Friday, November 22, 2013

Race Recap: Rock and Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

 Yesterday night I returned from my trip to Las Vegas.  Of course I took all day today to recover since that's what happens after 5 days in Sin City... the rest.. well that stays in Vegas.  Alright, fine I will tell you about the race experience.

Chris and I took the same flight out of Chicago on Saturday morning and landed in Las Vegas around 8AM local time.  We took the shuttle over to the hotel, Treasure Island, and dropped our bags off.  We made it our first mission to get caffeine. Chris got a coffee and I got a coke.  Our 3rd party member, Vijay, arrived a little over an hour later and off we went to the expo to pick up our race packets.  The timing couldn't have been better since the expo had just opened when we got there.  There was a long line of people filtering in, but we didn't have our confirmation sheets so we had to fill some out before we could get our packets.  By the time we had done this the line was done.  We picked up our bibs, shirts, and bags and meandered through the expo.  This was the first big one Chris has been to so I wanted him to get the full experience.  Afterwards we walked back to the hotel.  The walk round trip was about 3 miles.... we would wind up doing a lot of walking the first day and a half even though we never ventured further than 1 hotel over.  We tried to keep things easy on the first day so we caught a show next door at the Mirage on Saturday night.  We saw the Beatles/Cirque Du Soleil - Love and it was the most amazing show I have seen yet in Vegas.

Daytime view from our room

Night time view from our room
Shirt Design

On race day we had slept in slightly then wandered across the street and got brunch at the Palazzo at Grand Luxe Cafe.  I know we have one in Chicago, but I've only been to the one in Vegas.  After lunch and a brief tour of the canal shops we went back to the hotel to veg out for an hour before heading down to the race start.  Here is one mistake I won't make again - we walked down to the start of the race, which was about 3+ miles away.  It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get there with a restroom break on the way.  We arrived about 30 minutes before the race began.  My legs were already tired before this walk, but this was the nail in the coffin.  I already knew this wasn't going to be my best race.  I have been trying to recover from IT Band Syndrome/Runner's Knee and had only run 3.5 miles in the 2 weeks before the race.  To top things off I had fractured the tip of my left big toe just 3 weeks prior.  All things considered I should have just dropped out of the race and no one would of thought any less of me.  I couldn't do that though.  My goal was to do 13 halfs in 2013 and the 13th might turn out to be the unlucky one.

No backing out now
After some announcements, a wedding ceremony, a pep talk from Kimmy Gibbler (Full House), and the national anthem we were finally off.  I was in the 7th corral and took about 12 minutes for me to get to the start line.  It was slow going and crowded at first.  We made our way down and around the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign.  There was a photo opportunity but I declined.  I just wanted to get done with the race and off my feet.  Early going was slow and steady, just trying to stick with the crowd.  I ran with a 4:00 hour marathon pace group for awhile. The dry air was getting to me so I made sure to get fluids at all the aid stations.  Overall I was holding up pretty well though. It was nice heading down the strip.  There were so many spectators out cheering all the runners on.  Once we got towards downtown and did a couple miles off strip did things get strange.  We ran down dark streets with periodic bursts of light from portable light posts erected just for the race.  This wasn't a sketchy area at all.  Once back to Fremont Street the energy came back.  There was a burst of energy from runner's who had done the half of a half finishing that finished on Fremont to cheer us on.  It also helped that there was a giant metallic praying mantis spewing giant flames up in the air.  Soon we were back on Las Vegas Blvd and heading back towards the strip.  The marathon runners continued down the canopied section of Fremont, which would of been awesome to run down.

 It wasn't until mile 8 that my knee started to hint that there might be trouble, but it wasn't too bad.  I made the decision that I wasn't going to stop to walk, I was going to run this thing since I had made it this far.  By this point in the race the crowds had also thinned out.  There were something around 30K registered half marathon runners, but only 20,566 had finished.  I wonder where those 10K people went?  Around mile 11 I had seen Vijay on the other side of the street heading north.  He was in a much later corral so was only around mile 6.  It was also around this time that I got to take my greatest race picture yet.  I had not seen the photographer sitting in the road because I was behind 2 girls running abreast who dodged to the right at the last second. It was "Oh $H!T!" and a dodge to the left in order not to trample him, but he was a pro and captured the moment perfectly - as well as a runner behind me who decided to join in on the moment.

