Race Report: Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon
June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment
Somewhat appropriately, I’ve struggled a bit to describe how this race went for me–perhaps it’s best that I foreshadow with two visuals:
This was my goal race for this spring, I have been training for it since I found out I made the lottery in late February. My training had gone well and I was confident going in that I could challenge my course record and maybe even my personal record.
I ran a 10k the week before and that improved my confidence.
The logistics of the half marathon, which is run with Grandma’s Marathon, are a bit difficult. I grew up about 45 minutes from Duluth so I drove up on Friday and stayed at my parents’ house. The race, which starts at 6:30, is a point-to-point course that requires you catch a bus from the finish line (or one of other points). In the past, I think I have caught the bus in Superior, which is 10 minutes or so closer for me but, more significantly, allows me to avoid the traffic in the finish area.
The result was that I got up at 4:00, drove for an hour, rode a bus, and arrived at the starting area a little after 6:00. And, just to clarify, I’m talking AM, Ante Meridian, as in Very Early in the Morning.
The weather was near perfect–about 50, a light rain, a tailwind. So I was hyped. I had worn sweats but decided to ditch them right away so I could squirm through the crowd to get to my approximate pace area.
The race start unceremoniously–there wasn’t a gun or cannon or anything other than the announcer sending us off. I fell into my rhythm pretty quickly–I enjoy larger races where you get to do some weaving at the beginning. The first few miles seemed to go easy enough, I tried to focus on breathing easy and running the tangents. I was clicking off the miles, I was a few seconds ahead of my dream pace at 6 miles and ended up going through the 10k mark within a few seconds of my finishing time from the week before.
The most exciting thing was counting the number of fellow runners (about 5 during this stretch) who warned me about my left shoelace that had come untied during the first mile.
Splits, Miles 1-6: 6:54, 6:53, 7:02, 6:57, 7:11, 6:52.
Total, first 6.9 miles: 48:27, 7:01 pace.
Around 6.5 miles, my right calf started to tighten. Then it cramped. Then I felt–something. I hesitate to name it because that would imply I knew what it was. It was two sharp pains, one right after the other. The first dead center in my calf, the other slightly higher.
My race was over.
I slowed down, although my Garmin indicated it wasn’t as much as I thought at the time–about 40 seconds per mile.
I eventually came to a port-a-potty, and feeling the need to use that too, I hopped in & out relatively quickly. I hung out and tried to stretch–spent about a minute there. The calf still was very tight but I headed out, wondering if I was about to get my first DNF ever.
Going at the slower pace, I did find time to take a different perspective. I took long looks at the waves on Lake Superior–i could hear them crash against the rocks in some places. And while the first part of the race had only a few pockets of spectators, this portion had more clusters. Since I was no longer racing, I paid attention to the spectators’ faces. I’ve never looked at the spectators so much. It was a bit surreal–I’m hobbling along, thinking my race is basically over and seeing all those faces and realizing they had no idea what I was going through.
Splits, miles 7-9: 8:46, 8:15, 7:48,
Total 2.1 miles, 18:11, 8:38 pace.
As I was enjoying what had turned into a training run for me, I made the mistake of hearing a group of college guys ask, “Got a bit of Captain in you?”
Since I wasn’t racing, I decided I might as well. I U-turned and hydrated with half a pint of Rum. And washed it down with half a can of Coors Light.
Not smart. Under no circumstances would I recommend slamming rum & beer during a race. But then again, I wasn’t racing anymore.
As I burped my way through the next half mile, something odd happened. I stopped paying attention to my calf and started running at a faster clip. The first split caught me by surprise, when I saw the second, I rushed to do some arunmathtic and realized while I wasn’t going to PR, I had not lost that much time overall. I even started to think I could set a course PR.
That didn’t work out, I was not able to speed up enough and the curves in the thirteenth mile were difficult on my tender legs but I did finish nicely and ended up running about two and a half minutes faster then the half I had run in May.
Miles 10-13.1: 7:08, 7:24, 7:18, 7:55 (7:29)
Total 4.1 miles, 30:44 (7:29 pace).
Final: 13.1 miles, 1:37:25 (7:27 pace).
I gathered my post-race goodies–a technical shirt, medal, and some grub. I did stand in line for 20 minutes for a massage and started to get really cold–while the weather had been fine while running, standing in the wind, even wearing my sweats that I had put one, got to be cold. I figured the massage would help my calf and it did, a bit, but not as much as I hoped.
And then I had to figure out what had happened. Somehow the ups & downs of the run were difficult to comprehend, especially the way I was able to struggle through the last 4+ miles. It would have make sense if I had cramped up and struggled to the finish but I’m a bit perplexed at how I was able to recover a bit. I’ve had rough patches before but this seemed like a significant injury that was going to wreck this race.
Not Quite the End.
Three days after the race, I am still sore–especially both calves, especially the right one. Other areas–hips, quads–are also sore. I had the same problem with my right calf last summer and it took two weeks to work through it. I did two miles yesterday and will try for three tomorrow but I had planned to basically take the rest of June easy anyhow.
I am a mixture of satisfied and disappointed–I know I have a better race in me but am happy with the way I fought through this race. The thing is, I have the opportunity to run another 13.1 on July 4th. So IF my body heals, I do have a chance to redeem myself if I choose–and I undoubtedly will choose to if my body & family allow it.
Lessons (Hopefully) Learned:
- While the weather was great for running, given the fact that I had no chance to do my regular mile+ gentle warm-up, I should have gone out slower–even 15-20 second per mile–to give my legs a chance to warm up. I think I could have prevented my calf problem with an adequate warm-up.
- Racing the week before my big race, even if it was a free race, was probably a mistake and left me vulnerable.
- Like Yogi Berra said about baseball, running is “90% mental and the other half is physical”. I think the fact that I didn’t dwell on my calf and re-focused on enjoying the unique training run I was having allowed me to rebound a bit.
- Taking the time to poop, stretch, and hydrate really didn’t take as much time as it seemed like at the time.
- I should be taking a more pro-active approach to stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Sometimes doing the unorthodox–having a drink during a race–might not help, but might not hurt either (although I don’t plan on making this my standard race place).