Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Long Road Back

There's something about a comeback story that I've always appreciated. You know the ones where the protagonist has to oversome some major life altering disaster only to come out better for having overcome those challenges? I always thought that's what retuning to running would be like for me. One day I would wake up, feel insipred and motivated, and head out for a run that would be comfortable and rewarding and remind me why I loved running so much in the past.

It has not been like that.

I have been "returning to running" for the past two years. Every time I feel like I've made some headway, life has thrown a few curve balls. Last year's curveball was major surgery and this year's curve ball was another surgery (though thankfully not major). In between has been filled with my on-again-off-again relationship with running, fueled by countless excuses...

"It's too rainy" (true)

"It's too hot" (definitely true)

"If I sleep longer I'll be less grumpy at work" (maybe a little true?)

"I'll run after work" (definitely not true)

What is it about the return to running that makes it so hard? All my running friends have said the same thing about their return to running after a break, so I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with this. There definitely is no magic formula other than intrinsic self motivation. But when motivation is low getting outside and hitting the pavement (or road or trail) feels really really hard.

I've signed up for a race to provide some extrinsic motivation and I'm using the reliable run:walk method that helped kick start my running journey back in 2013. The next step is to stick with it. Stick with the three training runs each week. Stick with the two days of cross training. Stick with the essential rest days. Make sure every day doesn't become a rest day etc. 

I've also let go of pace goals (for now). Choosing instead (forcing myself if I'm being honest) to focus on the distance I'm completing. I know I may never get back to the fitness level I had during the height of my running days but I hope I get to a place where I can say I am fitter, healthier, and happier with my running than I am right now. And if these incremental improvements remain the focus then I will always have a worthwhile goal. At least for the next 18 weeks until race day.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

More Than I Ever Imagined {London Marathon Race Recap}

As race mornings go I woke up relatively late, which isn't to say I was rested since I tossed and turned for most of the night. But once I was up I got dressed quickly and then Sanya (my twin sister) and I were out the door.

We walked to Westminster station and took the tube and then the train to Greenwich station...

Then we commenced the walk to the start....

Which was longer than I thought it would be...

And then a little longer than that...

By the time we got to the Red start zone I was already tired (but still smiling)...

San wished me luck and I headed into the start area, found a patch of grass that wasn't damp to sit on and tried to "rest" my legs while I watched the elites take off...

But while I was there it started to drizzle cold rain and I immediately regretted giving San my rain jacket to hold. Fortunately San called me before it got to be too miserable and said she would meet me back at the Red start if I wanted the jacket. She was a total life saver! So I headed back and we stayed there for a few minutes until my start zone opened up...

Then it was time to go...

Once back inside the Red start I lined up with my fellow runners and we walked a bit and stood around some more while waiting to make our way to the start line. A lot of people were running for different charities and many people were decked out in costumes... some of which were more interesting than others...

As we got closer to the start I found the 6 hour pacers...

And the other 6 hour runners and I discussed the plan for the race with the pacers while we waited to walk the final stretch to the start...

My plan was to stick with or stay ahead of the 6 hour pacing group. I had an interval strategy in mind but it was a bit different from what the pacers were doing. I figured I could adjust my strategy to fit theirs as long as it would get me across the finish line in under 6 hours.

About two miles into the race I realized I was wrong. The pacers were running a bit faster between the inclines so that they could walk up the inclines (yes there ARE hills in the London Marathon). Other walk breaks were thrown in as well but they were not (or at least they didn't seem to be) very structured, so it was throwing me off. I'm usually pretty steady with my pace/mile so I decided to abandon the "stick with the pacing group" idea and just try to stay ahead of them.

San and I planned to meet at the NSPCC cheer points along the course so the first time I saw her was around mile 6...

I was feeling pretty good at that point (still able to smile) so after a quick picture I headed off again. Meeting up at the NSPCC cheer points didn't work out exactly as planned so the next meet up was planned for mile 13 at Tower Bridge. As I approached the half marathon mark blisters were really starting to bother me and I felt like I was struggling a bit... not how you want to feel with another half marathon to go. But the crowd build up as I approached Tower Bridge was great...

I saw San as I approached the top of the bridge...

Stopped for more pictures...

And to spray Biofreeze on my knee...

Then I took a cereal bar from her and headed off again. I was in pain (the blisters mostly but my left knee was also mildly tight), and tired, and hungry, and had no idea how I was going to make through the second half of the course.

