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Knee injury does little to stop rookie athlete completing her first race!
I tried to get back into training this week but I've been a little sidelined by a nagging knee injury. I have started seeing a physical therapist who is great, and he has put me on an exercise regime to turn the "al dente" muscles behind my knee into the "well-cooked spaghetti" they are supposed to be. Ice packs have also helped - not only to soothe my swollen knee - but also to make me feel like an elite athlete.
Something else that helped me feel like a pro was the 4-mile Gridiron Classic held in Central Park today. I had signed up weeks ago, before my knee was playing up, so this past week has been about psyching myself up to the physical challenge. This was set to be my first race ever, so I wanted to make a good impression, but I also didn't want to kill my knee and set myself back even further, fitness-wise.
I took my physical therapist's advice and waited to see how I would feel this morning. Oddly enough when the alarm went off at 7.15am, I was ready to get up and face the day. My knee was a bit cold and tender, but not as bad as it has been. So I went through the motions of getting myself ready for race day, including a healthy breakfast feast. For good measure, I put on make-up. It felt weird to be doing that, but I thought some effort ought to be made. I left the jewelry at home.
It wasn't that I was running late, but I didn't want to take any chances with public transport this morning. The cab broke the land-speed record and got me to Central Park in record time. Leaving my bag at the designated area, I found my Team in Training crew. My mentor happened to be there (I wasn't expecting to see her), but she gave me a quick pep talk and the same reminder that I had had from the therapist about not pushing myself too hard this time around.
The crowd was a real mixed bag today - young kids, all the way up to old people. And being Super Bowl Sunday, lots of runners wore their team colours (good to see a heap of NY Giants garb). Not having any football attire of my own, I opted for a gym outfit and a Nike top in a lovely purple-pink colour that matched my race bib. Of course.
Before long we were off and racing. I was wearing my interval timer Gymboss device, so I could time myself to run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute. I wanted to see whether pacing myself like that would give me enough energy in my tanks to finish the race and not feel dead afterwards. I also had my own water bottle, so I wouldn't have to stop at the fluid stations along the course.
My race ended up being ruled by beeps. When my timer beeped I ran, when it beeped again I walked, and when it beeped a third time I started running again. And so it was for the full four miles. Supporters were lining the race route and clanging cowbells or just applauding - cheering us all on and reminding us that we were doing great. I saw one guy a couple of times, who was telling us that we were all amazing, and running so much better than everyone who was still in bed. Was that even a compliment?
In the end I finished the 4 miles in 45 minutes 57 seconds, which works out to 11.5 minutes per mile. I know that's not great and it's certainly not fast, but it was good for me and it's a place to start.
I've got a little over a month to whip my knee - and the rest of me - into shape for the NYC half-marathon. But having experienced a race day now, I know what I can expect and in a perverse way I'm actually looking forward to it.