On Labor day I ran the Oak Brook half marathon, a relatively newer race, sprawled all over my cute little, sleepy hometown of Oak Brook. There’s just one small catch: very hilly. The race had many hills, and 2 miles of the race were run in Fullersburg woods, a beautiful wooded forest preserve right in the heart of Oak Brook. Of course living in Oak Brook should have clued me in to the hills – but I had no idea – and since I don’t train on any hills whatsoever in Chicago, I was doomed. I look pretty happy here though, it’s only mile 3.5..
But as I ran down that hill, basically it was the start of essentially Murphy’s Law and anything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.
Hydration. I didn’t properly hydrate the day before. I really could have stored up my glycogen, potassium and magnesium levels a little better. Check out http://www.active.com/women/Articles/5-Common-Pre-Race-Nutrition-Mistakes for a whole list of other mistakes. My race day nutrition was decent: protein pancake, espresso and some fruit. Nothing unusual, but there wasn’t enough in the tank from the day before. On course I take a gel between mile 5-6 and I alternate between water and gatorade on the course.
Training. Not much I could have done before race day but to have trained on hills. That’s the consequence of deciding on a race less than a month away. After the end of Ramadan, there simply wasn’t enough time. Lesson learned: now running hills weekly in some way shape or form.
Muscle Spasms. First time since I was in 7th grade that I had spasms this bad. I had mild spasms throughout the race which forced me to walk several times. After my first walk break I knew a PR was out of my reach so I started feeling really deflated. I ran, I walked, I ran hard, I walked. I ran up the final hill at mile 12.5 and then collapsed because my legs gave in. I couldn’t control anything. A lovely bystander came to my aid and held my feet back until the spasms went away and let me focus on crying my eyes out. Thank you to whoever you are!! After what seemed like 5 minutes, but was possibly 2 or 3 minutes, I got up to the clapping of bystanders and hobbled my way to the finish line. The first time in my life I didn’t give a sprint finish. Lesson learned here: …let’s face it, not quite what pushed my over the edge, but probably my potassium levels have something to do with this one. AND, in my recovery I learned a really great 3-step active release technique to massage out my calves and strengthen them.
- Step 1: massage out the weak area using a ball/tennis ball is great.
- Step 2: active the muscle; simple calf pumping exercise on a step will do the trick
- Step 3: stretch out the calf, against the wall or on an inclined calf stretch thing at your gym.
I ended up with a 2:19. Blekh. So glad my bad race is over, because we all have at least one, right? Not every race is going to be perfect but every run is a run.