Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chasing the Dragon.. Or Not?

Boston is 7 weeks away - it coincides with the day I'm flying straight OUT of this town because I'm bitter and childish over the fact that I cannot seem to qualify for that damn race. With that mother of a race being so close, weekend mornings are littered with runners donning fuel belts, GU packet, and compression socks. You can usually tell the newbies from the experienced runners, and you can often read how their run is going simply by observing their faces. If you head down to the Boston course, there are herds of runners, sponsored water stops, and the anxious faces of thousands of runners as they preview the course for the big day.

As I headed out for my "long run" this morning, I saw a lot of those runners. I felt that pang of jealousy that always comes when someone refers to "running Boston", and then continued to carry my non-Boston qualifying body down the road. I watched many runners wearing their coveted Boston Marathon jackets as they sauntered down the street, as I thought "someday".

I have spent so much of my running life going chasing that dragon. It has always been 3:40 or bust. Now, of course, the BAA has made qualifying even more difficult, and I must run a 3:34:59 to even be considered for registration. I think for every runner, getting to Boston is a big deal. For those of us who live around here, growing up watching it every year, being able to toe the line in Hopkinton is every kids dream. Well, every nerdy runner kids dream.

Sometime in the past year, I have loosened the grip on that dream. Definitely haven't let go of it (as exhibited by my reaction when someone speaks of the race), but have decided to not let that race define how successful I am as a runner. And this morning, during my run, I thought a lot about all of the great things that I've done as a runner; and none of them happen to include the word "Boston".

I've been able to run in gorgeous locations (Big Sur Marathon - seeing pods of whales while running along Highway 1),experienced a rockstar marathon location (LA Marathon, which goes through LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and ends in Santa Monica), and get the red carpet marathon experience (Chicago Marathon, where they literally carpeted the surface of every bridge). I've also gotten to pretend to be Rocky several times (Philly Marathon), and run along the serene Lake Champlain (Vermont City Marathon). I've had the opportunity to run a gorgeous point-to-point marathon in a most unlikely location (Twin Cities Marathon - Minneapolis to St Paul). Finally, I've been able to experience a PR in my very own state - the Bay State Marathon in Lowell, on a cold, windy, rainy October day.

I still have so much to accomplish as an athlete - I want to compete in an Ironman, run a 50 mile ultra, and do a multi-day adventure race in an awesome location. And yes, qualify for the Boston Marathon.

My surgical consultation is on Wednesday, and I'm up to 25 questions so far for the surgeon. I have a lot of hair-brained ideas brewing for the latter half of 2012, based on my proposed recovery timeline. And whether or not that includes qualifying for Boston remains to be seen. Regardless, I plan to have a lot of fun after my surgery, all while kicking some serious ass.

Happy Training!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vacation.. Or Is it?

I despise school vacations. I was trying to explain why to Caitlyn the other day, and the conversation went something like this:

"Mommy gets 3 or 4 weeks of vacation for the whole year - you have 8 during just the summer alone!"

"So that means you have 4-5 weeks of vacation LESS than I do (smiles proudly at her math skills)"

"Right - and that doesn't include Christmas Vacation, February Vacation, April Vacation, and all of the other made-up school holidays".

*shrugs* "Maybe you should just get a new job".

She then turns on her heel and goes back to practicing her latest and greatest jump rope song.

Trying to balance work and life is tough enough during "normal" school weeks - add a vacation week into the mix, and it turns life upside down. I've spent the majority of this week having play-dates at my house, sending Caitlyn to play with her friends at others houses, and trying to squeeze as much work and running  in as possible.

Play dates = destruction
To all of those parents who stay at home with their kids, you're my heroes.

And to all of those parents who are in a similar space as me this week, let's all meet up Sunday night and raise a glass to the end of vacation!

Only 7 weeks until the next one..

