Monday, July 28, 2008

Hills, Miles and a Trip to the Hospital

For the past two Wednesdays, the team has been incorporating hill repeats into our training. What are hill repeats you ask? Well, let me fill you in. For 1 - 2 minutes, we run up a steep hill as fast as we can. Then we turn around and walk back down for 3 minutes. We repeat this 5 times and then we run for about 7 minutes after to cool down. This may not seem like much of a work out, but my knees would argue that point.

By Friday, I could barely walk. I had survived two weeks of this running / hills /running program. My body was trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening. "Ease back in to the training, you are killing yourself," my knees said. I just tried to keep going.

Saturday morning, the team was taking a bit of a break with a 6-mile run. This was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up! My running specialist, Jeff Waldberg, advised me to increase my mileage by 2 each week until I caught up to the team. This Saturday, I was to run 9 miles. I hobbled to the starting point and got ready to run. About 2 minutes into the run, I was in some serious pain. This wasn't like my ankle pain. This pain ran along the bone from my right knee, all the way down to my right ankle. My left ankle was also sore (I think I rolled it on Wednesday). What a mess! I resigned to walking and crying for the first 3 miles. I was far behind Brian and the rest of the team. To say that I was frustrated would be a huge understatement. I was PISSED! I was berating my body. "Why can't you do what I want you to!?!" Limp, limp...sniff, sniff.

At the turn around point, Brian was passing in the other direction and he ran over to join me. We walked together for a while. He offered words of encouragement and I listened. I tried like hell not to show the other team mates that I was crying. A few of them knew, but let me have my space to deal with it in my own way. We got to the bottom of the hill, which was to be the last mile for the team. I rested at the water spot while Brian ran ahead to conquer his hill. Rob, one of the fastest runners on the team asked me how I was:

Me: In pain
Rob: So quit
Me: NO!!
Rob: That's the spirit, I wasn't going to let you anyway.
Me: I have to walk. I can't run, it hurts too much.
Rob: So what are you gonna do about it?
Me: I'm gonna walk
Rob: Great, see ya when you get back.

This was just the attitude I needed to get me back in the game. Jeff told me that mileage was the most important thing. He said even if I have to walk, just get the mileage in and it will pay off. So I walked.

I was completely alone on the second lap. The trail seemed different without the team. I drew upon my determination and decided that crying was a waste of energy. I started speed walking. I thought of Wayne, the team's walking coach and tried to imitate him. He walks faster than some of the runners. I had so many doubts trying to overtake me. "Maybe they are right, maybe I can't run the full marathon...maybe I will be forced to do the half...what if I have to walk the whole 26 miles?!?" As I approached DeSoto (the turn-around point) all those thoughts evaporated with my sweat. I walked proudly to that pole and slapped it a high-five. Yeah I was walking it, but I was accomplishing my goal! (no matter how slow)

As I turned around, I saw Brian running up from a distance. He ran all the way up to find and walk with me. I knew it was all down hill from there. With Brian by my side, the walk back took no time at all! As we got closer I saw our coach, Brett, running up to join us. Almost everyone had left, but Brett came back to see if I was ok. While we were walking back he got a call from Susan, our team captain. She asked if I wanted her to pick us up in our car. A big "NO" resounded from Brian's and my mouth. I think Brett was a bit bummed at the idea of walking in the heat, but he stuck with us to the end.

At the water stop, I was met with cheering and applause from the few team mates that stuck around. I only went 8 miles, but it felt good to say I did it. I DID IT!

This week, I will be skipping hill repeats. I am hitting the gym for strength training and elliptical work outs. It's time for me to take my body seriously. NO MORE MESSIN' AROUND!

Saturday afternoon, Brian and I joined the team in a trip to the children's hospital. They treat children for all kinds of cancer there. Some of the team mates brought cookies and cupcakes. We brought arts and crafts. Seeing these kids really put things into perspective for me. Some of them were so sick, their parents seemed so tired. It was amazing to me that people have to suffer through this. What an honor it was to bring smiles to their faces. I felt a little uncomfortable at first, but as we met more kids I found my confidence building. Next time, I'm going to try to get coach Brett to wear a cupcake costume :-)

Next weekend, we will be in Arizona. I will be running my 11 miles on the tread mill at the gym. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Cheetah and The Snail

Brian and I after we got our jerseys at the May 17th kick-off meeting.
Seems so long ago!

As I hobbled into work today, I reflected back on the journey thus far. I am 2 months into training and have already had so many highs and lows. What lies ahead, I am not sure. I know how to find out, though. One foot in front of the other.

