The Return to Racing: Redding Road Race 7 Mile

<<My blog is an attempt at trying to really reflect on some of what I’ve gone through, what I’ve done and where I hope to go. It isn’t always going to be exhilarating, but life isn’t always – is it?>>

If there is one thing to know about me – it is that I love to race. I have an addictive, competitive personality and racing suits it perfectly. I don’t always ever go out there to win, or to PR, sometimes I just out there with an attempt to better myself – with a challenging course or in challenging conditions (ask me about the 50K I ran last July…).

The long of the short is (I wrote a 3-part post about injury/comeback and opted to keep them for my eyes only) I was injured while racing a 20K on February 23rd. The hills were steep and abundant and I wasn’t prepared for them – so I suffered for it – with an injury to my lateral glute and my tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle. I didn’t run for a month, and even faced my worst fear of needles and had 3 acupuncture sessions. It was maybe one of the worst injuries I’ve faced because I was uncomfortable and in pain all the time.

Since then, it’s been a very slow build back. Some weeks I plan on running 4 times, and I only get in 2 runs. I will, absolutely, never force a run when I’m coming back from injury. I’m looking for an overall trend of forward progress right now and I’m getting it, running through anything that is even remotely a concern won’t keep me on the right track. I have a loose training plan that I work off of and am working diligently with strengthening, self-massage, and stretching/yoga work. The addition of the BOSU balance trainer has really added a much needed dimension to my strength training.

This past Sunday, I was supposed to run the half marathon portion of the Redding Road Races (http://www.reddingroadrace.com/.) I emailed the Race Director a few days out after I realized that no matter how good I was feeling that a half marathon full of rolling hills (similar to what I dealt with in the 20K) was not a good idea and he allowed me to step back to the 7 mile race.

The race was about a 45 minute drive away and started at a small farm. It was one way in and one way out, so Brian and I opted to go to packet pickup on Saturday. [Sadly, his toe surgery recovery has been very slow and he isn’t running and wasn’t able to run Redding with me as planned.] The half started at 8AM on Sunday, with the 7 mile starting at 8:35AM. We got there just before 8AM and walked the 2/10ths of a mile to the farm (those running the half parked at the farm). Arriving at a race 30-45 minutes before is my preference. It gives me enough time to do what I need to do (check bag, use bathroom, get shoes on and strip down to what I’m racing in) – any more time and I’m anxious, any less time and I’m stressed.

The race is really one of a kind in that it starts by doing a lap of the farm, along a dirt/gravel/grass path. Not the most ideal surfaces for me with my ankle stability issues but unique and fun for sure.

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I’m not in this picture – 1/2 marathon start

I started the race out really slow, so focused on being slow that I forgot to start my Garmin until the end of the farm loop (which was roughly 1/4 mile). My game plan wasn’t to focus on anything but running a smart race – and it was already an automatic PR because I had never run a 7 mile race. After the farm loop, we went down a fairly steep downhill, and I gave Brian a thumbs up. We headed past where we had parked our cars and took a left turn into the start of the hills. My three points of focus on this race were to: watch form on hills, relax on downhills and race on the flats. Spoiler: flats barely existed

And we just kept climbing or so it felt, it was a humid day and I felt good, but it was work even to run easy. We climbed up a hill and took a right over an overpass and then a sharp left to continue. Some guy at the top said “once you finish this climb, you have a 1 1/2 miles of flat” so I thought “Wow, really? I didn’t think there was much flat – misread the elevation chart then.” And no, he lied. At most we had 1/2 mile of flat before we went off the paved roads and into a state park and climbed up the dirt/gravel/potholes to our turn around spot. This was certainly where I started to feel it, I wasn’t conditioned enough for the climb and my body was sore but the hip and glute areas weren’t as bad as they could/should have been. The gravel and the climb through that section were what put me off a bit. We merged with the half marathoners almost seamlessly and it was nice to have additional company. Miles 5 to 6.5 were full of positive self-talk and trying to make sure I was aware of anything that felt off. I had told myself going into this race that I would walk if needed, but I didn’t need to. The last portion of any race is where I key into how I feel (ie how much do I have left in my legs, does anything hurt, do I have enough for a long fast finish or a short fast finish) in this instance, I figured I would slowly pick it up a bit – and then I hit the steep downhill.  It was one of those hills that you have to fight for control on, and it was especially important for me to do so.

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I passed a few people which was a bit hard for me to believe, but there were a lot of people cheering and I picked up the pace a bit as it flattened out. But then there was a sharp left turn onto the gravel driveway, a significant curve to run through an open (milking?) barn, then the grass surface, a sharp right to run over some grass mounds, a finish line mat, and up a small hill to the actual finish line mat. Brian flagged me down with a “slow down” motion as I came flying out of the barn, but really my legs were just still coming off that hill and I had a lot of momentum. I did not fall, I did not hurt myself and I wrangled a 1:02.29 (8:56 pace). I was pleased with my effort and self-control so just a good return to the start (and finish) line for me.

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Oh and after the race, the computer told me I ran 28th in my division. Somewhat disappointed but aware I didn’t place, we left to go get some iced coffees. Except joke is on me apparently, because the results had me 3rd in my age group. Now I just have to find the time to pick up my prize.

Jill

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