A few (maybe more?) years ago, I was on the interwebs and stumbled across the Georgia Death Race. At the time, it seemed unfathomable to “run” something so difficult. Who in the world would ever be able to do such a thing?
And here I am signed up for this race.
There is a correlation in the time I read a piece by Lisa Jhung. She carelessly tossed around “hilly 16 miler” like it was a walk down the street and I was in awe that someone could do such a thing and still go about their day like a normal person. This was obviously well before I signed up for my first marathon. But I remember it distinctly because I wanted to know what it felt like to be able to do something so awesome with ease.
And I’ll admit that over the years the long runs, marathons, and ultras seemed to just become more flippant. Not that I wasn’t working hard to maintain a certain level of fitness. I always respected the distance. But I did start to see marathons as just stepping stones in the process of completing more ultras.
After finishing that first 26.2 though, I never have really had much doubt about completing a distance. Sure, I’ve had thoughts in the moment about continuing the race. But I’ve never actually felt like I signed up for something that I wasn’t sure of finishing.
Even the first 24 hour/100 miler. There was a bit of fear of the unknown after the 100K mark. I knew things were going to get tough and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect both mentally and physically. But I think I always knew that I was capable of doing it.
Which is what led me to thinking after this last 24-hour race that I really needed to just get myself out of going after the “easy” stuff. I put a true 100-mile race on my goal list along with a fast marathon. Both really were not unachievable, especially considering 2016 & 2017.
When I was first injured back in February, I started seeking out the gnarliest races possible. Crazy elevation and distances. Seemed totally reasonable to be in a boot and dreaming about 40,000’ of gain. There is this weird line of wanting to do things that are really hard and knowing what your body is capable of. I think I’ve always waiting until I was beyond ready to go after a goal. So, I felt the need to jostle it up a bit.
But now I kind of find myself back at square one. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to get my fitness and endurance back up, but I do know it will probably be months even in the best conditions to feel somewhat normal again.
I’m getting wordy now. It happens. If I can’t run, at least I can write. Running arguably leaves me feeling much better, but writing seems to be relatively injury-free. <Insert carpal tunnel foreboding thought here>
I should be creatively thinking about other things, but my brain is kind of tapped out at the moment. There is a lot bubbling up there right now. Excitement about the boot removal, fear of effing myself up again, how to manage pain, how to know what is normal, how to know what is detrimental, etc., etc.
I know there will be good days and bad. I know I will likely feel something that makes me say ohshitohshitohshit. I know I will do something really stupid. I know that I will back off even when I don’t need to.
I was thinking this morning as I walked into the bathroom half-awake that I missed 2016 Carissa. I had pulled a glass out of the cabinet last night to enjoy an IPA that a coworker brought back from Indiana. I chose a glass from the last 50 miler I did which was in Indiana. It was more of a last-minute whim that I decided to race. Man, what I would give to be in jumps-into-50-milers shape right now.
Mind you, it took a few years of consistent work to get to that point. I felt good because I interspersed the racing and big goals with fun running. But then I got greedy and wanted more, MORE, MORE!
This will be the hard. I still want more.
It’s going to be tough to run just to run. For the last 5ish years, I’ve been jumping from race to race without any real down time. There was something always near on the horizon. I would say I learned my lesson, but I don’t want to live cautiously forever. I mean, I don’t want to live in the boot forever either. What’s a girl to do?
It seems like advice comes out of the woodwork when things are not peachy keen. I’ve decided at age 36 that I’m disagreeable to getting advised. Maybe that makes me a stubborn jerkface. Oh well.
It’s kind of a liberating feeling when you stop worrying about what other people think. I can still be kind and thoughtful, but I don’t have to pretend. I’ve never been a good liar. You will likely know if I like you or not.
Back to running. I have my little “plan” set up for next week and let’s be honest, the weeks following until NYC. But I have no idea what it truly will look like from week to week. In some regards I wish I had a coach to just keep me from hurting myself, but that kind of goes against my whole disagreeable-to-getting-advised. And would I actually be honest with him/her?
