...And, we are BACK!
This was my first race back since my ankle fracture last October. If you don't know about what happened, check out my Detroit Free Press Half Marathon Recap blog post. At the beginning of this year, I wanted to be up and running again. I remember telling my physical therapist my goal was to recover through November and December so I can train for my next race. This is why runners are wired different... many people wouldn't be concerned with racing again let alone training in two months. But if you know, you know!
Three Months Before Race Day
January 1st, 2023 rolled around and I was ready to get my body back into running shape. I had kept up with my fitness by lifting weights, doing yoga and riding the peloton. None of which was extremely challenging as I backed off on the weight I could lift, deferred when I had to balance on one foot in yoga, and resorted to "low impact" rides on the bike. Physically, I was 6lbs heavier, no where near as strong, and was very nervous to see how a small run would go. None the less, I am always up for a good challenge.
Let me first disclose that, by all means, I was not well. My clients, family and friends didn't see it. All my peers saw was my instagram stories of riding to Alex Toussant or making my egg white protein wraps. I'd send cute snapchats of me snuggling with my dogs. Life looked good. But if you've ever been injured and unable to do the one thing you love doing (in my case, that's just moving.. walking, hiking, running, etc) then you know its mentally more difficult than the entire injury is. I'd say I had a mental breakdown once a week. It was topic of conversation at the dinner table every single day. There was not an evening that went by that I didn't apply Saje's pain release essential oil all over my ankle, in hopes it would work some voodoo healing magic. My body and mind were so thrown off and consumed with what I could NOT do that made the healing process seem endless. I'd google "ankle injury" or "recovery from ankle fracture" so much that it was highlighted purple in my search engine and appeared as a favorite.
Through physical therapy and following the run-walk-run progression model, I was able to run on January 1st. I remember exactly where I was.. in Turks and Caicos, at 5 am on their treadmill. I had clients from 6am-9am so I had to hurry before the hotel gym got too crowded. I walked for 5 minutes, ran for 1 minute, walked for 5.. and did this three times. That means I ran a total of 3 minutes. To me, this was huge. I feared with every step I'd feel the "burning sensation" and I'd have to take more time off. But, that wasn't the case! I could not wait to share my "run" with my husband that morning. I felt so happy that those three minutes went smooth.
My first run after breaking my ankle!
I followed the run-walk-run progression to a tee. For about one month, I broke up xx minutes of running with greater, equal, and eventually less minutes of walking. I stuck to slow paces the entire time.
It wasn't until I began running back to back days that I started feeling pain again. We were in February and I had already signed up for this Indy Mini 500 Half Marathon in May. I wasn't sure what I was going to do if I couldn't even run two days in a row. Well, I had no other choice than to take more time off. First week of half marathon training, goodbye.
The following week, I tried again. I ran an easy 3 miles on Monday, and ran an easy 3 miles on Tuesday. This time, there was no pain during my Tuesday run. I had soreness that night but completely disappeared the following day. This was good news to me! I tried again Thursday and Friday. Friday, however, was a bit more uncomfortable. The inside of my knee began hurting during my run. How could this be happening!?
This particular weekend, I traveled to North Carolina with my husband for a Duke Basketball game. I was so frustrated I wasn't going to be able to run my favorite Duke trail. Not even for my ankle... but my knee! Another week off.
Around this time, I decided to sign up for Running Explained's Group Coaching. I had been listening to Coach Elizabeth's podcast for about a year. I adored her and her content. She provides valuable information and education so I was excited to pick her brain on lingering questions I had when it came to training. During one of my first group coaching calls, I had told her I hadn't even began training yet due to all these "pop up" pain situations. She looked at my training schedule and challenged me to try and run slower and with breaks between each day. Although I did not WANT to do either of those things, I listened and followed suit. Five days later, I had completed my long 5 mile run with no pain. This was a huge win for me!
