Lots of people have been asking me this week if I'm ready for the marathon. They ask how I'm feeling, and I always answer that I'm feeling good, because physically, for the most part, I am (will blog about that later in the week).
Mentally, it's a little more complicated.
To say I'm struggling with my emotions is an understatement. I'm experiencing every emotion imaginable, and I seem to cycle through them almost hourly.
This year's Boston would have been incredibly emotional to begin with, but then I got injured and went through those months of not running and wondering whether I'd even be able to make it to the starting line.
And then the following months, when I did begin logging some miles and allowed myself to consider that I'd be there, but didn't want to get my hopes up, fearing another setback.
So now here I am, just 12 days away, and of course I'm elated. I'm beyond thrilled that I made my comeback, and that I feel completely confident that I will cover those 26.2 miles on April 21.
I'm also so very grateful to everyone who stuck with me through all those months of uncertainty, and who tolerated my whining and complaining, and who never doubted that I'd get to the starting line in Hopkinton.
But as race day gets closer, and I'm truly faced with the reality of being there again, I can't help but feel a lot of sadness, too. I want to be excited and happy and positive - and I am, in so many ways - but those rushes of excitement are always followed by an almost physical feeling of heartache.
I think about how it's tough for me to imagine being back there this year, and then I think about how I was so far removed from the actual events of the day, and my feelings pale in comparison to those who were injured, or who lost a loved one, or who witnessed the horror firsthand. And if they can find their way back to run, or to spectate, or to be at the race in any capacity, then I certainly can, too.
I also think about how sad it made me when my 10-year-old said he was worried about me running again; that he didn't want anything to happen to me. I reassured him that the race would be incredibly safe, and he doesn't seem like he's too terribly anxious about it, but I hate that thoughts like that even have to cross his mind.
There's a memorial at the Boston Public Library, and I'm torn about whether or not I want to go see it. I want to, and I feel drawn to it, but I also know that it will tear my heart to pieces to see it.
But I also think that somehow it might be helpful. I feel like, even after all this time, I still haven't fully processed last year's events. In so many ways, it still kind of feels like it wasn't real. And I know the phrase "finding closure" is so cliche, but maybe that's something the memorial would provide me.
Or maybe the real therapy lies in tracing my footsteps and covering those miles again.
I've been listening to this song and watching this video a lot - sometimes it makes me cry, and other times it makes me smile.
But every time it makes me proud to be running the 118th Boston Marathon. Proud to be one of the 36,000 runners taking back this race. Proud to be representing Boston Strong. Proud to have fought so hard to get here, and to have never given up.
I know that it's not going to be like last year, when I felt strong and healthy and my stride hardly faltered at all - my training just hasn't been sufficient to prepare me to run at that level. But I also know that no matter how tired my legs get, my heart will not fail me.
I may not be fully trained, but I am ready.
I'm ready to cry, I'm ready to run, I'm ready to experience all the emotions the day will undoubtedly bring forth.
And I'm ready to celebrate, because ultimately that place of celebration and joy and happiness is what we're all running towards, and I know we'll get there this year. We have to.
Every marathon training cycle, you wait for one of those great, confidence-boosting long runs. One of the ones where you feel stronger than ever, and your legs seem like they're on autopilot, just pulling you along.
And when you finish, you know - you just know - that you're ready. You're beyond ready to tackle those 26.2 miles on race day, and you'll have moments where you struggle, but you're ready to push through those moments and cross that finish line like the strong, healthy runner that you are.
A few months ago, I wasn't waiting for one of those runs. I was just waiting to run any distance without pain. The idea of having a great 20-mile training run seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. But yesterday, I made it a reality.
The forecast all week had been calling for 40-degree temps and steady rain on Sunday. That forecast quickly deteriorated to become torrential rain. Downpours. Flash flood warnings started coming in. It became very clear that this was going to be ugly.
For various reasons - none of which now seems nearly compelling enough - we decided to stick with our plan to run Sunday instead of Saturday (when it wasn't going to rain at all). Our plan was to run 10 miles, and then jump into a local 10-mile race to finish up the 20.
My personal plan was to to run easy with my friends beforehand, and then run the race at a slightly faster pace, which I figured would mean somewhere around 8:15 or 8:20.
Amazingly, not a single one of us bailed, and we all met up as planned to carpool up to the race location Sunday morning, driving through enormous puddles that covered the entire road in spots. We geared up, commented several times about how insanely stupid the whole thing was, and set out to get it done. Because we are runners, and that's what we do.
Not even 100 yards into the run, our feet were soaked. Avoiding puddles was almost pointless, as the rain was relentless, and we were going to be drenched no matter what. We ran a few loops around part of the course, and avoided (or so we thought) one section of road that was completely underwater. Unfortunately, when we looped back to make our way back to the race start, we came up against this same section of road, but we didn't have time to backtrack, so were forced to wade through the freezing cold ankle-deep water.
