Thursday, June 22, 2017

Gearing up for Marine Corps Marathon

To be honest, getting back into the swing of running after Boston hasn't been very enjoyable for me. The main issue has been a struggle with motivation and feeling very tired and worn out even after what I would consider easy runs. I just haven't been able to find my legs again. I'm sure it's due to one part the hit to my confidence after Boston, one part lack of focus, and two parts the return of summer to Richmond.

Excuse my language, but fuck summer. I hate it. Everything about it. I'm already ready for fall.

But I digress.

Officially, I'm already three weeks into a new season with the Marathon Training Team, but I am not starting my structured training for Marine Corps until the week of July 10. So, I have been focusing on a few thing in the meantime: 1) adapt to humid, hot running; 2) build stamina; 3) work on strength; and 4) start to introduce some speed back into my life. 

Regarding humidity and stamina: Only one way to do this, and that's running even when it's disgusting. I've probably been pushing myself harder than necessary during this base building period, but I've got that axe to grind. Something I've been trying to do at the end of every run, no matter how awful I feel, is work on the final burst. This is something that I have never been good at and want to improve on. Not that it's going to help me set any marathon PRs, but I think it will help me mentally when it comes to pushing through exhaustion or feeling momentarily icky. Hauling myself out of bed and going to spin class twice a week has also helped me start to feel like I can get back into the groove of a fully loaded training season.

Regarding strength: My SI joint has been increasingly cranky lately, which is incredibly frustrating. I'm in with BFF Steve just about every week, and every week it takes him a good 25-30 minutes to get me unstuck. It alllllll goes back to my weak hips and booty. I have a tendency, as BFF Steve says, to "hang" from my ligaments when I'm just standing around. Translation: lower back arches in, hips lean forward, booty pops out. Not a good thing. It gets me all out of joint. He said that you can really see it plainly in one of my favorite recent photos.

Now my dysfunction is all I can see!

I have to try to reverse it by tucking in the opposite direction (maybe I should do barre class after all...where's my eye roll emotion...) and being very mindful about how I'm standing, in addition to exercises of course. I'm making a real effort to do those targeted exercises more often and have two dedicated sessions per week of strength training. There are already small improvements and I'm going to try very very hard to keep it up. We'll just ignore the fact that I say that every training season and then well....

Regarding speed: I recently realized that I haven't run a 5k in forever, so one of my first new goals is to set a PR at that distance... which shouldn't be too hard because the PR to beat is 23:04 set in 2014. Wasting no time, I went ahead and signed up for the Patriots 5k on the 4th of July. Marcey and I ran this one back in 2013 and I loved it, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it. I even have designs on a podium finish, so we'll see what happens. Otherwise, I'm pushing myself on these shorter training runs and will start back to formal speed work and tempo runs once the Frankenstein Run Less Run Faster training plan starts in July. Weirdly, I'm actually looking forward to it. I love running fast and I miss it.

Thanks to concentrating on these things, I've been regaining some semblance of my former competitive runner self as the month of June has worn on. I might even be finally turning the corner back into "I'm ready to kick some butt" territory and out of "Woe is me, I'm so slow and out of shape and tired."

In fact, this week my body probably feels the best it has since I don't know when... April of last year? I've had two strong running days, including a progressive run on Monday that ended with a 7:19 mile and a 6.5 miler on Wednesday that was pretty hilly and completed at a 7:51 average with humidity levels in the 90% range.

I'm just going to go ahead and call it the break through week that I needed to throw off the last of the Boston Blahs and instead look forward to crushing some new goals in the fall.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Race Report: 2017 Boston Marathon

It's very hard to believe it has been more than a month since I did the Boston Marathon. Most days it feels like 10 months ago, and others it seems like the whole thing was some weird dream.

Or maybe nightmare.

Immediately after the race, I started to write an entry. I didn't finish and when I logged in again and read it back, I ended up deleting the whole thing and starting again. I've done that three times now. The problem is that I still haven't quite been able to sort out my feelings about the race. I still haven't really, but the second problem is that I am already starting to forget things. I imagine that running marathons is a lot like child birth; afterwards, you forget all the details - especially the bad ones - so that you'll be able to trick yourself into doing it again some day.

What I'm going to try to knock out right now is the quick and dirty account of my spectacular, horrible, terrible first Boston Marathon.

Being in Boston was incredible. The energy in the city was amazing and it was awesome to be surrounded by so many other marathon runners. Picking up my bib number felt surreal. So did walking down Boylston and seeing the finish line as we made our way back to the hotel from the expo. Everywhere you looked there was a runner, a run-related slogan, good luck signs. All of the shops on Newbury and Boylston (and every where else) had athletic wear in their front windows; Boston blue and yellow were all over the place. The commercials on the local channels were dominated by Sketchers, with Meb and Kara schilling of course. All of the news reports had some marathon-focused story.

The news reports spent a lot of time talking about the weather. I had been having anxiety about it for about a week, watching as the temperature crept up degree by degree. On Sunday, as we sat at Fenway Park sweating in 85* heat, my panic about the weather continued to build. The BAA sent runners an email with a heat warning and advice as to how to adjust race day plans accordingly. I drank a Gatorade at the game and water for the rest of the day, trying to reach juuuuuust the right level of hydration. In my mind, I adjusted my goal for the day to something between a 3:45 and a 4:15. I told myself I would be fine if I took it easy, but my anxiety continued to grow.

On race morning, my stomach was in knots. It was 70* and sunny when I stepped out of the hotel lobby on to the sidewalk. I've never been as terrified of a marathon in my life. The dread in me was huge. I tried to put on my game face and pump myself up as I was getting ready, but as soon as I boarded the charter bus to Hopkinton, I got into my head and never quite got out again.

Walking into Athlete's Village

At Athelete's Village, I searched for a girl named Nicole, who I know from an online running group. We were assigned to the same wave and corral and were going to try to at least start the race together. The plan was to find each other at the Med tent in Athlete's Village, but it was impossible. I've run big races before - 30,000 person races - but it didn't prepare me for the complete chaos at Athlete's Village. I circled the med tent about a dozen times, taking a break to hit the portie potty one last time before they called us to start walking to our corral. Even as we did that, I stopped on the sidewalk and searched the sea of runners for Nicole's bright pink shorts and blonde hair. A woman came up to me with a huge Sharpie in her hand and asked if I would write her name on her arm for her. I wanted to be like "Are you kidding me? I'm obviously looking for someone right now!" but I didn't want to be rude, so I did it. I have no idea what her name was, by the way. I wasn't going to write my name on my arm but decided at that point to have her return the favor and she scrawled "KATHRYN" on my right arm.

During the walk to the corals, the goosebumps came and reality of what I was about to do set in. I teared up quite a few times and just kept saying to myself, "Oh my God, I'm about to run the Boston Marathon." I tried to ignore the fact that I was already sweating and we hadn't even started running yet. Instead, I tried to revel in the moment and soak it in. All around me, my fellow runners were strangely quiet. I had expected excitement and a lot of energy, but it seemed more like a death march, which didn't help my anxiety.

Being in coral 1 meant that I had the longest walk. As I finally found my gateway into my corral and started to work my way toward the front(ish) area, I heard my name being called. I turned around to find Stuart, the man who was my pacer at Wrightsville and who helped me get my BQ. I was so relieved to see a familiar face that I almost cried. How he found me in that press of people I will never know, but I'm so glad he did because something clicked in me and I suddenly felt more calm than I had for days.

