The Nike Women’s (Full and Half) Marathon (NWM) is an event full of stories. It’s a major event for Team in Training and many people run or walk the event for a loved one. Lots of ladies ran/walked together, and there was tons of support and good energy. I knew that I would come out of the race with a story of my own. I expected that it would be a story of triumph – that I conquered myself and actually trained for something and actually got faster and kicked butt. This was not to be my story.
The epic saga began at the Skyline Ridge 14k trail race 2 weeks before the NWM. I had been wanting to add some hills to my training before my taper, so I thought this would be awesome. The trail was beautiful and the race was great, but a familiar demon began bugging me about 4 miles in. Oh, hello, left IT band. Hadn’t heard from you for a while. Kinda thought you were going to let me run a half marathon in peace… [The IT band runs between your hip and your tibia (via outside of the knee). Various issues with running like muscle imbalance or too many hills can cause it to rub, often along the outside of the knee, and cause pain with every step, as the tight IT band rubs past your knee. Ouch.]
I’ve dealt with this injury before, however, so I diligently iced, Ibuprofen-ed, rested, stretched, and did some one-legged squats for good measure. I planned on getting in some running during the week leading up to the race, but of course…
I got sick on Sunday (a week before the race now). Again, I was diligent. I rested, hydrated, took lots of Vitamin C, and ate right. I tried my best to be patient and not freak out about the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to run much (it ended up being not at all) before the race. My IT band got another full week off, so I figured it would be fine, but of course…
Although my legs felt great warming up at the NWM Half, I hadn’t even run half a mile when I could feel suspicious tightness on the outside of my left leg (despite long intervals of stretching before the race). I hardly had time to wonder if it would be an issue before the tightness developed into full-blown, hard-core IT band pain. My initial 8:00 min/mile pace slowed to 9:00 min/mile and I wondered if I should just walk the whole race, or stop altogether. However, walking a half marathon takes a loooooooooooong time. And not finishing meant no t-shirt and no Tiffany’s finisher necklace. I knew that 13 miles is also a long way to run with a hurting IT band, but I was also fairly sure that I would not do any permanent damage.
It was hard to have to resort to walking through the aid stations and up parts of many of the hills (and about a whole mile of the last 5k, when my knee locked up super hard – that’ll teach me to run without emergency Ibuprofen). It was hard to watch so many women run past me, strong and pain free (good for them, hard for me). It was hard to get passed by the 4:00 marathon pace group in the last 5k (when I was speed-walking because I literally couldn’t run), since I had held out a little hope of finishing in under 2 hours until then. It was especially hard to summon the mental energy to girt my teeth and lopsidedly jog the last 1.1 miles (but I did).
But I finished. It may have taken me 2:14 instead of the 1:51 I’d hoped and trained for. It may have been way harder than I’d thought it would be, fighting through the pain for every mile. But I’m super proud and very happy in retrospect that I did it anyways. I want to do a half Ironman in the summer of 2012 and I expect that half marathon will also be hard, especially after swimming 1.2 miles and cycling 56 miles. Now I know that I can push through 13 miles, even if I am hurting from the very beginning. I also know that I need to get a lot more serious about doing all that I can to deal with my IT band issues (strengthening opposing muscles, finding some new, deeper stretches, deep tissue massage, etc.) because I would really like to be pain-free for the next half marathon I’m running in December.
So I’m going to take this as a learning experience. I showed myself how hard I can push and how much I can endure. I’ve learned that I need to be more proactive about dealing with my knee. And I’m confident that I have what it takes to do a half Ironman in ~20 months. So thank you, NWM, for pushing me further than I thought I could go. And thank you, volunteer doctors and nurses in the First Aid tent at the finish line, for the ice, gatorade, industrial-strength Tylenol, and warm air blower (it was raining outside by this point).
That is my NWM story. Did you run on Sunday?
Also, any IT band advice is very welcome.