not allowing it to happen, no matter what your mind says. As the race started, adrenaline took over, and I told myself, “See, you’ll be fine.” I could tell I was running tentatively but thought maybe it would warm up more and I could speed up then; I wanted to go out conservatively and negative split anyhow. I felt like I was in my own little world, just me and my calf, not like I was in a race; although I knew by mile 3 I’d moved up to 5th place in the all women's field. I looked at my first 3 splits and then stopped checking them, disheartened, because my leg wasn't working right. Trying to stay optimistic pre-race Start By mile 4 I was limping. I couldn’t focus on racing or the women ahead of me; all I could think about was my leg. I tried changing my stride slightly, varied my foot-strike, anything for some relief, but nothing helped. I went back and forth between telling myself “this was a terrible idea” and “you’re going to be just fine, it’s just getting warmed up, just don't think about it.” My body was fine otherwise; I wasn't putting out a race effort, which was discouraging. I kept telling myself to toughen up; to just power through. Mind over matter. Make that leg work; force it to feel normal. I made it through the halfway turn around in a solid 5th place. I knew by that point that my sought after PR was for sure out the window, but I hoped I could stay in the top 5. By mile 7 I was becoming increasingly concerned about my calf, and by mile 8 I was truly dragging my left leg along. My body kept saying, “just stop” but my mind wouldn’t listen. I thought about my seeded race ranking. I thought about my parents who’d traveled to watch me. I thought about how this could be my last run for awhile...what if this was my last race ever?! Mid-race By mile 10 I was truly worried my leg was going to give out with each step. My body begged me to stop, and my mind acquiesced that I would if I couldn’t hang on to a top 10 spot. I stumbled along, and a slight decline in mile 11 truly made my leg scream (had this course not been so flat I would certainly not have finished). At mile 12 I was still in 5th but I could tell someone was coming up on me. I knew I’d have no response when I was passed. She blew by me like I was standing still, and I figured several more were coming, but there was nothing I could do, and I was so close I knew I'd finish even if I crawled it in. Effort-wise I felt like I was out for an easy run, but my leg was shooting pain and wouldn’t move any faster. My positive splits told the story of my increasing discomfort. I was so relieved to see the finish line ahead; I was going to make it in. It's funny how adrenaline carried me to the line but not a step farther. I had no idea what my time would be, but it didn’t matter at that point. I crossed in 1:24:18 and immediately broke into tears. If I’d just had an off day and run this time it would have been quite disappointing, but it wouldn’t have shaken me in my pursuit of a marathon PR; my recent 10Ks showed me my fitness was at an all-time high. I cried because at that moment I was certain my season was over. I got my last hurrah race but I couldn’t show my fitness in it. I was too stubborn to quit but not stubborn enough to over-ride my own body; I couldn’t force my leg to be okay. Exactly how I felt photo 1 Exactly how I felt photo 2 Finally! Hindsight is 20/20, and I should have listened to my own body and head instead of what others told me. The whole week my gut told me no. I prayed about it and thought God told me no. I did it anyway. I was wrong. But I also didn’t know until I knew, and by then the damage was done. Post-race I couldn't walk without holding onto someone or something. My cool down mileage wasn’t an option, and my dad ended up walking to the car and coming back to pick me up. To add injury to injury, my poor mom tripped and fell while trying to get from the start to a spot a few blocks away where we would later run by. She scraped and bruised her face, broke her glasses, and bruised up her knee and body. I was just sick about this happening to her; I felt like it was all my fault for not staying at home in Missouri like I clearly should have. Instead of having fun in Indy post-race, we headed home since we both couldn't really walk. Most of the top 10, in no particular order Winnings We both visited the med tent for ice! I’m thankful I was able to finish, even though I shouldn’t have. I’m thankful I held on to 6th (video of the awards here; official results here). Happiness is based on happenings, but joy is based on Jesus. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t very unhappy, but I am aiming to choose joy. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9 Going from running 80 miles a week to 0 is a huge mind-trip, but I know that is what I have to do until I'm pain-free. I’m not going to do anything to risk permanent damage. As much as I want to run CIM 2018 in 2:44:59, I want to run for the rest of my life so much more. The good news is that I've had significant improvements every day post-race, and no longer fear that this is season-ending (plus I was able to go to work on Monday then walk across the Missouri State campus to teach on Tuesday, both of which I'd been quite concerned about!). I didn't know I shouldn't have run until I did...now, I know. Post-race meal at Texas Roadhouse Fitting rest stop on the drive to the race 2 days after the race while I was on the spin bike my cat knocked my award on my workout room floor...it felt sadly symbolic
