Monday, March 14, 2011

Race Result: Chase a Leprechaun 5K; Becker, MN

Event: Chase a Leprechaun 5K; Becker, MN
Goal: Survive. With MRI coming Wednesday (3/16) to check out possible stress fracture in left femur
Actual: 19:36 (6:16 per mile pace) official. Official results.
Overall: Second (est, 90+ total)
AG Overall: First (41 and over Male AG)
Weather: 16F, winds 30-35 MPH, windchill at -4

The year is 1979. It is late March in Jamestown, North Dakota and one week before the North Dakota State Indoor track meet at the North Dakota State Fieldhouse. The Jamestown Blue Jays have just wrapped up a Monday practice. Everyone is feeling good, as well they should under the tutelage of head coach Russ Schmeichel.

I've showered and about to give a ride home to fellow track buddies Brad Braunberger and Joe Bennett. Twelve years later, Joe would be my best man at my wedding to the Well Kept Wife. Brad would go on to become the  3000-Meter Steeplechase National Champion (Division III) in 1982. We are a tight bunch. The team is loaded with sprinters, middle distance and long distance runners. As I approach the car, I hit a piece of ice. My right kneecap slams into my car door. Not a nice sound.

I'm unable to run the rest of the week. My knee is swollen. I can't put pressure on it. There is some talk about me sitting the meet out. I talk Coach Schmeichel into letting me make the trip and allow me to warm up and see how I feel. Friday comes, and we're off to Fargo.

I'm warming up and the pain is there. Especially on the tight turns of the 200-meter indoor track. But I want to run. I get cleared by two assistant coaches who speak to Coach Schmeichel.

My first event is the prelims of the 400-meter dash. Two laps. Its going to be hell. Can't really feel my knee but something deep inside me is just putting off the pain. I'm not ranked anywhere near the top 12 in the state in this event. Coach Schmeichel has been working with me to hang back instead of charging from the gun. He reminds me of this again just prior to my heat.

Gun goes off. There is a little pain, but the adrenaline is kicking in. I'm in dead last as we come down the stretch for the bell lap. But then everything changes. This is were I was told to let loose. Hold back, and then let loose. I win the heat going away. It's not even close. I'm going to the state finals of the 400 on a bum knee with 7 others.

Friday night is spent with ice on the knee. Basically, we dump tons of ice in the bathtub as some other people are a bit stiff as well. My knee is stiff and throbbing. And the 400-meter finals are up first Saturday morning.

I'm able to loosen up enough to be able to move around the corners with just a noticeable limp. Again, I'm told to hang back. Gun goes off. I'm dead last again as we move into the straight before the bell lap. I'm wanting to turn the jets loose, but I'm boxed in by 3 people.

I see a very tiny sliver of daylight and my right elbow buries itself into the chest of a runner next to me. I'm free and roaring out of turn 2 and down the back straight. As I head to home, I'm in 3rd but get nipped at the wire by team mate Miles Pederson and another runner. An indoor PR at :53.40. Fifth place in state is not too bad for a unranked runner with a bad knee I tell myself.

I have a few hours break and then we are up for the mile relay. The knee is really, really stiff now. But the adrenaline is still pumping and I'm full of confidence. Miles leads off and comes into the exchange with me in 3rd. I'm not even in contact with the front two runners. I don't hold back this time.

Coming out of turn 2 on the first lap there is a row of team mates to my left screaming at me. The bleachers are on the right full of people on their feet and screaming. I don't hear them. I see them, but all I hear is my breathing and my heart.

Coming into the bell lap, I do something I'm still a little bit ashamed of. As I pass the lead two runners I turn slightly, wave and mouth "bye-bye"......and I'm gone. My team mates have seen this and are now going ape shit. I came into my exchange with Brad Braunberger and I've given him a 15-yard lead. He adds to it. Bill DaBill anchors and he brings home the win. Mile relay state champions. Top of the podium.

I had shoved aside the pain. I had won the mind vs. body war that would come back to me so many more times. But having won this first battle meant I could do it again.

I share this story as it was mind vs. body again this past Saturday. Just a small town 5K fun run. I had signed up for this as a precursor to the 10K I have in London on April 2. But little more than 15 days ago, I developed pain in my left leg right below the groin. Pain which radiates thru the back of the ham and across to the hip. I had two sessions at the locally renowned Sport and Spine Institute where I received conventional treatment to see if it could be muscle related. Dr. Justin Thielke looked at me during the first session and basically shook his head and uttered, "Brian, I don't like how this is looking."

It looks like I have a stress fracture in my femur. At the best of times, I simply have trouble trying to snap the leg forward. At the worst, I can barely put weight on it. But after two treatments we had located the spot where the pain radiates. So could it be muscle afterall? My mobility was much, much better after each session. We decided to have me run over the weekend. This was carefully thought out and considered.

Saturday morning came and the leg felt pretty darn good. Not perfect, but I decided to go and race. Conditions were cold, blustery, and icy. Gun goes off, and I'm back in April, 1979. Not much of anyone cheering, but the adrenaline has set in. Only a half-mile in there are only three of us running in front. Then there are just two. Eventual race winner, Wade Kruser, separated himself from me by 60-yards by the one mile mark.

I'm doing OK. Yeah, the leg hurts on every stride but its tolerable. We're going along at sub-6 pace. By mile two, the leg is starting to hurt more. In the few training runs I have been able to do in the last 2+ weeks, it has been two miles when the leg refuses to go any further. But a glance at the watch still reads sub 6:20 so I'm just trying to keep the leg loose and the stride easy. Any one can run one more mile, right?

By 2.5 the leg is shot. My endurance, from lack of any real run training, is starting to show as my breathing is very audible. My mind is saying, "just keep it loose. Keep the stride easy." But the pace is falling off. I'm peeking over my shoulder now. A big no-no. But at least the final turn and the finish line awaits. Hey, second overall not so bad for a nearly 50 year old man with a bad leg!

While waiting for awards, the leg turns into basically a solid sheet of immovable object. I know I've probably done some damage. The drive home is painful. I can't even get into the vehicle without sitting down first and lifting the leg with my arms.

When I get home the Well Kept Wife has to help me inside and get me undressed. She's half concerned, half laughing. That sort of, "you stupid old man" laugh that I expect I will be getting more and more in the coming years. Trouble is, I can't do this in London as I'll ruin the trip. The afternoon of the race, we are to be on a train to Stonehenge for a private tour where we actually get to be inside the sacred stones. I'm sure she does not want to pushing me in a wheelchair. But its three weeks away. And for me, there is still a whole lot of the boy from April, 1979 raring to tackle another race.

Pain be damned.

Event Review: I can best sum up this event thusly: Where else are you going to get a quality T-shirt and a super medal for $12!?! That is simply unheard of these days. I really push and recommend for people to jump into your local fun run events. Support your local community. I recommend this race....big thumbs up!

Super nice medal from the Becker fun run!

Next Events:

Mar 19 - Get Lucky 7K, MPLS - 7K (4.52mi)

This is so not going to happen. I need to make sure that I can walk and enjoy London.
Apr 2 - Miles for Missing People 10k; London, England 10K run and 2 mile fun run

At this time, I very much doubt I will be doing this event. I may just go and cheer on the family in their 2-mile run. I just can't take the chance to compete and then be unable to walk for the remainder of the vacation.

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