Somewhere along the course I hurt my knee. Looking back, it might have been at the second relay handoff which I think was somewhere along the halfway point. There were so many people crossing the course and I stepped on one of those road dividers. Or it could have been when the dog knocked me down last week. Maybe it was both. All I know is that after Mile 13, my knee didn't feel right and got progressively worse.
I woke up at 4:30 am and felt great. I had gotten a full night of sleep, something I rarely get the night before a Full. My friend Missy and I were staying at the race hotel, so once we were ready, we headed downstairs and got in line for the bus.
On the way to the Start Line, I closed my eyes so as not to get freaked out by how far the drive was. It was a point-to-point race, meaning that we were bussed out to the Start Line and then ran back to downtown Sacramento to the Finish Line, which was not far from our hotel.
We stayed on the bus to stay warm (it was 30 degrees but felt like 25 degrees at the Start Line. We got off the bus at 6:30 am and made our way to the port-a-potties. I had never seen so many port-a-potties at a race before. It was impressive.
We walked to the Start area just a few minutes before the race started. We lined up with the 4:40 pace group. I was hoping to finish between 4:30-4:35 but there was no pace group for those times, so I had planned to start with the 4:40 group for the first 5-6 miles (to not start out too fast), then just go by how I felt from that point on.
The first mile of the race was downhill so I was really careful to temper myself from going out to fast. It was very tempting to start out at a faster pace, but I was cautious to stay conservative, at least for the first couple of miles.
Mile 1: 10:15.8 Mile 2: 10:14.6 Mile 3: 10:00.3 Mile 4: 10:09.3 Mile 5: 9:55.1
Shortly after the race started, I had to pee again. I tried not to think about and hoped that eventually the need would just go away, but it didn't and eventually it became ALL I could think about. So on Mile 6, I pulled over to the port-a-potties and lost Missy from this point on. The bathroom line was about 10 deep and I lost 3 minutes, but I was happy to not have to think about it anymore. I also ate a gel while I waited in line.
I let myself speed up the next few miles so make up the time, but not to the point where I felt like I was overdoing it. And I tried to keep an even effort (vs. even pace) going up the hills.
Mile 6: 13:04.3 (bathroom break) Mile 7: 9:35.8 Mile 8: 10:05.6 Mile 9: 9:55.6 Mile 10: 9:45.3
Speaking of hills, there were a lot of them. They weren't steep, nor were they long, but there were rolling - as in the entire time. It's a good thing I like rolling hills. On the down hills I tried to do what I had heard during Nike, "Let gravity do the work."
Mile 11: 10:22.5 (gel mishap) Mile 12: 10:03.6 Mile 13: 9:52.6
I was still feeling really good. I was working hard, but at an effort that I felt that I could maintain.
At some point around this area was the second relay hand-off (this race also had a marathon relay) and there were a bunch of people crossing each other. It got very crowded and confusing and I ended up stepping on a road divider, which buckled my leg but I didn't think it was a big deal and just kept running. But gradually, my right knee started to ache a little more.
Mile 14: 10:20.9 Mile 15: 11:49.6 (started taking walk breaks) Mile 16: 10:12.8 Mile 17: 11:07.9
By now it was quite painful and the pain was moving down to my right foot. I stopped on the side of the course to try and check things out and a runner passed by and asked me if was okay because I didn't "look good." I got worried and thought, "Just how bad do I look?"
I trudged along, eventually walking more than I was running.
Mile 18: 13:10.8 Mile 19: 11:59.8 Mile 20: 17:21.5 (actually at 19.62 miles)
At 19.5 miles I saw my friend Tina. I told her my knee was hurting. She looked at it and told me it was swollen so we walked over to the medical station that was close by.
They had me sit down and touched it (which hurt), then they started to ice and wrap it. I looked at Tina and said, "What are they doing? Are they telling me I'm out?" to which she said, "No, just ice it for a few minutes." Then one of the medics came over and had me do some tests like standing on toes, heels, etc which I couldn't do. He looked at me and said, "If you can't do this, how do you expect to keep running?" In my head I thought, "Well, I also just ran 19 miles so it would be tough to do this with a good or bad knee." They gave me some Tylenol and had me sit down. Then the guy asked me, "Do you really want to walk the last 6.5 miles?" I said, "No", meaning theoretically, but realistically, yes, I would have. But before I could even say anything else, another guy came out of nowhere with clippers and cut my timing chip off.
And just like that, I was out. Done. I was stunned. They just looked at me and said, "You should not be running on that knee." They had a bus waiting to take me back to the Finish Line, but Tina had parked nearby so she went to get it and we drove back to the hotel, making my DNF official.
I'm a matter-of-fact person, so logically, it was probably the right thing to do and not cause more damage to the knee (although I still think I could have finished). But the emotional side of me is so disappointed. I trained for this race for months. When I think about all the Friday nights spent at home, getting ready for long runs on Saturdays...or the early morning's of running in the dark before work, I get so upset. I was only 6.5 miles from the Finish Line and I wish I just pushed through - no matter what my time would have been. Incidentally, Tina said I was still in front of the 4:40 pace group when I found her so I was still relatively close pace for my goal, which makes this even more frustrating.
And even worse, everything that I was worried about going into the race turned out to be non-factors: • No stomach problems (a reminder of the DNF from 3 months ago) • No sciatica, hip or hamstring pain • No hunger pains
Also, unlike my 19 and 20-mile training runs, I did not feel like death at this point. In fact, other than my knee, I still felt strong. What is even more frustrating for me is that after that first DNF 3 months ago, I identified the problem (my diet) and figured out a fix for this. This time there was no problem, it was just my plain carelessness of where I stepped.
I spoke with RoadBunner shortly after getting back to the hotel and she pointed out a few things. She had to convince me to try for 4:30-4:35 goal time (well actually 4:30 was the slowest time she accepted and I had to negotiate a 4:35), but as she pointed out, now I see that it is realistic for my next full. So if there are any positive takeaways, it's me having a stronger belief in what I am capable of doing.
Speaking of my next full, it's scheduled in mid-May (I registered for it a couple of months ago) but I'm not sure I can live with this one for that long. I am contemplating finding another one in the near future to attempt, since I'm already trained for it, but I'm not sure - it could burn me out mentally. Things to ponder.
Congratulations to all of my friends who ran CIM superbly! I am so happy for you and you continue to inspire me!
And special thanks to Tina who not only was my race support, but cheered me on at Mile 6 (in addition to Mile 19), as well as Jana, Karin and Beth, who made the trek all the way up from the Bay Area just for this. They were SO supportive and I was thrilled when I saw them at Mile 8!