For any runner, being injured is bad enough. When it's the result of a silly decision to ignore one's advancing age and pretend one is a teenager complete with snowboard and baseball hat on backwards - much, much worse. The uneasy feeling that accompanies a running-related injury was replaced by one of chagrin and regret when I found that despite not having done anything resembling running for almost a week after the high-speed crash, my right ankle would not under any circumstances allow me to run. How ironic that I can run 100 miles a week and never get injured but two afternoons on a snowboard and I'm toast? WTF was I thinking to go snowboarding anyway? I will be advertising that stupid thing on eBay any day now.
After another week - having missed the local trail marathon and noting only the very slightest of improvement in my ankle - I arranged an MRI scan that to my admittedly amateurish eye looked to show bone oedema and a possible fracture at the tip of my lower tibia. A fracture, yes, that would explain why this thing is still so bloody painful!! But no - the official report finally came through 4 days later and was insistent that there was no fracture or ligament damage, just a sprain and a bit of inflammation in the joint itself.
I was so amazed that I called the radiologist who had reported it, just to confirm that what I'd taken for swelling and fluid was actually signal artefact (now I really don't understand MRIs at all), and after that I promptly put myself on a course of medication to treat the inflammation. Within 24 hours almost all the pain I had felt on walking was gone, and 4 days later I embarked on my first, cautious test jog. Success! And only 2 weeks until the Lake to Lagoon! Did I just hear someone say "comeback"?
Ah, see above. That is to say, not much.
|Training log for August - alarmingly empty.|
The course may be different but the start time for this race is just as ridiculous as ever: 10:30am, which at least means that I can stay in bed a lot later than normal. In a repeat performance of last year's pre-race ritual (I am nothing if not a creature of habit) I get up finally at 7:30am and eat a piece of raisin toast with coffee for breakfast, then keep myself busy with chores until it's time to head out. The weather prediction of 12C/53F has not held up - it is much warmer when I walk outside and any worries about feeling cold in the singlet/short shorts combo I have chosen are quickly dispelled.
I jog down my street and head for the lake, completing 4km (I've switched my Garmin to metric, just for kicks) with some race-pace strides in the final kilometre. My ankle is not talking to me, which is great, but my legs don't feel normal, which is expected but still not too great. I seriously have no idea what is going to happen today; I might win, I might collapse, who knows? It also depends in large part on who else has shown up; I met one of my likely competitors yesterday randomly in town, but other than her, I'm not sure who is here. Since there's really no point worrying about it, I resolve to enjoy just being able to run again and take part in the fun of the day.
There are lots of people around that I know so it's quite fun to chat to them and enjoy the buzz of people all getting ready for the run - both my kids have set off in the cycle wave (at 10am) and now there are just runners milling about in the park and by the lake.
|Two of Wagga's faster runners. Yes, really.|
I've just noticed Spiderman lurking in the shade with a group of others from the Wagga Wagga Road Runners and am about to go over to say hi when the call comes to line up at the start. From experience I know that if I don't position myself RIGHT at the front, I'll end up running smack into the backs of all the kids who will charge out from the start like a pack of wild animals before stopping dead in the middle of the road around 200m later. So I head for the pink line on the road instead and hold my ground amidst a sea of tweens.
|Me front and centre, kids all around.|
1 - 2km: 3:43, 3:53 (pace in min/km) -- min/mile 6:00, 6:17
Sure enough, Hannah (the little girl in pink) shoots out ahead of me like a rocket. I feel obliged to chase her and geez, I wasn't ready to run this fast! I'm happy though that for once I don't have kids slowing down or stopping dead right in front of me this year - the road ahead is fairly clear. I'm briefly distracted by Spiderman dashing past me yelling "Rachel's going to get beaten by Spidey!!" - who the heck is that behind the mask, anyway?? - then the first kilometre split beeps and holy crap, that's too fast to be sustainable!
Thankfully I have just caught Hannah, who has slowed down considerably - but she remains just over my shoulder and I'm pretty sure there's another chick on the other side behind me. The second km is also flat, but the uphill is fast approaching. I'm in the lead now, but I'm not counting my chickens yet - it's time to dig in and hold on.
3 - 4km: 4:06, 4:02 -- 6:38, 6:31
Ugh, this uphill stuff sucks. It's not horrendously steep but it goes on and on without respite, all the way to the turn-around. The leaders are on their way back down as I grind onwards to the top, and I really can't be bothered counting what place I'm in overall -- but I am VERY interested to know how much of a lead I have on Hannah and the other woman who was hot on my tail earlier in the race.
I check my watch as I turn and am pleased to note that I have approximately 45 seconds on both Hannah and the girl I met on Saturday - Lizzie - hopefully I can at least hold that, if not increase it.
5 - 6km: 3:48, 3:44 -- 6:09, 6:03
Heading back down towards the lake there are lots of people yelling my name from the stream of runners on the other side of the road - the great thing about being known as a runner in a relatively small city - but I am way too focused to acknowledge any of them with more than a brief wave. I haven't forgotten my embarrassing near-collapse at the end of the 2011 race and a part of my brain is very worried about a repeat performance. So far I feel okay, though.
I speed down towards the lake and hit the path that runs around the western side; this next bit is going to be hot and exposed, I know from past experience. I've managed to get back up to speed and the last 2K were much closer to 10K race pace than the uphill ones, which is gratifying. But I'm starting to feel tired - let's see what I've got left.
7 - 8km: 3:56, 3:55 -- 6:22, 6:20
Up ahead there's a very small cyclist and a man in black running next to her: it's my daughter with her father! She stops to let the runners ahead of me pass, and I start yelling her name. She's desperate to show me her skinned elbow and knee - it looks like she's fallen off at least once, whoops - but all I have time to do is yell that I'm so proud of her, blow her a kiss and keep running. Hopefully she will make it to the end without more scrapes!
|Snacks in basket in case of hunger emergency|
I lose my focus temporarily during the 9th kilometre; the short, steep uphill behind the Boat Club is every bit as nasty as I remember it, and I'm annoyed to see that I've slowed down beyond my normal marathon race pace. That's enough impetus to get me speeding up again as I cover the final 1000m to the finish line at Apex Park. For the very first time my Garmin agrees almost completely with the course distance, but there's enough extra distance to know that I did manage to hit 5:51 min/mile over the final stretch.
It's official, though: I have managed to win! Coming after my longest stretch off running since late 2005, there's a lot of confidence to be gained from today's performance. That, and a bloody big trophy.
Finish time: 39:06 (6:18 min/mile)
Placement: 13th OA, 1st female and 1st in AG (40-49)
Behind me by less than 2 minutes, Hannah has just finished in 2nd place! So impressive for an 11 year old - I make sure to go congratulate her and chat briefly to her mum. She's outsprinted Lizzie who has finished 3rd by just 3 seconds - a great day for everyone, really!
|My name is on this one 3 times now!|
Not much to say here - I was the fastest on the day, and managed to win with a time 20 seconds slower than last year's effort for 2nd place. I'm happy that I managed to hold onto my pace, though, and perhaps all my fitness hasn't gone south with the enforced 4 weeks off.
It's very clear now that Melbourne marathon - just 4 weeks away - is going to be a training run and not a real race. The challenge will be to remember that when I'm lined up amongst all the elites and everyone charges off on pace for a 2:47 finish! But the bigger prize is New York Marathon in November, where again I'll be in the professional all-women race like I was in Boston; I need to keep my eyes on that and control my speedster urges. I think I can, I think I can......watch this space.