Hello! Wow it has been a while since I wrote a post! I figured today would be a good day to pop in and give everyone a little life update since it is a snow day…and was my first run in two weeks!
In my last blog post, I mentioned that I had registered for Boston after debating whether I wanted to go back to marathons. I wrote, “I ran my bucket list marathons in 2017 and I want 2018 to be more focused and goal oriented. No more just running for fun to prove that I can simply because I lost confidence in my ability after my injury.” I knew that if I was going to push myself to a new marathon PR and focus on running fearlessly and out of my comfort zone, hiring a coach would be in my best interest. The idea of being coached was still very unsettling. I had convinced myself in 2017 that I am simply ‘not coachable’ and being coached just results in an injury rather than a PR.
I forced myself to sit down and reflect on why I felt that I am not coachable….and it was pretty evident that ‘being coached’ doesn’t make me injured. It is the person I become when I am coached that makes me injured. I lose my voice and my ability to listen to my gut/body when I am being coach. I look at my training plan and my desire to please others just takes over. I want to do everything written on plan perfectly simply so I can make my coach proud. In the process of trying to be the perfect athlete, I ignore the one thing I should cherish the most…my mind and body. THAT is the reason why I get injured.
My 2018 goals are all about running fearlessly and mental/personal growth so I decided that hiring a coach would be a good step in learning how to let go of trying to be the perfect athlete and learning how to speak up for myself . I have been eyeing Mat Nark from Nark Running Strategies for a while because he coaches some amazing ladies that I see on Instagram, incorporates strength in marathon training and is located fairly close to me in Albany NY. I reached out to him and within a few hours, I had committed with him. What really sealed the deal was how he didn’t judge me when I told him how I train for marathons and that my peak mileage for marathons hovers around 35-40 miles. He assured me that he would take that into consideration but asked if I would be willing to slowly increase as we got deeper into training. I was willing to make those adjustments so long as they were done carefully and he was willing to accommodate my style of training…it felt right! And despite this little setback, it HAS been right.
January and February had a good mix of easy long runs, ‘Wednesday Workouts’, recovery runs and variable pace long runs. Despite having a pretty nasty head cold for a couple weeks in February, I felt myself getting stronger and fitter by the day. When I saw my first 45 mile week in January, my heart skipped a beat and fear started to set in. Was I ready? Is this smart? I reminded myself that this was the perfect time to work on speaking up for myself and not being afraid to simply ask clarifying questions. I need to learn to let go of the idea that ‘asking questions’ is rude or a sign that you don’t trust the person. It is actually comical because I am also the person asking my physical therapist or school professor a million questions because I am just a curious person and love to pick people’s brains about anything and everything. But when it comes to a running coach, I clam up and don’t want to look like I don’t trust their knowledge or process. Moral of the story, I asked about the jump in mileage and was given a great explanation and was told that if it felt too much then adjustments could be made. It was a good reminder that at the end of the day, he will respect my feelings but also pushes me to step out of my comfort zone. I ended up tackling the 45 miles and it was actually one of my favorite weeks of training.
Fast forward a couple weeks to my first 20 miler. I felt ready to tackle the distance and had company for the second half of the run. The cold and rain was bearable for the first 14 miles but by mile 17, I freezing and ready for those final 3 miles to be over. Aside from the cold, my body felt fine and there was really nothing I could complain about. My hip/groin tightened up after I finished but that is pretty normal after a long run. I had my usual 6 mile recovery run planned the next day. Recovery runs are probably my least favorite because 1.) I never run slow enough so I basically never hit my paces #fail and 2.) They HURT after a long run. In prior training cycles, I never ran after a long run and just stuck to yoga so these recovery runs are new to me. My mental game is tested more in these runs than any other run. When my legs feel like trash, I remind myself over and over again that these are the moments where I grow.
In hindsight, I think I trained my mind to deal with the pain of recovery runs so well that when my body was ACTUALLY giving me signals to stop…I just ignored them. My hip was having NONE of that recovery run and it was clear that it needed a couple days off from running. I pushed my Wednesday workout of 7 x 1k to Thursday (yes, I spoke up and listened to my gut!…AND my coach didn’t think less of me! …this is actually a big step for me! haha) The workout got done and went surprisingly well. My hip didn’t bother me too much but on Friday’s recovery run (of course), it was relentless. My coach and I adjusted my Sunday long run to an easy 8 and it felt decent.
