When I signed up for the Mid Winter Classic in November, I had high hopes. I was continuing to make progress, a little more than a year removed from two months on the shelf because of my bum knees, and I thought I was ready to dive into some hard training.
It didn’t exactly work out that way partly because I got a little lazy, partly because the weather was a jerk, mostly because I was sick for almost a month.
I battled my way through the 10-miler, undertrained and finished in a little bit of pain (it’s OK, I’m not injured, I’m just out of shape and have bad knees). I battled the voices in my head telling me to stop, I ran consistent splits, and run negative splits.
And I learned a few things along the way.
• Don’t listen to the voices in my head.
This is a constant battle, but even more so now that I haven’t been racing very much and I haven’t been putting too many workouts to really, truly make myself uncomfortable. When I started to hurt just before all those hills in mile 2 on Sunday, I almost turned around and jogged back to the finish line. I gave myself permission to run just 5 miles hard-ish, then jog the final 5 miles. I almost stopped and walked during mile 8 (I even pulled over to the side of the road). I was hurting and wanted to stop, but I didn’t listen to my head and kept going.
• I need to focus on my core.
My back started to get tired and sore climbing that huge hill at the end of mile 5 and the start of mile 6. It has been getting sore when I work out or when I stand up at work. That’s a sure sign that I have been neglecting my core. I’ve been doing pushups and I even did a couple of CrossFit workouts (that shit hurts), but planks and other core work … well, I’ve been slacking. That has to stop.
• I have a lot of work to do.
It took a pretty big effort for me to average 8:38 miles for 10 miles on Sunday. Granted, it’s a pretty tough course, but my goal for Chicago is to run that pace (or faster) for 26.2 miles. Running 25-30 miles a week and slacking off on strength work is not going to cut it. I found that out, struggling through those final 5 miles at “marathon pace” on Sunday. Big goals take big work and it’s time to get to work.
• Don’t skip my warmup or my cooldown.
I spent most of the time before the race catching up with friends, and I don’t regret that at all. I do regret not warming up. I didn’t do any dynamic stretching, I didn’t jog, I just stood around and chatted, then when the canon went off (and scored the shit out of me), I started running. My hamstrings were tight, my calves were tight, my hips were tight. I felt miserable and that is a recipe for disaster. My hamstring have been too much of a problem for me to skip that step.
A day after the race I’m a little bit sore and my knees, specifically my left one, are feeling a little beat up, but I also have a ton of information to build on as I take the next step in training. These lessons should be valuable as I prepare to run the New York City Half Marathon in March and the Chicago Marathon in October.
There is a lot of work to do, at least I have some ideas what that work should be.