Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Triple Challenge (that ended at two)





Ever attempted to run three different races all in the same day?

Granted, the timing was not stellar (with a big race a mere 6.5 days later on the calendar). Also, there was that wonky heel (that had forced me into a sudden "taper" state of mind while it healed).

But, alas, I will shamelessly admit that I suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I have several races that I do every year simply because I love them, and often times, I try to squeeze in a few new events because it's fun to try new things and do different events.
There may have been a table with selfie props..
Such was the case with my situation this past Saturday. The Grimes Farm Run was the  "tried and true" race, and the Midnight Madness Road Races were the "two new" races on the calendar. I had no intention of "racing" any of them, but I did want to take on the challenge of doing all three.

The Grimes Farm Run takes place on the Grimes Family Conservatory, near Marshalltown, IA. It's a grand family-friendly event, featuring a kids' run, a 1-mile Fun Run, a 5K Trail Run or an 8K Trail Run.
Ready to hit the trails
This was my fourth year doing the 8K. For July weather, I have to say the temps were near perfect (mid-60's, a slight breeze and intermittent sunshine). The majority of the 8K is run on grassy trails through the woods and brush, over constant rolling hills and through numerous twists and turns. There is a brief portion (around the 2-mile mark, and also near the 4.5 mile mark) where we're on asphalt.

Thankfully, my wonky heel was feeling good. In fact, I never really noticed any wonky-ness the entire morning (though I did tape my heel and arch as a precaution). Instead of the wonky heel, though, the annoying left hamstring (and glute) decided they needed an encore (both had been rather silent in recent months). I have been dealing with issues in the hamstring/glute/piriformis area for several years. It comes and goes. It's very manageable, though not a fun (nor pain-free) visitor to entertain. Ugh.

So, even though my heel felt great, I was not allowed a care-free morning in my running shoes.  Even with the moderate temps, it still was pretty humid. We did have quite a bit of shade cover, but there was not much of a breeze flowing through the trees. The periodic moments when we were in the sun, felt pretty warm as well. Needless to say, I was a bit of a hot and sweaty mess.

As mentioned, I had no intention of pushing myself. Trails are more challenging than flat roads, and not only did I still have two more races later that evening, I also had that Ultra looming. I'm not much of a natural sprinter, and trying to up my speed on uneven terrain is a recipe for disaster. That said, I decided to let myself walk a few times in the final miles. The frustration of the hamstring/glute stuff really took me by surprise. I had noticed something felt "off" earlier in the week, but didn't think it would persist (or at the very least, I thought it would dissipate after the first couple miles).

I made it to the finish line in 55:53 (according to my watch). It wasn't my greatest finish time at this race, but given the hamstring issues (and the walk breaks), I'm satisfied. Actually, I wound up finishing 3rd overall for females in the 8K...but the field was pretty slim (I think there were six gals in total, and I believe two of them were walkers). Oh well.

Another piece of Grimes Farm Run hardware
None the less, the trails are beautiful. Even with periodic moments of frustration, I still enjoyed my time on the trails.

Can you see the mud and grass on the shoes?
Once back home, I was careful to massage and stretch out the legs and problem areas. I wasn't too concerned (yet) with the hamstring/glute issues. I had dealt with them before (MANY times before). I knew if I kept stretching and massaging the problem area(s), things would probably be fine.

Time to road trip to the evening's races
Our first evening race (the 5K) didn't start until 7:30PM, so we arrived around 5:30 to give us ample time to get our race packets and check out the expo. We met up with another friend, Chuck, and grabbed a quick snack before the race.

Awaiting the start...
The Midnight Madness Road Races are part of the Iowa Games (kind of Iowa's version of a state-wide venue similar to the Olympics). There are numerous events (similar to the Olympics) that take place over the course of a few weeks in July.

We headed towards the start line around 7:00, and found a place to sit while we waited for the race to start. I continued to stretch, but everything was still feeling kind of tight and tender.

The time finally came to get lined up in the street. We tried to work our way (somewhat) towards the front. We definitely were not going to be fastest ones there, but we wanted to get in front of the obvious walkers (people with kids, strollers, dogs...and in cotton shirts with their bibs pinned on their backs LOL).

