It’s no coincidence that in the aftermath of a four week music tour then running the New York City Marathon soon after, I’ve gone through my house and filled bag, after bag, after bag, of things I don’t need. For one thing, I found on tour that I was perfectly happy living with only what I had in my suitcase. I missed nothing from home, save my cats. When I crossed the finish line of the NYC Marathon in Central Park, I felt as if I had shed whatever emotional weight I had carried with me up to that moment. After a year of worrying, fretting, stressing… I made it. I did okay. No, I did just fine.
It’s been a year. Eight months in, and I’m in a wildly different place than where I thought I’d be. I just looked back on my first post of the year, when I written about my goal or theme for 2017, which was to dig deep and let racing hurt a little. To go beyond my comfort zone. I accomplished that exactly one time, at the Bloomsday 12K in May. My fitness wasn’t where it had been the year before, but I boarded the pain train and managed a new personal best by several seconds. It was the week after that race that things went south. Rather than taking some time to recover and have a “down” week, I plugged away and trained harder, and pretty much immediately strained my hamstring. I should have known better. Hindsight is everything! I got greedy. When things started to go my way, I wanted even more. For the next ten or so weeks after that, I couldn’t run at all without my leg hurting. I had to cancel my trip to Duluth, Minnesota, where I had planned to run Grandma’s Marathon in June. I spent a lot of time worrying about my future goals and how I’d ever accomplish them. I was adamant about maintaining my fitness by cross training, until even pool running aggravated my leg. Right around that time, I listened to an interview with Olympian Kate Grace where she spoke on her experience with injury- that there are only so many hours of pool running you can do before you drive yourself crazy. At some point you just have to let yourself heal. It was like Kate was speaking right to me! I had to let go.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
That pretty much sums up the first half of 2017 for me. After around three years of really solid training, I’ve been sidelined twice this year with a hamstring injury. The first time around it was fairly minor and I felt better after a couple weeks off. I even managed to get in shape enough to run a personal best at the Bloomsday 12K in May. The second injury has been much worse as I haven’t run in six weeks as of yesterday! I sought medical attention and have been rehabbing, strengthening, cross training, and resting, but unfortunately this seems to be one of the most stubborn injuries I’ve ever dealt with. I’ve been hesitant to write about it, as I really don’t enjoy writing “gloom and doom” posts, but I’m just going to keep this real.
Within the first few days of this injury, I was really stressed out at the prospect of rehabbing and getting in shape in time for Grandma’s Marathon on June 17th. When it became clear my leg wasn’t going to better anytime soon, the decision was pretty much made for me. The marathon was off. Rather than being upset about it, I felt relieved. I could take the time I needed to get better and not have to scramble to prepare for what would likely be a mediocre race on little training. Here’s what I wrote that day:
I am deliriously happy. It may be heightened emotion, poised to crash down the next time my muscle gives a little twinge, a stinging reminder that things aren’t all as they should be. But for now, I am relieved. I clip away on my fire engine red bike. The sun is warm on my skin. My usual cup of coffee tastes better than usual. I feel present and alive and hopeful.
It really was a wonderful feeling. However, as the weeks went by and my leg continued to sting and twinge, I began to crumple.
From here to there. That is what I miss. To move over the earth, to crest the hill, to discover what’s around the bend. I lunge, crawl, kick, and stretch but I’m grounded. Every so often I give in. I dash up a dune. I get a little dog to chase me. I run hot potato barefoot over the black pavement. If you asked me any other time I’d say I run to train and get the best out of myself. What I’ve realized is that running is the way I experience the world around me.
I wrote that one month ago. I keep telling myself that it will be just another couple weeks, but a couple weeks later it is still the same. A couple weeks from now will have been two months, and I’m still not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
There are a few things that have been keeping me going through all of this. My friends, who have all gone through the same thing in one way or another and know exactly what it’s like. Cross training, which will never be the same as running no matter how you frame it, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something. In fact, I signed up for my first bike race a few weeks ago and got to experience the thrill of the chase in another form. I was almost embarrassed at how delighted I felt after crossing the finish line.
Tomorrow I will start my first day as the new assistant coach at Mountainside High School. I got my start running in high school and I can’t wait to hopefully inspire and motivate young men and women that may be being introduced to the sport for the first time. Lastly, I’ve been putting my heart and soul into a new running project that will be announced this week. I’m grateful for what running has given to me, and in turn want to give back to this community which has done so much for me. Stay tuned!
It’s Friday and I have so many goodies to share, the most meaningful of which to me was this blog post on career choices called The Flyway – What Am I Doing? by Dr. Sarah Lesko. She wrote about how she was drawn to a medical profession. She embraced the challenge of becoming a doctor and loved the complexity of care and emotional intelligence required for family medicine. However, even after 17 years off running competitively due to injury, she felt her heart pulled toward running and little by little she became more involved with the growing women’s apparel company Oiselle. Here’s how she put it, shortened into excerpts:
“One of my favorite profs in med school had a great definition for parenchyma. Parenchyma: the essential, distinctive, functional part of an organ, the bulk of a substance. She would tell us, ‘Parenchyma is the there, there.’ I was looking for my existential parenchyma.