Before I knew it, we were counting down. 5-4-3-2-BAM. We were off. Stuart had run Boston 8 times, so he was giving me course tips and strategies as we quickly made our way through the first 5k. It was hot, but I thought maybe it would be bearable. We were also hot, pace-wise. Everyone warns you to not get swept up in the downhill and adrenaline of the first few miles of this course. EVERYONE. I had told myself over and over that I couldn't allow that to happen and that I needed to try very hard to keep an 8:30/mile pace during those first 5 miles or so, but here I was, running happily next to Stuart at a sub 8:00.

"Stuart, we're going too fast," I warned. He assured me that we'd be ok and our pace would even out when we hit the first hills. I figured that he is a Boston vet, that he was an excellent pacer who got me to the race in the first place, and that I was safe with him. So I stuck by his side, cutting through people to get the best tangents and sailing for the first 10k. I was grateful for his company and knew that he wouldn't lead me astray. We stayed together through mile 7, when I knew that I needed to let him go if I was going to survive this race.

Mile 1 - 8:05
Mile 2 - 7:48
Mile 3 - 7:53
Mile 4 - 7:50
Mile 5 - 8:02
Mile 6 - 8:05
Mile 7 - 8:19

Having consumed an entire Gatorade and a bottle of water at Athlete's Village, I found that I really needed to go to the bathroom. Normally stopping at a portie potty during  a race is not something I would do; I'd just run through it until the feeling went away, which for me it inevitably does. But I knew this wasn't going to be a PR and I didn't see the point in making myself remain uncomfortable, so I stopped during mile 8. Honestly, I don't remember much about miles 9-12. I took a salt tab, probably sometime around 10. In an effort to avoid dehydration, I walked through each water stop to make sure that I actually consumed a full cup of water. I also dumped a cup on my head and neck. The walking started to show in my splits, but again, I knew this wasn't a PR and I was ok with doing everything that I could to have a decent race experience and prevent complete misery.

Faking it early, somewhere around mile 8

Mile 8 - 9:26
Mile 9 - 9:02
Mile 10 - 8:34
Mile 11 - 9:16
Mile 12 - 8:41

During training and in the days leading up to the race, as my anxiety about the weather reached a fevered pitch, I just kept telling Kit (and anyone else who would listen) that all I wanted to do in Boston was enjoy it and not get to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Walking through the aid stations was helping me keep my mental shit together, at least at first. If I walked, I could drink. If I drank enough, I wouldn't dehydrate. If I didn't dehydrate, I'd be ok.

Everyone always says that you hear the famous Wellesley Scream Tunnel before you get to it. I started listening for it during Mile 12 as we entered the town. Even before throwing my time goal out of the window due to the heat, I had planned on kissing at least one of the Wellesley girls. Now, having walked through aid stations and stopped to go to the bathroom, I decided I was going to kiss as many of them as I could.

And I did. So many that I lost count. Probably somewhere between 8-10. Maybe more. I kissed the ones who had funny signs, I kissed the one who had the sign that said she was from Maryland, I kissed the ones who looked like they weren't getting many takers, and the ones who were about to graduate.

I kissed that girl! The one with the Maryland sign.

I was running Boston, dammit, and I was going to do it right.

Despite these antics, I was still pretty much on pace for a 4:00 marathon at the half way mark. My time was 1:52:34 at this point, with an 8:35 average. Pretty much just where I had aimed to be.

But after the adrenaline rush or Wellesley, I completely crashed. In comparing battle stories after the race, it seems that a lot of other people also started to really feel the effects of the heat and sun between miles 13-15. A lot of others told me that they felt ok until that point and then BAM, it hit them all at once.

Yup, pretty much.

Mile 13 - 9:55 (Still a decent pace considering all the kissing)
Mile 14 - 9:21
Mile 15 - 10:01

I kept to my plan of only walking during aid stations until 16, when we hit a pretty steep hill. I walked up it and after that, I never quite got myself moving again. I was completely, utterly miserable. After Wellesley and until mile 21 is pretty much already wiped from my memory. I was taking handfuls of ice from spectators and cold wet paper towels. I put them under my arm pits, on the back of my neck, and down into my sports bra. I ran through every fire hydrant, every hose. Dumping the water over my head at aid stations felt like heaven. In the small town of Woodland, there is a right hand turn (one of only 4 turns in the entire race, which is why I remember it) and on the corner was a fire station that had set up a misting tent. I had been toward the outside of the turn but as soon as I saw that mist tent, I cut across (along with every else) and ran through, summoning the most enthusiasm I'd had since Wellesley as I released a happy "Whoop!!!" I was completely soaked through, head to toe, but I didn't care.

A lot of people around me were in complete misery too. I commiserated with a few of them, but I never really made a friend in the same way that I have at past marathons. As the day wore on, I feel like we all started to retreat into our own personal bubbles of determined misery. Honestly, it was the loneliest race I have ever run. At one point, I was so desperate for some encouragement that thought about stopping and asking a spectator - a nice, kind looking spectator - if I could borrow their phone to call my husband. I just wanted to hear a comforting voice so badly. I even started to toy with the idea of stopping and asking some of the grandmotherly-looking spectators for a hug.

I cried. I don't know when I first broke down, but it was during this stretch.

I started to feel so full that at aid stations I simply couldn't drink any more Gatorade or water. Despite that, I forced myself to take a few sips and dumped the rest over my head.  My mouth got extraordinarily dry - like sand paper.

The hills of Newton barely registered. Don't ask me about Heartbreak Hill... I couldn't tell you which one it was. It seemed like there were 50. There were SO many spectators throughout Newton. I walked a lot and I was downright ASHAMED. One of the few memories I still have of this section is of a woman running past me on my left and as she did, she smacked my butt really hard and said, "Get moving, girl - come on!" I was soaking wet and the sound that her hand made when it connectedly solidly with my backside was almost deafening in my ears and wouldn't you know it - it actually worked. I ran a couple hundred yards up to the top of whatever hill we had been climbing at the time. Don't ask me if it was Heartbreak. I have no idea. But I'm grateful for that woman who literally smacked me out of my stupor for a few minutes.

After Newton and it's hills, we were suddenly in the last 10k and I was becoming aware of the fact that my hands were starting to go numb. It started on the outside, with my pinkies, and was working its way across my fingers toward my thumbs. I also noticed that despite having run through all the hoses, fire hydrants, and dumping water on my head, my top was bone dry. I had stopped sweating.

This is the point where my mental game completely broke down. I had never experienced my hands going numb during a hot race and suddenly the specter of heat stroke entered my brain. I knew if I passed out, they would never let me continue the race and I would DNF.

I had come too far to DNF.

With my fear building - and no doubt causing even more symptoms to manifest as I went in to full on panic mode - I made the decision that I was going to stop at the med tent at mile 21.

I was completely lucid and apparently didn't look too bad, because the staff just asked me if I was dizzy (no), if I was cramping (no), if I needed water (I guess, but I'm having a hard time drinking). They asked me if this was my first marathon. I laughed and said, "Heck no, this is my eighth." Obviously they thought I was a rookie who had no idea what I was doing. That chapped.

