On Friendship: Always a Runner, Never a Spectator

I’ve had a fairly positive attitude about being sidelined as I embrace cross training and face up to the reality of my situation. Aqua-jogging, yoga, swimming, and biking are keeping me occupied and strong while I’m recovering. I’m even seriously considering trying my hand at another triathlon. It’s been a few years since I’ve done one and I’m going to do the Steelman Triathlon again this August. Although running is always my favorite, I forgot about the benefits associated with getting in the pool or on my bike. This break is giving me even more of a reason to continue swimming and biking during the summer months.

This morning was the annual Lehigh Valley Half Marathon in Allentown, one of my favorite local road races. I woke up feeling cranky, with a chlorine headache from my recent trips to the pool, and my bum leg feeling near perfect. I felt frustrated and almost considered showing up at the starting line against the doctor’s orders and running my heart out. I honestly do feel fine, but I’m going to wait until I can sort this thing out before slapping on my running shoes and picking up where I left off. Whether I have a stress fracture or not, this ordeal is a sign that I needed to let my body recover and heal. Up until this morning, I had every intention of going to cheer my friends on and be a good sport. As I opened my eyes with a miserable attitude, I rolled over and said, “nope”. A few more moments of restlessness and I was up making coffee and breakfast, and my wonderful husband topped my bike tires off with some air. I hopped on my road bike and rode down to the course, even though I still sporting my best pair of cranky pants and a pounding headache to match.

I’m not going to lie: the first few moments standing on the sidelines sucked. I was even a little teary eyed as I watched the lead runners coming through and began to see the familiar faces of my friends. As they passed, each of them lit up as they ran by and I felt my excitement build as they powered through. I was proudly donning my Boston jacket (what else would I wear) and got lots of positive comments from the runners, which made me feel like I was still part of the event. Once my friends ran through the 10K point, I waited for them to leave the parkway for their final stretch of the course. As each of them ascended the hill to exit the parkway, I rode back and forth and cheered my friends on during the last few miles of the race. I was able to ride for a short stretch of the course with Mark, Emily and Brooke and give them some encouragement in the last few miles of the race, although they didn’t need it. They were running strong and looking beautiful all by themselves. As much as I wanted to be running instead of riding alongside of them today, I felt a sense of peace and happiness as I pedaled around the course as a spectator.

I’ve always been a participant in running events, and watching the race was definitely not what I wanted to be doing this morning. As much as I wanted to run, I know in my heart that being a spectator was what I was meant to be today. My friends are always there for me when I need them, and I could finally return the favor. When I’m not injured, we train together and enjoy each other’s company for the many miles and hours we spend on roads and trails. When I found out that I may need a brief hiatus from running, my friends didn’t miss a beat in cheering me up. I’ve had friends take me out spontaneously for junk food, pour over my MRI and radiology report for answers at all hours of the night, give me sweet little gifts to remind me that I’m still a runner, aqua-jog for an obnoxious amount of time by my side, and swim countless laps with me. They listen to me whine and talk endlessly about my leg and all of the different possibilities I’ve diagnosed myself with, even though I can hear how annoying I sound with every word that comes out of my mouth. They text me to check in on me and keep me in the loop because they know what being a runner means to me and that it’s part of what defines me. Of course I hate feeling broken, but it serves as a reminder that I am truly blessed by the people I’m surrounded by in my life.

Today was the kind of day that made me miss running, but I would be missing it a lot more if I didn’t show up for my friends. It was a beautiful day, and of course I would have loved to spend it running with everyone else. But it wasn’t my turn to be a runner today. Instead, I was right where I belonged: among the spectators cheering on my running family.

I’m Grounded.

