Onward

Things have been steadily improving with my running – it’s so hard for me to be unabashedly optimistic given the uncertainty of life, but let’s say that I’m increasingly hopeful and positive.

My goal has been to slowly build my mileage up, just doing base pace miles.  I’m not explicitly following the 10% rule, because frankly – you could never build mileage up if you followed that rule to the letter from the beginning.  But I am being somewhat conservative.  Last week I ran 18 miles over 4 runs.  This week 23 miles.  I am very excited about the 23 – it felt like a bit of a stretch.  I completed it with 8 miles today – my longest run in awhile.

Next week’s goal – 25-27.  I’d like to break 30 -but I think I will do that with 5 runs/week and I can only get in 4 this week. I’m doing a bit of boot camp with my friend Sarah – and that’s on the docket for Monday and Wednesday.  Thursday is a long drive to Arlington, VA to see my sister and her family for Thanksgiving – so unless I get supermotivated and run after Thanksgiving dinner (yeah, not going to happen) or run after bootcamp (slightly more likely), it’s 4 runs this week.

But my legs and my running are starting to feel pretty normal – and that is great.  Just a slight lingering shin splint-y type issue on my right – but hopefully that is minor and going away.  No races planned or in sight – but just steady running.

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Quotes

I’ve been re-reading some quotes that I saved on my computer and two seem particularly appropriate.

The first is from a curler who won the silver medal for Canada at the Vancouver Olympics – in it, she’s talking to her skip (the team captain)

“Sport is not easy; despite all the effort we put into it, sometimes we win, other times we lose. The best come back stronger and you will, like you always have.” Val for Team Bernard

The second is from Shalane Flanagan, an elite runner:

“I’ve been thinking about this moment and running in this race for a really long time. So I’m extremely happy I fulfilled a lifelong goal of mine, but I dreamt of winning today. I dreamt of a laurel wreath on my head and it didn’t happen. But that’s the reason why dreams and goals are big and they’re hard.’’  Shalane Flanagan, after her first Boston marathon (2013) where she finished 4th

One more for good measure:

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chodron

Weeks 7,8,9 – is a runner still a runner if they aren’t running?

I’m combining weeks 7, 8, and 9 – partly to catch up to today, and partly because there’s really not much to write about.   I rested and hardly ran, trying to let my body heal.  I ran once week 7, twice week 8, and three times week 9.  Nothing long, and definitely nothing strenuous.  Weeks 7 and 8, I felt like a slug and I definitely feel like I’m out of shape and getting fat (I’ve put those 6 lbs that I lost this summer right back on).  But I am starting to regain some momentum.  I’ve joined boot camp with my friend Sarah – so I’m doing that like once or twice a week.  And my goal is to build my mileage up – not entirely sure to what mileage, maybe 35-40 mpw – all generally base pace running.

Mentally I have felt a bit lost. Partly because of this, partly because the separation from Derek has been really hard – and the uncertainty of my situation (not knowing when the house will sell and when I can finally move out to Albuquerque to join Derek).  After a week of high stress in our relationship, we made the decision that I would move out by the end of the year, regardless of whether the house was sold.  And I think that has made a huge difference – I do feel a weight lifted off of my shoulders.

I am still a little worried about my right calf.  My left leg feels great.  My right one isn’t painful per se – but I still feel what I think is the tendon of my peroneal muscle (near my ankle).  The whole time it’s been my peroneals – and I am worried that something is still not quite right in my right leg.  I will go and see my ART doc one more time to see if he can unbind something.

I want to finish this quest – or I guess at least continue it since I can’t be sure I will ever finish it.  I find myself a lot more realistic about things now – probably some would say pessimistic, but I don’t think that’s it.  I think it’s harder for me now to commit as much as I did, knowing that the capriciousness of fate could take it all away.  Yes – what happened to me may be a 1% thing, but I guess since it actually happened to me – it feels bigger, more likely, more prominent.

And in the end – I need to do this at least as much for the journey as the end goal – because the journey is all I really can guarantee.  They say that life keeps presenting you with the same lesson until you learn it.  Maybe this was life literally smacking me in the face with a lesson about appreciating and valuing the journey and caring less about the end goal.

Besides finishing a marathon, besides qualifying for Boston – this fall really took away my sense of being strong and athletic.  I can hear all my friends now – but you are an athlete, and of course you’ll get it back.  Because of this nagging calf thing – I’m a lot less certain than they are.  And I think it was just so new and special to me the way that I felt in August.  I had always been just the smart, geeky kid in high school – never really did much in the way of sports, never thought of myself as athletic, or particularly coordinated (and perhaps my fall continues to prove that).

But in August, I felt truly athletic – strong and fit.  I loved the way my body looked.  I loved the way I felt.  And I have learned that running makes me feel strong – when I am not running, I feel less confident and competent in everything else too.  Because I remember how strong those 12 mile and 15 mile runs felt, even after the fall.

I want to find that person again.  I want to be that person again.  I hope my body feels the same way.

