Race...what race? You might be asking yourself. Well...in a fit of insanity on Tuesday night, I decided to sign up to race the 3K at the indoor track meet my club hosts every year. I really have no explanation beyond the fact that there is some kind of weird allure of the track for me, and every once in awhile I feel the need to go expose myself to it in a racing situation. Never mind the fact that it's been 7 years since I raced a 3K, 3 years since I raced on a track at all, and now I'm dealing with a weird injury...what could go wrong?
Race day came and my butt still felt awful. I made it half a mile on my warmup before having to stop to stretch and all I could think was "I have to scratch. I have to. There's no way I can do this". But for whatever stupid, ill-advised reason, I REALLY wanted to run this stupid race. I'm not sure who I was trying to prove something to, or maybe it was the fact that I haven't scratched from a race since high school, but the thought of not racing just made me too sad. So I did a very bad thing, something I've never done before: I took a hefty dose of ibuprophen and hoped that it would get me through the race (and let's not forget about the 11 mile cooldown that had to follow). Spoilers! It did. By the time I got to the track about 20 minutes later, the pain had died down to a completely acceptable level and I decided to go ahead and try to race - if I had to drop out, I had to drop out.
Besides the fact that I wasn't sure if my leg was going to hold up to 3000 meters of fast running on the track, there was also the whole "I have to run 3000 meters fast on the track" part. This is a race that I dabbled in briefly my senior year of college and I have raced I think maybe 4 times? One of which I was tripped and wiped out in and another where I doubled with the mile and ran poorly in both. I don't think I ever knew how to run a 3K strategically and if I ever did, I had certainly forgotten all of that by now. I was actually extremely happy when I went to check in and discovered that there were 3 heats, and I was in the slow heat. I know where I stand in the greater Boston track scene...and trust me, I belong in the slow heat. Tom saw me and I think was mildly amused that I was there - time after time, he thinks I've disappeared, and time after time I show up, hah. Finally, it was time to get going. There was a good 10 minutes of confusion where they were going to combine the two open sections because there had been a bunch of scratches (nooo). However, once they got all 20ish of us on the line, the officials quickly realized that this was just too many people for one heat, and I was once again pushed into heat 3, aka "the heat that no one cares about, and for that I am glad". Tom said "I think you can win this one!" - bold, considering I was seeded 5th, lol.
My heat consisted primarily of girls from the Northeastern Track Club, and I kind of felt like I'd come full circle. 7 years ago, I was them, giggling nervously in a circle with my teammates and cheering on friends as they raced in the faster heats. On the line next to a girl who I knew was at least 7 years my junior, I felt a little bit of pride for the fact that despite being quite a few years out of college, I'm still here and still doing this. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, we were FINALLY on the line. And as always...runners set...and the crack of the gun.
It's always weird writing a race report for a track race - we ran in circles! I pretty much immediately found myself almost in last off the line, which kind of annoyed me, but my annoyance evaporated as we came through the first lap in 40 seconds (a short lap, but still). Some of these girls had to have gone out too fast. I wasn't in the mood to find out what kind of carnage I'd become if I went out in a 6:05 mile, so I just tried to relax and calm down. I found myself off the shoulder of one of the Northeastern girls, which was pretty much where I stayed for the entire race. I eventually made passes on a different NU girl and a Fitchburg State girl, and still I was running behind the same person. I came through the mile in 6:20, and my dreams of running a PR (which would take exactly 6:20 pace) sort of evaporated - I could not see myself running any faster than I was presently. Maybe it was the Advil, but I didn't feel my leg at all during the race - what I did feel, however, was the right kind of pain, the race-pain, and that was preventing me from going any faster. (After the fact, I thought about it and realized that I also probably held my stride back a bit to prevent the pain from coming on, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time). Tom kept yelling nice things at me, as he had promised (before the race he told me: "You're going to run, and I'll yell helpful things at you! Like Go Audrey!" I think my favorite was around maybe a mile and a quarter, he just said "that's perfect!". At that point I was feeling a little annoyed about the fact that I couldn't seem to pick it up, so hearing that, at that moment, really was helpful. My thing in longer distance races or workouts on the track is counting up or counting down laps and just repeating the number over and over to myself in my head until I get through that lap - 5, 5, 5, 5. 3, 3, 3, 3. With 2 laps to go I was starting to feel downright unpleasant, and much as I tried I couldn't get up the power to get past the NU girl. Bell lap, FINALLY. At that point, she took off and I just had nothing to cover the move (In my head, I was thinking but I'm MARATHON training! I can't kick! I have to run 11 miles after this, no fair!) The last lap seemed to take all day, and as I turned for the home straight I saw the clock ticking 11:50ish. Shit shit shiiiiiiit. I WILL GET THERE BEFORE THAT 11 BECOMES A 12! I found some last gasp of speed to turn it on and squeak (and I mean squeak) under 12. That actually was pleasing - I had given up on a PR somewhere about 7 laps back, so to at least come in in the 11 minute range for my second best time at the distance was nice.
One great thing about track meets is that they make for EXCELLENT race photos! Photo by Tom Derderian (which he emailed to me with the caption "smooth and relaxed", heh).
I think I beat a grand total of 3 people, which is kind of sad, but you know what, the field that turned out for this meet was pretty strong and I was proud of how I ran! And honestly, at the end of the day racing on the track just makes me happy. It takes me back to all of the years that I spent becoming the runner that I am, and of so many great memories of college that mostly relate to running. Road racing is a whole different animal, and sometimes it's kind of fun to just be out there on display, "performing" as Tom put it, for the entire race in front of an audience. I definitely plan to do this meet again next year, hopefully in a slightly less painful state. One thing that is funny, as I think about it later, is that the 3K was really where I realized that distance was my calling when I ran it for the first time all those years ago. The post I wrote after I ran my PR in February 2009 reads "I love long distance. Who would have ever guessed?" I'm not sure even I could have guessed that 7 years later I would still love, still be running fast, and faster! It's just so cool. That's also one of my favorite things about having had this blog for so long, is to be able to look back and see where I came from, and to see that some things never change.
I did it for the Insta...maybe.
That brings us to this week. I ended up taking Monday-Wednesday off of running. Monday my leg felt awful and I actually took some more Advil in the hopes it would just calm things down. Tuesday things still weren't feeling great; I ended up doing a completely worthless 'cardio' session at the gym in my building consisting of 10-20 minute bouts on each of the various pieces of equipment. Wednesday things were starting to improve, and finally Thursday I decided to try running again and happily, it felt OK. Today's run was virtually painfree, and while yesterday everything felt a bit tight and awkward, today I felt much more like myself. I'm still going to take it relatively easy for the next few days; practice next Tuesday will be my first attempt back at speed work. Based on the way things are going, as long as I get in a solid warmup I should be OK. Also, I think I have DEFINITELY been scared straight in terms of core/hip stability work...whatever has been aggravated is definitely a small hip stabilizer, and something tells me it's been working overtime to compensate for some other weakness that I have. No more slacking!