Dave – Wings for Life World Run, a great race with a painful end

#iRunArmy group photo before the start of the race
#iRunArmy group photo before the start of the race

This weekend I ran in the Wings For Life World Run, a race where 100% of the proceeds goes towards Spinal Cord Research sponsored by Red Bull. It’s a unique race that starts at the same time in 34 countries, in 35 locations (US has Florida and California) where the finish line moves. A catcher car leaves 30 minutes after you start at just over 9 mph and every 30 minutes speeds up a little. Your goal is to run as far as you can before the car passes you and that’s the end of your race. Think about it, this race is about being out on the course the longest you can where every other race is about finishing as quickly as you can.

Wings for Life Largest US Team
Hector and team iRun Army, the largest in the US

Hector Arana, one of the owners of iRun Company here in Florida has become a global ambassador for this race and so when he started to promote it I decided I would stay in town and race this. He’s been so passionate about it, not just wanting to be one of the largest teams in the world, but uniting all the running groups in Miami to participate for the benefit of the cause. It’s been such a huge movement and everyone’s rallied around the cause and I’ve been to 4 different run groups to help promote this, iRun, Fit2Run, South Beach Track Club and Brickell Run Club and I’ve encouraged others to sign up and participate.

I’ve been training hard, not specifically for this race but making sure that my training and race calendar doesn’t conflict with this. With my hip issues I can probably only do about 1 race a month so while my main goal was to find a Boston qualifying marathon I haven’t scheduled one yet as I wanted to do well in this. I set myself a goal of 22 – 24 miles.

Race week came and I started with an 18 mile easy run keeping my heart rate in Zone 2 to help train my body to burn fat rather than rely on glucose for energy, I probably haven’t done enough of this yet but I think it makes sense and something I will continue to pursue. The following day I met our Clever Training run club for our usual weekly fun mock triathlon. Monday came and I teach a boot camp for people from work and this week I concentrated on 4 key exercises, over 200 push-ups, 60 pull-ups, 320 squats and 8 minutes of planks with some lunges thrown in for fun. Following that I head to iRun for interval training. This week it was 8×800’s with a slight progression, the last 2 I ran really hard at the front of the group. It was weird, Evan asked me before we started how did I feel tonight and I think it was the first time since November I felt good and didn’t have any issues with my hip, foot or adducter. Maybe that was a mistake as although Monday didn’t hurt it caught up to me on Tuesday. I met Omar and Christina for our usual run before joining the Baptist Health run club in Brickell and we started off in the rain with an 8 miles progression run and then slowed down for the last 3 miles. My hip started complaining around mile 3 but despite the pain I pushed through and finished it. Wednesday I usually take a group from work for a run, the weather was storming and didn’t look great I used it as a reason to cancel the run. I think secretly I was tired and knew my hip needed the rest. Thursday I went to the iRun group for their weekly run but kept it to just over 9 miles rather than the usual 11 and kept most of it slow. Friday and Saturday I just rested, did some light stretching in the gym and a few laps in the pool.

Saturday evening I couldn’t sleep that well, I think I’m always a little excited and nervous about the race. I set myself high goals and don’t want to let others or myself down. We arrived in Sunrise for the start of the race and had our iRun group photo taken for being the largest team in the US and 12th largest in the word with 190 registered. I decided that I was going to go out and try to run a marathon which required a 7:10 minute per mile pace. I didn’t want to fall short and wished I had gone faster so I decided to give it a go and run solo towards the front. With my hip it’s hard to do any tempo training or speed work so I wasn’t sure how it would go.

Wings for Life Start
Race start, that’s me shirtless in 4th position

The gun went off and I was at the front as we headed out, my pace around 7 minute/mile but it felt comfortable, fitness wise I was ready and just hoped my hip was going to hold up. It was warm but lower humidity and heat than normal for Miami at this time of the year. My cadence was high in the 190’s and I was breathing well. The first 3 miles went well but I could feel my hip starting to complain, nothing serious at this time but not good when you still have 20+ miles ahead of you. I thought about slowing down but I had a goal so continued to push. As each mile passed I kept the pace but the pain was intensifying but still tolerable as I tried to focus on my form and keeping my cadence high to minimize the load on my hip. I wasn’t 10K into the race and I was starting to have doubts about it and thinking about stopping and sitting down and waiting for the bus to pick me up, but as a runner you know you have to push through the mental challenges and continue which is what I did. There were several more times before mile 10 where I thought about quitting but I had committed to 22 – 24 miles so that’s what helped me push on. The first 8 miles was around a 7 minute pace and the next 2 had slowed to a 7:10 pace but I felt my hip more with every step and wasn’t able to push off much on my left leg so my pace continued to slow. I don’t think I was overly tired, more uncomfortable and having to concentrate harder on my form.

