Moving Forward and Building Confidence

I’ve been thinking about my blog a lot lately and how I’ve neglected it. I still need to recap my last marathon (or should I say last disaster) but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. Today is a week until Marathon Monday in good old Boston, so I figured I better suck it up and say something. Part of why I haven’t wanted to post is because I’ve been so negative regarding running and life in general and I don’t want come across that way. I’m a positive person and I truly love running, so I just needed a minute to be grumpy. That minute has passed.

Back in February, I ran the Lost Dutchman in Arizona. My goal was to run it around 3 hours. Unfortunately, I’d been dealing with some Achilles issues and didn’t know what to expect. I expected that a PR was unlikely, but I never expected the outcome I had. I finished in 3:43. The slowest marathon I’d run in about a year and a half. Here I was a few months ago talking about trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials (huge reach goal) and I couldn’t even run a Boston qualifier. I was on pace for almost half of the race to hit the three hour mark, but disaster struck around mile 16 when both of my Achilles (my main issue had been with the left one up until that point) locked up. I slowed my pace and gave in at mile 20 where I began walking. I pretty much walked 6 miles that day – I would try to run, but I was limping badly and could barely make it .1 of a mile each time. I even sat down on the side of the road at one point wondering how the hell I was going to make it to the finish. My husband traveled with me to Arizona (we had a great trip besides the race) and was there when I finished. He doesn’t come to all of my races – sometimes I just make a quick weekend trip out of them and it doesn’t make sense. His face was the only one I wanted to see as I crossed that finish line.  The race was absolutely beautiful but it was a hell of a course. It took place in the desert and began at the base of Superstition Mountain. What a sight it was as we began the race with the sun coming up and the mountain as our back drop. I wish I could say I enjoyed the course more, but I didn’t. I would recommend the race to anyone doing a race in Arizona – it was so well organized and breathtakingly beautiful – but it was not my day and I was in a world of pain. I wish I could tell you more about it, but it was honestly just a huge blur of tears and wanting to be done.

I came home and wasn’t sure where to go from there. I took two weeks off of running completely. My first weekend off of running, I did try running and failed miserably. I drove to my little nearby park, laced up my running shoes, and strapped on my Garmin. I didn’t even make it a quarter mile before I began walking back to my car in tears. Both of my Achilles were extremely painful with each step. The best way I could describe my form would be to picture Frankenstein trying to run. My birthday fell during that time, so to take my mind off of it all my husband and my friends and trekked up to Jay Peak, Vermont for some truly incredible skiing. I spent more time on my skis this winter than I have in years and it kept me sane. I couldn’t run, but I could still be enjoying the outdoors during the winter months. It was great cross training and kept my spirits up. But the ski season began to come to an end, and Boston was getting closer so I knew I had to try this running thing once again.

The week of March 2nd, I began running again. I knew I had about 7 weeks to get my act together for Boston, and this is what I’ve been up to:

3/2- 3/8
Total Miles: 22

Though I was finally running, the week began very rocky. My first run back was a recovery paced four mile run on the treadmill and it didn’t feel too bad – but I still had discomfort. I could run, which was an improvement from the quarter mile I attempted a few weeks prior. Four whole miles felt hard. A few days later I tried another four miler on the treadmill and it was worse. Each step was painful and I was pretty sure I was done for a long time. Later that week, I basically said “screw the treadmill” and did five incredible miles outside on the snow covered roads with yak tracks.  I felt amazing and being outside for a run was nothing short of glorious. It boosted my spirits and my confidence. That Sunday, I went out and did a “long run” of 8 miles. My pace was right back where I was before this all began, and I was starting to feel like I might come back from this whole ordeal. I spent a decent amount of time in the pool and on my bike trainer to make up for what I couldn’t do in my running shoes.

3/9 – 3/15
Total Miles: 36

Probably skating on the side of stupid, I somehow tacked on 14 more miles from where I was in the previous week. It was a big jump from 22, but most of the miles I ran were recovery paced and I made sure to stay very conservative. I did a general aerobic 8 miler with some strides later in the week and hammered out a decent pace. My Sunday long run was 12 miles, and it was still in my pre-injury pace range. I was definitely feeling sore after in my Achilles, but this was a different sore. I was still going to physical therapy twice per week and was truly excited by the progress I saw this week.

