Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the Mend

            USA’s did not go as I had planned but looking back I was still glad I was able to compete. Leading up to the race, even the morning of, I was unsure if I would even be able to toe the line and race. My left Achilles was swollen and very tender. Walking hurt so how was I supposed to expect to be able to race?
            At 6:50pm I headed out for my warm up. It was a beautiful warm night. My Achilles hurt but I told myself over and over again, “I am going to race. I can do this!” The trainers did a great job of taping my lower leg but no amount of fancy tape job could magically make the swelling disappear. I did my warm up as usual and tried to not think about anything but the race.
            When the gun went off my mind took me someplace else. I was not even thinking about my Achilles and so did not notice it. At least I don’t think I did. I do remember at one point in the second half feeling it for a split second and then telling myself to block it out. I was very focused and determined in the race and stayed positive the entire time but my body would not respond. A lot of people would say it was due to the altitude but I have lived and raced at altitude my entire life and this was a different feeling.
            I literally felt asleep on my feet. My lungs weren’t burning like I expected nor were my legs loading up. I just felt like my muscles were mush and I couldn’t go any faster no matter how hard I tried. Everything was slow motion for me. Like a dream where you are trying to run from something but your legs, seemingly stuck in concrete, will not move. And just like that the race was over and I was left wondering, what just happened?
            After I finished I initially thought it didn’t affect me (form wise) during the race, but Levi said it looked like I was favoring one leg. I know my injury did not help the situation but what I think affected me a great deal were the days leading up to the race. I was unable to run after traveling as I usually do, I couldn’t even walk to get my blood pumping. I didn’t sleep very well as my subconscious mind was completely focused on my Achilles. I remember waking up several times during the night and each time I would move my Achilles and think is it healed? Only to discover it was not. Not even knowing if I could race is not good mental preparation either.
            Some people may question whether it was smart to race and typically in this situation I would not race nor would I advice anyone to race. But looking at where I was in my season, the fact that I had traveled all the way down there to compete made me weigh the pros and cons. I got looked at by the guys from St. Vincent’s and they did not think there was a big risk of me tearing it. Racing would set my healing time back a day or so but I was planning on taking a few days off after USA’s anyways. On race day the tendon was better than the day before so I did not think I was doing anything too crazy. Plus I told myself if I felt any signs of something bad happening I would step off the track.
            Though my Achilles was extremely mad at me for racing in the days after, I am very glad I raced and stand by my decision. Looking at the glass as half full, through the ordeal I was able to work with the guys from St. Vincent Sport Performance and figure out what might be the underlying cause of my Achilles injuries. That in and of itself was worth it! They did an amazing job of treating my injury and I even came home with a bunch of exercises to help fix the problem. Instead of treating the actual injury they also looked for the cause. My Achilles’ have become a point of great frustration for me as I can’t seem to figure out why they continue to cause me problems. But now I have a possible cause and a solution to the problem and I am extremely optimistic about that.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Mind Is Willing but My Achilles is Not

            Where to begin? Right now I am sitting in my hotel room in downtown Albuquerque, NM typing this blog because I do not know what else to do with myself. Tomorrow night I am set to race the 3000m at the USATF Indoor National Championships. I have been feeling very calm, relaxed, and surprisingly ready going into this race. But then in a snap, all that changed and my focus is now on simply being able to toe the line to race.
Right now I should be thinking about my race, strategies, tactics, etc. But that’s the farthest thing from my mind. My goal is to somehow get the swelling and pain out of my left Achilles at least to the point where I can race.
How did this happen? Honestly I have no idea. I have been running for years and my Achilles issues baffle me. My right Achilles is usually my weak link. It is the one that gives me tendonitis and achy feelings. It is the one that will get angry and flare up on me mid run without a warning. I have become very in tune with this little tendon and have been doing a good job with strengthening and listening to the little tendon so it won’t sideline me like it did in cross country. And so far things have been great. It even decided to feel awesome for me this week.
But its friend, the Left Achilles, that has never given me a problem or even a warning sign that something might be up, decided to leave me hobbled up Thursday, the day I left for USA’s. I went out for an easy 6 mile run that morning and noticed I felt a little tight in my lower legs. So I stopped and stretched and continued on at a very easy pace. When I got home my Achilles started feeling tighter and tighter. I knew the feeling all too well from my experiences with the Right Achilles and it did not bode well for me.
It was Thursday and I still had a few days before I had to race. Sitting on the plane I would imagine it was gone, only to discover when I moved, that sure enough, it was there and angrier than ever. When I got to the hotel I started with the self help. Ice, massage, ibuprofen, repeat a bunch. That night I felt optimistic that things would look better in the morning. I woke up several times during the night and each time I would move my Left Achilles just to test. Each time it yelled at me.
When I got up in the morning I could barely stand. Everything was tight. My lower leg was locked up. More ice, more ibuprofen. After icing on and off for over an hour, I decided to take a warm bath. I know that is not the best thing for inflammation but surprisingly it helped loosen some things up and I could now stand and walk without too much pain.
I just got back from picking up my USATF Athlete packet and it is a beautiful day! Sunny and warm, the perfect day for a nice little shake-out run before the race. But alas, that is not for me. So here I sit trying to use up some energy and pass the time while I type.
I know everything happens for a reason and while the timing of this is not ideal I will survive and have so much to be thankful for. I am not going to do anything that will jeopardize my outdoor season or even running career but I am also not going to be a pansy. If the pain subsides I will race. Right now I am 100% sure I will race. How far I get, I do not know. What is tested next is my faith in God’s plan. Who knows why this happened? We can speculate but only God knows and I know He can provide the healing I need.  I have faith that everything will work out and if I am able to toe the line and race tomorrow I will race with all my heart. Because believe me, I will be so thankful just to have the opportunity. It is true what they say, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another Solid Weekend