As we completed our ten miles, we reminded ourselves over and over again that we were building character - we were hardcore! - we would always remember this run - and if we could do this, we could do anything!
We had time for 9 miles before the race, and got done just in time to pick up our numbers and put on dry socks and shoes and clothes. We knew they'd be soaked again in minutes, but it was nice to at least start out feeling slightly less soggy.
I had made a playlist for this race - something I haven't done in years. I had a feeling it would be a good thing to do, and I was right. I put in my headphones almost immediately and really enjoyed having some music to listen to, now that I was running alone. In the rain.
It was a small race, but due to the washed-out road (that we had waded through), the course had been changed to an out-and-back, with a turnaround at mile 5, so there was always someone running relatively close by, which was nice.
I took off way too fast and ran the first mile in 7:46. I knew that wasn't going to be sustainable, so I tried to back off a little bit, and a few glances at my Garmin told me I was staying right around an 8:00 pace.
I didn't know if I'd be able to hold that for the full 10 miles, but I was feeling so amazingly good, I thought I'd try to stick with it for as long as I could. I couldn't get over the fact that I had just run ten miles, yet I felt like I hadn't run at all, and was starting out with fresh, rested legs.
There were a couple of turnarounds where I got to see my friends, and also got to see three other friends from the running club, who were the first, second, and third female finishers - so great to see them in the lead!
The course is nothing to rave about. It's run through Quonset Point, which is a decidedly non-scenic industrial area, with some train tracks, some nondescript buildings, and a lot of very flat, open stretches of nothingness. Throw in the gray, gloomy weather, and it was even less inspiring. It was flat and fast, though, and I had my tunes keeping me distracted, so the miles were really flying by.
As we turned around at mile 5, I was still feeling good, but I was glad to be halfway done with this part of the run. I was still staying right around the 8-minute pace, and I knew if I had kept it up this long, I'd be able to finish it off. I also knew it was going to start to feel a lot tougher, though, and I mentally prepared myself for that.
Miles 5 - 7 were ok - I started to get tired, but my legs were still cooperating. At mile 7, I had to start playing a lot of mental games to keep things moving. At mile 8, I came back to my old "just get through this mile" tactic, knowing that once I hit mile 9, I could count on adrenaline to get me to the finish.
As we turned the last corner and headed into the finish, I passed a woman I had been running just behind for most of mile 8 and 9. I was mostly competing with myself at that point - I wanted to finish strong - but yes, I was competing with her, too. And as it turns out, she was in my age group, and that last little push at the end put me in first place for that age group.
I crossed the finish in just over 1:20, and was absolutely elated. Running 10 miles, then taking first place in your age group in a 10-mile race is a guaranteed confidence booster, for sure.
I waited for two of my friends to come in, and then headed out to run one more mile. We had only gotten in 9 beforehand, and there was no way I was going to go through all that and not run a full 20 miles.
The weather during the race was a teeny tiny bit better than it had been during our pre-race miles - showers, rather than downpours - but I was still drenched all over again, and couldn't wait to get into warm, dry clothes.
Since it was a small race, the awards were done pretty quickly, and I scored a nice mug and a keychain for my age-group win. Always nice to get something I'll actually use, instead of a medal or a plaque.
There are so many more stories to tell about this epic run - how we tried to come up with some kind of military-type cadence to sing/chant as we ran. How two of my friends tried to outdo each other by seeing who could remember - and sing - all the lyrics to "Eye of the Tiger" and "Gloria." How there was very randomly a swing on a tree next to a dumpster, in the middle of this absolute nothingness we were running through, and how one of my friends got on for a quick swing (I wanted so badly to take a picture, but the thought of extracting my phone from the plastic bag and armband it was in was too daunting). How we waded through the ankle-deep puddle and almost lost our shoes to the muddy grass. How I came to a point during the race where I almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all.
But what I'll remember most is how thankful this run made me to have this group of friends. I was so tempted on Saturday, when it was nearly 50 degrees and blissfully dry, to just go out and do my 20 miles solo. But we had plans, and I knew that even though the weather was going to absolutely suck, I'd rather run with my friends than run alone. And I am 100% certain that I made the right decision.
As I trained for Boston last year, I got all the emails about when everyone was running on the weekends, and I wished I could go and run with them. But I was focused, and I had goals, and I didn't want to sacrifice those goals. And I'm glad I didn't. That's what Boston was about for me last year, and I'm proud of how hard I worked and what I gave up in order to succeed at what I set out to accomplish.
But this year has never been about that. I had thought it would be, but then I got hurt, and I had to shift my way of thinking. I had to shift it a lot, and it wasn't easy at first. I let go of my PR goal. Then I let go of my re-qualifying goal. Then I nearly let go of my 'please let me just run it and finish' goal.
