This was probably the stupidest thing I’ve done in a long time, and I’m not proud of it.
I signed up for the California Classic 1/2 on a whim. After having run 104 miles last weekend in the 24-hour Barn Burner, I knew I needed rest. But the thing is, I actually felt pretty good. Following the Barn Burner I popped 7 small blisters on my toes. They healed overnight and refilled with fluid so I had to re-pop them the next day. Other than that, I was fine!
Okay, I take that back. I DID email my physical therapist on Tuesday to ask for the popliteus tendon stretches and exercises that I’d used before.
After a Monday yoga session, the tendon felt a little tight and I didn’t want that injury to return. When I say “a little tight,” I mean it. It was barely perceptible, but I’m just hyper-attuned to it because the strain put me out for 6 weeks last November/December.
When I walked around the California Classic Expo on Friday afternoon, I felt great. The yoga class had aggravated that tendon, but a few days of rest made it all better. So I registered.
My sister was going to run this race in hopes of finishing under 2 hours. My cousin, Megan from L.A., was driving up to escape her busy law school life to run the race. We three had all run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon together in January 2014, so I thought it would be cool for all three of us to do another race together. More matching medals!
Plus, I had never run the entire California Classic. I ran the relay with my husband in 2013, when I had just started running. I ran the second leg, with went through the zoo and over the freeway overpass. I’ve always wondered what the first leg was like.
We three #runnerchicks carpooled to the race. Megan from L.A. was in bright pink capris and a navy blue tank; her bib said FABULOUS. My sister was in her usual SF Giants gear (orange, gray and black); her bib said SIERRA. I wore my throwback San Joaquin Running Team singlet. (It is the Classic, after all.) Because I registered last minute, I didn’t receive a customized bib. So, of course, I customized it myself. *Gazelle*
I had no plan for this race. I figured I’d take it easy. I DID just run 104 miles, after all. Even if I felt fine, I didn’t think my legs would have any speed in them. Still, we lined up near the pacers, behind the elite runners but ahead of the back-of-the-packers. The race began and I casually walked to the mats and jogged across them, starting my watch.
I ran super comfortably for the first mile and was shocked to see 7:43 flash on my watch after the first mile marker. Faster than I thought I would start. I saw the 1:40 pacer just ahead of me and thought maybe I’d try to settle in right behind him. I couldn’t do the math to figure out what that pace would be, but 1:40 sounded good.
My second mile was a 7:17. Holy smokes!
I felt great and settled into a rhythm and conversation with the pacer and 1:40 hopefuls. The miles ticked by easily. 7:33, 7:26, 7:30, 7:29, 7:42, 7:32.
I was running with my new Amp from Ultimate Direction. The 500 ml Body Bottle was filled with mandarin Tailwind, and one of the 2 huge pockets held my gigantic Samsung Galaxy 6. A salt capsule, migraine pill and piece of gum were tucked into the tiny velcro pocket at the bottom. The strap was pulled snug around my hand and it was super comfortable to run with. It also allowed me to bypass all of the aid stations, saving me several seconds.
Being a zoo member, I visit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo at least a dozen times a year. I LOVE our zoo and especially the new African Adventure exhibit. I was super stoked to find that most of Mile 7 was entirely within the zoo. When I ran the relay, I distinctly remember running through Sea Lion Cove, past the giraffes and then on out. This year it was like a full tour! We zigzagged past nearly every exhibit and through half of Africa. There weren’t many animals out and visible, but I was excited that non-members or zoo-frequenters were getting to see the new changes. I kept thinking Look how awesome this is! And this is FRESNO!! This is the FRESNO zoo, people!!! I hope my subliminal messages broadcast to all of the runners and that they return to the zoo to really enjoy it.
Anyway, back to the race.
Upon exiting the zoo, volunteers had water and Gatorade ready… but then 100 meters later, more volunteers handed out Clif Shots. Note to race organizers: the Clif Shots should’ve come first, so that they can be washed down with water after they’re ingested. That’s my one critique — everything else about the race was great, in my eyes!
I started to lose the 1:40 pacer in the zoo. I guess it was the tiny hills inside Sea Lion Cove that slowed me down. I’m not sure, but by Mile 8 I was about 20 seconds behind the pacer. I was like, that’s cool, I’ll catch up. Or I won’t. It doesn’t really matter. This is just for fun anyway.