Total Miles: 44

Although I didn’t jump 14 miles again, I did manage to get over 40 miles in the bank. I was excited to get closer to the 50 mile mark and even more excited with a decent 16 miler on Sunday for my long run. There were two nicely paced mid-week runs in there that were in the 8-10 mile range.

Total Miles: 49

Things were a little sketchier this week and I didn’t feel as good towards the end of the week. I had three turning points, which could be why the long run was such a struggle. Early in the week I managed a fast 10 miler. A few days later, I cautiously tackled a tempo run where I finally started seeing some sub-7 minute paces. It was followed up by a horrible 18 miler. I just felt completely awful that day. Before the run, I considered making the 18 miler a 20 miler since I’d been jumping four miles on my long run each week. I felt so terrible that the thought never even crossed my mind once I was actually out on the run. But I finished it and put it behind me.

Total Miles: 56

This was a pivotal week for me on so many accounts. I finally crested that 50 mile mark. The last time I hit 50+ miles in a week of training was two weeks before the Lost Dutchman, and I was really hurting after that. I clearly remember finishing that week out by struggling through a 20 miler and being unable to walk for days after. Well, this time around I ended with a strong 22 miler. I ran solo and on a course that I mapped out to have a similar elevation profile to Boston – only the segments that I spent on hills were steeper and longer climbs that what we have in Boston. I finished the run with four super fast miles, and negative split the run. It was Easter Sunday. The weather was gorgeous, and it was just a perfect day. Ending my Boston training on that was nothing short of a miracle, and I was so thankful.

Total Miles: 48

This takes us to last week, where I knocked down another 48 miles. My “taper” began but looks a little different than my usual taper. I came down with allergies/a cold/sinus infection thing that knocked me on my ass – but I refused to skip a run. It never settled in my chest so no matter how wiped out I felt, I didn’t skip a run. I felt awful on Monday, but it was a recovery day and I did an easy swim. I also got released from physical therapy! The therapist thought that if I was able to run 22 miles, I was good to go. Now, I am not totally pain free – and I’m pretty sure I will need to take a good recovery after Boston to fix the issue completely. But I was able to run a speedy, hilly, 10 miler on Tuesday – just two days after my 22 miler. And on Thursday, I did some “speed” – my coach had me do 3 x 3200 but more like tempo paces – not 5K pace or anything crazy. I had to run in the rain on Tuesday and I don’t think it helped my cold, so I did the treadmill on Thursday since it was still rainy and balmy out and I didn’t want to push my luck. Friday was some easy peasy recovery miles. The weekend was another real turning point for me. I paced the Garden Spot Half Marathon for the second year in a row (post coming soon!) and was the 1:45 pacer. I came in at 1:45:20! Although my legs felt good, my cold/sinus thing knocked me out and I pretty much went home and right to bed. I woke up on Sunday and still felt crappy but did a 10 mile tempo run with some fast splits. Although my head felt like it was going to explode, my legs felt great – even after the hilly 13.1 the day before. I’m hopeful that this means I’ll feel good next Monday.

That brings me to this week. It’s time to taper hard. I really can’t say my tapering began last week – I was still racking up some decent mileage. But this week, I’m not going to mess with my taper or with my rest. It’s early to bed every night, lots of fluids, protein, and good carbs. I can’t predict what kind of day I will have in Boston – it could be anywhere from 3 hours to 5 hours depending my Achilles (or the countless other variables that we pray are all in line when we toe the starting line of a race). But at least I feel more prepared going into this marathon. Even with really only having about five solid weeks of training (not counting my first week back to running or this next week of tapering), I feel better about Boston than I ever felt about the Lost Dutchman.

The biggest gain I had all winter actually came from running alone. Don’t get me wrong – running with friends is the best and almost always pushes you harder than if you run solo. I’m used to hammering out the long miles with good friends. But when I went out for my first long run after all of this, I went alone. I didn’t want to mess up my friends training runs or hold anyone up. I also got the impression that they didn’t want to deal with it either – which I completely understand. You have to be a little selfish sometimes when you are training for long distance races. While you can rely on friends to get you through training runs, most times you race alone. They can’t run the race for you, so sometimes it means heading out solo.

