Monday, September 24, 2012

The road to 26.2 - 18 miles...I wish

This weekend was the eighteen mile marathon tune up race.  Other than my twenty miler which is scheduled for about three weeks from now, the eighteen miler would have been my longest training run before the marathon.  My knee, unfortunately, is still not in good shape.  I feel like my life has gone from working and running, to working and focusing on knee repair.  Ice, prescription anti inflammatories, foam roller, stretches, exercises, cross training, physical therapy, and praying.

I wasn't really sure what to do about my race this weekend.  I decided to pick up my number in case I wanted to try to run, and left NYRR feeling like a rock star.  A swag bag with my number?  Sweet!  I guess this is only my second NYRR race and the other one was only a 10k, but I only got a shirt for that race.  This time I got a little bag with all sorts of little things like face lotion, soap, sunscreen, Gu, etc.  This pumped me up a bit and I decided my goal was to run six miles of the race.  The course was three times around the six mile loop in the park.  I decided to try for one loop.

Fall is definitely here.  I left my apartment at 6:15am and it was dark, chilly, and the fruit stand man wasn't there.  I always bring a quarter with me to buy a banana (gross) from the fruit stand man before my long runs.  His fruit stand was there, but it was covered up, and he was no where to be found.  I knew I couldn't run on an empty stomach, but I didn't have any other money besides my ATM card, so I just took a banana and left my quarter.  Hopefully he found it.  I felt like a thief.

There's a lot of energy at races and this one was no exception.  Obviously with it being an eighteen mile race everyone there was a pretty serious runner.  The president of NYRR was there and said if we could run this course, there was no doubt we'd be able to run the marathon.  It was so disheartening knowing I wouldn't be able to that day.

The race finally started and I was thankful.  It was definitely cold and a little windy while we were standing around.  We started near East 103rd Street moving counter clockwise, so the Harlem Hill was first.  I was happy that it didn't feel difficult at all.  At this point in my training it shouldn't, but since I've hardly run in the last four weeks I really don't know why kind of shape my body's in.  I was feeling great and thinking to myself, maybe I'll be able to do two loops!  Wrong.  Just like the last two times I attempted running, shortly after a mile I started to feel pressure on my knee.  Dammit.  I told myself to stay focused on going slowly, and take a walking break when I need it.  It was soon after this I felt a hand on my shoulder.  VAL!  I was thrilled to see her.  We weren't in the same start coral, but I knew our pace wasn't too terribly different (when I'm running a regular pace) so I'd been looking everywhere for her.  When you run, anything to break up the monotony is a treat.  She said she couldn't believe it, she had literally just thought of me and wondered where I was, and suddenly she saw me.  She asked about my knee, told me to take it easy, and we both fought back tears.  It's amazing what an emotional experience running can be, and every time we see each other it's like we both immediately think of Dina, our running angel.  Our tie to running.  Our reason for running.

She took off and I continued my hobbling.  I took breaks of jogging slowly, and walking quickly.  Slowly but surely I felt myself drifting to the back of the pack.  Everyone was passing me.  I felt like such a loser.  You always see walkers in races, but not eighteen mile races.  These races are for the serious people.  I wanted to tell everyone, "I have an injury!  I'm not a slacker!"  And I kept thinking to myself, surely I'm not the only injured person here...  It really is demoralizing to have everyone running past you.  This is the sort of thing I would tell someone, had I not understood running, that they just needed to get over.  And I know I need to get over it, but it really is tough when you know your body is capable of more.  It's like you're the fat kid, the one chosen last for teams in PE class all over again.  It's like you have no business being out there with all these serious athletes.  I kept looking back to see if I was going to be the last one, but thankfully there was always a steady stream of people still behind me.

The pain wasn't too bad, but it was definitely there.  My body felt good otherwise, it was just my knee.  I contemplated exiting the park when I got to my usual exit near my apartment, but told myself I needed to stick it out and do the loop like I was shooting for, at the very least for a small confidence boost.  I started getting creative with ways to run that would alleviate the pain in my knee.  This only added more stress to my right leg since it was doing more work, but at least the pain in my left leg was more manageable.

I'd decided I would complete the loop, and continue to the north side of the park at 110th, go down Harlem Hill, and exit the park, making my way to the subway.  I considered going up the hill for the extra practice, but by that point I was occasionally having stabbing pain, so I figured I wouldn't push it.  When I left the park I didn't feel as defeated as I expected, but that changed when I got home.  I ate breakfast and climbed into bed, turning on an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  I saw two minutes of the episode before passing out.  I was completely exhausted.  I woke up a couple hours later feeling depressed.  I got a phone call from a friend asking how it went and was overcome with emotion.  A silver lining in all this, is seeing how incredibly supportive my friends are.  Everyone is constantly asking me about how things are going, giving me some encouraging words, and experienced runners giving advice.  It wasn't until I started dealing with this injury that I knew how many people were interested in my training.  It really means a lot.  My family is also of course very supportive, but they don't have the same exposure to hearing about my running all the time like my local friends who see me all the time do.

The good news: last week I went to dinner with Val, Mackenzie, and Liz.  Mackenzie's run a handful of marathons, the NY Marathon two or three times, so she had a fair amount of advice.  Val ran it for the first time last year, and what I didn't know was that she broke her toe while she was training.  She didn't run at all from mid September until early October.  Her highest mileage before her injury was fifteen miles, and when she started running again she pretty much only ran the Staten Island half marathon before the big day.  This gives me a lot of hope, as I've knocked out fourteen miles without a problem.

In addition to going to a primary care doctor last week I've been searching for an orthopaedic doctor.  My doctor gave me a long list of specialists she recommended.  Of those, only four took my insurance.  Of those four, only one could see me before the marathon, and even then, it was only a week before.  My goal today was to come into the office and go online and find a list of specialists who took my insurance, and call them one by one until I could find someone who could see me asap.

