Back in the dead of winter when I registered for the BofA Shamrock Shuffle, I was so, so excited about it. It's through downtown Chicago streets with 40,000 other runners at the beginning of spring. What's not to love?
I heard so many people talking about the race in the days leading up to it. It was actually kind of strange. But while normally I would love so many opportunities to talk and talk about my race day plans, I was doing that sad, cranky, feeling-sorry-for-myself injured-person thing instead.
I even had a few fleeting thoughts about DNS-ing, but in the end, I couldn't bear blowing $45 and I had enough lingering hope that my ankle would feel fine and this could be a wonderful "Welcome Back to Running" party for me.
The expo on Saturday was nuts. I met Hal Higdon! It was an incredible surprise and honor to get his autograph and be able to say "thank you" to him directly. I made it to the start and finish lines of my first half marathon (the Hamptons Half in 2011) using one of his plans. And, I got his autograph!
On the other hand, what seemed like nearly every gimmicky race out there right now had some giant, gaudy display, including this one, which said "Women Rock," and included both tuxedo-clad and shirtless men (your choice, ladies) standing around serving individual-wrapped chocolates off of silver platters to women passing by.
Women like chocolate, get it?
(I have some thoughts about the "ladyrace" phenomenon but I think that deserves its own post.)
Anyway, I managed to rally for the race and by Sunday morning, I was feeling pretty good. My ankle pain was just a dull bruise without any swelling.
I got up at about 6:30, drank my coffee, and checked the weather. I'm only about 20 minutes from the start line from my L stop so getting there was easy.
One thing I love about racing in big cities is the energy on public transportation on race morning. On the blue line, everyone was pinning bibs to their shirts, talking about their goals, and otherwise soaking up the running community camaraderie and good spirits on the way there. Just being around so many excited runners turned my attitude around completely.
On the way there I thought about my goals. I decided that my only goal should be to go easy on my ankle, to be smart enough to back off if I'm in pain, and to not get so fatigued that I am at greater risk for re/injury. I've never raced an 8k before, but I have done a few 5 mile races, and admit that in the back of my mind I also wanted to beat my 5-mile PR of 43:55 (from the NYRR Front Runners New York Lesbian and Gay Pride 5M last year).
It isn't quite spring yet in Chicago, but the weather was great in Grant Park and the sun felt wonderful. I was seriously so happy to be outside in shorts in the sun.
The corral situation was total chaos. I had carefully read my confirmation email that said my corral B would close at 8:15. When I got to the entrance to the corral area (not the entrance to my corral, but the gate we had to pass through to get to any of the corrals) I was shocked to see that the volunteers were actually trying to close the 12ft high gates that hundreds of runners were still trying to get through . A mob of people were forcing through the bottleneck created with half-closed gates, and others were grabbing at the fences and trying to pry them back open. I had a horrible vision of the mob wrestling the gates away from the volunteers and pushing them down on top of the volunteers, trapping and trampling them. It was so dangerous. At giant NYRR races I've run in the past, the corrals close at a given time and the volunteers who man each corral will direct you to the very end. It sucks to end up at the end if you're late, but it's also fair and doesn't incite crowd panic like the gate closing here did. I can only imagine how scary the whole thing was for the volunteers.
At the actual corrals themselves, things were back to normal. Volunteers were checking bibs and
letting people into the appropriate corrals without incident. We all stood around for 15 minutes or so while we waited for the gun to go off.
I had left music/headphones at home because at big races like this one I like to feel like I'm running with my fellow runners in a herd. It was just awesome to hear so many footsteps hit the pavement at the same time.The first mile was the best. I didn't go out stupid-hard and was so glad to see that I had locked into my pace right away. We went underground right away and all around me, Garmins beeped that they had lost satellites.
I tried to focus on being consistent and running the tangents. I crossed the 5k mat at 23:41, just 30 seconds shy of my 5k PR, and I realized how tired I was. It was so frustrating: my legs moved just as fast, but my lungs burned. I had abandoned my goal to "be cautious" and I became dead-set on holding the pace through the end. For some reason this scene from Cool Runnings (a movie I haven't seen in at least 15 years) popped in my head and powered me up the last bridge on Roosevelt toward the finish.
I'll take it!
I beelined to the medic tent to get some ice for my ankle. It didn't hurt, but I now know better than to trust one glorious painfree run. It didn't hurt during the Chi-Town 10k either, but pain set in soon after.
After icing for 15 minutes a nurse asked me if I wanted to have the podiatrist take a look at it. I quickly summarized my whole sad tale for him, and he felt my Achilles and stretched my foot in a few different ways. He gave me wonderful news, which is that because Achilles tendinitis is a symptom-driven injury, as long as I'm asymptomatic I'm good to run. He said that my ankle felt fine, like a normal ankle, and that the stretches, icing 2x a day, and ibuprofen I've been doing worked. He recommended I keep up those things (which are most important) and also start wearing my running shoes to commute in and any other time I'm not at my desk, wearing compression socks after running, and recommended I replace my insoles in my Brooks with copper Superfeet insoles for now.
In other good news, I woke up this morning with only the most mild ankle pain. Sure, I have an average of just 5 miles per week for the past three weeks, but for the first time in a while I'm letting myself dream about toeing the start line in Wisconsin. Four more weeks!