I've got to admit it's getting better. A little better all the time.
To rehab my ankle (it's the top of my left foot, really, that is injured) I have been wearing a compression ace bandage around my foot and ankle and running slowly and carefully after taking a week off. I took the group at work out running this last week as usual, but I only did a mile, in 8:33. That seemed to go okay so next I did an evening club race, the Bluemont 5K , as a test.
It was still hot at 7 pm when the race started. This was the fourth year I have done this August race and it is always a challenge because of the heat. It was a good reason to go slow.
The race is an out-and-back on the W&OD Trail, a narrow 12 foot wide bike path that runs forty miles across Virginia following an old railroad bed. The trail was being shared with other runners and bicyclists during the race.
I stationed myself back in the pack at the start and went out slowly. To alleviate stress on my foot, I didn't actively work my way through the crowd in the beginning like I usually do with a lot of sideways running and shooting through gaps as they appear. After a half mile the race loosened up as the runners got strung out and I picked up my pace just a little and started to pick people off. I recognized many of these runners because they're always around me in club races since they go about my speed.
The first mile went by in 7:35. I was pleased with that since I was just shooting for eights. By the turnaround I had found my rhythm and was running easily. My foot felt fine within its tight compression bandage.
With a mile to go, a runner caught me and went by. She didn't put me away though and I caught her at the one hill on the course. I always tell runners that hills are your friends because if you can run hills, you can beat people by dropping them or catching them on the uphills.
I picked up my pace to match hers and we ran side by side for half a mile, chatting. It was fortuitous that she came by when she did because I was just starting to wilt.
I'm familiar with the course since I often run this part of the W&OD. Half a mile from the end I made my move. We were coming up on a teenager and I passed him. Startled out of his reverie, he immediately passed me back in a noisy rush. I stalked him for a moment and then smoothly went past him again. I steadily kept on with my increased pace and both runners let me go. I built up a 40 meter lead and then just hung on. The next fellow ahead was too far away to catch.
I came into sight of the finish clock while it was still showing 23 minutes and sprinted to get in under 24, finishing in 23:56 (7:42). This is a tough crowd I run with. I was in the bottom half of all finishers, and almost in the bottom quartile of the men (73%).
Not a bad comeback effort though. My foot is a little sore and my ankle feels a little weak but it doesn't hurt. I'm gonna go easy with it for the next coupla weeks.
What pleases me is that instead of just coasting in the last mile looking for the finish line, I worked at managing the end of the race. Although I was over a minute slower than last year, I beat my times for 2004 and 2005.
I want to thank my friend and sometimes running partner David for his generous support of my efforts to run Chicago as a charity fundraiser for A Running Start Foundation. He is battling injury issues himself (a broken patella) and I hope he comes back soon so we can run the hills of SE and PG County as we had planned to. (David in better times. He ran the first leg for my team The G-Force in the Washington's Birthday Marathon Relay on a brutally windy and cold day in February. Thanks largely to his efforts, we came in fourth in our division.)