I dunno. I feel like I have a few people that I talk to about my running that I can be 100% honest about how I feel/what I want and they aren’t trying to give me advice with every conversation. Oh, and I can freely bitch in my running log. Even if the pain is microscopic, I can complain. And I do want it noted because I actually see where I started feeling tibial pain this last go ‘round.
The boot is off.
It should be followed by an exclamation point, but I don’t know that I feel it is worthy of that until I have my first pain-free run. And I need to get to the point that I am doing pain-free walking first.
I think I had felt mostly better when I got out of the boot the last time. Like, I wasn’t super worried about going for a run because I wasn’t still nursing the injury.
But this time my FF hurts and the FT seems to be mostly okay. I hate waiting and my heart is so ready to run, but I am really trying to not be stupid.
So I’m still sitting at work. I’ve got the metatarsal pad back on. I will take it one day at a time when it comes to weight-bearing exercise. I’m waiting for the day that I wake up and things are not in pain.
Saturday, I had a lot of FF pain. It was really bothering me and I took each step from the parking garage to the stadium with ease. I sat during most of the concert save for the last hour or so when it finally seemed to be a little less painful. Paired with a summer cold leaving me with laryngitis, the inability to shout, the heat of the day, and the tiny chairs crammed in together, I was not having a great time TBH. Plus, I was super conscious of the balance of staying hydrated enough to pass out, but not hydrated enough to stand in line for the bathroom all evening. Very annoying when I was trying to flush out a cold.
I had spent most of the day Saturday just laying around. It made me feel a teeny bit guilty that I didn’t do much, but I also knew it was going to be a long night.
Sunday, I slept in really late. My FF actually felt pretty good all day, but I didn’t want to press my luck. I decided to just do an arm Tabata workout and part of a core workout. I stood for a few of the arm exercises that are more awkward sitting, but also made sure that I didn’t do too many of them standing.
I piddled around the house cooking, doing laundry, etc. and was on my feet for a bit, but I barely had over 3,000 steps for the day.
I’m not really sure if being barefoot or having shoes on is better at this point. The pressure of the shoe on the top of my foot is pretty annoying sometimes, but I think the support of a harder soled shoe is better. Seems like every other day is a different feeling.
It made me think about Boston when my foot was killing me the day of the expo, but then I actually felt pretty good the day I ran?
Of course, I miss running a lot, but I also just miss being able to do my daily activities without pain. Even just walking around like a normal person is something that I haven’t been able to do for quite some time.
Oh. Em. Gee. There might be light at the end of the tunnel?? I don’t want to get too excited, but let’s face it, I am too excited. Today marks the first day in quite a long time that my foot and leg did not seems to be bothering me AND I can walk like a normal person.
I was almost thinking that I was never going to know what that felt like again. Dramatic for someone who ran paced someone for 30 miles in May and ran the Boston Marathon in April. I know.
But I haven’t felt good about anything related to my running in about 8 weeks so excusemewhileIenjoythis.
I really want to just go run right now. But I think I need to wait at least another day before attempting. I know it is going to be a pretty awful and amazing experience. Awful because I’m going to be ridiculously out of shape. Amazing because, well, running!
I am going to head to the gym tonight to get muh HR up a bit on some torturous cardio machine. It seems like my willpower to withstand them gets tinier by the day. But maybe if my body is actually feeling decent, it might suck less? I dunno, I don’t want to do anything to hamper my first run experience, so I’m tempted to just try to keep it as easy as possible (famous last words).
I used the arc trainer for 45 minutes (plus a 5-minute cool down) on Tuesday and my FF seemed to be a bit agitated about the situation. It was feeling tender afterwards through my strength workout, so I maintained the sitting position through my reps.
