I knew going into Sunday’s Phoenix Rock n Roll Marathon that my knee wasn’t 100%. Hell, it wasn’t even 75%. I don’t know what percentage it was at, most likely due to each and every runner’s ability to tell themselves that they’re “fine” and that it will just “stop hurting” after awhile. If you’re a runner and you’re reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’ve run through some pretty extreme aches and pains – from a nasty flu bug during last year’s American Discovery Trail Marathon to a slightly torn meniscus in last year’s Bear Chase 50k to some pretty intense metatarsalgia throughout all of the 2009 racing season. Clearly I’m no stranger to “fighting through it.” I guess I just felt that running through my injury on Sunday wasn’t worth it.
If you’ve ever experienced a crappy race or a DNF I’m sure you can attest to spending hours upon hours speculating the “what if’s” and the “shoulda-coulda-woulda’s.” That’s definitely what I’ve been doing over the past 36 hours, and the crazy part is how comfortable I am with the decision I made at mile 9.8 of the marathon.
In a nutshell, I strained my knee 4 months ago during a snowy, icy 20-miler. My plan was to hit a 22-miler 3 weeks out from the marathon (coincidentally over Christmas weekend) but could hardly walk up the stairs without cringing let alone throw down a long run. So what did I do? I logged a slow and painful 11-miler that may not have been the best decision in the long run (pun totally intended). Why? Because I ended up unable to run anything over 8 miles without being in some extreme discomfort at that point before the race.
When I made this realization I tried to rest, but I was nervous, antsy and concerned about the marathon. I was stuck in the dichotomous monotony of trying to train and trying to rest. Needless to say it was a stressful time – but I was obviously still going to toe the line (no rhyme intended – but hey, that’s pretty good!).
Race morning was pretty fun: I ran into friend, running buddy and overall fabulous Amanda Young, her gorgeous counterpart Colleen, and randomly a friend from Minnesota that I haven’t seen in about 5 years – Sean. I was pumped, but still cautious. I went out consistent but felt that I was lagging in my pace early on. By mile 6 I knew my knee was slowing me down, and I could feel a pretty nasty pull within my knee.
Around mile 9 is when it happened – I heard a “snap-crackle-pop” and felt a shooting pain in my kneecap – it brought me to a standstill. I suffered through another .8 of a mile and called it quits – something I’ve never done before. It was actually quite a pride-suck for me, as I didn’t have my cell phone and had to ask a woman on the side of the race to use hers. I then proceeded to sit on the corner and wait for Pete to come and get me, of course watching all the other runners pass by.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the statement that you “learn more from the bad races than you do from the good.” I hate to say that I agree with that statement, because sayings like that sometimes feel like a cop-out to me, but I really did learn quite a bit from the DNF experience.
- I’m not invincible and never will be.
- DNF’s are not the end-all be-all of racing.
- I probably shouldn’t run without my cell phone.
- Even if I don’t feel mentally or physically tanked I need to schedule in some me-time and let myself rest.
- My friends and family ROCK and I wouldn’t feel so comfortable about this without them.
- Knee injuries suck.
Regardless of the “what if’s” and the “poor me’s” there is one thing I have on the horizon I’m beyond ready for: vacation baby! 1 week from today I’ll sitting on the beaches of Antigua with my Mom – blended drink in hand and running shoes off. Taking the next few weeks off will hopefully give me the time – mentally, physically and emotionally – to rest, recover and get ready for the upcoming adventures ahead.