The rest of February, March and April went so smooth. the group coaching through Running Explained helped the mental battle as well as pop-up questions. My personal body awareness and past training helped everything else. The two key training tools that helped me were:
1) Understanding my true easy- EFFORT (not pace!) zone and running this 90% of the time
2) Re-evaluate what my goal is and train for that specific goal
My goal was to complete this half marathon injury and pain free. So, why would I try to make a certain pace while training? You're right.. it makes no sense. I must first be able to run the distance healthy and comfortably before running that same distance, fast. I can work on speed anytime during my running career. But at this moment, I need to work on the challenge of completing this mileage without pain or re-injury. With this instilled in my head, I was able to come up with my A, B and C goals.
A goal (everything went right, the stars were aligned, and a miracle was made): Finish the race at OR under the Detroit Free Press time (October 2022, very conditioned, however injured)
B goal (my training set me up for this goal, must push to achieve, work hard, but absolutely achievable): Finish the race at OR under the Rock N Roll Nashville time (April 2022, my worst race ever, conditioned and injury-free)
C goal (achievable no matter what, with determination, this I can accomplish): Run the entire race without stopping to walk
Half Marathon Eve (Friday)
Fast forward to our trip to Indianapolis; at this point, I had completed the Level 0 training plan given by my group running coach and had tapered successfully. The last week of tapering, I typically feel tired and nervous. I've increased carbs and felt strong with my nutrition plan.
I slept in til 7am. This was planned due to waking up between 4-5am every day this week; I needed a day to sleep in a bit more. Upon waking, I got right up and headed to Lifetime for easy elliptical work. I know my body, and by moving through easy efforts before a race, I am able to shake out nerves and keep my normal, consistent routine. I practiced doing light cardio before my long runs during training, so my legs would adjust to working while being tired. It's actually a great training technique and translates really well after tapering.
Post elliptical session, I drove home and quickly packed my bags. At this point, I had a Super Coffee as my pre workout. This coffee had protein, fat and carbs present but only about 80 calories. This was fine because I planned to eat an early lunch in the car. The drive was about 3 hours and my husband drove the entire way (while working, go Mike!). I was able to sleep, take care of our dogs (who came with us) and eat my lunch. For lunch, I ate 3 wraps with deli ham and hummus. This lunch was carb and protein heavy with little fat. This macro ratio is perfect for pre-race fueling.
When we arrived in Indy, we checked into the Westin and Mike headed straight to work. I decided to walk to my hair appointment to get it braided. Braids are easy; cute and no-fluff. The walk through Indianapolis was very enjoyable. I learned all about Mass Ave and downtown! The walk ended up being 2.5 miles which was way longer than I had expected. After getting my hair braided, I walked to the convention center which was conveniently right beside our hotel. But, that meant a 2.5 mile walk back. Luckily, I had sat for the drive and the hair braiding so at least my rest was equaling my movement.
Braids were done at Dry Bar Indianapolis (Mass Ave Location)
The packet-pickup was huge! I'll hold my tongue and not talk about the comic-con convention that was also going on the same time... but let's just say there were many outfits and characters along the way! Once finally finding the race expo, I headed towards the back room to get my bib and tee shirt. I could feel my blood sugar dropping low at this point. Luckily, there were plenty of Gu's around so when in doubt, I was covered. I ended up buying Gu's at the expo because they were 4 for 6$!
I headed back to the room light headed and I went straight for the tortilla chips. I had about 2 servings of tortilla chips; these were pretty low in fat and carb heavy. I took extra insulin because I know I went over 15 grams. I ate some beef jerky to level out the pre-dinner snack.
I laid in bed for awhile after this. I looked at my watch and hit 18,000 steps. Somewhat freaking out, had I walked too much on the day before my half marathon? I definitely don't walk that much before my long runs during training. Instead of over-thinking it, I let my legs feel heavy while laying in bed and rested.
