Wednesday, March 26, 2014

a race of endurance, not of speed and fancy footwork.

As some of you may already know... I had a followup with my orthopedic. He has officially cleared me to return to normal running activities. He had a little hiccup when he said normal, and had to reiterate that it was running activities of normal people, not my own personal version of normal running activities. He said that the residual pain that I am having in my knee from the booted half marathon is from a pull in the connective tissue for the hamstrings, not the dreaded and much feared IT band issue that I have heard many runners complaining about. He smiled and agreed that I can run this coming weekend's Race for Women's Wellness half marathon.

And he laughed when I asked him about my upcoming 5 in 5 series (Riverboat by mainly marathons). He said of course, this is exactly why I said normal running activities. He cleared me, with the one caveat that I have to listen to my body.

That being said, I am under strict orders to do one of three things should I experience pain during my big trip. I must either put the boot on, sit out entirely, or go through the pain. I'll admit that going through the pain is not a viable option... and one that will get thrown off the table immediately under the orders to listen to my body. Because I know what kind of pain it can cause, I doubt I would ever jump to do another half marathon in a boot either. So, really, if I am experiencing pain on that trip, I am left with the only option to take a DNF.

After last month's booted half marathon where I almost got swept and then outright refused, I dont think the thought of a DNF scares me so much. particularly if it is by choice. I need to make the best decisions for my body. And one or two DNFs is better than another year of going through this foot fiasco. I don't want to think about DNFs though, I'm not planning for them, I don't think that I will need to take them, but it most certainly wont be the end of me if i have to take them.

Other than that, I've been busy lately. REALLY REALLY busy. If I haven't mentioned it yet before, I am in the dissertation stage of a Ph.D. program. I've been a busy little bee trying to make headway on that. I've experienced some setbacks there, but I use my running history as inspiration. I just remind myself that (although I wish it was) the dissertation is not a sprint to the finish, but rather an endurance race. And this endurance race has been akin to some of the really awful half marathons that I have barely been able to complete (see Albion MT and Singer Island). Sometimes it is too hard and I kick myself for ever taking this on. but I see the "medal" at the end of the road, and I know I have to put in the time and energy to get to where I want to be.

To blow off some steam, we got me a gym membership. If you recall, the membership process didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, but after another incident and speaking to the manager directly about my unhappiness with the way I was being treated by staff (as if my only goal is to lose weight, and being told that to do so I had to give up running altogether), it has been fairly painless emotionally ever since. I'd like to say that I am using the membership as much as I had intended, but work responsibilities and my dissertation work have interfered. I've used some of the cardio equipment like the treadmill (which I can't seem to overcome my fear of falling off the back of so I really try to avoid), the bikes and elliptical (which I love but find myself bored while using) and the rowing machine (how have I never used one before? these things are AWESOME)... but my real love at the gym is the organized classes like Zumba and Latin Heat. I can't seem to get as many classes in as I would like because my sleep cycle is off kilter again which makes it hard to make the early morning classes and my schedule has been crazy in the evenings with meetings. But I have somewhat managed to dovetail the missed classes with days that I am out there pounding the pavement.

Which brings me to my final thought of the day. I have new shoes. After completely wearing through the blown rubber treads on my hokas, I had to replace them. I bought 2 new pair and am breaking them in. But they feel funny. they are new, so obviously they have more bounce. they also have more traction and I find myself picking my feet up more (without tread, It was like i was trying to slide my feet along the ground to keep traction. is this possible?). Anyway, these seem to make my gait feel off a little. I've definitely got more spring in my step, which increases my pace during my run intervals.... but I am coping with not having the same kind of endurance I had before. Instead of 5 mile runs, I find myself to be cutting them shorter to 3. Granted, 3 miles on a run is far more than most American's will do, but still. I expect more from myself.

With a half marathon 3 days away, I definitely expect more from myself.

I know in a pinch, I can do it, and I definitely WANT to do it.

Enough rambling, its time to get out there and train.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Phoenix rising

In exactly one month, I will be at Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky, attempting the first half marathon in another 5 half marathons in 5 states, and 5 consecutive days series. Yikes.

When we first started planning this trip, I had come off of the infamous 6 in 6 in 6 race series in the great plains... I was nursing a very badly damaged heel and ankle... I was a bit down on myself for under-performing... and I was looking to do this 5x5x5 as a way to redeem myself.

Looking back on the past 6 months, I still have that desire to redeem myself and run all 5 in the Riverboat series (bringing us through Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana), but I also know more about my body and my injury than I did back then. Looking back, I am once again thinking I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this new series.

In the middle of February, after finishing the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge (a 10k followed by a half marathon the next day), I had a regularly scheduled followup with my podiatrist/foot surgeon, and I learned that the inflammation had reared its ugly head again. I was hobbling around for about a week, and then I was told that for any longer distances (even walking) I should be wearing my boot again. The Dr. told me that I could walk with the boot on for the 13.1 Miami Beach half marathon, and I did. I thought I would be swept the entire time, I had some serious pain coming in through the inside of my bad ankle, and I started to have some IT band issues with that same leg... probably from hefting my weight and the extra weight of the boot for over 13 miles, combined with a limp.

So now I sit, exactly one month out of what should be me going out there and proving something to myself, and not really sure what kind of training I will be able to complete before hand.

I was supposed to do a half this coming Saturday but I've already cancelled. I've got a few more weeks to really baby myself, but I've also got to get that training in to prepare for this trip. 2 weeks from Sat, I have another half (that I fully plan to participate in)... but it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time at the gym the next few weeks trying to pretend on the elliptical machines.

Its time to get down to business.

I definitely don't want to do it in a boot.

