Sunday, February 21, 2010

Once in a while you must amaze yourself!

          That 16 mile run really shook my confidence. I came away from it ready to give up on the marathon in March and put my goal off for another year. I felt like physically and mentally I could never have gone past 16 miles.

          The following week I ran the miles listed on the training plan, but the thought of an 18 mile run was simply beyond me. I ended up running 10, or really 2 fives because I ran the first 5, spent an hour waiting for and talking to my husband on Skype, and then ran 5 more. My RA was bothering me, I hadn’t slept, just felt really beaten and miserable.

           Early last week my track club had a meeting where our guest speaker was a woman that was recently awarded a trophy for having run at least one Marathon in each of the 50 states! To meet her, you would never guess she was so amazing. She does not consider herself an athlete and is very humble and grateful for the opportunities she has had. Her other great physical accomplishment is that she hiked the Appalachian trail in 2000. It took her 5 ½ months! When you meet someone like this, and they aren’t larger than life, don’t have an air of superiority surrounding them, and can just blend into any crowd or situation, you realize that achievement isn’t something you are born to. It isn’t something that should ever be taken for granted, or something that just happens. It is born of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. Everyone has something extraordinary within them, but it takes the right combination of challenge, inspiration, and opportunity to bring it out. All three of these ingredients must be sought; they do not just get handed to you.

           After that meeting, I was once again pumped to run the marathon. I’ve been very irritated by my vacillating back and forth. To be so excited one minute and so defeated the next eats at me. I wanted to feel as excited while running as I did thinking about running and this was the first time those two points have diverged so far. At the end of the 16 mile run, I just wanted to cry and never run again and I had never felt like that at the end of a run, I always felt positive and anxious for my next run.

               So what to do? I started posting to a couple of key forums where I knew I would get bald honest feedback. I posted to the Runner’s World Marathoner’s page asking if I was crazy to try running 26.2 on so little training and with so many issues. I also posted to Hal Higdon’s forum asking if it would be reasonable to run the 20 miler one week early. I was not going to register for a marathon until I knew I could run 20 miles and I really wanted to get it behind me. I also wanted to schedule my 20 when I had nothing else going on so if I really wiped myself out, I could just rest and recover. I received many wonderful supportive messages. Even the ones suggesting I wait gave me good information to work with and helped my decision greatly. I decided to take one last shot at preparing for the marathon.

         When I headed out the door yesterday, it was in the mid 40’s and heading to the 50’s. The sun was out, people were out, and everyone was smiling! I had promised myself that I didn’t have to do 20. I could just go as far as I felt like going and there was no shame in cutting it short if I needed to. As I wound through the neighborhoods I felt strong and ready for many miles. After 6 miles I took my shoes off and ran the next two barefoot. It felt SO good! My feet are soft though from running so much in shoes so when they started feeling a little tender, I went ahead and put my VFFs back on. Around this time my daughter called me on my cell. I’m sure people passing by thought I was nuts for jogging and chatting, but it passed the next hour quickly and was almost as good has having her actually running with me.

           By the time I passed the 10 mile mark, I knew I had a shot at 20. I felt great mentally and physically and was ready to continue for 2 more hours so I headed for the yacht club at the far end of town. I haven’t run out there in nearly a year so it was a nice change of scenery. Once I got to the marina, I stopped in the public restroom for a pit stop and to refill my water bottles. I was really regretting not taking a couple of gels with me. I had planned to just run 5 mile laps and stop at the house each time so I hadn’t stuffed my pockets properly.

           When I turned around to head back, I realized I would be running into the wind all the way home. I hadn’t noticed the wind up to that point so it wasn’t all that strong, but it was enough to make me zip up my vest, put my gloves back on, and pull my sleeves back down. It didn’t slow me down though. I stuck to my plan of running around 11 to 11.5 minute miles and then walking until it averaged out at 12 minute miles.

            When I hit 16 miles I was entering new territory, 4 miles left to go and feeling tired, but good. At 17 miles I was getting a bit worried. I was now 3 miles from the house so I had to finish 20 one way or the other. At 18 miles I was approaching the wall. My quads and back were starting to hurt, my claves were tight, and my shin was started to act up; 2 more miles to go.

            When I turned onto my very familiar street, I was elated. The end was in sight and I was feeling very mentally positive, if physically exhausted. Those last two miles were tough, but still not as tough as the last two of the 16 miler in the snow and sleet. I was home free and felt like I had climbed the highest mountain!

           When I finally stumbled through the front door I was over the moon! My legs were twitching, I was starving, thirsty, and my muscles felt like rocks. I peeled off the outer layers of stinky tech clothes, took a couple of minutes to stretch, downed a protein shake and a bowl of cereal, and made myself a drink to sip at while I iced my calf in front of the computer. And then I registered for my first full marathon!

