Will I ever learn?? Lessons from the Arkansas 20K (Race Report)

Will I ever learn?? Lessons from the Arkansas 20K (Race Report)

I’m guilty. Once again I learned (the hard way) that good intentions and wishful thinking do not necessarily make an idea a good idea.  When it comes to running these days I know what I need to do but it’s not want I want to do.  Instead of a good angel/ devil on my shoulders I have a smart, responsible runner who sees the big picture versus the overly ambitious, race adrenaline addict.  Take a wild guess at who won the battle Saturday morning when it came to the matter of a little 20K race…
Before I jump into that I will back up a few days… Last Thursday I “graduated” from Physical Therapy.  

Searcy Physical Therapy gives you a shirt when you graduate…

After about two months of rehab on my plantar fasciitis my physical therapist cut me loose.  I am now able to run every other day without pain or discomfort.  I typically keep these runs between 4-8 easy paced miles.  He still doesn’t want me to doing any speed work- as this seems to be what aggravates my PF (plantar fasciitis).  I am going to continue doing my stretches at home and wear my night splint.  I asked my PT about an upcoming half marathon that I was considering running- NOT racing.  I asked him if it would be ok for me to run it a little slower than my marathon pace.  He was hesitant but said if I was up to that mileage and I didn’t race it I should be fine.  I could always drop out if I felt heel pain. 
There happened to be a 20k in the Arkansas Grand Prix series this past Saturday that I thought would be the perfect “training run” to prepare for the half marathon.  A 20k is 12.4 miles so if I were in normal racing shape I would shoot for tempo/ half marathon pace.  I knew that after several weeks and months of mostly easy running there was no way I could even touch my tempo pace.  I did a little speed work on the alter-g treadmill at PT once a week but nothing that would give me a lot of confidence going into a half marathon.  I was genuinely curious about what kind of shape I was in.  Was running at or a few seconds slower than marathon pace a reasonable goal? (Spoiler Alert- The answer is NO!!)
In my mind, if the 20k went well then I could do the half marathon.  If it didn’t then I’d know I wasn’t ready.  My main goal was to run easy, strong and not feel any foot discomfort.
Before the race I bumped into our local elite (she ran in the Olympic Marathon trials in ’12 and has already qualified for ’16).  I asked her about the course.  She said it wasn’t her favorite- a little hilly the first few miles and the last few but there were some decent stretches in the middle.  While I wasn’t that worried about the course since I wasn’t all out racing, I still hoped my “not racing pace” wouldn’t feel too hard!
As a side note- I never race with music anymore because it is a distraction to me when I’m trying to focus on pace but I wanted to keep it fun and relaxed.  I had my music, my training shoes on and I just wanted to enjoy running a distance I’d never raced before. 
Race Details: 
The Arkansas 20K is in Benton, AR every September.  It starts and finishes at Benton High School and is a basic out and back along city streets and an access road.  The race always starts at 7:33 a.m. This year temps were in the upper 60’s and humid at the start.
Miles 1-6
6:58, 6:49, 6:53,6:57, 7:02, 7:12 (43:xx at 10k)
My plan was to keep everything just under a 7 minute pace.  If marathon pace is in the 6:45-6:50 range then surely I could hit right at or under a 7 for 12.4 miles??  This seemed logical in my far too competitive mind… I knew I was third female from the start.  I passed a few guys- one of whom kindly opened my gu for me right before the 10K turn-around.  For some reason I couldn’t get it opened with my hands and because of dental work I could not tear it open with my teeth…
Miles 7-12.4
7:01, 6:55, 7:11, 7:33, 7:44, 7:45, 3:17 (6:58 avg. for last 0.47)
At the turn-around I could assess how far behind the first two females I was (pretty far) and I also learned how much lead I had on the fourth place female.  (Not much- a minute?)  Up until mile 9 I was feeling pretty good but the last 3 miles were HARD!  Apparently that’s what happens when you run a 12.4 mile race when you haven’t run more than 9 miles in MONTHS.  Basically it felt like the last 3 miles of a MARATHON but my splits were much worse.  My splits actually reminded me of my final miles from marathons I ran in 2012.  It was rough…  To make matters worse my heel pain returned around miles 8 & 9.  It wasn’t awful but I could feel it.  There were a few times in the last mile I turned around to see how much of a lead I had on the 4thplace female.  Again, not much of a lead… 20-30 seconds at best.  Once my watch beeped at mile 12 I picked it up.  I was dead tired but I was not about to get passed in the last half mile. 
Finish- 1:29:24 (7:12 official avg.) 
(3rd OA female)- Official Results can be found here.

