My friend recently mentioned to me that perhaps I don't come across clearly via my blog. She gets to see the side of me that has doubts, worries, and crazy spells that I don't often post about here. The intent when I started this blog was always to be honest and up front about my training.
In the beginning this was to be held accountable to those that were donating to TNT on my behalf, and later it morphed into a place to give an honest take on my own running pursuits. These have been so varied and I never would have guessed this crazy journey would have taken me down my current path. From triathlons for charity, my first marathon BQ attempt, to ultras for fun, to pacing marathons, to chasing a dream. It is definitely not the typical path one would have taken to get where I am and maybe that hasn't come across here recently. I'm still the person who loves a new challenge, I still wish I could be running socially with my TNT and ultra buddies, I miss the trails, I miss the freedom of running a race for fun and not worrying about a poor result reflecting on my training or my coach. Then there is this other part of me who wants to see these goals achieved and that part has tried to sacrifice the other things I want in the heat of the moment to what I want in the long term. But sometimes that is extremely difficult to do.
Sometimes as runners we make stupid decisions. I am not above this. I've been really lucky the past few years to train at a higher level than I used to without any major mishaps and for the most part the goals just keep getting checked off the list. But my running seems to come in ups and downs. Major breakthroughs, often followed by plateaus. It never bothered me too much in the past, but it seems the faster I get I am also getting a bit greedy and impatient :) I want to reach my marathon goals, and I want to do it ASAP. It doesn't help that there is a short time line on my current goal.
Post Boston I was not upset about my race result. I was a bit distressed that it was so difficult mentally and physically to achieve a result that I thought I was well beyond. I was anxious to run at the level I hoped I was capable of, and I was anxious to do it soon. I ignored the fact that I had warded off minor hamstring and calf injuries with religious massages and ART as well as ice and rest, then followed that up with a severe sinus infection just a week before the marathon. I kept trucking along as if this year was the same as last and I would bounce back quickly from this marathon despite these minor set backs that should have been flags all along that I wasn't quite ready. I pushed the boundaries jumping back into training and assumed I could also go out and do other activities on top of runs that were clearly stressing my system because my body has always done what I ask of it. All of this to try and jump in at Cleveland just 4 weeks after Boston and run the race with my training partner. I was advised not to tell anyone about my plans, so that I would have no pressure on me to perform and no negative feedback about making what might be an unwise decision. Then I hurt my ankle and pretty much resolved that my $96 was lost to a race I don't really support and that I would have to suck it up and move on.
Then this little devil on my shoulder realized that Friday my ankle was feeling better and the cough that had been plaguing me finally went away. I took the air cast off Saturday and had no pain walking. I stopped the NSAIDs and went for a light jog to test it and it was fine. I then spent the next 12 or so hours deciding whether or not to toe the line for a race I most likely would not be able to finish. In 21 marathon starts and 9 ultras I have never DNF'ed. I didn't know what my body would do after a week of no running, and I really had no idea if the ankle would be a problem or not. I vowed that if I started and I had pain I would stop immediately and walk off the course.
And so I found myself at the line of the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday. I planned to go out with the 2:45 pack and just see what happened. I stayed with the group for about 5 miles surprised that my ankle felt perfectly fine. But unfortunately I just felt stale and the pace was not going to happen. I let the group go and just ran at what felt like marathon effort. I hadn't worn a Garmin and had assumed at the 10km I would probably have to bail and take a short cut back to town to cheer on my friends. But at 10 km I still had no ankle pain and no real reason to pull out. Clearly I was not running that fast, but nothing hurt and at the end of the day I'd much rather be running than anything else so I kept going and waiting to see how I would feel.
My ankle still made no peep, but it was clear my legs and feet were not very happy. I contemplated where the course went and if I would be able to stop by the club and switch into trainers as I thought I might be able to suffer through the back half if I put on more supportive shoes. Thankfully some friends caught up and distracted me for a few miles, then Salty caught up and was clearly suffering so I put my crappy feeling legs aside and did my best to help her rally and finish the half strong. After all, two gals in their skimpy running clothes really should move as quickly as possible through the ghettos, not power walk the 4+ miles back to town! This actually helped me to focus on something else, my left foot was getting sore and I was starting to get some cramps in my calves which was weird, but the ankle felt great. I did my best to pep talk Salty and run strong to the 13 mile mark where I peeled off and realized a minute later she actually might still be able to PR even though we thought we were running a lot slower than that, with no Garmin I can't say for sure, but my guess is mile markers were not placed correctly. They had said before the race you could not switch to the half mid race, so I walked off the course and took my first ever marathon DNF.
Then I headed out to cheer on all my awesome friends. Including my training partner who got the job done winning the marathon and getting the OTQ. So freaking stoked for her!
Was this the smartest thing I have ever done? No. Did I have to do it? I think so.
Last year I felt fantastic at Cleveland and was kicking myself for not running the full there. I will always wonder what I could have done in the full that day. And now this year I know I could not have done what I wanted to achieve this day. And I am glad to know it. I now have a clearer outline of my physical boundaries and what I can and can't get away with. And I am glad I tried on the off chance something special might have happened. And I am thanking my lucky stars that I didn't injure myself further in the process.
I know now I have a lot of work to do mentally and physically to get ready for the fall. I need to figure out why I am getting all these minor injuries and illness, and I need to find some balance to get to the start line ready to go, ready to fight hard, and not get burned out on the way. The good news is the ankle really feels good, and my body seems to be injury free. Waiting on some blood tests to make sure the cough/lung stuff is really over and to see if perhaps my Vitamin D or Iron levels are low. I want to be 100% before I start ramping up for an awesome summer and fall!
So all this to say that I need to remind myself sometimes that I am not invincible, and I am not perfect, but I love everything about this sport and all the good and bad that comes along with putting what I do and what I want to do out there in the public realm for others to see. So I will try harder to keep it real here and show that much more than my log books go into my race results and decisions.