I ran the 20 Mile Drop on Sunday with a massive 23-minute PR. I’ve spent the last two days picking apart, replaying, and analyzing my performance. I can divide it into three main parts: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good: I managed a 23-minute PR. If one of my clients pulled a 23-minute PR, I would be jumping up and down and screaming with excitement for them. I’m proud as hell but…
The bad: my IT bands got the better of me. I’m extremely disappointed/irritated/angry — basically all the feels. Which leads me to…
The ugly: mile 19 was the worst. There were about three steps in a row where I felt my IT band could bring me to a grinding halt any time. Mentally I was getting pissed. I pushed hard as hell during that last mile to get done and off the course.
That’s the short of it. And now I’ll give you the longer, more introspective version. But first, the race review!
20 Mile Drop Race Review
I didn’t drive to the race this year so I can’t say much about parking, but the first year I ran it, parking was smooth and easy. I imagine it was the same this year for my friend, Julie. Ordinarily, you park and then hop on a bus to drive to the starting line. This year Julie dropped me off at the starting line and then drove to the finish so she could catch her bus about 40 minutes after I was dropped off. (She ran the 10-miler which started an hour later.)
The race shirt was a big improvement this year over two years ago, and the hardware is pretty sick. I’m not one for race medals but I can appreciate a unique design and this one fits the bill. The bus moves!
There is literally no crowd support on course for the 20 Mile Drop save for the supportive and plentiful aid stations. If crowd support is your thing, this race is not for you. But if you enjoy a quiet run like I do, this is likely a good fit.
The course was different this year, and definitely for the better. The course takes advantage of two very nice park systems in the area, plus winds through a golf course community with beautiful homes. It’s peaceful and quiet for the most part. There are a couple high traffic areas but the officers and course marshals were extremely helpful. The finish area was not my favorite, but I’ll expand on why below.
The post race atmosphere is super fun for this race. Pancakes, a fire on the beach, music, coffee, hot chocolate, and all the usual post-race fare. The core community that runs the Greater Cleveland XC and Lake Health Running Series races is present at almost all the races so it’s easy to spot friendly faces and fellow runners, which makes it a very comfortable, relaxed post-race atmosphere. This is by far one of my favorite aspects of the Lake Health Running Series races.
I don’t normally add anything about the weather but I decided I need to going forward with my race recaps. The weather was perfect for me. It was chilly to start, around 38˚F or so, but by the time we were running the sun was up and the temperature climbed. I wore capris, a t-shirt, and arm sleeves and felt I was perfectly dressed. By the time I finished, the temperature was around 55˚F or so with brilliant sunshine.
20 Mile Drop Race Recap
First, I want to thank my team for getting me to the starting line uninjured and well-trained. This includes my coach, Coach Mark, along with my chiropractor, Dr. Keyes. My husband gets the biggest shout out, though, because he’s the one who puts up with my endless miles and hours of training. He takes good care of me and I definitely don’t give him enough credit.
I also want to thank my “team” of training buddies. Yes, we were all training for different races and distances over the last few months but we were all there for one another through training — and it helped immensely. I should also give honorable mention to my dog, Trixie, for accompanying me through many weekday miles. We had a blast training together.
Now onto my recap. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go as well as planned.
In the days leading up to the race I was hesitant and nervous about my IT bands. My left knee felt a little “off” and I wasn’t sure why. I went to see Dr. Keyes on the Friday before the race and had him work on both my IT bands. I’m not sure if this was a wise decision but it’s something I’m going to have to really think about going forward.
There was one thing I wasn’t going to do this race and it’s going to sound insane when I tell you what it is but it was a pretty big factor in my time for the 2015 race. I refused to use a bathroom stop this year. In 2015, I got hung up at the first potty stop because it was the only one within the first 7 miles. I wasted about 15 minutes waiting for the bathroom and that was one mistake I was not going to make again. Therefore, I made sure to use the potties at the starting line a few times before the race started.
The first mile of the race is a run around a village square — twice. So I passed the potties at the starting line twice. The second time I came to them, I decided to run in quickly to avoid having to use one on-course. After I came out, I was almost dead last. No big deal to me since I was racing myself. Admittedly, it was pretty fun to pass so many people throughout the race. I’m a solid mid-packer but it made me feel faster. 🙂
Coincidentally, first restroom stop on the course also coincided with a water stop where one of my 5K runners was stationed. Thankfully I didn’t need to use the bathroom but I did stop to chat with her. It was nice to see a friendly face on the course and I knew I would see her again later around mile 18 or so.