Three weeks before Boston, I was outside doing a hill workout. Up and down Honeysuckle Road over and over and over and over and…well, you get the point. As I descended the mountain and completed my cool down, I felt a little nag in my groin. I don’t know why I remember it – I encounter lots of little aches and pains and they’re gone by the time I wake up the next morning. I also remember the remainder of that week. A track workout – 4×1 mile repeats, and I hit a sub 7 minute pace for all of them with no problem. A 20 mile run, at a 7:59 pace. I remember the little “nag” accompanying me on all of them. It didn’t get worse, but it didn’t get better.

And then there was Boston. I’ve written about the good, the bad, and the ugly. I ran completely pain free through the entire race and re-qualifed for the 2014 race, finishing in 3:33:59. I ran a strong race and didn’t push the pace faster than I’d intended. I had the usual routine soreness afterward, and my little nag was still there – though not worse than before the race. After the soreness in my legs subsided, I resumed running and training at an easy, comfortable pace. But the nag persisted, still not getting any worse or better. So I admitted defeat and headed to my sports physician.

A clinical exam, X-ray, and MRI later resulted in a surprising phone call. Femoral stress fracture. Um…what? I’ve had stress fractures before (in my tibia), and this still isn’t presenting itself as a stress fracture. This hurts less when I run, whereas my tibia used to stop me in my tracks. When I fractured my tibia, I remember walking four miles home in the middle of the winter because I couldn’t run another step. This is not the same. In fact, this is quite the opposite. To the point where I ran a few hours prior to my MRI – at a 7:48 pace – with decreased pain. Anyone I know that experienced this same diagnosis is in a world of pain even when walking. Not me. The silver lining? The doctor told me if I had to have a stress fracture, this is not a bad deal. It’s minor, and I can run again very soon. If I listen like a good little girl, I might not even miss many of my spring races.

My physician gave me a four week time out but the green light for any other cross training activities. She is aware of my aggressive goals and is supportive of me running in Vancouver and Alaska in June as long as I can run with no consideration of pace. Done. But I need to cross train like a crazy and go for some physical therapy, which will make the four weeks fly by. Oh yeah, and I can run on an anti-gravity treadmill. So it’s more like I’m confined to treadmill running. I found one semi-locally and I’m going to start running on it on Monday. Yet there is still something even stranger than my pain level and the amount I’ve run since the “fracture”. It’s what the radiology report reads. “There is no evidence of a fracture.”

You read that right. If you’re sitting there and thinking WTF, so am I. The report actually states that there is no evidence of a fracture twice, which is confusing to me. I’m going to the Rothman Institute for a second opinion, and the doctor I’m seeing is actually the team doctor for the Philadelphia Eagles and the sports consultant for the Pennsylvania Ballet. Pretty cool. I’m not going because I want to run (which, of course I do) but because I want to make sure I am rehabilitating correctly and not doing more damage. I’m not going to run the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon this weekend or do any running (besides in the anti-gravity treadmill) until I hear otherwise.

While I’m grounded, I want to figure out why and how this happened, and I already have a few ideas. I’m going to be working with a runner-specific physical therapist so I’m going to use the experience as a learning opportunity to learn to prevent future injuries. What I know after looking back at my training is that I run less in the winter, and then I get excited when the weather becomes nice. I added more miles and began running much more because I enjoy being outdoors. The nice weather started showing up at a point in my training where I began increasing my intensity, and you should never increase intensity and mileage at the same time. I know this, and I know better. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Whatever. I’m in a brief time out and I’m going to embrace some cross training. And since I’ll be biking and swimming, it looks like I’ll be signing up for the Steelman Triathlon in August. Might as well put all of that cross training to good use.

