Urban Environmental Challenge XC 10K 2017

My DNS list for the past winter is rather extensive.  As I am possessed of neither the funds nor the desire to pay for races that I don’t actually get to run, I didn’t register for this one until the Friday prior, mostly because I wanted to see what my wonky ankle had to say for itself.

Apparently, I should have directed my concerns a bit farther south.  As I was walking the mile and a half to GAP to hitch a ride up to the Bronx with Oren, my heel started to complain.  I wouldn’t be so cognizant of this, except that this is the same heel I fractured back in 2015.  This is also why I never know what to make of such things — like I always say, a healed fracture is not a done deal.  The area never feels quite normal after that.  I’ve felt a lot of odd sensations there over the past eighteen months, so much so that I can’t even remember how a problematic sensation feels.

But a short little warm-up didn’t send me whimpering for mercy, so I lined up at the start.  I mean, I was already there.

IT IS SO COLD

I’ve run this race every year since 2013.  You would think that by now, I’d know what to expect, but nope, I’m always stunned anew that this is really ****ing hard.  (It would probably help if I ever ran on trails outside of the two trail races I generally do, but no, that would be logical, and I don’t do logical things.)

The plan was for Oren to clear the way for me to place in the top three so that I could hand off my carrot cake to him.  Didn’t quite work out that way!

See, there, he is behind me.  Which could also work out well, if he mysteriously lost control of his elbows every time a woman tried to pass him.  But nah.

That photo was taken during the first loop.  I was counting my position; I ran in second place for a while, then this woman passed me, then I passed her back.

And this is during the second loop.  I was running in third place again, until I made a wrong turn around mile 4.  There was another woman not far behind me, and she yelled after me to alert me that I’d gone the wrong way (because having done this race four times previously is not enough to help me stay on course), and by the time I battled my way out of the brush and back onto the marked path, she was ahead of me.

I appear to have lost my ability to race.  Because in the past, this would have mattered to me, and I would have fought to catch up to her.  Now?  I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care.  I walked up a couple of steep hills after that.  (Though Oren, who was close behind me, said that he was running, and we were moving at pretty much the same pace, so maybe it didn’t really matter.)

Without the stress fracture in December, I would have targeted a sub-50 finish as my goal for this race.  Physically, I do think I could have done it.  Mentally… now that’s another story.  Which is really a pity, because I’ve always been stronger at the mental aspect of racing than the physical one.  (I’d say I have no choice, with a body as fragile as mine, but it’s not like my brain is in such optimal condition either.)

I remembered that I had run 52:xx last year, but I wasn’t sure of my exact finish time.  So when I emerged from the trails back onto the flats and realized that I was probably going to run 52:xx again… well, it would have been nice to know whether I had a shot at a PR!

Turns out, I did get that course PR.  Twelve whole seconds (official time last year was 52:44).  Had I run sub-50 like I wanted to, I would have placed second.

Since I placed fourth, Oren went across the street to Lloyd’s and bought a carrot cake, being under the impression that runners who place in the top three of their AG receive muffins, not cakes.  He then wanted to leave, because I have no need for a muffin I can’t eat, and he had no need of it either, having bought a cake of his own.

We did stick around for the awards ceremony, though.  And I’m glad about it!  Turns out that second and third place AG do indeed get muffins, but first place gets a cake.  A smaller one than the top three, but that’s irrelevant (though I’m sure Murray is happy, since I gave him mine, and then I had to go home and bake my own mini carrot cake to make up for it).  Nope, the best part is what came along with the cake.

A book!  I can’t say I’ve ever won a book before, but it’s quite nice.  It’s actually something I will use.

Official results: 6.2 miles in 52:32, 8:28/mi. 24/139 OA, 4/58 F, 1/19 F30-39.

That’s all the good stuff.  The not-so-good… well, I don’t seem to know how to race anymore, mentally speaking.  And oh yeah, my stupid heel is still being stupid, which is messing with my already-messy head.  (That’s a euphemism for “I am completely freaking the **** out.”)

