After arriving home from Connecticut Saturday evening I discovered that my left ankle was quite swollen, and going up and down stairs was more than uncomfortable. Turns out I may have gone a little too hard during the alumni game and quite severely twisted/mildly sprained my ankle; zero. fun. sir.
On Thursday last week, one of the women in my running group mentioned she was running the Laborious Labor Day Ten Miler this Labor Day in Marlborough, MA. My marathon training plan called for a 13 mile (long, slow, distance) this weekend, however following the Great Ankle Roll of 2012 (yes that is what I'm calling it) I decided that maybe a tough 10 miler was a fair compromise.
This morning, after some 5:30 am carpool coordination, I hopped in my friend's van and was off the race (crossing my fingers that my ankle wouldn't cause me too much pain). We arrived at the start, dropped off our 10 canned goods, registered, and had plenty of time to hit the bathrooms and stretch before the race began (perks of a 50 person race on Labor Day).
After a few pre-race announcements from the Highland City Striders (reminding us that if we went out too fast we would "die" on the mile long hill between Mile 8 and Mile 9), the 51 of us were off!
The good news is that my ankle felt okay after the first few minutes. The bad news is that almost instantly after starting the race I felt a sharp, shooting pain in my right shin that was all too recognizable as a nasty shin splint. I have since realized that maybe the 70 minutes of full field, field hockey on a surface I haven't played on in a year may have had something to do with the sudden onset of shin splints. Without going into too much further detail, the first 3.5 miles were how you say painful. I kept telling myself that after 30 or so minutes my shins would likely feel much better, whether it be from numbness or an adequate warm-up I do not know, but usually that is the case with my shin splints. I came through the 5K mark (actually just one of the race directors shouting out times as you ran past him ) in 29:34, ugh.
True to form, my shins started to feel a bit better in the next mile, and by the time I passed the 4 mile marker the only pain I felt was coming from my ankle, success! At this point I had passed the 4 people I had been running with for those first few miles. Mile 4 went by at 37:something. After chatting with my new friend Sharon for a few minutes she waved me on ahead and I set my sights on "man with the blue shirt" who was about a 1/4 mile ahead. I remember coming through Mile 5 at 45:46 (the mile markers being paper plates tacked to telephone poles, another small race perk).
I forgot to mention that up until this point that the course was weaving through neighborhoods in a pretty woodsy area. It was quiet a quiet and peaceful route (partly due to the fact that most of the race I was running alone, passing people only every so often).
After a small stretch on a main road we turned off again into some more neighborhood-y/farm-y areas with a few steep sections but mostly flat/slow incline for the next few miles. I finally passed "man with the blue shirt" along with the three runners in his vicinity. This is also the section where I had been running for more than an hour and my mile splits are very vague (#garminlessrunnerproblems).
Mile 7 came just before a major turn marked only by a single arrow (although the very helpful volunteers told me where the mile 7 marker as well as the turn was going to be, thanks!). At this point I couldn't see anyone in front of me but knew that I needed to maintain my pace at least until the hill everyone kept talking about.
Sure enough, just as we came up to Mile 8, the single race photographer, and the final water station I saw up ahead the dreaded Hosmer St. The girl handing out water shouted "good luck on the hill!" and I was off. Thankfully, I saw three runners not too far ahead and decided that I would just focus on catching them and hopefully that would take some of my thoughts off the hill. Unfortunately I passed them early on in the hill and had the final 3/4 mile of straight up hill to remind myself that running hills is definitely the single most important training tactic that I've encountered thus far (hills, hills, hills is my new mantra).
What seemed like a million light years later I finally reached the crest of the hill and after a short flat section began the descent. About halfway down the hill I passed the Mile 9 marker at 1:22, as well as another two runners who were chatting quite a bit and didn't seem too concerned about their time/pace. I picked up the pace a bit at this point thinking maybe, just maybe I could finish under 1:30.
After a couple hundred yards running on the sidewalk of Route 20 the course turned left and I could hear/see the finish up
ahead another hill. The last hill was far shorter than Hosmer St., but made that whole sprint to the finish thing much harder. I came through the finish at 1:30:37, good enough for 31st place!
Minus the first 5K, I'd say this race was a success. I really enjoyed the small crowd, beautiful course, and we couldn't have asked for better running weather. Our group of four all finished with great times, and as you can see we were all smiles afterwards!