Until now, I haven't had the guts to really look at the state of my training over the past 8 months. I tell people that I was injured for 7 months and just started training 5 weeks ago, blah, blah, blah, but it always feels like I'm making lame excuses. Here are the cold, hard facts:
After creating this chart, I stared at it as a lump formed in my throat. There it is: 7 months of hardly any running and only 2 workouts. In the 6 months from November through May, I ran a total of 479 miles. That's an average of 17 miles per week. Sadly, most of that was test running, and I was in pain. Yes, I cross trained, but cross training only tides you over for a few weeks before your running-specific fitness starts to drop off dramatically.
Tonight, I did my first race since the Athens Marathon: the World Masters Athletics Track and Field Championships 5000m. It's funny to think that I signed up to race this event on April 24th, just before registration closed. At that point, I was still injured but somehow held out hope that I would be able to run a 5k by July. The following week, I would be told by all my local healers that they could not help me any longer. Worse, I was stuck without even a diagnosis. I was devastated by the scary thought that I might never be healed. Of course you know, shortly thereafter, Dr. Ball worked some magic allowing me to start training again.
As soon as I began regularly running pain free, I became excited for this race. I never once thought about not running it. I was not worried about being embarrassed with a slow time. I also didn't have my normal pre-race anxiety. This was a different kind of excitement centered around just participating in a race. In fact, I only had two goals:
1) run around the track for 12.5 laps without pain; and
2) enjoy being part of this once-in-a-lifetime, world championship competition.
I am happy to say that I met both goals and truly enjoyed myself. I didn't have much of a race plan. I just wanted to start out at a pace I thought I could hold for a while and see how that felt. I picked 90 second quarters as my starting pace. Of course, conditions were hot, but they weren't as hot as they could have been for 8:00 on a July evening in Sacramento. I ran my own race, holding those 90s for the first mile, then eased off a bit for the rest of the race realizing that I was completely out of the main competition. I finished in 19:02. I felt like I ran strong, without making myself uncomfortable. From my vantage point, I was able to watch the race unfold for the lead pack. It was a lot of fun to see my friend Mary Coordt take the lead with 3 laps to go and win. Thanks to everyone out there cheering me on tonight. I heard you, and it meant a lot to have your support.
While it is sobering to think of how much work I have ahead of me on my road to Houston, I choose to be humbled and challenged by this experience rather than disappointed or overwhelmed. In fact, as I walked away from the stadium tonight trying to assess how I felt about the race, my first thought was: in 6 months, I will be running 19:02 for my first 5k in the Olympic Trials Marathon. Tonight was an excellent start.