Happy Training!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


For most marathon runners, the number 20 is a milestone of sorts; there is an immense amount of satisfaction that comes with seeing the "20.0" on your Garmin for the first time in a training cycle. While I will not have the luxury of seeing the "20.0" this spring, the feeling today when I saw double digits on my watch (with a right leg still attached to my body!) was markedly similar. 

The Hampton Half Marathon was held today, and my plan was to go up to watch some people run, and meet up a good friend to spectate.  Since the course is flat, it was the perfect venue to put some miles on the 'ole legs. 

To prepare for my run, I made sure to not run yesterday. Instead, I spun on my bike, went on a ridiculously fun hike with awesome company (which always requires lots of trail mix; M&M heavy of course!)

Why hello muddy shoes!!

and had a wine date with one of my most favorite people

I collapsed into bed feeling so "full" and happy. 

I wanted to get most of my miles in this morning before the race, so I headed up early. I started my watch,and ran away from the course. I've raced that course before, and didn't want to get competitive or upset that I wasn't racing today. The first three miles ticked by as I headed out of Hampton and into Seabrook. One leg felt spicy, the other leg holding on, and my body deliriously happy I was pounding pavement. As I approached mile four, I thought about turning around, heading back to where I started, and then adding on two miles off the back end. The legs had other ideas, so I trudged on through Seabrook and into Salisbury. It was a gorgeous morning, and I wish I could put into words just how happy and alive I felt running out there. I didn't want to turn around at mile five. I knew I had to, but my God it was a H-A-R-D decision to make. 

Into the wind, and surpassing my longest run in many weeks, I started to labor a little at mile eight. Nothing horrid, I just noticed by breathing more, and it was requiring more work to keep a manageable pace. What happens when my mind starts to go astray? I make a plan - I would slog to mile nine, and then see if I could lay down a quick final mile to finish the run feeling like a true rockstar. 

And my God did I ever - I hit mile nine and let the legs come out to play. My left leg MUCH more eager than my right, but they wanted to dance. And dance we did. Right up until I saw double digits on my Garmin, when I stopped my watch, and thanked my body for being able to carry me for ten miles today. 

I met up with Jo, we walked up to mile 11, and cheered on everyone! I was freezing and starving, but had we had an awesome time catching up. I, of course, picked the EXACT minute Sam ran by to go to the bathroom, but she ended up finishing strong! 

So cold... 
It was an incredible weekend, and congrats to everyone that raced today! 

Happy training! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Taking the first step..

As I emerged from the gym locker room, I took a deep breath. I walked by the elliptical machine, and it stared longingly as I headed back to my ex. I know elliptical, we have had some long sweat sessions over the last couple of weeks, but you'll never be my true love. It's not you, it's me. I'll continue to use you when it's absolutely necessary, but this was never meant to be a committed relationship.

I walked with deliberation towards that sexy 'mill, and he flashed me a devilish grin. "You're all mine today, allllllllll mine". I gulped, and stepped onto the deck of that treadmill for the first time in over a week. As I was slowly increasing the speed, my leisurely walk turned into a jog. A very slow jog, but a jog none the less. I wasn't going to get greedy, so I kept the pace that of an elderly woman recovering from open heart surgery.

As the minutes ticked by, simultaneously a glisten of sweat covered my forehead and a smile spread across my face. It wasn't sweat from pedaling on my trainer or the elliptical, sweat from swimming, or sweat from recent hula hooping sessions with Caitlyn (there's a way to find your core - whoa!). It was running sweat! Glorious, sexy, running sweat!  If I could have pulled off a cartwheel on that treadmill I would have. For the sake of my hamstrings (and my pride), I chose to continue running.

The elusive twenty minute mark, which is usually the time point that brings me to my knees, passed silently. I continued at my pedestrian pace, never so happy to be running so damn slowly.

When I completed my sweat session, I begrudgingly turned the treadmill off. He begged me to stay a little bit longer, and I said "not today - maybe next time". He was forgetting the cardinal rule of always leaving him wanting more.

