Monday, December 23, 2013

Sidelined again and a yearly wrap up

It is a couple days before Christmas, which means, less than a week until the year of the half marathons ends. I set many goals. The first being to run a half marathon last January. From there, I set a goal of running 13 half marathons this year, because how cool would it be to run 13 races of a 13.1 distance in 2013?

And now that the year is up, although I backed out of the last 2 half marathons that I had purchased entry into for December, I can see that this year has been a successful first full year as a runner.

Not only did I meet and surpass my goal of 13 half marathons by completing SIXTEEN of them (in SIX different states, no less), I also was able to complete ONE 10-miler race, SEVEN obstacle course races at various distances, and ONE 5K.

That's HUGE!

But my heart still breaks when I think about having to withdraw from the last two races of this season (the Palm Beaches Half Marathon, and the Live Ultimate South Beach Half Marathon). I feel like a failure for not starting those races because I have always reminded myself during races that dead last place is better than not finishing, which is better than not even starting. In my mind, not even starting is one of the worst things that I could possibly do as a runner. I'm ok with other people not starting races, but for me, that is just unacceptable.

Even though I have good reason, and logically I know it was a wise decision (something I probably should have considered before December), I struggle with feeling like a failure.

Where we left off in this blog, I was talking about the Space Coast half marathon, and the incredible pain I felt in my right foot. Up until that point, I had been seeing an orthopedic specialist to treat my foot and closely following his orders. I wore a boot. I stayed off of it when he told me to. I took my medications religiously. I got back into walking and then running just like he had suggested. And I believed him.

I returned to the doctor multiple times for follow-ups, and to see if I was a candidate for cortisone shots (which he told me wouldn't be useful). And finally, back in early November, I accepted what he said, and became resigned to the fact that he thought that the swelling had gone down and this was as good as it would get and I was just in pain from trying to get back out there and on it again.

But I still noticed things. Like the fact that when I took photos of my feet, I could clearly see that the swelling was not gone. The fact that I couldn't weight-bear for much more than a few minutes without needing to sit. The fact that I hurt WAY more as the day progressed, rather than hurting more in the morning (as is customary with residual plantar fasciitis as he claimed I had). And the fact that at random times I was still getting shooting pains through both my heel and the outside of my ankle.

I wanted SO badly to be fixed, that I believed everything I was told. Even when people near and dear to me pushed me to get a second opinion. Part of that (I am sure) was pure stubbornness... but the larger part of that was that I was trusting my doctor. He, after all, is an expert. He's supposed to know things. We are supposed to trust our doctors.

But after Space Coast, I knew that I needed to do something different. Whereas I had been feeling as if I had been getting better for awhile, the day before the half marathon, I just couldn't deny that I was actually getting worse. I had spent so much time putting on a happy face, trying to be strong (like the beast that I really wanted to be), and hiding what was really going on... and finally it was too much to hide. Husbeast noticed. Two of my dear running friends noticed. And they staged (what I can only describe as) and intervention. It was time for a second opinion. With a doctor that specializes in feet.

I went for the appt, he did xrays and an ultrasound, and he immediately put me in a much larger and much more archaically torturous boot. I was under strict orders to stay off of it until I could get a new MRI.

The MRI and followup were the next week, and because my dad was in town (and had also been pushing for me to get a second opinion), like I was a six year old with a sore throat, he marched me right into the appt, and waited for the verdict (poised to take notes to relay back to Husbeast).

And whereas there had been a laundry list of problems evident on the last MRI, the good news was that the list was shorter... Only TWO main problems.

The sheaths around the fascia on the inside of my heel were still incredibly inflamed, and there is a huge pocket of inflammation in the outside of my ankle between the bones. Two separate, but perhaps related injuries.

The good news is, that with the assistance of the ultrasound machine, he could give me the cortisone injections that I had so desperately wanted months ago. This was absolutely a nightmare, and I am getting flashbacks just thinking of it so I wont go there in this post, but I got the shots.

And then I went right back into the boot. And have been ordered to stay off of it until my followup on December 27th. I asked if he thought I would be able to be out of the boot by the end of the month because I had some training to get in before my first full marathon in January. He smiled sadly at me and said that he can't know until we get there. But he said that while his body language clearly told me no.