The short: I entered the Bill Snyder Highway Half at the last minute, mostly so I wouldn't have to run the monster workout I had scheduled alone. While the workout morphed from a split tempo to a continuous tempo when I found myself running around 2-3 other women early in the race, the outcome was much better than I would have predicted. I finished 2nd overall female in 1:21:41, in humid 70 degree weather and during an 82 mile week, following an 81 mile week (both weekly mileage PRs for me). There were a few wrong turns and hills that didn't help my finishing time, making me even happier to come away with the fastest half I've run in 2018. Although a part of me really wonders what I could have done if I'd tapered (tapering improves performance by an average of 3%), I am trying not to regret that and focusing on the benefit that running this with so many miles on my legs will give me in my marathon. I know more than ever that I have a 1:19 half marathon in me, but that goal took a backseat this season. Always dream bigger, but thank God for what you have more than you ask Him for what you want. Also, if you haven't tapered for any races all season, don't start doing the math on that 3% gain, hah! Another fun fact: My time was the 2nd fastest half marathon ever run in the state of Kansas by a 35-39 female, and the 21st fastest half marathon ever run by a woman of any age in the state of Kansas on a certified course. The rankings aren't updated online yet, but will be shown here. You may not recognize me smiling AND without a double chin in a finishing photo! The long: When I saw the workout I had scheduled for May 19, I thought it was just begging to be run within a half marathon race: 3 miles warm-up, 3 x 4 mile tempos at 6:07-6:14 with 0.5 recoveries (making the "meat" portion of the workout 13 miles long and at my half race pace), 2 miles cool-down. Around the same time, my friend Michelle mentioned that she was running the Bill Snyder Half as a workout in her Grandma's training. I've wanted to run this race for a few years, but it's never worked out before. For a few weeks, I was 50/50 on entering the race, with the main barrier in my indecision being the 4.5 hour drive. After running a lot of solo miles in the weeks leading up to the race, I decided that having others to run the workout with was my only hope to hit the workout on tired legs would make me more likely to hit my goal paces and make the drive worth it, plus based on past results I thought I could win enough prize money to at least cover the cost of the trip, so I signed up two days before the race. As it ended up, my brother-in-law's family also traveled to the race, so in the end we made the whole thing into an extended family weekend get-away! I was in an 82 mile week (only my third lifetime week in the 80s), but I had the workout on tap whether I ran it within the race or not. I'd run two halves already this season during 70 mile weeks (Rock the Parkway and Illinois), so I wasn't too worried about my lack of taper, plus I haven't raced anything tapered since the Houston Marathon, so racing on tired legs has become normal and I keep telling myself that surely it's good for me. But on the other hand, when I bumped up to 80 mpw it sure showed me that I'd gotten comfortable with 70 mpw but wasn't comfortable at 80. Side note: last season mileage in the 70s still seemed very big to me and 60s felt normal, but this season 70s became normal. Hopefully next season I can say that 80s are normal, but this time around I am feeling the increase! Race morning started with thunderstorms, and the buses poised to transport us to the start of the point-to-point course were delayed to ensure runner safety. The race director was great about giving updates and sharing his plans, but this is something that would have stressed me out if this had been a goal race. As it was, I just rolled with the punches and chatted with Michelle on the bus until we made it out to the start. I didn't have time for my full 3 mile warm up or strides, but I got in 2.2 miles and a few drills, with just enough time to spare to pee in a ditch. Again, this was something that would have bothered me had this been a goal race (I didn't even do leg swings - the horror!), but I was just thankful I'd had enough time for what I did; at one time the race had thought they wouldn't start sending the buses until 30 minutes before the start due to the weather, which would have been a really tight timeline since it took about 20 minutes to drive to the start. It sprinkled during my warm up and my shoes got pretty wet from puddles, but we didn't get rained on during the race. The first mile of the course had a significant downhill drop, so many people got out fast. I held back to what I felt was 6:20ish effort and ran a 6:05 first mile split (Strava said my grade-adjusted pace [GAP] was 6:21, so yay for my effort gauge!). I saw four women get out ahead of me, and I knew who three of them were from Midwest racing and Strava. I suspected one would be significantly faster than me, but I thought I could hang with the others so I didn't want to let them gap me by much (remember, I needed to finish in the top 3 to