Yesterday, I wore the metatarsal pad all day and sneakers to work. It’s not like I walk around much at all, but my foot was feeling achy and I couldn’t shake the feeling that is was swollen. It wasn’t, but the pad makes my foot feel stuffed in my shoe even with the laces loosened.
Anyway, I took the pad off yesterday on my commute home. I ran into Target quickly and it seemed to feel better. So, I went for a walk at the rec center at a pace best described as leisurely, but not lazy. It actually seemed to feel okay about 10 minutes into the walk but then felt-better-than-before-but-worse-than-in-the-middle afterwards.
I kind of thought about going for a 10 second jog in the middle of the walk. But geez, I’m so afraid of effing something up that I just had to tell myself NO! The timeline is not tight, and I only stand to lose at this point.
Today, the FF seems to be more cooperative. I was actually supposed to get my boot off Tuesday and in my original plans, I hoped to do a bit of running by Friday. But the doc wanted me to just walk around for 2 weeks. I’m torn between getting a better cardio workout and adhering to the doctor’s orders versus getting the chance to run!
Like, when I think about it, what idiot actually wants to be running?
*Raises hand like the biggest brown-noser in the class*
But I’m anxious to try even a little bit. This waiting stuff is for the birds.
I ran. For 23 minutes & 35 glorious seconds. It was super slow. It was a mere 2 miles. But it felt so good to just fall into the rhythm of running. Gosh, I knew I missed it, but I couldn’t wipe the shit-eating grin off my face for the first 5 minutes.
Things felt mostly good through the run. FF was a little sore, but not really noticeable. FT was a little more noticeable, or so I thought. I realized afterwards that it wasn’t the same spot that I was feeling, but rather the outside of my shin which is likely due to um, not using it for almost 2 months.
Feeling no worse for the wear and having the happy endorphins of running coursing through my body made me very well, content. I was kind of relieved that everything went off rather unremarkably and that stupid Alanis song Hand in my Pocket was playing as I made the short drive from the rec center home. Everything’s going to be fine, fine, fine.
But then Adam gave me the face when I got home. It’s the most annoying and best thing about marriage is that your person knows you. They know your faults, they know your weaknesses, and they for better or worse, care about you. I think about when I used to nag him all the time about his smoking and he would just trying to weasel out of the conversation by changing the subject. I immediately felt the flight upon seeing his face and practically bolted upstairs to do an arm workout.
Eventually, I had to face the music though. When we headed out to dinner, I fought the flight and started to fight when he broached the subject. He knew the doctor wanted me to wait until I was seen again to start running. And he knew that I knew it was reckless for me to running. I tried to negotiate at first. With him, with myself. There’s no gym equipment that gives me the same feeling as running. It’s like pacifying a cigarette smoker with bubble gum.
I’m not sure where my emotions left off. We are in the point of marriage where even the dicey stuff comes to halt rather quickly as I think it’s easier to remember that stewing gets you nowhere. He kind of left it with letting his feelings be known and me acknowledging that I was not happy about his grievances, but I was taking them to heart.
And my decision about running for the next 10 days?
On one hand, I feel like I have it out of my system for at least a few days. And while it wasn’t fast or long, the fluidity and motions of running felt as good as they always did. I didn’t struggle with breathing. My heart felt happy. My legs and arms remembered what to do. So, will it buy me at least 10 more days of bench time?
Probably not, if I’m being honest with myself.
But maybe it will give me every 2-3 days and I can ‘fess up my crime with only minimal infractions. I’m halfway tempted to call the doctor to see if they can get me in sooner.
In the meantime, at least I feel a little better about getting on those godforsaken cardio machines with the knowledge that running will be in the near future. And I probably can get a better workout on them simply because I shouldn’t be pushing myself with the load-bearing stuff anyway.
And walking is good, so I can at least incorporate that into my life. Funny how you don’t appreciate a good walk until you can’t do it.
