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A slump? It felt more like the end of my track and field career. In fact, as it turned out, it was. I never returned to the sport after that, despite the fact that I broke a few high school records earlier that season.
Just two weeks ago, it seemed that history had repeated itself. Except this time, I’m 50, and this time my own common sense was telling me exactly what Ms. Demos had told me back in Junior High.
I’m in a slump.
But, this time the circumstances are completely different. I made the decision to avoid Minnesota’s brutal winter by completing the majority of my miles indoors. So, as I stepped outdoors to tackle a few miles in the abrupt January thaw, I was handed a lesson in futility. Why was I running fairly well on the treadmill, but outdoors, my running future seemed to be in jeopardy? What was happening to me? Why can’t I run? This is far worse than any “slump” I have ever experienced in the past.
What the hell was it?
Dejected yet again, and certain it was all crashing down around me, I buried myself in Charmed Running, trying to keep my mind off the terrible outdoor runs that had just occured. I had no explanation. And I had no idea what to do next.
Clearly, something had to give. Something had to change. What was it? What do I have control over that could possible get me back on the road to running?
Looking from the outside in, not a whole lot. The most obvious thing could be my sneakers. Maybe I needed a change from the barefoot running I have been doing on the treadmill. Perhaps the Vibrams weren’t as good of a thing as I thought. And perhaps, running in my Newton Fate’s outdoors wasn’t cutting it, either. Right now, new running shoes are out of the question. But I do have a few pairs of Brooks Launch 4 in my arsenal that the company sent to me a year or so ago to test drive. Maybe I need to change it up.
At the same time, perhaps the fact that I had been feeling like crap, both mentally and physically, were taking a serious toll on my running. Actually, it was taking a serious toll on my workouts, too. Despite the fact that I never quit, and I still got up to tackle my workouts, there was little love involved. My brain churned up 101 excuses NOT to get down into the basement to get it done. And despite my commitment to my daily workout, my weight was still creeping up and taking it’s toll on my running.
The start of the New Year also brought about the start of some new podcasts that I stumbled upon while running on the treadmill. One of which, a podcast about fasting and health, involves both Jimmy Moore, of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb fame, and Dr. Jason Fung, a Toronto based Neprologist. The first podcast of the series had me literally floored, so much so, that I listened to it twice, and immediately found the facebook group which follows along with the recommendations in the book, The Complete Guide to Fasting.
The whole idea of fasting sounded completely ludicrous, yet I have to admit, at the same time, so intriguing. Maybe I should just try it. Maybe my body is so toxic right now, that cleansing it of everything both physically and mentally is what I need. I have nothing to lose, yet so much to gain.
Let’s just say that I wish I had this book in my hands before I allowed myself to get as low as I had.
What I’m going to tell you next will shock you. Whether you believe me or not, well…that will be up to you to decide.
Do you believe in miracles?
I didn’t either. Until I stopped eating…
Yup. STOPPED eating and started healing.
To be continued…
It’s a not so aptly named blog post title, I know. In fact, we are deep in the thick of winter. The temperatures haven’t even gotten close to zero the past 5 days. We aren’t even close to any type of thaw, but for me personally, it is has been just that. I’m thawing out. I’m learning to cut loose a little bit. I’m trying not to be so anal about my running.
My intentions haven’t been solid. In fact they’ve been a bit slushy. Much like a January thaw. Coming to grips with the fact that I am struggling with an injury of sorts has been a reality I have to face. This is the month for me to tackle it. Getting to run outside is a near impossibility. In previous years, I laughed in the face of winter. I’d layer up, put on the heated gloves. and get the heck out there. I barely gave it a second thought. I look back though my Facebook posts, and there I was…10 degrees, 0 degrees, -10 degrees. It had little affect on me.
Either I’m getting wimpier, or I’m getting wiser. But what difference does it make? Right now, I’m running better on the treadmill. I can do more specific training sessions, and I don’t have to bundle up. Sure, our basement is cold as heck, but after 15 or 20 minutes, I’m shedding the sweatshirt. And after an hour, I’m sweating like the proverbial pig.
I’m not even quite sure why I’m running better indoors. It could be because I’m running much slower than I typically do. It could be because I’m wearing my Vibrams since I’m inside. It could be because most of my runs have been at a 0-1 degree incline. Or maybe it is because it isn’t bitterly cold. Maybe the pavement actually IS harder in the winter time. Maybe I really AM allergic to winter. Nothing would surprise me at this point. But what I have realized is that I shouldn’t mess with it. If it is working, why try to fix it?