           I really amazed myself yesterday, which is something we all need to do from time to time. We need to stretch our wings, set impossible goals, and then reach them. We need to know we are better than the doubting voices in our heads, those little gremlins that make us want to give up or say, “I could never do that.” Three years ago, if someone had told me I would run 20 miles and register for a marathon, I would have thought they were daft! To me marathons were for crazy people that were wrecking their health. Well, maybe I’m crazy now, but I’ve never felt better in my life!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Biting off a bit too much

It doesn't work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps. American Proverb

Biting off more than I can chew is a common theme in my life. Most of the time I can chew fast enough to survive, but sometimes I just have to spit it out and start over.

After my first 10 mile long run of the year I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I can jump into an entry level marathon training plan and run the Shamrock Full.” I was already trained for HM distance with runs up to 14 miles, so why not just keep going. I decided if I could finish a 15 mile long run and still walk, I would register for the full marathon. Of course, this is a bad time of year for weather and running barefoot or in my Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) is not possible most days, so a little over 2 weeks ago I put on my trail shoes and hit the road in the rain. It is possible to run with near barefoot form in a minimal show if you pay attention, but apparently I was not paying enough attention because by the end of the 4 mile run my shins were tender.

I haven’t had shin splints in a long time and running barefoot has never caused shin splints so I figured if I ran in my VFFs for my long run the next day, I would be okay. It was a total rookie mistake. Although I believe very fervently in barefoot and minimal shoe running, it is not a panacea and you can still easily do too much too soon. I might have been okay with a 15 mile run if I hadn’t spent the morning standing and freezing to death working the finish line of a 10K first. Shivering takes a lot out of you and running when you are tired tends to ruin your form, not a good combination. I went running anyway and after my 15 mile run that afternoon my calves felt like rocks and my shin was very sore. The next morning I could hardly walk because of the shin splint in my right leg, so I did not register for the marathon and took the next two days off.

I should have waited until all the soreness cleared up, but I didn’t. I went for a 4 mile run on Tuesday. It went okay and although my shin was slightly sorer in the morning, it wasn’t as sore as it had been the morning after my 15 miler so I somehow convinced myself that this meant running was helping. When the thermometer hit 50 degrees with dry roads and sunshine, I went for a barefoot run and ran for 8 miles. This was like throwing gasoline on a fire. I could feel burning in my shin, but still thought I could work around it. I finished the 8 miles, but the next morning my shins were horrible again. I never realized just how bad shin splints could get since I’ve never been able to see evidence of one from the outside, but after the 8 mile run my shin looked like someone had hit me with a baseball bat. I had a huge goose egg on the front of my shin and swelling from the top of my ankle to half way to my knee.

I decided it was time to get serious about healing and took the rest of the week off and didn’t try running again until this past Wednesday, nearly a full week. This time I just tried a 3 mile run and it went well. Not totally free of tenderness, but it didn’t seem to make it worse either. The next day I tried 5 miles, still so far so good. I took Friday off and like a total moron resumed my marathon training schedule and ran 16 miles Saturday. It went surprisingly well and probably would have been fine if I had stopped at 14, but of course, I didn’t. I wish I knew what my driving force was because I need to turn it off once in a while. I was miserable, the falling rain and snow mix stung my face, and I hurt all over from being tense. I finished though, all 16 miles. The walk breaks were more frequent at the end and I was down to a 13 minute mile, but I kept plodding until it was done.

This morning my shin hurts and is swollen again so I still haven’t registered for the marathon. I can’t imagine adding another 10 miles to my run 6 weeks from now. Of course, my shin isn’t anywhere near as sore as it was after my 15 mile run, so there is still a part of my brain taunting me and telling me I can do this. I wish I could shut that part up and just let my leg heal. I need to learn when to quit, but I know darn well that I’ll run again on Tuesday after a 2 day rest, and that if I can run Saturday morning, I’ll run another long run. And if I can run after that, I may still register for the full marathon. I know; I’m insane. 18, 14, 20, 12, 8, those are the long runs left on the schedule. I don’t know if I can do them. I don’t know if I even WANT to do them, but I won’t stop trying. I’m still planning on the 24-hour relay in April so I still need to keep adding mileage.

I hadn’t broadcast my intentions about the Shamrock full because I know I’m not really ready and with RA, I need to be more than ready. It just seems like I should try to get my first out of the way in a local race and before we leave the country again. Often announcing a commitment will also make me push myself way too hard, although it worked for me with my first half marathon. The bottom line is that I have too many other things going on in my life to sacrifice them all to meet a goal I am not ready for. I may yet run the full marathon, I may not. It may sell out before I make a decision, but that is okay, there will be others later when I’m more prepared. The only promise I make is that I won’t give up, and that I will work on respecting my body and its limits, which at this point seems harder than actually running 26.2.