Today I ran the USATFNJ XC 5K at Thompson Park. This race was about an hour north of where I live. I am familiar with this park because I have been there several times before with the team I coach. I was excited to run this race because I have always wanted to run on this cross-country course. Unfortunately, I failed to look at the course map and the course we ran was drastically different than the one I am familiar with. In fact, the course we ran was terrible because it was such a hot day and the course was primarily in an open field. Had I looked at the map before I signed up for this race I would not have signed up for this race.
In retrospect, singing up for this race was a HUGE mistake. I’ve know all week that my calves were super tight and that running a race was a dumb idea. Before I left California I had a lot of issues with dehydration (that resolved itself with a few days off) and calf tightness. My calves have progressively worsened each day this week and each run has been torture.
I have something called posterior compartment syndrome, which causes severe tightness in my calves and eventually makes my feet go completely numb until several minutes after I stop running. I was diagnosed with this in college. In order to get this diagnosis the doctor made me run until my feet went numb and then he stuck toothpick sized needles into my calves to measure the pressure in my legs. That was not a pleasant experience and a decade later thinking about it still makes me cringe.
In the last 7 years I haven’t had very many issues with compartment syndrome because I have learned how to manage it. If I have had issues I was able to resolve them quickly, so quickly that having compartment syndrome rarely comes up on my blog. Lately, I think I am having this problem from running in really worn out shoes all summer because I forgot to get new shoes before I left for California. Additionally, I spent a significant portion of my summer walking everywhere. There were days where I would walk as much as I ran or more than I ran. Dehydration also really bothers my legs and I know when I am dehydrated based on whether or not my calves cramp or tighten.
Today was the day that this calf pain became catastrophic. It hasn’t been this bad since I was in college. At the start of the race I didn’t feel great, then around 2K my calves were so tight I couldn’t run fast anymore and I slowed down, around 3K my feet were so numb that I couldn’t feel them, around 4K I wanted to drop out but I rationalized with myself that running a bad time was much better than a DNF, and when I finally made it to the finish line I sat out the ground and took my shoes off until I was able to feel my feet again. While I was sitting there I saw that I had run that 5K in 23:15 and I wasn’t even upset. If there was ever a time for me to be disappointed with my race time today should have been the day, but I wasn’t disappointed I was thankful I was done running. There was nothing I could have done.
I know that I am in low 20-high 19 minute 5K shape right now even though this race did not reflect that. This race won’t change how well my training has been going. When you can’t feel the ground beneath your feet and your calves are so tight that walking from your kitchen to your living room is painful you have to let it go. I cannot dwell on this race, I can only move forward and focus on watching Gilmore Girls with my cats instead of running for the next few days.
I had a great time at the race though, aside from the running part. I was able to catch up with some of my running friends and I learned that I can register for the Boston Marathon on September 12th!