I’m not training for anything big right now. My next attempt at a marathon isn’t until May. Sure, I’ll sign up for a few halfs between now and then, but for the past few years, a half requires little training on my part.
January, as it turns out, is a great time for me to concentrate on a few different aspects of my training. I can do some interval work, I can do some hill work. I can do some very easy runs, too. I can do it all, and not have to worry about the weather.
As you already know, I’m a nerd when it comes to self-educating myself about heath, fitness and nutrition. My favorite podcaster of all time, Ben Greenfield, talks a lot about how to improve speed and stamina without having to run fast or hard. In fact, the protocol is to walk. Yeah, walk…on a steep incline, with a few added pounds on your back. Seems way to primitive, right? I mean, can that really work?
It seems it can, and it does. It is based on the simple premise that walking on a steep incline can get your heart rate up just as much or more than a slow run and there is less impact and eccentric load. It is a great way to strengthen the gluteals, hamstrings and calf muscles. In fact, hill walking is best incorporated during transition phases and early base training. I’ve also put P90X Legs and Back back into my schedule. Strengthening those larger leg muscles can only help in reducing the stress to the calves and Achilles.
So, I’ve added the incline walk into my training schedule three days a week. In fact, after each P90X workout (on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), it is the perfect way to add some cardio without completely wearing myself out with running. This month, I’ve been concentrating on running just 3 days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday). One of those days I bump up the intensity just a little bit with some interval work, or a tempo run. Saturdays have been work days.
I’ve also been better with my therapy work. This includes some epsom salt soaks, alternating with warm and cold water, foam rolling, self massage, and eccentric exercises. All in all, I can visualize a little bit of improvement.
I have no runs scheduled for this month. As much as I’d love to do the Securian Half Marathon at the end of January, the remaining Saturdays are booked with events for Charmed Running. This is far more important than spending money on runs that probably wouldn’t boost my performance, anyway. I may as well take this month to heal and regenerate.
This is what I keep telling myself.
I do have a few new products that I’m trying out as well. Some help with sleep, some help with performance, and some help with recovery. Look for those blog posts to come in the not too distant future.
The first week of 2017 is already history. 51 remain. Much can still be accomplished. I guess it is too early to throw in the towel, right?
There might be something pretty decent blooming under the snow.
I could not have been less thrilled to run this event. The sore Achilles tendons, my rotten mood, the holiday blues…what other excuse could I possibly come up with? The crazy thing is, it was my husband who pressured me to forge ahead with the event.
“Walk up until the race. You’ll be fine! You can always drop out if you don’t think you can make it.”
Words a runner does NOT want to utter. Drop out…DNF…did not finish.
But, he was right. I had nothing to lose. The weather was looking spectacular as compared to previous Polar Dashes. If anything, it would be a great morning for a little jaunt.
By late last week, I committed to volunteer at the Team Ortho packet pickup on New Year’s Eve. It was the least I could do. I had very little orders coming through at Charmed Running in the midst of the holiday season. And I had to admit, it would be great to get out of the house. I haven’t been able to do much volunteering. Owning your own business sure does eat up free time…not to mention not so free time.
I awoke Saturday determined to get an hour in on the treadmill…walking, of course. I had to do a few morning errands that ended up putting me in a bit of a rush. I survived, though, and made it to Harriet Island on time.
Upon arriving, I immediately spotted some great runner friends. I felt my heart rate pick up a little. And I couldn’t help but smile. Yeah…I miss this. I miss this a lot! It didn’t look particularly busy, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to socialize. Plus, I was able to pick up my race bib and jacket. It was GREAT to be among the living again!
I survived the afternoon pretty well. I taped up my Achilles for the hours of standing I knew I had ahead of me. (I learned such techniques from the best in the business here in Lakeville at Upright Health Muscle and Joint Care). And I was grateful that it really did help.
After my shift ended, I headed home with the intention of making a final clothing decision and getting everything laid out for the run. I signed up for the Yeti Challenge again. This includes the 10K run, the 5K run and the 1700m run. All in all, just about 10 miles, with a few breaks between each event. I felt good enough that evening to challenge my choice of events. Maybe I could handle the half marathon? Well, maybe. But this was probably the best scenario. I’d stick with it.
It wasn’t a particularly early event. Our start time was 9:30am so this meant I could sleep until 7:00am. That is a bonus! I certainly got enough sleep, thanks to a sip of Nature CDB mixed in a bit of water…more on that later.
I dressed half way and made it to the kitchen to re tape my Achilles. Then I made the decision to keep it at one layer from the waist down, although I did decide to do some calf compression sleeves. I’m happy I did. Somehow, I think they did some good.
