I might have found the secret as to what ails my soleus!
Saturday morning I got up after a poor night's sleep and headed out to the 10k race. I saw a bunch of friends at the beginning, most of whom were running the 20k, which started half an hour before my race. There's one woman, Joyce, whose husband runs as well. As we chatted before the race, I asked her husband what pace he was going to run -- and he said nice and easy, he had a long run the next day. As his planned pace was about 3-4 minutes per mile slower than my 10k race pace, a seed was planted in my mind...
The 20kers took off, and I hung around chatting with other friends waiting for the 10k. Then it was time to line up. A couple friends took off for the very front of the race, hoping to win cash-money awards based on gun time. Other friends lined up around my race pace. And I realized that was a bad idea for me.
I'd accepted that a 10k PR was unlikely. While I should be able to go a few minutes faster on my overall 10k time than my current PR, it was a warm and humid morning. While that alone wouldn't usually be enough to stop me from trying, the pain in my leg was enough to make me realize that trying to run fast would mean more pain in my leg and rule out a 10k PR.
So I thought, if I'm not going to PR, what do I have to gain from running the race at anything other than a leisurely pace? And better yet, what would be more fun -- running as fast as felt comfortable, or running at an easy pace with a friend?
So I headed back, back, back and found my friend's husband where he'd lined up and I jumped into the start corral by him. He pulled out his earphones and we started chatting, and then the race was underway.
I was watching our pace and we were going much faster than he'd said he wanted to go, but it was still a pace that felt good to me. The race went on, and it still felt good. I think he was getting a bit tired. We'd separate a bit at water stops since I generally keep running while drinking now. But after each stop, I'd move out very slowly until we were together again. After the second and final water stop, he said something like I hadn't needed to wait for him, and I told him that he was keeping me on track and making the race a lot more fun than it would have been solo.
The miles just ticked by fairly effortlessly. It was definitely warm, and my heart rate was high on the two hills on the course, but it was nice. We didn't talk the whole time, but we chatted enough.
Around the time we hit mile marker 6, he started to kick and I did too. He really picked up the pace -- we were going around my 10k race pace for the last .2. I didn't feel the twinge in my calf, but I'm sure a few more minutes of that would have resulted in pain. It felt tough, running at that pace in that weather, but it felt good. We finished so strong and he was thrilled with his performance, and I was thrilled to have gotten to have a pain-free run with someone I now know much better!
The rest of the day Saturday was kind of a wash. When I got home from the race, I didn't feel great. There was too much fun food to eat after the race. Beer, cheese pizza, a mini-cupcake, 4 cookies, and a cookie-ice-cream sandwich was not a good combo. I felt woozy and spent a few hours lounging around the house.
But by 3:00, I was showered and gearing up for Oktoberfest that night. One of my favorite nights of the year! I went to my neighbor's house to have her braid my hair, and then went home and put on my costume -- a dirndl that looked kind of slutty when I was wearing it sadly. I had hoped that since I'm not very tall, the skirt would have come down longer, and I was practicually busting the seams of the top. But the costume made for a fun atmosphere, and hubby and I headed out.
We had such a great night. I didn't really drink a ton -- maybe 2 or 3 beers. And I didn't eat much -- Oktoberfest is not good for vegetarians! -- I had a couple pretzels and an order of potato pancakes. One of my running friends had ordered a dirndl with me, so I had costumed company and it was so much fun. Lots of random people asked to take their pictures with me. Too funny!
We didn't stay late (hubby is not a huge Oktoberfest fan, though this year might have changed all that). But were there long enough to see a lot of our friends, I got to dance the Chicken Dance, we drank and hung out, and I would call it a completely wonderful night!
Sunday morning wasn't too painful since we hadn't stayed out until all hours, but the pain-free 10k was fresh in my mind as I headed out to meet up with my running buddies.
I run with one of the really big running programs in Dallas, so there are about 10 different pace groups all going the same distance as me each week (plus about 10 different groups going the set distance for an earlier race, and about 10 different groups going the set distance for half-marathons). That meant that if I wanted to do my long run around the 10k pace I'd run on Saturday, I could do it and have company.
I talked to my group and found out there were was someone else to lead the group, so I dropped back TWO full groups. Normally if you want to slow down for a long run, you move back one group (30 seconds slower per mile). But my 10k pace that was more than 2 mins/mile slower than my 10k pace, and 1 min/mile slower than my long run pace had felt sooooo good, I wanted to do it again.
My decision met with success! The group 2 groups back was bigger than my group and so much fun. We ended up at almost the exact right pace, I talked to tons of new people (lots of rookies, so tons of fun hearing their running stories), and best of all, not even a twinge of calf pain.
So this morning at boot camp, the group was sent out for a long-ish run (long for boot camp, close to 2 miles). I was so tempted to go with them. I knew I could run about a min/mile slower than my long run pace and I'd feel okay. But the smarter part of me decided not to push the envelope. 2 days of pain-free slow running does not mean I should go back to 6-7 days a week of running at any pace.
The plan is to stick to my reduced miles schedule this week (Sun, Tue, Thurs) and see how it goes with yesterday's run being slow, and trying to run at my normal long run pace Tue and Thurs. If all goes well, I will try to run at my normal pace this weekend, and may add another day of running or two next week.
Oh, I hope this is the light at the end of the tunnel! This weekend marked 22 slow but pain-free miles! Can't remember the last time that happened!
Planning to do the Friend-Making Monday post tomorrow -- had to share the soleus news instead!