Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Number Five Recap: A Bum Knee, Bad Hip and Blisters (All In a Day's Work)

As it turns out, I didn't have to crawl on my hands and knees to cross the finish line on Sunday... although, it came close to that.

Get ready...
After four-plus months of training, almost five years on the blog and going back nearly eight years to when this crazy marathoning journey started, all I wanted to do was make it to the start line of the BMO Vancouver Marathon healthy and ready to rock. Unfortunately, some problems with my right knee crept up on me during my taper and, even though I spent days resting and icing it, it became a problem that I couldn't ignore.

Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I'm stubborn like a mule so that wasn't going to stop me. 

Get set...
Race weekend is normally such a big deal for me; I love the anticipation and excitement of it all. Picking up my race package and being around hundreds or thousands of other runners is normally fun and exhilarating. 

My knee pain, however, kind of sucked all the joy out of race weekend for me. I was hobbling around the Race Expo, super bummed. But by the night before the race, I had somehow managed to calm (steel?) the nerves and put it out of mind. Que sera, sera, as it were.

As I stood in my corral with the other "slow" runners, I started to feel that rush of being at the start line with the whole morning in front of me. I had decided to pace very conservatively, to give my knee time to warm up and hopefully loosen up. The first few kilometres went by with no issues at all, and I began to gain a little confidence - something I had been lacking all week long. 

At some point, I noticed my knee felt... well, if not good then as good as it was going to get. The problem was actually my right hip. It's just a theory, but I think my hip started to compensate for my knee, which is why the knee felt okay. Overall, this compensation might have been okay over a short distance, but the hip started to really tighten up the further into the race I went.  

Remembering my conversation with the Team Diabetes staff a few days earlier, I listened to my body and made concessions. At first, I decided to switch from running 10 minutes/walking one minute, to running five minutes/walking one minute i.e. five and ones instead of 10 and ones, hoping to give my hip a rest and a bit of a "walking stretch". I also told myself, "Get to the halfway mark." 

Pausing at the top of the hill
Sure enough, I made it past the halfway marker on this strategy. But by this point, the race had circled around to the top of Pacific Spirit Park heading into Spanish Banks/Point Grey... all downhill. Normally, this would be great - a nice chance to recover. But not this time. This long downhill stretch was bad on the hip. Real bad. 

Wait. Abort?
Once I got down the hill I had to change my strategy again and, instead of running five and ones, I had to switch to running every two minutes... and then every other minute. 

I set a new target: get to Spanish Banks, which was about 23 km in. I figured, that's a reasonable goal... and if I could make it there, I'd be back on "home turf" i.e. one of my regular running neighbourhoods. Maybe - just maybe - by telling myself these things, I could trick my body into going a little further each time. 

At Spanish Banks, another new target: make it to 32 km. "At least at 32 km", I told myself, "that will match my longest long run. Make it to 32 km and walk from there." 

© The Oatmeal
Sadly, the hip gave up well before then - at around 26 km, as a matter of fact. If my hip could talk, it was basically saying, "Fuck you, lady. Did you hear me? NOPE."

So... I walked. 

And then, right at Cornwall and Yew in Kitsilano, at about 27 km - I'll never forget it, because I run this area all the time - I started to cry. I tried to hold the tears back, but they came anyway. All I could think about was that I was so far from the end ohmigod I'll never make it what do I do I don't know what to do I don't think I can make it

One foot in front of the other. I put one foot in front of the other for one more block - and there was my husband, standing at the next corner. 

When I got close enough, I didn't hold back anymore. I started sobbing. I'm so far from the end ohmigod I'll never make it what do I do I don't know what to do I don't think I can make it.

We started walking together a little, so I could try and calm down. And then we saw it: the 28 km marker. 

My brain: 14 km. 14 km left. 

Me: "14 km. There's 14 km left." [pause - then, to my husband:] "Wanna walk 14 km with me?"

My husband: "Sure."

And just like that, my husband saved my marathon.

"How much further?" "It's a little, tiny... 9 miles."
Wow, Simon Pegg. I can SO relate.

Nothing like a beautiful stroll on a Sunday afternoon
That's how I finished number five. Walking 14 km with my husband, on a Sunday afternoon, over the Burrard Street bridge, along English Bay and around the whole of Stanley Park

It may not have been stunning "running" (as BMO Vancouver Marathon runners know it). It was definitely not how I'd imagined my day would go. But for something so unexpected, it could have been so much worse. 

