I wish I could recap just the first 6 miles of this run, because it would be like, “Woo! Great run today! So fun! Amazeballs! Running is awesome!” But, this 10 miler was not 6 miles long, it was 10. Or 10.23, according to my Garmin. More on that travesty in a moment.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s chat training for this bad boy. By all accounts, training for this went awesome. I only skipped a few workouts due to illness or when I was worried a nagging ache was only going to be made worse by a mid-week run. I never skipped a long run and I never struggled to finish any of my long run miles. Overall, things went pretty swimmingly and I even decided I kinda, sorta didn’t hate every flavor of GU and could rely on one for this event. Success. In fact, likely one of my most successful training programs ever. Until the Thursday before race day. On Thursday, a modest 36 hours before race time, I ventured out on my last scheduled training run, a sweet little 2 miler to the lake and back. Just 4 days prior I ran a downright jovial and exuberant 8 miles, so I was quite confident that I would breeze these 2 miles without a care. But I didn’t. I breezed about a mile and a half and then had the most terrifying and significant pain in my arch. A pain I, unfortunately, knew all too well. The pain of a plantar fasciitis flare up. The pain that destroyed me at the Fargo Half-Marathon 11 months ago.
To say I freaked out would be putting it mildly. I was a one-woman 5-alarm fire and it was an all-hands-on-deck effort to make the pain stop and be able to run on Saturday. KT Tape! Ibuprofen! Frozen golf balls! Ice packs! Elevation! Night splint (can you tell I’ve done this before?)! I wore tennis shoes to work the next day and propped my poor foot up and in a flexed position as long as I could stand it. I lost sleep. I whined. I panicked. I was a hot mess.
I seriously considered not running the event. There is a fine line between being tough and being an idiot and I don’t always know where that is. I decided on Friday evening I would lay out all my things and go to bed early and prep like I was going to run and play it all by ear. Of course, I woke up at 4:22AM on Saturday, still completely panicked, and spent an hour searching Google for “running with arch pain.” This is not the pre-race preparation and routine I would suggest to anyone.
I got out of bed and ate the Universal Breakfast of Runners: toast with peanut butter, a banana, and a glass of water. And then a heavy dose of anti-inflammatory meds.
I arrived at the U of M campus at 7:03AM, 3 minutes past the event coordinator’s suggested 7AM arrival time and a full 57 minutes before the 8AM start. It appears that those 3 minutes make a big f*cking difference, because I was stuck in the most horrendous traffic. I did not pull in to a parking space until 7:58AM. No joke. Instead of the gentle stretch and half-mile or so jog I planned to take as a warm-up and use to gauge whether or not I should run the event, I ended up in a quarter-mile sprint, reaching the back of the 10 mile start pack with but 30 seconds to stretch calves before we started. Then it started to pour a cold rain. Neat.
Mentally, I was so convinced that the arch injury would return somewhere on this run, that I told myself early that the best possible outcome would be that I finished and had fun. So I completely forgot about my goal time and pace, and told myself, “You just do you today.”
And this is the part where I wish I could only share the first 6 miles with you. Though there were some mild hills, I was setting a pace I was very comfortable with and surprised by given the Thursday injury. In fact, in mile 3 I had a sub-10 minute mile, which I have never done in an event more than 6 miles. And it’s possible I went out too fast, as my attitude had switched from “strategy” to “isn’t running fun?” or maybe it was the mile long hill around mile 6.5-7, but if the first 6 miles were Dr. Jekyll, miles 7-10 were definitely Mr. Hyde. My calves tightened, I couldn’t seem to muster the energy or desire to run the hills, and I was checking my watch often– always a bad sign. Things got slow. And then there were these long hills and things got sort of miserable. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that some of the 10 mile runners were actually doing a relay, so at mile 5 a bunch of people I had been running near suddenly left the course. Not only was that kind of a bummer (on long runs, you get “used” to your pace-mates), but the people who replaced them all had fresh legs. FRESH LEGS. So all these relayers doing the second half of the relay bounded up the hills like a bunch of Bambi-assed deer because they hadn’t ALREADY RUN FIVE MILES.
Regardless, I survived the hills and found myself back on the U of M campus, ready to celebrate my finish on the jumbotron and the 50 yard line of TCF stadium. My Garmin beeped that I had completed my 10th mile when the stadium had just come in to view. I had suspected around mile 5 that the course was measuring long, but thought maybe mile-markers were just misplaced, but in fact the course was long. The problem with that is, my legs apparently only signed up for a 6.5 mile event and my brain only for a 10 mile event. So when I heard that lovely “bee-dee-beep” my brain said, “Done. Finished. Quit right now. QUIT.” I didn’t, but with both your legs and your brain out of the race, all you have left is heart… and she’s pretty fickle herself.
Finished strong anyway, got my medal and a water and starting looking for Aaron and his mom, who had braved wind and rain and closed roads to watch the most boring parade ever. Aaron handed me something I recognized in an instant- a bakery bag. From A Baker’s Wife, my bakery. Where they make and sell my donuts. And inside that bag, 2 perfect sprinkle donuts, complete with seasonal sprinkles. I am not sure I have ever loved him more than I loved him that very second.
I almost skipped picking up my race t-shirt when I realized I would have to go to the upper level of the stadium. The stairs might as well have each been 4 feet tall. I gripped the railing like I was mountain climbing, got my t-shirt, and headed home. The 17 minute drive home was enough for every muscle to say, “Hey. That extra 0.23 miles. Eff you.” and tighten up completely. I spent the rest of the afternoon in various stages of eating, sleeping, and watching Mean Girls on Netflix. It was awesome.
I’ll probably do it again next year.