I've been working hard with my running and nutrition, and it's definitely paying off.
I traveled to Arizona this weekend for PF Chang's Rock N Roll Half Marathon. My goal was to finish in under two hours. After all, I ran the City of Angels Half Marathon in 2:06:42, and a few weeks ago, I did an 11-mile run at a 9:30 per mile pace.
Then again, things don't always go perfectly as planned on race day.
I was wearing a race bib on my back with "2:00" on it. I planned to run with the 2-hour pace group. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the start, and when we finally found it, there were just thousands upon thousands of people there. I got into the start corral, but could get nowhere near the 2-hour pace group. However, I could see their wooden stick with "2:00" on it and planned to keep it in sight and catch up in a couple of miles.
Finally, our corral is allowed through the start line. It's a mass of people, and fortunately, I was in a corral with people who run about my pace, so I didn't have to dodge around walkers or get knocked over by misplaced Kenyans aiming for a world record.
The first mile went well. I knew I had to keep a 9:10 per mile pace to finish in under 2 hours. The second went well. Right on pace. The bands were entertaining, and every so often there was a crowd cheering us on. Then during the third mile, I felt something under my feet, particularly my left foot. It was annoying, kind of burning, like a part of my sock that was bunched up. I ran through the pain. But it got worse. I gritted my teeth and kept on running.
Finally, at mile seven, I thought to myself, I need to do something about this sock! I stopped at the side of the road, pulled off my shoe, and to my dismay, my sock was perfectly stretched out over my foot. I stretched out my toes and discovered the issue: My plantar fasciitis was acting up at an inopportune moment. Was it the relatively new shoes? I had worn them for three runs, though they were all relatively short. Or could it be my forgetting to take my usual ibuprofen in the chaos of race morning?
I quickly laced up my shoe, stood up, muttered under my breath, "Go girl go!" and took off. The pain got worse as I went, and by mile eight I could feel absolute agony in the bottom of both feet. I found that by flexing my toes with each step that the pain would subside slightly.
Unfortunately, the discomfort of my feet slowed my pace to 9:30-9:40 per mile. By now I lost sight of the pink "2:00" sign. I pushed on, occasionally gritting my teeth. If this happened on marathon day (which is in two weeks), I'd have to drop out. But this is only a half marathon. And I have to push on.
Adding to the annoyance of the pain in my feet, I had the "2:00" bib on my back. Random people would ask me if I was the pace group leader (obviously not!) and if I was on pace. Finally, one girl at mile 11 inquired, and I knew that 2 hours was a lost cause. As she ran by me, I reached to my back, pulled off the safety pins, and at the next water stop wadded up the pink "2:00" bib and threw it in the trash.
This is one of those races that just wasn't fun for me because of the pain. I had to keep reminding myself, only three more miles, only two miles, only 2 kilometers, only a quarter of a mile, and so forth. As some put it, it's one of those races where we "dig deep", to find the emotional energy to just get through. I remind myself of the things I've accomplished -- and know that if I could get through those things, I can sure trudge through one more painful mile of a race.
My finishing time was 2:03:24. I didn't meet my goal, but it's a personal record for me for a half marathon. And I'm still proud of that performance, knowing that under better conditions, I can go even faster.