So in the meantime, I’m allowed on the anti-gravity treadmill three times per week. What’s that? Also known as the AlterG, it allows you to run almost weightlessly. It uses air pressure technology developed by NASA to provide precise unweighting in one percent increments to as low as 20 percent of a person’s body weight. The treadmill uses exclusive precision gives patients the ability to set the exact point where exercise becomes pain free and provides clinicians a way to accurately measure patient rehabilitation progress. For the first two weeks, I can run with 50% of my body weight as long as there’s no pain. I’ll be swimming three times per week, and biking or aqua jogging once per week. Of course, I’ll keep getting on my yoga mat daily. I’m choosing swimming over biking because I prefer swimming, but if I miss the great outdoors I’ll hop on my road bike instead. I swam very briefly in 8th and 9th grade, so I’m not terrible when it comes to the sport. Not fast, but I  have the form and endurance to make it worth my time.

If anyone remembers my attitude when I was injured two years ago, well…I’m sorry. I was not a pleasant person. Sure, it sucks that I might miss a few races that I was really looking forward to. Of course I hate that it’s gorgeous out and all I’d like to do is head to my favorite trails and run. There are so many things that suck about being injured but I’m honestly in good spirits. I just keep thinking about how much worse it could be. I think about those that ran the entire Boston Marathon and crossed the finish line just as the explosions occurred and lost their limbs. They might never walk or run normally again. So while four weeks has the potential to sound like a death sentence, it’s not. All I’m focusing on is making sure I have the correct diagnosis, rehabilitating safely, and losing as little endurance as possible.

Rice Salad with Curried Tofu

This is my most recent favorite food to eat for lunch. I’ve been making this often because it’s super easy, delicious, and filling! I wish I could say I was the mastermind behind this concoction, but the original recipe actually came from an issue of Runner’s World. I don’t eat the same way most runners do, so I don’t always find recipes that I can use straight from their magazine but this one is a keeper. I only changed the type of oil the recipe called for- which was olive oil, but I used toasted sesame oil. You can use whatever you prefer.

The recipe also doesn’t tell you to press the tofu, which I often do before cooking with it. To press tofu, open the package, drain the contents and wrap it in paper towels. I wrap the block of tofu and the paper towels in a clean, dry kitchen towel and then apply weight to get rid of excess moisture. I usually press it anywhere from 15-45 minutes – basically until I’m ready to use it.

Rice Salad with Curried Tofu

  • 14-ounce block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked edamame, shelled
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut a 14-ounce block of extra firm tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon each curry and salt, and 1/3 cup shredded coconut. Bake at  for 15 minutes. Whisk 1/2 teaspoon each salt and curry into 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Add 2 cups cooked brown rice, 1 cup edamame, 1/4 cup each sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes, and a bit of black pepper. Stir in the cooked tofu, and enjoy! Unless I’m eating it right away, I store the tofu and the rice mixture separately in the fridge. Enjoy!

Back on the Grid

Last week filled with lots of different emotions and I was too sore to go out for a run to help put things into perspective. When things fall apart, can always turn to my running shoes or my yoga mat for comfort. Not this time. My head and my heart wanted my running shoes, but the soreness in my legs reminded me that I needed rest. I’d used my Newtons for Boston: hello, calf muscles. My mysterious groin pain was (is) still lingering, too.

My yoga mat was ready and willing to provide me with solace, but instead stayed rolled up and out of sight. It just wasn’t what I wanted. I broke my “six day a week” practice streak and succumbed to the comforts of my couch and pantry. I can usually push through soreness and fatigue and go for a run or get on my mat. This time, it was different. I had to deal with the residual emotional fatigue and take care of myself in my own way.

I wanted to move on, but I just felt so tired. By the time Friday rolled around, I’d had enough of the bitter, somber feeling and laced up my running sneakers. I headed to the Saucon Rail Trail with the intention of just going for a run – no distance or pace expectations. One mile. I’m getting past the thoughts of the marathon and falling back into my groove. I begin to relax and soften my muscles as I turn off my brain and find my stride. Two miles. I’m lost in my music, enjoying the outdoors, and the simple act of running. Three miles and…whoa. Oh yeah, I just ran a marathon. My calves are sore and begin to tighten as a reminder. Okay, okay…I can do one more mile – for Boston – and then I’m good. I feel relieved – like I’m whole again.