I blew him a kiss on the way back to the locker room, he winked back. He knows I'll be back; as much as I bitch and complain about him, he'll always have my heart.

Even my shoes were happy to see the treadmill! 
Happy Training!

My Valentine's Date..

The other half of the "two-mommy" couple who assisted me in chaperoning a first-grader Valentine's Day date did a most perfect recap on her blog. Check it out here

Hope everyone enjoyed Valentine's Day as much as we did.. 

Happy Training!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On missing running..

I am thankful for so much in this life - I have the most bad-ass 6 year old alive (biased, I know), the best family and friends in the world, a job I love, etc. And when looking at this scenario from a practical standpoint, I should be incredibly grateful. 

Enter the emotional bucket - an (un)healthy mix of whining, tears, and random brain firings that don't necessarily make any sense at all. I spent 45 minutes on the phone tonight doing that the kind of sobbing that leaves your face swollen for hours. Dead sexy, I know. 

When I walked out of the doctor's office last week, I was thankful that I would be able to run right up until my surgery. Which meant I didn't have to deal with my vice being ripped out from under me for at least a few more weeks. I could continue running, get up to 15-16 mile long runs, tempo runs, and all that other sweaty goodness that makes me deliriously happy. 

The reality hasn't been rainbows and puppy dogs. That test beat the crap out of me, much more so than I expected. I had 2 failed runs towards the end of last week, which left me in tears, hobbling home with a swollen leg. I've been subjected to many hours on the trainer, as well as some swimming and elliptical workouts mixed in there for good measure. 

Yes, I should be thankful I can still workout. I have the green light to stay on that bike trainer as long as I want to, so long as the leg doesn't hurt.  I can get in a lot of quality cardio, as well as piles of strength training. I should be using this time to learn to embrace other forms of cardio to get my sweat on. 

Yet all I see when I look at my inbox, or Facebook, or Twitter is running. Signing up for long races, war stories about long runs, successful track workouts, and race reports. Don't get me wrong - I am deliriously happy for everyone, and I am incredibly sincere when I say that. But I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard to read all of that, and then hopping on my trainer for the 600th hour this week. 

Being outdoors, running on those roads when there's no one around, chatting with great friends for hours on a long run, choking down Gu at hours 2 and 3 of a 20 mile run are those moments that I savor. I'm that freak that loves, loves, loves my long runs. I miss it, and of course since I can't have it, have never wanted it more than I do right now. 

In Sobfest 2012 that occurred this afternoon at the expense of my poor sister, I let out every last frustration. She listened, didn't tell me I was wrong, didn't tell me "everything's going to be okay", and just let me cry until I was completely empty. I know I have to turn a corner, and move onto the acceptance phase. I know I'll get there. I know a lot of people may think I'm being overly dramatic, or not quite understand. And that's okay too. 

I'm going to continue sweating, in whatever form I can get it right now. I'm going to try to get back on the roads when my leg fully recovers from the testing last week. And when I DO get back on those roads, I promise to savor every mile I can pound the pavement until the day I go under the knife. 

It's times when running is taken away from you that you learn to truly appreciate it the most. Right now, I'd take a bad track workout, or a sucktastic tempo run over watching a pack of happy runners bounce by from the inside of a sweaty gym. 

Happy Training Friends.. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Compartment Syndrome Diagnosis, and the Dreaded "S" Word..

What started as an annoying injury in early 2011 is going to end in surgery sometime this spring. Yes, the same spring in which I was supposed to run the Eugene Marathon, and lay down a marathon PR on the track at Hayward Field.

Compartment Syndrome was the suspect, and was confirmed when I went to see the MD on Wednesday through an Intra-compartmental Pressure (ICP) Test. This test is considered the gold standard diagnostic test for chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) in terms of accuracy and reproducible. However, it is a painful and invasive procedure, which relies on the skill of the tester. In spite of those disadvantages, pressure measurements are the only available objective test. Can you tell I've done my research?