I planned my run so for the first hour and a half I would listen to a podcast, and the second half of the race I would turn on some tunes. My plan worked extremely well. I had a very strong first half just listening to my podcast and enjoying the scenery. Everything was green, the temperature was just perfect (if not a little chilly), and I felt strong and steady.
At around mile 12 I started hurting. Not anywhere in particular, but everywhere. I was kind of done mentally. I texted my husband, took a pic and sent it to my friend Candice, and started a second podcast. Unfortunately when my mind began wandering about 15 minutes into the podcast, I knew it was time to listen to some tunes and regroup. I felt pretty great from then on until around mile 17.
At mile 17 it became a bit of a mental battle. There were a few busy street crossings and I had to keep pausing my music so I could hear directions from the police officers and course marshals. I had planned to pick up the pace for the last 3 miles and I was finding it difficult to do so with the on again/off again of the music and breaking concentration. I knew I would be seeing my 5K runner again soon which helped keep me on track. After I saw her and chatted for a minute, I pressed on, now heading into the homestretch.
Mile 19 was where the wheels really began to fall off. I was fine in terms of pacing, fueling, and hydrating. But my darn IT bands had been toying with me for miles and it finally came to a head. I could feel my left leg tighten up. It was remarkably reminiscent of my Cleveland Marathon experience in 2015. I felt like it could stop my race at any second. It was completely unnerving and really rattled me.
I refused to go down that road again. Whatever I did, either changed my pace or my gait, worked. My knee never locked up (thank GOD or this would be a much different recap) and I finally saw the race director, Geoff, up ahead. He’s usually strategically positioned near the finish line so I knew I was close. He high-fived me as I passed, I rounded the corner, and then I saw it — grass and uneven terrain. Noooooo!!! This was my worst nightmare. I had to drastically cut my speed heading into the finish area or risk a major IT band blow out. I was not willing to do that, for obvious reasons, so I slowly sauntered across the timing mats when I would have much preferred to sprint it in.
Finish time: 3:25:01
So, What Went Wrong?
I don’t know what went wrong. I was incredibly diligent with my strength training this training cycle. Those of you that have been following for me a while know this to be true. I have worked tirelessly on strengthening my hips and glutes, and I’ve been on top of my yoga which helps with my core and balance. I felt like I was a well-oiled machine going into the race. My pacing was a little erratic but all within the 9:30-10:30 range which is most definitely in my wheelhouse. I likely could have gone faster had it not been for the IT issues.
I’ve reached out to a couple other coaches to get some other ideas aside from mine and my own coaches’. So far I’ve heard suggestions on strengthening my hamstrings as well as it possibly having something to do with my taper. I’m unsure of my plans for a late spring/early summer full marathon at this point. I did a lot of thinking over my 20-mile trek this weekend and I just don’t know if it’s worth being injured.
When I finished my husband asked me, “could you have gone another 6 miles?” All things considered? Probably not. I don’t think I would want to if I’m being perfectly honest. Mentally I was fine. Pacing wise I was great. Everything felt strong. Except those IT bands…
I’m so thankful I got such a huge PR. I worked incredibly hard and though I knew a PR was a definite, I didn’t realize how big of a PR it would be. 23 minutes is nothing to scoff at. I’m very proud of myself. I felt like I had a strong race — I just wish it wasn’t sprinkled with doubt and IT band issues so I could truly relish in my accomplishment.
Right now I’m allowing myself to pick apart and analyze what could have gone wrong. I’m giving myself until the end of the week to determine next steps.
TALK TO ME!
Do you have experience with IT bands? What suggestions do you have that may help me keep this injury far, far away?
Have you ever run a really great race, only to question your performance as soon as you cross the finish line?
Linking up with My No-Guilt Life, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs for Tuesdays on the Run, and HoHo Runs and MissSippi Piddlin’ for the Weekly Wrap. Also linking up with Nicole, Annmarie, and Jen today for Wild Workout Wednesday!