Austin 3M Half Marathon Recap: from blood clot to hospital stay to stress reaction to a 1:15:03 PR

The last few years have been anything but easy. I got a blood clot in late 2016. It turns out that I have really bad genes. I’m healthy. I run marathons. It was bizarre when I started to feel chest pain in November of 2016. It took me about a week until I thought I should go get checked out. Had I waited any longer, things could have been much worse. I stayed two full days at the hospital and was put on blood thinners for life. I didn’t know if I would be able to run and race at the same level. I started to get anxiety and panic attacks for the first time. I went back to urgent care and to the ER, telling doctors that I had another clot. I didn’t. I slowly was able to get back into running again. That gave me confidence to get my life back together.

I ended up running a 1:16:40 half marathon PR 6 months after the clot. I ran a 2:46 marathon PR another month after that. I was back. I ran 2:47 at the 2017 NYC Marathon. I ran 2:44 at CIM a month later. I then ran 2:44:51 at the infamous 2018 Boston Marathon. On a day that was not supposed to be good for running due to the rain, wind, and cold temperatures, I knocked it out of the park. I finished in the top-300 and ran pretty dang close to my PR on a trash day for it. I then focused training on the 2018 Chicago Marathon. I ran the race but it went really poorly. A couple weeks later, I found myself in the hospital again. My troponin levels were elevated, which usually indicates something is wrong with the heart, possibly even a heart attack. The doctor kept me for two days and ran a bunch of tests. They said I had viral myocarditis, or a virus that went to the heart. I kept going back to the doctor to retest my troponin levels. They remained elevated in December of 2018 and January 2019. I wasn’t allowed to run. I got a second opinion from a cardiologist in mid-January. She ruled out myocarditis, told me I looked good in the moment after more testing, and cleared me to run. I was confused. Whatever I thought I had, I might not have. I just had to move on not knowing what had happened. I got back into running and ended up with a 1:16:03 PR at the Indy Half Marathon in May of 2019.

I then focused my energies on the Berlin Marathon. I ramped up mileage higher than I had ever gone before. I was hitting triple digits. My workouts and long runs were the best I had ever done. I ran 22 miles with 16 of them at 5:59 pace. I was ready to run 2:36–2:38, until my foot started hurting two weeks out. I started to get a sharp pain on the top of my left foot and went straight to a podiatrist. We had an MRI done. It was a stress reaction. My podiatrist actually didn’t fight me too hard on my desire to still race. She put me in a walking boot. We did laser therapy. I didn’t run for 10 days. I flew to Berlin and did three short shakeout runs. I knew the 10 days off set me back. I knew I was still in pain, but I thought I could finish the race. I was a bit less ambitious than I had originally planned to be. I had wanted to go through halfway in 1:18. I hit halfway in 1:19:30. I was still on that pace through 23 miles. I then had some really bad cramping and got to the finish in 2:42. I wanted so much more but was happy given the circumstances.

I was supposed to run the Austin 3M Half Marathon in 2019 but the hospital stay caused me to defer to 2020. Because of my decision to run Berlin, I couldn’t run and had to wear a walking boot through all of October and into mid-November. I trained for 8 weeks before 3M. It wasn’t enough time for me to get back to pre-Berlin shape but I felt good enough about my progress to give it a go. I hit a few decent workouts- 3 x 2 miles in a 16 mile long run in the 5:50s, 12 x 1km on 1:00 rest at a 3:32 avg., 5 x 1200m at a 4:10 avg. I thought I could probably run 1:16 or 1:17. Something amazing happened in the days before the race. The weather Gods finally came through for me. Temperatures were to be in the low-40s, with low humidity, with the wind slightly helping, on a fast course. I put together a race plan that I thought could help me threaten my 1:16:03 PR. 3M is an, overall, downhill course. There are some climbs in the first two miles and then from 8.7–9.2 and 10.4–10.7. The last two miles are the fastest on the course. I planned to run really conservatively through the first 5k and then open it up from 3–8, navigate the two hills, and then finish strong. That’s exactly what I did.