And as I've made my way back and been running regularly again, I've been tempted over and over to try to find a way back to some of those goals.
But every time I thought about going out for my long run alone so that I could try to run a faster pace, I quickly changed my mind and opted to go with the group. I have nothing to prove this year - not to myself, and not to anyone else.
What I have is a need to be there, and to run the course, and to soak it all in, and to reclaim my Boston Marathon experience - and to be a part of the field of 36,000 that is reclaiming it for all of us.
The phrase on this year's banners is "We run together," and that just couldn't be more perfect.
In marathon training, the 20-miler looms large. Even the past few races I've done, following the Run Less, Run Faster plans that have five 20-milers per training cycle, where going out and running a 20 almost becomes the norm - even then, I still got a little nervous during the week leading up to it, and I still felt incredibly accomplished and badass when I completed it.
So this year, with the amount of time I had to take off, and the incredible uncertainty about whether I'd ever get back up to double digits - never mind 20 miles - it was really looming large, but more as a question mark than a nerve-wracking task to accomplish.
And truthfully - I kind of craved that feeling of utter exhaustion, and that feeling of not wanting to take one. more. step. but pushing through anyway. I missed it, and I spent a long time hoping I'd get to experience it again soon.
Today was the day. After a successful 15-miler two weeks ago, and a great half-marathon last weekend, I was thinking I'd go for 18 this weekend. But then I checked the calendar and realized that if I ran 20 this week, I could drop back down to 15 next week, and squeeze in one more 20 the following week before tapering down. And really - how much of a difference is there between 18 and 20?
Let me stop here and say that I would never ever recommend that someone come back quite this aggressively from an injury layoff. If it wasn't Boston, I wouldn't be doing this. I'd be keeping my long runs in the neighborhood of 13 miles, and would be very happy with that. Without an incredibly important race on the horizon, I'd play it much safer.
But I'm pushing my luck a little bit right now, because it is Boston. And because I was there last year, making it a million times more important for me to be there again this year. So yes, I'm well aware that I'm setting a very poor example - especially given that I'm a coach, and I absolutely know better - but sometimes, you have to follow your heart, and as long as my body cooperates, that's what I'm going to do.
So I decided to try for the 20 today, with the knowledge that I could cut it short if need be.
After doing nearly all of my Boston training solo last year, it's been a real treat to do most of my long runs with my friends this year. Last year was all about paces and tempos and intervals and serious focus - and it paid off, and I'm glad I did it.
But I'm also glad this year is different. This year is about getting in the miles needed to prepare me to cover the distance. Period. I have thrown in a few tempo-ish runs the past couple of weeks, and I was going to try to do some faster miles at the end of today's run, but I re-thought that.
I realized that I've asked an awful lot of my body these past 6 or 7 weeks, and it has thus far responded very favorably, so I think I need to be reasonable about how much further I push it, because if I try to add everything (speed AND distance) back in at once, it just might decide it's had enough and stage a little rebellion, and that's something I cannot afford right now.
So today was a comfortable (mostly) 9:00 overall pace. There were some faster miles in there, and there were some slower miles in there, and there was a lot of wind, and there were much colder temperatures than one would expect at the end of March.
But we got it done.
As race day gets closer and closer, the marathon is in the news so much more. And the one-year anniversary of last year's race is right around the corner. And I'm finding myself tearful almost every time I think about it.
As the date gets closer and I get back to some actual training and it all seems so much more real, the stories and the reminders bring all the emotions flooding back stronger than ever. I suppose that's not surprising at all, but it has been a little tough. I find myself wondering how I'm going to hold it together when I step up to that starting line, and how I'm going to not cry just being back in the city of Boston.
I know having my friends with me will help. It will help remind me that this is, first and foremost, a celebration - of the incredible strength, spirit, and courage of runners and of the city of Boston. I think tears are inevitable, but I think they'll be a mix of both sad and happy tears.
The Boston Marathon will never be quite the same again, but I firmly believe that it will just keep getting better and better - and I can't wait to be one of the runners out there taking our marathon back.
I get goosebumps when I think about that feeling, and about being at that spot again - the finish line in sight - knowing you're about to cross it. And I'm also overcome with such tremendous sadness, thinking about what that spot turned into just a short while after I crossed it.
But at the same time, I'm filled with such a sense of hope. And that hope is what I'm going to try to concentrate on as I run those miles this year. Because that's what keeps us going, and that's what this year is all about.
The last time I wrote about Boston, I was feeling pretty certain that I'd be there as a runner, not a spectator - and I was absolutely determined to do everything in my power to remove any lingering doubts.
Now, a few weeks later, those doubts don't stand a chance.
What's happened in those few weeks?
I moved from a 10-mile long run, to a 13-mile long run, to a 15.5-mile long run.