Jerusalem 5K 2017

Yeah, that does say 5K.  After all my blathering about doing the 10K, I wound up having to drop down to the 5K because my ankle started to hurt a week prior to the race.  Same ankle that I fractured in December, only this time I felt it above the lateral malleolus instead of the medial, so it’s not like I was just being paranoid about re-injury.  Feeling that when hopping on the affected leg sends me into paroxysms of panic to the extent that I didn’t even want to go on this trip anymore.

But it was already paid for, so I went.  I intended to dive in Tel Aviv, so that I’d at least get something positive out of this — but wouldn’t you know it, sea conditions turned out to be unfavorable for Wednesday and Thursday.  They assured me that Friday and Saturday should be fine for diving, but, well, obviously that does me no good at all.

Since it was not entirely out of the question that I’d end up having to run/walk the distance, I knew that I’d be posting my slowest 5K time in years anyway, and thus felt no need to adjust my activities in the days prior.  I must have walked thirty miles over the three days I was in Jerusalem — and my glutes felt it.  My ankle wasn’t especially happy either, but I refused to test it out on a run because ignorance is bliss.

I couldn’t ignore the race, though.  It was everywhere.  Rubbing salt in a gaping wound.  It made me so, so, so sad to see the half marathon kilometer markers all around the city and know that I would not be passing them on race day.

Thursday night, I responsibly went to bed around 10 PM.  And proceeded to remain awake for over three hours.  Just as I finally drifted off, I was awakened by knocking on my door.  Who the hell is knocking on my door at 1:19 AM?!  Apparently some idiot who can’t read room numbers, that’s who.  I’m sure his apology was sincere, and all, but now I am awake again.  And no, I didn’t need to wake up at 5:25 for a 7:30 start that’s pretty close to my hotel, but I did anyway, so yeah.

I really don’t have anything to say about the race itself.  I spent way too long sitting in the OneFamily tent because I got there so early, and then I headed to the 5K start (wearing a 10K bib, which did get me the better race shirt — the 5K shirt was pretty crappy).  It’s been over three months since my last race, and I wasn’t sure I knew how to do this anymore.

Nothing much to see here — they really didn’t choose a very scenic 5K route

Maybe I don’t.  Because the gun sounded (actually, there was no gun, just someone counting down, and then people randomly took off, so I did too), and I didn’t feel like I was running a race.  I ran my first sub-7:00 mile since my stress fracture, which was nice, but not as nice as the fact that my ankle was not screaming bloody murder.  It felt a little uncomfortable, but I know what it feels like to run on a fracture, and it does not feel like this.

And then I proceeded to positive split like a champ.  I could tell it was hilly, and the farther we ran, the worse it got, but it was still depressing.  As is typical of races in Israel, I didn’t have many women to chase; I did reel in two or three, but I was mostly surrounded by men.  I just didn’t feel at all motivated to chase them all down, since I already knew I was going to be “slow,” and my average HR for the race shows that I wasn’t working as hard as I could have been: even with all those hills, it was 165.  It is unheard of for me to run a race of any distance with a HR that low.  It just doesn’t happen.

The elevation gain/loss makes me feel a little better about the positive split, but not by much.  (Even if Strava says I actually ran a perfect negative split, if you adjust for the elevation changes.  And ignore the last .1.)

And yes, this is the slowest 5K I’ve run in several years.  I’m trying to remember that the most important thing was to be able to walk afterwards — and I can — so this isn’t really as terrible as it could be.  Doesn’t mean I can’t still feel the sting.

I checked my results online, and I saw that I had placed fourth for females.  There aren’t AG awards for the 5K, so after a little while I headed back towards my hotel.  I had almost reached it when I checked the results again — and suddenly, I was listed in third place.  Clearly, someone was disqualified.  (Not so strange, I guess, when you consider that the person who had originally been listed as first supposedly ran as fast as the leading men.)