I lined up towards the front of the race and when the gun went off a lot of people went flying past me. I told myself to let them go and to run my own race. I went through mile 1 in a little over 6:00. Marathon pace. I did an internal check and I felt good. I ran a little harder miles 2–4 and settled into high 5:40s/low 5:50s. I still felt good at 4 so decided to press on. I was slowly reeling in other runners the entire way. I was in 38th place at 5k. I would go on to finish a little bit better. I ran my next 5 miles at approximately 5:40 pace. I maintained my effort through the hills and came through 10 miles in 57:50. I did some quick math and knew that I was looking at a PR with some good miles left to run. Could I possibly break 1:15? I needed to run under 17:10 for the last 5k. Once I got over that last little rise from 10.4–10.7, I started to go for it. I ran a 5:35 mile to get me to 11. I knew I needed to run a little faster to get me out of the mid-1:15s and closer to 1:14:59. I ran a 5:30 mile 12, my fastest of the race. I was hammering for the finish line now. The last mile is super fast but there was still one more little incline that caught me off guard right around 20k. I got to the top of that climb and knew I had lost a little ground. I used the downhill on the other side to try to make some time back up. I made the final right hand turn and could see the finish line about 400m down the road. My watch read 1:13-high. I put my head down and tried to go. For a very forgiving course, the finish is on a slight uphill grade. I needed to run a 30 second last .1. I put my head down and didn’t look at my watch or the clock until I finished. I ran 1:15:03. I finished in 17th place overall.

I told myself that I’m not allowed to be hard on myself after this race. Would I like to have run 4 seconds faster? Of course. But I ran a PR by 1:00 on the nose. I only trained for 8 weeks and went from being out of shape to feeling strong in the last 5k of a half marathon. I executed my race plan to a T. My first 5k was at 5:58 pace. I averaged 5:43 pace for the entire thing, which means I only got faster and faster. My 5k splits went 18:31, 17:48, 17:43, 21:01 (15k to the finish, 17:14 5k pace). I’m really proud of the way that I ran. I ran the way that I wanted to. My first mile was over 6:00. My last mile was 5:30. This race is a testament to the work I put into training last fall. I knew I was capable of something like this but finally caught the right day for it. I wish I had had just a few more weeks to have gained more fitness prior to raceday. I think I could have possibly threatened 74:00 with just another couple weeks of preparation. But that was not the hand that I was dealt. With where I was 8 weeks ago and with my pre-race goals, I really delivered here. I would grade this an Exceeds Expectations for sure.

I ran my first half marathon in 2011 in 1:45. I’ve knocked 30 minutes off of that in the last 9 years. It has been some sort of ride for sure.

Next up is… nothing for a while. I’m going to really focus on recovery and then start training for some spring races. I need to navigate Chicago winter, which won’t be easy. My first spring race will be the Shamrock Shuffle 8k at the end of March. This is a big race in town. I would like to be fit for it and try to run south of 26:30. I then have the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and BAA 5k, before heading back to the Indy Half Marathon. I think 2020 is going to be my year. I’m still riding the high of 3M but am continuing to dream big. I have 15 weeks until Indy. My fitness is good now, but I have plenty of time to build upon it. I really think I can break 74:00. I am even thinking that 73:00 might be in play depending on how training goes. I would love to give 72:59 a go in early May. I’m not going to set any limits on myself and will just try to get better each day. Today, I’m a 1:15:03 guy. I’m really proud of that but I am also going to prepare to knock some serious time off of that come May.

Onwards!

#3MHalfMarathon #DownhillToDowntown #StopTheClot

Union/Political Organizer @SEIU. Alum @BarackObama. Chicago living. Blood clot survivor. 15x marathon finisher. Always looking for better.