I increased my total weekly mileage to just under 26 - pretty much a 'normal' mileage week for me. (not a normal marathon training week, but I'll take it!)
I threw a few tempo miles into one of my midweek runs, and ran several sub-8-minute miles in a row - something I haven't done since October - and it was really, really fun!
I continued swimming, and I continued lifting weights, and I continued getting on the elliptical, and I took a few more bike trainer classes.
I stretched, and iced, and kept up with my PT exercises, and had a few PT appointments and one acupuncture appointment.
What's also important is what I didn't do - I didn't run as far as I wanted to (yes, 15 miles is a long way, but I'm itching to get in that 20-miler). I didn't try doing any real speedwork. I didn't add in a 4th or 5th run in any of those weeks, even though I've been oh so tempted.
Patience is key for me right now. As much as I want to be ready to tackle those 26.2 miles, I need to be cautious and careful to not overdo it and end up back on the sidelines.
A new issue has helped me to maintain my cautiousness - some pain on the ball of my right foot after my long runs.
I'm not freaked out about it, because it only flares up after the long runs, and it goes away within a day's time. I will see my podiatrist about it, just to get his opinion and diagnosis, but I'm not going to let it stop me from running Boston.
One tactic I'm trying in the meantime is new shoes.
I've been loyal to my Mizuno Alchemys for several years, and it's a little unnerving to try a new type of shoe, but although the Alchemy provides the stability I need, it's far from cushioned, and I think having a little more cushioning will help with this pain on the bottom of my foot, so I'm going to try out a pair of Saucony Omni and a pair of Brooks Adrenaline. Hopefully one or both of those models will make my feet a little happier.
And as another step on the road to Boston, I have a half-marathon this weekend, which I'm really looking forward to. It's been months since I raced, and I'm anxious to get back out there.
I truly have no idea what that's going to mean, in terms of pacing. I've been running relatively well for my shorter midweek runs, and when I run by myself for my long runs, I've been able to comfortably hold a pace between 8:30 and 8:40. I'm truly very curious to see what will happen when I just let myself go. It'll be an interesting experiment.
And after that - onward and upward - hopefully to a 17- or 18-miler the following weekend, and a 20-miler the week after that.
And through it all, I keep my fingers crossed that my shin and my foot and every other joint and muscle and ligament and tendon continues to cooperate.
This morning I finally got a rush of nervousness about Boston - something I had yet to experience this year.
I've felt a lot of things - disappointed, anxious, concerned, sad, sometimes a tiny bit excited - but unlike last year (when I experienced it nearly every day!), I hadn't yet felt that flurry of nervous butterflies that made me pause and take a deep breath.
I loved feeling it this morning. That nervous energy is one of the things I love about racing. It's such an integral part of the journey, and it's instrumental in keeping you motivated and focused, and come race day, it's almost magically transformed into a rush of adrenaline that you can barely contain as you stand in your starting corral.
I've missed those butterflies, and I'm thrilled that they're finally back.
45 days : )
It's a wonderful thing when you're told by both your physical therapists that you can cut your visits back to once a week, rather than twice a week; and by your acupuncturist that you can cut back to every other week sessions rather than weekly.
It's also a wonderful thing when you can start running with your friends again.
It's even more wonderful when you set out for a solo 10-miler (your first double digit run in 4 months, but scheduling issues meant you couldn't meet up with your friends when they were heading out), and you just happen to run into those friends who are also out for their run, and you're able to run 4 of those 10 miles with them.
But the most wonderful thing of all is when you finish that 10-miler feeling better than ever, and feeling completely confident that you will in fact be able to stand at the starting line in Hopkinton on April 21st, and you will be able to again run the 26.2 miles to Boylston Street.
More wonderful things -
Bike trainer classes that have served very well to kick my butt on a few Saturday mornings this month, and have satisfied my need for a long endurance workout while I've been unable to get out for hours-long training runs.
Running Dante's first 5K with him earlier this month - a day that I know neither of us will soon forget. We made it to the 1.5-mile mark before we had to switch to a run/walk, but he made it the whole way, and per my instructions, when he hit the final turn and headed into the last .1 of the course, he ran for all he was worth.
The best part of the day for me, though, was at mile 2, when he turned to me and said "This is the best day of my life."
I hope we run more races together in the future, but even if we don't, I'm glad we had that one.
And the most wonderful thing is that if someone were to ask me right now if I'm training for Boston, I'd say yes - no qualifiers, no maybe, no hopefully - I am all in!
It's a far cry from a 'real' training plan, and I'm totally making it up as I go along, but hey - I'm a coach, I can do that : )
It's a very fine line I'm walking, and I'm aware of that, and I'm doing my best to balance playing it safe with running enough to prepare my body for the marathon distance. Hopefully it works.