Saturday came too quickly after our first round of hill repeats on Wednesday. My knees felt like two thorny balls as I glanced out the window at the grey cotton sky. My task seemed less significant than that of my team mates. They were to run 12 miles today and I, a mere 7. I shook off the cobwebs and creaked into the kitchen to take my daily assortment of supplements and anti-inflammatories. The calcium pills we take look like suppositories, both in size and appearance. Peanut butter toast is a bit hard to chew with a mouth that is still half asleep, but the fruit helps it slide down.
Balboa Lake was overcast and cool. I could see the gratitude on my fellow runners' faces at the cooler temperatures. My trail was to be a little different than everyone else's due to the shorter mileage. I would have to swim upstream for the final two miles as everyone else took a second lap around the park. A bit of stretching and we were off!

Brian decided to stay back and run with me for the first 5 miles. He is working on his running technique, so he doesn't mind going slower. It felt so good to have him by my side as we ran. I miss out on his experiences usually because I am just not fast enough to keep up with him. Today I was slower than usual. My legs felt like they were stuck in molasses. We are like a cheetah and a snail on the trail together. The cheetah came back to bat the snail around a bit, then ran up ahead, then came back again to play.

I was talking to my body, "Go faster, legs...Stop huffing, lungs...Straighten up, spine!" All of them, lazy rebellious teenagers in the marathon lifespan, ignored my requests.

Brian literally hit an obstacle on the trail. If you want to know more about this, you'll have to read his blog. He paints quite a vivid picture.

We reached the 6 mile mark and my amazing husband and I parted ways. He was able to run at his normal pace now that the dead weight was removed. I took my bag of heavy bones back to the starting point. Other team mates seemed confused as I passed them going the wrong way. Their eyes said, "Poor girl must be lost". This didn't stop them from cheering me on as I passed! They are so supportive.

On my way back to the starting point / water stop I saw a fellow team mate, Tracy. She told me before that she thinks she is the slowest runner on the team. I don't know if that is true. What I do know, is that she has been such an inspiration to me. She and I are like the little engines that keep telling ourselves, "I think I can". She was rounding up to her second lap around. I saw her determined face and felt inspired. I decided to turn around and run next to her for a while. I suddenly forgot about all the pain I was in. I wanted nothing more than to encourage Tracy. Like me, she has dealt with a large helping of obstacles and keeps on going. We ran together for a bit and I turned around to head back again.

At the water stop I became the ice-pack clad cheerleader, welcoming my fellow runners as they turned the corner for the last stretch of the run. After the water stop, they only had 2 miles to go before they finished the big 12. I became fast friends with the water stop chief, Sue AKA Bucket. I asked her why they call her Bucket, she said it was a Vegas joke about the coin buckets. She was just adorable. She prompted us to make a tunnel for our team mates to run through as they went by.

After the running, Brian and I went home and took an ice bath. I believe it may be the last one I ever take. IT WAS SO COLD!!! This insane method was suggested to us by our coach and Brian's mentor. I suppose it was helpful, but I think I prefer ice packs. Brian didn't seem to mind it as much.

Ice and Aleve are my two new best friends. Check in with me next week, I will be up to the 9 mile marker! The rest of the team will be taking it easy and dropping down to 6 miles, so I should be able to catch up soon.

Thanks again to you all for your support. Remember, my fundraising deadline is August 1st (one week from now). I am at 1/4 my total goal, so now's the time! Some of you have chosen to split up your donations and give a little each payday. What a great idea!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Crossroads

"A lot of people run to see who's the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts."
-Steve Roland Prefontaine - American long distance runner

Saturday was a landmark day for me. For the first time since my injury one month ago, I ran with Team In Training! They were all set to run 10 miles. I started with 5 miles. The last time I ran, I was at 3 miles, so this was a jump for me.

As we drove to the training spot, my mind wandered. I couldn't let myself think about whether I was going to fail. I refused to think about my ankle, my knee or my ability to catch up to the team. I stared out the window thinking, "I have seen a lot of sunrises since I started training".

At the meeting place, everyone was awake and enthusiastic. We all congratulated Brian on his website. He got a 'team star' for having the best one. I beamed with pride as I watched him get one of his many moments in the sun since our training began. He is one of the fastest on the team, he has already reached his fund raising goal, and he has the best website. My husband kicks ass!

I felt encouraged by the smiling faces welcoming me back. I tried not to think about being behind. Every time Brian told me they were increasing the mileage while I was on the bike, I felt discouraged and worried that I would never catch up. This run would determine my place in this marathon. If I was unable to run over 3 miles without severe pain, I would have to consider running the half-marathon or walking. Neither of those seemed to be an option for me.

This day marked a crossroads in my training. As Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in a wood". Would I be able to take the one less traveled by? Or would I be forced to listen to Dr. Negativity and have to "stay off it". We crossed the street to begin the run.