Week 6 – the wheels come off

The big week – ironically I had thought several weeks were the big week up to now – but none of them made me confident that a December marathon was in the cards.  This one would be make or break I thought.  I had been cautiously optimistic, but very cautiously.  Because of my travel schedule – I had mixed things up slightly.  I did my speed workout on Tuesday (while still at WDW) – figured that was easiest to get done on the treadmill, and one of the shorter runs in the week.  Skipped running on Wednesday because of an early flight to Kansas City.  Did 8 miles in Kansas City on Thursday – at base pace – at a pretty slow base pace for me, it just didn’t seem like my legs could comfortably go much faster.  I was home by Thursday evening – so Friday’s tempo run I could do on my usual running path (the Farmington Canal Trail).  It was a 1.5 mile warmup, then 5.5 miles at half marathon pace, and a 1.5 mile cooldown.

I started the warmup and my calves were really kinda hurting.  They had actually felt pretty good during the 8 miles in Kansas City – but as that run had gone on, they started feeling worse (lots of concrete during that run).  Then I started the tempo part – and tried to ramp it up to half marathon pace.  And I couldn’t get there – I was running about 15 sec/mile slower than my target half marathon pace.  And my calves hurt, every step.  They started getting worse and I tried to get my speed up, but it wasn’t happening.  About 2-3 miles into the tempo part – I realized that it wasn’t going to happen.  I had to stop running, my calves were so painful.  And I had to walk/jog home.  I would walk for awhile, then try to jog – but it would still hurt enough that I had to walk again.

I realized then that my hopes of a December marathon were done.  I didn’t see how my body would hold up to the rigors of the remaining weeks of training.  At first I was pretty numb about it – didn’t feel as badly as I thought I would.  Then as that weekend progressed – I became really despondent.  I think I had to come to terms with the full loss from my fall.  Up to now, I had held onto the hope that I could salvage it – be able to put all that training to some use.  But now it was really over.  There would be no new attempt until well into 2014.

Some of you might say – why not just choose a marathon in late January or February?  Well – living in Connecticut, running outside gets dicey once you get into winter.  It’s not the cold that’s the issue – it’s snow and ice.  Once it snows, even if it’s only a little, sometimes it melts and then refreezes on running paths and roads as black ice.  Too hard to run on.  And long training runs for marathons are tough to do on treadmills (not impossible, but daunting mentally).  And then I’m gone in February (for a really good reason – we’re going to Sochi, Russia to help with the NBC Olympics broadcast of curling!).  So the earliest marathon I could even think of would be late June.  Which feels very, very far off.

It’s funny –  I am writing this a few weeks later, and I don’t feel as badly as I did that weekend, so it’s a little hard to remember how I felt.  But it was my lowest point.  I think I was grieving – oscillating between anger, depression, and “if only’s.”  I felt so powerless.

I had given this effort everything I had – that was what I kept telling myself this summer, that I wanted to give it everything I had in me – and I did.  My heart and soul went into my quest.  The crazy dedication to my training, even when traveling (I think I ran in like 10 different locations/states:  Albuquerque, Orlando, on a cruise ship, Castaway Cay, Buffalo, Baltimore, Rehoboth, Nantucket, LA – RoseBowl, LA – Disneyland, Valley Forge, plus my hometown).  The discipline in my diet.  I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever given as much to any other goal (the year we played to get to the Olympic Trials is the closest).  And despite all of that – and despite really believing in myself – none of it mattered.  This random accident interfered – no matter how hard I had tried, it didn’t matter.

And everyone says “When you do qualify, it will be all the sweeter,” “ You’ll come back,” etc.  These are all the right things to say, I suppose.  But the truth is – I can’t be that certain, I’m not that certain.  Because I think at a deep level, this has taught me that we can only control so much.  Effort, determination, and believing in yourself are all good and important things – but they are not sufficient.

 

Week 4 – the big test?

Week four.  I had eye surgery (PRK) planned for Friday (yes, because why not layer more challenges on top of me), and I was very uncertain as to my ability to run on the weekend as it would take some time  for my eyes to heal and my eyesight to become good.  So I decided to push my long run (normally on Sunday) to Wednesday – to make sure that I got it done.  Again – my calves had been dicey – they were painful on Monday, but I rested and massaged, and compressed them –and they were ok to run on Tuesday.  I felt them every step – but they weren’t really painful.

I had decided that this week I would do full mileage (according to Matt’s Level 2 plan), but all at base pace or recovery except for the challenging test long run.   The long run was a 15 mile progression run – 8 miles at base pace, then each mile gets progressively faster until the last mile is at half marathon pace.  Wednesday dawned and I headed out.  It was a challenging run – but I did it.  I did my base pace miles relatively conservatively – but my last mile at half marathon pace was right on (and slightly faster than when I did this progression run in the summer).  So I felt triumphant.

Recovery run Thursday, eye surgery and resting Friday.  Saturday and Sunday I had 6-8 mile runs planned.  My eyesight was a little sketchy and I needed to put drops in my eyes every 20 minutes or so – but I muddled through those runs.  My calves were still sketchy – so I was still not confident that I could make a marathon in December.  Yes – I had made it through a week of full mileage, but my calves were cranky and I hadn’t really done any speed or tempo work – I was very uncertain that I could do full mileage with speed.  So – I put off registering for any race until I had a better sense.

