Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Would a Mother Runner Do? Drop to the Half.

     I had registered for The Delaware Lehigh Heritage Marathon back in May of this year. I was looking forward to a low-key, non crowded marathon with a beautiful course within 2 hours from my home. Perfect.
      I trained all summer, through the heat and humidity of the East Coast. I did tempo runs, hill repeats, intervals and long runs. I stretched, foam-rolled, did my core routine, followed every workout on my training plan.  I even worked in Ragnar NWP and Ragnar DC.  My training went so well, until it didn't.
  My last, longest run was scheduled for Oct.12. 20 miles, easy.  I woke up super early that morning in order to get in 10 miles before joining my running group at 8am. The plan was to run the last 10 with them.  My left piriformis muscle felt a bit tight during those first few miles, but once I was warmed up, I felt fine.  I was able to complete the run in 3hours and 20 minutes, an avg. pace of 9:30 min/mile. Perfect.
  The next morning I woke up early to get ready for church, and I had to hobble to the bathroom.  My left leg/hip was tight and sore. Not so perfect.  I then proceeded to take a day off, foam rolled, stretched and tried to loosen up my left piriformis.  I hobbled through a 2 mile run/walk with my 5K group that I coach on Tuesday, ran a slow, uncomfortable 3 miles on Thursday, and somehow managed to run 10 miles at the Army Ten Miler on Oct.20.  2 weeks before I was scheduled to run the marathon.  My one marathon of the year. My "A" race. The one I had trained so hard for. To finally run a sub 4 hour marathon.
  I was still determined to run the marathon.  I made an appointment with my Nurse Practitioner in order to get a Physical Therapy referral and in the meantime just continued with stretching and foam rolling. 
  I was able to see Physical Therapy a few days later. The diagnosis was piriformis syndrome, hip bursitis and very tight hip flexors.  The therapist did ultrasound therapy, massage and stretching, and then introduced me to a therapy that I was not familiar with: iontophoresis.  This is used in order to administer medication to the affected area. Like having a cortisone shot without the needle. Pretty cool. And completely painless.
 So, after 4 physical therapy sessions, it was time to make a decision about the marathon.  I was feeling better, but certainly not 100%.  I had contacted the race director on Wednesday of the final week to inquire about whether or not I could change my registration to the half marathon, since there were no deferrals for refunds.  She got back to me quickly, and let me know that I could drop to the half if I needed to, as long as I told them when I picked up my number on Saturday. This gave me some sense of relief, knowing that I at least had the option. 
  I decided to rest from running until Saturday, and then go on a very short run just to see how I felt.  I was now walking normally, and feeling pretty well.  I ran for 20 minutes on Saturday morning and did feel some "pulling"  and discomfort in my left leg. I made the decision at that point to drop to the half. I just didn't know if I could tolerate that for 26.2 miles, and I knew it would get worse before it got better.  I also knew that I had plans to run the Harrisburg marathon as a relay team with my family on the following weekend.  I needed to be able to recover enough to run my part of the relay 7 days after this race.  Plus, I couldn't be in so much pain from the marathon that I wouldn't be able to function in my normal "mother" duties at home.
  I drove to Northampton, PA Saturday afternoon and my first stop was at the bib pickup.  It was located at the Northampton Recreational Center, and was easy to find, and park.  When I asked for my number, I found out that I had already been changed to the half marathon. Well, I guess the decision was made for me! No problem, I picked up my t-shirt and number, and then I was off to the hotel to check in. 
 I stayed at the host hotel for the race, the Hilton Garden Inn close to the Allentown-Bethlehem airport.  A very nice, clean room welcomed me! I was glad to fill up my water bottles and settle in for a few hours rest before heading out to dinner.  I started to check out local churches and restaurants so that I could attend Mass and eat before heading back to the hotel for an early night. 
  I few days before the marathon, I had tweeted to a couple of people from Runner's World for some restaurant recommendations, since their headquarters was close by.  Megan and Bart Yasso tweeted me back some suggestions.  I decided on going to Melt in Center Valley for dinner, because of this tweet from Bart:
Unfortunately, Bart was out of town for the NY Marathon, otherwise I would invited him to have dinner with me. ;)  Because I was going to be there for dinner, I decided to find a Catholic Church close by to attend Mass. I found Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in a place called, of all things, Bethlehem. How could I go wrong, right? I made my way there, and attended a very nice service, took some time to relax and get my head in the right place for the race the next day.  Just what I needed.
  Melt was located in a large shopping center very close to the church.  It took me a really long time to find a parking spot, but I finally did, very far away.  The restaurant was very busy, but I was told that I could eat at the bar on the 3rd floor.  The bar only had a few people there, so it was perfect for a quiet meal.  I ordered a Guinness and looked at the menu. There were some great looking appetizers. I decided on the sesame crusted seared tuna.  Since I also wanted some type of pasta dish, the waitress suggested I order a "side order" size of any of the pasta dishes. I chose Penne Boscaiola: penne pasta with chicken, wild mushrooms, zucchini, sage and cream.  I asked them to prepare the dish without the chicken, which was no problem, the kitchen staff suggested that they just add extra vegetables.  Everything was delicious, especially the tuna.  It was served with wasabi and soy sauce. It was so fresh tasting and yummy.
 As I ate, I took the time to look through my Believe I am Training Journal.  I find it helpful to look through the last few months of training in order to see how much work I have put in, and how much improvement I have seen in my running during a training cycle.  It can be a real confidence booster before a race, especially one when I am not feeling my most confident.  Seeing that I was able to do 15, 16 mile runs in the hot humid summer at a decent pace assured me that I had the fitness to do well in the half marathon.  The only question was whether or not my left hip/piriformis was going to be an issue.