I sat in a chair, forcing myself to sip a bottle of water and watching people run by. I have no idea how long I stayed there... from what I can figure out from my cumulative vs moving time in my split breakdown, it looks like I sat there for 5-6 minutes. My mind was gone. I asked, "So how far do I have left to go?" The medic replied, "About 5 miles." I could walk 5 miles if I could. I got up and kept moving.

Mile 16 - 8:55
Mile 17 - 11:06
Mile 18 - 11:17
Mile 19 - 11:51
Mile 20 - 12:11
Mile 21 - 15:39

Aside from the threat of a DNF, the thing that kept me going was knowing that Jason and Kit were up ahead, probably worried to death, waiting for me to come. My muddled brain couldn't remember where Kit said he'd be, but I thankfully was able to remember that he was wearing his bright blue Monument Avenue 10k shirt, so I spent the next few miles desperately searching for him.

When I finally spotted Kit, at the left hand turn (don't ask me what mile it was. I have no clue...22? 23? 24?), I picked up into a run and went straight to him. He had that look on his face - the one where you're trying really hard to smile to offer encouragement, trying not to cry yourself. I knew that look very well because I wore it at Erie for 13 miles, when I was worried sick and waiting for him to run past.

"This is the worst, hardest thing I've ever done," I wailed, and hugged him. If I hadn't been so terribly dehydrated, tears would've been pouring down my cheeks. Kit gave me a big hug and then held me at arms length and just said, "I know, but you're going to finish, ok?"

"I can't!" I wailed again. I was so done.

"But you WILL FINISH."

I suddenly became aware of the fact that immediately to my right, there was a giant TV camera/cameraman, pointed our direction. "Oh GOD this better not ever be on TV!" I cried. The fear of national embarrassment is what got me moving again. Before I left, I begged Kit to call Jason and tell him I was alive and I was coming. Slowly, but coming.

Boston College was next and as I passed through all the drunk college students proffering beer and yelling "16334, you can do it!" embarrassment started to wash over me. As I walked/shuffled I tried to keep my head up and sometimes gave a thumbs up to people who yelled my name or bib number. But I was devastated inside.

During those last five miles I remember little. There was a woman who power walked past me and said, "This is sad for us, yeah? So sad." I could only mumble my agreement. Later on, a man running for Dana-Farber came up next to me and for a little while we walked/ran together. I became a bit jealous of his Dana-Farber status, because the spectators all yelled and cheered for him as we passed. Being with him for a few minutes helped me, though, and when he said he was running the rest and left me, I wanted to run with him but I just couldn't. I was saving my energy for Boylston Street. There was no way in hell I was walking down Boylston.

At some point, I realized that a race photographer station was set up and snapping pictures of me walking. Something I always try to do is fake it for the cameras, but I didn't even do that. You can see the frustration and humiliation all over my face in the photos.

When I saw the Boston Strong sign on the overpass just before the right on Hereford, a surge of emotions washed over me: relief, that I was almost finished; shame, that I hadn't been able to power through and be truly Boston Strong; sadness, that my experience was about to be over and I wanted it to be; and excitement; Jason was just around the corner and so was the most famous stretch of street in the marathon world.

Jason had told me his plan was to be on the outside corner of Hereford and Boylston, so as soon as I turned right on Hereford I had one mission, which was to spot him. I needed him so badly at that point. I was emotionally drained; completely bereft, devastated, and ashamed. My brain could only think of three things: red hat, green shirt, yellow sign. Then there he was. I found my legs again and ran toward him. By some miracle, a friend from a Facebook running group, who I'd just met the day before, was across the street on the opposite corner and somehow managed to record this moment.


I can't tell you how much I needed to be embraced, how I much I needed someone who knew me to comfort me in that moment. Yes, the spectators are all amazing at Boston. But they didn't know the whole story. Jason knows how hard I worked, all that I (we) went through, and just how disappointed I was that this was how things turned out.

Jason gave me the strength I'd needed to finish and as I left him and made the turn onto Boylston, all of the negativity that I had been feeling disappeared as the cheers of the crowds washed over me. Again overwhelmed by emotions, I started to cry. It didn't matter that it had taken me God-only-knows-how-long to get there, but I got there. I was on Boylston Street, about to finish the freaking Boston Marathon. I fixed my eyes on the finish line and ran.

Mile 22 - 17:29
Mile 23 - 14:38
Mile 24 - 12:52
Mile 25 - 15:51
Mile 26 - 17:35
Mile .2 - 5:16

When I was out on the course at my lowest point, I couldn't wait to cross the finish line because as soon as I did, I was going to lay down flat on my back on the pavement and let them carry me off. I just didn't want to have to move anymore. But after I crossed, I didn't do that. Instead I headed directly for the hard earned medal that had been the focus of everything for more than a year. I sobbed as the volunteer put it around my neck and she said, 'Ohhhh we've got another emotional one here!" At that moment, I wanted to punch that lady. OF COURSE I'M EMOTIONAL DO YOU KNOW WHAT I JUST WENT THROUGH???

I didn't punch the lady.

Instead, I shuffled to the mylar sheets. I wasn't cold, but I wanted one to have as a souvenir. I didn't have the wherewithal to put it around my shoulders, but two volunteers tag teamed one with one draping it around me and the other fastening my new super hero cape with a piece of tape. I continued through the chute, gathering a Gatorade and a big bag of food, as I headed toward what I thought was an exit at the end of Boylston. The plan had been to meet Jason, Kit, and Lauren at the Make Way for Ducklings statue in Boston Green. Unfortunately, I couldn't get there by the most direct route and was being forced to go right to walk a few blocks to the family meet up area - which was in the opposite direction of the Ducklings.

I took one look at what seemed like a very long walk to the family meet up area, then at the line of wheelchair-wielding volunteers in red shirts who lined the street, and decided I was going to med. I walked up to the closest volunteer and asked if she would take me to med and before I knew it, I was sitting (blessed sitting!) and moving faster than I had in 3 hours as she wheeled me toward the tent.

To be clear, I didn't go to med just because I was tired. I was also aware that I was bone dry (not sweating), my hands were tingling again, and I figured that given how I'd felt on the course it was probably a good idea to at least get looked at by some medical professionals.

In med, I gratefully laid on a cot while a very nice nurse took my blood pressure (60/90... low, but as she said, "you're a runner so I'm not too worried). She listened to my pulse and heart, asked me how I felt. I really couldn't say anything more than tired. I was just really tired and really NOT sweaty. I asked if they had a phone I could borrow. No doubt Jason was worried about me and wondering where I was. They handed me a little Nokia and my mind was so gone that it took me a few tries to remember how to use it. First I called Jason. He didn't answer. I figured I should try Kit, but I don't have his number memorized. It was written on the back of my bib, but I found that I couldn't sit up to read it. I unfastened the safety pins and when the nurse came back, I asked her to read his number. I called him, he didn't answer either. I was tired, so I gave up and laid back for a little while. I tried again in a little bit and finally got a hold of Jason. I told him the situation and that he needed to come meet me at med.

I felt better so I sat up and asked the nurse if I could be discharged. As she finished my paper work, I looked around me at the other runners - most far worse off than me - and said, "Why on Earth do we do this to ourselves??" The nurse just looked at me, shrugged and said, "I really don't know!"

"It's because we're all f*cking crazy," I said and stood up to leave.