I made my coffee, prepped my water bottle, opened my hand warmers so they’d get warm, and grabbed some clothes to change into should I end up soaked in sweat and cold by race end. I decided last minute to stick a pair of toe warmers into my sneakers after remembering the pain I suffered after the Reindeer Run a few weeks earlier. That would come back to bite me in the butt later…bad mistake…but live and learn, right? We were out the door a little later than I anticipated thanks to a forgotten coat by my husband, but since there wasn’t another soul on the road at 8:15am on New Year’s Day morning, we were good to go.
We found a super convenient place to park, and we sat in the car a bit while I got my shit together. Soon after, my friend Timi let me know she had arrived, so we headed out to the start area. I knew there would be some shelter at the building so my husband would be AOK to wait for me there. It was cold, but not brutal. I wrapped a blanket around my legs anyway. I had my human coat rack with me to hand it off to at the start line. I ran into Timi in the building and made the decision to wait on line for the indoor heated restroom. Glad I did. The lines moved along, and the cold air wasn’t helping the bladder retention.
We made it to the start with loads of time to spare. Too much, in fact. I was getting cold waiting around. The starting area was slender, so I suppose it was a good thing there weren’t as many racers as previous years. I cued up a podcast, and waited impatiently for the countdown.
Off and running…and I took it deliberately slow. Thank heavens there weren’t a lot of speedsters at the start. It made for a nice and relaxed take off. This is the worst part of the new route for the Polar Dash. It is a rather narrow sidewalk until it opens up into a street, but there is a net uphill gain through this first mile. I swear it takes forever. But for some reason this year, it went by fairly quickly. Maybe it was because I started out so slow. I had my runmeter running, but I didn’t have it set to read me any updates. I decided I didn’t need the pressure. Today’s run was about finishing…period.
It was chilly where there was no sun. And the slightest of breezes made it worse. But it was tolerable. More than tolerable. I began to think I overdressed. Of course, there wasn’t much I could do about it at this point.
We rounded the corner to the park road just after mile 1. There was a photographer there, kind of on a weird corner. I couldn’t imagine how he was getting any decent shots. But I smiled and waved, anyway. I wasn’t feeling too bad at this point. I settled in after mile 2. Now, there were some half marathoners making their way back in the opposite direction. I realized we must all have the same turnaround point. That meant that the half marathoners would be making a second round of the path the 10K-ers were about to forge. I’m not one for out and backs, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It seemed before I knew it we were at the turn around. This was a little after mile 4. The trip out would actually be longer than the trip back, since we took that initial mile and a half loop before we even hit the park entrance. It was here I began to have serious issues with my left toe warmer. It had slid into the forefront of my sneaker and my middle toes were starting to hurt. I kept flinging my foot, trying to force the pad back to the top of my sneaker, but it wasn’t working. I considered stopping at least a half dozen times to take off my sneaker and dump the pack, but I never did it. Instead, at the end of the run I paid the price with what looks like a badly bruised toe nail that will more than likely fall off in the following weeks. Not that it much matters anymore. My feet look like crap all the time, now.
It made the last few miles intolerable…and to add insult to injury, for some reason my podcast stopped, and some music started…and they were the slowest melodies anyone would ever want to run to. Then, the music would shut down…and restart…and shut down. I’ll tell ya that the latest iOS update is the pits! I didn’t know if I still had battery power or what. But I did have my Garmin on, so I had some record of the run.
As I approached the finish, I spotted my husband with his phone taking some video, so I smiled and waved. I crossed the finish, stopped my Garmin and immediately began to walk it off. My toe was throbbing! I had to get somewhere to pull off that shoe and get rid of that toe warmer.
(I have to laugh, because my husband did a little commentary with the video…and he acted as though he was the announcer who couldn’t pronounce my last name. It was rather comical, actually. He is pretty witty!)
My husband caught up with me and we continued to walk it off. I then remembered my runmeter and my phone and was surprised to see it was still running. I shut it down just as my husband asked, “Are you happy with your time?”
“I”m happy with ANY time,” I responded. “I don’t even know how I finished.”
“About 52 minutes…” he said.
Well, probably my slowest 10K ever…but I wasn’t here for any records today, anyway.
We took some pictures, and then made our way to the tent so I could get out of my sneakers. They were already handing out food, so I grabbed some for my husband. There was nothing for me to eat there. And as I sat on the bench removing my shoes, my lightheadedness made me wish I had brought a Quest bar along. My husband offered to run back to the car for me, but I declined it graciously. Seriously, I could wait.
I pulled out the shoe warmers and already realized that the damage had been done. I just hoped I could finish my runs this morning. The rest of the day didn’t matter.