Week 5 was a “down” week – where the mileage comes down and (theoretically) you have a test race – this one was supposed to be a 10k.   I was going to be down at WDW for Food & Wine that weekend, so I knew I would not do a 10k – but I figured I’d run the same distance.  Again – I completed all the runs, with the speed work, but again – my calves still felt pretty iffy.  So I waited again – I figured week 6 would be full mileage, full speed and that would be the final decider.

 

Week three – I am back!

At the beginning of week three, I was a bit panicked.  Emotionally, I really needed to believe that I could redeem myself in December, that I could make good on my goal, that I could capitalize on all that work that I did in the summer.  But not being able to run that Monday certainly made the prospects look bad.

I worked my calves hard that night – ice, heat, self-massage, compression.  And I went out on Tuesday to try again – I could run, I felt my calves the entire time – but I managed a run – something like 4 miles easy.  My thought was to do about 2/3 to ¾ of the mileage of that week’s plan (in the normal marathon training plan) but all at base pace.  And I more or less did – but my calves were dicey the whole week.  I had AJ, my ART doc, look at things – and he did help them and he didn’t seem worried.  So I kept going.

This was also the week that we were moving Derek out to Albuquerque.  We had three long days of driving, and I wasn’t certain that I could get runs in while on the road.  But – since I couldn’t run that Monday, I needed to run each day of the drive.  And I did – I was determined.  Two of them were just short 3 mile recovery pace runs – but it was still a challenge. And my calves were kind of getting better, but not fully.

The Sunday we were in Albuquerque (before I flew home) – I had a 12 miler planned (the normal run would have been 16).  And we did it – we ran on the Bosque, Derek ran with me – and I finished 12 miles, at base pace.  I even sped up in the last three miles – I felt good.  Last mile was close to marathon pace.

I thought I was back.  I had emailed Matt Fitzgerald about the possibility of coming back and running a marathon in early December.  And he said – build up slowly and then do a challenging test long run at the end of two weeks.  Depending on how that went – make a call.  That two week period would end in week 4 – so I had a big week coming up.

Week two – things get harder

The feelings I had on Wednesday of the first week – of being at peace with the fall and its consequences – were by no means permanent yet.  Emotionally, the second week was much harder than the first.

I started to come to grips with the reality of what had been lost in the fall.  And now I really wanted to figure out how to make a come-back – how to feel like all that training wasn’t wasted.  I figured I had only run 19.6 miles – so my body shouldn’t be as beat up as after a full marathon – and I should be able to resume training relatively quickly.  So I tried to figure out if I could get ready for an early December marathon (Rehoboth or California International).

The training plan was tight – if I didn’t really run the second week, then that next week would leave me with 11 weeks of training.  That would put me into some pretty heavy mileage and work if I tried to follow the same plan I had followed in the summer.  I didn’t want to do a December marathon without being ready –so it was important to me to figure out if I could be ready.

Of course – the slight wrinkle in my plan was my left knee.  It still had stitches in it, it was still rather stiff, and I was uncertain whether I could run on it (and whether it was smart).  I joined Derek on our favorite running path on the first Sunday (a week after the fall) – he went for a run, and I did a short walk/run to test the knee.  Mostly walk, interspersed with 0.1-0.2 miles of slow jogging.  The knee felt ok – but my body didn’t really feel ready to run.

I did two more runs that week – another where I walked/ran, using slightly longer intervals of jogging and a third where I actually slowly jogged three miles.   Would I be able to go from this to marathon training?  I just couldn’t figure it out.

The next Sunday (two weeks after the fall) – the local JCC was hosting a 5k race.  My good friend Sarah was running in it and had asked Derek and me if we wanted to join (she had initially asked weeks ago). She asked again this week and we agreed that, at a minimum, Derek could run it and I could spectate.  Then as the week went on, I thought – well I could walk/run it.  Then – I could jog it.  That Sunday – I decided to actually run – not full out racing, but allow myself to push a little.

I didn’t really expect this – but I was terrified at the starting line.  As the time got closer to the race start, I got quieter and quieter – I was grappling with fear.  I did not expect to be so anxious.  I am sure I ran a little tentatively – the pavement was also a little wet and had some leaves on the ground.  But I let myself run whatever pace came out of my body.

I actually ran decently – ended up getting an age group award (2nd!) which felt really victorious for me.  And my time was ok – something like 7:45 min/mile pace – not my fastest 5k, nor my “target” 5k pace – but really decent given what had happened.

I felt fine during the race and after the race – but later that day, my calves started having odd pains.  I thought it was just minor things that would sort themselves out.  But Monday morning – I was going to head out for a base pace training run – maybe like 4-5 miles.  And I could not run – it was way too painful.  I had to give up and wait in the car for Derek.  This certainly put a wrench in my comeback plans.