Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Journey to Maine Coast Marathon

The first attempt that I made at the marathon last September, blew up in my face, royally. I spent months training, and talking about it, just like most people do. After I got hurt, and got over that sucker punch to the gut, I had to figure out what to do about it. I decided to deal with it, and not let it get me down. I was frustrated, but I am not a quitter. There was no indication that I would get injured that day. It happened out of the blue, running down a flat street, at mile 16.5. I went into the race healthy, and I guess that calf muscle was just ready to snap at that moment. I knew this wasn't the worst thing that could happen to someone, but man, it was really one of the only personal goals I've ever set, that I wasn't able to meet. Casey wondered if I'd ever do another marathon. I immediately said, "of course!!" I didn't get a fair shake. If I had finished it, and decided I just didn't like that distance, and it wasn't for me, that's one thing. But, I didn't even know what the last 10 miles was like! I was pissed.

I had to take 8 weeks off to heal up. That was tough. All of that fitness would be gone. Still not the worst thing. I refuse to be that person whose life seems to end if they can't run. I know how to find other things to do, and set other goals. I have kids, and job for crying out loud. I can't be just a runner for 24 hours a day. I have been an athlete my entire life. A soccer/volleyball/lacrosse player, a cyclist, a bodybuilder, and a runner. I could get over a couple months of not running, and I wasn't permanently crippled. I think of those people who got their legs blown off in Boston in 2013, and some came back to run it with a prosthesis! What could I possible have to complain about!? Why would a partial muscle tear ruin my life, and make me give up!? It's all about attitude, and I refuse to have a bad one..win, or lose.  The thing I want to impress upon my kids the most, is to be a good sport, no matter what. No one is entitled to success, and shit happens. Be a gracious competitor. I see a lot of bad attitudes out there. I've had people say to me that they thought I'd be angry, or hate them if they beat me in a race. That offends me. Do I come across as having a cocky attitude? I don't expect to win a thing, and if you beat me, I will congratulate you. Unless you cheated to do it, you probably deserved to beat me. If I got mad at anyone, it'd be myself. And, if someone dislikes me for beating them, that's their problem, not mine. I'm competitive, but not a jerk. I have learned to be ok with results. If something doesn't turn out how I want, I don't have a tantrum. I just try to fix the problem. 

Of course I felt like it was just bad luck that I got injured, but I had to evaluate what I could do to prevent it from happening again. One thing which sounds so ridiculous, is that I had been dealing with a plantar wart on my right foot. I trained for months on it, and it was painful. After the race ended I had planned on treating it. What I didn't realize was that stupid wart was changing how I planted my foot. Duh. I was getting out of bed one morning, when my calf was better, and realized I wasn't even putting my foot flat on the floor. I truly believe this was a main contributor to my injury. It took months to get rid of, and I really had to focus on planting my foot correctly for a while! So dumb! Then, in comes the strength training. I had lifted weights for years. Once I started running a lot, I gave up strength training. Mistake. I atrophied quite a bit over the last 2 years. So, that 8 weeks gave me the time to get back into it. My coach, Jasmin, gave me some great workouts, and I did them regularly. All along, also doing my PT, and recuperating. It helped. I recover from races, and hard runs so much faster now!

Finally, after Thanksgiving, I could start running again. Starting over from 0 miles was mentally tough. It took a lot of patience. It was weeks before I could run one full mile all at once. But, I listened to Jasmin, and took my time. I told him that if I hit the end of December, and was still healthy, I'd train for Maine Coast, and we were going back to a normal training plan! That'd give me enough time. I didn't know if I could get back to the same fitness I had in September, but I'd try. I came really close. It took until March before I built up to over 30 mile weeks, but there came the patience thing again. I had some really crappy races. One 5K that I never told anyone about. It was awful feeling so out of shape. I just knew that every race I did, would get me closer to the fitness I wanted, even if the race didn't go well. I chose a few races to get me to May, but was very selective. Despite wanting to do every race under the sun, I didn't. So many people over-race, in my opinion, but to each their own. I'm only in control of myself. After I raced so much in 2015, I realized it wasn't necessary. I just needed to keep my eyes on the prize...get to the marathon, and finish uninjured.