So there we have it. Why I have been so sad the past few weeks. Not only have I been struggling with this injury while being confined to the couch or a chair, but I have been fighting my own demons. I had a goal to do this full marathon, and now I can't. Even when I was mediocre about WANTING to do this race, I had a goal, and I don't take that lightly. What's more, I roped a dear friend into doing it with me when she clearly didn't want to do it in the first place. And now I can't. It's not even that I want to do it. But I made a commitment to her. And I don't take commitments lightly.

So there you have it. Me, not just feeling like a failure to myself, but what's worse, feeling like I have let down other people in the process too. I don't share that because I need a pep talk or anything. I don't need people to lift me up and make me feel better. I feel like crap. And I deserve to feel like crap.

The silver lining to it all though, is that if I don't do the marathon, that gives me more time to heal, which will allow me to do the next big thing. Another 5 races in 5 days in 5 states. Don't worry though, I have time to heal, that isn't for months and months yet. And when I'm back in the game, I will be better than ever. I've come so far already in this journey, I can get my head (AND my body) back in the game. Just looking at my wrist tells me so.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Space Coast Half Marathon - December 1, 2013

I  was really excited about the Space Coast Half Marathon. It had been a few weeks since I had been able to share a running trip with my dear friends Brina and Tracy, and it was a great opportunity to see many of my other running friends from afar. On top of that, Space Coast Half marathon has an awesome reputation for a gorgeous course, excellent support, an awesome medal, and of course, the Space Coast theme. Because the race was about 4 hours away from home, we decided to make a mini-vacation of it. Hus-beast and I stayed together at one hotel in Cocoa Beach, while Brina and Tracy shared a room at one of the host hotels.

But being at different hotels didn't really mean all that much, we still spent most of the weekend together enjoying the sights and sharing laughter. After picking up our race packets at Kennedy Space Center, the four of us purchased tickets to the park and wandered around for awhile. I was so excited to be there, but I was in a lot of pain in my right foot.

For months, as I had been battling this chronic injury, I had done really well at masking my pain and not letting anyone know how bad it was. I had become resigned to the fact that the doctor was doing everything he could to help me get better, and that there would just be residual pain leftover. I wore my boot because I knew that I would be spending extra time on my feet (although the doctor told me that I wouldn't need to wear it anymore). I was sore, and hurting, and every step was torturous. So although there we were seeing the most phenomenal exhibit on the space shuttle Atlantis (and actually seeing it up close), my heart wasn't into it, and I really just wanted to go back to the hotel and cry. Eventually, when the 3 of them teamed up on me to tell me for the 6574654563874845347th time that I needed to go to a new doctor for a second opinion, I broke. I couldn't deny it any longer. I knew there was a problem.

The next morning, I was surprised to get out of bed and have the pain be gone. I knew I was taking a chance in running although I was already having some significant foot pain, but I also knew that if necessary, I would hold back a bit and just enjoy the ride. It was cooler than I had hoped it would be, and I knew that this might make for good running conditions. But it was also misty and foggy, leaving a sheen of oil and slipperiness on the pavement which I was concerned about. Yes... I would take it very slow and steady. I asked Brina to run her own race, instead of slowing down to keep me company (I am thinking she met a PR too, but I could be wrong).

The course was straightforward and lived up to all expectations. The race started in the Village of Cocoa Beach, and headed south through an absolutely gorgeous residential area, flanked on the easy by the intercoastal waterway, and on the west by what I can only imagine was multi-million dollar beach mansions... but not the kind of multi-million dollar mansions we see in South Florida, more of what I would think of when I consider other parts of the east coast... more rustic in a way. If that even makes sense.

There were a lot of people. With a race of over 3k half marathoners, an equal number of full marathoners, and various speeds, there were always people to pace with and chat with. Although the ground was slick, I was making good time. After the pain from the day before, I had trouble putting my heart into this race and really wanting to be there in the moment, but by mile 3 I got there. Using the skills that I had developed the past few months with quickening my steps but shortening my stride, I seemed to be doing fairly well pace wise. But because this was a shared course between the full and half, and because the half was actually the second portion of the full, the course was open to participants for a full 8 hours, I had no real need to push for a good time.