I expected Jason to be outside of the med tent but he wasn't; I figured that maybe they didn't let non-runners into the barricades so I headed toward the family meet up area. On the way, I passed the official finisher portrait area so I stopped to get one. Why the hell not, right? 

Fake it til you make it, right?
Notice the salt on my shorts. That has never happened to me before.
I'll spare you the rest of the details, but it took a while for me to finally find Jason and Kit. By the time we were reunited, my mind was pretty much gone and I was starving. I had accidentally left my bag of food back at the med tent and there was no way in hell I was going back for it.

We walked to the hotel and I insisted on taking a few pictures. I was feeling proud that I had muscled through and finished. I still had no clue what my actual finish time was.

Afterwards, Kit was a dear and walked to get us some pizza. We were all starving. Jason went upstairs to the room with me and I got my shower and got in bed, which is where I ate my pizza.

After lounging in bed for a while, I decided that I wanted ice cream so Jason and I headed out to Boylston for some dessert.

All around me were other runners, all telling similar tales of woe. No one had a great race that day, it seemed. After my initial surge of pride at having finished, I was circling back toward disappointment in my race.

Later, when I was laying in my bed again, I couldn't quiet my mind so I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I saw a post show up in the RVA Runners page. It was me, running on the Potterfield Bridge. The caption on the post said, "RVA Represent on the big screen in Fenway!" A friend had tagged the post, "Kathryn isn't that you??"

It was!! I was so confused. What was happening and why was I on the big screen at Fenway?? Then I remembered. We took the video on my birthday run. The BAA had sent out a call for runners to take short videos of them during their training to submit for possible inclusion in a compilation they were putting together. I had been wracking my brain trying to think of where to film a short segment that would get noticed in what I assumed would be a sea of submissions. I settled on the T Pot, with the Richmond skyline in the background. It's a striking and not just another road or sea of trees, so I thought it would have a chance. I had never heard from BAA and assumed it wasn't included. But it was - and it was shown as part of this video at the official BAA after party.

How ironic was it that when I was feeling like a huge failure, there I was running across the big screen at Fenway, with that particular quote under me?

I've continued to struggle with my feelings about the whole experience. Six weeks (!) later, the misery is starting to fade and I have come to terms with it... kind of. I didn't know what my official finish time was until the next day. Jason and Kit knew, but I hadn't been able to summon the courage to look. When they told me, I started to laugh hysterically. It's a cruel kind of joke to have your personal worst race at your first Boston.

Even though my official Boston finish time is 4:49(something) the time I will always associate with my first Boston Marathon is that BQ of 3:30:05. That number is why I was there and that is still what I am most proud of. During the race, when I was walking, I wanted to yell at people, "I am a 3:30 marathoner. I've been injured. I don't walk. This is NOT ME."

Of course I've thought long and hard about what happened. Physically and mentally, I was on the edge of a knife. I knew I was barely trained; not through fault of my own but just due to the foot surgery and longer than expected recovery. Knowing that created the seed of self doubt in my mind, which was then blown out of proportion by the weather forecast.

Everyone asked me, "Was it your foot?" No. It wasn't my foot. My foot didn't hurt afterwards either, though I have a bet with Kit as to whether or not I'm going to lose the 2nd toenail on my right foot (note - I have NEVER lost a toenail from running). The only real pain I experienced was in my mid-back, and it was intense. But it wasn't anything that I could have pushed through and would have pushed through any other time.

No, what happened to me in Boston was simple. I got into my head, I let anxiety take over, and I let it rule my day. The heat scared me. There had been a lot of reports prior to Boston about runners keeling over and dying after finishing races. Those reports scare the crap out of me. I always wonder if I'm next, even though I've gone to my doctor and had my heart looked at, etc. Those thoughts were in the back of my mind in Boston.

Mostly, I am disappointed in myself and the lack of mental strength. I have no doubt that I could have run that marathon in four hours, even with the heat, if I just hadn't given in to all of my fears. But I did. I let my mind win. It's a hard lesson to learn, especially at an iconic race like Boston. But it happened. I can't change it. I won't make the same mistake again. I am also a person who hates excuses. Other people had bad races that day, but not epically bad like mine. I was weak and that's that.

In a way it is kind of fitting that I had to struggle so hard to complete Boston. The twelve months leading to the race were marked by struggle, pain, and determination. The marathon was the same.

Everybody has a blow up race. Mine was my Boston debut. It sucks. But hey... I finished the thing. That's what I hold on to.

I also have to thank everyone who tracked me that day, who wished me well, who congratulated me afterwards. My sweet coworkers who decorated my cube for my return, my family who tracked me the whole time, everyone who hugged me. Knowing you were all watching helped me get through. I only hope I didn't disappoint you.

I have to also thank Jason for believing in me and letting me pursue this insane thing. And of course to Kit, for training with me and never letting me give up.

There's a lot to learn from running.  It taught me ultimate respect for the people who are out there for 5 hours. It taught me to just keep going. That the time on the clock doesn't always define a success.

The day after the race, I visited the Adidas running headquarters on Boylston. They have a cool topographical relief of the course there, surrounded by quotes from Boston greats. This one struck me, hard.

"I have as much respect for those who run and do not finish first
as I have for the ones whose strength, endurance and training brings them first place."
- Roberta 'Bobbi" Gibb, first women to run the Boston Marathon

Boston humbled me. It hurt me, it tried to put me down. But I won't let it. I trained really hard to get there and fought back from an injury that wouldn't quit. I did something big that day, even if it didn' turn out the way I wanted it to.

Onwards and upwards.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What's the Big Deal?

I have a tendency to forget that not everyone in my life is a runner.


It's easy to do when you spend what adds up to weeks, months, and years with other runners, talking endlessly about the ins and outs of our obsession, using our special language or acronyms and silly words (as a runner, I am obligated to now mention the words "fartlek" and "Yasso" as well as the acronyms PR and DOMS).

It's not just runners either. We humans have a tendency to hang out with people who are like us and share our interests and when we interact with people who are outside of that bubble, our lengthy soliloquies about [insert obsession here] are annoying gibberish. We take for granted that everyone knows what we're talking about because well duh... why wouldn't they?

I take for granted that everyone understands why the Boston Marathon is a Big Deal® but the reality is that most of the people in my life have no idea why it means so much. I mean, there are races like every weekend, and anybody can run one, so who cares, right? And I've run a couple marathons before, so woohoo, another one. Big whoop.

So I'm going to tell you why Boston is considered the holy grail of marathons, not just for me, but for thousands of runners from all over the world.

Prestige and History - The Boston Marathon is the oldest marathon in the US, dating all the way back to 1897. This year is the 121st running of the race. Of course things are a heck of a lot different now than they were in 1897, or even in 1967 or 1987. Participation in distance running has skyrocketed over the past twenty years and as that has happened, I think that Boston has become even more iconic to the average runner.

Boston is also one of the six World Marathon Major races. These six are the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The others are Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York. Running all six is a big goal for some people (don't worry... it's not one of mine). For runners, participating in one of the World Majors is kind of like the NCAA Basketball Tournament or NFL Post-Season.

For these two reasons, Boston attracts some of the world's most elite marathon runners. I, along with around 30,000 other people, will line up with Meb Keflezighi, Galen Rupp, Buzuesh Deba, and Desi Linden to participate in the same event. That's like getting to play on a football team with Tom Brady, or playing doubles with Serena Williams, or fielding for the Red Sox. Obviously I won't be racing side by side with these world class athletes (shoot, I would barely be able to keep up with them if I was on a bike!), but I will be running the same race, following in their footsteps.