One of my biggest race day annoyances is when people line up towards the front who should be further back. We all know who they are. Granted, I was planning to run the 5K at an easy pace, and hopefully save my mojo for the 10K (where I knew there would be fewer people). But this was crazy. I got behind a gentleman with a small kid in each hand (tell me you wouldn't be annoyed, too).

The temps were very hot and the humidity was sky-high. And my hamstring was not feeling very good. I kept taking deep breaths (kind of impossible in the humid air), and tried to tell myself to keep it steady. This was only the first mile; the first mile is always tough. Things will get better when the crowd of runners spreads out in the next mile or so. And the hamstring will feel better then, too (or so I fantasized).

The route led us out of the downtown area to some residential neighborhoods. Thankfully, some of the residents were generous with their sprinklers and water hoses.

We had agreed to try to run the 5K together,but I was really struggling to keep my pace steady. Barb and Chuck were maybe a half block ahead of me,but I just couldn't muster the energy to dodge and weave around all the people in front of me who seemed to be even slower than myself.

I did like the course, tough. Barb said the route wound through more residential neighborhoods than in years past (I think this was her fourth time running it). There was quite a bit of crowd support, especially through the residential areas (where you typically don't see as many people). There was only one especially challenging hill, near the 2.5 mile mark, otherwise it was relatively flat with only a few rolling hills.

It's been a long time since I have struggled so much to get through a 5K. I don't know if it was the heat, the crowded start, the time of day, or the angry hammy (or the lovely mix of everything), but this race was tough.

Somehow, I managed to grit it out, and made it to the finish line in one piece (and still vertical). This 5K proved to be very challenging, mentally and physically, leaving me with doubts as to whether I should even attempt the 10K or not. My hamstring/glute/piriformis all were, indeed, very angry at that point (ironically, the heel wonky-ness was totally MIA). I walked around in the 30 minutes between races, and tried to continue stretching. The temps were really hot (80's) and very humid, and I was feeling dehydrated and exhausted from the extra effort this 5K required from me.

I have had a few DNS's (Did Not Start),but all of those decisions were made prior to the event, never at the start line. I rationalized that my hamstring (and vicinity) issue usually take a few miles to loosen up, maybe these 3.1 miles would have been enough to get things ready for the remaining 6.2 miles and I'd be surprised. It was a looped course, so I could potentially get through the first loop and that would be my gauge. Sound like a plan?

The 10K started, and things felt alright....for the first minute. Unfortunately, within the first 100 feet or so of the 10K, my gut instinct told me otherwise. Although I was able to run most of that first mile, I knew it was time to stop. I could tell my gait was off, and each step with my left foot felt awkward. The first mile ended near the start line (which was a block from the finish line), so I decided to pull out and call it quits.

I was pleasantly surprised the wave of calm that washed over me once I'd made the decision to quit. It was such a relief! Seriously, I had nothing to gain by pressing on and finishing a race I shouldn't have even started. My head (and my body) just weren't in it, and this was not the time to be a hero. This would be my first-ever DNF (Did Not Finish), but I'm calling it a DFN (Done For Now). There weren't any tears shed, either.

I had to walk a couple blocks to find a race volunteer (near the finish line that I would not be crossing), and I surrendered my timing chip. I looked through my splits on my watch. Wow. That one mile took me 12:01 to complete. There's nothing wrong with a 12-minute pace, but when it's taking everything you've got (and it's a good 3:30 minutes longer than usual), it's not ideal. My 5K finish time was 31:59 (splits were 9:14/10:16/10:53), making that my slowest 5K ever. Although I did the best I could do under my less-than-desirable conditions, it's pretty obvious I shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Sitting curbside.....
I found a spot near the finish line and set up camp, so to speak. I spotted Barb and Chuck coming through, as they finished the first lap of the 5K and high-5'd each of them.  I knew I'd have a good 30 minutes until they'd finish, so I decided to walk to the car and change out of my shoes.

I didn't realize it earlier, but we were parked right by the Ames police station. Ames is the hometown to Iowa State University, and there are numerous "painted Cys" (statues of their mascot, Cy) throughout town. In light (and tribute) to the recent national headlines, I tried to get a selfie with Cy in his police uniform. A friendly officer got out of his patrol car and offered to assist me...isn't that a perfect example of helping a citizen in distress?

