Thursday, October 13, 2016

It was a cruel, cruel summer

I was really hoping I wouldn't go MIA from this blog for ages again. I hoped that this summer would be full of delightful casual races, easy runs in the muggy mornings before the sun was at full blast, and building the blocks that would take me to a solid marathon in November or December. Oh, the silliness of making plans.

When we last left off, I was mostly recovered from a bout of right hip tendinitis that sent my Boston taper into a tailspin, followed by a disappointing race performance (although thankfully one not impacted one bit my my hip). A few weeks later, I ran a shockingly fast 5 mile time that made me feel like all of my training hadn't been for naught! My hip was feeling much better, and while I continued to have a few nagging issues I felt like I was well on the road to a solid summer of training. I planned races. I PLANNED SO MANY RACES (the running gods laugh at planning races). The first such race was the Lazy Lobster 10 Mile, a race which I love dearly but which I also knew I was not remotely prepared to run. Deep down, I knew I should drop to the 5 mile, even though I knew that that wouldn't yield any spectacular performances either. I somehow convinced myself that it made more sense to run the 10 miler because I could run slower and it would still be acceptable. So. I ran the 10 miler. It was decidedly not great, but approximately what I expected given the complete lack of training I had done since Boston - I ran 2.5 minutes slower than the year prior, felt terrible for the majority of the race, and was most likely only saved by the fact that I had chosen to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on my phone to get me through. Over the last couple of miles of the race, my left hamstring/hip rotator, an issue that had been flaring up multiple times throughout the Boston training cycle (like....pretty much every time I raced...) reared its head, to the point where I wasn't even able to cool down. Still, I had been here before - a few days off and all would be well, right? Well, I took essentially the rest of the week off, and then flew to Wisconsin for a reunion with my college track club teammates. The weekend was wonderful and I obviously couldn't pass up the opportunity to run the Arb loop with the boys (none of my girlfriends from college track run much any more, which makes me a little sad...oh well) on a muggy Sunday morning after drinking until 1 am the night before - reliving the college dream! It was a blast, and I was full of joy to be out there, but about halfway through the loop I knew I was royally screwed. We were thankfully keeping a very easy pace but even at 8:30s, my left leg felt like I was being stabbed every time I took a step. I'm not sure how I made it through the remainder of the run; somehow I did. And then I didn't run again for over a month.

So the majority of the rest of the summer was spent attempting to undo whatever had been done to my leg (something which I still, despite the fact that I AM A DAMN PHYSICAL THERAPIST, cannot seem to identify the exact cause of). I biked a lot. I did a lot of strength work. I TOOK UP YOGA - something which I'm still doing at least once a week and I have to admit I have grown to love dearly. Both the blessing and the curse of this injury was the fact that LITERALLY the only thing that caused me pain was running; I could dance, do yoga, ride my bike, walk, spin in circles, jog in place, do plyometrics, do strength training, whatever with NO pain but within 5 minutes of trying to run...nope.

Finally, after maybe 5 weeks of NO running, I started taking some baby steps in the right direction. I started being able to run 2-3 miles with minimal pain, which I took as a positive sign. After running a whopping 4 miles one 92 degree fall day, I was somehow convinced that a good life plan would be to run a 5K the following weekend. Imagine, if you will: my out of shape ass shows up at this beerfest 5K. I am hungover, have gotten 4 hours of sleep, and have decided to wear a cotton t-shirt that I cut into a tank top under the guise of "trying not to look like a real runner". The humidity is 90% and I warm up for maybe 4 minutes. I have no idea what my leg is going to do and I tell everyone who will listen that I'm probably going to run this 5K in 26 minutes. Here is what I do: I run my first mile in 6:30 (what.) It feels AMAZING. Like, I hope I never take the feeling of running fast and not being in pain for granted, ever again. I continue on, passing my friend who I SPECIFICALLY TOLD TO YELL AT ME if I passed her, because it meant I was doing something dumb. I was. But I couldn't help it. I couldn't get over how good it felt to be running and NOT BE IN PAIN Finally, by mile 3 I start to fade a little bit, but only because I'm out of shape and I feel like vomitting, not because my leg hurts. I finished in 22:xx, a pedestrian time for me but all things considered, I absolutely couldn't complain.

Since then, it's been a little bit of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I had quite a few setbacks ranging from moving to pain to the worst cold I've ever had. I did another 5K the day after one of my good friends/teammate's weddings, which was again a hilarious sight to behold - a repeat performance - hungover, 4 hours of sleep, another 22:xx, that's the story of the summer. Since the beginning of September, I have FINALLY started to feel a little bit like the forward progress is outweighing the backward - I've been able to start doing baby workouts again, I have more good days than bad days running, and I've started being able to do some "long" (10ish) mile runs again. I'm still pretty limited in my mileage because I'm being really careful about days off after hard workouts, and I'm also still feeling generally very cautious because I can definitely tell that my problems aren't totally resolved. I'm mostly scared of what's going to happen when I race again - not only because of this lingering issue but also because I've fallen far from the shape I've been in the past couple of years, which of course is frustrating. Still, I think I've built some really great habits this summer (yoga! actually doing strength once in awhile! not hiding pain with ibuprofen!) that I think are going to help me in the long run. I just have to be patient, patient, patient. I am signed up for Boston once again so that's the next big goal: get healthy, get fit, and get ready to crush it once again in my most favorite race ever.

Other things that happened this summer:
-I impulsively bought tickets to see the OBC of Hamilton in May and it was quite possibly the best life choice I've ever made (also most expensive, but whatevs)
-I hiked 4 4000 footers in NH - Mount Jackson, Mount Liberty, Mount Flume, and Mount Moosilauke - and am developing a strong obsession with hiking
-I biked 30 miles from Cambridge to Concord along the Minuteman Trail and Battle Road to the Concord Battlefield on the 4th of July - felt like it was appropriate!
-A bunch of weird dramatic stuff happened in my personal life that created some strange situations over the summer - thankfully, things have resolved at least to some degree

It was a weird summer. But fall is my favorite season in running and in life - I still think of it as the "new" year even though it's technically not, and I can't wait to see what's in store.