Boston is also important to a lot of women this year because it is the 50th anniversary of Kathrine Switzer historic 1967 feat, when she became the first woman to register for and complete the Boston Marathon. Kathrine's accomplishment started to break down the long-held notion that women couldn't participate in distance running and she went on to be a major influence in finally getting the BAA to allow women to officially register for Boston Marathon and later, for the women's marathon to become an Olympic sport. Because of Kathrine, women make up more than half of marathon finishers in the US today.

To mark the occasion, Kathrine will be running the race on Monday. No one has ever run a marathon 50 years after their first, but I have every confidence that Kathrine will be smashing that barrier too.

I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to interview and meet her in November 2015. That year I ran with her signature on my bib at the Richmond Marathon and it is so overwhelming to think that I'll be running in Boston with her - the woman who is in no small way responsible for me even being allowed to participate in this race.

From Kathrine to the Wellesley girls to the Citgo Sign to Meb's win in 2014, to Alberto Salazar and David Beardsley's famous "Dual in the Sun" in 1982 to the terrible bombing in 2013 that only made the running community rally stronger... there is so much history and tradition, so many stories and legends surrounding this particular race that it has reached mythic status. As a runner, to feel that I get to participate in and add my own chapter to the Boston Marathon's story is overwhelming.

Not just anyone can run Boston - Let me give you a quick statistic. Annually, only half a percent of Americans completes a marathon. Of that half percent, around 12% qualify for Boston. Of that 12% of half a percent, only 4-5% actually go on to register for and run Boston.

Now, I'm really bad at math so I won't even try to calculate what teeny tiny fraction of a fraction of a percent of the American population that is.

In other words, not many people get to have this experience.

Typically, any old Joe Schmoe can go sign up for a marathon and theoretically, finish one. Most don't require any kind of proof that Joe Schmoe can complete a marathon or has done so successfully. You could go out tomorrow and register for one if you wanted to.

For the bigger and more popular races, there are often race lotteries where you put your name in the pool and hope you are one of the lucky ones who gets chosen (New York, Chicago, and Marine Corps all employ this). You could also guarantee your entry into these races by qualifying. That means you run a marathon in X time and you are automatically in. New York City's qualifying standards, for example, and more difficult than Boston's. Chicago also uses qualifying times (and countless others, I'm sure).

So why is Boston still the be-all-end-all for many amateur runners?

Because Boston has no lottery. If you don't qualify for NYC, you put your name in that hat and you can still get the chance to run it. Not so in Boston. There are only two ways to get the chance to run. You either qualify, or you raise thousands of dollars for a charity as a charity runner. 80% of the field in Boston is for qualifiers only. As a result, it is the fastest marathon in the country and also very difficult to get in to.

Simply put, to run Boston,  for most of us, you have to work hard and you have to really earn it. Earning a Boston Qualifying time alone is a badge of honor. Nowadays, getting in has become so competitive that even just earning that BQ time doesn't mean you're going to get in. My first two BQs were not fast enough and I did not make the cut for the 2016 race. The bar for participation is set higher and higher every year.

People go to crazy lengths to lie, cheat, and steal their way into the race. The problem has gotten so much attention that there is a person who has made it his personal mission to identify and catch cheaters; that my entrant information contains pages of policies and disclaimers about bib transfers or selling and the consequences, along with warnings to not post photos of my bib on social media lest someone use Photoshop to print a fake bib and run with it; that people do try to sell Boston entries for up to $5,000 on message boards and Craigslist.

For honest amateur runners, getting a BQ is a goal that they strive towards for years and years. Anyone can run a marathon... not just anyone can run in Boston. Some are able to achieve it, and some never do. I never thought I would be able to qualify. After the bombing, I even wrote these words:

Ironically, I had never really been much interested in the Boston Marathon before this year. But this year, the bug got me.  Even though I have never run a marathon and am not anywhere fast enough to qualify, the pipe dream of someday, somehow, running Boston entered my head.

I wrote that on April 16, 2013.

Obviously I never imagined that four years later, almost to the day, I would be running the Boston Marathon not as a charity runner but having qualified three times. My mind set changed when my good friend Lauren qualified for Boston at Steamtown in 2014. Lauren and I had trained for our first marathon together and ran much of it side by side. When she achieved that BQ it made me think that maybe someday it could be in my realm of possibility too. My quest for Boston began in earnest in February 2015.

A two year roller coaster of training, injuries, surgery, tears, pain, joy, and of course hundreds of thousands of miles running have brought me here.

For all of us so-called "recreational" runners (a term I kind of hate), Boston is our Super Bowl. It seems like a crazy dream but it is also an achievable dream. We watch friends do it and we think, "Hm, maybe I can too." It's a goal to strive for; something to push for; something to keep us going.

To earn the right to wear that finisher jacket is a big achievement. It's our moment in the sun - our moment of glory. For us average people and average runners, our lives and races are mostly carried out in anonymity.

In Boston, though, we are superstars for a day. We are all elite.

So there you have it. That's why Boston is such a Big Deal®, at least to me. Obviously there are as many reasons to want to run a race as there are runners. A lot of runners will give reasons that are a lot more noble. Some will say it is a bucket list item; that they're raising money for charity; that they're using the race as the summit of getting through some difficult or challenging period in their life; in memory of someone; etc.

Most won't ever admit that one of the reasons they want to run Boston is to join that elite group of qualifiers/finishers. Being competitive is out of style. I don't really care that it is. Yup, I'm competitive. Against myself and against the other runners. Yup, I want to beat you. Yup, I'm proud that I trained hard, ran fast, and am running Boston because I qualified for it. No, I'm not sorry.

I want to run Boston because I want to join that group of runners, add my name to that that long and prestigious list. I want to run it because I earned it. Because I have clawed my way back from injury and worked my butt off to get to this start line. I want to make my husband proud. I want to run it for those who can't. I want to hear the walls of sound coming from 500,000 spectators, see that iconic finish line ahead of me, and cross it. I want to follow in Meb's and Kathrine's footsteps. I want to escape my average life and for a day, I want to feel elite.

4 days.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

LR2B - T-minus 11 days

That my last entry was about my no good very bad long run is a great example of how no good and very bad I have become with documenting things.

Since that entry, written at the tail end of February, much has transpired and here I am cruising through Taper Town with my most intense month of training behind me. After that bad run, I was very anxious about how March was going to go and thankfully, 75% of it turned out to be fine. The other 25% was the week after the no good long run, during which I felt exhausted, sore, and completely sluggish. BFF Steve and I chalked it up to a bout with over training syndrome; after all, I had just run my highest volume mileage week in more than a year.

[Never mind that my highest mileage week in a year was a measly 32 miles...]

Taking it easy for a few days and trading roads for trails for my long run the next week seemed to do the trick for my body, but I had still had to work to convince my mind that I really could pull off the rest of the training. Mother nature helped out a little when she got the memo that it was in fact still winter/early spring and NOT early summer. Cooler temps helped immensely as I ticked my way through March, building a bit of confidence with each successful run.

