A Tale of Two Halves

In the last couple of weeks I ran two half marathons.  The first was the inaugural Flower City Challenge.  The second was the Grand Island Half Marathon from the Greater Buffalo Track Club.  One went pretty well and the other one did not.

These races were six days apart.  I know that you can’t expect to race well with only 6 days in between.  I registered for both because I couldn’t miss out on the Flower City Challenge but I also really enjoy the Grand Island Half Marathon.  The Flower City Challenge aims to be a large race and had 1600 registrants for the very first running!  Grand Island is a much smaller low key race with about 500 registrants.  Flower City offers a scenic urban route while Grand Island offers a rather dull out-and-back route along the Niagara River.

I had low expectations going into Flower City.  My training times haven’t been where I’d like them to be and I’ve had some minor injury problems.  Just as I was getting my mileage up Flower City crept into the picture.  Therefore I didn’t taper properly.  Besides, I wasn’t sure which event I was going to “race” (by race I mean put forth my best effort).  The weather made my decision for me.

The morning of Flower City was perfect for running.  There was a very slight drizzle and the air temperature was about 50 degrees.  It would have been silly of me not to go for it during this race, and so that is what I did.

The race went well.  My splits were good and I felt good.  I had fun talking with other participants and struggling through the hills in Mt. Hope Cemetery.  I stuck to my race plan and was conservative until the later parts of the cemetery (after the major hills).  Coming out of the cemetery I got a huge mental boost when Mike Reif drove by in a car and cheered for me.

The hills took their toll.  I wanted to run faster in the last few miles but my legs refused.  I finished in 1:27:26 (6:41 pace).  While it wasn’t a PR I was very happy with the time.  It was faster than I thought I was capable of.  In addition I finished first in my age group so I must have run a decent race (however I suspect part of this placement is because of runners tired or not participating due to Boston one week prior).

With a big confidence boost from Flower City I decided to go for it again at Grand Island.  I tried to take it easy in the week leading up to the race.  I was on pace for the first mile and that was it.  After five miles my quads didn’t revolt but they politely informed me that there would be no speed coming from them on that day.  When I turned around and the half I hit a wall of wind.  Things continued to get worse.  I even took two walking breaks.  I finished in 1:31:53 which is almost 7 minutes off of my PR.

I learned a few things at these races.  First I learned that experienced runners aren’t kidding when they say you need recovery time from longer races.  I also learned that I’m in better shape than I thought I was although I’m not where I want to be.  After Grand Island I felt some relatively minor hip pain.  I stretched and things were mostly OK.  But maybe not.  I had to abort a long run on a windy day.  The following weekend I had to abort a long run 9 miles in due to severe shin pain.  I’m limping right now and I don’t know when I’ll be able to run again.  I can’t conclusively say that it’s because I tried to race two races close together without enough rest.

I’d like to be out there working hard at getting better but instead I’m inside wondering how long until my leg heals enough that I can run on it again.


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