2014 Monument Avenue 10k Race Report
230/1323 (AG) 2017/27,200 (Overall)
March 29, 2014 – Its time for the Monument Avenue 10k, but I certainly do not feel ready. In fact, I am actually racing against the advice of my orthopedist, my friends and my family. As you may recall, I injured my left knee during the Xterra Monster Dash 15k on February 22nd, and I am not yet recovered. In fact, I have only run twice since the 15k, which was more than a month ago, and I was in pain both times. Not debilitating pain, but pain nonetheless.
Thankfully, it turns out that my ailment is Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) and not a reoccurrence of my leg tumor from high school. ITBS creates pain on the outer side of the knee, and is common in runners. The Iliotibial band runs from the hip to just below the knee, and when it is tight, it rubs the outside of the knee and becomes inflamed. Repeated motion causes and worsens the pain, which is why my pain started slowly during the 15k and gradually got worse. During my only two training runs between the 15k and the 10k I started out pain free, but the pain began to creep in by mile two or so, gradually getting worse.
On the upside, ITBS is not the worst injury to have – all things considered. On the downside, rest, stretching and ice are the only ways to really fix it, and ITBS can be a nagging injury that lingers for a long time. After the pain failed to go away after a few weeks, I managed to squeeze in a visit with Dr. Young at Ortho Va. It certainly helps to have a law partner who has Dr. Young on speed dial, otherwise I might still be waiting for an appointment. Anyways, Dr. Young confirmed that ITBS was my issue, and that physical therapy was in order.
After three early morning visits to the physical therapist, I decided that I could do the same exercises at home. Not only would that save me from missing time at work, it would also save me the $35.00 copays. I also purchased a foam roller from Amazon, which helps stretch the IT Band. Foam rolling is painful at first, but once you get used to the process, it actually feels nice.
It was also about this time that I was in the market for new running shoes. I had heard that it was a good idea to get fitted for shoes at a running shop, but I had never put much stock into that idea. On my wife’s advice, I stopped into the Lucky Foot store off of Hull Street Road, and it turns out that her advice was sound. I explained my ITBS issue to the salesperson, and he had me run across the store and back. In that little time, he diagnosed me as an over-pronator, which was probably the cause of my ITBS. To make things worse, my old Nike shoes had a “design defect” which actually increased pronation due to a cut-out area of the sole. Thus, I left the store with a new pair of running shoes with “dynamic support” to reduce over-pronation.
Ok, so enough back story on ITBS, on to the Monument Avenue 10k.
As always, the packet pickup for the 10k was at the Arthur Ashe Center, and I got my race packet on Friday night. They make you wind through a maze of vendors to get your bib and bag of goodies, and I got a bit sidetracked looking at some of the ITBS products. At one booth, a salesman offered to massage my IT Band with “The Stick.” My general rule is to avoid free massages from men and their sticks, but I decided to take a leap of faith since he promised ITBS relief. There were also hundreds of people around, so I figured that it was safe enough if “The Stick” was merely a euphemism for something more sinister than an ITBS product. While “The Stick” massage felt ok, I really did not feel like the product was worth nearly $50, so I thanked him for his time and passed.
A litter farther into the expo I found a leg wrap that is supposed to prevent IT Band pain during exercise, so I did splurge on that item, and it was far cheaper. The wrap was not a cure, but essentially holds the IT Band in a spot that prevents it from rubbing and becoming more inflamed. After finally winding my way through the vendor booths, it was time to make my exit.
When I woke up on race morning, it was relatively warm, but it was dumping rain. I watched the weather.com radar over coffee and oatmeal, and thankfully, it looked like there might be a small break in the rain at race time. I headed downtown alone since the kids had soccer games later in the day, taking an old rain jacket with me to dispose of at the starting line.
Anyone who has ever participated in a running race has probably read or been told – “nothing new on race day.” This is sound advice, which I seem to reject at every occasion. On March 29, 2014 I was wearing my brand new “dynamic support” running shoes, and I also had the aforementioned IT Band wrap around my left leg. The instructions said to make it tight, and I didn’t want it slipping off mid-race, so that sucker was on tight. I found my way to my starting wave and waited to hit the starting line after stashing my rain jacket behind a trash can.
I really did not have high expectations for the race since my training had been limited due to my injury. That being said, I was still hoping that I might be able to replicate my time of 47:10 from 2007 (when I trained for four months for that one particular race). To do so, I would need to average 7:35/mile, which was probably optimistic. I had no GPS, so I would be relying solely on my Walmart Casio watch to monitor my pace with the stopwatch function. The first few miles are always easy, but the minutes/mile math can get challenging late in races.
When I ran the Monument Avenue 10k in 2007, my goal was to average 7:59/mile or better, and I went out way too fast – clocking 7:15 for the first mile. I suffered mightily during the second half of that race, and I was determined to pace myself better this time around and to try for a negative split. Thus, when my wave took off, I made sure that I did not go out too hot, which is easy to do when you are full of adrenaline.
My first mile was somewhere around 7:40, which was in line with my negative split plan. Unfortunately, once I got to mile two my left foot began going numb. I was not sure if that was from the new shoes, the left leg wrap or both, but it started getting quite severe and I was worried about having to stop. I decided to rip the wrap off of my left leg, and over the next mile or so, the feeling began to return to my left foot. I had apparently put the wrap on too tight, because I didn’t have that problem on subsequent runs with the wrap.
By the time I hit the 5k point, I was 24:09 into my race, which equates to 7:46/mile. I had a lot of work to do if I was going to make it home in 47:10, and as I did the math in my head, I realized that it was not going to be a possibility. Even though I was pacing myself better this time around, I simply did not have the fitness to match my 2007 time thanks to my injury. To make things worse, the pain started to creep into the outside of my left knee around mile four. It never got as bad as it was during the 15k the month before, but it didn’t make the final few miles all that pleasant. At least the rain had largely held off, whereas it was just a light drizzle.
The final two miles were mentally and physically challenging, and my pacing continued to go south as the pain in my knee increased. I ultimately made it my goal to finish under 49 minutes, and I once again found myself struggling mightily in the home stretch. I recall Highway to Hell playing on my Ipod, which seemed appropriate at the time, and I think I hit repeat at least once. As I neared the finish line, I double checked my watch and saw that I really needed to finish strong in order to meet my revised goal of 49 minutes.
I really did not have much in the tank at that point, but I was able to quicken my pace for the last .2 miles. Once I saw the finish chute, I realized that I might have a photo finish with my 49 minute time goal, and I was able to cross the timing mat in a sprint. Final time – 48 minutes 58 seconds. I made it by two seconds, but that was a consolation prize to be sure.
After recovering in the finish chute, I headed over to the 10k backdrop for the obligatory finisher’s photo and then retrieved my rain jacket, which was exactly where I left it. On queue, the bottom fell out of the clouds and the heavy rain started up again. I suppose that was the silver lining to my day, which was largely forgettable otherwise. From there, I hit up the McDonalds drive through for some much needed coffee and an egg McMuffin, and then headed to the Chester YMCA to watch the kids play soccer in the rain. The next race on my calendar was going to be my first triathlon, and I was really hoping to be pain free by that point. Little did I know, that a needle was in my near future.