Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ashenfelter 8k, Glen Ridge NJ, 11/26/15

Photo by Mark Nyhan.

Today I ran the A8K. This was my first serious race back since a very long frustrating period of back pack.  After ruling out serious problems and backing down training for long enough to manage the pain, I am ready to start over.  I have not run a fast, short race since Aug 22.  I stopped racing seriously after the intermittent pain became so debilitating in races and training that it stopped me from enjoying the experience of running.

I saw several doctors. I ruled out major concerns.  I then set up my office to allow me to sit for long periods of time in a much more supported position (which I believe is the cause of all this pain… 20+ extra hours of sitting per week while I write paper for school).  I am starting to focus a little more flexibility and strengthening as well, to help rehab the area I need to work on.

Today, I was not sure what I could do. My volume has been low. I have not done speed work.  But I have been running enough to justify going.  I did run 20 miles at Bucks on Nov 15th most at a 9:00 pace.  I knew I could cover 5 miles. But I had so many questions?  How fast could I run?  How much fitness have I lost?  Would I blow up on the course and end up walking?  Would the pain return and stop me in my tracks? 

I almost didn't go to the race. I woke up  thinking I had made a big mistake.  I should have just run a few miles with Sidney and dog, gone into work for a few hours and then headed to my parents house for Thanksgiving Dinner.  But instead I felt like I was setting myself up to run right into a burning building. 

The beauty of a Check-In race is that you cannot fail.  It is a test of baseline fitness and it is what it is.  So after a really nice mile warm up with Nikki, who ran amazing today, I lined up and hoped for the best.  I really just wanted to run without back pain shutting me down. 

Gun Goes Off
I had already used my inhaler before the start, so I was a little surprised that I was having a lot of trouble breathing almost immediately.  But really, I wasn't that surprised.  I have not run this fast in a long time.  One of the odd symptoms I have had, in addition to back pain, has been shortness of breath at rest. It has been a long time since I had this much trouble.  But the breathing trouble slowed me down and helped me find that Red-Line pace that allowed me to pushed up against the entire way.  M1 7:11

I really used the rolling nature of the course to maintain my pace, working the downs, slowing on the ups.  I tried to never let my breath get completely lost. Throughout M2, I started to feel a very sharp pins and needles type pain in the bottom of my left foot. "Oh Great! I am going to tear my plantar fascia today. I knew I should have stayed home!" Throughout the mile it did not get worse, but it was starting to impact my foot plant. I decided to wait a bit longer to see how it changed. I was already in this thing and not ready to step off the course at 1.5 miles.  If the pain got worse I would stop.  M2 7:14

Through the third mile the plantar fascia pain subsided completely, which made me happy. I am not sure what that was about but I am glad it was not significant. I tried to find my rhythm.  I cannot say that felt any more tired than mile 2 and I was feeling like I really could finishing this off at this speed.  Esly passed me and encouraged me to come with him, but I just waived him on to go without me. I really didn't want to push too hard right now. I felt that this was all I had and I wanted to make it to the finish.  I wanted to save a little something for the end! M3 7:10

At this point I had noticed my back starting to feel like it was getting irritated.  Not painful.  But rather just very fatigued.  Not the pain that has been shutting me down for month.  This was more like a feeling like I am simply too week to hold my spine stable.  I could feel myself twisting and I did my best to find a comfortable position to finish off the race. The fatigue slowly got worse throughout the rest of the race, but there was really just one mile left and I knew I could do it. M4 7:12

After the short steep hill that felt like a mountain, we started our trek to the finish. As much as I believed at mile 3, that I could kick in the final stretch, I didn't have any other gears to tap into.  I felt tired, but not fully spent. I felt out of race-shape, but not as bad as I thought I wold be.  My back was tired but not in pain like in May-Oct. Last .97 7:04 

Overall, I took this race very cautiously. I was not interested in reversing all the healing that has occurred from reducing my mileage.  I did not feel like I needed to or should dig for a big finish, even if I could. Since I couldn't kick even if I wanted to, this did not really matter much. 

At the end of this run, I can say I am happy that I don't feel broken.  I just feel out of shape.  I can fix "out of shape."  This is what I do. 

Time: 35:4
AG 12th
Gender 88/ 1529
OA 448/3497


  1. Nice pacing Shannon! Much better than going to work instead.

    1. Thanks Tony! (I still went to work after… but only for a few hours).

  2. It's impressive to see that you're gutting it out despite the pain, but I have to tell you - I had back problems last year that were so painful, I didn't run at all from January to April. After weeks of rest and physical therapy, though, I was able to race again by July. By the end of the year, I hit PRs at a half-marathon, at Ashenfelter, and at a 5K.
    So it's OK to take some time off and get better because you can come back stronger and faster than ever. And if I can do it, I know you certainly can! Be well!