Thursday, April 28, 2011
"It's that little souvenir of a colourful year which makes me smile inside."
I've been doing a 30-day song challenge, and this was one of my picks the other day for a song you listen to when you're sad. It puts a smile on my face and un-bums any bummy mood.
It's been a colorful year for sure, and quite the eventful spring racing season, which wrapped up for me with Boston, and left me almost a little surprised that I really was through all the goal races for the season. It was almost anti-climactic to run the race and not have anything break down physically, and realize that I'd made it through.
Now, that gives way to the unofficial official late spring and summer racing season. This time of year is all about fun. Lots of local, short distance races take place that I use as the lazy girl's speedwork. Though it gets hotter than the surface of the sun here in July (okay, I'm exaggerating a bit), the longer daylight hours, coupled with my kids being out of school, make it easier and more enjoyable to get out and run. A LOT. And, like any runner who likes to race and put events on the calendar, it's already time to think about the fall schedule. Several pieces of the puzzle are already in place for me. I have my guaranteed entry at the NYC Marathon thanks to my pixie dust run at The Other Half last October, and registered before the early deadline for that same race, which is sort of my signature event.
In the past week, chatter has been building on two other events. I'll be reuniting with most of my teammates for the 24 Hours of Laramie in late June, put on by the same folks who did the 24 Hours of Moab. Our team really gelled the first time around, and even though it'll be a different experience, I know it'll be great. Secondly, it's already time to start thinking Imogene Pass Run registration. This is looking like a year when everyone I've ever known who has run the event in the past plans to register again, and I'm stoked to hurl the monkey off my back from last year, too. I've been talking with a friend who ran it for the first time last year and also had a less-than-stellar race that day who is taking another swing at it in the same mindset, and it's making last year's bad race a very distant memory, with true belief that this is my year to have a great race going from Ouray to Telluride the hard way.
In other "never say never" non-news, I did something I swore I'd never do this week:
I've alternated in the past between having no opinion on 26.2 stickers, and thinking they were a little pretentious. I got this same sticker at last year's Boston and never put it on the car, though it must be said that there was a shift to the "not pretentious after all" when I saw that my friend Ilana had put hers on her truck last year. Well...after everything I went through with the injury, not knowing if I could race at all, and then not knowing if I could finish, it meant enough to me this year that I do want to show a little pride public about it. It's a nice souvenir from a day that almost didn't happen. And.... now you guys know a few more truths about me-I live in the high desert, and don't like to shell out for car washes for a vehicle that's always getting dirty somewhere.
This has turned out to be a good week for post-marathon easy running with no schedule, as regular life is moving at warp speed. I had my annual professional licensing inspection this week, passing with flying colors again but not without the usual stress in the days leading up to the day. When that was over, though, I had to turn my attention immediately to another matter that does not affect me directly, yet is very important nonetheless that I attend to it and offer my full input. Yeah, I'm being annoyingly vague but it's one of those deals. From there I leap to a weekend as a chaperone at a dance convention in Denver with my two oldest daughters. This is equal parts joy to watch them perform and take workshop classes, as well as watching the insane talent and athleticism from other studios, and misery when it comes to being indoors all weekend with lots of hairspray, dance moms and squealing (mostly) girls. I'm just praying for better weather than last year's convention, when I found myself near the top of Vail Pass on the return trip on a closed highway in a blizzard. Until then, I'm just going to breathe, worry about one project at a time....oh, and get out for one last trail run tonight before the next chapter of insanity begins.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I'm going to go back to our friend the Barefoot Running Caveman. I was well-behaved and did not smack caveman bum on the race course, even though the mischevious prankster in me momentarily thought it would be funny. This was good, because if I'd been Captain Inappropriate, I probably couldn't have asked him the burning question everyone had when I was walking next to him in the finish chute, and saw him texting something on a phone. Um....the other men around me clearly had the same question, but weren't going to ask. This was clearly a job for a woman.
"Hey, can I ask you a question?" I said to The Caveman. "Where, um, did you keep that thing (pointing to the phone)?" This loincloth was about the size of a napkin. Seriously. I think it was fashioned out of a brown dish towel. He couldn't have kept the phone under that. The Caveman, who turned out to be a software engineer from California named Glen Raines, turned and showed me his "leaf" arm decoration/armband, and lifted it to show the iPod armband underneath. Brilliant, sir! A regular Renaissance caveman...minimalist runner who still stays connected to civilization.
We chatted for a minute about his barefoot running, and how many of his former chronic running injuries went away when he made the switch from shod to barefoot running. I mentioned that I hadn't "gone all the way," but race in minimalist shoes, started making adaptations to POSE running last fall, and sometimes do barefoot drills at our city's track and on the infield. Turned out to be a very nice guy, that caveman. Watch the following video clip from the finish area, and you will see him walk past at about the :35 mark.
Besides the rest of us regular folk who raced the Boston Marathon, there were the guys and girls who are so fast, they get paid to do what we all love to do. On this day, (and...clearly, these photos were not taken by me-my friend Lynn gave F a VIP pass she had for the finish line stands) some epic races were thrown down by the best elites in our sport. Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya ran what cannot be officially recognized as a world record, but was the fastest recorded marathon time ever at 2:03:02.
American Ryan Hall-whom I've never been a fan of for a variety of reasons (the prosthelytizing...the excuses for bad races that have nothing to do with his strange training and behavior with regard to coaching/lack of coaching) -managed to hang on somewhat to the blistering pace, running a personal best at 2:04:58 and finishing 4th overall. I liked seeing pictures and video later that looked like he had truly pushed himself to the limit and was spent by the time he came in. In the end, I do ultimately root for him to have that big breakthrough and win some major races. Maybe this will be the start of getting there.
The race for the women's title wound up being a nailbiter right to the finish. Before the race, everyone was talking Kara Kara Kara (Goucher) as the great American hope. Desi Davila, a true workhorse athlete with great consistency coming into the race, was kind of the "and also" girl in the mainstream media. Well, the race boiled down to a sprint down Boylston Street between Desi Davila, who briefly took the lead halfway down the stretch, and Caroline Kilel of Kenya, who managed to outkick her by two seconds, collapsing on the ground after the finish after a 2:22:36 finish. I love this shot-kind of sums up the best of running-and maybe also why some of my closest friends, especially women, also happen to be runners. Fight and compete hard on the course, show respect for one another and good sportsmanship off the course.