I went to work the day after running Boston and didn’t have the opportunity to catch my breath until Friday night. I took the weekend to just fall off the grid and relax with my husband. We spent time together and worked on our house, went to church and to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. We spent some time with our families, too.  When I woke up on Sunday, I headed out for an eight mile run in the parkway. I was pretty fatigued by the last mile, but it was an improvement from the soreness and fatigue I felt on Friday. I went about my Sunday as if it were business as usual: spending time on my yoga mat, in my kitchen preparing foods for the week, taking a relaxing bath and cooking a nice dinner. By the evening, my husband lit a bonfire in our backyard and we were laughing and enjoying time with our family and friends. I needed this weekend to myself. It was simple, restful and wonderful. I woke up feeling refreshed this morning.

It was a week ago today that everything happened. At first, I felt unable to take pride in my accomplishment and I’m still struggling with that. It’s bittersweet. Until tragedy struck, I finally had my day in Boston. I’d run there twice before, but there was always something holding me back from performing well on the course.  I crossed the finish line of the 2013 race in 3:33:59 – only 48 seconds slower than my current marathon PR, and that was run on a much easier course. The Boston Marathon is HARD. It’s so easy to make mistakes there, as I’d done in the years prior.  The first 16 miles have a net downhill and enthusiastic spectators motivating you, so it’s easy to run significantly faster than intended. By the time you hit the infamous Heartbreak Hill and the rolling hills to follow, you are greeted with sore and heavy quads reminding you of your mistakes through the finish line. Ouch.

This was my 20th full marathon, and prior to this I’d never a run marathon with a “plan”. Usually, I just have a goal pace in mind as I line up at the start and hope for the best. This time, I ran with the intention of starting slow and ending fast – a progression run. Those work well for me when training, so why not run my race that way? For me, it’s the ideal strategy for running Boston (or any race, for that matter). I maintained a fairly decent progression straight through to the finish line. Had I not stopped for the bathroom twice, I probably would have likely run a PR. I finally had my day. I have to hold on to that now, as I begin to move forward. I’ve got four more spring marathons, the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, and an ashtanga yoga practice to keep up with. So, I’m back on the grid.

All in for Boston

“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.” 

This was supposed to be my year in Boston. In the past, I’d battled injuries and encountered terrible weather on Marathon Monday. This year, the forecast was ideal. My training was on point, and I had new shoes. I was going to rock it on the course this year. Even with my mysterious groin pain about week out from the race, I was in good spirits and felt confident. I, I, I. Everything was about ME. It all seems so insignificant and selfish now.

As I predicted, the day went in my favor. I was ON. Missed setting a PR by 40ish seconds, but squeaked out another qualifying time and secured my entry for the 2014 event. Everything was going exactly as I’d hoped, and I was on cloud nine as I crossed the finish line. I finally could enjoy the Boston experience from start to finish, until tragedy struck and everything changed. I wasn’t near the blast when it happened, but as a participant in the race (and the two consecutive years prior), I can’t shake this sad, somber feeling.  Since I’m still a little too sore to head out for a run, all I can do is write and share my experience with the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Saturday, April 13

The expo was located at the Hynes Convention Center this year, and the energy levels and excitement was at an all time high. My friends and I sailed through the expo, picking up our race bibs and t-shirts, buying the obligatory jacket, a new pair of Newtons, and some GU for the big day. The expo changes it’s location each year, and I particularly love when it’s located at Hynes. It’s in a mall and right on Boyleston Street, so you can see the finish line freshly painted on the road. Inside the mall, there are plenty of places to eat and shop, and it also has a catholic church with daily masses. We made it from Allentown in time to get to the expo and hear mass there. The priest said a special prayer for the runners at the end, and you could sense his excitement for the upcoming Marathon Monday. It’s like that all over Boston: everything is alive with excitement and it’s locals are thrilled to have you supporting their beloved city.