From the ashes, this phoenix needs to rise.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

13.1 Miami Beach - March 2, 2014

I came back from The Disney Glass Slipper Challenge/Princess half marathon weekend in pain. A lot of foot pain. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I visited my orthopedic surgeon for a follow up on my foot a couple of days later, he would tell me to lay off the running again. He said I could walk any distance as long as I was in the boot for more than just wandering around the house and running short errands... so I had a decision to make.

I already "paid" for my entry into the 13.1 Miami Beach race, it was money already lost (though I work promotions for US Road Sports in exchange for race entries, I still think of it as money). If I stayed home in the comfort of my own bed, I'd be out the money, and out whatever miles I might have otherwise gotten in for my yearly goal. If I strapped the boot on and went, I would surely be swept.

I struggled for days trying to decide what to do. I didn't want to be swept, because really, does anyone want to be swept from a race? I mean, really, its not on my top 10 list of things to want for when thinking about an upcoming race. The more I stewed on it, the more it terrified me.

But what did I really have to lose?

So early on March 2, my friends Tracey and Seth came to the house and picked me up, strapped into my lovely miserable walking boot... and one simple goal.

I would bust my butt to get going as quickly as possible, and I wouldn't be swept until mile 4, because surely getting swept was in my very near future. Tracey joked that she thought I would make it to mile marker 8 before being swept, but I knew better. There was no way in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks I would make it that far. My money was firmly on four miles.

We got to the starting line fairly quickly, and the race started without a hitch. I started a little further up in the corralling system than I had intended, and was hyper aware that I needed to pull to the side a bit to let faster runners past. And then I saw a familiar face around 1/2 mile. I knew Karen from a group on facebook, and she provided me an immediate distraction from my pain, and we quickly started banking miles. Before I knew it, we were giggling our way across the second bridge, approaching mile marker 4, and she was bidding farewell to me.

I took that opportunity to look behind me to see if there were still people there, and it looked like I was still in the clear for awhile before getting swept. Tracy's words rung in my head... Could I make it to 8 miles before being swept? There were still plenty of people behind me... And they didn't seem to be gaining much ground. Then again, I was maintaining a strong 16:30 pace.

But I was also getting my cadence down. I was lugging a bunch of extra weight in the form of my boot. I could feel my booted foot swelling, and my toes starting to go a little numb. I readjusted the air compression in the boot, but that didn't seem to help. At mile 6, I was ready for another readjustment.

I bent down, readjusted, and stood up ready to start hefting my weight forward again. Slow and steady. And suddenly, not 5 steps forward, I got a shooting pain deep into the inside of my bad ankle. It felt like something was stabbing me with a meat cleaver. The pain was so intense, it nearly brought me to my knees. I struggled for breath and tried to stand up straight to maneuver to the curb, but the tears started like waterfalls. A spectator came over and offered me a hand. I ripped the boot off, stretched a little, packed my sweatband into my boot for extra cushioning, and breathed. A couple I had chatted with early in the race passed me at that point, and the woman gave me a sad look and told me that there was "no shame in getting swept."

She was right, there wouldn't be any shame in getting swept today, but it would have to happen after 8 miles. I was determined. I wanted to yell and scream every curse word under the sun at her, but I didn't. I just gave her a sad look and shrugged.

The pain subsided briefly and I decided it was time to get up and moving again. So step by excruciating step, I was once again on my way. From that point forward, every police officer I passed, every spectator, every cheerleader or bandmember I passed, they were all rooting for ME!

The sweatband in my boot wasn't helping much and I stopped to get a stack of gauze padding from the fire rescue truck around mile 7.5. I was losing time. With each and every time I was stopping to readjust, more and more people were passing me, narrowing the gap between me and the sweepers. At mile 7.5, I was dead last. I caught up to the girl in front of me, and we slowly started to bridge the gap between us and the girl in front of us.

At mile 8, we were approaching the last 2 bridges. I was in horrendous pain through the inside of my ankle, and the boot was causing some serious bruising, but there was no SAG wagon in sight. I wasn't about to stop and wait for one, so I soldiered on.

And then, at mile 9.33, what I had been waiting for all day.... I was approached by a police officer who told me that the van was right behind me and would be picking me up. And I had intended to respond with "OK," but what came out instead was a firm "no." I stammered and rephrased more politely "not today, thank you."

He looked at me shocked and asked what I meant by that. And while continuing to walk, I told him calmly but clearly "well, you aren't in the business of kidnapping any more than I'm in the business of being kidnapped. So thanks, but no thanks." he laughed and shook his head before driving to the next person. The bus drove off without stopping to pick me up.

What on earth was I thinking?

The police officer came back at mile 9.9 and pulled right up to me. "i know, i know. you don't want to be kidnapped, BUT move off to the sidewalk and the sweepers can't collect you. I'll let them know at the 10 mile mark that you are still out on the course."

And so it happened. I hit the 10 mile mark and the part of the course that veers off of the streets and through the pier and the park. I struggled with each step, but I knew that I was completely safe from sweepers. I didn't care how long it was going to take, I was going to finish. So what if there was no medal? So what if the finishline was already broken down? So what if there was no more beer or party? I was going to finish with my head held high.

Getting swept? Sure it would happen someday, but today wasn't that day.

The last half a mile brought me down Miami's ocean drive. I was on the sidewalks at this point, and fighting with the beach crowds, and large families out for a Sunday stroll. It was tough going, but they all easily cleared a path for me as I came through. Tears once again welled in my eyes, as I realized the hurdles that I had overcome.

I had done it. I had completed my 20th (lifetime) half marathon.

And I would be a different person because of it.

Chip- 3:50:35
Pace- 17:36/mile