rationalize the cost of the trip!). Mile 2 was all up incline, and I was aware of not putting in too much effort too early. I pulled up with the ladies sometime in that mile and shortly after began chatting with Sharon. I'd never officially met her before then, but we have a mutual friend and I knew who she was. She mentioned that she was on PR pace at that point, and I told her I was supposed to run a split tempo workout but didn't see that happening anymore, so I hoped to keep plugging along at that pace, so we should go get her a PR. We caught up with Chantalle, one of Sharon's Kansas City Smoke teammates shortly after, and Sharon encouraged her to join us in pacing together, which she did. We also had men around us here and there. Mile 3 had a some drop, then mile 4 was again incline. If you've ever driven about any highway that goes into Kansas City, that's what the first 8 miles of this race were like - straight with long inclines and declines. Early on I could feel the long inclines, but they weren't a problem; however, I knew that I was in for climbs during the race's final miles and was conscious of that. I paid a lot more attention to my watch during this race than I have in any other race this season, partially because I wanted to hit the workout paces my coach had given me and partially because I wanted to help Sharon PR. This is somewhere between 4-8 You can see the wet roads & our female pack And you can see the long incline we are running up...also other female runners make me look tall! Mile 5 was fairly flat, then mile 6 had a huge drop. It was my slowest GAP of the race, which I wasn't surprised about because I felt like I had the breaks on. It was a mile you definitely could have hammered, but that could have come back to haunt your quads later in the race. I was also conscious of not wanting to pound my legs during the peak of my marathon training - I would go straight into my biggest mileage week ever after this race. Miles 7-8 had a gentle decline, which I enjoyed. At that point Sharon, Chantalle, and I were all together, along with a man named Juvenal who trains some with Michelle (cue It's a Small World After All). We came into town at mile 8 and I suddenly thought, "Wow, I feel good!" I felt better than I'd felt at that point in my last 2 halves, which was particularly nice since I was running with two other women (no one wants to feel not good when running with a pack they hope to outlast!). I'd been chatting most of the race and pushing the pace of our little pack without thinking much about it. Shortly after that, Chantalle and Juvenal fell back and it was just Sharon and I. Miles 9 and 10 had a little up and down but were generally pretty flat. I checked our total time at mile 10 and told Sharon it was time to pound the final 5K for a huge PR for her. I felt like it had become my duty to pull her along to a PR; I'd told her that we would be in the 1:21s, and in my runner's high state of mind I decided I was like Desi helping Shalane at Boston...helping someone else was helping me too! I always find it amazing the bond that you can forge with someone through running miles next to them. I was really excited to see her succeed! Somewhere in mile 10 we started the confusing part of the course, which entailed switching between sidewalks and the road. In several spots there were signs that had "right turn" indicated, but there were two paths to turn right on, and we made several mis-steps off the course. Mile 11 was The Confusing Mile (also my least favorite mile - especially after the wonderful straightness of the first 8 miles), because it was super winding on paths through campus and it was really unclear which way to turn in multiple spots. I assume the race wasn't allowed to spray paint on the campus paths because the rest of the course was better marked than that portion. On 4-5 occasions I took steps in the wrong direction and had to correct. I never went very far off course, but it affected my momentum more than anything. I was leading Sharon by a couple of steps throughout this time, so sometimes led her wrong and other times she was able to go the correct way when a volunteer corrected me, and then we would be side-by-side again when I turned back the right way. There were volunteers at all of the turns, which was nice, but most didn't voluntarily tell us which direction to go, so I also ended up asking more than I wanted to talk at that point in the race! Mile 11 had some short but steep uphills, but overall the weaving was much harder than the elevation. The drop from 6-8 was nice; the climb from 9-13 was not as nice I knew that mile 12 had some elevation gain, and when we turned a corner to see a long uphill it was intimating. I felt like I had a strong finish in me, but I don't think anyone wants to climb 70 feet during mile 12 of a half marathon. I'd stopped looking at my watch after mile 10, and was just pushing to get both Sharon and myself in as quickly as possible. I'm glad I didn't look at the mile 12 split because it was 6:34 - the GAP was 6:20 though, so although we did fall off pace a tad, it wasn't as bad as it looked. I was happy to get over the hill and to shortly after see the mile 12 sign. I'd pulled out a little on Sharon on the hill, and I think even though that climb hurt my time it likely was to my advantage competition-wise because I