Besides the race itself, there was a lot of merrymaking throughout the weekend. After nearly seven hours on airplanes on Saturday, I was actually quite happy to get on the T and head out to Beerworks, a place where a lot of Boston runners have gathered the past several years to socialize in a laid-back fashion two days out from the race. They sell a blueberry beer there that literally has blueberries thrown on top-and I've tried it both years at the thing. This is one of the few pictures I actually wanted to pose for..my friend Richard (also from Colorado...he came over from Denver for the Canyonlands Half) was wearing his Honey Badger Don't Care shirt, and needed to have record of that. I'm not usually big on the internet memes, but the honey badger video just gets funnier to me every time. For the record, I do not make it a habit of double-fisting beers. Someone had gone for a second round, I was nursing my first beer, and drink #2 arrived before I could get through the first one.
Anyway-we took the scenic route home. We wound up at the end of the line...literally. Four intelligent women saying "wait...what just happened?" when the PA came on announcing that we were at the last stop and everyone needed to get off. Eventually we did find our way back and got on the inbound train-I'm not sure how we all missed the fact that we were headed in the wrong direction to begin with, though.
Now I'm back home, and getting back into the swing of work, daily life, and running. I had my first early morning headlamp run in a month with my most regular of early morning running partners, Laura, this morning. It was fantastic-just a light drizzle, birds chirping, and a little bit of moonlight.
Friday, April 22, 2011
The above was early on in the race. Just a beautiful day out there.
As I moved on along the course, things still felt good. I had a slight but expected slowdown as the ground leveled out. I think this was around the point on the course when I got my first comments on my-er-"colorful" ensemble. I chatted with other runners here and there, which was good...I could do it without feeling like I needed to stop and keel over.
Mile 5: 8:23
Mile 6: 8:17
Mile 7: 8:09
Mile 8: 8:24
Mile 9: 8:18
Mile 10: 8:16
As the scholar and philosophist Madonna once sang, "Don't Stop Me Now, Don't Need To Catch My Breath, I Can Go On and On and On." (She was talking about......dancing. Yeah. Let's just pretend that's what it's about. And that applies to running too.) The good thing is that I was really feeling this today. So far, the ankle was thankfully quiet. I knew that could change in a second, though, and the thought of a DNF or doing something that would put me out of running long-term kept me in check.
In the next few miles, I spotted the Hoyts. They've been running together for years-in fact, my Dad remembers them at races in the DC-area way back in his running days in the 1980's. I spotted them further up in the Newton Hills last year, but Dick Hoyt recently had back surgery and I think it was a lot tougher for him this year. I love that he's still out there, and getting it done, pushing his son, no B.S. Besides the Hoyts, I saw a number of athletes from the Achilles Track Club, whose disabled members compete in mainstream athletic events. Seriously...a runner who could not find inspiration within themselves or surrounding them on the course this Patriots Day would be more or less hopeless.
Mile 11: 8:18
Mile 12: 8:11
Mile 13: 8:19
Almost halfway through, and I still felt good. Rather than feeling de-conditioned, my legs felt fresh and springy. My breathing still felt good, and it wasn't just the sea level factor. Though my pacing was more conservative this year versus Boston 2010, I felt outstanding for this point in the marathon.
Now, things started to get interesting. I heard the crowd going nuts for someone, and turned to look. It's this dude, running barefoot, wearing a long black caveman wig, and wearing nothing but a loincloth and leaf armband. This loincloth was very, very, VERY small. I didn't want to turn and stare but I could see...cheek. I did not crane my neck to get a front view for fear of things I might not be able to unsee. The crowd loved him and he was eating it up.
We were approaching the famed Wellesley College scream tunnel, which meant that little iPod would come out again to record the noise. This is a famous spot on the course where the women of Wellesley College line the course, scream their heads off, and hold signs that say "Kiss Me, I'm _____." Seriously, take your pick. There's every fill-in-the-blank option on a sign there somewhere.
I was feeling fatigued yet invigorated to be so close to the finish, and gave my pace a little punch in the next mile. Felt decent, and I was a mile closer to being through this.
Mile 22: 8:19
Next mile, though, I could feel a little bit of leg heaviness. Nothing that felt like total glycogen depletion, or "hitting the wall" as it's called...just some general fatigue and heaviness. Not sure if this was me dialing back on purpose or just natural attrition at this point in the race, but the next mile was a little slower. Still, I remember how I felt at this point last year, and I was in far better shape. And another mile closer to finishing the race I wasn't supposed to be running until a few days ago.
Mile 23: 8:27
Mile 24: 8:20
Really? A little negative split? I was absolutely dying at this point last year, but focused on a strong finish. This is one of the least scenic parts of the course, and it was obvious to me last year. This year, though, I felt like I was just gathering steam late in the game now that I knew the wheels were not going to come off, and the ankle would tolerate a little bit of a late-race push. Some guy hollered out from the sidelines that he dug my fluorescent orange shoes (I'm not flashy on purpose...just love to race in Newtons, and they don't make anything that just blends into the scenery) and I slapped him a high-five as I ran past.
Eventually, I got my first view of the famed Citgo sign, but knew it was still quite a ways away. I felt REALLY strong...and very emotional when I felt this strength rising in me. This has been a challenging year beyond the injury, but nothing negative had been in my mind at all in this race. I thought about how privileged I was...both physically, and culturally, to be able to run the Boston Marathon. I knew I was lucky, and wanted to appreciate this moment for all it was worth. This is where I saw the woman running in the shirt with "Thank You Dad, Title IX and KV Switzer" on the back. I ran up to her to say that I loved her shirt, and she thanked me with a warm smile.