I left for Disney on Tuesday and was back on track with all my runs. The runs in Florida weren’t painful but they weren’t comfortable either…runs in the sun are my favorite so I loved every second of the runs even in the discomfort.
I really wasn’t sure how everything was going to unfold in the long run (no pun intended). I was relieved that I could still run but was scared of the path I was on. In the back of my mind, I knew this was going to go one of two ways…the minor groin injury would work itself out on its own and my training could ramp back up OR it was all going to blow up in my face and leave me sidelined.
Well….Disney Princess Half Marathon…you were fun but you didn’t grace me with your magic and miracles. The pain during the race wasn’t unbearable but I had a feeling the adrenaline was masking some of it. At mile 12, my lovely pacer/elite runner/friend/brother’s girlfriend Whitney, was telling me to push to finish. I don’t remember being in a ton of pain but I do remember being exhausted and telling myself, “Mel this may be your last race for a while so you better finish strong and not let up“…I can’t help but think that was my body’s way of telling my mind that I did some damage.
The idea of a cool down was frightening and when I started to move my legs in a jogging motion, it was clear it was not going to happen. Later that day we walked around Disney and I actually felt decent but once we got back to the hotel I was in a ton of pain. I had to head to airport in an hour and spent that hour on the hotel floor icing. I limped around the airport and when I finally sat down at my gate and processed everything, my emotions took over. I was disappointed with my run, I was in a ton of pain and I knew that this great Boston training was coming to a stand still. I let myself be sad (yes, in the middle of the airport) but I promised myself I wouldn’t handle it the way I handled last year’s injury. I will not be miserable for 3 months and I will not let this leave me heart broken.
The week after Disney was filled with a lot of doctor’s appointments and workouts that did not cause pain. It took a couple days to stop limping and within a week, there was really nothing other than jumping and running that caused pain. I feared that the injury was possibly a stress fracture so I didn’t try to run until I discussed my MRI with the doctor. I mentally prepared myself for the worst and promised myself that I would be OK with whatever the outcome was.
While I played the waiting game, I was certainly bummed but I wasn’t unhappy. This was a huge step in my mental game and I shocked myself with how well I handled this setback. I cross trained smart and focused on the activities that I could do rather than on what I couldn’t. I started to be happy simply because I was proud of how I was handling it all. When people said that lovely line, “are you dying now that you can’t run.”…I simply responded, “No I am not. It is part of the sport.”
So where am I at now? Well it is not a stress fracture so the doctor is sticking with an adductor/groin strain. I attempted a pretty uncomfortable 1 mile on Friday and today I did my first run/walk interval. 5 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking for 3 miles on the treadmill. I am still not pain-free but taking it day by day.
I made the decision to not run Boston this year and the moment I committed to that decision, a weight was lifted and I just felt free. I will still aqua jog, bike and strength train but I don’t feel the pressure of cross-training to make up for an important training run.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”
Fighting through an injury to make it to the start line of Boston and showing up underprepared is not the path I want to take in 2018. I took that path in 2017 and I don’t regret that choice because that race taught me that I am capable of getting back up after being knocked down. I did well in Boston last year but this time around I am not looking to do well. I want to find a level of marathon fitness that I haven’t discovered yet and if that means staying patient and riding the setbacks out then that is exactly what I will do!
I still want to attempt a Spring marathon and attempt a PR so as of now, the plan is to run Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota in June. It is a race that has always interested me and my brother will be racing it this Spring. My brother is one of my biggest running inspirations and the last time we raced the same marathon was the Boston Marathon in 2015. He was first American, I set a pretty nice PR and our parents and Whitney were at the finish line. It was a memorable race and when I think about reliving that experience at Grandma’s Marathon, I get super excited and I know I am making the right decision.
Lets hope our running skills on June 16th are a little better than our swimming skills here.