Then I passed the Mile 9 flag and my popliteus tendon said “HI!!!!” Or it may have said something like, “Hey stupid, you just ran 104 miles last weekend! I’m going to teach you a lesson now!”
I stopped, tried to stretch it out (WAAAAAY too painful) and realized I’d have to run the rest of the race with my knee bent. I pushed through and ended up with an 8:03 mile. I’ll take it.
I really just wanted to get the race over with at this point. The finish line couldn’t come soon enough. I was really afraid of injuring myself further. I knew my tendon was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. I need to sit down and I need to get some ice on it, quick.
The next four miles I stopped, started, ran, walked, and limped in real pain. Mile 10 was an 8:36, then 8:22 and 9:25 . ← Mile 12 REALLY hurt.
I watched as runners passed by me. A few asked if I was okay and gave me words of encouragement. I really didn’t care who passed me or how many. I just knew the faster I could get to the finish line, the sooner I’d be out of this agony. I bent my right knee to a comfortable degree and ran awkwardly as fast as I could for an 8:07 Mile 13.
The downhill going into Chukchansi Park baseball stadium was torturous. Downhill was the WORST thing for that tendon. Then I ran slowly across the grass and near the first base line, where I raised my hands up to the crowd and asked, “Where’s the cheering? C’mon, guys, get loud!” I cross the mat with my hands up in victory, then stopped and walked with a pronounced limp toward the water and medals.
A volunteer asked, “Is your leg ok?” I said, “No.” He directed me toward the First Aid tent, where a woman gave me a Ziploc bag of ice. I took it and marched up the stadium stairs to meet my kiddos and aunt. The stairs hurt too… I guess any hill was the worst thing for that tendon.
After icing for several minutes, I watched my sister cross the line with 2:01 on the clock. Dang, she didn’t make it ?? I was hoping she’d reach her goal of sub-2. When she finally reached us in the stadium, she said, “My Nike+ App says 1:59 for that half marathon, and that’s what I’m going by!” Fair enough! Sub-2 for Sierra, woot woot!!!
Grabbed the post-race ice cream, courtesy of Coldstone Creamery, and split the scoop into two to give to the kiddos. Ah, the sacrifices we make for our kids!
Out of the blue, Isaac said, “I’ll share with you, mommy!” and gave me half a spoonful. My daughter begrudgingly gave me a bite as well. She had that look like, I know this is the right thing to do, but I really want to eat all of this chocolate ice cream by myself.
Then we sat back down and waited for miss Fabulous herself, Megan from L.A.
I saw my 72-year-old running buddy cross the line. Then I saw a 9-year-old boy finish his first half. Then I saw a woman who was 8 1/2 months pregnant finish the half. All of this happened with Megan from L.A. — a fit, 24-year-old — nowhere in sight. I’m gonna clown her so bad when she finishes! (I wouldn’t clown any other runner. But this is my little cousin we’re talking about! I can tease her if I want! lol)
Isaac wants to go home and I tell him we’re waiting for Megan to finish.
“She’s taking too long!” he says.
Finally, with 2:57-something on the clock, miss pink-capris comes striding across the mat with a double fist pump.
The three #runnerchicks have done it again!
I have an alarm set on my phone to remind me to call my doctor to get yet another referral to my physical therapist. I can imagine her asking me what I’ve done this time. I’ll say, “I thought I could run a half marathon the week after running 104 miles.” She’ll probably roll her eyes and sign off on the referral.
When I get to my PT, I’ll have to fess up to being an idiot and running the half. He already knows about the 104 miles. I sent him the Barn Burner race report to explain why I was asking for the popliteus stretches.
I feel really, really, really dumb. I never should’ve signed up for this race.
On a positive note, I checked the race results. I ran a 1:43:57, good for third place in my age group. The awards are cash prizes that will be mailed out… I heard rumor that 3rd place gets $25. Perfect. That’ll cover my PT copay.
This also continues my streak of placing, overall or in my age group, at every road race I’ve ever run — except for the ones in which I paced other runners. (Sierra in the Tinkerbell half, Andrea and Juan in the 2CM full, and Erika in the 2CM full.) The only race I didn’t place in was Miwok 100K last year.
So that feels pretty good, but I think I got really lucky with this one.