Mile 25: 8:12
Another negative split, and now it all boiled down to the final 1.2 miles. My running math is terrible so I just wanted to hammer out this last mile like I'd never run a marathon again, and be spent at the finish. I had a huge smile on my face, listening to the crowd and picking it up as much as I could. And then...who is that? It's the Barefoot Running Caveman! We were coming around the right turn together onto Hereford, and he was in full Caveman crowd-pleasing mode. In the back of my head, this evil little impulse came over me to run up behind him and smack his Caveman butt, thus upstaging the caveman show and probably creating a good photo-op for a few people. I reigned myself in, though...after all, that's probably akin to sexual harrassment. So, I just kept going, as hard and fast as I could.
Mile 26: 8:04 (my fastest mile of the race!)
After that, there was no more video, pictures, butt-slapping thoughts, or anything else. It was just me, coming down Boylston Street, overcome with positive emotion. I was smiling like a freak all the way down to the finish, not wishing it all to be over but feeling SO fortunate to have been here at all to race. Don't get me wrong...spectating would have been great, but there was nothing like having this racing experience today.
Garmin's just approximate, and with a crowded race and less than perfect tangent running late in the game, this last split is for .53 miles.
.53: 3:31, or a 6:49 pace.
Finish time at the 115th Boston Marathon by Garmin: 3:41:38. Official race time: 3:41:36. This was good for 2958 by gender, 2130 by division (age group), and 10,976 overall. I was also part of a record-breaking year for female finishers a mere 44 years after Kathrine Switzer broke the gender barrier at this race, with over 10,000 female finishers at the 115th Boston Marathon. Progress, baby.
So, there you have it. Not "How To Run The Boston Marathon Without Even Trying," but "How To Run Boston With The Best That You've Got That Day, And Long Term Running In Mind." I believe that I did this. Half of my friends and medical establishment were telling me not to do it, and the other half were telling me to proceed with caution. I had two weeks of absolutely no physical activity after that spill at the 24 Hours of Moab, and then just two short test runs, two short bike rides and an easy afternoon of cross country skiing in the last ten days prior to the race. It was confusing, and required the most careful consideration out of anything I've done since starting to train seriously four years ago. I'm so glad I took it on, though. Let's just say that Bryan, my physical therapist, won't be craving a cannoli anytime soon. Half a dozen from Mike's Pastry hardly seems adequate for bringing me from spectator to full-fledged Boston running, but it was the best thing I could come up with.
That's all, folks. I'll do one more with some fun pictures and video that involve people a lot faster than my mid-packed behind, and tell the story of the burning question I asked the Barefoot Running Caveman in the finish area.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Boston Marathon weekend came after that flurry of will-I-or-won't-I-race excitement, and I felt relatively unprepared to make the trip. There are certain things I tend to plan out well in advance, like ordering my S-Caps combo pack (salt and electrolyte capsules to be taken before the race, recovery packs that are basically good multivitamins to aid with recovery post-race). I typically buy new compression socks and new racing shoes for the big races, and didn't have those either. Then, of course, there is the totally non-essential purchase that's still a big part of building mojo for the big race-the new running skirt for race day. Yeah, I know. Sounds silly, but when running a goal race, it's a part of getting that game face on. I figured I'd just hit up REI for some energy gels, scare up some electrolyte capsule sample packets from another race, and take my chances on finding the other things at the expo.
My Dad arrived to town on Thursday to hang out with the kids for the long weekend, and my packing went into high gear while trying to work, along with all the other usual stuff I've got going. I was glad that my Dad would be here with the kids-it meant my mind would be at ease during the trip. Give the man a list of who needs to go where, at what time, and with whom, and I know they'll get there one way or another. My Dad is actually one of my running influences-he ran the Marine Corps Marathon six times, and countless other road races in the DC-area when I was growing up. I distinctly remember being at MCM to spectate one time as a kid, and thinking in the back of my head that "this is cool. I wanna do this some day." He's kind of a Yoda when it comes to running advice-just little bits and pieces on occasion, but always something pretty relevant or useful.
After spending six plus hours on airplanes on Saturday, I finally arrived at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. People were trickling in from all terminals sporting marathon jackets from the current year as well as years gone by. It was cool to see so many different people coming in from all over, getting ready to do the same thing.
The rest of the weekend was spent getting together with different groups of people from the RWOL forums,
(the second is a re-creation of last year's inadvertent photobomb by Dave of the "BQ Babes," or the Women's BQ Thread Group from one of the training forums. He got tagged in a gazillion pictures as "Random Dude.")
hitting up the expo to get my bib and race packet,
and doing some general wandering around. I visited the Running Skirts booth at the expo (my typical go-to skirt for big races), and found some stuff that was colorful and springy to celebrate race day. I also hit up the Kinesio Tape booth and grabbed a roll in K-State Purple to tape up my ankle on race day. This stuff is amazing-the tape is supportive but still flexible, and the roll came with pretty specific instructions for how to tape different injuries or parts of the body.
I also sat in on one of the race seminars featuring the "Legends of Running" panel. This session really deserves its own blog post, with the likes of Dick Beardsley
(who battled with Alberto Salazar in the "Duel In the Sun" at the 1982 Boston Marathon, on the right next to Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon),
1968 Boston Marathon Winner and frequent Runner's World contributor Amby Burfoot (he's a tall red drink of water),
and one of the women who was instrumental in paving the way for those of us who came later, Kathrine Switzer.
Though most of us who do run know her story and have seen the iconic pictures of Jock Semple trying to pull her off the Boston course in 1967, I'd encourage everyone to read the full story and view those pictures here. The chain of events-from her decision to officially enter the race by her initials "K.V. Switzer," the press truck being right in front of her on the course, and her ultimate decision to keep running and finish after the on-course altercation played a huge part in disproving misconceptions about what women were capable of as runners, and left an indelible mark on Boston Marathon History.
With race number and all gear items in hand, I was relieved to be good to go with everything. Things seemed to be coming together. I attended a pre-race dinner with some other runners at Maggiano's Little Italy near my hotel, and then it was time to lay out the gear and get some shut-eye.