Then there was Casey. Who better to have around than him.?! A college running coach of 20 years, and an uber-experienced, and successful marathoner! His approach to training, and demeanor are really something I aspire to be like. I do not ask my boyfriend to write running programs for me. I use him for occasional advice, and opinions, but we keep the training part separate. He really is my best moral support. Casey was there every step of the way for me throughout my training, and throughout my race in terrible weather. He was there for the first marathon, where he practically had to drag me off the course to get me medical attention, while I kicked and screamed...literally. He also got me into skate skiing. It was our adventures on the XC ski trails that helped boost my fitness. It was invaluable cross training. It supplemented my low mileage in the beginning, and I actually enjoyed it. 

Between Casey, and Jasmin, I felt like I had all of the resources I needed to get through this again. They are 2 of the calmest people I know! 

I know it often appears like my life is an open book, but I can actually really keep a secret! I felt badly about lying to people, but I truly did not want to talk about my plans. I didn't want it hyped like the last one. It did me no good. I had to go through the motions of hiding a lot of runs on Strava, but also make it look like I was doing enough so that no one would start to wonder if I had given up. Social networking makes secrecy difficult, but it can be done. I am part of a very social club, where everyone talks about what everybody else is doing. I love it, but it just wasn't going to work for me this time. I felt like I climbed into a bit of an antisocial cave for a while, but I just needed to do it. I love the support and motivation that my teammates give, but in this case, it was my own personal ambition that was going to drive me. For me, running 20 miles with a group of 10 people, does not help me. I'm so glad we have that option, and that others have that to get through their training. My theory was that no one is going to hold my hand during a race. I needed to go out and endure these long runs in solitude. I basically needed to know how to suffer alone. I do not mind the quiet. I did not want to get sucked into talking about what I was up to.  I told Amanda what I was doing, and asked her to not tell a soul. She was a saint. She joined me for 10K of one long run, and almost every other mile of training was done alone. 

The other thing I did differently, was to get regular massages. I ponied up the money, and went every 3 weeks. All to stay in one piece. I also had to swear Tina to secrecy, since she also massages half of the people I know! She was a miracle worker! Between the 7 months of strength training, XC skiing, and massages, I felt like I had done everything I could to prevent injury again. Of course I told some family members, and my kids, but I knew they weren't going to be gossiping about my intentions. I had my tiny network, and I was good with it.

It was ok that no one saw my 20 miles runs. I knew I had done them. No one saw the endless dynamic stretches and warmups I did before EVERY run, either. All to prevent injury. It was not easy to drag myself to the gym on days I had already done a hard run. But, every time I had talked myself out of going, I'd remember what it felt like when my calf tore, and I'd go. 

I am not always an extremely patient person. I like immediate gratification. This experience was good for me. Basically, it was a year of training, and a personally upsetting event to make it this far. Sure, I could've just randomly decided to jump into any marathon not 100% trained, and do it just to do it, but that's not how I roll. I don't deprive anyone of their own success, but if I had to endure one more person saying they finished a marathon before I did, I was going to rip my hair out.

The race pretty much went how I wanted it to. I didn't start as slowly as I planned, but I didn't blow myself up either. It sucks that there was a mistake from a volunteer, that cost me being 4:00 minutes closer to my goal, but I ran a good race. I ran well enough to still BQ despite someone else's error. I was prepared for hitting the wall. I wasn't gonna slow down if I didn't have to, but when the wall hits, it hits hard. I didn't completely unravel. I kept moving. Whatever happened that day, I decided was ok, as long as I finished. Even if it took me 4 hours, it would've been a better result than my last one. I ran as hard as I could, for as long as I could. I honestly expected to slow down a little earlier than mile 20, so when I was still rolling at 18, I was psyched. Mother Nature was not kind that day, either. After giving myself some serious pep talks about the weather for the week before, I decided to be a big girl, and deal with it. My legs had never run that far before. I was almost bursting into tears well before the finish line, because I just knew I'd finish. I felt like crap, and started freezing at mile 23, but I made it. I think I can avoid that bonk a little with some more experience. We'll see where this takes me, but it looks like it might be Boston! I think I'm ready to take a few weeks off, and heal up these legs that ran 700 miles over 5 1/2 months (with a lot of them in secret). Then, I'll return to the land of running blabber mouths. 😉

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