I ran the first half of the Army 10 Miler today, before dropping out at the half-way mark. I hate to say that I’m “fine” with DNFing, but I think it was the right choice to make.
The entire week, I had been debating whether to run the race. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with what I first thought was a muscle strain in the lower right leg. Physical therapy and dry needling assisted with the pain, but the right leg has remained weak and uncoordinated, as compared to the left (weirdest is that the coordination improves as I run). The leg also has some dull pain that constantly shifts around regions of the body that are correlated with issues with the vertebrae at L4 and L5 – so the working diagnosis right now from two different PTs is sciatica. Separately (or maybe associated) I’ve also been having bouts of fatigue.
On Friday, I went to see an orthopedist to confirm that I wasn’t doing something really stupid by continuing to run – he examined me and took X-rays, confirming that there wasn’t any obvious fracture to the pelvis or spine. He then prescribed me a NSAID – oral voltaren – on the theory that something was inflamed and pushing on a nerve. I took it on Friday, and the leg coordination and weakness issue vastly improved – to the point where I’d put it at about 95%. Only problem was that the drug made me nauseous and drowsy. So, I decided that I’d swap to aspirin and race on that.
I felt great all day on Saturday, and got to bed at a decent hour. However, when I woke up this morning, I felt like I needed another 4 hours at least. This bothered me, but I reminded myself that I’ve felt lousy before very good races before (including last year’s 10 Miler), so I got dressed, and headed on over.
I left my home at 6:15, which got me to the race at 7:00. The whole trip over, I was pretty unfocused. I almost walked past the metro station, then drowsed off on the metro, then completely spaced out during bad check. I did some strides to try to wake me up, and while the leg felt OK, I definitely was off – no perk to my stride, and I wasn’t feeling any sort of race nerves or anxiousness (just a sincere wish that I was still in bed). I hoped that I’d perk up once I started racing.
My original goal for this race had been to break 68 minutes (my PR is 68:02, from this April). With all the issues of the last week, I had resolved to go out more conservative, and be happy with anything under 70.
The cannon went off, and the race started. The first mile was surprisingly uncrowded, and I hit what felt like about 7:05 effort – only to see the watch read 7:22. I was unfocused enough to miss the second mile marker, and hit the third in 14:23 (so ~ 7:11 pace). Way off pace, and what was disturbing was that I didn’t even care that much – I was completely zoned out.
After the third mile marker, the fun started. There was a construction zone, and we were directed to either side of some jersey walls. I stuck with the pack that I was with, and we ended up running down a fairly narrow section of the road with jersey walls on either side.
And then the footing under me changed from asphalt to dirt with a few rocks where the asphalt had been broken. Oh well – soft surfaces are good, right?
And then we started having to split to either side of the heavy machinery that occupied this lane. Oh well, just keep on, right?
And then my pack came to a stop, obstructed by a small bulldozer that completely blocked the lane. We all cursed and scrambled over a tire, using the jersey wall for balance. (Brian asked me why I didn’t just jump over the jersey wall at that point – truth was, I was spaced out enough that it didn’t even occur to me).
So, hurdled the bulldozer tire and moved on. I was unfocused enough to again miss mile marker 4 – at that point, I decided that I was done. So, I kept up until mile marker 5, hit my watch, stepped off course, (2 mile split was 14:26), and walked over to the metro stop, and
So, total time for 5 miles was 36:11. I was expecting to feel angry at myself for DNFing, but I felt dizzy enough on the metro to reassure myself it was the right decision. Came home, called Brian, posted on facebook, and then started to write this report before losing the energy to do even that. 5 miles at a pace substantially slower than one’s tempo pace shouldn’t make one want to collapse on the sofa for the rest of the day.
So that’s that. I’ve obviously got something going on here, though I don’t know whether it’s correlated with the leg issue or just a bug that I picked up independently. Another possibility is that I’ve just lost a ton of fitness while dealing with the leg issue the last few weeks. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been feeling worse and worse, this fall has been a sequence of disappointing races, and things seem to be going downhill – so my strategy is to shift my focus from racing to figuring out what is going on and getting fit again. Hopefully I’ll still be able to crank out some good races in November and December.