My pre-race night of sleep wound up being pretty good. I wasn't out for a long time, but the sleep I got was pretty deep, and not restless at all. That's perfect for me-I'm kind of "quality over quantity" in that department. I'd gotten the hotel restaurant to make me two large cream cheese bagels the night before, got my ankle taped up,
and noshed on one in the room before heading down to the lobby to meet Lynn for the walk over to the buses. When we hit the lines to board, they really were not bad at all. Imagine my surprise when we got in line, out of 27,000 people, to find two people I knew right in front of us. One was Neil, who organized the pre-race dinner I attended at the Missoula Marathon last summer, and the other was Dee, also from up that way, and the women's Masters winner at the Canyonlands Half last month. Further up, I saw some other familiar faces from the RWOL Boston forums. We all were on the same bus in a few minutes and I thought, man, small world. As we drove off, Lynn and I marveled at how huge the bus lines had become right after we had boarded.
The ride to Hopkinton is probably about an hour tops, but it really just flew by, along with the time spent in the Athlete Village (the grounds of the high school in Hopkinton). For those unfamiliar, the town of Hopkinton is NOT a big, urban area-it is a small New England town with narrow residential streets. Not exactly the kind of place you'd expect to be starting 27,000 runners, but the race was never this big in the beginning.
This year, to keep things less crowded, the BAA moved to three starting waves instead of two in an attempt to thin out the crowds in the early miles, and move things along in a more orderly fashion. I thought this was a good move, as my friend Miranda and I barely made our corral last year in trying to fight our way through the crowds. I had taken my large rubber band from Bryan, the physical therapist, out to the athlete's village, and did some exercises with it for awhile to get things loosened up. I also managed to get through the port-a-potty lines twice, though a third trip really would have been nice. We laughed but also cringed in a "that would suuuuck" way at the PA announcement that the Hopkinton police had a child of a runner who had sneaked onto a bus and made it out to the Athlete Village. Time really flew between that stuff, and just shooting the breeze with Lynn and the other folks I knew out there.
Before I knew it, the guy on the mic was calling for Wave Two runners (that would be me, and most of the ladies in our group) to start moving to the sweat trucks and start. I shed my warmup pants and jacket, stuck them in my gear bag, and handed it off at the appropriately numbered school bus. I just kept on a very old long sleeved shirt that would be my throwaway garment. The sun was out but it was pretty breezy. Soon, I was wandering down with the masses to the start. I couldn't help but grin-I knew there was a chance I might DNF in this race, I knew I had to go conservatively and not kill myself trying to PR, yet was giddy and happy just to be there at all. I was surrounded by fellow hard-working midpackers, mostly females around my age who are part of the current post-Title IX running boom, along with some older male runners. It was cool to be with the people who weren't naturally speedy, but who had trained to get fast enough to make those qualifying standards, sometimes with no time to spare.
I made sure the old Garmin watch was zeroed out and ready to go while waiting, but truth be told, I didn't plan to obsessively check my pace. I just knew that I would not let myself drift faster than an eight minute mile in those early downhill miles no matter how good I felt. Another year, and without the injury, I might be tempted to go balls to the wall, but I was content to stick with my plan. Being in the sixth corral, I couldn't really hear the start, but when the crowd started walking forward and I saw 10:21 on my watch, I knew it was time. The sun was out, but it was not too hot, and the wind had let up.
And then, we were off. Wave Two at the 115th Boston Marathon had officially started, and I was actually there participating, not standing on the sidelines back in Boston.
More tales from the race coming soon. They do include a barefoot caveman in a loincloth.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
I'm cautious in saying that, but the test runs yesterday and today were very promising for the most part. On Thursday, Bryan was off but told me to come in, warm up the ankle with some stretches and exercises he'd dictated, and then head out for an out-and-back from his office down to the lakes on our riverfront trail, to be followed by 20 minutes on a spin bike, and another out-and-back run. I had about ten seconds of pain that forced me to alter my gait on the first run, but it went away and never returned for the second run.
Today, I popped in the door to tell Bryan that I was about to start my 7 consecutive miles test run, and he again told me to stick around, do some of the prescribed exercises, and even did some work on the ankle and foot before I ran. This time, I think it got me fully loosened up and there was no pain whatsoever during the run. Besides being pain free, it was a gorgeous day out there. Bird sightings aplenty, including an owl nesting in a tree along the trail. I love the wildlife sightings available down in that area, so that was a real treat.
After the run, Bryan and I had a good, quick strategy session. Then, I was out the door with some loaner gear for stretches, and all of Bryan's phone numbers so I'd have that emergency lifeline "phone-a-PT" option once in Boston. I asked Bryan what he'd like me to bring him home from Boston and he said "cheesecake." That could be more than a little problematic and challenging, but I will figure it out. If it were not for his phone call, I would without a doubt be standing on the sidelines and watching the race take place rather than getting ready to run Boston. If he wants cheesecake, Bryan will get cheesecake. The ankle feels far better since ditching the boot, doing the exercises and therapy, and finally getting to run again for a bit.
With that, I'm going to try to get a few hours of shut-eye before catching a flight to Salt Lake City (yeah, wrong direction but I scored good airfare on Delta ages ago), and continuing on to Logan International Airport in Boston. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends who are racing, and just getting a bit of a mini-vacation. I don't assume anyone has any interest in following what may be my slowest marathon ever after all the time off, and needing to baby the ankle. I do like to track my friends, though, during races, so I'll just throw my stuff out for those who enjoy that sort of thing too, or are just bored and wanting to escape work duties for a bit on Monday (Patriots Day in Massachusetts). The BAA should have a runner tracking link up that morning here on their website, and plugging in my bib number, 14913, or name, should do the trick. There will be red, white, and blue waves of runners, and I'll be in the middle wave, starting at 10:20 EST in Hopkinton, MA.
It's also going to be exciting for many of us to get to follow the legendary Joan Benoit Samuelson on the course, winner of the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984, and Olympic trials qualifier every four years since then. At 52 years young, Joanie will be going for the trials standard again on the Boston course. This video from her 1984 win just gives me goose bumps, so I think that's a fitting way to wrap this up before I sack out.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I feel like I'm slipping outside myself as the water rushes all over me. Another great tune from The Samples, the band with whom I did a stint as merch girl on tour in the spring of '97, shortly after graduating from college.