So I turned around and went all the way to the awards stage, which was quite a trek, only to be informed that I had missed the 5K ceremony, and that the top three awards had been claimed.  Except that, hello?  I’m apparently #3, and I didn’t claim anything!  You can’t both DQ someone and give them an award.  It doesn’t work that way.

The very rude woman at the stage told me to go to the timing tent to figure it out.  She said this timing tent was at the 5K finish line, which was another long trek.  And when I finally got there, they told me that they didn’t have any results there, because those were sent to the awards stage.

Going around in circles.  But I want that award, dammit!  (I doubt it would have meant so much to me had this entire trip and everything surrounding it not been such an emotional maelstrom.  But it was, and so it does matter.)

When I got back to the awards stage, the very rude woman morphed into a full-out bitch and yelled at me — my Hebrew is not so good that I got everything she was spewing, but the gist of it was that I was trying to claim something that wasn’t mine and I should just go away because per their list, awards for first, second, and third place had already been taken.

Being yelled at is not my favorite thing, so I got very upset.  At which point some kindly soul nearby stepped in and played translator, not with Bitchy McBitcherson, but with whom I think was the race director.  And guess what?  According to his list, one of the original top three was disqualified.  I’m still not sure exactly what happened — I think it was a man running on a woman’s bib.  Which doesn’t really make sense for a variety of reasons, but I guess it doesn’t exactly matter.  The point is, I did place third, and I did win an award, but it was no longer at the stage since someone else absconded with it.  The race director said it wouldn’t be fair to take it back from that person (I don’t see why not, if they didn’t earn it), so supposedly they are going to mail me an award next week.

Except that now when I look at the results, I’ve been nudged all the way down to position #9, and six ridiculously fast times have been added… like, the first one is faster than the fastest male finishing time.  And they all started more than twenty minutes after the race began.  So I have no idea what’s going on anymore.  Though looking at the pictures, at least one of the bib numbers ahead of me is worn by a male, so… I hope that once everything is sorted, I do end up in third again.  Because it would make me really sad to have gone around in all these circles for no reason whatsoever.  (Seriously — I finished the 5K with fewer than 10,000 steps on my vívofit .  By the time I finally got back to my hotel, I had covered over 17,500.  I basically did do a 10K.)

So… I essentially flew halfway across the world to “race” a 5K at HM PR pace.  I’m never upset to visit Jerusalem — it’s a gastronomic playground for me.  (Even if I don’t enjoy it mentally, I do still need to regain the weight I lost after the stress fracture in December, so there is no reason for me not to roam around and eat ice cream three times a day if I feel like it.)  That said, I had been debating whether I even wanted to do this again next year, because the agony of uncertainty that comes with injury is just too much for me to handle.  Except that I am pretty sure I will be back.  For the half marathon, I hope.

And I can still walk.  Without limping, even.  This is very, very important.  I might have even been able to do the 10K and been okay… but I suppose it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to my unreliable bones.

This Is Next

A timeline:

12/02/16: I book nonrefundable airfare and hotel for the Jerusalem Half Marathon (for which I have yet to register, because I’m still waiting for Team One Family to put it up on the website).

12/11/16: I run a PR at the Marine Park Open Run, which is not as exciting as it sounds, since it was a failed attempt at a time trial for an upcoming 5K which I did not get to do, courtesy of the stress fracture that was making my ankle hurt so badly I wanted to throw up.

02/28/17: I finally register for Jerusalem… albeit for the 10K, not the half marathon.

Yes, my hatred of 10Ks is so well-documented that I couldn’t even possibly link to all of the instances in which it is mentioned.  Oddly enough, that is why I chose it.  After the miracle I experienced in Jerusalem last year, I had my heart set on running a sub-1:40; I’m not someone who is going to run/walk a half marathon just to say I made it to the finish line.  That holds no appeal for me at all.  And this stress fracture took longer to heal than the one before it, so running — never mind racing — a half marathon next week is just not going to happen.