Most of the second half was a blur. I saw San again at around mile 19 but I was so close to tears that I didn't stop. San asked "what do you need?" and all I could think of was "I just need to finish".

If you've run a marathon before you know that it's more a mental game than anything else at this point. I had already seen the 6 hour pacer pass me, I had dropped my intervals to very short run:walk durations, and I was struggling not to cry. 

But then I saw some of the messages that my family and friends had been sending me. Those messages honestly gave me the extra push I needed... and then I caught up to the 6 hour pacer!

When the pacer saw me he said "I knew you could do it! Keep going and stay ahead of me!" so that's exactly what I did. 

The NSPCC charity I given me grandstand tickets for the finish line so Sanya was there waiting for me...

And I made it through the finish in my sub-6 hour goal time...

Despite the blisters and the mid-race periods of discouragement, London was a pretty amazing marathon experience (nothing has topped Chicago so far, but it's pretty hard to beat running in the city that I love the most).

I made it through the race without injuries (just a few blisters), I ran for a charity that I love, and I'm absolutely proud of my sub-6 hour finish!

San met me at the family meet up area and we slowly walked towards Westminster station and back to the flat where we were staying.

After a long shower and gingerly tending to my poor blistered feet, we went out for a celebration dinner at Dishoom Indian restaurant... the perfect cuisine to end an amazing day!

Overall my London Marathon experience was incredible, more than I ever imagined it would be. I would do this race again for sure. In fact, if I could, I would do the London Marathon every Spring and the Chicago Marathon every Fall! But until life can accommodate that it's time to plan for the rest of the year. Up next... the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

London prep (and other life drama)...

So the London Marathon is in 10 days and training for it is pretty much done. I have one tapered long run left but at this point if I'm not ready I will never be ready so mentally I'm feeling ok. I definitely do NOT feel overtrained and I'm not dealing with any nagging injuries or lingering pain/discomfort (which I think is a great place to be going into race week next week). My flights are booked, accommodations are set, and I have a list of activities for the "touristy" side of the trip.

On a non-running related note... two days before the marathon I'm presenting at an international trauma conference...
(I'm really excited about the opportunity to present a keynote lecture!)

So apart from wrapping up my training, preparing for all aspects of my trip and my presentation for next week, I've been spending a lot of time juggling various other life things. My baby turned 18 so I'm officially the mother of an adult. It's freaking me out a bit because time has really flown by quickly. She's off to college this Summer and I'm both excited for her and sad for me (it's going to be hard not having her around).

In anticipation of my impending empty nest syndrome I've been trying to plan the next few years of my life. I spent the past two years wasting my time and emotional energy. And then the past two months dealing with the emotions of that relationship coming to an end. So recently (after considering feedback from family and friends) I decided to dabble in the world of online dating.

So here's the thing about me and online dating:
- I'm not looking for a hook-up so the "tinder" type sites were a definite NO.
- I hate paying for things that don't provide a guaranteed return on my investment, so I avoided sites with a subscription fee that rivaled a monthly car payment.
- I have already found the process to be exhausting and tedious.

Anyway, I signed up for a site that claims to "cater to professionals" and filled out a lengthy profile. After my profile details were reviewed and approved by the site administrators I started to get "matched" with men who were (apparently) an ideal fit for me.

Well. By the time I deleted the men who:
  1. Had several grammatical errors on their profiles
  2. Had profile pictures that were not oriented correctly (it's not that hard people!)
  3. Answered yes, definitely to the "children in the future?" question
  4. Had profile (or gallery) pictures with other women (it could be their sister but how am I supposed to know that?!)
  5. Looked like serial killers...
...there might have been about five potential "matches" left. I'm almost tempted to delete the account and request a full refund. However, I was advised that I need to "be more patient it's only been a few days". So instead I updated my profile a bit to provide a little more clarity...

I've already given up hope that this particular approach is going to result in anything meaningful but no one can ever say that I'm not clear about what I want.

Apart from my initial online dating disaster, life has also been busy with job hunting and binge watching Dexter on Netflix.

Next week this time I will be in London (maybe a guy worthy of me will be there), and a week from Sunday I will be finishing my 4th Marathon Major, and 5th full marathon!

Have you ever tried online dating? (share your good and bad stories!)

What's the #1 tourist thing I should do in London next week?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Current Status...

For the first time in a long time I finished my long run this morning and thought "I can probably get through London ok". The best thing about running in the London Marathon next month (apart from it being my 4th Marathon Major, and apart from the fact that I'll be running in a new country (which I love doing), and apart from the relative lack of humidity in London compared to Florida), is the very generous course time limit of eight hours.