We sat there for a long while, and I found my friend Timi again as we headed out to the start line for the 1700m run.
I can tell you that little happened differently for this run and the 5K. The weather brightened up a little, and it got just slightly warmer. But I was pretty soaked with sweat so it chilled me worse. I just wanted to run these last two events and get home. I felt pretty good for them. The toe issue resolved itself, and it was just a matter of getting the runs done. I didn’t listen to anything for these last two events. My phone’s battery was draining quickly and I wanted to reserve power for some photos at the end.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make it that far. It made it to the end of the 5k, then it shut down. I couldn’t take my photos with it, or use it to find Timi, so after we collected my Yeti metal, my husband used his phone for the parting shots and we were off.
It was a quiet ride home. My husband asked how I was feeling, and I smiled for his benefit. “I’m okay,” I said. “I’m okay.”
It wasn’t until a few hours later that I even thought about checking the results.
Pfffffft. You are kidding, right? First in my age group for each event, and for the Yeti Challenge. I suppose in the end it was a good thing I showed up and ran at all.
My husband thought this was incredible. “Despite your injury,” he said. “You pulled it off! Way to go, honey.”
Yeah. I pulled it off. Another year, another Polar Dash.
Bring on 2017.
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“I think I’m finished,” I said as I approached my husband in the kitchen.
“Finished with what?” he asked.
It spilled out without hesitation. The run I had just completed had been one of the few times I ran outside this month. It was a horrible 6 miles. Especially the end. I had such high hopes for it as my treadmill runs were progressing nicely. I thought perhaps the tight and irritated Achilles issues were resolving themselves. I thought I saw a glimmer of hope.
But bringing it back outdoors proved futile. And as I forced myself to suffer through the final stretch towards home, I mentally made the decision to quit. After all, 2016 had been a pretty fair running year. Three marathons, three Boston qualifiers, and over 2000 total miles. Not a bad way to end it.
“You are NOT finished,” my husband said as he hugged me. I wiped my tears on his sweatshirt before he forced me to meet his gaze. “You are NOT finished. Don’t say that. You can’t stop running. It’s what you do.”
Those are pretty strong words for someone who has a 50/50 opinion on my running at any particular moment in time. And in that moment, he was all for it, whereas I was against it. But that is the story of our marriage. When one is up, the other is down. When one is agreeable, the other is disagreeable. When one is having a good day, the other is having a bad day. In a way, it is a good balance.
“I just can’t come to terms with this Achilles issue,” I stammered. “I don’t know how to fix it.”
“Maybe you just need a break. Maybe you should stay off them for a while?” he questioned.
Everything I’ve read tells me the best therapy IS therapy, and to NOT stop the activities. It is important to keep moving and stay active.
“Maybe I should just walk for a while,” I blubbered.
“That might be a smart thing to do,” he replied. “You are still going to run the Polar Dash, right? Just take it easy and walk until then. Let’s see how you feel.”
Yep. Sometimes he can be agreeable and non argumentative.
So, I had a plan…a few walks this week up until the time I run on New Year’s Day. Then, perhaps, I’ll be thinking better. The new year will bring a new perspective. I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss the Polar Dash. It has become a rite of passage for me. It is the way I bring in a New Year. No parties, no wild drinking binges, no late night, no kisses at midnight. Instead I’m asleep long before the clock strikes twelve, and up early the following morning, layering up to start the year with some miles.
This year will be no different. I’ll make it through the run. There won’t be any age group awards for me this time around. But that will be OK. I mean, I really don’t want to quit. I don’t want to stop running. I don’t want to hang up my sneakers.
I want to run.
So much has changed for us this past year. Not much of it in our favor, I’m afraid. But I’m a believer in fate. For some reason, we have been chosen to face these obstacles,whether it be to learn a lesson, or to force us to move on to a less cluttered life. It has taken me the entire year to accept that and embrace it. At the same time, I never allowed running to take a backseat because in truth, it is the only thing I can control. And up until the final weeks of the year, I did just that.
I can sit here and deny the fact that there is a problem…an issue…a reason for my condition. Or, I can accept it, continue to treat it, and move on. It might mean skipping a few of my favorite winter events. It might mean forgoing the pursuit of some new PRs. It might mean running the treadmill for a few months. It might mean delaying the start of Fargo Marathon training. It wouldn’t be the first time my training for a spring marathon was disrupted or flatly discontinued. I’ve faced it all before.
I think, however, that the older I become, the more panic sets in. Will I really be able to run until I’m 90? Can I continue this bizarre, yet horribly addictive hobby year after year in the second half of my life?
