Saturday, September 12, 2009

What was I thinking?

Our first race of the season was Thursday night. Held outside of town on a 5k loop around a cycling track. Gentle hills -the biggest ones you can find, locally anyway, thorny acacia trees, feral cats and lots of sand all around. The race, held every Ramadan, is known as the Iftar Challenge; it's timed so that the first runner across the finish line does so after the sun has slipped below the horizon. Iftar. The fast for the day is over and we can have something to drink.

There was a huge response to the race with more than 250 people showing up to run. Unheard-of numbers; it seems like people are getting into running worldwide, which is wonderful.

With the large group the men were started first, the women following 2 minutes later. I found myself near the front of the pack when we lined up. "I should so not be here!" I said to a running friend next to me, who is also more of a plodder, as we are known, than a sprinter. "Oh, let's stay," she implored. The race began and I was running far too hard and fast, and the women who were around me should have been far in front of me. Ridiculously, I was savoring the novelty of getting to see these "real" athletes in action. Usually I am way behind. That friend of mine who'd asked me to stay was nowhere to be seen. Very stupid running by yours truly.

I was wearing my usual gear, team jersey, spandex shorts and running shorts over those. The team racing shirt kept slipping up, and worse, the shorts I was wearing kept slipping down, and their drawstring was tied in an impossible knot that had already gone through the washing machine. So there I was, running, horribly conscious of my stomach bobbling in it's casing of spandex between the shirt and shorts. Damn the weight I put on over the summer! I kept yanking the shirt down and the shorts up but it was not working. Finally I unpinned a corner of my race tag and safety pinned the shorts to the shirt. The gap was closed and the pin held beautifully. Hopefully the light conditions were poor enough that the race photographs won't turn out too well!

The weather was, of course, hot and humid, and despite consciously hydrating all day long my mouth and throat were incredibly dry. By the halfway point I was rasping and trying to spit the gritty goo in the back of my throat but not having enough saliva to get it out. Disgusting.

I went from flying to trying to keep going, and in both states I was giving it all I had. My legs were screaming for oxygen. I was passing the slower male runners, and some women I knew should have been in front of me were remedying that situation by catching and passing. They probably wondered what the hell I was doing there. I pushed on, there was the 4k sign. It seemed like it took ages to get there, but in reality it was only about 20 minutes.

Another woman, a marathoner I know well, and often chat with on our Friday morning training runs, caught up to me and began racing alongside. "Well done" I croaked, but she either didn't hear me or chose not to expend any energy on niceties.

I tried to keep up with her. We rounded another corner where I'd expected to see the finish line, and it wasn't there. I gave up, letting her go ahead. Then I heard the first whoops of spectators and could see we were almost at the end. A last burst of speed, up on my toes, getting the energy from some reserve I had no idea I had, I swooped past her and finished in the chute 5 seconds faster.

It felt good for fewer than 5 seconds, and then my calf seized up in a humdinger of a cramp. Ow. Ow ow ow.

It was dark now. There is no lingering twilight in the desert. At this latitude it goes from day to night, done. Over to the water, ignoring the leg. The water was in a cooler, but instead of using the spigot on the side people were grabbing cups and dipping into the top, chugging as fast as they could and going back for more.

I couldn't see for sweat stinging my eyes, but after slugging down glass after glass of water I felt well enough to gimp back to return my race number and then out to the car to get a towel and some Pocari. My legs were shaking, and I couldn't stand up straight.

I drove home, spent, after dutifully clapping and being pleased for the winners. The leg cramp eased after two Pocari and a lot of stretching, but on the drive home it was plain to see that I'd beat the hell out of my knees. They screamed at me. I could barely get out of the car when I got home.

It was obvious to even me that I would not be doing my long run the next morning. Better to wait a day, and go out for the Predictor Saturday night.

And that's where it all went catawumpus. I'd been sore all day, sure, but hey, just because I walked up stairs like a very old lady didn't mean I couldn't go out and race, right?

You know the answer.

After the cannon fired at Safa Park a ton of Dubai Road Runners lined up to do the 2 lap circuit of Safa. Me too. I never miss it. I love and I hate it. I finish no matter what.

I ran less than a kilometer.

Within a few steps I could tell something was very wrong with my left knee. The knee that has been the bane of my running existance for nearly 10 years. Pain shot up my leg. I know that pain. I stopped twice to stretch it, then jumped back in and ran back up to the pack. It was no good, every step was worse.

I knew that if I didn't stop, I might be trading a Saturday run for my chance at my dream. Because I ran too hard at a 5k race, at the very beginning of the season, I not only lost a Predictor; I may have jeopardised finally, finally running the Dubai Marathon.

Wiping tears, I limped back to the start line to cross my name off the list and dragged my sorry self back to my car where I blubbered like a baby.

I hate to cry.

I've put in much work under what could be considered the lousiest running conditions in the world during this past month and a half. I went home, took a shower, finally stopped crying, read lifeless stories to the kids. Bethy called me out for "not doing the voices" to which I pleaded tiredness and promised the voices would be back next time.

Mike commiserated, for as much as I'd let myself talk about it. I put on my fuzziest socks and found my fuzziest blanket and curled up on the couch with him, a bowl of ice cream, hot tea with amaretto and Grand Marnier, and watched Michael Palin goof his amicable way across the Pacific. If that couldn't cure mental angst I don't know what can. That and a good night's sleep helped immeasurably.

I'm going to back off running for a few days, ice, heat, medicate, stretch, and see if I can't make it better.

If not...well, best not to think about that. One day at a time, patience...patience.


Cathy O. said...

Rest, ice, brufrin.... You'll be pounding the track at Safa again begore you know it. Wish I would have been there to give you a shoulder to cry on. Hang in there!

dorothy said...

Darn those knees! The one that had surgery in highschool is still my stronger though i hope you dont have to go there (and I am sure that 20 years later the surgeries are better than back then!)

Hugs - I am not thrilled about these 'older' body parts either.
Looking forward to a new on in heaven!

Anonymous said...

Oh no! I hope the RICE treatment works quickly for you! Sending you good vibes...

Julia said...

Remember what you told me. Taking time to rest, stretch and strengthen makes for a stronger runner, and it'll be easy earning back those miles because you already know you can do it!

*hugs* Go easy on yourself (mentally AND physically).

Natalie said...

Thank you ever so much to all of you. It's going to be a long road, and one I'm not enthusiastic about. I know I should be grateful for this chance to refine my running and follow my own advice. (thanks Sis---and happy birthday, by the way!)Working on that.