Sunday, April 14

At 8am, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) hosted it’s 5th annual 5K race to add to the energy. Two of my friends, Emily and Missy, came up to Boston to run the 5K and cheer me on. I got up that morning and made my way to the 2-mile mark of the race. The excitement over the weekend events and anticipation for the marathon continued to build, and both of my friends ran amazing PRs. From the elite runners leading the pack through the very last finisher, everyone wore smiles on their face as they ran.

After the 5K, I ran a few miles with Emily to shake my legs out for the big day. There were runners all through the city doing the same thing, and Bart Yasso even led a shakeout run that began at the Sheraton. Everywhere you looked people were smiling, laughing, and wishing each other good luck. Everyone you passed on the street were your friends, and fellow runners were your brothers and sisters.

Monday, April 15 – Marathon Monday

There was a chill in the air as my alarm went off at 4:45am and I began to prepare for the run. It was only 30 degrees out, but I still wore shorts and a tank. I know how warm it gets during the day on that course, since the start time is much later than most races. The weather forecast predicted 50+ degrees with intermittent clouds and just a slight 4-5mph breeze. Ideal running conditions. I didn’t want to be overdressed, so I bundled up over my running attire to keep warm until the start of the race. From the moment I got on the T from Brookline to Boyleston, the city was alive with runners and buzzing with excitement. Everyone was talking and exchanging stories of previous Boston experiences and discussing where and how we qualified. It didn’t matter if it was your first or fiftieth Boston Marathon, if you were from the USA or a foreign country. We were all family, and we were about to embark on an incredible journey together.

We boarded the busses and began the long ride to Hopkinton. I sat with a gentleman from Salt Lake City who ran Boston once before. At the starting line, runners wait for about two hours until the race begins. I took my garbage bag (for sitting on the damp grass) and set up shop with a group of runners. It doesn’t matter where you go: everyone is your friend at Athlete’s Village. Whether you are traveling alone or with a group, as soon as you sit down you are among family. I hung out with Sam and her dad, two runners from Texas. Sam was a medical student and qualified to run at the Austin Marathon with an amazing time of 3:17, and it was her first Boston Marathon.

The actual starting line is a half mile from Athlete’s Village. 27,000 runners gather here and await the long road ahead. 27,000 people from 90 different countries, and from all 50 states. Different ethnicities, backgrounds, religious beliefs, etc. 27,000 people gather with no fighting or unpleasantries. Just happiness, excitement, and Boston pride. About 30 minutes before my wave was scheduled to start, I made my way to my corral. One more stop at the bathroom (okay, more like two), a stop to check my gear, and last minute race preparations along the way. I made it to the starting line with 30 seconds to spare. Our wave was off, and we began the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston.

The first 16 miles of the course are rolling hills, but with a net downhill. There are spectators everywhere and the energy is off the charts from start to finish. Around mile 12, the course takes you through Wellsley college, where the Wellsley girls are waiting to kiss the runners as they pass through. Soon after, the course winds through some of the larger towns filled with thousands of spectators and the half-marathon point, which is overwhelming.

The race continues through high energy crowds all the way to the infamous Heartbreak Hill and Boston College. At BC, the kids and locals are out drinking, celebrating and just completely freaking out in support of the runners. Everyone is there routing for you, and it brings tears to your eyes. As you finish running through each town, there are billboards signifying your accomplishment. “All in for Framingham”, “All in for Natick”, “All in for Newton”, etc. Seeing each billboard gives me chills each time and helps runners realize that they are one step closer to the finish line.

As the course finally hits the final stretch on Beacon Street, the crowd is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s a huge party, and everyone attending is celebrating you. A final segment of the course in Brookline takes runners through an underpass, and spits them out right before the final half mile. As runners turn the corner to Boyleston Street, the finish line is in sight and streets are lined with more people than I’ve ever seen in one place. This is about the time my eyes begin to fill with tears. The finish line is a half mile from that final turn on Boyleston and seems like a blur of blue and yellow in the distance. It never seems to come into focus or get closer until suddenly you are crossing it and claiming your finisher status.

