Thursday, May 9, 2013

Aaron's Big Year


Hi everybody!  Remember me?  It's been a while.

I have a bit of a confession to make; I've owed Steph this post for about 5 months now.  Back in December, I hit a major low point in my running.  While juggling the new baby, recovering new mommy, anxious puppy, and working from home, I stopped exercising altogether with the exception, of course, of hockey.  It wasn't healthy and on New Year's Day, I took the first step to changing that by running a 5K.  It was symbolic in that the previous year marked my first 5K or race of any kind.  A year later, I officially dropped 1 minute off my time, but added 3 or 4 from my PR.  I was happy that 3 or 4 weeks off was still enough to do better than the previous year, but I was bummed that I let things go on as long as they did.

 Note how exhausted I look

With that, I set out to keep myself running for the full year.  I called 2013 "Aaron's Big Year".  The goal was to run at least one race every month and lose weight in the process (more on that later).  While the intention was there, the funds weren't and I had to cross 5 races off my list.  Back in January, I decided that I was going to run the New Jersey Half Marathon, but as April turned into May, I knew this wasn't meant to be.  It was destined to be "Victim Race #6".

While in New Jersey for Steph's race weekend, I told her about my disappointment in setting this goal only to have it escape my grasp.  Last weekend was supposed to be MY race weekend too.

At the Expo, Steph generously offered to register me for the race, but we decided against it.  We couldn't afford it and I hadn't run more than 8 miles in one stretch (and that was back in August 2012).  I resigned myself to let this one go and hopefully catch another one later.

As fate would have it, our friend spontaneously got sick and offered me her number.  This set the gears turning.  Could I even run that distance?  I just got diagnosed with tendonitis in both of my ankles.  How couldn't I get hurt?  With Steph's urging, I decided to go for it anyway.  My strategy was to take my time, knowing that the goal is to merely finish unscathed.  I could walk each water stop and run the mile and a half between them in order to keep my legs fresher.  I'd have fuel and water throughout.  With the plan set, I said "why not?"

And if you know Steph, giving into her demands was a huge mistake...

Mind you, the last major complicating factor was that I seem to have misplaced my Garmin and, thus, have no way of knowing my pace and adjusting accordingly.  I've run the last 5 months or so without one and have become a Zen runner (more on that later), but how in the world could that work in a race?

On race day, I did my usual warmup routine as if 13.1 miles was just my usual distance.  When the race started, I ran like all my regular runs and let people pass me.  Tons of people passed me, but I found a stride that was comfortable and my breathing was stable.  After the first mile, I saw a clock showing the gun time of 13 minutes and figured I ran a 10 - 10:30 opening mile.  Way too fast for this distance!  So I tried to slow up and calm myself down some more.  A trip through the first water stop and two miles later, I cross the 3rd mile checkpoint at 33 minutes.  So much for slowing down.  However, I still felt comfortable and smirked at people passing me while huffing and puffing.

Miles 4 and 5 were interesting because the race snaked through several small blocks.  While I was making a left turn, there were the runners ahead of me running at me and making a left turn at the same intersection!  It's crazy watching a sea of people running at you and veering off at the last second.  I looked for Steph, but couldn't find her.  Oh well.  Maybe at the next intersection.  I finished Mile 5 and reveled in the fact that I had only once run a race as long and felt like death at the time. At 55 minutes (minus 3 minutes or so), I had run a few minutes slower than that 5-Miler and still had tons of energy!  I was slowing down somewhat and feeling good, but still going fast.

I hit Mile 6 and crossed the 10K marker at 1:07 and all of a sudden, the 2:20 pacer passed me and my right achilles tendon flared up.  I ran to the end of the bridge and started stretching it out.  The honeymoon was over and I knew I'd have to really push myself through the second half of the course.  But off I went, running between water stops, walking at the water stops, stretching out my achilles, and repeating.

Miles 7 through 10 were a blur.  I probably zoned out a bit or got really into a train of thought - possibly even visualizing myself finishing with Steph there to congratulate me.  I was running at a 2:30 or so pace and was telling myself that I'd be ecstatic crossing the finish line at 2:40.  But with each water stop, my achilles felt tighter.

Even worse, I still hadn't heard from Steph.  The finish line was only a few blocks walk back to Mile 9 or so and I was somewhat counting on her to help me through the end.  Little did I know she wasn't as far ahead of me as I thought.

At Miles 11 and 12, I hit the wall hard.  I made the last turn up the beach and felt like every other race I've ever run - regardless of how much was left, my legs were on autopilot and would carry me to the finish... or so I thought.  I ran past the last water stop, which was a big mistake.  I had to walk several times in those 2 miles and couldn't get my legs to keep going.  They were spent, but I kept getting closer to the finish.

Then disaster struck!  All of a sudden, my left hamstring locked up with a quarter of a mile left in the race!  I immediately stopped running and stretched at the nearest barrier.  I didn't notice it at first, but that's where one of the race photographers set up shop.  So there's me, wincing in pain while the photographer is snapping away.  I was pissed and when I finally felt good enough to walk, I limped past him.  Steph saw the pictures and said she's never seen me make those faces before.



I was content walking to the end.  I didn't want to get hurt.  Somebody passed me and told me to keep running, so I did.  I don't know why she was an authority on my ability to continue on, but at that time, she was just what the doctor ordered.  I started to hobble and felt awful.  Then I realized that if I speed up, I could possibly stretch my legs enough to not cramp.  Off I went past the woman who lifted my spirits and galloped across the finish line in 2:30:29.  Were it not for the cramping incident, I could've run it in under 2:30, but that's for another day.


Not the best pose, but I needed fuel after the race, but ate too quickly and was really nauseous.

I was proud of myself and shocked that I pulled it off without training, but still Steph was nowhere to be found.  She was at the massage tent cooling off!  All in all, I had a good time running the race and have to give myself a pat on the back for seizing the opportunity and greatly exceeding my expectations.

As Steph says Postpartum PRs! 


I may still be sore, but I have a new medal on the wall, a new PDR, and the confidence in myself that Steph will have some competition in the near future!

Now the only question is what is next....

Ever run a race a whim? What should I do next?

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