I started with a pace group that ran two minutes slower than my original time. Today was about endurance, not speed. I took off with the new running technique I learned from Jeff Waldberg. I felt like I was traveling at a snail's pace. On top of that, Jeff advised me to run for 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute. I was soon behind my pace group on the path by myself with the occasional team mate running past me. I didn't even feel like I was getting a work out. My ego wanted me to GO FASTER! I resisted and kept the pre-determined pace. After two miles, I increased my run/walk ratio to 3:1. I stayed with the slower pace and found a team mate who was running at around the same speed. It was nice to be able to talk to some one while running. If I had been running at my normal pace, I would have had a more difficult time carrying on a conversation. Lauren was my running buddy and we kept each other going from mile 3 to mile 5. At the end of mile 5, I was in a little bit of pain but felt I could run more if I wanted to. I DID want to, but took the advice I got from Jeff to start small.

I hung out with our Team Captain, Susan, at the water station with a bag of ice on my ankle. It was a little puffy, but not too painful. As the other team mates started to trickle in from their 10 mile run, they still had the energy to congratulate me with tired sweaty smiles. What an awesome team. I ran half what they ran, and they congratulated me! Well, I gave congrats right back to them. 10 miles...what an accomplishment!

As we drove home, I felt calm. I wasn't celebrating the way I thought I would be. I still have a long way to go, and five weeks to catch up to the team's mileage. I am increasing my mileage by 2 per week. As the team gets higher in mileage, they will be alternating the high-mileage weeks with lower mileage weeks. So they will run 12 miles next week, then 6 miles the following week, 14 miles the next week, 6 miles the following week. This will make it possible for me to catch up!

I learned that my mind is a powerful tool in my training. I can use it to help or hinder me. Strong mind, strong muscles, strong life.

If I have obstacles...I WILL RUN!
If I have doubt...I WILL RUN!
If I am tired...I WILL RUN!
How else will I know what I am really made of?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Three Doctors, Two legs, and One Determination

Three weeks ago, I saw my doctor for my ankle injury in hopes that she would refer me to an amazing, all knowing specialist. A specialist who would tape me up, slap me on the butt and send me running again. It didn't quite work out that way...

Doctor #1
We will call her the GP for General Practitioner. She was able to see me almost right away for my ankle. In her office, she took a quick glance at my ankle after I told her of my goal to run this marathon. Without even touching it, she said I needed to see a specialist. 'Yes!' I thought. This is what I was hoping for! Referral in hand, I called the specialist to make an appointment.
"The earliest available appointment we have is July 7th", the receptionist said.
"That's three weeks from now!" I said.
"This is the earliest appointment we have".
"Ok, I will wait," I said. "He must be good if he is booked this far in advance."

Boy was I wrong!!!

Doctor #2
We will call him Dr. Negativity. He came in the office for my long anticipated appointment and didn't even look me in the eyes, much less the face. Staring at his clipboard, he asked what the problem was.

Me: I am training for a marathon and I hurt my ankle. I think it's because of my previous knee injury
Dr. Negativity: (with a nice layer of cynicism) You have a knee injury and you're running a marathon?
Me: Yeah, I'm running a marathon
Dr. Negativity: Were you a runner before this?
Me: No
Dr. Negativity: (laying it on thicker) But you're running a marathon.
Me: Yeah, Dude. I'm running a marathon!

Dr. N proceeds to fondle my ankle like it's a fish he has extreme distaste for. He asked a few times if what he was doing hurt. It didn't. He let go of my foot and started writing.

"You have an over-use injury, take Aleve and stay off it for two more weeks. After that you can run one mile, increasing it by 25% each week". When I asked about exercises I could do he said, (and I'm not exaggerating) "Do whatever doesn't hurt your ankle".

You need a degree for this? Discouraged, I walked out the door.

My trainer recommended this specialist, Jeff Waldberg. He said that this guy has performed miracles with other Team In Training participants. After researching him, I decided that he was worth the expense (my insurance won't cover it) and I set up an appointment. I was able to get in to see him within two days!

Doctor #3
He goes by Jeff and he is awesome! I came in, he listened to me and looked me in the eye. He felt my ankle and almost immediately found the tender spot in my joint. He videotaped me while I ran on the treadmill so we could analyze my running technique. After he filmed it, he put in his computer so we could measure the angles of my joints as I ran. Turns out, I was way to high on my toes when I landed. This was most likely the cause of my injury. He showed me a new technique and I ran on the treadmill again. It was completely comfortable. I felt like I could run all day! He then taped my foot and told me to get back to running. "We're not out of the woods yet," he said, "But let's try to get you past the three mile mark."

I nearly cried. I felt so elated and full of hope! If I had taken Dr. Negativity's advice, I would have been up to 8 miles by the day of the marathon. I could have kissed Jeff.

For the first time in almost a month, I am going to run with my team on Saturday! They are doing a ten-mile run, so I will go as long as I can and see how I feel.

Thank God I didn't give up. There's hope for me yet!!!