We headed to dinner that was a mile away, so guess what we did? We walked. The restaurant was called Iozzo's Garden Of Italy. I planned to eat a carb-rich meal, low in fat, with protein present. We ordered a glass of wine (carbs, alcohol), oysters (protein) and calarmari (protein, carb and fat) to start. I am pretty good at not over-eating calamari, so I had a single portion and waited for my main meal. I asked for the salmon piccata with no butter sauce. The dish said it laid on a bed of capellini pasta and a side of broccoli. I was pretty pumped about this because I don't do well with huge pasta dishes, but I know I needed a higher carb meal for storing glycogen. However, when the meal arrived, the portion of pasta was SO small. Again, I tried not to think about it and ate the whole thing. Luckily, I had snacks back in the room if needed.
Iozzo's Garden Of Italy
We walked back to the hotel room (21,000 steps at this point) and I broke into bagged popcorn from the hotel lobby. This was just pure carbs for me. I needed more than what the pasta had at the restaurant. I laid in bed and fell asleep around 10pm.
Half Marathon Morning
The outfit! Mizuno Wave Inspire 19's, Lulu Lemon shorts (4"), Lulu Lemon red tank, black OG's Goodr glasses, Gu, Maurten
How lovely is it that I got to sleep in until 6AM?! I don't think I have ever done this for a half marathon! The Westin was conveniently located right beside the start line and my take-off was set for 7:40AM. This was clutch; I slept in until 6 and woke up feeling refreshed. I had packed overnight oats made with oatmeal, blueberries, granola, cinnamon and greek yogurt. This was waiting for me in the hotel refrigerator. I took my insulin and ate my oatmeal. This breakfast-- you guessed it-- had been practiced for weeks before race day. I knew I would respond well to this breakfast. I drank cold brew (also practiced) and consumed a lot of water. I stopped consuming liquids around 7AM to be sure I don't have to pee when I start running. What wasn't planned was the - three- poops before the race took off. Yes, if you're a runner you know that poop talk is a normal topic of conversation. Well, I wasn't planning on having to go so much in the morning. I attribute the bowel movements to the broccoli from the night before; something I recently added into my diet since recovering from SIBO. I didn't think much about the fiber content, just of eating everything on my plate. The rest of the morning, I rolled out my hips, did some high knees, and was off to the starting line!
Half Marathon, Commence!
The starting line was full of all kinds of people. It was broken into waves, and even more broken into corrals. The first wave took off at 7:30, my wave took off at 7:40, and the last at 7:50. I was at corral K.
Taking off to my traditional "Lose Yourself"- Eminem, I smiled and proceeded. The first few miles were exactly as planned: "Get comfortable, settle into this slower, easy pace, don't go too fast with excitement". Luckily, I didn't start off too fast as I was actually not as energized as I had expected. It was fine; this pace was something I knew I could do for awhile. Fast, flat, and uneventful are great ways to express my first 30 minutes.
I knew I was running a bit faster than the 10:30 pace I'd practiced all of training and I feared I'd be in trouble later. So heading into mile 4, I slowed my pace and could easily talk and run at the same time. This was about a 10:10 pace. Still faster than I had practiced, but its race day! Around mile 5, I looked out for my husband as this was the first spot I'd plan to see him. Mile 5 is the time I start to feel, "yep, it's a half marathon" because I am not yet half way and the fatigue sets in. With no luck, I picked my pace back up and continued to the next mile event.
I was very excited about this portion of the race as we entered the Indy 500 race track! The track is 2.5 miles long and although flat, caved somewhat inward. Mile 6 was slower at a 10:21 pace.. I assume due to me whipping out my phone for videos and selfies! My step grandfather is a huge nascar fan and I wanted to get a cool running video of this part. Mile 6-7 was also somewhat emotional as the "golden mile" was full of posters with photos of past veterans. Families gathered around their memorial and cheered for the runners. There were a LOT of posters. It definitely took your mind somewhere other than the race. As the golden mile ended, I felt this sudden- ohhhhh no- urge, too, well, ya know. That damn broccoli! I looked around the track with no luck. Well, wouldn't that be a story of me shitting myself on the Indy 500 track? Luckily, approaching mile 8, I found a single port-a-potty. I truly don't think this was for runners; I had to go off the track and into the gravel to access the loo. From what I understand, I lost about 120 seconds from this experience but thank the LORD I did. This pace was a whopping 11:15. You do what you gotta do!