Am I expecting too much of myself?
I have a few questions to answer before the clock strikes midnight in a day and a half. I don’t think they are easy ones, either. But I think they are necessary.
I have moments where I think I can run forever. I have moments where I dread my next step. I feel like the two sides of my marriage, every minute of every day, flip flopping like a hooked fish fighting for it’s next breath, with the slightest chance of returning itself to the body of water from which it was snatched.
I’m reminded, however, that my plight is subtle. I’ve lost too many friends and family to horrendous circumstances. Now THEY suffered. Me? I’m just feeling sorry for myself. Suffering is an option I’m lucky to have.
At this point in time, I know very little. I can, however, spend a little bit of time seeking something…anything…a little voice…a small sign…a realistic course to take that will get me back on the roads. I can’t lose hope.
For now, I plan to dry my eyes, and remain focused on healing. The rest is too far ahead to predict. I may as well just take it one step at a time.
I thank you for sticking with me this year, despite my lack of blog posts. I’m striving for a more communicative 2017. I have products to share, thoughts to resolve, issues to hash over. I have a marathon to train for, and I want to share the journey with you. To quit now without even giving it a fair shake would be like putting the cart before the horse. After all, the future doesn’t necessarily hinge on today.
Who knows what lies ahead.
Happy New Year to all of you. May 2017 be all that you wish for and more. Let’s make it happen together.
You’d think by now I’d be over getting the post marathon blues. But noooooooooo…
Here we are, post marathon, deep in the midst of depression. This is SO bizarre.
I have run 7 marathons, 6 of which have been Boston Qualifiers. I secured my 2018 Boston run with the Kansas City marathon. It was my second fastest marathon of my career despite the despicable conditions. In fact, all three of my marathons this year were run in despicable conditions, yet I ran them all well and qualified for Boston with all three.
Still, here I sit, deep in the pit. Granted, there is way much more going on in my life besides running marathons, and no doubt the return to reality after each one I ran this year makes the ascent out of the hole that much harder to fathom.
They say that the best thing to do is to plan your next race. But doing that isn’t all that easy. Registering for my next event is a crap shoot, as I still don’t know where Charmed Running will take us. But I realize I have to take the bull by the horns and just do the deed…and hope the rest will follow.
Therefore, I did it. I entered to run the 2017 Fargo Marathon on May 20th. There are a few pros and cons to doing this run. Of course, the pros would be running in a brand new state. I’ve never been to Fargo before, and I’ve heard great things about the city. I’ve also heard it is a flat and fast course. I like that! We’ve also got a good chance of bringing Charmed Running to the expo.
The cons? The weather is as fickle in North Dakota as it is in Minnesota. It could be snowing, or it could be 90°. But, the weather is the least of my worries. It is also decisively close to Grandma’s Marathon in June, and I would more than love to run that again. Besides, we don’t know anyone in Fargo. So, we’d have to engage in a hotel stay, which means spending more money than we have right now.
BUT, as I sat and stared at my computer screen for more than an hour yesterday morning contemplating my registration, I was shocked and excited to see that Fargo offers an insurance policy. With more than 7 days notice, I can forfeit my marathon entry without any guilt, and just lose what I paid for the insurance. It was like it was meant to be. Plus, they extended the registration date for the early entrance fee by 24 hours. I still had an in.
I grabbed it.
I guess I best start looking at hotels.
I woke up excited to run. This hasn’t happened since the marathon. I’ve been stiff. Not so much sore…but stiff. I know much of it has to do with my lack of self PT. It’s time to get back with the program. I can’t ever assume that I’m totally “healed” because as it stands, now that I’m in my 50s, I can’t get away with doing nothing. I need to keep up.
It was just slightly uncomfortably cool when I got started. I like it this way. I wish it had lasted a little longer through the run, but I got started a little later than I would have liked. Still, I run better this way.
Yeah, I pushed it. But the sky was breathtaking, and I thought if I got my heart rate pumping, the love of the run would return three fold.
It did. But with it came the realization that I’m not getting any younger. And I need to be smarter about my training. I promised I’d back off after this marathon, yet, I’ve neglected to do so. I think that is why I’m stiff…it’s karma. It’s a sign.
I don’t have to begin training for Fargo until February. In the meantime, it would be a good idea to stick to my intentions. Funny that I can do that with so many things, except running. Running is my weakness. It’s my obsession. It’s my drug. I’m horribly addicted.
Sure, there are worse things to be addicted to. But for now…for me…it’s critical.
I need to check myself in so that by the new year, I can check myself out.
And run like the wind…for another year.
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