And then I started running again, after 17 years off. And I felt more alive. Like being plugged in to a power socket…I started helping out with various little Oiselle projects. Shenanigans. Because I loved it, because I couldn’t stay away…I started working out again. On the track even. I could still scamper! I got super into running, got injured, rehabbed correctly and got back out there.
I was still practicing medicine, teaching residents, doing some research writing, consulting, but my heart was pulled to running. To Oiselle. My there, there.”
I felt as if Dr. Lesko could have written this for me- just replace medical profession with a musical one. I love writing and performing music, and that’s something I’ll do forever. It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I studied most of my life, it’s an innate part of me. But when I look at the way I spend my everyday and the things I do for the sake in itself, it’s almost entirely running related. From training, to writing, to keeping up with running news, to creating schedules and communicating with the runners I coach, to a crazy ambitious new project I have in the works. I can’t fight it or deny it. It’s been like this for over ten years now. Like Dr. Lesko, I imagine that my “running house” and my “music house” will magically grow together. The two paths have crossed countless time and I imagine they’ll continue to. But instead of stressing myself out over the things I think I ought to be doing, I’m embracing the things that give me joy and purpose, however unconventional.
I highly recommend reading Marathon Man, a write up by Kathryn Miles on a man named Gary Allen that put on a marathon free to participants in his hometown Millinocket, a small mill town Maine. His rationality for free entry was that simply bringing visitors to the town would boost its economy. And the plan worked! The coolest part was how local businesses embraced the marathon and rallied behind it by contributing what they could toward making it an even better event. The local snowmobile club hosted both a pre-race spaghetti dinner and a pancake breakfast. The high school booster club ran a family funfair during the marathon. Residents began offering rooms for runners to sleep when local motels got booked out. It’s kind of like the stone soup of marathons.
I recently got to see a pre-screening of TRI, a new fictional indie film about two friends training for their first triathlon. While the inspirational vibe of the trailer had me rolling my eyes a little bit, I gave the movie a chance and I’m glad I did. It truly captured the process and emotions anyone goes through when training for a race, no matter if you’re in the front of the pack or DFL (dead f-cking last, as I learned). I’ve never trained for a triathlon but I found myself relating to the struggles and doubts of the main characters all the same. It’s not the most groundbreaking story line ever, but the particular subject of the triathlon, lovable characters, and stunning visuals more than make up for it. If you’re already feeling the winter blues and need some motivation and inspiration, watch this movie. It was just released this week and streaming on Amazon for $6.
I enjoyed listening to Lindsey Hein interview Amanda Brooks, creator of the FASTZach app, on her podcast I’ll Have Another. I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda at Kara Goucher’s Podium Retreat. The podcast is a great listen as Lindsey and Amanda talk about all things marriage, motherhood, and running. It was very cool to learn more about Amanda’s experience growing up as a diver on a national team. We’ve been in touch even more recently I’ve been beta testing FASTZach before its launch in January 2017. FASTZach is an answer to my prayers as someone who runs and travels often. The app will develop a running route for you based on how far you go, how much traffic you want to avoid, and which sites you want to see. So for instance, say you’re staying in Montmartre while visiting Paris and want to see the Eiffel Tower on a 6 mile run. FASTZach will create a 6 mile loop for you from Montmartre that takes you right by the Eiffel Tower. How cool is that?
That’s all I’ve got for this week! -L
I had planned to write a beautiful, detailed recap on my empowering experience running The North Face Endurance Challenge CA Half Marathon. Alas, I got hit hard by some kind of virus after the race and ended up doing a whole lot of nothing over the past week. The effects of missing just five days of running and working are really starting to show. I find myself scrambling to catch up on everything that piled up while I was out of commission and home solo with two kitties while Andre was traveling the world. If I ever knocked on myself for being slacker, well, after trying to play this impossible catch up game I’m learning that’s absolutely not the case. Way to go, me!
Back to the half marathon. In a nutshell, I had been dreading the race after hearing about the relentless and very steep hills all through the course from my friends who had run the 50K over the very same trails the day before. In the end, it turned out to be the most fun I’d had racing in a long time. I’ve always said I’m terrible at hills, but it turned out I was stronger than I thought. I was able to catch a bunch of people in a long ascent in the later miles of the race. Since any kind of time goals were pretty much out the window, it came down to pure racing which I really liked. In the end I placed 6th overall and won my age group! While my big goals remain on the roads, this experience inspired me to put a few trail races on the calendar in 2017.
I have one final goal for the year which I set in January, to average 50 miles per week in 2016, about 2600 miles total. I set that goal specifically because my main focus for this year was to be consistent. And it worked! I was right on track up until last week. Stupid virus! There are 17 days left in the year and I’ve got 123 miles to go, so just under 8 miles per day til January 1st. It’s a bit of a stretch for me (I’m more of an easy-6 kinda gal), but I think I can do it! You can follow my progress on my Strava page.
That’s all for now, short and sweet!