And that was good, because by the time I hit mile 9, the pain was coming on in fits and starts. Only now, I was having difficulty with my lower back. and somewhere around mile 10 I realized that I was having trouble holding my head up. I slowed to a walk, and if you looked at me, you could probably tell something was wrong. While I was moving in a full upright position, I couldn't keep my head from rolling back. I spend the next 4 miles (literally) looking down my nose at the course.

Whereas I had spend the first 9 miles at a pace that would have ushered me into a personal best by at least 10 minutes, the last 4 miles had me struggling to even force one foot in front of the other. I was so out of it and so exhausted, unlike in other races from this year where I can remember every moment of coming into the chute and crossing the finishline, I have absolutely no memories of this.

I distinctly remember crouching down to let a little girl put my medal around my neck, standing up and then having the medical team pulling me out of a box of towels at the finish line. Apparently after all that movement, I must have crouched and stood too quickly and I keeled right into a box of finisher's towels! At least it was a soft place to land, right?

Not a PR, but not far off my PR, so I call it a successful race.

I met up with the rest of the group somewhere in the post race area, had a beer, had some pancakes and we headed back to our hotels to clean up. I felt good. But would I be ready to do it all again the following weekend at the Palm Beaches Half Marathon?

Gun: 3:20:30
Pace: 15:19/mile
Female 30-34: 215/258
Gender: 1634-2045
OA: 2457

That afternoon, I finally lost my first toenail (which had given me trouble in Sept but never fell off). I think I can officially call myself a runner now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

30 Days of Thankful

This month on various social media, we have seen people count the month off with 30 things they are thankful for. It is the month of thanksgiving, afterall... the month that really kicks off the holiday season (though I DID see holiday decorations up in a local town before Halloween, and some stores had their Christmas displays out since Mid-September, which I abhor, by the way).

But for me, I chose to do the 30 days of thankful posts to kickstart my positive attitude. Throughout my life I have heard people say that I am a negative nelly... and while I am not sure that is entirely true, I do recognize that I tend to be a half-full kind of glass person, a worry wart, and very rarely optimistic when it comes to my own situations. With others and helping them through tough times, I tend to be really optimistic, but for myself I rarely offer myself that courtesy.

So for me, this month has been about looking around and recognizing the small things that I really can be thankful. And in thinking of all those smaller things... the things I often take for granted... I was able to see just how amazing my life really is, and see just how great I have it. 