am more of a strength runner and generally good on hills. I knew it was go time for me in the final mile, so I pushed with all I had left. We had another long incline, then had to make a few turns in a parking lot going into the finish. It was a massive stadium parking lot, and I was certainly feeling the race and the high mileage leading up to it on my legs, but I knew I couldn't let up. I reminded myself that this wasn't about how I felt; it was about what I'd trained my body to do. Sharon's husband and teammates were around the final stretches, encouraging her to get me, and I kept thinking that I had to keep the pedal on the gas or she was coming! My final 1.13 was at 6:03 pace; my Garmin recorded it lumped together due to how I'd programmed the long forgotten workout into it. As I rounded the final turn, a man told me, "You've got about 30 meters on her" and I was able to enjoy the final stretch because I knew that there wasn't enough real estate for her to make up that much distance. I even remembered to smile for my finishing photos! Final stretch Clock shot by Jon Ibbetson Professional clock shots I really was smiling even though you can't see it! How's this for running through the finish? You can also see my sweat-soaked pony tail. 5 of the top 10 finishers were women running under 1:23:30! Sharon came through just behind me, elated with her bright shiny new PR, and we hugged in the finish chute. Michelle was in not long after that, and we all made quick fuel, water, and shoe change stops, then headed out for a cool-down together. Michelle needed 5 more miles to hit 20 for the day, and I told here I'd run the whole way with her unless I got too hungry (typically low blood sugar is my biggest barrier for race cool-downs, but I carried some chews with me this time!). Sharon wasn't going to go the whole way with us, but after we couldn't find through streets where we thought they should be to get her back to the stadium, she ended up running the whole 5 too. We look pretty good for having run over 20 miles! The way my splits are recorded is proof that I really intended to run the scheduled workout! We then headed to the awards ceremony and received our awards from the legendary K-State coach Bill Snyder, the namesake of this race and the highway the first 8 miles were run on (his highway was the best part of the course!). Luckily I did win enough prize money to pay for the trip! After the race my family played in Manhattan with Jon's brother's family, which made the trip even more worth it. When I told my coach about forgoing the workout and instead running 13.1 at the prescribed tempo pace, he responded, "I figured that might happen", haha! At least I'm predictable! Awards by Bill Snyder Everyone wants to PR, and I am no different, but I feel that what I got from this race was just as valuable, and I am so thankful that I went to it. I believe that if the final 5 miles of this course would have been more like the first 8, I would have PRed even without a taper. I believe if I'd tapered I would have broken 1:20 (that 3% math is in my favor, equaling a 2:26 gain). But none of that would get me to the Trials, and to hit a 1:21 half with 2 weeks of mileage in the 80s on my legs in warm weather was a huge confidence-booster going into Grandma's. If I hadn't run this, I wouldn't have the confidence that I can race well in a long event at 70 degrees - because historically, I haven't! Remember 4 weeks before CIM I couldn't hit marathon goal pace in the Bass Pro Half Marathon in warm temps (I ran 1:23:50)? Then there was my death march at the Dam to Dam Half Marathon, which was even a goal race that I tapered for (1:26:19 there when I was in at least 1:21 shape). I should mention that the wind was very light for the Bill Snyder Half at 5 mph, which was a change from the Bass Pro race and from the other two halves I ran this season. It was also cloudy, which feels cooler than the same temperature and sunny (fingers crossed for cloud cover at Grandma's!). I also now know that my race shoes function just fine on wet roads and when soaking wet from puddles, so that is one less thing to worry about if it rains at future races! I am excited to see what this all means at Grandma's in 4 weeks! This season has felt very different to me than last season. I've become more flexible and more thankful. Leading up to CIM, I spent the whole cycle obsessing about focusing on a 2:45, and even though I didn't think I was quite ready for it on race day, nothing else was going to be good enough and I didn't enjoy my PR like I should have. For most of my Grandma's build, I've felt like I have no chance of getting the standard this cycle. Just recently I've started to think that maybe, just maybe, it's possible -- still not likely, but I don't think I will ever be confident about it because 6:17 pace is just so darn fast for 26.2 miles! Whatever my best is on race day is going to be good enough though, and I am going to be thankful for it and for the process. Each time I don't run 2:45, I will remember to be thankful that I can start another training cycle and keep trying...and for that reason I'm also thankful that I didn't get it at CIM or Houston, because my Grandma's cycle has been good for me in many, many ways. My sister-in-law also raced, only a couple of months postpartum with her 4th! Cousins! Happiness