5K vs. 10K… well, it’s stupid to fly halfway across the world for such a short distance race, but thanks to my industriousness in booking my travel plans, I had to choose one of them.  The topography in Jerusalem is not PR-friendly.  I already royally suck at 10Ks, so I figured it would sting a little less to run a shitty 10K than a shitty 5K.  And it might be slightly less stupid to travel all this way for twice the distance.  Or not.

McMillan claims that I can run a 45:12, based off last year’s half.  This is actually less than fifteen seconds away from a PR for me (because I am so bad at the 10K that my PR pace is one whole second faster than my HM PR pace), and it is also completely and utterly impossible.

I don’t feel out of shape, per se.  Some people, when coming back from injuries like this, find that it’s almost like they’ve never run before.  I don’t feel like that.  I just feel so. damn. slow.  Which is not really fair for me to say since I haven’t tried running especially fast, but then, I’m probably scared to do it, and I’m sick and tired of my failures in the running arena, and I am not enough of a masochist to rub my utter uselessness in my own face quite that much.

“Just go and enjoy it,” people say.  “Run it for fun!”

Hello.  Have you ever met me?  I don’t know how to do that!  Maybe in a longer race, which I run with company, like the Brooklyn Greenway Half… and even then, we ran faster than we planned.  I am not wired to run races “for fun.”  Especially not shorter distance races.

Pre-race confidence has never been something with which I was intimately acquainted.  But this is a whole different level.

A Review of a Different Sort

Instead of getting into how I’m going to DNS the Cherry Tree 10 Miler for the third time (I am never registering for the damn thing ever again), because nobody is interested in listening to me whine about my broken heart, I am going to replace the would-be DNS review with something else.  It isn’t really a review per se; it’s more like a very loquacious way of getting around to a very simple point.  But anyway.

Despite my whole “I am too depressed to have the motivation to do anything” mindset, I planned a dive trip anyway, banking on feeling glad about it once I was actually diving.  And that kind of did happen.  I mean, I stupidly neglected to pay attention to the water temperature, assuming it would be, you know, warm; I did not realize that it would be so cold in Key Largo at this time of year, but even though I was freezing for most of it, I did love that I was finally diving again.  I hardly get to do it.

My happy place!

My happy place!

These dives were a bit of a novel experience for me, though.  In the past, I’ve always gone diving with a group.  Even though we did pair off into buddy teams before hitting the water, it was mostly for the sake of propriety; we generally all stuck together.

This time, it was more like, “Here’s the dive site, it’s called ____, this is the history behind it.  The time right now is whatever o’clock, be back here in one hour.  Have fun!”  And off we went on our own.

It is quite fortuitous that I was deemed the timekeeper of the team instead of the navigator.  It baffles me how I ever passed the Underwater Navigation portion of the Advanced Open Water test, because I couldn’t find my way around with a compass on land if you paid me.  I really need to work on that.

Now, for that simple point… I wear a 7mm wetsuit.  Always.  Even in the Caribbean in August.  Yes, I get a little warm, but I’d rather be a little warm than have a dive ruined because I’m too busy shivering miserably to enjoy it.  The downside of having such a thick wetsuit is that it increases buoyancy, which means I need to add weight.  It’s a fine balancing act — if I add enough weight to get myself easily to depth, I am then dragging along the bottom.

This isn’t such a big problem when in a group with an instructor.  They’re good at buoyancy no matter how much weight they have — so they can help me get down there in the first place, and if I have too much or too little, they can help out, there, too.  But since we were on our own this time, I warned my buddies that I’d probably take a while to make my way down from the surface.

And you know what?  That didn’t happen.  When left to my own devices, I was able to make it down just fine.  This is even true of my second set of dives, when I had an additional 3mm of protection.  I added four pounds of weight to compensate for that, and I basically sank like a stone; I used quite a bit of air on that dive, since I needed to inflate my BCD a little.  (Not something I love to do, but I figured it didn’t matter since having dived with this buddy previously, I knew I was vastly more efficient with my oxygen consumption.)  I dumped those additional four pounds for the second dive, and still had no problem descending.  I went with the where the head leads, the body follows thing — instead of trying to get myself below the surface just by inhaling/exhaling, I upended myself and swam toward the bottom.  Which I have tried before, and it hasn’t always worked.