As a finisher, turning the corner onto Boyleston Street is nothing short of amazing. The iconic street signifies so many things for the participants. You ran and completed one of the most prestigious road races in the world. The years of training for marathons to just try to have the opportunity to run on the esteemed course begins to play through your head. The disappointments of missing a BQ by a few minutes or even seconds, the injuries, blood, sweat and tears don’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is that you achieved the impossible and made becoming a Boston Marathon finisher a reality. It doesn’t matter how many times I cross that finish line: I run down Boyleston street with a huge smile on my face and tears streaming down my cheeks.

My heart breaks for the victims who lost their lives and witnessed the explosions first hand. I can’t imagine how those directly impacted must feel. What I do know how is it feels to run down that street. To think that something so beautiful and inspiring could be so tarnished by this tragedy saddens me on levels that I can’t even begin to describe. I can’t look at the pictures or videos of the tragedy without crying because my brain literally can’t make the connection. I can’t connect the fact that the place in those pictures – one of my greatest sources of happiness and pride – could be the same place that is a source of tragedy and sadness for others. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Not even a little.

I’m saddened for the runners who ran the whole race but never got to turn the corner onto Boyleston Street and experience their “moment”. I’m saddened for the runners who were still on the course and found out that they were being bussed back, without the opportunity to finish the race. How scared and upset those people must have been not knowing if their loved ones awaiting their finish were safe and sound. You don’t just cancel the Boston Marathon – so imagine being out there and unable to really know what was happening.

My fellow runners are my family. It doesn’t matter where you go, or what race you run. It doesn’t matter if you never enter a road race but just love the simple act of running. When you share a love of running, everyone else who shares that same love just gets it. Runners understand why you blow off hanging out with friends, wake up before the rest of the world, spend hours outside in all elements, and give up foods you love just to try to achieve a PR or a Boston qualifying time. They get that you would rather go out and run a crazy (or not so crazy) number  of miles than do pretty much anything else on any given day. They get that when you are injured and can’t run it’s like someone telling you that you aren’t allowed to breathe. Runners understand the countless hours you spend training, the money spent on race fees and running shoes, and the time you spend calculating split times for races. Runners are my brothers and sisters. I feel like someone attacked my family.

Monday, April 15 was the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. That’s 117 years of our country’s history and tradition that was attacked. 117 years of bringing people together from all over the world. 117 years of hard work, dedication, and proving that the impossible is possible. My heart is broken that someone (or some group) could try to take that away from us. But they can’t. I will proudly run and support the Boston Athletic Assocation (BAA) at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon in 2014 because I will proudly support Boston, our country, and our history. I’ve never been more proud to wear my Boston jacket. I’m all in for Boston.

Phantom Pains and Taper Tantrums

taper_madness_graphic_finalI mean, I’m not really even tapering. In all reality, Boston is a long progression run in the grand scheme of my spring marathon season ahead. I ran a lot last week – about 54 miles. Throughout training, I always get little aches and pains. It’s distance running, what do you expect?  I don’t usually freak out about the little twinges unless they persist or begin to worsen. Or, unless I have a race looming in the distance. I’m seriously stoked for Boston. I’m also scared.

Three weeks ago, it was a weird feeling in my right hip that magically disappeared at the end of an easy 18 mile run. Next up was a slight twinge in my right shin, which is also a thing of the past. I spent about three days straight sporting compression socks, thanks to extreme anxiety and paranoia. And for the coup de grace, my left groin decided to take it’s turn on my radar.