Before I knew it, I was facing down the biggest week of training: a Yasso Test on March 20th; 10 miles on March 22nd, and my one and only 20 miler on March 25. Back when I made my plan, I remember filling in this week and feeling like it was going to be impossible to execute. At the time (waaaaay back in January), I was doing 20 mile weeks and that was hard enough.

[That waaaaaay back thing was sarcasm, by the way]

I tried really hard to weasel my way out of the Yasso test. I was afraid to do it because I had just had a great long run that had done much to restore my confidence in my ability to successfully complete a marathon and the last thing that I wanted to happen was to follow it with a big fat fail of a Yasso test. As every runner knows, the physical aspect of the sport (while difficult) is the easier thing to build up and the real test is whether you can train your brain into believing you can achieve what you need to.

Kit, however, would not allow me to weasel out of the Yasso. I begrudgingly met him at the track on Monday morning.

[If you don't care about the technicalities of running, skip this next part you'll be really bored. It's safe again after the picture.]

If you're not familiar with the Yasso Test, here's a really basic primer. It is named after the Official Mayor of Running, Bart Yasso, whom I've had the pleasure of running and post-run breakfasting with multiple times. He had a habit of running 800s and discovered a pattern that his 800 lap time and his marathon finish time correlated almost exactly; the Yasso Test thus became a marathon finish time predictor.

Here is how it works. Let's say you have a goal of running a 3 hour, 45 minute marathon (3:45). To test whether you are physically prepared, your goal with the Yasso is to complete a track work out that consists of 10 - 800 meter intervals complete in 3 minutes, 45 seconds each, with a rest period of similar duration between each.  So:

Mile warm up
800m in 3:45
Recovery jog for 3:45
800m in 3:45
Recovery jog for 3:45
[repeat until you've done it ten times]

It sounds complicated, but it isn't really.

It doesn't sound very difficult to execute either. For the first few laps, it feels pretty reasonable indeed. The pace is usually slower than speed work and thus you are fooled into thinking that the Yasso Test is easy as pie. But by the time you get to the 8th, 9th, 10th 800, you realize it is no joke.

Though I haven't said it "on the record" before, my goal for Boston is to run a 3 hour, 45 minute marathon. Initially I just wanted to come in under four hours, but based on the paces I have been able to keep during long runs, the 3:45 felt like it fell pretty easily within the realm of possibility. Therefore, I needed to run each of my 800s in 3 minutes, 45 seconds. It felt daunting and impossible but as it turns out, I'm in much better shape than I thought...

Instead of being the confidence basher that I feared, the Yasso turned out to be a huge boost, showing that I'm apparently capable of maybe even a 3 hour, 35 minute marathon. I could hardly believe it.

The Yasso was followed by a really glorious, and more conservatively paced, 10 miler on Wednesday - which also happened to be my birthday. Kit and I did a point to point route that covered pretty much all of our favorite places: Nickel Bridge, Riverside Drive, Belle Isle, Canal Walk, Flood Wall, and new favorite place, the Tyler Potterfield "T-Pot" Memorial Bridge.


I wish I could say that my 20 mile long run was awesome and that I felt fantastic but I didn't. It wasn't as bad as the no good horrible run, but it wasn't great. The last four miles were a real slog; my left adductors were really just done with me starting at mile 16, which made my left knee start to hurt as my gait suffered through loss of control of those left thigh muscles. The left side continued to bother me and on the following Monday, for the first time during this training cycle, I opted to not do my run. With the real work behind me and a slightly wonky knee going on, it wasn't worth the risk to insist on completing those 8 miles. So I didn't. I'm slightly perturbed about it, as I had been perfectly on track until that point, but better safe than sorry. I've worked far too hard to risk it all by being stubborn now.

Just 11 days away now, it still seems completely surreal that I am going to be running the Boston Marathon. Not only because it is Boston, but because 6 months ago, I could hardly complete 30 minutes of run/walk. 9 months ago, I was on crutches and crying multiple times a week out of frustration, pain, and fear that I would never run again.

That I've come so far in so little time is mind-blowing to me. When this started, my only goal was to get to the finish line on my own two feet, and to hopefully not have to walk any part of the marathon. I never imagined that I would feel confident enough to say that I think I can run a 3:45 in Boston. Truly, I believe I could run a 3:35 an re-qualify, but I also think that would be very painful and not fun. I would rather enjoy this experience so I am not aiming for that goal.

I am now allowing myself to get excited about this. I have been holding back because the specter of injury haunted me throughout the training cycle. It felt like this could all be taken away at any second, without rhyme or reason, just like in May.

It could still be... I am become that crazy, 2 weeks out from a marathon, paranoid runner who hand washes constantly to avoid illness, who won't go on the trails for fear of turning an ankle, who won't go for a bike ride for fear of cars/falling off, who won't walk around shoeless in the dark for fear of stubbing and breaking a toe.

[And I might be already obsessively checking the weather forecast, multiple times a day, through  multiple weather services. Right now the weather looks spectacular, by the way. Sunday night low of 40, partly cloudy and high of 54 on race day.]

So while being excessively careful, I am also plotting how we will spend the time in Boston, made pre-race dinner reservations, and lined up entertainment/touristing. I ordered my race day top (Boston Blue of course), and even a new pair of run sunglasses because I decided I did not want my current pair to be documented for all time in my Boston debut photographs. I've read through my passport and race day guide and started my race-day gear pile.

Nope, I wasn't AT ALL excited on the day my passport and guide finally arrived.

I'm trying to suppress talk of the race in every day conversation. I don't speak of it unless someone else brings it up (except in the case of Husband and Kit. Sorry guys...). Obviously this is a big deal for me but not so much for everyone else in my life.

That being said, I probably will post a few more thoughts that I want to get out before I go; in particular, how this training cycle was different than all the others and the full story on the TENEX surgery that I had and what the recovery was truly like from the standpoint of an active person/athlete. Unfortunately, injury - and in particular plantar fasciitis- is such a common experience for runners that I want to share my experience in hopes of helping others who are suffering from it and trying to make decisions about treatment and understand what recovery can look like.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

LR2B: A No Good, Very Bad Long Run

I am a little more than half way there. Today I ran 18 miles, making week 8 my first week of training during which I broke the 30 mile barrier.

Today also sucked. Hard core sucked.

Up until this morning, I have been on the upswing with each week leaving me feeling more like myself. I'm not quite where I was last spring, which was what I would call the peak of my fitness to date. But I have been getting close to it.

There were a few things that came together to make this morning miserable. One: a pretty challenging route that included the Nickel Bridge and the steep uphill on the other side of it, as well as the hilly section of Riverside Drive (hills that I used to chew up and spit out, by the way) and the long slow include up 2nd Street. Not as bad as 5th Street or even 9th, but Belvidere would've been better.

Two: the weather. 59 degrees at the start and full sun. In February. What the hell. During the summer, this would have been a fantastic cool weather run. In the middle of "winter," it is a terrible hot run.

Last night I was having a complete crisis in confidence and was full on dreading the run. It is never a good feeling to show up to your training run wishing it was over before it even starts. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, things started out ok. For the first 10 miles - the hilliest part - I hung with Lauren and we averaged something around an 8:00/mile pace. This is, of course, faster than I need to be running on long runs and I full well know it. But I just can't help myself. It's so difficult for me to run slower than I naturally want to, even when I know that doing so will only result in pain and suffering later on.