What this tells me is that being left to your own devices is the best thing that can possibly happen.  Lacking an instructor to bail me out, so to speak, somehow I miraculously had the ability to make it work on my own.

I was right.  I did love diving, even though I was freezing.  (Yes, even with 10mm worth of exposure protection!)  I wish I could do it far more often than I do.  It isn’t quite the same, of course, but it’s what comes the closest to running for me from a mental perspective.

And then I came home and ran outside for a cumulative fourteen minutes and twelve seconds.  Which helps me not at all with this weekend’s ten mile race.  What else is new?

What I’ve Learned

There are people who believe that everything that happens can be turned into a learning experience.  I’m not entirely sure that I subscribe to that philosophy, but since sleep and I are not on intimate terms these days, I have many empty hours in which to ponder random shit, which leaves me with a hodgepodge list of things I’ve learned from this fracture.  Some of them are more reinforcements of what I already believed than new realizations, but who cares?

  • I am angry.  This is obvious.  I am angry at the world in general.  But most of all, I am filled with such fury and loathing toward my body that I can’t find the words to even come close to adequately expressing it.  An entire thesaurus of words can’t do that.  And when I say “I am filled with fury and loathing toward my body,” I don’t mean in an aesthetic sense, though that, of course, is also true.  I mean that it does nothing but let me down repeatedly, regardless of whether I respect it.  Which is a problem, because …
  • The only person you can ever really count on is yourself.  Sure, other people might want to help, and upon occasion, they  might even make as if to try.  But in the end, it all comes down to you.  Someone who is good for absolutely nothing but oxygen expenditure is probably not the best person on whom to hang your hopes.  Having a perpetually broken body and a perpetually broken mind as your last resort is not encouraging.
  • When you think it’s getting better, you are most likely wrong.  I am aware of the general healing time for stress fractures, thank you.  Plenty of experience there.  So I also know how my body tends to heal from them.  Or I thought I did.  Because it felt better (which is not the same thing as being healed, but nonetheless), and then it started to hurt again.  Which is not supposed to happen.  Unless, of course, you are someone like me who is evidently not allowed to be happy for longer than 2.7 seconds.
  • I am also a horribly spoiled rotten child.  I want what I want, and nothing else will do.  Yes, I do enjoy rock climbing — and the rapid improvement inherent in beginning a new activity is a nice ego boost because I can pretend that I might be decent at it — but it is not running.  And running is the one thing that I categorically cannot live without.  (Sadly, this is not literal.  It is extremely unfortunate that it won’t actually kill me, but I am not living.  I am existing.)
  • Above all, I have learned this: hard work is not worth it.  I picked up my bib for the Gridiron 4M this morning.  I have run this race every year since 2013, and I PRed every year.  When I said upon registering that I probably wouldn’t PR this time, I did not mean that I wouldn’t get to run it at all.  But I should have known something like this would happen.  I can’t even think about running right now because it hurts too much; yet I still went and picked up my bib, because this is the last B bib I will ever have.  I all but killed myself to earn it this past April, and now it’s going to be taken away from me.  I see no point in clawing my way back to it if I’m just going to lose it again.  Quite frankly, I don’t see the point in working hard for anything ever again, because no matter what I do, I always end up right back here in the exact same place.

Identity

People are multifaceted creatures who can identify themselves in a number of ways, most often using careers, relationships, or hobbies as frames of reference.  There is, however, usually one classification that predominates over all the others.

I don’t have one.  In fact, I don’t think I have any at all.

Career: this is not something I view as reflective of who I am.  I do it because I need money and health insurance and am uniquely unqualified to do pretty much anything at all and this is what I somehow fell into.  There’s nothing more to it than that.

Relationships: I am not, never will be, and have no desire to be anyone’s anything.