This is just an update on how the ankle is coming along since that game-changing phone call from my physical therapist earlier in the week. I got through my second session of guerilla physical therapy yesterday, doing a variety of ankle flexibility and strengthening exercises to start, like cat stretches and jumps (2 x 15 with both legs, then alternating single legs) on the pilates table. The jumps weren't originally in the plan, but Bryan threw them in there because I was able to warm up with soreness and only minimal twinges-no real pain. There was work with the bands again. First, a smaller one just above my ankles, with side-stepping accross the floor on flat foot, on the balls of my feet, and in a squat (thank you ballet classes for making this less painful than it could have been). Next, it was on to the big one that goes around the waist, tethered to the wall. I would do a four-way walk here, turning 90 degrees each time and stepping forward and back as far as I could go while still controlling my steps, and not letting the band yank me around.
I had my first real test of the ankle next, with very brisk treadmill walking, increasing the incline until I was at an Imogene Pass Run-like grade. I expected that I might have some pain and soreness during the 20 minutes, but the ankle felt pretty good. As Bryan said, there certainly are times and cases when the ankle should be immobilized after an injury, but that really, ankles were meant to flex and move. Finally, he moved me over to the spin bike, and I closed out the PT session with a hard 10-minute ride. While I did not have an official appointment, B-Man was working with me like I did, splitting time between myself and a geriatric patient or two. I was dripping with sweat and felt like I'd had a most excellent butt-kicking. Before leaving, he gave me a weight belt for pool running, and when I got home I called Gold's Gym to confirm that the pool was open and that I'd be able to do a 1-week trial with them.
I got in to Gold's with no problem-I was pretty straight with them that I would be fine to listen to the obligatory sales spiel next week, but that I really just needed to get in, pool run for half an hour, and get out. I ran into my friend Sandra, who was one of several people who would join my regular running partner, Laura, and I from time to time in the summer and fall. She works at my bank downtown, teaches some group classes at Gold's, and chose the Rim Rock Marathon last fall with the 2000 foot elevation change for her first time going 26.2. Very positive without being annoyingly upbeat, and I hadn't seen her in awhile so it was nice to catch up. I got the nickel tour of the gym from her, and then hit the locker room and pool.
Now, pool running-how do I put it? It feels like trying to move across a huge bowl of oatmeal. It felt pretty awkward at first, especially when I hit the deeper part of the lap lane. I'm tall (5'10") and I'm still not really sure how this would work for someone who is shorter than me. My forward momentum would slow way down to the point where I'd be almost jogging in place until the floor of the pool sloped back up again. One good thing, though, was that this forced good form and posture, and naturally got me into that POSE running gait. My learning curve improved as I tried to remember what Deena Kastor looked like in the documentary "Spirit of the Marathon" (check it out the linked movie trailer-I still enjoy watching the story of six different runners getting ready for the 2005 Chicago Marathon, with a lot of marathon history and lore in between) as she ran on an underwater treadmill.
When I got out of the pool, I felt good. More importantly, though, I'd been able to do the pool running without pain. I know better than to assume I'm racing on Monday, but things are moving along in the right direction.
Today will bring the real test, literally, with a test run consisting of an out-and-back from the PT clinic to the lakes on our riverfront trail system (just shy of 3 miles), 20 minutes on the bike, and then another out-and-back run. This is, of course, assuming no pain in which case I'll have to bag the remainder of the workout. Normally I'd do my best to not worry about it, and just show up and run, and today is no different. It's actually quite easy to focus elsewhere, with a perfect storm of other unrelated situations and people on my mind today. They put into perspective that if I don't wind up running Boston, it's really not a big deal. Still, I'm hoping for a good outcome, and am doing my best to remain guardedly optimistic.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I called the folks over at Soar Physical Therapy here in town early this morning, and scheduled for the first available regular appointment, which was the Wednesday after the Boston Marathon or 4/20. I've seen Bryan there before for PT, back in 2008 when I was experiencing what appeared to be a stress reaction, or the precursor to a stress fracture. He's a runner, and very goal- and performance-oriented with his patients. He's all about trying to get his patients there safely, and will try whatever works as far as physical therapy goes.
So anyway-a few hours later, I got a call from Bryan. He'd read through all my stuff, and started asking how my ankle was doing, along with a lot of other specific questions. He was pleased with what he heard, and that my most recent cross-training Sunday afternoon was pain-free. When I told him that the doc's office had said "no way" to Boston and the ortho office said "it's healing decently, but no Boston unless a miracle occurs," he was making some noises on the other end of the phone that sounded like he must have been shaking his head in disagreement. I kind of sighed and said "I just wish someone would clear me to go run Boston safely." Bryan said "Well...I just might be That Guy." He wanted me to come in ASAP, and actually scheduled time for me beyond office hours at 6pm. Did I mention he's a runner's runner? I knew better than to get my hopes up too much, but couldn't help it. I was very hopeful.
I headed down the hill from my house to see Bryan in the early evening, and he liked what he saw immediately in terms of lack of limp or major swelling from me. He put me through a battery of flexibility and strength tests, did a little work moving and flexing that ankle, and had me do some weight and balance work before finally putting me on the spin bike near the end of the session. He whupped me like a red headed stepchild and man, I was sweating like a pig. He kept giving me positive feedback the entire time, saying that everything was looking good in terms of flexibility, balance, and that I was mostly existing in the extreme soreness/occasional slight pain zone.
It just blew my mind...really, I couldn't make this stuff up, and I asked him how on earth I could get a "no way can you run Boston," a "well, this is healing okay, but no Boston unless a miracle occurs," and "this is promising...let's work toward you running Boston!" He said that sometimes the medical model gets pushed with a one-size-fits-all approach, and that based on all he saw from me, he was SO glad I'd called his office because he thought we could get a better outcome that what I'd been told to expect in terms of running Boston.
When we finished, he told me to go home and ride my bike on my trainer for another 20 minutes, and gave me a weight belt to wear in the pool for some pool running tomorrow. While he does not have any open appointments, Bryan wants me in there every day until I leave for Boston (Saturday), and he said he'd be around to direct me to the stuff I need to do each day. There will be some strengthening exercises, time on the bike, some walking on his treadmills with an increase in incline as I go, and Thursday is set for a test run day if all is moving along well. He'll send me out from his office onto the river trail down to the Connected Lakes and back, then put me on the bike for a bit, then another out-and-back.