After dinner, Adam told me that he has days that he feels good and that he could do a little bit of walking. But that he has days that things still feel pretty blah. So, I was trying to pry out of him whether he wanted me to ask him about going for a walk or let him figure it out on his.
I think we both know that left to his own devices, he is likely not going to do it by himself. It’s just not a habit for him. I’d like to think that could change, but I also don’t want to get too hopeful. It’s so easy that we get stuck in our ways (hello running girl!) and find it impossible to navigate the new normal.
So, while I’m doing a bit of recovery myself, I will be attempting to see if he can start walking again.
It would be really great if he could go back to the BAA 5K and finished what he started. But I also don’t want to push my own agenda on him – easier said than done.
I chose my dirtiest, most worn shoes. They look like they should have been tossed out 500 miles ago and are almost over-the-top in their state of deterioration. But a friend suggested I would crave the comfort of the ones that have served me well over the year.
The caked-on dirt full of memories had to be shaken out once before I even started running. The interior sides both ripped behind the big hole were not a deterrent, even on the sandy trail. I laced them up like I had done thousands of times before, standing at the crossroads of before and after.
It was only a big deal to me.
But I made myself walk to my favorite section of flat trail that heads due west for about 50 meters. Then I picked up my shoulders like I was sighing heavily and dropped into a run.
I expected it to feel sloppy or difficult. My breathing might feel labored or I would want to stop shortly after I started. But instead, I felt relief. Relief that it felt good. Relief that it felt natural. Relief that I want to just keep going for a really long time.
It seems funny that we have these barriers put upon us, but I suppose that is what made it felt good. Like I knew I was breaking the rules.
I’m sure I would have changed my mind after 4 miles about wanting to run for a really long time. It just seemed like it was such an easy pace that I could hold it forever.
Like when I started at Hinson and it felt so painfully easy that I was nearly bored out of my mind. But then it slowly became harder and the easy pace became my hard pace.
Given my feelings over the last 6 months, it seems like that was a different person.
But as I climbed the tiny hill in the back section of the rec center loop, I thought about GDR and the training I would need to put in this winter to feel prepared. And instead of it scaring me, I felt so overwhelmingly excited. I wanted to climb those hills to exhaustion. To keep taking the curve of the forest service roads and wondering when they would end. I thought about goals and the feeling of satisfaction no matter how long it took given the place I was at now.
And maybe that’s what I needed in my running. To know that even on the worst of days that it still was a joy to be able to move my body in that way.
I haven’t run again since last Thursday. 90% I would attribute to Adam talking some sense into me. 10% because my FF hasn’t felt quite right. Maybe I’m in denial, but it isn’t really pain. It’s more like it is just not quite right. I’m not sure if that makes any sense except to me. The FT seems to be healed, so perhaps I am focusing all my crazy energy on my foot?
I can’t tell if I am just being hyperaware of my body because of what has transpired over the last 6 months or if there is actually something going on. What a strange feeling that it doesn’t definitively hurt, but it also doesn’t feel 100% either. I know the doctor said that it could take up to a year to heal so I’m holding onto the possibility that it is just going through that process.
On the other hand, I live in fear of screwing it up again and being forced to take another break from running. I’m not certain I can intelligently make these decisions by myself because I’m always going to angle for a way to keep running. I think this is called addiction?
I actually did okay with the break this second go ‘round for the first couple of weeks. But then as the weeks wore on and I started to get further away from those last runs, I missed it more and more. And now that the boot is off, I feel even more raring to let it rip, but this constant fear is harping on me.
Before I went through this process, I would read stories of other people’s injuries and never felt a connection. Sure, I had niggles of pain here and there and often took a few days off to rest something that seemed to be giving me trouble. But I couldn’t relate to the weeks, months, seasons that runners would miss.
Now I get it.
And while the benching is hard enough, I’m going to say getting back into it has been harder for me. I’m aware that I have no chill when it comes to this. And having no running makes me even more neurotic. A solid 20 miler is a good way to help exhaust me.