After almost two years of trying to heal my plantar fasciitis on and off again, I am finally starting to feel like I can run with little to no pain. Working with an amazing chiropractor Kyle True and massage therapist Leisa Parks, I have a solid daily routine of mobility drills and stretches that seem to be helping. It’s a slow process for sure, but I am up to running about 20 miles per week and feeling pretty strong. That being said, I felt it was time to jump in a race and see where my current fitness was at. I didn’t expect much after only a few months of 10-20 miles of running per week, but with all of the other drills and strengthening exercises and cycling I had been doing, it was time for a test. So with our 12-day old son Hugo, Giesla and I headed to Indianapolis to Eagle Creek for the DINO trail 15K.
Indianapolis had apparently received a lot more rain than we did as the course was extremely muddy. When I registered for the race, the gentlemen that helped me said the start would be back in ‘the middle of the swamp.’ He pointed to a giant water hole in a field. I knew my La Sportiva Helios weren’t the best choice of shoe for the day but oh well. It was a test run nonetheless.
I warmed up a bit and stood at the start line. There were some fast-looking people around, but I tried to focus on my race plan which was basically just run tempo-ish pace, don’t get caught up in running too fast, and see what happens. I wanted to stick in the front or second group and challenge myself. When the gun went off, I watched two guys take off through the mud and water at a pace much faster than I was ready for. I stuck in the chase pack of about six guys and let my body settle into the difficult pace. I had not done a single tempo run in a couple of years; so aside from a few fartlek runs, I didn’t really know how long my body would allow me to hang. But with the past couple of years being strong cycling years, last year including a few hundred milers, I was hoping I had a decent aerobic base.
Less than two miles in, I was already getting uncomfortable with the chase group’s pace. It felt just a tad too easy. Not really knowing the 15K distance, I figured I would need to run pretty close to all out since it would take about an hour to finish – ‘all out’ for me is different than most athletes. I don’t really train my high end much, if ever. This is a bad thing. So my aerobic pace and my ‘fast’ paces are pretty close together. I want to change that this year, starting with this race. So I increased my pace a bit, passed a few guys, and ran out front of the chase pack for a while. After about a mile, I was alone in third. I kept catching glances of the second place guy, a dude in a bandana and crop top, every once in a while. I went through the finish area with a lap time of 19:27. Oh sh*t, I thought. My 5k PR is 19:30, so I either just cooked myself by running way too fast on that lap considering I have two more of them or the lap is short. Again, I’m new to these shorter distances – my 5k PR is from a 10 mile run during a marathon buildup. I really have no idea what I’m doing here.
Early on in the second lap, I slowly gained on the crop-top guy in second place. I couldn’t see first place, so I focused on second. He looked strong, but since he fell off pace with the first place guy and I caught him by running fairly even splits, I figured he went out a little hard. I caught up to him and we spent the second lap weaving in and out of all of the 5k runners who started after us. It was a slippery, muddy mess on the trails and getting worse with the hundreds of runners making laps now. I noticed that, even as we weaved through the crowd, I would gain some distance on crop-top on the climbs (short and punchy) and he would gain on me on the downhills. He was also skipping all of the downhill stair sections – so while I tip-toed down and through people on the stairs, he would blast down the side in the dirt and leaves which would put me a solid 50 feet behind him once I popped out of the stairs. I didn’t know if that was legal or not, but I decided not to do it. He did it at every one of those sections which was pretty annoying. I would have to push fairly hard to catch up after each one. Still, we went through lap 2 together in 19:46. I was feeling strong and was confident I would be able to push hard through the final lap.
The final lap was the sloppiest. After all of us 15K runners made a couple of laps and the 5k runners finished, the trail was in rough condition. The lap area was all pockmarked and looked like a stampede of horses ran through. I was slipping around all over the place, confirming my poor shoe choice, but crop-top and I kept a decent pace through miles 7 and 8. On one of the last little climbs, he said “here’s where you got me last lap, go get it!” But I didn’t want to cook myself on a hill with a mile to go. I gained a few seconds on him and pushed my pace up just bit. As we were coming in on the last half mile, my plan was to blast the last hill with everything I had left and then push it through the lap area to the finish. I knew I would be slower going through all that mud and water, so I needed to gain a bit on him. As we got to the last hill, I pushed it. I gained on him just enough and held on through the finish chute in 59:28. Crop-top came in at 59:32.
My body far exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect too much with such minimal running (and lingering ankle/foot issues). But I was able to really push myself and come through the finish with a solid time. I am continuing my daily strengthening exercises and being diligent about treating my foot and ankle with care. I know a lot of my issues are due to poor mechanics and years of running with less-than-optimal form. Kyle has helped me identify those issues and work on them. I hope to be able to run more of these short distance races throughout the year. After many years of long endurance events, these shorter, faster races feel new and challenging.