My head is kind of spinning now. I had JUST started to get used to the idea of spectating and cheerleading, and here comes a good curveball out of nowhere. I am usually pretty even-steven, but this has been an emotional roller coaster over the past week. I'm not a smoker but this is a time when I'd be craving a cigarette if I did smoke.
My ankle does not feel perfect by any stretch, so this may very well come down to a game day decision. Shoot, usually I've got all new gear for a marathon, and didn't bother with that when I assumed I would not be running a week ago. I may very well be shopping for gear at the marathon expo (hey, at least they do sell everything under the sun there). I'm not going to get ahead of things, though. For now, I'm going to go day-to-day, do the work Bryan gives me, look at this as the strangest race taper even, and hope for the best.
To wrap it up with anti-climactic but still good news...my youngest kiddo go her acceptance letter today for the magnet school she'll attend next year (her siblings all go/have gone there, and younger sibs are grandfathered in). Oh, and, this:
I may be running two big city marathons this year after all. Or not. I assume nothing these days.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Before finally hearing from my doctor's office early this morning, I'd had exactly the kind of weekend I really needed. It started with the birthday celebration for my only son, who turned seven on Friday. I don't know but I am pretty sure he is grooming himself to be The Most Interesting Man In The World some day. Rather than selecting some kid-friendly eating establishment for his birthday dinner, he informed us early and often that he would like to eat his birthday dinner at Il Bistro Italiano. I'm not one to say no to one of my favorite restaurants in the valley, so to Il Bistro we went, where he proudly proclaimed that he was going to marry the chocolate decadence cake he ordered for dessert after a really good dinner. That's my boy. Sorry, ladies...chocolate wins.
This was followed on Saturday with a trip to Bananas Fun Park, which normally would be kind of my idea of hell on earth on a rainy day when you're stuck in the indoor play areas and can't go-kart, put-put or paddle boat. There was a purposeful ban on this not being an entire classroom party, though, and Carter just had two little dudes along for some fun. They went down this gigantic wave slide more times than I can count. I think they may have been a wee bit tired after three hours-but then again, probably not. That would be my kid on his face with one of his friends flying down behind him-this wipeout thing seems to run in the family.
Sunday, in contrast, was all about getting mellow, quiet, and mostly turning the brain off from everything. I took care of necessary chores and errands in the morning, and then was able to kind of retreat from civilization and mom duties, and disconnect from everything in the afternoon. I had a very peaceful afternoon of active relaxation, and I was able to just center myself, enjoy, and come back to reality afterward feeling recharged and rejuvenated. Stress and any pent-up negative stuff just faded away yesterday. It was long overdue, and I think that Sunday was the best night of sleep I'd had since messing up the ankle. Just a very excellent weekend all the way around.
Today started with my youngest proving that with four kids, you're never going to get them all being easy at the same time. It had been a struggle to get this usually easy kid out the door for preschool. I finally got her going and was able to do the preschool run, and upon my return there was a message from my doctor's office. They had conferred with a foot/ankle specialist, and he wanted me in with the big orthopedic group in town today. The freelance writer in the area who is writing the alcohol study piece, and who is a regular contributor to Runners World actually consults with these guys regularly for reference in her articles. SWEET. Before I could even pick up the phone to call them back, the ortho group called to schedule me in.
I met with Dr. Price from the sports medicine team in the group. I had been told going into it that I was probably going to be having weight bearing x-rays taken to determine what was going on with that one ligament in question that may or may not have been torn. I'd also been told all kinds of worst case, scorched earth scenarios from other folks who were telling me how long I was supposed to be non-weight-bearing. Well, it was a breath of fresh air when this guy said yes, Boston's 100% out unless a miracle occurs, BUT we can bring you back to doing things as tolerated and not on some cookie cutter time line.
I thought I'd get a tongue lashing for not exactly resting on Sunday, but he totally understood that I was climbing the walls, and said that I'd selected wisely in my activity. My ankle was apparently also far less swollen than some other guy he'd seen the same day with a similar injury. He said that as far as sprains go, mine was definitely as bad as they see short of needing surgery, but that I should absolutely be good to go for fall races so long as I don't do anything stupid in the meatine. This had me doing the little happy dance on the inside, especially when he said that the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day would be a realistic possibility for me. Sure, it may not be my most stellar race ever coming off of a ton of cross training, but this gives me something in the immediate future on which to focus.
I got to see my MRI on the computer in-office, which was pretty cool since I'm going to get an HMO bill for it anyway, and normally you just have a doctor phoning in these results to you. He explained and pointed out what we were looking at, and it was also reassuring to see and hear that my bones were in great shape for a runner who, as he put it, would be at higher risk for stress fractures with my particular build and and genetic makeup.
What I am on orders to do now is call the PT I mentioned in the last entry, and get in with him ASAP "so Bryan can really beat you up," as Dr. Price said. The one time I went to this PT before, the question was "what is your goal race/event?" and not "Why do you run? Dontcha know it's bad for your knees?" So, I'm actually pretty excited to get in for PT.
I was also told, as expected, that pool running is the way to go for me. I don't even have a gym membership now, and haven't for several years. It's been running, and my dance classes. I guess everything happens for a reason, though. I showed up for my regular adult ballet class tonight to find out that the studio owner canceled classes for the rest of the school year and had neglected to pass this along to me. I gave her some crap via text, because I can-that's my adult female time-but ultimately, that can become pool time now. I got in touch with a friend I know from Girls on the Run/Solemates/Team Tiara who also teaches classes at Gold's Gym here, which I hear has a kickass pool. I'm going to see what kind of specials are out there to be had, and then I'm going to run with it. Underwater. With a weight belt. Not how I imagined my April would go, but I will take it for now. Like the Avett Brothers say...decide what to be and go be it. I'm gonna be an aqua jogger for the next little stretch of time.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Referenced song lyric from the above tune, "Fools Gold" by the Stone Roses, a longtime playlist favorite on the iPod when I do solo long runs. The hill the band is walking down at the beginning bears a strong resemblance to the section of slick rock where I doomed myself for Boston.