Around mile 10, after we had made the seemingly endless run up 2nd Street, I knew I was toast and that the next 8 miles were not going to be pretty.  Thankfully they were blessedly flat; if they had been anything other than flat I may not have made it back. The temperature was rising, the sun was beating down on us. Lauren and Eric, who we had picked up along the way, got ahead of me at Floyd and I let them go; I had to make a quick bathroom break (thanks, Robinson & Stuart Starbucks), which hardly ever happens to me; and when I got to the mile 12 SAG I took my good old time standing there and eating my whole Gu and drinking a few cups of water. I probably stood there for 5 minutes, trying to work myself up to get moving again.

But as I often say, when you're out there, the only way to get back is to keep running. So I did. Slowly. My pace dropped to barely keeping a 9:00. I stopped at GAWS and there were no cups left, so I put my face under the spout of the cooler and poured the water directly into my mouth. I took a wrong turn (nooooooooooo) and thought I missed the last SAG at 16. I was about to just stop and yell "Paaaaammmmm where arrrrreeeee you?????" when I caught a glimpse of the blessed big blue and orange coolers off to my left and made my way ever so slowly to them.

Three other runners from the group were also at the SAG. We exchanged whining about the terrible weather; two moved on and the third offered to run back with me. Thank goodness too; chatting with Mike about his experiences in Boston and trying to keep up with him is what got me to the end. I haven't been so glad to see the end of a run in a long while.

I found a shady spot of concrete back at the parking lot and sat down for a minute partially because it felt cool and partially because I did not want to move another step. I took the opportunity to capture my true feelings about this run.

I was so tired I don't even care that I was on the dirty ground.

That is exhaustion, folks.

The aftermath has not been pretty either. I'm hobbling around the house, my legs hurt and my feet hurt terribly. I used to run 18 miles and feel perfectly fine. Well, maybe not perfectly fine, but pretty decent. After a much-needed shower and replenishing my salt levels with some french fries, I slept on the couch for almost two hours. I'm still feeling pretty groggy and working tonight should be interesting.

In the back of my mind, I am trying to remember how much I missed this. How much time I spent crying last summer because I wasn't doing this. And to remind myself that one crappy run doesn't mean much - crappy runs happen. I have five more weeks of real training before my taper to get my act together and truly be ready to run 26.2 again. Here's to hoping next week is not so warm.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

LR2B The Official Plan

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed and saw a post from the Wrightsville Beach Marathon - "16 weeks to race day!" and it struck me that if there were only 16 weeks to Wrightsville, there were only 20 to Boston.

And that meant that I needed to get my butt in gear by a) starting to actually run again; and b) getting a training plan put together.

I knew I'd be running again with the Winter Marathon Training Team (WMTT/formerly Spring Marathon Training Team), the same group that I've trained with for the past three winters. So, I pulled up last year's training plan and used it as a reference as I created one of my patented Frankenstein marathon training plans.

I have no delusions of running hard in Boston. I just want to run the whole thing and hopefully finish in under 4 hours. Starting from zero and having just 16 weeks to get myself back to marathon is incredibly daunting... especially when you are still running scared like I am and not 100% pain free.

With this in mind, I've created the most baby steps beginner plan ever. As I have in the past, I am running only three times per week. I will not, however, be using the Run Last Run Faster formula of speed work/tempo/marathon pace long runs. They will all just be steady runs with the only goal being completion. During previous cycles, I've been mindful of not increasing mileage too quickly, but I haven't paid super close attention to the % increase in mileage week to week. This time I was very careful to try to keep it near the prescribed 10%. This was challenging, given that I am starting in such a sorry state in terms of mileage per week.

The team will run three 20-milers; I am doing just one. I'm keeping my Wednesday run to half the distance of the long, and Monday (formerly speed work day) will be a 4-5 miles, for the most part.

On non-running days, I'll be sticking with spin class, cycling outdoors (weather permitting), perhaps swimming, strength training, and at long last, a return to yoga. I'm allowing one day completely off per week - Friday.

Here's what it looks like (click to enlarge):

All in all, I will run just 376 miles during the 15 week training cycle. It seems insane, I know. But the truly crazy thing is, that is all that I ran last spring on my way to the BQ at Wrightsville. That gives me some level of comfort... until I remember that last winter I was at my running peak - completing 20 milers with a 7:50 average and running 6:20 miles during speed work sessions.

Needless to say, I'm a far cry from that now. 376 miles seems woefully inadequate but to be frank, I have messed around with this plan as much as I could and I just can't add anything in without the mileage increase being too much. I just have to have faith that my huge base hasn't completely eroded during my time out and my fitness level will be good enough to get me not only to the start, but the finish of the marathon on less than 400 miles of training.

I spent the month of December trying to build a base so that I would feel comfortable joining the Boston team for my first long run (10 miles) on January 7. The first week I ran 13 miles, then 14, then 15, then 17. My pacing has been for the most part around an 8:05-8:15/mile average. I don't strive for anything in particular, I just do what feels most comfortable and natural.

I miss running fast.

I had decided my test to see if I was ready to join the team would be an 8 miler - this was the distance for the first official Boston team run scheduled for 12/31, which I would miss because of travel.

8 miles sounds like nothing, but I hadn't run that far since the beginning of June. On Friday, December 23, I ran 8 miles at an 8:10 overall pace, giving me the boost of confidence I needed to feel ready to start with the team in January.

There you have it. Onward...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

LR2B - Warm Up Part 2

As is expected, I got behind already. Shocking, right?

Here's pretty much what you need to know about the past three weeks.

1. This is what my running life looks like.

You get the point.

I've progressively gotten a bit further on each 30 minute run I've done. First, I broke the 3 miles in 30 minutes barrier on October 19th. I felt fine afterwards, so pushed a bit further the next time by adding in a few 2:1 segments near the middle to end of my session. With no resistance from Gertrude, I decided to go for an all 2:1 on Monday the 24th. I dropped a 9:00/mile average that day and felt great. So great, in fact, that I renewed my membership to the Richmond Road Runners Club and signed up for the annual 10k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.

Then came Wednesday the 26th. I was overly confident and had a goal of running a half mile segment. Which I did - twice. But it hurt the whole time and then I paid for it big time for the rest of the day and throughout Thursday. This all devolved into a full on meltdown by Thursday night. I decided to be cautious and not run on Friday, so during week 3 I ran only twice.

I returned to the track on Halloween. I refuse to back down, so I did the same workout that I had done before - a 2:1 with two half-mile segments thrown in the middle. I executed them perfectly too, finishing both in 3 minutes, 50 seconds. On Wednesday the 2nd, I upped the ante a bit, first throwing down a half mile at a 7:40/mile pace. I walked one minute and then did 3/4 mile - the longest I've run in months - again at a 7:40/mile pace. The longer I went, the less Gertrude hurt and the more everything else hurt. Not sure what that means, other than I'm in terrible, terrible shape.

Then on Friday, November 1, I did this:

What? You can't tell the difference (other than the part where I forgot to stop the Garmin when I was finished and left it on until I got to my car and realized it)? Well, I guess I'll forgive you for not noticing that I ran AN ENTIRE MILE NON STOP during this workout, at a pace of 7:26 by the way. Then I walked for 2 minutes before doing a half mile at a 7:24 pace. My overall was a 9:00 average - the quickest I've been.