Crossing the bricks and running the Indy 500 track!
Around mile 8.5, we leave the track and immediately hit a water and gatorade station. Although I wanted water, gatorade was on my side and just in time for my first Gu. I drank the gatorade and ripped off the pomegranate flavored Roctane Gu. I guzzled it down, tossed to the side, and trudged forward. I was excited to have some pep in my step because mile 9 is my traditional spot to see Mike. And mile 9 came.. and went... no Mike. I was a little bummed out but picked my pace back up and assuming he couldn't access the race. Lo and behold, Mike was spotted at the 9.5 mile marker spot! This always helps my motivation. It sounds silly, why would seeing your husband help your pace increase by 30 seconds? I don't know to be honest!! But the screams and shouts of GO AMANDA! YOU GOT THIS!!! never get old to me! I blinked, and I am at mile 10 running a 10:30 pace. This is the pace I've practiced all of training and felt oh-so familiar. I had a 5K left, that was it! My next concern was my second fueling strategy. I fueled at mile 8.5 and planned to refuel at 11; around 30 minutes apart. I took 1/2 the Maurten gel at mile 11 and continued running. At this point, I was drinking water at every mile marker. It really kept my pace up and made me feel really good.
The last two miles were uneventful. We headed back over the bridge and down some rolling hills. These miles are deemed the "get me outttta here" feeling. I wasn't bonking out thought; the gels helped preserve my energy the entire way. I was just simply ready to be done. When I saw the finish line, I started to pick my pace up. Mile 12 was a 10:38 pace, Mile 13 was a 10:25 pace, and the last .25 miles was a solid 9:23 pace WOOO!!!
Post Race Feels
What a race! I successfully completed and achieved my B and C goal. Two efforts that were so important to me to prove I can still run injury free and have potential to work on speed. I finished the race at 2 hours and 15 minutes, with an average pace of 10:20 per mile. This included the one poop stop, which I didn't count as a "stop to walk" moment (I actually ran to the port-a-potty and ran out of it, LOL!).
This race was perfect for flat, easy, and eventful moments. I loved running the Indy 500 track! The timing of the track run was perfect and kept you distracted during the not-so-easy miles. Bands played throughout the course and there were over 10 water/gatorade stations (I counted 15, but I may be off).
The post-race after party was HUGE! We walked a bit to finally retrieve the medal and snacks, but this led right into the open field party with bands, food trucks, beer tents, and more!
I don't necessarily run off to brunch after a race like this. Although I was running for so long, I don't feel like eating right away. We enjoyed the after party, I stretched, and we headed back to the hotel to shower. I took a post race 30 minute nap, snacked on some beef jerky and felt incredible.
Race day shots!
Race Day Moments
Around 1PM, Mike and I freshened up and walked Mass Ave again. He didn't experience the day prior with me, so I wanted to show him the cool bars and restaurants I found. We saw Pins Mechanical Co and stopped in for a beer. I felt a little dehydrated, so I stuck with water and relaxed in the sun. We walked back from Pins and I realized I had done the 5-mile walk from the day before. My legs and feet were burning and I told Mike I had to go sit down for at least an hour to recover. I clocked in 40,000 steps this day.
We got lucky and were able to get into St Elmo's Steakhouse around 5pm! We were unable to make reservations for months before and Mike wanted to dine here so badly. We tried and succeeded! The old time steak house served great steaks, wine, and salads. It was a lovely way to end the evening.
St. Elmo's Famous Steak House
Indianapolis is a hidden gem. Since we stayed at the Westin, we were able to walk everywhere. But remember for half marathon purposes... YOU WALK EVERYWHERE!
I am so thankful to have participated in this race, healthy + injury-free. I am ready to take the summer, work on base building, and complete a more - speedy - half in the fall. Until then, runners! Cheers!