Running for me this year has had its ups and downs like most people. I had steadily increased my mileage each week from around 23 early in the year to 33 in late summer. Along the way, I tripped over a spike on the rail trail, pulled my right calf muscle and wrenched my back. Yet I was losing weight and getting stronger and faster despite these setbacks.
As Thanksgiving approached this year, I started to gear up for the Manchester Road Race, which I have run about 30 times. My new group of running friends, the Amigos, had been running the road race course every Wednesday morning for three weeks leading up to the week of November 17th. That cold, rainy Monday morning, myself and two other Amigos (Mike and Bob W.) ran 10 miles on the rail trail. It was what I called a "character building" day because it was a fairly nasty day to be out running. Towards the end of the run, Bob W, who hadn't run the day before like I had, started to pick up the pace. I was feeling a bit tight and tired and found myself dropping back every few minutes on the return trip from our out and back 10 miler. I should have known better to slow down and let them go. But I didn't and by the time we finished, my right hamstring was hurting. Two days later, we lined up at the start line of the Manchester Road Race course for one last practice run with the group. I could still feel my hamstring tightness in spite of some foam rolling I had done of the area earlier in the morning. So I took it real easy and did the course in just over 40 minutes, 3 minutes and 15 seconds slower than my time the week of November 10th.
I ran two more times that week, an easy 7 on Friday morning and then 5.5 on Sunday with my two labs, Calvin and Cassie. I was planning to run on 3 or 4 miles on Monday, the week of Thanksgiving, but I got a part time engineering job with a consultant and didn't get a chance to run. On Tuesday, I helped move my mother into her new senior apartment in Glastonbury and this process further stressed my legs. Seven and a half hours later, the move was completed, but my right hamstring pain was still there. That night I foam rolled my legs, especially my hamstrings and I felt better. I had my race number and my seeding card and decided to give it a go, despite my hamstring issues.
Thanksgiving morning, I got a late start. As a result, I had to park a mile away from the start and jog over. I figured it would be a good way to loosen up my legs and test my right hamstring. I didn't feel any better once I reached the gate and tried stretching for a while in the under 40 minutes corral. It helped somewhat. When the National Anthem was being sung just prior to the start of the race, the PA system stopped working so everyone finished up the anthem, which was cool. I don't think that ever happened before at this race.
My goal was to run the same mile splits I had done when I ran under 37 minutes two weeks earlier for as long as I could. I had run through injuries before and figured I could adjust my stride while maintaining a good pace. This lasted to the top of the hill, just past the two mile mark. A 7:24 first mile, followed by a 8:58 second mile was all I had in me. At this point, I was only 14 seconds behind my faster practice run time. That's when the pain started to get me. Instead of hitting 23:40 at the three mile mark, as I had planned, I crossed that marker in 24:25, 45 seconds slower than planned. My fourth mile was even worse, instead of 31:15, I reached that point in around 32:50. As I rounded the corner on Main Street, I almost had to stop, as the hamstring pain was shooting up my right leg into my right buttock. The down hill hurt, but that last little up hill section before the finish line on Main Street was worse. I was kind of dragging and shuffling my right leg. I looked to my right and saw one of my fellow Amigos, Steve Tolman walking. I called out Steve, but I don't think he heard me. He then took off like a rocket and finished 15 seconds ahead of me. Keep in mind that I was only about 20 yards from the finish.
So I was able to finish in 39:33 by my watch, having run the last 2.75 miles in a considerable amount of pain. Oh, well. Maybe next year I can actually stay healthy by using better judgment. Running can sure be humbling.