"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." **Jim Ryun**
Today was the Coast Guard 5K and I was feeling really good about being back to running. While organizing my gear, directions, and plan, I saw that most of the race was on the same rough roads as my fateful 4th of July race and it immediately struck fear in my heart. I simply didn't look forward to it. I decided to carry my VFFs and put them on when the road got rough, but the minute I stepped out of the car, I knew I needed to put them on from the start. I felt a little defeated having to give in to shoes already, but I really wanted to just run for fun, no worries about time, take it easy on my ankle, and NOT be in pain the whole time.
Standing at the start, I got a few comments and questions about my weird shoes. One seasoned runner said, "I hope you have a good heel pad in those." Of course my answer was that I didn't need one because I don't land on my heels. He furrowed his brow and said, "Forefoot strike, eh."
I wasn't in a hurry so I hung at the back of the pack and started passing people shortly across the start line. Not far into it, I was starting to think that maybe I had lost more ground than I thought during my injury recovery, but then I realized we were on a pretty good incline, ugh. Not the best way to start a race! I plugged along, purposefully not looking at my Garmin and just going by my breathing. By the first mile mark I was really happy. I felt good, I was still passing people and my ankle didn't hurt at all. I was feeling warmed up and picked up the pace a little. I thought again how glad I was to have my VFFs on. As much as I love running barefoot, if it is miserable and no fun I'll give up. Better to take a break than throw in the towel.
When I hit the second mile mark I decided to increase my speed again, but I started getting a stitch when I hit the next hill so I relaxed a bit. All through this mile I was constantly doing form checks. It is a lot like learning to drive a car. At first you are totally conscious about checking mirrors, position of hands on the wheel, signaling, turning, it is all conscious and consumes all your attention. Relearning to run properly is the same way. I'm constantly thinking, "Am I landing on my forefoot or my heel? Am upright? Am I picking my feet straight up? Are my feet falling inline in front of me? Are my hips moving, or are they stiff? Are my shoulder and neck relaxed?" Pretty much every time I checked, there was something to be corrected. If I let my mind wander for a few minutes, there were more things to correct. However, as time went on, the interval between the correction and the detail falling apart again got longer. I look forward to not having to think about it, but it is going to take a while to break these bad habits!!!
When I turned the last corner, with about 50 yards left to go, I punched it! I sprinted for all I was worth and crossed the finish line with a Garmin clocked speed of 6:20 minute mile!!!!! WOW! I had no idea I could do that! Granted, I only sustained it for about 10 seconds, but WOW!!! My final time wasn't all that impressive, 31:20 clock time (edited to add, the official posted time was 31:34, don't know what happened to those 14 seconds), but considering the heat, my time off, and my history, I was quite happy with that :-) My splits were great:
Mile 1: 10:55
Mile 2: 9:58
Mile 3: 9:40
Unfortunately, I don't know my final Garmin time because I forgot to hit the stop button until an hour later, no biggie.
The best part of the race set-up was that just past the finish line there were two huge ice chests filled with ice water and washcloths! Each person got a sopping ice-cold cloth to mop their brow and wipe down their scorched limbs. It was amazing! They also had a great snack table with plenty for everyone. I hung around for the awards and strolled around a car show for a few minutes before wandering back to my car to go home.
It was a great day, I feel privileged to have been able to race, and blessed that my ankle healed so quickly and that my RA is being beaten back into submission.