Hobbies: when I am not too depressed to have any interest in existing, of course there are activities that I enjoy.  But, I mean… you can’t say, “I’m a reader.”  That isn’t a thing.  And I’m no more a writer or a photographer than anyone who can string two sentences together or press the shutter on a camera.  These are things I sometimes do, not what I am.

I might say I am a diver.  Even though I possess a C-card, which should give me the right to claim it… that’s really only true for a very select few days of the year, which is sad, but that’s the way it is.  I always like it, but I hardly do it.  (Side note: theoretically, I would love to go on a dive trip right now.  But I think about the effort I would have to expend in planning a trip, and then actually taking it… packing and traveling and diving and returning home… and I feel exhausted without even doing anything.)

And so we come around to the big elephant in the room.  Am I not a runner?  Given that, you know… I fall to pieces when I can’t run?

I take issue with calling myself one.  This isn’t about me having a complex over being “too slow” — it’s never been like that for me.  I know that I am faster than a lot of people, and still more people are much faster than me.  I don’t believe that pace is what makes one a runner; running does that.  And I can hardly ever do it.

Even when I can kind of string a couple of weeks of it together, I always feel like an impostor.  Training talk?  Yeah, I got nothing to contribute there, because I have never “trained” for anything in my life.  (Oh, wait, that’s not quite true; I did try it twice.  Neither time ended well.)

So if I feel like I don’t belong even when I am able to run, you can just imagine how it is when I’m not.  When people who run get together, they will talk about running.  This makes sense.  And while I feel extraneous around that all the time, right now it is more than that — it is physically painful to be surrounded by it.  I can’t listen to other people talking about it because it might be white noise under other circumstances, but now it’s a thousand arrows straight into my heart.

This leads to quite a bit of isolation when you normally keep company with a lot of people who get to do the one thing for which you would give pretty much everything.  I really do not need to hear about all the people who are going to be running the half marathon I would have been running this weekend if my body weren’t the shit that it is, solely to allow me to hang on to the B bib to which I clawed my way by the skin of my teeth.  I’m going to lose it now.  What is the point in ever trying to accomplish anything, if it just gets snatched away again?

So yeah, I’m an obnoxious selfish bitch, but if that’s the topic of conversation… I’m going to walk away.  I have to.  Mutual isolation, I guess.  I can’t talk to other people, and other people can’t talk to me.

In the end, it doesn’t matter why it happens or whether it’s an internal or external belief — if I imagine it as real or if it really is that way.  Because it is reality to me.  And it’s telling me that if I can’t run, and I can’t talk about it, I am not worth anything.

It Isn’t Funny

The other day I was reading some blog post or article or whatever about the resolutioners who hit the gym in January, and someone commented that making fun of a fat person at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair.

I mulled this over for a couple of days until I decided that I can really draw a parallel between that analogy and my own life.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been what would have been called “melancholy” in the distant past.  It’s been a decade since I was officially branded dysthymic, but I never bothered to actually look that up to see what it meant from a diagnostic standpoint.  Why bother?  The DSM is mainly for insurance purposes, and I don’t need it to elucidate what I already know in general terms.  I live it every day.

But for whatever reason, recently I did look it up.  And so many things just instantly clicked into place.  Every.  Single.  Symptom.  It was like I was created using that as a blueprint.  So all of these things that make me a horrible human and terrible to be around — things that I’ve always viewed as being “just my personality” — are attributed to this.  The negativity, indecisiveness, suicidal ideation, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness — it’s all there.

Which is why, as I thought about all the times I’ve been teased about these things — sometimes good-naturedly, sometimes not — I started to get kind of pissed off, because it’s not like I am that way since I think it’s cute or quirky.  This is my brain.  It is broken.  (Like the rest of me.)

And like making fun of a fat person at the gym or a homeless person at a job fair, mocking me for this is really kind of a dick thing to do.  A better example might be teasing a paralyzed person for being unable to move.  They didn’t choose it, and they can’t help it.  Making light of their situation is just cruel.  If you don’t want to hang around a disabled person because it hampers your own enjoyment of life, of course that’s your prerogative.  But you don’t need to knock them down for good measure.