Al Gordon Classic

algordon_001I wasn’t living in Brooklyn last year and missed this early season race. Now that I’ve switched boroughs, I want to take full advantage or races in my backyard. As one of only three NYRR races in Brooklyn, I was looking forward to putting myself to the test in a race scenario on a course that I train on regularly.

For a couple of weeks prior to the race I had been operating on a modified training program that involved stationary bike and weight training. Essentially, staying off my knee in order to help it recover from the latest bout of tendinitis  This was the first of the two races I would undertake on this new program and I was curious to see how it affected my performance.

The morning was crisp and a bit damp, but thankfully nowhere near as cold as the last race. Zhenya and I lined up at the start, relatively close to the front of the field. He was just out for a light run, with his mind on the Manhattan Marathon the next day. I was out to test my knee and try to set a fast time in a race situation, with the NYC Half looming a few weeks in the future. Today’s performance would be a good guide to how well I might fare at the longer distance.

As expected, the race started out fast. The narrow center almost demands as much, as any kind of lollygagging will result in the runner getting caught in a deep pack of runners. The first mile includes the hill to Grand Army Plaza, and I felt good as I powered up the incline. Interestingly, my knee was feeling fine and standing up well to the additional pressure of the hills. Passing the first mile marker at the crest of the hill, I was motoring along at a little over an eight minute mile pace. The next two miles were tailor made for a fast time, and true to form I clocked them at 7:35 and 7:07 respectively. The final mile is the real test, as the course swings around to the slight uphill drag on the west side of the park and then left onto center drive with the uphill finish. The early pace was starting to tell on my legs and lungs. Although I slowed somewhat, I still ran an 8:30 last mile for a 30:56 finish time – yet another personal best over the distance.

As with the Kleinerman 10K, there was an element of guilt after the race. Again, I felt like I had not entirely earned such a fast time but that feeling didn’t last as I basked in the glory of a stellar performance and a new fastest pace of 7:44 on my NYRR record. With three weeks to go between this race and the NYC Half, my performance gave me enough confidence to continue with the stationary bike regime and preserve the condition of my knee as much as possible.

Another Year, Same Old Injury

soreknee_001Ever since I ran (some of) the Manhattan Half-Marathon, my knee has been acting up again. Early last year I experienced some discomfort in and around my left patella that turned out to be a case of patellar tendonitis. I had to take some time off in between the NYC and Brooklyn Half-Marathon’s to rehab the knee and rebuild strength in the muscles around the patella. After the rest and rehab my knee stood up well to the punishment, including an 18 week marathon training program. However, following a layoff over the new year and a reduced workload in the through the first few weeks of the year, the problem has resurfaced with the same symptoms. I’ve tried short bursts of rest between training runs, but that doesn’t really help. My guess is that I need to take an extended break and seek some professional help otherwise I’ll be self-diagnosising and treating the same thing this time next year and probably making it a whole lot worse.

The timing of the injury is pretty bad (when are they ever convenient?), with two races coming up in the next month including the NYC Half-Marathon. The fact that this is the same injury as before worries me, and points to the slow erosion in health of my knee which could lead to more serious problems in the future. Despite the recurrence, I want to get through the next two races before taking any time off from running. I have a decent break after the NYC Half, with the Brooklyn Half coming eight weeks out. It’s probably not the best course of action, but I’m loathe to miss one of the biggest races of the year. With a modified training plan and a modest goal of two hours, I believe I can complete the race with minimal additional damage to the knee. I’ll work with my doctor to setup an MRI (last year’s x-ray showed nothing unusual) to see if we can get a better idea of what the problem is and how best to treat it.

Between now and the NYC Half, I’ll modify my training plan and stick to the stationary bicycle to maintain stamina and strength and minimize the impact effect on my knee. This is probably not a typical preparation for a half-marathon, but it will be interesting to see how it effects my performance on the day and how my fitness and stamina levels are after the decreased workload.