Last year, I spent most of the year injured. First, there were shin issues that just didn’t want to resolve. Then, in July I fractured a couple bones in my left foot at the Colonial Beach Sprint Triathlon. Sometime in September, I fractured a bone in my right foot, which I didn’t discover until I was getting x-rays of my left foot because I had re-fractured those previously broken bones by running too soon. Once I was able to start running pain-free in early November, I vowed to run smartly, follow my training plan to a T, and listen to my body. I signed up for my goal spring race, the Anthem Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA. The three previous years I had ran the Townebank 8K, but I decided that since this training cycle was going to be my successful, triumphant return to racing that I would register for the half. The last half I did was the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in April 2013 and I missed running 13.1. It is my favorite distance. I trained smart all winter; I followed my coach’s training plan religiously. Even if my legs felt great and I wanted to run longer (or faster), I held back. I was going to get the Anthem Half Marathon injury-free.
In late February, my local moms running club (MRTT) put out a call for ladies to run on the MRTT team for a local event, the Pacers St. Patrick’s Day 8K. I didn’t even give it a second thought – I wasn’t going to do any “racing” until the Half because I didn’t want to risk injury. However, the first week of March my daughter and husband had to travel overseas for a week due to a family emergency. Because I had so much time to myself, when another call came out for runners, I went ahead and signed up. My training plan for the race day called for an easy 8 mile run (I was in taper for the half marathon, which was the following weekend) so I decided that I would run the 8k and then finish up with an easy three mile run around the Mall since I would be in DC for the race.
I arrived in DC pretty early on race morning, around 8:00 a.m., and parked at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, my parking spot of choice when in DC for races. The race started at 9:00 a.m., but I had been out until 1:00 a.m. the night before celebrating a girlfriend’s 40th birthday AND the time had changed. I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time to get to the venue on time and get my packet picked up. The weather was terrible – bitterly cold and windy. I wore my typical race skirt, the Lululemon Pace Setter Skirt, a Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long sleeve shirt and compression calf sleeves on my legs. No hat, no gloves. When I walked to get my packet, I was chastising myself for not bringing a hat or some sort of ear covering. My ears, which are susceptible to cold, were already throbbing and I knew I wouldn’t be able to run with them hurting. Once I retrieved my packet, which contained my bib, timing chip and cute cotton t-shirt, I returned to my car to find something – anything – that I could wear to protect my ears. Fortunately, my cycling gear bag was in my trunk and I found a skull cap that I wear under my helmet. It wasn’t pretty but it would work. I was ready to run!
Before the race started, I did an easy one mile warm-up to get my legs used to moving in the cold and to warm my extremities. When the race started at 9:00, I was ready to go! My race strategy was to treat this as a long, easy run. I aimed to run 10:00 to 10:30 minute miles and just enjoy the sunshine (regardless of how cold it was). I started in the midst of a large pack and it was quite crowded. I fell into my pace pretty quickly and enjoyed the first mile which was flat.
Mile 1: 10:38
The second mile kicked off with a slight climb up to the Capital Hill area. The course was still crowded but I was continued to chug along with a consistent second mile split.
Mile 2: 10:37
Mile 3 started along 3rd Street and ran in front of the Capital grounds. It was a lovely view and many people were stopping to take photos. I was cold, so cold, that I could not have imagined running without my head and ears being covered. My run was still easy and relaxed. I even thought to myself that it was what I refer to as a “Driving Miss Daisy” run – a nice, leisurely run without real purpose other than to enjoy the journey. When Mile 3 ticked off on my Garmin, I was pleased with how consistent my pacing was.
Mile 3: 10:35
While in the “Driving Miss Daisy” mindset, I realized that my 8K PR was a couple years old and from a period when I has in the worst of my shin splint issues. Some quick back of the envelope math told me that I could probably PR if I was willing to push my legs. A new PR sounded great to me, but I wasn’t quite ready to commit. I decided that I would pick up the pace just a bit and see how my legs felt. If they were fine for the next mile then I could run at goal pace for the final mile of the race.
Mile 4: 9:54
Mile 4 felt pretty good. My legs were happy, my body wasn’t giving any negative feedback (no twinges in my shins or my previously fractured bones in my feet) so I decided to go ahead and pick up the pace a bit more for the final mile. As much as I wanted to go all out, I didn’t want to risk injury just a week before the Anthem Half Marathon.
Mile 5: 8:50
I finished in 50:45 for an average pace of 10:13 (chip time; my Garmin says 50:47). I set a new PR without evening running all out or at race pace so I was stoked! After the race, I headed straight back to the car. As much as I wanted to hang out with friends and watch some of the Irish dancing, I was just so cold. I started shivering violently after I finished and I just needed to warm up. So, I headed back to the Reagan Center and drove home. I ended up NOT doing the remaining three miles that were called for on my training plan, but I was just fine with that. I stretched out at home, iced my legs and foam rolled and looked ahead to the next weekend’s half marathon.