Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not So Great Start To 2016

     This blog entry has been put off and set aside for months for one reason or another, but the main reason is because there has not been much to write that is positive. This year, 2016, has me off to a trying start. I know that makes me sound full of pessimism, and I try not to feel sorry for myself because I know my "problems" are nothing compared to what many people in this world face, but when something you love is taken away from you, however brief or long, it affects you.
     Actually, despite the opening paragraph, January was a pretty good month (confused yet?). Training was off to a good start. In the middle of the month I had an unplanned workout with, Raquel, that went really well and gave me confidence. (Raquel has had a tough start to the year, too, and I'll get into that briefly in a bit) A week later I ran a 5k PR. I was feeling strong, excited, and ready to work.
     During the last week of January, during an easy run, I felt a pebble between my toes. I stopped to empty out the rock from my shoe, but there was no pebble. Weird. I continued on and eventually the feeling went away. For the next week my right forefoot got progressively tender while running, not enough to not run, but enough to be noticeable and worrisome.
     Finally, after about ten days of this mysterious situation getting worse and worse, I made a doctors appointment. The doctor took an X-Ray, but the results showed no break. I was put on an antibiotic for ten days, and that's about it. The very next morning I laced up my shoes and went outside for a run. I took two steps, and my foot hurt terribly. I am so stubborn about my running, that I run through ailments and niggles when I probably should not, but I stopped after two steps and knew something was very wrong with my foot. I thought to myself, I was at the doctor yesterday and nothing showed up on the X-Ray and they did not tell me not to run, but now it is even worse?! Pissed off and frustrated, I did no running for the next 10-14 days, which seemed like an eternity at the time (it gets worse). Desperate to be active and not to lose fitness, I was able to cycle during this time away from running. Eventually, I tried running and it went OK. That lasted for eight days. I went back to the doctor and said something is not right. An MRI was scheduled to take a closer look. I had three different doctors trying to help me, and they kept crossing possible issues off the list, but they could not tell me exactly what was wrong. This was VERY frustrating. I oddly began to hope the MRI showed a minor stress fracture so there would at least be an obvious problem. The MRI came back showing nothing but some fluid in a tendon. Great, so what does that mean?
     I was told I had metatarsalgia, which if you look it up and read the symptoms it is exactly what I was experiencing. So, am I wearing a boot, are we doing surgery, what is the treatment, Doc? I was put on another antibiotic and told to take two more weeks off of running. Seriously? That was basically what they had me do last time, but I said OK and followed orders.
     On February 13, the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials took place in sunny Los Angeles. Raquel, my boss and co-owner at First Gear Running Company, was there for her second Olympic Trials! Unfortunately, she did not arrive in ideal shape. After the aforementioned workout we had in January (maybe even before), she was experiencing issues with her foot as well. Eventually, she was in a position of no running and had to cross train in the pool or on the ElliptiGO. The crazy thing is, four years ago, before the last Trials in Houston, she had injured her foot badly before that race as well. Talk about bad luck!
     She decided to go to Los Angeles and try and make it through the race (how could you not try when it is the Olympic Trials?!). She put forth a courageous, inspiring effort, but around the halfway point her foot was in bad shape and she had to make the decision of stopping and not risking long term damage. Luckily, friends and family were there to support her, including her two daughters. The next time I saw Raquel she was in a boot and had officially been diagnosed with a stress fracture. She was in repair for as long as I was, and, thankfully, is slowly starting to get back to running. The reason I bring this up is to give an example of how my feeling depressed and frustrated at my own situation is humbled when you are aware of others' problems. Yeah, I could not run, and the Boston Marathon means a great deal to me, but I was not going to the Olympic Trials, you know? Also, this is all information Raquel has shared with people, so I am not revealing top secret inside information here. 
     From February 28 through April 7, I did run at all. 38 days. Even cycling became a bit uncomfortable, so that stopped as well. I tried going to the YMCA to swim and lift weights, but I hate being inside a gym. So, during the most important time of training for the Boston Marathon I did not run at all. When the calendar turned to April and I was obviously out of shape, 20 pounds heavier than I was two months ago, I started to accept the fact that I was likely not going to run in Boston, let alone run well.
    For the sake of making this next part extremely brief, I ran for 11 days before running the 2016 Boston Marathon. I could not get a refund on my plane ticket, so I was going to go to Boston regardless. I was able to run to some extent, a race bib was in my possession, the city was buzzing, it is the Boston Marathon, I mean come on.... how could I not participate?! I just wanted to finish. I had no time goal, no pace to shoot for, I just hoped my body and foot would carry me 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. Luckily, I finished, and that is more than I could have asked for. My finishing time was three hours and 15 minutes, 32 minutes slower than my PR, but I did not care. I had finished my third Boston, and I made the right choice. My foot held up and it was a fun time (except for the sizzling sunburn I received!).
     As I write this, it has been 12 days since the marathon, and I tried to run for 30 minutes on the track last Wednesday. My thought process was, yeah, I ran a marathon, but I took more than a month off and my body did not take the beating during training that it typically does, so I should be able to slowly return to running. What I have found to be the biggest difference between being fit and in shape for a marathon, or, what I did, being out of shape and substantially heavier than ideal, is not the actual race, but the recovery. My legs are still beat up and sore, more so than previous marathons, so I am still not running. Also, my foot is definitely better, but not 100%.
     Now, looking back on this entire journey still frustrates me very much, but I can definitely take a positive position on several things. Mostly, my body has got a big time rest from the high mileage I have been putting in for the past several years.
     Right now I am just trying to let me body recover and continue to heal from Boston, and get back to being healthy. That is all I want, really. To just be able to run without pain and injury.
     I quote the "Once A Runner" passage all the time, "the trial of miles; miles of trials." This is definitely a "trials" time, but if you run long enough this stuff happens. It is part of the game.


P.S. - This blog is obviously focused and dedicated to running. I am very much aware that the things I refer to as "problems" and "issues" on this blog pale in comparison to hardships and tough situations people face everyday that have nothing to do with running, but literally surviving and trying to make it through the day.

One of the coolest, greatest things that I have got to experience this year is who I got to meet at the Boston Marathon expo. I met several elite athletes, including U.S. Olympians Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden (Davila), but THE best part was meeting Meb Keflezighi! He is my runing hero and inspiration, so that was great!

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