Yeah, this hurt. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had plenty of “ouch” moments on my rides this season. The first Team Superior Trail Century. The Tulsa Tough – oh man, just remembering that one dehydrates me and sets my legs to twitching. But the 15k (9.3 miles) covered at the Tulsa Run on 10/29 let me discover all new reasons that I should consider myself to be a very “stalwart” athlete (note to all new readers: “stalwart” = “crazy”).
To start, the temperature was about 34° around 7AM (when I woke up). And it wasn’t even 40 by the time the run started at 9AM. Add to that the fact that we were standing between large buildings shaded from the sun, and basically we were runner-cicles. There were far too many nuts (aka: hard-core runners) wearing these thin running shorts and garbage bags for warmth/wind-breaks. And they looked far more comfortable than me in my pants, long-sleeve base-layer, t-shirt, and tank-top. Shivering. :p
There were a good number of Team Superior members out, running either the 5k or 15k events. Beyond that, there were some 10k+ participants overall, and 3,860 15k runners. I don’t really have any reference to compare for running event sizes, but I was pretty surprised. In cycling, if you get a few hundred, that’s a decent turnout. 500+ is a large turn out. Thousands? Only rarely. So just getting used to the mass of people standing around waiting for the gun was a little disorienting.
Moreover, the press of people – the way they clustered forward into tighter and tighter knots – was a little unnerving. In cycling events, you might be pretty close to other cyclists, but they’re as scared of falling over or causing a massive pileup as you are, so you are given some working room. When the gun did go off, I felt like I was going to be trampled and end up as a little stain ground into the pavement, discernible only by the PR durag on what used to be my head.
Another reason I was nervous was because of how my body felt. The week before I had run my furthest distance yet – 7.75 miles. But the next day, I found I had a problem walking. My right foot was killing me. The tendon that runs on the outside of the foot (under the ankle and towards the outside top of the foot) was hurting pretty badly. Made it hard to flex my foot properly. As the days ticked away, it started to feel better, but I had to forgo my last practice run on Wednesday in lieu of rest and repair. I did substitute some aerobic intervals on the trainer to loosen up my legs, and that actually helped my foot feel better, but not healed.
On this morning, I felt it disagreeing with what I was about to ask it to do. My foot felt okay, but not quite right. Oh well, I figured. If it started hurting a lot, I could always walk, right?
The gun sounded, and people surged forward. With so many people, it was rough to maintain my desired pace. I have a hard enough time slowing myself down at the start of a run without several thousand people encouraging me to go faster. And without a device to tell me “Hey, stupid! Slow down!”, I knew this was gonna be a problem. The first mile was in the 7-minute range, and my second mile was in the 8-minute range. Both far too fast.
At about mile 3, the herd had thinned out enough for me to slow up and give myself a bit of a breather. Then I felt it. The pressure/pain on the outside of my right foot was building. Slowly, but definitely steadily. I attempted a few different strides, but it didn’t matter. Long, short, it hurt, and was getting worse. I managed to make it to about 4.5 miles before I had to finally walk a bit. The hard part of that was I hadn’t seen anyone else walking, so I felt like I was the first one to give in. Walked for about a quarter mile and started up again, this time slower.
Made it just past the turn-around point on Riverside Dr. (around mile 6) and had to start walking again. At this point, my slightly painful right foot was turning into a full-blow limp. After starting up yet again, I didn’t make it another mile before slowing. This was getting infuriating. Worse, the outside of my left knee was starting to take a beating as I tried to compensate for the pain in my right foot. People would jog past me, and then I’d start running again. Jog past them, and then start walking. Worst game of leap frog ever.
Finally hit the last big hill. I ran for about half, and power-limped up the rest. I spotted the BOK Center where the finish line was. Maybe I was hallucinating, but to me the finish line banner that said “BOK Finish Line” read “50K Finish Line. I thought “Oh no! Did I run the wrong race? This couldn’t have been a 50k?!?!” Sure felt like it though. My eyes cleared as I approached (or I regained my sanity), and I finished off the race at 1:33. My goal was to make at least 1.5 hours, so having missed it by only 3 minutes – and with how horrible my foot and knee felt – I couldn’t be happier with my result.
So with only three weeks and five training runs, I managed to pull off a 15k run, with a 10min/mile pace. 2 out of every 3 runners did better, and I’ve no doubt that quite a number of the people with slower times still ended up feeling a helluva lot better than I do right now. I’m also sure that the only reason I was able to pull this off was due to the many miles I’ve ridden this year. That much training in any athletic endevour has to translate. Maybe not well – more like English as a fourth language type of translation. But hey, I’ll take it.
To all those marathoners, half marathon runners, triathletes, and ultra-distance runners: now with an insider’s view, incredible doesn’t even begin to describe your accomplishments. Keep on keepin’ on.