And if a good attitude counts for anything, I'll be all set, because I am positively oozing optimism right now. I keep imagining myself at the start, on the course, and crossing the finish line. I know it's going to be a tough race for me, and I'm going to be woefully undertrained, but I'll be there, and that's what matters.
Just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and keep hoping that more wonderfulness comes my way in the next 9 weeks.
Injuries suck. No sugar-coating it. I hate not being able to run the way I want to be running right now. I hate that I'm limited to less than 15 miles a week, at a time when I should be running a 20-miler on a single day. I hate that my Boston training plan is still hanging on my refrigerator, with not a single workout checked off as completed.
I also hate not knowing whether or not I'm going to be standing on that starting line on April 21st.
And this is where you would probably respond with a look of astonishment - and skepticism - that I'm even considering trying to run 26.2 miles less than 3 months from now, given that I haven't done any training, and have no base built up whatsoever.
That's pretty much what my reaction would be if anyone told me they were considering something like that. I know what it takes to train properly for a marathon, and I know (not from experience, but from a lot of firsthand accounts) what it's like to run a marathon without properly training for it.
And I know full well that it's ill-advised to attempt something like that, and I would never in a million years suggest that anyone else do it. I know you need to respect the distance, and I do - I truly do.
But there's always an exception to the rule, isn't there? And this year is an exception like no other, and it's a race like no other.
When I crossed the finish line in Boston last year, I knew I'd be back. Over the course of those 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, the Boston Marathon had wound its way into my heart, and there was no way it was letting go. And of course, given the way the race ended, it became more important to me than ever to be back this year.
Boston has been on my mind, and in my heart, almost constantly. I think about the course, and the spectators, and the indescribable feeling of standing on that starting line in Hopkinton, and running through Wellesley and Newton and into the city.
And I think about the horror and the tragedy and how unthinkable it still seems to me that that happened. It calls up goosebumps, nervous excitment, and tears just thinking about it.
And now that I've been fighting this injury and barely running for the past three months, it calls up determination like I've never known before.
Last winter was a different kind of determination - it was determination to get up at 4:30am once a week to run intervals on the treadmill. Determination to run 20 miles in the cold, alone, with no music, on a hilly route. Determination to hit paces I never imagined I could hit, because I was chasing a big goal.
This year's determination is very different, but no less important.
I'm determined not to run too much just yet, for fear of setting myself back further. Determined to cross-train with the same intensity as if I was running. Determined to try new things, like pool running, and swimming, and rowing, and biking in the cold, and biking indoors on the trainer. Determined to explore every single physical therapy/rehabiltation technique I have available to me.
But mostly just determined to do whatever it takes to get me back to that starting line, and across that finish line, on April 21st.
I had my time of wallowing, and my time of crying into my glass of wine, and my time of thinking that all was lost and preparing myself to head up to Boston as a spectator this year. But I didn't allow that to go on too long, because this is too important, and it's a battle that's well worth fighting.
Limbo isn't a good place to be. I like to know what's ahead - I thrive on having a plan laid out and following it religiously, and I love checking off each workout as I complete it.
So being out here in nowhere land, running a few miles here and there, as my body allows, is uncharted territory. But I'm learning how to find my way around, and my navigation skills have increased tremendously.
I still can't say with certainty that I'll run Boston this year. My heart says it with certainty every day, and I do believe that positive thinking goes a long way - but my body ultimately has the final say in this one, and I've learned that I have to respect that, even when I don't like its decision.
But what I can say with certainty is that whichever side of the barricades I end up on this April 21, I will stand there proudly, knowing that I did absolutely everything in my power to get myself healthy and strong enough to be there as a runner - and if it didn't work, I'll be the best damn spectator the Boston Marathon has ever seen.
My second MRI revealed the same thing that the first one did - no sign of a stress fracture. Definite signs of severe medial tibial stress syndrome, periostitis, inflammation, shin splints - whatever you want to call it. Basically, my tendon is very, very angry.
The offending leg, on xray. You can't see the angry tendon here, but it makes its presence known in other ways.
It is getting less angry, though, thanks to the aggressive PT schedule I've had the past two weeks, and the fact that I'm living with an ice pack strapped to my lower leg.
I've spent more time in PT and doctor's offices the past two weeks than I did all of last year. Carmine is such a trooper, and tags along to all of them. Since there have been so many (literally 4 or 5 appointments a week), I've been caving and letting him bring his Kindle to play games, so it's not too much of a hardship for him. He's still a little chatterbox, though, and has gotten pretty friendly with all the nurses and physical therapists we've been seeing.
I'm continuing with my regular physical therapist, and also continuing with the Graston, and both seem to be helping. Whether one is helping more than the other, I have no idea, so I'm going to keep up with both.