  I returned to the hotel early and settled into bed. I took the time to catch up on some old episodes of Project Runway Allstars. Having the extra hour of sleep due to the end of daylight savings time was a nice bonus for sure!
  The hotel was providing a free breakfast, as well as a shuttle service to and from the race start.  I was up at 5:40, had a quick shower and then headed downstairs for a breakfast of bagel, peanut butter, orange juice and coffee.  I chose to wear my Oiselle singlet, arm warmers, my favorite shorts, Rogas in poppy, Superfly hat and orange Pro Compression socks.  I also had an old hoodie sweatshirt to toss at the beginning to keep me warm until the race started.  The forecast was for 40 degree weather with windy conditions. 
  The shuttle got me to the start 30 minutes before the start. Since this was a small race (total 700 runners, with a half and full marathon), that was plenty of time for a porta potty stop, checking a bag with some warm clothes and a short warm up walk. 
 The race started right at 8am. It was a low key start, with a few announcements, and then the half marathoners were off!  The scenery of the route was beautiful! The first part of the course is on pavement through Northampton.  Before long, we ended up on The Delaware-Lehigh Trail, where the rest of the course was. This was a nice, soft gravelly trail with pretty trees and water views. Just lovely to run on!! Especially with the leaves all turning color at this time of year. I settled in to a nice pace after the first few miles.  I tried to keep most of my miles right around the 8:30min/mile pace.  I did feel some "pulling" in my left leg, but nothing that affected my stride, or stopped me from running.  I stopped at all the water stops for sips of water (miles 3, 6, 9 and 11). I also took a Gu gel at 6 miles.  I tried to keep a steady pace, but found it difficult after the 8 mile mark. The wind picked up significantly at that point, and I was unable to keep my miles under the 9 min/mile pace.  I had a few ladies around me that seemed to keep leap frogging with me. Every water stop we would get behind or ahead of each other, but at the end of the race I did try to pass most of them.  I know one lady with a blue tank top and a blond ponytail I just couldn't catch at the end. I do think she was significantly younger than me, so that's just fine! I do remember thinking to myself at the end that I was very relieved that I had chosen the half marathon rather than the full. It was a wise decision, considering my leg pain. Once I crossed the finish line at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, I was given my medal and a bottle of water.  I walked for a few minutes, and then quickly went to grab my bag of dry clothes. It was cold and windy at this point, and I was surprised by how much salty sweat I had on my face! I slipped on my most favorite pants of all time, and my Oiselle happy hoodie sweatshirt. Instantly toasty and warm.
  One of the best parts of this race was the post-race food!! It is really the best selection I have ever seen, especially given the size of this race.  They offered the runners 2 types of soup: Tuscan Bean vegetarian and regular, Vegetarian and Beef Chili, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Black Bean Veggie burgers, regular burgers, celery and carrots, cookies, coffee, hot chocolate and Gatorade!! Wow, what a spread.  There were tables for us to sit in a tent that was blocking the wind and it was perfect for a recovery meal.  Since I finished under 2 hours (1:56), I was there early enough that I didn't have to wait very long in line for the food. By the time I was finished eating, the line had become very long, and I felt sorry for the runners waiting in the cold for their food.
  The race provided a shuttle back to the start, so I took advantage of this, and then called the hotel shuttle to come and get me. I had just enough time to return to the hotel to have a shower before having to check out.  Waiting for that shuttle to arrive seemed to take FOREVER, even though it was only about 15 minutes.  It was so cold and windy out there and I was completely alone at the now deserted start line. The shuttle driver was very pleasant to chat with though, and before I knew it, I as back at the hotel.  I think the Hilton did a great job for the runners, and I only hope that maybe they could have offered a late checkout for the full marathoners so that they could shower after the race.
  My leg was definitely sore after the race, and I was hobbling around. My iliotibial band was bothering me as well. I think I was compensating with my gait during the race, and this affected my stride.  Once I returned home, after a 2 hour drive, I was very sore and stiff.  I foam rolled my legs, and iced my IT band.  I am blessed to have such an understanding husband, who had bought groceries, and treated me to a yummy dinner of pasta, salad, wine and chocolate cake for dessert! I am so spoiled!
  I was very pleased with this race overall.  Even though I didn't PR at the half marathon distance, I placed 11th in my age group (out of 58) and 147th overall (total for half marathoners: 439).  I was happy to complete any distance due to my injury.  And the course was just beautiful.  It was a small, low-key race. The volunteers were exceptionally helpful, the food was the best I have ever had post-race and it was very organized.  I hope to run this race again, hopefully the full next time, so that I can finally conquer "Heritage Heartbreak Hill".


  1. Hi Nicole!
    Nice job. Good call on going to the half. Heritage Heartbreak Hill is a KILLER. It occurs about mile 21 and is a hiking trail that going STRAIGHT UP the mountain, then continues to climb with giant, ankle-twisting gravel. Trail running as part of your training next year would be smart for that part of the course. I wish I had. I did this the marathon last year, as my virgin marathon, when NYC was cancelled. I loved the beautiful course, and it was also very cold and windy that day, too. The post-race food was incredible. I hope you feel 100% soon!

    1. Wow, that Hill really sounds like no joke! Thanks for your feedback.

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  3. I'm sorry to hear you are injured and had to drop to the half. Sounds like a smart decision though. Congrats on your race and I hope you heal up soon!