Did I pay for it later? Yep. My calf and foot hurt for the rest of the day, probably a pain level 4 to 5. But the way I see it, I just have to keep moving forward.

2. At least I don't cycle in circles (for the most part)

It's no secret that I am a terrified and reluctant cyclist, but it's all I have when it comes to a long, hard workout these days. Much to my dismay, Kit is also broken now so we are both banished to bikes. On Sunday the 22nd, we met near Berkley Plantation went 20 miles east on the Virginia Capital Trail to the Chickahominy River, cover territory that at least I hadn't yet ridden, then back again.

 Having learned my lesson about cycling-induced hunger, we brought PLENTY of food this time and stopped on the bridge to enjoy the view and feast.

But there is still more to be learned about cycling and that day's lesson came in the form of numb feet.  It was in the lower 40s when we set out that morning and within about 30 minutes, both of my feet were completely numb. They didn't wake up again until a good 60 minutes after we were finished. Not a good feeling. In my silly runner brain, for some reason I thought that cycling shoes aren't as breathable and well-vented as running shoes... and therefore would be warmer. 

This is not the case at all. 

As it turns out, the solution to preventing feet that are numb from cold is buying toe covers. (SURPRISE, yet something else I have to buy to cycle comfortably.)

Unfortunately for me, I did not have time to go buy toe covers in between Sunday and our next long ride on Saturday the 28th. For the time being I opted for thicker socks and hoped for the best. 

Though we may not be going in circles, there are just a few cycling routes that Kit and I know well and feel completely comfortable on: to Ashland and back, West Creek and the surrounding area, and the Capital Trail. We've been riding a lot since I got hurt (and more now), so they are quickly getting boring. So we decided to drive out to the Chickahominy Park, where we turned around the week before, and start there then ride the end of the Capital Trail to Jamestown, where we picked up the Colonial Parkway.


I had no idea this thing existed but am very happy that Kit introduced it to me. It's a three lane wide composite parkway with a low speed limit that goes from Jamestown through Williamsburg to Yorktown. It's very scenic and for the most part, pretty quiet. I like that because it means I feel less like I'm going to die (always a plus). 

(Not my photos)

The Capital Trail portion was about 7 miles and then we just went on the Colonial Parkway until we hit 20 miles. We stopped at a pull off near a pond called Jones Mill Pond and ate some snacks before heading back. 

Kit had sworn up and down we'd get a tail wind on the way back but nope... per our usual luck, it was more like a crosswind. I had also not realized how exhausting it is to bump along on an uneven surface like composite for 27 miles. By the time we got to Jamestown, I was dying for the smooth pavement of the Capital Trail and when we hit it, it was like heaven. 

I never knew I could feel so much euphoric relief thanks to a piece of pavement.

Then came the even better part - when we got back to the car, Kit pulls out a surprise snack of Amy's Everything Bagel Chips. I can't even tell you how amazingly delicious and satisfying they were after 40 miles in the saddle (I hate that phrase ... for real).

I said to him, in between mouthfuls of bagel chips, "Man, Kit, people who don't push their bodies to go do something hard at least once a week just don't know what they're missing." 

A good hard workout heightens every sense and does truly make everything better. Even pavement and bagel chips.

On that note, this sign was on the napkin dispenser at the Urban Farmhouse that we stopped to share a coffee in on the way home...

It's the thought that counts?
(Listen, can someone explain to me why my text keeps turning blue mid-post for no reason and I can't fix it? ::headdesk::)

For the next weekend, Kit wanted to try something new. I was anxious about not sticking to a bike trail or otherwise bike friendly route. Have I mentioned I'm pretty much terrified of riding on real roads? Cause I am. After much back and forth, he finally convinced me to try out a route starting and ending at Hanover County Courthouse.

I'm not going to lie; I was extremely nervous about it but in the end I'm very glad I got over my fear and went for it. Most of the time we were on back country roads with no markings that were so quiet that it was easy to forget that they were actual roads and not bike trails. There were a few very intense hills that really tested my legs too. When we finished I felt like I really had done something significant. So much so that I actually felt like I earned a burger.

I still don't really like cycling but I can't deny that I am slowly but surely getting better and stronger each week. To give perspective, the Hanover ride was definitely the hilliest but I still managed to make it my fastest pace too.

In addition to the long weekend rides, I've been going absolutely nowhere on the bike by attending spinning class at least once a week. Generally that goes something like this: I arrive just in time for 6 am start, feeling disoriented and grouchy because I'm running late and my foot inevitably hurts. And also because I'm about to pedal in place for 45 minutes. The first 10-15 minutes of class absolutely suck, I feel like every pedal stroke is way too much effort and whenever Becca tells us to add gears I hope that my inward groan doesn't show on my face. About 20-25 minutes in I find my rhythm and hopefully some strength and take on the rest with a fierce determination, watching every minute tick by like an eternity.
3. Most days, despair still outweighs hope.

There have been bright spots, but it's amazing how quickly and easily my fragile sense of hope can be completely dashed by any number of things. A simple and well-meaning conversation or text; a day of pain; seeing the race pictures of friends who completed the Marine Corps Marathon; driving on my favorite fall running routes and knowing I'm going to miss out on them this year; doing endless laps in the pool at deep water running and wondering if this is as close I'm going to get to running ever again; stepping out of the house into a cool crisp morning and feeling nothing but a sense of loss.

I know full well that positive thinking will go a long way... but knowing this fact and being able to act on it are completely different things. By nature, I am not an optimistic person. Fighting to stay positive is completely exhausting for me. It's hard to fight every day to not feel sorry for myself, to not let dark thoughts and what ifs consume me; to see that positive side of things, like at least I'm not in a boot anymore or on crutches. At least I am "running" three times a week.

I'm tired of the "at least" too. "At least" is not enough for me, but there seems to be little I can do about it.

For the past few months, I've tallied up many of the things that I've lost when I lost my ability to run. But this week another thing dawned on me: this injury has taken away from me the one thing that I was really good at. I'm decent at a lot of things but for a beautiful two years, I was really good at running - and I was good at it because of me. Not because somebody else decided I was good at it, or made a decision that resulted in me being good at it, or by accident. This loss is really affecting me.

On Friday, November 4, I had my final post-op check in with the surgeon. It did not go well. Seven weeks later, there is still way more inflammation than he would like to see. When I ask him what I can do about it, he basically shrugs and says he is sorry but he doesn't really know but that there is still a little bit of hope because he has had patients who have improved at 10 weeks or even 12 weeks.

Sorry? That's all he has to tell me? That he's sorry?

I left incredibly frustrated and on the verge of tears. The feeling of defeat was intense and is still hanging around. I cried a lot when I got home that night; I cried the next morning when I met Kit for our long bike ride, and I cried today when Marcey gave me a patented Big Marcey Hug™.

I'm really tired of crying.

Really, I'm just tired of fighting so hard. There are days when I want to give up on this. But they pass and somehow I pick myself up again and keep going.


Running: 11 workouts, 30 minutes each, various walk/run intervals. Longest interval was 1 mile. Moved from a 10:04 minute average per mile to a 9:00 average.

Cycling: 160 miles covered (Ashland, Capital Trail, Colonial Parkway, Hanover/King William/Caroline County) outdoors; 5 spin classes

Deep Water Running: 3 - 45 minute sessions