My first acupuncture treatment was Tuesday, and I felt it went well. It was a good experience - not the least bit uncomfortable, and actually really relaxing, as I got a good 15 minutes to just lay still with my eyes closed once she had all the needles placed (15 minutes of quiet stillness is a rare treat for a busy mom, so it was much appreciated!).
There was no noticeable difference in how my leg felt afterward, but I didn't anticipate instant results, and she confirmed that it would likely take a few visits to see a discernible improvement. Next appointment is Monday, and I'm looking forward to it.
And as always, my thoughts are still centered on Boston. I have moments where I'm certain that I will find a way to run it - that I'll continue to heal and continue to be able to run a little more, and somehow work my way up to training runs that are long enough to at least come close to preparing my body to run 26.2 miles.
And then I have moments where I feel pretty doubtful that that's going to happen. They aren't really pessimistic moments - just realistic and pragmatic moments, where I think about how quickly the weeks are passing, and how I have basically not trained at all, and how I have no base whatsoever to work from, and how trying to run 26.2 miles three months from now seems like a recipe for disaster.
I think about where I was last year at this time - in the thick of training, pushing through intense track workouts and hours-long weekend runs, my whole world revolving around the schedule. I miss it, I really do. I miss eating differently on Friday nights to prepare for a 20-miler on Saturday. I miss laying out my Gu and my water bottle and planning my route.
I miss that achy, exhausted, and completely and utterly elated feeling of finishing that 20-miler and checking it off the plan that was posted on the refrigerator. But I try not to dwell on it too much, because it just isn't going to happen at this moment in time, and lamenting that doesn't get me anywhere.
But I'm not ruling out a miracle. I'm not letting go just yet. I'm prepared for not being able to run, but I'm not quite ready to count myself out, either.
Since I started the Graston, I've gone back to running a few times a week again, but using a run/walk interval (started with 2 minutes running and 2 walking, and have moved up to 4 running and 1 walking). The run/walk seems to be going well, so it's what I'm going to stick with for at least a couple more weeks.
I'm also getting in the pool several times a week. One day last week I hadn't planned on swimming, but I found myself really wanting to, so I finished my other cross-training early and snuck in for 20 minutes of laps.
I'm loving the meditative aspect of swimming, and I also love that it is such an amazing workout - core, arms, back, shoulders, legs, not to mention serious cardio - swimming has it all going on, and you definitely get warm in the pool, but no sweating is a nice bonus! In these zero-degree winter days when biking is not an option, swimming is quickly becoming my second love.
Tried my first round of pool running last week, also, and wasn't as bored with it as I thought I would be. It wasn't exciting, and I felt kind of silly, but it was a great workout, and I will definitely be doing more of it, because even though I'm running a bit, I still need to supplement with activities that will come as close to running as possible, to maintain my fitness level.
Biking outdoors isn't looking like it's going to happen anytime soon, as temps seem to be mostly stuck in the teens or low 20s for the foreseeable future - and although I've learned to enjoy cold-weather biking, that's a little colder than I think I can tolerate. I'm hoping to try out an indoor trainer class this weekend if my schedule allows for it, though.
One thing I do know is that all this cross-training is paying off, because when I do run, I struggle to keep myself to a pace slower than 8-minute miles. It feels too slow and too easy - which I take as a good sign that all this gym time is working.
I'm itching to crank the treadmill speed up to a sub-8 pace, but I know it wouldn't be wise, so I stay in the mid-8s, and it feels great. I know I'll still have a long road back to running the race paces I was before, but with all the other training I'm doing, I think that road will be a bit shorter than it might have been otherwise.
Despite the ups and downs, and despite the uncertainty of whether I'll be a runner or a spectator this year at Boston, I'm doing ok. I'm feeling as strong and healthy as I've ever felt, and I know all the cross-training has everything to do with that. I've always mixed up my training, but not usually to quite this extent, and I'm truly enjoying it.
I don't know what the next few months will hold for me, and I don't know how much longer it's going to take for me to get back to my old running self, but I'm pretty happy with the space I'm inhabiting at the moment.
And all I can do is keep at it, and take it one day, one step, one lap, and one workout at a time, and keep believing that it'll all end up where it's supposed to.
I'm drowing in running injury-related acronyms. But I'm hopeful that this cocktail of therapies will finally get me over this still-ongoing injury.
After having a few weeks of slow but steady progress, I got to a great milestone - an 8-mile long run. And I was feeling pretty good. Not 100%, but definitely felt like I was on the right track, and that as long as I continued with PT, I could continue to slowly increase my mileage and maybe even pick up with some semblance of a Boston training plan in a few weeks.
Then, three days after my 8-miler, I set out to run 4 miles, and had to stop at 2 because the pain was so bad.
Needless to say, I was frustrated, discouraged, and depressed, and began mentally preparing myself for the possibility that I would not run Boston this year.
But I also decided that I wasn't going to give up, and that it was time to follow up with my doctor again, to try to figure out why the protocol we were using wasn't working.