           Has it been two weeks already since my last race recap? This indoor season has been flying by which means the outdoor track season will be here before I know it and soon enough the Olympic Trials.
           But first, let me recap my last indoor track meet before Nationals. I competed at the University of Washington Husky Classic and came away with two very solid performances and again,  learning experiences. I raced the 5k Friday night and my goal was to run a PR. I hadn’t raced an indoor 5k in 3 years so my odds were very good so instead I made it my goal to beat my outdoor 5k PR of 16:39.
         Going into the race I felt good. My warm up went great and I was ready to race. There were a lot of women in the race and when the gun went off I found myself pushed to the back. After the race I was given the advice to “not be so nice.” I am not talking throwing elbows or running dirty but merely holding my ground and letting my competitors know where I am. That may be keeping a strong arm so as to stop them from cutting in too early.
          As the race wore on I used a lot of energy early on stuck in lane 3 and doing a lot of weaving. When I finally was able to settle in and the pack strung out I noticed I felt more tired than I should due to not being relaxed at the start. I managed to run a PR in 16:27 but definitely feel with a little better racing tactics this can be improved.
           The next morning I was set to run the mile. I went to do my warm up and it felt ugly. My body was tired and my mind was not feeling energized to race. I wasn’t sore just fatigued. I figured I had nothing to lose and was excited to race.
          When the gun went off I got in good position on the rail near the back. I didn’t mind being in the back because my goal today was to learn how to race and relax in a pack atmosphere. Which is exactly what I did. With two laps to go (just over 600m) I felt good. Surprisingly good and I made a big move. Right to the front I went feeling unstoppable! I kept thinking during the race, “Man I feel good!” Then with about 200m to go I realized I had made my move 200m to soon.
         I kicked as best as I could but realized the 5k had taken some of that out of me. I watched as a handful of girls passed me and was surprised to pass a couple of them back on the homestretch. I crossed the line in 4:48. I was very happy with the time and again learned some valuable information during the race.
          When I took the lead I was feeling so good and surprised that I was feeling so good that I got a little overzealous.  Looking back I still could have made the move but should have conserved some of that energy for the end. In the Flotrack video you can hear the commentators say something along the lines of me taking command of the race…oops. I wasn’t going to run away from this field and shouldn’t have let my excitement get the better of me. 
          All in all it was a successful weekend and I feel racing above and below my distance for USATF Indoor Nationals will better prepare me for the upcoming race. If anything I was at least able to take away some valuable race strategies from the weekend. 

My 5k Race courtesy Flotrack

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My Mile Race courtesy Flotrack

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Pr is a PR right?

            This past weekend despite having a slight cold I decided to race the mile at UW and I managed to squeak out a one second PR. I didn’t feel as sharp as I did in my 3k a couple weeks prior but all in all it was a good race.
            My goal was to just practice race strategy so I can learn how to get myself into good position which will help me later on at the big meets. I was hip number 14 and knew I would either be on the second row or way on the outside by the wall. A few women scratched from the race so I was on the front line by the wall.
            My strategy was to get good position from the gun. When it went off I took off, nothing crazy, but faster than I usually go. Being on the outside was actually nice because I was able to make a straight line to the first curve with all the girls on my inside and not have to worry about getting cut off from the outside. 100 meters in and I was in 4th, on the rail, in great position. It caught by surprise and my first thought was, “Whoa, how did I end up here?” I usually end up in the back having to fight my way up through a field after a sub-par start. But here I found myself behind three very talented runners and they took it from the gun and broke away from the field. I wasn’t concerned about them but was shooting for a good time and more or less out there to see what kind of speed my legs had.
            I could feel a racer right on my shoulder the whole race. I kept waiting for her to pass but she didn’t so I lead on. What I didn’t realize was I was leading a pack of 7 fast and eager competitors sitting on me and waiting to kick. With about 400m to go the girl on my shoulder finally made her move. When she passed I told myself to go with her. What caught me off guard were the 6 other girls who came with her. For a moment I was boxed in on the corner and couldn’t break free. The bell lap came and I tried to kick but it was not quite the kick I had in my 3k. I finished in 9th place with a one second PR which I was happy about, but definitely not satisfied. We runners never are.
            Looking back at my paces I may have went out slightly fast, but nothing crazy. I came through in 69, then 73, and two 72’s (roughly). My original goal was to be low 4:40’s but after a week of battling illness I changed that to be 4:45-4:47. I ran 4:47 so I met my goal.
            Racing the mile takes practice. I am used to longer races where there is more time to “race” and execute a plan. The mile to me goes by too fast and if you lapse mentally or let up for a split second you may find yourself getting passed in the last 400 meters. But that is the reason I race distances that I am not as familiar with. The shorter race will help my speed and race tactics. Next weekend I plan to race a 5k. A completely different ball game with race strategy but I am looking forward to it.
            My goal is to go 3/3 for PR’s this indoor season. So far I have PR-ed in the 3000m and the mile. All that’s left now is the 5k.

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