The intermediate week between Philly Half recovery and club nationals preparation was tense. A few weeks ago, a shaky-legged woman on the metro lost her balance and stepped on my right foot and bruised it pretty badly. She never apologized, just said "there's nothing I could have done!" That bruising has continued for a few weeks and pierced my confidence. It hadn't hurt while running until my track work the week before Philly, and I thought it was just because I tied my spikes too tight. Initially, I thought it was a stress fracture, and I often do when things start hurting despite having only had one in my life, but having dealt with this before in 2007, I relaxed a bit.
That assuredness did little to restore my confidence when my footsteps started hurting during my runs. I met up with Karl at the Vienna metro and we ran out to the W&OD, though throngs of families on Church Street. With a warmup beforehand, I got a total of 11.
Tuesday night I planned to do the New Virginia Manor loop, but I wasn't feeling great after one loop so I headed home and just got eight miles in.
Besides that 5:30s I had run the previous Saturday, I hadn't really tested my hamstring on anything actually fast since Philly, so Wendesday's track workout was bound to be either pleasantly surprising or a sober reminder that Philly could have lasting physical effects to go along with the mild psychological scarring. I led the first two miles, 5:15 (despite being way too fast on the first 400) and 5:02, stayed in the pack for 4:55, then dropped out less than 200 m into the 4:45 when my left calf got tight. The foot definitely hurt there.
Thursday Karl and I did another 10, out to Hunters Mill on the W&OD from Vienna. A little foot pain.
I was so tired at the end of the day Friday that I just took the day off, in hopes that I would be better off for the cross country workout Saturday. Well, if that was the case, I would have hated to have run the workout after running Friday. It was a pretty simple fartlek, but I fell apart fast. I stuck with Diddy, Witty and Karl for the five minute interval, and dropped in the four after a little more than three minutes, but the three minute drill was awful. We switched into spikes for the last two, and that aggravated my foot bruise. The two-minute drill was a waste for me, but I managed to pull my shit together for a minute of hard running. I definitely need new replacement spikes for my eight-year-old Zoom Fats.
Several people asked if I was interested in the Hot Chocolate races at the National Harbor, and after hearing about the fiasco that ensued there, I felt vindicated in my decision to stay away, though what I saw about the race beforehand couldn't have imagined the magnitude of what happened. Since I wasn't there to witness it, I can't comment on that, but judging from the things I saw in the days and weeks before the race, this is why I expected it to be a poor experience.
First off, since I don't regularly drive, the lack of metro proximity was a huge detractor. I had run out around the National Harbor last fall and it was pretty miserable, I'm not sure why anyone would want to run there, to be honest. After hearing from Dickson, Michelle and Dave how lackluster the last few miles of Wilson Bridge Half was More basic to the entire endeavor, the race seemed to be driven more by the marketers than anyone accomplished in road racing. Most tellingly, the tagline, "the sweetest race" referred to the promise of hot chocolate and fondue afterward. The website lauded the "awesome race jacket." If these are the draws, those giveaways, I can't imagine anyone could have confidence in the race's competence. Then again, if people need things like that to get them to a race, they probably wouldn't know the difference from a poorly-executed race. Perks like that should come on top of basic competences, like a decent course and aid stations. Maybe it was the out-of-town race manager, maybe it was everything else I detailed, but it definitely looked like a race I was not disappointed to miss. That something near 30,000 people showed up is a shock to me, but I guess I give people too much credit.
I took a nap and went out and did a Seaton six and actually felt a lot better. No foot pain, and a lot more energy.
Looking ahead, I will want to keep up my high mileage, so I need to keep my loops fresh. Running with Karl from Vienna helps because I can focus on conversation rather than where I'm going. With the weather as nice as it was on Sunday, I felt like there was no better way to spend the time than to get a zip car and drove out to Difficult Run. I went 21 minutes out on the CCT almost to Leesburg Pike, then 19 back; then 25 out around the Ridge Trail and back. Once I hit Old Carriage Road, I just started punching it and kept it up for about 10 minutes.
I know Jerry wants to keep us fresh for nationals, but I needed something to reinvigorate my love of running--without that, all the freshness in the world couldn't help. Running along the Ridge Trail, I felt like there was nothing better I could possibly be doing with my time. It made me miss the Mon Ridge trail of which I am so fond in Swisshelm Park. The foot felt fine, and I felt ready to take on this last race of the year.