The next 6 miles or so saw the pain increase a little but I kept a group of about 6 people ahead of me in striking distance and still had plans on closing them down and passing them in the later stages of the race when the catcher car was getting closer. As the miles went by I passed a few of those runners and was still the same distance behind the others, I still felt confident if I could keep moving. I had been taking a drink a most aid stations, a little water, a little Gatorade or Red Bull but just drinking a little. I’m still not sure how much to drink and didn’t want to feel bloated. The weather had started to get warmer and I was also pouring half the water over my head. I had my first Gu at mile 13 and my next planned for mile 18.

My cadence falling off as my hamstring started to complain as well as my hip
My cadence falling off as my hamstring started to complain as well as my hip

Mile 17 started and I could feel my left hamstring starting to feel tight, I’m guessing it was starting to cramp and my pace slowed down to 7:50 and now I was being passed by a couple of runners behind me. I tried to pick up the pace but now my right leg wasn’t responding and it felt like I was about to pull my hamstring muscle when I tried to kick harder. I think at this point my mind had completely gone from trying to maintain my form to just moving one leg in front of the other, now it was just a case of pushing on to reach my minimum goal of 22 miles. I knew by know that 26.2 was out of reach and hoped I could hit 23. My cadence started to slow and I was just running. The next 3 miles were a blur, I don’t think I was focused on lap time or anything and then all of a sudden approaching mile 20 I heard people behind me and then starting to pass me. The first was another iRun person who then stopped at the mile 20 aid station and then I was passed by Gil Gian and Alyson Venti also with the iRun team, I looked back and could see others. I snapped out of my sleep run and tried to kick hard to keep up with them but my hamstring immediately let me know who was boss and I had to just maintain the pace 8 minute pace. As I ran along route 27 I saw the catcher car coming up the path I had just left and knew it wouldn’t be long, they were closing on several other iRun members I run with Vincent, Hector and Omar. I could see an aid station ahead and thought about getting a drink and just waiting for the car to pass me by but knew it was a race around the world and somewhere there would be another person in the 55 – 59 age group running and maybe these next few steps were going to be difference in my age group place. I continued but had the same thoughts at the next aid station but kept going. Now the car was closing in and I dug a little deeper to get those extra steps in.

As the catcher car passed me I stopped, slumped over and now my body quickly shuts down as it does at the end of every race. I push my body and hip way past the comfort zone and as soon as I stop my brain takes over shuts my body down and the pain really kicks in. I could hardly stand upright or even walk when the bus came. I somehow managed to climb up the steps and was greeted by cheers from many of the iRun runners on the coach but I couldn’t take it in and had to slump on the first open seat. Now my legs started to severely cramp and my hip was in pain and so uncomfortable that I just didn’t know what to do. Every time I tried to adjust to make my hip feel better the cramping intensified, there was no easy way out of this. Omar sat with me and helped keep my legs straight while we headed back to the start line. When we arrived I went to the medic tent as I was probably dehydrated and needed to get some fluids in me. I drank a Gatorade, a bottle of water, had a couple of bananas and some oranges and I started to come around and started to walk. I had a bad limp as my hip was still very sore but walking helps it more than just staying still. I had a couple of beers but couldn’t eat. Allison found me and walked up and down with me as many others offered their support.

Wings for Life Post Race
iRun Army celebrating after the race, 2nd fastest team in the world

The ride back to Miami was uncomfortable as I couldn’t find a position that relieved the pain. I then drove back to my apartment and jumped in the hot tub and then the pool. I got in bed and tried to sleep as I was so tired but the pain was too much and I couldn’t find a position I could lie in, eventually I had to get up to move around to make it easier. My main goal prior to the race was still to find a marathon to qualify for Boston but now I was having doubts about that and also my ultras for the rest of the year. I must admit the idea of retiring from running crossed my mind several times, only 5 years into running and having to take a year off already with injury I wasn’t sure I could go through this pain again. I took some ibuprofen, which I never do, and it helped a little but the pain continued through the day and into the evening waking up every couple of hours. Today at work it was still painful and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the boot camp, running was already out of the question.  As I lie in bed here writing this report I am starting to feel a little better and will rest as much as I can this week before starting to run. Hopefully the negative thoughts will leave quickly and I will be looking forward to my next challenge but right now I’m just hoping for a comfortable night’s sleep, enjoying a couple of Margaritas to help that.

Wings for Life Top 5 Distance
iRun Army #5 Team in the World

I enjoyed the race, the completion and the preparation and hopefully will return for next year. I finished in 13th position in our location with a distance of 23.29 miles in 2 hours 52 minutes, an average of 7:28 minute/mile pace. I was 940th globally and 4th in my age group. The iRun team was the 5th in terms of distance with almost 2,000 miles and also the second fastest team globally. A great success for the cause, for Hector and the iRun Army. Congrats to Bryan Huberty with iRun for his 2nd place finish in Sunrise with over 34 miles.

So for all those with hip replacements or thinking about it, yes you can still run competitively after the operation. No you won’t be able to do everything that you could before or that you want to. I wish I could run more races, do more tempo runs or speed work but you have to find where your limits are and work within them. Yes you will have moments of doubt along the journey but if you keep a positive mindset and set realistic goals you will get through the challenge. Don’t take the easy option and conventional wisdom, set new boundaries and explore, be a Trublmaica.

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