With the policeman Cy...See that? I'm still smiling despite my DNF

A short while later, Barb and Chuck finished, and we headed to the post-race festivities. I think I surprised them by being there when they both came through after the first lap of the 10K, but they later told me they were relieved to see me. Barb did well, she placed 5th in the 5K and got second place in the 10K (in her AG). Chuck was happy to be done. And me? I was relieved to be done, too.

There may have been some pyramid building at the post-race party....
It turns out, the dreaded DNF wasn't so bad after all. I think the fear of it was far worse than the reality of it happening. I'm glad I was able to make the decision on my own, and was not forced to do so. My Ultra is happening in a couple days, and I had to look at the big picture.....as much as I was hoping to cross that 10K finish line last weekend, I really want to cross this Ultra finish line more. 

My Ultra is a 12-hour endurance event, and it's an overnight adventure. My training has been a bit derailed due to my heel (which feels almost brand new!), but I'm gonna be alright. I'll be doing what I'd do under any circumstances.....giving my best with what my situation allows. It's not gonna be about racing,but about enduring the hours on my feet. It's not gonna be easy.....but what part of a 12-hour "race" would be easy?

Have you ever attempted several races in the same day? Ever DNF'd? How do you feel about crowded race starts?

I'm linking with Deb from Deb Runs for the Wednesday word. Today's word is visceral.....and I think I nailed it with my decision to DNF. No regrets.

When something's visceral, you feel it in your guts. A visceral feeling is intuitive — there might not be a rational explanation, but you feel that you know what's best, like your visceral reaction against egg salad. (from Vocabulary.com)


39 comments:

  1. Good thing you listened to your gut! You don't want to DNS or DNF your ultra, do you?

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    1. Absolutely NOT! AS much as I wanted that 10K finish line, the Ultra certainly is more important #bigpicture

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  2. I'm really rooting for you that all the issues work out and you're able to enjoy your ultra.

    You played it smart, and I know it was hard, but it was also wise.

    I haven't DNS or DNF . . . yet. I'm sure it happens to everyone if they run long enough, but it's never fun.

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    1. If I didn't have this ultra coming up (yikes, in less than two days!), I might have stuck it out and ran/walked the route. But my gut told me that every step was taking me further and further from recovery.

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  3. I've had a few DNSs and luckily no DNFs. You were smart. Your body will thank you.

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    1. Thank you ;-) My body is still a bit ticked off, but I think it's coming around ;-)

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  4. I like how you turned your DNF to Done For now! That's perfect.

    So many races in one day is a lot for anyone. During the Runners world festival was the first time I heard of a 5K and 10K being ran on the same day with in 45 minutes of each other. When I ran the rock n roll Las Vegas a few years back, there were runners who ran the disneylandd half in the morning and then came to Las Vegas to run either the half or full later that night! Now that's a lot of running!b

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    1. I think if these two races had been in the morning, it wouldn't have been much of an issue. Having them in the evening made them a bit more challenging, especially since I'd also run the trail run 12 hours earlier. Now I have it in my head that I may need to avenge (?) this 10K and go back next year and redeem myself LOL

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  5. Those gut feelings are very important to listen to :)
    I have never done a challenge weekend or back to back races, I always thought i would enjoy it, but these days it would have to be short distances.

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    1. I haven't done multiple races, per se, in the same day, but I have done multiple races over a weekend. I also have done races then gone home and ran more miles. The more I think about it, I can't help wonder if the shoes I wore for the trail were a bad choice (they were "old" shoes that I wasn't afraid of getting muddy)

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  6. You are really smart to listen to your body. It's just not worth it! This humidity is kicking my butt for sure lately. There is always another race to do!

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    1. Thanks! I had to look at the big picture, and the 10K simply wasn't as big of a priority as my ultra is....and that's already gonna be tough!