Shortly after I got into work Val sent me an email with a link to the practice she goes to for her foot.  She spoke very highly of the practice, and another runner we know had seen the knee specialist there.  I figured they probably wouldn't take my insurance, and if they did, would probably be very busy.  I looked online, and they take my insurance!  I gave them a call, and he can see me October 9th!  I was hoping for something sooner, but that is at least about four weeks before the marathon.  The woman I spoke to was very understanding of my situation and said she would definitely call if something opened up before then.  The best news about this doctor is he is a runner.  He's on the New York Road Runners medical staff, and is a running injury specialist.  He's run the New York Marathon several times.  THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR.  I need a runner who understands what I'm going through, and why I don't want to just skip the race.  I have all the faith that he will be able to help me.  At this point, I think my only hope is getting a cortisone shot, so that's what I'm banking on.  No running the next two weeks (well, we'll see if I attempt the Staten Island half in just under two weeks), just cross training, stretching, and strengthening.  After I see the doctor hopefully I'll be able to wrap up my training and be as ready as possible for November 4th.

I realize these posts have gotten very lengthy and are probably very boring, I just want to have the record of my runs and thoughts for myself.  Hopefully after the marathon this blog will have a little more diversity.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Running: an update

So.  I'm training for a marathon.  Except, over the last two weeks I've hardly run.  It's been almost three weeks since I started feeling pain on the outside of my left knee when running.  After my last incident, I waited six days to run.  That Thursday night I took a slooooow four and a half mile jog up to the Reservoir, around it, and home.  My knee held up well, only felt some mild discomfort, nothing bad.  It was so nice to run the Reservoir.  I never really run it because it's an easy, flat, short run, and I just haven't incorporated it with any other runs, so it was a treat.  I took the below photos that night and of course, as always, fell further in love with my city.  The moon was huge that night.  I wish photos could do it justice.  The photo on the bottom is the view from the north side of the Reservoir.  Every angle is my favorite view, but this one is special.  I always look over and see the water, and the trees of the park (too dark to see in that photo) and then the city and am overwhelmed with gratitude that I can have such a happy life in this city I'm so madly in love with.  (For anyone worried that it was too dark for me to be running, it was a gorgeous night this night, and there were a TON of people out, not to mention a race was happening in the park, so I was fine.)

Two days later I was excited to try a long run again.  Twelve miles were scheduled, and I was hoping to run parts of the marathon course, but after talking to Em decided to take it easy, run the flat West Side Highway, and shoot for ten.  It's a good thing I went that route because after running four the pain set in, and I had to hobble the rest.  I ended up going 9.3 miles in 2:01.  Keep in mind two weeks prior I'd run 14 miles in 2:03.  Pathetic.

The following week I went to a physical therapist who confirmed my suspicions that is in an issue with my IT band.  I have runner's knee.  Basically good news, because it's common, treatable, not too serious, and I still have about two months until the marathon.  I left the PT office feeling good after learning some exercises and stretches, motivated to strengthen my leg muscles so my knees wouldn't have problems.

A few days later I decided to to try the easy four and a half mile jog to, around, and home from the Reservoir before work.  The good news is, the sunrise was incredible.  The below photos weren't altered in any way, just snapped on my iPhone.  This seemed like a particularly gorgeous morning, but I have to say, I've never run the Reservoir early and not had a beautiful sunrise.  It's crazy to think this beauty is out there every morning and most of us just snooze right through it.

The bad news is, the pain set into my knee about a mile into the jog.  A mile!  Shouldn't it be getting better??  I have to admit, this has been incredibly frustrating.  I'm supposed to be running an 18 mile (hilly) race a week from this weekend.  There's no way that's happening.  I have gotten so incredibly frustrated to the point of crying over this.  A few times.  Sobbed, actually.  I've found myself quite surprised.  The only thing that can make me cry like that is getting into a really bad argument with a boyfriend.  If I'm not in a relationship, I don't really cry, ever (aside from a sad movie.)  (Sidenote, clearly my past relationships haven't brought out the best in me......single for a reason I guess.)  Anyway, like I said, this has been very frustrating.   It's so hard to think about how I could go run, any distance, and feel just fine.  Maybe tired or something, but running was a choice that came down to discipline.  I won't take that for granted again.  I just want to be able to go run ten miles and not think about my knee.

The more people I talk to, the more I've come to realize I really do need to rest, so in addition to not running  this week, I didn't attempt a long run last weekend.  It  felt very strange.  I haven't had a weekend of no running in........six months?  It was weird.  And I was in the gorgeous Berkshires and would have loved to have run, but I had fun regardless.

This week I made appointments to start going to physical therapy once week, I started my gym membership again so I can do low impact cross training (I will admit, I never really cross trained for my half so I didn't worry about it up until now,)  I'm still icing every day and rolling out my legs on the foam roller, started taking anti inflammatories, and will see if I can run this weekend.  I'm really nervous.  I just want to run.  I keep thinking about when Dina was diagnosed and was told she couldn't run.  I don't know how she did it.  Running was her life.  I have felt lost without running and I wouldn't even consider myself a real runner.  It sounds crazy, but I feel a loss of purpose.  People talk about the post-marathon blues when you're not in training anymore, and I can understand what they mean.  I really don't know how Dina dealt, and it just makes me even more sad to think about her having to go through that nasty chemo without her outlet of running.

On a happier note, Aimee convinced me to get a running skirt, and I'm so in love with it I haven't run in anything else since (all three times I've tried to run.)  I feel like I'm in a cheer skirt again.