So, there you have it. This was the blog post I didn't really want to write. It's taken a few days to process the news-I was in shock and didn't know what to think at first. Then I had a good cry about it. My trail running form used to be an awkward, hot mess. I started working in earnest at improving last year, and ran/worked with a friend regularly who offered some invaluable unofficial coaching that helped get me to a totally different place with my running. I used to flop and fall on trails all the time but never wound up with more than trail rash, or the hand puncture at Imogene ("it's just a flesh wound!"...this seems like a time to bust out some Monty Python). If I was going to get the phone call I did-the office manager actually said "It's kind of a mess in there (your ankle)" before launching into the list of injuries-it seems like it should have happened then, not now.
I could list off all the ligaments, but the long and short of it is that I've torn three of them, and also have what is called a marrow edema, or bruising/swelling of bones in the foot and ankle related to the ankle roll and fall. I suspected I was going to get less than excellent news because the thing still hurts and has minor swelling, but had NO idea that my pro-running doc's office would be relaying the message that "she really, REALLY does not want you running Boston, and not at all right now because of the damage you could do." She had said that if there was any way at all to have me go without risking further injury, we'd work toward that goal, but it was a total no-go.
On the slight upside, two of the tendoms appear to be partial tears. We're still waiting for her to talk to the radiologist because of a discrepancy in the report (I guess there have been some wonky reports coming back due to glitches in the voice-activated transcription software they use). One of the tendons is reported as a full tear in one place in the report, and partial in another. It doesn't matter, though-it would not change the bottom line that I will not be running the 2011 Boston marathon, and have not been able to run since I took the spill.
As I said in the previous post, I cannot say enough how much it's helped to have a soft place to land with empathetic friends and family, and fellow runners who have been there and done that, or know how they'd feel in my shoes. When I threw the bad news up on Facebook (since most folks who were wondering my results seem to reside there), it was of the "drive-by" variety. Kind of a cut-and-dried "I won't be running Boston in 2011" and saying I tore three ligaments. I was totally overwhelmed, though, by the ensuing onslaught of comments, and emails and messages from people with medical expertise, offering suggestions, or just general motivation about taking care of the injury now. Again, I almost felt a little sheepish because this is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Still, Boston was my thing. Qualifying motivated me when I first laced up a pair of running shoes in late 2006. Getting there last year was an amazing experience. This year was to be the "run for time" after the run for fun year. Sometimes things just don't work out as planned, though. One of the previously unplanned good things to come out of this...
I did something I would not have done if Boston had not become a DNS. The day I heard the news, I was supposed to have a dance class but a)several people couldn't make class and b)I'm not really supposed to be doing anything weight-bearing, even modified cross training, until the swelling is all gone. So, it turned into a night of hanging out with the dance ladies.
None of them run, so I try to not be "running running marathon running marathon blah blah blah" all the time. I save that for the blog, hehe. They were SO incredibly supportive, though, and when I mentioned something joking about "Maybe I should use my guaranteed entry time from The Other Half to get into the New York City Marathon after all," this turned into a full-fledged campaign on their part to get me to register.
The more I thought about it, I HAVE wanted to run NYC all along. It just seemed like a bit much to do two major big-city marathons in one year. Still, the opportunity to run as a qualified runner at New York City was so appealing. For those who are unfamiliar, most people enter NYC via a lottery system, or by a system for local runners in which you run nine NY Road Runners races and volunteer at two. The other way to get in, though, is by time qualifying. They accept half marathon and full marathon times, and the standard is tougher than what it takes to get into Boston. I needed a 1:37 at The Other Half Marathon in Moab last fall, and had a dream race with all factors coming together, making that standard with 33 seconds to spare. Fellow area runner Kevin O'B, AKA "Blue Earth," has run New York City several times as a time-qualified runner (neat article and action shot here from our local paper about him). His excitement and enthusiasm for it absolutely sold me on what I already thought would be a great experience in running through all five boroughs of the city.
Time-qualfied runners also get to start ahead of the majority of the field, and are the closest runners to the elites...we're sort of the "regional class to sub-elite" range. And, I barely qualified for that bunch, but it doesn't matter. I'm in. Or, I've applied, anyway. I still have to wait for them to verify my time, but The Other Half is a USATF certified course with my time published in the online results, so it should just be a matter of a week or two before I get official word.
For now, it's "hurry up and wait." I did use the bike trainer a few times this week but was strongly advised to cut that out for now. According to the doc's office, I'm not even ready for physical therapy, but when I go she is sending me to the awesome local guy I saw the only other time I had a minor injury that needed some work. He and his wife met on the track team at BYU, where she was an all-American, and he's right off the riverfront trail where I do a lot of my running. He's out at tons of the running events (I saw him standing on a guardrail, cheering on runners at the Rim Rock Marathon over the Colorado National Monument in November). His wife was one of our Team Tiara/Girls on the Run charity team coaches when I first fundraised for GOTR, and did my last 20-miler with me before my first marathon in 2008. So, I trust he'll recommend stuff and have me do the kinds of things that will get me back and stronger than ever. Kind of nice to be RIGHT THERE where I run, too, and focus on getting healthy, and back out there running eventually. His injuries website is an excellent resource, by the way, for those of you dealing with injuries. Check it out. His other website, "The Better Runner" (here) has a lot of cool stuff about strengthening and cross-training, too.
For now, I'm going to focus on getting healthy, and not let myself get down in the dumps all the time about not running Boston. I'm sure I'll visit the dump a few times in the coming weeks, but I'm going to try to look at this as a small price to pay to get back into running sooner. It's not worth risking long term health just for one race. It could be kind of fun to be a race cheerleader for the short-term, too. I HAVE already run the Boston course. I'll still be going because it's all paid for, so I won't be longingly wishing I knew what it felt like to race there. I know a bunch of guys and girls who will be there, and they're gonna need support. So, that'll be my gig until I'm cleared to run again. Until then, I'm going to have to adopt the Deena Kastor approach as she went through a period of injury down-time and cross training in the training cycle just prior to her first major marathon win. Sometimes the moments that challenge us, define us. It's just up to me to be optimistic, and give my body proper time to rest and recover fully. I'm no clown, I won't back down, and I'll be running again when all is said and done.
