On weekdays I set two alarms. The first acts as a warning that morning is approaching and gives me a chance to savor my final moments in bed. Then, five minutes later, the “real” alarm goes off and Matt, Piper and I begin our day.
Last Thursday morning started out like any other day. At 6:11 I silenced the first alarm and blissfully snoozed for a few more minutes. Then at 6:16 I jerked awake in surprise and whipped my head to the right to reach the off button. As soon as I rotated my head back to center I felt a shooting pain and knew something was wrong with my neck. The very act of lifting my head off the pillow was excruciating and I was unable to turn my head to the right. Uh oh!
I gingerly lifted my head out of bed and somehow got ready for work. It’s a good thing Matt and I work together because there’s no way I could have safely driven a car in this condition. Every bump and dip in the road was a nerve-wracking jolt and I spent our short commute focusing on keeping my gaze facing forward and slightly to the left to avoid the acute pain on my right side.
With slow stretching, ibuprofen, and ice my range of motion incrementally increased throughout the day. I was worried about my neck but knew that this pretty much had to a muscular injury since I could pinpoint the exact minute that it occurred. The real question was, would I be able to race 5 miles on Friday night???
I woke up Friday feeling a little better. I still had to twist my entire torso to look right, but the slight improvement gave me hope. I hydrated and ate during the day as if I was going to race and then did a test run on the treadmill after work to see if my neck could handle a jog. I ran a half mile without too much pain and decided that I was going to give the race a try!
36 hours and 44 minutes after my bizzare injury (because really, who hurts themselves turning off an alarm??!) I lined up with 1600 runners for the 37th Annual Media 5 Mile race. In 2014 I finished this race in 42:57 and last year I had a big improvement with a 41:03. In 2016 my goal – at least before my neck issue! – was to better my time for the third year in a row.
The Media 5 Mile course consists of two hilly loops through the borough of Media. Residents were out in force, lining the streets to cheer on the runners and setting up water stations and garden sprinklers to keep us cool. Staying cool was much easier this year since the weather was unseasonably pleasant, with temps in the upper 70s and low humidity. That’s about as good as it gets for a mid-June race around here!
Mile 1 chirped by in 7:37 and before I knew it I was at the bottom of the big 8th Street hill. The hill didn’t seem so bad and I was able to accelerate when I reached Jackson Street the top. Then I turned left onto 6th Street and realized that another block-long uphill climb awaited. (Why hadn’t I noticed this hill the previous two years?) I felt tired so I gave little kids high-fives rather than kill myself up the hill. Mile 2 was over in 8:03.
I left the hilly section of lap 1 behind and tried to pick up my pace as I ran along State Street past the huge crowds of encouraging spectators. Mile 3 chirped by in 8:04… a little disappointing considering that there had only been a few small hills during this split, but I didn’t dwell on my time. I grabbed a water at the nearest water station, sloshed a little around in my mouth and dumped the rest over my head. It was time to focus on round 2 of the hills!
Both the 8th Street and 6th Street hills seemed longer and steeper the second time around as I trudged up them. Still, I knew that through mile 3 I had been well ahead of the average pace (8:13) that I needed to maintain to beat last year’s time. When my Garmin reported that the 4th mile had taken me 8:43 to complete I got a little worried, but then I saw the big clock that the race organizers placed at mile marker 4 ticking through the 32:20s. I realized then that I would definitely beat last year’s time and even had a chance to break 40 minutes if I rallied hard enough in the final mile!
I turned onto Edgmont Street with a new feeling of determination and passed several people as I took advantage of the slight decline. My momentum carried me all the way to Barrell Park where I knew I only had a half mile to go. The uphill block back to State Street seemed like it would never end, but finally I was back on the main drag, pushing towards the finish with every ounce of energy I had left. I zoomed through the finish with a chip time of 40:13… 50 seconds faster than last year!
Lucky for me my neck ended up being a non-issue. If anything, the more I ran the looser and better it felt! I only noticed the disconcerting, shooting pain during the two times I pounded down the steep hill at the west end of State Street because this made my stride a little more jolting than usual.
Maybe I could have broken 40 minutes without the distraction of my neck, but overall I am very happy with my new course PR and extremely thankful that I was able to run at all! Now I just have to be more careful with that stupid alarm clock…
Miles since last post: 2
Days since last post: 8
2016 MILES: 841.9