Some of the MarathonFoto pics from the event are available and, while I can't share any of them on the blog (because I haven't bought any), let me tell you: I looked a sad sack in so many - but not in the pics with my husband next to me. I'm actually smiling in those. Which, considering how badly this marathon was turning out performance-wise, was surprising. 

I asked for a miracle, didn't I? Turns out, I got one. 

Unofficial results
The result
The full marathon started at 8:30 am. I crossed the finish line at 2:46 pm. My gun time was 6 hours and 16 minutes, chip time 6 hours and 8 minutes. 

Overall, I placed at 3,479 out of 4,696 full marathoners. In my category of F35-39, 204 out of 284. Out of all females, I was number 1,347 out of 1,866. 

New personal bests worsts in a lot of ways but - you know something? Who cares? A finish is a finish is a finish. Right? As a friend told me post-marathon, "It's never about the measure or time but always about the journey and process. You showed perseverance, resilience and heart. Never forget that you are a fighter. Unreal job."

So - how does it feel? To quote the (IMHO) inimitable movie, Bring It On: "Feels like first."

War wounds
I really wanted to mention my "war wounds" from the day, because they were (are) significant... ly painful

Posterior knee pain (left). Since my right hip gave out completely and the left side of my body had to do so much work to compensate, I ended up with a hella lot of pain at the back of my left knee. A little research, and it turns out - there's a muscle back there! The internet tells me this is called the popliteus. Who knew? Walking is now an issue but hopefully only a temporary setback.

Sorry gang, had to include a pic. This blister is so weird!
Blisters. The bum knee, bad hip and painful popliteus all resulted in poor "running" (I use the term loosely) form... which translated into crazy blisters. Which - for one - is unusual because I don't normally get blisters. But the blisters were also strangely placed: right at the base of my third and fourth toes on my left foot, and on the bottoms of the fourth toe on both feet. 

Inner thigh chafing. This one could probably have been avoided but - my bad. I chose to wear running shorts that I knew sometimes chafed along the inner thigh. Thankfully, the chafing was relatively minimal and nothing that a warm shower and a little antibiotic ointment couldn't handle. 

Sunday night, I couldn't use my right hip flexor at all. I was sitting on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me, and my right hip refused to lift my right leg up. It was kind of like it drank too much and passed out - no reaction, whatsoever. 

Ironically, the right knee that had bothered me all last week is now completely pain-free. I just don't get it. Maybe I'm not meant to.

Honourable mentions
Shitty day aside, running this marathon in Vancouver was pretty amazing. There's a reason why this event has been going strong for decades: the Vancouver International Marathon Society knows what they're doing. Like, for real. A well-organized course, fun entertainment stations, a highly engaged and mobilized volunteer force... who could ask for more?

I also saw so many friends on the course, which I never experienced before in previous marathons because none of them were in my city! Thank you so much Kirsten, Kathy P., Hecel, Christina S. and Fay. Seeing you ladies really helped put a smile on my face and keep my spirits up. 

Hanging out at the start line before
the corrals get too crowded
Of course, I would be absolutely remiss to not give my husband HUGE PROPS here. I genuinely believe I would not have crossed the finish line without his love and support. So, thank you Matt! for literally being by my side and metaphorically carrying me for 14 km. You salvaged this race for me. As with so many things in this life, I could not have done this without you. I love you.

Good job, running friends!
I'd also like to congratulate everyone else who ran either the full or half marathon on Sunday: Jeny, Christina S. and her sister, Jim, Jen T. and Samantha (sorry if I've inadvertently missed anyone). Hope you all had great races! 

Fundraising update
Good job, friends!

Thanks to a few (somewhat forgetful and/or tardy) friends, a few more donations for my fundraising campaign in memory of my dad came in at the 11th hour to put the campaign at $3,681! This total was a team effort from 80 donors giving anywhere between $10 and $100. You guys made this happen. Thank you so much. 

If you'd still like to give, please do so at my Team Diabetes personal page! Donations can be made for two more months following the marathon, so there is still time. All proceeds go towards diabetes research, education and advocacy. Tax receipts are issued for donations of $15 or more.

And... relax
What happens now? I dunno. For now, I'm just gonna bask in the glory that is finally finishing number five. I have slayed the proverbial dragon. That's good enough for me.

Chillin' with John Stanton from the
Running Room post-marathon. No big.


  1. You have warrior blood Angie, what a journey!

  2. Way to go Angie, what a harrowing tale, so pleased that you were able to complete #5 at home. How awesome for your Matt to finish the remainder of the race with you, good partners make life better.

  3. Brought me to tears! Takes guts chick (and an awesome husband!). You got plenty of that. Inspiring stuff.