Monday, April 4, 2011
I went to the doctor again this morning for a follow up exam on the left ankle, and the news was rather discouraging. While the swelling has gone down considerably, the ankle still is not entirely back to normal size eight days after I injured it. It's still tender to the touch, and though I was cleared to ride a bike and pool run/swim, running is entirely out of the question. I was advised that normally, she would not order an MRI at this point. With the short timeline between now and Boston, though, and totally getting how important it is to be able to follow through and run a race after putting in all the training, she got one scheduled for me tomorrow morning. This is the great thing about living in a community supportive of running. She'll be able to see and know for sure exactly how damaged the tendons are, and if I can, as she said "get away with" racing after taking things super-easy for the next two weeks, or if the tendons are so damaged that I'd be guaranteeing a long hiatus from running, permanent damage and/or surgery.
I know this is small beans and it's just one race, but it's one BIG race for me for a variety of reasons. It was a pipe dream back in 2007 when I ran a local 5K at what was my Boston-qualifying marathon pace, and was spent at the end. Still, I thought that if I worked hard and trained well, I could get to the point where I could sustain that pace for 26.2. The race is pretty important to me regarding the history of women in sport. I thought of what Kathrine Switzer did in breaking ground for us ladies years ago at Boston, and it really made me appreciate being on the course, and just blending in with everyone else that much more. It was SUCH an amazing experience racing it last year, but this was supposed to be the year to knock one out big time on the race course. Even if I can't chase down a 3:20 marathon with so much time off from training, just running the historic course and making that final "Right On Hereford, Left On Bolyston" with wall-to-wall spectators will be plenty fulfilling in its own right.
So, that's where I am. Waiting for answers and hoping for some good news. I've been overwhelmed with the support and positive vibes from friends, runners and nonrunners alike, and makes me feel almost a little sheepish because really, it's a race. It's an ankle sprain. Nobody's dying, and if they've held Boston for 114 years already, it'll probably be on again next year. Still, it's been reassuring to hear from friends who have been there and done that with this injury and others, or who just empathize with unexpected setbacks. A good friend and sometime running partner made the point today that it's not worth pushing my way through one race on a questionable ankle, even if I'm cleared as borderline, because of the big-picture and long term ramifications. He's definitely right. It's just hard, though, to reign in with the thing that, beyond being a mom, gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction. I'll try to get a good night of sleep tonight, and then will be up at o-dark-thirty in the morning to let the folks at the hospital's imaging pavillion do their magic.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Then, there was the infamous missed baton handoff during the first run through the rotation, during which I was.......elsewhere. Doing something. Something that was not waiting at the tent to receive the baton from my teammate. Nick and I discuss. Meanwhile, Mad Dog Mike eats potato chips to fuel up for his lap. Let the record state that I was NOT doing my hair. That should be plain to anyone who views this clip.
Here's my teammate Julie, who was also our default team captain, passing off to Sara. This is sort of the story of our team. Members randomly wound up with certain jobs, and everyone just kind of ran with whatever they got without question. I knew everyone but Sara (with whom I had been chatting on our team's Facebook group page, along with everyone else) coming into the race and sort of expected this would be the case, but it was great that it did play out that way.
One thing that I do regret a little is not taking my camera or the iPod out and around the actual trail loops on the Monitor and Merrimac Trails. What can I say-I was pretty focused on racing all-out on my day laps, and we were just kind of letting the day unfold as it may for the in-between-laps portions. That said, I did get some shots of the campground, and the La Sal Mountains off in the distance.
Making an awkward segueway from the serene and peaceful to the just plain silly, there was another product besides Kick Ass Sinus joining the all-namer team around camp. This is a product that is used for...well....Nick describes it as problems that arise from....swass. Or...swenis. I wouldn't know firsthand about that second item so I'll just take his word for it. Raise your hand if you know who Bjorn Borg is, and keep your hand in the air if you think Mike bears more than a passing resemblance in this photo (I did not take the one of Mike....I think it was from either Julie or Shannon)
Our camp was made up of an assortment of cars, tents, campers, and best of all, Shannon's Van Of Awesomeness. She and her husband (a top area triathlete, ultrarunner and artist-check out his work here, very talented guy. Grand Junction locals should recognize several of his landscape oil paintings) recently acquired it, and it wound up being pretty useful over the weekend. I was able to nap on the bench in there during overnight drizzles, and it brought back fun memories of my grandparents coming to visit in their VW Bus/camper, and letting me sleep in the narrow "upstairs" sleeping area, which was also a feature of Shannon's van. One of my favorite parts of the van was the "nature scene" on the wood paneling inside the door...1970's and 80's decor in all of its glory. She is also working on curtains for the van out of old race shirts. I've seen quilts of old race shirts but never curtains. They should add even more character to the joint.
I mentioned Melody Fairchild being at this event in the prior blog. She still holds the course record at the High School National Cross Country championships, and was a two-time winner there. I warmed my hands around the fire next to her at 2am waiting to start laps, and she was as unassuming and friendly as they come. At some point during the weekend, Jen was monkeying with my camera, took a random test shot and happened to get one of Melody, pictured in the middle in green and black. It's great that she's still running, and doing her running camps for talented high school girls (teaching healthy body image and good nutrition, which I love. Great article on here on her struggles since high school and subsequent comeback).
There were other colorful characters as well. I can say, without a doubt, that this is the first and only time I've encountered a runner wearing a kilt and Vibram Five Fingers. It took me awhile to figure out that the kilt was being shared by his teammates, and donned by whichever runner was out for a lap. Little bit of an "ew" factor there to me with sharing a sweaty kilt, but hey, to each his own.
This just amused me. One of our camp dogs, locked in a staredown with his lifeless opponent.
Finally, a shot of my teammates, minus Shannon who was out running a lap for the team at the time. These guys were smiling throughout the event, and I never heard a complaint from anyone even though several of them were dealing with injury and illness issues. They really made it a pleasure.
That just about covers it. Dirt. Slick rock. Mud. Coughing. Sweating. Falling. Laughing. Smiling. Running. Living. This is what it's all about.