so glad to be done!
Running any sort of cool-down was out of the question.  I needed to rest my heel asap and take off my shoes!  I had a huge blood blister on my right pinky toe side from my training shoes.  This has NEVER happened to me before.  How did it happen during a 12.4 mile race?!  The shoes I wore (Asics gel nimbus) are extra comfy and supportive (just what my heel needs right now!) but a little too roomy for racing.  Also, I think I’d only wore this pair 3 or 4 times… Are there racing shoes out there for plantar fasciitis survivors?  I’ll have to look into this. 
Post Race Thoughts-
It’s been hard for me to acknowledge and accept where I am right now.  I know I am NOT ready to run a half marathon.  Even at marathon pace.  I’m never going to get better enough to train if set unrealistic expectations on myself.  There are several upcoming races I normally run every fall but I’m putting on the breaks.  And it’s so hard… IF I’m doing ok I may run in one local 5k in a few weeks but we’ll see.  I know I am not ready for a half marathon.
I really need to stop focusing on what I cannot do right now and think about what I CAN do.  I AM able to run every other day or so at easy pace and I need to be happy with that.  I might be at this phase for a while.  From everything I’ve read and heard plantar fasciitis can take several months to heal.  I think I’ve been so used to training and pushing myself to get faster for so long now that “just” easy running doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough.  I know this is not the way I need to think.  I AMable to swim and bike on my non-running days.  I AM able to take a break from competitive running for these few months.  Maybe I need that.
In closing, I’m trying to listen to the smart, responsible, runner angel on my shoulder.  I will be patient.  I will be content.  I will keep moving forward.

20 thoughts on “Will I ever learn?? Lessons from the Arkansas 20K (Race Report)

  1. Ah, I loved reading this Tia. One of my favorites of yours so far. Fun to have heard the text version earlier this week and this expanded version now! Still so speedy…even on bad days! ha! I love what you say about being where we are right now…content and moving forward…patient… this is true with running and LIFE! I’m right there with you but more with my life than my running right now. Thanks for this. Good words friend. I’m so happy you can run more now. It certainly adds so much to our lives!

  2. Good job on the race, even if it wasn’t ideal and you got the blood blister. Yikes :(. At least you gave it a shot and now you know where your fitness is. Maybe with dealing with the PF, you should get refitted for shoes? I did that after my injury, I’m not sure it helped but I figured it was one thing I could try. I’m so glad to see a post from you and see that you’re running again too!

  3. We live and we learn right? It is so tough not being able to do something you really enjoy. I almost think it makes it worse when you can run some but not quite what you’re used to (if that makes sense). So there’s a false sense of security, of I’m ok. PF is such a tricky injury isn’t it? It seems so simple too – or I always thought so even the first time I had it (notice I said first right?) I really wish you speedy healing thoughts. You could come run soaring wings with me at a 7:35-ish pace that’d feel slow 😉

  4. I always enjoy your race reports, they’re honest and really give a sense of what you were going through. You just described several races I’ve had lately. Great job on getting through it, albeit not as fast as you have liked.

  5. Mmmhm. I feel ya. I don’t like that I’m slow now, or that I have to *constantly* take care of my hip, or that I won’t ever run the same. But I love what I can do! And you will be back and fast.
    BTW, I noticed that even great shoes can create blisters when I’ve been out for awhile. They go away when my feet toughen up.

  6. You crack me up! Responsible runner vs overly ambitious runner! I hear you! Not only did I have this 20K on my schedule but the overly ambitious runner in me planned to do a 5K that evening in honor of a family member! I struggled to recover from last Saturday’s 17 miler and even had a dream about not being able to compete in a 5K I was going to “jump in just for fun”! The responsible runner in me took it as a sign and decided to lay low! 🙂
    Don’t beat yourself up for making what seems like a bad decision. You need to run this to test where you are at and it was an opportunity to learn and to grow! You also should add to your list of positive things to focus on is the extra time you now have to spend with your kids! I know tall can be a fun and busy time for them, savor every moment! Trust me it goes by way too fast!!
    By the way it’s good to read your blog again! One of my favorites and miss it when you don’t write!

  7. I think at some point we have all made the ambitious decision regardless of knowing what might be better suited for the time. While it wasn’t the race you wanted, it was still a race and like you said- you’re still able to run. Patience is hard when we just want to go go go. You’ll get there. I love how real and honest you are about things-refreshing when someone can be like that. 🙂

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