This morning's run started a lot later than normal for me. Not only because the cruelty of Daylight Savings Time robbed me of an hour of precious sleep, but also because I checked the humidity levels at 4am (when I normally get up to get ready for my run) and realized how much Mother Nature seeks a B+ in this area (i.e. humidity in the high 80s). Since the humidity levels were going to fall during the day I decided to sleep in a little more... and boy did it pay off. Not only was I better rested for this morning's run, the weather was awesome and I got through 14 miles!

I relieved myself of the pressure of hoping for a marathon PR a long time ago, especially with the way training has been going, but I still want to have a better finish time than my last few marathons. And while that's still possible (if I'm to believe my VDOT O2 Calculator app)...
...there's also comfort in knowing that I won't have an unmanageable course time limit to contend with.

Plus, it helps that Garmin boosts my self-confidence with occasional race predictor and "Current Status" updates...

Despite my (current) productive training status, I've only stuck to my training plan about 84% because of various runs or cross training activities I've missed. I've also had to make revisions to the plan to remove the emphasis on speed work (which to be fair was not really working to improve my speed anyway) and focus more on endurance...
(It's going to be above 90% by the end of training 😉)

The other aspects of the London trip are slowly coming together as well. Airfare and accommodations are confirmed and there is some semblance of a "plan" for a few things to do while I'm there. My twin sister is planning to come too which will be great because she's been to London a lot more than I have. I told her she isn't allowed to get annoyed when my pre-marathon anxiety turns into pre-marathon moodiness (which is a lot worse than my "this is just my personality" moodiness), to which she sent me a very non-committal straight faced emoji 😐. So we'll see how that goes I guess. 

I'm not excited about the trip yet, but I'm hoping I will be. The more things fall into place training-wise, and the closer I get to my trip dates, the more I hope I'll be looking forward to everything about the racecation. It's the LONDON MARATHON after all! Only 7 more weeks to go before the big day!

How often do your deviate from your training plan?

Do you use race predictor apps/calculators?

Do you get pre-race moodiness too? What do you do to calm your nerves before a big race?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Time Heals All Injuries...

Training for a marathon is hard. No matter how many times I start a training plan and put my heart, soul, dedication, and commitment of time, energy, and resources into it... something inevitably goes wrong... and my training falls apart.

This training cycle is no exception.

I've spent the past few days trying to figure out why I'm so upset that things aren't happening according to plan. Especially since I've always had a "Murphy's Law" type relationship with running (i.e. something will probably go wrong). One would assume that if I know something is likely to go wrong, I would lower my expectations, adjust my hopes and goals, maybe don't believe that "everything will be fine this time" right? 


Instead, I allow myself to dream of perfect runs with decent paces. I imagine the miles getting easier to complete. I plan months in advance and adjust my entire life to accommodate my marathon training, all because I believe (naively) that it will be worth it; that this training cycle will be different.

But it never is. All my marathon training cycles include the same soul crushing, heart breaking disappointment. Though the extent of the disappointment always varies... and yes, I know time heals all injuries... this particular set back has derailed me.

I tried not to focus on the pain during my long run this morning. I tried to stay in the moment and just focus on one interval at a time. But increasingly each interval felt daunting, each step more painful, each breath more difficult. 

There were moments (so many of them) that it took all my energy not to stop and cry. Indeed, towards the end I wondered what was the point? Why bother continue a run that's difficult and both physically and emotionally exhausting? But the reality is when I started the long run I committed to completing it. I committed to giving up other things that are important to me (like sleep, and binge watching shows on Hulu) so that I can train. I believed that training is important... even when it's difficult. 

Marathon training seems to come so easily for others. I know I'm not the only one who has gone through difficult training cycles, but I don't know many people who have struggled as much as I have, or who have gotten injured as many times as I have. Maybe that's because people rarely talk about the pain they are in, and social media/ blog posts only reflect when things are going well... maybe.

A part of me wishes I had a time machine that could take me back to the beginning of the training cycle, before everything started, and just change the course of history so that the training mistakes were never made. Or maybe I could go back to the start of training with the knowledge that "I will get injured again" so that I'm not as derailed when it happens. Or I can stop training, like I knew I should have, when the warning signs of injury showed up. Or maybe just not start training in the first place. 

But... time heals all injuries... and now I can only hope that time will pass by quickly.

Have you ever been injured during your marathon/half marathon training?

What's the worst injury/set back you've had to deal with during training?