Race Recap: Barnum Festival 5K…AKA The Day the Running Stopped
So obviously this post is a bit late in coming. Two months to the day, actually. I can’t believe it has been only two months since everything in my world shifted so dramatically. I have wanted to write this post for so long, and it is certainly not for a lack of time. I’ve had nothing but time for the last two months.
This was me the morning of May 29. A sunny, hot morning. I had been doing my best to train for this race, the Barnum Festival 5K, for the previous eight weeks. After running several dismal 5K times, in early April I fired up my Couch to 5K apps and started again from scratch.
Everything was harder this time. I’d gained weight again. I was working so there was less time to run. The weather had grown warm, so running in the afternoons meant running in 75-85 degree heat. But I still doggedly logged in the miles, doing some interval training, doing treadmill runs, adding in yoga and some strength training to help gain back some of the fitness I’ve lost over the last twelve months.
The day before the race, I did a practice run on our shaded trail while my daughter was at dance class. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best idea. Normally I try to have a rest day before a race, so that I am fresh. But this was just a 5K, and since I hadn’t gotten all of my training runs in on my plan, I really wanted to get in every mile I could before running what I hoped to be my come back race. Last year, I set my PR on this course, so I hoped it meant I could at least better my race times thus far this year by at least a little.
As I drove to the site that morning, I tried to do my ABC goal setting. I read this on a blog somewhere once. Goal A is your most realistic goal. Goal B is a reach but still potentially doable. Goal C would be pie in the sky not likely but technically possible. Race day had dawned hot, so I knew that this would slow me down. I finally settled on Goal A being 40 minutes, Goal B being 38 minutes and Goal C being anything below 38. These felt like crazy slow times, but after the year I had, plus the weight, plus the heat, I figured that was where I was at. I was looking forward to the flat pretty course, seeing a few friends, and finishing on the bases at our local minor league ball park.
I felt a little tightness in my right leg as I walked around the race site waiting for the race to start. I thought about getting in line for the massage guy, but the line was too long. I figured it might be some muscle cramping due to the warmth, so I drank more water than I normally do before a race (who wants to use a porta potty more than necessary?). I stretched here and there and walked around a bit. I wasn’t sure what the tightness was, but I figured it would go away as I warmed up out on the course.
We lined up under the I 95 overpass, near the big American Flag being displayed from the fire truck. I went to the back of the pack, readied my RunKeeper app, and headed out.
The first mile felt good. I was firmly in the back, but feeling strong. I was ahead of my pace necessary to hit Goal A and B so I was excited. It was all coming together. The rough year, the hard training, the loss of fitness…I was finally on the come back trail. Mile 1: 12:28 pace.
The second mile was where things started to go off the rails. We were just entering Seaside Park which borders Long Island sound when the tightness in my leg started to become a bigger issue. It wasn’t going away. In fact, it was actually becoming more painful. I took a walk break to see if it would help ease the soreness. I stopped at the water stop hoping hydration would help. I started back up again, hoping to salvage my time, but the pain continued. I started to alternate running and walking, and for a bit, that seemed to help. It wasn’t getting any better, though. I could see my time goals start to slip through my fingers. I pushed myself to continue with more running than walking. Mile 2: 13:03 pace.
The third mile was when I realized something was very wrong. This wasn’t just a sore muscle or a tightness. What had started out as just a bit of a tweak had turned into out and out pain with every step. As I rounded the final bend in the park, I realized that I just couldn’t run any more. Every time I tried to pick up the pace I was having truly excruciating pain in my right leg. I finally gave up my goals and slowed to a walk, angrily watching all of the people who I’d been keeping pace with (or had passed) amble past me.
But even with walking, the pain got worse. There was a moment when I realized I was in serious trouble. I was having trouble just walking at this point. If anyone had been watching me, they would have seen me grimace and grit my teeth as I struggled just to put one foot in front of the other. I thought about finding someone to tell, talk to, get help from, but everyone was in their own heads trying to get to the finish line. I pushed on, leaving the park and telling myself I was in the homestretch. Mile 3: 17:18 pace.
I finally hit the three mile mark, just outside of the ballpark. There was a race volunteer there. I should have probably asked her to help me but I was so close. I was determined to finish. I had never not finished a race, and I certainly wasn’t going to do it on a flat 5K. I tried to run but couldn’t. I finally pushed into the ballpark. I made myself trot the last fifty feet or so through the finish line at home plate. Last .1 mile: 16:53 pace.
Final time: 45:28. My slowest 5K ever, and I was just grateful to have made it through the finish line.
I walked through the chute and made my way to get water. Hydration had to help. I got the water and then (because I am probably the stupidest person in the world) headed to the beer tent. I earned that damn thing! I got a raspberry pale ale from a local brewery and stood there to savor it. Now that I wasn’t moving, I would be fine, right?
After the beer was done and I went to walk out of the beer tent, I realized I was having trouble walking. I could barely put any weight on my right leg. I chatted up the few friends I knew at the race, trying all the while to hide my limp, and finally excused myself to go home.
As I walked gingerly to my car, I passed the ambulance crew. I thought briefly about flagging them down to ask them to take a look at me, but then decided against it. I would just go home, put my leg up and ice it. I would be fine. I was sure of it.
By the time I got home, I could barely put any weight on the leg. I got out my iPad and started to frantically Google my symptoms. Obvious deformity? No. Blunt trauma? No. Redness or swelling? No. I told myself that the injury couldn’t possibly be that bad because it met none of those criteria. The most obvious one, not being able to put weight on the limb, I was sure would improve over time.
Stay tuned for Part Two. Spoiler alert: it didn’t improve over time.