Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Long and Winding Road to (Not) Run a Marathon

Back in April of this year, Aaron, Jay, Meagan and I all decided to run the Philadelphia Marathon together in hopes of breaking 2:40 together as a pack.  I used my persuasion skills to prompt several other Charlotte runners to sign up as well--Dalena, Brad, Phillip, Matt, Eric, Jess, Chad, Danielle…and the list gets even longer.

Why did we choose Philly?  Well, Jay had just finished a gutsy 26.2 miles at the hottest Boston Marathon ever in 2:41:12.  Despite all of his workouts that indicated he could run a 2:34, the heat prevented him from achieving one of his biggest goals of the year and he was ready to give the distance another go.   Meagan and I had just come off the Olympic Trials marathon, and we were both hungry to reach our next goal of 2:3x.  Aaron, well, he's just getting old.  He will officially be a masters next year, so he wanted to take advantage of the group atmosphere and run with his friends before he loses his young gusto.  Over the course of the next four months, Meagan, Aaron and I all embarked on our respective training plans, running between 85-100 miles a week for almost 4 months straight. 

Then, things started to fall apart for the original Philly fan club.  Jay got hurt for basically the entire summer.  Aaron backed out of Philly in favor of Marine Corps Marathon, one that is easy for him since his parents live in the DC metro area.   Then I had low ferritin levels.  Then my hamstring started to hurt.   Then my mental outlook spiraled downward, out of control.  Fortunately the list of people affected was only limited to Aaron, Jay and I. Everyone else can boast about a very solid training block over the last couple of months.  For their positivity going into Philly, I am so grateful! It's been great to follow their accomplishments leading up to the big day. 

My downward spiral started after the Greek Fest 5k on August 18th.  In my athleticore log that day, I wrote that "my left hamstring felt awful tight."  Nothing crazy, because I was able to run 100 miles the next week and feel pretty good doing it.  There was some residual tightness to be expected from a 5k race, but nothing that I couldn't run through.  Then September came around and I was having difficulty running 6:20 pace.  I got my iron checked, and, sure enough, my iron was low.  Still, I trudged through my training, trying so hard to keep my spirits up as my training went down.  Staying on top of your mental game is really tough when you aren't running where you know you should be.  Even my own mother could sense something different in my tone.  She urged me to reconsider my marathon plans and was convinced that I had spread myself too thin.   I wanted to prove both her and myself wrong, and kept at it.

Typically, I pride myself in my mental tenacity.   I was anything but tenacious this cycle.  Believing in my fitness was draining in itself. I didn't believe it.   I wanted to give up on most workouts.  My only shining light was my long run, which somehow managed to be absolutely awesome every single time.  I  had some of the best long runs I've ever had in a marathon training cycle.  This was a clear indicator that, despite everything else, that my fitness was still indeed there! 

October came.  My hamstring flared up again after a workout, and this time it wasn't something that I could ignore.  Dr. Greenapple got me in to some ART, dry needling, and cupping.  I went to DC for the Army Ten Miler, performed some hip swings prior to the race, and felt my hamstring pull as I tried to bring my leg to hip level.  I finished Army Ten Miler, in a respectable time, but nowhere near where I wanted to run.  I believe that my hamstring, combined with my lack of confidence, prevented me from maintaining a faster speed.  In hindsight, I probably should have just shut down after that race, but those long runs had me holding on to the one last sliver of hope and belief that maybe, just maybe, I could still run a marathon in PR time.

Then I found out that I would most likely have a work trip to Beverly Hills the week of Philly.  Perhaps this was the world's way of telling me that it was not in my cards to do a fall marathon anymore.   I already had my flights booked out of Charlotte, and the travel back from the left coast was going to impede on those US Airways tickets, which of course could not be rescheduled, unless I wanted to pay $150 dollars.  So, I switched to Santa Barbara, scheduled for November 10th.  My sister lives in the area, so I figured it'd be perfect.  I got a plane ticket for 20,000 miles and $5 and was set.  

The long and winding road was about to come to an end…right at the start line of Santa Barbara, and I was going to race it.  However, right before I approached the final taper, a fork appeared in the road.  One path took me down the road to recovery, without any running for the next week or so to heal my hamstring.  The other took me to Santa Barbara, but left me with an injured hamstring that I would have to nurse back even longer than I need to now.  I talked with Alice Rogers, who struggled with a tight hamstring after the 2011 LA Marathon.  She hasn't been able to run consistently or pain free for over a year and a half.  She told me that I need to be smart now, and take the road to recovery to ensure that I can continue doing the sport that I love most, at the level that I see fit.  The marathon is a fickle beast, and in order to defeat it, you have to be mentally and physically prepared, and I don't feel confident that I am prepared in either of those categories.  I don't want to run a marathon just to survive, I want to run a marathon to own and destroy it.  And with that long story, you now know why I decided to withdraw my plans to run a fall marathon.  I've put in a tremendous amount of work that I am sad to see go to waste, but I trust that this is what's best for me, both mentally and physically.  I am sad to miss an opportunity to race with Meagan Nedlo, but I'm sure we have plenty more to come.

Despite the negativity that flowed out of the paragraphs above, I am happy that I learned so many things this year.  One thing that I do love about training for a marathon is that you always learn something new, both about your training and about yourself.  I learned that it's pretty difficult for me to run 100 miles a week and to work full time.  I also learned that I can be a huge positive influence for my running friends, even when my own running is faltering.   I'm apparently really good at guessing people's marathon times when I believe their goals are not realistic (ex: Jason Martin was unsure he could break 3:00 at Chicago, and I told him he could run 2:58.  He did.  I told Charlie that his goal to break 3:00 was soft and that he could run 2:52.  He did.)  I've also enjoyed these past months being engaged to Garrett and planning our wedding together.  My relationship with Garrett takes precedence over my running, and I hope that I can find the balance next year to be a good wife and still run as I wish!   Finally, since I'm not doing any marathon, I now have the opportunity to cheer for Billy, Caleb, and David at the Thunder Road Marathon and see their hard work and training come to fruition with (hopefully) huge PRs!


jayholder8k said...

I left a comment last night, but it disappeared. Anyhow, I said something like: I wish we were still all doing Philly too. But I think you made the right, smart choice. You will come back faster, stronger and hungrier...and also married. I can't wait to celebrate with you and Garrett!

Marley Burns said...

This is a great post, Cait! I shared it with a few running friends. It's hard to make these kinds of decisions when you pour so much into training, but it sounds like you definitely made the right one! Congrats, that's not easy to do.

mrn said...

i'll miss you so much at philly! but, as cheesy as it sounds, i know you'll be with me the whole time. can't wait to race together again soon!

AKA Darkwave, AKA Anarcha, AKA Cris. said...

Just caught this. And thanks so much for writing. I'm somewhat behind you in the pack, but was also targeting Philly as my first marathon, until I tweaked my plantar fascia during my taper. I made the same decision - it was hard, but the right one. But it really helps to have others write the same. So thanks.

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