Keeping the Pace

As far back as when I was ten I remember loving Billy Joel. My first 45 was SOS Take Your Time (Do It Right), but my second 45 was Billy Joel It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me*. When I first heard the song Keeping the Faith I had no idea what that idiom meant and to my ken had never heard it prior to the song. So, probably my stupidest mondegreen to date is that I thought the song was Keeping the Pace. I say it is my stupidest because by that point it was on MTV and I probably had it on 8-track or cassette** and though I could read the name of the song I held my belief that it was Keeping the Pace for way longer than a smart girl should.

This weekend I had the wonderful experience of actually keeping the pace. I am a member of Team Red Lizard. They are a running group in Portland and they pace the Portland Marathon. I joined the team this past March. About a month ago, on the message boards was a notice that they were looking for pacers for the Rock & Roll half marathon. That I had not successfully completed a half marathon since my ACL surgery did not at all prevent me from signing up as a pacer. Also, I selected a time that was much slower than I normally run at, 2 hours 30 minutes finish.

Up to the race Andrew and I were training. I was steadily increasing my long runs and achieved a 10.5 miler. The problem was, that every time I ran my calves would get really painful — for days. I have switched to a the New Balance zero rise shoe (excuse the following geekery) – this means there is no heel support. Prior to these shoes I had switched from an 8mm rise to a 4mm rise and was already getting calf/Achilles pain. The pain is from changing your foot strike and will eventually lessen and go away, but the first many miles, there will be pain. I knew then that the solution was to go all the way all at once. And, hey, why not change your running shoes two weeks before a race?

The day before the race I had to man the Team Red Lizard running fair booth. I sat there and answered many questions about pacing that I mostly made up the answers to because I had never paced anyone before. I chatted people up about their goal times and encouraged them in their pursuit of running. Then I strolled around the fair. I came upon the CEP booth. I have heard a lot about compression sleeves/socks and have seen a lot of people wearing them, but I had no idea what they are for. Apparently, compression allows your muscles to relax and more blood to flow to them so that you can run longer or heal faster. Compression is the C in RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). Recently I’ve been reading about whether or not icing is truly helpful for long term injuries and while I haven’t found significant evidence that it is, it seems compression is quite helpful. So, I bought a pair of compression sleeves for my calves.

I did not wear them for the race. While I have no qualms about getting new shoes two weeks prior to a race, I’d had time to break them in a bit. But, I had no idea how I’d run in compression sleeves. The whole experience of pacing made me quite nervous. It’s one thing if I fail during a race that I want to do well in; but, to fail when others are relying on me was untenable.

Luckily though, I did not fail. I did, however, manage to piss off my pacing partner; but, not until mile 12 of 13.1, so I consider that a win. She and I had different theories on pacing. Mine was to get the runners to the finish line around 2 hours 30 minutes and if we were a minute or two fast no harm – better than being too slow. Her’s was to direct me on how fast or slow I should be going.

Every. Thirty. Seconds.

I don’t really blame her though – her day job is data management, I am sure me being out of her margin of error was killing her. Eventually my inability to control my type-A personality shone through and I very impolitely told her to manage her own time and not mine. Boo. I could have handled that better, somehow (like, by blogging about it, for the world to see). Anyway, in all it was a lovely day AND the easiest half marathon I ever have run. Like, ever. Like, ever, ever.

I got home, showered, ate and passed out.

When I woke up, my calves were mooing. I could barely stretch and walking looked a bit more like bad modern dance from the 90’s. That’s when I remembered the compression. I put the sleeves on and waited for something to happen.

About twenty minutes later and for the next 4 hours I would tell anyone who would listen (or who had no choice but to listen because he is my boyfriend and wouldn’t want me to feel ignored or like he wanted to put me on mute because he’d learned that lesson when he muted me while we were on Skype one time while he was out of the country – no I have not forgotten that, but neither has he) how amazing these sleeves are. I mean, my calves still hurt, but not to the same extent. And I could flex my foot without pain.

Please know – I get no advertising dollars for any of this. I am but a tiny blog. But, if you want to do your legs a favor, go get some CEP compression socks or sleeves. They are worth it!

* Billy Joel’s B-Side was Through the Long Night (not his best work, to say the least). SOS cleverly put the same song on the B-Side as their A-Side recognizing and embracing their own destiny as a one-hit wonder.

** Yes, I am old enough to have had a record player and 45’s and 78’s and we had an 8-track player in my dad’s car and a stereo at home with an 8-track and dual cassette deck (fancy times).


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