Though not running related (and this blog is supposed to only be about my running experiences and less of a personal journal), I chose to share them here, to keep them all compiled in one place to remind myself of this experience.
  • Day 1: I am thankful for my amazing husband and the roof he has put over our head and the food he puts on the table.
  • Day 2: and I am thankful for my awesome family who supported us through a difficult day today. tomorrow will be better.
  • Day 3: I am thankful for the ability to run out at the beach and enjoy another sunrise. Though still much more overweight than I would like to be, I am thankful for being healthier than I ever have before.
  • Day 4: Today I am thankful for the little joys of life... pumpkin spice creamer, bright sunshine, and two awesome (not-so-puppy) puppies who are always wanting to shadow me.
  • Day 5: Today I am incredibly thankful for every one of life's experiences (good AND bad) which have been woven together to make me the person that I am today. It hasn't always been easy, but I am aware that I might not be as compassionate, as loving, as committed, or as understanding without all of the hard times. It takes a horrible storm to truly appreciate the sun.
  • Day 6: Today, I am thankful for quiet nights at home with the husband sharing a bottle of wine. Who says you have to always be out on the town partying until 3am to have a good time? sometimes watching TV and going to bed by 10 is where its at. 
  • Day 7: I am thankful for the FUTURE. we can't do anything about the past, but we can live for the future... I am thankful for the opportunity to make my future the priority. This isn't about anyone else, this is about me and aiming to be the best person that I can possibly be.
  • Day 8: Thankful for deadlines and how having them can motivate my to complete tasks.
  • Day 9: I am thankful for my awesome part time gig at the stadium, even if it means eating a cheese quesadilla (redundant much) from Taco Bell on the way home and knowing i now have only 4 hours to sleep before tomorrow's half marathon.
  • Day 10: I am thankful for the number 16 (because seriously? did I really do 16 miles today???), tylenol and painkillers (because seriously? I really did 16 miles today), and aloe vera gel (because that 16 miles was in some serious sun and my skin got fried), and for celebratory margaritas with my dear friend Seth (because 16 miles!).
  • Day 11: I am thankful for deluxe pedicures, complete with cooling gel, hot towels and paraffin wax. 'nuff said.
  • Day 12: I am thankful today for amazing friends (you know who you are), and motivating me to become the best i can possibly be. thank you. and I love you all.
  • Day 13: I am thankful for my grandmother and for birthdays... and for being able to celebrate my grandmother's 87th birthday with her tonight. To one more awesome year... 
  • Day 14: I am thankful for the ability to pursue my advanced education and to contribute to the forward thought with innovative research plans. 
  • Day 15: I am thankful for having the opportunity for girls night in with the lovely Caitlin and sweet Vikki. Thanks for the great conversation and the dinner. you are the best! ....
  • I am also thankful for the people that can make this happen:
  •  Day 16: I am thankful to have the opportunity to be so thankful and to still be able to see the good in the world though I am constantly bombarded by intolerance and hatred in my professional life.
  •  Day 17: I am incredibly thankful that 1 year ago today, I met one of the most beautiful, compassionate, inspirational, and socially conscientious women that I know. She didn't much register as a potential friend the day I met her, but Brina, one year later and you are one of my best friends in the world and I am forever thankful for everything you have contributed toward making me a better person.
  • Day 18: I am thankful for sweet puppies, even jenny... and even when she is sick and turns her nose up at anything having to do with me.
  • Day 19: after all of the medical issues that came up this year, I am SO thankful for my husband's ability to provide me with the "privilege" of medical insurance. Tomorrow is a return to the cardiologist for my almost 6 month followup... and I am thankful we have gotten my heart rate and BP issues under control.
  • Day 20: Today I am thankful for finally making progress again and not being so lost and off the beaten path in dissertation land. I am also hopeful that my cohorts in the candidate stage who may be feeling lost find their path soon.
  • Day 21: I am thankful for the sound of the rain on the tin porch roof. Not only is the sound soothing but it is a reminder of all the hard work that Scrubby puts in so that we can have this roof over our head while I pursue my edumacation.
  • Day 22: Although I am thankful to have the freedoms that living in this country affords me, today I remain mindful that there is not true equality in this country and that we must continue to fight this injustice.
  • Day 23: thankful for opportunities and options. Sometimes we think that we are without them, but we ALWAYS have options. Life is full of decisions to be made and options to be chosen.
  • Day 24: Today I am thankful for lazy days spent fulfilling no commitments and owing nothing except to myself and my husband. Today I am thankful for the chance to recharge my batteries to approach the new week head on!
  • Day 25: I am thankful for knowing that the next steps of my dissertation are underway and this makes me feel like I am reignited again.
  • Day 26: Day 26: I am thankful for nice long pedicures and the foot massage that accompanies them. what a great way to relieve stress!
  • Day 27: Tonight I am incredibly thankful for being provided written feedback on my proposal from one of my committee members. This way, she is allowing me adequate time to prepare for the questions that she will want to be addressing during my proposal defense NEXT FRIDAY. now... because I've never been in this situation before... does this mean I am to modify my proposal to also address the issues that she brought to light?
  • Day 28: I am thankful for the abundance of food on the table and not going to bed hungry. I am also thankful for having the opportunity to serve others so that they do not go to bed hungry tonight either.
  • Day 29: I am thankful for the little things like a quiet house first thing in the morning, and a warm cup of coffee.
  • Day 30: I am thankful for the amazing month of November and all the awesome things I was reminded that I am so fortunate to have. Who knows? Why limit my thankfulness and recognition of the little things just to the month of November. It certainly helps keep the messiness of life in perspective and allows me to see light where otherwise I may have only focused on the darkness.