I was told to bring on the symptoms in my leg as much as possible in the couple days leading up to the pressure test. So I managed to pile of miles, some speedwork, AND hill repeats, because why the hell not. I was also told to wear my running attire and shoes for the appointment, as there would be a little running involved. Mmmkay.

Doc comes into the room, we talk marathons, and I explain my story. He gets nearly giddy about the potential of driving many large needles into my leg, and gets to work. I get an injection of Novacaine into each the 4 different compartments in my lower leg.

 Sting and burn. Sting and burn.

Then we get into the really fun stuff. Doc pulls out one of these fun little pressure meters

and starts to beat the snot out of my lower leg. One of these babies in each of the four leg compartments. Holy hell that hurt. I put a short video below of (part of) the procedure, but be warned, it's kinda nasty.

After the first pressure readings were taken (including novacaine, we're up to 8 needle sticks now), Doc tells me to go for a 20 minute run outside, and so kindly provides me with a loop. Errr.. Am I on candid camera? You want me to take my partially numb, bleeding leg, and go beat the crap out of it? There has to be a punchline, right? Apparently there wasn't. He told me to jog in place in the exam room upon my return, and to not stop moving until he was back in the room with me. 

One of the many things I learned Wednesday? Running on a numb lower leg is a trippy sensation. Luckily, my foot still worked, but my leg was partially numb, and my left leg was just angry that I was out pounding out more miles. Super. 

Back into the exam room, while being barked at by the nurse to continue running in place. It was the closest I've ever come to boot camp I think. Doc saunters into the room, instructs me to keep moving until he's "ready". Once he gets gloved up again, he tells me to lay on the table, and goes after those compartments again with the above torture device. Although the bonus this time is now I'm dripping sweat all over an already gross exam table and my HR is about 354. Try not to be jealous. 

When he's done, I start to get up. "Lay down, and please be still" he says. "I'm going to go get you some water, and we need to do this one more time in 5 minutes". I start laughing, and say "oh, you're hilarious". He gives me that blank doctor stare and says "I'm not kidding". Oh. 

After 5 looooooonnnggg minutes, in which I seriously debated bolting from the joint, he comes back in for another go-round. For those keeping track at home, this would be round FOUR of needle sticks, bringing the grand total up to SIXTEEN. No, not a typo. 

As he stands over his laptop, staring at some notes, he sighs. I ask what's up, and he says he needs to test one compartment ONE MORE TIME. Before I could jump off the table, there was a needle in my leg. Again. 

Finally done, he wraps me in lots of gauze and ice, while trying to break the news to be gently. 

Three of the Four compartments in my leg need to be relased via Fasciotomy, which is a surgical procedure in which they cut the fascia to relieve tension and/or pressure. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Surgery. This spring. Which means Eugene is no longer. And my sucktastic 2011 season of running continues to bleed into 2012. Awesome. 

There IS a silver lining however; more than one actually:

(1) I can run right up until the surgery, which will be no sooner than mid-March. And in that time I plan to race a 10-miler and potentially a Half Marathon. I'm going under the knife in the best shape possible. 

(2) This surgery is removing the problem that has been plaguing my training for the last couple of years. When I come out of this, I won't be sidelined by this injury ever again. And that is so damn sweet. If it happens to ever occur in my left leg? I'll take up a new sport. 

(3) While I don't know the specifics until my consultation, it doesn't appear that the recovery is too daunting. 

(4) Given the timing of the surgery, I'll have plenty of time to come out of this and train for a kick-ass late fall marathon. 2012 can still be recovered! 

More to come, but that's the current status. I'm finally not limping around today, and managed to hop on the trainer for a little bit earlier. And my plan is to try for an easy run tomorrow, and see how the leg post-jabbing holds up. 

Stay Tuned... 

Happy Training!