This year's Cotton Row Run was a somewhat similar to all the previous ones I've blogged about running - I was injured prior to the start of the race.
But this time I didn't have a pulled muscle or cramped up calf. This time I had stepped on a steel dumbbell and bruised the crap out of the ball of my foot. This happened a week ago and I was partially healed from it. I still have enough of a limp that I wasn't sure if I should even attempt to run. I made my decision at what I thought was the last possible minute. I jumped into my car and drove as fast as I could to the race.
When I got there and as I was running to the starting line, some guy passed me going away from the race. I assumed he had run the 10K race. It starts 2 hours before the 5K that I run and should have finished already. When we passed he turned and said "hey, they've delayed the start of the race. A tree fell across the course somewhere and they delayed the race by one hour. Your race doesn't start until 10 am." I wasn't sure whether to believe him or not, but I kept on running to my start line.
When I reached the start, sure enough, the 10K race was still going on. I was forced to stand around for an hour and twenty minutes before my own race even began to line up at the start. Once we were lined up and ready to run, the founder of the race took the microphone and talked to us, sang at us, pledged allegiance with us, and bugled us for another 20 minutes. At this point I had been standing up for nearly 2 hours. Finally they fired the starting gun and we were off.
At first I was preoccupied with swerving through the maze of slow people, walking people, and people I just have no idea why they were in our way at all. Finally I made my way into a crowd of runners who were moving along at the same pace as I was. But right away people were stopping to walk. And then I noticed that my own legs felt like rubber. They felt like ... like I had already run every event in a track meet and was ready to get on the bus and go home. My legs were shot!
I kept plodding along, thinking that at any minute my body would adjust and I'd be warmed up. Then the feeling of weakness and shakiness would pass. Then I would run like normal. I was already moving at the pace I wanted. I finished the first mile at 9 minutes and 20 seconds. That's not fast by anyone's measure, but after so many injury-wrecked races and so much trouble with my legs, all I wanted to do was get back under that 30 minute mark where normal people run. 3 sub-10-minute miles would give me my very attainable goal. This should not be that hard.
But as I passed that 1 mile marker and they shouted my time to me, I could not escape the miserable feeling in my legs. They were simply shot. They had no strength at all. They felt as if I were suffering from the flu and needed to go lie down with some orange juice and a bowl of soup.
At the 1 1/2 mile marker they had set up a water station. I slowed to grab a cup. My legs wobbled badly. And then the worst happened - I stopped running and walked. This is something I would never have done back in the days when I ALWAYS ran well under 30 minutes in every 5K and I NEVER walked for any reason. I walked for maybe 20-30 seconds, hoping to shake off the weakness in my legs. Hey, when I fartlek a 10 second walk gives me enough of a rest to blast into a much faster pace than I was currently running. Sure, I'd walk again at some point after that, only to sprint again afterwards, but I always had the strength and energy to keep doing it over and over again.
Not this time. I started running again. My legs still felt like rubber. I ran and ran, but tried adjusting my pace to something a little slower. Maybe I just needed to ease up a bit and that'd fix the problem.
Nope. I had to stop and walk again after the 2 mile mark. And one more time after that. At the start of the 3rd mile I still had plenty of opportunity to kick it up and finish under 30 minutes. My brain knew this. But my legs weren't even going to pretend that this was a possibility. I ran the 3rd and final mile as fast as my wobbly Weeble-like legs would allow, and I even felt at the final stretch as if I might puke. But my speed was ... lacking.
So now I have a question for anyone still reading this blog, anyone who just happened by, anyone who is a runner or any sort of athlete and has something resembling an educated opinion about this. I didn't sleep well the night before the race. And I didn't sleep well the night before that. I don't know if that mattered. But I do think that the hour and a half or so minutes that I spent standing and standing and oh-my-God more standing took a lot out of my legs. In fact, I think it turned my legs into blocks of useless wood. Whenever I have to spend hours shopping my legs and my lower back wear out, my bum knee swells, and I feel a powerful urge to go sit in a leather booth and drink something cold and mostly unhealthy. So what do you think? Does standing on your feet for over an hour without a break, prior to a race, take a lot out of your legs? Do you think this is what went wrong for me?
I wish there was a forum somewhere for people who ran this race to talk. If there were I'd ask them. But as I don't know of any, I'm asking you. Any opinions?