I did a few midweek runs here and there with some friends, but the majority of the miles I’ve run since Arizona have been alone. I actually had tears in my eyes as I finished my 22 mile run, but not because I was in pain (I actually felt pretty good) but because I did it by myself. Besides in a race, I’d never run that far or that fast on my own. I thought I needed someone to push me to do that. I thought wrong. I now know that when I go and run with my friends, I don’t need them to make me run that pace – I can run that pace. Part of me always had this fear that if something happened and I couldn’t run with my crew that I would never be able to sustain certain paces over long periods of time on my own. It took a busted Achilles to build true confidence in myself. 

But that’s not to say that I could have gotten through this without my friends and family. Throughout this whole ordeal (and every ordeal), my friends have been so incredible and supportive. They listened to me (well, still listen to me) cry and whine and  encouraged me along the way. They checked in with me almost daily and motivated me. Ultimately, every year Boston is more of a celebration than a race anyway. It is a place to celebrate the sport that we love so much and the people that have supported us along the way. It could be a PR or it could be my slowest marathon to date. But I can say with certainty that I have never been more confident going into a marathon. I will finish this race. It might be my best time, it might be my worst time – but it won’t matter. One week until BOSTON!


19 Replies to “Moving Forward and Building Confidence”

  1. Sorry to hear that you had such a crappy marathon Allison! I hope you can fix your Achilles problem. My husband just got the strassburg sock to help with his. But you have bounced back like a pro with the added mental boost of knowing that you are strong enough to do those hard long runs by yourself and that you still have the cardio for speedy times. I’ll look out for you on race day!

    1. I hope I can fix it, too! Son sorry your husband is dealing with that. I feel like I remember discussing calf problems with you at one point so I think you can understand how frustrating these darn things are!! Keep your eyes open on race day and maybe we will bump into each other!!!

  2. It’s ok to feel negative about running sometimes; you’ve had a rough couple of months. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all these Achilles issues. I really can’t even imagine! I knew you must’ve had a rough time at your last race when you stopped posting but I can’t believe how you still managed to finish given the circumstances – without a doubt, you are one strong trooper!! I’m still rooting for you and hoping your injury finally decides to leave you alone soon. Have fun in Boston!!!
    And I’m sure this is far from your mind right now, but I hope you still make it to Grandma’s too. If you do decide to go, I haven’t put it out of my mind to meet up for a long run!! You’d certainly kick my butt into shape 😀

    1. Thanks girl!! I’m deciding about Grandmas after Boston. If I finish with minimal pain, it’s on 😀 but either way once Boston is done lets get together and run! It would be so fun!

  3. Wow, I’m sorry the Lost Dutchman was such a tough race! It’s nice when those experiences are simply the past & you know it’s over though. I have one particular race that I look back on when I’m feeling frustrated and think, “glad I’m not there again.”
    Glad to hear your short training for Boston has gone so well! That 22 miler couldn’t have sounded more perfect! Hopefully Marathon Monday leaves you just as happy 🙂

    1. I hope so too! As you said, I am glad it’s in the past. I’m trying to use it as a a positive. Like, if I can get through that I can get through Boston. I am in better shape than I was in February and hopefully will have an easier time! Onward!!! LOL!

    1. Thanks! It wasn’t a great race but a good experience – made me start a lot slower in Boston and it worked out much better in the long run (LOL – pun intended!). You are right though – us runners are too hard on ourselves sometimes! Thanks for the support 🙂

  4. I was at the Lost Dutchman this year — I was pacing a friend to a 3:45 finish, but he bonked around mile 19, so I went ahead and called it a day with a 3:41. Beautiful race for the first 10k, and then it lost some of its luster. However, we still had a great time and the medal is one of my all-time favorites. Sucks that your ambitious time goal was hobbled by some Achilles issues — hope those have healed in anticipation of Grandma’s. Good luck!

    1. LOVED the race but what a bad day. I was on pace for sub-3 through almost mile 15 – and then disaster. I was miserable. I would love to go back and redeem myself! What a cool course!

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