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  7. I think you made the smart decision and I'm glad you have a good attitude about it! It's much more important to not injure yourself and get to that goal race :)

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    1. My thoughts exactly. Doing something stupid (like forcing myself to finish a race that I shouldn't have even started) and then whining & pining (over the aches/pains/injuries) from doing so would have gotten me nowhere. All is good ;-)

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    1. thanks! We have a gut instinct for a reason ;-)

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  9. You definitely made the right choice! I'm a little concerned about our race next weekend being in the evening--we will see how things go!

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    1. Evening racing is definitely a different ball game! You have the wear & tear from the day's events, but also a surge of energy because your muscles are already warmed up....total catch-22

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  10. Sounds like a good call on the no-regrets-DNF. Life is too short! I'm not a fan of summer racing or evening racing so I wouldn't have even tried!

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    1. Well, I wasn't really trying to "race" any of these races, but I had a difficult time just running them... #humbledagain This sport certainly keeps me humble ;-)

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  11. Always smart to listen to your body. I had 3 DNS last year due to a hamstring injury, that was horrible.

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    1. Ugh. Hamstrings don't play nice when they get angry, so they?

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  12. Always smart to listen to your body. I had 3 DNS last year due to a hamstring injury, that was horrible.

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  13. Just keep listening to your body and you'll do great at the ultra!

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    1. Thanks! I'm hoping I'll be able to incorporate walking intervals to give my legs a rest. That's a challenge for me, because my body does not like slowing down until it's actually tired...

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  14. Wow.....three in one day! That is crazy, but I am glad you made it through without too much pain!

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    1. The pain was minimal, but my hamstring/glute just felt off...hard to explain. The more I tried to ignore it, the more awkward it got LOL

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  15. Running 2 races in the same day is badass, and even attempting 3 is amazing! It sounds like you did the right thing. Your body told you what it needed - a little rest! Hopefully you'll feel better soon!

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    1. Thanks! I"m feeling better, but still not 100% happy. My ultra is gonna be tough ;-(

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  16. I have run three races in one weekend (5K and 10K) on saturday and half on Sunday) and this was hard and I was in great shape. You did the right thing going with your gut as hard as it must have been. Rest up and you'll be back full force soon.

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    1. Thanks ;-) The more I think about it, I think I made a bad choice in shoes. I wore some old shoes (that I didn't care if they got muddy)...it wouldn't have been a big deal if that was the one & only race of the day. But, ugh, the muscle strain had been done and the two evening races suffered. Oh well. Live and learn.

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  17. I've run four Ragnar Relays and those always require three separate runs during the event. I haven't participated in an event where two races are as close together as your 5K and 10K. I think if I were doing that event, I would race the 5K and just have fun running the 10K.

    It drives me nuts when people don't line up according to their pace expectations. I attribute that to being naive and just not knowing race etiquette.

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. The race etiquette is such common sense, it frustrates me more people simply aren't aware of it (or simply just don't care). My strategy to run the 5K easy and the 10K harder was because there were fewer people in the 10K....thus, a better chance of placing (and THAT was a fail LOL);-)

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  18. I'm hoping to run two races in the same day in August.
    I had to DNF a year ago and it sucked at the time, but it's so not worth a possible injury.

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    1. I agree, the potential (and probable) injuries just are NOT worth the bragging rights of another (unnecessary) finish line. Good luck with your races!

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  19. I ran an event a couple of years ago called the Aching Quad- you run a 5K on a Friday night, wake up Saturday morning and run an early 1 mile race then head to another lake and run a 2 mile race and then return for another 5K that evening- it is a blast! I say nothing ventured nothing gained! I hope you are resting a little this week :) I know you will be back at it!

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    1. I actually like taking on challenges like you mentioned. Once in awhile, it's OK to venture out and do something crazy like that. There's been a few times where I've done a local 10K trail race, then either a 10K street race or half marathon the following morning (our town hosts a series of events in June, and it's hard to do "just one" LOL)

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  20. Wow, 3 races in one day is quite ambitious. There are a couple of events in our area that host back to back races, usually a 5k followed by a 10k. I've participated in one of these before, and boy is it mentally and physically difficult. You'd think it wouldn't be if you've run that combined distance before, or further, but trying to race two different events takes a lot out of you.

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    1. You said it exactly....the combined distance is nothing on it's own, but split it into two separate races and the difficulty multiplies. Add in some heat/humidity and it really becomes an animal LOL

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