I’ve listened to my body over the past 15 weeks. I’ve been diligent about making sure I got on my yoga mat daily not just because I’m am ashtangi, but because it benefits my running and forces me to stretch. I didn’t skip runs and workouts so when the heavy mileage and training ensued, it wouldn’t completely destroy my body. I’ve changed my diet tremendously. I broke my Newtons in and I am IN LOVE. Overall, things feel good, my paces improved, and I am loving running more than ever. I’m ready.

And then, my left groin decided that we were no longer friends. It felt slightly sore last week but I continued to run because it never worsened – even after running steep hills, hitting the track for mile repeats, and logging a sweet 20 miler. In the days following each run, it still felt the same as it did before – actually, it began to feel better. Yesterday was my last “workout” before Boston. A seven mile progression run. I wanted to hit marathon pace in the last mile, and I did. My iPod died, giving me plenty of time to focus on my groin and the “pain”. I was becoming increasingly paranoid as I motored down the Saucon Rail Trail and by the end I was practically in tears. It’s official:  I am now in complete freak out mode. If you know me at all, you’ll know that this is totally normal.

Before VIA, it was my right foot. I was convinced that something was wrong  and I got extremely upset and paranoid before the race. I was so confident in the weeks leading up to the race until I wasn’t. I remember the feelings of uncertainty that settled in the week before, and anxiety as I strolled through the expo. Before the OBX Marathon, it was an ankle “bruise” that I was convinced was a stress fracture. There’s been mysterious IT band issues, Achilles soreness, calf pain, and plantar fascia issues before countless races.  During any given training season, there’s always some teeny nagging pain that worries me in the back of my mind.  In each of the past situations, race day came and things were fine. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I’m trying to calmly take myself back to the two weeks before the VIA Marathon, where I headed out for a 22 mile run and only made it six miles at a 9:30 pace before throwing in the towel from foot pain and heavy legs.  Two weeks later, I ran a pain-free PR. Or the tempo run I was doing before the OBX Marathon (my previous PR) where my ankle was screaming at me. That one landed me a trip to my sports physican’s office for no reason at all (“weak ankles” was all they could come up with). I always assume the worst, but in reality, if I’m following suit with my past experiences then I should run a PR on Monday, right? Except I can’t bring myself to think that way. Don’t get me wrong – I’m generally a positive person. However, that mindset is way too confident for me, even if I am just trying to think positively.

I’m four days away from hitting the streets of Boston. Other than the groin ordeal, I’m in really good spirits and I’m excited. As I try to calm my nerves by reviewing my training history, I realized that I never feel “phantom pains” when training casually. They show up when I am putting in hard work and high mileage and set goal paces and times. Which is why I am convinced (well, trying to convince myself) this is just my body throwing a taper tantrum. My muscles are repairing and strengthening themselves and are getting ready for Monday. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t just run a few laps around my classroom during my planning period to see how it felt.  Yup, that happened.

Since Boston is fast approaching, I’m extremely hyper-vigilant and aware of even the slightest change in my body. I’m embracing my paranoia and have a few tricks up my sleeve to relieve my anxiety. I’m not much into NSAIDs and typically prefer to do the au naturale thing, but I took ibuprofen. Totally a precautionary measure: there’s no swelling, but who knows what’s going on in there. I iced it last night, wrapped it to keep it compressed, and iced again this morning. Repeat. There will definitely be some yoga and maybe some EASY miles over the next few days but only if I feel up to it. On Friday, I’ve got all of my resources lined up and ready to go. I’m going to yoga to stretch and breathe, and my chiropractor to make sure everything is aligned properly. In the afternoon I’m visiting Mary, my masseuse, to completely flush everything out and in hopes that she can do some sort of kinesio taping as an added bonus.

The timing of these issues is always interesting. It seems that they arise when I am feeling overly strong or confident. In a way, it kind of helps to get my ego in check and make sure I am not too ambitious on race day. I’ve been feeling good, so maybe I needed this to be cautious and not go out too fast. So fine. If my groin needs to throw a taper tantrum – so be it. Marathon Monday, here I come!