Oh, hello
I tried to push things a bit the last couple miles, but my body wasn't having any of it so I just tried to hang on.  I finally made it to the finish line at the Mirage in 2:04:07.  This was no where near my best time, but was also no where near my worst so I'm calling the race a success.  I was still feeling ok if a little sore and tired and slowly starting to stiffen.  This was the longest finishing chute I've ever been down and took a good 15 minutes to walk through.  I grabbed a space blanket, my medal, a water bottle, a gatorade bottle, an apple, a chocolate milk, and finally a beer.  After that I had to fight the crowds to get back to the hotel.  I stayed at the hotel just north of the finish line, yet it took about 45 minutes from finish until I got back to my room, where my knee proceeded to scream at me for the rest of the night and into the next day.

I rocked it
Gear Bag and Medal
Close Up of Glow in the Dark Medal

 After the race I showered and stretched.  I waited for Chris and Vijay to finish.  Chris got back about an hour after I was done.  Vijay wasn't too far behind him.  I was actually hungry at this point.  I had been messaging with Mo about meeting up, but Chris and I decided we weren't making it out of the hotel at this point and we definitely didn't want to fight the crowds again.  We wound up going downstairs and having dinner at Kahunaville.  I stayed up and gambled a little bit and Chris went to bed.

The day after the race we were all still a bit beat up.  We went over to Paris for the Village Buffet since I had a Groupon and we refueled on delicious crepes and wine.  We gambled a bit and then I learned Mo was nearby at Planet Hollywood so Chris and I went over to meet up with her for Remote Pint Night.  We started things off classy by stopping in a convenience store and buying tall boys...  This would turn into a late night of fun.

Stop 1: Planet Hollywood - tall boys from ABC Store.
2: MGM - Gambled on the old fashioned horse race machine and got free beers
3: Aria - Todd English Pub for happy hour
4: Cosmo - cocktails at the Chandelier bar.
5: 4 Queens - dinner and microbrew at Magnolias
6: Main Street Station - More gambling
7: Binions - even more gambling
8: The D - quick tour of the refurb job done here

We finally took a bus back to the Strip where a couple of over-served young women were fighting with one guy and tried to get another to pull his pants down on the bus.  It was a fun night and the alcohol took some of the soreness away.  I'd pay for it the next morning, but hey, that's waking up in Vegas!

Oh and I met Teller from Penn and Teller at the airport on the way home!
Totally friends now!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dealing With Setback

I've had a bit of an unlucky last month and a half of running.  I struggled in the taper period for the Chicago Marathon and my taper was more of a cliff.  I did get through the marathon without any major issues, but didn't get close to my goal time.  I foolishly went out hard in a half marathon just a week after the marathon to try and see if I could PR and lift my spirits a bit.  Instead I wound up walking half the race while dealing with hip pain.  After the race the knee pain set in and a week later I would be diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome.  Still being hard headed I went out for a trail run because I figured it would be easier on the joints and I didn't want to miss my friend's first race.  I wore a brace on the knee and all was going well until I stubbed the toe on a tree root 3 separate times.

After the trail run and the toe stubbing I finally slowed down and took it easy, mostly since I could barely walk, let alone run.  I don't do well with not running though and have had a bit of a problem with binge eating in the last month.  As a result I've gained about 7 lbs.  I did get myself into a routine of doing leg exercises and stretches, but not much else.  The weekend after the trail run I did manage to get myself out on a short jog to test out the knee brace and things went relatively well.  This helped me think that not all was lost.  I went for another short run at Blogger night at Roadrunner Sports and was completely pain free which was a huge boost in confidence in how things were progressing.

It was on Friday that I heard the dreaded words that I really didn't want to hear.  I was overdue for an annual exam so I went to the doctor's on Wednesday.  I had them check out the toe while I was in there since I still had some pain.  I showed the doc my day after picture and she said she wanted me to get an X-Ray just to be sure.  I went and got that X-Ray on Thursday and then got the call on Friday.  The diagnosis is "fracture of the distal aspect of the distal first phalanx, obliquely oriented. This is essentially nondisplaced . There is adjacent soft tissue swelling."  In layman's terms, the tip of my left big toe is cracked. It takes 6 weeks for a fractured toe to heal.