A few emails and phone calls later, I had a followup appt. scheduled with my orthopedist for Tuesday, an appt. with an ART-certified PT for today, and an appt. with a new orthopedist for a second opinion on Friday. I've never been to so many doctor's appointments in one week!
My orthopedist evaulated me and we talked about why the original shin pain (medial tibial stress syndrome) was now being eclipsed by a newer pain on the outside of my left calf, and her thought was that the outer calf pain is being caused by IT band tightness, and that the focus of PT should shift from the shin to the IT band. And she agreed that anything was worth trying, including ART, or Graston, or acupuncture - or all of the above.
This afternoon was my first visit to the new PT. I have to admit here that I totally feel like I'm cheating on my regular physical therapist. I've been seeing her for so long, and she's gotten me through so many aches and pains and kept me on track for so many races, including Boston last year. She even called the house that day when she heard about the bombings, because she wanted to make sure I was ok. Clearly, I need to do what I need to do, and she's not certified in ART or Graston, so I know she'll understand, but it does feel kind of strange to not have her see me through this one.
Anyway, after the initial evaulation today, her assessment was that we get started right away on both the Graston and the ART. Luckily I had heard about Graston and seen the tools before, or I might have been a little intimidated when she took them out.
I had heard that Graston can be somewhat uncomfortable, but I honestly didn't find it to be at all. It was like a very deep massage, and didn't bother me one bit. What was cool about it - in kind of a weird, creepy way - was that you could truly feel (and hear - ick) the 'crunchiness' of the injured tissues. And as she worked over my entire left leg, she uncovered areas of tightness and damage that I never would have known were there.
The point of the Graston, as I understood it, is to break up the tissue adhesions that form when the tissue is damaged and tries to repair itself. It does some other things, too, but that's the primary reason for doing it.
The ART was actually slightly more uncomfortable than the Graston, but even that, I wouldn't call painful. It involves the patient actively flexing the affected muscles while the practitioner applies deep, direct pressure - and it works!
When initially evaulating me, my left hamstring and quads and calves - really, just my entire left leg - was unbelievably tight, especially as compared to my right leg. And the difference when she re-evaulated after the treatment was absolutely amazing. My leg has never felt so flexible!
And as I took a few quick steps to run out to the bus stop this afternoon, I felt almost no pain whatsoever in the area on the outside of my calf.
So if you're wondering if ART and Graston work - based on my initial visit, I'd say the answer is a resounding yes.
Next step is to get more info from the new orthopedist, and then schedule another session of Graston/ART, and probably one for acupuncture, too.
I still don't know if this is all going to get me back to the point where I can train for and run Boston, but if it doesn't, I'll know that I fought it tooth and nail, and that I didn't give up - because as a friend reminded me the other day - "that's not who I am."
I always like to look back at my 2013 races, and take stock of where I am, and what I accomplished, and where I hope to go next. And I usually take a lot of time to do this, and write a very long post as a result.
But this year, time is scarce, so the recap will be brief.
The year kicked off with what still stands as one of the toughest, and best training cycles I've completed to date. I had a big goal for Boston, and I worked my butt off to get there. A few races worked their way into my training schedule - the Super 5K and the Ocean's Run half - but it was ALL about getting to Boston and getting my 3:30.
Some snowstorms got in the way, and Scott recovering from hernia surgery made scheduling some of my long runs a little difficult, but in the end, I only missed two long runs, and I nailed every other workout on the schedule, and arrived in Hopkinton on April 15 feeling stronger and more confident than I had ever felt going into a race.
I still struggle with the emotions surrounding Boston, and it's sometimes tremendously difficult to put into words what I'm thinking and how I'm feeling, so I'll just post the link to my two blog posts about it from April - here, and here.
And I'll also re-post my absolute favorite race photo ever, taken by my incredibly talented photographer friend who was at Mile 13 of the race, and captured so perfectly the joy that I was feeling for every single step of those 26.2 miles - the joy that I am so looking forward to experiencing again this year.
Boston 2-13 was undoubtedly the most important race I've ever run in my life, and Boston 2014 will be the second most important. Ever since I sent in my 2014 registration, those 26.2 miles have been all I can think about, and every ounce of energy I put into my running goes toward that singular goal.
Post-Boston last year, I needed to run. Instead of taking my usual week off post-marathon, I only took a few days off. Mentally, I needed it. I needed to get out and pound the pavement, and I needed to get out and log the miles with my friends. It wasn't a great idea, and I paid for it with a month of feeling sluggish and unrecovered, but it was what I had to do at the time.
Two weeks after Boston was the State Police 5K - a new favorite of mine, and this was my second year running it. All my friends were there, and even though I had a mild allergic reaction after finishing, it was still a great race. The Nooseneck 18K was a fundraising run for the One Boston fund, so there was no way I wasn't running that, and I suffered through the approximately 11 insanely hilly miles with a couple of friends.
