First 5k event since the Fleet Feet Chicago Trick or Treat Trot on Sunday, October 30, 2011. Finished 4th out of 17 in Age Group; 23:54 overall timing, 7:42 pace: 7:53, 7:40, 7:43, 6:19 (.10).
On the evening of Monday, June 11, 2012, I left the house enroute to Walgreen’s to pick up some strapping tape, assuming that I’d be back home in about 5 minutes or so.
It had been a fabulous day working with an awesome client who’d traveled from Grand Rapids, Michigan and the positiveness of that experience carried over to the evening.
On a typical day, I might have saved the “Walgreen’s tape trip” for the following day or even ordered the product from Amazon, but not that Monday, the day had been too good, “let’s get the tape today.”
So I ventured out, walking to the end of the block as always, and saw Walgreen’s across the street. Then the light turned green and I walked across the wheelchair indentation on the sidewalk when suddenly I heard a pop and my right calf started to burn.
Within seconds, I could no longer walk normally, and had to hop on my left leg to cross the street and not hold up traffic.
Eventually, I found a quiet spot near the Walgreen’s parking lot and I started to massage my right calf, hoping it was just a charley horse or something minor.
It didn’t help.
So I decided to make the trek back home (Skipping Walgreen’s), this time having to hop back on my left leg, a journey that took 20 minutes, instead of the usual 2.
The following day, I visited the emergency room to have my leg x-rayed and examined, but not without great worry before hand. I’d been injured before in 2008 and 2009 and didn’t want to relive those days again.
Thankfully, the examining doctor had good news for me: nothing was broken and I hadn’t blown anything out; suffering from a third-degree calf strain, likely caused from an imbalance when I walked on the wheelchair cut-in on the sidewalk. A fluke occurrence.
However, the price of the “fluke” was likely to be steep. The physician’s general prognosis for this injury was a 3-4 month recovery, because time is normally the best cure for a calf strain.
But, it wasn’t easy at first.
I could barely walk the first week, struggling to walk a few blocks and wincing in pain during every step. After about 2 weeks, the pain started to subside and I was able to incorporate some cycling work into my rehab, eventually returning to running (slow as a chuck wagon) on July 3rd.
I had very high hopes during my initial return to running as July moved forward, but eventually, my left leg (the good one) became sore because it borne the brunt of the load since my calf injury.
So by early-August, I’m limping and wincing again, this time on my left side; frustrating me to death, but the doctor had warned me that “compensation” injuries are normal in recovery and they factor that into the conservative prognosis timing they give to patients.
Thankfully, the second-wave of limping and wincing lasted about 10 days and I went back to my program emphasizing LSD (long slow distance) work, which has been my weakness in training for marathons in recent years.
As the weeks moved forward, 5-mile long runs became 10, then 13.1, then 20, even running 26.2 miles two weeks before the 2012 Chicago Marathon; which I ran largely as a “victory lap” to celebrate recovering from my initial injury.
I could run again, but the speed that I previously took for granted hadn’t returned and I didn’t enjoy running; seeking solace in any physical activity that didn’t entail running.
So 367 days after my my calf injury, I lined up near the starting line of the 2013 Jim Gibbons 5k, the event where I won my first Age Group Medal in 2011; unable to defend my title in 2012 and barely able to walk on race day.
With little doubt things would be better than 2012, but would I be able to repeat what I did in 2011?
The answer to that question would soon be revealed.
I lined-up conservatively behind about 100 runners, a collection of 5-minute milers and gleeful competitors waving to the television cameras covering the event live on the local news; deciding to “cool it” in the first mile and focus on picking off runners in miles 2 and 3.
I carefully waded through a tight pack in the first mile, finally finding some running room by the end of mile-1, registering a 7:53 split.
I worked hard to turn on the gas in mile-2, but there were more hilly sections on the new course than expected and I wound up registering a 7:40 pace in mile-2 and a 7:43 split for mile-3.
I entered the closing stretch of the event around the 2.96 mile mark and forgot about being fatigued or the side stiches that plagued me during the race; giving it everything I had for a 6:19 close in the final 1/10 of a mile, passing about 20 runners at the end.
It was officially over, my first 5k event since October, 2011; also my worst 5k performance since the first time I ran the Jim Gibbons 5k in June, 2010.
However, its tough to feel sorry for yourself about missing an age group medal by 11 seconds when you struggled to walk twelve months earlier.
8:02, 7:44, 7:42: those have been the overall mile paces in my last 3 events.
Tough to argue with those numbers; progress has definitely been made and its much easier to run than limp.