With the end of September comes the annual San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I’ve been excited for this race both as a coach and as an athlete.
Out of town friends Meg and Jack were coming up for the race, and it would be Meg’s first half marathon. I had been working with Meg on her run training for the past 5 months, and we had seen her long runs go from 2 miles to 11 miles, a thrilling transformation! This would be the culmination of half a year’s work, and I looked forward to watching her cross the finish line.
Additionally, I was excited for my own run, since this is a guaranteed PR course. The weather is typically mild, the race well supported, and the route is pancake flat, save for two underpasses. I ran 1:28 at Santa Cruz just a few weeks back, surely I was destined for a 1:25 on this course that featured zero miles of sand running and a significantly shorter pre-race bike ride.
I guess this PR fantasy was rooted in the expectation that I would peak for Santa Cruz… and then just stay there forever. But this belief undermines the concept of a Fitness Peak. A “peak,” meaning you come back down the other side at some point (in my case – about 30 minutes after completing my “A” Race).
Apparently, the universe determined (quite accurately) that I don’t know when the party’s over. The off season – like a good night’s sleep – is healthy and necessary, but left to my own devices I was going to keep adding just one more! one more! one more! race to my schedule
So I got injured.
It happened just after my Santa Cruz finish. I pushed hard at that race, and certainly had a collection of noteworthy aches and pains afterwards. Curiously, the knees were not included in that list. Nor have they ever been during racing or training. However, I sustained a fresh new knee injury while being interviewed for a post-race massage. The therapist asked me to straighten my leg, which I fearlessly complied with, and BAM! Instant knee injury.
What makes this all even more mysterious is that since the traumatic massage interview, I have discovered that I can still bike, climb stairs, jump, barbell squat, dart side-to-side in a game of puppy keep-away, and in fact I can actually jog and run. I can straighten my legs, and I was even interviewed for another massage without incident. There is just one specific movement that my knee refuses to allow:
Unfortunately, this was the single activity I had planned to engage in for Rock ‘n’ Roll.
On race morning, wrapped in a fancy Halloween inspired KT tape job and a warm cloak of denial, I lined up in Corral One with Meb and all the fast guys. I took off at a swift sub-6:00 pace, which felt great for about two and a half minutes, but with 12.5 miles still to go, my knee called Game Over.
As mile by mile my pace rapidly deteriorated, reality sunk in. It is time for my season to be done now. No more PRs. No more pushing to the absolute limit. I needed to slow my pace down to the safe zone, but it seemed impossible, trapped in this herd of speeding runners.
Just then the mob swept me down San Pedro Street, and there O’Flaherty’s Pub had an impromptu aid station set out with half pint cups of Guinness for the runners. It is impossible to take yourself too seriously when you start drinking before 9 a.m. so my definitive shift occurred right there as I grabbed a cup, slowed to a stroll, and sipped my stout from mile 4 to mile 5, pondering my new race strategy.
For a few minutes, the surrender of my PR dream was a big disappointment, and I could’ve dropped out and called it a day right there. But I figured I paid good money to have people hand me free water at regular intervals, so I was going to continue on through to the finish, and I was going to have fun doing it!
Plus, Meg was somewhere in that crowd of 8,200 runners, and only 3,744 of them were wearing the exact same color as her. I should be able to find her in no time!
I checked in with the local entertainment. Pretty sure these guys were still up from the night before. Rock on!
I commiserated with fellow Endurance Junkies teammates who also admitted they weren’t having the race of their dreams that day (although you wouldn’t know it to look at them!)
Bman, 7 days post Ironman, 2 days post bike crash. Still running…
Meg started in a later wave than me, but I spotted her around mile nine. We ran the final four miles together and crossed the finish line together – ten minutes faster than her goal time, yeah!
And then we iced our knees together.
What better way to spend a Sunday?
Adelle, the Half Marathon Machine