Now here is my quandary - I've run immediately after breaking the toe - even sprinting on it to finish the trail run, and I've run twice more since -albeit short runs, but they didn't seem to have any affect on the toe.  Do I keep up with the occasional short run to keep some sort of athletic base going?  I'd hate to see what would happen if I don't let myself run for another month.  And don't suggest swimming.  I hate swimming.  The other thing is I have the Rock and Roll Last Vegas Half Marathon coming up on Sunday.  I don't think there is any way I'm going to let myself skip that.  I may wind up walking half of it, but there's enough booze in the city to overpower any toe pain I might have once I finish.  I will have to test out shoes since some seem to cause more issues than others.  I won't be able to fully toe off during my stride.  I can jog in place up on my forefeet without any issues, but something with more flexing, like pushing off during lunges doesn't feel too good.  Luckily after this race I will have 8 weeks until my next race, which is plenty to recover.  Luckily that one is just a 10K.

I know I'm being a bit hard headed, but once I get into a routine I don't like to stop.  I was doing so well this year with consistency in my running and the results showed in all aspects of my life.  I've been rather fortunate during all my training and never really faced any injury.  I started running just over 2 years ago and other than some tendinitis from overdoing it when I first started out I've been doing well ever since.  I've had occasional shin splints and a couple hamstring strains, but nothing that has completely sidelined me.  I just really don't want to let myself fall off the wagon since that's what happened to me in high school.  I hurt my knee my senior year of track before the season even began.  I tried to get myself back together, but couldn't get it healed to where I could run and wound up sitting out the rest of the season.  I would eventually see a specialist who recommended surgery.  I finally got that surgery before my 3rd year of college.  I tried getting back into running that year, but woke up sick the following day... wound up with complications from impacted wisdom teeth, unlucky timing... and didn't try running again until 8 years later.  Let's hope I'm back on track in 8 weeks instead of 8 years this time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Taking it Easy

My time after the marathon hasn't been fun.  I took a week off and then managed to injure myself on my first run back.  That is probably my own fault for trying to do too much too soon, so live and learn.  Now it feels like I'm reliving the taper madness because of how little running I'm doing.

Since the marathon I've now run a grand total of 4 times for a total of 22 miles.  Before the marathon that would of been a slow/easy week for me let alone a nearly a month.  I'm trying to take things in stride though.  I don't want to get to the point where I knock myself out of running for months.  I realize I have some time until I would need to do another training cycle, and even that isn't necessary at this point if I re-arrange my plans.  I'm not committed to any longer races next year until Soldier Field 10 miler at the end of May.  I would like to do a spring Marathon and possibly even take a stab at the Lakefront 50K - but am hesitant to register for anything until I start feeling better.

So what is wrong with me?  I have Runner's Knee - that fun catch all phrase for knee pain.  It can also be referred to as patellofemoral syndrome or iliotibial band syndrome.  In simpler terms I have an imbalance in my muscles that is causing extra strain around the knee and in turn is causing inflammation and pain.  I also have pain in the tensor fascia latae (or TFL) which is a muscle in the front part of the hip that connects to the IT band.  According to Wikipedia the muscle is responsible for assisting the gluteus maximus in supporting the knee in a position of extension. 

So what do I do now?  I've been given a number of exercises to help strengthen my hip muscles.  This in turn should help restore the balance and stop the twisting at the knee causing the inflammation.  The exercises make me look a bit like Jane Fonda or Suzanne Sommers with the leg lifts and clam shells.  I'm also doing quite a bit of stretching and having some personal time with the foam roller.

Unfortunately I don't have the same outfit to do my exercises
Hopefully soon enough I'll be able to ease back into running.  I got a patella brace for when I do to in order to help the knee stay properly aligned.  I've already done a short run with it to test things out and all worked out.  Unfortunately I can't run much more than 10 minutes without something acting up so I'll keep things brief until I can handle more.  I just don't want to go completely stir crazy.  I'll probably also spend more time on the stationary bike this winter.

Hope everyone else is doing well out there.