May was my 6th running of the Cox Providence half-marathon. This is where I really felt the full effects of not recovering properly from Boston. I surrendered the fight halfway into the race and slowed dramatically, not caring how fast I ran or how I placed. It wasn't a very fun race, but I finished and I kept my streak going.
June was my first 5K in a long time, and it was a tough one. It was fun because all my friends were there, and I managed to win an age-group award, but I struggled the entire race, and decided right then and there that I pretty much hate 5Ks.
The Blessing in July brought much cooler weather than previous years, allowing me to run a new PR, even though I hadn't really done much actual training at all, so that was a high point of the year.
It was followed by a low point in September, though, at the Back in Track 5K. HATE the 5K. Another tough run, and another 5K finish way, way off my PR.
Luckily I regrouped in October, and finished the year with two great races - my first 10K at the inaugural Ocean Road 10K, where I ran a very respectable 44:09 and won 3rd place in my age group. And the following weekend, with no Garmin, I pulled off a 1:37:56 at the Newport half, winning 3rd in my age group again.
Unfortunately that was the end of my racing for the year, due to the tibial tendonitis that had me sidelined for a good 6 weeks, and that has kept me to very, very, very minimal running through the month of December. I had to skip my planned Seacoast Half in November (but still got to get away with my friends for the weekend, so had a great time anyway), and there was no Jingle Bell run in December.
I certainly haven't finished the year the way I had hoped, and I won't be starting 2014 by diving into my Boston training as planned.
But I am running, and for that I'm grateful.
2013 was by all accounts an extremely memorable year, and 2014 will be the same, as both will be defined by THE race. Boston.
Getting there this year is going to be more of a struggle, and I have a feeling I'm going to have to fight for every mile, but it's a battle well worth fighting. I will do whatever it takes to get to that starting line and to cross that finish line, and I'm so thankful that my friends are going to be there with me.
I wasn't quite as focused on chasing PRs for most of this year, and only had two of them, but I'm ok with that. My heart just wasn't in it for most of this year, and I was happier just going out and running and doing what I could do, without putting too much pressure on myself.
I still had a great year, and learned a lot about myself as a runner, and look forward to taking those lessons with me into the new year.
2013 by the numbers:
1,270 miles run
11 races (a very low number for me)
One 1st place age-group award
One 2nd place age-group award
Three 3rd place age-group awards
One 3:30 marathon.
Here's to many more healthy, strong, hopefully injury-free miles in 2014.
Boston Marathon, April 21
2014Quonset Point 10-Miler, 1:20:02 Ocean's Run Half-Marathon, 1:42:51 Super 5K, 39:36, Dante's FIRST 5K!
2013United Healthcare Half Marathon, Newport, 1:37:56, 3rd place age-group award Ocean Road 10K, 44:09, 3rd place age-group award Back on Track 5K, 21:53, 1st place age-group award The Blessing of the Fleet 10-Miler, 1:14:58 - New PR Katie DeCubellis 5K, 21:39 2nd place age-group award Cox Rhode Races Half Marathon, 1:40:57
Boston Marathon, 3:30:19 - New PR
Jingle Bell 5K, 20:51 - new PR, 1st place age-group award
Newport Bridge Run, 27:31 - 2nd place age-group award
Zooma Cape Cod Half Marathon, 1:38:07 - 1st place age group award
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:26:35 - 1st female finisher and new PR
Roger Schonning 5K, 21:31 - 2nd place age-group award
United Healthcare Jamestown Half-Marathon, 1:41:26 - 1st place age-group award
Matty Siravo 5K, 21:40 - 1st place age-group award
Jingle Bell 5K On the Beach, 24:18, 1st place age-group award
Hartford Marathon, 3:43:11 (Gansett/Boston qualifier!)
Hazard Castle 7-Miler - 54:01 - PR and 3rd place in age group
Matty Siravo 5K - 22:20 - 1st place age-group award!!!!
YMCA Indoor Tri, 15 min, 600 m; 20 min, 9.7 km; 25 min, 3.35 mi - Top Runner Overall, and 6th of 24 Participants
DVRC 5K (actually 3.8 miles) - 27:55 - Third Female Overall!!!!
Matty Siravo 5K - 24:42 - 2nd Place Age-Group Award!
2009Racing for Two
A Race to Grow 5K - 23:39 - 3rd Place Age-Group Award!
Matty Siravo 5K - 24:11 - 1st Place Age-Group Award!
Chiller Chase 5K - 27:28
Super 5K - 26:58
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:47:56
Jingle Bell 5K on the Beach - 29:05
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:53:52
SNA 5K By the Bay 5K - 26:47
Shoreline Biathlon, 1:37:54